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The Perfect Road Trip

The Perfect Road Trip
Runners Up Award- Ambipur Contest

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Is Book Reading Dying?


The love for reading books is gradually dying and has sounded a death knoll for many a book stores across the country! Prominent book stores that once flourished and had steady clientele have steadily dwindled and some are on the brink of closure! The railway journeys were incomplete without books as companions from the Wheeler stalls!

Most of us know of the reasons, namely the new alternatives now available in terms of the ever increasing reach of media, entertainment, reality shows, social networking sites and the boom of internet! Those who still love to read prefer to download the books in e-book format now on their ‘Kindle ‘devices and can read these at convenience.
There is excitement which never seems to abate in today’s world, unlike in past where spicy stories came out only once in a while and life, otherwise moved at a slow pace! There was always enough time to listen to music or read books and magazines in a leisurely manner! One could choose the books of liking be it a romantic, adventure, horror or cult stories! These days the newspaper is always full of stories of intrigue, ransom, murder, mayhem, terror on almost every page! The same is true for media like TV where just by a flick of channel similar stories in more graphic details are available instantly! Why should one spend money or make an effort to walk to the bookstore to search for books! Block buster stories are available 24X7 on the go on smart phones too!

If one is looking for quality reading then subscription to online magazines, is available at the fraction of cost of the print media! Unlike in past, most of the places of residence have shrunk.  Also, with increased mobility, the storage space is depleted to an extent that keeping a personal library of books is tantamount to luxurious living!

Children are very rarely told stories by parents at home due to pressure of time. In most metro cities they are brought up in crèches, so how can they develop love for reading! They get hooked to video games at an early age even as toddlers. In many cases their love for instant gratification is best met by gaming devices as they grow up. The characters of Hanuman, Tenali Rama, Grimm’s Fairy tales, Charles Dickens, Perry Mason, James Bond, Sherlock, are now easier to watch than read!


In a recent survey it came to light that most of the English teachers in schools do not know the spellings of some very simple words and the reasons for same do not need much explanation! The widespread use of abbreviated SMS language has eroded the culture of reading well written English, though thankfully most formal correspondence still requires use of grammar. Life is all set to change at a pace much beyond our imagination and even though there are many alternatives, the book reading will continue. The whiff of new pages in the book and glossy covers will continue to entice the new generation of readers!

PS: Image Kind courtesy Google

Friday, August 21, 2015

Internet@Speed of Lightning

Every user of internet wishes to see a glitch free browsing, access mail, video and movie downloads and playing interactive games while on the move. The prophecy of Bill Gates more than a decade ago has become a reality today, even in India where the mobile internet has been a recent phenomenon. In his famous book Business@The Speed of Thought, written in 1999 ,the fifteen predictions related to mobile internet, various applications and smart devices, came true in less than ten years. In India the major mobile operator Airtel has been on the forefront to make these dreams come true for every Indian by launch of the 4G or LTE ( Long Term Evolution )Services across the country!

The erstwhile challenges of latency in the network, the poor user experience, frustration of not being able to download at decent speeds will now be a thing of past. I recollect the times when the modems used to be connected to a 2kbps telephone line and after a great struggle the modem would connect to the network and before anything substantial happens, the line got disconnected to start the process of reconnecting the computer all over again. Mobile internet was a distant dream but thanks to fore sighted operators like Airtel, who took the ‘bull by its horns’ and evolved the network. From TDMA( Time Division Multiple access),GSM( Global System for Mobiles, 2G), GPRS( General Packet Radio Switching- 2.5 G), EDGE(Enhanced Data GSM service, 3G), UMTS( Universal Mobile Telecommunication Systems- Up to 10 Mbps) to finally 4G( 90 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload speeds) the journey of evolution has been remarkable! This has also accounted for the mobile subscribers outnumbering the fixed line users.

This has not been a mean achievement as the 4G networks require a large investment in capital costs to upgrade the existing networks on a new frequency domain including upgrading a host of other components. Airtel has put all its might behind to ensure that India does not lag behind the rest of the world in getting state of the art technology          .

Those who have the device that supports 4G can approach Airtel to get the new 4G SIM to replace their current 3G SIM at no cost, delivered at the door step. The users can get the lightning speed of the 4G network instantly! Those who need for business can opt for unlimited plans ranging from Rs 999 to Rs 2999 per billing cycle with varying data usage in range from 3GB to 15 GB! Currently many cities in 12 circles have been covered by Airtel 4G network and more are getting added  to increase the footprint ! No wonder Airtel(http://www.airtel.in/4g/.) is among the big league and currently the fourth largest mobile operator in the world!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Thanking the Brave

A few unrelated incidents in last couple of days has left a sense of disquiet and cast a shadow over the festive spirit of the Independence Day. A day for remembering the brave and also a nation expressing the gratitude to countless martyrs who laid down their lives so that we can breathe in freedom!

