Saturday, May 10, 2014

Chicken on the Fly (!)

Homemade chicken with spicy Indian flavours - 3 step grilled chicken!




Step 1:
Wash small, thawed chicken and cut in half. Drain all water and keep aside.
If the chicken is larger, make a few cuts (without cutting into pieces) to let the masala seep in properly.
The 'Cornish hen' in American supermarkets tastes great! Folks in India, get smallest whole chicken you can find (fresh / frozen; think Godrej chicken, < 1 kg)

Step 2:
In a bowl, mix ginger garlic paste, red chilli powder, turmeric, salt and chopped coriander (cilantro / dhania).  Beaten yoghurt is optional. 
Cover chicken evenly with this paste. Let it stand for 5 mins. Preheat oven till then (~ 350°F).






Step 3:
Place chicken on grill rack with a tray / baking dish below to catch drippings.
Set timer for 30 mins initially.
After 30 mins, flip over and set for another 10 - 15 mins.
Check if done - meat should be tender and should cut easily.
Add 10 mins at a time and keep checking (no need to flip over each time!)
Cooking time will depend on size of chicken and oven used.
When done, add a squeeze of lemon and dig in!
Toaster-ovens can perfectly fit a small chicken. You could as well use a regular oven if cooking a larger bird or if you don't have a table-top oven.

Hope you have a great weekend lunch, catching up on your favourite series online while savouring this!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

borrowed time - re-imagine, re-live!


curiosity. it is at the heart of human exploration. since when did we start banking more on simplicity, security and peace of mind while slowly giving up and finally trading in excitement, thrill and adventure almost completely? since when did we switch to searching for adventure in life instead of the other way 'round? throughout adolescence we are taught to make tough choices - but all within the relative safety and comfort of well established bounds and guidelines. anything out of the ordinary is coined as rebellious. how long do we have to shun the rebel before expanding the acceptable boundaries to include these; and in doing so define new boundaries...? 
we live and breathe our passions on borrowed time. time borrowed from more pressing urgency - the urgency to live. "no time to stand and stare..." - very aptly said indeed. at the dawn of civilization, we struggled to sustain. then, at the peak of prosperity, we explored new worlds. satisfied the innate hunger for curiosity and adventure. today we simply sustain; arguably very comfortably, which of course comes at the price of toiling away for the most chunk of our day. we drown our passions in the hope of living them in some distant tomorrow. of course, there needs to be a balance between weaving a good base for a comfortable life and taking the time to actually live that life to the fullest. either extremes on their own are disastrous; but more often than not we find people around us everywhere who have terribly lost that balance. 
step back for a moment and find that balance.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Moment of bliss


1. Spend a few hours running some random experiment in the lab
2. Save the data collected (which is basically a huge set of numbers in a crazy native data-acquisition program) into, yes, excel!
3. Drop that excel file into your Dropbox folder
4. Go to office, scratch your brain and happily record / write geeky macros / vb scripts (in same file in the Dropbox folder synced on laptop) to automate some time consuming data crunching / graphing etc (can brag to friends at this point :P)
5. After the next set of experiments (at some un-earthly hour on a weekend) instead of copying the new data file to Dropbox, drag-drop the old one AND the damn thing just happily overwrites the file without prompting for permission!

CURSE CURSE CURSE!
All the painful macro writing, all the further manual work (actually requiring brains!) gone out the window :( :(

Deep breath...
"Someone has got to have done this stupidity before me"...
"People would hate Dropbox if it didn't forgive such mistakes, specially after doing such a thing without warning (regardless of any default setting etc!)"...

Google, google, google... AHA! :D

"Previous versions" - YES!

Thank you Dropbox; you are the best-est ever and I reaffirm my allegiance to you! 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Last Call



Two hours after midnight,
Snowin' in the winter outside
He's been waitin' for you all night
Caught up in a blizzard within

And he's hopin' you'll show up
'Round the last call tonight
When the whiskey and the wine
Are all through burnin' inside

Then he's headin' out of Joe's,
Knowin' not where to be
Speedin' down the highway
Sane as insane can be

While they said "He wouldn't live,
Through the night here tonight"
He's been smilin' there in tears
Just thinkin' of you tonight

His body may be broken
And spirit may be shattered
But he won't quit waiting
Till the last call tonight...

-abhi

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Roof of the Rockies





I was woken up in my seat by our shuttle driver's voice when he announced to everyone that both lanes of the  interstate were closed down and that it could be a while before we started moving again. I was heading to Indianapolis to catch an evening flight to Denver, Colorado. As it turned out, there was a massive truck-fire on the highway that afternoon which caused the huge traffic jam and so I ended up missing my flight, along with everyone else in the shuttle! After reaching the airport and talking to the airline rep, I was put on the 'wait list' for the morning flight out.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

An Adventure in Ladakh - Stok Kangri



The breathtaking (literally!) view from the summit


6,153 metres...
20,187 feet...
~ 70% the summit elevation of Everest...
That's the summit elevation of Stok Kangri, the highest peak in the Stok range of the Himalayas, in Ladakh, India.



On the top


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Perseids - A simple 'when-where-what'

Here's an easy-to-chew guide on 'observing' or watching the Perseids - one of the many annual meteor showers.
I shall try to keep the tech jargon out so it's just a 'when-where-what' pointer for beginners and people who just want to try to see some nice streaks of light in the sky! :)

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Just look around

Till this day we've held each other
In the comfort of a fear;
All the voices in the distance
Tearing apart your love from mine;
When those voices call to you
And if you feel like running away...
(runnin' away, runnin' away, runnin' away...)

Just look around, and may be then,
And baby then you'll find me there
Just look around, and may be then,
And baby then I will be there
Come around, sing along
And baby then you'll find me near

There are questions in my eyes
Staring deep into your soul;
There are tear drops in my eyes
That will wash away the fears;
And some answers that I have
Are for the questions you don't know;
(you don't know...)

So look around, and may be then,
And baby then you'll find me there
Just look around, and may be then,
And baby then I will be there
Turn around, close your eyes
Think of me and I'll be there
(I'll be there, I'll be there, I'll be there...)

-abhi

PS: another song with the tune in head first, followed by words!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Sleepless in Singapore

Singapore.. known mostly for shopping, travel, vacation, finance companies... none of that was my motive when I came here exactly four months ago. Having completed a short research internship at NTU, I will be on my way back to India in a few hours. These four months have taught me a lot, academically and otherwise.

There have been many sleepless nights before (and elsewhere); usually spent listening to music, writing something only to delete it later or just calling up friends on the other side of the globe. Or better than all of it, just playing a nice, continuous loop of memories in the head. Ah, those endless debates creating havoc in the head, one side playing the prosecutor and the other, the defendant. You, or at least your perception of the real you, are generally the later. One thing really good about the night is that time seems to crawl just as slowly at night as it seems to fly by during the day. Of course, that's only true on a night you intend to sleep, not work!

