Friday, March 27, 2015

Governance is the Victim of the Drama

It was sometime ago when I wrote about my worry about governance by govt in the state of Delhi.

This govt came to power out of aspirations and hopes of those who were disillusioned with the previous ruling party. Those masses were waiting for spectacular things to happen for betterment of their life.

Spectacular things are happening but in different context. Maruti Altos have all converted to Toyota Innovas. Electricity and water bills in limited cases have come down not by adjustment of tariff or stopping the thefts or leakages but by subsidies.

Nothing wrong in it if finances of govt permits it but that is not the case. Govt has cut the development budget allocation to half to create money for subsidy. It has no money to give to municipalities of North Delhi,  south Delhi , etc.

In all, governance is still awaited. What has the common  man got  (parodixically the ruling party is named after this common man) is daily bickering,  stings, claims and counterclaim, blame game and daily soap opera.

Well, while this happens, the common man (and woman) who so enthusiastically brought them to power is dumb stuck. His dreams seem to be going down the drain.

In this daily edition of soap opera (aka drama) the first victim is Governance which is in a ICU waiting for that urgent dose of Oxygen.

There is still hope but it is fading by each passing  day. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

My Recent Road Journey ( 985 km) – Delhi – Bareilly – Ranikhet – Nainital - Delhi - Part 4

Day Four – Ranikhet (Bhalu Dam Trek and Holm Farm Heritage)

Bhalu Dam from Google earth

 Our Bhalu Dam trek which got postponed yesterday was planned today. Me and my son left for the trek at 0830. It is a dam constructed by British in  for supplying water to Ranikhet garrison. It is about three km (or little more) trek from Chaubatia Fruit Garden through thick forest of Pine and Dev dar. 

Moterable Trail

                                                                 Carpet of Flowers

                                                                     Bhalu Dam

                                                                     Lake Behind the Dam
Dense Forest
Gum Extraction

Stone Hut - Almost Midway

Return journey was tough. The footpath now was leading up. A steep fall had now become a steep climb. To me, though fit but not acclimatized and all of 53, I admit that it was tough. But anyway with one or two rests we returned home by 1030 hrs. 
Return Leg of the Trek

 On return when we looked at trek recording app on mobile, we realized that we had covered about 5.8 km.  The reason for me to get tired also became clear, the altitude change in about 3 km travel was 375 m. it was obviously tough change of altitude. Another similar altitude that I had faced was some 13 years ago between Govind dham to Hemkund Saheb in Garhwal Himaliyas (1 km altitude change for a 6 km walk) when I has only 41 years of age. In all it was a lovely though tiring experience.
Post lunch we decided to go to Holm Farm Heritage (hotel) for a visit. After driving through Ranikhet town we came to a detour on the right of the road. It was a concrete road capable of taking one vehicle at a time or so it looked to me, leading down.   After a drive of about two km through winding road with a doubt emerging every few minutes as to if something exists at the end of this road, we reached a beautiful bungalow overlooking beautiful Himalayas.

The Bungalow

Another View
What a beautiful and refreshing sight it was. The owner stays in a cottage, belongs to a freedom fighter family. The bungalow was built in 1869.

Dinning Hall

Dinning Hall

Old Kerosine lamp

Piano & Fire Place
 It still has old brass tumbler switches, old kerosene lamps, original wall paper in dinning hall, original piano which does not work now, stately rooms and a beautiful garden, tennis court, etc. Excellent place for groups / families or loners or love birds. We roamed around the property, enjoyed it, the staff was very hospitable forthcoming with information about the property.

Laila the Dog
  We also played with a cute mixed dog of one year called Laila. We also had a cup of well made ginger tea.  

Mighty Himaliyas
Post tea we returned back to our accommodation by about 1700 and rested for the day.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A New ''Bhasmasur'' called AAP Going into Self Destruct Mode in Delhi

There is a very famous story from Indian Mythology of Bhasmasur. It goes something like this.  He was an Aasur (Rakshas) who did ''Tyapsiya'' with deep devotion to Lord Shiva. When Bhole Shankar was pleased with Bhasmasur, he asked him to seek a boon. Bhasmasur sought a boon that he should have a power such that when he puts his hand on anybody's head, that person should be burnt to death (भस्म होना).

When Lord Shankar granted the boon to Bhasmasur, first thing Bhasmasur did was to try to test his power on Lord Shankar. Lord Shanker had to run away to save himself. Thereafter Bhasmasur embarked upon killing spree and conquered most of the universe.

Finally, to destruct him, Lord Vishnu had to take avatar of a very beautiful dancer called Mohini. She lured Bhasmasur with her beauty and dance to such a extent that he started imitating her dance moves. At an appropriate time in the dance, Mohini put her hand on her head and so did Bhasmasur. By doing so he self destructed himself.