One of them was roughing up of the ex -servicemen by the local police at Jantar Mantar who have been protesting for the delay in implementing the long promised, One Rank One Pension (OROP) and another incident when an army soldier was killed by ruffians who were stopped to molest a girl in Meerut! In the first case, those responsible cannot be forgiven, as how the people, who have protected a nation by giving the best part of their lives in inhospitable terrains and fought wars, suddenly become a threat on the pretext of security of the city! The lack of sensitivity in handling situations by the so called think tank is evident! In the latter case, the growing cult of hooliganism and quite often, also patronized by the political parties is responsible for the sad outcome!

The same day there was a photograph of the Israeli prime minister kissing his son as he prepares to join the armed forces like every citizen in that country!A typical prayer offered by orthodox Jews for well being of Israel Defence Forces  all over the world reads as follows:

Prayer for the Well-Being of the
Israel Defense Forces

The following prayer is recited by observant (Orthodox) Jews in Israel and all over the world during the morning Shabbat prayers, after reading the weekly Torah portion:
May He who blessed our forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, bless the soldiers of the Israel Defence Forces, who stand watch over our land and the cities of our Lord, from the Lebanese border to the desert of Egypt and from the great sea to the verge of the wilderness, on land, in the air, and at sea. May G-d strike down before them our enemies who rise against us. May the Holy One save and spare our soldiers from all forms of woe and distress, of affliction and illness, and may He invest their every action with blessing and success. May He vanquish by their means those who hate us, and may He adorn them with a crown of deliverance and a mantle of victory. Thus may the verse be fulfilled: "For it is the Lord your G-d who marches with you to do battle for you against your enemy, to bring you victory." Now let us respond "Amen."

 We reap the crop as we sow the seeds! Rarely does any politician's son ever joins the armed forces in our country so they never understand the harsh life that lies ahead! They are just waiting to take over the reins and are busy in building their own empires with mostly ill-gotten wealth!

The partition of two nations India and Pakistan in 1947 has been a cause of acrimony between them and has caused immense amount of blood shed and mayhem in the continent ever since. With the passage of time the technology advanced and the weapons became deadlier and their usage even more bloody! After the African continent, perhaps the Indian continent continues to lag behind on almost every parameter of human index, be it poverty, lack of hygiene, mass unemployment, gender equality and a host of others!

The defense budgets of the two countries have continued to swell leading to an arms race which is unparalleled elsewhere in the world. The weapons of mass destruction possessed by the two nations can annihilate either of the two countries in no time, in case of a nuclear conflagration. With the passage of time the proxy wars and terrorist activities continue to increase with loss of lives and property on either side.

In such a scenario, the need to keep the men in uniform motivated is very important. Mr  Ajit Doval the present National Security Adviser had in one of the addresses mentioned that one of the reasons why British were keen to leave India on 15 Aug 1947 was the fear of military uprising which the British Empire was incapable of handling!(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKpl7v_c-Qo )

A grateful nation knows how the men in uniform come to aid of civil authorities to handle catastrophes and even civil unrest. Independence Day is the time to express solidarity and support them and their families when they are defending the nation !

PS . The prayer for IDF kind courtesy http://www.ahavat-israel.com/eretz/army

Tricolor Pasta Pie with Cheese Garlic Bread



Pasta is a dish loved by people all over the world and there are many variants of these available everywhere now! The colors of Indian and Italian national flags are almost identical except for a wheel and saffron color in Indian flag! What better treat could one think of celebrating Indian Independence day other than Tricolor Pasta Pie with Cheese Garlic bread!
Pasta Ingredients( Serves Four/Time to prepare 1.5 hours )

