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Friday, October 31, 2014

Book Review : God is a Gamer (Ravi Subramanian)

"Indian teams of multinationals these days are just expected to execute not think".

Ravi Subramanian literally manages to hit the nail on the head. Even for someone who has been following him ever since the days of 'If God was a Banker', it comes across as quite 'tongue-in-cheek'. For me, this is a coming-of-age book for the guy who has actually been through the innards of the corporate world.

A plot that is entangled in greed (after all Bitcoin is money even though it is virtual), gaming, cyber-terrorism and politics, this one had me hooked till the end. Alas, all good things have to come to an end. But sometimes an encore is also a possibility (thank God for that) as in case of this book. I am reading it for the second time even as I pen down the review.

The plot that begins with two top notch bankers lobbying with an influential Senator who has the ear of the US President. There is a fleeting mention of Wikileaks which is used as a ruse to introduce the reader to the concept of Bitcoins, the virtual currency which was darling of the tech world till the collapse of Mt Gox in Feb 2014. Mt Gox was a Japan based exchange for Bitcoins that transacted over 70 percent of the virtual currency. Ravi has done a fair job of describing how Bitcoin works in layman terms. He even includes a website Cotton Trail ( does the term 'Silk Route' ring any bells ? ) that trades/accepts payment in Bitcoins in the book.

It is only when the Senator gets assassinated and a phishing scam happens that things start to heat up. The reader is exposed to the power play that takes place in Corporate boardrooms and politicals corridors. We have a female head of a powerful bank who is involved in money laundering, dalliances with a Finance minister and finally ends up dead ( is it a suicide or a murder ??).

The gaming angle and Facebook are given ample coverage. The role of social media in marketing anything and everything (whether it is a game or a even blog like "Confessions of a Hooker") is brought under the lens.

Plus there are the situations which cater to the Indian mindset too. The meeting between a father and a long lost son, the son helping the old man out with his latest venture, the father's unshakable faith in the son's ability to deliver, a romantic angle, an honest man getting bumped off because he chose to depose against a powerful figure, US investigators using guile to get past the famed Indian red tape in the course of their investigation are some of those.

There is a new revelation in almost every chapter and that is what sustains one's interest throughout the book (Ex- Do you know what Satoshi Nakamoto stands for ? ). This is difficult to keep the facts out of your head. One keeps working out the plot over and over while making amendments as and when new facts show up. But it is the twist in the end which delivers the knockout punch.  A must read if you are crazy about thrillers that draw heavily on technology.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Pepper Garlic Liver Masala !!!

For the daily soap addicts, these are exciting times. Almost every show worth its salt (or TRP) is showing some new development. Whether it is the uncovering of the hijacking plot by Suraj and Sandhya in Diya Aur Bati or the marriage triangle of Jigar, Pari and Radha in long running 'Saathiya', the telly soap fans are lapping it up with glee. While I am no fan of such shows, it is my MIL who keeps me updated about the developments on the telly front.

Is it a mere coincidence that every show has something special going on at the same point of time ? Or is it a very well thought and perfectly timed strategic move ? Something to lure back the viewers after the lull which happened during the festive season. With the TRPs driving so much moolah, things can no longer be left to mere chance. It is yet another example of the application of predictive analytics or forecasting, big sounding terms both, which are not relegated to the world inhabited by geeks alone.

Being on a holiday/break does have its share of hidden perks. On of them being the freedom to introspect on seemingly trivial matters. Sometimes these very moments can give one a very fresh perspective and open up new channel/lines of thought. Coming back to today's recipe, it is a fairly simple and quick one. Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 15 mins

Ingredients -

  • 100 gm chicken liver (one can include gizzard too)
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 7-8 fat garlic cloves
  • 3-4 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 2 cloves
  • 1/2 inch cinnamon
  • a small piece of star anise
  • 1 green chili
  • 2 tbsp hung curd
  • 2 tsp oil
  • 1 medium sized onion
  • 2 pinch turmeric
  • salt to taste
  • few drops of vinegar

Preparation - Wash and drain all the pieces. Add the vinegar, salt and turmeric. Mix well and keep aside for 5 mins.

Grind the pepper, garlic, cilantro, cloves, cinnamon, star anise and green chili into a paste. Add to the chicken liver pieces and marinate for 1 hour.

Chop the onion into small pieces

Cooking - Heat the oil in a wok. Add the onion and fry till translucent.

Throw in the marinated chicken liver along with nay residual marinade. Stir fry for 8-9 mins. (The liver usually gets cooked within this time)

Add the hung curd and cook for another 2-3 mins. Remove from the wok.

