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Archive for July, 2012

Bread pakorey ki kasam

If seeing this ^^^ picture, your eyes twinkled, lips curved into a wide grin, your mouth began to water and it flashed back the awesome memories of your alma mater, please stand up !

And to those who find the above sentence a gross exaggeration, and cynical, I don’t blame you. For you are an alien to this experience.

To the first group, know you are a Delhiite and more specifically went to DU as a student. And you don’t even need to be explained what DU stands for. But for the latter, btw, it stands for Delhi University .

What fish n chips is to London, or hamburger is to Mc Donalds, this luscious snack is to Delhi. This is the  finger food we all relished ( I wonder if they still do) in cramped Delhi University cafetarias, without realising its awesomeness.

Being away from Delhi now for over two decades, the gold test for me to check whoever claims “I am from Delhi.” is the mention of the clue word “Bread Pakora”. If instead of a wide eyed expression screaming ‘wierdo’, the return expression is an instant wholesome grin, you know the claim is authentic. You don’t even need to double check them.

To give you another evidence of my cynical attachment to a bread pakora, it was only for the ‘Bread pakore ki kasam’ tag line, that got me watch, Band Baja Baraat twice.

In the good old simple days of limited pocket money, and even more limited options in the DU cafes, this large sized, yummy snack with a hot cup of chai came in handy and filling in the lunch hour, for an affordable Rs 5/-

Just as in some other part of the world, mustard compliments hotdogs, our austere bread pakora came proudly partnered to even more austere yet yummy Kaddu Ketchup (Pumpkin ketchup).  And the two stayed married to each other, no matter how much the arrogant branded ketchups belittled it , on TV ads of our days:
“Thora ketcup try karo?”
“Ketchup hota kaddoo bhara”
“Is mein kaddoo nahin zara,
Raseele tamataron se tayyar,
Volfarm .”
( If I still remember it correctly) .

Whenever I get into my “Ayy mere pyaare watan, tujh pe dil qurban” mode, all I do is take two slices of bread, spread one with hot chilli sauce, other with green mint coriander chutney, sandwich them with mashed potatoes, or even cottage cheese, cut them in two triangles,  coat each of them in a chick pea batter, and fry them. And with a steaming cup of tea, I transport myself back to the DU student days.

Find it weird? No worries, most of my family too, quietly radiates that subtle expression of Whats so great about bread pakora?”.

But I have learnt to not take notice of them, and not even take any offense.
They  know not what they are missing !

Believe it or not, I find it the awesomest finger food, for it carries with it a flavour of my past memories too.

Bread pakorey ki kasam !


I dream of a Polio free Pakistan

In January 2012, India was declared to have not reported a single case of Polio for over a year. Knowing its vast area, huge population, diverse terrain and socio economic disparity, to have achieved this was a mammoth achievement. My joy of the news was terminated, before it began, when I realised how far Pakistan was from this goal, especially after 173 cases being diagnosed in the past year , and a few almost recently. My heart shuddered to question, “How long would this take Pakistan to reach that goal of being Polio free?”

However June 2012 and early July brought forth a new wave of hope, when the UNICEF’s Regional Director, Karin Hulshoff, wrote in a newspaper of her excitement and optimism with which the work of Polio eradication was progressing in Pakistan. According to a report by a scientific group, there were only 22 cases in the past six months as compared to 58 the same time last year. Owing to the introduction of a new bivalent vaccine, there have been better results, with Pakistan approaching the hopeful day of eradication faster. She stressed that now more emphasis should be given to the coverage of missed cases, or those never vaccinated earlier. “Even one child missed is a lost opportunity to eradicate polio from Pakistan forever”. Hence to not miss any case, the program was geared up everywhere and in the FATA too.

The same time was the case of Dr Afridi for spying came to light. It is sad, media also misreported, and many among the common masses still believe that Dr Afridi was associated with Polio campaign, though the truth remains that he was collecting samples for the hepatitis C virus.

The coincidental increase in the activities of Polio campaign to speed up the Polio eradication, and Dr Afridi’s spying mission led many to misunderstand that there was some conspiracy against the tribal region, through Polio vaccination. There could be no two opinions about abusing the trust of the people on health workers for one’s vested interests. It is extremely deplorable. But should one or more such Dr Afridis succeed in putting the health of 240,000 innocent children at risk?

How about the tribal elders instead, recruit their own trusted workers to give the two drops of Polio to their innocent kids and secure not just the future of kids, but also their own reputation as being concerned and caring for the humanity?

