Thursday, December 30, 2010

Non-stops

It was quite a sight to see cheerful people in the flight to Chennai from Muscat yesterday. After a long time I heard this kind of non-stop chatter and talk. For those who know me, it is not difficult to believe that I love to talk.


The announcement said that we have landed at Chennai Airport and there was a huge round of applause and whistles.. It was the first time I have ever heard so much noise in a flight.. So also the first time I was home-bound on an International flight too. The set of students who were all cheered up, were graduates from a specific US-based university. They had to fly back to India from Muscat for a reason I won't know. As soon as we landed, there were non-stop applause, whistles and cheers. Noise - first time in a long time for me. It was easy to smile.

Then, there was the immigration counter where I was stamped an entry to my own country. The Tamil translation of the word immigration made more sense than the English dictionary meaning. You are basically taking an entry permit to your own country just because you are a non-resident Indian. The whole idea took me by a complete surprise and was a non-stop wonder till I stepped out of the airport.

Nothing seemed to have changed much over the last four months in Chennai Airport, although the regulars would notice more than what I could. Still the one thing that seemed constant was the cheer and noise that you see when people greet each other after a long time. Cant stop wondering about the extent to which we Indians, appreciate the idea of family and friends and people.

I have had the chance to take many domestic flights from Chennai airport in the past and also had the chances to see many people off on international flights; still after a few months it was very different to land here as an alien, in a city which I once knew like the back of my hand. Another non-stop wonder for me to see how people were waiting tireless for some one near and dear outside the arrival gate in the airport. Every eye showed the interest of receiving someone they knew.

We started off on the highway towards Pondicherry. It took us about two and a half hours to get out of the city limits, because of the traffic jam. I thoroughly enjoyed the wait in the traffic for the first time, because it has been a while since I saw so many vehicles, so tirelessly on the same track, in such a haphazard traffic scheme. It takes a lot of effort and strength to drive in Chennai traffic. I've seen Bangalore and I know it is tougher, but then if you are coming from a country where people complain of heavy traffic if they wait in a signal for three minutes, then it is definitely a wonder. Another non-stop wonder for me..

The fact is all of these have always been there and I have once been a part of these; still four months of life outside India makes the whole scene wondrous and new. Strange, but true!!!

Finally when we reached home, the feeling was very very different. Nothing seemed to have changed. It didn't seem like I was away for a few months at all. Another wonder to add to the list of non-stop wonders.... Wherever you have been, whatever you have been doing, however your life might have changed in the recent past, when you are back in the portals of your home, life suddenly seems comfortable and you know your way about..- The only reassurance that you are what you always were and nothing about you changes just because you have been away a little while!!!!.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Dreams are facts

This post is about a recent wisdom piece that I got from a poetry by my friend. Thanks Nithya.

You can find the poetry here:

http://musicalmyst.blogspot.com/2010/12/blog-post.html

The poetry may not have anything to do with what I got from it, but there are some words in this poem that drive a lot of meaning into your mind. And here is what I got from the third line:

What is happening today - a fact - may seem like a dream; [ Expression : Oh! I dont believe this!!! - exclamation here]
What happened earlier in life - fact of the past - may seem like a dream too..[ Expression: Can't stop thinking that there was a time when....!!! nostalgic fond smile here]

There are a lot of situations - incidents and accidents - in life that make life as interesting or seemingly as uninteresting as it is.

On any given day, there may be times when we are unable to believe that something is happening as if its a dream - so quick, unexpected, pleasant, and calm. (Unpleasant dreams are called as Nightmares). So also, there may be fond thoughts of the past floating in our mind, that seem like a dream now.

In both these cases we are talking about facts of life; about facts that have shaped as of TODAY. The way it SEEMS is totally up to us.

Today's fact may be yesterday's dream, for the one who has worked long and hard to see this day;
Yesterday's fact may be today's dream for the one who knows to cherish and be thankful for the fond thoughts.

Keep Working, Cherishing and Dreaming...

This post does not apply to negative and unpleasant thoughts.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Muscat Daily - City of Lights

This is a long pending post... It is about life in Muscat. May not be single post, but then I will try to write what I have seen and known so far in small snippets. And the category will be Muscat Daily.

All thanks to my friend and fellow blogger SG at http://sowmyagopal.blogspot.com who reminded me about this post. If you know me well, you would have guessed that my explorations, thoughts and experiences generally are on my blog as immediate as immediate can mean.. latest by a week's time. These days, I dont get to make much time in my mind for my blog. So, as and when I do, you'll see more up-to date posts.

