Wednesday, December 30, 2009

When the world comes shattering down.

They say that the crash is going to happen in 2012.
But for some its going to happen tomorrow midnight.
And those few are the music lovers who have their faithful World Space satellite radio at home.
Like somebody said “Indians need food, water, clothing and music to live”
But unfortunately the music is going to be yanked off by World Space as it is coming to an abrupt halt at the stroke of midnight.

So what do I do with this rectangular box which I had switched on and off for the last four years. In fact it was mostly on and hardly off. I was surprised that my wife did not object to it being on even when we were sleeping at night (of course at a very low volume)
As for World Space, I think this is another classic example of huge companies who squander away money with no thought of the consequences. Like some one commented “what is the justification of spending a whooping 5 crores of Indian rupees on A R Rehman by asking him to lend his voice for the promotion of the satellite radio. You people got nice money without doing any serious job, without taking any responsibilities, enjoyed life in posh hotels with good food for each birthday, anniversary, for team entertainment, roamed in the flight all over the world for no reason, given good increment for your favorites, spent life in the office for chatting, browsing, downloading, viewing and played enough internal politics. Your wrong management had a Supervisor Worker ratio of 4 : 1, and did not allow subordinate to do work properly, All these years you made enough without any pain. Nobody to check, ask, supervise, you have cheated Indian Subscribers and also those who served. And now when the chair is yanked off your butts you cry foul play
I heard that they have filed for Bankruptcy in the USA. Wonder what will happen to the 4.5 lakhs of subscribers in India.

So I think I will pack the rectangular box and keep it on the loft. Maybe some kind soul (like the Ambanis or Tatas or even A R Rehman) will take up this sick unit and continue the service.
After all what is life without music. And when we say music I mean real good music. Not the ones belted out from the local FM stations where it is more of gibberish (and jabber) and hardly any music.
Colourless ?
That’s the reason I listen to my favorite ipod while I travel to work ( two hrs both ways) The recent inclusion in my ipod are five cds of Binaca Geet mala (one CD lasts one hour) .
Ameen Sayani’s narration keeps you going as he unravels the yesteryear singers and actors and how life was tough then.
Like the hero who came from Lahore in 1947 (during partition) to work as a hero in Bombay. After a lot of rejection he finally got his first job as a villain (for a salary of Rs 500/- for the whole film)
His name was Pran.

That is Ameen above. He talks about himself too where he started with jingles for Ovaltine !!
More such jingles followed which instilled in him the confidence to ask for payment. Says he “I hesitantly asked the producer, ‘how much would I be paid for that’? The producer shot back, ‘No money, but you would be given a tin of Ovaltine every week…’” And I believe the health that I have today is because of Ovaltine, which is not sold anymore…” laughs Sayani, who is now 78.
There are more insights into the old Hindi film world and it’s a real entertainment for the ones who love old Hindi songs.

Another inclusion in my ipod are 3 CDs from the Album Stars on 45.
A gem of a collection with songs like Tie a Yellow ribbon round the old oak tree, Papa Love Mambo, Paper roses, Que Sera Sera, Beautiful Sunday, Rose Garden, Yellow River, Knock three times, Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da, Rain drops keep falling on my head. . . . . . . . . . . . . 60 songs in all.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Lata's mummy

Hand painted Table cloth

What you see is only the corner of a table cloth which is hand painted. There are 15 such figures on the table cloth and believe it or not its done by an 88 year old lady.
When people talk about retirement and taking life easy after 60, here is a lady who is very busy and innovative with stitching, painting, embroidery and what not.

87 and innovative

The flowers in the forefront seen in the above picture was created by simply painting old withered flowers. Her artistic skills really amaze me.
Not only is she occupied, her work sells like hot cake and she is hard pressed for time.
In line with the need of being eco friendly and cost effective, the bird nest seen below was made by simply rolling old news papers and painted.

