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Fine with people using my name: Anurag Kashyap

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    pic courtesy- coolage.in

    Though he tries not to take the tag of ‘poster boy’ of independent cinema in India, there is not much Anurag Kashyap can really do to shake it off.  For one, if he is not making his own film he is trying to promote someone else’s film – one which would probably not make it to the screens otherwise. That’s what he is currently doing now, pushing all his might behind a documentary called ‘The World Before Her’ – as the presenter.

     

    Long in awaiting for release, The World Before Her has already created ripples across the world and won numerous awards. Its DVD is in fact even available in Amazon! But an Indian release has so far been one struggle that the producer could not manage. Not until Anurag stepped in and took it upon himself.

    “I watched it three days in a row and could not get over it. I wanted to present the film because things were not working for it,” says the filmmaker who is currently going through rounds of interviews to talk about the film. And he assures that he earns nothing out of this. “If the documentary makes money it will go to the producer. I get nothing. But that’s how I have been all my life. Some people think I am stupid and some don’t think so. If someone feels that they could get some audience by putting my name in the film I am always willing to help,” he adds.

    The World Before Her is a documentary featuring the stories of two girls. First being former Miss India Pooja Chopra, who was seen in last year’s hit Commando. The other one is Prachi, a member of Durga Vahini. The documentary is a commentary on women empowerment in the country and the money generated from donations online is being used to take the message of the film across the country.

    “Generally as filmmakers we meet models who talk about desire to be in films. We dismiss them right away. That’s because we feel their entire life revolves around their looks. But after seeing this I realized there is so much more to Pooja. Also if you meet someone like Prachi you might just dismiss her as a fundamentalist. With this documentary you see where they are coming from. You see the fear of stepping into the world that they are stepping into. There is so much objectivity! The film is not about a Miss India or Durga Vahini. It is about these two girls who lived in a world where they wanted to live with dignity and respect. And they found that through the medium they chose to compete in,” he elaborates. It may be recalled that the world had sat up and took notice of Pooja Chopra when she revealed, right after her win at the pageant, how her mother had walked out of her marriage to save Pooja from being a victim of female infanticide. “And that’s when you feel that instead of judging people like that you that, should try and give them opportunities and options and probably create a better world for them. That’s what the documentary does to you,” explains Anurag.

    And while he argues about the society, the filmmaker claims to be an anti-feminist. “I realized that pretty late. I think feminism brings in a false sense of empowerment. Why does women need to be empowered? That’s because we have to compensate them for creating such a world. Why can’t they just be?” he questions and adds, “I realized later why all feminists are so angry. They are angry because they are not empowered!” The filmmaker brings out the example of his daughter who he says is brought up in a way where she would not need to be a feminist or to be a Miss India to feel empowered. “My 13 year old daughter today knows that she can talk to me about anything and I will answer it,” he says.

    Even as he promotes the film, there are apprehensions that the film’s release may be opposed by certain fractions such as VHP. “Let’s see what happens. Any kind of prohibition comes from fear. Our mindsets guide us as to reject whatever uncomfortable as wrong. Rather than dealing with our discomfort we curb that thing. There is nothing is the film that could bring such reaction. The film is not about RSS or Durga Vahini,” he says.

    Interestingly, even though he believes in the power of documentaries, Anurag accepts that he has never managed to make one. “I have one subject but I don’t have the time to travel and research on the topic,” he informs. The filmmaker of course is busy with his films; currently midst post production of his biggest film so far – Bombay Velvet, starring Ranbir Kapoor and Katrina Kaif.

    In the meantime, his Ugly is finally up for release. Long in waiting as the director was not willing to put the warnings against smoking during scenes of the film, he says the producer cannot wait for any longer. “The High Court says that the case is already in the Supreme Court since five years and is being fought by Bhatt saab… Now the last four sessions have taken a year. If we keep waiting the financier will go bankrupt and I cannot let that happen. They have already given a lot of time already. So yes Ugly will release.  That does not mean we stop fighting,” he concludes promising to keep his fire going.

     

    Paranthe wali Gali – A tryst with history

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      Paranthe wali gali has always been synonymous to a culinary date with history. There are cuisines which are recommended due to their unique appeal to taste buds and there are some which lingers on in our memory due to their elaborate and precise manner of preparation. The parathas of Paranthe wali gali symbolizes a tradition, a legacy handed down to us over the times when the Royal Mughals made the humble age old paratha into a delicacy of sorts. Its fame not only spread far and wide but even crossed the barrier of time and civilization to be passed down the ages to the present times, so much that be it Kings or presidents of other countries or even the popular film stars, but everyone who visits the Indian capital marks a visit to the congested, crowded narrow lane as one of its primary agenda.

      What is there about it that makes it so popular and what makes the foodies swear by it. Our team in Fried Eye decided to try and find out the age old charm of Paranthe wali gali by being at the centre of where all the action was.

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      Though the words age old charm may sound nice and bring up images of quaint little shops and stalls, interesting architecture, sights and sounds from the past, Paranthe wali gali is however none of the above and is more a commuter’s nightmare than a food lover’s haven. The picture depicted below is what you have to go through before you can reach your destination by road. And when you reach there you see a narrow twisty lane comprising of around ten to fifteen stalls and that in entirety is Paranthe wale gali!

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      When one says popular, it is actually an understatement as one has to see it with one’s own eyes to believe the queues for a table at the joints, which is nearly serpentine. The shops there are impressive in their lineage and period of existence as each tries to outdo the other in terms of their time in the business. You can see their banners and signboards proudly announcing the generations, (of which it is said that they are the branches of the same family) that have been involved in the making of the legendary parathas.

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      We tried to chat up with the first in the line of the Paratha stalls. He was blunt and came directly to the point- Aren’t you going to eat? he asked us suspiciously. We told him we would wait out a bit. He didn’t lose his time telling us off, citing that it was lunch hour there and that we were just being a hindrance to the guests. He was right. In fact 7am to 11 pm was one whole big lunch hour there. We understood that unless we ate something we weren’t going to get many inputs out of them.

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      So we decided to start our gastronomic exercise with a kulfi which was a soft delectable creamy delicacy. The kulfi certainly justified the hype of the parathe wali gali. The kulfi stall owner opened up a bit after coaxing and started narrating of those wonderful times when it was being frequented by visiting dignitaries from our neighbour Pakistan and he mentioned how once kulfi had been specially ordered for Prime Minister Nawaz Shariff. There was no means of course to verify his claims other than the kulfi itself, but we have got to give it to him that his kulfi did have that much in it for the claim to be plausible. He did lament that there were few customers now than earlier, all thanks to the inflation. He called that crowd a few? Phew!

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      After the kulfi we came up to the main paratha shops which were teeming with people and opted for the Kanhaiyalal Durga Prasad Paratha shop. On a close glance, the paratha stalls were not much different from each other- busy, crowded, express service with hot parathas being cooked and served right under your nose literally.

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      The shop had its own who’s who visitor list adorned on its walls, with the photographs of celebrities sampling the parathas with happy faces splashed at every conceivable space in the walls –from Shiela Dixit to Ranbir Kapoor. Call it psycho-suggestive or bragging, but it was their form of advertisement and marketing and all of them had their own famous clientele to boast about.

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      The joint had around thirty five varieties of parathas and it was difficult choosing which, but finally we settled for bitter gourd or karela ka paratha and khurchan or the cream stuffed parathas, which tasted like parathas stuffed with exactly the stuff they were named after. The making of  the parathas were in itself a mixer of sweat and toil. One person rolled those small balls of dough and stuffed the chosen ingredients as preferred in a whisk of time. Another person on the fire kept deep frying the flattened circular dough into fluffy one. The other runner was ready with a can of ghee ( clarified butter) to pour immediately as an when the oil were left little to fry. The mayhem of making the parathas was the smoke that rolled over us and nearly choked the visitors standing in queue close by. They of course acted bravely comfortable watching those freshly prepared parathas. Hot and fresh were they.

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      So there we found a place to tuck ourselves in and shared the table with numerous unknown faces who looked comfortable even in the hot and humid surrounding. Parathas were served with an assortment of sabzis- potato and peas gravy, pumpkin mash, and sweet and sour chutneys. We asked the waiter when the shops opened for the day, to which he replied from morning seven to 11 pm and the rush it seemed to be always present.

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      What better way than to wash off the parathas with a kullhad of lassi . It seemed the lane served you the whole course of a meal though in separate shops. The Lassi shop though didn’t amount to ‘generations’ did cover four decades of enterprise. Much has changed from the days of the traditionally churned lassi to the now-a-days-used lassi machines and he did let us have a peek into it which was a simple motor machine churning out some frothy chilled lassi.

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      With that we came to the end of the road or lane literally and also the meal course. Much of the old paratha shops were gone and only a few remained and those that remained were not going off any sooner judging by the crowd and hype. As the kulfi walah had put it – Mehengai hua toh kya hua, log kya khayenge nahin ( So what if there is inflation? Will that stop people from eating? ) And he hit the nail with that comment.

       

      Inflation was not the only issue that went against the place. It was almost inaccessible due to the busy traffic and congested lanes but that has been corrected with the coming of Metro Corporation. The infrastructure needs a revamp as was agreed by the shop owners. Though it will be pleasant to visit the place during the winters, summers will be a furnace with poor ventilation and air passage. However you cannot beat the charm and magic of history with logic and trivial matters. No amount of heat , traffic, ventilation or hygiene can deter the foodies from visiting a place that has stood the test of time to stand apart and earn a place in the pages of history purely on the basis of a culinary legacy, brought in by one enterprising young man Pt Gaya Prasad who was the one who started it all when he set shop in Kinari Bazaar Chandni Chowk and started selling his hot sizzling parathas and the rest they say is history.

