Sunday, January 28, 2007

Wahhabification of Kerala? - How a cultural melting pot is begining to show signs of boiling

Los Angeles Times ran a front page story today (Jan 28, 2007) about how migrants returning from the Persian Gulf with stricter views on Inslam are altering the melting pot in an Indian province of Kerala.

It was not long ago when hindus visited islamic shrines and offered prayer before a sufi saints. I was there in one of the jungle shrine on the way to a hindu temple called Mamanam Temple in North Malabar during my school days. The islamic shrine is called Nilamuttam (Courtyard of moon light) in the midst of green forests of western ghats. I stood with my parents infront of the shrine with equal if not more reverence and god fear with which we stood infront of the hindu diety we prayed an hour ago. It was mesmeric and was an early education to me about the organic harmony with which two religions coexisted in Kerala.

Last time I checked with my parents, the hindu visitors are not visiting the islamic shrine any more. I dont know the reasons. It could be that hindu extremists started spreading word that its an insult to their god that the hindu visitors stopping by an islamic shrine after the temple visit. It is also possible that doors of the shrine are closed for hindu visitors. Either ways, its a sad thing that happened to Kerala psyche. It looks like the trend is not singular. The pull to the extremes are getting stronger as years pass by. Los Angeles Times article chronicles the wahabi part of the story. But other side of the story deserves mention. When my cousin showed up at work in Saudi on Dec 7, 1992, the day after Hindu extremists demolished a disputed centuries old mosque-temple Babri Masjid, his arabic manager asked him, 'Are you guys getting more intolerant towards our brothers in India?'. He did not have an answer. Let us hope that Kerala find her answer by keeping its tradition of beinga true melting pot that never boils over.

Read the Los Angeles Times report

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Dor; a must see movie for every Indian - Nagesh Kukunoor's Jodhpur Blues

Nagesh is not the regular Bollywood type and you can always expect something special, something different from this chemical engineer from Georgia Institute of Technology.

A young man from Jodhpur dies in Saudi. Another man from Himachal is accussed of pushing the man from the balcony and waiting for a pardon from the victim's wife to avoid execution. Wife of the accused travels to far away jodhpur to find the victim's wife and convince her to get a pardon to save her husband's life.

From Merril Diniz in Rediff movie review:

"Dor is a must-watch for all Indians; the core message transcends religion, community, strata and gender and it has a superb anti-climax. The film is entertaining and also has multiple messages that are delivered in the subtlest manner. And there are many highlights. The film is aesthetically shot against picturesque locations in Himachal and Rajasthan and some of the scenes shot in Jodhpur simply take your breath away. The script is engaging; the dialogues entertaining, witty and yet quite profound. You also have several sub-plots that surround the main story. And every scene seems to have been well etched out."

If you wonder how the pardon letter can remain in the dessert sand after hours of dropping it, loosing hope of getting a pardon from the victim's wife, then you are not alone. If you wondered about the transformation of the con artist Behroopia from a bag stealer into a companion in the search of pardon, then also you are not alone. Even Kukunoor has his blues! He is too parallel for Bollywood and too bollywood for Satyajith Rai school. No wonder why he looks at a loss at Filmfare night. But no probs. What you show to us is worth all the pardon!

I am yet to see the Malayalam film Perumazhakkalam directed by Kamal, starring actresses Meera Jasmine and Kavya Madhavan, which inspired the storyline of this movie.

Read the review

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Longest ever speech delivered in the UN Security Council - 50 year anniversary of V.K Krishna Menon's speech

It was 50 years ago today (Jan 23 1957) V.K Krishna Menon started delivering a marathon 7 hour 48 minute speech in UN Security Council on Kashmir issue as a reponse to Pakistan Foreign Minsiter's speech a week earlier. Not Menon's flow of words but a single nyet (NO in Russian) uttered by Russia's Arkady Sobolev called a halt to the U.N.'s efforts to mediate in Kashmir, little over a month after his speech.

By casting the Soviet Union's 79th veto in the Security Council, Sobolev effectively killed a resolution, jointly sponsored by the U.S., Cuba. Britain and Australia, to send Council President Gunnar Jarring of Sweden to Kashmir as a step "toward the settlement of the dispute." The resolution did not mention plebiscite, but noted in passing that former U.N. resolutions calling for demilitarization and a plebiscite in Kashmir had so far been ignored.

