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!!!


25 September, 2013


We have not yet seen the end of the monsoon here. Even though it has been raining everyday, there is some sunshine between showers. After a break of nearly four months, it is time for me to get back to gardening.

Every year, after the heavy rains, the garden looks haggard and unkempt because of the lack of attention. With every passing year, it has been getting more and more difficult to find someone to pull out the weeds and do the other menial tasks. This year, as I was mulling over some  probable candidates, I thought of N.

Though he looks to be about 15, N is 18 years old. I know that because about 2-3 years ago, I saw his date of birth on his marks card. Class 10 results were out and N was refusing to go to school to check his results. Someone told his dad that these days, one could check them online and he came to me with the register number, requesting me to check N's 'pass-fail'.

Of course, I wasn't expecting great marks, but I didn't think N would be this bad! It was one of the toughest moments of my life.... to look at N's dad's face and tell him that his son had scored 61 out of 625 in Class 10. Well.... after that N refused to have anything to do with studies. He started working as an odd-job man, thus adding Rs.250/ day to his family's income.

 N  came here on a day when I couldn't afford to hover around as he was working. After giving him very detailed instructions, I could only hope that he would follow them correctly.

 One of the customs in this town is to provide mid-morning and evening tea to people who work for you. As I gave him his tea, I checked out on how N was progressing. To my relief, he was doing quite well.  Suddenly, I realised the logic behind one of the govt.'s educational policies that I don't quite agree with.....................................

In Karnataka, all students in all govt. schools are promoted from Class 1 until they reach Class 10, irrespective of their performances in examinations. The freebies (uniforms, books, meals, and, a bicycle during the mid-term of Class 9) along with the absence of  the pressure to pass guarantees that almost every child goes to school  till he/ she turns 14 - the legal age for children to start  working.
Since the intention/ end result of all these incentives seems to be the eradication of child labour, I guess, I will have to accept the 'pass everyone'  policy. If only there was some other way to stop child labour.....

Since N lives nearby, he cycled down to his duties here. I got my first close look at the 'free cycle'.

Initially, bicycles were given only to girls from BPL families. Soon after, all the boys & girls studying in govt. schools were included in the scheme. This basic model from 'Atlas Cycles' has been the favoured model thro' the years.

The present govt. is continuing this scheme, with some changes. Boys will be given blue-coloured bicycles and girls, brown. Schools will soon stock air-pumps and some bicycle spare parts. And, of course, some crores have already been set aside.

Now, if you do some arithmetic, you will realise that there is a large difference between the estimated cost and the actual cost involved. More arithmetic including other states with such schemes will make you wonder if our economy will ever look up....  As it is, the govt. is cheating the tax-payer by churning out large numbers of knowledge-challenged children from its schools year after year. Do they have to over-charge us for the bicycles? I can only imagine the irregularities involved with the costs of uniforms, books, etc....

 Anyway...... I was quite happy with N's work. He had followed my instructions perfectly. Unfortunately, this feeling of contentment was not mutual. Nothing to do with me or the job, of course! Apparently, some of N's ex-classmates - on their way to college- saw him at work (Wonder what happened to their bicycles!). The boys jeered and the girls giggled, upsetting him thoroughly.

N has now decided not to take up such 'demeaning jobs'. He has already petitioned his dad for an auto-rickshaw. You don't have to pass Class 10 to get a license to drive an auto-rickshaw. So, all I can do until next year is hope that the boy changes his mind/ attitude.....

05 September, 2013

Views from Kundadri

One summer afternoon, we were returning home via the Tirthahalli- Agumbe road. Suddenly, we saw a signpost that said 'Kundadri - 7 kms'. Wonder how we had missed it during our previous journeys on this road!  Kundadri was one of the local places on our 'must-see-sometime' list. And, we decided to check it out this time.

Kundadri is a small mountain belonging to the Western Ghats range. Until a few years ago, trekking was the only way to reach the top. In order to make the Basadi (Jain temple) at the top  accessible to all, a businessman from Mumbai spent a few crores to build a narrow, motorable road. One still has to cover the last few metres  on foot.

See the 'Welcome' arch somewhere near the centre of this pic? That is how the diversion from the main road looks like from the top!

