Fog that kills…

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The national capital and its adjoining areas of Gurugram, Noida, Ghaziabad and Faridabad woke up early November morning to a layer of Black Fog, commonly known as ‘Smog’. The environment was so full of black carbon that it’s residents could hardly breathe.

As a regular prevention, many decided not to step out of their homes, however, the extent of smog reached a level that it could be felt coming inside the houses of some of the residents too.

For the past few days, light northwesterly winds from Punjab and Haryana have been blowing during the afternoon hours. This has been one of the main reasons for bringing in the pollutants caused by stubble that are burnt in the states of Punjab and Haryana. As the speeds of winds were reportedly less, these pollutants have settled in the lower levels of the atmosphere.

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A high level of moisture in the air has trapped dust particles resulting in an atmosphere clouded with a thick layer of smog. Such a prolonged exposure to pollution causing particles can lead to various respiratory and heart diseases. Children and elders are the worst affected. Some schools are also on the verge of declaring holiday for some days until the hazard settles below certain level.

While the Supreme Court ban on crackers only managed to contain the spread of pollutants, available data shows that the peak levels of pollutants in Delhi on Diwali night were lower than the previous year, nonetheless, still breached the emergency point.

The Supreme Court ban on sale of firecrackers had turned controversial with a communal colour, some with a purpose defied the same. While officially crackers were not sold in Delhi following the ban imposed by the apex court on October 9, a flourishing black market ensured the steady supply of combustible products. The same was justified that the court order was not against bursting of crackers.

Spike in pollution

Analyses by several organisations such as The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and the Centre of Science and Environment (CSE) show that the pollution in the city, which was already at unhealthy levels before Diwali, had escalated to hazardous levels in certain pockets of the city and neighbouring areas.

However, the peak levels were lower than last year. According to air quality data collated by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), the PM 2.5 level hit a maximum of 422 µg/m3. Last year it had soared to 883 µg/m3.

The maximum average figures, however, remained the same at 440 µg/m3, according to data provided by the Delhi government, even as the minimum pollution levels were slightly low at 154 µg/m3, down from 180 µg/m3 last year Diwali.

The levels of most pollutants — carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen, PM10, and PM2.5 — were, however, lower than those recorded last year, despite being at the ‘hazardous’ point.

A shopkeeper and resident of Delhi was reportedly heard saying, that he had a small stock of crackers from the previous year but if people knew the shopkeepers they could get access in this season too. He further mentioned that he had procured some for his children a few days before Diwali. One of his neighbours, however said, that he had bought some from Muradabad, where his family stays.

A wholesale shop owner in Chandni Chowk stated that he hadn’t been able to sell even a single cracker in the past 12 days then. He had criticised the SC ban and said that most of our sales in the season happen around this period.

Whether the pollution curb can be emphasized by law or with stringent actions by government or by reforming certain decisions is only a matter of time. However, it is certain that the same cannot be achieved unless there is full co-operation by the residents, without flouting norms.

The only beneficiaries of this hazardous and alarming situation are the air purifying companies which are making the most of it.

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Yoga is determined by life’s situations.

Everyone I know who is managing to make their way in the yoga profession is doing so not because they have mastered an abundance mentality that is allowing them to manifest their dreams. Almost always, being a yoga professional was not the original intent. They started out just wanting to practice and find themselves. Often, that process created changes in both behaviour and life situation. Sometimes those changes led to relationships that, in turn, meant taking on the role of being a yoga teacher. Being effective in business does require smart strategy, and teachers are wise to seek the counsel of others. But successful careers in yoga are a byproduct of practice more than an attainable goal.

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As we continue to navigate through uncharted territories, likely facing a continuation of pressures and ongoing struggle, let us not kid ourselves that anyone has answers for anyone outside of themselves. And may each us of find a source of strength and fortitude from within, such that we might become less susceptible to manipulations and the tyranny by others of less than admirable persuasion. Our power lies most in our humanness. For if, or when, the systems fail and tragedy befalls, treating each other with honesty and transparency, in our hearts and minds and bodies, will surely be our only saving grace.

