Sunday, May 15, 2022

The Nostalgia of Circus

I have watched circus , the real one , with lions , elephants , camels and zebras , when I was 8 or 9 years old . 
A huge tent was erected in Gudivada near bus station. 
As a part of advertisement, a huge powerful light used to be focussed on to the night sky moving from one horizon to another . 
We , kids , used to wait eagerly to watch this marvellous spectacle in the sky . Each one of us had a different explanation for the light . 

We had two bullock carts and bamboo hut like roofs on to the bullock carts. 
Hay used to be spread thick and a couple of blankets on the hay , pillows , drinking water in tortoise shaped earthen jugs , ( tabeti kaaya) , snacks like karapposa, peanut jaggery sweets, peylala Pindi ( sweetened pop corn powder ) in a huge
 can, extra hay bundles and an empty bucket , hanging under the cart for watering bullocks . It was mid summer . Excitement ran from morning itself as the plan was announced. 
Dinner was served by 6 pm itself , and our family started out , 6 of us , last sister was not born I think , I am not sure . 
Me along with 3 or 4 of my age group friends in one cart and the family in another cart . Gudise bandi . For one cart , curtains at the front and back , so that passersby will not know ladies were in there . 
Two of our farm chief labourers driving the carts , with sickles in reach, for the return trip would be in the dead of the night , 15 km , 3 hours. 
With bells on the bullocks , a lantern at the back , we kids talking non stop about the circus stories we heard , some real , some imaginary , some outlandish. 

We reach by 9 , just 15 minutes before the show . 
First two rows of soft cushion 5 rs , next row benches 3 rs . A princely sum then. A 75 kg grain bag fetched 50 rs then from the government , open market 60 rs , as there was compulsory levy procurement. 5 bags per acre , I think . 

We go in some 10 of us , right on to the front row , staff tending to the bullocks outside in the parking area . Yes , there used to be bullock cart parking area , one rupee per cart . 

And the show starts .

If for the first show , lions were the last act , for the second show lions were the first act , as a huge metal fence was erected for the lions show . 
The ring master , a 5 foot five guy , with some kind of wand in one hand and a hunter whip in another , the lash of which used to sound like a rifle shot . 
Lions , a dozen of them , trooping into the cage , sitting on benches , roaring with anger sometimes , the ring master lashing the whip in the air to control the lions and we were transported to another world . With open mouthed wonder , disbelief and for years we couldn't understand why the lions had not eaten up this little guy as breakfast or a night snack. 
And the dwarfs . Jokers , they were called . Splitting the audience with laughter with their antics . 
Elephants playing football , young girls , skimply clad , riding zebras with one leg on each one . 
And then the trapazee artists , swinging wildly in the air , for one split second time stood still as they suspend in mid air without support and amidst the hoos and haas , another one catching them and on and on . Dropping from that height on to the net below was also another wonderment . 

And there was this body builder . Who would bend steel rods with bare hands , break bricks with one head blow and to the liking of the ladies and their shy smiles , used to shake his breast to the beat of the drums .
 Later on I learnt the art of this breast movement and in the hostel was a showman for the giggling girls . 

Finally show ends . We start back . This time , no bullock galloping . Calm , relaxed walk . 

The bullocks were the ultimate auto Tesla cars , Google Maps GPS , all built into one . 
The drivers too used to sleep off , with one hand on the sickle , bullocks always on to the left side of the road , everyone falling asleep immediately after consuming snacks and around ,3 am , the bullocks stop right infront of the house and nod their heads vigorously so that drivers wake up to the sound of the bells . And each of us kids were lifted and placed on the beds in the house. 

And we talked about it the whole summer and for years . 

Later on , these so called animal lovers got animals banned from circuses and the very act lost its sheen and became extinct . 

I was one of the fortunate of my generation to watch the real circus . 

Now everyday , politicians provide the same entertainment with their circus .

