General ravings

Of a Chinese Egg Poacher & Big Brother

Bala is mad.  He has gifted me an Egg Poacher.

Don’t get me wrong.  Bala’s gifts have always been wonderful and welcome— if extremely original and unusual at times— during the 64 years we’ve voyaged together round the Sun on this planet-sized spaceship.  Bala’s my friend and brother, elder to me by two-and-a-half years.  From as far back as I can remember, Bala’s regarded me as a special uniquely challenged  child who needs kindness, patient mentoring, discreet supervision and occasional interventions.

Hence, his thoughtful gifts, aimed at improving the quality of my life.

I hope to provide more details on Bala and life in my forthcoming book ‘The Brothers Cannabinol’ (any resemblance in the title to a certain book by one Fyodor Dostoevsky is completely intentional), whose synopsis is even now fermenting in cerebral vats before it is distilled, refined and sent for summary rejection by leading international publishing houses.

“No!” I yelled, when Bala called to tell me of the Egg Poacher’s impending arrival via Jeff Bezos’ gargantuan river of merchandise. “I don’t want an Egg Poacher. I don’t need an Egg Poacher. I don’t even like poached eggs.  I prefer omelets or boiled eggs…”

“Exactly,” he interrupted cheerfully. “This Egg Poacher boils eggs too… and does much more besides. In fact, poultry farmers from Guangzhou to Guwahati report  that their hens are clucking in joy and laying twice as many eggs when shown Instagram photos of this fine device. You’ll love it!”

The Egg Poacher arrived two days ago. Clearly, it has been manufactured in the People’s Republic of China; for, extreme care has been taken not to provide trivial and useless information such as the manufacturers’ name and address, date and place of manufacture, and so on. However, it conforms to the Chinese Executive Standard GB-4706 and its ‘Operating Instruction’ leaflet contains a ‘Circuit Schematic’ – both of which are a complete mystery to me (photos below).

Staring at the box, it strikes me that the name ‘Egg Poacher’ translates to Anda Chor (egg thief) in Hindi if you interpret it in a certain way. ..and Anda Chor is such an appropriate name for a Chinese device, at a time when the People’s Liberation Army of People’s Republic of China is trying to poach great chunks of Indian territory from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh…  

Oh, don’t get me wrong.  I really like Chinese-made products, as I have since schooldays in Shillong in the late 1960s when we walked down to the sidewalk vendors in Police Bazaar and stared longingly at sleek-bodied, sharp-nibbed, exquisitely-smooth Chinese-made Wing Sung fountain pens which, at nine rupees each, were way beyond our lean resources. The only affordable option most of us had then was to buy the desi Sulekha pens, which were as fat-barrelled as Congressmen, leaked like the Defence Ministry,  and had broad and scratchy nibs that dropped off at the slightest excuse like a flasher’s dhoti or delegates at the UN General Assembly.  

But I digress. Behold: the Chinese Egg Poacher!


And now that I have studied the box and its contents thoroughly and conducted a trial run of the Egg Poacher, I must admit that Bala was right: I love it! Not only because it boils eggs most beautifully; but because its box and its leaflet of instructions have dispelled four months of coronavirus-induced gloom in less time than it takes to … well… boil an egg.  I’ll allow the photos to speak for themselves.  

Inspiring quote (perhaps it is Comrade Xi Jingpeng’s?). It is repeated 11 times on the box and in the instruction leaflet.
Have fan in the DIY…particularly the Egg Custard
Alexipharmic nipples?!
I’ll fill in my warranty card as soon as I know who cares about it
Steaming the eggs
Fan DIY breakfast

Afterthought: Maybe Alexa would know what alexipharmic nipples are? Will someone ask? The term seems to have faded from public mammary…er…memory…

Musings, Remembering

Shrugging away our Atlas

The other day I was looking at a world map. A ‘Mercator Map’, which is the nice rectangular map all of us are familiar with and which is still used in our school atlases to teach Geography.

