Category: Food for Thought

Day 51: Hiroshima

I took the bus from Ayabe to Osaka early this morning and after dropping my bags at my hostel in Osaka where I was to spend the next two nights, I took the Shikansen to Hiroshima. It felt good to be on my own again and I thought about my last two weeks at the farm. I was surprised at myself for having survived two weeks on a farm and really glad I did it.

I reached Hiroshima after a 20,000 Yen ($200) and 90 minute ride on the Shinkansen. It was worth it. Hiroshima is the cutest little town. It has a lot of tourists who come to visit the peace park. There were a lot of lively commercial areas. Public transport was very good. It included trams and buses. This was my first recallable time riding trams and I was so psyched at the idea of trains running on main roads with other traffic. People in Hiroshima were really friendly and welcoming of tourists. A woman on the tram helped me figure out where I was without me having to ask (I guess the confused look on my face must have been enough for her to know).

The first thing I did when I reached Hiroshima was try the Okonomiyaki which originated from Hiroshima. There was a row of restaurants inside a mall next to the train station. They all had people making okonomiyaki on a large surface in front of you. There was a running counter along the surface with bar stools for customers to sit on, as well as private tables at the back. The restaurant I chose seemed to be family run. The cooks were sweating from all the heat. Customers poured on and there was a line even at 2 pm in the afternoon. Okonomiyaki takes about 10-15 minutes to fully cook on the pan which is why the line didn’t move as quickly as it might have in other restaurants. What surprised me about the hiroshima okonomiyaki was that it had noodles in it. I chose soba, which seemed to be the most popular. It was so good. From what I was able to see, it had egg, pork, noodle and sauces. I ate slowly on purpose so that it would last longer.

Inside view of one of the okonomiyaki restuarants in Hiroshima

The okonomiyaki is prepared right in front of you on a large counter
Soba based okonomiyaki: Hiroshima’s specialty

After the okonomiyaki, I was ready to explore the city. I was inspired to see as much as I possibly could in Hiroshima, but the peace park was so large and amazing, that I spent all afternoon there and didn’t have much time left for other things. The peace park, which was built in memory of the nuclear bombing of 1945, is a large area with multiple statues and symbols of peace and strength that was shown by victims. The most popular was the A-bomb dome, one of the few surviving buildings.

The A-bomb dome used to formerly be a public hall. It remains in its half destroyed state to serve as a reminder of the war. 

Children’s Peace Monument, inspired by Sadako, a girl who was 2 years old at the time of the bombing but developed leukemia at the age of 10. She folded a 1000 paper cranes despite her pain, hoping to recover. Unfortunately, she couldn’t. 

Some of the paper cranes folded by Sadako at the Peace Memorial Museum

I took a slight detour on my way to the peace museum and visited the Hondori shopping area nearby.

Hondori shopping street

A delicious blueberry milkshake: discovered at a 7/11 on Hondori street

Finally, I got to the Peace Memorial Museum which was more crowded than I expected. Thankfully, the museum was very well built (not surprisingly, it was designed by Tange, the same architect who designed Omotseando Hills in Tokyo) and could manage crowds quite well. I didn’t see a single tourist smiling or taking pictures as they moved through the three storey museum and learnt about the aftereffects of war. I learnt that the ground temperature at the time of explosion was between 3,000 and 4,000 degrees celsius, and that the bomb destroyed everything within 2 km radius. About a third of the population was killed. Not everyone died immediately. Some people developed diseases after a few months (or even years). On the day of the bombing (August 6, 1945), people were following their usual schedules, getting ready to go to work when the bomb was dropped at 8:15 a.m. It had been most unexpected, because there had been no warning announcements that day or the day before, as there often were in Hiroshima. Hiroshima had been the centre of many arms and ammunition factories. Many children had been sent away to nearby villages for safety beforehand, and due to the bombing, they lost their parents who had been in Hiroshima at the time of the bombing.
The bomb dropped on Nagasaki was actually stronger than the one dropped on Hiroshima, but since Hiroshima was more densely populated, the effects there were greater. The reason that the two bombs were different from each other was that the US was experimenting with both and did not expect both to work. Unfortunately, they did. The US military dropped less powerful bombs called ‘pumpkins’ in July and early August as practice bombs so that they would be able to effectively drop the nuclear bombs.

An inside view of the Peace Memorial Museum
A picture in the museum of the destroyed Hiroshima

A part of the Peace Memorial Museum is built to make visitors feel as if they are walking through the destroyed Hiroshima. 

 I was on my way back to the train station when I caught site of Tokyu Hands, a department store that I had been wanting to visit in Tokyo. Part of Tokyo Hands has 3D printers where you can print customized items for fairly cheap prices.

