Agony Uncle – Update.

The story has taken a completely unexpected turn and I hasten to update all of you.

For the last fortnight, things have been rather quiet at my niece’s place after the blow up and my counseling. The topic was indeed being discussed at her end as well as with me and she seems to have decided to grin and bear it.

The climax came on last Saturday when there was a company get together for the on going festival. As usual, the boss’s wife was riding rough shod and my dear spirited niece snapped. She decided then and there that she had had enough and let the old lady have an ear full. She started off by saying that the lady was full of **** and held forth on why my niece felt so. After the initial shock, the nephew in law offered his excuses and escorted the girl back home and since then and till earlier this afternoon, they have been giving each other the silent treatment. A totally ruined long week end! I had lent my shoulders for the young lass to let some steam off and was hoping that things would settle down one way or the other.

Just before lunch today, after the long week end, my nephew in law was summoned to the boss’s office and went in fully expecting to be ticked off or may be even sacked. Instead, what transpired is completely out of my experience and I am yet to recover from the amazement.

After some hemming and hawing, the boss apparently told my NIL (That is an interesting acronym for him! ) that the boss fully understood the outburst and only wished that it had happened earlier. He had been unable to manage his wife’s behaviour but was quite aware of how unpleasant she was. He claimed to have been helpless and uncertain how to go about correcting her! My niece’s outburst and the break up of the party shortly thereafter, provided him with an opportunity to talk to his wife about the whole matter in a way that he claimed he would never have been able to earlier. He fully appreciated that my niece was a professional of standing and not just window dressing and suggested that my NIL stop bringing her to company parties if she was uncomfortable attending them. (Perhaps, ‘NIL’ should be for the boss!)

With a lot of mutual hemming and hawing the matter has been treated as closed and my NIL is on cloud nine for the outcome. No sooner he got back to his room, he called up my niece to tell her and said that they will talk about it later in the evening. My niece immediately called me to inform me of the outcome and I cautioned her not to gloat but to apologize for the outburst, get things back on even keel and take it from there.

After this unusual end, I am left wondering about the boss’s wife. Must be a formidable personality if the husband could not communicate with her! It takes all kinds to make the world I guess.

Vijayadasami / Dussera

Padmini had this to say on her Facebook page about today. “Today is Vijayadasami–the tenth day after Navaratri–we do puja to all the instruments (ayudham of modern day) and pray that they work well throughout the year. My prayer goes out to Google and Gmail and Facebook of course–to keep myself in the network! God bless the Internet!!”

Today is a holiday when just about every Indian is feasting and visiting friends to exchange greetings on this very auspicious day.

This morning, Bhosale, our man Friday, called Ranjan and me out to join him in his contribution to today’s festivities. He had adorned Ranjan’s car and motorcycle with garlands, spread all auspicious items on the ground before them, and got Ranjan to light joss sticks and camphor to perform Aarathi to both vehicles and break a coconut and sprinkle the water on both vehicles. After this, he broke open one box of pedas (Indian sweets made out of condensed milk) and gave one each to both of us as prasad. (Something akin to sacramental bread, symobolizing food blessed by God.)

Yesterday, I was invited as Chief Guest to be at the puja at a friend’s factory where all his workers performed similar rituals to each machine, transformer, computers, electric meters etc and started the machines after the ceremony to run for a few seconds. About 140 coconuts were broken before such instruments. This was done yesterday as today is the official holiday and the puja was performed before close of the working day.

As I had mentioned in one of my earlier posts, for Hindus everything is God, because for them there is only God. This puja was done to thank God for the contribution those instruments, tools and gadgets made to the workman/user’s well being and to pray to keep the users from harm’s way. The prayers invoke Gods to keep them in good working order and to prevent accidents and to continue supporting the earnings of the users.

Some background information here would help my readers understand my writing this post. Ranjan and I do not perform these pujas. My observation of rituals is restricted to my daily morning meditation and post shower prayers that last about two minutes each day. During the prayers, my prayers essentially seek divine intervention to bless all living beings and to protect the earth from harm.

