05 September, 2014

Teacher's Day

I have never been any teacher's pet. Nor, have I had a favourite teacher. But, I think of Mr.PSC on every 'Teachers' Day'. I'll tell you why......

It was a wintry morning in the Bangalore of the early nineties...... For an average Bangalorean like me, it was a Herculean task to get up from the cosy confines of my bed, get ready and travel 8-10 kms. for the Soil Mechanics class at 7.30 a.m.!

On that day, to my horror, none of my classmates had made it! The teacher was missing too. Because I had met students from other classes, I knew I hadn't turned up for class on a holiday!!

Just as I was thinking of ways to spend a lonely hour, old Mr.PSC walked in.

Mr.PSC : What?! Only one student?!

Me : (Foolish smiles)  

Mr.PSC : How can I take a class for just one student? You can go to the library.

And, he turned away.... The next minute, he turned back!

Mr.PSC : Wait! You have come for the class. I'll be doing you an injustice if I don't
                take the class. Go inside.

The next hour was a pretty awkward one for me - a combination of trying to pay attention amidst prayers that no questions would be asked! Mr.PSC, however, didn't seem to mind teaching an almost empty class, because he carried on as usual.

Well, the hour ended and the years have rolled by.......

During a recent discussion on Facebook, I noticed that most of us on our high- school group page could recollect most of our teachers and some anecdotes - after more than 25 years! It reminded me of something I had read somewhere.... Everyone remembers teachers - not methods and techniques.

 As September 5th of every year is the chosen day for all of us to acknowledge their contribution to our lives.... Thanks, and best regards to all the teachers out there!  


29 June, 2014

An Unhappy God

God looks like how the artist wants him to look.......

 And, God knows when his sculptors decided to make him from bricks and cement ! Masonry, plastering, painting,...... lots of people and co-ordination involved in making these brick-and-cement sculptures, you know.

I won't call myself a fan - but, usually, I stop to stare at these sculptures. Don't ask me 'Why?', but, I like to check out their facial expressions!

 Almost always, the Gods are youthful, good-looking, and have serene/ smiling faces. Quite recently, I came across a sculpture where God looked quite unhappy and bad....... I'm sure, you'll agree with me!

Unfortunately, anything that can go wrong in a brick-and-cement sculpture seems to have gone wrong with this one!
First of all, it is quite disproportionate.  The half-moon, that one is so used to seeing on Shiva's tresses, is missing. Poor River Ganga looks more like an antler! And, look at that  anklet (on one foot only)! Way above the ankle!! The foot doesn't look okay either.....

This sculpture is one of the recent additions at the Sharada temple complex, Sringeri. How could anyone allow such horror to come up near the entrance to one of the most aesthetic places around??

17 May, 2014


During my early days as a blogger, I had written about Kuppalli. Back then, we were unaware of this place in the vicinity called ChibbalaguDDe. A recent acquaintance told us about it and we decided to check it out on our way elsewhere.

ChibbalaguDDe is marked by a Ganapathi temple with the river Tunga flowing behind. There are some reliable signposts to guide one to the place. People who cannot read Kannada can depend on the locals to guide them, I guess......

You know, all along the length of the river Tunga, you'll find special spots teeming with the Mahaseer fish and this is one such spot. It is believed that by feeding puffed rice to the Mahaseer fish here, one is cured of a skin ailment known locally as Chibbu (Tinea versicolour to doctors). That's why/ how the place got the name.....

Since the Mahaseer fish here is protected under law, one is greeted by a list of "DON'Ts" put up by the Dept. of Fisheries, Karnataka Govt.
NO - fishing, littering, smoking, boozing... Of course, there is no one to keep a check - the department trusts every visitor to be good and conscientious!!
A house at the entrance- the priest's probably- advertises the availability of puffed rice to feed the fish. The good people have filled two concrete containers with drinking water - 'For Cows Only'-painted boldly on them. They have also maintained a neat garden.

'NEAT'... Actually, that's the best word to describe this place!

The lingering fragrance and the closed doors told us that the pooja for the morning was over. I guess, like all small temples, this one's open only during pooja hours.

However, we got to see some pics and read about the idol on the walls of the veranda. The idol here is referred to as Udhbhava Moorthy. It means that it is not an idol that has been carved. A naturally-cut stone with God Ganapathi- like features was found here long ago and hence, the temple....

NO taking pics inside the temple complex..... The not-too-old temple complex is like most temple complexes in South Karnataka/ North Kerala - a central temple surrounded by an open courtyard on all sides.
These courtyards have verandas on all sides. The verandas are usually roofed and at a higher level than the courtyard. As outermost rooms of the temple complex, they have walls to the outer side, and are open to the courtyard.

