What literally pulls your legs while making an Indian meal ?

Many a times, I have wondered what nowadays literally pulls one’s legs, usually that of the women, while or after cooking a typical Indian meal ?!?

No, I am not hinting at any Vitamin-D or/and Calcium deficiency due to our indoor lifestyle in this phase of post-modernity. 🙂 Rather, I want to draw my readers’ attention towards the cooking of an Indian meal in a modular-kitchen deprived of any sitting arrangement so as to keep it maximally spacious or lend some aesthetic sense to it.

Notwithstanding other discoverers (if any) of the answer, I think I have found mine and here it goes…

According to western lifestyle, pre-processed or canned food-items are generally used to make a single dish. The cooking is usually done in microwave ovens or, marinated and barbecued. In most cases, Olive oil is mixed in or sprinkled or brushed atop the culinary content. Considering a staple diet, westerners eat such dishes with various types of Bread, Tortillas and Salads. Sometimes, it is as simple as warming a refrigerated or left-over Burger or a Sandwich. And they prefer to finish the meal with some Yoghurt or Fruits or hot-Chocolate or Juice or a Drink.

In this process, we can observe certain things in an ordinary routine western kitchen-

1. Food items are limited
2. Most of the constituents of a full meal are readily available
3. The cooking is usually taken care of by a programmed machine !

So, they hardly stand and do continuous mehnat (toilsome efforts) in the kitchen.

See what it takes to cook an average Indian meal, e.g. lunch for a family of (4+2) members-

1. Roti (Indian bread) – kneading the dough, then manually rolling-out 14-15 pieces and making it one-by-one i.e. manually and no parallel processing

2. Daal /Sambar /Chamthong (pulses /stew) – boiling and tempering (chaunk) it, sometimes with small coconut pieces i.e. manually including making the coconut pieces

4. One “side-item” like Bhajji (fries) – peeling the vegetable(s) and pan-frying it with mild spices over low-heat i.e. also manually. One should have patience…

5. An additional “side-item” may also be sought – Saag (e.g. spinach), Pakoras (deep-fried gram-flour dumplings), Momo (steamed refined-flour dumplings stuffed with fillings), Posto (light-fried poppyseed paste), etc., i.e. again a manual process- cleaning, rinsing the leaves, chopping it finely, then stir-frying it over low-heat; making the dumplings or paste i.e., again manually. One should have more patience…

6. One main curry – it could be anything including Ghanta (a vegetable medley which may need more than an hour of frequent stirring), Masala (gravy), Chadchaddee (sautéed mixed vegetables), Kofta curry, etc., i.e. first cut all the vegetables, ready the spices, fry the Kofta dumplings and then cook the curry. This means one has to slog in the kitchen; don’t even blink or rush to the dining area to quickly get refreshed under the fan or air-conditioner 🙂

7. Salad /Rasam /Chutney /Tathu /Papadd /Raita, i.e., to have some more patience as it may require a bit of manual pre-processing of a vegetable(s) and adjusting the varied seasoning

8. A rice item like Pulaav, Fried-rice, Biryani, Bisi Bele Bhaat, Khichddee, Sawchair, etc. or Noodles type of dish is expected during weekends /holidays to not just push load the gastric-pouch but also blow the family to a truly sumptuous meal i.e. it requires one to remain tied-up with finely detailed preparations which may include roasting and the famous layered-cooking method of the Mughal era 🙂

9. For lovers of Non-vegetarian foods (particularly Fish), its again tiresome multiple tasks right up to cleaning !!!

10. Last but not the least, on our list we have some of the wonderful smoked dishes of North-East India. Even if we manage to do it in a modular-kitchen, it is very inconvenient and difficult to clean !

Please note that all these tasks are after considering the available spices in malls but excluding automated vegetable peelers, juice-mixers or other such kitchen-tools. An Indian kitchen normally does not prize many automatic machines except the grinder. This is because the care-taker (host/hostess) wants to eliminate the tagged duty of cleaning the machine after use. 🙂 And many Indian daily dishes cannot be suitably cooked in a microwave oven because the basic flavour is lost !

