Oct 112017
 

I cannot foresee the implications of linking all my Bank a/cs, Phone numbers etc to Aadhar. But I linked most of them as soon as the government passed the mandate.

I have been very enthusiastic about this particular project UIDAI, since it’s launch during the UPA regime. More so because, I have seen how useful it can be to have a integrated system like this at such a massive scale, for example the way it has been implemented and used in USA. Of course, there is always a flip side to it, but perhaps, I would discuss it in another post.Now, coming to the “mandate” of linking all accounts/phone numbers etc. Let me share the most frustrating experience I had while dealing with the Mobile service providers.

Linking my PAN card was a breeze and so was linking my bank accounts. That’s because I could do it online without visiting the branch.

BUT(this is really a big BUT!), when it came to doing the same for mobile number linking, my experience has been nothing less than hell (a bit exaggeration, but what the heck?)

So I have multiple phone numbers on Airtel and Vodafone. This is what happened at each of the gallery.

Seeing Red at Vodafone

It all started when I received messages from Vodafone which mentioned the mandate passed by the government about linking my number with Aadhar. The message further informed that if I didn’t do so, they would disconnect my number.

Also, at the same point of time, I started receiving another message about upgrading from 3G sim to 4G sim, else they would disconnect my number. This particular one I didn’t take seriously as I knew that they can’t do it. But since I needed to go to the gallery to link Aadhar, why not get it upgraded as well. When I went there, the response from the executive shocked me.

“Sir, you card is from another circle(Mumbai) and we are in Maharashtra circle, we can’t link your Aadhar here, you need to visit Vodafone gallery in Mumbai circle!”
*Face Palm*
So in this age of “Digital India” where everything and everyone is connected, they are disconnected from each other as far as infrastructure is concerned. The irony here is, they claim to connect us to the world. I didn’t face this at the banks. No visits to this branch or that. Just went online and linked it.
So I left it at that, because I was not going to travel to half a day just to link Aadhar to my phone! I stay on the outskirts of mumbai and decided that I will do it when I go there.
Meanwhile, the messages kept coming, but now they started clubbing the messages in one.

Sarkari nirdeshanusar aapka number Aadhar see jod de & 3G sim ko 4G sim per free upgrade kare, anyatha aapka number band ho jayega.”

This translates to “As per the government orders, link your number to Aadhar and upgrade to 4G sim, else your number will be disconnected”. So they restructured the sentence in such a way that it appeared that the government had also mandated to upgrade to 4G sim. These crooks go to any lengths to get their ways!

Anyway, I haven’t yet linked it. Will do it on the last day I guess.

Airtel Open Network was not open enough

Airtel’s messages weren’t so nasty. Just plain and simple link your Aadhar to phone number at your nearest gallery. So I thought, ok, fair enough, I will go do it. That way in Feb ’18 I would have at least one working number.

I thought that it would be a piece of cake and entered the Airtel gallery with high hopes. I thought I could do it in one go.

She: “Yes sir, how can I help you”
Me: “I have to link my Aadhar number to my phone”
She: “Can I have your number, please?”

Me: “123456789”

At this point, things got serious. She went through her laptop, punched my number and made a nervous looking face.

She: “Sir, is this number important to you? Do you use it daily?”

Me: “Of course! Why?”

She: “Sir, the thing is, to link your Aadhar, all your information should match, but your DOB is not matching. So we can’t link it. Perhaps you can apply for another number”

Me: “No, no, I need this number”(this was my mistake. I should have said, ok let me port my number to another provider, but her tactics had worked, I panicked!)

She: “Else another option you have is, you can fill up a form to convert this number to post paid. I will tell you a plan, use it for 4 months and then convert back to prepaid”

Me: “No, no, I don’t want to do that, as my usage is not very high,I would simply be paying high rent without usage”(what an idiot, she must have though. I should have simply told her that If she can update my details when I convert to post paid, why can’t she update my DOB right now?…but I panicked!)

She: “Sir this is the only option you have”
Me: “In that case, I will see what I can do”I walked out, took a deep breath, as if I hadn’t for a long time! Relieved that, I have time till Feb’18 to think over it.

But I am better off

By evening I had tweeted to the Airtel handle about my experience and in no time I received a call from their CC, saying, there is no need to convert. Infact he went on to say, she shouldn’t have communicated in such manner and should have updated the DOB there itself. He assured me that he would “personally update” my DOB. Couple of days later I got a call from same person, who informed me that he had updated the same along with all the necessary details! So I should visit the same gallery and link my Aadhar. “Same Gallery!” my thoughts revolved around this for some time, until that lady’s image came to my mind. But this time it was nasty as hell, as if she was a devil, who had told that person who called me “let him come, I will see what is to be done!”

Me in my mind “Hell no! I am not going there again!”

So till date, I haven’t been able to link my Aadhar to my phone numbers.

Laughing at my wife now. She has purchased her sim before our marriage and is still registered with her maiden name.Point I am trying to make here is, Aadhar is supposed to simplify our life. The process should be very simple but these providers have made it so very complicated. If you have purchased a Reliance Jio sim, you will understand how simple this process can be. I took my aadhar card along, scanned my finger and walked out with the sim.

Oct 072017
 

Wikipedia defines the butterfly effect as the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state[sic]. The 2004 Sci-fi thriller movie of the same title describes The Butterfly Effect using simple theory. When a butterfly flutters its wings in one corner of the world, the ripples are felt in the other corner. Or something similar.

