Thursday, April 17, 2014

Do you have the time?

I remember my childhood days when my elder brother went to study engineering at a college situated 400 km from our home. All of seventeen, it was his first departure from home for a long period, or for that matter it was for the first time we were sending off a family member. Everyone was feeling upset.
It was a great moment of celebration for all of us when we received my brother's college printed inland letter seven days later in which he had informed us about his safe arrival, hostel accommodation and all his first day experiences. I felt jealous of my brother to learn that they would watch movies in the college auditorium five days a week!
So 7 days is what it took for us to know the whereabouts of our dear one, and we didn't complain. Compare that to today. We lose our temper and throw tantrums if our computer takes wee bit longer to boot or our mail does not reach instantly. We want everything to be done instantaneously.

In deference to our wishes we have many products in the market that promise us instant nirvana. Thus we have instant coffee, 2-minutes noodle, 1-minute manager and so on. We want everything to be seamless and real time, be it the cricket score or our facebook status update. Everything should be 'on the go' and 'as it happens'. The news should be 'breaking news' only.

Every creation, I am told, has a critical period for development, in which it will develop certain skills or characteristics. This critical period can not be advanced. A child can acquire language skills during this critical period and not before. Tempering with this important phase of life will bring doom.

This leads me to the questions that keep cropping up in my mind.

Are we making the best use of our time that we save by using these quick-fix solutions?

In our hurry to reach our destination, are we missing out on the beauty of our path?

In our obsession with haste, are we not tempering with some natural laws?

Monday, February 24, 2014

Bliss Awaits You Here.

Far from the hustle and bustle of the city of Chennai, the temple complex dedicated to Lord Jagannath and his siblings Balabhadra and Subhadra, is an island of tranquility, and sheer bliss. 

Once upon a time there used to be only one Jagannath temple, located at the original kshetra, Puri in Odisha. Over centuries many princely states built temples for the revered deity at their capitals. Now that the royals are gone, the responsibility of building Jagannath temples at different locations have been assumed voluntarily by the common devotees. The Kanathur temple is one such attempt.

The big compound is very well maintained with a mandap at the entrance, the sanctum sanctorum built in style of Puri original at the centre and lush green lawns and garden plants all around. The Garuda Pillar facing the deities is imposing and beautifully carved. 

There is a small structure dedicated to Kanchi Ganesh on the left of the complex, a statue of Buddha, also on left, and a nice lotus design water tank at the back. Jagannath culture also assimilated the Buddhist philosophy, and it is said that the deity at Puri has the tooth of Buddha hidden in his naval.

The priests are from Odisha and I found them to be very sincere in their worship. The temple can organize various types of pujas or rituals for you at different fees, which are displayed on a board.

Not far from the temple complex is a quiet beach, which I found as peaceful as the temple with no visitors. It looked like a fishing beach with many small boats dotting the place.

The place where you have to take a left turn from the ECRoad if you are coming from Chennai is easy to miss if you do not look for the traffic police signs and bikes there. The turning is near a fish market. Take flowers from here, because they may not be available near the temple. The 150 metres road leading up to the next turn for the temple is crowded, rough and somewhat dirty. Ignore it and press ahead, because what awaits you will leave you cleansed internally.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Inside the KFC Kitchen

I was having my lunch in a quiet corner at KFC when a smiling  staff walked upto me and enquired about my satisfaction level. After hearing my positive views, he smiled again and requested me if I might have time after the lunch for a kitchen tour. KFC had undertaken this tour program recently, I was told. 

"Why not?" I said and continued with my lunch as he walked away, beaming. It was a good idea, I thought, but why did he pick me up for the tour? I had no clue about this.

After I had put my tray in the trash bin, the KFC official walked to me again, and we were off to the kitchen tour. I was given a hair net to wear while inside the kitchen. 
The first impression was that the inside was clean and hygienic, with metallic trays, bins and containers giving the place a sparkling look. 

Joe, my guide, said that there were three sections at KFC. In the back section the 'walk-in chiller' is located, where the action really begins. He opened the chiller door open for me and I could see containers filled with chicken, cut to different consumable sizes. The cooking staff can walk inside the chiller and bring out the required amount of chicken pieces.

To my query about how old  the stuff was, Joe said "Not more than a day old". 

Joe told me about the temperature and other technical matters and showed me a label on the door that showed the stock position and the time they were entered. 

There was a small machine for marinating the chicken flesh, which takes about a couple of hours. In the same back section, a big container was filled with flour of atta and maida. The marinated pieces are coated with the flour here and then taken to the oven. 

There were five or six ovens for deep frying the stuff with control buttons. If you are deep frying chicken nuggets, just push the button assigned to nuggets. Time and heat will be taken care of by the machine. After cooking, the food is transferred to the middle section of the kitchen which has big ovens which will reduce the temperature to the tolerable level. 

I saw the ovens were full of oil and asked Joe as to what oil they used. He brought out a can of some sunflower refined oil, normally used at homes. Though I was satisfied about the quality of oil, I forgot to ask about how many times they used the same oil in the oven for subsequent deep-frying? To my knowledge if  oil is used and reused number of times, it becomes unhealthy.

Now comes the front section which is what you see when you place your order and receive your tray. The sales staff take the food from this level to hand over to you. Simple and sweet! Joe said they had a vegetarian section earmarked for  veg dishes with staff and area earmarked in the front section. So no mixing of sacred and the profane at the KFC. 

After the tour Joe thanked me profusely and asked me to write a feedback. (Modern business is running on testimonials).

It seems Joe had picked up the right person for the tour, because I not only wrote my feedback in his register, I also wrote it up for you here.