The other factor to be weighed is that nowadays, the city-dwellers live in a nuclear-family set-up. Hence, the spontaneous assistance of a joint-family system is completely eliminated. One has to manage everything single-handedly if no domestic help or/and cook is employed !

Going back to exploring the answer…

Our grand-mothers and mothers sat on a footstool or tuffet, prepared every detail and cooked. That’s why I believe that even after doing or managing all the chores of the house for years, they never grumbled the way most of us do at a young age now just after cooking a full meal in the kitchen. We Indians, have no doubt borrowed the western idea of modular-kitchen over night… but broadly, without changing our food habits to suit it !

Yes… even I would agree that it is difficult to change one’s food habits. And in that case, the footstool should move in back to the traditionally styled Indian kitchen ! 🙂

Secondly, Indians observe many festivals when certain spices are barred in the kitchen. Many households en masse observe this. But there are a few where some family members with a relatively relaxed nod, may wish to have the usual course of a meal. That implies, double-duty for the person preparing the meals – one course for the festival and the other usual one !! 🙂

Thirdly, some people (men and women), demand or request that special items (often tedious) be cooked for them – this is merely an attempt to show some form of dominance or seek attention in a large joint-family or due to health issues !

So, aamjunta, we gotto choose- ya toh khadde raho, pakaate raho aur khuud ke payaer pakadd ke Hajmola-ke-saath khana pachane ki koshish karte raho…ya phir purani bawarchi-khana pe wapas jao (either keep standing, cooking and attempting to digest the meal with the help of Hajmola digestive tablet and a self-massage to your legs…or return to the old style of Indian kitchen) ! 🙂


Being Social or active in Social Media…..

Are you there in FB?

Ya I am there, but not active 😦 ..

Oh! you are missing the big picture there, come over, will talk….

and she cut the phone…

Disgusting…. was the obvious reaction from this side…

This was the conversation between two ladies in their 40s which I over-heard last week while I was in a shopping complex in Bangalore.

This incident reminded me of a similar story that happened with me some years back. At that time it was Orkut, and now it is FB or Facebook. The bottom line of story is the same, only the characters and the modalities are different. I am sure many of my readers and fellow aamjuntas must have faced something similar or the other.

Now a days most of us are active in social media sites like Facebook, Orkut, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Youtube and so many. Adding new albums, searching old and new friends, updating status, sending messages, sharing links, and chatting over Facebook is a common practice.

With affordable Internet over mobile phones and broadband connections, nearly 80-90% users visit the social media sites in general. It is observed that the average time we spend on the Internet in general, and social media in particular is much more than the time we spend with our family and some time even more than we work !!

Moreover, most of the time we are busy in investigating or searching about others’ activity and reactions to some comment, photo update, status update, etc.,  than really bothering about our own work. Interestingly, we hardly find time or zeal to meet a friend, to do our daily exercise and to even sleep…. Sometimes it makes us so busy that mothers forget feeding their babies, students lack in time to study, office-goers forget to respond to a job schedule and some even ended up with depression and hyper-tension.

Quite surprisingly, there is also a rise in thefts, murders, rapes, harassments, etc., in cities where actual social life is almost negligible due to various factors. We put all our informations including email-ids, photos, telephone numbers, address, and present whereabouts for our friends… and that also becomes available for the anti-social elements ! This definitely compromises our security and well-being resulting in murders, thefts, rapes, blackmailing, harassments and so on…. horrific regular news headings in national dailies and in TV.

By saying all these things, I am not asking the aamjunta to stop browsing or stop visiting social media sites. It is necessary to be social and one cannot discount the importance of social media in this age. However, we need to understand the difference between being Social and active in Social Media.

Definitely the social media has some positive and negative aspects, and as the so called sab-janta users, we should evaluate critically about this, such that we can make some thing positive out of it.

