So, What Do You Eat?


Yes, They are all Vegan!!!

“So, what do you eat?” – I am used to getting that a lot. Earlier from non-vegetarians because I was a vegetarian, and now from vegetarians as well, because I am a vegan.

But I don’t really blame them because before becoming vegan, even I didn’t pay much attention to those Silk Soy/Almond/Cashew/Coconut Milk tetra packs right beside the regular milk gallon-jugs. I didn’t bother to look at that “V” sign on a food packet. I never noticed in any cafe, a separate line on the menu that said: “Add Soy/Almond Milk – $X”. I never googled a vegan version of traditionally dairy-based recipes like Pizza, Cakes, Indian Desserts etc. Those things pretty much didn’t exist for me.

One thing that being vegan made me understand WHY cooking is a pure art. And we often understand that art has no limits but we forget that art has no dimensions either. While there is ‘n’ number of things you can draw on a canvas, each of those things can be further drawn in ‘n’ number of ways as well. In a class of say 20 children, even if we give all of them an assignment to draw a natural scenery, all of them may have two mountains, one river, one house, three clouds, four trees, one sun and a well (if it is in Europe or Asia) – but still, each of these drawings will be different from the other – not just in terms of colors but also in terms of how those elements are projected.

Same goes for cooking as well. We may think that a particular dish must follow a certain list of ingredients and must taste in a certain way – but who certified that? There isn’t any organization that mandated it? Why can’t there be another dimension in a given recipe? Nothing is irreplaceable – is what being vegan taught me. One just needs to expand the universe of tastes, textures, ingredients, and combinations. It does take time to work out the perfect replacement and involves a lot of failures as well, but the results definitely come in.

It took us months to figure a perfect alternate recipe to make the Indian tea and coffee from soy milk but we did eventually reach there. Yes, it is different from the milk-based tea in terms of taste and texture – but then that’s what exactly it is – “different”.

And since last 2 years, I have come across so many varieties of diets that exist in this world – based on different principles, some of them being religious, some of them being philosophical, while others being nutritional. However, they all have their way to coexist.


The Identity Politics India Needs

I saw the India Today Conclave 2018 debate today on the topic of “Identity Politics” – something that has been deeply ingrained into the Indian political mindset. The panelists included Hardik Patel (Patidar Andolan Leader), Kanhaiya Kumar (ex-President of Students Union at JNU), Sheila Rashid (ex-VP of Students Union at JNU), Rohit Chahal (Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha national media in-charge) and Shubhrastha (right-wing columnist).

Just as expected, the debate, in no time, slipped into panelists mudslinging each other and hardly sticking to the topic. However, a few points and the topic of the debate itself brought a good thoughtfulness on the idea of what kind of identity politics India needs, especially when the politicians in the past have done nothing but dividing the country by race, caste, religion, region and sometimes even gender – just for their vote banks.

I guess the answer was right there when the moderator, Rahul Kanwal, was introducing the participants. Not for once, he used any of the divisive adjectives like race, caste, religion, region or gender, to introduce the panelists. They were introduced based on the work they did and the positions they have held or hold currently. And from the debates and discussions, I have witnessed so far, panelists are always introduced by the work they do and the positions of power they hold.

During the discussion, Kanhaiya Kumar made a point on the identity where he said that if someone asks him abroad that who is he, he will respond by saying that he is an Indian. If someone asks within India, he will respond by saying that he is a Bihari. If someone asks him within Bihar, he will respond by saying that he is from Begusarai. I think that is exactly the mentality we are fighting. Why can’t his identity be the leader of AISF and the students’ wing of CPI? And there should be a full stop after that. It is the identity based on “karma”.

And for humans, it gives the true and greatest joy when the identity is associated with something they have done. And the reason is that the other identities – region, religion, caste, gender, race etc. – humans do not have any control. It is by fate. However, the identity associated with a profession is something that the person has worked hard to “earn”. And with a country like India, building an identity associated with profession can be the greatest motivator for the people to work hard and achieve their dreams irrespective of their religion, region, caste, color or gender.

Whenever we talk about our farmers, we feel proud because they work so hard to bring food to our table. Whenever we talk about our scientists, we feel proud because they enable our technological advancement and improve the quality of life for everyone in the country. When we talk about our athletes, we feel proud because they work hard and bring medals/trophies to our country at international stages. When we talk about our artists, we feel proud as they do not just entertain us but also sometimes bring awards at the international stage through their work. These personalities also feel proud because of what they have achieved in their profession – not because they belong to a particular religion, region, caste or gender.

