Top post on, the community of Indian Bloggers

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

and this is what they thought on Vijay Dashmi....

Ofcourse it all began with Ramji , the seventh incarnation of  Vishnu - Vishnu   the all-pervading essence of all beings, the master of—and beyond—the past, present and future, one who supports, sustains and governs the Universe . Ramji picked up his bow and arrow to slay Ravana .This was his duty- to free his people from all evil forces , and this is what he had been doing in these fourteen years of exile . The final three had to be slayed and as he aimed the first of the three arrows he thought , and prayed, " let there always be someone to guide my people and protect them from the evil ones".  Through a smoke induced haze  a  blurred vision of a slight man, bespectacled , holding a
wooden stick swam before his eyes and vanished . Ramji relaxed and lazily shot the arrow. His prayers had been answered. For had not the man  been wearing  wooden slippers- kharaus - just like what he was wearing right now ?

Lakshmana , Rama's brother waited on the sidelines for his brother to do the final honours. What were his thoughts at this time ? None  actually. His was not to ask , or question, or speak. He had taken it on himself to only follow . He was the original follower of the original leader.

And Ravanna ? you would think that a man on the threshold of death would be praying for forgiveness - full of angst at the evil  that he had embodied coming to an end with his death ? Nah - Ravanna was full of beams , giving a high five to Meghnaad, and sharing a , ahem , dirty joke with Kumbhkaran. He knew what no one else knew till now - and that is that he would not die. Hold on - the story is not being distorted-   his body would die but his evil would not. He knew that where ever the ashes of his ten heads fell - evil would take root there . And when that evil was killed ,  a new stronger strain of the old would come up ...and the cycle would go on.

Today is Vijay Dashmi . The triumph of good over evil . The country's  top brass is at the Ramlila grounds . What are they thinking ? Why  are they looking so  uncomfortable ? They are looking at everyone but not at each other and certainly not at ' Ramji'. The symbol of peace - doves- are released . The 'Silent  One ' shoots the symbolic arrow. Before doing so he looks at  We know who . An imperceptible nod of the head. Permission is granted.  The evil ones are on fire - in a minute they have been burnt to ashes. Everyone claps. It is agreed that good has triumphed . Crackers light up the western sky. The tamasha over , everyone heads back home .

A slight breeze stirs. The smouldering ashes are lifted and carried . Where do they fall ? How does it matter ? It has stopped mattering . The man with the wooden stick has come and gone. For some years after him people talked of faith and service and nationalism.  But slowly , and slowly, all that became a memory. The ashes of Ravanna's ten heads had spread from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. The people , the mango people, know that whether it is  ' the hand' that rocks the cradle or the  saffron forming a brigade at the lord's janambhoomi , they are on their own- rudderless and clueless.

Happy Dussehra !

Monday, October 15, 2012

the secret diary of Digvijay Singh@ diggy raja

I turn the pages of the dictionary( Merriam Webster) feverishly . I am looking for smirk and sneer .  P Q  R   S ...smirk -' a  smile showing insolence , smugness ,scorn'. And  now  sneer -'A contemptous facial expression characterized by a slight raising of one corner of the upper lip'.  The  dictionary closes  with  a  thud. I  rush  to   the  mirror .I  am  looking  for    the smirk and the  sneer. My  face- my  honest    to God  face ,  looks  back   at  me . Alright  ,  there is  a slight  amused  twitch  to one corner of  the  lower lip, but  that  has been  with  me   since  ages ( infact to  let  you  in  on  a  little  known secret,  it was told to me that I entered the world chuckling , with the corner of my left upper lip sort of curled in amusement) .I  tell you  we  Indians  have  no  sense of humour and anybody who shows his humour by the curl of the left upper lift is said to be smirking and sneering . Bah ! No wonder damaadji was driven to call them ' the mango people'. Infact the aam junta should be touching madam's feet in gratitude that her damaad even deigned to talk about them . I tell you these Indians have no sense of duty - duty to worship madam. Did she not leave her Italian roots trailing  behind her  to attach herself  like a limpet to Rajeevji ? But history will be witness to the fact that I never lagged behind in doing my duty by the  Maino ,sorry,  Gandhi   family. My sole purpose in life is to glorify Madam and Rahul baba and I will keep doing it- even if my own partymen smirk and sneer behind me. Just this evening I was asked for a soundbyte on this Kejriwal fellow and while discussing him in my measured way I cleverly managed to bring in  madam's name and her views about the gentleman in question. And still the mango people, sorry , the aam junta keeps asking why Soniaji doesn't open her tightly clenched mouth. Arre baba ( no, no not Rahul baba -this is another baba ) why should she ? Am I not there ? To open  my mouth, that is. Never mind that many a times people are left with their mouths hanging open when I open mine. But enough of this open business. Let me shut the case by calling it a night. I have to wake up early tomorrow for the devi puja starting from tomorrow for the next nine days. Ofcourse , in my case the devi puja carries on 365 days a year.
Jai Sonia Maa

Saturday, September 15, 2012

4 Days In Kasauli


The Shatabdi Express chugs in at  Kalka station exactly on the dot, and this sort of sets the  tone of the holiday , which is  –‘ this holiday will work’.  Kalka station is like any other station acting as a feeder point to a hill station – small, quaint and giving a tantalizing hint of the promised mountains. We hire a cab to Kasauli and settle back in our seats in  anticipation of the drive . Writing this  article, one can almost feel the movement of the sharp curves of the road, inhale the smell of the pine trees , feel the caress of  the fresh mountain air  and hear the distinct chirrup of the  hill birds….  

Just after Kalka is Parwanoo,  and this is where the drive gets interesting . The hills are full of flowering shrubs and trees  and a lazy yellow   merges with a burst of  sharp orange. At one point we are almost eyeball to eyeball with the passengers of the  hill train and the eye contanct is  broken only when the train disappears inside a tunnel.   

