Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sachin

Sachin, the God of cricket, the God of millions, a hero for a nation starved of heroes, the inspiration of the lives of millions all over the cricketing world, the epitome of goodness - that "good guys can finish first," and the finest example of "Vidya Vinayeni Shobhite". One Day Internationals - nay, life will not be the same without you. Irrespective of whether or not you continue playing cricket or having a public life, you have and will continue to stay rooted in my psyche as a symbol of hard work, sheer brilliance, humility, simplicity, passion, bringing a middle class youngster's dreams to life. Physically you cannot continue playing and are not immortal, but scores of fans like me will always strive to immortalize everything that you are an embodiment of, through our actions. Hail Sachin. God bless you and thank you for letting me grow up watching you.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

I don't have words to set a title for this blog.


All prayers for her to live - and if God is kind enough to let her live, prayers for her to get back to as much normalcy as possible so that her battle for life on the hospital bed does not go in vain and she can take care of her family, which is probably why she still says she wants to live.

It is next to impossible to lie on that hospital bed, go through all the physical pain, go through the mental agony of the possibility of not breathing at all after a few moments, leaving behind walking dead bodies of your family, yet somehow gather the greed to fight to just be alive. Seriously, at that point you just want to be alive without a second thought to whether life after that will be normal as before or not - first thought mushkil se/galati se ata hai, second thought ka sawal hi nahi uthta. With a strong willed and devoted daughter like this, no one needs a son even half as good.

NOM to men - I have a father and a brother and I love them with all my heart for the wonderful human beings that they are. But my heart cries for this girl as does that of everyone else. This girl's struggle for survival makes me feel that mine was nothing. And I feel disgusted that I cannot do anything for her; worse still, for her parents. My mom was able to feed me with her own hands. Her unfortunate mother won't be able to do that either.

I read some posts/comments on various online media, most people are condemning this incident, few have sworn to treat women better - nice. And there are a demented few who have talked about how north Indians are responsible for this, how the same thing had probably happened in 2002 in Gujarat, and there was one extremely intelligent person who said it is her mistake that she was being a bad daughter by roaming around with her boyfriend at 10 pm at night. To all of you, you are b*****ds and deserve a worse punishment than those 6 men. There is a time and place for everything. This is not the time to look at the past and divide people of religious lines like every other day. This is not the time for a candle light vigil, this is not the time for VIPs to visit the hospital. This is the time to sit at home and pray for her, to hang our heads in shame and think when and how we transformed our society into another Taliban, driven by blind ego and devoid of humanity. 5000 years ago we were the most civilized society on this earth, and today our conscience is murdered and does not shake us even once before our conscious mind thinks of such twisted actions. This is the time for all priests in temples, mosques, churches, and gurudwaras to keep havans and prayer services - the way we have when we wanted India to win the World Cup. This is the time to file PILs and start nationwide movements to create stricter and faster interpretation and implementation of existing laws. We have probably the vastest Constitution in the world, the US has a much smaller one. But this vast Constitution is like that batsman who scores well in the match but cannot guide his nation to victory because all others in the team didn't give solid support at the non-striker's end and gifted their wickets away.

Time to change and instill some discipline and prepare for stricter implementation of laws. If you are still not ready and still want to call yourself a "democratic," peaceful" citizen, go die.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

2012 takes another wicket - and Facebook goes up in flames!

I never endorsed his methods, everybody talks about belling the cat but no one does it, there was one man who had the courage to bell the cats (read: protect Bombay and Bollywood from the underworld et al) and wash dirty linen in public, not worrying about whether it looked good or not. Selfish people like MMS keep quiet to maintain their Prime Ministership and life; on the other hand, one man didn't give a rat's tiny ass to his position or his life to defend millions of common men who, once upon a time, had no hero to look up to and no leader to follow. 

