Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A disaster called Manmohan Singh

Maybe disappointment is a better word than disaster, but then again, maybe it isn't. An honest and efficient (someone who can get the work done) politician is the best any citizen can hope for. A corrupt yet efficient politician is not what people desire, but he/she would be chosen any day over an honest yet inefficient politician. Sadly, PM Dr. Manmohan Singh falls into the third category. Some people say that with Dr. Singh taking charge, personal integrity was restored in the PMO. Now that's something that is a little tough to digest because in my opinion, Atal Behari Vajpayee didn't indulge in any activities that could make one say that he tarnished the integrity of the post of the PM. Dr. Singh may be an honest man who took up the reigns at the PMO with honest intentions, but boy, did the horse run amok or what! My compendium may not encompass all the failures of Dr. Singh, but would certainly make my case. And the fact that I choose not to talk about his achievements must be seen as a reflection of the failures outweighing the positives.

As an academician, one would have hoped and even expected Dr. Singh to have backed Dr. Venugopal when he was being targeted by the health minister Ramadoss to settle a personal score. Yet the PM chose to stay mum on the issue, and interestingly, so did our president, who blindly signed the bill to have him removed, thus reaffirming her status as the Congress party's rubber stamp in Rashtrapathi Bhavan.

Again, as an academician and someone who is highly educated, one would not have expected Dr. Singh to back to reservation policy of Arjun Singh, but Dr. Singh chose to back his party rather than his principles and convictions.

On the nuclear deal, I don't think the general public fully understands the fact that we may virtually have ostracized ourselves in the world's view. It would be very difficult to see any country now think of signing a deal with our country on any issue that may require taking a brave new posture. If we are not able to ink deals with developed countries in the near future on matters pertaining to energy, technology and defense, we can expect to remain stuck in the muck for eternity. By timidly following the diktats of the communists (with whom they have no similarities) and allowing themselves to be held hostage by the reds, Manmohan Singh will always be remembered as the architect of India's worst foreign policy disaster.

Talk of terrorism, and first and foremost is the fact that Md. Afzal, who has been sentenced to death by the Supreme Court, may be pardoned because the Congress, which is always on tenterhooks and slips on it's kid gloves when it comes to dealing with Muslims and Christians, is worried it may lose out on Muslim votes in the general elections to be held next year. Add to this the faux pas of the home minister who equated Afzal's death sentence to the clemency plea of Sarabjit Singh in Pakistan, and yet, not a word from the 'turbanator' PM. In other terror related incidents, the government is yet to come out with a comprehensive policy on tackling terror, and when asked about it, they have only shown us the act of repealing POTA (all law enforcement officials will tell you that a law like POTA is a must). What is most striking is the fact that it seems as though the government repealed POTA without discussing it with the top law enforcement officials of the country. One cannot understand what the government intends to do about the security of it's citizens, although they seem to be very prompt in upgrading the security levels of politicians from Y to Z category.

India is the country of the green revolution, where from shortage of wheat we reached a stage where we could export it in bulk. Yet, this same country had to import several tonnes of wheat towards the end of last year and what was worse was the price the government paid for it (several times more than the prevailing rates). No talk about this with the Agriculture Minister by the PM.

Soon after becoming the PM, Dr. Manmohan Singh took it upon himself and chaired the group looking into the protection of our national animal, the tiger. And under his tenure as PM, we have had probably the maximum number of tigers poached and killed. The total numbers have alarmingly halved in the last 5 years, and even though the methods used to track and count the cats wasn't the best, it can be safely assumed that the numbers aren't off my much.

The PM is quick to pull the BJP up for the post-Godhra riots, but doesn't seem to even bat an eyelid when it comes to the violence carried out by the Communist cadre in Nandigram. Since the Communists are anyway pro-China, I guess playing Chinese whispers with the commies was all Manmohan Singh could think of.

The Chinese seem to have taken for granted that certain areas surrounding Sikkim (near Tibet) are virtually theirs, what with their repeated transgressions and bombardment of Indian forward observation posts. And to be honest, Mr. Prime Minister, even though I live in Bangalore, I'm scared of the Chinese and what they intend to do; and remember, just in case you tied your turban a little too tightly and it's hampering your thought process, China is a lot closer to New Delhi than it is to Bangalore (although I'm certain even their worst missile can reach us here... oh goodness gracious).

