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Thursday, March 31, 2011

CRICKETTTTTT!

Yes, that is me shrieking in exasperation. And before you men out there dismiss it with a shrug and say, “Women...what do they know of sports,” let me tell you I was a great fan of cricket. Though not able to quote statistics at random, the interest in cricket was held fastidiously till the infamous match-fixing allegations in the famous year of the century, the Y2K. That’s when I lost faith in cricket and gave up watching it.

The world cup was therefore obviated from my radar as were all previous cricket matches including the supposedly very thrilling 20-20s. Yet, it was not to be so this year. I could not but submit abjectly as I found myself swathed, swamped and smothered by an all-pervasive delirium.

TV news channels are taken over by well-known Mademoiselles, thrusting mikes under people’s noses asking, “What do you think about tomorrow’s match?” “Do you think this match will really benefit the peace process in India-Pak relations?” Switch channels, and you have another equally popular Anchorji doing his best balancing between comments of Indian/Pakistani cricketers and audiences. Bites, bites and more in every channel. Perhaps the India and Pakistani cricketers are making more giving these bites than what they did during their playing careers back then. Even the equable DD news channels submit to this frenzy interviewing people chanting pro-India slogans.

At office, the mail exchanges stopped at 2:30 pm. A ticket assigned to a (guy) network administrator gets transferred to a lady associate. A coincidence? 95% of people are missing after lunch. They are licensed to absent themselves today as the office has giant screens set up to enhance the watching experience. Every few minutes, loud shrieks told us that one of the Indian batsmen had scored. I left office early and found that, thankfully, the trains were running half empty too! Who would want to leave the match and spend one hour traveling?!

At home, the family is stuck to the TV, forbidding me from touching the remote...my saas-bahus are relegated to repeats! :( When I could lay my hands on the remote for a few seconds during the break, I turned to the Telugu news channels. Unmindful of the sober news of the death of a very prominent actor, cricket updates were running gleefully in the scroll below.

Even when I was away in the kitchen, loud cheers and bursting crackers outside told me when a Pakistan wicket fell. Stony silences were indicative of a Pak batsman’s 4 or a 6.
The last over was crowned by the deafening sound of crackers accompanied by loud cheers from youngsters zooming past on their bikes.

Sanity prevails as the key match of this world cup is over!
Now you know why we Indian women cannot remain impervious to the world of cricket! :)

Friday, March 25, 2011

My companion for life

When you sit to write about a topic you are deeply passionate about, where do you begin? There seems to be so much to write about.Well, I talk about something that fascinates me...books! Just as a foodie salivates at the thought of eating, so does my mind at the idea of reading. The mind immediately conjures images of rows and rows of books of varied thickness, different writers, different genres of writing! My secret fantasy is to remain locked inside huge book stores like the Crossword, Odyssey etc. and lie sprawled amongst all those books...all mine and keep reading and reading. I don’t think I’d be tired of the activity ever.

Where did this journey begin? I have no recollection. The farthest that I can throw my mind back is to reading the Chandmamas when I must be 7-8 years of age . We kids not only read those interesting stories but also remembered the names of the artists who used to so painstakingly paint each of those pictures within. Gradually, that interest spread to comics. The Amar Chitra Kathas were devoured with gusto even before they lost their new smell. This time it was not only the artist but details like printer, publisher…all were memorized!

There is an interesting story about our reading the Amar Chitra Kathas. For our vacation, being in Rourkela, we had a long distance to travel to our native in AP. We had no other means of travel other than the Bokaro Express. The berths used to be made of wooden planks. 'Bedding' consisting of bed sheets for us all was one of the regular features of travel. We kids weren’t fazed by the hard berths or the long 24- hour travel because at the beginning of our journey, we were each given a rupee and asked to go and buy a book each. Three comic books amongst the three of us! Those books were read and quickly exchanged and exhausted before the end of the journey. A little later when I was in my teens, we had the Konark Express and imagine what! It had a built-in library where you could keep borrowing books throughout your journey. That sure made the travel tremendously exciting!

