Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas goodies

We made some goodies to drop off at the youth shelter here for their Christmas lunch. Here they are alongwith their recipes:

Chocolate Mocha Cake with coffee icing

I got this recipe from AllRecipes.com. The cake came out very soft and moist. Though it was tasty I didn't find it very coffee-ish as I expected it to be; but otherwise it's a wonderful recipe and easy to make. I've copied the recipe here verbatim:

What you'll need:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups white sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup strong brewed coffee
1 cup buttermilk (read below for substitute)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Let's make
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour two 9 inch round cake pans or one 9x13 inch pan. I used a 9X13 pan and that size was perfect. Also I lined the pan with parchment paper which was very helpful as the cake is very soft to take out of the pan.
  2. In large bowl combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the center.
  3. Add eggs, coffee, buttermilk, oil and vanilla. Beat for 2 minutes on medium speed. Batter will be thin. Pour into prepared pans. Instead of buttermilk, I took 1 cup milk, added 1 tablespoon lime juice to it and kept it for 10-20 minutes. I read somewhere that this way you can substitute buttermilk.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 30 to 40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, then remove from pans and finish cooling on a wire rack. Fill and frost as desired.
For the icing:

Again I picked this coffee icing recipe from AllRecipes.com. It's slightly lacking in instructions. For a beginner like me it doesn't say how long you need to beat the mixture. It looks smooth after just a few minutes of beating; but with experimentation we learned that you need to beat till it becomes fluffy. I'm not sure if excessive beating could spoil it, that's another thing I'll experiment.

What you'll need:

2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
3 tablespoons strong brewed coffee
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Let's make:
Beat together confectioners' sugar, butter or margarine, coffee, and vanilla until smooth. Add more liquid or confectioners' sugar as needed.

Veggie Patties (or puffs)

With great pride I can say that this recipe is mine :). All you need is phyllo pastry and any kind of filling. I get the phyllo pastry from mediterranean store, they have it in the frozen section. Here's a photo of the exact product that I get; while searching for the photo I found the recipe for the mediterranean dish made from these pastry sheets. I typically use a potato filling but you could use any veggie filling. The way I prepare the pototao filling:


  1. Boil and peel potatoes.
  2. Mash them.
  3. Take few teaspoons oil in a wok. When it's hot, add some cumin seeds (~2 tsps) to it. Once they start spluttering, add some turmeric powder and chilli powder and then add the potatoes.
  4. Stir and cook for 5 minutes and your filling is ready. You can change the ingredients to suit your taste. If you like it hot, add some green chillies. You could also add some amchur power (mango powder).

To make the puffs, take a square sheet. Dip your finger in water and line 2 continuous edges of the square sheet with the water. This helps in sealing the pastry later. Assuming that the diagonal of the square sheet was dividing it into half, put some filling one half of the sheet. Now seal the sheet such that it forms a triangle. Do this for all the sheets.


Preheat the oven to 300 F. Place the patties on a cookie sheet and bake for about 10 minutes or till golden brown. The duration differs with different ovens.

Til Laddoos (Sesame balls): quick and easy

I've been wanting to post this recipe for a long time but was never getting a chance to try it. Finally I did! This recipe is from my mom and is one of the best recipes if you want to make a quick and delicious Indian sweet. Those who're familiar with the making of Indian sweets know that they require enormous amount of time and effort. So recipes like these are very coveted!

What you'll need:

1 cup Til/Sesame
1/2 cup khoya (I use the frozen khoya available at Indian stores)
3/4 cup sugar
chopped nuts, optional


Let's make:
  1. Roast the sesame till golden brown at medium-low heat otherwise you run the risk of burning sesame. Keep stirring almost continuosly.
  2. Grind the roasted sesame seeds.
  3. If you're using frozen khoya, thaw it. Roast it till it starts leaving oil. This takes around 5 minutes.
  4. Mix all the ingredients with hand. Run the mixture through your fingers to ensure that it mixes well.
  5. Take a small amount in your hand, press it with your palms to form a solid and then shape it like a ball.
  6. To give a smooth texture, put the ball in a small bowl and rotate the bowl continuously for a minute.

Nature Girl

Author: Carl Hiassen

All's well that ends well - that's what I would say about this book. Neither would I recommend it nor admonish it.

It's about a woman who gets hyper-active about anything and everything; mostly when she percieves something bad. When her son was born she was under the impression that the world is conspiring to kill him. She once sent over 100 letters to the concerned government authority expressing her angst against the oil drilling in Antarctica. This time she's out to teach a call center guy a lesson but she hardly has an inkling of the adventures that'll penetrate her plans! It's incredulous to see what efforts she would make just because some call center guy called her at dinner time. I would call it "the mad, mad world!".

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Appearance of God

(Teachings from Gita) He knows everything: past, present or future; apparent or unapparent. He is the omniscient (sarvagya, सर्वज्ञ).

He's the origin; there neither was anybody before Him nor is; there is no reason for Him, he's the reason behind everything and everybody and he's the oldest. He is eternal (sanaatan, सनातन).

He is the master of all, the all-powerful, the indweller in all, the governor of all and the one who decides the fruit of each labor. He is the supreme controller (niyantaa, नियंता).

Even though he is all of the above, he's very tiny. He's smaller than the smallest particle and present everywhere. He's the smallest (sukshmatam, सूक्ष्मतम).

Despite being the smallest, he's the foundation of this entire universe; he's responsible for maintaining and looking after everybody. He is the dhaata. (I'm unable to translate this in english - if anybody has any suggestions please let me know)

He's the caretaker of all but still so distant and imperceptible by senses. The brain and heart get their strength to think and opine from Him but they can't think about His true form. He sees them and everything else; controls the flow of strength through them but they can't see Him. Hence his appearance is beyond thought (achintyaswarup, अचिन्त्यास्वरूप).

He always spreads light; through his never ending, knowledgeable, divine light He brightens up everybody. He is a constant light in our life (nitya chetan prakashrup, नित्य चेतन प्रकाश्रुप).

With such a light, the clouds of ignorance can never shadow Him. On the contrary, with his lustre he breaks the dawn of ignorance. Ignorance can never even linger near him.

The Historian

Author: Elizabeth Kostova

A very engrossing book! I must say that there are very few such books these days when you just can't leave the book till you read the end and this book is a member of that elite club. The only problem I had with it was that it is supposed to be a true story and it's focus is on Dracula (a european emperor who becomes a vampire).

The story is about the author's father's life. Her father is a historian and while doing his graduation he comes across a strange book that the figure of a dragon and the word "Dracula". On showing it to his advisor he realizes that there's more to it than meets the eye. After this discussion, his advisor disappears adding to the mystery. So he starts off his search for his advisor and the dark secrets. During his search he meets several other people who've recieved a similar books and offer to help him out. He also encounters the author's mother who has her own reasons for doing research on Dracula.

The book is very well written. The author has weaved the story from the letters from her father and with research of her own which included talking to historians her father had worked with.

Bottomline: A must read.

