An innocent remark

The Thackeray vs. Bachchans saga is back to bite us again. Just when Raj Thackeray was barred from making any public speeches and just when peace was prevailing, Mrs. Jaya Bachchan had to go out and put her foot in the mouth.

For those of you who don't know (and that is possible only if you have not switched on the television even for a minute in the last few days. Every channel is doing a special on this and you couldn't have missed it otherwise), Jaya Madam was on stage for the music release of her son's movie 'Drona' and she went ahead and said 'Hum UP ke log hain, hum Hindi mein baat karenge. Maharashtra ke log hume maaf karde' (We will talk in Hindi because we are from UP. Maharashtrians, please excuse us). Raj Thackeray promptly took offence and demanded an apology. Madamji did give an apology saying 'it was an innocent remark'. Any fool worth a 2-cents brain can make out that her statement was anything but innocent. Her remark was intentional and was uncalled for. All she had to do was say a few good things about her son and his movie and go back home in peace. But no, she had to take a dig at Mr.Thackeray.

While these big stalwarts taunt one another and nurse their egos, they forget a very important thing - that they are in the public eye and anything they do affects the common man. Jaya can get away with this statement. She can be safe in the comfort of her house with police protection. What about those pani-puri thelewalas and taxi drivers and paanwalas? Those non-Maharashtrians have to bear the brunt of Jaya's 'innocent remark'.

No, I don't support what Thackeray is doing. What happened to the common people on the streets of Maharashtra was definitely wrong. Mumbai is the commercial capital of India and you can't expect only 'Marathi' speaking people to stay here. Asking for boards to be put up in Marathi or to make teaching Marathi compuslory in schools - all that is fine. But beating up paanwaalas is not the solution.

That being said I don't think Bachchans are any better. The Bachchan family has made Mumbai their home for decades now. They earn their name, fame and money in this city. Still, UP is so close to their heart, Big B goes and does an ad for his beloved friend Amar Singh saying 'UP mein dum hai kyun ki jurm yahan kam hai'. If you can have such undying love for your state, why do you object to Thackeray's views? And after you saw the massacre that took place just a few days ago, you had to make that statement?

I don't know who will have the last laugh in this war. But those who are crying are the movie producers and distributors. And the common man. So, Jayaji, next time you make 'an innocent statement', think about those innocent people on street who have to suffer because of you.

Freedom and Independence?

My decision to quit work after having a baby has got mixed responses. Most of the older generation women are extremely supportive and are beaming with pride that their daughter or grand daughter has taken this bold decision. Few of the girls of my age (cousins, friends) are happy too. They say they wish they could likewise. Some of them are paying heavy EMIs against their home loans and can no way afford to quit. There is this other group which is totally against my decision. On interrogation they come up with comments like ‘Baby is not the only thing in your life. Why are you ending your personal life for the baby?’ and ‘You will lose your independence and freedom’ and ‘You will not have any personal life. You will be a mom slave’. I don’t have an answer for them, and I don’t really have to convince them, so I just smile at the comments and change the topic.

I have never had a dilemma. Even before I got married and started thinking about a kid, I always knew I want to stay at home with my baby. Luckily, I found an agreeing partner in my husband. He was totally happy with my opinion but left the final decision to me. He never pressurized me or influenced me. Since there was no doubt in my mind, I resigned even before I reached the third trimester. Till date, I haven’t regretted the decision. Things might change once the baby is here, but let’s cross the bridge when we come to it.

I recently visited my Uncle’s house in a tiny town called Koppa. I was born and brought up in a village and hence like the country side a lot. I instantly took to the place and it brought back my childhood memories. My Uncle works as a Manager in a relatively new sugar factory. When my Uncle joined this factory, the factory quarters was literally like a forest. Trees and dried grass everywhere and lots of snakes. Nobody took the initiative to make the place a bit more habitable. All the women continued with their rant, but did nothing. Until the Chief Officer (something like CEO) came along. CO’s wife (as she is addressed by everyone) was the one who transformed the place. Every single day, she would gather a bunch of workers and get the place cleaned. The trees and grass were cut, the ground was cleaned. She built fences around and planted banana, chiku, jackfruit and coconut trees. Not only did the snakes intrusion dwindle, the whole quarters was enjoying ‘home grown’ banana, coconut and jackfruit. Why am I mentioning this? Is there a connection between this lady and my decision? There is one.

