MY BLOGS

Life brings with a plethora of experiences, each with a flavour of its own. I wish to share with all my readers these various experiences and observations that I have made during my time here on this planet. They may be funny, thought-provoking or simple reflections. I do hope you will find these enjoyable and interesting.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

My Vegetable Garden

Check here for my posts on Composting

The composting is going fine and I have been very excited about starting up an organic vegetable garden in my balcony!  Very ambitious, what?!  Well, no harm in trying and there are so many folks who are growing veggies on their terraces.  Don't know how well they will grow, but am determined to try.

Here are some of the seeds which have sprouted.  Many have been savaged by squirrels and birds.  So trying out some stuff to keep them at bay as well.

 These bunchbeans were damaged due to severe rains and hailstones.  Attached scotchtape to them and decided to wait and watch.  They healed.

Here are buds appearing


 Brinjal seeds sprouted into saplings


Saplings transplanted


Bhindi sprouted in rind of sweet lime and planted rind et al


Bean plant savaged by squirrels


Saving the capsicum saplings from squirrels and birds


Desperate situations call for desperate measures - wooden barricade and chilli powder treatment 


Chow chow 


Roots of greens from a bought out bunch stuck into a pot growing


One more green grown the same way


Now keeping my fingers crossed and praying the plants grow well and that I get some good organic produce!

The Composting Story - Part 3

.....Continued from here

Around this time, I decided to repot my plants and give away the show plants (except some small ones) in order to make place for my vegetable garden.

While repotting, I found some earthworms in some of the pots!  I had never thought of vermicomposting.  That would be stretching my luck too far; but the sight of a few earthworms tempted me.  I just dumped a few of them into a bucket of maturing compost - I had no clue of how this was done.  Unfortunately, when sieving the compost, I found not a trace of earthworms.  The poor creatures had died - that was it!  I would not try vermicomposting again.  I did not want to kill more innocent creatures.

Somewhere at the back of my mind, however, a certain vermicomposting worm was chewing my brain.  I joined some forums on Facebook which talked of organic gardens, terrace gardens, home composting etc.  There I asked where I could procure some worms.  In the meanwhile, I saw a presentation by a lady by name Mrs. Vani Murthy, who gave detailed instructions about vermicomposting.  One of the members of that forum very kindly shared some worms with me.  I sneaked them into my balcony and started vermicomposting them in a bucket.  Although I did not have a bin with a dividing plate nor did my bucket have holes, I decided to monitor it very carefully.

What I have done is this:  Lined the bucket at the bottom with coconut coir, shredded newspaper and shredded cardboard which had been soaked in water and then squeezed out, so that they were wet but not soggy.  I added the worms with some of the compost in which they came.  Added a bit of my home compost too.  I tied the opening of the bucket with a dark bin bag with holes in it for air to enter.

Imagine my horror when after 4-5 days I found a few worms had crawled out and lay stiff on my balcony!  Wondered what had gone wrong.  Checking out the net gave me some comfort when I read that it was not uncommon in the adaptation period and that unless they all started crawling out or bunched up together, it was alright.

Gradually I have been adding some tomato pieces and the remains of musk melon to it.  Also adding maturing compost.  I am still to understand how much feeding constitutes overfeeding and how much underfeeding.  So in the meanwhile, I keep checking the bin and it is heartening to find some new additions to the family!

Vermicompost as it looks today (roughly a couple of weeks since I started).

The Composting Story - Part 2

.....Continued from here

So it was that I contacted "Daily Dump" and after researching the internet, got them to deliver a 3 piece khamba and Remix.


3 tiered Khamba

A bag of remix (from website of Daily Dump)

The process is pretty simple.  Layer the bottom of the top compartment with a newspaper and some dry leaves.  Put a layer of kitchen waste into it.  Too acidic foods such as lemon peels, pickles etc are avoided so that the compost does not turn too acidic.  Layer the waste with a few fistfuls of remix (a mixture of bacteria and cocopeat) or alternatively with dried leaves or sawdust.  This will ensure that your compost is not excessively wet.  Alternatively add layers of waste and remix/sawdust/leaves until the top compartment is full.  Once it is full, transfer the middle container to the top and the top one to the middle and continue the process.  Once both compartments are full, empty the contents of the middle compartment (the first compartment which was full) into the bottom compartment for maturing.  Before that line the bottom compartment with 3-4 inches of dry leaves at the bottom. Move the full compartment to the middle and the now empty one back to the top.  The process is repeated.

