Moongphali timepass …

Research has shown that nuts are good for you. And the best nut for you is our good old moongphali or shengdana- the humble little groundnut.

Shengdana is not native to India. This ancient nut was first cultivated in South America almost 8000 years ago. It was introduced to India by the Portugese, possibly during the 17th century.

Technically, the groundnut is not a nut, it’s actually a bean. And what’s the difference? A nut is a dried fruit. A bean is a seed. Unless you’re a botanist, the details are unimportant. What is important is the fact that shengdana packs a whole lot of nutrients in one cheap, compact package. It is truly a remarkable super-food.

Groundnuts are the richest source of antioxidants. Until recently, expensive strawberries and blueberries were considered prime sources of antioxidants. But, our desi shengdana has been shown to be far superior to these exotic berries. Groundnuts are also a rich source of resveratrol. This phytochemical is a hot item in nutraceuticals research. Resveratrol is directly linked to increased life-span and reduction in cardiovascular disease.

Moongphali is also rich in many other life-saving nutrients like niacin (good for your brain), vitamin E (good for your heart), co-enzyme Q10 (potent antioxidant), magnesium (good for your bones) and high-quality protein. Groundnuts, in fact, have the highest protein content compared to costly almonds, cashews and pistachios.

Groundnuts are high in fat, but they are free from trans-fats that are linked to cholesterol problems. The fat in groundnuts is actually composed of useful fats that the body needs. Groundnut oil is a healthier cooking medium than Saffola and rice-bran oil.

There are many ways to enjoy shengdana – roasted, boiled in salt water, as a chutney, as a curry, in the form of peanut butter, and my favorite, as chikki. Traditional chikki, that is chikki made with molasses, is much better for you than videshi chocolates and candies.

Roasting groundnuts increases their nutrient value. But avoid branded roasted peanuts. They are all high in salt and contain preservatives. Best thing to do is to roast them at home, and add a pinch of salt or chat masala. Or better yet, add chopped onions, coriander leaves, green chillies, and really enjoy. Same applies to branded chikki. Usually they contain glucose syrup and that’s not good for you. Make them at home in the traditional way – and send me some!

Cheers … Srini.

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Namma Bengaluru – the Red Garden.

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If you visit Lalbagh on a winter evening, and you come across a tall, well-built, ruggedly handsome man laden with photographic gear, assiduously clicking pictures, that ruggedly handsome man would be Yours Truly.

Although it has deteriorated over the years, due to encroachment, poor management and unrelenting abuse by the visiting public, Lalbagh remains my go-to place for photography, birds, fresh air and a good walk.

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So named because of its red roses that bloom through the year, Lalbagh Botanical Garden was first established about 250 years ago by Hyder Ali and completed by his son Tipu Sultan in 1760. After Tipu’s death in 1799, the British took over the garden. Lalbagh’s centerpiece, the Glass House was built by the British, on the lines of the Crystal Palace in London. The original Crystal Palace burnt down in 1936, but the Glass House at Lalbagh remains.

krishnaraopark-1-7-cIn a literal sense, Labagh is redolent with history. Tipu Sultan and the British imported hundreds of rare flowers and trees from all over the world. If you’re an aspiring botanist or a lover of flora as I am, Lalbagh is the one place you must be in.

And, if you’re a birder as I am, Lalbagh will not disappoint you. Once, there were about a hundred species of birds, but those days are gone. It’s still worth your visit.

Spot-billed pelican at the lake.

Spot-billed pelican at the lake.

What’s good about Lalbagh: Fresh air and greenery. Rare species of trees and flowers, Several species of birds, especially in and around the lake.

The lake.

The lake.

What’s bad about Lalbagh: Too many hawkers, feral dogs, loafers, pesky photographers (the ones who charge money, not Yours Truly!), illegal fishing and worst of all, lovey-dovey couples in various stages of foreplay and vulgar displays of public affection.

I’ve had my share of youthful tomfoolery with various girlfriends in my younger days – but what is vulgar is vulgar.

That said, Lalbagh definitely merits your visit, at least once.

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Kempegowda Tower, south. Built around 1550. The rock on which it is built is one of the oldest exposed rocks in the entire world. It is three billion years old.

