Usually all children and even adults are full of fond expectations from you as the year draws to a close. In every household you are seen as a father/grand father figure. So it was, last year. For some reason you were unhappy with all human beings in every country. And you sent us a gift parcel of Corona virus to be spread far and wide around the time of your visit last year. It was a magic gift that one simply had to receive in the hands and through them into their mouth, nose or eyes with the option of directly absorbing from another person’s tiny drops of infection floated by a sneeze or cough.
The results have been disastrous for the rich and the poor alike. A world that was debating round the clock, injustices to the poor, racial oppression, intolerance of religious minorities, exploitation of the working class etc., suddenly woke up to a rude shock. All sections of societies rich or poor, economically and militarily weak or strong countries became recipients of your even handed gift crudely called Corona and officially christened COVID -19.
The all knowing adults who did not actually know your original roots, confidently bluffed their credulous kids for centuries that you descended from the North Pole every year to appear from our chimneys. Even I had tried to Google your address once only to obtain some vague answers without location maps. But since last year I am not alone in guessing that your address is a laboratory in Wuhan said to be situated in the largest Country of the world.
I am sure even you are not very proud of the gift you left behind last December although you can pat yourself on your back on your logistic ability to distribute your gift across the World before one could say Santa Claus. On second thought it was no big deal for you. You have done it for so many centuries year after year.
This year too you seem to have a trick or two in your bag. The entire world is watching with bated breath the outcome of a political event that will have a great impact on it. We the stupid humans fondly believe that the election or defeat of just one person to a palatial home of an all powerful and influential country, can change the fortunes of that country or the world. But that is our nature, to rejoice when dreaming and repent on waking up.
With folded hands I pray to you neither shower us with surprise gifts nor punish us as you did last year. Let us just be and find our way out of the present mess. I have no doubt that you will vehemently protest, as will millions of my fellow beings of whom many believe that the last year’s gift that put us on the mat, were not from you but a creature which rhyme with mats.
If not considered inappropriate may I also advise to visit us this year only if you must and with suitable precautions such as wearing masks and keeping social distance from all human beings. Please also leave a sticker on the gift packets that none should handle or open them without sanitising them first
Don’t forget to add my name to your gifts list. I am a man in my second childhood!
I love you Santa!
With warm regards
Its been a long time since I wrote a social letter. It has been Letters to the Editor or letters to organizations, banks etc. So I enjoyed this change in communication targets and have written to Mr.Santa Claus! The demand for such a communication was made by my better/bitter half egged on by my daughter Nitila. Both may be sending hints…but who is listening!!
The other bloggers who write on the same topic every Friday are Shackman, Conrad, Ramana, Sanjanaah, Gaelikka, Srinivas and Padmini.
Please do go over to their respective blogs to see what they say about Power.
In my 71 years of existence I have never ever written a letter to you. Well! In my childhood Santa was just a roly-poly, white bearded, grandpa like figure who appeared in Enid Blyton books and comics. We in South India did not have winters, snow, sleds or reindeers and chimneys for people to use as an entrance. We did not have parcels wrapped up in glossy paper and ribbon tied and really no concept of “presents”! Our parents just bought us stuff that we needed and it was given to us casually in paper bags. New clothes were more excitingly looked forward to and this was given for festivals like Deepavali—the festival of lights—and other Hindu festivals. I am an only daughter and my mother would make new clothes regularly and buy me a geegaw or two every year.
I don’t remember cutting a cake or blowing candles, neither do my brothers. The cake, candles, balloons happened only after our kids appeared on the scene and we fell into the western custom as it was dictated to by their peers. Santa, stockings, presents, Xmas trees and “Ho Ho Ho” came into our lives from shopping arcades and Hollywood movies. I think my kids were pragmatical and did not really believe in you Santa…but my little granddaughter Madhura did believe in you (somewhat if not wholly) till a couple of years ago…she is 11 now.
Okay…let’s get back to this demandment letter as it is supposed to be. I hear one has to have been “good” for Santa to visit me. Looking back on this year which has been for the most part, a restricting, confined existence, the chances to not be “good” have been few and far apart. In fact, all of us have gone out of our way to chalk up good deeds for attaining moksha or deliverance in case we are struck by the virus and have to go to our maker. At least I have been hoping that any accumulation of paapa or sins of the past may…they don’t..get mitigated by my angelic goodness of the past few months. I have thrown a temper tantrum occasionally, yelled at somebody who irritated me through telemarketing or repeated requests for something or the other. I have spoken ill of politicians and rapists. That I must confess and say Mea Culpa!!
Coming to my list of possible presents from you…I really don’t need anything.
I could have asked for books…but my Kindle is full of stuff that I have not read and my bookshelves too.
I could have asked for clothes or jewels…but where am I going to wear them..I still have unworn or barely worn stuff anyway!!
I could have asked for some gadget or the other, but I have been gifted a new phone by my daughter already. My kitchen is groaning with filled drawers…however I sometimes think that I may want an Instapot..but my pressure cookers are (please note the plural) doing fine..I cook bare minimum anyway.
Ah!! Yes!! I have been dreaming of a Roomba buzzing around under my furniture and picking up dirt and grime…but as of now I have a human Roomba who comes in every morning to give a desultory sweep and swab augmented by my occasional manic cleaning sprees. So, I think I will pass!! It is also God Awful expensive…maybe i will wait for the prices to fall…wouldn’t want you to rob a bank!