If you generate a lot of compost, you can use a bigger khamba or get a big leave it pot, which is what I have done.  Mixing a teaspoon of sour yoghurt into the compost is a good practice.  The compost needs to be aerated by frequent stirring.  I generated almost 3-4 kgs of ready to use compost within 2 months of starting composting.  (I started in the last week of February and by mid April, I had sieved my compost and stored it in a plastic bag).   

My first lot of home compost

The sieved remains from the compost
The sieved remains from the compost get added back to the bin for complete decomposition.  
Some interesting stuff happened along the way.  I had discarded some date seeds into the compost bin and guess what happened!

They sprouted in the compost.  So i decided to try getting them to grow.  No, I cannot grow a date palm in my balcony and I am sure it is not going to yield dates in the Bangalore weather, but I thought it would be nice to give it to the association to grow just as a show plant in the central garden.  So I put a few of them into a grow bag.

Day 1 after planting



A month after sowing in soil.
Time I guess, to hand them over to be planted in the ground!  If they survive, wonderful.  If they don't, well, I haven't lost anything.  A learning experience that.
I did have issues (won't say major ones) with fruit flies after the rains and I panicked.  Though I know that a certain number of maggots are certainly good for composting, there would be furore in the house (as if there had not been enough already), since the balcony is right next to the bedroom.  In order to ensure hassle free composting, I kept using Agnihastra and neem oil periodically to keep the population of maggots down. It certainly worked like a charm.  Also smeared the lips of the compartments with neem oil.
Now the compost was ready to use. 

......to be continued here
 


 


The Composting Story - Part 1

It has been a very long time since I posted here.  Oh well!  Life takes various twists and turns, sometimes real life intrudes into one's virtual presence.  Some of that is pleasant, other stuff not so welcome.  What I am going to talk about here is about some exciting times I have been having over the past few months.  

My hobbies keep changing with the season.  The flavour of the season around the end of last year was bird watching.  Suddenly, a trip to Goa added one more flavour.  No not feni, nor vindaloo.  It was this sudden craze for composting.  Have been thinking of it for a while and also been practising it in some rudimentary form till now.

This is how I used to do it before.  I used to mash up all the kitchen waste in a blender and add it to the wash water from my RO filter and water all my plants with the mix.  Though of late folks have been telling me that RO water is not good for the plants due to high salt content, I did not notice any deleterious effect on my plants at that time.

On a trip to Goa, I noticed my cousin using a khamba (which I had heard about vaguely earlier but not spared much of a thought to) and was really impressed.  So I decided to go hammer and tongs into home composting.

I live in an apartment complex on the third floor and have 3 balconies.  My front and side balconies have always had a lot of plants - mostly show plants and flowering (not that they flowered very profusely, but I did get some flowers off and on), some herbs and medicinal plants and tomatoes growing wild from the soil.  In fact this year I got almost a kilo of summer from these 'unplanted' plants.

Here is what my balcony looked like.

The entrance - front balcony

The entrance




More plants at the entrance

 

 Bone setter (also called hadjod) - used in Ayurveda to heal broken bones 


Bishops weed or Ajwain



 Tomatoes in my balcony

 Ripening tomatoes


Jasmine blooming in the side balcony


Hibuscus


Harvested tomatoes (grown from discarded seeds from the kitchen)

On a good day

So this is what my garden was like until I decided I wanted to grow more vegetables.  Anyway, the flowers I got were few and far between - one can't expect more on the 3rd floor of an apartment block.  The joy of getting occasional flowers or fruits, however, made me decide I was going to try my hand at organic vegetables.

......to be continued here

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

God Is A Gamer - Book Review



“God Is A Gamer”:  The title sounded really captivating and intriguing.  I was waiting anxiously for the book to arrive.

The wait was well worth it.  I was delighted to receive an autographed copy of the book.  Thanks a lot Blogadda and Ravi Subramaniam.

Can a suspense novel educate?  I have never given much thought to this question before.  However, reading this suspense thriller made me aware of the fact that there are many things in life, we are not all aware of – ‘bitcoins’ being one of those many things.  For the first time, I heard of this kind of ‘digital money’ which can be used online to buy goods and services. 

This is a novel which revolves around the bitcoin industry, involving powerful people in the American political establishment, an Indian gaming company, an international bank in India and a God forsaken corner of the Ukraine.   The story is very riveting; a powerful bureaucrat, close to the President is murdered in the US; the CEO of an international bank in India dies – is it a murder or a suicide- that is the question; the head of a department of the bank dies.  

The characters are well interlinked and the story flows well.  The novel takes the reader through a roller-coaster ride wondering ‘whodunnit’ and suspecting various people at various times.

The end of the story is totally unexpected.  The first denouement comes when the criminal is booked for the crime.  However, that is not quite all.

