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September 24 2014

Die Welt zu Gast bei Feinden

Der Sammelband „Soldat Ram Singh und der Kaiser“ untersucht das Leben indischer Kriegsgefangener und Intellektueller in Deutschland zwischen 1914 und 1918.
Rezension von Behrang Samsami (23.09.2014)
zu Ravi Ahuja; Heike Liebau; Franziska Roy (Hg.): Soldat Ram Singh und der Kaiser. Indische Kriegsgefangene in deutschen Propagandalagern 1914 - 1918.
Draupadi Verlag, Heidelberg, 2014.
Reposted from02myhumsci-01 02myhumsci-01

February 27 2014

How the Portuguese Influenced Indian Cuisine

Sorpotel. Photo by Flickr user gcmenezes (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

Sorpotel. Photo by Flickr user gcmenezes (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

The Portuguese established a colony in India at the beginning of the 16th century. Portuguese India was ruled first from Cochin, and then Goa. Over the next four centuries, Portuguese control spread to various parts of India, mostly along the west coast of the country, but also in the northeast in Bengal.

During this time, the Portuguese left their mark on certain Indian cuisines in two ways: by introducing new ingredients to India – including spices that are seen as an essential part of Indian food today – and by introducing Portuguese dishes that then were adapted to Indian culinary techniques and tastes.

The strongest Portuguese influence was of course in Goa, which Portugal ruled until 1961. In particular, Goan Catholic cuisine has a distinct Portuguese flavour. Blogger Hilda Mascarenhas describes the famous Goan dish pork vindaloo:

The name “Vindaloo” is derived from the Portuguese dish “Carne de Vinha d’Alhos” which is a dish of meat, usually pork, with wine and garlic. The Portuguese dish was modified by the substitution of vinegar (usually palm vinegar) for the red wine and the addition of red Kashmiri chillies with spices, to evolve into Vindaloo. The alternative terms are Vindalho or Vindallo. Traditional Goan Pork Vindaloo is intensely flavored with fragrant spices and does not include potatoes. No celebration and festive occasion is complete without the Goan Pork Vindaloo. It is enjoyed with the most popular and loved accompaniment, Goan sannas, which are prepared with toddy! This speciality is served with pride in every Goan home at Christmas, New Year and Easter.

Gavin Harvey adds:

Vindaloo started as a vinegar and garlic based stew made with pork or other meat but when introduced to India it got revamped with various spices and chillies. Potatoes were also added to the dish and “alhos” became “aloo” (Hindi word for “potatoes”) – so soon people assumed potatoes were a necessary ingredient of this dish.

Further down the coast from Goa is the city of Mangalore, and Mangalorean Catholic cuisine has many similarities with Goan Catholic cuisine. A pork dish common to both is sorpotel (or sarapatel), originally from the Alentejo region of Portugal. At the Goan Recipes blog, Glenn writes:

The word ‘sarapatel’ literally means confusion, probably referring to the mish-mash of ingredients of pork heart, liver and even pork blood!

Bandel cheese. Photo by Flickr user Manidipa Mandal (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

Bandel cheese. Photo by Flickr user Manidipa Mandal (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

Moving to the other side of India, some Portuguese influence can be seen in Bengali cuisine as well. Rangan Datta gives us the history of a special kind of cheese:

Originating from the erstwhile Portuguese settlement of Bandel (about 50 km north of Calcutta), Bandel Cheese is perhaps one of the last traces of Portuguese cuisine in Bengal. The Portuguese influence in Bengal dates back to the late 16th century. Almost a century after Vasco da Gama reached the West Coast of India the Portuguese started making their inroads into Bengal. [...] It was the probably the Portuguese who introduced the art of cheese making in Bengal and in spite of all odds the technique has survived over centuries. The Bandel Cheese introduced by the Portuguese was probably made by the Mogh (Burmese) cooks under Portuguese supervision. [...] This variety of unripened cheese is made from cows milk and comes in two versions plain and smoked. First the the curd is extracted from the cows milk by using lemon juice. The cheese is then shaped and drained in perforated pots. The plain variety is of milk-white colour and comes in disc shapes of about an inch diameter and quarter of inch thickness. The smoked variety comes in the same shape and size but has a crispy brownish crust covering the soft milk-white interior.

Zoe Perrett notes:

The Portuguese influence on Bengal was not pure. Having gone to Goa first, many of the new introductions were delivered with a distinct Western Indian accent, or, indeed, were dishes the Portuguese purloined directly from that small state. The Portuguese also proffered Bengal bounty from travels further afield; fruity beauties like pineapple, papaya, guava, and the lychees from the Orient. Where Goa absorbed the influences, blending Portuguese techniques and dishes with local spices, in Bengal, many of the Portuguese-provided ingredients have retained their own clear identity. Mogh cooks soon mastered Western baking methods; displayed today in Calcutta’s prolific puffs and pastries, and perhaps also in the use of white flour for ‘luchis’ (a Bengali bread).

