Wednesday, May 30, 2007


"Kanya" means girl and "daan" means "donate/gift". I've always been curious to know about this hindu ritual which implies that when the daughter is married off, she's donated by her parents. At least that's the impression that I had. One mostly donates inanimate things and sometimes animals; but have you heard of anybody donating their child? I wondered that how could the girl-child be treated like an object. Finally, as a result of my scouring the internet I found an answer which seemed quite satisfactory and made a lot of sense.

Here are some excerpts from it which also summarize what the author wants to say: is been settled matter in the scriptures
that the parents do not have ownership rights over the child. The writ of the
parents does not extend enough to carry out their sale or hand them over as a

...The parental responsibility of the girl child
is transferred from the one performing the kanyaadaana to the prospective

So it's the responsibility that is being transferred and it is a reversible transfer. In the sense that if girl-child is divorced or widowed the responsility is transferred back to the parents. Now how many people know this? Till today I too didn't know about this and my thought was that a widow was the responsibility of the parents-in-law but that's not true. In today's age, most of the women are financially independent so maybe it's not so much of a problem but maybe a decade back it wasn't so. Parents married off their daughters and thought their responsibility was over. If she was left alone due to any reason she wasn't welcome back in her own house, the house where she spent her childhood.

I wish people would try to learn about rituals they've been following since ages. Or maybe that's why they don't.

Books, books and more books

Here's a book meme and my first meme. An amusing name "meme", makes me think of "Edamame". Do they've any relation? Not that I know of. I looked at the book meme and thought to myself, "Wow, I would have most of the list in bold". Little did I realize that what seems is not what really is. Hey I too would like to start a meme. Wonder what it should be on?

Look at the list of books below:

* Bold the ones you’ve read
* Italicize the ones you want to read
* Leave blank the ones that you aren’t interested in.

1. The DaVinci Code (Dan Brown)
2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)

4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)
6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)
7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)
8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)
12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)
14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden) -- saw the movie though!
16. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Rowling)
17. Fall on your knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18. The Stand (Stephen King)
19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Rowling)
20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
21. The Hobbit (Tolkien)
22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
26. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
28. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis) -- again saw the movie!
29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
30. Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom)
31. Dune (Frank Herbert)
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks) -- seen the movie!
33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
34. 1984 (Orwell)
35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
38. I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)
39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
45. The Bible
46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)
47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
48. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)
49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
50. She's come undone (Wally Lamb)
51. The poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
52. A tale of two cities (Dickens)
53. Enders game (Orson Scott Card)
54. Great Expectations (Dickens)
55. The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)

56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
59. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
60. The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrew Niffenegger)
61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)

63. War and Peace (Tolstoy)
64. Interview with the Vampire (Anne Rice)
65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
67. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (Ann Brashares) -- seen the movie!
68. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
69. Les Miserables (Hugo)
70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
71. Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding) - saw the movie!
72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)
73. Shogun (James Clavell)
74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
76. The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
78. The World According to Garp (John Irving)
79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
80. Charlotte's Web (E.B.White)
81. Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
82. Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck)
83. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
84. Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
85. Emma (Jane Austen)
86. Watership Down(Richard Adams)
87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
88. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
89. Blindness (Jose Saramago)
90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
91. In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)
92. Lord of the Flies (Golding)
93. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
100. Ulysses (James Joyce)

Fruits of labor

(Teachings from Gita) One who's not knowledgeable enough thinks that he's the "doer" - the one to perform a given task; but this notion is man-made. Neither does God believe that anybody is behind a given action nor did he create the concept of reward for an action. He also did not designate that a given task will be performed by a given man. It is we who think so. It is we who bind ourselves to the circle of life and death by having a desire for the fruits of our labor and by priding ourselves in being the "doer" of the task. It is our ego which makes us believe that we accomplished a task.

Then what happens to the saying "As you sow, so shall you reap". I always thought it was the guiding principle in life; it motivated us to do good deeds so that we get good rewards. And what happens if somebody does a bad deed, shouldn't he be punished for that? For the common man it still holds true but for the one who wants to transcend to a higher level, it doesn't. As has been oft said, such a man should performs tasks without any pride of being the performer and devoid of any selfish interests like God who created the world and performs all the tasks for it's smooth functioning but doesn't harbor the notion that he's the one who does it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Are temples for Hindus only?

