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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The story of Kumbakonam degree coffee

The story of degree coffee
I am a coffee afficondo
And to me the oscar in coffee always goes to South Indian filter coffee .
These days its known as Kumbakonam degree coffee
Kumbakonam is a temple town in Tamilnadu where its predominantly brahmin population have a fetish for drinking only the best in coffees
For a filter coffee fanatic anything less would be untouchable
He would wrinkle his nose on pale instant coffee imitations and to him coffee is drunk off brass tumblers and if they just arent found possibly in steel ones
Porcelaun cups are literally outcasted
Paper styrofoam cups are an insult.
So much for the costly upstart called starbucks which is known for its bucks to be spent on getting either a bitter rancid concotion or a pale sweet cappucino
So do its cousins pale into insignificance when met with the elite filter coffee .
The name degree has many stories behind it
Some say its because of the lactometer used to asess milk with degrees on it
Some say it was because of a decree passed by a British official that he should be served with nothing less than the finest of filter coffee .
The filter percolator is used to prepare the coffee

The coffee seeds are actually roasted in a wooden fire in claypots and then finely powdered retaining thier aroma
The powder is kept in upper container boiling water is added
This slowly drips down into the lower container

Making the coffee too has its own steps
Sugar is added first later the filter concentrate  then freshly brewed milk with a fine foam in the brass tumbler.
The dowrah or lower portion is used to mix the coffee once or twice being careful it never loses its heat
Degree coffee cannot be drunk cold
Cold cofee baaah
Then the aroma of the finest robusta from the cold hillocks of ooty or kodai or munnar is tickling the senses to make one take a careful sip to avoid scalding
Slowly sips become gulps as the most pleasant coffee in the world washes out ones system
The eats are extra luxuries in degree joints seen all along tamilnadu highways these days costing just around half a dollar unlike its costlier but more mundane global competitors .

