The £100 falafel

The falafel indeed did taste heavenly, so what if the total cost was £100 (Rs.8000/-) for two falafels. It all happened due to one promise that I had made in haste. This was the same mistake that king Dasaratha made to his wife Kaikeyi some 6000 Years ago. From child-hood I have been listening to that story. The thug turned saint Valmiki, who was well versed with the world at large had warned the whole of male population. The same warning was repeated again by tulsidas in hindi, kambar in tamil, tunjathezuththachchan in malyalam, yugo sako in Japanese, C. Rajagopalachari in english and my father to us in sign language. Never.. never promise anything to your wife.

For those ignorant people among you, I will narrate the incident from the epic Ramayana. Dasaratha was helping the devas(gods) in war against the mighty asuras(demons), when one of the spokes of his chariot wheel came off. Losing one of his chariot wheels would have caused a major rout, though I am not sure for which side. Kaikeyi who had accompanied Dasaratha in that war, happened to be in the chariot, immediately used her two fingers as spoke and held the wheel to the chariot, enabling dasaratha to continue the war and win it eventually. As a show of gratitude, dasaratha promises kaikeyi that she can ask 2 things from Dasaratha anytime and he would oblige. This incident leads us to a valuable insight. Insight no.1 Behind every successful man is a woman.

Indeed kaikeyi later in the story ask for prince Rama to be banished from the country for 14 years, and his brother/her son Bharatha will be crowned the next king of Ayodhya. King Dasaratha becomes confused as to whether to be happy or sad. Banishing prince ram from the kingdom brought sorrow to his mind, whereas on the other hand he was really happy with these two requirements and thanks god that kaikeyi didnt put all five fingers in the wheel spoke during the war, lest she would have asked for more such things. This is the main twist in the epic Ramayana, triggering off a lot of incidents. This leads us to another valuable insight, Insight no.2 Behind every successful epic is a woman.

Poor Dasaratha could not refuse the promise as tulsidas explains…

Raghukul ki yehi reet hai aayee
praan jaaye par vachan na jaayee
(the tradition of people born in Raghu-kul* is, promises will remain and are to be kept, even if ones life is to be sacrificed)

Now the bollywood people are really religious, but a bit illiterate. They knew that such couplets can be adapted to daily life and industry and read the same as

bollywood ki yehi reet hai aayee
Praan jaaye par Bachchan na jaayee.
(the tradition of film makers in bollywood is, Amitabh Bachchan will remain, even if Praan retires)

Coming back to from diversion, I forgot this lesson from the epic and accidentally promised my wife sometime around last february that I will take her to her favourite Opera – Carmen – before the opera season ends. Just as in the epic ramayana, I too forgot about the grandiose promise I made. It was last friday that I received a mail from my wife. It contained a few lines only, reminding me that the last screening of carmen was on saturday and it was my promise to take her. I saw the mail and understood what dasaratha must have gone through. But unlike him, I replied highlighting the cost of the tickets, brought to her notice the poor people india who couldnt manage “do wakt ka roti”, and see everything in proper context. What followed that reply was a spectacular show of pyrotechnics. Scared and in panic, I scoured the net to find tickets for the performance, and managed to grab two tickets for the screening.

Saturday evening found us in Coliseum theatre in Central london, where the performance of Carmen had just begun. I didnt know what caused it, but within 5 minutes I was feeling sleepy and had to put up a fight with myself to keep awake. The opera was not making any sense to me. All the audience were also quiet and seem to enjoy the opera or maybe they were also like me struggling to keep awake. A few minutes later discovered that, maybe I should know the story to enjoy it. Thankfully the play was in 4 acts and during the first interval I bought the official book for the opera, and a lemon sorbet ice cream for my better half, which gave me another insight. Insight No.3 Women who love Lemon cake (which my wife loves) might hate Lemon sorbet (which I had to eat eventually).

