Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Aesop's Fables

I recently happened to get hands on Aesop's fables. It was fun to read them, then I saw the commonness in all of the stories which had mostly animals of all kinds as characters to impart moral education.

Intrigued, I searched the meaning of a FABLE and found it was pretty close to the above mentioned observation. I found the following meaning of Fable:

A fable is a succinct story, in prose or verse, that features animals, plants, inanimate objects, or forces of nature which are anthropomorphized (given human qualities), and that illustrates a moral lesson (a "moral"), which may at the end be expressed explicitly in a pithy maxim.

Characteristics of a fable
* Its purpose is to impart a lesson or value, or to give sage advice.

* It also provide opportunities to laugh at human folly, when they supply
examples of behaviors to be avoided rather than emulated.

* It frequently have as their central characters animals that are given
anthropomorphic characteristics such as the ability to reason and speak.

Who is Aesop?

Coming to Aesop's Fables, we must answer the question, who is/was Aesop?
Aesop was a slave and a story-teller in ancient Greece during 5th century BC.
So these fables were told by Aesop and known as the Aesop's Fables.

Although, there is a lot of doubt about his existence, yet many of the stories do throw you into a pensive mood. Guess, after reading the stories I felt the emphasis must be laid upon the morals that can be derived from these stories.

I wonder why we always relate moral stories only children. I think even adults need these stories to assist in self-introspection! After all, its the adults who have to derive these morals from the stories and explain to the children!

Albeit, all stories are worth reading and contemplating upon, yet I chose a few of them to post here. Its not that there are no such stories elsewhere, but these being full of fancy animals and all, may appeal better to the children.


The man and the lion

A man and a lion traveled together through the forest. They soon began to boast of their respective superiority to each other in strength and prowess. As they were disputing, they passed a statue carved in stone, which represented "A lion strangled by a man." The traveler pointed to it and said: "See there! How strong we are, and how we prevail over even the king of beasts." The Lion replied: "This statue was made by one of you men. If we lions knew how to erect statues, you would see the Man placed under the paw of the Lion."

One story is good, till another is told.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Egg Nargisi Kofta (For Eggetarians!)

Guess, most of us must have heard of Nargisi Kofta, surely the non-vegetarians. In its original form, kofta is made from meat/chicken and eggs. Being an eggetarian, this was not a dish for me.

Enters ma (my mom-in-law) who modified it so that I also join the family to relish the dish. By the way, we both address each other without the in-law part, so will be addressing her as ma. She is a fantastic cook and has exquisite culinary skills!!

As ma was meticulously preparing the dish, I noted down the recipe and took photos of the intermediary steps, which are shown below along with the recipe. The way the koftas came out just intrigued me to read more about the origin of the dish.

Nargisi means Narcissus-like eyes(Nargisi Aankein). It is a dish from Awadhi cuisine(from the city of Lucknow). The cuisine consists of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. Awadh has been greatly influenced by Mughal cooking techniques, and the cuisine of Lucknow bears similarities to those of Kashmir, Punjab and Hyderabad; and the city is famous for its Nawabi foods. If you see the koftas below, guess the name justifies itself!

This also lead me to read about Narcissus, Greek hero who was known for his unmatched beauty. Those interested in reading about how the name of the flower Narcissus came into existence, may visit this link and read the short story at There are many versions though, this being one.

Having understood its origin, let us go to the recipe. It tastes best when served with matar pulav, or jeera rice, or phulkas/tandoori rotis.



a) Boiled Eggs
b) Boiled potatoes (probably one can try with other boiled vegetables too)
c) Onions - (i) finely chopped (ii) in paste form
d) Finely chopped coriandar and mint leaves
e) Corn flour
f) Red chilli powder
g) Ginger-garlic paste
h) Green chillies
i) Tomatoes in paste form
j) Ground masala - elaichi + jaiphal + dalchini


Covering for the eggs:

a) Mash the boiled potatoes.
b) Add finely chopped coriander, mint leaves and onions.
c) Add red chilli powder, ground masala(see j above), corn flour, ginger-garlic paste and salt.
d) Mix all the ingredients well into a dough.

We had utilised the red chilli flakes from the previous night's order of pizza!!:D It did give a good look to the koftas, which you can see in the photo below!


a) Peel the boiled eggs and with a knife make slits on the eggs.
b) Make small cups out of the dough prepared above and place the an egg in the cup and cover it completely with the dough.
Remember: Covering on the egg must be thick to avoid breakages while frying.

c) Then roll the kofta ball in corn flour.

d) Deep fry the balls, preferably one or two at a time depending upon the size of the frying pan you use.

e) After frying the koftas, cut them into half. Be careful while making the cut to avoid breakage of the covering. Best way is to use a sharp knife and make a cut in a single stroke rather than starting from one end reaching to the other.

Gravy Preparation

a) Heat oil in a pan and add the ground powder(from j) and green chillies
b) After 30 seconds, add onion paste
c) Once the onion starts leaving water, add ginger-garlic paste and tomato paste or tomato puree.
d) Then add turmeric powder, garam masala, mint and coriander leaves, water, and if any of the potato dough (prepared above) is left.
e) Cook it on slow fire till the gravy is well prepared.

f) Now place the koftas in a wide-mouthed container and pour the gravy on the koftas from the top.

g) Serve hot with rice or roti.

After all the efforts, the taste was awesome! A little cumbersome preparation, but the end results are excellent.

All those kids/husbands who want to savor this dish, may prefer giving a helping hand to their mothers/wives in the kitchen for even her to relish the dish after a long ordeal in the kitchen! :) She deserves it! (Its not a feministic remark, just encouraging load-sharing!)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

To shine silverware at home

Happy Dussera to all! Last week must have set in the festive mood! Now we all await Diwali, the festival of lights! Of course, its a festival of sound too, thanks to all the firecrackers!!

Preparing for Diwali, took out silver diya and found that it was all oxidised and got tarnished. First thought that came to mind was search for a jeweller who would polish the diya and make it shine again. Finally searched a few and found that they do not polish and that they only sell silverware.

My work was still not done. Casually, I called my friend to ask for some nearby jeweller who would do the job and then she told me some home remedy. Since she was unsure, she called her mother and then confirmed the remedy. Guess what? I tried them at home and it worked wonders!!



Method 1: With baking soda

Materials required:

a) Aluminium foil
b) Boiling water
c) Baking soda


a) Take a wide-mouthed and a deep container so that the tarnished silver item can be immersed completely.
b) Cover the the container with aluminium foil.
c) Based on the size of the silver item, pour baking soda inside the container.
d) Pour the boiled water in the container. Be careful while pouring as you will observe fizz due to soda and hot water mixing.
e) Then immerse the silver item inside this water mixture and leave it for 3-5 minutes.

f) After 5 minutes, remove the item and wipe with a clean cotton cloth or tissue paper.
g) Depending upon the amount of tarnish, you may have to repeat the wash 3-4 times and the silver item will be free from tarnish and shine as before.

