Saturday, October 30, 2010

Travel free by Train! In First Class, accompanied by two servants and 200 Kg. luggage!?

Such free travel! Any number of times, every Year, is not possible for any family anywhere in the world, today. But this was a reality in the past. This privilege was given to my father and other Officers who were employed with “H.E.H. The Nizam’s State Railway”. My father held such passes for 16 years, as long as he was with the Railways. He held a Free Pass for the family, servants and huge baggage allowance, and another similar pass was issued to my mother in case she has to travel by herself. I am exhibiting below, one such Free Pass, which I came across recently. It is a Free First Class Pass issued to my mother for the year 1949 permitting her to travel with 3 Maunds (112 kg)! of luggage accompanied by free travel for two servants (in III Class) each carrying 35 Seers (44 kg)! of luggage. “GOOD OLD DAYS!” 

Friday, October 29, 2010

Ten Years of International Space Station – 2/Nov/2010.



After a long time, the local (Hyderabad) newspapers covered news of the International Space Station (ISS) stating that at 6 p.m. today, the ISS would be visible all over India as a small bright light for two minutes and in that context wrote about the 10th anniversary of the Space Station on 2nd November 2010. However, for those following news on the internet, there is always some interesting information about ISS. Just two days back there was news of ISS urgently correcting its orbit to avoid collision with Space-garbage. It was maneuvered to an orbit 700 metres higher, and its speed increased by 0.4 metres per second. And then there is regular news of unmanned cargo spaceship carrying food, fuel and other supplies to ISS and about the interesting phases of docking and glitches that are overcome. There is always detailed news when the crew changes or some tourists visit ISS, but however the most memorable news for the entire world must have been when a Japanese couple got married there. And in these ten years much has been accomplished by enlarging the ISS and by many expeditions and experiments and making the whole project of traveling and living in space a big success. However the rumor of abandoning it towards 2016 due to lack of budget is depressing, I hope it is not true.
Though the newspapers have mentioned of the visibility of ISS in India this evening, it would not be possible for anyone without the knowledge of the exact bearings. As a consolation and to all those interested in seeing the ISS, I am offering a link to – “Live Real Time ISS Tracking”: http://www.n2yo.com/ , and the above photographs will give you an idea of ISS and life on it.
You may read on, if you are interested in knowing some basic facts about ISS. The ISS was constructed as a joint venture of NASA, Russian Federal Space Agency, The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, The Canadian Space Agency and the European Space Agency. The first team of crew arrived on ISS on 2nd November 2000. The crew normally of six members consists of Americans and Russians. They stay on ISS for duration of about six months, and then they are replaced. They have a routine just as on earth but live under zero gravity condition, which is not easy. The shape and parts of the ISS and its size in comparison to a Boeing 747 aircraft can be seen in the above pictures and its weight is 370,000 Kg. It orbits around us at an altitude of 360 Km. and at an average speed of 27,743 Km./Hr. That means, it orbits earth in just 91 minutes, that is 16 times every day! Congratulations and Best Wishes to all those involved with ISS and Good Luck and Long Life to ISS!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

It's Custard Apple season!

It is Custard Apple season, and a bountiful one this year, perhaps due to plenty of rains. Mangoes and Custard Apples are the most grown local fruits and normally available in plenty. Grapes also used to be grown in large quantities around Hyderabad, but now it is not so. 
Custard Apple season starts in August   and fades out towards mid-November, sometime after Deepavali. The onset of the fruits is announced by a number of road-side vendors selling them in baskets. In peripheral areas of the city you can see a number of villagers selling them from their bullock carts. These vendors normally pick them up from the few trees in their fields or from the trees that grow in the wilderness. There are hundreds of such villagers who eke out their living in this season by selling these fruits in the cities, towns and highways. Soon afterwards, fruits from the Custard Apple gardens flood the market through Fruit Stalls and Fruit Carts that can be seen along every street of the city. You will find most fruits grown in size, but not ripe, so it would take a few days to ripen them at home, by placing them in the leaves of its plant, dry grass or by placing them in rice grain. 
Custard Apple is locally called as Sitaphal, meaning Sita Devi’s fruit. The story behind this name is very interesting. When Lord Rama and Sita Devi were in exile, in forests (Aranyavasamu), Lord Rama went for hunting and did not return until late in the afternoon. Sita Devi became anxious, and after a long wait set out into the dense forest to find him. As the sharp pebbles and thorns caused her pain she wept and her tears rolled down. Ultimately she was united with Sri Rama but was too tired to walk back. Lord Rama picked her up and carried her to the Ashram. Being a hot day and as he was carrying Sita Devi he perspired a lot and drops of sweat fell along the way. The tears and sweat that fell on ground soon grew into two types of plants. And later they bore fruits, one round in shape and green in color, and the other, a lager one, heart shaped and brown in color. Lord Rama and Sita Devi found the fruits delicious and named them after themselves as Sitaphal and Ramphal. 
I hope Sitaphal is available in your area. If you have not tasted this fruit, you must do so immediately, it is a very sweet, soft, unique flavored, delicious fruit. Despite eighty odd seeds in a fruit, the pleasant experience of eating it makes one have as many as possible in a season. Sometimes, two after a meal! It is an apt dessert in this season! Further many recipes like Sitaphal Milkshake, Kheer and Ice cream can be relished.
Secunderabad has a very old fruit market named as Sitaphal Mandi. It is so named because in the olden days many vendors from different villages used to converge here and sell Sitaphal. Today Sitaphal Mandi is not just a Fruit Market but the name of a large residential and commercial area between Secunderabad Railway Station and Osmania University Campus. Finally, I must say that it is a very nutritious fruit with many health benefits. It is packed with many essential vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber. Wish you a bountiful Sitaphal season!

