Friday, November 27, 2009

Saying Thank You.

Its thanksgiving break and so there is no dragging yourself out of the bed early morning, gobbling down or (most times) missing breakfast and rushing out to face the challenges the day has in store for you.
As every year, this year too got invited for thanksgiving celebration at a friends’ house. D and R throw these elaborate, formal, sit down thanksgiving lunch every year, and you may be a perpetually broke, semi-starving ( just added that for some extra drama) bunch of graduate students, but this day you are forced to look and behave your best. And like every year this one was as wonderful and elegant and interesting and warm.
There was lot of good cheer, love and pure unadulterated gluttony (I mean literary unadulterated as D swears by organically grown food and rather die than compromise there). It is also an opportunity to catch up on what’s been going on- personally or professionally or even general matters of the world.
Now, just because we are the invited ones doesn’t mean we walk in empty handed, share some hugs and hellos and get down to eating. We all bring something with us - some home cooked dish of our respective countries, some wine and some talent. Yep there is entertainment after the meal where whoever is blessed with artistic talent gets a chance to showcase it. So there is usually singing, piano and guitar performances, documentary and short- film screening, photography presentation and some dancing as well. Oh yea..it is quite a group although it is embarrassing to say that I am the only one in the group with no talent per se. Anyways, the buffet table was particularly interesting ( I called it world food) as there was the typical American thanksgiving spread, with some Chinese, Eygyptian and Indian (courtesy moi) thrown in.

Mr Turkey stuffed, cooked and ready to be eaten. I almost felt sorry for the bird

Your typical American thanksgiving spread-cranberry sauce, lima beans and corn, mashed potatos with gravy and sweet potatoes. The green stuff is the Egyption dish-"Stuffed Grape Leaf".

You can catch a glimpse of my creation at the far end-My signature Chicken tikkas! :)

However, this time for me, the highlight was a presentation/demo by A, who is a budding filmmaker/ environmentalist, on her latest personal project. She wanted to buy a car and after some extensive research, she bought this old model Merc Benz, diesel car and converted it to run on vegetable oil. Yea, you read it right—vegetable oil, that too used!

The yellow, vintage, veggie oil Merc.Benz

I cannot possibly explain all the details on how it is done but the system seems fairly simple as all it requires is a set of three filters and a heating fixture (can’t remb its name) to get the car running.The filters are basically to filter the vegetable oil as they tend to be dirty and the three filtering steps will take care of that. There is one filter which needs to be changed often ( about 2-3 times a month but it costs only $3 and the other two only once in 6-12 months ( costs ~$13)

The insides--you can see one of the big filters in white and the pipes connected to it are the additional fixtures to be incorporated

The oil is made to pass through the heating thingy. This is basically because veg oil tends to be thicker than regular gas and bio-fuels and on passing through the heating fixture it thins the oil. Also, this is important when the weather gets cold and the oil tends to thicken. Anyways, long story short, there is this beautiful, yellow, old model, ex-diesal merc benze running on used vegetable oil. The used veg oil she gets from a friend’s restaurant. This is recycle, reuse and reduce at its best and I am mighty impressed!
(Point to note- this works only on diesel engine cars)
So, as I said earlier, it was an afternoon (extended reasonably late into night) of good cheer, brilliant ideas and unreserved hogging. I mean really, the turkey was not the only one that was stuffed ( although it almost disappeared towards the end). I felt like the turkey by the time it was to leave.

You can guess the fate of Mr Turkey

We were all getting ready to leave when, as always, D and R gave us our Christmas gifts (we always get it early from them as they normally leave town before Christmas. Must add that we mail our presents to them) and as stuffed I was, I thought it was pretty ironic when I found what my present was. Me being my impatient self had to find out what was behind the brightly colored wrap and couldn’t wait to get home before I ripped open to find this interesting book. Its named “Hope’s Edge- The Next Diet for a Small Planet” by F.M Lappe and Anna Lappe ( a mother-daughter team). I skimmed quickly through ~10 pages and it appeared that the authors are attempting to de-mystify the notion that “hunger in this planet is caused by scarcity in nature” and points out that the world is basically divided into two- the over-fed and the under-fed with a screwed up economic (now global) system to blame for. Hmm…sounds interesting so far. But since I am still reading Aslam this one will have to wait. These type of books, how much ever interesting and fascinating the content maybe, do not read like page turning thrillers (speaking about myself here) and it normally takes time. So once Aslam is out of the way maybe I’ll take it up. Actually two fictions that I ordered are one their way so maybe after one of those I might get to the “ food book”. By then finals should be over as well.

