Saturday, September 22, 2012

Anaar (Pomegranate Raita)

Yogurt is a favorite in almost all parts of India, and it also manages to transcend communal barriers. Some of the best yogurt sauces (called Raitas in India) are served with one of my favorite meals, the dum ki biryani at the biryani outlets. South Asia is full of examples of these raitas being served in some form or the other.

Now let me be honest. I have no special love for pomegranates. I think they are one of the more boring fruits out there, and it is an extremely laborious fruit. However, they go wonderfully well with yogurt, as I am going to discuss in this recipe. Try it with anything, and I hope you like the combo.

Ingredients
1 pomegranate - Kandahari ones are amazing for it, but any other will do as well.
about 400-500 gm of yogurt
1/2 tsp salt - if possible use something called sendha namak, other wise used for Hindu fasts
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp shahjeera - its a shorter cumin seed, but regular cumin will do just as well
Few pinches of raita masala

Preparation
Just whip up yogurt nicely. If it is thick, try to thin it with about 4 tbsp of water till it attains a creamy texture.
Peel a pomegranate and collect all the seeds.
Mix in the seeds with shahjeera, salt and half of the sugar till it all mixes well
Add to this the raita masala and the remaining sugar and mix well
Chill to serve.

Don't mind the color. Its a reddish tinge because of the lighting.



Friday, September 21, 2012

Manmohan Singh - the Myth of a Man

Our media channels have been living in a delusion all this while. They love to deny certain facts (though it is difficult to say why). Manmohan Singh, a doctor in economics, is always looked up to as someone who has been the original reforms man, and who can be the only one who can promise reform. However, there is more to the story than what the eye can see.

Most people tend to forget that Manmohan Singh was the governor of the Reserve Bank of India during the Prime Ministership of Rajiv Gandhi, where a certain Pranab Mukherjee was the finance minister. Prior to that, he was in the IMF and was also on the Planning Commission.  The crisis of 1991 was precipitated by decision making during that decade (with the Left and Right doing no good either). It was a group of people, including P V Narsimha Rao, Dr. Subramaniam Swamy and N Govindarajan, all of whom were given Cabinet Minister level ranks by Rao, the unsung hero of India, who steered the economy around from a position of national bankruptcy that was brought about by the disastrous socialist leanings of the Nehru Gandhi dynasty (which went to the extent of inserting the idea of socialism in our Constitution through an Amendment). Manmohan Singh, clearly, never had the political mandate to even advocate reforms, forget bringing them in, unless his hand was strengthened. We are pretty much at the same position as 1991, where, despite denials, this country is facing another bankruptcy, thanks to the white elephant money siphons devised by the extra constitutional National Advisory Council (NAC) led by an unaccounted for power centre (read them as NRHM, MNREGS and the now proposed Food Security Act). Moreover, allowing the high level of losses to the country by avoiding auction of national resources, we have seen that a man who can just stand aside and watch without any emotion while Rome burns. Letting the government to spend beyond its means in attempting to provide First World welfare schemes on borrowed money just shows that he was never really the boss here.

One thing that he should certainly be credited for is the politician that he is. Having survived the spate of scams and still being supported by people who talk about the laughable ideas of secularism shows just how smart a man he is. Moreover, the manner in which he staked the UPA's power throne to get across his favorite Nuclear Deal just goes to show that he can also play the brass tacks when it comes to his own prestige. That there are so many people who can jump to his defense any time is testimony to the careful image cultivation that he has undertaken over these years, that enable him to get away with almost anything that could possibly lay on his doorstep.

Overall, let us stop idolizing Manmohan Singh as a man of reform. He can only do things that can help him survive in the political arena. He can be the Man Friday to sell ideas at the best, but to expect him to run on borrowed crutches when he can barely walk is absolute fallacy.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

My Thought and I



The rain and the dark clouds make for a gloomy day for everyone but writers it seems. Writers are a lot like earthworms – they function only on these gloomy days, churning the earth of their minds to make it a fertile place for the crop of thoughts to grow on it.