Rama, a thai restaurant in San Diego

Cuisine: Thai
Price: $$

Rama is a thai restaurant in/near Gaslamp Quarter (in San Diego downtown). The ambience is simply fabulous. As you enter there's a lounge and from there a passageway leads to the dininig hall. There are sheer curtains between each table setting providing privacy to each party. The service is excellent, one of the best that I've seen. We just had to specify once to the waiter that we wanted our entrees vegetarian and then on he took care of everything. Even when he brought the hot sauce varieties he only brought the vegetarian ones without us needing to say so. This was when we discovered that the green chillies in a transparent liquid is actually green chillies in fish sauce! Coming to the food, it was also very scrumptious.

So all in all, the restaurant is almost perfect but that comes at a price. It's somewhat expensive. The only water that is offered is bottled water and yes you've to pay for it!

Rating: Excellent

Contact:
Rama Restaurant
327 Fourth Ave.
San Diego CA 92101
619 501 THAI(8424)

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Tropicana non-vegetarian juice!!!!

This is my most harrowing discovery: Tropicana orange juice with omega-3 fatty acids has fish oil and other fish products! Who would've ever thought that a fruit juice could contain animal products and that too a juice advertised as "freshly squeezed orange juice"!! Then I did a search and found this link that lists all the Tropicana, Minute Maid and Florida Naturals juices that contain animal products. On reading the discussion on that post I found that OJ with Vit D from Tropicana are vegetarian but not vegan and from Florida Naturals are NOT vegetarian. Whoa! That was a saving grace.

This just adds the number of items where we need to check the ingredients list!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Gifts for Kids Drive

It's the holiday season; a season for giving and sharing, a season for spreading joy. Every child would like to recieve a gift on Christmas morning but not everybody is so fortunate. I'm volunteering for the Eugene Bowman Economic Empowerment Inc. and helping them provide christmas gifts to children. Most of these children come from single-mom household and live at or below poverty. Had it not been for EBEE they wouldn't have had anything to look forward to for Christmas but thanks to EBEE they will have a christmas lunch and a gift. If you're in San Diego, then you can help too by donating a gift. It could be a gift card, a toy, clothing or anything else. If you're not in San Diego but would like to help, then also do let me know.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Of life and death

(Teachings from Gita) When a man is nearing his end, he gets to whatever he'd been thinking of in those last moments. Thus, if you think of God then you'll be united with Him. If you were thinking of your house, you'll be born in your house. However, the form in which you'll be born will be decided by your deeds in this birth. For example, a man living in a house thinks its his house. The ants living in that house also think that its their house.

What does a man think of in his last moments? Mostly, you think of those things that you've spent most of your life thinking. Depending on your environment, education, interests etc., your mind may be impressed with certain things. It could be desire for a house, family or anything else. These thoughts which occupy your mind most of your life are also the ones that linger in your mind in your last moments because you've exercised them for so long. However, you can substitute these thoughts with some other with practice. If you want to escape this viscious cycle of life and death, then you must think of God and only God in those moments.

P.S.: This chapter in Gita which talks about death is the most difficult to grasp and hence the long gap in my posts on Gita.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Turkish Short Stories From Four Decades

Author: Aziz Nesin

These are folk tales from Turkey. Most of them are interesting, though some of them have a sad ending which I didn't expect in a folk tale. I've read a couple of folk tale books from India and they either have a happy ending or a moral to teach you in the end. This is what I found missing in some of these stories but overall they were nice.

Those who've read folk tales in the past must've noticed that they tend to have a typical blueprint. For example, let's say they start with a person A leaving his home for destination X. On the way he meets B (where B could be a person, animal or a situation) as a result of which his circumstances change in some way. Going further on he meets C which again change his circumstance. In this way he meets N number of these till he reaches his destination and hence gets drastically transformed: he might be very poor when he started but very rich by the time he reaches his destination. So on and so forth.

It makes a good subject for light reading.

Bottomline: A good read.

Dal Makhani

If you're looking for the restaurant-style dal makhani, then this is the recipe for it! It's a Sanjeev Kapoor recipe.

What you need:
1 cup black whole urad dal
2 tbsp Red Kidney beans/Rajma
1 tsp Cumin seeds
6 cloves garlic
2 inch ginger (I use ginger-garlic paste)
1 tsp Garam Masala
1/2 cup fresh cream (Since we don't get fresh cream here, I used heavy cream available at Trader Joe's)
1 tsp Red Chilli powder
3 tbsp butter
2 tomatoes
1 onion
1 tbsp Oil
Salt to taste

Let's make:
  1. Pick, wash and soak whole black urad and rajma overnight in three cups of water.
  2. Peel and chop the onion, ginger and garlic finely. Wash and chop the tomatoes.
  3. Cook the soaked dal and rajma in three cups of water with salt, red chili powder and half the chopped ginger till dal and rajma are cooked and soft.
  4. Heat oil and butter in a thick-bottomed pan.
  5. Add cumin seeds, when it crackles.
  6. Add chopped onions and fry till golden brown.
  7. Add chopped ginger, garlic and chopped tomatoes. Sauté till tomatoes are well mashed and fat starts to leave the masala.
  8. Add boiled dal and rajma to this.
  9. Adjust seasoning.
  10. Add garam masala powder and simmer on very low heat for fifteen minutes.
  11. Add fresh cream and let it simmer for another five minutes.
  12. Serve hot with Naan or Paratha.

The Exploits of the Incomparable Mulla Nasrudin

Author: Idries Shah

This is in line with the previous two books on MN. It has longer anecdotes than the the other two and like them they're witty, hilarious and silly!

I simply adored all three books.

Bottomline: A very good read.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Tomato Pickle

Out of nowhere I'd this sudden urge to make tomato pickle, andhra style. So I got about searching a nice recipe and found this by Indira. The pickle came out pretty good. I used only 5 tomatoes to make it: firstly, because that's all I'd and secondly, I wanted to start it small. Here's the recipe reduced for 5 tomatoes:

What you'll need:


5 Tomatoes
1 tsp Tamarind extract
3 tbsp Oil
1 tsp Red chilli powder
Salt to taste
1/4 tsp Fenugreek powder (I dry roasted fenugreek and then ground it)
For Tadka:
1 tsp oil
3 curry leaves
1/2 tsp ginger-garlic paste (original recipe calls for garlic, but I'd this paste at home so I used that)
pinch of asafoetida

Let's make:
  1. Wash and wipe the tomatoes. Chop coarsely.
  2. In a big, non-reactive pan, add and heat sesame oil (I used ordinary oil that I use for cooking).
  3. Stir in tomatoes.
  4. Add red chilli powder, salt and tamarind pulp. Mix and cover the pot. Cook on high heat, stirring in-between for about 10 minutes. Tomatoes will be mushed down and you will be seeing lot of tomato juice trying to splash the counter-tops.
  5. Add the fenugreek powder. Reduce the heat to medium, partially cover the pot and simmer until the tomatoes become thick but spreadable like jam. It takes around 30 minutes.
  6. At this stage, fine-tune the balance and adjust salt and chilli levels to your liking. The next step will be adding the toasted ingredients.
  7. In a skillet, heat the sesame oil for tadka. Lower the heat to medium.
  8. Add the garlic paste first and then the curry leaves. Toast to pale gold color. Turn off the heat.
  9. Stir in asafoetida. Mix and immediately add the toasted skillet contents to the tomato pickle.
  10. Stir so that everything gets well combined. Simmer, uncovered for about ten minutes, gently mixing. I continued heating till it reached a consistency that I thought was how a pickle should be. It was almost dry. Turn off the heat and let the pickle cool. Do not cover the pot.
  11. Store the completely cooled tomato pickle in a clean glass jar with a tight lid.

