ബുദ്ധം

ഒരു രാത്രി,

ചെളിയിൽ പുതഞ്ഞ കുളമ്പുകളുടെ

പതിഞ്ഞ ശബ്ദങ്ങൾക്ക്

അകമ്പടി സേവിക്കണം…

ഏതോ അതിർവരമ്പുകൾക്കിടയിൽ

ചാന്നായെ തിരിച്ചയാക്കണം

കൊട്ടാരത്തിന്റെ കൈകൾ എത്താത്ത

ദൂരത്തോളം തനിയെ നടക്കണം

എതോ പട്ടണത്തിൽ കാത്തിരിക്കുന്ന

ഗുരുവിനെ കാണണം

പിന്നെ ഒരു സുപ്രഭാതത്തിൽ

അവിടുന്നും നടക്കണം

വിശന്ന് തളർന്നു വീഴുമ്പോൾ

ഒരു ഗ്രാമീണ കന്യകയുടെ കൈയ്യിലെ

ചോറും പാലും ഉയിർപ്പാക്കണം

എന്നെങ്കിലും വീണ്ടും

രാഹുലനെയും കൂട്ടി വീണ്ടും പോകാൻ

ഒരിക്കൽ കൂടി തിരികെ വരണം

ഇതിനിടയിൽ എനിക്കായി കാത്തിരിക്കുന്ന

നിരഞ്ജനയിൽ സ്നാനം

പിന്നെ ഏതോ ഒരു ഗയയിൽ

ബോധോദയം…

Mercedes at Nano Cost…

In a marketing meeting my executive director was telling the franchisee managers that they should be confident in product if they want to convince the potential customers. He also said that the information provided should be fool-proof. False promises affects the market in the long run. 

Sitting in the meeting room, I remembered an experience from the times when I used to handle admission counselling in South Delhi centre. A particular student who had taken permission to attend few demo classes free of cost, came to me asking for some time of personal discussion. 

First of all he pointed at the huge board with previous year rank holders’ and asked me ‘Can you say for sure that all these people studied in your institute’. I preferred to be honest and replied that I cannot be sure whether they studied here or not, but I am sure that they had taken admission in one or other batch in our institute. I added. “Some of them might have attended only short courses like current affairs crash course or test series.”

Looking satisfied he shot the next question. “How many of them got through in the first chance?”

Again honesty… “I don’t know for sure, because we don’t keep statistics for attempts of each and every student. But based on my assumptions I can say that it will be less than half.”

The next shot. “In ‘XYZ’ academy the fees in less than one fourth of your institution. Why is it so?”

By this time I was more or less sure that the student is not going to take admission. Emboldened by this feeling, I replied. “Tata Nano costs around 1.25 lakhs and a Mercedes Benz costs around 40 lakhs. Both are cars. Can you go to Mercedes showroom and ask for a Mercedes at 1.25 lakh quoting Nano as the comparison.”

He was silent for a moment. Then he asked. “Will there be that much difference in quality?”

I replied. “There will be some difference in quality, at the same time there is a margin for our brand. That also adds to the price.”

He grinned… Thanked me and left…

Next day he came with the cheque book to take admission…

Before the end…

Before the last drops of pain
That takes me away forever
Before the sun sets and dies
Let me leave the words for you
Yes, I am the wound that bleeds
Draining all the happiness from you
I am the burden of anchoring weight
That pulls you down every time
I know I am the darkness
That has befallen upon you
Leaving you eclipsed forever
The eternal sorrow and misery
Let me leave my words, here
That I had nothing but love for you
Admiration coated with awe,
To have all your lights just for me
This selfish shell of mine
With madness raging inside
Like an eye of a powerful storm
Which dishevells all your grace
But let me tell you again and again
That I had nothing but love for you
My cursed love, all painful
That embedded and nourished in me
But sorry my dear, I cannot kill it
Untill my soul departs forever
The key to your happiness is hidden
In simple riddle of my death.
But let me tell you this in all the pain
That I had nothing but love for you
Remember the pains I gifted you
Were the gaping cuts of love.
Poems and articles by Dr Haroon Ashraf ©

Enchantress…

Your eyes drips of love and pain
Lips of wine so poisonous
The face as deceptive as the snow
Oh.. Enchantress you seduce me.

