Friday, October 9, 2009

The Nobel peace prize

I sauntered to the sofa sometime back when the news flashed of Barrack Obama winning the Nobel peace prize. I was confused, so decided to blog it out. Over the years I have followed the Nobel prize announcements and it was good to see more Indians getting recognition in this forum. Mother Teresa, Amartya Sen, C.V.Raman and others could make it to the hallowed list although it's far more difficult for an Indian or an Asian to prove his candidature for the Nobel standings than say an American or the British. The classic irony is that while Barrack Obama's promised intention of reducing the nuclear war heads from thousands to hundreds is considered good enough to win him the prize (with no action taken as of now to reduce the stockpile), a Gandhi taking a non-violent route and shaking up the entire British empire isn't. It's always easy for an American or European to get enough publicity to attract the Nobel committee while for an Asian or Indian it's twice as difficult. Amartya Sen, Mohammed Yunus and others have almost dedicated their whole life in pursuit of the respective fields only upon which has the committee woken up and taken note of.

Obama certainly deserves recognition for his efforts only nine months into office and for his thinking of disarming nuclear powers in return for a wider global efforts to prevent proliferation. However, there are a large cross section of Americans who do not subscribe to his view and believe that weapons belong to the country and not the president making his task that much difficult.

It's a huge global and diplomatic effort Obama has to lead if he intends to achieve in reality something for which the has already been lauded with the Nobel prize. It's by no means an easy task of cutting down stock piles of fissile material which have accumulated for decades. Nobody would give up so easily when most countries are still stockpiling them. Efforts of non-proliferation has proved futile with rogue states like north Korea making tall claims and others like us calling it discriminatory. The world has yet to agree on a single treaty.... NPT which is the most widely recognized and which still has large loopholes. The world is still about nuclear haves and have nots with both taking opposing postures.

I personally do not see an immediate change in the nuclear posture of any state including the US. Stockpiles will be kept as per every country's strategic needs. Some rogue nations will still smuggle in technology and material needed to produce them and will mock the world with one or two arsenals of theirs and make false threats. Some others will talk of reduction in stockpiles without doing the same, claiming that security threats exist and nuclear deterrence is a sovereign right.

Coming back to the topic of Obama, I feel he has been given the prize very early in the hope of promised action rather than on the ground reality which has always been the case. It's like rewarding a child for studying very hard a day before the exams and not waiting for the result. Yeah, I know the Nobel committee has in the past made quite glaring mistakes..... the most famous ones being of omitting Gandhi and the other
of Rigoberta Menchu who later admitting to fabrications in her biography.

If one has to keep up the credibility and standing of the prize as the most sought after in the world, it should look at the person's lifetime proven body of work in that field and not of promised action and hope. Peace prize winners
mainly international diplomats like Jimmy Carter, Gorbachev, Shimon Peres, Mandela and Kofi Annan have had a huge volume of work and proven results before they walked up the podium. This prize should not be about hope. It is about recognizing efforts which have brought peace and harmony among different people.

I only hope that Obama delivers all that for which he has already been rewarded and keep up the credibility of the Nobel prize.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Maharajas Galore!!!!

I am writing on a topic today which is close to my heart. To me, 15th August 1947 was a day which not only we became independent but we threw out a loosely fragmented princely tyrannical India. 500 odd kings who amassed wealth beyond most people's imagination (actually the state's taxes and duties dutifully paid by it's citizens, which they royally gobbled up!!). All this went to feed their personal greed and hunger. They indulged in mindless eccentricity while their poor "subjects" (I hate this word as it smacks of slavery) toiled day and night to make ends meet.

We were a poor country with the richest kings. Those shameless creatures had amassed so much wealth (actually looted it !!!) that some of their descendants are still feeding on it. For decades, we doled out to privy purses to these jokers most of whom had nothing in them apart from a few strand of genes which they kept en-cashing. We are told that they understood luxury and the good life while others didn't. If one does not know where his next meal would come from after toiling 16 hours a day, I do not think Cartier watches will be on his mind!!!

