Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Are You Cheating God?

Well, thats the title of my third ebook!

Just published it a while ago on smashwords dot com and its up for online reading, sample download and of course out right purchase.

The book makes an attempt to look at a very important and challenging Christian principle about 'tithing'

Check it out at or read my author profile at

Please take some time out to review my book and drop me a line.


Friday, 24 January 2014

The Northeast and National Celebrations

The time has come around again for this great country of ours to celebrate its 64th 'Republic Day'. What a feeling of pride and joy for every Indian!

We owe it to founding fathers, who more than six decades ago, declared this country of ours a sovereign, democratic republic on the 26th of January 1950. But little did they know, that years down the line, this feeling of elation and achievement would not be shared by all, especially among the states of the north east of India.

It is a daunting task to pin point the exact reason for this anti-mainland India feeling, so common among the north easterners in general. Every year, the celebrations of our Independence Day and the Republic Day is marked with bandhs or boycotts called by the numerous so called freedom fighting groups of all the seven-sister states of the north east. But the scope of this post is not to do a in-depth analysis of the pro and cons of this phenomenon, but rather to look at the whole issue from a 'common mans' perspective.

The situation is akin to being caught between 'the devil and the deep sea'. And it is further aggravated by the media, both print and electronic, flashing news bulletins and glaring headlines about the 'call' to boycott all celebrations. This does play tricks with ones psyche! So what does one do when faced with such a situation?

It has taken a few years, but the common masses have realised that it is not as bad as it is made out to be. There are no gun-toting goons lining the venues, or vigilantes at every street corner, trying to prevent people from going to the celebrations. Things have much changed over the past couple of decades. The common man has realised that, this call to boycott the celebrations of these two significant days of our country, is nothing but an face-saving effort by these outfits. It is just not possible for any outfit to flex their muscles during these two days. The security blankets thrown around the towns and venues makes it next to impossible to disrupt the celebrations! Yes, to anyone who is not from this region, the situation would seem foreboding, what with all the media reports and all. But it is a far cry from reality!

People come out in large numbers to be a part of the celebrations. The unfurling of the Tri-colour, march pasts by different groups, school children doing their stint, various cultural dances and exhibitions. The north east celebrates just as well as any other state of the Indian sub-continent. 

The cloak of inhibition to celebrate the two most important days of our great country has been shed by the north easterner. Realisation has dawned on him that, he is also a vital part in the scheme of things concerning this country of ours. Gone are the days of timidness and submissiveness to the demands of the so called modern day 'freedom fighters'. Dynamics have shifted with the realisation that the only thing constant is 'change'

Change and adapt to different situations or be left behind. And no one likes to be left behind!

Till next time!

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Bhogali or Magh Bihu - that was!

Its all over and done with! 

The celebrations of 'Bhogali Bihu' or 'Magh Bihu' is over and life in the state is beginning to limp back to normal. People are still trying to shake off the stupor of the past couple of days of merrymaking and gorging themselves on food!

But that's how Bihu is celebrated in Assam. Everything is put on hold. All that matters is how the celebrations are going to be carried out. Discussions are centred around the site of the Bhelaghar, its design, mind you, there are a lot of creative guys around, this year there were a few eye openers! Like the crude replica of the 'Titanic', all made out of hay and bamboo and then there was this one show casing the 'Rang Ghar', the Ahom amphitheatre. 

Another important aspect of this Bihu, which attracts alot of discussions, is the height of the 'mezi', the stacking of fire-wood. One group competing with another to arrange the highest stack of fire-wood! All done with a feeling of camaraderie and brotherhood.

And the fun at level of the village? Mind boggling! Imagine a horde of people descending into a pond and fishing? This has to be seen to be believed. There are no prizes for catching the biggest fish, but a subtle recognition of the persons' skill. This is community fishing during 'Rongali Bihu' or 'Magh Bihu'. Everyone joins in. The young and old, men and women. Its fun time!

Then there is the 'buffalo fights'. Just for a moment, imagine two full grown, massive animals bearing down on each other with heads lowered, nostrils flared and eyes locked, clashing head-on, like two locomotives. The sight is enough to send the spectators in a frenzy! This fight for supremacy between the animals continues till one gives up and decides to call it a day! Here it may get a bit tricky for the spectators. As the vanquished animal bolts, it doesn't really care about direction. The only thought playing on its mind is escape and this it tries to achieve by simply running as far as possible from the other. And in the process, there is every possibility of trampling the spectators, who are sometimes so engrossed by the whole spectacle, that they fail to take evasive action and end up getting injured, sometimes seriously. But believe it or not, these injuries, if they happen, are borne with pride and fondness rather than guilt and anger!

