Wednesday, November 12, 2008

India's Unknown Birth Control Pioneer

Margaret Sanger, an American birth control pioneer, founded her first clinic in 1916 at Brooklyn New York. A few days later, she was arrested on obscenity charges and sentenced to 30 days in jail. A determined woman, she kept challenging the reigning orthodoxy, and ultimately succeeded in bringing sexual and reproductive freedoms to women worldwide. Time magazine included her in the list of 100 most influential people of the 20th century.

Marie Stopes, a British birth control pioneer, founded her first clinic in 1921 at London. Although she was never arrested, a number of doctors and priests attacked her. Eventually her ideas and work gained acceptance, and today "Marie Stopes International" a women's reproductive health organization is active in several countries.

Raghunath Karve, an Indian birth control pioneer, founded his first clinic in 1921 at Bombay. He was arrested and convicted twice on obscenity charges, and had to pay fines. Despite waging a lifelong passionate fight for gender equality and women's sexual & reproductive rights, he was relegated to the backwaters of history. In 1953, he died a lonely and unsung man.

Dhyaas Parva (An Era of Yearning) is director Amol Palekar's award winning Marathi movie, a biographical account of the life of Raghunath Karve. Filmed in a restrained almost documentary style, this non-sermonizing movie keeps the intellectually curious viewer rooted to their seat. Shunning traditional devices like songs and melodrama, a rationalist treatment makes this a refreshing experience.

Malati Karve, Raghunath's wife, whole-heartedly supports him in his endeavors. At times she shoulders much of the couple's financial responsibilities, after having chosen to work in the career of her choice. One of the most powerful scenes is when Raghunath tells Malati that she is under no obligation to bear children. Since she does not feel like being a mother, they remain childless. Naturally this does not go down well in pre-independence India; a Doctor mis-diagnosing her illness(Pernicious Anemia) claims that her troubles are due to not being a mother in over 15 years of marriage.

Other effective episodes from the movie

*** Several snide comments passed by the Karve's neighbors. Viewers well versed in Marathi culture, especially that of Pune and Girgaum Mumbai, will truly appreciate these.

*** Raghunath's speech to a gathering of Pune intellectuals and the negative response it generates. Palekar takes a delicious tongue-in-cheek swipe at a few of the opponents, bringing memories of Ghashiram Kotwal.

*** Some progressive editors refusing to publish Karve's progressive magazine, one of those editors calling his ideas "provocative".

*** The reason for being charged with obscenity; his editorial asserting that "Current attitudes to female fidelity and virginity emanate from a woman being viewed as a man's property."

*** Several scenes hinting at some of the reasons for his failure :- a refusal to compromise, being extremely critical of those in power, unable to build and maintain relationships.

Employing an underplaying style reminiscent of Arun Sarnaik and Shriram Lagoo from Sinhasan, Kishore Kadam delivers an outstanding performance as Raghunath Karve. Without resorting to any histrionics, he intelligently conveys the pain of constantly being rejected and ignored. He is equally at ease displaying unflagging determination, but the real genius is the unsentimental portrayal in analyzing Karve's own failures.

Seema Biswas, as Malati Karve, delivers a reserved and gentle performance; quite unlike her Bandit Queen effort. The other supporting actors have turned in competent efforts, with Sanjay Mone as Dr. Ambedkar being the standout.

Amol Palekar himself a committed social progressive, atheist, and gender equality champion; possibly had an interesting dilemma as to how to create this movie. He could have chosen to loudly trumpet Raghunath Karve's ideas and raved and ranted against those that opposed him, he did neither. The intentional focus on the reasons as to why Raghunath Karve did not succeed in becoming famous is Palekar's stroke of genius. Additionally, he managed to get Bhanu Athaiyya (India's only Oscar winner) for costume design and Nitin Desai (Devdas, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam) for art direction to work for a pittance. Their joint efforts have resulted in creating a a realistic period feel that compliments the movie's central theme.

A) Free India was the world's first Govt. to institute a birth control program. It began in the 1950's on a small scale; and in response to the burgeoning population, by the late 60's/early 70's had grown into a much bigger country-wide effort.
B) India's population crossed the one billion mark in the early 2000's, and by 2020-25 is projected to reach anywhere between 1.3 - 1.5 billion. In the second half of this century, India is projected to be the most populous country on earth.
C) In the United States, it took the 1965 landmark US Supreme Court decision Griswold V Connecticut to legalize contraception for married couples. Eisenstat V Baird (1972) extended this right to unmarried couples.
D) Even today in the US, women's reproductive rights are constantly being challenged. Aid for international birth control is often un-certain and subject to ideological and budget constraints.

2) The Global Family Planning Revolution, Warren C. Robinson, John A. Ross
3) Twenty-First Century India, Tim Dyson, Robert Cassen, Leela Visaria
7) Wikipedia

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Woody Allen's Enchanting Spanish Caper

The movie starts with two American friends Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) going to Barcelona for the summer. They stay at Vicky's friend Judy (Patricia Clarkson) and her husband's home. On a visit to an art gallery they see Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem); Cristina is interested and enquires whether he is the artist. Judy narrates a story about how Juan Antonio and his wife had a tempestuous divorce, and the wife tried to kill him. Later at dinner in a restaurant, Vicky and Cristina see Juan Antonio with his friends. Juan Antonio notices them as well, walks over to them and his first words after introductions are "I like to invite you both to spend the weekend, we will eat well, drink good wine, we will make Love". Pat comes the reply to Vicky's question "Who exactly is going to make love" --- "Hopefully the three of us".