As I write the leftist side of me continues to poke me to elaborate on how they subjected the ordinary masses to a wretched life while they enjoyed what they did not deserve even by an inch. The Maharajah of Junagadh had a peculiar passion for dogs. His favorite pets were assigned to apartments equipped with telephones, electricity and domestic servants and were borne off to marble mausoleums to the strains of Chopin's music. For the wedding of his favorite bitch he spent 60,000 pounds, a sum which could by any estimate financed the basic needs of 1,20,000 of his people.

The Nizam of Hyderabad reputed to be one of the wealthiest in the world in 1947, reportedly contributed 25 million pounds to Britain in world war -1, for which a very grateful Britain addressed him as his "Exalted Highness" (the only royal in India to be addressed with such salutations are really costly!!!!) The man himself guarded his wealth zealously for 35 years eating off a tin plate, smoking cigarette stubs left by guests and squatting on a mat by the floor in his room. Yet wrapped in a tattered newspaper on his desk was the Jacob Diamond, one of the largest in the world, a mighty 280 carats.

Then there was the super-glamorous Maharani Bakhtavar Kaur of Patiala, who got Cartier to redesign her necklace with a diamond of 234.69 carats; Maharani Indira Devi of Cooch Behar wore sandals by Salvatore Ferragamo who in his memoirs wrote how the Maharani loved a pair in black velvet set with diamonds. The maharanis had weavers to weave saris specially commissioned. Jewels, cigarette cases, shoes, evening bags, hair combs and ornaments would all have been from design houses like Van Cleef & Arpels, Boucheron, Cartier or Faberge. There was no need for the princes to travel or indeed leave the palace if they didn’t wish to as it all came to them. I am told (but I am not vouching the authenticity of it) that a certain Maharaja had a snout in the front of his Rolls Royce to spray steaming water if any ordinary citizen crosses his path while driving.

This fantasy of luxury in a country where people struggled for basic living, seems not only barbaric but also criminal. Alas, we didn't have an egalitarian society then and being worshipers of such rulers, the people meekly accepted it as their destiny and lived on. The fact that we abolished the privy purses and made them "commoners" is one great achievement of democracy and modern India. We should have no place in an equal society where men and women by virtue of lineage get away with all the nation's wealth.

Thankfully most of their properties now belong to the nation and their grand children only have stories to tell!!

Thankfully we could bury the monarchies and move on to a strong vibrant democracy. Let us not forget that not many people in this world have that privilege.

Monday, June 15, 2009


I am writing on a trip, which I had made in 1995, sounds pre-historic, but when I think of it, it doesn't seem so old. I was then a management trainee in Ispat industries. The company had very generously asked our whole batch of 33 trainees to go on a month long company tour to visit all their plants across India. It was really a month long picnic on our part. We were fresh out of college, and a month long crisscross across the country was something which we were enjoying to the hilt!

Our month long travel was coming to an end, and the last halt was Balasore. Ispat had a factory there which we were supposed to visit for a week. For us, what we were also looking forward was that Balasore is great for seafood, especially prawns!!! We boarded the train at approx 9 in the night, and we were supposed to reach by 1 in the night. Our group, luckily, had all foodies, guys who could consume huge amounts of food and thoroughly relish it!! As the train chugged on from Howrah to Balasore, most of us, had made plans for own our sea food festivals!!!

All of us had decided, that we should not miss anything, as far as sea food was concerned. On reaching the town at 1 in the night, we were taken to a hotel (It was hotel swarnachuda, do not know whether it is still there or not).

As the jeep screeched to a halt at the reception of the hotel, all of us jumped out of it and headed straight to the restaurant, leaving the jeep full of luggage behind (we had not even checked in to our rooms, we did not want to waste time, lest the cook goes to sleep!!!). We asked the staff to open the place for us to 1 in the night.

As per our carefully laid out plans, which we had made on our train journey, our targets had to be two of Balasore's famous exports - prawns and cashew nuts. All of us ordered two jumbo plates of each followed by a dinner, which obviously included some items where these two were the main ingredients.

