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When an Indian Maharaja saved a drought hit British village

On an evening in the mid-nineteenth century, Maharaja Ishree Persad Narayan Singh of Benares had a guest at his palace. Edward Reade, the acting Governor-General of the United Provinces, who was also a friend of the Maharaja, narrated a story over dinner. The story of a little boy in a village named Stoke Row in Southeast England beaten up by his mother for drinking up the last remaining water during a drought moved the Maharaja and he felt very sad. Reade had told the Maharaja that this was very common in some draught hit parts of England. It reminded the Maharaja of the hardships faced by some of his people some time back. At that time Reade had helped him dig a well there. The Maharaja decided to help the people of Stoke Row by digging a well there.

With the Maharaja’s funding, a well, 368ft deep and 4 ft in diameter, was dug in Stoke Row and it was completed in 1863. The well was topped with a 23 ft dome elaborately designed in flamboyant Indian style. It also had  winding machinery and a golden elephant adorning it. The Maharaja had also built a cottage for its caretaker nearby. The Maharaja had also funded a four-acre cherry orchard in the area.

 

North and south of Sonning Common. Photo Courtesy: Peter Collins on Flickr. 

 

 

The well was officially inaugurated in 1864. The Maharaja never visited the place but he had a bond with the village. Apart from bearing all the expenses for the well, he had also gifted many more things like footpaths and occasional free meals and feats for the residents of the village.

The well served its purpose for 70 years and it got lost into oblivion with new water supply technologies coming up. After Reade’s death, the connection between Benares and Stoke Row was disrupted until Maharaja Bihuti Narayan Singh, the great-grandson of Ishree Persad Singh established contact with the great-grandson of Reade. In 1961 Bibhuti Narayan gifted an Ivory replica of the well to the Queen of England during her India visit and proposed to celebrate the forthcoming centenary as a mark of Indo-British relationship. On 8th April 1964, the centenary of the Maharaja’s Well was celebrated in presence of 1500 people including Prince Philip.

The well that was an enigma in its heydays as it was a gift from the Maharaja of a fabled land that was mysterious for the people of the West still stands as a piece of history. Interestingly the Maharaja’s gift to the Raj had prompted other Maharajas to donate wells in other draught hit English villages as well. One such well was constructed at Ipsden by Raja Deonarayan Singh. However other wells did not get as much attention as that in Stoke Row.

A Crore Spent, Just To Get Priyanka Chopra To Assam?

So, Priyanka Chopra finally managed to make time for Assam. She flew all the way from United States of America to Assam, shot for an ad campaign for two days – a video that has been shot elaborately at a cost that could make film producers roll their eyes. Should we be pleased? Yes, sure. We could have a more engaging tourism ad than what we had last year, which was well shot too but it did not quite do justice to the fact that Priyanka Chopra was signed for a huge sum of money.

We are pleased that she wore a beautiful Mekhela Chador, along with nice Assamese jewellery, mingled with people from the state. And hey, even trended on twitter on the day she landed in Assam. Wow! So cool. And then we got to know something more.

Video Capture of the Assam Tourism Ad.

 

Appears Ms. Chopra was flown into India along with her team all the way from US, at the expense of our dear old state government. A journey (to and fro) that cost nothing short of Rs 25 lakh. No, don’t roll your eyes yet. Wait till you hear this. Priyanka Chopra was flown from Mumbai to Jorhat in a chartered flight, because of she can’t fly regular. And the chartered plane was parked in Jorhat for two whole days, at the actress’s disposal. This allegedly cost another Rs 75 lakh. Yes, a neat sum of 1 crore only on her travel! Yes, now you may roll your eyes.

Good thing – in the two days she was in Assam, the department of tourism evidently made her slog. For every penny she was paid. She shot for the videos, travelled to Kaziranga, and even shot in Majuli! Plus do enough photo-ops.

All we hope is that the new ad, shot by a very well-known ad-filmmaker Lyod Baptista, does more justice to the state than what the last year’s video did. The Department of Tourism, Assam has drawn lots of flak due since the Awesome Assam campaign was launched. First, it was the logo design which looks amateurish then it was awkward tagline in the poorly edited video. So, when Priyanka Chopra was signed as brand ambassador till 31st December, 2018, lot of criticism followed as the signing amount did not justify the results.

Just a comparison:

Amitabh Bachchan had endorsed Gujarat tourism. And he did not charge any money for it. The government had put this on record. Likewise, Shah Rukh Khan promoted West Bengal tourism, and had not charged any fee for it.

Website Find: The Incredible Egg

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    At the very onset of the article, let me tell you that although I can cook various kinds of foods but I am pathetic when it comes to egg. I am sure, many of us still struggle to make an omelette. Infact, I consider it to be a sign of a perfect day if there is milk in the refrigerator and the omelette comes out well. Google being the solution of all our problems, I was looking for an easy way to make an omelette when I found this website by the American Egg Board.

