Category Archives: NOT ABOUT FOOD

now there’s a nice word !

Some days ago,  I played a few rounds of the game “Hangman” with them.

Noor constructed a word that I’ll remember for a very long time.

After I’d guessed the 2 letters that made up the last 4 of the 9 letter word, the first five seemed kind of obvious. I mean, the 5 letters to come before the last 4 -which were “Mama”- would have to be “sweet”, no? Or so my eager heart wanted it to be ! But I thought I should leave the surprising and delighting of me to her, so went around the alphabet making the wrong choices so as not to “get” it in time. And I was, finally, surprised and delighted with the word anyway, for it wasn’t “sweetmama” after all but “suitemama”.


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This sounds familiar…

This article here resonated with me.  If one is an outsider, or aware of being different in any way, anywhere, then an experience such as this would reinforce that realization.

And I really like how the writer brings it to our attention – and therefore makes us think about our choices and our prejudices –  in the nicest possible way.

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One poet’s answer to an existential dilemma

Dev’s e-mail a couple of days ago revived memories of the strong impression Nissim Ezekiel’s poems made on me in school and prompted me to find out more about him on the internet. And I found, in an obituary of him, two lines from one of his poems that I felt spoke to me. Or rather, to the ambivalence I feel as someone who chooses so far to live outside her native environment yet wonders about the rightness of it.

“……..Ezekiel once described India as too large for anyone to be at home in all of it. However, after tenures as visiting professor at Leeds University (1964) and Chicago (1967), plus lecture tours and conferences, he always gravitated back to his native city. Though a natural outsider, he still felt Indian, albeit “incurably critical and sceptical”. As he wrote in Background, Casually: “Others choose to give themselves/ In some remote and backward place./ My backward place is where I am.”

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Remembering a poet

Thanks to Dev for forwarding this collection of poems by Nissim Ezekiel, a poet whose “Night of the Scorpion”,  a part of our poetry curriculum in class 10, was my first introduction to free verse.

A very detailed and interesting study of “Night of the Scorpion” can be found here

WHISPERS  by Nissim Ezekiel


When the day is over,

let it go.
Don’t try and stay awake
to get some more work done.
Flow into the night.2.
Say No to Positive Thinking
When the evidence is Negative.
That, too, is holy ground.
Walk on it quietly;
don’t moralise, don’t explain it
as the Will of God.

If you can’t sleep,
remain awake peacefully.
In the darkness, be darkness.

Some food is perfect,

needs no sauce,
no comparisons.
Eat, be grateful,
and turn away from it.5.
In Central Park, New York,

a friend said:
Let’s get out of here,
I’ve heard it’s not safe.
So we got out.
A beautiful place, but not safe;
a human place after all.6.
How much I have lived!
Whatever I could take, I took –

and it was good.
Now I need
to make it good for others.7.
In Rotterdam
or some other city

I made friends
(What else could I do?)
with many I met.
They showed me around,
paid for our drinks,
we talked about our lives and things.
Then, of course, the letters,
and, then, of course, the silences.Only in heaven or hell

are people always together.8.
From barrenness and boredom
to a revelation

is only one small leap.
If only you prepare for it,
it happens.9.
What I say to my soul

is not important.
What my soul says to me
lights up the universe.10.
A good waiter

takes the orders patiently,
and served what was ordered.
So should the poet
in his invisible cafe.11.

that you are half-blind,
and cannot clearly see
the simplified act of will.
Then, as in a dream, you see yourself
Enact that dream.12.

at the first sprouting
of a white flag
among the pubic hair,
collapses into shame
and humiliation. Blood
protests, erect in rage.
The phallic god
knows neither youth nor age.13.
Develop subtlety,
then give it up.
You are not

what you develop
or give up.
You are only the process
of growing up.14.
Whatever happens

every day,
The Sun shines on you,
Shine back!
Shine back!
Even if only
with a little pocket mirror.15.
Harsh. Unfair.
Your enemy
is telling you the truth.
Do not turn for comfort

to your faceless friends.
Resist. Defend yourself.
But let your armour
be sackcloth and ashes.16.
Work twice as hard

as the hardest worker you know,
You may achieve
half as much.
The lowest rung of grace
may still be out of sight.
Remain where you are
with grace.17.
Son has  a new toy.
Father has a new idea.
Both are at play.
Son with toy.
Father with idea

