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Posts from — March 2015

The Android April A to Z Challenge

The A to Z Challenge begins tomorrow and I’ve finally made up my mind on my theme for the challenge.

I’ve been using the Android platform for about 5 years now and over the years I’ve used and discarded many apps. Some have become permanent residents on my phone while others get uninstalled after use.

Since I started out with using an Android phone I’ve been meaning to review all the apps I use. I have reviewed a couple and even shared a must have list once but it’s time to make a more comprehensive list.

I have over 150 apps on my phone. Some came with the phone, quite a few are google apps and a fair number I’ve downloaded over time.

I’ve also changed / used at least 4 different Android phones (I currently use the Nexus 6) and in each move my app list has gotten tighter at first as I discarded unused apps and kept only the ones I really really needed. Then with time the app numbers expand as I start to experiment until the phone gets full and can’t take any more. 😀

I figured the A to Z Challenge over 26 days would be a good way to list and share all the apps I love. Yeah, yeah I know, I may not find apps that begin with the letter I need but I’ll find a work around. 😛

More than finding one app per letter, I’m sure on some days I’ll have an over load of apps. Like ’S’ for example. I can think of three apps just like that, that I love and that start with the letter ’S’.

But it doesn’t end there considering that I own an iPad too. There are some apps and games that I’m hooked to on the iPad. Not as many as on Android but still. So, I’m going to cover a few iOS apps too. (Most of them are also available on Android anyway.)

Android April’s going to be fun. Watch out for my Android A to Z App recommendations and tell me if you love the app too. Also do let me know which apps you love and can’t live without. :)

March 31, 2015   No Comments

Pawsible Weekly: The Last Ten Days

I had intended for the Pawsible Weekly to be a weekly update of the dogs but this week I’m hijacking it to talk about travel, blogging and the dogs. 😀

We’ve been away for 9 days!!! It may not sound like much but it’s the longest we have ever been away. Leaving the doggies behind and travelling is just so difficult. It’s that feeling of leaving your heart behind… :(

The doggies though seem to have had a ball with Devisri of Urban Dawg. Here’s what they have been upto…


Cuckoo cuddles…


Buddha cuddles…


And even William cuddles!!!


The dogs lounge around…


Cuckoo displays how ‘Attention’ is done.


The dogs enjoy the morning sun. After this they all pass out under the fan and don’t venture out much in the heat.

But they did miss us for we got a welcome that lasted over half and hour when we returned last night. There was crazy amounts of jumping, running, circling and licking that made me feel all warm and gooey inside.

Some ten days ago I had posted about a surprise trip Che was planning. Well, now that we are back I can tell you, it was an amazing surprise. A trip to Meghalaya with JwM, that’s a knockout surprise!

The last 9 days were packed with sights, views, experiences, learnings, insights, limits, safaris, treks, bridges and what not. It was an amazing journey and I’ll share more of it soon.

It was a trip like never before and yet I’m also happy to be back. Back to the grind, my dogs, my blog, my life… You know the usual mundane stuff that makes up life. 😀

In other news I’m also looking forward to participating in the A to Z Challenge that starts on April 1st. I’d done it last year but not as a part of the challenge. This year though I’d like to give it a try – 26 days of blogging while choosing topics that start from A to Z. This should be fun.

I’m looking forward to blogging in April. It’ll be a good push to get me writing more. An excellent opportunity to make some new friends in the blogging space. And I hope to hone my writing skills too.

Last year I did words as a theme, this year I’m yet to make up my mind. There’s the option of words again. I’m inclined a bit towards 26 of my all time favourite books. And there’s also the idea germinating in my head of 26 cities/states/places in India I’ve been to. I can’t seem to make up my mind. 😕

So, Wish me all the best… 😉

March 30, 2015   No Comments

When U r in Love with a Beautiful Man

***Note: The definition and description of love has changed for me over the years. Not once but multiple times. As I’ve aged, matured and all that, love has changed its meaning too. Today if I had to describe it, I’d have a very different description. But looking at how I saw it then in 2000, makes me smile at my naivety. :D***

Of secret rendezvous, love notes, lovers’ tiffs, first base and other telltale signs of love

When u start feeling contented, everything looks rosy and pink, u feel u can never lose, u r on that winning streak. When ur friends catch u secretly smiling with no reason whatsoever, and u feel on top of the world… when ur shoulders never droop and u r looking far into the future. When there is a lightness to ur step and u skip when u gotta walk. When u dash to pick up the phone with ur dad looking on in dismay. When ur almost always dreaming and r lost in warm thoughts and ur mom ultimately has to shake u to get ur attention. Boy! Oh Boy! U r in love babe.