    The website, The Incredible Egg is fully dedicated to eggs. You can find egg recipes, various nutritional knowledge about eggs, various good production process practices and a blog. It also provides knowledge about the various types of eggs and how to keep the hens comfortable to get good quality eggs. It also encourages people to start eating eggs by having a section on the nutritional value and the cholesterol myths of the egg.

    Basic French Omelet. Photo courtesy: American Egg Board

     

    It is a very interesting site because it also gives an idea to farmers around the world to keep them up-to-date with world standards. I love eggs in almost all of their forms, baked, poached, fried, scrambled, frittattas, etc. Eggs are one  of the most healthiest things you can have and the best part is that you eat it any time of the day. This site has a special section on various recipes of eggs. I was flabbergasted with the number of egg recipes the site features. The site has features from the most sophisticated recipes to the simplest of the recipes we have known. You will find everything from tips on storing & testing for freshness to getting that perfect sunny side up fried egg. Also, some microwave wisdom on how to cook eggs in microwave oven.

    Classic Deviled Egg. Photo courtesy: American Egg Board

    Best Sectors to invest in Indian Stock Market

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      Investing could be a tricky thing when you find yourself in the middle of a strong bull market. BSE Sensex is at its record high and seems to move higher. We expect BSE Sensex to hit 40,000 or higher by March 2018. India is growing and it’s the best time to invest in India. Indian stock markets also are growing as more and more people are investing in equities and mutual funds.

      The sectors that will grow the most in the near and medium term future are:

      Infrastructure: Building a business friendly framework

      Government is looking seriously for developing infrastructure and several long term projects have been undertaken by the government in last 3 years. Governments ambitious plans to develop smart cities and industrial corridors or the achievable goals of doing infrastructural developments in existing hospitals, highways, schools, airports, etc. will be surely helpful for Infrastructure compainies.

      Companies like Larsen & Tourbo, Punj Loyd, Reliance Infrastructure, BHEL, etc. are good bets.

      Financial Services: Mobile is here to stay

      India’s mobile payment system is among the world’s most advanced. The internet penetration in India is also among the highest. While many were sceptical to use modern banking techniques and still are but after demonetisation many people started using mobile banking. The government has failed to hold all the users but gradually people are getting comfortable to using mobile banking. PSU banks are on a growth path and its a good time to invest.

      Non Banking Financial Companies (NBFC) : There is lot of scope to grow

      Apart from a multitude of banks, both PSU and private ones, there are a number of Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs) as well. NBFCs are companies that provide some banking-like services in lending and wealth advisory, but they do not offer such products as credit and debit cards and they do not have a banking license.

      One of the top sub-sectors in this Automative Finance and Housing Finance. Top stocks are HDFC Ltd., Aditya Birla Finance Ltd., DHFL, LIC Housing Finance Ltd., Bajaj Finserve and Indiabulls Housing Finance Ltd.

      Another NBFC sector that is seeing growth are Share Trading Companies. More and more people are investing in share markets since 2014. These companies have seen a steady growth since 2014 and more so after demonetisation.

      Technology: Supporting the New India

      Technology is still a good bet and continue its run in the next few years. The government is aiming complete transparency and effective governance through Digital India. The present government simply loves technology and has very ambitious plans to spread the network of IT infrastructure to the remotest corners of the country.

      The mobile internet, cloud tech and digital payments would be major sub-sectors to look for. Companies like TVS Electronis, RS Software, Tata Communiations are good bet.

      Automotive: A lucrative sector

      As India develops, more and more people are buying cars. Most of the world’s largest automakers are ramping up production in India.

      Top bets are Mahindra & Mahindra and Tata Motors are a good bet. If you can afford, Eicher Motors is a good stock.

      Auto ancillary stocks also grow with the overall growth of Automotive sectors. Stocks like  Exide Industries, Bosch and Amara Raja Batteries are safer bets.

       

      Disclaimer: The views and investment tips expressed here are author’s personal opinion. Stock markets may be volatile and subject to market risks. FriedEye.com advises users to check with certified experts before taking any investment decisions.

      Gobi Manchurian – The Not so Chinese Cuisine

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        Gobi-Manchurian
        Gobi Manchurian

        From Lee’s Kitchen

        One of the most popular Indo-Chinese cuisines is the popular Manchurian recipe. This delicious dish often finds its place as an appetiser in parties. This dish was invented to suit the taste buds of Delhites and immediately became popular making way from streets to parties. Correspondingly, some of us tried to make it a curry because middle class families in India don’t take starters unless they are in a restaurant or a party. As curry, it’s good with white rice, fried rice or noodles.

        In our recipe, we also made some more changes to suit the Assamese tongue. While Assamese people don’t mind Oriental Dishes but North-Indian dishes do get an Assamese touch to find a liking.