So, since you are a merchandise gifting guy….I think I will pass on the demandments. Now! If like Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother, you can wave a magic wand and make this virus go away…then I would write a letter daily to you until you could weave your spells and say Abrcadabra.
Till then…it is social distancing and masks…I hope you got yours ready for your visit to kids this season… Make sure your reindeers wear masks and your sled and gifts are all sanitised and that your elves wore gloves while making, packing the presents. I would also advise you to avoid chimneys and milk and cookies set out for you as they may be sources of infection…we wouldn’t want you to fall foul of Covid 19 and we have to say goodbye to you in 2020!
Take care! Stay safe. Bless you.
Your new entrant applicant
From my archives I found a piece written some years ago. This was an article..A wish list to Santa.. that I wrote for a newspaper’s New Year special supplement…it did not get published due to lack of space!!
My husband Raju Natarajan talks of a crystal ball into which he looks and sees the future. I look around, and see the optics of where life is going to take me and you.
My Vedanta teaches me to live in the now. It is not easy as the mind is a monkey and wanders trying to base current experiences on the past and projecting them into the future. We seem to be obsessed with goals and purpose of life. Zen treats you to enjoy the moment. In fact Osho, the grand master says, “Purpose is a man-created concept. Rivers are not flowing for any purpose, and the oceans are there not for any purpose. Except for man there is nothing like purpose anywhere else. Life simply is. Existence utterly is — it is not a means to some end; it is an end unto itself”. So, what will it be like in the future…in 5 years from now is to me in the laps of the Gods! Humans have this destructive gene in them that tries to destroy everything that is good in nature, in life, in relationships, in very existence. We fool ourselves that it is all for the better. I don’t know.
For me the BEST scenario for the future is returning to the land. I think people will abandon urban rat race and turn to the life of hoeing, ploughing, sowing and reaping and living off that good wholesome produce.
Everything else that comes into our lives is contaminated with the chemical evils of modern science that ignores everything natural and lives out of the lab. This is the worst scenario when humanity will be engulfed in water, choked by the air, starved by the land and taken over by heartless ogres of business and politics.
The Probable scenario has been beautifully sketched by my go-to family and friends. I just thought it would be nice to get a wider perspective of this stunningly imaginative topic proposed by Conrad.
Nitila Natarajan is my daughter. She is a banker in London and the pandemic has stopped her manic travelling that was her life till early this year. She says, “Allergies currently occupy top of mind! Environmental, food, air quality. Best – breakthrough in allergy medication. Worst – air quality deteriorates. Probable – some progress in symptom management, air quality remains same.
Chandra Padmanabhan is a cookbook writer and culinary specialist whose South Indian cookbooks are top bestsellers on Amazon! She has widely travelled all over the world and seen different people and civilizations. She says, “If 2020 was a Hula Hoop, let’s drop the year into the past. Let it go, for it was dreadful and instead look forward to a beautiful year—I am a cockeyed optimist! It will definitely be better than the year gone! In 5 years the World will be definitely better than today! I always believe ‘ If winter comes, can spring be far behind?”
My childhood friend and classmate Subha Deivanayagam’s husband was one of the leading pulmonologists of Chennai. She has seen the medical world close at hand. She runs a family school for the underprivileged children in Chennai. Her take is, “The world in 5 years – probably slightly better than today.
Much more awareness about climate change among the younger generation and their passionate involvement. The pandemic has shone the light on the wrong steps and decisions being taken by mankind. This may help in course correction”.
Rama Narayanaswamy came into my life three years ago and has been a bulwark…a go-to person for practically anything and everything. She has been a Headmistress of a leading school in Chennai. She has been a caregiver to her late husband who had a special kind of Parkinson’s Disease. She is highly spiritual and volunteers as a Councillor in a free hospital, Sathya Saibaba Super Speciality Hospital in Bangalore. She is also training teachers online to upgrade their skills. She lives alone here with both her sons away in Japan and USA. “I look forward to a more disciplined and spiritual world, 2020 having taught us a huge lesson. Frankly I can’t and don’t want negativity so no worst case scenario for me!”
Ramani Reddy is a cancer survivor who has seen some of the most difficult situations any woman could face in life and come out of it fighting hard to get and maintain her equilibrium. She manages all her financial and personal matters single-handedly. Both her children are in the USA and her twice a year visits to them is on hold right now. Her mother and grandfather were well known doctors. Her father is a nonagenarian and still keeps his hand in medicine. Her family members are in the medical field and she has seen the impact of the virus first hand in lives of doctors. She writes:
BEST ..Since the first Lockdown on March 22nd, I learnt the true meaning of “Thehraav” or remaining Calm! I observed that within the first 6 weeks itself that there are more varieties of birds in my trees and my foliage is cleaner and greener in the absence of pollution! I learnt that I can live with myself all alone, without another human being entering my home for 2 whole months! Most poignantly, I found some rare Treasures among my friends, who made it their mission to check on me, talk to me, share yummy treats, send me communications by email, whatsapp and other means of “Sandesa” (messages/news), just to reinforce the sentiment that they care for me!
5 years would probably see a healthy and rejuvenated Mother Earth! This is a Correction from The Powers that Be in the True Sense!
WORST..The Psychological Impact would be the first obvious damage followed by the Economic Downturn! People will buckle under the absence of human to human contact! I am a complete socially interactive human! I thrive on it! I can feel the palpable dejection setting in, at times quite impactfully! I try really hard to shake myself out of its vicelike grip!