Friday, July 14, 2017

Hypnosis of the infinite Haridwar

Hypnosis of the infinite
The gushing waters of the magnificient Ganga river the mother of all rivers to Hindus tells the tale of time and God ,and descends from its snowy heights in the Himalayas to enter the plains in this place called Haridwar .
One of the oldest described places of inhabitation by humans this holy town teems with ashrams and is filled with mendicants who bustle along its crowded narrow streets along with the devoted ,the rickshaw pullers ,the lorries carrying goods , the cows cud chewing with no care in the world ,and above all the quite river foaming in its silver trinklets tumbling from the high mountains for a distance of 237 km to reach the hot plains in the summer and icy cold fields in the winter .
One of the four places where once in 12 years the greatest congregration of humans gather in one place in the world and one that can be seen even from space the Kumbh mela take place here ,every four years
it alternates between Ujjain ,Prayag ( allahabad ) and Nasikh .
We were fortunate to visit the Mahakumbh mela in Allahabad once .( )
it is said the drops of Amruth or divine ambrosia fell on these four places while being carried by the celestial bird Garuda .
Hari is name of Vishnu and Dwar in hindi is opening or way to
Hara is Siva
hence its important for Vaishanavites and Sahiviites
its way to Vishnus Bhadrinath and Shivas Kailas .
Its also the starting point for Char dhaam which isa pilgrimage to Gangotri from where high above in himalayas from a cave called Gaumukh the Ganga gushes forth perenially ,Yamunotri ( origin of Yamuna ) ,Kedarnath the ancient shiva temple up in the dizzy Himalayan ranges , or Bhadrinath the abode of Vishnu ,
again we were lucky to have visited all these places except Gangotri which due to a road rokho we couldnt go to .
Haridwars teeming banks of the Ganga is a microcosm of India ,
the famous Har Ki Pauri Ghat has the Brahma Kund where the Amruth fell and is a sacred place for ritualistic bathing .
Though we did not have a bath we did wash our face in the freezing waters as it was crowded for the evening .
Araathi is a ceremony every day at dusk where river Ganga is worshipped .
,all along the bank people sat with bated breath watching the etheral spectacle of priests lighting huge chandelier like arathis worshipping the river Godess and thousands of earthen wicks float majestically in the river thier twinkling into the horizon the very explanation of life itself .
one day we all twinkle our way to non existence .
Haridwar in the past was also called as Mayapuri ,Gangadhwara ,Kapilstan etc.
Its also known as the home of Godess Sati and her father king Dhaksha .
Ayodhya ,Mathura ,Maya ,Khasi ,Kanchi ,Avantika and Dwaraka are the seven holy places .
It is referred to in ancient Hindu scriptures and epics like Mahabharatha .
Huan Tseng the Chinese traveller described it when he came to India in 629 AD .
it was conqured in 1336 by Timur long the Central asian conqueror .
Guru Nank was supposed to have visited Haridwar on Baishaki day in 1504 AD and bathed in the famous Kushawart Ghat and the event is commemrated by a Gurudwara called Gurudwara Nanakwara .
Pandas or priests of Haridwar are known for maintaining exact genology records of many Hindu familes known as Vahis for many generations at times going back upto seven generations updating them meticulously on every visit of any member of the family to Haridwar .
King Akbar was supposed to have drank water of the Ganges and called it as the waters of immortality .
its one of the oldest living cities in the world today .
its at a height of 314 meters in Uttarkhand state
Its most sacred Ghat was constructed by King Vikramaditya in 1st century BC which is today called Har Ki Pauri .
On the eastern banks of Ganga is the Chandi Devi temple atop the Neel parvat or blue mountain ,its believed the main statue in the temple was consecrated by Adi Shankara in 8 th century AD ,
a ropeway goes up the 3km way to the temple .
on top of Bilwa parvat is another famous temple the Mnasa devi temple ..
The other famous and ancient temple is the Maya devi temple .
A temple to dhaksa called Dhaksha mahadev temple alos exists .
Piran kaliyar Sahrif ibuilt by Ibrahim lodi is a dargha for a sufi saint of Chisti order Sabir kaliyari .
There is a bird sanctuary called Neel Dhara pakshi vihar .
There isa tank about a km from Har ki pauri called Bhim Goda where Bhima drew water from the rocks here by thrusting his knees or Goda to the very ground for the pandavas to drink when travelling to the Himalayas .
Haridwar also hosts plenty of Ashrams or religious orders with impressive buildings works of art and places of stay .
Haridwar has excellent roads from several places reaching it and trains too at Haridwar railway station and the nearest airport is Jolly Grant at Dehradun
There is aqaiunt clock tower near Har ki pawri.
We were taken right where the arathi would take place as a group because the young Swamiji who led our group was a frequent raveller and was greatly repsected .
As we sat on the cool steps on the banks of the great river and as the pale sun sank into the far horizon a thousand glittering diyas flickered into the gushing waters of the river .
the banks came alive with loud cymbals as the huge arathis were lit and puja done with great cries from the devotees and the place took an etheral image beyond the mundane and we were lost to the hypnosis of the infinite .
it was an experience unlike any

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Franfurt and Europe trip closure

In Europe we travelled in train from Rome to Venice later Venice to Zurich via Milan from Zurich to Paris and finally from Paris to Frankfurt.

Everything went by clockwork precision.
Our pre booked tickets under our travel company holiday factory of Dubai was in order.
One was in business class one in first class two on economy but all very comfortable
The stations were reached very easily as railway stations are downtown and well connected.
Even though we had heavy suitcases to lug around we found public transport very user friendly and economic.
Almost all people used them.
All metros trams buses were disabled friendly and roads and sidewalks smooth to drag
Only in Venice were cobbled roads and a boat to catch
In Frankfurt even reaching airport was so easy in normal metro which went straight in
Many major cities have cos
tlier airport special trains .
Most train platforms are exhibited exactly 20 minutes before departure
So we reached Gare de lyons station in paris in time but 20 minute deadline passed and our train did not appear in monitor.
So we asked info and they said you are in wrong station and you need to go to Paris East around 12 km from here and we just had 15 minutes to reach that station in peak hour traffic!

We somehow hopped into a cab who did his best though traffic signals every two minutes took our patience

Somehow we managed to get the train as booking another one would have been pretty expensive and all our tight schedule would have gone awry too
Frankfurt was our last stop in Europe
We were  flying back day next
We had no specific plans for this city
We needed some good rest and packing time
And we had a feeling but being a big city Frankfurt didn’t have much to offer
Well we were wrong !