The CO’s wife was married off very young. She had kids even before she could appreciate motherhood. She was only 32 when her first daughter was married off. She now has many kids, grand kids and great grand kids. She recently stayed in the US for a few months to assist in her grand daughter’s delivery. I don’t know if she is literate, but I doubt it. For any city-bred, educated, working woman, this lady’s life is a sad story. She doesn’t have any freedom. Really? Is that how it is? The lady is strong minded, thinks and acts independendtly. She didn’t follow the other ladies footsteps and continue to rant. Instead, she chose to act. She didn’t need her husband’s guidance or other women’s support. She did all this single handedly. If this is not freedom, what is? She has her own personal life in which she does what she likes. Does she have a paying job? No. On the other hand, I know many working women who can’t even buy vegetables on their own. They have to depend on their spouses to fill their kitchen with vegetables and grocery. Is she independent? No. Is she working? Yes.

I am not justifying my decision, but I am pointing at the wrong assumption we all have. Freedom does not come from being in a paying job. One may achieve finanicial independence if the husband doesn’t snatch the wife’s salary away. But, is finanical independence enough? It’s time we identify the difference. Freedom is a state of mind. If you ‘feel’ free, you are. Having one’s own personal life is a side effect of that. If you start thinking independently, keeping yourself apart from the family, you will have your own personal life.

Look at your mother. I am sure atleast half of us think that our mothers are more independent than we are. I surely do.

Better - Atul Gawande

The review is here.

The View

We moved to a new house recently. The main reason for moving was to get some peace in the house. Our earlier house, though small and sweet, had serious problems of neighbors. They used to be up the entire night watching TV and talking loudly over the phone. Request and arguments did not make any difference. That is when we decided to move to the adjacent block and this time our requirement was simple. Forest facing, corner flat. If you are wondering what this forest is, it is a 'mini-forest' as it is famously called. You can get a glimpse of it on Google Earth. Finally we did find a flat that met our requirements and additionally, it also has a beautiful view of the forest from the hall and the balcony. Though the rent is on the higher side than we wished for, we took the plunge.

Since it is a corner flat, there is abundant light and air. It has three balconies, so I can increase my stock of plants. We have reserved one balcony as the hobby balcony. This is where I do most of my knitting these days. The view of the forest from this balcony is lovely. There is total peace here, except for the crows, sparrows, cuckoos and squirrels. No, squirrels don't make noise, but they visit us often to see if I have kept some nuts for them, you know, just in case. I had put out some dates in the sun to dry and after a few days, there was not even one left! I keep a diya for the tulasi and one squirrel promptly comes every day and sucks out the oil in it. It has a schedule - every single day it comes at the same time. I wonder how these animals keep track of time. Advanced biological clock?

Thanks to the light and air, my plants are doing very well here. We bought this plant 3 years back hoping to see lovely flowers on it. No such luck until we moved to this house. It has a beautiful pink flower now and the plant looks much healthier.

And this is the beautiful view from our hall balcony. It is all green as far as you can see. With yesterday's rain and today's cloudy weather, the view is breath taking.

I know, this post is too personal for my taste. I have been staying at home since a week now (that is fodder for another post) and have been enjoying every single moment and I wanted to gloat! This bliss is partly because of the isolation and the peace that this house provides. And did I mention the view?

Citibank and its so called customer service

We all have heard enough about how banks come up with creative ways to cheat customers. Be it hiding the annual fee clause from the customer or sending an unasked for, unwanted credit card to a customer AND charge an annual fee over it! Yeah, these banks put any artist to shame. I am just adding two more things to the never ending list of Citibank’s tricks.

