The Perfect Road Trip

The Perfect Road Trip
Runners Up Award- Ambipur Contest

Monday, August 25, 2014

Trapped


The sharp roar of the engines slowly reduced to a hum as the light turned on with an announcement that the flight had now reached an altitude of 34000 ft and passengers may unfasten the seat belts. Krish, who reclined on the seat, was feeling a little uneasy as the cold smooth elbow from the adjoining seat kept brushing against his hairy arm! He looked sideways where the girl, who had just boarded minutes before the take -off, appeared to be asleep. She had covered herself in the blanket, but not before Krish noticed the deep cleavage with a shiny gold necklace and a huge pendant slowly playing between her ample bosoms. The black lace top and the red pants that hugged her body displayed the well maintained contours. A huge gold bangle hung lifelessly on her wrist, as she opened her eyes and appeared to whisper, looking directly at Krish.
‘Pardon, do you want anything?’ Krish asked her, feeling a little foolish as he was caught in the act of looking at her.
‘Please can you shut the blowers, I am feeling very cold as I am having fever’ she replied.
Krish unbuckled his seat belt and shut the blowers from where the cold air was coming.
‘Thanks’ she said as she pulled up the blanket further up to her neck, and closed her eyes once again. Krish was unable to concentrate as he fiddled with the screen to look up at the inflight program.

‘Sir, what will you have’ the air hostess interrupted, as he removed the headphones to converse with her. ‘I will have a beer’ he replied. The girl opposite to her opened her eyes yet again and mumbled, ‘Can you get me a juice’? The air hostess had moved away, but Krish called her back and asked her to get the drink for the lady.

Soon it was meal time, and as Krish asked for his meal he noticed a glint of metal from the seat below. He stooped and picked up the huge gold bangle which appeared to be unusually heavy! This must be costing a fortune, he wondered. The girl from whose wrist, it had slid off was still fast asleep! He kept the bangle in his pocket as the conflict raged in his mind whether to return it to her or keep it as a souvenir for his wife!

Almost two hours had passed and the lights came on, as the pilot announced that the flight would land in twenty minutes. The girl opened her eyes and appeared to feel much better. She apparently had not noticed that the bangle was missing!

After the flight landed, Krish got off the flight and walked past the immigration and after collecting his baggage, walked out of the customs ‘Green Channel’. He had barely walked past the exit when he felt the same soft touch on his arm! He turned back and looked and felt his blood turning cold! That girl in black lace top and red pant held out her hand and smiled at him. Sheepishly, Krish extracted the gold bangle from his pocket and handed it over to her.

‘Thanks’ she said in a cold voice and melted into the incoming rush of passengers. The mission to bring in heroin hidden inside the gold bangle had been yet again accomplished flawlessly!

PS: Image Kind Courtesy Google


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Heartless


A heartless man with no emotions
  Makes the life a drudgery notion
A princely life with all the might
 Means little if cannot bring delight
Those who have little but a big heart
  Bring joy and smiles as a priceless part
Each day is a gift so share n start
       A rich life and riches to part
Life is a journey so cherish and relish
   Look beyond small things and abandon fetish

PS- Image Kind courtesy Google

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Self - Made


Suresh looked at the setting sun from the window of his house as the huge red ball slowly melted in an envelope of the black cloud! He was turning forty and had noticed his hairline receding and the tuft of hair turning steel colored. He was running a small business and doing reasonably well. His eyes were moist! He had travelled a road not many would have dared!
His mind drifted back in time as he remembered his childhood. He had an elder brother who was very bright in studies. His father worked in a factory and his mother was a home maker. Their house had just one room where the family made a living. Suresh was very honest and a simpleton and could barely pass in the school. His elder brother had joined engineering after finishing the school and earned a scholarship! The parents adored him, whereas Suresh at times felt neglected. After finishing the school Suresh went out in search of making a living. Days passed and he sulked back home empty handed each day. One day he came across a factory and found a board hanging outside, that they were hiring.
His eyes gleamed and he walked inside where a stern looking supervisor called him to his room. He was interviewed and Shekhar, the supervisor liked him. He took him to the manger and told him about his suitability for the job of an operator of photocopy machine.  Suresh did not know how to express his joy, when he returned home to break the news. His parents heaved a sigh of relief that instead of leading a life of a vagabond, he had finally become another earning hand in the family.
Each day Suresh would work diligently and soon earned the trust of his manager. One evening, the manager got the news that a machine supplied by their factory had broken down and needed a spare part which could only be sent by hand. Suresh was assigned to carry the item, where Shekhar was working. The repair took two days while Suresh assisted Shekhar to fix the problem. Shekhar was impressed by Suresh’s diligence and recommended management that he is allowed to undergo a short training on the machine being produced in the factory. The break opened a new gateway for Suresh who immersed himself and learnt all the technicalities and his visibility was soon acknowledged. One day The Managing Director of the firm broke the news that a small team would soon leave for United States to be trained on a new venture involving transfer of technology. Shekhar was the leader, and he decided to include Suresh in the team.  
Suresh continued with the hard work and perseverance. He saved every single cent he could by living in a shared accommodation, subsisting on bread and butter and corn and gram. Even on the weekends he studied and spent mornings in taking long walks in the beach town. The time flew and by the time he returned home he had accumulated enough from the hard earned savings to buy a small flat for his family.  He handed over a small packet of sweets to Shekhar and broke the news while bowing to him. Shekhar hugged him and suggested that they become partners in a new venture that he was planning.

