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Posts from — March 2013

War of The Dogs

“Cry ‘Havoc,’ and let slip the dogs of war;
That this foul deed shall smell above the earth
With carrion men, groaning for burial.”

There is a war brewing and I’d like to make my stand.

***Warning: Long and slightly ranty road ahead.***

There are two types of people in the area I live in. The prodoggers wo like stray dogs and the other the despisers who despise them. The first is a minority but even in that small group there are varying degrees of passion towards stay dogs. Some will go all the way in a fight, while others feed and treat the dogs well but avoid confrontation with the despisers.

Now the despisers are a special people but even they have the varying degrees of passion. There are some who are willing to try and live together with the dogs, then there are those who think there should be only three dogs per lane and others who love pedigree dogs but hate mongrels so want a dog free zone.

For the sake of anonymity and saving my ass (and the despicers faces) from lawsuits I’m not going to use names. But let me tell you a little about these people.

Ms.L moved in about a year ago and passionately took up the doggy care. She lives down my street and feeds the dogs twice a day. She started with four and now feeds 8 to 10. She’s got so comfortable with them that the dogs allow her to medicate them and so she can keep them healthy. She has even vaccinated all of them. All the dogs she feeds have been neutered/spayed over time with the last one being done just a few days ago after she had weaned off her pups. Of course Ms.L also takes care of the pups and is actively looking for homes to adopt them.

Please Adopt Them!

She is fighting like crazy against the despisers who harass her quite a bit. The harassment is never one-on-one but rather a group of men who corner a women alone on the street. One time it even happened at night and some of the men were already down a few pegs. Drunk men and one woman – watta story!

The despisers is a big group that as a general rule avoids me, so I don’t know all of them or all that’s happening. But there is a Mr.B who is open to looking into ways to live and let live though doesn’t think there is much hope in convincing others about it and hence rather support them than fight them. Then there’s Mr.O, who in a short while will look quite ‘O’. He has been kicking and hitting the dogs for a couple of years now but expects the dogs to treat him well. Mr.C is a professor but his education falls short when it comes to dogs. He is adamant about the dogs being taken away, he just doesn’t want them here. Last but definitely not the least of our problems is Mr.M, who has 30 dalmatians in his home-town and loves them but hates mongrels. He believes as a race they should be exterminated. Sounds Nazi, no? And he’s a full politician, putting his finger into everything, screaming and calling the MLA at the drop of a hat.

Then there’s me. I have dogs of my own and love dogs – simple as that. When I moved to live here about 4 years ago, Che and I started feeding the dogs off and on. There was a dog with mange in the pack outside our apartment and one day we decided that she had to be caught and treated. I made a lot of calls but no one helped. Finally CUPA agreed to come and help as an exception though they don’t have jurisdiction here. We caught a couple of dogs but I can tell you it was a hell of a run around.

Then Che and I put together a plan; we started feeding regularly and spending time with the dogs. Over a couple of months we managed to get the dogs comfortable and put collars on them. At this point Mr.M made entry and helped us contact Sarvodaya (he switches sides like a politician too). We worked out a method to leash the dogs before the van came in and got a big batch of 5-6 dogs neutered in one go. That took care of most of the dogs at my end of the lane outside the apartment.

Blue and Jumpy who live outside our apartment

We continued feeding but over time we started to notice that the dogs were getting too friendly with us and hence assuming everyone who lived in the apartment were friendly too. This led to them getting hit and chased more, people complaining and dogs becoming dependent on us. After speaking to a couple of dog behaviourists we came to the conclusion that we had to get rid of the dependency and stop being over friendly to solve the problem.

We started feeding randomly (not every alternate day) when we got the mood. What happened was that after a few days the dogs went back to hunting rats and scavenging in the dustbins. This meant they weren’t around standing and waiting for food and spread out when hunting. It was easier for non-doggy people as they didn’t have to deal with a pack outside the gate. We also started distancing from the dogs. We stopped excessive play, we’d still give them a rub when going or coming in the gate but not too much. This over time led them to back away from people and their friendly overtures towards people stopped. This meant that they get hit with sticks and stones less as they stay away.

I love the dogs we have on our street and would do almost anything for them. Each one of the dogs here is amazing in behaviour and temperament (My Cuckoo’s mother lives on our street and I see so much of her in Cuckoo). But a balance has to be met when it comes to strays. We doggy eccentrics go overboard in caring for them and forget that nature has meant them to be a certain way. Hunting and scavenging is their way of life. If asked they most probably enjoy it so is it right for us to mollycoddle them or make them dependant on us. We have to help and support them but we shouldn’t be taking away their life skills or way of life on the street. They live full lives as strays, hunting, running and playing in the the little space they have after we have encroached with our fancy houses. We have to find a balance if we want to avoid human-dog conflict. That’s my stand – to find a balance where the humans are not in constant conflict with the dogs and the dogs are healthy and safe.

My Cuckoo

This of course puts me in a weird place. The doggy party thinks I’m switching sides and the despisers see me as the enemy 😀 So while I belong nowhere, I guess I’ll just continue doing what I can for the dogs as I watch the drama unfold.

