28.12.07

Unfulfilled promises

...being taken care of. The penultimate one from this post.

***************************************

It gets easier to stay away the more you stay away.
The more you don't have a reason to be sitting in front of a computer eight hours a day. The more you stop watching the news or reading the paper or listening to the radio or surfing. The more you focus only on the next meal, or the book that you're reading, or the stack of films you want to go through. The more you stop accepting there's a world out there that will continue to exist whether you believe in it or not. The more you stare at the sky and realise you don't know how to tell how long it's been since you've been staring at it, except to be able to say that it's now morning or evening or night.

And such little things, and the lack of such minor skills, make you wonder again what sort of life you're leading - that we're all leading. Make you look closely at the little blocks on which we base our lives, and when you realise you do not understand what they were based on, make you look closer and closer, till you're squinting so hard that you get a horrible headache, but you keep peering, determined that if you ignore the pain long enough and hold out for a little more, it will all make sense...till suddenly, the pain breaks through to a level where the pain really doesn't affect you anymore (because pain only affects you when it's localised, when it shows up as one point of variance on a wider canvas of equilibrium; and this is a level where you are all pain, and pain is what you are) but you still lose focus and suddenly everything seems so unnatural.

And you draw back and look around, and for a few brief moments, everything that you accepted seems so...bizarre...that you wonder how you didn't notice it before, and how you've been carrying on all this while. Where you notice all the little incongruities and discontinuities and paradoxes that make up life, but which get brushed aside because "that's just how things are".

And the feeling soon fades, but it stays longer every time you return to that state; and getting to that state gets easier each time, till one day you realise you can see the world as it tries to be, and also as how it really is. And you walk around, and go through the motions, and you feel as if you're tapped into a different network, watching another picture, hearing a hidden symphony. And the two yous watch each other in their world, but do not look into the other's eyes.

And you wonder if everything exists simply because you believe in it, and not because it truly is.

18.12.07

There are times when you shouldn't write.
Times when the words come too easily, and too hurtfully. Times when they swarm out, and start attacking you with little nips, some sharper than others. Times when they huddle together to scheme openly, laughing as you try to muscle into the circle, and then form up into questions that you knew they would ask. Questions that you know that you should have asked, and find astonishing that you didn't. But deep-down, you also know why you didn't; know that the answers would tear open a world you rather have wished away. And so you turn the page, and shut the book, and wait till they wither away, all the while clenching yourself from trying to go help them and stop the noise, the clamour, the insidious promises and threats; just holding on till it all dies away.....and then holding on some more to make truly sure, make sure they're well and truly extinguished of any power, because you know better than to fall for that trick again.

There are times when you shouldn't think.
Times when when it's a mistake to think, when a fleeting trigger sets off a chase to recover that which you had long left tucked away, hidden in some imagined attic of the place you house your memories in. And when you naively pull out the dusty scene, and bring it into the light, you realise with growing alarm what it's really showing, and just how cleverly you have been lying to yourself. And as you look around and notice the hundreds of other times that lie hidden away, suppressed away, you begin to cry for all the betrayals that you've wrought with yourself. And before you begin to scream, screams which you know won't stop till you break completely, you throw what you hold away, and run away from there. And then you breathe, and pretend the calm of your memories was never disturbed by the imprint of questions that required answers that were too dark to let you carry on in ease, once you were touched and forced to look them in the mouth. And you choose your smile, and slip back into the dance, and forget that you ever came close to wondering why you never considered so many things.

There are times when you shouldn't feel.
Times when you cannot run anymore, and are caught up with and held down and pinned back and made to face it all. And you will struggle and writhe and scream for mercy, but they will crawl all over you and slip into you, passing into you through your skin, infecting you till you cannot think of anything but them, cannot think of anything but what they want you to, as they rampage around opening up and wringing all that is, in essence, you...till you cannot but look at yourself, cannot refuse to and recognise yourself and admit for once that, yes, yes, this is who I really am. And that's when the horror truly begins.

There are times when you shouldn't ... be.



PS. Will this style (Scout-meets-Falsie) do as an Urf? If not, somebody's got to suggest one. Space Bar promised, and is still pondering away and getting distracted by flowers.

17.12.07

Manual of Life....Alternative Sports No.4

Suicide Chess*
n.,
Variation of the popular game, in which players attempt to get their pieces captured, while simultaneously avoiding having to capture an opposing piece. The golden rule is that when an opportunity to capture a rival piece occurs, a player has to take it (in case of multiple targets, the player may decide which one to capture). The first player to have their 'king' piece check-mated, wins. Most enjoyably played in Blitz mode.

Peer versions - Suicide Checkers, Suicide Carrom, Suicide Monopoly.


* For Space Bar, who hates to lose complicated games.

14.12.07

F3 presents....Nut-orange-y chocolate fudge

This one's for chocoholics in desert towns (who, incidentally, need to reconsider their blog address) who keep demanding choccy recipes, a certain chocolate critic, and other unnamed chocolate-lovers and bhukkads.

Besides, seems like the ideal thing to describe at the end of a cold and depressing news week.

************************************************
Time Required:
Preparation - 3 minutes
Cooking - 5-10 minutes
Ready to serve after - 1 hour

Keep ready:
Dark chocolate (70% minimum), 175 gm
Grated rind of 1 orange*
Condensed milk, 1/2 tin (200 g)
Walnuts, 50 gm*

Then:
Break up the chocolate and place in a thick bottomed pan. Heat on low, mixing in the orange rind and condensed milk. Stir slowly but continuously, removing from heat when chocolate melts.

Break the walnuts into itty-bitty pieces (best way is to put in bag and then just bash it with whatever's handy till it's done...or till your aggro is spent), and mix in. Pour out onto square tray, smoothen it, let it cool for 5 minutes, then refrigerate till it sets and is firm.

Cut into 2-inch squares, and serve chilled.

Why you should try this:
1) It requires minimal effort - no baking, beating eggs, whipping cream or any of that.
2) Dark chocolate and orange. What more could you ask for?

Focus on:
1) Cooking it very slowly, and making sure the chocolate doesn't stick.
2) Not adding any sugar - the condensed milk quite offsets the bitterness of the chocolate.

* Variations:
1) Mix in a good lug (4-6 tbsp) of your spirit of choice - brandy, rum, or vodka suggested.
2) Ditch the orange, mix in some Irish cream.
3) Ditch the walnuts, add equal amount of pistas. Or add both, but 25 gm each.

12.12.07

Obligatory bad joke of the month

Q: Why is a weird ascetic like a boozy, cylindrical cake?
A: Because they're both rum babas.

7.12.07

Fantasy blogger quiz teams

4-5 person teams. Identified from one's known circle of bloggers. Teams selected to cover as wide a range of knowledge on a subject as possible, and chosen on the basis of publicly-revealed knowledge and interests. The specialities listed indicate the blogger's strongest (perceived) niches - others in the team may also know stuff from those categories.

If you think you deserve a mention, then you should have blogged about it. And if you have, and it's still not reflected here, then obviously one has gone through your archives properly. ehh...it's a Friday. Tough shit. Places open for last two categories.


General:
Falstaff - Classical Music/Art/Literature
Roswitha - Sport/20th century films and music
TR - History/Business/Travel/Science/Beverages
Pri - TV/Celebrity/Pop culture
??! - Trivia/Food
Standbyes
Punkster - Religion/Science/Gaming/Comics
Scout - TV/Pop culture/Music
Szerlem - History/Food/Travel


Music:
Falstaff - Western Classical
TR - Blues/jazz/classic rock
OTP - Bollywood/modern pop
Scout - Indie/New Age/other shite
Standbyes-
Flaffy - Pop/South Indian films/Indian classical (?)
Pri - Pop, Hindi/South Indian films
KM - Classic rock/jazz/Indie


Literature:
Falstaff - Poetry/Modern novels
??! - SF&F/Detective
Space Bar - Children's/Art/Crime/SF&F/Poetry
places open - Asian authors; Travel; Science; Business


Films:
Pri - Bollywood/South Indian
Space Bar - Arthouse/World Cinema
Roswitha - Hollywood
places still open - Sci-Fi; Thrillers; Horror; Comedy
Standbyes
OTP - Bollywood
Falstaff - Arthouse/World Cinema

5.12.07

Quip du Jour

It was a literal case of the sheets hitting the fans.
- Andrew Miller (Cricinfo)*


* Referring to corrugated iron rooftops
flying off and hurting spectators during the Eng/SL Test in Kandy.