Two birds, with razor sharp back-pointing talons and with sharp knives tied to their feet, jumping and lounging at each other repeatedly, trying to cause maximum damage, that's 'cock-fight' for you! Cheered on by the onlookers, the birds go crazy, trying all the more to maim or kill the other. The fight ends when one bird is too injured to carry on and refuses to get up. Well its winner takes it all! Its surprising, how a mild cock can get so aggressive. But then the world is full of surprises!

On a more sedate note, there are the fights between 'mynahs' and also 'egg-fights'. All in all, its a time for enjoying the bounty provided by the Gods.

The actual atmosphere of 'Bhogali Bihu' can only be felt and experienced in the Assamese villages and this year it has not been any less. People try to duplicate the celebrations in the towns and cities of Assam, but sadly, how can you create something on artificiality? The ambiance is just not there!

Till next time!!  

Monday, 13 January 2014

Bhogali Bihu - the harvest festival of the Assamese

Today is the first day of "Bhogali Bihu" or "Magh Bihu" called URUKA!

It is the time of paying obeisance to the Gods for a bountiful harvest. Marked by fun and feasting in open harvested fields and near river banks, the festivities really starts rolling from the evening and carries on the whole night through!

For a  more detailed write on "Bhogali Bihu" or "Magh Bihu" , please read my post of 3rd January 2014, titled - "The Unifying spirit of Assam - Bihu".

Have fun!

Sunday, 12 January 2014

My first Ebook - published!

I have been feeling extremely good about myself right through today! 

The reason? I finally wrote, edited, formatted and published my first ebook this morning!

The book deals with the power of our tongues and what we, as Christians, should do to control this small, but very powerful organ that we take for granted.

The book is absolutely free to read online or download! Really look forward to your valuable comments and suggestions.

Thanks and all the best!

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Secrets of Tea manufacture revealed - in 7 steps!

As you sip the steaming, aromatic brew every morning, to clear the cobwebs in your brain and kick start the day; have you ever wondered, how did 'this' end up in my 'morning cuppa'? I guess not. Well that's fine, this post is not to make you feel guilty, but rather to let you all know, very briefly, the entire manufacturing process of Tea!

The successful plantation of tea (camellia sinensis) requires a temperate wet climate, with adequate rainfall and sunshine. It must be kept in mind that there is no water logging at the roots of the tea bushes. Once the tea bushes start maturing and sprouting leaves and buds, the process of taking the raw material from the bushes to our cup, starts!

  • Plucking: - The first step in collecting the raw material is the plucking process! The plucking season is divided into three stages or Flushes. The First Flush (March/April), Second Flush (May/June-July) and the Third Flush/Autumn Flush/Rainy Flush (September/November). This plucking cycle is maintained at about a weeks interval. The tea processed from the first and second flushes are considered to be of high quality! But there is a twist here. This is not a haphazard process of plucking any and every leaf that the tea bush has to offer! But rather a deft approach or a skillful way of plucking just two leaves and a bud. It is this approach of plucking only two leaves and a bud that accounts for the high quality of tea from the first two flushes! Care is taken by the labourers not to crush the delicate leaves and buds which are collected in bamboo baskets.
  • Withering: - The green leaves, after being brought from the tea gardens to the factory, is subjected to close scrutiny to remove any foreign matter that is not related to the leaf itself. After this, the green leaves are loosely spread across large 'withering troughs' to a depth of approximately 5-6 inches and air is blown over the green leaves by fans installed at strategic location. The whole purpose of withering is to get rid of the superficial moisture content of the green leaf and make it ready to withstand the strain of rolling without breaking up in the process. This process generally takes about 18 to 24 hours depending on the moisture content of the leaf. The green leaves, when properly withered, gives off a fragrant odour, suggesting its readiness for the next step!
  • Rolling: - The 'withered' leaves are then subjected to mild pressure between metal plates. This process ruptures the cells in the leaves and releases juices which moistens the rolled leaves, enhancing further the chemical changes that the leaf has to undergo.
  • Fermentation: - The 'rolled' leaves are then loosely spread in thickness of 1 to 2 inches across 'fermenting beds' and allowed to ferment for about 3 to 4 hours. Fermentation is a chemical process which allows the tea liquor to become palatable. Here the juices of the rolled leaves react with each other as well as the air (oxidation) to give off the characteristic aroma of tea and also a distinctive reddish brown colour. Optimum timing has to be maintained to stop the fermenting process, so that the leaves are ready to move onto the next step!
  • Drying: - The objective of this process is to arrest any further fermentation of the leaves. To achieve this, the fermented leaves are passed through a 'dryer' and remains there for approximately 20 minutes at a temperature of around 240 to 250 F. Care is taken not to totally dry out the leaves but to extract the moisture and at the same time preserve all the other characteristics to optimum levels!   
  • Sorting: - The penultimate step in the process of tea manufacture! Here, the 'dried' tea is passed over 'sorting machines' fitted with revolving or vibrating wire mesh trays of varying sizes. As the 'tea' passes over these trays, the whole leaf, broken leaf, fannings and dust grades fall at different places. This makes up the diffrent grades of tea!
  • Packageing: - Once the 'sorting' process is over, the different 'grades of tea' are packed in plywood chests or paper sacks with aluminium foil lining on the inside. After stamping the various statutory information on the outside of the packaged product, the finished 'tea' makes its way to the market to be consumed by the millions!

