Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Happy New Year

When I was young, 31st Dec used to be that one day, when we were allowed to watch late night TV - the New Year Programme on Doordarshan! I actually used to feel sad that I would have to wait for a whole year for this day to come again! These days, a whole year seems to pass off in second!

Things have long changed from those young, innocent days! As 2008 ends, my day unfortunately has been quite the same for some time now, the same last minute rush to finish off stuff before starting the celebrations!

This year, we are off to a friend's place to welcome 2009. Just wanted to wish all of you a very Happy New Year! Hope the year brings happiness and peace! See you all next year.

Monday, 29 December 2008

The Tongue that I speak

I was inspired to write this from one of Ajit's posts. I was first introduced to the origins of languages by my great-uncle who is a linguist. Ever since, I have always been on the lookout for words that are common, in seemingly different languages.. I am talking about the words which have been assimilated so well into various languages that we probably do not even realise that the origins are probably the same.

Here are some examples of words and their origins..

Rice - It has been speculated that the Indo-Iranian vrihi itself is borrowed from a Dravidian vari (< PDr. *warinci)[12] or even a Munda language term for rice, or the Tamil name arisi (அரிசி) from which the Arabic ar-ruzz, from which the Portuguese and Spanish word arroz originated.

Mango - The name mango is ultimately either from the Kodagu mange, the Malayalam manga, or the Tamil mangai, and was loaned into Portuguese in the early 16th century, and from Portuguese passed into English. The ending in -o appears in English and is of unclear origin.[2].

Day - The term comes from the Old English dæg, with similar terms common in all other Indo-European languages, such as Tag in German and dive in Sanskrit.

Orange - Orange derives from Indian, tamil naranthai to Sanskrit nāraṅgaḥ "orange tree", with borrowings through Persian nārang, Arabic nāranj, Spanish naranja, Late Latin arangia, Italian arancia or arancio, and Old French orenge, in chronological order. The first appearance in English dates from the 14th century. The name of the colour is largely derived from the fruit, first appearing in this sense in the 16th century.

These are some of the words that I can think of - off the top of my head.. I am sure a lot of you will be able to provide me with loads of other examples.. Just the other day, I learnt from my Spanish neighbour that the word for table in Spanish is 'mesa' which is pronounced almost exactly as the Malayalam word for table - 'mesha'!

If we all start looking at similarities between ourselves and realise that just like these words, we all have common origins, a lot of our problems are bound to disappear - what do you think?

Sunday, 28 December 2008

A Vote for Democracy

I had been watching the analysis of the Jammu and Kashmir election results on NDTV and for the first time, that I recall - I actually felt good while watching something about Kashmir.

The verdict, which has been hailed by the Prime Minister as ' A Vote for Democracy' definitely felt good. For the first time, polls in Jammu and Kashmir have been virtually violence-free and non-coercive. It was an election where people ignored the boycott called by the separatist movement and came out in decisive numbers to vote. And vote they did! A 60.5% voter turnout!
To add to everything, the National Conference emerged as the single largest party, with the pro-separatist PDP, not faring as well.

Though it would be very premature to call this an 'end to the separatists movement' in Kashmir, lets hope, that this is a kind of landmark, a turning point for the Jammu and Kashmir region. It has been hailed as a sign of trust by the J&K voters in the Indian democratic system.There are people argueing that the voters' have voted for governance and development, keeping autonomy out of the elections. Even if that maybe so - if the voter turnout was this high - surely, it is an indication that they felt that their vote would amount to something, that the democratic system in India, with all its problems - is still democratic, that people's voices will be heard. That, itself, if you ask me, is a huge triumph for India.

The true test would be for the newly elected government to show that they live up to the voters' expectations. I am hoping that this is the first step towards outing the separatist movement in Kashmir.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Merry Christmas!

The Christmas week has started! For the last few weeks(or was it months? - sometimes they start right after Easter:) the Christmas cheer has been in the air.

People are on leave, children are enjoying the holidays. Houses are decked in lights! Christmas trees lit up everywhere - much to my daughter's delight! We went for a walk today and she had a wonderful time 'finding Christmas trees'. 'Oh look Chismis Tree, I found it , I found it!' It was amazing to see her joy at the sighting of a Christmas Tree or a Santa!

How I wish, we could keep that ability of being able to be so deliriously happy at the smallest of things throughout our lives!

Merry Christmas!

Monday, 22 December 2008

To Convert or not to Convert?

I was reading through the comments in one of IHM's posts when I started to comment and then realised that I wanted to do a post instead!