 At ChibbalaguDDe, three sides of the courtyard have verandas. The courtyard behind the temple leads to the river..... about 30 to 40 feet below ..... and some very steep steps lead one to the river.

NO swimming in the river..... However, there are a couple of benches where you can sit and spend some peaceful minutes. We were warned about troops of monkeys that usually assured 'NO sitting on the benches'. Fortunately for us, not a single simian was around.....
The river bed here is quite rocky - both, upstream.......

......................................................................and, downstream.

Such rocky stretches are known to contain whirlpools. That's why, 'NO swimming'....
If you peer into the above pics, you'll see some huge shadowy creatures. Those are the Mahaseer fish. Since we believe in 'NO feeding creatures in the wild', we hadn't taken any puffed rice and the fish didn't come up to the surface. Even so, it was quite fascinating to watch them bump into one another as they swam along...... and not seeming to mind the traffic jam!

Well..... nothing else to do/ see here! It is just an ideal place to stretch your feet if you are travelling on this road (a short detour from NH 13 between Koppa & Tirthahalli).........

10 April, 2014

My Day With Tom...

This is the profile picture of the neighbourhood stray.

Actually, from the amount of time he spends in our yard, you could call him ours!

To date, he has not asked for/ stolen from our kitchen and I have never offered him food/drink. But, I have given him a name..... the most unimaginative 'TOM'.

As usual, one morning last week, I heard some neighbours yelling 'shoos' and kids hollering out exaggerated 'miaows'.......and, I knew.... Tom would now come to his safest haven - our yard! On a sudden whim, I decided to  keep track of the time he spent here.....

 I first found Tom at around 9.30 a.m- comfortably settled under the Allamanda shrubs.

Some time later, he was eating  what I call 'Animal-grass'......

You know, dogs and cats eat this particular grass when they have indigestion..... self-medication!

Since I have caught Tom eating Animal-grass quite often, I'm inclined to believe that he gets a tummy-ache regularly!

Around noon, Tom was where I expected to find him.... in the porch.

Here, he can stay away from the sun for long stretches.....and, that's exactly what he does!

A little later, at high noon, it seems to me that NOTHING can disturb Tom....

Take a look at him!

What I wouldn't give for a siesta like that!

 Alas! Tracking Tom isn't doing me any good........

Towards evening, when I water the plants, Tom's sleepy mood remains unchanged... Only, the spot and his posture has changed.

By now, I'm tempted to hose him down with a jet of water.

Even though I have never done that, Tom doesn't trust me.

He shifts from the ground and climbs on to the wall.

Hmph! Stupid cat!! If I wanted to, I could still give him a wash!!

From the expression on his mug, it seems like this is his last lap of sleep.

And, I'm right! A couple of minutes later as I take off for my daily beat, he's gone - without even thanking me for allowing him to spend the entire day undisturbed! Well..... his day has just begun!

You know, it is so sultry and hot this year that ideally, I would love to spend my days lazing about, doing nothing. And, this fat cat is doing exactly that - right under my nose!!

I think, I'm jealous........................

21 March, 2014

Live... and let live

 Conducting a research on lizards?        
 Short on them??
 Feel free to drop into my office-cum-study. At any point of time, you'll find at least one on the  wall.

 Right now, a little one is playing 'catch-me-if-you-can' with an adult!

Actually, the word 'lizard' sounds so unemotional and scientific. I prefer the Hindi chipkali... it sounds slimy and creepy - and, suits the creature better!

 Not that I haven't tried to chase the chipkalis away....I have tried every kind of repellant - from the commercially available stuff to placing peacock feathers at vantage points... and failed.

Now, my teenager tells me that her friend has a surefire solution - to write Kaanchi Maharaja all over the walls - mind you, it should be written in Kannada with chalk!

After having a good laugh (alone) at this one, I began to wonder..................................................

Maybe, lizards find it hard to move over chalk-dust?
If so, writing 'Stupid Chipkali' should work just as well as ಕಾಂಚಿ ಮಹಾರಾಜ!  Or, perhaps some artistic chalk-doodle all over the wall!

Well! I will not write on the walls, and, I see a major drawback with the last one - within a few days, the art will disintegrate and you-know-who will have the unpleasant task of cleaning the walls/ re-doing the art-work!

Some years ago, I had read an article by Maneka Gandhi... about why one should be nice to the chipkalis... They keep the house free from cockroaches, spiders and other keeday-makoday by eating them and are thus good for the general well-being of the human home.

