Monthly Archives: November 2013

Energy efficiency of human machine

Living organisms require energy for every activity they perform. As I am keying in from the keyboard, energy is being used for movement of fingers, thought and coordination processes running in the brain. The immediate source of this energy in heterotrophic organisms, which include animals, fungi, and most bacteria, is the sugar glucose. Glucose is oxidized into carbon dioxide and water with the help of inhaled oxygen and in the process 2880 KJ/mol energy is released.

Of course it would not do to simply “burn” the glucose in the normal way; the energy change would be wasted as heat, and rather too quickly for the well-being of the organism! Effective utilization of this free energy requires a means of capturing it from the glucose and then releasing it in small amounts when and where it is needed.

Mechanism of breakdown of glucose occurs in controlled manner in a series of a dozen or more steps in which the energy liberated in each stage is captured by an “energy carrier” molecule, of which the most important is adenosine diphosphate, known as ADP. At each step in the breakdown of glucose, an ADP molecule reacts with inorganic phosphate and changes into ATP. Each such step require 30 kJ/mol

The 30 kJ mol–1 of free energy stored in each ATP molecule is released when the molecule travels to a site where it is needed and loses one of its phosphate groups, yielding inorganic phosphate and ADP, which eventually finds its way back the site of glucose metabolism for recycling back into ATP. The complete breakdown of one molecule of glucose is coupled with the production of 38 molecules of ATP according to the overall reaction. For each mole of glucose metabolized, 38 × (30 kJ) = 1140 kJ of free energy is captured as ATP, representing an energy efficiency of 1140/2880 = 0.4. That is, 40% of the free energy obtainable from the oxidation of glucose is made available to drive other metabolic processes. The rest is liberated as heat.

Where does the glucose come from? Animals obtain their glucose from their food, especially cellulose and starches that, like glucose have similar skeletal structure. Animals obtain this food by eating plants or other animals. Ultimately, all food comes from plants, most of which are able to make their own glucose from CO2 and H2O through the process of photosynthesis.

This describes aerobic respiration, which evolved after the development of photosynthetic life on Earth began to raise the concentration of atmospheric oxygen. Oxygen is a poison to most life processes at the cellular level, and it is believed that aerobic respiration developed as a means to protect organisms from this peril. Those that did not adapt have literally to deep down strata where oxygen cannot reach. These organism constitute the more primitive anaerobic bacteria.

The function of oxygen in respiration is to serve as an acceptor of the electrons that glucose loses when it undergoes oxidation. Other electron acceptors can fulfill the same function when oxygen is not available, but none yields nearly as much free energy. For example, if oxygen cannot be supplied to mammalian muscle cells as rapidly as it is needed, they switch over to an anaerobic process yielding lactic acid instead of CO2. In this process, only (2 × 30 kJ/mol) = 60 kJ/mol of free energy is captured, so the efficiency is only 28% on the basis of this reaction, and it is even lower in relation to glucose. In “aerobic” exercising, one tries to maintain sufficient lung capacity and cardiac output to supply oxygen to muscle cells at a rate that promotes the aerobic pathway.


Idyllic Life

There is a piece of uncultivated land adjacent to our building. Land is scarce in Punjab. Every inch is under cultivation. So this piece of land with uneven surface must have been purchased by some builder for construction of high rise buildings. But at present it is as it is. Grass and shrubs are growing uninterrupted in this land. On the opposite end are dense woods where poplar and eucalyptus are growing majestically. Poplars are not complicated trees. They are straight with no branches stand like the sentries at attention. The eucalyptus trees have grown so high as to touching the sky.


During day time sunlight seem to play hide and seek with the dark in the woods. Top branches sway in the wind and there seem to something mystical in these woods. Occasionally, a bunch of peahens accompanied by a peacock stray from woods into the grass fields.There is a pool of water into which these days algae has grown and covered most of its surface. Algae is pushed from one side to other when the wind blows. Sun simmers in the water ripples.  On the nearby bushes cranes are seen sitting basking in the sun occasionally diving into the water.

Paths have been trodden in the random patterns by the people going towards woods from other end. The earth on these paths have become bald and devoid of grass. The fields are not at one plain, some are on higher plane.

Many a times, sitting at my room, I can hear the calls of some bird which become quite loud and distinctive in the night. Ilapwingn the day time if you are lucky you can glimpse these birds almost running on the ground. These birds are called “Yellow Wattled Lapwings”. They lay eggs on the ground in the pebbles. If it is very hot, the birds are seen diving into the water and sitting wet on the eggs to cool them. It is believed here that if the bird lays eggs on the higher plane, the coming days will be rainy. It the eggs are laid down in lower fields, it means the coming days shall be dry.

