Saturday, May 31, 2008

How do kids see their name?

We gave our daughter, a set of sticky letters, and this is how she spelled her name. While her placement of letters was perfect, she put the letter D reversed because she is left handed.


Interesting, or what?



Photo Essay: Demonstration in Lucknow

On the way to the Imambara, we were stopped in front of the UP Road Transport Corporation Offices because of some demonstration.

The driver stopped the car and I hopped out on the road divider to see the people coming out of the offices.

then many more came piling out of the offices. I couldnt see where they were coming from so moved out in front and peeked

Those are the offices.

Then they started shouting slogans and moved off clearing the road and we moved off as well. This is the same road where you have the High Court Bench and just a few days ago, it was shaken apart by some bloody terrorists. So people were very nervous, looking around nervously. Our driver was nearly having kittens at the thought of me being highlighted on the divider and actually being outside the car!

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Photo Essay: A Dastarkhan in Lucknow

A Dastarkhan is the name of the white sheet which is spread out on the floor of a room and then food served on top of it. You can find the usage of this word from Iran to Afghanistan to Pakistan to India, and I bumped into this in Lucknow. So it can be called as a the place where very fragrant food dishes are served and so it turned out in Lucknow.

Lucknow is famous for its cuisine. Specially its kebabs which are so soft that they melt in your mouth and there are a variety of Kebabs in Lucknow. Kakori Kebabs, Tunde Kebabs, Skek Kebabs, Hariyali Kebabs, Galawat Kebabs etc. etc. (also try Shreemal) (Also see here for a good overview of Kebabs in India). There are two reasons why they are so soft that they would melt in their mouth.

The first is that the Nawabs of Lucknow were so indolent that they did not want to even chew. The second reason given is that because they were so spoilt, by the time they hit their twenties, their teeth had rotted away due to drug usage and over-indulgence in the Lucknow desserts and sweets.

Be that as it may, I have all my teeth and boyo, the kebabs were brilliant. But I do not like the food served in the big restaurants and given that my-laws are vegetarian, it means that we have to order in. So I decided to go buy some good meat stuff and what I wanted was from the road-side stalls.

And my father-in-law pointed me into this direction. It was a short street, hardly 50 meters long, with about 6 shops on the left and 2 on the right.


We went to dastarkhan which was the second shop on the right.

And the cooks were busy cooking. Notice the sign in the background, only refined oil is used. What is India coming to???? refined oil? what happened to engine oil?

It was quite crowded with people queued out outside

people eating inside quickly, this was in December, it was cold, but still was heaving outside

There were people wanting take away as well.

Here's your menu. I personally thought it was a bit expensive. Compared to other places that I have eaten, that is. A full chicken for 150 rupees? That's expensive. But then, the aroma was brilliant.

The order for the kebabs and biryani was taking some time, so I went walkabout. This was the shop opposite Dastarkhan

Famous Fish Fry. It wont be India without spelling mistakes on shop front. Would Sir like to have some Chiken Rosted?

This place was also heaving.

Some of the other shops were a bit emptier.

Quite a crowd, eh? including the doggie!

the making of a rumali roti

the first shop on the right which makes fried stuff, you can see chicken and fish pieces hanging up around the thela.

And the crowd around the thela. Can you see the building behind the shops? the tall one? That's Gemini Intercontinental Hotel and we got a biryani from there as well.

I am not sure that the Biryani corner was that good, so I avoided it as well. Needless to say, the food was brilliant. I did a blind comparison test of the biryani from Gemini Intercontinental Hotel and from Dastarkhan. I am afraid Dastarkhan won hands down! (my daughter preferred the other one, but I pulled rank and weight and overruled her for the next time, she WILL learn who's the daddy!)

But again, if you are ever in Lucknow, do make it a point to visit Dastarkhan and enjoy!

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Photo Essay: A Panorama of Lucknow

We went to lunch at Clarks Awadh, a great hotel in Lucknow (as it happens, one of my wedding receptions was held there!). The restaurant is called as Falaknuma and the food was gorgeous. I regret I did not take any photo's of the food, but I did manage to sneak some pictures of the surroundings.

that's the chattar manzil. One of the old palaces

that's the Gomti river bank.

The Dhobhi Ghat.

A longer view of the river.

The Lucknow Cricket Ground. And here.

The road to Hazratganj where you can go to do ganjing.

A park with couple of tombs.

The Victoria Memorial or the Begum Hazrat Mahal Park (a separate photo-essay on this very ironic park!).

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Photo-Essay: A memorial to mom!

Last week, I stumbled across another of those hidden gems of London.

While haring off to go visit a conference and meet old friends, I stopped at the corner of Finsbury Square.

I thought it was a clock tower at first and then thought it was a statue tower with the statue missing. See those big rounded windows at the top? It is made out of marble and granite.