When farmers strike, we always say “kisaan andolan”. Recently in Maharashtra, the farmers marched from Nashik to Mumbai. I didn’t see any news channel reporting it as “Marathi Farmers” but just as “farmers”. Even the protest in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra last year by farmers was called “kisaan andolan” in MP and Maharashtra and never as “Marathi and MPite kisaan andolan”. When farmers from Tamilnadu went to protest in Delhi, they were never called “Tamilian farmers”.

As long as we keep associating ourselves with such pity things, we cannot develop because our horizon will be limited. And unfortunately, problems do not see race, religion, caste, gender etc. before striking.

–Featured Image Source: India Today

90s Indi-Pop Artists I Wish Were Active Even Today

Pop songs in India became a rage during the 90s, started to lose sheen in early 2000s and pretty much died later on – at least in terms of the quality it produced. With many high-quality pop singers making their career into playback singing for movies, it kind of left a void. To add to that – the originality took some good hit as the pop songs reduced to mere remixes of old Hindi movie songs. Also, to a large extent, music piracy also played its role in killing the industry.
When I think about listening to some good quality Hindi non-movie songs, I just can’t think of anything in recent past but the era around 1995-2000, especially these four artists.

I’m not sure but I can certainly bet that this lady was pretty much every teenager’s crush – at least at some point in time – in that era. Starting off with a quick acting+singing stint in the movies and an MTV VJ (she’s popularly known for), she ventured into the Indian pop scene with a bang – launching back to back successful albums “Duniya” and “Pyaar Ka Rang” around 1997-98. It was her versatility in her singing that made her an amazing singer. It takes a good talent to move from “Duniya” to “Oye Shava” and then pull off a song like “Mere Mehboob”. Raageshwari had it pretty much all. However, the successful stint at the pop scene was interrupted by Bell’s palsy that left her left side of the face paralyzed and a slur in her voice. Even during her recovery, she came in as a host to many television shows with her infectious energy that could bring life to even a stone. In 2006, Sagari Rayn brought a completely different side of her with quite a mature signing. By that time, the Indian market had pretty much lost its ability to appreciate pop singing as it starting going south with crappy singers like Himesh Reshammiya.

Lucky Ali
He had a unique, heavy but melodious voice that made him a perfect candidate for pop songs – something that gives him his own face on the screen to match the voice. I still cannot get bored of listening to his “O Sanam”, “Dekha Hai Aise Bhi”, “Tere Mere Saath” and “Kitni Haseen Zindagi” – probably the best 4 of all his amazing songs. And, for me, on some days, even “Gori Teri Aankhen” hits the chords. His voice generated some amazing and highly popular songs in the movies but those remained very limited. When these days, music largely overpowers the voices – I definitely miss someone with such a distinctive voice you cannot miss noticing but still with a music that you can find your solace in.

Colonial Cousins
I guess, after A R Rehman if anybody was able to nail the Indo-Western fusion music, it was Colonial Cousins. Their sense of putting the right western instrument in the midst of a classical music, as well as the other way round, was simply amazing. With Lesle Lewis pouring in his expertise in Western music and vocals and Hariharan, a maestro in the Indian classical – it was the fusion of ages. They smashed many records with their first album with numbers like “Krishna”, “Sa Ni Dha Pa” and “Let Me See The Love”. “Krishna” pretty much transported you to another world with so much depth in lyrics and music just bringing everything together. The next two albums also went on to become chartbusters. They came back again in 2012 but they can definitely do more than that – provided the Indian audience is up to it.

Bombay Vikings
In the era where remixes were being made left, right and center with utterly disastrous music by random artists, Bombay Vikings brought the class to it with their amazing ability to fuse old songs on a western music with some infused English lyrics as well. The spin they gave to some of the songs like “Kya Soorat Hai”, “Woh Chali” and “Hawa Mein Udta Jaaye” brought them to a new and refreshing level. For me, they were probably at their best when they composed “Tera Mera Pyaar” – top class music and an audacious vocal combination of Neeraj Shridhar and Falguni Pathak, pretty much brought the best of everything in just one song. Neeraj Shridhar had a great run in Bollywood movies too, writing and singing some amazing songs – however not as memorable as his albums which gave a very distinct identity of him as a singer and Bombay Vikings as a group.


