Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Oily matters..........

The trouble with being a senior citizen reviewing a new oil, (Fortune Rice Bran Oil) is that you always tend to remember the old days.

Oil or Tel,  then, was of two types. It was either "Goda Tel"  (Goda ~ sweet),  or it was everything else which included coconut oil, oils used for machines, masssage etc.  It never occurred to me, as a child,  to ask folks at home, what the Goda Tel was made of.  Turned out it was groundnuts.  And the reason it was called Goda Tel, was not because it was sweet to taste, but because "food" was considered a "sweet" concept. That is, compared to oils that lubricated machines, skins and  say,  cricket bats.

Different regions of India have their own version of "Goda Tel"; like mustard oil in the north and coconut oil in the south.  However, the 21st century has literally foisted a plethora of oils and research on us. There is safflower oil, sunflower oil, grape seed oil, soy oil, olive oil, mustard oil, cottonseed oil, palm oil, canola oil, sesame oil , and now rice bran oil;   and many more. 

The Fortune Rice Bran folks  mention several benefits of their oil. Decreasing cholesterol, cardiac protection due to oryzanol in the rice bran, ability to keep blood vessels clean, anti cancer ingredients in the oil,  vitamin E content for good neurological control, presence of squalene for delaying aging of skin, ferulic acid to enhance hormonal performance, antioxidants to shore up your immune systems, and an inherent lightness of the oil, that doesn't allow it to stick to food and get absorbed into it. The best of all is that this oil has a high smoking point at 490 deg F, or 254 deg C. 

My concern with this oil is the  amount of Omega-6 and Omega 3 fatty acids it contains and their ratio. While for refined groundnut oil, this ration is 2:1, for Rice Bran oil, it is 21: 1.   Omega -6 fatty acids in abundance lead to inflammation in the human body.  And so we look for oils with a lower  Omega-6 to Omega-3  ration. Amidst all the oils available to us. 

I tried out this oil for a week,  in my normal daily cooking, which is basically about tadkas on vegetables and dals. I did use it for deep frying once , and was delighted to note that the meduwadas absorbed much less oil.  Significantly, since this oil has a very high smoking point, I didn't worry too much about leaving it on the stove a wee bit longer as I multitasked.  

I haven't tried using this oil in its raw form , say, as a salad dressing etc. It certainly does not have a typical smell. Food cooked in it tastes no different from that cooked in my traditional groundnut oil, as no one at home even noticed the difference in oil. 

And so my gut feeling about using this oil is, I would use this when I am deep frying stuff. Because I do not deep fry too often, I can reap the benefits of the lightness of the oil, and its ability to not be absorbed in to the foodstuff,  as a trade off  vis-a-vis the worrisome omega ratio.

I would still want to continue using my groundnut oil for my routine daily cooking. Which has a better ratio. 

Theoretically, there are other oils like macadamia nut oil , and even flaxseed oil which have exemplary ratios. But some are unstable and go rancid on keeping, and some, like Olive Oil , are prohibitively priced.  And if you ask me, not really suited for Indian cooking. 

Then there is a current school of thought that says don't get habituated to a single type of oil. Use different types.  

Yes , the price of Rice Bran oil at Rs 115/- a litre is much lesser that groundnut oil at 150/- a litre.   A  significant difference....

The interesting thing is, that if you reduce your oil consumption overall,  none of the above really become significant issues.   

I also investigated , what one may call the "non-Goda" aspects of this oil, by experimenting with it on my hair.  Warming the oil,  massaging it nicely into the hair, and then sitting in the sun for half an hour before washing it all off , yielded fairly acceptable results. And no, the hair did not smell.  (even when I was sitting in the sun).
I have often wondered why, in a rice consuming country like India, with all the southern states and the Kokan Belt of Maharashtra dedicated to rice,  Rice Bran Oil happened so late. We never heard of it when we were young.