Coming to a general view of social media – it has the characteristics to potentially give “voice to all”, immediate outreach, literally “24X7 – Engagement” and offers a unique opportunity of connection among the users. It has the potential to reach new and old friends across the world and to make the world smaller and smaller; a feel-good factor for the social animal – to talk/chat, to share, to learn and to showcase. 🙂 …

Coming out from the individualistic mode, social media has the potential to provide an opportunity for the Government agencies to engage with all their stakeholders including the citizens in real time and to make policies citizen-centric. Like Government agencies, Private enterprise houses /business organizations also engage social media in marketing their products/services (e.g. using the number of “Likes” to know their target audience), and NGOs/Charitable organizations use social media to educate people about their schemes such that they can reach a wider audience. Many positive aspects though…

However, there is a growing concern by the Government agencies, business organization, ethnic groups and parents on the excess use of social media. Remember that it has “viral” ability for potentially exponential spread of information by word of mouth and interlinking of the various social media platforms. It has both positive and negative impact though – the rising awareness of anti-corruption movement in India and the recent revolutions in Gulf against the dictators /rulers are some of the positive examples. Along with these, one should not forget the horrors of August-2012 in India – Twitter and Facebook messages along with bulk SMS and MMS triggering a social division and hate between North-East vs. West and South of India – in Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai, Pune and Hyderabad…

Unless the use of social media is controlled i.e. either self-controlled or monitored by an Authority, I am sure, the evil force of social media will overpower the rest. There must be a sense of responsibility and maturity that we need to exhibit while publishing any information in any such social networking sites. Wake-up calls have been notified by Government agencies (recently Govt. of India has banned Maoisit literature on Facebook), business organizations and Judiciary; in India, in Gulf and in many other parts of the world.

These days, police is keeping an eye on anti-social elements and their day-to-day activities, companies regularly check the credentials of their employees and new joiners, parents check their ward’s activities, many who are nuptial -hopefuls check most of the details of the users concerned, and many more… As reported today, Facebook also plans to call up and verify in case it suspects a user profile.

Though this kind of monitoring approach will restrict our privacy and free speech to some extent, it is of course required for a greater cause, which is subject to debate and judicial review. When there is an absolute need to check the spread of any noxious “viral” information and to maintain or restore peace and normalcy, then I certainly see a merit behind this. It is evident in most of the cases.

Aamjunta… just think over it.

Are you just social or active in this kind of social media ?

You are the best judge to think, to act, to react and to answer this crucial concern…


“Married and my Husband has no other wife living”: Bigamy in India!

While browsing through the Placement Blog, I came across Coal India Limited’s Management Trainee Joining Form. It is a 26-page document with so many blanks to fill in declarations, personal details and professional details, etc. But, what surprised me is the declaration that the new employee has to sign at the time of joining:

  • That I am married and have only one wife living.
  • That I am married and my husband has no other wife living.
CIL MT Joining Declaration

CIL MT Joining Declaration

I was wondering, how come the wife will declare that her husband has no more wives? Does that imply, that a female trainee can have more than one living husband? 🙂 Moreover, does she know every thing about her husband’s life and personal relationships? Why does the employer need to ask such kind of questions?, which has more to do with the personal life than the professional one. How does disclosure of marriage help in seeking better employees?

If this is the law of the land, that your husband should have only one living wife, then how come Chief Minister(s), Central and State Minister(s) have multiple living wives? Not only that, there are enough sitting MPs and MLAs, who have multiple living wives. Changing religion to have multiple wives is also seen these day. Even Celebrities and Film Stars too have multiple simultaneous relationships – legally and illegally. Is it a fashion meant only for people who can afford it?  Is it a necessity for power game? I am not going to write the huge list of people who have multiple (living) marriages here. This is because, I do not want to encroach some one’s private life and make that public. It is not a personal vendetta, rather an ideological battle.

There are couple of questions which came into my mind.

  1. If it is considered as a part of law under IPC under Hindu Marriage Law to have only one living wife, then what prevents the state machinery to block them from power? Is it not a double standard?
  2. How can people (netas/leaders) with multiple wives decide whether their followers will have one or more wives? I mean to say, that most of these people in power wield these laws meant for aamjunta, when they themselves break these laws.