Being in love is the most wonderful feeling and knowing someone loves u can bring so much pleasure. There is something very special that u share with someone u have known for so little time; a bond that u share with no one else and if u happen to find ur best friend in that person then there isn’t anything more to say, for u can share and tell him anything u want to cos u know that he will listen and give u advice – not commands. And, the advice is good.

But there aren’t only the highs…
For a lot of times he wants more then u can give, and most of the time your timings clash and he will expect u to fit into his timetable. So u hardly go out, and when u do, u can’t enjoy the outing to the fullest cos u have a constant nagging fear of someone seeing u with him and reporting back to ur parents.

And when u’ve finally got a chance and r looking forward to going out, he drops out at the last minute or just doesn’t show up! (all because u haven’t got the message that he had passed on through other friends…) So u would have waited frantic with worry…got so pissed off cos u would have turned down ur best friend’s treat just to meet him! So the next time u see him, u would expect him to at least to be on his knees with flowers and an ‘I Am Sorry’ card but all that u get is a goddamn phone call and a nonchalant sorry (if u r lucky).

There r those other times also when u r all alone in some resort or club and he wants to go for the home run and u, well, u r happy with first base. So when he tries to make a move on u and says he’s always gonna be around… will go for so-called complete protection, (cos he doesn’t want complications any more than u do!) that it doesn’t matter and u should stop worrying – u end up sulking and pouting just so that he would reluctantly give up. But, strangely u find urself secretly wishing he had tried harder, for u really wouldn’t mind second base!

Worming his way into ur heart!
But of course there are those small things that mean so much. Finding cards and love notes in books and other hiding places makes ur day. His casual dropping by when he is around the neighborhood (or so he says), his remembering ur favorite eat-out, ur favorite dish and drink or how u like ur coffee, can make u feel so nice. The times when he does things ur way though he’d prefer it his way, makes u love him even more.

Above all, there’s joy in just having him around, of knowing that he will always be there for u, the feeling of being cared for and protected, of being loved and treasured. These things bring so much joy and happiness. It is these tiny things with their ups and downs that make what u share so much more special.

March 28, 2015   No Comments

Cooking With Doodhi

***Note: Doodhi is one of my favourite vegetables. I enjoy eating it no matter the dish but I do have my favourite dishes. I’d put together this collection ages ago but even today these are my favourite doodhi recipes.***

The bottle gourd also known as the calabash gourd or the white flower gourd is popularly known as doodhi in India. It is a native of South America but is grown extensively in India. Archeological evidences support man’s association with Bottle Gourd in Peru from 11,000 to 13,000 years B.C.

The gourd is usually bottle shaped but can also sometimes be trumpet shaped. It is a vegetable with a good source of carbohydrates, vitamin A, vitamin C, and minerals. Bottle Gourd may be fried, boiled, or stuffed with the tender fruits used for making sweet meats. The hard shell of mature fruits may be used to make water jugs, domestic utensils, musical instruments and floats for fishing nets. In addition tender stems and leaves posses some medicinal value.

There are alot of sweets and dishes that are made from this vegetable but I have tried to put together a few easy to make and tasty recipes. These are nutritious and also very good for the weight conscious.

 

Doodhi Halwa

Ingredients
1kg bottle gourd
3 cups of sugar
1 cup of milk
3 tablespoons of ghee
4 cardamoms

Method
1) wash, peel and grate gourd
2) Steam in pressure cooker for 15min.
3) Remove when cool, add sugar and milk and let it simmer on a low fire. Stir continuously. When it is well cooked, add ghee and powered cardamom. Stir well and remove from fire.

 

Kadu Puri

Ingredients
White gourd ½ of small gourd
Salt
Rice flour 400gms
Chilies
Oil

Method
1) grate gourd
2) grind chilies
3) Add salt, flour and chilies to gourd and mix nicely. Should be sticky but not watery. Do not add water.
4) Now make capatis on a plastic like we make for vadas.
5) Deep fry till golden brown.

 

Doodhi Milk Shake

Ingredients
Bottle Gourd
Milk
Elaichi

Method
1) Grate the doodhi and steam for 15 min.
2) blend in mixie
3) now add desired amount of milk and elaichi(cardamoms)
4) Serve cold.