Method 2: With toothpaste

Materials required:

a) Toothpaste
b) Cotton


a) Squeeze out some toothpaste on to the cotton swab.
b) Rub the silver item with the paste on the swab.
c) As the rubbing progresses, you will find the tarnished portion getting back to its shiny silvery surface.
d) Once done, rinse in warm water and wipe the silver item with clean cotton cloth or tissue paper.
e) Be careful while rubbing. If you observe scratching, immediately stop and rinse off the paste. Its best to use a plain white toothpaste rather than the gel or the ones with all those new salt flakes etc.

I had done a mix of both the methods. First 3-4 minutes immersed the silverware in the water-baking soda mix. If any more tarnish was remaining, I used the toothpaste to remove it from the grooves.

CAVEAT --> Baking soda or paste is said to be a little abrasive on silver. Thus, be careful of any scratches. Handle the items gently and remember it is not a steel utensil that you are washing but delicate silverware!

For those who understand simple chemistry, the methods use the principle of electrochemistry, the REDOX(reduction-oxidation) reaction. Silver tarnish means that the silver atom is oxidised to silver ion. The baking soda mixture provides the lost electrons so that silver ion gets converted back or reduced to silver atom.

It also seems like a good home teaching tool for kids to show the application of the principle they learnt at school! :)

Anyway, wishing you all a Happy Shiny Silvery Deepavali! :)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Experience with Philips!!

Just yesterday, we got our new Philips water purifier model WP3890 installed at our place. Now you must be wondering what's so new about that? Water purifiers are kind-of part of every domestic household. Well, you are right! But what I wanted to share was our experience with the company.


Since it was our first purchase of purifier, we decided to do some research about the technology. We went through plethora of websites understanding the meaning of each term, so gloriously used by the manufacturers. They all sound so out-of-space terms, that prospective customer may think, wow! this purifier must be doing some additional purification!! Gosh!

Anyway, thanks to the time spent, we finally chose Philips over Eureka, owing to all the bad reviews about the latter's service.

In fact, we even went to the extent of verifying the gold seal certification by WQA also. I know, some may find this wierd and waste of time, but then we are too cautious! No offence but marketing community has got very little reliability factor left in our minds to just go by their tall claims of being the best and blindly choose a product.

Just to make our research complete, we stumbled upon the Dos and Donts page of Philips. Few of them were so obvious ones that we both broke into peals of laughter. Not at the list, but the fact that there are people who might actually do them, if not instructed otherwise!! Its like telling customers who purchased hot coffee that "it is hot!!" You know what I mean, right! I am pasting the few of the funny ones below, the remaining are the regular ones.

Do's and Don'ts
To help you use the Intelligent Water Purifier safely, here are some useful tips. Kindly go through these tips thoroughly to avoid any kind of hazardous situations.
Comments in the brackets are my exclamations, I could not resist it!!

The Do's

--> Install the Intelligent Water Purifier at a safe location so that it does not come in the way of your normal routine.

--> When in use, place a container below the Intelligent Water Purifier to avoid spillage.(Wonder who would leave the tap running with no container below!!)

The Don'ts

--> Don’t spill water on to the Intelligent Water Purifier.
--> Don’t install the Intelligent Water Purifier close to a gas stove or over the cooking range.
--> Don’t store the water in open containers.(Defeats the purpose of the purifier, right!!)

--> Do not connect the Intelligent Water Purifier to a drain outlet.(This one is my personal favorite, 'coz its unthinkable!!)

--> Do not store anything on the Intelligent Water Purifier.

--> Do not use the piping or wires for hanging anything. (Like a towel hanger!! Gosh!!)

--> Do not clean any plastic parts in a dishwasher or boil them.(Awesome!!)

Final Selection

So, we chose the UV technology purifier and chose Philips WP 3890. UV technology is better suited for municipal water or so to say soft water, while RO(Reverse Osmosis) is best suited for hard water.

Eureka was on our list too but there is lot of dependency on its service center even after installation, hence decided to go for a product that gives us independence from human interaction as far as possible. This product has a candle that can be replaced by us. All we have to do is just go and purchase the candle from the service center every 3000 liters. Even regular cleaning done with a button. So lot of ease for us.


Now this is the main part of our ordeal which forced me to write this post.

We purchased the product on a sunday. Since, the customer care centers are closed that day, we had to wait till monday to book for installation. We booked on Monday and were given an appointment on Wednesday evening and the same was confirmed via an SMS. The company claims to install the product within 48 hours of your booking.

Wednesday comes and no call from any technician to confirm the appointment or take directions to our house, which is generally the case. So, we call the customer care again and they confirm that a person will come as already confirmed. And as soon as we kept down the phone, we receive an SMS that our appointment is pushed to next Wednesday, that is a week later. Imagine our shock and dismay!!

So, we call the customer care again and this time a new guy attends the call and says that our system confirms appointment of next wednesday as there are no available slots before that. We asked him how were we given an appointment earlier. And he answers blah! blah! blah to add to our consternation. Well, there is no point talking logic to customer care people as they are trained to answer only one thing for all questions, "We apologise for the inconvenience but there are no available slots!!" At that time, we realised we will not get any meaningful response from them.

Then, we visited the Philips website and sent an email stating our complaint to them with very little hope of any action being taken.

To our surprise, the next day the grievance cell person calls up and explains the situation to us that there was a total goof up at the request handling and that we will see that the process is expedited.

Anyway, the call itself cooled us down that at least there is someone reading our complaints and taking them seriously. Well, that was not all. In an hour, we receive a call from a technician that he will be visiting our place for installation the same day.

He came 2 hours earlier than the appointment time and did a fine job at installation.

We just could not believe it. Thus, Philips did keep up its promise. As a good customer, we sent them a "Thank You" mail too. I guess, it deserved a compliment for the prompt service.

To be very honest, we had lost all hope and thought we might have to finally hire a local plumber or wage a war as we might receive another SMS next time. But, they just surprised us so much that although, its been just a day old, yet we have full confidence on the product too.

The best part in this whole thing was that though, it is a big company, it values its customers dearly and not forget them, leave them in a lurch once they have sold their product, which is the case most of the time. In fact, all the time!! I kept scratching my head to think of any past experience which had been as pleasant as this one, but in vain. This is our first experience with a product company which has lived up to our expectations!! :) Guess, Airtel was the other company with whom we have had a trouble-free experience till date.

People have such harrowing experiences with poor, inefficient and indifferent After-Sales dept of the product companies, generally, that one loses trust and confidence.

Just pray that we keep getting pure water and there are readers who have similar positive incidents to report. Wish that atleast there is one report to instill in us the hope that all is not that bad out there!! :)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

No Board Exams in Tenth!!

Yesterday, with the govt. announcing the Board Exams being optional, has sent many into perplexity while the students must be rejoicing!

First of all, let us broadly see the decisions that were announced. The pros and cons will be so many that the debates will be endless anyway. We will come to that later on.

a) No board exams in tenth standard for students studying in CBSE schools.