Justice Delayed, But Not Denied…

Have been in two minds whether to broach upon this sensitive issue, an issue which had kind of split my fellow Indians having difference of opinions, which is absolutely normal.

I was barely stepping into a double digit age in the year 1993 & yet have faint, but some horrific memories. I remember my mum working across a building, near Bombay Stock Exchange who had been sheer lucky to escape death which came and went in some fraction of moments. Some hawkers, security guards, restaurant owners & acquaintances whom she and her colleagues saw almost daily, were suddenly turned into ashes. At that age, when she narrated the events back home, I couldn’t understand the gravity of damage that had been caused to our city, specially when it was already struggling to get back to normal after the gruesome riots just 2-3 months before.

Did I lose any near or dear one? NO… Did I know anyone personally who lost their near or dear ones…. NO again…. Then why did I feel the pain for others? Why am I having some sense of closure post 06:30am IST today? And why am I penning down these issues at all when I can be busy with work, kids, trading money or just sitting with a cup of coffee on my balcony…

I felt aghast at a section of our society, namely, some Claim to Fame Human Rights Activists, Politicians (whose job is to oppose the government mechanically for everything), Actors turned politicians (trying to eye some votes in the upcoming elections), Lawyers (trying to get references by the word of “their own” mouth), etc. who have been on the news channels, twitter platform & other social media trying to justify their views on why the Mercy petition should have been considered. Mercy! Yes, Mercy, if that was the word used for a mastermind killing just a few hundreds. Surprisingly, none of the activists have denied the heinous crime committed & accepted, but I am still trying to figure out the meaning of “Mercy”…

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Some strong arguments made by this hearty section were :

(1) Other countries have abolished death penalties, then why not India
My Counter : Other countries have accepted Gay/Lesbian Unions, has India? Unlike other countries, India is facing terror threat day in and day out, what is the message we want to give to the Terrorists? Come Kill us, yet Get Justice

(2) Every Human has a Right to Live & Die with Dignity
My Counter : Yes “Every Human”! So please stand up & fight for the Humans who turned to ashes in a fraction of a second and died without dignity – They were not only Saffron, but Green, Blue, Black, White, et al…. Basically they were Humans

(3) The Mercy petition was rejected because the accused was from a minority community
My Counter : I would request these people to read names of all other 10 convicts whose death sentence was converted to life. It is high time that we educated Indians stop giving colour to everything for our convenience

(4) The present government only believes in executing accused of Minorities
My Counter : Yes, some others accused in various cases are still on trial or yet to meet their fate of justice, but does this allow the accused to use this pretext to escape justice? Then why do we have any parameters laid down by law, all should have one common punishment

(5) Another strong argument laid down is the accused never got a fair trial & subsequently justice was not served to him
My Counter : 22 Long years — Which country allows any criminal such a fair trial with repeatedly challenging higher courts against death penalty. Ironically, in this country, whenever someone files a Petition, his agony is forgotten & it is all about the Rights of the Accused/Claimant

God forbid if we have another terror attack tomorrow, sadly, you will see the same section jumping on TV sets, pressuring the Government to bring the “Perpetrators to Justice”…

I may face some strong lash back from people who may differ from my points above, but I request them to allow me to use my Right to Expression with Dignity!

[This has reference to the capital punishment given to Yakub Memom for his conspiracy in Mumbai 1993 Bomb Blasts]

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Should #PakistaniActors Work in #Bollywood Industry?

Quite a Mushkil Question this would be! And this question is not new for sure. For years the Pakistani artists have been performing not just in #Bollywood, but also been active in different Art Industries such as, Ghazals, Poetry, Book Writing and so on.

Over the past 21st century starting 2000s, we have had multiple artists from Pakistan who have forayed into the glam industry in India. Some of them who have achieved huge stardom are Adnan Sami, Ali Zafar, Fawad Khan, Atif Aslam, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, and many more. Of course, stalwarts like the Ghazal Singer, Ghulam Ali have existed since much before.