Rangoli





A sneak peek at things that I made for diwali. I got the rangoli design from Diwali Festival. They've a nice collection of designs. The dot-grid wasn't clearly visible on the online designs so I generated a graph paper, drew the design on it and then made the rangoli (with Crayola color chalks!).

Another item that I made for diwali was kandils/kandeels. Like Rangoli, they're also my favorites for diwali. I like small colorful ones as they make your home look really beautiful.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Happy Diwali!



Wish you a very happy diwali!

P.S.: What better day than the most auspicious day of Diwali for my 100th post :).

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Happy Choti Diwali

"Choti diwali" falls on the day before Diwali. There are two legends behind this festival.

One famous story behind the celebrations of Chhoti Diwali or Narak Chaturdashi is about the demon king Narakasur who was ruler of Pragjyotishpur, a province to the South of Nepal. During a war he defeated Lord Indra and snatched away the magnificent earrings of Mother Goddess Aditi who was not only the ruler of Suraloka but also a relative of Lord Krishna's wife, Satyabhama. Narakasur also imprisoned sixteen thousand daughters of Gods and saints in his harem.
When Satyabhama came to know about this malevolent act of Narakasur she got furious and she prayed to Lord Krishna to empower her so that she could destroy Narakasur. The legend also tells that Narakasur was under a curse that a woman would kill him. So Lord Krishna empowered Satyabhama to fight with Narakasur and himself became the charioteer of her 'Ratha' in the battlefield. Thus by the grace of Lord Krishna Satyabhama beheaded Narakasur on the day previous to Narak Chaturdashi and released the imprisoned ladies from Narakasur's harem and also recovered the precious earrings of Mother Goddess Aditi. In order to save all those imprisoned ladies from embarrassment Lord Krishna accepted them all as His wives. As a symbol of the victory over Narakasur Lord Krishna smeared His forehead with the demon king's blood. Then Lord Krishna returned home with His new wives early morning of the Narak Chaturdashi day. The womenfolk massaged scented oil to His body and gave him a good bath to wash away the filth from his body.

Another legend is about King Bali, who was king of the nether world. His power and increasing influence posed a threat to the security of all 'Devatas' so they prayed Lord Vishnu to help them out. To help Devatas and to curb King Bali's powers Lord Vishnu went to King Bali in the guise of a short-height 'Brahmin', who is known as incarnation of 'Batu Waman', and begged to give him only that much area of land that he could cover with in three steps because King Bali was well known for his philanthropy. King Bali saw just a short-height 'Brahmin' asking for a little piece of land so he proudly granted him his wish. That very moment that short-height 'Brahmin' disappeared and there was almighty Lord Vishnu in place of him. In his first step Lord Vishnu covered the heaven and in the second step the earth and asked King Bali where to put his third step. Then King Bali offered his head to Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu put his third step on his head and pushed him deep into the underground. But at the same time being impressed by his generosity Lord Vishnu gave King Bali the lamp of knowledge and allowed him to return to earth once a year to light millions of lamps.

The mother of Narakasura, Bhoodevi, declared that the death of her son should not be a day of mourning but an occasion for celebrations. Since then people celebrate diwali with joy and fun every year.[Source: I love India]

Friday, November 2, 2007

The pleasantries of the incredible Mullah Nasrudin and The subtelties of the inimitable Mullah Nasrudin

Author: Idries Shah

These are two different books and, as the name suggests, on the same theme. Mulla Nasrudin is a a folk character of middle-east. He is sometimes silly, sometimes funny and sometimes beyond my understanding! His constant companion is his donkey. Many countries claim to be the progenitor of this character and hence it's hard to pinpoint which country he belongs to.

I was first introduced to this character through a serial aired by Doordarshan by the same name. This was long back when cable television hardly had any roots in India. Recently, one fine day I remembered how funny his tales used to be and so I searched and found that there are a couple of books on him. Lo and behold! I issued almost all these books from the library.

Coming back to the books, they contain Mulla's anecdotes some of which are not even half a page in length. You can't help but smile at the end of each tale. This is not to say that all the tales will keep you glued. The first book has a better set of anecdotes than the second one.

Bottomline: A must read.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Aarkt

This story illustrates the devotion of an aarkt devotee.

Draupadi was the daughter of king Drupad and was born as a result of a yagna. She was very beautiful, talented, devoted to her husband, ideal housewife and a true devotee of God. She considered Krishna as the supreme God and Krishna too didn't hide his supreme powers from her. On the orders of Duryodhan, Dushasan tried to insult her by dragging her in front of everybody in the court and unwrapping her saree. Seeing that no one was coming to her rescue, Draupadi found herself totally helpless and prayed to Krishna. She believed that on hearing her faithful plea, Krishna would definitely come to save her. When Krishna heard her prayers he took the form of her cloth. So that her saree became a never ending piece of cloth. Hence, by being there at the right time Krishna saved Draupadi from the humiliation and Dushasan finally got tired and gave up.

Monday, October 22, 2007

San Diego wildfire

The north eastern part of San Diego county is engulfed in flames due to a wildfire that started in Ramona. Most of the schools, universities and offices are either closed or have advised their employees to work from home. Thousands have been evacuated and heaven only knows how much damage has been done. The air quality is very poor and we know that not because we read it in the news but by personal experience: there were ashes falling on us yesterday when we were outside. One always feels sad to read about people affected by natural calamities but for the first time I can really understand what such people face because this time it's people whom I talk with everyday that have been evacuated from their homes. Some of them had houses 2 blocks away burning down to ashes. Just imagining how would one feel leaving their homes and knowing that potentially their home might be burned down, sent shivers down my spine. I always talk about that one should learn to be thankful to God for what one has and I always do; now I do even more.

My sincere prayers are with these people and all those who're suffering in this catastrophe. May God give everybody the strength to endure this. I request everybody who reads this to also pray for these people and the firefighters.

Read more about this fire here.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Green Olympics

In order to clean the air for the Olympics and reduce the traffic on the road China is taking the following measures:

"...
In one move, the municipal government has called on local residents to take public transport more instead of driving private cars through axing bus and subway fares, hoping to reduce the pollution from automobile exhaust.

Citizens who possess vehicles such as motorcycles, passenger cars, sedans and trucks have been taxed more as of Oct. 1, with the rates ranging from 200 yuan (26.7 U.S. dollars) to 600 yuan ( 80 U.S. dollars) a year, almost doubling the sums before the change."

I agree that it's a very drastic change but I think if it benefits the environment then we should go for it. It might cause inconvenience in the short term but in the long term people adapt to such policies and would realize how much good they've done to the environment. I think such measures should be adopted in the US too. Unless it hurts the pocket, majority will not resort to means of transportation that are eco-friendly.

Best things in life are free

Came across this article in the news which uses research to prove what I always believe in: it's the small and inexpensive things in life that bring most happiness to your life. The above study found that what brought most happiness to people were things like listening to music, taking a stroll, spending time with the family and so on. Maybe we can apply the 80-20 rule here. 20% of the things that we do everyday bring us 80% of our happiness.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Baby Corn and Gobi manchurian

I tried Sia's recipe (with minor modifications) for one of my favorite dishes, baby corn manchurian or manachurian in general. I also added cauliflower to it so that it was a mix of baby corn and gobi manchurian. Everybody liked it. Though it didn't come out crunchy like the original recipe so I'm yet to master that.