Students will be graded continuously through out the year under the system grandly named as Continuous and Comprehensive Education(CCE) starting this October

b) Nine-point Grading system introduced.

The nine-point scale will start from
--> A1 (91-100, exceptional)
--> A2 (81-90, excellent)
--> B1 (71-80, very good)
--> B2 (61-70, good)
--> C1 (51-60, fair)
--> C2 (41-50, average)
--> D (33-40, below average)
--> E1 (21-32, needs improvement)
--> E2 (00-20, unsatisfactory)

c) Students can opt to give board examination.

This applies generally to those students who wish to change their school when moving to Eleventh standard.

Also, students continuing the same school may opt for boards.

d) Minimum passing marks for acquiring a certificate is 33% marks.

So, what we understand from all of the above is that under CCE system, all the core areas of subjects being studied in the classes will be assessed on a continuous basis including co-curricular activities.

CCE system will have two components:
a) Formative Assessment - based on whole range of tests like interview, quiz, project work and practical assignments.

b) Summative Assessment - will be the aggregate of the yearly assessments of all areas.

These terms ring some bells. We used to study a lot about these in our B.Ed days. Our complete course was based on preparing teachers for such form of assessment besides the existing one.

Pros based on my teaching experience of Indian and US curricula:

a) The most important effect of this system will be the removal of fear of board exam from the minds of students as well as parents. This will aid in better learning environment for the child.

b) Emphasis will be laid on the various skills of students, besides the skills of mathematics, english, science etc.

c) Rote learning will diminish. Students will learn to analyse more rather than merely memorising facts. But the analytical development will be based on the type of quizzes and projects are given to the students.

d) Pressure on teachers will reduce a lot and also provide flexibility to them with respect to logical sequencing topics, type of tests based on the topic. Not all topics need a project and not all topics be assessed by quizzes.

e) Sports have such a demeaning position in our education system, blame it on the employment sector or whatever.
Sports act as a primary tool in building the character of an individual, besides its advantages in building a strong body during the formative stages of the child.

f) Various forms of art will gain impetus. In our days, I remember, how the drawing class was treated. It was like a free 40-minute break rather than actually learning something.


a) First and foremost is the fear that the students will have no fear of exams on their head at the end of tenth standard. This may relax the students to a level where the school may just be a play school till XI when exams kick in.

b) Teachers may take time to come out of the inertia of the system that has been followed for like ages. Thus, adequate training of teachers is necessary.
Being a teacher, I have been to many of the training programs organised by the schools and found most of them so boring. Boring because they lacked purpose and was just one-way. Obviously the speaker kept speaking for hours together with no inputs from teachers at all, besides the many other drawbacks.

Such training never empathises with the practical problems faced by the teachers real time and keep giving ideal scenarios. The suggestions made at such programs have to be feasible and applicable to the real classrooms and not fancy dreams!!

Many interesting training programs go without use as the teachers lack motivation too. Its two-way process.

c) Setting uniform standards across boards.
Confusion may arise when a student wishes to switch over from CBSE to state board or ICSE, the state board must accept the percentiles provided by CBSE.

d) Preparation for XII standard boards should not start from X. The CCE must ascertain that the students do not find a disconnect between X and XI standard.

e) Grading system tends to get subjective.
Project work is all so subjective, how to qualify for grade A1 or A2 or any other grade. Thus, work of the students must be graded fairly. At all times, motivation level of the students need to be maintained at high levels.

The above mentioned are certain pros and cons that came to my mind and felt were important. There will surely be many more.

Apparently, one good thing of the whole process of formulating is that the system is not based on the whims and fancies of a minister who knows head nor tail of education. Its been done with proper consultation from eminent people from the field, like Prof. Yashpal. Anyway, I was his fan since the days of TURNING POINT on DD!!

Overall, the CCE system is heralding our education system into a new era. If implemented in its right form, it is really an innovative and vibrant approach to make studies less burdensome for kids and inculcate learning in the right perspective.

Readers are welcome to voice their opinion to initiate a healthy debate to analyse the system holistically.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

What is in a name?


Ok, so I am officially Bhattacharya, i.e. my photo id has my husband's family name finally! It did not change much of my life, though! This whole process lead me to ponder about something.

What is such a fuss about this change of name? I mean no offence to anyone.

I have seen girls, or wives, making a ruckus out of this whole situation. Common comment: "I will lose my identity..." blah blah crap. How can one lose their identity with one small change in the name, I am yet to understand?

Well, boys, or husbands, are no less in adding to the clammer. Common comment: "Its our family name....." A male chauvinist statement: "After marriage, wife has to take husband's name!!" Any female would go berserk over such a statement and react: "What great things have you done that I should showcase your name for the rest of my life!!!"

This is an eternal debate. Oh sorry! not a debate, its an eternal fight! Debates have some conclusions, you know! Fights never have any solutions, they just act as fuel to another fight!!

In my childhood, I never understood what this identity is, but heard such talks and thought, "Oh so name is identity!" I defined identity as my name! Can you beat that?

I do not know, should I thank God or my parents' logical genes or my parents upbringing or all together, that as I grew up saw the life in a larger perspective and beyond name. Remember Matrix - "Look beyond the spoon!" and lo! the spoon bends. Thats exactly what happened with me. I changed my opinion about name when I started analysing as to why do we need a name.

So why do we need a name? Imagine there are three persons standing at a distance and you want to divert the attention of one of them towards you. Either you start jumping by waving your hands over your head and shout: "Hey you, hey you!" or use identifiers as "HEy you boy in black shirt!" You would have won everyone's attention, though that was not your aim. So, here name comes handy and saves you some embarassment if not all! Well, numbers would be too difficult to manage and then the problem of distinct number for each individual sorts, like our SSN or PAN number. Imagine the amount of secondary storage required to save all those numbers! As of now, world population is around 7 billion. hmmm.......Too cumbersome to manage and remember too! So, lets just stick to name for now.

And I would myself not like someone calling me as "Hey you girl!" Name is a better identifier.
Ok I grant little understanding to even the last name or surname for the sake of distinction. But after this, I suffer a mental block. Name after marriage, name before marriage! How does it matter what is the last name as long as the first name is same?

I mean imagine a person is called Jai XYZ and the last name changes to Jai ABC. You dont call someone as "Hey Jai XYZ are you fine?" And two days later, after marriage, "HEy Jai ABC are you fine today?"

I can understand the row over the change of first name considering that a person is used to a particular name since childhood. If that is changed involuntarily then there is a problem. Imagine a person being called Jai for 28 years and after marriage name changed to Veera! That is a little tough situation to handle. Family is calling "Veera(that is Jai earlier)! come here", and s/he is sitting and sweetly reading a novel! Obviously s/he not used to Veera!!! That must be some funny scene.

But, then our society has so many things that have been ingrained for centuries together, that these have become a second nature to us. Rules and laws of the land are formulated around these default things. These innate beliefs just drilled into our genes and passed on from generation to generation has just created more chaos than clarity of purpose of anything, in our case, the NAME.

