Chhatrapati Shivaji: Simply Extraordinary

Marathas are a very sturdy and brave people. Once they inhabited the region of India called “Deccan” which is modern day Maharashtra and Northern Karnataka and some parts of Madhya Pradesh and Andhra.

But extent of their valor is reflected in the fact that once they ruled even Delhi and many parts of South India. The foundations were laid down by the Great Shivaji.

Shiva Ji

It fills one with awe to know that Marathas under Shivaji occupied many areas in the Tamil Nadu which so far away from Deccan. What strength and grit these people must have possessed. Shivaji captured the famous fort of Gingee which is located in the Viluppuram district of Tamil Nadu. Shivaji described the Gingee fort as the toughest he had won in the battles.

Gingee is more of a temples cluster inside a fort on a hill. From this hill, the whole plain below are clearly visible and thus it is best suited for guarding the place below as well as taking shelter in the circumstances of emergency.

Gingee Fort

The history of their forays into deep south begun with Shivaji father Shahaji Bhosale capturing Gandikota in the present day Cuddapah district of Andhra Pradesh. At that time he was a commander in the Army of Bijapur Sultan. Sultan bestowed a large Jagir upon him in the North Karnataka which included the present day areas Bangalore, Kolar and Tumkur. This was the beginning of the strong presence of Marathas in the South India although many maratha families were employed in many Muslim kingdoms of South and Vijaynagar empire.

Shahaji Bhosale was almost an independent ruler of the Jagirs. He died suddenly in 1664 and his son Venkoji took over the administration of the Jagirs. Venkoji was the son of Tuka Bai Mohite whereas Shivaji was the son of Jija Bai, the first wife of Shahaji. This way he was the brother of Shivaji. Venkoji lost no time in shaking off the allegiance to Bijapur Sultan and took campaign to Thanjavur in 1675 marking the beginning of Maratha people’s absorption into the alien culture of Tamil Nadu. These people are called “Raoji”. For centuries they are living there and have almost lost all the links to their relatives in Maharashtra. They speak fluent Tamil and their Marathi has taken different connotations. Original Marathi has undergone a sea change. The feminine gender has almost been replaced by neuter gender (“Gaadi aala”). The pronunciation veers towards Tamil, Telugu or Kannada.

Although Venkoji and his successors were no match to the military genius of Shivaji, they were great patrons of arts and literature. Venkoji himself was a writer of sorts but his sons were versatile writers who wrote in Sanskrit, Tamil and Telugu. Tukoji in fact was a great linguist with mastery over these languages. During their regime, the place became a great centre of Carnatic Music. The great saint Thyagayya lived in their time

The marathi influence is attested by the use of gottuvadya and jal taranga. They introduced Kirtan in the Tamil culture. Before this the Tamil had Bhavataras giving religious discourses without the accompaniment of music. During the reign of Marathi kings, Buvas and kirtankars introduced the kirtaan there.

Eggs Kejriwal: Dish

EGGS KEJRIWAL topped NY food critic’s list in 2017. Surprised?

It has nothing to do with Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal although the marwari connection is very much there. Kejriwals belong to the Bania caste. They are astute businessmen. Mostly they are vegetarians. Many young people from the community eat non vegetarian food clandestinely.

The said dish was invented by Devi Prasad Kejriwal a businessman from Mumbai. Being a conservative marwari in he didn’t take eggs at home. But he enjoyed it after golf.


Good thing about the dish is easily available three ingredients Eggs, Cheese and Green Chilli. It hardly takes any time to prepare.

Picture from New York Times


He would tell the waiter how to make it with a slice of cheese, a fried egg and, being a Marwari, he liked green chillies,“ says Ajay Kejriwal, his nephew.

How did it get thus peculiar name?


It got its name because other members began asking the waiter to give them the same what Kejriwal is having.

The dish topped New York Food Critic’s list. One reason cited is the commonality of the ingredients and easy way to prepare.

