Thursday, December 25, 2008

More from the "Shopaholic" series by Sophie Kinsella

I bought this 3-in-1 volume on the Shopaholic series; one of these I'd already reviewed. The other two are:

  • Shopaholic takes Manhattan
  • Shopaholic ties the knot

In STM, as you can very well guess from the title that this time Becky goes under debt in Manhattan. The guiding principle that takes her there is "The more you invest, the more you get back". In her case, the investment becomes clothes and accessories; because she's is mass communications she justifies that by buying good clothes,etc. she's investing in her career. The most interesting snippet in this book was: her financial position is ridiculed by the media and becomes a public humiliation for her. Of course, her parents also come to know of it. However, when she talks to them her dad says: "if such a big country (USA) can be in debt and still run fine; then I'm sure you can". Parents can never see a flaw in their child!! :)

In STTK, Becky has other things along with debt to worry about. She's getting married and in TWO places! Luke's mother wants them to get married in New York where she's preparing for the most laving wedding in the city. On the other hand, Becky's parents are preparing for the wedding in their hometown in England. On one side is the wedding of her dreams and on the other side is her parents' dream. She, as we all know, is not so good as saying "no" :).

If you read too many in this series then of course you get the feeling that how come the same character commits the same mistake in every book. However, if you treat them orthoganlly, I think they're a pleasant read. Definitely, not much exercise for the brain :). It makes up for a nice light read!

Bottomline: A light, pleasant read.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Pray for the end; not for the means

I don't know what you thought about my subject but when it came to my mind first it almost felt as if I'm saying "pray for your end" :). That is certainly not what I've in mind!

My subject wants to convey that we should pray for what is our ultimate goal in life and not the small little things that we think we need to add to our basket on the way. If all you want from your life is to be happy; then pray for that. Not something like: "God please give me X, Y and Z so that I'm happy".

Often we pray that I get X (where X could be an object or an intangible) or that Y would happen (where Y is an event). My question is: why do we that?

Isn't all that we want is for us and our family to be happy? Then why don't we simply pray that we be happy? Why do we add clauses to our prayers? If we're praying to the supreme one then that means we believe that he has the power to grant us. Then we must also believe that whatever he does is for our benefit.

I remember that when we were in high school, some students would pray to get good scores/marks/grades. So I asked myself that why don't they just pray to God that they be happy. The answer that I got back was maybe they're too young to understand that.

So I thought of people older than those students. People in that category are praying for a good job or a good house or some such thing. I asked myself the same question and couldn't explain why they do that except that they don't know what they want from life.

How can we be so sure that getting X would make us happy? Why not make our lives simpler (and His job too :)) by simply praying for the happiness of our family. Can you imagine the power of the prayers when everyone in your family prays for the same thing?!?!

I would love to hear what everybody thinks about this!

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Memory Keeper's Daughter

Author: Kim Edwards

An extremely engrossing and well-written book - that's what it is! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and it was always so hard putting it down!

The protagonist is referred to as "the memory keeper" in the title as he captures all his memories through photos. His wife delivers twins - a girl and a boy; but the girl is born with Down Syndrome so he asks his nurse to take away the newborn to a home, thinking that he can save his family from all the misery by being away from the daughter rather than being with her. However, pain and misery start knocking at his door in less than 24 hours of his daughter's departure. And this was just the beginning. The story revolves around how the lives of every member of his family gets a volte-face because of his one mistake!  

Bottomline: Excellent read!

Monday, November 17, 2008

otConfessions of a Shopaholic

Author: Sophie Kinsella

This is from the famous Shopaholic series by Sophie Kinsella. I'd reviewed another book from the series earlier. It was the tone of that book which prompted me to read more in this series. Sophie's writing style is lovable. Her characters are so well-defined.

In this book, Rebecca Bloomwood (the shopaholic) plunges deep into debt and to reverse that she makes several resolutions, read books and what not; but nothing seems to be helping. Instead everything seems to be helping her get more into debt. Everybody around her seems to be getting successful and striking gold; except her. This and the haunting debtors depress her. She decides to take refuge at her parents' place for sometime. On going there she realizes that her frivolous advice to her neighbors robs them a huge amount! This turns out to her advantage.

There are times when I feel like tearing my hair looking at what Rebecca is buying and the way she's going about controlling her finance. There are so many times when I just can't stop laughing out loud!

The one take away message that I got from the book - (apart from obviously that one should be in control of one's finances) success will kiss your feet if you work whole-heartedly. However hard you may work but if doesn't come from your heart, it lacks the golden touch.

Bottomline: A very good read.

Monday, November 10, 2008

"The Lion's Game" and "The Night Fall"

Author: Nelson DeMille

Just so you don't mistake the title for the name of one book - these are two books. I went on a Nelson DeMille spree and ended up reading two books back-to-back by the same author even though I'd vowed not to do so. The reason I don't want to do such a thing is that I get bored of that author because each has a set pattern! However, I guess it was providence which led me to read these two.

Both these books are on the ATTF (Anti-terrorist Task Force); the hero is a part of the ATTF and the whole story is spun around his solving a terrorist attack.

"The Lion's Game" is centered around a terrorist attack which involves the life of hundreds of passengers on a trans-atlantic flight and the personal revenge of the terrorist. It was okay.

"The Night Fall" is again about a flight (which makes one wonder if flights are the only targets of terrorist attack?!) which drowned in the Atlantic. I liked this more because of the smart deductions by John (the hero).

Overall, both are not great but they're fine for a cafe-read.

Bottomline: ok read (and half a star more for Night Fall)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Peanut chikki/brittle


[Sorry, these are the last three pieces that were left.]

My DH and I, both are very fond of peanut chikki. So it made perfect sense to try making it at home. Not that this was the first time; we'd made it once before but that was so long ago that I'd forgotten how I made it. So I used the recipe from Chachi's kitchen.

I used 250 gms of jaggery and around 400 gms of peanuts. We had a packet of Trader Joe's Old fashioned blister peanuts (unsalted) which we used for making this chikki. If you haven't had these peanuts and are a peanut aficionado then let me tell you these are extra long and extra crisp virginia peanuts! One of the best I've tasted! So I put the jaggery into a pan and heated it on medium heat. Added 2-3 tsp oil. Kept stirring it till it changed color. We crushed the peanuts in the food processor. Mixed it into the melted jaggery and immediately spread the mixture on a greased plate (greased with oil). Flattened it with the help of a flat bottomed bowl (katori). Grease the bottom of the bowl so that the mixture doesn't stick to it. Let it cool. For us, it took a long time. Then cut it into pieces. It makes a boxful of chikki!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Homemade pizza!


I came across this wonderful recipe once again through King Arthur's blog! You can find the link to the original recipe here. The dough makes two 12 inch absolutely delicious pizzas! Of course, we can't compare them to Sammy's pizzas but for home-made ones they're the best!

We made one pizza the same day while we refrigerated the rest of the dough for later. So that proved that we could make the dough and refrigerate it for future use. I didn't have the Italian style flour so I simply used all-purpose flour but even then we found it pretty good!

Here's the recipe:

2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon Pizza Dough Flavor (optional, but tasty)
1 tablespoon King Arthur Easy-Roll Dough Improver OR Baker's Special Dry Milk OR nonfat dry milk
3 cups (11 ounces) King Arthur Italian-Style Flour* all purpose flour
3/4 cup (6 ounces) lukewarm water
2 tablespoons (7/8 ounce) olive oil

*Substitute King Arthur 100% Organic White Whole Wheat flour for half of the Italian flour, if desired.