Through all these (and much more), the one good thing to have happened (for the Congress party) is the transformation of Manmohan Singh the honest bureaucrat into Manmohan Singh the politician. He has time and again shown us what a classy transformation it has been as he has time and again chosen to put his party ahead of his country. Kudos to you Dr. Singh, you've made into the big league. So unless you're actually happy with the report card presented to you (I apologise for not gift wrapping it in the best expletives I could muster), I think it's time to swap the blue turban for a real thinking cap.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Myth of the sportive Chennai crowd and other IPL stories

I am writing this entry after watching Bangalore beat Hyderabad by 5 wickets, in another thriller that finished in a flurry of sixes (B Akhil carting poor Chamara Silva over the ropes 3 times in an over to seal victory). Apart from a victory, which is always welcome considering the way Bangalore started off their campaign, what came as a pleasant surprise was the applause Bangalore received from the Hyderabad fans, and a small posse dressed in Royal Challengers colours (I'm guessing Bangalore ex-pats). Quite a contrast to the sounds that emanated from the MA Chidambaram stadium when Bangalore beat Chennai in the reverse encounter. There were no applauses (or if there were, the microphones which are pretty sensitive didn't pick them up) when Dravid was called forward during the presentations, which was probably the only time the crowd could have actually clapped because otherwise for the most part of the evening, the game was pretty drab. But like I said, the absence of applauses was almost deafening, especially considering the fact that the Chennai team received their fair share of plaudits when they beat Bangalore at the Chinnaswamy stadium, including whistles and applauses from your's truly, who was thrilled to have witnessed a game as thrilling as that in the early stages of the IPL. I must state here that although I would have liked to watch Bangalore win, all I hoped for was a GOOD game, which I got to see.

So I come back to my question, does the crowd's sportive image take a back seat when it comes to issues where blood is thicker than water (in the Bangalore-Chennai case, quite literally I might say)? Almost everyone would remember the magnanimous gesture of the Chennai crowd when Pakistan beat India in a nail-biting test match after Sachin TendulKar almost single handedly took us to victory. I wasn't expecting a similar gesture, but a round of applause when the victorious captain took the stage during the presentations was certainly called for. What surprised me equally, if not more, was an article I read by Siddhartha Vaidyanathan, an assistant editor with Now if you read the article, I won't blame you if it left you a bit perplexed. The vitriol against the Bangalore side was unmistakable, but more importantly, Siddhartha puts the blame squarely on Bangalore for Chennai's loss. He lambasted them for the pathetic batting display (which I too agree was very poor... I mean losing 4 wickets for 40 runs inside the first 10 overs... come on!!!) and makes it sound like the Chennai team lost interest in the game because of Bangalore's shoddy display with the bat. There were more kudos showered on the Chennai players than the Bangalore players, except for Kumble, so I have to assume Siddhartha is a fan of Jumbo. Although there was a mention of the fiery pace of Dale Steyn, again, he attributed the wickets of Morkel and Vidyut to their own ambitions. Somehow, I'm certain that if Morkel's hook had gone for six over backward square leg instead of into the hands of the fielder posted there, Sid would have been showering praises on the Springbok all-rounder for carting his compatriot over the top. If the game was as lackluster as he says it was (and trust me, he got that right, it was), then I don't think the reporter should have praised the Chennai bowlers, because by his own admission, the Bangalore team had batted poorly. Come on Sid, be a little more neutral at least when you strut your trade. Aren't media editors supposed to be neutral (at least pretend to be neutral)?

Cricket crowds in India can be very fickle. Yuvraj made a lame comment to the Mumbai crowd about not support his team because some of them played for India too. Yuvraj, looks like you still have a long way to go before you can be crowned Maharaj, so until then remember that in that game, Mohali played Mumbai and the fact that a player represents India is immaterial in this context. Actually, for the Kolkatta crowd, even that doesn't matter, for the communist citizens put state above country, as was very apparent when India took on South Africa in a one day game soon after Rahul Dravid was made captain, displacing Ganguly. The crowd booed Dravid, and booed the Indian team because an out-of-form Dada, who at that time was a liability to the team, was dropped. In their defence, they're communists, they'er a little kooky, so such things are part and parcel of the delusional life they lead.

One last thing Siddhartha got right was that the pitch wasn't the cause for the poor batting display. Righto, it did not hide any demons, and the crowds did not hide their emotions. They were stunned into a zombie-like trance because they lost to, of all the teams, Bangalore. Come on Chennai, Indian cricket needs your sportiveness, since the Kolkattans have lost theirs (actually they never had any, it was just the charm of the Eden Gardens all along), so don't go bonkers over a T20 game. A lot of water will pass from the Cauvery, get your act straight.