Further along the road is the town of Dharampur, which is in two parts.  One road turns off towards Kasauli and another towards the famous Lawrence School, Sanawar. Both roads meet below the school at Garkhal.  Another  road  climbs steeply uphill towards Dagshai. Dharampur  is famous because of  its many dhabas , most notable ( and most crowded ) being Giani da dhaba. The food is uniformly good, the crowd is also, almost uniformly , good but what is great, nee mesmerizing, is the speed with which the food is served.

Burping delicately we get back inside the cab for   the last leg of the journey , from Garkhal to Kasauli. Now,  beautiful old british style bungalows   come into view, some of them dating to the time of the Raj. The houses within the confines of the Army cantonment cannot be changed structurally, so most of them retain their quaint charm along with their quaint, old fashioned  names like Cloud 9, The Raj Villa, The Pine View ….

( A few days into Kasauli , and a few long walks , are  enough for us to see , and envy,  the beautiful  summer homes of  the Kasauli elite. We also chance upon  writer and journalist Khushwant Singh’s villa. Pretty exteriors, well manicured , lawns and long driveways are the common features of the summer residences.)

How did we spend time in  Kasauli  ? We went for long, lazy  walks, absorbed the atmosphere of the British built bungalows, took  in the panoramic views , steered clear of numerous monkeys and langurs, and ate amazingly thin and beautifully served crepes at a local café, Rudra. At  Rudra  we also heard a lot of Bob Marley . Evenings were spent at the rooftop restaurant of the hotel we were staying in. Picture this : a room with glass walls which offer a ringside view of the twinkling lights of Sanawar , the only light inside the room  is provided by the    paper lanterns hanging from the ceiling , Sanju, the inhouse  vocalist cum guitarist, who also happens to be a music teacher in the local school ,crooning hits of the seventies and eighties  and a ponytailed guy, who we discovered is the owner/partner of the hotel , giving moral support to the singer by slapping his right thigh  repeatedly with his right hand  in tune to the music.  ( Incase anyone out there is wondering why the right hand was in overdrive , let me explain. Simply put, his left  hand was holding his drink and so was incapacitated). Also, and this was the best part, a couple of good looking  local school teachers ,fetchingly dressed in shorts and jumpsuits , dancing in synchronization to ‘Dum Maro Dum…’ Will we go back to the rooftop restaurant ? yes, we will. The waiters were the best I have seen in a long time !

The Kasauli Model

One hears of planeloads of babus going to foreign lands to study  models which can be implemented back home .What needs to be done pronto , to save the hill stations in India , is to study the Kasauli model and implement it.  In all the days we were there we did not come across any litter. There are no pestering  touts / tourist guides badgering one at every step. There are no ice cream parlours, restaurants serving Mughlai and Chinese and continental. No restaurants means absolutey none.  Infact we hunted high and low for a bakery but drew a blank. The town retains its old world charm precisely because of the absence of all these factors. Kasauli has a strong army presence and much to thank the army for. The greenery here has survived only due to the presence of the Army .The discipline enforced by it is clearly evident. A case in point is the walk to Sunset Point- a place of tourist attraction. No  vehicles are allowed about a kilometre  or so before Sunset Point. At  ground zero there are no shops selling chips, no jhoolas, no ice cream vendors – absolutely nothing .Only the people and the setting Sun.

 The town  has two main roads, the Upper Mall and the Lower Mall. Both have bungalows and cottages along them .  Simla lights are visible on clear nights from the Lower Mall. The Upper Mall faces both Chandigarh and Simla and gets beautiful morning and afternoon sunshine. Like all cantonment towns, Kasauli  has an old bazaar . Here we  bought some asafoetida and rock salt   ( the only  bit of shopping we did )from a wizened old lady  who looked as old as methuselah  .If someone had told us she was a remnant  from the time  Kasauli had been built we would have swallowed it, so old did she look.

We heard from the locals that there are two annual  social  events  in Kasauli. The first  is in the last week of June and is called Kasauli Week.  During this week a lot of parties and socials are organized by the Army and  by  the Kasauli Club.  A dance party is held at the Kasauli Club as the grand finale. The second event is during the Founders celebrations of Sanawar  held in the first week of October when parents and Old Sanawarians swamp  the town.

File Fact  :

 Kasauli is located at a height of 1927 metres  and is  an army cantonment  town established by the British in 1842. It is located in Solan district in Himachal Pradesh, about 77 km from Shimla.


According to mythology, Kasauli came into existence after Lord Hanuman placed his feet here in order to get the Sanjeevani  herb. It is  also believed that the Rajputs of Rewari took refuge in the jungles of Kausal village during 17th century

Best time to visit

Kasauli can be visited any time of the year. However, April to November is the best time to visit.

Kasauli has a moderate climate. Winter temperature is approximately 2 degrees celsius, with Summer temperatures rarely exceeding 32 degrees celsius.

Places of Interest
Central Research Institute
The CRI works as a Collaborating Centre’ of the World Health Organization, and as an immuno-biological laboratory producing vaccines for measles and polio and the DTP  group of vaccines.

The Parsonage

This  was built in 1850 for priests of the Anglican church.

Kasauli Brewery

The Kasauli Brewery and distillery, founded in the 1820s before the establishment of the Kasauli cantonment, is the oldest extant distillery for 'scotch whisky' in Asia.The brewery is also known as Mohan Meakins.

Kasauli Club

The Kasauli Club was established by the British  in 1880 as an accessible summer retreat. It is currently located within Indian Army premises and managed by a regular Indian Army Officer as 'Club Secretary', aided by civilian staff. Typical of hill architecture, the Club is constructed chiefly of wood.


Kasauli is synonymous with the Lawrence School , Sanawar . British official Henry Lawrence, who founded the Lawrence School at Sanawar, was one of the earliest inhabitants of the town. The cottage built by Lawrence still stands on the ridge. Other educational institutions,  in or near Kasauli , are the  Pinegrove School, St Mary’s Convent School   and the school at Kasauli's K.V. Air Force Station.