       

      Five taste enhancers in the kitchen for working women

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        By the above title of course we don’t mean sauces, ketchup, the salt and pepper shakers. This post is basically more for the Indian working woman, who at all moments should be prepared to , no not for an earthquake, but rather prepared to hustle up a quick three course meal for four persons at a short notice any time during the 24 hrs . So a restaurant may have the liberty to close down at 11 pm, but not an Indian woman, given our traditions and culture (please don’t ask us to elaborate on that as it is a very vast subject. Just remember that even Draupadi from Mahabharata was caught unaware when Lord Krishna turned up after cleaning up , for some grub. Its another matter that the Lord was generous enough to be satisfied with a grain of rice) Hence a woman must be prepared at all times for a quick cook up.

        So how do you save time and effort? How can you shorten the process of chopping, grinding etc? We are not going to write about shortening the entire process, but instead focus on certain basic , should we say elements, that one should have stocked in order to quicken the process of cooking and also enhance the taste.

        First in our list is the Ginger garlic paste.

         Indian dishes usually are cooked in such a way that begins with the process of sauteing onion , garlic and ginger either chopped or ground. So why waste your time on first peeling the garlic and ginger and then grinding them? Always try to store the ready made paste  which is available in the departmental store ,in your refrigerator . Saves a lot of time and effort.Right?

        Second item that we would invariably prefer is the tomato puree.

         The rising popularity and universal acceptance of the north Indian cuisine has made us realise the role and importance of the tomato in almost each and every vegetable dish. Of course there are few sabzis which require sliced tomatoes instead of purees but in order to get the thick spicy gravy right, you must have the right amount of tomato puree at the right time and place.

        Third one of course is the cream.

        Confused? Cream as in milk cream or cream of milk? Yes, we use that in cooking our dishes too. There are certain dishes like Chole, Rajma, Shahi Paneer , even Palak paneer, malai kofta etc etc, which requires cream as one of its ingredients and it helps a lot if you can save the effort of trying to strain and separate the milk from the cream. If you can use it to decorate beautiful cakes and pastries, then voila! serves a dual purpose too.

        Frozen peas-

        Yes frozen peas is a life saver or call it a meal saver as after potato, it is one of the most common vegetables to be used in Indian dishes. So you can go for a peas pulao, aloo matar (potato peas ) dish, matar paneer (peas and cottage cheese dish ),matar mushroom, mixed vegetable, gobhi matar, methi malai matar etc etc,  without having to go into the tedious task of separating the peas from the pod.

        And fiinally our fifth one would be ajinomoto.

         Yes we know its beneficial effect has been under fire after people coming to know about the mono sodium glutamate thing, but a small pinch once in a blue moon, is something we risk at times. A Indo-Chinese dish is so very incomplete without it , be it the chowmein, or manchurian or simple fried rice. It’s not that we go for such a meal every day . Mind it we are not endorsing it ,but its just a solitary viewpoint of our food desk or more -something that we practise on ourself.

        Of course there are the sauteed masalas and many vegetable mixes in the market, but after trying them out we realised that they didn’t quite exude that home made feel in the dishes. It had some artificial-ness in the flavor or aroma once prepared. And as a female member of the family your cooking will always be under scrutiny so, anything that might raise serious doubts on your culinary skills is not advisable according to our humble opinion. So those were our famous fives. We won’t mind it if you care to share yours.

        Aam Panna

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          By Praerna Kartha

           

          Aam Panna is a very popular summer beverage in Northern India. It looks and tastes very refreshing and I’ve loved it since I was a child. It’s probably my number two favorite summer beverage (right between fresh lemonade and iced tea).

          But apparently it has more benefits than just that of being a thirst quencher – this raw mango and mint drink is also a remedy for heat exhaustion and heat stroke. I guess you learn something new everyday! It’s very easy to whip up and can even be made in larger batches and stored as a concentrate. Just add water and ice and a refreshing summer beverage shall be at your service.

           

          Here’s what I used for about 4 servings, 350 ml each:

          1. 3 raw mangoes, about 400 gms
          2. 6 tbsp sugar
          3. 1/2 tsp kala namak (rock salt)
          4. 1/4 tsp roasted jeera (cumin) powder
          5. 2 heaped tbsp fresh mint leaves (use 1/2-1 tbsp if using dried)
          6. 1 litre cold water
          7. Ice
          8. Few springs of mint for garnish

          Here’s how I made it:

          First I washed and wiped the mangoes. I don’t know why, but raw mangoes always seem to be very sticky on the outside -more so than ripe mangoes.

          aam

           

          Then I roasted them individually over an open flame till the skin blackened in spots. This step must be undertaken with great caution because once the mango heats up, often small holes will pop in the skin – spraying out hot juice. Do not burn yourself. Use tongs to flip the mangoes and handle them with care.

          aam

          It took approximately 5-6 minutes for each mango to look like this – mostly dull and brownish with some blackened spots .

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          Once the mangoes were slightly cool and I could handle them, I peeled and roughly chopped the flesh, discarding the seed.

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          The skin comes off very easily.

          I placed the mango flesh, mint and sugar in the blender and pulsed them till a coarse puree was formed.

          aam

           

          Then I added the kala namak and jeera powder and blended again till it formed a smooth puree.

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          Now you can store this puree in the refrigerator or freezer as a concentrate and use it whenever you please. This time, I decided to make the drink completely but before the raw mango season ends, I will make big batches and store the concentrate.

           

          Transferring  the puree to a pitcher, I added 1 litre of chilled water to it and mixed it well. (This is the point where you should check for sugar and salt and adjust it if you need to).

          aam

          I placed the pitcher in the refrigerator to chill further. When I was ready for it, I stirred the panna once to make sure the concentrate and water hadn’t separated. I poured it over 3-4 cubes of ice and garnished each glass with a sprig of fresh mint.

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          So green. So cool. So fresh. The whole pitcher was drained in no time. I bought another batch of raw mangoes today for the next round!

          Notes:

          o    The fire roasting adds a lovely smokey flavour to the drink, but the easier way out is to pressure cook the mangoes with the peel in a little water for about 2 whistles. I will probably do this for a large batch. My mom has an even easier way out – peel and cut the raw mangoes and zap them in the microwave with a little water and the sugar for about 3-5 minutes on high.

          o    The sugar can be replaced with jaggery for a more rustic flavour and an even healthier drink – the nutrients of raw mango+jaggery together is almost a super drink!!

          o    Half the fun of the panna is the kala namak – try not to skimp on that, if you can help it.

          Disclaimer: All images in this article were provided by the author.

          {ref: Food-dee-dum}

          Bhutan – In Pursuit Of Happiness

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            By Shahwar Hussain

            B6

             

            “Who gave you the bright idea to travel in Bhutan on a bike now?” I was asked this question a number of times as I travelled through Bhutan in January. I never mentioned that it was my “bright idea!”  It was a right question too. We never saw any other biker in those 10 days that we stayed in the tiny Himalayan Kingdom.  It was bitterly cold!

            The snow took a heavy toll on us and the bikes…the lack of oxygen in the higher altitude made breathing a little difficult for the bikes as well as the riders. They were missing and were having a tough time pulling…I could have set things right by adjusting the mixture screw but didn’t have the courage to take off the gloves.

            Well, snow or rain, I decided that I am going to enjoy my tour of Bhutan. It has been almost 25 years since I had been in the Land Of The Thunder Dragon and this time I intended to travel much more than I did all those years back.

            Jaigaon borders the Bhutanese town of Phuntsholing and it is a typical border town – loud, crowded to the brim and chaotic. After the long stretches of open roads, the last 5 kms to Phuntsholing took us an eternity to cover. We shared the road with overloaded truck, buses and impossibly crowded mini buses with the handyman calling for more passengers and honking like crazy, carts pulled by huge oxen, autos, brightly coloured rickshaws, bicycles and people. It is a wonder how crossing a simple gate leads to a different world altogether…literally.

            B3

            As soon as we crossed the Dragon gate, the cacophony ceased altogether. The traffic moved in an orderly manner, there were no three wheeler, no overloaded trucks and buses and certainly no animals on the road. No one seemed to be in any tearing hurry to get anywhere soon. As we walked down to the immigration office, we were pleasantly surprised to see the cars stop whenever we wanted to crossed the street and we never had to lift our hands to signal the cars to stop like we do here!  And I guess we were the only ones who were honking as we rode on the highway.  Some drivers did give us some dirty looks as we overtook and I wondered why.  But then I realised that we were honking even when they readily let us pass as soon as they saw us in the rear view mirror.  After a few days in the kingdom, we also got used to riding without blowing the horn and in a much disciplined manner. The threat of getting hauled up by the police in a foreign land also turned us into extremely decent riders almost overnight.

            It is absolutely amazing that even in this age of high end technology, Bhutan has, to a very large extent, managed to hold on to its tradition and custom.  One is not allowed into government offices without their traditional attire. We had to sit outside as our agent went into the Home Department and Immigration offices at Phuntsholing and Thimpu to get our travel permits.  The people still greet you in the traditional manner, a handshake and a little bow or with a folded hand greeting. Even at busy shopping centers, the shopkeepers will hand over the money with the left hand supporting by the right hand. It is a humbling experience.