The pleasure of forbidden fruits
And sweetness of immortal nectar
You cover them with the flour of pain
And gift it as a desert of life

The toping of the beauty you add
With goblets of mortal love
And the grace of care and cheer
Oh.. Enchantress you seduce me…

Poems and articles by Dr Haroon Ashraf ©

Is US of A always right?

(Letter to New York Times)
Ref: Indias misplaced outrage
I do believe that this letter will go unpublished as Media has to cater to the taste of masses and supportive rulers as well as it crosses the minimum letter limit prescribed by you or quoting any other technicalities. Still I feel I should write this.
In india maids may be mistreated by some, but not all. Working more than 40 hours a week is not a mistreatment in India because almost all officials including higher ones work 48 hours a week as we are only a developing coutry with low percapita income and saturdays are working days.
The PCI also leads to lower wages, yet Purchasing power difference adjusts it. The fact that highest civil services like IAS has only a salary of 800$ per month should be counted.
Another issue we have to consider is that ensuring minimum wages is to ensure the minimim standards of life. When a worker has accomodation and food provided, and even purchases paid by employer, minimum standards is ensured by default and whatever the worker is paid is not actual wage, but saving after expenditure. So we have to add cost of accomodation, food  and purchases paid by employer also as a part of salary after proper accounting of that.
Apart from these I have to bring to the attention is that every person in America is not treated equal, and that is a convenient lie on the face of truth.  US soldiers who commit war crimes are never allowed to be prosecuted outside US in the real jurisdiction granted by natural justice. Similarly a CIA agent who killed two persons in pakistan was saved by great US by bribing officials mid-trial.
Few questions coming up in this issue are: Why the US didn’t deport the servant to India when India informed her passport has been revoked, much before the case came up?
How did maid’s family got a visa to US all of a sudden while US visa is provided only after series of interviews and procedures?
Isnt there a corrupt official somewhere in US embassy who used his influence for his driver?
Why there are contradictory statements from Mr Preet Bhrara and USMS about cavity searches? Atleast one of them should be lying.
The last point I have to make is about the state of Human Rights in US.  I was admirer of US rights before this incident as their fights for Human Rights all over the world. In india whether rich or poor we consider even handcuffing a violation of Human Rights and is done only in unavoidable circumstances while US considers it standard procedure to do cavity search even in advanced technological era when scanning can reveal the hidden things in body. Surprising is the US respect for privacy of Individuals. Those who have shame remaining in them should think of demanding better Human Rights in US.
Dr Haroon Ashraf
Poems and articles by Dr Haroon Ashraf ©

മറവി

.മറന്നു പോയ പ്രണയം
ഫ്രിഡ്ജില്‍ ഇരുന്നു മരവിക്കുന്നു
എന്നാല്‍ ചൂട് ഒരിക്കലും കുറയുന്നില്ല
ഹൃദയത്തിന്‍റെ ഗതി താളങ്ങളില്‍
ഒരു തുള്ളി ചോരയുടെ സംഗീതം
പ്രണയം കത്തിക്കൊണ്ടേ ഇരുന്നു
ഒരു നിരാസത്തിന്‍റെ മുറിവില്‍
എണ്ണയായി.
വാക്കുകളുടെ മായയ്ക്കിടയില്‍
കണ്ണു നീരിന്‍റെ ഉപ്പും
വഞ്ചനയുടെ തണുപ്പും
നീറ്റലുകള്‍ക്കിടയില്‍
പ്രണയം കുരുങ്ങിക്കിടന്നു
ഓവനുകള്‍ തണുക്കാറുമില്ല
ഫ്രിഡ്ജുകള്‍ ചൂടാകാറുമില്ല…
ഊതിത്തണുപ്പിക്കാനാവാതെ
പ്രണയം എരിഞ്ഞു തീര്‍ന്നു