However, the ban by the tribal elders for the July16-18 Polio drive was to ask for a total stop of drones. Drones are a tragedy, and are inhuman, especially the loss of innocent lives of children are deplorable, but to use one’s own children as a first line of defence, and deprive them of their right to be safe from a crippling disease, is as unfortunate. I wish the tribal elders who are genuinely concerned about the lives of their common people killed by drones, understood, if their community stays burdened with ill health, they shall be unable to defend themselves either from extremism or any outside aggression, but also get more isolated in the international community.

Can there be no stronger, yet humanitarian ways to protest for stopping of drones, which does not tarnish the image of the tribal men and women?

Shahid Afridi’s inclusion into the Polio campaign is a welcome, and rekindles the hope to see the dream of a Polio free Pakistan come true, sooner than I had feared. Shahid Afridi has stood up for a great service to his own tribal children. He is a true hero and a true humanist; who has roots from the tribal area. In a tweet he remarked:

Afridi vs Polio ‏@AfridivsPolio
#Pakistan is my country and to #SpeakUpAgainstPolioBan is my duty.

At the same time it is hurting to see people of tribal areas being ridiculed ( though rightly so)  internationally for their decision

“Oh yes, I see it, polio vaccines for kids and drone attacks, there is a close relation. CRAZY! #speakupagainstpolioban.”

Or see the decision as illogical:

“Its like cutting your own hand as your protest against a theft, or lashing yourself against the fornication by a foe.”

Another tweep saw how the decision is ultimately going in favour of the aggressors who are being protested against:

They are killing children through drone attacks and these people are trying to make their children crippled for life. It is fulfilment of aggressor’s interests both ways.

Children from the tribal areas are as dear to us as anywhere else in Pakistan. We dream of seeing them Polio free too, and be healthy in every way. We are equally hurt at the drones attacks on the innocent.

I repeat, there can be innumerable stronger ways of protest to make international community notice the aggression and causalities caused by drones, instead of making innocent humanity, whether by killing the health personnel or innocent human beings, or depriving the children of Polio vaccine, a symbol of their protest. This simply leads to tragic loss of credibility and lack of sympathy from the international community. The image of the fellow Pakistanis living in tribal areas, including their elders being tarnished by such decisions hurts, because we know they are as human as any one of us, in Pakistan.

At the same time politicians across the board, remain criminally silent to the issue. Even the kids are not spared now, from being used as  bait for political agendas.

However, I insist I still dream for a Polio free Pakistan from Karachi to FATA.

The mesmerizing Taj

Think Taj Mahal, and to an average Indian, what comes to mind is the information one imbibed during the school about the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, and that he had built it in the memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. One is also reminded of some’ facts’ that we read in our school history text books i.e. It took 17 years for the construction to complete ( though Taj website info claims that it took less than 10 years), and the misplaced myth that once the architect had completed the construction, his hands were chopped off by the emperor so that it could not be replicated again. However there is no historic documentation of this myth. In fact, there is reference which suggests the contrary.

For foreigner visitors, be they Westerners or from anywhere on the globe, first thing they wish to see when they land in India, is Taj Mahal. For them it is a marvel piece of architecture that symbolises India. A purchase of its mini replica made of alabaster, as a souvenir is mandatory.

However, for the locals, many are superstitious about keeping a replica of TajMahal at home. Some consider it a Mausoleum, while others believe it brings bad omen. Ironically the monument which is known as the most romantic symbol of love in the world, is perceived by the superstitious to have brought bad luck to both Shah Jahan who commissioned it and the architect who designed it.

Many neither superstitious nor romantic, associate it with ShahaJahan’s obsession with extravagant and lavish life style. It is said that the time Taj Mahal was being built ( 1632-1648), Americans were laying the foundation of a great Ivy League institution by the name of Harvard University ( 1636 estb). Hence obvious were the priorities between the two parts of the world.

The fact that the Mausoleum was built for love of Mumtaz Mahal, who died while delivering her 14th baby, at the age of 39, also compels many to question ‘what kind of love was that?’

To many indifferent to above issues, it remains as one of the Wonders of the World. It was in 2001 that New 7 Wonders of the World inititative was begun, and after nearly 100 million votes cast the world over, Taj Mahal was chosen as the top of the New 7 Wonders of the World. However, in 2007, after controversies, form various ends, UNESCO withdrew its support from the initiative.