4.12.07

Blog-addiction - Identification Method No. 11

If, in a public place of daily visitation, you suddenly wonder which of the people you see everyday have blogs of your own.

And if, on trying to evaluate the probability of one of them being a Diarist and you being featured as "anonymous daily face" in their posts, you get paranoid about what aspect of you is being noticed and (mis)judged, causing you to try to be bland and anonymous, which unfortunately just makes people think you're shifty.

3.12.07

The problem with philosophy is that all the answers seem right.

30.11.07

F3 presents....Boozy berry brûlée

You knew it was going to be fruits today. Which, one has realised, is the secret to getting people to open up and comment (this week's posts as proof). Hopefully, this will be the last of such posts for a while. See you next week.

*************************************
Time Required:
Preparation: 5 minutes (excluding soaking time)
Cooking: 10 minutes

Keep ready:
Ripe straw-, rasp-, black- and blue-berries, chopped
Vodka, rum, or brandy - or combinations thereof
Cinnamon powder
Thick double cream
Mascarapone *
Cocoa powder
Light muscovado sugar (or any brown sugar)

Then:
Soak the berries in the liquor of choice for at least 15 minutes, but as long as possible. Mix in the cinnamon powder, and spoon the fruit into individual ramekins so that it fills 2/3rds of each bowl. Separately, whisk together 4 parts cream to 1 part mascarapone, lightly sprinkle cocoa powder, and fill up the rest of each ramekin, compacting it down.

Bake for 5 minutes at 220C, remove, sprinkle each bowl liberally with the sugar, and grill lightly for 2-3 minutes.

Cool slightly, and serve.

Why you should try this:
Because it's fruits, and you like them. Admit it.
Besides, it's fruits soaked in booze.
With cream.
And you can just imagine that lightly-warm dripping mixture of sweet-and-sharp berries, cream, booze, chocolate and sugar.

Focus on:
1) Using only spirits. Wine doesn't quite seem to go with this, although it's ok if you've got nothing else. You can also make it without the booze, but where's the fun in that?
2) Don't overbake the dish. You want the fruits to be softened, not soggy, and the cheese/cream mixture to just start melting.


* It's just for thickening, and for flavour. You can always use fromage frais instead, or just the cream on its own.

29.11.07

Keeping with the fruit theme

No mango without tango.
alternatively,
No tango, no mango.

Or, how to tempt your child/student/partner into practicing their dancing, by offering slices of wonderfully ripe Alphonso*. Or, for any other work-reward scenario. Or indeed, just because.




* Or badaami, or paayree, or chausa, or totapuri, or...

It is being a fruit week

In all this time of living out of India (you have figured this out, haven't you?), one hasn't eaten one sweet lime.

Heck, one hasn't seen one sweet lime.

Not in markets, not in supermarkets, not in the desi shops, not in any exotic deli, not even in the form of juice cartons.

And yes, it's not indigenous to these climes (such a pretty word that - automatically gets associated with chimes...hmm, do climes chime?), but considering you can get pomegranate juice made from fruit grown in Kolhapur, you'd have thought some chain would have spotted the gap in the market, and capitalised on it. One can't even remember seeing it at Harrods...although one may be mistaken there - surely Harrods would stock it no?

And the worst part? This fact has just registered. And one used to thrive on mosambi juice.

Huh. Talk about out of sight...

So - when was the last time you ate one (when not in India)? Leave comments unowhere, one is off to sing "Naarangi, mosambi, kuch bhi pilaa..."

28.11.07

Manual of Life - Little Trick No.64

Ways to avoid morning-breath without having to brush teeth, on mornings where you have to slot in time to breathe:

Quarter an orange* - your choice of variety, but only semi-sweet - and place in fridge overnight. First thing in the morning, grab, bite into, suck, roll across teeth, toss peel, repeat. Now face the day.

Multi-tasking it is - biological wake-up device**, bacteria-killer, and breakfast. Wah!

And no juice. It is the biting that is bliss.


* Sweet limes work too. But they're too nice.
** You try biting into a sweet-n-sour cold orange first thing in the morning and see if your brain doesn't get get a jump-start.

At the risk of being repetitive

...go read this blog!

One was trawling through the archives, and discovered gems like this brilliant spoof of the Pink song, and this Bollywood actor spoof, and even wordplay! Oh, not to mention this, this, and this.

This is what blogging should be about - experimenting with form and medium. Really exploring the fringes of creativity. Not that people shouldn't write about their lives, or form groups, or whatever else - but this, right here, is an example of how blogging can be really pushed to new levels.

Whoever you are, kudos. You could have been a Python. And please don't stop.

27.11.07

Just to get the Punkster worked up

...a teensy bit more. Not that she needs it. But a good ranter deserves all the support they can get.

********************************

To realise how pervasive male-dominance in our society is, you don't really need to look at goddesses, or marriage roles, or female infanticide, or glass ceilings, or chivalry.

Just pick up Ye Olde Word-Explainer instead.
Aka, the OED.

And try finding an antonym for harem.
Or the verb form of heroine.
Or notice how all professions have a distinct word for female practitioners, but the men are associated with the generic term itself*.
Or even how all distinctly female professions have a totally different word for men who do the same. So a woman may be a seamstress, but a man is a tailor**.

Go further, and listen to the talk.
And realise that a man may sometimes be a whore, but only a woman is a harlot.
And how you're a bitch if you're nasty, but a dawg if you're cool.
And how Jesus is sweet, but Mary is always the mother of Christ.

Pervasive, yes?
There is more, one is sure, but who ever said this was Research Central.
Add your examples though, and they shall be listed.


* Male poets/actors/writers are poets/actors/writers, but women are poetess/actors/writers. And yes, while women can be described as poets etc too, it still doesn't change that there's a completely separate word for them.
** Yes, '
seamster' does exist, but it's archaic and nobody uses it.

23.11.07

Enlightenment is what you make of it.

20.11.07

There are so many ideas to write about - not including a much-overdue entry for Urf - but it's difficult to know which one to begin with. Not least because they all seem inter-connected, and it feels...wrong...to write about one without explaining the context, which in turn requires a whole other post.

See? Ketchup bottles again.

Besides, one is lazy.

But never fear, this is not the dreaded Blogging Ennui point. Which some of you will find quite familiar.

The point where you just can't seem to muster up the enthusiasm to actually type all these ideas out, and where you'd rather just read other blogs and post snarky comments, and then wonder if that's actually not the best way to go about it after all.

The point where you wonder whether you'll look back at all this as just one more of your phases that you eventually outgrew, and three years from now cringe when you think of some of the stuff you used to write (of course, you will have consigned all those outpourings to the dark oblivions of the Net, so you won't thankfully have to read them - or worse, have other people read them and then laugh over them).

The point where you'll open up your blog after days and weeks where circumstances kept you for having any time in which to sort out a publishable thought, and then go to your feed-reader and find dozens and dozens of new posts, and accept (you always knew) that it wouldn't matter that much if you just...stopped, and faded away, becoming just one more thing for somebody else to blog about, perhaps in a "Which Blog-personality-type are you?" post.

The point where you wonder why you're bothering if you're probably not going to make much of an effort to meet them personally, or really get to know them, or tell them anything worthwhile about yourself (unless you're a Diarist), which may be just about acceptable with real people that you meet everyday but not with bloggers, because what if something happened to you and you couldn't blog again (what with being dead or kidnapped or in hospital or some such shitty thing) and nobody knew how to find out why you weren't, just because you had this whole secrecy thing going?

The point where you reach a limit as to how many blogs you can faithfully follow, without getting confused as to who did what, and then get depressed thinking of all the other bloggers who you meet in the comment-space and you know are worth reading, but who you just cannot be bothered to get introduced to.

The point where you try to remember why you started this in the first place, and then need to take a break to go back and see what you've ended up with, and how far you've strayed.

The point where you just go - bleh.


Oh hey - actual post. Pass Go and collect 200 bucks! So no, not reached Blogging Ennui point yet. Just lazy.

19.11.07

A marvel of engineering

Is when you sneeze while eating a banana*, somehow manage not to choke or spray the banana all over, and a minute later blow your nose....