Christ Church and Baptist Church are amazing examples of classical Gothic style of architecture. Christ Church has beautiful stained glass windows, a common feature of churches built by the British during colonial area.

Flora and Fauna

Surrounded by dense forests, Kasuali is home to several species of Himalayan flora and fauna including endangered ones. Babblers, Red-billed Blue Magpie, Striated Prinias and Jungle Owlet can be spotted in Kasauli. Summer is the best time to visit Kasauli to watch the birds in the natural habitat.

.Where to stay

In Kasauli  most of the  resorts are located at the top of the hill. These  offer a  panoramic view of the surrounding areas. Budget hotels are located near the foot of the hill. There is a Himachal Pradesh tourist hotel ( very lost and forlorn ) and a few private ones (Alasia Hotel , Kasauli Resorts, Kasauli Regency , Baikunth Resorts etc), but the best place to stay in  is The Kasauli Club. It is a members-only club but visitors can get temporary membership for a few days and use the club facilities. One can also check out the few cottages which take in guests.



Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A quick and easy recipe for Gnocchi in Tomato sauce



I  first  made Gnocchi  about  10-12 years  back. Ten years back we, in India, were  just  waking  up to  food beyond  pav-bhaji  and chowmein . My son was six months old and it seemed to me that all that I was doing was feeding him and ensuring that he burped and then again feeding him and ensuring … In a fit of inspiration , born mainly from a bout of rebellion , I started grooming and cooking classes aimed at the young woman – the girl on the threshold of marriage. The classes turned out to be a huge success and lasted well beyond my rebellion did !

Well, to cut a lonnng story short I taught many cuisines- Indian, Mexican, Chinese, Italian etc. The commonality  was that all the dishes were vegetarian and ,  more importantly, easy to make . One of the dishes that featured in the Italian section  was Gnocchi and in the process of teaching the dish it became a personal favourite ,  coming just after Lasagne and a light pasta salad that I learnt on the job.

Coming to the present , yesterday I made Gnocchi ( after a long gap) and it turned out good enough to inspire me to post the recipe.

So here goes :

This recipe  serves  4-6


350 gms potatoes  freshly boiled and  peeled

75 gms self raising flour ( maida)

2 tsp dried oregano

2 tbsp oil

1 large onion  chopped fine

2 garlic cloves ( optional- I hadn’t used them )

400gms chopped tomatoes

2tbsp basil leaves, shredded ( tulsi will work fine)

salt and pepper to taste

 approx ½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated

 For the Gnocchi

 1. Mash the potatoes. Add the flour, salt , pepper and oregano .

Mix with hands to form a  dough.

 2. Make balls of the dough. Press the balls lightly .

 3. Bring a large saucepan of water to boil and cook the Gnocchi  ,in batches,  for 2-3 minutes. Drain well and arrange them on a greased baking dish.

 For the Sauce

n a pan put 2 tbsp oil ( I used olive oil  but any cooking oil will do) and cook the onions and garlic for a minute. Add the tomatoes, ½ cup water, salt and pepper and cook uncoverd for 10 minutes –or till it achieves sauce consistency. Add the basil leaves.

To Serve
Pour the sauce over the Gnocchi. Sprinkle the cheese and bake for about 10 minutes at 180degreesC or till the cheese melts.

 Serve warm.



Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Ritu Dalmia’s Diva Piccola


 Till Saturday I had never been to Diva! There - my guilty secret is out. O.K , lemme correct that - one of my guilty secrets is out. Living in Delhi and admitting that one has never seen the inside of Ritu Dalmia’s  original Diva at Hauz Khas Village is like committing social harakiri . So , of course , one had never done it – admitted, that is . But come Saturday, we sailed majestically to the cafe –only to be brought up short by one of life’s inescapable truths, which is, in Diva the door is not opened to the outside. It has to be pushed to the  inside. But the good thing is that even if one does do it, open to the outside , one is not looked condescendingly at . Nah !  Ritu’s battery of   ‘Servers’ ( ‘waiters’ would be blasphemy) are God’s own angels . They smile understandingly and   unobtrusively  open the door to the inside to let you know what you hadn’t known till then and then seat you at one of the three tables for four. The other three tables are for two . Cozy is an understatement and I smile at the adorable tot dangling over the back of the husband’s chair.

In the meantime a basket of bruschetta and the menu cards have been placed in front of us and we eat the bread and  pore over the menu . We look up to confabulate but by then one of the angels has floated over to us and is smiling beatifically. “Ready to  place your order”. A devil whispers in my ear –“ that is being super efficient “ but I push the devil away and , returning the smile- albeit not so beatifically- simper- “what do you recommend?” The angel is very firm about the penne pasta with eggplant but here I get slightly distracted. M , by now we know his name,  looks one of us alright but hey he doesn’t talk like someone from Lajpat Nagar ( don’t ask me why Lajpat ). He talks like one of them.Maybe a crash course in  ‘speaking English the Italian Way’ is mandatory for everyone at Diva ? 

We order a pizza margherita, a risotto and the penne pasta with eggplant. A very attractive girl catches my  eye and by the time I finish checking out what she is wearing – beige trousers with a white shirt that is not tucked in but  belted to emphasize the tiniest of waists- the pizza arrives. It is rectangilish /ovalish in shape and extremely good. Next to come is the risotto. Here I pause because I must confess that the risotto left me with mixed feelings. Firstly - but maybe this one is because of all the episodes of last season’s   Master Chef I had watched ,where the presentation was as good , if not better than Gordon Ramsay’s scowl – because it looked exactly like what my dishes look at home when there are no guests but only family. You know , very comsi comsa. Secondly, it made me promise to myself that I must do some research on what is a perfect risotto. What I am trying to  say is that it was nice   but that it wasn’t perfect.

