A Case for Homemade Alcohol in Kerala

I am pretty sure my dear readers are well aware of the political situation regarding availability of alcohol in Kerala, my home state. Considered one of the prominent states in India with regards to consumption of alcohol, Keralites have been criticized even by the former President of India who said that Kerala is submerged in liquor. But I am tempted to ask – are things so bad in Kerala?

Some Statistics

According to the World Health Organization census of 2010, India is not even on the top 100 highest drinking nations. If I counted the list right, India ranks 118th which is in no way a bad thing especially by the fact that India is the second most populous country in the world. Now what is the status of Kerala? According to the National Sample Survey Office, Kerala ranks 18th in the consumption of alcohol and other habit forming substances. A state ranked 18th in a country that is ranked 118th globally statistically adds up to nothing in the grand scheme of things. I think more reforms should happen in states like Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Arunachal Pradesh than here.

The Sad State of Affairs

From the lessons we learned from statistics, it is clear that most of the issues that the media and the government is painting for us follows the Malayalam phrase – ഊതി പെരുപ്പിക്കൽ (Oothi Perupikkal) which means “blowing out of proportion”. For little or no reason this subject is brought up in the news to create some kind of a sensationalism to push forward an agenda. And the last time I checked, it has not done anyone any good. I will give a few examples:

  • The Dry Day Nonsense – “Dry Day” is a day that is observed with total abstinence from liquor. Theoretically it should mean no one consumes liquor on that particular day. But is it working? For the past few years Kerala has been observing “Dry Day” on the 1st of every month. That’s great but one should note that the clever people here buy and stock their required alcohol on the previous day itself. Recently a new “Dry Day” has been imposed on Sundays. Has that changed anything? Absolutely not. People are buying and stocking on Saturdays. So what is this game that the government is playing? Creating an impression that it is doing something and in effect doing nothing!
  • Capitalizing on a Non-Issue – Till date I haven’t understood what the anti-alcohol fellows really want. Last day I heard in the news that tourists are coming to Kerala not for drinking but for sight seeing. That may be true, but how many tourist spots are there across the world where alcohol is banned? Not many I guess. I will let the readers Google that for me. Banning liquor altogether or restricting it in unrealistic ways is going to adversely affect the tourism in Kerala which is an excellent source of revenue for the state. The curious aspect of this problem is that a total ban is not going to be implemented in many five star hotels. So what is going on here? Banning the local bars and liquor shops but letting the big fishes run does not seem fair and proper. It looks more like a sinister agenda which the government is liable to explain.
  • Accidents and Crimes – Most people site accidents and rising crime levels on alcohol consumption. I am not sure whether that correlation is correct. Crimes take place due to several factors most of which are poverty, competition, disputes, intolerance, ignorance and plain hatred. Alcohol may aggravate these situations and tendencies but that is not the only factor. A violent and evil person will commit a crime even if he/she is not intoxicated. And is alcohol the only intoxicant? These days even young students in schools are coming up with increasingly fancy methods to intoxicate themselves (including smelling the paper correction liquid) thereby coming under the influence of anti-social elements. Next is the possibility of accidents. For that all I can say is that even sober people cannot drive properly in the roads of Kerala let alone an intoxicated one. I think if the government moves forward with reforms in constructing better roads than wasting time on non-issues, we will have lesser road accidents, drunken or otherwise.

Considering the sad state of affairs, what can be done so that both people and the government are happy?

An Elegant Solution

This is where the requirement of brewing and distilling at home becomes important. There are several countries where brewing and distilling at home is permitted and I think the people of Kerala should adopt that practice and the government should allow the same by making it legal. Of course it should be restricted to only personal use as it is done in the countries where it is legal. It is not only an elegant solution but I think it is the only solution in our current circumstances. The following are some of the advantages of brewing liquor at home:

  • Regulated Drinking – A proper liquor requires time and effort from inception to consumption. It can span from a few days to several years depending on the type of liquor being produced. With all the efforts involved in producing good quality liquor from brewing to distilling to aging in wooden barrels, the producers won’t feel like doing binge drinking which is touted up as a major problem in the state. In fact the person will start respecting his health more and will drink only within the healthy limits as is done in most countries known for drinking.
  • Understanding Scientific Method – An educated person knows that knowledge of chemistry can improve the quality of medicines, food and of course liquor. Creating a better brew will push the person to learn more about the chemistry behind the processes involved thereby giving him a deeper understanding and insights into science. From setting up the apparatus to monitoring progress to making notes about changes and patterns are all part of scientific method and liquor brewing is a fantastic hobby to inspire scientific thinking.
  • Quality at Low Cost – Taxation on liquor is seriously a big problem. And is the liquor sold in Kerala worth the money spent? Certainly not! The “Indian Made Foreign Liquor” is one of the most idiotic liquids I have ever consumed. It tastes bad to say the least and has all sorts of additives that creates the feeling “Why on Earth did I even drink it?” So why bother spending all that money on something which is nothing more than flavor mixed spirit? Buying an imported liquor is not possible for many people. But if they can follow the exact procedure in producing imported liquor at the comfort of their homes, they can have the quality that they desire at a much lower cost. Further, the creative hobby of homebrewing and distilling also lets people customize the process to produce the flavor and feel that they like the most.
  • Solving a Paradox – Wine which contains alcohol anywhere from 8% to 20% is allowed to be made at home. Beer which has only 5% to 6% alcohol is not allowed. That makes no sense. Why can’t I make beer at home when I can make wine?

If government wants to forfeit their revenue made from liquor that is fine with me. But please let people make their own stuff for their own personal use. Even if the government implements a total ban, what is the guarantee that there won’t be an illegal inflow of liquor from outside?

