Showing posts from June, 2006

Island express

I was trying to rent a house in Bangalore (this is a story from the mid 80’s), there were no apartments those days, only houses and my search was not so ably assisted by the few regular estate agents (brokers – that’s what they were called then) around as I was a bachelor (Persona Non Grata of course). Assurances that I was engaged and mostly vegetarian fell on deaf ears until I met Mr Swamy at Mt Ganesh Coffee works in Malleswaram. What a broker was doing in a coffee grinding mill beats me, but I concluded that it was not a very profitable investment and our man was trying his hand at a benifit mankind enterprise to appease the gods…

We conversed mostly in English and Tamil (advantages of hailing from Palakkad) and after a few meetings and home visits found a decent pad around Mahalakshmi layout. I was very thankful to Mr Swamy and the contract signing was duly completed over a cup of filter coffee which Swamy provided using freshly ground coffee from his mill that produced it every b…

Man on the street

On days when the mind is calmer, your observation is very keen. Yesterday was one such day, a clear and sunny day – something quite rare in the UK. I was at the red lights in my car, waiting for the stream of people exiting the train station and crossing the street.

I am sure he wanted to be as unobtrusive as possible, but he caught my eye. He was dressed in a well fitting black suit, light stripes typical of English suits, a pair of well-cared Oxfords on his feet, a perfectly knotted (double) maroon tie and well combed hair with a touch of gel. He had a backpack over his left shoulder, slung carelessly like youngsters of the time. He waited for the pedestrian lights to turn green, for the beep- beep to start, and then crossed quickly. His gait was hurried and he looked completely & totally assured, walking by the side of the road, briskly to his place of work. He crossed the war memorial, stopped to tie his shoelaces and continued on. He dodged others around nimbly as he trudged a…

Transformer oil

Yesterday was a miserable day; I have developed a sore throat, sat through a boring finish to the India-Windies test and later on watched an even more boring football match Swiss vs Ukraine.

But I remembered this very interesting story that my friend Ganesan had narrated.

It was during his Guindy engineering college days (early 80’s), one day the professor stated that he would be away that morning to attend an electricity board auction for used transformer oil. The Prof wanted some for dielectric tests etc in the lab. The result of his trip proved to be very interesting, he was thoroughly wonderstruck when he found a large gathering getting ready to bid for ‘waste transformer oil’. As a man of science, he found some of the specimens out there very unworthy buyers of a mineral oil that can at best be used in diverse industry for lubrication & preservative coatings…

He could not but resist asking the chap sitting next to him what he wanted this oil for and why there was such a mad rush…

Turtles can fly

If you have not seen this movie, try and get hold of a copy and spend a couple of hours watching a heart wrenching beautiful movie. A movie with a cast almost entirely made up of children 2-13 years old, you wonder how the Iranian Kurd director Ghobadi managed to get out such performances from them and you marvel at the story line…Not one of the kids is a pro actor, every one was apparently a refugee kid!!! And each one deserves an Oscar…

Picture courtsey

This is a simple but poignant story of a group of kids in the war torn Iraqi - Turkish border, at a refugee camp, about a group of orphan kids who collect and sell unexploded land mines for a living, led by the fantastic ‘Mr Satellite’. Satellite is the group’s negotiator; he gets them the best deal. So why is he called Satellite? Because he excels at putting up Sat dishes as well!! The opening scene when de does such an installation is so good…Listen to how he explains & translates the channel content. Life goes …

Highway of death

The soldiers were huddled in the TATA bus taking them back to Baghdad; they had enough of Saddam’s misadventure into Kuwait. Many of them had been involved in the torture and subjugation of the rich Kuwait and her subjects, but after months of that, they were happy to head for home. Bags of clothes, toys and the such, looted during their stay in Kuwait, had been hurriedly shoved under the seats. The officers carted bigger riches in their cars. The orders for retreat had come from Baghdad on 25th Feb.

The convoy started the slow drive back on the Abdali highway 80 from Jahra to Basra. Consisting of tanks, armoured vehicles, buses and assorted vehicles like cars, jeeps and trailers; they laboured up the Abdali pass. As they climbed the low hill, the fighter jets appeared on the skyline, flying towards them.