Bird house made of paper

Last year she learned how to use the net and send e mails. So now all her relatives who are flung all over the world just waits for her mails.
Flying and jet lag does not bother her as she is now planning another trip to Australia to visit her son and family who are settled there.
A true inspiration for today’s younger generation who gets flustered by the drop of a hat.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Next station.........Hyderabad

Charminar in all its glory at night
I was trying to figure out how to divide this huge colossal monument.
I mean if Hyderabad is going to be divided then the next step would be to divide the Charminar.
In our school days there was a phase where empty cigarette packet collection was a craze, and boys used to barter cigarette packets for marbles. And when it came to small marbles the barter was for half a packet. (this beats even the sophisticated game know as Monopoly)

And in those days there used to be the Charminar brand ciggi. Now tearing a cigarette packet in half was easy but how do we divide the Nizam’s Charminar?
Cutting it diagonally is not a good idea as it will cut the Minars too.
I like the idea of a horizontal split and that will ensure two Minars for each state and equal distribution of irrigational water supply too.
Then what about the famous Shadab hotel nearby? You get good Haleem there, but we have to ensure that there is a steady flow of customers from both the states. No point in some one going on a fast because he was not served the best Haleem in town. (click on picture above for more details on Haleem)
And then what about the 350 ton Buddha statue in the Hussain sagar?
hussain sagar at Hyderabad, India
I wonder if Qutub Shahi ever dreamt that this would be the turn of events when he built the Charminar with the prayer “Oh God, bestow unto this city peace and prosperity. Let millions of men of all castes, creed and religion make it their abode, like fish in the water."

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Pazham pori (banana fritters)

Writing blogs is easy but writing down the procedural steps of a recipe is not easy. But still I love these Ethakka Appam / Pazham Pori (banana fritters)
You can’t miss those big variety of Banana known as Ethakka in Kerala. (now a days you get them in all the “Kerala stores” across the country and what is available across the country is available all over the world)
I was told that daily about 10000 idlis were made in Ernakulam early in the morning at 5 am, packed and send by flight so that they can have hot idlis for breakfast in Dubai.

Making Pazham Pori (Ethakka appam) is very easy.
Select the ripest ones.
Cut each banana into 3 or 4 pieces, lengthwise.
Make a thick batter with one cup refined flour and half cup rice powder (with half cup water). Add half cup sugar and teeny weenie bit of bicarbonate of soda.
Pazham pori in the making
Dip the banana slices in the batter and deep fry in hot oil till golden brown.
Drain off the excess oil and serve hot.
the finished product
Simple isn’t it.
Now to make it a little more tasty, replace water with coconut milk.
Powder some elaka (cardamom/elaichi) and add to the batter. Yummmmmm.
(economy hint: the more ripe the banana, the less sugar you have to add)
Talking about banana reminded me of how I polished off 7 bananas at a stretch. This was in response to a challenge thrown in by my dad. I was well known at home for consuming bananas. One day my dad was back from marketing and as soon as he kept the bananas in the basket two disappeared. When he discovered that, he took the whole bunch (one doz) and kept it in front of me. “OK son let me see how much you can eat” I took up the challenge and started off one by one. I could eat 5 more making the total tally at 7. That should have created an aversion for bananas, but in my case it did not.
Below is a photograph from the net (plantain packing around 1900 in Circa)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Baking is another option

It all started with me trying to bake a sponge cake for my wife on her birthday.
But once the batter was ready there was some problem with the power supply by which the oven would not work. That ended my attempt of the surprise cake for her Birthday.
When my wife discovered the batter she thought “if my hubby can bake a cake then why not me” (she was not into baking till then)
So she took over the second half (when the power was restored) and baked the cake which turned out pretty well.
That boosted her moral and she started experimenting with different types of cakes.
Now it was my turn to be surprised as she started churning out cake after cake with expert advice from my sister.
One day she announced “Hey you all want to have pineapple upside down cake?”
This was something new to me. I mean I always thought that the cashew fruit was the one who used to hang upside down whereas the pineapple used to stand erect where they used to grow wild around the huge pond (kolam) in our home town.
But once the cake was done, it was a visual treat as I could see the slices of the pineapple very clearly. The trick was to put these slices at the bottom and bake the cake. Once it is baked you turn it upside down and hey presto this is how it looks. I thought its worth a click. Its not only the slices but the complete cake has the pineapple taste as the juice is mixed in the batter. (oops I hope wifey won’t read this as I have given out the secret formula)
pinapple upside down cake