Viewers/Readers familiar with Woody Allen's history may be tempted to roll their eyes and mutter "There he goes again, that near pedophile". However, a witty and inspired script, excellent chemistry between actors, and imaginative direction soon overcome any misgivings. Indeed "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" marks a comeback for Allen, and is his best movie in a long time. Almost in the category of his early classics "Love and Death", "Annie Hall", "Hannah and her Sisters"; this movie continues his inimitable exploration into unfulfilled relationships.

Vicky & Cristina fly away with Juan Antonio for the weekend. The practical, level-headed & already engaged Vicky ensures the girls are in one room and he is in another. After a lot of wine, the more adventurous Cristina goes to Juan Antonio's bedroom, but suddenly gets an attack of food poisoning and has to be hospitalized. Vicky & Juan Antonio are thrown together, they do some sight-seeing and visit his father. Juan Antonio tells her about the complicated relationship with his ex-wife. At the end of a romantic evening with wine and Spanish Guitar music, she succumbs to his charms.

They all come back to Barcelona, Vicky keeps her dalliance a secret from Cristina. Over time Juan Antonio and Cristina get involved and start living together. Vicky's fiance' Doug also shows up in Barcelona, and has plans for a romantic hurried wedding. Meanwhile, Maria Elena (Juan Antonio's ex-wife) has some trouble in her life, and moves in with Juan Antonio and Cristina.

Please see this delightful movie to find out what happens next.

"Only unfulfilled love can be romantic", Maria Elena's wise words could sum up this movie. Indeed, Woody Allen has always specialized in exploring the many paths within relationships; especially relationships that initially flower but over time come asunder. This movie sheds light on some unexplored or partially explored paths such as menage' a trois (threesomes), and unfaithfulness. Controversial and delicate subjects like these could easily be mishandled by lesser directors, but Allen employing an unusually funny script keeps us highly entertained. Never do we feel that we are watching some sleazy endeavor, even the much celebrated make-out scene between Scarlett Johansson and Penelope Cruz is tastefully enacted. He also uses a voice-over to periodically explain and embellish scenes, I personally liked it and found that it enriched the movie experience.

The acting is brilliant all around, with Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem and Rebecca Hall being outstanding. Cruz is a firm favorite for supporting actress Oscar; she spices up this movie with an electric performance of a slightly crazy and violent, yet perceptive and talented artist. Her character has many different shades from vulnerability to taking charge, nurturing to breaking up a relationship, friendliness to possessive violence, understanding and exhibiting an artist's temperament; she essays all these effortlessly.

Rebecca Hall is a great discovery, she delivers an intelligent performance that begins with a crisp and sure demeanor. As the movie progresses, she marvellously displays subtle cracks in this sure-footedness and is at ease portraying hesitation, self-doubt and indecisiveness.

Scarlett Johansson has a great working relationship with Woody Allen (Scoop, Match Point), and she is very much at ease with the initial flighty and easily impressed character. Later she often has to react to Cruz taking charge, which she does competently; but this may be a reason for her effort not being on par with the other three.

After an Oscar winning performance as a scary, psychotic, hit-man in "No Country For Old Men", Javier Bardem excels as a romantic, charming, confident Spanish artist. He leaves no doubt about his star power with a performance that nonchalantly seduces the viewer. The icing on the cake is his later expression of self-doubt and insecurity, hallmarks of Woody Allen male characters.

Adding to the appeal of this movie, are the picturesque locations and the wonderful cinematography. Scenes like sailing on the serene Mediterranean, bicycling through and picnicking in the enchanting Spanish countryside, alluring Barcelona locations, background fireworks; suggest a Madison avenue hand at work. The cinematography certainly enhances the romantic appeal of the movie, and is probably worthy of an Oscar as well.

Woody Allen has a different location (Barcelona instead of New York) and a younger set of characters (Bardem instead of himself); but has not lost his unique entertaining way of telling a slightly melancholy tale.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Avdi's Dev Anand Tag