If you have time to read the 8 hour long speech click the link below.

Read Krishna Menon's Speech at UN

Trivia: V.K Krishna Menon probably is the most famous tea drinker in the world. He used to drink as much as 30 cups of tea a day which made him collapse in a heap at UN. His doctor said he was "a very sick man" who had been working too hard while sustaining himself on "about 30 cups of tea a day, absorbing all of the salt in his body." If you want to know what happens when you drink too much fluid, read my previos blog.

Too much water?

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Pronunciation tips for Desi tongue - lucky you, if you are trained at a call center

The problem most desis (including me) face when speaking English has similar pattern. I am not talking about the accent or emphasis on certain sounds but something more basic. Most of the time the problem is in translating the English vowels into Devanagari. We mix up अ and ए for A, इ and ए for E, ऐ and इ for I and अ and ओ for O. Most of the time we get it right. But some times we mix up.

May be the examples below can be of help to you if you are like me who frequently gets
'I dont understand what you are saying' look from walmart associates when asking for pecan (p-ई-k--n) aisle (इ-l) :) OK I exaggerated a bit...but here are some samples that we often goof up.

Note - The dash is just to separate english letters from Hindi. Not to suggest any phonetic pause.

Aisle - Do not ask for an इ-l seat. Ask for -l seat
Apple - This is a classic mallu (thats me) issue. Do not eat आ-pple, eat ए-pple
Can't -Do not say K-आn't, say K-ए-n't
Configuration - Do not say k--nfiguration, say k-अ-nfiguration
Data - D-ए-ta and D-अ-ta are OK
Deposit - Do not D-ए-posit your money, D-इ-posit it.
Detail - Ask for D-इ-tails or D-ई-tails, you will get it either ways.
Dinosaur - D-ऐ-nos-ओ-r
Direction - Ask for D-इ-rection, not D--rection
Economy - Indian
इ-k-ओ-n-अ-my is booming. Not -k-ओ-n-अ-my
Feminine - Appreciate F-ए-m-इ-n-इ-n beuty NOT F-ए-m-इ-n-ऐ-n beuty
Finance - F-ऐ-nance OR F-इ-nance - bot are fine
Garbage - G-
आ-rb-ए-j NOT G-आ-rb--j
Garage - Your car is in the G
-अ-r-आ-j or G-अ-r-आ-sh NOT in G-अ-r--j
Hi - Say H-आइ NOT H
Hello - Say H-अ-llo NOT H-ए-llo
Manager - Ask for a M-
Naive - N
-अई-v. Dont be a N-ऐ-v
Narrate - N-ए-rr-ए-t a story. Dont N-आ-rrate
Oven - Heat in an -v-ए-n NOt in ओ-v-अ-n
Oscar - Watch ओ-sk-अ-r awards, NOT ओ-sk--r awards
Pecan - Never ever ask for buuter p-ई-k-ए-n icecream. You will NOTget it. Ask for p-इ-k-आ-n OR p-इ-k-ए-n OR p-ई-k-ए-n
Valet - Park your car with v-आ-l-ए or v-आ-l-एt. Both will park your car.
Vinyl - Do you have V
-ऐ-n-अ-l floor or V--n-अ-l floor? You have the first one.
Wallet - I have a long story to tell about this. I had to spell this to walmart associate. Never ask for v--llet ask for v-ओ-llet
Walnut -

Its really N
अts.. but cant help it :)

Colbert corrects himself to pick Amitabh - Why its all part of the plan to woo Indian audience

Colbert show did not become what it is now for nothing. He is smart and knows how to market his show. He highlighted the celebrity feud between Bollywood's King and Prince, Amitabh and Sharukh in his show. He picked Sharukh for his toe teasing dance using Bhangra-Meter. (Hint to webster: new word of the year??)