What you'll need

10-12 Baby Corns
3-4 tbsp all-purpose flour (maida)
2 tbsp Cornflour
1 tsp dry red chilli powder
1-2 tsp ginger-garlic paste
3-4 spring onions, chopped
2-3 Green chillies, chopped
3 tbsp Tomato sauce
1 tbsp Soya Sauce
2 tbsp Coriander leaves,finely chopped
Oil to deep fry
Salt to taste
Method
  1. In a pan take little oil and fry ginger-garlic paste and chillies.
  2. Add spring onions, coriander leaves,tomato sauce and soyasauce(if you want it to be more spicier add chilli sauce)
  3. Cut Baby Corns length wise and keep aside.
  4. Make a little thick batter with maida, cornflour, chilli powder, salt with water.
  5. Coat the baby corn with the batter and then deep fry at medium flame till they turns golden brown.
  6. Drain them in paper towel to remove excess oil.
  7. Add the fried babycorns with the sauce you have prepared and mix well.
  8. Garnish them with chopped coriander leaves and greens of spring onion and serve hot.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Arthaarti

This story is from Bhagvad Gita, illustrating an arthaarti devotee.

Swayambhuv manu's son, Uttanpaad, had two wives: Suneeti and Suruchi. Each gave birth to a son, who were called Dhruv and Uttam respectively. Suruchi was the favorite queen of Uttanpaad. One day, Dhruv came to his father and sat on his lap. Suruchi didn't like this. She took him off his father's lap and humiliated him. She told him, "You are unlucky and hence mothered by Suneeti. Had you been mothered by me, you would've got to sit on the throne; but all you can do now is to pray to Shri Krishna. Only then will your desire get fulfilled.". Her tone was mocking. Poor child Dhruv was heartbroken. He went to his mother and related the story in tears. His mother advised him that his step-mother was right, only Shri Krishna can fulfill his desires. So he must pray to him. On hearing these words from his mother, he decided to please Shri Krishna to get the reins of the kingdom. With that in mind he set off from his home. On his way he met Naradji who tried to persuade him to return to his home but he was adamant. Finally, Naradji gave him a mantra and his blessings. On the banks of river Yamuna, Dhruv started his meditation. Numerous factors tried to deviate him from his meditation but he was strong-willed and nothing could disturb him. Pleased with his prayers, Shri Krishna appeared in front of him. In the kingdom, when the king heard about his son he started off along with his queens and his other son to bring back Dhruv. On the way he met Dhruv, who was returning now that he had seen Shri Krishna. Elated to see his son, he hugged him and with great pomp and show brought him back to the kingdom. In the end, he made Dhruv the king.

This story depicts how an arthaarti devotee believes that only God can fulfill his desires.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Looming Tower

Author: Lawrence Wright

An in-depth account of people and events related to 9/11, it primarily focuses on Osama binLaden, Ayman al-zawahiri and John O'Neill (the FBI personell working on this case). For the former two, the story begins at the very beginning when the two were just kids.
So it was very interesting to read how Osama and Ayman came to be what they are today and the forces behind them.

The writings vividly reflects the comprehensive research accomplished by the author. I would recommend this book to any curious mind, interested in knowing what factors lead to the creation of: organizations like al-qaeda, people like Osama and Ayman and their followers.

Bottomline: A must read.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Monday, October 8, 2007

Forest Rights Act 2006

I recently came across this petition by Vanashakti which targets the withdrawal of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006.

If you're wondering what is the FRA then here are snippets from various articles that summarize it:
  • " ...is a historic legislation, the first legislative measure in India's history aimed at addressing the seizure of the homes, lands and livelihoods of tribals and forest dwellers through the declaration of 'government forests.'"[Source: FPP]
  • "...The new law recognises the right to homestead, cultivable and grazing land (occupied, and in use since December 2005), and to non-timber forest produce..." [Source]
  • "...This Act will give away up to 4 hectares of forest land to each tribal family and others dwelling in reserve forests, sanctuaries and national parks..." [Source: Vanashakti]
This act has antagonized many conservationists and environmental agencies and on reading their argument I felt rightly so. As Vanashakti says, the forests do not belong to any section they belong to all. However the FPP claims that these forests are not the uninhabited wilderness that they are being portrayed as but are home to forest communities. What both parties do side with is the denunciation of the act: by FPP because the act supposed to benefit them is being misused and by organizations like Vanashakti because they believe that it would lead to large-scale deforestation.

My take:
As always, I think, it's not the act that people are against but government's evil designs that have made people skeptical. With FPP on one side and the environmental organizations on the other, it's hard to say who's right and who's wrong till one can dig the true story; and that I haven't been able to.

If anybody has any insights on this topic, please share them with me. Or if you have an opinion and why.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Methi Thepla

I got this nice recipe for methi thepla from Vegetarian Delight. The thepla was very tasty. I didn't have fresh methi (fenugreek) leaves so I used kasoori methi instead; they are dried leaves. Even then they were delicious. We took them on a camping trip and we were thankful that we had them! I'd made them sometime back and didn't get a chance to log it since then so I don't have a photo; next time I make them I'll upload the photo. So here's the recipe by Sneha.

What you'll need


Whole wheat flour - 2 cups
Rava/Sooji - 2 tbsp
Besan - 2 tbsp
Fresh methi - 1 bunch
Jaggery, finely grated - 1tsp
Sesame seeds (Til) - 1 tsp
Ginger - 1 inch piece
Garlic - 6 cloves
Green chillies - 3
Red chilly powder
Salt to taste
Curd
Oil

Let's make

  1. Wash the methi well, pluck only the leaves and chop it finely.
  2. Grind the garlic, ginger and green chillies into a paste.
  3. Mix the wheat flour, rava, besan, methi, ginger garlic paste and everything else except the oil. Knead it into a soft roti-like dough with curd.
  4. Keep the dough aside for an hour.
  5. Make small balls and roll them out (slightly thicker than fulka roti).
  6. Then fry them on a griddle(tava) using a few drops of oil, like the usual parantha.
  7. They are typically served with a light touch of ghee(optional), curd, chutney and/or chhoondo.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Different devotees

(Teachings from the Gita) There are four different kinds of devotees of God. Ranked from lowest to highest they are:
  1. Arthaarti (अर्थाती): Those who believe that God is the only one who can fulfill their worldly desires; be it desire for wife, children, money or anything else. Since such people also believe that these worldly pleasures will be means for happiness, they are far away from understanding the essence of God. Hence they are ranked the lowest.
  2. Aarkt (आरक्त): Those who believe that only God can save them from their fears, humiliations, etc. Since they do not believe in worldly pleasures, they are above arthaarti; but they still are attached to the world.
  3. Jigyasu (जिज्ञासु): Those who want to know the essence of God. They are no longer attached to the world, hence they are above arthaarti and aarkt but they want to get nirvaana hence they're below the Gyaani.
  4. Gyaani (ज्ञानी): Those who know the essence of God and are in unison with him. They believe he is the only one and think of no one or nothing else. Hence they are the most superior of all devotees.
However, ranking the devotees does not mean that some achieve freedom from this cycle of birth and death and others don't. If anybody is a devotee, they will sooner or later achieve it.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Labyrinth

Author: Kate Mosse

A very interesting book, I must say! The story alternates between current events and what happened almost 1200 years back. Then: three books which contained the secret to the holy grail were being protected by a sect and there were others who wanted to use these books for the wrong purpose. Now: some people still want to protect them, some want to use them and some others want to destroy them but everybody wants to find them. Hence, they want to unravel what happened 1200 years ago to reach the books.

