Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Blame Games

I came across this image rotating around Facebook and I couldn't resist to write this when I saw dozens of us (Indians) posting this -

Our government is corrupt too. Terrorism is not justified. Resistance is not bombing people. Our media sell us "Big Boss" and wardrobe malfunctions. Some parts of our country don't even have access to clean drinking water. We are distracted by television AND cricket!

Our wars are about fighting among ourselves butchering innocent people in the name of caste and religion. We have Swiss bank accounts. Our politicians themselves don't want peace. Families are destroyed by rapes and torture.

The rest of us see nothing wrong with ourselves and have a doctorate in pointing fingers.

WE have the power to change the things, starting from our self,  our family, our locality, our city, our state and then our country. Please wake up!

                                                                                                    Sincerely and lovingly,
                                                                                                    A tiny being from the rest of that world

P.S.. The things I mentioned above is not how I see our country. Anyone who knew me remotely, knows I always see my glass half full. I always debate with people, who try to criticize India using the vices that are in existence. But, this is preposterous. Every country has its  pros and cons. We should start by trying to work on our cons rather than judging everyone around us.



Tuesday, April 23, 2013

If only, I could be..

1. A Guitarist
That's SLASH! 

2. A Dancer
Any form. 
Oh, what the hell! Every form.

3. Lead Vocalist in a rock band
She is one of my favorite vocalist, Amy Lee from Evanescence.

4. A Painter
I can bath in colors

5. A Pianist

6. Chef Garde Manger
Chef Garde Manger is a chef who crafts cold dishes like salads, hors d'oeuvres, terrines etc artistically in a cold, ventilated area.
I also have a three month experience in this area. That counts, right?

7. An Author
Who doesn't want to be?

8. A Food & Wine Connoisseur
Someone who has a great deal of knowledge about cuisines and wine and an expert judge in matters of taste.

9. A Chef
Okay! I can make my peace with being a chef in any kitchen department. My personal favorite: Bakery and French Cuisine.

10. A Scientist
A vague term, but a scientist in any field is a dream come true. I just need a lab to stay in all the time!

11. An Archaeologist
This should actually be at the top of my list. I love history, I love wandering around to nowhere, I love knowing about the eras that existed thousands of years ago. My name itself means "Earth".

12. A Zoologist
For just one plain reason- I LOVE animals!

13. A Botanist
After animals, plants and trees are my best friend.

14. An Astronaut
Again, who doesn't want to be?

15. A Spy/an FBI agent
Maybe, I watch too much TV, but, yes, I so want to be someone who rushes to a crime scene on getting a call.

16. A Gymnast 
My mother wanted me to be one because she felt I had no bones!

17. A Scuba Diver
There is nothing as naturally colorful as the under water life.

18. A Skydiver
Because I want to fly.
19. A Wildlife Photographer
Animals and thrills and photography? An intense yes. Probably in the rain forest.

20. A Firefighter
To help and save people.

21. A Soldier
Again, to help and save people.

22. A Philanthropist
She is Anuradha Koirala from Nepal. My biggest inspiration. A social activist who saved more than 12,000 girls from sex trafficking. She restores my faith in humanity.
(please watch the video on YouTube, which I've linked under her name above)


....all of them in one life!

The Math:
1-5 would act as a therapy and would satisfy the aspiring artist in me.
6-9 are professions I can really act upon and achieve them because of my relative educational and professional background. (except for 'Author')
10-14 will keep me close to science, as I always wanted to be.
15-19 are for the adventurer in me.
20, 21 and 22, for making this world a better place to live in.

2 of these options can get me killed by criminals.
3 other professions could break my bones.
2 of them can probably convert me into a dinner for animals.

So for now, lets just build castles in the air


Friday, April 19, 2013

The Exact Tasting McDonald's McVeggie Burger Recipe

Every single person who've tasted the McVeggie burger in India, somehow wants McDonald's to serve those burgers all around the world however, that is not the case. They are only available in India.

Being a vegetarian, I am always in the hunt of a good tasting burger but, most of them are either beans or mushrooms burgers, here in the US and they aren't that delicious. So I tried to figure out the recipe for McDonalds McVeggie burger and I was quite successful in gaining the exact same flavor.

To fulfill the wish of relishing this burger, everyone in India would prefer to drive to their closest McDonald's and order the same to dig into the burger in less than 5 minutes. However, if you are outside India or enjoys cooking like me, this is the closest thing in fulfilling the wish to relish McDonald's McVeggie. There is no other recipe on internet, trust me, I flipped the Google inside out.

I regret not taking pictures but, I would totally forget to write the recipe if I wait until I make it again and click the pictures. So drool over this picture I borrowed from Google.