Poems and articles by Dr Haroon Ashraf ©

വര്‍ണ്ണജാലം …

നീലാകാശവും പച്ചത്തെങ്ങോലയും
ബാല്യത്തിലെ നിറച്ചാര്‍ത്തുകള്‍
ഇരുണ്ട മനസുകള്‍ താണ്ടി
ബാല്യം കടന്നപ്പോള്‍
നിറങ്ങള്‍ക്ക് ഭാവപകര്‍ച്ച
അടിച്ചു ചതച്ച മാംസത്തിന്റെ പച്ച
ചിതറിത്തെറിച്ച തലച്ചോറിന്റെ വെള്ള
പഴുത്ത് പുഴു കെട്ടിയ മഞ്ഞ
ചുവപ്പിന്റെ തീഷ്ണതക്ക് വേണ്ടി
അടുത്തു കിട്ടിയവനെ
അറുത്ത് ചോരയാക്കി…
ദാഹം മൂത്തപ്പോള്‍ ഇനി ചീന്താനുള്ള
അകിടുകള്‍ നോക്കി
വെടിയുണ്ടയുടെയും ലോഹപ്പിച്ചാത്തിയുടെയും
നിറം കൃത്യമായി
പ ഠിപ്പിക്കാത്ത ചിത്രകലാധ്യാപകനെ
മനസ്സില്‍ ശപിച്ചു…
ഇനി താണ്ടവത്തിന്റെ
വര്‍ണ്ണജാലം…

Poems and articles by Dr Haroon Ashraf ©

Magic of Sprouting…

Creativity always gives pleasure. Who will not feel the happiness radiating when you finish writing a poem, or completing a painting, or cooking a new dish. Sprouting is another art of creativity where you feel the joy seeing the seeds giving out the radicle, slowly opening to show its cotyledons. In the end you can also have a healthy meals by your creativity.
Sprouts were a part of salads from earlier time itself. It is used as a healthy cooking ingredient also. However I am not planning to describe benefits of sprouts here. But I would rather describe how to make sprouts step by step. You can use any of the seeds used as vegetable, especially legumes to make sprout like green gram, ground nut, etc. Only difference will be that the time required for sprouting varies according to seeds and temperature of the region. I am using green gram(moong, or cherupayar) as the seed in this example.

To sprouting:
1. Wash the green gram thoroughly 2-3 times.
I usually puts about 100 grams of gram in a small plastic container of about 250 gram capacity and fill with three fourth water, tighten the lid and shake vigorously 10-15 times and then drains the water. I repeat this till the water drained becomes almost colorless.
2. Keep it soaked overnight.
Pour water into the vessel to about 2 inch above the level of green gram. Keep it overnight, or for 8-10 hours. You can see the seeds swelling and in case of green gram it will almost double up in size.
3. Rinse, Drain and Keep for sprouting.
Rinse with fresh water, drain the water and keep in a wide mouthed vessel, preferrably without closing the lid completely, to allow air circulation.

It is good to rinse once in 8-10 hours and discard the water to avoid bacterial overgrowth or contamination and to promote faster sprouting.
Warmth increases speed of sprouting, and time for sprouting varies between seeds. At average temperature around 30 degree celcius, green gram will sprout in 10-15 hours of keeping.
Poems and articles by Dr Haroon Ashraf ©

