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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Here's looking at you, 2013 !

             
        Do you remember that iconic line from Charles Dickens, The Tale of Two Cities, ' It was the best of times, it was the worst of times?'  Today, when I look back at 2013, this line, more or less, sums up how I feel about the year that is almost over. Many years down the line, when I will be sitting with my grand children around me, telling them stories about their parents , about their ancestral home, about their grandparents, I may draw a blank about some years but certainly never about 2013.

My happiness quotient of the year

For the longest time ever I had been dreaming of renovating my house. At one point, in the latter half of 2012, I had all but given up on this ever happening. But God stepped in , in the form of two angels, Ram Chand and Lakshmi Chand Singh- the builder and architect respectively. My wish did get fulfilled this year.

Another important landmark, for me, was that my daughter got admission in a B school of her choice. Her results for the CAT exam came out in early January. She got a good score, calls from many institutes and then the final conversions. Another important landmark in this year.

Just when one despaired of  the political system ever getting the makeover so desperately needed, the Aam Aadmi Party hit the Delhi scene. I really don't know how well they will govern, whether they will fufill their election promises or not, but I do know that they have brought about the main change- the one that we, the people were so desperate for. The change is that the mainstream parties will never again be so complacent about their wrong doings, so unaccountable for the corruption and scams originating from their ranks.
Arvind Kejriwal has brought a smile to my face. I feel a sense of pride when I look at him- a sense of ownership. More power to him.

Tears in 2013 

Mom went this year. She went really quietly, without any fanfare, or hospital visits. She went when one was least expecting it. She went in just the manner she had lived her life- the least amount of trouble for everyone around her. I don't know if I ever told her that I loved her, but I do know that she loved me. She loved me just as a mother does- without any expectations,totally and completely.


This is why I will always remember 2013.


Saturday, December 28, 2013

Recipe - Melt in the mouth Malpuas

I have come to the conclusion that deciding the menu for a lunch/dinner is as exhausting as cooking the said lunch/dinner. Consider this : I have a lunch tomorrow and for that I spent the better part of yesterday racking my brains for a decent menu. After agonizing over whether it should be a purely 'Indian' menu or a mix of Indian and western dishes , I did manage to come up with a somewhat  satisfactory menu.

Since it is a lunch, I thought I would make a couple of dishes today. Have just finished making malpuas, one of the two desserts, and am so happy with the way they have turned out that I have this irresistable urge to share the recipe. So here goes :

Makes approx 12 malpuas

Ingredients

4 tablespoon maida
4 tablespoon sooji /rawa
4 tablespoon malai
1/4th  teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon oil/melted ghee
2 tablespoon fresh curd
 approx 1 cup milk

Method


  • Take a bowl. Put the maida, sooji, baking soda, oil and curd in it.Mix well.
  • Add the malai and mix.
  • Now, gradually add the milk, stirring continously . Stop adding milk  when you get a dropping consistency. Mix well. The batter will be similar to a pancake batter or the batter we make for pakodas.
  • Keep aside for 15 minutes.
  • Take a non stick frying pan. Put two tablespoon of batter to make a small round. Add a little oil/ghee. Fry to a golden brown color on both sides. Remove.
  • Repeat the procedure for the rest of the batter.

Method for sugar syrup

In a pan put 2 cups of  water and 1 cup of sugar. Put 1/2 teaspoon cardamom powder and a pinch of kesar(saffron).Bring to a boil and then lower the flame.Cook for about 10 minutes more. Immerse the malpuas in this syrup. Close the gas.

To serve

  • Take a flat serving dish.Arrange the malpuas in this dish.
  • Garnish with almond slivers and a few rose petals.
  • Optional: The ,malpuas may be served with rabdi/kheer, kept  in another bowl.
Enjoy!










Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Debate : This House believes that cosmic ray shower variations cause environmental perturbation and I speak against the motion


I was never much of a science student and the very first opportunity I had of dropping science( before it dropped me)  I did so . Having parted ways life cruised on and one never thought more of mundane things like Gravitation and Newton and particle physics et el. That is till the other day when the son called up from school. My first reaction was panic, as in ' what is the matter- something must be the matter' . Well, he reassured me that no, he hadn't been expelled, that he was hale and hearty and that the head mistress did not wish to see me but could I please write a debate for him- he had been chosen to represent school in this physics debate....Bravely I asked, 'So, what's the topic?'. He started to tell and then said,' I think mailing you might be a better idea'. My first reaction on reading the topic(cosmic ray shower variations cause environmental perturbation) was to laugh. Second was to tell the husband and the daughter ( they laughed) and third was to sit down and start reading up. I did manage to come up with something ( enough for the stipulated 3 minutes 30 seconds) , and am sharing this so that other parents , science challenged, may take heart and plough on.

