A Sourdough Morning

One beautiful weekend, I happened to watch a Netflix Original series, Cooked featuring this amazing American author, journalist and activist who is also a professor of journalism at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, Michael Pollan. This show is about how we humans as species have regressed in terms of our food habits by letting a whole industry decide what we eat and not our palate. The show throws light on the four basic elements of nature which primarily constitute any food—Air, Water, Fire and Earth.

In one of the episodes i.e. Air, which is on the origins of bread-making, I was introduced to this special kind of bread- The Sourdough bread. Until this day, all that I knew was white bread and whole grain bread. The name, Sourdough, itself sounded very interesting. To explain more about The Sourdough Bread, Pollan interviewed one of the famous bakers of New England, Richard Bourdon at Berkshire Mountain Bakery, Housatonic, Massachusetts.

What is Sourdough bread?

Bread, traditionally used to be made with only 3 ingredients—flour, water and salt. By mixing the three in right proportions, the dough is well kneaded and made to rest for a couple of hours allowing it to breathe the naturally available yeast in the air. Once the dough has risen well, it is baked to obtain a nice and fluffy bread. But today, commercially available bread is not made using this technique but is made using commercially available yeast.

Bread vs. Sourdough bread

Regardless of whether bread is made using commercial yeast or natural yeast, the dough rises. In the former, there is no fermentation of the dough whereas in the latter, there is. The advantage of fermentation is that, wheat gluten which is otherwise very taxing on our digestive system is broken down to simpler molecules during fermentation thus making digestion and absorption easy.

Berkshire Mountain Bakery


Having watched this show, I was very curious to try it out myself and hence drove 105 miles to this place from my home. As I pushed the door in, the aroma of fresh bread flooded my nostrils keeping me arrested there for good 20 minutes. Selecting from the vast variety of breads was a tough decision but finally managed to buy the following—Medium vegan pizza, French peasant bread and Chocolate-Bread Ciabatta.



Back home, I baked the pizza in 450 degree Farenheit for 15-20 minutes. The very first bite was enough to give a fitting testimonial to the kind of products what BMB makes. Every bite was so fulfilling with saliva flooding from all sides of the mouth to transform the tiny piece of pizza/bread/ciabatta into a fluid of sugars. On the contrary, with the commercial bread, I would have had to gulp glasses of water to flush every piece down the throat.

From watching the show to tasting the Sourdough bread, every minute was worth spending. Thanks to Pollan and Bourdon for opening a whole new world before me.

P.S. In South India too, buns are made using somewhat same technique.


Lyrics: Amma Bhajan Narayana Hari

This is one of the earliest Amma’s bhajans which I first heard way back in 2006. I have tried to pen down the lyrics by listening to the recording. Below is the original bhajan. A link to the same bhajan in my voice can be found at the end of this post. Happy listening!

Narayana Hari Narayana Hari Narayana Hari Narayana
Sacchidananda ghana Narayana Achyutananda Govinda Narayana

Shrikrishna Krishna sakha Narayana kamalapatraksha Adhokshaja Narayana
Nandagopakumara Narayana Radhikaramana Govinda Narayana

Krishna Yajneshwara Narayana Satyabhamavinodaka Narayana
Keshika kamsaripu Narayana Radhikaramana Govinda Narayana

Krishnakarnunakara Narayana Krishna Damodara Achyuta Narayana
Krishnanarakantaka Narayana Radhikaramana Govinda Narayana

Shrikrishna Gopala Narayana Bala Subhadra Sahodara Narayana
Shyamamangalanga Narayana Radhikaramana Govinda Narayana

Shrikrishna Kalpataru Narayana Teerthapadakarunarnava Narayana
Rasotsavapriya Narayana Radhikaramana Govinda Narayana

Kamalalochana Krishna Narayana Lokaranjaka Rakshaka Narayana
Koumodashridhara Narayana Radhikaramana Govinda Narayana

Govardhanoddhara Narayana Narakanta Narottama Narayana
Muraharamukunda Hari Narayana Radhikaramana Govinda Narayana

Gopijanapriya Narayana gopagopijaneshwara Narayana
Govatsapalaka Narayana Radhikaramana Govinda Narayana

Devakinandana Naryana Krishnadeenajanavatsala Narayana
Apadirakshaka Narayana Radhikaramana Govinda Narayana

Dharanidharachyuta Narayana Krishna daityakulamardana Narayana
Gopalakulatilaka Narayana Radhikaramana Govinda Narayana