            For more than a millennium, this tiny Himalayan kingdom has lived in isolation. Set in between India and China, the country was given the miss by most travelers both due to its geographical position and by govt. policies. Although this has kept much needed development away, it has also saved the country from the ravages that invariably comes with development.

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            Very often, Bhutan is referred to as the last Shangri-la and with very good reasons too. Almost three quarters of Bhutan is still forested and the Govt. has designated about 25 per cent of this as National Parks and other protected area. The natural beauty is all encompassing mist covered hills, ancient pagodas and monasteries perched on high hills with sheer drops, sacred forests, crystal clear rivers and snow covered high mountain passes.

            After we finished our paper works (permits till Thimpu) we hit the road to Paro.  The roads are wide and very well laid and all along the way we could see personals of BRTF working on the highway. Paro is about 160 kms from Phuntsholing but the journey took at least 3 hours more than what it should have. We couldn’t help but stop every few kilometres. The cameras came out and everyone went click! click! click! The mesmerizing landscapes got the better of us and we decided to let it be that way.

            Paro has the only airport in Bhutan with some good hotels too. Since January is an off season, we got some very good bargains. Motorcyclists are always look for cheap stay options. What we can save on accommodation, we can spend on some fuel and travel for some extra miles!

            Roads in Bhutan were not always this good. Till about the 1960s, when the country started opening up to the outside world, there were no roads, no vehicles, no telephone and electricity. Poverty and illiteracy were very high.  But that is all in the past now.

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            King Jigme Singye Wangchuk, the father of the present King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk, worked hard since his ascent to the throne in 1972 to make the country prosperous. He coined a new and innovative phrase to measure the wealth of his country… ‘Gross National Happiness.’ To outsiders, it might seem a marketing tool but it ain’t.  The men on the street swear by this phrase. Gross National Happiness is after all guided by a set of rules – sustainable development, environmental protection, cultural preservation and good governance. And by the look of it, the monarchy has been able to live up to its own guidelines.

            As we rode ahead of Paro, we saw an example of cultural preservation. We visited the Paro Dzong, the oldest Dzong in Bhutan. It was destroyed in a devastating fire many years ago and lay in ruins. It is now a protected monument and the magnificent ruins stand silently atop a hill and look down to the valley below. One look at the ruins and one is sure to think aloud ‘how on earth did they make this huge structure right out of the cliff?’

            Construction is strictly monitored and is not haphazard.  The administration in our hill stations can surely learn the art of sustainable development from Bhutan.  Logging and mining is at very controlled rate and the only natural resource that Bhutan really seems to have exploited is water, there are a lot of hydropower projects and they sell the power to India.

            Tourism is also a big source of income but the Government has managed to keep cheap tourism out. While Indians pay the normal rates, westerners have to shell out USD250 per day. Although it takes care of the accommodation, food, car rental, guide and sightseeing, it is still on the higher side.  But this also keeps out the unwanted backpacking hordes. Just look what the backpackers did to places like Manali.  They come in hordes, stay in really cheap places and they contaminate more than they contribute to the economy.

            Paro to Thimpu is another stretch of great road. As we entered Thimpu, we became very well behaved. I can’t recall the last time when I rode at such controlled speed for such long distances! Cameras along the highway, Police on bikes ….I didn’t want to take any chances in the Land of Happiness. I didn’t want to be the sad one behind bars!

            Thimpu is just as clean, beautiful and disciplined. Somehow I felt that life here moves as in a conveyer belt, very orderly and in a straight line. But I was wrong to a large extent. The people are extremely fond of their King, enamoured is a better choice of word.  In this 21st century, absolute monarchy does not exist anywhere else. The monarchy is constitutional everywhere as people want more freedom and democracy. But in Bhutan, when King Jigme Singye Wangchuk abdicated his throne in 2006 and bought in democracy, there were people who mourned. They mourned because they could not imagine a life without their beloved King as the absolute leader and also because they were sceptical of the new system of democracy.

            B2

            We did a day trip to Punakha to see the amazing Punakha Dzong. I had seen picture of the Dzong and forever wanted to visit it. It stands in between two rivers and from vantage points, it looks absolutely riveting. When the water rises, the reflection of the white, yellow and burgundy Dzong on the water is something that one can gape at for a very long time.

            The Dzong is huge and houses some Government departments as well as the religious sections. Exploring the Dzong with the heavy boots, jackets and bags sure works up an appetite and at a lovely eatery along the way, we had some red ride, dal, boiled vegetables, beef with cheese and some large pieces of fried pork.  I forgot that tobacco products like cigarettes and zarda are banned in Bhutan and went to a shop to buy cigarettes. A monk with burgundy stained teeth that matches his burgundy robes, smiled and said that a smoke might be relaxing at that moment but it might get me into a lot of tension if I get caught! One can legally import a limited number of smokes but only for personal consumption and after paying a 100 per cent tax. I decided it is not worth the trouble and I can very well stay without a smoke for 10 days.

            Back in Thimpu, we visited the museum which has a very impressive collection of artefacts from a very early period of Buddhism.

            The sun goes down rather early and after dark, there is not much that you can do although there are some lovely restaurants and bars in the city centre. The place abounds in karaoke bars and snooker clubs. We visited some karaoke bars where young girls and boys sang and if you request a song or dance, you will have to shell out. You can sing in some bars and they have a good collection of songs.

            For all the traditional lifestyle that is evident everywhere, I also saw a whole lot of western culture among the younger generation. The Kingdom allowed TV only in 1999 and with half of the 7 lakh population below the age of 25 years; they took to it like fishes to water. MTV culture reigns. I visited a lot of the pagodas and they were full of elderly people going in circles with their prayer wheels, sitting and chanting prayers and spinning huge prayer wheels and some were prostrating continuously….without a break. There were few young people there.

            It has been 8 years or so of democracy now and although the nation has by and large managed to hold on to King Wanchuck’s idea of Gross National Happiness, some evils of modernisation is bound to creep in. that’s inevitable.

            For me, it has been a very Happy tour of Bhutan and it converted me into a much disciplined road user and a responsible citizen too. Riding a motorcycle in Bhutan in Happiness indeed!!

            B4

            It is an amazingly beautiful country. Travel with a sense of responsibility and you will enjoy it immensely. But if you act in an irresponsible and rash manner, the Thunder Dragon will strike you down…Beware!!

            (Read more at http://chainreactionindia.com/)

             

            Travelkhana: Making travelling experience different

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              Jab Bhi Chahiye Badhiya Khana, Call karien TravelKhana!!

              By Sanzeeta

              As I reclined back lazily, after talking to Monica, the spokesperson for Travelkhana.com, I was amused by the emphasis and effort put on the back-end co-ordination for providing on-time fresh food to the traveling customers. Travelkhana took shape to make journey easy and comfortable for train passengers. It is a one-stop online space for booking food, checking for menu, tracking the order and checking time schedules of train too.

              The service is made through partners with hotels or outlets in different cities and towns. It is a model based on “on-wheel meal” by linking passengers and food serving hotels. Travelkhana has both the non-vegetarian and vegetarian meals which suits the taste of every Indian as well as foreign travelers.

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               ‘Customer’s delight’ is the prime concern of travelkhana.com. Travelkhana tracks the train in real time and makes sure that fresh food is made available to the passenger on seat through its vast variety of restaurants on the Indian Railway network. Travelkhana website is user friendly and has easy to follow instructions. To order food the passenger has to select the date of journey, choose restaurant of specific station of choice after which the orders are accepted. The passengers can opt to pay online or by cash on delivery.

              Travelkhana currently operates in 80 cities and is rapidly expanding across the Railway network. Their mission is ‘not to miss-out any customer’. When an order is booked, both the vendor and the customer are confirmed on his bookings. While selecting food vendors, travelkhana ensures that the vendors adheres to timelines for food delivery and have ability to make quality food delivery. Although there are operation challenges in this niche area of online food booking during train journey, there is huge demand for varieties of food ranging. But, passengers are in fact delighted about the online food booking services

              {Check out for booking at www.travelkhana.com}

               

              Manipuri Dish – Ngaren or the Frozen Fish Curry

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                By Sangeeta Nameirakpam

                food1

                Ngaren is yet another dish from Manipur, popular particularly during the winter season, as it traditionally requires some chilling/cooling of the smashed/fragmented fish curry. But nowadays with modern cooling facility (fridge), you can easily set it ( any season) and serve cold with hot rice ! To prepare the dish, I usually use the Rahu fish or the Grass Carp. Here in the picture, I have done with the Grass Carp. For Ngaren or the frozen mashed fish curry, we need to cook the Nga atoiba or the mashed fish curry first and for that the ingredients are listed below :

                Ingredients:

                1. Grass Carp or Rahu 500 gram (cut into small pieces)

                2. One potato medium size (peeled and cut)

                3. One big tomato (sliced)

                4. Green chilies (4-5 ) or Oomorok/ghost chili (1)

                5. One medium onion (thinly sliced)

                6. Chinese chives/maroi nakuppi (few strands, cut into an length)

                7. Garlic & ginger (well chopped,1 tsp each)

                8. Green peas (few)

                9. Bay leaf/ tejpatta ( 1)

                10. Whole jeera and fenugreek seeds (methi) & mustard seeds ( one tsp each)

                11. Turmeric powder & Asafoetida/hing (one tsp each or little more for the turmeric)

                12. Coriander and cumin powder ( one tbsp each)

                13. Red chilli powder and salt to taste

                14. Garam masala or fish masala (2 tsp)

                15. Fresh coriander leaves

                16. Heiribob/ citrus microptera (2 small pieces)

                17. Mustard oil (3 or more tbs approx.)

                18. Ngari/fermented fish (1-2 slightly roasted)

                food 2

                Method:

                Heat the oil in a pan. Add whole jeera, methi & mustard seeds. Allow them to splatter, then add the bay leaves, potatoes, ginger, and garlic and stir till they are light brown. Then add sliced onions, maroi nakupi and sauté for a while. Now add the fish pieces into it. Along goes the turmeric, coriander and cumin powder. Stir and mix well. Then add red chilli powder, ngari and hing . Cook a while and then add the garam masala powder, heiribob, salt and the tomatoes and mix well. Then add water, cover it up and let it simmer for some time. In between, add those green peas, slit green chillies plus the coriander leaves, and cook until you feel its done. One may either have the dish served hot as ‘ Nga Atoiba’/ fragmented fish curry, or else let it cool down and then pour into a bowl and then keep in the fridge to set in. Latter could be eaten as Ngaren/frozen curry with hot rice.

                food

                Note: Again, there may be some ingredients missing and the method may also vary, but this is my version of doing it with the ingredients/raw materials available to me.