There are some temples in India which do not allow non-Hindus to enter. The Jagannath temple in Puri doesn't permit any foreigners. Why are we doing this and where are we going with it?

Temples are places of worship, how does it matter what religion or country one belongs to as long as all they want to do is pray to God. I can understand that it would hurt the sentiments on other believers if a not-so-knowledgeable person, even unintentionally, did something that was not considered permissible in a temple. There are ways to overcome to that. The priests of the temple could take the onus of printing out booklets which laid down general guidelines. It certainly doesn't mean that we should shun out people from other religions/countries. We should be happy that there are people from all around the world who are curious to know more about our religion.

The priests of these temples are learned people and I would really like to know their reason behind this policy. If anybody has an opinion on this, I would love to hear it.

Monday, May 14, 2007


(Teachings from Gita)Karma(कर्म) means work/duty and yoga (योग) means discipline. Hence karmayoga means "discipline of action". One who follows the path of karmayoga is called a karmayogi. Such a person performs his duties selflessly; without any desire for rewards.

Ascetism (sanyaas or सन्यास) and karmayoga, both are ways to reach God but one who follows the latter is above an ascetic as he who's adopted karmayoga has already embraced ascetism by not harboring feelings of love or hate and by not having any expectations. He goes a step further by performing his duties but renouncing the right or privilege of being the performer; by not desiring any fruits for his labor. To become an ascetic one has to cross the path of karmayoga.

Veggie Uttapam

In our house, uttapam is a by-product of dosa :). It's when there is left-over batter from making dosas that we utilize it to make uttapams. That's how we got hooked to uttapams and realized what experts we were at it! Uttapam is easier to make as compared to dosa because it doesn't require the spreading-skills. So the recipe I describe out here also started with the making of dosa.

You need:

For the base
Rice flour
Urad flour
Salt to taste

For the toppings (qty varies on your liking)
Carrot (grated)
Onion (finely chopped)
chillies (finely chopped)
coriander (finely chopped)
tomatoes (finely chopped)

Let's start:

1. Prepare the batter
Take the rice flour and urad flour in the ratio of 2:1 by volume. So if you take 1 cup of urad flour, you need to take 2 cups of rice flour. Yes, we use flours instead of grinding rice/urad dal. It's the easy way out and
makes no difference! Ok, now let's add some water to the mixture. Add enough water to make a batter. Add salt to taste. how to decide the consistency. Be on the conservative side because we can add water later after the batter has fermented. Once the batter is made, keep it for a night (or two) to ferment. Duration depends on the weather at that time. If it's warm then it would only need a night. If you don't know how to identify a fermented batter, note the texture of the batter when you set it to ferment. The next day if you see that the texture has changed then it means that fermentation has started. If the level of the batter has almost doubled, then the batter is definitely ready!

We now have the fermented batter. Let's do a consistency check. Take a serving spoonful of batter and drop it from a foot's height, it flows in one single strand then you're ready. Wait - we need to make sure it's not too thin. For that you can cross-check with the video here.

2. Pre-h
eat the griddle to a medium-high temperature then once you're ready reduce it to medium heat. I prefer non-stick griddles as it's easy to make and requires less oil.

Take a big serving spoonful of the batter and drop it on the griddle. Spread it a little to the size you want. Don't make it thin like dosa, it should be thick. Now spread the topping all over it. Spray/sprinkle some oil on the circumference of the uttapam and over it. If you're using non-stick then you need really small amounts. Let it cook on the bottom side, once done flip it to cook the other side.

Wasn't that easy?

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day

There was a time when I used to belong to the club which believed that all such "days" are a conspiracy by the greeting card companies. I too believed that just so that they can sell a million more cards and make some profit through those cute little gift items, these greeting card companies are trying to make a big hole in the pockets of the consumer. That was when I thought that essence of these days was to just shower the concerned person with gifts and cards. Be it the Valentine day, Mother's day, Father's day or anything else.

Now I think differently. I think in today's age, life is very hectic and seldom do we take out time to express our love and feelings for those whom we care. Of course, one would say that we do hundred little things which we wouldn't do if we didn't care or love that person. One, that's true for only those you live with. Second, how many times do we make them feel how special they are. Well, it's these "days" when we can make ourselves take out time to show our loved ones how special they are. It doesn't have to be gifts or cards or eating-outs; it's about feelings.

Thursday, May 10, 2007


You can justify a lot of things, but justifications only make things seem right; they don't make them right.