Thursday, May 03, 2018

The Making of Pappu Royya ( Steam cooked & Sun dried Prawns )

There is a misconception in general about Pappu Royya. Many mistake Pappu Royya and Yendu Royya ( Dried Prawns )  to be the same.  They are not. There is  a whale of difference between the two. Dried Prawns are just Sun dried along with head and shell. The smell is also very  highly pungent.
However, the making process of Pappu Royya as it is called in Telugu is completely different. They have very little pungent smell and the shelf life is year plus. Usually a few prawns are  added to the gravy curries and the whole curry becomes so delicious with the fragrance of the prawns. 
Making Process:    For 500-600 gms of final product

Take 5 kgs of medium sized prawns.

Add a tsp of turmeric, mix well and Wash them thoroughly a couple of times.

Drain the water and keep aside.

Take a large vessel , toss the prawns in along with head and shell, and put the vessel on medium flame. ( If vessel is not big enough, take half the prawns and follow the same  process )

As heat builds up in a few minutes, prawns begin to ooze water.
Covered  Prawns

As steam begins to rise from the vessel , cover the prawns in the vessel with a thin towel folded to fit in the vessel blocking steam from escaping.

Take the towel out every couple of minutes and stir the prawns well in such a way that cooked prawns come on top and uncooked goes to the bottom.

Continue the process for a few minutes till all the prawns turn pinkish red. 

Cooked Prawns

Take out the towel and drain the water.

Sun dry the prawns for 5 -6 hours on the towel directly exposed to the Sun.
Sun dried

In the evening, pack the prawns tightly in the towel and beat the towel on the floor. The head and shell will come off in small pieces.
Head&Shell removal

Separate the prawns from the debris and safe keep them in a container for the night.

Sun dry the prawns next morning again for 5 to 6 hours.

Rub the prawns in the towel vigorously with the towel for the  
remaining debris to fall off.

If the temperature is 35 degrees and above two days of drying will do.

If the temperature is around 30 degrees, three days of drying will do.

Store the debris free prawns in a container.
Final Product

Cooking Process:
Soak the prawns for 5 – 10 minutes.
Add a tbsp prawns or more to the gravy curry 5 minutes before its cooking is completed.
The fragrance of the prawns envelops the curry. It is delicious.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Andhra Fish Curry

After posting a photograph of me cooking fish curry yesterday, I got a lot of queries for the recipe. Not that people do not know the recipe, but many were intrigued at the colour of the curry ,  a bright red. In fact a friend of mine mistook it as crab curry from the colour of it.  And everyone knows I do not use either artificial or natural colours in the curries. 
The recipe is simple and here it is. 
I personally have a dislike for pond reared fish for two reasons. A discerning cook can easily catch the odor of rice bran , the main feed of pond reared fish, and also the fish are usually just about 2 kgs. 
So I always go for a fish close to 4 or 5 kgs.  They are usually from reservoirs, or rivers and the taste is completely different. The latest market service offering is selling live fish, with double the price. But the taste is priceless. 
All the ingredients given here are for 4 kg fish, which after processing will be about 3 kg if you retain the head as a piece or usually two. So adjust the ingredients accordingly. 

