Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Conflict of Ethics


Brought up in the east and exposed to both the eastern and the western styles of behaviours and attitudes, I experience ethical conflicts about many issues. Here are a few of them.
Note: This was written over several days and I notice that I have wandered away from the topic and rambled about other issues too such as difference in ethics between countries and cultures, etc.

In India, I was told by my grandmother to give money to beggars and if there were simply too many, to give to the old, the leprosy patients, the handicapped, the pregnant women, the little children and not necessarily give to the young, the able-bodied and strong appearing beggars. I was told that giving them will help me get ‘Punya’, get into heaven; I will get help when I need it if I help others now, etc. Also that these people are suffering from poverty and helping them will better their life. Ignoring them and moving on leaves many people with a sense of guilt.
Giving to beggars is also extolled in Hindu Dharma and also mentioned in books on Islamic faith, Buddhist and Jain faiths. Begging is not considered a crime or shameful but many famous saints, seers, sanyasis begged for a living. Many famous beggars include the God Shiva, Buddha, Saints and Seers, Philosophers, Devotees of God, etc. Many famous mythological kings begged for alms at some time in their life. Begging is therefore not strongly associated with negative images in India or in the east.
A few argue against giving to beggars, by giving reasons such as : these beggars are not really handicapped but pretending, they are thieves, they are lazy and refuse to work, they want easy money, that begging is actually an organized and profitable business, run by clever and evil men.
As far as I know, many people give to beggars than not give. This may explain why there are thousands of beggars in India.

In Toronto, Canada, there are few beggars. Many people do not give them money as they believe that the government is giving them enough; if given money, they will spend it on drugs; they ought to get a job and stop begging. The people who ignore pleas of the beggars on the road without a qualm are those who generously give money to organized charities.

I am constantly torn between giving or not giving. Many who ask for a buck look like they are on drugs and they appear so pathetic I want to give but also worry about their spending it on drugs and harming themselves. Depending on which side of the argument wins, I either give or not give that particular time .

Feeding free birds & animals in the cities:
We see in Toronto, several signs in parks which say do not feed the birds and animals. This is of course to stop interfering in their natural habits and see that they do not become dependent on humans and lose their natural food gathering/hunting instincts. But people, especially of Asian origin think of feeding as a kindness and not feeding as a sign of cruelty. In spite of explaining it is difficult to change their ways, especially the older folks.

Animals in the wild:
Do you all remember a debate going on internationally about the fate of a polar bear cub Knut, in 2007 in Germany? This cub had been abandoned by it’s mother and some people wanted Knut to be looked after by humans and saved while some insisted that it should be shot than cared for by humans as it was against animal rights? In India, it is unthinkable for any ‘decent’ person to even think of killing a baby bear for animal rights ! While in the west, there are people, who are equally ethical but think that the right choice is killing this bear !
These incidents indicate how highly valued compassion and kindness in the east (or at least India) while other values trump kindness and compassion in the west.

Hunting and Fishing:
I am a non-vegetarian eater and eat everything like all sorts of meat(pork, beef, mutton and chicken), eggs and fish. However I have this dislike and guilt about hunting and fishing especially for sport. I keep thinking of the pain the animals and fish feel, the intense fear when they are being chased by the hunter, the pain of being alive and wounded and running away. I also shed tears thinking about the mate or cub/s of the hunted animal waiting in vain for the hunted victim to return. I have still not understood how people, who are ‘decent’ otherwise, can hunt and fish and not put themselves in the shoes of these hunted animals and fish. I do not have a conflict of Ethics here …I am clear that it is unethical….but to me the wonder is that the hunters and fishermen do not feel conflicted about this issue.
You may wonder how come, I who eat non-veg food, use products made of animal parts can feel so guilty and upset about hunting and fishing. My excuse is that I am not hunting or fishing for sport i.e. killing or causing them to suffer pain or fear solely for my pleasure. Each Saturday I see this program on hunting and fishing on Canadian television and wonder how the people can go about hunting and fishing without qualms.
Commenting on a related topic, I am not happy about the animals in the west who are on farms which confine them in small spaces their entire life till they are killed for meat. I am referring to poultry and pigs kept in small spaces. There is no conflict of Ethics here…it is clearly unethical. Other similar issues which to me are clearly unethical are the use of animals for sports such as fights like cock-fights, dog-fights, etc. I am not sure to what extent the animals in circus and animals in shows are ill-treated but if they are ill-treated and kept in unhappy circumstances, it should be stopped. I think wild animals especially lions, tigers, etc who are in circus, prefer to be free and in the wild than in captivity in limited spaces, in noisy surroundings, etc. The same for nocturnal creatures who are made to endure lights in cages (owls), nocturnal creatures in zoos in day time, animals out of their natural environments like polar bears in the Tropical country-zoos, etc.

