कहानी मिर्ची की

दुनिया में दर्दनाक अनुभवों की कमी तो नहीं है पर जब कोई अनजाने आपको एक तीखी मिर्ची खिला दे, जिस असीम आनंद की प्राप्ति उस समय होती है, उसका वर्णन संस्कारी शब्दों में करना थोड़ा मुश्किल हो जाता है। मिर्ची नाम से ही अपनी सी लगती है, ऐसा लगता है, और मसाले जिनके लिए भारत का दक्षिणी भाग प्रसिद्ध है, मिर्ची भी उन्ही की विरासत होगी और फिर बाकी मसलों की तरह यूरोपियों ने मिर्ची का स्वाद भी हमारे घाटों पे चखा होगा । पर बड़े आश्चर्य की बात है, कि भारत में मिर्ची का इतिहास कुछ 500 साल ही पुराना है। 15 वीं सदी के अंत में, वास्को डि गामा और उनके साथियों ने ही पहली बार हमारी जीभ जलाई थी। मिर्ची के बारे में ऐसी ही कुछ अनोखी बातें मुझे एपिक टीवी चैनल के एक शो से पता चलीं जो मैं अपनी (बहुत ही कमज़ोर) याददाश्त और विकिपीडिआ एवं अन्य स्रोतों (मुख्यत:) की सहायता से, एकत्रिक करके अपने जैसे कुछ और जिज्ञासु मित्रों के साथ बाँट रहा हूँ।

7500 BC यानी कि आज से 9500 साल पहले से हमारे दक्षिण अमरीकी मित्र मिर्ची का लुत्फ़ उठा रहे हैं। 4500 BC में दक्षिण अमेरिका में इसकी खेती शुरू हुई, लगबघ उसी समय जब हमने चावल उगाना शुरू किया। सन 1492 में कोलम्बस जब भारत की खोज में निकला था, तब उसका एक लक्ष्य काली मिर्च (जिसको ब्लैक गोल्ड कहा जाता था) तक पहुँचने का दूसरा रास्ता ढूंढना था। वो जब अमेरिकी महाद्वीप में पहुंचा तो उसकी मुलाकात मिर्ची से हुई। वहां की स्थानीय भाषा में इसे चिली कहा जाता था, तो रेड इंडियंस की तरह ही पैप्पर की तलाश में मिली चिली का नाम चिली पैप्पर रख दिया। उसके बाद मिर्ची ने दुनिया के कोने कोने तक सफर किया और अब दुनिया की अमूमन हर पाक शैली में इसकी मौजूदगी है। मिर्ची को हमारे भारत की आबो-हवा और हम भारतीयों की मेहमान नवाज़ी इतनी रास आयी कि , आज के समय में भारत मिर्ची का सबसे बड़ा उत्पादक एवं निर्यातक है।

अब मिर्ची का ज़िक्र होते में ज़ेहन में पहला सवाल यही आता है कि दुनिया में सबसे तीखी मिर्ची कौनसी होती और, वो कितनी तीखी होगी? मिर्ची की तीव्रता मापने के लिए स्कोविल्ल स्केल का इस्तेमाल किया जाता है। इस स्केल में चीनी की उस मात्रा को नापा जाता है जिसको मिलाने से इस मिर्ची का तीखापन ख़त्म हो जाये। इस स्केल में सबसे तीखी मिर्ची, अमेरिका की “कैरोलिना रीपर” मानी जाती है जिसका तीखापन 22,00,000 SHU नापा गया है। भारत की सबसे तीखी मिर्ची “भूत ज़लकीया” की तीव्रता 15,80,000 SHU नापी गयी है।

इस पोस्ट का अंत मैं कुछ दिलचस्प मिर्चियों के साथ करता हूँ..

कश्मीरी मिर्च – नाम से ही साफ़ है की ये कश्मीर में होती है , पर इसकी सबसे मज़ेदार बात ये है की ये मिर्ची बस नाम की है , इसकी तीव्रता बस लगबगाह 4000 -5000 तक होती है, इसलिए कश्मीरी खान पान में इसका प्रयोग तीखेपन की जगह ज़ायके के लिए होता है।

गुंटूर मिर्च – आंध्रा के तीखे खाना का राज़ ये गुँटूरी मिर्च है। यह भारत से निर्यात होने वाली मिर्ची में 30% हिस्सा गुंटूर मिर्च का है। इसकी तीव्रता 50,000 -1,00,000 SHU तक होती है।

