Tag Archives: life

Where are you, Mr. Pandey?

Weddings in North India are moments of great celebration. Families and friends from far and wide join the bride and groom over many days of fun filled merriment. Food is an integral part of this experience. For the Mathurs (a North Indian Hindu community), food defines the purpose of a wedding! We live to eat, marry to eat and eat our way through moments in life, both happy and sad!
Most traditional Mathur families had their favourite cooks, who would be called in when the occasion demanded. The cooks would arrive a few days before the ceremony and would chart out an elaborate menu. They used to carry their own cooking implements that had been passed down through the generations. It is said that the pots and pans added their own unique flavour to every dish. After much discussion and deliberations (typically over several mouth watering meals), the Mathurs would decide on the menu. What followed was a frenzy of activity where the finest of ingredients would be sourced. Being fond of their food, most families had a direct connection with the source of ingredients and freshness and flavours would consistently be second to none.
The cooks had an amazing repertoire of capabilities. From snacks to pickles to the most delicious deserts and everything in between they had the ability to make every meal a celebration. Our family’s cook was a delightful old gentleman by the name of Gopal Pandey. His age was indeterminate. I thought that he was quite old but his slight frame was a power pack of energy. A meal for a few hundred guests would be prepared with amazing speed and panache. In fact, it was quite a sight to watch his small team orchestrate a sequence of frenetic chopping, vigorous stirring and frying. The old man, bent with age would go about his craft like a virtuoso.
We loved him especially for his ability to weave magic with the meats. His piece de resistance was a dish called badam passanda, which was a sublime combination of blanched almonds and the finest cuts of goat meat which was slow cooked to perfection. The fragrance of the dish was so over whelming that suddenly neighbours who often looked at weddings as social disturbances would be at their civil best. The tragic part of this dish was that no generous estimate could ever satiate its demand and as a kid I was always left wanting a lot more! As a family, I don’t think we ever managed to get the estimates right!
Over the years, I remember Gopal Pandey continuing to cook up a storm and improve his craft further as we navigated through our journey of celebrations. In the early 2000s, the trend shifted to hosting weddings in hotels and farmhouses and his appearances became few and far between. As we got busier, our weddings also got less elaborate and the convenience of hosting it at a hotel or a farmhouse was just too tempting. I don’t recollect having met him for the last decade.

In my recent visit to India, I learnt that as he grew older, his sons decided post their education to get proper ‘office’ jobs and looked down upon their rich culinary legacy. I guess progress is also about moving on and forging a new beginning. However I can’t help but feel nostalgic. The wonderful smell of the badam passandas still lingers…

Ready to re-tyre?


When things fall apart some other things fall in together! I realised this the other day when I had to get my wife’s car tyres replaced. I was upset since the tyres had been replaced not too long back and due to some imbalance in the car’s weight, had to be written off. The truth is that when you buy big expensive SUV’s, you have to buy big expensive tyres! It has never been easy for me to spend money but spending money on car tyres was somehow particularly irritating, especially when my ‘old’ tyres looked new to me! I just could not get myself to throw them as I found my yard suddenly busy with four huge tyres!

Over the years we have become slaves of technology. In true 21st century style I passed my problem on to google. I asked Siri! Suddenly a whole new world opened up. Old tyres are images.jpgbeing used today in such diverse ways! From coral reefs to dog beds, used tyres are finding a useful place in our lives. In Africa, tyres are being used for making attractive footwear as well. I chose to make mine into flower beds. With the help of my talented mother-in-law we painted the tyres in bright colours and suddenly my garden had an attractive new resident.

I was narrating this story toimgres.jpg a friend of mine who had recently lost his job. I alluded to the wheels of life needing a fresh set of tyres from time to time. “It’s good for everyone”, I said. The tire analogy suddenly evolved into an exciting conversation about his future full of interesting alternatives. It’s amazing how sometimes unrelated things just make so much of sense!

All I can say is that the next time my tyres need a change, I will be more ready than I ever was. The exciting circle of life always spins! The fact is that if you are willing to turn, you re-tyre and enter into a whole new world of possibilities!


We learn from history, that we learn nothing from history!

“We learn from history that we learn nothing from history”, remarked George Bernard Shaw. 

