Monday, December 29, 2008

Blue Nile

BLUE NILE

[Foodie Memories]

By

VIKRAM KARVE




My darling “foodie” sister suddenly lands up in the evening from Mumbai and commands, “Let’s go to Blue Nile!”

“You sure?” I ask, a bit incredulous.

“Yes,” she says peremptorily, “I’m in a mood for a nostalgic Biryani!”

And soon we are sitting in Blue Nile – a quaint, old-world, down-to-earth, high turnover, no-frills, old-world "heritage" eatery of Pune located near the GPO opposite the Nucleus Mall. This is no fancy restaurant for stylish gourmet dining in air-conditioned comfort, soothing tranquility and refined classy ambiance. Blue Nile is certainly not the ideal place for a discreet tête-à-tête meal or a romantic candle-light dinner. The moment you enter your nostrils may experience wafts of “aromatic pleasures” of the overpowering “mughlai fragrance” emanating from the open kitchen in front of you – so be prepared for a quick, hot, sweaty, hustle and bustle meal amidst din and hullabaloo.

There is no bar – that’s good – for they focus on the food, and the tipsy types come in only late at night. And you’ll always find an assorted crowd, students, office-goers, travelers, a sprinkling of families, foodies, young and old – and you will notice almost all of them gorging into a plate of Blue Nile Biryani. There are two halls and they have put the molded chairs and tables in the corridor too, maybe for the late night crowd, where we found onions being peeled. It’s quite a large place with a canteen-like atmosphere – a place for quick businesslike eating – not a place to hang out.

We order – a Mutton Biryani for me and, surprisingly, my sister orders a Chicken Biryani. I look at her in disbelief – “I’m off red meat,” she says.

Sad. Real sad! A pity. Chicken is ubiquitously boring – it’s put on the menu for those masquerading as non-vegetarians and those who don’t know what to eat.

And tell me, Dear Reader, tell me, doesn’t the word “Biryani” imply Goat Mutton? Can there be such a thing as Chicken Biryani, Fish Biryani or, just imagine, Veg Biryani?

Think about it. Just think about it. And while you think I’ll eat!

The food arrives in a jiffy – dumped matter-of-factly on the table with a few onion rings.

I feast my eyes hungrily at the tempting dish of Mutton Biryani in front of me, my mouth waters, I dig in, pick out a piece of mutton, pop it on my tongue, close my mouth and my eyes, focus my senses inwards, press the soft, tender, succulent well-cooked meat between my tongue and palate, gently roll it all over, imbibing the heavenly flavours as the mutton releases its delicious juices, then a delicate squeeze, a gentle bite, allowing the scrumptious meat to dissolve, savour the delicious taste and appetizing aroma, as the medley of flavours permeate deep within me.

On first impressions, how do you judge a Biryani? There are four tests.

First I try the “spread test”. I pick a little Biryani in my fingers and sprinkle it on the side dish. The grains of rice must not stick together but remain separate. The pieces of meat too must be succulent, clear and dry, not greasy.

The Blue Nile Biryani passes the “spread test” – not ten out of ten, maybe eight out of ten.

Then I lift the plate and smell the pieces of meat. The Biryani must be pleasantly aromatic [the sweetish fragrance and appetizing aroma of marinated spices] – not sharp or piquant. Again, it’s eight on ten. The Biryani has passed the “aroma test” with flying colours!

I taste the mutton – it’s excellent, succulent, superb – a perfect ten on ten! I roll some rice on my tongue – a wee bit too spicy, the slight hint of greasy aftertaste – maybe eight on ten. Overall nine on ten in the “taste test”!

A Perfect Biryani? Let me see! The fourth and final test! The “Potato Test”.

I search for the potato. The potatoes must taste as well as the meat – that is a hallmark of a good Biryani. I search for the potato. The potatoes must taste as well as the meat – that is a hallmark of a good Biryani. I dig deep, search – there is no potato. Just imagine – a Biryani without a potato! Can there be a perfect Biryani without a potato which tastes as delicious as the mutton?

