Friday, December 20, 2013

Mehendiwalas of Kolkata

Typically, women in India take up the profession of mehendi (henna) designing. But Kolkata is different and you will find that the street mehendi artists, like the ones here in Gariahat, are mainly men of all ages, shapes and sizes. 




Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Rainbow flags, a sign of protest


Rainbow flags in Kolkata symbolise the protest against the Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that criminalises homosexuality.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A conversation with a small bookstore owner

Walking through the crowded bylanes of Hogg Market, commonly known as New Market in Kolkata, I chanced upon The Modern Book Depot. Since 1949, it has served to satiate the appetites of voracious booklovers with its fantastic collection of children's books, fiction, non-fiction and reference books in English and Bengali. Browsing through the collection, my mother asked me if I had read Shashi Tharoor's Pax Indica. I told her that I would download it on Kindle. "Do not talk about Kindle here." I turned around to see Prem Prakash, the store's owner. Ït is not the same. You can download 500 books on Kindle but you may not read any. There is something about turning the pages of a book that makes you want to go back to it." I agreed, adding that I would not have bought a Kindle if I had space in my house for more books. "But you do make space for more clothes and shoes, right?" I smiled. "Reading a book is private business. You know what Amazon does, every time you go through a book or highlight a page, they make a note of who is reading and highlighting it. Your information goes to them," he went on. My mother told him she prefers paper to tablet. "See, you like reading and so you have passed it on to your children. We all will die one day but we need to pass this legacy to the next generations." Small bookstores such as his have had trouble sustaining themselves because of the increasing cost of logistics of printing, distribution and selling of books. I asked him if Flipkart had affected his business. "They are making a loss but they always find someone to pump in the money. Even Amazon. $1 share sells for $250. They are going to decide the next bestseller. And they will make it a bestseller. And you will also believe that it is a bestseller and buy the book. In a few years, we will all close down and there will be only Amazon." 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Scenes from the Park Circus fish market in Kolkata


Rohu or rui for the Bengali machchher jhol



Fish laid out on banana leaf in a cane basket


Prawns are meant for Christmas, the fishmonger tells us

Monday, November 25, 2013

A Bollywood potboiler in print!

A still from Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Ram Leela
At any other point in time, Ram Leela might have been suffice to satisfy my craving for a Bollywood masala movie. But not yesterday. I watched it till the interval, taking in the grandeur of the sets and the explosion of colours on screen. I loved the garbas and the attires (the kedia looks so cool on Ranveer). What I missed was the story. So, with a lot of disappointment, I turned to my Kindle. And there it was! A fast-paced, masala story with sex, politics, mafia set in Delhi, UP, Mumbai and Dubai, with just the right dose of Mumbaiyya Hindi. Shobhaa De, I like you, for you gave me Sethji, when I needed it the most.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Hero



Most Indians, Hindu or not, would call Rama the hero of the Ramayana. So what is it about heroes that sets them apart from the rest? In his book, The Songlines, Bruce Chatwin describes a hero:

"Myth proposes, action disposes. The Hero Cycle represents an unchangeable paradigm of 'ideal' behaviour for the human male... Each section of the myth - like a link in a behavioural chain - will correspond to one of the classic Ages of Man. Each Age opens with some fresh barrier to be scaled or ordeal to be endured. The status of the Hero will rise in proportion as to how much of this assault course he completes - or is seen to complete. 

"Most of us, not being heroes, dawdle through life, mis-time our cues, and end up in our emotional messes. The hero does not. The Hero - and this is why we hail him as a hero - takes each ordeal as it comes, and chalks up point after point."

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The War of Ten Kings

Long ago, there lived a king named Sudas, who belonged to the Trtsu dynasty and was sixteenth in the line of descendents of King Bharata (after whom India is named in Hindi). Sudas was the grandson of the powerful king Divodas Atithigva, whose empire was in the region which is now Punjab. Divodas had earned his fame as a warrior by waging a long war with the powerful non-Arya king, Sambara, whom he had ultimately defeated and killed. He had also destroyed the ninety-nine towns under Sambara’s control and killed Varci in Udabraja.

Sudas expanded the kingdom he inherited from his grandfather. In the process, he alienated all his neighbouring kingdoms. After years of subjugation, a group of ten (dasha) kings and chieftains (raja; rajnya) formed a confederacy to combine their strength and defeat Sudas.

The ten kings were led by Anu, Sudas’s arch-enemy and his spiritual adviser Sage Vishwamitra, who hated Sudas’s adviser, Vashishtha. Though many of the kings were allies of Sudas, they turned against him and his small but strong tribe of Bharatas. They thought that if Sudas and his men were surrounded with forces so superior, they would have no chance of survival. Sudas’s enemies wanted to destroy the Bharatas. They wanted to take the Bharatas as dasyas (slaves) and divide their lands and booty among themselves. One day, suddenly, their great army assembled on the banks of the Parushni (River Ravi in Punjab) and challenged Sudas. Since his army was vastly outnumbered, Sudas should have surrendered. But he knew he had done nothing wrong. He was righteous and had the love and support of his people. He chose to fight.

