Monday, July 27, 2009

Film Review: LUCK

Cast: Sanjay Dutt, Mithun Chakraborty, Imran Khan, Danny Denzongpa, Ravi Kissan, Shruti Haasan, Chitrashi Rawat
Director: Soham Shah

Yeah, I was not-so-lucky as to have missed this one! Sigh!

The film is about ‘those boys who lived’ in the style of Harry Potter. It begins with Kareem Moussa (Sanjay Dutt) who lives through a string of accidents that seemed to dog his life. He understands that LUCK is the factor that had kept him alive throughout. His conclusion leads him to finding similar people from around the world and make use of them for betting on an international scale. Tamaang (Danny Denzongpa) assists him for this purpose, travelling around the world and scouting for the right people (I would say, fools).

Those who are caught in their nets are Ram Mehra (Imran Khan), Ayesha (Shruti Haasan), Major (Mithun Chakraborty), Shortcut (Chitrashi Rawat) and a serial killer (Ravi Kissan). I will not go into too many details for those who might still want to watch the film. Various circumstances lead the many characters to join Moussa for the big money to be made at the end of 20 days. But as they get into this racket because of their LUCK, little do they realise that the same LUCK might end their lives. (Some LUCK that!)

Sanjay Dutt is fabulous. It’s a tie as to whether he fits the role or the role fits him. I will give him a distinction.

Ravi Kissan was very good in his role as a serial killer.

Danny and Mithun were okay.

Imran Khan has improved a lot since his last venture and has done quite well.

Shruti Haasan… well, what to say? She looks beautiful and has a sexy figure. Her on-screen chemistry with Imran was very good. Her dialogue delivery could do with a powerful haul. Her acting skills have a long way to go. Hope to see much better in future.

Chitrashi Rawat steals the show. Remember that little girl who played on Shah Rukh’s hockey team in Chak De? Yeah, she is the very same. She walks through her part, so casually and with such confidence that she seems like an oasis in this desert of a movie.

The plot is horrible and very badly put together with a number of loopholes that gape throughout the film. At the end of it, I understood why the multiplex was barely one-thirds full.

Verdict: If your LUCK is bad, you will watch the film.
Rating: **

* Silly
** Shaky
*** Smart
**** Snazzy
***** Super

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Sharing: THE WAY TO A WOMAN’S HEART

This blog has been written mainly for men’s attention. Women are of course welcome to read the piece and add their values to it.

And for those MCPs who believe that women are born to serve them and kiss their feet, you need to wake up and face reality.

We have all heard of the way to a man’s heart – loud and clear – through his stomach. What about the way to a woman’s heart? Is it that men don’t give a damn about it as they are interested only in the physical aspect of love?

Well, for one thing, each woman is unique and so you cannot generalise and come up with one common way to a lady’s heart. But there are a few gestures that will definitely be appreciated by the fairer sex.

Chivalry: This is one thing that will definitely not go out of fashion. I know it is not something Indian men can relate to. Sadly, chivalry was definitely a part of our culture in yonder days. But during the last couple of centuries, it seems as if the quality has been exported to the west, in totality – not that I am suggesting that the westerners don’t have originality. Only, the feature has not been vastly present in our area. But believe you me, holding a door open, pulling a chair out or letting a woman enter before you will definitely up your score in your girlfriend’s or wife’s eyes.

A gift: Any one loves to receive a gift – no less a woman. But you are wrong if you believe that all women are after your money and expensive gifts. Yeah, I heard someone say that a way to a woman’s heart is through a man’s wallet. Utter rubbish! It is but a gesture that you care. A flower or a card will do fantastically well with the right woman.

Intelligent conversation: You are only thinking in terms of bedding a woman and all your talk is suggestive of this, you rest assured that you will never score. Most women will appreciate a good conversation – whether it is about the state politics, movies, music, books, travel, eating or whatever that fits. And by conversation, I mean a dialogue, not a monologue where you talk about yourself, yourself and yourself. Beyond a point that can be boring to just anyone on earth. We all know how macho you are, but we sometimes like to listen to our voices too.

Never take a woman for granted: No one likes to be taken for granted, less so a woman. Just because you are already married, please don’t stop paying her compliments or appreciating her. If you check your subconscious, you probably are thinking, ‘she is mine now. So why make the effort?’ You are thinking wrong. That is one of the major reasons for marriages that break up. A lady begins to feel there is no charm in her life. Her interesting boyfriend has become a boring husband. And you keep thinking there is no pleasing a woman. I am sure you understand now where the problem lies.

Sharing responsibility: Please wear the cap only if it fits. This is not for those who do their share. It is alright that housewives manage the home completely. Today, the world is full of women who are professionals. But when a woman can go to work to make enough money for the whole family, why should a man not take up a share in the responsibilities at home? Both get up at 7 in the morning. One settles in front of the television to find out the state of the world while the other slogs in the kitchen to get breakfast and lunch ready. One goes for a bath while the other keeps the clothes ready. The story continues in the evening when one continues to check out on the day’s events around the globe while the other juggles with the child’s homework and dinner. Does the scenario sound familiar? It’s a definite way of ensuring that you remove yourself from your woman’s heart.

There may be a number of points that I may have missed (see, I don’t pretend to be a know-it-all). Gals are welcome to add their views and guys are allowed to give their take on where they have scored in winning a woman’s heart. ;)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Nostalgia: AN EVENING AT MARINA BEACH

In those days when I used to live in Chennai, one of the predominant entertainments during the weekends was a visit to the beach. With no television and an outing to a restaurant was as rare as once in six months, the major fun visits were to cinemas and the beach. While cinemas happened three to four times in a month – our grandmother loved the movies and used to take me and my elder sister along with her – a visit to the beach used to happen may be three to four times in a year.

Oh the wonder of going to the beach! I have to mention something here for those who know only the Arabian Sea of Mumbai – Bay of Bengal that touches the east coast of India at Chennai is a gorgeous blue with white foam. It looks terrific on any evening at sunset. We used to stand there waiting for the waves to touch our feet, the salty spray on our faces. The smell of the salty sea was just divine and totally refreshing. Despite protests from elder members, we used to slowly slide forward till the water used to reach our waists. What fun! It is quite therapeutic to watch the white surf curling into huge waves. We used to jump up and down quite excitedly, waiting for each wave that regularly visits the shores even today. You can’t beat the size of the waves on a New Moon or Full Moon day when the tide is high. Picking up shells was part of the outing.