Although tea manufacturing has come a long way from the time the British started this industry in Assam, the 'plucking' process is still very much labour intensive. No machine can substitute the deft hand and eye co-ordination of the pluckers in the tea gardens! Barring this very crucial aspect in the manufacturing process, all other processes are automated and flow along a pre-determind path.

So, thats it! The secret of the 'two leaves and a bud' and its journey from the tea bushes to our cups, revealed in seven brief steps!!

Enjoy your next 'cuppa' !

Your comments would be appreciated!!

Friday, 3 January 2014

The Unifying spirit of Assam - "BIHU"

Come the time for this cultural festival and everything is put on hold!

Not only celebrated in the state of Assam, but around the globe, this festival has the magical quality of exuberating a feeling of love, friendship and brotherhood amongst all. It transcends caste, religion, colour, hate, ill-feeling and instead, ushers in an atmosphere of peace and good-will!

To someone not from Assam, 'BIHU' is just one festival. But in fact it is three very distinct festivals spread through the calendar year. It is firmly rooted with the land and its people. The festival manifests mans' dependence on god and his blessings for the sustenance of life! No doubt the festivals are celebrated with a lot of fervour and gaiety, but there is an underlying current of obeisance to the supreme being!

Lets take a closer look at this festival called - 'BIHU' 

  • Bhogali Bihu: - This is celebrated during mid January. Also called Magh Bihu, it is a harvest festival which marks the end of the harvest season. With granaries full of the harvested crop, it is a time for eating and feasting. The name 'Bhogali' comes from the word 'Bhog', which means to 'eat' and 'enjoy'. On the eve of the festival called Uruka, young men and boys build makeshift shelters from the hay of the harvested fields called 'Bhelaghar', preferably near a river or open field along with the all important 'Meji', which is a stack of fire-wood reaching to heights of ten to fifteen feet! The entire night is spent eating and singing Bihu songs around the 'Meji'. (If one were to wander around at night during this time in an Assamese village, the sights of the numerous dots of light and laughter would leave one spellbound!) The following morning, all those involved in the celebrations, take a bath and then worship the 'God of Fire' by burning the 'Meji'. Prayers are offered to mark the end of the harvest season. Throughout the day, various ethnic forms of entertainment are organised at the community level, like buffalo-fights, cock-fights, egg-fights, nightingale-fights etc. 
Of course to enjoy the full scale experience of 'Bhogali Bihu', one has to visit the villages of the Assamese people or else it would be just an artificial exposure to the so called 'cultural festivity' practised else where!

  • Bohag Bihu: - Also called 'Rongali Bihu', this is celebrated during mid April, to welcome the Assamese 'New Year' as well as the onset of spring. It is the most popular of all the Bihus. The first day of the Bihu is called 'Goru Bihu' or "Cow Bihu', where the cows are properly washed and worshipped and new ropes are tied around their necks. The following day, the 15th of April is called 'Manuh Bihu' or 'Man Bihu'. This is the New Year day. People dress up in new clothes, visit friends and relatives, exchange a lot of love and warmth and ready themselves to take on the new year with fresh vigour and vitality. This is the most vibrant and enjoyable time of the year for the Assamese people. There is a lot of fun and frolic, especially among the young, where Bihu songs or 'Bihugeet' are sung by groups called 'Huxori dols'
One can feel the warmth of the Assamese people permeate through the air during the month long celebration of 'Rongali Bihu'.

  • Kongali Bihu: - Celebrated during mid October, it is also called 'Kati Bihu'. The mood during this Bihu is very sombre. There is less merriment and the atmosphere has an air of constraint and solemnity. The granaries of the farmers almost running dry and the crop in the fields in the growing stages, the future being uncertain, the farmers invoke the blessing of the gods by lighting earthen lamps or 'sakis' on this day. These 'sakis' are placed at the foot of the household 'tulsi' plant, the granary, the household garden and in the paddy fields. The cultivators recite a special chant called 'rowa-khowa' , to ward off pests and other spells from their crops and in the evening, the cattle are fed specially made rice cakes called 'pithas' to appease the gods. The custom of tying a lamp at the end of a long bamboo pole, called 'akaxibonti', to show the souls of the dead the way to heaven, is practised even today, during 'Kongali Bihu'.
Whether it is the harvest festival, the spring time or during times of uncertain cultivation, Bihu is the unifying bond that holds the Assamese people together. 

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

New Year Wishes !!

Wishing each and everyone a bright and prosperous 2014!

Hoping the year just ended was good and may the new one be even better!!