A 3D printer at Tokyu Hands prints personalized miniature statues of people based on their pictures 

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Day 26: WW2 and Ueno

This week, we are studying the post war years in class. When Japan lost the war, the emperor for the first time made a public announcement. He was so far removed from the public, that people weren’t able to understand his message, which basically meant ‘We surrender’. Some patriotic soldiers didn’t want to stop fighting. Families were shattered. Soldiers who were abroad were stuck there for a long time. Some were returned after a year and a half but most remain unaccounted for. Six major cities, including Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, were in ruins from bombing and subsequent fires. In Nagoya, one of the six cities which were heavily bombed, over 80% of residences were destroyed.

We watched the movie Gojira, which was the original Japanese version of Godzilla. Gojira is about a sea monster whose natural habitat is destroyed as a result of atomic radiations in the water and as a result he comes out of the water and causes great destruction on land. The destruction he causes seems akin to the destruction caused by the nuclear bombs. The way a city built over thousands of years can be destroyed in a matter of minutes is terribly sad to see. A scientist in the movie who has come up with a way to kill Gojira is afraid of revealing his invention because he knows that human beings would end up using it against each other in war.

A bento box-packed lunch in plastic boxes found in convenience stores and specialized roadside stands which specialize in bento food. I picked up a bento box for lunch from one of the roadside stands today. It just cost 500 Yen and included sweet and sour chicken, rice, pickle, tofu and some pasta. I was too lazy to take a picture of my bento box, but this picture that I found on the internet is a great representation of a bento lunch. 
Source: commons.wikimedia.org

Apart from studying about war and writing papers, I visited Ueno. Ueno is a complete tourist destination. It has six museums located close to each other, a zoo, of which the main attraction is a giant panda, a lake, a garden, a shrine and a cheap shopping area. If you only have one day in Japan and want to experience as much of Japanese culture as possible, this would probably be a good option.
I went to the Tokyo National museum, which is the largest museum in Japan. To get there, I went through the park and passed the shrine and lake on the way.
At Ueno park with my friend and classmate Steffi. During spring time, cherry blossoms bloom here and this location is often seen in pictures with pink trees on either side. 

Passing by a shrine at Ueno

It’s a lake! Can you believe it? 

Ink paintings from the 16th  century at the Tokyo National Museum

Have you dreamt about any of these? If you have, flip the pillow over to read your fortune.
Sighted at the Tokyo National Museum in section about fortune telling.
 

 After the museum, I took a quick walk through the shopping area, called Ameyoko. I felt like I was in Singapore’s Chinatown or Kuala Lumpur’s night market again. It had extremely cheap items on sale. There were roadside restaurants of all kinds of cuisines with outdoor seating. There were stalls selling cheap matcha ice cream and other sweets which I didn’t recognize.

Ueno’s shopping area: Ameyoko

Dinner featured two new dishes today.

Takikomi Gohan: rice with some meat and vegetables mixed with soy sauce. Its a lighter (and for me, better) version of fried rice. 
Source: humblebeanblog.com

Buri-daikon: Buri is a kind of fish and daikon refers to the Japanese radish. They are cooked in soy sauce and make a delicious but light dish. 
Source: tokyostation-yukari.blogspot.com

Delhi vs India

A couple of days ago, a friend and I went looking for wholesalers. We wanted to get some t-shirts made. The trend of lose t shirts seemed to be in and we wanted some personalized shirts for ourselves ad our friends.
A friend’s friend gave me the reference of a reliable wholesaler in shastri nagar. For those of you who don’t know, shastri nagar is a very under developed part of Delhi. It’s biggest achievement seems to be the presence of the metro station and a police chowki. Unfortunately for me and my best friend Shivani, we did not know this until we got there.

2 worlds in 1 country

After a very tedious journey, we reached a somewhat village like place. Trust me, Im not exagerating. This was a place with half built houses and dark and shady lanes and everything. To be here once was a horror, coming to this place again and again seemed to be an absolute nightmare. The t shirts didn’t seem to be a good enough reason anymore.
That was our first reaction on reaching a place about 30 kms away from our south delhi homes. And here’s why–we live in new delhi, a place with malls and hospitals and schools at each corner. Shastri nagar, although geographically a part of delhi, is practically speaking a part of india. And delhi and india are a complete universe apart.

If one visits delhi, and claims to have visited india, he couldn’t be more wrong.
You see delhi is the place where people go to private schools and hold private sector jobs, go to doctors who charge about 500 RS for a sitting even if its the common cold which is bothering them and go to the malls to eat in multi cuisine restauraunts. India on the other hand is the place where children as well as adults are lucky to get a job at a construction site. People cant even visit a doctor if they’re on the verge of death, either because there is no doctor in the vicinity or because seeking treatment from a doctor would mean going to bed empty stomach for the rest of the year. The best meal that people could dream of having here is one which makes the grumbling noise from their tummy inaudible.