It says:

Erected and Presented

to the

Parish of St. Luke


Thomas and Walter Smith


To commemorate the life of their mother

Martha Smith



Unfortunately, I could not find anything on the internet on any of the names. Here's some background on the Parish of St. Luke.

Here is another view (90 degrees right from the previous view) of the fountain. Apologies for the quality of the photo's, I am still trying to figure out the workings of this new camera phone.

But I spent some minutes standing there in the freezing cold just looking at it. It is obvious that the Smith brothers were wealthy to afford such an edifice. And despite the lack of information, it had to take some time to make, sculpt, construct, etc. etc.

While the cynical bit in me did flirt with the idea that because it was such an expensive gift, it could have been just for show, but then I felt bad about feeling cynical. It could well have been that Martha struggled to raise her 2 sons from deep poverty. Or she could have been a very big charitable lady in the local church. And when she died, her son's celebrated her life by building something that will help millions of thirsty people down the ages. Every time somebody drinks from that fountain, Martha Smith is remembered. Perhaps a variety on the Prayer Wheels concept?

Given the history of London is replete with rich individuals gifting such structures to the Church and being charitable, I am not surprised about this fountain either. And after all that high flying emotional stuff, my daughter got me down to earth by saying, that looks like the top of the Gruesome Twosome's car called as Creepy Coupe in the Wacky Races.

Now this is one way NOT to repair your washing machine

Picture taken at Rayners Lane, London.

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The difference between stupid and smart

I have spoken before (and here) about the attempts of Reliance Fresh to set up a highly efficient set of retail stores in India and how a bunch of moronic politicians managed to kill off this initiative in certain parts of India. But recently I went to India and actually managed to take some photo's which show up this difference clearly.

The first set is from Lucknow where the lords of stupid rule, it is one of the heartlands where this special genus seems to spring forward with startling regularity. Given the fact that a huge amount of Indian intellectual thought actually emerged from this region makes is so interesting that idiots also come out from there who have, lets be polite, just a passing acquaintance with common sense and economics.

They have even formed suicide squads against Reliance Fresh in Orissa. Well, why not? if you can do suicide bombing for inner struggle objectives or secessionist objectives, why can you not do it for opposing Reliance Fresh Stores? (the mind boggles)

But let us move on.

Just next to my father in law's office, I spotted this door.

Moving closer, it looked a bit sad, with bricks piled up, and the shutters down.

Moving closer to the store, i went down the stairs and peeked through the glass door. Everything was pristine, new, but coated with dust. For some reason, I was feeling a bit like Howard Carter and Lord Carvanon.

The shelves were empty if stacked up, the glass was incredibly dirty and you can see yours truly the hulking fat git shadowed on the glass.

I looked around and even though it was the middle of the day in the middle of a commercial part of town, it was a nice dozy place, no jobs, no activity, no nothing. Even the bloody dogs were spooning!

And now compare it with this Reliance store in Indore. Unfortunately, I did not have a chance to get down and take some pictures as we were under severe time pressure (sod's law, we reached the school on time, but there was nobody there, I guess I have forgotten the chalta hai timekeeping system that I grew up with!). It was early morning, about 0845 hours. And you can see the store open, guards outside, well lighted store, all shelves piled high with goods, clean windows and shoppers already making a bee-line to shop.

Sad, very sad. One part of the country is flourishing and another part has dogs snoring. And the tragedy is that both cities are in states which are equally pushing each other aside in the bottom rankings of all Human Development Indicators of States in India. But one is doing something (very little but something!) while the other?

China and Israel - a tale of 2 photographs

Take a look at these two photographs

The first one is obviously from Tianamen Square, which people will recognize. The second is from somewhere in the occupied territories in Palestine. Now there are two ways of looking at this.

The first way is that just like China clamped down on pro-democracy protesters and sent in tanks, nothing will happen in Palestine as well. It is now just a shade under 2 decades for China and nothing changed as yet, it is still the same old communist regime and in some ways, even more of a crackdown on any form of alternative political activity happened. So if you are big enough, brutal enough and do not give a toss at all,then  you will get away with repression.

The second way of looking at this is, people do not learn. 20 years onwards, China is still thought to be a repressed autocratic country in the world, whether it is Tibet, Uighurs or the students demanding freedom, it is still held up to be one of the standard bearers of the oppressed, communist, totalitarian, authoritarian regimes. Similarly, that is also the image that is getting propagated across the world for Israel. Is that something that one can live with?

And finally, all single ideology states are unable to change without massive and huge impacts to their core ideology. This is why liberal democracies are generally much better in reacting to massive change than totalitarian regimes. We all know about the challenges with China, but the problem with Israel is that while it was formed under an "exclusionist" philosophy, it decided to impose it on the basis of a liberal democracy. Well, those two mutually inconsistent and kind of mutually exclusive factors will lead inexorably to either the Zionist philosophy being abandoned / modified or liberal democracy being abandoned, but not both. This is why I strongly suggest that Israel should talk to Hamas (assuming it wants to go down the liberal democratic route).