 Since she is right, I have adopted her attitude. It is an attitude that we  'old - B'loreans' can sum up without beating round the bush....  'Swalpa adjust maadi' !!

15 February, 2014

Chillies, courtesy N

Some months ago, I had introduced you to N.

Well... N is someone I run into quite often. Every time, our interaction is restricted to smiles - a benign one from my side, and a shy one from his.

This morning, N's dad dropped in and gave me these chillies - sent by N from the patch that he has been cultivating near his home. I was quite touched, and glad!

There are exactly eight chillies.... enough for more than a week! And, anyone who has used chillies can tell - these are 'export-quality'!

I must confess here.... even though I have been managing a couple of chilli plants in our kitchen garden, I end up harvesting what remains after the crows and the bulbuls have had their party.

I guess, N has whatever it takes to make a good farmer.

Maybe, I should encourage him by giving him some of the vegetable seeds that I have .................... and, then, hope and pray that he gives me some of the results!!

08 February, 2014


This book gave me my first nightmare in recent memory! And, no.... I'm not referring to the 933 pages!!

So much has already been written about Shantaram - 'powerful', 'original', 'vivid', 'compassionate', 'impressive', 'publishing phenomenon', 'extraordinarily vivid', 'gigantic, jaw-dropping, grittily authentic saga', ..... the book is all of these!

Many people out there feel that it is one of the better books written about Bombay - the city. Maybe, it is. In fact, people who are familiar with the Bombay of the '80s will be able to tell the facts from the fiction. They'll, perhaps, recognise some of the people in the book.....

Shantaram was meant to be my 'monsoon-book'. But, I started reading it sometime in December. After the first 200 pages or so, things became a little hectic and I picked up the book again last week....and, read a major portion on a very lonely day.

In the book, the author talks about acting as an extra in a few Hindi movies. He mentions one movie and his two second role in particular - a movie called Paanch Paapi. I took a break from reading and checked out the song sequence on you Tube. There!  Between 1.37 & 1.40.... that's the author.... a real chor, sitting with fake chors & comfortably nodding to the lyrics 'gora chor' !!!

I lost interest in the song after '1.40'. From the list of 'suggested views', I chose the interview with the author uploaded by CNN Asia sometime in 2009!

A well made interview, I watched all the 4 parts at one go - because the author revisits some of the places in the book. You know, throughout the book and in the interview, Gregory David Roberts, the author, talks about a clinic he used to run in the slum where he lived ..... something that is contradicted here.

 I had read most of the book, related articles, and, watched the videos on that single day. At around 3 a.m, I woke up - just as 'gora chor' was gaining on me with a fearsome expression on his face... wielding knives in a fist-like grip, edges pointed towards me (That's the best way to hold a knife if you are fighting someone - Shantaram gyaan).......................................................................... An overdose of the book and the author?? Powerful story-telling?? A bit of both, I guess!!

Apart from this nightmare, the book has given me/ continues to give me some creepy thoughts - mostly about foreigners lingering around in India (No offence meant here... just that all of them in this book are involved in criminal activities of varying degrees), and our own cops (for looking away and allowing so much to happen.... extremely offended here).

Otherwise, Shantaram, for me, is the exceptional story of a survivor, the re-birth of a fallen individual.

P.S : Since Bombay has given so much to the author, he spends a considerable part of his year there - giving back something to the city that gave him everything...... For more on that, you can go to his official website here.


07 December, 2013

Tender Coconut Dosa

Last month, as Alter Idem turned four, I realised that so far, I have not written anything about cooking. Maybe, I should count this one as a post with some cooking....

Actually, cooking is such an inexhaustible topic that I know what I'll do. Whenever I feel like writing a post, and can't think of something interesting, I'll share an indigenous recipe......

 I'll begin with my all-time favourite dosa - the Tender Coconut Dosa.

To serve about 2-3 people, you will need 3 cups
of rice - washed and soaked for a couple of hours; 2 1/2 to 3 cups of tender coconut pieces - the kind that's too raw to be used in dishes and too fleshy to be eaten as it is; salt to taste.

Grind all the ingredients to a fine batter. Add enough water to arrive at a paint-like consistency.   
This batter shouldn't be allowed to ferment.
In fact, the left-over batter should be immediately refridgerated. 

Spread the batter evenly on a warm griddle. Cover with a lid. After a minute on medium flame, remove the lid, turn over & cook for another minute. Before turning over, you can add a little ghee - for the extra flavour and taste!

That's all! Quite a simple one, right?! The only difficulty is in procuring the coconut that's just right!

