Posted in Food For Soul

The Charvakas.

The nine schools of Indian or Hindu philosophy are:

Samkya, Nyaya, Yoga, Vaisheshika, Purva Mimamsa, Vedantha (the Vedic school branching off into Advaita etc), Charvaka, Buddha, Jaina. The nine schools contain sub=schools within themselves.

Of the nine, Charvaka makes for interesting study. Charvakans deny everything that is not tangible and therefore for them, there are no five elements or Pancha bhoothas. They recognize only four and discount the sky because the sky cannot be felt by any of their sensory organs. Osho and similar preachers and their followers must belong to the school of Charvaka philosophy where physical pleasure overrides everything else. Bodily satisfaction, momentary satiation mean more to them, and their mortal body is their prime focus. This type of men and women live for physical gratification and hence they have addictions taking to the bottle generally. Sex addiction and substance abuse are widely prevalent among them. They justify their preoccupations just the way they argue that there are only four natural elements earth, water, air and fire but never the sky that they cannot touch and feel. The charvakas have no respect for boundaries and have no walls defining their boundaries either. Its free for all for them. Since the charvakas consider themselves beyond answering the questions on morality, they do not believe in Karma. Charvakas in short are Bhogis. Their entire lives get devoted to fulfillment of their physical cravings. For charvakas, not just morality, even ethics are an issue. Not always clean hands for them. They will not hesitate to grease palms if they have to move matters and they won’t mind if someone greases their palm to get things going.

So for Charvakas, nothing is sacred, nothing is sacrosanct and nothing is too personal or private. Typically, Karpu does not therefore apply to them. In colloquial terms, we call charvakas, loose characters (with loose morals and ethics). Interestingly, the charvakas can charm their way into your heart with fakeness. Charvakas may also be non believers. Needless to say the Charvakas sell their soul that they are not borne with, without a second thought.

Charvakas may exhibit the Rajas guna typically, being materialistic. Charvakas do not bother about collateral damages either in their pursuit of their physical pleasures. Supremely selfish.

How brilliantly Indian/Hindu philosophies study the human species for their weaknesses and strengths.

Posted in Pictures Desi

Review: The Elephant Whisperers

Watched this heartwarming documentary in OTT platform this evening. Surprised to see that its based in Mudumalai Tiger Sanctuary, right in Tamil Nadu, India. Mudumalai has an impressive population of Indian wildlife ranging from tigers and elephants to exotic birds in rich bio diversity. Been here but spotted the pachyderms in the shoulder areas adjoining the reserve forests over the protected sanctuary. Mudumalai meets Periyar Tiger reserve and Parambikulam tiger reserve of Kerala over the western ghats and driving to either side from one of the two could prove lucky for wildlife spotting – that I have fortunately done but unfortunately missed any worthwhile wildlife spotting. In fact, even the Bannerghatta reserve in Karnataka adjoins the three wildlife sanctuaries from south over the ghats. Makes for an interesting geographical territory.

Even if captive elephants bother me, I am not blind to the role of the mahouts in our society, especially Hindu, where the elephants are culturally cared for, accorded the divine status. We are raised to revere elephant like god. Most ancient and well funded Hindu temples in the south own elephants. Kerala temples typically own dozens each. Mahouts therefore become indispensable with their rare elephant rearing acumen garnered over generations. Pictures have been made earlier on the bonhomie that the mahouts share with their pet elephants. Elephants exhibit humanlike emotions as they are generally social creatures that live in complex societies comprising interesting family trees. Elephants also akin to the blue whales that roam the oceans, transmit low frequency vibrations and their broadcast can be heard over a distance of hundreds of miles – that makes the two species most intelligent almost at par with the homosapiens on earth. So that’s why, an orphan elephant calf can be a heart wrenching sight to some of us. Even if man=elephant conflicts are on rise in India, our tribals still enjoy holistic relationships with wildlife especially the elephants. Their communication channels are unique and they build bonds that are familylike.

Forest department is now doing a good job rehabilitating lost or orphaned elephant calves after rescuing them when they may be accidentally left behind or willfully abandoned by their herds. Its not easy to return the calves used to human presence to where and who with they belong. This is a tremendous feat and I am heartened to see Bomman and Belle doing just that with Belle becoming first woman in Tamil Nadu history to successfully rear two infant elephant calves and returning them to the wild. Tribals in India live in close contact with our wild life. They share a delicate balance in nature that has to be maintained at any cost so that both the parties stand to lose nothing. Increased encroachments are a threat to wildlife and forest reserves whereas wild animals foraging for food in the villages poses grave dangers to human settlements along elephant corridors. Its a big challenge that has to be acknowledged and tackled with careful study.

Hopefully documentaries such as these win global awards raising awareness. When I watch young female elephants in our temples such as Thirukadaiyur, Thirunallar, Kumbakonam etc., an indescribable ache clutches my heart and I end up question myself, if this is the point of elephant rescue missions. The degree of domestication of wild elephants has never been this acute as more and more of the gentle giants are captured and tamed for religious purposes in India. Mercifully, the circuses employing wild life ended long back in India.