A Caveat

I believe my point has been made clear. Some information I have given in this article are referenced whereas others are my own assumptions and inferences and should be taken as such. But the readers should not misunderstand me. I neither endorse alcoholism nor intend to promote drinking habits among any person from any place in any form. Further, this article should not be taken as a motivation to produce alcohol without permission. Drinking like any other habits should be restricted to people who have attained the age to make their own choices and decisions. However, I couldn’t help but point out the seemingly nonsensical ways by which the current government is creating an issue just to show that they are doing something.

References

Naadan Chilli Chicken Recipe

You may call it Naadan  or Country chilly chicken or whatever you want but it is one of the tastiest versions of Chilli Chicken I have ever had, thanks to a famous chef who described the dish to us and my parents whose exceptional culinary skills inspired me to learn cooking. This version is different in its preparation and the exquisite taste that it derives out of it. Without further ado, let me get on with the materials required.

Requirements:

  1. Chicken, cut in small pieces – 500 gm
  2. Green chilli, cut along its length – 8
  3. Ginger, cut in very small pieces – 2 table spoons
  4. Garlic, cut in small pieces – 2 table spoons
  5. Vattal Mulaku (Refer: Capsicum annuum),  ground into paste after boiling in vinegar – half a cup
  6. Refined oil – half a cup
  7. Tomatoes, cut in small pieces – 1 cup
  8. Capsicum, cut in pices – half a cup
  9. Salt – to taste
  10. Onion – cut in cubical pieces – 1 cup
  11. Water – half a cup

Preparation:

  1. Shallow fry the chicken pieces after applying salt and red chilly powder
  2. On a hot pan, add half cup refined oil and saute the ginger and garlic along with onion and green chilli
  3. Add Vattal Mulaku paste and salt to this mixture along with the half cup water and stir for a couple of minutes
  4. Add the fried chicken and tomato and close the pan for 10 minutes
  5. Add the capsicum and turn off the flame.

The particular aspect of this chilli chicken preparation is that it does not use any artificial color. The red color of this dish comes from the paste that we prepare after boiling the Vattal Mulaku in vinegar and grinding it into a paste. Some people fry the chicken after chilling it from 2 to 24 hours. I don’t suggest that because even otherwise the dish is perfect. It is better to serve this chilly chicken dish with bread. You may try it exactly the same way as described here or make your own modifications. Let me know your feedback.

Uzbek Plov Recipe

Uzbek Plov or Pilaf or Osh

The Uzbek Plov also known as Pilaf or Osh is an exceptionally delicious style of biryani from Uzbekistan. Widely claimed to be Stalin’s favourite dish, this rice and mutton based recipe from Uzbekistan is easier to prepare compared to other conventional biryanis. It can be prepared as follows:

Materials Required

  • Lamb Meat cut in squares (preferably of a fat lamb) – 0.5 to 1 kg
  • 2 – 3 cup Basmati Rice (or Uzbek Rice)
  • 3 – 4 big carrots cut in very small pieces
  • 2 Onions cut in medium pieces
  • 5 Green chilly cut in small pices
  • Vegetable Oil
  • 4 – 5 garlic with skin
  • Salt – 2.5 teaspoon
  • Black Pepper powder – 1 teaspoon
  • Other spices if necessary (cinnamon, clove etc.) – 1 teaspoon
  • Coriander powder – 2 teaspoon
  • Coriander Leaves

Preparation:

Uzbek Plov or Pilaf or Osh

This dish is to be prepared in good flame in the beginning and hence the vessel you use must have a thick bottom. This ensures that the meat doesn’t get charred.

  • Wash the basmati rice and keep it soaked in lukewarm water before you start the preparation.
  • Pour the vegetable oil in the main vessel and wait until it gets heated.
  • Once the oil gets heated up, add the mutton pieces and fry them until they become light brown.
  • Add the onion, carrot and green chilly to this and mix them until the the onion turns golden brown.
  • Add salt, pepper powder and other spices that you have selected and continue to mix. You can reduce the flame at this stage.
  • Spread the mixture evenly. Filter out the water and add the rice to this mixture. Make sure that the rice completely covers the mutton, carrot and onion mixture. You should stop mixing at this stage.
  • Pour water to this without disturbing the rice distribution. The water should completely submerge the rice.
  • Once the water starts boiling, close the the lid. Reduce the flame further.
  • Wait for 10 minutes and check whether the water has been absorbed into the rice.
  • Place the garlic pieces on top of the rice.
  • If the rice hasn’t got cooked at this stage, create a small opening at the center of the mixture and add water there without disturbing the structure.
  • Close the lid and wait for another 10 minutes.
  • Repeat this process until the rice is cooked.
  • Turn off the flame and keep the vessel undisturbed for 30 minutes.

You can add coriander leaves after 30 minutes and mix the dish well. When adding water the second time, be sparing in the quantity used because you should not overcook the rice.

Uzbek Plov or Pilaf or OshYour Uzbek Plov is now ready. You can use Yougurt Kachumber as a side dish. What makes the taste so exquisite is the lamb fat. The mutton gets fried both in the vegetable oil and the fat that comes out of the meat. The first time I prepared this, it didn’t come right. So don’t be disheartened. Try again and you will be fine. The day I saw this recipe in the newspaper, things were a mess but I learned from my mistakes and so should you. This recipe has one extra ingredient, which is green chilly but trust me, it makes the dish amazing. Let me know your feedback!