Kulkuls. Photo by Flickr user Amanda Fernandes (CC BY 2.0).

Kulkuls. Photo by Flickr user Amanda Fernandes (CC BY 2.0).

The Portuguese left a legacy of sweet as well as savoury dishes in India. Kulkuls, or kidyo, are a type of sweet eaten by Goan and Mangalorean Catholics at Christmas. Aparna Balasubramaniam describes them:

Kulkuls are made by deep-frying inch long bits of sweet dough moulded/shaped into small curls (like butter curls) which are often also coated with a sugar glaze which dries out. The kulkuls tend to resemble small worms, hence the name “Kidyo” in Konkani, the language spoken in Goa. If you do not to think of them as “worms” you can think of them as shell-shaped. I like to think that the name Kulkul/Kalkal comes from the rattling sound of these little treats jostling one another when they’re shaken in sugar syrup or maybe in the tin in which they would be stored. Kulkuls are made during Christmas in Goa and are an important item in the Kuswar (a collection of Goan Christmas-time treats), and are distributed to neighbours. They’re also taken along to give away during “obligatory” visits to friends and family. [...] Someone pointed out the Kulkuls are actually a variation of the Portuguese Filhoses Enroladas, which is a roll or curvy noodle-shaped Christmas-time sweet that is deep-fried and sugar-glazed. So it is possible that Kulkuls were brought to India by the Portuguese.

[Photos]: Kolkata’s Street Dog Doctor

Kaushik Sengupta, a self-taught social documentary photographer, is the creator of a photo essay featuring Mr. Sandip Karan of Kolkata, India. Mr. Karan is known in his area as ‘street dog doctor’ because of his caring love for street dogs. Till-to-date, he has rescued and treated around 2500 street dogs in his own locality and adjacent areas. The photo essay can be found in his website, in Galli Magazine and in the Invisible Photographer Asia website.

February 26 2014

Bangladeshis Protest Bollywood Film ‘Gunday’ for Misrepresenting Liberation War

A new Bollywood film, “Gunday“, has people outraged in Bangladesh against the movie's mischaracterizing their country's 1971 war for independence. 

The film begins with a scene of the 1971 India-Pakistan war and ignores the events of 1971 that led to the creation of Bangladesh. It highlights only the 13 day long India-Pakistan war which occurred at the fag end, ignoring the essential element of the nine month long Bangladesh's struggle for liberation from Pakistan, in which an estimated three million people died.

Bangladeshis took to social media networks to express their anger and demand an apology from the production company behind the film, Yash Raj.

There have been offline protests as well. Several youth groups engaged in Street Protests in capital Dhaka. The government also officially protested.

Poster of Gunday movie. Image courtesy Wikimedia

Poster for the film “Gunday”. Image courtesy Wikimedia

Twitter user Abdullah Al Nadim wrote:

Worldfriend4u questioned the film director's knowledge of history:

Saima Selim tweeted:

Zarin Tasnim Maliha complained:

Facebook user Sedative Hypnotics argued with documents the historic facts of Bangladesh's 1971 war of liberation which the film misrepresented:

৯০ হাজার পাকিস্তানী আর্মি ভারতীয় বাহিনীর কাছে আত্মসমর্পণ করে নি। করেছে বাংলাদেশ-ভারত যৌথবাহিনীর কাছে। এই কপি টা ভারতের প্রতিটা ঘরে ঘরে পৌছায় দেবার দাবি জানাই। প্রথমে ‘গুন্ডে’ মুভির পরিচালকের বাসায়।

90,000 Pakistani army prisoners did not surrender to the Indian army. They surrendered to the Bangladesh-Indian joint force. I demand that this copy of historic facts should reach every Indian house. Firstly, the documents should be sent to the “Gunday” director's home.

Mrityunjay Devrat, who is the director of the film “Children of War” based on the Bangladesh Liberation War has expressed his displeasure for the film in an interview with Bollywood Hungama, questioning the way the war was depicted:

If I am allowed to be honest, then I'd have to say that the makers of Gunday have been factually incorrect. I think it is hugely irresponsible and derogatory to use a sensitive subject such as the Bangladesh war for purely commercial purposes.

Yash Raj films has apologized in a statement on their blog for “any disrespect or hurt” that the film has caused Bangladeshis.

February 23 2014

Indian Blogger Exposes Fuel Pump Cheating With Viral Video

Screenshot from the video uploaded by Kiruba Shankar

Screenshot from the video uploaded by Kiruba Shankar

In India, where fraud at gas pumps is commonplace and many complaints remain unresolved, a blogger's viral Facebook video has helped shed light on the problem.