The first signs of the terror to follow started when the fighter jets strafed the front and back of the approximate 1500-2000 vehicle convoy. Then came the bombers. What followed was …

Fire Walking

I still remember the Mariamman temple in our village in Palakkad, Mariamman is the mother god who controls all kinds of Poxes, fertility and so on!!. Being close to the Tamilnadu border meant that a lot of the culture blends in those regions, we had a number of Tamil customs, a lot of the farm labour came from Tamil villages. As a child, I used to watch in awe the people who walked across burning coal embers. I used to be terrified of the head priest or Velichhapadu who used to split his head (or so I thought) and dance around with blood streaming down his face.

I asked the elders how one walked on fire. Nobody gave me a proper answer, and then I started hearing from people that all you needed was will power, that sounded very vague as well.

I started to check around a bit, I found that there was a fire walking institute, many a fire walking training centres for organisations, fire walking seminars for personal empowerment & motivation. Phew…they said by walking on fire, you conquer…

Kerala elections

try this blogsite, the pictures there are simply hilarious...

Good blogs & links

Nice links to browse

Check out the link on my blog - Melam - links to many mallu bloggers

The great gatso

It is a dark evening, and ugh! Is it cold, rainy and windy? Typical Brit weather…You are driving along the A34, listening to BBC2, the thought of a hot dinner brings warmth to your creaky bones, you inadvertently step on the accelerator to take you closer to your destination and then it hits you with a blinding flash…and another…The Gatso has stricken.

We have heard of Gatsby, but a Gatso? I can tell you, it is the most hated man made structure in the UK and there are not many who have not fallen victim to the ever-preying gatso. Sitting like an owl perched on a branch, the Gatso is watching and waiting, waiting for you to make that one silly mistake.

Gatso is a radar-based invention by a chap called Maurice Gastonides (long gone) in Netherlands, and otherwise known as the speed camera that nowadays appear every few miles on British roads. Meant to reduce speed on roads and save lives, it has now become a valuable revenue-generating sch…

Extreme PC repair

I had a horrid time last week, the Gigabyte K8NS motherboard quit on me. How, I have no clue as yet, the mobo obviously had a short someplace, it went on to blow up the PSU. Trust me! I checked the PSU (that took some time to learn as these ATX PSU’s work only after they get a soft start from the mobo) over and over again, tried another one I had, blew that up as well.

I got fed up, ordered a new Mobo plus a PSU (had to be identical or I would have big problems with Windows XP and reactivation) and completed the PC again. Booting up went well, everything looks reasonably OK now though I have a strange problem now. The CPU temperature shows up negative in MBM and Speedfan. Bios and Easytune report proper temps. I tried upgrading the Bios and some drivers…No use…I have a CPU reporting Minus 112 deg C!!!!!

Anyway the PC is up & running. All is well for the time being, I hope to fine-tune everything this weekend.

For those who want to see the bits and pieces of the PC under repair, here …

Santa Banta in Poona

Every now and then a good forward lands up in the 'in box'. This one below was classic, I have no idea who created this, but it is a a great read - make sure you dont jump to the last part..

This happened about a month ago near Lonavala.

A guy was driving from Mumbai to Pune and decided not to take the new expressway as he wants to see the scenery. The inevitable happens and when he reaches the ghats his car breaks down - he's stranded miles from nowhere.

Having no choice he starts walking on the side of the road, hoping to get a lift to the nearest town. It's dark and raining. And pretty soon he's wet and shivering. The night rolls on and no car goes by, the rain is so heavy he can hardly see a few feet ahead of him. Suddenly he sees a car coming towards him.

It slows and then stops next to him - without thinking the guy opens the door and jumps in. Seated in the back, he leans forward to thank the person who had saved him when he realizes ther…

Chicken 65

Life has so many mysteries, and one mystery that dogged me for a long time was why is this dish is called Chicken 65 of all things. Why not 99 or 10 or 67, why 65?

Chicken 65 for those uninitiated is a dry chicken drumstick fry – akin to the Buffalo wings (aha! I smell another mystery there) with lots of ginger, the trick is apparently with the masala –

I decided to check around on the name, why Chicken 65?

