2007 - Maddy's Ramblings

Dec 28, 2007

December 28, 2007

Biriyani Chaya

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Biriyani Chaya
Brown ring test – How many of you remember this from Chemistry class? I still remember fellow blogger and friend Pradeep’s dad N Balakrishnan Nair teaching me the basics of testing for nitrates in chemistry class. Add ferrous sulphate solution followed by concentrated sulphuric acid to the nitrate. A brown ring forms at the junction of the two liquids. Positive ID.

How many of you have seen, ordered or drunk a Biryani Chaya? You get this only in certain hotels at Calicut, one of them being the old Sagar, next to the KSRTC stand. Well, you get a glass with three layers, the dark tea layer, the mixed lighter colored layer & the milk froth layer on top, each separate from the other. Sometimes you can also discern the faint sugar layer at the bottom. You look at it, marvel at the technique of the tea man and then put in the spoon that is provided, to stir and complete the regular glass of tea….Soon these are going to be things of the past!!! The trick is somewhat like this. Pour milk in glass, hold a long spoon and dribble tea by the spoon handle/stem so that it goes straight to the bottom. I guess this came from SE Asia to India through the many from Malabar who worked in Burmese or Malay tea plantations, they must have seen this done in Burma.

Thai Coconut iced tea – Strangely this has not caught on in India even though we have such exotic uses for coconut milk in Kerala. Here Coconut milk is used instead of regular milk and the layering is always done for effect. But you do not make a layer in the middle like Calicut Biryani tea. Sometimes you add condensed or evaporated milk on top and stir in some star anise powder.

Saigon tea is similar to Thai tea, but well it had another connection apparently during the Vietnam War.

The most famous street in the east, the Rue Catinat, had been renamed Tu Do, for Independence. Bar (bars had exotic names – ‘we try harder’ was one) girls hung out of doorways and yelled to passing Westerners, "You buy me Saigon tea?"

Saigon tea was a flavored concoction that was the expensive ticket to a bar girl's company. A veteran recounts - Saigon Tea is the term the GI's used to refer to what the bar girls drank when they encouraged a lonely soldier to buy them a drink. Some of the more naive soldiers would become angry when they found out that the booze was really tea and that their attempts to get the girls drunk and seduce them were for naught. They were getting screwed but only metaphorically. I don't remember what it cost but it wasn't cheap. The girls would allow various degrees of groping depending on how much tea you bought (and $ you spent!).

Authors note – The research into Saigon tea was fascinating – how the girls hoodwinked the round eyed Charlee’s for many dollars worth of drinks during the 60’s – Saigon tea $1.35 to $2.00 each, every 10-15 minutes, served in thimble size glasses, only for the bar girls. Once you stopped buying the tea, she moved to the next GI Joe.

Sagar photo – Freebird on flickr
Coconut tea – Easy home cooking











WISHING YOU ALL A HAPPY 2008

Dec 21, 2007

December 21, 2007

Burgers oursourced

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Burgers oursourced
Normally I don’t think too much about outsourcing, mainly because it is a fact of today’s life. If you can’t do it efficiently at the right price, find somebody else who can. Then again, man has always wanted to profit from life and will take every short cut possible. Some gain and some will lose at the end of the day, whatever said & done. That’s it in a nut shell. Also, I agree, I have also been prey to some real terrible call centre support staff (they didn’t solve the issue at hand in those cases or wasted a lot of my time) out there in my mater-land, but it is ok with me, these things would & should take a while to stabilize.

But some days ago, when my wife told me that the drive in lane of burger outlets was getting outsourced, it was a revelation. I have always avoided drive in ordering, my 2nd son says it is cool to order drive-in, but I find it better to walk up to the counter and explain what I want. In any case, I always do better, face to face, without the American accent…BTW I have still not mastered ‘mayonnaise’.

This funny video that some bright chap uploaded on Youtube is quite interesting, worth checking out. See the ‘now hiring’ board prominently posted.



But here are the facts, BK outsources, but not the drive in line as you see on the video.. It all started with a Desi who took over as CIO of Burger King.

With annual revenues of over $2 billion, Burger King is the world’s second largest fast food hamburger chain. Since taking over as CIO in March 2005, Rajesh ‘Raj’ Rawal has drafted in help in the form of MindTree – a mid-tier India-based outsourcing company he had previously used when CIO of the Cendant Car Rental Group, owner of the Avis and Budget brands. What they do is - Aside from their involvement in several specific projects, they provide typical [software] maintenance and support activities & they have already saved millions for BK.

Mc Donald’s and Wendy’s both competitors to BK on the other hand, outsource their ‘drive in’ counter, but to call centers in USA (as of now).

Mc Donald’s – The call center’s job is to take orders and relay them back to the relevant restaurants through the Internet. Santa Maria-based Bronco Communications handles calls from 40 Mac restaurants scattered around the country, while Illinois-based Verety has hired home-based agents to do the job. McDonald’s claims this system decreases the time between orders by a few seconds & the agents are paid only the minimum wages. Their system flashes the number of minutes they were away on a break, and they have to click on a pop-up that appears every now and then in around 1.75 seconds to show that they are on the job.

Wendy’sAn order took just 66 seconds to be delivered! Wendy's says the call center is paying off. Drive-through sales jumped 12 percent at the six stores that installed multiple drive-through lanes that are connected to a call center, according to Kevin Fritton , executive vice president of 256 Operating Associates , which runs the call center and 14 Wendy's restaurants in New Hampshire and Vermont. The call-center employees, who earn about $8.50 an hour, are trained to urge customers to add items to their order and are timed on how long each call takes. It also helps reduce robbery via the drive in window.

“When I thought about call centers, I thought about how I'd wait for hours on hold with someone in Bangladesh trying to get computer help," Fritton said. But Fritton eventually agreed to fly to Colorado and sit for an hour in a rival's parking lot and see what the technology could do. He watched car after car zoom through a McDonald's drive-through at a rate he'd never seen -- more than 125 cars during lunch hour. At the time, Fritton's stores were doing about 85 cars an hour during lunchtime – anyway he made the switch.

So that was a bit about the outsourced burger, but well, when you read that childbirth has been outsourced to surrogate mothers in India, you do end up rolling your eyes. Child rearing had from historic times been outsourced to nannies by some, this is another story though!!

Dec 14, 2007

December 14, 2007

Backyard cricket

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Backyard cricket
Watching Yuvraj hit six sixers was fascinating. Even though it was a so-so TUV online view, it exhilarated me, got the blood coursing through the old and brittle tubes, through those walls scaled with I am sure, plaques from all the cholesterol deposits…

I learnt the first cricket lessons from my dad in Koduvayur – Palakkad. Dad used to play for Madras Presidency College in his heydays and he taught us batting & bowling in the longish front yard that served as our makeshift cricket pitch. The first cricket bat was fashioned out of a reaper – plank from some packing material by our ‘karyasthan’ Eecharan who had come from Pallavur for some work. Thus we crafted our front foot drives up the slope in front of the house. One had to be careful bowling out there, behind the batsman was the front portico of the house and a number of windows that just cried out to be broken. From the beginning we were warned that should a window get broken, we would get grounded…Actually I can’t remember breaking any windows of that house. It was funny – a few hundred yards away was the border wall separating the Koduvayur market and behind the walls was where the butchers killed & skinned the sheep. On this side of the wall were the two brothers swatting a tennis ball with dad.

At Pallavur, it was much better; there was plenty of space and on vacations, plenty of players. First we had a round of seven stones, a game where seven flat stones are piled up and you knocked them down with a tennis ball. (How the game is played is well explained here and I am sure most of you know anyway. But did you know that it is also popular in Africa and the Middle East? Take a look at what this Jordanian blogger says. It is called 7sang in Iran and sab3 hjaar in Arabic). After everybody got bored with that and had snacks and tea, we started the serious cricket game which usually ended in much arguments, especially with the umpire on LBW decisions. Some days when the umpire was a very young kid, we did away with the LBW rule as we learned that a glowering batman ensured that he was never given out. The boy/girl simply got too scared to make the objective decision.