The long debates die down...the body needs to rest, the defendant needs to rest. The captor, the prosecutor will keep going, yielding only to acknowledge irately that its existence is dependent on the other side. Ironic. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Portraits - Stories; Theirs & Mine



Portrait #1 

I was in the MRT and saw this girl standing near the window which had a nice blue tint and rain drops strewn all over, thanks to the cloudy weather and recent drizzle. After debating with myself whether to ask for clicking a pic, I finally went up and it turned out to be a rather interesting conversation!

Me: Hi! Sorry to bother you but do you mind if I take a quick pic
(while gesturing with the camera)? Your hair..the window..kinda nice..(of course, I was hesitant but hair?! window?! I'm laughing at myself in my head by now!)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

That tear will not be shed now.


Scrolling down the names in my phone still takes a second more to get past yours. There are still pictures you've sent me, tucked aside carefully, not seen in quite some time now. There are still songs I cannot listen to; those you've made me listen to, those we've shared so fondly. And each of these has unforgettable memories - some filled with laughter and silence, others filled with words that never left the comfort of our lips and yet others we've made without ever realising they would be so profound. Yes, I could someday erase these things, these things that mean no more to you than mere objects of a broken dream to leave aside; to leave behind.  

It was a barter from a cold perspective, a very fair barter indeed. You learnt to be yourself, undisguised, unafraid, closer than ever with someone and taught me to accept someone unconditionally. I made us stay apart for my own fears, for my own follies, all the while restraining myself and you from running toward the other. And yes, in the end you showed me how to move on. So you don't owe me anything; no apology, no consolation and no explanation.

The only soothing thought that raises its head above the turmoil, is that of standing on top of a hill, with no moon to pierce the clear, dark sky and break the black darkness around, breathing in the cool, crisp air and calmly staring into the specks of lights of the distant city below...
Opening tightly clenched fists to feel the cool draft on the palms.
Exhaling with every breath, all that is you within me.
Staring with a tear held back, knowing that one of those far away specs is you, innocently drifting into the oblivion in his arms tonight.
That tear will not be shed now.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Canvas

Tumbling thoughts, blurry images, deafening silence
Breaking it all, the ruffling of your hair
And the sweet scent that whirls around
Can't remember - 'twas the wild meadow
Or the fragrance you wear...

Surreal your touch; a petal on a lake
Our lips trembling; softly brushing away
Miles apart we are and yet
Can feel the warm breath
Can feel it taken away!

Restless heart; ever so slow
Almost loud, piercing the silence
Almost painful.
Were you ever here, like you said a million times
Did we hold hands, like we said a million times
I cannot tell, if this is for real
Or just my weary mind
Gliding strokes on a canvas...

-abhi

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Splendid Veils

The thought of being with you, the thought of being with anyone and the comforting delusion of the surroundings vanishing into nothing more than a thick cloud of haze. And the fear of this very haze engulfing us and lifting us high above everything else, to the point where our feet struggle to find ground and bury themselves in. The calmness that comes after, the loneliness that comes after and the painful reminders of a distant past; I don't like them all.

The fleeting glance, the teasing yet almost annoying denial; almost. Just when I'm on the verge of tripping into the abyss, you hold me; hold me and try to pull me toward you so gently that I'm more afraid of dragging you along instead. These games we play incessantly, yet we never dare ask who is being played in this affair. For it is not each other but one's own self. This much is clear, brutally so. 

Then why the futile assurances, why the hopeless rationalizations and why the constant anguish that stems from it after an almost amiable standstill; somehow more akin to deception. We all are victims of the splendid veils we so painstakingly construct and which, not surprisingly, are merely a naive adaptation to hide and protect our deepest feelings. I have walls around me and so do you. And so does every single one of the person who tells you otherwise. 

The more I try to pull myself away and the less difficult you make it to do so, I am drawn helplessly into this vortex, realising we are not very different, you and I. 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Bribes Modified to Incentives!

In India, ask any motorist what is the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of traffic rules and traffic police and the obvious answer is bribery! Not that the malpractice is not rampant in any other 'official work' but in the case of traffic rules it is so common that no one even raises an eyebrow anymore.

The cops standing the whole day at the lights don't get a fat paycheck at the end of the month and so resort to the easiest way of a little 'extra money'. For the violators it is a much easier way out - 100 bucks to the cop versus a legal fine of 300-500 bucks; few have the courage to do the right thing.
Of course, on top of this, let's be practical - I have seen (and I'm sure many others have too) two wheelers zoom off 5-6 secs before the light turns green even with a cop at the signal!

Why can't the penalty system for small traffic violations be 'incentive based'? What if, the cops were legally allowed to keep the entire amount of fine to themselves as an incentive? What I'm saying is this - if the cop catches a violator, he fines him the legally set amount, gives a receipt and that penalty is marked in the log under his name. At the end of the month along with his salary he gets his total incentive. In this scheme, the violator cannot bribe his way out by paying a smaller amount because the cop no longer has a motive to accept the bribe in the first place! This scheme can work only if the entire penalty amount is set as the 'incentive' - if, say for example, only half the amount is set as incentive (to go directly to the cop) and half goes to the department (where all the fines go in the current method of penalty) then the whole system fails again - the violator can offer to pay, for example, 0.75 of the set legal fine directly to the cop and the cop would also be tempted to accept it because now he would get 0.75 of the set fine instead of 0.50. Win-win for both; big time loss for the system!

Of course, this can only be implemented for minor traffic violations were generally the officer in charge has the final say, ie there is nothing to challenge his decision; if he says you jumped the signal, you jumped the signal. Then again, isn't it the case even now? In essence, implementing an 'incentive based penalty' is not going to cause any misuse of power, at least not any different than in the existing system! And needless to say, such class of violations is what forms the majority of traffic violations in cities, big and small.

Finally, will the system work? I think if people realise that there's no getting around paying the heafty fine, they won't dare to violate the rules any more. And yes, the cops would love it - they will be on their toes more than ever to catch violators - because it pays to do their job more effectively, literally!

Honestly, I'm not sure why this has not been propsed before and if it has been then what problems / pitholes are involved.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Beautiful Dream

I really, really wish I had a drum set, someone with a guitar and someone who would sing (female) right now to try out this crazy tune that is just stuck in my head and I've tried to put words to it.
It's just so weird (but totally satisfying!) to try to put words to a tune rather than the other way around.

It's impossible for me to put down exactly what cocktail of music and voices I have in my head right now but here goes - 
There is a soft, moderately paced (not dragging) background of drum beats.
The guitar is going in two pitches - I'm not sure if I want to say pitches (for guitar) or scales..whatever, just two identical pieces of strumming but in 'low' and 'high' versions.
Alternate lines are male and female voices (the first one being male) and the last two lines of each stanza are sung by both together.
The male voice is in a lower and slightly (very slightly) 'sad' and sort of 'repenting' tone.
The female voice is in a higher and 'brighter in mood' tone.
And the music is a little different for all three stanzas but basically same idea!

