Sunday, July 27, 2008

Bit of this and that

OK, we have our own Nigella. Anjum Anand , our desi Nigella, is more beautiful and attractive than the original. She is doing a show on Travel and Living called “Indian Cooking Made Easy”. That, I think, is fallacious; there is no such thing as easy Indian Cooking. I have personally struggled with rustling up basic rajma chaval when on assignments. Now if I had Anjum to instruct me, that could have made a difference. The funny thing is that my wife is an avid follower of Nigella and Anjum. One would have thought that good looking women who know how to cook, would find it very easy to make enemies in the camp of the fairer sex . Somehow, this basic theory of survival of the fittest turns on its heads in this case. I think the TV makes them seem much less threatening.

Odds and Ends

The love of the British for bureaucracy gives us these interesting statistics:

Return of Killed, Wounded and Missing of the Delhi Field Force, from the commencement of the Operations in the neighbourhood of Delhi, on 30th May 1857 up to the capture of the city on the 20th September.

Killed 1012
Wounded 2795
Missing 29
Total 3837

We are also informed that 139 horses were killed, while 186 were wounded and 53 missing.

Photo Credit:

Delhi Chronicles

TV Dinners

Rajat Kapoor hosted a TV show, The Lounge, on NDTV Good Times. What is an actor doing hosting a show on books, and that too on Indian fiction? And his discomfort showed, as he struggled to get the myriad generation-spanning authors to open up. Worse, some of the guests wanted to take over his role, and it was not a pretty sight. Anil Dharker, who was blatantly selling his book, Icons ( a non-fiction book), recommended Salman Rushdie, Ruth Prawar Jhabvala, Jhumpa Lahiri et al. Which begs the questions; how do you define or label an Indian writer? All the writers listed by Anil, to my mind, are not Indian fiction writers. Sure, they are of Indian origin, and have Indian oriented plots, but does that classify them as Indian writers? I am not too sure. William Darymple seems to me more an Indian writer than a Scottish one. I find it extremely difficult to connect with Jhumpa Lahiri on her musings of Indian immigrants to US of A.

As if he did not have enough difficulties in handling one guest, Rajat went in for a second one- Karan Bajaj, the author of “Keep of the Grass”, who seemed much more refreshing. He is ( or was) a management consultant, and it showed in his language; black box, light at the end of the tuneel, anti-intellucitiasm- phrases which seemed straight out of the meeting room 9D1 at Boston Consulting Group. With Chetan Bhagat’s juvenile success every MBA hot shot thinks he can write a book, and get it published. Well, maybe he can. But I am not spending my money on it.

And finally to top it all was the diva of the evening, the blogger of “The Compulsive Confessor”. Here was an author who did not seem to have ulterior motives. She writes for the love of it, and doesn’t care a damn if anybody reads it. Somehow Anil found this difficult to swallow. Who reads blogs which are not crafted, he whined. Well, if Anil surfed her blog, I think the answer is pretty obvious; the counter reads 862,437. Of course, Rajat had to have the last word, and his inane question- What books do you read, was again a cinch; visit the website and look up the “Library Thing” side bar chum. And next time do try to read a bit more on the guests you invite.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Ladies Special

It was with sense of anticipation I picked up “The Gathering” by Anne Enright; after all it had been some time since I a read a Booker prize winner. The prize is now intriguingly called the Man Booker, and I have never wondered what the Man is all about. It is a long time since I read a serious novel written by a woman; J.K. Rowling does not count. And it was a shocker. The sheer guts and boldness of the writing reverberates harshly, specially when she inspects marriage and intimacy. At other times a soft and insightful look at life and relationships did keep me engrossed.

He moved across the room to take a look and there was a solidity to him as he bent over the next generation, checking, in a proprietorial way, eyes, fingers, toes, the tiny pores on her nose plugged with yellow stuff that made me panic already about blackheads when she was grown up

It is an obvious story of Ireland in a time and place I will never connect to, so I was surprised that I managed to stay with the book. I am notorious for letting a book go midway. A strong sense of dysfunctional relationships engulfs the storyline, which leaves one agape at the profligacy of births, broken alliances, new liaisons and constant sense of imminent loss. Hidden between the lines is a social and political message, and that does come across more subtly.

My sense of foreboding continued during the week, as I listened to the Guardian Books podcast of Lorrie Moore reading her short story- “Paper Losses”. A woman’s view of a marriage breaking up did little to cheer me up on my walk. A catalogue of accusations by the protagonist leads to a conclusion which is not surprising, and the events are predictable. Although less visceral than “The Gathering”, it shares a pessimistic view of the marital state of affairs.

Is this the bleak future of our most important relationship? A newspaper item informs us that most babies in UK are born out of wedlock. Single parenting is the norm rather than the exception there. And we want to emulate the west? Are we sure? Looks like a materialistic lifestyle seems to have consequences in unexpected places. Although, I am not sure that there is a link between acquisitive habits and discordant matrimony. What do you think?
Photo credit

Odds and Ends

Ritu Dalmia launched her book and TV show “Italian Khana” this week. The book is very expensive and I figured I could pay for a decent Italian meal for the price. So I saw the TV show instead, and found the whole thing very esoteric. I love Italian food and Italy and Ritu Dalmia. The show did bring back some very pleasant memories of Venice, even though I was there for only a day. Ritu showed some very complicated Italian dishes, and some very nice Italians, but I found it very difficult to connect, and was not inspired to go cook immediately. I hope that I find the book more readable; when the price drops, I can buy it. I do want to try something else besides pasta and pizza.