Economic Meltdown is something we haven’t even addressed! We are busy trying to stay Alive! We have to brace ourselves to accept the inevitable!
PROBABLE..Everything is dependent on this Miracle that is being eagerly looked forward to..the vaccine for Covid 19!
Next, hopefully we as a Nation will learn to make ‘Swatccha Bharath’ (Clean India) an Anthem for Future Generations. Public hygiene continues to be a victim in our country!
We will most definitely treasure relationships more carefully!
Bond deeply with our elders, parents and children and friends!
Realise that acquisitions do not matter at all, when your Life’s breath is at the Mercy of an invisible Virus!!
Priorities undergo a Huge Correction!
A loud Shoutout to our PM, ‘Make healthcare more affordable and subsidised for the above 60’s population in our Nation’! India is the only country where Insurance companies baulk at the idea of having a plan for people above 60 years of age!
Mera Bharath is indeed not so Mahaan!! (A political manifesto to make India a great nation)
This is my take on this week’s Friday blog post topic suggested by Conrad. The other bloggers who write on the same topic every Friday are Shackman, Conrad, Ramana, Sanjanaah, Gaelikka, Srinivas and Raju.
Please do go over to their respective blogs to see what they say about what they see in the future.
My Best, Worst and Most Likely Case Predictions for the World in Five Years
In the corporate world prediction of the future is a routine matter at each stage of doing business. This Crystal ball gazing comes naturally at every decision point. The decision maker wants to know the depth of water before entering a pool. The bigger the business, the more risk averse it is. Risk management is the name of the game.
In the current Corona environment the focus of all thinking people is centred on what tomorrow holds for them and the world. The projection of all other hitherto, future critical risk factors like global warming, fuel reserves, pollution, political and economic stability, drug menace, terrorism etc. appear to have suddenly taken a back seat.
I look into my own Crystal ball and try to see, through the hazy mists of time and place, and try to guess what the world will be like in the next five years.
In the best case scenario the beast called Corona would be behind us, totally conquered and destroyed without any possibility of recurrence. The development of a vaccine for prevention and drugs for treatment will enable this. The number of cases will dip dramatically normal life will resume without any fear or risk of Corona within a year. By normal life one is talking about normal life expectancy. By then of course the personal financial resources would have taken a beating for about 50% of the world’s population due to a number of factors like permanent job losses, erosion of savings if any, medical expenses on self and family, ruined health due to permanent damage to life sustaining organs like lungs, heart, brain, kidneys, liver etc. as a consequence of Corona. There will also be a drastic reduction in the earnings of wage earners, liquidation of small businesses due to a huge drop in the demand of dispensable and the so called luxury items. A cautious mind-set will prevail. The present tendency to buy on the back of credit cards will diminish.
However the new scenario will also provide a mountain of opportunities to entrepreneurs to exploit the potential of digital technology and AI to lift the world again to normalcy. As a by-product the new WFH and online teaching and learning skills compulsorily imposed by Corona will substantially reduce travel pollution and increase all round efficiencies. This is the best case scenario.
The worst case scenario is the possibility that a large section of humanity may succumb to Corona or be crippled by it. The stated reasons are:
Till date the nature of the deadly virus and the way it spreads has not been fully understood despite intense efforts across the globe.
Every day a new theory is floated to be replaced by another theory.
The most alarming factor is the recurrence of corona in many countries after a few months.
There are indications that the level of antibodies tends to go down in a few months.
Although vaccines are under trial, there is no assurance about the date of their availability or affordability to the billions of humanity. The logistics are also simply mind boggling and the time span uncertain.
Doctors and their support staff are also dying of corona. If this continues, their strength will be depleted and victims will suffer even more.
Already the developers are salivating on the huge jackpot to be won. War has already broken out about waiver of patent regime. It is anybody’s guess whether the vast majority of poor people will be able to receive vaccine in the next 5 years.
Even assuming that everyone will be vaccinated in 3 to 5 years, there is no assurance that its effect, if at all, will last for an entire lifetime or whether there will be need to repeat the exercise again and again. Some vaccines currently under development need a second dose to be injected after an interval of 4 weeks, which will double the effort and the cost of vaccination.
The side effects of the vaccines is another cause for anxiety. Some adverse effects may be visible only after a gap of time which may be even 5 years or more.
Admittedly the Chinese economy has not suffered as much as other economies. Possibly only the Chinese have some clues to the secrets of Corona. But they have desisted from sharing the information with the rest of the world, in order to gain the first mover’s advantage. Given their huge population, their internal demand is the envy of the whole world and is sufficient to provide the basis for the economy of scale. They are establishing supremacy in defence, manufacturing, technology, AI, logistics and Human Resource ahead of even US in many fields. Their ability to be dominate the entire Asian and European continents is almost certain. At the present moment it does appear that they can successfully survive Corona without much damage, although their exports too will be hit if the world market collapses. But they are actively working to establish master-slave relationships with many countries. This does not auger well for prospective colonial victims. In the worst case scenario the future of all the countries except China looks extremely gloomy.
In the most likely probable scenario, the situation is likely to be in between, but tending more towards the worst case scenario. More sections of the world population will join the struggle for existence. Some kind of recovery may commence but it is unlikely to be dramatic. Contrary to the dream of most optimists the pre-corona times will be a thing of the past. GDP (although it is an over-rated measure of prosperity or happiness) growth of various countries will be limping back to its original level in about 8 to 10 years.
