When ‘homemade’ no longer means ‘your’ home

He who depends on himself will attain the greatest happiness reads a Chinese proverb. So it comes as no surprise that everything today is ‘Made in China’ ! Unfortunately, no one really loves mass produced factory-made goods and advertisers were the first to realize this. Advertisers are always the first to realize everything. Labels like ‘Homemade’, or ‘Hand Painted’ or even ‘It’s a family company’ allow products to move into a ‘premium’ category. But when was the last time your home, your hands or your family made something (other than money)?

The process of creating by and large is always more satisfying than that of consuming. It does not need to be valuable or even praise worthy. It can simply be mediocre. Vincent Van Gogh once wrote in a letter to his brother Theo;

I do not at all despise mediocre in its simple sense. And one certainly does not rise above the mark by despising what is mediocre. In my opinion one must at least begin by having some respect for the mediocre, and know that it already means something, and is only reached with great difficulty.

These are my attempts. First being the cardamom mava cakes, which I must admit were delicious. Here is the recipe. The perfect accompaniment to a mava cake is some tea and a book. I picked up “Marrying Anita: A Quest for Love in the New India”. Now this ones far from being a classic, very far indeed, but a chick lit once in a while never hurt a soul. I even wrote a little review for the book on amazon.

This was a fun book, and I enjoyed reading it. However, you might be disappointed if you were hoping to find a deeper connection with the author and her life. I believe a lot of the negative reviews reflect that, since after a certain point it is difficult to relate to Anita’s experiences, especially the fact that her failed relationships seem to teach her nothing. Everyone has the right to act silly at any age, but one hopes the wiser ones realize their folly and correct themselves once the moment of insanity has passed. And one definitely hopes to be wise by thirty !

But I like her honestly and clarity and she is not afraid to say it like it is. She does have her preferences; she likes the poor boy from the village who works hard and becomes an artist, she does not like the poor boy from the village who works hard and becomes an IT engineer in New Jersey. But at no point is she pretentious which I find quite refreshing. She has preferences, we all do.

Surprisingly, Delhi seems to be light years ahead in terms of dating if compared to Mumbai. I can imagine smoking and drinking to your hearts content in Mumbai, every day, for FUN. But to do that when you’re here to find a husband? Hmm, never heard of that one! I have yet to meet an Indian woman who partied her way to marriage. What a boring world I live in!

So if you want to enjoy the book, don’t take everything it says too personally. It is about her, Anita, and not about the Indian woman you are, you love or hope to meet !

And finally a painting. It’s a concept called paint by numbers, where the supplier will send you a canvas with a drawing sketched out. There are even little numbers indicating the colors one must use for each section. Takes you back to primary school doesn’t it? Good old days, where the only worry you had was sticking inside the boundaries. Who says painting has to be hard work?

So there you have it. Nothing fancy, but truly homemade :)

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What’s on the menu? Strawberries and cream – 15¢ only !

Mahabaleshwar and strawberries go hand in hand, mostly the hands of tourists flocking this town in the Western Ghats of Maharashtra. Few memories remain of my first visit to the plateau, which was more than a decade ago, but the one that does is of my father being rather gluttonous with the fresh strawberry cream servings! In all fairness, they were to die for. And so, when my husband and I planned a more recent visit to the town, the greedy berries and cream climbed to the top of my checklist.

“80 rupees” said the person at the counter. Did I look like a fool to him? I righteously stomped off to a stall a few blocks away. “80 rupees” came the echo. It is surprising how someone who looks so haggard and weak at one moment can appear so shrewd and businesslike the very next. I was almost certain he had a BMW hiding somewhere behind his 5 by 5 feet stall. “OK” I said at the cost of committing one of the seven deadly sins, gluttony via laute – which in Latin is the sin of eating too expensively! Now, had I been born at the end of the 19th century, I could have feasted on those delicious cream topped berries and gone straight to heaven both figuratively and literally, for in 1901, the A.M. Sweet & Son Restaurant in New York served them for only 15¢ ! And how do I know this? Well because it’s on the menu!

“What’s on the menu?”, a project by the New York Public Library is now converting its historical restaurant menu collection into a computer friendly format. They have about forty thousand of these historical menus – a data analyst’s dream, a data entry operators’s nightmare! But before you pity the later, you ought to know that that person is you! “What’s on the menu?” requires regular people like you and me to help transcribe these menus by typing in the dishes that appear on the picture of a menu card, one dish at a time. Though the task is a tad repetitive, it is definitely entertaining. When the project completes and with the magic of data mining there would be so many new things to learn about the way we ate. There are interesting things you notice even while examining a single menu, like “French Asparagus” was one of the few items that cost $1 when everything else was only around 25-50¢. Oh surely they couldn’t taste better than those strawberries!