Getting us all away from the pull of the sea used to be a difficult task. Once that was successfully managed, there were the hot bhajjis to look forward too. Walking back to the road across the sand takes quite a bit of time as the beach is quite wide. One can see many vendors selling their wares along the way – dolls made of shells, bangles, cotton candy, chaat, bhajjis and cane juice were just a few of the attractions. The lady who used to make the bhajjis sat on the sand and cooked them in a large frying pan over a kerosene stove. We used to bite into the bhajis almost drooling over them and then cane juice completed the outing before we caught buses or auto-rickshaws back home.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Recipe: KOTHAVARANGAI PARUPPU USILI (கொத்தவரங்காய் பருப்பு உசிலி)

This dish is special to Tamil Nadu and is a hot favourite at my home. It is delicious and very healthy. It is eaten as a side dish and is best when combined with Mor Kuzhambu (மோர் குழம்பு) and rice. Tastes good with rasam (ரசம்) and rice too! Here I have given the recipe for Kothavarangai Paruppu Usili (கொத்தவரங்காய் பருப்பு உசிலி). Kothavarangai (Cluster Beans) can be replaced with Vazhappu (வாழைப்பூ) (flower of banana plant) or French beans.

Ingredients:

Tur Dal (तुर दाल) (துவரம் பருப்பு): 1 cup
Channa Dal (चन्ना दाल) (கடலை பருப்பு): 1 cup
Kothavarangai (गावर) (கொத்தவரங்காய்) – 300 gms (chopped)
Red Chillies – 4
Haldi – 1 pinch
हिंग (Asafoetida) (பெருங்காயம்) – 1 pinch
Rai (राइ) (கடுகு)– 1 tsp
Urad Dal (उड़द दाल) (உளுத்தம் பருப்பு )– 2 tsp
Curry Leaves (कदिपत्ता) (கருவேப்பிலை) – 2 strips
Salt to taste
Oil – 3 tbsp

Method:

Soak both the dals together two to three hours before you start making this vegetable. After they have soaked for the required time, drain the water and coarse-grind the dals with chillies, and one strip of curry leaves. Mix the ground dal and chopped kothavarangai with salt and haldi and steam it in an idli mould. Remove from idli pan when it is well cooked and wait for it to cool a bit. Crumble the dal idlis using your hand or with a spoon. Take a non-stick kadai and pour oil and crackle rai in it. Add the urad dal and wait for it to become red. Then add the curry leaves, hing and then the steamed usili to the pan and mix well. Keep the flame low and let it cook without placing a lid. Keep turning it on and off till the whole usili becomes golden brown.
Nothing to beat hot Kothavarangai Paruppu Usili (கொத்தவரங்காய் பருப்பு உசிலி), Mor Kuzhambu (மோர் குழம்பு)-rice combo on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Health: A DISEASE TO BE UPROOTED


Comparison is a disease that is worse than cancer or a tumour. The result is quite debilitating – lowering everyone’s self-esteem all around. You can’t win either ways. If you are found great, you have to keep racing to maintain the greatness, creating a lot of stress for yourself. If you are found wanting, you are going to hate yourself. The moment you begin comparing, you are in a no-win situation. How many parents compare their children with others and find them wanting in some quality or other? Remember, not all 40 students in a class can stand first. I actually wonder at the system that awards a prize to a best student. Everyone has a unique quality and intelligence. No one is born dumb. The trouble is that the education system is such that we are pressing all the wrong buttons. Then why be surprised when we get the answers wrong. We have to remember one thing – each one of us is different. Otherwise, we would be clones. Then what fun would there be in life? The world is full of contrasts – Day and night; Rich and poor; Beauty and beast. The list is endless. Everything and everyone falls into one or the other category or something in-between. Is there a need to feel ashamed or make someone feel low about the truth? We are in search of an excellence that is relative. A person might be a billionaire but unhappy, while you might find a beggar singing gustily with a grin on his face even if he does not know where his next meal is coming from. The only way to get over this is to stop comparing yourself with others. Why not compete with yourself? You were something yesterday. Get better today and go on to improve on yourself tomorrow. You set the goals and parameters – something that goes hand in hand with self-discipline and then see how your life evolves, slowly in the beginning and then by leaps and bounds. And then you have a win-win situation all around.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

News: THE INTERVIEW

This question and answer session is all about my book publishing. It was to be published in a newspaper a few months ago, but it never happened. So, I am publishing it in my blog.

1. What is your book all about? How long did it take for you to put it together?
My book is a romance, something in the style of a Mills & Boon novel, set in India – Mumbai, in fact. It’s about a wedding arranged between the hero and heroine and how they adapt to the idea of an arranged marriage.
My first draft got completed in barely 25 days. I have to mention something here. I am a commerce graduate and although my spoken English had always been very good, I never could string two written sentences together. I had just left my job in the year 2000 and was sitting at home doing nothing. My writing skill happened like a bolt from the blue. I just came home one day from my walk and started writing.
Then I had someone, an ex-journalist, check my book. Shankar read it and gave me a critical appreciation – what would work and what would not. He also told me that my book was a long way from being published. I never believed at that point that he could be so right.
A typical Libran, I wanted to rewrite the novel. Then again, I wondered whether it was worth the effort. It was my husband, Venkat, who persuaded me to give it a shot. He told me that since I had come this far, I should not give up.
Then, it took me about six months to complete the final version – with additions and deletions, of course.