1. Suvidha account points redemption

I had accrued quite a few Suvidha usage points in the last year. Before I could redeem those, they lapsed in March. When I called the customer service, I was given a prompt answer that points lapse in March. Why wasn’t I informed about it before hand? No answer. I pledged to take revenge by redeeming the points next year. So, this year, promptly in March, I redeemed those points and was left with a few ‘chillar’ of 20 points. I was expecting these to lapse by the end of the month, but guess what, they didn’t lapse. Another phone to their customer service and I am informed that the leftover points after redemption are carried forward. This is insane! Unredeemed points lapse but left over points are carried forward? Who made this rule? What is the logic behind this?

2. Debit card renewal fee

We have all heard about lifetime free credit cards, but did you know that Citibank will charge an annual fee of Rs. 99 on your debit card from July 2008 onwards? I was given this wonderful news when I called to order a debit card. I asked the customer care executive what is the logic behind offering free credit cards and not free debit cards? He obviously did not have an answer so I answered for him. Customers can survive without a credit card, but they cannot access their account or use the ATM without a debit card. Citibank knows this well and hence can take advantage of this by charging an annual fee on debit cards. The customer care executive was really shaken by this and asked me to complain “if I am not satisfied with this situation” by sending a mail to

My mail may not result in the wakening of the Citibank executive’s conscience and the eventual cancellation of the debit card annual fee, but I surely will send a mail. If you care about your 99 bucks which Citibank is snatching right under your nose, then you too send a mail. Remember, it is not about the money.

The Music Room: Namita Devidayal

The review.

Paan ice cream: Punjabi Times

Punjabi Times has been around for some time now and everybody in the south of Bangalore knows about it and has been there at least once. For those who don’t, Punjabi Times is a Punjabi restaurant on Bannerghatta Road, opposite Shoppers Stop.

I had heard a lot about this restaurant and went there to try it out myself. For starters, we ordered Tandoori vegetables - assorted vegetables cooked in tandoor. It was delicious - the vegetables just melted in my mouth! The main course had to be Paratha. They offer a wide variety - aloo, gobi, matar, methi, pyaaz etc. Pyaaz paratha with a cup of curd and pickles was too good. I didn’t like the gobi paratha that much.

The best part of the meal has to be Paan ice cream. I didn’t know what to expect when I ordered it. It is a pista colored ice cream with pieces of brown supari in it. It was yummy, it was as if I was eating an actual paan. I don’t think it was ‘flaovred’, there were actual paan ingredients in it. After you eat this, you don’t need to eat paan. The taste stays in your mouth for a long time.

This is not a review of Punjabi Times. This is a post for those people who don’t know about the Paan icecream offered there. Even if you don’t eat a meal there, do eat the icecream. It is a rarity and an absolute must.

Work is worship

We all know how government offices work. But have you ever called a government call center? I did. For the past two weeks, I and my husband have been calling the BSNL call center every day. Yeah, you read that right. Every Single Day.

We have BSNL broadband connection which was working just fine. Except for the frequent outage on weekends, it was fine. One fine morning, it refused to connect. Authentication failure, apparently. There was no reason why it should just stop working.

We called their call center the first day. It took us around 15 minutes to get through the terrible music and speak to a human. He made us go through the standard procedure - reenter all data and reboot the modem. When that didn't work, he promptly told us that the server is down. The same thing repeated the next few days. Thus started the saga of get back home from work, dial the number, listen to the wonderful music, finally get through the call, explain the problem, do the standard procedure and realize the server is down and then hang up.

I gave up and almost decided to dump BSNL and go for Airtel. My husband has a lot of patience than me and kept trying. Two days back, may be it was my husband's luckiest day, our call was answered by a person who knew what he was talking about. He told us that all usernames which have underscores and hyphens in them have been disabled. That made sense because there was no reason why the connection should stop working one fine day. He said he has to create a new username for us, but couldn't do so now because the server was down. He asked us to call the next day.

So... we called yesterday and our luck apparently ran out and our call was answered by some moron. We told him about this username thing and he had no clue what we were talking about. No matter how we tried to explain, he just refused to create a new username and even said that usernames can be created only at the local exchange. My husband asked him to handover the call to the person who answered our call the previous day. That guy gave some lame excuse that the other person was not available or some such thing and we hung up.