First a link to my review on Dev Anand

Next a link to my review on Guide

Movies Seen & Liked
Des Pardes (1978) --- The last good Dev Anand movie. There is a nice line in the last song that I identify with a lot "Wahaan Ek JeevanSathi Hai Yahaan Roz Naya Sawariya, Woh Bhi Theek To Yeh Bhi Theek Hai Apna Apna Nazariya." (Expressing tolerance and understanding for the West & India.)
Haré Raama Haré Krishna (1971) --- His best directorial venture, partly flawed (all that moorti stealing stuff with Prem Chopra); but mostly ahead of the curve. Zeenat Aman's debut, and great songs "Dum Maaro Dum", "Phoolon Ka Taaron Ka", "Kaanchi Re Kaanchi", "O Re Ghunghroo Ka Bole", Dekho O Deewano".
Tere Mere Sapne (1971) --- A sensitive movie that explores medical ethics and husband-wife relationships, Dev Anand & Mumtaz make a lovely pair. Great songs "He Maine Kasam Li", "Jeevan Ki Bagiya Mehkengi", "Jaise Radha Ne Mala Japi".
Johny Mera Naam (1970) --- All us kids were greatly impressed with Dev Anand as a cool hep dude Johnny, who in reality is a CID inspector. We used to play a game called HandsUp, and all of us would try to imitate him. Me and my brother must have spent several years fighting like the long lost brothers Dev Anand & Pran.
Duniya (1968) --- Do not remember much, had a great song "Dooriyaan Nazhdikiyaan Ban Gayi". I think it was a whodunit murder plot.
Jewel Thief (1967) --- First Hindi movie seen outside India, as someone said "A Great combination of James Bond & Agatha Christie.". Do I need to say great songs ?
Guide (1965) --- Refer to my review, My all-time favorite Hindi movie.
Teen Devian (1965) --- Great songs with Nanda, Kalpana (not Kalpana Kartik his wife) & Simi Garewal. "Are Yaar Meri Tum Bhi Ho GhazaB', "Khwaab Ho Tum Ya Koi Haqeeqat", "Likha Hai Teri Ankhon Mein", "Aise To Na Dekho". Only Dev Anand can be simultaneously in love with 3 women.
Tere Ghar Ke Samne (1963) --- His best movie with Nutan, a delightful entertainer. Great songs "Dil Ka Bhanwar Kare Pukar", "Tere Ghar Ke Samne", "Tu Kahaan Ye Bataa", "Dekho Rootha Na Karo".
Asli-Naqli (1962) --- Only film with Hrishikesh Mukherjee, they had a fight. HK thought that DA was all charisma and no acting ability, and DA would retort that no one would come to see HK's movies. Many great songs and a lovely Sadhana, "Tujhe Jeevan Ki Dor Se Baandh liya Hai", "Tera Mera Pyaar Amar", "Ek Budh Banaoonga", "Kal Ki Daulat AAj Ki Khooshiyaan".
Baat Ek Raat Ki (1962) --- An underrated thriller with Dev Anand as a lawyer and Waheeda Rehman as his client accused of a murder. Great songs "Na Tum Hame Jaano", "Akela Hoon Mein".
Hum Dono (1961) --- Dev Anand shines in a double role, Sadhana is lovely (as usual) and great songs (as usual). "Abhi Na Jaao Chodkar", "Main Zindagi Ka Saath Nibhaata Chala Gaya".
Jab Pyar Kisise Hota Hai (1961) --- A nice pair Dev Anand & Asha Parekh, with great songs "Jab Pyaar Kisise Hota Hai", "Sau Saal Pehle Mujhe Tumse Pyaar Tha", "Teri Zulfon Se Judaai To Nahi Mangi Thi."
Bombai Ka Babu (1960) --- Sensitively handled the taboo topic of incest, Dev Anand plays Suchitra Sen's long lost brother. In reality, he has accidently murdered the real brother; but now falls in love with her. She obviously cannot reciprocate, and finally marries someone else. Both looked great, and so were the songs "Dekhne Mein Bhola Hai Dil ka Salona", "Deewana Mastana Hua Dil Jaane Kaha Hoke Bahaar Ayi', "Chal Ri Sajni Ab Kya Soche."
Kala Bazar (1960) --- Another great pairing with Waheeda Rehman, Vijay Anand acts and directs this movie. Numerous great songs. A great early scene shows Dev Anand selling "Mother India's" tickets in black, at it premiere attended by several Hindi Movie industry figures.
Kalapani (1958) --- Dev Anand & Madhubala must be the best looking pair in Hindi Movies, also great acting acting by DA (won Filmfare best actor award.) Great songs again "Hum Bekhudi Mein Tumko Pukare Chale Gaye", "Nazar Laagi Raja Tore Bugle Par",
"AchaJi Mein Haari Chalo Man Jaao Na".
Nau Do Gyarah (1957) --- Starts as a copy of "It Happened One Night", but unlike another Raj Kapoor-Nargis copy "Chori Chori"; veers away from the original. And when it veers away, it also looses some of the charm. Never mind, great song "Hum Hai Rahi Pyar Ke", "Ankhon Mein Kya Jee Rupaila Badal", "Aaja Panchii Akela Hai", will keep you entertained. (BTW, both Dev
Anand & Raj Kapoor copy Clark Gable's hair style, in different songs.)
Paying Guest (1957) --- I think his first pairing with Nutan, and a delightful movie. A character "Sharabi Jeejajee" unintentionally provides a lot more fun. Great songs once again
C.I.D. (1956) --- Dev Anand excels at playing a sauve smart CID inspector, Johnny Walker provides comic relief and a great song "Yeh hai Bombay Meri Jaan", Waheeda Rehman's debut is not to be missed.
Munimji (1955) --- Great song "Jeevan Ke Safar Mein Rahi".
Patita (1953) --- Several great songs.