  • Clean the cut pieces of the fish thoroughly twice and once again with turmeric. Keep aside for some time to let the water drain out. 
  • Cut two large onions to small pieces, 4 green chillies either half sliced or to small pieces
  • Add a tea spoon of jeera powder to the onion pieces and mash it well with hand. 
  • Take a large fistful of tamarind and soak in the water. After  a few minutes , squish the tamarind and keep the tamarind water aside. Soak the same tamarind ball again and again and squish till you get 250 to 300 ml of tamarind water. Remove the seeds and other unwanted material from the water.
  • Add two or three tsp of salt, two tsp of red chili powder to the fish pieces, mix them well and let it marinate at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes. 
  • Heat an oversized pan, add 4 to 5 tsp of ground nut oil.
  • Saute the mashed onions, chilli pieces, jeera mixture for a few minutes in low flame. 
  • Add three tsp of ginger garlic paste and mix well with the onions while frying for a few seconds. 
  • HERE IS THE SECRET OF GETTING THE BRIGHT RED COLOUR TO THE CURRY. Take 3 to 4 tsp of the floating oil in the jar of the mango pickle. Add to the pan and in seconds the gravy becomes bright red. 
  • Add the fish pieces and mix well with the fried paste. The pieces will glow now with red colour. 
  • Keep mixing for 2 to three minutes till fish pieces emit vapour. Do not mix for long time lest pieces should break. 
  • Add tamarind water till pieces are at least 3/4 ths covered. Simmer it for 10 to 15 minutes with a lid covered fully.
  • Once the gravy is thick, sprinkle 3 tsp of garam masala. Do not stir the pieces with a spoon. Shake well the pan so that masala gets mixed with the gravy . Switch off the heat /burner. 
  • If you want the curry to be redder,  sprinkle one tsp of mango pickle oil on to the dish before you add masala. 
  • Voila , you have the tasty fish gravy curry. 
  • For best taste, let the curry remain in the pan for a few hours. Fish curry tastes best when the pieces marinade in their own gravy. 
  • You can add whole ladies fingers ( I mean vegetable, not your wife's ) , chopped up a little at both ends, sliced vertically an inch or two just five minutes before the heat is turned off. 
  • You can add vertically sliced soar mango pieces a few minutes before the heat is turned off. 
Bon appetit !

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Cooking Chicken Without Oil

I was on the path of recovery from Jaundice and the doctor was satisfied with the progress. His only concern was protein content in the body is just about swinging at lower end of the ladder in the mean-max matrix. So he advised me to eat chicken and fish but with a caveat. Just a pinch of salt and not even a drop of oil. The oil part was a tough condition since I tend to add a tad but of more oil in non-veg curries. I thought deeply about a possible solution, working intensely on paper to come to a conclusion on the ingredients and process. If I had worked this hard in my school, I would have understood the Pythagorean theorem. Here is the recipe. I will give the measurements for one KG chicken and you can adjust according to the weight.

Ingredients (Part-1) :

  • one kg chicken cut pieces of medium size. 
  • one Lemon
  • One medium size onion or two small onions
First part of the process:
  •  Wash the chicken pieces in a bowl thoroughly twice. Before second washing add a tsp of turmeric, mix well and wash. Drain the excess water from chicken pieces .
  •  Chop the onions to small pieces and put them in the chicken bowl.
  • Squeeze the juice of the lemon ( 4-5 tbsp) and add to the chicken and onions. Mix all thoroughly.
  • Keep a lid on the chicken bowl and keep aside for one hour. 
Ingredients ( Part-2 ) :
  • Curds 250-300 gms. ( 2-3 coffee cups for rough measurement ) . 
  • For NRIs, a piece of advice. I have no idea if packed yogurt works for this as most of them are sweetened and coloured too.  Then opt for plain yogurt and if unavailable, add 3-4 drops of Tabasco sauce in the yogurt.
  • Salt 2 tsp or to your liking
  • Red Chilli powder 2 tsp or to your liking. 
  • 1 tsp coriander powder ( Dhania)
  • 1 tsp cumin seed powder ( Jeera )
  •  Crushed garlic 5-6 pieces, chopped small ginger piece ( 2tbsp garlic ginger paste )
  • 1 tbsp garam masala powder
  • 4-5 green chilies slit vertically and seeds removed. If you want the curry to be hot , retain seeds in a couple of chilies.  
  • Chop 2 medium sized tomatoes ( Indian size ) to small pieces. Or 3-4 tbsp of tomato puree.
  • For those who want a lot of gravy, add 2-3 tbsp of cashew powder or ground nut powder. If not readily available, fry a handful of ground nuts / cashew nuts on a low flame for 5 minutes and powder them in a mixie.
Mix all the ingredients together just before they are mixed with chicken pieces.