Read about the previous show

Now he does it again but this time picked Big B, citing his dancing performance in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (KKKG). He did this in an apparent attempt to cool the nerves of the edgy tech support guys in India, upset about his pick SRK in his previous show. Folks, it is all part of the plan. Don't be surprised if he invites Karan Johar to have Koffee in his show. He also dropped the 'H' word when mentioning about his Hindu audience. Little did he know that an Afghan muslim in Kabul and a Saudi Prince is equally hurt first and rejoiced later. Bollywood is secular (why do you think we have a Hindu King and Muslim Prince in Bollywood?). But we accept your aplogy Mr Colbert, since you are our well wisher and we like your show more than papa bear's.

Watch Video on Youtube

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Owens river valley, Kaveri, Mullapperiyar - water disputes in the world and lessons learned

This is the tale of three rivers and how tricks, deception, imperialism, coercion, false science and historically established use took water away from its real owners for good. No one will be able to deny Los Angeles its established use right over water from Owens valley. No one will try to deny Madras its established use right over Kavery and Periyar water without risking bloodshed. There are lessons to be learned. The most important of them all is 'Water is precious. Find ways to preserve it.'.

Owens River in Northern C

Owens river runs through the ill fated Owens valley in Northern California. The valley is approximately 75 mi (120 km) long, trending north-south, and is bounded by the Sierra Nevada on the west and the Inyo and White Mountains on the east. The mountains on either side (including Mount Whitney) reach above 14,000 ft (4,300 m) in elevation, while the floor of the Owens Valley is at 4000 ft (1,200 m), making the valley one of the deepest in the United States. The bed of Owens Lake, now a dry alkali toxic flat, sits on the southern end of the valley. The valley provides water to the Los Angeles Aqueduct, the source of one-third the drinking water for Los Angeles, and is famous as the scene of one of the fiercest and long-running episodes of the California Water Wars.

1898 - Frederick Eaton, mayor of Los Angeles created the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) and appointed his friend William Mulholland as the superintendent.
1898-1905 Eaton lobbied Theodore Roosevelt and got the local irrigation system cancelled and used the inside information from Bureau of Reclamation to learn about the water rights in Owens valley.
1905 - Through purchases and bribery, Los Angeles purchased enough water rights to enable a gravity-fed aqueduct to deliver the Owens water to Los Angeles.
1913 - Completion of the 223 mile (359 km) Los Angeles Aqueduct to divert water from the valley to Los Angeles.
1924 - The water right purchases by LADWP using questiuonable practises led to anger among local farmers, which erupted in violence in 1924, when parts of the water system were sabotaged by local farmers.
1970- LADWP completed a second aqueduct from Owens Valley. More surface water was diverted and groundwater was pumped to feed the aqueduct. Owens Valley springs and seeps dried and disappeared, and groundwater-dependent vegetation began to die. The valley became a alkali dust bowl. Years of litigation followed.
1997 - Inyo County, Los Angeles, the Owens Valley Committee, the Sierra Club, and other concerned parties signed a Memorandum of Understanding that specified terms by which the lower Owens River would be rewatered by June 2003. LADWP missed this deadline and was sued again. Under another settlement, this time including the State of California, Los Angeles promised to rewater the lower Owens River by September 2005.
2005 - LADWP announced it was unlikely to meet this extended deadline.
2006 - Water was returned to the Owens River on Dec. 6, when Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Inyo County Supervisor Susan Cash symbolically concluded the most celebrated water war in American history. Hollywood movie China Town is based on this epic water war.

Water wars in India is equally full of high drama and politiking. Raw emotions are plenty among the neighbors Karnataka, Tamilandu, Kerala and Pondichery over Kavery water and between Tamilnadu and Kerala over Periyar.

Kavery River in Southern India:
Kavery originates from Karnataka and flows through Tamil Nadu and discharges in Bay of Bengal. There were disputes as long back as 1807 between Mysore Prinley State (Now Karnataka) and Madras Presidency (Tamil Nadu) states. The center of the dispute is the agreement signed between two states in 1892 and 1924 which required Mysore to obtain Madras' consent for any water it wished to utilize or for any project it wished to undertake to utilize the waters. Karnataka deems these agreements as having been between unequal partners because while Mysore state was a princely state, Madras formed a part of the British Raj. After many Supreme Court interferences, Tribunals, Interim Awards, River Authority, Monitoring Committe etc, the dispute continues even today with occassional flare up of emotion between the states and its people.

