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Sunday, September 20, 2015

Kitchen : Threads of Perspective

I would really implore anyone reading this blog to go watch this series, Chef's Table. Its a wonderful series highlighting the creativity and exploration of ingredients and cooking techniques brought forth by some of the worlds best chefs, leading to a sense of personal and professional accomplishment.

In episode #1, Massimo Bottura explains how his perspective about food was formed when he was trying to avoid getting beaten up by his elder brothers by hiding under the table on which his grandma was hand rolling fresh pasta. 

I learnt cooking from my mom. The flavors of Gujarat and Maharashtra coming together in that room, taking shape via my moms hands. The many colors, spices, ingredients that made the final dish. The commotion of guests and relatives. The dress and ritual of the occasion. Every morsel that I take today, of the food that I learnt from my mom, is a window into that room, a thread to those memories from a time by gone and much cherished. 

Technique of cooking and ingredients are of paramount importance. In the world of genetically modified everything and perfect looking produce, what you put in your dish and eventually in your body, becomes so much more important. And that connects you to the area you currently inhabit - your ecology. Fresh local produce (emphasis on Episode #2 New York's very own Chef Dan Barber) bursting full of earthy goodness can be felt instantly - spontaneously differentiated from food made from mass farmed, pesticide/fertilizer laden food. It is almost an emotional connection, for in that moment, that freshness, transforms your state of mind and soul. It puts you onto a completely different emotional pedestal.

Again, coming to the episode that talks about Massimo - he talks about his wife Lara and how her support and vision was important for his mercurial talents to be harnessed in a way that would create much upheaval in the macrocosm that is Modenese cooking and bring it to modernity. While, I am nowhere close to the heights of culinary excellence that Mr. Bottura boasts of, I can identify this way of connecting and letting another person guide what and how you cook. 

Which brings me to when I cook food, what am I achieving in terms of a personal connection. I like cooking for friends, colleagues at work and especially my wife. And seeing their eyes light up and a smile on their face when they taste that food - in that experience, I have created another thread that will carry into the future. And that experience also pushes me to experiment and move onto recipes and ingredients that aren't native to my posterity. And that is the urge that nourishes life - maybe there is something better that I can do, newer ingredients, better methods. Traversing the landscape of this culinary  pasture will lead to climbing the ladder in physical and spiritual fulfilment - at least that is the hope. 




Saturday, May 30, 2015

Ride Along.

With fair tidings,
I sailed alongside the rainbow.
With beacons from ashore, saying farewell.
Into the horizon where sand, sky and sea merge.

Headlong into the breeze,
I ride alongside the rainbow.
With maples and poplars waving bemused
The carpet of grey carrying us through lands green and lush.

Under canopy, mosaic of hues
I fly alongside the rainbow.
Held aloft by the gentle breeze,
Through the ether we soar.

As the shadows grow long,
The strands of color dissipate in a trice.
I know this time the rays will return
to stitch together the colored strands,
Companions to me, forever woven together in my thoughts.





Sunday, December 28, 2014

I am a product of the females around me....

Through my life unto this point in time, I have been extremely fortunate , for I have had some of the most loving, strong and graceful women around me.
Every human being goes through adverse circumstances during their time on this pale blue dot and faces them as they see fit. In my time of need, I have drawn immense strength and wise counsel from their experience. For that and so much love and care over the years, I cannot thank them enough and will continue to live in a way which honors them.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Emirates Airlines Faceplam!

