Saturday, March 28, 2020

do not overstock - leave food items for everyone ! - life is all about sharing

When there is National crisis, the first victim is truth – never hear rumours, never spread them – in fact never post anything without checking its veracity and usefulness.  I have become a great fan of Dr C Vijayabaskar, Health Minister of Tamilnadu.  Just follow him on twitter – such factual updates – he is visiting Hospitals, is found with health-workers and is virtually everywhere – very positive man, energetic and extremely effective.  Appreciate your efforts Sir !

For those at home and those who are unable to move – first concern other than the spread of virus is food.  For us, the staple food is rice.  It is imperative that people do not hoard or stockpile food material thereby making lives of others miserable.  See it as a short-term crisis, this shall pass over in a few days is the hope.  Here is some news on rice.

Vietnam’s rice traders have halted overseas shipments after the customs department ordered a temporary suspension of exports on Tuesday to ensure food security during the coronavirus pandemic. The country is the world’s third-largest exporter, behind India and Thailand.

Back in Tamilnadu the Govt headed by Chief Minister Edapaddi K Palaniswami is taking lot of measures.  The Govt is providing financial assistance of Rs.1,000 to all ration card holders.  The Govt is also providing free rice, cooking oil, sugar and other essential commodities.  The communique said that these essential items will be issued on a token basis to avoid the long queue.  Those who could not get the ration items in March can get them in April, the CM added. Severe restrictive measures are in place across the State - all the district borders have been sealed. Only vehicles carrying essential commodities are being allowed.

In Hongkong, two people were  arrested for allegedly stealing rice from a supermarket amid fears of a food shortage in Hong Kong due to the coronavirus pandemic  and the government’s social-distancing measures for restaurants. The men, from Nepal and Bangladesh, were stopped by officers outside Aeon supermarket on Tak Hong Street, Hung Hom.  Six packs of rice, weighing 12kg in total, were found on them. Officers believed they had been stolen from the supermarket. The cases came to light as many Hongkongers thronged supermarkets to stock up on rice, amid worries that Vietnamese authorities might ban rice exports to ensure domestic food security.

In Vietnam,  Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc  ordered the suspension of new rice export contracts through at least March 28. The country is the world’s third-largest exporter, behind India and Thailand. The department of state reserves will also stockpile 80,000 tons of paddy rice this year. In 2019, the department put in storage 200,000 tons of rice and 80,000 tons of paddy rice for the entire year, he added.  Vietnam said on Friday it planned to stockpile rice and suspend new rice export contracts by the end of the month to ensure it could feed its own population through the public health crisis. Thailand’s declaration of a nationwide state of emergency on Tuesday to fight the pandemic also added to fears over rice supply.

The move comes amid worldwide food security concerns as the virus threat spreads, with some governments contemplating restricting the flow of staple food out of their countries. In Russia, the vegetable oils union has called for a restriction on sunflower seed exports, and Kazakhstan has suspended exports of goods such as buckwheat, sugar, and sunflower oil until the middle of next month. Reuters reported that Vietnam’s export ban would have a significant short-term effect on global rice supply. “If Vietnam maintains the export ban, we will suddenly have about 10-15 per cent less available supply in the world market in the near term,” one European rice trader was quoted as saying. “Africa especially could face disruption from this.”

Concerns have been compounded by India, the top global rice exporter, entering a three-week lockdown  that brought several logistics channels to a halt, disrupting food supply chains. Some critics stated that export ban  would damage Vietnam’s credibility as a reliable supplier of rice in International market, an effect that could outlast the outbreak, undermining Vietnam’s ability to secure international sales well into the year, if not longer.

In all these, what is required is not to resort to panic buying and having stockpile of more than what is necessary.  Data from the US Department of Agriculture shows that combined global production of rice and wheat is expected be 1.26 billion tonnes this year, which would surpass the total combined consumption of those crops. But these projections assume normal crop flows, and prices for rice are already rising due to expectations of a further squeeze on exports.