Since the sun was shining down brightly upon us, we decided to bide some time at the empty, shady parking zone. The others divided the newspaper and I reclined the seat to have a comfortable cat-nap.
I must have been in this blissful state of semi-sleep for about ten minutes when we were joined by about eight young men on 4-5 mo-bikes. After noting the local registration number on our vehicle, they gave us a once-over and made their way to the top. Obviously, they were regulars here...

Suddenly, another vehicle came up. As the occupants- 2 boys & 2 girls - got off the car, two laggards from the earlier group stopped to investigate. To me, they looked like  students from not-so-far Manipal. In fact, if betting was in fashion, I would put all my money behind my guess!!

Laggard 1: Lo! Ningyaavdo? (Hey! Which one will you have?)

Laggard 2 : Ibroo chennaagilla, maaraaya... (Both aren't good enough, man...)

The scoundrels, both of whom wouldn't have made it to the qualifying round of any beauty contest, carried on in this fashion for a couple of minutes. When their jibes drew absolutely no reactions, they went away - to join their friends.
Just wondering.... what would have happened if there was an altercation? We would have been forced to intervene? How does one handle unruly behaviour like this one??

Even though we were not involved, this incident had dispirited us. We needed a change of scene and we decided to go to the peak. The Manipal-set followed us and stayed a few metres behind us - probably, they felt safer....

After climbing about 70-80 steps, we were there! At the entrance, there is this beautiful pond - named 'Malathi'. You know, the water must have been quite warm... wonder how the fish manage!
 There is a parapet around this pond. But, I'm sure, some people will jump over the parapet - to get a good pic/ to partake this water as holy water,...
Let me tell you a folklore about this pond. Take it with a BIG pinch of salt, okay?
If you throw a lemon into this pond, it is supposed to re-surface at some other water body in the plains - many miles away (Sorry for forgetting the name of this second water-body)!

Right next to this pond, there is a small temple. No frills and fancies - only a cool, dark room with an idol of a Digambara monk. The lone priest, who treks everyday from the foothills, tells us that about 250-300 years ago, a wandering monk- Kundakacharya- decided to spend his last days here. The locals built this temple in his memory and named the hill after him. The talkative priest tells us a little about the management and the activities associated with the temple.

 After the customary aarati by the priest, we spent some time, drinking in the lingering fragrance of flowers & incense. The priest told us that we could take pics if we wanted to. One of the Manipal boys took a lot of pics and we decided to explore the surroundings....

From the other side of the temple, you can have a panoramic view of the landscape. It would be dangerous to get too close to the steep edge.
Once again I think of  people who will take the risks to get good pics - unmindful of the fact that a mishap could spoil the trip for everybody...

 A ramshackle building blocks the approach and the view from behind the temple.
In front of the temple, the mountain descends as a not-so-steep, rocky slope with patches of green puddles here and there....

After lounging about for a few minutes, we decided to leave. The Manipal group had left much before us. The bikers had vanished. There must be some niche out there that can be used as a hang-out.

You know, this visit to Kundadri was an eye-opener of sorts. Quite alarmingly, we realised the total lack of security in places like this. According to newspaper reports, these days Malnad's popular nooks and peaks have been encroached by vandalisers.  If the concerned govt. departments have failed to provide security, well... we should look after ourselves.

To all you people going to such places - Take care...

21 August, 2013

Chasing a bird....

Birds do not have ears .... but, I'm sure, they could hear each other.... the mother, and the baby-sunbird.... Let me explain....

Today, for the first time, I had to chase a bird from inside our home! I was cooking lunch and had to take a call at my home-office. On returning, I saw a tiny, panicky female sun-bird fluttering about in great confusion! It seemed like this little one had just learned how to fly... and, had somehow managed to give her mother the slip!
It was quite disturbing to watch the confusion.... the cheeping bird inside and the cheeping bird outside. If only I could speak the bird language.....

I was quite sure that the bird would be smart enough to catch wind movements, and opened all the windows. I was wrong!!

Tired, after about twenty minutes of non-stop flying, she began to take tiny breaks on accessible (to me) ledges. That was when I decided to capture and release her....

You know, there is this plastic container in the kitchen that is a relic from my husband's bachelor days.

Within a couple of minutes, she was safely inside that container, and I released her near the Allamanda shrub - a favourite hangout of the sunbirds.

This incident took me back to the days when I would read out bed-time stories to my child. One of her favourite stories back then was about this naughty baby-squirrel. One morning, he takes off on his own, loses his way and has a lot of adventures before finally getting back to his mother - wiser, tired and glad to be home.

