Journey through time


It was a cold winter morning. As is the norm at the start of the year around these parts temps were below freezing. I set out for weekend grocery shopping in masked glory. Shopping list wasn’t too long. Even with my tendency to check out for interesting stuff, not necessarily required, wrapped up shopping quickly by my standards. Stepping out of the shop I was greeted by cold blast of wind. After dropping shopping bags in the trunk turned on the ignition of the car. It was quite cold inside the car. While waiting for the engine to warm up turned on the heater too. Longing for warmer weather my thoughts traveled and I drifted back in time to my early teens back in India.

It was a warm summer day late in the morning in the Mumbai / Bombay suburb Mulund. Summer holidays time. After my lunch I was itching for some activity. My brother was quite engrossed in reading a mystery novel. Other friends in the neighborhood were either preoccupied with whatever they were doing or out of town for the holidays. I decided to go out for a walk. Stepping out of our apartment I headed right. There were some late morning devotees entering and exiting the nearby Ashram Temple (A). I soon discovered my sandals needed some work. Luckily there was a cobbler right near the temple. Waiting as he set about repairing my sandals I could hear devotees ringing the temple bells. Could also hear the sound of flour mill (C) nearby grinding flour for customers who liked their dough fresh for their breads/naans/rotis/chapathis. Repair work done I turned right at the crossroad. Walking at a leisurely pace I was just soaking in the surroundings. To my right were trio of shops: Coal shop, Milk shop and ration shop (D). Coal guy was loading bags for delivery in his cart, Milk shop was serving a customer hot milk in Patiala mug sized containers, there was a line of customers at the ration shop waiting to buy fuel (kerosene), rice and other essentials at Government subsidized rates. Business as usual. I kept walking ahead. Just ahead of the next crossroad were couple of interesting shops: Ice factory (E) with huge blocks of ice covered by sawdust to slow down melting and also serving cold drinks and a used book store (F) which always used to be chock-a-block with all kinds of books, in shelves from floor to ceiling. Those were the days much before advent of personal computing. Always wondered how the book shop guy managed to remember what books were where. While all I could normally see was madness the guy must have had a method to it as he had been in business for years 😀 I decided to turn right instead of going straight as the Sun was, at the top of the game around noon time, beating down mercilessly. I resisted the temptation of buying crushed ice from the streetside vendor (G) who was selling crushed ice of all kinds of colors and flavors. At the next crossroad I again turned right. Just ahead of me to the right was Balaji / Raghavendra temple (H). Always had a bit of complicated relationship with God, sometimes transactional (especially around the times school exam results were due đŸ¤Ŗ), sometimes pally when prayers were answered 😉 and sometimes angry when it seemed bad appear to be triumphing over good 😡. I did a mental bow and proceed ahead. 🙏 By the time I near the next crossroad my throat was parched and needed liquid replenishment. Fortunately there was a sugarcane juice shop (I) right there and I thought nothing better than a freshly crushed sugarcane with a hint of ginger for quenching thirst. 👌 I ordered a glass of the summertime favorite and closed my eyes. Suddenly I heard the loud ringing of telephone. Wondering where the sound came from I opened my eyes. 🤔 Imagine my surprise when I found myself inside my car and it was wife calling me on cellphone to ask me what was taking me so long 😅.

Broken out of my reverie and transported to the present I mumbled that I ran into an old friend at the grocery store 😉 and would be back home shortly. By then the inside of the car was hot as I must have been lost in my thoughts for a good 15 minutes. I opened the windows to let some outside air in. Nothing like a cold blast of air to jolt one back to reality. đŸĨļ😆 Driving back home I was amused by the thought how my wife would react if she unmasked the “old friend” and learned I was referring to was myself, albeit younger. 😁 Was also hoping my marriage had a “can get lost in thought every now and then” clause for me to cover for reaching any place later than planned 🙏

Cookie Points!


Living in Wisconsin means snow in winter is a given! There are some fringe benefits though. For example, you can earn cookie points. Lost? Let me explain!

