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Archive for January, 2011

City of secrets

Spiralling curves and mini gargoyles
Towers turrets and trombones
A white flag waving defiantly
Here the occupants – just you and I
This here, our city of secrets be. 

Time doth stand still for the lover
Space maketh way for a symphony sweet
Like a carousel locked in timber fine
Everything stands immobile till we meet
Here, in our city of secrets. 

A past we do not care to remember
No future for us awaits
The present is all that we savour
All that we can hope for
Stolen moments of pleasure in time
Here, in our city of secrets.

For both time and space will not align again as such
Fortune will not favour our union a second time
The accidental first must be enjoyed
In all its ephemeral beauty and pain
Only here, in our city of secrets.

Reality will divide the fallen lovers
Life shall conquer them individually
Pulling in opposite directions – never to meet again
But the fallen shall remember
Stolen moments of pleasure in time
In their own city of secrets.

                        – Shafeen Mustaq [24/01/11]

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I think Microfinance is the best thing since sliced bread. Having done my thesis on the topic and conducted first hand research in Villages in Bangladesh, I have seen the positivity and opportunity it has brought to thousands of women in Bangladesh and around the world.

The first name which comes to mind and is synonymous with microcredit is Grameen. A bank for the people, by the people, – which has played an integral part in lifting thousands of families in Bangladesh above the poverty line. Founded in 1983 by Economics Professor Mohammed Yunus, it is now the most widely recognised microcredit lending institution in the world. It won the 2006 Nobel peace prize and operate in more than 35 countries around the world.

As a result of the Grameen success story, there has been a proliferation of microcredit lending institutions cropping up on a global scale. Organisations such as Kiva and Good return are doing great work in their selected geographies and their target audience.

However this does raise the concern that too many cooks may be spoiling the broth. Are there too many of these institutions? Are our donations being spent on administrative costs? especially in smaller organisations with larger overheads? Wouldn’t amalgamation of administration and manpower be more conduciv3e to efficiency and productivity as well as minimising costs?

While the proportion of borrowers globally is astronomic and the vast geography of the world requiring multiple organisations to address multiple areas, one would hardly presume we require over 600 microcredit institutions in the world to address them. Such organisations each need have their own administration costs, labour issues and overhead. Most organisations use donations to cover these costs. Money that would be well spent elsewhere.

The proliferation of NGOs and charities incites in me the same question. Why are we all so intent on reinventing the wheel when we can actively participate in alleviating poverty just as effectively from established organisations?

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Stained Silver Shoes

The first thing she saw when she woke up was the wind chime singing softly in the breeze. The glass prisms were sharp yet exquisite. Along the edges of the clear prisms were dark vibrant red stains, which glinted in the sunlight and illuminated the room. She sat up in her bed and stared at it. What had made the stains? Was it ink? Why couldn’t she remember? She stared at the windowpane against which it was gently bumping. Her eyes panned the room, searching for what she knew not. The room was as it should be, sparsely furnished, a recliner, a dresser, a bed and a trunk leaning against the wall of the far side. Her trunk.

She walked to the window. There was something she must do, yet the unknown task seemed impossible, the rays reflected off the wind chime, compelling her to turn away, yet her body refused, her eyes would not be turned away, no matter how blinding the light. She had to know. Even as she reinforced this, her body sagged, incredibly exhausted, into the recliner.

“You know where Annette’s headed for don’t you? I’m sorry but it’s irrevocable.” She sat up with a start. Annette. ‘That’s me.’ Annette walked over to the dresser; the chipped old mirror reflected an image she was afraid to behold. Yet she must, she must know and it would help her remember what she must do. Hair once shiny and sleek now limp and tangled. Lips once full and exotic, now dry and insignificant. Annette turned away, went to her trunk. She took off the lid and peered in.

“Touch it, isn’t it divine? I just know Lydia will love it.” Annette picked up the sweater and rubbed the soft fabric against her pallid cheeks. I love it too, escaped from her mouth, however no one heard. The room was empty and large, too big for a lonely girl. Annette took out all her belongings and lined them up in rows, and rows on the floor. Clothes, books, make-up, CD’s, and shoes … she picked up the glimpse of silver at the bottom of the trunk.