We have heard a lot of justification of the violence in Orissa by the VHP/Bajrang Dal activists on the basis of avenging 'proselytisation'. I cannot understand how we can do anything but condemn it wholeheartedly. There can be justification whatsoever.

Firstly, Conversion is no crime in India - despite the efforts of the Sangh Parivar to make forced conversion a crime. 'Forcible converison' , to me is a term which is hugely ambiguous. In a secular democracy like India - how can we even think of having a law like this? If our citizens do not have the right to convert to any religion, to live in any way that suits them - what is the meaning of the democracy we live in? If India becomes a state where we are told what religion to follow, or when I can or not convert - I would much rather emigrate.

Secondly, if the missionaries are successful in converting the lower caste Hindus to Christainity - there is a reason for it. My father used to recount to me , how badly the lower castes used to be treated. He tells me of how even the shadow of a lower caste to fall on one of the higher castes was considered defilement! So they had to move away when my dad and his family approached. And then, magically when they converted - they could come into our living rooms! How fair is that? And why would any person not prefer that?

The caste system had reached such levels that to convert must have been a huge relief. And yes, if the Christian missionaries gave them incentives - what was wrong? When we could not give them the dignity, the respect - is it any surprise that they went where they got a lot more? Can you blame them, if they found respect in the society, education subsidised for their children, after converting? All this without violence! Just by promising and delivering social upliftment.

Thirdly, for all the efforts spent in the carnage in Orissa - would it not have served everyone better if these groups had looked inwards and tried to make changes to the system, so that people are less likely to be tempted by conversion? How about starting good quality schools ? Hospitals? Trying to do what can be done to abolish the caste system? Obviously, the last point is not an easy one - but if every person tried - I am sure it could happen? My granddads - on both sides, believed in it strongly - so none of my parents and their siblings have the caste in their names.. Having said that - I am not so sure 'de-recognizing' castes will work in reality- with the reservation system that we have in place. We have to make people want to convert/or stay a Hindu - force is no way to go. But surely, we can try - instead of killing and raping innocent people!

Fourthly, how can VHP/Bajrang Dal consider themselves as the representatives of Hindus? I am proud to be a Hindu but these acts have really made me ashamed. It is sad that Hinduism , which is actually a way of life, is being defiled by these people. Since we are 'born' Hindus, we do not have any 'baptism' to make us Hindus - how can re-conversion mean anything? Surely, a true representative of Hinduism, should be above all this? As a Hindu, I do not go to temples, do not believe in most of the rituals, do not undertake any fasts, do not wear any symbols of my religion - does that make me any less Hindu? If this continues, very soon, I will be told that I am a 'non-believer' or maybe I would have to 're-convert'?

Forcibly stopping conversions or forcing people to 'reconvert' is just as bad(worse actually) than forced conversions. I just hope people rise above all this and all of us condemn such horrible, horrible acts of violence. As long as there are even a small segment of people who try to justify this - these fringe elements will continue to wreck havoc. We have to collectively show that these fringe elements who assume that they speak for us - have NO support from us.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Public helps protect the Police!

I just read an article on the NDTV website, about how a bunch of young businesspeople have have raised Rs 30 Lakhs to buy bulletproof vests for the Mumbai Police..

Citizens fund bulletproof jackets for cops

It is indeed very noble of these young people to do something tangible, something to really contribute. It is fantastic that so many of us Indians are doing their 'bit' in so many ways. Ratan Tata has decided that the Tata group will create its own anti-terror mechanism. Surely, a lot of other corporate bodies will be doing so now. It is another matter that the common man cannot really have his own security, and of course a different matter that we should not need to do all this. The taxes we pay should be able to buy the bulletproof vests and security and protection should really be the government's responsibility. Nevertheless..

We have heard so many voices say that we all have to do our bit. For the first time in India, citizens are out on the street , silently protesting, signing up petitions and doing whatever they can to help. People's indignation and anger forced our government to take some steps in the aftermath of the attacks.

This just goes to show that every little matters. And to think, if ordinary citizens can do so much - how much would get done if our politicians get their act together and decide to serve the people - as they were elected to do , in the first place. Then maybe, just maybe, the 'roti, kapda aur makaan' will no longer be just an election promise..

Some more examples of people doing their bit.. Here is Manju's post.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Chanda Kochhar to succeed Kamath as ICICI Bank CEO!

Some good news at last! Among all the terror-related stuff in the newspapers - this was one piece of wonderful news!

Chanda Kochar has been in the list of the most powerful women in business for some time now. There have been reports of how she has risen up from the ranks through her determination and hard work.