However there will be 1 or 2 ameliorating developments. Most governments will be compelled build better health infrastructure and concentrate on health education. They will be compelled to reign in the rogue drug industry as a top priority.
In many respects Corona has been a great leveller. It has attacked the rich and the poor alike. It is to be hoped that this will teach a lesson to humanity. Will it?
This is my take on this week’s Friday blog post topic suggested by Conrad. The other bloggers who write on the same topic every Friday are Shackman, Conrad, Ramana, Sanjanaah, Gaelikka, Srinivas and Padmini.
Please do go over to their respective blogs to see what they think what the next 5 years will be for the world.
Corona virus has knocked the day light out of me, if not everyone. By nature I am an out-door person. In retirement I have rarely spent a whole day staying at home. I usually go on errands to buy one thing at a time as PN suddenly declares emergency. If her requisitions dry up I would simply go for walk. Even that would be with a purpose. She would ask me to survey the market to scout for availability of options for a future home need.
Alas, this activity came to an abrupt stop on the fateful night when our beloved PM decided to save our country from an impending medical disaster and announced an innovative measure called the lock down, which meant “shutters down”.No one was allowed to venture out of their residence. Being residents of a senior community, the restrictions in our case were even more severe. No outsiders were allowed in, including house help for the next 3 weeks. All of us were inconvenienced terribly. However we accepted it in our own interest and looked forward to the D day of liberty.
Sadly it was not to be. We became the atypical caged birds even as the lockdown was extended repeatedly with more and more prescribed compliances, before being slightly relaxed a few weeks back. We are now perfect caged birds that have forgotten the freedom of free air and are keen to remain in the cage even if the door is opened. We stay in our apartment. If temporarily I have to go out, I am anxious to return at the earliest and shut myself in. If the door bell rings I am reluctant to open it as I fear that it is Corona that is threatening to fly in!
I walk early morning everyday to keep my blood sugar in check. We have long external corridors to facilitate this. In Corona times I gave up this facility as the traffic was heavy and also necessitating greeting everyone through my mask. I tried to walk up and down indoors from my kitchen to the open terrace. 17 rounds take 5 minutes. A count of 100 rounds meant half an hour. I congratulated myself for solving a complex space-time mathematical equation a la a more famous Scientist. Just then the lady downstairs came running with a rolling pin threatening me for disturbing her peace with my hammering steps. I then had to revert to external corridors to avoid a boundary dispute. Our aggressive Himalayan neighbour came to my mind. After all I can’t match our gutsy PM.
As we are in a seniors facility, we are entitled to a lot of conveniences even in normal time. The bank sends us the cash requested on Whatsapp and collects the cheque later. The Chemist delivers medicine at the door. Grocer, ditto. In Corona times these services have been strengthened. The only change is that I have to take delivery at the reception in the ground floor which is 3 levels down. We do have the elevator facility but for obvious reasons I prefer the stairway. You know how easy it is to go down. That is happening so swiftly in the last 6 months of Corona all over the world, be it demand, employment, sales, GDP, or any other economic metric. For the first time the world is discovering the ‘gravity’ (pun intended) of the situation.
Now, it is the climb back that seems daunting. In this situation I am going down and up 3 floors for collecting the supplies. The cafeteria is in fact situated 4 floors down in the basement. That trip is done at least twice a day. At 81 this is no joke. Yet the driving incentive is that I am assured it is good for my lungs and sugar level. More flights means lower sugar levels for a diabetic.
Moreover this lockdown is reskilling time in ways I never imagined. I am learning more kitchen chores to ease life for Padmini. I make my own tea and toasts. I wash the utensils once a day. I remove clothes from the washer and hang them to dry in the terrace, and quickly bring the stand in every time it threatens to rain which is half a dozen times in this rainy season in Bengaluru. This is not all. I am the designated door keeper and telephone attendant. I also make my bed if I feel like it. Never imagined that these simple looking activities could demand such a lot of skill and time.
My next project is up-skilling, like training myself to operate the gas burner, handle the kitchen knife and manage my finger chips. These are hazardous tasks and involve a higher degree of risk management.Now you know what my daily life is. Never a dull moment.
I don’t know whether I would ever return to my earlier exploratory street trips…..Ah well! I am not exactly regretting it
This is my take on this week’s Friday blog post topic suggested by Shackman.
The other bloggers who write on the same topic every Friday are Shackman, Conrad, Ramana, Sanjanaah, Gaelikka, Srinivas and Padmini.
Please do go over to their respective blogs to see what they say about Power.
Food always tastes better when you recollect childhood tastes. That is because food is inextricably linked with love, security and familial feeling. When you look back and remember the dishes cooked by your grandmom or if you have eaten meals in the rural ambience, dishes always had a special taste. When you painstakingly got the recipes and cooked the same dish, something was always missing, a subtle flavour that is not there in your dish. Why, you wonder, is that special texture or flavour missing from my dish? Simple! because you are not using the traditional cooking method or utensil that was used to make that dish.
My son was leaving for UCLA, USA. he had never even made a cup of tea for himself as his grandmothers were hovering around to fulfill all his culinary needs. He was going to fend for himself. So I prepared a spiral bound notebook with basic recipes and a poster with little packets of ingredients that I labelled with Tamil, Hindi and English names. This was to help him when he went shopping for Indian ingredients. I had also bought him a pressure cooker and demonstrated how to use it. He never had to use any of this as either his other Indian friends would cook up something for him or he would get his TamBram meal in our friend Mani and Karen’s house where he spent weekends. Karen is an excellent cook and would pack up enough food for him to last a week. Alas! When Mani dropped him iff in the Dorm, a clutch of Jai’s friends would be waiting eagerly and pounce on the food packets that would be devoured in a jiffy.