River Ravi, known as the Parushni in those days, was the site where the Dasharajnya War was fought
The devas (gods) watched from their heavenly abode as the battle progressed for many years. Finally, because of Sudas’s moral superiority, Lord Indra, the God of Rain and Thunderbolt chose to support the Bharatas. He whipped up a storm so great that the ten kings were easily overcome by Sudas’s army. Sudas and the Bharatas won the Dasharajnya War (The War of Ten Kings). The Bharatas became the dominant tribe of the Indian sub-continent.

Later, Sudas’s descendants split into the Puru and Kuru lines and waged another great war for Arya supremacy: the Mahabharata War.

Read more stories such as this one in Flow — River Legends from India by Eisha Sarkar available on Amazon.com, Pothi.com and Google Books.

Flow (e-book)


Friday, October 25, 2013

Resurrection

A bleeding heart,
A song in my head, 
Words with no voice, 
A temple of regrets. 

A raging storm, 
A silent wanderer,
Pebbled streets,
Weathered heels.

I look back,
To see what I had,
What seemed like a lot,
Is now naught.

A past forgiven,
A lonely tree,
A weary soul,
Is laid to rest.

A resurrection,
A new me,
A new world,
A new journey.

 - Eisha


Thursday, October 24, 2013

A pocket guide to how the world is


This week, I got a free subscriber's copy of The Economist's Pocket World in Figures 2014 Edition. It's a comprehensive compilation of facts and figures about the world's geography, demography, business, finance, economy, transport, tourism, environment, society, health, culture and crime. Here are some interesting facts it throws up about India:

  1. India has the largest number of listed domestic companies in the world. It tallied 5,191 at the end of 2012
  2. The cost of living is the second-lowest in the world after Pakistan. Of course, they have been compared with New York
  3. Our people do the most car journeys in the world. The average distance travelled per car per year in India in 2011 was 23,448 km
  4. We have the second longest road network in the world, a stretch of 4,242,371 km. The longest is in the US, 6,533,218 km of road (as of 2011)
  5. We have the world's third largest number of Facebook users (63,793,000) after US (158,923,000) and Brazil (71,865,000)
  6. We had the highest number of visits to the cinema in the world (3.1 billion) in 2011. The US had only 1.3 billion and came second
  7. We are the second largest producer of fruits and vegetables in the world after China
  8. We've had the 19th highest economic growth between 2001-11. Azerbaijan tops that list
  9. Delhi was the most polluted city in the world in 2009, with 118 micrograms per cubic metre of particulate matter followed by Xian, China at 115 micrograms per cubic metre
  10. We, as a country, are the third largest emitters of carbon dioxide in the world after China and the US
  11. 212 species of fish are under threat in India
  12. We have a workforce that comprises 74.7% males while Mozambique has a workforce with 53.2% females (figures for 2012)
  13. We consume the most sugar in the world (23,130,000 tons in 2011)
  14. With a population of 29.3 million, Delhi is all set to become the most populated city in the world after Tokyo in 2020
  15. The average age of mothers giving birth to children in India in 2010 was 25.3, the lowest in the world
  16. India's was the most undervalued currency in the world in January 2013, a comparison of the Big Mac prices showed
  17. India had the fourth largest deficit after the US, Turkey and Italy in 2011
  18. Workers remittances in India were the highest in the world in 2011 amounting to $63 billion
  19. India does not feature in the list of the top 48 fastest growing populations in the World. Qatar tops. 
  20. Kazakhstan, Turkey, Philippines and Indonesia are more competitive in global business that we are
  21. We are not in the list of the 24 countries who come up with innovations or are technology-ready even though we are not in the highest brain-drain list of 12 countries
  22. Mumbai's Bandra-Kurla complex was the 11th most expensive office rent space in the world in the first quarter of 2013
  23. India does not feature in the list of 13 most corrupt countries in the world. Afghanistan tops and North Korea and Somalia are joint second
  24. We do not feature in the list of the 17 countries where businesses use pirated software. Zimbabwe rules
  25. Turkey and Egypt gained more in global stockmarkets between December 31, 2011 and January 2, 2013 than India did
  26. We withdraw 761 billion cubic metres of freshwater every year, the highest in the world
  27. America exports and India imports the most arms
  28. We have the fifth largest number of prisoners, around 372,296. US tops that list as well 


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Tweet a story

I tried to tell a story within the 141-character space that Twitter provides:

She'd had enough. "No more, never," she pledged. Then she raised her eyes. A cherry. "Christ, save me!"


https://twitter.com/eishasarkar/status/391800193621819392

Friday, October 11, 2013

A 100-word story

I just got tempted to try this out, after I had a chat with my friend Shreyasi who loves 100-word stories. Telling anything in 100 words is difficult and so I took this up as a bit of a challenge. Do let me know what you think about it.