Suresh looked at the picture of Suresh in the newspaper wiping the tears from his eyes that had broken the news that Shekhar had become a victim of sectarian violence!

PS : Picture kind courtesy Google

Friday, July 25, 2014

A Leap in Future


I just turned four last Sunday! It was such a fabulous feeling to have come into this world at a time when there is so much happening! Just turn your head around, no matter where you are, and you will know what I mean! Lift your head up towards the sky, and you will invariable, see a plume of jet with a huge aircraft, heading across the continent. Some satellite just making a pass to survey the earth. Far in the galaxy yet another, rocket heading towards Mercury, in quest of the frontiers, hitherto considered stuff of which only dreams are made.

 I just hazily remember when I was still in the womb of my mother, Nisha. She would spend hours poring over her laptop, reading about how to take care of oneself, during months of pregnancy so that I am born as a healthy baby. She would occasionally, watch some movies and recite poetry when writing her diary in times when it was not possible to indulge in much physical activities. One day, when my father, Rohan, who traveled frequently, was away in a foreign destination, I decided to step into the world and immediately, mom was shifted to a nursing home. Amidst, the entire din, I recollect, Nana (my mom’s father) called up dad informing him of the urgency. He had earlier requested the doctor when mom went for a ‘checkup’ to allow him to be in the ‘labor room’ as he was keen to see me being born. On receiving the call he immediately connected up his laptop to the hospital site for the live video feed from the labor room and was thrilled beyond words when the nurse held me in her arms to show my little face to him. I am told that a few years back when the technology was not so advanced, such news could travel only by way of a ‘long distance call’ or a ‘telegram’ which has now become a history!

Daddy uses his smartphone for almost everything from work in office, to catching up news, following the soccer and cricket matches. When he is commuting, he listens to the favorite music and makes business calls. At home things are no different, as mom, keeps sharing jokes with her friends on mobile applications, watching favorite TV shows in the afternoon, and reading about new recipes to try in the kitchen. Sometimes, when I feel cranky, she lets me play with her smartphone, and tunes in a funny cartoon show. She also tries hard to teach me numbers, alphabet, colors, shapes and many other things. What better toy could I ask for?  I also love to watch the stories from mythology and rhymes. I like the touch of the screen but mom does not allow me to watch the screen for long time as she says that it will hurt my eyes! Of course with the rapid strides in technology many of the fears of past can now be laid to rest.

 Sometimes, it is  funny to see mom and dad in the house  at night, both bent over their smartphone and tablet engaged in chats with friends or doing their own work while I hold the ‘toy tablet’ in hand making all kinds of noises craving for their attention! 

The new  ASUS Zenphone 6 which has just hit the market has some great features which would be an ideal gift for my fifth birthday, like scratch proof  strong Corning glass surface, better resolution for pictures( 13 Megapixel camera!),long talk time 28h! So even when I play with it , I am safe and also the device can withstand wear and tear due frequent fall from my nimble hands!The multi touch screen will help in exploring the new icons and will help in improving my learning skills! I now wait my turn to possess an ASUS Zenfone6 and explore this fascinating world!

PS- This is the imaginary story of a four year old as he sees the world which is rapidly changing our lives with foray of smartphones in our daily lives.