All those who call him a terrorist, Sonia Gandhi and Pratibha Patil are bigger terrorists because they are keeping the likes of Kasab alive for their vote banks. Today these terrorists, who seemingly have no idea of the stupidity Indira Gandhi did in the 1972 War, who have no clue how many soldiers die every year at Siachen due to gangrene and frostbite not due to bullets and bombs, are for the sake of pleasing the UN and the US, are willing to invite over the Pakistan cricket team - nothing wrong with that but don't they realize how many terrorists will enter the country through the visas they will issue to Pakistani "civilians." 

Go ask your parents what condition Bombay was in, in the 1970s and the 1990s, both for different reasons, and on both ocassions, one man shamelessly spoke for and defended what he believed in at the risk of his own life and his public image - he made countless enemies but is a big reason why most people in Bombay and Maharashtra have a straight back and a head held high. I say, nothing wrong in minting money for your kith and kin if you are doing something good - we all do that in a small way, for example, when in office, we steal a colleague's credit to get a promotion (or a Salman Khan killing people on the roadside and then keeping a Ganpati at his home is loved by people because he does it with his "handsome" face!). Find one straight talking politician in today's times (let's not count Vajpayee, the poor soul is in a mess right now) who has the ability, balls, and guts to speak up for what's right and go against some "madam's" whims and fancies. RIP BT, and also RIP ABV, whenever that happens, may God relieve ABV of the suffering he is going through, he doesn't deserve it.

It is fashionable and cool to speak of terrorism and terrorists, but that doesn't make one "modern!" Modernity, coolness, and greatness is when you stop killing foetuses of your unborn daughters, when you stop thinking that your female colleague needs to get married because she is above 25, when you stop spending lavishly on weddings and instead spend on a charity or invest on your kids' education, when you decide to adopt and give an abandoned child a good life, when you give up the temptation of settling down in a foreign country only to be with your parents in India. I know I probably hurt the fragile and whimsical sentiments of a lot of people, but then someone's gotta bell the cat, right ;)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Ganpati Bappa Morya!

Ganpati bappa morya! Nothing can match those 3 words, that chaos for those 10 days, those immersions, the aartis, the modaks, the millions of faithfuls who believe that you take care of them and eliminate all their obstacles... Please keep me and all your believers - and even non believers - under your love and care. I will always need you and I am forever grateful for everything you have given me and all those times you protected me from evil, helped me choose right over wrong, made me stick to righteousness, thank you also for those ocassions when you made me learn new lessons in life-and the way you taught me to give never up on what I believed in!! Please take special care of my loved ones, for they need you more than I do... I will miss not visiting you Siddhivinayak and not seeing the Lalbaughcha Raja procession this year, but you are and will always remain in my heart and my deepest and more sincere gratitudes... Om Vighnanashay Namah!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Aaram after so long!

It's a lazy Sunday at home. So much so, that even the rain is pouring down lazily, the usually noisy birds and insects perched on the trees in front my my patio have gone off to sleep, the AC inside too is silent... Only the cars outside seem to be in some crazy hurry, with the occasional honking, echoes of water splashing all over the road, woosh woosh, and vroom vroom vroom!! All one wants now is some hot cuppas of ginger chai and vada pavs like the good ol' days of Bombay-Pune travel on the Expressway. Enjoying it all *_*

It is indeed strange that when we have a crazy busy life, we look for a few moments of peace and solitude. When we have peace and quiet around us, we long for masti, madness, and people. As I was writing the first paragraph of this note, a big fat wet squirrel just scurried by on the trunk of the tree. It seemed to be blissfully unaware of the rains and the noisy quiet around it. Looking at it running like that made me feel happy, don't know why. Maybe the fact that it was busy with its life and happy about it, not bothered about the rains or the cars, made me feel happy. And interestingly, as I almost finished this line about the squirrel, some bird apparently vying for attention started cooing in rhythm with the raindrops falling on the ground.