Then came the teenage periods and college days when it was real cricket with the regular kit and well, that was another zone altogether.

But after my children started growing up, we took up home cricket again, mainly while on vacations at Pallavur and Calicut. This normally included me, my two sons and anybody else who was around. Thus cricket remained in our lifeline. All of us eagerly followed the travails of the Indian cricket team, from sorrow to shame to the odd yipeed victory. From Chandra, Bedi and Gavaskar to today’s Sreesanth & Yuvraj Singh..

It really went up a notch while at the UK. We had a backyard where we had a decent lawn, a small fish pond and a garden. But we soon figured out that it was a wonderful cricket pitch, what with the granite stone pathway serving as our own Lord’s pitch. The fence corner served as the wicket and for months we sounded the boards with gay abandon. First it was with tennis balls, but we found that the balls bounced off the pitch when you pitched short or when snicked and landed in the backyard of the houses bordering us. If there were people around, they tossed the ball back to us, if not we had to stealthily lift he boards, sneak in and get them from those backyards (I am sure some CCTV footage – i.e. if somebody had monitoring- would have caught us doing that). Some houses were out of bounds, especially the one behind us, the woman there who was more a walking chimney (you see - most English smoke outside the house these days – so they are always wandering about in the yard) and not very easy to deal with. She got irritated with the ball landing in her yard and shocking her out of her smoke filled reveries.

The tennis ball soon changed to cricket balls and we became expert at bowling fast, full and furious. The rule was not to allow the ball to hit the boards or it made a huge racket like an exploding cracker. The other rule was to hit the ball along the ground. Oh! England is really the home to Cricket, we could even buy swinging balls with two dissimilar surfaces so you can perfect your out & in swing. We were cover driving and on driving with gusto, and perfecting the art of the dead block. Spin bowling – both off and leg were very effective so long as you did not bounce the ball too much and well, the game went on till about 8 PM on summer days, the only days when it was dry & warm outside. We played through early winter even, especially when the bigger boy was home for holidays. Fully covered with jackets and thick trousers, we continued enthusiastically with our form of cricket.

This went on, until one day when I got a little irritated (like road rage, it was ball rage maybe) for some reason and smacked the ball with gusto, right into the next yard. The ball landed on the glass roof of our neighbor’s newly built conservatory (the glass structure with white borders). Mercifully nothing broke, my son ran away and I was left to answer and apologize to the irritated man. He politely came by and stated grimly that the ‘missus’ was not too happy about the prospects of a cricket ball landing on their newly built ₤8,000 conservatory. We got the point fast and switched back to tennis balls and sneaking into others yards for the edged ball.

With that we stopped backyard cricket with the cricket ball – soon we moved to the USA and that was it. Cricket now remains on the video screens and in our minds. To this day I am sure that our UK neighbors would have heaved a sigh of relief when a 40 foot container of stuff and the curry making, noisy family of cricket players moved far away, across the Atlantic.

Dec 7, 2007

Finding ‘Nemo’ - Lost in translation
No, this is not about Nemo the fish or the movie ‘Finding Nemo’ though I enjoyed that animated movie very much…As usual, at certain moments I felt sad for the Nemo family and my son was making fun of my teary eyes, ah ! Well, I am one of those sentimental guys – not much that can be done about it!!

Verne’s ‘20000 leagues under the sea’ written in 1869 has a special corner in my heart. This was the book that I read many a time to my second son when he was a child. At that time, the story was paramount, not the characters or the politics. Indeed, I never even sensed the messages, simply because I read the ‘English’ version (based on Leiws P Mercier’s ‘orribly tainted translation) of the story that deliberately took away a good amount of what Verne had written in the original French. In the latter book The Mysterious Island written in 1875, where the Indian connections of Capt. Nemo are established, the WHG Kingston translation removed all negative (from British eyes) connections, because Verne wrote in support of India’s struggle against the British. Some say over 25% of Verne’s work did not appear in the first translations which went on to become popular text. The first proper translations of Verne’s works were made by an American Sydney Kravitz in the 1950’s, after the sun had set on the English empire (Until then Brits had a huge control of the publishing world)!!

So this is about Jules Verne’s Nemo (from two books ‘20,000 leagues under the sea’ and Mysterious island) and what Nemo had to do with India…I started checking this out after seeing the ‘League of extraordinary gentlemen’ where Naseeruddin Shah played the role of Nemo - as a prince from India and I wondered, ‘what exactly did Jules Verne have in mind’? The research proved pretty interesting!! Verne actually unmasked Nemo in his second book ‘The Mysterious Island’.

Certainly, Nemo is Verne’s alter ego. The name Nemo can be traced to Greek myth and Homer's Odyssey. When the Cyclops asks Odysseus his name, he replies "Nemo," which is Latin for "nobody. Did you know that in all the previous public performances and plays of ‘20000 leagues…’, Nemo is characterized as an European? It took many years, until 2003, when Nemo was played by Naseeruddin Shah an Indian, in the movie ‘The league of extraordinary gentlemen’.

Nemo captained his submarine ‘Nautilus’ as a weapon against tyranny and oppression worldwide.When Verne first started to plan the character of Nemo, it was to be that of a Polish Nobleman who planned vengeance against the Russians (Polish Uprising against the Russians set the backdrop). Verne’s publisher was not happy as this would have meant a ban of the book in Russia and may have created problems with the good relationship between France & Russia at that time. It was thus that Verne became a person of mysterious origins in ‘2000 leagues..’ but with hints of Indian ancestry while rescuing some South Indians near Ceylon. Later on, in the ‘Mysterious Island’, Nemo at his death bed unmasks himself in more detail.

Jules Verne first mentioned India in ‘20000 leagues’. Then it was ‘Around the world in 80 days’ in 1873, Nemo in ‘Mysterious Island’ 1874, ‘The steam House’ and finally ‘Begums millions’ in 1879. Even though he wrote about India, British rule & travels to India with exacting details, he traveled only to a few places in Europe and once to the USA!! Obviously he hated British Subjugation of the Indian masses and found the ‘Sepoy mutiny’ somewhat of a parallel to the Polish Insurrection (young poles incited against the forced conscription to the Russian army). The Sepoy mutiny is covered in more detail in Verne’s ‘The steam house’.

But Verne like many Europeans had always thought of India as a mysterious place, and it has been reported in the past that
In 1839 he tried to run away from home, taking a position as a ship's boy on a vessel bound for India. He was recaptured by his father at Paimboeuf, down the coast from Nantes; in the face of whose displeasure he is supposed to have promised his mother 'je ne voyagerai plus qu'en reve' ('I will no longer travel except in my dreams').

Let us now look at how the Verne message gets lost in translation to English - Take a look at the way the distortion was done(the wrong but popular version in Italics)

The British yoke had weighed perhaps too heavily on the Hindu population. Prince Dakkar became the spokesman for the malcontents. He instilled in them all the hatred that he felt for the foreigners. He traveled not only to the still independent areas on the Indian Peninsula but also to those regions directly subject to British administration. He recalled the great days of Tippo Saïb who had died heroically at Seringapatam in the defense of his country. In 1857, the great Sepoy revolt broke out. Prince Dakkar was its soul. He organized the immense uprising, and he devoted both his talents and his wealth to this cause. (trans. Sidney Kravitz, 2001 Wesleyan UP, 590-91)

Instigated by princes equally ambitious and less sagacious and more unscrupulous than he was, the people of India were persuaded that they might successfully rise against their English rulers who had brought them out of a state of anarchy and constant warfare and misery, and had established peace and prosperity in their country. Their ignorance and gross superstition made them the facile tools of their designing chiefs. In 1857 the great sepoy revolt broke out. Prince Dakkar, under the belief that he should thereby have the opportunity of attaining the object of his long-cherished ambitions, was easily drawn into it. He forthwith devoted his talents and wealth to the service of this cause. (1986 Signet Classic, 463)

Here, Verne’s chastising commentary on the British rule in India is transformed into a glowing testimonial to their “civilizing” influence. The anti-colonial revolt is now attributed to ambitious and “designing” Indian princes who turned the ignorant masses against their enlightened foreign rulers. Details of how it was finally brought to light can be found in this link detailing Millers thoughts.