The story is very engrossing and at no point you would like to keep the book down. Initially, it's hard to keep track of all the characters between the past and the present; but as the story progresses their roles become clear. Though at times, the fights do get gross, so much so that sometimes I skipped reading them.

Bottomline: A very good read

Friday, September 21, 2007

New look and feel

Finally, I managed to change change the look and feel of my blog. I've adapted the template from the Butterfly template. The easy way would've been to cut and paste the whole template; but I would've lost all the customizations that I've done so far. So I'd to patiently selectively modify. Earlier I'd always looked at some tutorials and simply copied stuff. This time however since I'd to choose and do I a couple of things about the blogger template which I thought I would share. This is not a tutorial but just pointers. Using these and Google, would be sufficient.

To change the Blog Title text/font/color: search the template XML for "#header h1". Inside this section, any changes you make will reflect on the blog title. If you want to change the placement of the title on the page, use the "padding" attribute.

To change the Blog Description text/font/color: search the template XML for "#header .description".

Monday, September 17, 2007

Ganesh Chaturthi

[Leftmost plate(counterclockwise): rice idli (white round discs), curd rice, tamarind rice and ambode. Oval tray in the front(counterclockwise): Rasmalai(in bowl), Nippat, Kalakand, coconut laddoo, kodubale/kodbale, chakli.]Click on the image to get a larger view.

Ganesh Chaturthi is a popular festivals in the southern and western states of India, viz-a-viz: Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

Why do we celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi?

Once upon a time, the Goddess Gauri (consort of Lord Shiva), while bathing, created Ganesha as a pure white being out of the mud of Her Body and placed Him at the entrance of the house. She told Him not to allow anyone to enter while she went inside for a bath. Lord Shiva Himself was returning home quite thirsty and was stopped by Ganesha at the gate. Shiva became angry and cut off Ganesha's head as He thought Ganesha was an outsider.

When Gauri came to know of this she was sorely grieved. To console her grief, Shiva ordered His servants to cut off and bring to Him the head of any creature that might be sleeping with its head facing north. The servants went on their mission and found only an elephant in that position. The sacrifice was thus made and the elephant's head was brought before Shiva. The Lord then joined the elephant's head onto the body of Ganesha.

Lord Shiva made His son worthy of worship at the beginning of all undertakings, marriages, expeditions, studies, etc. He ordained that the annual worship of Ganesha should take place on the 4th day of the bright half of Bhadrapada. Since the "4th day" is called "chaturthi" in hindi, the name "Ganesh Chaturthi". [Source: Swami Sivananda]

Delicacies for the festival

Traditionally, 21 varieties of prasad are offered to Ganesha on this day. So we also tried to complete this number. Among the home-made dishes we had: rice idli, curd rice, tamarind rice, ambode, rasmalai, nippat, kalakand, coconut laddoo, kodubale and chakli. Apart from nippat and kodubale everything turned out very good. A few I made from my own recipes and few from fellow bloggers. Here are they:






Rice Idli

  • 1 cup idli rawa
  • 1 cup urad flour
  • 1 cup rice flour
  • salt according to taste
Method:
  1. Mix all the ingredients with water and form a thick batter. Let if ferment overnite (or in cool temperatures for 2 nights).
  2. Check the consistency of the batter, it shouldn't be too thick else the idlis will turn out hard even though they'll rise. So add water if you think it's thick.
  3. Boil some water in the cooker, take only so much water such that the water is below the level of the last plate of the idli stand.
  4. pour spoonfuls of batter in the idli moulds of the idli stand and steam them in the cooker for 15 mins. The time may vary from stove to stove. For me, it takes 15 mins by the clock.
  5. Soft idlis are ready to be devoured!








Chakli
  • 2 cups rice flour
  • 1 cup urad flour
  • 1 cup dalia (or bhuna chana dal) -- well grounded
  • 2 tsps roasted sesame seeds
  • chilli powder (according to taste)
  • salt (according to taste)
  • chopped geen chillies (optional)
  • 3 serving spoon full hot oil
  • oil for deep frying
Method
  1. Mix all the ingredient except oil. Now add oil. When you add hot oil to the mixture, it should release bubbles - that's the check for right temperature of the oil. Crumble the dough with oil. Then knead it with water. The dough is towards the soft side.
  2. Heat the oil for deep frying.
  3. Fill the chakli maker with the dough and press it to make 2-3 concentric circles at one go on a paper towel.
  4. Lightly attach the inner open end to its neighbouring circle. Similarly attach the outer open end to its neighbouring circle.
  5. Now turn the towel upside down on your palm, so as not to break the chakli.
  6. Drop it into oil for deep frying. The oil should be medium hot, unlike pooris which are fryed in very hot oil.
  7. When the chakli starts to sink toward the bottom, it's done so take them out.
  8. Ring them in a spoon or any other flatware which has a rod-like shape that can go inside the innermost circle of the chakli. Let it hang for 5-10 mins.








Curd rice from Latha's recipe. Even though I'm no big fan of curd rice, I must say this was the best curd rice that I've ever tasted. A big thanks to the recipe and of course to the chef, my DH.
  • Rice - 1 cup
  • Milk - 2 cups (boiled and cooled)
  • Fresh curds - 2 tablespoons
  • Salt - 1/2 teaspoon
  • Green chillies - 2 nos (cut into small pieces)
  • Curry leaves - 1 twig finely chopped
  • Fresh cream - 2 table spoons
  • Hing - a pinch
  • Ginger - 1/2 teaspoon (finely chopped)
  • Pomegranate - 2 tablespoons
  • Seedless grapes - 10 nos ( cut into 2 pieces )
  • Cashew - 4 nos (cut into pieces)
  • Oil - 1 teaspoon
  • Mustard - 1/2 teaspoon

Method

  1. Wash the rice and cook in a pressure cooker with* 2 and1/2 cup water.
  2. Transfer the rice to a deep container and mash when still hot, adding a little milk as you mash.
  3. Slowly add the remaining milk as you keep mixing. Allow to cool for 5 minutes.
  4. Add curds, salt and cream and mix well.
  5. Heat oil in a small kadai, add mustard seeds. when it crackles add curry leaves and green chillies.
  6. Add the seasoning,hing, cashews, ginger and fruits and mix well.
  7. Serve with a pickle of your choice.

Tips
* The rice should be over cooked so that it can be mashed well.