2. How did you approach publishers and what was their feedback? Did they ask for a publication fee?
• My first choice was Harlequin Mills & Boon Ltd. I wrote to them for a brochure on the rules to be followed by new author submissions. I was required to send them only a synopsis to begin with. I got a letter from them stating that they liked my synopsis but that did not mean that they were committed to publishing my novel. I had to send the first three chapters. And that unfortunately did not meet with their approval.
• I took out the yellow pages in the directory and called every single publisher who was listed in Mumbai. No luck.
• Delhi-based Rupa & Co. sent back my material within 24 hours, saying ‘No’.
• I tried to find out about publishing agents. Not too much luck in our country – at least, not in 2001 and immediately after.
• I went to book shops and took down names of publishers, along with their postal addresses – made a big list – and sent the synopsis of my novel along with the first three chapters. These were all foreign publishers and all of them preferred the old method of handling things – by post or courier. No soft copies were encouraged. I spend quite an amount of money, taking printouts and on postage.
• I have 27 or 28 rejection letters as a result of my effort.
• At that point, I had not known that Penguin had started a branch in India. It took the Penguin office in South Africa to point that out to me. I wrote to them too. No luck again!
• Then there was this offer from Minerva Publishers. They told me that they were impressed with my work, but I had to pay money for publishing it. This was some six years ago. They had a list of authors – George Bernard Shaw being quoted as one example – who had had to pay to be published. I went again to bookstores, mostly branches of Crossword, searching for titles by Minerva. I found Zilch. I think I had a lucky escape there.
• Then, the editor of Frog Books made an offer. He wanted me to pay 60,000 for printing 600 books and marketing them. I went to meet him and asked him if they would publish all the manuscripts that they received, if they got a sum of money. He told me that it was not so and he had selected mine because he found it marketable. I also asked him if he took money from all authors. He did tell me that that was not always so. I was not convinced that I should pay and get my book published.
• Amidst all this, you can guess the number of people who would have given me their two-bits. Almost everyone was of the opinion that an author should not pay for her work to be published.
• By then, I had landed a job with Mumbai Mirror and I thought, here I was in the media and surely something would click. No such luck!
• Then, there were a couple of other publishers who were ready to take up the project but for different amounts. I was worried that I will have to shell out the cash and then run behind them for the marketing part of it.

3. How did you get to know about Raider? How did you check on their track record?
Seven and a half years after my search for someone to publish my book, I found Raider Publishing International quite by chance while I was browsing the net. I have to mention that on that same day – 18th September, 2008 – I found two publishers. One was Raider and the other was Dorrance. Both had made it clear that I would have to pay a nominal amount for their services. I wrote to both of them.
Dorrance came back saying that a writer’s work was their responsibility and they passed no judgement on it. They were ready to publish any book that fell into their hands.
While Adam Salviani from Raider was clear that they should find the first three chapters impressive enough and only then would agree to publish the novel.
I obviously liked the idea of publishing my book with Raider. And after their approval of the first three chapters, things just snowballed.
I found a few blogs in the internet with people’s comments on Raider’s services – most of them positive. Adam himself gave me the contact of an Indian author – Amol Chawak, who has written Back to the Holocaust, published by Raider – at my request. I wrote to Amol and he was all praise for Raider’s services. I also checked many web bookstores that stocked books published by Raider.
And, somewhere, I felt, I needed to have faith that my book should do well. If I don’t have the faith in my own work, then how can I expect a stranger (publisher, in this case) to believe in it?

4. How exactly is your book being put together and how has the experience been so far?
Once Adam Salviani and I agreed that the book would be published by Raider, he sent me a contract (thank God, that everything happened via email). I had it thoroughly checked. I had a number of questions and Adam was patient enough to answer each and every one of them. I wanted to make a couple of changes that was agreed upon. I paid the requisite amount – it was very less compared to what the other publishers had asked. (I also thought that the years were passing, without anything happening. And this is one time I needed to take the risk.)
The publishing process began immediately:
• The contract reached Adam the third week of November, 2008.
• The third week of March, 2009 – the proofreading was completed by them and approved by me with a few other changes. The cover design was ready and the formatting done and the book sent to the printers.
• Everyday morning, I used to run through my email, eagerly looking for a mail from Adam or Barbara from Raider, regarding the progress of my book. I was rarely disappointed.
• Second week of May, 2009 – I HAD MY BOOK IN MY HAND.
The experience has been euphoric. All those years of waiting – I have already forgotten them. I sincerely believe that ‘Today is the first day of the rest of my life’.

5. How will your book be marketed and sold?

Raider has a network of bookstores, both online and shops around the world. Based in New York, the company has a branch in London too. I expect the marketing of my novel to happen mainly in India, the USA and UK. For my part, I will have to attend book signings that the publisher has promised to organise. I did send them a list of book outlets such as Crossword, Landmark and Oxford Bookstore.
The rest of the show, I need to wait and watch. I have great faith in the Almighty who has brought me thus far.

6. What is your learning from the entire exercise?

I have shed many a tear in the whole process. But, looking back, I feel quite happy with myself that I never gave up.
This reminds me of a small story from the Mahabharata that my mother used to tell us when we were small. About Arjuna, the Pandava prince – when Dronacharya held an archery contest between the Kauravas and the Pandavas, they were expected to shoot the eye of a parrot sitting on a lush tree set against the blue sky. When the Guru asked his students what they could see in front of them, each one said that he could see the bright sky, or the green tree, or the beautiful parrot and so on. It was Arjuna who said that he could see an eye. And of course, he won the contest. Such was his focus.
I used to tell myself this story each time I failed. I believe that one should never give up with creative attempts. Success is very probable. As in this case, there are so many people who read books and those are people with varying tastes. So why should not a few millions want to read my book?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Film Review: RATATOUILLE (pronounced rat-ta-tooee)


I know the film is two years old and the review kind of comes quite late. But I got a chance to watch it again at home on our DVD player and could not resist writing a review.

Remy is not like adorable li’l Jerry, the mouse from MGM (Disney was a mistake, silly ole me)that we are so used to watching. In fact, Remy is the furry creature that he is meant to be – a mite revolting and the kind one does not want at home, let alone one’s kitchen.
But then the little fellow is quite stylish, would never scrounge for food nor thieve. He is in fact, quite a connoisseur of food, and creative to boot. It’s so cute to find him walking on two feet, and he says he would want to keep his front feet clean to help him work with food. Rat and cleanliness, a very imaginative combination, one would think.
When a colony of rats move residence, Remy gets separated from his family, but luckily for him, he lands in Paris, the Foodies Mecca. Guided by the spirit of Chef Gusteau, he reaches the restaurant that used to belong to the great culinary expert.
The film then goes on to show how Remy guides young Linguini, the bastard of Chef Gusteau – who, incidentally, does not know the ABC of cooking – to create incredible cuisine that makes the customers return to the restaurant again and again.
The film is very well made and the animation is a great watch with a couple of villains thrown in for good measure. It goes to show how if one is determined enough one can achieve just about anything.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Recipe: RAVA DOSA (தோசை)


I know these are the times of ready made mixes from many brands. But you can't beat the taste of freshly made batter at home. For those who are interested, here is the recipe for making crispy, golden RAVA DOSAS right from scratch.