The book was around 50 pages, out of which 48 pages contained advertisements and unwanted write-ups. the remaining two pages had the story of carmen, which too the author decided was within 500 – 600 words. The story didnt make any great impact on me and before I could discuss it, the second act started and the whole theatre fell quiet. The last interval saw us enjoying the taste of vanilla ice-cream and discussions about how pointless the whole carmen story was, when again the lights went dim and the whole theatre fell quiet. The acts that followed also failed to impress me, maybe I thought, I was genetically programmed not to enjoy opera. But a glance at my wife proved that wrong. She was on the same boat as me. The only difference was that from a ferocious tigress, who showcased an array of stupefying pyrotechnics, she had transformed into a cute little harmless fluffy cat.

Out from the theatre we were famished, not only mentally but physically as well. Only one thing could bring up back up to full spirits. A great maoz falafel with roasted aubergines and humous. mmmm… humousss…. So what the total cost of those falafel, rather day was coming upto £100. The falafel sure did taste heavenly. mmmmm……

* Raghukul – The lineage of the ancient warrior Raghu. Prince Rama, along with Raghu is part of long lineage of kings who belong to surya-vamsa… race of the sun god. Kalidas has written raghuvamsam, detailing the lineage of kings born under that race including the great king Raghu, though its noted that he in turn skipped some kings from the list, who were originally mentioned in valmiki’s Ramayana.

ps: read the other version here

Padakkushu paramasaadhu

Maybe my favourite animal should be the polar bear. Though being a human, its uncanny the way my hibernation tendencies are related to the polar bear. Its true that my favourite hobby is sleeping, occasional day-dreaming, eating and sleeping, though not necessarily in that order, but I rarely find like-minded people to form a club of my own for such a hobby. Even though I am supposed to be living in a free and fair society, neither my parents nor my saha-dharmini allow me to pursue my hobby. Far from being like minded, even my friends are extra active and prod me on to some activity or the other. “You need to keep your mind active”, they said in unison with my wife. “you have a wide interest in several topics, and have internet access at home, why dont you take something seriously?” they asked, “say you could research a subject and write a small article on the topic”. I could for a moment see that it was indeed a brilliant idea. I could do that.

So without delay I decided that I should take up one topic, research on that and write something about it. It will infuse fresh bout of activity in my mind. But I have to write about something different, not the regular stuff, which most of the people know and discuss anyway. I left the task to my mind, which normally works in the background and has to habit of picking up things from the subconscious. Indeed a few hours later it picked up a topic. This topic came from the Shrek 2 movie. Indeed it was a topic not much people research, where I can find more information and also write up something about it. The inspiration came from the scene where shrek drinks the potion and waits for something to happen. When all the audience in the theatre also are expecting something to happen, it happens… Shrek farts. It was decided, the topic that I should research about is farting!

Now Mahabharatha is acclaimed to be a great epic from india, about which its said that “whatever is in the world is in here, whatever is not in here is not in the world”. The first time I heard it, I knew that was a lie. I was dead sure that it didnt have any reference to farting. I havent come across one reference in mahabharatha which enlightens me about this process. I am one of the lucky few who didnt grow up thinking that this process was something to be abhorred or to be looked down upon. The family I was born into didnt consider it a disgusting thing, indeed we all could laugh at several anecdotes related to fart.

My grandmother once said that,

padakkushu paramasaadhu, avashakkushu aale kollum.
(big loud fart is a simpleton, the silent fart is a killer one.)

I could indeed vouch for that ancient wisdom. The silent one where you cannot even identify the culprit is more torturous than the one that comes with a warning. It would be really interesting to find out more about this process. How this was looked upon or looked down in several cultures, what were the prescribed solutions if a particular culture found it abhorring etc. The research offered me a lot of possibilities. I could find out the medical reasons for possible causes, compile a list of jokes related to farting from around the world and a long list of similar possibilities.

Whom else to discuss the research topic than my saha-dharmini, who at the very mention of the topic produced a facial expression which no number of muscles in my face could produce. That expression was not un-familiar as I remember seeing that expression when I pull the window-pane of the car down, and smile at her sheepishly, while driving. But this time along with that expression was a blazing look which contained more meaning than the whole of Shakespearian tragedies. That was it, my project research was called off.

