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Creating Indian flavours in Canada


You are what you eat is what they say and I am an Indian. Born and brought up in India I was fed only on Indian food or Indianised version of any other food. So, my veins pretty much carry Indian curries and I smell like a spice garden. On September 3, 2013 I left India for Canada. Before this I had never entered a kitchen with an intention to cook or to even attempt to learn to cook. Mothers always worry when their children leave them and my mother’s biggest worry was my food. She would tell people, “this boy cannot even make chai properly.” So, when I landed in Canada I needed two things very badly: a good sleep, and food. Sleep was the easy part and for food, initially I managed to survive on whatever I could buy from cafeteria and food court in my University. But, the concentration of Indian spices in my blood was declining sharply and I was craving for Indian food exactly in a manner a drug addict craves for a shot. Only solution was to cook.

On my first weekend I decided to go for groceries. At this juncture the biggest problem was to decide what to cook. I have eaten hundreds of India food items and I didn’t know to prepare even one. So standing on the aisle of Indian food at the Superstore I was like a thirsty man caught in the middle of an ocean: water everywhere but not a single drop to drink. I perhaps could boil rice, I bought it. I might need condiments and salt, I thought, so I bought them. But, the real craving was for some curry, dal or sabzi. This is where I was stuck. A boy who had never entered kitchen would never know how raw lentils look like. I didn’t even know what they were called. After few minutes of deliberation with myself I picked chicken thighs, and two random lentils.

It was Saturday night and I was about to cook for the first time. When I was at Superstore, I had only one major question-what to cook. Now, when I was about to cook I had an ocean of questions. I had to boil rice. First question, how much rice is required for one person. Second question, how much water is to be added. Third question, for how long does it stay on heat. Finally, when the rice was boiled, last question- who the hell is going to eat it. I had added extra water, overcooked it and had it even remotely looked edible, probably 10 people could have eaten it . That night again I was found at the Subway eating a 6inch. I had not given up though. Laptop is one of my best friends and it came to rescue again.Next day I looked up on YouTube how to prepare lentils that I had bought and I had a decent meal prepared. That was perhaps the most satisfying meal I have ever had in my life. That day I was convinced that internet is the best invention of mankind after wheel and YouTube is a life saver. It has been over a year since then and I have often found myself creating Indian flavours in Canada. Now, I don’t even have to look up recipes on YouTube; I can recall taste and texture of the food I had eaten and can prepare the same thing in my kitchen. I am proud of myself and Indian food. Here are some of the things that I have prepared over the last year. There are lots of videos available on YouTube but I will share the ones that, I found, would give the best results with less effort.

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Tandoori chicken. I had bought boneless chicken and this was the first chicken item I looked up on YouTube. This tandoori chicken does not look the way you may find in restaurants but it tastes far better. Had spices to the heart of the piece. http://youtu.be/vCODeJt9gvc This video uses some kind of a Gas tandoor but I baked it in a normal oven.

 

 

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Chilli chicken. This is one of the most famous Indo-Chinese dishes that you will find in almost all the restaurants in India. It is really simple to cook and tastes amazing. http://youtu.be/77mTZjLhy0o Beware of splattering of oil when you fry chicken.

 

 

 

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The bread that you see in this picture is called lachha parantha which I bought from a local Indian groceries store. But, the curry that you see is a chicken item prepared in the way my mom prepares it. You will not find any recipes for this item on internet because this type of chicken is prepared only in a very small pocket of region to which I belong. The recipe, in short, is as follows. We evenly chop onion. You would need as much onion as the weight of your chicken. Also add chopped ginger, finely chopped garlic, cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, coriander seeds and some whole dry red chillies along with onion. Fry till onion melts into the oil. Flame has to be medium-high. Add lots of evenly chopped tomatoes and cook until they loose all the moisture and oil begins to separate out from the ingredients. At this juncture add red chilly powder, garam masala, salt, turmeric powder, ground pepper. Cook for 5 mins with constant stirring. Add chicken pieces. Cook properly. The preparation at this moment will look like the one in picture and this can be eaten with roti or bread. But, some people like to eat it with rice so add some water and do not forget to season the final product with chopped cilantro leaves.

 

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Palak paneer. This is one of the most famous paneer (cottage cheese) items prepared in a thick and rich sauce of palak (spinach). Tastes best with Naan or plain parantha. http://youtu.be/ZtPDWTAYpoY

 

 

 

 

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Dum aaloo. This I prepared along with a friend and tastes amazing. The gravy is made from yogurt which gives a mild taste along with the hotness of spices added to prepare it.