Muscat, the captial of Oman is said to be one of the most scenic places in the Arabian land. Most of the scenic beauty during the day is contributed by the various colored mountains and beautifully paved roads here. The scenic beauty at night is lights.. If you get out of your house at night, all you get to see is lights and lights and lights everywhere. The lanes are well-lit by the street lights, Yellowish Orange or Plain White. (I know I am not talking the technicalities - Sodium vapor lamps and CFL and such serious science specs here.. Thats because the color is what catches me more than the science here). The backdrop of black and the distributed, patterned lighting identify the places mostlly.

A flood of light tells you its a stadium, a row of lights says it is a road, a curved pattern of lights in a winding pattern says that there is a winding road running up the hill, a neat line of lights that seem to hang in mid-air indicates that it is a crane positioned next to a construction area... The harbour or Mina as they call it here, is the best place to go to, if you want to see the beauty of the Muscat city at night. There are a lot of rocky hills that are also bathed in the shine of the glowing flash light from the ground. The whole scene makes the place very beautiful.

Most of the pavements have trees - date palms and neem mostly, with a floor light on, showing us the golden trunk of the tree. It will seem like trees in gold and silver have been planted along the side walks. Call it extremely bombastic and hyper imaginative, but then this is how I felt when I looked at some of the side walks in the roads here, as I sat watching out of our car window.

There are some watch towers of archaelogical importance here. The lighting gives the 'truly important' touch to these towers at night.

Muscat is celebrating the 40th National Day. The entire country is lighted up for one whole month in a festive mode to celebrate the National day. Every road has colorful, well designed lights in beautiful patterns.All bridges are also lighted up. There was a fireworks display also... another color splash!!!

The heavy loaded trucks here are another beautiful sight at nights. Every truck has at least three of these colors - Red, Orange, Yellow, Blue, Green, White. Its quite a sight to see the well-aligned lights move in the backdrop of the night color.

The stadiums are flooded with lights, so much that would make you think that a major match or event is happening there. Even on a light day, the stadiums are super-lit with the flood lights that compete with the moon's color on a full moon night.

Every building's compound wall has half a dozen lights at least to indicate that it is a compound wall. Most houses have lights on their window sill, so you can see the beauty of the window's design and architecture.

Overall, if you want to see how lights can make a difference to your mood, you must drive late evenings in Muscat. City of Lights, quite a sight, at night.

All our attempts to capture the best of this lighting were not successful. Check the slideshow to see some photos.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Color Pallete - Mountains, Roads, and Sky

The Good God must be a super-good artist... At least that's what the scenic mountains on the way to Alhuta Caves conveyed to us.

I never knew that mountains with all shades of brown without a single speck of green, can be so beautiful until I came to Muscat. I get to see a mountain range when I look out the window of my house, but never really took time to analyze them more than a quick look in the morning, noon, evening and night. I love the border color the sunshine of the day gives to this mountain range.

Here are some selected snaps of the mountains that caught our eyes over the two hour drive to the Caves. The time of the day defines the shadow on the mountains and the contrast it renders to the original brown color. The clear sky adds an extra touch finishing touch to the scenic portrait. On a close-up you can see a lot of shades of brown, orange, yellow, and blue and green.



















The Alhuta museum clarifies the colors to be mineral-rich rocks that are believed to have been formed when the continents were formed gradually in the globe over an archealogical time period of say 400 million years ago.
It was depicted beautifully in a set of animation frames. It is easy to like Geography classes if taught this way:

There seems to have been a time in the past when the Arabian land had been blessed with the fertile richness that is presently seen in the tropical countries.
Made me wonder aloud : So, after all this land had been all green and fertile once upon a time... So, this is probably just a phase of life in the archealogical time period. Not before too long, all these mountains and the colors in them and the rocks will also take place in one of the walls of the museums in another few million years to come... When continents can be formed by some movement of tectonic plates and water turbulence or whatever the geologists call it and reason it, there is also the equal possibility of the same turbulence to occur and make this whole globe into a joint blob that you are seeing in the picture. We took this from the animation video in the museum. You can fix a time period on the panel and see how the globe would have looked like back then... It was a nice experience for us because we have never seen anything like this, more so, never thought that Arabia could have once been a part of the whole blob of terrain in the globe.. May be geography classes had it and history teachers meant to teach us, but like I said, it takes a nice visual representation to get some facts right.
I just got this fact and its just a wonderful feeling within when you get the ground reality of all these: What you see is not permanent.
Also the wonderful lesson about mountains: Even if it is a rocky mountain it has its own beauty and might that cannot be denied.
The brown of the mountains is monotonous and boring sometimes, but the blue touch and the black roads accentuate the beauty of the scene. Easy to apply this to life too in any scenario. You can make the most monotonous work interesting by a few little changes.
The blue sky, the brown mountain and black roads made me click a lot more pictures than this blog poost can hold and gave me a lot more lessons than I can possibly explain here. Surely, nature is worth watching and is the best way to learn to appreciate life better.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Hurry and Worry over Study!!!!!