Well, as for me, I am still Jaishrie. Last name needed as a proof in banks, travel tickets, etc that I am married to my husband!! Just so you know, I had to get my name changed due to an incident at an airport. Never mind that! Thank God, am clear in my head that my identity is what I do which gets attached to my name. And not the other way round!!! Anyone who begs to differ, would be glad to be enlightened!!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Kuru disease caused by Prions

I am here with another post which may interest biology and medical students more. Again, the post is inspired by my dear dad. It is a pleasure talking to him!! He has discussed this topic at length in his book - Molecular Biology published in 2008.
Back to the topic, the interesting part for non-biology readers is that it reflects on a very peculiar kind of disease caused by no bacteria or virus but some other particle called Prion. Another interesting fact is how it infected many in a small island of New Guinea near Australia.


Prion is Proteinaceous infectious particle.

What is Kuru disease

Kuru disease is caused by prions (Proteinaceous infectious particle) discovered by Carleton Gajdusek in 1957 in New Guinea, an island near Australia. Kuru is a local tribal word which means "shaking or shivering". It was found that the victims were primarily women and children.

In the initial stages the victims exhibited involuntary tremors. This was followed through stages of increasing debilitation, dementia, and paralysis which ultimately claimed their lives.

The cause found

Upon hearing the symptoms of the disease, Gajdusek had concluded that the people of this region were probably suffering from an epidemic a viral encephalitis. Encephalitis means inflammation of the brain cells. The disease was probably being spread through the population by the ritual practice of eating parts of the bodies of relatives who had died. Since it were the women in the villages who prepared the bodies and were likely to engage in this form of cannibalism, they were found to be the ones who were at the greatest risk of infection, which got passed on to the children.

Over the ensuing months, Gajdusek helped with the care for the sick villagers in a makeshift hospital, performed autopsies on those who died, and prepared tissue and fluid samples that were sent to laboratories in Australia. In one of the many letters to the outside world, Gajdusek wrote
we had a kuru death and a complete autopsy. I did it at 2 AM during a howling storm in a native hut, by lantern light and I sectioned the brain without a brain knife. The sections revealed that victims of kuru were dying as the result of widespread degeneration of their brains.

The evidence began to mount that kuru is not a viral infection. Patients dying from kuru showed none of the symptoms that normally accompany central nervous system infections, such as, fevers, inflammation of the brain, and changes in the composition of cerebrospinal fluid. In addition, the best virology labs in Australia were unable to culture an infectious agent from the diseased tissue samples. Gajdusek began to consider alternate explanations for the cause of kuru. It was possible that the affected villagers were being exposed to some type of toxic substance in their diet. Blood analysis were performed in the hopes of finding elevated levels of trace metals or other common toxins, but no chemical abnormalities were found.

At one point, Gajdusek thought that kuru might be an inherited disease but he concluded from discussions with geneticisits that this was very unlikely. For example it would be practically impossible for an inherited disease:
a) to be of such high lethality and apparently of recent origin to attain such a high frequency in a population
b) to manifest itself in individuals of such diverse age-groups from young children through older adults.
c) to strike an equal number of young boys and girls but strike 13 times as many as adult women as men.
d) lastly to appear in a person in another area of the island who had moved into the affected population.

There seemed to be no reasonable explanation for the cause of kuru.

Connection between Scrapie and Kuru

Elsewhere, William Hadlow, an American veterinary pathologist, was working on a degenerative neurologic disease called Scrapie that was common in sheep and goats. In 1959, Hadlow visited an exhibition in London sponsored by a British pharmaceutical company where he saw a display of neuropathologic specimens prepared by Gajdusek. The specimens were from a person who had died of kuru. Hadlow was struck by the remarkable resemblance between abnormalities in the brains of kuru victims to those in the brains of sheep that had died from Scrapie.

Scrapie was known to be caused by an infectious agent. This had been demonstrated by transmitting the disease to healthy sheep by injecting them with extracts prepared from sick animals. Because the agent responsible for Scrapie was able to pass through filters that retarded the passage of bacteria, it was presumed to be a virus. Unlike other viral diseases, however, symptoms of Scrapie did not appear after an animal was infected with the pathogen and therefore, became known as "slow virus". Hadlow concluded that Kuru and scrapie were caused by the same type of infectious agent and published his speculation in a letter to the British Medical journal, Lancet. This acted as a catalyst and after several years of work, Gajdusek was finally able to demonstrate that Kuru can be transmitted from extracts of human tissue to laboratory primates. The incubation period between the inoculation of the animals and the appearance of symptoms of the disease was nearly two years. Kuru became the first human disease to be caused by a slow virus.

Final link - The CJD

Several years earlier, Igor Klatzo, a neuropathologist at the National Institute of Health (NIH), had told Gajdusek that a rare inherited condition called Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease (CJD) produced brain abnormalities that resembled those of Kuru. Gajdusek and his co-workers demonstrated using extracts prepared from the biopsy of the brain of a person dying from CJD, that CJD could be transmitted to animals.

Discovery of Prion

How can an inherited disease such as CJD be linked to the presence of an infectious agent?
The answer to this question was revealed in the next 15 years largely through the work of Stanley Prusiner and his colleagues at the University of California, San Fransisco. They came to the conclusion that the agent was very small, much smaller than any known virus. Second, the agent appeared to lack a nucleic acid component and to be composed exclusively of a protein.

The second conclusion was based on exhaustive treatment of infectious brain extracts with enzymes or other substances that would digest or destroy either proteins or nucleic acids. Protein destroying agents such as proteolytic enzymes like phenol, rendered extracts harmless whereas, nucleic acid destroying treatments, including various types of nucleases and UV radiations had no effect on infectivity. Prusiner named the agent responsible for Scrapie and presumably for Kuru and CJD as well, a prion which stood for a proteinaceous infectious particle.

In 1985, it was shown by Prusiner and his co-workers that the prion protein is encoded by a gene within the cells' own chromosomes. This gene is expressed within a normal brain tissue and encodes a protein of 254 amino acids designated PrPC (Prion protein cellular) whose function remains unknown.

Unanswered questions

The idea that an infectious disease can be caused by an agent consisting solely of a single protein remains controversial. Some biologists believed that the prion protein is associated with a small piece of nucleic acid that is yet to be discovered.

Another matter that remains unanswered is the mechanism by which the infectious agent is able to replicate within an infected individual. Replication is generally attributed only to nucleic acids. How is it possible for a protein to produce more of itself?

While prion diseases are very rare, other degenerative neural diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease are very common. It is hoped that the study of prion disease will prove useful in understanding the basis of the more familiar human conditions.

Any reader who can throw more light on this is more than welcome to solve this mystery of prion. I wish the mystery of this new organism does interest many! :)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Human Gene prospecting in Iceland

This is an article inspired by a conversation between my father and me. My father, Dr.A.V.S.S.Sambamurty, is a retired Reader in Botany from Sri Venkateswara College, Delhi University. He had written many books on Genetics, his field of research in PhD.