India & Pak Relations at Border – Relations between a Country emerging from a parent Country could never be great and there have been blow hot blow cold kind of relationship between both the countries since 1947. While the borders are peaceful, the sentiments onn both sides of the border are affectionate and warm towards the other. But naturally, if there have been infiltrations or border invasions or violation of seize firing, then the entire dynamics change on both sides, be it trade, artists, tourists and so on…

Latest Controversy of #PakArtists

a) People of India : While many producers have taken flak for encouraging #PakArtists over the talent of #IndianArtists, the latest in the line of fire was #KaranJohar, for casting the #PakArtist #FawadKhan in his recent released movie #ADHM. The huge lash back came with the backdrop of 17 Soldiers being killed in #URIATTACKS, where the people of India became extremely emotional and sentimental  with anguish towards their approach for #PakArtists. Rightly so, as our #IndianArmy soldiers who serve us with safety at the border had to lose their life, mainly in being caught unaware by the #PakTerrorists

b) #Bollywood : A strong support came from the corners of #Bollywood supporting #KaranJohar and raising their voice against the ban of his movie which starred a #PakArtist. In their opinion, an official Visa is issued by the #GOI on which any artist works in the country. Basis this visa, their contention has been, that they were in their full legal right to cast someone with a valid visa.

c) The 3rd Angle : Between the 2 sides, there emerged a cat named #MNS in Mumbai, which went on a different tangent altogether. They not only protested against the release but also threatened to burn any theatre which promoted the release.

Present Scenario : The Movie released [after #KaranJohar promising not to cast any #PakArtist again] and also entered the #100crore club successfully. Too much back and forth happened between #MNS chief Raj Thackeray and #KaranJohar, the media houses, radio channels all made moolah of the controversy and ultimately, many of the Indians who protested with heavy sentiments also enjoyed the movie with popcorn and salsa.

Should We Allow #PakArtists to Perform again : The Policy of the Government has to be clear with everything related to the people and trade across the border. With the love-hate relationship we share with each other, there could be several scenarios wherein the #GOI has approved visa or permissions for entry into the country, but with sudden border problem, everything gets stalled. A peculiar pattern to be noted with both UPA and the NDA governments is, that they themselves have never issued any restriction or ban but the producers have been threatened with Non-State Menaces. The stand of #GOI should be clear so as to avoid such sudden change in scenarios which can affect trade and commerce.

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#DelhiSmog

Delhi Celebrates Diwali like no one else, the #extravaganza, the #pomp the #style, the #noise, and so on. This year too it was so different.

With the 4 Day Diwali festival terminating on #1stNovember2016, people woke up next morning getting ready to hit the office after holidays. I opened my balcony and to my surprise, the sight beyond 10 meters had disappeared. Initially, I thought that it was fog and the winters had officially set in. But hold on, I was wrong. I couldn’t stand there for more than 5 minutes and suddenly started breathing a bit heavily and rubbing my eyes. I quickly ventured back into my home and started my normal work.

Pollution in Delhi, which spikes during winter, hit staggering new heights that week, with the city’s Air Quality Index (AQI) reaching 999. To provide a little context, the highest AQI in London is currently 66, in Beijing it is 288, and anything above 500 is considered “hazardous”.

While it has reached crisis point in recent weeks, bad air is nothing new in Delhi. According to the #WorldHealthOrganisation, it is the most polluted city in the world, with an average annual PM 2.5 concentration of 150. Three more Indian cities – Patna, Gwalior and Raipur – follow it in the rankings, while a further nine (Ahmedabad, Lucknow, Firozabad, Kanpur, Amritsar, Ludhiana, Allahabad, Agra and Khanna) are among the top 20.