And what a drama it is. Here’s the lowdown until now – Earlier I said Ms.L was being harassed so we did some searching and found that we could apply for Govt. Issued cards that authorise us to feed the dogs. We’ve sent in our applications and are currently waiting for the cards. Ms.L filed a harassment complaint at the local police station to keep them posted on the abuse. And we continued our feeding and neutering drive.

A couple of weeks back Mr.M made calls to the MLA and such and pressurised BBMP to take the dogs away. The only ones the Sarvodaya van managed to catch and take were three timid ones (one was a mother with her pups) who were petrified and hence didn’t run away when the van came. Ms.L then made some calls of her own and got to know that BBMP and Sarvodaya had no choice as some big shots had called them. However now that she had called they would observe the dogs for a few days and if they were not aggressive they would be sent back. At the end of the week the dogs were back and all were happy or at least all the of the non-despiser group. 🙂 The dogs and the prodoggers had won round one.

This led to an accidental chat I had with them a few days later on the street. Mr.B I think understood what I was saying however Mr.C refused to budge from his stand that the dogs had to go. After a lot of trying and explaining, I gave up. Didn’t look like they’d understand any time soon that the dogs were a part of our eco-system and can’t be removed just like that. So I told them the process of filing a proper complaint with BBMP and warned them that if they tried anything underhand I’d file a case against them.

Last weekend the colony seem to descend for a meeting as one (this is they only thing I’ve seen the people unite over in the last 5 years) and 200 people signed a petition that was submitted to the BBMP. I didn’t even know 200 families lived here, gawd where are all these people when we call for meetings over the garbage issue.

On Wednesday Mr.M along with two BBMP officials went to meet Ms.L. The officials told Ms.L that she should stop feeding the dogs but if she still wanted to feed them, she should feed them inside her compound and keep the dogs inside. They can’t be put back on the street. Now Ms.L has two dogs of her own, she can’t just adopt 8 dogs into her house. So, of course she told them she would do no such thing and if the dogs were a problem BBMP should take them away to the shelter. The BBMP guys baulked at the suggestion and promptly told her that they can’t do that. However they would send a van the next day to pick up the mother and get her neutered.

Ms.L in the heat of the moment forgot to take names and designations of the BBMP officials but were they really from BBMP and the Canine Care division. I have my doubts because they didn’t know anything about dogs, the Govt. Issued feeding cards and other stuff. Wonder who Mr.M pressurised to get someone from BBMP to turn up.

Anyway the van came yesterday morning and picked up the mother for neutering. In the evening they were back with the mother and a pup we had caught and sent earlier who had mange but had been treated and was now healthy. I was sceptical about the pup getting back as it’s been over three months since she’s been away and when we sent her she was just over 3 months old. But good news, she has settled in just fine. A few skirmishes still but mostly all good though it’ll take a while I guess before she gets all friendly with us.

The despiser group as always are late to react and only came out of their homes as the van was leaving. But I must give credit for their show of fitness in times of their need. They chased the van down and caught up with it a street away. Ms.L and I went to investigate just in case the driver needed help. He had no need for our help; he must deal with people like this all the time. He listened to Mr.M and Mr.O scream and shout about how they weren’t informed that the van was coming, etc. The van driver though calmly asked for their numbers, took them down and told Mr.M and Mr.O that he’d “inform” them next time and left.

The crowd of women onlookers(grudgingly: and a few men) and Mr.M and Mr.O formed a tight circle to discuss further plan of action while Ms.L and I slowly ambled back home. This is the way things stand as of now. No clue on what they’ll do next but looks like round two goes to the prodoggers too – not only did they not take any dogs away but rather brought one back to add to our numbers 😀

Like I said this is a fultu fun drama and I’m looking forward to the next chapter. Will keep you posted.

Have you got such drama in your area? Any suggestions for us on our next steps? Please do leave a comment if you support stay dogs. If not, do comment on that too. I’d love to hear your reasons for their extermination.

March 29, 2013   2 Comments

Book Review: Shiva Trilogy by Amish Tripathy

Title: Shiva Trilogy (The Immortals of Meluha, The Secret of the Nagas, The Oath of the Vayuputras)
Author: Amish Tripathy
Paperback: 1. 436 pages, 2. 396 pages, 3. 565 pages
Publisher: Westland (April 1st 2010, August 12th 2011, February 27th 2013)
Genre: Indian Mythology
Read: Paperback
Stars: ****/5
Buy On:
The Immortals of Meluha:Amazon | FlipKart
The Secrets of the Nagas: Amazon | FlipKart
The Oath of the Vayuputras: Amazon | FlipKart
Summary: (Goodreads)