He was explaining a unique phenomenon in Iceland regarding the population's gene structure. I got so interested, wondered at nature and wanted to share the same with all of you.

Caveat: It might get a little technical at certain places, but mostly my father tried keeping it comprehensible by non-botanists, like me. :) A few terms are defined for better understanding of the article in the beginning.

Genome is the complete gene sequence of any living organism. Human genome implies all the genes present on the 24 chromosomes, and their complete sequence upto the nucleotide level.

Four nucleotides are C(cytosine), G(guanine), T(thyamine), A(adenine). These exist as complimentary pairs on the DNA strand. C-G forms one pair and A-T forms the other pair.

Human Genome Project
A little introduction into the human genome project will reflect the importance of the study conducted in Iceland.

The Human Genome project was launched in 1990. The goal of HGP is to map all the 70,000 to 100,000 human genes to construct a detailed physical map of the entire human genome and also to determine the nucleotide sequences of all 24 human chromosomes by the year 2005.

Geneticists all over the world came to form Human Genome Organisation (HUGO). James Watson with Francis Crick discovered double-helix structure of DNA in 1953. He was the first director of this ambitious project which was expected to take nearly two decades to complete and to cost around $3 bn. In 1993, Francis Collins who with Lap-Chee Tsui, led the research teams that identified the cystic fibrosis gene, replaced Watson as the director of HGP.

Benefits of Human Genome Project
The availability of detailed maps and nucleotide sequences of entire genomes of many species allows scientists to perform computer searches for sequences that encode enzymes with desired activities, to isolate these sequences, and to introduce them into the genomes of other species. Scientists have already engineered transgenic plants that are herbicide and insect resistant as well as plants that synthesize antibodies, drugs, enhanced level vitamins and even plastics.

An interesting component of the effort to identify human genes with important pharmacological values is taking place in a somewhat unexpected location, the remote island of Iceland, located in the North Atlantic between Greenland and Scandinavia. Because of their history and geographical isolation, the 270,000 people of Iceland provide a unique resource for genetic studies. They are genetically quite homogeneous, descendants of Vikings, who settled on this island more than 1100 years ago. This homogeneity has been enhanced by two genetic bottlenecks during which the population was sharply reduced. During the 15th century, population plummeted from around 70,000 to around 25,000 when bubonic plague ravished the island. During the 1700s, the population dropped below 50,000 because of famine, and disease caused in part by the eruption of the volcano Hekla. Thus, human gene pool of Iceland is much more homogeneous than the gene pools of most other human populations. Such a population is called Endemic Population. In addition, Iceland's national health service has kept superb family medical records since 1915.

Benefits passed on to Iceland
In 1997, Kari Stefansson, a Harvard geneticist, recognised the uniqueness of Iceland's human gene pool and family records. He returned to his homeland to launch a private company, deCODE Genetics, with the goal of identifying human genes that would lead to the development of new pharmaceutical drugs and diagnostic tests. The company's first success was the identification of familial essential tremor gene - , a gene associated with the shakiness in the elderly. In addition, deCODE scientists have made rapid progress in their studies of several other human disorders.
Based on these results deCODE Genetics negotiated a contract with the Swiss pharmaceutical giant, Hoffmann-LaRoche, which will give the Swiss firm exclusive rights to any drugs or diagnostic products resulting from the work of deCODE scientists. However, contract specifies that Hoffmann-LaRoche must provide free of charge all drugs, diagnostic test and other products resulting from this research to the people of Iceland. Therefore, at least in this one case, the people who are providing genetic data and the DNA samples for analysis will personally benefit from the results of research by a private company.

Is it not fascinating to know that a small part on our globe has such homogeneous population with unique genetic history? They have not blended by other genetic populations. Physically, one may not find any thing to observe, but the uniqueness lies at the microscopic level!!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Interesting facts of mathematicians!

Following are some interesting events in the early lives of few of the most famous and genius mathematicians of the world. I am always in awe whenever I read about them and their lives. I do not want to devote the post to their biographies, rather a collection of the most interesting reads! I have randomly picked the great ones. Randomness is another fact of life that I keep pondering about and find it so difficult to accept its existence in life!

He had always intrigued me and thus, want to start with him. I am yet to lay my hands on the book The Man Who Knew Infinity: A Life of the Genius Ramanujan

Birth: Born on 22 December 1887 in Erode, Tamil Nadu, India, at the place of residence of his maternal grandparents. His father, K. Srinivasa Iyengar worked as a clerk in a sari shop and hailed from the district of Thanjavur.

One day at school, the teacher was explaining division and said that "if you divide any number by itself, you get 1.''

The teacher in a small high school in southern India turned round to see a tiny hand trying to reach the ceiling. Oh by the gods, him again! That Aiyangar boy with his horribly difficult and quite irrelevant questions. Like last week, when he wanted to know how long it would take for a steam train to reach Alpha Centauri. As if he would be able to afford the fare if he knew. Well, he couldn't let him exercise his hands too much.

``Yes Ramanujan?''

The small boy with shining eyes stood up. He spoke slowly, with the calm confidence of one who did not need to be told he was the best in the class.

``Is zero divided by zero also equal to one?''

Unfortunately for all those other teachers who've been asked this question at least twenty times in their lives, the response to the question is unknown. But the life of the boy, Srinivasa Ramanujan Aiyangar, certainly isn't.

By age 11, he had exhausted the mathematical knowledge of two college students, who were lodgers at his home. He was later lent a book on advanced trigonometry written by S.L. Loney. He completely mastered this book by the age of 13 and he discovered sophisticated theorems on his own. By 14 he was achieving merit certificates and academic awards.

Awesome, is it not?

I could not really get specific early life incidents but have added some noteworthy facts.

Birth: Born around 565 B.C. on the Greek island Samos off the Coast of Asia-Minor, his father Mnesarchos was a wealthy merchant and an engraver. His mother Pythais was a native of Samos.

Pherekydes, a philosopher and a fiction writer, was the teacher of Pythagoras. Pythagoras too was a mathematician as his mentor. He (Pherekydes), put forward the doctrine of transmigration of souls and cycle of birth liberation of human being from this life cycle which was proffessed by his student, Pythagoras. This theory is analogous to the doctrine of poorva janma (Past Life), punar janma (Re-birth) and moksha (Salvation), of the Hindu philosophy.

How the famous Pythagoras Theorem was propounded?
In the earlier days, Egypt was considered more advanced than Greece. The journey to Egypt was recognized as broadening the horizon of knowledge and wisdom. Ancient Egyptians knew the technique of preparing bricks and constructed buildings using them. From this, they acquired knowledge of shape, size and volume of solids. Thus, they developed some geometry for measurement and decimal number system for calculations. Pythagoras would have learnt all these theories during his travels to Egypt. The Egyptians knew that a triangle having sides of length three, four, and five units was a right-angled triangle. They also knew some elementary trigonometry. Pythagoras worked on right-angled triangles and propounded his theory; ‘The Pythagoras Theorem.’ The Pythagoras theorem states – The square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides of the right-angled triangle.


