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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

FRUITS OR VEGETABLES? WHAT'S FOR LUNCH?

The etiquette of Indian dining is one of the most novel and discrete practices in the world that never fails to get mentioned in travel books and channels.  The combined flavours of spices, herbs, vegetables and fruits rolling in our tongue fed with our hands and dining with friends and relatives making eating hours one of the most important part of our cultural premise.

We are not people who really like repeating the same vegetables or fruits at least in a period of a week. Why should we when our tropical varieties are really large? Having said that, have you given a thought on how do we really differentiate between fruits and vegetables?

Okay, so before you read further categorize the following as vegetables and fruits

CARROT
PUMPKIN
CUCUMBER
POTATO
CABBAGE 

BROCCOLI
GREEN PEAS
BITTER GOURD
PLANTAIN STEM
ONION
TAPIOCA
CHILLI
TOMATO
BRINJAL

We eat so many varieties of fruits and vegetables but sometimes never gave a thought on what actually differentiates them other than the general notion that fruits are sweet and easily consumed uncooked, vegetables usually savoury.
It is not just looks but even taste can be deceptive!
By definition, botanically, A fruit is the mature ovary of a seed plant, usually developed from a flower. 
A fruit is simply the seed bearing structure of a plant mostly growing out of a flower. The rest parts of a plant that are edible are the vegetables. Roots, Stem, leaves, flowers etc are vegetables.

Now check if your answers to the list were right or wrong.

CARROT                              Vegetable
PUMPKIN                             Fruit
CUCUMBER                         Fruit
POTATO                               Vegetable
CABBAGE                           Vegetable
BROCCOLI                          Vegetable
GREEN PEAS                       Fruit
BITTER GOURD                  Fruit
PLANTAIN STEM               Vegetable
ONION                                  Vegetable
TAPIOCA                              Vegetable
CHILLI                                  Fruit
TOMATO                               Fruit
BRINJAL                               Fruit

Carrot, radish etc form edible part of the root of the plant and hence termed vegetables. Similarly potatoes, tapioca are tubers (the fleshy roots) which also come under vegetables. Cauliflower and broccoli for the flowers, Cabbage the extended leafy part of the plant and Plantain stem all come under vegetable categorization. The rest of them bear seeds including bitter gourd and brinjal. Chilies, bell peppers are seed bearing and hence fruits.

So what is for lunch? Rice or Roti? And if I say we have a bowl full of cooked dry-fruits every day, would you agree?
Cereal grains are also a type of fruit - a dry one-seeded fruit in which the ovary wall is united with the seed coat, typical of grasses and cereals. So basically rice, wheat, corn kernels are typically seeds – dried seeds often called dry fruits.  
But remember an unripe corn is a vegetable!
Pulses, lentils are all seeds that grow in a pod. A pea pod is a fruit and Pea by itself a seed.

So how many vegetables and fruits did you eat for LUNCH today???

Sunday, April 2, 2017

THE AROMATIC STORY OF COFFEE

Chocolate, men, and Coffee - Somethings are better rich wrote an Unknown.

Coffee – seems so harmless and feels so magical. Each time you hold the mug (or the cup) the aroma stirs your nostrils for more, the decoction blends beautifully giving a treat to your eyes, and the warmth makes you calm even in summer.

Coffee was eaten before it became a drink !!!

But did you know coffee was eaten before it became a beverage?
The legend of Ethiopian coffee estates says that a Kaldi, a goat herder had fed the coffee beans to his goats. He observed them active for a longer period than usual and tried eating it himself once. It kept him awake for a longer time and helped him manage his work better. He and his wife made energy bars out of these coffee beans and ate them until Kaldi, one day revealed about the energy bar to the abbot (head of the monastery) of a local monastery.
The abbot made a drink out of it for an easier consumption. He was a monk after all!!!
And hence came COFFEE into existence which is now  a billion dollars business all over the world.