(Try to 'sing the lines' in the first tune that comes to your head for these syllables! :-))



I could ask you to be there;
          (I'd always be there with you)
I could beg you to hold on;
          (I'd always hold on to you)
But I could never tell you;
          (could you never ever tell me...)
That we'd always go on;
          (that we'd always go on!)

And I could take a thousand vows;
          (would you promise me just one thing...)
That I would never leave you;
          (that you'd stay by me forever)
But I could never tell you
          (could you never see it in me...)
How much I really love you
          (how much I really love you!)

And even if I feel like;
          (won't you ever feel like...)
Don't pull me any closer;
          (just holding me closer)
For I wanna be forever;
          (don't wanna wake up ever)
In this beautiful dream tonight;
          (in this beautiful dream tonight!)

-abhi


PS: The overall mood of the song is not 'heartbroken' or anything, it's more in a 'laughing it off' spirit, the way sometimes thoughts can be so similar yet unspoken.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Under the Stars

Orion and Canis Major
Taurus and Pleiades











Under the stars I lay
Orion and Auriga
Gazing upward in amazement!
Gliding across as if
Under their own ordainment

Serenity of an ocean
The stillness beneath ice
Placid the glowing starscape
Never fails to entice!

Peer as much as we may
Through our 'scopes mighty and small
Beehive Cluster
She will always have more treasures
Mother nature, to show us all...

-abhi


View entire photo album: CAC Star Party - 25th Jan 2012

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Plot Can Change!




"Your successes and challenges are the chapters that make up your personal narratives."

"My hope for you is that when you discover your passion, when you know what you want to do above all else, don't let anything hold you back."

"As you live out your personal story, be aware that the plot can change!"

"As you sit here today, waiting for your turn to walk across this stage, it is impossible for you to imagine the twists that your career path will take."

"I know you will move the world forward. You already have begun."

These are some excerpts from our University President, Dr. France Cordova's speech at the 215th commencement ceremony of Purdue University. It was an amazing experience walking up the stage of Elliotte Hall to receive our diplomas (or rather a symbolic folder of the same) from her. This pure joy and excitement will last for a long time; the joy of completing one objective and the excitement of setting eyes on to the next! 

After a Master's Degree in Civil Engineering, having decided to pursue a Doctorate in Materials Science and Engineering, there are more than few concerns that leave me unsettled every time I think about it. Changing streams in the academic path at any stage is not an easy task and the decision to do so at this level surely took some intense thought process. Family, friends and mentors will always be there to guide and support but their counsel stops there; the decision is for us to make. The decision and all the repercussions it brings are the sole responsibility of the individual. 

It is not uncommon for students in the US to change fields of study and some of these are rather drastic. The same cannot be said about a vast majority of students in India. We are generally inclined to continue in our chosen paths of study; paths that are sometimes chosen by parents, teachers or other wise people. Although that may be a good starting point, it may not be the best path for many. However, due to several reasons, students continue in their respective fields and succeed too, per the commonly accepted measures like a stable job, good earning and high standard of living.

The single most important thing from Dr. Cordova's speech that resonates with my thoughts greatly is that "the plot can change!" I sincerely believe that there is no business for inertia to creep in to one's decision making process regarding the career path he/she has to pursue. I implore you, all my friends and acquaintances, junior and senior to me alike, to introspect whether you are absolutely satisfied with what you have set out to achieve. And recalling what our President urged us - "when you discover your passion, when you know what you want to do above all else, don't let anything hold you back."

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Burning Fragrance



"Left side good to go; right side good... Ok, the line is now hot!"
Once the range officer declares the firing line hot, we remove our rifle from it's case, prone, open the bolt action, feed the chamber with a round, close the action, take aim...and gently squeeze the trigger! Exiting the barrel at a muzzle velocity just under the speed of sound, the bullet strikes the target. The spent cartridge is then expelled out of the chamber. Satisfaction..the fragrance of burnt charge.

This is one of those things I wonder why I had not started earlier! Although I knew such a club existed on campus, it wasn't until Mohit asked me to go along for the callout a couple of weeks earlier that I decided to join it - the Purdue Rifle and Pistol Club. Twice every week members can go to the indoor firing range for two hour sessions; the weapons - .22 caliber long rifles and pistols. We are free to choose either one and can switch between the two as well. For some odd fascination I've started out with the rifle and the way it's going I don't intend to switch anytime soon. Since the technique is very different for the two classes of firearms, I personally feel it's better to stick to one type, at least till a good level of skill and accuracy is achieved in it.

Peering through the sights, trying to hold breath and take aim, everything else is pushed out of mind..academic pressure, the need to push one to the limit, the loneliness amidst the crowd..everything blurs away like the rear sight..and all that remains in focus is the target..the target to be hit with lethal accuracy.


Friday, June 17, 2011

"...battery..friend..drugs..busted..."


"I can sit on the floor but I have to get on this bus; I've got to make it to work tomorrow!", a woman in her forties blurted. I had just boarded a bus from downtown Columbus, Ohio. Apparently, there was one less seat on the bus than the number of tickets sold; ridiculous. Thankfully, there was one seat 'reserved' for an extra driver in case the journey was a long one and two drivers were needed (this is what fellow passengers concluded). So no one had to sit on the floor and we were on our way; albeit after a good 30 minutes delay.

As soon as we hit the interstate, the guy sitting next to me started chatting. At first I was responsive and for a very brief while even actively talking on neutral topics. The guy was originally from Germany, now settled in the US. When I told him I am from India, there was an approving smile on his face. Soon he got talking about our different cultures, customs, religions, economies and what not!

To start with, he asked me if I had read the Quran and Bible. Me not being familiar with either of the books beyond the generally believed ideologies, he started explaining his understanding of the Quran and then later tried to show me a parrallel between the two books in some aspects. I tried not to express my views about religion, God or the disbelief in either of these. Later when he started digging deep into what I felt or what I followed I didn't attempt to lie.

Realising my lack of enthusiasm in discussing religious ideologies, he turned to customs and traditions. He spoke about how the younger generation in the US is not as disciplined as some other cultures, how the parents are to be solely blamed for this and that they set very loose ideals for the kids by themselves leading an overly casual life. Now by this time, the ladies sitting across the aisle were glancing occasionally toward us because the man was getting rather loud in his own excitement. Long ago I had tried to indicate my total lack of interest in talking; his pea-brain simply did not register this.

Somewhere along the line, his friend from Nepal popped up in the conversation. This friend had told him a lot about the lifestyle in the subcontinent and had somehow brainwashed him into believing that the western world was all crap and that he needs to adopt a more 'natural' way of life. Now our German friend was getting hyper. At first there was an occasional crap, shit, fuck (which got stiff glances from the older ladies) but soon his language turned into something that would make a sailor shy! I mean, now he was getting all gung-ho about how the world is going crazy, there is chaos everywhere and shit. I was looking outside the window on the other side.