Help What’s on the menu by visiting http://menus.nypl.org/ and relishing a few dishes yourself :)

Keeping tradition – Dancing on the streets !

2011 Cricket World Cup victory celebrations for India under my apartment !

It is interesting how the celebrations start out in the town square and slowly move onto the streets :)

Let us all gather in the town square to celebrate peacefully.”

Hmm, something doesn’t feel right. I wonder what?”

I’ve got an idea – lets try moving on to the streets!”

Hey, this is great ! Who knew blocking traffic was such fun!”

Lets get this bugger ! Yippiee…..!”

Customer Service and Vodafone – The sticky ‘ex’ story

For a country that swallowed customer service jobs across the globe, slapped multi storied towers on acres of land building call centers, and made people work through the night, you’d have thought they got one thing right – Customer Service!

“I will give you my personal number” said the lady at the Vodafone store on Mangaldas road, a quite lane in Koregaon Park. “I assure you, you will have no problems with the account again. Ever.” she continued. “Thank you” I said, “but I would like to close my account and terminate my number”. As she reluctantly filled the account closing form, I was happy knowing that I would never ever have to visit this store again or speak to another Vodafone customer care executive, whose only solution to my problems was – “Sorry madam, but you will have to visit the store personally”.

Have you ever been in a relationship where one person wants out and the other is willing to do everything to keep it going? Plead? Beg? And if you still magically got out, the begging turned to harassment and pestering? So much in love was Vodafone with me, that they just couldn’t accept that our relationship was over. Long after I had payed off the last bill and settled all dues they sent me another one! Yes, a bill for a period during which the number did not exist. I had left the relationship. Vodafone had not. They kept their end going, sending me bills and harassing my poor mom whose number I had provided as an ‘alternate’ (extremely bad decision).

I called the Vodafone customer care executive who told me “Sorry madam, but you will have to visit the store personally”. At least they were consistent.

I wrote to Vodafone customer care explaining my situation. They wrote back saying they tried calling me on this closed, non existent number but could not reach me. Poor things, in a corner of their heart they still believed that this number was alive.

One day, my dad received another pestering phone call from Vodafone. The person spoke with a voice of finality – “Are you going to pay the bill or not?’ My dad thought for a moment and decided he might as well give the 350 bucks and shut the matter. So, he told her he would do so, but she must give a clear statement saying that the matter was now closed. She thought for a while and then said: “Okay. Then will you pay 700?!”

We all know that the customer care around cellular services is a joke in India, but Vodafone seems to have taken this analogy quite literally!

IMPROVE YOUR VOCABULARY – Without reaching for the dictionary !

THE PERFIDIOUS NEPHEW – by Dr. N. C. Edul

A story written deliberately using uncommon words which are explained in the course of the story – so no running around for the dictionary.

Method: The words in italics indicate the meaning of the word in bold print just preceding. The first pair has been highlighted for understanding.

An occasional word is not explained – a ploy to make you reach for the dictionary occasionally.

Prof Kohler: (Busy at his writing desk. His nephew Rudolf walks in)

Rudolf: Hi uncle! Busy writing as usual! (Looks at the manuscript) What have we here?

Prof Kohler: It’s a dialectic. You won’t get it.

Rudolf: What’s a dialectic?

Prof Kohler: (Sighs) It’s investigation of truth by logical and systematic reasoning.

Rudolf: Oh! I love investigating truth. I’d love helping you arrive at some great truth.

Prof Kohler: (Laughs sarcastically) And then we could write a paean!

Rudolf: Ah! A song of triumph! I’d quite fancy that!

Prof Kohler: It requires diligent work, my friend. One needs to work sincerely with care and effort.

Rudolf: Oh do give me a chance. I am rather fond of such things.

Prof Kohler: It’s not for a dilettante like you. Dabbling in a subject for pleasure. One needs to think… explain…

Rudolf: You sure need to do a lot of explaining!

Prof Kohler: It’s not easy separating the wheat from the chaff. Picking out gems from all the detritus, all the debris surrounding them. Get me that pen from the mantelpiece, will you?

Rudolf: (Looking around) The pen…

Prof Kohler: Shelf above the fireplace, man. One would have thought you knew that, at least.

Rudolf: (Getting the pen) As a matter of fact I was writing something I thought I’d show you?