Fish Fort Cochin Recipe

Fish Fort Cochin or Fish Fort Kochi is a delicious recipe for people who love experimenting with fish curry. We heard about this dish two years ago when my dad met someone from Fort Kochi who detailed how to concoct this incredibly tasty curry. The original name of this dish is unknown but we started calling it Fish Fort Kochi. Here is how you can prepare it:

Ingredients

1. Fish, cut in medium sized pieces (any fleshy fish would do) – 1 kg
2. Peeled and crushed garlic – 1 handful (small hand)
3. Crushed Ginger – 1 (3 inches long)
4. Green Chilly – 10 (cut into small pieces)
5. Tomato – 1 (big, cut into small pieces)
6. Kudampuli (Gambooge) – 1 (big, cut into pieces)
7. Chilly powder – 4 teaspoons
8. Coriander powder – 2 teaspoons
9. Turmeric powder – 1/4 teaspoons
10. Coconut oil – 3 tablespoons
11. Clay pot

Preparation

1. Apply turmeric over the fish nicely and keep it aside
2. Heat the oil in the clay pot until it boils and add the ginger, garlic and green chilly and cook until golden brown
3. Add tomato to this mixture and stir for 5 minutes
4. Add chilly powder and coriander powder and stir slightly for 5 more minutes
5. Add water in stages in small quantities. Make sure that the gravy is in paste form and never gets too fluid. Stir continuously.
6. Add salt and kudampuli and once the gravy starts boiling add the fish
7. One the fish starts heating up in the boiling gravy, reduce the flame
8. Stir the center of the clay pot so that the gravy doesn’t burn and stick on it
9. Once most of the water boils away, stop the flame and let it cool

Special Instructions

It is preferable to eat this preparation after it has cooled. If you can wait for a day, better. The specialty of this curry is that it doesn’t use onion at all. Be careful not to add onion even by mistake. If you are keeping it for a day, do not take it off the clay pot. It is advisable to use ginger and garlic in their natural form instead of buying the paste.

Enjoy the dish and Let me know your feedback.

The Ever-Changing Facebook

The only thing constant in this world is change or so goes the maxim. As recent events would indicate, there is no more ardent a follower of this maxim than Mr. Zuckerberg and his baby, Facebook. Beginning sometime in September of this year, Facebook has inundated its users with a deluge of changes, most of which are as welcome as cockroaches in your kitchen. Infact, I’ve yet to come across a single user who has had one good complimentary thing to say about them. Be it bloggers or journalists or my friends, they’re all equally resistant to these constant amendments. Zuckerberg’s mantra is that people ought to share more and more with their friends. As he himself says, “The amount of information people share online is increasing on an exponential curve, like a social version of Moore’s Law.” (Newman 2011)

Keeping in line with this mantra, Facebook has, in the past couple of months or so, introduced the News ticker which provides you second to second update about each and every activity of each and everyone of your friends, irrespective of your need to know. Infact, the ticker effectively makes a mockery of the concept of privacy. Every link or page you like, every conversation you’ve, every comment you make, every article you read, every song you listen to, there’s nothing that’s not in the public domain. Whether you like it or not, all your friends absolutely have to know every activity you indulge in. My question is: what if there’s a comment I wish to leave on a friend’s post that has nothing to do with our non-mutual friends or something I like that I don’t wish to advertise? Is Facebook telling me that the only way I can have a private conversation is through its messaging service?

Oh yeah, the messaging service. Ever since the incessant changes began, Facebook’s messenger has increasingly become a sham. Your friends can often be online but you can’t see them. They can be messaging you but you won’t be receiving their messages. Infact, you’re often subjected to a default message from Facebook: “Facebook chat is experiencing technical difficulties.” I suppose I’m glad that atleast they realize it. Then there’s the obscure “Other” folder. Introduced in November, 2010 as part of their “Social Inbox” feature, its aim is to filter friends’ messages from those of strangers’. However, in typical Facebook fashion, it’s users weren’t even made aware of its existence. Infact, in an article I happened to come along on www.slate.com, Elizabeth Weingarten elucidates how she suffered at the hands of Facebook’s vagaries when she forgot her laptop in a New York City cab. (Weingarten 2011) The gentleman who found her laptop had sent her 4 messages regarding her laptop but because the poor lady didn’t know of the existence of the aforementioned folder, she missed those very important messages and ended up buying a new laptop. For those of you interested in the article, the link is provided as a footnote below.

My biggest gripe at present is my friends’ list. I know for a fact that as of this moment I’ve a total of 221 friends. Yet for reasons known only to Facebook the total number of friends is always exactly one less than my actual number of friends. Infact a couple of days ago there were the number was 2 less friends which then rectified to the actual number of friends and is now back to being one less. And yet when I navigate through my friends’ list I happen to see all of them there. Where does the discrepancy arise from then? I guess it’s futile to question Facebook about it. Also, since the changes have begun there’s often a definite delay as to when we receive notifications. A friend could like my post right now but I won’t know about it till later, sometimes for as long as an hour. Delays also often occur while updating your status. I’ve faced numerous instances of updating my status but it not being visible either on my profile or on the news feed or both until hours later. Quite a few of my friends have experienced it too.

And it’s even more pronounced with Facebook’s new feature, Timeline. Introduced in September, Zuckerberg described it as “the new Facebook feature as all your stories, all your apps and a new way to express who you are.” (Gayomali 2011) Initially introduced as an optional feature, it’s now been officially introduced to all Facebook users beginning 15th December, 2011. We can switch over to it right away or wait for some sort of an announcement to appear on our profile some time soon. One can also refuse to switch to Timeline until it’s inevitably and automatically done by Facebook with you having little say in the matter. If upgraded to now, one is given a 7 day window within which to preview the new format and make any necessary changes, including tweaking your privacy settings if need be.