Let it be a simple logistics issue and nothing farther as we sit at home and fight the dreaded virus.  Here is a citizen Garima Gupta sharing food items to the needy – appreciate noble souls like her.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

Friday, March 27, 2020

what connects famous Cognac to home grown Veldt grapes ?

Cognac is a variety of brandy named after the commune of Cognac, France. It is produced in the surrounding wine-growing regions.  Over the centuries,  Cognac has been almost universally recognised as the finest of all the spirits that are distilled from grapes. It has many incomparable qualities: fruitiness, subtlety of bouquet, intensity, warmth and, above all, the complexity of the many thousands of styles and flavours.  At least 90% of the brandy must be comprised of those grapes, while an additional 10% can be made of other kinds, such as Semillon, Folignan, & more..  Grapes ! ~ do you like them most?

A grape is a fruit, botanically a berry, of the deciduous woody vines of the flowering plant genus Vitis. Grapes can be eaten fresh as table grapes or they can be used for making wine, jam, grape juice, jelly, grape seed extract, raisins, vinegar, and grape seed oil.  Ever heard of ‘veldt-grapes’ ?

An old book on recipe for making appalams read : mix the cumin seeds with the flour, pour in the asafoetida water and the salted pirandai water ! ~ if you are wondering curious what ?  for – veldt-grape – it is pirandai !!

நமது இல்லங்களில் பத்திய சாப்பாட்டிலும், இதர சில சமயங்களிலும் 'பிரண்டை' துவையலை பயன்படுத்துவது உண்டு.   பிரண்டைத் தண்டுகளின் மேல் தோலை அகற்ற்றி, அதில் உள்ள நாரையும் அகற்றிவிட்டு சிறு துண்டுகளாக நறுக்கி நல்லெண்ணெய் அல்லது நெய்யில் வதக்க வேண்டும். அதனுடன் காய்ந்த மிளகாய், புளி, உப்பு சேர்த்து அரைக்க வேண்டும். சுவைக்காக தேங்காய், உளுந்து சேர்த்துக்கொள்ளலாம். பிறகு, கடுகு, உளுந்தம்பருப்பு தாளித்த துவையலை சாதத்துடன் பிசைந்து சாப்பிடலாம்.

பிரண்டை கொடி வகை தாவரம்.  இதற்கு பல மருத்துவ குணங்கள் உண்டு.  பிரண்டை - உடல் சுறுசுறுப்பை அதிகரிக்கச் செய்யும்; ஞாபகசக்தியை பெருக்கும்; மூளை நரம்புகளை பலப்படுத்தும்; எலும்புகளுக்கு சக்தி தரும். ஈறுகளில் ஏற்படும் ரத்தக்கசிவை நிறுத்துவதுடன் வாய்வுப் பிடிப்பைப் போக்கும்.   இதற்கு, `வஜ்ஜிரவல்லி’ என்ற பெயரும் உண்டு. `Cissus quadrangularis’ என்ற தாவரவியல் பெயர்கொண்ட இது, கொடி வகையைச் சேர்ந்தது.

Maharashtra’s grape growers are in a tight spot with the export of about 35,000 tons stuck due to the coronavirus spread.   The maximum number of grape consignments are exported to  Netherlands,  followed by the UK  and Germany.  Due to Covid related issues, it is reported that almost  30 per cent of the grapes are still in the fields. Lockdowns and depleting demand for grapes abroad is  a cause for concern for farmers. The demand in supermarkets in the UK and Germany has gone down drastically, according to exporters.

In France, Cognac makers are considering overturning longstanding tradition and turning to new grape varieties, as the main cultivar required to make the spirit struggles with the effects of global warming. Cognac’s star grape, Ugni blanc, which accounts for 98% of the vines in the Cognac region, is ripening quicker and losing acidity as summers become hotter and drier. The rules that govern the French brandy are among the strictest in the drinks world, and are subject to controlled appellation of origin (AOC) specifications. Each stage of the spirit’s production, including the types of grapes that can be used, is outlined in its AOC.