Movies seen & Liked as a Kid But ROFL now
I cannot belive that as a kid I liked these movies, and actually looked forward to seeing them.
Bullet (1976) --- Has a song that goes something like "Bullet, Bullet, Bullet, Dekho Yeh Kya Hai".
Jaaneman (1976) --- Apparently a remake of Taxi Driver with Hema Malini in a double role.
Warrant (1975) --- Has to be seen once to see Bombay Police dressed in skin tight pale blue outfits while raiding Ajit's den.Ajit goes around looking for a "Faarmoola", and also has a pool of acid in which he throws people he wants to kill. Now strictly ROFL. Nice song "Ruk Jaana O Jaana Humse Do Baate Karke Chali Jaana".
Amir Garib (1974) --- What in hell is a Bagla Bhagat (Dev Anand's bad character's name.).
Joshila (1973) --- Great song "Kiska Rasta Dekhe"
Chhupa Rustam (1973) --- Yet another CID role with Hema Malini. Dev Anand does a qawwali, with Ajit, Prem Chopra & Hema Malini looking on; again strictly ROFL.
Banarasi Babu (1973) --- Dev Anand in a double role, one of which is a paan chewing Babu from Banaras.
Heera Panna (1973) --- Great Song "Panna Ki Tamanna"; Zeenat looks awesome in a bikini in another song.
Shareef Budmaash (1973) --- Yet another CID role with Hema Malini. Great song "Neend Churakar Raaton Mein".
Yeh Gulistan Hamara (1972) --- With Sharmila Tagore.

Movies Seen & Not Liked
Love at Times Square (2003) --- Cant believe I actually saw this one, and also read the New York Times's review where they too were sort of kind to him.
Return of Jewel Thief (1996) --- ROFL, ROFL, ROFL at the first song and most of the movie. This movie should never have been made.
Gangster (1994) --- Remember only bits & pieces, to quote Kulbhushan Kharbanda from Shaan "Meri Samajh Mein Nahi Aaya Ke Mein Hansoo Ya Rouu" (forgive the spelling of Rouu.)
Sau Crore (1991) --- Again vaguely remember.
Awwal Number (1990) --- A movie containing Cricket & Aamir Khan, and yet so bad.
Swami Dada (1982) --- Holy Cow !!!!
Man Pasand (1980) --- Dev Anand as Henry Higgins has to be the greatest miscast of all time.
Kalabaaz (1977) --- ROFL @ Dev Anand & Zeenat on an elephant.
Saheb Bahadur (1977) --- Apparently a remake of Afsar which I have not seen, judging by this movie am glad I did not.
Ishq Ishq Ishq (1974) --- Had good songs, but no one could figure out the story.
Gambler (1971) --- Great songs but what was the point ???
Prem Pujari (1970) --- Great songs (multiple), Dev Anand's direction leaves a lot to be desired. Grimsel Pass (Phoolon Ke Rang Se) in real life is the closest Lunar Landscape on earth.
Love Marriage (1959) --- Yet another movie with Cricket, ROFL @ Dev Anand hitting sixes; only 10 people in the theatre; we 4 friends walked out during the interval (2 of us strong DA fans). Great songs "Dheere Dheere Chal Chand Gagan Mein" & "Kahen Jhoom Jhoom Raat Ye Suhaani".
Amar Deep (1958) --- A Love triangle that dragged on, Great songs "Dekh Hame Awaaz Na Dena" & "Mere Man Ka Bawra Panchii".
House No. 44 (1955) --- Great songs, but a slow movie.
Insaniyat (1955) --- ROFL @ names like Zangoora, and Dev Anand with a moustache, and Dilip Kumar hamming away.
Taxi Driver (1954) --- Slow movie, but a couple of great songs.

Movies Not Seen
Mr Prime Minister (2005)
Aman Ke Farishtey (2003)
Censor (2001)
Hum Naujawan (1985)
Anand Aur Anand (1984)
Lootmaar (1980)
Darling Darling (1977) --- Has a great song "Aise Na Mujhe Tum Dekho"
Prem Shastra (1974)
The Evil Within (1970) --- ????
Mahal (1969)
Kahin Aur Chal (1968)
Pyar Mohabbat (1966)
Sharabi (1964) --- Great song "Kabhie Na Kabhie Kahi Na Kahi Koi Na Koi To Ayega"
Kinare Kinare (1963)
Maya (1961) --- Great songs "Koi Sone Ke Dilwaala", "Tasveer Teri Dil Mein"
Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja (1961)
Ek Ke Baad Ek (1960)
Jaali Note (1960)
Manzil (1960)
Sarhad (1960)
Solva Saal (1958) --- Great song "Hai Apna Dil To Awara"
Baarish (1957)
Dushman (1957)
Funtoosh (1956)
Pocket Maar (1956)
Dev Anand in Goa (Alias Farar) (1955)
Milap (1955)
Baadbaan (1954)
'Ferry' (1954)
Armaan (1953)
Humsafar (1953)
Rahi (1953)
Aandhiyan (1952)
Jaal (1952) --- Great song "Yeh Raat Yeh Chandni Phir Kahaan"
Tamasha (1952)
Zalzala (1952)
Aaram (1951)
Baazi (1951) --- Great song "Tadbeer Se bigdi hui"
Do Sitare (1951)
Nadaan (1951)
Sanam (1951)
Sazaa (1951) --- Great song "Tum Na Jaane Kis Jahaan Mein Kho Gaye"
Stage (1951)
Afsar (1950)
Birha Ki Raat (1950)
Dilruba (1950)
Hindustan Hamara (1950)
Khel (1950)
Madhubala (1950)
Nili (1950)
Nirala (1950)
Jeet (1949)
Shair (1949)
Shayar (1949)
Udhaar (1949)
Hum Bhi Insaan Hain (1948)
Vidya (1948)
Ziddi (1948)
Aage Badho (1947)
Mohan (1947)
Hum Ek Hain (1946)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Response to CP's Tag