Watched by mother
Who has neither toy nor idea.18.
Imagine you are blind:
go on, imagine it

for a day or even an hour.
You may learn to use your eyes.19.
Every man is a man of Sorrows,

with the gifts of God.20.
I have faith in magic:
formulae, incantations, devices,

mystic exercises
and simple hard work.21.
Who is this

swimming in the Ocean of Human Misery?
It’s me.22.
I believe in Love –
and morning walks.

Source: The Brown Critique – A Literary Quarterly ; October 1999 (Calcutta)
Special Issue (Nostalgia)

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More great music

As I searched for Jethro Tull songs on You Tube tonight, I also re-discovered “A Classic Case”, an album that features pieces of Jethro Tull’s music as played by the London Symphony Orchestra.

Very nice too…Or may be it sounds so special because it is the music I grew up on, in a way, in college.

And now of course, with Indira I am discovering and enjoying the sounds of a whole new set of singers – Shakira, the Black Eyed Peas, Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga !

Although, given the kind of visuals many of these songs come with, I am very thankful to the people who’ve created Spotify, the online radio, that this option exists ….

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The magic of Ian Anderson’s flute

Tonight, the memory of two pieces of music came back to me out of nowhere, though I haven’t heard either – “Elegy” and “Bourree”, both by Jethro Tull – in years.

The first, especially, is just sublime.  I had the girls listen to it as well, though they were in bed already. They enjoyed the chance to jump back up, mostly, but liked the music too, I think.

The pieces are available here and here.

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The context is important

That the context is important, should be self-evident. But so often, we base our perceptions, and misconceptions, on only very sketchy information.

Here’s a well-reasoned  commentary that makes that case for Islam and puts in to perspective some of our ideas about that religion.

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Dara Shikoh, Mughal Prince

A story – about followers of Sufism – in William Dalrymple’s  “Nine Lives” refers to Dara Shikoh, younger brother of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb and a man who was executed by the latter for writing in his book “Mingling of the Two Oceans” about the commonalities between Islam and Hinduism.

That sounds like a fascinating bit of history to explore.  To be continued…

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A Reading List

Aditi went book-shopping the day before we came here to Colaba to spend a couple of days with her and Vasanti. A couple of the books that she bought sound like they’d be fun to read, so those are the one’s I am starting this list with.

  • Cloud 9 minus one by Sangeeta Mall
  • Keep the Change by Nirupama Subramanian

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Holiday Reading- India, August 2010

William Dalrymple’s “City of Djinns”, a history of Delhi, was fascinating to read.

I am now reading “Nine Lives” by the same author. It narrates the stories of followers of different religious traditions in India and thus offers a wonderful insight to faiths and customs such as Jainism and the theyyam dance form of Kerala that I knew very little about.

During the last 3 weeks in Jamshedpur, I also read several books from Ma’s collection of books in Hindi, some of them for the third or fourth time. But those old classics by Sharat Chandra or Premchand still make for engaging reading and the stories of authors like Malati Joshi and Mannu Bhandari have contemporary themes – many of them are women-centric – which resonate with me.

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A little thrill…a piece of my writing in print!

“Chicken Soup for the Indian Mother’s Soul” – this series is published by Westland Books in India – is out, with this essay (a revised, edited version) about Ma in it.

Good feeling, that 🙂

Showed the book  to Indira last night, and she actually read through the piece !

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Fun With Plurals

While searching through old e-mails a few minutes ago in quest of a particular one I wrote almost three years ago, I found this really amusing poem, about the English language,  that Sukhie forwarded around the same time.

It’s a marvelous collection of all the exceptions to the rules.