Turns out that , it has come to us from Japan.   Ever since the old bullock driven oil mills, or "Ghanis" , the bells around the animal's neck tinkling as the oil press squeaked rhythmically into the sunset,  stopped being the method of oil extraction,  many advanced technologies now enable us to extract oil from the most unusual  raw material. 

In a smarter but possibly, ungraceful manner.

And just like today's children think milk comes from a carton and  the cow has nothing to do with it,  I think oil  has reached the similar stage. It comes in a carton, from a factory. 

I can hear the cow sighing......

I am reviewing healthy oil as a part of the BlogAdda's Product Review Program for Indian Bloggers.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Review of : Jack is Back in Corporate Carnival

"Jack is Back in Corporate Carnival" by P. G. Bhaskar  was sent to me for review by Indiblogger and Harper Collins. 

P. G. Bhasker, is a private banker who has lived  and worked in Dubai since 1992, and this is his second novel , based on his experiences there, the first being "Jack Patel's Dubai Dreams".

I had not read the former, and so had no clue about this book. One assumed, it was something kind of steeped in financial jargon, intrigues, people exploiting banking rules to make fast bucks and so on.  

But I was pleasantly surprised. 

Jack Patel and his friend Kitch accept a job at a British Bank in Dubai, along with some other international folks from their old job.  His job appears to be solely dedicated to acquiring new big ticket clients for the bank, and this has him travelling across the Middle East, Africa and Chennai with great frequency.  Bhasker introduces a typical mix of nationalities as part of those who work with him. His friend Kitch, who has conservative parents  in Chennai, but is himself married to a lady Galiya, of Kazakh descent, who manages an Idli/south Indian food restaurant with expertise. Kitch's brother Andy, let loose in Dubai, sort of free from his Chennai roots, and playing the field so to speak, as he tries to settle in into his career. 

The story is replete with Indian folks who live all over the various continents, do very well for themselves, and make Jack absolutely jump through hoops, while deciding whether to give his bank their high value account. There are cricket crazy folks, football-mad clients, strict vegetarian types;  Jacks colleagues are also from various nations, some having their own concepts of right and wrong ethics in their working life.

Surprisingly, for a book based on life in a banking world,  one doesn't get lost in  banking specific episodes. Because the book is more about people than professions.  Kitch's  brother Andy declaring his intention of marrying his girlfriend Rachel, the expected great opposition from his parents, Jack being designated to be the one to make them change their mind. 

The amazing time he has while going back to the groom's home to retrieve an important item needed without which the wedding cannot proceed. The shocked maid at home falling into a dead faint, rushing in last minute at the wedding venue. All very entertainingly described.

This is a nice light book, greatly entertaining , without too many serious type corporate descriptions, which sound impressive but are often boring to a non-corporate type.  The author has a great eye for detail and a great ear for words as far as typical Indians go, and these are used to great advantage  in the book. 

And a near perfect cover , showing a person with a parachute, trying to find his way through the business towers and highrises of Dubai...
An enjoyable read.       

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Review of Chankaya's New Manifesto

I received this book, "Chanakya's New Manifesto to resolve the crisis within India"  for reviewing from the Blogadda Book Reviews Program.

The author of the book, Pavan K. Varma, has very impressive credentials. A student of history, with a degree in law, he has served as Press secretary to the President of India, Official Spokesman of the Foreign Office, Director General of ICCR, and India's ambassador to Bhutan.  A multi faceted writer, his earlier books, have been about poets, the great Indian middle class, Lord Krishna,  and so on, and he has translated the poetry of folks as diverse as Kaifi Azmi, Gulzar, and Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

This book begins with describing the advent of Chanakya and his penning his famous treatise on Statecraft, "Arthashastra" thousands of years ago. The author has exhaustively studied it , and pieces from it are quoted by him, at the start of each of the main sections of the book, like Governance, Democracy, Corruption, Security, and the Creation of an Inclusive Society.