I was struck by this thought as I was glancing through the papers full of ISIS, Trump, Oil Crash, Syria, Brexit and more. I was wondering if there’s something that we can learn from our past that can help us navigate through the bewildering times that we live in today. Is our world really any different from what it was in the past? With technology, automation and science, our circumstances may have changed but have human behaviour, values and beliefs changed fundamentally? In this context, are there strategies that have worked in the past that could be equally relevant today?
Here are three strategies from history that have particularly caught my attention:
Doctrine of Lapse
The East India Company under Lord Dalhousie expanded its grip on India with the successful implementation of the controversial ‘Doctrine of Lapse’. It was based on the principle that if a ruler of a dependant state died without a natural heir, the right to rule that state passed on to the British sovereign. Some of the biggest states in India over a period of two decades got annexed to the British empire as a consequence of this strategy.
The brilliance of this strategy was in taking advantage of poorly managed succession planning, which was a norm in those times (and still is!). At the point of vulnerability when a state lost its ruler, it could be deftly annexed without shedding a drop of blood, on the back of determined diplomacy and legislation.
Till today, succession planning is a core structural weakness in the global economy. As more and more wealth gets concentrated amongst individuals and families, passing on wealth successfully from one generation to the next is a matter of luck for most and equally an opportunity for the vultures to nest !
The Germans mastered the concept of the ‘lightening war’ through a deft combination of surprise and speed. Blitzkreig was based on the concept of using mechanised units supported by ground and air forces that would swiftly penetrate the enemy fronts by focused action and cause a complete disarray amongst the enemy lines. A key to this strategy was to create fault lines that would break communication amongst the enemy forces and accelerate the panic by damaging the civil population. This was Hitler’s winning strategy in World War II. The essence of this lightening strike strategy was speed, and still more speed executed with precision.
Today we see YouTube videos capturing public imagination of many millions almost overnight. We see election campaigns that use social media to capture voters’ attention with unprecedented speed and agility. We see hollywood movies employing a blitkreig marketing strategy that leads to a USD 100M+ opening despite a weak story (e.g. Batman v/s Superman). We see cyber attacks and viruses causing a contagion with frightening speed and dexterity resulting in billions of dollars in losses. Yet we see all around us complacent businesses caught in a time warp, leaving their gates wide open for disruption.
Trojan Horse
The Greeks, frustrated by a decade of efforts to conquer Troy, built this magnificent wooden horse that they left at the entrance of the city as they supposedly ‘withdrew’ their forces. The overjoyed residents opened their city gates to welcome this ‘gift’. In the middle of the night as the city celebrated, the soldiers hidden in the horse got out and opened the the city gates leading to the downfall of a proud city state.
Till today, deception is a winning strategy that capitalises on the fundamental human trait of complacency and letting ones guard down on the basis of a thinly veiled veneer of safety and comfort. Uber, Whatsapp, iPhones etc are modern day Trojans that won market shares as their complacent competitors basked warmly in their soon to be extinct success.
I am sure there are many more ideas in our history books that can inspire us to find our way in these times. As an example, the next big thing in technology, ironically, is biometrics (also known as fingerprinting); something which has been in use since the time of the Neanderthals! So discover your Trojan Horse, back it with a blitzkrieg of effort and plan your succession to leave a legacy. Amen!

An open letter from a citizen who cares

All over the world public anger finds expression in arson, rioting for causes that range from the profound to the profane: ” I can’t get a job but I can burn a bus. Or, I am pissed with my boss so let me scratch the seat of the taxi. Even better, I am bored, let me scribble as I dribble in the loo!!”

I have some simple DIY suggestions for those who choose to take this path.


Dear Rebels,
Hope this letter finds you well. Hope you enjoyed your latest act of destruction. Hope you felt better as the environment around you burnt. Hope you and your friends still revel in the thrill of just getting away as the cops arrived. Hope the memories you left on the walls of the public loo remind you of those glory days. Must have been fun. Yay!
If you don’t mind, I have a few suggestions for you and your friends.
1. If you really want to beat someone up who has nothing to do with the problem that is bothering you, then why not look into the mirror. A few well placed slaps will do the job and your frustrations will truly hurt, which is what you wanted in the first place.That black eye on you has the power to change perspectives!
2. I can understand that sometimes you get so pissed that you want to burn things up. Why don’t you start looking at your own stuff and setting them to light? The car that you really saved up to buy will really hurt as it burns. But what the hell!  Atleast  the world will know about the cause that’s upsetting you.
3. When that moment comes to scribble and scratch, make your home the canvass of your expressions. Go for it Michelangelo! The world is yours to conquer and scream👍
You need to set new standards in the public display of aggression. I need to close this letter since I am not sure if you would be able to remember any other points that I may try to make.
So keep calm. When you get pissed off about any random cause, now you know what to do.
A concerned citizen who respects public property
Please share this letter and make it reach out to the ones who express their limitations by hurting others and causing pain to the innocents.