Kiruba Shankar, a digital entrepreneur, author, teacher, farmer and long-time blogger in Chennai, India, explained how he first discovered the fraudulent practice:

I just caught the staff red-handed at Bharath Petroleum fuel station on Mount Road. They tried stealing Rs.700 worth of petrol. I paid Rs.2000 for the fuel and as the meter reached Rs.1300, one of the guys tried distracting me by asking me for my car number. Immediately, his accomplice manning the fuel pump stopped the pump and quickly reset the meter. As soon as the guy asked me for the number, I smelled a rat and saw the pump just when the guy was resetting it.

This incident took place in the Bharath Petroleum's Mount Road outlet in Chennai. Kiruba uploaded the video to Facebook, and the one-minute, 44-second-long video went viral with more than 6,000 shares and 3,000 likes. Many people shared their similar experiences in the comments section and local media started reporting on it.

Rajesh Murugesan, a commenter on the video, said:

Hey guys why blame only Bharat Petroleum, it happens with all petrol bunks. our Indian officer's just need to fill their pockets and are not worried about others. These officer's to be punished or teased in public.

Yashwanth Vee, another commenter, wrote:

It is a good thing that you came out and posted this on a social network. Hope the responsible person sees this video and takes some kind of action.

Kiruba posted updates on how the authorities reacted:

The social media outrage coupled with the coverage in national dailies has brought this incident right up to the CMD and top management of Bharath Petroleum.

They requested Mr.Kshitij Midha, Area Sales Manager for South Chennai to meet me in person. He is incharge of overseeing 35 fuel stations, including the one where the incident took place. [...]

The BPCL official did an investigation with the owner and staff at Ashwini Automobiles (the franchisee who runs the fuel station). After cross examining, they did find the two men guilty and they have been fired from their jobs. [...]

BPCL has the official complaint numbers displayed in all petrol pumps but most of the customers don’t take the extra effort to lodge a complaint. He encouraged people to complain which will keep the staff grounded.

Blogger Shushant Kulkarni from Pune advised how not to get cheated in a petrol station:

You might be getting fooled if you are not paying close attention. [...] I have noticed this a lot many times, have gotten first hand experience getting cheated a couple of times :), but eventually learned the pattern. You have experienced these or may be you are not paying attention to these.

The Allrounder blog also has similar tips to share. Vinaya Naidu at Lighthouse Insights blog lauded the role of social media in exposing malpractice in the society:

A rampant malpractice at most fuel stations in the country, one that needs to be tackled in these times of high fuel prices. It is interesting to observe how social media can play an important role in eliminating this, if leveraged fruitfully as Kiruba did.

February 22 2014

Thoughts On India's Biggest Blogging Conference

#WIN14, India's biggest blogging conference and awards, hosted by BlogAdda, took place on February 9, 2014. Blogger Dr. Roshan Radhakrishnan, who won the best creative writing blog in India, shares his thoughts and pictures.

February 20 2014

Is Indian Anti-Corruption Leader Arvind Kejriwal's Resignation Clever or Crazy?

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal briefing the journalists. Image by Sarika Gulati. Copyright Demotix (21/1/2014)

Arvind Kejriwal briefing the journalists. Image by Sarika Gulati. Copyright Demotix (21/1/2014)

After a remarkable victory for anti-corruption crusader Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party (Common Man's Party, abbreviated AAP) in December's Delhi Assembly election, bringing an end to Indian National Congress’ 15-year-rule there, Kejriwal has resigned from his position as chief minister after only 49 days in office.  

As the capital of India waits for its new administrator, speculations are rife about what Kejriwal's resignation bodes for the general elections later this year and how AAP will perform compared to the established political bigwigs.

Some years back, somebody with a really good sense of humour decided to christen India's common man as the “mango” man. The logic is easy to understand. “Aam” in Hindi means “common”, but it could also mean “mango”, depending upon the context. Mango man or mango people has now become a part of popular political jargon in the country, referring to the common people in India.

India's “mango” people were considerably excited when the AAP managed to garner the maximum number of votes during the Delhi elections. However, Arvind Kejriwal's decision to quit from his job has surprised many and raised a number of speculations. His style of governance was unorthodox and publicity stunts like a 33-hour protest against the Delhi police ensured his frequent presence in the news.

Kejriwal had announced that he would resign from his position unless the Delhi Legislative Assembly passed the anti-corruption bill that would introduce the appointment of an anti-corruption ombudsman, the “Lokpal.” The bill would enable official enquiries into corruption complaints involving high-ranking officials. However, following the introduction of the bill in the state assembly, there was a huge uproar from the opposition and the bill could not be passed.

Kejriwal has defended his decision saying that it was one based on principle, but several supporters are disappointed.

In Facebook and Twitter, this particular statement is being shared by several critical citizens who think it is a case of sour grapes for Kejriwal.

In his resignation letter, Kejriwal has accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which represents 32 seats in the 70-member Delhi Assembly, of getting support from billionaire Mukesh Ambani. Kejriwal's AAP had recently filed a police case against Ambani on charges of corruption.

