Saturday, December 29, 2012

Rearing cows helps build moral values?

The RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat  recently said rearing cows in every house helps inculcate moral values in people. At at a function to inaugurate the country's first cattle sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh, Bhagwat said that Indians lacket values and also stated, "Cow is our mother. Service to cow is service to mankind, which in turn helps build morals."

True, the cow is indeed a sacred animal to many in the country. Many states including Karnataka have enforced a ban on cow slaughter. Now the Karnataka Government is even trying to extend the ban to bring all cattle under its purview. Well, being a beef-eater, I oppose the extension of the ban. Isn't a ban on cow slaughter sufficient? Why extend it to all cattle? Respecting the sentiments of people is a very good practice, but this should apply to everyone, shouldn't it?

Coming back to the speech made by the RSS chief. In saying that Indians lack values he is spot on. We do lack civic sense. We spit on the streets, dump garbage, urinate and defecate... the list is endless. Women are scared to move in the cities and towns of the country, simply because some men do not respect their space and privacy. We casually violate traffic rules thinking it's easy to get away from the police by just paying a bribe. And after all this, we only go on to blame the government and the authorities. We don't realise that a change within ourselves will end all these problems.

Changes should occur from one's self. Simple tings like keeping localities clean and not damaging public property; being a gentleman to women and respecting her privacy and rights are enough. If one does not violate any traffic rule, where is the need to pay a bribe? We do not need  any grand measures if we just follow a few healthy social practices. Do we really need to rear a cow to learn such values? Most houses in India cannot even afford to do that. Personally, I would love to have a small farm of my own with many domestic animals and birds; but at the moment, sadly, I cannot afford to. 

I feel rearing cattle is not a requirement for moral values. Values must be thought by humans, they need to be thought by elders to the young and be cherished and upheld. India has a strong system of values already existing, but they are being slowly neglected and at this rate will soon be forgotten. True, a cow renders yeoman service to humans and so does every other domestic animal. But for moral values we need not go as far as taking a cow as the example. A simple change -  respecting ourselves and others around us will solve most of our civic problems. 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Roast Chicken for a special Christmas lunch

Published in The Communique December 2012 issue.

“Christmas comes but only once a year,” goes the famous saying. Indeed, it is a special time of the year for many people all over the world. Homes are decked up with brightly lit Christmas trees and colourful ornaments. The streets echo with the sound of carols reverberating from people’s homes and harmonises in a way that brings cheer to the hearts of everyone.

Christmas brings out the best creativity in everyone. Everyone wants to have the most beautifully decorated home. Mothers are busy prepping their kitchen to make the most sumptuous Christmas lunch. And on the menu of almost every household is this star: Roast turkey.

Roast turkey is considered to be the traditional Christmas day lunch all over Europe and America. In India, it is catching up fast. Every family in my neighbourhood prepares it these days and each family has their own recipe.

Sometimes chicken is substituted instead of the turkey since the latter is quite expensive and in many cases too big to fit into ovens. Roast chicken is just as visually appealing and mouth-watering as turkey but cheaper and a quicker to cook. Chicken is also easily available when compared to turkey, which in Bangalore City, can only be purchased at markets like Shivajinagar.

The Christmas roast is perhaps the most desired treat on Christmas day. The recipes are as numerous as the lights on a Christmas tree. One of them, a personal favourite, is the Butter Roast Chicken Stuffed with Paneer and Herbs. The butter keeps the chicken juicy and the aroma from the herbs can make one’s stomach groan incessantly. The recipe is simple and the chicken can be prepped a day ahead to help the marinade soak in to enhance the flavour.

For the Roast Chicken you will need,
1 chicken, whole with skin
150 grams butter (the table butter you get at the grocers will do)
150 grams paneer
1 onion and garlic peeled
1 cup ground mint
1cup curd
2 tbsp red chilli powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tbsp coriander powder
Juice of one lime
Salt and pepper to taste

Take the chicken, clean and place in a large bowl sprinkle salt and pepper to it and leave it.
Take all the dry ingredients in a small bowl, add the curd, lemon juice, a little salt and mix them well to form a paste. Let the butter come to room temperature. Take a little bit of the paste and fold it with the butter. Apply this butter onto the chicken, especially under the skin of the chicken breast and thighs. Apply the rest of the paste to the chicken.