Put in a simpler manner, every different action carried out will lead to a different end result or a different state of transition towards end result. The progress of your life changes based on the actions that you undertake and it will always be different if your actions had been different under same circumstances. There is different set of consequences for every action you take. The consequences will lead to different set of results over the entire period of time and life, beginning the time of action.

How is it that you are reading this?

Have you ever wondered how you reach a certain point in your life and what were the means to this end. Just think, how is it that you are reading this article. If your think backwards in time to all the actions you carried out, you will realise that one particular action lead you to my blog. If you had done something else instead of that, you wouldn’t be reading this.

I had been intending to blog about the butterfly effect since quite some time. More so after and event at our office which reaffirmed my commitment to blog about it. But I wouldn’t find time to do so and kept on pushing it ahead. It was something else that I planned to blog about today, but I couldn’t collect all the details required today due to technical issues. And among list of topics which I have, I was better prepared for this topic. If I had collected the data for that other blog yesterday, I would have been stroking different keys. The butterfly effect wouldn’t have materialized on this blog.

Getting a sense of what this is about?

The event in my office

This small story is quite interesting and which can explain the butterfly effect over centuries.

It so happened that a colleague in my office resigned to take up new challenges in Liberia. As usual, on his final day in the office, we had a farewell get-together. During his farewell speech, he tried to reason his decision with a small story. In short, it goes like this.

There was once a woodcutter, carrying out his job in wood. Around noon time, he got tired from all the work and he decided to take a break. He found a log under the cool shade of a tree and went to sit on it. While just sitting, a caterpillar fell down from the tree and landed on the log. The woodcutter sat on the log and squashed the caterpillar. Soon he realized what had happened and saw that his pants were soiled by the dead caterpillar. He needed to clean them but didn’t have water for that.

In search of water, he went to a nearby farm and knocked on the farmer’s door. A young girl opened the door and attended to his request. The woodcutter fell in love with the farmers daughter. Over a period of time, the woodcutter and the farmers daughter got married and had a baby boy. This boy later went on to become the President of the united States. It is Abraham Lincoln that we are speaking of.

Abraham Lincoln was a well known supporter of the American Colonization Society. This society believed that the freed slaves in America had a better prospects of life in Africa. The settlers in Africa issued a Declaration of Independence and promulgated a constitution which established and independent country. This was the Republic of Liberia.

At this point of time this was just a nice story for all our colleagues in office. But the next sentence by our departing colleague sent out ripples of laughter across the gathering. He said, “If the woodcutter had not sat on the exact same spot where the caterpillar fell down that day, there might have not been any Liberia in existence and I wouldn’t have been leaving this organisation.”

The Butterfly effect

Now that we think of it, it seems more true to the nature of this post. Had the woodcutter decided to take rest a few moments early or later, he wouldn’t have sat on the caterpillar. Consequently Abe Lincoln wouldn’t have been been born and there might not have been present Liberia. Furthermore, if each of the important event that happened during the story, if circumstances had been different, the outcome might would have been different. Let’s say the wood cutter had the water to clean his pants, he wouldn’t have met the young women. Or if the farmer opened the door instead of his daughter? Or if their first born was a girl and not a boy? My colleague might not have had the opportunity to attempt a new venture in his life.

The plot of the novel The Bannerman Effect loosely relies on the Butterfly effect. A team of a once-deadly assassins, which has now retired, is being used by the government to test an experimental computer program. This program predicts the outcome based on certain events triggered by the government. Any event, like assassination of a particular person, triggered by the government will ultimately force others in the network to deduce the next events. These people would trigger further events which would ultimately lead to the goals of the government. The government’s efforts in achieving the expected end results would be minimised. No one would know that the government was involved. The program simulates this effects for each action.

Our lives belongs to the butterfly effect. What do you think is going to happen next? You don’t know. Neither do I. But let me assure you, whatever you are doing now will surely determine what you will do next.

The butterfly continues to flutter, relentlessly.

Oct 022017
 

Ever since I joined the corporate world in 2009, I have come across this tradition of wearing different colored clothes, fixed for each day of Navratri. The people in human resources circulate instruction to wear these colored clothes on those particular days. These are called as the colors of Navratri. I have always assumed that these colors have some religious significance. So I have followed this dress code to be part of the group, for many years. At least when I have the clothes of the particular color.

But when I read a news article today, I was shocked to realize that the colors have no religious significance. Or this is what the news article claims. There is a marketing gimmick linked to it.

The Story behind the nine colors of Navratri

As it turned out, Maharashtra Times, a newspaper published in Maharashtra had low circulation back in 2003. It was considered a masculine newspaper. The editorial team, came up with an idea of wooing women to increase their readership. They decided to play on the assumption that women love to buy and flaunt new clothes. The just needed an occasion.

Maharashtra Times provided them with just that.

Picking up the occasion of Navratri which continues for nine days, they started appealing women on their front page to wear a particular color. They even displayed pictures of successful ladies, dressed in the color of the day. The paper asked the ladies to click a pictures in office and send them in. The newspaper displayed the best photos on a dedicated page.

In time, they added more colors of Navratri, including white which is not worn on auspicious occasions. The women wore it just because the society had accepted this gimmick. Slowly the trend picked up along with the readership of the Maharashtra Times. The trend later became a culture.

