Monday, April 27, 2009

Masala Vada - Gara

Nothing could beat Masala Vada - an evergreen evening snack. It is a nutritious, cripsy South Indian delicacy made with 3 different kind of dals. Accompaniments though not really necessary due to its balanced taste, could include tomato ketchup, corriender chutney, mint chutney...

A good idea to remove excess oil from the vada would be to blot it with tissue paper once the golden crisp is removed from the pan.
Makes 6 vadas

Urud dal 2 tbsp
Moong dal 2 tbsp
Toor dal 2 tbsp
Green chilli 2
Onion chopped small 1/4
Rice flour 1 spoon
asofortidia, salt, coriander

- Soak the three dals in water for 40 minutes
- Beat to a coarse mixture in mixie along with chillis
- Add salt, asofortidia, onion, coriender, rice flour
- Heat oil in pan, make round flat dumplings with the mixture and put in oil till golden brown

Art of Living - Sudarshana Kriya

Art of Living - Sudarshana Kriya

Sudarshan Kriya, is a powerful breathing technique taught at the Art of Living (AOL) centers. This unique rhythmical breathing process is said to have been revealed to his Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar during a spell of silent meditation that he had gone into for 10 days in 1982.

One of the breath's behavior; for every feeling or emotion there is a corresponding rhythm in the breath. Sudarshan Kriya incorporates specific natural rhythms of breath to release stress and bring the mind to the present moment. Thereby allows a healthy and pleasant mind to produce chemical messengers, which travel from the nervous system to the immune system, resulting in the overall betterment of both body and mind. It is preceded by Ujjayi Pranayam and Bhastrika.

Different people have different experiences at varied times while doing the long kriya. It is best that only an AOL teacher impart the kriya. The long kriya is felicitated at AOL follow-up workshops all over the world free of cost. Schedule for the same could be obtained from

Benefits I felt on doing Sudarshan Kriya

Clears mind of various unwanted thoughts
Feel good factor
Reduced stress and tension
Brings as un-intentional smile, relaxing facial muscles

The practice is instrumental in creating a sense of harmony in the body, mind and spirit. After the practice, there is a feeling of calm and centeredness, with a clearer vision of the world and self.

Health Benefits
As a pilot study, biochemists at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) studied the effect of Sudarshan Kriya on the antioxidant status of individuals. A team lead by Dr Neeta Singh and Dr Vinod Kochupillai, tested the blood of 42 persons who were practicing Sudarshan Kriya for over 1 year and compared it with the blood of 42 healthy individuals who were not practicing any form of physical exercise or stress management techniques.
What the researchers found was thought provoking. Clearly, the cellular activity between the two groups was different. The Kriya practitioners had a better antioxidant status at the enzyme and the gene level. Also they had less DNA damage and cell aging. Though biochemical science and spirituality may seem miles apart, it is heartening to see ancient practices and modern science converging to live a richer and healthier life.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Cruise Vacation - The Caribbean Islands

The Caribbean Islands - Cruise Vacation

Finally the most awaited evening arrived! Mom, dad and me were scheduled to go on a 10-day cruise vacation. This was happening after so many years of patience, is a must say

Another reason to keep my excitement high was, on the way to Orlando, Florida we were going to meet my good old friend Srividya and her hubby Suyodhan for a whole long day! They were newly wed and I guess we were going to be their first guests. Well, we were all set, packing was done as I wound up my hour long call with Anitha. Mom and dad were driven to my apartment at Pleasanton by a friendly uncle Pramode. Sayed, our regular cab driver, was ready to drive us down to San Fransisco Airport.

Five hours later we landed at Atlanta. Srividya had booked a cab to pick us up at the airport. Unfortunately he did not turn up, later on calling him we realized that his wife had an emergency and he couldn’t come. Now started our adventure at the new place – dad was trying to figure out some means of transport to Birmingham, abt 2.5 hrs drive from Atlanta. Varied conversations with the locals out there led us to one cab, the driver agreed to give us a ride.

I dozed off while on way. I sleep like a baby on all the rides/flights. I generally do not prefer short flights, by the time I get cozy with my sleep, it is time to land L. Whom do I see at the corner of the road? Oh my goodness, it was srividya… I jumped out of the car as soon as it stopped. I was seeing her after 6 months. Srividya was my first good friend to be married. She made poori with potato sabji and channa masala. Ought to admit, she acquired skills of a talented cook, lucky suyodhan. They narrated us stories of the 6 grand special utensil with which she cooks her vegetables, how it retained the heat even after simmering the stove, consultation with the chemistry expert, her mom!!! Heheheh.