Me and my wife were travelling back from JFK via DXB to BOM, India. We checked in the 2 regular bags per person ( 4 bags, 23 kgs each). But while we were about to board the plane, we were asked to check in our carry on suitcases ( suitcases that are considered carry on in domestic US flights and other international carriers) since they did not fit the size regulations, as we were told.
1. Why was this not told to us at the boarding counter at the Gate? The entrance of a plane is hardly an ideal place to be told that the bag has to be checked in. The gate counter is a much better place to announce and enforce such regulations.
2. Why was every passenger not checked for this? The rule has to be the same for everyone. Some people had the same size luggage in the plane, for which we were stopped.
3. Why were the tags handwritten? Details were filled in by hand and that led to misplacement . Computer generated tags would have solved the problems
4 There is no indication of customer service or lost and found baggage at airport and no representatives from Emirates at the carousel to check for issues.
Because of the missing bags, we have had to spend additional time and/or money to recover or replace items that we would have needed urgently after landing.
One of the bags has since been recovered and returned to us. But even that was not a pleasant experience as the person who returned the bag to us was quite rude and kept accusing us of giving him the wrong address and misleading him - which makes no sense as that would just be us shooting ourselves in the foot.
So, we are missing one bag and still have no idea where it is located and hence no ETA on when we would get it back.
The tracking system at Emirates airlines still shows both bags as being traced - it just makes a mockery of itself and us customers.
Please do not check in your bags after going through boarding. In case there is no alternative, please ask for a computer generated luggage tag and verify all details. Because in the end the real loser is the customer , in all of this.

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Addendum - 5/29/2015

This comes a tad late and I do apologise for this.

Emirates did compensate us for the lost items. We had to send them the receipts (if any ) of the articles in the missing bag and it took them about 2 months to finally tally up the loss and remit the amount back to us. Thanks to them for helping us out. 


Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Way of All Flesh......

One single drop of mercury - in all of its dulled metallic sheen bobbing and weaving around in a glass of water. Immiscible. No matter how much vibration, shaking, heating. And so, un-anchored, the droplet floats around. Wandering. Wondering.

Whence you introduce another droplet of mercury, they will find each other. They will still wander around. But anchored in each other.

In my mind, that is why everyone needs to be tethered. To something. Religion, football, literature etc. One or more of these. It provides for a faux base, a foundation on which a social circle is defined - actions, behaviour, interactions. And this is the passport, apparently, to go on and do other things - explore, capture, own. The cycle repeats.

I wonder however - if two humans can be tethered in each other? Like the mercury droplets - free floating in a glass of water, but as one entangled system. Their nature is all the definition they need to exist and help provide the catapult for the other, to go forth and develop. Of course, the assumption here is, they are still surrounded by water. Is it too much of a stretch to use this analogy for humans? Maybe the paradigm of human life, that is defined by the will to propagate and prosper, has very little tolerance for such entropy. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Amogh Symphony - Vectorscan (2014)



When, Vishal J Singh announced on his Facebook page that Amogh Symphony ( now definitively defined as a band with 3 musicians - Vishal, Jim Richman on drums and percussion and Andrey Sazonov on guitar and other instruments), I couldn't help but be excited. Because, The Quantum Hack Code (2010) was one of my most favorite releases of all time. I put it in the same pantheon as the other prog albums that I love dearly - Lateralus (Tool), Scenes From A Memory ( Dream Theater), Deadwing and Fear of a Blank Planet ( Porcupine Tree), Obzen (Meshuggah), Blackwater Park (Opeth). TQHC was that good. And it got me through some tough times. For that I cannot love it enough.

So, when Vectorscan was announced and released, I wet and soiled my knickers in anticipation. And it arrived in mail yesterday. As happy as a kid in a candy store, I ripped the envelope open, ignored the shoddy packaging, extracted the CD and popped it into my laptop. Hit play.


I finished the first listen in confusion. I did not get it. That obviously has to be a mistake - maybe it was all the adrenaline of getting the new album that did not subside for the 53 minute duration of the album. And hence a second listen, which confirmed my first impressions. The album sounds like a hot discordant mess of random sound samples lying around on some one's computer. Through the entirety of the LP, I could not figure out if there was any cohesion. The musicians are insanely talented - of that, there is no doubt. Track 9 - dubiously and obnoxiously titled "Tongue of Fire, Burning Wings, Torment Dormant, Breaking Black Rings" - displays their chops. But not much else.