1900 BC. In what modern Indians mistakenly call the Indus Valley Civilisation. The inhabitants of that period called it the land of Meluha a near perfect empire created many centuries earlier by Lord Ram, one of the greatest monarchs that ever lived. This once proud empire and its Suryavanshi rulers face severe perils.
The only hope for the Suryavanshis is an ancient legend: When evil reaches epic proportions, when all seems lost, when it appears that your enemies have triumphed, a hero will emerge.
Is the rough-hewn Tibetan immigrant Shiva, really that hero? And does he want to be that hero at all? Drawn suddenly to his destiny, by duty as well as by love, will Shiva lead the Suryavanshi vengeance and destroy evil?
Today, He is a God.
4000 years ago, He was just a man.
In a journey that will take him across the length and breadth of ancient India, Shiva searches for the truth in a land of deadly mysteries only to find that nothing is what it seems.
Only A God Can Stop It.
Shiva is gathering his forces. He reaches the Naga capital, Panchavati, and Evil is finally revealed. The Neelkanth prepares for a holy war against his true enemy, a man whose name instils dread in the fiercest of warriors.
Will he succeed? And what will be the real cost of battling Evil? To India? And to Shiva’s soul?

My Review:

Note: Thanks to the guys at MySmartPrice for offering me “The Oath of the Vayuputras” to review 🙂

Cover: All three covers have been beautifully designed with vibrant colours and textures.

Paper and font: The font was fine but I felt the paper and print quality kept varying through the books. I may have got a bad bind but my copy of the first book was a pain to hold up and read with one hand.

Readability, language: : Not a lot of big words that I didn’t already know, the books are quick reads even though they are big.

Why did I choose this book: I’ve been hearing a lot about the series and with my interest in mythology, there’s no way I’d have missed this series.

I have waited a long time to read this series. Yeah yeah I know book 1 and 2 were available but after seeing Che’s reaction to book 1, I decided to wait until 3 came out. I didn’t want to wait between books. That of course meant I heard a lot of opinions on the books and that did leave me a bit worried. Most people said the first book was good but two was a drag and three was quite a drag. With all that I heard I wondered if I would get to book three or would I give up midway.

Amish makes the premise that Shiva is a man and that there are no magical gods when writing his trilogy. The story starts off with Shiva coming to the plains from the banks of the Mansarovar to fulfil his destiny of ridding the world of evil. On drinking somras, the elixir of those times, his throat turns blue and people bow to the Neelkanth who has come to save them. Only the Neelkanth is reluctant to believe he is the saviour of the people and there starts the story of Shiva, who from a mere man becomes the Mahadev.

Evil is not a person, it is an idea or belief. This is something Shiva has to learn on his journey through the three books.

In “The Immortals of Meluha” Shiva meets the Meluhans who have found immortality. They are Suryavanshis who follow the path set out by Ram. They have order and discipline in their lives and believe in the betterment of the community rather than that of the individual. He fights the Chandravanshis who are the descendants of Ram too and have different beliefs and lifestyles to the Suryavanshis only to realise they aren’t evil.

This realisation leads him to the Nagas in “The Secret of the Nagas”. It’s in meeting them that he learns of Kali, the other half of his wife Sati and has to make peace with Ganesh, the other son of Sati. It is in this book that Karthik makes his appearance growing up faster than a normal boy. The Nagas take him to their city – Panchvati where Shiva again has to confront and revise his idea and understanding of evil.


“The Oath of the Vayuputras” is about Shiva’s confrontation with evil and his fighting the righteous fight. He teams up with the Vasudevs who are the guides of the Rudra avatar to take on evil and meets and understands the previous Mahadev Rudra through his tribe the Vayuputras who are sworn to support the Neelkanth in his war against evil. The book isn’t about whether Shiva will win, that’s a given but rather about how a man becomes so loveable that we still love, fear and worship him to this day.

The characters of the books are the ones we all grew up hearing about in our grandma’s stories – Shiva, Sati, Kali, Ganesh, Karthik…, they are all there in human believable form. Not gods but human beings like you and me who are flawed and yet loved. And there were some I’d never heard of before like Badhra, Shiva’s best friend, Krittika, Sati best friend, Parvateshwar the amy general after whom Sati is also called Parvati, among others. The characters are well sketched and memorable; each one of them.

Set in the Sapt Sindu or land of seven rivers the trilogy stays largely towards North India. Guess Amish’s next series will be on the South 😀 That said he has done a great job describing the terrain through the book. In my minds eye it was a movie playing out as I read the book. I could imagine the cities, the rivers and the wars so vividly through the book.

I enjoyed the trilogy and was hooked until the end. Didn’t like the last couple of lines though 😛 On one count I agree with all other reviews that the first book had pace but two and three are a drag. There is a lot of description rather than action. But I quite enjoyed that. One of the best parts of the book for me was the scientific reasoning behind all that magical technology of those times. It was interesting to read about the magic behind the divya astras, the bhramastra, and such (Amish has definitely done his research). I had seen too much magic in the Ramayan and Mahabharata on TV growing up.

I love stories and mythology is nothing but that, add to this the number of Gods we have in Hinduism and the two Epics and you have never ending stories. How can I not love Indian mythology. This trilogy is great if you like Indian mythology; well written it is an enjoyable read but be warned it does get draggy as you progress through the books.