My sister forces me to taste the Chicken Biryani. I wish I hadn’t – the chicken is quite tasteless with a sour tinge; certainly not well marinated, maybe they use a common stock of pre-boiled chicken for all the dishes.

Dear fellow Foodie – that’s my assessment of the famous Blue Nile Biryani – a fine deliciously tasty wholesome Mutton Biryani, maybe not “perfect” connoisseur cuisine, but certainly a trencherman’s delight.

And the Chicken “Biryani”? Well it’s quite run-of-the-mill. Nothing special at all.

You will find all the usual fare to fill up the menu card at Blue Nile. Like every restaurant Blue Nile has its own version of the ubiquitous “Chinese” Chopsueys and Hakka Noodles and a few “Standard” vegetarian dishes, besides tea, soft drinks, jelly, caramel custard, shakes and ice cream.

Dear Reader, please don’t experiment. Remember the “signature dish” of Blue Nile is Biryani, so when you go to Blue Nile make sure your relish their inimitable Mutton Biryani. At a hundred and twenty bucks, it’s reasonably priced, certainly value for money.

Blue Nile is simple, no nonsense, unpretentious, high turnover eatery focusing on food with a down-to-earth, commonplace, earthy atmosphere – a place for the gluttonous trencherman, certainly not for the refined epicure. If you are one of those high-falutin, snooty gourmets finicky about suave ambiance, classy dining, elegant décor et al, try the Blue Nile Take Away – their “parcel” service is so fast that you’ll have your food parcel in your hand almost the moment you place your order.

Dear Punekars – can someone please tell me where I can relish a “perfect biryani” in Pune.

By the way, can someone please tell me the difference between a Biryani and a Pulao?

Of course, I know the answer – just trying to cross-check!

Happy Eating!


VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2008
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.

A Broken Engagement

A Broken Engagement

[Short Fiction – A Love Story]

By

VIKRAM KARVE



The moment I saw the email I did two things.

First I took a print-out of the mail, kept it in my purse and deleted the mail from my mailbox.

Then I called the airlines and booked my ticket on the next flight to India.

The e-mail contained a name and an address. That’s all – just a name and an address.

I cannot begin to describe the emotion I felt as I looked at the name.

I had so many questions to ask him – Unanswered questions that were haunting me for so many years.

It all began when my fiancé Anil suddenly broke off our engagement without any explanation.

“Why?” I asked him totally shocked.

“I can’t tell you,” he said.

“You can’t dump me just like this. I’ve done nothing wrong,” I pleaded heartbroken.

“I’m sorry, Rita. I can’t marry you,” he said trying to look away from my eyes.

“What do you mean you can’t marry me?” I shouted shaking him.

He didn’t say anything, just remained silent, averting his eyes.

“Is it someone else? What do you mean you can’t marry me? Actually you don’t want to marry me, isn’t it?”

“Okay, you can think what you like. I don’t want to marry you.”

“You have to give me an explanation. I am not going to accept being jilted like this.”

“You have to accept it. Don’t delve too much.”

“How dare you say ‘don’t delve too much’, you unscrupulous cheat?” I screamed in anger, taking hold of his collar.

“Cool down,” he said pushing me away. “It’s you who tried to cheat me.”

“I? Cheated you?” I said dumbfounded and furious.

“You shouldn’t have tried to hide things from me,” he accused.

“Hide what?” I asked.

“You never told me that you are an adopted child,” he said.

“What nonsense! Don’t talk rubbish. I’m not adopted!” I shouted in anger.

“You are.”

“Who told you?”

“We got some matrimonial enquiries done.”

“Matrimonial enquiry? You spied on me,” I accused him, “to blackmail me, to humiliate me? With all these lies!”

“Don’t worry. No one else knows. It’s a reliable and discreet investigation agency.”

“It’s not true. I’m not adopted,” I said feeling shattered, numb, as if I had been pole-axed.

“Why don’t you ask your parents?” Anil said as he walked away from my life, leaving me heartbroken, desolate and shattered.

I never asked my parents, the only parents I knew. They were the one’s who loved me, gave me everything. I could not ask them; hurt them. I did not have the heart to. They did not say anything to me but I could see the sadness and a sense of guilt in their eyes, as they withered away having lost the will to live. I felt deeply anguished and helpless.