How was the pasta ? entirely forgettable and , though pride is one of the seven deadly sins, better pastas have been dished out from my kitchen .

But then the angel brought me back to earth. How? By placing before us the dessert-the  best ever chocolate cake . It came on a wooden platter with a floating candle on one end  and  thin geometric lines of chocolate sauce at the other. The cake was served with vanilla sauce . Mmmm

We get up to exit. I open the door. Ooops. Did it again .This time I pushed it open forgetting that now it had to be pulled in. From the corner of my eye I could see one of ‘them’ rushing to do it  the  right way.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The more things change the more they remain the same

I had heard a lot about her from the family grapevine before I actually met her . All good things – that she was the ideal  bahu , an excellent cook ,  educated to just  the right degree-  enough to read and write but not enough to give her businessman husband a complex etc. etc  We finally met at a family wedding  spread over three days .  From the very first day she slipped effortlessly , and cheerfully , into the role of the  chief organizer/ worker / co host . What struck  me the most about her  was not her indefatigable energy  but the fact that  here was a girl from some one horse town in the hinterlands of Uttar Pradesh who was holding her own at a relative’s very cosmopolitan wedding. Spunky was my verdict of her and  the image I carried with me was of a smiling face with a determined tilt to it.  Many years went by and, living in different cities as we were , we didn’t meet . From the faithful  family grapevine I heard about the birth of her son , the marriage of her husband’s younger brother and other  tit bits .

 Roughly ten  years  rushed  by before I met her again .  We hugged and drew back to look at each other . She was the same  - her smile and warmth had not changed - and yet so different . Always  thin , she was now gaunt . The shine in her eyes had dulled   and she seemed to be doing everything expected of her  as a matter of duty and not of joy . Was this the person I had called spunky ten years back ?  Nah. That seemed to be another lifetime.   I wanted to ask her  if everything was alright but   somehow didn’t . Ah  !  the do’s and don’ts of social etiquettes .

 We don’t meet again   . The phone at my house rings in the twenty third year of her marriage- or is it the twenty fourth ?  " There is something to tell you ( a premonition had me sitting up straight), Dolly ( not her real name , of course)  is no more".  " That's  terrible. How ?  When did..?"  I am interrupted.  " She committed suicide".  My hands are clammy and my heart seems to be thumping too loudly. I keep the phone down.

A  day  goes by. The wayward  heart has been  brought under control but there is no peace for the mind . There are too many questions to be  answered . They have to be answered if I am to get any peace  . I turn to the family grapevine. What I discover  is shocking . I find that  the rot  that we , ensconced in our  ivory towers of education and globalization , have long forgotten    is still   deeply entrenched  in the social morass  of the middle class  Indian.


Why did it happen ? Do things like this happen to people like us? It is now clear that they do. What makes an educated woman , married for more than 23 years take her life ? Well, many factors are at play but the main is the TINA factor. Yes, simply put ,it is that she feels there is no alternative. She has been the favourite punching bag of the family for too long. Family ? A father-in-law who spends his time acting out his celluloid ambitions of the archtype of the autocratic patriarch in real life ; a mother in law who is only a mother in law- not a woman ; a husband who spends his time between work and friends ; husbands brother whose importance lies in the fact that he marries a girl whose family is rich enough to send a regular supply of laddoos and kaju ki katlis. She suffers silently all those long years because her father is not alive and mother not rich enough to send the goodies. She lives the life of a second class citizen.

 Why didn’t Dolly turn to anyone for help ?  I  don’t know if she did . But let us presume that she did . O.K .  Let me take that further and  hypothetically suppose that she had turned to me . What would my  advice  have  been ?  And , more importantly, would I have given her any advice or sympathetically looked in her eyes , maybe squeezed her hands  ( and a few tears from my eyes ) come back home , looked at the familiar walls and faces , vowed to count my blessings and got back ,energized,  to  the business of  living . Yes,  the same thing we feel when we go to pay our condolences – the feeling of ‘ thank God it’s not happening / happened to me’

Here I stop. I have no more answers. What actually transpires in the heart and mind in those last few minutes , when the person is teetering between sanity and an insane desire to be free ? What tilts the scales either ways? No easy answers . But what is certain is that what we call suicide is actually murder. Murder of a person's dreams and hopes; of love and life; of laughter and  emotions. Trial by Jury, anyone?

An  image  of a smiling face with a determined tilt to it floats before my eyes  .

 I close them.

Friday, August 17, 2012

hundred @facebook

Those days , the days before Azharuddin, before match fixing, before Preity Zinta and Nita Ambani  -  those days of Sharjah and of India Pakistan  matches played out in the true spirit of the game  ( which was the spirit of 'holy war'  and only war ) ; those days when one watched cricket with the heart in the mouth feeling and did not change seats because superstition did not allow one to ; those days one would start rooting for the batsman inching towards his century. That century would become the fulcrum of the game and everything else would fade into the long on...

Well, the days of  the Sheikhs and Sharjah and Sunil G are now passe but the magic of the 100 still holds. Consider this : I signed up on Facebook two years back with the only honest intention of connecting with friends I had been close to in school and college. That happened and one was happy and contented. Then a couple of friend requests came my way and one was even more happy and contented. Then a couple of friend requests made from my side were accepted and the happiness and contentment quotient grew more. The proverbial cup was full to the brim and threatening to overflow. And then the green eyed monster- the serpent in Adam and Eve's garden raised its head. The monster , called Dissatisfaction, drew my attention to the fact that all my FB 'friends' had more 'friends' than I had . Not just a teeny weeny bit  more but atleast a hundred more ! Hundred now became the number I had to achieve. I send 'friend requests' by the droves- not only to school and college friends but also to friends of the school and college friends and  to the friends of the friends of the school and college friends. Acceptances started trickling in and the numbers started increasing- 24 on Monday became 35 by Tuesday and Wednesday saw it go upto 50. But friday (the 13th ) proved to be the best- I now had 88 friends ( the daughter and son had finally  relented and accepted my request and in the bargain some of their friends- the ones who had eaten my chocolate cake- send me requests).