In the present what is happening in the ruling party at Delhi state is following lines of Bhasmasur story. They sought boon and the Bhole Shanker of the democracy, the Public, gave it to them. The boon should have been used to destruct the evil of politics but that did not happen as expected. The party soon was into typical political culture of Bungalows, cars, etc. some actions were done for the public, may be half hearted.

I remember my own words to my wife when she said that watching results on TV, with this massive mandate there is no opposition left in Delhi Assembly. I told her, the opposition in the Assembly is going to come from within and the may be from a Breakaway group as groupism is a human trait.

Now the Bhasmasur seems to be going in to Self Destruct mode with some of their own becoming Mohini. They are removing founder members, sting is being done against them and at this rate large number of members seem to be drifting away. I guess so many people who are very ambitious and cut throat  (see each one is on the top of whatever he was doing, one does not reach the top without being cut throat) and so many people of this type are unlikely to stay together for long time. We need to wait and watch.

Self Destruct or not is the choice of the party. whatever happens, if they self destruct, it will be the heart break for common men (and women) of Delhi.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Barbecue made Simple and Low cost - Any Body can Make

It is not for nothing that I call my blog free running blog. I am posting about my travels, I am also posting (this post) about food. As you can see current affairs seem to have taken a backseat for some time on my blog.

Today I will bring to you a low capital intensive option of making barbecue. Wikipedia defines barbecue as art of cooking meat over low and slow indirect heat over high smoke fuel where the flame does not touch the meat.

There come the first myth, that Barbecue is meant for meat eaters (it is true that where it has wide spread use like in Gulf countries, it is primarily used to cook meat). The second myth is it's set up is costly and making Barbecue is time and labour intensive work (second part of the second myth is not really a myth but a reality).

Objective of the blog is to bring the pleasure of slow cooked pure  heavenly food option to more people by breaking those one and half myths.

Lets roll.

All kinds of meats and vegetables can be cooked on Barbecue. Most meats need marination for making them soft and tender for cooking over slow heat and most vegetables may or may not need marination. Depends on type of vegetable.

If meat is to be cooked, particularly mutton and chicken, they need to be brought, cleaned and marinated well in time (more hours under the marination the better). How to marinate? Simple one is, give cuts to the meat post cleaning so that it absorbs the marinade, apply Ginger Garlic paste, cover for sometime and finally apply thick (but not hung) curd and chicken / mutton  masala mix (add salt if needed as commercial ginger garlic paste has salt in it) to the meat and keep it covered.

Vegetables like Cauliflower, etc can be parboiled with little salt and can be marinated the similar or same  way (with or without curd marination). Similar marination is needed for Paneer pieces also. In any case, type of  marination is a personal choice and it gives scope for individual innovation based on taste.

If you want to Barbecue onions, take whole onions pierce them with fork, dip them in vinegar and salt for some time and remove and keep them. Sweet Potatoes and  baby potatos (pierced with fork) need parboiling (but it is not essential, they can be cooked without parboiling but will take little while longer). Tomatoes need to be cut in half and nothing else is needed for them. Ripe bananas need nothing and so is Pineapple.

We will need Charcoal for Barbecue. Where to buy? Usual source of information is local Dhobi (if still using coal iron) or local kabab wala. As for New Delhi, sector 12 market in RK Puram is one place where it is available (there may be many more places). In Colaba, Mumbai, it is available between Sasoon Dock and Colaba Post office.

There is no need to buy costly Barbecue. A Rs 100 Tasla or Tagari of tin will do the job. It is generally available at Bartan (utensil) store or hardware store (See photo below).

If Charcoal is ready, vegetables are ready (and meat also if non veg eaters are there), The tagari (our Jugaad Barbecue) is ready then are we ready for Barbecue? Not really.

we need skewers to put the vegetables (or meat or veg followed by meat) on the flame for Barbecue. Few options are, buy ready made skewers from a super mart selling Barbecue, buy thin iron rods from a hardware store and get them cut to required length and if you can get none of them, just pick  up cycle spokes of longest length from a cycle shop (this is what I used the first time on 31 Dec 1998). If none of these things can be managed, just buy iron wire mesh (Jali) of half inch square. Now we are ready.

Make sure that the improvised Barbecue (maker) is put in open ventilated space like balcony or roof top. Fill it up to half level with Charcoal.

Would the Kerosine be needed? I used to use it once upon a time but it is messy. Just put two - three Charcoals on gas stove and let them become partial red hot.

