Jan 062010
 

No. Not a good decision by any child to commit suicide due to academic pressure. But is the child mature enough to take any big decisions, leave alone that of suicide? What drives a child to this? It certainly is not the film, “3 Idiots”. Censoring some scene in the film is like half measures taken against a deeply rooted issue.

I rewind back few years when I was in school myself. I never felt the pressure of education as I was completely satisfied with my results. Standing 6th or 7th in a class of 75, with occasional top marks in one or the other subject, was quite good for me. Let others run fight for top ranks. I was completely satisfied. Neither were my parents persistent on the matter or my studies. Now, let me clarify here, my grandparents were farmers and my parents had the luxury of being well educated at the cost of the education of their siblings. So they knew the importance of education, but not by force. So, without any pressure, I managed to study in my own time and on my own responsibility, completed engineering successfully(though not with “flying colours”), and became a Marine Engineer. I am happy, and though I look back and feel that I could have done better, I even know that I couldn’t have been better off, had there been pressure on me from anyone.

Back to present. My niece is studying in class II, and has joined tuition classes since class I. Can you believe that? You better, as its true. My cousins who are in class Xth this year, had started extra coaching out of school since class V. And these are not isolated cases. Around 80-90% of these students feel the pressure of the competition. And few of them crack.

Extra coaching for class Xth is ok as they have to compete against lakhs of other candidates for a seat in the college/trade of their choice(If I start writting about who makes this choice for them, it would fill up lot more space, and consume much time of mine). But whats the need of starting extra coaching at the tender age? I see none of these young students better off than I was at their age in terms of knowledge. I had enough time to study and play. They have only one schedule in their timetable….Study all day.

I would also like to comment about a trend started by some schools in the city, wherein interviews are conduct of both parents and the child who is to be admitted. Parents, to find out if they are capable of affording the education cost in that particular school. Children, to find out if the child is competent enough for the school to maintain a high passing percentage. If a child is able to learn before even attending the school, then whats the role of teachers? Are the schools afraid that their teachers are not competent enough to carve a statue out or a rock?

Lastly, I would daresay that the indian education and syllabus of all the boards and universities is top class, else we wouldn’t be in demand abroad. But something is wrong with our outlook in terms of the future of child. And that forces us to keep a stern hand above a child, while he really needs a firm hand on his shoulder.

Its better if parents let their young ones study, and not force them to.

Jan 052010
 

Few days back, I happened to be browsing through TV channels, and came across BBC airing ‘Hard Talk’. The guest in studio that day was Fergus Anckorn. The interview was largely about his remarkable survival as a prisoner of war, wherein he described the treatment they had endured and his survival because of his good hand at magic tricks.

But what made me think was a statement he made during the interview. The world wars were brought upon this earth, resulting in blood sheds, and at the end of it all the leaders came together and wrote down the terms of truce. So he asks, what was stopping all this leaders to come together before the war, and call a truce with some terms agreed upon? What was the need of all this killing?

Yes, the conditions were hard to make such settlements, as some leaders would have nothing of it. But are these wars the sole means o proclaim supremacy? And at whose cost? Going back to the histories of all the wars fought, we can analyse that these wars have been influenced by the greed of few individuals, whom we have always been selecting as our leaders. Look at the world wars. Look at the gulf war. Analyse the so called, war against terrorism, being accomplished in Afghanistan and Iraq. Its simply filters down to someone provoking someone else for a battle and being the sole gainer at the end of it all. And innocent lives are taken all over the world, just for greed.

This all needs to be stopped somewhere. Someone needs to sit down and chart a plan of truce between these fighting world. And for our future benefit, the mind of the younger generation, needs to be fresh and free from hatred. To help them think whats good and whats not for the benefit of mankind.

Someone needs to think like Fergus Anckorn. And act on it.

Jan 012010
 

2010…its here!! With a promise of beginning our lives, afresh. For many, its just another first day of the year. But for some, its and excuse to rejoice, occasion for party and day for new resolutions.

People have celebrated all night, and with a spinning head and dizzy mind, have resolved many things. But do think before resolving anything. Remember your previous years resolution. How much have you succeed in that? If that was just a boozed up resolve, without any act, then better not go through this process again.

And finally, I wish you and your family a very happy and a prosperous new year. Though I think that wishing the stock market alone would bring prosperity to many families.

Dec 302009
 

So I completed my tour to Aurangabad. And am back with some good memories, and few bad ones too.