Born: Fibonacci, or more correctly Leonardo da Pisa or Leonardo Pisano, was born in Pisa in 1175 AD. He was the son of a Pisan merchant.

Leonardo Pisan was known as Fibonacci, which is short for filius Bonacci meaning "the son of Bonaccio". His father's name was Guglielmo Bonaccio. Fi'-Bonacci is like the English names of Robin-son and John-son.

Well, one may say, what is in a name? But, I was too amused to know how he got his name and thus, thought of sharing my amusement.

His famous contributions being the decimal number system and the famous being the Fibonacci series.

He learnt about the decimal system from Arabs who in turn had learnt from the Hindus. He introduced this number system into Europe - the positional system we use today - based on ten digits with its decimal point and a symbol for zero:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0

His wrote a book on how to do arithmetic in the decimal system, called Liber abbaci (meaning Book of the Abacus or Book of Calculating)

Fibonacci Series
In Fibonacci's Liber Abaci book, chapter 12, he introduces the following problem:

How Many Pairs of Rabbits Are Created by One Pair in One Year?

A certain man had one pair of rabbits together in a certain enclosed place, and one wishes to know how many are created from the pair in one year when it is the nature of them in a single month to bear another pair, and in the second month those born to bear also.

Then he showed the solution to the above stated problem from where the series got derived.

beginning 1 first 2 second 3 third 5 fourth 8 fifth 13 ..... end 377

Fibonacci says his book Liber Abaci (the first edition was dated 1202) that he had studied the "nine Indian figures" and their arithmetic as used in various countries around the Mediterranean and wrote about them to make their use more commonly understood in his native Italy. So he probably merely included the "rabbit problem" from one of his contacts and did not invent either the problem or the series of numbers which now bear his name.

D E Knuth adds the following in his monumental work The Art of Computer Programming: Volume 1: Fundamental Algorithms errata to second edition:

Before Fibonacci wrote his work, the sequence F(n) had already been discussed by Indian scholars, who had long been interested in rhythmic patterns that are formed from one-beat and two-beat notes. The number of such rhythms having n beats altogether is F(n+1); therefore both Gospala (before 1135) and Hemachandra (c. 1150) mentioned the numbers 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, ... explicitly.

Well, then why is it named after him? It was the French mathematician Edouard Lucas (1842-1891) who gave the name Fibonacci numbers to this series and found many other important applications.


Every human has two hands, each one of these has five fingers, each finger has three parts which are separated by two knuckles. All of these numbers fit into the sequence.

These patterns within nature were discovered many centuries ago, and until this day, scientists are still studying the pattern of natures numbers. The planets also possess a pattern which relates to the orbital period, which is the time it takes to go once around the Sun to its distance from the Sun. There is much that has been scientifically proven regarding natures numbers and the planet, animal, and human world in which we live.

I wish that this will interest many readers to understand how passion for something leads to greatness. The key thing is the ardent passion with not much forethought given to the end result!

Their lives and lives of many more like them, have lot to teach us and keep us motivated to strive for excellence!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

My Cake Collection

Two - tier Chocolate cake

On my dear husband's birthday, I got inspiration to bake a two-tier chocolate cake. It was the first time I tried frosting!


Cake batter
Cocoa powder
Icing sugar
Baking powder

Icing sugar
Chocolate bars
Drinking chocolate

NOTE: I could not write the measures as I used all approximations and could not really put it in form of 1 tbsp, or an oz sorts language. I guess that is the difference between amateurs and pros.


1. Beat eggs, butter and sugar till the mixture is foamy.
2. Mix maida, baking powder and cocoa powder till they become homogeneous.
3. Add the two mixtures in step 1 and 2 together till the batter reaches thick consistency. If it is too thick, add little warm water. Take care that the mixture does not become too liquid.
4. Grease the base and the sides of the baking pan and sprinkle flour.
5. Pre-heat the oven at 250 degrees for 10 minutes.
6. Bake the batter for 30 minutes at 180 degrees.
7. Check by inserting the back of a spoon or blunt knife. The cake is baked if there is no batter stuck to the surface of the spoon or knife.
8. Cool the cake and then over turn on a plate.

9. Melt the chocolate bars in microwave or keep the container over boiling water.
10. Take care no water vapors enter the melted chocolate.
11. Add cream, butter, little drinking chocolate powder to the melted chocolate. Your frosting mix is ready.
12. Use a flat spatula or frosting knife(with triangular surface) to spread the frosting evenly over the cake.
13. After covering the top and the sides, leave it for sometime to cool.

Marble Cake

On the occasion of Holi, I tried my hands at Marble cake. It has come out with pretty designs.

Vanilla essence
Icing sugar
Baking powder

Cocoa powder and Coffee filtrate
Chocolate bars

1. Beat eggs, sugar, butter together till foamy.
2. Mix maida, baking powder.
3. Make a batter with thick consistency by adding the two mixtures in step 1 and 2.
4. Divide the batter into two equal halves and separate them in two containers.
5. In one, add vanilla essence.
6. In the other, add cocoa powder and coffee or melted chocolate. Coffee gives a little bitter taste for those who want nullify the sweetness of the vanilla.
7. Now, grease the top and sides of the baking pan and sprinkle little flour.
8. Add the two batter mix forming alternate layers. Vanilla at the base gives a better taste.
9. Once batter added in layers. Use a skewer and insert it vertically and just run it in circular motion twice and get a marble design. Take care not to mix the layers completely lest it all becomes chocolate cake!
10. Pre-heat the oven at 250 degrees for 10 minutes.
11. Bake the batter for 30 minutes at 180 degrees.
12. Check by inserting the back of a spoon or blunt knife. The cake is baked if there is no batter stuck to the surface of the spoon or knife.
13. Cool the cake and delicious marble cake is ready.

Happy Holi to all of you!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Marriage or wedding!

Marriage is something people always use interchangeably with wedding. Its so much different from wedding though! Wedding comprises of the stream of rituals for the boy and girl tie the knot. Guess, marriage is lot different from all those rituals, meaning of most of them are just not understood but we perform in a robotic manner.

Marriage, I feel, is blending of thoughts. Its the trust we instill in each other. The respect we earn during our journey together. The boundless love we share. Effective communication of thoughts. The power to understand each other's view point. The ability to listen to each other's silence, rather than always talking!

It is to be realized that any two individuals will always have difference of opinion on a particular issue. But the way the differences are handled and understood by each partner is what makes the whole difference.

Most couples, I observe, are trying to change each other to what fits into their definition of right behavior.

Scenario 1:
There will be a wife, who will have certain standards of neatness and keeping the house impeccably clean. Consider her husband who cares nothing about cleanliness and lo! the drama starts! Imagine how this situation is dealt in general households. There will be bickering from wife's side about the husband's callousness and husband's vexation on the wife's being a nag!!