Kalakand from Praveena's recipe. I'd halfed the quantity of the ingredients but forgot to half the heating time; but it turned out for our good. The recipe is for the milk cake version of kalakand which is white in color; but the kalakand is creamish brown and thats the texture that we got due to the overheating. So basically if you heat it for a little less than twice the time mentioned you get the brownish version of kalakand.
  • 2 cups Full cream milk powder
  • 300 ml Thickened cream
  • 395 gms (1 can) Sweetend condensed milk
  • Pistachio Kernels - chopped for decoration (optional)
Method
  1. Mix all ingredients together in a microwave safe dish (I use a Corningware dish). Make sure there are no lumps. Taste or lick the spoon. This is stage one. I can't put my finger on what it tastes like but it is good enough to eat now.
  2. On the high setting on the microwave, cook for 6 minutes. Have a careful eye on the microwave as it tends to froth up and spill over. If this happens give a break for 10 or 15 seconds and resume. Also the 'high' setting on the microwaves varies. It is with trial and error that you will get the optimal time taken to get the mix to a stage where the milk solids are starting to come together.
  3. Mix well. Again taste. I think it tastes a bit like basundi at this point of time. Put in the microwave for another 6 minutes. Keep a eye on it for the first few minutes and then it should be okay.
  4. Let it sit the microwave for 5 or 10 minutes after the beep. This gives it some time to fully cook. This still looks a bit raw when you take it straight out but this rest will let it fully cook through.
  5. Decorate with chopped nuts. When fully cool you can cut it into pieces and serve. This tastes good warm, cold or at room temperature.
  6. You can cook it a bit longer if you want a more browner, harder texture to it. Really up to you.




Rasmalai from Gits ready-to-make. I've found this to be the best way to make rasmalais. It's easy, ready ina jiffy and tastes as delicious as readymade rasmalais (in India).

Coconut laddoos from the same recipe as that used on Janmashtami.

Recipe for Ambode I'd already posted earlier. Except that since I was making this for prasad, I didn't add the onions.

I'm sending this post as an entry to the Ganesha Chaturthi roundup by Latha.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

God is all around

(Teachings from Gita)I liked these shlokas from Gita not only for their spiritual essence but also for their poetic style. Krishna explicates that the whole earth is just another form of him and that he's diffused in each and everything on the earth.

In hindi:
मैं पानी मे रस हूँ, अग्नी में तेज हूँ, वेदों में ओम्न्कार हूँ, तपस्वियों में तप हूँ, चन्द्रमा और सुर्य में प्रकाश हूँ, पुरुषों में पुरुश्तात्व हूँ, पृथ्वी में पवित्र गंध हूँ और सम्पूर्ण भूतों में उनका जीवन हूँ।

In English:
I'm the essence of water, the flame of fire, the "Om" of the vedas, the ascetism of the ascetic, the light of the sun and the moon, the masculinity of men, the pure smell of the earth and the life of all living beings.

No Impact Man

Came across this interesting post which speaks about the author's resolve to live a no impact life for a year in NY. By "no impact" he means not impacting the environment. A very daunting task indeed!

Even if he's not able to achieve "zero impact", he would at least substantially decrease his impact, that I'm sure. It would also motivate and inspire other people to take steps for the preservation of the environment. So all in all I think it's a good gesture towards the environment.

Related Links: Lighter Footsteps

Medical Insurance

I'll never be able to fathom why medical treatment is so expensive in one of the most developed countries in the world - US! Isn't a developed country supposed to have a higher standard of living and better facilities for the basic necessities of life than other countries? Then why in the world is the medical treatment so unaffordable for the lower income group in the US. I agree that the hospitals/clinics are very clean, have a friendly atmosphere and use hi-tech equipment but does that justify charging $200 per visit even if it was as trivial as cold/cough treatment? If yes, then why don't we have tiers in hospitals like we do in hotels? Why don't we build hospitals which would provide comparable treatment but would not offer a fancy room or a hotel-style interior? Ultimately isn't that the purpose of hospitals/clinics/doctors: to provide treatment?

I guess it's all a "setting" between the doctors and insurance providers and the consumer suffers at their hands. It's because of these costs that patients are being driven to other nations for cures/surgeries. Can you believe it: living in a developed nation and then having to go other places for medical treatment?!?! I find that outrageous!

This issue seems to be a hot topic on the election manifesto. Here's a discussion on that.

Plight of road transport

When I used to drive to work, I would wish everyday that they (DoT) would add more lanes to the existing 5-lane freeway. Yes to most of you it would sound ludicrous that why would somebody want to extend a 5 lane freeway. Then again there would be some who would empathize with me; who know that even a 5 lane highway can get congested and frustrating at times. So in last year's local elections the winner's manifesto had to have the extension of the freeway as one of the main agenda. Not sure if that was the reason but whatever the reason the construction has started to extend most of the major roads/freeways in San Diego. My sentiments at this extension: frustrated, agitated. Why? Because how long can we keep extending roads to ease congestion? As Gandhiji said "Earth can provide for your needs, not your greed". There have to be alternate ways to resolve traffic congestion.

Since I started using public transportaion, I realized what a boon it is and that was the solution to all our traffic problems. Then I wondered that why do people prefer to be stuck in jams rather than using a bus/train. The answer was simple: public transportation in San Diego is expensive and time-taking most of the times; and inconvenient some of the time. That gives most people little reason to use public transportation. So why don't they spend a fraction of the billions of dollars from the transportation budget to strengthen the infrastructure for public transportation like improving connectivity; and promoting it? Wouldn't doing this
be less expensive that building roads, especially since they don't offer a long term respite? The benefits we're looking at:
  1. Reduction in gross fuel consumption, hence reducing dependence on foreign fuel.
  2. Environment-friendly in multiple ways: saves a natural resource; burns less gas.
  3. Eases traffic congestion.
  4. Believe it or not, it would reduce the stress in everybody's life. You'll agree that driving in congested conditions leads to stress on the driver and leaves him flustered. However, if one were to use the public transport, one can simply enjoy the ride.
The more I talk about this issue, the less it seems to me. I wish somebody would put it into the heads of DoT personnel. Seems like this topic has become close to my heart; I can never stop once I start.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Janmashtami

Wish you all a happy Janmashtami!

Here's a peek into our jhoola(swing) for Krishnaji.

and the prasad...
(from left to right) Makhane ki kheer, coconut laddoos and panchamrit.

The coconut laddoos came out to be really good and the chef behind them, my DH, says that they are very easy to make. The recipe is:

What you'll need:
1 can condensed milk
2 cups of dessicated coconut
1 tablespoon sugar

Let's start:
  1. Mix the condensed milk and the coconut in a bowl.
  2. Add the sugar and stir on a low flame for about 4 minutes.
  3. Set aside till the mixture has slightly cooled down.
  4. Shape into laddoos(small round balls).
  5. Roll each laddoo in a little dessicated coconut.
  6. Store in airtight jars.
Got the recipe for makhane ki kheer from here; but something seemed to be missing. It didn't taste the same as my mom's. So the next time I'll get it from my mom and if I make it right, the recipe will make way into one of the posts.

Friday, August 31, 2007

The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari

Author: Robin Sharma

It's an inspirational fable in which a man called John is impressed by the wondrous transformation of his lawyer friend Julian. The inspirational lessons are narrated by Julian to John as experienced by him through some monks in the Himalayas.

I feel that the book would've been better had it been narrative instead of being in the form of a fable; in the current form it seems to be a little childish and all the off-topic conversation between the two characters unnecessary. The content however is good, though some of the principles are trite. The author does present new means to these common principles of a good purposeful life.