Periyar River in Kerala:

Periyar river originates from the western ghats and flows west ward to Kerala and then discharges into Arabian Sea. The center of the controversy between Kerala and TamilNadu is the Mullapperiyar dam commissioned in 1895 to divert water from the river to arid districts of Madras Presidency through a tunnel cut through the watershed divide. 999 year lease was signed in 1886 between princely state of Travancore and Madras Presidency for the construction of the dam for sum of Rupees 40,000. Kerala deems these agreements as having been between unequal partners because while Travancore state was a protectorate under British Rule, Madras formed a part of the British Raj. Sounds familiar?

Kerala always believed that its a water surplus state. So it never found itself frugal in giving away her water. They now realise that it is a myth based on very old and inaccurate water data. But they realise the impossibility of denying water Tamil Nadu enjoyed for centuries. Kerala agrees to give water to its neighbors rain shadow areas (The monsson winds hit the western ghats and rains in Kerala leaving rain shadow on the other side of the mountain range). Their main contention is about the safety of the century+ old masonry dam made of lime and sugar mixer. It has been showing signs of aging and leaking for many years. Kerala wants the century old dam to be reconstructed using modern day technology while Tamil Nadu sites the central water commission report regarding the dam safety to increase the dam height to 143 feet from the current height of 136 feet. Supreme Court gave Tamil Nadu permission to increase the heigh considering the report. However Kerala Assembly had passed a legislation in August 2003 reserving for the State the right to decommission a dam, if found unsafe, by draining out the waters stored in its reservoir. Kerala maintains that Central Water Commission did not consider the earth quake risks to the dam while preparing the report. Supreme court gets involved again and asked both parties to find a political solution. The discussion broke down and the ball is in the court again. Some politicians from both sides takes extreme position. Some Kerala politicians want the lease cancelled unilaterally siting lack of maintanance of the leased property and unequal nature of the parties in the lease agreement. Some in Tamil Nadu wants the dam height to be the original 152 ft.

So what are the lessons learned from these water disputes?

1. Never enter into an agreement of unequals. Owens valley farmers were tricked into selling their lands (water rights) to LADWP for paltry sum. State of Mysore, a princely vassal (a person/entity under the protection of a feudal lord to whom he/it has vowed homage and fealty) state under British Raj, had to be content with an unfavorable agreement with the British Province of Madras. State of Travancore signed a less gain - all pain 999 year lease agreement with the British Province of Madras for a sum of Rs 40,000. (Inflation was not something they were mindful of back then)
2. Settle the disputes sooner than later. Prolonged water usage , even if the water right is acquired by questionable means, renders some degree of legitimacy which becomes harder to nullify later on. It is impossible to reverse the water usage pattern without huge human sufferings.
3. Do not try to put a price on water. Water is priceless. If you want to sell water rights, sell yours not your grand grand kids. They will not pardon your short sight.
4. Water is precious. Find ways to preserve it rather than wasting TMCs (Thousand Million Cubic feet) to water logged irrigation lands, seeping canals and man made sodic lands.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

pizookie - easiest recipe for another party hit

What is pizookie? Its a warm chocolate chip cookie, seved with ice cream on top right before it hardens. Wonder why the name pizookie? It is coming from Pizza Cookie. Cookie served with toppings of ice cream, thats all. (We had it first at BJ's restaurant)

All you need is chocolate chip cookie dough (we use ready made pillsburry dough) and ice cream. (Our favorite is
classic vanilla. Any other flavor will interfere with the freshly baked cookie).

1. Pre heat the oven at 350 F. Cut the dough into small scoops and put it on baking tray over aluminium foil 2 inches apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the dough melts and turning brown. 2. Let it cool for 1 minute and serve immediately in a bowl with one or two scoops of ice cream.
Cook and Cool it more or less if you like the cookie
hard or gooie.

Your friends will think that you are a pro :)

Amitabh Bachchan vs. Shahrukh Khan - Comedy Central decides with Bhangra-Meter

Almost two minutes in his 30 minute show Colbert Report on Comedy Central, Steven Colbert talked about the reported feaud between King and Prince of Bollywood Amitabh Bachchan vs. Shahrukh Khan.