  1. Mix all of the ingredients to make a soft, supple dough. Knead for 5 minutes. Add more water than specified if your dough is not soft.
  2. Divide the dough in half, cover with lightly greased plastic wrap.
  3. Let rest and relax for 15 minutes (or for up to an hour or so; work it into your schedule as you see fit). I kept one for only 30 mins or an hour but the other one was out longer. It fermented much more so I think you should give it as much time as it needs to ferment well.
  4. Grease two 12" squares of parchment paper.
  5. Use your greased fingers to press each piece of dough on the parchment into an 11" to 12" circle about 1/8" thick. I used a rolling pin to roll the dough into a circle.
  6. Brush or spray the crusts with olive oil, and let them rest for about 30 minutes, while you preheat your oven to 450°F (with a pizza stone inside, if you have one).
  7. Place the crusts with their parchment directly on the stone, or onto a baking sheet. I directly placed the parchment paper in the oven.
  8. Bake till they're just starting to brown around the edges, about 4 minutes. It's for a really short time; you just want to cook the top a little bit so that after you add the toppings the top of the crust doesn't get soggy.
  9. Remove from the oven, top with whatever you like. We used readymade pizza sauce, grated mozarella, chopped tomatoes, green pepper and onion!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A shop and a cause

The shop: The Paper Shop.
The cause: an orphanage/old-age home in India.
How are they connected:
Sometime back I'd setup a shop at Etsy (a place to sell handmade stuff), The Paper Shop. Recently I visited an orphanage/old-age home in India, Nethaji Mercy Home, and since then I wanted to do something for them. So I decided that I would use my etsy shop for raising funds for this home. Below is a picture (borrowed from their website) of the children from the home:
On the extreme left and right is the couple behind this home. It was so amazing to meet these beautiful people; they treat all the children as their very own and have devoted their life to the care of these children and the old-age people. On seeing such selfless service, I felt there could be something that I could do and came up with this idea: a dollar ($1) for each item sold at my Etsy shop, The Paper Shop, will be donated to this home.

How you can help?
  1. Of course by shopping at The Paper Shop.
  2. Spread the word: Word of mouth publicity - tell your friends about it, it would be great if you could publish a post on your blog (if you have one) linking to my shop or this post.
There's a link to my Etsy shop on the right of my blog.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Sins and Virtues

I read this verse in Naradapurana (this link just indicates what Narada Purana is, my source is a book by the Gita Press) and found it not only very profound but also beautiful; I've translated it in english too for the benefit of all.

अकीर्ति के समान कोई मृत्यु नहीं
क्रोध के समान कोई शत्रु नहीं
निंदा के समान कोई पाप नहीं
असूया के समान कोई अपकीर्ति नहीं
काम के समान कोई आग नहीं
राग के समान कोई बंधन नहीं
संग अथवा आसक्ति के समान कोई विष नहीं

English translation:
There is no death like ill-fame
There is no enemy like anger
There is no sin like libel
There is no stigmata like jealousy
There is no fire like desire
There is no binding like affection
There is no poison like attachment

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


So I'm late posting about Janmashtami this time...mainly because I had really really late start on it. Usually I like to decorate my temple a week before Janmashtami, but this time my DH and I were working on the temple that day itself. We did manage to change everything except the style of the decorations. It was a repeat from last year. Here's a peek at what it looks this year:
The swing is more "aerodynamic" this year, as quoted by my DH :D. It actually is, when you try to swing it you can see it. For the prasad, we made makhane ki kheer, fruit chaat and panchamrit.

I'll update the photo for the kheer sometime later this week. In the meantime I can tell you how to make it though the quantity of everything is hand wavy because we just didn't measure anything this time :). The recipe comes from my mom.

Makhane ki kheer

I used a can of evaporated milk, half a litre whole milk, 8 tblspns sugar, around 250 gms of makhane and a few dry fruits (especially chironji). Chironji adds a very special taste to the kheer; maybe because since my childhood I've always had makhane ki kheer with chironji I feel it's incomplete without it.

Dry roast the makhane and grind them. Most of them should be fine, just leave a few chunky pieces here and there. We firts ground it in the food processor and then took the chunky pieces and ground them in the grinder. Mix everything and bring to boil on a medium flame (covered). When it comes to a boil, simmer (open) and cook till you think the milk has thickened enough. I think it took around 15-20 mins but it would differ from stove to stove.

Here's my post on Janmashtami last year; look at what I said about makhane ki kheer:

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.
True to my word, I posted it now :).

Monday, August 25, 2008

Shopaholic and Sister

Author: Sophia Kinselli

This is from the famous Shopaholic series by Sophia Kinselli and it was my first from the series.

The book is laughter riot though it does have its serious moments; the main character Becky is a shopaholic and that's exactly what she is - shopping is the cure to all her problems!! In this book, she comes to know that she has a half-sister and the sister turns out to be diametrically opposite to what Becky is. It's fun to read what goes on in Becky's mind all the time. Becky reminded me of Lucy from "I love Lucy" - my favorite sitcom! The story takes a dramatic turn when Becky's husband says that she should be more like a sister and then comes out the good in Becky. It does have a very traditional ending where everything fits in and everybody lives happily ever after! It was after a long time that I'd sat with a book for at least three hours!!

Though I expected the book to be a light read, it had some profound philosophies of life. For example, Becky tries to befriend her sister through what she likes - shopping - and hopes to win her over. She puts in all her heart to plan a day out, shopping with her sister who hates shopping and gets sorely disappointed when her sister doesn't enjoy it. That I think is so true for all of us: we try to please others through ways that we think would please us instead of thinking of ways that would please the other person.

Bottom-line: A thoroughly enjoyable read.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Quirky Tag

My mom tagged me...did I just say "My mom tagged me"?!?! Yes my mom blogs :). Okay coming back to the tag, here are the rules:

1. Link the person who tagged you.

2. Mention the rules on your blog.

3. Tell 6 unspectacular quirks of yours.

4. Tag 6 following bloggers by linking them.

5. Leave a comment on each of the tagged blogger's blogs, letting them know that they have been tagged.

Oh I'm sure my friends and family can vouch for the fact that I'm a very quirky person so it should be a piece of cake writing just 6 facts!
  1. I like my aloo (potato) paranthas with Amul cheese (if not Amul I make do with any other brand). This is the quirkiest of all!
  2. I set my clocks 10 minutes ahead of the actual time; I feel that they help me be on time. Everyone argues that if you know that your clock is 10 mins ahead, how can it benefit you; I don't know.
  3. I can't distinguish between left and right: okay I don't mean I have a disorder but there's a problem :D . Everytime, my DH says left I go for the right (right hand, right turn, whatever) and vice versa! Yeah I'm sure it sounds hilarious to all but me *rolling my eyes*!
  4. My constant companion is a bottle of water.
  5. I truly believe that TV is an idiot box; one must use as little of it as possible.
  6. I'm known as the "work-generator" in my family :); I don't like to sit idle, I need something to do all the time!
I would've liked to tag my two friends-turned-bloggers but they are now bloggers-doing-no-blogging so there would be no point tagging them. I think they know who I'm talking about :). So if you haven't been tagged yet, you are now!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

My garden

I'd promised my friend M that I would take photos of my container garden but unfortunately by the time I got to taking the photos: the cucumber plants caught a disease, the zinnias got eaten away by some merciless animal and the container garden is only-half container! Well, so what...I still took the photos of my tomatoes and carrots! I was falling short on containers and my plants were spreading wings as if sky was the limit so I was left with no option but to sneak them into the land around my apartment. Then I was gone for 2 weeks during which my DH took care of them and I must say that he took VERY good care of them because when I came back I couldn't even recognize them!! They'd grown so tall and healthy! So...I thought this presented a beautiful opportunity to do a before-after comparison. The photo on the left is the "before" and on the right, the "after".