There is an age and time for spending a lot of energy on studies... And a baby aged six months need not be forced to hurry and worry and study the english alphabet.

There is a particular advertisement in one of the regional channels that says, " In the world today, even the KG admission demands that your child attends an interview. If you want your child to surprise the interviewers, buy this early learning package that will help your child do very well in the English Language which is very important for today's education."

The versions of the advt. go ahead and promise that your five year old can comfortably read an english book, if introduced to this learning programme as early as six months of coming into this beautiful world.

That is the point which caught my attention... Why hurry up and force a baby into reading alphabets? Why worry about your child's KG class interview? If a school is unable to understand your child's ablity to grasp new things with some simple questioning, then that school is not the right place for your child. There are some things in life that definitely cannot be forced into.. one of the definites in this list is 'Love for education'.

If parents start expecting children to live up to their expectations based on such 'not-so-intelligent' advertisements, they might have to face a bigger battle at a later date, where the child will never be interested in studies, ever.

Wonder if the school authorities, sensible parents, and psychologists and may be doctors too, will help those who start dreaming of their children mastering a foreign language as early as three years or five years or less than that!!!

May be parents who watch these kinds of advertisements should know to enjoy their time with the baby first, then the toddler, then the wonder kid level, then the child, then the teens, then the adult.... May be they should not hurry and worry about study so much as opposed to watching and enjoying the child's wonderful and gradual process of 'growing up' in every sense.

With all my prayers for the babies of this year 2010...God Bless them all!!! Let them take their own time to realize that it is a big, crazy, rush hour world outside!!!! Parents, New Parents, and Parents-to-be, please understand!!!!!!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

To redefine or shape your mind...

I am writing this post for an obvious reason - I am beginning to lose my temper more than before. I have decided to redefine its shape. A quick and focussed look within the inner-self uncovered a certain simple truth:

If you have had a pattern of keeping your inner peace and have changed it in the recent past, then it affects your temper. Go back to the same pattern if possible.

For an alternate and permanent solution, a quick research on the internet brought me to this link.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=scIvvDZDQzI

All that mattered for me was I never took time out to keep my calm over the last few months and this point got registered this morning. Following this video reassures me that I can get back control on my temper.

Help yourself, when no help seems to be around and get back to shape in your mind.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

North Indian and South Indian food - Observations

Food.. no matter how much we want to convince ourselves saying that "Food is part of life and not life itself" and that "we eat to live and not live to eat"... most of us cannot eat anything that is not up to a certain tasty standard. There are some clickable expressions that you'll get to see around in the house if the food tastes 'not-so-good'.

There is an inherent sense of satisfaction and happiness if what we make turns out to be close to the taste standards that our folks at home expect. For a long time I thought that some people are great cooks.. but until I got around to keep my own kitchen, I didnt realize that almost anyone and everyone with some interest in cooking + knowledge of few formulae can cook well.

From my minimal experience here are some generic observations:

NORTH INDIAN:

  • Almost all dishes have one of these items to add to the cholestrol and of course taste and flavor too: Ghee, Butter, Paneer, Yoghurt.
  • Coriander leaves are used for garnishing your freshly prepared dish.
  • Kashmiri Chilli powder ( colored bright red and tastes a little less spicy) is usually added for the dark color.
  • Your kitchen must have Jeera or Cumin seeds to prepare any north indian dish.
  • It will seem like potato is staple ingredient in a north indian dish.
  • Sugar needs to be added to all yoghurt included dishes.
  • Garam Masala( mix of all spices finely ground, available in all stores catering to the Indian population) has an esteemed presence.
  • Tomatoes and Onions should be available in plenty as one or more of these are ground and sauted with ginger garlic paste in Jeera for most gravy dishes.

Do anything you want with the vegetables, but make sure you add these ingredients appropriately to give your dish a north indian touch. Most cooked vegetables taste nicer than you can ever imagine, if you know some basics of North Indian cuisine.

Be generous with oil/ghee/butter if you want to win the taste-match with the nearest popular north indian restaurant chef... and....

Most importantly.........Dont look for me to help you, if your doctor has something to say on your new eating habits and your soaring weight and cholestrol. Use your judgement when you add oil, ghee, butter, garam masala, chilli powder, potato, and sugar in your favorite north indian dish.

