Monthly Archives: February 2011

City Under Seige (of rampant construction)

 Update for week ended 25 February 2011

The light commercial vehicles (LCVs) arrived – rickety, brown and snub nosed. The labourers aboard them jumped out quickly from the sides and lowered the gate at the rear, that was held in place with a makeshift nylon-wire rope. It clanged down with a loud metallic bang and the action also blew up dust from the roadside. The corrugated tin sheets were off loaded, followed by the weathered bamboo sticks. The hoes, cutlasses and pickaxes tumbled onto the tarmac and half the road was cordoned off for all this paraphernalia. The office goers looked distressed as the traffic snarls worsened as autorickshaws squeezed through, scraping the bumpers of the cars, while red buses honked on their rubber horns sounding like a gaggle of geese flying south during winter. The diesel, petrol and gas fumes mingled together with the dust to give pedestrians a sneezing fit. The city fathers were not the best planners and so everyone cribbed, but no-one did anything, they simply bore through the traffic and passed by giving cursed looks at the workers. The workers in turn got started with their work as their supervisors shouted out orders and the bamboos were erected along the side of the road. The tinsheets were then nailed onto the bamboo to form a crude wall along the road side. The men rested in the mid morning sun, but were lucky to have leafy, shady trees to protect against the getting-harsh spring sun. Then, the axes and hoes were put to work to chop off branches and tree trunks and quickly dug out the roots as well. By noon, the trees lay flat on the road side, with trimmed branches along side them. The tree stumps, a few left behind, were a sight for sore eyes. The digging done, the men started placing the probes and pipes in, as the orange overall wearing brigade descended and took over the work. These men in yellow helmets had instruments that they gazed into and lathe like machines that they used to calibrate and through little dials and instruments they recorded information and continued working till evening. Of course, the passing traffic had some activists from the “green brigade” who turned livid with what they saw – the hacked trees, no concern for general life around, and what looked like a “no permission” style operation. They contacted the local municipal office and with the influential industrialist’s help, summoned their group to stop this vandalizing. The cops swung into action stopping the vandals’ actions and the municipal officer armed with a magistrate order ordered them to stop and rectify the situation. Now a hacked 50 year old rain tree cannot be rejoined to its trunk and branches, but the next best can be done. The excavator team was ordered to replant saplings and courted arrest if they did not complete it before day-end. It was a pleasant surprise to see that the “Greens” did manage to stop further work and actually force the replanting of saplings.

The green blushes of spring leaves that burst out last week along the tree lined D Street were threatened this week. The D Boyz stood confused as the truck pulled onto their street and some Boyz from Yonder (who call themselves FII Boyz) started digging up the edge of the street where the trees stood. They hacked at the branches, the trunks and roots and then started digging into the ground. By Thursday, they had dug so deep that the roots were not only exposed, but in most places completed up-“routed” (“they may have dug about 545 feet that day”, speculated the D Boyz, as the SENSEX slid 545 points). But thanks to some quick thinking and vigilant Boyz among the D Street denizens who ordered the FII Boyz to fix whatever they could – starting with planting some green saplings, so finally on Friday, small 68 cm tall plant guards were put up, to protect the vulnerable plants. (is that why the SENSEX propped up 68 points on Friday). A week whereby 3% of the tree cover was lost as the SENSEX lost as much to end at 17700. The D Boyz have sent feelers to their Finance Controller (FM) to ensure that enforcements are made to protect this Street from vandals going forward.

The Green Brigade was actually surprised and pleasantly at that, that their agitation worked this time around. They have not been lucky very often, but the various scented flower revolutions that have been sweeping across the north of the Sahara seemed to have some contagion effect on this city a thousand miles south of the Thar!

So, are you looking forward to the Budget announcement on Monday? Either ways, it is still a good time to go and shop for that book you were looking for, or that pottery that you so admired, or even a carved wooden box with brass inlay work. Be impulsive, go by what your heart feels like. Stop by that dry fruits stall and maybe tuck into some apricots and figs!

Have a nice weekend… Cheers.


Aaya vasant Aaya Vasant – (Spring is here, Spring is here)

Update for week ended 18 February 2011

The buzzing bees over my head distracted me. Where did they come from, I wondered. The buzzing and constant zigzagging around me was annoying, but the fresh scent in the air calmed me quite a bit. The inflorescence at the end of the bottle green boughs was such a familiar sight. The yellowish green flowers with hints of pink already had little green berries at some stalk ends, among them. The acidic scent of the fruit was heady – the “mangolings” were bursting out of their stalks. The little berry sized fruits were abundantly dangling in bunches, some only pea sized, while others were marble sized. The bees were busy buzzing and pollinating more flowers so that they fruit. The classical sign of spring in the air! The baby mangoes are at times used by Indian households to make savoury pickles. These are usually soaked in brine, let to mature and shrivel and used throughout the year to perk up a bland meal of curd and rice or dry rotis, with the sharp acid and lip-smacking saltiness. Some people prefer it spiced up with hot chillies and hotter mustard. These are fondly called “ambiyas” in the north and “kanni maanga” in the south. And kids go running into mango orchards and gingerly tread the grounds below the trees, to pick up the dropped ambiyas or kanni maanga and collect them into their scooped-around shirts or blouses. They take these home to their mothers who crush them with a few green chillies and salt and serve it up with the evening paratha or roti or dosai. So lip-smackingly tasty. Except for the stingy sap of the fresh mangoes that can at times “burn” the skin of the mouth, lips and skin around the mouth – apart from leaving the spicy after-taste.