The now ex-chief minister claims that the passage of the anti-corruption bill would have brought even more politicians under the scanner, which is why opposing parties ensured that the bill would stall in Delhi's Assembly. Kejriwal may have made a name for himself as India's foremost troublemaker, but many others, like Anand Pradhan, believe that Kejriwal has “shown the way” towards honest politics:

Amrita Roy commented on a post by Aparna Wanchoo in Youth Ki Awaaz blog:

Well at least he stood by his word! Sure there were issues related to the 49 days his government was in power. Sure he doesn’t know how to deal with parliamentary anarchy. But he stood by what he has always preached. He is one of the very few people who walked the talk. If he hadn’t resigned after the vote against tabling the Lokpal Bill, both Congress and BJP would have called him opportunist. They would have definitely said that Kejriwal wants the power of the seat of the CM and hence isn’t resigning even after his pet agenda was rejected. Now that he has resigned, both these parties have resorted to declaring that he can’t govern. Either way he would be attacked. The only thing that is in his control is to stand by his word. And he did just that.

Kejriwal's move may actually prove to be a strategically potent move for the general elections this year. The AAP has already announced its main candidates for the lower house of parliament, the Lok Sabha, this year.

The run up to the 2014 general elections has begun and the AAP is taking on the big guns in the Indian political scene. Going by the mood, India's mango people definitely seem to have a chance, and they're supporting the one party which, to say the least, appears to be the most honest of the lot.

February 19 2014

Human Waste Scavenging a Reality in India Despite Sanitation Laws

Manual scavenging is illegal in India. Yet, the practice continues to exist in pockets. Image courtesy UNICEF India

Manual scavenging is illegal in India but the practice continues to exist. This lady in Moradabad district of Uttar Pradesh is carrying human waste for disposal. Image courtesy UNICEF India

Manual scavenging, or the manual removal of human waste from non-flush toilets, continues to exist in pockets of India despite the Indian government's stringent laws agaisnt it [pdf]. A team of bloggers, including a member of Global Voices, visited a few villages in the Moradabad district of Uttar Pradesh, India and learned more about this continuing illegal and dehumanizing practice.

The Indian government in partnership with UNICEF India has been actively pushing an ambitious, community-led total sanitation program – the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (NBA), which aims to end open defecation by 2017. An earlier Global Voices post reported how UNICEF India's #poo2loo campaign has been using innovative methods to engage the urban populace and create awareness about the issue of open defecation.

However, apart from influencing cultural norms to end open defecation and building of toilet infrastructure across the country, the NBA program also deals with hygienic methods of solid and liquid waste disposal. And it is in this context that the blogger team learned how traditional “dry toilets” were unhygienic. Plus, given that these areas lacked proper sewage system for waste disposal, these toilets encouraged the illegal waste disposal method – manual scavenging.

A traditional dry toilet in a village of Uttar Pradesh, India, that requires manual scavenging to clean. Image by author

A dry toilet in a village of Uttar Pradesh, India, that needs manual scavengers to clean. Image by Aparna Ray.

The district panchayat officer of Moradabad district in Uttar Pradesh India explained why, according to him, dry toilets (toilets without a flush or wash-away system) were worse than open defecation. He pointed out that open defecation in villages generally took place in open fields and wooded areas away from human habitation, but in traditional dry toilets the waste lays open within the confines of the home, spreading diseases faster within the community (as the waste attracts flies, which then sit on foodstuffs, etc.).

In fact, this was one of the reasons that many families preferred not to have a toilet within the house. Plus, these kinds of dry toilets also require manual scavengers for waste disposal, a job that is “without dignity and illegal”.

Mayank Jain from Youth Ki Awaaz was one of the bloggers on the field visit. He wrote about his experiences:

dry toilet is probably the gravest thing I have encountered in my life. Those who feel shy or don’t want to go out choose this means where they leave their fecal waste in one corner of the house and in the morning, a human scavenger comes to clean it and carries the whole waste on their head to dump it anywhere away from their home. This is done in return for a sum of just 30 rupees for 6 months! This is an inhuman crime being carried out all over the villages and it is a massive source of diseases and health issues. People don’t realize how unhygienic it is to live with their own waste in the house and those who carry on their heads find themselves perpetually ill with diarrhea or poisoning and they still choose to do it for that extra money

Mayank further commented:

The story gets worse once you talk to them about their children and you discover this profession gives birth to huge discrimination and people don’t dare touch them or talk to them nicely because of what they do in the morning. Story of human scavengers brings to light the vicious cycle of poverty and misery but the web is intermingled with shades of caste-ism, religious sentiments, traditions and cultural hierarchies that have grown to this level now.

It is a crime as per Indian law and the women who do it ran away when we tried to talk to them thinking they will be caught or punished and I could only wonder where this country has reached so far.