Finally, I took out my cell to call someone more sane. After a couple of unanswered and 'busy' calls, it felt nice to hear someone on the other side (Mitali, you saved the day! And Gubby you should throw your cell in the drain!). I was explaining my situation to her by describing everything in Marathi for obvious reasons. So "toh manus, jyane khup lokanna trass dila, tyacha mule vishwa yudha zhali" (the man who tortured a lot of people and because of whom world wars broke out) was answered with a laughing "Hitler" and so she figured our friend was a German. After a little fun this way describing the Holy Books, religions, customs and everything he was blabbering about in a cryptic (and totally comic) way she was now sympathetic! I have to admit it was fun though!

As soon as I was done with the call he got chatting again; this guy was totally unbelievable! I somehow got him to stay quiet by pretending my head was aching and I was going to try to get some shut eye. Before long, I called my friend in Indy to make sure he was coming to pick me up at downtown and to tell him I was running late. Our friend requested to make a call to someone from my phone to pick him up. Honestly, for a minute I considered being a jerk but asked him to go ahead and dial instead. He took out his wallet to fish out the number. No one picked up. He told me he was calling his sister to pick him up and that she was so careless to leave her cell lying somewhere. Then he went on to show me his wife's photo and said that she would have come to pick him up without him having to call.

I guess I missed the exact sequence of his jibber-jabber but somewhere along he told me how he considered his wife and children to be the negative forces in his life (I know it sounds contradictory but hey the guy had lost it!). According to some of his newly studied literature he needed to get rid of all the negative forces in his life and so he was going to do just that! The guy even told me the exact date - 3rd August!

Now everything was falling in place - this guy had previously asked me about the cost of living in India and Nepal. I have to admit it was entertaining though - "So do you think if I had 600 of this American money in cash and went to India, would I be rich there? Can a guy live like a king in 600 bucks a month?" I didn't even have to convert the currency to bring him down to mother earth and break it to him that what he was hoping to live off was kind of what an average middle class earned in the city!" Then again, he reminded me that he was going to 'wash his hands off' his wife and children and move alone to another place. I gave up. He even ran some really weird concepts by me like "the banks there are also bad - if they realise you work outside and bring in all your money here and live off it and then go out again to earn and bring in money, they'll just close your account and take away all your money!" I wasn't even going to try to get him on track with this one! I just said a semi "not really" for fear that any stronger denial and the guy would go on to present a full defense of his research!

Sometime toward the end he started a totally new thread of conversation. He asked, "have you served time, any time? you know, just the minor stuff even?" Before I could answer he continued, "It's not as bad in prison you know... they serve you food - three square a day, you can build your body all day long, read paper, play ball... and you know what's the kick of it - it's all tax money!" Beautiful, I wondered! I asked him what he went in for and he said, "Well, this was some time ago, for battery..beat up my girlfriend.." (I had absolutely no reaction to give!) "..nah, just kiddin'! I was just hanging out with a friend of mine.. you know just roaming the country and we were doing crazy stuff and then he asked if I wanted to smoke - not the usual stuff though.." (I'm thinking may be drugs?! wtf!) "..I was like hell ya and.." (I was still trying to digest the fact that I'm sitting in a bus next to a guy who's been in prison?! so I kind of missed some details in between) "..and man that ******-****** turns out to be a CI - confidential informant and I'm busted.." (Great! This just doesn't get any better!) "..but I've done my time.." I didn't care to listen to the words trailing off after that.

After getting down at Indy he was almost rejoicing with hands waving in the air in a 'yeah, this is it' manner. As I headed inside the bus station the guy looked at me and nodded as if to say 'come on, let's go'... (yeah, sure, why not!) I just ignored him for the last time.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Witnessing History - What a Day!


My cell phone rings the default alarm tune that I'm so accustomed to now - it's 4:45 am. I'd set this alarm to wake up and go to the university to watch the final; the World Cup final! Lazily, I slide my finger on the screen, putting the alarm on snooze. After some time Neelam calls - "Arre tu uthlas ka? Mi attach uthle, toss pan zhala ani Sri Lanka chi batting ahe... mi tari atta nahi jat, nantar apli batting baghayla jain!" (Did you wake up? I just woke up, the toss is done and Sri Lanka is going to bat... at least I'm not going right now, will go later to watch our batting!) I reply in a similar manner and go to sleep, now realising that I had slept only about two and a half hours after a few late night poker rounds with the guys and then editing some long overdue photos!

After some time I finally get out of bed, determined to push sleep aside and enjoy the match. I go out in the hall where Varun welcomes me with a broad - "kya yaar kitne runs bana rahe hain!" (these guys are scoring so many runs!) Now, Varun is the kind of die hard cricket fan who can spit out stats off the top of his head and often amazes me with his micro analysis of the game. I look at the score on his laptop - this guy is watching the game online, has a couple of similar sites ready and also has just the live scorecard in another tab, in case the feed gets disrupted; he's so involved in the game that it seems like blasphemy to not be updated of the score at every ball! The Lankans are a few runs shy of 200 but knowing this is the final and with a few overs in hand we both exchange a few concerned estimates at the Indian target and he gets back to watching the match while 'facebooking' in yet another tab!

I pour out cereals for myself and sit in my room, video chatting with mom - with an eye on the scorecard. After talking for a while (read the time it takes the Lankans to reach their final score) I decide I should go to the university now to watch an exciting Indian chase! On my way out I ask casually when is our inning starting and Varun shoots back - "arre ek wicket geli pan - Sehwag" (one wicket has already fallen - Sehwag). With a total wtf tone I ask isn't there a decent gap between two innings; we've just bowled right?! "Ya, but because we took a lot of time for bowling there's very little gap before our batting. And Dhoni also has to pay some fine I think" - the cricket buff shoots me down! I had some idea about this penalty funda but now I just feel plain stupid for asking in the first place!

A few quick calls to friends (to  know who's coming when) and I head for the university where a nice big hall is set up for watching the match with a big crowd. As I cross the Union building I mentally picture the whole crowd on their feet cheering and shouting for Team India, knowing that the Master Blaster would be getting in form now. I practically run the stairs up to Mathew 210. But everything is fairly quiet, people are sitting peacefully, a few are loitering around and the atmosphere is more suited to a guest lecture than the World Cup final! Neelam quickly spots me at the door and we walk to the row where they are sitting. I settle in the spot Mitali has saved and in a few seconds Amit comes and sits next to me, although with total lack of enthusiasm - not quite the guy I know! A commercial is just on so I ask the girl (in a what-the-hell expression) why is everyone so quiet. She smiles helplessly and says "Sachin chi wicket geli!" (Sachin's wicket is down!)