This isn't a book that you can read start to finish.  It is massively replete with facts, figures and numbers, and their changes across the years that we have been an independent nation with our own Constitution.

In each section , the authors gives details of the current state of affairs, and how it has developed, the mindsets that have got formed, and what must change.  He then spells out point by point what steps we need to undertake , guided by his understanding of our Constitution, and the duties of a ruler as suggested by Chanakya in his treatise.

There are suggestions of setting up a Governance Appraisal Panel (GAP) , an independent body under the Constitution to evaluate governance. He suggests that the panel be comprised of a specific mix of people from academia, corporate world, media, expert reputed former administrators, and a member of the judiciary.  Under the Corruption section, there is a dedicated section on the Election Commission, , its work, implementation of its rules, and the changes to be made  so that Parliament once again becomes free of criminals and folks not yet convicted , who today exploit the lax rules. A six month lead time to elections is suggested for proper implementation of these rules.

The main sense one gets out of reading this book, is the shocking and very sorry state of affairs , we as a country have landed up in.  Whether it is Governance, currently mostly paralytic;  Corruption, so endemic and widespread that it threatens , nay, has become, a way of life;  Democracy, where we grab all the rights but show no responsibility ; Security, where I personally greatly salute our soldiers who continue to defend the land,  despite the powers that be that have no clue about how to strengthen a country's defence ( as they play politics); and the section on Inclusive Society, that suggests ways that a country can homogenize a population that is today split between the have-nots (with no haves and only nots), and those that live with countless shameless zeros after a number (and are blind to everyone else).

This is not the place to debate individual points enumerated by the author in his Chanakya's New Manifesto.  But it certainly gets you worried , and shocked , when you read what he has to say about the state of our affairs since Independence ,  the blatant disregard for public good, the crass unconcern about wasteful expenditure, the absence of any analysis and action regarding non performing entities, whether human,industrial or commercial, and  you have difficulty feeling hopeful in the face of the scams currently surfacing one after another, with barely a dent on the psyche of those who purport to rule us.

I hope someone studies this,  uses many of its good suggestions and ideas, mentioned  in the new Manifesto.

I understand the author plans to enter public life.  My best wishes to him.

George Santayana once said "Those that do not learn the lessons of history, are doomed to repeat it" .

 The lessons of history are all there in this book. We simply need to learn.

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Why Page Three .....

Newspapers today have separate supplements that highlight folks , whose sole concern is probably to stay in the public eye. While newspapers in my younger days were thinner , less glamorous, and more mindful of what they published, I have often wondered how this so called market for gossip and celebrity circuit got built up.  

It could be something they say, or something they are wearing, and sometimes even something they are eating or drinking, which probably cost you and me the next EMI on something. 

And there are actually professional types  they hire to do this.   
    It seems  there exist people called publicists, who , for a price, make it their business to inform all and sundry , the minutest activity and other details about their client,  even stooping so low as to hint at things , that the general public might speculate upon gleefully  and swallow. 

Long long time ago, which is like 54 years ago, our family visited New Delhi around Christmas. There used to be a public darbar  by  Panditji  at Teen Murti, every weekday morning, where you simply went in, stood in line, and he came down and mingled, and met folks. Lots of school and college students with their teachers,  folks from rural areas, local folks, and tourists.  As students we read about him, the freedom struggle, and looked up to the government, and I still have an enlarged portrait of our entire family with him, on my wall.  My younger brother decided to present the flowers we took with us, I had none, and so I plucked the flox outside Teen Murti gates, and clutched them .  :-)    No security, no whistles or leaping sniffing dogs, and he accepted them along with my red Santa Claus brooch which I unpinned, to give him. He put his arms across our shoulders and my brother and I walked a bit with him. It kind of confirmed what we had heard. He loved kids. And we've believed in Children's Day, more as something that was true rather than a vote catching gesture .  