The documentary is a feast to eyes bringing to our view some parts of the Mudumalai reserve that may not be accessible to public. The glimpse into tribal life is also appreciated. Serene and peaceful life in the woods, in the lap of nature, in the company of wild life. What more can one ask for. What a gifted life and what a rich lifestyle. The infant elephant calves Raghu and Ammu’s home among the Nilgiris that they shared with the tribal couple is a far cry from today’s mad and crazy materialistic world. May their tribe increase and may India forever be blessed with rich flora and fauna that are the most precious gifts from Mother Earth.

Mahouts in India are increasingly viewed as cruel men. A handful of them could be so. Most however look upon the elephants under their care like their own children. India is again a rare country where one’s occupation being an elephant mahout is considered normal and regular!

Fortunate to have visited a couple of forest reserves in the south. Blessed to have spotted wild elephants although never within wildlife sanctuaries but always along the shoulder belt. It shows, what we define as elephant corridors are man made. Elephants do not oblige the geographic lines drawn by man and forest department. As the forest cover shrinks in India, the wild elephants are more and more spotted along human settlements.

Thoughtful picture that did not go around a temple mahout. For a change, the plot of the story was on a mahout working with forest department stationed within the range of forest reserves. To make a film like this and to focus on wild elephants of India, you have to have a different heart. I see you, director!

Posted in Environment

What do the electric cars teach you.

Our family friend in south east Asia who is now a proud owner of an electric BMW revealed how the bonnet is EMPTY in the luxury sedan. Not a single mechanical fitting or oil tanks or exhaust. The bonnet doubles up as boot and there is enormous space saved. No smoke, no pollution. No noise. Just a 20 minute charge every night when you plug the charger into the power socket in your carpark. There are enough charging stations around the country for you to go on long drives without a headache. The electrical vehicles are here to stay.

The first time I saw an electric car was in Italy where every single two seater miniscule car (if you can call it that) was electric and there were charging points in every street. I could see quite a few of these automobiles plugged in for recharging. Entire Europe already seemed to have gone green with no pollution. Only the aviation industry functioned on fossil fuel. India too has signed the Climate change agreement and will be opting for green energy entirely by 2030. It will be a great cost cutter to the third world nation whose sizeable chunk of export bill is for oil and gas. Power shifts can take place after the phased smooth sailing into green energy when oil will lose steam in the world market. Middle eastern countries are already factoring in the inevitability and working on that. Aviation industry and shipping will be the last to exit fossil fuels. LPG or natural gas will continue to be in demand for a century or two before technology takes over.

But I would like to underscore here a different dimension that emerges with the electric cars. Tesla is not just a trend. Tesla is pathbreaking. What does the electric car teach you with the empty bonnet without the coils of tubes running around, with no radiator. Can you imagine your SUV without its fuel tank. When the extra fittings go, you save a lot on space and costs. It means, technology gets that much outpaced at a very short interval. The days of the petrol cars are almost over and we are in the last leg of fossil fuel use for automobiles in the world. This spells chaos if not disaster for the traditional automobile industry that has to gear up for a tectonic shift in the technology and industry. I can foresee the mechanical automobile sheds throughout India downing their shutters already. The electric vehicles will render the automobile engineers redundant. Electrical engineers will have their momentary spot under the sun. Electrical engineering will make a comeback, but core engineering never goes out of season. A good percentage of mechanical engineers will be out of job as well. World will adapt because we have grown out of VCRs, CDs, floppy discs etc., right in our own time. Autocad sent home the draftsmen packing. There will be a major upheaval of not just the Indian economy but of the whole global economy as the world will gradually make a conscious choice and move to green energy.

For me, the takeaway from electric cars is that, nothing is indispensable and none is too great. It takes not much for someone or something to replace you in no time and you go down the lane of the oblivion. I have been living in and out of India for a quarter century now. I have met dozens of nationalities in my life, i have been with every single race, language and culture people that you can imagine. Success no more impresses me as one after another our friends drive down in their BMW or Audi like the three wheeled auto that is popular in our Chennai roads. Success is multi faceted acquired in multiple hierarchies in diverse fields of occupation from banking to engineering to art and literature. I may not have rubbed shoulders with successful people but I am in their shadows all the time as I see how men and women excel in their accomplishments, each of which is a laurel and story worth writing about. I am in admiration of fellow Indians who have left no stoned unturned to make not only a successful life for themselves, but to contribute towards goodwill for India at the same time. Nothing nowadays impacts me: success, money, brands, glamour or glitz. You name it, I have seen it all. I am never part of that. I am in the sidelines watching and clapping hands. I have seen some greatest works of art and quite a few pieces of marvelous engineering. I guess I have traveled a bit and been exposed to all extremes. Just this week I was in -19, 09 and 9 c in mere three days. This is my life. There are the five star health centers and seven star hotels. There are these nubile nymphs and the tall brooding handsome men in all their sophistication who go about in chauffered limos. There are cruises that can take you to the high seas and there are shows and events where socializing and partying wild are the order of the day. But I know the superficiality of all that around me and where I must focus. What I do look for is that elusive strength of character that marks the real men and sets them apart. I am touched by humility in men in the face of huge success, I am drawn by elegancy and grace of someone’s persona. The aura of a good and successful man has the magnetic appeal that you know a decent man when you see one. Invariably these men know their vulnerability in the order of worldly things. They are aware that they are but a tiny speck, a spot in the galaxy of universes and nothing at all matters. Understatement always scores a quiet point.