Shit, bullshit - we're screwed big time! I guess everyone in the hall, or rather supporters all over the world are thinking the same thing at this point! Leaning toward Amit I get the update of the part I missed while on my way here. The crowd remains gloomy for some time. The game looks so dull that we go out in the corridor to grab some food and catch up on trivial conversation. Later, Amit and I go to the back of the hall a few times to join a few others in cheering for the ones and twos and shouting really hard for the good shots. The momentum starts to pick up on the field and the crowd responds proportionally. By the time we cross 150 things look better. People jump up on good shots and boundaries get excited hi-fives! Come 200 and there's a pleasant, tumbling feeling within each one - can this really happen?!

And then the finishing sixer by the Captain; the crowd goes ballistic! Everyone is jumping in the air, cheering, shouting, hugging and practically lifting each other! What a surge of emotions, what a feeling of sheer happiness; simply euphoric. We can just not find ways to express the jubilation. After the feeling of triumph has finally settled in each one, we sit down to watch the finale - the awards ceremony; all the while still intermittently cheering for the heroes, our heroes! Calls to friends back home tell us that people are out on the streets by the thousands, celebrating the grand victory. Yes, we miss being home more than ever, we feel proud more than ever!

After finally returning to a more 'stable' state of mind, a bunch of us go to Sharma's Kitchen - a nice Indian restaurant in Lafayette. The weather is just perfect; thanks Amit for letting me drive but I am so damn tempted to take her on an open road and hit the pedal! A hearty lunch (and the very friendly Mrs. Sharma) does full justice to the celebration!

We all return home and mostly retire to a nice afternoon nap. What a day - the day we won the Cricket World Cup, after so many years and in full style like true champions!

Cheers Team India!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Different Wilderness

Terrific mood to write something; had it since a few days but nothing seemed to form in the haze of billions of thoughts in my head. Times of sheer enthusiasm, the urge to get out of your cocoon and shout out loud!

The feeling of new, tender friendships, strong yet easily ripped bonds, eagerness to connect, eff-ed up emotions and multitude of everything in between! Un-complicate the complicated, live in the moment.

Want to drift away in the haze. Call friends, gather a flock; pick up the dusty rucksack, stuff essentials, throw in the photo gear; thrust feet into a sturdy pair of shoes and take off! Go out, frame some sexy shots - with spring beginning to emerge out of the freezing air, there will be plenty of 'wow' moments and I'm not hinting at low necklines and shorts! Escape to a serene place, capture through lens everything around, blabber nonsense amongst all for a while, be alone for a while.

Thoughts of everything unconcerned, clear, sterile. Be myself, give it a chance - long overdue introspection. Leave behind tatters of seemingly meaningless matters - drone work, assignments, course projects. Take up something challenging and stretch the limit; test the limit. Physical and mental barriers, comfort zones, personal space; disconnect from these, go beyond these.

Another series of thoughts, more fulfilling, yearning to be with someone. Laugh hard at fear, disapproval, dejection and all similar darkness clad, unnecessary thoughts!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Flowing Still

The stubborn night, the same chill in the air, the same soft moonlight; they were on the same bridge. She was in his favourite chiffon. Neither spoke for a while. The only sound was from far below the deck; the water flowing ever so smoothly, its surface broken only by the piers of the bridge.

Guy: This isn't very different from the day we first..
Girl (interrupting): That day was never meant to happen; our paths were never meant to cross.
Guy: You still don't believe in fate.
Girl: Your 'fate' has a rather brutal way of playing games; games without rules.
Guy (sighing): What time is your train?
Girl: In an hour.
Guy (looking in her eyes): You look beautiful.
Girl: You don't look too bad yourself...(forcing a smile on her face)
(Their hands touched each other's on the railing; three seconds later she pulled hers away)

Guy: Will you miss me?
Girl: I've learnt not to.
Guy: Have you forgiven me?
Girl: I can't even answer that to myself...
       I'm sorry. Yes, I'll miss you.

Guy (looking at the ring on her finger): Congratulations.
Girl: Take care of yourself. I have to go.

She walked away. By the time she reached the end of the bridge, there was a loud thud on the surface below.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Ordo ab Chao

Order from chaos is what the title means, in Latin. There are countless changes taking place around us, every moment of every day. The following is a video of ice cubes melting in a glass, as would be seen backward in time!


'Time lapse' is a technique in photography which tries to capture a rather slow event which in its 'regular' course of time does not interest the common eye. Essentially this form of photography involves seeing an event much faster than it occurs in real time. This is achieved by taking successive images of the event at regular intervals of time and later playing them back at a fast rate. This can then be made a little more appealing by adding music or other effects such as playing the sequence in the reverse order of the captured frames.

Details of the above video (for anyone who cares)-
Total frames: 2100
Interval between successive frames: 5 sec
Time elapsed (real time): 175 min
(neglecting the shutter time, which was roughly 1/10 to 1/13 sec - this was entirely for getting a good exposure; although the exposure had to be adjusted afterwards anyway!)
Playback: 33.33 fps; rather each frame is seen for 0.03 sec

The images for this video were mainly taken to test an electronic cable release I recently purchased. I must say this cable release has performed amazingly in this test as well as some other random tests that I did. It has a very intuitive and easy input method and has multiple functions like cable release, timer, intervalometer, bulb exposure etc. At just $20 this is a great accessory for anyone serious about astrophotography or even time lapse for that matter. It's a 3rd party manufacturer by the name "Shoot" - google and amazon are your friends!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

F.R.I.E.N.D.S


There are times when you feel like expressing much more than you believe are capable of. Then again simply surrendering to this notion leaves a burning desire inside. I don't know what is funnier - the fact that this post is a result of deep yet totally wrongly-timed thoughts for many long days just before finals or that finishing watching all the seasons of "Friends" was in a way an impetus to writing this!

Seldom while meeting people we ever think of the way in which they are going to affect our lives. People we meet through other people, people we meet through shared interests and people we meet and get acquainted just plain randomly. Of these hundreds of people whom we choose to call friends, generally for a lack of a more appropriate term, few are the ones we inadvertently give the power to truly affect us - to characterise us and shape us, to love us and heal us, to hurt us.

We all have a set of closest friends; we all define them in unique ways surely, but we all have them. Differences and arguments, likes and dislikes, tastes and opinions, all these become simply too shallow and inappropriate when it comes to these buddies.

Although "Friends" has been one of the landmark sitcoms of our generation and appreciated worldwide mostly for its sheer humour, it has a much deeper appeal to me (and I'm sure to many others). The relations, interactions and emotions portrayed are not much removed from reality and yet the characters survive it together. Although our lives may not be television sitcoms we all tend to relate to the situations in one way or another.

Buddies, the closest ones, have an unsaid understanding; to love and accept unconditionally. We are all individuals and have infinitely different reactions to the same situations. What matters the most is that we learn to put every presumption aside, every mistake, small or big, every misunderstanding behind and appreciate the bigger picture. That is moving on; even if it means fighting with yourself to keep a bond unbroken.

