Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Jevan Chronicles : Reloaded ver 1.1

In the end, it was  all about a plump, determined, snub-nosed, large-eyed, pigtailed young girl in a parkar polka,  from a green coastal hamlet ,  suddenly thrown into a world of what is often called "style".

 Gyms, size zero,  fashion, slang, designer haircuts, fast friendships, faster food, makeup, unnatural color , artificial language, fair and lovely , the works etc.

She still remembers a time when  meals were had , sitting cross legged on a "paaT". The cooking area had choolahs and stoves in the pre-cooking-gas days, and it was just a bit higher than  the floor.

Coming up in life was all about a raised cooking platform, cooking gas, and dining tables and chairs.  The steel plates , katoris and glasses remained unchanged.

 And one after another, sit down dinners became stand up dinners, and buffets happened.

Like in everything else in life, appearance became important.  Food was not just eaten and devoured, it was presented, appreciated , and imbibed.

But like they say, you can take the girl out of her land, but cant take the land out of the girl....

She still eats traditional simple comfort food. But she has learnt to present it, thanks to the hamper she recently received from BorosilGood, nutritious , simple food. Where you get drunk on the smell, and wipe the plate clean, with the soft phulkas greedily meeting the Dal.

The once proud puffed up Phulkas, with a dribble of pure ghee,  freshly satiated and quiet , in the Bake n Serve.  So what if they weren't baked.  They roll and puff on fire !

Ambadi ! No it isn't Italian, thought it might sound so.

Seasonal Ambadi greens, stir fried with onions, tomatoes, green chillies,  and cooked with Dal, spiced and then a final touch with a scintillating tadka of red chillies.

Keep it hot and ready to slurp, in one of the Smart Triples with lid.

When things get too hot with the item number mirchis, a little red thing on the lid allows you a breather and you let off some steam...

Another one  of the smart triples  with lid. A bit staid and square.

Tomatoes and Onions, chopped to pieces. Comforted by the Crushed Roasted Peanuts.  .  A quiet sprinkle of chopped Coriander leaves.  The lull before the tadka. Koshimbir Time !

Hot oil, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, a smattering of kadhipatta . A generous coming together of the clan. Stirring stuff, this , as  the leafy flag is held high.  The lid must stay away if the flag is to fly !  We are patriotic that way !

And what do you say about Kheer Seviyan, doing a hot Ras Leela with the Saffron strands in milk, tolerating some raisin types floating around with pistachio and almond folks.

Tired but happy, the Kheer sits, quiet under the special lid,  which might itself behave as a plate in an emergency.  Cooling away in the fridge, waiting for its Day in the Silver Katori.   Yes, Every Kheer has its Day...

And then, Gourmet Bowls for stuff you relish. Raw Mangoes,  in early retirement, aging well in the pickle masala.

And fresh Coconut celebrating the 8th August full moon, by participating in the chutney proceedings  with old friends dhaniya and mirchis.   A special Tulsi touch , as a lemon squeezes itself into the stuff. A quick surreptitious tasting, a thrilled closing of the eyes, and the chutney is presented to a world, currently obsessed with odd named sauces.

And then , the mango pickle, with months of experience,  quietly expectantly sitting, thinking of curd-rice, surrounded by the ajwain  beauties.

  And what a vision she has !  Squat glasses in honor of her original eating style at meals, enjoyed at her folks'  place decades ago.  Mango days are clearly over, and it is Citrus time.  Orange juice, blessed by tulsi leaves , fresh off the tree.

And she raises a toast, to her only indulgence  in the new world she inhabits; fresh fruit juices  .

An actual orange ,  worshipped with tulsi.  

A bunch of ice cubes, a raising of glasses with her daughter, and suddenly, it's time for "Cheers !"

(I received a Borosil mega Hamper with the above containers  as a result of being among the top 50 contestants in part 1 of the  Indiblogger - My beautiful Food contest.  This post is being submitted as an entry as required for Part 2 of the same contest. )

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

SMARTNESS abhi baki hai, mere dost !

ASUS - Incredible ZEN

To start with, I am always skeptical about new technologies and mostly the last to adopt them.  (OK. I belong to the generation that used yelling from the terrace in place of phones.)