To say about Aurangabad, it seems just like any other cities of India, hastily developed, neglected. But its proximity to many of the tourist destinations, has kept the city on the map. First, it has the panchakki (a mill running on a water driven turbine, the water for which comes from few miles away, naturally) right in the heart of the city. Then there is the Bibi ka Maqbara(the tomb of Aurangazeb’s wife). This monument is built on the lines of the Taj Mahal in Agra, except that it is bit smaller. Then we have the Ajanta and the Ellora caves, with all their carvings, paintings and sculptures on rocks. The grandeur of these places is quite spectacular. Also there is the Daulatabad fort, which I managed to climb only half the distance because of  tiresome mount. With all this historical places surrounding it, Aurangabad is one big center for tourism in India.

All these places have many things in common. They are very old. They are spectacular. And they are not maintained properly. The fort was completely grass ridden. There can be spotted few futile attempts to restore the surrounding of these places, but the entire process of tourism is not in place for the ease of the tourists. And this, after paying for the entry tickets at each of these places. There were around 3,00,000 tourists on that single day when I visited the fort, so the calculation goes to 1500000 rs per day during the holiday season.

Speaking of tickets, each of these places had different rates for Indians and foreigners, which does not go well with me. And so I comment. The ticket price for foreigners, was rs 250 where as for Indians was rs. 5 at the fort. Shocked by the difference? You go to a tourist destination in the world, and I don’t think there are separate rates for different people. Its a well known fact that most of the foreign visitors to India are cheated/looted in one form or the other. But this by the government!! This can be likened to racism. Though, we would label any such act by other country as racism, in this country we call it tourism.

With all it splendors, and all its shortcomings, this truly is “Incredible India”

Dec 232009
 

So its that time of the year, when all the paper mache and the bells, stars and the decorative lights, come out of the attic. And the Christmas tree is decorated, with an expectation of pleasant season ahead. And in my house, I cannot neglect to bring out the Getco, my humble oven, which has assisted me during my countless baking experiences in this short life.

Yes, it’s also the time for Cake. Though, I would agree that there is no specific time to have a cake( and eat it too.) Eating a good cake is one of the most pleasing experience, a person can have in life. Cake is said to be the dispersant of all the worries and troubles. An entire novel has been written around the cake(which I read and found to be light and interesting).

Personally I have never loved a cake, if its not the mawa cupcake from the merwan bakery(at Grant Road in Mumbai)(here, I deviate from my rule of not advertising any establishment or product through my post, simply because I have not found any competition to those light, delicious cakes, and they are worth making an exception.), or if I have not made it personally. I have had many cakes from different bakeries, and many I liked, but none I loved.

I personally bake a cake atleast twice a year(Cooking being one of my hobby, and baking a cake being at the core of it). Once for Christmas and once for the Easter. I have tried many cook books, seen many TV shows, to find out the best method of preparing a cake. But I never seemed to get it right. The cake was either heavy, or more crumpled. Until last year, when the brother-in-law, of my brother-in-law(whew!! exhausted while typing it twice), gave me a very basic recipe for preparing a cake. And I found it to be one of the best for home made cakes. So let me share it with you all.

You require 1/4 kg butter, 1/4 kg Refined flour, 1/4 kg Powdered  Sugar, 6 Eggs, Vanilla Essence and Half a teaspoon of Baking powder and a pinch of Salt. You can also use equal quantities of Semolina(Rava) and Refined Flour to get 1/4 kg of the mixture instead of using refined flour. Any bigger size you require, increase the ingredients in proportion. And finally you will need all the dryfruits that you want to have. Some people prefer to soak the dry fruits in white rum, to get a different flavour. I am extremely sorry for all my veggie friends, but I do not know how to make a veggie cake. I can’t imagine how a cake can be without eggs. No offense meant.

Its very easy. Whip the butter, Whip the eggs. Mix them. Add sugar. Mix well. Add flour ( or flour and semolina mixture) and mix well. Add a teaspoon of vanilla essence and mix well. Then add half a teaspoon of baking powder and a pinch of salt. And mix again. Be sure not to leave lumps of butter, sugar or flour during all this mixing. And loo!! You have the batter.

Now just add some dryfruits(if you need a fruit cake), and get it baked at your local bakers or in your oven. Use the oven’s manual for correct temperatures since I do not know them( my getco didn’t have a temperature indicator. There were only two modes, baked or unbaked, which was determined by a thin poking stick).

My getco is no longer functional after all these years of service. But my neighbouring baker is in good business. So I am destined to bake my own cake this year too.

Happy Baking to all…… and Eat Cake.

Dec 212009
 

I still remember my visits to Mumbai( then Bombay) as a child, with my parents and my brother. Those were the few occasions every year when we paid visit to the town for shopping, movies and the most important of all, the Bandra Fair( the Mount Mary Feast). The most exciting part of the trip was the journey by the local train from virar. I still remember how we would run from the ticket counter behind our parents, just in time to catch the train. We would fight for the window seat( yes we surely used to get window seats in those days), which would end up with him winning the seat for most of the journey.