Vain

A hand went up. "Yes, Dost." He looked at me incredulously. Had I picked him wrong? Maybe he didn't want to answer. I squirmed. He stood up slowly. Heads swivelled.

He gauged his audience. I was getting impatient. Finally he spoke, "Ma'am… Ma'am, I think you've got it wrong."

I glared at him. "He never utters a word in class and now he tells me I have made a mistake," I thought. With a wave, I dismissed him. “Anyone else?” Nobody answered. Dost shrivelled back into his chair. 

Flicking my hair, I turned to the board. It read, "E=m2c."

This story was published on Kreat!ve Kahaani

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Keeping it short

This is my post on Kreat!ve Kahaani, a website that publishes the works of new authors or anybody who wants to write any kind of fiction. Do check it out.

The short story is the best escape from the monotony of desk work. In only a few words, it creates a whole new world for you to step in and explore, to identify with a character and follow his/her path to a fitting (although not often acceptable) conclusion. It opens up a world of possibilities — of how things could have been or how things should have ended.

I like a short story because it comes as a welcome break in between editing news and features and writing more stories/articles. It inspires me to write in brief. And as a writer, that's what I need. As an editor, it gives me something fresh to think about. Sometimes, a word I've read in a short may just pop into my head and I might use it in the headline of a news story.

I hated reading novels/story books when I was at school. I found them tedious. I didn't care for the Nancy Drews, the Hardy Boys, the Enid Blytons, the Jeffrey Archers, Stephen Kings, Daniel Steels or even Mills and Boons. But I loved short stories, the creations of Graham Greene, O Henry, William Somerset Maugham, Ernest Hemingway, Edgar Allan Poe, Rabindranath Tagore, Rudyard Kipling, Saki, Mulk Raj Anand, K A Abbas and Munshi Premchand. I could finish a few at a sitting, then go out to play, then come back and read some more. I did not have to remember what I had read before.  And so, for years, when girls in my class moved on to bigger novellas and novels, I kept looking for the shortest of the shorts.

Then, I discovered Shakespeare. His plays, with many acts, became a mix of many things that English Literature as a subject had tried to categorise. It had poetry, prose, a blend of short stories and anecdotes within a longer, complex plot of a novel. I read all of Shakespeare’s creations — the historical, the comedies, the tragedies, even the sonnets.

Had I not liked Shakespeare, I doubt if I would have picked up my first novel, the Wuthering Heights. Had I not liked Wuthering Heights so much, I would not have gone for another epic romance, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. To break away from the trend, I picked up a couple of David Baldaccis for a long train journey and became addicted to his thrillers. I liked Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code but never followed up with the second (though I did watch the film, Angels and Demons). I read The Hungry Tide and devoured all of Amitav Ghosh’s books just the way I had done William Dalrymple’s after reading City of Djinns. I stayed away from Harry Potter but got trapped into the intrigue of the Twilight Saga, the Shiva Trilogy and Alex Rutherford’s series, The Empire of the Moghul.

Though I still read many more books on films, science, history, travel, health, people, economy, management and countries than fiction, I’ve warmed up to the idea of reading a novel on a rainy afternoon  sipping some hot coffee. What I miss now are the short stories. I don’t find too many compilations by new authors out in the bookstores and searching for short stories on the internet can be a bit of a downer. This is why I am looking forward to a site like this one — Kreat!ve Kahaani — so I can read new shorts by new authors at one place. It gives me the freedom to Alt+Tab whenever I need to refresh myself mentally at the desk. I only hope I don’t get addicted to it!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The things people tell a woman journalist


As a journalist and a woman, I've had a fair-share of my eyebrow-raising moments during the course of my career. Here are some of the things people have told/asked me:

