Monday, December 28, 2015

Pickle and Plagiarism

It is that time of the year when I not only bottle up emotions from incidents that shook the year that passed by but also the spiciness and pungency of the seasons' blessings through the pickling process.

Preserve the extracts and pulp and discard the pith and skin, in both cases.

I will leave the philosophy and stick to just the pickling and the process.I always wonder why pickling makes me philosophical.Probably the hard work and the meditative concentration that it requires?

I am not a passionate cook and as such limit my time to the barest minimum in the kitchen. Is it any wonder that pickles that need just three ingredients and less than 30 minutes to be bottled up are the ones I make year after year?

Salt. Lemon juice.Turmeric powder. Green chillies. Red Chilli powder, optional.These are the only ingredients you will need for the kind of pickle I make.


I tried Turmeric pickle for the first time -both making and tasting. Apparently very popular in Gujarat.

Getting past preferences and acquiring a taste for this first timer in our kitchen required a lot of love.There was no dearth of it in this case as these were grown by us organically with our kitchen-waste -turned -into-compost.

The medicinal and nutrient value of this rhizome only made it easy.

Turmeric, as they say, cures the whole body and suits all body types ( vatha, pitha and kapha ) as per Ayurveda.

Wash, dry and remove the skin.Cut them into discs or smaller pieces.Add salt and enough lemon juice to cover the pieces.Adding slit Green Chillies is optional.

One may skip the turmeric powder for this!

Washing and cleaning the fresh turmeric left a rich stain of yellow on my palms and I simply loved it.

Turmeric pickle
That's the picture perfect Turmeric pickle. Honestly, I will need some time to say I love this pickle as much as the pickling process.

Mango Ginger or Maanga inji ( Curcura Amada )

An amazing rhizome that belongs to the ginger family but has the fragrance and pungency of raw mango.

Just wash, towel it dry, peel off the skin and cut it into discs.Add salt, turmeric powder and lemon juice that stays above all the pieces all through. It can't get simpler than that.

Some recipes require them to be cut it into smaller pieces.While some allow blending it cooking in oil ( thokku kind of pickle ) with spice powders.

But our loyalties are with this oil-free, minimally spiced version.

Mango Ginger
Green pepper corn

Follow the same process of washing and drying. Additionally, separate the peppercorns. Add salt, turmeric powder, slit green chillies and let them float in the lemon juice.

Green pepper corns

Mahani kizhangu ( Sarsaparilla)

Some call it Maagali too. A woody root with an aroma that some love while most others would take a sprint.

Mahali is an acquired taste. I find the flavour  intoxicating but some in my family think it smells like Mootai poochi marundhu .( Bed Bug Repellant smell)

Ditto. Wash, peel, dry. There will be a hard stalk in the middle of this root that you need to discard. Cut into small pieces, add salt, turmeric, cut pieces of lemon, slit green chillies.

I also add raw red Chilli powder to this for enhanced spiciness. And then it gets so spicy that we take out smaller quantities of this pickle add curd just before serving.

Left to myself I can have curd rice with this pickle for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And also as an inter-meal snack.

                                                             Maahaali kizhangu ( Sarsaparilla)

After all this pickling you end up with many lemon halves that are only half-squeezed if you are using the lemon squeezer. And it is best that way as it can get very bitter if you squeeze the lemon dry.

That leaves us with the ubiquitous by-product - lemon pickle.

Lemon Pickle 

Cut the halves of lemon into four pieces each, add salt and turmeric.Slit green chillies optional.

No need to add lemon juice to this.

We savour this sour lemon pickle as it is after 10-15 days when it becomes soft and salty.

However if you so wish you could give a tadka ( garnish) of mustard seeds in hot oil and switch off the stove. Add fenugreek powder and red chilli powder to the hot oil and pour this over the marinated lemons.

My kids love all these varieties except the newbie turmeric. And this blog post is primarily for them. After a decade or two, if they want to make it they would know exactly where to look for the recipe.


This blog post is special to me personally as it helped me nail down a plagiarist who had copied two of my blog posts verbatim with pictures also lifted from my blog.