The displacement of the fossil fuel and the ushering in of the green era is a reminder to humanity how change is inevitable and we are all helpless in the face of changing tides. Change brings with it growth as we outgrow some phases. I keep wondering whether India can live up to her word. But I guess we can, because the world wrote off India during the pandemic. We ended up mass producing the corona vaccine and supplying the poorer nations the life saving shots for free. India is thus an enigma that can surprise the onlookers. Hybrids are already in the Indian streets and I have been in hybrids in the US. I am looking forward to owning electric car in Chennai someday soon.

Posted in Pictures Foreign

Avatar 2 : The Way Of Water

May I be blessed with the avatar of Navi in my next janam. So ‘janam’ is the word for rebirth. Reincarnation or avatar is a term reserved for Hindu gods not for lesser mortals. We say Krishnaavatar (Krishna + avatar), Ramaavatar (Rama + avatar), both Ram and Krishna being avatars of Lord Maha Vishnu who took ten avatars from aquatic avatar to human form evolving from amphibian to terrestrial life form with every avatar. And Hindu gods are curiously blue coloured mostly (Ram and Krishna specifically). If you study Hindu philosophy you don’t have to know of Darwin. But its okay James Cameroon. I am a huge huge fan of yours and Avatar will stay the best picture I ever watched in my life because the Navi people connect closely with my soul bonded by the Tsahaylu! Perhaps I have watched Avatar one a hundred and one times? There is even a demo of the Pranayama this time with the breathe-in breath-out exercise. Great service for Sanskrit, Hindu beliefs and Yoga if you ask me. It hurt to see the Navi move over to the water world but then why must adaptability and migration be the prerogative of the homo sapien. Way of water throws light on the whale sharks’ ancestors which is another dimension to Avatar2. Loss of Sully’s eldest is tragic. One reason I could not watch ‘My name is Khan’ is that. I switched off the tv when the kid dies. As a mother even in screen I cannot digest that kind of loss. But then I know, being cast into the next avatar is uncomplicated and smooth seamless process and even natural for the Navi. Too many avatars loitering there from their previous janams! Its only when I see so many avatars on their feet that I regret the title Avatar which is reserved for the immortal creators of the universe. But then when the humans defeat death and recreate life, don’t they become immortals. Mortality is no more the question and probably the word ‘avatar’ is justified. Otherwise I enjoyed the flick at a mall here in Doha in 2D (only) and not in 4D thoroughly. Mindblowing animation. Breathtaking waters in contrast to the forest scene of Avatar 1. Sky people must be made to pay! Soon they may be returning for Avatar 3 so far as I know! The next gen of Navi already looking promising. Jake Sully looks leaner and calmer and more balanced. In another 100-200 years if Avatar is going to be reality as the human race goes to hunt for living space in the galaxies, I won’t be surprised. Strongly recommended for all Avatar addicts.

Posted in world cup FIFA 2022 doha

Mic Off.

Did you notice something about the awards ceremony in World Cup FIFA Football 2022 that concluded this sunday, the 18th December at Lusail Iconoic Stadium, Doha? Two heads of State who handed in the trophy and medals and awards – of Qatar and France – were given no lengthy introductions. No ‘chamchas’ or sidekicks or so-called cronies by their sides to chaperone them except for skeletal security and secretaries and handful of officials. Neither of the two statesmen took to the podium to deliver a boring lecture, especially the host. What an opportunity to brag in front of the entire world and for a good reason. Who could have resisted the temptation. I was gearing up for a smatter or two minimum . I am really stunned as it sinks in how simple the entire awards ceremony was except for some brilliant fireworks lighting up the sky. Contrast this to similar scene in India. Our netas could have grabbed the mic never letting it go for next one hour ‘educating’ us public from our glorious past to current Kashmir problem and China tension. In between would get thrown in tidbits of their own political success stories . The victory lap would be promptly hijacked by Bollywood stars and bureaucrats and corporate heads besides. Every viable stage opportunity is also good for self aggrandizement for our celebrities and page 3 socialites and political bigwigs to gain a political mileage or free publicity that would come in handy, like during next election campaign. The corporate sponsors would be the next in line to snatch the mic not content with hogging the limelight, sharing the stage, rubbing shoulders with the real heroes the sportsmen, having nothing to do with the sporting event otherwise. This we have been watching in Cricket world cup events and even in IPL. The stage is sometimes overcrowded that you fear if it would give away. Even a five hundred dollar worth cheque in mega size would be co-presented by corporate heads and political ministers with the sponsor names announced every time to make sure none in the audience ever forgot anything. For years I remembered the bank chairmen and Pepsi Coke directors. What an irresistible photo op. To resist cashing in on such a mega bumper global sporting event such as FIFA cup turning off the mic, shirking attention, is remarkable and real statesmanship. It underscores also how these gentlemen are not trying to steal the thunder from the heroes of the evening, leaving the spotlight to be on the winners, the players because it is really their day. The sponsors and corporates belonged where they must: in the commercial hoardings. Maturity is all about this: letting someone have theirs. The evening belonged with the football teams and it was a well earnt trophy that deserved the unwavering attention of the entire stadium. No distractions from any quarter to share the spoils with the winners and runners up. We can all take a cue out of the awards ceremony. This is a major takeaway for me: to become the invisible wallflower and disappear when we must, and let others exalt in their moment of glory. I am sick of the parasites who are in the habit of feeding and thriving on borrowed or stolen moments of glories and success stories of others as we see in India.

