Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Awesome Movie.

Just finished watching an extremely interesting movie called - What the Bleep do we know? Thank you, Mr.John G. Roberts for recommending this movie. It is very good.
I cannot claim to have understood everything that they talked about in the movie. After all, the people featured there were specialists who have come to their conclusions after spending lifetimes in this field. But whatever I could fathom, is sure to make me think about every action that I take. Maybe not every time I do something, but only when I am sitting by myself, quietly thinking or doing the dishes and thinking etc etc. My mind is racing right now with a lot of thoughts and I do not think I will be able to form a coherent critique of the movie. Suffice to say that the only thing I thought was a little out of place is how they started off with something as deep as quantum physics and moved on to something as commonplace as controlling your emotions. If you have watched the movie, you are probably screaming at the screen right now - " But that was the whole point of the movie!!" I know, I already said thatI did not understand everything they talked about in the movie. The part that I did was how ultimately your reality depends upon the choices you make about your actions based on the control you have on your emotions. What I need to understand is how this relates to quantum physics. And that will be my quest.......(if you think you can lend me a hand in my your comments..what are you waiting for?)

Monday, May 7, 2007

My hubby was on TV!!!!

It has finally happened!! My handsome and intelligent husband has been adopted by the media as the poster boy of ISB - brains and beauty!! I don't know how I will keep up with the fan mail now!
The local Gemini TV's program City Lights featured a bit on ISB and my hubby was interviewed based (among other things) on his unusual profile. They had bits on 4 students, from non-engineering backgrounds and 3 of them were returning Indians. It was really good to see my new home on TV. GO ISB!!!!

So after the euphoria of watching my sweetheart wore off, I realised that this was the beginning of our new life. What we left behind 3 months ago was so different from this and what ever is coming ahead, it is mind-boggling. I have a feeling that we are at the right place, at the right time. Yes, me watching the press release was preaching to the choir, but the student body of the Class of '08 is amazing. An ISB official said that last year they had 60% engineers while this year the number is 49%. More than half of the students are from non-traditional educational backgrounds. A look at the profile of the class shows a lot of returning Indians, too. Indians are coming back home looking to ride the wave of the booming economy. This certainly is a heartwarming trend as this has become a reverse "brain-drain". I hope more and more of our countrymen(women) consider the issue of returning home seriously and contribute towards taking India to its rightful place among the countries of the world - right there on the top!

Good Luck ISB Class of 2008.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Hara Dhania

My favourite herb.

Before there was basil, there was dhania (coriander). Growing up, I remember chopping up umpteen bundles of this fragrant, verdant ingredient to add finishing touches to my aai's fabulous cooking. Indian dishes of any sort are incomplete without the garnish of finely chopped hara dhania. It is also used to make chutneys and as an ingredient in koshimbir ( a maharashtrian variant of salsa or mixed chopped salad). This herb is also an essential ingredient in Latin American cuisine.
Here, I have 2 recipes where hara dhania is not used as a garnish but as an ingredient in the cooking. One of them is a variation of my aai's chicken recipe and the other is a simple dish introduced to me by my sasuma. Both of these showcase the versatility of this traditional herb.

Hariyali ghosht.

To make the masala:

Grind to a paste in the food processor,
1 large onion
10-12 medium cloves of garlic
2 inch piece ginger
2 green chillies(use less or omit completely as desired)
1/2 cup cleaned and chopped hara dhania (fresh coriander)

Clean and pat dry
1 - 1 1/2 kg mutton pieces

In a heavy kadhai(wok), heat
2 tsp oil (safflower, sunflower, canola or vegetable)

To it, add the masala and fry well till the aroma is released and the oil separates. To this add
1 tsp jeera powder (cumin powder)
1 tsp haldi (turmeric)
1 tsp black pepper powder
1 tsp garam masala powder

Fry with constant stirring for 3-5 minutes. Then add the mutton pieces and coat with masala and fry for at least 10 minutes.

When the oil has started to separate from the mixture, add
1 cup yogurt, lightly beaten
salt to taste
Mix very well and then add
2 cups water.
Let it come to a boil and then simmer covered for 30-45 minutes till the mutton pieces are fork tender. (TIP : Ideally, this should be cooked in the kadhai itself, but if you are pressed for time, go ahead and transfer it to a hot pressure cooker and add 1/2 cup of water and let it cook to4 whistles)

Serve hot with raita and white rice.

My aai made this recipe mostly with chicken and she would make it with just the green masala. It is an awesome chicken dish that can be served as the main course or as a first course since it does not have a lot of gravy.The minute I put the masala in the oil, I am transported to my childhood, when every Sunday we used to have a non-veg lunch.
I have added the garam masala as I am using mutton (red meat) instead of chicken. The key step in making this dish as in all lamb/mutton recipes is to fry the spice mixtures and the meat very well. That helps to infuse the meat with the aromatic flavours and fragrances.