DSC00505 DSC00512

The little ones are carrots in the above photos.


DSC00508  DSC00516

The "after" photos for the pots in the left photo above is:


The key to such healthy plants - sun, sun and more sun. At least for tomatoes that's true. Initially we'd them in our patio which gets around 2-3 hours of sunlight and I thought that was sufficient but apparently it wasn't! The tomato plants have started flowering so we should be getting tomatoes soon!!! Ah the joy of getting fruits of your labor - literally!

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Seven Cup sweet/burfi


The recipe for this sweet comes from my Mom and you can find it here. The recipe is listed below is the same except that I've added a few instructions for the first-timers.

Essentially you need 1 cup each of: milk, besan (chickpea flour), sooji, desi ghee, grated coconut and 2 cups of sugar.

  1. Grease a flat plate.
  2. Add all the ingredients to a heavy bottomed pan and keep on medium-low heat.
  3. Keep stirring till the batter leaves the sides of the pan. You'll know it when the batter almost seems to be moving together (not completely but almost).
  4. Take it off the heat.
  5. Spread the batter/mixture on the plate. To flatten it, use the base of a bowl. Grease it with ghee too so that it doesn't stick.
  6. (Optional)Make markings in the flattened mixture as you would finally cut it.  This makes it easier to cut once the burfi is done.
  7. Let it cool. Once cool, cut it into squares.

I made these as a prasad.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Yummy Focaccia!!

I saw this recipe on King Arthur's blog and it looked like one recipe that didn't have too many ingredients and not too complicated to make. So that tempted me into trying it out! I must say that KA's blog is awesome! It gives you a set-by-step picture tutorial of everything they make. That is sooooo helpful. After every step you know how your ingredients are supposed to look. You can find the recipe here and I've also listed it below.


  1. Mix 3 cups all purpose flour, 1 tbsp yeast, 3 tbsp olive oil, 1.5 cups warm water, 1.25 tsp salt in a bowl with an electric mixer for 60 seconds. I have the small egg-beater kind of mixer and once the dough was together I couldn't mix it further with the beater so I just mixed it with hand.
  2. Line a 9 X 13 pan with parchment paper (or butter paper or just grease it)  and drizzle olive oil over it.
  3. Take the dough and spread it all over the pan.
  4. Let it rise for 60 minutes.
  5. Preheat the oven to 375 F.
  6. With your index finger punch the dough to make small craters, spread some olive oil and garnish with dried italian herbs. I have italian seasoning so I used that but you can use whatever herbs you have/want. I think you can use fresh ones also, they would give a really nice aroma.
  7. Bake for 35-40 minutes.


Saturday, July 5, 2008

Thursday, June 26, 2008

He is the reason

There are three truths about God that one must know.

He does not have a reason for being; he is the reason of our being. He has always been there.

He is never born and he never dies; he is eternal. It is only for the welfare of his devotees that he takes part in the process of birth.

He is the supreme master of the world. He takes care of everybody and every being. He's responsible for our nurturing.

He who learns these three truths is cleared of all his sins.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

One hundred years of solitude

Author: Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The first page of the novel has a family tree and probably when you look at it, your first thought would be - "Huh? Why would I ever need this?!?!". Believe me, you would need to refer it every now and then. For the simple reason that the names of all the characters are made of every possible combination of: Jose, Arcadio, Aureliano, Ursula, Amaranta and so on!!!

Mid-way through the novel I was completely clueless as to which generation we're talking about. There are about 4-5 generations(I told you I don't know!).

Coming to the story: it's about generations of a family spanning, you guessed it, a hundred years. Right from how the first person in the family founded a town to how the last person saw the degradation of the town. How members of the family fell into and out of love; how they spread prosperity and destruction of the town; so on and so forth. The title is very apt: almost every member of the family lives in solitude for most part of his life despite being surrounded by all of his/her family members. Some of the members live so long that you feel gross reading about their condition. The first third of the story is interesting. Maybe I like the first third (yeah I can't say first half!) because it's very positive and constructive. Then the ending is also very interesting. You might as well skip all the pages in between and you wouldn't feel any loss.

Bottomline: An okay read.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

And the break continues...

Everyday I think that today might be the day when I could squeeze some time out to write the numerous things that I want to but looks like that's not going to happen for a few more days :(. So hang in there!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Paneer Makhani

I've been really silent on the recipe section, so here I come! Once again a recipe by Sanjeev Kapoor and once again a delicious one! If you love paneer dishes, you must try this. This recipe is slightly modified from the original one depending on the availability of ingredients and fat concerns. Implying that I reduced the amount of butter/oil/cream being used and omitted certain ingredients if I didn't have them. I'll list the recipe just as I made it and hence I'm doing away with the list of ingredients because you would agree with me that when you cook you add a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Rarely do you exactly measure the quantities, most of the time it's approximation and what looks good to you. Most importantly, make it a day ahead of when you want to serve it. That gives the spices sufficient time to get absorbed in the curry. At the least prepare it in the morning if you want it in the evening, it's not a rule but you won't be disappointed.


  1. I made paneer from 1 liter milk. That should be approx 250 gms paneer I think. Cut it into cubes.
  2. Heat 1 tblsp butter in a pan on a medium-low flame.
  3. Add 2 bay leafs, 2 cut green cardamoms, pinch of cinnamon powder, sprinkle some black pepper powder and 1 chopped green chilli and stir. The original recipe called for cinnamon sticks and black peppercorns so you can use that if you've that. Stir-fry for 1-2 mins.
  4. Add 1 tblsp of ginger garlic paste. Fry well so that the raw smell of garlic goes away. This is very important otherwise your curry will taste "garlick-y" when cooked.
  5. Add 1/2 a can (or around 1 cup) of tomato puree and add some water too. Again around a cup of water.
  6. Add 1 tsp chilli powder, 1-2 tsp crushed kasuri methi, 1 tsp kitchen king (or use Garam Masala) and half a tsp of sugar.
  7. Add salt to taste.
  8. Add paneer and cook for 10 mins.
  9. Add and half a cup of cream.
  10. Cook for 5 minutes.
The original recipe called for 1/4 cup butter in the first step and 1 cup cream in the last step. Also, I used the "tomato sauce" instead of puree. It's not the ketchup; it comes in a can and has a nice texture and color. Hence the nice red color of my curry!

Sarcastic one liners...

I came across this hilarious site which offers sarcastic one liners, funny one liners and what not. Thought I would share it here:

Saturday, May 31, 2008

A new look!

So how do you find the new look of my blog? I would love to hear your views so how you leave a comment here or vote on the pool on the left?!?!

This is coming late...

I'd this post drafted for Mother's day but somehow it got buried under all the other posts.