When I blow snow from my driveway and sidewalk I clear snow for my next door neighbor too. My reasoning is simple: I get some physical exercise and if I can get undue credit for snow blower doing the hard work, why not? 😉 Neighbor is a good person and feels guilty I do it for free. So, sometimes I get paid in kind. Neighbor knows I have sweet tooth and offers to make home-baked cookies for me in return. Of course it’s an offer I can’t refuse. Who says no to fresh, home-baked cookies, right? 😄

Couple of weeks ago I cleared snow and got a choice of 2 types of cookies: Peanut butter cookie with a little chocolate on top OR Chocolate chip cookies. Greedy me wanted to say “Make it a double order, I will have them both” 😂 but sometimes even I feel shame. đŸ˜ĸ So, I asked my son what he would prefer. With a rueful look he replied “I will adjust with chocolate chip cookies” . I was enraged. 😡 No, not for any good reason. I immediately shot back in mock rage “Hey, that’s my line!” à la that Seinfeld series episode where the main characters utter that line in a humorous way. 😊 Three dozen fresh, home-baked cookies were ready for dad and son to tuck teeth into by the time snow was cleared!

Today I was offered some more fresh, home-baked cookies as reward for clearing the snow. We still have some cookies left that we got as reward for our previous effort. Even though it was heartbreaking to say no I politely declined the offer and took a rain check instead. With the temps below freezing all week and for the next few days and a cup of joe always welcome in such weather the twisted side of me felt tempted to encourage the neighbor to become a barista. Another opportunity for neighbor to creatively express food and beverage art, what say? đŸ¤Ŗ Ultimately I convinced myself not to push my luck too far and be satisfied with cookies rain check.

Bottom line: My simple ambition in life is to do one good deed a day and crack one good joke a day. 🙏
Snowfall sometimes helps with the deed part. 👍
As for good joke, I still have some ways to go 😆

Face mask dilemma!

Let me start with a confession. I have a face mask problem!
Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with wearing face masks for protection. Hey, I say screw the mask on to my face for safety reasons if it protects more. My problem is different. Let me explain.

Few months ago went for grocery shopping at local supermarket. Normally either me or wife go alone to shop to reduce risk of infection and follow social distancing guidelines. This time we went together in fully masked glory, probably due to a long shopping list and thinking a divide and conquer approach would reduce time spent in the shop. We head to the produce section. I stop to take a look at some vegetable. Have a question for my wife. Assuming she is nearby I absentmindedly turn in her direction and ask her what I wanted to. Imagine my surprise on discovering it was a different lady, with a jacket and similar face mask on, I was talking to. 😄 My wife had moved on to a different aisle. Told my wife about what happened. She laughed and said “You sure are going to get thrashed one of these days” 😂

Having learned my lesson I decided no more shopping trips together after this one. 🙏 Made some other adjustments too. To avoid mistaken identity in future shopping, shopped with head strictly down focusing intently on produce or whatever product I was buying. To further avoid identity mishaps if I noticed someone with face mask who looked even remotely familiar I would move my shopping cart to a different aisle. Seemed to work fine a few times as I avoided bumping into anyone who I might know even a bit. I don’t want to appear rude by turning away from someone I might know. But I would rather avoid the mishap of thinking the stranger in front of me is someone I know. Running away to a different aisle is not a foolproof solution though. What if I am moving the cart in an aisle and find myself smack in front of someone I seemingly know. Well, that’s what happened couple of weeks ago. I saw a person who, behind her face mask, winter cap, winter coat and physical structure resembled a family friend. Feeling confident I waved my hand from a distance. To my horror she did not respond by waving back. Apparently was not the person I thought I knew. I beat a hasty retreat to the other end of the shop, as far away as possible from that aisle. đŸ˜ĸ

I now find myself facing a face mask dilemma: to wave in recognition or not when I am out shopping once or max twice a week. Look, it could be a case of me thinking everyone with a face mask on looking the same. But what if the other person is also having the same problem of not being sure who the person in front of them is. When this thought occurred I had an eureka moment: The problem is not with face masks per se but the fact the material they are made of is opaque! 💡So, I thought how to solve this problem that might be affecting more people that we might imagine. I outline my solution below.

Those tasked with health safety measures should issue a “face mask transparency” mandate. 👍 What will that entail? While covering the nose and mouth fully the face masks should be made of transparent material so that face is visible for the most part, including the nose and mouth, only hiding the face along the contours of face mask. You might say “Well, so what? I don’t see it as a big deal”. You couldn’t be more wrong. Issuing a transparency mandate will do wonders to our image of transparency around the world. But that’s not all! It will spur innovation and create more local jobs for the new standard for face masks while promoting safe practices. 👌 And for those single, lonely ladies who are looking for that right someone they can be sure that the person they are meeting during these lonely times is the right man-date. 😊 In one fell swoop correct identification, safety, innovation, local production and employment issues will be addressed. 👏
What more can one ask for? 😉

TV Series# 1: Columbo – Oh, just one more thing…

With so much going on all over the world and people experiencing physical, mental, emotional, psychological and financial stress/pain thought it might be a good time to write about something light. As part of that starting a series on TV series. Based on how much interest it garners will write about other TV series I have watched that have lingered in memory. The first in this series is Columbo!