It’s not a bad culture at all. Just that people follow it without knowing the truth behind it. The uniformity in colors during these days signify unity in diversity.

For me, I have a weapon to play with in case someone points out why I am not wearing the colors of Navratri. I can just ask a counter question regarding the significance of these colors.

In reality, I do not own pink, green, white. And I think one more color which I forgot.

All that is written above is based on an article which appeared on thequint.com. I take no credits for any research leading to this reveal. Neither do I intend to hurt religious sentiments via my blog. The link to the original article is here.

Sep 212017
 

Myth : My House is always free from Pollutants

We always live under the impression that pollution exists everywhere but in our house. It may be because we  take trouble cleaning it thoroughly every alternate week. Or we keep the windows closed all the time. We assume that all our measures are sufficient to keep the germs and harmful pollutants out of your homes.

Reality : Your house may harbor more harmful pollutants than you think

Organic Pollutants

As a matter of fact, the air in the surrounding might be much safer than the air inside your house. Here’s why……

  • Your house is a confined space which restricts air flow due to walls. Rarely do we see a well ventilated house in city. The fear of vehicle emissions entering in our personal space, force us to keep the windows closed too. The result is that the air inside remains stagnant. Time and again when we open the doors, we inadvertently exchange only the surrounding air pockets. So ideally, we are breathing air which has higher contents of our exhaled CO2. If any of our family member suffers from an infection which transfers via air, we inhale that too. This increases our chance of catching the infection.
  • The second source of harmful pollutants are dust-mites. Any asthmatic person will know this terms. These are microscopic organisms which are present in our surrounding, largely in fabric. So a curtain which we have not washed since a long time, or a bed spreads which we do not changed frequently, are the likely places where we find the dust-mites breeding. They feed on dead skin and breed in damp environment. And the source for this is our dead skin which we shed unknowingly every day, and our sweat which is absorbed in the bed spreads. Presence of humidity in air will also help breeding this tiny enemies.
  • Mold is another pollutant in your house. You will normally observe it in damp environment, especially on furniture which is not been used. Are you neglected wiping off the surface of the wooden  cupboard door? Observe carefully and you will find layer of fungus growth. This can start fungal infection on your skin leading to various skin diseases.
Chemical Pollutants

Your house can also contain certain chemical pollutants. Below is a list of few with their source and the effects they have.

  • Acidic Fumes: The cleaning agents which we use in our house, especially the bathroom, normally contain acidic components in various proportions. These chemicals give out acidic fumes when exposed to air. These fumes are harmful to health and can cause nausea, irritation to eyes, inflammation of breathing track etc. If inhaled in large quantity, these can lead to death too.
  • Lead: Lead is the primary culprit of brain damage in growing kids. Low quality paint on toys and walls of our house can contain large amount lead primarily. If we ingest the paint flakes, it can lead to lead poisoning and possible neural damage.
  • Aerosol Sprays: The aerosol sprays contain chemicals like formaldehyde and xylene, which are toxins. The next time you are “freshening up” your room, consider checking the contents. These ingredients are carcinogens and neurotoxins which are harmful to human bodies.

Prevention: Here’s how you safeguard you homes

Organic Pollutants

If you have read carefully, you will notice that the one very important aspect which encourages organic pollutants is presence of damp atmosphere and lack of air circulation. If you ensure that you house remains dry and well ventilates, you have solved half your problems

  • When you wake up in the morning, keep your windows open. Let the sun rays and morning fresh air enter your rooms. Fresh air ventilates the room and carries out the accumulated carbon dioxide and other dust borne microbes. Sunlight removes the humidity from air thus prevents growth of fungus and dust mites. It is also advisable not to fold your bed covers after you wake up. Keep them spread-out shabbily so that they too become dry and prohibit these microbes from breeding. Change the sheets regularly.
  • Along with your floors, also clean your walls, ceiling and wooden furniture once in a while. This will help remove dust which normally settles on flat surface.
  • If you are using air conditioner, clean the filters of the indoor unit. These filters normally accumulate a lot of dust which can be a breeding ground for dust-mites. Carpets and curtains too tend to absorb lot of dust. A powerful vacuum cleaner can do the trick.
Chemical Pollutants
  • Avoid chemical cleaning solvents. Search for herbal solutions for cleaning as far as possible. In case not feasible, use the chemicals only in well ventilated room, if possible, with exhaust fan running.
  • Avoid chemical based aerosols as room fresheners. You can use natural solution like scented candles. Fresh flowers are a very good source of mild fragrances. Keep a vase full of them and change them daily. Just ensure that none of your family members are allergic to pollen.
  • Use good quality paints. Check the contents of the paints. It should not contain harmful toxins like formaldehyde. One such paint is Asian Paints Royale Atmos . This paint contains activated carbon which absorbs bad odors and released mild fragrances. The paint follows strict international and safety standards. The carcinogens content in it is very less. It is also washable. The Royale Atmos helps you get cleaner and fresher air in your homes.

For more info check https://www.asianpaints.com/atmos

 

Sep 202017
 

 Games and Us

We all play various games in our life. Right from the childhood, when we used to play outdoor games way back in the 80’s and 90’s to the indoor digital games which we play currently. The games included Cricket, football, Badminton, Chess etc in those days whereas currently all these games are digitized.