Posted in world cup FIFA 2022 doha

The befitting crowning glory: FIFA world cup football 2022, Doha, Qatar

Not only was the final between Argentina and France played today, today also happens to be Qatar National Day. The day is generally marked with a parade in the Corniche after flag hoisting. Most spectators would be expats like us with our schools partaking in the celebrations with cultural programmes. This year probably there has been a change in the scheme of things considering the world cup. But what a fitting crowning glory to the World Cup FIFA Football 2022 twinning with Qatar National Day celebrations. We couldn’t have hoped for a grander finale! All the buildup culminated in this wonderful finish on a landmark day. Historic moment for Qatar, the gracious hosts. I wish I was at the stadium. Some friends went for the final playout at Lusail iconic stadium and they were posting videos and pictures in social media – live feed. Festive airs for more than a month now in Qatar and it will take time for us residents for our euphoric feelings to subside! Yet I have to say, the affairs were low key somewhat. Boisterous to the right degree never overdone, CLEAN fun, quality time and friendly atmosphere it was all to put it into a nutshell. The metro stations were bursting at seams and the metro trains had added compartments. Humanity filled every single little space with every colour and creed from all corners of the globe. Truly a mega event and a grand salute to Qatar for making it a grand success. Seven stadiums within a radius of 30 km from each other, with guests running into hundreds of thousands, even I was wondering and waiting to see how it would work out. Most visitors were accommodated in the desert camps that were comfy and transported to venues in shuttle services. The metros are at very convenient points. Very thoughtful of Qatar to have planned every single detail about guest accommodation, playing teams, etc. Impressive performance from all fronts including hospitality, security, transport services, stadium management, electricity and other amenities etc. Concise coordination when teams worked in tandem to make this possible for Qatar. Excellent security and a general genial environment when everyone was waving at everyone cheerfully which is becoming a rarity these days. The way the entire world cup was handled has put the tiny nation in spotlight. Crowds are especially new to Qatar. The entire country can be summed as Greater Doha. So imagine to what extent efforts must have been put to pull the remarkable feat. So grounded are the natives, shying from limelight. I love and respect the aspect that nothing was commercialized about the world cup here in Doha, something even the first world nations of the west cannot resist. There were no hoardings, no contests or lucky draws or marketing of merchandise etc., etc., to sell out the world cup. So organized was everything that as residents of Qatar, we found that our normal routine life was left undisturbed by unraveling of a global event of such a magnitude in our midst. Excellent streamlining and management of services. In a country where expats like us outnumber the native citizens many time over, volunteers play a major role in holding and ensuring of implementation and execution of any major project. Qatar to us expats is a second home. Fifteen years and on here and I can’t imagine settling down for good in India and never be able to set foot in Qatar again after our retirement. The very thought brings a lump to my throat. Extremely grateful to govt of Qatar for making this possible for us expatriate residents working and living here in Qatar to participate and rejoice at a major world sporting event and making it memorable for us to cherish for a life time. This is the greatest gift we have received from Qatar other than the good life we have thanks to this wonderful generous nation. Qatar will go down in history for the way the world cup FIFA 2022 was conducted in such an orderly fashion silencing critics. Nothing flashy, nothing vulgar, nothing untoward – it was all a show of grace and class out and out. God bless you dearest Qatar. Wishing and praying for your eternal prosperity and growth and happiness and peace!

Posted in Food For Soul

Bad behaviour and bad character are not one and the same.