My parents loved me, meant everything to me, and we carried on our lives as if nothing had happened, and I lovingly cared and looked after them till their very end; but deep down I felt terribly betrayed.

Years passed. I relocated abroad past and immersed myself in my work. I tried to forget but I could never forget.

One day I could bear it no longer. I decided to find out. And now I had found out.

The investigation agency had done a good job. Confidential and discreet.

For the first time I knew the name of my actual father. My real father, my biological natural father.

And now I had to meet this man and ask him why he did it – abandon me to the world.

I landed at Delhi airport in the very early hours of the morning.

It was cold, the morning chill at once refreshing and invigorating, the driver drove fast and it took me six hours by taxi to reach the magnificent bungalow near Landour in Mussoorie.

I checked the nameplate and briskly walked inside, eager to see my real father for the first time.

There was a small crowd gathered in the porch.

“What’s happening?” I asked a man in the crowd.

“Bada Sahab is no more. He passed away this morning. He was so good to us,” he said with tears in his eyes.

I pushed my way through the crowd.

My father’s lifeless body was lying on a white sheet bedecked with flowers, ready for the last rites.

As I looked at his serene face, tears welled up in my eyes.

Suddenly I lost control of myself and cried inconsolably, “I have become an orphan. An orphan!”

“Me too!” a familiar voice said softly behind me.

I turned around and stared at Anil, my ex fiancé .

Anil looked into my eyes in awe.

Slowly comprehension began to dawn on us, Anil and me, and we kept looking into each other’s eyes.

In silence. A grotesque silence. A deafening silence. An illuminating silence. An enlightening silence.



VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2008
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.


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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

LAMINGTON IN PUNE - Foodie Memories

PUNE NOSTALGIC FOODIE MEMORIES

LAMINGTON

By

VIKRAM KARVE


When I lived near Aundh, in the evenings I often used go for a walk on Aundh Road from Bremen Chowk towards the railway line at Khadki. It is one of the best places to walk in Pune, wide roads with plenty of greenery and foliage on both sides.

Of course, Girinagar, where I live now, is a fantastic pristine verdant walkers' paradise, where you can rinse and invigorate your lungs with pure cool refreshing unpolluted air; but then it's far far away from the chaotic polluted noisy concrete jungle of Pune!

But one thing is for sure. While you can rinse your olfactory senses to your heart’s content with the wonderful pure air, you can’t relish a delicious Lamington and indulge your epicurean gourmand desires on your evening walks out here.

back then, in my memorable days in Aundh, on my way back to my erstwhile home near the banks of the Mula River, I would treat myself with a Lamington at the Spicer College Bakery Shop.

Let me close my eyes, transport myself to the glorious past, stop at Spicer College Bakery on my evening walk, buy a lamington and delicately place the soft delicacy between my lips, press and squeeze a piece of the wonderful stuff on my tongue, focus inwards, enhance the sensitivity of my gustatory senses in order to amplify the experience of supreme bliss as the Lamington melts in my mouth and the chocolatty-coconutty luscious syrupy sweetness permeates into me.

A Lamington is a delicious cube of sponge cake, dipped in melted chocolate and sugar and coated in desiccated coconut.

They originated in Australia around 1898 in what later became the state of Queensland. Whilst the origin of the name for the Lamington cannot be accurately established, there are several theories.

Lamingtons are most likely named after Charles Baillie, 2nd Baron Lamington, who served as Governor of Queensland from 1896 to 1901. However, the precise reasoning behind this is not known, and stories vary.

According to one account, the dessert resembled the homburg hats favoured by Lord Lamington.

Another apocryphal tale tells of a banquet in Cloncurry during which the governor accidentally dropped a block of sponge cake into a dish of gravy, and then threw it over his shoulder, causing it to land in a bowl of desiccated coconut or peanut butter. A diner thought of replacing the gravy with chocolate and thus created the lamington as we know it today.

Ironically, Lord Lamington was known to have hated the dessert that had been named in his honour, once referring to them as "those bloody poofy woolly biscuits".