Buy On:
The Immortals of Meluha:Amazon | FlipKart
The Secrets of the Nagas: Amazon | FlipKart
The Oath of the Vayuputras: Amazon | FlipKart

March 28, 2013   5 Comments

How to Make Lemon (Lime Juice) Rice and Coconut Chutney

*** I am following Meenakshi Ammal’s recipes, however I’m using shortcuts like the cooker, etc. and adding some of my own twist to the recipes. What you see here are my recipes inspired by M. Ammal’s and in no way is Ms. Ammal responsible for its outcome should you choose to try it. Though she was responsible for the brilliant outcome of my dish, so, a big thank you Ms. Ammal for writing Samaithu Par.***

It’s been a while now since I cooked from the Samaithu Par. The last couple of weeks I’ve been cooking a lot of Mom’s recipes which being curries aren’t as simple as South Indian cooking so I’m still working on mastering the proportions. I’ll share the recipes here as soon as I have that down to pat.

Anyway as I was saying I haven’t tried something from the Samaithu Par in a while so I thought I better get back to it else I’ll never finish all the recipes. I had planned to make another dish along with the lemon rice but we impulsively decided to go watch Life of Pi in IMAX 3D, and so I stuck to a simple chutney with the rice. The chutney and rice made for a good combo and we didn’t really miss the dish I didn’t make. 😀 

Both the the lemon rice and chutney were very easy to make and didn’t take much time either after the rice had been made. Here’s the recipe I followed and note it’s a bit different from the book.

Lemon Rice

Ingredients –
(Serves 2)
1 cup rice
2tbsp of lime juice
1 tbsp bengal gram dal
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 tsp roasted chick peas
4 red chillies split into two
4 green chillies
1/4 tsp asafoetida
A few curry leaves
 A handful of finely chopped coriander
1/4 tsp turmeric
2 tbsp ghee
2 tbsp gingelly oil
Salt to taste

Method –
1. Wash and cook the rice with 1 and 3/4 cup water and a little salt.

2. Cool the rice, add 1 tbsp of ghee and separate the grains so there are no lumps. 

3. In a cup mix the lime juice, a little salt and turmeric.

4. Heat the oil and 1 tbsp of ghee in a wok.

5. To hot oil add the mustard, chick peas, bengal gram, red chillies, green chillies, curry leaves, and asafoetida. 

6. When the mustard starts to splutter and the bengal gram and chick peas are golden brown start adding rice.

7. Add the rice a little at a time while mixing continously so that the rice and seasoning is mixed homogeneously. 

8. Add half the lime juice to this homogeneous mixture and mix well before adding the second part.

9. Check for salt and add more if required.

10. Sprinkle the finely chopped coriander and serve. 

Green Coconut Chutney

Ingredients –
150gms coconut
Fist full of coriander
2 green chillies
1/2 tsp black salt
Salt to taste
3 dry red chillies split into two
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp bengal gram dal
A few curry leaves
1/4 tsp asafoetida
2 tsp oil

Method –
1. Grind the coconut, green chillies, coriander and black salt into a fine paste with just as much water as required. Add salt to taste.

2. Heat the oil and add the red chillies, mustard, bengal gram, curry leaves and asafoetida.

3. When the mustard starts to splutter and the bengal gram is golden brown, remove from flame and add to the ground coconut mix.

4. Mix it well and serve.

Note: If you don’t want a lot of crispness, avoid adding the chick peas and reduce quantity of bengal gram.

Other than chutney or pickle is there anything else that goes well with lemon rice? Should I try something else next time?

March 26, 2013   No Comments

About This and That and Here and There

This week has been a fun week but has been busy too. We went to see a friend at the farm he staying at and had such a good time that we decided to take the dogs for a day to have a picnic. No prizes for guessing whether the dogs had fun. They went all out running, sniffing, playing and marking areas 😀 They played so much that they came back a slept most of that evening and the next day!

Cuckoo being cuckoo of course tasted all plants in sight so next morning we found her broken out in rashes. It was nothing a good bath and some antihistamines couldn’t sort out, so now she’s all Tide white and cuddly cute.

I’ve been trying out the neem and apple cider vinegar mix on the dogs to keep ticks and fleas away and it seem to be working. I had sprayed the dogs down well before we went to the farm and they haven’t picked up anything. So, either the spray worked or the farm and dogs there didn’t have any fleas or ticks.

After two days out on the farm we were all tired, so yesterday was rest day with us lazing around catching up with friends. We watched a movie too! ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ was just the right movie for yesterday. When I got to know it had Emma Watson in it, I was looking forward to see what I thought of her as not being ‘Hermione’ and I wasn’t disappointed. She is a good actress and the movie is definitely a must watch (not just because of her)! The movie is based on a book of the same name by Stephen Chbosky, should add this book to my to-read list for sure…

Other than that its life as usual 😀 Oh yeah, the one thing I haven’t talked about on the blog (I wanted to avoid it getting jinxed :P) was my attempt at growing a kitchen garden. Since the first few plants I bought were doing well I figured I should try and set up a mini garden. My first attempt at germinating chillies, tomatoes and the like was a disaster. Most plants died and just a couple survived. But I’ve just started out again trying to germinate a new batch and things seem to be looking up 🙂 A big thanks is due to the guys at Garden Guru, a store near home that is run by three guys trying to promote home gardening. They have been helpful guides, answering my many questions and encouraging me to not give up. Do check out the store – Garden Guru – and stop by if you need help 🙂 And you can follow my journey on Greening My Fingers here.