The doodhi halwa and puri is not exactly for the weight conscious but the milk shake sure is. If a little milk cream is added to the halwa while still ho, it enhances the taste of the halwa. Serve the halwa cold it tastes better. Same goes for the shake, serve it cold. The puri’s are best eaten hot, and will taste better with mint or chilly chutney.
Doodhi is supposed to be good for the eyes, hair and skin. I glass of doodhi milk shake every day morning or evening is very good, it is also cooling for the stomach so real good for people who have stomach burn.

March 27, 2015   No Comments

Book Review: The Simple Truth by David Baldacci

 
Title: The Simple Truth
Author: David Baldacci
Paperback: 544 pages
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (November 1st 1999)
Genre: Mystery-Thriller
Read: Paperback
Stars: ***/5
Buy On: Amazon | FlipKart

 

Summary: (Goodreads)

Twenty five years ago, Rufus Harms was convicted of a murder he believes he committed. But when his memory is jogged by a letter from the army, he has a shocking realization: he’s not guilty. From prison, Rufus secretly files an appeal with the Supreme Court, unaware that the real killers are onto him. But the long-time convict knows he’s running out of time when his lawyer and the Supreme Court clerk–the first person to see Rufus’s appeal–are murdered. Escaping with his brother’s help, Rufus must now elude capture long enough to expose a shocking cover-up and save his own life.

My Review:

Note: This review was first written way back in 2000, for a website OyeIndia.com that existed way back then. 😀

Cover: Simple Cover…

Paper and font: Good.

Readability, language: Easy.

Why did I choose this book: I used to be a big fan of Baldacci. But haven’t read any of his new work in years!

25 years later a letter arrives by mistake only to trigger an avalanche of memories. Rufus Harms recalls the events that led to the murder of a little girl that fateful night. He files an appeal in the Supreme Court and now his life is in danger.

Written by David Baldacci ‘The Simple Truth’ is a gripping novel. After graduation with BA honors in political science he attended law school and worked as a trial lawyer and even as a corporate lawyer. He has also written Absolute Power and Total Control.

The book is about the experiments the US army did using the soldiers as guinea pigs without them knowing. About how people used the experiments as a cover to take revenge on the people they had a grudge on. It is also about the racial prejudice that exists is America and even in the Army!

The people involved will do anything to keep their 25 year old secret. Now most of them are in pretty high places and so can pull a lot of strings and stunts. Two people have already lost their lives and 3 more are in grave danger.

The book is an eye-opener to the workings of the Supreme Court, and the politics involved.

The book is an interesting read but only if your going read it once.

About the Author:
David Baldacci published his first novel, Absolute Power, in 1996. Since then David has published 28 novels. He has also published four novels for children. While David is involved with several philanthropic organizations, his greatest efforts are dedicated to his family’s Wish You Well Foundation® established by David and his wife, Michelle. David and his family live in Virginia. Find out more at his website davidbaldacci.com.

Buy On: Amazon | FlipKart

March 26, 2015   No Comments

Hamida of Yadgir

***Note: When I wrote this story all those years back in 2000 I promised myself I would visit Yadgir one day. Well the day is yet to come but often I am reminded of Hamida who told me an enchanting story of a quaint little town I glimpsed from the train. Yadgir has stayed with me over the years, silently calling and reminding, like it’s name suggests.***

Out of the mist suddenly emerges a fort atop a hill. The morning sunlight hits the hill and scatters around it an orange aura. The whole setting is so romantic and scenic, like just out of a storybook. This is the first sight I got of a town called Yadgir.

I had to leave for Pune suddenly due to unforeseen circumstances and so for the first time in my life traveled in the unreserved compartment. It was an experience of a lifetime, its so different here, the people are ready to share even the little place they have to sit, and in doing this there is no hesitation. As it is friendship happens so easily on a train but in here it is even more easier. Here I met a girl or should I say lady whose name was simply Hamida, she is a lecturer of philosophy in Bangalore. She was very sweet in talking (literally), and extremely helpful. She went calling after another lady who got down on the wrong station and had realized coz she had overheard her telling someone her destination. All this I had watched but I still had not actually spoken to her.

It was an hour and a half before she had to get down that we got talking when she offered me her window seat. Out of politeness I asked her where she was gonna get down and she replied ‘Yadgir’. Yadgir, what kind of name is that?, now that was my first thought, so I asked her how her town got its name. The history is really interesting.