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The world’s #20mostpollutedcities

  1. Delhi, India
  2. Patna, India
  3. Gwalior, India
  4. Raipur, India
  5. Karachi, Pakistan
  6. Peshawar, Pakistan
  7. Rawalpindi, Pakistan
  8. Khoramabad, Iran
  9. Ahmedabad, India
  10. Firozabad, India
  11. Doha, Qatar
  12. Kanpur, India
  13. Amritsar, India
  14. Ludhiana, India
  15. Igdir, Turkey
  16. Naravangani, Bangladesh
  17. Allahabad, India
  18. Agra, India
  19. Khanna, India

The world’s #10mostpollutedcountries

  1. Pakistan
  2. Qatar
  3. Afghanistan
  4. Bangladesh
  5. Iran
  6. Egypt
  7. Mongolia
  8. UAE
  9. India
  10. Bahrain

If we read the list of Polluted countries, though India ranks 9th in a list of 10, we are in a category of not so developed countries. If large production and manufacturing giants like US, UK, Europe can take measures to curb pollution, it’s high time that the #GOI takes stern initiatives to ensure getting the pollution levels at least till the permissible cut off.

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Are Social Media Surveys Relevant?

#Demonetisation Trending since 08th November!

Mindset Game : India is once again divided between an Acceptance V/s Opinion of Policy. Since the currencies of 500 & 1000 denominations have been discontinued, a number of economists have emerged on Social Media Platforms – mind you some are genuine, and some assuming they are economists, just like the author of this blog :).

Allegations : On a serious side, a number of deaths [as high as 70 until last evening] have been reported citing long queues as the main reason for the same. A number of counter attacks have come from the #Bhakt gang questioning why no one dies in a queue outside a liquor shop or long queue outside a Big Bazaar on National holidays and so on….

#CashCrunchMany people on ground are still complaining about the ATMs with permanent Out of Order boards, or Branch shutters being down post noon or the limitations of withdrawals which have hampered their daily lives…

#WinterSession2016 – The Opposition, yet to be defined as all are in fragmented small numbers is out with their weapons of protest against this move and about 200 MPs take the protest march at Jantar Mantar…….Wish we ever saw this kind of attendance in the Parliament! Nonetheless, we are a Democracy and each Indian has every #RIGHTTOEXPRESS

The Namo App – Yes, this is the 1st of its kind, but not the 1st claim of the Government of claiming anything 1st during their tenure 🙂 The App was launched by the PrimeMinister on 22nd November, 2016, asking every citizen of the Nation to vote either in Favour or Against #Demonetisation.

Poll Results – From a sample size of 5 lakh voters who took part in the poll, The #GOI has declared more than 90% approx in FAVOUR of the #Demonetisation policy. The PM congratulated all who voted and gave a thumbs up to the results which showed only 10% voting against or not in favour of the policy

The BIG Qs [no pun intended]

  1. Whether the result on a Social Media App, could be justified as Real?
  2. Is the sample size of 5 lakhs in a country of 125 cr reasonable?
  3. Who are the citizens who participated in the poll?
  4. Did they belong to the #Bhakt gang, or did the 10% belong to the opposition of #Congis or #AAPtards?
  5. Can this poll be rigged?
  6. Did the voters who favoured stand in Qs or did the Voters who voted against lose the colour #black?
  7. Are the #IndianPoliticians opposing really for the harassed?
  8. Is the #IndianPrimeMinister working for the betterment of the country or to strike another point?
  9. Have we as citizens become used to a thundering moment each week, else we start criticising the #GOI?
  10. The One’s who never had #BlackMoney are least bothered and only monitoring the stocks?

Social Media Relevance : Social Media is an extremely vital tool to #connect with the people. However, it has dual sides to it just like any other medium which is effective. While the popularity/negativity towards a brand/individual can be accessed through various forums, they may or may not be 100% accurate.

For eg. : a popular brand once did a survey through a digital marketing agency to access the acceptance of their product. They happened to get 10k #likes in a couple of hours, which made them believe that the product was well accepted and could do well in the long run. However, unfortunately the product sales were not picking up as expected and the survey or the #likes received on their Social Media page was contradicting. When they initiated a detailed analysis of which region customers were pro product, they were surprised to find out that most of the clicks were from a particular zone where their #digitalmarketing firm was based. This made them conclude the Social Media trends may not be accurate until their internal employee has monitored and analysed the same

For all readers of this Blog, if you can log in and connect to this page, you are extremely smart to understand the parallel drawn between the above example and the #NamoApp