I also spent a lot of time on Feedly yesterday. I’ve been a bit shaken after Google’s news of removing Google Reader. All my feeds are on GR and I was quite upset about how I would move them away without losing out on my RSS feeds. Google seems to be making these crazy announcements, a while back they said they would remove FeedBurner too, and I’m yet to find a replacement. Hrrummph… Wish Google wouldn’t make such crazy-ass announcements. That said maybe it’s a good thing, since all such things will over time reduce my dependency on Google and that in the long run saves me for the dangers of monopoly.

Now Feedly is an excellent app to use when following and reading blogs. It does a good job of layout and also integrates with my various social media channels. That means I can post or mark to read later as I browse. Feedly also works on all platforms and syncs beautifully across all of them. So, I can move between devices without skipping a beat. As of now they are still depended on Google Reader to save RSS feeds but are actively working towards setting something up before GR shuts down so users can move to Feedly from GR seamlessly. This is one move I’m glad to make and looking forward to it too! (Down Google, Bad Boy!)

Ok that was a long update post. Onto some interesting articles I came across yesterday…

Jeff Bullas blog has an infographic on the 9 Reasons Why Facebook needs a ‘I Don’t Care’ Button that I associated with and laughed along as I saw them. There are just so many times I’ve thought ‘who care’s’ when scrolling on Facebook.

For all readers out there, Book Riot has 6 Bookish Cartoons you are sure to enjoy. I did!

Facebook has announced Lookalike Audiences, which sounds great from a marketers perspective as it gives more targeting control but I’m not so sure about how I feel about my facebook profile information becoming a statistic in their data. Also have to wait and see just how well the targeting works considering the spam audiences I’ve seen while promoting posts on pages.

In other Social Media News Pinterest is rolling out a new look to improve user experience. This is something I’m looking to get my hands on, but not sure if it’ll roll out for apps simultaneously. Hope I don’t have to wait to see it on the iPad.

Also found a new cool blog All About Ami through a post on Chris’s blog about a Chinese New Year Snake she made with crochet. All About Ami has some lovely ideas and designs that I’d like to crochet sometime soon 🙂

Wow! That’s a long post! Word says 931 words until now. So I’m gonna wind up here. If you’ve read until now, thank you 🙂 if, you haven’t then guess it doesn’t matter coz you’re not gonna read it anyway 😀

See ya laters…

March 21, 2013   4 Comments

Book Review: The Other Side of the Table by Madhumita Mukherjee

Title: The Other Side of the Table
Author: Madhumita Mukherjee
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Fingerprint (January 18th 2013)
Genre: Epistolary
Read: Paperback
Stars: **/5
Buy On: Amazon | FlipKart
Summary: (Goodreads)
Circa 1990.
A world drawn and woven with words.
A bond punctuated by absence and distance…
Two continents. Two cities. Two people.
And letters. Hundreds of them.
Over years. Across oceans. Between hearts.
Between Abhi, who is training to be a neurosurgeon in London, and Uma, who is just stepping into the world of medicine in Kolkata.
As they ink their emotions onto paper, their lives get chronicled in this subtly nuanced conversation through letters … letters about dreams, desires, heartbreaks, and longings… about a proverbial good life falling apart, about a failed marriage, a visceral loss, and about a dream that threatens social expectations…
Letters that talk. And don’t. Letters about this and that. Letters about everything…
Letters with a story you would never expect.

My Review:

Note: Thanks to the guys at MySmartPrice for offering me this book to review 🙂

Cover: Simple and soothing on the eyes.

Paper and font: White paper and smelt like a text book! 🙁

Readability, language: : The language was simple but the font and print could have been much better.

Why did I choose this book: The blurb had sounded interesting…

Some books you wonder why you read but then are happy you read it. This was one of those. When I picked up the book I had very different expectations of it. The blurb had set me up to expect some action, drama or mystery and I kept looking for it all through the book, didn’t find it at all and that did have me disappointed. That said the story kept me engaged through the book.

The Other Side of the Table is a collection of letters between Abhi in London who is training to be a neurosurgeon and Uma who is studying to be a doctor in Kolkata. Living in different worlds they have very different experiences in the field of medicine. They share their experiences, joys, disappointments, challenges and more through letters as the years roll by.

Uma as a girl trying to follow her dream in India can be related to easily. The challenges she faces at home, in society and at work are things most women experience in India at sometime or another. Her fighting spirit is something I associated with and felt for as she fought for what she wanted.

Abhi on the other hand is recognisable as the guy who leaves India with nothing to come back to but still misses his birth country and makes up the deficit by having more Indian friends around him. When he has trouble they help him out the most, though Abhi does have one non-Indian friend who also helps, so maybe he has mixed into new culture a fair bit.