(you know where this is going, don't you?)

...only to have a piece of banana pop out.

How disgustingly spectacular.


* Because you have a mild cold, not because you have a fetish for sneezing when eating.

16.11.07

F3 presents...Potato pancakes

And by that one does not mean aloo parathas (ha ha soooo funny. Shuddup you).

Time Required:
Preparation: 5 minutes
Cooking: 5 minutes (each)

Keep ready (in order of appearance):
Potatoes, peeled and roughly grated
Spring onions, chopped
Grated cheese of choice
Salt, pepper, oregano, chives
Egg (optional - one per three pancakes)
Flour
Oil

Then:
Squeeze out all the water from the potatoes as is possible. Mix in the spring onion, cheese, and seasoning. Mix in the egg if you're using it, else add some flour and mix properly. Then take lumps of the mixture, pat into rough round pancakes (or square, or triangular, or whatever), coat with flour, and shallow fry on medium-heat till browned.

Serve hot.

Why you should try this:
It's insanely easy to make, yet wonderfully filling, and feels slightly exotic. It is also remarkably adaptable - works for breakfast, evening snack, a side-dish, or even as a meal in itself. You can make it as thick or light as the situation demands, and it goes well even

The variations are endless - you can mix in tomatoes, mushrooms, shallots, coriander, fresh basil, peppers, cook a plain omelette around it. Or, if you were JAP, add sausages and salami and whoknows what other animal parts. However, regular onions don't quite go with this, as the pancakes take ages to cook.

Focus on:
1) Selecting a 'dry' potato, preferably a good baking variety, like Maris Piper. New or white potatoes are to be avoided.
2) Don't use too much oil, and let the pancake cook through properly. You do not want to be eating raw potatoes.
3) Keeping a light covering of flour. Think puff, not pie.

Intense paranoia - Identification method #17

Believing that those word verification letters which read like almost-proper words or sound somewhat-funny, are not simply randomly generated, but instead come from a prepared list churned out by the techno-geeks who own/operate/ moderate blogs*.

Who then allocate points for every person who refers to the "words" while commenting, as part of some hilarious (to them) in-joke contest.

Your world is stranger than you think.


* Either that, or they've been inserted by extra-terrestial intelligences who are testing us for our reactions to situations where things aren't exactly right. Just so they know what to expect when they finally openly launch their takeover. Which has been going on in secret.

13.11.07

You say,
be not you,
but I cannot;
for all that I
could feel,
or think,
or write,
or do,
or be,

has.

Including
these words,
and this thought.

It's hard to be different
when you were never
original.

Manual of Life - Little Trick No.23

If you want a glass of cool water, add the hot water first, then the cold. It mixes quicker.

12.11.07

This is the way we write our blog, write our blog...

You have a three-quarters-used ketchup bottle at home?

The one which has a thick ring of ketchup building up near the opening, however freely-flowing it is marketed as being, and which refuses to ooze slowly back down unless you dip a finger in and push it down, or wipe it off and lick it off, which only makes your tongue curse you for assaulting it with all that acid-y stuff without any dressing?

The kind of bottle which refuses to discharge the ketchup except in splatter-filled spurts after you squeeze like Popeye (just like when you try to burst an unripened boil - and now you're going to get that image when you next use such a bottle, aren't you?) and with all sorts of disgustingly flatulent noises (which are fun if you're at home and trying to put other people off their food, so that there'll be more for you, but embarrassing as heck when it happens while you're at your local joint, leading to the two old dears in the corner purse their lips as they fight down the urge to take you by the ear and smack you for not having learnt manners)?

The kind that has lots of the stuff in it, because you can see it there for fuckssake, but which you have to work hard at to cajole out, and then it all bursts out and you always end up with more than you want, and then you have to open the top and scoop some back in, because you know otherwise that there's going to be a time when you'll really want some and there won't be any and you'll be bitching about how short-sighted you were and curse yourself for not spreading it out (hah! pun!)?

The kind which you just sometimes look at, and wonder if it's worth all the effort, and whether you should just opt for the sweet-chilli sauce instead, or even better, the green Tabasco?

You know that kind of bottle?

So then you understand.

7.11.07

A small ray of hope

What's really heartening about the operation on Lakshmi is not just that it was (so far) successful, but one detail from this Guardian story.

Specifically, that her small-village parents chose not to use her plight to their advantage, and give in to lure of making a bankload of money from the whole "Look, she has four hands, and her name is Laksmi - she must be a reincarnated goddess!" circus (can you not just see the lines of idiots ready to bow and grovel in the hope that some material offering would help redeem some of their wretched mistakes?).

And even hiding her from those who didn't have such scruples.

And actually getting her the treatment she so obviously needed, rather than letting her suffer for a few years till she died (at which point, she would be even more worshipped).

And they're from Bihar!

See Punkster, things can get better.

I look at you,
as you look at me,
and in your lazy gaze,
I can almost see what I saw
when I loved to look into you.

I look at you,
and you stare back,
without any explanation
for why you no longer spare me
those thrilling glances that made me want you
to never let me out of your sight.

I look at you,
and wonder if I ever really saw you,
and whether I knew it would come to this;
that I would return again and again
to devour these pictures,
while creating a blindspot
to cover the one who you now hold
captive in your eyes.

I look at you,
to try and understand why
I am lost to you.

6.11.07

Somebody, somewhere, finds you ridiculous.

2.11.07

The 3F post (...or should that be F3?)

Hmm...aspersions have been cast on one's ability and talent and all-round ingenuity. To which one says - pbbbbbbrrrrrrrptttt!

And take this.

***************************************************************
Winter, as mentioned a month ago, is the season for apples. But, also, soup.

Hot, thick, aromatic soups. With all sorts of base ingredients, and lots of seasoning. And root vegetables. And cream. And hot bread. Buttered. Lavishly. Mmmmm. So one presents -


Orange-and-Butternut-Squash Soup
Time Required:
Preparation: 5-8 minutes
Cooking: 15-20 minutes

Keep ready (in order of appearance):
Whole jeera
Vegetable stock
1 butternut squash, medium
1 potato, medium
Rind of 1 orange
Rosemary, thyme, oregano
Salt, pepper
Juice of 1 orange (or equivalent)
Tabasco (green would be ideal)

Then:
Heat oil and fry the jeera till they crackle. Add the vegetables, orange rind, herbs, and stock. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer till veggies are cooked. Remove from heat, blend/puree, add seasoning, orange juice, and tabasco. Heat gently for a couple of minutes - but do not let boil.

Serve garnished with fresh green herb of choice (coriander/parsley/basil), and Hot Buttered Bread.

Why you should try this:
The combination of the squash and the orange goes oddly well, especially if the orange is not too sweet. Mix in the herbs, the jeera and the tabasco - you get a lovely sweet, sour, and spicy soup.

And if you're using fresh orange juice, and a really ripe squash, you get a wonderful orange-y colour.

Focus on:

1) Using a slightly-sour orange, to offset the sweetness of the squash.
2) If you can't find butternut squash, use a member of its extended family (pumpkins, marrows, etc). Although the butternut squash is the sweetest, one finds.
3) The potato is only to give the soup some 'body'. A medium one should suffice.
4) Don't overdo the seasoning. This is supposed to be a delicately mild soup, and you want all three taste-groups to come through - so little herbs, little tabasco. Gently does it.
5) Do not forget the Buttered Bread!

1.11.07

Pedal-pushers

A recent column in the FT spoke about a dislike for cyclists. While in general the columnist's reasons showed that he's a twat, a couple of points stand out -

1) Cyclists do not pay any form of tax. Yet, they (oh heck, might as well admit it...we) use public facilities which are maintained by and paid for (in part, at least) by road taxes, licence fees, and other such stuff that motorists have to.

2) There is no concerted effort to apply road-rules to cyclists. Sure, if a warden catches them hurdling past a light, they can be caught and fined. But, from what one has seen, this practice is minimal.

Now, cycling is to be recommended. It gives some people the only exercise they get everyday, doesn't cause CO2 levels to jump too much, and is a heck of a lot more cost-effective than even public transport. Especially if you can buy a cheap bike on eBay - in which case, you're a fiscal genius.

