Food for thought #29

“Whatever a noble person does, the world follows”     – Bhagavad Gita

 

“War is not about vengeance or ambition, it is about governance”

 

“He who is at peace with himself, happy with himself, illuminated by the knowledge of the resident within all beings, finds supreme bliss everywhere”      – Bhagavad Gita

 

“Don’t think of what you’ll receive. Think of what you’ll leave for others”

 

“A true friend sees the first tear, catches the second and stops the third”

Food for thought #28

“Desire and rage can block all wisdom, as smoke masks fire, dust masks mirrors and the womb masks a baby”      – Bhagavad Gita.

 

“To want nothing is as delusional as to want everything”

 

“Wisdom is enjoying things that drift in and letting goo of things that drift away like watching the waves drift in and out of the beach”

 

“Those who keep thinking of property get attached to it and crave it relentlessly, which causes frustration, which leads to anger, then confusion, then loss of memory, then loss of intelligence, and eventually destruction”      – Bhagavad Gita.

 

“One who gives up conceit and ownership and craving, in other words the sense of ‘I’, ‘mine’ and ‘me’, will always find peace”.       – Bhagavad Gita

Let’s catch some fish!

17.01.2017:

Lakshadweep in Malayalam means ‘a hundred thousand islands’, though there are no 1000 islands literally. It is the smallest Union Territory of India and the archipelago covers an area of 32 sq.km which is surrounded by 4200 sq.km of Arabian Sea. It has 12 atolls, five submerged banks and 36 islands of which  Agatti, Amini, Andrott, Bitra, Chetlat, Kadmat, Kalpeni, Kavaratti, Kiltan, Bangaram and Minicoy are inhabited. Lakshadweep shot into the lime-light in the late 1980s after Rajiv Gandhi’s brief encounter with a whale in Bangaram. I don’t how far this is true frankly 😐

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The turquoise blue started disappearing and a dark blue color started engulfing the waters. Agatti island is vanishing in some distance and soon we were in middle of the deep Arabian Sea! Lakshadweep islands are a paradise of marine life with lots of foreign tourists dropping in for various water sports and adventure activities. And ofcourse, the Laccadive islands was just one of the several possibilities, if one scouts the right destination to start a new fishing operation. In fact, a group of 10 Germans boarded the same flight as I was with their fishing gear and it was their second visit to the islands it seems. So, one can understand how famous is fishing here!

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As I am a budget traveler and cannot afford a proper fishing expedition, I wanted to go along with the local way of fishing 🙂 . Fishing is the main occupation of the islanders with tuna being the main fish. And it’s a true adventure too. The fishing season starts in November and runs until mid-April. I told Jaleel to ask the boat owner to help us in our fishing adventure and he readily agreed with a smile on his face. He called up his two sons and asked us to make the necessary arrangements. After a thorough search from the large wooden box placed in our boat, the two guys emerged with two small card-boards which looked like small sized chopping boards.

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Each of these card-boards are wrapped with a nylon string of some 40 meters length with one end tied to the cardboard and the other end is tied to a fishing hook. The two youngsters gave me and aunt a cardboard each and explained us how to throw the fishing hook behind the boat and hold the string through our fingers. One has to be to cautious while holding this string as this can easily cut through the skin due to the momentum! Jaleel came and wrapped a hand-kerchief around my fingers to protect them from any injuries and I sat on the edge of our boat waiting eagerly for a fish to bite my fishing hook 🙂

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Time for some theory. Jaleel started explaining the various methods of fishing practiced by the islanders and some of these are unique to the islands. As I told earlier, tuna is the main fish occupying some 80% of the total landings out of which 60% will be exported and 40% will be consumed locally. The local fishermen practice a unique way of fishing. They catch small fishes (baitfish) near the island keep them alive in a container before proceeding out to the sea. Once they spot the tuna, the small fishes are released into the water and simultaneously water is sprayed with a small pump. This spray of water, apparently, fools the tuna into believing that there are a lot more small fishes.