The debate
Cosmic rays are very  high energy particles  mainly originating outside the Solar System.  Visible to the naked eye as the Seven Sisters, the Pleiades are the most famous of many surviving clusters of stars that formed together at the same time. The Pleiades were born during the time of the dinosaurs, and their supernova remnants generated cosmic rays.
 Members of the Jury, distinguished teachers and friends: the theory that cosmic ray shower variations cause environmental perturbation has been mooted by a cluster of climate scientists, primary among them being Henrik  Svensmark. Svensmark has calculated the variation in cosmic rays over the past 500 million years and come up with a paper titled “Evidence of nearby supernovae affecting life on Earth” .He  shows how the variable frequency of stellar explosions not far from our planet has ruled over the changing fortunes of living things throughout the past half billion years. He  has proposed that galactic cosmic rays (GCRs) could exert significant influence over global temperatures  and  that the solar magnetic field deflects GCRs, which are capable of seeding cloud formation on Earth.  So if the solar magnetic field were to increase, fewer GCRs would reach Earth, seeding fewer low-level clouds, which are strongly reflective.  Thus an increased solar magnetic field can indirectly decrease the Earth's albedo (reflectivity), causing the planet to warm 
 Svenmark’s work reminds me to remind you of this well known quote of Carl Sagan:
“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff. –in short Svensmark squarely apportions all variations at the doorstep of cosmic ray variations.
I contest the claim  that Cosmic ray showers cause environmental perturbation by the following arguments:
It has been noted by climate scientists actively publishing in the field that Svensmark has inconsistently altered data on most of his published work on the subject, an example being adjustment of cloud data that understates error in lower cloud data, but not in high cloud data.
Lief Svalgaard says that “the energetic GCR that ionize the lower atmosphere are only weakly influenced by variations in the geomagnetic field or by solar magnetic activity. Both cause low-altitude ionization rates to vary by (≈10%) in the course of a magnetic reversal or during a solar cycle. Over decades to millennia the GCR influx to the Solar System scarcely changes.”

Sun and Bradley  re-examined the surface-based cloud data and newer satellite data for an extended period but they also could not find any  meaningful relationship between cosmic ray intensity and cloud cover over tropical and extra-tropical land areas.

Kuang   showed that the variation in cloud optical thickness could easily be explained by the E1 Nino activity rather than variations in cosmic ray intensity.
The 2007 IPCC  report strongly attributes a major role in the ongoing global warming to human-produced gases such as carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and halocarbons.
In conclusion I would like to say to those  in favor of  the motion that this theory is like quoting the famous line from    2010: The Year We Make Contact: “My God, It’s full of stars.”
 For me ,  a megatheory as grand as this requires much more evaluation. I believe that  extraordinary claims demand extraordinary justification.
Thank you


Friday, December 13, 2013

Of Satsangs and ego

                    

“ Beta”. The endearment floated melliflously somewhere over my head and out of the window ,towards the rose bushes I had been gazing covetously at, fretting why my  desi gulabs  were not doing as well as the English roses , my objet de l'attention.
 “ Beta”. Lost in the enjoyable  planning of the conversation I would be having with the gardener on  the  demerits of desi gulabs , planted at his insistence, viz a viz  the merits of the red beauties  I was enviously staring at, the word again curled up like a ball, ready to be thrown out of the window, but at the last minute snatched back from the jaws of oblivion by my intuitiveness. Yes, the  intuition,  maligned by husband and children, cause of much mirth to them , spoke in my ears, ”forget the gardener -look in front”. I  looked in front , straight into the impatient  eyes of a benign figure in white .
 Dear reader , if you find it oxymoronish  that a benign figure should have impatient eyes, pick no quarrel with me for I speak the truth . The benign  mouth stretched to form a beatific smile before opening up to say, " Beta. You looked distressed. Tell Ma Pritamamma everything. Ma will provide a solution for all the worries creasing your brows ". This sounded good and  I looked around for Ma whatshername  only to be pinched by my friend who whispered, “ she is Ma Pritamamma’. Realizing that my friend  must be right , she being the one to drag me to her satsang- , I said , “ my troubles are endless . The son has said he doesn’t want to do engineering after school  but not said what he wants to do , the daughter says that she has only  one drink once a month but I think  it is the other way round- once a month she has one drink and the other days she doesn’t count ,  the husband  thinks I  hyperventilate, the maid watches television all the time, even when rolling out rotis , so that our rotis take on shapes hitherto confined to mathematics books, the gardener …’ Here I paused to draw a breath ,  realizing that the shenanigans of the gardener would need some explaining  but Ma  expertly stepped into the silence of the drawn breath and addressing the sorority of sisters said ,”  this  proves my point about the importance of not letting our ego rule over us. Our poor sister here , ( pitying looks in yours truly direction) has allowed herself to be sucked into the fictitious  world of ego. For her it is my son, my daughter, my maid . She has not yet understood that there is no my. True happiness and salvation can be achieved only when we let go of …”