Ingredients
:

Rava – 2 cups
Rice flour – 1 cup
Maida – 1 cup
Curd – 1 cup
Onions – 2 (chopped)
Green chillies – 4 (chopped finely)
Curry leaves – a few
Rai – 1 tsp
Jeera – 1 tsp
Oil – as required
Salt – to taste

Method: Beat the curd smooth and mix it to the rava, rice flour and maida in a large bowl. Add salt and water and make a smooth paste in the consistency of batter made for dosa. Keep it aside for a couple of hours. Later, you may add a little more water as the paste may have thickened. Take a sauce pan and heat two tsp of oil. Add rai and let it crackle and then add jeera, chopped chillies and curry leaves. Add the chopped onions and fry till golden brown. Add it to the dosa mixture. Mix thoroughly. Now your dosa mix is ready for making yummy rava dosas.
Take an iron skillet and heat it. (I find it very uncomfortable to use non-stick for making rava dosas as they turn out quite lumpy. Try it out if you don’t have a choice). Add a few drops of oil and spread it over the skillet. When the skillet is quite hot, make a dosa with the mixture by dropping it on the tawa in a kind of concentric circle from the outside to the inside. Allow it to spread by itself. You cannot spread the mixture with the spoon as you would a regular dosa. Lower the flame and let it cook for half a minute before turning it to the other side. Once that is done, serve on a plate and enjoy the hot dosa with coconut chutney, sambar or milagaai podi or just the plain dosa.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Film Review: SANKAT CITY


Cast: Anupam Kher, Kay Kay Menon, Dilip Prabhavalkar, Rimi Sen, Chunkey Pandey, Rahul Dev, Sanjay Mishra, Hemant Pandey
Director: Pankaj Advani

THE STORY:

Guru (Kay Kay Menon) is an automobile thief whose partner is Ganpat (Dilip Prabhavalkar). They bite of more than they can chew when Guru steals a Mercedes belonging to Faujdar (Anupam Kher), a criminal don who loans people big money that they wouldn't dare to not return. Mona (Rimi Sen) cons people into parting with their money quite easily and she partners with Phillip Fattu (Hemant Pandey) who doubles as Faujdar’s chauffer. Then there is the film production unit who owe Faujdar money. You have to watch the film to see more such characters that are extremely well fleshed-out.

MY PERCEPTION:

The film is hilarious from the word go. It’s very light and fast and very neatly packaged in under two hours. There is just one song that fits into the background if you don’t count the one at the end when the credits roll. Kay Kay Menon takes the prize when it comes to acting as the expressions that chase on his face are nothing short of brilliant. Dilip Prabhavalkar gets the second prize and the dialogues between the two are perfectly turned out. The comedy timing and the way the plot and characters are woven together are excellent. All the other actors have done their parts quite well. What made me the happiest is that the film is very well edited without any scene dragging its feet.

Verdict: Don’t miss the film.
Rating: **** Snazzy

* Silly
** Shaky
*** Smart
**** Snazzy
***** Super

Monday, July 13, 2009

Spirituality: NON-STOP NONSENSE

I don’t know whether any of you have noticed how our minds chatter non-stop. If you have a few minutes to stand by and ponder, you can hear your mind’s commentary. While we are seriously occupied with our regular pursuits, the background music is continuously on.
As you walk into your office, you notice that the floor is muddy, what everyone is wearing – whether it is good or bad, beautiful or ugly, that person is tall, this person is short, maybe she should not have worn that particular colour, that dress looks just perfect – so on and so forth.
This kind of chatter is not so bad as even as it is of no use to anyone it is of no trouble either.
The problem begins when the mind begins to take sides and argue over things that we have no control over.
There are times when we get angry with a family member, a colleague or very disturbingly and more often, our bosses. The whole day is a wasted exercise when we keep arguing and counter-arguing the matter, trying to find a different end as we re-hash conversations that are already over.
The mind chatters all the louder when frustration is the cause, we don’t have a choice and have to eat humble pie.
Right, now I have outlined the problem for you – I am sure you are all able to relate to this – let me try to explain how to solve it. For what is a problem that has no solution?
Chatter the mind does and it is not very easy to stop it.
Yeah I heard you muttering: “Arre yaar, and here we thought you are giving us a solution.” :)
I am getting there.
The first and foremost thing to do to get out of a problem is to be AWARE that there is one. You have to be aware that your mind has taken hold of one particular point and is worrying it the same way as a dog would a bone.
Stop doing anything and listen to the chatter. Check out how it is eating into your energies, spoiling your mood and consequently your whole day. Try to figure out whether it is achieving anything constructive at all.
Now that you have completed this, the simplest thing (or may be the most difficult) is to forgive the person who is causing this irritation and mentally bless them.
No, please don’t take a stick to me. I do realise that this seems quite strange to the way we have always been living – an eye for an eye and all that.
But when has that ever solved problems? More likely, troubles always escalated. Try this method of forgiveness and then go on to bless that person.
In the beginning, this task may seem tough. But as you continue to do this, you will find that your mind is silenced more and more and you can focus better on your regular lives.
Also, the bad feelings that accumulate within you that go on to become headaches, acidity, cancers, tumours and more, will just disappear.
The motive is purely selfish – to lead a happier and healthier life. :D

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Health: CHAKRA DHYAN

Chakras are energy centres in our body. As the word suggests, these are shaped like wheels. Each chakra’s condition influences a said set of body parts, both internal and external. I am giving you the example of one such. The heart chakra takes care of the heart and blood circulation. It keeps the arteries and veins in great condition and ensures the proper flow of blood in our system. It ensures that the red corpuscles, white corpuscles and plasma are in great condition and ensures that the blood pressure is kept steady. It also regularises the building of new cells throughout the body. I personally had a big problem with High BP and doing the Chakra Dhyan every day continuously for three months helped set it right. Now, I have no need to take tablets when I do the meditation on a regular basis. Do understand here that there are no short cuts to this. The whole meditation takes barely 15 minutes of your time each day.
The colours of the chakras are the same as those in a rainbow - VIBGYOR. All colours in nature converge to become white or gold, while white diversifies to form the colours of the rainbow. The chakras have individual colours and each one is supposed to rotate at a certain speed. When this speed is sluggish, it is because they are not in order. Once all the chakras are set right through regular meditation, one can see their colours changing to white or gold. It is very much possible to visualise this.