It is not rather difficult to shred apart a deep relationship. Faith is what builds the walls of the fragile fortress of a long and enduring friendship, one that is as strong as any kinship. Faith, which by definition comes from experiencing something, from believing in something with even the slightest crevice of logical explanation.

PS: I don't know why I am writing this (maybe one of those things I would feel nice about reading years later) but I owe a lot to my dearest of friends and even the thought of drifting apart from any one is disturbingly painful...


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Internet Radio

Internet radio is not a new concept and like most of us I knew it existed, but never thought of it seriously until a few days back when I noticed a friend of mine listening to it (yes, Dipti you get honourable mention here! :)) It's a really cool alternative to putting songs from your disk in a playlist and then changing that many times over to get rid of the boredom! Obviously we listen to the 'normal' radio stations for this reason and also the fact that you frequently get to listen to newer and more importantly random songs!

I'm not quite certain how many guys actually listen to online radio - specially desi friends abroad. The coolest part is if you have a data plan on your cell phone you can listen to online radio on the go too! One of my favourite station is Radio NRI. To listen online from your computer simply follow the link below -
Once on the site, click the 'listen now' button on the top right part of the page - it asks you to download a m3u file on your disk - now play this file from any music player (almost all should support this format). m3u is basically a playlist file and this particular one simply has a single entry to an online stream. You can also google for the station and go to some site which has a player embedded to listen straight from there but I personally prefer this way 'coz I don't have to open a page every time, the file is always sitting in my media player.

To play from a cell phone you need to find your player which supports 'live stream' - in the phone I have (Nokia 5230) the default 'media player' doesn't have this feature but the included 'Real Player' supports streaming audio/video.
Most phones will have this player or you can install it pretty easily (google is your friend!). Now in the player there will be an option of 'new link' under 'streaming links'. In the 'new link' option you will have the option of saving the link in the phone / memory card. Choose one and then in the field where it asks for a web address (where mostly you'll see the first part automatically entered as 'rtsp://') enter the following address exactly as it is -
rtsp://qtss.streamguys.com:554/radionri.sdp

This station is pretty good and you can always find tonnes of other stations (yes, including Radio Mirchi etc) in the same way - the only small problem with listening to Mirchi this way is that if you're in a totally opposite timezone you'll have to listen to really crazy old and in general crazy songs since it's bang in the middle of the night in India when it's day time at your place!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

How I wish...


Want to do a PhD on "Dynamics of human psychology with respect to the interaction of graduate course load, major mental screw up and serious caffeine intoxication"!!!

Anyone willing to volunteer/fund??

Eligibility (volunteer)
1. Non-US citizen (!)
2. Graduate student in good standing (ie at time of application; no guarantee about state during/after completion of study!) Occasional spikes of inconsistent academic performance encouraged!
3. Three strong recommendations from close friends, demonstrating major mental screw up (reasons immaterial for initial study!)
4. SONP - Statement of No Purpose!

Eligibility (funding)
1. Non-US citizen (!)
2. Financial capacity to fund regular (and high experimental amount) of caffeine in any form, including but not restricted to coffee and caffeine tablets

Monday, October 25, 2010

Portraits - Freezing Emotions

More often than not, people simply point their cameras at other people and click off! Few of these will ever look at the photos in the 'review' and decide to shoot the same frame again; still fewer (and innocent) might appreciate good portraits but can't really say what goes into capturing those perfect moments.

I have yet to master the art myself but I feel I can definitely give a few pointers for beginners.

The photo on the right is probably one of my personal favourites. It was shot in a small village during a casual photo trip that a few of us had gone on. The powerful emotions in the kid's eyes were not so easy to catch - I had to strike up a small talk with him and then click 4-5 frames to get the one I wanted.

Firstly, shooting multiple frames is almost always a good idea. Secondly, notice that almost the entire frame is filled with his face, avoiding any distracting background. Initially while taking portraits we tend to try and 'get everything' or 'fit the face / half body' and in the process loose the essence of portraits - to capture emotions. For example in this photo, part of the kid's face (ear and small portion of head) is not in the frame; but by avoiding that, the focus of the viewer goes straight to the kid's eyes - or at least that was the intention!

This is one of the techniques used in portraits - the effect of good composition. Most of the times, any good camera put on one 'auto' or 'portrait' modes will take care of the rest of the stuff.

Another technique used to eliminate the background distraction is taking advantage of what is called the 'depth of field'. Simply put, this factor decides how much or rather which portion of the frame will be in sharp focus and which will be totally out of focus, creating the desired 'blur' in the background. The details of aperture, focal length etc are left aside for this beginner's guide. The first step is getting the composition right! Once that is done, the above mentioned factors can be easily played with to get better results.

Portraits are meant to bring out details, to bring out the finer aspects of the picture, to get the viewer 'involved'.

Almost everyone around has a digital camera these days with more features than many care to use! This aspect of photography, however, hardly requires any special features and yet is accepted to be one of the most challenging ones in photography!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sweetly Bleeding

Blue winter breeze
A burning struggle inside
Let not the pain ease
Don't choose a side

In a flash it all strikes
Rolling tears upon a smile
Live the unrest
Peace away a mile

Leaves turning red
The crimson will not stay
Thoughts of dear memories
Must they fade away?

Colours washing off
Hollowness surrounding
A deep open wound
Left sweetly bleeding

-abhi

PS: this is also an expression for something seen in a dear friend recently...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

30th September - The Conflict is Lost

People in our country seem to unite over the most destructive of causes, and not merely figuratively. The verdict of the conflict over the Ayodhya land has been declared recently. If one looks at the history of this long lasting conflict, it dates back more than 17 years.

The Liberhan Commission which was set up by the Government of India after the destruction of the Babri Masjid in 1992 submitted it's report to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in mid 2009; after what one can only call a "delay" of 16 years! This is probably one of the longest run commission in the country's history and yet the report has some "legal fallacies". One of these is the fact that former Prime Minister A.B.Vajpayee is included in the list of the people responsible for the destruction act and yet he was not summoned once during the inquiry. This obviously gave the BJP an issue to challenge the findings of Justice Liberhan.

Apart from the utterly ugly politics involved which basically transformed the existing socio-religious issue into a political one, there is something which I, or rather an overwhelmingly lot of us fail to understand - why the hell are people so willing to unite against such a bloody destructive cause? I'm not in favour of either the Hindu side or the Muslim side here.

In December 1992 over 150,000 karsevaks (hardcore Hindu activists) demolished the Babri Masjid. This was despite the assurance given to the Supreme Court that that the structure would be left untouched. Thousands were killed in the riots that broke thereafter in major cities like Mumbai and Delhi. Thousands more died later in the riots in Godhra many years later. Nothing was gained; none of the sides proved any point. Why were thousands of innocents dragged into this slaughtering at the whims of a few religious fanatics? Or has this fanaticism been penetrated so deep in the masses that it's no longer a few people fueling this madness?