People of a certain vintage may have seen episodes of the series when they originally aired. It had a fairly long and successful run, starting in the 1970s with final season in early 2000s. For those who haven’t watched or heard about the TV series Columbo, the main character is a homicide detective/investigator who works for the LAPD and Columbo is his name. Like all famous people he goes by a single name 🙂 Unlike many other murder mysteries which tend to be whodunits, with the act being shown and the perpetrator’s face hidden/masked, in this series the viewer is witness to the act being committed by the murderer with the face clearly visible, typically at the start of the episode. The rest of the episode revolves around Columbo investigating and pinning down the killer and proving the case. In that sense it’s a “howdunit” type of murder mystery. The perpetrators generally are people who are accomplished in some field who plan their murders. On the other hand Columbo comes across as a detective who lacks a physically imposing presence and generally appears lost, absentmindedly asking questions, and always fidgeting for piece of paper or pen/pencil or some sundry objects in the numerous pockets in his coat. That coat is a piece of work: always rumpled that needed to be replaced long ago. His car is also a thing of beauty: an old car of French make with the look of something that’s been driven straight out of a junkyard 😃 All to show he is a lowly paid cop working for LAPD. Make no mistake though. What our man lacks in terms of intimidation he more than makes up with his persistence, logic, smarts and ability to lull suspects into thinking they are dealing with a dimwit who doesn’t have a clue what he is doing. Hubris leads them to let their guard down with a few overconfident types dropping breadcrumbs along the way to “assist” the clueless cop. Columbo is a man of razor sharp intellect and dogged in his pursuit of justice even if he is unfailingly polite all the time. One common tactic used by Columbo when he leaves the murderer after interview is suddenly turning around near the door and uttering the words “Oh, just one more thing…” in an absentminded way before asking a very pertinent question that shakes up the unsuspecting suspect. As the murderers sense the noose tightening around their neck with Columbo piecing together evidence and confronting them with contradictions in their recollection many do what is their wont: complain to Columbo’s superior/s to pull him off the case. In the end let’s just say Columbo doesn’t let their machinations succeed and brings them to justice. Woo hoo!
Some of the murderers even grudgingly admit when they are arrested they underestimated his brilliance and acknowledge he is very good at his job. It’s fun to watch a seemingly innocuous little guy kick much bigger ass in the end. Feels like watching an underdog triumph against all odds. I try to catch reruns of the series when I can. Watching the little guy bring justice is like seeing good triumph over evil. Seeing the familiar face is like having comfort food leaving one with the feeling all will be good at the end. Interestingly Columbo mentions his wife a lot in almost all episodes but his wife is never actually shown. Among the things I heard about and learned watching the series couple that come to mind are “dissolving sutures” – used by surgeons for stitching up after surgery, “subliminal cuts” – technique employed by makers of commercials by splicing a film in between a continuous film to subliminally influence people do what they want them to do. Could be a film showing fries or soda fleetingly which the eyes can barely see but the mind registers making a person feel like eating fries, drink soda etc. The series grows on you. My wife initially couldn’t stand the sight of a shabby looking detective who appeared lost. Over time she has gotten to like the series very much and on Sunday evenings when the rerun is on one of the TV channels she might even remind me and we watch the episode doing other work. Unlike me she even remembers memorable dialogues in most episodes and will say it correctly when the episode starts. In the rare instance she doesn’t remember the episode I pull her leg saying she is slipping and becoming like me 😃 The methods used and evidence produced by Columbo most likely will not work in the real world but who cares? For the 2 hours the viewer can watch with the confidence justice will finally be served by the little guy who will go wherever the quest for the truth leads him. In the final analysis that’s all that matters 🙂

Raj Farm wins prestigious awards!

We here at Raj Farm are humbled by the honor this farm has received in the form of multiple awards in recent days. 👏
The awards that have been won are
1) Fastest growing farm *
2) Spirit of green *
We would like to thank our patrons and many followers for their unstinting support and much encouragement over the years and making Raj Farm a part of their lives spring through fall.🙏
Nothing works better as expression of gratitude and thanks than flowers. Smiling roses waving and saying thanks in their own inimitable way ✋
Looking forward to sharing more such happy moments in the future! 👍

* Instituted in 2020 by “Raj Encouraging Raj” foundation, the prestigious “Fastest growing farm” and “Spirit of green” awards are given to farms in Raj backyard that follow the highest standards of excellence and quality, grow at a rapid pace and adhere to sustainable practices for this generation and posterity to live in harmony with their surroundings 🙂

Caught in the act!