Respect :

In India, children are brought up to respect adults i.e. elders (parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts, teachers, priests, etc). Often, adults who are pretty disgusting such as alcoholics who beat up their wives and kids, teachers who are extremely cruel and nasty relatives who behave atrociously are all ‘given respect’ and never once questioned about their atrocities. Even if they are questioned and taken to task by adults, the kids or anyone younger that the person are expected to show respect and never be confront these people about their abuse or unacceptable behaviours. The emphasis is on respecting ‘age’ of the person than any virtue in the person. I have often seen bitter, angry young children, silently wishing to escape their homes as they cannot take the shameful treatment by these adults whom they not only cannot confront but also have to ‘give respect’. It is so hugely conflicting for children growing in these cultures to confront the elders whom they are supposed to respect, unquestioningly. I have seen many of my friends who lived with extremely abusive elders and though they know that they were abused or still continue to be abused, feel extremely conflicted about confronting the abuser simply because he/she is older than them. They continue to tolerate, some do not even consciously acknowledge their distress and think that they love and respect these elders.
In the west however, I have seen young teens who boldly confront their abuser, irrespective of age and many of my friends who had been ill-treated by their parents as kids, refuse to have anything to do with these abusive parents now. I was shocked initially when I heard a Canadian lady call her dad a bastard and tell me how mean he was. In India, I have seen many daughters who have received such harsh treatment by their fathers but who will not call the father a bastard even in their dreams ! Even with intense and righteous anger, the children from these cultures cannot bear the thought of confronting their elders when they do wrong.

I think I started writing this to talk of the clash of Ethics I have within me but now I am gradually veering off into Clash of Ethics between different people I think. With regard to Blasphemy, I personally do not experience any clash; I am okay with blasphemy. I am talking of this under conflict of Ethics as the value attributed to Blasphemy is so different in different cultures where the eastern and less modern and more rigid cultures give terrible punishments for Blasphemy while the western and more modern, less religious countries and cultures laugh it off or do not take it as seriously as those in the east. I am on the side of the west, more modern, who do not take B seriously.
In India, Pakistan and many eastern and mid-eastern countries, Blasphemy is a big issue and one sees articles in papers about incidents of Blasphemy or imagined Blasphemy by people and how they were punished by the mobs or religious zealots. There is no mention of Blasphemy in some countries such as Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia in the papers…do you know why? Not because it is not considered as serious but as it is considered ‘very’ serious and consequently the punishment is so severe, that there are almost no incidents of Blasphemy at all ! The more religious the country or the rulers in these countries, greater the severity of the punishment.
In my opinion, yelling abuse at God is done by people (1)mostly out of frustration or (2)to provoke people who are religious and as some claim,(3) it is not Blasphemy but it is Art.
Whatever the reason for Blasphemy, it is best to ignore the Blasphemy as the person is not hurting another person. And I do not think that God is thin-skinned enough to feel hurt if one of his own children yells at him or mocks him!
I have enjoyed the jokes about Gods in English movies and serials (British and American); I have enjoyed the art i.e. paintings, sculptures and books about Gods which can be considered as blasphemous by some. I have enjoyed the jokes too though some seem to be more distasteful than funny. The artist in me found some stuff distasteful but not enough to kill the creator!