Story 1- an expert cook states that 65 chillies are used for every kilo of chicken
Story 2- According to a waiter, the recipe, which originated in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, is best made with a young chicken exactly 65 days old
Story 3 – It was first made and served in a bar in Kerala in 1965
Story 4 – It uses 65 grams of red chillies
Story 5 – It was first served in a hotel on NH 65.
Story 6 – 65 ingredients are used to make the dish

Now, I checked the only one story I could, that was the one about NH 65, no! this cant be right, the NH 65 runs from Ambala in Punjab to Pali in Ra…

Duck and Duct tape

It was again a story from my days in Florida, I was reading articles on sticky tape shortages after the Homeland security ‘Orange alert’ announcements and I wondered, ‘what a situation this is, are people really thinking these days or being paranoid’? I was in warm South Florida, and thinking of the events in 1991, of chemical attacks, missiles and tape. I remembered the time when packing & industrial tape sales were brisk in Riyadh and everybody sealed all home openings and windows with tape, to escape potential gas tipped missile attacks from Iraq, including yours faithfully…and then I remembered Abi’s college list…

Abishek had come home from college for his annual vacation; he had his usual list of things to take back. One of the items was Duck tape. I called him and ridiculed him for misspelling ‘Duct’ tape and explained that it was duct tape since it was originally used for taping AC ducts. He did not say anything, just humored the old man with a wry smile. At home depot, I wa…

Drive in Post office?

I recall this from my days of living at Coral Springs – Florida where driving can at times be a bit hazardous. You may not be at fault, but the person behind can drive into you, typically a disoriented ‘aged’ person (please no offence meant, I may very well do exactly the same at that age) who inadvertently stamps the accelerator at the lights instead of the brakes. The likelihood of that happening is quite high out there, just as you may come across an alligator in your backyard.

Have you heard of a drive in post office, much like drive in movies? This is not one; a guy drove right into the Coral Springs post office. By the way I had been to the very same post office the morning this happened, queuing up at that very spot! Picture from NBC-6 or was it Sun Sentinel Florida?

That was not the end of the story; the US association of letter carriers awarded a ‘Hero of the year’ citation to the employee who helped save a baby in the PO from under the car.

See page 24 of this article linked be…

LSE London

My mother is visiting us and we went for a look-around in London a couple of weeks back. As we passed the London School of Economics, a landmark, the tour guide was telling us a bit about the college and a famous student now studying there.

She added ‘You know, this new student recently had her exams and she got especially good grades in her orals’.

I guess you figured out the name of the student - Monica L.

There was an American on the double-decker, who asked the guide with the most innocent expression he could muster – Who is Monica?

I never heard what the young guide replied. But I will let your imagination run wild.

Malabar airlines

Lets start the week with a smile..
My friend Tomychayan sent this.

Thanks to whoever created this image...

Observe all the nuances carefully!!
New low cost airline to the gelf

Sangada Mukku (Crying Corner)

As one drives along the Mathaar(airport) street to the old city centre Al Bathaa in Riyadh, typically on a Thursday evening, he starts to sense a different vibrancy from the rest of Riyadh. While you would hardly see a soul on a hot summer day on the streets of Riyadh, save some labourers toiling on the streets or building works, the sight as you near the Five building complex is very different…

I remember my very first visit to that place; it was during summer 1987, Riyadh was not the hyper modern city it is today. I was bored, lonely and decided to walk from the Marriot to Bathaa. I had been in Riyadh only a few days; my first assignment out of India and it did not at that time strike me odd to take a two-mile walk. Well, it turned out to be one hell of a walk, the road was burning hot, the temperature outside was dry & between 35deg-45deg C, both my nostrils burned and the feet started to hurt. I remember my feeling then, no problem trudge on…I was fed up, I wanted to see some c…

The Ahmedpur train story

Many years ago, I read this story in a magazine called Imprint...

The magazine is not in print these days...

But I found it on the net ...

Another reference to this story is the article linked.

It has more examples on the use and misuse of English

Food for the connoisseur

Two places I remember fondly are the Bombay and Sagar restaurants at Calicut..

If you like chicken fry, either of these places is great. If you like chicken biryani, Sagar is a better choice. Others may talk about Paragon, Komala vilas or Zainathatah’s…I still think Sagar is the best. There is a new Sagar also on Mavoor road, but I am told it is just so-so compared to the original situated next to the KSRTC bus stand. Bombay hotel is close to the beach.

