Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Chicken as Baingan Bhartha

I have had countless disasters in my long cooking story but this one jumps out at me today.
We had twelve guests coming for dinner and bought three chickens for the main dish.
I had a little baby at this time and needed to run around quite a lot to do a hundred things which I have forgotten now.
After doing the basic tarka and roasting the chicken, I closed the cooker and asked the helper to shut the gas off 10 minutes after the first whistle.
I forgot all about the chicken and a good twenty-thirty minutes later went to the kitchen to see the gas still on under the cooker. the helper had forgotten too.
OHHHHH, disaster. When I opened the cooker, there were thin needle like bones and a brown, fibrous mess.
I cried..yes..real tears. Oh my god, what a disaster! How will I fix this mess? What will I lay out as the main dish for the chicken loving guests?
It was unthinkable to not serve a non-vegetarian dish even if you were a vegetarian yourself, as I was and still am.
Slowly, I gathered my wits, painstakingly picked out all the bones and made a heap of the chicken mass on the plate. I garnished it with hara dhaniya etc. and hoped for the best.
My humorous husband kept telling all the guests, "Eat up, it is not Baingan bhartha. It is chicken."
Most laughed, some sniggered but the chicken got eaten I think.
Moral of the story: Don't cook chicken in the cooker. Stay around to check and shut the gas off.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

What happened to Capt. Narinder Sharma?

Twenty eight year old Captain Narinder Kumar Sharma was killed during an exercise in Rajouri sector, in June 1982. Till date we don’t know how and why did it happen. The story put forth by his unit 17 Jat was that he slipped from a mountain and fell into a deep gorge.
Why was he going alone when an officer is almost always accompanied by a Jawan when he is out on some duty?
There are so many unanswered questions.
My mother mourned him for 29 years till she passed away in 2011.
What happened to Narinder?
Anyone who knows anything about it, please do contact me.
I will be really grateful to understand what really happened.

Monday, April 22, 2013

HP Connected Music meet at Hilton Garden Inn: My experience

Date: April 20, 2013
Venue: Hilton Garden Inn, Bani Square, Gurgaon
Event: Indiblogger meet for HP Connected Music
Participants: Bloggers from across NCR
Mood: Bubbly, fun, ready to participate in anything.
Activities: Moon walk by non Michael Jackson lookalikes; Ball room dance by two awkward giggly boys- with each other; Sunny paaji's antics by a lady of substance (Picture Courtesy: Indiblogger) https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151406485372883&set=pb.67564062882.-2207520000.1366573655.&type=3&theater ; energetic stamping of feet, clapping of hands and singing yay ee..ooooo in different tones by all present; chicken dance, singing off key, talking to complete strangers while doing chicken dance (horror of horrors!).
I can't believe we did all this and more AND it was so much fun.

All the awkwardness wore off quickly and there was just shared laughter and enjoyment, as an end in itself.

Prateek Shah did good to keep the audience engaged and entertained. So did the Indiblogger team whose tried and tested method of online registration works so well. It displays participants' names as they walk in. It gives the first high and makes one feel so good about one self.
The next high comes from the live tweeting which gets updated in real time on the giant display board. One is seen and read by many, so different from when one tweets otherwise.
All of these well thought out measures create an atmosphere where all participants are trying to absorb as much as humanly possible, live tweet it, photograph it, and also be sociable with the people around.

All of this happens at the same time. I know it sounds like a lot but this is exactly how it happens.

HP connected music meet show cased its features.The interface was demonstrated by an audio visual presentation. It showed how one can download one million songs of different genres for a whole year.
 I am not sure but I think it comes preloaded in an HP computer and works with Windows 8. The demonstration of the product was adequate but not great.
I say this because there was some fumbling while trying to find the music to play and the sound quality was not that great.  The choice of music also seemed quite limited.
And this was sad because everyone was so keyed up to see how the music played and what mood it would create.There was just too little music to make any impact at all.
The entire exercise was for the HP connected music but music was 'missing in action'.
The general question on everyone's lips was, "Why bother with this when one can download/listen to any song on  earth at the click of a mouse using YouTube and a host of other such services?"
HP clarified that the openly available music on internet could bring in harmful content onto our computers and crash the hard disc or embarrass us by the inadvertent download of porn or other unsavory material.
Also that the music available on such services could be pirated. I understand the moral point of view but also know the comfort of finding and clicking on a favorite song and hearing it almost instantaneously. Sheer bliss!