When God Made Moms
When the good Lord was creating mothers!!!!!He was into His sixth day of "overtime when the angel appeared and said,"You're doing a lot of fiddling around on this one." AND THE LORD SAID....."Have you read the specs on this order?She has to be completely washable, but not plastic. Have 180 moveable parts... all replaceable. Run on black coffee and leftovers. Have a lap that disappears when she stands up, a kiss that can cure anything from a broken leg to a disappointed love affair, and six pairs of hands." And the angel shook her head slowly and said,"Six pairs of way." "It is not the hands that are causing me problems," said the Lord,"It's the three pairs of eyes that mothers have to have." "That's on the standard model?" asked the angel. THE LORD NODDED....One pair that sees through closed doors when she asks"What are you kids doing in there?" when she already knows.Another here in the back of her head that sees what she shouldn't,but what she has to know;and of course the ones here in front that can look at a child when he goofs up and say,"I understand and I love you", without so much as uttering a word." "Lord", said the angel touching his sleeve gently, "go to bed, tomorrow....""I can't", said the Lord, "I'm so close to creating something so close to myself. Already I have one who heals herself when she is sick....can feed a family of six on one pound of hamburger,and can get a nine year old to stand under a shower." The angel circled the model of a mother very slowly."It's too soft", she sighed."But tough!" said the Lord excitedly. You cannot imagine what this mother can do or endure." "Can it think?""Not only can it think, but it can reason and compromise", said the Creator.Finally the angel bent over and ran her finger across the cheek."There's a leak", she pronounced."I told you, you were trying to put too much into this model." "It's not a leak", said the Lord. "It's a tear"."What's it for?" "It's for joy, sadness, disappointment, pain, loneliness and pride.""You're a genius", said the angel.THE LORD LOOKED SOMBER..... "BUT I DIDN'T PUT IT THERE".
By Erma Bombeck

Friday, May 30, 2008

Devote yourself

It's not easy to be born as a man and not everybody gets to be born a man; it's the good deeds. The purpose of our life is to devote ourself to the worship of God. One who does that is successful in life. On the other hand those who try to search for happiness in the indulgence of worldly objects will fail miserably because such a practice can only entrap them in a web of pain and suffering. Man associates these worldly comforts with life's happiness but it is because of them that he can't escape the iniquitous cycle of life and death. Remember that this life is transient; it won't last forever. So we should not waste our time and start working on the objective of our life as soon as we can, which is to be a devotee of God.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The road to heaven - Bilvamangal

Ramdas was a devotee brahmin who had a son, Bilvamangal. Bilvamangal was a calm, sober and educated boy. However after the death of his father he fell into bad company and adopted bad practices. During this course he got attracted to a courtesan, Chintamani, and would spend most of his time with her. Once when it was the death anniversary of his father he could not meet her. So he decided to see her in the evening. His friends advised him not to due to the nature of the occasion but he wouldn't listen to anybody. Before he could leave the house, a storm broke out and it started to rain heavily. This too couldn't stop him. He approached the boatmen at the river and asked them to row him over to the other side but none was willing to put their life at stake in such a heavy storm. Not deterred by anything he decided to swim across the river. While swimming he came across a log of wood and decided to use it to float across. Finally he reached the house of Chintamani but the door was shut and it was dark. So he decided to climb over the boundary wall and enter the house. The wall was high so he looked around for some rope when his hands felt some rope hanging from the wall. He climbed using it and entered the house. On hearing the noise, Chintamani woke up and was surprised to see him in this bad weather. She asked him how he managed to reach her house and he told the story. Curious, Chintamani went out with a lamp and was shocked to see that what Bilvamangal used as a rope was a snake and the log of wood was the dead body of a woman. She reproached him for being so blind and selfish. She told him that if instead he had been so madly in love with Krishna he would've attained moksha. On hearing her words, he felt ashamed. From that moment onwards he decided to submit himself to the devotion of God. He would roam all over the jungles and villages singing His songs. One day he came across a beautiful woman. His dark side had not yet completely escaped him and he once more fell into the trap of temptation. He followed him to her house and sat outside. On seeing a brahmin, the house owner came out and asked him how he could help him. Bilvamangal mentioned that if only he could once see the woman who entered the house his heart would be at peace. The house owner being simple-hearted thought that there was no harm in it if just that could appease the brahmin. So he went inside to call his wife. Bilvamangal was God's devotee God couldn't let his devotee commit anything that would lead to his downfall. Soon He caused Bilvamangal to realize what a grave mistake he was doing; how could he stoop so low. As soon as it struck his mind, the owner's wife came outside. Ashamed at himself and cursing his eyes he picked two thorns from a nearby tree and poked his eyes. The owner and his wife felt sad for him but could do nothing for him. Once again Bilvamangal went around villages praising God. He was waiting for the day when he would be able to see God; for whom he was roaming all over the world; for whom he'd forgotten what was hunger or thirst and for whom he'd gone blind. Then one day he heard the sweet mesmerizing voice of a child. The child told him that he had got some water and food for him. Bilvamangal was completely fascinated by the child. He had the food and the water that was brought to him by the child and asked him what his name was. The boy said that irrespective of what people called him, he answered their call. He loved those who loved him. He came daily to offer victuals to Bilvamangal and soon Bilvamangal got attached to the boy. One day he cursed himself thinking that earlier he'd got entrapped in the attachment to a woman and now to this boy. That day the boy asked him if he wanted to go to Vrindavan. Bilvamangal's heart did a merry dance on hearing this but he then told the boy that it would be impossible for him as he was blind. Then the boy offered him a stick and to lead him. So they embarked on their journey. When they reached Vrindavan, the boy told Bilvamangal that he must leave now. Unknowingly Bilvamangal grasped his hand. As soon as he did that he felt some divine energy pass through him and realized that he had got back his sight! And he saw that the boy was none other than God himself!! He was thrilled and told God that he wouldn't let him leave since he's been searching for him all this while. The boy then forcefully took leave of him. At which Bilvamangal said that he may leave physically with force but he can't leave his heart.

Thus, we see that Bilvamangal who was under the claws of bad practices when he became a devotee, not only was he protected from any downfall but in the end he found God.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

From a swindler to a saint

Even a person with a bad conduct who becomes a devotee of God is worth being considered a saint. This is because he has decided that God is the supreme power, the omniscient, the always generous, the master of all, the only one who can destroy all your sins and it is the duty of a human being to serve God. This the most significant decision he has made in life. Even though he may not have been able to leave all his bad practices he would eventually. Devotion to God would purify his being and take him away from the temptations. One who is God's devotee is always uplifted in life and never has a downfall. This is illustrated by the story of Bilvamangal.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

He loves all

Only those who are completely devoted to God, get him. This does not mean that He is difficult to get. On the contrary, he is equally present in all beings and vice versa. He neither likes nor dislikes anybody. However, those who are his devotees He resides in their heart and they reside in his. If you can't forget him then he can't forget you. That is the greatness of devotion to Him. Just like sunlight is reflected by all objects but it is reflected most in the mirror than in any other object. That's not because the sunlight falling on the mirror is any different; it's because of the mirror.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Unbearable lightness of being

Author: Milan Kundera

Before I picked this novel, I was reading its various reviews and one of them said that there's a lot of psychology there. That's the review I would agree with!