It saddens me that the value system in the east is rigid, concrete, primitive and probably functioning at the lowest level of Kohlberg’s stages of morality. It saddens me to see how relatively sensible and intelligent people, get upset by the people who are blasphemous and want to punish them. The most famous recent examples of Blasphemy are of course the Danish cartoonist’s drawings of Mohamed and the nude art works of Hindu Gods and Goddesses by M.F.Hussain. But there are countless examples of Blasphemy in the eastern countries leading to death and destruction of property by hooligans ostensibly protesting the Blasphemy. The most recent and saddest I heard was a Pakistani Christian woman who is to be put to death for merely saying ( to people who were coercing her to convert to Islam) that Christ had given his life to save sinners and asking what has Mohamed done for the people.
What kind of Ethics is it to put a person to death for making a statement while rapists and murderers get away with heinous crimes in these countries? I could go on about this issue but I guess I have made my point. Also I feel so deeply saddened at the stupidity and cruelty of these people and wonder if God really exists and if he can sit idle watching the injustices going on.
I also get intensely irritated by people who deliberately provoke these already concrete thinking people through Blasphemy …In India, there are hooligans leaving Pigs or pork in Mosques and beef near temples just to cause fights between these two already volatile communities.

How does one bridge the gap between the two types of cultures or two types of countries with such opposing values? When the value system and Code of Ethics is shared, it is easy to have a dialogue and come to some sort of agreement. But when the value system held and code of ethics is so opposite, I think it is simply impossible to bride the gap.
I am referring to the value systems held in countries where Religion dictates the government’s policies and Modern Democracies. Use of force to enforce a certain code of ethics or value system is not the answer. Force will not work but instead causes resentment and opposition. I am referring to the use of force (war) in countries like Afghanistan by the US forces. I do not for one moment believe that the Afghans will change their value system and start giving rights to women, etc just because the Americans say so. In fact, I think, they will become even more rigid in following their code of ethics in order to show that they will not be cowed down by force.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


Cowpeas-half cup,
Green chilli -2-3
Salt-one table spoon
Fresh coriander leaves: 10grams
Water of course.(3-4cups)

1.Soak cowpeas in water for 6-8 hours.

2.Boil cow-peas in water and add salt so that it is absorbed into the cow-peas while it is cooking. Boil in a steam-cooker for about 20 minutes (The longer it is cooked, the softer it becomes). If you do not have a cooker, and boil it in a vessel, it will take a longer time to cook/become soft.
The water quantity for boiling the cow-peas is variable—you can use 4times the amount of cow-peas or more if you want the soup to be thinner.

3.Roast two or three green chilli
4.Mince about 20 grams onion into tiny pieces.
5.Wash and mince about 10 gm of fresh coriander leaves.
6.Soak in warm water and squeeze pulp from 20 grams of tamarind; or you could use tamarind paste.
7.Roughly mash the cooked cowpeas with a wooden masher or your hands.
8 Take some of the boiled cow-peas water in a vessel and mash the green chilli with your hands into this water. Pour the water back into the cow-pea mix through a sieve and throw out the seeds and flesh of the chilli.
Note: If you sieve out the seeds and flesh of the green chilli, no one will get hot chilli surprises while eating the soup. But there are some hardy souls who leave the chilli in the soup.
9 Add the minced onion, minced coriander leaves and tamarind and stir.
10. Ladle the cow-pea soup into bowls and serve warm.
It’s great on a cold winter’s day. Better than beer for some folks !

As you guys know, cow-pea can be substituted with a whole range of other stuff for soups and rasams. The quantity of ingredients I have given can be varied. Some add more chillis than I can handle and some add more tamarind. I find a lot of people who stick rigidly to the recipes especially quantities. But I think one can make lots of small changes to a dish, experiment and get good results.

I believe this is a south Indian dish from Karnataka. People in Karnataka call this sapneeru and dip ragi balls in this mixture and eat as lunch or dinner. Rice too is eaten with this but I prefer the taste of ragi balls with sap-neeru than rice. The cow-pea soup is too thin for rice, in my opinion. This is a simple, easy to make dish, with hardly any spices, tasty and nutritious. I don’t think it is fattening. This dish may feel rather simple for the sophisticated urban palate but what the heck ! My grandfather was a simple farmer from a village and I love this dish!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010



Finding buried treasure---not broken pottery, even if it 5000 years old but solid gold and stuff !

Saving a rich person’s life…provided she/he repays me with overwhelming gratitude

Winning a huge sum at lottery—that I do not need to work

Winning a lottery so huge , I can solve the problems of all my relatives and friends (not necessarily in that order)

Watch movies, tv programs, dramas, dances, etc from all over the world….if the programs are good but not in English, then I would get them translated into English .

