Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A recent article from the UK Telegraph newspaper

Indians pay surgeons to turn girls into boys

Indian doctors have been accused of conducting sex change operations on young girls whose parents want son to improve the family's income prospects.

There are now seven million more boys than girls aged under six in the country Photo: ALAMY

By Dean Nelson, New Delhi
9:30PM BST 27 Jun 2011

Madhya Pradesh state government is investigating claims that up to 300 girls were surgically turned into boys in one city after their parents paid about £2,000 each for the operations.

Women's and children's rights campaigners denounced the practice as a "social madness" that made a "mockery of women in India".

India's gender balance has already been tilted in favour of boys by female foeticide – sex selection abortions - by families who fear the high marriage costs and dowries they may have to pay. There are now seven million more boys than girls aged under six in the country.

Campaigners said the use of surgery meant that girls were no longer safe even after birth.

The row emerged after newspapers disclosed children from throughout India were being operated on by doctors in Indore, Madhya Pradesh.

Doctors confronted in the investigation claimed that girls with genital abnormalities were being sent to the city's clinics to be "surgically corrected" and that only children born with both male and female sexual characteristics were eligible for the procedure. But campaigners said the parents and doctors were misindentifying the children's conditions to turn girls into boys.

The surgery, known as genitoplasty, fashions a penis from female organs, with the child being injected with male hormones to create a boy.

Dr V P Goswami, the president of the Indian Academy of Paediatrics in Indore, described the disclosures as shocking and warned parents that the procedure would leave their child impotent and infertile in adulthood.

"Genitoplasty is possible on a normal baby of both the sexes but later on these organs will not grow with the hormonal influence and this will lead to their infertility as well as their impotency. It is shocking news and we will be looking into it and taking corrective measures," he said. "Parents have to consider the social as well as the psychological impact of such procedures on the child."

India's National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights ordered the Madhya Pradesh government to investigate the claims and produce its findings within 15 days.

Ranjana Kumari, of the Centre for Social Research and one of India's leading campaigners against female foeticide, said the surgical transformation of girls into boys without their informed consent was a sign of India's growing "social madness".

She said she despaired that education had failed to stop the growing rejection of baby girls in India.

"The figures are getting worse. In 2001 there were 886 girls born to every 1,000 boys in Delhi. Today there are only 866. The more educated and rich you are, the more there is killing of girls," she said.

"People don't want to share their property or invest in girls' education or pay dowries.

It's the greedy middle classes running after money. It is just so shocking and an outright violation of children's rights."

The government needed to address the problem by stressing the spiritual value a girl or woman brought a household in Hindu culture. "In India we say God resides in that house where there's a woman but that has evaporated because of all this greed. We need to emphasise the spiritual wealth a girl brings to a family, but we also need to support them with financial subsidies and jobs," she added.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A lunch at Gunpowder restaurant

On the weekend, a group of us went to lunch at this place called “Gunpowder” in Hauz Khas Village.

The place is small (only about 30 covers) & a bit hard to locate: down a few alleyways & up three flights of narrow stairs.

The food is southern Indian.

The booking originally started as a table of two, then three, by the time we sat down, it had grown to five & by the time everyone had arrived, it was now six. The staff were very accommodating in re-arranging the tables.

We ordered a selection from the menu which proved to be more than enough for all of us:

Iddiki Sweet & sour pork curry
Mushroom Curry
Vegetable Korma
Eggplant chutney (with tomatoes & onions)
Mango chutney
Lime & green chilli chutney
Tamarind Rice
Tomato Papu

They served this lovely, fluffy & light bread (whose name escapes me) that was very tasty.

My favourite dish was the Iddiki pork curry. The pork was covered in this caramelised sauce which had a bit of a kick to it.

The tamarind rice worked very well with the dishes. It too, had a bit of a kick, especially when you ate a bit of the dried chilli. The eggplant chutney was quite sweet & didn’t really taste of the eggplant but more of the caramelised onions.

Everyone loved the meal & it only ended up costing us a grand total of INR2600 ($AUD56).

Friday, June 24, 2011

Recently overhead

The question "What does India stand for?" was recently overhead.

The answer? I'll Never Do It Again.