'Ms Kochhar was instrumental in setting up and scaling up the Retail business for ICICI Bank. In July 2000, under the leadership of Ms. Kochhar, ICICI Bank entered the Retail business and within a short span of around 5 years, the Bank emerged as the largest retail financer in India. Under her leadership, the Retail banking business of ICICI Bank grew many folds and the Bank has established itself as a clear “Leader” in Car Finance, Home Finance, Card business and Two Wheeler & Commercial Vehicle Loans.
In the process of transforming a small bank into the largest private sector bank in the country, within a decade of its inception, the various steps taken by Ms. Kochhar also shaped the retail finance industry in India. Few such path-breaking initiatives included launch of electronic channels in banking, developing a large network of Direct Sales Agents, setting up Bancassurance model of ICICI Bank and using the concept of cross sell by using various channels. In April 2001, she took over as Executive Director, heading the retail business in ICICI Bank.'

Having been in the corporate world myself, I know how difficult it is to balance both personal and professional life. Here's to more of her kind! Here's wishing her all the best and hoping to see more reports of many more dynamic successful women in business!

To read more about Chanda Kochar

Chanda Kochhar to succeed Kamath as ICICI Bank CEO & MD

Super' Kochhar makes journey from trainee to CEO

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

No defense for Ajmal?

'Sena warns legal community against taking Ajmal's case' - Are these guys crazy? Do they forget that we live in a 'democracy'? We can't and should not just hang Ajmal without giving him a trail. That is what separates us from a banana republic!

I hang my head in shame that we have 'leaders' like this!

Baby P - Hope you rest in peace...

A little over a month back, there was a lot of outrage in the media in the UK, about a story of a 17 month old toddler, who was tortured to death. It had broken my heart to read about him , but for some reason, I had not been able to write about it - until now..

The mother apparently, let her boyfriend and her lodger torture her son, and did nothing to protect him.. She just helped protect her boyfriend. The kind of things that were done to this defenseless , little toddler - was simply unthinkable.

Apparently this little boy had been in the radar of the child protection agencies and that he was seen 60 times by case workers and yet he could not be saved. It has become a huge issue here. Some heads have rolled in the children's services at that borough.. I can somehow , even overlook the fact that the child protection services had failed.. I simply cannot believe that any mother could let this happen to her child... Most of us, can't even bear to see a scratch on our babies.. Can't imagine what this mother must be like, to let this happen to her baby!

Praying that that little boy , has finally got some peace.. and that no other child has to go through this...

Some articles about this..

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

I got an award!!!

I got an award - can't still believe it! Thank you, Indian Home Maker, for thinking me worth an award. Being so new to the blogging world - its an honour that you even read my posts, leave alone give an award! Thank you once again.

As per the rules, I am supposed to, pass it on to other bloggers. Most of the bloggers I am passing this to , might not even know me, but I just wanted to say that I have been following your blogs and am a big fan!

Vinod Sharma - For all those wonderfully analysed and researched posts.
Nimmy - I love the passion in your posts..
Manju - for those questions which were almost forgotten
Motherhood and all that Jazz - I have really enjoyed reading your posts.
Nita - for a 'wide angle view' on so many different subjects.
Indian Home Maker - I would love to give it back to you - you truly inspire me - but I am not sure it allowed as per rules...

Thanks to all of you for a whole lot of wonderful reading material. I have subscribed to all of you and it makes my day - to see a new post from any of you!

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Fair and Lovely?

Reading Indian Homemaker's post, reminded me of how much our Indian society is still hung up on 'fairness'!

The very term ' Fair and Lovely' indicates that fairness and loveliness goes hand in hand! I remember, reading matrimonial ads for fun, with friends(long, long time ago) and coming across loads of adverts which stated very clearly 'fair bride wanted'. And I do not recall any advertisement for a 'fair groom'. Obviously, fair grooms are not necessary, just the 'Y' chromosome is enough, when it comes to the groom!

Going back to the main topic - why this fascination with 'fairness'???? Is it as harmless as the fascination for 'tanned' skin abroad, as some people like to claim? I wish it were, but I would have to disagree.. Agreed, that a lot of people in the UK and the US( and I am sure in a lot of other countries), go for sunbeds and other tanning treatment to look good. So what is the difference with our people trying to be - 'fair and lovely'? The main difference I would think is that in there is no discrimination within a society against people who are not tanned(in UK, US etc). Tanning is simply a beauty treatment, however, in India, a whole lot more depends of one's skin colour! Brides are rejected based on 'fairness' of the skin! Some time back I remember seeing a 'We, the people' on NDTV, where a gentleman, very honestly said that, given a choice between 2 equally qualified people, he would select the fairer candidate, as that would be more beneficial to his business.. Unfortunately, this mindset remains! Somebody else, qualified the difference, saying that one would not mind having a dark girlfriend, but when it came to the woman, to take home to mummy - it would have to be a fair girl!