HP connected music will face some tough competition, that's for sure. I wish them all the best to work out the glitches and make the product irresistible to the end users.

Hilton Garden  Inn put itself out there for all the participants in the meet.
There were smiling people, smartly dressed, helpful and courteous. Really nice.The place was cool, soothing and conducive to feeling relaxed.
To top it they had an amazing spread of snacks both savory and sweet.
Among others, there were perfectly proportioned little fruit tarts that looked like birds that were about to take off as a flock. (Picture credit : Indiblogger)

 And take off they did disappearing into the stomachs of the hungry bloggers whose appetites had been stimulated  by all the singing, dancing and tweeting.
There were some really good prizes too. HP headphones for many and HP laptops for two lucky participants.
DMRC (Metro) did its bit by transporting many of us in comfort, from across NCR, to the cool climes of Hilton in hot and dusty Gurgaon, to attend the Indiblogger HP Connected Music meet. Before Metro's advent it would have been unthinkable to go to Gurgaon from Noida for any such event. So thanks DMRC.

Bloggers community is coming into its own. Soon we will be an exclusive club whose membership will be sought by many and there will be a year long wait list for people to join. Imagine.
Keep Blogging!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Microsoft Office 365 Indiblogger meet in New Delhi

The name Blue Frog tripped off my tongue so many times on this day that I was myself surprised.
Generally, the auto wallahs seem to know all places. You can stop one at random and ask him about any
address and chances are he will know it and you would then reach wherever you want to go.
But on this day all of them, yes all of them shook their heads and said that they had no idea where this Blue Frog was or even how far it was. I was stumped as I was on foot after having got down from the metro at the closest  station.
At one point I was standing at the crucial road turning which led to the Blue Frog and it was just about half a kilometer away but there was still no confirmation from any one that this was the right turn.
 After some more confusion and heart ache my daughter Whatsapped the postal address to me and it said Kila, Seven Style Mile etc.
Then everyone around knew where I wanted to go and guided me.
So long story short, after having been lost for the better part of an hour and getting into a foul mood I reached the illusive Blue Frog. What a funny name!
Don't ask why I did not research and find out the exact location before I left home as to where it was. That is
 a story that has to stay untold.
I was warmly welcomed at the registration counter and handed my distinctive  Indiblogger T Shirt.
The Microsoft Office 365 presentation was in full flow. I got the hang of it mostly by listening to the audience questions and their answers. The questions were incisive and technical. They stretched the resource people and kept them on their toes.
From what I understood of the Microsoft Office 365 product, it is a good fit for small businesses. Here Is why I say that:
The upfront cost is reasonable. The same licence can be used to load the software into five devices of the same user.How they propose to ensure that one person uses all five of these devices is not clear to me.
But the presenter insisted that it would be one user, five devices. Not five devices belonging to five different users.
There is a provision to store your data in the Cloud and access it from anywhere in the world using the user ID and password. It is a secure system that is suitable even for financial products.
Another interesting point is that users can work on the documents stored in the Cloud serially or  at the same time without interfering with each others' work.
A document can be checked out by a user. Till he completes his part and checks it back into the Cloud, it shows as having been locked by this particular user for changes (I think).
If this is how it is, it will help with the version control of documents.
I have seen and worked with similar features in WriteRap, an online sharing system used in publishing houses.
The author, copy editor, compositor, proof reader, and indexer all use a common site to access and work on documents turn by turn. The document stays locked for use when one user is working on it.The other user can see the document but cannot make any changes to it till the document has been checked back in  by the first user.
I am not sure if in Microsoft Office 365 there is such a provision of locking the document to ensure version control.
Another attractive but extraneous feature is that Airtel proposes to bundle its internet service with the Microsoft Office 365 product http://www.office365.in
It would help the small businesses to stay online and do their thing without paying through their noses for internet. Well hopefully. You never know how the prices will be when the actual product is used in real life situations.
Over all good meeting, some learning points, meeting other bloggers and realizing that this is a good thing. It is not just one person sitting and writing on his computer all alone. Slowly it is becoming a community of bloggers who give each other feedback and help the whole to become more than the sum of the individual parts.
Cheers! Keep blogging.