 I was immersed for years in Black and white, while the world went technicolor on TV, I laboriously did rotational dialling on our old black rotary land line, struggled with an obese hunchback black and white  computer monitor while other flat types looked on , and even continued to use the chutney stone since blenders and grinders were too fast for me. And the chutney.

Then cell phones happened, and I joined the bandwagon like 6 years too late.  Another few years to discover that there were things called Apps.

And all the while I noticed the phone becoming more of a toy and a commercially exploitable  entity than a communication device.   Wires stuck in ears, what appears like people talking loudly to themselves, mindless tapping and clicking playing screen games, numbing the mind, following maps to places, and in general pretending that everything was , say, SMART .

But , then, I have been thinking about things ...    and as they say , "SMARTNESS abhi Baki hai mere dost ....."

I'd love to have a phone, which senses minute changes in my pulse , blood flow or temperature.  I should also be able to sense change my breathing.  Alert me when things are going on the wrong side.  It could be when I am perturbed during a conversation, it could be when I am travelling, , or simply for no reason at all.  I think the sensing technology exists. The smartness needs to be implemented via hardware.

Instead of playing siren sounds on  sensing abnormal numbers and further disturbing things, it could simply dial a pre decided number. Or your health provider if that number is not available. Or broadcast messages....

The phone would also have a way of identifying the geographical location of the caller and would display it  when a call comes in.  I can't imagine the number of mischievous and fibbing types that would get exposed.  

What would be amazing is if the phone had lie detection technology installed.  It can be done using Voice Risk Analysis on smart phones , assuming they are really smart.  Wouldn't it be amazing to know if the person calling you is lying through the teeth, when he  or she says   things that are likely to cause you worrisome trauma and outlandish costs ?    

On a social level, in technology which might yet be in its nascent stage, it would be great to have a phone, which at the press of a button  could generate some kind of rays that would immobilize the person in front. If these rays could give an electric shock, even better . This would be the phone of choice  for young girls travelling alone, whether for work, or school or even to attend nature's call.

The Asus Zen, has a capability of sensing buttons pressed while the user is wearing gloves.  Besides being useful in freezing weather,  these phones could have a special attachment when used by medical diagnostic types like MRI, SCAN technicians, and docs in OR's, who want real time emergency response from someone miles away.   I know phones exist which project their screen on the wall. 

And then there are , what I call abilities in the wishful thinking categories. Clearly technology for these may or may not exist at the moment, but I never thought I would see cell phones,  ATM's,  pen drives,  bought-and-sold-cricketers ,  and artificially honest politicians in my lifetime either.  Now anything is possible.

How about a phone, which fills a Mumbai pothole when you point the phone at it ?

How about a phone, that glows bright when you are around a corrupt person ?

How about a phone, that generates a virtual shade above your head at the press of a button ? This would be such a boon for old folks at bus stops in the summertime.

How about a phone that would generate monetary change,  as soon as you key in the amount ?   Such a boon for bus conductors, rickshawallas and  vegetable and fruit vendors.  Not to mention me.

How about a phone that quietly clicks the id number and face of the cop who has stopped you on the road, and is speaking in code words that you don't understand ?

How about phones, that could seed the clouds when used in unison, and thus helpful in times of scanty rain ?

I am not asking for any super powers from the phone.   I don't want to fly. I don't want to travel at the speed of light or for that matter even sound.   I don't want to collapse under a shower of crores as is the current trend.  I don't want traffic signals to turn red for traffic when I am crossing the road.

All I ask , is some useful things as outlined above.   I don't care if the phone comes in twentyfive psychedelic colors. I don't care if i can shower or swim with the phone attached .  I don't care if it automatically plays the theme from Titanic when the battery is low.  And I don't care if it refuses to shut down even when I slap it.

I know , our problem lies, as we are very fond of saying, in the implementation.

How about a Asus Zen phone, that actually oversees and does a successful implementation of everything ?

If so, I promise to raise a statue dedicated to it in the Arabian Sea.

Funding will not be a problem,  as the phone will generate it with a tap on the $ sign.     

So easy .....  


(Submitted as an entry for the Indiblogger  - In Search of Incredible-Asus Zen Contest).