Here's hoping that this little birdie has found her mother and all is well!

10 August, 2013

GOvina HaaDu (Song Of The Cow)

For ages and ages, all students of Kannada have had to mug up the Govina HaaDu in primary/ high school. For kids of my generation, it was no big deal. Because, this folk song was set to music in an award-winning Kannada film called Tabbaliyu neenaade magane (You are now an orphan,my son). The song was very popular and was played regularly on our main source of entertainment - the radio.

For those of you who are ignorant, here's the Govina HaaDu. 
The movie opens with this song. Some villagers are staging a dance-drama and if you watch carefully, you'll catch Naseeruddin Shah (in the role of a Hindu priest).... among the audience.

A nice song, isn't it? The song tells us the story of a cow called PunyakoTi. One day, while grazing in the forest, a tiger confronts PunyakoTi and threatens to eat her up. The cow pleads for some time - to go home and bid farewell to her loved ones. Half-heartedly, the tiger grants her leave. When PunyakoTi comes back as promised, the tiger feels that he cannot kill a creature with so much honesty and integrity. Immensely ashamed of his own suspicious attitude, the tiger jumps to his death.

  If you thought that the poem was about the cow's virtues, check again! The tiger is also portrayed as a compassionate and conscientious creature. The simple, straight-forward message is that one should follow the path of righteousness......

Somewhere along, someone brought in beef-eating issues. Apparently, the song in the text books these days keeps the tiger alive - making a promise to PunyakoTi that he'll never eat cows.

Someone else is now about to delete this and make the song lengthier by a good two stanzas. In this proposed version, the tiger stays alive & lets PunyakoTi off. But, before that, the tiger gives her a speech about his food habits (that includes cows), hunting ways and tells her about another tiger in another era that was killed in deceit...... Phew!!

If I had to change the lyrics, I would go back to the original one...the one that we had to mug up.

Actually, with so many other issues around, changing lyrics of folk songs should not even be there on our list of things to change......

29 July, 2013

Rain, rain go away

Traditionally, the rain that is counted as the first rain of the monsoon is the one that falls on the day of the Aardra Nakshatra. The nature of the rainfall during the span of the following couple of days serves as an indicator for the monsoon pattern.

Very good rains during this period = heavy monsoon.... like the one this year. Of course, such rain-spells have no regard for man-made stuff like roads/ plantations!

Well... we have not seen a clear, blue sky for more than two and a half months now.  'Pitter-patter  is the non-stop music/ cacophony that is being played. Everything is cold, wet and musty.
 In short, I'm sick and tired of rains...

Every time I begin to feel this way, I remind myself about some of the things I like during monsoon- things from my immediate surroundings that cheer me up and see me through these dull, drab days...... moments that happen only during the monsoon.

Let me share a few of them with you....

  I'll begin with something that I don't enjoy at other times!
You know, there is a jolly fire at my neighbour's, every morning - I can smell it from my office-cum-study. But, the beauty of the thick smoke from behind a curtain of falling rain! Something that I cannot explain....


  This landscape is part of my daily beat. It has different moods during different seasons. Though I like it at all times, I love it when the fields are young and newly planted....

 The early rains wake the lilies up. Alas! The heavy rains take them away.....Too much water is bad for the flowering plants and the flowers.

But, the heavy rains cannot do anything to these bright caladiums.. Lying underground for more than six months, the caladiums spring up from their beauty sleep at the start of the rains and linger around till the beginning of summer - adding the much required colour to our surroundings.

 The Colocasia leaf is an edible cousin of the caladium. This wild variety that grows as a parasite on trees vanishes with the rains.  Mix these leaves with a batter of rice and other ingredients and steam-cook.... the result is a dish called patrodE - a family favourite.....


Dahlias! Only a few flowers like the dahlias manage to look good when exposed to long, heavy showers. Come October, and they quietly go underground...

Well! I should be stopping now... or else, I'll end up hoping that the rains continue!! 

15 June, 2013

Bachelors' buttons

You know, someone out there comes up with interesting names for common flowers. Names like 'Red-hot Cat's Tail', 'Queen's tears', 'Flaming Katy', 'Bleeding Heart',........

Most of you would have come across this flower. It is a very common border plant. But, did you know? It's called 'Bachelor's Button'!!