History of handshake

I received this via a yahoo group that I subscribe to. This particular contained interesting information about the handshake.

The following news item appeared in the TOI Bangalore Edition of July 2, page 6. ?While someone greeting an acquaintance with a handshake doesn?t amuse modern day society, RESI (Regional Institute of English South India) found the picture of boys shaking hands in Class V English Textbook as ?misleading?.

I recollect that many years ago Morarji Desai the then Deputy Prime Minister of India while giving a talk in Dehra Dun mentioned that shaking hands is a western custom and Indians should greet each other only with a ?namaste?. This was reported in the press.

I then wrote to him that what he said was wrong. I quoted the following from Valmiki Ramayana. When Rama and Lakshmana were searching for Sita they came into contact with Sugriva. Here is what Sugriva told Rama.

Kishkindha Kandam Chapter 5 Slokas – 11/12

yatvamichcHasi souhardam vaanarena mayaa saha /
rochate yadi vaa sakhyam baahuresha prasaritah /
grihyataam paaninaa paanih maryaadaa badhyataam dhruvaa //

If you desire friendship with this monkey, or if you desire alliance with me, this hand is extended. Let us hold hand with hand and let us enter into an agreement.

Morarji Desai acknowledged my letter, but he said that what was reported was not what he meant. But he did not clarify what he really meant.

This shows that hand shake was customary in India between equals.
PK Ramakrishnan

Well, we know one more thing today. :-)

Simha… Narrasimha…

It was on a normal day that I stumbled upon a new discovery. An alternative to anesthetic medicines. I have had two bone fractures in my life, both happened while playing football. The first one happened in India when I was still in school and that was a fracture on the right wrist. The second one was in London where I was playing with work-colleagues when I broke my left wrist. The first one was more serious and I was hospitalised for fixing the same and for plastering. As I was being taken to the operation theatre, I was given an anesthetic after which I only remember waking up in the hospital bed. That was my first experience of anesthesia.

Yesterday I again went into anesthesia. No this time I didnt break any of my super-heavy, muscularly protected, extra muscularly padded bones. This happened when I came home after work. My parents are visiting us in UK and for their entertainment, I have subscribed to all available asian channels at home. In addition to that we hire movies from southall, which appa and amma can watch as and when they feel bored. Normally these movies are malayalam, but this time we hired all different tamil movies. Yesterday I entered home as usual and found my parents glued to the teevee box. I also decided to watch whatever movie they were playing, when i heard puratchi kalaingar vijayakanth’s voice… Simha… Narrasimha.

That was all I remember, The next conscious memory I have is of my wife fuming at me, the whole tamil film industry, malayalam film industry, all the male chauvinist boars (she informed me later that pigs are female and boars are male, and hence it can be male chauvinist boars, not pigs), all the male species of the world, the monkey who decided to walk in two legs instead of four, the fish who wanted to come on land and the big bang. I gazed at her wondering what might have caused it. I didnt have a clue. Did the all powerful demi-god vijayakanth provoke her fury? The last memory I had if you remember correctly was vijayakanth’s voice telling me… simha… Narasimha…

It was while I was driving when we were headed for Shrek 2 movie few hours later, that I got some flash-back memories. I have not been a film buff from my childhood. During my schooldays, while we had TV at home during that period there was only 1 channel available and that was doordarshan. A few of the great programs that come to my mind is Krishi-darshan and rukavat ke liye khed hai. I used to hate sunday evenings when there used to be a hindi movie on tv, which for me were always senseless. As it would be already dark outside, there was no chance to go outside to the ground to play with friends. My mom would watch the torturous hindi movie, eventhough she still wont be able to speak properly constructed three sentences in that language.