                 

                Say YES to NO!!!

                This weekend, my house looks like the setting of an Agatha Christie novel. It is filled with assorted characters that are linked to each other either by blood bonds or by sort of Bluetooth linkage called acquaintance and friends. So this weekend we have in our tiny boxed up three bedroom flat in contrast with the large country manors of Madam Christie’s setting, a sister, her daughter, her daughter’s friend, my batty mom, my sister’s friend , my sister’s friend’s sister, my sister’s estranged husband  and of course yours truly. Phew! That sort of sums up about the residents and the seemingly dispensable characters of my imaginary mystery novel, where I am hoping there is a murder – Mine or maybe I am already dead with exhaustion and fatigue.

                Ours is a typical urban home with just a part time maid for help and where we the ladies of the house- spelled me and my sister are the major home makers. Managing a place housing eight residents for two days is the last thing on earth that I would call fun. Weekends when I do not have to work are rare, my job being the guilty party here and Saturdays and Sundays are such days when I have huge expectations from life to sleep till late, have a leisurely bath and lunch and just relax watching silly Abhishek Bachchan comedy movies. However such dream weekends are rare, very rare for me- the frequency being one such weekend in say two months maybe.

                So you can imagine my frame of mind this weekend, cooking, cleaning, and washing and ah! The hardest part – entertaining our guests with a sweet smile and as if that wasn’t enough, the deadline of an article for the e zine looming near on the horizon. Add to that, requests pinging continuously in the phone to check the latest statuses, latest posts and the latest pictures of friends and foes (in the garb of friends) alike in Facebook. And hence I am in stress; my mind is in stress trying to grasp and bring under control things that ironically are slipping away through my fingers, out of my grasp. So while I beat the eggs, my mind is on the article that I have to submit; I think of the evening meal’s menu as I play badminton with the two kids and I am urgently thinking up of an excuse to cancel the plans of shopping with the two sisters guests, all the while as I attempt to strike up a normal conversation with my brother in law.

                So how did I end up in such a situation? Well it ended up so because of my- our inability to say NO.

                My brother in law said he would like to come visit his daughter – We felt morally obliged to say YES

                My sister’s friend announced they were coming this weekend- My sister did not have the heart to say -No. Cancel it.

                My editor said she was waiting for my piece – It hurt my pride to say I was incapacitated that week.

                And what resulted were stress and more stress. I feel cranky as you can sense from whatever you are reading. I am dying to get some sleep and quiet. My muscles are screaming with fatigue- both the muscles of the limbs and the lips due to excessive forced smiling. No doubt the soye huye aatmas or the sleeping dead of hindi horror movies become so testy when they are awakened from their eternal sleep. Who wouldn’t be?

                But mercy fully, I have crossed the 500 words limit of this post, which sort of marks this as a fully fledged post. Yes I am winding it up here because I do not want to continue. I can’t. There I said it. And guess what! I feel better. I feel much better saying I cannot do it. See, we will have to get rid of our superman super-women complexes someday if we are to wish for a better life. Some where we have to draw the line and say No, we cannot when you know you really cannot. This is not quitting, this is just-knowing your limitations. And the hell! If it is called quitting! Does it matter? Does it matter more than our well being? I would rather be a survivor than a non quitter.  I would rather say NO, feel sane, be at peace and live to tell the tale happily later on. So is it yes or is it a No?

                miss

                Life in 64 squares

                – Rajashree Bhattacharyya

                “Chess is life in miniature. Chess is struggle, Chess is battles.”

                These are the famous words of Russian Grand Master Gary Kasparov. Guwahati witnessed some intense battle for glory at the recently concluded 1st RGS International Rating Chess Tournament (under 2200 rating) in Guwahati. The 10 round Swiss League event was hosted at Royal Global School, a state of the art premium educational institution with a range of world class sporting facility from 23rd – 28th March 2014.

                With a total Prize fund of Rs 5,0,1500/- this is the biggest ever International Rating event organised in the North east till date. Altogether 214 players from across the country including 4 players from Srilanka and 5 players from Nepal participated in this event.

                Y Dhanabir Singh of Manipur emerged as the champion and pocketed Rs 1,00,000/- (one lakh rupees) and the Championship trophy. Dhanabir scored 9 points out of a maximum possible 10 and emerged clear champion with a half point margin from Debasish Mukherjee of West Bengal who was adjusted 1st runners up and awarded Rs 50,000/- . Former Assam champion Rajib Dhar managed to secure the 3rd position by defeating the top seed of the tournament M. Deepthamsh Reddy of Andhra Pradesh in the final round and pocketed Rs 30,000/- in cash. Pinky Karmakar, a community sports worker and London 2012 Olympic Torch Bearer was felicitated by AKSHAYAM at the opening ceremony of the event.

                Yohan J vs. Dhanabir

                For organisers ASSAM CHESS CLUB, which is the Chess unit of AKSHAYAM, an NGO for the cause of promotion of sports, culture and tourism, this was the second major International Chess tournament since 2006. Back then Grand Master Abhijit Kunte won the title and a cash prize of rupees one lakh.

                Talking about the genesis Biswajit Bharadwaj, President of Assam Chess Club, emphasises that Assam and the Northeast need to host a lot of competitions in Chess just for the sake of providing quality exposure to its local players. Chess is popular, no doubt, but it fails to hold the attraction after a point for many players because of lack of opportunity in terms of local competitive platform and also sponsors. So the mission is to make the game accessible to as many as possible and organise tournaments in ample. In this event alone, 5 promising players from the northeast earned FIDE (World Chess Federation) recognition or rating. This is a great achievement because these players managed this performance playing their first ever internationally recognised event. From the logistic and economic perspective too, it was a win-win situation for them.

                From 2006 to date Assam Chess Club has achieved considerable success in taking chess to school and managing tie-ups with clubs and organisations like Guwahati Town Club and Aarohan (A project of Bhabendra Nath Saikia Children Welfare Trust).

                Top 10 Prize winners:

                1. Y Dhanabir Singh of Manipur (9 points)
                2. Debasish Mukherjee of West bengal (8.5 points)
                3. Rajib Bhar of Assam (8 points)
                4. Santu Mondal of ITAX (8 points)
                5. Sekar B of TN (7.5 points)
                6. Navalgund Niranjan of TN (7.5 points)
                7. Debaditya Biswas Sinha of WB (7.5 points)
                8. Sauravh Khherdekar of Maharashtra (7.5 points)
                9. Khumukcham Sanjoy Singh of Manipur (7.5 points)
                10. Rakesh Kumar Jena of Odisha (7.5 points)

                Best Assam Players:

                1. Santanu Borpatra Gohain (6.5 points)
                2. Projit Phukon (6.5 points)
                3. Cheniram Pegu (6.5 points)
                4. Rakesh Chakravorty (6 points)

                Best Guwahati Players:

                1. Deba Kumar Das (6 points)
                2. Sahjahan Ali (5.5 points)
                3. Pranab Kumar Nath (5.5 points)
                4. Chingkhei Singh (5.5 points)

                Best Girl Player: Bidisha Sarma (5 points)

                 

                Fernando Aguilera – Dance and Dreams

                The first time I watched ballet was in Doordarshan, when there was a sort of cultural exchange with the then USSR and the ballet was a part of that goodwill gesture. It was Swan Lake on TV and synchronized gymnastics in my mind and heart. Yes my heart did multiple somersaults as the lithe and graceful dancers pirouetted and glided in the beautiful sets donning their dazzling tutus. I wanted to do it too, I could have probably, given the chance because they say I have a knack and the grace for dance and rhythm; The age was right too- six or maybe seven, except there was no ballet school during my times.

                1399158_10201156058046810_1445776646_o

                Decades later, I again searched for a ballet school, this time for my daughter. There were not many choices even then, but they existed and that is when the name Imperial Fernando Ballet Company came up -The only preparatory and performing ballet company in India. Well there lied the problem. There were teachers, great ones, who trained young ones in this particular form, but they did not perform in a company. And there were dance companies but they were not preparatory in the real sense, where as Mr Fernando , the multifaceted as well as multi talented director of IFBC puts it, one needs to nurture a dancer right from the initial stage and let it take shape like a tree gradually.