The roots of communal disharmony can be traced back to the Mughal invasion. There is a general belief that the Babri Masjid was built after demolishing an old Hindu temple. This is yet a matter of debate, even after the supposed evidence given by a report of the Archeological Survey of India on the issue. However, whichever way one chooses to draw conclusions from the little available material evidence, why can we just not live with the fact that all of this has happened over four hundred years ago, when power was law.

Just because some invaders probably demolished a temple and built a mosque there doesn't give anyone the right to claim a certain property as that belonging to any particular religion. India is a huge country with hundreds, if not thousands, of religious places - go build whatever you want to over there! What possible bad would have come, had the Ayodhya land been declared as a heritage site and the ancient structure preserved as a part of Indian history; not Hindu, not Muslim but Indian history. Seriously, are there less number of places of worship that we have to fight like cavemen over this one place? Please someone show me how this logic is refutable.

The whole country was portrayed to be in a state of "wait and watch" and tension and apprehension, days before the verdict. The general consensus is that the verdict is unbiased and what not; and people are relieved that one of the longest, if not the longest burning communal issues in the country has been resolved. There is nothing to be relieved of over the Ayodhya verdict! It might as well make us all feel ashamed of ourselves - for who can now assure that no moronic people would simply kill thousands of innocent people to erect places of worship...

Worship...people are busy worshiping everything but humanity...

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Existence

This has bothered me for quite some time now and so it's only appropriate to put it down somewhere in words; after of course eating a few of my friends' heads over this!

I somehow just cannot find the point in everybody (except a few maybe whom I'm yet to meet) being so obsessed with having kids! I'm not talking about how many or anything but just the concept of producing life; rather reproducing. And the 'continuing the race' argument is just too stale in my opinion.

So what if the mighty human race just comes to an end one day! It would, in fact, be much better for all the other millions of species on this planet! We anyway keep discussing and debating on how we have basically screwed up the 'balance of nature' and how we are now struggling pathetically to reverse those effects. Our understanding of the universe, from the smallest atom to the largest starts and everything in between and beyond has only shown us how insignificant our very existence is.

However, we all, and of course I am not an exception, are selfish beings and so we want to live our lives as best as we possibly can. But picture this - if all the present humans on the planet stop having kids, just live their lives (in the best possible way) and then die, after some time our species would be extinct. Now where's the flaw in this? Or rather what is the problem if there's just no 'next generation'? And the argument of being selfish in the sense that 'you just want to live and enjoy and not let others (ie the future generations) enjoy' is inherently flawed because there is no 'future generation' until it is in existence, and so basically how can you be selfish with respect to someone that does not exist?!

It should be kept in mind that I'm not a misanthrope or the like, I just feel we are going nowhere by simply having more and more people being produced without any real meaning to our existence. I'm neither being naive nor over-philosophical by implying something like 'we don't know the meaning or purpose of our existence' and hence we should all stop living. On the contrary, what is the harm in all the existing people living in peace and then letting it go...

We exist, therefore, we protect existence.

Monday, August 23, 2010

New Beginning

Today is the first day of classes; first day of the first semester of my grad study. I'm happy, excited and all set for this journey! One that I have embarked upon by choice; to pursue my ambition, satisfy curiosity and contribute in whatever manner possible to the vast pool of existing knowledge.

Just a couple of days ago we had a convocation for new graduate students and I can vividly recall what our president (of the university) said. While urging us all to maintain the highest professional and ethical standards of research, she said that we were slowly transforming from 'gatherers of knowledge' to 'creators of knowledge'. We now have the opportunity to explore any and every possible domain of study, not just within our chosen fields but in a wide variety of areas that are now open as never before.

I have not attended a single class till now and yet I can clearly see the benefits of this education system; one which is based on a very flexible plan of study; one which is research oriented and one which can be tailored according to the career objectives of every individual. It is indeed challenging to be a part of this world class institute.

There is little uncertainty as to the ultimate objective of my education and career, both regarding the area and depth. However, for now, I have decided to and am sure to enjoy this amazing new path that leads to it; for it is a new experience, a new beginning, something that I have not known although have unknowingly yearned for a long time now.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Oath

"I, Abhishek Deepak Bawiskar, a graduate of College of Engineering, Pune, hereby pledge that I shall always conduct myself with dedication, honesty and integrity in the discharge of my duties as a professional. I shall always endeavour to utilise my knowledge of Science and Technology, my experience and skills to the best of my ability for the service of the country and glory of the institute.
In all circumstances, I shall uphold the values and traditions of COEP, respecting the rights and dignity of the individual and as a loyal emissary of this institute shall seek to excel in the chosen field."

Today is different; different in the lives of many of us. We shall all cherish this day as our Graduation Day! Today, along with many other fellow students, I have taken the oath. Tonight I sincerely pray - I pray for each one of us - to the inner conscience within, to give us all strength to uphold this oath taken in a very solemn ceremony.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Perspective

School kids in uniform - right from the elementary all the way to high school... teachers explaining lessons in the typical loud and clear tone... water coolers, playground, tiffin boxes, lunch breaks - 'recesses'... school buses lined up just outside... and of course the buildings... school buildings. Some years later college students - 'guys n gals', seniors, juniors... profs... lectures, pracs, submissions, exams, grades and everything in between...

Not many days back, I dropped my friend to her little sister's school so she could come home in her sister's school bus. She had to show the driver the route to her house on the first day of school. We reached a little earlier than the school got over.

The familiar classrooms, long corridors, painted railings.. everything was so... familiar; though this was not my school, it strongly reminded me of mine. Then again, I guess it's just school time - that time, that environment, that very world of our own in that age! As school kids we are all in such a protected and limited environment; in a comfort zone; in the company of so many peers, friends and teachers; no doubt then that it is our second home indeed!

In our childhood life is simple, life is easy - well for the most of us and barring the lesser fortunate ones; so much so that we are truly unaware of what life is! I'm sure many people, much older than me, would probably say we - people of my age group - are still yet to find out what life is. This is, however, not completely true; and definitely not a function of age. Life is not some kind of a mirage behind which we run all our lives. The mere transition from one phase to another does not and should not warrant us to believe so. So what if our environment and our very idea of life changes from a toddler, to a school goer, to a teenager, to an adult, to old age and finally to death; the very path of life remains unchanged throughout. What this means is simply that we all have to, and will 'figure it out' someday; that we all will gain the 'right perspective'. And how do we know when we have gained this perspective? well, we just know it; we know it when we can, honestly 'look ahead' and know where we're headed.

Having the right perspective does not, in any way, mean that we don't screw up things, that we don't get into trouble or that we don't damage ourselves. It also doesn't mean that we don't stray away from our goals and ambitions, that we don't mess up our relationships or most of all that everything, everyday will be hunky-dory.

In the end, life's a roller coaster - a monster one at that - you can either choose to sit and puke in it or open your eyes and enjoy the ride, or at times switch in between the two; whichever one you choose, when you feel you've seen the entire coaster ahead, that's when you've got it - the right perspective!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Moments

One hour near a tap with dripping water, one bucket, my dslr, tripod and two hundred photos later...