My parents were born in kerala but since ancestrally we were from tamilnadu we speak tamil at home. The first movies that we watched I vaguely remember were tamil mythological movies. My maternal grandfather used to take us to his friends theatre close by home where these would be screening. Later my grandfathers friend sold the theatre, after which no tamil mythological movies were screened there. Later during my school days my father bought a TV, and used to rent out video player as well as malayalam and tamil movies.

The movie heroes that my parents liked were Shivaji Ganesan, Gemini Ganesan, MGR, NTR (not the fast food… thats MTR), Prem Naseer, Adoor Bhasi etc. The heroines that I remember from their conversations were ragini, padmini, vyjayantimala, sheela, jayabharati and so on. If you havent heard any of their names, either you are not from south india or you must have watched a rajnikanth movie, which has a side effect of partial amnesia. I remember Shivaji Ganeshan clearly from those movies. He was powerful actor, and I still wonder how he managed his face from exploding while doing those emotional scenes. The actresses that I remember well are sheela and jayabharathi who had a really good screen presence. During the emotional screens, one could see that they breathed heavily and made sure that their deep-breathing chests filled the screen and took the viewers attention. I apologise if I sound sexist, but that was the fact.

While I was remembering these came the real memory. The memory from the time I first heard… simha… narrasimha… It was not anesthesia, I realised, it was just temporary memory loss that I had, but the memories were now coming back. As I made comfortable in the futon and turned my eyes to the telly, it was then I heard those divine incantation. The movie had already begun and the demi-god, kalaignar vijayakant was fighting a whole load (must be around 30-40 of them) of black cats single handedly.. well to be precise with two hands (bi-handedly?) and a few guns. What was to come was even more unbelievable fight sequences. Vijayakant defying the laws of physics was jumping from very high place and landing on his feet without even bending down. Only demi-gods like Vijayakant and Rajanikant could do such stuff.

In the movie our hero is an assassin, who kills persons in Bombay, Calcutta, Kerala, infact all over india… (no, its true… I did see that part of the movie and attest to that fact) and the military and the police cannot even touch him. He does everything single handedly (or bihandedly as the case maybe). Meanwhile our heroine, who is a tamil from singapore and is told by an astrologer that she will meet her soulmate fall on her from sky. And by the power of stars, that happens! Our heroine, who obviously is having a cloth shortage is climbing a fire engine ladder, when our hero jumps from top of the building to save her from bomb explosion. While he jumps, he grabs the heroine and then the heroine makes herself comfortable in a kamasutra position. Incidentally a lorry full of marigold flowers park under the exploding building and the hero and heroine fall in the marigold and roll… I think a song started just after that point with heroine teaching us a lesson in leading a frugal life, particularly how to be frugal with clothes.

Well I took advantage of that time and changed into something comfortable myself, and made a point that I ignored the heroine’s philosophy and clothed myself properly. Let me bring it to your notice that all these while my wife was not watching the movie, and only now she came down to make coffee for me. As I fit myself into futon again, the astrologer was telling the heroine that she will meet our hero under water, and by the time my wife brought coffee, there the heroine was again clad in minimal clothes underwater with our hero. Indeed our hero who is already underwater rescues our heroine. Now the heroine is unconscious and our hero tries to bring her to life. For this he presses her revelaed tummy area erotically, for which she responds by spitting a mouthful of water. To give her warmth our hero then rubs her thighs and then to resuscitate her kisses her (mouth to mouth resuscitation is not needed if its vijayakanth.. only kiss is required). Our heroine suddenly become conscious and she makes kissing gesture and licks her lips as if she just had it! It was that moment there was an explosion… No not in the movie, the explosion happened just by my side.

I awoke with a start, so did the neighbour who was nearly tempted to call 999. Then we realized, It was my better half who caused the explosion as she was so upset by the portrayal of the female character of the movie. It was cheap, third grade and dirty movie she cried. How could people make movies for masses like this and expect them to be normal. I sat gaping at her, and could not do anything. I knew she was right, but I had grown immune to such movies after watching a few hindi and tamil movies. The next thing I remembered was looking for an escape route and found every route blocked. A few hours later while driving to watch Shrek 2 movie, the atmosphere in the car was still volatile. Appa, amma, radhu and myself all keeping quiet. Indeed the idea came to me that such movies could be used as anesthetia, but the drawback being that it will work only with some people, others it may cause side effects.