Bad behaviour is bad enough. It could be being rude, arrogant, haughty, boorish, brutally honest calling a spade a spade to one’s face even if you know it would hurt. Throwing temper tantrums is bad behaviour. Resentment is unhealthy. Being anxious is not desirable. Being negative can damper your spirit. Being inflexible, rigid could undermine you. But all or any of this cannot be summed up as bad character. Sometimes your tough posture can actually stand you in good stead. There are matters where a compromise is never advisable like in your basic character. This means, you are a solid man or woman not a shallow existence, weak enough to manipulate or be manipulated by others. Bad behaviour can shrink your friends circle but those who know you will never give up on you. Ones who break bonds with you are good riddance – blessing in disguise.

Bad character is entirely different story. Bad character is untrustworthy, unreliable chameleon character that can adapt to situation to one’s benefit. Bad character is betrayal of friendship, of friends, of relationships. Bad character people are not honest people. Bad character people lie and would do anything to take care of their selfish interests and motives. Bad character people are jealous and copycat others trying to impersonate them or become them. Bad character individuals have no or loose morals. Bad character guys/girls have no dignity, grace or integrity. They will stoop to any level to satiate their physical and materialistic needs. Which is why bad character people are always positive, jingoistic, boasting and attention seeking. Mostly the politically correct ones will have questionable ethics. Gossiping may be bad behaviour. But controlling friends and ties with money and influence is bad character. Flirting cannot be exactly bad behaviour but online s*x definitely speaks of bad character. Bad character is cheap. Plastic. And that is just the starter. Promiscuity is bad character. Strong self-confident people steer friends to better ways of life. Good characters inspire others and correct others if and when they stray. Bad character women encourage peers to take to boozing and have extra marital affairs. Bad characters have no standards and are fakes. Typically the hypocrites are of bad character. Being proud is bad behaviour but aspiring for unearned things is bad character. Bad character is toxic, cancerous, home breaking, wrecking havoc leaving behind a trail of destruction. Bad character people don’t think twice about bartering or pledging or selling their soul for even a pittance. The ends justify the means typically for the bad characters. For the righteous people, its the journey that matters not the destination in itself.

Deep souls never sell short of their value. Deep souls are not for sale whatever the price. The intensity of the deep souls, their vibrations are reserved for equally deep, sensitive souls. Low key people with depth are too very self-aware never making the shrill noise to draw attention. Good character people have this aura about them, they are authentic. Good people are no-nonsense no-frills people who don’t have to sugarcoat their words. You fear good people. They are like fire that can get your fingers burnt if you dare to stoke them. If good people are misunderstood its the third parties’ loss. Its okay to exhibit bad behaviour but it is important not to taint your character. Vices can be attributed to bad behaviour if they must have a reason. A man who is stressed enough with manual work at the end of the day like a carpenter or farmer earns his right to booze. A man mentally stressed with his occupation where he earns a living is entitled to some relaxation. No excuses for housewives boozing in the day that is morally corruptive and disruptive. No family where the woman of the family boozes in the living room in broad daylight can be having a good honourable life. India is still not the west. The west is too cold that surviving without alcohol is tough for them. Liquor is a necessity not a luxury. India is a tropical country where liquor consumption can mean only damage to the family. Liquor addiction and s*x addiction in housewives is BAD, WORSE, WORST CHARACTER not something anyone can be proud of or jealous of. It can lead to serious complications in family life and make us lose our respect in the eyes of our own children at a later stage.

Posted in food as therapy...

Think twice before ordering milk dessert from Indian restaurants.