The Chakras, their colours and positions:

1. Mooladhara is red in colour and positioned at the very base of our trunk – at the anus. This is the root chakra and is the root of our energies. The mantra is Lang.
2. Swadhishtana is orange in colour and is at the end of the spinal cord – cochlea or the tailbone to be exact. When you call out to this chakra, the energy or Kundalini rises up from Mooladhara to Swadhishtana. The mantra is Vang.
3. Manipoora is yellow in colour and is on a level with the navel. Understand here that the chakras are all aligned along the spinal cord at the same level as the parts of the body mentioned. The mantra is Rung.
4. Anahatha is green in colour and is known at the heart chakra. Meditating on this chakra improves the condition of the heart and the circulatory system. The mantra is Yang.
5. Vishuddhi is blue in colour and is on level with the throat, behind the Adam’s apple. The mantra is Hung.
6. Aajneya is Indigo in colour and set in between the eyebrows. The mantra is Aavom.
7. Sahasrahara is the most important chakra and is at the top of the head in the middle, connected to the spinal cord where it ends in the neck. It is violet in colour. The mantra is Oham satyam om.

How to do the Chakra meditation?

Sit in a comfortable posture with your legs crossed and back straight either on a mat on the floor or on a firm bed. If you cannot sit down, you can sit on a straight-backed chair and cross your legs at the ankles. This is to lock the energy that you create while doing this meditation. As you know, energy flows from higher levels to lower levels. The chances are that it will drain out of your system as you create it. The best way to prevent this is to lock your limbs, either at the shin level (when you sit on the floor) or at ankle level when you sit on a chair. Keep your hands, palms up at your bent knees and fold the tips of your thumbs and forefingers of both hands. Take a few deep breaths very slowly and rhythmically.
Now start the Chakra Dhyan.Visualise the first chakra and call out to it aloud. (Why loudly? The sound vibrations set your immune system in place). Om Mooladhara! Then take one deep breath (without a jerk) and while breathing out say Lang. Do this breathing cycle seven times uttering the mantra each time.
At the end of it utter three times: Kundalini Aarohanam! This raises the Kundalini energy from the base of the body.
Visualise the second chakra and continue in the same fashion. So on with the seven chakras.
Audio CDs are available to use along as you do the meditation. In case you find it too confusing, but still want to learn it, leave a message in the comment box along with your email or phone number and I could teach you. :D