We sulked and sighed and finally decided that we are going to say bye-bye to BSNL. That's when our phone rang. Guess what? It was the same guy who told us about this username problem. He took the trouble of looking up our number and calling us. He even created a username and again guess what? It worked! Ecstatic is not the word, but I will use it anyway. We couldn't thank him enough and asked him if there is any way we can let his supervisor know about this wonderful deed. He gave us an email id where we can send a thank you mail, but I don't think anyone is going to read that. So here I am, thanking our angel and our saviour from the bottom of my heart and my husband's heart.

This post is not about how BSNL just decided to change all usernames without informing the customers or the customer care staff. It is not about how incompetent most of the call center staff are. This post is about that one person who stands out from the rest of the crowd because he cares about his customers, takes his work seriously and thus made a difference in someone's life. Vinod Kumar B R, if you are reading this, you retained a BSNL customer. More importantly, you taught us what is the meaning of 'work is worship' and made us realize that we should apply the same thing at our work place, and also that we can leave a mark in this world and make a difference no matter who you are. Thank You.

It's not about the money

A few weeks back, my maid decided to go on a vacation. She would be gone for a week so I asked her to find a replacement. She found a lady who was part of the housekeeping staff who was willing to do so.

The lady religiously came to work for the next few days. She wasn't great with her work, but I had to put up with what I had. She was talkative and very rude. I didn't bother much about her behavior since she would be gone after a few days anyway. On the last day of her work I paid her for her services. I didn't have change, so gave her a big note and asked her to return the change of Rs.20. I told her to hand it over to my maid. She nodded and left.

I informed my maid about this money business and asked her to collect it from the lady. For 3 weeks there was no sign of this housekeeping lady. The manager informed me she was on leave. I was almost sure I will never get my money back. Meanwhile, my maid happened to spot the lady somewhere and asked her about the money. The lady flatly refused! When my maid told me about this, I was furious. I had decided to let go of my money, but when I heard this from my maid, I pledged to get every penny that the lady owed me.

I searched for this lady high and low and finally found her one day. I asked her for the money and she had the audacity to ask me, "Why should I give you money?" I was shocked. That was MY money, isn't that a reason enough? I wanted to tell her that we don't grow money on trees, but before I could give her a piece of my mind, the manager interfered. He asked the lady to return the money and she did.

As I was walking back with the money clutched in my hand, I heard this lady mutter, "So much of drama for just 20 Rs.?" I wanted to tell her "It is not about the money", but I have a feeling she wouldn't understand.

Peshawari Biryani

Reasons for trying out this recipe were many:

1. The photo looked so delicious and tempting. Sprouted matki and rice sounded like a yummy combination.
2. I had all the ingredients that the recipe called for. I didn't have cinnamon, so I used pepper instead. It was not meant to be a replacement, but an extension.
3. My list of rice items is limited and I wanted to try some new rice item.
4. The recipe was simple and nutritious.

The only downside of this recipe is it needs preparation the previous day if you want to use sprouted matki. The dish turned out really well. The rice which I thought would be bland was the best part of all. The fragrance of basmati rice mixed with spices like cardamom, pepper and cloves was heavenly. I made the gravy a bit spicy to satisfy my husband's taste glands.

This dish has such a wholesome taste - it feels as if the dish is satisfying every taste bud on your tongue. It gives you a satisfying feeling in your mouth and in your stomach. A simple recipe which gives you a delicious and nutritious rice item. This item will be a frequent visitor in my kitchen.

Animal's People

The review is here.

A weekend all about food

This weekend, the cook in me was on a high and I tried my hand at three new food items. No disappointments, all of them turned out well.

I was bored with the usual rice items I make and wanted to try out something different. A quick search on the net revealed this mouth watering Sanjeev Kapoor's recipe of Baoli Handi. I made a few changes to the original recipe. I didn't use beans, peas and cauliflower - because I didn't have them. I put a pinch of garam masala along with the chilli powder. The result was an all new, delicious and nutritious rice item. For once, my husband liked a new recipe!