The fishermen stand shoulder to shoulder on the rear deck bobbing long poles with barbless hooks into the spray, enticing the tuna to bite. As a tuna comes onto the line a skillful fisherman will use the momentum to lift the fish out of the water, arcing it overhead to land on the deck behind him while he flicks his line back out into the water, all in one smooth movement. Gradually the hold fills with tuna, and the bait well thins out. This is called the “Pole and Line” fishing, a unique fishing method for the exploitation of tuna and is only found in Lakshadweep in the Indian continent. He further added that the fishing conditions and results may naturally vary during the season.

But today no unique fishing techniques are being deployed :-p . In the meanwhile, Imran came to us saying that if I get a fish he would be cooking it for his lunch 🙂 . It was almost 30 minutes since I dropped my fishing hook, but no fish was caught so far. My curiosity started to disappear and I handed over the string to Imran. Imran too was bored within few minutes and he handed back the string to me. After 5 minutes, I suddenly felt a jerk in my hand. Hurrah! My string was being pulled away from me and I called Jaleel with excitement. Soon, Jaleel and the other two youngsters came to me to check whether there is something.

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To my surprise, they confirmed that the hook has struck something, but they were not sure whether that’s a rock or a fish. But soon, when they started pulling off the string, one of them confirmed that it is a fish and our boat was stopped. It was a fish and it took quite some effort to pull it, but to our utter disappointment when he was about to pull it off completely on board, the string got struck into the rear of our boat and got cut 😦 and the fish was lost along with the hook 😦 . I felt sorry for them as they lost their fishing hook and made a point that I would buy them a new one when we will be back on the island!

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Though the fishing part was a little disappointment, we were happy as we spotted some flying fishes and sea gulls following our boat for sometime. Soon, we spotted two islands and one of them is surrounded by a large lagoon and the captain announced that it’s our destination. We entered the lagoon and the water was crystal clear and one can see the undersea rocks and the sea bed so clearly. Never ever I thought that there would be such a beautiful place on this earth. The beauty of the island and the lagoon is beyond description!

Food for thought #27

“He who does not hate anyone, is friendly and compassionate always, is not possessive and self-indulgent, stable in pleasure and pain, forgiving, contained, controlled and firm in his love for God, in heart and head, is much loved by God”      – Bhagavad Gita

 

“Food is what all living creatures seek; meaning is what only humans seek”   – Upanishads

 

“It is our imagination that gives value to things, purpose to an activity and identity to a thing”

 

“The material world is an incomplete reality, made complete by imagination and language”  – Bhagavad Gita

 

“From aggressive material tendencies is born desire in the senses, in the heart and the head. Desire is insatiable and if not indulged can result in rage.”     – Bhagavad Gita.

Towards the Eastern Jetty..

17.01.2017:

06.00 hrs – After a tight sleep, I woke up only to find that uncle and Aunt were already up and ready. While aunty was packing her bag, uncle has gone out for a walk and don’t know what Imran was up to. With my sleepy eyes, I found out my tooth-brush, but was unwilling to brush – not because I don’t want to, but because of the salt-water in the pipes. Luckily, I found a bottle of desalinated water and brushed my teeth :B . I don’t want to take a shower as am going to jump into the water in few hours! Lol!!

I packed my bag the other night itself, so no packing for me and I went to look out for Imran. After ringing his door bell for couple of times, Imran was out sweating. He was exercising! He told us that he will be down-stairs in couple of minutes and we decided to walk along the beach instead of waiting for him! The sea-shore is just 100 meters walk from our room and there are some wooden benches separating our room from the sea. I will explain what these wooden benches are for in my upcoming posts.