That was the other thing that just rubbed me the wrong way - the titles on most of these songs sound like temporary session titles - Track 5 - We Are Here, They are there. Sector of Nectar, Feeding Vector is a classic case in point. But the track itself is such a strange and convoluted mirage of sounds, it is easy to forgive the title. And the same goes for most songs - can I even call them songs? One of the hallmarks of TQHC and Abolishing the Obsolete System before that, was that Vishal had managed to use the tools at his disposal to create interesting and envelope pushing instrumental songs - a trait that is all but lost in this album. There are no songs. As I mentioned before, it sounds like a perfect mathematical sum of sound bytes lying on someone's hard drive, concatenated end to end to create something. Something that I am finding impossible to like.


Is this what they call avant garde music? If it is, I can definitively say that this is not for me. I still prefer cohesion to be one of the trademarks of a track. I can definitely understand the urge of an artist to create what he/she/they think is a perfect embodiment of their skill and emotion. But as a listener, I cannot forgive this album - the eccentricities have trampled mercilessly and rapidly, all over the hallmarks that made the prior Amogh Symphony albums great.


My favorite track on the record - or the saving grace, I want to say is Track 2 : Junaki, Osinaki.Dhumuha, Saki. It does flow seamlessly, even with the idiosyncrasies thrown in, it does not put me off. Also the production on the album is top notch. Can't fault that.


I wished it was my absolute lack of musical knowledge - technical and aesthetic - that makes me not like this album. I wished it was the diabolical weather from yesterday, that ruined my mood. I wish that I was not sitting in my living room, on a perfect Sunday afternoon, slightly angry and irritated and on the verge of tears because one of my favorite bands of all time had let me down big time. I wish I could recommend this album as highly as the one's that came before. I wish, in vain.


Monday, August 25, 2014

8/24/2014 10:41pm

I have downed about 2 1/2 glasses of Chardonnay ( Clavo, Chile 2012) and feel a bit tipsy. Watching Silicon Valley (American Experience, PBS) on the repeated recommendation of N, a boyish/almost ragamuffin style spit and polish little human, who I respect for her clarity of thought and strength of character.

The feeling of connection to complete strangers - who are pioneers in the field that I work in currently is all consuming. Much like the feeling that I might collapse into a pleasant dream at any moment.

The first time I ever saw the documentary "E=mc^2", I felt as though I am part of a long line of engineers/scientists/physicists - descendants of Michael Faraday - a poor blacksmith driven by bettering his condition and insatiable curiosity for knowledge.

Seguing very bluntly, I would also like to point out how in a moment or period of inebriation, is there a clarity of thought - a single line of consciousness that is not caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday survival. No wonder, I thought, many artists chose to lose their minds.

Here is to the perfect balance - a lot of experiences to ponder on, a variety of thought from people you love and respect, your own principles, spur of the moment impetus and a little help from the liquor industry - Prost!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

To know where we come from

Evolution, which is proven fact, will eventually eliminate people and thought patterns like these. Beneath of the facade of trying to spread "god's" love and way to salvation, all these people end up spreading is lies, hatred and blockading progress.

Sometimes though, I wished evolution would be a bit quicker with this foregone conclusion. I have to concede, that I do derive some pleasure from the irony of the possibility that this science bashing train of thought, will be eliminated by evolution.

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/07/31/ken-ham-clarifies-defund-nasas-search-for-alien-life-build-more-creation-museums/

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Something to believe in

"Follow me down to the valley below You know
Moonlight is bleeding from out of your soul"
"My David don't you worry
This cold world is not for you
So rest your head upon me
I have strength to carry you"
Steven Wilson, using religious context to deliver a much deeper message.
As strong and stable as we aspire to be, we all will face those moments where all you want to do is give up and lie down. In that moment, the face that props your hopes up and a mind that can share its wisdom and calmness are eventually what do get you through. And to know someone who will always do that for you, is greatly calming. I do thankfully know such a person. And I hope I can do the same for some one.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Power of Ideas

Time and again, this reminds me of where I come from and what I have left behind. Nostalgia in all the right departments. India, the magical land it is. Of course, we have our problems. But that does not take away from the fact that we are history's best surviving link to modernity. Mother, I bow to thee!