The epilogue brings with it yet another twist, which, after the first denouement, is totally unexpected.  This is something which could probably have been avoided.  It is interesting how the author has linked various characters in the story of crime for revenge;  but it seems far too complicated, a bit far-fetched and quite unnecessary.  Even though no one expects the stereotypic ‘.....and they lived happily ever after’ ending, this one in particular reveals the nadir to which a human being could possibly descend – not something one would particularly like to think of.  Some things are better not contemplated.

One loose end in the story was rather disappointing.  After getting Swami killed, there is no closure on that front.  A character is added to bring in the element of mystery about him being involved in Swami’s killing.  But this story just fizzles out at the end.

One very interesting feature I noticed is the length of the chapters.  Kept at a manageable length, some of them really short, it makes reading really fast and easy.  It is one of those ‘un-put-down-able’ books.

The language is excellent.   Although in the genre of fiction, the story gives an insight into the intrigues and politics of international banking institutions.  The line between reality and fiction is blurred, especially in the manner in which the prologue is written.

One more point, regards the title, one wonders where ‘God’ came in from.  I started reading the book wondering why God would be a gamer, but found no connection of any ‘God’ to the story.

All pluses and minuses considered, it is an interesting book on the whole.  Would I read another book by the same author again?  Most certainly.
How would I rate this book?   4/5.

This review is a part of the biggest <a href="http://blog.blogadda.com/2011/05/04/indian-bloggers-book-reviews" target="_blank"> BookReview Program </a> for <a href="http://www.blogadda.com" target="_blank">Indian Bloggers.</a> Participate now to get free books!


Friday, 17 October 2014

Technology and Life

This post is a part of “Beyond Boundaries” at BlogAdda.com in association with INK 2014.

Collaborating Blogger:  Kiran Acharya  The Conchblower.blogspot.in


I am a Punekar - by birth and at heart.  I was born in ‘Aamchi Mumbai’ and grew up in Pune.  I lived all my formative years in the city, influenced by the local culture and people.  Somewhere at the ripe young age of 29, I left the city to go abroad for further studies.  It was with mixed feelings that I left.  This was my first foray into the world outside my cocooned shell.  My four and a half years abroad were the most enriching time of my life, both in terms of experiencing life and the world outside, as well as for giving me the opportunity to meet people from diverse cultures, ethnic and family backgrounds.   It was an experience I would not trade for anything in the world.

That was around the time technology was changing gradually.  Letters and telegraphic messages were being replaced by fax.  STD and International dialling were gaining popularity despite the high costs.  I remember missing home and family a lot and wanting to talk to my parents to share the ups and downs of my life with them.  As a student on a stipend, I had to be extremely careful with my money and would call say 2-3 times in extremely desperate times – and that with a guilty conscience.  Companies selling international calls for a fraction of the regular price started making their presence felt and that came as a relief for people like me.
 
The advent of electronic typewriters and computers gradually made the conventional typewriter obsolete.  User friendly versions of operating systems like Windows were replacing the maddening DOS version.  However, computer technology was still the domain of professionals.  It had yet to touch the lives of the common person, many of whom still had major mental blocks about touching a computer.  As a researcher, I had my own computer and I remember kids coming and playing games on my desk top. Internet had also slowly started touching the lives of common people – e mail services were already in vogue. 

The advent of social networks during the early 2000’s took the world as we knew it by storm.
Unlike me, who experienced the phase of change, my fellow blogger, Kiran, who lives in Mumbai, belongs to the generation which was born during this period of technological revolution and has this experience to share:  “The advent of social networking in India which started during my college days, started off like a whiff of fresh air and took our stagnant minds by storm.  For me, it started with ‘Orkut’ which was used initially only to connect with friends;, the network expanded as did the definition of friends. Friends were no longer the people you meet regularly at college or go for a movie with. The term expanded to include many people whom you haven’t even met. They didn’t have to be the same age, or stay in your region, sometimes your viewpoint differed too. The thread which tied us was common interests in the same subjects.”

Somewhere around the time all this was happening, I returned to India and ‘settled down’.  (Oh how I hate that word!  It sounds like slush or mud that settles and decays.)  Anyway, I moved to a new city after getting married.  For 15 long years, I had many acquaintances, but no real ‘friends’ to speak of – at least not in the sense I understand the word and this, despite being a working woman with exposure to the world outside the home.  I had to deal with my self-doubts, doubts about my social skills or lack of it by reminding myself that I was the same person who had so many friends at home as well abroad.  It was just that I did not jell with the social and cultural ethos of the city. 
 