The clouds seemed to be getting darker and darker with each passing moment. The weather is a great excuse for people in India not to work. I guess it’s the gloominess of the dark clouds that play on our mind. That perhaps explains why people in certain parts of the country don’t work at all; it can be traced back to the incessant amounts of rainfall that they witness.

I sat there, staring at the window outside. There were thoughts making circumambulations outside the periphery of the conscious mind. All that resonated in the mind was a song, which I kept humming along. It is a fairly popular song, though what stood out for me were the lyrics. Being a man of the word, that is what attracts my attention all the time. The rhythm of words, the fluidity of language – that is what captures my attention nowadays.

I don’t drink tea or coffee. Not that I don’t like it; my body does not allow me to. However, the tune in the mind more than made up for it. The weather kept me humming. The strange thing about humming is that people keep staring at you as if there is something wrong with you. But I don’t mind. In a bunch of fools, one who stands out does not become a bigger one. And so the hum kept on. Even as I moved around at work, and with a distracted mind as mine, the song persisted. It was just one of those pleasant moments that do not offer anything exceptional, anything exciting. One however does not mind them; it is a good state of mind, one that helps to deal with several circumstances and situations at work that are not necessarily great and do not inspire confidence.

All of a sudden, I spot a figure moving around me. I spot it as a shadow falling over my shoulders, flitting around. Puzzled, I look around to see who it is, and I am shocked.

A figure is standing, looking down at me. This figure looks exactly like me, though he perhaps decided to wear glasses to look distinct from me. There is a smirk on his face, though it is impossible for me to guess the reason for this contemptuous look. Have I done something wrong? Who is he? Questions swirl around in my mind even as I begin to notice a strange thing – everything around me is standing still. By everything, I mean everyone around me stands frozen in time. Nature though trails it own course as usual. The rain falls with its usual rhythm, humming away gently. Wisps of vapour continue to rise from the mugs of coffee that endless people held frozen as they were.  He keeps staring at me, and then starts walking. I know he wants to follow me, though the visible motion is absent. Somehow, it is a connection of our minds – no, our souls – that resonates and communicates signals, that makes up for the absence of words or any human sound that could have existed, but which got frozen in time.

We walk out of the building being guarded by a frozen body with a stoic expression. I wonder what the guard must have been thinking at that moment, since the face revealed nothing but a sense of deep thought. I wish this moment would enable me to also read the frozen thoughts like reading parchments of paper. Our thoughts, I think, are like those old time parchments that roll up, which used to carry messages for people of yore. No, they are rather like framed photos on a long shelf; we have a look at them, and then put them back to where they belong.

The raindrops wet me, and yet there is a kind of warmth in them I never experienced.  The tingling sensation that the drops cause on trickling down the various contours of the body is conspicuous by its absence; rather, the rain seems to have hugged me, taken me into its fold like a long lost kin meeting after a long time. This sense of comfort is hard to come by amongst humans today. Perhaps I was missing it, as he kept staring at me with a faint smile, the glasses hiding the true intent of the smile by covering his eyes.

“Who are you?” I wanted to sincerely ask the question, and yet the warmth of the sheets of rain comforted me, as if substituting for the answer, trying to satiate my curiosity in ways that I could not have known till then. The question seemed to hang in mid-air, reverberating with the rhythm of the weather. The eyes had a strange depth to them, and yet they had a warning flashing in them. It felt as if they wanted to say – do not go any further; you are in for a terrible shock. The silhouette of the rain was invisible on him. And yet, yet he exuded an expression that felt familiar, comforting.

“I am Thought,” said the guy, as if reading my mind. 


I woke up with groggy eyes, only to see my boss staring at me with a stern look. How did he get to know what I was up to? I scrambled, only to spill reams of paper all over the floor.
He walked away, staring at me, leaving a horde of guffawing people. Soon, they were back at their desks. But the sensation was still there. It refused to go away. Is this what thought is like? I thought, even as I realized that my hair was wet, which is strange, because I did not recall going out.

Or was the dream another dimension of reality?

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