        Gobi-Manchurian Recipe

         

        Ingredients:

        • Gobi (Cauliflower) – 1
        • Potato – 4-5
        • Coarse Pepper – 1/4th teaspoon
        • Chilli Paste – 1/2 teaspoon
        • Corn Flour
        • Oil – 1 tablespoon
        • Salt – As needed

        For the Manchurian Sauce:

        • Onions – Finely Chopped – 1 tablespoon
        • Garlic – 2
        • Ginger – Finely chopped/smashed – 1/2 tablespoon
        • Green Capsicum – 4-5
        • Soya Sauce
        • Chilli Paste – 1/2 teaspoon
        • Chilli Sauce – 1 teaspoon
        • Vinegar – 1/2 tablespoon
        • Salt as needed
        • Sugar – a pinch
        • Water – 1 cup
        • Spring Onions for Garnish

        Recipe

        1. Clean gobi and cut the florets to medium size.
        2. Boil the florets with potato.
        3. Mash the florets and potato together. Make balls and keep them aside.
        4. Heat up the oil for deep frying on a medium heat. Meanwhile make the batter by adding corn flour, plain flour, red chilli powder, pepper and salt to a mixing bowl.
        5. Mix and add water little by little as needed and make a free flowing lump free batter. The consistency has to be medium and not too thick or very runny. Adjust salt as needed by tasting the batter.
        6. Add the mashed balls to the batter in batches, coat them well.
        7. When the oil turns hot enough, drop the batter coated mashed balls one by one in the oil. The flame has to be medium initially and should be increased slightly as more gobi is added.
        8. Reduce the flame to medium and fry until the batter coated mashed balls turn golden and crisp. Keep stirring in between for even frying.
        9. Drain them to a kitchen tissue.
        10. Heat oil in a wide pan and add garlic, ginger and chillies.
        11. Saute for a minute or two. Then add spring onions & capsicum. Saute them on a high flame for 2 mins.
        12. Add soy sauce, red chilli sauce, red chilli paste, sugar and vinegar.
        13. Mix and add water. Mix and cook stirring and add pepper.
        14. Cook on a medium heat until the sauce thickens.
        15. Turn off the stove and check the taste. The sauce has to be slightly sour, sweet & hot. If needed you can adjust the salt as well.
        16. Allow the sauce to cool for 1 to 2 mins.
        17. Add the fried cauliflower and stir.
        18. Garnish gobi manchurian with spring onions. Serve immediately.

        Daliya Pakoda – Healthy Snacks for the Diet Conscious

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          Daliya Bor

          It’s raining and I was longing for pakodas. Being single, I hardly have ingredients for pakoda. All of a sudden, I had an idea to try making Daliya Pakoda. Daliya or Broken Wheat is a cereal food prepared from the hulled or crushed grain of various different wheat varieties in which most common one is durum wheat. Daliya generally doesn’t have a good impression among general public. It’s considered as a tasteless food. Trust me, you can make a wide variety of dishes with daliya.

          Daliya does not get sticky on adding water unlike wheat flour. But if we use just the right amount of water, the water itself acts as an adhesive. This recipe of pakoda is easy to make. Apart from being easy-to-make, it is a super quick recipe which you can easily make.

          Preparation time:

          10-15 minutes  for upto 15 pakodas

          Ingredients:

          1. Daliya – 1 cup
          2. Chopped Green chilly – 1
          3. Salt – As per taste
          4. Garlic Powder – 1/2 teaspoon
          5. Water – 1/2 cup
          6. Refined Oil – 1 1/2 teaspoon

          How to make Daliya Pakoda

          Add daliya in a bowl. Add salt, garlic powder and chopped green chilly and mix well. Slowly add water and keep stirring. The mixture should become a thick paste. Excess of water can make it difficult to hold the mixture at one place.

          Now, heat oil in pan and slowly add one teaspoon of the mixture wait for 5-10 seconds and with the help of a spatula, slowly turn the pakoda upside down to let it cook in the other side. Wait for 5-10 seconds and turn the pakoda upside down. Repeat the process once more till you see a slightly brownish colour in both the sides and you can take it out.

          1 cup of Daliya will make you 5-6 pakodas. Unlike other pakodas, Daliya Pakodas keep you filling full for quite some time.

          Daliya Bor
          The lighting was very poor. Don’t hang me for this

          Mangsho: The Cosmopolitan Assamese style | Recipe

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            Luchi Maangsho

            Luchi Mangsho is one dish that any Assamese or Bengali love equally and can die for. While the Bengalis like it a little spicy, comparatively we Assamese like our mangsho to be simple with spices just enough to give a flavour. My mangsho is slow-cooked, as I believe it is the tenderness of mutton that makes you love it. I generally prefer adding a dollop of ghee towards the end for that extra aroma and flavour. Addition of ghee towards the end of the cooking works wonders which I learnt it from my Bengali friends while I was in Karimganj. In this particular recipe, I have used tomato as we Assamese like a bit of tanginess in our dishes. My mangsho recipe is coupled with ideas gathered from my non-Assamese friends keeping the Assamese soul intact.