An article showing how India & Pakistan see things different

Here's a recent article from the Los Angeles Times regarding the recently announced troop withdrawl from Afghanistan. It highlights how Pakistan & India can look at the same event & see things different:


Pakistan, India assess U.S. withdrawal plans

For neighbor Pakistan, the unexpectedly larger and faster planned troop pullout from Afghanistan is welcome, but for India, which has been cultivating ties with Kabul, any increased instability bodes ill.

By Mark Magnier, Los Angeles Times
June 24, 2011
Reporting from New Delhi

President Obama's announcement that the United States will pull 33,000 troops out of Afghanistan by the end of next summer was met with muted concern Thursday in India and Pakistan as analysts, policymakers and military brass scrambled to assess the implications for their respective nations.

Though Washington had telegraphed the troop reduction for months, it was larger and faster than many had expected.

In Pakistan, the news was generally applauded. The South Asian nation has bridled at U.S. regional influence, CIA drones in its airspace and what it saw as the American intrusion on its sovereignty in May in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in the city of Abbottabad.

It shows that America is committed to withdrawing, said Talat Masood, a retired Pakistani lieutenant general and now a military analyst. "That's welcome in Pakistan. A gradual withdrawal will be helpful for the region."

A reduced U.S. footprint in the region might allow Islamabad to expand its influence in Afghanistan. It also probably would reduce U.S. pressure on Pakistan to sever links between its security forces and homegrown militant groups, some of whom are viewed by Pakistanis as freedom fighters useful in countering neighbor and longtime rival India.

Many in India, on the other hand, expressed concern that the relatively sharp U.S. withdrawal would raise uncertainty in the region, increasing the risk that militancy in Pakistan and Afghanistan would spill across India's borders.

India is confident its relations with Afghanistan are solid, and the countries share a distrust of Pakistan's motives and its bid for enhanced influence in war-torn Afghanistan.

Pakistan will want to ensure that India doesn't align with Afghanistan's Northern Alliance, a political rival to tribal groups allied with Islamabad, analysts said. It is also wary of India forming links with groups in southern Afghanistan that might ally with and embolden neighboring Baluch tribesmen seeking independence for Pakistan's Baluchistan province.

However, India's ability to counter Pakistani ambitions or otherwise exert its muscle in Afghanistan as U.S. troop numbers decline is severely limited by geography: Pakistan borders Afghanistan; India does not.

Pakistan controls the main road and port access to landlocked Afghanistan, limiting Indian trade links. And Pakistan can block energy pipeline routes to India from Afghanistan and other Central Asian nations.

"There is a limit on what India can do to influence Pakistani-Afghan relations," said Dipankar Banerjee, a former major general in the Indian army and director of New Delhi's Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies. "And India has to accept those limitations."

India and Pakistan share an interest in a gradual, measured U.S. withdrawal that gives the region time to adjust and fill the vacuum in an orderly fashion, analysts said. A full-on civil war in Afghanistan would hurt everyone. Nor would Afghans fleeing any such meltdown be as welcome in Pakistan as they were during the 1980s fight against the Soviets, given Pakistan's economic troubles and domestic terrorism problems.

India and Pakistan also share an interest in limiting the rise of the Afghan Taliban, albeit for different reasons. India is wary of increased Islamic extremism in the neighborhood that could spark another attack like the terrorist assault on the city of Mumbai in 2008, for which it holds Pakistan at least partly responsible. And Pakistan is concerned that a revitalized Afghan Taliban could embolden its home grown Taliban movement, further complicating its security issues.


Anshul Rana in The Times' New Delhi bureau contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2011, Los Angeles Times

Is there a ban on reporting bad news from India?

A recent article from the Independent paper:

Is there a ban on reporting bad news from India?

• By Andrew Buncombe
• The Foreign Desk
• Wednesday, 22 June 2011 at 6:41 am

It was the writer and activist Arundhati Roy who set foreign journalists in India busily chattering recently. In an interview with Stephen Moss in the Guardian, Ms Roy was discussing the Maoist and Adavasi “resistance” to encroachment on tribal lands. Mr Moss, asked her why, “we in the West don’t hear about these mini-wars?”.

Ms Roy replied: “I have been told quite openly by several correspondents of international newspapers, that they have instructions – ‘No negative news from India’ – because it’s an investment destination. So you don’t hear about it. But there is an insurrection, and it’s not just a Maoist insurrection. Everywhere in the country, people are fighting.”

