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Thursday, December 7, 2017

Facades


Saying what your mind does not agree with
  Is what we often do to take a path less arduous
Doing what we would not like
  Is what we often are enmeshed with
In the world of facades, the reality is lost
 Only half-truths and lies are dished shamelessly most
Be childlike and innocent is taught most
  Least practised and pursued as we grow more
Sit back to  listen to beats of your heart
  A silent rhythm unchanged despite tearing apart
Hear the songs of nature, birds chirp, revel n bask
  Do any of these ever change to don any mask??

PS- Image Kind courtesy Google

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Elixir



Manisha, sits in a cafe where an old man serves her a cup of coffee while another man sits at a corner table. She had a long day at the office and despite the success in the corporate world, there is a corner of her heart that is void. The repeated bouts of headaches and uneasiness leave her drained of the energy. She goes home and pops in some pills and after a while falls asleep. A dream takes over and changes her life forever!

This is just a very brief story of very few characters in this brilliant book written by a blogger Sinjini Sengupta. This is her maiden attempt at storytelling and speaks volumes of the insight she has into the way of life of a highflyer in the society. The portrayal of characters gives a feel of the world around the ones who have touched the pinnacles of success. The husband Amit, who has a very successful career too, has little time for his wife! There is no dearth of such characters that one can come across in today's world where the size of a bungalow, or a car, and the branded pieces strewn around the house are a measure of success! While the pursuit of material success may be held in high esteem but the emptiness of lives of those who fill these spaces is rarely understood.

Sinjini has a unique style of writing with the choicest diction and a perfect understanding of human emotions. The setting of clouds and frequent rain paused with bouts of severe headaches that the main protagonist suffers, do appear frequently but never slacken the pace. Each character comes to life as the words smoothly flow from the pen of Sinjini.

A compulsive reading, and little wonder that this book has been made into a short film which has already won several awards at The Cannes Film Festival, Boston Caledioscope Film Festival, Kolkata Short Film Festival, just to name a few. Sinjini was a keynote speaker at the recently concluded Valley of the Words 2017, and BNLF at Dehradun in November 2017.

PS: I had the privilege to meet Sinjini at VOW/ BNLF at Dehradun and get a signed copy of her book

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Unbeatable Sarson ka Saag and Makki Di Roti


'A healthy mind resides in a healthy body' the old adage goes.  To remain healthy one is must take a balanced diet full of proteins, fibre, minerals, carbohydrates and fat. These days, the prevalence of iron deficiency in young women has been a cause for concern as an estimated 45% of the women in the childbearing age are anaemic.It reduces the capacity to work and in worst cases also results in infant mortality if not treated.
In India, we are blessed with foods that do not cost much and are very delicious and rich in iron content. Makki ki roti and Sarson ka saag with chutney and aloo gobhi with a little variation can be quickly prepared and is rich in iron and fibre and tastes very good. A recipe of the same is given below 
 Required
For Sarson ka Saag

1. 250 gm Sarson leaves
2.250 gm Palak leave
3. 200 gm Methi leaves
4. 100 gm onions 
5. 2 green chillies
6. 200 gm red tomatoes
7. Two teaspoon Makki atta
8. Three  tablespoon Ghee
9. Salt 3/4 teaspoon
10 Haldi/ Jeera 1/2 teaspoon each
11. Dhania powder 2 teaspoon
12. Three tablespoon tomato purée 

For Makki Di Roti
1. 1 cup Makki Atta
2. 1/4cup wheat atta
3. Salt to taste


Aloo Gobhi Vegetable
1. Two Large potatoes
2. One medium-size cauliflower
3. Two tablespoons cooking Oil
4. 1/2 teaspoon Salt, Haldi, Red Chillies powder( each), zeera(little)
5. Little Garam Masala
6. Fine chopped green coriander to garnish

Green Chutney
1. 100 gm green coriander leaves
2. two green chillies
3. 1/2 lemon
4.  1/2 teaspoon salt, Jeera, Hing( a pinch)

The above ingredients can serve up to 4 people and it takes about one hour to prepare the meal
Preparation of  Saag

1. Wash all the leafy vegetables nicely in water after removing the stems.
2 Next, wash the tomatoes and boil all the leafy vegetables with one cup of water in the cooker for two whistles and set it to cool down
3. Chop the onions after peeling and chop the chillies.  Heat the ghee in the pan and add zeera till it sputters. Add the onions and chillies and toss them till they turn golden. Now, add the tomato purée and dhania, salt and little red chillies till it is cooked on a low flame
4. The steamed vegetables should now be ground in a thick paste in the blender after it has cooled down.
5.Add the vegetable paste in the pan containing the tomato gravy, and add two spoons of makki atta. Keep stirring to avoid creation of lumps. Cook over the low flame for about 15 minutes after covering with the lid. Keep stirring after every few minutes. Turn off the flame. The saag is ready!