My dream business

I am not a business person by nature. Coming from a long line of service class people, the entrepreneurial gene has been long suppressed. But the power of imagination can take us anywhere.
My dream business is one where I work for myself and for others in such a way that I am doing good for others as well as feeling fulfilled as a person.
Money has never been much of a criteria. I look forward to the challenges and the pleasure of a job well done. That is what motivates me.
We learnt about the Microsoft Office 365 ( http://www.office365.in )  in the Indiblogger meet in Delhi the other day. The online resources at Lync Online and Sharepoint Online filled in the gaps in my knowledge.
My understanding of the product has made me realize that this would be a great asset in my work.
We are used to the normal MS Word, Powerpoint, Excel, Outlook etc. All of these are there in Office 365 in an improved version along with a host of new features like Cloud, Sharepoint, Video conferencing facility and other value added options.
We can do many new things with the improved Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook applications.
The new features in Word make it fun and easy to use. The fonts, colors and other text styles can be chosen from a dial type menu. One can insert pictures and graphics directly from the world wide web using the Online pics button. Thus making the Word document/blog attractive, effective and easy to work with. There is a Read mode which allows us to make changes like increasing the size of a graphic or change the background light and shade as per our reading preference.
Cloud ensures that I can begin writing my blog on my laptop at home and continue the work wherever I go. It could be on my tablet in the public transport and even on my phone.
The best part is that every time I can begin right where I left off as all the changes that I made in the earlier session of work would be carried out and ready for me in the Cloud where the data is stored.
The Cloud allows the data/document to be ready to use and secure at the same time. At home, in a train, on a plane or sitting on a garden bench.
It is like carrying your office with you whenever you go. As long as there is connectivity it will work.
I am not sure that is such a good thing though specially because it will stop us from switching off work ever.
The temptation to do a little more and refine our work will always be there with the means to do it at our finger tips.
It will definitely save time, effort, and money and open up opportunities to do more.

 It's like a  little magic going on there.

 Microsoft Office 365 is a good fit for a baby-steps business like mine. Here is why I say this:
The upfront cost is reasonable. The same licence can be used to load the software into five devices of the same user. How they propose to ensure that one person uses all five of these devices is not clear to me though.
There is a provision to store the data in the Cloud and to allow access  to it from anywhere in the world using the user ID and password. It is a secure system. This will help multiple users to access and work with the data.
An interesting point is that users can work on the documents stored in the Cloud serially or  at the same time without interfering with each others' work.
A document can be checked out by a user. Till he completes his part and checks it back into the Cloud, it shows as having been locked by this particular user for changes (I think).
It will help with the version control of documents.
Another attractive but extraneous feature is that Airtel proposes to bundle its internet service with Microsoft Office 365 http://www.office365.in
The bundle of Microsoft Offfice 365 and good quality internet service would help my small businesses to stay online and do my work without paying through the nose.

Who knows my dream business may soon be a reality with this new Microsoft Office 365 product.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Do Dogs Dream?

What do you think? Do dogs dream?
Right now, when I was staring at the blank screen and wondering what my next post should be about; I happened to look at my  dog, Blacky. She was fast asleep on her side and all four legs were moving funnily as if she were running, running in a dream.
Aha, Blacky is a good subject and deserves at least one post dedicated to her.
If Mr. Jug Suraiya can write about his Mili and get through an entire syndicated column many times over then so can I.