            Ingredients:

            1. Mutton: 100 gms/person
            2. Salt : As per taste
            3. Turmeric powder: 1 tsp
            4. Cumin powder: 1 tsp
            5. Meat Masala: 1 tsp (The magic doubles if you use homemade meat masala prepared just before you start)
            6. Tomato: 1-3 upto 1 kg
            7. Onions : 1-4 upto 1 kg
            8. Mustard Oil: 2 table spoon
            9. Water : 2 cups
            10. Ghee : 2 tsp
            11. Coriander Leaves: For Garnish

            Wash the mutton properly ensuring that there is no blood left. Marinate the mutton under refrigeration for 2 hours with all the spices.

            Maangso

            In the meantime, cut the tomatoes and onions into small pieces. You can also use a grater slicer.

            Piyaaj Bilaahi

            In a frying pan, fry the tomatoes and onions and make a puree.

            Piyaaj Bilaahi

            Add the marinated mutton into the puree and simmer the flame. Don’t throw the marinade. Mix well and keep stirring. After 15 minutes, when you feel that the mutton is getting cooked add the marinade and keep stirring. Slowly add water and keep stirring. Cover the lid of pan and let the mutton cook. Occasionally, keep stirring so that mutton does not stick to the bottom of the pan. Cook till the mutton is tender and the gravy is thick.

            Add some ghee, and cook for 5-10 minutes. Mix well so as to have a uniform texture. Turn off the heat and add some coriander leaves. If you cook for long after adding ghee, the mutton might look very bad giving a feel of burnt food.

            Have it with hot luchi.

            Luchi Maangsho

            Money Matters : Advice to save smart and early

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              It’s always good to start saving early but it’s only past 30 that you realise that you need to save money. I have myself started very late after procrastinating for quite a few years.  I always believed in living at the moment than saving money for the future. I have realised that I have been able to save money without changing my lifestyle. I still do the things I like to do but since I treat my savings like utility bills I am able to save now. See, I am not trying to give any gyaan but I am writing this because somewhere someone like me might start saving. I have much more confidence in taking decisions in my life now then when my savings were nil.

              I will try to be as simple as possible with little or no technical details as I am not an expert. I will just share my recent tryst with financial matters. To start my saving the first thing I did was look into the various saving opportunities. I am listing a few:

              Post office Saving Schemes:

              It is perhaps the best investment or saving scheme. Schemes like Post Office 5 Yr Recurring Deposit have as interest rate of 7.1% per annum (quarterly compounded). On maturity INR 10/- account fetches INR 721.23.

              Public Provident Fund: 

              The Public Provident Fund (PPF) Scheme, 1968 is a tax-free savings avenue that was introduced by the Ministry of Finance (MoF) in India in the year 1968. Interest earned on deposits in the PPF account are not taxable. Deposits made towards PPF accounts can be claimed as tax deductions. This makes the PPF Scheme one of the most tax efficient instruments in India. It was launched to encourage savings among Indians in general, especially to encourage them to create a retirement corpus.The interest rate is revised every quarter. Presently, the interest rate is 7.8% per annum (compounded yearly). PPF accounts can be opened at any nationalised, authorised bank and authorised branches / post offices. PPF accounts can be opened at specific private banks as well. These accounts can be opened by filling out the required forms, submitting the relevant documents and depositing the minimum pay-in at such branches/offices that have been authorised for the same.A PPF account may be maintained with a minimum of Rs. 500 and it can be a maximum of Rs. 1,50,000 per year. Deposits can be made in lump-sum or in 12 installments. Maturity period is 15 years but the same can be extended within one year of maturity for further 5 years and so on.

              Mutual Funds: 

              People who want to invest in equities and bond with a balance of risk and return generally choose to invest in mutual funds. Nowadays investing in stock markets through a mutual fund is a market trend. One of the best investment options in India is a mutual fund for a long time by systematic investment plan. This investment plan will definitely give a much better return compared to any other investment option in the market.

              Direct Equity or Share Trading : 

              Make sure you know how to analyze a share stock before going to buy direct equity or share. It is the best amongst the list of top best investment options in India for the long period of time. If the investment is for a long time, for example, more than 15 years, it is somewhat sure that there will be higher return. One of the ways to invest is to understand the sustainability of the business of the company in the long run.

              Real Estates: 

              Real Estate prices always go high and the returns but if you are someone who cannot afford Real Estates, go for Direct Equity and buy Housing Finance, Infrastructure or Cement Company stocks. This are more likely to have an upward trend.

              There are many other options but I am yet to explore them. I have other stories as why I chose a particular investment scheme but I will save it for some other day.

              How to experience the best of Manipur, Assam, and Meghalaya in 2 weeks and a bit (Part I)

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                MANIPUR  

                Manipur is not for the faint-hearted, we were told, before we flew to Imphal on March 20.

                Yes, we were aware of the economic blockade and we knew the state had been wracked by years of unrest, so we were pragmatic about what awaited us on the first leg of our Northeast trip.

                But, for some time, we had been following closely all the news from Manipur. Elections for a new state government had been held on March 4 and 8. The results were declared on March 11. Three days later, after much political drama, the BJP was invited to form the government, toppling the Congress, which had been in power for 15 years.