Aamjunta, what do you think?

Note: I do not advocate the thought of Bigamy or polyandry.

That One Night@Police Station

Does Love mean pain for others’? Should your love story be some innocent being’s torture tale? And if you are an influential parent, does that mean you use it for absolutely illegal purposes and your anger creates your own children’s death route? A true story…

I woke up from deep sleep to receive a call on my mobile.

Was a bit shocked when the number flashing on my mobile was unknown and at an unusual time — 2.15 am. Could not understand any thing and did not have enough time to think. With mix fear and apprehension, I received the call: “Hello, aap ke paas Sridhar ke ghar ka number hai kya?” (do you have Sridhar’s residential contact number?), was the query. Without introducing himself and without knowing to whom he is talking, the person asked me this question point blank. I could not believe, was mum for a moment.

Again the unknown caller asked me, “aap, Sitakant Bhaiya ho na? mein Sridhar ka dost Chennai se bol raha hun, Sridhar ka tabeiyat kharab hai, he is admitted to a hospital, we want to talk to his parents or to his relatives.” (you are Sitakant Bhaiya? I am Sridhar’s friend calling from Chennai, he is not well and is admitted to a hospital, we want to talk to his parents or to his relatives).

I got nervous.

In the meantime, my parents and brother woke up in the other room with the phone’s ring. They came with worried faces and stood by me a little alarmed, in order to know what unusual had happened that night? I did not have his (Sridhar) parents’ number, but had his relative’s (brother-in-law Sumeet) number with me. In fact, Sridhar was introduced to me through Sumeet some two years back, who happened to be my batch mate and friend some time in my undergraduate days.

Without wasting any time, I asked the unknown caller, “I don’t have Sridhar’s parents’ number, but, I have his relative’s number with me. I will ask him to call you back in a few minutes.” Even though I asked the caller about Sridhar’s sudden health problem and hospitalization, he did not reveal any thing, was avoiding any of my queries. I could not understand what was happening. My brother asked me what was the matter as he could figure out some thing unusual and fishy in the call. When I told him the matter, he asked me to call Sumeet without any delay and I called him back immediately. Seeing my call at that late hour, Sumeet too got frightened. When I told him the matter, he became serious and tensed. I gave the unknown number and asked him to call in that number to inquire immediately. He promised to call me back after talking to that number.

There was a gap of some 5/6 minutes in between. We were nervous. Many things kept coming to my mind. “Is he serious, is his life in danger, is there any accident?, who is the caller, and how come he got my number”? Looks like the caller knows a lot about me and my whereabouts. Seeing my anxiety and tension, mom came to me and sat there. “Kuchh nahin hua hoga, thoda tabaiyat kharab hua hoga, chinta mat karo, sab thik ho jayega”, (don’t worry, there might be some health problem, things will get settled soon) mom told me just to comfort me.

I did not have patience to wait for Sumeet’s call. After 6/7 minutes I called him back to know the matter. While talking to him, I realized that there was some thing more serious than what we expected and it seemed the unknown caller also did not tell him all the details. We realized that there was some thing fishy in the entire conversation. What Sumeet told me made me all the more suspicious. This is because; the unknown caller asked us not to call in Sridhar’s number and told me as well as Sumeet that his phone is out of order. Immediately after talking to Sumeet, I called to that unknown number again and started asking, the hospital details, Sridhar’s exact problem, etc.

What the unknown person told me and what he told to Sumeet were bit different, his version was not the same in both the calls. My doubt became solid and I cut the call, saying that we will get back to you in 5 minutes. In the mean time Sumeet called up Sridhar’s number. Some one picked up the phone, but did not answer properly to his call. May be Sumeet’s number was not stored in that mobile and seemed unknown to him. Immediately Sumeet called me back and informed me this. He asked me to call back to Sridhar’s number, because he thought that my number might be stored in that mobile for identification.