                1498125_10201156066487021_1279376247_o

                After witnessing his method and ideas for teaching the little ones the classical ballet , I was intrigued. Ballet was going to be my feature for Fried Eye I decided. Mr Fernando Aguilera graciously agreed to meet up. However there were some delays initially but we finally met in his studio at Green Park Delhi.

                I was a bit anxious about the impending interview- Will the desi me, able to make an impact on the Argentine Mr Aguilera, who was the artistic director of the top ballet school and company in India?

                015

                He was charming and I was completely at ease when he apologized for the postponement of the first meeting because of a shoot of a movie in Mumbai. Happy New Year! He was doing a part of a ballet teacher in the movie Happy New Year with Shah Rukh Khan. “I am playing Shah Rukh Khan’s ballet teacher in the movie”

                “And can he do the ballet dance?” I had asked. He just smiled, amused, his eyes twinkling in a mischievous delight and I knew then that this was going to be a delightful conversation.

                I asked him about IFBC’s origins, which already had me wondering a lot , as Mr Aguilera was an accomplished ballet dancer in Argentina , had performed in many cities and was already teaching in his own school so I was curious why finally India?

                “Even I am not sure why I came here” he replied with a soft laugh and then the stories poured forth. In 1997 he was here as a tourist and whenever he used to say that he was a ballet dancer to people out here, the invitations to teach would follow next. Those times as I have said, seriously lacked qualified ballet teachers. With so many requests from every quarters especially from the wife of Argentina’s ambassador herself, he initially conducted a two day workshop, which unexpectedly was a huge success. They wanted more, and he saw a potential, a challenge. Ballet with a background of Italy , France and Russia was a new concept in India. As familiar as we might be about Indian classical dances and its historical value, people here were completely unaware about the classical ballet, and Mr Aguilera saw a blank page where he could paint his own beautiful picture, create his destiny and this is how IFBC came to be -to train and turn out some of the finest dancers and performances.

                Though he wished for a six month work visa in the beginning, the embassy however granted him a year to set shop and now when someone asks –where are you from, he proudly replies – “From India”

                017

                 

                Enrolments were never a problem.. But he had to start from scratch literally, starting from even getting the tutus for the students, teaching French as all the terms used in ballet were French. But there was never a dearth of assignments even then. He taught pupils who aspired to take up dance as their career helping them to get into universities in Princeton and in London. He taught Ashley Lobo, the noted choreographer and the instructors of his school. He got invitations to choreograph corporate events and that is when he met Mohd Rafi, his present business partner, a young dynamic man who plays an active role in managing the business side, expansion and the marketing of IFBC. It was just the support that Mr Fernando needed then to take over the almost non-existent ballet scenario in Delhi by storm with almost no sponsors but just their own money.

                “We are artists you know . We don’t know how to sell ourselves. I love what I am doing – teaching. So I just come and teach!” Though he confirmed it later, I was sure by then that he loved teaching more than any of the roles of a dancer and choreographer.

                With Rafi joining him, things started happening at a fast pace. More centers came up , shows, sponsors, events, workshops followed with even films happening.

                 

                Corporate events helped them sustain as well as expand other than being creatively very challenging. “They know I am very expensive, but the kind of shows I do, nobody can do. They are different with different style of choreography. And I do fusions- ballet with traditional kathak, bharat natyam, contemporary”

                Now they get invitations from all over India and from as far as Dubai to open centers- potential investors and sponsors, but Mr Fernando pragmatically chose to go slow at a pace that is manageable.

                048

                “It is not about what I want…It is a matter of time. I have to take care because if everything goes commercial, the artist part is gone..Its two years since I have been moving a lot between Mumbai and Delhi …and you have to make a lot of sacrifices” He has been getting many offers from Bollywood , a fact which he credits to Rafi for his never ending efforts to promote IFBC. Though a fully fledged number on the classical ballet will take time, but a lift here, pirouettes and twirls are making themselves seen in the upcoming numbers. “ Bollywood is very closed , very  traditional, but some day I hope there is a ballet number. That is my idea”

                Though he got offers to be on realty shows, he let them pass as he saw that the institute would have to be put in the back burner due to the full time involvement. His heart lay with his students. He personally instructed his instructors on how to instruct and teach the young students. “ I teach them , train them how to teach these girls, how to go to the next level, because I want them to be like me”

                Mr Fernando believes in letting the students know the intricacies about each movement and posture ,- why they are doing so, the meaning behind each of the movement, how it should be done for the perfect grace-rather than just teaching them mechanically .

                Contrary to what most believe, this is an art form that provides immense opportunities as a career –whether as a dancer, teacher or a choreographer. “If one goes outside to learn the ballet it would have taken him or her 6 years, so I bring the ballet here” Many from abroad had tried after him to come here and settle to teach but they usually went back after a few months.

                He also joked that since most of the time here in India people are celebrating something or the other however minor it may be, it gave him a lot of opportunity for creativity as there was always one or the other event to choreograph”

                He teaches them to be a dancer in spirit as well as follow a strict daily regime of health and practice . “To be a professional dancer one has to be a dancer in the mind, because saying I am a dancer is not easy. It’s all about training, more training, discipline and commitment to the art. You have to practice every day and not pursue it as a hobby with two classes every week” This was difficult initially to incorporate into the students because of the existing ideas, but with time it became easier to make them understand about the diet and the appearance part. ( yes, one has to be particular about them too)

                ifbc

                “ But the students here are very respectful and obedient. This is the best thing about them. I have been here since last fifteen years and I know I have to be here for many years..I can’t just leave and go after all the commitment I have made.. I can see my dancers growing with my classes and this is satisfaction.”

                I came back pleased feeling closer to my dream, of a day when ballet will be a house hold term. It may have Italian origins , but it is beautiful to say the least and I respect the art equally as I respect our own pride – the Indian classical dance forms, for dance is universal!

                 

                 

                Ballet Window bw copy copy

                Pic Courtesy – IFBC

                5 Indian Biopics I Want To Watch On Silver Screen

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                  Let’s face it, Bollywood filmmakers have not been able to treat a biopic properly since the last hundred odd years. Well it’s not that they haven’t tried, some films even came close to being called a proper biopic. ‘Paan Singh Tomar’ was one of the very good ones, ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’ came close but the vain attempt to make it commercial at the same time, killed the essence of the film. Well box office collections and the award show organizers will beg to differ with me on this, but let them beg, who cares!…Over the years, Filmmakers in Bollywood have tried three different formulas while approaching a bio-pic, but never treated it like one. A lot of those were commercially successful like ‘Dirty Picture’, but they lacked good screenwriting, treatment of the lead character and ended up just as a gimmicky run of the mill film ‘inspired’ by someone’s life
                  I love watching biopics, not because I am that overtly intellectual snob who takes inspirations (claims to) from others life and try to apply in his own life, but for some completely different reasons. Biopics make a real life turn into fantasy, and I am a sucker for fantasies. It shows the different layers in someones character and it tests the acting capabilities of an actor, to literally get into someones shoes. I don’t watch biopics for the stories, I watch biopics for the acting. Some of my favorite biopics would be ‘Bronson’, ‘Capote’ (long live PSH), ‘Finding Neverland’, ‘The Doors’, ‘Ed Wood’, ‘Malcolm X’, the list would just go on. But we are here to talk about the five Hindi Biopics, that I want to watch on silver screen. Well, in the next couple of years, we will have at least three sports biopics coming our way. The Mary Kom one, the one on Azharuddin’s life and the biopic of the legendary Dhyanchand. I would love to watch all the three movies, especially the Dhyanchand one. But my list doesn’t feature them. Before we start getting to the list, I would like to mention that this is not a top five list, It’s just my personal wishlist of five eminent personalities…
                  5. GURU DUTT..Who better than the Indian ‘Orson Welles’ to start with. A man born before time, a visionary director, a passionate lover, a loyal friend and India’s first celebrity who od’ed. What more do you need from this story.Set in the backdrop against a post World War II Indian glam industry, this biopic will very well cover the ups and downs of his life as a director, his relationship with Geeta Dutt and the alleged affair with Waheeda Rehman, his friendship with Dev Anand and the alcohol and substance abuse which eventually led to his death. A noir treatment will add to the film.
                  Dream Cast Abhay Deol as Gurudutt/ Deepika Padukone as Waheeda Rehman/ Jimmy Shergill as Dev Anand/ Rani Mukherjee as Geeta Dutt/Arundhati Nag as Vasanthi Padukone (his mother)
                  Dream director
                  Mani Ratnam. period. Guru was as close as it can get.
                  4. SANJAY GANDHIhttp://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/a/ac/Sanjay_Gandhi.jpgThe prodigal son, the future leader prospect, the cunning politician, the entrepreneur, the assassination attempt, the reforms and the film controversy and the untimely death (allegedly a sabotage). That’s a Frederick Forsyth novel on your plate.

                  The film can start in the backdrop of the pre-emergency period with him working at Rolls-Royce. It can cover his pilot’s training, starting of Maruti Udyog and planning the Indian middle-class car, marrying Maneka Gandhi, entering hardcore politics with the emergency and outshining Indira Gandhi, running the sterilization program, getting imprisoned for ‘Kissa Kursi Ka’, assasination attempt, him getting elected as the secretary general of congress party, to his death a month later in a copter crash. Just add a conspiracy theory and it is a political thriller.