It would be interesting to learn who wrote it, when etc.

Ode to Plurals

We’ll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes,

But the plural of ox becomes oxen, not oxes.

One fowl is a goose, but two are called geese,

Yet the plural of moose should never be meese.

You may find a lone mouse or a nest full of mice,

Yet the plural of house is houses, not hice.

If the plural of man is always called men,

Why shouldn’t the plural of pan be called pen?

If I speak of my foot and show you my feet,

And I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?

If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth,

Why shouldn’t the plural of booth be called beeth?

Then one may be that, and three would be those,

Yet hat in the plural would never be hose,

And the plural of cat is cats, not cose.

We speak of a brother and also of brethren,

But though we say mother, we never say methren.

Then the masculine pronouns are he, his and him,

But imagine the feminine: she, shis and shim!

Let’s face it – English is a crazy language.

There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger;

Neither apple nor pine in pineapple.

English muffins weren’t invented in England.

We take English for granted, but if we explore its paradoxes,

We find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square,

And a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

And why is it that writers write but fingers don’t fing,

Grocers don’t groce and ha mmers don’t ham?

Doesn’t it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend.

If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them,

What do you call it?

If teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught?

If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?

Sometimes I think all the folks who grew up speaking English

Should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane.

In what other language do people recite at a play and play at a recital?

We ship by truck but send cargo by ship.

We have noses that run and feet that smell.

We park in a driveway and drive in a parkway.

And how can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same,

While a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?

You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language

In which your house can burn up as it burns down,

In which you fill in a form by filling it out,

And in which an alarm goes off by going on.

And, in closing, if Father is Pop, how come Mother’s not Mop?

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A thought about learning

During the GELN conference this last week, the lady from Danone said something that I felt a student overwhelmed by work might take heart from.

Certainly I would have been reassured by this idea, if someone had said this to me back when I used to be a student who often did not cope very well.

She was talking about how learning can sometimes be difficult because it places us in an environment where there is so much that is new and unknown and that this can be frightening for some. She then told us that there is a saying in Russian – that if it is not painful, it is not learning.

That is an idea that will stay with me.

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A grammar lesson for me-Homonyms

Yesterday Indira’s class did a lesson in French about homonyms – a class of words that are pronounced the same way but are often spelled differently. So when I coincidentally came across two such words this evening,  I was sort of chuffed that I now knew the right term for this !

The title of an article  about Sarah Palin in a blog on TIME magazine’s website  includes the phrase “…Outrage or Just Deserts?”

It seemed to me that something looked wrong there and when I read the comments, posted in response to the article, I thought another more observant reader had  caught the mistake – a small error in spelling. This person wrote to  point out that the word desert is missing an s and in fact I have always assumed too that this phrase uses the word “desserts”, since the meaning of the phrase makes the latter seem the logical choice.

Turns out , as the writer explained in his response, that in fact the correct usage is as in the article’s title.

Apparently, the word desert has a secondary meaning – “that which is deserved” (the root of the word is the Latin deservire, which is also the root of the word “deserve”) as discussed in the following links:

Homonyms include all sorts of sub-categories and the desert-dessert pair may belong to either homophones or heterographs, I haven’t been able to figure out which one, from this Wikipedia page link here

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Quel Aventure !

Living as I do in a place that is quite literally only a village, with its’ population of just around 5000 people, a trip like today’s leaves me feeling a little out of my comfort zone, and a little bit of a country bumpkin gawking at big city marvels.

I went on the TGV from Cannes to Marseille this morning, in connection with a visa application. While the train ride was  of course very pretty, with breathtaking views of the Med, the verdant spring countryside and beautiful provencal-style homes all along the way, it struck me as I got off at Marseille’s St. Charles Station that it’s been a while since I was out and about in a true big city, especially one I don’t know.