Transfer them on the Barbecue and then fan them with a board or a table fan. As the nearby charcoal start lighting bring in newer ones on top of them. In about 15 - 20 minutes of extensive fanning the flame would be ready.

What goes on skewers and what goes direct on flame? All the meats should go either go on skewers or on a wire mesh. Don't forget to apply oil to skewers or wire mesh. Full onions, Paneer, Cauliflower, Capcium, Pineapple, Tomatoes and cut onions (if liked) also go on skewers.

Potaoes (baby or normal) and Sweet Potato can be put on to the coal directly and so is banana. However, potatoes and sweet potatoes should be put when the flame gets reduced little bit and Bananas only at later stage.

In order to honour feelings of Vegetarians, the skewered vegetables and paneer should be made first. Once that is done, they will have to wait for potatoes, Sweet Potatoes and bananas at a later time. Notice Potatoes in silver foil in the left bottom corner of the photo.

Now the meats can be cooked. The skewers need to be turned regularly (for both veg and meat skewers)  at certain interval (based on the strength of fire) for uniform cooking and oil needs to be applied to the veg or meat. best way to apply oil is to take oil in a bowl and apply it by Dhaniya stick, shown below:-

Easy way to identify that the items are cooked is to look for change of colour (of meat or paneer) from normal to little caramelized (but not burnt). b Tomatoes and pineapple, etc would look juicy when cooked.Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes will have their skin caramelized and wrinkled when cooked. Banana skin also will turn black when cooked.

The Barbecue is ready. Enjoy it with Mint Chutney or Chat masala or just plain. Happy Barbecuing (is there such a word, I don't know, but I have coined it).

Once all cooking and eating is done, one can sit around the fire (particularly in winter) and there would be enough heat in the Tagari (aka Jugad Barbecue) to warm milk for hot cups of Coffee (that I prefer) or tea while every one chats and enjoys.

 Don't fence sit and wait, go out, do it and let the pleasure of slow cooked food begin.

Monday, March 9, 2015

My Recent Road Journey ( 985 km) – Delhi – Bareilly – Ranikhet – Nainital - Delhi PART 3

Day Three – Ranikhet Town

Originally, our plan for day three was to go on trek to Bhalu Dam in the morning session. The cold weather had resulted in slight health problem for our son. So that plan had to be shifted to the next day. 

Hence it was decided to use they for sight seeing at Ranikhet. Our first site was famous Shakti Peeth Jhula Devi Temple. A temple adored by thousands of brass bells. It is believed that all the boons sought from Jhula Devi are granted. All those devotees whose boons were granted come back for Darshans and tie one bell into the temple.

Jhuladevi temple Entrance

Temple Complex Full of Bells

We left at about 1030 for Ranikhet town to explore feasibility of repairs to Power Steering. The Maruti dealership in the town was of no help. Then a local mechanic referred us to another mechanic near state roadways bus stand, who agreed to reconnect the pipe.

He did a good job with a Jugad (wire locking of the pipe since he did not have the necessary clamp to fit). I found him to be a helpful person who was ready to try to do his best. After which, we went to Gandhi Chouk and parked the car. This is where I got the necessary fluid (Automatic Transmission Fluid or ATF) and refilled the system. It was of not much use though the steering marginally improved but it was of not much use. It was evident that the pump is gone.

After this effort we roamed around the Gandhi chouk ( a half a km stretch that is main bazaar of Ranikhet). Bought Bal Mithai and Chocolate (Bal Mitahi without sugar balls) from Pandey Sweet Shop at Gandhi Chouk (we were told it is the best place for Bal Mithai in Ranikhet). Had our lunch at Prasad Veg Restaurant in (obviously) Gandhi Chouk. Lunch was testy and hot. We recommend this place.

Post lunch we visited Kumaon Regimental Center’s Woolen Factory and Shop (on the main road between Gandhi Chouk and GPO (which is as one hits Ranikhet from Bhowali). It was an education to see scores of Hand looms and hand loom weavers at their work creating various types of woolens, Shawls, Dress material, Tweeds, etc. 

Tweed Weaving on Hand Loom

Shawl Weaving on Handloom

Rows of handlooms

Had never seen a handloom working before this visit. This is the first time I understood meaning of Taana (the vertical or longitudinal strands of the thread in a cloth) and Baana (the across component of threads of the weave of the cloth). 

Weaving by War Widows, etc

We bought a Tweed kind of Coat piece (3.5 m) for just Rs 1140/- and also Hill Honey. This shop closes for lunch (I think at 1300 hrs and opens at 1430 Hrs). It is a must visit place. See it for yourself and buy something if you like it. It also is a way to encourage War Widows of Kumaon Regiment soldiers who are the main people employed for weaving. 