Woke up fresh after a power nap, to the aromas of mouth-watering lunch along with egg masala especially for me. We poised for couple of pictures at her place and then Suyodhan drove us to Atlanta, to take our next flight to Orlando.

A chauffer driven limousine drove us to Holiday Inn, our tired bones got some rest. A fresh bath and continental breakfast gave us all the energy to start our cruise at Port Canaveral.

The Mariner of the Seas - last of Royal Caribbean's five Voyager-Class vessels looked magnificent. It stood in front of us with utter royalty. The Mariner of the Seas is the 2nd largest boat in the world. She was going to be our home for the next 7 days! She had over 14 decks; our accommodation was in the 11th deck overlooking the deep blue ocean. Shops, Restaurants, bars, jewelries, heated pools, Jacuzzis, sports, kids play area, mini golf, ice-skating, rock climbing, basket ball, theatres (savoy), boutiques, general stores…. so on and so forth were all housed in to entertain us guests. We dint enjoy the formal dining at “Rhapsody in Blue” even though it was gorgeous and looked like the dining place of the Titanic, this was more due to the extreme formal proceedings, limited knowledge on topics to discuss (mostly non IT) and choice of veggie food.

Windjammer was our favorite; we used to dine in here day in and day out. Sandeep Arora the Manager, took very good care of us! The Promanade on the 5th deck kept giving away cheese Pizzas continuously as much as you can eat. I had more slices here, than the sum of all the pizzas I had over 25 years of my life. As a matter of fact, I even started enjoying the soft yogurt cones on the 5th deck. Generally I do not consume ice-creams, cold yogurts, cold drinks, etc due to dentistry issues, but only exceptions rules in the boat!! There were photographers on the move constantly, capturing beautiful pictures and portraits of guests - of course for big bucks….

A day of sailing and exploration led us to Labaadee Island, Haiti. This was an awesome bright green island with mostly rather all colored people. The natives make beautiful handicrafts for a living. Labaadee is Royal Carrebean’s private island, bought and maintained for the pleasure of its visitors. Numerous water sports were at our reach here, such as parasailing, snorkeling, banana boats, water scooters, and scuba diving…. For our entertainment a classical Labadee dance and music show was hosted. This was audible till our room on the boat.

In the evening we departed from Labadee, a night of sailing was required to see Ocho Rios, Jamaica!!! Ocho Rios is a Spanish name. After the Spanish left Jamaica, the British took over and ruled, so your guess is correct - left hand drive!!! This place had similarities with Southern Sri Lanka, sluggish with respect to its agriculture, infrastructure, and people…. We boarded a bus and it drove through The Duns River falls, Dolphin’s Parade and then the shopping center. Surprisingly most of the shopkeepers were none other than our own gujju’s expect for 1 whom we met was a Hyderabadi Reddy.

Just before our cruise vacation there were consecutive hurricane hits, the worst being Hurricane Katrina. We had to deviate from the schedule and skip The Cayman Island as it had severe effects. This influenced the captain of our ship to reduce the average speed from 24 knots to 14 knots. Couzumel, Mexico was scheduled for Day 5. Couzumel looked so much like Mumbai, India. A part of its interesting history beauty is dedicated to the Mayan ruins. Here too we had a whole list of water sports at our reach.

Being vegetarians and non-swimmers, we thought we would have less to do on a cruise. To prove us wrong there were so many activities. One water activity we 3 could enjoy without getting wet, yet being in close proximity with the sea life was the submarine. A small boat took us to the middle of the sea, a submarine was waiting for us. We entered and took our seat near the window. We went 106 feet below the water level with stops at various depths to survey the beauty. For 45 minutes we were been maneuvered to explore the under water splendor.

Day 6, now I started feeling gloomy thinking about the return to the real world L. I began to sense the boat was going faster than usual though it wasn’t… went to Deck 5 to take the last bytes of my favorite cheese pizza, yogurt cone and balcony view. Wow, what I saw here is un-forgettable. Nature is marvelous, there was a dark black cloud pouring rain on the left side, bright dry sunshine on the right. The rain on the left was approaching the boat and in 2 mins reached us….

Phew!! L Woke up – I had never felt heavier, had my bath, dragged myself up to WindJammer to bid Sandeep a good bye… Went to the balcony where the bright florida sun shone, Oops, I realized my favourite Ray Ban sunglasses were missing. It happened to get misplaced during a photo session the previous night. What more did I need to make me feel worse at that point of time. I was feeling so low. Our boat reached the Port of Call, Port Canaveral. We went through customs clearance check, the officers had a tough time with some handwritten items in my Indian passports. Took a taxi to the Florida airport, flew to Oakland, California via Salt Lake City.

Now back to the Real World. This is the most impressive holiday of my life is a must say – Thanks Dad!