Make it a point to see:

The Glass House, the lake, the Kempegowda Tower and the 3 billion year old rock on which it is built, the bonsai garden, the floral clock, the fossilised tree trunk and the 200-year old silk cotton tree.

Make it a point to avoid: The pesky photographers at the Glass House, the feral dogs all over the place (don’t you dare feed them!), and the hawkers.

Disregard: Above-mentioned lovey-dovey couples in various stages of foreplay. Or if you are so inclined and if you are built like Schwarzenegger, glare at them pointedly.

Fossilised tree trunk. 20 million years old.

Fossilised tree trunk. 20 million years old.

How to get there: Easy. Every bus route towards south Bangalore will pass through Lalbagh. There are three separate gates of entry to Lalbagh, and there will be a bus to reach any one of them. Check out BMTC’s helpful website.

You can take an autorickshaw to the place. But avoid taking an autorickshaw at the gate when you leave. They will rip you off, the traffic constables notwithstanding. Walk a few yards away from the gate, and hail a passing

Purple moorhen.

Purple moorhen.

autorickshaw. That’s a better option.

There is car parking inside Lalbagh, but best avoided, especially during weekends. Public transport is better. You will save yourself a lot of time and the enormous hassle of looking for parking space. That time can be better spent inside Lalbagh.

Lalbagh is open on all days, including Sundays, from 6.00 am to 7.00 pm.

There is a nominal entry fee. However, entry is free from 6.00 to 9.00 am, and 6.00 pm to 7.00 pm, for walkers only.

If you have a camera, fork out an additional Rs.50/- (Grrr!).

Bottom-line: A must-see place if you’re visiting Bangalore. And a must-save place if you’re a Bangalorean.

Cheers … Srini.

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Maaf karna behenji – Five Indian women you must walk away from.

Anne-Cherian-A-Good-Indian-WifeRejection goes both ways. If there are Indian women who find you avoidable, then equally, there are some Indian women whom you should avoid – at any cost.

Contrary to what Indian women choose to believe, all Indian men are not wife-beaters, drunkards, womanisers, gamblers, dowry-mongers, perverts and incorrigible a*holes.

And totally contrary to what Indian women claim, all Indian women are definitely not Sati Savitris, Jhansi ki ranis, Mother Theresas, and paragons of virtue.

In my life, I’ve seen five types of Indian women who are best avoided. While marrying such women is far from advisable, be thankful if you get dumped by any of the women described below. They’ve done you a favor, believe me.

One speaks from hard experience, very hard experience!

Thus:

The Enigmatic Super-Tease: Too many Indian women have the idea that by being dark and mysterious, they are extremely alluring to men.3954051-mysterious-indian-woman

Nonsense.

The Tease will never give you a straight answer to a straight question, she takes at least 24 hours to respond to any message, she is vague about what she does for a living, gives you a mysterious smirk when you ask her out and implies there are several other suitors in the queue, cuts off your calls, ignores you for weeks and generally treats you like dung.

The intention is to drive you wild with desire and make you chase her indefinitely. Such women are either extremely insecure or extremely arrogant. Either way, you deserve much better.

Walk away, my friend. Take out your mobile phone, locate her number – and press delete.

The Super-duper Corporate Amazon: Aggressive, rude and raucous, her phone constantly rings, she drives only a Mercedes or the like, pays more attention to her iPad than to you, and makes it very clear to you and the world that she has ‘arrived’.

In an Indian society dominated by foul, boorish men like yourself, she has carved her own special place using her superior intellect and by sheer determination.

Obviously, she will accept only a Bill Gates or equivalent, as her royal consort. It is very unlikely, as I pointed out to one such super-duper amazon, that a Bill Gates or equivalent would want such a woman in his life. But that simple logic never occurs to these women.

I truly admire women who are successful in their corporate careers, and quite frankly, women who are more successful than I am are quite a turn-on. But, I prefer women who allow success to speak for itself – and I prefer successful women with good manners.

Turn around and walk away, mon ami. And don’t worry. Bill Gates doesn’t want her, either.

gold diggerThe Not-so-subtle Gold-digger: Manliness, according to this type of Indian female, is proven by the possession of expensive gadgets, fancy cars, multiple villas, a few kilos of gold and diamonds, and especially, a US or Canadian citizenship.