Mr Moss’s response was: “I find the suggestion that such an injunction exists – or that self-respecting journalists would accept it – ridiculous. Foreign reporting of India might well be lazy or myopic, [Thanks Stephen, that's very decent of you.] but I don’t believe it’s corrupt.”

I’ve been thinking about what both of them said, and discussing the matter with some colleagues based in India. I’ve never received a “no bad news” order from London and the colleagues I spoke with insisted that neither had they. Several things struck me:

In the last decade or so India has certainly been successful in re-branding its international image. Where once it was seen as a hopeless, overwhelmingly poor country, there has instead been focus on a newly aspirational middle-class and economic progress, the new “Shining India”. As a result, there are fewer stories about malnutrition (which still haunts huge numbers of Indians) but more about new airlines, coffee shops, call centres, the World Is Flat, eight per cent growth and the attendant changing structure of society, especially in urban India. Though things have probably shifted too much, the change in focus is understandable enough; the media is always looking for something new, something different, to report on. I also think that in India – as elsewhere in the world – the priorities of Western corporations sometimes find their way into the news agenda; every month or so, some article will ask when India will finally allow the likes of Wal-Mart and Tesco to operate here.

At the same time, does this stop “bad news” about India being broadcast or published? In the time I’ve been here, I’ve written about insurgencies, caste, poverty, farmer suicides, religious violence, killings in Kashmir, Hindu terror cells, corruption (a number of times), honour killings, slums, land battles and homelessness. In the last 18 months, The Independent has published three substantial pieces on the Maoists. My colleagues have done the same, travelling to Nyamgiri to write about the tribal people’s fight against mining company Vedanta, to the Maoist “infested” areas of Chhattisgarh and West Bengal, to Srinagar and Bihar, or working in Delhi where they highlighted the corruption and mis-management surrounding the Commonweath Games or else illegal child labour involved in the textile industry.

None of these issues could be considered positive for India’s image, and it’s true they are controversial. Invariably, articles that focus on such issues will be met by a barrage of condemnation on the web, usually from upper middle-class Indians who choose to believe the country has moved on from such things or else those living overseas. With some ugly and unhealthy exceptions, it must be said there is usually little interference from the Indian authorities.

I emailed Ms Roy, who I respect and admire even if I believe her analysis on some key issues is in need of some nuance, to ask if she had been misquoted and, if not, whether she could reveal the individuals labouring under the “no bad news” directive. She replied to say she had indeed been quoted correctly in the Guardian but that the correspondents she referred to had spoken to her “confidentially”. She said there had been two people who had told her this, which is a little different to “several” as she initially remarked.

Perhaps Mr Moss bears some of the blame for his question. Knowing that he was interviewing a leading Indian social activist, he might have spent a little more time researching the issues she has been writing about. He could have done little better than reading his own paper. In 2006, its correspondent spent several days travelling with the Maoists for a lengthy feature, while more recently, the paper has reported from the insurgent heartlands of West Bengal.

Perhaps the truth is that we’re all just too busy, or too lazy, to keep up with the news of any particular place, unless we make a conscious effort to do so. I chuckle, thinking that before moving to India four years ago, I had never heard of Bollywood superstar Shahrukh Khan (left). It now seems inconceivable that the man whose beaming face and bouffant hair greet me every day, from the Page 3 gossip stories to virtually every other television advert, was ever off the map.


Since writing this, I’ve been contacted by a colleague who said they cannot interest their “editors in anything but stories of shiny new India”. When this person “pitches stories on issues of poverty, development, or those being left out of the Great Indian Miracle”, they are told it’s “old news”. The appetite of their desk is entirely for stories of growth and positive change.

This journalist says they did not speak to Ms Roy. Furthermore, this journalist said they had been told by a colleague who works for another international publication of an “identical problem”. The correspondent said their colleague was told by their desk: “Report the news. It is not news that there are poor people in India.”


How's this for dedication

This is a recent article in the Daily Mail:

Is this the world's smelliest man? The farm worker who has not had a wash in 37 years

• Kailash Singh believes not washing will help him have a son
• Wife's threat to stop sleeping with him didn't change his mind

By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 10:30 PM on 23rd June 2011

Guru Kailash Singh has refused to wash for the past 37 years, despite the best efforts of his family

It is not an achievement that can readily be savoured by his nearest and dearest.
But Kailash Singh has as good a claim as any to the accolade of world's smelliest man - after refusing to wash for more than 37 years.