However, don't you think, that if a woman tried to reject a prospective groom, on the basis that he is 'not fair', would be told not to be 'frivolous'?

Even, in this age, people advise expectant mothers to eat certain foods to ensure that the unborn child is 'fair'! And this is not just among the uneducated, unaware society either!

The silver lining? Well , from the look of it, today we have a market for 'Fair and Handsome' as well.. Well, at least we can no longer complain of inequality, I guess!

Thursday, 11 December 2008

What is he thinking??

Just saw this article on Times of India,'Rahul Gandhi assails security focus on VIPs' .

How lame is that? Is he actually supporting the fact that our 'VIPs' get so much of over-protection?? How can he justify saying this, especially when the figures clearly show that the budget for protecting the VIPs is more than for protecting the nation? How I wish I could ask him this!!!

Tuesday, 9 December 2008


Nita's post 'Women at Work', made me ponder on women working in India - how equal are we?

Women have been working for ages in India - as domestic helps or doing manual labour. How do we classify this? Are these women not forced to work in order to earn a living? When we talk about feminism - where do these women figure? Are they liberated or are they being used?
I used to have a maid servant who had a husband who used to turn up just once in a while to beat her up and take any money that he could lay his hands on.. It used to make my heart break to listen to her. Despite all that, she was determind to try and get her daughter and son educated - so that at least they have a chance at a better life!

Even in case, of educated working women, how many of us have husbands who help us out at home? Even if they do - the main responsibility seems to lie on the women. Why is it, that true equality is just not happening? It is assumed that everything related to 'home' is the women's responsibility - so what if she has an equally , if not more challenging job outside! There was one time, when my own husband - who is extremely lazy, was lying in bed when I got back from work - and I had just sat down, to take a breather - when he said - ' You are sitting down? - can't you see, I am hungry!' That made me see RED!!! I was like, 'oh really? Well I am certainly not cooking anymore- If you are hungry make something yourself!' Anyways, that resulted in my husband getting hold of a cook the very next day- which certainly made our lives much easier - but the unfairness of it still irks me - and I have still not stopped reminding him:)

So is 'working women' in any form - a liberation? I would think so in a lot of ways , and again in a lot of ways, the true liberation is to be able to decide when you want to work and when you want to stay at home. To be fair to my husband - he has always been supportive of me in my decisions to work or not to work. When I was working - he was always supportive, and when after 8 yrs of working , when I wanted to be a stay at home mum to my 1.5 yr old - he was equally supportive. To think of it, I do feel liberated that I have the choice - unlike so many of our fellow women - who have to work, whether they like it or not.

Friday, 5 December 2008

The Girl Child

One of the things, high on my to-do list when I get back to India is to join a charity or an NGO to help improve the condition of the girl child in India. This is something very, very close to my heart and I want to do what I can, to help.

It is a sad statement, that in a time where we have everyone talking of minorities - there is one minority which is essentially ignored and treated badly almost across religious barriers - the womenfolk. Even in today's modern world, where women contribute as much (if not more)- they are just not given their due place in society.

I have been brought up in a culture which values girls - we have a matrilineal society - so I have never felt this discrimination. The very first time, that I was aware of this distinction was when one of our neighbours in Jamshedpur, had a baby boy. Now, they had 4 daughters already and when the boy was born - they actually had a party which could rival any wedding! What was exceptionally shocking was, that for the 7 or 8 years that we lived there - never had we seen a single birthday being celebrated for those girls. I wonder what must have gone through those girls' minds to see such blatant discrimination.... It was also a very common practice for families to send their sons to English medium schools and daughters to Hindi medium schools. And all this was among educated families - so I shudder to think what must happen in the less educated ones...

It pains me that even today, female foeticide is common , and totally acceptable in several parts of India. I guess, it might be more shocking for them to hear someone say that they would prefer to have a girl. What is most shocking is that this happens even among the educated people . This was something I always knew, but what shocked me more was that it was even prevalent among Indians(Asians as a whole) in the UK. When I was pregnant( I was in London, where they tell you the sex of the baby), and was told by the ultrasound technician that I was expecting a girl - my joy knew no bounds. I was however stunned when he asked - ' Are you guys OK with it? Your community prefers boys, don't they?' I was surprised that he ( he was not Asian) knew about this. This prompted me to look it up on the Internet only to find out that in several areas in the UK where the Asian population was high -they actually avoid telling people the sex of the baby, for fear that they would abort it!