But - cyclists are also a dangerous bunch. And smug. But dangerous mostly.
The light's gone red? Ah go on - how much space do we need anyway.
Traffic's moving too slowly on a narrow lane? Hello - do you not see the pavement?
People are walking on this pedestrian-only pavement? Stupid people! Stupid government! Yeehaw!

However, try and overtake a cyclist, or cross the road when they're 15 feet away, and you're bound to trigger off an outraged explosion not seen since Cleopatra told Caesar to kneel to her (what a dame, eh...abase thyself, Julius, abase!).

And, invariably, you get retaliated against for some other pisspot's indiscipline, despite always cycling in keeping with the qualifications required to win the "Ideal Model Superperfect Darling Cyclist In The Universe. Ever. And Ever" award.

So, maybe it is time that cyclists are made more accountable. Thus so -

1) Pay a yearly tax. Which could be minimal, like it is for 'green' cards, and could be waived for young children. In return, we could have more cycle lanes, cycle paths, and cycle traffic light crossings.

2) Get a licence/registration. Which could be for an individual, rather than for the vehicle, because anyone who's had a bike knows how it tends to get modified so often that the final version looks the fifth cousin thrice-removed of the original.

But wait....some bikes should patently not be allowed on roads - like kiddie bikes and trainer bikes. Ok, so bike frames could have a licence number too. But a plate is just not happening. And number-sticker could be torn off. And a painted number could be resprayed. And you wouldn't want to carve the number onto the frame. Hmm. Actually, a painted number is probably the best bet. Along with a separate card that you could carry to show that you are the owner.

3) Get road cyclists to take a basic test, so they know how to navigate roundabouts and can read signs.


All of this need not cost much, nor need too much time. It could also, potentially, lead to a safer experience for drivers, riders, cyclists, and pedestrians.

Should we start a campaign?

31.10.07

Autumn fantasies

Crunch!
Stomp!
Graaaaaaaaaaaar!
Crackle!
Stomp!
Graaaaaaarrrrrrr!


"....and why is your son stamping on those leaves?"

"Oh, he thinks he's Godzilla."

26.10.07

Pick a colour.
Huh?
Pick a colour.
ermm....Why?
Just pick one.
Ok. No wait, but in what context? Are you asking my personal favourite, or what would look good in the bedroom, or the colour for a dress, or....
Stop.
Ok.
Pick a colour.
But how I can just pick one? Can't you tell me what I'm picking it for? I can't just make decisions like that without knowing what they're for!
...this is exactly why I stopped loving you.
Huh?
Yes. You think too much.

24.10.07

Live for today - plan for tomorrow.

19.10.07

Friday Fortnightly Food (F)post

Le riz avec le beurre
Time needed:
Preparation: 20 seconds
Cooking: 6-8 minutes

Keep ready:
1/2 cup of rice
1 cup water
Salt
Butter

Then:
Add rice to the water, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down a little, add salt, and cook till well....cooked.

Serve immediately, and add a big dollop of good, high-fat butter.
Mix.
Savour.

Why you should try this:
Because it's one of the simplest, yet most wonderful dishes to eat. Because the aroma of freshly-cooked rice, mixed in with that of melted butter is just oh-so-frikkin-great. And because it reminds you of being unwell as a kid, and being fussed over by your mommy.

Focus on:
1) Butter, not ghee. Butter's not as strong, and it's got a more mellow texture.
2) No other seasoning. Avoid the temptation to add pepper or oregano, even though they go well too.
3) Butter!

18.10.07

(Warning: Idea post. Lengthy-ish. Contains lateral jumps and irritating snarky asides)


Earlier this week, Neil G points us to the fact that some person discovered that hitting Marmite for 30 minutes turns it white. Apart from the obvious "kya lukhkhe log hain duniya mein" reaction, it made one think of a favourite topic.

Namely, the evolution of food dishes.

And by that one is not referring to variations or inventions. One can understand how somebody came up with the Margherita pizza, or Peach Melba, or even Bacon-and-egg ice-cream. That's just lateral thinking, just a bit of let's-spin-the-wheels-and-try-the-combination-they-suggest*.

What one is referring to, is the origins of the basic food ingredients. The flour you use, the rice, the wheat, the grains.

Think about it. It's not the same as with fruits, which simply sprout, dress up in pretty colours, and hang around hoping to tempt someone into nibbling on them. But rice, wheat, maize, lentils - they are all cultivated crops. Which means somebody must have figured out the process from first principles. Remember those geography lessons on rice cultivation? The sowing, the watering, the transplanting, the watering, the chaffing. Now try and imagine that whole system being thought up by some nomad way back when. From no prior reference point.

No, wait. Let's go back even further.

Thinking up the process would mean that, at some point, some genius/daredevil/idiot must have thought, "Let's try this and see if it's good to eat". Right. Who thinks that way? If you were rambling through some countryside, would you eat any random plant, hoping it would not only not leave you writhing about in agony with horribly coloured goo dribbling out of your various orifices, but also turn out to be a wonderfully nutritious food? Thought not.

And besides, these are crops. They're inedible when raw. Animals don't eat them in the wild (they don't, do they?). Which means that not only would that genius/daredevil/idiot have thought of eating it, (s)he would have also had to say, "Let's cook this in a pot of boiling water, two parts water to one part unknown stuff, and let it cook for 10 minutes till all the water drains away". Again, from no prior reference point.

And forget crops. Take flour. Who would consider that if you collect this plant thus, and beat it about thus, and then took the residue and heated it sufficiently, it would turn into a lovely base in which to put all that meat that you just hunted down?

Yes, the history books say all that really took place, but from the little reading one has done, it seems they just know it took place, but not how it came to be.

But yet, we're expected to believe all that just happened. Some animal-spearing hairy brute one day just decided that those strange brown reeds would be worth eating, and then spent millennia honing the right way to cultivate them.


....And then some people wonder why some people believe in alien intelligence(s).



* Think of two touching-but-not-overlapping circles, with random ingredients listed on each. Spin them around, and make a dish with the two that line up besides each other. Isn't that just whoopittydodaa!

8.10.07

The point is, is there a point?

5.10.07

Friday Food

Chapped lips, red noses, stiff fingers - yeh baby, it's getting to winter.
Which can only mean -
Apples!
Bramleys, Cox's, Royal Gala, Pink Ladies, Russetts, Golden Delicious', Braeburns, Granny Smiths'....

Yes, you might get them through the year, but 'tis truly winter that allows apples to really show off their versatility. How so? Thus so:

Stewed apples, apple tarts, apple pies, apple crumble, Danish apple cake, apple strudel, rhubarb-and-apple strudel, apple-and-plum cake, apple-and-parsnip soup, spiced apple jam, apple-and-plum jam, apple-and-fig jam......oh yummmmmmmm. Expect some of these recipes in the months ahead.


French Apple Tart
Time Needed
Preparation: 15 minutes
Cooking: 25 minutes

Keep Ready:
2 green apples, peeled, chopped
1 green apple, unpeeled, thinly sliced semi-circles
Puff pastry
Cinnamon
Butter
Light muscovado (or nearest brown equivalent) sugar

Then:
Put the chopped apples in a small pot with some cinnamon and a couple of tablespoons of water. Cook on a low heat for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, till apples turn into a soft mush. Roll out the pastry into a circle, and brush all over with butter. At this point, you can choose to make a raised ridge around the edge, or just leave it flat.

Spread the apple mush on the base. Then arrange the sliced apple semi-circles over the mush, first laying them around the outside, then moving to the middle. Brush all over with butter again, sprinkle with sugar, bake at 220C
for 25 minutes (or till the apples just start to singe).

Serve hot, with thick cream, or vanilla ice-cream.


What's nice about it:
It's an apple tart! What more do you people want?

..ok fine. It's one of the easier baked apple dishes to make, because there's no making a batter and fuss (although that is much fun too). You can get ready-made puff pastries, and that cuts down half the work. And it's the simplicity of the dish that makes it wonderful - the softness of the apples, the crisp base, and the sheer prettiness of the dish.

Focus on:
1) Using green apples - Bramleys are the best (these are the huge 'cooking' apples).
2) Getting the sugar-tartness balance right. You want to let the natural taste of the Bramleys come through, but not so much that it feels like your teeth are melting.
3) Brown sugar is preferable to white. Gives more flavour.
4) If you're not using tart apples, forget the sugar.
5) Just a sprinkling of cinnamon.