My personal experience of TajMahal , visitng it as a grown up, was quite unexpected. Having visited a few times in childhood, I did not feel anything special. Hence while visiting again, as an adult, I had expected nothing different.

We entered the initial premises with surroundings made of sand stone.

“Why is there no marble here?”  I wondered while standing in a queue.

There was a thorough pocket search at the entrance, where we had to even dispense away with any chewing gum in the pocket.

It was aound 2 PM, and the sky was overcast, with soft sunlight filtering through the clouds.

As we walked through the gates, there suddenly stood in front of us a mesmerizingly pearly white monument, as if being held on a giant palm instead of the raised platform. It looked like an imagination materialised, and an illusion made visible to the open eyes. And it indeed, appeared to exude the four letter word ‘love’, on whose foundations it was said to have been built.

Beside its merits architecturally, even to my ordinary eye, the first glimpse was hypnotising. The eyes stared for a while without a blink.

As we walked towards the raised platform, it began to rain and got really heavy. As we drew closer, the Taj got bigger, but hazier through the curtain of heavy rain, as if receding into an illusion, shying away from reality. The elusive hazy silhouette began to cast a spell even more.

The slippery rounded edges of the marble stairs up to the platform were a challenge to climb when wet.

In about half an hour, heavy down pour stopped, after having washed off the dust over the marble exterior. As the faint rays of sun reappeared, the washed marble began to glow like the glistening face of Mumtaz Mahal must have been, after coming out fresh from a bath. I instantly, in my wild imaginations, began to correlate the flawless beauty of the King’s beloved Queen , to this marble monument he built for her. He sure must have attempted to match his two loves together—the Taj with the Queen.

Rest of the experience within the Taj interiors were as if walking live through a  dream.

Although the overcast sky prevented us from watching it in the full moon, that is usually is offered on four days in a lunar month.  But from the experience in rain, am sure the experience in a moon light night must certainly be exponentially far more bewitching.

A friend recently messaged this interactive  beautiful video of the Taj, and it instantly brought back the recollections of my own experience.It gives a kind of 3-D effect of the Taj, and helps those who have yet to witness it live, share a tiny fraction of my experience visually.

Please click below to see the interactive video: A MUST SEE >>

Please do not play politics with the health of innocent kids !

Published in @ETribune :

As the rest of the world is sprinting forward, we in Pakistan seem to be walking backwards. One used to get this sense sometimes, but now with passage of time, it comes more often. With the fact that most of the difficult places like India having grappled with a serious health issue like Polio, and are at the turn of calling themselves polio free, we in Pakistan are not just not close to that, but even retreating fast to make sure we get further away from this dream.

The news of North Waziristan deciding to impose Polio drops ban in their area as a protest against the drones, or the boycotting of Polio campaign in Drazinda village while protesting against the load shedding, brings in not just shivers to the health conscious on this globe, but also gives yet another reason for Pakistan to be a focus in the international circles for a ridiculous reason.

They have a right to register their protests against drone’s attacks, or of Dr Afridi’s betrayal or even against load shedding. But how is this justified by turning ones guns against the innocent kids who are in no way directly or indirectly responsible for any of these unfair actions.

How is banning of Polio drops to the kids going to make a difference to the drones? Is it not akin to hitting your own foot with an axe, crippling yourself even more, making your own children, who are the youth of tomorrow, be burdened with more illhealth and handicap? How will this help them stop drone attacks, or generate more electricity or prevent more Dr Afridis being recruited?

How are risking one’s own children to a crippled life, a way of avenging the atrocities of the aggressors?

As said by a twitter friend: “Taliban want to kick US outta Afghanistan/Pakistan but they never know kicking with polio affected legs is quite impossible ‪#PolioBan‬”

No atrocity is large enough to avenge the innocent kids, be they are from any ethnic community or faith or nationality. And to our horror, the Taleban are putting to risk their very own kids.

A tweep justifying the Polio ban remarks: “But people from your profession (referring to Dr Afridi) for betraying the Polio campaign”.

Does one or a few insincere health professionals justify you to make your own children risk being crippled with Polio. Who are you hurting by this? The health professionals or your own kids?

They argue the drones kill more children than from Polio? Yes this is true, and killing of children by drones is criminal like risking the health of innocent children by Polio ban is criminal too. They harm and kill your children, but you in return risk crippling your own children. Is there any commonsense in this logic?
Those who continue and justify drones by all means, will they stop by your threat of Polio ban? Who will it hurt the drones or your own kids?