Prof Kohler: (Raises an eyebrow) Writing a dialectic?!

Rudolf: I’ll sure be dead if I don’t write it before the first semester. It’s about the movement of particles.

Prof Kohler: (Picks up the paper and reads) The movement of – eh? – discreet particles? How can a particle be discreet?

Rudolf: Why not?

Prof Kohler: How can a particle be prudent – not giving away secrets?

Rudolf: I mean particles that are separate…

Prof Kohler: That’s discrete. Not joined, separate.

Rudolf: (Making light of it) Well then let’s say discrete particles are discreet!

Prof Kohler: (Grunts)

Rudolf: Come uncle you don’t have to be so pedantic. Strict observance of rules and details and all that.

Prof Kohler: (Getting irritated) Well, come to the point. What do you want?

Rudolf: Ah! There was quite a pageant I saw on the way here. Quite a procession – fancy dress and all.

Prof Kohler: Why didn’t you join in?

Rudolf: But there were some fancy cars too! I was thinking – my old man…

Mrs Kohler: (Entering the room) Hi Rudolf! Nice to see you so early! That was a nice pageant…

Rudolf: And some mighty fine cars. And my old man won’t shell out even a thousand for a second hand car.

Mrs Kohler: He is rather parsimonious. Remarkably stingy and positively mean for a man of his means.

Prof Kohler: And he lives in a warren!

Mrs Kohler: Oh, he doesn’t stay in a rabbit burrow!

Prof Kohler: Well those narrow interconnecting paths and buildings! Makes me giddy walking around those parts.

Rudolf: But you don’t have to go there, uncle! And I stay there! So how about a thousand quid to be returned next month?

Prof Kohler: Why would anyone give even one pound to a profligate wasteful person like you?

Mrs Kohler: That’s not a nice word Kohler! (Thinks) Perhaps you could call him prodigal!

Prof Kohler: Means the same thing!

Mrs Kohler: But sounds a lot kinder! (Turns to Rudolf) That Ford dealer won’t give you on instalments?

Rudolf: Oh, he is hopeless! Doesn’t know what he talks. Thinks I should get myself a tumbril. What’s a tumbril, aunt?

Mrs Kohler: A sort of open cart, I think.

Prof Kohler: The sort they used to carry condemned people to the guillotine.

Rudolf: (Laughs) The French wouldn’t like a touch of German blood to soil their guillotine, would they now?

Prof Kohler: The French Royalty had enough German blood singing through their veins! Any more and they would be
chimeras!

Mrs Kohler: Chimeras! Can’t imagine Napoleon with the head of a lion, the body of a goat and a tail of the serpent!

Rudolf: (Perplexed) What are you talking about? We started with a thousand pounds…

Prof Kohler: You are rather pertinacious! Persistent and determined to get your hands on my money. But it’s no use. (Waves him away) Go now! My secretary isn’t coming and I have to do the typing myself. She is a little indisposed.

Rudolf: You mean she is sick?

Prof Kohler: To put it grossly, yes.

Mrs Kohler: Well, there’s nothing unrefined about the word ‘sick’, after all…

Rudolf: It is – when the person is not sick – or should we say not ‘indisposed’? (Laughs)

Prof Kohler: None of your insinuations!

Rudolf: Well, if you’d rather not know it’s all right with me. Bye!

Prof Kohler: Damn your impertinence!

Mrs Kohler: Oh, he’s showing no lack of respect. That’s how he is made.

Mr Kohler: Then whoever made him has done a very poor job!

Rudolf: Now who’s being impudent?

Mrs Kohler: Enough Rudolf. Now come, tell us, what’s this about Miss Brenner?

Rudolf: Well she ain’t sick. She’s with Professor Karl!

Prof Kohler: Damnation! What’s she…(Changing his tone) But why should I believe you?

Rudolf: Because I have indubitable proof! Impossible to doubt.

Prof Kohler: (Getting worked up) Out with it man! What??

Rudolf: I saw her go in with my own eyes!

Mrs Kohler: (Exclaims) Why that perfidious little thing! So deceitful and disloyal! Who could have imagined…

Prof Kohler: I don’t believe it! Why should I believe it?

Rudolf: Don’t then. Bye!

Prof Kohler: Wait! Damn your insolence but now is not the time to be bothered with rudeness of the…well…what could she want with him?

Rudolf: Well…she’s not in love with him!

Mrs Kohler: Don’t be frivolous, Rudolf.

Rudolf: But why do think I’m not serious? No she’s not in love with him but she loves his money.