Final Part of the Process :
  • Take a non-stick cooking bowl that is deep and has a lid. A transparent lid will help a  lot. 
  • Pour all the mixed part-2 ingredients on the chicken pieces and mix for a few seconds
  • Transfer the contents to the non-stick bowl and place it on a low flame first and after 5 minutes medium flame.. Water will  seep out from the chicken pieces once the bowl is hot. 
  • Keep a cup of water handy in case the water in the bowl evaporates. In that case add water. 
  • Remove the lid every 5 minutes and stir slowly so that the top pieces go to the bottom and vice versa. 
  • Keep in mind the water will not cover the entire chicken pieces. They get cooked by steam.
  • 25-30 minutes of medium flame cooking and 3-4 gentle stirs will do. 
  • Sprinkle coriander / Rosemary a minute before the bowl is put aside. 
  • Transfer to a serving bowl, relish it and remember me.

Friday, July 29, 2016

The Immortal Man

On this day 112 years back a person of Indian origin was born in France. None would have thought at that time that he would be remembered so well by millions of Indians with reverence and respect even after close to 25 years after his physical death. I think that makes him immortal. He was not a godman, or a politician, a leader with mass following , or a freedom fighter who would defy the British and go to prison umpteen times. His idea of freedom from the colonial yoke was industrialization.

He is Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata , fondly known as JRD Tata.  JRD was the successor of the Tata Group patriarch Jamestji Tata, who was a cousin to his father. 
JRD started as an apprentice ( unpaid I believe ) in the Tata Group at the age of 21 and became the Chairman of the flagship company Tata Sons by the age of 34. Once when asked the secret of his success, JRD replied that since he had no university education, he encouraged those who had.

Till a couple of decades back, the Leftist political parties and anti-industrialists used to  refer Tatas in a derogatory manner portraying them as greedy.  Tata and  Birla, as a phrase had become at that time a reference to super rich, personification of inhumane approach to business and profits. How wrong it was.

Indian Govt. Follows Tatas:

Nowhere in the world an elected government had taken a leaf out of the best practices of an industrial group for the welfare of the workers. It was JRD who on his own accord had introduced 8-hour work day, free medical aid , PF , accident compensation and several other worker welfare initiatives. The Indian Government adopted the same measures and made them mandatory after several years.

JRD was the only one who introduced the concept of the worker being deemed to be “ at work” from the moment he left his home for work till he reached home “ after work”, making Tata Steel financially liable for any mishap to the worker to & from work.

An avid aviator, JRD was the first Indian to obtain a pilot license  in 1929 and launched Tata aviation service in 1932. JRD started off as Chairman of Tata Group ( Tata Sons ) with just over a dozen enterprises and after five  decades he left the group with nearly a hundred companies. The feather in the cap was the starting of TCS in 1968, when except the scientific community, even Indian industry had no idea of computers and the possibilities they bring to the table.

A Humanitarian and a True Visionary:

Even several years before Independence, JRD had founded such iconic institutes  like Tata Cancer  Research & Treatment Institute, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, and National Center for Performing Arts. These institutes are the shining examples of excellence even now like their Founder.

A few of JRD’s Famous Quotes:

Ø Money is like manure. It stinks when you pile it ; It grows when you spread it.
Ø No success or achievement in material terms is worthwhile, unless it is achieved by fair and honest means.
Ø Most of our troubles are due to poor implementation, wrong priorities and unattainable targets. 
 Awards bestowed on JRD were umpteen,including Bharat Ratna.
 He was succeeded by Ratan Tata.
 JRD Tata died on November 29th, 1993 but his memory will live on forever.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

How My Birthday is 14th Feb

A few days back some bank has called using Noida call center. And to my disgust the caller didn’t know English. And my Hindi is at best comical. So I passed on the phone to my son. After the call he asked me with his usual twinkle in the eye and a smile on his lips how come I had this important day as my official birthday when my actual birthday was different. And it triggered again a flood of memories.