                With the BJP taking charge, the first thing to happen was the lifting of the economic blockade on March 19, one day before we arrived. How fortuitous was that?

                The blockade had crippled life in Manipur for more than four months. Now citizens who had been sorely affected by the shortage of essential items could begin thinking of normality again.

                We saw the new developments as a sign. With the god of vacations clearly having given us the thumbs-up, we boarded our Indigo flight in Bangalore in high spirits, confident we were going to have a fabulous holiday not only in Manipur, but also in Assam and Meghalaya. How right we were to be optimistic!

                FIRST STOP: IMPHAL

                IF IT’S MONDAY, IT MUST BE MANIPUR… AND MONIKA

                Commits alumna Monika Khangembam (Class of 2012) came to Imphal airport to pick us up and accompanied us to the Classic Grande hotel (above), our home for four nights. Monika, who runs an NGO in Imphal and who was still jet-lagged having just returned to Imphal after spending a week in New York, went out of her way to ensure we enjoyed our stay in Manipur and we are grateful to her.

                WOMEN RULE, OK!

                As soon as we were done checking into our hotel, off we went sightseeing with Monika. First, a short walk from Classic Grande brought us to a popular roadside cafe for a little replenishment, after which we headed off in a “share-auto” to Ema Keithel, or Mothers’ Market. Among the few hundred women manning (pardon the expression) the stalls was this lady who had a good laugh when she spotted tourists looking goggle-eyed at her wares.

                PINPOINT FOCUS

                At nightfall, mini-lamps are switched on at the Mothers’ Market and outside as the vendors put the spotlight on their goods in an effort to maximise sales before it is time to pack up.

                 

                OUT FOR A RIDE…

                …with our friend, philosopher, and guide. (On our second day in Imphal, through a friend of Monika’s, we got ourselves a Toyota Innova and driver for Rs.3,500 a day. Yes, private transport, unlike the “share-autos”, is expensive, considering we were paying about Rs.2,500 per night for our room at Classic Grande, one of the top hotels in Imphal.)

                FLOATING ISLANDS OF LOKTAK LAKE

                Covering the distance from Imphal to the Northeast’s largest freshwater lake in Moirang, about 50 km away to the south, took us an hour-and-a-half. On the way we were joined by Ashok Sapamcha, Monika’s good friend (more about him below), who guided us to a spot rarely visited by tourists. From here, we got a panoramic view of Loktak and the phumdis, as the floating islands are known. What am I pointing to? That cluster of dwellings in the distance, also seen in the photograph at top right, is Karang, India’s first cashless island.

                MAKING MOIRANG MEMORABLE

                Ashok Sapamcha, who runs a tourism operation based out of Moirang, is a young man who cares deeply about his hometown of Moirang and his home state of Manipur. He seems to know every inch of the land intimately and he ensured that our trip on March 21 — from an amazing view of Loktak Lake from the top of a peak to an unforgettable experience of a visit to a phumdi hut for tea and smoked shrimp (pictures below) — was something that can only be described as out-of-this-world. I recommend his services highly. Thank you again, Ashok.

                HEY-HO! PHUMDI-PROSPECTING WE’LL GO!

                At Keibul Lamjao National Park, the only floating park in the world, we were hoping to catch a glimpse of Manipur’s state animal, the sangai. But we were not lucky enough. Never mind, a friendly member of the park’s staff consented to give us a canoe ride through a phumdi, pictures above and below. Watch a brief video clip here: NAVIGATING A PHUMDI.

                WILL IT BEAR MY WEIGHT?

                The “ground” felt a bit wobbly, but the phumdi here at Keibul Lamjao National Park was, if I may use the phrase, rock solid.

                AS THE DAY WORE ON, MORE EXCITEMENT

                Among the lifetime’s memories that were created… lunch at a local dhaba in Moirang followed by pan, above, followed by a boat-ride to a phumdi hut on Loktak Lake for tea and smoked shrimp, below. All arranged by Ashok Sapamcha.

                 

                BACK AT THE HOTEL…

                An inner lobby of the Classic Grande gussies up for the night.

                A TRIBUTE TO THE FALLEN

                At the Imphal War Cemetery, gravestones mark the sacrifice of soldiers from India (see below), Great Britain, Canada, Australia, and even China who died in in 1944 during the battles against the invading Japanese army. The cemetery is located at a walkable distance from the Classic Grande.

                WHAT’S THE LATEST?

                The day would begin with reading the newspapers… naturally. Every morning the hotel staff would arrange all the English dailies neatly on coffee tables in the lobby.

                AT KANGLA FORT, HISTORY BECKONS

                A pair of mythical dragons, known as Kangla Sha, stand alert at the entrance to the “Uttra”, the coronation hall of the kings who used to rule Manipur. Kangla was the ancient capital of Manipur, and the fort is situated at the heart of Imphal city. BELOW: The Ibudhou Pakhangba temple, which was consecrated in February 2010. The seven flags on the roof, by the side of the pagoda, represent the seven Meitei clans and Ibudhou Pakhangba is one of the main deities of the Meiteis.

