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Showing posts from 2007

Biriyani Chaya

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Brown ring test – How many of you remember this from Chemistry class? I still remember fellow blogger and friend Pradeep’s dad N Balakrishnan Nair teaching me the basics of testing for nitrates in chemistry class. Add ferrous sulphate solution followed by concentrated sulphuric acid to the nitrate. A brown ring forms at the junction of the two liquids. Positive ID.

How many of you have seen, ordered or drunk a Biryani Chaya? You get this only in certain hotels at Calicut, one of them being the old Sagar, next to the KSRTC stand. Well, you get a glass with three layers, the dark tea layer, the mixed lighter colored layer & the milk froth layer on top, each separate from the other. Sometimes you can also discern the faint sugar layer at the bottom. You look at it, marvel at the technique of the tea man and then put in the spoon that is provided, to stir and complete the regular glass of tea….Soon these are going to be things of the past!!! The trick is somewhat like this. Pour milk i…

Burgers oursourced

Normally I don’t think too much about outsourcing, mainly because it is a fact of today’s life. If you can’t do it efficiently at the right price, find somebody else who can. Then again, man has always wanted to profit from life and will take every short cut possible. Some gain and some will lose at the end of the day, whatever said & done. That’s it in a nut shell. Also, I agree, I have also been prey to some real terrible call centre support staff (they didn’t solve the issue at hand in those cases or wasted a lot of my time) out there in my mater-land, but it is ok with me, these things would & should take a while to stabilize.

But some days ago, when my wife told me that the drive in lane of burger outlets was getting outsourced, it was a revelation. I have always avoided drive in ordering, my 2nd son says it is cool to order drive-in, but I find it better to walk up to the counter and explain what I want. In any case, I always do better, face to face, without the American…

Backyard cricket

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Watching Yuvraj hit six sixers was fascinating. Even though it was a so-so TUV online view, it exhilarated me, got the blood coursing through the old and brittle tubes, through those walls scaled with I am sure, plaques from all the cholesterol deposits…

I learnt the first cricket lessons from my dad in Koduvayur – Palakkad. Dad used to play for Madras Presidency College in his heydays and he taught us batting & bowling in the longish front yard that served as our makeshift cricket pitch. The first cricket bat was fashioned out of a reaper – plank from some packing material by our ‘karyasthan’ Eecharan who had come from Pallavur for some work. Thus we crafted our front foot drives up the slope in front of the house. One had to be careful bowling out there, behind the batsman was the front portico of the house and a number of windows that just cried out to be broken. From the beginning we were warned that should a window get broken, we would get grounded…Actually I can’t remember br…

Finding ‘Nemo’ - Lost in translation

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No, this is not about Nemo the fish or the movie ‘Finding Nemo’ though I enjoyed that animated movie very much…As usual, at certain moments I felt sad for the Nemo family and my son was making fun of my teary eyes, ah ! Well, I am one of those sentimental guys – not much that can be done about it!!

Verne’s ‘20000 leagues under the sea’ written in 1869 has a special corner in my heart. This was the book that I read many a time to my second son when he was a child. At that time, the story was paramount, not the characters or the politics. Indeed, I never even sensed the messages, simply because I read the ‘English’ version (based on Leiws P Mercier’s ‘orribly tainted translation) of the story that deliberately took away a good amount of what Verne had written in the original French. In the latter book The Mysterious Island written in 1875, where the Indian connections of Capt. Nemo are established, the WHG Kingston translation removed all negative (from British eyes) connections, because…

Rewind to the 70’s

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Telephones – Remember the black rotary dial contraption we started with, the old bakelite phone? Well, that was a real fickle device requiring frequent visits by the telephone’s dept technician to keep it in working order. You screamed through it like it was needed to get the voice through to the other end (to this day we Indians do exactly that, even with mobiles!!) There were local calls and then trunk calls. STD came later on and then dialing was a pain, you had to be sharp eyed, and required an undistracted 5 minutes before you completed dialing all the numbers. Noisy kids who shot by got sharp raps on their ears. Each locality had a benevolent guy who loaned the use of his phone – or in apartments, there would be one phone in the whole building. It would be quite normal practice to call twice within a few minutes. The first call to ask for the person you want to speak to and the second time to speak to that person (some kid will be dispatched to that person’s home to call him to …

Oh, Kabuliwalah!!!

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Kabuliwallah – That one story introduced people like me, living the southern tip of India, to Northerly Afghanistan, many decades ago. Our Nobel Prize winner Rabindranath Tagore wrote this powerful story in 1892, a time when the frontier policy was being debated by the British. This was a story that then found its way into our school text books. Tagore was the one who introduced us formally to the Afghan, though we saw Kabuliwalah’s often on the streets. If you have not read the story, please, please read it. It is such a beautiful bit of writing. Here is a link (it is but one translation, there are better and worse, this one is OK).