Cut the onion in half and along with the garlic; stuff them into the cavity of the chicken
Cut the paneer into cubes, mix them well with the ground mint and stuff them in the chicken too.
Wrap the chicken with aluminium foil or cling wrap and leave it in the fridge for not less than two hours. Preferably leave it in the fridge overnight.

When it is ready to cook, pre-heat the oven at 220 degree celcius, place the chicken in the oven for 10-15 minutes at that temperature. Remove the chicken and baste. Put the chicken back into the oven, this time at 180 degree celcius and let it cook for an hour per kilogram white basting every half hour.

After it is cooked, let it rest for a half hour before carving and serve. This can be served with a raitha of mint and cucumber. 

Hark! Here come the carollers

Published in The Communique December 2012 issue.

Winter is here, the woolens are out and it’s that time of the year again. There is cheer all around; the homes are filled with laughter and in the words of Edward Pola and George Wyle, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” Yes, it’s Christmas.

Everyone gets excited even when the word is just mentioned, each for their own reason. Maybe it’s the thought of decorating their houses with bright and colourful lights, or because of the sweet aroma coming from the kitchen, where mummy is getting the traditional Christmas dishes prepared. For some, the time of Christmas is synonymous with carols.

Christmas carols are songs whose theme is Christmas. They are traditionally sung during the season of Christmas at services in churches. The choirs are all deep in preparation; some of them start as early as October. “We began practice more than a month ago. This a special time of the year for us and we want to sound perfect,” said Philip Rasquinha, who conducts the Infant Jesus Church Choir.

Apart from singing at church, most of them go carolling. Many choirs across Bangalore visit houses a week or two before Christmas singing carols and spreading the Christmas cheer to everyone around. Lenora Fernandez, from the Pallotine Youth for Jesus Choir says, “It is a wonderful combination of music and togetherness. It is an awesome way to bring in fun and frolic that Christmas holds.” The singing is accompanied by a choir member dressed as Santa Claus distributing sweets to little children along the way. Every child jumps for joy when they hear the roaring peal of Santa Claus’ signature “Ho ho ho.”  The joy that is shared is immense and some of them feel as if each house is a manger ready to welcome the baby Jesus, and they are bringing the good news to everyone in that house. Nivia Vas, a member of Infant Jesus Church Choir (IJC) says, “As a child, I used to look forward to our Church choir serenading us with carols, and Santa, who usually accompanies them. As the years passed by, I received the opportunity to spread the same joy to other families.”

Carolling is used in a way to announce to the people the good news that is the birth of our Saviour points out Fr. Gabriel Christy, Assistant Parish Priest of Infant Jesus Church. “The season of Christmas brings the same joy that was brought to the lowly shepherds two thousand years ago. The songs of the angels heralded to them the birth of Jesus and in the same way we do that to every household through carolling.” He says.
Christmas brings with it several little joys, carolling being one of the most favourite to many. It heralds the coming of the Christmas season. As a tradition, carolling has been there for a long time, most have learned the tradition from their parents who in turn got it from their own parents. Usually popular carols are sung so that everyone may join in and sing along. The people too, look forward to the carollers coming to their homes heralding the birth of our Lord. Some homes prepare a small feast so that the famished carollers may dig in and get refreshed.