I was tagged by CouchPapaya, with the following rules:

RULE #1: People who have been tagged must write their answers on their blogs and replace any question that they dislike with a new question formulated by them.

RULE #2: Tag 6 people to do this quiz and they cannot refuse. These people must state who they were tagged by and cannot tag the person whom they were tagged by. Continue this game by sending it to other people.

1. If your lover betrayed you, what will your reaction be?
What took you so long.

2. If you can have a dream to come true, what would it be?
Actually get that billion US $ mentioned later, and more important, let that be in 3 month T-Bills.

3. Whose butt would you like to kick?
Several people, but only if they sign a waiver.

4. What would you do with a billion dollars?
Assuming it is in US $, first buy 3 month T-Bills, and then Start a Hedge Fund.

5. Will you fall in love with your best friend?

6. Which is more blessed, loving someone or being loved by someone?

7. How long do you intend to wait for someone you really love?
Till the next someone I really love comes along.

8. If the person you secretly like is already attached, what would you do?
Depends upon whether I already have that billion $ or not. If I have then why not try Robert Redford's Indecent Proposal (extremely evil laughter); but since I do not I suppose I shall just get over it.

9. What takes you down the fastest?
Spacecraft, airplanes, gravity.

10. How would you see yourself in ten years time?
Since I cannot get Lasik done, using my glasses.

11. What’s your fear?
Actually getting that 1 billion US $ as 1 $ per day for the next 1 billion days.

12. What kind of person do you think the person who tagged you is?
Eclectic Writer, Extremely Well Read, Exquisite taste in food & drinks.

13. Would you rather be single and rich or married but poor?
He He He; I always thought married but poor always follows single and rich.

14. What’s the first thing you do when you wake up?
Search for my glasses.

15. Would you give all in a relationship?
If "all" includes all assets AND LIABILITIES, most certainly.

16. If you fall in love with two people simultaneously, who would you pick?
I would let my wife decide, after all it affects her as well.
(Hey, stop throwing those shoes at me.)

17. Would you forgive and forget no matter how horrible a thing that special someone has done?
Yes, so long as whatever was done was legal.

18. What is your idea of the perfect vacation?
Bicycling thru' French vineyards to a wine-tasting lunch. Climbing Mountains, preferably bordering an ocean.

19. What are the three most important expectations in wine (Original Question: What are your three most important expectations in love)
Intoxicating, Keeps improving with age, Good for your health.
(On second thoughts, applicable to love as well.)

20. List 6 people to tag:
Whoever reads this, and is not tagged, and is willing. (All those I know have already been tagged.)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The 100 Foods List

CouchPapaya found this interesting one (Thanks CP), here is my list.

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating (Like CP, I use blue)
4) Optional extra: Post a comment here at linking to your results.
Additionally, I use italics for foods that almost/nearly eaten.