Taking place in two countries far away from each other, the setting is perfect as a comparison between the lives of doctors and the study of medicine in both countries. The things that are common and so different too. Mukherjee makes all the appropriate references to seasons, festivals and holidays in both countries.

The book is written as letters and that helps overall but the letters were a bit dry and weirdly formal. I also think there were too many happy new years…

I enjoyed the medicine and doctor speak in the book. The peek into the lives of medical students and doctors was revealing enough to keep me reading the entire book. However I think for someone who isn’t very into medicine this might get a bit boring.

Given an option I would have added more drama and maybe even a sinister twist to the story. This was too tame and slow.

If you are looking for a slow, simple, not very complicated medical read, this book would be good as a one time read…

Buy On: Amazon | FlipKart

March 19, 2013   2 Comments

Have you Hugged or Been Hugged Today?

hug me

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything other than book reviews and my culinary experiences so I thought it was time I wrote about something else. This one’s been on my list a long time…

As a person I been prone to palpitations and mild panic attacks for as long as I can remember. Of course I’m not a doctor so it actually may not be palpitations or panic attacks. What I feel when these episodes happen though is a wildly beating heart, breathlessness, sweating and extreme discomfort. It’s most likely to happen just after I’ve had an encounter with a cockroach. I am terrified of these creatures, no other creepy crawly does this to me. 

Back when I lived with Mom and Dad, they came to the rescue and helped me regain my composure with lots of hugs and love. Then when I lived alone for a few years a shot of brandy or rum did the trick. All friends know just how petrified I am of roaches, and they usually jump in to help but they can’t always be there and over the years I’ve learned to deal with roaches the best I can but the after effects haven’t gone away and I try to deal with them too.

These episodes don’t just happen because of roaches, sometimes it’s when I’m really hurt or upset. Controlling emotions becomes tough, the tears start and then the breathlessness et all. Over the years I’ve noticed that hugs helped, they calmed me down faster and I got back control quicker, but I never really knew that there was a medical reason to this. Recently while watching an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, one of the doctors explained it in these words as she was getting a much needed squeeze – “Cows are squeezed tightly in a chute before they are slaughtered. The chute applies intense pressure resulting in decreased pluse rate, metabolic rate and muscle tone. It calms them down. Hugging relaxes the sympathetic nervous system, slows the heart, calms you down.”

That got me reading, I wanted to know more about it and if there were other ways to replicate a hug without needing another human being. 

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say – “A hug is a near universal form of physical intimacy, in which two people put their arms around the neck, back, or waist of one another and hold each other closely. Hugging has been proven to have health benefits. One study has shown that hugs increase levels of oxytocin, and reduce blood pressure.’

Reading further I found that Hugging or being hugged by someone you trust releases the hormone oxytocin into the bloodstream. Oxytocin helps reduce stress and anxiety, lowers blood pressure and is even supposed to improve memory! The hormone oxytocin, produced by the pituitary gland is known to increase bonding, and closeness between people. An excellent example are mothers who produce oxytocin during childbirth and breastfeeding as it increases their bond with the child. Of course hugging only works between people who trust each other, and mutually want to hug; with strangers or people who make you uncomfortable the stress hormone cortisone is produced, and hence the positive effects of a hug are lost.

Recently at CeBIT, a high-tech fair in Germany a Singapore based firm unveiled their ‘cuddle jacket’. The jacket simulates the feeling of a cuddle by inflating small air bubbles in the normal looking fleece. The jacket can be controlled by a smartphone and the type of cuddle can varied between light pressure and a bear hug. Trials have shown it is immensely helpful with children who have learning disabilities. An autistic child who gets distraught by loud noises and new faces can be calmed down faster with the soothing effects of the jacket. James Teh the founder of the company hopes to make the jacket more widely available soon not only for children with learning disabilities but also adults who want a good hug from time to time. He definitely has one buyer in me. 🙂 

Marcus Julian Felicetti a Yoga Therapist lists out 10 Reasons for why we need more than 8 hugs everyday. He says hugs build trust and a sense of safely. They remove feelings of loneliness, isolation, and anger and help with open and honest communication. Extended hugs elevate mood and create happiness by lifting serotonin levels.  Hugs strengthen the immune system, boost self-esteem, and relax muscles. They teach us how to give and receive. In his words ‘Hugging therapy is definitely a powerful way of healing.”  

On December 1, 2004 Juan Mann started what we all know as the Free Hugs Campaign.  He stood in the PittStreet Mall in central Sydney with a board that read Free Hugs. He had gone though some difficult times and was rather depressed and lonely. A hug from a stranger at a party had made him feel enormously better and he wanted to pass on the feeling. Initially people were distrustful and he stood there for 15 minutes before an elderly lady walked up to him for a hug. Gradually people started to come up to him for free hugs. Today the first Saturday following June 30 each year is celebrated as Free Hugs Day in remembrance of the first day Juan offered free hugs in Sydney in 2004. International Free Hugs Month is celebrated on the first Saturday of July and continues until August first.  

Apparently hugs aren’t the only things that make us feel better, a good cuddle with the one you love increases the bond in your relationship and increases your chances of sticking it out together. Then there are also the benefits of kisses and sex 😀

So, have you hugged someone today?