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The case of the Filling Fragrances

Godrej Aer - Inspire a fragrance

I grew up at a time when Tata's  Eau de Cologne ruled the market. 60 years ago. Simply because there was nothing else.  Everyone called it "Scent".   ( A million times better than what we have today, fragrances called , of all things, Poison.  ) 

A single bottle went on for years, as you dabbed on, or better still, someone else dabbed on you, a few drops of the same on special occasions. Room fresheners, per se, as seen today were non existent, and no one felt the need to have a room smell of pine forests when the pervading smell in the house was that of ghee being made in the kitchen, or the years supply of garam masala being pounded by hand.

Years later, when I went to the US for grad school, and shared a small apartment , I suddenly learned that when you expected guests for dinner,  it was the done thing to use a room freshener fragrance spray,  not so your menu remained a secret, but, because houses were not expected to smell of adrak-lasoon  enjoying themselves in
hot oil.

Our cerebral cortexes (or is it cortii)  are trained to actually associate memories with smells.  And while there are several memories like those inhaled while passing in a train over Mahim Creek, that I prefer to forget,  so many others take me back  to the old days.

Like when we had neighbors from Hyderabad in the early 80's and every Id, the grandma would be visiting, and she would cook up a Biryanic storm in their kitchen. The flavors would waft down to the garage area, and we would blindly follow our noses  inhaling the adrak, the lasun, the saffron, the onion, the cinnamon, the cloves , the mint, the dhania doing their stuff amidst Basmati, to land us amidst the guests visiting for Id.

 Like when we celebrated the Ganesh Festival, and the house was redolent with the small of freshly shredded coconut  becoming one with a melting jaggery amidst pinches of cardamom powder , and raisins joining the fun.  Sandalwood making it presence felt , amidst agarbattis , all of this contributing to what I might call a puja fragrance.

 Like hot summers redolent with fragrances of ripening mangoes,  and pieces of raw mango fussing about with  salt, red chilly powder, hing and methi seeds fried crisp and crushed ; pickle smells that drew the neighbours to your house, to taste and nod approvingly, as your grandmother/mother beamed  amidst the tadkas.

Like a parched Earth, achingly dry,  and the amazing fragrance of the Earth smiling as it looked up at the first rain o the season. I could say "wet earth" but Geeli Mitti says it so much better. A fragrance that draws the most stuffy person out of the house, to inhale deeply, and beam in approval at the kids getting wet in the first rain of the season.

Like the ajwain leaves, blooming in profusion,  and emanating a cleansing fragrance as you pluck some, and go forth to make the pakodas with the leaves, something always enjoyed in the rains. (Greedy folks like me also enjoy them throughout the year).

Like the smell of ginger being grated and added to the water boiling away to make tea;  like some mint leaves awaiting their rendezvous with the same;  and sometimes cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves,  behaving like mature seniors waiting their turn.

Like a roomful of Mamis , wearing flowers in their hair, gajras with heavenly fragrance, all assembled in traditional silks for a Haldi kukum , a sudden sprinkle of rosewater, while a creeping smell of frying kadhipatta  emanates quietly from the kitchen .

We have so many fragrances to celebrate.   Very Indian fragrances  which are part of our lives. 

Godrej Aer, wants us to  suggest fragrances which are crowd sourced.  There can be none better than those that celebrate our Indianness.

The International Journal of Obesity has papers by Dutch researchers, that say that food smells need to be avoided by those trying to reduce their weight.  Apparently, non-food smells like pine and cut-grass reduce appetite.

Wait. There are, however, other smells that are part of reducing weight.  The smell of lemon squeezed in warm water, the smell of sweat, as you drip after a  good run in the morning, and strangely the smell of your tired socks, as you fling them, with a grimace , into the washing machine....

Clearly pine smells and cut grass do not make the grade. 

And so the Godrej types should introduce fragrances like  Adrak Crush,  Turmeric Temptation (ever smelt turmeric leaves ?),  Royal Saffron, Puja Sandalwood,  Geeli Mitti,  Kairi Methi,  Amazing Ajwain,  Sweet Coconut,  Sinful Cinnamon,  Pretty Green Pepper,  Stuck-up Cloves, and even  Nutty Nutmeg.   

Naturally, there will be Jai Jasmine,  My Mogra,  Resplendent Rose, Chamak Champa, and  Truly Tulsi , for times when you are full. 


And for times, when you are really hungry, and cannot afford to eat (for whatever reasons, health or economical) ,  a  Biryanical Fragrance  to satiate and mislead the brain the Dutch researchers talk about.....  