I was googling for the botanical names for Mango ginger and Maahaali when I stumbled upon colourful pictures of pickles.One of the pictures with Maavadu or tender mangoes looked just like my photograph used in another blog post titled Maavadu Mahaatmiyam. Followed the page where it was used and landed in Jayanthi Santanaraman's blog on WordPress. I was shocked to find my blog post copied verbatim. Scrolling down, I found another of my post copied too.

After several messages on her blog coupled with private messaging on FB and with the support of my blogger, FB friends we got her to admit to this shameful act.
She reacted by deleting her blog as well as her FB account.
The episode left me drained and delayed this blog post but have no regrets exposing a plagiarist.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Pining for that Pure note

There were times when a music review - unbiased and balanced at that would lead us to that musician's concert. The reviews of concerts these days are more promotional in nature and least educative, with most of them being lopsided with just போற்றி போற்றி ( Hail ) kind of comments.

Bias is easy to spot.

And then we have the other extreme that even goes to the extent of personally attacking the singer in a vulgar way.

Sadly even The Hindu carries such reviews during the season. Recently read one with a Chauvinistic and sexist undertone attacking the singer at a very personal level.

I have long since stopped reading these so called reviews that leave you none the wiser and are at best articles that strive to showcase the writing talent and expose their knowledge in Carnatic music or the lack of it. Most often the latter and it shows.

The digital age has given license to everyone to be a critic as most blogs/ pages are free to start. This has taken the musician bashing to a different level altogether.

As I pine for that pure note here are my thoughts and as such in no particular order.

  • Most often the ones who take the effort to write a review are the ardent fans of the individual musician. ( This falls under the போற்றி போற்றி ( Hail ) category ).
  • Obviously, there is going to be an apparent bias, or they are going to wink at the flaws for the love of music of that particular musician.
  • The second category is the professional journalist who writes as part of his/her  job, during the season and goes back to writing columns on Politics, Bollywood, Food and all post-December season. A generalist so to speak.
  • In this case, it is a job that most often lacks the technical knowledge and specialised skills required to review a Carnatic music performance critically. The passion and neutrality that the review needs are absent too most often. 
  • So either way, it fails to be an accurate review. At best it turns out to be a verbal or verbose narration of one's concert experience studded with flourishes associated with the Carnatic music and much cliched at that.
  •  Nothing wrong with that. I do this too as I am not technically qualified to review Carnatic music, but love to write about the melodic experience that a live concert offers, for the love of music and writing. But it just is a personal blog post and not to be confused with a concert review. Never.
  • The most counter-productive third category of reviews are the ones that are dipped in venom and bring out only negatives about musicians. These are most detrimental to this art form, and the artists' form.
  • The morale of so many young upcoming artists'  gets deflated by this mindless category who are  otherwise receptive to constructive feedback.
  • All these leave a big void where constructive, neutral, unbiased analysis of Music is concerned.
  • The younger generation of musicians and rasikas need a balanced review to hone their skills as singers and to appreciate music better as listeners.
  • Unless this happens, quality of music cannot be sustained over time.
  • Which is why we see such vagaries in standards of music. Bad ones getting a prime slot/ stage and good ones not getting the right platform.
  • Now comes the pertinent Q. Is a good singer, famous and popular ready to take an honest feedback that may not be positive? Is the ardent fan ready for a candid review?
  • The rasikas who love a particular musician are also in a way tongue-tied to speak the truth at all times? For whatever reasons best known to them.
  • Wouldn't it be great to have a panel of critics, reviewers who have to pass a qualifying test to be even able to review a performance and publish Consolidated review based on a preset rubrics as a panel?
  • Or Imagine this. Upcoming artistes inviting leading musicians for their concert with a request to review it at the end while senior players beckon other musicians of same standing to analyse their music threadbare.It would be so healthy to have such an atmosphere, is it not?
  • I am sure this will help upcoming artists and complacent seniors alike.
  • Let random individuals continue to write about music using their new found freedom in Social media much to the annoyance of fundamentalists, which will whither away over time with structured, knowledgeable reviews taking over.
  • Personally, I look forward to not just good cutcheris but also balanced reviews that help choose newer artists, apart from aiding better appreciation and analysis of this art form as a mere Rasika.
  • To Subbu'do' or Subbu'don't'? Or is there a middle path?