We didn’t know then that a word called “celebrity” existed.  And sometimes I even wonder why they exist today.
Today, I guess folks are obsessed with celebrities in India, because, secretly, they , the celebrities,  do what you could not. 

So a  guy who specializes in taking off his shirt at the slightest perturbation, and dances   with his hands hooked into his belt, displaying his abs, is a celebrity.   He drives recklessly, cars you only dream of, and has accidents. He is treated with kid gloves by the cops, he dances at their functions, and he is excused from court appearances because "he is shooting".   His entire family defends him, and all his girlfriends are glamorous and famous.   You, of the wrong U-turn that caught the attention of the cops, can you do that? 

Another guy , high up and powerful, kind of rubs it in, when he walks in the midst of 8 security  Black Cats,  his hands folded ,  a flunkey carrying his phones,  and people applaud, and bend to touch his feet. Some even tie shoelaces for him.   Someone in the background does all his dirty work; he calls himself a servant of the people, and moves one step higher.  Can you do that?  Forget servant of the people.  You barely manage to be a servant in your own house, with your grueling work schedule. And when was the last time you moved one step higher ?

Then there are folks from abroad, mainly movie and TV artists/singers.  Hype is built up about where they will stay, eat, party, and travel. Dishes are named after something they ate or nibbled . ( Did anyone even name a Khichdi after you ? )   There are security types who do sanitizing of places before these folks arrive.  Today celebrity waving is an alternate career option for some folks.   You stand at the airport, scream and shout out their name, possibly even faint, all at the rate of Rs 100 an hour.  And you hope that you accidentally get to see Aishwarya Rai or Yuvraj  Singh on the side.    Paying  people to pay people to wave at you.  Can you do that?

Folks with  Z-plus security.   Policemen in double digits, inspectors, jeeps, and Black Cats accompany you, even if you visit a kindergarten. Or even if you are out at unearthly hours.  Traffic stops for you,  potholes fill up, sirens wail, you race ahead on the wrong side of the road, and even then you reach everywhere half an hour late.   Can you, of  the  8:12 double fast Churchgate local train, do that?

Then there are  those , whose sole work is to attend social functions,  sometimes with varying partners, but always in clothes that indicate fabric famine, and even antigravity effects. They are  always ready to purchase ordinary looking things at  outlandish prices for charity , and dine on food where you eat Vada Pav   and call it “Pomme de terre avec pav”, and say "Vada Pav-lova" which means "I love Vada Pav".  Everything costs more than your family expenses for 6 months (and counting),  and the papers go gaga over   clothes, and partners.   You, who worry  about  Dosas at the Udupi  now costing 50  Rs , can you do that?

There are those who comment.  In  words and actions.  Trainee celebrities, who appear on  television  and  try and outsmart others  in their inability to express a  fullstop.  These folks, tie black ribbons, hold candle marches and lead walks with serious  expressions , dark glasses, they  hold hands  and form chains.   (It must be mentioned, that some of these people, to their credit, also run marathons, where every kilometer they do is paid for by some company as charity, and actually helps a deserving cause).     Forget candles, and banners, the last time you held a hand out, did the bus or rickshaw stop?   Forget marathons, does anyone pay you as you run from the bus stop to platform no 2 to catch your train, day after day?   Can you do that?

No ?  That's why the system has celebrities. So you can aspire to things. Which you may never get. 

 And you thought  that a son in IT, and a tall, fair, home loving, beautiful daughter-in-law also in IT, and a choreographed sangeet at your daughter's wedding , as folks clicked and posted on FB using Iphone 5  was the ultimate ? 

Think again.  


Saturday, February 09, 2013

Vista Visits : Review of the Tata VistaD90

 I've taken lots of tests in my life.  Given a few.  I've driven stuff from a Mercury Cougar(1970-72) to a lumbering Ambassador(teens till mid twenties ),  and an almost  heritage style Fiat (for 38 years) to a Tata Indigo (since 2009).