I am used now only to the quiet, safer than safe little roads in Mougins le Haut and the placid trails in the Valmasque; so even a day of shopping in Cannes – yes, even on the famed Rue d’Antibes – can feel tiring, with the unaccustomed levels of noise and traffic (which is not to say that I am complaining about the shopping itself !!). And while I do occasionally travel on work, it typically involves only the cloistered environs of large airports and hotels.

So bustling Marseille, with it’s Paris-style Metro (the main train station for inter-city trains and the local underground terminus are all in the same buiding, a massive, extremely well-equipped complex with restaurants, a post office, a pharmacy etc.) made quite an impression on me.  And I think I might have clutched my bag a little tighter, as I made my way to the information counter to ask about the connections to the address I needed to get to and spotted a couple of young men hanging about who appeared to be of the kind one sees only in the big bad city…

I was amused at my own reaction. In another life, a very long time ago, I traveled all over India, very frequently and by all means of transport available (including a ride hitched one afternoon on a vegetable truck in the interiors of Maharashtra, in the days when I was a foolish, rookie sales trainee – though I was accompanied by a smart young man who worked for my company’s distributor -and many trips on bone-rattling buses on trips across different parts of the country both when I was a student and then after I started working).

So I wonder at my little sense of achievement that I made it today to Marseille and back on my own. When in fact it could not have been easier- I went on the TGV to Marseille, on the metro all the way to the consulate office and back, then traveled back from Marseille to Cannes on another very comfortable train (that’s the other thing – having traveled all through my childhood and when I was in college by second class all around the country on those nightmarish Indian trains, the TGV and other European trains qualify for me as pure luxury).

Well, I guess this is what some years of being a stay-at-home mother – which does tend to make one less venturesome – and living in a small village has done to me; it’s taken the edge off me.

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A beautifully written poem – Desiderata

I first came across this poem  when I was in school and I  kept a copy of it with me for many years.

Then a couple of days ago, when the word-of-the-day email from was about desiderata (n. -something desired) , I was reminded of it after many years. So I looked for it online and found it here.

The writing has a certain grace that I love,  the words all so well-chosen.

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Learning a lovely word-Kaffeeklatsch- and acknowledging an irony

I came across this word – kaffeeklatsch – for the first time just a few days ago, when a friend used it.  Though I had never encountered it before, the context in which she used it made the meaning obvious. As the Merriam Webster’s dictionary describes it here, it is an informal social gathering for coffee and conversation/gossip.

And then, in a little coincidence, I saw this very interesting article here a little while ago which describes many “mommy blogs” as a sort of kaffeeklatsch.

While this “mommy” blog, unlike some at the conference the article describes, is not trying to build a brand or monetize its’ content,  the title resonated with me because I am guilty sometimes of saying ” Honey, don’t bother Mommy…(or words to that effect)” to my daughters as I concentrate all my attention on this virtual space.

When I stop to think about it, it strikes me as a little ironical that though this blog began as a project  for and about them, it also prevents me now from conversing with my children in real time, sometimes.

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Play school/Primary School- What should children be learning?

This article here makes very sound points on the subject.

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The “Avatar” experience

Shri, Shefali and I saw this film at the Les Arcades theater in Cannes yesterday (while Vishal baby-sat the 4 kids, very gamely, since he’d seen the film already).

As I had expected – the mixed reviews I had seen before-hand indicated a thin plot  – I came away somewhat underwhelmed.

For, a compelling or engaging story this was not, notwithstanding the visual spectacle that the film is.  The special effects and visuals- especially of Pandoran fauna – were beautiful, mostly, but I could not connect with the plot, except the one scene where the hero – an ex-marine who is confined to a wheelchair having lost the use of his legs – discovers that his avtar is able to feel his feet and can actually run. That, for me, was the one poignant moment in the film.

I found myself impatient with the many stereotypes in the film, such as the all-too predictable love story and the shamanist rituals of the native Na’vi people on Pandora. Why does the idea that the natives – again, predictably less evolved than the human race – are spiritual or that they hold sacred certain things in their culture and environment need all that primitive sort of group-chanting and ceremony to prove the point?