                LIVE IN CONCERT, IMPHAL TALKIES

                It was such a pleasure — and a privilege — to be able to watch Akhu Chingangbam, Manipur’s most famous folk singer, and his band, Imphal Talkies, perform at Ougri 2017, the tech and cultural fest organised by NIT Manipur. In the video above, recorded at the venue, Akhu sings one of his best-known English songs, Lullaby, written “for all the children around the world in conflict zones”.

                When I first met Akhu that evening, I had told him I was a fan of Lullaby. To my surprise, he remembered that and towards the middle of his set before he launched into the song, he dedicated it to “Professor Ramesh Prabhu, who has come here all the way from Bangalore”. To say I was touched would be an understatement. BELOW: The official music video, with lyrics, for Lullaby, published on YouTube in September 2013.

                 

                 

                A VERY SPECIAL GROUP PICTURE…

                …followed a very special feast at Monika Khangembam’s home on our last night in Imphal. As award-winning filmmaker Oinam Doren(third from left) put it, “Awesome dinner after a long time. 11 Manipuri cuisines in one night. I know how much meticulous planning, effort and patience it takes to cook because I am also a cook. A bow to Monika’s mom.” The man I have got an affectionate arm around is singer Akhu Chingangbam, whose live concert we had attended earlier in the evening.

                 

                NEXT STOP: GUWAHATI

                On March 24, after four standout days in Manipur, it was time to take the Jet Airways flight to Guwahati from Imphal airport. On the agenda: Kaziranga National Park, home of the one-horned rhino, and Majuli, the world’s biggest river island.

                POSTSCRIPT

                MANIPUR MEMORIES: Ashok Sapamcha introduced us to Mangka first when he showed us this video (see above) on his phone during our car ride to Loktak Lake.

                Monika Khangembam, who accompanied us on this trip and who had persuaded Ashok to join us, later introduced us to filmmaker Oinam Doren, who has produced and shot this video.

                On April 15 I learnt from Oinam’s Facebook post that Mangka was performing in Imphal that evening. We missed out!

                COMING UP: ASSAM

                First published on – Trip Meter (Blog)

                About the author – Ramesh Prabhu is a professor of journalism at Commits, one of India’s premier institutes for media studies. Before turning teacher, he worked with some well-known media organisations such as Mid Day, Mumbai, and Khaleej Times, Dubai. His blog, The Reading Room, is quite popular with media professionals across India.

                Varanasi- the beating heart of the Hindu universe

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                  One of the most famous rituals, performed every evening in Varanasi is Ganga Aarti. During this the city gets ignited with lamps, accompanied with poignant chats... (Photo by Mukund Prabhakar)
                  By Tina Choudhury

                  “The place God calls you to, is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

                  Varanasi -The place-where the most intimate rituals of life and death takes place in public. Situated amidst the Ganges valley in Uttar Pradesh, Varanasi is an epitome of spiritual majesty. The sights, sounds and smells in and around the ghats can be overwhelming at times but the charm of Varanasi will always impress you. Varanasi, a perfect blend of myth, legend and religion has 84 Ghats along the river. Some of the known ghats which are used for cremation are Dashashwamedh, Manikarnika, and Panchganga.

                  Ghat (Photo by Mukund Prabhakar)
                  Ghat (Photo by Mukund Prabhakar)

                  Varanasi offers a spiritually enriching experience that is absolutely breathtaking. Mystical aura, miraculous waters and ethnically sculpted temples define this sacred land. This place is always known at various times in history as Kashi and Benares. It is the most blindingly colourful, unrelentingly chaotic and unapologetically indiscreet places on earth. If you’re ready for it, this city of light may turn out to be your favourite terminus ever. Pilgrims comes to the ghats lining the River Ganges to wash away a lifetime of sins in the sacred waters.

                  This old city is situated along the western bank of the Ganges and extends back from the riverbank ghats which are too narrow for traffic. Even though the narrow lanes are disorienting, the popular hotels and restaurants are usually signposted for easier access. One of the greatest things about this place is, however lost you become; you will sooner or later end up at a ghat. A walk all the way along the ghats and labyrinth of alleys will surely be a memorable plug-in in your travel dairy. It is not suggested to travel to Varanasi during immediate monsoon, as the river level remains too high.

                  Here are the top five things you should absolutely not miss in Varanasi –

                  Ganga Aarti

                  One of the most famous rituals, performed every evening in Varanasi is Ganga Aarti. During this the city gets ignited with lamps, accompanied with poignant chats... (Photo by Mukund Prabhakar)

                  One of the most famous rituals, performed every evening in Varanasi is Ganga Aarti. During this the city gets ignited with lamps, accompanied with poignant chats… (Photo by Mukund Prabhakar)

                  One of the most famous rituals, performed every evening in Varanasi is Ganga Aarti. During this the city gets ignited with lamps, accompanied with poignant chats along with fragrance of incense filling the air. The sight of deeply worshipped Maa Ganga looks absolutely spectacular. It attracts millions of devotees who seek spiritual peace and deliverance from the inescapable bondages of the world.