The mango trees lining D street had flowered and started fruiting this week. So D Boyz jumped up in joy as they collected their “ambiyas” (or their favourite stocks) and pushed the SENSEX up 400 odd points. They rushed home to their mothers and wives who added more green (chillies) to the mangoes and crushed them to chillies on a flat chutney grinding stone (flat SENSEX on Day 3) and the tasty chutney served up to the Boyz sent them into another bout of ecstasy on day 4 (200 odd points up). But after too much, they had a bad case of tongue scalding, and the burns caused them to push the SENSEX down some 295 points – ending the week of mango chutney eating with the SENSEX at 18211.

The good thing of these little ambiyas/kanni maangas, is that you can eat them whole, seeds included. There are no nut-hard seeds or seed endocarps to tackle and no mango fibre to get unstuck from teeth. In case you have not tried them, head to the nearest park that has a mango tree – pick the little green fruit, run home and indulge! Believe me, it is fun!

Have a nice and safe weekend. And do share with me your experiences of mango “fruitling” huntings.


The Gymmer’s Bench

Update for week ended 11 February 2011

The Bench Press is a standard fixture at all gymnasiums (gyms) and at times it has a lever that can adjust its gradient. So a flat bench press is what the trainer would direct a novice or a “light” gymmer towards in the initial days of the gym training. This could be used for multiple exercises – to work out the shoulders, chest muscles, the back muscles (yes, that is possible too), abdominal crunches (a classic exercise done on a bench). These when combined with dumb-bells or bar-bells, can add the intensity as desired to get the muscles to tone up faster. But to add variety, as well as increase resistance while training muscles, the Gym Trainer would start to adjust the gradient of the bench – starting with the decline. This would be when he is confident that the gymmer is no longer a novice, but serious in her/his workout and is regular. This is the stage where the bench is lowered at one end and that is where the head is placed while working out. It is half-way to becoming a bat where a gymmer gets the dizzy feeling of being strung upside down, though not vertically down, and to prevent sliding out and down, the feet are locked along rollers at one end. And this gravity defying is tough – believe me. This helps the muscles train better to tone and “buildout” a little as well. The higher the weight of the barbells or dumbbells, the higher its aid to add to the muscle toning and definition. This is the tipping point where the muscle definitions start appearing. The exercises start with the d or b-bells held straight up in line with the chest, and then depending on whether the exercise is a bench press or a bench fly, the arm is lowered. This is easy, but the “push” that one needs to exert to get back to the starting position starts getting tougher as the repetitions gather and the gymmer waits for the completion of the set. As the reps and sets are completed and the gymmer is exhausted (yes, these can be tiring quite like a cardio exercise), the gymmer gets happy as she/he starts seeing the defined contours along the body, that don’t need much maneouvering to keep them in shape and a simple arm flexing will show that bicep bulge. That is a quite a high for the gymmer and eggs her/him to go the next stage of which is equally intensive for the muscle toning, but is done at a gradient that is more ambient to human beings – quite like sitting on a low-chair, except that it is reclined backwards. And after the sets and reps in the Incline Bench exercises, the gymmer is a happier person, having sweated out a little, hopefully shedding some fatty flab to gain some lean muscle.

The D Street Boyz were at their gym session this week. And Bench exercises were their regimen. The strict Trainer whose T Shirt bore the initials of his training school, CBI, was closely watching the Boyz who worked out in the gym. So on day one, it was the flat bench press, so the SENSEX stayed flat. Then for the next 3 sessions they were on the decline press – and their heads spun and dizzied as they lost control on the SENSEX sending it spiraling down. The Trainer was holding the D Boyz’ feet and not letting them stop at just a few reps in a set, almost like under arrest. He ensured that the exercises were done as per the rule book. And finally they let the D Boyz sit for the incline bench exercises, letting the Boyz see straight ahead and even upwards as the out of control SENSEX was propped up to finally end upwards. But overall, the D Boyz did lose out on body water, sweating it out, and hopefully some flab loss, and good lean muscle mass building. 280 grams of fat loss should be fine for this round of session, what do you reckon? Well, that is what the D Boyz achieved – losing 280 points since last week to tip the SENSEX scales at 17728.