My use of technology during this phase of my life was restricted to my professional needs.  As a teacher, it was good to be able to give a search on Google for supplementary teaching material.
Strange as it might sound, it was around this time that illness ‘fortunately’ struck and I was grounded for almost 3 years, going out only if my life depended on it; (oh, no worries!  I have not lost it - the tough phase has not softened me in my head).  My only ‘outings’ were to the hospital for checkups for myself, to tend to my mom who had a surgery for a broken hip and later on to the home for Alzheimer’s patients to visit her when she was admitted there.  That would be 3 - 4 times a week.  It was enough reason for anyone to go into depression or lose it altogether.  But I was lucky. 

A couple of friends introduced me to the world of social networking – Facebook and a women’s networking site called Indusladies.com.  That was the beginning of a new phase of my life.  I started writing on the ladies’ site and the transformation in my life had to be experienced to be believed.  For one, I got to express my views on various topics freely.  I found it to be a very enriching experience, getting to know other people and their perspectives through their writings, responses and interactions on line.  “Birds of a feather flock together”.  I found a number of friends there.    It is often said that people in the virtual world are very different from what they are in real life.  Well, I don’t deny that risk, but from my personal experience, I found the opposite to be true.  Often, people in the real world need to put on a mask, whereas they can be their real selves behind the protective screen of anonymity online.   

I met and got to know some of these friends in person and some of them have even come and spent 3-4 days with me at my place.  They were exactly as they appeared to be in the virtual world.  It is not as if I did not come across some twerps, but then one cut them off and got on with life.  I would not miss making all the friends that I did, just for fear of meeting a handful of nitwits.  Many of these friendships have transcended the virtual space.  How can I forget the time when I was in the ICU after spinal surgery and my “virtual friends” kept calling to find out how I was doing, talking to me when I could and helping me keep up my spirits!  I, too, was so addicted to the site; I found it hard to be off line.  I managed to get my notebook into the ICU and blogged the day after surgery – a 4 part blog about the experience.  ("A Story of a Valentine's Day And A Few Days That Followed"The response was overwhelming.  From concerned enquiries to exhortations to take rest, I did not feel the lack of friends or relatives by my side during that time. 

There was so much support, mental and emotional when I was reeling under the impact of my mother’s illness.  How many of my ‘virtual’ friends have come to help me when she was in hospital and in the home!  There was so much of emotional support when she eventually passed on 3 months ago. 

It has been really nice to get to know some people from other countries through online games.  Apart from the games, there have been many chat sessions too.  Many a sleepless night has been spent chatting with friends across time zones, making the dreary hours easier to bear.  Not seldom have I been asked by them why I am awake so late and been told to go to bed “NOW”. :-D  Why should they care?

The opportunity to make a lot of friends in specific groups based on shared interests, ranging from poetry, to books to cooking and food, on Facebook has also been a very good experience.

Apart from all this, I discovered some new skills and with the encouragement of these ‘strangers’ or ‘virtual friends’, whichever way one likes to look at them – I prefer the latter – I started developing those; first and foremost I grew more savvy about using computer applications.  It was a great step, just overcoming a major mental block.  I found my passion for writing and some amateur photography.  The fact that I have people, with whom I can share these, encourages me to develop those hobbies even more.  In fact, three of my stories were published in an anthology just 3 days ago.  It was such a thrilling moment.  I now hope to hone that skill further.

Blogging brought me in touch with a lot of other bloggers, young and old.  The experience is what unites all of us, across the board.  Kiran’s experience bolsters my statement.   “Then, I started blogging, reading other blogs and connecting with bloggers. Reading blogs introduced) me to complete new kind of travel experience - armchair travel.  As a tourist, one travels to places and gathers information provided by the tourist guide; but most of the times, one merely scratches the surface. One can’t capture the ethos of the place in just one visit. But, when you see the world through the eyes of the regional blogger, you get to see a different world.  Instead of visiting a place, the place comes visiting and reveals its secrets. Then, when you travel to the place, it somehow seems more beautiful and meaningful.

Earlier, only a few people could express their views and the rest would accept whichever argument was more convincing to them. There was no scope for interactive discussions.  Freedom of expression has now got a new meaning; people don’t just have the freedom, but also the means of expression. Blogging has made it easier for everyone to share their thoughts. Instead of a debate between two opposing viewpoints, we now have multiple perspectives due to contribution of diverse ideas.

Stereotyping is so common in social interactions leads to many misconceptions. For example, myths about ‘lack of morals’ based on what is seen in movies are not unknown.  Within India, all North Indians refer to all South Indians as ‘Madrasis’ just the way, all North Indians are frequently blanketed under the description ‘Hindikara’ meaning Hindi speaking people. The fact that the culture varies even within these regions was not clear.  Advent of technology gave everyone the chance to get in touch with  people who stay in other areas and realise that hardly anyone conforms to a stereotype. People are learning the value of accepting others and, getting to know about  their culture, instead of abusing them with preconceived notions.”