It's about four people: Tomas, Tereza, Franz and Sabina primarily. Some of their paths cross the others at various stages of their life. The backdrop if that of russian invasion of Czech. More than the story, the highlight of the novel is the explanation of the actions of the various characters: why they do what they do; and the general psychology of human beings. It's very interesting to read their line of thought. I really liked one statement:

"Human life occurs only once, and the reason we cannot determine which of our decisions are good and which bad is that in a given situation we can make only one decision; we are not granted a second, third or fourth life in which to compare various decisions."

What a beautiful saying! There's not much I can say about this book because it is a little beyond me.

Bottomline: A good read.

The Name of the Rose

Author: Umberto Eco

The story started in a very interesting manner. A monk, William and his disciple, Adso, are invited to a monastery to solve the puzzle of the mysterious deaths happening there. William is shown to be a person with great acumen. All the dead bodies are found in bizarre places and in the most gross manner. William wants to look into the library but it is the forbidden ground. Nobody but the librarian is allowed to enter the inner sanctums of library. There are people who are eager to provide him with some information but one by one they seem to be on the hit list of the killer. There are a number of suspicious people but there's no evidence.

The beginning is very impressive but I found it dulled as the story progressed especially places where the author goes into the religious history of Europe. It isn't the kind of murder mystery that I was expecting.

Bottomline: An ok read.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Love in the time of cholera

Author: Gabriel García Márquez

I liked this book a lot probably because I'd been looking for a nice love story for sometime and this fit the bill!

It's about the life of a boy, Florenzo, who falls in love with a girl, Fermina Daza, at a very tender age. He's too shy to admit it to her and hence derives satisfaction by just watching her from different places and different angles. Once his feelings get communicated to the girl she also reciprocates appropriately and soon they get involved in an intense love affair known to all those who matter except her father. When the word gets to him, he reacts just as a father of a girl would in a love story - with vehemence. He wanted his girl to be the star of the society and he'd worked hard for it. So he couldn't let his dreams be shattered by an ordinary post man. To distract Fermina, he takes her on a long journey but where there's a will there's a way and the two find ways to communicate to each other. However, years after when she returns to her town she doesn't even want to see Florenzo and marries a rich doctor Juvenal Urbino. They have kids who grow up, get married and eventually the doctor dies. Florenzo still hasn't forgotten Fermina but he has changed in a lot of other ways.

The story is set in the time when cholera was spreading in the carribean and hence I think the name. I found the novel to be very well written and interesting.

Bottomline: A very good read.

Monday, April 21, 2008


Rantidev was the son of a king named Sankriti. He was very generous and magestic. So much so that he donated and distributed all his wealth among the unfortunates and lived in utter poverty with his family.
Once, he had to go without food and water for a total of 48 days. Due to lack of food his body had started shivering. On the 49th day, he got some food and water from some where. He was about to distribute it among his family members when an ascetic came along and asked for something to eat. It is easy for a millionaire to donate a few hundreds and not even feel a pinch; but the true generosity of a person is manifested when he has to donate that which he dearly wants. True to his nature, Rantidev didn't even flinch before giving some eatables to the ascetic.
After the ascetic left, he again sat down to eat with his family. Just when he'd distributed the food among his family and was about to start his own, a poor man came along. Looking at his pathetic state, Rantidev gave him something to eat. Soon after, another man came along with his dogs saying that he was hungry. So whatever was left from his share of the food, Rantidev gave it to that man and his dogs. Now all he had was some water for one person. That too didn't seem to be destined for him as there came an outcaste. He begged Rantidev for some water. Rantidev felt pity for him and gave him all the water that he had. He proclaimed to God that he wanted to reside in the body of all the people on this earth so that he could absorb the sadness that they experience, leaving them happy; that by offering water to this man all his hunger, thirst and pain had vanished!
This was actually a test by Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. they had disguised themselves and appeared as all the hungry guests at the door of Rantidev. They were elated to see the patience and devotion exhibited by him and wanted to grant him a boon. So they appeared before him and told him so. However, Rantidev had done all this without any desire for the fruits of his labor and without any attachment. Hence, he didn't want anything from the Gods. From then on, Rantidev got engrossed in His devotion with all his heart and soul and so did his family.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


Shabri was a tribal and belonged to a lower caste. She was a great devotee of God and used to serve the sages with all her love. She used to clean the path on which they travelled, removing stones and pebbles so that their feet wouldn't get hurt. She would cut the wood from the jungle and places it in their huts for cooking food. Pleased with her hardwork and devotion, sage Maatangad gave her a boon that Lord Ram would visit her hut and that she should continue to worship him. Exalted by this boon, she did all the things that she used to do with double the fervor and devotion. She would broom the path on which she expected God to walk till long distances, prepared a place for him in her house, picked the sweetest fruits from the jungle for Him. She tasted each and every fruit that she picked to be sure that it was sweet. As the days progressed she thought that it was getting closer to the visit day and anticipating Him to come any time she would do all these preparations umpteen times in a day. Finally the day come and when she saw God before her, she was in seventh heaven. She welcomed him, washed his feet, worshipped him and offered him the fruits that she'd collected. On tasting those fruits, God had a feeling of bliss.


Gajraaj was an elephant who used to live on the top of a hill. One hot day, he and his friends went downhill to a river to quench their thirst and relax in the water. While Gajraaj was playing in the water with some baby elephants, a giant cobra that used to live in the water, caught his leg and started to pull him inside the water. Seeing this, his friends came to help him and together they started to pull him out but to no avail. When Gajraaj saw that he was losing the battle, he called upon god to help him out. On hearing the troubled voice of his devotee, God appeared before him. Despite the pain, Gajraaj plucked a lotus and offered it to God. He accepted the noble offering from his devotee and beheaded the cobra. Thus saving Gajraaj.


