Feast for Thought

Not pontificating. Only trying to bat on the side of the environment. And ethics. And simple living. And slowing down. (And trying to learn and practise before preaching or teaching...)

Friday, December 28, 2007

Benazir Bhutto: The daughter's turn....

Isn't it reminiscent of a day in May 1991? When another leader of promise met a gruesome end just before elections? I'll not attempt any more parallels, of course.

Benazir Bhutto's end seems to signify a kind of loss. Actually the feeling may stem out of the hope that this time around BB may have done / intended to do actual good for her country, after the elections?

We will await all the rhetoric from the media, and watch what kind of 'democracy', if ever, unfolds within our neighbour's borders.
May her soul RIP


Thursday, December 27, 2007

Legal use of '-in-law'?

A lawyer's nameplate in a posh locality of Chennai reads
Govt Law College

I wonder if he has law students or students-in-law in his class...

What is the origin of '-in-law'? One Google result says 'When you form a JV with your spouse, her (his) mother is your mother - by law!'


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Mindless Exploitation

The Chalakudy is my 'river-in-law', but means more than a river to me. A decade ago, the banks welcomed an awed bride into the family. That bride knew the value of water, and of pristine surroundings, having grown up in the city of the Adyar, the Cooum & the Buckingham Canal. Idyllic setting: house by the river, potable water, sandy banks, greenery as far as the eye can see...
In her westward journey, the river flows by the busy town of Chalakudy (Trissur district, about 75 km north of Kochi). A concerned writer laments that a seventh dam is planned at Athirappilly, where the river cascades magnificently. This, despite the fact that there are sane alternatives to generate the intended 160MW of electricity, and at much lesser cost than the dam's Rs 650 crore budget.

Over the past ten years, I have been witness to a rather rapid change in the waterflow. Upstream effluents and illegal sand-mining have almost stopped the flow, the water is murky, and weeds have taken hold, the river is little more than a canal now...
Locals recall the wide, white sandy banks at each turn of the river, and that they would routinely walk across the river to reach the town, and in the monsoon, the river came a-calling at one's door-step...
The intended dam will reduce the falls to a trickle and drown 140 hectares of forest area. Very high price to pay for insignificant gains.
May better sense prevail!
(here are 'then' and 'now' pics)
Here's a travel jotting of one of our Chalakudy sojourns

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

"Mom, what's a...?"

Discussing a lesson on water pollution with my 9-year old, I explained 'landfill' while giving him a gist of waste segregation and disposal practices in our cities. A week later, I got proof that he had rightly assimilated what I meant.

I stack grocery wrappers in a small store-room attached to the kitchen, for reuse or for recycling. During a morning rush I had pulled out a wrapper from the stack, and down cascaded the whole lot. My son passed the store while readying his lunch-bag. Taking one look at the floor of the store, he pronounced..."That's Mom's landfill"

Thursday, December 13, 2007

That's cool. Another Google offering

I just tried out good young Google's online transliteration offering.

Here is a well known Gandhian thought that reads thus in four different languanges. All I had to do to was type out in English letters the word / words of any of the available Indian languages (Hindi, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu and Kannada as of now)
Satyameva Jayate is of course a phrase in Sanskrit.
(Check your browser settings if you are unable to read the fonts. See Google's offers of help)

தமிழ் (Tamil) - வாய்மையே வெல்லும (Vaaymaye vellum)

മലയാളം (Malayalam) - സത്യമേവ ജയതേ
हिन्दी (Hindi) - सत्यमेव जयते
ಕನ್ನಡ (Kannada) - ಸತ್ಯಮೇವ ಜಯತೆ

But hush! Not a word to my son about this.....he's just started attending classes where he learns to read and write Malayalam. [Aside: This is his father's tongue, but submitted as his mother-tongue in school records; the mother's tongue being the much older sibling Tamil]
Sorry I digressed. As I said, my son, happy attending classes now, will be happier to give the classes a miss if he learns of Google's wonderful tool.
So mum's word is: mum is the word!


Saturday, December 08, 2007

Insufficient quorum indeed!

It's probably routine that the Rajya Sabha is adjourned due to lack of quorum.
["One tenth of the total number of members of Rajya Sabha constitutes the quorum for a meeting of the House"].

The latest was on Thursday, Dec 6, 2007, when the Upper House closed shop during a discussion on NREGP.

Not even a tenth? Isn't something wrong? Aren't we, the people entitled to know (under the RTI Act) whether the elected or nominated representatives are physically available at both Houses to do their 'job' of running the nation - at least during Parliament sessions?

A newspaper could take the lead in presenting daily statistics not unlike schoolrooms, with a front page box item giving ready figures of number of representatives present, and also monthly summaries of each member's presence. I suspect that an hourly update by news channels and portals will reveal a lot about the quantum of 'precious time' our leaders have at their disposal.