Our stomachs were obviously not keeping pace with our enthusiasm, but we were the last persons on earth to give up. We gobbled up everything that night, the waiters had a baffled expression on their faces, but they thought probably a good night's sleep would sober us down.
For the next week, the whole of the staff and the cooks of the hotel, have laid on our tables, the amount of food, which they probably lay to their guests in an entire holiday season. Our day would always start and end with cashew nuts (fried or salted or roasted or just raw). Meals would always start with cashew nuts, as if it was the holy bread, would have to include 2-3 varieties of prawn dishes (fried, gravy, roasted etc) besides other non-vegetarian stuff, ice-creams and kheer, and a lot of other delicacies.

It was as if it was a crime not to eat. Each of us was competing with the other on the amount of food one could eat. In the midst of all this cut-throat(or stomach!!!) fights, one of us (Sanjeev, I think) suggested we should go light on one day and stick to something light like dal-chawal.
It was as if he had uttered something sacrilege. The whole gang pounced on him - HOW DARE HE EVEN THINK LIKE THAT??? He beat a hasty retreat and went back to the familiar diet of cashew, prawns, mutton, ice-creams and other such staple stuff.

Balasore is famous for prawns, sea fishes and cashews and unless you eat against time, you will not be able to gulp the huge volumes of food which will leave you totally satisfied with the visit to this unique place. By the 5th day, it's as if we had reached the moksha of eating happiness. It's as if we had climbed a huge mountain of food, done it, conquered and was savoring the victory.

When we caught the train back to Kolkata it was mission accomplished!!!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Bon vivant!!!!

I am starting this new series of food reviews of my latest gourmet adventures.It's been a while , that I have written a post, honestly I ran out of ideas, and then it's the foodie in me which responded. From now on, I am going to write a review of every eatery I visit.

I start my account with my recent visit to Rajdhani restaurant in the Eastern suburb of Mulund in Mumbai. Actually, I made two visits to the same place in a span of a month, the first with my office colleagues (this is when I first came to know of this place and liked it!!) and then with my wife. The second visit, was to make my wife also experience the ambiance and the food which I liked on my first visit.

This place serves authentic Rajasthani / Gujarati food and we took their special thali which I am told is their specialty there. The place is quite large although the tables could have been better arranged giving a more cosy dining experience. The place is pure vegetarian, and although I am not a Gujarati or Rajasthani myself, the dishes seemed to me to have an authentic touch (some of my Guju friends do not agree with this, though!!).

What immediately strikes you after you order for a special thali is the amazing range of items being brought in at regular intervals (you actually keep looking at the staff who keep walking towards your table with amazing regularity) your plate never seems to get empty. If I recollect rightly, it starts off with starters like kachori and chaat and then the actual meal comes. The meal has an assortment of Indian breads(theplas, rotis etc), the rice varieties and khichdi, the farsaans, four types of bhajis and three types of daals, followed with chaas, basundi and other sweets, and deserts.

Overall it is not a meal but as my wife says its a dining experience!!

I am told, that the total count of items on their thali is 32, which includes mostly Gujarati, Marwardi , Maharashtrian dishes. The quantity is unlimited, although it does not make sense, no body can go beyond tasting each item (on my next visit I am going to choose select items and savor them rather than trying to finish their entire range).

The service is quite fast, and it's striking to notice the waiters using some kind of strange hand signals to signify which items someone wants a repeat.

Personally I liked some of their daals, the basundi was good too!!! The snacks serving could have been less (initially a lot of snacks come, one may tend to over eat that) the items needs to be spaced better. I had been on a Sunday, I would personally have preferred a more lazy serving, which gives me more time to savor the dishes, rather than get boggled with the number of katoris I have to finish. Rather than going on with the endless winding story I am going to rate this place for myself:-( out of 10, remember, I am a harsh critic!!!)

Food:- 8.5
Ambiance :- 7
Service :-7.5
Authenticity :- 9

Overall a great dining experience and to cap it all if you have liked the food there is a small hammer which you can strike on a dhol as you exit. It's a nice and unique acknowledgment of the guest and the host for an experience which both have enjoyed. The guest thumps the dhol and the host responds with a team cheer!!!

vivant......till my next burp!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, May 31, 2009


I started playing tennis, a couple of months back, more out of curiosity since I had never played on a tennis court before, but now I have got hooked on to it. It all started with the usual guilt feeling of missing out on games and sports, but now it's part of my daily life. I have always found the game fascinating to watch, loved watching matches at Center court, the Roland Garros and the other Grand slams, but never thought playing could be much more a fun too. As someone so aptly put-Tennis is an addiction that once it has truly hooked a man will not let him go.