The sad thing in India is, that despite the fact that it is not allowed by law to find the sex of a foetus, it is still done and foetuses aborted without a second thought. This mainly happens because the society is still fixated on boys being the harbinger of all things joyful and girls being a burden. The main difference being that for a girl, you need to give dowry. I have heard of families who start saving up from the time that they had a girl. That reminds me of a maid, who used to stay at our outhouse. This lady, apparently, did not feed her baby girl for 2 weeks after she was born, because she just did not want a girl. At the point when my mother first met her, she used to treat her son and daughter very differently. Her daughter was always asked to give everything first to her brother and the boy was never, ever asked to share. Slowly, in the 3 years that they stayed there, my mother managed to make her understand that she needs to treat both her son and daughter equally and to try and give both of them equal opportunities. The best part was that the daughter was much, much smarter than the son - I do hope she has not forgotten everything my mother had managed to drill into her!

I guess, such examples abound in our society and things will never change until each of us do our bit to fight this menace. I do believe that we can all do our bit to help remove this stigma. I would like to sponsor the education of a girl - so that at least one girl gets a better chance at life.. I do hope that by the time my 2 yr old daughter grows up - she will never have to be shocked that these kind of things still exist in our society.

Other interesting links on the subject

Stop female foeticide!

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Security and the Indian Politician..

My husband and I was discussing about how over-protected the Indian Politician is, when he mentioned reading the article in Times of India which actually gives the statistics..

It was such a shocking read, that for a nation of 1 billion people, they actually have budgeted less than for the security for the political class. It is not just shocking but also disgusting! These heavily protected people - all with the money, that we pay as tax-payers, give little thought to the people who they supposedly represent. It is such a sad state of affairs that the corruption has reached such a point where it could actually cause physical harm to the people of India. I also read somewhere that Black Cat protection, for certain politicians, were actually negotiation points for providing support during confidence votes. It just shows the degree to which our political system has degenerated.
The only thing I hope for, is that, this is indeed, the turning point and the people's anger propels forward a new face to Indian politics.

We can do it!

Almost everybody I speak to , or I read about, is talking about 'clean politics', 'new leadership' , 'change the system','clean up politics'...

As I was reading through various blogs, I remembered that a group of IITians had created a new political party. So I decided to google and find out what happened to it.

The website for this party is From the look of it, they certainly look like they really want to make a change. Seeing their qualifications and the fact that they have certainly abandoned highly lucrative careers - they probably mean it. For me, it is enough to see some faces that different, for haven't we been voting for the same bunch of politicians(or their families) for ages - isn't it time to try giving others a chance. I certainly hope, we get to see more of these types of political parties - full of young people with a vision... and who knows, we might even find our vey own Obama...

Links to this post - The Indian Homemaker

Wednesday, 3 December 2008


Its official! I am totally addicted to blog surfing. I am avid reader - I can read anything and everything and I am always with a book in my hand. This has now changed. I still read non-stop but I have started reading blogs instead! I am hooked on the mobile phone, surfing blogs incessantly. And I am finding it extremely difficult to stop.

This is my tribute to all those wonderfully talented blogger who have made my blog surfing experience so very worth it! I am following some of my very favourite blogs
Doing Jalsa and Showing Jilpa - Krish Ashok's sense of humour is absolutely amazing.
Let's Put Da - Ramesh Srivats take on the current events is great.
The Life and Times of an Indian Home Maker - I love her posts - especially the ones on feminism - they are truly inspirational.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

And life goes on...

It is almost a week since the terror attacks on Mumbai..and I am ashamed to say that after 4 days of being glued to the television and almost non-stop discussions - now things are back to normal at my home.
Ofcourse, I am in faraway Leeds - faraway from Mumbai - so I guess it is probably normal. This just made me wonder if this is how our politicians feel - distant and cocooned from everything that the common man in India endures. Maybe with all the Z category security, they just donot feel the impact as much. That must be the reason why so many of them have come out with such callous statements. These statements, came from across the cross-section of parties - that just re-affirms my faith that every party in India is the same - full of the same kind of people.

The silver lining, this time, is that, thankfully, the Indian Government seems to have been forced to take some action - in both tackling the gaps within our security as well as putting the pressure on Pakistan. We also seem to be having the tacit support of the US - that hopefully will make some difference.
Most importantly, I do hope that this serves as the turning point that everybody is talking about. I hope that the Indian public anger results in
1. Rooting out the criminal elements in our political class.
2. Forcing the political class to be accountable,
3. Making the politicians realise that they cannot take the Indian public for granted,
4. Encouraging a new wave of fresh politicians who do not treat politics as their family business, instead, are really interested in trying to lead India to a glorious and safe tomorrow.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Mumbai Burning!