You know, when this dosa is being made, there's a heavenly aroma around. If you could stimulate virtual smell, by now you'd be feeling very hungry!

Tender Coconut dosa tastes good with chutney/ sambaar/ jam/ honey/ chutney-powder/... anything. One popular accompaniment is what a foodie friend of mine refers to as Jag-Coco mix. I think, I'll call it Coco-Jag mix!

Coco-Jag mix , like the name suggests is a mixture of grated coconut & scraped jaggery. Adjust the proportions to suit your taste.
Since we don't like it very sweet here, I mix about 1/2 a cup of grated coconut with a little more than 1/4 cup of scraped jaggery. And, a dash of powdered cardamom - for extra flavour.

My mother was a huge fan of Coco-Jag mix. She would mix in some thin poha (beaten rice) with left-over Coco-Jag mix and relish it as a snack between meals.

Instead of tender coconut, you can grind any finely chopped vegetable like carrot/ ridge gourd/ bottle gourd/ raw or ripe banana/ raw or ripe jackfruit/ chayote/ salad or sambaar cucumber/ ash gourd,.... with rice and salt and make dosas. It is one of the easiest ways to introduce your children to vegetables. Consider the water content in the vegetable while adding water to make the batter.

There! I had intended to share one recipe and have ended up sharing four!!

 Like I said before... cooking is an inexhaustible topic!!

13 November, 2013


Yes!! Alter idem is four today!

As usual, to celebrate, I'll share a short story. You know, normally, I share the first story that comes to my mind as I begin to write the 'anniversary-post'. This time, I decided to rack my brains to remember something unusual and less known.......

 After some serious thinking, one of my favourite writers, Oscar Wilde, came to my rescue!  I had read this story about 5 years ago in an anthology of short stories written in the 19th century. Since I have forgotten the names of the characters, I'll call them X, Y & Z ('Maths-style'!).

X, an idle aristocrat is snacking in one of Paris' street cafes when his friend Y joins him - with the complaint that he does not understand women. The sagely X tells Y that women are meant to be loved and not understood, and offers to solve Y's 'love - problem'....
 At this, Y shows X a picture of Z and asks for his opinion. The expert that he is, X concludes that there is something mysterious about the beautiful Z.......
And, Y tells the story.... 

One day, while walking down a fashionable street, Y sees an interesting face and is smitten by her.

Now, if you have read stories/ articles written about the Victorian era, you will be aware that the aristocrats of that era led an idle life revolving around fashion, parties, plays, socialising and romance. At one such party, Y meets Z and learns that she is a widow. Over the next couple of days, Y runs into Z at a few more parties. Even though Z does not seem averse to Y's attentions, she keeps him at a distance. This makes Y more and more curious and he ends up falling deeply in love with Z.

One evening, Y is scheduled to meet Z at her house. The same noon, after lunching with a friend in another part of the town, Y sees Z - moving about quite furtively. Since Z hasn't seen him, Y decides to snoop on her. Z enters a house and locks the door behind her... but, not before dropping her handkerchief.

In the evening, Z receives Y and tells him that she has been indoors all day. This lie upsets Mr.Lover-boy who has dropped in with the intention of proposing to Z. He exposes her lie, gives her a piece of his mind and storms out of the house and out of the town for a few days. On returning, Y learns that during his absence, Z had died of some illness.

Y is shattered and out of sheer curiosity, goes to the house that he saw Z go into. The house turns out to be a sort of boarding house. From the land-lady, Y learns that Z would often drop in and spend some lonely hours there - meeting no one and doing absolutely nothing........

After giving him this background, Y asks X to come up with an explanation for Z's strange ways.
X is quick -  maybe, he understood women!! He concludes that the lonely Z had some kind of a mental illness -  pretending to be a secretive person leading a mysterious life. He sums her up as a sphinx without a secret..... which, is also the title of the story...

 Unlike other stories by Oscar Wilde, this is a story that seems open-ended. It leaves you wondering if Z had a secret... Had she seen Y and dropped that hanky on purpose? Was she fond of Y as well? If she hadn't died??

 'Sphinx' is a term used to describe a secretive person.
In Greek mythology, sphinx is a monster with the body of a lion & the head and torso of a woman. This monster poses unanswerable questions to young men and eats them up when they fail to answer. Finally, when one young man answers, she kills herself....

Now, doesn't this story seem like an inspired version of that mythological tale??  

 You know, after writing this post, I thought of Oscar Wilde and decided to check if the net had a collection of his witticisms..... no disappointment there, of course!

To my surprise, I also discovered that this story can be read online - here.

  And, I thought I was sharing a story that was hard to come by!!!