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Sharing: A MARITAL AFFAIR

This article of mine had been published in U magazine (February 2003), of Jain Vishva Bharati Institute, Rajasthan.
To misquote Hamlet, “to tie or not to tie” is certainly the question. Our lives from adolescence to adulthood are very much weighed down by an intense preoccupation with this dilemma. Be that as it may, the only thought that everyone must unanimously agree upon is that one must seriously weigh the pros and cons before tying oneself to another being with a promise of a lifetime of togetherness! The following is an imaginary dialogue between the man from Mars and the woman from Venus…
Mr Mars: Hello Ms Venus! How do you do? You look gorgeous.
Ms Venus: I’m good, thanks. You look smart too.
Mr Mars: Hey thanks!
Ms Venus: I believe we are here to discuss the most valuable of partnerships – the marital one.
Mr Mars: Yeah, there are partnerships and there are partnerships. Equal, unequal…
Ms Venus: Exactly my point! A marriage is an equal one. Here I am not talking about equality in terms of material things. More like freedom of thought, word and action.
Mr Mars: Very correct. I agree totally with you there. But unfortunately this does include the many sacrifices that need to be made. I mean…
Ms Venus: Sacrifices? Just hold on a minute here. Just what does ‘sacrifice’ mean?
Mr Mars: The Oxford dictionary explains that ‘to sacrifice’ is ‘to give something up for the sake of something that is more valuable’, which in this case means the spouse’s happiness.
Ms Venus: Well…what kind of a spouse would expect his or her beloved one to give up something for his/her own happiness? I’m not sure that I agree with you here. No. sacrifice does not seem fair and will probably lead to a lot of trouble when you sit down to compare notes. Like when there is a difference of opinion, you would keep on pointing fingers at each other and start counting who gave up more. Or less, for that matter.
Mr Mars: Then what would you suggest? That one should never give up something for the sake of one’s spouse?
Ms Venus: I suppose I’m saying just that. Would you ask your wife to give up something she really wants in exchange that you have something for yourself?
Mr Mars: No.
Ms Venus: There you have your answer, then. So, why bring up the word at all? Something that is given out of love should not be called a sacrifice. Have you ever read the short story by O. Henry where the very young married couple go to such great lengths to buy special gifts for each other during Christmas?
Mr Mars: ‘The Gift of the Magi’. She sells her lovely long hair for a gold chain to wear on his watch. While he sells the very watch to buy tortoiseshell combs for her hair.
Ms Venus: That’s right. That’s the one. It’s a beautiful rendering of the couple’s love for one another.
Mr Mars: Wouldn’t you term what they did as great sacrifices?
Ms Venus: No, most definitely no. I’m sure they did it out of great love for each other and hence the term does not apply here at all. You probably kill a cow or a goat as a sacrifice.
Mr Mars: Hmm… I get your point.
Ms Venus: Another important thing is ‘appreciation’.
Mr Mars: You’ve caught me there. I fail to understand the necessity for this. The very act of getting married to a lady suggests that you appreciate her. Why do women feel the need to be reminded over and over again?
Ms Venus: You are a being from Mars alright!! Not able to comprehend us who are from Venus. We like to be told how good we look, how well we cook, how efficient we are at handling career, home and kids – we actually do, you know – etc. etc. etc. The list is endless.
Mr Mars: Whew! And we guys have to keep listing out your better qualities all the time.
Ms Venus: (grins) Well, may be not all the time. Then it will become a boring routine, you see. But from time to time…
Mr Mars: (loosens his collar) Thank God for small mercies!
Ms Venus: Time for a bit of honesty here. Out with it. Are you suggesting that you wouldn’t like to be appreciated now and again? After all, it’s like fertilizer to plants – just extra nourishment.
Mr Mars: (looks sheepish) Yeah, I s’pose so.
Ms Venus: There you are then.
Mr Mars: Well, what happens when we find that you do something that we don’t like at all?
Ms Venus: I am sure no force on earth will stop you from voicing your opinion. What say?
Mr Mars: (thinks hard and shrugs) I suppose so.
Ms Venus: I know so.
Mr Mars: I think truthfulness is another important factor in any relationship. Especially between a man and his wife.
Ms Venus: You bet! Truthfulness along with clear communication.
Mr Mars: Am I glad to hear that! Since you women have this wonderful habit of expecting us guys to read your minds and act accordingly. You’ll hope we will take you to Singapore while we plan to surprise you with a trip to Mahabaleshwar. You sulk with a long face while we confused men wonder where we went wrong. And all along we thought you’d love the surprise…
Ms Venus: …we expect you to give us something that is only in our minds, which you obviously cannot read. I can well understand your predicament. I promise to take care of this immediately. CLEAR COMMUNICATION! You have a very valid point there.
Mr Mars: There’s another thing of significance I would like to mention here. There is this obsession called competition. It usually starts as a small joke and before you know it, it snowballs into a demon that takes over your life.
Ms Venus: I know what you are talking about. It can start with little things like the level of education between a man and his wife and then builds up to the amount of money earned, the better friendships maintained, better way of communication and more.
Mr Mars: I wonder whether you are aware that there is a ritual in typical Tamil weddings. The use of the Nugathadi. This is a piece of bamboo that is placed by the groom over the bride’s head while placing the mangalsutra on it. It is symbolic – a bullock cart can move forward only if both the bulls walk at the same pace, in perfect co-ordination. If either one falls out of pace, the cart might overturn. A marriage is the same – an equal partnership. Both the partners have to work together in perfect synchronisation and not against each other.
Ms Venus: Both are bound to have some strengths and weaknesses. It’s makes better sense to work around them instead of playing the game of one-upmanship.
Mr Mars: Exactly my sentiments!
Ms Venus: A small amount of patience and perseverance go a long way in making any marriage an ideal one, wouldn’t you say? Correct me if I am wrong. But I am not able to stop comparing the marital relationships of today to the fairy tale Jack and the Beanstalk. People seem to expect a full-grown tree the morning after the seeds are sown. Ooops! No pun intended. Come on, how’s such a thing possible? Maybe the next time we read the Eco-friendly message, Plant a tree, we should do just that. It is not just a message to improve the ecology but also to perk up the environment at home. A marriage definitely needs nourishment, care and a lot of perseverance to allow it to grow well. Nurturing a tree is bound to drive the point home.
Mr Mars: I concur with you absolutely. An attempt at seeing the other person’s point of view would be ideal. Should be able to feel pity for the other.
Ms Venus: Pity? Wouldn’t you say that pity would rob anyone of one’s dignity and self-esteem? Let’s say compassion. That sounds more like it. Compassion for the other’s way of thinking. This should create a harmonious atmosphere in the household, which should be excellent for maintaining a long-term pleasant relationship between a couple. And I am not talking about a colourless existence here, Mr Mars. A healthy quarrel many a time helps clear the air. And then there is the making up, of course. (winks)
Mr Mars: Spoken like a typical woman. But I do understand the twisted logic behind it… I think.
Ms Venus: Hey, is it possible to live and let live in a partnership? A marriage should not be a jail. Both should have the liberty to do what makes them happy – while taking into consideration that the other is not inconvenienced too much.
Mr Mars: Now what would you mean by ‘inconvenience’, Ms Venus? (tongue in cheek) I am quaking in my shoes.
Ms Venus: Mr Mars…
Mr Mars: (laughs) I was joking, of course. I am sure the couple can decide this as and how it suits either of them. This is not a matter on which you can pass a legislation. And talking of free will, I am reminded of a saying by Dorothy Parker – “Love is like quicksilver in the hand. Leave the fingers open and it stays. Clutch it and it darts away.”
Ms Venus: Hey, that’s lovely and so very true.
Mr Mars: The bottom line is to be happy. Follow your heart and things should be fine.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Recipe: SAMBAR RICE


It is definitely a bit more exotic than the title makes it sound. And pretty simple to make too. It tastes yummy! You can either have it with fried pappadams or raita. :)

Ingredients:

Rice – 1 cup
Tur Dal – 2/3 cup
Tamarind – 1 small ball the size of a lemon
Onion – 1 (chopped)
Tomato – 1 (chopped - you can use 250 gm of sambar onions skinned as an alternative)
Rai – 1 tsp
Curry leaves (kadipatta) – a few
Oil – 3 tsp
Ghee – 1 tsp
Salt and haldi to taste

Masala:

Channa Dal – 3 tsp
Dhania – 3 tsp
Methi seeds – ½ tsp
Red chillies – 6
Black pepper – ½ tsp
Grated coconut - 4 tbsp

Optional:

Yellow pumpkin – 200 gm (cut into cubes)
Sweet potato – 100 gm (cut into cubes)
Drumstick – 1 (cut into 2 inch pieces)
Radish – (skinned and cut into round slices)
Peas – 200 gm (shelled)
Carrots – 1 (cut into cubes)
Beans – 50 gms (stringed and cut into ½ inch pieces)

Method:

Step 1: Cook rice and tur dal together in the pressure cooker with a cup of extra water than usually used.
Step 2: Squeeze tamarind with water and remove about 2-3 cups of tamarind water.
Step 3: Shallow fry the items for masala to a golden brown. Add the items one by one to the oil in the following order: channa dal, dhania, black pepper, methi seeds, red chillies and coconut. Please ensure that nothing turns black.
Step 4: In a saucepan, heat 2 spoons of oil and add onions and fry till gold in colour. Add tomatoes and then the tamarind water. You can add any or all of the optional vegetables as per your own choice. Then add salt and haldi to this mixture and allow it to boil for 10-12 minutes on medium flame.
Step 5: Grind the now cooled masala mixture into a smooth paste.
Step 6: Add this to the tamarind and vegetable mix and continue to stir so that the masala does not form lumps. Allow this to boil for about 3 minutes. This is the sambar mixture.
Step 7: Add the spoon of ghee to the cooked rice and dal and pour the sambar mixture on to it and mix gently. Or the rice and dal will become a paste. After mixing completely, keep the pressure cooker on the gas and cook for a couple of minutes without covering.
Step 8: Garnish with coriander leaves and season with rai, kadipatta and your sambar rice is ready to eat.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Spirituality: ACCEPTANCE