Prof Kohler: And why would a man like Professor Karl want to give her money?

Rudolf: Because a perfidious secretary like Miss Brenner can give him…some nice things that she possesses…

Prof Kohler: Get out! You insinuating son of Satan!

Rudolf: (Beginning to leave the room) …like your research papers!

Prof Kohler: Stop! (Rudolf keeps walking away) Halt! I command you!

Rudolf: (Turns and salutes him) Yes, mein Fuhrer?

Prof Kohler: What research papers? How do you know?

Rudolf: “The Unconscious aspect of Consciousness”!

Prof Kohler: (Excited) “The Conscious aspect of Unconsciousness”!

Rudolf: The same thing…

Prof Kohler: Not the same a bit, you dolt! Stupid that you are! But tell me –

Mrs Kohler: I remember he had plagiarized it!

Prof Kohler: Copied it! Almost to the word and pretended it was his original paper!

Rudolf: Exactly! And where do you think he got it from…?

Prof Kohler: (Shocked) You mean my secretary…

Rudolf: Who else? I had almost caught her in the act!

Prof Kohler: (Dejected) Oh, what is the world coming to! She of all people! How could she do something so heinous?

Mrs Kohler: Utterly wicked, I say!

Rudolf: Most unsavory behavior! Rather unpleasant!

Mrs Kohler: And she didn’t do it gratis, I’m sure!

Rudolf: She wouldn’t move her little finger for free!

Prof Kohler: But she has always been so upright…who would have thought…quite an enigma!

Mrs Kohler: Nothing mysterious or puzzling really! Selling her soul for a few dollars more!

Rudolf: And uncle you grudge me a few measly pounds! Really small sum which can save you all the embarrassment!

Prof Rudolf: What are you suggesting?

Rudolf: Forget Miss Brenner! I’ll do your typing and it will be as safe as a…sparrow.

Mrs Kohler: Don’t make up silly similes Rudolf! Safe as…safe as…what is it Kohler?

Prof Kohler: (Mutters) That perfidious double-crosser! (Aloud, throwing the manuscript at Rudolf) Well, get down to it!

Rudolf retires with the manuscript to a corner. Makes two copies and surreptitiously, secretly, slips one copy into his pocket on his way out and goes straight to Professor Karl’s house.

Rudolf: Good afternoon, Professor! See what I have here!

Prof Karl: (Inspecting the typescript) A dialectic! Fine! (Business-like tone) Now none of your dilatory, delaying tactics. Come straight to the point. How much?

Rudolf: Come, Professor! How about a cup of tea, before we begin? How do you know I’m doing it just for money?

Prof Karl: I cannot envisage, imagine you doing anything for anything else. (Let’s out a mirthless laugh) I know the unconscious workings of your conscious mind. How much?

Rudolf: Two thousand!

Prof Karl: Your guts are laudable, truly deserving praise. But I’m afraid, you miscalculate!

Rudolf: With a paper like this you could be his nemesis! Bring about Professor Kohler’s well-deserved downfall!

Prof Karl: Much to your chagrin, much to your disappointment and annoyance I must clarify that I’m not that naïve! Lacking experience and judgment to be taken in by a scallywag, mischievous person like you.

Rudolf: You make me giddy with your words! Oh well, I’m not infallible, incapable of making mistakes! Perhaps I miscalculated! Perhaps I meant a thousand pounds!

Prof Karl: I think you meant five hundred.

Rudolf: You really can read my unconscious mind! I think you are right!

Prof Karl: That’s more like it! (Hands Rudolf the money and takes the typescript)

Rudolf: Professor, who does the typing for you? No secretary! What a pity! (Picks up the manuscript from Karl’s table) ‘An
Analysis of Despair and Dejection’. No reason to be, sir! I could do this for you in ten minutes!

Prof Karl: (With a deprecating laugh, expressing disapproval) No, thank you. I couldn’t afford it!

Rudolf: Absolutely free!

Prof Karl: Ha!

Rudolf: Gratis!

Prof Karl: Ha!

Rudolf: No strings attached!

Prof Karl: Ha!

Rudolf: (Thinking quickly) Just for a cup of tea!

Prof Karl: (Dubiously, doubtfully) I can’t believe my ears!

Rudolf: (Dramatically) Cross my heart and hope to die!

Professor Karl gives Rudolf the manuscript and goes in to make tea. Rudolf types furiously, making two copies and slips one into his pocket. He rushes through the tea and makes straight for Professor Kohler.

Rudolf: (Waving the typescript in front of the Professor’s nose) See what I got!