Blacky came to us as a small black fur ball. Quiet, well behaved and very serious for her age (all of four months). There was nothing she liked better than to sleep under sundry chairs and sofas.
Soon she became an adored part of the family and time flew as it is wont to do sometimes.
She will be nine years old soon.
She likes to read as you can see in the picture. She prefers the supplement to the main newspaper though.
Hates to have her picture taken. If she sees a camera, she just melts into the ground and looks like a raggedy black rat then.

Oh, before you genteel folks wonder, our Blacky is a mixed breed. Her father was a small, bold, perky Apsu with nondescript off white color. The mother was a stately German Shepherd who was a known coward and scaredy cow.She was reputed to hide behind the Apsu at the first sign of trouble and bark from a safe distance.
All four of the puppies in that litter were black in color. Strange! where did this black come from? Oh well. We will always wonder if there was another black player in the picture.
We agonized over a name for her. Our smart, with-it children wanted to have a smart name for her like Ebony or ...I forget which other. But I was stuck on Blacky. The puppy was almost jet black so it was fitting to name her Blacky, I maintained. The children gave up this fight as they had already won the bigger one of getting to keep a dog.

So here she is, a middle aged dog, my most loyal companion, the bane of all gas cylinder wallahs and delivery men.

What is it with the dogs? Why do they bark at the postmen, delivery boys and rude boys who do bahu wahu bahu when they see any dogs or just pass their doors?
And do they dream perchance?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Mid morning Ladies meets: A new phenomenon

I get a call from a friend asking me if I am available on a certain morning. Oh yeah, that's what I am: available.
If there is one single thing that I have gained after quitting my rat-race corporate job, it is time. I love it. Knowing that I have the time to sit still, go for a walk, listen to endless ghazals fished from the ocean of YouTube, watch plays, and participate in mad cap capers with whosoever decides to include me in them.
On the appointed day and time I reach the designated spot. A beautifully kept house and a pleasant lady host. Introductions over, the facilitator is impatient to cut the general chit chat that ensues or to at least turn it toward her predetermined line.
A new age mid morning ladies meet is soon in full flow.
There is audio visual training material, lot of earnest talk with passionate gestures, demonstration, and question answer session. There is gentle persuasion to buy and/or sign up, and suppressed disdain, almost hostility if you happen to be the kind who just refuses to comply and buy the wares being peddled.
The product could be from Tupperware, Amway, Oriflame, Nestle, or random artifacts from across the country. That is not important. The important fact is that ladies are persuaded to meet in small groups and used as captive audience for whatever is to be sold, marketed, or explained.
The host organizes high tea/lunch etc. depending on the level/price of the product being sold. The more expensive the product, the better the eats.
The attendees are in a moral dilemma. They did come and enjoyed the hospitality. So they  feel an obligation to buy something, anything even if they don't need it or feel that it is a useless product.
There is the psychological trigger. You are in someone's house. They have opened their home and heart to you. How dare you not buy something. Shame on you! Come on be a sport. Do the right thing. Buy, buy buy. You may regret it later but right now you have to buy to keep up.
The unspoken threat is,"Don't you want to be invited to such a do ever again? Do you want to be considered ungrateful? Well then, go ahead and be a spoil sport and don't buy."
I refuse to be swayed by all the methods deployed. I am asked point blank," So, which of these products would you like to buy?" "None," I answer. Shock! disbelief. Oh Man, what a toughie!
I worry a little. How about the hospitality that I had enjoyed. Shouldn't I buy at least a token item? Or at least sign the form and give my contact details so that they can try to persuade me again when I am feeling better. Better? No way man. I am just not going to buy anything. Period.
 I am an "ugly customer" as someone had once commented during a training session because in a role play I just refused to let go and come around to buying a product being pitched to me.

Big organizations depend on these network markets to sell their products thus saving on costs incurred in advertising, people, and space. Everything and everybody is fair game. They point out that you can start by selling to your family, go on to your neighbor hood and friends and find an ever increasing group to sell to.

Is this fair?Am I wrong to refuse to be a party to this blatant selling activity in the name of ladies meets? What happened to good old fun sessions where you could go meet someone without worrying if they were going to try and sell something to you?

I would love to hear about your experiences and comments on this article.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013