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
  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!

  • 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
  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


  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.

* 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)
  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


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.