This is how Facebook describes it in its blog: “When you upgrade to timeline, you’ll have seven days to review everything that appears on your timeline before anyone else can see it. You can also choose to publish your timeline at any time during the review period. If you decide to wait, your timeline will go live automatically after seven days. Your new timeline will replace your profile, but all your stories and photos will still be there. If you want to see how your timeline appears to other people, click the gear menu at the top of your timeline, and select “View As.” You can choose to see how your timeline appears to a specific friend or the public.” (Aamoth 2011)

While timeline intends to be cooler and easier to navigate through, the intial reviews have been exactly the opposite. Two of my friends who had switched over to it right at its inception in September, have variously termed it as “another over-hyped Facebook feature” or complained about the fact that navigation is actually tougher now than before. How ironic considering Facebook’s apparent intention is the exact opposite. As stated above, there are problems with status updates often being delayed as well. I only switched over to it yesterday and contrary to Facebook’s expectation, I’m hardly impressed with it. I’m yet to figure out what the big deal about it is and as to what was wrong with the earlier beta version to necessitate such a massive change. And what’s more I’ve already faced a problem with a status update within just 24 hours of switching over. I posted a BBC news item and while it’s visible on the news feed and also as part of the recent activity log, but I’m yet to see it on my Timeline. Of course, it could be some perverse Facebook logic that prevents such updates from appearing on your Timeline. As we well know by now, anything is possible with Facebook.

At the end of the day, while changes are a good thing, changing something that seems to work absolutely fine can often be a putting off experience. All these constant changes and the attendant navigation and functional problems associated with them can actually turn even the most ardent addicts away. Already there are enough reports of decreased Facebook usage because most people seemed to have reached a saturation point. Does Mark Zuckerberg really wish to lose them all? Yes, we all have established networks on Facebook and are reluctant not only to switch over to new social networks but also to completely stop using Facebook. But as we well know taking your users and their interests for granted is often a dangerous and self-defeating business strategy. Does Zuckerberg really want to risk it all?

References

  • Aamoth, D. Facebook Makes New ‘Timeline’ Design Available to Everyone. Dec 15, 2011. http://techland.time.com/2011/12/15/facebook-makes-new-timeline-design-available-to-everyone/ (accessed Dec 16, 2011).
  • Gayomali, C. Facebook Introduces ‘Timeline’: The ‘Story’ of Your Life. Sep 22, 2011. http://techland.time.com/2011/09/22/facebook-introduces-timeline-the-story-of-your-life/ (accessed Dec 16, 2011).
  • Ho, E. Screenshot Tour of Facebook’s New ‘Timeline’ Interface. Sep 23, 2011. http://techland.time.com/2011/09/23/screenshot-tour-of-facebooks-new-timeline-interface/ (accessed Dec 16, 2011).
  • Newman, J. Reveal More, Consume More: Facebook’s Big Changes. Sep 22, 2011. http://techland.time.com/2011/09/22/reveal-more-consume-more-facebooks-big-changes/ (accessed Dec 16, 2011).
  • Wagstaff, K. Are You Ready for Facebook Timeline? Nov 18, 2011. http://techland.time.com/2011/11/18/are-you-ready-for-facebook-timeline/ (accessed Dec 16, 2011).
  • Weingarten, E. Furious at Facebook Again! Dec 9, 2011. http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2011/12/facebook_s_other_messages_mail_you_are_probably_missing.html (accessed Dec 13, 2011).

The Clove Reaction – How I quit smoking!

A Smoking Lady

One of the most widely spread and nasty habits in the world, smoking claims millions every year. There are of course smokers who manage to survive for a very long time, but they have other factors in their favour like diet, exercise etc and as the saying goes, “exceptions don’t make the rule”. For all other people, smoking is a sure passport to the grave. This post is the interesting story of how I managed to quit smoking against my will. But now I have no regrets and if this story does save lives,  I would be much too happy to hear about it.

A typical smoker is often “initiated” into this habit by a fellow mate. In my case, it was a colleague during one of our training sessions. The brand was Wills Navy Cut. I remember the first experience of tobacco rich smoke going down through my larynx. It was a burning sensation when I dragged that first puff.

Marlboro

There was a couple of initiation processes like that in the subsequent days by many others as well. However, I did not get much into that habit. I tried other brands, like Marlboro Lights and Kings, Gold Flake Filter, Lights and Kings, which are the favourite in Chennai. Anyway, I found that I was allergic to the mixture of smoke and saliva that finds its way into the stomach while we smoke. This was particularly true when we had tea or soft drinks along with cigarette, as is the common practice. After a few months of non-habitual smoking, I took up the habit seriously and started smoking in every break at work. There was even a “cool factor” associated with it since most of my colleagues, managers and people high up in the ladder had this annoying habit. It was very easy to build rapport with even the senior program manager if he was a smoker. You just need to ask for a light when you see them smoking and start the conversation.

Wills Navy Cut Ad

The “Made for each other” ad of Wills Navy Cut

Navy Cut continued to be my brand until people started warning me against it. They said that, when you go to the cancer centre, there is a board hanging outside that says, “Wills smokers are not allowed”. Though I never visited the cancer centre, I bought into the story and switched to Kings as did many other people. Kings was smoother and there was some sort of “pride” when I smoked it.

Smoker Lungs X-Ray

A smoker’s lungs X-Ray showing the oval black spot I described

It went on for a couple of years until I became a trainer/mentor. I had plenty of time then and the number of times I smoked also increased. During that period, I had a weight loss issue and the doctor asked me to get an X-Ray of lungs in addition to other tests. The lung X-Ray had a black oval spot in it and I was scared as to what it was. The doctor however told that it was just gas since the spot was below the lung area.