Mr Singh, 65, has not bathed or cut his 6ft-long dreadlocks since 1974, shortly after he married.

Explaining his unconventional decision, Mr Singh claimed a priest guaranteed him a much-prized son and heir if he followed the advice.

Despite neighbours joking the sweaty farmer would be lucky persuade his wife to have any children at all, his religious guidance clearly failed - he has seven daughters.

Mr Singh spends his days tending cows in 47C heat, yet the only 'cleansing' he does allow himself is a 'fire bath' each evening, which involves smoking marijuana, praying to the Hindu Lord Shiva and dancing around a bonfire.

His long-suffering family admit they did once tried to force him into a stream.

'He fought us off and ran away,' said wife Kalavati Devi, 60. 'We've tried several times since to force him to have a shower but he puts up such a fuss.

'He says he'd rather die than take a bath and only a son could change his mind. It has been so many years now I've got used to it.'

His wife even threatened to stop sleeping with him if he didn't bath, but she gave in first, insisting she should be loyal and put up with the stench.

The father-of-seven spends all day working up a sweat tending cows and working in his fields near the Indian holy city of Varanasi, on the banks of the River Ganges, where temperatures regularly top 47C.

He admits neighbours in the rural village of Chatav make fun of him but said he is following god's will.

'Children tease and shout that I don't wash when I ride my bicycle through the village,' he said. 'There are many people who have a poor character that mock me for not washing. They do not understand my decision but I will not change my mind as it is god's choice, not mine.

Guru Kailash Singh outside his house with wife Kalavati Devi, 60; his daughters Pooja Singh, 16, Neetu Singh, 25, and Baby Singh, 35; and grandchildren, Shradha Singh 8 months, and grandson Mohit Singh, 12

Mr Singh has a 'fire bath' every evening, which he insists cleanses him

'My wife doesn't like it either but she must bear all the hardships I have to bear. Besides, I take a fire bath in the evenings and that gets rid of all the sweat.'

Mr Singh's wife claims she has tried everything to make her smelly husband clean up his act without success.

'I abused him and started crying when he told me about his senseless decision,' she said. 'I even threatened to stop sleeping with him but he is my husband so there was little I could do about it.'

Youngest daughter Pooja, 16, even says her father's strange decision has made her more popular.

'My schoolmates are curious to see and meet my papa,' she said. 'They keep asking me how he can live for so many years without washing and want to see for themselves.

'Earlier I would be angry but there's nothing we can do as he doesn't listen to anyone.

'In this hot summer I want to shower at least twice a day but he doesn't want to take even one. I don't know how he manages to live.'

The only contact with water Kailash has is to wash his mouth and hands.

'I have no son, so I will never wash again,' he said. 'Maybe when I am born again I will wash.'

Mr Singh's wife, Kalavati Devi, threatened to stop sleeping with him if he didn't wash, but she gave in first

Why we wash our fruit & vegetables

Here's an article from the Hindustan Times of 10 March 2011 that explains things:

Vegetables to be double tested for pesticides

Staff Reporter

The Delhi High Court on Wednesday set up a committee of lawyers and tasked it to collect vegetable and fruit samples for simultaneous testing at a Delhi Government laboratory as well as one certified by National Board for Testing and Calibration for presence of residue of pesticides.

A Division Bench of the Court comprising Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Sanjiv Khanna directed the committee comprising Additional Solicitor-General A.S. Chandhiok, Delhi Government Standing Counsel Najmi Waziri, Union Government lawyer Meira Bhatia and Delhi Legal Services Authority Member Secretary Asha Menon to collected the samples from ten different places in the city, send them for testing to the two laboratories and thereafter file a report in the Court.

Earlier, the Delhi Government submitted that in the past three years it had collected 11,000 samples of vegetables and fruits for examination of toxic substances and prosecution had been initiated in 1,440 cases.

The Court ordered double tests of the samples after non-government organisation Consumer Voice submitted that every State other than Delhi got samples of vegetables and fruits tested by National Board for Testing and Calibration-certified laboratories of the Union Government.

The Court has been hearing a suo motu petition on the basis of a media report about rampant use of banned pesticides in vegetable and fruits in the Capital.