We are watching television, an euphemism for changing channels. Correction- the husband is watching while  I have one eye on the television and the other on the maid rolling out – you guessed it- rotis. And then, this beatific vision comes on the screen . She is being interviewed by Sharnab Hoswami.

Q .  One last question- any message for the viewers?
B.V ( beatific vision) I would just want to thank my followers, my bhakts , my satsangis for…


Whatever happened to the ego now?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

limericks for Arvind Kejriwal



                                                   
                                                         Arvind Kejriwal came as an agent of change
                                                   lured the voters with promises covering a wide range
                                                          the people fell for him hook, line and sinker
                                                          they hoped with governance he would not tinker
                                                         Alas,that he now dithers is indeed very strange




                                                       Hey Kejriwal, for you we  voted
                                        liked the idea of a corruption free government that you mooted
                                                        we thought you would make a great opposition
                                                         for the aam aadmi you would take a position
                                           that you would not honor the people's verdict is indeed not suited
                                                       
      

And here are the' Elections 2013 ' Awards


Well,  politicians, young and old, experienced and inexperienced, honest and corrupt, have all worked hard at winning ( and some at losing ) elections. We , the junta, have had an opportunity to meet them, greet them, look at them and hear them ad nauseum.  This happy fraternising has given us, the junta,  a chance to , ahem, gossip about them. The fruit of this gossip is a  list of awards compiled for different politicians, cutting across party lines. Some lucky ones have found mention in more than one category.    Here, Ladies and Gentlemen , are the 'Elections 2013 '  awards .  So, let's put our hands together for :

Award for the best poker face goes to : Dr. Raman Singh , Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh. Never , even by the twitch of a wayward  muscle,  did he betray any emotion.

Award for the best stony face and  maintainer of a stony silence goes to : Dr ManMohan Singh, Prime Minister of India,  a nation of voluble people.

Award for the sweetest,  most honest, looking politician goes to : Shivraj Singh Chauhan.

Award for changing the face of Delhi politics goes to : Arvind Kejriwal , founder AAP

Award for the maximum number of promises made in a election manifesto  goes to : Arvind Kejriwal of the AAP.

Award for being the best best men to the groom, oops, Prime Minister in waiting: Jyotiraditya  Scindia and Sachin Pilot. 

Award for sporting the longest lasting sindoor and mangalsutra goes to : Smriti Irani of the BJP. ( longest lasting because obviously it is something she forgot to return when she quit the Balaji soaps).

Award for the oldest debutant in politics goes to : Rahul Gandhi , reluctant inheritor of a fabled legacy, the 128 year Grand Old Party.

Award for the brashest  young politician goes to : Kumar Vishwas of the AAP.

Award for the foot in the mouth syndrome goes to : Digvijay Singh alias Diggy Raja.

Award for being  the proudest papa goes to : Digvijay Singh alias Diggy Raja. His son , Jaiwardhan Singh, won in the Madhya Pradesh  assembly elections and so Diggy was smiling even though his party had lost in the Raja's own state.  

Award for the smoothest and most unflappable talker goes to : Yogendra Yadav of the AAP.

Award for the best interjector on the numerous ' Prime Time' debates hosted by the legendary Arnab Goswami goes to : Meenakshi  Lekhi  of the BJP

Award for the strictest shepherd goes to : Rajnath Singh, President BJP. He brought the wayward uns back to the flock.