No, it is NOT The Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

*****

My uncle was telling me how when he went with his friends to Kodai, a surgeon friend of his got food poisoned. They were MMC alumni who were staying in a five star hotel in Kodaikanal. All were retired men and there were a few ladies. Since many had health issues, generally bland food was preferred. A particular surgeon thought he would play safe sticking to mere dahi chawal or curd rice. Finally he was the one who got food poisoned at the age of 65. His holiday turned into a nightmare with him getting admitted to a hospital in the hill station for a week. He had to be admitted to ICU as his condition deteriorated before he recuperated. Apparently the culprit was the curd that had been refrigerated for long as there weren’t many takers. Sometimes when you go out, its prudent to eat the hot food that might be heated up lately. That way you can avoid stale food consumption unknowingly. Any fungus in the food may be ruled out. In my case, I have had stomach upsets whenever I consumed milk based desserts in Indian restaurants. Having to share my time between two countries India and Qatar, my body has grown gentle and delicate over years as the food quality standards followed in Qatar are too good. So whenever I am in India, even though I may want to believe that I am immune to the Indian heat and dust and adulterated water, food and environment, I am still affected a little when I try to have my fill whenever I am carried over by the air of festivities. The allure of sweets is too much in India. YOu just cannot say no. As freezers face problems in Indian heat conditions with erratic power supply, the vegetables used in restaurants have to be dipped for a longer time in vinegar to keep them fresh from rotting. For my gentlest stomach therefore eating out regularly means food poisoning sooner or later. A big bout of food poison happened to me at no place other than the Club Mahindra five star restaurant at Coorg. This was unbelievable. I am vegetarian and whenever I am outstation, I pay attention to what i eat. Still some ten years back, I was confined to bed in the resort for a day, having dined on seemingly innocuous vegetarian dish. My family who gorged both on veggie and non veg fare were fine. I investigated the matter with my niece who is a gynecologist presently. She concluded that the vinegar soaking of vegetables must have rumbled my stomach. I started taking note of my restaurant visits after that. I found that the milk based panneer (cottage cheese) proved havoc to me after vegetables. Milk based desserts served in restaurants could do maximum damage. After this Kodaikanal episode of the doctor that can be traced back to the five star kitchen, we can see how preserving food for a longer time extending their shelf life by the restaurants can have a worse effect on our health. I had rabdi, a milky dessert, last evening. Rabdi can be easily put up together I know. Not a big seller. Restaurants here maintain very high hygienic standards. Food inspection is pretty regular in middle eastern countries where even the walking space between tables is regulated so that the restaurants are not cramped. Yet I had food poisoning last night and I threw up everything I ate. What started at 2 am went on until early morning 6 am. I avoid normally the desserts in our restaurants but still went for it when friends ordered. Interestingly and as usual, I was the only one affected. Others got away. Ice creams are fine from fast moving stalls and ice cream counters but again never from restaurants that don’t see consistent orders. Some of us would want to settle for the simple and easily digestible curd rice whenever we go outstation. This post is for them. Hot food is always recommended in restaurants and as far as possible curd rice and any milk based dish must be avoided as the age of the curd or the milk in question cannot be ascertained. There is a risk component. If the curd rice is from a busy popular mess that has no leftovers from previous day, then it is fine. Otherwise we must think twice about ordering milk based dishes and desserts from restaurants. Those with gentle stomach like mine who cannot tolerate vinegar soaked vegetables in gravies, must stick to hot rice menu as far as possible and minimize the subzis if not totally avoid them. For me personally, most restaurants in Doha are fine. Now I am so used to having unadulterated food here that whenever I visit India, it takes time for me to adapt. I do eventually but I play it safe going for steamed food such as idli in that case. Two or three days of continuous restaurant food can totally debilitate me. I still travel a lot within India and in foreign countries. Balancing the food intake is a big challenge for me.

Posted in Socio-Cultural

Pathan

Sometimes, its hard to believe that these Afghans ruled India for a while.

As the Pathan picture gets into controversy, I would like to blog of what I know of Pathans. They are of Af-Pak origin and I have exposure to them in Middle east. Right from the airport you cannot miss them and they are tailormade for some semi skilled professions where they have made their mark. Our locality in gulf is mostly Pathan dominated although the labourers were moved to Labour city with all facilities for them at one spot as the city grew and the world cup preparations were on. I saw a few buildings torn down that were very old and were leased to big pathan groups and obviously the men have moved over to labour city. Otherwise, whichever part of the country you are in, you can find the pathans crouching and huddled together in groups in the traffic islands between busy junctions! Wherever I go for walking, again they would be there as gangs, sharing a common bread. I live in a housing colony where 95% of households are Indian. In fact that’s the reason I wanted to live here. You can opt to live in mixed community but there is the comfort factor. My previous flat was in a largely arab dominated apartment complex where I sincerely could not tolerate the beef smell that would ooze into my home from all directions. See, most people who talk about secularism just cannot understand a vegetarian’s delicate senses. Its not about hate for beef at all. Its that we cannot even stand the smell. I don’t find fault with others’ food habits. Its just my level of tolerance or intolerance that’s all. Moreover, you can be friendly with other nationalities to a certain extent. There are filippinos and arabs among others who are very nice to befriend. But beyond a point, that intimacy that we Indians share can be had only with those from India or with those of Indian origin. I am saying this because, I have instant rapport with Sri lankans, Nepalis even Bhutanese, Bangladeshi and Pakistanis. That kind of closeness I find only with people of the INdian subcontinent.

As for pathans, we find them very handy because they live among us in this locality. I could call them for any plumbing, electrical work or tank cleaning. I wanted Ikea for my kitchen here but when I was in India, my hubby cleverly booked our counters and cabinets from a pathan at throwaway price. Actually the quality is better even if the aesthetics are sacrificed! But my kitchen fittings have been serving me good for over seven years now whereas all the expensive posh Ikea ones that my friends got had to be replaced. There is an exclusive pathan shopping complex near where I live where you can find anything to everything such as nut and bolt and curtain rods to curtains, clothes, winter jackets, boots, fabrics, leather ware etc., etc. And yes even furniture and plumbing, electrical appliances. Rates are okay, and in fact much cheaper. So most of us settle for the pathan stuff as this is not our real home. We are living in rented place. Mine is a 25 year old flat but it is in ship shape except for some minor complaints. Our painting works get done by the pathans. The dry cleaning shops here are run by them. There are a few exceptions though: barber shops have been taken over by Bangladeshis and nobody can beat Indians when it comes to groceries and provisions. There are some restaurants run by pathans and obviously we can’t eat at them. However even the pathans visit our Kerala bhais restaurants to sample Indian food. My street would be flooded by the pathans haphazardly parking their trucks. Yes, mostly they are truck drivers. Or they drive trailers. Before world cup, my area was spruced up. Here nobody questions them. Their lifestyle is part of the community fabric. I miss them now and wonder wherever they went! Now the look of my street is kind of European! The roads are clearly marked and any wayward parking is ruled out. Mysteriously the pathans have disappeared. One reason could be that the free zones left for parking their trailers etc., have been converted into parks and parking bays for the world cup. They have since been closed to easy access. Without parking, the pathans cannot exist. So may be they have moved to wherever they have parking facilities. Some even sleep in their trailers.

