Wonder spice: “smoked paprika”

Perhaps the most versatile of spices in an indian kitchen is cumin. It can virtually be used in any Indian non-sweet dish. But, try replacing it with “smoked paprika”, a wonderful and now my favorite jack of all trade spice, invented in the spanish kitchen. Not hot like the indian version of ground roasted red chili, but has fantastic colors and aroma.

Here is a modified 2 spice chicken bake recipe:

  1. Mix smoked paprika with garlic salt in 2:1 ratio.
  2. Rub the mix all over chicken pieces (completely dabbed dry with paper towels).
  3. Bake 16 minutes at 450 degrees (or broil at high settings for 14 min as close to heat as possible) on a baking tray (don’t use glass tray).
  4. Immediately take it out and keep it covered.
  5. For chicken breasts, flatten them out to equal thickness before rubbing.
  6. (Optional) For extra softness, brine the chicken pieces about an hour is warm salt water before flattening.
  7. (Optional) Extra spices to add in the rub: 0.5 portion of black pepper, 0.25 portion of hot chilli powder, 0.5 portion of oregano, 0.5 portion of thyme, 0.5 chilli flakes.
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Graphic Novel: Pride of Baghdad


Heart-wrenching story by Brian Vaughan and exquisitely drawn by Niko Henrichon, “Pride of Baghdad” is a fantastic graphic novel. A true example of the power of picture. Superb. Strongly recommend. 

Trying to remember

Remember these lines? Written by Tom Jones and immortalized by Harry Belafonte.

Try To Remember

Try to remember the kind of September
when life was slow and oh, so mellow
Try to remember the kind of September
when grass was green and grain was yellow
Try to remember the kind of September
when you were a tender and callow fellow
Try to remember and if you remember then follow

Try to remember when life was so tender
that no one wept except the willow
Try to remember when life was so tender
that dreams were kept beside your pillow
Try to remember when life was so tender
that love was an ember about to billow
Try to remember and if you remember then follow

Deep in December it’s nice to remember
although you know the snow will follow
Deep in December it’s nice to remember
without the hurt the heart is hollow
Deep in December it’s nice to remember
the fire of September that made us mellow
Deep in December our hearts should remember
and follow

I am trying to remember the kind of September, when no one wept except the willow and dreams were kept beside the pillow.

Alinsky’s rules for radicals

Saul Alinsky’s “Rules of Radicals” describes the the golden rules of radicals. They are surprisingly effective in any conflict situations. Here are they:

  1. “Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have.” Power is derived from 2 main sources – money and people. “Have-Nots” must build power from flesh and blood.
  2. “Never go outside the expertise of your people.” It results in confusion, fear and retreat. Feeling secure adds to the backbone of anyone.
  3. “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.” Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty.
  4. “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.” If the rule is that every letter gets a reply, send 30,000 letters. You can kill them with this because no one can possibly obey all of their own rules.
  5. “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” There is no defense. It’s irrational. It’s infuriating. It also works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions.
  6. “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.” They’ll keep doing it without urging and come back to do more. They’re doing their thing, and will even suggest better ones.
  7. “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.” Don’t become old news.
  8. “Keep the pressure on. Never let up.” Keep trying new things to keep the opposition off balance. As the opposition masters one approach, hit them from the flank with something new.
  9. “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.” Imagination and ego can dream up many more consequences than any activist.
  10. “The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition.” It is this unceasing pressure that results in the reactions from the opposition that are essential for the success of the campaign.
  11. “If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive.” Violence from the other side can win the public to your side because the public sympathizes with the underdog.
  12. “The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.” Never let the enemy score points because you’re caught without a solution to the problem.
  13. “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions.

Sandman, oh sandman

Say your prayers, little one
Don’t forget, my son
To include everyone

Tuck you in, warm within
Keep you free from sin
Till the Sandman he comes

Sleep with one eye open
Gripping your pillow tight

Exit: light
Enter: night
Take my hand
We’re off to never never land

Something’s wrong, shut the light
Heavy thoughts tonight
And they aren’t of Snow White

Dreams of war, dreams of liars
Dreams of dragon’s fire
And of things that will bite

Sleep with one eye open
Gripping your pillow tight

Exit: light
Enter: night
Take my hand
We’re off to never never land

Now I lay me down to sleep
Pray the Lord my soul to keep
If I die before I wake
Pray the Lord my soul to take