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The beach is calm and serene, above all beautiful! If you are in hunt of an exotic beach, definitely add this to your list. The blue lagoon, silver sands or the natural beauty – all Indians there, if you are heading to some foreign locations for such experiences, then please do consider the option of Lakshadweep 🙂 Not far from our homes, here is the very own queen of islands, which is known as the ‘Jewel of South India’. Remote and isolated, Lakshadweep has perhaps the oldest recorded history among the islands here. Ibn Batuta, the African globetrotter, referred to it as Muluk.

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Time for some photography! After clicking some pics of the beach, the boats and the western jetty, I found a hole from where two eyes like mustard seeds were peeping at me. After playing hide and seek with me for a while and scrutinizing me, a colorful crab ventured out. I held my breath and was careful not to move so that I could get a good photograph of this scruffy creature 🙂 I don’t know whether he/she was confident enough that I am not going to harm him/her or he/she is enjoying my attention towards him/her, it stopped moving and became a bit like lifeless. Just as soon as I finished clicking a few pics of it, it vanished into its hole-home!

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Imran and Jaleel joined us and we made our way to the eastern jetty where our motor boat was waiting for us. The jetty is filled with people who came for a morning walk, fishing and few for casual exchange of pleasantries etc. Our boat was anchored next to a small size ship and it’s almost like jumping into our small motor boat from the medium-size ship. One wrong step, I will be into the sea! After carefully getting down into our small boat, we wished our boat driver/sailor and his two sons who neatly placed some towels on the wooden benches for us to sit. After settling down, engine coughed to life and started moving away into the deep waters.

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As I was moving away from the Agatti Island, dawn is breaking over Agatti and the island is putting on a well-rehearsed show. The sky is a mirage of pink, mauve, and orange. The ocean has cerulean glaze that would make a potter weak in the knees. Even the coconut trees are in on the act. The shimmy faintly to the gentle breeze that tickles the tendrils of hair at my nape. For what seems like the nth time, I shake my head in belief. It’s ridiculously beautiful, fake even. Some gall the Lakshadweep has, being this drop-dead gorgeous.

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I have fallen for this beauty!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

 

Food for thought #26

“True love is not blind, but sees all the faults and does not mind!”

 

“Each man is master of his own death, and all that we can do when the time comes is to help him die without fear of pain”

 

“There was no innocence more dangerous than innocence of age”

 

“To discover the God within, we have to go beyond our slice of reality and appreciate the hunger and fears of those around us”

 

“The one who offers food is divine, the food that is offered is divine, the one who receives the food is divine, the one who consumes the food is divine. Everything will surely become divine to one willing to expand the mind.”    – Bhagavad Gita

A refreshing evening in Agatti

16.01.2017:

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We started moving towards the northern end of the island. Imran told us that life is very smooth in the island and there is no crime! We came across few mosques on our way where people were offering their prayers. There are a few antique Buddhist sculptures found in this island that show that the islanders once practiced Buddhism. But now, Islam is practiced exclusively. Women wears burqas while the girls wears scarves. Men are in either shirts and trousers or lungis! It took us around 10 minutes to reach the beach on the northern end of the island.

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The beach is full of activity. We parked our bicycles and walked through the powdery sand. There is a shack selling some refreshments and ladies were sitting together in small groups and discussing things while men were loitering here and there with the children. The cool breeze, calm beach and turquoise blue lagoon with a setting sun opposite to the scene is so enticing! Although there is lot of activity going around the beach and the crowd is not too less, the beach is quite clean 🙂 . I started going around the beach while Imran started a conversation with an islander and uncle and aunt walked towards the sea.

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A few children were playing football after erecting a goal-post into the sand while some were running around hunting the hermit crabs, while some others were trying their hands at fishing! The common thing among all the islanders is the habit of fishing. No matter what the age of a person is, he will be always interested in fishing and sometimes I feel that it’s their favorite past time too 🙂 . After clicking some photographs I too settled down along with uncle and aunt while Imran was still conversing with the islander.