A good cooling down is important after a gym session and that includes some amount of stretching exercises. Plenty of fluids, especially water, will also help flush out toxins and achieve that gymmer’s toned looks. And don’t skip those meals, just eat right and eat regularly.

Have fun this weekend and refresh and rejoice the time with your family and friends.

Cheers ……

Sandalwood Revolution

Update for week ended 4 February 2011

The planning was meticulous. The soldiers had met at the joint training drills organized prior to the Republic day parade. They had formed a clique that on the surface looked like an oddball collection of people from different classes of society and backgrounds, and would be seen having fun, goofing around and generally hanging around during the 3 breaks during the day – the breakfast schedule at dawn, the noon lunch tent and the evening tea break grounds. At night, all the different regiments held their own little bonfires, and other bonding exercises. But this cloak of disguise was perfect for their planning. After the celebrations were over, they returned to their respective postings. At day break, the soldiers went about their duties like they would on any ordinary day, but this was no ordinary day. The trucks rolled out and headed straight to the radio and TV stations. They had armed soldiers who quickly took vantage positions at the communications centre. 3 convoys of trucks headed to key government buildings including the Presidential Palace. The Army general could always meet the Chief Commander of the Armed Forces – the President. He drove straight to the main entrance of the 19th century Colonial Palace which was now used by the President to house his family, his “friends” and out of bounds for the rest of the “democracy”. And given that this was the weekly holiday, there were few people on the roads, except for the newspaper delivery boys and the milk vans. The Army General and his posse of soldiers took the entire security staff of the President under arrest and the President and his family was not to leave the palace. The Army General called the TV-station stationed commander to inform him that Operation Sandalwood was successful. Sandalwood was the sacred essence that was reeverd in the Republic. Nothing more revered than this could occur at the moment.

Phase II was triggered, as the Satellite dish bearing van drove out and headed to the Palace – just a kilometer down the road. The crew was ushered in and did not need much of preparation to start rolling their cameras. The General faced the camera and announced to the Republic that the President had stepped down, and in the interest of the people of the nation, he would take over as interim ruler before he passed on power to the real democracy. He sang out the national anthem and the army song and declared a state of emergency. News spread as wildfire not only in the republic, but across the border to the neighbouring democratic nation, while the BBC and CNNs tried desperately to get to the capital and report the proceedings “Live”. The suppressed populace was overjoyed, but not knowing how to handle the newly found “freedom”, decided to express it by showing solidarity with the men in uniform and congregating in hordes at the Town Square – down the straight road that resembled a 5 km long runway from the Colonial Presidential Palace. This part of the city was pristine on ordinary days, unlike the ghettos that over 80% of the population lived in. Power, water, sanitation, security was at par with international standards in this part of the city. Even the lawns of the Town Square were evergreen like the Swiss Hills even in the scorching 40C summers, unlike the hovel- like neighbourhoods that most of the democracy lived in, which swarmed with crime, unemployment, poverty, torturous life. And given the limited access the democracy had to these “luxuries”, they were overawed. The over-enthusiastic people walked onto the lawns of the sprawling bungalows of the ministers, and drove out the shiny limousines, they stood atop the Statues of the President and his Father, crying out slogans.

The Jasmine revolution spread across North Africa and Middle East as despots starting getting wary of their surroundings. The D Street Boyz were also tracking the new Pharaohs and shivering at every piece of news that they got on their blackberries, or tweets or facebook statuses. So if one day, they thought that the Tahrir Square March would be a one sided affair, they were calm and so was their pet SENSEX, but as the pro-government troops retaliated, then the D Boyz shuddered and lost control of the SENSEX – and end of the week, the SENSEX dropped to 18000 (or eight points above it). Some days that saw Somali pirates blindfolded being led to local courts and police stations, enthused the D Boyz that speared the SENSEX into the sky. But MENA returned to take central stage, so what if A King was under arrest, and the inflation was getting more inflated with milk prices unanimously raised to benefit politician run dairies. So if uncut onions led to teary eyes, looks like Indian democracy will now have to cry over spilt milk. 

The cathartic changes in the lives of the people was difficult to digest in the beginning. But people were smiling and putting back to order the damages at the street corners. The markets opened again, and the farmers brought in the fresh produce to sell before they perished. The lack of middlemen did cause some hiccups at the beginning, but soon the spiraled prices fell and the farmers got good money for their produce, while the citizens paid less for the goods. They also got a lot more than they were used to. Things were changing for the better and although their President and his cohorts had scooted away with all their wealth, the democracy was determined to rebuild their Republic.

On that optimistic note, I would like to wish you all a very happy weekend. Try and do your grocery shopping at markets that don’t fleece. See if you can start a mini revolution against the politicians and others of their ilk who are milking us dry ……

Cheers and have a nice weekend….