The climate changed soon after Shrek 2 movie. Shrek 2 movie was fun, but while driving back from the cinema, I argued with my wife that it was not even comparable to the narasimha movie that appa and amma were watching earlier. Appa happily joined in teasing her. I argued that the cry “simha… Narasimha…” itself surpassed several levels of cinematic brilliance. The efforts taken by pleasantly plump vijayakant to look young and mobile also required appreciation. It was only later when we reached home that I realised my folly of teasing. I entered the home, looked at her and told as in the movie, simha… narasimha, when she moved her fists threateningly and muttered… vaa.. nee mele vaa. (come.. you just come upstairs).

Vegetable thoran

I am not always a good husband. My sojourns to the kitchen mostly involve the arduos task of drinking water or on a hunter gatherer mission – finding food. On some on rare occasions I don the mantle of a chef and order people around. This is the evidence of one such occasion. Join me as I teach you how to make that perfect vegetable thoran… (obviously under the guidance of my cooking queen)

The minimum requirement for making a perfect vegetable thoran is some vegetables. The most ideal candidates for this are beans, mangetout, carrots and cabbage. Normally thorans are made individually, say beans thoran, cabbage thoran etc. But here we take beans, mangetout and carrots. In addition to that we need, curry leaves, green chilli, ginger, chopped/grated coconut, mustard seeds (only half a spoon), split peas (only half a spoon), urad dal (only half a spoon), turmeric powder and salt.

If you cannot find all of these, dont lose heart. The minimum things that are needed are, vegetables as described, 2 spoons of oil for heating, chopped/grated coconut, green chilli and salt. You can still come up with a good dish with the above minimum items… just follow the steps where these items figure ;-)

1. So lets get some beans, mangetout and carrots.

Get some fresh beans

Get some mangetouts as well

2. Now chop all these into small pieces as shown. Keep some kadipatta on top if available. Now chop some chillies as well as ginger too.

Chop your beans finely

Keep all of the vegetables together, it looks nice :-)

chilli ginger

3. Now we are ready for the real thing. Take a kadai and put, say 2 spoons of oil into it, and keep the kadai on the switched on hob.

4. For any indian dish you need masala dabba containing a lot of regular ingredients. These are chilli powder, dhaniya powder, turmeric powder, urad dal, jeera, mustard and split peas. Here to the hot oil, we will add a bit of urad dal and split peas, and a bit later some mustard as well. Watch out when the mustard pops, we have to go to the next step.

masala dabba

put dals

5. As the mustard is popping, add the split chilles, ginger and a few kadi-patta (curry leaves) to the oil and saute them. Just make sure that they are sort of semi fried.

add chillies and ginger

6. Now add the chopped vegetables to the oil and mix well. Add a bit of turmeric powder and again mix well.

add chopped vegetables

mix well

7. Now keep the gas flame to low and cover the kadai, and let the vegetables cook by itself. Meanwhile take some chopped coconut pieces and a couple of chilli and grind them together into a medium coarse paste.

coconut and chillies

ground coconut paste

8. Now wait till the vegetables are cooked, this normally takes around 5-10 minutes. You can occasionally stir the vegetables up. Once you have seen that they have been cooked (well sort of steamed appearance) add salt to the vegetables and stir well again. Once that is done, you add the ground coconut paste to the mixture.

add coconut paste

9. Now stir well

stir well

10. Now enjoy, the thoran is ready. It goes well with cooked/steamed rice, chappatis or puris.

Thank you.

to be or not to be (fit)

I have heard from my parents and relatives that I was born chubby, and have remained like that till my college days. From the time I remember, I have not been that much of a fan of physical labour. My brother on the other hand was very active and did most of the gardening, helping out mother with grocery shopping (which involved long distance walking) etc. I have not been interested in doing any of them or to do the “exercises”, which for me were pointless. I would prefer playing football (waiting for the ball to come to me) or cricket (yes, I would like to bat please) to doing exercises which were totally pointless. I believed in what I call “theory of least effort”, where you dont have to do any effort, just trigger something that will do the job for you.

