5 March 2018

From the bartender’s corner: Gin #32 – Old Fourth Distillery gin

This one is a local one. Made right here in East Atlanta. I have not visited their distillery but I want to. The distillery was opened by five friends in 2014. The first product was vodka. Gin came later. So, the gin production cannot be more than 2 or 3 years.

The most interesting aspect of the gin is the base. Remember how I had featured a Colombian Gin that used sugarcane as the base (instead of corn and all that). Well, this one uses cane sugar sourced from an organic provider in Louisiana.

There are nine herbs and botanicals including juniper. At least some of them are vapor infused – like the pink peppermint. The other botanicals include grapefruit, lemon & orange Peel, cardamom, angelica root and coriander

The nose is that of a typical gin – juniper forward. The palate is mostly citrusy and the faint traces of coriander is decipherable in the end. The finish was short and rather abrupt.

This gin might go better in cocktails rather than with tonic water.

5 March 2018

Mom and the art of motorcycle communications

Of all the things I look forward to every morning, talking to my mom has to be one of the top of the list ones. Not for the sentimental value. But the hilarity of the discussions. Usually the discussions center around three key themes :

(*) Complaints about my dad – of which there are many. He is either trying too hard or not much at all. Or he is being too aggressive or too passive. He just cannot seem to hit the right spot.

(*) Weather – the mood for the entire day for my mom, I have come around to believe – is set by how conducive the weather is to drying out the clothes that she puts out on the clothesline every day after washing them. Bright sun? “Bhalo weather aaj”. (It is a good weather day). Even then she will slip in once in a while a complaint about how hot it is getting 🙂

(*) My niece – apparently she is not studying enough. This complaint incidentally has never changed in intensity over the years and is, by and large, totally uncorrelated to how much my niece actually studies.

And then once in a while, she will stray off to other topics – usually leaving her mightily confused. Today was such a day…

She started by asking what did I do on Niki’s birthday. I told her that Niki had dance practices the whole day. And then she went for the movies with her friends.

For good measure – and this is where I think I brought this upon myself – I told her that it was a glorious sunny day. Since, I did not have to worry about drying any clothes that particular morning, I took the motorcycle and went up to the mountains.

That took some time for her to grasp. “Othhatey paarli?”, she finally asked. She literally asked me if I could lift the motorcycle up the mountains. I think she had a mental picture of her poor son huffing and puffing as he dragged a much reluctant bike up the hills…

“Othhatey paarli maaney? Eki teney hichrey tultey hoy naaki? O to nijey nijey uthe porey”.
(What do you mean if I could pull it up? It is not like I have to drag it along. I ride on it)

I think she was suitably convinced. Now, some of you who follow my posts are probably aware that my mom is a psychiatric patient herself. One of the challenges she has is remembering new things.

“Tui ekta Hero Honda kinechhis na?”, was her next question.
Now, a brief background… when we were growing up, Hero Honda (a company in India with collaboration with the Japanese company) had brought out a two wheeler for the common person. It was pretty inexpensive those days and had very little power compared to two wheelers you can get in India these days. I think it was literally a 50 cc engine. When I had heard how much it could go on a liter of petrol, I had a legitimate doubt on whether it ran on petrol or petrol vapors. (“Teley chhotey na teler gondhhe?”)

To my mom – all two wheelers are the same. Every motorcycle is a Hero Honda she remembers from 35 years back. Which also explained why she thinks on a sunny day I go around dragging my “Hero Honda” up the mountains.

“Yes, mom! That is what I have bought. A little bigger – so that it can climb mountains by itself”.

“Bhalo korechhis”.

Finally, she was satisfied!

3 March 2018

I am honored to have been his roommate… some 35 years back

Growing up, one of the things I have been blessed with is some brilliant people I could call classmates. If I add up all the incredibly successful people that I can actually count as being my classmate during the various stages of my life, it will make anybody wonder how come not much of it ever rubbed off on me.

Rahul Guha – met him for the first time on Sunday, July the 10th 1983 around 4 PM when his parents had come by to drop him to start his 11th grade. It was a residential school and he and I (along with another incredibly successful classmate – Pratik Pal) were destined to be room mates.