                  Dream cast

                  Akshay Khanna as Sanjay Gandhi/ Divya Datta as Indira Gandhi/ Benaf Dadachandji as Maneka Gandhi/ Rahul Bose as Rajeev Gandhi/ Amit Sadh as Bansi Lal

                  Dream director

                  Shoojit Sircar. He nailed it in Madras Cafe…

                   

                   


                  3. SHAKUNTALA DEVI

                  Our very own John Nash, Mathematics genius, child prodigy, Guiness book of world record holder, author and the pioneer of homosexuality studies in India. This one is a national award winning role if done properly.

                  This biopic will have to cover huge time span from a pre-independent India to the new millenium. It should start at her fathers circus where he was a trapeze artist, lion tamer, rope walker and a magician, where she memorised a card game at the age of three. Her dad’s roadshows with her, performing at Mysore university at the age of six, them moving to London,her Europe tour, coming back, marrying the advocate, performance at NYC, divorce,  Guiness book of world records and the piece on her by Arthur Jensen, her fight for decriminalizing homosexuality. The film has the spices of a brilliant biopic using the narrative style.

                  Dream cast

                  Tabu as Shakuntala Devi

                  Dream director
                  R.Balki.

                   

                  2. RAVI SHANKAR

                   
                  A brilliant musician with four different ladies in his life. Mind blowing backdrop for a musical biopic. 

                  The film can cover his growing up years when his dad left their family, his relationship with dancer brother Uday Shankar, training from Ustaad Allauddin Khan to marrying his daughter Annapurna Devi, separation, relationship with Kamala Shastri and later Sue Jones revolving around his different tours and then marrying Sukanya Rajan and relationship with his two daughters. A tale of Love &andpassion in the backdrop of music.

                  Dream Cast

                  Ranvir Shorey as Ravi Shankar/ Konkona as Annapurna Devi/ Kalki Koechlin as Sue Jones/ Revathy as Sukanya Rajan/ Isha Sharvani as Kamala Shastri

                  Dream director

                  Mahesh Bhatt

                   

                  1. AMRITA PRITAM

                  Romance cant ever be better than this. One of the best poets in India with three love stories in her life and her words which can kill and make you feel alive at the same time.

                  Set in the backdrop of the pre independent India, her first collection of romantics poems, marrying Pritam Singh, moving on to social causes, career in All India Radio, relationship with Sahir Ludhianvi, her work during partition, divorcing Pritam Singh and love life with Imroz, numerous awards and the play based on her by M.S. Sathyu. The film can be narration through M.S. Sathyu and should finish at the screening of Ek thee amrita. A very poetic screenplay with some amazing music.

                  Dream cast

                  Raveena Tandon as Amrita Pritam/ Kay Kay Menon as Sahir Ludhianvi/ Jackie Shroff as Imroz/ Rajit Kapoor as M.S.Sathyu/ Parmeet Sethi as Pritam Singh

                  Dream director

                  Vishal Bhardwaj

                   

                  AND MANY MORE

                  While writing this, there are so many other personalities which came in my mind but I could put them in the most-wanted list. Want to mention five among those names…

                  6. Prannoy Roy: A man who made news out of news. A biopic seriously needed for the ‘Television personality of the millenium’.

                  7. Rekha: The queen bee of Indian film industry

                  8. P.C Sorcar: The king of Indian magic

                  9. Tenzing Norgay: Aint no mountain high enough for the most popular Sherpa

                  and

                  10. Mughal emperor Aurangzeb: The most power hungry human being born on Indian soil.

                  That sums up my list. To all the readers, I want to mention that this is a list based on what I feel and its totally my perspective. Well you might like a movie made on Akash Chopras life for all that matters,  but this list is MINE and I demand to watch these personalities on screen. So please inform your filmmaker friends to go through my list very carefully if they are short of any ideas. Just let them know, I would charge a meager five percent of the story fee as concept charge. Until then, this viking is signing off with a thought worth pondering over.

                  ” Melody itna chocolaty kyun hai bhai”?

                   

                  [The writer is Mumbai-based entertainment professional and Creative Director of Mango People Media. He can be reached at @Victionary on Twitter]

                  Hot and Spicy Mutton Curry

                    2

                    By Debajyoti Bordoloi

                     

                    mutton 015

                     

                    Ingredients:

                     

                    • Mutton- 1 kg (mixed pieces) + 30 gm. fat (extra). Cleaned, washed and dried. They were hanged for around 3 hours using a cotton cloth to drain the extra water so that the moistened meat pieces are ready.
                    • Onion – 1 kg. Julienned + 1 cup grated/ pureed.
                    • Fresh Ginger & Garlic paste- 1 tsp each.
                    • Raw Papaya – 3 tbsp (grated).
                    • Lemon Juice – 2 tsp.
                    • Coriander seeds, cumin seeds, star anise, cinnamon, dry red chilies, green cardamoms, cloves, bay leaves  (quantities ***), all dry roasted and grounded – 2 tsp or so.
                    • Kashmiri Mirch powder- 1 tbsp.
                    • One roasted tomato- peeled and pureed.
                    • Bunch of coriander stems, approx ½ inch of fresh ginger, 4-5 garlic cloves and a green chili – all grounded together with a pinch of salt (approx 2-3 tbsp).
                    • Mustard Oil (250 ml), Turmeric Powder (1 tsp or so), Salt (to taste) and Sugar (1 tsp).
                    • Black cardamom-2 pieces
                    • Crushed Black peppercorns- 1 tsp.

                     

                    Procedure:

                     

                    • The dried mutton pieces (and the extra fat) were thoroughly mixed with 1 cup grated onion, fresh ginger-garlic paste, raw grated papaya, lemon juice, turmeric powder, salt, red chili powder and 2 tbsp of mustard oil. Now, keep it refrigerated overnight in a tightly closed container (minimum 6 hours of keeping it marinated is essential for a better taste).
                    • Heated approx. 200 ml of mustard oil (piping hot) in a karahi, put a spoonful of sugar and the black cardamoms. When the sugar is caramelized, put in the julienned onions and fried until golden brown.
                    • When the onions were really done well, put the marinated mutton in and stir well for a proper mixing. After around 10-15 minutes of frying on medium flame, when the juices start coming out, put in the rest of the coriander stem-green chili-ginger-garlic paste, roasted tomato puree and the roasted powdered spices.
                    • After around 30 minutes, the mutton is almost fried, coated with all the ingredients, the fat started melting, the meat getting a nice color and absorbing the juices, add approx. 2 cups of lukewarm water at this point and also put in the kashmiri mirch powder (dissolve it in enough water so as to avoid any lump).
                    • Put a lid on the pan (should be leak proof to arrest steam from escaping) and simmer for around 45 more minutes.
                    • Check if the meat is tender; bring the flame to high once and put in some crushed black peppercorns (approx. 1 tsp.) and enough chopped green coriander leaves. Check the salt content and drizzle few drops of lemon juice, if you want, which will elevate the taste more.
                    • Hot and spicy mutton curry is ready to be served with rotis/ fulkas or steamed rice.

                     

                    *** I make this spice mix usually and store for regular uses. One tbsp of each of cumin and coriander seeds, black peppercorns, couple of dry red chilies and bay leaves, 1 inch cinnamon stick , one star anise ,a few green cardamoms and cloves dry roasted on a pan and then ground to powder.  Use it to your taste and store the rest tightly closed.

                    Kaleidoscope- Different Strokes for Different Folk, a book review

                      0

                      Article by Sanhita Baruah

                      Title: Kaleidoscope- Different Strokes for Different Folks             book review

                      Published by: Parlance Publishers Pvt. Ltd.

                      Genre: Various

                      Price: 150 INR

                      No. of Pages: 250

                      Launched in: 25 May 2013

                      Rate: 3.5/5

                      Springtide, an online English youth magazine in association with Parlance Publishers, organized a contest inviting Indian writers to submit their short stories on any specific genre. The contest went on for the entire month of April’13 and more than 1150 entries were received to be judged by Ashwin Sanghi, one of the country’s bestselling conspiracy fiction writers. The results were announced by the second week of May declaring the top 25 writers whose stories were later published in the anthology “Kaleidoscope: Different Strokes for Different Folks”.

                      The anthology begins with ‘The Hunter’, a short-story written by Dr. Vivek Banerjee, the winner of the contest mentioned above. The writing is flawless and the story is cleverly written, first indicating a different end for the characters while giving the story a contrary end, an unexpected twist. Other factors that make the story the best are the well-justified conversation between the central characters of the story, the thoughts of the protagonist, i.e., the hunter arising aptly at situations, the flow of the story and the good narration that keeps the reader glued to the pages.

                      Next, in the anthology, comes Deboshree Bhattacharjee’s ‘The House’. Although the beginning of the story is appealing, a raring reader might lose his reasons of reading the story in the middle, but only to get to the beautiful yet tragic ending which makes the read worthwhile. The story somehow reminded me of the short stories our English textbooks contained delivering a message in the end.

                      Tale of the Knitting Yarn is a sad story written by Nabanita Dhar about an optimist and perseverant Shreya who waits patiently for her husband Ashish to return from the war he had been fighting for the country. No, he doesn’t die fighting the war as a reader might expect in such scenarios. But the ironic end to the story surely makes the reader sigh at the way fate acts.

                      Renuka Vishwanathan’s ‘Voice Male’ is a “love” (notice the quotes) story which is totally out of the box with an end that one might not expect even in his wildest of dreams. It indeed leaves the reader uttering “gee” for the protagonist.