To wrap up this early morning verbal diarrhea ( I woke up around 3:30 am, tossed and turned for a while, got my ipod and listened to some music and when even that failed to keep me calm, I decided to type) I must say there are many issues that bother and overwhelm me (and you)- this includes your own issues, of the ones near and dear to you, of your fellow bloggers and non- bloggers, of everything living and breathing on this planet and just about everything under the stars…but somehow when a bunch of us sit around a lovely table with goodness around you, automatically things you are thankful for pours out of you.
So..yes I am thankful as well.. to you and you, to this and that..
Thank you.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Current Occupations

-Reading Reza Aslam's book(No god but God).You can call it a history book. Good one
-Watching movies on youtube. Saw Abhiyum Naanaum. Good one
-Preparing for finals. Nothing good about it but still got to do it
-Wondering how evil and how saintly I am (Rauf inspired thoughts). Not sure if it is good or bad and not sure if I got to do it or not

-Final thoughts for the day...why can't it just rain..daamn it!*said with a mallu accent*

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Making a Fuss

Hi...I am soooo bored *yaaaawn*


"Come up to meet you, tell you I'm sorry

You don't know how lovely you are.
I had to find you, tell you I need you,
Tell you I set you apart.
Tell me your secrets and ask me your questions,
Oh lets go back to the start.
Running in circles, Comin' in tails
Heads on a science apart.
Nobody said it was easy,
It's such a shame for us to part.
Nobody said it was easy,
No one ever said it would be this hard.
Oh take me back to the start."

(Src: The Scientist-Coldplay)
Bye...I am soooo bored *yaaaawn*

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Tale of the Snail

After the rains this lonely slimy snail appeared on my backyard. It was pretty huge and also the friendliest snail I have ever seen :). As you can see it rendered itself to be photographed without any hangups. Normally these guys retrieve into their shell as soon as they sense some disturbance..but not this one.

Posing for the camera ( even sporting a Shaka sign :)) or asking for food?

Threw a couple of flowers just to make the frame look prettier.

But next thing you know the hungry fellow moved towards the petals

As you can see a part of the petal's already eaten up

And the snail lived happily ever after..

That was the tale of the snail.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Charter for Compassion

My friend shared this with me and I am shraing with whoever..




And its founder Karen Armstrong speaks....

. Also check out the speech she gave at the TED awards..My favorite line from her speech- " we have a talent as a species to mess wonderful things up "..




Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"Updates"

For J and anyone who is interested...

News in general...

School continues to take up a good chunk of time/life. Not much research happening but quite a bit of refelection happening..as in- what the hell am I doing and what the hell do I want to do in life/with life? Also, bumped into a fellow student and family friend who sounded frustrated with studies. His words" The more I learn the more I feel I don't know". I said...'welcome to the club my friend'.

Entertainment...

Attended a Diwali get together with mom, friend and prof. I call K and jr the anti-social elements in the family :D. Post dinner, the dance floor was open and my friend and I danced like crazy to upbeat Punjabi numbers (which was the only frustrating part). Prof surprised with this unseen side of me...mom not so much.
Read a couple of books by Shoban Bantwal. Pretty good, especially the Dowry Bride. Currently reading Jane Austen's Emma. So far--simply delightful!
Watched the COnstant Gardner( second time). What can I say..it was superbe, magnifique ( no it isn't a French movie), inspiring and sad. Also watched the Brick Lane. Good one. For some Bollywood fix, watched Swades ( 3rd or 4th time) and fell in love with SRKhan again.

Friends and Challenges...
My good friend in Mumbai is volunteering at a mental health day care. A Schizophrenic patient, 23yrs old, has a huge crush on her, bordering on obsession and follows her around all the time. She is pretty worried and doesn't know how to handle him. My words of wisdom ( with no disrespect intended)- ' I thought sane men are tough enough to handle and you are talking about a not-so-sane man here. Good luck alright'!
Another friend is not speaking to me. She ignored my phone calls, my messages and my emails!.Looks like I have the talent to piss off people and I don't even realize it until much later. What a dense-head I am! ( Incidentally I found this bumper sticker at the ISKCON gift shop that said- " You can pay with Visa or Karma" and I wondered if God was trying to communicate with me). The frustrating part is I dont know what I did that she is so upset with me. Karma! Karma!
On a happy note-a good friend's sister had her first painting exhibition. She has put up the pictures in facebook. Really good collection I thought. The girl definitely has talent. I hope to buy one if I can afford it. She has a B.Arch degree and worked for a while, then quit and sat at home and played house. One fine day she woke up and decided to start painting..just like that!.I think a star is born again.

Matters of the heart...not really but..
There is a new crush in life- crushes actually. I have been crush free for the last year and a half (a record of sorts I would say).One is Anthony Bourdain of "No reservations" ( only because Ian Wright of Globe Trekker is out of sight these days)and the other is this African-American dude I see at the campus all the time. I don't know his name, what he does, or where he is from and vice versa( I am pretty sure). All I know is he looks good and we always smile and say hello. I know it is superficial, lame, and fickle and vain but as the new saying goes "Crush ( and love too) is not blind"!

General Disposition..
The last couple of days the weather has been awesome. In other words it was cool, dull/downcast, and cloudy with scattering rains. It is a bit oxymoron-ish but the fact is dull weather and rain does something good to my disposition in general.