5 Historical attempts to ban Coffee.

Ever imagined a ban on coffee. Seems next to impossible now. But the period between 16th to 18th century witnessed 5 big attempts to ban coffee from their territory.

1.       In 1511 MECCA banned coffee as the governor thought coffee would lead to more hanging out, stimulating radical thinking and thus lead to a stronger opposition. Also a few Sufi saints used it as a funeral bowl to keep them awake whole night for prayers.

2.       In Italy the clergymen pressed a ban on coffee and label it satanic but Pope Clement VIII did fall in love with its taste and the lord saved the coffee from a BAN!!

3.       When Murad IV claimed the throne of Ottoman he banned coffee and its usage led to penalities like first use called for a beating and the second time the user was sewn in a leather bad and thrown in the sea! I wonder if a census of such death was recorded? A lot can really happen over a coffee!

4.       Sweden had a sweet way of killing convicted murderers - making them drink tons of coffee. Convicts loved and the monitoring doctors bored counting how many cups of coffee would kill a man.

5    Fredrick the Great of Prussia banned coffee as the consumption of beer produced was hindered. So he made a royal statement for circulation “His Majesty was brought up on beer”.
Royal Cheers to beer didn’t seem to work the magic like coffee though.


Be it coffee, latte, cappuccino, espresso or just our own FILTER KAPI, we love it and a ban on it would surge a war.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

AFTER THE RAIN

She placed her feet on the ground,
Each step giving it a colour of brown,
Her slim swarthy curves,
Camouflaged by clouds dark and gloomy
That the mother found it hard, to hold
In her bosom, the daughter's fear
Of an imminence so murky.
Along with the sun, the heat of her burden
Condensed the air, making the clouds
Further dark and gloomy.
Stifled the daughter felt,
AFTER THE RAIN
Unable to move her feet, tripped she fell.
The fall hit the clouds,
Letting a fully fledged downpour,
Easing the daughter's murkiness
And the Mother's heaviness.
Every drop relaxing her tensed muscles
And the joyous celebration of the oceans,
Flexing their wavy flesh,
with a counselling bash.
The outbreak making her goggle at
The iridescent image of her EGO,
Radiating all its strength as never before,
Curving her lips like the moon .
Isn't there a rise after a fall,
Like the rainbow after the rain?

Saturday, April 5, 2014

WALK THE TALK

The soles were being put to varying degree of work; some were being strained to drip out all the sweat, a few moderately pushed and another few worn just to please the wearer that yes they were ‘walking’ too.
At one side I could hear someone talking ‘see, you please tally the balance sheet and mail it tomorrow itself’ some others talking to either family or friends straining their arm muscles, other side gossips and many texting and jay walking and quite a lot plugging their earphones to some music probably.
I was a spectator not belonging to the crowd in race course who were burning calories. I prefer to call it varying interest. I have never been successful in walking or jogging continuously over a period. I always favor burning calories by dancing to tunes…passion is the reason I cite.

I would attach another reason to it. When I go out to jog or walk, I feel lazy to do it alone and immediately carry my mobile phone along with me and have those earphones glued to my ears. I realized later that my walking, jogging, and hopping patterns were out of balance and often trying to sync with the music I hear.

Life has become too busy that we don’t seem happy with 24 hours. When I was watching the lot who were on their walks or jogs passing my view every minute, I found most of them wedged with their mobile phones. A thought to count the heads and survey the number of mobile phones in use struck my mind.
The counting was egregious and satisfactory. I counted 118 to be exact and 93 of them were with their mobile phones and most of them using it in the hierarchy of talking, texting, listening to music, and jay walking. You would have seen such persons. May be you have been this person entranced by your mobile phones in hand while walking and workouts.