The next item was not really a recipe, but a new dish. MTR's Spicy Idly instant mix. This is a newer and improved version of MTR's Rava Idly mix. The method is the same. Add curd and coriander and steam. All done in 15 minutes. Idlys were yummy. They were not really spicy, but had a mild taste of their own.

Snacks time. I tried out Nupur's recipe of Suralichi Vadi. It is a Maharashtrian delicacy and fairly easy to make. It doesn't take long - max 20 minutes, so a perfect snack when you have unexpected guests. Her recipe is so well explained, I couldn't have goofed up anywhere. The microwave version is a savior, it is so easy to cook in the microwave oven. The Vadi turned out really well. Some of the vadis didn't roll off the plate well. I am guessing I didn't spread the mixture evenly on the plate. I will keep this in mind for next time.

My Sister's Keeper: Jodi Picoult

Read the review here.

Hungry eyes

A darshini in J.P.Nagar. Friday Evening. Around 8.30.

It was a long, tiring day. No mood to cook and no patience to wait at restaurants waiting for food. “Dinner at a darshini?”, asks my husband. Sounds good.

We ordered dinner, as in we paid for it and collected it from the counter. A young man is relishing his noodles. A couple is busy stuffing the kid with idli. The road is almost deserted - 9 is late in Bangalore. An empty table at the far end, almost touching the road. That will do.

As I am gulping down my meal, my eyes lock with another pair of hungry eyes. I look away embarrassed. The other pair continues to stare alternately at me and my plate. A tug at my heart, a wrench in my stomach and my mind made up itself to face the situation.

I walk up to the owner of those hungry eyes.

“What’s your name?”


“Do you know Kannada?”

He shakes his head.


Shakes again.

“Which language?”


“Kya khaoge?”

No answer. I can see he is embarassed, ashamed.

“Idli khaoge?”

His eyes light up. He is almost inaudible. “Bhel Puri.”

“Idhar hi ruko.”

After five minutes, the darshini-wala calls out, “One plate bhel puri.”

I look around to spot the eyes. They are no where to be seen.

Darshini-wala says, “Is this for that boy?”

I nod.

He and his colleagues start searching for that boy. He is hiding behind a car. They call him. He shakes his head.

One guy shows the parceled bhel puri to the boy. “This is for you”, he says.

The boy is still not sure. Reluctantly he comes to collect it. He collects the parcel, and walks out, not even once looking at me.

Darshini-wala says, “He comes here everyday. Some four-five times. He will come back again after some time.”

I ask myself, “Did I do the right thing?”

The Secret Life of Bees: Sue Monk Kidd

The review is here.

The English Patient: Michael Ondaatje

The review is here.

Why do we support the weaker one?

Watching Australian Open last month was fun, to say the least. We saw a lot of upsets. Federer challenged by Tipsarevic in round 3, the defending champion Serena Williams thrown out in quarter finals, the World No.1 Federer and No. 2 Nadal failing to reach the finals - this was one nail biting tournament.

I watched the semi-finals between Djokovic and Federer and then the finals between Djokovic and Tsonga. Amazing matches, both of them. In the semi-finals, the crowd was cheering for Djokovic. There were many Federer fans present, no doubt, but Djokovic fans were more vocal in their support.

Cut to the finals match and the exact opposite happened. People were cheering for Tsonga. Djokovic fans were unusually quiet. Djokovic showed his disappointment about this in his acceptance speech.

The match was not about Serbia vs. Switzerland or Serbia vs. France. This was about strong vs. week. The crowd was not cheering for the country the player represented but the quality he represented. In both the matches, the crowd wanted the weaker player to win.

Why are we humans like this? Why do we want the weaker player to win? Is it because we want to boost his confidence or empower him? Even if either person wins, the crowd doesn’t really gain anything. What do we gain by supporting the weaker player? To feel good that we didn’t support the obvious winner but supported the less obvious one and hence did a good deed? Or is it just because we want to see an upset and hence a hot news to talk about? What is the intention behind this loyalty shift?