Read my favourite crime fiction, humour, etc

Travel…in the most comfortable style

Fight crime and corruption…..should I start in India where I am from or where the crime is the least (so it is easy to clean up fast and move on to the next place) or where it is the most or where I am currently living or where it is most tragic???

Fight religion’s evil effects on people…I wish I could abolish all religions except maybe Buddhism, Jainism and Zoroastrianism…..I have this belief that these religions do not damage the earth or people…but I may be wrong !

Ethically reduce the population of India by 90%...One way of doing it is to educate the people into not having kids and wait for the ones already born to die of old age…but that is soooo sloooooooooow . Another is to pack them off to other countries where there is a population shortage and their skills match the needs of the country but this too sounds impossible. Being ethical is like working with your hands tied and eyes blindfolded.

Once I had dreams of collecting various things like stamps, coins, gems, etc but now I don’t think of that anymore. I find that collections are dry and not really serving any purpose for me. (plus the bother of dusting them, jealously guarding them and the space they occupy in limited homes).

Other dreams are private and I am afraid of putting them here in case someone I know guess it is me !

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Chutney Pudi Recipe

Recipe for Chutney Pudi (Dry Chutney Powder..hot and spicy)

I had asked my mother to give me the chutney pudi recipe and she dictated it over the phone. I made it and it was a success.

After I ran out of it, I made some again but I had lost the recipe she had dictated and made it from memory. It was a success again.
But when I told my mom, the recipe I tried the second time, she said she had not given me that recipe ! That she would not have all those ingredients but used only a few of them.

I am putting up my version of her recipe i.e. My recipe.

Of course as you all know there are probably thousands of recipes of chutney pudi and each family has it’s own versions . That is the beauty of the cooking art. One can be experimental and creative and add or subtract ingredients and make so many versions of a dish.

OK. Here goes my version of Chutney Pudi


For heat Dry red chilli -50(Indian chilli or Thai)
 For salty taste: Salt 40 grams or more if needed
For sour taste: Tamarind-50-100 grams
For sweetness: Jaggery-100 grams

Body of the chutney pudi:
Peanut-four cups
 Urud dahl-one cup
 Split yellow chick peas-one cup
 Roasted split chick peas-one cup

White sesame seeds- one cup
For flavour:
 Dry coconut-half or one
Curry leaves-about 50-100 grams
Garlic-one large whole

Process: Dry roast on low heat, until done the following i.e. chilli, peanuts, urd dhal, split channa dhal, seseme seeds, tamarind, garlic, curry leaves ( you will know it is done by change of color and odor)
the dry red chilli (this gets done fast; it makes the house smell, so do it with the kitchen door closed and windows open)
peanuts (do it one cup at a time if you are using a smaller vessal). No need to throw the skin …nutritionists claim there is some good stuff in the skin too
the split chick peas
the urud dahl
the roasted split chick peas
the dry coconut: either grate the coconut and then roast it for a brief time only or cut the dry coconut into pieces, roast it and then put in the mixer
garlic- remove skin, roast the pieces until soft (roasting till the moisture disappears takes too long and may not be necessary)
Tamarind-cut it into small squares after removing the fibre and seeds and then dry roast it till some moisture evaporates. This tends to stick to the pan and so do it at the end.
Curry leaves: roast them till completely dry. I do little at a time, so that the leaves are not sitting on top of each other while roasting and get done faster; if each leaf is on the surface of the pan, it dries quickly.

For garlic, tamarind and curry leaves, instead of roasting on stove in vessel, one can put them in the oven on low heat for a few minutes, until they are dehydrated but not burnt

Crush the jaggery into small bits before putting in mixer with other ingredients. if the jiggery pieces are too large, it will make a lot of noise when in mixer.

Now grind all the ingredients ( until you get a coarse consistency) in a mixer and pour into a large wok; add the powdered ingredients (salt and jaggery) and mix all the eleven ingredients in the wok. Fill it in bottles after mixing.

The ingredients can be ground in the mixer in two ways:
(1) Grind the ingredients one at a time in the mixer/grinder  ;  then mix all of the twelve crushed ingredients in a large wok.
(2) Put a little of each of the 12 ingredient in the mixer and run it; then empty the mixer jar and again, put a little of the 12 ingredients and run the mixer. continue this until all is done.  Stir the chutney powder in the wok until all the chutney powder is thoroughly mixed.

