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Archive for April, 2010

Breath of life….

April 30, 2010 Leave a comment

Checkout the Breathing Earth Simulation for some scary statistics on CO2 emissions, birth and death rates of countries around the world.

 

http://www.breathingearth.net/

Categories: Planetwatch

Stay Foolish, Stay Hungry!!!!

April 30, 2010 Leave a comment

Yesterday, while browsing Google Earth, I was surprised to see large swathes of yellow and brown near my home in Kerala. My impression, from a ground zero perspective of our hometown had always been of uninterrupted verdure. The satellite image was a revelation. It clearly showed that concrete houses and pineapple plantations had supplanted trees and vegetation.

Over the past few years the landscape has changed much and so has the mindset of people. This is of course not a phenomenon limited to Kerala; one finds it everywhere. In most homes, children, after education, have migrated to cities leaving behind the old to tend the farmland. Meanwhile, exorbitant labour charges, scarcity of  fertilizers, vagaries of climate, poor yield and thinner margins have rendered farming unprofitable. While traders and middlemen rake in enormous profits, farmers are left high and dry with hardly an incentive to pursue agriculture. The downturn in farming has come at a time when burgeoning population has lead to unprecedented demand for real estate, especially within commutable radius of major cities.

The nonviability of agriculture coupled with skyrocketing real estate prices have tipped the scale, converting large tracts of farmland to commercial or housing complexes. Concrete, steel and glass have substituted chlorophyll. Gurgaon is the best example of this kind of skewed development. Farmers who sold their land to the real estate mafia became millionaires overnight, owning expensive cars and sprawling mansions. They now provide car rental and real estate services to the new landlords – call centres and multinational corporations.

The rapid deterioration in extent and quality of farmland is among the root causes for the high food prices, water scarcity and extreme temperatures that we face now. These problems can be overcome only by effectively addressing the underlying causes. Dharna’s, Bandh’s, Hartal’s and Rasta Roko’s does not answer the problem at all. However, with an opposition focused on booby trapping the government to derive every miserable political mileage, we are likely to listen to more high decibel rhetoric in the days ahead, with scant attention paid to the real issues.

We are right now teetering on the brink of several crises which can blow up big and hurt us badly, unless appropriate action is taken now. What is at stake is the survival of civil society. A food scarcity can quickly dissipate our civilizational pretenses, turning us into savages. The images of stampede that we see on TV when food packets are distributed during natural calamities could very well become the order of the day. To avert such a calamity, we need to come out of the coma induced by the daily dose of morbid scandals dished out by the political, Bollywood and cricket celebrities and recognize the issues that need urgent attention. Political parties must forget their differences and forge together workable plans to tackle the problems. The need of the hour is not partisanship but partnership.

Image courtesy:  http://www.sxc.hu/

Categories: Planetwatch

Back To The Future

April 27, 2010 3 comments

For a long long time I hadn’t read any science fiction, although it was one of my favourite genres. Last week, on impulse I took up Alfred Bester‘s The Demolished Man. Once started, I couldn’t put it down and finished the novel in a few hours. Talk about reading at the speed of light!

Futuristic New York sets the stage for this psycho-sci-fi where mind reading capabilities of telepaths called peepers have successfully averted crimes, especially murder, for the past 70 years. Ben Reich, owner of Monarch Enterprises is haunted by nightmarish visions of “The Man With No Face” whom he identifies as his business rival D’Courtney. By enlisting the support of corrupt Esper Augustus Tate, Reich manages to murder his competitor, after his attempts at reconciliation are rejected. During the subsequent murder investigation, ace peeper and sleuth Lincoln Powell discovers that Reich is the murderer and sets about building the case for his “demolition”. His quest for the murder motive, method and opportunity are repeatedly thwarted by Reich. Just when Powell has gathered all evidences for Reich’s conviction an unexpected turn of events renders the case invalid. Powell comes to realize that his adversary is unconscious of the real murder motive and that he could prevent further disaster only at great personal cost.