There is so much contrast in the quietly falling yet devouring rains of the nature in my backyard on one hand, and the cars zooming on West Broad on the other, screeching through the silence. Yet, all the silent humdrum reminds us of something: Busier the life, the better it is, it seems to keep us sane. Still, even in the midst of that madness, never fail to stop by and look at the world around you, it has a lot to teach. When it is required or when possible, take a break and enjoy yourself. And enjoyment is not just about making noise like those crazy cars, it is also about sitting quiet and allowing the silence to work through your brain and soul like a dose of fresh oxygen through your lungs. Being silent and in tune with your nature and surroundings can sometimes give more peace and joy than shopping on a discount coupon at Macy's or hogging at an all-you-can-eat buffet at Kabab and Grill. Life is much more beautiful than we think and the beauty lies in places that we may never even bother to look at, like the tree in our backyard. 

I've been waiting for a break for long and after three insanely busy weeks, today seems like the perfect Sunday. Gotta go, the birds and squirrels are waiting for me, bbye for now. And don't forget to look around!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Women's work: Career or just another job?

So the other day me and my friend were chit chatting about my exit interview form, and I was wondering how to go about "being honest in a good way" (if you know what I mean!). According to my friend here, I was being  unnecessarily apprehensive about being honest, and that the exit interview questionnaire was my last opportunity to vent out any and all frustration accumulated in the last 6 years.

Friend (let's call him Mr. X): "Ohhhh Sonu, what do you think, in this stable full of cattle, do you think anyone is going to even bother to read what you have written? And even if someone does, what will they do? Some HR, working from home since her (note the feminine gender used explicitly here for the HR and in context you're about to read later) baby is too young, will call you, ask you a couple of questions for formality, do yes no to your answers, and then call over! All she will think during the call with you is, 'Ohh my baby, I have to change the nappy, and then my husband-the manager-is going to come home for lunch so I have to cook lunch also, let me just finish off this interview quickly', and once the call is over, she'll go, 'Yes!! I have completed my 8 hrs task for the day, let me update my timesheet!'"

Me: "If I was 10 years younger, I would have hit you hard on the face for saying that!"

X: ????

But frankly, (and I'm really falling short of an apt word) WTF.

Before I put forth my views, I want to clarify that this is not another essay on female superiority nor am I a feminist who thinks of men as MCPs. I also do not intend to jump on the "mahila mukti" bandwagon. To be honest, when I think today about my possible reaction to this around a decade ago, I guess the reaction that I would have had given is quite over the top and to a certain extent, immature. Back then, I would have probably concluded that X was another pig in the ocean of pigs on this planet. 

But today, my reaction to this was, surprisingly, different, and much more muted. More upset than ever, but definitely less vocal. Less vocal because over the years I have realized that no chest beating is going to make people listen to you and change their perspectives unless they see that power vested in your hands to change things around. Of course, this is not the point of discussion here.

It is interesting to wonder about the immaturity involved in X's thought process and perceptions leading to his comment. It would have been a good joke, if it was meant to be and said as a joke, but those statements were more inclined to be mocking and demeaning to the caliber of that lady. Not to mention the display of highly immature thought process of the 28 year old X.

All right, so these women marry people who soon get higher positions in a few years' time, or get posted overseas, which we refer to as "onsite" in IT parlance. And this is the focus here.

So what would, and should the wifey do? Stay back in India, or as true "partners," fly along with their husbands? The obvious answer is tag along with their husbands. Obviously because the family should stay together (otherwise what is the point in getting married in the first place). Another underlying reason is that, if the wife decides to stay back (for a long period of time), then she is bound to be asked questions by prying society. "Where is her husband?" "Why is she not with her husband?" "Oh, did he leave her - are they separated, or divorced?" "Does she not have any sense, leaving her husband all alone?"

So, not wanting to answer all these questions, and of course to keep the family together, she tags along. Around a year or so later, their pass to "phoren" citizenship is produced (the baby of course!). The wife, if working earlier, takes a break (in most cases since it ain't India to get low cost affordable nannies) and starts attending full time to the baby. In many cases some of the parents do come over to help, but that does not take the responsibility off our mother. A full time job of taking care of the newborn, and cooking for the husband (who either doesn't know how to cook or as in most cases, no longer wants to cook since the wife is available) takes all of her 24 hrs of the day.