P.S. The ingredients that I have used may not be the same used by McDonald's, however they would give out the exact same flavor.

Yield: 2 burgers

2 Sesame Burger Buns
2 lettuce leaves (I used Iceberg) (I guess McDonald's uses Green leaf lettuce)
2 slices of Tomatoes
2 slices of onion
2 cheese slices (I used Lucerne Swiss cheese)
2 cubes cheese spread (I used The Laughing Cow Cream Cheese Spread)
Mustard sauce
Mayonnaise (any kind)
For Patty:
2 Medium size boiled potatoes
1/3 cup boiled green peas
4-6 tbsp bread crumbs (if not readily available, grate a stale bread with the lightest pressure)
1 tbsp all-purpose flour/corn starch (maida/corn flour)
A pinch of red chili powder/paprika (optional)
A pinch of cumin seeds powder
Oil just enough to coat the pan

To make patties for the burger:
  1. Mash the boiled potatoes and add the boiled green peas.
  2. Season the mixture with red chili powder, cumin powder, salt and pepper according to your taste. Add 1 tbsp all-purpose flour/cornstarch.
  3. Add 2 tbsp bread crumbs and keep the other 2-4 tbsp aside for coating
  4. Combine the mixture well. If the mixture is too moist to form a patty, add a little more amount of all-purpose flour/cornstarch until the mixture is firm.
  5. Heat a non-stick pan coated with oil.
  6. Shape the potato mixture in to a patty of around half-inch thickness and the size same as that of the bun. Coat the patty with the remaining bread crumbs. Cook both side of the patties on the pan until golden brown or until the outer layer is crisp. The bread crumbs and the flour would give the perfect texture same as McDonald's or any ready made Patty.
(for making the patties crispier and of restaurant level, you can set up a breading station. Vegetarians can substitute egg with an equal amount of all-purpose flour and water mixture. Coat the patties with this method before cooking them on the pan)

The buns:
Now, the way you use the sauces on your buns is completely your choice. I however, used this method:
  1. Neatly cut both the buns from center. Apply butter to both top and  inside of the bottom bun.
  2. Apply a coat of Mayonnaise, Mustard sauce and cheese spread on the inside of the top bun.
  3. Place the slice of cheese on the bottom bun and melt the cheese. There are different ways to do so. Either place the bun and cheese slice on the pan and cover for less then 20 seconds or microwave the bun and cheese slice for 10-15 seconds and you can see a layer of slightly melted cheese. I would prefer the former option as that would also make the bun a little crisp.
  4. Place the patty on the melted cheese. Layer it with a slice of tomato, onion and a lettuce leaf. (I really don't remember if McDonald's India uses onions and tomatoes but, they don't taste bad)
  5. Stack it with the top bun and there, there you have the exact tasting McDonald's McVeggie burger.

Serve with French Fries. I am sure, this would not only taste like McVeggie but, this is also a healthier version unlike burgers served at McDonald's. (If only, one could see the way McDonald's operate)

Please let me know if there is any confusion with the procedure. I would be happy to help. Also let me know, if anyone tries out this recipe. 

Writing this recipe have given me more joy than writing any other post on this blog has ever given to me. I would do this often.

Happy Cooking! 


Friday, April 12, 2013

To Anna, with Love, from Paris

Originally written on: August 15, 2011

There was an "Anna movement" which circulated world wide two years ago. This was the coverage done by me while I was a writer for an international online magazine, of a group of Indians who participated in a peaceful march against corruption in support of Anna Hazare, at Paris, France on August 15th 2011.


“I want to return to a corruption free India. P.S. I am returning before 31st August 2011” read a banner at “Peaceful Demonstration in Paris against corruption in India”
Paris, the city most people uniquely recognize for Eiffel Tower, fashion or Haute Couture, is also home to a concise number of Indians. Bastille, an area specially known in the European history as the mark to give birth to French Revolution, became the ground zero for 150 odd people of Indian origin, revving up their own revolution, calling the mantras of “Corruption Free” India in the beaming sunlight of August 15th.

Issues regarding corruption in India have become more prominent in recent years. Historically, India was subject to quasi socialist (also called Nehruvian Socialism) economic policies for decades. Intense regulation, protectionism and public ownership led to slower growth, rising inflation and lower per capita income. The system of bureaucratic controls called “License Raj”, introduced by Indira Gandhi in the 70s became the core of corruption. It was only after the Liberalization policies of Dr Manmohan Singh in 1991, that India saw a new light of economic prosperity. But with prosperity also came prosperous corruption.