Gudang Garam

Gudang Garam

Anyway, my parents were scared and asked me to quit the habit. I on the other hand did not care much. The summer of 2009 went by with loads fun and smoking sessions. I was loving being a trainer. The rains started at the end of summer and it was a morning during 1 AM shift. The sun was just coming up and a rain had just finished. Both me and my friend had cold and we needed some warming up. He asked for Gudang Garam instead of Kings at the shop. I asked what was special about it and he lent me a couple of puffs. It is an Indonesian brand and was really cool. It contained clove along with tobacco.

Djarum Black

From that moment onwards, the brand was Gudang Garam. A couple of months later I switched to Djarum Black which was another famous (infamous?) clove based cigarette. People used to ask me what was this black thing that I was smoking. One day a lady smoker friend of mine said that I do not know how to smoke strong brands and that is why I smoke these kind of stuff. I wanted to prove her wrong and switched back to kings. But alas! The unthinkable happened while I was smoking at home. I vomited. The old allergy to the smoke and saliva mixture returned. This time the allergy was very severe. Whenever I smoked, I felt nauseated and vomited when I swallowed the saliva. It was impractical to spit after each puff and also my lungs started severe reaction to smoke. It looked like the clove brands had made my lungs allergic to regular cigarette smoke.

After about a week’s struggle, I had no other choice but to quit smoking. I tried again after a year when I went to Trivandrum but to my surprise, the allergy was still there. I never smoked after that. To summarise, the steps followed were:

1. Switch to clove based cigarettes for up to three months.
2. Switch back to the regular brand to instigate allergic reaction.

I do not know whether this method will work for everyone, but it is sure worth your time. Please let me know if this helps you in quitting this dangerous habit. Thanks for your time.

When we played outside – A Retrospect!

Computers may eventually turn us into machines!
Computers may eventually turn us into machines!

A few days ago I had a conversation with my friend. Season 4 of The Big Bang Theory was out and we just finished watching Episode 4. We exchanged views about how the series had gone down in popularity recently because it seemed the public got a hang of what the characters could do and the jokes have become trite. He asked questions about my new company and its environment and I described it in detail.

Then all of a sudden I said, “I somehow feel that Internet is getting a boring place to be.” He just smiled. I continued, “I think we should go out and play than lock ourselves up in air-conditioned rooms with a machine in front of the eyes.” He smiled again.

The Psychic Vortex
A Scene from the TBBT Episode – The Psychic Vortex

There was something that prompted me to say this. In TBBT, there is an episode called “The Psychic Vortex.” In that Koothrapalli tries to persuade Sheldon by saying, “Come on, Sheldon. I want to go outside, let’s go outside. Outside is good.” to which Sheldon responds, “If outside is so good, why has man spent thousands of years perfecting inside?

Despite the humorous intend of this dialog, there is a deeper meaning in it. I felt like we are losing out on a physical part of ourselves and I wanted to discuss it.

I started first by describing my school days which I miss so much. Many of my current friends think that I hate sports. But I was not always like that. Long back, during school, I used to play football, cricket, kabbadi, volleyball, kho-kho etc. Also I was involved in all sorts of mischiefs that children commit when they are young and hyperactive like fighting, running, jumping, falling etc. We played Kallanum Policum for almost 8 years continuously. My friend agreed that those days are something he too missed because he used to play them as well.

There are a lot of incidents of my school days that I would like to share and I will be posting about all of them subsequently.

School Days
A reminder of the good old days…

When we compare our school days with our present life, most of the time the weltschmerz sets in. It is true that we can’t have that life again. But there are certain parts of it that can still be part of our present life. It is just that we don’t bother to include them. It is one of those that I wanted to discuss with him. The physical aspect.

I started my description of school days with some weird games that we used to play which he was not aware of.

The first game I explained was called “Dhaaba Dhoobi.”  It was introduced by the North Indians in our class. The game starts by creating a ball using paper, plastic and rubber band. It is smaller than a cricket ball. Then we team up. And we will throw this ball at the ass of any of the guys in the other team. And then they will try to throw back. It pains nicely when it hits hard and people run around to avoid being hit. We played this game from about 4th to 8th standard. Four years of exhilarating experience playing the great Dhaaba Dhoobi!

My friend commented that this game was gay. I just laughed because there were more at my disposal awaiting description.

Keeping what he commented in mind, I started with the next game which we called “Ba Ba Ba.” Actually the term originated from my brother and I used it to name this game. It was a fighting game of the wrestling genre. The winner wins by making the loser’s ass touch the ground. So everybody tries to force his opponent to sit on the ground. Initially it was hand on the ground but the rule was later changed and hand was replaced by ass. This was played for about a year or two between 5th and 7th standards.

Wrestling
This is how we used to win in Ba Ba Ba!

Again my friend asked whether I was gay and I told him that we didn’t know that such a thing called gay existed back then.

Anyway, I started with the third game . It was more intricate than the previous ones and only existed for about a year during the 6th standard. It was named again by the North Indians as “Ghoda Gaadi”. As the name suggests, there was a horse involved. But not a real horse. A guy will assume the role of a horse and another guy will assume the role of the soldier who sits on the horseback. Teams are divided and the horse-soldier pair of one team has to fight with the horse-soldier pair of the opposite team.

An example of the Human Horse
The Ghoda Gaadi looks similar to this

Winning or losing was depended upon whether the pair fell down or whether the soldier climbed down his horse before the fight ended. I learned about the power of momentum long before it was taught from this game though I didn’t know that it was called momentum. This game belonged to the hand fighting genre because the legs were held by the horse to prevent the soldier from falling.