Digitization of games has its own advantages and disadvantages. The main disadvantage is that we tend to reduce the movement of our body, which normally we associate with these games. But the advantage is that we get to play against the world community as against the local community. This can help us develop our skill in a particular game, much better.

This is mostly true for certain indoor games which require more use of brain than muscle. No one can replace physical sports like football with digitized games and yet maintain the level of physical involvement required. Or may be I am wrong, time will tell.

Here in this post, I will help you learn to play Sudoku. Sudoku is primarily a number game. It involves use of basic math reading, no calculation required. If you know which numbers lie between 1 and 9, you qualify for taking this lesson.

Sudoku primarily appeared in newspapers but programmers have digitized this game. They have also added certain difficulty measures to it, one of them being time constrain. Playing Sudoku under time constrain will help you in improving your logical thought process and keeps your brain active. This also helps reduce the chance Alzheimer. And it’s fun too.

So let’s begin.

Playing Sudoku

 The view

Once you launch Sudoku in your computer or mobile phone, the screen will show a square subdivided in to 9 equal sub-squares. Each of these smaller squares are further subdivided in to 9 equal cells. This 9 X 9 configuration is a standard configuration in any version of Sudoku. Refer picture on left.

You can see few digits entered in cells. Note that the numbers are completely random. But still there exists a logic in their placement. You will understand it once we move ahead.

As you can see, the big outer square is sub divided in to nine smaller sub-squares. I have marked one of them in green. Each of these smaller sub-squares is subdivided in to nine smaller cells. I have marked two of them in red. We must fill up the blank cells to complete the puzzle.

 Game Rules

The rules for the game are pretty simple. All you should do is fill up the empty cells with following constrains in mind:

  • Each sub-square(green) must contain the numbers from 1 to 9 without repetition.
  • Also, each vertical column must contain the numbers from 1 to 9 without repetition.
  • And each horizontal row must contain the numbers from 1 to 9 without repetition.

Straight forward,isn’t it? It is if you follow certain tips and tricks. The level of difficulty you select while launching the game defines this. The difficulty level depends more on which cells are pre-filled with respect to blank cells rather than the number of pre-filled cells. I suggest that a new user should start with easier levels, to get a hang of it.

For the sake of explanation, I have numbered the cells as below. If you use excel, you will be very familiar with this cell address scheme. You may or may not see this numbering scheme in the game depending the developer. We refer to the first row first column as a1, first row second column as a2 and so on up to i9.

Game Play Tips and Tricks

This game is played using the process of elimination. First of all, look up for any sub-square which has the maximum pre-filled digits. You can see in our example above that there quite a few sub-squares. Pick up any one of these sub squares and start counting from 1 to 9 while checking which number is missing.

Playing the Sub-Squares

Let’s say the we are playing with the very first sub-square contained by the cells a1 to c3. We see that the number 1 is missing. There are 5 empty cells in the square a1-c3. But when we take in to consideration the rules, only two cells qualify to accommodate the number 1. These cells are a1 and c1. The cell b2 cannot contain the number 1 because the cell d2 contains the number 1. Similarly a3 cannot contain the number on because the cell g3 contains the number 1. If we place the number 1 in b2 or a3, this would be repetition, which is against the rules.

So now we have the cells a1 and c1 where we can possibly place the number 1. But there is no way at this moment to tell where we should place number 1 without having a conflict in future. So we move forward.

Counting ahead, numbers, 2, 3, 4 and 5 are already present in the sub-square. Number 6 is not present. We can place number 6 in either a1 or a3, but we are not sure even in this case whether there will be future conflict. Same is the case with numbers 7 and 8. Number 9 is already present in the sub-square. So we move forward to analyzing sub-square a4 to c6.

In this, while counting we find that numbers 1, 4, 5, 8, 9 are in same situation as previous sub-square and numbers 2, 3, 6, 7 are already present.

We keep on moving forward among these sub-squares. In sub-square a7-c9 we are able to fill in number 3 at cell b8. This is because it is the only cell which allows the missing 3 to be entered without conflicting with all the already present 3s highlighted in red.

We can keep on analyzing in this way and we come up the final result as below.

Since we have entered few numbered in blank cells in the first iteration, we have to go back and carry out second iteration. Since we have filled up some numbers, they might help us to determine those cells where we not sure previously. We keep on repeating these iterations till we are not able to enter any single number in the entire iteration.

The final matrix after multiple iterations in example above is as below.

Playing the Columns

Since the difficulty level for the puzzle above was easy, we solved this by analyzing the sub-squares. But as the difficulty increases, analyzing the sub-squares alone will not be sufficient and in such case we need to start analyzing using rows or columns method.

Let’s say we tried iterations number of times but were unable to fill up the matrix as below. Then we can go for the next method.

In this case we start analyzing either each row or each column, one by one. Let’s pick up column 1. We again start counting and checking whether the numbers 1 to 9 are present in that column. If any number is absent, we search for the possible cell where we can fill that number. This is done by checking the corresponding row for each cell.

For example, if we want to check if we can fill a missing number, let’s say number 1 in the above case,  in cell a1, we check cells a2- to a9 for the presence of number 1. If number 1 is not present in cells from a2 to a9, then the cell a1 becomes a possible location for number 1. Now we need to check for any other possible locations in column 1 where we can place number 1. If there is only one cell location in column 1 where we can fill the number 1, then we should fill it. If there are more then one possible locations to fill in the missing number 1, we can’t fill it and we should move ahead analyzing the next number.