Prof Kohler: (Straining to see) What?

Rudolf: Revenge! Sweet revenge!

Mrs Kohler: What are you talking?

Rudolf: He is finished, annihilated! Destroyed completely!

Prof Kohler: Who?

Rudolf: Professor Karl!

Prof Kohler: (Taking the typescript and reading) Oh! Ah! Really!

Rudolf: Get it in the journal pronto, at once!

Mrs Kohler: It will no doubt vex him greatly.

Rudolf: Annoy and worry him no end!

Prof Kohler: (Mischievous glint in his eyes) Hmm…

Rudolf: You can eat your cake and have it too…for just…a thousand pounds!

Prof Kohler: (Stunned) A thousand…

Rudolf: Money is ephemeral! Momentary! Fame is eternal. Reputations are…

Prof Kohler: (looking doubtfully at the papers) Yes…but…one thousand…

Rudolf: Or five hundred over a glass of sherry!

Prof Kohler: (Putting the papers in his drawer) That’s more like it! (Hands him the money)

Rudolf: (Slipping the money into his waistcoat) Well uncle…as I always say – All’s well that ends well!

Desire is the root of all (shock) happiness !

When we read Buddha’s quote, “desire is the root of all suffering” we nod in agreement. It all comes back to us in a flash. Fancy college degrees, our first lost love, that perfect figure, the perfect salary *sigh*. All desires that surfaced, burned and eventually dwindled leaving us with a scar in our heart and a much deeper understanding of Buddha’s quote.

I do not disagree with Buddha. In fact I agree with him completely, except that he forgot to mention the other half !

Desire is the root of all happiness !

Can this be true ? Decide for yourself. Which of these scenarios make you sing a song and believe you are the happiest person alive?

Case [A] – You have been longing for something for months, even years and you finally get it.

Case [B] – You unexpectedly receive something pleasant*.

(*Note: Of course this pleasant item cannot be a desire because then it would simply be case [A] where you got what you wanted sooner rather than later. To put it explicitly, case [B] is when you get something which the world would consider desirable/nice/beautiful/expensive but its not something you personally crave for – it is a nice thing to have but you really would not be affected if you lived your life with or without it)

The difference in Case [A] and Case [B] is only “desire”, and if you too like me picked [A], then, “desire is the root of all happiness” in your life too :)

Just a midnight thought !

P.S. I desire sleep ;-)

How has war affected your life?

WAR – is it good / bad / needed / not needed? I don’t know.

But one thing I do know is that if my country is at war, it is for ME. It is for the safety and freedom of me and my countrymen that we are at war.

Now, the least I can do when my country goes to war is be INTERESTED! Yes. I should know what the war is about, why we need to be at war and why peace negotiations failed. After all, millions of people from my and other countries will die, and one must not forget – it is all for ME.

If the war does bring about the change we wanted, I should be thankful and raise a toast. Cheers!

But what if it doesn’t? This is where things start going wrong.

If the war fails to do what it was meant to do, I am not directly affected. This does not make any sense. So the government officials spent hours at working out the details for me, millions of soldiers from my country died, millions of soldiers from other countries died and my life continues almost unaffected? Again, this does not make any sense.

What if there was a law that forced citizens of “countries at war” to give away 50% of their salaries to the families of soldiers (for as long as the war lasted)? Would I still be unaffected? Would I still be OK with my vacation money taken away? We do pay taxes, but they just don’t cut it. I speak of an action that has a direct consequence – War is on – action starts, war stops – action stops. It is immediate and it is direct.

Everyone should be affected when a country is at war, not necessarily in the same way, but definitely is some way. Not only is this fair to the millions of people who lose their lives, but it also demands more from a government that makes the decision. Because, if and when that decision goes wrong, they will have not a handful but the entire nation questioning them.

Which sun sign creates world class football players?

Well, I did some data analysis on the footballers of the 2010 FIFA World Cup and turns out its – Gemini! As for the Scorpions, sorry guys, the stars just ain’t in your favor!

2010 FIFA World Cup, Statistics – Footballer Sun Signs

2010 FIFA World Cup, Statistics – Footballer Sun Signs

I’ve also plotted the months in which maximum players were born. Going by this, a Gemini child born in May has a brilliant chance of making it ;-) Future moms might want to keep that in mind :-)

2010 FIFA World Cup, Statistics – Month footballers are born

2010 FIFA World Cup, Statistics – Month footballers are born

The English football fever left many casualties, lets hope Argentina – Germany results in a 4-0 win bringing us some much needed solace ;-)