My horse was Naveen and I named him Chetak after I got “inspired” by a Vinod Khanna movie. We had comparable sizes but he was stronger than me. We were a very famous pair because we used to win most of the time despite our small size compared to our competitors. The mystery was in the physics involved which we subconsciously exploited. This was particularly true when we fought against Sandeep-Shyamlal pair(yeah, there was another Sandeep). This Sandeep was strong and stout but Shyamlal was thin. Both were taller than me. Sandeep was Shyamlal’s horse.

Initially we used to lose the fights until I found a way around. What I did was, I will grab Shyamlal when he approaches and ask Naveen to rotate. Once we reach a sufficient speed and I start feeling the centripetal force, I simply let Shyamlal go and the pair will move under their own momentum to their inevitable fall.

This game was fun but often ended up being a real fight if the losers don’t admit defeat. I had tried biting my opponents a couple of times but then when the opponents too started doing it, I stopped.

Sandeep said that it was a very weird game. I told him that out of the three, I liked “Ba Ba Ba” and “Ghoda Gaadi”.  He commented again saying that I liked the gay ones because they were all about ass. Anyway I didn’t care what he said because those games were the best we ever played in school.

Then there were general fights in the class, in the ground, in the bus stops and practically anywhere we found “fightable”. There were two main teams in our class. The Hindi Team and Malayalee Team. And the Malayalee team had two factions viz Rijith Team and Binil Team. From 5th Standard Harilal took over Binil Team. All these teams fight for every other reason they have. There were occasional jumps that people did from one team to another following a dispute. Often these kind of disputes were settled in “the ancient way”. A one-on-one fighting tournament takes place with the team members standing around encouraging the fight.

An example of a School Fight
An example of a School Fight

There was a competence to fight and win when we were in teams. We used to send spies in order to find out the strategy of the other team before the PT period so that we can have an edge over them in football or cricket.

Football disputes were sometimes settled by the cane of Paulose sir if it reached him. Since cricket was played after the school timings, disputes were settled by ourselves.

The reason I wanted to talk about all this violence is because there is something we lack now a days. The fighting spirit. We lock ourselves in air-conditioned rooms in front of computers trying to make a living. It is not that we shouldn’t do that. But we hardly go outside and play. We don’t engage ourselves in combat. The reason I took over martial arts training at 16 was because I wanted to get that fighting spirit back. I still go to my instructor’s place and get some practice whenever I have time.

The fighting spirit is something we need to have throughout our lives. It is a fundamental nature of us. In the olden days people got involved in physical activities throughout their lives. But now it is different and it is that aspect that one should nurture. We need to regain that spirit which has been lost in the ravages of time!

A Yardstick to Remember…..

Drinks Menu
The menu I described looks something like this!

On February 2008, I went to meet a friend of mine who happened to reside in a different city. We went out to many places and in the evening at the dinner table of a famous restaurant at the heart of that city, we were given two menus. One was for food and the other one was for liquor. I jokingly said that I need to order white wine. She immediately snapped saying, “Pleasant! If you order anything from that menu, I will never ever talk to you again!

I just smiled but something within me said that I shouldn’t order drinks because it will hurt her feelings and I didn’t order anything from that menu. Even for a long time after that incident, I didn’t feel like drinking because whenever I thought of it, her face came to my mind. She never liked people who drank and a few months later, there was a retrospect of this incident and she mentioned that probably it is because of the strength of our relationship that I refrained from drinking for that long. (Why I took up drinking again later on is a different story.)

Almost two years later, I mentioned this incident at the lunch table to my father. He started pulling my legs in her name immediately. I told him that it is not what he thinks and that we are just good friends. He was still making fun of me. Later my mom returned from school and asked what was going on. My dad started the leg pulling again. He said that either this girl is a true friend of Pleasant or she has some strong feelings for him. I said probably it is the former. He then asked me to read the essays of Sir Francis Bacon. He said that those essays describe the characteristics of a true friend.

Image of Sir Francis Bacon

A Portrait of Sir Francis Bacon

I read the essays and learned a lot of theoretical aspects of friendship. But that is not the subject of my post today. Today’s post is about another quote of mine. Just like any other quote, it came out instantly during a conversation. Let me describe the incident. This August, I went out with one of my close friends to a pub near Atlantis. It is called Silica and it is one of the best drinking destinations in Kochi.

Mojito is my favorite cocktail. It tastes so good and you can actually drink a lot of it without passing out. I liked it ever since I first tasted it at OPM Dance Bar in Chennai. Anyway we ordered two Mojito and started chatting. Just then a guy came and sat at the sofa on the other side. About 10 minutes later, a girl wearing yellow churidar, arrived and walked towards this guy. While passing us, she gave me a quick stare. There was this friend of mine who studied with me in KV. He was a ladies man and he taught me that whenever a girl stares at you, just stare back at her the same way.

Her gesture reminded me of his advice and I also returned a stare of the same degree. She had an average looking face. But she was fair and moderately plump with fantastic assets. Anyway, after we exchanged stares, she went and sat with the other guy. Unfortunately, there was a wall preventing me from having a full view but I was still able to see the girl. I was happy because who wants to see the guy anyway? Once they ordered drinks, they started getting busy.

Mojito

Mojito - My Favorite Cocktail!

My friend was frustrated because he was not able to see any of these. After two rounds of mojito, my friend wanted to order something else. He ordered a different cocktail made of Kiwi Fruit and vodka. I got to taste it too. It was too sweet, so I continued with mojito.