Three scavenger ladies

Three scavenger women in a village of Uttar Pradesh, India, huddled together, a little away from the rest of the villagers. Image by Aparna Ray

Bloggers Ajay Kapoor from Halabol and Sonal Kapoor from the NGO Protsahan have also blogged and tweeted about what they learned from these manual scavenging women, whom they met on the field trip.

Ajay blogged:

Scavengers from a village. No dignity, no respect and worst of all they get pennies for this humiliating work and some stale food.

And Sonal (@ArtForCause) tweeted:

The women complained that they were ill much of the time but when it was pointed out that it was because of the work they did, they said that they could see no other viable and respectable alternative open to them.

The Indian government, along with organizations such as Sulabh International which are working in the field of sanitation are pushing for societal change a) by trying to get people to convert their traditional dry toilets to a more hygienic option that does away with the need for daily scavenging and b) trying to create alternative livelihoods for these scavengers.

Conversion of traditional dry toilets

The government along with its sanitation partners is pushing for conversion of these unhygienic dry toilets into flush toilets. However, keeping in mind the lack of proper sewerage systems as well as the impracticality of advocating expensive flush systems, especially in poorer or rural areas, they are opting for technologies such as the self-composting, twin-pit pour flush system.

A dry toilet being converted into a twin pit pour flush system. Images courtesy UNICEF India

A dry toilet being converted into a twin-pit pour flush system. Images courtesy UNICEF India

This toilet technology involves building a toilet which is connected to two pits, any one of which is used at a time. Water-flushed waste collects in a pit and when it is filled, the other one is used. The waste gets converted into compost, which can then be used as manure.

Other innovative, alternative sanitation systems are also being explored across India, for example,this ecosan squat toilet system, supported by UNICEF.

A more contemporary format of a waterless flush system was also recently exhibited in India.

Rehabilitating manual scavengers

As more toilets get converted and as opportunities are created for the rehabilitation of manual scavengers by providing them alternative livelihoods, there is cause for hope, though a lot still remains to be done in this area. Be it through the government sponsored “100 days guaranteed work” scheme or self-employment schemes or even NGO-led training and employment generating initiatives, we hope that the manual scavenging community will get reinstated in the mainstream society and be able to live with dignity and dream of a better future for themselves as well as their children.

In this YouTube video, Sulabh International's Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak talks about his organization's initiatives in this direction, saying that the resulting glimmer of change is a “candle in the darkness, a beginning of the beginning”.

In the next post in the series, we will look at how some brave “toilet warriors” are working within their communities to bring about change in attitudes to scavenging, sanitation and hygiene.

February 18 2014

YouTube Chefs Are Cooking Up a Storm in Indian Kitchens

YouTube Chefs are cooking up a storm and gaining celebrity status in India and abroad

YouTube chefs are gaining celebrity status in India and abroad.

Recipes are no longer just about cookbooks or top professional chefs hosting cooking shows on TV. A new breed of Indian culinarians are cooking their way to celebrity – via YouTube. As they demystify Indian cuisine and offer step-by-step guidance to creating mouthwatering Indian dishes, these talented men and women are inspiring a whole host of Indians to pick up their ladles and try out various yummy recipes in their own kitchens.

Move over recipe books, the YouTube chefs are here. No longer does the amateur home chef have to flounder with trying to understand what exactly the recipe instruction meant when it said things like, “the batter should be of pouring consistency”. Now you can see the chef demonstrate on video what exactly “pouring consistency” ought to be like. 

VahChef

Sanjay Thumma, more popularly known as VahChef, is the founder of food website vahrehvah.com. His prolific recipes channel on YouTube, which he launched in 2007, has catapulted him to culinary stardom.

Screenshot of Sanjay Thumma's YouTube channel

Screenshot of Sanjay Thumma's VahChef YouTube channel

Over the years, VahChef Sanjay has put up over 1,100 easy-to-follow videos demonstrating mainly Indian (and some international) recipes. Currently, his YouTube channel has about 234,985 subscribers and has clocked 159,266,645 views. On Facebook too, he has garnered about 164,405 likes. Sanjay is also currently hosting cooking shows on a regional TV channel in India.

Food Blog Wandering Spoon notes:

It’s refreshing to watch someone demonstrate mouth-watering dishes with uninhibited joy, a matter-of-fact globalism and minimal make-up. It helps that I love so many cuisines in India, but what immediately appealed to me is his stance as a teacher.

In the video below, VahChef Sanjay demonstrates how to cook fennel and pepper chicken:

Manjula's Kitchen

Manjula Jain grew up in a North Indian vegetarian family. Though she married and relocated to the US in the late 1960s, her family and she remained vegetarians as they were Jains by religion. Since 2006, Manjula has been blogging recipes and creating cooking videos on YouTube that offer “simple and practical recipes” to authentic Indian vegetarian cuisine. Her recipes include vegan and gluten-free dishes as well.