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:
1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros (1)
4. Steak tartare --- I am almost sure I have eaten, but cannot remember 100%
5. Crocodile --- No way I am eating this, hopefully a croc. never eats me.
6. Black pudding --- After finding out what this is NO WAY !!!
7. Cheese fondue (2)
8. Carp (3)
9. Borscht --- (4) This is good stuff
10. Baba ghanoush (5)
11. Calamari --- (6) Not a fan
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich (7)
14. Aloo gobi (8)
15. Hot dog from a street cart (9)
16. Epoisses --- (10) Neutral
17. Black truffle --- Must have had some shavings over an entre'
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes --- Apple wine, I think had some in the NY finger lakes region.
19. Steamed pork buns --- (11) Assuming this is Chinese, not fond though
20. Pistachio ice cream (12)
21. Heirloom tomatoes (13)
22. Fresh wild berries (14)
23. Foie gras (15)
24. Rice and beans (16)
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche (17)
28. Oysters --- (18) Neutral
29. Baklava --- (19) Like it
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas --- (20) Neutral
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl --- (21) Some really good
33. Salted lassi (22)
34. Sauerkraut (23)
35. Root beer float (24) --- My children love this, had a sip once, yuk !!!
36. Cognac with a fat cigar --- (25) Don't smoke, but really like cognac
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/jell-O
39. Gumbo --- (26) Sometimes Good
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat --- (27) Had it in Jamaica, did not really like it; Kolhapuri Mutton is the best
42. Whole insects --- A guide in a rain-forest in Puerto Vallarta demo'd; yuck !!!
43. Phaal --- Huh ???
44. Goat’s milk --- (28) Like CP, Goat's Cheese.
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more --- (29) Don't drink scotch nowadays, but had some a while ago. Why not wine/champagne/cognac ? Yes to all 3.
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala (30)
48. Eel --- Like CP in sushi.
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut (31)
50. Sea urchin --- Like CP in sushi
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer (32)
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal (33)
56. Spaetzle (34)
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores (35) --- Again my children to the rescue.
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake (36)
68. Haggis --- CP, you are brave.
69. Fried plantain (37)
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho (38)
72. Caviar and blini --- (39) Can't believe I have had caviar on shores of the Caspian sea (Iranian side).
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu ????
77. Hostess Fruit Pie (40)
78. Snail (41) --- Std. French, escargots, not bad
79. Lapsang souchong ????
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum (42)
82. Eggs Benedict (43)
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant --- Not had the tasting menu, but on my very soon to do list.
85. Kobe beef (44)
86. Hare
87. Goulash (45) --- My PhD guide was Hungarian, so were several co-students.
88. Flowers (46) --- Again using CP's logic, must have had some somewhere.
89. Horse --- I hope I have not had this one.
90. Criollo chocolate --- I must have had this, but not counting for now.
91. Spam --- (47) Yuk !!!
92. Soft shell crab (48)
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish (49)
95. Mole poblano (50)
96. Bagel and lox (51)
97. Lobster Thermidor (52) --- Overrated.
98. Polenta (53)
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee (54) --- This is really good, had it in Jamaica
100. Snake

Not bad; 54 definite & 6 maybe.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Food + Wine = Music, An amateur's epiphany

Not being able to analyze wines like an expert, you know the type that spouts "exhibits gorgeous floral, cherry, tobacco, spice, and roasted Provencal herb-like notes"; I am forced to invent something else. My first attempt, "Computes elegantly along fractal fruit boundaries"; naah! too geeky and even I cannot decipher what it means. The next version "Widening spreads between expected and actual amortized time-variant alcohol contents"; sounds like I am constantly imbibing even while writing. Like a drowning man grasping at straws, and making no secret of my amateur status I finally proclaim ---"Food + Wine = Music". Ok maybe not as revolutionary as the theory of relativity, but it does express the sound principle of always pairing wine with food.

The question still remains, which music ?; and not being an expert at classical Western or classical Indian, the choice automatically reduces to English Pop/Rock or Hindi film songs. Take something like "We don't need no education" by Pink Floyd, I just cannot see this being paired with any food much less wine (maybe some narcotic substance, but I am not going there). Hence by elimination, I am left with Hindi film music; but as you will see it is not such a bad choice.

A) Grilled Vegetables + Champagne = Asha Bhosale's Aao Huzur Tumko
Bubbly, frothy, effervescent, is that Champagne or Asha Bhosale singing Aao Huzur Tumko. Never mind, the adjectives fit both and this is my reason for the pairing. Grilled Vegetables just add to the fun, the great thing about them is that you can select any of your favorites.
I start with chopped cauliflower and julienned onions , a little oil and just a few spices (you can add more if you like); throw them on a charcoal grill and cook for about 10 - 15 min. Then I add julienned red, yellow, orange, green peppers (capsicum); and cook 5 more minutes. Finally I throw in some coarsely chopped tomatoes and cook just a few more minutes. Take them off the grill, and serve with champagne as the appetizer; do not forget the song in the background. You may just roast these vegetables in an oven if you do not want the hassle of a charcoal grill, or even make them on the stove using a grill pan. Other vegetables can certainly be added or substituted; eggplant, green beans, mushrooms all go well.
Substitutes for Champagne --- a simple Chardonnay (Barton & Guestier appx. $12), Non-Alcoholic sparkling wine, fizzy apple juice.

B) Salmon Au Poivre + a Red Burgundy = Kishore Kumar's Zindagi Ek Safar Hai Suhaana
Kishore Kumar belts out youthful romantic songs that upon further inspection prove to have a lot of depth and cannot be easily copied. Same with a Red Burgundy, and when paired with that Salmon; your Zindagi will be a lot more Suhaana.
Squeeze the juice of a lemon on a 1 - 1.5 lb piece of Salmon, and add 1 - 2 tbsp Olive oil. Liberally coat with cracked fresh pepper and extremely thin slices of one garlic clove. Cut another lemon into thin discs, cover the Salmon leaving some space between them, and marinate for at least an hour. Then put it under a 400 deg. F broiler for 10 min or until you are satisfied that it is cooked. You may also grill it over charcoal or on a stove using a grill pan. The lemon slices ensure that the salmon remains moist and tender, and this technique can be used with chicken as well.
Substitutes for Red Burgundy --- any Pinot Noir from say California or Oregon, Beaujolais
Substitutes for Salmon --- Tuna, cod, sea bass, even mild tandoori chicken.