  1. Why did you take up journalism? You could have done something else. (At a job interview.)
  2. You are too intelligent to be a journalist. (Was told after a successful job interview.)
  3. Are you in it for the glamour? (A Page 3 socialite asked)
  4. Journalism is not a profession for women. There are all kinds of people you have to meet – politicians, criminals, etc and then you may have to cover a war/blast/kidnapping. What will happen to you? (A co-passenger in a train)
  5. Only good-looking women are selected to work for television channels. (A male colleague)
  6. Men are for Politics, Crime, Sports, Business and Civic beats. Women do Lifestyle, Fashion, Films and Art and Culture. (A PR man once remarked)
  7. His Highness (the High Commissioner of an African country) wants to meet you. (Got a call from the Highness's office)
  8. People who write features are not journalists. (A male reporter)
  9. How can you work on a Sunday? (A guy from the media's marketing division asked. Of course, he was selling the paper's ad space)
  10. All journalists are chain smokers or heavy drinkers. (An old interviewee once said)
  11. Let's meet over dinner/drinks at some special place. (The head of a church in Mumbai)
  12. Women journalists always end up in unhappy marriages. (A male colleague remarked)
  13. Film journalists behave like filmstars. They have their own set of affairs. (PR man)
  14. Sub-editors are journalists? How? (A student)
  15. I am single and ready to mingle. (A biker I interviewed)
  16. We should be scared and be careful about what we talk in front of you. (A Peruvian mining official)
  17. When do we go on a date? (A marketing guy from the office)
  18. If your English is good, your Hindi must be really bad. Why else would you be working in an English daily? (When I interviewed for a job at a Hindi TV channel)
  19. It's a good profession for girls, only. Once you are married, then you need to settle down and do something else. (A retired Air Force officer)
  20. There is a lot more money than I had imagined. I thought journalists were paid peanuts. (A businessman who met a journalist on flight where they discussed, among other things, pay packages)
  21. It's an activity, not an occupation. (A casual remark by the HR head of a firm in Vadodara)
  22. Only a journalist can write in a train. (A fellow-passenger)
  23. How did YOU get in there? (A senior male journalist at a Gujarati paper asked when he discovered I was working as a documentation consultant at UNICEF)
Have people made some comments about you and your profession? Do write in.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

When you fly into New South Wales, Australia...

...and get a full view of the beach at Brighton, 

you take in everything the place has to offer:

the lights of the Harbour Bridge in Sydney

the glow of the Opera House

the delicious (and often exotic) seafood platters,

the ocean views at Manly,

kangaroos in the wild,

the vineyards at Hunter Valley,

and the sunset at Salamander Bay.

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Great Indian Train Journey

It is a coincidence that I should finish a book titled Around India in 80 Trains while travelling from Mumbai to Vadodara aboard the August Kranti Rajdhani Express. I love Indian trains so much so that the excitement of travelling in a coupé in the first class of the Rajdhani Express matches that of hanging out on the footboard of a Mumbai local. In the early 1990s, we would journey across the country from Mumbai to Patna aboard the notoriously slow Kurla Bhagalpur Express during our summer vacations. The train did not even have a pantry car. As children, who had previously enjoyed breakfasts of steaming hot omelettes aboard the Magadh Express from New Delhi to Patna, we hated it. Dad would have to alight at stations, scour around for reasonably hygienic food joints and pack up some samosas or kachoris for us to eat. 

Then one vacation, we decided to try the Dadar-Guwahati Express. It had a pantry. What I liked more about the train was that during the course of the 32-hour journey to Patna, I would have made many friends from Assam and the North East. Of course, we would never see each other again, but it did not matter. All important information about our schools and teachers, filmstars and heroes, books and magazines, video games, sibling fights and friends had already been exchanged.

In January 2005, six of us — full grown students —  squeezed into three side-berths of a second-class for a 24-hour trip aboard the Chennai Express from Mumbai to Chennai. Like every other journalist, we too would be heading to Tamil Nadu to get a first-hand account of what the tsunami had wiped off and what it had left behind. Of course, the trip was planned only a couple of days ago and all we had managed to get were six RACs (Reservation Against Cancellation). My two little girl friends had squeezed into one berth and dropped off to sleep. Two other friends — both tall men — took turns to sit in their single berth and I had to share my space with this other male friend of mine. He asked me if I wanted to sleep. I had never travelled in non-AC before. I did not even know if I would get some sleep. He propped up his pillow and dozed off, without waiting for an answer. I stretched out my legs till my toes were next to his ear. He did not even feel them. Then someone left the door between the cars (compartments) open and it became so cold inside that my arthritic friend's knuckles looked like knots on a twine. Only the chips and khakra that mom had packed into my bag gave him some respite. The next day, we were entertained by cucumber-sellers, mobile magazine libraries, peanut vendors, beggars, clowns, musicians and other passengers. The only thing I  had missed out on was sleep.

My last long-distance train journey was in 2009, from Mumbai to Jamshedpur on the Howrah Express. Since then, I have only done the short-runs aboard the Rajdhanis, Shatabdis and August Krantis between Mumbai and Vadodara. 

Nothing can teach you more about a country than a journey on a train. You see the landscape, the people, the food and the efficiencies of the systems at one go. It is for this reason, I prefer to travel to countries which have good public transport and disdainfully look down upon those that have not been able to come up with an efficient network of railways. Trains are the most economical way to get a sense of India. Like all things in this country, they are full of contrasts. There are the first-class coupés for the wealthy and the unreserved sleepers for the poor and the desperate. For people in India, the train is both a symbol of hope and despair. For the millions who leave their native places to work elsewhere in the cities or factories, it spells hope, for it brings with it the fragrance of the new. For the ones who are left behind in the villages and towns, each passing train brings in grief, for their loved ones aren’t coming back. 