The Basic Curry Recipe…

When I post the picture of a dish on facebook, some people asks for recipe, yet other comments how ugly it looks, yet others remembers the cooking experiments we made at college, hostels etc…
I do agree that I fails to make the dishes visually appealing, mostly because I cook for myslef and looks matter less for me, or because my only guests are half starved students who are living away from home for long and is willing to gulp down what ever they get, if it is better than dal-roti-subji available with the one room hotel downstairs, without caring how beautifully it is served. It may be also because I do remember many beautiful dishes tasted like dung, or some ugly dishes tasted awesome, or because my sister Hamna used to avoid prawn chutney, which was very tasty, because it looks like mud and she thought it is a bad dish, and I could get her share also.
As far as cooking skills is considered, I am not a great cook. Fortunately my food is tasted mostly by myself or by aforesaid category who believes it is best because of lack of alternatives.
Coming to the third part of recipe, let me be honest in admitting that I don’t know how to cook any of these dishes and I don’t have any of the recipes with me. I remember the taste of good food, feels the spices and condiments in it, comes home and tries to experiment with what I have in my Magic Kitchen to produce a similar taste. Most of the time I turn lucky enough to produce good taste, though not wonderful. Some other times I produce adjustable tastes, and rarely I feel happy I only have to taste these dishes.
Coming to the real topic of this post, in course of my experiments, I found that there is a basic curry which we manipulate and tweaks to make all other curries. It is the simplest dish, yet a tasty one. It has all basic minimum ingredients needed for a curry. A sour acidic tasting ingredient, to be balanced with proper amount of salt, some  spice which gives hot taste, onion base, fried in oil, boiled in water.
The basic curry for me is a Tomato curry. It was the experimental dish which we used to make when we were given charge of home, without adults. The initial expertise comes from my aunt Haseena, whom we call acheena. I have tried many changes in the base to produce different tastes, some good and some bad. Let me begin with this basic curry!!!
Basic tomato curry needs, 2 big ripe tomatoes, I onion, 1 teaspoon oil, one pinch of turmeric powder, 2 table spoons coriander powder, 1 teaspoon of redchilly powder and salt to taste.
Fry finely chopped onion in a pan with oil over low flame, till it becomes brownish and soft. Add turmeric, stir, add coriander stir, mix properly. When it is starting to stick to vessel add chopped tomatoes. Stir properly and add chilly powder and salt, checking the taste in between. When the tomatoes are soft and starts to wither, add light amounts of water and let it be cooked properly. The curry should have a thick consistency, looser than the tomato sauce we buy from market in a bottle.
First step in cooking is perfectioning this basic recipe. Experiment with different spices, change quantity of spices a little, find what difference it produces. Find your own perfect proportion. Once you master this basic recipe, all other recipes are easy.
All other curries are improvement over the basic curry. Add chicken into basic curry at the stage when we added water, it will become chicken curry. Add fish, it will be fish curry, add ladies finger and it will be ladies finger curry. Ofcourse, you will need more salt and more spices if you are adding extra ingredients. But you will figure it out by experience.

PS: Smaller pieces of Onion and Tomato makes it faster to cook. 
Different ingredients need different time to get cooked.
Poems and articles by Dr Haroon Ashraf ©

Magic Kitchen

Cooking is an art and a science. An art which creates myriads of tastes by varoius combinations and balance of spices and condiments known to the master artist just like a mixture of colors on canvas. A science which tells you if you add these two you will get that. Its a passion to create tastes, to experiment with taste, that creates a magic in the kitchen.

Once a person approached a magician and requested him to teach him magic. The magician in his attempt to avoid the unwanted disciple, asked him. “Do you have any experinece, any related skills for magic?”
The visitor was confused by the question. He asked “like?”
The magician explained. “Like can you vanish things, or can you convert anything into another thing…”
The visitor interrupted the magician, ” yea I can, I can convert cooked rice into pancake, pancake into cutlet, and cutlet into curry. That’s what I do everyday.”
It was the turn for magician to be astonished. He said. “Wow! Even I can’t do such things, what do you do and how do you do these things?”
The visitor answered. ” I am a cook in a nearby hotel. We cook rice everyday, we grind the leftovers of rice into rice flour to make batter for pancakes(appom, rice-roti, dosa) for next day, then we mince the remaining pancakes at evening to coat the cutlet for next day, and if any of the cutlets remain unsold by the end of day, we smash them to add thickness to curry next day.” And magician fainted.
This story though little exxagerated shows you endless magical possibilities of cooking. Refrigerated cooked rice from previous day is best for fried rice than freshly cooked rice, or it can be crushed and added to rice powder to make softest steamed rice powder dish called ‘Puttu’ in Kerala.
The endless possibilities with spices and dishes gives you a sense of magic in itself. The appreciation on the face of friends and collegues will make you proud when you throw small private parties if you practice a little.
Start by experimenting with various spices in different combinations with different vegetables or meats. Some may be good, some may be bad, but you will learn a lot in the process.
In between don’t forget to go out every week and eat tasty food from outside. Enjoy the food, slowly, get absorbed into the food, enjoy sensation on each tastebud and you will understand what are the ingredients in it. Which spice can cause a similar taste, in what combination. Get back to home and experiment in the next opportunity. You will realise that you no longer need a recipe to cook almost any dish under the sun.
The taste you produce may not be exactly same as the one you are imitating, but almost similar, and some times even better, and the friends will compete to get invited by you to experience the magic kitchen.
Poems and articles by Dr Haroon Ashraf ©