This may well become the biggest movie of all time, but what stayed with me the rest of the evening was a headache, thanks to those 3-D glasses!

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“What Could You Live Without?”

Some one wise who I know well, once said – “be grateful that you have enough to give”.  I was reminded of that this morning by this article

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A disaster far away

When I got back a while ago from a meeting in connection with the walkathon in March, I was quickly, mentally reviewing the list of chores/things to do at home and during the day and re-started the computer in order to check and reply to any e-mails before I go to school in a while for the session at the library with Indira’s class.

The online accounts, in various news sources, of the earthquake in Haiti this Tuesday and it’s terrible effects made me pause though.

And I find myself thinking that while life must and does go on, there is something unreal and somehow not right about this, that the devastation of a country and it’s people has not really registered on my mind in any significant way, so that I continue about my affairs blithely…

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An Indian tradition – Atithi Devo Bhava

This morning Venu forwarded a link to a talk by a gentleman who dwells on some of the things which make Indians the way we are, and which make us different from those of some other cultures.

The speaker makes some interesting observations which explain some of the subtleties of the Indian way of being, things which people of other cultures therefore don’t “get” about us a lot of the time.

This made me think of another aspect of our Indian-ness which ,over the years here, I have found people of many other cultures are often surprised by. And that is the manner of our hospitality.  It is there in the spread of food when we entertain (the fact that this requires the host to spend a great deal of time in the kitchen and which we do willingly appears to make a real impression on some of our guests);  it is there in the manner in which we welcome guests in to our homes so that they are accorded the same respect and treatment as members of the family;  it is there in the willing and friendly help we extend to foreigners who are visitors in our country (one could write a whole book about the warmth, friendliness and generosity that people we meet recount having encountered during their travels in India and which strikes them as such a positive point of difference from other cultures they know) ; it is in the the effort we make to welcome guests in to a clean, tidy home; all of these things are informed, I feel, by the philosophy of atithi devo bhava – literally, “the guest is God” . It is a way of being which I think permeates our culture and is perhaps ingrained in our collective DNA.

Not that we can claim this quality to be ours exclusively.  For example, Jenny and her family are Jewish, and when we visit them I find that many of the same operating principles prevail in their home.  And I think there is a Spanish saying ,”mi casa es su casa” , which expresses much the same idea -“my home is your castle” i.e. “you are welcome and feel at home”. There is, as well, the Iranian mother of one of Indira’s classmates who talks proudly of a whole way of  Iranian hospitality which I am able to relate to since it sounds so similar to the Indian way.

But the reaction from many of those not from India, to the way we are as hosts has often made me wonder over the years about the reasons that make us like this (some admire and appreciate this difference, others seem discomfited by it. Perhaps the latter feel that it places on them the burden of an expectation of equivalent reciprocity, although this is not our intention?).  I tend to think now that this is because our side in many of these interactions is informed, often subconsciously, by this ideal- that the guest is God – that most Indians  internalize but which to them may seem like a very quaint notion if I were to elaborate it to them.

In this context, I also seem to recall an interesting parable about the origin of this Sanskrit saying.  I don’t know if I have the details right but I think it involves God visiting, in the guise of a stranger,  a household whose members received him well even though they had no idea it was God they were playing host to. They therefore received his blessings and this became the basis for the injunction to treat every visitor as you would God.

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A Reflection on Marriage

A while ago I was talking about this subject to Pooja, who got married last week.

Then I came across this piece tonight. It’s closing paragraphs express beautifully some of what I was trying to convey to her.

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A Delightful Happenstance

It’s not everyday one gets to hear from an author so when that happened this evening, I could hardly believe it at first.

I am refering here to the visit to this blog of Kaumudi Marathe, whose book on Maharashtrian cuisine is the source of more than one recipe here.

When she left a comment a while ago, it felt kind of surreal.

Or maybe this is what the internet and blogging are all about.

Last week, I felt so pleased when Mohan b.  told me that he’d actually cooked chicken curry from one of my recipes here, and now

it has helped connect me with someone whose book I have had in my kitchen for years !