Well, the appetite was whetted and then there was the fact that we lived in the Steel Township and as any township is, we were a close group, socializing across languages and cultures. The movie halls numbered only 4 in all for a population of about 4 lakh! So one can imagine the interest that the people had for movies. Moreover movies were considered ‘bad'. Only selected movies, and that too only after passing parents' certification, were allowed to be watched. But I don’t recall ever longing to watch movies. Perhaps 2-3 movies in a year were all we watched. Well, I seem to digress...the point I am trying to make is that with no other source of entertainment (no TVs those days either) all that we kids were left with were those HUGE playgrounds to play on (quite enviable and unimaginable for the kids of metros these days) and books to read. Most of us were voracious readers and none of the township parents had dispensable income those days. The books were therefore preciously preserved and then exchanged for more with neighbors and friends.  And most of the time, they would find a way back to the owner though a little dog-eared. There were some fights over the condition of books, I remember, if returned torn.

The first few baby steps with the Amar Chitra kathas led to Archie’s, Tintin, Phantom and then my first novel—of course, Enid Blyton—the blue dragon, the green dragon, the yellow and then the red series indicating that that particular Enid Blyton was for the elder kids. Hardy Boys followed, and then Nancy drew. Perry Mason, Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Hailey, and who can forget the most important book for the teenage girl—the Mills & Boons series... we girls used to be hopelessly lost and come out starry-eyed after reading those Mills & Boons. The classics were not spared with the reading of Emily Bronte, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Somerset Maugham, Pearl.S.Buck and then later 'adult' books like Harold Robbins, Sidney Sheldon. The passion for reading was such that the newspaper that the samosa- seller used to wrap the samosas in wasn’t thrown away until we ensured that there really wasn’t anything worth reading on it.

In the later years, I read Taslima Nasrin, Kushwant Singh, John Grisham, Salman Rushdie and even Shobbaa De (!!!)

The books that have made an impact are:
1, The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy
2. Roots by Alex Hailey
3. The Good Earth by Pearl.S.Buck
4. The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum
5. Carpetbaggers By Harold Robbins

After marriage I was again in a small township with its own infrastructure and you guessed it… with its own well -equipped library! For someone as passionate about reading as I, that was a God-sent gift. My job required me to travel 3 kms and with no traffic, a 10 min drive. If I left home at 8 am, I was back by 4:30 pm. And that left me plenty of time to read…at least one novel a week.

In Hyderabad, I travel 60 kms each day to and from work taking around 4 1/2 hours to travel and very little time to read and enjoy books like I used to. And for the first time in my life I am distanced from a regular supply of books from a library. Human beings adapt and that’s what I did too.Books were replaced by online reading. All the classics are available online and that’s how I finished reading ALL short stories and novels written by my favorite author— the inimitable PG Wodehouse!

These days I have discovered the world of blogs and find many interesting blogs to read...each of them displaying such different genres of writing. The skewed laptop screen has replaced the book in bed and I curl up with it now reading all those blogs.The medium has changed but the habit stays on...hopefully never to be cured. :)

PS:I still have with me all those Amar Chitra Kathas  read in my childhood. :)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Recipe for 'khotta'

While returning from Bhubaneshwar by train, I met a Oriya lady who shared the recipe for 'khotta'. Though I did find many recipes for khotta on the web, what better than one from the horse's mouth?
Well, for those not conversant with  Orissa cuisine, khotta is a kind of chutney made of tomatoes and goes with khichdi.
Heat a teaspoon of oil. Splutter some mustard in it. Add one finely chopped onion. Fry and then add green chillies split long. Add 1/2 kg tomatoes sliced. Put some haldi, salt, sliced dates and put a lid to it and allow it to become soft. Now add sugar and water and boil till it becomes like a thick gravy-like paste.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Childhood-unaffected

I have lost count of the number of times I watched the video on Jonathan. The innocence of childhood combined with an uninhibited effervescence and the natural intuition of a child, all are remarkably captured in this one.




The second one is about Ethan. I am sure many of the corporate employees can pick up a lesson or two from  him on Assertiveness. The simple confidence that comes with conviction and passion...knowing what he wants to do and pursuing it with a zealous perseverance.

video



The third one is a very famous one on Lilly. Girls are so cuddly by nature and look at how she enjoys displaying  her knowledge of geography as she is sooooooo gently goaded on by her father's loving and cajoling voice.