Preparation of Aloo Gobhi

1. Peel the potatoes and chop them into small wedges.
2. Chop the cauliflower into small florets. Wash both the potatoes and cauliflower florets in water
thoroughly.
3. Next, heat the oil in a pan and add  hing and zeera till it splutters. Add, the washed vegetables and sprinkle salt and haldi and toss. Add two table spoon water, and cook over slow flame for about 15 minutes after covering with the lid.
4. Once the vegetable is cooked, sprinkle, dhania powder, red chillies and garam masala and mix it.
5. The vegetable is ready. Sprinkle, the finely chopped coriander leaves just before serving

Preparation of the chutney

1. Remove the stems of the coriander leaves and clean the chillies.
2. Wash them thoroughly.
3. Put the coriander leaves and green chillies in a blender and add, jeera, salt and hing. Add three tablespoon water and grind into a paste.
4. Pour the contents in a small cup and squeeze the lemon after removing the seeds. Mix the contents. The chutney is ready.

Preparation of  Makki ki Roti

1. Take the makki and wheat flour on a plate, add a pinch of salt.
2. Make a dough of this by gradually adding water and kneading slowly till the dough is ready
3. Roll the dough in a ball and make round chappatis with a rolling pin by dusting with flour
4. Now heat a pan/ tawa on a flame and toss the roti on the pan. After few minutes turn this over and cook this over a low flame directly with a pair of tongs.
5. Grease the hot roti with clarified butter.

Lo and behold, the delicious meal is ready. Pour the saag in a small katori and add clarified butter. Serve this with the chutney, aloo gobhi and freshly prepared aloo gobhi. The meal is very yummy and
full of iron. In winters this is a perfect meal for lunch.
( This is my blog post for the Indiblogger/ Livogen sponsored contest. http://www.livogen.in/iron-
chef)






Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Changing Face of Travel


As a small kid, I remember staying with our relatives when travelling out of the city was the first option unless the place where we went had no friends or relatives. Also, as travel would mostly be need-based so the money spent on the accommodation was minimal as the major expense would be towards the purchase of tickets and eating. I suppose this was the case with most of the middle-class Indians.
All this was set to change as people started travelling even for work and would get relocated to far off places from their native place due to emerging job market and lesser reluctance to travel. Nowadays apart from those who study in the boarding schools, most of the kids leave their home to pursue the college and higher education and invariably get settled in the new cities where they find jobs,.The increasing globalization also opened the new frontiers to travel abroad for both studies as well as jobs.
As a result of the increased mobility and more disposable incomes in the hands, the travel industry was set to change forever in India. I vividly recollect becoming a  lifelong member of the International Youth Hostels in my early years to explore the country and stay in small cubicles with bare essentials without shelling a bomb. Most of the bag packers around the world still use this option as it not only cuts down on the living expenses but provides a decent clean place, mostly in the heart of the city, well connected with the public transport, and also offer travel cards across the counter to explore the place. One could meet people from not only within the country from different states but also foreigners to learn more about their cultures. The evening at these hostels would be converted into outdoor picnics with campfires and impromptu dance and music sessions. I explored the campsites to live under the stars, pitch a tent, which I had learnt while in school, during the NCC camps. Most cities in the world have excellent camping sites and also caravans for those seeking more adventure.
The medium scale hotels affiliated to chains like OYO, Treebo in the country and Accor, Best Western, Ginger etc offer reasonable places of stay internationally. The backpackers still look for the Youth hostels, YMCA/YWCA which is generally overflowing with tourists during the peak season.
A newly emerging trend is the homestay option which companies like Airbnb have brought on the world stage with a bang! They not only provide beautiful options to stay with the option of cooking or even eating with the families with whom they stay. They offer unique experiences which not many of the best hotels can match like offering local experiences besides the cuisine. In what was experimented by Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia and Nathan of San Francisco in floating AirBnB in 2008, the concept has revolutionized the travel world and is set to stay. It has managed to break into the traditional hold of the hotels and their chains that had dominated the world. Some have gone to the extent of swapping their homes when travelling to the places of their choice, instead of locking their homes!

The travel sites like Booking .com, Hotels .com, and much more, offer the ease of booking the hotels from the comfort of home for any place in the world. Coupled with the net booking of air or rail tickets the face of the travel world has changed forever and made travelling a delight.

PS Image Kind Courtesy Google

Saturday, October 28, 2017

The True Freedom

When the freedom of India was being considered by the British, Sir Winston Churchill a two-time prime minister of UK and an exceptional leader and a visionary had said
' The power will go to the hands of rascals, rogues, freeloaders; all Indian leaders will be of low calibre and men of straw. They will have sweet tongue and silly heart. They will fight among themselves for power and India will be lost in political squabbles. Not a bottle of water or a loaf of bread will escape taxation, only the air will be free.'

