Monthly Archives: April 2010

What Fantastic Is Life?

Update for week ended 30 April 2010

Sometimes a little magic can stir up quite a whirl and change the course of one’s destiny. Sometimes, it is difficult to contain and therefore control and so can go haywire, setting off a string of “boo boos”. Take the case of the 5 teenagers who have a Fantastic Life. When they were simple teenagers just into a college, getting adjusted to dealing with adult life; they still lead an innocent life like true teens. The tall and handsome, multi-talented guy stood by his friends despite devious attempts by the college spoilt brat to woo him. The famous film star’s daughter still kept her identity under wraps because she wanted to be part of this simple gang. The cry-baby was always supported while the talkative twins were always tolerated – for one’s bad rhymes and for the other’s bad temper. They were always together whatever the circumstances. But when magic comes by their way, they suddenly lose their charm. The twin bro stumbles onto the magic potion accidentally in a bookstore warehouse; that just turns their lives upside down and inside out. And the dangers of getting something that is so powerful plays out. So what essentially started off as a nice breezy life, suddenly gets spooky, scary and downright frightening; despite being the best part of a teen’s life – the summer holidays. Clearly something needs to be done to correct this. I know the kids will find a way to balance out the magic and I know they can rely on their dependable English and Hindi teachers. At times, they may have to seek their parents’ help, to get them out of the sticky situations. But at the end of it, they would not only have been through a roller coaster of a life, but have lost their sweet charm and innocence.

This week started off with some breezy flows on D Street. But as soon as some European gypsies whispered some spells about a Greek party going bad; the tumble started. So the D Boyz took a 300 point drop, off the limestone cliffs on the Aegean Sea; and then tried to swim ashore; but the not too kind seas kept the Boyz floating and away from safe shores for a couple of days before letting them scramble back onto the beaches. The Boyz rested and then trudged their way back up the hilly slopes to finally end the week a little battered – down 136 points to end at 17558. So, like the Teens from the Fantastic Life, their simple living has suddenly got decided by a destiny that they don’t control. The D Boyz are still unsure why the Greek party spoiled theirs; especially since they did not even like Greek Moussaka. But D Street is not unfamiliar with this, like we all know.

So the teens will have to learn to get past some of the magic potion outfalls. They still miss their cry baby friend; while the twin-bro is no longer harangued by the screaming fatso. And the magic potion can do different tricks at different times and no-one knows what lies ahead. So like the D Boyz, the Teens will also lead a life of mystery and unraveling despite this being their summer vacation.

Have a nice weekend; and for music aficionados, try and catch the warbling nightingale tomorrow night singing a song she first sang 50 years ago.



Mountains of fire and Smoke

Update for week ended 23 April 2010

For over 10 years of my life, I lived within 200 kms of 3 large volcanoes. Luckily for me, these were dormant and have perhaps remained this way for centuries or perhaps millenia. I did go on a driving expedition on one of them – (refer to Mountain Climibing – dated 1 Dec 2009; and also saw another one, from a distance though, but with the rolling grasslands in the foreground when I met the Morans ( The third one is still on my to do list. And I believe it is quite dramatic. But another volcano has been hogging enough of air space recently and spewing ash and lava unsettling the usually ruly, disciplined caucasians of the Northern Hemisphere. So what started as mild smoke and ash emission, has made Iceland the most known country in Europe for the moment. So when people saw the flat countryside splashed on most TV News stories, questions arose in naive minds – but how is this Iceland – I can see green fields and what looks like a farm with cattle and horses? So that is one more myth debunked – that not all names can be taken at face value – just as another neighbouring island which is usually snow and ice covered throughout the year is actually called Greenland! The volcanic activity did increase during the week and after the miles-high clouds of ash and smoke, reports of lava jets shooting out of the volcano also caused some anxiety. Volcanoes throw out from the earth’s inner core, so the ash and smoke is a result of the hot air and soil layer getting to the surface and higher – and if lava starts flowing, then it indicates that the molten layer at the earth’s core has been able to get an outlet, bringing equilibrium to the unsettled volcano. Hopefully, it should settle down to just lava floes and reduced air disruption, and people can get back to their daily chores across Europe.

This is also Earth Week, and various organisations have been trying to go green. Note that “Trying” is the keyword; because to me most of their activities seemed aimed at advertising or upping popularity stakes. So if a bank beleaguered by bad debts to a Windmill manufacturer, “buys” some windmills and then announces that it supports a green environment, it doesnt sound right, right? Or if another company arranges a seedling planting drive in its car park – just to leave the seedlings there – to bake and die in the sun; you can see through the lip service.

And just before someone shuts the computer down and room lights off now, I must bid adieu for the weekend..