Next stop was Kumaon Regimental Centre (KRC) Museum. A beautiful museum depicting history, velour and progress of this regiment raised in 1817. Everything is well preserved. 

KRC Museum

The curator of the museum explains everything to the visitors. The recommended plan of action for the museum is to first go with the curator and listen to him and then see the museum yet again at leisure. I must admit that we did only the first part but visiting at leisure is also important and should not be skipped. Museum closes from 1300 to 1500 hrs for lunch and is closed on Tuesday due to weekly holiday. Photography is not alowed, not even cell phones are allowed. 

By the time we finished with the museum, it was already 1630. We returned home post our visit.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

My Recent Road Journey ( 985 km) – Delhi – Bareilly – Ranikhet – Nainital - Delhi

Day Two Bareilly – Ranikhet (213 km)

We intended to start for Ranikhet by 0900. As I started checking my car for the drive, I reaslied that my front left tyre (repaired yesterday) is flat again. I was pressing for fitting the spare tyre and moving on and get this tyre repaired during lunch break. Our friend insisted that we start the journey with all tyres intact. I agree with that view, if repairs are possible, have all your main tyres on the wheels.

Now, the shops don’t open anywhere in that area before 1000 hrs so our plans went through first amendment, departure postponed from 0900 to 1030 hrs. Again the tyre was sent for repairs. It was found that the valve was leaking. The valve was replaced, tyre fitted and the journey started at 1030.

Our friend also recommended not taking Bareilly Nainital road (NH 37) stating that it is in bad state. We therefore took Bareilly - Milak on NH 24 (in reverse direction to what we had come from Delhi) and then took MDR 33 W to Bilaspur where we joined NH 87 (also called AH 2) to Haldwani / Kathgodam.

Stopped at Bilaspur for refueling and tea. NH 87 surface from Bilaspur to Rudrapur was bad. the road improved after that stretch. Stopped at Kathgodam (at Udapiwala) for Lunch at 1445. Restarted at 1515 from Kahtgodam and got on to ghat section.

As we drove further, after Ranibagh, we were confused whether to take route via Bhowali or via Bhimtal (realised later that even this route via Bhimtal has to pass though bhowali, in the hindsight, I think one should go from Kathgodam to Ranikhet via Bhowali, I definitely recommend). We inquired and took route via Bhimtal. The route was ok till bhimtal. Post the Bhimtal lake, most traffic turned right to go through Bhimtal town but Navigator was indicating to go straight via Bhimtal Bypass.

We followed the Navigator (google maps on mobile) and got on to bypass to encounter a steep level difference on the road where the jump was so bad that my Power Steering Pipe ruptured and all the Power Steering Liquid drained out. That resulted in steering power failure and steering become hard (like normal steering). In the middle of nowhere I did not know what to do. It was already late and I had to reach Ranikhet before dark. I decided to drive on with manual steering.

I don’t recommend this bypass to any one atleast till it is incomplete and confusing. It is better to take route that the usual traffic takes, via Bhimtal town. I have also notified Google maps about it. Shown below is the response of Google Maps (see the impact)

Your report near Bhimtal By-pass Road in Bhimtal (28/2/15 8:47 AM)
Google Maps <>
22:09 (38 minutes ago)

to me
Hi Harshad,

Thank you for reporting this problem. We've reviewed your problem and you were right! The default view in Google Maps has already been updated to reflect your suggested change, as shown below.

The bypass is not complete and not straight as shown. One has to take a sharp right and a sharp left to rach Block road T junction where a lef turn is required to head for Bhowali - Ranikhet. If one goes straight instead of sharp right, the joint is poor and road level ahead has a big fall resulting in accident. It also has a dead end.Better not to take the bypass and stick to regular road through the Bhimtal town
Depending on the nature of the problem you reported, it may take some time for the update to appear on other products and services such as driving directions, Google Maps for Mobile, and Google Earth. If you see an issue with the way we fixed your problem, please feel free to send us another note

Thanks for helping us to improve Google Maps!
© 2013 Google Inc. 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View, CA 94043.
You've received this mandatory service announcement email to update you about your editing activities on Google Maps.

Driving without power steering fluid resulted in the pump running dry and getting fully damaged. Lesson learnt, if possible, stop the leakage by repairs, refill the oil and then drive on. Well sometimes it may not be possible, in that case driving on is the only option like I did and then the repair later on would costs Rs 4600 (4000 for Pump, 300 labour, 300 ATF).

Eventually my hand settled on manual steering geometry and we continued our journey through the zig zaging hill road and reached Chaubatia / Ranikhet by 1700 hrs.