I've spent the whole day in front of the television watching NDTV's coverage of the Mumbai terror attacks. It feels unreal and at the same time shockingly real. Also there is a distinct feeling of deja-vu.
India has been facing a terror attack with a frightenning regularity. Wasn't it Bangalore, Ahmedabad , Delhi just a few weeks/months back? Or have we forgotten all about it. Admittedly, this time the scale was different as were the targets. All that follows, is almost the same. There was this slight change in the script this time with both the opposition and the government standing together instead of starting the blame-game right away. Everything else remains same. The only person who seemed to make any sense to me was Shobhaa De who was outraged and asked that something be done instead of politicians just offering their usual statements. She was so right in saying that our Prime Minister's speech was totally insipid and uninspiring. It was difficult to believe anything he said as it was clear that he was reading out a speech which he himself probably did not believe in. If that was meant to reassure his countrymen - well, he sure is living in a fantasy. Or maybe, he just did not want to upstage 'Madam' by sounding too good.
I wonder, when will our politicians start thinking about the country and start doing things.. For instance, instead of trying to just pass another anti-terror law/bill in the name of fighting terror, why don't they try and imrpove our police force. I am sure our police force could do with a better pay structure and benefits for the risks they take as part of their jobs. That might also go a long way in reducing the corruption levels. If we compare our 'havaldar' with constables in other parts of the world - it almost makes me laugh. Here in the UK, constables wear bulletproof vests while our havaldar would be lucky to carry a lathi. I am also sure that our police force is also seriously under-staffed. Also, are we really using all the avenues for intelligence gathering? Is our intelligence agencies adequately staffed. It is astonishing that the terrorists entered Mumbai through the sea.. It is shocking that more was not done to secure our coastal border especially since we have victims of terror attacks so many times..
It is surprising that our politicians seem to do almost nothing to try and ensure that we donot have another attack on Indian soil. I am no supporter of George W. Bush and his government, but to give the devil his due, atleast there were no attacks on American soil after 9/11, which is much, much more than one can say for our Indian Governments!
As Shobhaa De said, the Indians have shown restraint and have been calm for too long. Maybe it is time that we held our politicians accountable for the job they were elected to do.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

The Iggle-Piggle Invasion

Anybody with a pre-schooler in the Uk will need no introduction to Iggle -Piggle. For the uninitiated, Iggle-Piggle is a character from a series called 'In the night garden'(INTG) in Cbeebies(BBC's channel for pre-school children).

My daughter, since the time this series began, has been a huge fan of Iggle-Piggle,Upsy-Daisy etc etc etc. There is definitely something about it that makes children go crazy about it. Most of the characters have such funny names(that might be part of the attraction) and is somehow very soothing. My husband claims that he feels sleepy watching it.

Anyway, the series has become so successful, that merchandise of all sorts with the INTG characters have sprouted up.
Literally,you name it and you can find it - last week I found Wellies with Upsy-Daisy on them. My daughter already has all the books and last weekend we bought her an Upsy Daisy slipper:) I have to admit, I am lured into picking up these things in a effort to subtly bribe her into doing things. For instance,she refuses to wear slippers at home, irrespective of how cold it is. Now that she has an Upsy Daisy slipper, she has started wearing them-happily.

If this continues, I am sure, we will end up with the whole house having an 'In the night garden' theme. In the meanwhile, I am going to sit back and enjoy the Cbeebies' bedtime hour with my daughter. Night Night!

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

'Skyless' existence

Its been a month since we moved from London to Leeds and the worst thing possible has happenned! No broadband yet. Despite having called Sky way before shifting and then reconfirming - it seems one of their 'executives' forgot to book my broadband installation so I am going to be 'Skyless' for 'upto' another 10 working days.
Though I have to say that it is not as bad as it could have been. My husband magnanimously decided to part with his precious phone on which he is almost permanently hooked so that I could important things like browse the net :)
Like they say, every cloud has a silver lining - I have found a huge repository of fantastic blogs that I am quickly getting addicted to. I would have prob never read this many blogs had I been reading on the laptop. It is so convenient to have it on the phone to just read and read more. Admitedly, it is not really easy to do much else on the phone (including typing this blog) but it was all worth it to be able to read all that.
So if anyone happens to read my blog, pls forgive the lack of formatting/spellcheck - I am literally using this as my online journal.

Monday, 17 November 2008

What are you reading these days?