From whichever part of the globe we are, there is one thing common to all of us – connecting to the Creator. There may be a small percentage of people who are atheists. But most of them probably belong to the category that says, “Thank God there is no God!”
Wherever your turn, there is no escaping God. Believe me, that is no threat, unless you are thinking in terms of a punishing God. Then again, a punishing God is only a part of one’s imagination. God is Love! He or She – however you perceive the Almighty – has only love for their creations – that is us. A loving parent will never seriously punish his or her child. Then why should God do that?
First of all, we must learn to relate to the concept that God loves us for whatever we are. This again, is absolutely logical as we are but His creations. There is absolutely no reason why he will not accept us. This will take us to the next step – to accept ourselves for what we are.
But to do this is to be aware of what we are. We might declare anything to the outside world. But deep within us, we know very well the truth about ourselves. Are we ready to face it?
Why not? All along, we did not want to face our darker sides only because we thought we might be punished for it. But now we know that God does not punish and He has already accepted us for what we are. So why not face the truths about ourselves?

• We speak truth 98% of the time. But there is that 2% where we lie to save our skins. There is no need to report this to another soul. Just admit the fact to yourself.
• We may have taken something that does not belong to us – some time or other in our lives. That does not make us thieves. But then again, let’s remember when condemning others.
• Jealousy is one emotion one never likes to be associated with. But the truth is that we do feel jealous when some other person has something that we have been craving for. Let’s admit it to ourselves. Remember, this does not in any way make us bad.
• We have hurt a number of people – by thought, word or deed. Admitting this to ourselves heals relationships tremendously. We need not even go to those people and admit to our faults – kind of dig up ghosts that have supposedly been laid to rest. Just be aware and ask for forgiveness mentally.
• Greed and covetousness are considered bad. True! But that has not necessarily stopped us from having those feelings. We may not have done anything to harm anyone. But the feelings are there. They just refuse to go away. Just be aware.

The list goes on. These are but a few examples that I am citing here. Please understand that there is absolutely no need to feel guilty or hide your feelings when you have these emotions. These are but natural. We are not aware as we have always suppressed them as we have been told that these feelings are WRONG. Forget the Right and Wrong. That is for the Almighty to set right. We as human beings can only know what we feel and be AWARE.
Whenever you get to know about someone’s success or hear something not-so-great about yourself, a lot of negative feelings might spring forth. Just be aware of these on a daily basis.
This exercise will soon cleanse you and leave you only with those feelings that are required to lead your lives in peace. A few weeks into it might invoke the Creativity within you and you might even discover a well-hidden talent, much to your pleasant surprise.
I speak out of personal experience. My talent to write was negligible till ten years ago. I could never string two sentences together. Today, I am able to put together articles, short stories, novels, etc. all thanks to this exercise that connects me to my Creator totally. :D

Recipe: CAPSICUM-MACARONI IN GRAVY

Disclaimer: This is not my original creation. I tasted this dish somewhere and worked my own recipe out of it. Tried and tasted :)

To be had as a side dish with rotis or naan.

Ingredients:
Capsicum – ½ Kg (cut into 1 cm squares)
Macaroni – ½ Packet (about 100 gm)
Oil – 2-3 tsp
Cumin seeds (जीरा / ஜீரகம்) – ½ tsp
Salt / Chilli powder / Turmeric powder (हल्दी / மஞ்சபொடி) / Sugar – all to taste
Coriander leaves for garnishing.

Ingredients for gravy:
Onions – 2 (Big)
Tomatoes – 2 (Big)
Green chillies – 2
Ginger – one small piece
Garlic – 4 cloves
Aniseed (सौंफ / சோம்பு) – ½ tsp
Cloves (लवंग / கிராம்பு) – 3
Cinnamon Bar (दालचीनी / லவங்க பட்டை) – one small piece
Cardamom (एलैची / ஏலக்காய்) – 1
Coriander seeds (सुक्का धनिया / கொத்தமல்லி விதை) – ½ tsp
Cumin seeds (जीरा / ஜீரகம்) – ½ tsp

Method:
Step 1: Boil water and add a spoon of oil to it. Add the macaroni and cook it well before draining the water thoroughly.
Step 2: Add water to the gravy ingredients and grind to a smooth paste.
Step 3: Take a saucepan (कडाई / வாணலி) – non-stick preferred – and add two spoons of oil to it. After heating, add cumin seeds and when it crackles add the capsicum. Keep the flame low and cook the capsicum without covering the saucepan. (NOTE: Covering the saucepan will make the capsicum soggy). Add salt, turmeric and chilli powder. Stir from time to time.
Step 4: When the capsicum is half cooked, add the boiled macaroni. It is quite possible that the macaroni pieces are stuck with each other. Just separate them gently so that they do not break into smaller pieces. Mix well.
Step 5: Add the ground gravy mixture and boil the whole thing on a low flame for 5-7 minutes. Add a spoon or two of sugar for flavour.
Step 6: Garnish with chopped coriander leaves.
Step 7 (Optional – do this only if you want to add to your weight): Garnish with grated cheese before serving hot.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Health: SURYA NAMASKAR

In the picture: Between posture 5 & 6 there is one where you lie flat on your front - it is 13 postures including that. :)