Once we analyze one column, we analyze the next column in the same way. We can continue this for number of iteration till we either solve the puzzle or we are not able to fill up any number in a single iteration.

Playing the Rows

Once we are not able to fill up any number in a single column iteration but are are left with blank cells, we should start analyzing rows.

Analyzing the rows and filling them ups is same as analyzing the columns as explained above. In this we check the possibility of filling up each cell of the row by cross checking them against the corresponding column. Once done with one row, we mode on to the next row.

Spotting the Numbers

Another method which we can use along with the above three is singling out an individual number and checking their position in the matrix. This method, though similar to analyzing each sub-square, is different from it because in this method, we analyze a particular number. The presence and position of this number in corresponding horizontal and vertical sub-squares determine the position in the sub-square where it is not present.

Let’s take an example of number 5.

You can see that the number 5 appears in each sub-square except in the sub-square a4 to c6. There are four cells empty in a4 to c6. These cells are a4, a6, b5 and b6. Cell a4 abd a6 cannot contain number 5 because cells g5, a8, d6 conflicts. Similarly cell b6 cannot contain number 5 because cell d6 conflicts. So cell b5 is the only cell where we can place number 5.

This analysis can be done starting from number 1 to 9 in sequence.

Mixing it Up

We can even opt for mixing these methods instead of carrying out multiple iteration of each method. For example, we can start with analysis of rows, complete one iteration then move to next method, say column analysis for one iteration and then sub-squares for one iteration and number analysis. Mixing and matching can keep things interesting.

Endgame

So you see, Sudoku is not a difficult game. It just needs few tricks and some practice.

If this article has helped you learn Sudoku, kindly share it across. Leave comments if any help needed.

 

Apr 062015
 

Ding ding ding ding…..The familiar sound of ice gola cart is typical to Indian summers. As kids, we waited with patience, and small change, for the arrival of this saviour from heat, refrigerators being a luxury in those days, afforded by a fortunate few. The gola vendor sold grated ice, shaped into an oval, mounted on thin wood stick and quickly soaked with sweet colored and flavoured syrup as desired by the buyer. What we got was 10 minutes of pure happiness while sucking on the ice and painting our lips an tongue with the color of the syrup used. Nothing could beat the heat as would an ice gola do in those days.

2013-04-24_12-37-52_HDR

We have grown ever since, but the ice gola vendor seems to have found the exilir of life, keeping him young as ever. But our desire for the gola can never fade and on those odd afternoon on holidays, if we hear the familiar ding ding ding, we rush for a glass and some loose change. The ice gola has evoled into glass gola, thus preventing the syrup from dripping down and the loose change is not so loose any more.

But there lies one problem. My kids of 2 years, pampered since birth by my parents and in-laws, if ever they realise that ice gola is the most desired street food I would be making round to pediatrician in no time. The best way to hold back this secret from them, till such a time appropriate or till the time that they realise it themselves, is to re-christian the ice gola as Medicine. And the colors and texture of this medicine, being similar to some of the bitter ones endured by them in past, helps reaffirm this masquerade.

All this while that we have been enjoying the medicine, they must have been thinking, better them than us.

But I couldn’t understand whether to laughout loud or cry when my son, as soon as he heard the ding ding, said in a hurried and urgent tone, mumma, dadda quickly get the glasses, your medicine has come.


Feb 262015
 

We eat. So we cook.

There is no better explanation to it. Ever since man invented fire, the subsequent improvement in taste upon roasting over open fire fascinated man and he developed it to what we called as modern cooking. Complete with assistance from most advanced cookware and equipment. We have the food processors to save time and our hands, induction cook tops, microwaves, cooking range etc. Which assist us in our daily endeavours.

All this said, one important factor cannot be easily separated from cooking. That’s human being. Machines can be prefect, but cannot be innovative. Machines of future may be able to create perfectly similar tasting recipes but will never be able to carelessly induce that burnt taste which becomes unique to that dish at that time. That’s where the human factor kicks in.

Cooking is an art. That’s why it’s taken up as a hobby by many.

I started cooking right from the days of kerosene stove(being born and brought up in rural India, cooking gas took some time to reach us). Few things I’ve learnt all along and lots and lots more yet to learn. This blog post attempts to highlight a few. Consider them at your free will.

Once again to remind. Cooking is an art and attempting it without that mindset will give you food, not a masterpiece. Many combination of many equipment and ingredients are required for finishing this masterpiece. You may need to deviate from flow at many times. The most important ingredient for creating this art is dedication. Variety of colors and a blank canvas kept in front of mountains will not automatically translate in to a beautiful painting without the masterstrokes of the painter. Cooking a masterpiece recipe is similar. It’s you, your patience, your dedication and your mind set that matters. Ingredients and equipment come in later.

I hope am not boring you but it’s not going to be brief. After all, if you want your biryani to taste professional, you need to endure this.

Important points to keep in mind while cooking.