Sadly, we could not go for his graduation for family reasons. He finished is MS and then joined ILM in Marin County. He had an apartment in the Orange area of the Bay Area. I went alone to spend a month with him. Knowing that I would be cooking Indian meals I took another pressure cooker along with me. Inspecting Jai’s kitchen i found one half of the cooker that had accompanied him. WhenI asked him about this he said ,”Should there be a lid for this? I was wondering what to do with it”! The spiral bound cookbook too went AWOL!
Today, after having spent 19 years of married life with Vandana who is a superb cook, he has had to cook for his daughters and himself back in the US. Uttara is not very fond of daily cooking. She loves baking and makes a wonderful omelet. Madhura has learnt to knead the dough, roll the rotis and make scrambled eggs and masala omelet.
I don’t know if they will ever look at these recipes. Yet, after Sanjanah has asked my blogging group to write on this theme…I am recording these easy to make recipes!! If they still want to cook TamBram food…my cookbook is available for them.
Thayir saadamor Curd Rice
The iconic soul food for Tamizh people is curd rice!! It is the last course in any meal. It cools the stomach and system. When the stomach is upset, curd rice is prescribed. Buttermilk is served as a thirst quencher in the very hot terrain of South India.
The easiest dish a beginner can learn to prepare is Yoghurt rice.
rice 1 cup
water 2 cups
Optional: Grated carrots, cucumber. Pomegranate seeds and halved green grapes.
1. Wash and cook rice in water for 3 whistles and 1 more whistle on low flame. Cool and open and use the rice.
1. Grate carrots, cucumber (optional).
2. In a small saucepan add 1 teaspoon of oil. Crackle mustard, add hing, curry leavesand if you have a small piece (1/2” of grated ginger) and a chilli.
3. Add to rice. Pour half a cup of milk and mash. Then add ½ cup of yoghurt and mix well with ¼ teaspoon of salt.
4. Add grated vegetable, pomegranate seeds, grapes and mix it well.
5. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves.
Sambhar is an important first course gravy in the South Indian meal. Sambhar has an interesting story (with many deviations). Shahuji Bhonsle, second Maratha ruler of Thanjavur (reign 1684-1712) was expecting an important visitor to his palace. His cousin Sambhaji, the son of Maharaj Shivaji was coming to Thanjavur from Poona. A grand feast was under preparation but an importnat ingredient, kokum, that was used as a souring agent for the Maharashtrian amti or dhal was unavailable. The red pigeon pea that was an important gram in Tamil Nadu was used. Tamarind grows abundantly in this area and is used in many gravy dishes. The tweaking of the dhal was named after Sambhaji, a great cook himself.
Rice and sambhar is made into a one pot dish and is served all over the south from homes to railway stations, street vendors to restaurants and starred hotels.
To pressure cook
Basmati rice 1 cup
Toordhal ¼ cup (soak the dhal in one cup of water in the morning before you leave for work…otherwise soak it for 20 mins in hot water…helps to cook fast)
Water 4 cups—including water used to soak dhal/tamarind paste
Carrot, Peas, 1 cup—chopped/cubed (can use frozen mixed vegetable…avoid
Beans, Potato cabbage)
Turmeric powder – ¼ teaspoon
Sliced onion 1 large
Tomato 2 or 3
Curryleaves 3 or 4 leaves (optional)Tamarind paste 1 teaspoon
SambarPowder 1 teaspoon
Hing ¼ teaspoon (optional)
Salt 1 teaspoon
Oil + ghee 2 teaspoons
Mustard seeds 1 teaspoon
Corianderleaves – 2 tbsp (optional to garnish)
In a saucepan or in the pressure pan, pour the oil/ghee.
Add the mustard seeds and crackle. Add hing and curry leaves.
Add the onions and sauté till it becomes transparent.
Place in a pressure cooker the rice and soaked dhal along with sauted veggies, and onion and spices.
Add 4 cups of water nad cook for 2-3 whistles. Reduce the heat and cook for another whistle.
Let the cooker cool. Meanwhile add tamarind paste in a small saucepan with ½ cup of water to dissolve—or zap in micro for 2 minutes.
Open the cooker, add the cooked tamarind paste and add 2 teaspoons of ghee. Bring to boil. Add chopped coriander and eat hot.
Tasty Tip: You can buy coconut milk in any Asian grocery shop—it comes in tetrapacks like juice containers. You can open and store in fridge. Add a teaspoon of this when cooking with the tamarind…it gives a special flavour.
You can add half a teaspoon of garam masala and or coriander/dhania powder at the time of seasoning with mustard for extra flavour.
ONE POT KHICHDI
The khichdi is a national dish. It has many names according to the area it is served. The main staple can also differ from rice to broken wheat, millets, semolina and now quinoa as well.
This dish tastes great with akha/whole masoor or brown/black lentils. You can substitute rice with dhalia or broken wheat.