In her book, Monisha Rajesh has managed to capture the essence of Indian rail travel. A British citizen, Rajesh travelled to all the four tips of the railways —  Kanyakumari, Dwarka, Udhampur and Ledo — covering a distance of 64,000 km within a span of four months, even aboard the world's first hospital train, the Lifeline Express in Madhya Pradesh. She blends humour, wit and sarcasm with factual information on the railways. Around India in 80 Trains is a tale of freedom, exploration, courage and determination. It’s a great guide for those who want to see India the way it is. To read stories of some of the people who travel on these trains or recollect your own experiences, do pick it up.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Animal attitudes

I find it amazing that cows, dogs and pigs can jointly rummage through garbage bins on streets. With their noses deep in the muck, even I, an animal lover, would call them all filthy. Yet, most of us Indians would worship one animal, spurn/kick the other and shun the third. What makes us call a cow holy though the milk it gives us is produced after it has chewed through the remnants of cellulose in her own waste?  If we see a hog doing the same, we wrinkle our noses in disgust. When a cow strays near our homes, we either feed her or chase her away. Even in our denial, we are reverent. But if we have a pack of stray dogs begging for our attention, then most of us either ignore them or even pick up a stone or two to throw at them. A friend from abroad, on her visit to India, marvelled at the kind of freedom animals in India enjoy. In no country in the West would they be roaming around the streets as freely, even holding up the traffic, she had said. And yet, in a country which is 'so liberal', where its four-legged citizens may make their homes anywhere, our attitudes towards our fellow beings are deeply ingrained with prejudices.   

Friday, August 16, 2013

DADHICHI’S SACRIFICE: Sabarmati

At the same spot on the bank of the River Sabarmati where Mahatma Gandhi’s Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad now stands, there once stood the ashram of the great sage, Dadhichi. 

Once Indra, the king of the devas, was driven out of devaloka (abode of the gods) by an asura named Vritra. The asura possessed a boon because of which he could not be killed by any existing weapon or one made of wood or metal. Indra, who had lost all hope of recovering his kingdom, went to seek the aid of Lord Vishnu. Vishnu told Indra that only the weapon made from the bones of Dadhichi would defeat Vritra. Indra and the devas went to Dadhichi’s ashram on the banks of the River Sabarmati. Though Indra had once beheaded* the sage, He did not shy away from asking for the latter’s aid in defeating Vritra. 

Dadhichi acceded to the devas’ request but said that he wished to go on a pilgrimage to all the holy rivers before he gave up his life. Since Indra did not want to spare any more time, he brought together all the waters of the holy rivers to Naimisharanya, thereby allowing the sage to have his wish fulfilled at once. 

Dadhichi took his holy dips and started his meditation. He had no attachment for his body. He concentrated his mind solely on God. Slowly, he began to concentrate on his breath and finally he became one with the supreme power. Almost immediately wild animals came out of the forest and devoured his flesh and skin. Indra collected his bones and handed them to Vishwakarma, who fashioned a Vajra (a blunt weapon which had the combined features of a sword, a spear and a mace) out of Dadhichi’s spine. Indra killed the asura with the Vajra and once again reclaimed his place as the king of devaloka.

*Dadhichi was the son of the sage, Atharva. Once, Lord Indra had sworn that he would behead anybody who dared to preach Brahmavidya (literally, the science of Brahman or God) to the Ashwinikumaras, the divine twin horsemen. Since the Ashwinikumaras were vaidyas (physicians), Indra looked down upon them. The Ashwinikumaras begged Sage Dadhichi to teach them Brahmavidya. Since it was irreligious to not preach to someone who was really curious and willing to learn, the sage agreed. Knowing of  Indra’s punishment that would be meted out to Dadhichi, the Ashwinikumaras cut off the sage’s head and kept it aside. They fixed a horse’s head onto his torso. Thus the horse-headed sage Dadhichi (hence known as Ashwashira) preached them the Brahmavidya. When Indra came to know about it, he beheaded Dadhichi with his sword. After He had left, the Ashwinikumaras refixed Dadhichi’s own head on to his torso.

READ MORE LEGENDS SUCH AS THIS ONE IN MY NEW BOOK, FLOW: RIVER LEGENDS FROM INDIA


There are many ways you can look at a river — the body of water, the rocks that are found in it, the topography of the land through which it flows, the shrines and towns that are built on its banks, the people who have had to swim or sail across it, the dams that are built on it and those who have drowned in it. Each river has a different story. Some have many stories. Flow is a collection of legends of the rivers of India. Some of these legends are very popular, others lost like the rivers themselves. Journey from the north to the south of the subcontinent through the course of this book to discover the hidden myths and histories of some of the very revered rivers of this ancient land.