Bottomline: In between a good and ok read :)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

A sinner and his destiny

(Teachings from the Gita) Have you ever thought about what would happen to those who perform prayers and other rituals of worship and at the same time are also committing some sin?

Those who believe in God and are religious about their worship they know very well that performing a wrong action will lead to some misfortune. By performing acts of worship, their soul gets cleansed. So there is no reason for them to commit a sin intentionally. However, it may happen that due to their inherent nature they might be participants in some sin. If that is the case then by slowly and gradually that too will come to an end as they continue to worship.

In the end, anybody who worships God will join the virtuous path to life.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Handmaid's tale

Author: Margaret Atwood

Honestly, when I started reading the book my first impression was: what a bore! It takes quite some time to build up your tempo and if you've the patience to do that then you can reach the end of the novel with much ease. Slowly and gradually it does get you engrossed in it. My overall opinion of the novel: it's good, not great.

The story is set in a future time; a barbaric time where the women are treated as objects of reproduction and those who are not capable of performing that function are banished to "colonies", common people do not have access to any kind of media, a small mistake results into a gross punishment, so on and so forth. It centers around a woman living in such a background. How people have their own ways of fulfilling their desires in the midst of restrictions.

Having read quite a few novels based on the oppressions on the women in certain parts of the world, it didn't seem to me to be a totally novel plot. To me it appeared to be more of an extension of the above. Maybe at the time when the novel was written the storyline must've been very original; but in today's age it doesn't appear so. It ceases to remain futuristic; it is what's happening or has happened in some parts of the world.

Bottomline: A good read.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

You and your happiness

You are responsible only for your happiness. Nobody can blame you for their unhappiness.
On a spiritual level, this is absolutely true because the very first lesson of spirituality is to lead a life of moderation; and to not be attached to anything living or non-living. The moment you achieve this feat you've overcome the biggest hurdle in your path towards happiness. You'll not be hurt by anything or anybody. Hence, you will never be unhappy.

However, I'm in a conundrum as to whether this is true in a normal life or not? What if somebody hurt me and made me unhappy, isn't he/she to be blamed for my unhappiness? Or is it that nobody but I can "make" myself unhappy? Does that mean a person can do anything and not harbor any guilt of making another person unhappy?

What are your 2 cents?

Friday, August 17, 2007

Reason, Season and Lifetime

Came across this touching piece at A Dragonfly Garden.

People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. When you know which one it is, you will know what needs to be done for that person.

When someone comes into your life for a REASON, it is usually to meet a need you have expressed. They have come to assist you through a difficulty, to provide you with guidance and support, to aid you physically, emotionally or spiritually. They may seem like a godsend and they are. They are there for the reason you need them to be. Then, without any wrongdoing on your part or at an inconveient time, this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end. Sometimes they die, sometimes they walk away, sometimes they act in a way that forces you to make a stand. What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled, their work is done. The prayer you sent up has been answered and now it is time to move on.

Some people come into your life for a SEASON, because your turn has come to share, grow or learn. They bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh. They may teach you something you have never done. They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy. Believe it, it is real, but only for a season.

LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons, things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation. Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life. It is said that love is blind, but friendship is clairvoyant.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Happy Independence Day!


It's India's 60th Independence day! Let's read Jawaharlal Nehru's Tryst with Destiny once again to see have we lived up to his expectations (or hear it).

I

Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long supressed, finds utterance. It is fitting that at this solemn moment we take the pledge of dedication to the service of Inida and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity.

At the dawn of history India started on her unending quest, and trackless centuries are filled with her striving and the grandeur of her success and her failures. Through good and ill fortune alike she has never lost sight of that quest or forgotten the ideals which gave her strength. We end today a period of ill fortune and India discovers herself again. The achievement we celebrate today is but a step, an opening of opportunity, to the greater triumphs and achievements that await us. Are we brave enough and wise enough to grasp this opportunity and accept the challenge of the future?

Freedom and power bring responsibility. The responsibility rests upon this Assembly, a sovereign body representing the sovereign people of India. Before the birth of freedom we have endured all the pains of labour and our hearts are heavy with the memory of this sorrow. Some of those pains continue even now. Nevertheless, the past is over and it is the future that beckons to us now.

That future is not one of ease or resting but of incessant striving so that we may fulfil the pledges we have so often taken and the one we shall take today. The service of India means the service of the millions who suffer. It means the ending of poverty and ignorance and disease and inequality of opportunity. The ambition of the greatest man of our generation has been to wipe every tear from every eye. That may be beyond us, but as long as there are tears and suffering, so long our work will not be over.

And so we have to labour and to work, and work hard, to give reality to our dreams. Those dreams are for India, but they are also for the world, for all the nations and peoples are too closely knit together today for any one of them to imagine that it can live apart Peace has been said to be indivisible; so is freedom, so is prosperity now, and so also is disaster in this One World that can no longer be split into isolated fragments.

To the people of India, whose representatives we are, we make an appeal to join us with faith and confidence in this great adventure. This is no time for petty and destructive criticism, no time for ill-will or blaming others. We have to build the noble mansion of free India where all her children may dwell.

II

The appointed day has come-the day appointed by destiny-and India stands forth again, after long slumber and struggle, awake, vital, free and independent. The past clings on to us still in some measure and we have to do much before we redeem the pledges we have so often taken. Yet the turning-point is past, and history begins anew for us, the history which we shall live and act and others will write about.

It is a fateful moment for us in India, for all Asia and for the world. A new star rises, the star of freedom in the East, a new hope comes into being, a vision long cherished materializes. May the star never set and that hope never be betrayed!

We rejoice in that freedom, even though clouds surround us, and many of our people are sorrowstricken and difficult problems encompass us. But freedom brings responsibilities and burdens and we have to face them in the spirit of a free and disciplined people.

On this day our first thoughts go to the architect of this freedom, the Father of our Nation [Gandhi], who, embodying the old spirit of India, held aloft the torch of freedom and lighted up the darkness that surrounded us. We have often been unworthy followers of his and have strayed from his message, but not only we but succeeding generations will remember this message and bear the imprint in their hearts of this great son of India, magnificent in his faith and strength and courage and humility. We shall never allow that torch of freedom to be blown out, however high the wind or stormy the tempest.

Our next thoughts must be of the unknown volunteers and soldiers of freedom who, without praise or reward, have served India even unto death.

We think also of our brothers and sisters who have been cut off from us by political boundaries and who unhappily cannot share at present in the freedom that has come. They are of us and will remain of us whatever may happen, and we shall be sharers in their good [or] ill fortune alike.

The future beckons to us. Whither do we go and what shall be our endeavour? To bring freedom and opportunity to the common man, to the peasants and workers of India; to fight and end poverty and ignorance and disease; to build up a prosperous, democratic and progressive nation, and to create social, economic and political institutions which will ensure justice and fullness of life to every man and woman.

We have hard work ahead. There is no resting for any one of us till we redeem our pledge in full, till we make all the people of India what destiny intended them to be. We are citizens of a great country on the verge of bold advance, and we have to live up to that high standard. All of us, to whatever religion we may belong, are equally the children of India with equal rights, privileges and obligations. We cannot encourage communalism or narrow-mindedness, for no nation can be great whose people are narrow in thought or in action.

To the nations and peoples of the world we send greetings and pledge ourselves to cooperate with them in furthering peace, freedom and democracy.