Rice 1 cup
Yellow moong dal 3 tablespoons
(split yellow gram)
Salt ½ teaspoon
Ghee 1 tablespoon
Cumin seeds/jeera 1 teaspoon
Pepper powder ¼ teaspoon
Hing ½ teaspoon
Curry leaves 1 teaspoon
1. Saute the moong dhal for a few minutes till it lets out its aroma.
2. Combine rice and moong dal with salt and 2½ cups of hot water and pressure cook for 3 whistles.|
3. Heat the ghee in a saucepan. Add cumin seeds and let it brown. Add curry leaves, pepper powder and asafoetida. When the spices open up and crackle, pour over the cooked khichdi and mix well.
4. Serve hot with a yoghurt raita.
Tasty tip: To make this khichdi into a one pot meal, add cubed carrots, beans, cauliflower florets, peas, capsicum etc. You can add a chopped onion to the seasoning, sauté and add it to the khichdi.
You can use tuvar dhal as well.
Just as in the west Chicken Soup is for the soul, rasam for a South Indian is a soup that offers succor and panacea for body and soul. It is the best cure for colds and sinus problems……and the blues! Rasam means liquid or the essence of goodness.
(For 2 mugs of rasam)
1 teaspoon of tamarind paste (can add 1/2 spoon more for sourness)
½ cup Cooked and mashed tuvar dhal/red gram/pigeon peas
1 Tomato large, chopped
1 teaspoon Sambhar/rasam powder
¼ teaspoon Turmeric powder
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Coriander leaves for garnishing
For the Seasoning:
1 teaspoon Ghee
½ teaspoon Mustard seeds
½ teaspoon Jeera/cumin seeds
½ teaspoon Asafoetida/Hing/Perungaayam powder
1 teaspoon Curry leaves, shredded
1/2 teaspoon each of coriander, cummin and pepper powders
1. Boil the tuvar dhal in a pressure cooker or till soft. Mash and keep aside.
2. Take a cup of water in a saucepan, add the chopped tomatoes, the tamarind paste, some curry leaves, sambar/rasam powder, turmeric powder and the salt.
3. Bring to boil and simmer on low fire for 5 minutes until the raw smell of the spice powder is gone. You may mash up the tomato as well.
4. Liquefy the cooked dhal with another cup of water. Add to the boiling gravy and bring to boil. You will see a yellow foam forming at the top. Taste for salt.
5. Remove from the flame and while hot, add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice. (Optional)
6. In a small saucepan, heat the ghee/oil. Splutter the mustard and jeera seeds, add the asafoetida and some more curry leaves.
7. Add the cumin, coriander and pepper powder…take care not to burn it. Top the rasam with this aromatic seasoning.
7. Serve hot with white rice and vegetables.
Tasty tip: Add a teaspoonful each of cumin and coriander powder and ¼ teaspoon of pepper powder to the seasoning ghee for extra flavour.
.PS: I cook tuvar dhal …maybe 2 cups/1/4 kg and keep in the fridge/freezer. I take out just enough for sambhar/dhal fry or rasam as I need
Pulao is a one pot rice dish made by cooking fragrant basmati rice with aromatic spices, herbs and even stock. Pulao or pilaf is easy to cook unlike the Biriyani. There are many kinds of pulaos made in India like vegetable pulao, Matar pulao, tawa pulao, Coconut milk pulao, zarda pulao, kashmiri pulao and Chicken and mutton pulao.
1 cup Basmati rice
1 teaspoon Jeera
1 onion Sliced
1 tbsp ginger/garlic paste
1 cup mixed vegetables
3 tbsp curds (dahi)
1 tsp garam masala powder
2 tbsp chopped coriander (dhania)
1 tsp oil/ghee
½ teaspoon salt
Chop cauliflower florets, french beans, carrots and green peas.
Wash the rice and keep aside.
Put 2 cups of water to boil.
Heat the ghee and oil in a pressure cooker. Add the jeera and let it splutter.
Add onion slices and sauté. Then add ginger and garlic paste and stir for a minute.
Then add the mixed vegetables and fry for a minute.
Finally, add the rice, curds, garam masala powder, coriander, 2 cups of hot water and salt and pressure cook for 2 whistles.
Allow the steam to escape before opening.
Tasty Tip: You can use any vegetable of your choice.
An importany accompaniment the number of chutney recipes can be mind boggling. This is a dish that I tweaked from an English marmalade and gave it a new avatar.
Blend to a paste the ginger and orange rind with the tamarind pulp with a 1/2 a cup of water.
• In a pan heat the oil and add in the mustard seeds and asafoetida.
• When the mustard splutters, add the finely grated ginger.
• Saute the blended orange ginger for 2 minutes.
.• Add the red chilly powder, salt, jaggery,and turmeric powder.
• Keep it in a low flame and let it come to a mass.
• This will take around 5 to 7 minutes.
• When the orange ginger paste gets completely cooked and the oil starts leaving the sides, switch off the flame.
• Allow this to completely cool and store it in a clean dry container.
• Use dry spoon when ever you take it for use.
Note: • 2-3 green chillies can be added while blending the orange and ginger.
Sweet Semolina Kesari
This is also a national dish that changes according to the area in which it is made. Kesari means saffron and the semolina is coloured to make it more attractive. The variations are many. This is a dish that the new bride cooks as her first dish in her new home.
Episode 3 Rava Kesari
1 cup sooji (rava or semolina)
1 cup milk and water
¼ teaspoon cardamom powder
2 tablespoon cashews
1 tablespoon raisins
1 cup sugar or add as required
1 tablespoon ghee or clarified butter
Heat ghee in a pan. Add cashews and saute for about a minute or till they turn golden in colour. Add raisins and saute till they plump up on a low flame.