Another theory is that they were named after Lady Lamington, the wife of the Governor.The Spicer College Bakery Lamington is my favourite – and can you imagine it costs just Eight Rupees [that’s five Lamingtons for a Dollar, for those who think in Dollars!].

The chocolate icing keeps the cake moist. The desiccated coconut protects it from drying out in the hot climate. And it’s quite a juicy generous lip-smacking treat!

The Spicer College Bakery in Pune serves a variety of healthy goodies like carrot cake, nut cake, doughnuts, samosas, soy patties, soya milk; but, for me, it’s always my all time favourite, the inimitable yummy succulent Lamington!

Tell me, Dear Fellow Foodies, have you tasted a Lamington, in Pune or elsewhere?

If so, do tell us all about it.

If not, enjoy one the next time you are in Pune and give me your feedback.



VIKRAM KARVE


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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Your Smile, Your Laugh and You

SMILE AND LAUGH

By

VIKRAM KARVE



While I was clearing up some old papers in my bookcase, I came across some jottings in an old diary I had made more than thirty years ago probably while sitting in my university library.

I had scribbled something about types of smiles and laughter.

Your smile (and your laugh) is like your signature – your very own personal imprint, password or signal.

Now I want you to keep a mirror in front of you and practice each of the types of smiles described below, and have a laugh.

Don’t you want to know which type of smile and laugh suits you best?

Come on, get ready, and check it out, and tell us which type of “smiler” and “laugher” you are.

SMILES

Lip smilers – Smile only with their lips.

Cheesy smilers – Smile with their teeth

Twinkle smilers – Smile and Laugh with their dancing eyes

Sweet smilers – Exercise their chubby cheeks

Wry smilers – Know something you don’t

Tee-Hee smilers – Smile with their necks

Body smilers – Smile wholeheartedly with their whole body

And of course you’ve seen the fake, contrived smiles of forced geniality.


LAUGHTER

Hearty Laughter – All heart

Belly Laughter – Body, belly and heart

Seal Laughter – Barking, high pitch, like a seal

Guffaw – Clearing one’s lungs and windpipe

Giggle – silly, embarrassed laugh

Titter, Snigger, Snicker – mocking laughter

Chuckle – A quiet laugh to yourself

Chortle – Gurgling laughter

We also have a burst of laughter, rolling with laughter, horse laugh, laughing up one’s sleeve (a secret somewhere), and laughing one’s head off.

I am sure there are many more types of smiles and laughter, so Dear Smilers and Laughers, do tell us all you have observed.

I wonder if one’s personality and character is related to the way a person smiles or laughs?

And would someone please tell me what is: “to smile like a Cheshire Cat” for I have never seen a cat smile [Dogs do smile though!]


VIKRAM KARVE

vikramkarve@sify.com

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/

Monday, December 08, 2008

Managerial Ethics - Food for Thought

MORAL DEVELOPMENT AND ETHICAL FITNESS

By

VIKRAM KARVE



[An article on Managerial Ethics based on an insightful model to look at various stages of moral development, ethical fitness for job roles and ethical issues faced in work situations]


When recruiting new people, or promoting/appointing persons to senior / sensitive positions, a number of attributes ( Hard Skills and Soft Skills) like Professional Competence, Managerial Proficiency, Domain-specific or Technical skills, and pertinent soft skills comprising leadership, communication, behavioural and emotional aspects, and even physical and medical fitness are assessed, evaluated and given due consideration.

But does anyone evaluate a candidate’s Ethical Fitness before recruitment or appointment?

No, I am not talking about the routine verification of antecedents or background integrity checks. I am talking of assessing Ethical Fitness.

Ethical fitness refers to ensuring that people are in proper moral shape to recognize and address ethical dilemmas. Ensuring Ethical fitness in a proactive manner will result in preventive, rather than corrective, Ethical Management.

Before launching any inquiry pertaining to the concept of Ethical Fitness, it is necessary to explore the moral dimension. Moral development is a prerequisite to ethical behaviour; in fact, a sine qua non for ethical fitness. Kohlberg offers a handy framework for delineating the stage each of us has reached with respect to personal moral development.