I  don' t know whether these kids grow up and become great musicians or geographers.What is heart-warming though is the immense joy that they bring to all who watch them now.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Fiesta@Minerva Grand

There was some errand to run at the Patny center, and I thought why not throw in a lunch too?
Minerva Grand was tried and tested and therefore I had no two thoughts about a lunch there. The previous expereinces have all been a la carte' and though on the slightly exxpensive side, I never regretted eating there as the taste was always great.
What I was not prepared for, though, was that a good a la carte' may not convert to a good buffet as well, On calling them, I was told that the buffet lunch was priced at Rs. 342. My appetite was whetted thinking that if the price was similar to Barbecue Nation, then the food must be as awesome too. By the time I reached there, I was eagerly looking forward to the meal.
The first look at the meal showed me a HUGE array of desserts. The display was close to what one might find in a regular sweet shop in Hyderabad. My previous experience of the place made me ignore those warnings flashing inside me...
First, I was asked to serve myself. The expectation normally is that the soup and starters are served at the table and then you help yourself. When I mentioned the same, I was told that the soup will be brought to the table. But an eternal wait made me restless and I got up to serve myself as anyway the starters will not be brought to my table. Then I saw that there was only one vegetarian starter and one non-veg one. For vegetarians like me, that leaves me with just one option. I should perhaps have stopped and told myself to ignore this buffet but I persisted. One veg soup, tomato and one starter, veg Manchurian. I kept comparing to the enormous offer at BN. On the plus side, the tomato soup was good...unlike the gooey ketchupy thing served in some restaurants. No complaints about the starter either.
Though the beginning of the meal was frugal, I was hoping that the main course would do some justice to the price. On offer were two curries, a vankayi(brinjal) bhath, veg briyani, veg noodles and some gravy stuff to go with the noodles, dal, rasam. And that's all for the main course. The fare was just about ok..nothing really stood out and made you go for a second helping. The non vegetarian offer was equally frugal. So the non-vegetarian diners also might be disappointed.
These days, many of the restaurants distinguish themselves with the offer of good spread of starters and salads. Here, all you have in the name of salads was a combination of different vegetables either diced raw or par-boiled
The desserts were plenty though...the gulab jamun, rabdi mal pua, mousse', rasgulla, plum cake and ice cream. Again, anything special amongst all this? I am afraid, none.
Yep, the washrooms are ultra clean. the usher is polite. But the less said about the waiters, the better. There were very few tables occupied even at peak time of 2 pm. Only four tables were occupied but the waiters all hovered around one table which had some foreign visitors. Till they were there, all other diners were not paid much attention to.  Second, once the waiters observed that the stewards were gone, some of them quickly and surreptitiously grabbed some sweets and ran to the kitchen to savor them! Well that did leave a poor impression.
The saving grace was that the restaurant takes the Sudexo meal pass and at least I didn't actually see my hard cash go down the drain. A month back, I wrote about Taj Tristar's offer not being great but if asked to choose between the two, I will safely lay my bet on Taj Tristar.
The food gets a 2/5 & Ambience: 3.5./5
Will I visit again? Definitely no!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Ear Plugs, Gloves and other safety equipment

I guess we people are getting more and more sensitive mentally, emotionally and physically...or maybe fragile is the word. In my younger days I used to sleep like a log oblivious to the surrounding sounds...of my siblings' playing & running around, my mother cooking etc. But when I got introduced to the ear plugs a year ago I took to them immediately. I got the first set of foam ear plugs from the US, the cordless variety, which helped block noise while I slept in peace unmindful of the loud shouts of the morning vegetable hawkers. But when the supply of the ear plugs was exhausted I had to look for new ones and where in Hyderabad do I find them?

A Google search told me that we can get them at Ranigunj in Rupa enterprises. When I went there, I found to my delight that the entire lane is dedicated to the sale of safety equipment. I got the same foam ear plugs, a 3M product. I did not find the cordless variety and was skeptical that the connecting cord might irritate me falling across my face while sleeping but it it so light in weight that I do not feel its presence. I also discovered that the cord actually helped as it is easier to trace the earplugs when I grope for them during night. Another advantage I noticed for the ones available here is that one can actually clean the ear plugs with liquid soap and lo! they return to their original pristine form  and can be re-used with no qualms! When we tried the same with the US bought ones, they bloated to a gross shape and had to be thrown away for good.