Boba Tea

Tea is the most popular beverage over the world. Its origin is from China. After China comes India in the production of tea. British are responsible for tea cultivation in India.
Use of tea leaves to make tea are diverse. From simple steeping of the leaves and drinking the liqueur to adding milk and sugar, there are a number of variations all over the world. Spicy tea is which contain crushed ginger and cardamom.

Then there is a this Boba Tea which has taken the world by storm. It is known by other names like bubble tea, bubble milk tea, tapioca milk.

Boba
https://images.app.goo.gl/iwXKnt1n2dpB3gFW7

The basic ingredients in this tea are milk tea to which tapioca balls are added.

Boba is a slang word in Chinese which means the voluptuous breasts of a woman. The balls represent that. Balls are chewy and milk makes it creamy. The tea originated in Taiwan in 1980.

The Hanlin Tea Room of Tainan claims that bubble tea was invented in 1986 when teahouse owner Tu Tsong experimented by adding balls of tapoica in milk tea.
Tapoica is a root of the plant in contrast to being fruit or a vegetable. It’s origin is from Brazil. From there it spread like other things to Taiwan and rest of the world.

Tapoica contains a lots of starch. In the powdered form it is off white colour and is used in many preparations like puddings. For Boba Tea it is turned into spherical balls. Some organic colours are added to make the balls black.

When a product becomes popular, the innovative people start making improvisations. Boba is not an exception. Many variations exist. Like the picture below.

Variations in Boba Tea
https://images.app.goo.gl/Etm83nXnpK9vCZPo8

Flaunting the Assets

If you have lived in Mumbai for a long time and then come to visit Chandigarh and adjoining Panchkula, you would be shocked to see how people in the Northern cities flaunt their wealth. When they drive they think that they are the only ones who are on the road.

They talk on their cellphones, honk incessantly without any patient even if they can see clearly why the traffic ahead is halted. It seems that they have utmost urgent jobs to attend to.

At night, many drive with the high beam lights on making the vehicle drivers coming from opposite side almost blind.

I don’t mean that the people in Mumbai don’t have big cars and other assets. I have seen high end cars lying along the roads in the most neglected style. Mumbai being the economic capital of India, many residents in Mumbai may be having more resources and wealth.

But they don’t display it like they do it in the North. It may be that metropolis is used to heavy traffic since so many years and thus people have become quite disciplined barring some aberrations. In the North, the number of vehicles have exploded exponentially while the distances to be covered are shorter. For example, when we were studying in Chandigarh in during early seventies, there were only few cars to be seen. People used mostly bicycles and at the most well off ones had scooters.

Nowadays there are traffic snarls to be seen at many places. One cannot plan for the future changes many many years early when the city was planned. It should have been a continual change which requires future vision. The problems are increasing by every passing day.

Versoli Beach

The coastline of India on the West side seems like the pages of book which have been chewed randomly by the termite. The water wedges deep inside the land in the form of creeks at so many places across the coast. Alongside the road to Alibaug from Panvel, one treads parallel to seacoast. There are small hillocks and the vista is full of features. The road is simply zigzag at many place. There are dense patches of vegetation on both sides of the road. Many small rivers which drain into the sea come across and there are bridges to cross them.

Monkeys can be seen right on the roadside near Karnala where a bird sanctuary exists. It is almost in the neglected state of maintenance. Only the woods are beautiful and have survived the human encroachment. Versoli beach is two three kilometers before reaching the Ali Baug town. You have to take a detour towards right hand to reach the village jutting the beach. There is a person standing at a crossing of the village charging money for entry into the town. On reaching the beach, another party of money collectors is standing. They explained that this money goes into the upkeep of the beach.

All the beaches seem alike to me except the difference in the cleanliness. People in India has typical attitude towards the enjoyment. It can be stated as “enjoy today and enjoy for yourself only”. Whosoever goes there thinks it as their right to litter the beach with polythene bags and water bottles. The aborigines are better than most city dwellers because they are not curious about the nature and think it as a part of their lives. They are not excited like the city people who start jumping and kicking and littering the place thinking that it is the authorities or other people whose duty it is to clean the house.