Corruption became more rampant in the recent years (or the media became more vigil ) and finally the people of the country said enough was enough. Inspired by the revolutions taking place in the middle east, Indians, led by Anna Hazare started their own revolution against corruption. Anna announced a "fast unto death" in April, which attracted a huge mass of protesters and followers leading to the conception of a movement that saw protests being organized in various cities and towns of India. The protests included fasts, candlelight vigils and rallies.

India being the center of the ripple, the protests started spreading worldwide. From the UK, the US, Finland the protests have finally reached France . 
“The participants of this movement are the common masses of world’s largest democracy who are fed-up of suffering from Institutionalized corruption of our respective governments over the last 60 years. This protest is against the whole political system which allows us to elect tainted ministers, thus becoming a root cause of corruption” said Arvind Kamboj, who is working with Nissan Motors in France.

The group that was gathered with the aid of social networking site Facebook, appeared wearing white Anna caps that read strong slogans like “I am Anna”
People came out with flags, Placards and posters with quotes on them and a colorful picture of Anna Hazare that said “We want corruption free India”. The demonstration attracted native crowd and French media, who were eager to know the cause. The energetic youth crowd at the venue was much acquainted with the idea of JanLokpal bill and the fight of Anna Hazare.

When Aditya Jha, a student of M.Sc from Skema Business School, France was asked if the protest was against Indian Government, he firmly replied “Our aim is corruption free India and for that we need to support Anna hazare and his Lokpal bill. Just because it’s not drafted by a member of parliament, doesn't mean it is not beneficial. Democracy should allow us to be a part of decision making.”

In July 2011 the Government of India received a whopping list of some 700 bank accounts in Switzerland from the French government and investigations are already underway to determine whether any of the account holders evaded taxes. Irrespective to this fact, the event also managed to attract French natives and they acquired an active participation in the protest.

In the year 2005, “The Right to Information Act” helped civilians work effectively towards tackling corruption. It permitted any Indian citizen (except for those living in Jammu and Kashmir) to request information from a “public authority” for a fixed fee of only Rs.10. Many activists used this right to uncover the graft cases against various politicians and bureaucrats, one consequence being that some of those activists were attacked and even killed. So the question arises,

Having to risk almost their lives for the fight against corruption, is this struggle worth fighting for? Would a single handed “JanLokpal bill” prevent corruption?
“Existing Indian law has harsh punishment for murderers, is murder not being done in India? Corruption free society is only an Utopian idea, still having very low level of corruption will take decades. It’s a nation building process. The current 'Anna' movement is just the first step in reducing corruption.” Says Rajesh kumar who is a Research Engineer at 'IFP Energies Nouvelles,France, from last two years.
While another protester Aditya Jha positively says, “Honestly, I do not think it will disappear. It can’t. But, this bill will bring accountability which is sorely missing. We need a strong bill to ensure that people resist from corruption and then hopefully it will become a practice.”

Is this protest all around the world, that is shouting loudly about corruption in India, not giving out a negative image of our country?
“It is a legal protest with complete support of local authorities. We obtained written permission from the Police. It’s about accepting our own weakness and then making sure it doesn't persist. French people have always been supportive of a good cause. We are proud of India and what we have achieved, but we all know we have potential to do better and accepting our faults is not a bad beginning. It will give an impression of flourishing democracy in India through which people can express their feelings by peaceful demonstrations. This will be an example for rest of the democracies like France and the UK at the time where people are so becoming violent in expressing their concerns and views. France will look at it in hugely positive manner.” said the organizers.

As an extra effort the organizers distributed the pamphlets that clarified the difference between JanLokpal and the bill that was demonstrated by the Government. A letter to the Prime Minister of the Republic India was signed by the protesters urging him to engage the civil society while drafting an anti-corruption law.

Being a democratic country, India already retain three pillars,  the Judiciary, the Legislature and the Bureaucracy, who were supposed to join hands in preserving India against corruption, however it failed. So will a fourth pillar of Lokpal Bill, which might give rise to a parallel system of governance, be any success?
“Democracy is not perfect yet. It’s still evolving and Lokpal is just going to be a support for the common man who is living among all other three pillars. Lokpal will not act as a fourth pillar of our democracy and it is not meant to do so either. It will be a tool to clean up the prevalent corruption in Judiciary, bureaucracy and ultimately providing a right meaning to our legislature. It won’t give rise to a parallel system of governance as Lokpal doesn't assume its authority on anything else other than corruption. It will just do its job silently sitting in corner of room making sure that everyone is working the way they should be” said the protesters

So are these peace demonstrations and a voice against corruption in foreign countries making any difference?
“Yes, I will say it already has reached India. All those gathered here have a point of discussion in their families here or back in India, with their friends. The word of mouth is spreading and forcing the Government to think over their decisions.” says Sunil Sharma, a Program Manager at GE Healthcare.