The report quoting a study on use of banned pesticides by farmers conducted by a non-government organisation said the amount of pesticides used in India is as much as 750 times the European standards.

Of the five internationally banned pesticides, four were found to be common in vegetables and fruits, the report said.

These pesticides cause headache and affect fertility and can damage kidney and liver, the report said.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Another recent article (from the UK Telegraph website)

Inquiry launched into India's 'chewing gum' spy claim

India's prime minister has ordered an espionage investigation after 'chewing gum' was found stuck under the desks of his finance minister and senior members of his staff. They feared the gum had been used to attach bugging devices.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Photo: EPA/HARISH TYAGI

By Dean Nelson, New Delhi
4:14PM BST 21 Jun 2011

Dr Manmohan Singh ordered the inquiry after finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, effectively his deputy prime minister, complained of a 'serious security breach' and possible surveillance operation after the discovery of 'planted adhesives' at 16 points in his office and those of some of his aides.

Officials from the Intelligence Bureau were drafted in to establish whether the 'planted adhesives' were carefully placed to hold surveillance devices or simply discarded pieces of bubble gum furtively pressed under the desks of senior officials by careless peons or office cleaners.

The targets appeared to be Mr Mukherjee, his advisor, private secretary and conference rooms in North Block, the government's secretariat which houses the finance and home ministry which polices terrorism.

The finance minister initially called in counter-surveillance experts to sweep the building but later sought the involvement of intelligence specialists, but the two agencies came to different conclusions, officials told The Indian Express.

The counter-surveillance team, which worked alongside tax officials, concluded the squashed adhesive gums had been placed so strategically that it must have part of a plot. They found 'grooves' which suggested the gum had held devices which had been later removed.

They rejected the intelligence officials conclusion that it had simply been low-level staff discarding their chewing gum because, they argued, no employee would dare stick it on a minister's desk.

In the panic caused by 'bubblegumgate' the country's National Security Advisor and the Director of Revenue Intelligence were also drafted into the inquiry. Yesterday the finance minister conceded nothing sinister had happened.

"In respect of the news report about the bugging in my office, Intelligence Bureau investigated into it and they found there is nothing," Mr Mukerjee told a press conference.

India's former chief of counter-terrorism intelligence B. Raman said had it been a plot, it would have been one of the most audacious in recent history.

"Bugging is not very common, in fact this is the first incident in India so far but that does not mean these things do not happen here, its only, if they get detected then we get to know about the act otherwise they succeed in taking away the information and remain unknown," he said.

"It's quite possible that some people after chewing gums might have pasted it under the table. We often see this, instead of dumping the chewing gums in dust bins they stick it under tables and chairs, but nothing can be ruled out," he added.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Recent article in the press

India criticised for spending £200 million on world's tallest statue
India is to spend more than £200 million on building the world's tallest statue despite fierce criticism from aid and charity groups that the money would be better spent on reducing poverty.

By Dean Nelson, New Delhi
6:48PM BST 17 Jun 2011

Gujarat in Western India announced its plans to build a towering memorial to Sardar Patel, India's first home minister and deputy prime minister, who is regarded as the unsung hero of the independence movement, with a full-page advertisement in The Economist.

The 'Statue of Unity' monument will be 597 feet high, dwarfing the world's current tallest statue, China's 420 feet Spring Temple Buddha, and towering above New York's 151 feet Statue of Liberty. It will be built on an outcrop in the state's Narmada River, close to the Narmada Dam hydroelectric power station.

Charity groups said the statue is a waste of money which could instead be used to help Gujarat's 3.6 million people officially living below India's poverty line – on less than 80 pence per day. The statue will cost more than two-thirds of the international aid Britain will give to India this year.

Vijay Parmar, of the charity Janvikas (Working for the Poor) said the statue is a political stunt which will bring no benefit to the public.

"This money could be spent on health, education, or housing. Large numbers of urban poor people are living on roads. Government-run primary schools are in a pathetic condition. The money could have at least helped improve the educational standards of poor children in Gujarat," he said.

Gujarat's nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party government was unmoved by the criticism.

Its controversial chief minister Narendra Modi said the statue will "stand high, not just in metres and feet, but much more in terms of academic, historical, national and spiritual values. My vision is to develop the place as a source of inspiration for ages to come," he said.