I am sure most of us must have read or heard of this prophecy in our growing years and witnessed what was said is repeated often in the year's post freedom.

We have made huge progress despite many hurdles in the years gone by and we too could have improved the quality of lives had we also ensured that moral fabric of the people was retained.
Keeping ourselves confined to only the NCR region of Delhi a realistic review will reveal that there are silver linings in the dark clouds that loom from time to time.
The two fundamental rights- the clean air and water need no emphasis. A project steered under the stewardship of Suresh Prabhu the Union Railway Minister and Amitabh Kant the CEO of NITI Aayog is ensuring measures to improve the quality of air and water. A concerted drive to introduce CNG buses, the removal of commercial vehicles older than 15 years, restrictions on burning of agriculture residue, stricter enforcement on builders to reduce the pollution of air is some of these. More than 10 million trees have been planted to give a green cover so that the city can breathe easier. This year for the first time the Supreme Court had imposed a ban on firecrackers on Diwali to contain the pollution levels of particulate matter. The 'Odd and Even' formula has been introduced a couple of times to ensure that lesser vehicles ply on the road.
The Digital India initiative of the Prime Minister will go a long way in improving the lifestyle in NCR by taking some steps like:
1. Digilocker- Submission of the documents  to the government agencies like Aadhar card, Passport etc in electronic format rather than hard copies to the government bodies
2.Driving Licenses, registration of Births and Deaths, and digitisation of many other kinds of data
3.High-Speed Fibre network to improve the internet connectivity by the participation of private players too.
4.Modernization of post offices and converting these to multi-service kiosks
5.Wifi hotspots across the NCR for assorted usage of smartphones and devices. A stellar role has been played by operators like Vodafone who have created more than 120 free hotspots in places like the DLF Malls, Delhi Haat, Fortis Hospitals and other places ( https://www.vodafone.in/home-delhi. )
6. Appointment with doctors online to avoid long queues in OPDs of AIIMS and other government hospitals

Besides these initiatives, the booking of gas, settlement of utility bills have not only increased the cashless transactions but also improved the efficiency

The future trends that cannot be ignored are the use of wearable technologies with sensors that can synchronize with smartphones and fitness trackers to monitor health. These can help manage the health by monitoring parameters like heart rate, blood sugar levels etc and taking timely preventive actions. Also, the use of incinerators to handle the solid wastes will help in cleansing the city and improving the quality of air.

An optimist, I sincerely hope that collectively we the residents of the NCR will be able to make the city more liveable and to some extent prove Sir Winston Churchill wrong by making the NCR a world-class city in future

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Amazing Amritsar

The Golden Temple 
A recent trip to Punjab was a nostalgic one considering it was one of the many done earlier. The air of the place and the friendly people, however, make every experience a new one and no matter how many visits I had done, this seemed special. A long drive on the national highway from Delhi was punctuated with a stopover at Murthal to have a bite! The delicious food with a lavish spread of ghee and aromatic dal was just a trailer of what was to follow in the coming days. The drive through the lush green fields on either side of the road was a feast for the eyes.
The scenic beauty from Chandigarh
The natural carpet of green with specs of yellow was soothing after seeing endless traffic snarls in the city. My companions on the trip did not want to miss the opportunity to shop for the woollens from the sprawling showroom adjacent to the highway in Ludhiana. The setting sun and the gradually thinning traffic brought us to Jullandhar, where we stopped over to pay our obeisance in an ashram. By the time we reached Amritsar it was almost 9.30 PM. We checked into the hotel which was very close to the Golden Temple. Without wasting any time, we headed for the sanctum sanctorum. The glistening gold of the dome shimmered in the lights that adorned, and the reflection from the pool added to the beauty. It was closing time but we were fortunate to get a glimpse of the Guru Granth Sahib( the holy book) being taken back to the Akal Takht, an adjoining building. in a palki decorated with flowers and silk amidst chanting of Shabad(hymns).
Ujagar Singh Papad and Wadi shop
Next morning it was time to explore the city which was overflowing with the tourists. The din of rickshaws, the fruit sellers, jostling with pedestrians add to the cacophony but makes one realize that the city is alive and kicking.
Phulkari collections at Katra Jamail Singh shop

The cloth market in Guru Bazar and Katra Jamail Singh are a shoppers paradise to buy the Phulkari, Dupattas, Brocades, Salwar Suits, woollens, blankets, Jootis( shoes) and much more at a steal!For the lovers of authentic Punjabi food more than a century old Kesar, the Dhaba offers the most lip-smacking food that one is unlikely to forget. There is a score of other places where indulgences like kulfi, piping hot jalebis and Gulab Jaman can be tried. There are also Dhaba that specialize in non-vegetarian fares like chicken and fish.