This is entirely about how technology has helped me grow on a personal level.  Talking of technology on a general level, I cannot but help feeling overwhelmed by the sheer wealth of information that is available today, to every person at the tap of a key.  It has opened up a new world to kids who learn so much, thanks to the exposure they get.  I remember my school days, when what we read was dictated by the books that were available in the school or public libraries, that too subject to availability.  Today, Google and Wikipedia have turned into the human versions of “akashic records.”  ‘Ask and you shall know’ seems to be the modern day mantra.  So much so that “Google” has changed from a proper noun to a verb.  I love ‘googling’ for information. :-D  A friend with a literary bent of mind referred to Google as the present day Jeeves!

‘Skype’ is one more marvel of the modern world.  It is like having people walk in to your room for a chat whenever you wish them to be there – the modern version of Aladdin’s magic lamp.  It is so good to see young people today, being able to go where they will and still being able to communicate with near and dear ones at home without having to spend a dime.  It is such a boon to parents whose children have flown the nest for far off climes.  The feeling of connection over distances is indeed comforting.

How many times did I wish I could take my parents abroad just to share all my experiences and the beautiful places I got to see!  Had they been there today, all I would have needed to do would have been to transport them using a smart phone!

Talking of parents and smart phones, it is such a wonderful feeling these days to see people in their 60s and 70s keeping themselves mentally engaged and active on the net.  Tablets, I-phones, smart phones.....  Many of them use the Internet to share their knowledge, experience and talents with people around the world.  Where is the scope to get bored?

Internet has come as a boon to both young and old when it comes to shopping online for everything under the sun.  No need to go running to the market to buy furniture, groceries or anything for that matter.  It is available at the click of a button.  No need to trouble children or depend on them to do your shopping for you.

Many housewives are finding a degree of financial independence, thanks to ‘work from home’ schemes on the internet.  Looking for directions and all human beings can give you are vague instructions?  Why bother to ask them?  Check out your GPS.  Want to find an address or a phone number?  Ask Google.

Everyone says that learning is a lifelong experience but as you grow older, you develop some fixed notions and find it difficult to change them.  However, rapidly changing technology keeps on pouring information into your lap without giving your thoughts a chance to ‘settle down. It’s becoming difficult for anyone to claim knowledge of everything due to the pace at which knowledge is increasing. According to Socrates, “the only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” Technology is certainly, doing its best to make us wiser.

Indeed, technology has changed the world to a global village.  (All that is now left, it seems, is for people to be teleported wherever they wish to go! :-D)  It has brought people closer and opened the door to cross-cultural understanding and will hopefully be the harbinger of world peace some day.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

The Dream

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.

Ko ko ko ko!”  Where did this cock appear from? I am not aware of any cocks in the vicinity - except of course for a few cocky males of the species Homo sapiens.  In fact I have not set eyes on or heard a real cock crowing in years.  Something does not make sense.  I try for a few moments to understand where that sound is coming from.  All I can see is deep mists from behind which the sound emanates.  Slowly the mists clear and my brain wakes up with a shock.  It is that darned alarm clock which has been putting on the finest impersonation of a cock that I have ever heard.  Not that it makes me appreciate it any more.  I am still mad at the cock, sorry at the clock.  It takes all my rationality to prevent me from reaching out, picking it up and hurling it at the wall.  I still need that cock impersonator tomorrow morning.

I sit up in bed and rub my eyes.  I can scarcely open them.  I don’t want to open them.  Why would I?  I have been on the most delightful date of my life.  I resent the fact that I have been dragged out of that date without even a good bye hug.  Why, oh why?  What a stunner he was!   Tall, dark and handsome, like he just walked out of some M&B book!
*****
“Hi Swati” he says as he walks into the restaurant giving me his most dazzling smile.  Oh the charmer!  I am totally swept off my feet.  But being the Virgo that I am, I cannot help my critical streak from popping up just then.  Why must Daya insist on coming dressed the way he is to a restaurant? 

I have known Daya alias Dayanidhi (no, not of the Maran nor of the Azhagiri fame) since I was a kid.  He was a daily visitor at our place.  One could go to the extent of saying he spent most of his time with us.  Daya would make an excellent candidate for a “Fair and Lovely Menz” cream – that is for the “before” version.  Shahrukh Khan could do the “after” version if he chooses to, but one thing is for sure, Shahrukh’s “handsomeness” quotient would not be a scratch on my  Daya’s, even if he exhausted all stocks of the said cream from all the go downs owned by the manufacturer.  In fact, Shahrukh should feel flattered to be shown as the end product of Daya’s transformation!