Had gone out for grocery shopping. Looks like one person was looking forward to me going out: My philosopher friend rabbit 😅 Seizing the moment rabbit started scoping the backyard for food potential. Wife was having supper. She got up to photograph her little buddy. Rabbit did a full 360 as he surveyed the menu on display. Took a bite of flower plant I transplanted to coir basket this morning (transferred earlier rabbit victim yellow rose plant to the pot this flower plant was originally in this morning) 😡 Then wife uttered the magic words: Raj will be back home any time now! đŸ¤Ŗ Good presence of mind 👏 Rabbit pulled a vanishing act instantly 🙂 Remains to be seen what tonight holds for the poor plants facing a ravenous and rapacious rabbit intent on rampage đŸ˜ĸ

White fashionable earrings worth a try?

In recent times have noticed folks appearing on TV news shows wearing “white earrings”. Sported by both men and women they appear to be designed for the fashion conscious. Me being a fashion maven of sorts should probably give them a try as GQ mag is like a Bible to me and I swear by it 😂 I am referring to Apple Airpods. The right way of wearing it is facing front and downwards, letting the narrow ends dangle. Stay warned though, if worn incorrectly, like the gentleman in the bottommost picture, can look like couple of white horns sticking through the ears. đŸ¤Ŗ

My enemy, my wife’s good friend!

Short update today on my enemy, my wife’s good friend: Rabbit!
Sighted this rabbit in the backyard where some Raj Farm transplants are.
First the rabbit acted coy pretending to be enjoying a pleasant, sunny morning.
Next took off like rushing to work.
Finally posed for a picture as if catching up breath after a hard day’s work: flattening the cucumber plant ☚ī¸

Voracious appetite, good at posing, appears to have discriminating taste!
Remains to be seen if tomato and basil plants, that were not part of the diet for the day, survive the onslaught!
Wife finds the rabbits cute, son likes the sight of rabbits running around, taking a nibble here and nibble there. What can I say? 😄

Miss my spitting image, do ya?

As usual The Raj believes in discussing and reviewing the most pressing issues facing humankind 😉 In the spirit of sharing and helping I start with the question “I miss my spitting image, do ya?” 🙂 No, I am not referring to any Raj doppelganger though it’s amusing to imagine a world full of Raj the Bod lookalikes, wouldn’t you agree? 😀

The important issue involves shopping for fruits and vegetables and plastic bags provided by grocery shop where I go. Man, those plastic bags are so thin and slippery as an eel. In my old avatar during pre-covid-19 times it wasn’t a problem at all. Any non-bagged fruit or vegetable I wanted all I had to do was pull out a plastic bag, one dab of the tongue with my index finger and voila! those thin plastic bags used to open when I rubbed my thumb and index finger on either side of the bag. I was on a roll then 👍 Not so now đŸ˜Ļ Saliva is a strict no-no now due to risk of infection and anyways licking finger in my masked glory not a comfortable thing to do. While I was struggling mightily to get open those pesky little plastic bags every time, I noticed it was a breeze for other shoppers around. One day in desperation I sheepishly asked a lady shopper nearby is there a technique to opening the bags. She suggested tugging the top handles of the plastic bag away. I think the idea is to let some air get into the bag and then open the bag rubbing the outside of the plastic bag with fingers. Appeared to work for her. Not for me though 😆 Either I used to pull those handles too vigorously ripping the damn thing apart or give a few gentle tugs and keep trying in vain to open the bag. Resigned to the prospect of an almighty struggle with the flimsy plastic bags, at least for the near future, I moved to the section where the shop has cilantro, green onion, parsley and other greens. To keep them fresh shops either spray water periodically or have ice around those veggies. Boom, I had found my savior! 👏 One light touch of the ice or the water on a veggie and the thin, smooth, flimsy plastic bag was no longer my archnemesis 🙂

These days when I go grocery shopping I first go to the section where veggies have water or ice around, grab a few plastic bags, touch the water or ice, open all the bags a bit, dump them in the cart and off I am for some Raj shopping glory sans plastic bag opening woes 👌