In the midst of all this, many a time, and as the baby starts growing up, it is realized that the patriarch's lone paycheck is not really sufficient to cater to the growing needs of the house. So wifey steps in again, and takes up the "job" job again (yes, apparently that tending to the baby and cooking 3 meals a day didn't qualify as a job at all). 

So now, she has to change the baby's nappies, cook 3 meals a day for the family, and do her "job" job. And mind you, job, not career. Why is it not career? Arre, she is working from home every day, changing the baby's nappy, cooking the meal. She doesn't come to office to strut her stuff na. And she still has only 2 hands, 2 legs, and the same 24 hours that her husband has!

Hypocrites, aren't we? 

A man's 8 hour job is his career, his ambition, whereas a woman's 24 hr jobs (including her "job" job and the jobs at home) is just a job? What is wrong if a woman wants to work from home so that she can take care of the baby? Aren't they expected to do take care of the kids? Then why the fuss over managing multiple tasks all at once (and someone said that multitasking is a good thing to do)? Men commit the same blunders that women do at work, without multitasking home and work that women are simply expected to do, but which is conveniently forgotten about when one wants to crack a joke or two.

All I am saying is, we need to start looking at men and women as individuals more than as simply "men" and "women." A woman's job may not simply be her job, it may also be her career, just like a man's career. She may want her aspirations to be acknowledged and appreciated at work in the same way her husband's work is acknowledged and appreciated. It's time we start moving towards a more mature mindset of accepting that women-both working women as well as stay at home mothers-have full time jobs which are fully qualified to be labelled "careers." We may have not yet reached the maturity level as a society to accept a woman as major or sole breadwinner, but it's high time to get rid of our tunnel vision and the childish jokes surrounding them. Change in the mindset of men, women, and society are all interlinked and interdependent and all the three elements need to stop waiting for the other to change, and be the change themselves, to move closer to a more equal world.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

A day of experiments in the kitchen

God knows what got into me today. I decided to eat like a pig. Not just an ordinary pig, but an experimental pig. Lunch and dinner, experiments galore :P

For lunch, well, I had this sweet potato lying in the fridge for a really long time. Looking back, I have no clue why I bought it in the first place. But had to finish it off somehow. So I peeled it, cubed it, and put the cubes to simmer and boil with a tadka of chopped onions and cumin. After a good 25 minutes the potato cubes were nice and tender, and with a quick dash of salt and pepper and a generous dollop of yoghurt, I blended the hot mixture into a thick puree and got it back on heat for another couple of minutes. There you have sweet potato soup!! The yoghurt made the soup creamy but it also brought down the sweetness of the potato, so you might want to skip adding it altogether to retain the sweetness of the sweet potato-provided you are fine dealing with a slightly watery version of the soup. The result turned out to be sweet-and-sour, and a really comforting recipe for a lazy albeit hot Saturday afternoon.

But a very heavy lunch it was, so much so that I was feeling lazy to cook even at night! Those sprouts were lying in the kitchen for the last three days and I had planned to cook them tonight, but making them meant making accompanying rotis (for this roti loyalist at least). Honestly, after 5 days and 10 meals of rolling rotis Monday through Friday who wants to do that?! So there goes lazy Sonal hunting into the drawers and shelves looking for substitutes. Laid my hands on a nearly empty box of penne pasta, cooked them al dente in salt water and set them aside. Meanwhile got those sprouts to cook in the microwave for a good 15-20 minutes, and chopped the tomatoes, zucchini, squash, and baby bella mushrooms. Once the sprouts were done, gave the veggies and the sprouts fried along with onions and minced garlic till the mushrooms got tender, and then threw in the pasta. Final touches were given by the Italian seasoning, red peppers, and basil. Don't forget to add salt! And an overdose of parmesan cheese and reduced fat cheddar cheese (or any cheese in grated form you like) is a must, otherwise it can't be called an Italian dish ;-)  Tip: The red peppers were added for making the pasta hot, but they didn't make much of a difference. They could be easily substituted with lemon zest to enhance the taste of the sprouts.