He looked undecided between the distingusihed old gentleman and the young dancing machine. He finally used his internal Bhangra-Meter to decide the winner. He had hard time pronuncing names of bollywood actors showed up at Sharukh's new year party but he did a good job of reaching out to the young desi viewers in the USA by picking SRK. Big B fans, no hard feelings about that. It is just show business :)

Watch Video on Youtube

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Renter's insurance - Tenant's liability and subrogation procedure

If you are renting and don't have a renters insurance? Think again. Whether you just landed in the US or a long time tenant, you need to consider renter's insurance. In the event of a fire or any damage to the rental property caused by your negligence, then the property owner or their insurance company may collect the damages from you.
The property owner can transfer the legal right of the claim to their insurance company (called Subrogation in legal circle) and they may collect the money from you if the damaged is caused by your negligence. It is more difficult to flight with a big insurance companies and their pricey attorneys than fighting with the property manager or property owner.

The Landlord/Tenant subrogation rule in California holds that a tenant's liability to the landlord's insurer for negligently causing a fire depends on the intent and reasonable expectations of the parties to the lease as ascertained from the lease as a whole. (Does your lease agreement mention Subrogation waiver? Are you a co-insured in the property insurance purchased by the owner?).

For complete description of the rule in each state, visit the site:


If you buy renter's insurance, then your insurance company will cover your liability and pay for your personal belongings. You can either buy Liability insurance (covers the damage to the structure due to your negligence) or Personal property (any covered damage) or both. It is fairly inexpensive to get renters insurance from your auto insurance company ($12-15/month)

Monday, January 8, 2007

Gajar ka kheer - easy recipe for a party hit

This is not gajar in kheer as you might have feared. This is cousin to the delicious 'Gajar ka halwa' and no less cousin that is. Here is the recipe from my wife who makes this well. As usual, we wont tell exact measurements. Not that we don't want to but that we don't know either. Do what feels right. Andaz apna apna :)

1. Grate 3 carrots and fry in ghee/butter (2-3 spoons) until carrot color fades (10 minutes). If you take a bite at this stage, it should not taste raw.
2. Add sugar (as needed) and stir fry for 10 minutes till the mix tightens
3. Add boiled milk (one cup milk microwaved for 2-3 minutes) and stir for 5 minutes or until the right consistency is reached.
4. Add one cardamom powdered for flavor
5. Add some condensed milk (3 spoon)
6. Add cashew and raisin fried separately in ghee
7. Serve hot or cold, you cant go wrong either way.

No health benefit from organic banana?

Surprised? The reason is simple. Any pesticide residue in banana is probably discarded along with the peel. This article is not to confirm or deny the health benefits of organic food. Try the following tips if you are on a budget or just don't like the price tag of organic produce.

1. Fruits and Vegetables: Wash the fruits and vegetables thoroughly under running water before consuming. Peel the skin of apple, pear, grape and straw berries whenever possible (especially when giving to small children.) The risk of pesticides outweigh nutritional benefits of the skin.

2. Milk, meat, poultry and eggs:
Buy fat free/low fat milk, lean meat, remove excess fat from meat and poultry to reduce the exposure to pesticides. Pesticides residue is found almost always with the fat. Growth hormones and antibiotics injected to animals has been a concern, however US and UN health agencies concluded that these do not pose any health risks to human since these get destroyed in the pasteurization process or broken down during digestion. If you are still concerned, consider rBGH and rbST (growth hormones) free milk which is cheaper than USDA organic milk. Foster Farms chicken is hormone and steroid free.

3. If you are growing fruits and vegetables in your back yard, do not use any pesticides 2-3 weeks before harvesting.

Read more on the latest in organic industry:

Article in Business Week

Fighting Cholesterol , Triglycerides and loose some weight - No dal roti, rice for dinner

I weighed 210 pounds and had an elevated Cholesterol and Triglycerides couple of years back. My wife wanted to loose some weight after our son was born. We tried diet and some indisciplined exercise regime. Sure it failed.