Ok, enough. Go away and make some. And if you don't - suffer, because one is sure to make some for oneself. Apple tarts this weekend! Yayayayayayayayayayay!!....ahem ... done now.

4.10.07

Some day,
we will peer back
at the reflected stranger,
and wonder when we stopped looking
like the pictures in our head.

And we will find ourselves
waiting by a moving stair,
patiently hoping for a little lull
in which to take our turn
and move on to nowhere.

Some day,
we will try and understand
the things that are changing the world,
but after nodding in quiet bewilderment, slink away
to put on the songs we have always loved.

And we will make up our minds
to rise up again and match our best,
but the body we will be lugging around
will sink back for a little more rest.

Some day,
we will sit down,
just for a while,
to rest our feet as the world flows hastily by,
and when we look up,
a year will have gone by.

And we will find ourselves
pottering away,
with all the time to live our lives,
but little life left to live them in.

Some day,
we will be of an age
to know ourselves to be aged.

2.10.07

When life takes you down a slope - freewheel.

28.9.07

Friday Funk(y)

* eh - Stephen Fry has a blog. As does Neil Gaiman.

* Say "widget".
Like so - wi-jit.
Now say "widget, widget, widget, widget, widget..."
Terribly addictive, very irritating to others. Highly recommended.

* If you look down, cover both ears tightly with your palms with your fingers on the back of your neck, and then start tapping the middle of your neck with one finger, you will get this dull gong-like sound echoing through your head. Surreal.

* Since BM doesn't blog anymore, is she still allowed at the proposed blog-meet with ph and Flaffy in October?

* Do people have unique knuckle-prints?

* Is any research being done to help reduce pollution by genetically modifying plants so that they have a higher rate of photosynthesis (thus reducing levels of CO2 more quickly)? If not, will you catch your friendly neighbourhood bio-geneticist and suggest this to them? And please don't forget to mention one's 5% commission from any patent royalties.

* Hummus-cucumber-tomato sandwiches taste surprisingly better after being lightly squashed against cut orange pieces.

* Has anybody ever read a sort-of fantasy book, about 150 pages long, which starts off with a boy in a strange magical land with no recollection about his identity, has a talking horse for company, concerns some journey of some sorts, and has a few conversations of the "Did that just happen? What did? That which just did. Ahh, but is what you think happened, the same as I think what happened?" kinds. Read just once, after being lent it by a friend long ago, the title of said book continues to elude, as the book itself is no longer locatable by said friend.

* Do people eat more fried foods on this day of the week? And if so, is it due to a subliminal association/suggestion with the name of the day?

* This weekend to try - Chocolate-and-date cookies. Recipe next Friday if successful.


Have a good one, folks.

26.9.07

* This was to be an extension of a Facebook moaning session that the poetry reading lady began. A look at how the site has gone beyond just catching up with old friends, and into some sort of fun-fair portal, what with all the applications. A look at how addictive it has become, and a mention of how naive people are, when they refuse to consider that the only reason the big M is shelling out bigger bucks for a slice of this pie is because it can show you lots of carefully-targetted banners telling you to buy stuff, which it can do (the careful targetting) because your information is an open secret.

* This was to be a smirk about the fickleness of Indian cricket fans, who now consider T20 to be the best thing since spreadable butter, simply because they won one tournament. And who transformed stone throwing and effigy burning into a city-wide victory parade. In Bombay. On the day of the Ganpati immersions.

* This was also to be a small warning about beginner's luck, about waiting till the next round, by which time the Aussies will have really planned things out, and about making sure you have enough stones ready for the pelting that will ensue after that rematch.

* This was to be a note pointing that that respective state governments are giving lakhs of rupees to players who have already won prize-money, got bonuses from the cricket board, and have won advertising contracts - but that these same governments seem to have no funds to provide any sort of compensation to the thousands of farmers who have seen their crops, livestock, and houses washed away in floods and storms.

* This was to be a post critiquing Indian governments for their gall to lecture others about democracy - after buying gas and lumber from Burma for two decades without so much as protesting against the repression of an elected government.

* This was to be a sigh and a farewell wave - for bloggers who won't write anymore (by-bye, CC). One has foreseen this.

* This was to be an incredulous shake of the head about us in general, when people can get so personal about a complete stranger that they resort to violence, despite the fact that the person in question couldn't be less bothered.

* This was to be an attention-drawer that some initiatives are worth being bothered about, however jaded you may be.


....this was to be, but now it just is.

25.9.07

Love is a matter of circumstances.

Corollary: Friend(ship)s are a matter of circumstances.

21.9.07

The-Yet-To-Be-Named-Food-Post

It's that time of the week. And to mark the end of summer, here's a nifty little starter/side-dish. Yenjoy.

Sizzling Asparagus
Time needed:
Preparation: 1 minute.
Cooking: 3 minutes.

Keep ready:
Butter
Garlic, few cloves, roughly chopped
Asparagus spears, cut into big chunks
Oregano
Light soya sauce
Lemon juice
Sweet-chilli sauce


Then:
On a medium-heat, add the butter, and when it melts, the garlic. Let sizzle for a few seconds, then add the asparagus, oregano and soya sauce. Occasionally stir, making sure all the asparagus is coated well in the soya sauce. When the asparagus goes bright bright green, remove from heat. Squeeze lemon juice all over, add salt to taste, and serve hot with a squeegee of s-c sauce besides it to dip into.

What's nice about it:
Asparagus, like broccoli, has a very distinctive taste, which is normally very overpowering and hence off-putting, but when complemented with other flavours can make for a wonderful dish. In this, the soya and garlic give it a slightly Oriental flavour, while the oregano mixes it and brings out its own lovely taste. The lemon juice just gives that little extra tang, and when you dip one of these into the sweet-chilli sauce.........oh yes.

Try serving with a wedge of warm olive ciabatta.

Focus on:
1) Not burning the garlic - keep it golden.
2) Not overcooking the asparagus - keep it crunchy, but make sure it's cooked.
3) Not too much soya.
4) Lemon juice, not lime - the latter is just too strong.

20.9.07

Where have you gone Henry Blofeld*? A nation turns its ears towards you

One was sitting quietly, when Ep decided to drop by. You know Ep? Ep E. Funee? Yes, that Ep. Now, conversations with Ep tend to be quite mentally-stimulating, which also means tiring, so one approaches such visits with wary interest. But this one was worth it.

After the usual preliminary chit-chat in which Ep yet again smiled enigmatically when asked about the reason behind life (which is very irritating, and makes one suspect that Ep doesn't really have an answer, but just pretends to know it, and this non-silence is just a way to get one to keep searching for the answer, so that when one does find the answer (and it will be easy to identify it as the right answer because it will be so obvious and everything will make sense and fall into place and rainbows will burst forth and the earth shall sing and generally represent a scene out of a cheesy fantasy book) Ep can simply go "Ah child, now you understand", thus not only appearing smug and superior, and having evaded all the work, but also having got the answer. Shyaana bugger), the real reason behind the visit was explained.

"Have you realised", said Ep - although that's not quite true...Ep doesn't talk, but instead the words just sort of appear in one's head...except they're not so much words, as complete entities, born of ideas, and clothed in language.

So. Ep noted, "Have you realised that you have never seen a televised sports event that did not have a commentary running in the background?"

.....one hadn't.

No sports event? Ever? That can't be true - can it?
The Olympics? Nope.
Cricket? Nope.
Football? Nope.
Tennis, basketball, badminton, TT, snooker, F1, curling, darts, rugby, gymnastics, track and field? Nope, nope, nope.

Huh.
It is true.
So true, that it bears repeating -
One has never seen any televised sports event that did not have a background commentary.

And that just feels......weird.

Because right now, one can think of several occasions where one simply wanted to watch a match on TV, with only the noise from the stadium, and no chit-chat. Edberg vs. Becker at Wimbledon. Game 6 of the Bulls-Jazz NBA finals in 1998. India-Australia at Eden Gardens in 2001. Just imagine that.

*************
So, do we really always need commentary? When did we need to be this spoonfed? Yes, commentary is obviously essential for radio. But on TV? Not so sure. Especially since we seem to be subjected to a barrage of mostly mindless drivel, which is only getting worse.

