Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Who stole my TV ?

TV used to be mine in the weekend evenings except for couple of  long months in the UK summer(even though I am in India) to watch English Premier League matches - a fever or craziness that was caught very early in life. And the Game sure is beautiful indeed whether it is the neighborhood boys scrambing around or at the top level.

But there are other inmates at home - the cartoon channels were priority #1 for the daughter and those nonsense serials(in Hindi that too!) that wife was addicted to. So there was tension around the TV most of the time.

And that sure was taxing for my 16+ year TV that helped me watch five World Cups(off course football). The cable TV guy told me loong back that your TV is old though it became brand new after I moved to Tatasky. But I didn't give up on my TV, but then the last time the TV mechanic came, he suggested that I buy a new TV if the problems resurface again. So one fine day my TV lost its color and there was no use paying the Tatasky 400 INR for that. So my TV was dead - my daughter announced to the world that there is no color in our TV, so we stopped watching it.

So I started thinking about the use of it - football is an addiction, and those Hindi channels are as well and may be the cartoon channels could be for the kid also. So the de-addiction program was hatched. NO TV.

Sure there was withdrawal symptoms for my wife and myself - none for my daughter, she moved on to other things - drawing pictures, playing with her friends, and the make-believe stories that we were pulled into, but she also found out Mickey mouse "programs" on youtube! . But the addicts discovered that there is internet in the house to cope with the loss of TV. With 2 laptops and a smartphone, that released some contention, though there is clamor for one more device - iPad for the daughter now.

So we are now an internet TV family - while things are not very different, there is one crucial difference, we choose the programs to watch !

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Home-Made-Compost for Home-Made-Vegetables

We have been buying compost and cow dung for our vegetable plants till now and was using our home-made-compost only for the flowering plants. Mainly because we were not sure of the quality of the compost. But trying to make the garderning a low effort(not really a Fukoka style one) one, it didn't make sense to buy(money, effort to transport) compost when it was being produced right at our home.

The effects of our compost was very much visible after two weeks - the green and red leaves and the cauli flower that were very shy to get off the ground, grew big in no time! Since we eat meat and fish and eggs other than the vegetables, I am guessing that the compost has a good balance of elements that made it very suitable for the plants.

And the other interesting thing was the compost also contained seeds - especially that of tomatoes that sprouted without any seeding. That was a pleasant surprise!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Eating with Chopsticks

This is a trick I picked up from my travels to Korea, Singapore and China. With the help of my Korean and Japanese colleagues I learned the basics in Korea and kept at it whenever I got an opportunity. And a 2 week trip to China perfected it!

So here are my tips for learning how to use the chopsticks!
  • Spoons and forks are not in your book till you learn.
  • No - they are not looking at the way you use your chopsticks!
  • Feel free to use the hand to push things in, or to catch the dropping stuff from the chopsticks
  • Practice! Get one pair and use it at all opportunities, even to pick up non-food stuff!
  • Go to a chopstick country - Korea, China, Japan!
But needless to say, the best way to eat is off course with your fingers - nothing should come in between!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Composting ...

Composting has been a project that has worked very well without much
effort for the past 2 years. After the initial hiccups, things went smoothly with an occasional bump in the ride. And it is a very satisfying one as well because you don't throw any organic waste outside except for the coconut shells and husks. And all the compost is used up by the flower plants in our terrace garden.

Our compost setup is in a corner of our terrace, with one Khamba and two leave-it-pots. The initial processing happens in the khamba and from the bottom vessel it goes into one of the leave-it-pots. Once a leave-it-pot gets full, we leave it to compost till the other one also gets full. By that time, the first one would be ready for compost - so you can either use it or leave it in a jute bag for later use. While we tried sieving the compost to get a fine powder, it is not really worth the effort if you are using it for your own plants. Since the leave-it-pots are large enough, you can pick the things that are not yet composted by hand and put it back. Also the compost without sieving gives you compost and mulch for the plants. And it reduces unnecessary processing for a very natural cycle.

But there were some niggles - the maggots were percieved to be a problem, but we got over it quickly. Though they still get out of the bin at times, that doesn't bother us anymore. And the not-so-done not-so-fresh waste does smell when you stir it. Wet piles make you work a bit, initially we bought sawdust to make it dry, but now with plenty of compost and dry leaves, it is easily managed. You could cover it with a plastic sheet, but not really worth the trouble, it is part and parcel of natural composting.