Now it is no rocket science or uncommon knowledge that apart from burning those few extra pounds which bother you, exercising also relaxes your mind body and soul.
Workouts reduce stress, depression, and anxiety by reducing the electrical activity of the tensing muscles. It also helps our body to release those endorphins which are natural pain killers that our body releases to makes us feel at it ease. Although endorphins have many other functions studies prove that excess secretion of endorphins by the body is a result of increasing addiction to certain objects like mobile phones and TV. Endorphins as such get highly activated due to radio and microwaves leading to its excess release in the body indicating an addiction to your gadget- that is why you feel excessively happy spending time with those  gadgets.

But these ‘feel-so-good’ gadgets also lead to losing your balance often. A new Australian study revealed that when scientstist studied 26 healthy people and each person was asked to walk with and without mobile phones, all the participants deviated from the straight line and were slower while on their phones including listening to music.
When walking or jogging are meant to enhance our health, why use gadgets that counter balance the good effects.

The Union Health Minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad declared in London that India was the second largest mobile phone users in the world counting 900 million and still counting. It accounts to twice the users of Africa, Europe, Arab states, and Commonwealth of Independent states. And it is regrettable that people who have mobile phones have no access to proper sanitation as our  Total Sanitation Coverge is only around 40%.
This raises a question in me. Are we really health conscious? I include people who regularly exercise as well. A stage has come where we are more concerned about cell phone restricted area than open defecation and urination in surrounding.

I recollect one of my friends from Dubai telling me once about his broken Motorola smart phone. He claimed to find more time to spend for himself when there was no smart phone around him. He took time to read, pluck the strings of his idle guitar, and even a better workout throughout the week when he was back from his work place.
I have had similar experiences especially during workouts. I prefer to use loud speakers with mild volume for some relaxation music during my yoga time rather than plugging those tiny bulbs to my ears.

When we are over the phone we counter react to the actual purpose of exercise. We get stuck with the same thoughts of office, friends, fights and parties. It is no way going to relax the electrical activity of your muscles nor going to help you reduce stress and anxiety.

We strain to find some time to sweat out those bad chemicals from our body and experience the fruits of all our hard work. Let us say goodbye to our mobile phone for that one hour and instead let us “WALK THAT TALK”.

Monday, May 27, 2013

MARK-BIASED AND BOARD-BIASED ADMISSION


May, a month when the air is filled with mild aroma of Gulmohar, spreading its branches like a peacock with red feathers. It is a month when beauty lingers in the surroundings.

But that is not all about May. Tension, anxiety, and morale of students is put to test the same month, every year. Students of class X and XII await their board exam results through out the country, no matter which board they belong to.
Every state has its own syllabus unlike a centralized syllabus like CBSE or ICSE. And it also happens that a clash always exists between the state board and the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE). The standards of CBSE syllabus being set by the National Council of Education Research and Training, is based on a concentric curriculum. Whilst State board syllabus being governed by the Department of Education under respective State Governments look forward to completion of schooling with a slightly easier syllabus to follow.

Unfortunately, as we see the trend, choice of boards seems to matter not for the standards and quality but for the result declaration and scoring issues. CBSE students of both Xth and XIIth are loosing the race for XIth and college admissions.

The bifurcation of writing school-based examination or Board-based examination for class X of CBSE has proved to be a pain in the neck. Although the CBSE had declared that there is no difference between mark sheets issued for both examinations, it had also mentioned that students who wish to leave CBSE board must take up board exams rather than school based examination.
This had paved way for the state government to add restriction to admission for class XI students who took up school based examinations and later wanted to change to state syllabus. Students of Maharashtra, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, have been suffering for admissions for past two years. Maharashtra government had relaxed the constraints in the year 2011 calling it a ‘one year exception’ admitting students who had taken up school based exam. The kerala government has shown no mercy till now.

The standard XII students loosing out on admissions in colleges has become a familiar practice now. The delay in result declaration by CBSE has literally outcast them in the race to colleges.
Where states like Kerala and Tamil Nadu had declared their results in the first week of May, CBSE is yet to declare results with tentative dates on the website.

Most of the colleges that compete to absorb high scoring students have closed down admissions for CBSE students filling the seats with state board students under all available quotas leaving one or two colleges in exception.