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From the corner of my eye, I could see some creatures crawling on the wet sand, but when I turn to have a look at them, all I could see are some shells here and there. I asked uncle and aunt to remain silent and then these creatures started going around us with more vigor. These are the lower scale hermit crabs which try to deceive us by pulling back their bodies into their shells at the slightest hint of some activity around them. Aunty and uncle struggled a bit around them to make a video of their movements and finally satisfied, we let them go on their business while we returned to our business of clicking some photographs when Imran joined us finally!

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Finally at around 18.45 hrs, it became dark and we moved towards the shack named ‘Lagoon Beach Restaurant’ and occupied a table. We ordered some tea for uncle and aunt, I took some samosas and Imran some fish rolls. They tasted good 🙂 . Spending some time here, we left for having our dinner at the same Al Mubarak restaurant. I ordered a Masala Dosa, while aunty and uncle ordered for some plain dosas and Imran excused himself as his non-vegetarian dinner was ready back at his room. Again, the dosa is too good. It’s fresh, crisp and less oily. Don’t miss a chance of tasting this tasty dosa, if you are here in Agatti!

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Time for shopping! Tomorrow we are leaving for the Bangaram Island. As there won’t be any food stuff available there, we have to get something to eat along with us. While Aunt and Uncle has gone for buying some snacks and all and Imran left to find an ATM, I went around some of the cloth shops to buy some beach-wear! After a lot of struggle with the extra large sizes available here, I managed to get a T-shirt for a price of Rs. 150 🙂 . Not bad 😉 . Done with our shopping we left for our rooms.

21.00 hrs – We called it a day as we have to start early in the morning! Good Night 🙂

Food for thought #25

“Your mind is your friend and your enemy. If you control the mind, it is your friend. If your mind controls you, it is your enemy”      – Bhagavad Gita

 

“The exchange of knowledge is greater than the exchange of things for ultimately all exchange culminates in the mind”     – Bhagavad Gita

 

“Use your mind to ignore sensory stimuli, outgrow that desire, disconnect from intelligent arguments and ideas, rein in the restless fickle wandering emotions, expand your mind and discover the tranquility within”      – Bhagavad Gita

 

“One hour’s reflection is preferable to seventy years of pious worship”

 

“Wisdom builds, understanding strengthens and knowledge prospers”

Agatti Island – The Gateway to Lakshadweep!

16.01.2017:

Imran took us to our accommodation and informed us that we would go out for lunch in another hour or so. I excused myself for a shower while uncle and aunt were discussing things with Imran. The underground water is pumped into the tanks on top of the houses which will be serving the daily purposes. Never ever try to open your mouth while taking a shower unless you are a big fan of salt, b’coz the water here tastes too salty! The government of Lakshadweep however provides the localities desalinated water from the desalination plant which is located on the eastern side of Agatti Island.

Everyone else too refreshed themselves and were now ready to go for lunch. There are no big restaurants or hotels except few small ones to provide food in the island. However, the resorts which will be accommodating the tourists who opted the tourism packages would provide them with food, but they don’t provide for people like us who came through some known people in the island. There are only two modes of transport here in the absence of public transport like buses. Either we should go by an auto-rickshaw or ride a bicycle or go by a bike or car if we own one! Jamaal, a locality who works for Imran quickly arranged us four bicycles as aunt has insisted for them 🙂

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We started riding our bicycles on the narrow concrete roads paved through the coconut grooves and Imran informed us that one should pre-book the meals in advance if they plan to eat it from outside and he booked them for us! Thanks to him, I am really hungry 🙂 . After like a km ride, we reached the Hotel Al Mubarak. It is a small house which has got two partitions, most likely like the family partition and an ordinary one where in which people sit for a tea and a crunchy vada. The owner of the hotel guided us to the family partition and we comforted ourselves at a table. Imran order 3 vegetarian meals for uncle, aunt and me while he ordered himself a non-vegan.