The monument will also have a museum dedicated to the story of India's freedom fighters, focusing on Sardar Patel, the 'Iron Man of India' who is credited with consolidating its territory in the first few years of independence. He ordered the assault to seize Muslim-majority Hyderabad from its Nizam and incorporate it into India.

"Sardar Patel has not been given his due place in Indian history and the nation owes this project to him," said Gujarat government spokesman Jai Narayan Vyas. He dismissed criticism of the project by India's "English-speaking elite" and said all the costs will be met by voluntary donations.

He drew a contrast between the tens of millions of pounds spent by Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati on statues of herself, and the Statue of Unity's celebration of Sadar Patel.

"Other national heroes have monuments to immortalise them. Patel was the one who united India with a strong will and made an immense contribution in forging what we call India. He has altogether a different place in the Indian history," he said.

Monday, June 13, 2011

What is normal ??

Living in any foreign country, your view of what is “normal’ has to adapt to the local culture. If you try to pretend it’s like being back home, then you won’t get the most of the experience.

What is “normal” in India takes it to a whole new level. Here are some examples:

In Canberra I’m likely to see a kangaroo in the main street or a peacock while waiting for the bus.

Here in Delhi, I’m just as likely to see a cow just sitting in the middle of the road (or a herd by the side of the road), the occasional camel just ambling, monkeys wandering the streets in packs (even around the government buildings) & the occasional elephant. The peacocks I see (& hear) everyday on the compound: Andrew can be quite a noisy bugger.

In Canberra, while stopped at an intersection, the only thing likely to annoy you is the windscreen washer dude.

In Delhi, you’re likely to have the local street urchins or beggars tapping on your window; street hawkers selling all sorts of crap (including those really neat fly racquets) or street performers juggling or dancing next to you: all for money.

In Canberra, you give way to traffic on the roundabout.

In Delhi, roundabouts are just another free-for-all where you give way to traffic coming onto the roundabout.

In Canberra (& the rest of Australia), there will be the occasional scandal gracing the front page of the newspaper, where a member of some state of federal parliament has done something bad & will be forced out.

In India, EVERY day has a new scandal where some parliamentarian, local councillor or government official has done something really, REALLY bad.

In Canberra, we complain about the public service.

In Delhi, we have to deal with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). If you’ve dealt with them......enough said.

In Canberra, we can go to our local Cole, Woolies, IGA, Supa Barn (or any other local shop) to buy our groceries (incl. fruit & vege), take it home & then start cooking.

In Delhi, we have to wash our fruit & vege in a sterilising solution for at least 30min before we can start preparing.

In Canberra, we can go to the local butcher & pick up any sort of meat.

In Delhi (& the rest of India), you have to touch base with a “meat” guy (everyone has their “meat“ guy” ). There’s a “guy for everything here. You just need to know someone who knows him.

In Canberra, the only time you’re likely to see guys taking a piss up against a wall is on a Friday or Saturday night.

In Delhi, you'll see it happen every day: up against a wall, up against a tree, directly into the sewer. You're just as likely to see a guy taking a dump by the side of the road.

In Australia, when getting work done around the house, the workman may not turn up or he'll be late...but when he does, he generally does a good job so that he won’t have to return.

In India, you’re lucky if the workmen (yes...there will always be at least four of them) turn up on time or at all. If they do get around to fixing your problem, it will never be done right. There will always be some "problem". The philosophy here is “near enough is good enough” (that means they have more work as they have to come back again).

In Australia, deliveries of anything (furniture, white goods, materials for construction, etc..) will generally arrive in the back of a (covered) truck or Ute.

In India, you’re lucky if it arrives in a truck. It will most likely arrive on the back of a rickshaw (I’ve seen big-arsed fridges & air-conditioning units being delivered like that) or (& this is my favourite) on the back of a motorbike: one guy driving & the other guy holding the big, 52 inch tele. If it does arrive on a truck, it will be an open truck (assuming the truck & its contents haven’t been hijacked by militant unionists) so forget about a delivery it if it’s raining (most of August in Delhi).

In Australia, anyone on a motorbike must have a helmet & some semblance of protective gear.

In India, I’ve seen entire families on motor bikes: dad driving, mum (with new born) riding side saddle, youngest kid sitting on dad’s lap & holding onto steering; next oldest wedged in between mum & dad. Dad is the only one with a helmet.