 I look at Daya and give him my most disapproving look.  He does not fail to notice it.

“Now what?” he asks looking puzzled.

“Can’t you come appropriately dressed to a place like this?”

“What’s wrong with my dress?  Isn’t this how you have always seen me?”

“All that’s fine.  There would be no problem if you were coming home.  But here of all the places???!!!  Do you want to be the centre of attraction?  What's with that peacock feather and topless style with all those pearl necklaces?”

“Oh, don’t overreact.  Just look around.  Not a soul is interested in you or me.  Now, if you have finished fighting with me, tell me, why did you want me to meet you here and that too so urgently?  The way you called out, it sounded like the world was coming to an end.”

I look around consciously and am surprised to see that it is indeed as he says.  No one is looking at us.  In fact, we might just as well be invisible!  Is everybody BLIND or are they just ignoring us politely?

“Oh, the cook is on French leave today.  I was absolutely famished.  Now some cove called Murphy seems to have stated that, it is precisely when you think you are going to die of hunger and just on days when the cook decides to act very French that one starts dreaming of all the wickedest things to eat.  Why did you have to create that guy Murphy?  I had no option other than to come here to fulfil all those gastronomic cravings of mine.  Now it is not quite appropriate for an Indian woman to go all alone to a restaurant, is it?  Imagine what would happen if the moral police heard of it!  So I was wondering whom I could invite over, when I remembered what a good buddy you have been all along.  That’s why I thought of calling you over.  If you have any objections, you can go back.  I shall call some other friend.”

“Oh, cool it lady!  I was just wondering at the urgency.  I was so busy sorting out some major issues when you called.  Listening to your desperate calls, I thought you were in some crisis.   I just left what I was doing and rushed here, only to find you sitting here, cool as a cucumber.”

Oh, sure!  I know, I know, you don’t need to tell me how important you are and how indispensable your services are.  You carry the burden of the entire universe on your shoulders, don't you?  Why, if it was not for you, the universe would have wiped out, wouldn't it?” I let out a blast of sarcasm.

“Oh, there you go again!  Will you for once stop fighting with me?  Tell me, what you’d like to order?”

I pick up the menu card.  This time round I read the card from left to right, not the other way round.  After all, I need not worry about the bill.  God will take care of it.

“What are you planning to have?” I ask.  Maybe I can order something else, so I can taste two dishes at one go! I think to myself.

Daya winks at me mischievously and orders ‘Thalipeeth’ with butter.  Oh, that is so like him!  I get mad once again.  He knows only too well that I avoid butter.  He guessed my agenda when I asked him what he was going to order.  He does not want to share it with me.
 
“Daya, how many times do I have to tell you, so much butter is bad for the health?” 

“Oh, cut that crap, I know you would have brought along a box of your home-made butter for me to eat.  You are one smart cookie aren’t you?  You avoid butter and foist it on me every time.”

“What do I do Daya? I miss the old times when mom or dad would churn butter early in the morning and little me would be parked right next to them, refusing to budge till I had got my daily quota of butter.  Oh!  I remember the taste of that butter which would melt in my mouth.  The only way for me to recreate those days is for me to sit and churn out some butter from time to time, ogle at it, feel happy, turn it into ghee, smell it, drool over it – don’t be horrified, I don’t mean ‘over’it in the literal, physical sense -  and then distribute it to folks who would appreciate it.  I can’t eat so much butter and ghee, no matter how much I would love to.  I am on a diet, as you know!  You, Daya, are more considerate to me.  I don’t have to spend so much gas converting butter into ghee.  So here is your ‘dabba’ of butter.  Remember me when you are eating it.  And there is no need to act as if you are doing me a favour by accepting that butter.  You love the stuff, I know it.  You know what a big sacrifice it is for me to have to cut it out of my diet.  You also know how I feel about the fact that you can eat all the butter you like without the scales budging a milligram.”

“This is a new definition to the term ‘buttering’ someone” quips Daya.  He has an amused look on his dark features.

I ignore his jibe and order a ‘kanda pohe’ and adrak waali chai.  Daya’s eyes sparkle mischievously.

The waiter brings our orders.  I sit there, mesmerized, looking at Daya having a go at the thalipeeth and butter and asking for extra helpings of the butter.  Whether it is Daya, or Daya eating, or the butter that mesmerizes me, I would be hard pressed to say.  Sometime later, I suddenly remember that I was ever so famished and that was the reason I was sitting here.  I pick up my spoon and reach out for my plate only to find that the kanda pohe has been polished clean!  I look at my plate surprised and then up at Daya.  He sits there as if nothing has happened.

