That’s a Hip and a Ster

I walked into a shoe shop in a Delhi mall [a Clark’s, I think]. I saw the red and blue shoe pair below & immediately thought, “Hipster”.


It turned out that I was thinking aloud. The shoe salesman turns to me and asks, “what is this hipster,sir?”
“It’s people who want to look cool without appearing to try” I explained “and it is not a compliment”
“Yes, sir, yes, sir” he nodded, “I get it now only”

*oh boy* If there are reports of increased “Hipster” usage in Delhi, you know whom to blame!

More Insane Indian security theatre

I saw this in the morning paper: Watch out for the Boobies

The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) have been issued a directive to profile suspicious women flyers and subject them to remove their shirts for a pat-down check to see whether they are hiding explosives in their breast implants. 

The latest directive comes after London’s Heathrow Airport was put on terror alert amid fears that women fidayeen may enter with explosives hidden in breast implants.

Women guards in the frisking staff of the CISF will be carrying out these checks in an enclosure which the airport operator has been requested to provide. 

“We are aware of the serious threat and this is a precautionary measure. Whenever a new threat comes to light, we circulate the information among the staff, asking them to be extra cautious. There is a possibility that women fidayeen may enter the airport carrying explosives in breast implants. That’s why we have asked women guards to check women passengers thoroughly, especially the upper part of their body,” said a senior CISF official.

“The first round of checks will be through hand-held metal detectors. If there is a beep on our machines, the passenger will be asked to remove her clothes. We are training our staff to be extra-sensitive as we understand that many women will feel angry by these checks,” the officer added.

The CISF is seeking expert suggestions on how to identify passengers for random frisking.

“We have been told that the fidayeen can plant bombs surgically through breast implants. To detonate these bombs, one just needs to inject some kind of liquid in the implant. And such bombs are good enough to blow up a plane,” said an official.

“random frisking” [or “frisking staff”] is not, IMHO,  a turn of phrase that should be employed in relation to this report.

It is not as if the security experience is humiliating enough, from the surly security to the inane [definitely non-evidence based] procedures; now they want to add another level of stupidity. What are they going to do? Squeeze the implants? Yes, that will make a pretty picture for the cameras. I don’t see how a “thorough” pat-down will not qualify as sexual assault. From what I’ve seen of the undertrained security personnel [ e.g, x-raying the hand baggage of passengers leaving the terminal, checking baggage tags as if their jobs depended on it – maybe it did], they would know as much about suspicious behavior as I would know about the latest fashion trends.

And no, this is not an Onion news story.

Meet this Doctor’s companion

His name is Scooby. He’s a 9 year old yellow Lab. Scooby suffered a bout of tick bite fever as a puppy. After a life of giving unconditional love, all he wants to do now is rest his weary bones. He spends most of his time sleeping under the fan [it’s hot out here]; by some estimates he sleeps 22 hours in a day 🙂 . He’s more a lover than a player.  He does not like long walks on the beach because he tires easily. He gives you slobbering kisses when you need it the most. He is the darling of the house.


Say Cheese!
Scooby eyeing his bone, and not the camera

UPDATE: More pics of Scooby enjoying his favourite activity:





Curry Pizza Adventures in Kolkata

This post is dedicated to Chi and Neel, who started me on the journey to the delicious kingdom of Curry Pizza.
What is curry pizza, you may ask? It all started with an innocuous dinner invitation. Chi and Neel have had me over for dinner at their house on numerous occasions; on one of those pre-dinner planning/ invitations, we had a to and fro about the choice of cuisine. Chi suggested anything but chicken curry, our default dish. Neel suggested pizza. And I suggested, somewhat in jest, “how about curry pizza?” The Legend was born! We made delicious chicken curry pizza that night, and repeated the feat a few days later. We also made pizza with traditional toppings but the curry pizza was the star of the show.

Side note:I learnt to toss pizza dough from a Youtube video. Its dough-stretching effects are wonderful; better than holding one part of the edge/circumfrence at a time and letting gravity do its job.