Then came the Brownies. These were a hit with all those who had it and they swore that they were much better than the expensive brownies that are sold at the Coffee Day outlets. Some even placed orders, especially the vegetarian ones. (with out eggs) By the way all ye veggies, serves you right if you don’t want to listen to what Gandhi said.
The best brownie in town

Before I proceed a word has to be put in about my sister who loves baking and this is what she had baked when we went to Bangalore to visit her. The minute it was kept on the table, I knew that it would finish in a jiffy so I took it out in the natural light and clicked it. The cherries on the top is the highlight I suppose.

Black forest
OK coming back to the home front, it was a loosing battle for me. I mean here I was, spending money and trudging on the tread mill to loose weight and my wife went on churning out cake after cake in different sizes and tastes. How can I resist.
The lava cake is something that has to be seen when served. Before serving, the cake is made warm in the microwave and then a dollop of ice cream is added. You can literally see the middle of the cake “pop” up with the lava flowing out. Yummmm tasty.
Lava cake

Earlier baking was a tedious task with all those Aluminum baking vessels and greasing them and the ultimate task of removing the finish product from the mould without breaking it.
Now with the advent of the plastic moulds in Siliconflex material it’s a pleasure to bake. I tried clicking a product along with the mould so that you can have an idea how it looks.
Baking is a different story now

Some of the cakes baked for Wedding Anniversaries and Birthdays.
The one below was for Dr Sudhakar and Cindy's 35th wedding anniversary.I am sure the cake matches that broad smile.
All ready

This was for Nikhil's brthday:
Home made

And this was for my sister's 25th wedding Anniversary:
Date & Walnut cake with icing

As for the one below don’t go by the looks. It may look dull but its made with almond, peach and yoghurt. A different taste altogether.
peach cake

As I was sure that the cakes would be a hit, I used to distribute them to the volunteers at the Flickr photo exhibitions held in Pune and also at the Flickr meet.
Then there was the cake and wine sessions at the Orkut FM meet
The below picture speaks for itself when it was distributed at a Flickr meet at RSI Pune which was sponsored by Captain Nandu Chitnis Though it may look like a posed photo, it is not.

Thanks to the quick reaction by Sahil who did a good job of clicking a lovely candid picture.

Coming back to me, I forgot how to bake a simple sponge cake.
(to see the complete pictures click on them)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Indian Express

My wife said that we have to switch over to The Indian Express.
“Why can’t we also subscribe to The Indian Express and read all the leaked news instead of reading about some Techies being hijacked and murdered and how bad the traffic jam is going to be today with that lady with the saree over her head trying to fly some plane”
I said: “Its not good to read leaked news, and shame on you. You don’t know the name of the president of India. You have to give everyone a chance. It cannot be Kalaam forever”
Meanwhile my son interjected: “Papa what is this Liberhan report?”
Me “It’s a long story son. But the jist of it is that nobody did anything 17 years ago”
Mother-in-law : “Oh my God look they are demolishing the . . . . . . . . .”
Me : “for Gawd’s sake. . . . .where is that remote. . . . . . .some one please put that TV off.. . . . .. ..Ma I told you umpteen times what they are showing is something that happened many many years ago”
Son: “So what happened 17 years ago?”
Me :“Son, do you know what Bofors is?”
Son: “No”
Me : “See, that is why commissions and inquiries are set up. At regular intervals they will open and close the files so that every generation down the line will know what Bofors is”
Son: “Papa that picture you took of the Taj hotel, was it before or after the incident?”
The Taj Hotel
Me : “What incident? No incident happened there”
Son: “But Pa, we have video footing of Kasab with an automatic. . . . . “
Me : “Don’t jump to conclusions. Those video things are the result of some faulty CCTV installed at the wrong places. Investigations are going on and maybe after about 17 years we will hear actually what happened and where the bullet proof jacket disappeared. It will also be established that the Judge was right in giving Kasab non-veg biriyani in the prison. For all you know he may be put in a rubber dinghy and send back the way he came. Poor fellow”
Son: “and the other picture that you took in the night, was it because you knew that it would be torched in the night”
The Taj Hotel
Me: “What utter rubbish. Don’t go about spreading such rumors. I just clicked some pictures because I liked the way Taj Hotel looked at night. As it is I am having a bad name because people are using my pictures in their blogs and Viquipedia in some foreign language which I can't read. Somebody has even put it on , whatever that is. . . . . . .Hey who put that TV on again?”
Wife: “Aha there is our PM. I hope Obama bends properly when he greets our prime minister”
Me: “It is not for us to decide the degree of difficulty whenever Obama meets heads of states”
Mother-in-law: “With our PM in the USA and our President in Pune who is going to take care of our country in the centre?”
Me” “Don’t worry Ma, this is not a classroom where we need some one to mind the class. We have got some well behaved elected members in the centre who can take care of us. After all we have elected them”
Son: “But Pa you did not tell me what Bofors is”
Me: “So far I have only understood that it is some big gun and something to do with some one by the name of Quattroachi”