Add sooji and fry continuously till it becomes brown/tan.
Add milk and quickly stir so that lumps do not form.
Add sugar. Stir and bring the mushy mixture on a slow flame till it thickens.
Lastly add cardamom powder.
Stir the halwa and switch off the flame.
Serve sooji hot or warm or refrigerate.
This is my take on this week’s Friday blog post topic suggested by Sanjanah.
The other bloggers who write on the same topic every Friday are Shackman, Conrad, Ramana, Sanjanaah, Gaelikka, Srinivas and Raju.
Please do go over to their respective blogs to see what’s cooking in their blogs.
Power is something human beings constantly seek to do things and to get something done.
When you are powerless you feel helpless. Constantly you have to seek someone else’s help even for trivial things. You become totally dependent.
The first kind of power everyone needs is the power of fitness and good health. Quite often this important power is taken for granted by those who are endowed with it. Only when they are ill or confined to bed for some reason, or lose the function of even a little finger they realise what has been snatched from them. The other day I got the creepy feeling that a tiny ant was trying to enter my right ear. This alarmed me. I had an urge to stop it by using my little finger. The other fingers were too big for the job. But unfortunately I had hurt my little finger badly earlier in the day by jamming it while closing an almirah. It was in a bandage and I was in pain. Hence I used my other little finger and thanked the Almighty for thoughtfully empowering me with two hands!
Power is the strength to do things or to get things done, by not only humans but by things created or exploited by them. When referring to the strength of lifting or moving, we measure it by a strange expression, ‘horse power’.
Humans are called powerful based on their personal influence or the position they occupy in the establishment. Personal power is the result of your own qualities and your past record of making things happen or swaying public opinion.
A typical example is Mahatma Gandhi. He was a Nobody who influenced the humongous population of a huge country to seek independence from a colonial regime. And this was in an era when there was no internet or even an aeroplane that could be used by ordinary human beings. To add to the communication barrier the oppressive regime resorted to strict censorship and routinely opened and read posted letters in the name of intelligence gathering. Gandhi was a bundle of contradictions and yet people trusted him. The frail man’s simple message miraculously reached their heart. His only powerful weapon was self denial. He stayed away from celebration and power when India attained independence and even advised the Congress leaders to wind up the party to make a fresh beginning! That is why we call him the Mahatma.
Self denial is indeed the most important source of personal power. Mao Tse Tung is now a highly criticised person even in China. Yet by himself following self denial and practising austerity, he influenced the Chinese thinking to lay the foundation of what is perhaps the most powerful country within a period of 75 years after independence. Given the huge population of China this is a great achievement indeed.
As opposed to personal power, positional power belongs to the seat of power. Any duly appointed person exercises it by virtue of his/her title. Such power is very temporary. That has unfortunately given rise to dynastic rule in India to perpetuate the rule by a family. This disease has spread to other politicians too. Those who illegitimately occupy the seat know that their days are numbered and often appoint themselves as rulers for life, only to be ousted and assassinated in line with their own declaration!
The nuclear power has been the contribution of the 20th century in the field of power and is seen as an important differentiator in the domain of power play in international politics.
Now to another concept of power. In mathematics there are two digits which are all-powerful. These are 0 and 1. Any number multiplied by 0 becomes zero. Zero has huge positional power when placed after any number. The value of the number gets multiplied 10 times every time you place a 0 after it. Any number raised to the ‘power’ of zero gets reduced to just 1. Any number divided by 0 rises to infinity. Likewise 1 represents uniqueness literally and figuratively. Multiplication value of 1 is zero! Any number raised to the power of 1 or divided by 1 remains unchanged. Zero and One have revolutionised human thinking and behaviour totally and irreversibly through the technique of binary arithmetic.
We cannot think of life without computers, cell phones or software industry. At the root of all this digital revolution are Zero and 1. Millions of jobs and livelihoods would have been impossible without the digital revolution! Such is the nature of power wielded by just Nothing and 1.
The latest developments in AI and ML covering learning, reasoning, problem-solving, perception, speech and facial recognition, annotation, language understanding autonomous decision making and execution has the potential to reduce the status of human beings to nothing are the founded on the 2 deadly digits. Remember that we are still only in the first generation of AI. Two more generations are still in the making and may take 2 decades more). By contrast every other power looks tiny and insignificant.
This is my take on this week’s Friday blog post topic suggested by Ramana. The other bloggers who write on the same topic every Friday are Shackman, Conrad, Ramana, Sanjanaah, Gaelikka, Srinivas and Padmini.
Please do go over to their respective blogs to see what they say about Power.
You only have control over the present, so live it to the fullest. Bhagavad Gita
These are troubled times. We have an equal number of members who can look out for tomorrows and others who are glad for their todays. I am looking forward to what our kiddo has to say about this.
In the Vedic and Buddhist traditions, a great deal of the philosophy is centred on the NOW. Meditation is an important part of the spiritual experiences in the oriental way of thinking and in their philosophy. Karma or to call it by its popular interpretation, Fate has an integral part of our thought processes.
We instinctively believe that whatever happens, happens for the best. Whatever happens in our lives is a result of the two bundles that we carry in our souls, Paapa and Punya…sins and merits. When we concentrate on our deeds, on our doing, we are in fact focussing on the NOW. Meditation helps us to….
Be present in the present as the present is the presence of the Supreme Presence.