About 300 years ago the king Adil Shah conquered Yadgir, which was then part of Gulbarga and was called Hassanabad. He built a fort on the hill, which dominates the city and a palace Firdaus Mahal for his queen Firdaus Jahan. One day Adil Shah’s teenage son fell of the hill while flying a kite and in those last moments as he clung on for his life he called out to his friends ‘Yesbir’ (which means hold my hand in urdu), but he could not be saved and his father named the place after his son’s dying words. Years later the Yadavas of Bijapur took over and as the hill looked like the hump of a bull and also that couldn’t pronounce the present name, they named it ‘Yetugiri’, these names later changed to Yadgir.

From the train the sight of the fort on the hill in the early morning mist reminds u of the place u dreamt your prince charming would come from. Through the town runs the Bhima River. In the fort is found the palace, a dome can be seen from far called the ‘Tope ghar’ which houses the canon. There are rooms where the artillery was stored and u can still find the smell of gunpowder there. There is also the ‘Ghadial khana’ (or clock house) which had a bell which would be rung at each hour to tell the time. There are 3 ponds, which are special. The ‘Baheno ka talab’ (or pond of 2 sisters) has a partition wall in the middle and it is said that how much ever water u take out there is always water over the partition wall, joining the 2 parts. The ‘Souten ka talab’s'(pond of 2 wives) specialty is that how much ever water u add the water never flows over the partition wall, the pond is forever divided and the ‘Peta nagri talab’s’ depth has never been measured, it has no bottom.

At about a 30 min. drive from here is the town Naikal. Here the fort’s walls look like stacked upside down pots. Folklore has it that a potter turned down his sister’s request for a pot and she cursed him that his pots would not sell, and so his stacked pots turned to stone and became the walls of the fort.

The scenic beauty and tranquility of this place is something to be absorbed. ‘Yadgir’ sounds like the word ‘Yadgiri’ which in Urdu means ‘something to remember with’ and this town has given me something to remember. As the train pull out of the station I bade Hamida goodbye with a promise to her and myself to come back someday.

March 25, 2015   No Comments

An Assortment of Toast Toppings

Toast doesn’t have to be boring or simple. It can be made with various toppings that will add to the dish and leave it no longer being the simple toast but rather an extravagant affair. Or at least not boring. 😉

We are so used to eating toasts for breakfast. It’s the easiest and fastest to make but with small little add-ins it can be made into something special and real yummy.

Here are some toppings that go very well with toasts.

– Grate cheese, carrot. Mix the cheese, carrot and a little chopped coriander with mayonnaise. Spread on the toast while still hot and serve.

– On a hot toast spread creamed cheese and chopped boiled ham or bacon, with a touch of chutney. You could also use roasted meat.

– Top toast with chopped hard boiled eggs, crisp chopped bacon or roasted meat and a little mayonnaise to bind.

– Add chopped hard boiled eggs, a pinch of chilli powder and a little chutney to the toast.

– Peel and core apples. Fry thick rings of apples in ghee. When apples are soft, add the slices of cheese and leave until the cheese begins to melt. Place this on the toast.

– Slice tomatoes and fry in butter or margarine. Season, along with a pinch of sugar. Garnish with chopped coriander and serve on top of toast.

– Top the toast with boiled rajma mixed in tomato sauce. Add rings of onion and chopped coriander on top.

– Spread grated cheese on toast and sprinkle a little of finely chopped chilies. Put the toast in the grill and heat till the cheese just melts. Serve hot.

– Spread butter on the bread. Put a slice of ham or meat on it. Top with cheese slice and a ring of tomato. Place in grill and toast till cheese just melts.

What do you do with your toast? Do you put just butter or a other stuff too?

March 24, 2015   No Comments

The Indian Muslim Taunts

***Note: Most of my life I have faced taunts for being a muslim. Some muslims are lucky they never get to hear these dialogues and comments, but most do. That said I have more non-muslim friends than muslim ones. And I think of myself as an Indian before Muslim. Human before Indian. Over time I have learned to ignore the taunts. But this piece was written in 2000 when I was in college and when the taunting was at it’s ugliest.***

“They are all bloody Pakistan-living SOB’s” was how someone I knew described Muslims. Why should we Muslims be treated this way? What have we done wrong? Where have we gone wrong? And tell me why should we love Pakistan when there are other Muslim countries that are much better off? We aren’t the only minority; there are also the Christians. Why aren’t they called America-loving people or something like that?

Most of the Muslims I know are anti-Pakistan, which is completely understandable, for first of all Pakistan is not the best Muslim country in each and every way, a much better choice would be Kuwait. Second all that Pakistan is doing is disgusting (I am sure even the Pakistanis are disgusted) and thirdly even though it is a Muslim country, it does not treat Muslims well. The few who are for Pakistan are so because they are pretty uneducated, they do not know the way Pakistan treats Muslims and to add to this the way they are treated by some people in India gives them the illusion of finding peace and acceptance in Pakistan.

