Sunday, May 22, 2011


During my latest visit to Bhubaneswar last week, I stayed at the Trident. I usually stay here because I love the ambience around. It gives one a calm and serene feeling. Trident has a large swimming pool, gym with masseurs and a 900m jogging track. Two rounds early in the morning gives you a one-mile walk which prepares you for the day.The breakfast spread is huge but the southy stuff is my preference. Hot steaming idlis and vadas. And of course, I start with fruits supposed to drive away the toxicity in the body. I top up my breakfast with a large cup of yoghurt. I have a very light lunch and a light dinner too. Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a commoner and dinner like a pauper is my motto.

This time though I couldn't stave off my hunger pangs at around 3pm when I was back in the hotel after my morning meetings. I decided to try a mulagutanny soup, urli roast with two chapatis and a bowl of yoghurt. I must admit it was a very satisfying lunch. The urli (urlakazhangu in Tamil and potatoes in English) roast was a big dish with plenty of baby potatoes with their skin, nicely tossed in a spicy curry-leaf masala. It was delicious. For those interested in cooking it at home, here is the recipe:


Baby Potatoes with skin
Chilli Powder 1 tsp
Coriander Powder 2 tsp
Turmeric Powder ½ tsp
Mustard Seeds 1 tsp
Urad Dal 1 tbsp
Oil 2 tbsp


Heat oil in a pan add mustard seeds and allow to splutter.
Add urad dal and fry until light brown.
Add chilli powder,coriander powder and turmeric powder.Stir it for 3 minutes.
Add baby potatoes and salt.Mix it well.
Cover and roast on a medium flame.
Keep stirring in between.
When they turn brownish and crispy, remove from stove.

Easy to make, urli roast goes well with chapatis.

Monday, May 16, 2011




The British author is 31years old, of Indian origin, an award winning science journalist and daughter of a chemical engineer. She is also an engineer by training. She is a self-professed geek. The svelte woman with a chic haircut calls herself a “pretty girlie geek.” She argues passionately that the nation of her ancestors is geared to become a scientific superpower. Her book is a journey through the colleges and laboratories of India to discover the scientific capability of the students and researchers and the changing scientific landscape.

She considers Indians and people of Indian origin as swots, nerds, dweebs, boffins and dorks. Words many of us had not heard before. Neither did Narayana Murthy of Infosys. Nor the legendary U R Rao of ISRO. She refers to Jawaharlal Nehru as the other important geek after Vikram Sarabhai. They pushed us into frontiers that were held earlier by the likes of Aryabhatta and Bhaskara. Though not equipped with the best of hardware for their research, the Indian scientists are using their mental software (read creativity) to compensate for the lack of quality equipment and they are developing cheap technologies for day to day applications. This is bringing about a scientific revolution. Indian science is according to Angela definitely riding a crest.

There are many who do not agree with her line of thinking. Her critics say that she is being carried away by the large presence of Indian engineers, doctors, technologists and forensic experts and IT professionals to jump to such conclusions. Undeniably, her book is an interesting travelogue. She visits ISRO, BARC and the IT corridor in Bangalore. Her interactions with Dr Manish Gupta who heads research at IBM India are very interesting. IBM is working on a new technology called the Spoken Web which put simply is a voice-based web which lets people use spoken words to surf spoken information on their mobile phones. With a large mobile subscription base coupled with large illiteracy this invention could create a large number of internet users through the mobile phone. She praises our TB research at Chennai and the work on mind-reading machines. She is excited with superstition and scientific temper in the same mindset of Indians.

After her visits to these centres of excellence, Saini’s optimism takes a hit. She is disappointed as she does not find them the hothouses of intellectual curiosity and innovation. The flip-flop of high praise and disenchantment goes on almost continuously. She calls Lavasa the hi-tech new township in the Western Ghats and as a Geek’s paradise lost to the poor. She is very impressed with our competence and achievements in international chess tournaments and physics Olympiads. She even visits the Vaishnavite stronghold in Karnataka where Ramanujacharya lived for many years to observe how scholars are interpreting ancient Sanskrit esoteric texts in the Academy of Sanskrit Research to show to the world that our rishis knew a lot of what we term as modern science. There is no doubt that India is emerging as a scientific superpower. But Angela Saini, a part of a group called Girl Geek Dinners, a kitty party kind of group where science is the common interest, needs more clarity in what she is looking for in the New India. It is a fascinating, weird and wacky world allright for this science journo who thinks she has the best job in the world. She is making her own little bit contribution to science writing in a domain of masculine imagery where women are very under-represented. She must know that people being in the thrall of science does not make their nation very scientific .

Sunday, May 15, 2011


In July 2008, I had posted in this blog on the wonderful fruit Lychee also spelt Litchi. It is one of my favourite fruits. I am happy to post again on this great fruit because this year there has been a record production. Nearly 300,000 tonnes against last year's 225,000 tonnes. Lychees are grown mostly in Bihar and that too near Muzzafarpur. 80% of the country's production is concentrated in Bihar. The flowering in lychee trees was good this year and showers in March and April helped in their growth and ripening.