Monday, October 25, 2010

What a lovely family!

A niece of mine is getting married in November. We met the extended family of the Bridegroom for the first time last Thursday that is on 21st October. We met them over breakfast at my niece’s place and later joined them for lunch at their residence. And the time spent with them, almost the entire day, passed of very pleasantly.
The Groom’s family that visited us consisted of his parents, two brothers, paternal and maternal grandmothers, families of six maternal uncles and one maternal aunt, families of three paternal aunts and one paternal uncle. It is quite a big family, with extraordinary camaraderie and affection between each of them, irrespective of their age. It was nice to see so much of cheer, joy and joking throughout the day. Their hospitality was magnanimous. I shall certainly look forward to spending more time with them at the upcoming pre-wedding and wedding ceremonies and in the future.  
I wish to compliment my niece once again through this column for joining such a lovely family and bringing us all together.

“Rayalaseema Ruchulu”.

Every month, more than one new restaurant is coming up in Hyderabad. Long ago we had mostly Multi-cuisine (Indian & Continental), Mughlai, South Indian, North Indian, Chinese and Andhra Meal restaurants. But today we have a number of exclusive restaurants catering to State specific, region specific and international tastes. There are restaurants serving only Jain food, Gujarati food, Punjabi food, Thai, Arabian, Italian, Lebanese, Moroccan, Mexican and so on. This apart almost every international fast food chain’s outlet is available in the city. In addition to all these; are restaurants catering to the tastes of some very small areas of the country, like Rayalaseema. Rayalaseema is the southern region of Andhra Pradesh State, consisting of four Districts, Kurnool, Anantapur, Cuddapah and Chitoor.  
After writing about the Telangana Food Festivals, it was quite natural for me to think of the foods from the neighboring area of Rayalaseema and of the growing popularity of this cuisine in Hyderabad. About seven years ago, two restaurants, Rayalaseema Ruchulu and Kritunga introduced Rayalaseema food to Hyderabad. The initial concept of these restaurants was perhaps to offer the taste of authentic home food to the people of Rayalaseema visiting Hyderabad or settled in Hyderabad. However, these new tastes and food have become very popular among many other people, prompting these restaurants to open a number of branches spread over the city.
“Rayalaseema Ruchulu” means “Tastes of Rayalaseema” and “Kritunga” means the region through which the rivers Krishna and Tungabhadra flow, suggesting that they serve food of Rayalaseema. As in Telangana, this cuisine is also quite hot and spicy. Red Chillies and Chilly powder is a common ingredient in most dishes with a very rich and distinct taste. Some items are similar to Andhra and Telangana foods but with a different taste and some are very distinct like Ragi Sankati, Thalakaya Kura, Natu Kodi Biryani, Natu Kodi Pulusu, Gongura Mamsam, Gongura Pappu, Peethala Kura, Brain Fry, Liver Fry, Prawn Iguru, Roast Chicken, Gutthi Vankaya Kura and many more.
In conclusion, I can confidently say that everyone from Andhra Pradesh would love the food of Rayalaseema as we are already accustomed to hot and spicy food. As for others, they may request the chef to prepare the dishes a little mild, and then they too would find the food exotic. Finally, the food at these restaurants is not expensive! At the very next opportunity, do experience “Rayalaseema Ruchulu”, you will thank me for the advise!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

‘Telangana Food Festivals’ galore!