Many touching stories can be heard from the choristers about the houses they visited. Jenita Maria from IJC can never forget the first year she went carolling and sang for an old couple. The joy she saw in them remains in her thoughts to this day. Nivia is quick to add that the smile that is brought upon a person's face through carolling is a testament to the fact that Christmas is a season of unity; that no one is a stranger; we are united in our love for the season and its traditions. “One memory that remains etched in my mind is that of Christmas 2011. A few of us went to the home of an old lady, who was very ill. As we entered the hall singing 'Deck the Halls', her face lit up with joy. She requested for a few of her favourite carols, to which we happily obliged. As we were leaving, her husband approached us and thanked us for making his wife the happiest she had been since her illness. The feeling of having made someone's day gave us a great sense of satisfaction, which is probably what made Christmas that year all the more special for us.” She says.
Christmas is indeed the season to be jolly and a time to give. Not just material happiness but also give the happiness that comes with Christmas. Let us get out there and spread the yuletide cheer and in the eternal words of Charles Dickens, “God bless us, every one!”

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Stop taking religion too seriously!

Today, for my assignment I read a very interesting article titled Ethics of Political Communication and Indian Secularism by Paulachan Kochappilly. The article spoke about how we Indians were fundamentally secular and how we were manipulated towards fundamentalist ideals by political parties for their vested interests. The article also went on to say how we can revive our secular way of life through our ethics. Very interesting indeed.

Religion today, I feel, is the cause of most of the problems in the world. From the very beginning of civilisation itself, we have read of wars fought over religion. Recently too, we have witnessed communal clashes and cross-border terrorism. All because of religion. But is religion bad?

I would answer that question in the negative. No, religion isn't bad. I feel religion helps people have a way of life, have principles and ethics. Religion is a very important part of philosophy and culture. It was through religion that we have amazing texts like the Rigveda, one of the first texts related to music. It was composition of religious hymns that influenced poetry greatly. The Book of Psalms from the Bible is a great example of this. Religion had influenced human traditions greatly.

 Having said that, I do feel one shouldn't take religion too seriously. That's what is wrong about religion, not religion itself. According to me, religion has existed only because man could not find answers to complex scientific and social questions. He created religion to give a universal answer to all those doubts he has in his mind. But that with time has turned this religion into a symbol of authority. We know the case of Galileo and the Catholic Church in this regard. People began to look at religion as the only answer and that has caused all the strife.

Fundamentalism, fanaticism and religious terrorism, all carried out in the name of 'protecting one's religion' are results of taking religion too seriously. We need keep religion as one of the least priorities in life. That way I feel, free thinking will increase. Let's face it, the fanatics can't think straight. We know how easily they are indoctrinated to perform acts of violence. I feel if we leave religion in the back-burner, we can explore more and more avenues for development and freedom. No political entity will be able to manipulate our emotions too.

Only this way can we be a truly secular nation. Otherwise, fanaticism will continue.

Monday, December 17, 2012

What qualifies to be in the Post-Graduate level?

It's been almost six months into the MS Communication course and I must say, the heat has just turned up a notch. As my good friends from class point out, "We're getting fried."

Today's special morning session, one I sorely regret for missing, was memorable indeed. A few of us decided we need a few changes made to the Saturday seminar and wrote to the Head of the Department (HOD). But our learned professor, as expected, took offense. Well as they say, 'There is no point flogging a dead horse.'

Which brings me to question myself and my friends, what is a PG course meant to be like? If we are fed each and everything that has to be done, what is the point? No doubt it's us giving the presentations, but do we have any independence in choosing what we'd like to present? Do we have the freedom to carry out our presentation the way we choose  to? Well, everyone who has read the class notice board knows the answer to that.

It's the job of our professors to maintain quality, no doubt. But should it come at the expense of inhibiting free thinking? We are assigned topics which require little research of our own, given a fixed way those points need to be presented and if we deviate, we are bad students. Now what can we conclude from this?

Regretfully I feel we too need to share this guilt. We are not willing to challenge ourselves, me included. We always want the easy way out. We accept everything given to us since we do not want to go further and risk being the 'Nerd' of the class. If a situation arises where we either have to choose between increasing the quality of our education and bring in more research for our internal assessment or just write a class test and get the same marks, I'm afraid we would choose the latter. It is no doubt, the easy way out. 