A good commentator should anticipate what the player might do, or point out what's happening on the sidelines, provide some relevant background, appropriate statistics (because what's sports if not a series of statistical highlights?), and some interesting anecdotes and juicy gossip. That's it.

But instead, nowadays, it's not so much a comment-ary, as a report. We don't really need people telling us what's happening - we can
see that Sachin's just tapped the ball to cover, and Federer just played a delicate dropshot. That's expected from an online sports website, not from commentators during a live match. And neither do we need a constant coaching manual - he needs to approach the net more/ the defenders need to cover their man/ just tap the ball and run. Oi, shut up you.

*************
An enterprising sports sports channel could so easily use this as a ploy - matches broadcast with sound, but no talk. And those who have digital TV could even select a statistics ticker running along the bottom of the screen. Problem solved.


* Not that he was the best, but at least he was entertaining.

17.9.07

If cricket was sex

Test matches would be rainy-weekend tantric-love sessions,
ODIs would be a workday evening quickie,
and Twenty20s would be a before-you-go knee-trembler.

14.9.07

Yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaaye, toh kya hain?
- Saahir Ludhiyanvi (Pyaasa)

12.9.07

Learn thee patience

It's not so difficult. Despite what you may believe, and despite how you may be. This is for all you nervous wrecks, fidgets, insomniacs, and hyper-active types.

The trick is simple -
Learn stillness,
and patience will follow.
And, perhaps, even Patience.

Learn to sit, just sit, doing nothing but spacing.
Learn to teach yourself to sit.

Think of the stone, and the slow drip of the water. The long, drawn-out liquid cadences. Watch the drops fall, one after another after another after another. Watch them. A drop to a minute, crafting the stone into a pebble, smoothing polishing it round. A drop a minute, for every hour, for every day, forever. The slow drops of water on the stone in this cave.

See the cave. Stand in the vastness. The rock that stands, has been standing, will stand. Feel the emptiness, the dark, and hear the thoughts that take centuries to begin. With nothing but the gentle touch of a drop. A drop every minute.

See the plains. The horizon that seems endless, because it all looks the same. The level flats arcing away while no wind blows, and only one blade of grass grows. Watch the grass grow, sit and watch it live.

Feel them, be them.
Imagine every aspect and angle, as if you are taking a panoramic picture of them.
Focus solely on them, as if you need to write a dissertation on them.

And slowly, oh so slowly, you will learn to sit still.
Be still.
Just....be.

10.9.07

Secrets - 1

"I have to tell you something."
"Hmm?"
"I've been keeping something from you."
"Oh?"
"Yeh."
"Is it a surprise?"
"Weeeell....possibly."
"Good surprise, or bad surprise?"
"That depends."
"Ok, tell."
"See, its not that I wanted to keep it from you...well, I wanted to, but more because I needed to. It's just that I didn't see how I could tell you and retain any..."
"Wait."
"Yes?"
"Is this something you've done? Been doing?"
"Ye-ees."
"And you've kept it a secret? From me?"
"Yes."
"Why?"
"Umm..because...well, like I said..."
"No. Stop."
"What?"
"You kept a secret from me."
"Yes."
"Despite all that we've been through, all the things we've worked on, despite all your promises, and all your assurances. Despite all everything we said about things like this, you did something which you felt you couldn't reveal to me? And now you feel guilty about it?"
"...yes."
"And you think you can just tell me now? After all this time?"
"It's not been that long, only a few..."
"I don't care! A week is too long. An hour is too long. You did it. And you chose not to tell me. So why are you telling me now? Why bother?"
"Because! I can't not ever tell you."
"No? But I can choose to not ever want to know. And I choose not to want to know."
"What? This is stupid...I'm trying to tell you..."
"No."
"But listen..."
"No."
"Hey..."
"No!"
"Come on..."
"NO !! I.don't.want.to.know. Live with it yourself. So shut up now, or you'll never get to speak to me again. Ok?....Good."

7.9.07

Friday Food Fiesta*

One shall press on with this idea, because sometimes structure is good.

If you do try it, reactions would be welcome. Ditto for any modifications to given recipe. If you would like specific meal types/ingredients to be featured, ask and one shall try and comply.

Crunchy Stir-Fry
Time needed:
Preparation, 5 minutes.
Cooking, 5-7 minutes.

Keep Ready:
Olive oil, or butter.
Garlic, few cloves, sliced.
Broccoli, medium chunks.
Baby corn, halves.
Tomato, quarters.
Mushrooms, variety of choice, sliced/quartered/other shapes.
Firm tofu (alternative = medium-soft paneer)
Oregano, black pepper, salt.
Lemon juice.
Grated cheese of choice (Gruyere or Parmesan suggested)

Then:
Heat the oil or butter on a slow-heat, add the garlic and wait till it just starts to go brown. Turn up to medium-heat, add the broccoli and corn, and sauté for about 2 minutes. Add the seasoning, turn up to high-heat, then add the tofu, mushrooms, and tomatoes and sauté till mushrooms just start to release water. Take off the stove, squeeze lemon and add cheese. Mix well, serve hot.

What's nice about it:
The mix of natural flavours, the colourfulness, and the crunchiness of the dish. It's a delicately seasoned dish, but the flavours come from the ingredients themselves.

Many people don't like broccoli, but in reality, a lot of them just think they won't like it, having never tried it themselves, and drawing their impressions from too many American serials where the poor vegetable is derided. When cooked rightly (just long enough for it to be actually cooked, without losing its crunchiness) it's got a wonderfully strong flavour, which in this dish is offset well by the blandness of tofu, the sweetness of baby corn, and the unique flavour of the mushrooms. The tomatoes add a piquantness, and also crucially, save the dish from being too dry. The lemon juice and the cheese are the final kickers, because they blend really well with the oregano.

Focus on:
1) Equal proportion of ingredients. Don't have too much of one item, or it will overpower the rest.
2) Try getting different varieties of mushrooms, not just the button ones, though those will do well too.
3) Keeping it crunchy. Don't cook the broccoli too fast, or it will go soggy. Cook them so any germs are killed, but don't let them go gloopy.
4) Don't stir too much. Just occasionally, to mix in the seasoning.
5) Big pieces.


* Don't mock - it's alliterative. You got a better name?

4.9.07

Kem, dikra?

Continuing from this little thread over at J's. This is a longish post.

If you're a metro-Indian (not merely urban, but metro - do pay attention), especially on the western cost, chances are that you might have met a bawa. Or, rarer still, an Iroon. The fading, but still proud (yet not prideful), remnants of Zoroastrianism. If you haven't, go out now and hunt one down - chances are you won't regret it.

But even if you've not met one, you'll have seen one - or at least, a caricature of one - in some little 'comic' interlude in a Hindi film. Not that anybody really wanders around in that white dress costume (the dagli, which is only worn on very formal occasions, rather like a tuxedo), or in that odd-shaped black hat. But these are Hindi films, after all - except perhaps the carrom-mania that 'Puppah!' exhibits in Munnabhai. That's certainly true.

Anyways, this is about an interesting recent development, which curiously, is linked to the WTC attacks.

Now, sometime in the 7th century, the Arab tribes attacked and toppled the last of the Persian kings. And as with any new religion, the Zoroastrians living there were asked to join the new gang, or if not, would they mind attacking this shiny sword with their nice long necks? Strangely enough, a lot of people were allergic to the touch of cold metal on their carotid artery, and decided to run, Forrest, ruuuuun! However, these being the days before planes, trains, and heck, even automobiles, a lot of people couldn't get far. Besides, travelling through all those deserts and mountains ain't much fun. So, a lot of people did join the ranks of the new club, while a few managed to reach strange shores where in a few centuries, they'd end up setting up steel plants and dingy cafes and be almost solely responsible for the perpetuation of the Birdie Dance.

Now, the Zoroastrians who settled in India are called Parsis, and follow a patrilineal religion. So all females marrying a non-Zoroastrian are ex-communicated, as are their kids. ( NonParsi-marrying-men, however, are welcome, and their children are accepted into the fold). Oh, and they don't let people convert to the religion.

Which, coupled with the low marriage ratio, the late average age at which marriages do take place, and the low ratio of children per marriage (all linked to the community being one of the most educated, gender-equal, and financially well-off ones in India) mean that numbers have been falling for decades. The 2001 census said there were just 69,301 of them in India. Yes, large numbers have moved to the UK, US, Canada, and Australia, but global figures are estimated at just around 120,000 to 140,00.