My friend and I went to the same GRE coaching center “The Chopras”. So we were talking about the life in US and the universities we chose etc. He mentioned that he liked me very much because of my outlook towards life which in his opinion was different from others. He said that I am a person who spreads positive radiation. The only thing he didn’t approve of was my atheist point of view but more importantly since I am a good person, it was okay with him. I just smiled impressed by his sincere praise. I said sincere because there is an old adage which states that a drunk person cannot lie.

He liked my helpful attitude when it came to sharing useful information. I said that I didn’t like the attitude of our contemporary society regarding sharing information. It is true that we need to search for the information we want. But it is not good, if someone asks a question and we show attitude saying “why can’t you search?”. My point of view is that, if I have a useful information in my brain that can be helpful to others and also the time to explain it and that the information is not private or secret, then I should explain it rather than saying “please don’t mind, but you are supposed to search”. Only in extreme situations I ask people to do the search themselves. And it makes sense too. We learned in 5th grade that knowledge increases by sharing and I kind of follow that principle as much as I can.

Friendship

Friendship - An undefined relation!

The more we drank, the more he continued to praise me. The conversation then moved to relationships. He asked me whether I had ever loved someone. I told him that I had on multiple occasions. I was not in a mood to explain everything. Hence I gave a brief account of my past attempts to build relationships with women. From my conversation he understood that I don’t like feminazis. In fact he learned that I don’t actually like many of the new fangled forms of relationships in our society. I delineated many aspects of our evolving society which are currently undergoing a paradigm shift.

This prompted him to ask me what sort of relationship do we have between us and off came the answer from me “We should not define relationship. Because the moment we define, it will lose its beauty.” I said that there is no yardstick to measure the depth of a relationship. It is just what it is. He said, “Damn! You rock man!” and appreciated my philosophical point of view.

We finished our drinks and paid the check. I took a last glimpse of the love birds sitting on the other side before leaving. While returning home, I realized that there was a smile at the corner of my lips. And I knew that it was a smile of satisfaction that the nectar of the dreaming flower has again proven to be food for thought for another person!

A talk to remember…..


Teapot and Cups

Teapot and Cups - So reminiscent of our lives

In one of my previous posts, I had written out some quotes I have made at many occasions in my life. There are stories behind those quotes and how they came into existence and I would like to share those stories with you. Let me start with this one: “Life without control is like a tea without a teapot.

I was doing my GRE preparation but my mother was worried about me wasting my time at home for a year. So she asked me to take a bank exam so that I will have a job to stay engaged. I didn’t accept it initially but finally gave in to the pressure and agreed to write Canara Bank exam. I was on my way to Trivandrum on Sunday, the 4th of July 2010 to appear for the bank test.

AC Chair Car
AC Chair Car

In every train travel I had, I wish I had a girl beside me to chat; however most often it will be some guy. This journey proved otherwise. It was the AC Chair Car and I was looking for Seat #50 which was a window seat. I found the place and saw that it was occupied by a girl who was about to eat. I said “Excuse me, I am afraid the seat is mine“. She said “Mine is 51 and according to my ticket, 51 is Window“. I asked her to look above the window pane and she did. It was 50 that was the Window Seat.

Stephen Hawking by Kitty Ferguson
Stephen Hawking by Kitty Ferguson

She apologized and moved to the adjoining seat. Then we found that IRCTC had printed W in both of our tickets. Anyway, I took out a book on Stephen Hawking written by Kitty Ferguson and started reading. She had chicken biriyani for lunch. After a while she got up and went to wash and returned.

Just like any other guy, my mind was not in the book but on the girl. She wasn’t that great looking but yet, I felt that she could be a time pass for three to four hours. Thinking this way I asked “You are going to Trivandrum?“. She replied “No, I am not. I am getting down at Kollam.

Clinical Psychologist
Clinical Psychologist

Bingo! A conversation starter at last. I told her that I am a native of Kollam and there the conversation went. I found that she was a clinical psychologist specialized in child psychology. Being a polymath, I was into psychology too and I knew that I could learn something from her. And there ensued an interesting conversation. I asked her the difference between psychology and psychiatry and she explained to me that psychologists rely more on counseling than prescribing medications.

I inquired about the kind of work she did as a psychologist. She told that parents go to her with their children with various problems. Also she mentioned a school that is run by her family which makes her work easier since she can study children better.

Image of Coffee
A cup of coffee

The coffee man came and both of us ordered coffee. I spoke about what I knew about psychology by posing questions, analyzing situations and discussing conclusions. We spoke about the problems faced by the younger generation. She told that in a place like Kollam which is less advanced when compared to other places like Trivandrum or Kochi, there are students addicted to television and Internet pornography.

Image of Internet Pornography
Internet Pornography

I was surprised. The next question I asked was the age group of the students and to my horror I found that it is less than 10. I asked her whether the bigger cities were worse and sure enough, she said yes. My question was whether the percentage of students from public schools were more than students from government schools. She said that there is hardly any kid from government school who came for counseling.

Image of B F Skinner
B F Skinner

This was really unsettling for me. I asked her whether she expects and impending social disintegration. She agreed that she expects something similar to happen in the near future. I must admit that she was really impressed by the way I speak and the amount of knowledge I have.

Image of Social Disintegration
Social Disintegration

I spoke about the studies of Skinner and Adler and that added color to the conversation. Then we spoke about social relations and how the current generation takes relationships. She told that most youngsters she meets now a days don’t really believe in the institution of marriage. Even contemporary psychologists have the same opinion as well.

Though unsettling, her findings were not surprising to me. At my leisure, I search the Internet for information regarding the current social awareness and its viability in the successful survival of the society.