Or is it because this is the easiest way out, to kick out the unarmed sincere medical personnel, and lash out at unaware innocent children, both of whom will not be able to defend back, this extremely  unfair decision, with equal force.

As a medical professional, I can only scream loud and cry that they have no right to aggressively jeopardise the health of the innocent, at the cost of another aggression.

Which sect of Islam, or which moral value of humanity or which aspect of the hospitality of the large hearted tribals justify for avenging a wrong action with usurping the rights of the meek and the powerless , innocent kids?

Avenging an injustice, by risking the health and crippling your own children for life?
What kind of courage and valour is this?

I am aghast to see that there are educated on Twitter who are justifying‪ the polio vaccination ban, what to talk of those who give it a silent support. ‪

Polio vaccination ‬ campaign should not be used as a shield against drones. It wont help, but be counterproductive. Will it harm the aggressors or the innocent Pakistani kids?

Polio isn’t petty politics for which politicians, civil society, liberals or conservatives, or general public should not speak up. For the health of Pakistani kids, and for the sake of humanity, please speak up.

I beg you all, please speak up against the Polio Vaccination ban.

This appeal was in response to this news :


Allergic Rhinitis ~ Oh that itchy runny nose

It’s just not funny
When your nose is runny;
You feel all soggy,
Hoarse and froggy.
Your throat is scratching;
The germs are hatching.
You know it’s catching
– “Runny Nose” by Kay Winters

Thanks to nose, beyond the sense of smell it has another very important function! It is literally the guardian of our body’s respiratory system. The air tubes which carry air into our lungs, the nose moistens and warms the air that we breathe in, and filters out a lot of pollution before the air enters lungs.

If a person repeatedly suffers from sneezing with running nose that itches and feels stuffy, it could be allergic rhinitis.

Myth: Every runny, stuffy nose, is not bad cold.
Truth: Allergic rhinitis is not “simply” a cold, and if it is not treated properly, it can lead to more serious problems in the long run.

What is Allergic Rhinitis?

Allergic rhinitis an allergy of the nose.
Before we understand Allergic Rhinitis we should first of all understand “What is allergy?”
Human body has a unique defense system called ‘Immune System’. The Immune system fights and protects us from diseases just like the army which protects a country from adversaries. When harmful things such as bacteria or viruses enter human body, the immune system rightly recognizes them as “enemy” and attacks them.

But at times our immune system gets confused about the enemy. It reacts to harmless things like dust particles, the hair of animals, the pollen from plants and trees, and sometimes even certain food items.

Symptoms: Besides nose, allergy can affect various parts of our body such as the skin and eyes. There is excessive sneezing, itching and watering from the nose and eyes. The congested nose can get blocked.

What causes Allergic Rhinitis?

Pollens from plants and trees, house dust mites, animal dander, smoke and other pollutants and sometimes even drugs (especially aspirin) are some of the allergens which trigger conditions like allergic rhinitis.

Don’t confuse Allergic Rhinitis with Common Cold.

Allergic rhinitis is caused by allergens, whereas a cold is caused by bacteria or virus. Both these problems are accompanied by sneezing, running/blocked and itchy nose. Here are some of the signs which can help us to identify allergic rhinitis:

• There is no fever and body ache.

• The mucus in nose is clear and runny, not yellow/green and thick.

• One may sneeze many a times before the sneezing attack stops.

• There is itchy feeling in Nose, Ears and Throat.

• Eyes water a lot.

• These problems stay longer than a typical cold.

Can Allergic Rhinitis cause serious complications?

Though allergic rhinitis does not threaten life, it can certainly disrupt one’s life. It affects sleep pattern; performance at school or work, and makes one feel and look miserable. All that is bad enough, but also, if allergic rhinitis is not treated properly, there can be other problems, some of them more serious, like:

• Conjunctivitis: The conjunctivitis is the thin covering of the white part of our eye. An allergic reaction can cause swelling, redness, itching and watering of the eyes.

• Nasal Polyps: Polyps are fleshy growths caused by swelling of the lining of the nose. Polyps can become large enough to block breathing.

• Sinusitis: Fluid collects in the sinuses, which are hollow cavities in the bony area around the nose. Bacteria collect in this fluid and cause infections.

• Asthma: Frequent symptoms of allergic rhinitis like swelling, itching and watering may lead to asthma in the long run.