Personally, I abhor writing notes in class and class tests. It's just not something we require at this level. I do not feel spending an hour working on a presentation or an assignment out of material copied off Wikipedia is good use of my time. That was the reason I did not submit a few assignments given in the beginning in our class. 

I urge my friends to critically think of where we're headed. I'm just as disappointed with the teaching as most of you. But I'm also disappointed for not pushing myself to a level fit for a Post-Graduate course. We can easily sail through the remaining three semesters. But would we have learnt anything?

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Tradition of Christmas is Dying

Christmas comes only once a year. And certainly, it's the best time of the year for me. The thoughts of decorating the large Christmas tree, preparing the treats and caroling are memories I harbour for an entire year and let out to run amok during this time.

Christmas without tradition, according to me, is like a broken pencil - pointless. The traditions of Christmas are what make the festival so special to me. Traditional decorations like the holly and mistletoe. Baking the traditional Christmas cake and singing traditional carols I feel are the best way to celebrate and bring the yuletide cheer.

I feel although people want to stick to tradition, it is becoming more and more difficult these days. I want to focus on the musical aspect more since caroling is the favourite part of Christmas for me. I love traditional Christmas carols. Songs like Ding Dong Merrily, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing and Oh Come all Ye Faithful sung by a large choir acconmpanied by a powerful Church Organ is what I would prefer. These days, however, I rarely if not never see such traditions followed. Today it's more of solo performances or remixes of traditional carols to today's music. It's more of popular music and trying to sound catchy.

I am not averse to modern music. But I don't think they make my Christmas special. I would prefer a stiff tenor sing Oh Come All Ye Faithful than maybe Justin Bieber and would certainly prefer King's College Choir to Don Moen. Sticking to tradition gives everyone that feeling of Christmas like no other and I'm afraid that one day it will completely die out.

I hope to keep the tradition alive. In my choir, when we do traditional carols, we try to stick to the way it was originally composed as far as possible. I know a Church Organ is hard to come by these days and even harder to find is a good organist, but if people start working for the sake of spreading the cheer instead of  merely putting up a show, I feel traditions can be resurrected. Have a Merry Christmas season! 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Are we really 'Idiots'..?

Justice Markandey Katju, Chairman of the Press Council of India, is known for his outspoken criticisms on many issues. He has recently written vehemently opposing the arrest of two Mumbai girls on a Facebook post. I admire Justice Katju. He is not afraid to voice out courageously on injustices prevalent in society. I also appreciated his article on the Op-Ed page of The Hindu titled "Why I can't pay tribute to Thackeray" dated 18 November, 2012 where he criticised the policies of the Shiv Sena supremo.

Two days ago, Justice Katju at a seminar in Delhi stated, "I say ninety percent of Indians are idiots. You people don't have brains in your heads....It is so easy to take you for a ride," he was referring to how gullible we Indians were, that we could be lead into a communal disharmony by forces without much effort. He said that a mere two thousand rupees would suffice to incite a communal riot in Delhi and that a people start fighting each other even if a mischievous gesture is made at a place of worship. This made two students file suit against him on the grounds of defamation, and Justice Katju has also replied to them on his blog - Satyam Bruyat - Justice Katju.

I feel Justice Katju is right in pointing out how gullible we are. The 'Idiot' remark may sound harsh because Indians after all are doing great in various fields and across the world. But if you take his remarks in the context of his speech, I do feel we are idiots. The Babri Masjid demolition; the train burning at Godhra and the riots that followed and the attack on churches in Orissa and Karnataka are all blots in the modern history of secular India.  

I disagree, however,  with the number that Justice Katju mentioned. I do not think 90% of Indians fall into the trap of communalism with or without incitement. On the other hand, I feel only 10% are the gullible people whom Justice Katju remarks about. Although voices are not as loud as his, most Indians do not harbour hate for other religions but only wish to live in harmony and reap the benefits of a progressing India. It is the minority, the 10%, probably even lesser, who want to break the rich history of tolerance in India and most of the time, I feel, it's for personal gain.