“What?  Why are you looking at me like that?”

“What happened to my pohe?”  I ask.  Is that a look of guilt I see creeping across Daya’s face?  I shall not say “shadow” of guilt, as it would be impossible to see any shadow on his dark face.

“You mean to say you wiped my plate clean without my even knowing about it?” I ask shocked.

“I swear by both my moms, I have not touched your pohe” he says, sounding very injured.

“Do you think I am a fool? Just look at my plate” I rage and reach out for my plate to thrust it under his eyes.  Suddenly I see it is full.
 
Blimey!  Am I awake or am I dreaming?  I blink at the plate, then at Daya.  He is watching me with a smile playing at the edges of his lips.  I put a spoonful of the pohe into my mouth.  It tastes delicious.  It even has a buttery taste!!!  I have a distinct feeling of floating in heaven.

I hear the strains of a flute playing somewhere in the background.  The peacock feather on Daya’s head dances in the breeze of the fan.  A few Gopis sit around churning butter.  Some cows are grazing on the almost fluorescent green grass around.  I have never seen such a shade of green before.  I sit under a tree, my back resting on the trunk, my feet stretched out, my eyes closed.  A waiter is walking around taking orders.  This restaurant, (or is it heaven?) is called ‘Brindavan’.

Ko ko ko ko!”  Where did this cock appear from? Wasn’t it supposed to be a peacock?

*****
Back to my mundane life.  I sigh.  It was good while it lasted.  It is not everyday that one gets to go on a date with God, does one, even if it's only a dream?


Friday, 10 October 2014

"Love In The Era of Confusion" - An Anthology


This is an anthology which is going to be published very shortly.  Many new authors are making their debut through this publication.  Watch this space for more.


Monday, 6 October 2014

Memory Intrigues - Chapter 26



This is the twenty sixth chapter of Memory Intrigues , a mystery series in the “Game of Blogs” for the team “ Dynamic Word Weavers” as a part of # CelebrateBlogging campaign by Blogadda.


 You can read the previous chapter here , or check out all the chapters on our FB page here

The story so far:


Shekhar, Jennifer here.  I think I can help you get Roohi back.  However you will have to keep your nerve and play the game carefully.  If the kidnappers call you, play for some more time. Tell them to give you time till tomorrow afternoon.


She can almost hear Shekhar heave a sigh of relief.  “Thank you so much Jenny.  That is so kind of you.  I always knew I could depend on you …  Our friendship … and love … is as strong as it always was.”


Although Shekhar tries to infuse confidence into those words, he cannot hide his scepticism.  “Why this sudden change in Jennifer?  She is singing a totally different tune.  What had happened during the course of the evening to make her change her mind?  Was this for real or was this some new game plan of Jenny’s?”


Jennifer can hear it in his voice.  Of course, he wouldn't trust her any more.  How could he, after all that happened between them?

She shakes her head hard as if to shake off all the emotional baggage that has been bothering her and weighing her down all these years. She is determined to finish the game that she has started.  Yes, she is the only person who can do it and she will.

___________________________________________________


“How do I get this little kid out of this mess?” wonders Jenny.  The image of a police officer suddenly springs up before her mind’s eye – that of ACP Sameer Thorat.  Surely he will help me out.
Her mind goes to a time, four years ago, when she was covering an election speech in Shivaji Maidan by a very famous regional politician.
*****
4 years ago:
The grounds are packed with people pouring in from everywhere to catch a glimpse of the politician and to hear his scintillating speech.  The man is known for his oratory and his rhetoric.  The milling masses are very restless and there is a very large posse of police present on the grounds to control the crowds.  They are expecting trouble.  Jennifer has arrived a bit late and is trying to squeeze her way into the media enclosure.  She is doing a stint as official photographer for one of the big newspaper houses.  The crowds make it impossible for her to move forward.  She spots a police officer standing a few paces away and approaches him for help.  The badge on his shirt reads PI Sameer Thorat.  He helps her get a vantage point from where she can get some good shots.  After the rally, she calls PI Thorat to thank him for his help.  He has been very kind and helpful towards her.  It was not unusual, thereafter, for Jenny to get in touch with him whenever she came to Mumbai for any official work.
Jenny has great regard for this Police Inspector who very soon makes his way up to the position of ACP.  Little does she suspect the special interest that the ACP has developed in her, over the years.  He is fascinated by this dusky young photographer who seems to think it is the most natural thing to live in casual shorts and tees all the time.  She is something of a non-conformist and a rebel – she has a tattoo which says "Vivacious Jen" on her right hand; she seems to be very fond of accessories – she wears multi-coloured bead chains around her neck, dangling earrings made of oxidised metal and beads, some beads along one lock of hair, metal bangles, three rings on each hand; she has beautiful, sparkling kohl lined eyes.  Although the colour of her accessories changes every day, one unchanging accessory she carries is her camera.  It seems like an unalienable part of her anatomy.  She has a tremendous attitude which the ACP finds very attractive.  Coupled with that is a certain vulnerability which bring out his protective instincts.
It comes as something of a surprise to Jenny, when he expresses his interest and proposes to her.   Jennifer thinks he is kidding; she has never thought of him in that manner.  Apart from a basic distrust in men after her experience with Shekhar, she is also obsessed with the idea of getting back into Shekhar’s life.  Sameer, from her perspective, is no more than a ‘good friend’.
*****
7 pm:
Jennifer is suddenly jolted back to the present from her reverie.  Yes, Sameer is the right person to help her.  She picks up her mobile.
“Hello, ACP Sameer Thorat?”
Hello, Jenny!  Where are you? The whole police force is looking for you."