Chicken fry, also termed Nirthiporicha kozhi –a chicken fried with a lot of fried coconut after marination in mild spices.. Let me warn you, you wont have too much of flesh to chomp, but the taste is heavenly…. Try it with the Kerala porotta…Both Bombay & Sagar do a great job of it, but I am not so sure if Bombay hotel is family friendly these days.

Chicken biryani – just mention the dish together with Sagar, people start to wax and wane about the texture, taste & so on…Typical Malabar biriyani – more like the Kabsa rice of Arabia…

Interesting bloggers

I cam across some interesting people the other day

Both are of totally different genre...

A Turkish bath

Have you have experienced a Turkish bath? I can assure you, it is an unforgettable and pleasant experience. Mine was, of course an original, in Turkey. Hammam is Turkish for public baths (remember the soap we had in India?).

Venkat and I were spending a hot summer’s day loitering around along the Sultanahmet area in Istanbul. The family was away in India for the summer, so time was a plenty…passing the Blue mosque, I recall it was Venkat’s brainwave to try out a Turkish bath. The first thought that came to my mind then was a hairy sweaty pot bellied masseur breaking my bones and pulling out all the body appendages from their respective joints…

I was a bit apprehensive, neither of us had any idea as to what it could turn out to be, but we charged ahead and found the original Cagaloglu hamam in Cemberlitas which is centuries old. I would assume that it has changed a bit since the ages, become a bit modern, more hygienic and all that .

We were led upstairs where there are changing/locker ro…

Rotisserie programs

You wont believe what some people out there are upto..

People buy what they cant afford and then find amazing ways to get out of the situation or at least to try & get out of the situation..

The only rotisserie that I knew of was the Shawarma we ate in the Middle east & Turkey!

2003 NE blackout USA

I was on vacation in India when the 2003 NE USA blackout occurred. TV showed a lot of footage of people on the streets, harried looking utility staff, terrified looking wall street bankers, glib corporate spokesmen….and many experts who spun away about the why’s, the what’s and the how’s (without anyone really knowing anything – of course) .

Lights and air-conditioning went out, Food went bad, and looting started….

Being one who makes a living working with power automation and control, I could hazard an educated guess through the cause and effect process, though I did not precisely know what it was due to.

Many responsible persons worked on it…day & night, night and day

They came up with a pretty good report

A root cause being a tree in Cleveland-Ohio . Now I am sure many of you don’t believe me, so take a look at this article which gives some details..

The impact ? some 30-40 billion dollars

Midnight express

Who has seen the movie Midnight express with Brad Davis ?

(here is a review for those interested)

If you have, i must say two things

1- the movie is pretty good
2- the movie portrays Turks in the wrong light

having lived in Turkey for some 5 years and knowing the Turkish people, I must say the movie delivers a lopsided message. The problem is this one movie has slanted opinion about Turkey so much over the years since its release ..Remember how Charles Sobraj was incarcerated in Tihar??? What would you feel if a movie was made about Sobraj's bad opinion on Tihar?

In the case of 'Midnight express' the chap ( BTW it is based on a real story, I think the guy is still alive) apparently smuggled drugs, get caught and was put in a jail - u can imagine a scenario with sobraj in Tihar. The guy escapes and tells his story..which of course is done well..

but try asking a Turk, hell will break loose...
They are a very nationalistic bunch.

Sport relief India

I watched this program on BBC TV the last two nights and I hope many others did.

Sometimes when you are so far away from your country, especially after so many years, you tend to and want to remember mainly the good things- the food, the movies, the music, the cricket, facts related to india (recently a good collection of such good facts came up as a chain mail) like Aryabhatta and the number of engineers in Intel and all that.

I guess you miss the dark side as an NRI. This BBC presentation focussed on the Sport relief India campaign and a set of benefit cricket matches in India. Some of the video was heart wrenching if you ask me. It was portrayed quite well and not just in contrast to the good life in India.. or in an overtly negative fashion.

I recalled seeing similar kids who swept floors of trains. I did not spare a thought when I saw them many years ago, but I think I will do so now..

The sad difference was what came up on the media. Indian coverege I had …