1. Picture kind courtesy Google

2. Submitted for ‘In Search of Incredible’ contest sponsored by Asus India and Indiblogger http://www.asus.com/campaign/zenfone/IN/

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A Whiff of Spice

                                                        
Spice Garden
 The overnight rains had added a nip in the air! The small droplets of water on the surrounding trees glistened in the morning sunrays like pearls studded on the twigs and leaves. The red coffee seeds in clusters looked very pretty in the thick bushes. The chirp of birds made the surroundings absolutely heavenly. We headed through the long winding road towards the market.
Banana chips being fried
The aroma of banana chips frying in the huge cauldron was a very tempting sight and was attracting us towards it like opposite pole of a magnet! Soon we were in the midst of the busy market with tourists making a beeline to the adjoining shops.
As you take a walk along the streets of Thekkady, in Kerala, one thing that strikes you first is the lingering aroma in the air. The scent of cloves, nutmeg, pepper, cinnamon or cardamom and sometimes a fragrance that combines the scents of two or more spices. 
Handmade soaps in betel nut leaf wrap
Soon we landed in one of the shops and were amazed to see the number of varieties of handmade soaps with fragrances of jasmine, sandalwood, rose, and every possible exotic flower, neatly wrapped in betel nut leaf. The shopkeeper was very friendly and on our inquiry suggested that he could arrange a visit to one of the Spice Gardens.
An auto rickshaw arrived and we set off for visit to the Spice Garden, a short drive of 4 km from the town. Every other house has a Spice Garden in the backyard where coffee plantations, cardamom, cinnamon, vanilla and many more play hide and seek with visitors. The owner of the place took us on a conducted tour. The air was fresh with the fragrant smell of black pepper, cardamom, cloves, peppercorn, long pepper, nutmeg, star anise, mace, cinnamon, ginger and at least a dozen more plants. There are many factors that make the plantation experience a memorable one. 
Fresh Cardamom
For some, it could be the unassuming beauty of the tiny flowers of the cardamom that grow at the base of the plant; for others, the tantalizing aroma of cinnamon or cloves, and for some others, the cool breeze that lovingly strokes the green plantations and everything in it.  It was the first time in my life that I tasted fresh seeds of green cardamom plucked and ginger pulled out from the soil and washed. I even tasted a Garam masala leaf which had been created by cross pollination of five varieties of spices. The pristine experience tingled the taste buds!
Sunlight creeping through !
The pepper plantations are worth seeing. The sunlight seeping through the shapely leaves of the pepper plants is an alluring sight. The geographical and climatic peculiarities of Kumily and Thekkady region, like the cool climate and its elevation from the sea level make it ideal for spice cultivation. Besides the spices one cannot miss the banana and coconut plantations filling the gaps of land!

It is a great feeling to get up at dawn in the lap of Nature, smelling the fresh, aromatic air - almost like waking up in a green paradise that is far removed from our flawed planet.

Apart from being enjoyable, these plantation tours give tourists an insight into the growing, harvesting and processing of spices. The peeling and drying of cinnamon and the painstaking task of hand-pollination of vanilla can be observed.
Cinnamon bark
Various parts of the plant like the dried seed, the fruit, the root, the bark and the vegetative substance are used in the industries of cosmetics and perfumery. Some spices like turmeric have high medicinal value and also have an important place in Hindu religious rituals. Garlic and ginger are two other spices that have medicinal value. They are also used as preservatives.

Godrej, a leader in the Indian perfumes and sprays could consider using some of the derivatives of these spices to add to their existing range of products and also consider manufacture of ‘Pepper Sprays’ to protect the women folk and prepare them against impending danger from those who have an evil eye!

PS: This is my entry for ‘Inspire a fragrance’ contest sponsored by Godrej and Indiblogger

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A Tourist Mecca- Oman

The great Indian writer and journalist Khushwant Singh once wrote’ Before dying one must visit Muscat’
How true it is! I got a first taste of the Oman’s hospitality on one of the flights which had a very adorable, lively and perky airhostess, whose name, ‘Zohra Mohammed’ still brings the recollection of her charming face! 
The Air hostess
Having undertaken scores of journeys one rarely remembers the air hostess! A very friendly individual, she made us feel, the economy class passengers, no less than VIPs on board the Oman Air flight! We got to know of her Egyptian background which was in a way responsible for her ‘legendary Queen Nefertiti like features’, and a clear diction reflecting her good education.  This was the first hand introduction to a country and its lovely people!
We had planned our journey to Europe by Oman Air recently, and due to paucity of time had to skip the lovely destination! I regret the decision for not having been to this beautiful country. The immaculate white robed officials were immensely polite in the cool confines of the huge airport despite blazing heat outside. It was one of the rare things to find captions in Hindi and even announcements being made in Hindi, a welcome change on a foreign soil. I could see more foreigners scrambling at Idli.com the lone Indian restaurant, at the sprawling airport for the Indian cuisine! 
The Kabuliwallah
I was truly impressed by the bounties of the desert nation like dry fruits, dates and seeds reminding me of the Kabuliwallh (a character from noble laureate Dr Rabindranath Tagore’s tale by the same name of a dry fruit peddler)
Oman though an Islamic State, has a system of adult franchise to elect the government and also women are now stepping on the center stage to perform bigger roles. Every year 17 Oct is celebrated as Omani Women’s Day and many pro women events are held across the country. Since the year 2008, the women in Oman also have a right to own the land! This is truly incredible!
Omani Kahwa and Dates