I have just finished Gurucharan Das's colum in TOI - What are you reading these days? and I could relate to it so much.
He talks about libraries(or rather the lack of them) in India.
Having lived in the UK for the last 4 years, I am really looking forward to going back to India but there is one thing that I will really really miss. Libraries.. I literally cannot live without books. Living in the UK has been paradise in that regard. Access to books has never been easier. Here I can borrow upto 20 books at a time and reserve books online. At one point in time, I used to browse the NY Times bestsellers list and just reserve them on my library account online. Libraries here being part of the free services provided by the government.

I would love to be able to see this happenning in India - but I guess it would be too much expect when our government is finding it difficult to even provide primary education to every child. Still, I would like to hope that 'change' will one day come to India.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

The Audacity of Hope

Barack Obama's book The Audacity of Hope was a real revelation for me. His honesty and vision for America shone through. To me it felt like a remarkable honest book by someone who seems to genuinely want to do good.

This is Barack Obama's second book - I have not read his first one and after reading this one, am dying to read the first one. He comes through as very level headed and astute. The ideas and the policy positions that he has outlined in the book makes very interesting reading and gives an insight into the issues that Americans are facing now. The most interesting part is that the ideas that Obama has outlined could very well be applied to most countries. Education, health care and energy, for instance, are issues facing most countries in some measure.

After seeing the way our Indian politicians behave - Obama was very, very impressive and refreshing. He has analysed very sensibly what was done wrong during the Bush Administration and the measures that he thinks, could help change things. The best part is that he sounds very balanced , not resorting to any kind of negativism towards anyone and at the same time, coming up with sensible sounding solutions.

There are some interesting snippets from his meetings with various personalities like the US President George W. Bush and Warren Buffett, which add a lot of flavour.

One of the chapters in his book is Faith and to be honest - it was a huge revelation to me. I did not know the extent to which Faith is a factor in American politics. There are instances where he is made to look like a person of no 'faith' because he is pro-abortion. It is amazing that faith plays such an important role in American politics. For instance in India - religion has become part of politics but 'faith' as such, is not. We never hear of one politician accusing another of not being 'Hindu enough' or 'Muslim enough'. Although I guess, India has enough trouble with religion alone , without needing the extra element of faith.

All in all, I really enjoyed Barack Obama's writing style and a lot of things gave me an insight to American politics. I really look forward to seeing him elected President and then hopefully, we will get to see a new , responsible America as opposed to Big Bully America.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Scrabble Addiction

I have to be honest - I have become a scrabble addict. An online scrabble playing addict. I know - most people swear by football or cricket -will prob think I must be crazy. I have been playing scrabble ever since I was introduced to the game by my grandfather - I think I was not more than 8 or 9 then. I have loved the game ever since. I remember playing with my grandfather and my uncles during every summer vacation. It used to be amazing and gave me a lifelong love of the game. I had lost touch with it for some time now as my husband just does not have any interest in it and I have not been able to take out the time to play with friends either.

It all changed ever since my cousin told me about the Internet Scrabble Club. Oh! It is this fantastic online scrabble club where you can play scrabble to your heart's content 24/7 :) What more can one ask for! I know, I know - I am sounding like an advert for ISC - but you have to understand how much I like the game. These days, thanks to my 2 yr old - I get the time only at unholy hours after she has gone to sleep, to play. Playing scrabble has become my night time routine to relax and unwind:) And during the weekends - when I need 'me time' this is what I do - play scrabble :) , and my husband keeps my daughter away from my laptop:)

Ever since I started playing scrabble - I have picked up the knack of playing really short, quick and competitive games. The game is so much fun and you can play loads of games in a short time. Of course - when I am on a huge winning streak - I hate to stop playing . And again when I am on a massive losing streak - I still hate to stop playing - in the hope that I will be able to regain my points :) I guess, its enough to say that I find it extremely difficult to stop playing.

Anyways , today I felt the need to thank the makers of ISC for making such a wonderful platform for this wonderful game and of course to my cousin for introducing me to it. And for any of you - who happens to want to play, just visit Happy Scrabbling!

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Frustrated !!! That's how I am feeling at the ongoing tussle at Singur over the Tata Nano plant. I cannot believe the series of events that are happening around the Tata Nano plant. Tata Moors has finally officially declared that they will be pulling out of Singur. This just goes on to prove the truth about how China is progressing thanks to the Chinese government and India's progress is despite the Indian Government(politicians - in general).

The other day , on NDTV, there was this gentleman on 'We - The People' , I missed his name who said that a country where people can protest , discuss and resolve issues is a mature, democratic country and a country where people protest on the street , disrupt the factory work, terrorise people and refuse to sit and discuss - a banana republic! How true.. It is amazing how our democratic traditions are so misused by our politicians - the very people who are supposed to uphold it!