Photo Credit: Jo Marshall, on Flickr

March 14, 2013   No Comments

Book Review: My Husband and Other Animals by Janaki Lenin

Title: My Husband and Other Animals
Author: Janaki Lenin
Paperback: 296 pages
Publisher: Westland(2012)
Genre: Biography (Short-Life-Stories)
Read: Paperback
Stars: ****/5
Buy On: Amazon | FlipKart
Summary: (Goodreads)
Rom felt that all the trappings of the human world interfered with his ability to find king cobras. So he discarded his watch and shoes, and stripped down to a loin cloth. Not the best attire for his first brush with the devil nettle!

Whats it like being married to Rom Whitaker herpetologist, wildlife conservationist, and founder of the Madras Snake Park and Madras Crocodile Bank? Janaki Lenin, his wife, tells us, Theres never a dull moment.

In this compilation of stories, Janaki also an animal enthusiast gives us a peek into the zany and unpredictable world that Rom and she have built together, deep in southern India. They battle tree frogs that insist on colonising their house, travel to the wilds of the world pursuing venomous snakes and monster crocodiles, devote precious hours to befriending Gila monsters, playing with porcupines, and taming opinionated shrews.

Entertaining, playful, and downright amusing, the essays shed light on the kingdoms of beasts and plants. They provide flashes of insight into animal disposition relate human stories about the world and our place in it, and demystify natures secret code. Most of all, they highlight Rom and Janakis wide-eyed wonder at sharing this diverse planet with all creatures, large and small.

My Review:

Cover: Earthy and pleasing to the eye!

Paper and font: The kind you want to smell again and again with an easy on the eye font.

Readability, language: Simple no-nonsense language that you want to keep reading.

Why did I choose this book: I wanted to learn what it would take to move out.

Janaki Lenin’s ‘My Husband and Other Animals’ did not meet expectations…

Che and I hope to move out of Bangalore soon for a lot of reasons, some of them will make our lives better and some of them will be excellent for our dogs. But moving out isn’t just that simple, there are so many things that worry me – how will I deal with leopards, I’m not scared of creepy crawlies but neither do I want to play host to tons of them, can I really grow enough to sustain my family, and many other such thoughts are on the list. With all this running in my head I grabbed at ‘My Husband and Other Animals’ when I came across it hoping for answers. After all Janaki had also made the move from a city to a farm.

As I started reading I was disappointed, where were the solutions I was looking for. Not being someone who gives up easily I stuck with the book as Janaki recounted her and Rom’s adventures with snakes, frogs, crocs and leopards.

A quarter of my way though the book my disappointment was replaced by a soft smile as I travelled dusty paths with Janaki. She isn’t the standard storyteller who has a punchline at the end of each story; she is more like our grandmothers who tells a story for the telling. The story is everywhere not just at the end of the tale.

As I continued listening to Janaki’s stories of Rom’s childhood, how he setup the croc bank, the initial challenges they faced, their adventures in the wild across India and the settling down hiccups at the farm, I couldn’t help but notice a shift in how I saw life outside the city. Gone was the worry-wart who jumped out of her skin at every boo, instead I found myself making peace with all that was disturbing me. Life on a farm would be challenging and some things would be out of my control but that was all a part to living on or off the land.

Janaki lost one of her dogs to a leopard and almost lost a second too. It must have hurt to lose a dog but she learnt some invaluable lessons. And it wasn’t just leopards, there were the snakes to account for too. Being over protective isn’t the answer I learned, I had to think smart and plan ahead.

As the book came to an end I was wishing pages would add themselves, I wanted to hear more about Janaki and Rom’s life. But I guess for now I have to settle for keeping her book within arms reach and re-reading it. That is until I can meet this couple whose lives are a fairytale albeit not the fairy kind, and I’m looking forward to it. (As a kid I think I must have met Rom since Dad took us often to the Croc Bank but I guess I was too little to remember him.) Time to make a trip to Madras and the Croc Bank again.

Let me reinstate and revise what I started this review with –  Janaki Lenin’s ‘My Husband and Other Animals’ did not meet expectations… It exceeded them!

Buy On: Amazon | FlipKart

March 12, 2013   No Comments

How to Make Mysore Rasam With Brinjal

*** I am following Meenakshi Ammal’s recipes, however I’m using shortcuts like the cooker, etc. and adding some of my own twist to the recipes. What you see here are my recipes inspired by M. Ammal’s and in no way is Ms. Ammal responsible for its outcome should you choose to try it. Though she was responsible for the brilliant outcome of my dish, so, a big thank you Ms. Ammal for writing Samaithu Par.***

A couple of weeks back I made Mysore Rasam with Drumsticks and we enjoyed it. Che especially since he likes the flavour of drumsticks but not the vegetable. So when Vidya commented and told me to try out the brinjal version, I thought why not. After all, brinjal is another vegetable Che doesn’t like 😀

Mysore Rasam with Brinjal

Ingredients –
(Serves 4 cups)
1/2 cup red gram dhal
1 lime size ball of tamarind
2 cups water
2 small size brinjals
1/8 teaspoon of asafoetida
salt to taste
curry leaves
coriander leaves
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
2 teaspoon bengal gram dhal
6 red chillies pinched into two
6-8 raw peppers (green or dried)
1 teaspoon mustard
1 teaspoon ghee
3 teaspoon gingelly oil

Method –
1. Wash and cut brinjals into medium size cubes.