Lychee has a firm and rough skin which is bright pink-red in colour. Lychees are grown abundantly in China. The fruit grows in bunches of 5 to 30 pieces in trees. The trees are very tall and in the range of 30 to 60 feet. The inside consists of a layer of sweet, translucent white flesh. The texture is somewhat similar to that of a grape. The centre contains a single glossy brown nut-like seed.The fruit is commonly eaten out of hand. Lychee is also put in salads, pie and made into jams and jellies. Furthermore lychee is used to make tea. The seed can be eaten after roasting it. Lychee is also called ‘Chinese Strawberry’. In China, lychee is a symbol of romance and love.

Good production is a double-edged sword for the poor farmer. Shelf life of lychees after ripening is only a couple of days. They have to be despatched to the markets immeditaely after plucking. If smooth and fast transportation is not available, the advantages of a bumper crop are lost. If there are lychee-processing factories near the fruit plantations, it solves the dilemma of the farmers. Also Shahi lychees are the best among lychees. There is a huge demand in the export markets for this variety. Why can't Bihar produce more of these high value lychees?

Nitish Kumar's government must seriously look into increasing lychee production, in particular the Shahi variety, reduce tranportation bottlenecks and establish processing facilites in the vicinity of the lychee producing areas which the Government has been promising for many years now.

Friday, May 13, 2011


JJ (J.Jayalaitha) is back in power after a long hiatus.The people of Tamil Nadu fed up with the Himalayan corruption of the DMK patriarch and his family had to choose between the devil and the deep sea.They have chosen to give another chance to JJ hoping that she would have put her bad ways behind her and that this long Vanavas would have chastened her and that she would be a true leader for the people,by the people and of the people. This is the last chance that JJ is getting. If she can capitalize on this unique opportunity provided by a combination of her own popularity and the negative votes cast in her favour due to a groundswell of public opinion against Kalaignar and his family, she could get elected and reelected for many more terms. Whether she will grasp this moment or squander the chance away is difficult to say. She was ferocious,revengeful,diabolic and untrustworthy in the past. For the sake of Tamil Nadu and her people, if she is a transformed person now, it will be a great blessing. But if she lives up to her past performance, it will indeed be a sad day for Tamil Nadu.

I am reproducing below from the web, a reaction of a youngster to her recent success. I think it reflects the mood of her fans very well.

"Kowsik 14 hours ago
Madam JJ

Dedicate this victory to the People of Tamil Nadu
Make your swearing in Ceremony as a grant Public Function
Make common people close to you.
Put in your head that YOU ARE A PEOPLE'S LEADER

Make one poor old elderly person come to the dias and garlend you with a blessing for you.

These are the thing people like Madam, always do not forget that the one vote that one person put in favour of you only made you the CM here now.

Remember this always and make always your public appearance with a poor person, let it be a elderly lady, elderly man, small child etc.

People really love it and like it, be a MGR hereafter madam JJ, you will see the love overwhlem you all around and all the while.

When in office you are a CM, but when you come out to the Public function, you put yourselves as MGR to people, they love and like it from you.

People wave to you, you also wave, do not site quite, it may be paining but they are your supporters

receive garlands from them, mingle with them, they want to see you close and affectionately

We write all these because, we know all the section of the People really love and like you to be their leader and CM

Do not fail us, Do not fail them, Do not fail Tamil people.
You are really a gift of God to this good Tamil People
Be a good gift to them always for many more years to come.
Good Luck Madam JJ"

Wednesday, May 11, 2011



It is a very noble attempt by two brothers to teach spiritual/Islamic life lessons through the medium of comics. It is an amazing collection of comic strips, forty in all, each on a single page, illustrating key spiritual concepts and teachings. Relevant excerpts from the Koran are shown on the page facing each comic. The age of the reading audience could be anywhere from six to sixty of any religion. It is likely to appeal to them all. Life’s lessons are taught in a perceptive, subtle and humorous way. A short comic is a preferable medium these days for many to read and assimilate new subjects. One can go back to it as often as one wants because they are not boring, They convey esoteric philosophy in simple language and cartoons without compromising on content or quality.

The Vakil brothers work together with their father in the family business of developing residential properties in Bangalore. They started with an e-newsletter called “our monthly dose of inspiration”. Then it became their company blog named the “Arif and Ali blog”. The Sufi Comics is a project which they started in 2009.

Sufism focuses on the spiritual dimension of Islam such as faith, respect, piety, love and truth. The brothers learnt to draw cartoons from the bare basics after they started this venture but they learnt the techniques of drawing very fast from some Youtube videos and books. To speed up the process, they used a Tablet PC. They were aware that their project had started off around the time there was such an uproar over the Danish cartoon of the Prophet. Islamic art does not draw the faces of revered personalities. They have respected that tradition.

The book has been published by opening it through the “ Creative Commons” license. This allows anyone to make copies and distribute them. There is one caveat though. No changes are permitted. The print version of the book was published using which is an company. The book can be bought online from & The good news is that the Vakil brothers will be soon working on Volume 2 of 40 Sufi Comics.

Sufi music has been popularized among the youth by Bollywood, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and A R Rehman. I hope these comics will generate the interest among the youth to know and learn more about Sufism, a subject of great interest to me.


Dear Readers
I have decided to post on my blog the reviews of books that I do for a monthly magazine called Dignity Dialogue meant for senior citizens.
I have been doing book reviews for a couple of years or more now. The first of this series will be on '40 Sufi Comics'. Look forward to your comments.
I will of course continue on other topics of interest to me as well.
Best regards.