Categories
Uncategorized

Christmas day – through a looking glass

Categories
Uncategorized

WW – Foggy winter day

Precisely 9:00 am!

(P.S: Count Bratula, Vimmu and Hitchy bhai, I don’t know who the girl in the picture is, OK?)

Categories
Thought and Reason

The Virtual world – Virtual or Real?

With many of us living a parallel life ‘online’, one wonders if this throbbing, invisible world is really virtual anymore?

I remember reading a chapter on ‘the Internet’ when I was in school, and quietly dismissing it thinking it was too ‘theoretic ’. I could not have been more wrong!!

Right from my cute 8-year-old neighbour in Chennai till 70-year-old retired school teacher aunty, almost every single person I know is alive and kicking in the Virtual world (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_world).

Facebook FeverFacebook, Twitter, Google wave (and many more!)… ‘being online’ is not merely a part of life, but a basic necessity for many! Facebook discussions, for example, are so real that I often find myself pondering the entire day about a single thought floating around somewhere in virtual space. Some people go so far as to claim their life has improved with being able to instantly gratify their need for friendship! We are so involved with the online world that it begins to affect our day-to-day life. We do things, go to places so we can tell the world we have done it. We argue, we strive desperately to show we are right, we eagerly seek approval.. and all this from a community that we do not ‘see’ but only ‘read’.

Media Mania (pic courtesy Hindustan times)

There is this nagging urge to make a strong online presence. It could start off with a completely useless discussion on New Year resolutions that you know will not see the light of day! Or RT-ing anything that Big B, Junior B, or Beti B say (or gurgle, as the case may be). Or even reading a controversial article and throwing barbs at the authors hiding behind a shield of anonymity.

One thing is certain – no matter what form our online participation takes, it is certainly assuming gigantic proportions. Statistics indicate that many Facebook users spend more time on Facebook than face-to-face with friends.

Basically, we do not live in one single world any more. There is this invisible, pulsating virtual world all around us, drawing us deeper and deeper each day.

I wouldn’t say it is a vice, though. Let’s take a look at the incredible benefits of our virtual world:

  • Pretend to be friends with @SrBachchan and go ga-ga about Beti B’s name
  • Find love in chat-rooms (Sure, that makes a great story to tell your grandkids!)
  • Golu (Pic courtesy Wikipedia)

    Valiantly keep Indian culture alive. Especially all those lovely NRIs living in the ‘aasum You-Yes-Yay’ who post photos of exotic Golu and drool-worthy Paniyaram!

  • Say NO to dieting and exercise. I mean seriously! All you need is Photoshop. And tada!! You have a . Throw on a pair of dark glasses, Copy-Paste Santorini in the background, and notice how easy it is to get ‘liked’ without the Kolaveri of sweaty gymming.

    Instant makeover (Pic courtesy home-make-over dot info)
  • Keep a watch on the better-half! You wonder why his SMS reads ‘stuck in boring office party’, when he is simultaneously ‘tagged’ realtime with some hotties via ‘HTC Wild fire for FB’ 😉

Keep an eye on that teenage cousin who wears two-plaits and goes to a girls-school, and quietly tip off her mom when some weirdo with spikey hair comments ‘Dat Pic Lukng Hawt’. Whatever, dude!
Find out what your retired dad is upto these days (even if you don’t really want to). Dirty Picture at xyz Cinema with abc’. Gulp! Shouldn’t Zuckerberg think of introducing an upper age limit on FB users?

  • Free campaigning for events and functions. All you need is an IIT/IIM based story, and Voila! you are the next Chetan Bhagat, and FB is under a deluge of your ‘book launch’
  • Forge great friendships and even greater enemies!
  • And best of all, you get all this for FREE!

All the same, we suddenly have many lurking dangers!