Masur Dal

Cook in the pressure cooker till completely done, (4-5 whistles)

1 cup masoor dal (red lentils) with
3/4 cup water

For the tadka:

In a hot kadai, add
1 tsp oil
To it add,
1/2 tsp kalonji
2 green chillies, finely chopped
cooked dal
1/2 tsp tumeric
salt to taste

Add just enough water to cover the dal and mix it well. when the water starts to boil add,
1 cup finely chopped hara dhania

Let the mixture simmer for at least 3-5 minutes. Serve with hot rice and fish fry.

This extremely simple dal dish has become one of my most favourite in the world. When served with fish fry and /or aloo-bhaja( bengali version of french fries - round instead of long and seasoned with turmeric and salt), it symbolizes the simple yet intense flavour of an everyday Bengali lunch for me. Adding hara dhania at the end of the recipe while the dish is cooking, helps to release the intense fragrance of the herb and gives this humble dish a whole new perspective. Thank you, Sasuma for introducing me to this way of food.

Chalta hai

I ventured out of the ISB bubble for the first time the other day into the city of Hyderabad. And my first impression, extremely well-managed and beautiful roads, not very unruly traffic and all in all, a pleasant environment. Of course, this description discounts the very hot and humid weather.The first thing we noticed about Hyderabad was how green it was. Considering that in the old parts of town like Jambaug, water supply is restricted to every other day, I was amazed to see how green all the medians and the lawns were. I could see the effort on the part of the authorities in trying to make this a greener and cleaner city than others in the country.
My foray was prompted by an urge to eat something non-Indian on the part of me and my husband. California has completely spoilt us, in terms of the broad palette that we have been exposed to. I cannot believe how we could eat just Indian food everyday of our lives for the 22 odd years before we left home! So, I had to find out about stores that would sell imported vegetables and the sort a la Pulse in Pune. I was told about a place called Pure n Natural and that is where I was headed. I did find an expansive array of really fresh fruits and vegetables and a lot of "exotic" ones too (e.g. avocado). But I also found a perfect case of "chal raha hai to chal ne do" attitude that is so typical of us Indians especially, in the market place.
This is a relatively small store, filled to the brim with merchandise. From the looks of the clientele, I am sure the owners/managers make a tidy profit out of this store. But the place is poorly managed. Actually I would say there is no management at all. It is one step above the retail vegetable vendors at Cotton Market in Nagpur. These are some of the things that I noticed:
  • There were too many employees than there should be. There were employees who were supposed to be arranging vegetables on the shelves. For 4 rows, there were 4 employees. This job could easily have been done by 2 people and as there were 4 employees in close proximity to each other, chatting up seemed to be the order of the day, rather than finishing the work at hand. In spite of the place being overrun by employees, nobody knew anything about the prices or availability of the merchandise. Neither me or any of the other 4 people who had questions got any answers. I understand that we have a huge population, but employing 3 people to do one person's job doesn't make business sense. And given the general work ethics of the populace, the job DOES NOT get done. I do not understand why they could not just have a hierarchical system, with a manager, 2 people at the 2 registers with 2 helpers to bag the goods and 1 person each for the 4 rows. Thus would make for a proper flow of traffic for the customers who would not be ducking sacks of potatoes and maneuvering in the 2 feet between the rows of vegetables to get to the fruits.
  • Another slip on their part is the absence of labeling on the shelves. I saw an effort to do so in form of sloppy, handwritten signs of chalk on slates, but even those were illegible. When you have a successful and sophisticated data entry, pricing and bar-coding system in place, how difficult is it to have proper signs so people can find what they are looking for instead of asking 4 different employees who usually don't know the answer anyway.
  • Young boys of 10 and 11 years of age were the carry-out helpers! And the amazing thing was well-dressed, educated looking middle-aged men and women did not bat any eyelid before letting these young children carry their heavy bags for them. Societal apathy?
This is how things have been done in the country and irrespective of the growth that we have seen in the past few years nothing really has changed. The "chalta hai" attitude will be the bane of the Indian society.
In spite of all my ravings, will I go back to the store? Till I find out that there is another store which sells mushrooms or red bell peppers of avocados, I will. And the owner knows that. If he can scrape the last paise of profit, what difference does it make how his store is run ? He may be living in a palatial mansion in Jubilee Hills but his store will have rotten vegetables on the floor. After all, how the customer feels and what kind of an experience the customer has are things that are best left to American companies, right? But what they don't realize is that these Wal-Marts and Sonys and Citibanks take this "customer satisfaction" issue seriously. And for the discerning customer these "soft" things will be important. So in the long run, the ill-maintained Indian store loses out to the firangi companies- and that too in the name of development.