So that was background.

Now the interesting development is that post-WTC, encouraged by the growing pressure from the international community to promote 'religious tolerance' (also perhaps aided by Internet growth, and the collapse of the Soviet Union), a whole bunch of people in central Asia, which used to be part of the Persian empire, are now beginning to re-identify themselves as Zoroastrian.

And not chindi numbers - we're talking about 2.5 to 3 million people here*. That changes a lot of perspective.

Now, the orthodox Parsis do not accept them, saying (perhaps with some justification) that they've lost touch of the customs, rituals, beliefs, and only have some vague thread linking them to the religion. But the Z's say they had always kept to the faith, but just hid it deeply, or mutated it so as not to be persecuted, like so many other ethnic groups did in the USSR. And the Parsis retort with, if it was mutated, it's not the true religion, and don't you know, we don't accept converts.

The really interesting thing is the whole stand-off is more about ethnicity, rather than religion. The non-conversion bit is only adhered to by the Parsis, as part of the pact they signed with the Hindu king who first gave them sanctuary in Gujarat. They don't really need to keep to it now, but a promise is a vow is an oath, and all that. The religion per se does not mention conversion, let alone restrict it, because how else could the religion have grown in the first place?

So, technically, there could be Zoroastrians, and there could be Parsi Zoroastrians.

But....since the Parsis are the accepted followers and adherents of the religion, and all the priests and holy places are managed by orthodox Parsi organisations - without their approval nobody can be accepted legally accepted as a Zoroastrian. Talk about market monopoly, huh?

And so it stands - a few million people want to be accepted into a religion that's dying out, and whose numbers would jump 20-fold with their inclusion, but they're not being accepted. How very weird. And predictable.

Further reading .


* This hasn't been confirmed by any official sources yet, but apparently progress is underway.

3.9.07

And when was the last time you said "Pyrrhic"?

Often-read, but rarely-heard words.

Those weighty polysyllables that crop up so often in text, but which you've probably never heard being spoken aloud. Do they occur because of the potentially difficult pronunciations? Or is it because they are so...unwieldy? Is it just one of those differences between the written and the spoken language? Do pink turtles float on isotonic rainbows?

The Muse of Writing claims it's a mark of how lazy the tongue is, throws in a snippet or two about shortening attention spans, and then mocks the entire concept of accents. The Muse of Speech scoffs that such fanciful words were only invented by writers to fluff out their output, and which they use as a tool to expand their literary pretensions, knowing that using them on a face-to-face basis would expose them as silly little poseurs.

Then the Muse of Language asks whether it really matters, and demands to be passed the orange-scented hot chocolate.

Anyways, a short list of some of the more common examples -

Execrable
Renege
Inexorable
Supercilious
Affable
Utilitarian
Inexorable
Antediluvian
Expostulation
Didactic
Confabulation
Dissemination
Unbridled
Impassioned
(and, of course) Pyrrhic


More oddities to mull about. Add your own.

31.8.07

If this becomes a regular feature, a title will be needed. Alternatively, if it has a nice enough title*, one might consider making it regular. Do suggest.

Recipes for the weekend basically**. Not basic stuff, not randomly exotic, certainly no body parts just for the sake of it, but certainly a bit experimental. Type/style will be largely mood-dependent. Other key words - Comforting. Easy-to-prepare. Not for those on diet.

Today's offering*** -

Red fruits in a wine sauce

Keep Ready:
Raspberries, handful.
Halved strawberries, handful.
Demerera sugar, sprinkling, but only if fruits aren't sweet enough.
Fresh mint leaves, couple.
A medium-dry red wine, glassful. Or more.
Cinnamon powder.
Plain vanilla ice-cream.

Then:
Put fruit in pan and heat on medium till they just start to liquidise (the raspberries should 'pop' a bit). Add the cinnamon, mint, wine, sugar (optional, see above), put on simmer for about 5 minutes just till you can smell the cinnamon and mint, then bring to boil quickly.

Serve on dessert plate, with ice-cream.

Alternatively, let it cool completely, put in a dessert glass, pour thick cream on top, and chill (not freeze) till it sets.

What's nice about it:
The cinnamon and mint provide a lovely contrast to each other, while the wine mixes with the fruits to give this beautiful red colour. If you have it warm, it also reminds you just how lovely plain vanilla ice-cream can be.

Focus on:
1) Making sure its a medium red - a dry one just won't have the body this dish needs, and a sweet would take away from the natural taste of the fruits.
2) Do not heat the fruits on their own too much, or they'll taste burnt. And don't stir too much - you don't want them to break up, you want whole chunks of them.


* Friday Feast is too cheesy a title. Any other suggestions welcome. But must have kick.
** One considered putting it up on Mondays, after experimenting on the weekend, but this way you can try it out too. And then you'll have the whole weekend to write all the nice comments you want (no nasties).
*** Please note all subtle foodie phrase-ology...one is soooo hilarious. Sigh

29.8.07

Right then, let's be having your names.

Own up if you've been snorting away on the cacao, or generally acting like this.

Ringleader is BM, one assumes?


************
One day later:
What? Nobody's a chocoholic? Strange bunch of people.

Principles and all that

Sometimes it helps to take a stand. Nice polished oak ones, preferably, on which friends can deposit their little berets and tophats while dropping in for tea and scones. If one were in an 1930s MGM production, that is.

...erm...anyways.

Like one mentioned earlier, sometimes we need to just take a view and stick to it. Not always, mind you. After all, flexibility is a wonderful characteristic (Just ask the people at Cirque de Soleil...Ok, sorry, no more asides). But once in a while, it helps to stiffen the moral spine and keep to one point of view, one goal, no matter how tempting the alternative may be.

Now one loves Get Shorty, and Rain Man. One also likes Collateral, Pulp Fiction, Minority Report, Grease, and Vanilla Sky.

But one does not like Scientology. Because who the heck wants another brainwashing, intimidating, secretive, weird-ideas-spreading organisation?

And so....brave chest forward and all...one has resolved not to watch any film that headlines, co-stars, or has a decent-sized part involving the Cruise, the Travolta*, or any of their deluded friends.

Not in theatres, not as rentals, not even as TV re-runs. They ain't getting any money from one, not through tickets, or through royalties that rental firms or TV channels have to pay them. That much less for them to spend on harassing sceptics.

And yes, its a token gesture, a small fist against an uncaring tornado, but it's one's fist. Besides, every drop of phenolphthalein takes you closer to the pink colour.

This is one's stand, and one is sticking to it.....for now.
You wanna join?


* Not every film with them in it. Not yet, anyway. Is okay if they have teensy-weensy role. Otherwise one would not get to watch a whole bunch of films. After all, there's Principles, and then there's principles.

28.8.07

It's been so long since one saw a sparrow in the city.
Any city.

A quick check through memory, and then a slightly more focused one, yields no definite result. Hmmm...it must be years, then.

And parrots. There used to be hordes of parrots crowding the banyan and gulmohur trees near home, and memories somehow seem to associate them as being especially noisy and abundant in the early evening; while one sat at the window, munching on cheese toasts after coming home from school, watching them fly around.

When did they disappear? When did their little chirps and loud squawks stop intruding on the noises of daily life? One suspects the distraction was caused by those beautiful documentaries on the nature channels, with their breath-taking visuals and intricate details. What chance did the poor birds have in real life, smeared with the grime of the city as they were?

And what else have we forgotten, and how differently did we do things, when we did them differently then?

This is how it changes, little by little, till one day we stop, and wonder when we agreed to live in these strange worlds.

But the answers just giggle and scamper away, leaving behind a sense of .... of....

....
oh, well.

23.8.07

All because
of whys
and buts
and isupposes.

because
of theysaids
and whyshouldnts
and ididnts.

because
of howdares
and whocares
and ohwhythefucknots.

because
of pleases
and pauses
and petty little causes.

because
all the yeses
are still a no,
and
because
of becauses.

22.8.07

Shite. Or, life as we know it.

This is not about angst, existentialist or otherwise. Angst is about worries and repressed beliefs. This is about...resigned frustration. And hopelessness.

This is what you get when you're walking along on a sunny day, not too hot, with a slight breeze, just enjoying the vibrancy of people out for their weekend shopping, while dodging playful kids and strutting teenagers, and even smilingly rejecting marketeers rather than just curtly walking past.