If you have none of the above, you’re not ‘man’ enough for her. She accepts only the best, you see. By herself she is a pathetic, pretentious loser who has nothing to offer you in return, but that is beside the point.

Characteristic symptom of the gold-digger: She never offers to pay the bill.

The hard fact is, there are far too many gold-diggers in urban Indian society. To give them benefit of doubt, I suppose these women have been taught by their parents that only a rich man can keep them happy and is worthy of respect. That is what one self-admitted gold-digger once told me, before dumping me for a richer man.

Whatever. Walk away, amigo. And save both your money and your self-respect.

The Ever-whining but Grimly Brave Woman of Misery:  Life is hard. For men and women alike. And misery is contagious. Whatever be the reason, and however justified she might be, you do not want a whiner in your life. Just as no woman wants a whining man, no man deserves a perennially miserable woman.

She always complains about how tough her life is, how bad her job is, how cruel her ex was, how her back always hurts, how crowded the buses are, and how bravely she copes with all her problems. If only, she says, if only there’s a good man who can take care of her – and listen to her whining for the rest of her life. Sigh!

And guess what, you are that fortunate man! You are the only good man she’s ever met who listens to her so patiently.

Yeah buddy, you two will live happily ever after!

The Mistress of Malice: Vain, vicious, vengeful, and manipulative, this type is motivated by sheer malice. Her entire existence is centered around her own self, she craves attention and praise at all times. Woe betide any man who, according to her, does not please her ego enough. She enjoys inflicting emotional hurt on her man by snubbing and humiliating him in public.

By far, this is the most dangerous type of Indian woman. She will stop at nothing to achieve her ends, even it means abusing the law to get you.

Jails in our country are filled with men who’ve been trapped in fake dowry and domestic violence cases.

Yes, these women do exist in our society. And it is quite difficult to spot them.

Malicious women are very clever at hiding their malice from you – until it is too late. And no one knows this better than I do.

There are many good Indian men. There are many bad Indian women. Which one you land up with, depends on you.

A good woman is one who is with you simply because she is happy to be with you.

She will be just as happy to get into a crowded bus with you, as into a fancy limo. Just as happy to share idli-vada sambar at the local darshini, as a buffet at a 5-star hotel. She’s just as secure in her career as she is proud of yours.

A good woman is comfortable about her body and mature about bodily matters. Gracefully accepts that you will age and wither – and so will she.

A sexy body will decay. Character will not. Flesh and bone will rot. Inner beauty will not. Wealth will vanish. Values will not. A devout person is not necessarily a good person. A moral atheist is far better than an immoral religious thug. A good woman will understand all of this.

There is absolutely no shortage of good women in our country. Especially in our country. You just need to look in the right places.

And if you are lucky enough to get a good woman in your life, please hold on to her very tightly.

Or I might take her away from you!

Cheers … Srini.

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The eternal allure of Ganesha …

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What is it about the son of Shiva and Parvati that makes him so lovable? All across India, and in many parts of the world with sizable Indian populations, Ganesha is perhaps the most popular deity in the Hindu pantheon.

Cutting across caste and creed, all sections of Indian society celebrate this cute, pot-bellied God’s birthday – with the possible exception of Ram Gopal Verma!

Ganesha Chathurthi, the ten-day festival in his honor, is celebrated during the month of Bhadrapad, which corresponds to end-August/early September in the Gregorian calendar.

Some sects celebrate his birthday separately on Gandhi Jayanti that falls in the month of Maagha (Jan/Feb). But Ganesha Chathurthi is the more widespread and popular of the two festivals.

Starting on the fourth day (or Chathurthi) of the bright half (or shukla paksha) of Bhaadrapad, the festival ends ten days later on Anant Chathurdashi, the day before the full moon.

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This is one large idol!

Across the land, people bring home an idol of Ganesha and worship him for ten days. The festival is also celebrated in a public manner by various institutions, by setting up public stalls with large idols. This year, the government has restricted the height of Ganesha idols, but they are still imposing all the same.

The worship of Ganesha goes back several centuries, to the Gupta period, during 300AD to 500 AD. The Ganapatya sect, devoted almost exclusively to the worship of Ganesha, emerged during this period and reached its peak in the 10th century. During the 16th century, the sect grew in Maharashtra and is still strong, which is why Ganesha Chathurthi is celebrated with special fervor in that part of India.