The central characters of the novel are subtly nuanced – Reich is not the archetypal villain and Powel is not the typical saintly investigator. Both have their flaws and redeeming qualities. The battle of wits between the two men and the surprising celestial twists and turns keep you glued. Bester ensnares your attention and keeps it till the last word. The end is unexpected even though one could make out its vague outlines from the several clues scattered over the pages. Overall, an excellent piece of sci-fi, with a social message which could be realized only in the realm of imagination at the moment. Future beckons…

 Comment: Excellent read if you fancy science fiction

Categories: Bibliophilia

Up In The Air

April 26, 2010 Leave a comment

This weekend was wonderful. The heat had abated a bit. We went for a long walk early Saturday morning and in the evening we went parasailing. Our instructor was Sq. Ldr. SPS Kaushik. At 5.15 PM Saturday we followed his jeep to the open ground beside Powergrid office, next to Leisure Valley. An obstinate wind kicked up billowing clouds of brown dust, driving it into our hair, eyes and nostrils. The crew immediately set about unfurling and fixing up the parachute while we donned the harness and helmet and got ready for the flight. Earlier, during a visit to Pattaya in Thailand we had done parasailing over the ocean. This was the first time we were attempting in terra firma.

Tall and handsome, Sq. Ldr. Kaushik was a charmer. Dark glasses and military green outfit gave him the semblance of an aviator. He claimed to have countless sky dives to his credit which made him numero uno in Asia and second in the world. He had led the Indian sky diving team as well. We were in expert hands.

Once the wind slackened a bit, my harness was hooked to the parachute. A tow rope connected the parachute to the jeep. I was given a short safety debriefing and couple of reassuring slaps on the back. The parachute jerked me backward as it caught the wind.  I bobbed up and down and swung sideways like a pendulum as it gradually lifted. The jeep lurched forward yanking the rope taut and swept me off the ground. “I WAS AIRBORNE!!!!” It felt fantastic, beyond words. Suspended in the air, I flapped my hands and looked at high rises, trees, Metro and the express highway that made up the vista. From time to time I glanced up at the multi coloured parachute to make sure it was supporting me for good. Down below the jeep sped on. I felt like cutting off the umbilical that connected me to it and floating away. I could become like Trishanku, suspended forever between heaven and earth. The fantasy was quickly dispelled as I descended. It was the shortest three minutes of my life. Such an anticlimax! The tinge of frustration that coloured the excitement of the flight was difficult to suppress. As the Sq. Ldr explained later, this sport was addictive, despite the risks. Once you have tasted it you remained captive forever. He had himself been injured number of times during sky dives, but always returned. I couldn’t agree with him more.

KAUSHIK AERO SPORTS
Squadron Leader SPS Kaushik,
28/29, Salasar Vatika IVth, Nivaru Road,
Jhotwara, Jaipur

Tel.: 0141-2173288
Mobile:9414305121, 9413089901, 9278643185
Email: shailshik@rediffmail.com
Web: http://www.blueskies.in/

CHARGES
Single Flight – Rs.500.00
Three Flights – Rs.1200.00
A little on the steeper side, I guess

Categories: Totternama

Political Cannibalism – In defense of Shashi Tharoor

April 19, 2010 Leave a comment

Shashi Tharoor stepped down as Minister of State for External Affairs today. Made me real unhappy.  I felt particularly sad because IPL, a highly commercialized version of the game that keeps half the country glued to the idiot box, provided the context for his resignation. His (forced!) resignation is well deserved in case Tharoor misused his office. However there is no shred of evidence which proved his involvement in the IPL bid process. He had to step down on the basis of accusations.

Tharoor was capable, honest, forthright, intelligent and well meaning. We all know that these are not the qualities that makes a good politician. Funnily, Tharoor knew it well too, as his book The Great Indian Novel bears testimony. How do we interpret his current predicament then?

Ever since he took office, the media and political cabal were at his throat. It was seldom appreciated that he was the only minister who twittered, expressed his opinions frankly and openly, attempted to reach out to public and answered their queries in real time while other politicians closely guarded their statements and practiced obfuscation to perfection. Hyperactive TV and print media made headlines of his twitter posts. Sensationalism being its mainstay, media blew the IPL case too out of proportion with scant regard for truth and provided Tharoor’s detractors the opportunity they had been waiting for. That his aptitude and credentials were detested by his associates was evident from the clamour for his resignation that came from within the Congress party and the vociferous opposition. The people who called for his resignation were no saints. In a clear case of the pots calling the kettle black, the criminals, unscrupulous politicians and avaricious businessmen that made up the brigade assumed moral superiority over Tharoor.