She stared at the silver, ‘My shoes, my shoes. What? How did that get there?’ her hands started to shake, slowly at first yet increasingly disturbing until she grasped one hand with the other and from her crouch fell to the floor with an almost inaudible sob. Her eyes were shut tight and little rivulets of tears were running unchecked across her nose. The nurse found her thus, curled up in the fetal position, and dried tears on her cheeks and a deep red imprint on her lower lip. The silence in the room was unbearable to the nurse. She expelled a deep breath, which roused Annette.

“Come on honey, here we go.” The nurse cooed as she gently carried the weeping girl and her silver shoes to her bed and backed out of the room fearfully. The sound of a door closing and one click, then another. Soft footfalls echoed down the hall. Footsteps. Soft and light as a baby’s. Lydia’s. Annette needed no jolt of the memory as her sobs increased in volume and the footfalls increased in rapidity. Annette’s eyes closed in a fear she couldn’t avoid.

‘Rock a bye baby on the tree top…come on Lydia close those eyelids.’ Annette muttered to her baby sister as she rocked her gently to and fro. Lydia would not stop crying. So Annette rocked faster, and faster and faster, till Annette and Lydia were spinning in one big blurry movement.

Two gasping breaths, one sharp cry, then one gasping breath.

Then silence.

Annette looked around, the room was still spinning and she stumbled around like a blind person, groping for support. Support was a slick and sticky windowpane. Annette shut her eyes tightly and listened. Only one person breathing. Her eyes flashed open. Red splattered the wall and the clear winking wind chime was now doused in a vibrant red. The pointy end of a prism was missing. Annette held her breath. The blood rushed to her head and her lungs screamed for air. She could not breathe. Her hands, which had spun her baby sister around only minutes before were now empty.

Horrified Annette looked fearfully down at the prone figure of her little baby sister Lydia. A clear white piece of glass was embedded in her forehead, a piece of the prism, which was rapidly turning red. Annette exhaled loudly. It seemed vulgar to be breathing. Annette took down the wind chime and cradled it in her hands. A drop released from the edge of the prism fell down to the floor… no, on to her favourite pair of silver shoes, a dark red stain mocked her with its impudent colour and vitality. A sudden and fierce satisfaction overwhelmed her. The bloody, unprecedented accident screamed murder to her own ears. She didn’t care. If it wasn’t an accident, it would have been murder for all she cared. She was once more centre stage. Only now, it would be forever.

She laughed. Long and loud and hung the wind chime back up. It seemed as if her soul had escaped with that laugh. An impetuous calm filled her senses and she disappeared to the bathroom, emerging with a towel. She wiped the body, the floor and the windowpane. She left the wind chime stained. Sudden footsteps compelled her to freeze in her work. She picked up the body and faced the door. It opened and she thrust the body forward, a smile on her haggard face.

Annette now lay on her bed, an immobile figure with an endless stream of unchecked tears exploring her face. Her pallid cheeks had become red and hot. “See the stain, you know what it is don’t you…” a lady had remarked to her companion in derisive tones as Annette walked past. As she lay sobbing, Annette felt her soul returning.

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I miss my mummy!

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Whole Tandoori Chicken and Naan

We have a portable Tandoor oven. It’s blerdy awusum and ammu makes the maddest naan in it…. but ammus in BD and Abbu and I really wanted some naan.. so did we go out and buy some? Nope! I googled (Don’t you love google?) a naan recipe and decided to make wing it with the chicken (with the help of Shaan Masala ofcourse!).

Whole Tandoori Chicken

You need:

  • 1 whole chicken with skin (I used a size 10)
  • 1/2 cup yoghurt
  • 3 tbsp Shaan Chicken Tikka Masala
  • 1 tsp ginger paste
  • 1 tsp garlic paste
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (You’re supposed to use lemon juice but I was too lazy to sqeeze a lemon)

Method:

  1. Mix all the marinade ingredients together (make sure you don’t overdo it and make it too runny)
  2. Poke some holes in the chicken with a fork and then coat the whole thing with the marinade, make sure to get some inside as well
  3. Cover and leave for at least 4 hours (I left mine overnight)
  4. Now if you have a Tandoor over you put it on a sikh and bung it in there for 30 min but if you dont – preheat your oven to 180C
  5. Line a tray with alfoil and place your chicken on top. Cover it up and cook for 1 hour and 30 min, uncovering and turning and basting with the liquid in the tray every 30 min or so.
  6. You can add roast veggies (see my recipe here) if you like.