(Submitted as an entry for the Indiblogger Godrej Aer #InspireAFragrance contest)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

All about all !

Indra Nooyi,  interviewed by Bradley of the Atlantic Magazine, declares "Women cant have it all !" .   


We've known about it.  And we deal with such stuff .  And get on with our lives.  Just that no one interviews us, and goes gaga over small snippets dealing with crowns, milk, PTA meetings and proxy permissions to kids.

It really depends on which part of this phrase/sentence we emphasize.

For someone  like my household help "S",  the key word is "have". 

As a "woman" she has braved life a thousand times more than I have;  she doesn't have the time to debate over whether she has a work-life balance or no.  Between being a single mother with a violent absentee (for the last 25 years)  husband, educating her 4 kids single handedly, caring for an aged mother, and now dealing with the education system and complicated certificates  to give her grand kids something she never got ,  she kind of gets a balance  only when she helplessly falls sick, and has to stay home from her own work. Her kids, plead with her to be a SAHM, now that they all work,  but she , with no pension systems, feels she must work, like her own mother, till her legs allow her.  She doesn't ponder over the haves or have-nots. Her sons too , are busy earning a living in an honorable way. Man or woman is not the issue. Theorizing about stuff is a non-activity.

For so many of us middle class types, the key word is "all" .    

For some, "all" is about a well paying  posh job, doing up your house,  annual vacations, children in schools that charge fees equivalent to down payment on a house for people like "S', a husband who looks after the kids because the wife accepts a transfer on promotion outstation,  no other aged family dependents and a house that, well, runs by itself.   " All "  is attainable, but difficult.  Sometimes requiring mental compromises, skewing the balance.

For some, "all"  is having a job, with flexible hours, ability to work from home, an understanding boss, grandparents chipping in with time for kids,   a lower remuneration is accepted simply because it is more important that  her time be her own to decide,  and the house be a home rather than a house.

For some, "all" is the good fortune to have worked, and been able to stop whenever children or parental care demanded it.  It is the ability to redefine your needs to exclude extraneous factors, and enjoy living on one person's salary, without agonizing about how your kitchen is old-style while xyz got German style counters and trolleys.

And for some, so many who have seen it all,  "all" is about managing the stresses inherent in ageing, modern ailments,  spiralling costs,  declining moral standards, and suddenly finding out that things are exactly opposite of what you thought they were.  Having it "all" is the ability to handle reverses without falling prey to psychological afflictions, and being your own Prozac . 

I read the Indra Nooyi interview.  I realize that the events she mentions are representative of her convictions about not having it all.  Maybe she should have chosen better.

I don't understand the milk stuff.  Don't they have phones ? Landlines? Cell phones ?  If the mother cannot call Indra Nooyi personally at work, what the point in being so powerful? Couldn't she call and ask her to get milk ?  Secretaries in the US system often organize and order out for sandwiches and stuff for their bosses. The secretary could have ordered the milk.  That is called efficient organization .   Hundreds of working women  in Mumbai, share grocery responsibilities with their spouses, and no one or their spouse thinks it is demeaning to stop someplace on the way home to pick up stuff. All it takes is a call or a text message.  Why all this fuss mixing up  crowns, milk, mothers and tired spouses ?  

And then the business about secretaries giving permissions to your kids to play some video game. Because you are too busy to speak to your child.  This is confusing . Isn't there a grandma in the house ?   Can the child not speak to the father at work  if the mother is unavailable at her place of work ?  Or is there something about new standards  being followed here ?  Reminds me about an interview being given once by a well known Indian industrialists wife, herself a prominent society person, who said, that as a way of teaching their children , that there exist hardships in life , on foreign vacations, the kids travel economy class, while the parents travel first class.  Wow !    

The story about highlighting absentees at the PTA meeting because Nooyi couldn't go herself,  actually sends a wrong message. Either she doesn't respect the educational system in the US, or has no qualms about her daughter learning  that. 

Never mind.

I wish Mr Bradley  of the Atlantic comes to India.

I can introduce him to so many women who can really tell him what "all" is.  How it changes with age , and how so many smart women here handle the "having it all " or "not having it all " stuff , quietly working at it.

And I am sure they will give better examples.