Award for the best short term sulker and pouter goes to : L.K Advani of the BJP.

Award  for donning many hats over the years : Vasundhara Raje Scindia of the BJP and soon to be CM of Rajasthan.  You  will , ofcourse , want to know about the many hats and so, here goes: erstwhile princess , erstwhile walker of ramps- as in modelling ramps, erstwhile female Emraan Hashmi ( pssst- the famous lip lock with you know who) ,erstwhile, hopefully, madam arrogant , present favorite of the BJP brass, present favorite of the people of Rajasthan, present least favorite of Ashok Gehlot...

Award for having the most number of Q and A sessions in his public rallies goes to : Narendra Modi, BJP'S Prime Ministerial candidate for 2014.

Award for the best red brick wall and green palms  pose goes to : Abhishek Manu Singhvi of the GOP. Well, we do wonder if a certain someone ( remember the tapes...?) has mentioned how dapper AMS looks against that wall. Ahem, ahem.

Award for the best dimples in town goes to : Rahul baba , ofcourse.

Award for being the best Navin Nischol lookalike : Randeep Surjewala, spokesperson GOP.

Award for the most colorful kurta collection goes to : NaMo of the..

Award for the best roller of kurta sleeves goes to : Rahul G.

Award for the crispiest speaker goes to : Arun Jaitley of the BJP.

Award for the Chief Minister most removed from the reality of public opinion goes to : Mrs Shiela Dikshit, erstwhile CM of Delhi.

Award for the most impish smile goes to : Narendra Modi .( Just look at his face when he is on the subject of 'Shehzaada').

And now a special award- this goes to the Indian public for turning out in huge numbers to cast their vote.








Saturday, December 7, 2013

My Experience as a polling agent for AAP

I have always been a BJP supporter- it may have a lot to do with the fact that my parents were hard core Jan Sanghis and very anti Congress. However, things for me  changed considerably  when the Anna Hazare movement happened . The movement came at a time when one was just so disillusioned with the political scenario in the country- with a non functioning  Prime Minister heading an equally non functional government, with corruption in all places, with price rise etc. It wasn't that my loyalties changed but yes, there was a shift towards Anna and his ideology. As things turned out, Anna's movement fizzled out but it gave birth to a political party, the Aam Aadmi  Party . In the run up to the Delhi Assembly elections this newbie party promised many things, or rather over promised- but what arrested one's attention, interest and sympathy was the fact that they sounded sincere about looking into the malaise of corruption. So, while rooting for Mr Modi, chuckling over his one liners, looking forward to a government headed by him, one also kept track of the AAP. I definitely wanted AAP to do well in the Delhi elections- wanted them to get an encouraging response.

Just a few days before the elections I was walking with my friend, M, in the evening. We had exhausted  our usual topics ( maids, books, children, food...) and there was a momentary silence. I think it was to fill in that silence that we started speaking about the up coming elections. It turned out that M was also  a big fan of Arvind   Kejriwal and AAP and so we had a good time discussing politics before saying bye and returning home. Next morning I get a  call from M- she is all very excited and babbling incoherently. I finally am able to understand that AAP needs volunteers for election day duty, that M has already signed up and that , seeing how I was so enthusiastic about AAP, would I also like to volunteer? Since it had come down to putting my  money where my mouth was- I said yes. This happened in the morning of the eve of the assembly elections. In the evening I got a call that I was to report for 'duty' at six in the morning!

Six sharp we  ( M and I) were at the polling booth.  We hung around for half an hour , alongwith a posse of policemen, before the activity for the day began. It turned out that we were the polling agents for AAP - these agents are the guys who ensure, on behalf of their respective party, that no hanky panky occurs. After some time the poll agents for the Congress and the BJP treaded in- decent guys, infact all of us   knew each other well , and so there was an air of bonhomie from the start.

Well, polling passed off peacefully at our booth. Everything had been organized well- the election commission guys were professionals, well trained and no nonsense types. There was hardly any breathing time for us- believe me polling agents have their work cut out for them, but we enjoyed ourselves and felt very self righteous about 'doing our bit' for the fledgling party.

The best part ?  The polling booth was the booth for the  residents of our colony and the look on their faces on spotting M and me was to be seen to be believed- it was invariably, " what are you folks doing here"?