The next few days were cropless- I was clueless on whom to tap next. The brainwave struck when the husband was  holding forth on the perils of FB ( being a stickler for not breaking stereotypes- this one being that the husband is always the last to know- one had ensured that the 'race for 100' was kept  a secret from him). The brainwave was so brilliant that my face lit up with glee and a tiny chortle escaped from my mouth  causing the husband  to look questioningly. Presence of mind saved the day and the next few minutes were spent   nodding in agreement  and gasping in horror- the latter at a particularly horrifying example of the aforementioned perils. Fifteen minutes later I was on FB , executing  the deed.

Now I not only know about what my school and college friends did last summer but I also know what my colleagues did on their weekly off- I happen to be 'friends' with them all.

And yes, now my cup doth truly overflow- the 100 has been crossed!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Yesterday, Once more

One minute there was appreciative laughter in the room -  Karan Johar , in his inimitable style, had just uttered a witticism, which had us, if not exactly rolling in the aisles,  certainly grinning from ear to ear. A popular awards function was being telecast and we were sitting in a relaxed mode, ready to be entertained. There was laughter and movement and plenty of inconsequential talk and banter.

The next minute there was  complete silence. And stillness. SRK was just coming to the end of a sentence, " and so ,to celebrate 100 years of Indian Cinema  , today we will honor those who have made it so special...". The cameras  had by now zoomed in relentlessly  on those who had to be honored - on Dilip Saab and Saira Banu; on   Waheeda Rehman ;  Rajesh Khanna; Zeenat Aman; Vyjayantimala; Vinod Khanna, Shabana Azmi;  Manoj Kumar; Asha Parekh; Jaya Bachchan and   Hema Malini.  Their  faces were all sombre , ( barring maybe Shabana , Hema Malini and a giggly Jaya Bachchan )    the  impassiveness on the faces of the thespians - actors  famous for giving Indian Cinema a rich repertoire of emotions , saying more than any words could have.. And they all looked so sombre !  I think this was when  I started praying silently-  ,'please God, don't let them be called on stage ; please don't let the world see them struggling to walk and  grappling with words ."  But this is exactly what happened.  We looked on unbelievingly as , one by one, the actors were called on stage - with their most famous songs playing in the background. And so  a matronly Zeenat Aman, sorry Zeenie baby, who had been an iconic figure for the disenfranchised youth of her generation , walked on stage with '  Dum Maro Dum and Laila O laila...' playing ;  Waheeda Rehman  came onstage with  'Aaj phir jeene ki tamanna hai, aaj phir marne ka irada hai...'  ; Manoj Kumar came, supported on both sides , to the tune of ' Mere Desh Ki Dharti Sona ugle...  '  The parade continued till the stage was crowded - till no one was left to be called , and even Dilip Kumar - lost in a world of his own- had been brought up- so that the world could see him , and all of them, and remember them - not as we would have liked to remember them : young and dynamic but old and helpless.  And so now when Dum Maro Dum  plays anywhere  images of  a slim  and sexy Zeenat Aman will come but they will be pushed firmly into the never never land by newer , recent ,images.

And then the tears came - not because we had decided to honor Indian Cinemas rare stars at a stage in their  life when , for most of them, it had stopped mattering, but because of the remarkable spunk and courage they showed.  And so when Manoj  'Bharat' Kumar was asked to speak  he  said  ," hai preet jahan ki reet sadaBharat ka rahne waala hoon ....' showing why his movies had run to packed houses in an India gripped by post Independence fervour ; Rajesh Khanna, playing to the galleries still , bespoke one of life's greatest truths when he said ,' koi bhi cheez duniya main rahti nahi,  aaj main hoon jahan kal koi aur tha .. aaj main hoon jahan kal koi aur tha. Ye bhi ek daur hai woh bhi ek  daur tha...'

I had forgotten that I was not alone. I think we all had.  It was left to the daughter to bring levity back into the room.  Looking accusingly at her father she said  with loving tenderness to me ," I didn't know you had a serious crush on Rajesh Khanna. Trust dad to spoil your love life". And  then the husband came to me and said, '' Pushpa, I hate tears".

It was just another award show that ended.  The original showmen and women will always remain.


Friday, May 18, 2012

Phrase of the day - Cock a Snook

    Cock a Snook

  ( British old fashioned)

Part of Speech : Noun
Origin :  mainly unknown (There’s an example known from 1791, but the phrase did not become widely recorded until the last years of the nineteenth century).
Meaning : 1) A gesture of derision or defiance.
2 ) to show that you do not respect something or someone by doing something that insults them / it.
Trivia :The gesture of derision it encapsulates is that of putting one’s thumb to one’s nose and extending the fingers. . .As a gesture, it doesn’t really mean anything, but it does convey utter contempt .

Usage : That all the accused in the CWG  scam and the 2G scam are out , whether on bail or unconditionally , is a perfect example of cocking a snook at the ideal of Justice as enshrined in our constitution. .

