Lesions from Cooking

[Now cross posted on Desicritics]

For just under one week now, I have been the proud owner of a gas cylinder, a stove and a refrigerator, and I daresay my life has been completely revolutionized. That I have learnt oodles of nuances about cooking is sadly a statement I can not make as yet. However, as one interminably perseveres along the solitary and arduous path of cooking (thankfully I have a roommate for company!) for one’s survival, one gradually begins to realize that there are probably more lessons about life in the culinary arts than Deepak Chopra can possibly pontificate. It is a journey beset both with teething problems for the tongue.

To start off, one begins learning to make choices and trade-offs. With the limited knowledge and experience of the lead protagonists, it is evident that trade-offs have to be a part of the equation right from the beginning. One learns to accept reality and live with it. Self-appraisal teaches us that one should not bite more than one should eat, or cook. It’s best to get your fundamentals right — eg., how to roast a toast, and toast the occasion.

One learns early in the journey that things are not going to be easy. One is neither born nor can cook with a silver spoon. It requires tremendous foresight to make sure that the kitchen is well-stocked, and one can only acquire such perspective through experience. Not a virtue one can expect to find in bachelor housing. The absence of the most innocuous of objects can be a sore point when you need it. Small, dark, black balls can be infinitely useful especially if they happen to be called cumin seeds (jeera). Rains may bring down the mercury, but they certainly don’t help the cause of the amateur cook. He (especially if it’s a lazy he) feels beleagured, cheated by the rain gods, with fast finishing supplies has to battle hunger, and finally does the obvious — drops the item from the recipe.

One learns to persevere — just slug it out. When its a matter of life and death (Ok! Hospitalization), one cares not for the simple pleasures in life — for instance, dinner can consist of more than mere omelettes. Half burnt omelettes. Half-burnt omelettes that look like a perfect equilateral triangles (for want of a better shape). Sunday ho ya Monday, roz khao ande – the words ring in your ears, tear your ear-drums apart, test your tenacity, humiliate you, try to break your back and upset your stomach, but like a Spartan warrior you doggedly keep fighting all instincts, all temptations. Like a sanyasi, one has to resist the apsara’s smile, with a toll-free number promising home delivery. If one has to achieve nirvana, however, one has to eat rock, metal and egg.

Hardships are, of course, part of any journey. Small cuts and bruises are passe, there is danger of getting burnt. The weapons one has to resort to are deadly — the can cut even the holder of the weapon. Salt is always at hand and on the burns. What’s all the brouhaha about nuclear weapons?

There is the ecstasy of the omelette actually turning out to be eatable especially when the bread also got toasted the right red — a feeling unparalleled in the dictionary of human emotions. At the same time, there is enough crying, running noses and sneezing (onions and chilly powder) to fill a full season of Ekta Kapoor’s. I am sure Indian satellite television head honchos haven’t yet got hint of the melodramatic quotient of it all, else there would have been a flurry of Kaun Banega Captain Cook with King B and Big Khan both compering it together. And not to forget people sms’ing their favorite garnishing to 8888 and winning exciting prizes. Or perhaps a Kitchen Idol, whom millions of Indians cheer and vote for from the comforts of their living rooms (thankfully smell is a sensation that has not yet been televised).

Finally, as the denouement draws near (and the omelette gets made) one has a sobering realization under the Bodhi tree, err. Chimney. One realizes that one is responsible for one’s actions. Passing the blame around is not an easy task when you have volunteered willingly for such calamity (though one can certainly pass the plate around). It is all our doing — we have to take responsibility for our actions, and suffer on our own account (next morning with a knotted stomach). Cooking is the ultimate leveler, with immediate feedback loop and completely ownership, division of labour and accountability for actions — a manager’s dream, an epicurean’s nightmare.

A humbling experience. Of course, it’s easy to succumb, to eat out, to order pizza, to resort to maggi. But then, one has to remember, that as Rudyard Kipling Robert Frost once rightly said:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

[Many thanks to Dipika for proofreading this]


2 Talks at BCB4

Gave two talks at BarcampBangalore4:

  1. 5W – Widgets, What, Why, Where and hoW: This introduced people to widgets and included a small demo of adding a widget to your site using the Minekey Content Recommendation Widget (login required) as an example. A word about the Minekey widget again — it provides content recommendations on your blog based on both the content of the current page as well as the user’s past browsing history (and thus his/her interests). [I have put the presentation up as a PDF]
  2. Automatic Verification of Software – Past, Present and Future: This talked about why we need verification at all, what is the current state of the art and some pointers as to what might be coming in the future. [Using Sriram’s slides]

I felt that this edition of Barcamp became quite chaotic because of last minute room changes, and it was really difficult to find out what was going on in which room.


