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).


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.


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.


Sunday, August 12, 2007

La Especial Norte, Leucadia/San Diego

Cuisine: Mexican

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),
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.

  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?!?!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Crime and Punishment

Author: Fyodor Dostoyevsky

A novel more about the emotions than about the plot itself. It takes you through the emotional travails of the protagonist. The central character, Raskolnikov, is pursuing studies to become an acadamecian. He has come up with a theory on the psychology behind crime and criminals, which he later comes to know got published. According to his theory, the criminals can be divided into two sets: the normal and the extraordinary. The latter set has the right to crime so as to eliminate obstacles from the great work that they're doing. He considers himself part of this set and decides to remove certain obstacles from his path. However, the task turns out larger than he'd expected. This crime directs the rest of life. He undergoes the same changes that he'd talked about in his article which just shows what a great mind he has. The novel describes how his life is a complete ruin following the crime even though he's not been identified as the murderer.

In some sense I find this novel inspiring; it shows that how a person with such a great intellect can be reduced to a wreck because of a single crime: whether he's caught or not.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Cute and vegetable?!?!

Have you ever found a vegetable cute? I've never. But here's a piece of art which makes them so cute and brings them alive!