The well doing pathans ( khans) are all mostly Indian! But I understand that the labour class pathans are also very rich – some of them, not all. They may be shabbily dressed but they earn handsome from subcontracts. They are in employment of major multinational oil and gas and civil construction and electrical and mechanical companies. They do tough job and get paid very well. I once saw such a pathan hold a family wedding in a star hotel where I went for a speech club program. They seemed out of place but they were real dressed well. Obviously a rich pathan!

But I would always wonder aloud, how simple their life is. They probably own not more than 2 or 3 sets of shalwar kameez. They eat from common thali their bread and biriyani. Beef is very cheap here so they have plenty of it. Their place of worship is everywhere. Their entertainment is gossiping in groups, as I said, huddled together in traffic islands! They go to public parks to access free wi fi to call back home. Their cost of living is way too low. Living conditions not that bad. I believe, most of them don’t even repatriate money to their native countries. They go home once an year to their families, get their wives pregnant and come back happily to resume their life in middle east. By the time their sons may turn 18, you can find them join their fathers. Family business! You need people of all kind to carry on with normal life. so many, many invisible links in the chain that make our life livable. Pathans to me are one such a main connection to comfortable life in middle east even if they are hidden from public view. If you drive down the desert, you can see the old bedouin settlements leased by pathans. Out of nowhere these camps crop up. Their job in the great arabian desert is to rear the camels and tend to other works in the area. Highway drivers to some 99% are the pathans. Nobody can handle trucks and trailers like them! In India, its the Singhs (Punjabis).

Pathans in India are comparatively very well accomplished and doing a great job. Of course not all pathans are blue collar workers. Back in their own countries, they must be prospering in all walks of life. In middle east or anywhere, the Indian domination cannot be ruled out. Indians bulldoze every other nationality frankly with their immense talent pool. We reduce others to middle level or lowest levels of employment and that is what I always think when I see the pathans. But as I said, we need men for every job. Pathans carved their niche in middle east with their tremendous appetite for manual labour and semi skilled jobs. They are best at it and most reliable.

Generally Indian women stay careful with pathans. Not because we fear them. We in middle east have to always keep in mind that we are dealing with men who don’t get a chance to be with women for years sometimes. They don’t booze either. So to be on safe side we are weary of pathans who we engage for all kinds of work at home, that’s all.

One pathan gave me his visiting card knocking on my door telling me he lived just the opposite of our compound and that he was available 24 hrs for carpentry, plumbing, electrical works and house painting, tank cleaning etc., etc. He went door to door giving the card but I was really impressed by the interest he took in his business. The details printed in the card had so many errors still, that was a wonderful effort!

I have a soft corner for the pathans always because they work so hard and they are very contented in their simple lifestyle. My hubby jokes in my previous janam I was a pathan (before 1947) and probably a Kashmiri or Paksitani Hindu (before 1965) who got massacred at the hands of Pakis. So in my present janam I was graced with a birth in proper Hindu dominant India. But my affection for pathans is proof that I have karmic connection with them! Our Indian husbands can be impossible. My hubby would dutifully point out pathans to me wherever we drive and say, ‘look your cousins!’ I would say had I married one of them, my life could have been simplest and happiest! Very few pathans have their families with them in middle east and those who do are considered pretty wealthy. They live here for generations but they are not citizens.

The Khans of India must realize how well placed they are and in fact fortunate that they find themselves in the other side of the border. I would not like to stereotype the pathans but the truth is, the exception is a miniscule percentage. Most have no education but aren’t concerned either! Or may be their sense of righteousness is better than ours. Perhaps their lifestyle is far more peaceful. But then why are their nations so war torn.

Even last evening I went to a pathan shopping place. Almost all shops here are owned by the pathans but the Bangladeshis have been steadily taking over their spots. Except for the truck and/or trailer driving, the Bangladeshis have forayed into every single sphere of the pathan stronghold. They are much smarter, more intelligent and hardworking. Their physical strength cannot match the pathans which is why they have left out the driving of trailers I guess!

Meanwhile you cannot even find much of Indian manual labour, as Indian labour is very expensive and Indian community has moved much ahead in the ladder, with being placed in executive positions and professions. I have watched pathans salute many times Indian men with respect. Pathans do hold Indians in respect. That respect comes from the Indian’s social hierarchy. We all do our bit in my opinion and we can coexist in this world filling gaps in each other’s hemisphere.

