Thursday, April 29, 2010

I will not repeat myself... I will not repeat myself.... I will

My daughter said ‘ Ma, I think you are getting old. You are repeating yourself. ’

At least one thing was clear, she was listening to me. How else would she know I had repeated myself? That was a good sign. Sometimes, I get the feeling these kids do not listen at all . They ask a question and by the time you collect your thoughts and answer, they are deep in conversation with another or maybe absorbed in a book. So, I am not perturbed about the repetition and neither am I about getting old.

In a column Jonathan Wolff, head of philosophy at University College London, writes … Don't stop me if I've told you this before. We academics live by repeating ourselves. He continues .. that though people crave novelty, they prefer the familiar. Children watch the same videos over and over again. Adults return to familiar music. And some ( also the daughter who made the comment) read a particular book over and over again. Till the book finally fell apart.

The German philosopher Immanuel Kant, when in old age and losing his memory, used to write notes of his dinner conservations on the table cloth, in order to avoid introducing the same topic twice in one evening. I cannot do that for fear that they will think ( in their lingo) that I have ‘lost it’.

We are also guilty of  repetitive patterns that become habits. Quite a few that become involuntary becoming a familiar part of our lives. We get three newspapers at home. The other inmate, likes to read them in a particular order and does not like the pattern disturbed. So, I settle for any paper that is not being read. See, I do not get bound by habits .  At least, this particular one.  

Someone suggests that to be more aware of these repetitive things that we do, one should change the pattern. If you brush your teeth and then wash your face, they suggest that you alter the pattern. Wash your face and then brush your teeth. How does this help? The changes, even in these seemingly small insignificant habits, can bring about a better awareness of what is being done. Shift this to more important areas like those patterns at the workplace and this could throw up other choices that might be there. For better results. Well, I would like to think I am too old to try ( it helps using the age factor when it suits you!!), those young(er) can try. 

I have digressed. Repetition can be quite an engrossing subject. For the time being, maybe I should be more aware of what I am saying. Focus and concentrate. If that cannot be avoided. At least, sound wise. Well, Robert Frost could. But for that I have ‘ (And) miles to go before I sleep. And miles to go before I sleep….'


Would I sound wise if I did say in Latin
Bis repetita non placent ?

o Translation: "Repetitions are not well received

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Handmade and Sun-kissed

A UK store refers to Papads or Poppadums as they call them - products that are handmade and sun kissed.....

Sun kissed? That could just produce a mild tan at the most.. definitely not a papad, that requires to be thoroughly dried.

We do anything these days to get away from the heat . Coolers, ACs, fizzy sodas, iced stuff. But in the past, summer was literally a time for everything under the sun. The ‘sun’ being the key word.

For elders, it was time to plan and prepare items for the rest of the year. Elaborate shopping lists were prepared and ingredients bought with great care. My mother's Potato Papads (Batata Happal) were a big favourite . Made with potatoes, ragi, rock salt and chilli powder . Large plastic sheets and clean muslin cloth were made ready. Suitable stones sourced to place at four corners of the sheet, just so that it stayed in place. The household ( not us!) woke up earlier than normal that day and ingredients cooked, mashed, mixed and kept ready. The papad making activity commenced as soon as the men were sent off to work. Open verandas and terraces were ideal locations. As kids, we loved eating the boiled mash - it was the tastiest thing on earth. The women rolled the perfect round papads and these were placed on the plastic sheet/cloth and kept out for the sun to do the job. All this in lightning speed to make sure there were sufficient hours of drying. As children, we were to ensure that the birds, ants, dust and pets were kept away. This was a chore that lost its charm after the initial eating of the mash was done with. We would rather be playing.

The papads were then carefully brought in as the sun went down. And kept out for another day of drying. Then they went into tins immediately for storage. Some were fried that very day, more for the compliments. Of course, those days, whatever was made at home had to be distributed. The joy was more in the sharing. Parcels ( that was another elaborate process) made and sent to various parts of the country. And sure enough, after a week, there would be the letters of appreciation.

Dehydrated vegetables, crispies of all kinds - sago, rice, dal, chillies in curd... name it and we had them dried in various forms and shapes. For consumption the year round.

Papad- making fortunately was an art that survived. From home-scale to small scale. It is an item that cannot be mechanised. And thus providing livelihood to many women. The papads left our shores and soon became a popular food abroad. In Britain, about 2 million handmade ‘poppadums’ are consumed each day. As hors d’oeuvres served with apĂ©ritif  and cocktails.

A food - it has evolved from an accompaniment with our rice and rasam to an item of fine dining in the West. It’s versatility is amazing. Fry, roast, microwave it… eat it plain, crush it in rice, add it to a salad or whatever. But as a lifestyle product…? That’s something new. But read this. It appeared in Smart Buy a lifestyle supplement of Business Line

Tick Tock, papad style

Giving the crunchy Indian papad a new lease of life, designer Mukul Goyal has launched the Papadum clocks. Available in small and large sizes in chrome and gold, these clocks are sure to add a pop of spirit to your homes. Head to lifestyle boutiques for more.

Rs 1,550 to Rs 5,695 –

Well….. what’s your take?

Friday, April 9, 2010

When the Shoe Shines Each Morning

 Good news for shoe polish manufacturers. Shoe care it appears has once again become important in the days of recession. For the past few years it appears ( in this article in The Guardian) the sales director of Cherry Blossom was a sad man. Shoe sales had gone up, but his product showed no increasing sales. When shoes got scruffy, people just went out and bought a new pair. No one tried to make the old pair last. Now, finally, thanks to recession people have rediscovered the art of shoe-care.

Apparently shoe care seems to make economic sense. Cherry Blossom sales in the UK are now 200,000 small boxes a week!  And from five colours last year, they now have 35 trendy colours on offer. Shoe repairers are also in demand

I particularly liked this bit of the article and I quote - Black still accounts for 60% of sales. And most are to those over 50 – the generation brought up to clean their shoes by parents who knew both rationing and self-respect, who knew the golden rule of shoe cleaning: that the sparkle comes only through the application of elbow grease to polish. Unquote

Shoe care. That was one of our daily tasks of school days. Each evening, while school uniforms were ironed and kept ready, shoes were arranged in pairs. First, dirt had to be wiped off the shoes and the leather cleaned. Polish was applied and then made to shine with a flannel cloth. While canvas shoes were washed each week, scrubbed in fact, and once dry, a coat of white wet polish was applied and allowed to stand overnight.  The next day we had sparkling white shoes. Inspections were carried out at the school assembly by our seniors,  and those possessing dirty shoes were made to stand separately and given a dressing down.

Those were the days of black Bata shoes and white Carona canvas.

We also had these little boys with shoe polish kits who were always present at bus stops. I always wondered why people used their services, I mean all of us polished our shoes at home, so why did anyone need to have them polished outside? But generally they were men, probably on their way to work or possibly for an interview. Of course, these boys managed better looking shoes with their labour.  They also inspired a Raj Kapoor film - Boot Polish. 

When Cherry Blossom completed 100 years of the brand, they used a Charlie Chaplin like figure to emphasise "100 years of making perfect gentlemen..."
Most shoe care polish kits these days are a little different. Not little tins, but a tube with a little brush attached. You press it on the shoe and polish it right away. The shine is not the same, but the effort is much less. And as for the white canvas shoes – I do not see many children wearing them. They have been replaced by the expensive Reeboks and Nikes.

Would polished shoes be back again?  Hard to say.  Here is a generation that spends good money buying torn jeans.  But then, this is also a generation that is unpredictable.  It could well be a case of India Shining.
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