Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The smells of Bombay

Ok, so the humidity has finally reduced and the breeze has a hint of cool in it. Along with that hint of cool, the breeze has brought back that old familiar seaside stench and competing with it, is the stench from the nallahs.

So which is worse--sticky humidity or rotten egg smells. No contest, I’d take the humidity any day.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Himalayan Dhaba

After absolutely ages, I read a bad book. An incredibly horrendously written story that takes you nowhere, teaches you nothing and leaves you wondering why you didn't give up halfway.

I am most disappointed with this book because of its setting. It is set in a little charas infected village above Manali. I love books about the mountains of Himachal, I collect them quite seriously, and this one is such a waste of a name.

Himalayan Dhaba is written by a doctor named Craig Joseph Danner who worked at a primitive hospital nearby in the early 1990's. It showcases all the negative issues of the region, the hippies, the haphazard construction of ‘hotels’ due to the tourist boom, the freely available drugs and of course dreadlocked sadhus. What book on India written by a foreigner would be complete without them?

Best to stay away.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

one word

I have to confess, I have a new addiction! Its this site called one word, where you get one word on which you have 60 seconds to write whatever pops into your head. Its a great way to disengage and write without being too conscious or correct. Everyday a new word is posted, so it does no good to go back the same day.

My last craze was sudoku's but I have to admit, I think I just did too many of them, and am quite sudoku'd out now.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

My art of the deal!

What is it about getting a good deal that gives one extraordinary joy? I find I am addicted to finding a good bargain. The joy of the bargain can sometimes even surpass the product acquired. Simple pleasures are what life is about and this is definitely one of mine.

I find that, besides buying an interesting item, it should have an interesting past to it, enhancing its flavor. Like the desk I found at an estate sale in Bristol priced at $120 and then managed to get it free, if only I could transport it home myself, and beat any other interested parties in the meantime. I did manage to bring it home, after having removed the front door to squeeze it inside and have loved it even more for all the effort involved.

My latest bargains are a set of three handmade ceramic platters and a vase that cost me a total of only Rs 315--an incredibly small amount. I made the purchase 2 days ago but still give myself a pat on the back each time I see them displayed on the dining table…. I just can’t get myself to put them away so soon!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

So true, and sometimes so easily evasive.

"Happiness is…equilibrium. Shift your weight."
— Tom Stoppard, The Real Thing

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

A little history on Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin:

Quite possibly the most famous french epicure and gastromone of all, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (April 1, 1755-1826) was born to a family of lawyers in whom eloquence flowed. He studied law, chemistry and medicine and thereafter practiced law in his hometown. His second surname was adopted by him upon the death of an aunt named Savarin who left him her entire fortune conditioned upon his adoption of her name.

During the French Revolution, there was a bounty on his head and he sought political asylum through exile, at first in Switzerland. He later moved to Holland, and then to the newly-born United States, where he stayed for three years in Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Hartford, living on the proceeds of giving French and violin lessons.

He returned to France under the Directorate in 1797 and acquired the magistrate post he would then hold for the rest of his life, as a judge of the court of cassation. He published several works on law and political economy. He remained a bachelor, but not a stranger to love, which he counted the sixth sense.

His famous work, Physiologie du goût (The Physiology of Taste), was published in December 1825, two months before his death. The full title is Physiologie du Goût, ou Méditations de Gastronomie Transcendante; ouvrage théorique, historique et à l'ordre du jour, dédié aux Gastronomes parisiens, par un Professeur, membre de plusieurs sociétés littéraires et savantes ( "The physiology of taste, or, transcendental gastronomy; a theoretical, historical and topical work, dedicated to the gastronomes of Paris by a professor, member of several literary and scholarly societies").

Brillat-Savarin cheese is named in his honor.


Friday, August 19, 2005

The Power of Good Food!

"The discovery of a new dish does more for the happiness of the human race than the discovery of a star."
— Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
From Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Wishful thinking

As we begun our descent into Bombay, I saw a familiar sight of bright blue rectangles on the ground amidst the houses. They immediately reminded me of the numerous swimming pools that people have in the States. Private swimming pools are very common there; one sees them over almost all cities, especially in the suburbs. I was always amazed at just how many people have pools in their back yards.

Here in India it is a rare sight. What I was seeing were not swimming pools but plastic sheets covering rooftops. There are acres and acres of shanty-like houses with plastic sheeting as protection from the rain as one approaches the airport. It is a sad view one sees of Bombay, the financial capital of India and supposedly the most progressive and developed city in the country.

I wonder when, if ever, this view will change.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Delhi driving

Ah, to drive on the roads in Delhi...........its like gliding, like floating on air! Each time I visit the city, there seems to be some impovement and addition to the roads, the restaurants, lifestyle stores and garden centres. Its great to see a city revitalize itself and get moving to improving things. The contrast to the apathy in Bombay increases with every visit.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

My Flat World moment

Just finished reading Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat. Its an absolutely incredible book that demystefies all the confusion about the flat world and all its nitty-gritty forms that affect us in our daily lives.

By now, probably each of us has had a time when it affected us personally. For me it was when we lived in Bristol, RI and had AOL as our internet service provider. The billing and technical departments of AOL were in Hyderabad and each time I called, I got to speak to an Indian voice with an American name. Hesitatingly, the voice used to ask if I was Indian and tell me that they were based in India and how good things were for them to work for a US company but still be based at home.

Being in the US, one usually got to hear only the negative side of outsourcing but Friedman's book talks about the benefits that this business has created in the US economy. Yes, outsourcing has benefited the US economy but its so much more sensational to write about lost jobs and factory closings than new positions. Besides, closings happened in large numbers at a go while openings were taking place at a slower but steady rate.

Fear has been an important factor that the US government has used since 9/11. As Friedman says, rather than erecting walls to keep others out, we need to build on America's strengths and renew and revitalize the American dream. New ideas and new technologies will always provide jobs just as long as you are able to constantly upgrade your skills. Just by being born in America does not guarantee a job anymore. Its back to Darwin and the survival of the fittest.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


"If we take care of the moments, the years will take care of themselves."
- Maria Edgeworth

"Regret for wasted time is more wasted time."
- Mason Cooley

Friday, August 05, 2005

Tales of Courage

Tales of Courage, Resilience, Generosity and Kindness abound. The city is teeming with War Stories of all kinds, of battling with water, of surviving without electricity and fresh water for over 72 hours, of endlessly long walks home in the dark struggling through the water, but the most heart warming story of all, is the reconnection of a city with itself. Communities are coming together to aid others and in the process, strengthening bonds, that exist but have been so far ignored, within themselves.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Out of clutter, find simplicity.
From discord, find harmony.
In the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity.
---Albert Einstein

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Rained Out Mumbai

The romance of the rains has given way to despair. Prosperity traditionally brought by the rains has turned to devastation. Hope, joy and optimism that the rains bring have become frustration and disbelief.

The questions on everyone’s mind are: How much longer will this chaos last? How much damage to life and property will be caused? How will we recover from this? And the most important of all, how will we learn from this, so it is not repeated?

The news channels and newspapers are full stories of the indomitable spirit of the Mumbai-kar. There are a slew of incredible stories; of auto wallah’s escorting their passengers home even after deserting their vehicles and wading in waist deep waters, of people taking in scores of stranded travelers into their homes for a meal and a quick respite, of strangers lending mobile phones to anybody and everybody, of youngsters feeding stranded motorists.

These stories are selfless and inspiring but now we need to go beyond them. We need to know if the city is going to be ready next time this happens. We need to be proactive rather than reactive.