Apparently, young men (in the west, of course!) wore these flowers on their shirts. If the flower faded quickly, it meant that the man's love was not returned.

Very clever! Because, this flower does not fade quickly!!

Think of THE woman... wear the flower... if it doesn't fade, approach her and confess.... is this how this is supposed to work??

Well... I'm unable to come up with any other logical explanation!!
All along, I was under the impression that only giddy-headed young girls indulged in flowers & 'he-loves me, loves-me-not' sort of stuff!

This flower here, is called 'Brazilian Bachelor's Button'. Off the plant, this flower fades quickly. Otherwise, it stays for a few days. The Brazilian man is not very patient, I guess!

This plant is very hardy and such a weed here that I have a tough time controlling it from spreading!! No dearth of love from Mother Earth for all the Brazilian bachelors here!!

Just check out their scientific names - the first flower here is known as Gomphrena globosa and the second one, Centratherum punctatum - both, so 'un-pronouncable' & 'un-rememberable' !

 Speaking for myself, I prefer to remember flowers by their simpler names - especially, names that have cute little anecdotes behind them....

PS: There is no flower called  'Indian Bachelor's Button' !

01 June, 2013

Pet thoughts

During my school days, for a brief period, we had a dog and a cat - a pup & a kitten, actually!

Bumpy, the dog, treated the whole world like his long-lost buddy. That's why, he was given away to the very first person who asked if she could have him!
Chinky, the cat, had to be put to sleep thanks to some incurable illness.
After that, we had neither the time nor the inclination for pets.....

A couple of months ago, I had been toying with the idea of adopting a pet to keep me company -- not any more.

 It is so important to make a unanimous decision about the choice of the animal because all of us have to live peacefully in the same house!! And, our problem was precisely that! The choice of the animal!!

Dogs---NO! With dogs, we (my husband & the rest of us) have exactly opposite attitudes. My husband thinks that dogs should NEVER be allowed inside the house and should be tied up most of the time, preferably in some far-out corner. The rest of us feel that a pet should be able to roam freely in and out of the house - at will!

Cats---NO! All of us are not too fond of cats. As it is, our yard is teeming with stray cats and the thought that our pet could join them in harassing the neighbourhood is UNACCEPTABLE!

Rabbits, cows, etc. --- NO! Too much cleaning involved.

Caged birds--- NO WAY!

That completed our list of adoptable animals. Wonder why, 'fish' had not crossed our minds.  It was when I was passing by the new pet-shop nearby, that I had an impulsive thought! Why not, fish?!

 As long as I cleaned the bowl & fed the fish, everyone was okay with fish.

Here they are! The one on the right, with horn-like protrusions is Binkle. The other one is Flip.

It was fun to say 'hello' whenever we passed by the fish-bowl.... so good to watch them as they swam about.

 I had never thought of fish as communicative creatures. But, you know, they respond very well to human presence. Every time we passed by  them, they would come to the surface, opening & closing their mouths, anticipating food. But, they had come with some precise instructions - 'Only 2 grains of fish-food, madam...twice a day. Otherwise, they'll die of over-eating.'

Strangely, they seemed to know when it was 'food time'. They would come to the surface shaking their tail fins vigorously. Once fed, the vigorous shake would change to an elegant swish.

 Well... good things come to an end abruptly. Some 12-13 days into his life here, Binkle suddenly stopped eating. On day 15, I found him floating when I returned from my evening walk. The only thing I could do was to give him a decent funeral. Without much delay and fanfare, I buried him under the coconut tree.


Flip didn't seem lonely/ bothered/ sad. He carried on as usual. However, one evening, 2 months later, Flip was not as lively as usual.

My worst fears were confirmed the next morning. I found him floating... and repeated the burial act...this time, under the other coconut tree.

I know, everyone who has kept fish has had to deal with dead fish. I'm sure, nobody likes the sight of floating fish. I have also realised that I thoroughly dislike the task of burying dead creatures. And so, now, I'll have to say,

 Fish--- NO!

I'm so sure of this 'NO' that I have converted the fish bowl into a terrarium.


 I think, plants suit me (and all of us) the best .....

03 May, 2013

A Neutral View

I'm unable to recollect when/ where I saw a hijra (transgender) for the first time. But, I do remember one incident that left me terrified of them for a long time.

