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 http://www.isc.ro/. 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:)