Sunday, January 30, 2005

Saturday aka Shopping Day.

I left for Wal*Mart to stock up my weekly inventory. I thought people back home might be interested in the stuff we desi fresh-off-the-boats buy:

  • Yogurt = thayir, perugu, dahi, mosaru. Or probably there is some difference in the germ that does the fermentation. Or is it co-agulation. I dunno.

  • M&M = Cadbury's Gems. Evokes childhood memories. I pop a few in twice a day after food.

  • Store-brand goods. To get the least expensive items, hint: if in Albertson's, buy "Albertson's Chips," "Albertson's Ketchup," and "Albertson's bread." Since I went to Wal*Mart, I got "GV Cookies," "GV Chips," and "GV Bread." GV (stands for Great Value) is Wal*Mart's store-brand.

  • Dollar Frozen Pizza. The desi student's best friend. Forty Five rupees only - for all emergencies.

  • Shop Photos
    Q: What should I buy at a desi store, and not at an American supermarket?
    A: Fruits and vegetables. In American stores, they are housed in luxury shelves and given frequent water showers by automatic sprinklers. Really. And there are shop floor assistants whose job is to smile and say "Hi." Who is billed for the five star treatment? I, me, myself. No sir, I am happy with the plain-vanilla Indian shop. Thank you.

    Q: What should I not buy at our desi store?
    A: Snacks. If you just want to something crisp with your food (I always do) or wish to munch something when you get back from school, do not buy Maami's mixture or Haldiram's bhoojia from Bharat Bazar. Go for store-brand potato or peta or corn chips. With all the money you save, you can holiday on that Caribbean Cruise...

    (Please click on the thumb-nail picture for photos.)

    Sunday, January 23, 2005

    Delicious Music and Euphonic Food

    I am an impatient cook - I generally don't enjoy spending too much time making food. In this, my Man Friday is the microwave which I use to prepare rice and boiled vegetables.

    Dinner Photos
    But of late, we (my room-mate Gaurav and I) have been enjoying more toothsome dishes, thanks to a third friend (Rajkumar) who joins us during meals. Seated on the floor amidst the vessels and surrounded by soft music, we relish food and banter.

    While gathering MP3's from my classmates for making the dinner music CDs, I came upon Rahman's Sangamam film songs. I first heard them during my undergrad days on the college bus's cacophonous player. But still I took to the Carnatic based numbers. A favourite is Saukkiyama in raga Mand.

    Listening to these classical-flavoured songs made me curious about how the music is written down such that the playback singer executes it just as the composer had envisioned it. In Carnatic, the music is written down in the solfa notation. There is a lot of music between the documented notes (svaras) due to gamakas, but this can be inferred from the characteristics of that raga. In film songs, the music rarely adheres to a raga strictly, which would make it difficult to re-construct the complete music if it were notated in solfa.

    Is there is someone from the film music field who has the answer?

    Saturday, January 22, 2005

    I have written a new article:

    The Grantha Script of Sanskrit. Sanskrit, though present throughout India, never had one common script. In Bengal, it was written in the Bengali script; in Andhra, in the Telugu script. In the Tamil region, the script used was (and to this day in traditional patasalas is) Grantha.

    Do go through it. I am eager to know your opinion, so please do post some comment here after reading. Thanks!

    Monday, January 10, 2005

    Flea Market

    In this part of the US, every few miles apart one can find a city. Mountain View is the closest to my campus; some others are Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, Palo Alto, San Jose (pronounced San Ho-say). Yesterday I had gone to the city located to our west, Palo Alto. I planned to visit (along with a friend, Rajkumar) the eastern city of San Jose on this last day of vacation. Specifically, the Flea Market.

    Flea Market is the American equivalent of Ranganathan Street bazaar plus Mambalam Station Road market. They sell inexpensive clothes, produce (the noun; not as in �to produce�), footwear, furniture and even cars!

    This being a Sunday, the bus service that takes us to Mountain View (it is from here that buses that connect to most places ply) was not available. We decided to cycle, but we found that one of the two cycles (called �bike� here) had a flat tyre. Or so it seemed� But on inflating, the air seemed to stay.

    Not fully trusting the tyre, with the air pump in my bag, we set out for Flea Market.
    Flea Market Photos

    The market is located in a huge square ground, with all the shops arranged in row-column matrix. In the first shop, we saw caps, hats and gloves. There was a hat for a dollar both of us took a fancy for. There was only one such, so I let Rajkumar take it.

    We spent a little more than an hour walking around the place. I bought gloves and one pound of groundnuts.

    From 6:30 in the evening at the university, Martin Radley (our professor) and our class saw the third installment of Lord of the Rings. We were glued to our seats for the full four hours.

    Sunday, January 09, 2005

    To Stanford University

    With the year-end vacation drawing to an end, I thought I should visit my school friend, Vikram, at Stanford University today, for it may not be possible later.

    I took the VTA (Valley Transport Authority, the public transport organisation for Santa Clara county) bus to Palo Alto, where the university is located. Generally, whenever I travel somewhere I carry my lunch, to save on expenses. I did not have time in the morning to cook food, and so, just packed some apples and carrots and rushed to catch the bus.
    Stanford Photos

    The famous University was founded by Leland Stanford in 1891. He was of humble origins and through his own efforts grow into a millionaire in the railroad business. His son, also Leland, died young and the Stanfords decided to adopt the youth of whole of California as their children in place of the one they lost. They decided to build this university in their son's memory.

    The campus is a blend of stately old buildings of stone as well as steel structures of modern architecture. Interspersed here and there are other works of art such as sculptures. There was a wooden totem pole, there was a brass one depicting gay
    liberation, and an abstract work in the Business School. But the most famous of all the sculptures is the "Burghers of Calais." Stanford Photos 2

    During the Hundred Years war between the England and France, the French king abandoned the beseiged city of Calais to its fate. When governor petitioned the King of England to spare the citizens while doing as he pleased with the city itself. Seeking revenge for enormous loss accrued due to the warriors from that city in the war, the English king offered that if six citizens were handed over to him as punishment the rest would not be harmed. The sculpture is of the six volunteers (all
    respected and wealthy citizens) on their way to the English camp. The artist, Rodin, brings out their inner turmoil by depicting their "faltering steps, despairing gestures and anguished expressions."

    A few decades ago in India, people travelling Benares would give up eating a vegetable, in memory of the pilgrimage. The trip to Stanford too was a pilgrimage of sorts for me. While taking a photograph, I kept down the food I was carrying and forgot to pick it up. Thus, in memory of the visit, I left behind somewhere in Stanford, my lunch for the day...

    Pictures are here