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BLAH-BLAH

I had to do something productive, or I would've died of boredom.

My grandma

She loved listening to the radio
In her terrace rose garden,
On the top of a bakery,
That she lived in,
To be close to her baker sons,
And speak to customers,
Who loved her sense of fun.

She didn’t like long bangs,
She thought they damage the eyes.

She loved her camera, like she loved her radio,
And her knitting needles.

She would give biscuits to strangers,
And make random conversation with anyone.

She carried a photograph
Of a man with a swollen throat,
And warned smokers on the street
About the consequences of smoking.

She rocked me on the rocking chair,
When I was a baby.
She got me Cooper’s chocolate walnut fudge,
When I grew up.
She had a long cane,
And caned me when I was naughty.

She made the best vasanu – A parsi sweet made of nuts.
She loved her children and grandchildren.
She wore long gowns,
And could make anyone smile.

The last time I met her,
I took an instant photo of us;
She loved it so much,
She hid it under her pillow.
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Granny!
You went away, your photos are with me now.
Inside my phone and heart.
I know you’re watching me.
The sky looks beautifully painted,
Ever since you have been gone.


We keep this love in a photograph
We made these memories for ourselves
Where our eyes are never closing
Hearts are never broken
And time’s forever frozen still

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Acrylic on canvas: Stress-busting joy

I’ve always wanted to paint on canvas but for some reason, I never got down to actually doing it until last year. I still dream of painting in the woods, with a large easel and unlimited painting supplies – an assortment of brushes, large palettes, and paints. Colors – matte finish, glow in the dark, pastels, glossy, neons, every kind.

Over the last couple of months, I managed to visit an art store – Michaels, and finally picked up a couple of art basics. Here are a few paintings I’ve completed and proudly displayed on my walls. They’re novice attempts but they gave me great joy. The process of planning what to paint, choosing a canvas size, sketching an outline, selecting the colors, choosing brush strokes, editing mistakes and waiting for it to dry made me feel indescribably unflustered.

My first canvas painting was an already-drawn dog. It was a kit that came with paints, a palette and the canvas, pre-sketched. Pretty easy to do.

 

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My second attempt was a vase of peonies. Inspired by impressionist Renoir’s classic artwork, I managed to do this painting with help from a tutorial by artist and YouTuber Ginger Cook. I followed step-by-step instructions from her YouTube video on painting red peonies.

 

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Inspired by Renoir: Peonies in a vase

 

Now that you have seen my version, here is the original and Ginger Cook’s version of red peonies in a vase.

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Cinnamon Cooney, Ginger Cook’s daughter, whose Internet pseudonym is TheArtSherpa. is another delightful painter who creates painting videos on YouTube.
Before I attempted to paint on my own, I looked for tips and tricks on acrylic painting on canvas. The Internet has many but Cinnamon’s videos are easy to follow and she really makes for an adroit teacher.

My third painting on canvas was that of my favorite subject after unicorns – magical sea horses. For this painting, my inspiration was the work of Joy A Kirkwood. She has a huge collection of sea horse paintings and each one of them is unique.

 

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Seahorse painting on canvas

 

My latest attempt was inspired by MF Hussain. The Indian artist is renowned for his Cubist-style horse paintings.

 

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Hussain’s horses on canvas

 

I now intend to do larger canvases. I do not have an easel yet. It might be my next purchase.

Another future plan is to learn Indian traditional Madhubani painting.

This is what it looks like

madhubani painting

Finally, check this photograph I took of a painter at Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

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I’ll try doing this after I retire, perhaps.

Pizza topping experiments

A few days ago, I put some boiled eggs on my pizza and baked it. They were edible and so was the pizza. Yes, I would be hiding something if I didn’t tell you that the eggs were slightly rubbery in texture. But heck, at least I tried something new. I thought my idea was rather unique and so I shared an image of my creative masterpiece with my brother, who happens to be a chef.

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Predictably, I got a rather snarky Ramsayesque reply. It felt like a hard slap on my pizza face.

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I googled it to see if there was any such rule. A rule that dictated how many toppings were too many. And there really isn’t.

Here are some of my other pizza tops with toppings. Do you see anything you would want to try?

I even tried avocado once and it was good.


I use my pizza toppings to fill taco boats when I’m bored of eating pizza.
This is what they look like…

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On my recent visit to Mumbai (India), I managed to grab something that I would call an ‘Indian pizza’. The Masala Papad – a crispy tortilla made of moong dal or a lentil variant, topped with toppings – is a popular street food in Mumbai. Eaten as a snack, it has all kinds of vegetarian toppings, the most interesting ones being – pomegranate and raw mangoes. Check out the photo of what a ‘masala papad’ looks like…

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Also, watch this video of how it’s made.