Be Flexible :

Unless you are a professional, your recipes ate bound to go off track once in a while. Be ready to improvise/ change your dish/ name of your dish at moments notice. Slightly burnt onion can give a smoky flavour which may be desirable. Unintentional additional tomatoes may give it a sour flavour. Add adjectives “burnt” or ” tangy” to your recipes, as situation permits. This is no joke. This happens all the time. You got to live with it. One point to remember, charred onion and such is undesirable. Also understand how to counter overuse of any ingredient. Cream can reduce the hot flavours and also add smooth texture to your recipe. Sugar gives caramalising effect when used properly in dry recipes and also balances the bitterness. Too much salt!! Well, your recipe is ruined. Have it with steam rice and attempt again another time.

Prepare in advance:
Finish all the chopping, slicing, dicing, crushing , washing etc before you actually start your cooking. Arrange all ingredients in order of their use, as far as possible. Else your cumin seeds well be charred in hot oil before your finish chopping onion.

Use proper utensils:
If you think you don’t need the flat dosa tava or the big iron wok, think again. Everything can’t be cooked in deep bottom pan.
Avoid pressure cooker. I hate pressure cookers. Its supposed to be used for preparing soft mushy food for toothless elderly. Cooker reduces the time spent. But the heart of the recipe is the time spent on it and not the quick treatment it receives via the pressure cooker. Imagine yourself being a gardener nurturing a small flower plant. Would you pour a bucket full of water and expect it to blossom the way you wish? Never will that happen. It requires your attention and tender care and regular attention. It requires your love.

So does your recipe.

Speaking of utensils, you need to have an understanding of how the recipe will behave if cooked in a particular utensil. Some practice and you will understand.

Proper Proportions: Pepper chicken is not a recipe with one kg pepper and 100 gm chicken. People do not wish to eat just the pepper when they are presented with pepper chicken. Use the flavouring ingredients just enough to do their job. Overpowering the recipe with one flavour many not earn it the name it has.

Take time: Allow each ingredient its own time to cook. Potatoes/meat cook late, tomatoes early, fish even early. Understand when is the right moment to add the particular ingredient. If first add fish and allow it to cook and then later add potatoes(just an example. I don’t recall any recipe with potatoes in it), by the time the potatoes are well cooked, the fish will all melt. That’s the exact reason why I hate pressure cooker. Put all in and wait for the whistle. It never comes out the way its supposed to.

Patience is the key.

Devote yourself: If India Vs Pakistan cricket match is being aired, you are better off seeing it as against cooking. You need to set your priorities when it comes to cooking. If you are cooking, there’s nothing else. Cause a slight neglect and the onions will caramelize beyond recognition.

Know your required portion: You need to finalise how many people will be eating it. Combination of ingredients adds to bulk. So balance the quantities else you will have to call every other person from the neighbourhood for lunch. Very less quantity of a very good recipe will result in you not getting any. So, weigh it before you start.

Presentation: The essence of cooking. 80% of the job is done on the table. The first impression may help neglect the pinch of extra salt. Garnish it properly. Hot dishes to be served hot. Use proper serving utensils, befitting the recipe. Use proper serving spoons and keep the utensil covered once served.

Accept Mistakes: Foodies understand the difference between food and a masterpiece. So come out in the open with any mistakes. They will appreciate and forgive. Let the people glorify your masterpiece instead of you attempting it yourself. Also, point out the specifics of your dish. An unconventional method/ingredient used, which renders better effect can be disclosed and reactions/reviews accepted.

Keep Experimenting: Success is not terminal. Its continuous. Keep on experimenting with different ingredients/methods to create something even better. If you stop, you rust.

Keep Cooking. Keep Creating.

Jan 082015
 

It was my first love affair. That was 10 years back. I had never wanted anything else in my life. But circumstances/influence of stars can force you into acting against your wishes. So in line with the wishes of my family I had to make peace with my desire.

10 years on and I felt I had an opportunity to rekindle my old love affair. So I went for it and booked “The Bull”. Booked the Royal Enfield Bullet Electra yesterday. Now for the long wait to get the delivery.

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Excited. Especially since all stars(including family approvals) are in favor this time.

(P.S. : Don’t go nuts congratulating me. Its just a booking and the photo is from the test ride. I updated my Facebook profile with the below photo and I got many likes and comments just because I had a Royal Enfield Bullet Rear View Mirror in the frame)

Profile

Aug 252014
 

Few of my previous posts were dedicated to the Mumbai Suburban Commuter Trains or “Local” as they are referred to in Mumbai. One of them highlights the snobbish “high class passenger” behavior by “the elite” travelling in the first class compartment, observed time and again. While another one discusses ticketless travels, the everyday grind to catch a seat and life and death on Mumbai Local. A very recent one deals with the undesirable events of sweaty individuals in a sardine packed Mumbai Local.

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(Photo Credit : Deshpande Chirag Blog)

Very recently, I had a personal experience of a very different kind. An experience when you feel at your most vulnerable and when the “Local” comes to your help.

I had gone to work a bit feverish. I assumed that if I relaxed a bit at work, I would be fine. But it doesn’t always happen your way. My fever kept climbing to a point that I felt the shivers setting in. I had the thermometer with me and measured myself to 1010 F, at which point I decided to leave for the day.

But I had delayed my departure too long and was at the mercy of the peak hour Mumbai Suburban Crowd. I had calculated that around the time that I reached Andheri, I would be able to catch any of the three trains which originate from Andheri for my destination, Virar. But once I reached the station, the temptation to catch the first train to my home overcame all logic and calculations. I parked myself, standing near the doorway with just one person shielding me from the outside environment, in an overpacked Virar local starting from Andheri. No place to keep the bag either, I kept it on the train floor, pinned between my legs. Once people boarded at the next station, any hopes of retrieving my bag, or the contents thereof, were lost. My bag was totally pinned to the ground. And so were my hands, my legs, my head(pinned by a hand trying to access the holding straps above). There was no scope for movement.