I picked this from one of the episodes of Seventh Heaven. It seemed very true to me. However, a question comes up in my mind: do we need to justify even when we are right? I don't have an answer to it right now. Maybe some day.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Surati Farsan Mart, Mira Mesa, San Diego

Cuisine: Indian

Surati is a fast-food Indian place. Housing a casual atmosphere, it offers various kinds of chaat, dosa, vada pav, etc. It has a cafe kind of ambience with a nice plasma TV screening some bollywood songs.

Most of the dishes on the menu are good though I must say that it's mostly a chaat-place so one should avoid having dosas there. It's like ordering lo-mein at a Thai restaurant. Yes dosa and chaat are both indian dishes but they belong to different regions of India and there are rare places which are expert in both. I like their vada-pav, that's the only indian place in San Diego which offers that dish! Other dishes like delhi chaat, dahi sev puri, etc. are also good. I would recommend the mango lassi. Service is quite decent. For more information go here.

Contact Information:
9494 Black Mountain Rd
San Diego, CA 92126
(858) 549-7280

Monday, May 7, 2007

Of faith and devotion...

(Teachings from Gita) Only if you believe in what you do can you be devoted to it and if you're completely devoted to what you do then you would be in total control of your mind and senses. If you've control over your mind and senses then you'll always be focused on your goal. For example, a businessman who's totally devoted to his business is not panged by hunger, doesn't care about day or night: as he has all his senses under control. If you believe in yourself you would not be possessed by the vices of jealousy, rivalry, peer pressure and such things. Faith or belief is very important. As an example, I always feel that for a doctor's prescription to cure you it is essential that you believe in that doctor. You can win a losing battle, if you have faith. From faith comes devotion and from devotion, a control over the senses; and one who overpowers his senses can do anything. This brings to my mind the dialogue between Siddhartha and Kamaswami.

A man who lacks faith and wisdom cannot be happy in either worlds. He'd always be shrouded by doubt and dilemma; if he can't decide then he can't achieve because he's not sure what he has to achieve. He can't eliminate the doubt because he's neither wise enough to think nor believes in what he's doubting (hence, the doubt).

Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Author: Patrick M. Lencioni

I liked this book because it has that feel-good touch. I like all such stories where everything is amiss in the beginning but things start falling into place with every page and are picture-perfect by the end. Makes me feel so good :). I think that's because it gives me the feeling that anything can be set right!

That was all I liked about the book, there's lots that I didn't. I found the writing-style and the font size quite childish. There is this particular font size, if a book has a font size larger than that then I feel that the book is targeted towards a kid-audience. When I read in it's short description that it was a fable, immediately Paul Coelho's "Alchemist" came to my mind and I was very eager to read this book; but I think I'd set a very high standard. "Alchemist" is way too profound. Even Dale Carnegie's self-help books are better than this. The points he talks about are probably quite true but the presentation is not good. It was interesting in the beginning when there was suspense but after a certain point it became all too predictable without giving any good insights.

Bottomline: An Ok read.

Bhature / Bhatura

I've been wanting to post this recipe since long. This is Sanjeev Kapoor's recipe (of Khana Khazana fame) and it should ideally go into the "Recipes from elsewhere" but his site doesn't provide a link to the recipe because of the way it's built. So I decided to just copy and paste it here. For a long time I'd been looking for the perfect bhatura recipe, just like they make in any of Delhi's restaurants...yummy! Finally I found this and believe me it makes the most delicious bhaturas! I just followed the recipe to the T and there we were relishing the bhaturas. Also, unlike most of the other recipes the dough needs to ferment for only an hour so you don't need to plan half-a-day in advance.


2½ cups Refined flour (maida)
1/2 tsp Baking powder
pinch of Soda bicarbonate
1/2 cup Yogurt
1 tsp Salt
2 tsps Powdered sugar
2 tbsps + to deep fry Oil


Mix refined flour, baking powder and soda bicarbonate. Sieve and keep aside. Mix yogurt with salt and sugar. Add this to the flour, add enough water and mix gradually to make a soft dough by light kneading. Incorporate two tablespoons of oil into the dough and cover the dough with a wet cloth. Keep it aside for an hour. Divide dough into sixteen equal portions. Roll them into balls. Cover and keep to rise for ten minutes. Grease your palms with a little oil and flatten the balls. Roll out into five-inch diameter bhaturas. Heat sufficient oil in a kadai and deep fry bhaturas on high heat till light brown on both sides. Serve hot with chole.