Did u know that the people who decided to move to Pakistan at the time of partition are treated like outsiders there? They are called “Mujahids”, they belong in Pakistan but still are not complete Pakistanis. They have lived there for 50 years but still cannot call it their home. And the Muslims in India have lived here for years and consider it their one and only home.

A lot of soldiers in the Indian army are Muslims and they never think twice, never put religion before nationality when they lay down their lives for India. In the recent Kargil war there were so many Indian soldiers who lost their lives, no one told them that hey you shouldn’t give your life for this country. Why is it right to be Indian when there is trouble and a for-Pakistan otherwise?

So many of our film industry people are Muslims, why don’t we have a prejudice when we like them? Why do the Khans have such a great fan following? Why do we hum all the songs of Muhammed Rafi and the like, they’re Muslims afterall? And let’s not forget some of the best lyricists are Muslims? And gazals, which are a favorite of so many people, has its origins somewhere in Islam.

Some of the best instrumentalists are Muslims, and Zakir Hussain and the others are proud to be Indians.

There are so many great Muslims who are Indians and all of them put their country before their religion, and talking about people who have contributed towards the progress of India how can we forget Abdul Kalam who was the person behind India becoming a nuclear power. So it’s plain dumb and stupid to say that Indian Muslims are more for Pakistan then India. And hey next time any of u want to say Muslims are not a part of India remember, Muslims also have had a major roll to play in making India what it is today.

March 23, 2015   No Comments

Her name is Asma Kauser but she’s called Reshma

***Note: It was in 2001 I think when my GrandDad got suddenly ill and Mom and I rushed to Pune in the unreserved compartment of an Indian Railways train. I have always said the best people travel in this section and some of the most moving stories come from here. Well, it’s always been so for me. I’ve met some of the most interesting and amazing people in the unreserved section. Here’s one such encounter that I wrote about after I returned from that journey.***

Her name is Asma Kauser but she’s called Reshma. Barely 20, she’s a wife and a mother. If u were to look at her and guess her age, you wouldn’t quote a number above 18. But she has a son who’s about 2 years old.

I met Asma on the train as I was coming back to Bangalore from Pune. When she came up to speak to me, coz maybe she felt I was her kinda age, even I thought that it would be a nice trip with someone of my age there also.

As the trip progressed I got to know her better. The fact that someone so bubbly, so talkative, so childish and so restless could actually be a mother was stunning; she didn’t look like a mother from any angle. At nite sleep just didn’t seem to come so we sat at the door and talked. Some of the things she told me were really touching, some hilarious and some filled me with anger.

She told me about how after finishing school her parents got her married and almost immediately shifted to Pune. She was all alone here now. I asked her age but she wasn’t sure about her or anyone else’s age. To her age was “around somuch”, she didn’t know her hubby’s or son’s age. She told me about how her husband was a butcher and how both of them sold meat. About the beatings she had suffered and didn’t know how to stop, at times she even got suicidal. Her husband’s possessiveness about her son, he would leave him for even a minute. Her problems seemed so big for so small a girl, yeah girl for afterall that was all she was.

We got talking about stars and she had so many questions about them. What was a shooting star? Why can’t we see the stars in the day? Where did the sky end? I tried my best to answer some of her questions in broken Hindi but soon realized that she had such fixed ideas that there was no way to change her thinking. Told her about how stars fall and hide themselves in the day. She didn’t seem to know that we had already landed on the moon and wanted to know how that was done. Told her that you got to travel in a ‘rocket’, didn’t know the Hindi equivalent of rocket, but the first question she had to that was, that by rocket did I mean the rockets we light in diwali?

We then moved on to life after death and how much ever I tried to tell her that no one has ever returned to tell us if there is really a heaven and hell she was fixed to the idea that there is a hell and there is a heaven. She said that after dying we went up to God and according to our deeds we got heaven or hell. In hell according to her we were alternately put in the fire and a collection of insects and bugs. When I asked her what she meant by insects she only seemed to know about scorpions. Nothing could change her fixed notions, no amount of logic and scientific reasoning.

She seemed so smart, she remembered almost all movies and songs. Learnt fast, had seen so much of life at such a small age. Had wanted to study but she hadn’t been allowed. What made me feel so close to her and sympathize with her was the fact that what she was today could have easily been me. I felt so lucky to be where I was today.

March 21, 2015   No Comments