Price: Rs 183

Available on: Pothi.com and Amazon.com


Thursday, August 8, 2013

My Orientation Speech at the Faculty of Journalism and Communication, M S University of Baroda

Once again, I was invited by the Faculty of Journalism and Communication at The  M S University of Baroda to address the new batch of Masters' students during their Orientation Programme. I wanted to get the students to think differently and I hope I've managed a little. I did not follow the order of the speech I had prepared since I wanted to make it an interactive discussion, but I think I covered most of these points:

"I am not going to spout some gyan on the trappings of the media. Instead, let us talk about the people who make the media.

Have you ever heard someone say, “Journalists are like that only. Woh toh aisa hi likhte hain. They will do anything for ‘news’?” What makes us journalists do anything for news? Our deadlines, our tough bosses, our society, or our genetic pool that makes us different from the rest? What do you think? Why do we choose to publish something that other people do not want to read? Do they really not want to read? Many a times you get videos of irritating news anchors on your Facebook wall. How many times have you clicked on the YouTube link just to check them out? Do you remember what he/she was talking about? Of course, you do. There, his/her purpose was served.

Who are the people who work in newspapers, television programmes, films, magazines, book, websites, social media, etc? What do they do? How are they different from each other?

Name some of the journalists/news anchors you know. What do you think of them and their style of presentation or reporting? Who is the best? Who is the most irritating? Who inspires you? Who do you want to emulate? All of you have some conceptions about the people who do a particular job. But are you really qualified to make such judgments? Would you be any different if you had person A, B or C’s job? Maybe. Maybe not.

How many people work in a form of media? Let’s say, film. All of you watch films, right? Now, has any of you waited in the cinema hall for the closing credits to end? You know, when the text scrolls down a black screen with some music in the background. Has any of you tried to count the number of people who are listed in the credits of a film? Nobody? Why should we? Some of you may have watched a movie at least a dozen times in the theatre or on TV/DVD? Do you remember the dialogues and the songs? Yes, of course! Now, do you know the credit list? Not at all. How many times do we read the Acknowledgements' or Credits' page of a book or magazine, or the credits at the end of our favourite TV show? We never even think of all those people who have given us a product — film, TV programme, newspaper, magazine, book or website — that we judge so easily.

When you like a film, do you appreciate the film as a whole or only one character in it? When you like a story/article in the newspaper, do you like it because you like the journalist who has written that report, or the way it has been presented in the paper with pictures and an attractive headline?

The point I am coming to is that media is all about teamwork. There are hundreds of people who work behind the scenes to bring together a package of content that will glue viewers to television screens or grab readers' eyeballs. Take for example the guys who do headlines in the newspapers. Do you know what they are called? How are they different from the journalists who write the reports? Did any of you think that the reporters write their own headlines? How you wish! The guys who actually ‘make pages’, which means edit stories, sort and select pictures, design the pages using softwares such as QuarkXpress or Adobe InDesign, put eye-catching headlines and proof-read the whole newspaper are called sub editors or subs. Did you know of them? No. Do you know their names? No. Why? Because they remain invisible, like the designers and copywriters who create ads. We all love those Amul hoardings. Does anybody know who had drawn the Amul Girl? It was Eustace Fernandez. We remember the girl very well, not the person who made her. That's advertising. It's meant to sell products and services, not the people who create the ideas to sell products and services.

So how are media persons different from people in other jobs? One, they are curious, very curious. In most other jobs, a knowledge of the job is good enough for you to sail through. But if you are in the media, you need to know everything about what's happening all over the world. Now, that's impossible. So you try the next best thing i.e. gain access to information about things happening all over the world in real time. You get it from websites, newspapers, news wires or agencies, social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter and people sources from different places. You've got to have the curiosity to know and have the ability to build a network of people who will give you the required information when you need it. Two, you need to be creative because you have to stand out. There are hundreds of newspapers in India in many languages. If you want the reader to pick yours, you have to provide content which is designed and packaged well. Hundreds of journalists are invited to a press conference. If you can't make your story different from the guy next to you, then you are simply not good enough. And three, you need to be expressive. Ideas in the head serve no purpose if they are not communicated properly. You may have a fresh perspective of looking at something, but if you cannot put it in the form of words, photographs or pictures, it's of no use. If you do not do it properly, it may be misinterpreted. If you have these three qualities, you will have bright career in the media.

You need to start looking at things in a different light. The next time you watch an anchor on a news channel, think of why the show has been made like that. Why does the person behave in the same manner every night for months? Are you judging the person or the image or the hundreds of people who work at that channel? Think, realize, understand and know better.

They say that you either find a job you like or like the job you get. I'll advise you to try both, for as judgmental you may be, it is difficult to judge yourself."