Among the foods I adore are the Omani Kahwa, or coffee/tea laced with cardamom powder and Halwa made from butter, wheat and sun seeds and pistachios and dates! Most of the other popular food preparations are meat and fish based which are very popular including the kebabs, shwarmas and biryanis!
 Given an opportunity to see the places in Oman, I would love to visit a traditional souk like Mutrah  Corniche where the items like gold/ silver curved daggers are sold ! It was once said that there used to be so many people in such narrow alleys that one had to light a candle to find the way even during daytime due to darkness, as sunlight could not enter!
The curved dagger
Mutrah Croniche

The first scene of the epic movie, ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ in which a spec in the desert that keeps getting bigger till the hero, Peter O’Toole emerges saddled on a camel back in the vast desert, remains etched in my memory.( Link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ud1zpHW3ito )
Wahiba Sands

I wish one day, I too can experience the same in the wilderness of sand dunes of Wahiba ! A starlight night with Bedouins in company, with traditional music at a campsite would be a perfect outing in the midst of a desert! It will also give an opportunity to see the ‘Wadis’ in the vicinity.
Falaj

Some other things which would be well worth a pursuit while in Oman is a visit to one of the ‘Falaj’ or the traditional water irrigation system in Oman which is on the World Heritage List, undertake a frankincense trail where the frankincense trees grow, cruise on a dhow in the deep blue lagoons and also witness a  camel race!

The list keeps getting longer but at least these are a few experiences I would love to cherish on Oman holiday! The time to make up for the loss of missing out on the lovely destination and enjoy the warmth of the people is just around the corner.

PS:   1. Names used have been changed to protect the identity of the individuals
       2. Pictures Kind courtesy Google and video link to You Tube
       3. This post is my entry for the blog contest sponsored by Ministry of Tourism, of the Sultanate of  Oman (http://www.omantourism.gov.om) and Indiblogger

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Food of Gods

A food that sets the taste buds tingling and is good for all occasions. Can you guess what would it be? Ok one more try, in most of the Indian homes this is the first solid food that is fed to the babies? Am sure there would be now no prizes for guessing… It is the ‘Kheer’ or ‘Payasam’ which is consumed in all parts of India. It may have different names but the ingredients are mainly, rice, or broken wheat, vermicili in some cases, milk, sugar or jiggery and dry fruits and raisins!

I still have the vivid memory of preparation of kheer at home was always a special occasion. A huge urn with fresh full cream milk was set on the stove with the best quality pound basmati rice added in small quantity to simmer endlessly on low flame. It would constantly be stirred to ensure that the contents do not stick to the bottom. The aroma would soon engulf the whole house till the contents became more viscous in consistency and the color of milk changed to a light yellow shade. The deposit of a creamy layer of milk called ‘malai’ indicated that the kheer was almost done and it was time to add sugar to taste, saffron, cardamom powder and other nuts and raisins till the sugar slowly dissolved as the mixture was constantly stirred now to ensure that the contents do not get burnt at the bottom of the vessel. Once the process was complete, the urn would be removed from the flame and set aside to cool. One more sprinkling of chopped nuts and cardamom powder on the surface would follow. No matter in which corner of the house one was, it was impossible now , to be not aware of the freshly prepared ‘kheer’! Further wait was impossible till the contents vanished in no time. Sometimes, a part of this lovely preparation was set aside, for storing in refrigerator as the dessert would be equally delicious and tempting when served as a cold dessert!

Now a days it is even easier to prepare the same dish in the shining ‘Borosil’ Cook n Serve container to make it look even more gorgeous and served in small ‘Borosil’ glass dishes. One can even prepare a healthy version of’ kheer ‘ in a jiffy by using the microwave ‘Borosil’ container. It only requires a long grain basmati rice which can be cooked in water in microwave for a few minutes and add condensed milk to it after removal from the microwave oven. Stir the contents and add strands of saffron dissolved in water and cardamom powder with diced cashews, almonds and reset the contents once again for three to four minutes to microwave. It can be served hot and is equally yummy to taste!


No matter where one travels within, India, it is difficult to come across someone who has not tasted this Slurpee, lip smacking dessert.  On most festive occasions and in most of the temples across the country, Kheer is prepared as an offering to propitiate the gods. In Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and some other countries it is prepared on occasions like Id ul Fitr and served as Phirni. This variant may also have apricots, mango or even custard apple added to it. So the next time you dream of a dessert remember the ‘food of the gods- kheer’!

PS:This is my entry for  Borosil and Indiblogger ' My Beautiful Food !' contest http://www.myborosil.com/