And to India, our much-loved motherland, the ancient, the eternal and the ever-new, we pay our reverent homage and we bind ourselves afresh to her service.

JAI HIND.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

La Especial Norte, Leucadia/San Diego

Cuisine: Mexican
Rates:$

It's one of the many small mexican restaurants in Leucadia on Highway 101. We just happened to stumble upon it. The exterior is very ordinary but the interior is quite well done in a mexican way; it's not fancy but clean, nice and colorful. The staff is very friendly. Our waitress took good care of us.

We had had our lunch about an hour or two back, when we came across this place. There were so many restaurants on the way that we decided that we must stop at one of them and at least have something light to see if they're any good. Especially because we don't frequent that neighborhood much. We were in the mood to order some kind of chips and dips. Since it was a small place we didn't expect to get the complimentary chips and salsa; but there she was - our waitress- with a basket of freshly made chips and homemade salsa. The chips were nice and crisp and totally fresh. The salsa was just to our taste: spicy and flavorful. The lightest dish on the menu was (vegetarian)tostada, so we ordered that. Of course, there was a wide variety of soups but I'm too fond of soups; and I later heard that their soups are very tasty. Coming back to our tostada: the presentation was simply excellent. Just looking at that dish would make you hungry. It was accompanied by refried beans, mexican rice and cabbage salad; each of which was truly delicious. They were one of the best refried beans we've had. The tostada itself had toppings of beans, guacamole, sour cream and cheese; and it too was delectable. The quantity along with the chips was more than sufficient for two (of course appetites make a difference).

Contact info:
604 North Coast Highway 101 (at Leucadia Boulevard),
Leucadia
Phone: 760-942-104

Friday, August 10, 2007

Chewy Chocolate Chip cookies!

Since a long time, I'd been searching for the perfect chocolate chip cookies recipe - the chewy ones. They are a hot favorite of my husband and I. I tried recipes from the net, magazines, etc. but they just weren't right! Finally I came upon two which seemed to have been old time favorites: the original Nestle Toll House recipe and another from the King Arthur's Baking Companion book. I must say that the book is very comprehensive, instructive and explanatory. It isn't just about recipes: it expounds the roles of each ingredient, the methodology and so on and so forth. Being so impressed with it, I decided to give it's recipe on chocolate chip cookies a try. As expected the results were simply fabulous! They turned out to be de-li-cious!

So here's the recipe verbatim:

Makes 3 dozen.

12 tbsp butter (11/2 sticks)
1.25 cups light brown sugar
0.25 cup light corn syrup
2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 large egg
2.25 cups flour
1 cup chooped nuts
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips



  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.

  2. Beat the butter, brown sugar and corn syrup together until fluffy.

  3. Beat in the vanilla,baking powder, salt and baking soda and then mix in the egg. Beat well.

  4. Beat in the flour, then stir in the nuts and the chocolate chips.

  5. Drop cookie dough by the rounded tablespoons onto lightly greased parhcment lined sheet pans.

  6. Bake for 12-14 minutes , just until lightly brown at the edges. For chewiest cookies, don't overbake.

  7. Cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes then move to cooling rack.

  8. Store in airtight container with a slice of apple or sugar softener.
Note:

  1. I felt that the amount of chocolate chips could be reduced a little. It was too chocolatey with 2 cups, maybe 1.5/1.25 cups would be better. However, if you like it very chocolatey then this should be fine.
  2. The first step is the most important. That's fifty percent of the work. You must beat the butter, sugar and corn syrup to a nice fluffy texture.
  3. I also didn't add the nuts. So if you want to add nuts I think that the total volume of chocolate chips and nuts should not be more than 1.5 cups.
  4. UPDATE: After 24 hrs, the cookies had gone dry. Then I found out that keeping a piece of bread in the same jar, keeps the cookies moist. Doing so, certainly helped.
  5. UPDATE 2: I'd freezed half of the dough and it turned out that cookies made from that dough were better than those made from the fresh dough. Also, this time instead of dropping a spoonful I gave them a coin shape so that they turn out round and not too thick (like last time). These were certainly good improvements.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

A good human being

(Teachings from Bhagvad Gita)When a man is in unison with God, he sees God in everything. If he makes somebody happy with his gentle words, he's making God happy. If he's serving somebody, he's serving God. If he sees something, he's seeing God. If he's going with somebody, he's going with God. Whether we've reached that level of spirituality or not, what will happen if we apply this principle to our daily life? Well, the world would be a paradise. Why? Because if you see God in every person you would never do anything bad to him; never bore any ill-feelings towards him; always speak nicely to him. Don't you think that would solve all the problems in the world?

Further such a man, considers the joy and agonies of the world as his own. Just like he works towards keeping himself happy and in doing so doesn't think that he's doing an obligation on himself, or doing a favor to himself or that he's duty bound; it's natural to him. Similarly, it's natural for him to not do anything that agonizes anybody and always do actions that bring happiness. is is going beyond the saying "Consider all the people in the world your brothers and sisters"; because there could be conflict even brothers due to selfish interests but it would never happen if you consider others' agony as your own and their happiness as your happiness.

What a shangri-la this world would be if everybody would abide with these principles!

Mom and pop stores

Whenever I hear that a favorite 'mom and pop'(MAP) store of mine shut down, I become very sad. I feel almost as if a part of my culture died; and then this fierce debate ensues in my mind one side of which says that we need to keep up with time and the other side says that we should have some local flavor. The former says that chain stores will provide better prices, availability and service. The latter says that the personalization provided by the MAPs can never be replaced by the chain stores. Yes there are times when while shopping I like to simply pick up stuff from the shelves but there are other times when I'm confused between two brands/products and would like to get a second opinion from the shop keeper. Or I don't feel like going all over the store picking, instead I just want to hand in my shopping list to the shopkeeper and collect the stuff in an hour. Did I forget to write the particular tea that I wanted? Not to worry. Being a regular the shopkeeper knows my favorites. You need a minor alteration to a product? No problem, the shopkeeper would be happy to do it.

Let's look at the advantages of chain stores. Availability? Agreed they have a larger stock of given items but I think when it comes to variety the MAPs beat the chain stores. Price? That's one aspect where the chain stores win, at least in the short run. Service? I think there's 50-50 balance here. Things like Returns are better handled at chain stores.

So what do you think?

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Demand: a consumer's weapon!

This time last year when the gas prices were sky rocketing, I recieved an e-mail the essence of which was that if we wanted to put a stop to price gouging by certain oil companies then we should stop buying gas from them. It was then that I thought to myself - this is the most powerful weapon that I as a consumer possess and I should use it to my benefit. Like most of us, I was very agitated that the oil companies were making record breaking profits at our expense, so I decided not to buy gas from companies like Exxon, Mobil, etc. Instead I made sure that every time I went to costco I filled up my tank. What if you don't have a costco? Well, there are always other gas pumps which provide gas at much less. For example: Arco, Thrifty, etc.

This principle doesn't apply to gas alone but to any product/supplier. If the consumers don't buy their products, suppliers will be in big trouble! Taking such a step may put in some inconvenience but that's a small price to pay. If you think a store is overcharging you, you should stop buying from there. If you think a particular brand has degraded its quality; stop consuming that brand. What are suppliers without consumers?!?!