While Delhiites argue about whether westernization is good or bad and politicians play their amusing blame games, a billion people spend days without food and water. While we groan about the hot weather as we switch on our air conditioners, these people hunt for paper fans which are the best they can hope for in their electricity deprived village.

They say that we have potential–but to exploit potential you need to have people potent enough to exploit it. And sadly, we seem to have very little of that. Historians wonder if the invasion of the british was a good or a bad thing. Trust me, had it not been for them, we would still be living in a day of kingdoms and wars.
The british managed to develop delhi, but i wonder who will have to invade the country for india to join the delhi world?

Class 12, etc

When my psychology exam got over last week, I suddenly had this euphoric feeling of how I was now a free bird who wouldn’t have to study hard for a while now! That is what most class 12 students think when their board exams come to an end.

None of us realize that with the extremely fucked up system of ours, the end never comes.
So the day the final exams get over, everyone jumps around hugging every student in the vicinity. Then we all spend hours with our friends. This happiness lasts for a couple of days. That is until we realize that the board marks may not be enough to get us into a decent college and to have a backup is a good idea.

Want to watch hours and hours of television?
 Forget it. It ain’t happening

That is precisely why everyone marches into coaching centres which give out brochures with pictures of their favourite students and their respective marks. That is about the time we all realize that there are still 2 more months of slogging left. Slogging to get a good rank in some entrance exam or the other. Most entrance exams are in may and june. That is about the same time everyone’s board results come out and the hunt for college begins. The bottom line is that there’s really no such time when we actually get to slack.

So if you guys are dreaming of a post class 12 phase of watching movies all day, having week long sleepovers with your friends or being spared of that guilty feeling that tells you to go study, forget it. Unless you have parents who can afford to pay their way in to a decent college, remember– this class 12, etc is not easy to get rid of!

GYMonomics

With my class 12 exams over, I decided to join the gym in the month of April. Class 12 makes you gain a lot of   extra weight, but that’s okay with me. I consider it a good sign. It means you’ve been studying.
Although this wasn’t my first time at the gym, I noticed a lot of things about the place that I had not noticed before. It seems to have it’s own certain ways.

To start with, being a newbie (or a person who out of laziness hasn’t been to the gym for the past 18 months)  is like being the amateur of the place. You’re the only person who is seen panting and sweating on the treadmill while walking at a speed of 4 km/hr and you’re definitely the person who comes in the last and leaves the soonest.
But as you become a little more regular and start blending in, certain patterns emerge.

There’s always this one egoistic trainer, who will walk around the place doing absolutely nothing productive. He’s like a parole officer.  He will have this proud and dignified look on his face, which by the way means nothing to any of the people there. The other trainers do all the work. One would think he’s coordinating,  but there’s nothing much to coordinate in a gym.

There’s the popular girl, who has been coming to the gym for as long as anyone remembers. She’s the one who knows all the trainers, and all the people. She is also the one who can run on the treadmill at 9 km/hr for 20 minutes.

There are also those people who I like to call the kings and queens. These are the people who do not need to lose weight from any angle. They either come to the gym to build their muscles or tone their body or mantain their already perfect weight. These are the ones who are the royalty of the gym. Not that they are treated any differently, but for them, being at the gym is more of a choice than a compulsion.

If any of you have ever been to a gym, you might have come across the inferiority complex. Whenever you’re on a treadmill, walking at your own sweet pace, you tend to compare yourself to the person next to you. If the person is walking at double the speed (running occasionally) you tend to have an inferiority complex. But if it’s you whose faster you tend to think “HAHA. What a loser”

And how could I forget, there are those amazing, gifted and idolized people who carry their own i pod to the gym. That’s a big thing. Believe me. First of all, it is impossible to even hear yourself think with all the loud music in the gym. It’s hard to even respond to a phone call. To be able to hear the music from your i pod is nothing short of a freakin miracle.
Second of all, I have never been able to keep those damned earphones inside my ears. They keep falling off. After some time, that’s all you’re doing. I have often found myself taking it easy while exercising just so that i can listen to my music.

But the best part is that there is a mutual understanding in the gym. Everyone is trying to lose weight or tone their body. So no matter how messed up you look, the gym is one place you can go to and not worry about your appearance. It is one place where your public image does not count. For all you know you could go in wearing the worst clothes out of your closet and no one would give a damn.