But times change, and the mumbai local train surely has endured the changes. For one, its has been subjected to the acts of nature in form of natural calamities and the acts of human destruction in the form of terrorism. It has witnessed the deaths of many people due to human errors in form of accidents. I still remember the fatal evening in the year 1994, when many women lost their lives in an incident involving the ladies special train. And also the very recent serial bomb blast in the july of the year 2006.

There may be no end to it. But this doesn’t mean that it put a stop to the lives of people. May be this is the only option available for commute. But as I travel in the trains today, I see the common man, managing to find a foot-space in the already overcrowded boogie. And he manages to undertake this journey, which sometimes lasts more than two hours, standing on one foot.

The common man prespires  and tires up easily in the heat of poorly ventilated trains, but his desire to reach his destination doesn’t allow him to give up. And there is always humanity present in the trains. I see many a times, elderly people and women being given preference for seating. Water is not considered a personal property, no matter whose bottle it is. And keeping self busy in some for or the other during the journey, normally is the priority with everyone. Maybe a quick game of sudoku, some music, a book for reading or even movies on mobile are common methods of  “timepass”. Everyone gives full consideration for everyone else. Though occasional spats on the issue of space at the door, are not an uncommon thing.

This is life, life in the mumbai local trains. Which refuses to bow to any hurdles it faces. And it keeps on going, from 3.30 in the morning till late in the night. Without so much as a stop for a quick breathe. A salute to the commuters who endure this travel. A salute to the motormen of these trains, who stay alert through out the entire journey.

A salute to the spirit of the mumbai locals.

Dec 172009
 

“Do you take this video game character to be your wife?”  No not a wedding scene in some latest sci-fi movie. It has happened in the real world. A man named sal9000 married the love of his life in Japan. But its with a difference. The love of his life goes by the name Nene Anegasaki, and she lives inside Nintendo DS video game called as love plus.

Basically, love plus, is a dating sim, inline with the virtual pet created in Japan few years back. It has a behavioural pattern of a girlfriend, and the user can interact with the character in different ways. And interact in this way!! Marry!!! And with a promise not to leave her, even if the upgraded version comes in the market.

I have heard of wedding fires being lit on a plane and under the water. I have seen photos of the bride, the groom and the minister, hanging in mid air hundreds of feet above ground, and conducting the rituals. And I have read about lot more innovative ways of going about this marriage business. But this virtually is world apart. 

This man refuses to give out his real name, since he is afraid of jokes and insults, but then, his images have appeared on world television, and his marriage was broadcast live on the internet. So I guess, his family has already gifted him a honeymoon package. I am just concerned if he intends to bring about some form of life out of this union. If he manages, which side will it land, the real side or the virtual side.

You know people, I thought that the topics were drying up for my blog. But now I feel that there is enough foolery in this world to write about. So hoping to be back soon.

Hehehehe…… In Japan, of all the places!!

Dec 022009
 

This incident occurred few years back. It was some days after the mumbai train serial blasts. I was travelling back home from a particular station on harbour line, and since there was enough time for the train to arrive I decided to sit down on a bench. I saw one man and a big bag next to him and when I approached him with a request to move his bag to make space for me, I was shocked by his response. He said that he didn’t know whose bag it was. This person has been sitting near an unidentified, unclaimed object without any fear for his life, and this just a couple of days after the serial blasts. It was not worth arguing with this person so I approached a constable posted at that platform. The constable came along with me to review the situation. And gave me another shock, second within the span of 2 minutes. Without following any proper precautionary measures, he just opened the bag to check the belongings. I immediately moved at a safe distance, since I was young and wanted to live a longer life.

It turned out to be a bag full of books, belonging to a school boy, who came running from the railway canteen after seeing a policeman fiddling with his his bag. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief.

But what about the responsibilities of the citizen? Aren’t they supposed to inform about unclaimed suspicious objects? What about the procedures? Wasn’t the policeman not supposed to touch it as he was not equipped to handle the situation?

It seems that we have a habit of getting back to square one. Don’t blame the terrorist for another attack/blast. Its their job, a profession that they have taken up. It for us citizens to be cautious.

Nov 252009
 

…….I am pleased to inform that the great golden circus is back in the city. Any person staying in Mumbai(India) can have the opportunity to watch it with their kids. The quality of it, I have doubts about, but kids would love it. This is one of the rare chances that we get, as the circus business has become a rarity in Indian cities.

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