In practical application, it worked for me. For football, if I was playing forward, I would not run behind the ball everywhere, but only when the ball is within my comfort zone. Its a different story that football caused two fractures, one on the right wrist and another on the left wrist. Even my friends have wondered if I played football with my arms. In cricket, when batting, I would apply the same rule. I wouldnt spend my energy hitting or heaving, I just push the ball here and there and if a run is possible take it slowly. I remember a cricket match during schooldays, that I played in. I opened the innings and while the wickets were falling at the other end, I made slow 24 odd runs, when my brother came in on the other end. Eventhough I was forced to run there after, my brother surpassed the 24 run mark within 3 overs with his hard-hitting and took us to victory, leaving me standing on the other end with around 26 runs.

I think my theory of least effort might be one of the reasons for me to remain “pleasently plump”, as my friend puts it, till my college days. But Bombay was a different place altogether. Finding a job and traveling by local train did have it effects. I believe in Bombay to keep fit, one has to just travel in the suburban trains during peak hours. No effort from your side is needed to burn the excess fat. Catching a train from dombivli itself will burn quite a few kilo calories daily. And the location of the job ensured that this calorie burning was ongoing on a daily basis. During that period I became slim/skinny, a state which I have never been again. Even when I see my pictures during that period, I wonder if I could be that slim again. Different jobs took me to different places and the traveling pattern also changed.

Now I drive to work and my work involves sitting and staring at a screen for the major part. The only physical motion that happens is with the hand/fingers on the keyboard/mouse and occasional walk to get a cup of tea. No wonder I have put on a layer of “extra muscles”, particularly around my tummy/waist area. A bit of those muscles have also accumulated below my jaw, causing my wife to call it a double chin. I made my attempts to reducing my extra muscles by going on a diet and trying a technical alternative, but none of them resolved the issue completely. Then I had hit upon the idea that I will try to find how fat I can become – travel to the limit and then start becoming slim from that point onwards. Unfortunately my wife didnt buy that idea and I was forced to dump the same. She hit the panic button when last week my weighing scale touched the new height of 85 kilos. So now I am on probation.

Interestingly, I had got a few comments asking me how to reduce weight. Afterall I might be the right person to advise. After a lot of sifting, the endless wisdom that I am bestowed with, I decided to meditate on it and went to yoga-nidra. I was almost reaching a solution, when I was woken up from my nirvana state by my wife. As per her version of the story, I was sleeping in the drawing room and snoring. Talk about misunderstanding. The nirvanic state that I was in, I only smiled in reply and went to the bedroom to meditate further on the problem. Just like rivers that eventually join the ocean, clouds that come down as rain, caterpillars that become butterflies and criminals who become politicians in India, i also reached the resolution of the problem.

Dieting is out of question for muscular people like us as we love food, and so is going to gym and exercising for an hour or so everyday – absolutely pointless. For all the hapless souls who have a problem with weight, I have hit upon the ancient indian wisdom to burn those extra muscles – suryanamaskar. Suryanamaskar is supposed to exercise all your muscle groups and burn the unwanted “extra bits of muscles”. The dosage is 12 in the morning 12 in the evening. I wanted to find some volunteers who could try this out for me under my tutelage, but my other half is insisting that I should try out myself, before I advise others. With a zen like mind, I accepted. And no, the decision had nothing to do with the flamethrower in her tender hands. So there I go, today I weigh 85 kilos and am not going to change any of my routines. I will just add the 12 + 12 suryanamaskar to my routine from today tomorrow, and update in one month where I stand. Had I got a camcorder, I would have made a documentary out of this, but unfortunately I dont have one, so check back again in 1 months time.