Coming back to pizzas. Here’s a WIP list of some of the toppings I have used on pizzas so far.

1. Onions
2. Tomatoes
3. Green chilies
4. Garlic
5. Broccoli
6. Capsicum / Bell peppers – All colors
7. Cheese – cottage, mozzarella, parmesan, cheddar
8. Sweet corn
9. Tomato sauce, hot sauce, tomato pizza sauce
10. Mushrooms
11. Chicken
12. Pineapple
13. Avocado
14. Spinach
15. Olives
16. Zucchini
17. Basil
18. Oregano
19. Bacon
20. Pesto

Meeting Rex, the old-standing orange T Rex of Jacksonville

When I first came to Jacksonville in 2016, I remember noticing an oddly-placed dinosaur statue while driving through Beach Boulevard, in the Southside. With cartoon-like features, pumpkin orange skin and red lights for eyes, Rex makes for an attractive landmark. On an otherwise uninspiring landscape flanked by retail outlets and grocery stores, the unassuming demeanor of a tyrant lizard with giant bone in hand, is a guaranteed eyeball grabber for passers-by. Rex’s big nostrils, jagged teeth, wide grin and white belly give him a distinctive, hard-to-ignore appearance.

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Curious to know more, I decided to look for information about the structure. I googled about it only to realize that his name is Rex, after all he is an avatar of the bipedal carnivore, Tyrannosaurus Rex. I even noticed that he had his own coordinates listed on Google Maps with directions to take me there. Obviously this was no ordinary dinosaur. ‘Historical landmark’ claimed Google search results and he also has reviews on Yelp.

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A remnant of the miniature golf haunt, Goony Golf Complex, Rex was originally one of its unofficial mascots. In the distant past, his mechanical arm would operate a door that collected golf balls at the now no-more Putt Putt golf ground.

I even found a black-and-white photograph of him in the book, ‘Images of America – Jacksonville’s Southside’.

rex Images of Jacksonville southside.pngSo if you ever visit Jacksonville in Florida, don’t forget to take a selfie with this dino, he surely makes for good pictures.

 

Bheeda par eeda: Eggs on okra

Since my last egg-breakfast-recipe blog post was a hit, I decided to do one more.

This breakfast recipe is a great way to start a day for someone who needs an energy boost first thing in the morning. The slimy Okra which is also known as Ladies’ Fingers is a popular ingredient in Indian kitchens. The green fingers, are chopped and fried with onions, potatoes and tomatoes to create a vegetarian dish usually eaten with Indian flat bread – chapati. I love eating this dish for lunch but I also like to top it with an egg for variety.

In fact, Parsis (followers of Zoroastrianism) love topping their vegetables with eggs. Popular variations include:
– Tomata par eeda (Eggs on tomatoes)
– Turia par eeda (Eggs on ridge gourd)
– Papeta par eeda (Eggs on potatoes)
– Kera par eeda (Eggs on bananas)
– Methi par eeda (Eggs on fenugreek)

– Sali par eeda  or Wafer par eeda  (Eggs on potato straws or eggs on potato chips)

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Wafer par eeda – I learnt how to make this from my friend Shirley Mistry

Below is the recipe I used to make my eggs on okra. Enjoy.

Ingredients:

  1. One cup okra – chopped into rondelles (circular cuts)
  2. One onion – finely chopped
  3. One tomato – finely chopped
  4. Two garlic cloves – finely chopped
  5. One slice of ginger – finely chopped
  6. Four green chillies – finely chopped
  7. Turmeric – one pinch (1/4 tsp)
  8. Salt – one pinch
  9. Ajwain (carom seeds) / Jeera (cumin seeds) – one pinch
  10. Oil – one tbsp

Process:

Heat the oil. Add the carom seeds/cumin seeds and wait till they splutter. Add the chopped onions and fry till they get a golden brown color. Add the chopped ginger, garlic and chillies. Fry them for a minute. Add the turmeric, salt and fry for another minute. Add the tomatoes and fry till they change color. Now add the okra and cover the pan. Cook for a few more minutes till they are tender. Now add the egg and your ‘eggs on okra’ is ready to be eaten with buttered and toasted bread.

You could also try adding all these ingredients and baking the dish.