When I landed in Kolkata, I raved about the delicious curry pizza with Chi and Neal, and my pizza tossing skills. Noah and Evangeline decided that the time for words was at an end, and we needed action. The date for Curry Pizza night was set, and to make things a bit more challenging, it was night when they were hosting their friend Mindy for dinner. And it was to be a vegetarian curry pizza. No pressure!

The recipe for the dough we used is here. We made the dough in the morning, assuming the the hot and humid weather would give the yeast a boost to rise by the evening [instead of 24 hours as suggested by the recipe].

[Note from Chi on the pizza dough: “I usually use half of the quantities listed on this recipe and divide into 5-6 balls for personal size pizza. The last time we made pizzas at Monique’s house, I used a stand mixer to knead the dough for 10 minutes. Then let it rise for 10 hours (morning to evening). Normally, I just mix the dough as instructed and leave it overnight for 24 hours. The dough needs to proof 2 times. Once for a long time and the second for 1 hour after divided into individual balls.”]

It rained that day in Kolkata, and the temperature hovered around a humid 70 degrees F. I was worried that we may have underestimated the time needed for the dough to rise. We squeezed every last minute of the time we had allotted for the rising. It turned out fine.

The ingredients were bought from Spencers (we, *ahem* Noah, found the mozarella hidden in the frozen section with sundry other items as opposed to, say, the cheese section where the “pizza cheese” [which is apparently a mix of mozarella and cheddar] was kept.

We decided the curry was going to be a panner butter masala [without the butter; and panner is a kind of indian cheese] and I set about making it while sous chef Noah got busy with slicing the vegetable toppings [if you must know, it was onion, capsicum aka sweet bell peppers, mushrooms, garlic, and basil] and also cleaning every bowl, cup, pan that needed to be washed.

By the time the curry was done, and the vegetables were chopped, the dough had risen enough for me to separate them into individual portions, each of which would become one personal pizza. This is what they looked like when separated:

By the time we remembered to take photographs, we were down 2 personal pizzas
By the time we remembered to take photographs, we were down 2 personal pizzas
This is a shot of the assembly line:

Toyota Production Systems, eat your heart out [iterally and figuratively]
Toyota Production Systems, eat your heart out [iterally and figuratively]
You can see the first two personal pizzas all laid out, waiting for the oven to get to 500 deg F. Boy, it was hot in the kitchen.

I rolled out the ball of dough and then I did my tossing thing. We did take a video of the tossing and I’ll post it when I have it. Suffice to say, it was good enough that the pizza did not touch either the ceiling or the floor. Nor did it tear apart in my hands. In the words of Farmer Hoggett: “That’ll do, pig. That’ll do.”

A shot of the curry pizza, all loaded up with the paneer and mozarella. We used corn flour on the baking sheet before placing the tossed pizza on it [we planned on using corn meal but didn’t have it on hand]; we also brushed olive oil on the pizza base before loading it up with toppings

Waiting to get baked!
Waiting to get baked!
Unfortunately, from a story-telling perspective, the pizza was so yummy that we couldn’t wait long enough to get an after-baking shot [yeah, that happened with the second curry pizza too]

The third pizza was loaded with the traditional toppings:

It was tasty too!
It was tasty too!
We waited on this so here is an “after” shot to compare with the “before” shot:

Baked is always better
Baked is always better
This is me, holding my traditional pizza creation:

And Noah in the background
And Noah in the background
Do we look content? The curry pizzas went down the hatch quickly

Happy because we are feeding *cough* eating
Happy because we are feeding *cough* eating
All photo credits: Evangeline Ambat-Levinson

Evangeline calls these “Chi Curry Pizzas”. Let’s make it ChiNeel Curry Pizzas. If you see this signature item featured in your neighbourhood curry pizza chain , you saw it here first.

Another side note: If you have thought of a million ways to pun with my liberal use of “baked”, “tossed”, “on hand”, etc, [I know I have!] please do so in the comments

Ill in Kolkata!