Over the years, I have sometimes lost touch and then regained the same with this guy. Last week, he was in Atlanta and could squeeze enough time from his busy schedule to have dinner with me. While we talked about a lot of things – including my trips to his house in Kolkata during the early ’80s and a trip we had made together to Dip’s house in New Chumta Tea Estate – most of our discussions were around education. After all, it was education that has brought us together.

Driving back home later, I realized why guys like Rahul get to where they are today. It is not just the intelligence level – which is of course sky high – and it is also not the hard work – that is beyond reproach. The edge people like him have is their ability to reflect. That ability helps them achieve higher learning cycles than most mere mortals like us can.

Some of the reflections he shared with me absolutely hit the mark for me. We were talking about college education. His first point was how in India in those days, we entered college believing the toughest part was over. We had passed Joint Entrance Exam and then we were in college. If we went thru the motions, in about four years, we would get a degree and a job unless we really really messed it up. And yet, that is the time when our brain was the sharpest. From around that time, the brain would go on a steady decline. That was the time to learn completely new things. Things we might never ever use in our lives. But that was the one time our brains could absorb a lot of stuff. And for all you know, we might have discovered who we really were.

This somewhat aligned with my discussions with Madhav a couple of weeks back in Virginia Tech. He was talking about how it was “cool” in engineering colleges in our times to not study and ace the exams. Madhav reminded me how I was one of the so-called “intelligent” ones who never studied and yet aced the exams. But looking back, that was the stupidest thing. I should have been pushing my brain to learn new stuff then instead of not learning and simply letting a letter grade that suggested it was “okay” in life not to learn.

The second thing Rahul got me thinking on was the lack of training we got in how to ask questions. Instead, we were always expected to accept the prevailing norms and ways of doing things. And yet, college was the time we should have been pushed to keep asking questions – even if there were no answers. As he pointed out, sooner or later you will realize that the first step to getting a Nobel Prize is asking questions. Fearlessly. Regardless of whether there is any answer.

Finally, he felt that we should be taught how to communicate with people that we do not agree with. It is a skill that is getting rarer and rarer (we certainly both felt that the echo chambers created by social media has contributed to this problem) and yet no meaningful success can be ever reached without truly understanding the opposite point of view. Groupthink is a dangerous thing, as he pointed out.

Not all of our discussions were this serious. We slipped in and out of some hilarious incidents from school. Somehow, we both got onto the topic of statistics. Rahul and I studied statistics whereas our other room mate Pratik had studied biology. I was explaining the fundamental challenge I have with the concept of probability. The definition is based on a circular premise. Which, rigorous mathematics be spoken, should render it null and void. Rahul went on to explain that anomaly in Bayesian terms and made a hilarious statement. It was hilarious not just because it was true – but also the way he put it. I had to excuse myself and fish out my phone to write it down lest I forgot it later… in his words… “Probability, at some level, is a philosophical question”! Amen to that!!

My own greatest contribution to Rahul was waking him up every morning during our 11th and 12th grades. I was the sleep-very-little guy and he trusted me that I was the only one who could wake him up. It might have something to do with how I used to twist his legs and turn him over to wake him up.

A few minutes of early morning yelling and cursing later, he would calm down and thank me profusely for waking him up.

Oh! What would I not give up to get another one of those days again!!!

2 March 2018

What has journalism got to do with it?

We, the poor Bengalis, have been denied of a “V” in our scripts. It is usually replaced with a “B”. Much to the chagrin of every non-Bengali! For all of you know, we were destined to be the “Vengalis” till God’s proofreader forgot to put in the letter “V” in our script! Other than that peculiar accent of ours, it can also land us in some very interesting situations – especially in a country like the USA.

For example, I recently overheard an indignant daughter yelling on her phone to her mother – “CVS? Why would you think I have applied for a job to CVS? I am studying Journalism, mother! I have applied to CBS. “C” “B” “S” – the news channel”.

“Oh”!, said the mother as I shimmied away to another room before I could be spotted overhearing the conversation.

I am not suggesting that this happened in our house.

But then again, I am not expressly denying it either 🙂

1 March 2018

Those indelible ink marks – Unbranded sky blue

This is one of my favorite fountain pens. I carry this with me on a daily basis. I had bought this in April, 2011 at the Atlanta Fountain Pen Show from a gentleman from the New York area who makes pens from different materials. The sky blue color and the rich veins of indigo had caught my attention. I switched the nib out for a fine tip and today use it with turquoise blue ink…