Delhi Chronicles

Sense and Sensitivity

While I was on a mission driving sensitivity into people, somebody did say that we seem to be hugely insensitive to women. A north Indian specialty this goes well with denying girls their right, including female foeticide. The unwanted girl is built in the social psyche mostly driven by feudal economics. The girl will need to be married off, and the entire expenditure has to be borne by the parents. And the marriage expenses are not insubstantial. Then it comes down to some very selfish requirements of being looked after in the old age. The boy is expected to do that. There is some religious background too, which dictates that the funeral pyre of the father must be lit by a boy. Apparently the property of the parents can be inherited by boys only. So, with a hugely patriarchal society it is no wonder that the girl is a much neglected person in our society. I also found some residue of this inequality in a different culture. In the book “The Gathering”, the man’s money is considered more important than the woman’s.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

This feels good!

Sharing an iPod

This may sound silly-but-I share an iPod with my daughter. I thought this was a cool idea. I mean, a totally in person like me, could and would enjoy a teenager’s music, and probably influence her with my good taste in Eagles, Bob Dylan and Beatles. How wrong was I! For starters I did not anticipate the sheer volume of junk which a 30 GB ( I know- nowadays this is meager, but at the time I bought the iPod, this was awesome) classic model ( a term which straightway dooms the gadget to extinction) iPod is capable of storing. I also underestimated my daughter’s capacity to hear crap, and her ability to identify and lightening download the latest Bollywood and Western pop music. Her indiscriminate taste in un-adulterated noise is incredible. So the iPod gets loaded day after day with hideous music, which it swallows with gigabyte ease and spews it out just when I am in the mood to listen to jazz. Then there is this delicate matter of “my iPod time”. I don’t kid myself; there is no way my preferences are more important than her imperative need to listen to that song now. I mean now! It can’t wait till I get back from my daily half hour walk. THE walk is incredibly boring, and the iPod does help forget the tediousness, provided I take care of a few essentials; Never have my iPod on shuffle. That way I cannot be taken unawares and blasted off my feet with the latest song by a demented rocker; Choose my album to listen well in advance. With the multitude of songs, most of them labeled “unknown artist”, it takes quite a while to locate the one I want for today’s walk. And there is nothing more pathetic than a middle aged person dressed up for THE walk in neat shorts and new Reebok shoes, struggling with the gadget with very visible white shoestrings coming out of his ears. But it looks like we have reached an unholy truce. I have learnt to keep out of her folders, while she has become quite an expert in avoiding the old man’s songs. Incredibly, once in a while, we do come together to appreciate Unknown Artist’s “Had a Bad Day”.

Odds and ends

Interesting data from the book “”Delhi Past and Present”by H.C. Fanshawe; First published London 1902; Page 9 gives the population of Delhi according to census of 1901:

Total ………..….208,000

Delhi Chronicles

Ode to the sparrow.

My mother once complained that the birds on the tree outside our house made a ruckus in the morning and woke her up early. Over time the birds have fallen silent as the city grew. Our house is now surrounded by tall buildings, and some crows have taken over the neem tree. The small ubiquitous sparrow, who used to trouble my grandmother when she sunned the wheat in the open has disappeared. As kids we used to chase the sparrows , and sometimes caught one; only to let it go after holding it and feeling her heart thud; a fragile creature indeed. On googling about the sparrow I realized that this is a global phenomenon. The sparrows have disappeared from the urban centers. Man’s footprint is visible in yet another appalling and sinister manner. It looks like there are other concerned bloggers on this topic too. Nita has addressed this in much more detail than I could. Other haphazard trails led me to the Delhi Bird website, where images and cataloging of birds may be useful to a novice.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Keeping them up

The summer of 08

The summer this year really disappointed some, although most of us were thrilled. The coolest June since 1901; Rainfall was above average at 95.5 mm; the days which did not rain were cloudy, keeping the temperatures low- went the newspapers. So, what is the problem? Apparently Delhi-wallah’s like their sun, and when they don’t get it, they become nostalgic. The bit of sunshine on Thursday left most gasping for breath, but some loved the opportunity to sunbath. I, for one, am longing for the rains everyday.

Weighty matters

Now there are people who are for it, and those who are against it. There are things to be said for either side, so it is a thorny issue on which side you choose. It is easy to be labeled a traitor. And there are very compelling arguments from either side. The common stand taken by each side is: the world as we know it will end. These are subjects of deep thought and careful considerations. A wrong step and all is finished. The consequences will be with us for generations:

The above paragraph can be written for a) New Transport System for the City b) Buying a New Property c) Choosing a School for your Child d) The N-Deal

Pick one.

Delhi Chronicles

Making Achar ( Mango Pickle) in Delhi

I think the Indian equivalent of baking a cake is making Achar. The women in the household deny this vehemently, but I can sense the quiet enthusiasm when achar is being mixed in the house. Apparently women also like making Achar for all and sundry. Instead of making this yourself, go praise the neighbourhood cook, and she will be more than glad to make it for you. Below is the receipe for making Acahar. Be warned that the success rate for making achar is not 100%; some women, much to their dismay, cannot make Achar. Inexplicably, the Achar does not set. This will lead to much glee amongst her relatives, and can be cause of disparagement.

When the mango season is on its last legs, buy one kg of raw mangoes and cut into small pieces. Dry these under the sun or fan for two days to dehydrate till the skin is desiccated. For one kg mangoes take less than 200 gms of salt, 30 gm mota saunf, 30 gms metha, 3 spoons of haldi and two spoons of chilly powder. Heat the sarson oil a little bit, and let it cool; mix everything, masalas coming first. Put it in the jar and close the jar tightly. Shake the jar once a day for three or four days. When the oil level drops in the jar, and the ingredients get a lttle dry, add a little more oil so that the contents are well soaked. Do not skimp on the oil. Keep the jar covered for 7-8 days, shaking it once a while. Taste to ensure the mangoes are soft and edible. Use only a wooden spoon to serve contents.