Bhaktipravardhaka Narayana Bhaktavakparipalaka Narayana
Bhaktipradayaka Narayana Radhikaramana Govinda Narayana

Gopikavallabha Narayana Chakrapani Paramananda Narayana
Kubjavinodaka Narayana Radhikaramana Govinda Narayana

Narayana Hari on SoundCloud by Shikha

Book Review: Hindu America

Title – Hindu America Revealing the story of the romance of the Surya Vanshi Hindus and depicting the imprints of Hindu culture on the two Americas
Author – Chaman Lal
Publisher – Unknown
Date of Publishing – Unknown
My Rating – 5/5
(My reading dates – 16/01/2018 to 26/01/2018)

It was almost a decade ago when I first heard about this book in one of Prof. K S Narayanacharyaji’s lectures. He had mentioned it as one of those very lucid researches on tracing the origins of the ancient civilizations. From then on, there is not a single place I did not look for it— book stalls, online book stores, pdfs, yearly book sales …you name it. Let alone the book, I couldn’t even get a proper account of the author.

A few weeks back, during one of my routine searches, I finally found a Central Archaeological Library copy here.

From what I understood, the author (whom I will refer as Lal from here onwards) travelled extensively through North, Central and South Americas interviewing locals and studying archaeological artifacts. The book is more of a thesis that has documented his findings along with numerous excerpts from eminent historians. It covers extensively the origin, life of Astecs, Incas and Mayans and their destruction.

Lal strongly contends that—

It was Hindus who first found America centuries before Columbus did. The vast continents of America bear the the imprints of Hindu culture. The glorious culture of these Hindus was destroyed by the ruthless invaders from Spain who came disguised as ambassadors. There are numerous illustrations in our epics referring to today’s America as Patala Loka which was reputed to be very rich in gold. This was the land of Danavas, Daityas, Yakshas and Nagas. Hindus are said to have culturally colonized this part of the world through sea routes. The striking resemblance in physical features, Gods, customs, lifestyle, laws, food habits of these tribes strongly connect their origin to India. Names of the places and rivers also find their roots in Samskritam. These civilizations find their downfall with the Spanish invasion.

Overall, it is a very illustrious account of the three ancient civilizations about which the New World is less aware of. It is an account of their lives through the eyes of a Hindu. I am certain that a Spaniard will have a completely different perspective. I am quite astonished as to why such an important book is out of print. Nevertheless, it is freely available on the internet. My only purpose to put up a blog post on this book is to make my readers aware of such a commendable work.

It definitely is a very interesting read.

A tale of a Wish

Less did I expect a wish, long forgotten, to come true in the most unexpected way. Today, I am glad to have in my hands, a vintage concert recording featuring T M Krishna, B Gayatri (of the Ranjani-Gayatri duo) and K Arun Prakash in vocal, violin and mridangam respectively. This concert is a very special one because seeing these three fine artists together on one stage once again is next to impossible simply for the reason that TMK is more of a writer and a speaker now than a musician and BG, more of a vocalist than a violinist/accompanist these days.

This concert was recorded at Mindess Middle School, Ashland, Massachusetts during the Spring of 1998. That was when Smt Ranjani and Smt Gayatri were at the pinnacle of their violin career. I first witnessed their vocal concert organized by Sri Rama Lalitha Kala Mandira at Bangalore Gayana Samaja in the early 2000s. Having listened to just K J Yesudas, Nithyashree Mahadevan, T N Sheshagopalan for all those years until then, the sisters’ music sounded different to my ears. I have, then on, become an ardent admirer of their style. Within a few days, I discovered many things about their musical career which included the fact that they were well established violinists.

It was around the same time when Sri T M Krishna’s name was was also making rounds in the music circles.

As any other fan would, I aspired to see two of my favourite artists come together in a concert and here I have, before me, a wish materialized after almost two decades! The magic of the cosmos to bring even a fleeting thought to reality has left me speechless.


Coming to the concert, it is a two-and-a-half hour full-fledged concert where the artists have challenged each other’s competencies to bring out rich music.