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Vicarious pleasure

This year , again, April had been a particularly busy month and what with starting work early and finishing late my walk/exercise regime had gone for a toss. With May promising to be a lighter month I vowed to myself that the neglected walks would be resumed . And so the morning saw me all prepped up and togged up in my keds and T. The route I normally follow is a circuitous one, literally taking me all around our colony. The newspaper man was on his round and so was the milk man ; moms and ayahs were dropping the lil ones to the bus stops . It was a pleasant morning , belying  the fact that we were in the middle of the famed Indian summer. Turning left , on the last leg of the walk, I stopped in my tracks. The house was a beauty - it was exactly what I had been secretly dreaming of for the last one year or so. Propelled by some invisible hand I entered the park adjoining the house and sat down on a bench . My seat gave me a ring side view of the house. It was in the finishing stages- I could make out that the painting  of walls and polishing of doors and windows was in progress. My gaze settled on a room which was clearly going to be the formal sitting room . It was big, with french windows and Burma teak doors -It was going to be a room meant for entertaining and music. From somewhere I heard the tinkle of glass and laughter. Through a haze I saw the lady of the house  welcoming  her guests. A door opened on the landing of the first floor-a pretty ,young girl came gracefully down the steps. Another door opened further down the landing and a happy teenager came bounding out. He playfully tugged his sister's hair and then ,laughing, ran down the wide staircase. The hors d'oeuvres were being circulated. Such a house had to have a piano, ofcourse. The tune of 'play it again' wafted through the windows. The children's father came out from a room which seemed to be  the library- it had books lined from floor to ceiling.  Truly a house of dreams- a dream house.

Smiling , I got up from the bench. I don't know when my dream house will be mine but yes, that house next to the park had given me a lot of pleasure- even if  I had lived those ten minutes vicarously and derived vicarous pleasure.

But then don't most of us most of the times ?  -live vicariously that is!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Word of the day -schadenfreude


Pronunciation  :SHOD-n-froy-duh\  scha·den·freu·de

Part of speech  : noun: often capitalized 

 Meaning :  A malicious satisfaction obtained from the misfortunes of others.  ; enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others

Origin of SCHADENFREUDE -German(  from Schaden damage + Freude joy )

First Known Use: 1895
Usage :  Finance Minister, Pranab da,  felt  schadenfreude at  Home Minister, Chidambaran's,  discomfiture in  Parliament.



Thursday, May 3, 2012

An evening of Soul music

It was 'the tree' that held centrestage that evening. Everything else dipped away into the horizon along with  the setting sun. Want me to describe 'the tree'? I have a better idea. Close your eyes for a minute.  Now go back many centuries - infact to the time of the Buddha. Remember, he is the one who attained enlightenment while meditating under a tree. Build a picture of Buddha's tree. Yes, it must have been huge, with a  gnarled  trunk and branches sprawling lazily in all directions ; It must  also have had  magical powers to hypnotize Buddha into choosing it over the other trees. Carrying on, picture lanterns hanging from the low branches  of the tree and marigold flowers linked to one another to form many  chains .All around is darkness. The only light is from the lanterns and from a crescent moon. And then one hears the chant : Buddham saraṇaṃ gacchāmi, Dhammaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi.Saṅghaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi.(To the Buddha for refuge I go ,To the Dharma for refuge I go, To the Sangha for refuge I go) . The chant is repeated but now it is louder and more insistent . Many other voices join in - 'Buddham sharnam gacchami, sangham sharnam....' .Is that my mouth moving ? my lips forming the words ? Startled I open my eyes . The first thing they fall on is 'the tree' - as beautiful and magical now as it must have been centuries back. But it is not the Buddha sitting under it but a young group of musicians belting out buddhist chants. My eyes wander - open wider. In the stillness of the night, with only the lit lamps and the moon, are sitting hundreds of men and women, listening in rapt attention to the chant, their heads moving in tune with the throbbing drums . There is no other sound . More than five hundred people silently listening to Buddha's words....

And then comes a man in a white kurta pyjama. He is carrying a 'jhola' - just what Kabir may have woven on his loom. Hark!  is that Kabir's  poem he is singing ? 'Nirbhay Nirgun  Re Gaunga...'

Fearlessly I Will Sing the Attributes of the One without Attributes

Using the Base Lotus as the Steady Seat
I Will Make the Wind Rise in Reverse
Steadying the Mind's Attachments
I Will Unify the Five Elements
Ingila, Pingala and Sukhman are the Channels
I Will Bathe at the Confluence of the Three Rivers
The Five and Twenty Five I Will Master by my Wish
And String them Together by One Common Thread
At the Summit of Aloneness the Un-struck Anahad Sound Reverberates
I Will Play the Thirty-Six Different Symphonies
Says Kabir Listen Oh Practicing Aspirant
I Will Wave the Flag of Victory) 

And 'the tree' ? the tree had changed from being Buddha's source of enlightenment  to  being Kabir's expression of angst and cynicism  at the duplicity and guile of the keepers of the world. Had I ever really heard Kabir so raptfully as on that evening of the crescent moon and the lanterns and the light coming from the orange of the marigolds? No . Had I ever understood how Buddha must have felt when he saw the' light' ? No.

But that evening with the sun dipping into the horizon and hundreds of people sitting silently , listening to music for the soul, I sort of began to also feel ...and see....and hear.

It all began with the tree...

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Tea party in the park

The sandwiches were nice -  sinfully well buttered , with a hint of mint . I had just taken my first bite when aunty B sidled up and whispered in my left ear if  one had heard of the robbery at number 148. One had but in the process of nodding yes ( remember the buttery bite in the mouth !)  landed up shaking a no . The next ten minutes were devoted to listening to the 'inside' story of the big heist.  It took so much time because the Chopras from # 24 and the Aggarwals from # 40 and the... had also joined in and there seemed to be no dearth of 'inside' information. The story had reached a very interesting juncture - was it an 'inside ' ( not to be confused with the earlier 'inside') job or was it an 'outside' job. Just to keep the facts straight,  Mrs. C felt  it  was-  " it always is"  as opposed to Mrs A who gave mysterious looks and kept muttering something about " one of these days"-  when  the potato fingers were  served ( with green chutney and ketchup). All the inside and outside talk had left everyone hungry and the fries were consumed with great gusto. The colony park had nicely filled up and a lot of time was spent in throwing a 'hello' here and a 'namastey' there. The group in front was discussing whether Sehwag was an 'is' or a 'has been' and the group at the back ( mostly made up of first time voters) was making a programme for the coming sunday. The group I was now sitting with was exchanging notes on tutors and maids and the absolute dearth of good and dependable tailors.