What is then the need for Bhosale or my friend to get me to participate in their rituals? For Bhosale, it is a matter of faith that Ranjan and I continue to be well so that his interests are taken care of and the two vehicles that he washes and cleans everyday continue to provide him with a livelihood. For my friend, it was necessary to have an elder, who appreciates these rituals, knowledgeable about industry and commerce and who can give his blessings to all the people and the enterprise to continue to flourish.

In my friend’s factory, fifty percent of the employees are Muslims and fifteen christians. This reflects the demographic profile of the neighborhood. All of them participated in the ceremonies and broke the coconuts before the machines that were their individual responsibilities. All of them accepted the prasad and partook in the feast organized jointly by them. All of them wore the red mark on their foreheads to signify that they had participated in the ceremony.

Bhosale’s first name in Yakob, Indian for Jacob. He is a third generation Roman Catholic. His family celebrates Christmas in two homes, their own and in ours. Ours because for near twenty years they have been part of ours.

The point is that this is the India that others do not know about. I have illustrated with two different incidents how culture and traditions override religion.

This is what is being attempted to be destroyed by fundamentalists from the three main religions of India. The Muslim and Christian fundamentalists financed and encouraged by overseas interests and the Hindu by homegrown lunatics.

Magpie11 had this to say on his facebook page -“Chief Sitting Bull said,” Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children.” What happened to that idea?”

I responded -“All our Chiefs have instead become shitting bulls.”

Magpie will have his last word -“For the first time ever I will use internetese…LOL!”

Organic Farming.

I do not know whether Maynard was being facetious when he sent me this mail:

“I found this article sitting in my “library” reading “Uncle Hohn’s Sightly Irregular Bathroom Reader” the 17th edition.

Rummy, can you verify if this is accurate information? I wonder how they plan to collect it. Rummy, you might want to run a post on this very elaborate idea. If it is accurate, I will be looking for this product in our Agricultural Stores.

What a “concept”!

He was referring to an article in one of our leading newspapers, the Times of India, published in June 2003.

I thought it fit to reply to him by email first, but on reflection decided to take his advise and write a blog post about the subject. Here is what I had drafted as a reply to Maynard.

“Yes, this is true.

Till the petrochemical industry invaded agriculture, natural fertilizers were used and they were completely made within the farms using compost pits. Since cattle were the primary means of mobile energy and for milk and milk products, cattle dung and urine with added agricultural waste was used throughout the world. If you are a fan of organic food, the chances are that similar compost fertilizers and natural pesticides like neem will be used to produce the produce.

Japan was famous for using every bit of waste in their agriculture and their productivity was the highest once. They are still doing a lot of research, but unfortunately, times have changed, and mechanized farming and synthetic fertilizers, chemicals, insecticides and pesticides have made agriculture increasingly a non viable proposition as these kill the soil over a period of time. The movement to natural and organic farming is an offshoot of this phenomenon.

In India, Hindu farmers will not slaughter cows, bullocks and bulls for meat. After their working life is over, they are abandoned and find their way to big cities like Delhi where they are a nuisance but tolerated and allowed to roam. The idea is not as bizarre as it seems. They could be rounded up, penned and their dung and urine used for composting and also for bio gas for cooking and lighting as it is done in many Indian villages. Collecting the dung and urine is no big deal as it is being done in all dairy farms all over the world. The same technique of systematic drainage and collection pits, is followed.

I do not quite know what happened to that particular initiative, but India will not export this stuff as it has a ready market within India itself. You might like to have a look here.

To the extent possible, I buy and use organically grown grain, pulses, nuts, spices, vegetables and fruit. They are more expensive but, I can afford the indulgence. The taste is far superior to the run of the mill stuff. I am a vegetarian incidentally. I voluntarily gave up non-vegetarian food in 1998. I am convinced that despite being the only one in my family to be one, I am better off with vegetarian food.

Maynard, if you find it difficult to source Indian compost, I shall be very happy to find someone who will export the same directly to you. It will however have to be in container loads.