                  Campus of BHU

                  Varanasi is not famous only for it divine repute but also esteemed for its rich contribution in the fields of music, art, dance and education. Beneras Hindu University mostly popularly called BHU is the famous icon of Varanasi. A visit to sprawling campus of BHU is must to witness the blend of culture and education.

                  A boat ride watching sunset/ sunrise-An essential Varanasi experience is a dawn rowing boat ride along the Ganges. (Photo by Mukund Prabhakar)

                  An essential Varanasi experience is a dawn rowing boat ride along the Ganges. (Photo by Mukund Prabhakar)

                  An essential Varanasi experience is a dawn rowing boat ride along the Ganges. The river is sadly one of the heavily polluted rivers in the world but its surroundings leave a lot to expect. Perhaps you will still be amazed to see how the river draws you towards it. You may take a boat ride to take you from one ghat to another – each ghat is with its own history and myth.

                  Graffiti on the walls

                  The narrow crowded lanes are a fantastic experience and the culture and religion come alive in these picturesque alleys. The walls of Banaras will surely catch your eyes and glancing at them you will feel every wall is saying you a unique story. The numerous Graffiti on the walls of Varanasi Ghats are thought provoking. If you look closely, there are so many interesting graffiti ornamenting the walls. Few graffiti are out of place, yet gorgeous.  Few graffiti are mythology based; you will find Ganapati, Shiva in several avatars, in shocking colours yet captivating. Also you will find graffiti which are abstract ones, painted with random words and letters scribbled as a challenge for a passerby to understand.

                  Random chat with the Sadhu & Sanyasi

                  Sadhu & Sanyasi (Photo by Mukund Prabhakar-As the galis run towards or parallel to the ghats, you will see many Sadhus and Sanyasis who are in isolation from anything worldly)
                  Sadhu & Sanyasi – As the galis run towards or parallel to the ghats, you will see many Sadhus and Sanyasis who are in isolation from anything worldly (Photo by Mukund Prabhakar)

                  As the galis run towards or parallel to the ghats, you will see many Sadhus and Sanyasis who are in isolation from anything worldly. They are popular for the most extraordinary attires with colorful beads and ash spots on their forehead. In Varanasi sadhus and sanyasis are highly respected and valued and they will always have numerous stories to share from about the heavens, Shiva’s city, and other supernatural phenomenon. You can always catch up a chat with them as most of them are very friendly and will allow you to click pictures of them or with them.

                  Varanasi is magical place, full of history, meanings, symbols, culture and religion. It is always known for various things including the MahaKumbh, held every 12 years is one the largest gathering of worshippers from round the globe. Associated with encouraging the culture of Sanskrit, Yoga and Hindi language, it is renowned for Banarasi Silk Sarees as well.  Reaching Varanasi is not a difficult task as the places is connected well. The distance from Delhi to Varanasi is approximately 800 kms. There are a number of good and cheap hotels in Varanasi catering to a very large tourist every year.

                  People visit Varanasi for all different reasons. Personified with India’s enduring cultural traditions and spiritual values, a stay in Varanasi is a journey towards discovering eternal bliss of mind and soul.

                  (The writer is a PR professional, currently working with Dentsu Aegis Network. Photographs are from clicked by Mukund Prabhakar, also a part of Dentsu Aegis Network)

                  The Sunshine Society – A Window to achieve dreams

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                    The Sunshine Society is a collective of mainly College & School students from Jorhat, who have a single minded dedication to provide a platform to the artist community from this small beautiful town. There is terrific talent that has sprung up here – mainly of Musicians, Poets, Painters & Dancers. All of this will be up as performance. This is not a competitive event but one, merely to showcase talent that deserves a platform; as also to bring together the citizens of Jorhat, who want to appreciate & understand.

                    sunshine

                    For a long time, there has been a lacunae here, of a society that can continually tap into talent & performance. In this case, the members have pooled in their own pocket money to set into motion, an effort that will reach out to the different sections of people that make up the society of Jorhat, and bring them all into this common pool. The artist will be from all the sections, as well as the audience.

                    The Sunshine Society was set up as an initiative of these students with Musician Joi Barua as an Advisor. There will be different achievers of Jorhat, in different parts of India and the world, who will soon come on board as patrons. The Sunshine Society will also be a window for the wanting achievers to speak to people from Jorhat, who have lived different lives & are currently chasing different dreams. And the journey has just begun.

                    Editor’s note: The second event of The Sunshine Society has been planned on 27th March’16. Do visit and encourage the students.