So who was Nemo really?? (Kravitz translation) For the full chapter 58 of ‘The mysterious Island’,
check this link.

Captain Nemo was an Indian prince, the Prince Dakkar, the son of the rajah of the then independent territory of Bundelkund, and nephew of the hero of India, Tippo Saib. His father sent him, when ten years old, to Europe, where he received a complete education; and it was the secret intention of the rajah to have his son able some day to engage in equal combat with those whom he considered as the oppressors of his country. He hated the only country where he had never wished to set foot, the only nation whose advances he had refused: he hated England more and more as he admired her. This Indian summed up in his own person all the fierce hatred of the vanquished against the victor. The son of one of those sovereigns whose submission to the United Kingdom was only nominal, the prince of the family of Tippo-Saib, educated in ideas of reclamation and vengeance, with a deep-seated love for his poetic country weighed down with the chains of England, wished never to place his foot on that land, to him accursed, that land to which India owed her subjection. This artist, this savant, this man was Indian to the heart, Indian in his desire for vengeance, Indian in the hope which he cherished of being able some day to re-establish the rights of his country, of driving on the stranger, of making it independent. In 1857 the Sepoy mutiny broke forth. Prince Dakkar was its soul. He organized that immense uprising. He placed his talents and his wealth at the service of that cause. He gave himself; he fought in the first rank; he risked his life as the humblest of those heroes who had risen to free their country; he was wounded ten times in twenty battles, and was unable to find death when the last soldiers of independence fell before the English guns. Prince Dakkar, unable to die, returned again to his mountains in Bundelkund. There, thenceforward alone, he conceived an immense disgust against all who bore the name of man—a hatred and a horror of the civilized world—and wishing to fly from it, he collected the wreck of his fortune, gathered together twenty of his most faithful companions, and one day disappeared.

Question – How did the Hindu Rajput prince become a nephew of Muslim Tippu Sultan and get depicted as a Sikh in the books? A chap called Santosh Menon explains - Hindu families in punjab sometimes initiated the eldest son into the Sikh faith; Sikhism being a martial religion in some sense and sikhs being the defenders of the faith and the land - more or less. it is actually possible for Nemo to be Tipu's nephew. In fact it is quite easily explained. There are several parallels of Muslim/Moghul monarchs marrying the daughters of Rajput/Hindu Kings in Indian history. And possibly vice-versa. Many of these were intended to achieve alliances between the kingdoms sometimes in the face of a perceived common enemy – though Tippu operated in Karnataka whereas Bundelkhand was in Central India!!

So where is
Bundelkhand ? It is a region around 80 deg. East and 25 deg. North between Jhansi and Allahabad. They have a website!!

Prof Swati Dasgupta, a Verne researcher adds - India attracted renewed attention in France during the 1857 ‘sepoy mutiny’ or first war of independence, as it should more properly be called. Jules Verne often evoked that unsuccessful rebellion on which de Valdezen, the French consul general in Calcutta at the time, had extensively reported. The widespread tendency in France not to make any difference between Muslims and other Indians who were all until recently labelled ‘Hindus’ accounts for this historical inconsistency and has allowed some researchers to speculate that Nemo may have been, in Verne's thinking, none other than the vanished Marahta leader Nana Sahib. Clearly Verne shared the widespread sympathy that the French public felt for the cause of Indian independence which they often related to their own Republican revolutionary past.

Trivia

In Around the world in 80 days there is an episode about Aouda (Auoudad)– a kingdom in India. It was inserted after Verne learnt of his wife flirting with an Indian prince!!

Jules Verne’s ideas of the future have been so prophetic…try this excerpt from
Wikipedia

"Paris in the 20th Century" is an often cited example of this as it describes air conditioning, automobiles, the internet, television, and other modern conveniences very similar to their real world counterparts. In Paris in the Twentieth Century, published for the first time in 1994, Verne described fax machines, gas-powered cars and an elevated mass transit system. None of these existed when he wrote the book in 1863.

Another good example is "From the Earth to the Moon", which is uncannily similar to the real
Apollo Program, as three astronauts are launched from the Florida peninsula and recovered through a splash landing- He nailed many details perfectly. In his version (From the Earth to the Moon, 1865, and its sequel, All Around the Moon, 1870), an aluminum craft launched from central Florida achieves a speed of 24,500 miles per hour, circles the moon and splashes down in the Pacific. A century later Apollo 8, made of aluminum and traveling at 24,500 miles an hour, took off from central Florida. It circled the moon and splashed down in the Pacific.

Before he died in 1905, Verne had depicted- a world eerily like ours: airplanes, movies, guided missiles, submarines, the electric chair, air conditioning and the fax machine. Even Islamic terrorists make their precocious debut in Invasion Of the Sea (1905), in which they face off against Western technocrats!!

Verne never studied science formally. Pushed to get a law degree by his lawyer father, he toiled as a stockbroker. He sucked in scientific knowledge from 15 newspapers a day, as well as half a dozen magazines and the bulletins of various scientific and geographic societies. His genius lay in extrapolation.

Sydney Kravitz was a professional scientist and engineer. He spent fourteen years translating The Mysterious Island, correctly.
Lewis Mercier and WHG Kingston, were instrumental in providing dastardly translations – How did they do it? Here is the answer.

Another nice article on the
Politics of Capt Nemo by Anil Menon!!

A brilliant essay -Journey to the Center of Jules Verne… and Us
by Walter McDougall

Steamhouse – has many other names ‘End of Nana Sahib’, ‘The demon of Cawnpore’, Tigers & Traitors.

A nice
Fortune article

Pictures from various sites - thanks

Nov 29, 2007

Rewind to the 70’s
Telephones – Remember the black rotary dial contraption we started with, the old bakelite phone? Well, that was a real fickle device requiring frequent visits by the telephone’s dept technician to keep it in working order. You screamed through it like it was needed to get the voice through to the other end (to this day we Indians do exactly that, even with mobiles!!) There were local calls and then trunk calls. STD came later on and then dialing was a pain, you had to be sharp eyed, and required an undistracted 5 minutes before you completed dialing all the numbers. Noisy kids who shot by got sharp raps on their ears. Each locality had a benevolent guy who loaned the use of his phone – or in apartments, there would be one phone in the whole building. It would be quite normal practice to call twice within a few minutes. The first call to ask for the person you want to speak to and the second time to speak to that person (some kid will be dispatched to that person’s home to call him to the phone!)…..Unbelievable eh?

TV – I still remember the first advertised TV’s (color TV came during the Asian games) were companies like Daynora, Onida, ECTV, Keltron…there would be two channels, DD1 and a local channel. You waited a whole week to see the one telecast movie which was an award winner; of course, arty like Mrigya…The most popular program being the movie songs hour (Geetmala?). Serials like Buniyad & Humlog were gripping events of the evening. TV ad’s were eagerly watched…. Like Lyril, Palmolive ka jawab nahin, Rasna, Surf…TV’s had no remote control, but with 2 channels, who needs one? The TV was blanketed with a nice cover specially embroidered by the seamstress in the house…later came the stiff & horrible plastic covers that yellowed with age.



Fans - Usha, GEC and Khaitan rules the roost and the fans had only three blades - or was it four?? We had that projecting speed controller on the wall which of course had at least one speed that did not work, the speed you wanted the most. Then we had those table fans. I read somehwere that Usha fans are now going to be made in China!

Films – Like somebody said, every Hindi movie had to have one of these - Amitabh, Dharmendra, Helen, Bindu, Ajit, Hema malini, Rekha, or Zeenat…Malayalam had hairy actors like Vincent & damsels like Sreedevi, IV Sasi dictated the mood & Tamil had Kamal Hassan & Rajni in the lead.

Cars – We had two options, the Ambassador or the Premier…colors being black and one or two other options at most dealers. Fancy colors meant a few months wait. In any case it took a few months and some premium payment to get a car!!