If you want to have a look at the original recipe, go to his site and then go to the "Complimentary Recipes" section. It's listed under the "Punjabi Recipes".

Saturday, May 5, 2007

H1-B stamping in Tijuana, Mexico

This is for those looking for any information on getting a H1-B visa at US Consulate, Tijuana. I got mine 2-3 days back. First off, many thanks to this post on the immigration portal which helped me a lot. Here follows my experience.

As I've told earlier, I took a mexico visa. We went to the US border and parked in one of the many parking lots. From there we crossed the border into mexico on foot. While going
towards the border we realized that there was a parking lot just next to the border and that too for only $4. That seemed to be the perfect place as you would hardly need to walk but we didn't know that earlier and so parked in the first lot that we saw. Once inside Mexico, we took a cab ($5) to Banamex. There are a lot of cabs standing out there so you wouldn't have any problem and whether they understand english or not, they do understand "Banamex","US Consulate/Embassy". We reached the bank at 8am while it opens at 9am as we wanted to be on the liberal side; but looking at the whole process I think one can be liberal with that. It would be fine even if you reached the bank by 8:45am. No biggie! From the bank, the US consulate is around 2 blocks. One thing about the bank - the entrance which faces the main road is not the main entrance; it's at the back side. To reach the consulate from the bank you can take a cab or walk. If you want to walk, here's a rough map that I made:

The blue rectangle is the bank, the red rectangle is the consulate and the two circles are the statues that you'll pass. The Statue 2 is of a native Indian and the statue 1 is of Abraham Lincoln - that's where you turn left. Outside the consulate, there'll be a huge line but H1 guys don't need to stand in this line. Show your papers to the security outside and they'll tell to move ahead of the line. Inside the consulate they first take your finger-print and photo and then you wait for your interview. They asked me what my company does, how many employees it has, questions about my grad school and looked at my petition. My interview went fine and I was told to collect the passport at 3pm. After sometime we decided to watch a movie at the Plaza Rio Mall just opposite Banamex, with some difficulty we found out what all movies were being shown in English. By the time we'd everything deciphered, we found out all the showtimes that we could watch were already sold out. So if you do want to watch a movie go there directly from the consulate: don't wait. At 2:45pm we stood in the line for the passports, it's first come first serve so the sooner you come the better. From there we took a cab ($6) to the Mexico border. The worst part was yet to come - I needed to collect a new I-94. We didn't know this so we proceeded to the customs and he turned us back to the I-94 building. It's building close to the customs, has 3 poles outside with a US flag and it's white and blue in color. One can just not imagine how long it took for us to take a new I-94: a simple departure form. We stood for almost 2 hrs in the line and it was killing! Once we'd the new I-94, we crossed the border and happily lived ever after :).

Documents that I took:
DS-156 (DS-157 is only for male applicants)
W-2s (didn't ask)
Pay Stubs
(didn't ask)
All I-20s till date (didn't ask)
Degree + transcript (didn't ask)
Photo (didn't ask)

1100 pesos or $107.40 at Banamex
$6 for new I-94

I'd taken the original and a copy of each.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Ultimate truth

One can understand and imbibe the ultimate truth if and only if he does so with belief (श्रध्दा), devotion (भक्ती) and simplicity (सरलता). If you ask questions on what is written in the scriptures with a doubt in your mind; or because you think that those who've written it are not capable enough; or because you want to engage in a debate over the matter; or for any such reason which reflects that you are arrogant or shrewd you'll never the learn the essence of the philosophy.

If you're really interested in understanding you must first make yourself believe in this institution, have total faith in the philosophy and be down-to-earth.

When I was reading this section of Gita it reminded me of something my mother told me. Earlier when I used to read Gita, I would always have questions brimming in my mind as to why God said this or why did he do this: mainly out of plain curiosity, sometimes astonished as to how could God do/say this. When I asked her one of these questions, she told me the very same thing: I should read these scriptures with complete faith and devotion and only then can I hope to answer my questions. With that thought in mind and my wee bit of experience I realized that most of my questions do get answered sooner or later. For those that are still lingering in my mind, I'm sure one day I'll find an answer to those too. So if you too have been in a similar faith then my advise is don't lose hope, don't let your trust wane; you will find the answers.