This is no post on    Brandy, Spirit, distillation, Cognac  or even grapes – it is on veldt-grape !

The Vitaceae are a family of dicotyledonous flowering plants including the grapevine and Virginia creeper. The family name is derived from the genus Vitis.  Though by looks it is totally unrelated cousin, ‘Cissus quadrangularis’ (பிரண்டை)  is a perennial plant of the grape family. It is commonly known as veldt grape, devil's backbone, adamant creeper, asthisamharaka, hadjod and pirandai.  The species is native to tropical Asia, Arabia and much of Africa.

Cissus quadrangularis has been used as a medicinal plant since antiquity.  Cissus has been used in various Ayurvedic classical medicines to heal broken bones and injured ligaments and tendons. In siddha medicine it is considered a tonic and analgesic. The Assamese people and the Garo tribe of Meghalaya and Bangladesh use them for bone fracture.

I never knew that Pirandai too blooms ~ and here are some photos of the pirandai plant in our terrace.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
Pictures of pirandai plant – wife’s terrace garden !!

Thursday, March 26, 2020

man who fashioned famous Indian win ~ now fights Covid on the streets of Haryana

India at home – our Prime Minister has requested us to remain at home for 21 days in our fight against the dreaded Corona.  We are expected to simply follow and be at home ~ yet, some fools go around, forget the need for ‘social distancing’ – they are exposing themselves as also other citizens to Covid-19 threat.  A video showing a Police Office pleading to fall at the feet of people requesting them not to venture out went viral – there are some where police punishes those straying – punishments perhaps work better.

The job of law enforcing agencies and that of Medical fraternity is the toughest now – as they brave the virus and fight to save the Nation.  A top  Haryanvi Police Officer   has posted some photos on Twitter, in which he is seen doing service on roads.  He  has also advised everyone by posting a photo and has written in the caption that ' defending oneself can save us from coronavirus, fight together and help us by staying at home' – can you identify this famous personality ? – here is another photo of the same person with folded hands standing in front of holy Kedarnath.

That picture froze in the minds of Indian cricket lovers ~ an Indian win in the World Cup –  that too the inaugural one ~ and the man in the frame, little known ……….  .. ..  For some life is always difficult ~ one falls quite often but still contrive to stand up tall !  Quite often, we think that some achieve greatness easily and for some greatness is thrust upon.  Tinseldom is one place, where we assume that people rise to the top so easily and sports, especially Cricket is another.  India cricketers go through a grind ~ they play at University level, play league cricket; rise to play for the top teams in 1st Div league; represent their State and Zone and eventually would get to play for the Nation.

Certainly not easy ~ though we hear some rise meteorically – beating their components and getting Indian jersey.  May be a good opener, middle order, good fielder, good wicket keeper, spinner, pacer, swing bowler, all-rounder – you are spotted by a IPL franchisee, play a couple of matches, swing around swivel to the top, earn a lot of money in the process ~ luckier enough if you get an opportunity of an Indian cap ~ perform well in a match, rise to starhood, become a permanent fixture in the squad !! – Sounds so sweet and so easy.

Not many of us would have followed that match at Chinnaswamy stadium on 29th Sept 2004 between India A and Indian Seniors – the Cricinfo caption read “India A take charge despite Ganguly's efforts”.  The score card read : India A 302 and 47 for 1 (Jadhav 27*) lead India Seniors 213 (Ganguly 65, Joginder 3-42, Bhandari 3-56) by 136 runs.  If you read it even now, you may not observe that  unheralded Joginder Sharma, playing as a substitute for Ashish Nehra, who went over on his left ankle again, embarrassed the cream of India's batting talent as India A took charge of the warm-up game against India Seniors. With Amit Bhandari, who removed both the openers, and Murali Kartik providing sterling support, the Seniors were bowled out for just 213 in reply to India A's 302.