By now tea and coffee had been  served and  bursts of laughter mingled with the clink of cutlery and the well bred voices of the bridge players. S ( from 123)  was regaling us with some juicy 'khabar' when  the harsh  notes of a loudspeaker intruded the party in the park. Everyone stopped talking and eating and laughing. The loudspeaker seemed to be coming nearer and nearer. Puzzled glances were exchanged - a loudspeaker inside the colony'?  A white car , fitted with the loudspeaker, screeched to a halt. This was followed by many more white cars which all screeched to a halt.  Doors burst open and  disgorged a sea of white kurta pyjamas .

 I looked with approval at the man in front. He  was just so humble. He had folded his hands even before entering the park. Most of the kurta pyjamas also had folded hands. Just then  a man with a very hoarse voice shouted ( hoarsely) " Jeete ka bhai jeete ga; raju bhai jeete ga'. 

We all agreed later on that it was very unfortunate for Raju bhai that the park emptied within five minutes of his arrival. After all it wasn't his fault that he was two hours late ;  or that he did not apologize for keeping everyone waiting- after all  the junta should learn to be patient  ; or that he
had no answer to old Mr K's question about where he had been these last five years  !

I dunno if Raju bhai got the feel and hang of things the same way that those present did - that the party was well and truly over-   both inside and outside the park.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Hare Kebabs

 Whenever there is a lunch/dinner at home the most difficult part is deciding on the appetizer/s.  I agonize over the fact that my repertoire of 'starters' is so limited and that everything has been done to death ! And so it was with the dinner I had recently. When it came to deciding on what to make I was left mulling again on dip with crackers and my patent mini cutlets.That is untill I had this brainwave of making Hare kebabs. My neighbour had told me her recipe of kebabs but when she was doing so I had been listening with only half a ear and so remembered only half the recipe. However small things like knowing only half a recipe have never really fazed me and since  I felt that I absolutely had to make kebabs and that nothing else would do so I went ahead and made them. And I must admit they came out looking and tasting good

Here is the recipe ( full and not half! )

Will make about 15-20 mini kebabs


1 cup chana dal
1/2 kg spinach
1 tsp garlic paste ( I had omitted it)
1tsp ginger paste
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp black pepper powder
2 tablespoon corn flour
1 bread slice
1 green chilli- very finely chopped
salt to taste
oil for deep/shallow frying


1.Wash and soak the chana dal for 3-4 hours. Drain the water and grind in mixer to make a paste.
2. Was the spinach well. Chop coarsely. Steam for 2-3 minutes. Grind in mixer.
3. Take a non stick pan. Put about 1 tablespoon oil in it .Add the dal and roast till all the water evaporates. Remove and keep aside.
4.In the pan put the spinach and without covering cook so that all the water evaporates and it becomes dry. Close the burner.
5.To the spinach add the dal , cornflour, bread, salt, garlic and ginger paste, pepper powder, green chilli, lemon juice. Mix well.
6. Lightly grease palms and shape into small kebabs.
7. Shallow fry or deep fry.
Serve hot  with green chutney

Monday, February 27, 2012

The palace of illusions

I had heard a lot about the 2008 book by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, 'The Palace of Illusions' , and kept agreeing that it seemed like a 'must buy' and that I must pick it up and read it but somehow the act of buying and reading seemed to be eluding me and I never seemed to get round to doing it. Till one day I reached home and saw the book lying, ever so casually, on the bedside table. It transpired that the daughter had , through one of the new age sites, ordered some books and 'The Palace ...' was one of them. The only thing required was now to sit down and read it, but I still never seemed to get the time to do it. I got the time to read Amitava Ghosh -Sea of Poppies; to read Mitch  Albom 'Tuesdays with Morrie'; Katherine Frank's 'Indira' but not Divakaruni. And then I realized that the inertia regarding 'The Palace..' actually went back to another book by the same author ,'The Conch Bearers'. The son had been gifted a signed  copy  by the author in a book reading session  organized by his school and had come home and flourished it  triumphantly. His sister and I had felt duty bound to point out to him that since he had , even as a 13 year old,not progressed beyond Raold Dahl and Enid Blyton the book was of no use to him. The boy, ofcourse to prove us wrong,  immediately sat down to read it. We laughed and went about our ways, sure that he would put it down soon. Not only did he not do so, but also read it with a look of increasing absorption and sadness.When I went to his room at night to say goodnight he just held me tight. Instead of the act reassuring me it troubled me enough to make me start reading 'The Conch Bearers' the very next day. The book is essentially aimed at the young reader and is the story of a boy ,Anand. The ending is , however ,so poignant that it haunted me for days and days on end.  Anand has to decide between staying on in the Order or returning to his family. He makes his decision and leaves the reader yearning for a different one. I felt shattered- for Anand, for his mother, for myself- a mother.

I am reading 'The Palace of Illusions' these days. The story is familiar to all of us - it is the epic tale of Mahabharat' told through the eyes of Draupadi.  The narrative is like re visiting a traumatic experience - it is as tragic as any poem by Homer.The recurring leit motif is of destruction .Draupadi's birth from a fire; her love for her brother; her marriage to five men with their own foibles;  a cold mother in law; her own home- Palace of Illusions- at last, and then the unbelievable traumas that follow -her home, freedom and honour gambled away; almost stripped in public; her life of hiding and servitude  and finally, the grim justice of war - Mahabharat.

A permanent stone seems to have settled at the bottom of my stomach. The only word reverberating in my mind is,'why'? Why did Panchali have to ask Karna the question she asked- even though she had been warned by Vyas? why did she not stop her maids from laughing at Duryodhan  in her palace? why did Yudhister love gambling ?why did he have to gamble his wife?

Why does there have to be war before peace?