Anyway, we reached the beach. We took our lunch which we had packed from our home with us. We were particular about collecting the refuse into a bag and bring it back to properly dispose it. There are trees with coniferous leaves on the shore. These also are found on every beach near Mumbai. There was almost no clean place to sit. There are no benches erected on the shores to sit on and enjoy the spectacle of the sea.

It was a low tide and water has receded deep into the sea. The area exposed was almost blackish sand with clay. It is a beach formed by low energy tides. So you will see less sand more clay. The waves which were breaking at that time we went inside the sea were of very low height. They broke without causing any hissing sound. There were clumps of stones and pebbles hidden underneath the water. They are so sharp that they will cut your feet like knives. There are no warning signs. In fact, no attempts have been made to make the visit of tourist a pleasant experience.

Within half an hour, you will feel like going back. Many people because of lack any novelties resort to playing the cricket on the beach to while away the time. In my opinion, if you have visited one beach you need not to visit another one. All are same. Yes there are some interesting places like a Fort on the island near Murud Janjira beach. You have to take a boat to reach it.

Coconut Plant: Kalpavriksha

Coconut grow in the coastal areas. In India, whole of the coast is dotted with coconut trees. Kerala tops the list in coconut plantations. Known as Coconut in English, Narikela in Sanskrit & Nariyal in Hindi, coconuts can grow to between 15 and 30 m tall in plantations. Their trunks are ringed with scars where old leaves have fallen. The top of the trunk is crowned with a rosette of leaves.

Fruits are called coconuts. They are oval and covered with a smooth skin which can be bright green, brilliant orange or ivory coloured. Below the skin is a thick fibrous layer which is used for coir. The next layer is the shell of the seed with the three characteristic ‘eyes’.

The coconut finds so many uses. The shell may be used to make charcoal which is used in the water filters for absorbing the coloring contaminants.  The inside of the shell is lined with a white, edible layer called the meat. This is used to make chemicals, and medicinal products. The fluid inside the seed cavity is known as coconut water. This fluid contains many minerals and is taken as such to rejuvenate the body. It is recommended in case of dehydration caused by diarrhea. It has a cooling effect and removes the body heat in summers. When seeds germinate, the new shoot sprouts from one of the eyes. Due to so many uses, in India it has been called the ‘tree of heaven’ or ‘Kalpavriksha‘.

In India, it has great spiritual value. The three ‘eyes’ of the coconut represent the three eyes of the great god Shiva. An earthen pot or pitcher, called a purnakumbha is filled with water and mango leaves and a coconut is placed on top. This purnakumbha is used in the ritual of worship and adoration of the gods, called puja. It is placed as a substitute for the deity or by the side of the deity. The purnakumbha literally means a ‘full pot’ in Sanskrit. It represents Mother Earth, the water the giver of life, the leaves life itself, and the coconut divine consciousness.

In South Asia, coconuts are named Sriphala or fruit of the Gods and symbolize complete usefulness, selfless service, prosperity and generosity. The palms are believed to be the embodiment of the ancient Indian concept of kalpavriksha, or the tree which grants all wishes. It plays an essential role in many religious and social functions in South Asia.

Coconut is an integral ingredient of South Indian cuisine. It is used in one form or another in the food. It is used to make chutneys, thickened with milk and sugar to make delicious sweets. It is milk is used in many fish preparations. Its oil is used for cooking and hair dressing.

Such a long journey

Journeys serve different purposes for different people and different times. Some people are very fond of visiting newer places and get the first hand experience of the place. Although these days you can read about place and see pictures on the internet but personally experiencing the place is simply different. Many journeys are performed with specific purposes like visiting the distance relatives, attending some meetings, marriages and to be with acquaintances in the hours of distress. In India, journeys are seldom undertaken for the pleasure because of the shoestring budgets in hand. Work was the main purpose of the journey.