And thus my journey continued, on the slow chugging local, towards Borivali where the first signs of some relief were expected. But fate wouldn’t have any of it. Just approaching Borivali, a bottleneck for the Mumbai Suburban train system, the train halted for some time, which felt like indefinite.  The rains had taken a break and the weather was humid and uncomfortable, unless the train moves. I felt my fever increasing, my body heating up from the inside. Few more minutes and I feared that if the train didn’t move soon, I would faint.

As if fate rewarded me a wish, few minutes later I felt it kick in. My legs started feeling wobbly. My head started spinning. I diverted my entire remaining strength towards two causes. One keeping a tight grip on the grab handles above and second trying to keep my eyes open. Moments later I felt I wouldn’t be able to pass through this alone, so in whatever decibels of voice my throat could produce after loss of all the strength, I requested my fellow traveller standing in front of me to help me as I was about to faint. Between the periods of losing sense and coming back, I saw that the man had registered my plight but was speechless and inaction had taken over him. Others standing around too turned towards me(as much as they could) and quickly analyzed the situation. Summoning another burst of strength, I informed one of them that there was a bottle of water in my bag and that the bag was on the floor pinned between my legs. One of them made a futile attempt to retrieve it. I thought that it was all over and I would pass out standing, supported by other bodies inside a Suburban Local..

As if by magic, a water bottle appeared from nowhere. Cold mineral water, seal intact. The person next to me opened the cap and asked me to drink a sip at a time. Even in my condition, I made sure that I didn’t  touch the mouth of the bottle as the owner of the bottle may feel it unhygenic later on. I poured some down my throat and bid some time. I felt some strength returning to my legs. I poured down some more, closed the bottle cap and gave it back to be passed on to its owner with a feeble “thanks” in the general direction of the origin of the bottle. Within seconds, all my strength was back, my head stable and I felt ready to endure the journey some more.

All this happened within a span of about one and half minute. But for me it seemed like a very very long time.

Years earlier, I, along with few other people in the train, had helped an elderly man in a similar situation. As the saying goes, The good you do comes back to you.

But it takes a Mumbai Local journey for one to realize.

Jun 022014
 

Its been a long time since I took a vacation with my family and this summer, with my kids being more than 1 & 1/2 years old, I dared to take a short one. My brother in law(Leo) and his wife and their daughter joined my wife and me with the kids. Intention, a long drive for me and a short vacation for all. Destination, Mahabaleshwar.

Day 1

It wasn’t an easy task waking up the kids and getting them ready for the inevitable 300+ km drive to destination. Driving long distances to some place is something most sane people hate, but people like me just love the thought of it. So I was the only one looking forward to the drive. Rest all were “why can’t we just land at mahabaleshwar without this drive or any other mode of travel?” in their mind. Within half an hour all the three kids were ajar from sleep and the eldest one was impatiently asking whether we had already reached. It was futile to tell that the drive was going to last good 6-7 hours since I would then have to explain the concepts of reading time and such stuff. I just kept driving with music on.

We had left home at 6:30 am and by 8:00 am or so we had out first halt somewhere near shil phata on thane shil phata road, fueling up the car and filling up our tummies with homemade omelets with sliced bread. With our hunger calm and a resolve to drive through Pune and beyond, we started after this short break. Since this was my first drive to Mahabaleshwar, it was natural that I was misguided by a person at the crucial intersection which would put us on Mumbai Pune expressway. We realised the mistake, thanks google maps and some smart voice guided navigation and an u turn after about a kilometer put us back on the expressway, zipping past the very mild traffic. My heart once skipped a beat when there was a loud bang and sound of air escaping from underneath the car. A quick examination revealed no puncture and I was relieved.

Past the expressway and on the Mumbai Pune bypass road(pronounced as Mumbai-Peeoon bypass road by the voice navigation lady which was found amusing by Lynelle) the stomachs started signalling a break. Me and Leo started the lookout for the familier “M” signifying mcdonald which we had encountered once on an all mens trip to Goa via the same road. I had doubts that we had missed it, but again, google maps to the rescue, solved this puzzle and pointed out that it was ahead. About 15 minutes drive from there and the car eased in to the familier parking which we had used some time back on that trip. The pleasant sign of Dominos and Mcdonald, side by side, raised our appetite and our expectations of a good brunch.

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We all ate, drank and I had a couple of photos in the meantime. We also bumped into my wifes colleague(what a small world) who was on his way to chennai with wife and kid. Whooosss…A drive all the way to Chennai from Mumbai. The thought itself was tiring.

Brunch done. No breaks now as Mahabaleshwar beaconed.

The drive on Pune Satara road and the Wai Panchgani road was uneventful and we reached our destination by 3.00 pm. I somehow managed to drive the left front wheel of my car in to an open gutter on the narrow Mahabaleshwar market road but we were immediately helped by the locals. The cool comforts of the hotel ensured some good rest on arrival and we were ready to explore some Mahabaleshwar (already explored number of times by us adults) .