Among other positives that have emerged from the IPL is Rahul Dravid's batting. He has shown time and again why he is considered to be India's most reliable batsman. He has adjusted to the new format quite nicely, and so I hope the selectors at least consider his name for the 50 over version of the game. Of course, that would be a pipe dream, given the fact that Dhoni himself was the one responsible for Dravid's ouster from the team because he didn't want 'older players' (but why he didn't ask for Sachin to be dropped as well will remain a mystery, although I think we all know the answer to that one) and the tension between the two was visible even during the toss at the Chidambaram stadium, and Vengsarkar's dislike for Dravid. However, it's also nice to see the likes of Abhishek Nayar, Dhawal Kulkarni, Shreevats Goswami, Ashoke Dinda and Manpreet Gony shine in the limelight. But is it right to drop (or not select) a player who is playing as well as, if not better than the younger lot, just because he happens to be on the wrong side of 30? According to the thoughts that flow between the ears of our Ranchi dada, the answer seems to be, sadly, yes.

And finally, although there were a lot of shining stars and stellar performances by the younger generation, I hope against hope that they are not selected directly into the Indian senior or A teams merely based on their performances in the IPL. The IPL is should be seen more in terms of a launch pad, rather than a back door short-cut entry into the national side. Bowling 4 overs at an economy rate or 7 or 8 with a wicket or two may be fine in a 20-20, but that certainly doesn't merit a cap in the national side (or the A team for that matter). These performances ought to be considered by the state selectors and the players need to be drafted into the state Ranji teams, which is the correct route that needs to be followed. One can only hope that the selectors have their thinking caps on (wishful, I know).

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Chicken & mushrooms

This post is also available on my food blog.

After a long time, I set about cooking again (when I say cooking, I mean a proper full fledged dish and not an omelet or Maggie 2 minute noodles). Chicken and mushrooms, the delight of every cook. You ought to never go wrong with these, and I didn't. I don't know what I call this dish, but I think I can safely call it chicken in mushroom sauce.

Mushroom sauce:

1 packet mushrooms
1 large onion
1 tomato
1 celery stem (optional)
Parsley or mint (for fragrance)
1 tbsp butter
2-3 tbsp flour
Milk & water
Salt & pepper to season

Wash a packet full of mushrooms thoroughly and chop them into two or three pieces each. Chop the onion and tomato into 8 pieces. Chop the parsley (needn't be fine) and the celery. Add the butter into a deep container and heat till butter melts. Add all the ingredients and add the mushroom in the end. Sweat them in the heat for a while until the onions and mushrooms are soft. Add some milk (about 300 ml) and continue stirring. After a few minutes, add the flour and continue to stir until the flour completely mixes with the mixture. Add some water (100 ml, depending on how thick you want the sauce, usually milk : water = 3 : 1) . Continue to stir and cook until a nice creamy texture appears. Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool. Once cooled, pour this into a mixie/blender and blend until the mixture has a nice consistency, and there are no solid bits of the mushroom or any other solid ingredient. You could also add a little cream into the mixture before blending it.


4 chicken breasts (boneless)
1 cup curd
1 bunch coriander leaves
1 bunch parsley/mint
1 garlic flake
1-2 green chillies
salt & pepper to season

Chop and mix the coriander, garlic, green chillies and parsley/mint. Season with salt. Add into a grinder/blender and make a fine paste of the mixture. Cut the chicken into cubes and add a little salt. Mix the paste made from the leaves with the chicken, and then add the curd and mix the chicken thoroughly. Allow to marinate for about 2.5-3 hours.

After 3 hours, add the chicken into a deep pan and start to cook. Once the chicken has cooked (after about 6 to 8 minutes, add the mushroom sauce and turn the heat to high for a few minutes. Toss in a hand full of cashew nuts after a couple of minutes, along with a few more chopped and cooked mushrooms (optional). Season with salt if required. Serve it with whatever you like to eat dishes with gravy (usually breads).

This is the mushroom sauce with chicken in it

A vegetarian version has the chicken replaced with cottage cheese and chopped mushrooms in it (pic below). If making the vegetarian version, make sure the mushrooms and cottage cheese cubes being added are already sautéed and cooked previously before adding it to the sauce.

Optionally, instead of adding the chicken into the deep pan and mixing the chicken with the mushroom sauce, you can coat the chicken in the mushroom sauce after mixing it in the curd and coriander paste and after marinating it for 3 hours, you can skewer it on a barbecue and use the mushroom sauce as a dip for the skewered chicken. Bon appetit.
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