 

 

 

 

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The star of this plate is Karele ki sabzi. This is the greenish item you see on the plate. It is prepared from bitter gourd/melon. I usually hate this vegetable but the way this guy has made it in the link that I am sharing here is amazing. Do try this.  http://youtu.be/vPXg2Ypl9bg

 

 

 

 

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Sewain ki kheer. My aunt makes this and that is best sewain ki kheer I have ever had.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Aaloo ka parantha. If you have ever been to North India then it is impossible that you have missed this guy. Aaloo ka parantha is the star of North Indian breakfast items. I did not see any recipes for this. I imagined the ingredients and came up with this delicious parantha (stuffed bread). To make this first we need to prepare stuffing. Boil some potatoes, mash them, add salt, finely chopped green chilies, finely chopped ginger, finely chopped onion, some garam masala, some ground pepper, some red chilly powder, cumin seeds, coriander seed powder and finely chopped mint leaves. Prepare a homogenous mixture. Now, knead wheat flour into a soft dough. Take big ball of dough and slightly flatten it so as to place the filling mixture in it’s centre. Cover the filling from all sides in the same dough so that you get a ball of dough filled with mixture in its centre. Roll it gently. Cook it on high heat over a pan with gentle patting of oil or butter.

Now I can make paneer (cottage cheese) ka parantha, gobhi (Cauliflower) ka parantha and methi (fenugreek leaves) ka parantha as well. (I am sorry if it sounds a bit of self praise, I am happy that I can feed myself some good stuff)

 

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Kadhai Paneer. Goes great with cocktails.

http://youtu.be/hIm-tqfdal4

 

 

 

 

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Roti. Roti is the most commonly eaten bread in India and I am especially proud of myself that I know how to make it. Ask an Indian and he would tell you how tough it is to make a roti for a novice. The trick starts from preparing wheat dough that is of the right consistency and has been properly kneaded. Then everyone cannot roll this thing into a good round shape. Finally, making the rotis puff is the most tricky part. My rotis puff each time now and this is what makes them soft, healthy and easy to digest. I can not write down the real trick to get soft, puffed rotis because the texture of dough can only be felt. I have taught this to a friend of mine who would jump every time the rotis would puff. Actually even I jump to see my rotis puff. Oh! I am so proud of it.

 

 

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Vegetable Biryani. It is Diwali today and this is how I treated myself on this day. Here is the video that you can watch to learn this delicious rice item.

http://youtu.be/-WJZv6OU9x0 I am sorry this video does not have English subtitles but they do mention all the steps in English as she cooks.

 

 

Now I realise that it is not easy for a mother to cook food for a family. Just deciding what to cook is frustrating and when each family member demands different taste, the task becomes much more difficult. But then moms are the most efficient beings on Earth we all love them. My mom is happy to know that I am eating well. Since the cooking has been sorted out, I need to figure out one important thing – my PhD.

Should India and Pakistan be proud of Nobel Peace Prize 2014?


Being awarded a Nobel Prize is the biggest form of recognition and appreciation for anyone. The cause of humanity is forwarded by many foot soldiers who work hard so that life on this earth could be better. I am a student of science but I believe that no science can progress without a touch of humanities and thus for me Nobel Peace Prize holds a special status. The Nobel Prize for Peace goes to someone who does an outstanding job in making this place better to live for a life without peace cannot contribute anything worthwhile. This year’s Nobel peace prize was jointly awarded to Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi. If you are reading this post then chances are that you already know who Malala is and what has she done to be awarded the most honourable prize on this Earth. Mr. Satyarthi, on the other hand, is a person who has worked hard for years for the cause of abolition of child labour but had never been under the radar of media. I am a big news junkie but had never heard or seen his name in any news. After reading about the work Malala and Kailash have done there is no doubt that they deserved such an honour. Their efforts are worth being appreciated at the highest level. But, should Pakistan (country to which Malala belongs) and India (Kailash is an Indian and works in India) be proud of the achievements of their fellow citizens? Yesterday I saw a picture on twitter where Pakistanis were not only boasting of Nobel prize being awarded to a “Pakistani daughter” but they were also bragging about the counts of muslims who have been awarded the honour. India is also not less gloated about the achievement of Mr Kailash. Thankfully though, his achievement has not yet been coloured with the paints of religion.