Manjula's Kitchen website and blog

Manjula's Kitchen on YouTube has 146,873 subscribers and has racked up 73,769,313 views. Her Facebook page has 260,833 likes. Recently, Manjula has also published her first book, ”Manjula’s Kitchen: Best of Indian Vegetarian”which is available on Amazon.

In the video below, Manjula shows us how to prepare a tasty snack which is also a popular street food in Mumbai, India: Batata Vada or Aloo Bonda (fried potato dumplings):

Nisha Madhulika

It's not only English-language recipe videos that are doing well online. Meet 55-year-old Nisha Madhulekha from Delhi. After she retired from a full-time job, Nisha grew restless and turned to her passion for cooking to keep herself occupied. She started posting recipe videos online in Hindi with English subtitles for the non-Hindi audience. With over 800 videos uploaded to date, plus tonnes of recipes on her Hindi website (there is also a subset English version here), Nisha Madhulika is quite a culinary force.

nishamadhulika.com - the Hindi website featuring Indian vegetarian recipes

Hindi website nishamadhulika.com features Indian vegetarian recipes

In the following YouTube video, Nisha shares her story about how she started her journey as a YouTube chef:

As of today, Nisha Madhulika's YouTube food channel has 114,339 subscribers and has nabbed 33,236,034 views. Her Facebook page has close to 40,000 likes.

In the video below, Nisha Madhulika shows us how to make sweet puffed rice balls (somewhat similar to Rice Krispies Treats, but with jaggery instead of marshmallows):

Some of the other popular YouTube home chefs who post videos of Indian and/or South Asian recipes include Bhavna with her “exotic vegetarian cuisine recipes from all around the world with a hint of Indian flavor” at Bhavna's Kitchen (134,091 subscribers, 52,497,677 views) and the Hetal-Anuja team with their “step-by-step and practical approach to South Asian Cooking” at ShowMeTheCurry.com (120,696 subscribers, 65,979,089 views).

Screenshot of India Food Network page

Screenshot of India Food Network page on YouTube

In fact, YouTube video tutorials and recipe demonstrations have become so popular that a group of home chefs and food bloggers got together in 2012 to create the India Food Network on YouTube. According to the description on their Facebook page:

India Food Network is your step by step guide to simple and delicious home cooking. From regional Indian cuisine to popular dishes from around the globe, our focus is to make cooking easy

So next time you want to cook your way into someone's heart, don't reach for a cookbook. Log on to YouTube and let some of these new-age celebrity chefs show you the way.

February 09 2014

An Info-Activism Tool-Kit on Women's Rights Campaigning

Tacticaal Tech's Info-activism Toolkit on Women's Rights Campaigning

Tactical Tech's Info-activism Toolkit on Women's Rights Campaigning

The Women's Rights Campaigning: Info-Activism Toolkit by Tactical Technology Collective is a new guide for women's rights activists, advocates, NGOs and community based organizations who want to use technology tools and practices in their campaigning. This has been developed in collaboration with advocacy organizations from Nepal, Bangladesh, India, Kenya and Egypt.

This Toolkit has been customized from an updated version of two earlier toolkits: Message in a Box and Mobiles in a Box. The website will soon be translated into Arabic, Swahili, Bengali, and Hindi.

Reposted bycheg00 cheg00

India's Solar Vision Promises Clean Energy And Happy Farmers

Solar array pattern captured at Auroville, Pondicherry, India. Image from Flickr by Amaresh Sundaram Kuppuswamy. CC BY

Array of solar panels at Auroville, Pondicherry, India. Image from Flickr by Amaresh Sundaram Kuppuswamy. CC BY-NC-SA

Around 628 million people around the world do not have access to electricity and 290 million of them are from rural India. Many Indian farmers have to rely on archaic power grids and fossil fuels to run water pumps for their irrigation.

The Indian government is aiming to replace 26 million diesel-powered groundwater pumps with more efficient solar-powered irrigation models. This will save about six billion US dollars a year in electricity and diesel subsidies for the country. This will also help tackle the rising demand for coal as two-thirds of the country's electricity is generated by coal. Additionally crowd-sourcing of unused solar power will also add a lot of energy to the national grid.

India nearly doubled its solar capacity in 2013 to a cumulative 2.18 gigawatts of power. The country plans to install 10 GW of solar plants by 2017 and 20 GW by 2022, according to the the second phase of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM), India’s flagship solar policy. India is also considering to apply to the World Bank for a 500-million-US-dollar solar loan to build the world's largest solar power plant (4GW) in Sambhar in the Indian state of Rajasthan.

Yadav K writes in Indian Public Sector blog details about the 4GW power plant in Sambhar:

The project will spread across 19,000 acres at Sambhar in Rajasthan and will entail an investment of Rs 7,500 crore in the first phase. [..] The solar PV (photo-voltaic) power plant will use PV modules based on crystalline silicon technology and with an estimated life of 25 years, the solar plant can supply 6,400 million units of energy per year. It eco-friendly project will help reduce carbon dioxide emissions by over 4 million tonnes per year.