                      ‘The Domino Effect’ by Deepa Duraisamy is a story involving various characters and incidences weaved by the fact that one action leads to another and that the consequences of a impish school-going girl not helping a blind woman on the road might be as huge as averting a major catastrophe in just four hours.

                      Then there comes the spooky story, ‘The Hike to the Temple’ by Prasanna Rao where a small group of archaeologists visit a haunted temple as part of their research. The factor that made this story be in the top 25 is the way the story unfurls and the reader’s lips form a giant ‘O’ as the ending is revealed. One might even read the story twice just to confirm the fact that he couldn’t guess the ending in spite of reading each sentence minutely.

                      Vaibhav Mukim’s ‘Food’ is a science fiction divided into seven scenes and while all readers may not comprehend it clearly, the writer deserves a pat on the back for presenting the story in a unique manner and for his capability of imagination and the different outlook given to death and immortality.

                      ‘Happy Puppet’ is a story very beautifully written by Bhavya Kaushik. With a nice flow, the story manages to make drops of tear trickle down from the eyes of the reader. Unlike the name, it begins on a sad note and ends with a sadder one.

                      Garima Nowal’s ‘The White Dress’ is a wonderful story of a girl who considered herself unlucky for various reasons. The story seems to be a simple fairy-tale at the beginning but the way the entire story takes a different turn just by adding that one last sentence in the end is where all the beauty of writing lies.

                      Rafaa Dalvi’s ‘Karma is a bitch’ may not be his best of works but the story surely is different and erotic at times. Although the title reveals the message of the story, the story manages to leave a chill through your spine as it reveals its supernatural tinge.

                      ‘Redemption’ by Harihar Adarsh is an amazing story that takes you to the ancient times where kings ruled and magic existed. A story well-weaved, it leaves the message that it isn’t any king or immortality or power, but love which conquers all.

                      ‘The Last Date’ by Sarvana Kumar Murugan revolves around a couple who faces the anger of a person whose love was unrequited, in the worst form humanely possible. The theme and concept of the story is commendable but a more fluent narration would have made the story much better altogether.

                      Khushi Gupta, a minor, writes ‘I Love You Too’ in a much more sensible way than expected from writers of her age. A feel-good story leaving a message to all those who fear to speak up their heart, it also leaves a smile on the reader’s face.

                      Nehali Lalwani’s ‘Alive Inside’ gives that eerie feeling while reading the story that you know something isn’t right but you don’t know what. Nevertheless, it ends on a good note no matter how scary.

                      ‘Theory of Evolution’ by Balaganesh Pitchai, an intelligently devised and well written story, gives a whole new point of view to look at the planet Earth and its dwellers.

                      ‘’I’ Operated’ is the description of an operation keeping the patient, a sixteen-year old girl as the narrator, composed poignantly by Smriti Mahale.

                      Parul Tyagi’s ‘The Star that Shines on me’ is a mind-blowing story of a Muslim woman abandoned by her husband to live with her four children. Sometimes there is more than what meets the eye. In the same way, the protagonist has more courage and secrets than what we expect from a poverty-stricken burqa-clad conservative woman.

                      Anurag Bhatt’s ‘The boy who sold books’ is an inspirational story and reminds us of the importance of education and how few children do not get the privilege of going to school.

                      ‘Chaos’ by Rahul Biswas is again another gem in this collection. A wonderful story about terrorism, bomb blasts and a police inspector, it will remind you of all those Bollywood movies about patriotism (or rather the opposite) that contain a lot of action and twists. The climax surely makes you say “wow” as you flip through the pages.

                      ‘Secret of the Murderous Woods’ by Sanhita Baruah (that’s me) is a story involving two friends, a murder and a secret. You can send your feedbacks at sanhitabaruah@gmail.com

                      Aman Mathur writes ‘First Contact’ based on a futuristic view of the Universe in the year 2213. It is a brilliantly ex cogitated story involving a whole new idea of extraterrestrials and an ending with the human protagonist quoting an ironic phrase.

                      Shishir Dhingra’s ‘The Journey of my Life’ is a simple love story written in a beautiful way, not the author’s best work though. Yet, the impact of this piece of work remains as the conversation and the way the boy proposes his feelings is fascinating.

                      ‘The Unknown Destination’ by Aniruddh Naik takes you from an e-mail at the present age to the medieval ages when Chandragupta Maurya had ruled and then leaves you pondering about curses, prophecies, secret societies and tantra.

                      ‘Crazy Scarf’ is a sweet story written by ‘Prabhat Singh’ about love at first sight but from a different perspective and the protagonist here is a little one (literally) and one has to read it to find out more.

                      This diverse collection of 25 stories ends with Ayush Agarwal’s story of love that can drive you mad titled ‘When Love Oozed Out Blood’ with three main characters in a love-triangle but not necessarily the way one expects. The vicious scene in the beginning of this story is the show-stealer. The ending is sad and it leaves a message for our society indicating that a change is required in our thinking.

                      As a whole, this anthology of 250 pages proves to be a nice read for those who love to read stories of various genres. All the stories are good, albeit some are better than the others but none leaves you uninterested.

                       

                      Surovi Sishu Panchayat – Being the change

                      Logo of SuroviEverybody talks about change; about bringing about a change in the society they live in, the necessity of change as well as endless suggestions and ideas- that could change your life- to change everything around them, everything but themselves. However, how many people do we see actually making that effort to bring about some changes in the environment they live in? Mostly, we only see people complaining about the ‘system’ and always holding someone else responsible for making things right. Rarely do we find people like Rihan Ali and his platoon of youngsters- the Surovi Sishu Panchayat of Guwahati, Assam who take it upon themselves to literally ‘be the change they want to see’.

                      Rihan Ali  33 year old Rihan had been associated with social work since as long as he could      remember. In 1981, his father had established Manab Sewa Sangha, an NGO dedicated to  the service of people, true to its name. Rihan grew up being associated with this NGO as  a volunteer and helped his father conduct different activities of Manab Sewa Sangha.

                      It was in 2007 while volunteering in a project organized by UNICEF, Assam, Rihan came  across an eight year old girl child in a destitute home at Jalukbari, Guwahati, who was  allegedly brought illegally, without a Visa from Bangladesh by her own parents, who fled  the scene when they were caught, leaving their young daughter’s fate in the hands of the  Assam Police, who handed her over to the destitute home. She never understood why she  was separated from her family; neither did she understand why she was made to live  among unknown people in an unknown place. Her parents never returned. Her story struck  a chord in Rihan’s heart and he pledged to work for children like her, who were exploited  and forced to spend a desolate childhood. He realized that children too, like everybody  else, had rights, which they were not even aware of.

                      A Participant making his drawing practices during SUROVI Literacy & Personality Development Program on April 9, 2011 in the Hajongbori Anganwadi Centre-2 at Hajongbori Village Chandrapur. (1)In 2009, in association with Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti in Guwahati, Rihan organized a summer camp for school children, in which many students were given training in personality development and other basic skills. Most of these children were from marginalized backgrounds. During the same time Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti had also started a few children’s panchayats in Tinsukia and Dibrugarh, in association with Kasturba Gandhi Memorial Trust, Assam Branch. Following suit, and with guidance and help from the same, Rihan started Surovi Sishu Panchayat by bringing together a few of the young people he met at the summer camp.

                      On 8th July, 2009, Surovi was formally launched. However, they had to start, with practically no funds. With whatever little Rihan could manage on his own, they began to conduct small awareness programmes, took care of drop-out students and taught them in the space outside the schools. Besides child issues, they also tried to raise awareness and generate action on several societal and environmental issues like the cleanliness of public places and tourist spots.

                      SUROVI members on for their Campus Cleaning program guided by Islam Ali at Kherbari Madrassa premises of Agaon Village However, finding no response from the respective authorities and committees responsible for  accomplishing such tasks, Rihan along with his squad of Surovi Sishu Panchayat, decided to step  onto the field themselves. They started taking out cleaning sprees in these locations, on their own.  These continued for two months continuously. From streets to parks to tourist spots and other  public places, they started moving from place to place, giving ‘makeovers’ to these places as well  as attracting the attention of the public, some of whom started to step forward in their support.

                       

                      In a Shiva temple at Panikhaiti, Tamulbari, a very disgusting thing was seen happening. People, who seemed to have lost all kinds of civic sense, were seen to use the temple compound as toilets and relieve themselves when nature called. Without caring a pinch about the religious issues or anything else for that matter, Rihan and the kids started to clean the temple compound every day. Gradually, people stopped messing up the place and the authorities too came forward to help in the preservation of the place. Soon, Surovi also got permission to develop the compound of the temple as a park, which is now known as the ‘Surovi Park’.

                      Inauguration of Surovi Park by guestsThe park was inaugurated in February, 2011 by Manoj Rastogi- founder of Indian CSR network, Biplab Coudhury- Associate Professor in the Centre for Journalism and Mass Communication, Visva-Bharati, Santiniketan, West Bengal and Mater Del Pe, world renowned life mentor and modern sage.

                      Surovi is not simply about bringing about changes in the society, but an important aspect of it is the huge change that has been seen to be brought in the lives of the children of Surovi Sishu Panchayat ever since they have joined the panchayat. From being passive participants in the society, these children have been able to come up to the forefront, develop confidence and an identity of their own, and making a mark which promises them of a bright future.