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Baked bheeda and eeda

Here’s an old video I had created on the process.

Baked omelette muffins: Easy breakfast food

I was bored of making the regular omelette, fried egg and scrambled egg recipes for breakfast so I decided to try something new. Since I have a muffin pan, baking omelette muffins instead of frying an omelette seemed like an exciting, healthier option.

So I mixed my regular omelette ingredients in a bowl. I like to add lots of fresh chopped ginger, garlic, onions, green chilies with other fresh vegetables like broccoli, spinach, zucchini, cabbage, mushrooms, tomatoes… depending on what I have. My mix was fairly spicy because I love spice in my food and I think that’s because I was born and brought up in India – the land of spices!

I also love to add cilantro and turmeric for flavor.

I whisked all the fresh ingredients with eggs and poured them into a buttered/oiled muffin dish. I didn’t have enough mixture (and too many mouths to feed) so I left a few cups empty.

I then added milk and baking powder with cheese on the top. This ensured the muffins puffed up.

I baked them for about 20 minutes at 350° F.

Here are photos from my experiment. Of course, I looked up various recipes before making these myself.

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Side note: For those looking for an eggless omelette option (Yes, those exist)… you can try making a moonglette. The replacement for egg in this recipe is the yellow legume- moong / moong bean/ green gram without skin. I first saw a moonglette in Delhi, the capital city of India… where they were selling these on the street.

Here’s a picture I took.

moonglette

I believe the moonglette is simple to make. You have to replace the egg with soaked moong that has been ground into a paste.

 

Wikipedia’s local heroes: In Mumbai and India

Here are two stories I had written for the Times of India. They made me come face to face with the human side of the great free digital reference book.

The first article is about the first Wiki meet held in Mumbai – Dated 2010.

Wiki editors first meet in Mumbai 

A new mental disorder is quietly spreading across Mumbai and India. Called ‘editcountitis’, it affects the unseen workforce of volunteers that helps build the largest free encyclopedia in the world, Wikipedia. Symptoms include a craving to log in, edit articles and keep count of every edit. The more articles edited, the higher the count, the bigger the ego. That’s the joke circulating among members of Mumbai’s Wikipedia community, most of whom, however, assure you it’s quality that matters, not counts.

It is no secret that the heart and soul of Wikipedia are the voluntary contributors who do everything a newspaper sub-editor does. From checking facts and adding perspective to correcting typo-spello demons, this community’s selfless spirit of wanting to share has no monetary motivation. Last month, the city hosted its first Wiki meet in a coffee shop in Bandra where a motley group of professionals, students and retired employees gathered to talk about how they used and, in some cases, misused Wikipedia.

Among them was Utkarshraj Atmaram, a management student interning with a Fortune 500 company, who has edited over 35,000 articles since 2004 when he first started. One of the more popular articles he wrote was about Sardarji jokes. “One Sikh editor accused me of being a hateful racist, but most others commended me for writing what was then probably the only page on the internet which discussed this topic in an objective way,” he says. He created the article in 2007, when controversies surrounding Sardarji jokes were reported in the media: first a Matunga-based book seller was arrested for stocking the Santa-Banta Joke Book, and then Reliance Communications was charged by the Lucknow police with “insulting a religion or faith” for sending a Sardarji joke as its SMS joke of the day. Atmaram has made over 59,000 edits, of which nearly 5,500 have now been deleted, some of them for not being “notable” according to the Wikipedia guidelines.

Also present at the meet was space enthusiast Pradeep Mohandas, who started writing on Indian observatories when he noticed that there weren’t many articles on the subject. In his free time, Mohandas reads scientific journals. It’s a chore to read them, he admits, but one which he readily undertakes in order to arm himself to contribute to Wikipedia. The bane of user-generated content is that advertisers use it as a tool to reach out to Wikipedia’s large reader base. Wikipedia readers unwittingly fall prey to pushy salesmanship. But an army of good Samaritans tries its best to foul the intentions of the intruders by cleaning up the articles. It’s a dog-eat-dog situation and the Wiki community is kept on its toes to maintain the sanctity of the website. Mohandas, a resident of Chembur, makes sure Chembur is ‘clean’, on Wiki. “I have removed several commercial links from the Chembur Wikipedia article” to keep it objective. “This has to be done, as often as it is undone by uninvited advertisers who gatecrash the website and edit entries in favour of their clients,” he says.