A visit to the Jalianwallah Bagh to remember the martyrs that fell to the bullets of  Brig Dyer almost a century ago on the Baisakhi day is a must. The place is just a stone's throw from the Golden Temple. For those who like an adrenaline rush with a patriotic fervour, a visit to the Wagha border about 35 km from Amritsar will not be disappointing! Only one has to reach the venue almost two hours before the start of the ceremony at sunset to get a decent place to watch as it is overflowing with people most of the time. There are several other attractions depending on the interest such as Durgiana Temple,  Sheetla Mata Temple and of course the walled city to explore. I find discovering the small alleys overflowing with shops, trinkets and local cuisine especially sellers of Wadi and Papads and Pickles( A kind of North Indian food) very fascinating.  The winding alleys bring you to Bazar Kathian to the Ujagar Singh Wadi and Papad shop which is almost a century old and considered one of the best.

The chariot with Lord Krishna and Arjun at Kurukshetra
The two nights went away in a jiffy and we packed to leave for Chandigarh en route to Delhi. The return journey through the small villages and a trip to the Chandimandir cantonment overlooking the Shivalik ranges, a visit to Kurukshetra where the war of Mahabharata took place would need another post. It was a short and sweet memorable trip

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Just Color My World

'Oh no', I silently wept as the maid who was cleaning the house put her wet hand on my shining surface. The hands were unwashed and had germs besides the dust and grime from the cloth she had used to wipe the kitchen.The story is repeated every day and by the evening as all the members of the house settle down. I can barely relax as the mosquitos and the cockroaches slowly crawl out from the hiding and are running all over me. You must have guessed by now, that I am a poor wall of a middle-class flat in Delhi.

Twenty years ago I was constructed and was painted with a coat of whitewash of lime over a surface prepared by the laborer after applying putty. There was a lot of dust all around but after two coats I was shining white in the broad sunlight. In a matter of few days, the contaminated air from cooking oil, dust from the atmosphere and the gases from the foul smell emanating from a nearby drain, took the sheen away. The erosion due to changes in weather and naughty Bunty's love for painting my surface with lead pencil and color crayons, I aged faster than ever. Mr. Sharma the owner of the house decided to give me a fresh coat.  He was advised to use distemper with an added coat of waterproofing. The fresh coat of paint was a very painful process as the laborers once again scaled my surface with a sharp-edged flat iron sheet and a hard rub of sandpaper. Everone in the house coughed severely from the dust that was raised for many days. After a fresh coat of the paint, I looked neat after three days and was shining once again. This went on for a few more years, but the torture I had to undergo was enormous with no significant change in the situation.

Mr. Sharma this year in March, came across the Asian Paints Royale Atmos advertisement 

highlighting the benefits of the new product. He was terrified to learn that the Odd-Even Formula to curb the pollution on streets of Delhi may have resulted in better quality of air but the air indoor could be five times more polluting than the air outside.  The main reasons were the presence of formaldehyde emanating from the wooden doors, metallic handles, the garbage bin in the house, decomposing plants in the garden, egg shells, cooking gas, carpets, vehicle exhaust from the neighborhood and even the boxes stored in the house.When inhaled over a period of time this could lead to allergies, skin rashes, and even respiratory disease. The new age paint developed by Asian Paints using Activated Carbon Technology for the first time in Royale Atmos brand was capable of neutralizing 60-70% of formaldehyde within 24 hours when tested in international laboratory conditions.The revolutionary paint not only makes the surfaces look better and brighter in the Matt finish but also fights against pollution and makes air cleaner to breathe.

Mr. Sharma has also come across an App called Colour Visualizer by which he can see how the walls will look like by choosing the combination of colors even before painting the walls. Both Mrs. and Mr, Sharma have decided the choice of colors that I will be adorned with just before Diwali! Is it not a great idea :) Imagine the hard time both had in choosing from a range of over 1750 colors! Also, due to the Teflon surface protector, in the color, the durability and strength of the film will increase manyfold.

Mr. Sharma is also following the international trends where nanotechnology will be used in making new paints using titanium dioxide nanoparticles, that will help create self-cleaning and waterproof surfaces.

As of now, around Diwali, I will have a reason to smile from end to end with a new coat of gloss making me shine in the sparkle of the lights

Acknowledgements:

1,  Asian Paints  for the following:
a) YouTube advertisement from Asian Paints Srilanka
b) IndToday link http://indtoday.com/brand-ambassador-shruti-hassan-launches-royale-atmos-a-revolutionary-air-purifying-paint-by-asian-paints/
c) Color Visualizer Link
2. Latest trends in Nanotechnology using carbon nanotubes

PS: This is my submission for the blog contest organized by Asian Paints(https://www.asianpaints.com/atmos.) and Indiblogger