Our latest issue has been red ants - while we left it as it is, it was time to get the compost out and they weren't going away. We tried placing cut lemons, turmeric powder etc., but nothing really worked. But one fine morning they shifted base to the other leave-it-pot for us to harvest the compost! So for most of the problems, the head-in-the-sand approach works very well.

The ease of getting it done is that you can easily leave it to nature if you have enough vessels - I would highly recommend a kambha and 2 leave-it-pots. Many of the problems that you face in a small composting setup is due the smallnes and the restricted environment - in a large setup many of the problems just vanish. Wet piles gets balanced off, maggots just go underneath. You(and nature) have space to work with which overcomes many of the problems. If you have a garden around, the dry leaves and compost complement each other very well. So keep at it, don't worry too much about it, it'll get done finally!

Sunday, April 17, 2011


It was a while before we noticed that one of our neighbors were attracting a lot of pigeons. They swoop in everymorning and eat something and hang around the place. And we wanted the birds in our place as well. They make an occasional visit to pick on our garden when seeds are sown and the gardener complained that they are picking up all the seeds.

We started with a bird bath thinking that would attract them, but I guess there are plenty of watering holes for them around. And the birdbath was too small for the herd of pigeons. So it must have been the food. It got our 3 year old daughter interested as well - she would ensure that the bird bath has water for the birds to drink and spread the feed around. But then they weren't that keen on picking stuff from our terrace. But then they kept looking it at from top of the house.

We weren't sure of the kind of feed they need - figured out corn was a favorite for pigeons. So the feed was spread all around - on the window shades, terrace and on the wall around the terrace. Pigeons were reluctant to try our food - but then one of the days, the corn on the walls were all gone. They were eating our stuff finally! We saw couple of them on the wall, but getting them on camera was tough. They would fly away as soon as they know someone is coming around.

But then one fine morning, they swooped down in full strength - they were all over the place, on the wall, terrace, on top of the sun shade. And they were bolder than earlier which gave us ample time to click some pictures and take a video. So the birds and the bees are finding our small patch of garden more attractive now!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Compost finally!

After more than a year of NOT throwing any wet waste out, we made use of the compost we made out of it for our plants(flowers). But there is no easy way to measure the quality, but the gardener said it looked really good and recommended not to buy anymore compost from outside. Let's see how it goes. But the most satisfying thing was about NOT throwing the wet waste out and if you can make use of it, it completes the full cycle!

For more on our journey towards creating this, read this

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Linger, Chettimani Coorg

We took a detour on our way back from Kannur to Bangalore to spend a day at Linger, the Do Nothing homestay near Bhagamandala in Coorg district of Karnataka. While the plan was to spend the evening and take off the next day, Sameer who runs this place, suggested we should stay one more day and we said yes.

Coorg is a familiar territory for me having driven around in my first car, a Maruti 800, around this place a lot and Bhagamandala and Thalacauvery has been a usual stop over when you are in Madikeri. But I was in for a surprise when I couldn't locate the place - I-know-this-place-around-and-don't-need-any-direction attitude resulted in not taking directions properly and shuttling up and down Chettimani village looking for that elusive bus stop where we have to turn inside. The problem was I thought you need to pass the bus stop and there was a board which I saw in some of the pictures of the place. So I went after the bus stop, but no sign board and the lady at the next bus stop said we had to go back. Then we went up to the next bus stop and no sign of Linger anywhere! I forgot to tell you - the Airtel phones don't work around this area and wifey's Vodafone had already barred her for not providing identification documents. But we finally located a pay phone - but I had the wrong number, tried calling Sameer, but he was busy. Luckily the lady in that store knew Harish, the caretaker of the place and had his number. We told him to watch out for the Orange Ford Fiesta, and he was at the bus stop! So feel free to ask around for Harish if you are lost, it is a small place!

From the top, the place looked like a very familiar place - and the closer we got, more familiar it got. I wasn't sure if it was my grandma's place or father's house or my aunts place in Wynad. It was a typical Kerala house hold with veranda all over the house. My father's place had one more level, so it was more
of the place where my grandmother lived till she died. I took off my sandals instinctively and was looking around for the "kindi" (vessel with a long sprout) that is kept at the entrance to clean your legs. And it was time to take off the jeans and get into a comfortable khadi lungi and ease into the chair with legs up on the wall.