Serve hot with rotis.

Note - This recipe tastes great with mutton liver too. But it takes longer to cook. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Baked Dahi Vada

I am off for a month long vacation starting from Monday. In the excitement and craziness of planning the trip and doing the packing, I have not done much cooking for the last few days. Since I have a few things planned ( plus a few in the pipeline ) for the next year as well, it only makes sense to do some homework during the remaining year. One of the plans has been to push for a healthier lifestyle which starts with a healthier menu. I have been trying out low calorie versions of quite a few traditional recipes and will soon post them on my blog.

One of the first trials was my husband's favorite street food aka 'Dahi Vada'. Instead of deep frying the vadas, I have opted to cook them in a traditional appam pan using just an oil spray. The first 2-3 trails did not turn out good but then I found just the way to get them soft and spongy. Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time : 20-25 mins


  • 1 cup Urad dal 
  • 2 tbsp Semolina (suji)
  • 1 1/2 cup curd
  • 7-8 peppercorns (coarsely crushed)
  • 2-3 green chili
  • 1 red chili
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1/3 tsp baking powder
  • black salt( kala namak )
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • oil spray
  • 1/2 tsp oil for tempering
  • salt

Preparation: Soak urad dal for 3-4 hours. Grind into a smooth paste ( when you touch the batter, it should not stick to your hands). Add semolina. Mix and allow to stand overnight.

Just before cooking, add the crushed peppercorn, finely chopped green chili, baking powder and salt. Mix well.

Cooking: Spray some oil onto an appam pan and put it on the flame. Make small balls out of the batter and put into the pan. Fry till the bottom part turns light brown ( cover with a lid for faster cooking). Flip it over and cook on the other side for another 2-3 mins.

Remove the balls and put them in water to which salt and very little curd has been added. Allow to soak for 2 hours.

Beat the rest of the curd in a mixing bowl with salt, water, cumin powder, black salt and chilli powder. Keep the consistency thin.

Remove the soaked vadas from the curd water and transfer to a plate. Add the beaten curd over it.

Heat the oil in a tempering pan. Add the cumin, broken red chili and curry leaves. Fry for 20-30 secs. Pour over the dahi vadas.

Serve immediately.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Happy Diwali

May Goddess Lakshmi fill the year ahead with happiness, success and prosperity !!!

Today's special - Malai rolls, Khirkadam (from Banccharam's) and baked dahi vada 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Mysore chronicles

Top post on, the community of Indian Bloggers

A trip to Mysore is considered mandatory if you are staying in/visiting Blore. So, after taking up residence in India's IT capital for nearly two years, we traveled to the cultural capital of Karnataka over the last weekend. We took the same route on which we had travelled to Coorg, except that being a Friday it was much less crowded once we hit the outskirts of the city.

We started around 7:30 am from Marathahalli and made the first stop at Kamat Lokaruchi around 10 a.m.. After a princely breakfast ( had to order those 'Moode' Idlis once again ) and some really great tea, we hit the road again. Feeling tempted by all those food outlets that dots this stretch, we grabbed some more snacks at a Macdonalds outlet.

It was around 12 that we reached Srirangapatnam. It is a city of magnificent ruins and the ancient gate ( which one of the entrances to the fort of Srirangapatnam) that one takes to enter the city is simply spell-binding. The straight road took us the place where Tipu Sultan's body was found after the battle of Seringapatnam(1799). A simple marble memorial marks the place. As one goes further, one can see the 'Water Gate', and the destroyed palace which has been turned into a park. At a short distance, one can see the Sri Ranganatha Swamy temple, This ancient temple is a major tourist attraction and photography is strictly prohibited inside the premises. A massive stone idol of Lord Vishnu in a reclining posture is located in the inner chamber of this temple. Many other idols have also been installed and are being worshiped.

From the temple, we went straight to the Summer Palace and Museum of Tipu Sultan. A simple structure standing amidst a huge garden, it is covered with green blinds on all sides. The walls are richly decorated with frescos/murals depicting various wars and processions but most of which are currently in different stages of deterioration. Some are faded, while others seem to have been attacked by moss/fungus/dampness. Very few remain intact. The displays consist of sketches, portraits, weapons and artifacts used by Tipu Sultan himself. Some of his old robes are also on display. I was particularly captivated by the furniture which was so well maintained that it almost looked new. I guess it is very good quality teak wood that went into the making of those pieces. Most of the palace itself is made up of wood which is a great heat insulator. It did feel quite cool inside the structure.