Katie Fehrenbacher writes in technology blog Gigaom:

As more devices become connected to networks and the Internet — here comes the Internet of Things — more and more of them will seek to have their own power source, and currently solar power is one of the cheapest and most mobile forms of distributed energy available. [..]

If India does reach these numbers of solar-powered water pumps, it would be the largest deployment of this technology in a single country. Reducing the grid electricity usage, and the use of expensive diesel, will not only lower carbon emissions, but it could also help the power grid operators better run their networks and reduce the power costs for the farmers.

Here are more reactions on Twitter:

However, the rapid development requires industrial production of Solar plants which may create new bio-hazard:

Blogger & Solar Energy expert Ritesh Pothan thinks that there are a number of issues that must be resolved if 2014 is to see India make any progress towards its solar ambitions.

More info on India's solar developments can be found in Renewable Energy India and Solar Power India Facebook pages.

February 08 2014

A Video That Made 50 Schools Safe

Video Volunteers Community Correspondent Amit Topno from Torpa Block, Jharkhand talks about making a video that brought about a positive change that had potentially saved the lives of 5000 people across 35 villages in his state. When his video explaining the problem of lightning strikes and the inaction of the authorities was screened to villagers, journalists and local government officials, the rest was easy. They pressurized to secure permissions to install lightning conductors in 50 schools across Torpa Block.

January 31 2014

Birds Avoiding Bhopal

Bhopal, the capital of the Indian State of Madhya Pradesh, lies in the North-South corridor of the migratory path of birds coming from Northern Asia, Russia, Afghanistan, China, Mongolia etc. Blogger Proloy Bagchi reports that several species of migratory birds which used to congregate in and around the Bhojtal (former Upper Lake) in Bhopal in large numbers, apparently, have avoided this city this winter. Two reasons cited by bird-watchers for the absence of the birds are: 1) human disturbance and 2) pollution in the Lake waters.

January 26 2014

Outdoor Air pollution in Bhopal

Proloy Bagchi reports that outdoor air pollution in Bhopal, the capital of the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, has risen to an alarming proportion mainly from the emission of the transports. The blogger slams at the inaction of the state government and stresses the importance of reducing this pollution. According to WHO outdoor pollution causes cancer, more so than passive smoking.

The Other Side of Social Media

That’s Twitter – it makes a joke out of serious issues and takes jokes seriously.

- comments blogger Purba Ray while discussing Sunanda Pushkar’s sudden death who underwent a Twitter spat with a Pakistani journalist. The unusual death of the wife of Indian minister Shashi Tharoor has created a lot of controversy pointing fingers at Twitter.

January 25 2014

Protest Against Rape : WordToon by Subhendu Sarkar

In India women often fall prey to sex crimes where police fail to take proper action. Subhendu Sarkar, an artist from Kolkata created cartoons from words (see Youtube video) in an workshop called “wordtoon” urging everybody to protest against rape.

The Biggest Indian Blogging Conference In February 2014

The WIN – Blogadda conference will take place in Mumbai on February 9, 2014. This conference is claimed to be the the biggest offline Indian blogger conference where a mix of Bloggers, Industry Specialists & Influencers will talk about how blogging today has grown to be an optimum platform for expression.

January 20 2014

Despite Controversial Past, Indian PM Candidate Narendra Modi's Star on the Rise

BJP Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi addressing the crowd during 'Lalkar rally' in Jammu, India. Image by Amarjeet Singh. Copyright Demotix (1/12/2013)

BJP candidate for prime minister Narendra Modi addresses the crowd during the ‘Lalkar rally’ in Jammu, India. Image by Amarjeet Singh. Copyright Demotix (1/12/2013)

General elections are scheduled to take place in April 2014 in India, and many of the same old players are expected to appear on the ballot. But over the last few years, corruption scandals, rape and several cases of maladministration have led many Indians to lose hope in the existing political parties.

The centrist Indian National Congress party has formed the Indian government since 2006. Although this has given the country a measure of stability, the party's ministers have also been involved in several cases of corruption involving the Commonwealth games, coal mining and 3G licensing to mobile service providers. Additionally, the increasing number of cases of violence against women has made it clear that the common man is now done with bad governance.

Recent state-level elections in New Delhi saw the new Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), an offshoot of the anti-corruption campaign launched by social activist Anna Hazare a couple of years ago, emerged in second behind the country's other main party, the Hindu right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The party is barely a year old and is already posing a threat to stalwarts like the Congress.

Amid the fray is one candidate for prime minister, the chief minister of India's western state Gujarat Narendra Modi from BJP, who seems to be using the people's dissatisfaction to his advantage. A polemic figure for his hotly debated role in the deadly 2002 riots in the state between Hindus and Muslims, he's popular in the business world, and seems to be the only option for voters who neither want to depend only a new political party like AAP nor want to vote for the Congress.