But never have I done a "test"  drive . You are supposed to be testing a car .  Actually, you end up getting tested yourself.

Thanks to Tata Motors and Blogadda , I had the opportunity to test drive the Tata Indica Vista D90 for 3 days  recently.

You can look up all the technical details here. I wouldn't recognize a Quadrajet or even a Quintujet engine if it came walking in front of me.   But something tells me that this   engine is basically a  Suzuki-Fiat-GM alliance engine, which is variously tweaked  by the engineers, and  Tata's  call it  the Quadrajet , Fiat calls it the Multijet, Maruti-Suzuki types call it the DDis.  Which is actually nice, because I've consciously looked for Indian makes, really majorly driven Fiats and now Tata cars, out of choice, and this kind of fits in.

But it was my first time with a diesel engine. Took some time getting used to the typical sound.   I thought the initial pickup , was pretty slow, or as they say, sluggish. Like a person just getting up from sleep. There after, in 2nd, 3rd, and higher gears, the pickup improved amazingly, enhancing almost in a y=x**2 non linear fashion, and the car fairly flew across the lake side Link Road (JVLR) , which allows higher speed driving. Like the person suddenly rushing around realizing he had 15 minutes to catch the office bus.

I would have loved a long distance drive across expressways, but the review days were all weekdays and that was not possible.

I also found out, that like our politicians, that sense of power remained,  even when I drove at lower speeds on roads with frequent turns and gradients and the car comfortably drove in top gear without making any kind of cribbing sounds. Maybe it is a diesel engine thing. I don't know.

Unlike our politicians, the car has an excellent braking system.  Made amply clear when I drove on roads monopolized by cattle, and folks walking in the middle of the road.  I didn't have to struggle with the steering wheel, while finely negotiating sudden appearances of bulldozers, handcarts and sand heaps, and school children.  The car tolerated bad roads and our famous potholes with great finesse, probably because of excellent suspension, and a firm chassis.

Another thing I thought was a very thoughtful addition, was the fact that the car didn't start unless you pressed the clutch completely.  With four drivers, and one car in the family, the probability of someone leaving the car in gear when shutting off is non zero. I've been subject to sudden leaps of the engine in an unguarded starting moment.  I don't know whether this is a common feature in other cars.  But certainly , kudos to the makers here for this erstwhile simulation of getting into neutral.

  Several other nice things . Like the Touchscreen Multimedia Navigation System, Fully Automatic Temperature Control,  Driver Information System, Follow-me home Headlamps  and so on. 

 The car comes with a rear windscreen wiper (in addition to the usual ones). Greatly appreciated by someone with years of experience of wiping windscreens in a Fiat and the improved ability to see traffic in your rear view mirror .

Call it the old age non-audio Fiat hangover, but I am not comfortable, with one hand fiddling with radio controls while driving. The VistaD90, has placed all the controls for the audio on the steering wheel , operated by touch. Which is very nice.  

There is a blue-tooth system where you can configure your phone to it and have conversations on your phone without lifting a finger. And everyone inside the car can be part of it and know your secrets.  A dial pad for the phone is also available on the console of the music system. Which I think is a bit too much. When you drive, you drive.  You shouldn't be dialling and tapping 10 digits while driving. (You can always pull to the side of the road, stop and use your phone).

Apart from the fuel gauge, speed, rpms and other standard parts of a dashboard, this car can also tell you your average mileage, how many kilometres you can go on existing fuel  (till empty) and so on. Which is great.

Then there is what I call the "nag" feature. It has these beeps it gives, if your seat belts lie unused. Or if your doors are not closed properly. And you must listen and comply for the nagging to stop.  

The driver side door is fitted with easily reachable locking controls which are really ideal if you are regularly driving a gaggle of kids to school.  Window open and shut controls are also right there, which is very useful.

