17 November 2017

Cafe con Laura

Last time I saw Laura was when my family went over to her place to have dinner with her family. That was six years back – almost to the day. Nov 20, 2011 to be precise.

And it was in Santiago, Chile!!!

Today, I met her in my neck of the woods – Milton, Georgia – over a couple of cups of coffee. We had a great time together – talking about our old workplace, colleagues from our prior lives and our own parents!!

Found out an interesting coincidence. When I drove to meet my colleague from Mumbai days at a Starbucks in Appleton, Wisconsin in September, apparently, I was within spitting distance of where Laura’s parents live!! Oh! How I wish I knew that then!!!

16 November 2017

What if your eyesight was taken away from you?

I was somewhat flummoxed about what to do next. I had just concluded visiting one of my patients in the hospice. I had gone to see a new patient that I had been just assigned but he was deep in slumber. At that hospice, those were the only two patients I had. I was wavering between whether to go back home or visit another hospice center half an hour away when I noticed a blind person shuffling along with his walking stick in the corridor. Two things stood out. First, he was reasonably well dressed – and when I say well dressed in a hospice, I mean his shirt was tucked in and his hair was combed. However, he also did not seem to know where he was going.

I stepped up, cleared my throat and asked – “Are you trying to go somewhere, Sir?”
“Yes, I am trying to get to my room”, he replied.
“You live here?” I will admit, I did not think of him as a patient.
“Yes. But they have changed my room. And I am all confused now”.

“Okay. Maybe I can be helpful. What is your room number?”
“I think it is 5…7… something”.
I knew that the hospice had no such room number. The highest was 540. So, tactfully, I asked “By the way, my name is Raj. What is your name?”
“Louis Armstrong” (name changed to maintain privacy).
“Hang on here”.

Then I walked up and down a couple of corridors and found his name tag outside room 531.
“Okay. Your room number is 531. I can help you get there”.
“Thank you. Who are you?”
“Oh! I am just a volunteer. I spend time with patients”.
“So you are a doctor or a nurse?”
“No. I just spend time with patients”
“Doing what?”
“Mostly talking to them. Listening to them. Giving them company. Taking them for a walk. You know all that stuff I am allowed to do without a medical degree”.

By now, we had entered his room, All this time he used his walking stick to feel his way thru and I would just tell him which way to turn.
“So, you just talk to people?”. HE seemed almost incredulous.
“Yeah! Something like that”
“So, you will talk to me?”

Well, that presented an interesting conundrum. He is not a patient of mine. In fact, he is not even a patient of the company I volunteer for. But what the heck? I did not have anything better to do.

“Sure. Tell me your story. Who are you? Why are you?”

And the afternoon started rolling from there….

Louis was a NASA engineer. He worked on the first stage of the rocket that eventually put the first man on the moon. He also worked on the first stage of the rocket that put the shuttle into space.

And he was a World War II veteran. Who served in Burma where he was shot down from the sky.

Suddenly, he asked “Where are you from?”
“India”
“Which part of India”
“Calcutta”
“I have been to Calcutta”
“You have?”
“Yes. Do you know what is a third class compartment?”
(I had a vague memory that trains in India had three classes of compartments when I was growing up – usually it is only two now)
“I can’t remember”
“Well, there is no glass in the windows for the third class”
Laughing, I asked “How do you know?”
“Well, we were sent from Bombay to Calcutta by third class compartment in a train to proceed to Burma”
“Ah!”

Louis has gone blind slowly over the last thirty years.
“Glaucoma?”, I asked
“Exactly. Are you sure you are not a doctor”
“Trust me. I am very sure. Tell me how was the transition. Are you used to it now?”

“Raj, unless you are born blind, you never get used to getting blind. You really do not know how much you give up till your eyesight is actually taken away from you. I know it is fall season now. I know how the trees and leaves used to look like but I cannot see it now.”

“Do you think it is more difficult to be born blind or go blind”?
After a few seconds of thought, he said “I do not think I can compare. I do not know what being born blind is like. But I also think it is much harder if you are given something and then it is taken away from you than never been given at all. You do not know any different when you never had it to begin with”.

Believe it or not, by then, it was almost an hour and a half that we had been talking. And when I say, talking – I mean he did all the talking. I was mostly listening.

Finally, I let him know that I needed to go.

“Raj – you said Raj is your name right….?”
“It is Rajib. But I go often by Raj”
“Right Raj. I know you do not do this for a living. So you may not come back. And even if you did and went past me, I won’t realize it. But if you find time, I would like to spend more time with you.”
“Sure thing. I have so much more to know about the rest of the life”
“No. Next time, I want to hear about who you are”
“You do?”
“I do.”

Well then, I have to come back, don’t I?