Two wheelers – Aha , slightly better, the Bajaj, Vespa, Vijay scooters ruled the roost – again a few months wait, especially the Bajaj. You kicked and kicked the starter for ages, sometimes, the scooter had to be tilted sideways to get the fuel flowing. As far as mobikes were concerned, it was Bullet or Yezdi, and of course the older Jawa (Ind Suzuki & Hero Honda were just around the corner).
I had already written about them earlier…

Gas – Most homes still had firewood in kitchens or the kerosene stove. Getting an Indane gas cylinder & stove meant long waiting periods. Only one cylinder per house meant very careful planning & monitoring since a new cylinder was not available instantly, again a few days wait or special connections with the dealer.. Before that it was the Nutan kerosene stove that everybody wanted!!

Newsreels – Who can forget those black & white events – It was always a flood in Bihar or something in Delhi that people waited patiently through for 15 minutes before the movie started in the theatre. AC was unheard of in theaters or switched on sparingly.

Power supply – When it became summer, power supply was erratic with blackouts & brownouts – This meant lighting up the hurricane lamp, and also during the night, no ‘goodnight’ but the incessant humming swoop attacks by mosquitoes…No inverters existed.

Singers & songs – Kishore, Rafi (he passed away in 80), Lata, Asha, Yesudas, SPB, Janki, Susheela & few others…But they did a really good job, though many a talented person never saw limelight during their reign…

Watches – If I recall right, there was only the HMT. All others were imported or ‘smeggled from Gelf’…or a relative brought it from UK or USA…BTW, will you believe me when I tell you that the watch pictured – the HMT Jawan is now being offered on ebay for US$ 365.00, and is considered super rare & cool!! Remember the ad? If you have the inclination, we have the time, the exact time….

Cricket – We knew cricket mainly through the radio commentary in Kerala – since it was not quite popular in the state, unlike football – Ah, we had the Madan lal, Yashpal Sharma, Gavaskar, vengsarkar, Sivaramakrishnan and all those chaps.. Sachin was playing the gully variety then….I guess..

Indie Pop music – Usha Uthup, Sharon Prabhakar, Preeti Sagar – that was about it…My heart is beating, hare rama – dum maro dum…

But the days went by, we were happy to be outdoors where life was a breeze..


Computers did not exist and if we wanted to talk to somebody we went over and met him, no SMS or mobile phones, naturally. We were happy using a bicycle or a bus to go places, or walk short distances, for that matter…We did not have credit cards, debit cards or ATM’s and were living well within our means…As borrowing was the only go during a shortfall, we did have to maintain good relationships with relatives & friends…


But who said today is not exciting? No complaints, just remembering the roads we traveled…

In all frankness, I should give full credits to some dude who started this topic ages ago at myhotboard.com. I based some of this on that outpouring from many contemporary fellows & served it here with gusto…

Nov 22, 2007

November 22, 2007

Oh, Kabuliwalah!!!

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Oh, Kabuliwalah!!!
Kabuliwallah – That one story introduced people like me, living the southern tip of India, to Northerly Afghanistan, many decades ago. Our Nobel Prize winner Rabindranath Tagore wrote this powerful story in 1892, a time when the frontier policy was being debated by the British. This was a story that then found its way into our school text books. Tagore was the one who introduced us formally to the Afghan, though we saw Kabuliwalah’s often on the streets. If you have not read the story, please, please read it. It is such a beautiful bit of writing. Here is a link (it is but one translation, there are better and worse, this one is OK).

Then there was the Kabuli Chana (chickpeas or Garbanzo beans) that we all know. Today we have Desi Chana, but in those days, it came from Kabul (so did Badam, Pista, Raisins…) through roving Kabuliwallah’s and it was thus called so. When we eat Chana masala today, with the sizzling Batura, we don’t quite care about its origins, be it from Turkey or Kabul or wherever, but many years ago, it reached India through the Khyber pass, in return for spices and other Indian stuff that went back North and Westwards through the silk road and the Hindu Khush…

I was listening to Khaled Hosseini reading out his own book Kite runner, a book that I enjoyed to the hilt. So some days back, it is this narration that took me often to the streets of Kabul. My mind was quite full of Afghanistan, the smell and the sights and the waste wrought by mankind, the destruction of the once great nation, again geopolitics at play and the price? Someday I hope Khaled Hosseini (since he remembers & quotes mainly Persian authors) and you all will read the Kabuliwallah story and allow that story to fill your heart & eyes. It was Tagore’s gift to an Afghan in 1892.

I was fortunate that three Afghan movies I had seen earlier, prepared me for the various scenes in the Kite Runner and Kabul.

Osama
It is one of the most poignant movies we have ever watched. The story of a 12 year old girl in the Taliban run Afghanistan, in a movie shot in Kabul. The film takes you through the destroyed streets of Kabul and the life of the abject populace (covered in Kite runner during the second half), the high handedness of the ruthless Taliban and the plight of the once proud & even scholastic women of Kabul..
After the brutal Taliban regime bans women from working and forbids them to leave their homes without a male escort, a 12-year old girl and her mother find themselves on the brink of starvation. With nowhere left to turn, the mother disguises her daughter as a boy. Now called "Osama," the young girl embarks on a terrifying and confusing journey as she tries to keep the Taliban from discovering her true identity

NY Times - Osama has no special resiliency or survival skills; her face is, at every moment, a study in suppressed panic and worried passivity. Her unvarnished vulnerability, along with the director's combination of tough-mindedness and lyricism, prevents the movie from becoming at all sentimental; instead, it is beautiful, thoughtful and almost unbearably sad.

Kabul Express
It is a story of five people whose paths cross in Afghanistan. I liked both John & Arshad, but the American girl was mainly eye candy. On the whole, I enjoyed watching the movie. The movie ran into rough weather over some harsh comments passed about Hazrah’s, an ethnic minority with Mongoloid origins (Some say they are Genghis khan’s descendants) in Afghanistan and who were horribly treated by the Taliban. The ‘Kite Runner’ book features the protagonist’s relationship with Hazarah’s amongst other things.

Kabul Express is set in post 9/11 (November 2001) Afghanistan where the American bombing has destroyed the most hated Taliban regime and the Taliban soldiers are trying to escape to Pakistan to avoid the wrath of the Afghans. Against this turbulent backdrop, Jai and Suhel, two Indian Television reporters have entered Afghanistan and their aim is to somehow get a rare interview with a Talibani. One cold winter morning in Kabul, they get kidnapped at gunpoint by a Taliban fugitive who wants to escape to the Pakistani border. American journalist Jessica spots them and thinks that they are leaving to get a big scoop and unwittingly she too becomes a part of the kidnapped lot.

The 9th Company (9-Ya Rota)
This is an odd one in comparison, looking at the Afghan war from the Russian side & based on a true story. It is the story of a regiment who goes to war against the Afghan Mujahideen and the dismal results that ensue. A brilliantly crafted movie, it has superb photography and sharp depiction of the war scenes.

Washington post - The young soldiers, unsure what they're fighting for or even where, are abandoned on a lonely plateau that is eventually overrun by a faceless enemy. After a bloody but heroic denouement, the lone survivor is left to return to a home country that is itself in crisis, where his experience will be ignored if not scorned. Russian art seems inherently pessimistic, and the atmosphere around the camp could scarcely be darker as stories circulate about hideously injured soldiers and whole companies going missing in the mountains. When the troops finally get to Afghanistan the film explodes into action (this apparently had one of the largest budgets in Russian cinema history) and the battle scenes are told with all necessary brutality, without ever losing sight of the human story at its core.

Kite runner itself was released as a movie earlier this month, I hope it will be good.

For those interested – some more information on Kabuliwallah’s & KabuliChana

Thanks to Shantanud - Afghan money lenders used to do brisk business in undivided India. The story Kabuliwallah became so well known that it was later made into a movie starring Balraj Sahni (there were actually two movie versions one in Bengali and one in Hindi). Largely illiterate, through a complicated maze of signs and symbols, they kept meticulous track of who owed them how much, when was pay day and then were present at the right time and place to collect their dues. Their interest rates were of course usurious but they provided unsecured loans which their customers not having much collateral to give, found beneficial. However defaults on payments were not tolerated and when patience ran out, the Kabuliwallah’s justice was rough and ready.