"Hold it, hold it ACP Thorat, I shall explain everything to you. But before that I have a lot to tell you and require your help."  

"When did you come to town?
“Oh, I came yesterday.  Now, please can you listen to me?”
Tell me, how can I help you?
“It is terribly urgent, but I cannot discuss this over the phone.  I am in Pali Hill at the moment.    Can we meet somewhere over dinner?”
ACP Thorat is more than delighted at the prospect of meeting Jennifer.  They decide to meet up in Bandra at a Chinese restaurant.
Within an hour the two are seated in a quiet corner of the restaurant.  The restaurant is dimly lit and there is soft music playing unobtrusively in the background.    They order a couple of starters and main dishes.
So tell me now, what is the matter?” asks ACP Thorat.
“You must help me help an old friend Mr. Shekhar Dutta.”
Why should you be interested in helping him out?
“Look Mr. Thorat, I told you he is an old friend.  He is in trouble – his daughter has been kidnapped.  You must be aware of the case of 9 year old Roohi Dutta, going missing?  She is the daughter of the reputed news reporter Mrs. Tara Dutta and Mr. Shekhar Dutta.”
Yes, I know.  But what has this to do with you and how can I help?
“You may have heard of a stand-up comedian Mr. Aryan Ahuja from New Delhi, who is presently in Mumbai, trying his luck in the film industry?”
Can you please come to the point Jennifer?  You are really confusing me.  One minute you talk of Roohi, the next of Aryan Ahuja.  What do the two have to do with each other and more importantly, what do you have to do with this case?
“Well, I know Aryan Ahuja has kidnapped Roohi.”
What???!!!  How do you have this information and what proof do you have for your accusation?
“I had good reason to suspect that Ahuja had kidnapped Roohi.  Based on my hunch, I hired a detective to locate Ahuja, who I was told was also missing.  It is basically a long story and I don’t have the time right now to tell you everything.  I heard that he is in his guest house on Pali Hill.  I followed him there and snooped around and saw Roohi and Cyrus Daruwala, a student whom Tara Dutta has been mentoring, with him.  I suspect Cyrus is also somehow involved in this whole business.  We need to get Roohi out safe from there.”
Hmmm..... Alright, I shall help out.  Let’s send a posse of policemen there immediately.  We can  arrest them immediately.”   The ACP pulls out his mobile from his pocket.
“No ACP Thorat!  Don’t be so precipitous!  We need to watch our steps.  This man, Ahuja, is dangerous.  He could easily harm Roohi if you tried to break into the house.  I have a plan.  We can make him walk into our trap!”
OK, what do you have in mind?
Jennifer tells the ACP of her plan.  The ACP deputes calls up the police station and deputes two constables to hang around the guest house in plain clothes, in order to keep a watch on Ahuja’s and Cyrus’ movements.  
Next morning, Jennifer goes to the police station.  From there, she, alongwith the ACP and a couple of police constables in civvies leave for Pali Hill.  They go in the ACP’s private car, so as to be as inconspicuous as possible.
It takes them about an hour to get there.  They park their car some way off from the house and walk there, trying to be as quiet as possible.  The ACP and the constables take their positions.  Jennifer hangs around at a distance, waiting for Cyrus to come out.  
After a while Cyrus comes out of the house.  Jenny looks at him carefully.  This is the first time she is seeing him so closely, in person.  Can she take the risk of approaching him and talking to him?  She might be running a risk in doing so.  Her instincts, however, tell her that Cyrus is not like Ahuja.  Ahuja is a dangerous man with criminal tendencies.  Cyrus looks like a normal young person and is in all probability seriously misguided.  She approaches him.  

"Cyrus Daruwala?" she asks.


Read the next part of the story here.

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