Post Script: Two days later, I went back to the same hospice. After finishing with my own patients, I went looking for him. He was not in his room. I went around all the corridors and finally found him in the common area totally immersed listening to the piano being played by a gentleman who was doing a rather good job at it, I thought. Another volunteer, like me, no doubt.

I thought a lot and decided not to bother him. Felt guilty that I did not let him know that I was around. But did not want to distract him from something he was obviously enjoying either. Will go see him tomorrow.

14 November 2017

From the bartender’s corner – Gunpowder and Tonic

You probably recollect from my previous cocktail post that while I loved the Gunpowder Irish Gin, I was not a big fan of the G&T. I had used a lemon peel as many experts had suggested.

Yesterday, I changed it up and gave it a second shot – this time I went with another common theme among bartenders – use a pink grapefruit to garnish. And I am happy to say, that made all the difference. It brought out the grapefruit in the gin lot more dramatically and the citrus then was able to keep the ginger and quinine from the tonic water under control.

Gunpowder Irish Gin, Fever Tree Indian Tonic Water and a pink grapefruit!

14 November 2017

Am I the only one to think about it this way?

I have always wondered why put up signs that say “Maximum fine….”. If you are trying to deter somebody from doing something, putting up a sign that says “Minimum fine….” makes more sense, right? It is like – Well, buddy, this is the minimum you will be hit with. Who knows what the actual amount will be? So, take your own risks…

With a “Maximum fine…”, it almost sounds like Well, this is the maximum you will be hit with. In reality it will be lower than that, but we assure you no more than that. So, see if you can afford the max value and then feel free to do what you want…

Does not seem to serve the purpose as effectively. What do you think? That said, I assure you I did not park at this spot 🙂

Category: Humor | LEAVE A COMMENT
13 November 2017

From the bartender’s corner – Gin #24: Gunpowder Irish Gin

A few days back when I had published the world map of gins that I have stocked up on, Irene Sutton had referred me to Gunpowder Irish Gin. Dieter Sleeuwaert had seconded that. Trusting Irene, who is an expert on everything alcohol and everything Irish 🙂 was the easy part. Procuring a bottle of Gunpowder Gin in US? – Not so much! Eventually found a store outside DC area who shipped me one.

Opened it last night. First and foremost, I have to admit that I was wondering what does gun powder have to do with a gin. And why would anybody mix that anyways? I was also wondering if it had anything to do with “Navy Strength” gin (if you remember, this is the gin that was made far stronger than normal and given to British sailors so that even if it spilled on to the ammunition on board, it would not render it unusable).

Turns out – and I learnt for the first time – gunpowder, here, refers to a kind of tea found in China. It originated about 14 centuries back and the key characteristic is that each tea leaf is rolled up to look like a small cylinder. A pile of it actually looks like gunpowder and that is why it is called gunpowder tea.

By now you must have guessed that gunpowder tea is an essential botanical added to the gin. Per their literature, this is actually added not in the liquid itself but is vapor distilled (the vapors during the distillation process are made to go thru tea bags inside the medieval copper stills). There are three other botanicals that are used during the vapor distillation – Chinese lemons, Oriental grapefruits and Kaffir limes.

The eight other botanicals used (in the liquid itself) for distillation have an impressive array of sources – Meadowsweet from Ireland (local to the distillery), Cardamom and Caraway Seed from India, Juniper Berries from Macedonia,. Coriander Seed from Romania, Angelica Root from Germany, Orris Root from Morocco and Star Anise from China. How is that for an impressive global roots for the gin?

The gin itself is pretty interesting. If you taste it neat (the proper way to have gin), the true character comes out best. By now, I have have so many gins, I have stopped expecting anything standard from a gin. This one did not fail to surprise me. Very different from other gins. There are three words to describe the whole experience – juniper, citrus and tea! The nose was distinctly citrusy with juniper setting in at the end. The palette similarly had citrusy and juniper effects. If you hold it in your mouth, you can feel the explosion of many other herbs. I am not good at recognizing all of them. But certainly I could sense the anise. And then the smooth finish of the tea as you breathe out!!

Most sources have suggested having this with tonic water (Fever tree) and a lemon peel or a grapefruit. I tried with the lemon peel. My personal opinion is that I liked it neat a lot more. The quinine and ginger messed up my tongue and nose. I will try with a grapefruit today and see if that changes my opinion.

Thank you Irene and Dieter for your recommendations. I added another country to my map. And found a great gin, to boot!!!

13 November 2017

This is why I love living in the rural, hilly parts of Georgia

This morning, you could sense the stillness of the moment as the hills and forests struggled to wake up thru the blanket of fog to another day. Occasionally, the serene tranquility would get interrupted by a startled darting deer here and a falling water drop from the leaves there. The dirt roads lay still by the horse farm picket fences unmolested as of yet by the tires of cars scampering the equally sleepy kids to their schools.

It was like time had stood still.

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