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Hippie Culture

When I was in school, I used to get these “hand me down” text books from Mr M. (Don’t confuse this M with the one in James Bond movies)

Probably this was a measure taken to cut corners at home but I used to envy the other students who used to have clean new books. The advantage of the hand me downs was that you get to read the next year’s books as soon as the school closed, while others had to wait till the school opened. I used to finish all the stories from the English text book.(Maths text book goes into hiding) The only problem was that there used to be a lot of markings in them. Underlined sentences, important questions, smiley faces !! most of them marked in ink or pencil. So my first task was to rub off everything that was in pencil. Aha so much cleaner.

Then one fine year the hand me downs stopped. Reason ? Mr M stopped going to school. Why? He turned into a Hippie!! “Wow long live the hippie culture”

Later on I met him one day. What a transformation ! Long hair, ragged clothes, bathroom slippers, and the worst part was he smelled and looked dirty. One day I asked him “don’t you have bath?” His explanation “see when you don’t take bath, there is a layer of dirt formed on your skin. This layer prevents germs and disease from entering your skin”

I didn’t know what to make out of it. I mean when you are a school going child you would like to skip a bath may be two or three in a row, but I reasoned that if this is going be the end result then I better have nothing to do with the hippies. I wonder what Mr M is doing now. I know his full name but don’t want to pen it down here, in case he is reading this. (school drop outs too read blogs – ask Peter Jackson)
These thoughts came back to me when I stumbled upon this cartoon by R K Laxman.

One of you is my son and I want him to come with me home

Saturday, November 21, 2009

I stand corrected

I stand corrected.

Now I have to add Sachin Tendulkar's name too as the person whom I admire from the cricket fraternity.
And the reason why I admire him has nothing to do with cricket.
read the last line of my earlier post And that is cricket for you

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Better be careful

The other day I was strolling down Koregaon Park when a handsome man came out of the famous German Bakery and smiled at me as he passed by. I dared not smile back for the simple reason that he looked like a foreigner (probably an Asian holding an American passport) How do I know all that? Well in these difficult days its best to know and check the credentials of a person before you smile back. Who knows after some years there may be an inquiry and I may find myself behind bars for smiling back at a person who came to India with evil intentions. Later on I found the same handsome man saunter into the nearby gym. I hope the trainers there won't speak to him. Can't they see that his father is a diplomat from Philadelphia. I pity those trainers as they are going to face the music after a couple of years.

I am also worried about the trip that I made to Kochi last year to visit my in laws. I do remember strolling down outside the Taj Residency (now named Gateway) with my wife. I hope no one saw us taking that stroll. After all one has to be careful in case there are some anti social elements staying there in the Taj.