  • Trading Facebook for Treadmill. Er.. not a great idea, really!
  • At the risk of an anti-climax, most of those porn videos that you think are ‘Chi..chi!’ and then click when nobody is watching, are actually spam and could contain viruses. What is worse, the bleddy link does not even play a video afterall!!
  • Attack by virtual trolls. There seem to be an increasing level of aggression and barbed attacks by anonymous trolls who trade subjectivity for offensiveness. Actually, getting to watch a fight for free should go under ‘merits’ of social media, but then, it isn’t always pleasant, is it?
  • Identity theft – This is more common than we think. When I saw my mum receiving FB notifications, I wondered how a lady who refused point-blank to turn on a computer, suddenly got so tech-savvy. Duh! Someone had stolen her ID!
  • Mc Merry!!! (Pic courtesy www dot overgroundonline dot com)

    There is just no privacy! You can’t lie to your organization or school. Like, for example, you cannot bunk school and go to Inox or McDonalds, because somebody is always watching.

  • And what is worse… those annoying/boring/nevertheless curious folks you desperately try to avoid in real life, keep such close watch on you, its like having a personal Bodyguard
  • And on a serious note, considering the amount of time and effort you invest into social media, you really cannot estimate the value of ‘return’. Unless you consider ‘3 hrs per day on FB = 5 kgs gain p.a’.

Evidently, all these merits and demerits of the virtual world are quite tangible. Increasing awareness, thoughtful discussions, resultant mood swings(!), friendships, enemities, losses (of time) and gains (of weight!) are all real.

Can we still confidently draw the line between the online world and the real one?

Do we know when exactly a Facebook campaign suddenly gains huge momentum, facilitating a mass-protest in a country (eg., Egypt protests organized through Facebook and microblogging site Twitter)?

Pip pip Pippaaaa! (Pic courtesy telegraph dot co dot uk)

Why! We even saw a bunch of ‘real’ people who witnessed the Royal wedding and promptly went on to create a Facebook page for ‘Pippa Middleton Ass Appreciation Society’. The page has 241,492 fans!

We did not see this coming (And I don’t mean Pippa Middleton).

We did not realise when or how the virtual world became an integral part of the real one. When being ‘online’ changed from a one-off indulgence to a gnawing daily necessity! When the power of the online world began to threaten that of the real one. Or when thoughts floating around online started influencing mind-sets in the physical world.

What do you think? Is the Virtual world really virtual anymore? Or is it so real that it poses social and even political dangers to society?

Pic courtesy: Wikipedia

Perhaps we should ask Kapil Sibal!

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Cross-posted on the nri dot com)

 

Categories
Food and recipe Health n Fitness

Calling all lovers.. er.. ‘curry’ lovers!

There are lots of things different here in the UK as compared to India.

Like for example, many of us (Indian parents/grandparents) pride ourselves in saying our children are ‘Oh soooo naughtyyyy….’ whereas here ‘naughty’ indicates the kid is ‘bad’!

And when I say ‘tea’ I really mean the sweet, hot liquid with milk.. tea! Not the ‘London’ version of tea that means a nice evening snack (that tea is a part of!)

Or for example, ‘curry’, which to me, means vegetables, diced/chopped/etc, tempered with mustard seeds and seasoned with regular, mundane spices and not a thick gravy flavoured with cream or coconut milk! Which by the way, reminds me of what a local tour operator once said… ‘Britain’s favourite food isn’t Fish n Chips, but ‘Chicken Curry’!

So here is a dish, that we absolutely LOVE! With a Japanese/Chinese flavour, this is a one-course dish, scrumptious, filling, healthy (well, in part!) and absolutely droolicious.

Its actually a signature dish of Wagamama, called ‘Yasai Katsu Curry’ (Fried vegetables curry with rice). Obviously this is the ‘vegetarian’ version (actually, ‘eggetarian’ as you do need a little bit of egg to coat the veggies in). However, you could easily replace the veggies with slices of chicken and it would taste just as good (my non-vegetarian friends would claim it tastes even better!) The curry here refers to a Japanese style of curry. Wiki says it all!

First, let me post a picture.. to see if it tempts you!!

Did you like this, did you? Did you?

Ok, so I hope I have your very kind (stomach-growling) attention now!

Before I very generously share this magic recipe with you, let me give you an estimate of how much time this dish takes, to make. Er.. around an hour (more, if you make all the ingredients from scratch, and less, if you decide to play smart like I did, and buy some of it from the store).