Which iconic photograph does Israel want to be remembered by?

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Photo Essay: St Paul's Cathedral, London

It was evening when I got to walk past St. Paul's on the way to a meeting at the London Stock Exchange and as I  was a few minutes early, I took out the camera to take some photos of the St. Paul's Cathedral. It is an imposing building.

Once upon a time, many moons ago, I was working at Goldman Sachs, which had a building right in front of St. Paul's and at that time, I used to walk over to the grounds of St. Paul's and have my lunch there. But of course, at that time, I did not have a handy camera. But now I do and here are some of the pictures taken in haste.

the pillars on the front of the cathedral with quite intricate carving
this was an iron fence which presumably protects the corner of the building from getting knocked and damaged.

this is a view of the northern side of the cathedral looking due east. The cathedral has a strong Greco-roman feel with those columns and crenellations.
Looking back up west and if you keep on going up, you will hit Fleet Street.

There seems to be some restoration going on as well, its Albion Stone, a very nice buttery cream coloured limestone. Can you imagine trying to restore stone to what it was like before? And St. Paul's restoration is a long term project. Mind you, this particular building is the fourth to occupy this site and this latest one was created around 1700's. Designed by that great man, Christopher Wren. See some pictures of the restoration here.  
The fence is made up of some serious ironmongery, the casting of these fences should have taken up serious amounts of money, time and skill.
This is the statue of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism.  He looked far too stern for my liking, reminded me of one of the teachers I had in my Jesuit school, but you can see the man who is perhaps responsible for one of the greatest flowerings of evangelical Christianity in modern ages.


The base of the pillar containing the statue of St. John the Baptist (I think, it wasn't clear which John...) But the raised bronze/copper? inscription was very interesting. Makes you wonder about your own mortality. One erects these monuments to the dead and 100 years later, a man will be standing in front of it and wondering who or what Anne Richards was. It says, "IN MEMORY OF ANNE RICHARD BVRIED IN THIS CHVRCHYARD OF HER SON FREDRICK RICHARDS FOR MANY YEARS RESIDENT IN WAITING STREET AND OF HER GRANDSON FREDRICK FIELD RICHARDS PRIEST RESIDENT FOR MANY YEARS IN ST. PAVLS CHVRCHYARD THIS CROSS WAS ERECTED BY HENRY CHARLES RICHARDS CITIZEN BAKER AND TVRNER ONE OF HIS MAJESTY'S COVNSEL TREASURER OF THE HONORABLE SOCIETY OF GRAY'S INN 1904 1905 AND MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT FOR EAST FINSBURY 1895 1905 WHO SPENT THE HAPPIEST HOVRS OF A BVSY LIFE AS A FREQVENT WORSHIPPER WITHIN THE WALLS OF THIS CATHEDRAL "GOD BE MERCIFUL TO ME AS A SINNER".... 1905

Notice that the U's are replaced with V's, impact of Latin perhaps? A bit verbose and perhaps I would not have written so much, but hey, who pays the piper gets to call the tune. But the craftsmanship was brilliant, very nice.


Then we have a bench which has a plaque which states, "IN PROUD MEMORY OF THE LATE LT. COL. H. N. CLARK, DSO, TD, COMMANDING OFFICER, 290 BDE RFA (T) PRESENTED BY 2/1ST CITY OF LONDON, RFA, OCA, 1914-1918. That's Royal Field Artillery for you. Here's an interesting site which tells you about the man who commanded this group of men, they were part of 1st corps, 58th London Division, and I quote: "58th Division advancing on Lens on the right" on 11th November 1918, the day the first great war ended...

So while I was sitting there on that peaceful evening looking up at the great building, this bench was commemorating a man who led men on the battlefields of one of the most violent conflicts known to man. All quiet on the western front?

Then I trundled around back to the front of the cathedral which has an interesting series of polished stone bollards around the front. You can see up the road and walk down the stairs holding on to this massive bronze handrail, very nicely crafted as well. Although I think the stone bollards are new.
The porch (although it is way too big to be called as a porch) was massive with the pillars and the marble flooring. You can see the huge wooden doors on the left hand side photograph behind the photographer. Although the alcoves looked empty. It was as if they were designed to hold statues, but they did not. I was also not sure about the purpose of the pillars, so close to the main wall. Are they really load bearing or just for show?

The wooden doors were massive and the bronze rosettes were big as well, and looking at the ceiling,  it is very tightly sculpted in that Albion stone. Lovely warm stone, but apparently it gets dirty very quickly...

As before, for the full slide show (and some more photographs) in much bigger resolution, please click here or click on the thumbnail to go to a bigger resolution picture.

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