This year, many restaurants, cultural and political parties organized ‘Telangana Food Festivals’ at Hyderabad and major towns of Telangana during Navarathri celebrations and until Dasara. This concept was started in the recent years but it was never held on such a large scale. Some political party or a cultural organization used to organize a Telangana Food Festival at one or two places, at some popular grounds in the city. And with heavy crowds converging at such few points, the experience in the past was not very satisfactory. This year it was different, it was at many places and I hope everyone enjoyed their experience, like us. We went to the ‘Telangana Food Festival’ at ‘36 Bar-B-Q Restaurant’, which is just adjacent to our house and enjoyed the food. It was a memorable evening not just because of the food but due to the ‘local theme and decorations’ there, and a very enthusiastic congregation of connoisseurs and admirers of Telangana food.
Telangana cuisine; in all its variety exists and survives only in the rural areas of Telangana. Elsewhere, especially in Hyderabad, though the locals stick to Telangana cuisine, they do not go for the entire variety, as in the past. At the time of festivals and some celebrations it is strictly or mostly traditional Telangana food all over the region.
Authentic Telangana cuisine is predominantly very hot, spicy and sour. Liberal usage of Red Chillies, Chilly powder, Green Chillies, Green Chilly paste, Ginger-Garlic paste, Garam masala and Tamarind is common. The above photographs are just a few of the many Telangana foods. Some of the items are common to other regions and look alike but have a slightly different taste and a different name. All the Telangana savories depicted in the above pictures like Sakinalu, Chegodilu, Murukulu, Vadappalu, Segu, Sundelu, Masala Puri, Bajjilu, Garelu, Makkajonna Garelu, Vadalu and Sweets like Ariselu, Laddulu, Polelu, Garijelu, Kheer and many more are very popular. Some of the sweets are made out of Jaggery. Items like Jonna Rottelu, Gummadikaya Kura, Mamidikaya Thokku or any other Thokku, Muddha Pappu, Pachi Pulusu, Salla Charu, Mamidikaya or Tamarind Pulihora, Daddojanam and a variety of Non-Veg. preparations shown in the above pictures are common food. However foods like Ambali shown in 4th picture top left and many varieties of green leaf curries and several other foods are slowly vanishing from the urban areas. The Food Festivals have showcased many foods of Telangana. The Restaurant we have been to, served 150 different and exclusive dishes of Telangana during the weeklong festival. And on the day we have gone there, the spread was quite large. I picked a little here and there without missing much and found all of them tasty. As all restaurants seem to have done good business last week with Telangana Food Festivals, I wish they conduct them more often and revive the grand old tastes.
P.S. You may click on the link below to watch the preparation of a simple, and an exclusive dish of Telangana called Pachi Pulusu (Rasam), presented by Hyderabad’s world famous Chef, Sanjay Thumma:

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Dasara Festival 2010.

In our tradition there are many Festivals that are celebrated throughout the year, some minor, some local and some major. Today is Dasara, a major Festival that is celebrated all over the country, as the victory of good over evil. This is the day on which Goddess Durga Devi killed the demon Mahishasura and Lord Rama killed the evil king Ravana. I posted detailed articles on Dasara Festival and Ayudha Puja along with some photographs last year. You may see these articles by clicking on the following links:
It has been drizzling in Hyderabad since yesterday. Despite chilly weather and a constant drizzle the festival is being celebrated with the usual gaiety, enthusiasm and fervor. With the Festival falling on a Sunday, many employees have lost a holiday. I spent some time in the morning exchanging Dasara greetings with friends, relatives and acquaintances over phone and through SMS. After offering Puja to the deities at home we carried out Puja to all the vehicles. This was followed by a festive lunch. Then in the evening we went to Sri Anjaneya Swamy Temple close to our house putting on new dresses. This Temple Complex has a number of other Temples in it, that of Lord Ganesha, Lord Shiva, Goddess Santoshi Maatha, Sri Venkateshwara Swamy, Sri Sitarama Swamy and Nava Grahalu. After returning from the Temple Complex we offered prayers to the deities at home and then sought the blessings of my mother, brother and sister-in-law. Then there were some guests who visited us to exchange greetings. After dinner we went to my sister’s house at Himayathnagar and sought the blessings of my sister and brother-in-law. It was close to 11:30 PM as we returned home in a heavy rain. The exchange of greetings would continue tomorrow with some close relatives visiting us.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Saddhula Bathukamma Festival 2010.