The trick, really, is to get all the ingredients ready before-hand, and then the actually cooking/serving is actually quite quick.

I can guarantee you, the effort is really worth it, considering this is a one-pot meal, that your folks are going to LOVE!

So, for the ingredients.

We actually have FOUR sets of components here.

1) For the main Yasai Katsu:

(a) Vegetables like Brinjal (aubergine), Butternut squash and Sweet potato work best. Just slice them. This really depends on how you want your veggies. Wagamama serves thick slices, whereas I like em thin 😉 so I sliced a brinjal into 0.5 thickness.

(b) Half a cup of ordinary white flour with a pinch of salt

Crisp bread crumbs mixture

(c) Two full cups of a mixture of crumbs (Bread crumbs and plain salt crackers (I used Melba Toasts) ground into fine crumbs, to add a crisp texture to the veggies)

(d) One egg, beaten lightly.

You could add your choice of spices to any of these, really. I just added some salt to the flour, and some more salt, coriander powder and tumeric powder (Tee hee… an Indian cook after all!) to the bread crumbs mixture. But make it the way you like it. If you like your food spicy, then go for it!

2) The side: Now you could serve either crunchy vegetables or a side salad. I chose the veggies, simple because I had no salad at home 😉 Take your pick of colourful capsicum(peppers), baby-corn, mange-tout… vegetables that will suit a quick stir-fry.

Mmmm... stir-fried crunchy vegetables!

3) White rice. You could either use plain ponni rice/sona masoori rice or basmati rice. It tastes good either way. Wagamama serves this dish with some yummy sticky white rice, that I have NO clue how to make. So I faithfully stuck to our aromatic basmati 🙂

4) And lastly, the curry sauce. Now, Google says it is to be prepared this way.

Onion, garlic, ginger, tomato, turmeric powder, cumin powder, coriander powder – Fry it all, simmer with a little water for about 15 mins, cool it, and grind it with a little more water. Simmer again for about 15 mins.

Now, how do you cook this delicious meal? Really , truly simple!

Step 1: Cook your rice. I washed 1 cup of basmati rice, added 2 cups of water to it, and chucked the bowl into the microwave, first for 10 mins, then a quick stir, and another 7 minutes.

Step 2: Now, while your rice is getting cooked, take a couple of minutes to grind the bread and the crackers together to get a fine bread-crumbs mixture. Beat an egg, and keep it aside. Keep the flour ready. Start heating up the oil. Don’t slice your brinjal until it is time to fry them.

The Yasai and Katsu stuff

Step 3: Get your curry sauce organized. I’ll be honest. I didn’t make the curry sauce myself. Just bought a pack of ‘curry sauce powder’ from the supermarket and added it to boiling water. Voila!! A nice, thick, sticky curry sauce.

Side aside

Step 4: Roughly chop your side vegetables into 1-inch pieces. Heat one teaspoon of mild/medium olive oil (for health reasons… well, don’t ask me why I insist on olive oil, when the bleddy veggies are going to be deep-fried!!), and throw the veggies in. Stir-fry on high heat for about 3 mins and take them off the pan. Puhlees, for heaven’s sake, don’t cook them soggy!

Also, if you have a couple of minutes to spare, do peel a carrot, and slice slivers of it, for garnishing. It adds that ‘special’ touch, you see 😉
Step 5: OK, now for the frying bit. By this time, you should have your rice, your curry and your side salad/veggies READY. So take those slices of brinjal (if you are using sweet potato/squash, please cook them in boiling water before frying them), coat them lightly in flour, dip them in the egg, and load them with the crumbs. Once you have about 3-4 ready, slide them gently into the hot oil. You know how to fry, don’t you? Just ensure it does not get burnt! And, drain excess oil onto tissue paper.
Step 6: Pile your plate and serve Hot Hot Hot!!!! Invert a cup of rice, arrange the fried veggies, add some side veggies, ladle the curry sauce, and garnish with carrot!! And.. Bon Apetit!!!
Mmmm.... Yasai Katsu Curry!

So, tell me, did you like it? Did you?