Then we tried something different. Skipped carbohydrate for dinner. Ate moderate carb for break fast and lunch but skipped for dinner. No roti, rice, dal and aloo for dinner. No sambar, idli, dosa, uppuma tiffin. Some times we baked chicken wings. Some times we baked fish (mostly salmon). Some other time we ate lightly fried hard boiled egg whites. Egg omelets with just one or two yolks. In between, we made pasta with lots of chicken, shrimp and vegetables and very little noodles. Before the E-Coli scare, we made salads with baked chicken strips and boiled egg whites. Whenever we baked, we baked lots bell peppers and mushrooms to fill up. It was a welcome and interesting change. In less than 6 months, I lost 15 pounds and my wife lost 10 pounds. The best part is that my Cholesterol and Triglycerides are normal. So are able to maintain the lost weight for more than a year now. Since we enjoy the diet change for dinner, we have hopes of sustaining it for long.

One more change was to have early dinner. We finish our dinner by 6.30- 7.00 PM with no snacks after coming back from work.

Changing the dinner helped in two ways.

1. Rice and Roti is mostly ate with sambar/dal/potato/other lentils curry adding more easy calorie to the diet. Having only one item to eat reduces the total calorific intake.
2. Since baked fish/poultry is not native to our (Indians) palate , we don't tend to over eat.
3. Since the protein makes you feel full faster and deprive the body of fast energy (carb, sugar), the body breaks down the fat from storage and thereby help body spend more energy.

This is not to suggest to go carb free. We eat more of unprocessed carb (grains, par boiled rice, fruits and vegetables) but less of processed carbs (sugar, flour, maida, polished rice, basmati rice). I wont call it protein diet. But tipping the scale from carbohydrate diet to carb neutral diet.

Remember what your grandma warned you. Skipping dinner will make you loose a dove's weight. Skipping carb for dinner will help you loose half a dove.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Chicken biryani recipe -This is how we make it

What is Biryani?

According to noted Biryani Chronicler Vishy Shenoy:

Biryani is derived from the Persian word "Birian". In Farsi, Birian means "Fried before Cooking". It could have come from Persia via Afghanistan to North India. It could have also been brought by the Arab traders via Arabian sea to Calicut (Calicut Biryani). We know the history little better during 1800 to 1900. During Mogul empire, Lucknow was known as Awadh, giving rise to Awadhi Biryani. In 1856, British deposed Nawab Wajid Ali Shah in Calcutta, giving rise to Calcutta Biryani. Aurangzeb installed Nizam-ul-mulk as the Asfa Jahi ruler of Hyderabad, as well as a "Nawab of Arcot" to oversee Aaru Kaadu region (Six Forrests) south of Hyderabad. These moves gave rise to Hyderabadi Biryani and Arcot Biryani. The Biryani spread to Mysore by Tipu Sultan of Carnatic. Needless to say it was a royal dish for Nawabs and Nizams. They hired vegetarian Hindus as bookkeepers leading to the development of Tahiri Biryani.

Now if you want to skip the history and get straight into kitchen to give it a shot of making your own version, here is the helper.

Recipe for chicken biryani - Apartment style*, servings 6

1. Get a whole chicken and cut into medium size pieces
2. Marinate with ginger garlic, green chilli paste, black pepper and chicken masala. Add 2-3 spoon yogurt if needed. Or add one spoon lemon juice. (The adventours can make the chicken masala from ground up but it will take longer time and no guaranteed result.)
3. Fry 3 cups of Basmati rice in 2 spoon of ghee or butter for 2 minutes
4. Add 6 cups of water and add bay leaves and salt. Bring it to boil and keep it in very low flame till water dries up almost completely. (15 minutes or so)
5. Add 2-3 spoon oil and Fry Red/white onions in a pressure pan/pan till brown
6. Add ginger garlic paste and fry till brown
7. Add diced tomatoes (3-4 large) and cook till it becomes a paste.
8. Add marinated chicken and cook for 5 minutes without adding water
9. Add 1/4 cup water and whistle the cooker twice. (only once if the chicken is young). Do not add water if you have residual water in chicken from washing.
10. If cooking in a pan, cook it closed until chicken is well done.
11. Dry the juices on high flame till the gravy has disappeared. If the gravy is watery, remove chicken and bring the gravy to thick.
12. On a glassware or oven safe wide bottom deep vessel, add layers of rice, chicken, chooped cilantro, mint leaves, fried ring onions (if needed), freshly ground cinnamon, clove and cardomom. (You can use packet garam masala but risk poor flavor)
13. Add safron/food color mix (mixed in rosewater or water) as patches on top of the rice if needed
14. Keep the vessel closed and keep it in oven at 300F for about 10-15 minutes
15. Serve hot with chicken pieces at the bottom of the platter covered with rice.