Bathukamma Panduga Shubakankshalu.
This year’s Bathukamma Festival was celebrated all over Telangana with greater enthusiasm and excitement. At a time when there is concern that old traditions are not being honored much; this year’s developments of grand celebrations in every village, town and city of Telangana have made me very happy. Apart from this; the news that the Festival   has been celebrated in all parts of the world by people from this region has also made me happy. You may read all about Bathukamma Festival and how we celebrate it and view several yesteryear pictures of the festival at our home by clicking on the following link:
Hope you too enjoyed the festival, and those of you like my son, Srinath and nephew, Udhay Bhasker who are abroad must have enjoyed the festival by watching Telugu TV Channels.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

I am glad that all 33 Chilean Miners are rescued safely.

On 30th August, I wrote an article titled: “Say a prayer for Chile’s Miners trapped 700 metres underground”, link:
And as the rescue operations commenced it was obvious that apart from the families of the Miners and the Chilean people, the entire world especially the mining communities were praying for the safety of the Miners. When I wrote the above article it was felt that the Miners would be rescued towards Christmas but fortunately it happened much earlier. The Miners were rescued yesterday, 13th October, 69 days after they were trapped in the San Jose – Copper and Gold Mine. The rescue operations were telecast live by BBC and CNN for over 24 hours and it was a great experience to watch the 33 Miners coming out one by one, their reunion with their families and colleagues and the emotions and celebrations all around. I could see that all the trapped Miners are very brave, that the technicians involved in the rescue operations are too good and efficient and that Chile’s President Mr. Sebastian Pinera is a great person and a great leader.  I wish to congratulate all of them. As I was watching the rescue operations I was feeling very happy and after the 12th Miner reached the surface safely I posted the following comment on BBC World’s – “Have Your Say”, facebook Wall: “Congratulations!...the miners, their families, the Chilean Government, the technical personnel and everyone involved in the rescue operations and people all over the world who prayed for the safety of the miners. And GOD! Thank you for the miracles at San Jose, please see that all miners come out safely.” Now that the rescue mission is complete in all respects, I wish to thank GOD once again and I hope that the Governments and all industries of the world would learn lessons from this mishap at San Jose Mine and never be complacent with safety regulations.

You may click on the link below to watch an interesting ‘Chile Mine Rescue Video’ by BBC as the last miner Luis Urzua an exceptionally strong leader of the trapped Miners reaches the surface:

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Delicious & Nutritious! Quail Meat & Eggs.

Quail meat is a delicacy I have enjoyed since childhood, a few times every year then, but more often now. With Japanese Quail Farms coming up in recent times the availability of birds and their eggs is easy now. My grandmother was informed by someone that Quail meat is tasty and good for health and that is how she introduced this food to the family. In my childhood eggs of hen were mostly sold in the city by nearby villagers who went round houses. There were two persons who regularly sold eggs to us and on my grandmother’s order or on their own they brought wild quails for sale, which they used to catch in the forests.  
Truly it is a delicious, flavorful meat with high nutritional values, it is high in protein, high in fat and it is an abundant source of various vitamins and minerals. And the nutritional values of a Quail egg are superior to that of a regular egg (hen) though it is just about 1/4th the size of a regular egg. The sizes of these eggs and the comparison of the nutritional values of these eggs can be seen in the photographs attached to this article.
The overall health benefits of Quail meat and especially egg consumption runs into a long list. It is said to overcome skin conditions, asthma, sinus problems, cough, and allergies and benefit the nervous system, digestive system and improve immunity and brain function.
You can procure dressed Japanese Quails at most Super Markets of Hyderabad like SPAR and HyperCITY. Quail eggs are mostly available at HyperCity. A few Restaurants and Mayuri Curry Point at Begumpet serve Quail preparations. If you have never tasted these delicacies, please try and I am sure you would begin to love Quails!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Capturing 10/10/10 and 10:10:10 today was thrilling!?

Today on 10/10/10 (10th October 2010) and at 10:10:10 (10 Hrs. 10 Min. 10 Sec.) we managed to capture these spectacular figures on a Wrist Watch and a Wall Clock and the experience was quite thrilling and satisfactory. All the cameras and hands in the house were used to capture this special date and time. We were perhaps lucky to get them right as the figure 10 stands for perfection and there were so many 10s before us! The result of our effort is the video and photographs below:
Today is being predicted as a perfect day by several people, especially numerologists. In view of this I understand that several weddings are taking place today all over the world, surely among perfect partners. I wish them and every one of you a nice and perfect day, today and forever.

Today, 10th December is Human Rights Day.

December 10th is Human Rights Day, a United Nations (UN) campaign that calls for people to know and push for their rights no matter ...