I come back to the same question again – despite the outstanding work done by Malala and Kailash and being recognised at the highest level should India and Pakistan be proud of this achievement? I asked this question to myself and my answer is No. I don’t think that Indians and Pakistanis should be proud of their citizens being awarded Nobel Peace Prize. In fact, I feel ashamed. Malala had to take bullet in the head for forwarding a noble cause of educating girls and Mr. Kailash has spent his life saving children who had to burn their childhood slaving to earn money for their families. Had India and Pakistan protected the rights of its children these two personalities would never had to do what they did and would have never been awarded Nobel Peace Prize. An Indian and Pakistani being awarded Nobel Prize for peace simply means that these two countries have serious problems that took extraordinary efforts by some human being to tackle. Other Indians and Pakistanis have failed in their duties to protect the right of their children which is why some individual had to do take up the job. Being an Indian I feel that I failed to fulfill my duty and I am indebted to the likes of Mr Kailash for doing the job that I should have done.

If someone from some country wins a Nobel in science it means that the country has good education system and environment that fosters development of research. This is definitely a recognition of good. Everyone should be happy to know that their country has capabilities to shape talent into useful resources for the welfare of everyone. Nobel peace prize on the other hand is a recognition of chaos in this world and the Nobel peace prize of 2014 is a recognition of some serious issues in India and Pakistan. As a kid I knew many households that had children working from Indian states like Bihar and Odisha. They have to work as much as an adult would but are paid just a fraction of the sum an adult would ask for. Such kids never go to school nor do the ever get time to play. Some are even caned if they are slow with work or cannot not work as per the expectations. Children don’t steal, they don’t run away, they are afraid to disobey orders, and they don’t rape or murder their masters. Children are easier to enslave and thus the business of child labour thrives well in many parts of the World. But, the condition has improved a lot – at least in India. Stricter laws, media campaigns and surprise checks by Govt has put things under better control though there are more miles to cover. Educating a girl child is still a big issue in many parts of the world. In many Asian and African countries girls are not considered as money earners and are just trained to do household chores. The situation is worse in regions with traditional and extremist Islamic beliefs as traditional Islam proscribes women from going out in public and get education, especially non-religious education. Again, situation has improved a lot but many people like Malala still have to endanger their lives everyday to make the lives of other girls better.

I would say that Malala and Mr Kailash deserve all the recognition for the difference they have made in the society and they should be congratulated. But, India and Pakistan being the workplace of these activists have no reason to cheer and should work tirelessly to eliminate the reasons that forced Malala and Kailash to do what they do.

(The picture of Nobel medallion has bee taken from Wikipedia and I do not own the copyrights: The medal design itself is in the public domain in the United States, because it was published before 1923. It remains under copyright in its country of origin (Sweden) until 2037 (the first full year after 70 years following the death of sculptor/engraver Erik Lindberg (1873—1966)). The design is a registered trademark owned by the Nobel Foundation.)

What is apopoetic


My Friends often ask me what does apopoetic even mean. When I started this blog I had named it ‘dreaming biologist’. But I always love to personalize things and make it look more original; which means my blog’s name should also sound original and different. But at that time I could not think of a name that would not only hint at who I am but would also allude to the sort of content that I write. I am an aquatic biologist and this blog is more about my appreciation of things and events around me. I observe events, analyze it philosophically and try to weave them into stories.

Sometime in January 2013, when Canada was all white with snow I wrote a new blog post on love and showed it to a friend. She didn’t comment much on the emotional aspect of the story but was quick to point out that my writings are a bit sciency. I had used some statistical terms and dropped some biological concepts into the story. So, my article was poetic but with a pinch of biology. I am not sure if liked that feedback but I thought I should continue to write in the same style; biology+poetic appreciation of things around me.

I don’t know if you have noticed but I think that most poets are obsessed with love and death. I am not a poet but my thoughts are a bit and even I am not untouched by these two topics. I feel that love is amazing and death is the eternal truth. So, one day while staring at the vast, infinite expanses of snow I was thinking of an amazing cellular process called apoptosis. Every cell in our body has a pre-programmed self destruct function. Any abnormality, internal or external, that goes beyond repair triggers a cascade of suicidal proteins and other molecules which finally cleave the DNA into small bits. DNA gone = game over. So, while thinking on the beauty of this process I stumbled upon this new word that I coined right then. Therfore, the term apopoetic comes from two words; APOPtosis and POETIC. Since this blog is all about musing of life of which death is an integral part and I am a biologist I think the term is apt. I define this term as poetic musings of life.