Basic Ingredients


1.       Two cups Del Monte  pasta
2.       One medium size cauliflower
3.       A few strands of beans
4.       One cup sweet corn
5.       One a cup cream
6.       Two cubes of cheese-50 gm
7.       Spinach- 100 gm shredded
8.       Diced carrots 100 gm
9.       Extra virgin Olive oil/Cooking Oil-5 table spoon
10.   Salt –to taste
11.   Sugar- Two tablespoon
12.   Baking powder- half tea spoon
13.   All purpose flour-One cup-150 gm
14.   Seasoning- Onion, Garlic, Chili powder/Optional - Basil leaves
15.   Milk- Two table spoon
Method
Preparing the base
The Pie base made from dough
1.       Spread the all-purpose flour on a clean platform and add half a teaspoon baking powder, half a tea spoon of salt and one tablespoon of Olive oil and mix the contents with hand.
2.       Take a bowl full of water and warm it over the flame till the heat is bearable and turn off the heat
3.       Now knead the dough with warm water till you are able to roll it into a ball, without sticking and is soft in texture. Set this aside for half an hour in a cool place.
4. Roll it with a pin into a thin sheet
5.       Apply some oil on the base of the dish where the pasta pie will be baked and spread the sheet of dough uniformly to cover the bottom and the four sides of the dish. Keep aside a small ball of the dough for decorating the pie at the end
Preparing the Pasta
Pasta on boil

1.        Peel /Cut all vegetables into small pieces.
2.       Take two cup pasta and pour it in a wok with half a liter of boiling water, one  spoon  of oil and little salt and  simmer for 10-15 minutes over a low flame till the pasta becomes almost double in size and gets tender. Remove it from the heat and sieve it in a filter and pour cold water over the pasta and keep it aside. Split it into two portions.
Saute the chopped vegetables

3.       Warm a pan and add two table spoon of olive oil.Once it is hot, pour the chopped vegetables, beans, cauliflower florets, ¾ cup sweet corn and diced carrots to sauté for about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and cover the vegetables. Split the contents into two halves.
Saute chopped Spinach and Corn

4.       Put another pan, on heat and add half a table spoon of olive oil and add the chopped spinach and balance ¼ cup sweet corn and sauté for 10 minutes till tender. Add a little seasoning  of onion and chili garlic powder and allow it to cool
Garlic Bread preparation
Preparation of Pasta in Red Sauce
Cooking Pasta in Red Sauce
1.       Take the chopped tomatoes and blend them in the mixer into a smooth paste. Add a little water if required.
2.       Take a pan and pour one table spoon olive oil and turn on the heat. Pour the tomato puree into the container and allow it to cook for 10 minutes over low heat.
3.       Add half the sauté vegetable (beans, cauliflower, sweet corn and carrots) and half the boiled pasta and stir the contents. Add two spoons of cream and mix.
4.       After 5 minutes, turn off the heat and add seasoning of chili garlic and onion powder, salt and half a spoon of sugar and set it aside to cool
Preparation of Pasta in White Sauce
1.       Take a pan and pour the remaining cream and turn on the low heat
2.       Add the last half of sauté vegetables(beans, cauliflower, sweet corn and carrots), the remaining boiled pasta (second half)
3.       Turn off the heat and add seasoning of chili garlic, onion powder, salt to taste and  half a spoon of sugar and allow it to cool
Preparation of Pasta Pie
1.       Pick up the pie container lined with flour sheet and pour the pasta cooked in white sauce as the first layer
2.    Then pour the sauté corn and spinach as the second layer.
3.  Arrange the last layer of pasta cooked in red sauce
4.       Garnish the top layer with shredded cheese .Make small boxes carved out of the remaining dough strips on top. Wash the small boxes  with a little milk with a brush.
5.       Keep this in the preheated oven for 35 minutes at 240 degree centigrade till the  top crust turns golden brown
6.       Remove from the oven and cut into tricolored slices and serve with garlic bread
Bon Appetit!


PS: This is my Blog Post entry for the great Del Monte Italian Escapade/Indiblogger sponsored contest(https://www.facebook.com/DelMonteIndia.)

Monday, August 10, 2015

Love for Tokenism


How much we love tokenism is something which does not need much elaboration. Come examinations and all students turn religious over- night. They make more trips to temples than ever before. |The mothers shower extra affection and stuff the mouth with some sweet to ensure that good luck stays! This is equally true for bigger mortals like the politicians who run the country. Just prior to the elections, most of them are busy appeasing the gods besides making false promises. They visit temples; touch the feet of holy godmen to ensure that the dame luck does not desert them on the D day.

The numerologists suggest adding an extra letter in the name so that it brings good luck. Whenever there is a calamity, instead of preparing for it in advance and taking the bull by the horns, those who are in power get busy in the blame game. The roads cave in during the monsoons, the houses collapse, the bridges and railway lines get inundated year after year but what do we do? No lessons are ever learnt, no one ever gets punished, and it is business as usual. The near and dear ones are compensated by paltry money which is the cost of human life viewed by the state.

When terrorists strike or Maoists ambush the police and kill, the mighty leaders raise the decibel level in speech to avenge but within a matter of months the story is recreated and the life goes on!