With a beautiful start to the concert with Viriboni varnam in Bhairavi, TMK presented a brisk alapane in Hamsadhwani to present Vatapi Ganapatim of Muttuswamy Dikshitar followed by a few interesting exchange of swaras between vocal and violin. Papanasam Sivan’s Sri Valli Devasenapate in Natabhairavi preceded the sub-main item, Jnanamosagarada by Sri Tyagaraja. Poorvikalyani was portrayed with all her beauty by the artists. Pattividuvaradu in Manjari, Vinaradhana in Devagandhari and Janani Ninnuvina in Devagandhari came as soothing fillers before the main item of the concert, a chowka kala pallavi in Todi and chaturashra jati triputa tala. Every aspect of the raga-tana-pallavi was presented with utmost beauty by the trio. The artists’ mutual appreciation with sabhash and bhale is just the little tempering that was needed for the delicious feast that they were preparing on stage. The detailed pallavi spanned for more than an hour. Gayatri’s violin was like an embankment on a mad flood called TMK. The concert was then concluded with a dasara pada, a Subrahmanya Bharathiyar composition and a tillana.

Although I felt content to some extent immersing myself in this concert experience, it has kindled much more desire in me to listen to more of violin from Gayatri. In many places, she has outdone the main artist but never does it seem to intrude or outsmart his manodharma.

As a concluding remark, if ever Ranjani and Gayatri decide to take up violin into mainstream along with vocal, it would be their violins that would rejoice first even before fans like me do. Note

Click here to enjoy a small snippet of this concert. Courtesy: MITHAS

Book Review: The Man who Knew Infinity

Title – The Man who Knew Infinity
Author – Robert Kanigel
Publisher – Washington Square Press
Date of Publishing – April 26, 2016
My Rating – 5/5
(My reading dates – 12/12/2017 to 15/12/2017)

I consider myself very lucky to have come across this detailed account of one of the greatest mathematicians of humanity, Sri S. Ramanujan which has be so beautifully put together by Robert Kanigel. Although at the time of borrowing, I did not know that a biopic had been made based on this book, I was entirely moved by watching a two minute trailer on YouTube. As I ran my fingers through the table of contents –Dakshina Gange, Sarangapani Sannidhi, A Brahmin Boyhood… an air of nostalgia hit me transporting me to those hallowed streets of South India. I couldn’t wait until the next day morning to start reading.

It did not take me more than a few pages to appreciate the author’s style of narration. First few chapters are entirely based on how Southern India (where Ramanujan was born) was – geographically and cultural and the author had dealt with even the smallest nuance of lifestyle of the people there with great beauty. Not once did it occur to me that it was written by and American. Having painted a clear picture of the social and economic conditions of India during those times, the author begins to give the entire life of the mathematician starting from his birth until his last breath. Apart from life history, the book also has a few of Ramanujan’s mathematical findings.

My thoughts on Ramanujan’s life – The very name, Ramanujan, seems like a paradox after having read this biography. The way he easily travelled between the physical and metaphysical realms of his personality to discover some of the astonishing theorems in Mathematics is simply unfathomable. I couldn’t help but appreciate such rarity in God’s creation which occasionally come to Earth like a spark and disappear. Long live Ramanujan in our hearts.

Book Review: Warrior Pose

Title – Warrior Pose: How Yoga (Literally) Saved My Life
Author – Brad Willis (Bhava Ram)
Date of Publishing – May 7, 2013
Publisher – BenBella books
My Rating – 5/5
(My reading dates – 5/12/2017 to 12/12/2017)

After my previous book which was by Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev (for which I will write a review after a second reading), I paused reading for a bit to solve a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle and watch a 60’s American drama series – Perry Mason. Back with my kindle reader in hand, as I scrolled down the suggestions from my town’s library, I came across this wonderful book. I checked it out and began reading. My God, what a book it was!

In short, it is a memoir by a former NBC war correspondent who got physically injured, inevitably got hooked on innumerable pain killers, succumbed to cancer and then got over everything to establish a higher state of well-being through the practice of yoga. The book is divided into 3 parts – his life as a news correspondent, his endless suffering in pain and cancer and his remarkable recovery through yoga. The entire book is so gripping not giving way to any boredom. As a reader, I got to live through every moment of his life and his experiences. Such is the power of his narration. It is one of the best inspirational memoirs that I have read. Recommend it!

Book Review: Family Life

Title – Family Life
Author –Akhil Sharma
Date of publishing – February 2, 2015
Publisher –W. W.  Norton & Company
My rating – 2/5
(My rating dates – 14/10/2017 to 15/10/2017)

Family Life which is supposedly a work of fiction as claimed by the author seems more like his own autobiography as an immigrant to America. The opening of the book seemed too nice for a perfect afternoon’s reading. As I read, I began turning pages only to finish the book.

The book lacked what can be called as vigour. As the story progressed it became more and more depressing. The portrayal of characters was too superficial. The very word Family didn’t fit into the novel. Overall, if you are looking for an inspirational read, this is not for you. I don’t recommend it.