Stage 1. Physical consequences determine moral behaviour.

At this stage of personal moral development, the individual’s ethical behaviour is driven by the decision to avoid punishment or by deference to power. Punishment is an automatic response of physical retaliation. The immediate physical consequences of an action determine its goodness or badness. Such moral behaviour is seen in boarding schools, military training academies etc. where physical punishment techniques are prevalent with a view to inculcate the attributes of obedience and deference to power. The individual behaves in a manner akin to the Pavlovian dog.

Stage 2. Individual needs dictate moral behaviour.

At this stage, a person’s needs are the person’s primary ethical concern. The right action consists of what instrumentally satisfies your own needs. People are valued in terms of their utility. Example: “I will help him because he may help me in return – you scratch my back, I will scratch yours.”

Stage 3. Approval of others determines moral behaviour.

This stage is characterized by decision where the approval of others determines the person’s behaviour. Good behaviour is that which pleases or helps others within the group. The good person satisfies family, friends and associates. “Everybody is doing it, so it must be okay.” One earns approval by being conventionally “respectable” and “nice.” Sin is a breach of the expectations of the social order – “log kya kahenge?” is the leitmotif, and conformance with prevailing ‘stereotypes’ the order of the day.

Stage 4. Compliance with authority and upholding social order are a person’s primary ethical concerns.

“Doing one’s duty” is the primary ethical concern. Consistency and precedence must be maintained. Example: “I comply with my superior’s instructions because it is wrong to disobey my senior”. Authority is seldom questioned. “Even if I feel that something may be unethical, I will unquestioningly obey all orders and comply with everything my boss says because I believe that the boss is always right.”

Stage 5. Tolerance for rational dissent and acceptance of rule by the majority becomes the primary ethical concern.

Example: “ Although I disagree with her views. I will uphold her right to have them.” The right action tends to be defined in terms of general individual rights, and in terms of standards that have been critically examined and agreed upon by the whole society. (eg) The Constitution. The freedom of the individual should be limited by society only when it infringes upon someone else’s freedom.

Stage 6. What is right is viewed as a matter of individual conscience, free choice and personal responsibility for the consequences.

Example: “There is no external threat that can force me to make a decision that I consider morally wrong.” An individual who reaches this stage acts out of universal ethical principles.

Moral development is in no way correlated with intellectual development or your position in the hierarchy or factors like rank, seniority, status, success or earnings, salary, material wealth. In the words of Alexander Orlov, an ex-KGB Chief, “Honesty and Loyalty may be often more deeply ingrained in the make-up of simple and humble people than in men of high position. A man who was taking bribes when he was a constable does not turn honest when he becomes the Chief of Police. The only thing that changes in the size of the bribe. Weakness of character and inability to withstand temptation remains with the man no matter how high he climbs.” Ethical traits accompany a man to the highest rungs of his career.

In a nutshell the governing factors pertaining to six stages of Moral Development which determine Ethical fitness may be summarized as:

FEAR – Stage 1
NEEDS – Stage 2
CONFORMANCE – Stage 3
COMPLIANCE – Stage 4
CONSENSUS – Stage 5
CONSCIENCE & FREE WILL – Stage 6

Before we try to delve into exploring how to evaluate Ethical Fitness, let us briefly ponder on the concepts of Ethical Susceptibility and Ethical Vulnerability.

Ethical Susceptibility is your inability to avoid ethical dilemmas. Ethical Susceptibility is environment dependent (on external factors) like, for example, your job, your boss, colleagues and subordinates, or the persons around you, or even the ‘prevalent organizational culture’.

Ethical Vulnerability is your inability to withstand succumbing in the given ethical dilemmas /situations. It is dependent on your internal stage of moral development in the given ethical situation.

Whereas being in an ethical dilemma is not in your control, to act in an ethical manner in the prevailing situation is certainly in your control.

Ethical vulnerability is a measure of the ease with which a man be ethically compromised, especially in an ethically poor climate. In situations where the ethical susceptibility is high, morally strong people (ethically non-vulnerable) should be appointed and conversely, only in jobs/situations where ethical susceptibility is low should ethically vulnerable persons be permitted.