For those crazy guys who will keep asking - why, how, when - like me – there are two
types of Chana’s or chickpeas in the world. They are Desi and Kabuli (Mediterranean version) with the latter costing (and tasting better?) twice the Desi version.

Desi chickpea – These are spilt peas and are relatively smaller in size having a thicker seed coat. They appear dark brown in color and they can be used and served in many ways.
Kabuli Chickpeas – Kabuli chickpeas have a whitish-cream color and are relatively bigger in size having a thinner seed coat. They are generally used in soups /salads or as flour

If you want to watch real footage of some action of the Afghan war…try this

Nov 15, 2007

A bomb - Vedic connections
Just the other day, Paul Tibbet the chap who dropped the first nuclear bomb on human populace died at 92. I wondered, like a fellow blogger Happy Kitten, if he had a single nights peaceful sleep for the six decades after the event that killed 140,000 Japs (and many more years later). But what mystified me was the report that throughout his life, Tibbets seemed more troubled by people's objections to the bomb than by his having led the crew that killed tens of thousands of Japanese in a single stroke. And he insisted he slept well, believing that using the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved more lives than they erased because they eliminated the need for a drawn-out invasion of Japan. In a 1975 interview he said: "I'm proud that I was able to start with nothing, plan it and have it work as perfectly as it did... I sleep clearly every night." Some guy that.

After the tests at Los Almos, Oppenheimer the father of the A bomb, said - Quoting from the
Bhagavad Gita Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds - The full verse in the Bhagavad Gita verse 32 from Chapter 11 is "If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the mighty one. Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds." kalo 'smi loka-kshaya-krit pravriddho, lokan samahartum iha pravrittah. He actually, mistranslated it to say only the one part, as translated above.



Like the late
Turkish President Ecevit, in this time of uncertainty (Check the link if you want to read about the impact of Gita on Oppenheimer) Oppenheimer often revisited one of his favorite books, the Bhagavad-Gita, and from it drew encouragement that steadied him in his work. Oppenheimer understood the Gita and other Sanskrit texts well enough to formulate a code for living that, while the product of his unique mind and experience, nevertheless showed signs of its origins in the sacred literature of India. Although the scientist himself never reduced his homemade Hinduism to a catalogue of principal tenets, a distillation of his words and actions might produce a short list of three: duty, fate, and faith. Without the inspiration of the Gita, Oppenheimer might not have been able or willing to direct Los Alamos.

Like Tibbet, Oppenheimer never regretted his action, comparing himself to Arjuna in the Gita. Many years later, somebody asked him after the Trinity tests if that was the first nuclear explosion. Pensively he said “Yes, in modern times” never providing further explanations. He was supposedly going back to passages from the Mahabharata describing a nuclear event that occurred some 8,000 -10,000 years ago.

Leslie Drake & Berlitz quoted from the Mahabharata (Karna Parva) in their books, to create ominous text that people then re-quoted for years. The quote explained a catastrophe…

Gurkha flying in his swift and powerful Vimana hurled against the cities of the Vrishnis and
Andhakas a single projectile charged with all the power of the Universe. An incandescent column of smoke and fire, as brilliant as ten thousands suns, rose in all its splendour. It was the unknown weapon, the Iron Thunderbolt, a gigantic messenger of death which reduced to ashes the entire race of the Vrishnis and Andhakas It was an unknown weapon, an iron thunderbolt, a gigantic messenger of death, which reduced to ashes the entire race of the Vrishnis and the Andhakas…the corpses were so burned as to be unrecognizable. The hair and nails fell out; pottery broke without apparent cause and the birds turned white. After a few hours all foodstuffs were infected…… to escape from this fire the soldiers threw themselves in streams to wash themselves and their equipment.

Dense arrows of flame, like a great shower, issued forth upon creation, encompassing the enemy... A thick gloom swiftly settled upon the Pandava hosts. All points of the compass were lost in darkness. Fierce wind began to blow upward, showering dust and gravel. Birds croaked madly... the very elements seemed disturbed. The earth shook, scorched by the terrible violent heat of this weapon. Elephants burst into flame and ran to and fro in a frenzy... over a vast area, other animals crumpled to the ground and died. From all points of the compass the arrows of flame rained continuously and fiercely. "

But this is all sounding wrong to me – The Mahabharata mentions of a number of Bhramastras being used, not just once - also some parts were about the scene many years after the war!! So many inconsistencies, I decided to check and found no such text in the translated Karna Parva. Some parts could be discerned in Mausala parva.

C
omments by Colin Biggs revealed that sentences from various parts of the epic were cleverly joined by Leslie & Berlitz for effect. Berlitz incidentally used Protap Chandra Roy's Mahabharata translation of 1889 to quote in his 1974 book ‘The Bermuda Triangle’.

A single projectile charged with all the power of the Universe. Karna Parva, section 34
It was the unknown weapon, the Iron Thunderbolt, a gigantic messenger of death which reduced to ashes the entire race of the Vrishnis and Andhakas Mausala Parva section 1
It was an unknown weapon, an iron thunderbolt, a gigantic messenger of death, which reduced to ashes the entire race of the Vrishnis and the Andhakas…the corpses were so burned as to be unrecognizable. Drona Parva section 201
The hair and nails fell out; pottery broke without apparent cause and the birds turned white. After a few hours all foodstuffs were infected…… Mausala Parva, section 2
To escape from this fire the soldiers threw themselves in streams to wash themselves and their equipment. Drona Parva section 197

More fuel was added to the fire by interconnections with other mysteries in the locale such as explained
in this site and by many others (Check on Google & you will go after a wild goose chase thorough a 10,000 year period covering India, Europe, Atlantis, UFO’s and so on…).

Oppeneheimer also said - Access to the Vedas is the greatest privilege this century may claim over all previous centuries. Yes, he could be right. There is so much mystery & history behind the texts in the Vedas & the epics that it will take much convoluted thought to even understand the implications..


I found that the Atharva Veda even explains Nuclear Fission. Then again there are the Vimana mentions, flights to the moon, galactic wars. It was starting to become very heady, so finally, I decided to leave it all to the proficient sages who brave the elements of the Himalayas & other places. Not for us mere mortals.

Nov 9, 2007

Now what - Kerala special tea!!
We in India are so fond of drinking tea and spending time doing it. Companies & offices had tea breaks some time ago and thus spending a while drinking that essence from the magical leaf and chit chatting over it, has become a national pastime. For that very reason, we have hordes of tea boys in the national workforce and thousands of tea shops dotted across the country. Most are shacks by the road side, some have now become mobile (Thattu kada’s serving idli’s & dosas as well) and some have graduated to become mini restaurants where freshly cooked snacks & light meals are also served. In Kerala, Tea stalls are very common and have become a meeting point of sorts, where people come to discuss politics, national & international news, movies (and Shakeela), gossip and even the economic situation. I can easily assure you that every Malayali would have sat on one of those wooden benches that are placed outside the tea stall and sipped a tea from one of those characteristic ‘glasses’. Sometimes these places are even called Nair shops by non Mallus. Here is where you would find mostly dhoti or lungi clad people with a lot of time at hand, rambling usually about the politics of the land - the rulers, the rules and the ruled.

A tea stall is not for the loner. Never would you be left alone, somebody is bound to ask you the time, or the state of life or for that matter the state of the nation, which you must be prepared to answer, eloquently. Some places are a frequent haunt for the eloquent type, they normally end up reading the newspaper aloud for the benefit of the others, making sure that topics are chosen carefully and stress put where group interaction is needed. You can see him gazing around the audience, and raising his voice when need be.

The tea stall owner, the referee, meant to ensure fairness in the surroundings, in addition to preparing the magic brew, is usually hunched over the boiler, checking the flames under it and ensuring the potency of the brew, not by tasting, but by the mere color of the previous serving. He would then take out the old discolored, wrinkly tea bag from the boiler, puts in the tea leaves for the next brew and then starts to look around. Ensuring that people of warring political factions are not raising a ruckus or arguing, he chats with some known regulars. I guess we should call them KR – known regulars.