Even after being the cause of Pandavas' exile, Duryodhan couldn't rest in peace. He was always thinking of ways to harm them. This time he pleased sage Duravasa and in return asked him to visit the Pandavas with his army of ten thousand discipiles. He requested that Durvasa should go there just after Pandavas had had their evening meal. The reason being that the Pandavas had been gifted with a magical vessel by god Surya which could provide them with victuals only till before sunset, which was when the Pandavas had their meals. Since the Pandavas wouldn't be able to offer sage Durvasa and his discipiles with any food, it would anger sage Durvasa and he would curse them. Sage Durvasa was oblivious to the scheming mind of Duryodhan and he readily agreed. So one day he along with his discipiles went to visit Pandavas. Pandavas had just had their meals and were taking rest. On seeing sage Durvasa and his discipiles, they welcomed them with respect and honour and invited them to have a meal. Sage Durvasa agreed and he and his discipiles went to the river banks to wash. In the meanwhile, Draupadi was very tense. There was no food left and the magic vessel would also not be able to help as the sun had already set. In despair, she prayed to her beloved god Krishna and implored him to help her in her time of need. Krishna on hearing the pleas of his true devotee immediately left Dwarka and appeared in front of Draupadi. On seeing him, Draupadi began to recite her woes but Krishna stopped her and asked her to first get him some food. Perplexed, Draupadi told him that that was exactly the reason why she was so upset - there was no food in the vessel. Krishna asked her to get the vessel and he found that there was a leaf of spinach left. He told her that it was adequate to fill the stomach of all the people in the world and ate it. Then he asked Sahdev to fetch sage Durvasa and his discipiles. At the same time, on the banks of the river, sage and his discipiles felt as if their stomachs were full and they couldn't eat anything more. Fearing what would happen if they rejected Pandavas' invitation, they decided to simply return back without meeting the Pandavas. So when Sahdev reached the river he couldn't find anyone.
Thus, one who's a true devotee never has to face any difficulties.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Sudama was a close childhood friend of Krishna and also a true devotee of his. They studied together and then went off to follow their life's calling: Krishna became the king of Dwarka and Sudama, a poor brahmin. He was so poor that his family had to sometimes go without food for days. One day, his wife unable to see the pitiable faces of their children requested him to go meet his friend, Krishna, thinking that maybe he'll help Sudama. Sudama initially refused her, he told her that they were brahmins and brahmins never worry about money. To which his wife replied that she wasn't asking him to beg money from Krishna, she simply wanted him to meet Krishna. Finally, Sudama was persuaded to go see Krishna. Since he was going to meet his old friend, he told his wife that he must take some gift for him. Poor that they were, there was nothing in the house that his wife could offer as a gift. So with hesitant toes and faint hope she went to the neighbours to borrow some roasted chickpeas. To her luck, she got some. She packed them in a torn, old cloth and handed them over to her husband. When Sudama reached Krishna's palace, the guard asked him to be seated till he informed Krishna. Krishna, on hearing Sudama's name ran to the palace doors neither caring to put on his slippers or his crown. He was very happy to see his friend and very sad to see his condition. He cared for Sudama with his own hands: washed his feet, offered him food, water and clothing and started reminiscing the good old days. The omniscient God knew everything, he knew why Sudama's wife had sent him and he also knew that his friend would never ask for anything - he only wanted to be Krishna's devotee and desired nothing else. So he eagerly asked Sudama if he'd brought his old friend some gift. Sudama, seeing all the luxuries of the palace, was too embarassed to hand him the parcel of torn cloth; Krishna knew this too. To save his friend from any embarassment, Krishna pulled the parcel from his hands and cherished it as if it was the most precious gift he'd ever recieved. Even though there were only roasted chickpeas in the parcel, he ate them like they were cashews. Sudama stayed with him for a few days and then returned back home. When he reached his home, he saw that instead of the dilapdated hut there was now a mansion and on entering the mansion he met his family. They'd nice clothes, there was ample food and other necessities to keep his family happy. Then Sudama realized that God is so generous that he doesn't even tell his beneficiary what he does for him. As always, Sudama remained dedicated to Krishna and never desired anything other than him.
Conclusion of the story: He who worships God with all his love, faith and devotion, gets all that he wants without asking.

Monday, March 24, 2008


When I was a child my grandma used to tell me all such mythological stories and I was very fond of listening to them from her. She had such an animated style of her own. So whenever I read such stories in Gita, it floods my mind with all those wonderful memories.

After Pandava completed their exile of 12 years, they came to Duryodhan to get back their kingdom. Duryodhan refused to do so. So Krishna went to meet him on behalf of the Pandavas. Duryodhan welcomed him with pomp and show; the kingdom was decorated lavishly. However, when he invited Krishna for lunch, he (Krishna) refused. Taken aback and humiliated, Duryodhan asked him what was his reason for declining the invitation. Then Krishna told him that a person has a meal at somebody's house only because of two reasons:
  1. The host proffers the food with lot of love in which case one can eat anything, or
  2. The guest is dying with hunger in which case he can eat anywhere, anything and anyhow.

Further, he said that the former wasn't true in Duryodhan's case; and Krishna would never die of hunger so he doesn't have to bother about the latter. Thus Krishna could see no reason why he should accept Duryodhan's invitation. He (Krishna), instead went to the house of his true devotee - Vidoor - where he was not even invited. All the senior persons in Duryodhan's kingdom like Bheeshma, Dronacharya, etc. insisted him to come to their respective houses. However, Krishna would listen to none. He happily ate whatever was offered by Vidoor. There's a famous shloka in Mahabharat which is often quoted:

दुर्योधन की मेवा त्यागी, साग विदुर घर खायो

English translation: Krishna gave up the rich food at Duryodhan's to eat a humble meal at Vidoor's.

Conclusion of the story: God doesn't care about how expensive your offerings are, all he cares about is how much love you've put in them.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Offerings to God

The previous posts have been discussing about worshipping God and other things. The beauty of worshipping God, lies in the simplicity that is God. He never demands that one offer valuables to him; so that one and all can worship him. He asks only that which is freely available to all - flowers, leaves and water; the only requirement is that one should do it with all his faith, love and devotion.

The following stories exemplify this:

Worshipping the deities

All the deities are a form of God; however those who don't know it and worship the deities, they go to heaven and are a part of the cycle of life and death. However, those who do know that all deities are a form of God and then worship them without expecting anything in return, get united with God. Thus, one who serves any deity, teacher, ascetic, mother-father, guest, the unfortunate or any other being taking them to be a form of God is serving God.

Some people worship a deity, follow the rules prescribed for a particular ritual for that deity, sing their hymns, etc. As a result of this worship, they gain that which was the purpose of their worship. Some people worship their ancestors (pitra), perform ceremonies in their honor and follow certain rituals for them; after death they go to their ancestors. Neither of the above is bad; if they're done with some expectation then they provide the fruit at the end and nullifies. However, if they're done without any desires then they facilitate one's way to God.

Worshipping of ghosts and dead bodies is however not good, because it's considered the dark world and results in evil, so one must not do it.

Those who worship God, without any desires, submit all their work to him, meditate about him and perform various devotion-related functions, go to the divine world of His. Hence they attain moksha - freedom from this world forever.

Obtaining that which you don't have...

Those that have unswerving faith in God and have Him forever in their mind, for such devotees He makes sure that they get what they need and protects that which they have and need.

A beautiful analogy is given with respect to a mother and her infant. An infant knows only his mother, he doesn't know what he would need or what he needs to take care of; everything is done by his mother. She make sure that he gets what he needs and take cares of those things which are essential for him, as well as ensures that he gets them when he needs them.

Similarly, God provides for the worldly and spiritual needs of his such undying devotees and also shelters those objects which he deems would be required by them.

A mother doesn't depend on the wisdom of her infant, she does what would be good for the development of the infant। Likewise and more, for such devotees God does what is good for them and depending on that gets them what they need and protects them. This reminds of Kabir's doha:

बिन मांगे मोटी मिले, मांगे मिले न भीक।

Literal English translation: One who doesn't ask, gets the pearls; but one who asks, gets nothing.

Hence, one who has submitted himself to God, prays to him with all his love and devotion, thinks of no one and nothing but Him, for such devotees God takes over the burden of their life. Thus the devotee is freed from all troubles of this world and beyond.

The essence of this post is: if you have faith in God and worship him, nothing can go wrong in your life.

Chinese Schezuan Paneer - Knorr Style!