Hush little baby, don’t say a word
And never mind that noise you heard
It’s just the beasts under your bed
In your closet, in your head

Exit: light
Enter: night
Grain of sand

Exit: light
Enter: night
Take my hand
We’re off to never never land

Drishtikon: a Tagore album by Nachiketa

I have written earlier about the need of experimentation with Tagore’s lyrical composition with fresh rhythmic and orchestral arrangements. Only one person is doing it right. You can guess it from the title, he is none other than Nachiketa Chakraborty. His earllier album “Yatra” was nice. But, I said he should have dropped the lackluster performance of Rashid Khan and should have gone solo. He has done exactly that with his new album. The album, called “Drishtikon” (point of view) is indeed his “point of view” of Tagore. Listen to one song and you’ll see what I mean:

I agree the composition is not as musically rich as it could be. Particularly, the organ section should have replaced with flute. Nonetheless, the heavy bass groove, the choir, and the inimitable style of Nachiketa actually work well together, and the end result is  very refreshing. Overall, I like the album.

I will leave you with the best composition of the album, “Na sojoni na”. Again the heavy bass groove playing over three sections of shaker/ghattam, duff and khol (an Indian drum). Yes, it feels like a completely new song. A very successful reinvention of Tagore.  Nachiketa, brother, keep it up!

In dubious battle against the stars

It is one of those days. Days, when I blame it all on, in Jibananda’s phrase, “flaws of my stars“. Staying  abroad and being atheist are, in a way, a dual edged sword: Can’t reach the place where I ought to be;  can’t pray to the almighty.

I don’t respect too many people in my life. But one of those rare ones is very sick. My rationalist self says this is inevitable. As I grow old, I am bound to lose people all around me. But my human  self cannot justify losing my familiar paradise“. I know, slowly but surely I am going to lose everyone, then one day thou soul of my soul. But “I was ever a fighter.  So here  I am,  praying, not a battlecry, but a hymn of the battle for the lost paradise on the plains of heaven:

Innumerable force of Spirits armed,
That durst dislike his reign, and, me preferring,
His utmost power with adverse power opposed
In dubious battle on the plains of Heaven
And shook his throne. What though the field be lost?
All is not lost—the unconquerable will,
And study of revenge, immortal hate,
And courage never to submit or yield:
And what is else not to be overcome?

And may the dubious battle be won.

Seven PhDs attended Wannsee conference

Last night, over dinner conversation we were arguing whether education can solve some of the current problems of India. Though sounds logical, the problem remains how to impart education. Can you send a child a school and automatically assume that it will come out educated. You went to a top graduate school, got your PhD, and now you call yourself educated. But how to objectively measure the markers of education? How do we determine that someone is educated? These are difficult questions and we don’t have any clear answer. Remember, the fifteen people team that decided the “final solution of Jewish problem”, the notorious Wannsee conference, included seven PhDs.

Update ( July 4, 2014): Khitish-da, in the comment, pointed out there were 7 PhDs not 5. I updated the post and the title accordingly. Thanks Khitishda.

Snippets: a wretched wonder plays in our blood

First let me confess, I am not a big fan of Jibanananda Das. I find him monotonous. Particularly, he uses a motif of confusion, a sort of style of rephrasing the last line, again and again in his poems that I find, frankly, very irritating.

His most famous poem is “Banalata Sen”. But, I believe he is his finest in another one of his poems, called “Bodh”, (loosely “realization or sense”). I will keep a discussion of this poem for another day.

His “At bochor ager ekdin”, (One day eight years back), is a rare, purely existentialist piece and pretty striking. In a remarkable resemblance to Albert Camu’s Outsider, a man kills himself for no apparent reason. The poem is literally a post-mortem of the reasons, or the lack thereof. One passage from this poem goes like this:

Narir hridoy – prem – shishu – griha – noi sobkhani
Ortho noy, kirti noy, soccholota noy –
Aro ek biponno bisshoy
Amader ontorgoto rokter bhitore
Khela kore
Amader klanto kore
Klanto – klanto kore

With apologies to his soul, I will break his meter and in a sort of Poe-like rhyme:

Love of a woman, a child, a home, not everything,
Neither wealth, nor fame, nor glory –
A wreched wonder plays in our blood,
Makes us tired, makes us weary.