Several thoughtful features. The headlights remain on for 30 seconds after you shut off the car.  Kind of guiding your way through a dark garage. Late evenings, and you return to the car in semi darkness, and unable to sense the ignition key point , you bend a bit to see behind the steering wheel, only to be delighted, by a ring of light around the keyhole. What a nice surprise !

The front seats are adjustable is many dimensions, and be  put in what I call the alert driver mode, tall person mode, lumbar support mode etc. The non driver side seat can also  be put in semi sleeping position (if no one sits behind).  The rear seats can collapse in a 60-40 way, so that you can adjust seating along with increasing boot space for some lengthy item . Three people can sit comfortably in the rear seat when no seats are collapsed. It is also possible to collapse the remaining two seats. 

Good leg space for folks in the rear seat, given that this is a hatchback. Provided someone taller than 6 feet isn't driving.  It is possible that the lady in the photo was happy with it since I was driving, and had to adjust the seat a bit towards the front.

A decent boot space, not meant for lugging large suitcases  along with four passengers. But that's where the collapsing seats are useful, if you carry fewer passengers.

One design flaw, if I might call it that, is that the driver is unable to see the front end of the car. This flaw exists even in the Tata Indigo (which I drive).  If you are parking in front of a wall, it is difficult to see how close you are getting to the wall. It is also occasionally difficult to see how close you are to another car in the front.  The gradient of the bonnet could be better designed. I just wonder if this is a Nano hangup. It might work in the Nano because you are almost right in front yourself. But this snub-nose design doesn't work both in Indigo or the VistD90.  

A good city car, easy to manoeuvre.  Though a bit high . In height and if I might say so, price in Mumbai.  Also with the driver's seat setting that worked for me, I found it a bit difficult to get in and out without getting obstructed by the steering wheel.

A very nice three days, where family and friends were treated to rides and their opinions enjoyed.  A lot of folks suddenly thought I had a new red car.  Honest person that I am, I had to clarify.  Gave a lot of opportunities  to family folks doing photography.

I hear the car is fitted with air bags.

I am just relieved I never had to find out.

This is a part of the Product Reviews Program at BlogAdda.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Thoughtful Chews....

20 years ago, no one described anyone as a "Foodie." 

The word did not exist. 

You simply got on with your dal-chawal, amti-bhat, zunka-bhakri, rajma-rice, paratha-sabji or sambaar-rice.  Pangs of hunger away from home, or sometimes even at home, were satisfied at the local idli-dosa-thali place, or some fancy place which served you cream of tomato soup, bread sticks, cutlets and so on, as you skirmished with the cutlery. 

What happened , was the advent "FDI in eating" , and  consequently,  "L(ocal)DI in eating" in response. 

Suddenly, you had long lines of folks, grandparents and all, outside the Golden Arches, and Pizza places.  Not to be outdone, Indian fast food emerged out of the woodwork, and Pav Bhaji, Chats, enjoyed great prominence along with 25 different types of Dosas including Chinese Dosas and Schezuan Idlis with a hint of Ghee. As if mobilizing to oppose the FDI, street food erupted in the form of    Vada Pao, Samosa Pao, Open Air Dosa stands, and even Fruit Juice. Sugarcane juice kind of faded into the background and got replaced with Ganga Jamuna juice. 

I remember waiting in the area outside a popular joint in the Deccan Gymkhana area of Pune, sometime in the early nineties, as the place was super crowded, and a family of ten was going in.  To my intense surprise, a half bent grandma, in a standard cotton nine yard and a no nonsense bun  walked in along with an older shuffling grandpa, with a walking stick, accompanied by young folks dressed just so, and a bunch of overactive kids; all this at 10 PM.

This was a sign that “eating” per se, had become a hobby activity as opposed to a sensible requirement for living.

Institutes now certified folks in cooking and hospitality, it became fashionable to serve normal food in a complicated way, in fancy places, and as a bill, you ended up paying for their décor, watchman and air conditioning. It became infra-dig to even crib about this.   