It had to happen, though I expected the illness to arrive sooner.
My body is weak, accustomed to breathing {relatively} clean air and drinking water that is free of coliform organisms over the last 9 years.
It is humid and {monsoon} wet here. It started with a stomach bug after a eating out in the Kolkata Chinatown (Tangra). What was I thinking? Boston Chinatown does a number on me wee gastrointestinal system; did i expect Kolkata would not wreak havoc? In addition, over the next day, I developed a sore throat that blossomed into a full-blown fever-throat_pain-body_ache-can’t_swallow kind of malaise by the end of the night. Overnight, my urinary system was feeling left out and decided that it wanted in on the infection party. All in all, I spent more time in the bathroom and bed than out of it.

What’s the upside of falling ill in India? Prescriptions! Written by me, for me, and of me; With my medical council registration number making it look all fancy and stuff; freedom to practice and preach, and all that jazz.

I could not have picked a better place to fall ill. N & E are taking good care of me, and all I do is sleep, read, watch movies, and recuperate. I’m all about getting this out of my system, literally and figuratively.

This is what I’m looking up at from my sick-bed:

Peace and Serenity
Peace and Serenity

It’s appropriately symbolic.

Mo Memories


This little soap dispenser travelled from my house in Cambridge to Kolkata because the colour of the pattern matches the colour of the tiles {the tiles here match the tiles of my bathroom in Cambridge}. I’m glad that it found its forever home, and now lives amongst those who will take care of it. 🙂
The little soap dispenser that could!

In Kolkata…

I’m at Calcutta Kids, a splendid organization providing comprehensive maternal and child health services, both preventive and curative, to a Kolkata slum called Fakir Bagan.

They operate out of this little office inside the slum

Calcutta Kids Office in the Fakir Bagan slum
Calcutta Kids Office in the Fakir Bagan slum

Follow the link and read more about the various programs that are being conducted by their health workers, many of whom have lived in the community served by Calcutta Kids (and some who still do). Then click on the donate link. Every bit helps.

Bonus Pics:
Founder Noah Levinson, hard at work:

Noah Levinson, hard at work
Noah Levinson, hard at work

His wife Evangeline and some of the key staff, also hard at work {Do you sense a pattern here?}

Evangeline and Arpita in the foreground, Kalyan and Chandan in the Background
Evangeline and Arpita in the foreground, Kalyan and Chandan in the Background

Bangalore traffic is but a blip in my memory. Fresh terrors are being created on the streets of Kolkata, but these are not unexpected.

More when it happens!

An almost-4 year old describes his field trip at school

What an imagination!

Some background: I asked my nephew what transpired on his picnic/field trip last week. As per the official description, it involved a trip to another school and sundry other activities. Instead of giving me a factual account, this is what he told me. It’s definitely worth 3.5 minutes of your time.

[soundcloud url=”″ params=”” width=” 100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

I {still} have no idea what transpired on his school trip {I believe it involved a movie screening} and I don’t want to know anymore; he believes it to be great and that’s all matters. The world he inhabits {in his head} is full of life and character {and characters!}. Notice the enunciation of his “R”s {quite the opposite of a Bostonian’s R drops}. He turns four on August 13th. His accent and vocal mannerisms emanate from the life around him – his family, his grandparents, his school, his friends in the apartment complex, Youtube and possibly Doraemon and Chhota Bheem. And a lisp always makes everything a child says adorable, doesn’t it?

Technical: Ignore the background sounds at the beginning; I was trying to get my recording device {i.e. phone} positioned optimally.

Court and Joe got Married

This is a special edition post to wish the best in life to a super special couple who deserve all the happiness in the world, and more. I’ve tried to time this note’s publish date/time to coincide with the ceremony {which I am attending in spirit}.
Court and Joe: As separate individuals, you two are wonderful shining examples of the good side of humanity – kind, giving, caring and compassionate; as a tag-team of doctors, nay healers, you two are going to kick Disease’s backside. I look forward to that edition of this wonderful world.