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A Letter from a Librarian

Today’s word from Wordsmith,org was comstockery, which means, I believe, “Overzealous censorship of material considered obscene”

but the really interesting part of this e-mail was the link to a wonderfully well-written letter from a librarian called James LaRue in the U.S. to a lady who objected to his library stocking a children’s book (Uncle Bobby’s Wedding) that features a gay marriage as part of the story line.

The gentleman has written a  polite, well-considered  reply to explain why he thinks the book and others like it which speak of controversial subjects can and should be included in public library stocks.

To read something so well-reasoned, written in a reasonable way, is just such an inspiring, uplifting, pleasurable experience.

And two very insightful ideas that I found in the comments section were these (both from a comment by the librarian in response to another comment) –

“…and the beauty of childhood is not what they don’t know, but their eagerness and ability to learn, to make meaning….”

and this one, which should be obvious, but so often isn’t –

“The intent isn’t to steal innocence from anybody. It’s to help all of us make sense of a world that doesn’t, sometimes.”


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Alphonse and Gaston- or, Pehle Aap

I learned this expression – “like Alphonse and Gaston”  from Wordsmith. It is, interestingly, a parallel to the very Lukhnavi “pehle aap” syndrome.

Here’s what says about the history of the expression.

(From the daily mail from that site – )


with Anu Garg

Love and Marriage go together like a horse and carriage, so the song goes. They do, often, but not always. On the other hand, characters in this week’s pairs do go together, at least in language. This week’s eponyms (a word coined after a person) feature two people who work together, well, like a nut and a bolt, or a rack and pinion, or yin and yang or an axle and a wheel.

Alphonse and Gaston


(AL-fons uhn GAS-tuhn)


noun: Two people who treat each other with excessive deference, often to their detriment.


After the title characters in a cartoon strip by cartoonist Frederick Burr Opper (1857-1937). Alphonse and Gaston are extremely polite to each other, to the extent that their “After you, Alphonse”, “You first, my dear Gaston!” routine often gets them into trouble, such as when they can’t evade a trolley which mows them down while each insists on letting the other go first.


“A weeklong bout of Governor and public worker unions playing Alphonse and Gaston on contract proposals has the public frustrated about an end to the nonsense. No one really cares who goes first and no one cares if the offer is on or off the record, written or oral, engraved on fine linen or scribbled on a Post-it.”
Cynthia Oi; All We Really Want Are Some Solutions; Star-Bulletin (Hawaii); Jul 12, 2009 .


Poetry is the overflowing of the Soul. -Henry Theodore Tuckerman, author and critic (1813-1871)

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a cool word that i learnt today-“Jive”

the daily mail from , a site I love,  brought this word today

I am going to enjoy using it 🙂





verb tr., intr.:

1. To deceive, to flatter, to taunt, to talk nonsense.
2. To go together, to fit in.


Insincere or deceptive.


1. Jazz or swing music and related dance.
2. Insincere, pretentious, or exaggerated talk.

Origin unknown.


“The edict by state and city officials that we Durham residents should let water run out of faucets for three or four minutes before drinking it or using it to cook with may indeed be the solution to the lead threat that has been discovered in the city’s water supply. But what if they are jiving us? Surely I’m not the only cynic.”
Barry Saunders; Money Flows With Water Woes; The News & Observer (Raleigh, North Carolina); Sep 2, 2006.

“Designwise, the focus remains on the house-garden connection — the need for garden rooms and plants to jive with architecture and interiors.”
Turning over a new leaf; Los Angeles Times; May 21, 2000.

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Parmesan – An Italian Recipe in Punjabi Hands

It all makes sense now.

Take an Italian recipe, put it in Punjabi hands; the result is the incomparable,delicious Parmesan, or parmigiano (and Parma ham)  of Lombardy, Italy 🙂

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A meeting to remember

In India, some days ago, I met the most wonderful lady.

I wish I could express better, in that sentence, the  impact she made on my heart and mind.