Let me ask you a question out of context though. Who knows what the popular usage ‘KD’ means? It means ‘Known dacoit’. So now you know what it means when some other Malayali refers to somebody else as a KD, but then, the usage in Kerala has nothing to do with dacoits. It is usually synonymous with ‘rouge’.

Sometimes an out of state or ‘not local’ character comes along, in an auto, or alighting from the bus to ask directions. Here is when the ‘Google map’ brain of our teaman springs to action aided by all & sundry drinking tea. Here is where the visitor gets inner details of the family he is about to visit, the recent scandals if any, the parentage and so on…and of course directions that are best ‘avoided’ as they can be quite long, winding ( With N,S,W&E thrown in) and difficult to memorize.

Teashops are places where a Malayali vents himself. How I wish we had in Kerala a place like the ‘
Speakers corner’ in Hyde Park London where anybody could go to and speak and never be taken to task. I assure you, there would be queues & tickets to enter that place. Well, maybe not…I guess even without a corner, at least in Kerala, a Malayali is outspoken…

The very fact that these watering holes are dear to a Malayali is proven by checking Wikimapia where you will find the tea shops (Like Mohan’s tea shop, Kingini annan’s chayakada, Bhaskaran’s tea shop etc…) in many villages prominently mapped. For here is where the idle mind sits, reading the newspaper, where many brainwaves are discussed, arguments settled and curiosity satiated.

The Malayali tea shop entrepreneur has cornered about
70% of teakada’s in Chennai and many other places. In Mumbai trading Malayalis first started out as Chatai wallas (selling Pulpaya – grass mats), then Nariyal walas (tender coconut) and now have entered the tea stall business. They can be found everywhere, announcing their heritage proudly – ‘Kerala tea stall’. I remember the case of the Malayali ‘Ambika applam’ chain owner, who apparently started as a tea shop boy, went on to own the tea shop, then branched off into making the world famous Ambika Applams and even owned the lodge where I lived for a year -Ambika Nivas in Triplicane.

The Malayali’s affinity for tea & tea stalls is legendry. So many jokes abound for example of Neil Armstrong landing in Moon and being asked if he wanted tea by a Mallu who already had his tea shop there (another variation – Hillary reaching the Everest summit). A fairly recent joke goes thus - If your late father left you a part of an old house as your inheritance, and you turned it into a “chaya kada” (tea stall) yes, you’re a Malayali.

Back to the tea shop - Soon the bare bodied (usually so in the summer) teaman figured out that people who ambled by to drink a cup of tea might eat biscuits or some fresh savories. Thus those nice big rows of bottles with all kinds of such stuff started appearing, then came the other Mallu favorites like plantain ‘kula’s’ hanging on a rope (different varieties from the Poovan, to Palaynkodan to the Eatha or Nendra pazham), a variety of cigarettes, though the common man always smoked Scissors. The must in all those places was the slowly smoldering rope to light the cigarette or the electric version where you pressed a button and the coil burnt red.

When you place an order for your tea, you also have to specify two things – the strength (strong, medium, light), with or without milk (Kattan) and the amount of sugar (only these days). Once that is done you have to state how hot you want it (most Mallus want it scalding hot – Mind you, the kind of lawsuit that got the millions for the scalded American lady from the deep pocketed Macdonald’s, is not going to work here!! ) and that is when the teaman exhibits his brilliance with getting it all right. Standing next to his brass boiler, he pours the concoction of tea brew, sugar, milk and boiling water from glass to mug and back with unmatched flourish. The tea stays stretched out almost horizontally and then vertically as the glass, liquid and mug flash past your bewildered eyes. You will notice that not a drop is spilled, and the drink gathers a nice and impressive half to 3/4th inch of froth. ‘Chaya ready’ he shouts out, for you to pick it up.

The mustachioed Malayali dips his whiskers into the froth, lips on the glass edge and takes a deep swig, and later, after using the back of his hand to clean his moustache; he utters the first contended sigh of the morning. He then proceeds to dissecting local, national & international news from the newspaper at hand. Unlike neighboring Tamil Nadu tea shops which
got into troubles about maintaining a second set of glasses for Dalits, Kerala does not segregate by caste in tea shops.

Ever so rarely, he makes a mistake with proportions and the knowing customer is bound to notice. He is quick to react - proclaiming the liquid to be akin to ‘ara vellam’ (translated as ‘liquid from the drains’)…and provoking much argument over the present mental state of the teaman.

Washing up is easy – He has two plastic basins full of water, once for the pre-wash and one for the final rinse. The setup in general is efficient and environment friendly, somebody from the local populace supplies a few liters of fresh milk in the morning (remember the Mohanlal movie where he is watering down the milk on a wayside field??). The glasses are washable….the water from some municipal tap nearby.

Ah! These are things you will always miss at the Starbucks and the 711 and all those places. The ambience that you would only find at a Chayakada…Even though many tea stalls progressed to adding things like soft drinks, under the counter ‘pot’ packets, batteries, oil & shampoo and much more to graduate on to a more respectable ‘petti kada’ the traditional & much loved tea stall remains. Now you can see how the
glorious tea ceremonies in China or Taiwan differ vastly from the gulp, read, smoke & gossip tea sessions in India…

So finally to the point - Who said Malayali’s are not enterprising? While getting the pictures required for this post, I stumbled upon something called KST.
Kerala special tea - served in a china teapot with cups and saucers with the required froth layer. This tourist was introduced to KST in Cochin where they were mystified by the fact that so many people were drinking tea with their curries. It dawned on them later that you need an extra expensive bar license to sell alcohol in a restaurant. Thus originated KST…KST ‘beer’ might be served in a teapot, or as a bottle wrapped in newspaper and placed under the table, or you might have to sit at the back of the restaurant to consume it.

Once -
Much before TV, Internet and other modern media made their entry and opinion polls began on an hourly-basis, humble tea stalls, once ubiquitous in the length and breadth of Kerala, traditionally provided the only viable forums for political debate. Candidates, unsure of their fate, used to send men incognito to tea stalls to eavesdrop on chatter and report back. These reports would become inputs for strategy or provide for course corrections. But in these tea huts or makeshift stalls, which provide benches and one or two newspapers, sometimes politics gets too hot. Now, increasingly signboards come up asking customers to sip quietly and leave. "No credit and political debates here."

Irani hotels in the 40’s & 50’s added Opium seeds – it was called Hafim tea & the idea was to get addicted people come often to their shops – you would never need that in Kerala, ever.

So well, that is a Chayakada for you – as they say, the best place to unite and make friends!! Today we also have a
cyber Chayakada!! And of course, Chayakada.com

Read this inspiring story about
Chayakada haneefa

History of tea
It was in China that tea-drinking began about 2000 years ago. In the course of trading with China in the 17th and 18th centuries, the British developed a national taste for the beverage brewed from tea leaves. Beginning in the mid-19th century, British businessmen began planting tea from the northern Indian state of Assam all over India. Their goal was to take the international market from China, and they largely succeeded.

The Danish and Swedish East India companies at one point were more successful in the tea trade than the British, and would smuggle tea into Britain for huge profits. But well, who the hell knew these Skandinavian companies even existed!! I did not, till today!!

Tea plantations in Kerala - Munnar. Munnar was developed to cultivate tea plants by British although it was first discovered by Scottish planters. In 1877 Poonjar, a subordinate of the Maharaja of Travancore, leased 588 sq. km of land around Munnar to a Mr. J D Munro, a British lawyer cum tea planter.


Tea stall picture – Jacob1575 on flickr.
Teastall2- Globosapiens
Tea cooling
pic – David MP
Ithatha’s stall
pic – from linked site
Boy
making tea from linked site

Nov 2, 2007

Pills, pills & even more pills

LA times Health section Aug 6th, 07 Under the influence states - FOR many Americans, a doctor's decision to prescribe medication is something of a sacred transaction. A physician considers the patient and symptoms and chooses the best drug for the job, drawing upon years of training and clinical experience. It is an exchange conducted in a hushed sanctuary, far from the heat and noise of the marketplace -- a place where cool judgment reigns. That sanctuary has been breached. Today, drug manufacturers do everything in their considerable power to ensure that their brand-name prescription medications are on the lips of patients and in the minds of physicians every time the two meet across an exam table. In 2006, drug-makers spent almost $5 billion to reach out to consumers with direct advertising. The world's pharmaceutical companies spend an estimated $19 billion annually to woo doctors (the US market size itself is 300B$).