Curiosity is behind this propensity of journeying. Whatever we read and see through books and multimedia increases our curiosity to visit and see with our own eyes. Now one can very well imagine the curiosity of the primitive man because before him lay the whole unknown and unexplored worlds. He was always on the move as a hunter in search of kill. He seldom returned to the earlier destination which was but a temporary residence. This went on till he got tired of moving and the womenfolk who in addition to teaming with their mates for hunting also bore and raised the offspring, discovered that some grasses yielded the seeds which were edible and easy to grow. So whenever they stayed behind, they began planting the grasses. This decreased the dependence on the hunting and arrested their wanderings to a greater extent. Then they began keeping the cattle which added to the profit of the household.

This way our ancestors laid the foundation of stable residences. It also provided them with free time. The lactation period of the women decreased. The result was population explosion. Although mortality must had been very high but still the increase in population was very high as there was still no competition for food which must have been in plenty. Again the resources in the vicinity begun to feel the pressure and competition for food sent from time to time some groups of people to other places in search of food. There they adapted themselves to different climates and food items. Thus the variations in the structure and features began separating. The changes have been so drastic that many people shall not be ready to agree that once upon a time in the remote past all their predecessors were similar.

Travel travails in North East India in 1988-Return Journey

So we reached Nazira after harrowing experience. It was very cold there. In the winter, the sun goes down at about half past four in the evening. Those were the days when an extremist outfit called ULFA was very active. There were kidnappings and murders. So people ventured outside mostly in the daytime or under the protection of security forces.

We left in the early mornings and came back early. We went to see the Sivasagar town which was the capital once upon a time of Assam under the rule of Ahom kings. Ahoms came from South-East Asia and settled in North East India for good. Although in the beginning they followed Buddhism but converted to Hinduism and began suffixing “Singh” to their names. Thus the town of Sivasagar was founded by King Shiv Singh. It is a large town. There is a very large lake called Shiv Sagar. In fact the whole area has number of such lakes and the water in them is very clear. Adjacent to the lake is a Shiv temple called “Shiv Dol”. It is gigantic structure.

Shiv Dhol temple

Most of the trading is in the hands of Marwaris which originally migrated from Rajasthan. In fact they are so enterprising merchants that there is hardly any place in the North-East where they have not set the shops. One reason for their flourishing in this part of the region is the indolent nature of the local people. There is many shops which sell the silk sarees and cloths. The silk is from Assam and Manipur and comes in three main varieties namely Golden Muga, white Pat and warm Eri Silk. These varieties are produced by the same silkworms when fed on leaves of different trees. Everyone who goes there purchases the silk along with the tea. You can see unending stretches of tea plantations everywhere along the main roads.

Then we visited the “Madams” which are very elaborate mud structures where the bodies of kings and other royal people are interred exactly in the same fashion as the Pharaohs in Egypt.

Days went by very fast and time came for returning. There was a train in the early afternoon and we went to Simulgudi station again. There people moving here and there confused and worried. There we saw a notice saying that due to “Bandh (strike)” in Cachar Hills all the trains going towards Silchar shall remain cancelled for next 4 days. We went back feeling helpless and thought of going to Guwahati and from there more trains shall be available for Silchar although we had to do a lot of useless journey. So we boarded a train after 2 days and it reached Guwahati at noon. The scene was not promising. I went to booking counter for a train inquiry and ticket. As usual no reservation was available on the counter. I caught hold of a tout and gave him extra money for getting the berth reservation. The train was at about 4 O’clock in the evening which meant we have to occupy the berths after sometime and sleep and reach in the early morning at Silchar.

Beautiful Cachar Hills

But as the night approached, there happened a surprising thing in the train. There was no electricity in the train. On top of it, the train was over crowded and there was not an inch to move for going to toilet. The reservation did not have any relevance because on such trains which stop at every station people alight and board at every station. The train halted at some station where we procured some candles and a match box. Without light you could see the person sitting next to you. Sometimes I was afraid that if anyone of us moved, he or she could not retrieve the way back.

Somehow, the night passed and reached Silchar in the early morning. It was such a perilous journey.