I was visiting an organization called Stree Mukti Sanghatana with a group of women bank executives from South Africa.

We were there to learn about some of the innovative ways in which this NGO works in the cause of improving the lives of disadvantaged women.

Among their other programs, the one that had caught my eye and due to which I had arranged this visit for the group was this NGO’s waste management program called the Parisar Vikas Project. The organization trains women waste pickers in waste handling and waste collection; it helps them form waste co-operatives; helps them get the right price for the waste they collect for recycling; helps these women to establish micro credit groups; trains them in skills such as composting and vermiculture that use waste; runs bio-gas plants based on waste; promotes health awareness and education for the families of waste pickers.

Seeing some of these projects run by the NGO’s workers- such as the composting pits at a housing colony near the NGO’s office in Chembur which provide the manure for a local plant nursery and the plants and trees growing  around the buildings, and a bio-gas plant (also in the area)was a very instructive experience in what can be achieved with “waste”, and one that made me question why we let such powerful, effective ideas go unnoticed and unsung.

We were also fortunate to be able to spend some time with the founder, Ms. Jyoti Mhapsekar.

All the times I talked to her on the phone from here, when I was trying to finalize the details of this meeting before going to India, I gathered only that she seemed very open to sharing her experience with us.

But the hour or so we spent talking with her helped me see the uncommon wisdom and courage of conviction that have made her dedicate the last 30 years of her life to dealing with problems most of us only talk and fret about, without doing anything to address the causes.

She was a slight figure dressed in a modest sari, with the simplicity and sweetness so typical of our mothers; yet she spoke  with such passion about things -the need for a scientific mind and one that is open to ideas, the need for attitudinal changes in society – be it towards recycling or towards women’s issues (she spoke of their efforts to enlist men to teach other men to respect women -a “man to man” approach which I thought a very interesting idea), the need to provide good child care for poor women’s babies so that the mothers can go to work; the need to educate children about environmental issues.

I came away wanting to be a lot more like her, someone that makes a real,improving difference to the world around herself.

More power to you and your ilk, Mrs. Mhapsekar. You and your team have my heartfelt admiration.

To read about Stree Mukti Sangathana see

On the subject of recycling, another organization that I have read about, which has had great success with it’s efforts in waste management, is Conserve, a delhi-based NGO.  CNN’s Global Challenges program ran a story on it , which can be viewed here –

For more about Conserve, read here –


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What a great line

I just browsed news accounts of a charity event in New York attended by the Republican and Democratic nominees of this year’s American presidential election.

At the event they both got to speak, and apparently both their pieces had a lot of humor, directing at each other as well as at themselves. That made for good reading.

For more on what they said, see here

and here

One of the things McCain said about Obama was this -“I can’t wish my opponent luck, but I can wish him well.”

I thought that was a classy thing to say.

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Why,why are we like this?

While browsing the Times of India this morning I came across this story: is the story of a woman in a  village of Rajasthan who was accused of being a witch and bringing about two deaths in another family. The village panchayat apparently then insisted that she dip her hand in a vessel of boiling oil to try to take out a coin at the bottom of it. This, it seems, is a a common method of establishing the fact of a woman being a witch, or not.

This is something that is just beyond my comprehension, that people would do this to another human being.

As a woman, this makes me rage. As an Indian, it makes me feel ashamed. For all our success in industry, as a people it sometimes feels as if we still live in a more primitive age…

Problems like these are not limited to villages. Delhi, our capital city, was voted the most unsafe city of all in India in a recent industry survey, by women employed in industries that require them to work night shifts. Bangalore, our answer to Silicon valley, has the dubious distinction of being not far behind in that statistic, according to this survey.

While the industry body has recommended that the companies in these industries should make the necessary security arrangements for their women employees, and steps such as making mandatory the installation of GPS units in cabs, none of this will address the basic issue. Which to my mind, is that as a civil society we seem to lack the respect for women that would allow them to feel secure outside their homes.

Go to work, yes, but at your own peril…

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