मुंडू मिर्च – आंध्रा और तमिल क्षेत्रों में उगाई जाने वाली ये मिर्ची अपने आकार की वजह से अत्यंत दिलचस्प है। अन्य मिर्चियों की तरह लम्बी और पतली होने की जगह यह मिर्ची गोलाकार होती है। इस मिर्ची का प्रयोग भी तीव्रता की जगह ज़ायके के लिए होता है। मैंने ऐसी गोल मिर्च नहीं देखी पर मेरे आंध्र-तमिल दोस्त ज़रूर खुशनसीब हैं।

The Star Killer

Gold is known as the King of Metals  owing to its intrinsic value due to the relative scarcity and that shiny hue. But the aam aadmi of the Metal family better known as Iron, has a very interesting story from its formation to its availability for our usage. First thing I’d do to Iron would be to rechristen it, giving it the cool name of “Star Killer”, the story behind the title shall follow.

 

 

 

 

 

The story for the day starts with Hydrogen being the only element present in the universe and the universe still being a hot burner, what with big bang just a few million years past. About 200-500 million years after the big bang (which happened 13.7 billion years ago), the universe got its first production plants. The 1st generation of stars which came into being around that time comprising majorly of Hydrogen with only a few traces, if any, of other elements. The stars, under the force of gravity and the heat around started the first constructive process in the universe. Hydrogen atoms under the intense pressure undergo the process known as “Nuclear Fusion” to form the Helium atoms, the 2nd heaviest element in the universe. The process keeps moving forward, smashing the proton particles against the existing elements to form newer elements, Carbon, Nitrogen, Oxygen and so on. These factories  were working very well and the universe was slowly being introduced to newer elements with increasing atomic numbers.

 

Then, the inevitable happened, a Manganese atom bombarded by another of those free-flowing Hydrogen atoms would have produced the newest kid on the block, our very own Iron. This is, where the story changes. Iron, being a heavy element went out-of-bounds for the Star system, the nuclear fusion process didn’t have enough energy to break the Iron chains. The creation of first Iron atom in a star system is the beginning of its end. Slowly the star, having consumed all its fuel in the form of Hydrogen and left only with the heavy elements died its own death. The manner of settling of the dead bodies in stars, unlike humans, is based on size. Thus the largest become Supernova, some become neutron stars, some become red giants. The red super giants was the last stage of most of the stars at that time. The red supergiants crumbled under the gravitational force and scattered off the heavier elements in violent gushes, spreading them far and wide, making up the source for the iron used by humans 13 billion years later.
Thus, almost every piece of our very common Iron, which we use in our daily life, was formed about 13 billion years ago, long before the Earth, the Sun and the Moon could even be conceived of. And not only the antiquity of Iron, but the most interesting thing about Iron is, it defines the natural boundaries of a star. No heavier element is ever produced in the course of the natural production activity of the universe and its arrival sounds the death knell of its founding star. No wonder, the star killer has had such utility in human lives.

Tsar Bomba

Exploring, and then shattering the known horizons has been the biggest passion of the most entrepreneurial of humans. It is this unending drive that has taken human civilisation to the insurmountable heights. But, there come times in the advance of human civilisation that the logic finally overcomes the blinding passion and makes humans to think, pause and wait. There are two such interesting examples, while one concerns biking, other is about “the single most physically powerful device ever deployed by mankind”.

Tsar Bomba, a Hydrogen Bomb tested on 30th October 1961 by the erstwhile USSR at the peak of their powers and the peak of the Cold War, remains the most powerful detonation achieved by human society. The scale of power generated by the single event was awe-inspiringly obnoxious. Power delivered by such atomic, nuclear bombs is measured in Kilotons/Megatons of TNT equivalent. The blast yield of Tsar Bomba was 57MT TNT, just for comparison, the strongest such weapon tested by US was 15 MT. The Tsar was 3800 times more powerful than Little Boy, the bomb dropped at Hiroshima which was measured 15 KT TNT. While the Pokhran tests in 1998 by India had a max yield of 43-45 KT still 1/1300th times the power of TSAR, a feat achieved 37 years later.