In love with oblivion


Thank you Facebook for suggesting me some people that I might know. You should know that I recognise most of them. In fact I might even tell you a story or two about them but I am quite sure that if you asked those people if I knew them you would be disappointed. In the last 26 years of my life, since I was born, I have met some amazingly good people. All these people have seen me hiding behind my own arms, observing things from behind my eyelids. I don’t know how do they all manage to do this but whenever I meet these people, I see the imaginary fences of inhibition around me disappear. Though, these people are very few in number and I can easily tell you the count but I would rather not. All these lovely people have been the serendipity of my life. I call them my friends.

My friends love to meet new people and expand their circle. And so that I am not left behind they always make it a point to push me to lower my arms and use them to embrace things and people that I would rather only observe keeping an emotional distance. Over the last 9 months I have tried to change myself. I have forced myself to go to the parties and other social events. Each time I manage to do this I feel a sense of achievement. I have danced, I have been drunk enough to loose my senses. I was amazed when I realised that I was first to approach people and give them a hug at the end of social events. One of those amazing people I talked about was even flabbergasted and said that she never expected that I could do that. Another friend who is now overseas saw me tagged in some pictures on Facebook from the party that I attended two weeks back and said that she was really happy to see me change.  All these people never fail to make me realise how good I am doing with socialising myself. My parents could not be happier, they say.

But, among all this socialising and seeing new people I am missing my best friend. A friend who also, like my other friends, knows that I have inhibitions. But he is the only friend I find hiding with me behind my eye lids. That friend is myself. I feel sorry for failing all those people who have persuaded me till the last moment to see new people. My overseas friend tried her best to leave me with company of friends before she left. She tried for 8 months but I failed her and was left without a friend for next two months after she left. I have failed all my friends in a similar manner always. I somehow retreat back to myself and feel assured that no one is judging me. I can always stop looking outside and tell myself all the stories that I know of things and people around me. I even sing for myself and, to be honest, this post is to pamper that ‘myself’. I think I am too scared of being judged. My life in oblivion has been great. I have spent time with books I wanted to read. I have stared at the nature around me in silence and have yet felt like being in a great conversation. I have observed and experienced things from a distance which now form part of my memories. After all, gathering memories is what life is all about. Different people gather it differently. All that matters at the end is that you have memories to cherish and write about.

I have had terrific summer. I have known more people but I think it is time to slowly retract away from all the humans around me for some time. I am deactivating all my social networking sites at the moment where I rarely find a meaningful and hearty connection with other people. I love living my life in oblivion and that is how I would spend my next few days. Every now and then when I spend some time with myself, I find new things. Recently I realised that I love to cry quietly and laugh aloud when I watch movies. Had I done this with people around me I don’t know how would they react after seeing my cheeks wet but when I am alone I don’t care.

But like all my friends, I know that I need to push myself out of this reticent behaviour and interact. I would certainly do that but only after I pamper myself with my own company for few days because I know I am in love with the oblivious myself.

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In one sentence.


The Dreaming Biologist:

Isn’t it amazing, we all may have an idea of what we want to be but don’t have enough strength to frame it in one simple sentence and say it aloud to the world.

Originally posted on Be the Purple Cow:

Best selling author Dan Pink talks about an interesting trait of great leadership.

Apparently, a young woman in congress in early 1960s asked President John F Kennedy, what he wanted to do for America in ONE SENTENCE.

Just one sentence.

She said, “Lincoln had one sentence, to save the union of states and free the slaves, Franklin Roosevelt had only one sentence, to save America from Great Depression and to win the world war.”

She went on to say, “Mr President, you don’t have a sentence, you have a model paragraph. You are trying to do a hundred different incoherent things.Thereby, you are doing nothing.”

Kennedy was awestruck. He went back to his desk and within some months came back with his greatest goal as a President.

It sounded a little ambitious then but never mind, he pushed the whole human race forward.

He simple said in 1961, “Before…

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My Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes


imageI am just done watching third episode of much talked about, modernized, filmed version of Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. Season2 ends with Sherlock dead. I knew this would happen and so would many, who have read the story before. I don’t know why I feel sad seeing him die this time when I already knew he would and the intensity of sadness is as strong as I felt it 13 years back. I have that strong attachment with the character like many had with Harry Potter. One possible reason for this attachment is how I got the book as a kid.