Another post in the tune of recommendations for a product. This is one of those dishes that fall into the segment of Indo-chinese (indian-style chinese). I tried one of the "Make-a-meal" chinese mixes by Knorr, it's called "Chinese schezuan"; and all I've is praises, praises and more praises for it. Often I've this really strong urge for indo-chinese food and preparing it at home requires substantial energy and time. Knorr has made that easy as a breeze without compromising on the taste. In fact the taste is at par with what you would get in a restaurant - at least for this particular recipe. All you've to do is stir-fry chopped onions and capsicum, then add water as well as the mix. After stirring for a few minutes, add paneer. They do recommend coating the paneer with cornflour and then frying it: among all the steps in the recipe, this can be labeled as the most difficult. I, being a conscious cook, try to avoid frying paneer in all paneer dishes. So instead, I coated the paneer in cornflour and simply shallow-fried it in a few tsps of oil. And voila! We'd a tasty schezuan paneer at our table! It is quite chilly, so beware.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Cheese and pepper Focaccia bread

We recently tried this focaccia bread recipe on If you're beginner at baking then I'm sure you're about to run away; but let me tell you this is one of the first bread recipes I've ever tried and one of the main reasons for this being the first was its success rate among the reviewers and the short list of ingredients. The recipe is very simple and the result delicious! The most important thing to note in this recipe is that your yeast should be fresh/new. The first time I made this bread, my yeast was very old so then I got new yeast and tried again. Sure enough this time the bread came out perfect. Due to my last debacle, I was quite cautious on my second attempt and reduced the quantity of the ingredients so that in case of a deja vu, I don't waste too much! So here's the recipe with reduced quantity of ingredients, which any beginner would appreciate.

Serves 2-3

1.5 cups all purpose flour
0.5 tsp sugar
0.5 tsp salt
0.5 tbsp yeast
1.5 tsp Italian seasoning (the original recipe called for oregano, thyme and basil but since I'd this seasoning I used it instead)
a pinch of black pepper
0.5 tsp vegetable oil
1 tsp olive oil
0.5-0.75 cups water (you'll know as you knead)
0.5 cups Cheese (the original recipe asked for mozarella but since I'd cheddar I used that)
0.5 tsp chopped chillies (optional, any kind is fine we used serrano pepper. I think pickled jalapenos would also be nice)
  1. Mix all the above ingredients except olive oil, water, cheese and chillies.
  2. Knead the flour with water till smooth and elastic. Once the dough has pulled together, add water little by little till the dough becomes soft and smooth.
  3. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat it.
  4. Cover it with a damp cloth and keep in a warm place for 20-30 mins. I'd expected the dough to rise after this step, but it didn't or at least not perceptibly. So I kept it for another 15 mins or so in a warmer place (earlier it was in a switched-off oven), close to my burners where I was cooking. Even after that the dough didn't rise so I'm not sure if one should expect it to rise. However, since my bread came out nice and soft I don't think you need to worry whether it rose after this step or not.
  5. Preheat oven to 450 F.
  6. Punch down the dough and place on a greased baking tray. Pat it into a 0.5 inch rectangle.
  7. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle cheese and chillies over it.
  8. Bake for 15 mins. or until golden brown.
Try it and let me know how it came out!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Forces of nature

He is the sun who provides warmth and light to all; who pulls the water from the water bodies and holds them in the clouds; who then bursts these clouds in the form of rain for the benefit and prosperity of the world.
He is the heavenly nectar, amrita. Just like by consuming amrita, man escapes death and becomes immortal; one who gets God, in other words attains moksha, escapes from the cycle of life and death. Hence forever elluding death.
For the smooth functioning of the nature, creation and destruction are two important tasks and both of these are performed by God. He is the one who timely annihilates different worlds. This also proves that one should consider death as destined by God; it happens only when he thinks it's time for somebody to leave this earth and he knows best.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

God is everything...II

He is the father-mother of the world. From him this world has taken birth.
He is the giver of this world. He is responsible for the appropriate disposition of the fruits of labor of this world.
He is the object of knowledge. All the vedas contain knowledge on the essence of Him.
He is sacred. One who is pure and by who's influence others can become pure, is sacred. By worshipping Him, even a man can become sacred. All the devises in this world, be it prayer, meditation or anything else - they're all forms of Him and the power in all these devises to make one sacred is also God's power.
He is "Om".
He is the vedas. The vedas came into being because of God and they contain knowledge about God.
He is the supporter of this world. He is the one who takes care of everybody and nurtures them.
He is the master. He is the lord of all deities, master of all the worlds and the supreme power. All forces like sun, fire, wind, death, etc. are in control because of his fear.
He is the eye-witness. There's nothing which escapes his eyes. He sees the past, the present and the future. He sets the limit for omniscience.
He is the residence. Every being, at all moments, resides in God.
He is the shelter. There is none other who can mitigate the pain of the refugee like him.
He is the friend. He is everybody's well-wisher and loves all without expecting or wanting anything in return.
He is the origin and the annihilation of this world.
He is the repository. When the world annihilates, all beings live in some part of him.
He is the eternal seed. He is the genesis of all beings and their foundation.

Monday, March 3, 2008

God is everything and everywhere

(Teachings from Gita) The whole world emerged from God and He pervades the whole world. Sun, moon, wind, fire, all the other deities and all the living beings are just different forms of Him.
The yagya performed for deities and ancestors is a form of Him. He is in the yagya as: plants, grains and herbs required to create the fire; vedic hymns chanted during the yagya; the ghee used to fuel the fire; the fire and the final invocation which ends the yagya. Hence, the materials, hymns, vessel and the human efforts that go into the performing of the yagya are all forms of God.
Everything is God. To those who don't understand the essence of God they appear to be in different forms, shapes and sizes; but in reality there is nothing but God in everything living or non-living.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Devotee of God

(Teachings from Gita) A true devotee of God is very strong-willed. His decisions, faith, thinking and rules are all firm. Even in the face of hurdles and disasters, they can't be deterred from their means and thoughts. By one way or the other they're eternally worshipping their God.
They worship God by: telling His story, narration of His influence, virtues, greatness, character, etc. in the presence of other devotees, chanting of his names - Ram, Krishna, Govind, Hari, Narayana, Vasudev, Keshav, Madhav, Shiva, etc. - and singing devotional songs, singing his praises in a loud or mellow voice, sitting or standing, with music and dance or without, reciting divine hymns and beautiful odes dedicated to Him or in any other way praising him.

Devotees pay their obeisance to God by bowing to Him with whole-hearted faith and devotion: at the temple, in front of the picture/idol of him at home, through his names, by touching his feet/sandals, in the form of religious scriptures which highlight the essence of God and relate stories that describe his love and influence, by thinking that God resides in every being.

On the other hand, thereis another kind of devotee who believe in the "brahma". They worship their form-less (niraakaar) God by: not neither taking pride in being the doer of any work nor expecting any fruit of the labor, condiering the world is ephimeral, believing that none is greater than the supreme "brahma" and continually practicing to stay in that state through meditation, etc.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Hmm...what can you do with a single sheet of paper??

Apparently a lot! To see for yourself, check out Random Acts of Pondering. These artists have really let their creative juices flow!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Adrian Mole Diaries

Author: Sue Townsend

A totally lovable book! This is a diary of a teenager and I've been curious to find out if it's inspired from a true story but I don't know yet. Whether real or fiction, it is a feast for the senses :). It encompasses a period of 2-3 years and it is fun to watch the teenager go through various stages of his life. At times you can correlate with the character and realize how stupid you were when you did things like that. At other times, it is interesting as well hilarious to see the world from a teenager's point of view.

The teenager, Adrian Mole, is the only son of his parents. His intellect is much higher than that of his parents who can hardly claim to be his parents. They're always being kicked out of jobs, getting involved in extra-marital affairs or are involved in some other nonsense. Apart from his turbulent home, he goes through the regular teenage tribulations like falling in and out of love, etc. All in all his life is a roller coaster ride - you never know what's next.