I have heard of gossips about pathans but I can’t obviously share them here. Crimes happen everywhere. We, especially, women have to be vigilant because whatever said, we are still vulnerable.

Once long back we dined in a fine Afghan restaurant. On seeing us the pathans did not know what to do. They had a sumptuous hot bread basket and surprisingly a couple of veggie dishes. It was my son’s idea really and this eating place looked upscale. The breads were too good from the land of tandoor. For subzi I ordered a bindi stew. The men went for a lamb dish. We weren’t given plates and we were expected to tear into the bread and dip it directly in the subzi! We made a special request for plates. The staff were amused but gave us individual plates as Hindus never will share a thali. For us its abhorrent.

Brings back memories of a group of pathans in Dubai terminal waiting for their flight. They had a 20 hour transit. They were all hunched over a mammoth paper package that was thrown open. A dozen hands reached into the biriyani at the same moment! That comradeship always would impress me. But my hubby as usual came with a retort. ‘You know why they have that custom. In olden days like mogul times if the food may be poisoned, it was to ensure that everybody died the same time!’ Trust was deficient he said because, Aurangzeb killed his own brother to ascend the throne. Whatever, I was looking at the pathans sprawled in the airport floor without a care in the world, not bothered who is looking, who is not. Snoring loudly they went to sleep fitfully! I wished life was easy and uncomplicated for me!

Posted in Political

Should only Delhi be the capital of Bharat, ji?

Delhi was Indraprastha in Mahabharat from another plane of time. Delhi has been in the thick of things for centuries, believed to have been the capital of the Pandavas. India’s destiny is closely linked to how Delhi evolved with time. So the significance of continuing to have Delhi as India’s capital is understandable. Even so, why should not there be an alternative to Delhi. Today I was watching the you tube video of building plans for a new Indian parliament in Delhi. I was struck by a thought. Our capital city was also the seat of the Delhi sultanate. Aurangzeb ruled from Delhi. The British Raj functioned from Delhi where the viceroy’s residence was turned into Rashtrapathi Bhavan, the presidential palace, on India’s independence. India retained much of the colonial architecture from the British days and Delhi profusely was Mugal in make-up. I am yet to visit my capital city frankly! But from what I see in media I feel no soul connection to India’s capital. That kind of India is something most of us Indians cannot identify with. Lost is the Mahabharath umbilical cord to Delhi. Delhi is now more and more identified with its residual mogul imperialism. So average Hindu, especially a south Indian, can hardly connect to Delhi. We cannot reckon with our invaders from Middle east, Turkey, Persia and Afghanistan. Taj Mahal has got nothing to do with us. The south largely remained insulated to mogul invasions. Indian history still has the point of view of those who invaded and occupied India over native Indians. We seem to celebrate our invaders and we have forgotten our own golden ages of Chandra Gupta Maurya, Ashoka, Vijayanagara empire, Maratha empire and Shivaji, the Chera, Chola, Pandiya, Pallavas of the south. We have forsaken our ancient Bharat when our Maharajahs ruled just from the Delhi throne. Our history text books underplay local heroes and glorify the invaders. Good to have a multicultural society but not at expense of losing our own perspective. India’s Hindu heritage must be preserved. India’s soul is Hindu not anglicized or arabized. Delhi is hardly representative of the real Bharat. Why should not India have Her capital moved to, say, Orissa for instance. My vote is for this not-so-developed state of India which lies to our south east. The new capital city must not be raised over destroyed forests. Orissa and southern states were hardly touched by the Moguls in direct conflict even if some princely states down south could have become their vassals before falling in step with the British, the Travancore and the Mysore states being the glaring examples. Arcot in Tamil Nadu and Hyderabad in Andhra were administered by mugal vassals who reigned the region without winning a war. So south mostly retained the essence of Bharat without much of distortion. It is vital to build a capital for Bharat from where neither the British nor the Islamic invaders of India governed us. While we accept our pained history as it is, it is also important to break away from the slave mentality or the colonial mindset. We have to disconnect with our troubled past for which moving the seat of power to somewhere outside Delhi can be crucial. India is not merely the mugal empire or the british raj. India is an enigma and the Indian subcontinent is flanked by seas on three sides. We are a varied landscape and diverse population. We need to centralize things. The capital must be reachable, identifiable to all and by all Indian citizens. Even Andhra Pradesh or Telengana is a good choice to build our new capital. Tamil Nadu and Kerala may not be advisable because of easy access by sea. Orissa is a larger state and the capital can be situated far away from the coastline. Madhya Pradesh and Bihar have vast extent of reserve forest areas. We wouldn’t want India’s new capital to be built across our elephant corridors. Moving our capital to geographical center of our nation could give us better sense of inclusiveness in my opinion. Security issues need to be studied in detail. Just wondering!