In Australia, seatbelts are compulsory for all passengers.

In India, the only one who has to wear the seatbelt is the driver.

Yep....India’s a whole different take on the concept of “normal”.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Recently in the news

The relationship between Australia & India can, at times, be a prickly one. Here's a news story was doing the rounds here yesterday which highlights just how "prickly" it can get:

J&K, Arunachal Pradesh missing from India's map on Australian govt website

Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury New Delhi, June 13, 2011 Updated 08:49 IST

The erroneous portrayal of the Indian map in the website of Australia's Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC), omitting the states of Jammu and Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh, has invited a strong reaction and raised demands of a protest by the government here.

However, with no protests from the ministry of external affairs (MEA) on the matter yet, there are demands that New Delhi should lodge a complaint against Australia to prevent such occurrences in the future. India's former high commissioner to Australia G. Parthasarathy suggested that the MEA should be tough and raise the issue with Canberra, former foreign secretary Lalit Man Singh said as a standard practice the ministry should raise the issue with their Australian counterpart.

Parthasarthy, who was India's high commissioner during the 1998 nuclear tests, said Australia tends to be ambivalent on certain issues and particularly have an intrusive role in the matters of the Commonwealth countries. The issue should be viewed seriously in the aftermath of China, issuing stapled visas for J&K residents, thereby questioning the very status of the state, experts said. India had then strongly raised the matter during various meetings with China.

Earlier, the Indian community in Australia had lodged strong protests with the Australian government over the incorrect map. Following this Canberra admitted the error and assured that it will be removed from DIAC website.

Diplomats in the Australian high commission in Delhi said the map was an error and is being removed from the website. They claimed that it was probably a technical error and indicated that Canberra might probe on how the error occurred. Peeved over the development, Council of Indian Australians Inc (CIA), that represents the Indian-Australian community in New South Wales, said in a statement that it has "expressed its strongest displeasure at the incorrect map of India in the DIAC's website."

This is the map which caused all the fuss:

Here's another version of the same story:

Australian website doesn’t show Kashmir, Arunachal as part of India

Sydney : An Australian government website has wrongly portrayed the map of India – omitting the states of Jammu and Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh – leading to the “strong displeasure” of the migrant Indian community.

The wrong map was put out on the website of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) in its country profiles section.

The Council of Indian Australians Inc (CIA), the body representing the Indian-Australian community in New South Wales, said in a statement that it has “expressed its strongest displeasure at the incorrect map of India in the DIAC’s website, which excludes Jammu and Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh as parts of India”.

The Council, based in North Ryde, near Sydney, has asked the DIAC to “rectify the incorrect Indian map” on its website.

“The CIA Inc wishes to bring this to the attention of the government of Australia and urges the DIAC to rectify this incorrect map and display the revised map showing correct boundaries,” the statement said.

“Jammu and Kashmir is an integral, inseparable and inalienable part of India and will always remain so. A brief review of the history shows J&K became an inalienable part of India on 25th October, 1947 when the King of J&K Maharaja Hari Singh signed the ‘Instrument of accession’ with India.”

“This Instrument was executed between India’s then Governor General Lord Louis Mountbatten and Maharaja Hari Singh on 27th October, 1947. All rulers of States and Kingdoms in India were entitled to choose one of three options – join India, join Pakistan or remain independent – at the time of Indian independence in 1947.”

“J&K joined India in 1947,” the statement said, underlining the sentence. (IANS)

Some film photos from the Japan trip

I recently got my films back from the Japan trip so I've included a few more photos here including a close up of the bride's kimono, the bride & groom breaking the ceremonial sake barrel & other photos from around Kyoto.

I hope you like them.

A Japanese dinner

Last night, Tania & I hosted a dinner party at the apartment. The theme was Japanese, using alot of ingredients that we'd bought recently in Japan.

A big hit all round: I've attached photos for your drooling pleasure.

The night started off with some nibbles: egg custard cakes with shitake mushrooms, spring onions & a bit of Japanese mayonnaise; puff pastry with toasted sesame seeds, seaweed & parmesan (not very Japanese I know !!).

The entree consisted of a selection of grilled & skewered: chicken with leek; shitake mushrooms & bacon-wrapped asparagus (served with a very nice cold, Kyoto sake).