When it comes to our love for the opposite gender, the moment there is a rape there is uproar and in the unfortunate event the victim dies, there are candle light marches and long debates. If by stroke of luck the offenders are caught, the wheels of justice grind at a speed that would put a tortoise to shame! In democracy there are 1.2 billion voices and the sensible ones get drowned first in the cacophony!

In recent times the trend of taking selfies has become yet another symbol of tokenism! On ‘Daughter’s Day’ people take selfies with daughter and post them on FB and ‘Tweet’ to be heard! During other times they engage in activities like prenatal sex determination and abort a female fetus! Our books are replete with stories of valor and sacrifice of women yet no city in India can claim to be free from the scourge of eve teasing and molestation of women!

We have builts monoliths in name of sports stadia but what is the percentage of time in a year that these host the sporting events?

Since Independence the number of people who engage more in verbose action has multiplied and sadly those who can act has dwindled! The ratio has to reverse and mediocrity needs to make way for merit to see plausible change!

PS- Image Kind courtesy Google


Thursday, July 30, 2015

Are You Listening ... err Watching


Many years back when the TV was still in the B&W era, the only source of news was the Doordarshan! Likewise, on the radio, it was only All India Radio with Vividh Bharti being the only radio channel that played music from the Hindi movies! Even the movies that played on Doordarshan were split into two for viewing pleasure of each half on a Saturday and Sunday!

Tuning in the radio at 6 AM in the morning and 9 PM at night was a ritual like having breakfast to catch up with the news! Whether it was Melville De Mellow for English or Devki  Nanadan  Pandey for the Hindi news, the ears would eagerly lap up every word to stay abreast with happenings around us! With the floodgates of liberalization thrown open, the private channels started mushrooming! Over the years the euphoria has died down and despite having a choice of over 200 TV channels of local origin and more than a dozen radio channels on FM alone, one still cannot remain hooked to either media for more than half an hour at a stretch except on a rare occasion! There are too many choices but the quality of program has hit an all -time low! The songs are there but there is no melody! The news is more of an opinion of the channel and on TV it is more theatrics than anything else! The same faces appear on the different channels uttering the same sentences which seldom have a connection with the reality! They are generally the party taglines if it is a political debate, or at best the shouting contests and the poor anchor adding to the hysteria with his own channel’s political affinity. The soap operas on the entertainment channels are a congregation of devils and vamps trying to outdo each other with sly looks, double meaning dialogues and use of vocabulary which one would never have come across in real world! The more the serial has been seasoned with such ingredients, the higher the TRP and the bigger names that sponsor it! It is actually difficult to differentiate a news channel from the entertainment channels as there is a very thin line that divides the two!

A state owned public enterprise like BBC can churn out high quality news, talk shows, travel and food shows, slick TV serials like ‘Sherlock’ that one is amazed with the dexterity of production, and the dedication that seldom leaves the viewers disappointed. In good old times when the Indian TV and Radio channels played censored news one would automatically look for the actual facts by tuning into BBC. Now of course the choices are many!

Credibility of an individual and the institutions has been the foundation of the trust and loyalty since time immemorial. In recent times the yardstick has changed and undergone a systemic change. What would have been considered a sacrilege, a few years ago is now brushed aside as ‘street smartness’ in present times. The lowered standards have a lasting impact as so much of negativity is portrayed that very seldom people find things on the media that would be raising the morale! Like many other things one wishes for ‘Ache Din’ in media too!

PS: Image Kind courtesy Google

Sunday, July 19, 2015

A Sweet Chronicle


A quiet, a still, and then a loud howl
  The peace is shattered and face has a big scowl
The little one saw a’ big lizard’ crawl under the stroller
    One ‘hush’, the lizard retreated ashamed little prowler

She posed as a teacher with toys big n small
   It was time to punish and dole out ‘Choco’ rewards
The funny ‘Bunny’ rabbit always came late
   Cute ‘little ‘Barbie ‘only, finished food on plate

Mom and Dad took turns to narrate stories
   Of fairies, brave n evil and other tales of glory
They live their own’ bachpan’ hiding with her in attic
    Making faces, sharing fun and indulging in antics


Time moved and now she was in school
  She wanted to lead and be ahead of the pool
The ‘little head girl’ was no longer a Red Riding Hood
      A little authoritative but as helpful as she could
The pace in college was full of fun
  A lot of learning and exchange pun
The little doll has now grown wee bit tall
  She does not forget still, to have her’ Choco Kelloggs’

PS: 1.This is my post for Kelloggs/Indiblogger sponsored ‘Khuljaye Bachpan’ contest (https://www.facebook.com/mychocos)

2. Images kind courtesy ‘Google’