The fields weren't this close in my grandma's place though. But the small stream felt so familiar and the instinct was to see if there is any small fish around - and there it was. So the plan was hatched to fish after lunch, but we will let it into the well instead of frying it. Our soon-to-be 3 year old daughter got the plan perfectly well. And soon after lunch she kept reminding us about fishing. We got her down and I was cautious because you know what to expect when you have fish and toads around. We tried fishing with a wide open bottle, but no fish got in. So we called in more support and got her mamma also inside and with a makeshift fishing net - a
thin towel, so easily found in a mallu house hold. The first sweep itself had many of them in it, but we let it go and took couple of more sweeps before getting 3 of them into our bucket. And the plan was executed to perfection by dropping it into the well. And Nishka mused - "once I caught a(3) fish alive and let it go again".

The paddy field turned into a football ground or a vegetable patch after the rains in our place - this place was still slushy. But our team was just 3 people to kick it around and there were no footballs either. So we took a stroll around the field along the stream upto a piggy's house. He looked very clean - it better be in Coorg where pork is a delicacy. We had to cross the stream and Nishka wanted to dip her leg in the water once in a while and she insisted that we carry her and that was a safe thing to do as well. She wanted to chase the kokkerakko-cock-a-doodle roosters, but she had no company and wouldn't walk!

Though the plan was to have pork for dinner, they ran out of pork and we settled for chicken for lunch and dinner. We tossed up the shuttle cock and wanted to see if there is a Saina Nehwal in Nishka, and she picked up a bit of knocking it up when the shuttle was thrown at her. The field in front would have made a great one for a Frisbee session when it becomes dry - off course football comes first. I was schooled in a scientific football coaching camp at a stadium in town, so missed out on the fun of football on the dry paddy fields in my younger days.

Fireflies which were regular visitors at my grandma's place came calling too - but only a couple of them. They still exist in some corner of this world! And the crickets were crackling all over by night - that is not so uncommon even now. As an early riser who responds to the cock-a-doodles, I was up early reading Sanjeev Kumar's book on India. While it was a bit cold, the nature around was awesome and the air breathed so fresh. The well around tempted me to take an open bath drawing water straight from the well, but settled for a self massage(oil picked up from an ayurvedic shop in Virajpet) and a sun bath before taking bath in the cold water.

We took a trip down to Bagamandala temple and met a "shanthi"(careteaker of the temple) who happened to be from the same place as ours in Kerala. He offered coffee at his quarters and we talked for a while and we knew many people in common. We also made a trip up to Talakavery, the origin of Cauvery river that feeds water to Bangalore. But the place was a bit plastic for such a naturally beautiful place.
We were very well taken care by Harish and Girija our hosts at Linger. Food was very good and unlimited - chicken, fish, veggies and fries. The neer dosa was awesome though a pandi curry(pork) would have rounded it well, but with no physical work, it was better to avoid red meat as well. We had a bornfire with the budding singer Nishka's "we are a happy family song" ! And the sky opened up with "twinkle twinke little stars" all around and fireflies dotted around to make it an awesome night !

Coorg remains an untouched land even now though there are big estates bordering the forest areas that gets into conflict with wild animals. There are restrictions in place for selling the land - if the land was granted land by the Govt.(Brits), they you can't sell the land. And wet land farms can only be bought by farmers. And that keeps the things very natural even now. But it is green and natural with natural water sources unlike the dams and canals you see elsewhere. My place was like this 30 years back - but they "developed" the fields and rivulets into concrete houses! Though there is still greenery around, the damage to the environment has been pretty deep.

Drive home to Bangalore was a long and boring one with stops at many places for Nishka's motion sickness - and the concept of do-nothing(lingering) vacation breaks down here, you need to drive! There is something odd about the idea of driving down to linger around! Hey, then the concept of vacation itself is an urban one to get away from the regular slogging that you do so that you can go on a vacation!

Overall a great location and if you want to do your own thing instead of the canned events of a resort, there can't be any better places than Linger ! Except for the books there is not even an hint as to what you should do there, you can make your own thing and the possibilities are endless in a natural setting! Needless to say it sure is not the conventional resort types.