Mercator Map
Mercator Map [Source: http://www.thetruesize.com]
Of course, we all know (though I for one rarely remember) that the Mercator map presents a cockeyed picture of the world’s continents and countries, because it shows a 3-dimensional spheroid Earth as a flat surface.  In depicting the world as a flat rectangle with the Equator cutting across its midriff, the Mercator Map utterly deforms the comparative sizes and shapes of all the continents (and therefore, all countries). The further you move away from the Equator, the more the Mercator Map exaggerates the sizes of countries;   that’s why China and India look much smaller than they actually are compared to, say, USA; that’s why Greenland looks bigger than the entire continent of Africa!

There’s a wonderful free-to-access site, www.thetruesize.com,  that lets you shift around countries on the Mercator Map and figure out the actual size of a country compared to other countries/continents. Do visit the site: it’s fun, and also a real eye-opener!  Here are a few screenshots showing  how big India actually is compared to Europe and Greenland, and how big Brazil is compared to India [all images captured from http://www.thetruesize.com]

India - true size

India and Europe

Greenland - true size

Greenland and India

True size - Brazil

Brazil and India

Some say the European colonizers used the Mercator Map to boost the apparent sizes of their own countries and thereby belittle (literally!) their African and Asian colonies.  That’s a matter of perception: but I don’t think we can really fault the man who created the Mercator Map in 1569 – geographer and cartographer Gerardus Mercator of Flanders (Belgium) – because his sole and very honourable aim was to make a map that would help voyagers from Europe navigate the oceans more easily.

Besides, as an Indian I personally believe we Indians are masters at belittling ourselves at the drop of a hat – or more accurately, at the slightest hint of ‘Western’ disapproval –  and that we should cure ourselves of this low self-esteem rather than pretend that it is some kind of genetic disease impregnated in our Bharatiya DNA by Thomas B Macaulay.

Anyway, while playing around with the Map and reflecting on how easy it is for me –  perhaps for all of us – to be misled by warped imagery and memory, by ignorance and illusion, by prejudice and propaganda, I remembered an article I’d written for the Indian Express over 15 years ago – written in deep angst because the media at that time seemed focused on whipping itself, and indeed the entire population of India, into a frenzy of self-flagellation following the hideous Gujarat violence of 2002.

Here’s the article: reading it again, I get the feeling nothing much has changed….good or bad.

What do you think? I’d love to know…

THE GOOD SHIP INDIA

Indian Express: Nov 27, 2003

[http://archive.indianexpress.com/oldStory/36064/]

At times of internal strife one sometimes wonders: will India ever be united? Open the atlas and look at Europe. Start at Ireland, and trace a path eastwards across the Irish Sea to England, and onwards across the Dover Straits through Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Poland. Turn southwards and wander through the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary; wheel west into Austria, and again south to explore Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Serbia, Albania, Macedonia and Greece. Skim across the Adriatic Sea to travel through Italy, cross the Alps into Switzerland, cut eastwards to sweep across France, and then veer southwards over the Pyrenees into Spain, and finally, Portugal.

A long journey across a vast terrain, to be sure. Yet all those lands we traversed would together fit into the territory of India with room to spare. What’s more, India comprises people who differ from each other in far many more ways than the peoples of Europe: in race, religion, language, culture. To the wonderment of the world, the good ship India hangs together! Battered she is by violent storms of communalism and sectarianism, tossed to and fro by the conflicting pulls of her bewilderingly diverse populace, yet India sails on, her billion passengers united by a Vision.

A Vision, of a land in which all are equal and enjoy equal rights.

The Constitution of India, which we gave ourselves on 26 November 1949, describes this Vision in great detail. It crystallizes the most sublime ideas of millennia. It tells of a just and humane land, where we may dwell and think and speak and follow our chosen beliefs and faiths freely and without fear. The Constitution alone binds us together. It expresses our shared vision, and contains the blueprint for the ship that will help us realize that vision, the ship we have named the Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic of India.

The unity we seek is alive in the Constitution; in times of strife, internal and external, we must reaffirm our faith in this great Book. Amends must be made for past wrongs; walls of prejudice that have hardened over centuries must be dismantled not by force but with understanding. There will be upheavals and unrest; hurdles posed by the corrupt, the jealous and the slothful, by those who interpret freedom as mere licence. But as long as the Constitution and its vision are alive in our minds and our hearts, India shall prevail.

And her 5000 year-old voyage will continue.