I wonder how many of the honourable members were present when a delegation from Afghanistan visited to witness a Rajya Sabha session the next day?
Perhaps an attendance of 80% or above may be mandated as a criterion for a candidate's eligibility for re-election!

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Recipe? From me? Why not?

My choosy son and my choosier husband pronounced before they left for school and work at 7 this morning: “That was a good breakfast”. [As an aside - A working professional–turned freelancer cum home-maker, I have been continuously and increasingly priding myself on striking a good balance between housework and a home-based job].
My husband believes - I don't - that I belong to the Maxine school of thought, according to which the motto of the 'real woman' is: "I made it and you will eat it and I don't care how bad it tastes!"
More humanitarianly, I tag my table servings with “If it's tasty, you may appreciate the extra effort and thank your lucky stars; if it's not, it’s health food…"

Now back to the breakfast that you are waiting for: Tarla Dalal's Chawal ki Roti, made not entirely that expert's way, but with some wheat flour added to ease the rolling out effort. Here's the modified recipe.
Chawal ki Roti (with added wheat flour)
Preparation Time : 15 mins.
Cooking Time : 15 mins.
Makes 15 rotis.
1½ cups rice flour (chawal ka atta)
4 tablespoons cooked rice
1 cup wheat flour
2 teaspoons green chillies, chopped
2 teaspoons ginger, grated
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
3 tablespoons curds
2 teaspoons oil + oil for cooking
salt to taste
1. Blend the cooked rice, curds, ginger, green chilli and cumin seeds.
2. Combine this paste with salt, rice flour and wheat flour and knead into a firm dough using enough water and two tsp oil.
3. Make lemon-sized balls and roll out each portion as you would routine rotis.
4. Cook each roti on both sides until brown, adding drops of oil on the sides.
5. Serve hot with the following southern style rajma curry or pickles or other curries.
Rajma curry:
2 cups Rajma
3 tomatoes
2 onions
1 green chilli
1 inch ginger
1 tsp chilli powder
1½ tsp coriander powder
2 tablespoons oil
turmeric powder - a pinch
salt to taste
1. Soak rajma overnight, and pressure cook with salt and turmeric powder
2. Peel and finely chop onions, chop tomatoes.
3. Make a paste of tomatoes, half the onion, green chilli and ginger
4. Heat oil in a pan, saute the rest of the onions.
5. Add the paste, chilli powder, coriander powder and salt, and cook on low heat till oil separates.
6. Add cooked rajma and sufficient water and bring to a boil.

You are welcome to try it out, comment and correct.
But that was exhausting. My humblest salutations to mothers, grandmothers, chefs, Sanjeev Kapoor, Tarla Dalal, Madhur Jaffrey....

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Not once again!...yes, once more. Embedded matter in packed food item

Read an earliest post about foreign objects in food items like bread, biscuits...?
Well, yesterday it was the turn of an extremely popular brand of noodles, and the offending matter looks like fungus.
Note my actions at 8 pm, (even as the family twiddled their thumbs at the table, for dinner that was supposed to have taken mom two minutes to prepare):
1. I called the customer helpline, a number in Gurgaon. An answering machine - honest! - at the call centre asked me to leave name and number. I did.
2. The system and modem were already up and running next to the 'phone, so after using a magnifying glass and a LED booklight to read the mail-id printed on the pack, I wrote to the consumer / customer service mailbox...or so I thought.
3. Not one to easily give the browser a go by, I googled the company's India website, reached the contact-us page and submitted a brief message that included batch no, date of mfg, and details of 'discovery'.
4. By then, an e-mail alert showed a post-master's message - I realised that neither magnifying glass nor the LED light had helped me correctly. (I had typed customerservices@in....,consumerservices@in....)
This morning I received
1. a response to the webpage submission, and that's when I got the right mail id. (It is consumer.services@in.....)
2. a phone call all the way from Gurgaon assuring me of their concern and their quality standards, followed by the repertoire: our rep will meet you to collect the item and give a replacement....
I believe in fairness. I will give this third brand also a chance... (remember I had given a bread brand and a biscuit brand chances over the years?)

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Monday, December 03, 2007

'Billion Beats'

If ever any public figure lives and breathes India and Indianness, it is our former president. You can see and subscribe to his recent venture at his website - a fortnightly newsletter or e-paper

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Sunday, December 02, 2007

Is not 'gender' better than the 3-letter word!

I look forward to the time when application forms, website registration pages, railway reservation forms, and all data gathering documents read like this:
1. Name:
2. Age:
3. Address:
4. e-mail:
5. Nationality:
6. Gender: M/F
Most of us are likely to be more comfortable filling answers to these queries above than say such a list:
1. Name:
2. Age:
3. Address:
4. e-mail:
5. Nationality
6. Sex:
Why? So that the data gatherer pre-empts responses such as "once a week", "daily", "never", "often", "sometimes" to Item no 6.
No, I'm not trivialising an issue. I am rationalising it.

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