“Plating” became a work or art, and folks went into raptures over a tiny dark piece of singed meat, adorned with some green leaves ,shiny carrots, some twirls of salad and a streak of some sauce across the plate, as if it was planning to be there, but changed its mind and went off to streak another plate at the last minute. Various drinks suddenly made their appearance, with sometimes risqué and shocking names, and a dollop of some vague alcohol.

Prices in restaurants hit the moon, and strangely, people actually thronged these places.   

Folks introduced what they thought was international cuisine.  Those whose self esteem depended on announcing where they went for dinner and with whom, patronized these places.

Folks joined fitness centres, and suddenly omelettes were white and not yellow, and everyone drank proteins, and bared their abs.  So called celebrities, who did all this, got a vicarious thrill out of saying they were “foodies” , and you wondered about someone stuffing himself/herself and yet showing up and posing, in appropriate three dimensions, with clothes cut just so ( in odd places).

While this may be true of those with money to throw, nothing has really changed for us.

Once in 4 years, we utilize our LTC benefits, go visit the Andamans, gorge on the fish and local delicacies, and five days later we are back, pining for a decent hot Varan Bhat with home-made ghee and pickle.

We spend our free time at home making fancy cakes with icing to die for, and lap up the praise, and then pine for homemade parathas with a dollop of white butter and pickle, as comfort food.

I’ve seen folks who go all quiet and single minded, as they meditate on slurping up the fish curry and rice made at home with the help of an ever-willing pao.

I’ve seen eyes light up in wordless delight as a bhakri off the tawa, is halved and split in layers, releasing a steam so wonderful, that butter simply melts, and the lasoon chutney mobilizes for assault on the taste buds.

I’ve seen chairs being adjusted, as someone prefers, to hike their pajamas, and sit comfortably cross legged at the dining table, now that curd rice with a tadka of kadhi patta and fried chillies was about to happen.

And I have seen the light, reflecting off a Payasam in a silver katori, compete with the light in someone’s eyes.

Su-shi did you say? 

Aiyyo. In my language, these are words for stuff babies do, and you need to keep changing them.

But yes, the diapers just may be Japanese.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Review of "RIP" by Mukul Deva

I received this book , "RIP" by Mukul Deva,  published by Westland in 2012, as part of the Blogadda Book Review program.

A cursory  search of  what RIP stands for, reveals 88 expansions, ranging from Rest in Peace , to  Rat Insulin Promoter.   The acronym, in this title, stands for Resurgent Indian Patriots. Possibly an 89th expansion.

The Resurgent Indian patriots , as they call themselves, are a group of army men, now retired from active service,  but very concerned about the rot, scams and scandals  in public life, and desperately wanting to do something about it.

The plot of the book , is based on the RIP's claiming credit for the killing of a corrupt  politician, and announcing the likelihood of many more within a given time frame. The subsequent  desperate processes set in motion by those in power who were supposed to do something about such things, their liaisons with redoubtable folks with even more redoubtable morals, and the complete disregard  for the common man on the road is the theme throughout the book.

Colonel Krishna Athavle, and his team of Special Forces officers, their names indicating a Pan Indian participation, and supreme motivation, plan their killings with great precision, and intercommunication.  The author introduces, another variety of ex army , Raghav Bhagat , a rogue para commando, who kills for money. In between these two are a bunch of ministers, bureaucrats, security managers and folks, who are a fine sample of how things operate at high levels. Reena Bhagat, a TV news anchor, and estranged wife of Raghav is the romantic factor in this novel. Predictably, she and Colonel Krishna Athavle  meet, and things progress, thanks to their respective sons , who are friends.

The story is replete with fast paced movements, events, precision killings, chases, and references to folks , that have different names, but remind us about folks in the current political pantheon of prominent personalities, on an all-India scale. There are also references to prominent events of the past like the hijacking of an IA plane.