Tennis is one of the most popular spectator and participation sports in the world, with fans and competitors in more than 100 countries. Millions of people, most of them amateurs, play the game worldwide, either as recreation or in amateur tournaments. It's truly a great mental and physical game. As Pete Sampras sums it - "It's one-on-one out there, man. There ain't no hiding. I can't pass the ball."

I started first understanding and following tennis when the unseeded Boris Becker, only 17 at that time, beat Kevin Curren in 1985 to win the Wimbledon title. Watching him firing those booming aces at the Center court to hapless opponents make me hook on to the game. Although for a first time watcher, the rules appear slightly queer, over time, I have managed to understand the rules and appreciate the art and beauty of the game.

Once I started playing and got coached, I realized tennis is a mind game too. I realize now looking back how the greats - Sampras, McEnroe, Connors, Becker, Agassi, Steffi all combined a mix of tactical, technical, physical and mental abilities to reach the top of sports. The game I used to watch as a competition sport, is something I see very differently now. I have learned the importance of grip, balancing the body, controlling the shots, the power of serve, how to play tennis from the net and the baseline and all the intricacies of it. Although I can hardly call myself a pro yet I am happy with the learning curve. It is something I look forward to everyday, and truly keeps me going. The best thing about waking up in the morning is no longer the cup of tea, but hitting the courts.

I play with players from all age groups from 12-65 year old and I realize how everyone cashes in on their dominant strengths and pushes the fight to the opponent. Its fun to play with small school going kids (may be 12 year old). The seriousness with which they approach the game makes you stand up and watch. I have played with oldies who have amazing serve and volley as well as great eyes for placing the ball in far corners of the court. If you play tennis you will learn never to underestimate your opponent this is what I take back from the courts everyday.

I am still practicing to put in more power to my serve, although I like the fact that my percentage of first serves are high, I need to improve and develop a strong backhand if I wish to play competitive tennis and improve my stamina by leaps and bounds.

With mumbai monsoons round the corner I am sure my tennis will take a beating but I am aiming that by winter I should be ready for local club level competition. As they say - Champions keep playing till they get it right.

My aim is to be able to serve aces, play the lob, overhead smash and the lob perfectly by October. I also realize that I need to play more passionately and get involved 200% while playing no other thought should cross my head then. I also need to read up more on the game specially on the techniques and watch more tournament coverages. I will keep updating this post with tennis updates.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Blogging Hiatus

Yeah , returning back to blogging after a hiatus!!Feels nice, just could not manage to get into the mood to write a post.What really inspired me today was reading through quite a few very well written blogs, the first thing in the morning.I was planning to start writing again , but could not break the shell.Well written, means, written straight from the heart, not too flamboyant,but one that really makes you continue reading.There are some great blog writers , who write on simple everyday stuff which all of us go about doing everyday; what really sets their posts apart is the that they can hold the readers interest.I hope , they continue writing , inspiring unhurried souls like me to start clicking regularly.
I have no particular topic in mind to write.It's summer in Mumbai with election results round the corner and nothing really much happening apart from some IPL action.Yeah , I did take a small break driving down to the konkan coast for a much needed break.Maharashtra has a long and lush green coastline which few states can match.There is an abundant catch of fresh fish all along.We chose Harihareswar because we had never been there.It's a beautiful beach , shallow and very long.What's particular great that this weekend getaway offers you to get completely cut-off from the hustle of Mumbai (in fact cell phones do not work there !!!!). By the time we had actually reached there after a long drive, we got the shock of our trip !The reality dawned on us that we may not get an acco to stay.We were actually lucky to scrape through the last hotel room available on a long weekend.
We enjoyed some walks along the beach and the tall waves drenching us over.It was something we badly needed from the hustle of Mumbai.This makes me realise what a weekend getaway can do to charge your batteries.I am now determined to take these breaks more regularly.A long drive , check in to a calm place, beside the sea for a weekend, soak in the place and then back to work.
This is the kind of holiday I am looking forward to now, rather long ones in a guided tour fashion where we keep ticking off places which we visit of our register.For me , this place is a must see again!!I hope it remains serene like this and the tourism industry sharks don't eat it up dotting it with innumberable hotels and guided tours!!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