At New Wanderers way back on 24th  Sept 2007, that one delivery remains frozen in the memories of all cricket lovers – Misbah bends to play that fatal scoop; ball going high on the air, landing in the hands of Sreesanth ~ the bowler was Joginder Sharma……………. later played for Chennai Super Kings too…….  Surprised to see that the bowler who bowled that last over in the nail-baiting traumatic finals did not play a single T20 after that !!!! ~ that is not all – you have more surprises when you read to follow the Haryanvi all-rounder’s career.  He has played 4 One dayers and 4 T20s for the Nation.  His last match was epochal – the finals of inaugural T20 World Cup; India won by 5 runs.  India scored 157 ; there was Rudra Pratap Singh, S Sreesanth, Yusuf Pathan, Irfan Pathan and Harbhajan. 

That scoop of Misbah-ul-Haq is history now. Pakistan started the final over needing a manageable 13, though with their last pair at the crease. Dhoni surprised everybody by asking Joginder to bowl that last over.   That became 12 from six after Joginder Sharma bowled the widest of wides, then 12 from five after Misbah played and missed. He played and hit next time, launching Sharma's nervy full toss down the ground. Six from four; one stroke would do it.  Joginder was only of modest pace but  Misbah's shot proved too ambitious ; the Wanderers erupted in deafening ecstasy.

Back home, he was rewarded with a IPL cap, that too for Chennai Super Kings ~ but could not get enough opportunities in the starpacked side.  Eventually, he found himself alongside, George Bailey; Doug Bollinger; Suraj Randiv; Scott Styris; Yo Mahesh; Abhinav Mukund; Sudeep Tyagi; K. Vasudevadas and Ganapathi Vignesh ~ the unfortunate ones to be released by the Franchisee, left out of the squad.

Life was tough for this mentally tough Haryanvi.  In Nov 2011, Joginder was seriously injured when his car rammed into a BPO vehicle in Dwarka in south-west Delhi.  Joginder was reportedly driving, suffered head injuries and was taken to a private hospital in the area. He was later shifted to another hospital in Pashim Vihar where he underwent a surgery. "I had a major head injury, fracture and clotting, was in the ICU, needed head surgery and about 40-45 stitches," recounts the Haryana allrounder Joginder Sharma, talking about his car accident last November which nearly ended his cricketing career.

A year on, he  returned to the Ranji circuit, signing autographs as a knot of kids surround him before the day's play in the cricketing outback of Hubli. It was a difficult journey back to the field for the man who has been the cornerstone of Haryana's Ranji side for several seasons.  Doctors had remarked at that time ‘Kuch bhi ho sakta hain (anything can happen).’ But Joginder was man possessed, determined to play again.  He attributes a lot to  physio Amit Tyagi who has helped him recuperate.  Perhaps more than the stress of the final over, the mental trauma of getting back was a bigger challenge ~  breaking down the psychological barrier was the most important thing. Joginder has had plenty of injury problems in the past couple of years, even before the accident: an ankle problem that needed surgery and a neck injury as well, and there was more trouble on the comeback trail.

The man in uniform at the start is, none other than ‘Joginder Sharma’. a Deputy Commissioner with Haryana Police.  The man who bowled India to victory is now fighting fit in khaki uniform, fighting the Corona virus on the streets. 

Salute the indomitable spirit of Joginder ji.  Hats Off to you Sir

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

#Socialdistancing - Lockdown - Vijayawada shows the way !!

One picture seen on twitter made me post this ~ and am really moved by this thoughtful act by the people and Govt.   River Krishna,  is the fourth longest river which flows entirely in India, after the Ganges, Godavari and Narmada. One for sure would not miss the long bridge on this river nearer Bejawada [Vijayawada station]. 