It looks out of this world

Forest Research Institute (FRI) in Dehradun is about one and half kilometer from the place I live. I regularly go up to the gate of the institute during my morning walk. Many a times, I extend my walk to the inside the Institute. It was established in the year 1906.

Nowadays it conducts trainings for the candidates selected for Indian Forest Service, for the forest rangers, M.Sc courses. The institute itself is situated in a very big campus which have trees of every kind found in India.

Institute is situated in the middle and building is majestic. Despite being so old it mesmerizes the beholder. It houses the laboratories, museum which contains specimen of wood of trees, non woody products, the bugs which thrive on the trees and is divided into 5 modules. Guides are also available if one wants.

This is about the buildings but the real beauty is outside where sprawling green grass lawns, water brooks, the mighty trees, bamboos of umpteen variety can be seen. As everyone knows, the work of growing the trees is a very painstaking one, it must have taken years for many trees to reach their majestic heights and beauty.

As you walk through the jungles and woods, you feel transported to an altogether different world. A world that is so peaceful and serene and you are compelled to praise the God who has created it all.

The varieties of the trees are numerous ranging in size from few centimeters to hundreds of feet. In the morning time one forgets that he is in this world but feels that he is in heaven. There is no pollution. The air is fresh. Yonder the blue Mussoorie hills form the backdrop. When sky is not overcast, it is so blue.

I remember the dialogues between two brothers in the movie Slumdog Millionaire after being thrown from the train near Agra. When dust thins before them and the visage of Taj Mahal looms before them. Younger one says “is this the heaven? ” Elder one tells that No, we are not dead it is real. Similar experience is felt if you leave your thoughts that encumber you behind. If you get a chance visit this place and feel for yourself.

I visited the place after many days and took some snaps. Due to the clouds and early morning, the pictures are a bit hazy as if one is seeing them in the dream.

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Nature Works on Molecular Level

Human beings are trying to shrink the data storage space. In fact, technology is making exponential strides in this field. Only within the last decade, we have graduated from spooled data storage to blue ray DVD to solid state storage devices which can hold many layer of data.

Solid State Storage

Not only it is matter of storage, but very fast retrieval of the data that is taking place. Look at Google Search, it fetches so many webpages within milli seconds. But still, the efforts are on to still go to more more and micro sizes.

When we read, our imagination begins to conjure the physical attributes. For example, if the story is talking about an encounter of someone with a tiger, our mind starts enacting the fuzzy scene. So the writings contain the cues packed in a small space.

Rest is done by our imagination. Visual aids go one step further and eliminate the need for imagination and thus force on our mind the scene as conjured by the maker of the visual. Otherwise from written story, everyone will come out with their own scene based on their experiences.

That is why original creativity is going down with these advancements. We are flooded with so much information that we do not require to think ourselves. Now the focus is on the intelligent choice from among the so many choices available.

In the olden times, the Kings usually erected pillars or tablets in their kingdoms. These usually exalted some great victories and virtues of the Kings. Some of them went further and put religious sermons on the display. It is another matter that most of the populace at that was illiterate. Examples are pillars erected in India by Asoka the Great.

Ashoka Pillar at Vaishali

Similarly, there is the Prism of Sennacherib inscribed in about 700 BC, describes in characters of the Assyrian language some historical events during the reign of King Sennacherib. This king of Assyria, fought so many battles. The Prism contains about 20,000 characters, weighs about 50 kg, and has survived almost intact for about 2700 years. It is great wonder.

Prism of Sennacherib

But now compare our feats with nature. A single DNA molecule of the bacterium E-coli contains all the encoded information necessary to specify the cell’s structure and functions. No storage devise made by us even remotely come close to it.

Bacterial DNA

The bacterial DNA contains about 4.6 million characters (nucleotides) and weighs less than 1/10000000000 grams only. Other remarkable property of it is that it has undergone only relatively minor changes during the past several million years.

But nature never boasts. It does not care whether we praise it or criticize it when we are not happy. It is just like God Shiva who is never angry with anyone and who is attached unnecessarily to anything.

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