In fact, even AAP members like former police officer Kiran Bedi seem to be rooting for him:

“Indian bosses have become so fed up with the status quo that they are prepared to overlook Modi's past,” writes blogger Schumpeter for the Economist. This is also true for Indian businessmen, regardless of Modi's confusing role during the Godhra riots.

Modi is also said to have a huge support base among the young Indian IT generation, several of whom actively assist him with his online campaign, especially:

Secular India on the line?

But some believe that Modi may pose a threat to India's secular heritage.

In 2002, riots broke out in Gujarat's Godhra after a train carrying Hindus was burnt down as it was coming from the holy city of Ayodhya in North India. What followed was the worse example of Hindi-Muslim violence in India's recent history. Between 900 and 2,000 people were killed, more than whom were Muslim, including Muslim politicians and businessmen.

Modi, who was chief minister of the state at the time, was cleared of any wrongdoing in the handling of the violence by authorities, but still some accused him of involvement in a conspiracy or not taking enough action. Several commissions have been set up with the intention of bringing the guilty to justice. As of April 2013, 249 convictions had been secured, 184 Hindus and 65 Muslims, while some victims still await justice

Although, what Modi achieved in his last re-election as the chief minister of Gujarat deserves a mention. A documentary by noted Indian television journalist Barkha Dutt revealed that Modi's government managed to garner support from Muslim businessmen who were able to revitalize their businesses after the Godhra carnage. The Open magazine also reports how Modi has managed to reach out to Muslims “like never before“.

But what future does a prime minister like Modi hold for India? In a column in the Financial Express, Mahesh Vyas of the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy claims that investments in Gujarat post-2002 have only reached around 13 percent of the total investments in India, as compared to 21 percent before the Godhra riots. Additionally, the economic boom has not been equal in all regions of the state.

Others remain wary because of his leadership during the riots and his membership with BJP, a right-wing Hindu party.

The people of India have a tough choice to make ahead of them. 

January 19 2014

January 16 2014

Urging Indians to ‘Take the Poo to the Loo’

A village school in Moradabad district, Uttar Pradesh, India with toilet facilities for both boys and girls. Image by author.

A village school in Uttar Pradesh, India with toilet facilities for boys and girls. Children are also encouraged (through visuals and written instructions) to wash hands with soap before meals and after using the toilet. Image by author.

Using innovative outreach programmes, UNICEF India's ‘Take the Poo to the Loo’ campaign has been trying to raise awareness and calling upon Indians to end both open defecation and the use of make-shift (dry) toilets which are cleaned by manual scavengers.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates [pdf], about 620million people in India still practice open defecation – which is over 50 percent of the population. Even the latest government of India (GOI) Census data puts the figure around 50 percent. While the GOI has had a continuous slew of sanitation related schemes, the latest Census data has revealed that more Indian households have telephones/ mobiles than toilet facilities.

It's more than just the absence of toilets

Government officials handling sanitation projects understand that in order to end the age-old practice of open defecation, people must first of all feel the need to have and use a hygienic toilet – an uphill task especially in rural communities where traditionally, there was not much social shame associated with going to fields, woods etc., to answer nature's call and/or defecate. It was simply something that ‘everyone did'. In fact, people shrank away from having a toilet within their home premises on both religious and ‘hygienic’ grounds, their argument being that a toilet, being something ‘unclean', could not co-exist within the same premises that held the kitchen as well as space for worship.

Screenshot from the

Screenshot from the “Take the poo to the Loo” campaign website

Malathy M, a young professional working with Maharashtra State Rural Livelihoods Mission, reflected on the issue after seeing people using the sides of a highway as an open toilet. She tweeted:

But children bear the severest brunt of this practice

Children are the most vulnerable when it comes to health hazards resulting from poor sanitation and hygiene associated with open defecation. According to a report [pdf] published by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine,

Diarrhoeal diseases caused by inadequate sanitation and unhygienic conditions put children at multiple risks leading to vitamin and mineral deficiencies, high morbidity, malnutrition, stunting and death.

In India, that problem can be acute, because,

Realizing the gravity of the situation, , the government of India has sought out UNICEF India as a key partner in it's fight against the practice of open defecation. While UNICEF has been partnering the initiative at various levels, the current #poo2loo campaign aims to engage even the urban populace and raise awareness about open defecation, not only in rural areas but in urban areas (including slums) as well.

UNICEF India is using innovative methods to engage citizens and raise awareness about open defecation.

 In the next two posts of this series, we will look at a) how dry toilets and the associated evil of manual scavenging continues to persist stubbornly in some corners of India and b) how some brave ‘Toilet Warriors’ are ushering in change within their communities and creating demand for hygienic toilets and better sanitation facilities – creating hope that open defecation and manual scavenging will slowly but surely be a thing of the past.

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