I called up Sridhar’s number as instructed by Sumeet. Some one picked up the phone and started speaking to me in half Tamil – half English. “Are you coming?”, was his only question. “Where?” I asked. He told me some place name, but I could not understand that. He re-said the name thrice. I started asking about the identity of the person. But, he did not say much. Just said, “kidnap…. kidnaapp…, you know Kidnap, Sridhar kidnapped…, come soon, you are Sitakant bhaiya, Sridhar’s relative” and immediately cut the call. Nothing was clear to me. My fear and doubt got intensified. But, one thing started becoming clear, that Sridhar is neither hospitalized nor no more. He is alive and some thing else has happened. I was frightened, thinking that there might be a possibility of under-world connection and kidnapping or extortion in this case.

Unintentionally and unwontedly, I was getting involved in the case. I got more and more nervous.

When I called Sumeet, we discussed that probably my number is stored in Sridhar’s mobile as “Sitakant Bhaiya”. That was the reason the person who picked up my phone asked me “are you coming?” thinking that I might be Sridhar’s relative. Whereas, he did not say any thing to Sumeet’s call. After talking to Sumeet, I called the unknown number again and started asking him more. I briefed him about my recent conversation with the person and about the kidnap things to him. I asked him almost threateningly as to what the actual matter was? and what the story was? Fortunately, he said with a subdued tone “yes, Sridhar is kidnapped, not hospitalized. The person who has kidnapped him is not willing to let him go unless he meets his close relatives or parents.” I asked him “what is the reason of this kidnap? Is there any money involved?” The person replied, “No, there is nothing like that”. While talking to him, I learnt that, even in desperation, he (Sridhar’s friend) had called Sridhar’s parents also, but could not speak to them out of fear.

After my several queries, he narrated the real story behind the drama. Actually, Sridhar was forcefully kidnapped, not by miscreants, but by a well known, educated person of that city (Chennai) with the help of the local Police. The reason being, his daughter was in love with Sridhar’s friend. Both of them got married in court and the girl eloped with her lover. When her father came to know, became furious and even threatened to kill both his daughter and son-in-law, as if it was an “honour killing”. He even gave Supari to harm them physically. But had failed miserably. No one could find the whereabouts of the couple. Finally, he kidnapped Sridhar from Sridhar’s rented room and told his friends, will let Sridhar go, only if his daughter comes back. Since the couple did not come back, he did not let Sridhar go and tied him in a pole with the help of the local police.

Afterwards, the same local police took charge of Sridhar and took him in custody at the police station. No FIR was filed, nothing was in record, but Sridhar was forced to stay; without food and water, in an in-human way. He was penalized and tortured by the law keepers not for his own mistake.

In the meantime Sumeet spoke to me and asked me, if I know any one there at Chennai (at some good position) who can help us in legal matters. Though I knew many, but was not sure whether they will help me or not. I assured him of getting back with the details of the person willing, ASAP. I asked him also, to look for his own contacts too. Next morning I tried to call couple of people for help, but did not succeed. Fortunately, Sumeet could manage to get some one, who was a lawyer. He promised to look into it. But, in the mean time, the couple surfaced themselves in another police station, filed an FIR against their parents and surrendered to the Police station outside Chennai. That was 2 pm, in the afternoon. Their surrender cleared the path and Sridhar was freed from the clutch of the police and the kidnappers. He had some 30 hours of horrible time at the police station and at the kidnapper’s place, his friends had some thing worse and were in terror throughout the day and the night, and we had our own sleepless nights.

A love story/marriage/honour-torture/kidnap all in one bundle.

Aamjunta… Think about it seriously.

PhD or Marriage — aamjunta decide first!

“So, when are you giving the treat”? I asked Bhim. “No Sir, I’m not the lucky man, the girl got married last week to a Software Engineer”, Bhim replied. “What !!” I couldn’t say anything more, had no words to console.