Time for me to sign out now, “AP” Vote Karte rahiye 

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Badam Custard

Sweet Dishes Leave Sweet Memories! And If you are Health Conscious, Please Stop Reading Here Itself! 🙂

Lets begin…

This Recipe Serves 8 medium bowls

Ingredients :

  • 1 Litre Full cream Milk
  • 400gms condensed milk
  • 1 tsp Vanilla essence
  • 2 tsps cardamon and nutmeg powder
  • 6 eggs
  • 20-30 pieces almonds [soaked overnight]
  • Some rose water to grind

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Preparation :

Time for Preparation : 10 min

Time for Baking : 40-45 min

  1. Add all milk to a pot and bring to a boil and then let it simmer on low flame till it leaves the sides
  2. You may add the condensed milk while it is simmering, mix well and switch of the gas
  3. Grind pealed soaked almonds with rose water
  4. Add this paste to the cooled off mix of milk
  5. Now in a bowl, mix 6 eggs, cardamon and nutmeg powder, vanilla essence and beat it well
  6. Mix this egg mixture along with the milk mixture and stir it well
  7. Pre heat your OTG or Oven at 170º C
  8. Now take round bowls or aluminium foils and grease them with little butter on all sides
  9. Pour the mix evenly into each bowl [about 3/4 of the bowl as it will rise while baking]
  10. Place all the bowls in your baking tray and push it in the oven for 40-45 min
  11. After about 30 min, when the mix has become a bit firm, garnish all bowls with chopped almonds and put it back for another 10-15 min for baking
  12. Once the top of the mix turns golden brown, thats you cue for Job Done!

You need to cool the same at room temperature first and then refrigerate them overnight to taste best

Garnish with some Rose Petals before serving!

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Prawn Pulao with Dhansak Dal

My Love for Prawns once again!!

A Very Simple Dish which you could make in the morning and pack in your dabba for Friday lunch!

This recipe serves 4

Ingredients :

  • 1 1/2 cup Basmati Rice (soaked for 2 hrs or overnight preferably)
  • 12-15 small or mid sized prawns cleaned and deveined
  • 2-3 medium onions sliced
  • Ginger Garlic Paste
  • 1-2 tsps Cumin Seeds, Cinnamon sticks, peppercorns, Star Anise, Black Cardomon
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • Some freshly chopped mint and coriander leaves
  • Turmeric, Red Chilly and Kitchen King Masala
  • 1 tblsp Curd
  • 2-3 Green Chillies
  • Oil to Cook, Salt to Taste

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Preparation :

Time to Prepare : 10 min

Time to cook – 15 min

  1. Add oil to you pot and heat it for a while
  2. Add Bay leaf, all dry spices and cook for a while
  3. Add Onions and Slit Green Chillies
  4. Once the onions are translucent, add the prawns and sortè for 2-3 minutes
  5. Now add all the masalas along with salt
  6. Mix curd and stir till the masalas leave corner of the pot
  7. This is the time to add soaked rice and mix very well
  8. Add water [double the quantity of rice] and mix again
  9. Let it cook for 8-9 min and when the water has soaked half, add mint and coriander leave and give it a light stir [ensure the rice doesn’t break much]
  10. You can cover the pot for another 6-7 minutes and switch off the flame
  11. Once the flame is off, let it cool for 10-15 min while you get ready and then pack your dabba with huge quantity for yourself and colleagues

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This dish is best served with some Dhansak Dal and a Squeezed Lemon

Prawn Curry Parsi Style

It is one of the Yummiest and the Easiest to Cook in No time. The orange colour is so real yet not too spicy!