I find the second method better as the ingredients are mixed well with little effort;
Also grinding certain ingredients, one at a time is a problem as you can see below.
When the chilli alone is ground, it hurts to breathe;
the tamarind sticks to the mixer blades and it sounds like you are grinding stones ! Same problem with jiggery.
the dry coconut leaves oil sticking to the mixer;
the garlic is not fully ground but sticks below the blades of the mixer.

When you check for recipes you will see several varieties of chutney pudi. I love the dry coconut chutney pudi and the ginger –garlic-coconut pudi too.
This chutney pudi can be eaten with rice (hot rice and ghee with this chutney pudi is heavenly !) or with curds and rice. You can also eat this with roti or chappati or similar stuff. Sprinkling this pudi on any of savoury dishes too is fine. I have friends who sprinkled it on pasta, lasagne and bread .

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Value Systems in India

I have always wondered about the values system in India and praying for it to change.

There are so many unnatural values we adhere to, I am surprised that the people have not been more active in revolting against it.

There are many values in India I am against and I am sure a lot of people feel like me. You may ask, why I am doing nothing about it. I am doing nothing about it apart from talking and arguing with people. I find it simply too overwhelming to do anything more. I feel like a tiny ant trying to fight with the ocean……It seems impossible.

But I am at least going to write a little about it.

Once again, what I have written here is in no particular order but I am writing as things flash to me.

Suicide: Suicide is an act attempted by people who feel depressed, feel that there is no way out, feel hopeless and helpless. I believe like others, that one should not attempt suicide but instead seek help to resolve problems or seek help for depression. But instead, several movies glorify suicide and it is a resort chosen by several movie heroines ! I have also heard of a father telling his daughter, why she did not kill herself and that any self-respecting person who had failed in exams would have done it ! I have heard of people who scream at the family member who angers them to kill themselves as if suicide is a worthy option ! Suicide is valued as a respectable option to be adopted by a person in shameful circumstances….. a female who has been raped is supposed to opt for suicide. An abused wife who is thrown out of her husband’s house is supposed to die rather than seeking shelter at her father’s or getting a divorce or moving out.

Fortunately the situation is changing at least in the urban and educated classes. I have stopped seeing Indian movies but I hope it has changed there too.

Dowry: That giving and taking dowry is an offence and recognized as such by the government of India is well known. However like many many rules in India, it is only on paper. People who are unable to give dowry experience a sense of shame and the people who did not get dowry or ‘enough’ are affronted ! The value system is so perversely opposite of what it should be ! Once again, this perversity is glorified in Indian films…at least the movies I had seen about 6-8 years ago. You see the hero (Kannada movie) sweating his guts out to collect enough dowry demanded for his sister’s wedding and feeling bad if he fails to get the money ! What kind of a value system is the movie trying to propagate ?!?

I also hear people boasting that they were not offered any dowry but they still got married anyway…They are so proud of it……it is as if they have done a big favour to the girl by marrying her without dowry ! The wife of course is expected to feel grateful for his kind benevolence !

Obedience to parents: Indian parents with kids who toe the line are so smug and complancent about this unnatural level of obedience, I want to slap them hard! The parents proudly state that their son/daughter will not cross a line if they ask…and they are not talking of kids below ten years but of adults. A child, even if an adult is not allowed to have a mind of his own or her own but seek parents guidance, permission and approval for all decisions. An independent child is a disobedient child and therefore not a loving or good child ! Parents seeking to control their adult children quote ‘model’ children from Indian mythology and try to guilt their kids into complying.

the parents who fail in their attempts to interfere in their adult children’s decisions, change their tune and boast about how they are so ‘broad-minded’ and ‘modern’ that they let their children make decisions themselves ! The decisions can be major decisions like what course to do in college, person to marry, employment or even minor decisions such as hairstyles or clothes !

Unless the value system with regard to autonomy and independence for children comes about, we are going to have a nation full of spineless kids, forever dependent on their parents.

There is a lot more I wish to write. I will write again when the mood strikes me again. Ta Ta.

Walk in Sunnybrook park by the west Don river. June 2018

Above and below...roses from my backyard!(June 2018) Below is a photo taken two days earlier...lesser blooms. At the back is ...