Also rubber gloves of all sizes and thickness are found here. I use the gloves for washing purpose in the kitchen and to a woman's(my) delight, I found them in all bright colors...the blues, pinks and lemon yellows which help cheer me up while dealing with those drab chores.:)

Well, for those looking for these things, from the SP road, head straight on the MG road...a km or so till you reach the over-bridge. Just before that, the first left has the entire row of shops selling a wide range of these safety equipment. If they have a product as tiny and frail as the ear plugs, they also have the more robust  red cones used as road dividers.So there! Pick your choice.



Wednesday, March 2, 2011

On Blogging

It is 3 years since I started blogging...thanks to my son who encouraged me to express my thoughts. I was completely raw and clueless about what I should blog about. All I knew was that I needed something like an open diary where I could jot down my experiences of life. There were some interesting events, some shocking, some pleasant, some joyous...I kept recording all these. Sometimes there were some wonderful incidents which I wanted to write about but could not as there was a serious lack of time. But now I have determined that whatever be the time constraints , I will be more regular in my writing,  else there are huge gaps in the journal...as though life had paused in those moments. Life doesn't wait and there is no reason why my blog should. This is a promise to myself on this third anniversary of my blog.

Well, today I have come a long way from when I started as I have been reading blogs by many blog writers'. I understand that the styles vary...the genres vary...the content type varies. I have seen blogs with some half- hearted attempts...abandoned after a while; I have seen blogs with nearly 55 lakh page views!; I have seen blogs with very sincere and heartfelt messages...even if simple in content; I have seen blogs which have succumbed to the pressure and now blog for the sake of the blog followers; food blogs which also have some very faithful followers despite there being a large number of recipes available online.

Today, I feel happy at having kept up my blog..Of course, I would feel happier were the comments in proportion to the page visits. :)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

BSNL Billing Woes

In the month of October 2010, I attempted to pay my BSNL bill through its website (portal.bsnl.in). Normally my bill amount varies between 800 to 1000 rupees a month and now I saw a total of Rs.1600+ in one single bill showing that one month's payment was still due. Upon checking I found that the previous month's amount that I paid on the due date was not updated. The BSNL site has NO option to select/type the amount that you wish to pay. You are compelled to pay the sum mentioned there.

I went to the BSNL office to ask them to update the information so that I could pay the 900+ amount due for the month. Both people in charge in the Tarnaka BSNL office do not know how the BSNL website works! I demonstrated the same to them patiently. The lady who was in charge, Suvarchala, called up the person responsible for  the internet payments and asked him to rectify the amount showing online. He replied that he could not as the govt. employees are on strike! So, for some strange reason, whatever amount I had paid in the previous month (albeit on the last due date) remains un-updated for a month. I HAD to pay  my bill that day itself as it was the last day for paying for the bill generated for October. To further my misery, I was not carrying enough cash and offered to pay by card. The typical answer( I should have expected this) was that the machine that swipes the card is not working. Now, the only option left for me was to pay 1600+ amount for September ( which I already paid in the previous month) and that of October which was due this month. Suvarchala  assured me that if I pay the bills for both months, in November the amount paid in advance will be deducted and only the balance will reflect. Reluctantly, for no fault of mine, I paid double amount of September ( again) and that of October.

Is that the end of the story...what do you think? In the month of November, I again get a bill of 900+! Why? because the online payment has not been updated again (so, what's new?)..On calling Suvarchala, she checks and tells me that only 9 (nine) rupees is now due and not the 900+ reflected in the site. I, of course did not pay this time again as I obviously cannot choose the option of paying Rs.9...and guess what? The next month, in December 2010, I am fined an amount of 15 rupees towards late payment (actually non-payment of those 9 rupees)! At least, the January bill was ok and I could pay the right amount :)

This month (for the February bill), the website itself doesn't work. So what do I do? The safest thing and the only comprehensible thing as per BSNL requirement...haul myself to the BSNL office and pay them cash and get a hard copy of the receipt. I didn't carry my BSNL bill that is sent home every month. They have no qualms about  generating a duplicate bill (waste of paper). Second, waste of man power when you have hundreds of people queue up to pay their bill in person. Third, the physical receipt that is generated for every payment (waste of paper again).

All this wastage is acceptable for BSNL and not the easy and convenient online payment. Hail BSNL! Hail govt.!