And while in Kochi there was a Janmashtami procession in front of Jayalaxmi. While my wife was busy selecting the best dress material, I went out and clicked some pictures of the colourful procession.
dead pan


Later while downloading the pictures I found a picture of a foreign tourist who was equally fascinated by the procession. But now on a closer look I see a policeman following him. I wonder if I should report the matter to the authorities. (at least it will be a decent picture to splash around the TV and newspapers instead of a burnt out hazy black and white picture)
Looking for the right frame.
All said and done I am sure nothing will happen to me. After all I am not any famous film producer/director’s son.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Love is. . . . . . . . .

Kim met her future husband, Roberto Casali, at a Los Angeles ski club. At that time, Kim drew sketches of her funny episodes on the slopes. Roberto encouraged her to continue and she did, expressing her love for him in little cartoons. Kim and Roberto were married in 1971.

Like many self-taught artists, for many years Kim Casali felt that she was not really a professional cartoonist but rather, in her own words, "a doodler". She was born Marilyn Judith Grove in Auckland, New Zealand, in 1941 and at the age of 19 traveled to Europe and the US. She worked in various jobs, including being a waitress in a London teashop.
Her cartoon continued to grow and Roberto became her business manager. Kim was sometimes put on the spot to defend her cartoon, as some people felt the comic depicted "women as childish, simple-minded dependents."
I wonder if being childish and simple minded are bad traits for an adult. Looking at the drawings of Kim does bring a smile on everyone’s face. (at least for the romantically inclined ones)
I remember seeing these drawings first in the “Sun” magazine in the mid seventies. (which was published from Calcutta.)

Love is…….helping each other to stitch up the pillow.

Love is . . . . . . . .
Here is a couple who will be celebrating their 55th wedding Anniversary next month. I feel they must have lived through each and every cartoon strip that Kim drew. There is never a dull moment with them around.
I clicked this in low light (without a flash) to accentuate the light and shadow in the picture. (click on the picture to see the comments in Flickr)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Children's day

Today is children’s day and Puru Pratap Singh, a 4th standard student from Gurgaon, must be feeling great to have his creation flashed all over when you type the Google search.
Remember the days when you used to have those “Camel” coloring competition in school. I suppose for Puru it must have been a similar experience but he must have really put his heart and soul in it.
His work was chosen from over 4000 doodles submitted by students across the country, and was selected based on artistic merit, creativity, and expression of the theme.

I really admire the selectors as it must have been really tough with every child coming up with some thing very unique. I wonder what the other entries were.

Kids can always come up with excellent and good ideas, especially if they are the Tom Sawyer type (remember the self propelled boat made by Ishaan in Tare Zameen par)

If only we could encourage our kids to have more out door activities than sitting glued to the telly.

Came across a picture of a game where the child has to pass through a maze of criss crossed strings. Each string has a small bell attached to it. You touch the string and there goes the bell and you have to start all over again.. What a lovely way to increase the child’s concentration and patience.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Mega Pixel myth

Its about time I changed my camera. So says my wife.
Well its been on debate for a long time (and the debate is between me and myself)
Yes one part of me says “go in for a new one” and the reason being that my present camera packs off at the most unpredictable times and I miss many good opportunities. The packing off is due to my battery cover which refuses to close fully resulting in improper signal to the telescopic lens. So when the priest says “you may kiss the bride now” and I raise my camera for that special shot, my lens just retracts (like the turtle head) and just refuses to come out. By the time I switch it off and then on and have it all ready, the bride and the groom are happily sliding out of the church !!
The reason why I want to cling on to the existing Nikon Coolpix 4300 is that its an excellent camera with minimum hassles giving excellent results. I remember going for a shoot meet and one stalwart saw me clicking and said “Joe you brought this? You did not get your other one?” I said “what other one? I have only one camera” He took the camera from me (which easily fits in his palm) turned it upside down, had a closer look and said “you mean all those pictures of the war cemetery and the pictures you upload on Flickr are from this camera ?” He just could not believe it.
Kirkee War Cemetry
When people see a good photograph they assume that it must have been taken with a costly sophisticated camera.
Have you seen the road side cobbler at the corner? Have a closer look at his tools. All primitive isn’t it. But see the results he produces with those tools. All produced by his skill and ingenuity.
I believe how you use your camera makes all the difference. And you can have excellent results with a simple camera. I remember some of the initial pictures that I took with our first camera Agfa Click III.