I think , our gifted politicians have hit upon that jackpot of an idea - Keep the mass of India poor, uneducated and unaware, so that they can come into power again and again and make enough money to last them generations - not that that should be an issue - after all where else can we see the wonders of dynastic politics :)

For instance, Mamta Banerjee has been steadfast on her claim on the 400 acres that she wants returned, and the West Bengal Govt has ruled it out. Nobody is really coming out with a viable solution. When the Tata Motors MD , wrote to Mamta Banerjee , inviting her to discuss and work towards the betterment of Singur - Mamta chose to ignore it , and used his words to further her cause. It really prompts us o wonder about her sincerity in improving the people's lots. For instance, if Tatas do move out of Bengal - how is it going to benefit the poor farmers? The land has a factory on it - and apparently it will take years before it can be cultivable again. So what purpose that the entire dharna and other dramatics serve? Well we clean forgot about Mamta's political mileage, didn't we? After all, she gets to make inroads into rural Bengal - after that's where the maximum political leverage remains ! At the end of the day - she get to be the saviour of the rural masses.. Although, I really hope that Bengal's rural mass catches on to her. As I write this - there seems to be a possibility of discussions between the Chief Minister of West Bengal, Buddhadev Bhattacharjee and Mamata Banerjee in the presence of the Governor of West Bengal. One can only hope that they work out an amicable solution, because, at the end of the day, Tata Motors will definitely recover from this blow, but all those poor farmers both who have willingly given up the land as well as those who are not willing - will all be equally adversely affected if Tata Motors pulls out from Singur.

My Baking Days

Blog Blog Blog… Everybody around me seems to be blogging and I have been thinking about joining the bandwagon , never really being able to decide what to write about. What with my extremely active 2 yr old, being extremely allergic to me sitting at the computer.. It just was not working out. So in the middle of trying to potty train her and getting her to eat something - I decided that enough was enough and I am going to write and here we go.
So ! As my little girl seems to be saying these days., what better to write about other than food.. Now , despite the fact that I am a full time , stay at home mum, I am not a great cook - but I love food - I actually dream about food and these days the only thing I watch on TV is UK TV food .. So what better to write about other than food.
Now , to give you an idea , of the kind of cook that I am. I end up cooking good stuff accidentally - I never seem to know how to replicate anything I cook well.. So to my husband constant disappointment - I can barely get his favorite dal-chawal right . Having said that my total passion is for baking. I love cakes - I can stand for hours at Morrisons Bakery section gazing at the cakes - embarrassing poor dear hubby to no end. And my favourite browsing sites are always food sites - baking of course. And there is something about the smell of baking that I just love! I always loved it since I was a little girl when Amma used to bake the most delicious cakes ever.
So when I took time off work to stay at home with my daughter , my most enthusiastic experiments were always the baking ones.

Here is the very first recipe that I tried out and amazingly came out really well.. It is an Annabel Karmel recipe - and is very very simple.

225g/8oz butter, room temperature
225g/8oz caster sugar
75g/3oz ground almonds
175g/6oz sifted self-raising flour
4 eggs
3 tbsp milk
1 tsp almond essence
1 tsp finely grated orange rind
75g/3oz plain chocolate, broken into pieces
1 tbsp cocoa powder
icing sugar (optional)

1. Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Sieve the almonds and flour and add to the mixture.
2.Gradually beat in the eggs one at a time and add the milk.
3. Transfer half the cake mixture to another bowl and stir in the almond essence and orange rind.
4. Melt the chocolate in a microwave or double boiler, and stir the melted chocolate and sifted cocoa powder into the remaining cake mixture.
5. This looks best when baked in a 20cm/8in ring tin, fluted for the prettiest effect.
6. Grease and flour the tin first or use a non-stick baking spray.
7. Spoon alternate layers of the cake mixture into the tin and use a skewer or a knife to swirl through the mixture to give a marbled effect.
8. Level the surface and bake for about 1 hour at 170C/325F/Gas 3 or until the cake is well risen and golden.
9. Turn out on to a wire rack to cool. If you like, you can sieve a little icing sugar over the top.

It is absolutely delicious this way , but on my daughter's birthday, I baked 2 cakes, and filled and topped with Chocolate Buttercream topping - Yum!! Unfortunately , I do not have any photographs of the cake - next time I bake it - I will remember to take some snaps and add it on.

Happy Baking!

p.s. I have to really thank my friend Ramya - as I posted this right after having a conversation about blogging all the recipes that I tried out:)