Friday is back on us and today’s topic has been chosen by me. I did it originally as a lark to give a simple topic as I had assured my co Friday LCB, Magpie11. This post is the Loose Consortium Bloggers’ Friday post when Ashok, Conrad, Grannymar, Magpie11, Marianna, Maria and I write one post each on the same topic. As I started to write however, it has got quite elaborate and long. I hope however, that it will be interesting. Please visit the other blogs too to have different views on this fascinating subject.

Small people talk about others,
Average people talk about things,
Great people talk about ideas.
Sages Eat Breakfast.


I define Breakfast as something to eat after a period of being without any solid food. I however cannot ignore the normal definition and shall comment on that too.

The Muslim month of Ramzan has just concluded in India. A very interesting phenomenon that I observed is the “Fast” kept by Muslims in India. The traditional Ramzan Fast started the day before sunrise and the first call to prayer with some simple food and nothing else was taken till after the evening prayers when the fast was broken with some dried fruits and /or fruits. Before the last prayer of the day, a simple meal was eaten, prayers said and people went to sleep.

Some modern Indian Muslims, who can afford to do so, sleep during the day and stay awake in the nights eating the most exotic food one can imagine. They would all however insist that they are keeping fast and would break it only in the evenings. Just have a look here. Many non Muslims wait for Ramzan to just gorge themselves on the goodies available during this month of fasting.

As this post is being written, the Hindu festival of Navarathri is in full swing and in the Northern parts of India, ladies fast during the day and feast during the evenings, by breaking their fasts at sundown.

Similarly, in Maharashtra, there is a custom of ‘keeping fast’ one day in a week. What this implies is that the solid intake is restricted to starchy food. Most popular food? A dish called sabudhana kichdi. This is one of my favourite dishes and I too wait for the ‘fast day’ to gorge myself on this if someone will only invite me to his home on that day. I am too lazy to make it myself though I am told that when I do, it is heavenly!

My earliest memory of the traditional breakfast is of having full meals before I left home for school. What is nowadays eaten as lunch by most people was what we used to have for breakfast. Our late mother would have got up much before the rest of the household woke up, to get all this ready to feed four hungry youngsters. After we left, around half past eight, our father would also have the same things for breakfast.

Our mother would have also packed small stainless steel boxes of rice/curd mixture with either pickles or jaggery for our lunch. This would go into our satchels and off to school we would go.

After my working life started, I realized that the morning meal was the most important meal, for the simple reason that I never knew whether I would get the time to eat lunch, or if I did get the time, a proper restaurant to have a meal would be available. That habit has stayed with me and in our family, breakfast has become a major meal. Now of course, the items are different in that there is fruit and cereals, bread, eggs etc, rather than the full meal of our youth.

Colonial officials of India had a Chhota Hazri. This was usually served in bed by the butler on a tray and consisted of some fruit, usually bananas, biscuits and tea. The belief was that this helped come out the excesses of the previous night and to assist in the movement of the bowels. The belief was that loading top weight helped in ridding of bottom weight. One needs to read colonial literature to understand how important this was when access to toilets during the day time was a nightmare. Their idea of breaking fasts as per my definition, normally followed this pattern:

Chota Hazri – 0530
Breakfast – 0700 first meal, before work, no special time, becomes “brunch” when combined with lunch.
Elevenses – 1100
Lunch – 1230
Afternoon Tea – 1530
Dinner – 1900
Supper – 2230
Midnight Snack – 0000
Have you seen photographs of how these worthies looked?

India is a vast country with many cuisines and varying food habits and tastes. The southern parts have predominantly rice based breakfast food like idlies (steamed rice cakes), dosas (Rice and lentil pancakes), pongal ( Rice and lentil porridge) and vadais, deep fried doughnuts, accompanied by curry of lentils and vegetables, and / or chutneys of various types including made out of coconuts.