One of them is of my parents who were ready to go to church in their Sunday best. I thought that it was the right time to click as the early morning light was perfect. Considering the fact that this was clicked almost 40 years ago with no advance technology, I think this is pretty good without a flash (and no photoshop).
dad and mom
Then came my Isoly-II which was slightly better than Click-III (more on that later)
Coming back to the present situation I am yet to decide what to buy. And that is another hurdle. So many to choose from. Did a lot of reading on the net and one thing I gathered is about the myth. “The higher the mega pixels the better your camera” Its not so. So when the salesman says “sir why don’t you upgrade your camera. What you have is only 4 mega pixels. Why don’t you go in for this 10 mega pixels” Don’t fall for it.
I read on and this is what I got:
Sharpness depends more on your photographic skill than the number of megapixels, because most people's sloppy technique or subject motion, blurs the image more than the width of a microscopic pixel. Sharpness has very little to do with image quality, and resolution has little to do with sharpness. Resolution (pixel count) has nothing to do with picture quality. Color and tone are far more important technically.
Confused? Good. So am I.
So my search is on, and hope to get the right camera at the right time.
- - - - - - - - - - - -
A camera catches your imagination. No imagination, no photo - just crap.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Man of grit and determination

We send our kids to the best school in town (doesn’t matter if its far away) And then after school he/she has to attend tuitions, and tuitions start as early as from the first standard !!
Some even go to the extend of proclaiming, my daughter is "convented" (whatever that means)
A few years ago I read an article in one of the magazines and thought, if we have more people like this, the world would have been a better place to live for the kids.
I had been regularly following his (Uttam Teron's) progress and coaxed him to start an account in a bank (having larger network in the country) so that people who wanted to contribute could directly transfer the money.
 I did a write up about him and his academy on Flickr (click on the picture below for details)

These are some of the recent photographs that he has send me. The joy of getting a new carom board, some of the sarees woven at the place and US astronaut Mike Fincke visiting the loom.
You can get more info about the school here.

Parijat Academy

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Trams of Bombay

In the still of the night of 31st March, 1964 there was a big uproar in the streets and I remember my dad saying "Oh that must be the last tram" I did not get it then, till I saw the papers the next day splashed with photographs of merry makers enjoying the free ride on the last tram in Bombay.
An end of an era. Trams were so convenient (and affordable) The fare from Byculla to Regal theatre (Colaba) was 10 paise. The city fathers ensured that the fares were kept real low so that all could afford it.
The average speed being something like 8 kmph it was easy to board a tram. The best thing that impressed me was the seats. It was a simple arrangement in which the seats were wooden with two slots at the ends. The back rest was supported by two bars which passed through these slots. When the tram reached its destination and started its return journey, these back rests are simply flipped to the other side. Thus at any given time the passengers were always facing the front (in the direction of motion). A simple but ingenious idea. The photograph gives an idea how it works though its not a seat from the Bombay tram. The other two pictures show the single Decker and the double Decker trams that plied in Bombay.
The present BEST was originally “The Bombay Electric Supply and Tramways” which came into existence in 1905.

Later came the trolley bus which also ran on electricity but on tyres.(see this link for photograph) This mode of transport did not last long as the pantographs got dislodged whenever the bus moved to the sides. (went off the road in 1974)
So now it’s the BEST buses that rule Bombay.
A special mention should be made about the staff of the BEST. All said and done they are really efficient and well mannered when compared to the other bus services all over India. The ticket box too has a wet sponge, there by making it easy for the conductors to pull out single tickets. Now its an easy guess how other conductors wet their fingers for the same purpose. (click on the picture below)

BEST Driver