As we walked back to the car, it started raining heavily and we were almost drenched by the time we covered the distance between the main structure and the entrance. We decided to skip the Gumbaz where the bodies of Hyder Ali ,Tipu Sultan and their family members are laid to rest. It has some beautiful structures, including a mosque. I had already been to this place during a college trip and it is a must see. But we had to skip it due to the heavy downpour. On the way out, we passed by the Jamia Masjid, the mosque built by Tipu Sultan. He is said to have offered his evenings prayers here.

Image - Courtesy Google

We reached the hotel around 1 pm. Kings Kourt is a simple hotel located on Jhansi Road. Though nicely done up, it is an old structure( something you will not notice if making the reservations online). Though the had provided a LED tv and a small fridge, the room was not as per our expectations but since we had made an advance reservation and it was just a matter of a single night, we decided to stay there. Thankfully the lunch was good (though room service was quite expensive) and they served it within 45 mins.

After lunch and a quick nap, we started off for the Chamundeshwari Temple around 3:30 pm. Situated on top of a hill, A revered Shakti Peeth, it is regularly thronged by devotees. According to the legends, Shakti peeths are spots where the body parts of Devi Sati (Lord Shiva's consort) fell on earth. Since the hair of Sati is said to have fallen on this spot, the deity here is named as Chamundeshwari Devi. While there was a long queue as it was a friday but it took a relatively short time to get the darshan. The actual statue of the goddess is small but made up of gold. She is further decked up in various ornaments. The doors to the inner chamber are also made up of silver or atleast silver-plated. I loved the elaborate flower decorations that adorned the entire temple. Their fragrance literally filled the whole place.

Since the temple is situated on a hilltop, it gets quite chilly here. We were just warming up with some hot corn-on-the-cob and bhajiyas when the downpour started yet again. It was as if the rain gods were playing pee-a-boo with us. Canceling the plans to see the famous 'Nandi' statue which is situated a little distance from the temple, we returned to the safety of our vehicle and started off towards our last destination for the day.

It was almost 6:30 by the time we reached the St Philomena's church which is supposed to be the second largest one is Asia. Built by the Wodeyar kings,it is a imposing monument ( btw its spires were also visible from our hotel room) in gray which looked quite surreal thanks to the dark clouds which loomed over it. It is built in the Gothic Style and preserves the 3rd century relic of St. Philomena in a catacomb below the main altar. The beautiful stained glass paintings depict scenes from Christian folklore like the birth of Jesus Christ, the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection and the Ascension of Christ. It was still raining quite heavily and the evening service has just started. We joined the prayer for 10-15 minutes and it felt wonderful. I guess we all need a bit of soul-cleansing (something akin to a dip in the holy Ganges) everyday.

Image- Courtesy Google

We returned to the hotel as we were half-soaked and feeling very cold. Though it was just 7:30 pm, there was no tea available. The hotel staff was busy with the preparations for dinner and said that it would an hour to get the tea ready. Feeling irritated, we decided to head out and have dinner it some restaurant. Our driver who was a local guy took us to a place a RRR. Though it seemed small, there were people waiting to get a table. Finally when our biryani arrived on a banana leaf, we were thankful the guy. It was very delicious and so was the 'Chicken 64'. Yeah, it is not a typo. They had mentioned it as 'Chicken 64' instead of  'Chicken 65'. But sadly, we could not tell the difference between the two. After the meal, we directly returned to the hotel as all the shops had downed their shutters. Mysore is a city that sleeps early.

The last and the best was left for the second (and also the last) day of our trip. The famed Mysore Palace (or Amba Vilas Palace) is undoubtedly the first on every tourist's iternary. It is said to have been demolished and rebuilt four times by the Wodeyar kings. The current structure which is gray and gold with red marble domes, is just over a hundred years old. We reached there around 10:30 am when the crowds had just started to form. Depositing our footwear at the entrance, we made our way inside it. Passing through cavernous halls, the first display that caught our attention was that of various dolls and the 'Golden Howdah' or the throne on which Goddess Chamundeshwari is carried during the Dusshera procession. It is known as the Gombe Thotti or Doll's Pavilion. It was followed by another display of the invites/mementos that the various Wodeyar kings had received. This is the casket room. As we walked from one room to another, we occasionally stopped to admire the walls that were decorated with various murals and paintings. There was a Portrait room filled with the portraits of the various kings, queens and princes/princesses. Another had silver chairs and a mirror stand on display. As we entered the public Durbar Hall, it was a sight that caught us off-guard. Apart from the paintings of various goddesses and the richly engraved/painted pillars, even the domed roof of the hall displayed rich paintings depicting Indian mythology. There was another private Durbar Hall on the floor above it. This one was even more opulent and awe-inspiring with beautiful gold and blue shades. The ceiling was intricately craved and even the doors was decorated with rich cravings. There was a silver door for the private Durbar hall. A beautiful marriage mantap where the royal marriages used to take place is another must see.