The main dish was a serve of miso soup on the side with crumbed, pan-fried pork; Japanese coleslaw & teriyaki corn on the cob.

Dessert was a green tea tiramisu with a serve of traditional Kyoto sweets.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A recent lunch

Tania, myself & a group from the High Commission recently went to this new, funky restaurant in New Friends Colony. The restaurant is called "India Accent" & is located in a boutique hotel called "The Manor".

We went for the chef's tasting menus with matching wines. There were seven of us: two people went with the vegetarian menu; the rest went with the non-vegetarian menu.

The meal was started by a serve of these little naan breads with a blue cheese melt. Yum!!

Vege Menu (wines in italics):

potato thread sphere, white pea ragda, summer kakdi

water chestnut chaat, thai pomelo segments, crispy garlic

sula chenin blanc, nasik valley, india

panko crusted bharwan mirchi, goat cheese mousse, chilli aam papad chutney

santa digna sauvignon blanc reserve, curico valley, chile

baked paneer pinwheel, indian coriander pesto

sangre de toro, castilla y leon, spain


goat cheese vada, pao bhaji, kafir lime butter pao 'chowpatty in a bowl'

santa digna cabernet sauvignon, curico valley chile


masala wild mushroom, water chestnut, paper roast dosai

sula rose zinfandel, nasik valley, india

black dairy dal

wild mushroom kulcha, truffle oil drizzle

churan, anar and cointreau kulfi

baked coconut cheese cake, fresh cherries

floralis muscatel oro, catalunya, spain

Non-vege menu:

potato thread sphere, white pea ragda, summer kakdi

tandoori chicken chaat, thai pomelo segments, crispy garlic

sula chenin blanc, nasik valley, india

scottish salmon tikka, dill leaves, garlic mint aioli vilarnau

cava brut, catalunya, spain

foie gras stuffed galawat, strawberry green chilli chutney

sula dindori shiraz, nasik valley, india


chicken 65, spiced upma, marinated feta (aka "stargate chicken")

villa maria chardonnay private bin, marlborough, new zealand


pan seared john dory, tomato pepper curry, new potato 'chokha' mash

sula rose zinfandel, nasik valley, india

black dairy dal
apple wood smoked bacon kulcha

churan, anar and cointreau kulfi
baked coconut cheese cake, fresh cherries

floralis muscatel oro, catalunya, spain

The meal was enjoyed by all - the Indian wines turned out to be surprisingly good. I think they matched it just right. I've attached photos of the meal for your drooling pleasure (the photos may not be to the normal standard as they were taken using my mobile).

This is the potato sphere

This is the tandoori chicken chaat

I think this is the water chestnut chaat

I think this is the tandoori chicken chaat

This is the panko crusted bharwan mirchi

This is the scottish salmon tikka

I think this is the masala wild mushroom, water chestnut & paper roast dosai

This is the foie gras stuffed galawat. The strawberry green chilli chutney was very nice !!

This is the sorbet

This is the chicken 65: now do you know why we called it the "stargate chicken" ??

This is the goat cheese vada

This is the pan seared john dory

This was the dessert combination that was served with both the vege & non-vege meals

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Recently overheard

An Australian was recently back home, escorting a group of Indian public servants to an inter-governmental conference.

The Indians were picked up at the airport by a shuttle bus.

The group was advised that seat belts had to be worn.

A bit of backgrounder here: in India, seatbelts are not compulsory for the passengers (you'll find that most of the taxis certainly don't have seatbelts for anyone other than the driver).

One of the group asked the question: what would happen if they didn't wear their seatbelts ?? They were told that the driver & the person not wearing the seatbelt would be fined.

Another in the group asked the question: how much is the fine ?? The bus driver piped up at this point & said: "$500 for the driver & $100 for the person not wearing the seatbelt"

Someone else in the group asked: how does that happen ?? The driver responded that if a policeman notices someone not wearing a seatbelt, the car/bus would be pulled over, the driver issued with a ticket & then the offending passenger would then be issued with a fine.

This same person then asked this question in all seriousness & with a straight face: "can't you pay the policeman something ??"

- At this point, insert sound of silence inter-dispersed with the sounds of crickets & picture stunned Australians staring back at Indian guy

Just an example of how India is just a whole different place !!