I long for an analytical, constructive, informative review of concerts from a specialist that would sound like a MDR kedaram with restricted gamakams,
(read: verbal flourishes ) and laden with pure notes ( read: purely about the music and nothing else ).

Gamakkams may be the Hall-mark of Carnatic music, but a pure note style paves the way for a peaceful and pleasing auditory experience.

Listen to this MDR Kedaram,to understand my pining for the pure note style in concerts and also concert reviews . 

Credits :
Subbu'do' / Subbu'don't' word credits to The Internet and other bloggers.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


Soothing elevator music.Subtle, unobtrusive fragrance in the air.Everyone is quietly going about their work tip-toeing.Mouth covered. Hands gloved.

The sterile ,stainless steely environ makes my stomach an acid factory.

An assistant tried to get me into the treatment chair from the waiting lounge.But I wouldn't budge that easily. I asked to see and talk to the chosen one for me before I even got up from the chair. After all, it is a relationship that may have to last a while, and I needed to see the person before I said "Ï do".

The knowledge and comfort of living in a free country did little  to control the subconscious imagination of being dragged on my feet up to something that vaguely resembled an easy chair with the most uneasy looking contraptions.

As  I waited, all possible excuses were queuing up.

"I think I kept milk on the stove and forgot to turn off the gas ",
"I think I locked my husband in the bathroom by mistake "
"someone may be  calling me on my landline for an emergency ",
"I feel like throwing up", This has to work or,
"Oh, I just forgot to brush my teeth today."

Anything.Just anything to run away from that place.

But I have already used most of these excuses in the previous two appointments, except the husband locking idea. Today's brain wave. Good one, no?

And it was the same lady on duty that day. Though I heard, she is seriously looking for other jobs.

So I decided to be frank and admitted that I was simply not ready yet. And the chosen one came out just then and said he would just take a look and not do anything Jaw dropping or tooth breaking.

Believing, I followed him and stood by that Easy Chair like thingy. I was asked to sit which I did very hesitantly.On the edge, ready to run at the slightest hint of an upcoming dental drill.

The young doctor was amused as it was the first time for him with my appointment. While the other two consultants who have been through this with me in the last two appointments tried their best to concentrate on their clients with a smirk. I am sure they had a bet with this gentleman who was attending on me.

By now I was resigned to fate, and all known prayers in different languages started coming out jumbled.

The climax began..with the young dentist explaining the procedure while I insisted on seeing what goes into my mouth. If he was irritated, he was well trained in the finishing school and never showed it. As for me, I could not care less, my life,safety was a top priority. Never mind a few subtle and many not-so-subtle insults.

I was instructed to lift my left hand in case I felt any discomfort, but I bargained for any hand -knowing my sense of direction especially when in a petrified condition.

I decided to close my eyes and imagine being in a beautiful green meadow.But it never went anywhere beyond closing the eyes with every cling and clang of those tinkering tools. And both my hands were in a state of readiness to be lifted in case of an impending danger.

Fifteen minutes into the jaw-dropping procedure with half closed eyes and hands floating in the air was surprised that there was no pain.

I opened my eyes and saw the young man readying an injection syringe just then explaining that he was inspecting the site for reconstruction all this while, and this was the real beginning.

I lost it then. I needed a bio-break and told him so. He had to let me go knowing fully well I was not going to come back. We had developed such perfect chemistry by then to understand each unspoken word.

I apologised to the lady at the front desk unable to contain my happiness at having escaped this ordeal and asked for another appointment.

I was not surprised that she said " We will let you know ". Time to check out a new dentist .Still have a list of 3-4 of them before I exhaust all of them in the immediate neighbourhood.

I brought this misery upon myself. I promised to myself to be extra careful while devouring Verkadalai urundai,( groundnut chikki's) especially while negotiating it with the crowned side of my mouth.