Me in the middle with the organizers

Various scandals were discovered in 2010-2011, including the 2G spectrum scam, Adarsh Housing Society Scam, and the Common wealth Games scam.  All of them looted an enormous amount of public money and now creating system and sub system would result in to spending some more. Who will foot the bill for this LokPal?
“We have already spent more than enough on corrupt people. Personally, I would rather not mind seeing that my hard earned money is going to someone who is making sure that things are working well rather than seeing it go to an unknown Swiss bank account. I will say its like investing in Anti Virus software to ensure your system runs smooth.”  Says Aditya

The Jan Lokpal Bill, also referred to as the citizens' ombudsman bill, is the much demanded right of Anna and his followers.  
Is going on hunger strikes or protesting for every single demand of a citizen justified?
Is the wastage of public money, time and resources a way to achieve our motives?
Why is this sudden eruption of aggression, mass hysteria and defiance talking place?
Is it because of the media or the revolutions going around in the Arab world that is inspiring the people to raise such propaganda?

There are many such questions I wonder, but looking at the brighter side we see a lone gunman entering an island and shooting numerous people in Norway. A fleet of people burns towns and cities in the UK to protest racism. In this era where people cross their boundaries of aggression and violence, a non-violent effort for a mammoth size evil called “corruption” fruitful or not, might also not do much harm.

But where are such activities leading our Indian youth to? Is this the rise of Middle India or is it a swift metamorphosis?
 “I want to see the youth to be working in every field that helps India progress. We can be engineers, doctors, farmers, entrepreneurs or even politicians. I want to see how much better I can serve my Nation in every way I can.” says a young protester at Bastille. 

Every honest youth sees corruption as a hurdle between them and their dreams. Is the next generation composed to challenge the same or like any other vice that is breathing in India, would accept corruption too, as part and parcel of being an Indian?
“Je veux Inde sans corruption” (I want India free of corruption) shouted a child in the crowd at the protest.  India is no less than a valuable jewelry chest, just a little rusted from outside. No Indian would deny the fact that they want to breathe in a corruption-free India.

JanLokpal Bill, Anna Hazare, hunger strikes and protests are just the face of the combat that might start a new revolution for our developing country however we do not know how long it would take to cremate corruption; all we can do is keep the coffins ready!


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Partners in crime

I have always been an indoor person. An ideal day would be inside four walls, sipping caffeine, reading or watching movies. No matter how hard I try, I never feel joy in stepping outside  my door step and spend time in crowd.

And much to my tremendous luck, I have my other half who is the mirror to my this social awkwardness. So be it our birthdays, anniversaries, valentines or any you-need-to-get-out-and-party day, we prefer settling our asses on our couch and watch movies and television series.

The  first movie we went to, as a couple was Taken-2. As much mild and non-violent we both are, we like violent, bloody (in literal sense), R-rated, guns, axes, bullets, bazooka and bomb movies. We find odd pleasure in it. We worship the movie Inglorious Basterds and Jules Winnfield is our bad-ass icon.
So, every time when I unexpectedly land up on an article or go through social media, where I learn that couple should have some light leisurely time watching romantic movies or have a candle light dinner, I feel the need to do something couple-y just so that we don't turn out to be Mickey and Mallory some day.

So we decided to watch either a rom-com or a classic love story this weekend. Most of the good ones were already watched, so I consulted Mr. Google and decided on "Before Sunrise"

P.S. Before Sunrise is a beautiful love story where two strangers meet on a train to Paris and decide to spend a day in Vienna before they depart and never see each other again. (something very similar to our story).

Ethan Hawke (Jesse) strikes up a conversation with Julie Delpy (Celine) on the train, asking if she understands what the fellow passengers (a German couple) were arguing about. 

Me: "He must be evil. He is so suspicious. I think he would turn out to be a drug dealer, framing Celine."

a few minutes later....

The couple consult some locals in Vienna asking what places were worth visiting.

Me: "Wait! Is he Quentin Tarantino? These two are gonna chase the shit out of them!"
Hubby: "No, I think they are going to put up some funny act in the end."

some more minutes later...

The couple crosses path with a palm reader who tells them beautifully and metaphorically that they both are stardust and they shouldn't forget that, while walking backwards on the road.

Hubby: "Whoah! I think a bus is gonna crush her bammmmm!!" (that didn't happen, of course)

We both stared at each other, switched off the movie, finding ourselves totally incapable of watching a simple movie with no evil or thrill.

We savored a bloody episode of Dexter and went off to bed!