2. Wash and cook dal in a cooker with a little salt and turmeric until very soft.

3. Soak tamarind in warm water. Strain out pulp.

4. Heat 2 tsp oil and fry brinjals until golden brown. Remove from oil and keep aside.

5. In the remaining oil fry coriander seeds, bengal gram and 4 red chillies. Remove from oil and powder fine along with pepper.

6. Drain water from dhal and keep aside. Mash the dhal.

7. In a vessel add the tamarind pulp to two cups of water. Add asafoetida, salt to taste, the fried brinjals and a few bruised curry leaves. Cover and allow the mixture to boil.

8. Add mashed dhal to boiling tamarind water and stir well. Cover and boil for a few minutes before adding the dhal water. Add more water if needed to make it 4 cups quantity. 

9. Bring to a boil again and after a couple of minutes remove from fire.

10. Add the chilli and coriander powder and mix well.

11. Heat 1 tsp of oil and 1 tsp of ghee and fry mustard, 2 red chillies and curry leaves.

12. Pour over the rasam.

13. Finally garnish with chopped coriander leaves.

What other veggies have you tried for rasams? Any recommendations?

March 7, 2013   No Comments

Book Review: Govinda by Krishna Udayasankar

Title: Govinda
Author: Krishna Udayasankar
Paperback: 458 pages
Publisher: Hachette India (July 2012)
Genre: Mythology
Read: Paperback
Stars: ****/5
Buy On: Amazon | FlipKart
Summary: (Goodreads)
Aryavarta – the ancient realm of the noble.
For generations, the Firstborn dynasty of scholar-sages, descendants of Vasishta Varuni and protectors of the Divine Order on earth, has dominated here. For just as long, the Angirasa family of Firewrights, weapon-makers to the kings and master inventors, has defied them. In the aftermath of the centuries-long conflict between the two orders, the once-united empire of Aryavarta lies splintered, a shadow of its former glorious self.

Now, the last Secret Keeper of the Firewrights is dead, killed by a violent hand, and the battle for supreme power in the empire is about to begin.

As mighty powers hurtle towards a bloody conflict, Govinda Shauri, cowherd-turned-prince and now Commander of the armies of Dwaraka, must use all his cunning to counter deception and treachery if he is to protect his people and those whom he loves.

But who holds the key to the fantastic and startling knowledge of the Firewrights, which in the wrong hands will bring doom upon the empire? And does Govinda have it in him to confront the dark secrets of his past and discover the true meaning of being Arya, of being noble?

My Review:

Cover: Nothing great but not so bad either.

Paper and font: Smell-Worthy with a print that is easy on the eyes.

Readability, language: Reads well and language is easy on the mind.

Why did I choose this book: I couldn’t let another perspective to the Mahabharata pass me by.

I grew up to the Mahabharata on TV but as time went by I started to question the epic as I knew it. Then last year I read ‘The Palace of Illusions’ by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni and saw the epic in new light from Panchaali’s perspective. When I came across Krishna Udayasankar’s ‘Govinda’ I couldn’t give another perspective a miss. A story about a Govinda who does not have any super powers was very compelling.

The main characters are the usual Mahabharata ones, only here Krishna is more predominant in ‘Govinda’. Krishna Udayasankar’s book gives a deeper inside into the enigma of Krishna, a more real and practical perspective compared to the usual magical one. Seeing him as a man and understanding the reasons behind his magic made the Mahabharata so much more believable as an epic.

Udayasankar also has some very thought provoking takes on incidents and people of the Mahabharata – the man Panchaali truly loved, how she landed up with Dharma even though she had been won by Partha, the kind of man Dharma really was and the truth behind Dhulyodhana’s intentions and motivations, and the lead up to Dharma becoming Emperor and real people and reasons behind why he became emperor.

Even though it is the same old Mahabharata with the same core story, Udayasankar couldn’t have made it more different with her explanations and reasoning behind plots and situations. Krishna, his intentions, his mind , his heart and just why he did certain things are finally explained in a light and a world I could believe.

Udayasankar has done a good job of describing the kingdoms of those times, the terrain, the places, the people and their lives. Dwaraka does feel like utopia where everyone is happy and content. Indraprastha the mirror of Indra’s palace as it is supposed to be in the epic.

What I loved best was the premise that these men were not Gods but only human in all they did. Udayasankar knows her history well and her research shows. It was an enjoyable retelling of the great epic of India the Mahabharata and I’m looking forward to the rest of the series, I just the author doesn’t take too long.

Definitely a book to read if you want a different perspective to the epic we all grew up too!

Buy On: Amazon | FlipKart

March 5, 2013   5 Comments