Besides these, the 90s saw many amazing artists coming up with melodious songs, some of them made their way to playback singing in movies, the rest just phased out and made their way somewhere else. The 90s pop music scene in India wouldn’t be the same without names like Sonu Nigam, Shaan, Alisha Chinai, Baba Sehgal, Usha Uthup, Shubha Mudgal, Aryans, Hans Raj Hans, Daler Mehndi, Silk Route, Kamaal Khan, Euphoria, Anamika, Anaida, and Junoon etc.
Yes, I may be forgetting some names that may be very special to some people – especially Parikrama and the Indian Ocean – but then, their level of music was altogether at a different height and genre.

Source: Wikipedia pages of the artists for some fact checking.

The Great Indian Debate Killer – “Where Were You When…..”!!!

Invariably, this statement comes at least once in almost every “so-called” debate you see in Indian media – both television and social. Be it firecracker ban, mob lynching, morning azaan issue or Gauri Lankesh murder – “where were you…” rocked – diluting the importance of the issue and making it yet another opportunity to take political and religious potshots.

But why is it such a lame thing to do in a debate?

The degree to which people are using this word, not just diverts the entire debates from the core issue but also gets the conversation into a filthy territory where judging people becomes the central idea. The ones who use this statement will often raise the flag of “exposing the hypocrisy” but essentially it is just another way of saying “What I am supporting is bad but you did not oppose the same bad a zillion years ago so this bad is good”. That argument undermines the idea of tipping point when a person says “enough is enough” – which clearly doesn’t mean that whatever happened in the past is acceptable.

Secondly, and probably the most important one, it shifts the focus of the debate from the topic in hand to the participants itself. And that happens when the participants don’t have anything constructive to offer on the topic. An ideal debate is fought on facts and focuses on the validity of the issue raised with possible solutions, if valid. It requires a good amount of research, a strong understanding of realities on the ground and having facts/figures on hand. That enables someone to make strong points supporting a stance. When people do not research and are not aware of ground realities, they resort to personal attacks and digging up the past instead of convincing the other party on why they are wrong.

Also, the phrase undermines the evolution of opinions as people gain more information, experience and perspective about an issue. While it cannot be denied that many people would find the compulsion to cling on to their beliefs in spite of seeing the truth in front of them, just because they feel the need to be faithful to one side, it may not be the case always. People evolve and so does the thought process. The everyday experiences and the stories that we hear, add to our perceptions and how we think about a particular issue. People even change opinions mid-way the debate – if you don’t believe, see “12 Angry Men”.

“Where were you when……” is perhaps just one such example of what’s wrong with the “argumentative” Indians. It is more difficult than it seems – to be rational all the time, especially when you have the prejudices and personal biases growing like a tree in your mind. It is up to us on how much we are not just able to control it but quash it before they damage our interactions with others around us.

Evolving and Encouraging Stand-up Comedy in India

There are two kinds of stand up comedians emerging in India. One, who cannot end a sentence without the S or the F word. And then there are the ones who can actually crack jokes (not that they don’t swear at all). And slowly, I also see a beginning of the third genre who is using comedy to drive attention to some of the key issues our country is facing. The evolution of the stand-up comedy scene is very refreshing and encouraging to see, especially in a country that seems to be losing its sense of humor and the ability to laugh at itself.

There are a couple who I love to hear and follow on YouTube.

Atul Khatri:
He’s a CEO turned standup comedian – probably the eldest in the fraternity but I guess that’s why inspiring across age groups to send a message that it’s never late to follow your passion. He is largely known for his Sindhi jokes – how everyday efforts to save every single penny creates comic situations. He isn’t even shy to crack a few ones on his age – turning it into an advantage!!

Amit Tandon:
The ease with which he creates humor is amazing. I have seen very fewer folks trying out stand up comedy in Hindi and do well (although increasing these days). He definitely comes as one of the best. The theme of aam aadmi’s everyday struggles and feelings with a comic touch establishes the connection with that group of audience.

Kenny Sebastian:
I loved his show “Chai Time with Kenny Sebastian” that picked up various topics like childhood comics, ladies purse, Indian kitchen and more. His sense of humor and the metaphors are amazing. He supplements that with the props and visual aid to increase the impact.

Anshu Mor:
Former Director of Interactive Entertainment Business (XBOX), he is, again pretty much like Atul Khatri, a corporate drop out. In his 40s, he definitely inspires people – it’s never too late. He has a good variety when it comes to topics he picks up. I didn’t see any set pattern to expect when watching him again and again, which is really good for an artist. His selection of language (between Hindi and English) to communicate a joke or even a line within an entire piece to increase the impact is amazing.