The sales strategies are complex and enticements to doctors are many. More than all this, the worrying fact is that 40-100% specialists in panels & groups who write drug advisories have extensive financial ties with drug companies.

With that in the background, Let us take a look at a couple of examples

Peptic ulcers, H Pylori & antacids

Doctors Warren & Marshall were ridiculed for decades after they published papers stating that H Pylori a common bacterium is the cause of Peptic ulcers. Unlike others, they did not give up. After many years of struggle to get heard, fights with peers in the medical world & the highly profitable antacid drug industry hovering in the background, Dr Robin Warren & Barry Marshall were finally awarded the Nobel Prize in 2005.

New Scientist states -
Working at the Royal Perth Hospital, Barry Marshall and Robin Warren established beyond all doubt in the 1980s that Helicobacter pylori causes stomach ulcers by infecting and aggravating the gut lining. Moreover, they showed that ulcers could be cured altogether by killing the bacteria with antibiotics. Hitherto, ulcers had been considered incurable. Instead, patients' symptoms were treated with a lifetime of drugs to reduce the acidity of the gut. The pair’s claims provoked a fierce backlash from the medical establishment, which held to the dogma that ulcers were brought on by stress and lifestyle, and could not be cured. By revealing a simple cure, the researchers also threatened to destroy huge and lucrative global markets for the existing anti-ulcer drugs, which simply eased symptoms. At conferences, the two scientists were subjected to abuse and ridicule. Notably, Marshall proved in 1985 that the bacteria caused gastric inflammation by infecting himself, then curing his condition with antibiotics. Since their discovery, it has been accepted beyond all dispute that H. pylori causes more than 90% of duodenal ulcers and 80% of gastric ulcers.

Note the following - A peptic ulcer is a sore in the lining of the stomach or duodenum. The majority of peptic ulcers are caused by the H. pylori bacterium. Many of the other cases are caused by NSAID’s. None are caused by spicy food or stress. Treatment is still complex, antacids & acid suppressors & lining shields are required for acid reduction, antibiotics for the bacteria. Treatments could very well be double, triple or quadruple combinations of the above.
Although the idea that bacteria cause chronic inflammatory disease was seen as heresy back in the 1980s, there is now increasing evidence that bacteria might be to blame for other conditions, such as Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis and even the clogging of arteries that leads to coronary heart disease.

Peridontitis and CHD (Coronary heart disease)

This particular discussion has both supporters and detractors and proof is not absolute. Colgate for example has a
white paper establishing the connection. The national advisory I thought agreed with this. AHA journal paper affirms - Periodontitis, which would lead to frequent bacteremia from the oral lesions, has been implicated as a risk factor for the development of cardiovascular disease. BTW I must state here that CHD has multiple causes and oral ill health is only one of them!!

Chronic inflammation from any source is associated with increased cardiovascular risk," Dr. Wolfgang Koenig, of the University of Ulm Medical Center, Germany, and colleagues write. "Periodontitis is a possible trigger of chronic inflammation."

In 1996 Dr. Joseph B Muhlestein at the University of Utah reported a startling discovery. His research team found a bacterium called Chlamydia pneumoniae in 79 percent of patients undergoing coronary bypass surgery. Now a report from Johns Hopkins says other studies have also implicated Chlamydia pneumoniae. In addition, the bacterium H pylori that causes the majority of stomach ulcers has been linked to CHD along with infectious agents that cause periodontal disease. Many laughed when it was first announced H pylori triggered stomach ulcers. How can bacteria cause heart attacks? Harvard researchers believe chronic infection, such as periodontal disease, causes inflammation that often goes unnoticed by patients. Inflammation is usually a helpful reaction because it sends an army of white cells to fight the infection. The Harvard report claims these inflammatory cells also secrete a substance called C-reactive protein (CRP). This, they believe, promotes the growth of atherosclerosis. Researchers also found men with the highest levels of CRP had three times as many heart attacks as those with the lowest levels.

On the other hand,
A Swedish study by Dr Ahmadreza Parsa does provide another explanation for an association between periodontitis and cardiovascular disease, i.e. that chronic inflammation in the mouth leads to elevated levels of cholesterol in plasma. "

Statins – The miracle drug of the century

Serum cholesterol is a fat-like substance found in the blood (serum) and produced by the liver. The body needs a certain amount of cholesterol to build cell membranes and for other uses. However, the liver makes enough cholesterol to meet these needs. A diet high in saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol tends to raise total blood cholesterol, while a diet low in those fats and dietary cholesterol helps to lower it. The risk of heart and blood vessel disease rises as blood cholesterol levels increase. Statins are a class of drugs that lower the amount of cholesterol in the blood. Lipitor and Zocor are examples.

Would it turn out that bacteria are a primary cause of CHD and that reduction or elimination of those would result in improving cardiac health? Most definitely!!

So then, what could happen to the highly profitable and growing Statin industry (The Statin industry is over 25Billion US dollars in size) in such a case?

Would it grow or decline? Food for thought!!!

I must add that I am neither from the anti Statin lobby nor am I against periodontal treatment, just wondering about all this!!

Something interesting - do you remember the much hyped bird flu hysteria?? How many of you know that the chairman of the Tamiflu (the only medicine for Bird flu) company Gilead Sciences Inc was Donald Rumsfeld till he became US defense secretary. They own the license though marketing is sublet to Roche.
Maneka Gandhi’s article on how the hysteria was whipped up makes very interesting reading.

By the way here is something new for those medically inclined -
Gut check RFID smart pills - This $500 device doesn't deliver drugs; rather, it provides information about acidity, pressure, temperature, and digestive activity from inside your intestines. The data is transmitted wirelessly via RFID to a receiver worn around the patient's neck or waist; from there it can be downloaded to a doctor's laptop.

I tell you guys - Soon we are going to have embedded phones in our body – or maybe they will call them ‘distance communicators’, You can tell yourself – I need to talk to ‘so and so’ now and it will dial out or establish wireless communication through the net to somebody thousands of miles away..

Oct 26, 2007

The bare footed eleven
My younger son is always talking about shoes, like he is crazy about Lakers star ‘Kobe Bryant’. He is forever looking for new basketball shoes, and has no qualms even about wearing yellow and purple Lakers shoes that we have so far managed to forbid purchase of…There was a time when I had just one pair - a North star shoe from Bata which was fantastic (rumour has it was an prize winning design by N Singh in 1960, but got introduced in India after a lot was rejected by a ‘phoren’ buyer in the 70’s eventually becoming a rage in India) till its PVC heel detached itself and flew off in the desert heat of Riyadh’s roads (that story was covered in an Earlier blog), but then, today foot accessories are big business.

During college days, I used to see soccer matches, especially the Sait Nagjee and Santosh trophy matches. Calicut was a football crazy place and my room mate Soman was a big time fan. So we used to go watch the clubs like Mohan Bagan, Mohamedan’s, Titanium, state teams like Goa & Kerala, playing at the flood lit stadium…and watching the mastery of players like Victor Manjila (his precision half volley kick from the goal line was legendary). However Indian football then & now remains sanctioned to state levels & club levels and in the hearts of such diehard fans, unfortunately never reaching world levels. Since then there has only one Indian claim to international football fame – the parentage of the ever so pretty Parminder Nagra from ‘Bend it like Beckham’ now a lead in ER(she even became FIA football personality of 2002, but saw India for the first time only in 2003!).

Well, there was once a time when India did not participate in Olympic football because they would not wear shoes while playing. For 39 years until that date, Indian footballers played without shoes, excelling in the game, winning many a tournament. Let us take a look at those heady days. It was a time when players did not have million dollar endorsements for scoring goals with their hands or sitting out on the bench or head butting others in fury.