Click here for the complete album.

And of course this was a day before one of the papers of final exam! Somehow exam period is very conducive to creative work - probably the cool part of the brain is just finding ways to please the jerk part which says "study!" :-)


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Final Year Trip to Konkan


To view the entire album click here.

Last Wednesday, 14th April, all final year Civil students had gone on a trip to Konkan. We left at 4 in the morning and reached Murud - a small coastal village at around 8.30. Almost no one had slept in the bus and the entire journey was spent singing and hooting and by the time we reached Murud everyone was hungry! Breakfast order had been given to a local family a day in advance and everyone was more than happy to have garam garam upeet, pohe ani chaha (typical hot Maharashtrian breakfast with hot tea)!

The beach was very inviting, so all of us went for a stroll and played a little on the shore and clicked a few photos. Although plans of getting wet were left for the evening. In a short while after freshening up we pushed ahead to see Janjira - a fort built in the sea just off the coast. Sail-boats operate on a regular basis from Murud to take visitors to the fort. After a short ride in the boat we were in the fort. The fort itself was a huge construction project in its time and a lot of it still exists with almost the entire outer wall intact and several important features within.

By half past noon we had returned from the fort. We had lunch at a khanawal (homely dine-in) in Murud. After lunch everyone had multiple barfache gole (ice-candies made on the spot from shredded ice and a wide range of flavours) and lazed around a bit in the afternoon. The heat in Konkan during this time of the year is almost unbearable.

After lunch and a little relaxing we left for Kashid Beach. By 4.30 we reached Kashid. Everyone had fun on the beach and in the water. A few guys played football while others were enjoying the waves. By the end of the evening almost everyone was completely drenched. We all had bath and changed into fresh clothes - some inside make-shift bathrooms on the beach while others in a farm house a little away.

While returning we stopped at a restaurant on the outskirts of Alibag for dinner. We reached Pune by 1:30 am. The return journey in the bus was more or less quiet - many were sleeping and others were simply tired and chatting in smaller groups.

On the whole the trip was fun, and I'm sure all of us are going to remember this one for a long, long time...


Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Little Fun with Photoshop!


The original photo is one of my favourite portraits I've shot - thank you Pooja!

This photo (cropped out of the original one) was edited in PS using channel mixing, photo-filters and saturation control. To elaborate a little, the photo was sliced vertically in 8 equal strips and each one converted to a layer. Individual layers were then channel-mixed or applied photo-filters till the desired effect was achieved. After this, all layers were combined, so as to boost/reduce the saturation of RGB colours individually. Without saturation control, the image does not get the required 'blending' between the strips and attention is drawn to the edges of the strips rather than the subject. Hopefully that effect has almost been eliminated.

This was the author's first successful (??) attempt at such a technique - although that is his personal opinion! Comments / suggestions are always welcome!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Bachelor Cooking (2)

Being a hardcore non-veg lover at heart, I couldn't possibly not post a few non-veg recipes here! This one's an easier version of Chinese style Chilly Chicken; I'll call it Simplified Chilly Chicken, on the lines of the simplified version of their language!
This recipe isn't a quickie but it's not particularly time consuming either.

Simplified Chilly Chicken, Chinese style:
  1. Take about 200-250 g boneless chicken (this quantity should serve about 2 people).
  2. Wash the meat thoroughly, and cut into small squarish pieces.
  3. Sprinkle liberal amount of salt, mix it and leave for a couple of minutes.
  4. Put the pieces in a pressure cooker vessel, keep the vessel in the cooker, add some water around the vessel (inside the cooker), close the lid and place the cooker on low flame. After sometime increase the flame to medium.
  5. Dice 2 big capsicums and onions (keep the pieces a little large) and cut 3 green chilies into 4 pieces each, exposing the seeds inside.
  6. In about 10-15 mins, the cooker should have whistled 3-4 times; if not, increase the flame to maximum. After 4 whistles, switch off the flame and let the lid fall on its own.
  7. Heat oil in a vessel (kadhai) and put in the onions and chillies, stir occasionally. After sometime put in the capsicums. Add salt to taste.
  8. While the onions and capsicums are getting fried, take out the chicken and check if it's done properly - the meat should be tender and easily broken with two fingers.
  9. Put the chicken into the frying vessel and stir occasionally. Add little water/oil from the vessel in which the chicken was steamed, to the frying vessel - this will add flavour to the dish since that water/oil has the juices of the meat.
  10. After about 5-8 mins, add soy sauce and pepper as per taste.
  11. Fry for 2-3 mins more, switch off the flame and we're done!
Note: This recipe does not have many spices; the only spiciness is from the chillies and pepper, so add lot of pepper or a couple of chilies more for a sharp spicy taste. In should take about 30-40 mins from start to end for this recipe.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Bachelor Cooking (1)

The tittle says it all - a series of posts in which I wish to share some basic recipes that'll be useful to any of you living alone or away from home. Some of these have been taught by my mom, a brilliant cook indeed! Also some of them are a result of my own experimentation at 2 am! I had talked about writing such a series of posts and after encouragement from a friend (yes Shravan you get a mention here like I had said!) I'm finally going to write these.

Here's a basic recipe of Lady's-finger vegetable:
  1. Take about 200g Lady's-finger (for one - two persons) and wash and dry thoroughly with a cloth.
  2. For each of the long vegetable, cut off the hard end portion; then cut circular slices of the rest of the length (don't cut too thin or thick).
  3. Take one/two green chilies, wash and cut them each into 4 pieces (first cut perpendicular to length, then cut each of the halves longitudinally, exposing the seeds inside).
  4. Now keep a vessel with little oil in it to heat - keep the flame medium high.
  5. After a couple of minutes, put just one or two mustard seeds, and see if it crackles. If it does, then lower the flame and put in two good pinches of mustard seeds. If it doesn't crackle just wait for another minute and try again!
  6. Now quickly add the chili pieces, and a small pinch of tamarind powder.
  7. Stir a little and add the cut Lady's-fingers.
  8. Stir properly making sure the spices spread everywhere. Add salt to taste.
  9. Keep a lid over the vessel, and let the vegetable cook for about 5 minutes on low flame. Check in between to make sure it's not burnt, and stir once or twice.
  10. Remove the lid, fry some more if needed. When the vegetable is properly cooked, it will turn soft and a few of the thin slices will have become golden brown. Turn the flame off.
Note: My mom warns me that this vegetable has to be properly dried before putting it in to cook, else it will become sticky and messy afterwards, which I totally dislike!

A very quick recipe, just learnt last night and it barely takes 10 minutes, from start to end! Tastes great with chapatis / rotis.

Comments, suggestions and alterations on this and future recipes are welcome! Also, if you do make any of them, I'd be happy to know! Hope I can write more of such.