SOUTH INDIAN:

  • Most of the main dish is centered around rice. Rice, Rice Flour, Rice Flakes are extensively used in south india.
  • Most dishes use Urad Dhal and Red Chilly when you saute vegetables.
  • Curry leaves are a must for most South Indian dishes. They are used when you saute or garnish, but they must be used if you want to get a 'nod' from some seasoned critics of South Indian cuisine.
  • Refined oil is added as generously as you use water in some sinfully fatty and tasty fried vegetables. Use your sense of dieting when you pick up an oil can the next time you cook. And also be prepared for a sorry face, because folks are not going to like it much if you reduce oil. It shows when Lady's finger ( Okhra ) fry is not looking brownish green/blackish green with an oily shine over it.
  • Use a lot of Garlic (Chettinad style) or Asafoetida(Tirunelveli) and/or Ginger to ensure you get a proper South Indian Flavor. Most of the pure-vegetarian dishes click off well with Asafoetida.
  • If you have Tamarind at home, you are half set for a South Indian cooking session.
  • Turmeric is added in all dishes that involve vegetables.
  • Your kitchen must have all Dals to make chutneys ( indian substitute for sauce dips) with any green vegetable under the sun. Andhra Pradesh is famous for these chutneys.
  • If you are in Kerala, dont start cooking without grated coconut. Keralites use at least one coconut each day is a statistic from my experience.
  • Tanjore style cooking involves very less coconut and a lot of Rice flour as a thickening agent.
  • Rasam and Sambhar are stapled dishes in most south indian dining tables.
  • Every dish has to be sauted with Mustard seeds, except a few Kerala specialities such as, Olan and Avial. You must know this even if you do not know how to cook.
  • Every Andhra dish uses an extra chilly effect and every Karnataka dish uses an extra spoon of sugar.
  • Most tamilian dishes that use tamarind also use a pinch of jaggery to fight the tamarind tart.

Most importantly, beware of the increased carbohydrates that you eat in a day. Most South indian dishes have a lot of carbohydrates. An increased use of Tamarind necessitates an increased in-take of salt and chilli powder. Beware of these intruders in your cardiac zone.

The ancient ( olden days would be apt, but for some reason that eating pattern sounds ancient to me today) south indian eating habits had a fair balance of fats, protiens,vitamins, minerals, fibre, carbohydrates making a south indian meal very healthy and apt for the then more disciplined eating habits/lifestyle/exercise.. Presently with the invasion of multi-cuisine interest and life style changes, this ancient diet pattern does not work in favor of health. Dosa/chutney for breakfast, Rice/Rasam/Sambhar/Potato for lunch, Pav Bhaji for snack, Piza/Icecream for dinner does not contribute to good health at all. Use your mind to decide what you eat on a given day.

Lastly, do not follow the books that teach cooking exactly to the measure because they teach the right way for the taste and in today's world we are forced to follow the right way to health.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Epitome of Confidence - Bhakta Prahalad

Quick note: Divine is my new section. This post does not advocate any specific religion. It is just an observation and is best read with a generic and open mind. If you don't have belief in God, you are better off not reading any posts under the label: Divine. I am not sorry, but I must say that any comment that is offending any religion or the Divine will not be published.

On the Television, there was this scene. There were a number of uniformed young boys. From their attire and surrounding it seemed that they were at the residential school of the olden days - Gurukul. It is believed that in Gurukul mode of education, the students were taught all the arts and sciences that one needs to know in life, in a span of seven or ten years time.

One of the children was saying that his Lord, the supreme power, Vishnu is everywhere and anything in the world is possible for him. To prove his point, he walked up to the nearest flowering shrub and plucked a part of the stem. He challenged the rest of the group that his Lord will be able to stick the broken stem back to its place in the shrub. Then he closed his eyes and asked his Lord to stick the stem back. He started chanting the Lord's name - Om Namo Bhagavate Vaasudevaya.

The next scene was in God's abode..Lord Vishnu thinks aloud. "I must get the stem to stick back to the shrub, because Prahalad never doubted my ability. He just asked and is continuing to chant my name in the belief that I can do it. If I dont, it means I am breaking my devotee's confidence in me".

Good point... made me wonder, if we really have this kind of strong confidence in the Good God? Most often we pray with a little doubt, I would say. This snippet gave me a new perception to Bhakti or Devotion or Trust..

Bhakti is confidence. When you believe in God and wish for something, work on something or ask for something, if your faith is complete, you will surely get it. That is the message. We often try to reason out a lot of things..and believe in our own brains and logic more than the all-powerful God. God reaches out to help people who believe and leaves people who believe in themselves to handle things on their own, because there are others who are calling for help. When people finally call out for help, it is granted for sure.

God must be a busy entity really, answering all the sincere prayers in appropriate way.

Mythological tale it is - still gives a very good lesson for one and all. For people who understand and believe that God can, then he will :) We all must pray for Prahalad's Bhakti in life.

Edhu? or What?

ஆசை எளியது. அடக்கம் வலியது. வறுமை கொடியது. உண்மை கசப்பது. குடும்பம் கூடுவது. கோபம் சிறியது. ஒற்றுமை பெரியது. நட்பு நிகரற்றது. பாசம...