A paranoid set of government folks ordering one set of officers to spy on another set of officers involved in the RIP investigations, introduces , what a cynical mind might define as a comic element and has much to do with the final outcome.

A recurring thought while reading this novel has been about how this is almost like a screen play and designed to be made into a film.  There is a hero, heroine, villain, molls, big and hefty bosses, a large amount of brilliant action chases, blowing up of cars, poisonous injections, and some human interest stuff in the form of two kids.

There is a bit of fun as you endeavour to recognize the thinly veiled characters of the book, and try to match them with who you think they are.

This is a fun read, a fast read, and at no point, does the speed of the story lag or meander.

One applauds the research and knowledge of military facts  , which is not a surprise given the military background and experiences of the author.

Just a niggling thought at the end. Reena Bhagat and Colonel Athawale get together, as they should, with their kids. She does not know about his participation in the RIP.

Leaves me wondering about her reaction, when she finds out.....  

This review is a part of the biggest Book Reviews Program. for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Meeting myself....

When I first started blogging,  I realized that I would need a profile picture.  A conscious decision to blog under a pseudonym , and I came up with Ugich Konitari; which as any Marathi speaking person will tell you, is nothing extraordinary. 

Thanks to the large number languages and dialects spoken in India, most people got curious about the name, and I even had a query asking if it was a Japanese name. I wish I had said yes, just for the sake of excitement, but like Mr G. Washington of the apple tree fame, I could not tell a lie, and explained what the name was.  There was a fine sense of coming down to earth in this, a sense of comfort at having a name which was supremely ordinary.

So when I was planning a profile picture, I thought it should match that sense. Someone who thrived on being who she was, was firmly modern in some ways, but  had her own down-to-earth, slightly old fashioned, striving-to live-in-a modern-world style;  like a cross between Britney Spears and Gangubai.

A well  known blog aggregater even interviewed me once and one of the readers (Solilo, folks will remember her)  , actually asked me what the profile picture meant and I had to clarify that I was quite happy letting my imagination fly on the broom, thank-you, and I was not in competition with Mrs A.  Rai  B. flying first class to London.

Some young folks even hinted that the picture  needed to be changed. But I doggedly refused. And kept flying on the broom.  I even found a quotation to match and put it on my page.  When I gingerly stepped into Facebook a few years later , I did not think twice before using that as my DP.

One of the spin offs of being a blogger was I would see a few photography blogs, the daughter was into photography, and she was inspired to start a photoblog.  She has been visiting local events in Mumbai, like the Ganpati workshops in Parel, and so on, and since last year, the Kala Ghoda Fair, that happens in Jan-Feb of every year.

She went there today with a friend, took several photographs, and of all the myriads of things you can buy there , in the numerous stalls, displays, and crowds, their eyes came upon a clay  figurine  which suddenly looked familiar.  A spirited native Indian lady, in her traditional dress, hair in a practical bun, swinging away with gusto, grinning away , toothily, displaying, if I might say so, a total of 4 teeth. 

Both the girls sensed a bell ringing in their heads. Encouraged by her friend, my daughter decided to purchase the amazing work of art, and lugged it home through a crowded suburban train, to gift it to me.

The similarity with my DP is uncanny. The attitude displayed by the lady in my DP and that on the swing is  absolutely identical. The thrill of flying high with whatever is at hand.  The disdain for size zero, or for that matter size 1. Or even more. Even the mode of dressing follows similar individual preferences.

I don't dress like this, but my mind does.

But there is a certain sense of joyful, carefree aging, in the clay figurine .  The freedom to find her own sense of enjoyment, unhampered by what people think, whether she is appropriately dressed for it or no; because she has  really seen it all,  and been through all that stuff .  She revels in her toothy smile, (in reality , I actually do have more like a toothy'gummy  grin),  its just that here, toothy means 4 teeth !

Maybe a few years from now, I will change my profile picture. On the blog and on FB.

Approaching the seventies, I just might need a more swinging lifestyle.......?