The Warriors in Red

Update for week ended 16 April 2010
Ole Ncharo was the chief in charge of his “Morans” – the young warriors, who were at the cusp of their adulthood. They were eager teenagers itching to attain adulthood and be treated seriously. But it was not going to be a simple – “hey, you turned eighteen. Happy Birthday! Here is your key. You are an adult now”. This was the savannah grassland where generations and generations of Maasai earned their adulthood through rigorous rituals and only the tough emerged with success. Ole Ncharo, was the wizened old man who had seen scores of young adults being groomed by him for this day and he knew how to handle the jumpy hormones. For starters, the Morans were segregated from their settlement and lived a few miles away from the nearest watering hole. They did not have the comforts of their mud and cowdung lined flat oblong huts, or the kraal with their herds of mooing cattle which would provide them with milk and blood and goats that would provide them their daily meal. They did not have their mothers and aunts and sisters to help them cook their meals or braid their locks. The young warriors lived in the open wilderness – amidst the roaming herds of wild buffalo and wildebeest, and zebras and baboons and feared the common predators – big cats and their hanger-ons, the hyenas. A head-shave helped them get over one issue – no hair to braid, so mums were not missed. Living in the wilderness without much comforts, like a moisturising cream before and after a shave were met by pure unadulterated material – like the ochre red earth that forms the top-soil of this vast grassland. This reddish paste, when mixed with some water, is liberally applied on the bald pates and face and body – not only as an antiseptic, but also as a pest repellant – the open plains with its heat and rains is good breeding ground for pesky insects as well. Their first spears and shields in hand helped them look menacing to animals and came in handy at times to kill for some food – warthogs, baboons, hyrax. The red togas that was worn across their left shoulder was the only garment that they wore – there was no footwear; and at times when the Morans went practise hunting near the dry river bed, they would sometimes bruise and cut their soles on the sharp rock outcrops. The bleeding feet would be quickly dabbed with the red ochre earth paste and life would resume as usual. But Ole Ncharo was preparing them for the big day and not just to prove their ability to live away from their family or homes. It was something bigger than just big – it was the big hunt. The big hunt was done only once a year and the batch of young morans would work in tandem and as a team, go for the kill. It was dangerous, and Ole Ncharo has seen casualties in the past, but he knew that this was a destiny that the forefathers had ordained for every person, hunter and hunted, alike. And there was no bitterness in a loss. At the end of the hunt, they would smear the red blood of the kill over their heads in an annointing ceremony and then jubilantly carry it on their shoulders back to the settlement for the feast that awaited them.

This was a shorter week on D Street – and on both sides of the mid week holiday – there was red. So if the first 2 days saw a 112 point red drop in the SENSEX, the last 2 days saw 220 points lost as the D Boyz turned red shirts for a change. (I am not sure if they visited Thailand recently and supported the opposition). It is almost like a cathartic event that they are waiting for because despite being close to their 18000 last weekend, and also yesterday, they have not been able to take that decision – of whether to go for the kill, and even more important – which one. Perhaps the annual corporate result season that has just kicked off will give them some direction. The closing down of some European airports has spoiled some D Boyz’ holiday plans; and you all know about Thailand – so maybe the D Boyz will stay on at D Street.

Ole Ncharo’s boys will kill what they have never killed before, the African Lion. The ferocious king of beasts is not an easy kill, especially if you are in itsterritory and cannot speak its growl or understand it; of course not forgetting their size and sharp claws and teeth. The only thing that go in the Morans favour is that the lion is a relatively reclusive animal, unlike its female counterparts that move about in a pride, and the easiest kill target is the lion that had just been shunted out of a pride because there cannot be two adult males in it. Ole Ncharo’s boys will have to smear lion blood on their already red heads, only then will they truly become Morans, the warrior Masai.

For those planning on a summer vacation to East Africa – do try and meet up with Morans – some of them speak English and are quite tourist friendly despite their rustic lifestyles that has not changed in centuries. Of course, be sure to carry enough cash – they have got materialistic as well, so don’t mind some additional pocket money, especially from gawky, wide-eyed tourists. Who knows, they may even allow you to join their famed dances – where the best dancer is adjudged by how high he can jump!

Have a nice weekend — Cheers………..