If you wonder about the measurements of the ingredients, then I cant help you. Because you should know how much of of each spice you can tolerate. If you are unsure, keep it simple. Remember, less is always safer and better.

One more thing. If you made your biryani and ate too much of it, then you can make sulaimani tea (black hot tea with lime juice). People in calicut belive that it helps digestion :)

Happy Biryani!

* To cook biryani in the traditional way, you need specialized vessels to dum (cook in a sealed vessel with light heat from embers from above and below) the layers of meat and rice. Plus you need embers from coconut shells to make Calicut Biryani. So hence this recipe is for people who cant make embers from their Apartment balcony :)

Tellicherry peppercorn

You may have heard of Tellicherry Pepper from one of your favorite cooking shows. Or you may have just bought McCormick Tellicherry pepper from Costco.

Tellicherry is an old port town in Kerala and it was a major export hub for British East Indian Company to trade spices from South India. For centuries, europeans enjoyed the flavor of Tellicherry pepper in their gourmet meals.

What exactly is Tellicherry pepper? By definition, it is 10% of the largest and ripest of the peppercorn harvest from Malabar region. What makes Tellicherry pepper so special?

The tropical heat, monsoon rains, and iron-rich laterite soil creates the best growing environment for the pepper. Better location to receive extra sunlight, location of the fruit on the vine to get better nutrient and time a fruit gets to mature before harvest etc contributes to make bigger, better pepper. And chefs across the globe swear by its rich aromatic oil and flavor when they grind Tellicherry pepper into their platter.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Soft vinyl toys and clear bottles - Toxic?

San Francisco recently banned toys containing two chemicals bisphenol A (BPA - pronounced as bisenol A ) and phthalates (pronounced as thalates). European Union also has a ban on these substances in toys. But US states did not impose a ban yet. Toy and chemical companies suing San Francisco for the ban arguing that the ban is not supported by science and will have a devastating impact on San Francisco toy retailers.

bisphenol A (BPA) - found in soft vinyl like teethers, pacifiers, nipples, "sippy cups" and heavily mouthed toys made of soft plastic, unless they are labeled as PVC-free or phthalate-free.

phthalates - found in clear, shiny plastic baby bottles, unless the manufacturer states they are not made of polycarbonate (which is made from bisphenol A)

Animal and human studies have linked these substances to a broad swath of health problems, including prostate and breast cancer, and altered genital development. Experts suggests parents to take steps to reduce/eliminate exposure.

Read Time Magazine Article

Crocin (Paracetamol) is the same as Tylenol (Acetaminophen) - Did you know?

Did you ever carry packets of Paracetamol for overseas travel from India thinking that you cant get this cure-for-all pain magic outside of India?

Do not worry.

Paracetamol (Crocin - brand name popular in India) and acetaminophen (Tylenol - brand name popular in the US) are essentially the same. The words acetaminophen and paracetamol both come from the chemical names for the compound: N-acetyl-para-aminophenol and para-acetyl-amino-phenol.

Common brand names for the drug include Tylenol in Brazil, Canada, South Korea and the U.S., Paralen in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Panadol in Taiwan, Australia, Greece, Central America, Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Malaysia, Hong Kong, the UK, Sri Lanka, Romania, Portugal, The Netherlands, Finland, Singapore, Kenya, and Hungary, Perdolan in Belgium, Doliprane, Dafalgan, and Efferalgan in France, Tachipirina and Efferalgan in Italy, Crocin in India, Gelocatil and Efferalgan in Spain, Benuron in Portugal, Alvedon in Sweden, Panodil and Pinex in Denmark and Iceland, Acamol, Dexamol and Rokamol in Israel, Pinex and Paracet in Norway, Depon in Greece, Lekadol and Daleron in Slovenia Plicet and Lekadol in Croatia , Adol in Oman and Biogesic in Philippines.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Malayalam cult movie - classmates

If you are a Malayali from Kerala, then you have seen this movie many times over. If you have not, then you must.