Result: A scrumptious fusion of healthy and filling Indian sprouts (basically moong or matki, but you can substitute it with any sprout you like) and classy Italian, both virtually free of cost. So you feel happy about having eaten a different cuisine, and yet don't feel guilty about skipping on your desi meal, AND don't spend a penny on the restaurant or the waiter's tip! :P :D



Monday, April 2, 2012

The beauty that is central asian food!

Okay so I admit that Mid-eastern and the types is becoming my favorite cuisine, and I have tried Mediterranean and Ethiopian before, so by now I have a decent clue what to order and what to expect in middle eastern cuisine. This time it was Persian food. The place was a small restaurant called Mirage in Northern Atlanta.

Ordinarily, I wouldn't have expected to find something so good so close to my place but Mirage really stands out. I was Googling for new cuisines to try, and ran into this place, which incidentally is voted one of the top 10 vegetarian restaurants to eat in Atlanta by some website (don't recollect the name now). So I decided to see what the fuss was all about.

The ambience to start with is peaceful and quiet. Being a Sunday night it probably may be a low rush hour, but it surely is not a noisy place. Pretty causal environment with soft Persian music in the background. If you have sat at the back of a Persian guy's taxi this music will change your stereotype about them. ;-)

We, a group of a five, were pleasantly greeted by the manager herself, which was a refresher from the typical greetings we get in American restaurants... the waitress was prompt to provide us the menus and knew the right time to come back to us to take the orders, not too early and not too late either. Oh, and did I mention that the waiters and waitresses were too edible(yeah!) to look at?!

The menu was pretty vast and there was a wide range of options to choose from. Especially for vegetarians, because these people know what Indians mean by vegetarian (no chicken and eggs either) so if you are a hard core veggie, you cannot go wrong with ordering here. I asked for a hummus; it came with their flatbread of course. I must say that this was the best hummus I have ever had. Not too runny and not too grainy either. Just the right amount of oil and sufficient spice in it to go with the bread. And the quantity of bread to go with the hummus was VERY generous, it was the size of an 8 slice medium sized pizza! The acompaniments with the food were, a tad bit odd. I am not aware if a complimentary plate of mint leaves, cottage cheese (rather paneer), red onions, butter, and walnuts tossed in olive oil are typical Persian. But they did go well with everything we had.

The main course was Tahdig, a dish of crispy basmati rice covered with what they called vegetable stew. But in fact this was more like a layer of spicy chana dal cooked in a sour base and topped with lime pickle. Sounds very toor-ki-daal-and-chawal, doesn't it? And yes, it was! It was unique yet reminded one of homemade Indian dal-rice. A good combination of novelty and the comfort of familiar food at the same time.

The chicken sheesh kabab my finicky friend (yes, someone who swore by spicy Indian food) ordered was reasonably well received by him, as he suggested that the chicken was soft and looked delectable but was a little on the sour end. And that's a concern I too had, and I guess these people could as well afford to cut down on the sourness quotient in nearly all their food.

Surprisingly, all the food was light on the stomach but at the same time it was in the perfectly huge quantity to make a person feel full yet light at the end of it. But no wait, the dessert still awaits! There was again just the right place in my elastic tummy to devour some of it, and this time I went the conventional way and chose the famous Baklawa. And thankfully I didn't go wrong being conventional. Sugary, caramel-y, full of ground walnut and pistachioes with multiple layers of (again!) just the right amount of sweetness to melt in your mouth. So much so, that I decided to take one home for the next day!

The last thing was - of course the bill. 5 people in $45. - that's $9 per head for a wholesome stomach-filling meal which included starters, main course, AND dessert. I'd call it a very, very good deal.

All in all, everything about the place and the food was just right. Good ambeince, great food, prompt service, and fantastic price. Both the cuisine and the place are worth trying. I would positively return to Mirage, and definitely devour Persian again!