                    Mela Vaisakhi da 2016

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                      The Mela Vaisakhi is Las Vegas’ annual Indian Food and Cultural Festival. This year, it will be held at the Clark County Amphitheater on April 30.
                      2016 promises to be an even bigger event that last year, with a slew of contests and the entertainment has already been lined up. There will be a Bhangra competition, which is a type of popular music combining Punjabi folk traditions with Western pop music. There will also be a Raas Competition, which is the traditional folk dance form of Gujarat, India, and is the featured dance of Navratri evenings in Western India.

                      A Bollywood Competition is also set to take place at the event, however details of what guests can expect haven’t been released yet. A fashion show featuring India’s latest trends for both kids and adults will also be shown at the event.
                      As for food, guests can expect authentic Indian delicacies and dishes that will be cooked fresh on site. Chaat Papri, Gol Gappa, Pav Bhaji, Masala Dosa, and many other Indian food items can be purchased at the event. Chaat Papri, which is an Indian street food popular in Northern India that consists of fried wafers, potatoes, onions, peppers, yogurt, tamarind, and mint sauces, are very popular among guests, and ‘sell like hotcakes’ whenever a Mela Vaisakhi event is held.

                      (image credit: plannify.com)

                      In recent years, Las Vegas has been increasing its non-gambling offerings in order to attract more visitors to the city. It had to diversify its attractions in order to offset losses from the now-preferred online gaming methods that consumers have been opting to play, since they came into fruition in the late 90s. With online casinos, people can literally place their bets against a live dealer, all while enjoying deposit perks and the convenience of playing wherever and whenever they want unlike in Las Vegas casinos. With more people opting to simply stay at home and save hundreds of dollars from traveling to Sin City, Las Vegas had no choice but to provide other means of entertainment, and one of these has been to host annual food and cultural events like Mela Vaisakhi.
                      For more details about the Mela Vaisakhi event, or if you want to learn how to be vendor, you can visit the event’s official website.

                      Weekend Fun Recipe: Chilli Garlic Fish | Non-Vegetarian |

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                        Ingredients

                        Tahini paste                           3 tbsp

                        Garlic Chopped                    2 tbsp

                        Green Chili Chopped         1tsp

                        Chili flakes                             1tsp

                        Sunflower oil                        30ml

                        Celery chopped                  1 tsp

                        Dagad Phool                          ½ tsp

                        Salt                                         As per taste

                        Sesame seeds                     1 tsp

                        Pomegranate powder     2 tsp

                        Basa Fish                              500g boneless

                         

                        Method

                        Debone the fish and cut rectangular pieces I inch thickness and 3 inch in length, set aside.

                        In a mixing bowl place tahini, oil, mix well and add garlic, chili flakes, green chili, celery, salt,

                        Dagad phool, pomegranate mix well with a balloon whisk. Marinate the fish and set aside in a refrigerator at least for 2 hours. Skewer and grill on a moderate hot grill, cook till the fish is cooked from inside. Serve hot.

                         

                        Chilli Garlic Fish

                         

                         

                        Recipe Courtesy: Barbeque Nation 

                        Weekend Fun Recipe: Jamaican Jerk Chicken drumsticks | Non-Vegetarian |

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                          Ingredients

                          4 chicken drumsticks

                          30 ml vegetable oil

                          5 gms Muscavado sugar (brown sugar)

                          30 ml cider vinegar

                          20 ml rum

                          10 gms pepper powder

                          2 gms nutmeg powder

                          10 gms cinnamon powder

                          Salt to taste

                          50 gms chopped onions fried brown

                          30 gms Naga or scotch bonnet chili, 2-3 diced

                          5 leaves fresh thyme

                          20 gms garlic, fried

                           

                          Method

                          Make diagonal cut marks on chicken pieces. In a round bottomed bowl add all the ingredients except chicken.

                          Whisk lightly

                          Add chicken pieces and marinate for 30 minute

                          Grill over a medium charcoal fire

                          Serve hot, sprinkled with crushed black pepper

                           

                          Jamaican Jerk Chicken drumsticks

                          Jamaican Jerk Chicken Drumstick

                           

                           

                          Recipe Courtesy: Barbeque Nation

                          Weekend Fun Recipe: Spanish Valencia prawns | Non – Vegetarian |

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                            Ingredients

                            12 medium sized prawns

                            20 ml refined sunflower oil

                            20 ml dry red wine

                            10 gms shrimp powder

                            A pinch of saffron

                            20 gms paprika

                            20 ml lemon juice

                            Salt to taste

                            30 gms chopped onion – fried golden

                            30 gms chopped garlic – fried golden

                             

                            Method

                            In a round bowl, mix paprika powder, red wine, shrimp powder, saffron, salt and vegetable oil and whisk well.

                            Add fried onions and fried garlic. Check seasoning.

                            Peel, de-vein and clean prawns. Add lemon juice. Marinate for 45 minutes.

                            Grill over moderate charcoal fire and serve hot with a medium spice dip.

                             

                             

                            Spanish Valencia prawns

                            Spanish Valencia Prawns

                             

                             

                            Recipe Courtesy: Barbeque Nation

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