The evening on checking in Prof Bodokress a German neuro radiologist friend was kind enough to take   us out for dinner in an authentic German restaurant along with his wife and son for us to get a.feel of authentic German cuisine 

Authentic German cuisine contains lot of different sausages like metturst,brathurst,currywurst,weisswurst,knackwurst,etc.
They have a famous salad of yoghurt cabbage and onions while an onion cheese combo is called cheese with music .meat either veal or ham in thick slices well-cooked forms part of platter and all washed down with Apple wine .
Prof Bodo kress neuro radiologist of our center hails from Frankfurt.
He was kind enough to take us to an authentic German restaurant there which was an experience in itself.
Gemalten haus or the painted haus has been in existence since 1936
It got its name by its excellent collections of paintings
Dedicated cycle tracks are available everywhere in Frankfurt
DB cycles are seen parked in all major centres and railway or metro stations tram stops etc .
One needs to download an app and send number seen on bike lock to a toll number and one would get the code to unlock the bike.
Charges at 8 cents per hour daily or weekly rents possible.

On completing use one can relock bike any central place or intersection and send code to toll number .these days that step need not be done as it automatically is done
Required rent is drawn from registered account online .
A developed country is not one where poor buy cars its one where rich use public transport and cycles
The next day morning  we went through brochures and joined the  Rhine valley tour 
it had an added city tour for first two hours in a city tour bus but as it was raining heavily we couldn't see much ,it was a damper .

but the days tour was very good as it was bright and sunny by then
 Rhine river is lifeline of Germany
On its banks were lovely castles on hillocks small villages with wooden roofed cottages steepled churches winding paths lovely resorts green fields vineyards and
veneers .
The tour would take us along in luxury coach the path along river the area being an UNESCO heritage site with most
media vial castles intact later we would get into a cruise and lazily stream in Rhine river flowing majestically its silver sheen reflecting the towering castles
We would then go to a cute restaurant on its banks for a late lunch and return by coach vis
iting another high view point
We were back in our hotel by 7pm
 Finally a summary of our European six city tour
Europe in late winter is awesome
One needs good thermals inside shirt sweater and a good overcoat
The one i bought in Taipei served the purpose well and the leather jacket bought in Dubai for me by wife too was an excellent choice.
What with different sweaters coats and shirts etc my suitcase was loaded.
Remember we had to lug two suitcases every two days we moved cities either to Railway station or airport.
Most European cities were luggage friendly though we had difficulty in Venice and
Venice only had boats but it was like metro and one could easily drag suitcases into them from floating jetties all very disabled friendly but the cobblestoned roads to and from hotel was another thing it was a bit tumble but not bad of course the small bridges required a climb and descent
As far as Rome was concerned in metro the escalators were steep with no lofts in sight
Carrying heavy suitcase in escalator is fraught with danger as one could lose balance or ones suitcase could tumble down like humpty dumpty
Taxis were easier but quite costly in Europe while most metros were cheap convenient and user friendly
We were wary of pickpockets well known in Rome and Paris
My advice keep passport in hotel locker
don’t carry too much cash or many credit cards and keep wallet in coat insides
These days i think law is getting stricter and there was no worries it was relaxed travel .
The getting to know of metro was on first trip as language was at times in German or French but English options are available
in some places we bought one or two day unlimited tickets in some trip wise tickets
In Zurich there's no metro but excellent tram service is
Venice only has boat metros
Rome .Paris Frankfurt have excellent metros
Athens too has though we did not use
Metros are fast slick there are no traffic jams and timing is accurate
One needs to know where one wants to go in which line and where to change but maps are very user friendly and announcements are in English too
In Paris we had a real fright
We were waiting for euro rail to Frankfurt in Gere du lyons station and realised we should have been in Paris east station a good ten km away just 20 minutes before
Somehow we managed to get a cab lug our suitcases into it and wish driver Godspeed but Paris had signals every few yards producing palpitations but somehow we reached the station and got into our train just in time .
After reaching Athens we regretted carrying so much winter clothes not that it wasn't cold but the city had so much choice at such bargain prices we were sad we couldn't buy







Gulf air Frankfurt to Bahrain at least we got some hot rice and a tepid chicken and me some white wine

but Bahrain to Dubai it was an ice cold sandwich with sad cucumbers of course left behind by me fully

Can’t stand cold soulless airline food

Can’t they heat it!

Dubai my Dubai you surpass all

Be it in nea
t plenty toilets with bidets (toilet paper…… baaa
(We need water to clean buddy )
or drinking water
or duty free shops or
mind boggling marhaba lounge with spicy veg
biryani steamed rice mushroom curry spicy samosas
with dessert and a
Bacardi to top it
Nothing to beat my Dubai


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