Naan (Makes 6)

You need:

  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 3/4 cup water (make sure its warm!!!)
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 2 1/2 tbsp yoghurt
  • 1 tsp yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 pinch baking powder

Method:

  1. Mix yeast with water and set aside
  2. Sift flour sugar and baking powder together
  3. Add yoghurt and mix
  4. Add the yeast and water mix and mix (At this stage its a gluggy mess, just keep kneading.. whatever you do, DON’T add more water or flour
  5. Place in a bowl, cover with cling wrap and/or a cloth and put it in a warm place for 4 hours (I left mine overnight)
  6. Take the cling film off, punch the dough and watch it fall, take the dough out and break into 6 even portions
  7. sprinkle with flour and knead each one individually
  8. Now if you have a tandoor, you need to make the outside floury while the inside remains soft. So roll it with a roalling pin only a little and cover with flour, put it on the ‘pillow’, sprinkle with a bit of water and bung it in the tandoor for 2-3 min
  9. If you don’t have a tandoor, make the naan on the stove like this 

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BBQ Chicken Wings

This is a favourite of my little sisters. Since they aren’t here I decided to give it a go. This time I followed the recipe to the best of my ability (hey if we don’t have it at home I can’t use it can I?!) and added the roast veggies myself.

 BBQ Chicken Wings with Roast Veggies

You need:

  • 1kg chicken wings
  • 1 tsp garlic paste
  • 3 tbsp tomato sauce
  • 3 tbsp bbq sauce
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 3 potatoes peeled and quartered
  • 2 carrots peeled and quartered
  • pickled onions or 2 red onions peeled and quartered
  • Rosemary
  • 1 tbsp Olive oil
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 tsp Chaat Masala
  • 1 tbsp flour

(Note – I didn’t put any Worcestershire sauce as I was out and I added the bbq sauce in)

Method:

  1. Stab the wings with a fork, mix the garlic paste, sauces, honey, sugar and vinegar together and coat the chicken well. Let it marinade for at least 3 hours (I left mine overnight)
  2. Blanch the carrots and potatoes in boiling water for 2-3 min and then coat with oil, vinegar, rosemary and chaat masala. mix well then add the flour and shake
  3. Line a tray with alfoil, set the chicken and pour the remaining marinade on top, place the veggies along the tray and bake for 30 min at 180C
  4. At the 15 minute mark, turn the wings over
  5. After 30 min, grill for a further 5 min at 180C or 200C

Serve with Naan or Rice. See Naan recipe.

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Guilt free fudge brownies

I know what you’re thinking – there is no such thing… but there is… it doesn’t taste as good as melted gooey fudge brownie in your mouth but then what does besides the real stuff? As I was browsing recipes online I came across a divine recipe for brownies. Now I’ve lost about 250 grams after MUCH struggle with my self control so I decided to 1. reward myself and 2. not make something so rich that would return 250grams to my waistline and much more.

Here is the original recipe for those chocolate lovers who need not worry about their waistlines, and below is my version, less chocolate, less sugar, less butter but just enough to make you go mmm! 🙂

Guilt free brownies

You need:

  • 100g cooking chocolate (milk or dark)
  • 100g butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • (Just under) 1 cup plain flour
  • 3 tbsp cocoa

Method:

  • Melt butter and chocolate together and set aside (work quickly or else this will set)
  • Combine eggs, sugar and vanilla essence and mix
  • Add chocolate mixture
  • Sift flour and cocoa and add to the mixture
  • The original recipie says to add loads of choc bits. I added about 50 grams
  • Mix well and pour into a baking try lined with baking paper
  • Bake for 20 minutes at 180C

My extra additions: When this was done and cooled I tasted it. It was great for diabetics and people like my uncle who don’t like overly sweet stuff – but for me it was still a bit bland. So I let it cool, whipped together some sifted icing sugar (3 tbsp) and cocoa (1 tsp) with 1 tbsp of milk and poured it on top. When that set I dusted it with some more sifted icing sugar and chocolate curls. My cousins finished half of it in 15 min!

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