Leipzig Philharmonic Orchestra + Dr L Subramaniam

I went to listen to the Leipzig Philharmonic Orchestra perform with Dr. L. Subramaniam today at the Chowdiah Memorial Hall. The event had received a lot of media coverage (here, here and here etc.) and no doubt the hall was completely full (with  disproportionate number of expatriates). The event was probably the most talked-about western classical concert in Bangalore for the whole year.

It was good listening to the music — I could imagine how much effort and practice western classical orchestra takes. There was perfect synchronization between all the artists. Towards the end, Dr. Subramaniam came on stage and we saw a little jugalbandi. What I found very interesting was that the sounds used in Western Classical and Hindustani Classical are very different. The Hindustany Classical is very nuanced with small variations (but lot of them), it’s extremely versatile since the artist is allowed to improvise within their own raga. Western, on the other hand, has more harmonious, smoother, almost like a cat and mouse chase. The best contrast is that Western made me think of old Charlie Chaplin movies (background score) while Hindustani made me think of old Raj Kapoor numbers. I understood that even more when the Orchestra was trying to play a composition of Dr. Subramaniam (Spring Rhapsody) and I felt they could not reproduce the original sounds that the maestro must have intended. At the same time, I am sure the discipline and the team-effort would have been impossible for Indians, I felt.

Going to Barcamp tomorrow and day after. Might be speaking in a few sessions. Let’s see how it goes!

Poetry in Kernel Documentation

And indeed, it has happened. Poetry has finally infiltrated the bastion of the uber-geek — the Linux Kernel. Rusty Russell, who contributes as lguest, likes to submit patches with verse in their documentation. Wordsworth would definitely approve, though Linus thinks otherwise. Sample these:

There once was a virtualization coder,
Whose patches kept getting older,
Each time upstream would drop,
His documentation would slightly rot…

The ballads were hard to stay/ And Alan Cox jumped into the fray:

There once was a man they called rusty
Who patches were terribly crusty…

Perhaps there should be a programming language written in verse. With the poetic license, semantics would be hard to freeze, wot say?

[Via Linux Today]

Sponsored Advertisements

In the midst of a heated discussion with Mohit about The Long Tail (I think Chris Anderson gets unnecessary credit — It really was the monkey-god Hanuman who taught us what a long and potent tail could do, but that’s another story):

I: The Internet is a classic example of the Long Tail. So, is Google because they are able to monetize all those keywords which will never earn a penny if published in a magazine.

M: I wonder who clicks on the Sponsored Ads in Google.

I: I never do. Do you?

M: I don’t either. I can’t count having clicked more than 5-6 times all my life (that includes clicks by mistake). I think it’s all click-fraud.

I: I don’t know. But that would need to be a big scam!

M: But then, somebody has to be dumb enough to click all those ads.

I: I think it’s the Americans.


PS: If you are an American, please replace the word ‘Americans’ by ‘Commies’. Or should I say: s/Americans/Commies/g?

PPS: This is meant completely as a joke, inspired by their President. Most Americans I have met are very smart people, and continue to wow me.

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Don Dodge on my Blog!

Ok. Here’s this guy whose blog you read. He leads a rather big organization in one of the largest software companies in this world, and you feel that his is one voice in all the commotion that makes some sense. For that reason, you might miss TechCrunch, but you try not to miss his blogs. And then one day, you get up, and see that he had recently visited your blog.


Oh, it feels good. Thank you Don Dodge. I know I don’t write the kind of content that you do, but rest assured that I read every one of your posts. And what I like about them is that instead of giving news, they give insights.

Oh, and not to mention that a common employer also makes me more of your fan!

UPDATE: And Don actually came back and commented on my blog! Wow.

Five Point Someone by Madras Players

A review of the play on July 21 posted on my Spaces blog.

I have also submitted it to DesiCritics, will post the link here once those guys accept it. And here it is.

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