I was fourteen in 1974 Jan . I was filling the application form for my board / 10th class examinations and rules stipulate one has to be fifteen. So you had the option of backdating your birthday. At that time everyone was so particular about even days of backdating the birthday because one would lose government service and pay and promotions by even few days of birth date. I have backdated my birthday by more than two months than required and filled the form with 14th Feb as the date of birth.
My principal has come to the class for verification of the forms and he asked me why I had backdated by more than two months than required. I told him because it was Lovers Day. He was 6-3 and 200 kg and I was 3-6 and 30 kg. He flew into rage I had never seen. He cuffed my collar and dragged me out of the class room. I was terrified that he would kill me if dragged me to the end of the courtyard. So I just held on to the chapatah of the well and would not let go. In all telugu literature writers used to describe the  “ chintha barikalu” the branches of tamarind tree which are very hard and were used to beat up the kids. But here palm tree branches were used ( eetha kommalu) which used to come down on you with whooshing sound and take off a small portion of the flesh. I do not remember how long this beating went but when I woke up I was in the most forbidden place across the street, the girls hostel. On a cot with one of the most beautiful women on Earth. Another teacher was applying a paste to the whip lashes, never knew what it was. Must be navaneetam ( lime sludge mixed with coconut oil ). I was having a raging fever and come to think of it there was no ice. It was just water drenched clothes to rub off the temperature. I just reached out to her and kissed and told her I love her. She just joined a couple of days back then. She looked into my eyes and told me “ Ramana, You be the same as you are in your life”. Well I didn’t understand then. I was naked and I thought she was actually asking me to remain naked for life. Both of them wiped the shit off my ass, sponged the urine for two days. I was later told they refused to hand me over. Both of them were sacked on the second evening and were refused that night’s stay in the hostel and had to leave evening . It was so fortunate that bus drivers did not rape and kill night passengers then.

On hind sight, I think I should have used this opportunity of staying in the girl’s hostel for two days by curing myself quick and utilizing the opportunity.

Some thirty years later, when this shitty head HR people come to you to congratulate on your birthday I suddenly realized the meaning of her words. What she meant was “come what may, don’t budge.”  

And then a couple of years later I went to Australia for a holiday with my family. I was with my cousin at the Blue Mountains Off Sydney and it was a Sunday. So there was local market. I bought packets of strawberries for every one. Every one was freaking out with the little purchases in the market. Till that day, I have never eaten a strawberry. I ate one strawberry. When I had bit into the other, I remembered this lady because her mouth had actually smelled of strawberry. And I just sat slumped at the curb. And this giant of a man came to me and asked me:” Any problem mate”. I said I just remembered someone whom I had kissed some 3 decades back. He was a massive person and he bellowed with laughter and said:” Big deal mate. When I was 14,I had kissed six, fucked three, married one and my life is screwed now.”

I didn’t know how to respond. I just told him her mouth smelled like his strawberries. He was taken aback. He went back a few feet to his place, consulted his another hulk of wife and brought me another full carry bag of strawberries with no charge.
And then he told me one thing. “ Savour the memory, enjoy the fragnance till the end of your life”

I had deep pockets then. So I launched one of the biggest man hunt or rather women hunt. There was nothing. No records. No person alive who would give me who she was.

Even till today, even if all the women in the world come together and pour acid on me, I will always love women till I melt to the last drop.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


A few months back, my good friend Kali, a senior executive in a PSU, forwarded the below piece written by his friend Ramesh from Bangalore. I missed reading it then and when I was cleaning the mail box, I stumbled on it and was on to nostalgia after reading it. I was given permission by Ramesh  to blog the same and I thank him for it.

I am sure the Gen X will be nostalgic after reading it.