Kunal Kamra:
We randomly came across his channel on YouTube and instantly subscribed to it. Politics is his forte. Very recently he has started his podcast named “Shut Up Ya Kunal” where he invites a guest, associated with the topic intended to be discussed – mostly politics and current affairs – and exchanges views and counter views on various aspects of the topic. The first episode had BJP Youth Wing Vice President, Madhukeshwar Desai, while the second one had Indian National Congress National Spokesperson, Priyanka Chaturvedi. The most recent one had the two JNU students – Kanhaiya Kumar and Umar Khaled. I loved the ease with which he discusses every single point in a logical way and still keeping it very humorous.

Besides these, there are other good ones like Nishant Tanwar, Vikramjit Singh, Anirban Dasgupta and Rahul Subramaniam. I don’t follow them but watch them whenever it pops up on my YouTube recommended videos.

Overall, it’s a healthy trend but it’s not yet reaching the masses who deserve to receive the context of a particular issue in an unbiased and possibly humorous manner which they don’t receive from today’s 24X7 news channels.

Not Respecting People With Different Food Habits Makes You More Ancient Than Modern

A couple of days ago, one of my friends posted, on Facebook, her parents’ plight while traveling with Emirates from the US to India. Just as expected – the most common – they encountered an issue in food where the crew ran out of vegetarian food that her parents had pre-booked while purchasing the tickets. It was bad enough that in spite of prebooking their vegetarian meal, they were served lamb biryani and that too quite late after her parents checked multiple times with the crew. What disappointed me all the more was that the crew tried to pass off a chicken curry as vegetarian by replacing the label. I used to hear such a thing about long distance European and American carriers.
Over a period of time, based on my personal experiences and listening to others’ experiences, I’ve been more convinced that while the public, in general and at an individual level, has been quite sensitive to each other’s food habits, when it comes to bringing that sensitivity to corporate level, the same individuals fail. In my experience after working in US and Europe, I’m yet to find a vegetarian friendly cafeteria in any company. Most of them have hardly any vegetarian options and the ones that have, make ridiculously awful food when we talk non-salads (quantity may be economics but quality is intention).
And it’s not just food quality but also the conditions in which they are made raises more questions than the calorie value of the meal. Using the same utensils which were used for meat, not changing gloves and even worst – not wearing gloves, heating both kinds of food in the same oven – makes me think if we’re still in 19th century where people haven’t heard about vegetarian or vegan food habits.
When it comes to airlines, I’ve been lucky so far not to have faced any issue whatsoever. However, now I wonder if I should prepare meals myself while traveling instead of relying on the airline.
Corporates who may not be in the food business directly but have food services as one of the key part of their daily work environment, need to understand that not respecting people with food habits different than theirs make them look more ancient than modern.



I and my wife have a very different understanding and purpose of travel. It is very much inspired by the travelers (not tourists) around the world. After reading through so many blogs, watching so many vlogs, I’m glad that we have been able to cultivate this exploratory attitude to travel.
However, sometimes, especially when traveling in groups, we often end up compromising a little.
A couple of months ago, we went to Chicago. Chicago has this iconic tower called the Willis Tower which is a 103 story sky scraper providing an amazing view of the Chicago skyline through a Skydeck that they have developed.
Due to the Skydeck, there is often a huge rush. On weekends, there can be the queue which can take up hours to clear before you can get into an elevator. If you have the City Pass, you are at an advantage since there is a separate and a quicker queue. But still, it’s a good long wait – also because just before the elevator, the normal queue and the city pass queue merges.
As you reach on top, you see scores of people all around. There is one particular section where they have created a glass balcony which supposedly gives you a feeling of what it is like to be in the air as you look at the ground right beneath you. Dozens of people were lined up there to get their snaps (with a standard pose as if they’re falling) which they can upload on Facebook and Instagram. Get more likes and comments, which brushes up their self-esteem. More likes, more self-esteem, and self-worth.
The uniqueness of the entire experience was destroyed by the monotony of the process everybody followed.

  1. Stand in one of the queues and wait for your turn.
  2. At your turn, go to the glass balcony
  3. Take some snaps in about a minute
  4. Leave the balcony to let others behind you do exactly the same.

The entire experience left me with a lesson on the difference between visiting a place and traveling to a place.
So if you’re a tourist, definitely go!! If you’rea traveler, there is a high chance that it would not excite you.