C) Dijon Lamb Chops + a Red Bordeaux/Chateauneuf du Pape = Mohd. Rafi's Tere Mere Sapne Ab Ek Rang Hai or Mukesh's Kabhie Kabhie Mere Dil Mein Khayal Aata Hai
Complex, multi-layered, amazing depth that improves with age; characteristics of a good Red Bordeaux or a good Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Do I need to further elaborate upon the pairing, I would argue that it is self-explanatory.
Marinate Lamb/Mutton chops in Dijon mustard, olive oil, garlic, rosemary, parsley (can sub a little coriander), salt & pepper, for at least a couple of hours. The adventurous may also add some dry red wine. Grill/Broil/bake to taste, I usually do about 5 -7 minutes each side.
Substitutes for the wine --- Australian Shiraz, any Syrah (Chateauneuf-du-Pape is a Syrah blend), any good dry red wine
Substitutes for the chops --- A mildly spiced mutton/lamb cutlet, even a good steak.

D) Alphonso Mangoes + Sauternes = Lata Mangeshkar's Lag Jaa Gale
What is sweeter, Lata singing Lag Jaa Gale, a fresh ripe alphonso mango or an excellent Sauternes ? I say go with all three together, this is possibly the best dessert combination.
Substitutes for the wine --- Canadian IceWines, possibly Sula's dessert wines.
Substitutes for the mango --- pears (fresh or poached), strawberries, with nuts & cheese.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Measure Time in Seasons, Not Days

Do you like to buy your fruits and vegetables from a farmer’s market instead of a supermarket ? How about your olive oil in liters from a mill and liberally using it everyday, rather than measured teaspoonfuls on special occasions. Get wine from several nearby vineyards, after spending a most agreeable afternoon leisurely sampling them. Eat meals that are taken for granted by the locals, and are remembered by tourists for years. Work of all this eating and drinking by going on long hikes in rosemary and thyme scented mountains or picturesque sun-drenched lavender fields. And come back home to a quaint and charming centuries old stone farmhouse that you just remodeled. If you do not have the money and/or the time (like most people), the next best is to read Peter Mayle’s autobiographical narration "A Year In Provence".

Peter Mayle, an ad executive, and his wife Annie leave their London jobs and go live in heavenly Provence, a rural region in Southern France. After impulsively purchasing an old stone farmhouse near Menerbes, they set about hiring local craftsmen to modernize it. The book not only details their adventures in house restoration, but also documents their experiences in integrating into the Provencal French culture. All this written in a warm descriptive style with plenty of wry humor makes this book one of the best advertisements for Provencal living in particular and French culture in general.

The book is organized according to the months of the year, with a chapter for each of the twelve. Needless to say, each chapter offers a different entertaining tale; and more evidence of Peter’s love for Provence. Skillfully interwoven is his appreciation and liking for the crusty, rough-hewn, nosy yet genuinely warm and loving local inhabitants.

A brief synopsis of some of the months

January --- The first month begins with a disaster, their frozen pipes burst in the dreaded Mistral; an incessant howling cold Siberian wind. A local French plumber, Menicucci, is introduced; he always answers the phone with the stereotypical "Oh La La". Also introduced is neighbor Faustain; who invites the Mayles’s for traditional "stick-to-your-ribs" Provencal meal. A local gourmet has the best line about English cooking, "the English kill their lamb twice, once when they slaughter it and second when they cook it."

April --- Spring has arrived and the local markets (fresh vegetables, brown eggs, goat cheese, olive oil, lavender honey, bread of all sorts) are in full bloom. Blossoming cherry trees make a pretty sight, but the region begins to get crowded with the arrival of the first tourists.

September --- The wine grapes harvesting month, includes funny tales involving really old trucks used to transport grapes to the co-operative winery. Also the official start of the hunting season, a hilarious description of the French going overboard with enough ammunition to decimate almost all animals and birds on this planet (but fortunately without much success.)

December --- Annie dreams up a splendid scheme to finally get the tardy and ever-late French workmen to complete the remodeling. The year ends in true French tradition, what else but a party with Champagne, individual pizzas, quiches, foie gras, and olive bread.

Are you ready to book that vacation to Provence ?

1) Of course, the book (this review’s title is one of life’s lessons learnt by Peter after a year)

2) Audio-CD of the book, John Case does a marvelous job. Peter Mayle himself has narrated this book, but I have not heard it (doubtless it should be very good).

3) BBC mini-series "A Year In Provence", starring John Thaw & Lindsey Duncan with an absolutely hilarious special appearance by Alfred Molina as a boorish ill-mannered English guest. One flaw in the book is that Annie’s character is not fully fleshed, and the mini-series makes up for that. Annie comes across as a determined practical and no-nonsense but very hospitable human being. A mild yet harmless flirtation develops between her and Louie the swimming pool cleaner who wears a "Je Suis Sexy" shirt. Several short third person stories alluded to in the book are further developed here. One of the best is about a snooty Parisian lady who buys a nearby house, but is troubled by a peasant neighbor’s "le coq" that keeps crowing in the wee hours of the morning. Another is about a boule tournament (a Provencal game played with steel balls), where Peter challenges a local French expert. After some Anglo-French jingoism, he learns the secret of assimilation; graciously loosing.

4) , a really funny piece on English-French relations by Peter Mayle.