This is a must Read if you grew up in India.This is about a generation of kids who eventually grew up tough and learned to make it on their own with no government subsidies, no unemployment benefits, no medical plans, no job openings to apply for, even if you had an education, no savings and for the most part, no inheritance from our parents. Most families lived from day to day and had no savings.
How true and so well articulated! To Us, the wonderful kids who were born in India and survived the 40's, 50's, 60's, 70's.......... !!* First, we survived being born to mothers, some whose husbands smoked and/ordrank while they carried us. They took aspirin, ate whatever food was put on the table, and didn't get tested for diabetes or any other disease! They were mothers who did not check their blood pressure every few minutes. Then after that trauma, our baby cribs and bassinets were covered with bright colored lead-based paints. We were put in prams and sent out with Ayahs' to meet other children with their ayahs whilst our parents were busy.

We had no child proof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets, and when we rode our bikes we had no helmets, not to mention the risks we took hitchhiking or going out on our own.

As children, if we would ride in cars there were no seat belts or airbags. We sat on each others laps for God's sake. Riding in the back of a Station Wagon on a warm day was always a special treat. If it was on a two scooter, mother on the pillion along with two elder kids and one or more on the front platform was not uncommon. We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this! We would share a bhuta or dosa; dip a chapatti into someone else's plate of curry without batting an eyelid. We ate jam sandwiches or pickle on bread and butter, raw mangoes with salt and chillies that set our teeth on edge, and drank orange squash with sugar and water in it. We ate at roadside stalls, drank water from tender coconuts, ate everything that was bad for us from bhajias (battered and fried vegetables) and samosas but we weren't overweight because WE WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING! We would leave home in the morning and play all day during the holidays, we were never ever bored, and we were allowed freedom all day as long as we were back when the streetlights came on, or when our parents told us to do so. No one was able to reach us all day by mobile phone or phone...... BUT we were OKAY!

We would spend hours making paper kites, building things out of scraps with old pram wheels or cycle rims, inventing our own games, having pound parties, playing traditional games called hide and seek, kick the can, 'gilli danda', 'seven tiles' and rounders, ride old cycles and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem. Our parents earned less, never travelled abroad. Religion was never an issue, everyone trusted and loved each other, and came to each other's aid when needed. We never heard of or claimed our inheritance, whilst our parents were alive. We did not look for inheritance after they died too. They made sure we were alright. Never heard of pocket money!

We swam with an inflated tube which we got from somebody who was replacing their car tyres. We ran barefoot without thinking about it, if we got cut we used iodine on it which made us jump. Our parents ran after us, to give us castor oil, once a month!! We did not wash our hands ten times a day. And we were OK. We did not have Play stations, Nintendo's, X-boxes, no video games at all, no 99 channels on cable, no video tape movies, no surround sound, no mobile phones, no personal computers, no I-Pods, no Internet or Internet chat rooms, no TV,.... full stop! Listening to music was a gather around! We did not have parents who said things like 'what would you like for breakfast, lunch or dinner'. We ate what was put in front of us and
best of all, there was never any leftovers. We polished the lot!!!

WE HAD FRIENDS, great friends, whose parents we called Uncle and Aunty, and we went outside and found them! They too took care of us, when our parents were away, and without any charge! We fell out of trees numerous times, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no compensation claims from these accidents. We never visited the Dentist! We ate fruit lying on the ground that we shook down from the tree above. And we never washed the fruit. We had a bath using a bucket and mug and used Lifebuoy soap. We did not know what Shampoos & Conditioners meant. We made up games with sticks and tennis balls. We rode cycles
everywhere and someone sat on the carrier or across the bar to school or the pictures, not cinema, or you walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just walked in and talked to them, and their parents, never let us go without a meal or something....

Not everyone made it into the teams we wanted to. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!! The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law! This generation of ours has produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever! The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas. We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned HOW TO DEAL WITH IT ALL!

Please pass this on to others who have had the luck and good fortune to grow up as kids in India, before the lawyers and the government regulated our lives, ostensibly for our own good, that changed what was good into bad and what was bad into worse.......

Those were the GOLDEN DAYS my friends of our yester years. !!........