Therefore, I feel I'm part of the 90%, not the 90% that Justice Katju pointed out, but the 90% who I feel are the ones who appreciate India's culture of secularism and tolerance. Yes we are silent and Justice Katju is right in pointing that out. But we are definitely not willing to surrender to communal forces.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Mesmerised by a great showcase of choral music

I've just returned after a performance at The Festival of Christmas Music conducted by the Basel Mission which was held at the Bishop Cotton Girls School auditorium. A well known carol competition, the festival features top choirs from Bangalore, all vying to be the best.  This is the third year I've participated in the prestigious event and it never fails to impress. 

Being a big fan of western classical and choral music, I look forward to this festival each year. Although I've been part of the audience since I was in school, participating in the festival was something I always wanted. In the final year of my graduation, I joined a small choir called Vocal Enigma - brainchild of a brilliant musician and friend - Maneesh Dasanayake. It was the opportunity I dreamed of and though we were only fifteen in number, we were ably led and soon became one of the most prominent choirs at the college level.

The first Basel Mission was also our best. We tied for first place along with the Christ University Choir, a powerhouse among choral circles here in Bangalore. Victory was sweet, and as days went by our repertoire grew. We participated in numerous other festivals and shows and won many accolades. But the win at this festival was always dearest to me.

After graduating, we hoped we could still keep the choir alive. But work schedules often clashed with practice and most of us couldn't find time. Maneesh too had to return to his home - Sri Lanka. However, some of us still wanted to keep going, we did the best we could to practice on weekends, when most of the working people had a holiday. And this year under the name Choral Blueprint, we gave what we felt was our last performance at Basel Mission.

There are three categories for judging - Junior Schools, Senior Schools and Colleges. We were an independent professional choir and were not judged under any category but were allowed to participate as guests. Nevertheless, doing our best was the aim. Although we couldn't compete we felt like champions. The competition, however, was as fierce as ever. Choirs performed works by Handel and Rutter. Just listening to those arrangements gave me goosebumps. At the end Christ University were declared winners. They deserved it.

The best part about every Christmas season for me is the carols. And the best part of caroling for me is the performance at Basel Mission. Winning never mattered, not this year atleast. But the mere fact I performed there for one last time probably was a rewarding experience indeed. So kudos to the winners and thank you Basel Mission.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Aspirations need to be fulfilled someday, somehow.. (My first blog post)

The jump from the IT field to media has exposed me to experiences I never thought I'd have. Blogging being one of them. I have started this blog with a vision: Improve my writing skills and also show them to the world in the process. And I'm happy as I write my first post.

Let me start with an introduction to myself and my blog. I aspire to be a journalist. From the time I was in high school, I was always interested in it. I would watch the news everyday seeing journalists jostle with their colleagues to get the latest news. I would attentively watch press conferences where journalists would eagerly wait their turn to ask a question. A turn which may never come. But their zeal would never die. They would chase the person who held the conference just to get the answer to that solitary question they may have.

Pressure from family and friends led me to pursue Science at the Pre-University level and though my parents wanted me to do engineering, I somehow managed to convince them to let me opt for a BCA degree instead. For three years it seemed my aspirations were lost. After graduating, I joined two companies in a span of one year. It was then I realised this wasn't for me. Eight hours staring into a computer screen only gave me more reason to get back to by boyhood dream of being a journalist. So I made my choice.

I applied for a post-graduate course in Mass Communication at St. Joseph's College, Bangalore and  sailed through the admission process. And here I am now. Enjoying every moment of it. And I know with every passing day, I'm inching closer to my ambition. Now it has become my calling.

Now, about the blog. I plan on writing about anything and everything. And also everyday. I will write about everything I see, hear or taste. Subjects would include travel and politics...yes, politics, another interesting thing I picked up after entering this field. Basically, I want to write purely for pleasure.

Well, here it is, my first blog post and also what I think is a fairly good introduction. I will enjoy filling this blog as I hope you would enjoy reading it. That's it for now. See you soon.