It was for the first time that there was a stall selling books in a local festival fair in my town. This fair had everything to amuse ladies, children and youngsters. Ladies thronged bangle and cosmetics shops, they would bargain household stuff and would only feel satisfied till the seller fell on their feet asking to spare some profit so that he could feed his family, children would be awestruck by the variety of toys and rides, youngsters just had nice time hanging out with friends. But, I was 12 and in that age toys seemed childish, I had no interest in feminine or household items and I always had this handicap of not having enough social skills to make friends. So, the fair was just a disappointment till I found that small tarpaulin tent with smell of paper emanating from it. It was for the first time I had been to a place where they had hundreds of books not prescribed by school curriculum. Why would someone have such a shop in a small, remote village where I lived? I had read some story books before, borrowed from my school library but I really wanted to own some of the books in this shop and not borrow. It was then when I realized that I was very possessive about my books. If I could, I would have bought about 20 books but I didn’t have money to buy even one, especially the one that I really wanted to – “Unabridged works of Sherlock Holmes” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I would get 10 rupees every day during the fair to have ice cream or some roadside snack and that book was priced 120 rupees. I would visit that stall everyday only to see if that book was still there. I am not sure if I was happy to find it sitting on the shelf unsold. I was perhaps satisfied to see that it was still there and I may buy it someday but the thought of it being still there and my inability to buy it pained me; had it been sold I could have consoled myself. Fair was to last 7 days and all I could afford was to save 70 rupees by the time it ended.

I went to the fair on that last day too, walked into the stall and saw that books were being packed into cartons to be shipped. Shelves had been dismantled. It has been long since then but I still remember the owner of stall. He was middle aged, perhaps late 50’s. Short hair, more grey than black on sides and neatly parted on left. His face slightly broad with loose skin over his cheeks and nose bud marks from reading glasses were easily visible on his nose with swollen nostrils. His eyes had started to develop arcus senilis and had charm that made him look affable. He was sitting on his wooden chair under the October sun. I met him and asked if he wanted to sell that book for cheap. He smiled, looked into my eyes and said that he had notice me come every day in his shop staring at that book but he thought I would never ask. But I did. He said he could sell it for 90 rupees if I wanted to buy. I told him I just had 70 to which he tapped my shoulder and said that people haven’t bought much from him in the fair and he could not afford a loss selling that book below 90 rupees. My shoulders stooped and so did my head for a moment but then rose with a strong breath. I looked back into his eyes asked him to find that book for me from his packages. I ran to see papa sitting in his shop, reading electronic circuits; we had an electronic instrument repair shop. My parents would have easily given me more money had I asked for a book prescribed by my school but they thought that reading stories would distract me from my studies and it was hard to persuade them. I gave him various reasons. I told him how great the author was, knighted by the Queen of England but all that was of no importance to him. For him my focus on my studies was more important than anything else and he made sure that I get the best education possible in that small place where we lived. I was disheartened and pulled out all the money I had saved from my pocket and began folding the notes neatly. My dad saw me. He never said it but I think he realized that a kid had been avoiding temptations to spend money over ice-creams and toys for a story book. He opened his drawer, pulled out a 100 rupee note and happily gave it to me to buy the book. Ha ha ha! I bought the book and rushed straight to eat gol-gappe, a roadside snack that I had been avoiding all these days. Then was an ice-cream cone. I was happy.

The book now sits on a shelf in my room and is my dearest possession. Since then I have bought many books and read them all but I have always tried to avoid temptations to read my Sherlock Holmes. I remember when this book was not mine it attracted me to explore what was in it. And now, when I have it, I want it to have that same attraction and a sense of suspense associated with it so I have deliberately stopped reading it. May be some day……

Creative Routines


The Dreaming Biologist:

I read it 15 years back that never say you don’t have time, Einstein had same 24hrs as you have. Whenever I am overwhelmed with work I tell myself these words and it always works.

Originally posted on Info We Trust:

“We all have the same 24 hours that Beyoncé has” and its various iterations took the web by storm in late 2013 as the megastar became the figurehead of not only having it all, but being able to somehow do it all too.

How do creatives – composers, painters, writers, scientists, philosophers – find the time to produce their opus? Mason Currey investigated the rigid Daily Rituals that hundreds of creatives practiced in order to carve out time, every day, to work their craft. Some kept to the same disciplined regimen for decades while others locked in patterns only while working on specific works.

Creative Routines Poster

There are enough data to visualize a portion of the hundreds of creative lifestyles. Click the poster to discover:
Gustave Flaubert
Ludwig Van Beethoven
W.A. Mozart
Thomas Mann
Sigmund Freud
Immanuel Kant
Maya Angelou
John Milton
Honore de Balzac
Victor Hugo
Charles Dickens
W.H. Auden
Charles Darwin

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