Is peace , without the baggage of war,  unachievable?


Monday, February 13, 2012

the secret diary of nitin gadkari

There are very few times that I wish I was Rajnath Singh , though I know he all the time wishes he was me, but these past few days, o.k make it months, have been so tiresomely trying that I wish I was him  i.e a nonentity and that he was me- handling all my 'weighty 'problems . There I was ,sitting in my pawan hans helicopter ,cracking jokes with my team and with  the T.V reporter filming  '24 hours with Nitin Gadkari ' when the pilot announced that we were flying over the Saryu river. I looked down casually and then looked up again to carry on telling the joke ( about the  shenanigans of the son-in-law of the first lady of Indian politics) when I realized that all eyes were down and the reporter was excitedly telling her camera person to train the camera carefully at the scene below. Petulantly I looked down for the cause of the excitement and then almost fell off the chopper .Uma ji was being brought in a procession to the banks of the river. She seemed to be protesting and waving her hands through her saffron robes in a very agitated manner. Snatches of words , carried up to us by the easterly winds, conveyed that she seemed to be saying 'Nitin ji , Gadkariji..' I scanned the crowd for some familiar faces but the faces all looked unfamiliar, though in a very familiar way. I mean they looked familiarly unfamiliar. And then the penny dropped. Ofcourse, they were the congress karyakartas of U.P. I sat up in indignation and turned to the reporter to point out this latest congress scam when before my eyes she whipped out her mike and telling the pilot to bring the chopper as low as he could , jumped out , followed by her camera person. Unfortunately for me the chopper had come to within eye contact distance of the people on ground zero and Uma Bharti ji easily spotted me. All hell broke loose. Much to my chagrin Umaji started a one sided conversation with me. The long and short of which was that she literally ordered me to save her from the swirling waters of the Saryu river and at the same time reminded me that it was at my prodding that she had jumped in- not  the river- but into the politics of elections in UP's Bundelkhand and also made the grandoise statement of jumping into the river. Truth to tell , when I had asked Umaji to rejoin the party with a difference it was all because of Jaya Pradaji. Being a true blue Maharashtrian I was brought up on the staple diet of Srikhand, Vada pav and 'Sharabi '. Who can forget Jaya ji dancing to Amitabh's 'De De pyaar de...' in the movie ?  and also how  comely  she managed to look , sitting on a bullock cart, with flood waters swirling around her? Since then I had been searching for someone  within the BJP who could do  Jaya's  'Ram teri Ganga Maili' act. Many a times I thought of Sushmaji (  especially after her song and dance number at Rajghat   ) but the thought of Arun Jaitlyji's reaction kept me quiet. And then one day, while  presiding over a party meeting and munching on samosas and laddoos, I remembered Umaji and her 'sexy sanyasin'  sobriquet .Swallowing my third samosa hastily I dialled her number and...                 .

A sudden jerk of the chopper ,and a scream,  brought me back to the present. I realised that Umaji had catapulted up , leaving the karyakartas shouting'  Ooh ma   Ooh ma...', and latched on like a limpet to the chopper. The scream was of the pilot.The chopper was not built to carry two such heavyweights. It swung wildly from left to right for a good distance and then tangled into a flowing white tent of some inconsiderate idiot's election rally.

I believe the laddoos at today's BJP press briefing were on Rajnath Singh.

Friday, February 3, 2012

In Plato’s  ‘Republic’  Adeimantus points out that very often a good reputation is acquired by a ruler who merely appears to act in a just manner, regardless of whether he/she actually does so .By doing this the ruler  achieves the greatest possible advantage : act unjustly while preserving the outward appearance of being just. This as opposed to the option of acting justly while risking the outward appearance of injustice.  Dr Manmohan Singh has perfected the craft of appearing to be just and honest while returning debts owed ,and helping friends-all the  while hiding behind the skirts of ‘ the compulsions of a coalition government’.  A Prime Minister who makes the mistake of ruling in a manner that lessens the well-being of the ruled , is  not  a good prime minister , for a true ruler would never make such an error.
The remedy :
 He/She  must always be someone who knows how to rule, someone who understands ruling as a craft and  like  a good parent,  tries to do what is best for those who have been entrusted to him/her, rather than seeking his own ,and others, welfare. Furthermore , there should be  severe restrictions placed on the   guardians of the constitution , and of the country : they should have no need for wealth or other external rewards   and should earn no salary greater than necessary to supply their  basic needs. This will ensure that  no one will have any wrong motive for seeking a position of leadership, and those who are chosen to govern will govern solely from a concern to seek the welfare of the country and  what is best for all  its citizens.
 Any country is only as good as its people. A country becomes a mess  because its junta lets it become one . It is time for introspection for all of us who vote  the corrupt, the criminals, the ineffective , the  coquettish to power. We vote people to power who do not know the importance of the phrase ‘The buck stops here’.  Like the rats of the town of Hamelin we fall into the trap of the caste card played out by the Pied Pipers, sorry –politicos . It is also introspection time for those who do not go out to vote. The right to live in a country has to be earned –by ensuring that each vote is cast to bring  the right individuals to power –individuals who combine high competence with the highest ethical standards. 
No country is perfect. We  need to make it perfect. The answer,  as Plato believed, is to rely upon the value of a good education . We have today an educated ,young generation of  engineers , IT professionals ,managers  ,college students etc who can spearhead the crusade for probity in public life.. These young men and women  should come forward to fight corruption.They have a powerful tool ,the social networking sites ,to spread their message  and to galvanize opinion .
And when  this happens , just as the first showers bring in their rain drenched  mornings the smell of wet earth –the message  of the young will bring a purpose in the steps of the people .This is because I know the message will be the same as the one used by Jai Prakash Narain on that eventful day in Ramlila Maidan in the  draconian seventies of the original  Mrs G…
              “ Singhasan khali karo ki junta aati hai ……