Then there was the Kabuli Chana (chickpeas or Garbanzo beans) that we all know. Today we have Desi Chana, but in those days, it came from Kabul (so did Badam, Pista, Raisins…) through roving Kabuliwallah’s and it was thus called so. When we eat Chana masala today, with the sizzling Batura, we don’t quite care about its origins, be it from Turkey or Kabul o…

A bomb - Vedic connections

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Just the other day, Paul Tibbet the chap who dropped the first nuclear bomb on human populace died at 92. I wondered, like a fellow blogger Happy Kitten, if he had a single nights peaceful sleep for the six decades after the event that killed 140,000 Japs (and many more years later). But what mystified me was the report that throughout his life, Tibbets seemed more troubled by people's objections to the bomb than by his having led the crew that killed tens of thousands of Japanese in a single stroke. And he insisted he slept well, believing that using the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved more lives than they erased because they eliminated the need for a drawn-out invasion of Japan. In a 1975 interview he said: "I'm proud that I was able to start with nothing, plan it and have it work as perfectly as it did... I sleep clearly every night." Some guy that.

After the tests at Los Almos, Oppenheimer the father of the A bomb, said - Quoting from the Bhagavad Gita Now I…

Now what - Kerala special tea!!

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We in India are so fond of drinking tea and spending time doing it. Companies & offices had tea breaks some time ago and thus spending a while drinking that essence from the magical leaf and chit chatting over it, has become a national pastime. For that very reason, we have hordes of tea boys in the national workforce and thousands of tea shops dotted across the country. Most are shacks by the road side, some have now become mobile (Thattu kada’s serving idli’s & dosas as well) and some have graduated to become mini restaurants where freshly cooked snacks & light meals are also served. In Kerala, Tea stalls are very common and have become a meeting point of sorts, where people come to discuss politics, national & international news, movies (and Shakeela), gossip and even the economic situation. I can easily assure you that every Malayali would have sat on one of those wooden benches that are placed outside the tea stall and sipped a tea from one of those characteristic…

Pills, pills & even more pills

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LA times Health section Aug 6th, 07 Under the influence states - FOR many Americans, a doctor's decision to prescribe medication is something of a sacred transaction. A physician considers the patient and symptoms and chooses the best drug for the job, drawing upon years of training and clinical experience. It is an exchange conducted in a hushed sanctuary, far from the heat and noise of the marketplace -- a place where cool judgment reigns. That sanctuary has been breached. Today, drug manufacturers do everything in their considerable power to ensure that their brand-name prescription medications are on the lips of patients and in the minds of physicians every time the two meet across an exam table. In 2006, drug-makers spent almost $5 billion to reach out to consumers with direct advertising. The world's pharmaceutical companies spend an estimated $19 billion annually to woo doctors (the US market size itself is 300B$).

The sales strategies are complex and enticements to doct…

The bare footed eleven

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My younger son is always talking about shoes, like he is crazy about Lakers star ‘Kobe Bryant’. He is forever looking for new basketball shoes, and has no qualms even about wearing yellow and purple Lakers shoes that we have so far managed to forbid purchase of…There was a time when I had just one pair - a North star shoe from Bata which was fantastic (rumour has it was an prize winning design by N Singh in 1960, but got introduced in India after a lot was rejected by a ‘phoren’ buyer in the 70’s eventually becoming a rage in India) till its PVC heel detached itself and flew off in the desert heat of Riyadh’s roads (that story was covered in an Earlier blog), but then, today foot accessories are big business.

During college days, I used to see soccer matches, especially the Sait Nagjee and Santosh trophy matches. Calicut was a football crazy place and my room mate Soman was a big time fan. So we used to go watch the clubs like Mohan Bagan, Mohamedan’s, Titanium, state teams like Goa &a…

Socal Fires

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Socal is how they call South California and we have been in the news lately as many of you may know. Having watched the Malibu fire story on TV during the week end, I was a bit apprehensive about the coming days with the dry weather and the howling Santa Ana winds. There was also an official trip coming up mid week.

Sunday – we went out for dinner, and on the left of highway 15 saw a smallish fire & lots of smoke at the Fallbrook area about 15 miles from home. Monday morning – went to the office as usual, the smoke by I15 had increased. By afternoon we heard that there were huge fires in the San Diego County & mass evacuations were underway. That was when things started to get a little worrisome. I decided it best to leave & quickly drive the 40 mile distance back to Temecula, where we live. It took me six hours to get home and took me close to the raging fires in Fallbrook, we could see stuff falling from the air – soot, cinder…and people fleeing with their cars & truc…