Saturday, September 6, 2008


After some prodding by CouchPapaya & Smita, this is my first attempt. And since this blog's name is "oenophile", I have to begin with --->

Golconda wine & Batatawada was my first wine-food pairing attempt, as breakfast before writing the IIT entrance exam in 1979. That I got in was due to a lot of hard work & Agarwal’s classes, but maybe that pairing played a small part. Other supporting evidence is that 4 of us school friends were supposed to spend the night at my home studying for the exam, but one went home late at night and thus missed this pairing. He was the only one who did not get in, never mind, all 4 of us remain good friends and came to the US in 80's. For the past 15+ years our families meet at Thanksgiving, and other friends and families also join in.

Shiraz is a city in Southern Iran and also a variety of grape used to make wine. Wikipedia claims "Shiraz disputes with Xeres [or Jerez] in Spain the honour of being the birthplace of sherry." I had the privilege of visiting Iran 4 times in the 1970's, and did visit Shiraz on my first trip in 1971. Even though grapes are grown nearby and wine is made, I did not see any; but I do remember my father buying some Iranian wine. I also got exposed to Caviar, Fall Colors, & snow in Iran. Tehran has year-round snow capped mountains to the north, and skiing is big winter time sport. The Caspian Sea region to the north shares some similarities with the French Riviera, both have mountains bordering the sea. In Tehran, we used to stay a few
blocks away from the infamous US Embassy that was later held hostage during the anti-Shah Islamic revolution. Early 1978 was the last I was in Iran, the revolution had not yet begun; but it began soon and within a year the Shah was forced to leave Iran. I remember that every structure and all currency notes in Iran had to have a photo of the Shah. The daily TV began and ended with his photo, and anyone switching it off at that time was liable to be imprisoned. I was exposed to Western goods, services, and cars for the first time in Iran, but this was also the first time my freedom of speech was curtailed. I remember my father seriously instructing me and my younger brother not to speak at all about the Shah or the Iranian Govt. while we were in Iran, something that growing up in India we used to do almost daily (about the Indian politicians and Govt. and mostly -vely).
Recommended Books
Persepolis I & II by Marjane Satrapi. A stirring account of an Iranian women's experiences from childhood to adulthood; spanning the Shah era, the Islamic revolution, the war with Iraq, and living in an Islamic Iran.

Chateau Margaux, a Bordeaux first growth, supposedly was President Richard M. Nixon's favorite wine. At parties thrown by him, he would have a waiter fill his glass from a white towel wrapped bottle of Chateau Margaux, and would serve a much cheaper wine to his guests from the Congress & the Senate (From "The Final Days" by Woodward & Bernstein.).
I was in school in Poona in 1971 during the Bangladesh war, in the beginning people would ignore the periodic air-raid sirens. This apparently changed when Nixon sent the Seventh Fleet into the Indian Ocean, the next air raid siren had our school officials herding us out of classrooms into bomb shelters (this meant going to an open field and kneeling, oh well!!!). Much later I realized that it was just the usual sabre rattling aimed at re-assuring America's Middle East allies, and there was hardly any intention of America entering the War.
So here's raising a glass of Chateau Margaux to you President Nixon for introducing me to wars & politics, although I too would have voted to impeach you (for Watergate and imposing wage price controls).
Recommended Books
1) War and Secession: Pakistan, India, and the Creation of Bangladesh by Richard Sisson & Leo Rose.
2) All the President's Men, & 3) The Final Days by Bob Woodward & Carl Bernstein

Naturally, cricket was the most played and followed sport; some memories
a) Red Letter Headlines in newspapers after India beat West Indies in West Indies and England in England in 1971.
b) Watching Sunil Gavaskar score a century in Ranji trophy in 1970 at Poona, before his test debut.
Recommended Books
1) My Cricketing Years by Ajit Wadekar
2) Sunny Days by Sunil Gavaskar

Like most kids growing up in Bombay & Poona in the 1960's & 1970's, I remain a bollywood fan; with favorites being Dev Anand, Rajesh Khanna, Dharmendra & Amitabh Bachchan.
1) First Hindi Movie seen outside India, Jewel Thief, Tehran Iran, 1971
2) Did see Sholay in 70 mm at Minerva.
3) On a trip to Mahabaleshwar, Dilip Kumar played soccer for about 5 min with a bunch of us kids.
4) First Adult (A rated) movie seen after bunking class --- Des Pardes (It is laughable that this was an A rated movie.)

I was fortunate to have been born into a family associated with Marathi Theatre. Among some memorable plays seen are
1) An early performance of Tee Phulrani, starring Satish Dubhashi & Bhakti Barve.
2) Dada Kondke at his best, introducing stand-up comedy in Viccha Majhi Puri Kara.
3) Home production of the award winner Bhaubandki

Ending with more wine anecdotes, I grew up on Agatha Christie's books and James Bond movies. Their talents are well known, and both have an excellent taste in wines and champagnes. You can never go wrong with their choices :-
Hercule Poirot --- Chateau Petrus, Chateau Lynch Bages
James Bond --- Bollinger, Dom Perignon

I pass this tag to smita