Often prepared with Prawns or Surmai Fish [if you reside in coastal areas], or Boiled Eggs or even just Boiled potatoes. However, Curry and Prawns are just synonyms for a Mumbaiite and thus, we shall read about the preparation of it below :

This Recipe Serves 4

Ingredients :

  • 12-15 Mid Sized Prawns, cleaned and deveined
  • 7-8 Red Kashmiri Chillies
  • 2 medium sized Onions Chopped roughly
  • 2-3 pods of garlic
  • 2-3 tsps each – cumin seeds, mustard seeds, methi seeds, sesame seeds, khus khus, coriander seeds
  • 1 Cup Fresh Coconut
  • 5-6 cashewnuts
  • 1 tsp Turmeric Powder, Red Chilly Powder
  • Oil to Cook, Salt to Taste
  • 4-5 curry leaves
  • 1 tblsp wheat flour/gram flour

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Preparation :

Time to Prepare – 5-10 min

Time to Cook – 10-15 min

  1. Marinate the prawns with turmeric, chilly powder and salt for 10 minutes while you prepare the mix
  2. In a Grinder add, onion, kashmiri chillies, all dry masalas, coconut, cashewnuts, garlic, some oil and water
  3. Grind to a smooth fine mid consistency paste
  4. Now heat the pan with oil and roast some wheat/gram flour [this is basically to keep the consistency of the curry thick and not make it watery]
  5. Now add the marinated prawns to it and stir for 2-3 min
  6. Once the prawns turns slightly golden, add the curry paste and quote each prawn well
  7. Add a pinch of turmeric and red chilly powder, 4-5 curry leaves and salt to taste
  8. Keep stirring the mixture until it leaves the sides of the pan
  9. Now add water as per your liking, cover the lid and let it cook for 8-10 min [prawns or fish do not take more than 10 min to cook]

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Serve the curry, with Hot Steamed rice and

some onion, tomato, green chilly and coriander salad

 

DHANSAK [dhan=rice AND sak=mixed vegetable dal]

The first thing I am asked to prepare each time I have a guest coming home! Dhansak, a popular Parsi dish which is not that unique, but somehow, has appealed to the tastebuds of many many people. Infact, the dish is so popular that I even had a friend who never tasted it, narrated just how he loved it!! 🙂

This is basically a Sunday Must in every Parsi home, usually prepared with Mutton/Tender Lamb as the first option, or alternately with Chicken or simply Veg. We shall learn the Veg option below as one has the option of adding meat of their choice as they desire…

This Dish Serves 5-6 persons

Ingredients

  • 2 cup toor dal
  • 1 cup moong dal
  • 1 cup orange masoor dal
  • 2 small onions
  • Ginger-garlic paste
  • 2 teaspoons each of turmeric, red chilli, garam masala, and dry dhansak masala powders
  • 2 tsp of methi seeds
  • 1 small slice pumpkin
  • 1 small capsicum
  • 2 small brinjals (about 1 cup chopped)
  • Salt to taste, 3-4 tblsp oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon

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Preparation :

Time to Prepare : 15 minutes

Time to Cook : 20-25 minutes [since this is veg, else for mutton could take 45-50 minutes]

  1. Soak all 3 dals together for at least 30 minutes
  2. Heat the pressure cooker and add some oil to it
  3. Once the oil is hot, at medium flame, add the onions and sortè for 1 min
  4. Next add the ginger garlic paste and cook for 2 minutes till the onions are cooked well
  5. Now add all your masalas to the cooker and stir well until your kitchen starts emitting the aromas
  6. This is the time you need to add all your other chopped veggies to the cooker and mix well
  7. Once the veggies are mixed well, add the soaked dal along with 3-4 cups of water and salt to taste
  8. Close the lid and let it cook until 3-4 whistles [if you are cooking meat, please cook it with oil in a separate pan so it doesn’t get overcooked in the cooked]
  9. Remove the cooker from the gas, cool down, and then give it a good stir with a hand beater, you would love the thick rich consistency of this dal

 

Tip for Dhansak Rice : Use good Basmati Rice. In your pot, add oil, cumin seeds, 2-3 peppercorns, cinnamon stick and sliced onions. Once the onions get translucent, add 1 tsp of sugar and stir until it caramelises. Then add the rice and salt to taste with water and allow it to cook as per normal process.

For Veggies – You may serve this dish with Veg Cutlets or Veg Balls

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Voila! Time for me to leave and dig into my Dhansak Pot already. What about you?

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