Why only the crowd, even I wished the same. My loyalty towards Djokovic suddenly shifted in the finals and I was hoping Tsonga wins. If I ask myself why, I am not happy with the answer I get. I want the weaker player to win because this will create a new sensation and breaking news and I have something to talk about. I want to discuss/gossip about how the champion was defeated and that gives me some wild pleasure. Strange!

What’s your reason? Why do you support the weaker player?

An article on Jasper Fforde

If you haven’t read Jasper Fforde yet, then I urge you to do so. And so does Pradeep Sebastian in his article which appeared in Hindu this Sunday.

On Chesil Beach: Ian McEwan.

Review is here.

My Name Is Red: Orhan Palmuk

Review is here.

Tribute to O P Nayyar

The talented music composer, O.P.Nayyar's first death anniversary falls on January 28th. A tribute to the legend.

The Accidental: Ali Smith

Review is here.

Aaoge Jab Tum O Saajana: Jab We Met

Amidst the roaring success of the foot-tapping Mauja Hi Mauja and the melodious Tum Se Hi, another gem from the movie Jab We Met has gone unnoticed.

Aaoge Jab Tum O Sajana is melodious and has a classical touch to it. Sung beautifully by Ustad Rashid Khan, this song is four and a half minutes of sheer pleasure.

Aaoge Jab Tum O Saajana,
Angana phool khilenge
Barasega saawan, barasega saawan, jhoom jhoomake
Do dil aise milenge

This song is composed by the guest composer, Sandesh Shandilya, who has given us songs like Suraj Hua Maddham from Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gam, Bhaage Re Man from Chameli, Laree Chootee from Ek Chalis Ki Last Local.

The song is slow and melodious. Irhsad Kamil's words are simple and sweet. The best thing about the song is certainly singing. Ustad's voice has a folky touch and works well with the song. The song opens with his powerful alaap. Ustad sings with ease. The way he ends the 'phool khilenge' and 'do dil aise milenge' is as if he is lazy to complete the lines, and that adds a special effect to the song. His expressions are so genuine, one can feel the longing for the beloved. The song ends with a flute piece and Ustad's sargam. A perfect end to a great song.

Song: Aaoge Jab Tum O Saajana
Movie: Jab We Met
Composer: Sandesh Shandilya
Singer: Ustad Rashid Khan
Lyrics: Irhsad Kamil

You can listen to this song on Dhingana.

The Razor's Edge: Somerset Maugham

Review is here.

Being nice to rude people

During our routine post-lunch chit-chat, my friend made a gem of a statement - “It is easy being nice to nice people, but how can you be nice to rude people?”

I had been thinking about it for some days now and I was shocked when she made that statement. It was as if she was reading my mind. Many people would term it as a co-incidence, but I believe that incidents happen for a reason. This was no co-incidence. This was His way of sending a message across. But, I digress.

So, as soon as she said it, the words struck me. Few of my acquaintances are extremely sweet to me- always ready to help in any way they can, and I too reciprocate. I try to be nice to them as much as I can and all is well.

For the past few days, I am trying to be nice to people, and no where near being successful. I try to think before uttering a word so as not to offend anyone. But, whenever I encounter rude people, caution goes flying out of the window. Their act might be intentional or unintentional, but the point is they are rude. I find myself reciprocating in this case too. I use harsh words, sarcastic tone and I get a warm, fuzzy feeling for settling scores with them.

I know a few people who are nice to everybody. Even if someone is rude to them, they smile and act as if nothing happened - not a glimpse of anger, no teeth-grinding. I wonder how they can be nice to people who are mean to them?

Harsh words don’t upset them? Or they do get upset, but are capable of hiding it so well? Do they smile and bear with it only to bitch later and vent their anger? Do they feel superior to the other set and prove their superiority by forgiving? Do they feel sorry for the lesser mortals and hope they rise above the sins? Or is the secret word empathy here?

I will go on asking questions, but will never get a definitive answer. In effect, we come back to the statement we started with: “It is easy being nice to nice people, but how can you be nice to rude people?”

Your thoughts?

The Eyre Affair: Jasper Fforde

Review is here.