Mindless Mass Shootings of Birds in the Pre-independent India

English: Grus leucogeranus Deutsch: Schneekran...

Koeladeo refers to another name of lord Shiva. Koeladeo National Park is on the world heritage list of UNESCO. It is located in the State of Rajasthan of India. It is an important wintering ground of Palaearctic migratory waterfowl and is renowned for its large congregation of non-migratory resident breeding birds. Due to its strategic locations migratory water birds congregate here from different part of the world. Some 375 bird species and a diverse array of other life forms have been recorded in this mosaic of grasslands, woodlands, woodland swamps and wetlands of just 2,873 hectare.

It owes its existence due to efforts of Dr.Salim Ali and first prime minister of India. It would have been reclaimed otherwise long back. It was a major duck shooting area during the time of kingdoms and British in India. Parties were arranged for pleasure killing the innocent birds regularly by Jaat Royalty even

Salim Ali

well after the independence.

While hunting has ceased and the area declared a national park in 1982, its continued existence is dependent on a regulated water supply from a reservoir outside the park boundary. The park’s well-designed system of dykes and sluices provides areas of varying water depths.

Due to its strategic location in the middle of Central Asian migratory flyway and presence of water, large congregations of

ducks, geese, coots, pelicans and waders arrive in the winter. The park was the only known wintering site of the central population of the critically endangered Siberian Crane, and also serves as a wintering area for other globally threatened species such as the Greater Spotted Eagle and Imperial Eagle. During the breeding season the most spectacular heronry in the region is formed by 15 species of herons, ibis, cormorants, spoonbills and storks, where in a well-flooded year over 20,000 birds nest.

Imperial Eagle - Kazakistan_S4E1623

The infamous shooting of the birds has been described by Dr.Ali. In one such shoot, Dr Ali recounts the exploits the then viceroy, Lord Marquess VAJH Linlithgow. He fired fired 1,900 rounds of .12 bore ammunition on November 12, 1938, although despite a bruished shoulder and ego had not much to show.

The heartless shoots were so gargantuan that there there are several records of 2,000-3,000 birds being killed in a single day, and three records even of over 4,000. The all-time record of 4,273 ducks and geese to 38 guns was made in November 1938, with Lord Linlithgow as the presiding slayer.


Those who live in Punjab must have seen the picture of tenth Sikh Guru Gobind Singh. He is depicted riding a horse with full regalia and a falcon sitting on his hand. The guru has in fact a title given to him as “Baajan Wala”. Baaz is the name of the falcon he is holding. The falcon is called Goshawk and Baaz is the female of species. Its counterpart male is called “Jurra” in the Punjabi. Also the female of the Baaz is much larger in size and esteemed for its preying prowess.

The falcon was a prized possession for the royalty and the affluent in the days of kings and princes in Indian subcontinent. One must have seen the pictures of Moghul kings holding this bird. It was trained for killing. The bird is prized because it has a very sharp eyesight and while swooping down on the prey whether in the air or on the ground can adjust its trajectory according to the changing location of the target. It is not impeded by the obstacles coming in between. It can hunt large prey such as hare, Macqueen’s bustard, crows, owls, herons, ducks, geese, and even cranes and large game birds such as partridges, junglefowl, pheasants. It commanded very high price in those days.

Goshawk is a large hawk, almost reaching buzzard size. When seen close to it has a fierce expression with bright red eyes and a distinctive white eyebrow. Its broad wings enable it to hunt at high speed, weaving in and out of trees, and its long legs and talons can catch its prey in flight.

It was thought that in the plains of North India it migrates from the Himalayas but this does not seem to be true because of the dwindling numbers. It has been declared the state bird and efforts to breed them in the captivity by the Punjab Government have not met with the desired success.

Gohana’s Jumbo Jalebis

India is a country of vast diversities. People of different regions have come and settled here from time immemorial. They brought with them their cuisine. As they settled here and generations passed, sense of belonging to this land pervaded. This mingling of the different elements of different cultures gave rise to fusions.

Over the time, some areas developed their unique specialties in the small corners of streets of even small towns which became a hallmark. Many such specialties particularly at small town may not be known widely as these become in the cities and big towns. You must have heard about some such shops in cities and towns across India. They’re written about often.

One such specialty is Jalebis from a town called Gohana in Sonepat district of Haryana. Some 52 years back, Haryana’s Gohana qasbah pioneered jumbo-sized jalebis. The Gohana shop is still known by its famous offering, Matu Ram ki jalebi that weighs 250 gm each. Matu started selling these giant jalebis in 1958 at Re 1 per piece. Prepared in pure desi ghee, the jalebi stays fresh for 15 days. Now, with special packs of 10 and 20 kg available. 