It was 29th of July, 1911, 96 years back, when the Indian freedom movement found a new avenue towards the independence when Mohun Bagan defeated East Yorkshire Regiment by 2-1. Eleven bare footed men showed their character and came from behind not only to equalize but ultimately won the shield. It was on that day when Mohun Bagan Athletic Club became an example towards the subservient Indians and that phenomenon transformed the whole nation. Mohun Bagan Athletic Club became the first ever Indian team to win the IFA Shield and to pay the tribute; 29th July has been celebrated as Mohun Bagan Day



The first overseas trip for Indian footballers was finally realized in 1948
. The occasion was the biggest sporting congregation of the world - the Olympics - and the venue even more enticing - London. The patronage of the Indian government ensured that for the first time an Indian football team set sail for Europe. It was a team stitched together under the captaincy of the celebrated Mohun Bagan captain Dr. Talimeren Ao. The squad included other stalwarts such as Sahu Mewalal, Ahmed Khan, S. Raman, Dhanraj and of course Manna. "There was no elaborate preparation. We only played a few matches against local teams under our trainer Baliadas Chatterjee. There was no concept of a coach at that time," recalls Manna. "We had to travel for more than three weeks and the deck of our ship became the training field. We would do the fitness drills everyday and practice shooting with balls dangled by ropes. We were cheered by other people travelling with us." Manna's face gleams as his memory flashes images. "We lost the match 1-2 against France but our performance drew huge cheers as we were challenging the Europeans bare-footed," says Manna. The biggest appreciation came from the English monarchy. "Princess Margaret had asked me during a reception at Buckingham Palace, `Aren't you afraid of playing barefooted against boots?' We could not say that there was no fund for buying boots. We just grinned and said playing without them was more comfortable," says Manna with a hint of pride.

Who was the only Asian footballer ever to be named among the best 10 captains in the world? The man in question is Sailendra Nath (Sailen) Manna - the former Indian captain who fetched the country a host of international laurels including the first Asian Games gold in 1951. Today, Manna, is the representative of the period when Indian football was at its peak. Manna's exploits at the helm of the Indian national team had prompted the England Football Association to rate him among the 10 best skippers of the world in its yearbook of 1953. That was the best of times. The euphoria of newly gained independence was sweeping across the nation.

The Indian team qualified for the 1950 World Cup in Brazil, but could not appear as they still played in their bare feet at that time. Wearing shoes was a mandatory requirement by FIFA. There are also some statements & reports that it was only an attributed reason, the board did not apparently have the resources to send the team abroad!!

India faced disappointment in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. "We were still the `barefooted bunch' as most of us were unaccustomed to boots," says Manna. "We could only see snow all around. We were freezing on the ground. The chill proved too much against a well-accomplished team like Yugoslavia." India bowed out of the tournament losing 1-10.


Mohammed Abdul Salim from Calcutta played for Celtic, the first club to win the European cup, but had to bandage his feet. Called the Indian juggler, Celtics website explains why & even have a fantastic poem on him –
check it out

After showing amazing skills as an essential member of Calcutta's Mohammedan Sporting Club side, a cousin urged Salim to try his hand at European football. During his trial at Celtic Park, which came after an enduring boat trip via Cairo and London, Salim's ability even in bare feet astonished Willie Maley. On his debut in 1937 Salim, in bare feet, proved exceptional helping Celtic win 5-1. In his second match against Galston, Celtic won 7-1 and his performance led the Scottish Daily Express to write: "Indian Juggler - New Style." Ten twinkling toes of Salim, Celtic FC's player from India, hypnotised the crowd at Parkhead. He balanced the ball on his big toe, lets it run down the scale to his little toe, twirls it, and hops on one foot around the defender." The board would have been happy, there is not truth that they tried to get the rest of our players to go bare footed, boots are expensive you know.

Salim even refused to take penalties out of shyness (too easy for him, perhaps?). When he decided to go back to India due to homesickness, Celtic offered to pay him 5% of the gate proceeds. In those days it was GBP 1,800, a princely amount, per day. He gifted all of it, until he left Britain, to orphans who were provided entry using this amount. ‘A social history of Indian football’ provides more details to those interested. Can you believe that 1000 club members were there to witness the selection session that Celtic laid out for Salim, before he was chosen?

For those interested in the origins of Football - Recorded in a military manual dating back to the Han dynasty (200-300 BC), it is usually believed that the Chinese Tsu Chu is the earliest form of football known to man.Two 30-feet high bamboo canes were used to suspend a large piece of silk cloth with a hole 30cm-40cm in diameter cut into it and competitors would attempt to kick a leather ball through it. Tsu Chu, it seems was played to celebrate the emperor's birthday and the penalty for losing was death.

Oct 24, 2007

October 24, 2007

Socal Fires

by
Socal Fires
Socal is how they call South California and we have been in the news lately as many of you may know. Having watched the Malibu fire story on TV during the week end, I was a bit apprehensive about the coming days with the dry weather and the howling Santa Ana winds. There was also an official trip coming up mid week.

Sunday – we went out for dinner, and on the left of highway 15 saw a smallish fire & lots of smoke at the Fallbrook area about 15 miles from home.
Monday morning – went to the office as usual, the smoke by I15 had increased. By afternoon we heard that there were huge fires in the San Diego County & mass evacuations were underway. That was when things started to get a little worrisome. I decided it best to leave & quickly drive the 40 mile distance back to Temecula, where we live. It took me six hours to get home and took me close to the raging fires in Fallbrook, we could see stuff falling from the air – soot, cinder…and people fleeing with their cars & trucks laden. Stuck in traffic, I tried many roads to get back on the highway as the GPS instructed, all the inlets into the 15 North were blocked by Police.
Eventually my wife, who was scanning Google maps at home, relayed over the phone that there was a smallish road that joins up in Temecula and I landed up in it. De Luz - Sandia Creek road – a gorgeous drive through forest, some fabulous mansions (I saw a wooden house on an artificial lake even!). Winding, twisting and sloping, the small road & the few inhabitants were finding the many hundreds of cars a bit difficult to cope with, I suppose.

Later that night somewhere on the road through which we came, the shrubs & forest caught fire. It is now called the Rosa fire. This is about 5 miles from where we live, as the crow flies. The wind was blowing the smoke in dense trails…

Tuesday, lots of worry whether the Rosa fire would flare up – Only one site seemed to have any interest in this – The North Californian newspaper site. All others had eyes on the bigger fires.

There were far too many fires in the Socal area & by evening engines, firemen and helicopters from other states started to come by – a million people had got evacuated from Socal...Officials have evacuated nearly 350,000 homes in San Diego County alone, where the worst of the fires are blazing. Based on numbers from the 2000 census, as many as 950,000 people may have been affected

Ground crews and a helicopter launched a full-scale assault on the stubborn "Rosa" fire Tuesday morning in an attempt to surround the blaze, keep it away from homes and stop its march toward the San Diego County line and the inferno currently battering Fallbrook.At noon Tuesday, more than 400 combined acres had been charred, much of it in the thick underbrush of the avocado groves. The fire was about 50 percent surrounded with full containment expected by Wednesday, said Jody Hagemann, spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. This blog covers a bit
of the Fallbrook& Rosa fire.

Rosa
- This fire has burned 411 acres and is 70 percent contained. 175 residences near Temecula are threatened. Evacuations have been lifted and residents are allowed to return to their homes. Suspected arson!!

Fallbrook -This fire has burned 7,500 acres in Rice Canyon in Northern San Diego County and is 10 percent contained. 206 homes, 2 commercial properties and 40 outbuildings have been destroyed. 1,500 homes are threatened currently. 35,000 people have been evacuated from the communities of Fallbrook and Deluz Canyon.

The De Luz - Sandia creek road is an interesting drive that I would not have experienced, had it not been for the fire.
This site provides some nice pictures!!
The plight of those who lost their property and had to endure the pain of evacuation is terrible - I hope they can get back soon to their homes or rebuild them, to continue living their lives as they wanted!!

Fire close up pics Courtesy Lateott
Highway pice from the net - thanks, owner
Others taken from our porch