Bottomline: A must read.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


(Teachings from Gita) One divya day is equal to our 1 year and hence our 30 years equal one divya month and so on. These divya months form a divya yug. Four such divya yug form a maha yug and 100 maha yug form a brahma day. After 100 brahma years the worlds dissolves. This is referred to as Mahapralay. Thereafter, God recreates the world, takes care of it and dissolves it; but he is devoid of any attachment to any of these tasks or pride in being the doer. Nor does he do favoritism. He simply assumes the role of an administrator. He delegates hi prakriti to do it. This is why he doesn't get pulled into the cycles of birth and death. The day we can learn to do that we too would escape this cycle.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Cabbage Koftas (Cabbage balls in tomato curry)

When I think of making koftas, I think of either mix vegetable koftas or lauki koftas; but this time when I wanted to make them I didn't have lauki and my DH didn't like the idea of mix vegetable koftas which have a primary base of potatoes. Hence started my search for a different kind of kofta. That's when I came across cabbage koftas. The credit for the recipe goes to Sunita's Kitchen. I used her recipe for the kofta (balls) and used my own for the curry. I made this for some guests and everybody seemed to like it a lot. The trickiest part when making a kofta is that the koftas shouldn't disintegrate while frying, which I've often encountered when making mix veg. koftas. However, that's the easiest part in this recipe. It uses besan as the binding agent and so your koftas will never disintegrate when frying. So if you've never made koftas then this is the recipe to try! Since I didn't quite measure all the ingredients while making this dish, I'll write it as I made it.

Here's how I made it:

For the koftas
  1. Finely chopped cabbage (approx 3-4 cups) and 1.5 medium size onion (approx 3/4 cup). I also used some traces of carrot. The key part here is that the ingredient should be finely chopped so that when eating the kofta one can't distinguish between the veggies. My guess is that onion should be in much lower proportion as compared to the cabbage. So just use your intuition and go ahead with it. If the cabbage has lot of water after it's chopped, squeeze it to drain some water. Let some water remain.
  2. Mix the finely chopped veggies in Step 1 with 1 cup of besan. Since cabbage already has some water, you wouldn't need to add any water. Even if you're skeptical that the koftas won't fry, wait till you actually fry a kofta. Only if you're having problems while frying should you add some more besan to the batter. Too much of besan will not taste good in the kofta. We want the veggies to be the primary ingredients and besan should only be the binding agent.
  3. Add some salt and chilli to taste.
  4. Mix well to form a batter. This batter wouldn't be runny; it'll be like a paste except more granular.
  5. Heat oil at medium flame (for frying). Once the oil is hot, drop some balls of the batter in the oil and fry. You must cook at medium flame to ensure that the insides of the koftas get cooked properly. If you cook on high, it'll get cooked from outside but not from inside.
  6. The koftas/balls are ready. You can also serve them as appetizers.

For the curry

  1. Chop 1.5 onions. Saute them in a few tsps of oil alongwith a tsp of ginger-garlic paste and a tsp of chopped green chillies, till the onions turn golden brown.
  2. Add approx 1/2 a tsp of turmeric, 1/2 a tsp of chilli powder and 2 tsps of coriander powder. Saute.
  3. Add approx 2 tbsps of tomato paste (or approx 2 chopped tomatoes) and around 2 cups of water (enough water to form a gravy for the koftas). Cover and cook till the tomato paste has mixed properly or till the tomatoes have become mushy.
  4. Add 1-2 tbsp of cream and cook for another 5-10 mins.
  5. Turn off the gas and one by one drop the koftas into the curry. Keep for 20 mins or so.
  6. Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro/coriander and serve.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


Author: Nelson DeMille

A brilliant novel! It's funny, serious, thrilling and everything else you want a novel to be.

A group of politically powerful people want to bring back the peace and security in US that once prevailed in the pre-9/11 era. They intend to set the security level permanently to green and the only way they can see of doing this is to wipe out all those countries, in the middle-east and elsewhere, which support terrorist factions. To do this they want to make use of the mutual assured destruction policy of the government which says that if any country does a nuclear attack on US then within seconds the US would reply with a nuclear attack. They have everything in place but two FBI officers - John and his wife, Kate - get suspicious about their activities.

John's character is adorable especially because of his witty and humorous comments. I've heard that there are other books by this author based on this character and they are better than this one. So I think I'm going to catch up on them - "Plum Island" and "Lion's Game". It was after a long time that I came across a book that was hard to put down. Even though it wasn't a mystery I had the same feeling while reading it as I used to when I read "The Three Investigators" by Alfred Hitchcock or Perry Mason series when I was a kid.

Bottomline: A must read!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

What goes, comes back.

(Teachings from Gita) When you leave this world, you go to heaven. When your time in heaven has expired, you merge into the sky. From there into the wind and from wind into dust. The dust goes into the clouds and clouds fall onto the earth in the form of rain. This water is absorbed by the flora on the earth which is consumed by man in one form or the other other and hence plays a role in the genesis of a new one from the womb of a mother.

Gulab Jamun

I always make Gulab Jamuns using the Gits Gulab Jamun mix and initially even though they would taste good, their appearance wasn't. They didn't have that nice shiny surface as was shown on the box;but with some help from serendipity and my mom I found the secrets to the perfect gulab jamun. Being a sweet connoisseur, it's very important to me that if I make sweets they turn out well in taste and appearance - in that order. I think when it comes to food, it's more important for it to taste good than look good. The ideal situation, of course, is when it's both. In a perfect world, a gulab jamun should be soft and should've thoroughly absorbed the sugar syrup so that not even a iota of it is dry. So here goes my tips:
  • You needn't stick to the quantity of milk mentioned on the Gits box. Use as much is required to make a nice soft dough. So start sparingly with milk and keep adding little by little. Keep in mind that the gulab jamun flour gets moist very soon so be careful.
  • Knead the dough well to ensure minimum cracks on the dough balls.
  • This tip is there on the box too but I want to stress on it - oil your palms before you make the dough balls and oil as often as you deem necessary.
  • When you make the dough ball, knead it in your palm with your fingers to give it a nice texture.
  • Here's the most important tip: like all frying expeditions, the temperature of the oil is the key. The temperature should be between medium-low and medium. If it gets very hot at medium reduce it to medium-low; but as you start frying more and more the temperatue will go below optimal so go back to medium. I noticed that when the temperature was lower than optimal, even the smallest surface cracks got bigger and bigger as they took longer to fry. We all know what happens when the temperature is higher than optimal :). If it's the right temperature: it fries quickly getting a nice brown color, doesn't burn and has a smooth surface.
  • The sugar syrup should be quite watery. This ensures that the gulab jamuns absorb well. The more they absorb the more they swell and the softer they are.

That's probably all. So if you've had problems like I did then next time you're going to get perfect gulab jamuns!

P.S. This time when I made them they looked so good that I wanted to post their photo but laziness took the better of me.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year

Wish you all a very happy new year! I was looking for something nice to post for new year and came across this link which has such nice words to say for new year. I got the following from it; it brings out the essential elements of life and tells you why they're a part and parcel of life.
Not by shielding you from all sorrows and pain,
But by strengthening you to bear it, as it comes;
Not by making your path easy,
But by making you sturdy to travel any path;
Not by taking hardships from you,
But by taking fear from your heart;
Not by granting you unbroken sunshine,
But by keeping your face bright, even in the shadows;
Not by making your life always pleasant,
But by showing you when people and their causes need you most,and by making you anxious to be there to help.
God’s love, peace, hope and joy to you for the year ahead!