Sometime in my late-teens.... I had almost reached IB's (Iyengar's Bakery) for a quick snack. A hijra was harassing the maama @ IB's for money. Simultaneously, she was also chasing the customers away by making obscene gestures.......

Another time, I was on a train journey. Somewhere near N.K'taka, a group of hijras had entered the compartment and had harassed the men - quite successfully. Looking back, where was our guard? In cahoots with the hijras? Probably.....

To date, these two incidents remain my only real-life experiences with the hijras. The sole local transgender keeps to himself - when he is in town, i.e....
 In our films, of course, they are always portrayed in a crass manner - even when they are supposed to be blessing people during auspicious occasions.

I have often wondered why our movies love to misrepresent facts. In most movies, a typical farm-girl is dressed quite skimpily. In real life, it is the other way round! A farm-girl takes good care of her skin & hair and is always fully covered from head to toe when she is slogging outdoors.....

Coming back.....

One afternoon last year, I was lunching alone. I dislike dining alone, and when I have to, I turn to IB (Idiot Box) for company. While surfing channels, I chanced upon a documentary on NGC about hijras. Soon, I realised that the film featured hijras from B'lore (my hometown) and decided to watch it.

The highlight of the film was the annual festival celebrated by the hijras at Koovagam.  But, it gave me my first real peek into their lives. The film removed some of my prejudices, and, my fear was replaced by sympathy towards the hijras.

Some months after the movie, I came across this book - "The Truth About Me" - an autobiography by a hijra called A.Revathi .... the first of its kind.

I recognised the author (the person on the cover) as one of the hijras featured in the documentary and was interested.

Revathi's life begins as a boy in a normal middle class home. By the time the boy is a teenager, he realises that he has strong feminine feelings within him. The rest of the book is about how he joins the community of hijras, learns their rules, lives by the rules, and, sometimes, breaks the rules.
Revathi takes us through many of her traumatic, very personal experiences. Each experience makes her a stronger person, and as we take leave of her in the book, she is working for an NGO that caters to sexual minorities.

The book tends to be a little repetitive at times, but, I appreciate Revathi for coming out with her story and wish her well.

You know, the hijras have very rigid hierarchical rules within their community. It is taboo to break those rules. Many among them dislike their traditional professions - begging/ harassing/ prostitution..... and desire to come out of the stereotype. But, once they come out of it, it is very difficult to go back the group. It is a neither-here-nor-there situation if the regular society does not give such change-seekers a chance.

 Once in a while, one comes across news items where hijras have contested and won elections, passed post-graduate exams, etc. and one wishes that more of them are inspired. They will be inspired, I guess, if most of us drop our prejudices against them.

One of the most talked about issues when the Aadhaar Card registration forms came out was that the 'gender' column had three options - 'Male/ Female/ Transgender'. At last, the hijras are being counted -  and I think, that's one step closer to being accepted.....


30 April, 2013

Ready-to-eat chapatis

There was a time, not so long ago, when chapatis in South Indian homes was considered special. Not anymore - chapatis are now a part of everyday diet in a lot of South Indian homes. And, one of the 'Southies' has even ventured out into mechanised chapathi- making!

Mr.E.B.Bhat, also known as Baala maama, has been in the food industry for 20-25 years now. By sheer diligence and hard work, he has expanded his range of products from milk bread to different types of bread, buns, cakes & biscuits. Also, other stuff like puffs, cutlets, samosas & pizza bases.

Recently, Baala maama invited us to check out his new, mechanised chapati-making unit - an invitation that we readily accepted.
On entering the industrial estate at Kamakshipalya, B'lore, our noses led us in the right direction :) - to 'Polykorp Food Industries', where Baala maama was waiting for us with thin, use-and-throw caps. Wearing them and leaving our footwear outside, we entered the tidy interiors of the chapati-making unit.
(Pic courtesy, Sandhya)
From the viewer side of the glass partition, one could very clearly see what was happening. A huge mixer made the dough - mixing the flour, oil, salt and other ingredients - in the tried, tested and perfected proportions (Baala maama personally perfects a product before mass production). A water purifier was supplying clean water. The mound of dough was then placed on a feeder.
From there, the machine took over, by cutting the mound into small spheres & pressing each sphere into a perfect circle. This, in turn, went through a series of conveyor belts along a burner (that big, green box in the pic). The evenly burnt chapati dropped into another conveyor, and, a short journey later, the cooled chapati fell into a container, to be sorted and packed.
Fresh, off the conveyor, the chapatis tasted perfect :) (Ditto when we heated the chapatis the next day. Unrefridgerated, the shelf life is about 3 days. Double that if one refridgerates).