Image of Cohabitation
Premarital Cohabitation

I asked her about her views on premarital cohabitation. She told that she didn’t like that idea since according to her premarital sex and cohabitation has been found to have a direct correlation with divorce rates in most cases unless it is restricted to the future spouse. She believed that chastity is actually a boon to a relationship. I didn’t quite agree on her views but didn’t want to start an argument out of a pleasant conversation.

Image of Chabua, Assam
A tea plantaion in Chabua, Assam where we lived

The coffee man came again and both of us ordered coffee again. In her opinion, commitment has to be there no matter whether the spouse has tolerable defects since that is what true love is. I asked her whether she is married and she replied that her husband is a bank manager working in Assam. Bingo again! I told her that I have been to Assam. She was curious to know how Assam was. I told her about the tropical rains that people get there and the lush green atmosphere. I told her that she would love that place. She was planning to go in a month. Probably she is already there.

Image of Ben 10
Ben 10

I wanted to know the kind of TV shows children are addicted to. She told that there is a thing called Ben 10 which is the current craze among children below 10. She wouldn’t be surprised to see a 5 year old watching porn in the years to come. She said that it is the parents who should be blamed. Most educated people work in MNCs and both the parents often arrive at home late. They never get to know their kid except for off days. This adversely affects the way kids grow up. It has been proven time and again but yet that is the direction in which the society is moving.

Image of Alfred Adler

Alfred Adler

During that conversation, it just came out of my mouth “Life without control is like a tea without a teapot.” She asked what it meant. I told her that we need a platform to build things. It is not like we are free thinkers and hence we can be in anyway we want. That shouldn’t be the case. There has to be some restriction as in the case of a teapot. Our life is like the tea inside a teapot. The moment it breaks, the tea scatters around creating a mess. She liked that point of view very much and told that she can use that when she counsels her subjects.

Image of Online Social Networking
Online Social Networking

Later on we kind of slowly brushed off all other subjects and started discussing about our lives. I told her about where I studied and what I aim for and she listened attentively. I asked her whether she was in social networking and she told that she likes Orkut. Finally our three and a half hour long conversation came to a halt when the train arrived at Kollam Junction. We said good bye to each other. She wished me good luck and told that she hoped to meet me again in future.

I was glad because I was able to meet someone of my frequency. I started reading my book again and within another hour, Trivandrum Central came. I got down, took an autorikshaw and went to Hotel Keerthi at Aristo Junction where I had booked a room the previous day…..

Open mindedness debunked!

Image of Open Mindedness
Open Mindedness

This is a phenomenon found in the contemporary society. People try to look open minded when they are not. They call people who don’t approve their point of view as irrational. But are they rational? Insularity is everywhere. If we show open mindedness in one aspect, we will be extremely close minded in another.

As an atheist, I would like to analyse this situation outside the realm of religion and look at various aspects of life as they are.

Image of Moral Relativism by Steven Lukes
Moral Relativism by Steven Lukes

Is morality relative? Why is my right your wrong? Do we derive our morality from religion? Why is it that people in metropolitan cities lead a hedonistic lifestyle when compared to their counterparts in villages?

I intend to answer these questions in this post. Individuality is the new norm of our society. People are intolerant of others who even slightly hint that they have a different point of view. Egotism is at its peak. People believe that their existence is unique and supreme. At least in theory, no one is supposed to dislike what others are doing.

If that be so, then why don’t we condone crime? After all it is right in the view of the person committing the crime. For instance, why do we say murder is wrong?  What do you mean by wrong? On what basis do we classify crimes? I don’t personally like crimes. But I do not know why I do not like these. It is just that I find them repulsive. So does many other people. But if that is kind of acts some people choose to do, then why doesn’t our conscience allow us to accept them? Where does our open mindedness hide when confronted with people like these?

Image of Wall Street
Wall Street – A place where money is God!

The contemporary society is blinded because all people want is wealth and pleasure. It is money and sex that drives the world, not God. Corporate moguls exploit their employees to gain profit. Media moguls exploit female sexuality to gain profit. I don’t think that people who are exploited enjoy being exploited. It is just that they don’t seem to have any other choice.

It looks as if we are in a liberal society. But we are not. We are slaves to our own convictions. We are slaves to what the society at large considers to be true. We revere people in the red carpet industry. Why do we do that? It is because we covet their lifestyle. We crave for what they have that we don’t.

Image of Relationships and Cheating
Relationships and Cheating!

We see spouses cheating on each other. We shouldn’t be biased on sexuality because it is the choice of people to lead their on lifestyle. If that is the case, then why do people get married at all? A lot of people compare their spouse with their previous partners thereby creating a crack in an otherwise happy relationship. Is that what we are supposed to do? Where is sacrifice that was prevalent in traditional marriages? We cannot rule out the possibility of our partner or ourselves having sex before marriage. But why compare our spouse with others? Aren’t we supposed to love them and accept them for who and what they are?

In one of my previous posts I had written than it is one of the most difficult things to do in this world. Accepting others for who and what they are. My own experience testify that people are not following this concept. They just blabber that they do.

Image of Myth Busted
Myth Busted!

Open mindedness is a myth. It is relative to what a person thinks is right. Nothing beyond that! The advent of computers have been proven to affect our minds. Our interactions with machines will certainly be one of the causes of our own destruction. Technology is a boon as well as a bane. It is driving intolerance in the minds of young people who are supposed to be the future of humanity. Where is compassion, empathy and sympathy? Are our kids going to even see these words in future?

I seriously doubt it!

Sources:
Attached to technology and paying a price
Are we becoming an intolerant society?