The Indian Christmas


The Indian Christmas

Indians don’t like being left out of festivities.  And with so many different religions and cultures in our country, there are an indefinite number of festivals to celebrate. We manage to find stuff to do on the Indian festivals. On bigger festivals like Holi and Diwali, we freak out with sweets and parties and crackers and colours. But then come the festivals which one would call miscellaneous or etc, etc (in other words most of us have no clue what their relevance is, but are more than happy about their existence because of the random 1 day holidays that come our way due to them.) 

You may think that a day off wouldn’t be much to cherish, but you’d be surprised at how quickly these add up and take away days from our summer break and paid vacation. Normally, on those days, you’ll find people in the malls or at PVR.

But then comes Christmas. And it fits into neither category.  And that confuses us Indians. 
To the non christian Indians, it has no practical relevance whatsoever. 

But still, we don’t want to be left out. So how do we celebrate? We can’t decorate a Christmas tree. Our houses aren’t big enough to fit 2 feet tall plants inside them. We can’t go around giving presents, because we spent all our money on Diwali gifts, and we definitely can’t hang stockings in our living room, mainly because we’d find them empty the next morning baffled by the fact that Santa didn’t turn up.

So here’s what happens. Everyone ends up in the malls. Now the malls know what is going to happen. So they start commercializing, They put up huge Christmas trees, find a santa, decorate the entire area, etc. Last year one of the malls put up a castle right out out of a fairytale in their park.

I happen to live a km away from one of the big malls of New Delhi. And the 5 days preceding Christmas  saw the roads leading to the mall so jammed, that everytime I look outside I felt like I’m having a déjà vu, seeing the same set of cars outside my window, until I realized that I am looking at the same thing I saw 20 minutes ago.

So basically everyone is in the malls. It’s too cold to do anything outdoors, so there are anyways few other options. Now the malls are pretty big, but not big enough to accommodate the entire city. So as a result, there is pushing and shoving and no space to walk (or air to breathe) and suddenly, it is so hot, that you feel it isn’t winter anymore! The eating joints are in full fledged business with long waiting lines.

You would think that we’d eventually learn not to end up in the malls like we did last year, but we just CANNOT bear to be left out. We will be shoved and pushed and stuck in a traffic jam for hours at a go. 
But there is no way in hell we’ll be excluded from any sort of festivity! 

Because if the whole world celebrates, so shall we!  

Show Boys and Girls


As soon as you open the door to my room, a poster taped to the wall on the other side greets you. It says ‘Welcome to my reality’. It’s pink in color which is one of the reasons I bought it as a 14 year old. I remember the day very clearly. I went to an Archies and bought 5 or 6 posters to put up in my room.
It was a trend to have posters in your room with sarcastic comments on them. I bought a garfield poster which said ‘I’m not always right, but I’m never wrong’. I bought another one saying ‘Those who think they know it all, really annoy those of us who do’.


My dad helped me stick them to the wall with double sided tape.
A few minutes ago as I thought about how I had outgrown them and debated about whether I should take them off or spare the risk of making my room look plain with empty walls, I remembered the thoughts that ran through my head as I looked at my new posters after my dad and I had put them up.


I thought of how I would be the person my posters made me. I could keep my room messy so that people would believe that to be my reality. The funny quotes on my posters would make those lines seem like my own. Garfield’s relaxed and egoist attitude would make mine seem the same.
This was the point where the mask started coming into existence. I am not refering to the green coloured mask of Jim Carrey’s from the Hollywood movie, but if you can relat le to that you’ll probably get what I’m trying to say.
Every adult human has a mask.  They use it make their friends like them, to seek approval from their bosses, to make the opposite sex want them.


And before they can even breathe in what’s happening, the mask that they try to use to be accepted is not a mask anymore. That’s right, it’s as if you wore a mud pack for so long that now either it won’t come off or either you’ll be so used to it that you won’t notice it’s there!
Until off course death do you part!

The posters in my room suggested that I was a mischievous, messy and a socially outgoing teenager. I was actually the opposite. I was quiet,  very organized and super responsible. I was a 9th grader trying to fit in. But I so succesfully convinced myself that I now find I am actually the person I always tried to be. 

And that is exactly what happens to more than half of our world population. (the other half lives in poverty)
They make themselves what the world wants them to be, who they want to see in their mirrors every morning. The glamour gets to them.

In other words they are show boys and girls, tuning themselves to please the world. To make everyone who passes by in the streets give them a venerable smile.
But that can’t end well be because even if you manage to please every person on the planet (which is practically impossible considering the kind of bipolar diversity our earth holds ), you will fail to please yourself, which is ultimately the only thing that actually matters. 


So much for being a show boy/girl. 


Might as well sit in your room of empty walls with a bowl of popcorn and a remote control in your hand and enjoy the world that you create for yourself.