The Venna lake on Panchgani-Mahabaleshwar road was our first stop. With horse rides and boating on offer (Motor, paddle and rowing boats), Venna lake happens to be one place which no tourist skips. The queues for boat ticket are maddening and though I personally don’t fancy them much, but the kids love it and hence we were in a boat before long. Boating concluded, with few more photographs, in about 3 quarters of an hour and we were ready for some “orshe’ ride(Ian, my elder of the twins, calls the horse “orshe”. Very sweet to ears). Ivy, my younger one was more subdued. May be it was the twilight conditions. But she didn’t protest sitting on the horse. Ian, who normally is scared of living animals if taken near, was very ecstatic when he actually sat on the horse. One round of the flatland, 100 rs short on wallet per horse(Leo’s wallet) and the moods heightened, we all clicked few photos and were off the back of the poor but majestic animal. Whatsapp, Sharukh, Saif such were the names of the horses. Lynelle enjoyed some merry-go-round and a train ride before we decided to go back for dinner and subsequent rest.

Of course, we had the customary Strawberry/Mulberry/Mango with cream, a dessert never to be skipped in Mahabaleshwar.

Day 2

I was thinking of an early rise and few clicks of the sunrise. The previous days tire got better of me and I woke only by 8, well after the sun beat me to it.

An ideal day of outing at Mahabaleshwar covers all the “Points” and Panchgani for Table land point. not for us. Leo mentioned some place called Tapola near by with river sport activities and we decided to drive there.

About 23 km from Mahabaleshwar, and a drive down along the ghat leads to Tapola village on the banks of koyna river. The drive on the serpentine road, covered with a canopy of trees leading to the entry to the ghats is a wonderful experience. A halt on the edge of the hills and a few clicks later, we were on our way to some very steep downhill sections. I assumed that with the car loaded to its brim, it would consume more fuel while coming uphill. I eyed the fuel gauge and my heart skipped a beat. We were well past the fuel station along the road and my fuel gauge pointed very close to red line. I shared my fear with Leo and he too got worried. We kept on wishing that we would come across a fuel station at Tapola, else one of us would have to hire a vehicle with an empty can to the fuel station uphill. The very first question to the person at the entrance of Tapola village revealed that we had left the last fuel station way uphill. Neverthless we decided to go for the water sport and then worry about the fuel since the village seemed equipped to satisfy our hungers if we were detained there for long.

The river bank is accessible by car but it would require a brave heart to negotiate the very steep slope filled with gravel with an entire family in the car. We parked the car halfway in open sun and walked the road. The water sports turned out to be not much other than a motor boat ride, water scooter ride and paddle boat ride. It was the height of summer and the river has shrunk quite an amount. The motorboat ride itself was pleasant and though there was no wildlife to shoot along the banks of the river, occasional water scooters did attract my camera. And of course there was the photo session on the boat itself.

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We were informed by the boatswain that the ticketing counter kept stock of fuel and they would sell some for emergency. We were relieved, though we assumed the cost of such fuel would be exorbitant. Much to our astonishment, we had to pay just rs 10. extra per litre and they were reluctant to give more than 2 litres. On persuading, we were given the five litres which we asked for.  I later realised that the fuel gauge showing very less, had something to do with the slope of the road. Anyway, why take the risk.

We drove back home up the ghat, along the serpentine road covered with the canopy of trees. Along the way we encountered a huge monitor lizard crossing the road. I slowed down, but before the camera could come out of the bag, the lizard was well in to the bushes and on its way in to the jungle. An opportunity missed.

Post lunch and rest, the evening was dedicated to shopping by ladies. Chappals, chikki, strawberries, pulps and other items which are readily available in our home town were bought for a premium. The ladies took care of the shopping while I carried Ivy all along, oblivious to the fact that my arm was not designed for that endurance test. After shopping as soon as I put her down, I realised my mistake. I was supposed to drive all the way back with an arm which had started to ache mildly and which was surely going to increase next day morning. Day 2 ended with an ice cream post dinner and packing until 11 pm.

Day 3

A normal last day at for the driver of a travellers vehicle should begin with fresh energy levels. Mine begun with increased body and arm pain. But there was no point in describing in details to other members since none could drive.  My one and half year old son keeps on insisting me to take him to a drive. Next time I am planning to teach him how to drive Winking smile

We started at 9.30 am and on the drive back, we had a halt for breakfast at Bagicha Corner on the Mahabaleshwar-Panchgani road just after Venna Lake. The strawberry with cream and Corn pattice were delicious. Having dealt with the breakfast, we continued our journey via Wai to Pune which was supposed to be our halt for lunch. Lunch was taken at hotel radha, few kilometers before the start of Mumbai – Pune expressway. It was at lunch that I realised how tired my back had grown of the continuous driving up and down the hills. It was unbearable and I had to lie down inside the car for about 15 minutes, thinking all the time “why can’t we just land at virar without this drive or any other mode of travel?”

On the way up to Mahabaleshwar, I was getting the feel of the car on straight flat roads, on curvy hills up and down the mountains etc. I will living the drive.

On the way back post lunch, I was counting kilometers.

On the third day of our travel, after about 3 breaks and a lot of traffic in Pune and on Mumbai Ahmadabad highway, we managed to reach home at 8.00 in the evening, with and exhausted driver, weary kids and wife and dusty luggage…..

I plan to have more such road trips. Though exhausting, it was memorable.

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