And then you stop when you see a young-ish woman, slumped in her wheelchair, raising a melting ice-cream cone agonizingly slowly with her one unparalysed arm.

And you watch her single-minded focus on that mound of strawberry flavoured coldness, as she ignores everything else - the heat, the rest of her crippled body, her eager parents who hover ready to help her out, the pitying stares of passersby.

And you cannot bear to witness the delight, the simple and pure joy that breaks out when she finally does get her tongue on it, all by herself. It's too strong - the emotion makes you feel like a voyeur...no, like a thief. Like you're taking something away by even witnessing it. Because this is her victory - this simple act of licking a cone of ice-cream.

And you instead look at the parents, and notice the years of hope and pain and frustration and anger and disappointment and weariness ingrained into their faces. You try to, but you cannot imagine how it must cut through them, to watch her react with so much happiness to such a small, small thing, and to wonder yet again (and despair, yet again) of how much more she would have enjoyed other, bigger things.

And though at that moment, you feel buoyed by the strength of the human spirit, buoyed by the grit and determination that all three of them possess, by the love and kindness the parents give her, by the sheer joy that she feels....

despite all that, you hate an existence where this exists.

....

You hate an existence where that woman goes day after day after soul-devouring day without the use of her faculties, just through some freak of genetics. And you hate that there are millions and millions of people who cannot see, cannot hear, cannot walk, cannot hear, who have cancer, who are in a coma, who are have allergies, who live in fear of their heart and their blood and their skin, and who knows what else.

Every day.
Every single day.
Every moment of every hour of every single day.

......

And no, the "This is life, and this just how it is" argument does not work here.
The "This is what makes life what it is" concept is not accepted either.
Nor is the "There has to be the bad to understand and appreciate the good" premise.

Those sentiments are made by us, to make us feel better about our luck, about the life we have. More precisely, about what we have more of in life than others do. Those platitudes are created to justify our most fundamental desire - to live. And to persuade people away from having the right to doing with their lives what they will - including, if need be, ending it.

This is not about the unfairness of it, unfair though it is.
It's about the sheer pointlessness of it.

The pointlessness that you know that you will have to face this if you choose to live, and you will have to live by only occasionally thinking of them, because otherwise you just won't be able to bear it. Or otherwise, just block them out completely, except for the random donation given when the guilt manages to break through occasionally.

The pointlessness that, even if you get the opportunity to work with/for them, it will be through a little-by-little approach, because the overall picture is so overwhelming that you will be forced to focus on the here-and-now, the minutae, to have even a hope of retaining your hope.

The pointlessness that, say what you will and do what you can and think how you try to -
it will still be there.

This is our hell.

21.8.07

Hard love

Since
you are
mine

as you
so often profess
you are,

how dare you
keep using phrases such
as my life?

Yours,
is ours,
is mine.
Get used to it.

13.8.07

Oh give it a rest

There's inventing words, and then there's being a silly doof-ass (patent pending (not really)).

From an article on the e-Chicago Sun Times*. Please to be noticing seemed-like-a-trendy-idea word in second line.

"In the first new half-hour, the only ingested items are booze, prescription pills and Tylenol with codeine. In an upcoming episode, Nancy's frien-emy Celia (Elizabeth Perkins) goes on her politician's rant -- "Drugs are wrong! ... I'm a crusader!" -- while stumbling drunk in the streets."


Wow. Three extra letters were so much of a hassle? How do you even pronounce that "word"- fray-nay-me? fren-ami?

What utter shittishness (another not-patented-but-would-appreciate-if-one-was-credited-when-it's-used-by-others)


* A review of a new show called Weeds. One hasn't seen it, doesn't plan to (mostly because it stars one of the 'Orrendous Olsens), but one is reading anything to stop thinking about beating up stupid cricket administrators.

8.8.07

These fingers ache
with all the things
they keep getting asked to do throughout the day,
without merciful respite,
whether impressing upon these keys
or turning pages in eager joy
or stabbing at buttons
that bring up continual productions
full of food or travel -
which only bring about a sense of unfulfillment (that word just got invented) -
or preening posturers pretending to be better than all.
These fingers ache,
even though so many thoughts have not yet
been let loose,
and moan at the thought of all that
they will be asked to do.

These eyes ache,
after being forced to stare
at screens and pages of varying sizes
under poor light,
till they snap open
and after dizzying scattering,
try to turn inwards
and fix with their toughest gaze
the thought-maker that helped
time to merrily flit past,
but they can't of course,
and can do naught but
keep looking on till
they're switched off again
by that tease.

Because this mind aches,
with having to calculate
and tabulate
and assimilate the random bits of pointless gossip
that were being nibbled on
in between select morsels of the worldly world,
and following the lives and thoughts
of so many others
and keeping track of who said what and where
and of what one said to whom too,
and coming up with remarks
pithy and witty
because how else will people believe
that one has a personality worth knowing,
yes?

This body aches,
with having to listen to the complaints
of all these different voices,
and specially that little group
of lax muscles
that's rallying together around the ninth vertebra,
and who refuse to disperse
or negotiate
except with the sounds of slumber.

Closure is demanded,
because
it's been
A Long Day.

7.8.07

"Why single out Forien Policy. India is sleeping on almost anything."
"Manish Kapur is a sickularist who is trained by his masters to insult hindu gods. Let he be blessed with a raw chicken." *
"Please keep your bloody mouth shut; dont throw all your shits on those kids."

- Comments on Rediff (produced in original glory).

Don't you just love these fellows? One should not make fun of unknown people who write in bad grammar - for all you know, maybe they're taking English in evening college, sandwiched between two jobs, hoping to move up in the world. After all, one can't write or speak in dozens of Indian languages oneself....but heck, these guys are just tooooo funny.

And curiously, the majority of commenters to columns on Indian websites are men. And nearly all the comments are full of rhetoric. So,
Option A: Do men need the feel to rant more than women?
Option B: Are women not as interested in these topics?
Option C: Do women realise these columns are daft, and comment on more discerning websites?
Option D: Is this some reflection on the Net usage/availability of men vs women in India?

One goes with a mixture of Options C and D.

* wah! Slogan/curse of the month -
Keep your shits, or be blessed with a raw chicken! Beat that, CS and BM.

6.8.07

Starter thought: Aren't epiphanies simply the acceptance of something you've known a long time, but are only now acknowledging, due to a confluence of myriad factors?

There was a time in one's teens, when one believed that the gift of the gab, and the hint of potential in writing style, could lead effortlessly to the seduction of the pretty sister. Poetry. One tried, but mostly the words seemed insipid. Matters weren't helped by one's refusal to edit what was written. And matters weren't helped at all by all the musings, questions, and general despair evoked by wondering what to write about.

Standard teenage story.

But one day, one stopped. To the considerable relief of many friends. One decided that -
a) Since one wasn't genuinely trying to be a Poet, one should not attempt Poetry, or even, poems.
(b) One decided that one could do without the general cloud of despair that picking up a pen seemed to bring hurtling from the horizon.

So one went back to creating phraselets, and catchphrases, and charming all and sundry with one's felicity for words. Let those who genuinely treat it as an art form, write Poetry, so one said.

And for a long time, one stayed away. And from writing in general. One even resisted the blog scene for years. But one restarted, eventually. Because one felt like it. And it's been fun.

But the talk was about epiphanies.

And the one that one had, was that one is not a Poet. Or, indeed, is not trying to write Poetry. One does not brim forth with imagery-filled verse, and one does not see oneself sitting and typing and re-typing and deleting and editing words just to create that perfect couplet. One does not intend to make this a career, nor does one feel this to be a calling.

The occasional non-prose that one produces, is literally, a thought in flow. It is not pre-thought of, it is not worked upon, it is not going to be continuously edited into better shape (just a little bit, perhaps).

It is not a creation. It is a reaction. Some of it may be good, but then that's because one's writing is somewhat good (does one seem the type to be modest?).

That was the epiphany - that one is not driven to create a delightful piece of verse, which can be quoted down through the ages. One is quite content to simply, write. One no longer need feel awed by Falstaff, or Space Bar, or the Aimless Wanderer, because one isn't on the same road. And that makes it all so much simpler.

So, avoid the literary criticisms. Lavished praise, is always welcome though.