While we were there, we also checked out the unit that made the other stuff. The huge ovens, the bun dividing machine, the bread cutting machine, the implement that dates the packed food,....I think, we will carry all those images with us for a long time.

Thanks to Baala maama for inviting us and showing us around. But for that, we would have never given a thought to the effort that actually goes into making ready-to-eat food - the ingredients to be procured, the hygiene and the machines to be maintained, the labourers, packing and marketing to be managed - phew!! Not an easy task at all!

29 March, 2013

Chasing a skirt!

Not so recently, some of us bore my uncle's tirade - meant for the editor of  "The H...", the newspaper maamaaji reads. Apparently, there's this regular column, wherein, readers are invited to contribute pics showing gaffes in signboards, etc. - especially the gaffes in angrezi.

"Why laugh at some poor, illiterate signboard painter for his mistakes? If he was as educated as those people at the news office, he wouldn't be painting boards. And, it's not like the newspaper wallahs don't make mistakes at all.........."  - the gist of my maama's speech.

Of course, I didn't quite agree with him. I think, the laugh is more for the end result than at the poor painter. At that moment, I didn't say so because I was in no mood to start a discussion. However, after that incident, I think of my uncle whenever I see a gaffe in angrezi.... and that is very often!

Recently, there was this pamphlet with our newspaper, announcing some sale in town. As I ran an absent-minded eye before crumpling it, I saw this....

Obviously, there was a spelling mistake. Now, I was curious - because I couldn't think of the right word. Since I don't like to be ignorant, I decided to ask google, the all-knowing one......

This pamphlet must have been printed locally. And, in this part of the country,  the letter "P" is popularly pronounced "Ph" / "F".  ( Eg :  'Phrize" for "Prize").
So, I decided to google "Riprown Skirt".... No result.

I tried "Ripron Skirt"....and, google asked me if I meant "Rapron Skirt".

There it was! The current trend in skirts looks a lot like the "Wrap-around Skirt", popular during my primary school days long, long ago....  an open ended skirt with cords on the upper ends for fastening.

Wonder if  "Wrap-around" has been shortened to "Rapron"!

In that case, I have a suggestion....

  At the risk of being clobbered by my VeshTi/ Lungi wearing acquaintances, I propose that these items of clothing should be called "Rapron Skirts" in angrezi!!

16 March, 2013

Ganesha's water-pot!

You will not find this place on the tourists' list of places to visit in Chikmaglur. However, you'll find it on my list of favourite places in Chikmaglur. Let me take you there.....

A half-an-hour's drive from home will take us to the not-so-sleepy town of Koppa. From here, onto  the road to Kesave village.  About 3-4 kms on this road, to the right - a rusty arch and the mud track beyond welcome us. Blink, and we'll miss the place!
We are now on private property. This part of the estate is open to all. Because, it is here that the river Braahmi has her origins. The Braahmi is a small tributary of the river Tunga. Infact, she joins the Tunga within 20 kms. from her place of birth. The presence of an idol of the elephant-headed God lends some piety to the place. 


Someone has done a neat job -  making it seem like the water is gushing out of a water-pot. This, and the presence of God Ganesh... the place is locally known as 'KamanDala Ganapati'.
Like all small temples, this temple is open during prayer hours only. But, that's okay...because, we can peep in through the grilled door/ windows. 

From here, the water is channelised and made to fall into a pit that can be accessed... so blissful to drink that pure, cool water straight off the pipe!

Of course, it's fuller during the monsoon months. This pic was taken during summer.

The managers of the temple have been thoughtful enough to keep some open space by the temple for picnickers/ people who want to host small functions.

On normal evenings, you'll find some local kids playing cricket!

I know what most of you are thinking! And, yes, I agree...it is not worth making the trip all the way FOR this place. Check it out if you have some time to spare in Koppa town. 
You know, the first time I was here, I was a little surprised to see Ganesh-ji. Because of the big role played by Shiva in bringing down the river Ganga to earth, one usually finds Shiva temples near places where rivers originate.  I had thought - and, still think - Shiva/ Ganesha/ any other God, it is the life-giving source of water that is actually revered.... What do you think??