We changed the topic, discussed something else. In the entire conversation, I was uncomfortable. Bhim finally narrated his story…. The girl’s father found some Software Engineer (professional) who had 2 or 3 foreign visits in his CV, a high CTC and a flat in Mumbai (of course on Loan !) and fixed her wedding with him, without bothering about the commitment he had given to Bhim and his family. Bhim was merely a PhD for the girl’s father and was not a Software Professional — this was the clarification that he (Bhim) got from the girl’s side. Bhim was heart broken, he was in touch with the girl for almost 8 months 😦 and now he had to move ahead in life alone.

This is not the only story, this is a story (fact) among many other such stories. I asked myself, thought for some time, tried to analyze all the success and failures in marriages of some of the people who were doing or had completed PhD around me. I could not see the value of a PhD at least in Marriage Bazaar. Be it girls doing PhD or boys, the issue rounds up to “what /how much are you earning and how many times you have gone abroad”? In Marriage Bazaar, money and jobs have high bidding value than the intellect or degrees. This is a “Pan-India” phenomena cutting across caste and cultures. In a slightly similar case, Nakul, another PhD-ridden fellow could not get a girl to marry even though he visited some 15 would-be brides, registered in all leading matrimonial sites and spent around 2 months keeping his Post Doc on hold. Every girl he met and liked, rejected him on the grounds that he does not have a job. No one understood what Post Doc in a leading university abroad meant.

Even with a good job after PhD, getting a suitable girl or boy is difficult. For instance, Sahadev was forced to marry a girl with an age difference of 15 years even though he was well placed in a University as a Professor. Not only a visible age difference, there was a huge educational difference in his case. The reason- same, Professors do not earn as much as Engineers /Doctors earn.

Marriage during PhD is also a tough bargain. Even if some one finds a girl and gets married, he might find his marriage a costly affair, not only because of the commitment towards PhD and work load, but also due to his commitment towards his newly wed. First his guide, then finance and then his domestic affair… every thing demands equal or more attention. If he gets a marital accommodation in the campus, it is somewhat relieving, because one can hardly afford a rented house outside the campus with a meagre private or institute fellowship. You are lucky, if your sweet-heart is understanding and your guide is cooperating… you might enjoy your penury.

Work pressure is not the only thing that affects, peer pressure too has a high impact. Suni (also Manu) was constantly dogged by her (his) PhD mates that she (he) did not have a boyfriend /husband (girlfriend). Many of her (his) friends were engaged. In desperation Suni (Manu) made a wrong choice and proposed, only to be rejected: “I don’t see you as my long term companion, we can be friends 😦 “. Manu got into some sorts of alternative involvement (like alcohol) and Suni became depressive.

Doing a PhD after marriage is also full of risks. Taking the decision to join PhD when you already have a family is the toughest. The reason being- you have to convince your spouse, family and kids for the 4 or 5 years commitment. It is a calculated risk to be taken care of. I still remember Arjun’s wife jokingly but firmly asking Arjun to sign the divorce papers, when he proposed to go for a PhD after his MTech some 4 years back.

It is not just men who suffer, the girls have no better luck. A girl doing PhD is both misunderstood as well as over-qualified in the Marriage Bazaar. Misunderstood, because, she has chosen the untrodden path, which is time consuming and requires more commitment than domestic affairs. Over-qualified in the sense, that very few men choose to marry someone having higher qualification than themselves and even qualifications at par. Even if the girls marry during PhD, then the strain between domestic and professional pressures becomes so high, that it can disturb the marital bliss.

Having said all that, the world still goes on with hope and hit and trials. “Aap bhi free, mein bhi free… so, what do you say”, an opportunity not to be left in many cases; does not matter whether your engagement is broken or you are looking for some fresh start. This gives hope to desperate souls. Search continues for a partner who will fit into one’s long term goals or itemized list of desirable qualities — sometimes we become selfish, sometimes stubborn, sometimes opportunistic… but giving up hope is impossible. Who knows, some or the other trial may click … marriage is a research proposal in life for many. “Ye nahin, toh aur sahi…”

So, aamjunta… what do you think? Prepared for two marriages; PhD and Spouse !?! 🙂

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