The word 'nag' is so offensive to women, I tell you! Its a vicious circle, wife feels that if she keeps repeating herself there will be more impact and the husband has already developed a deaf ear to whatever wife says. Fallout is that many-a-times, important information gets missed out.

Scenario 2:
There cannot be a worser moment for a wife who is speaking to her husband while he is all glued to either T.V. or laptop or whatever. I empathise with the wife who wants to offload as soon something comes to her mind! But, now it does not end there. She will speak anyway knowing fully well that he is not listening and then complain that he was not listening! Why cannot she wait till he is done with whatever he is doing? Believe me, if you leave one alone, he will be free and more attentive. Think of a reverse scenario. The wife is catching up with her favorite TV serial or pre-occupied with office work, how much you would hate if you are interrupted, isn't it?

Scenario 3.
Women are very sensitive about their cooking. If she has prepared anything, no matter even if it is the 100th time, still she will wait for a feedback. Mind you, the feedback she is looking for is a compliment. Criticism will lead to "n" number of explanations as to what went wrong!!
It is to be understood that their expectation of feedback is merely symbolic. They are looking for recognition from her husband that she is good! The reinforcement is very important to most women!! Hmmm..... I think all women!

Men do not have such insecurities regarding cooking and food, but I guess, they would definitely like to be recognized as the bread-winner of the house. The fact that the whole house is dependent on him. I guess, most men look for such feedback.

There are infinite instances in our daily routine where there is a conflict in the manner a wife and husband work. A wife needs to understand that there are certain things that just do not come naturally to males and the same reciprocated by the husband towards his wife. Also, there is more than one way to solve or tackle a problem.

Now, daily we face with similar challenges. One way to settle the issue is to raise volume of your voices and try to dictate or instruct. The other way is discussing the issue at hand objectively and try arriving at an amicable solution.

There may be times when you are just not in a mood of such lengthy discussions and just want the things to be done, in that case the other party needs to be more observant and patient enough to ease off the environment.

Always avoid blame-game, name-calling, passing sarcastic remarks, bringing past inefficiencies in the present discussion/debate/fight. Try sorting out the issue at hand in a day or two of its occurrence to avoid pent up emotions. Think from other's point of view and see the difference!!

Each couple's story is unique and their distinctive ways of coping with each other's personality differences. Simple fact of life to remember is that each one is different and no one is perfect!

Well, I do not want my post to be the preachy one on marriage tips or dwell into Men are from Mars Women are from Venus stuff! I was just putting my random thoughts in the post and guess, I must stop now! Probably, its the effect of the occasion!

I am just thankful to God that I got married to my husband. Together the marital life is bliss! We still get compliments that we look like "just married" couple!! Well, in reality, today we have completed three years of marriage! Thanks God, from all my heart!

I take the opportunity to wish all the couples, would-be couples a successful, peaceful and contented life together!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Makara Sankranthi

Today is Makara Sankranthi and it is a big festival in South India. We are surrounded by houses adorned by rangoli designs with colors and flowers.
While I was on my grocery errands in the morning, I saw the children of our society drawing big rangoli designs and decorating them with colorful stones. I was amazed at their enthusiasm and the team effort they had put in. Guess what? It acted as an inspiration for me as well. My mind started racing with thoughts of various kinds of designs, all geometrical shapes. I had just finished teaching Geometry to one my students so explains the designs in my thoughts.

I searched the internet for some easy designs, did not get many. So had to put my coordinate geometry knowledge to good use and apply grid systems to form symmetrical designs. To tell you the truth, while I was drawing the rangoli, I enjoyed it very much. I never realised it will be so much fun.

Thanks to the kids, I also happened to read about the significance of the occasion as well. I would share the same information maintaining brevity.

Sankranthi is celebrated mid-January.

Astrological significance
The word is derived from sat and kranti or sankramana, meaning "sacred movement." The festival takes place when the sun moves from Dakshanayanam to Uttaryanam. It is known as Makara Sankranthi due to the transition of the Sun from Sagittarius to Capricorn. This is significant considering the Winter Solstice marks the beginning of the gradual increase of the duration of the day.

Agricultural significance
This is a harvest festival. The crops sowed by the farmers are harvested now. Symbolically, the first harvest is offered to the Almighty and shared with the poor and the needy. Sweet delicacies are prepared on this auspicious day!

Kite-flying is the sport that marks the occasion. The sky is covered with colorful kites flown by children.

Happy Makara Sankranthi or Happy Pongal to all! May God bless the people of the world with peace and contentment!!

I would now like to share my Rangoli experiments:

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Tryst with nature - Gokarna-Karwar-Murudeswara

First of all, I wish everyone a very happy and prosperous new year!!

Last year ended well for us as we got the opportunity to visit some interesting places in karnataka.
Places visited : Gokarna, Om Beach, Karwar, Yana Hills(Trek), Murudeswara(world's tallest gopuram)
Team members : 17

Journey prelims
My husband and myself joined the rest of the gang, from hyderabad. After a futile search for trains to gokarna or nearby location Hubli, we finally booked our to and fro ticket by KSRTC volvo bus. There are very limited options from Hyderabad to reach Gokarna.

Hyderabad to Gokarna bus journey experience.
Our route was Hyderabad --> Hubli --> Ankola --> Madangeri --> Gokarna. Hyd to Hubli by KSRTC bus. We reached Hubli at 7:30 am on 24th Dec, and after inquiries found that at 8:00 am a bus to Ankola will come. Buses to Gokarna are again very few from Hubli. So we boarded the bus heading Karwar which has a halt at Ankola. It is a 4 hour journey from Hubli to Ankola with a 30 mins halt at Yellapur. After reaching Ankola, we knew that we are just 25 kms away from Gokarna so we decided to take an auto. Guess how much the auto guys asked us? 300 bucks to cover 25 kms distance. Kind localiites advised us to take a bus till Madangeri which is 15 kms from Ankola. Without giving much thought, we immediately took our seats in one of the small RTV buses that run in towns and villages. These are those rickety buses in which all available space is filled with human beings!!! Anyway, after all space filled, the bus driver triggered the ignition and after 30 minutes, we reached Madangeri. We were so tired thought of taking an auto from here. Again, fare was 150 bucks to cover 10 km distance. By God's Grace, we did not have to negotiate with the auto guys as within 5 minutes a city bus came heading towards Gokarna. In 15 minutes we were at the Gokarna bus station. All tired, hungry and fagged out with the 15 hour adventurous journey, we were just hoping to get a good accommodation.

As soon as we alighted from the bus at Gokarna, one pundit approached us and inquired whether we are looking for rooms. Rooms, oh yes, we are. Shourya, my husband, inquired about the facilities and charges. He said you can come and have a look at the lodge which was 5 minutes walk from the bus station. It was quite a big room with a balcony, dressing room, attached bathroom, all for Rs. 500 per day. We instantly liked it and paid for one day and told him that we will let him know later if we wish to continue our stay here. The lodge was Jagdeesh Niwas Lodge.