To get an idea of the conventional power of the TSAR, the energy released by that one single explosion in Oct 1961 was 10 times the combined energy of all conventional explosives used during the course of the World War II. Everything within a radius of ~35 kms was razed to ground, houses were destroyed 100s of kms, there were partially broken windows even upto 900-1000 kms from the test site. Yet, the m6ost other worldly thing about the Tsar for me, was the height of the Mushroom Cloud. Through all my studies and general awareness of Geography, anything human related, after breaching the Troposphere (the layer of atmosphere closest to earth surface) is only restricted to Stratosphere, a layer which extends upto 50 kms. But Tsar’s Mushroom cloud breached the natural barrier, extending into the Mesosphere acquiring a peak height of 65 kms, a new horizon breached by humans, something the USSR Scientists could be very proud.

Yet, here comes the interesting story. The Tsar had a maximum theoretical yield of 100 MT but after testing the 57MT mega bomb, finally the USSR scientists decided that enough was enough and a bomb any more powerful would pose severe existential crises in the form of fallout risk and escape of the carrier, thus saving our earth to an extent.

Thus, a bomb which was 10 times more powerful than the whole of World War II, still had a lot of gas remaining in the tank, thankfully for human civilisation, even the human greed can encounter some limits at times.

Gandhi, Godse, Hitler

Very often do I have people asking me the question. Why do I admire/appreciate/whatever Hitler? Don’t I agree with the fact that he was a mass murdered and all that. In many words and at various times, I have tried and explain this answer. Yet, more or less, my words fail me when it comes to expressing it. One (of the few ) good things you can find about him is, The Revolution. He was the one, who came who changed, the man of action. One who had ideas and had the guts and ability to steer the course of an entire nation, and almost the whole world.

The second ques, which might arise in the mind of anyone reading this title is, Gandhi & Hitler, def can be used in close proximity, but how does Godse get the honour of being his name taken in such esteemed company. Thats where my point tries to sneak through in midst of these names. Godse, if nothing, is an interesting character in Indian history. There have always been assassins through the history of world. Even India has had its share of assassins, so nothing new in that activity. Yet,

This was the man who killed Gandhi, who killed Mahatma, who killed the biggest apostle of peace, who killed a bapu of a nation, who killed one of the most famous person in human history  and (arguably) most famous Indian ever. He, as an individual, should have been absolutely destroyed in the modern history, as it was written by the followers/fans of the Mahatma.

All this said and done, we never find Godse’s name maligned. We never hear accounts of him being a beastly human with more penchant for blood than feelings. Facts are facts which can’t be changed much, but folk lore or the stories are the part which can be fabricated anytime by anyone, and made to look real by the situations, we have seen enough examples of that. This, very fact combined with the statement of Godse, and whatever I have read of him on net and books, makes me put Godse on the same pedestal as Gandhi and Hitler, in the same sense that I admire history.

They were all revolutionaries, they had some (misguided at times?) set of rules, they had some principles, they thought about things and executed what they wanted to, in the fashion they wanted to. What makes them all different from simple, men of actions, is the effect on society. Agreed, Godse wouldnt stand anywhere near the two, and even if he hadn’t, the old man would have died in a few years if not months, by himself (or the self induced fasts). But, his revolution lay not in, ridding India of Gandhi, which was his purpose. Rather, it can be more understood, as a man standing against the Mahatma.

Bored Times

Great parties have the farewells
Illnesses none do last too long
It’s the states alternate of work and play
Which shall occupy you till the time ends

Serendipitous money changes hands
Unlucky scars do fade away
It’s the hustles everyday
Which shall make your life

New found love turns sour some day
Hatred deep gets buried some day or decade
It’s the relations nondescript with a few
Which shall remain your mark in the end

All good things come to an end
Bad times don’t last long
It’s the boring times, like the old housewife
Which keep u company until the end

A bored attempt at boredom (Wiki link for the Bored) hence should be boring!

Rafi vs Kishore

Of the 5 “classic” hindi singers, the biggest fight has always been between Kishore and Rafi. Asha Bhosle growing up in the shadows of Lata Mangeshkar could only ever go as high as Lata (perhaps at times succeeding her). Lata is perhaps the greatest of them all, men and women. Mukesh, Kishore and Rafi don’t stand as far apart as Lata and Asha. Yet, I (and many people I know) put Mukesh on a paddle below the other two, partly due to fact that he’s a bit typecasted.
Mukesh = rona dhona , raj kapooor euphoria songs.