There is no postulated rule by the government stating that colleges should a lot a quota for CBSE students and hence it is solely under the college’s discretion to admit them.
The Tamil Nadu State Council for Higher Education has set few guidelines for college admission.
i)                To start admission process only once the original mark sheet has been issued
ii)              To give a period of 10 working days to submit the application after issuing of original mark sheet.
iii)            To complete student admissions in aided courses prior to self financing courses.
As the above norms haven’t been followed in the colleges of Tamil Nadu, CBSE students loose chance even for unaided courses.
Most admissions are done based on the printed copy of mark sheet from the internet. By then CBSE students do not get a chance to apply and they are left with a few available management quota seats for which they have to shell out a heavy price.

The desperation to fill seats of colleges by the management, not abiding by the guidelines and also not giving a chance for CBSE students to learn has made the higher educational sector a dirty playground for money. It is a scenario where monetary benefit takes a step ahead, a scenario that showcases complete discrimination against students, which will make education a rottening business than moulding future of younger generations to come. Lack of qualitative monitoring and analysis system for both result declaration and admissions across the country might soon bring about an obsession for prepossession of seta by the student community who will loose confidence in education and gain access to capitation.
This worsening condition has to be soon put under scanner by the government bringing about a systematic process for admissions in schools and colleges. Bringing policies in effect to firstly, give clarity on examinations to be undertaken, boards to be accepted, and also a quota for CBSE students. These regulations can be brought about only if the decisions are made by the centre and not leaving it to the state authorities alone. A centralized procedure for admission is to be generated which should be mandated to be followed through out the country.
Though an easy take on centralized syllabus can be put in place, it is better said than done. Bringing about same syllabus through out the country with immediate effect would prove to be a struggle for failure as students of rural areas will be largely affected considering the amenities they enjoy today. A gradual replacement process within a decade can be definitely put on place, if the rulers and police makers combat to bring an educational revolution in the country.

Friday, May 24, 2013

WILL OR BILLS


While various issues were discussed in the February session 2013 of the G-20 summit at Moscow, ‘Violence against Women’ was not left out. It was in this gathering that India was declared as the worst place for women.

Increasing rates of female foeticide, infanticide, domestic violence, sexual harassment, and other forms of gender based violence has led our country to this Hall of Shame. A place where every 25 women fall victim to crimes with at least 3 of them being raped and 12 being tortured by husbands, India her own reasons to justify such acts.

From the reports revealed by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) crime against women have escalated from 5.9%in 2006 to 7.8% during 2006-2011. The reports exhibit a steep rise in domestic violence as well showing a leap from 8.25% in 2006 to 11.41% in 2006-2011.

In 2006, the legislation passed a bill seeking “wife-beating” and “marital rape” as criminal offenses under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005. But this step seemed of little or of no help to stabilize the devasting situation.
According to a survey conducted by Students of Yale and Australian University, the cause for violence against women has been largely due to the prevailing dowry system and long term oppression of females. Though this doesn’t explain the larger picture of cruel physical assault on women just for physical pleasure. About 45% of the crimes against women are caused by cruelty by husbands and relatives. Laws quoting dowry system as a criminal practice began in 1961. 52 years later the system prevails deep rooted in the society self explaining the effective law enforcement in the country.

At this point it should be noted that it is not just the responsibility of numerous laws passed in the legislature to protect women but also that of Police department. We expect them to guard the streets and take us to protection during a mishap or violence. Safety of women on roads is a sloppy issue as far as India is concerned. Molestation, rapes, Physical assault are fear factors that exist inborn in every female in India. The protection strength in streets and public places have been thinned down to a great extend as protection of state and national VIPs seems to be of higher priority than protection of citizens itself.