As one moves north, more of wheat starts appearing. There are deep fried pancakes, called puris that are eaten with a potato curry, or sautéed pancakes called parathas eaten with yogurt, vegetables or cream, all accompanied with pickles and /or chutneys; sweet dishes called jalebis accompanied by milk and so on and so forth. In Mughlai cuisine, minced meat, eggs, trotter and tongue soup, etc accompanied with unleavened bread like rotis, naans etc are also common.

The traditional fare for breakfast was of course the idea that one had a good substantial meal to start the day with, and tapered off the quantity for lunch and dinner. In most households, there was no system of dinner as we know today, and the evening snack and tea or milk was the last meal of the day taken before sun set. The idea was logical as one did not want to risk consuming creepy crawlies along with one’s food in the dark when the culture was to sit on the floor and eat off leaves or flat plates.

Along with progress, development, urbanization, prosperity and more access to restaurants and wayside food vendors, Indians have now started to break their fasts every couple of hours. This is of course highly recommended if it was restricted to small quantities, but each two hourly snack has also now become a major meal. While in rural India, with the populace still predominantly in agrarian occupations, food habits have not changed, and people look and live healthy lives, in urban centers, the global forms of affluence, in the shape of diabetes, obesity, acidity, cardiac problems etc have become common.

Many middle class urban Indians of today have become so recently and they do not want to deny anything to their children. Urban Indian children in their turn now break their fasts as often as they possibly can and obesity at young ages has also become endemic.

I have now been on fast for over two hours and it is time that I breakfasted. I am sure that you too will want to after having spent all the time reading this marathon post. Forgive me Grannymar, the subject just had to be explored properly.

Suzen’s Comments And My Inspiration.

Suzen had the following to say in my post “Women Soldiers – Another Achievement.”

“Have been enjoying the picture of you in your tent awaiting a flow of visitors – mostly female soldiers? I know our women soldiers are well-trained and carry guns. Do be careful (she said, smiling).”

I am inspired to share with you a wonderful photograph which is doing the email rounds. This is the message for all the suicide bombers who are promised that in the afterlife, they well be looked after by well appointed and perfumed, beautiful virgins.


No Suzen, this is not the kind of clientele that Sandeep promises me on Crank’s Ridge. It is more likely to be like these Hare Krishna devotees.

Indian Films And Long Lost Brothers.

If there is only cliched formula for Indian films that is two or more brothers getting separated in childhood due to some catastrophe or some riot or such events. They grow up in various religions, adopted by different people, or one guy becomes a bad guy and the other becomes a cop or soldier or some other dramatic developments take place.

In the climatic scene, the mother, who will inevitably be a mother and never a father, come to recognize the bad guy, she will always be staying with the good guy, by a scar, birthmark or a tatoo which will be revealed by the shirt getting torn at a critical moment in a fight between the bad guy and the good guy. The picture below is from one such film “Deewar” and you can see the proverbial cop, the bad guy in that suit and the long suffering mother.

Things get quite hilarious when twins get separated and this process goes to its logical conclusion with the inevitable mistaken identities bringing about resolution and relief to everyone concerned. the poster below is for one such film, Kaminey, which is currently the most watched film in India and is sure to be a block buster.

There is always a lady love of the good guy and a one sided love affair from a girl and the bad guy or the bad guy also will lust for the good guy’s girl.

Everything ends well finally with either the bad guy getting bumped off, or sent to jail. In some instances, the lady love waits patiently for the prisoner to serve his time and come out to find her and the whole family waiting to receive him with garlands and admiring looks.

Such films have been box office hits and have made memorable records besides giving to the common language of the masses some famous dialogues and punch lines. They have made great stars out of ordinary hams. Some of the most popular songs have come out of such movies too.

I have traveled a bit and met many people and have heard many real life stories. I have never heard of such separated-at-birth and met after growing up stories, ever. I doubt very much if any of my regular readers would have come across such stories in real life.

I have however been taught a lesson. Although not quite like the formula Indian film, real life appears to have imitated Indian films. I have just read an incredible story which is like a fairy tale. I am sure that this will amaze my readers as it did me.

Have any of you ever come across similar stories in real life?