Covid-19 – imperative that you stay at home ! ~ no reasons are good enough. Just be at home.   BCCI president Sourav Ganguly has come forward in support of those affected by the 21-day lockdown due to COVID-19 pandemic, pledging to donate rice worth Rs 50 lakh for the underprivileged.  Ganguly along with Lal Baba Rice will provide for the needy people who have been put in government schools for safety and security, the Cricket Association of Bengal announced in a statement.

"Inspiring to see people across India coming together despite being physically apart to applaud workers on the frontlines combatting COVID-19," Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Alice G Wells said in a tweet on Monday.  The UN has expressed solidarity with India in its fight against coronavirus, with a top official at the world body's health agency praising Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 21-day nationwide lockdown as a "comprehensive and robust" response to the raging COVID-19 pandemic.

In one country after the other, lockdowns have emerged as the key response against the coronavirus pandemic. There are, however, significant differences between lockdowns across the countries, and these variations have an impact on a nation’s ability to contain the spread of Covid-19 and reduce fatalities.  China, the epicenter of the coronavirus, implemented the harshest form of lockdown in Wuhan after nearly 30 deaths had occurred. In about two months, China  managed to bring down the number of daily new cases to single digits.  In contrast, Italy — the new epicenter — implemented a gradual and less stringent nationwide lockdown that began only after 800 deaths. As a consequence, Italy is nowhere close to China when it comes to bringing the outbreak under control.

At least 3,700 persons were arrested on charges of violating the island-wide police curfew currently in effect in Sri Lanka as a preventive measure against the coronavirus pandemic, according to the senior officer on Thursday. A total of 702 vehicles, including motorcycles and three-wheelers were also seized by the police, he further added. On Friday, the Sri Lankan government had announced a nationwide curfew until March 23 as a preventive measure against the coronavirus pandemic.

We the citizens of India must abide by all the instructions and ensure that our Nation emerges unscathed – winning the dreaded Corona Virus and here is how one city shows us the way .. if our city is not so, we should feel ashamed !

Bezawada (as Vijayawada was known then) was founded around 626 A.D. by Paricchedi Kings. Vijayawada was ruled by King Madhava Varma  of Vishnukundina dynasty).   Chinese  traveller Xuanzang stayed a few years in Bezawada in around 640 A.D.

Earlier known as Bezawada, Vijayawada is a Commercial city with a hot climate – you can feel the heat as the train enters this region ~ Indian Railways has assigned the station code - "BZA".  This politically active city is well connected by road, air and more specifically by rail.  It is a major Railway junction located in South Central Railway.  Trains from Tamilnadu towards Hyderabad pass through ~ trains to Howrah & beyond; the National Capital and beyond – all have to compulsorily pass through this Junction.  The station has 10 platforms and is one of the busiest with more than 250 express and 150 freight trains passing through it.  The station was constructed in 1888 when the Southern Maharatta Railway's main eastward route was connected with other lines going through Vijayawada. By some accounts, an average of 70,000 people board different trains each day and an equal number of commuters exit trains at the station.

This is not about the history or of the culture of the people but how the people of Vijayawada and the Govt has reacted positively to lockdown announced by the Govt.  The ever busy Railway station, the city streaming with visitors from neighbouring State and districts – all appeared a thing of the past – as lockdown was announced.

Andhra Pradesh Govt has swiftly shifted Rytu bazaars (Govt run vegetable markets) where farmers directly sell vegetables in Vijayawada to nearer open grounds to ensure Social distancing among people.  Photos on twitter show demarcations clearly made to keep distance between people while they stand and people faithfully following them.

Hail thy people; hail their discipline – Vijayawada is a shining example.  Let us follow them.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
PS  :  In 2011 a Telegu film based on vijaywada gang war - directed by Vivek Krishna and produced by Ram Gopal Varma, featuring  Naga Chaitanya and Amala Paul was released.  It reportedly was a disaster in box office.