The meal is simple. They served us some white rice, with Avial (a preparation with all varieties of vegetables), thoran (mix of boiled green gram and coconut), sambar, curd and a papad. The non-vegan meal consists of fish curry and fish fry instead of our green gram thoran! The food tasted good. Done with our meal, we cycled back to our room and laid down for sometime before setting out to explore the island. After a good sleep of about 2 hours, we ventured out to see the beauty of the Agatti Island.

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Agatti island is 10 km long and 6 km wide at the broadest point. Importantly, the only airport which serves the entire archipelago is situated here. This is also the transit point for the people who choose to go to the island Bangaram. We chose the bicycles again and started following Imran who is guiding us. The island is absolutely peaceful as there was no much traffic for that matter no big motors like trucks, buses and lorries etc. Mostly all the people here uses bicycles, some motor bikes, others auto-rickshaws and a car here and there! Limited tourist infrastructure here makes for an unusual but good experience. A ride of around 3 kms took us to the port officer’s office from where one can get the ship tickets for his/her voyage.

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There is a long bridge which connected us to the jetty from the island. At the entrance of the bridge, there is a board warning us that collection, destruction or selling away any kind of corals and turtles is a punishable offence under the Wildlife Protection Act and we made a mental note of it. This is the eastern jetty where the cargo ship ‘Sagar Yuvraj’ is loading off the barrels of diesel which is the source of generation of electricity in the island. Agatti has one of the most beautiful lagoons in the Lakshadweep archipelago. The lagoon on the island side and the deep blue sea on the jetty side is a postcard scene! One can see the desalination plant from here.

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The jetty was full of activity. People sitting on the walls talking among themselves and wishing the others who passes by, while few people were fishing with their fishing rods, probably for a fish or two to cook in the evening, and the crew of the ship off-loading the barrels of fuel and people like us clicking photographs and doing all crazy stuff! In all, the life in island is simple. Everyone knows everyone else in the island and it’s like a close-knitted family 🙂

The staple snack of India – Pakoras

What if it starts raining on an evening? What if I didn’t prepare the dosa batter on a holiday? What if there is no upma rava in my kitchen on a holiday? What if some guests turn up at my place on an evening when I don’t have much to serve them? Simple.. I will rush into my kitchen and return with a plate of piping hot aloo pakoras or onion bhajiyas 🙂 , the savory fritters that are a very popular component of the Indian chaat.

Rich in calories, pakora is a deep fried snack available all across the country. Vegetables like onions, potatoes, spinach, cauliflower, raw plantain and green chillies are dipped in spicy besan (gram flour) batter and then are deep-fried. Pakoras are all-time favorite snacking option for Indians and perfect for a rainy day. These crispy treats are delicious when teamed up with a cup of hot coffee or tea.

Majority of Indian population relishes vegetarian pakoras and bhajiyas like palak pakora, bhajiyas like palak pakora, pyaz bhajji, bread pakora, paneer pakora etc. But the trend to savor non-vegetarian options like chicken pakora, fish pakora is also on rise.

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Cooking Time: 15 – 20 minutes

Serves: 2

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Ingredients: Any one of the vegetables – Potato, Raw Plantain, Paneer, Capsicum; 1 cup Gram flour (besan); 2/3 cup of water; 1 tsp Asafetida, 1/4 tsp Turmeric Powder; 1/2 tsp Red Chilly powder; 1/4 tsp Garam Masala; A pinch of Baking Soda or you can use Soda too; Salt to Taste and Oil to deep fry.

Preparation:

In a mixing bowl, take the gram flour, red chilly powder, turmeric powder, salt, asafetida and garam masala. Add 2/3 cup of water and mix it into a smooth batter without any lumps. Peel off the potatoes or plantain and slice those thinly. Dip the slices in the batter evenly and gently place in the medium hot oil for frying in the pan. Turn over when one side is cooked partly; flip them and fry the pakoras till those are golden in color and crisp. Take them in a bowl covered with paper kitchen towel to remove the oil. Serve them hot with some mint chutney or tomato sauce.