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Ganesha is a deity of several forms and names. In fact, the scriptures describe thirty-two different forms of the deity. But two attributes are always common – his elephant head and his pot belly. He is also fond of sweets, especially modakas, sweet dumplings stuffed with jaggery and grated coconut. And he likes red, which is why he is generally clad in red and yellow, and is worshipped with red flowers and red sandalwood paste or raktachandana.

With so many forms to choose from, Ganesha idols are made in innumerable styles and poses – including some modern-day twists, like this idol of Ganesha on top of Spiderman. Stan Lee would probably get a heart attack!

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On the last day, all idols of Ganesha are immersed in a local water-body. This creates a major environmental problem and huge traffic jams in cities. Traditionally, idols were made of unfired clay and painted in natural colors, and immersed in a pond. Unfortunately, modern day idols are made in plaster-of-paris and decorated with all kinds of toxic stuff. Local authorities and eco-institutions have been trying to drum some sense into people, with little effect.

The festival does have its dark side – there are some people who do extort money in Ganesha’s name and intimidate those who don’t pay up. There is considerable noise pollution caused by loudspeakers blaring all night, traffic issues and public inconvenience – especially on immersion day.

I’ve been stuck in traffic twice, on Ganesha immersion day, and believe me, the experience is traumatic in the extreme.

But overall, Ganesha Chathurthi is a time of piety and devotion, and also a time for fun and entertainment for kids of all ages.

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Only Ganesha can control Bangalore’s traffic!

 

So, have a great Chathurthi. Be safe. Be nice to the environment. And be nice to your neighbors!

Ganapati Bappa Moraya!

Srini.

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My Independence Day…Military Memorial Park.

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How does one define patriotism? Chanting an anthem once a year? Wearing a paper flag purchased on the roadside? Singing patriotic songs at a variety entertainment show?

Or how about a donation to an orphanage? You don’t even have to leave your home. A few clicks on your mouse, an on-line donation made, and your patriotic duty is done. And you get a tax exemption too, from a grateful nation.

Now you can hop into your Honda City, join your friends in that Independence Day theme-party, toss down a few pegs of Glenfiddich, gorge on malai kabab, and have deep meaningful arguments about the pathetic state of our country. And spend more on a single evening’s booze, than most of my countrymen earn in an entire year.

indday2014-1-13Have you ever wondered how fortunate you really are? And how undeserved that good fortune actually is?

Independence is not a free gift. Someone fought for it. Someone died for it. And that someone was certainly not me. Nor you. It is a fact I never forget.

This year therefore, I put in a long-pending visit to the National Military Memorial Park. Located at Chowdiah Road, opposite the Planetarium, the park is a unique tribute to our armed forces.

The center of attraction is India’s largest flag. It measures a huge 48×72 feet, weighs 32 kg and flutters atop a massive flagpole at a height of 65 meters. This enormous tricolor is indday2014-1-36referred to as a ‘monumental flag’, that is, it is not lowered at dusk unlike normal flags. This flag remains hoisted 24×7 and is illuminated at night.

Even on Independence Day, the park was almost empty. What a pity. That did give me the opportunity though, to shoot pictures at leisure. Here is a selection.

indday2014-1-35This is Akash. India’s surface-to-air missile. Developed by Defence Research andDevelopment Organisation (DRDO), this supersonic SAM is as good as any of its imported counterparts, but costs less than half.

Nag is DRDO’s anti-tank missile. Regarded asindday2014-1-6 one of the most advanced in its class, Nag is a guided missile system designed for the Indian airforce and army.

Brahmos is India’s flagship missile. Developed in collaboration with Russia’s NPO, Brahmos is the world’s fastest cruise missile.

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You will see many other commemorative specimens, like this well preserved tank.

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And this MiG fighter jet from the 1970’s.

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National Military Memorial Park is right at the center of the city and well connected. All the Volvo buses bound for the airport pass through here, and there is no dearth of indday2014-1-26autorickshaws. Of late, the BMTC has launched Bangalore Rounds, a circular luxury bus route covering major tourist locations in the city, including the park. These buses pass by the park every half-hour.

Make it a point to visit this place, and pay your dues to those who gave up their lives, so that you could enjoy yours.

Cheers … Srini.

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