A quick bath and we hogged at the food served to us at some restaurant. After lunch, we inquired in almost I guess, all the hotels and lodges for rooms and found that till 31st there is no availability, it being Christmas and New year. Since we reached a day earlier than the bangalore group, we had to find an accommodation for them. After an hour of search, we booked rooms in the same lodge where we took the room, @250 per head per day.

Eye-Opener : Always reach a day earlier, if planning a vacation during festivals.

Following is the lodge where the group stayed on 25th December.

From 26th December to 28th December, we stayed at Kamat Lodge @Rs 250 per day. This lodge had hot water facility from 6 AM to 9 AM. In Jagadessh Niwas, no hot water facility.

Places we had food

Purohit Pure Veg Restaurant (Not very popular with the non-veg eaters!!)

This was very close to Kamat Lodge, right below Gokarna International. It served decent coffee(nescafe only). Upma was sweet, idlis were excellent, vadas too oily. Did not dare to have anything else there. It was not my favourite as it did not serve filter coffee, which is my most preferred hot beverage.

Sea Green Cafe (Best place for sea food)

This was right at the beach. Its location was perfect in the sense that on one side you had the beach and the other side tall green trees. It was my husband's and my favourite eating hangout in gokarna.

CAVEAT: Minimum service time - 30 - 45 minutes. Not a place for those who are famished, or those who do not want to wait for long or those who are looking for some sophistication or typical restaurant ambience.

This was the only place in gokarna that served yummy sea food and delicious north indian cuisine. I am a vegie and my husband(a bengali) out and out non-vegie. So we both got everything suiting our taste and needs!! :) They used to serve awesome phulkas(chapati).

Some of the stuff that we tried from their menu was: kofta, veg and fish sizzler, egg bhurji, soup(not that good), mouth-watering prawn masala, prawn fry, and many more.
Those who like to booze, they serve only beer.

Right after our meals, we would go for a walk on the beach. That was one primary incentive besides the good food. Hence, we did not mind the wait time.

Some techniques we used to expedite our order:
a) Call the waiters by their names. They like being called by their first names. More personal touch!!
b) Go directly to the counter and place your order first and then sit.
c) They have a system of leaving a writing pad on every table so you can write your order in that.
d) Remember, they prepare the dishes in the order you write, so if you write the starter at the end and main course first, then it will come in that same order!!! It took us one visit to understand the whole system.

Namaste Cafe

Cafe at Om Beach. This was again a good cafe. Apparently, the italian cuisine is very good, but we did not find it out of the world preparations. Sea food preparations were good. Non-salty finger chips served. Below is the photo of prawn sizzler that we ordered.

Naveen Beach Hotel

This restaurant was right next to the beach at Murudeswara facing the big Lord Shiva sculptor. Service again was little slow again. Here we saw another phenomena. The waiter would come to the table, commit the order to the memory and immediately run to the kitchen and vomit out what he memorized. Obviously he would run between table and kitchen like infinite times. Patience pays!!

I learnt one thing in the whole trip, that these are small, non or semi-commercial places where the localiites are still novice to the service industry and are incognizant of the professional methods to provide efficient and quick service to the customers. Besides, the localiites have seen a sudden influx of tourists in the past 3-4 years. Therefore, we need to just adjust to their sluggishness or amatuerish demeanour.

Now, something about the destinations.


Whenever we got time we would visit the beach. The beach is not all that clean. Its littered with animal/human feces, tree twigs that would hurt while walking on sand barefoot.

Besides the beach, Gokarna is very famous for its religious significance. Famous Mahabaleshwar temple is situated in Gokarna. It enshrines the atma-lingams. MahaShivarathri is a very important festival here.

The sunrise was awesome here. Following are some photos of Gokarna beach.

OM Beach

As the name suggests, the beach is in the shape of Om. There are half-moon beaches there. It is an ideal place to stay where they have huts on the beach. People go on trekking from one beach to another. Most of the hut accommodations are reserved mainly for foreign tourists.
We went on a boat ride in the evening there and then had dinner at Namaste Cafe.


The bus ride from Gokarna to Karwar was beautiful. The beaches of karwar are famous for its scenic beauty and historical significance. Most famous beach is Devbagh beach.

Photos of the beach we walked on. Also we found a dead jelly fish there.

After lunch, we all hired a boat to visit a private island. The owner quoted Rs. 250 per head, but after negotiations, he came down to Rs. 175 per head. We went on a mechanised boat, and the 40-minute ride to the island revealed scenery which was simply breathtaking. Karwar is actually sandwiched between the sea and the western ghats. At the island, we were the only tourists along with another family there. We folks played water frisbee for like an hour or so. After 1.5 hours we summoned the boat and were taken back to Karwar. Before leaving, took some photographs of the sunset. We also found some crabs there. Karwar is full of crabs.

Some more photos at Karwar

Yana Hills

Yana is located in the lush evergreen forests of the Western Ghats. The Bhairaveshwara Shikhara and the Mohini Shikhara are the main attraction of Yana. Yana is a popular destination for pilgrims, trekkers, and nature lovers.
Our bus took us to the spot from where trekking starts to reach the two shikharas. The ride up the hill was scenic and scary at the same time. The path/track was so narrow that only one vehicle could fit at a time and twice or thrice it happened that we were facing vehicle coming from opposite direction. Hats off to our bus driver for his driving skills who seamlessly treaded the path. It was 1 hour trek uphill.

We stopped at the Mohini Shikhara for 15 minutes and then started our trek downhill. The forest cover is so cooling, like air conditioner in summers. After finishing our trek, we ate sweet puris(called munch) and boiled eggs with salt. These we got them packed at the foot of the Yana hills.

Some photos of Yana Hills.

Our trek starting point... Bhairaveshwara Shikhara


This was our last destination point. From Yana Hills, it took us 2 hours to reach Murudeswara. We reached in the afternoon. Thus, first headed for our lunch to Naveen Beach resort.
Out of all the places that we visited, I found the beach at Murudeswara the best. The beach faces the world's tallest gopuram(249 feet) and a large structure of Lord Shiva.
The walk at the beach was really serene. After walking for a while, you cross the crowd and reach the more silent areas where you can just hear the sound of the waves!!! The beauty was too much to be captured by any camera in the world. One has to be there to really understand the beauty that is totally indescribable!

Some photos at Murudeswara:

Return Journey
Bus from Gokarna to Ankola. Then another bus from Ankola to Hubli and then our KSRTC bus to Hyderabad. Lo! we were home on 29th dec by 8 a.m.

And, our vacation comes to a conclusion. I feel it was the best way to end 2008 and welcome 2009 with refreshing memories of the trip to cherish forever!! :)

Bon Voyage! to all those who plan to visit these places of untouched and unexplored natural beauty and of historical and religious significance.