Current day self-help teachers advise us to live in the present. We can give our best in the present because we are there totally in mind, body and soul. The past is important. It gives us the experience to mould our present reactions to a given situation. We must and should plan for the future. Whether we look at the past or expect from the future, in actual practice it is the present on which we have total control. Whatever action has to be taken is in the NOW.
However, this is not easy to do for the mind is a monkey. It will wander and not let us focus on the present. It requires willpower and that is not an easy thing to harness. So one of the things that our philosophy tells us to do is to spend our moments of uncertainty, doubt and vacillation with service. When we turn our focus to giving, to serving somebody else’s needs, the focus becomes NOW, the present.
Eckhart Tolle, has written a great deal about the Power of Now.
He says, “DO NOT BE CONCERNED WITH THE FRUIT OF YOUR ACTION — just give attention to the action itself. The fruit will come of its own accord”. This is a powerful spiritual practice that is also one of the basic tenets of the Gita.
Tolle says, be where you are. “Learn to look around without interpreting. See the light, shapes, colors, textures and be aware of the silent presence of each thing. Be aware of the space that allows everything to be”. We automatically tend to connect the dots when we are in any situation. We do not look at a rainbow and just look at it, absorbing its beauty, the wonder of it. We are programmed to look for the pot of the gold at the end of the rainbow. We want to see if there is just one, or 2 rainbows. We want to click the photograph for our eternity. We are afraid that a rainbow will never happen again. We want to time it, to call a few people to see it, WhatsApp it and ……..
One of the biggest obstacles to being fully present is our cultural, universal obsession with the idea of more and instant gratification. We want more food, more information, more news, more hits on Facebook, more money, more material things, more experiences, travel etc. etc. And we want all this just now. We are highly impressed by people who are informed, hyper-busy, who multi-task constantly and who are “achievers”! We say and admire the person saying s/he must be important! In today’s technological world, this instant gratification of ‘more’ is available non-stop …easily, instantaneously, simultaneously and in a never ending list of possibilities. Being busy all the time playing mind games, there is no time for doing things that will really improve our being qualitatively. With so much information, we are lost for what is truly relevant. So much stimulation has left us blasé and unfeeling. Multitasking is only making us a Jack of all trades, master of none.
Tolle says “When you surrender to what is and so become fully present, the past ceases to have any power. The realm of Being, which had been obscured by the mind, then opens up. Suddenly, a great stillness arises within you, an unfathomable sense of peace. And within that peace, there is great joy. And within that joy, there is love. And at the innermost core, there is the sacred, the immeasurable, That which cannot be named”.
When we train ourselves to realize deep within us that the present moment is all that I will ever have, our whole being changes and becomes still.
Yasmaannodvijate loko lokaannodvijate cha yah |
Harshhamarshhabhayodvegairmuk- to yah sa cha me priyah ||
“He, by whom the world is not agitated and whom the world cannot agitate, he who remains calm in times of joy, anger, fear and anxiety, is dear to me.” Says Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita. It is a great lesson to remain calm and composed, both in times of joy and in sorrow. This helps to maintain a sense of equanimity. When I accept this moment fully, then I gain ease in the here and now and with myself.
Here are two stories about living in the NOW
Arjuna and the Fish Eye
In the epic Mahabharata, the renowned archery master Dronacharya was training the five Pandava brothers in the art and skill of archery. Karna was also his tudent.. Karna was the stepbrother of the Pandavas, but nobody knew this. There was a keen rivalry between Karna and Arjuna.
One day, the five Pandava brothers and Karna were tested on their skill. Guru Drona tied a wooden painted fish high on a tree branch above a pool of water. He then asked each student to shoot the fish in the eye while looking at the image in the water below.
As each student came up to perform the feat, Guru Drona asked, “Son, what do you see?”
The oldest, Yudhisthira, answered, “The sky, the tree, the …,” and before he could finish, Drona stopped him mid sentence and asked the next student to take his place.
The next Pandava, Bhima answered, “The branch of the tree, the fish, the…,” and was rejected.
Karna, who was easily the best archer too failed in this test. Finally Arjuna, the ace-archer, was asked the same question. He immediately answered, “I see the eye of the fish.”
Guru Drona was delighted and said, “Shoot!” Arjuna’s arrow unwaveringly pierced right through the eye of the fish.
A Zen Story
After winning several archery contests, the young and rather boastful champion challenged a Zen master who was renowned for his skill as an archer. The young man demonstrated remarkable technical proficiency when he hit a distant bull’s eye on his first try, and then split that arrow with his second shot.
“There,” he said to the old man, “see if you can match that!”
Undisturbed, the master did not draw his bow, but rather motioned for the young archer to follow him up the mountain. Curious about the old man’s intentions, the champion followed him high into the mountain until they reached a deep chasm spanned by a rather flimsy and shaky log. Calmly stepping out onto the middle of the unsteady and certainly perilous bridge, the old master picked a faraway tree as a target, drew his bow, and fired a clean, direct hit.
“Now it is your turn,” he said as he gracefully stepped back onto the safe ground.
Staring with terror into the seemingly bottomless and beckoning abyss, the young man could not force himself to step out onto the log, no less shoot at a target.
“You have much skill with your bow,” the master said, sensing his challenger’s predicament, “but you have little skill with the mind that lets loose the shot.”
This is my take on this week’s Friday 5 On 1 blog topic that was suggested by Raju. Please do go over to the other bloggers to see how they are comfortable in their NOW.