If the environment is not conducive, a person can intellectually reach stage 6 but deliberately remain morally at stage 4 as he may find that he has to sacrifice too much to reach stage 6. This can be particularly seen in most hierarchical organizations where most smart employees make an outward preference of being at stage 3 or 4 (Conformance and Compliance) in order to avoid jeopardizing their careers, even if internally they have achieved higher ethical states. This Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde schizophrenic moral approach is at the heart of many ethical dilemmas people encounter in their professional lives and may result in internal stress due to ethical confusion.

Whenever two individuals at different stages of moral development interact with each other, both of them try to force or manoeuvre the other into their own appreciation of the ethical situation, thus leading to conflict. In a formal hierarchical setup, the players in the chain may not be at similar stages of moral development thereby leading to dissonance in the system. Where the ethical susceptibility is high, morally strong people (less vulnerable) should be appointed and conversely, in only such jobs where ethical susceptibility is low should ethically weak persons be permitted.

What is your stage of personal moral development? Be honest with yourself and recall the decisions you made in recent ethical situations. The six stages are valuable landmarks as they tell you approximately where you are and what changes you will have to make in yourself to move to a higher level of moral development. The ultimate goal is to engage in ethical decision making at stage 6. However, the level that you do reach will depend on your ethical commitment, your ethical consciousness and your ethical competence.

Food for Thought

What do you do if your boss is at a lower stage of moral development than you? Do you masquerade and make pretence of being at the “appropriate” stage of what moral development and practice situational ethics to reap maximum benefits.

This Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde schizophrenic ‘situational ethics’ approach may cause your outer masquerade to turn into inner reality. Do you want that to happen? Think about it!

Is there such a thing as Ethical Fitness?

Or is "Ethical Fitness" an oxymoron, not relevant in today's work environment?

Dear Reader, what do you think? Please do let us know your comments.


VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2008
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work

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Thursday, December 04, 2008

CANINE PSYCHOLOGY

Canine Psychology

by

Vikram Karve


My pet Doberman girl Sherry gives me a grand rousing welcome every time I return home. She waits for me at the compound gate, and the moment she sees me, Sherry goes berserk with sheer excitement, wagging her tail vigorously round and round, jumping up at me enthusiastically, making unique welcome yelps, nudging me with her mouth and nose, and when I, overcome by a flood of love, have caressed, patted and cuddled her, she runs round and round the compound in happy joyful exhilaration and ecstatic glee.

And then as I proceed towards the house, Sherry does something unique which I have never seen any other pet dog do – she brings me a “gift”.

Yes, she comes to me carrying in her mouth a welcome gift, and drops the gift at my feet.

And do you know what this welcome gift is?

Well, sometimes it is an old bone she digs out, or maybe an old soiled rag cloth or the pair of socks she had stealthily pinched from the drying stand and hidden, buried deep in the lawn, or one of her toy “babies”, or an old shoe, or maybe just some piece of muck she has dug up, or a twig, anything – but Sherry always welcomes me home with a gift.

She does this to my wife, kids, mother, friends, maid and others she knows well and though her welcome may not be as vigorously enthusiastic as she does for me, Sherry always brings them a “gift”. [For unwanted strangers Sherry has a ferocious, rather ominous bark, and, if unheeded, and they dare to enter our compound, maybe a vicious assault followed by a memorable bite – she is a superb guard dog].

Sherry’s “gifting nature” has me perplexed. As I said I have never seen any other pet dog bringing welcome gifts.

Sherry’s fantastic welcome overwhelms me with a delightful emotion of happiness, gratitude and love that I cannot describe in words, and I always look forward to returning home to Sherry [My wife and kids do sometimes welcome me home too, but certainly not as enthusiastically, and there is never the “welcome gift” at my daily homecoming after work].

Dear Reader, have you ever seen any dogs demonstrate their happiness and affection in this way?

Please can some dog lover or canine psychologist throw some light on this “gifting behaviour” – why does my darling pet Doberman girl Sherry express her love in such an inimitably endearing manner?

VIKRAM KARVE

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http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com