Gandhigiri has its limits – Shashi Tharoor wanted to be the change that he wanted to see in Indian politics, but then he hoped to see too much change too fast. The old vanguard who fiercely defended their home turf has dealt him the first blow. But I’m certain that he has sufficient mettle to withstand it and return the punch. The pursuit of personal aggrandizement for which most people join politics cannot be easily replaced with dedication to the service of the nation easily. Purging the Aegean stables is a painful process that would require many sacrifices, but the time will come, Plato’s Republic still has hope, if someone like Shashi Tharoor does not succumb. In Tharoor I perceive the kind of politician I would rather follow. I would prefer him anytime to the Mayawati’s, Shibu Soren’s, Kalyan Singh’s, Advani’s, Shekhawat’s and Modi’s . Best of luck, Mr. Tharoor. May you return vindicated.

P.S: Thanks to Tharoor controversy, the IPL Pandoras box is now open for scrutiny. Wish the real goons get burned big time too….

Categories: Musings

Summer Relief

April 15, 2010 Leave a comment

IT IS HOT!!!! There have been a steep rise in temperature over the past two weeks with mercury touching 43 degree C since yesterday. The blazing sun and torrid heat are hard to bear. We have myriad ways to beat the heat – we apply sunscreen, done dark glasses, turn on fans, coolers and air conditioners, fix sun blocker films on our cars, use umbrellas and caps, gulp down soft drinks, Nimbu Pani or good old plain water to quench the thirst.

What about birds and destitute animals? How will they cope up with the intense heat and dust storms? Summer is a matter of life and death for many of them, be it destitute donkeys and cattle one find on the street or thirsty, desperate birds around our housing complexes. 
 
We can help some of them. My wife keeps clay bowls filled with water in our balcony. She also sprinkles some grain for good measure. It is a pleasure to watch squirrels, pigeons & mynahs drink water and occasionally take bath. Sometimes they wander inside our house to inspect nooks and corners.  Their chirp and twitter are soothing music to ears. We feel immeasurable satisfaction and a sense of contribution by helping them. I hope you would try it too. It is a small act of charity, but probably goes a long way in aiding these endearing creatures survive summer.

Categories: Musings

Buffet Largesse

April 14, 2010 Leave a comment

 

Plenty of restaurants in Gurgaon offer buffet lunches on weekdays. But if you are looking for a reasonably priced buffet dinner or a weekend buffet lunch, Bawarchi is probably the only answer. For Rs.289.00 inclusive of taxes, the restaurant provides a decent dining experience.

Bawarchi is located on the second floor of a three story building dwarfed by the vertiginous concrete expanse of DLF Belaire luxury apartment complex, in a small lane off golf course road. A Pipal tree and a tiny, makeshift shrine beside the ground floor entrance dispense divine benediction all around. Inside the restaurant, dark furniture, muted light and a wickerwork ceiling convey the impression of a solar eclipse in progress. Blood red translucent glasses accentuate the gloom. On the wall are Thai dancers in plaster relief. A wine rack, strategically placed facing the door, dispel any doubts of alcohol availability. Through a glass window on the far side white toques of chefs waver through wisps of smoke rising from Tandoors. Flickering light from a wall mounted LCD panel cast a ghostly spark in our eyes.

The buffet comes with a complimentary drink – choice of mock tails, soft drinks or a bottle of beer. We settle for bright yellow fruit punch delivered in a fluted glass. The unremitting flow of starters – Paneer Tikka, Dry Veg Manchurian, Murg Malai Kebab, Chilly Chicken, Tandoori Chicken – soon have us satiated. Yet we manage to cram in some Kaen Kai, Rogan Josh and Murg Kadaiwala with Roti and Sada Chawal. Phirni, Kesar Kheer and Gulab Jamun also somehow find a place in our increasingly bulging bellies.

Overall, buffet at Bawarchi is a great bargain. The dishes are unambitious, yet tasty; quantity copious; the staff attentive and courteous and the ambience easy on the eye.

Handy tip – work up an appetite before you plan to visit.

Bawarchi Indian Restaurant
Amilal & Sons Building
2nd Floor, Golf Course Road
Opp. IBIS Hotel
DLF Phase V, Gurgaon
Contact: 0124-2396101, 102, 9958077798
Website: Click Here

Foodienomics
Buffet: Rs.289.00 (inclusive of taxes)

Rating
Food: 6/10
Ambience: 6/10
Service: 7/10
Overall : 6/10
Comment: Great value for money

Bawarchi Menu on Foodiebay: Click Here

Photo Courtesy: V P Vinod

Categories: Gastronomique