EDIT WARS

Like in every community, rivalry is rampant here too, spewing forth in the form of edit wars which occur when “editors who disagree about some aspect of the content of a page repeatedly override each other’s contributions, rather than try to resolve the disagreement by discussion”. The most controversial edit wars on India-related topics have been on secessionist movements (Kashmir, Khalistan), religion-related violence (Hindutva “terrorism”), ethnic history (Indo-Aryan migration or origin of a particular caste), regional disputes (the Kaveri River water dispute and the Belgaum border dispute) and languages. Sometimes there’s a compromise—on the age-old question of whether the 1857 uprising should be called the Sepoy Mutiny or the First War of Independence. For instance, the current consensus to title the article ‘The Indian Rebellion of 1857’.

Not all discussions on “serious” issues are necessarily solemn though. Smiles Atmaram, “The language arguments aren’t limited to standard discussions like the status of Hindi as a national language, but finer debates such as which regional languages should be used in an article on Rajinikanth: Tamil (the language of his films), Kannada (he was born in Bangalore) or Marathi (his mother tongue). If the warring editors reach an agreement, mandating use of all the three languages, another debate starts: which language will be mentioned first?” We hope this doesn’t lead to a new series of Rajinikanth-Wiki jokes.

The second article is from the WikiConference held in Mumbai. Dated 2011

Meet Wiki’s local heroes
Some of the remarkable editors of the site’s local language versions include a visually-challenged man and a 10-year-old kid.

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Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia, visited Mumbai last month for the firstever Wikiconference in the country. The 45-year-old American entrepreneur was here to invite and encourage more people to edit Wikipedia in local languages.

“When we have more editors, we’ll ensure people have quality content to read in their mother tongue.” Wales said Wikipedia’s future lies in India. In fact, to support the growth of the free encyclopaedia in the country, the Wikimedia Foundation—the non-profit organization dedicated to the growth of multilingual Wiki-based content projects—is setting up its second office in the world in New Delhi.

Adding momentum to the movement in India are initiatives such as School Wiki, a project launched by the education department of the Kerala government to introduce Wiki editing to students. And then, there is an effort to encourage more contributions from women. “Only 13% of Wikipedia’s editors are female. We need more Indian women to write and edit articles,” says Bishakha Datta, member of the Wikimedia Foundation’s Board of Trustees.

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But Wales is most worried about Wiki projects in languages such as Hindi. “Although the language is spoken by over 280 million people, the Hindi Wikipedia only has 1,00,000 articles and less than 50 active contributors.”

One prolific Hindi editor is Delhi University assistant professor Aniruddha Kumar.

Kumar, who is visually challenged, has edited more than 8,000 articles in two years using text-to-speech software. When he first discovered the fledgling Hindi version, he couldn’t resist the urge to hit the sampadan (edit) tab and start correcting mistakes. After his first edit in 2009, he was encouraged with a “thank you” note from another Wikipedian. “I continued because I wanted to race,” he says.

For Hindi Diwas which is celebrated on September 14, the Hindi Wikipedia community had organised a race. “We had to reach the 40,000 article target and were running short by 1,000. There was no stopping me after that,” says Kumar who can go on six-hour editing sprees making changes which could be as ‘minor’ as adding a full stop or as ‘major’ as adding a paragraph. He likes to edit articles ranging from philosophy, Urdu literature, software to Jan Lok Pal Bill.

Another interesting Indian Wikipedian is 76-year-old Sengai Podhuvan who is the eighth most active contributor to the Tamil Wikipedia. Age is not a hindrance for Podhuvan who started contributing in July 2010 and has made 8,455 edits

since then. While he has contributed on topics such as indigenous games of India and Tamil literature, another interesting Wikipedian—10-yearold Achu Kulangara—likes to edit articles on sports.

Achu, who interestingly is one of the youngest Wikipedians in India, edits the Malayalam Wikipedia. “I contributed to the article on Asian Games by adding a section on the medal tallies,” says Achu. While Malayalam Wikipedia has 20,318 articles with 85 active editors, Telugu Wikipedia has 48,803 articles with 30 active editors. One of them is a homemaker who made editing her hobby after she learnt how to contribute to Wikipedia. T Sujatha has edited 7,496 articles in Telugu and is an active contributor to the Telugu Wiktionary, a web-based free content dictionary too. She also promotes the site by contributing ‘how-to’ articles to Tewiki Vartha, an e-magazine of Telugu Wiki projects.

Meanwhile, Kumar too, wants to write a ‘how-to’ article. He’s going to call it, “A blind man’s guide to editing Wikipedia”.

 

 

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