The Jalebis are prepared using Pure Desi Ghee for which Haryana is famous. They don’t add any artificial coloring. And 250 grams for 1 piece and sturdy and hard working village folks used to eat 4 or more in one go. These Jalebis remain fresh up to 20 days. The present owner, grandson of Mathu Ram, comment that these days four people eat 1 jalebi. Not only are these Jalebis popular with the masses, even with leaders and rich people. The former Deputy Prime Minister Devi Lal was very fond of the delicacy and would get them packed for self and family whenever he passed by the shop.

For example, this Sunday chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda is holding an election rally at Gohana. Already Jalebis have been ordered by the Sarpanches of villages for the participants which they will bring to the rally. The police personnel who have come from other places for duty have already purchased the sweets to avoid the last minute rush.

Tarla Dalal: First Master Chef of India passes away

India is a potpourri of diverse cultures. People from different places outside the sub-continent had been migrating to India since ages. It is generally thought that most of the migrants whether entering for commercial purposes, in search of greener pastures for their cattle which was the case of Aryans, or for grabbing and establishing their hold came generally through the Western corridor. This was not the only way people entered India. Parsees came by boats and ships first to Gujarat and then spread to other parts of India especially Mumbai. Ahoms entered India in the North East. Arabs arrived in Southern India in Dhows long back.

Each arrival of the alien people brought with it the different cuisines like Mughalai, Parsee and others. Earlier when the people did not mingle with each other, these cuisines existed in the pure form. But soon people in this field began experimenting with mixing out of curiosity or substitution of ingredients not available at the new place and this fusion of different cuisine elements resulted in different kind of cuisines.

Tarla Dalal was a noted food writer and wrote over more than 100 cookery books. She is credited with bringing together many diverse cuisines from different parts of India and abroad. Her TV programs were very popular because of her way of teaching like a mother to her daughters and in a light manner. At the time that she wrote her books, she was the only source. She kept the flavours alive, the tradition alive. And her recipes still work.

She began cookery classes in 1966 in South Mumbai where she had migrated in 1960 from Pune after her marriage with Naveen Dalal. She was awarded the Padma Shri in 2007. She was India’s first master chef. She was the trend setter in the field of spreading the cooking knowledge and made it simple way. Thousands of girls must have kept her cookery books as ready reckoner in their kitchen.

Born in Pune in 1936 and was 77 years old.

Now she has passed away after a brief illness at the age of 77. Posted on her Facebook page by her team is a message: Dear All,

We would like to thank all of you for your support and affection through the years of Mrs. Tarla Dalal’s career. She is no more with us as she expired in the early hours of this morning. We thank her for all the happiness that her talent has given to us and our families…

With all our love,
Tarla Dalal’s Team

View from Window

The view from from window of my room at 4 O’clock in the Evening:
It is 4 O’clock in the evening. The sunshine is becoming pale at the approach of the evening. The mornings, evenings and nights are becoming cooler. Sky is still clear. Sitting in the same room of my home on the third floor, I am looking at the scene out side from the window.
The outline of trees looks like the drawing of a child making lines with a pencil which are not straight but serrated. The shadows and lights are playing exclusive games in the branches which are swaying due to strong breeze. When one is there other is gone and vice versa. There is a meadow below and cows and buffaloes are grazing lazily. As they graze, cranes accompany them to catch the insects which are scurried due to the grazing animals. Many of them can be seen perching over the tops of animals.
The shadows of the rows of trees are beginning to lengthen and crawling over over the fields and are moving towards my room. Some boys are trying to catch fish from a pond near the edge of tree rows. The pond is irregular in shape and its still water looks shines due to sunlight falling on it. From above it looks like a shard of glass, very longish and narrow. White cranes and black egrets are plunging into the water occasionally and rest of the time sit on the nearby bushes.
Airplanes keep on coming at very low height as they are descending preparing for landing at Chandigarh airport which is very near. Sometimes very huge cargo plane is seen passing very near our buildings with deafening noise.


Sitting in the room of my home which has large glass panels opening in West direction, I am looking at the Sun going down leaving behind a copper colored hue in the West. The sky is smeared with mild clouds of different transparencies. There are thick columns of of poplar trees which are now loosing their individuality and taking on dark shroud. There are kites flying and sometimes swooping down on their prey. Snow white cranes are leaving the grazing grass grounds and flying towards their homes. Even as I am typing these words the whole scene is becoming ambiguous and soon darkness will swallow the day.