Nature Study on the window sill

Update as of 13 April 2010
“The chillies have ripened”, exclaimed a wide-eyed Yash. He had turned 5 this morning and was excited to wake up early on his birthday, although he didn’t have to go to school. His mother had been trying to teach him about nature and plants and so had planted a seedling chilli plant in a pot and set it on the window sill beside Yash’s bed. Yash had seen the little plant grow – initially with two green leaves, then more and even get a few branches. His excitement was palpable when he noticed a few “leaf balls” on the top of the chilli plant – which his mother explained were flower buds. Till then, Yash’s association with flowers were the cut roses that his mother sometimes arranged on a vase or the marigold garland that she adorned her prayer deities with. And two days later, Yash saw the most unusal flowers that he had set his little eyes on, they were small, white and faced downwards like an umbrella without a handle. He knew how to count and counted five such flowers. he was so excited that it coincided with his age – he would turn five in a few days. And as days passed, he would gaze at the potted plant and help his mother in watering it as the flowers gave way to the long green chillies that seemed to grow longer each day. And then they stopped growing and stayed green. His mother then revealed the next facet of the chilli – that it would ripen to a bright red. Yash’s excitement knew no bounds, and he wanted to see the glowing red chillies that very moment. “Patience, my dear child”, chided his mother,”it will not happen so soon. Perhaps it will ripen on your birthday”. And with that happy thought, little Yash trotted away, knowing that his birthday would not only mean sweets for his friends, new clothes, and perhaps a “surprise gift”, but also ripe red chillies on his windowsill. Being the anxious 5 year old, he went to sleep on the day prior to his fifth birthday, with just one thought in his head – ” the chillies will ripen tomorrow morning”. And like a true wishes they did. Not one chilli, but two.  
The last two days on D Street have been different from the previous ones – in the manner that the D Boyz have been painting reds instead of going green. So till Friday last, when the SENSEX was green and going up – almost touching the psychological 18000 levels, the last 2 days have seen falls, mild ones, but red indeed to take the SENSEX down about 112 points to 17821. Some people avered that the D Boyz were a worrIRDA lot and not sure if they were SEBIng enough. Whatever they think and do, the D Boyz will perhaps look out for the real action – corporate results that start hitting D Street soon, for their next steps. Meanwhile, they are ready to celebrate Vishu, Bihu, Poila Boishakh, Baisakhi tomorrow. And here, they need not be worried about green or red – yellow or orange is the preferred choice – so ripe mangoes, jackfruits, bananas, golden wheat and the yellow laburnums, it will be.
Yash is not fond of spicy or hot food, but he will perhaps let his mother pick the ripe chillies, dry them and use them to make the chutney powder that she soaks her idlis, steamed rice dumplings, in. Idli and MulagaPodi  is something Yash likes for breakfast.
Wishing you all a very happy New Year, Baisakhi, Vishu.

Summer is Here

Update as of 6 April 2010
When the temperatures soar, many of us reach for coolers. And Indian summer coolers come in different shades of green, the cool colour! So if most of North India loves the tangy twist of raw mango, sweetened with sugar and spiced up a little with saffron or cardamom; the south swears by the green, tender coconut water which is drunk neat from the fruit – topped up by scooping out some white soft flesh from within the nut. The universal cool drink of the season title is however reserved for the buttermilk – a cool white colour, but try and spot the greens that embellish it. This is drunk differently in different parts of the country and preferred with differing pH levels of acidity. So if the Tamilian likes his neer mor really sour and diluted with lots of water, curried with curry leaves, and tempered with a hint of asafoetida; the Malayali loves the sambhaaram – prepared similar to the Tamilian mor, but zingier with some crushed green chillies and ginger. The Telugu palate loves the Majjigga served salted, their Kannadiga neighbours dont mind their Majjigge without the salt. The Marathis love corriander leaves in all their dishes and don’t forget to add it to their Thaak, slightly salted, less sour and refreshingly cool. The Gujarati penchant for sweet however does not cross into the its buttermilk; so the Chhaas is salted and at times sprinkled with some roasted cumin powder. The Punjabis love all milk products and dont like to dilute their buttermilk or divert the taste – so for sweet afficianados – they add sugar to the curd and beat it to a pouring consistency to make thier favourite Lassi – retaining its thick robustness and for those who dont like sweet drinks, they just salt it enough to cut the tang and serve it as thick and robust mattha in tall brass glasses. The Hindi speaking Ganges basin serves up Chhachh – plain salted buttermilk while closer to the Ganges delta, the Bengalis add sugar to it and call it the Ghol! Cool drinks that are predominantly white and drunk around the country to keep cool!
The heat on D Street was searing and the thermals got the SENSEX to float higher and higher in the first few days of April. So if the D Boyz celebrated the rising SENSEX, they kept cool with their preferred Indian Summer coolers – ensuring that enough green was peppered over their drink. There was no fooling the D Boys on April 1 when they saw the SENSEX rise about 200 points and 250 points on 5 April – almost touching a psychological threshold of 18000 points. A flat Tuesday saw the D Boyz sipping their favourite coolers and resting the SENSEX flat to previous close – 17941 is where it stays for the night, even as D Street sizzles in the summer sun.
Some people in UP, Bihar and Bengal also make a cooler with the bael fruit – also known as monkey fruit – the orange flesh that resembles a ripe mango is squeezed into glasses, sweetened with sugar and served chilled – this aromatic drink smells of the exotic sandalwood. One of the names this fruits has is also curd fruit!!
Which is your favourite summer cooler?