The figure released by the Bureau of Police Research and Development(BPR&D) show that the number of police personnel on duty for protection of VIPs is much more than the actual sanctioned number of personnel. The country protects 14,842 VIPs with 47,557 police personnel when the actual sanctioned number is 32, 476- a 15,081 in excess. Many of the states like Bihar, UP, MP etc have a lop-sided ratio of police personnel to common people approximately at 1:1200.

The locational difference is striking for atrocities against women calling for slums to be first position followed by the rural and urban areas. This particular fact pulls us to recognize that educational background and employment among women reduces atrocities significantly. Surveys reveal that higher education among women expands fall back options for them outside home and thus lowers domestic violence. Also high levels of female earnings are vital for lowering domestic violence against women.

To draw a conclusion, personally, I would say that role of judicial, locational difference; socio-economic factor etc becomes insignificant unless the cultural aspect of dowry and protection for women changes perception in our society. 52 years after ban of dowry, it still persists as a major social issue and laws for protecting women against suppression has also been in records since 1956. Ultimately, these laws and empowerment can get into place only if the cultural mindset is changed and awareness is created in expansion of economic opportunities, higher education, asset accumulation, and above all a mutual respect is given to women.
Well, it is not only about men folk that need change of mindset, women themselves too are responsible for their own dignity and self expression to live a life of their choice.
                                                                                                       

Sunday, March 4, 2012

THE SUBWAY MAN



They held each other’s hands and walked towards Marshlane. Their hand’s weren’t strong enough to hold the other if one of them tripped or fell, still it was the strength of mutual trust they had. The temperature outside continued to drop as the day entered dusk. It was becoming pretty dark at 5.00 in the evening. The last few days of winter it was. His sensitivity towards Anne never changed. He was 67 and she was 63 but her touch was still magical and mesmerizing.
Thirty two years of marriage and they had four kids. Anne and Rizvi left uncared by their children had now learnt to support each other atleast morally if physical strength defeated them.
Rizvi  was so used to Anne’s presence beside him. She had been always there by his side. During his high profile life of a businessman, as his lady love, as a wonderful mother to himself apart from his children, as an iron pillar during his struggling days of financial loss, and even now she was there right beside him as soft as rose petals that knew only to soothe him.  
Twas an evening Rizvi thought he would dedicate to Anne. He took her for a walk to places nearby where they had met first in his mid twenties, the house they moved into as newlywed and the park she used to take her children to play.
It was getting colder and the old couple struggled their way forward now. As they neared Marshlane they found a SUBWAY outlet. Rizvi’s hands could feel only the tearing leather of his wallet and not a single metal piece struck his hand, he had no money but a small bit of paper. Both shivered in the cold. The touch again soothed him and she asked if they could go in and give a try.
The till was dropped out, bains switched off and the oven cleaned. Anne and Rizvi entered SUBWAY. It was Anne who took the initiative. She asked the man at the till if by any chance they could redeem the breakfast coupon which expired the previous month.  The man wasn’t the owner of the shop and couldn’t help but deny any kind of redeeming.  They still smiled and said “It’s okay, son”.
Prateek couldn’t  himself from stop admiring these couples standing at the till. He felt ashamed of his inability to let them redeem their outdated coupon. He saw a “in search of grief” moment in  their eyes when they exchanged glances. They held their hands again and turned to leave. Prateek stopped them before they could reach the threshold. With his charming smile he said ”how about a tea ? I need good company for my own cup of tea”. They smiled and all the three joined in for tea. Anne told Prateek in her wise and mellow tone that they were regulars to subway but unfortunately had no money that day.
Prateek bid them goodbye once they were done. He felt happy for helping them to warm themselves and for spending worthwhile time knowing worthwhile people.
The subway routine was on again. Morning times were busy. As he moved about the tables he found small cover addressed to “THE SUBWAY MAN”, a thank you note from Anne and Rizvi. He found something extra, a pound safely kept in the cover and a note that said “Thank you so much generous young man. Here we leave a pound to have one of those bottled drink on us from your store’s fridge.”
It touched his heart and kept he note carefully in his bag and punched out for a break from the store to take his drink.