How can we treat Allergic Rhinitis?

“Say goodbye to the habit of Pill-Popping. Self-Medication can harm in the long run. Consult a doctor, who will study symptoms and condition and then suggests right treatment.”

Exposure to allergens should be avoided. Follow few essential steps which help to control things that make Allergic Rhinitis bad to worse:

• Exposure to furry/hairy animals should be avoided. If you have a pet, keep it out of your bedroom/living area.

• Ensure curtains, bed sheets, carpets and soft toys are washed frequently.

• Enclose mattresses in plastic covers and if possible, if possible change the foam mattresses that are more than five years old.

• Vacuuming is better option than sweeping. Clean furniture and doors with damp cloth, because this removes dust better than dry dusting and sweeping.

• Make sure walls of your house are free of mould and fungi. Use mild solution of bleach to clean and get rid of moulds.

• Do not smoke, and make your home a “No-Smoking Area”.

Following these simple steps would certainly ease your life with Allergic Rhinitis.

Courtesy: This post has been prepared by Dr Raminderjit Singh.

King of fruits~ a twist with the taste !

Hindu Gods claimed it to be the Food of Gods, the emperors and nawabs called it the King of fruits, poets like Ghalib called it pots with honeyed juice , scientist call it Magnifera indica, with all the special names given by special beings.

To the ordinary, however,  it remains a simple ‘Aam’ ( which itself means ‘ordinary’).

What generous qualities is this wonder fruit not bestowed with—soft silky texture, gorgeously golden color, a mesmeric aroma for the olfaction, and a heavenly sweet delight to the taste buds. And not just the quality, in the peak of its season, it comes in abundance, making Aam ( mango), yet another symbol of generosity. And as if these qualities weren’t enough, it comes in hundreds of varieties.

I love the way, when in abundance, mango sells at a reasonable price making it affordable to many if not all the poor.
“Till last week, in Delhi, some variety of mangoes were being sold at as low as Rs 30 per kg,”, tells my Mom. Still in this world of commerce and trade, India though  the greatest producer and remains the largest consumer of mangoes too, with 99% being consumed locally and only 1% is exported.

Thinking of mangoes, mind goes instantly to a few cues—of mango orchards in Rataul,  where one went to eat just mangoes, or of childhood visits to grandparents where buckets of mangoes soaked in cool water waited for our arrival, and of mangoes being brought home by parents in pettis( wooden boxes) and tokras (baskets) not polybags.  Abundance was common to all.

Beyond eating them as it is, mango shake or mango lassi are universal favorites too.

Right from unripe green to a pulpous ripe fruit, mangoes are worthy of being used in a variety of recipes. The strong mango flavour that obstinately stays even after cooking or mixing with other ingredients, makes it stand out and still remain the main ‘hero’ of any recipe.

The itch to break the monotony and use them in different recipes had always been quite intriguing. Having experimented with various recipes, there are some which have hit really well with my folks at home. And now each mango season, their demand is refreshed.

I share here those  household favorites

Aam Panna:  An age-old traditional drink, that elderly claim beats the heat stroke or LOO (in the desi jargon. Made from unripe or semi ripe mangoes, boiled and pulp sieved, which can be used as either sweet (with sugar) or sour ( without sugar). Adding a dash of chunky chaat masala( desi spices), and a twig of mint leaves makes it a great delight. The resultant sweet n sour drink is a great thirst quencher.

Mango-Avocado-Crab Salad: Layered as avocado cubes with crushed garlic at the bottom, mango cubes with ginger juice in the middle, and crab meat sitting on top. The outcome is pretty cool, with much economy of labor and time.

Mango Salsa &  mango chutney with barbecued chicken:
Mango salsa includes tomato and mango cubes, red onion and jalepino pepper with lemon juice and mint or cilantro garnished. The resultant is a colorful, crunchy mix that is hot, sweet and sour.
Mango chutney is made from green mango pulped, and cooked with sugar and achar masala (pickle spices). Vinegar is added as preservative, after it cools.

Mango Crepes &  Waffles: Hot Crepes or waffles with mango cubes and whipped cream or custard.  Kids love it for a weekend breakfast.

Mango Rose: This is almost a decade long favorite dessert  in the house, a must inclusion in the parties arranged in  mango season. The recipe is an in-house creation and hence kept secret :). Got to eat before ask for the recipe.

Happy mango season !

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