02 March, 2013

The Wicked Bird

In most Indian folk tales, the crow is portrayed as a cunning, thieving villain.
And, when Uncle Pai created Kalia, he broke the tradition.  Kalia, the clever crow, was always doing good things like helping out creatures in distress -  NEVER the villain....

 The crow is the vehicle of Shani (Saturn) - the planet that is supposed to cast evil on one's life.
 Perhaps, for this reason, it is considered to be a symbol of bad omen.......
 As with the colour black -  the colour of the crow and the colour associated with Shani.
For the same reason, children who collect birds' feathers are forbidden from bringing the crow's feathers inside homes (especially if grandmas are around!).

To add to its list of woes, the crow has such clumsy ways and an unpleasant cry. Even the nest it builds is shabby when compared to the nests of other birds.You know, many a time, I have felt quite sorry for the crow.

Misplaced sympathies!! The crow is indeed a bad bird!
Sometimes, it pulls food from the mouths of smaller creatures like the squirrel and bullies smaller birds - chases them away from food sources, disturbs their nests,.... Yes! it spoils the nests of other birds. Let me tell you about it........

Meet this shy little bird on the left.... the munia. Here, he/she is searching for the right stuff to build a nest. Twice an year, at least one pair of munias choose their nesting place on the creeper on our wall.

This is a typical nest of the munia. As an admirer of birds and their nest building skills, I find it so fascinating that every bird has it's own pattern for building nests from locally available materials. And, birds of a feather have very similar nests!

Every year, during the nesting season, I spend some time watching birds choose grass, pull out tiny twigs, etc. With amazing understanding, the male & the female birds skilfully weave the raw materials and make their homes - they know what to do without any training (nothing 'bird- brained' about this!).

Once the birds begin to spend time in the nest, I leave them alone, hoping that things go smoothly. Most of the times, things do go smoothly. When the fledglings turn about 7-8 days old, the family abandons the nest.... too small for all of them, I guess.

Early Feb is nesting time for a lot of Indian birds. Every time I see a pair of busy munias,  I wonder if they are the same ones that were here before!
This time though, there was a crow - very determined to spoil things for the munias. Whenever I could, I tried to prevent it from pecking at the nest. Alas! One morning last week, I found this -

                                                                           and, this -

 I also caught the crow pulling out some stiff looking grass from the broken nest.
Now, I didn't think of shooing it away - after all, another nest was being built


11 February, 2013

Uncanned laughter

"The earth laughs in flowers".... so said Ralph Waldo Emerson.

How true! Ma earth laughs so prettily....and, in so many different ways!

 The Canna, is one of my husband's favourite flowers. Easy to grow, it asks for some sunshine & regular watering - that's all. Even so, I'm not sure why the canna isn't that popular in home gardens.
Of course, they are very popular  in parks and landscaped gardens - usually as border plants or in the centre of a circular theme.

Canna was one of my mother's favourite flowers. We have one here that has its origins in her garden. The flowers are smaller than the regular canna flowers. Quite recently, I read somewhere that the bulbs of this variety are edible. And, I have seen small birds visiting regularly - their 'juice shoppe',  I guess!

This red canna here is S'man's favourite. S'man drops in sometimes to help us out with gardening.   Every time he sees this, he says  'mast colour'.... He thinks these look like plastic flowers !!

  Strangely, S'man doesn't call this flower 'mast'.
   Maybe, because this is quite common .....

I know, care-takers are not supposed to have favourites, but, as an admirer, the remaining three in our collection are my favourites. This,


                                                                                                    ..... and, this! 

 Let me confess - I like the last one a wee bit
 more than the others!
Let me also confess - when I add a white canna to our collection, it will top the list of favourite cannas (because, I have a weakness for white flowers)!      
According to some estimates, there are about 3 lakhs flower species on Planet Earth.
Multiply that by the number of colours in each species - that's countless ways of laughing....

P.S: Soon, it will be one year since one of the worst days of my life. The road looks empty, shade-less and obscenely wide. But, there is some colour & happiness when I open the door. You know, the earth's laughter is quite infectious.... and, after a long time, I'm in better spirits :)

Adding a new plant to this collection (5 days short of an year after posting the earlier flowers!)

Century on the Bronze Anniversary!

This is my100th post, and today is the eighth birthday of Alter Idem !! That's an average of a post per month......1.04 to be precise!!...