Just like the McCartney- Lennon comparison which has egged on Classic Rock enthusiasts for generations, Rafi vs Kishore battle has been going on, even in the present generation, even though Rafi died, a good 7 years before I (avg age of our generation) was born and Kishore died a few months after my birth. Now coming to the main question, the debate between the two and my view on it. Even though I was a Kishore Kumar enthusiast since the time I can remember done in by his yodeling and the masti in his songs, also coupled by the fact that until quite some back I wasnt proficient in recognizing the different voices of Rafi & Kishore ( I still can hardly distinguish between old Lata & Asha songs, although newer songs are easily identifiable).

It would actually be a sin to downgrade Kishore when compared to Rafi, coz there might not be much of a difference, but if you ask me, my fav male singer in Bollywood, there’s only going to be 1 answer, Mohammed Rafi.

For the starters, a fact which many might not know is, although its Kishore who is associated with Yodeling and is the only Indian in this list http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Yodelers, but its Rafi who was the first one to bring  it into bollywood, using it in songs, as early as the early 50s, while Kishore Kumar popularized it almost a decade later.

I have always had a fascination with the songs of 50s, 60s featuring people like Dev Anand, Shammi Kapoor, Joy Mukherjee and people of that generation and while songs from Rajesh Khanna period are huge favourites with people all around, but I have more than often found those songs, either sad (lost of rajesh khanna songs) or Happy go lucky(typical Kishore songs) and I like these kinds of songs, but the soul stirring, the harmoniously beautiful songs which came in the 50s and the happy go lucky  + romantic songs in 60s, are more of a feature of Rafi than Kishore. Kishore Kumar while managing to be succesful in the early decades of his career (he had a proper start to his career in mid 50s) only came to the fore in 70s with songs in the film Aradhana, being the important milestone in his career, but before that it was Rafi all the way.

In my opinion, while Mukesh is chained to sad songs, Kishore is more or less limited to the cheerful and sad songs, but Rafi with his ethereal voice always fits the bill for me, whatever be the type of songs, he has hummed out songs, which would surpass Mukesh anyday, his romantic songs/duets with Lata/Geeta Dutt would always be counted as the most romantic chapter of hindi music, while he couldnt give Kishore a running when it came to the bubbly and ecstatis songs, but perhaps the most famous fast paced song of bollywood, Yahoo! Chahe koi mujhe Junglee kahe, was sung by NOT Kishore but Rafi, which can us a fair idea about his talent.

While I will always be enamoured by Kishore’s voice in songs like Diye Jalte hain, Roop Tera Mastana, Mera Jeevan Kora Kagaz and likes but the only question to my all time listing preferences will always be Rafi because his songs have always  retained that freshness for me 50-60 years after they were recorded, but with Kishore you at times tend to get bored, more so coz of the type of songs he sang, rather than his voice being the reason. But, when you dont have much to chose from, this is the type of things which can make the minor difference.

Open Letter to Sun

Dear Mr. Sun,

At the onset I would like to thank you as a nation, as from time infinity (that is since India left the Antartic plate and crashed into the Asian plate), we have been very gratefully endowed by your sparkling rays which have been the constant source of energy and life for us. Unlike some of the countries in higher latitudes, we dont have months of night and neither do we have the inclement winters, and are allowed to live in a weather which wouldnt be termed gloomy.

Keeping in mind, all these points, there are somethings I wanted to discuss with you. Although, you are heartily welcome in our parts as and when you decide to shine upon us. Yet, as the adage goes Too much of anything is bad. As we keep moving to the southern parts of our country, your affinity also keeps increasing, and instead of 3 months in higher latitudes, and 7-8 months in northerm part of India, you keep increasing the months allotted to you.

All these years, circling around the earth (as we see it), you must have got to know humans quite closely, and humans as you might know, are rebellious creatures. No sooner do they get used to something, they rebel against the system. We living in Hyderabad, are quite used to bearing your brunt almost through the years. But, there are months in the Gregorian Calendar (mostly December and January) which are supposed to be free from your interference.

After waiting for the winters so long, we finally got something which resembled winter and you were neatly tucked behind a layer of clouds, giving us a nice charming comfortable feeling. Yet, true to your nature, you couldn’t stop showing your dominance and strength, and after a period of dormancy, you finally came up the cloud cover, with the usual dose of hot rays and skin burns (which is your primary weapon). Its only in light of the very recent events that I would sincerely like  you to

FUCK OFF!

I’ve had enough for you.

Thank You

Yours Sincerly
Himank Sharma
(Earth)