There are three large temples outside the palace but located within the premises. Also there is a private residential museum located behind the main palace building. This one was being skipped by most tourists but we decided to have a dekko at it. It is quite modest and looks more like an old wooden house rather than a palace. The guide mentioned that it is around 600 years old. It contains some items of clothing, footwear, various carriages (palanquins), furniture, , pooja items and household items used by the royals. There are a lot of paintings of gods and goddesses which are less opulent than the ones we see in the main building. Some weapons, including a golden sword were also displayed here.

It took us more than two hours to cover the palace premises and left us exhausted (more so from having to carry a toddler). We immediately started off from Mysore (around 1 pm) and stopped only twice on the way, once at Kamat for lunch and another halt at Channapatna for picking up some wooden artifacts. Taking the exit from Kengiri to Electronics city, we had to pay Rs 70 as the toll but managed to avoid most of the traffic. Finally we reached home around 4 pm.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Budha Kakudi Raee

After making the khatta last week, I was still left with a big chunk. Since I was in a rather lazy mood (which is becoming a permanent fixture btw) for the next two days, I decided to make a simple raee that my mom used to make. While the raee can be made in a dozen ways, I stick to the method which is simplest and most frugal. It is something like one of those '5 ingredients fix' that one sees on lifestyle or cooking channels but I have used seven instead of five.

Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 15 mins

Ingredients -

  • 2 cups budha kakudi/ripened cucumber (chopped into small pieces)
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds + a pinch for tempering
  • 7-8 garlic flakes (crushed)
  • 1-2 green chilis
  • 2-3 pinch turmeric
  • 2 tsp mustard oil
  • salt to taste

Preparation - Grind the mustard seeds, 1 green chili and half of the garlic flakes into a smooth paste.

Take the mustard paste, chopped green chili, budha kakudi and turmeric in a mixing bowl. Mix together.

Cooking - Heat 1 tsp oil in a wok. Add the mustard seeds and 2 crushed garlic flakes. Allow the seeds to splutter.

Add the budha kakudi and mustard seeds paste to the wok. Add salt and 1/2 cup water. Cover with a lid and allow to cook till the pieces soften.

Once the budha kakudi or cucumber pieces are cooked, drizzle the remaining oil over it and add the remaining garlic flakes. Remove from the flame.

Serve with white rice and dal.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Healthy Kids Make for Happy Mothers

Ask any mother what she asks from God in her everyday prayers. Nine out of ten would reply that their foremost wish is the health of their children. Only when the kids are healthy and happy, would they be able to focus on other things. Whether she is a stay-at-home mother or a career woman, the ability to carry out her daily responsibilities revolves around her children.

A happy kid is a bundle of positive energy and has the ability to light up everyone's spirits. Whether it is turning the house upside down or leaving a mess in their wake, their antics become part of the family anecdotes. But on the other end, a sick child is like an endless pit for draining away any positivity and happiness. Whether it is the refusal to take food or the constant whining, it is heart-breaking and unnatural to see these innocent and hapless children in such a dormant state.  As a mother, I have experienced both extremes. Needless to say, I always hope for the former and try to avoid the latter. And I do take very possible measure within my reach to make this happen.

Starting with a diet that is vital for the development of his body and brain, I try to supplement it with health drinks and ayurvedic formulations. With the deteriorating environmental conditions, they are regularly exposed to pollutants and viruses that are becoming increasingly strong. And not to forget the problem of pollen allergies that is very evident in Bangalore. I believe that my child needs that 'extra' bit of care and nutrition to fight and overcome these external enemies. Hence I trust something like Dabur Chyawanprash which draws from the rich and ancient ayurvedic tradition of India and has proven 'immunomodulatory and anti-allergic potential'.

I remember my mother forcing me to take 'Chyawanprash'. As a kid, I hated those white bottles with the red cap and the sketch of a sage etched in red. I think if I looked hard, I would still find a few of those in the storage room. But looking back in time, I do acknowledge that it is very helpful in keeping away/curing minor irritants like a running/itchy nose, sore throat, cough or even sneezing fits (trust me they can be really irritating if they are as bad as mine used to be). Though she would sometimes forget it during the remaining year, my mother always made sure that I took those two spoonfuls of Chyawanprash in the early winter months. 'This is the right time for building immunity', she would exclaim. And I have kept the tradition alive. 'Like mother like daughter'.

[This post is written for Dabur Chyawanprash.]