                      I have been associated with Surovi since 2010. It has given me the opportunity to explore my talents and shortcomings. The qualities of leadership which I have learnt through Surovi’s programmes have enabled me to become an important part of my village. The people come to me and seek my help when they are in trouble or when any disputes occur in my village. Surovi has given me a new identity and I am very thankful to our volunteer sir Rihan for letting me to be the member.” says Islam, a student of Class XII.  “Last week I helped a pregnant woman while she delivered her child in the hospital as neither her husband nor any of their family members knew how to deal with the legal proceedings of the hospital. I even donated my blood as some complications had taken place. It feels great to be the reason of other’s happiness.” he continues.

                      Priyanka Chettry, another young member of Surovi, also has similar experiences to share. She says, “I was a shy, unconfident, passive school girl. But after my association with Surovi I am not the same girl. I am confident enough to address a gathering and I can actively participate with the matters concerning my locality. Surovi has given me the platform to explore my talents. It has helped me to be an extrovert and most importantly it has helped me to understand the real motto of my life. I’ve learned here to balance my social life along with my studies. In my XIIth board exam I was able to secure distinction marks. It was quite surprising for everyone because I was a mediocre student and when they asked me that how I managed all that I proudly replied that undoubtedly the hard work was mine but my source of inspiration was Surovi. Surovi has not only helped me to be socially active but it has also given me an opportunity to explore my other side.”

                      Master Del Pe himself and S A Dayal CEO of Manab Sewa Sangha jointly presenting the Momento of World Talent Bank Initiative by Master Del Pe Foundation to SUROVI A major turning point for Surovi came when UNICEF came forward with a Media Literacy  Programme for young children, in which the children from Surovi participated. Under the guidance of  UNICEF volunteers, they came up with their first publication- ‘Mukta Akash’, a news journal, which  was completely participatory as a medium for the children, of the children and by the children.

                      Soon, they were noticed by the members of The Peace Gong, which is an initiative of the Gurudev  Rabindranath Tagore Foundation, New Delhi. The Peace Gong is a global children’s newspaper  aimed at giving young children a platform to write and develop understanding of issues of social concern, thus encouraging and preparing them to contribute towards a culture of peace and nonviolence through media literacy. The members of Surovi also became the first bureau of Peace Gong in Assam. It was through Peace Gong that Surovi gained more publicity and popularity, which meant more funds and support started flowing in. Today, Surovi has about 200 young children as its members.

                      Rihan Ali sharing veiws with the Executive of the Akhil Bharatiya Marwari Mahila Sammelan, Dispur Branch while presenting 30 T-Shirts and Green Caps to SUROVI members for their achievmentsIf we have to deepen our democracy in today’s context, it would imply a redefinition of governance. We have to make our young people understand that today governance is not simply what governments’ do or want to do. Young people must be able to critically understand that governance is about the process and systems of decision making, which mobilize and utilize public resources for common public good.” Says Prof T K Thomas, Chairperson of the Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore Foundation, New Delhi which promotes Shishu Panchayats in different parts of the country. “They need to be alert on the significance of openness and transparency of the process and systems of decision making and should be accountable to the citizenry. They should also be able to contribute to critical public discourses. Through the Shishu Panchayats, children learn to take a collective decision on what requires to be done in their community and contribute to democratic governance. One important areas of work of Surovi is wildlife and environmental conservation. To take forward the process of sustainable development, we need to encourage this effort of Surovi so that children and youth take the leadership in biodiversity and wildlife conservation and ensure a harmonious relationship between nature, human and wildlife.” He adds.

                      Members of Surovi

                      While Surovi Shishu Panchayat has been taking up different causes including education, health, sanitation, gender equality and personality development, it has been seen that nature and wildlife conservation have also emerged as significant intervention areas. One noteworthy initiative in this regard is the awareness development programmes held in tribal villages. Such a field study was also conducted in Shyampathar, a tribal village in Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary, where they surveyed the living conditions of the people, which are heavily affected by the constantly degrading environment. Here, Surovi tried to raise awareness among the people about sustainable development and measures of environmental protection. In their opinion, with the steady growth of population, sensitizing and ensuring community participation is the key to maintaining the harmonious relationship between human and wildlife.

                       

                      With their motto as “Children for peace, youth for peace and people for peace”, Surovi has the spirit and the potential to go a long way. Indeed, what is there that cannot be achieved if you have your heart in it? All one needs is the courage to ‘be the change’ rather than merely wishing for a change.

                      Teer : Interpretations of Dreams, Gambling and Archery

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                        pic courtesy : ohmeghalaya.com
                        pic courtesy : ohmeghalaya.com
                        pic courtesy : ohmeghalaya.com

                        Teer – An introduction

                        As you walk down the streets of Shillong, you would see a lot of small outlets, most with someone sitting with a pen and a set of plain sheets with small squares drawn with the help of a ruler. There is board behind him/her where there are two slots for writing numbers – titled 1st round and 2nd round respectively. These outlets which are actually kiosks are so small so as to adjust just a table and a chair and most of the times you will see that these outlets are open air, a kong sitting with a mura and a small table where she also sells kwai. If you watch for some more time observing any of these outlets, you would see people coming in and telling a number. The person sitting in the counter writes the number and the date in one of the squares, tears it and gives it to the other person. These small tickets are nothing but lottery tickets what is popularly known as teer and it can be bought with as low as one rupee.

                        During college, I followed the sport closely but never placed a bet myself due to the ‘gambling’ tag attached to it. However, what attracted me most is the interpretation of dreams that could lead to winning in teer. Yes, you heard it right! Dreams! There is myth that goes about the sport that you can forecast the numbers if you de-crypt the dreams you saw the previous night. So the whole business which is estimated to be worth 700-800 crores is dependent on the interpretation of dreams.

                        Teer : What it is.

                        Gambling through teer (archery) has been there since over hundred years, when some clubs started holding weekly contests. The sport however took its present form in the 1950s and officially when it was legalized by the state government in 1982. The sport is controlled by Khasi Hills Archery Sport Institue (KHASI) and 12 clubs are affiliated to them where they are allotted turns to shoot on the ground. The shooting is held in a corner of the Polo Grounds in Shillong. Two clubs get their turn every day from Monday to Friday, and on Saturday archers of all the clubs get to shoot. The shooting starts in the late afternoon and there are two rounds held every day. The number of arrows allotted to the archers for the two rounds—1,800 and 1,200 respectively on weekdays and 1,980 and 1,320 respectively on Saturdays. Archers of different clubs have differently colored arrows and they shoot together. The club that gets maximum number of arrows in the target is the winner club. Well that was the ‘archery part’ of the story. What about the lottery?

                        After each round of shooting, the number of arrows hitting the target is counted. If the number of arrows hitting the target is 1,324 then the winning digits of that round would be 24. Gamblers would forecast the winning digits for each round and place their bets. Bets are registered on single or double-digit numbers. Re 1 placed on a winning single number yields Rs 80 in the first round and Rs 70 in the second round of the game. If a gambler buys 1 rupee tickets for both the rounds, and forecasts the exact winning numbers of both the numbers, he can win Rs. 4,444.

                        Teer and the Dream myths

                        The gamblers would often be found asking about the dreams their friends might have had and would be trying to decrypt it. Sometimes they even use fortune telling skills to decrypt the dreams. A neighbor of mine who was a keen gambler and knew astrology was known to predict the numbers through astrology and would often win.  I remember as a kid I once saw a dream that I was near a dustbin where there only old wallets being dumped. I picked up one of the wallets and found Rs. 10 in it. It was a strange dream and I told it to my father and he just mentioned it to a colleague in his office in jest. That colleague in turn went and placed a bet on the number 10 and he won in one of the rounds that day. After that my father would be asked daily if I had seen any more of such dreams which was utterly irritating to say the least.

                        It was said that if you dream a woman it would be 5 ending number and similarly a man would be 6 ending number and if you dream them in amorous positions it would be 56 or 65.  If you dream of death, the number would be surprisingly 69 since the number is associated with death according to Khasi myths. The gamblers also try to decrypt the dreams by the shape of the objects. If you dream a bike, the number would be either 00 or 8 ending number. If you see a man riding a bike the number would be 68. Sometimes you simply dream the numbers as I remember dreaming that I scored 42 in Maths, and Voila! the winning number was 42. The dreams can be vague or they can be very simple to decipher. However, what remains interesting is the association of dreams with game of teer.

                        Teer Facts

                        There are close to 1500 legal counters in Meghalaya and innumerable illegal counters throughout Northeast and North Bengal. It is a huge industry and Meghalaya Government is earning between 100-200 lakh rupees of revenue annually. Meghalaya government is also trying to cash this craze of teer globally by taking this game online.

                        However, even though teer has gained in popularity in Meghalaya, it is still looked down upon due to the gambling associated with it. The elite and respectable families still don’t take part in it. It is only the families which come under the strata of economically weak section who are under the clutches of this social evil. Men of these families turn to this to earn a quick buck with a small amount of investment. However, it has been seen that only a small percent of regular gamblers win. Another social evil comes to get associated with this. That is drinking. If the gamblers win, they spend it drinking. If they lose then also they drink hoping for a better dream next day.

                        There is another aspect of the game which can ruin the bookies. As the payment to the winners are to be made in cash on the same day, sometimes the bookies can go bankrupt if the winning amount is more than the collections that day. This often happens with smaller bookies who often take loans at hefty interest rates to pay the winners which sometimes can never be paid.

                        The sport may be an evil, but this is surely one of the traditions laced with myths in the land of numerous myths regarding black magic and supernatural powers.

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