20 things about myself

Today , I restarted blogging after a long time.I contempletd for some time , but thought would break the ice with this small piece I wrote to discover myself.As I was writting this , I realised that I was writtting this more for myself ,than for any web visitor.Here is this ....for myself:-

I love cycling
I love playing tennis and cricket
I enjoy writing a good piece in English , I find well written texts and passages interesting
I enjoy driving on highways.
I love crispy dosas
I relish ice-creams and desserts
I like clean places but hate cleaning.
I don’t like telephones(I do not wish to remain connected all the time)
My views on a lot of issues are slightly left off center
I wish I could have been a swimmer.
I am a strong believer in the institution of marriage.
I wish I could sing or play a musical instrument
I respect self-made people
I hate braggers.
I wish there was more equitable distribution of wealth and resources in society.
I do not like religious discourses.
I hate television soap operas.
I take time picking up a new language.
I love country music
I am not very gadget friendly.

Monday, January 26, 2009

26th January

I started blogging some months back, wrote a few posts with great enthusiasm, after which I sort of gave up. Every time, I think of some topic to write, I mentally conceptualise it, however, when I am on my PC, I just go back to reading old posts, somebody else's blog or more conveniently shift to orkut. For a few weeks now, I have not been able to shrug off my laziness to actually write a new post.

Today, I have no particular topic in mind and my head is cluttered with a medley of random thoughts, however I am determined to restart my blogging innings again. I may not write anything coherent, but I am going to write this for myself. It's Republic day today for Indians and for most Indians it's a holiday to chill out. Coming as it on a monday gives everyone an extended weekend, all of us wish that national holidays fall either on Fridays or Mondays. Honestly, as the number of years go by, days like 26th January become holidays for rest, outings with friends and family and nothing else. The fact that India became a republic on this day is actually incidental. How many of us actually watch that Old Soviet Union style trucks carrying tableaus of different states or one army contingent marching past another. Honestly, I think it's time we changed the the official celebrations in Delhi to something more interesting. While we have made great progress as a nation in every field, when it comes to celebrating our success and show our might, the pattern has not changed. Why don't we think of changing this pattern, Isn't it drab and monotonous??????

First the military parade, I know this is the only day when the defence forces can unveil what they have built in store and ready to use for our safety, however the show, more for reasons of convinience, is weighed heavily in favour of the army. I would prefer a awe-inspring air show by our dare devils on the skies and a show by our navy on the waters. It gives citizens a confidence that apart form a huge army, our skies and seas are equally well protected. An air show telcast to a billion people and a naval drill is something most of us have not seen and would give the navy and the airforce the respect it deserves. I would also prefer a evening fireworks display which makes the celebration enjoyable. Such display can be held in important cities of India and not Delhi alone. I think this can draw people in their respective cities to a common place where everyone can enjoy and feel a sense of national pride. We can have cultural programs on that day and not the same glimpses of states (in different trucks, it's now pretty standard- Milk co-operatives for Gujrat, harvesting in Punjab, Baul singing in Bengal, Rath Yatra for Orissa, Bihu dance for Assam....actually the whole list is pretty predictable!!!!)

I would prefer the whole celebration to be available on the net, downloadable (we are supposed to be an IT giant!!!)This enables NRI's also to be able to access and feel a sense of belonging.
For a change my recipe of celebration would be as follows :- Pay homage to the tomb of unknown soldier and the father of the nation at the crack of dawn followed by a military parade in the morning in all the four major cities. This should be followed by cultural concerts by well known Indian artists after which we can have street plays, folk songs, folk dramas, rock concerts and other cultural items. This could be followed by some interesting sporting events and the day should end in a fireworks carnival.

I hope the recipe sounds different and I have tried to include something to appeal to everybody, this I feel will keep involved in celebrations and not in dozing off, which usually most people do.Do put your thinking caps on, and let us put together an interesting 26th January celebration programme. We can send it to our babus and netas to at least think upon.