Day after day, week after week, month after month – we go on and on at working hard and playing harder. We never take into consideration the wear and tear on our bodies. When we are young, we somehow manage. But as age creeps in and the hectic schedules begin to take a toll, most of us turn towards popping pills – to sleep, for strength, for energy, etc. But do we know if these are actually working or improving our systems or are just giving us momentary relief? A simple solution to relax your body is the Surya Namaskar. Please understand and believe it is not as complicated as one is led to believe. It is quite simple, actually. This is consolidated Yoga at its best set in 13 postures where your body is stretched to its limit and then relaxed. No, it is not as difficult as it sounds. When you stretch and relax your body – your body, mind and spirit relax. You can learn Surya Namaskar at any local Yoga class or from an instructor who can go home to you. I actually got a book on Yoga that had pictures and learnt the art. You get the optimum energy from Surya Namaskar when you do it before 12 noon facing in the direction of the Sun, in the open air, 12 cycles of 13 postures.Then again, all this might not be possible. To begin with, do one cycle of 13 postures at any time of day, inside your house, preferably facing east if it is before 12 noon or facing west after that. The only condition to be followed it that you ensure that your stomach is not too full.After a week, you can increase this to 3 cycles and then so on as per your convenience. If you do the Surya Namaskar correctly, you SHOULD NOT feel any ache or pain in your body even the first time. After two or three days, you will see that you are sleeping much better than usual. Whether it is five hours or more, your sleep will be undisturbed.After crossing 30, one begins to feel the jerks and pains while travelling by auto-rickshaws and low-slung cars. After a few days of Surya Namaskar, the pain will just disappear. Believe me, I am speaking from personal experience.Usually, in any form of exercise, women are asked to avoid doing them during their menstrual periods. This does not apply to Surya Namaskar. Do one to three cycles of Surya Namaskar during your periods and the pain in the abdominal region that occurs on Day One or Day Three (may be different days in everyone’s cases – this used to be the case for me) will never occur again.

Surya Namaskar not only heals your muscles. It also helps heal your internal organs by improving the flow of blood and increasing the activity of white blood corpuscles and improving the body’s immune system. Doing 12 Surya Namaskars of 13 postures each will take but half an hour of your time. Doing it seven days a week will help you lead a healthier life much longer.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Film Review: KAMBAKKHT ISHQ


Cast: Akshay Kumar, Akshay Kumar, Akshay Kumar, Kareena Kapoor, Aftab Shivdasani, Amrita Arora, Sylvester Stallone, Denise Richards, Javed Jaffrey, Kirron Kher, Boman Irani
Director: Sabbir Khan
What Kambakkht Ishq is all about: Viraj (Akshay Kumar) is a stuntman in Hollywood and is a regular stud. His brother Lucky (Aftab Shivdasani) gets married to Kamini (Amrita Arora) much to her friend Simrita’s (Kareena Kapoor) disgust. Viraj does not approve of Lucky’s wedding either. He believes in the motto ‘love them and leave them’. The rest of the film is about the sparks flying between Viraj and Simrita. You need not exactly watch this Bollywood flick to find out whether they get together.
What we liked about Kambakkht Ishq: Akshay gets hotter and better as he gets older. The stunt scenes that he is taking part in have been shot excellently. And the actor has done very well. Comedy, emotion, flirting, whatever – Akshay walks through with total ease.
What we did not like about Kambakht Ishq: The first thing that caught my attention is that the film is a straight rip-off from Kamal Haasan’s Tamil film Pammal K. Sambandam. I only wish that the comedy was as good, but no such luck. Taking a basic outline and working a new story around it is even understandable. But the whole story is a copy.
Kareena – well, the actress looks HOT! But besides that even as she has performed her role well, she is just too intense. Subtlety is definitely not her forte.
Javed Jaffrey has two and a half scenes and he has performed very well. They could have definitely made better use of him. Boman Irani is in a ‘blink and miss’ role. What’s happening? I can’t but recall Akshay Kumar and his editing scissors – may be they are not a joke after all. Again, Kirron Kher – such a versatile actress as she has proved over and over again – is in such a small role that has no impact at all. It gives her no chance to test her acting skills. Just anybody could have done an Aunt Dolly. Come on, this is Kirron Kher – what a waste!
If you want to go ‘gaga’ over Hollywood, the Star Walk of Fame, Beverly Hills, etc. this may not be the film for you. They show very small glimpses of these. There is one award function for stunt actors and the scenes showing the Hollywood stars are obvious video shots from Oscars and other award shows. I only wish they had taken shots from older award functions as Angelina Jolie’s huge emerald earrings from the latest Oscars are still to be erased from people’s memories.
Sylvester Stallone looks old, ugly and sags all over. I don’t understand what the excitement is all about. Denise Richards also looks too old and not quite second heroine material. Makes one wonder whether these Hollywood one-time biggies paid to be a part of this Bollywood flick.
The Censor Board has become quite lax or had gone to sleep while certifying this film. The amount of bad language used is tremendous – bitch, bastard, balls, etc. We still watch late night TV shows with words lesser than this silenced.
Verdict: If you are an Akshay Kumar fan, go for it.
Rating: **

* Silly
** Shaky
*** Smart
**** Snazzy
***** Super

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Health: LEMON & WATER


Three to four glasses of lemon and hot/warm water would work wonders in anyone’s system. Take a tall glass of warm to hot water and squeeze half a lemon into it and drink it up three to four times in a day.
You can begin with one glass first thing in the morning – you can forget constipation if you ever had the problem in just a couple of days. There are absolutely no restrictions as to what to drink or eat during the day. Just continue taking a few more glasses of hot lemon water and see the difference it can bring to you.
Your digestive system begins to work perfectly. Your metabolism will improve tremendously. Your skin begins to glow after a few days.
Any type of food that you eat – carbohydrates, proteins, minerals, etc – the excess is always stored as fat in your system. The hormone that keeps this in check is LEPTIN. We are all aware of INSULLIN that keeps track of the sugar in our system. But very few of us know about LEPTIN.
This hormone’s job is to keep track of the food (mainly fat) balance in our body. If it is functioning correctly, the moment we consume the right amount of food, the message will reach our brain and we will stop eating. But this is very rarely the case. Many of us tend to eat more than what our body needs. And thus the excess fat.
The combination of lemon and warm water breaks up the almost dissoluble fat molecules in our body and uses them up for energy. The result is that we tend to eat less or rather we go on to eat only what the body needs and no more.
While doing this, this wonder drink also breaks up our daily fat consumption and chucks it out of our system – at least the excess that the body does not need.
The most important thing to this is – there are no harmful side effects.
Remember: no sugar, no salt and no honey – just lemon and hot/warm water.