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Chicken in the microwave

A few days ago, I tried cooking Indian-style chicken in the microwave without using any oil and I managed some good results. It's a simple recipe but it sure tastes divine. 


Ingredients:

Curd: 200-250g 
Chicken legs: 4-5 pieces (skinned)
Cinnamon: 1 stick
Green Cardamom: 4-5
Cloves: 4-5
Peppercones: 12-15
Bay leaf: 1
Red chilli powder: 1 tsp
Turmeric powder: 1 tsp
Ginger garlic paste: 1 tbsp
Salt: Just a few grains
A few Coriander leaves for the garnish


Preparation:
Grind the cinnamon, cardamoms (shelled), cloves, bay leaf and peppercones together to a fine powder. Mix the powdered spices with the curd till they blend well. Add the turmeric, ginger garlic paste, red chilli powder and a few grains of salt and mix well. Use a spoon to marinate each chicken leg with the spice-and-curd paste. Transfer all of it to a glass dish and put it inside the refrigerator for 12-15 hours. The longer it stands, the better it tastes. 

Microwaving:
Take the marinated chicken out and put it in a plastic steamer (the ones you get for making idlis, but you do not need the stands here). Microwave for 15 minutes. (You may choose to add water if you want more gravy.) Once it's done, let it cool inside the steamer for 40-45 minutes. Open, transfer to a serving dish and garnish with chopped coriander leaves. The curd gives it a slight sour taste while the spices pack a punch!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

'Cos the girl who reads...

I came across this on Facebook and loved it. Do read it and let me know what you think.

You should date an illiterate girl.

Date a girl who doesn't read. Find her in the weary squalor of a Midwestern bar. Find her in the smoke, drunken sweat, and varicolored light of an upscale nightclub. Wherever you find her, find her smiling. Make sure that it lingers when the people that are talking to her look away. Engage her with unsentimental trivialities. Use pick-up lines and laugh inwardly. Take her outside when the night overstays its welcome. Ignore the palpable weight of fatigue. Kiss her in the rain under the weak glow of a streetlamp because you’ve seen it in a film. Remark at its lack of significance. Take her to your apartment. Dispatch with making love. Fuck her.

Let the anxious contract you've unwittingly written evolve slowly and uncomfortably into a relationship. Find shared interests and common ground like sushi and folk music. Build an impenetrable bastion upon that ground. Make it sacred. Retreat into it every time the air gets stale or the evenings too long. Talk about nothing of significance. Do little thinking. Let the months pass unnoticed. Ask her to move in. Let her decorate. Get into fights about inconsequential things like how the fucking shower curtain needs to be closed so that it doesn't fucking collect mold. Let a year pass unnoticed. Begin to notice.

Figure that you should probably get married because you will have wasted a lot of time otherwise. Take her to dinner on the forty-fifth floor at a restaurant far beyond your means. Make sure there is a beautiful view of the city. Sheepishly ask a waiter to bring her a glass of champagne with a modest ring in it. When she notices, propose to her with all of the enthusiasm and sincerity you can muster. Do not be overly concerned if you feel your heart leap through a pane of sheet glass. For that matter, do not be overly concerned if you cannot feel it at all. If there is applause, let it stagnate. If she cries, smile as if you’ve never been happier. If she doesn't, smile all the same.

Let the years pass unnoticed. Get a career, not a job. Buy a house. Have two striking children. Try to raise them well. Fail frequently. Lapse into a bored indifference. Lapse into an indifferent sadness. Have a mid-life crisis. Grow old. Wonder at your lack of achievement. Feel sometimes contented, but mostly vacant and ethereal. Feel, during walks, as if you might never return or as if you might blow away on the wind. Contract a terminal illness. Die, but only after you observe that the girl who didn't read never made your heart oscillate with any significant passion, that no one will write the story of your lives, and that she will die, too, with only a mild and tempered regret that nothing ever came of her capacity to love.

Do those things, god damnit, because nothing sucks worse than a girl who reads. Do it, I say, because a life in purgatory is better than a life in hell. Do it, because a girl who reads possesses a vocabulary that can describe that amorphous discontent of a life unfulfilled—a vocabulary that parses the innate beauty of the world and makes it an accessible necessity instead of an alien wonder. A girl who reads lays claim to a vocabulary that distinguishes between the specious and soulless rhetoric of someone who cannot love her, and the inarticulate desperation of someone who loves her too much. A vocabulary, goddamnit, that makes my vacuous sophistry a cheap trick.

Do it, because a girl who reads understands syntax. Literature has taught her that moments of tenderness come in sporadic but knowable intervals. A girl who reads knows that life is not planar; she knows, and rightly demands, that the ebb comes along with the flow of disappointment. A girl who has read up on her syntax senses the irregular pauses—the hesitation of breath—endemic to a lie. A girl who reads perceives the difference between a parenthetical moment of anger and the entrenched habits of someone whose bitter cynicism will run on, run on well past any point of reason, or purpose, run on far after she has packed a suitcase and said a reluctant goodbye and she has decided that I am an ellipsis and not a period and run on and run on. Syntax that knows the rhythm and cadence of a life well lived.