If you are not a Malayali and want to know why this movie is becoming a cult for the new generation Keralites, then you should watch too. Is this a musical with songs and dance? Sure it is. Are people falling in love in this movie? Sure they do. So what is the difference?

The difference is the subtle ways in which the lovers fall in love. What is granted to lovers as a right in today's bollywood is a mere luxury in this movie. It is kind of a journey backwards. It is not about the freedom of expressing love. But the lack of it. It is not about the happily ever after end. But the lost opportunity to live happily ever after. And you kind of feel that love from a distance is a bit bitter sweet than the love from near.

The one song that captures the mood of the movie is 'Ente Khalbile Vennilav Nee Nalla Paattukara.....'

Ente Khalbile Vennilav Nee Nalla Paattukara.....
Thattamittu Nhan Kathu vachoren Mullamottiloorum....Atharonnu vendee...
Atharonnu Vendee....
Ente Koottukaraa...Suthante Chelu kara......


It is a very powerful song and unfortunately you need to know malayalam to fully appreciate it. I tried to capture the essence of the song in the following lines. My apologies to Vayalar Sarath Chandra Varma (writer of this song) for taking the liberty of translating the song for non malayalai readers.

In the movie, this song is penned by a muslim girl, clad in black burqa and veil, for her secret admirer. The guy is the popular singer in the college and manages to get hold of her poetry and gives life to her secret desires.

Here is the translation.

You beautiful singer – moonlight is upon my soul.

Moonlight is upon my soul listening to your tunes
Take; my good friend; the scent treasured in Veil
The jasmine buds are for you to sniff - Sultan of mighty charm
Hidden are my desires behind the screen of my veil – the way I lived
You beautiful singer – moonlight is upon my soul

I could be the sweet thing in your smile- milky bright
Could be your beat – forever mine
Wished you saw me dancing in a wedding eve
Hands were made with mehndi - wished to see my sultan’s charm
Hidden are my desires behind the screen of my veil – the way I lived
You beautiful singer – moonlight is upon my soul

Guitar strings – tense and ready for music
That’s how you stood near me
My hands were for you to take – but you did not
I was ready to hum with you, let loose the claps
Anklets teased me to break into steps – many times over
Hidden are my desires behind the screen of my veil – the way I lived
You beautiful singer – moonlight is upon my soul.


The full version of malayalam song

Ente Khalbile Vennilav Nee Nalla Paattukara

Ente Khalbile Vennilav Nee Nalla Paattukara.....
Thattamittu Nhan Kathu vachoren Mullamottiloorum....Atharonnu vendee...
Atharonnu Vendee....
Ente Koottukaraa...Suthante Chelu kara......

Ninte punchiri palinullile panchasarayavaam...
Ninte Nenjile thappu muttumay ennumenteyavaam.....
Oppanacku nee kooduvan.....Mylanji monjonnu kanuvaan....
Enthumathramennagrahangale moodi vechu njan....

Ente Khalbile Vennilav Nee Nalla Paattukara.....
Thattamittu Nhan Kathu vachoren Mullamottiloorum....Atharonnu vendee...
Atharonnu Vendee....
Ente Koottukaraa...Suthante Chelu kara......

Thottu meettuvan ulla thanthrikal pottumenna polee..
Thottatuthu nee ninnuvenkilum kye thodanjathendee...
Lalanangalil mooluvaan..kyethalamittonnu paduvan....
Ethra vattamen kal chilankakal konjiyennoo.....

Ente Khalbile Vennilav Nee Nalla Paattukara.....
Thattamittu Nhan Kathu vachoren Mullamottiloorum....Atharonnu vendee...
Atharonnu Vendee....
Ente Koottukaraa...Suthante Chelu kara......