Date a girl who doesn't read because the girl who reads knows the importance of plot. She can trace out the demarcations of a prologue and the sharp ridges of a climax. She feels them in her skin. The girl who reads will be patient with an intermission and expedite a denouement. But of all things, the girl who reads knows most the ineluctable significance of an end. She is comfortable with them. She has bid farewell to a thousand heroes with only a twinge of sadness.

Don’t date a girl who reads because girls who read are storytellers. You with the Joyce, you with the Nabokov, you with the Woolf. You there in the library, on the platform of the metro, you in the corner of the café, you in the window of your room. You, who make my life so goddamned difficult. The girl who reads has spun out the account of her life and it is bursting with meaning. She insists that her narratives are rich, her supporting cast colorful, and her typeface bold. You, the girl who reads, make me want to be everything that I am not. But I am weak and I will fail you, because you have dreamed, properly, of someone who is better than I am. You will not accept the life of which I spoke at the beginning of this piece. You will accept nothing less than passion, and perfection, and a life worthy of being told. So out with you, girl who reads. Take the next southbound train and take your Hemingway with you. Or, perhaps, stay and save my life.

— C. Warnke

Thursday, July 25, 2013

How to juggle your cocktails and snacks at a party

I just came across these handy tips by Suneeta Sodhi Kanga in the Global Gujarati


So the party season is currently in full swing! A party is an enjoyable celebration where people get together to socialise, converse and relax but, more often than not, a lot of bloopers are created by guests. A savvy party goer should have a few tricks up his sleeve.

Guidelines for Eating and Drinking: Never, ever, drink on an empty stomach. Stop on the way to the event to grab a snack if necessary. The risks of losing control or being indiscreet are too great. In fact, be sure to pace your alcoholic intake throughout the course of the evening.

Don’t fill your plate to overflowing. People seldom notice you going back for seconds at large cocktail functions; they will notice the mountainous heap on your plate. If refreshments are being served by waiters, all the better. It eliminates the necessity for a plate, provided greed doesn’t get the better of you and you try to take more than one hors d’oeuvre at a time. Refuse if the foods are messy, dippy or drippy. Olives with pits are held in the fingers and eaten in several bites. Then the pit is discarded on the side of your plate, in an ashtray or into a napkin. Do the same with toothpicks.

Never, ever dip something from which you’ve already taken a bite back into the sauce. Hold your cocktail napkin beneath the vegetable to catch any drops of sauce that may fall.

Always exercise caution to avoid burning yourself when biting into a hot hors d’oeuvre. Test the temperature unobtrusively with the tip of your tongue, and remember that the inside is usually quite a bit hotter.

How to hold glasses at parties: First of all, the right hand should always be kept free to shake hands with other guests who may be arriving or leaving. Food, drink, napkin, stirrers, toothpicks - everything - goes into the left hand.

A cold, wet drink should never be held for more than the time it takes to have a quick sip. In fact, a chilled drink should be held by the stem, never

the bowl, so you don’t heat the drink. Hold a highball by the base of the glass rather than wrapping your hand around the drink. Only room temperature drinks, like brandy or a neat scotch that benefit from the added body heat to release the bouquet, are held by the bowl of the glass. If an elaborately garnished drink is provided, it may be drunk through a straw. Please do not fidget with it, or use it to stir the drink between sips.

How to Hold a Wine Glass: Wine is served in stemware because the temperature at which it is served can have a profound impact on the taste and the enjoyment it yields. Wine glasses should always be held by the stem of the glass rather than the bowl since the heat of your hand will quickly warm the liquid. Just hold the glass by the stem unless the wine is served at too cool a temperature and you need to warm it for a minute or two.

What to do with Stirrers and Toothpicks? While food served on toothpicks or cocktail sticks may keep your fingers clean, there is the problem of what to do with those sticks. Don’t litter, but don’t put them back on the serving tray; it is unappetising to others and unhygienic. If no containers have been provided for the toothpicks, put them in an ashtray, on a dish or on the tray when the waitstaff is collecting empty glasses.

If nothing is available, wrap the toothpicks in a napkin and dispose of them later. Please do not put toothpicks in your pockets, Ming vases or flower arrangements!

Here’s how to hold everything in one hand: Take that cocktail napkin and put it between the ring and baby finger of the left hand. Then, spread the ring and middle fingers to act as a base for the plate of hors d’oeuvres. Use the thumb and index finger to hold the stem or base of the glass and to stabilise the top of the plate at the same time. As you need something, reach for it with the right hand, use it, then return it to the appropriate finger slot in the left hand before continuing.