Morning Prayer for Baba Budan
Addressing Empty Chairs
Think it Through
Moring Prayer for Baba Budan
Every morning after the usual shave and shower, I head for the kitchen to brew the elixir of life. Yes, you’ve guessed it aright. It is coffee to rejuvenate me for the day to face its excitements and drudgeries.
The rising aroma from the percolator transports me to a fantasy world how coffee arrived to lend zest to life.
The popular folklore has it that on the Prophet-mandated holy pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in one’s life time for the believers, Baba Budan, a revered Muslim holy man from the Chikmagalur hills of Karnataka, discovered, sometimes in the 16th century, for himself and his country the wonders of coffee. He was on a pilgrimage to Mecca and tasted the elixir. Yemen had then strictly forbidden the taking away of coffee seeds to anywhere outside its precincts.
In his zeal to share what he’d found with his friends back at home, he smuggled seven coffee beans wrapped around his belly, out of the Yemeni port of Mocha. On his return home, he planted the seeds on the slopes of the Chandragiri Hills in Kadur district, Mysore State (present day Karnataka). This hill range was later named, appropriately, after him as the Baba Budan Hills and one can see his tomb even today by taking a short trip from Chikmagalur.
My coffee is ready. Adding creamy milk to the decoction I take one sip and then another saying my morning prayer for Buden Baba. May the Holy Prophet (peace be ever on him and his true followers) recommend to Allah to let Buden Baba unlimited access before the Day of Judgment to Chasham-e-Kausar – the spring of the mix of best wines – and access for ever to virgin huris.
Fortified with the morning cup I’m ready for the day’s battles.
I once ran into a treasure trove, The Raj at Table by David Burton. It’s all about Anglo-Indian cooking – a kind of cultural balance: mulligatawny, kedgeree and Worcestershire sauce. It contains over 60 authentic recipes which add up to a hilarious picture of the British who in matters of eating and drinking are at once endearingly naïve and ignorant and xenophobic.
Burton tells us that India's first coffee house opened (where else?) in Calcutta after the battle of Plassey in 1780. Soon after that, started the original Madras Coffee House, which was followed in 1792 by the Exchange Coffee Tavern at Madras Fort. The enterprising proprietor of the latter announced he was going to run his coffee house on the same lines as Lloyd's in London, by maintaining a register of the arrival and departure of ships, and offering Indian and European newspapers for his customers to read. Other houses also offered free use of billiard tables, recovering their costs with the high price of one rupee for a cup of coffee.
There are coffees and coffees. Indian filter coffee was popularized by the India Coffee Houses run by the Coffee Board of India since mid-1940s. It became the drink of millions thanks to the spread of Indian Coffee Houses in mid-1950s. I hear the story is best recorded in the Malayalam book Coffee Housinte Katha by N D Pillai.
India Coffee House on Janpath, New Delhi was a favorite jaunt during the 1950’s. (How many of my readers, I wonder, were, like me, regular visitors of that rendezvous?)
Indian filter coffee even migrated overseas in the early 20th century to Malaysia and Singapore, where kopi tarik (pulled coffee) is a close cousin of the Madrasi coffee-by-the-yard. The latter is so named by the practice of transferring hot liquid from one container to the other with outstretched hands a couple of yards apart.
A term often heard, in South India, among the connoisseurs of high-quality coffee, is degree coffee. Milk certified as pure with a lactometer was called degree milk owing to a mistaken association with the thermometer. Coffee prepared with degree milk became known as degree coffee.
Yet another explanation is that, when coffee is decocted for the first time, it is called as the first degree or simply as the “Degree Coffee”. This has the strongest flavor and the necessary strength to mix with milk without watering down the taste. In less affluent households, in earlier days, coffee was decocted for a second or third time from the same initial load; this became the second degree coffee and naturally, is not as strong. Affluent households drank first degree or the famous “Degree Coffee” only
Rev. Edward Terry, chaplain to Sir Thomas Roe who was ambassador at the court of Emperor Jehangir, provides a detailed account of the usage of coffee in Mughal period:
Many of the people there (in India), who are strict in their religion, drink no Wine at all; but they use a Liquor more wholesome than pleasant, they call Coffee; made by a black Seed boiled in water, which turns it almost into the same color, but doth very little alter the taste of the water: notwithstanding it is very good to help digestion, to quicken the spirits, and to cleanse the blood.
Jehangir however was wise. Personally, he preferred wine over all portable drinks.
Next time you raise your cup of morning coffee, don’t forget to say a prayer for Buden Baba. May Allah’s peace be his forever for distributing a bit of it for all – believers and non-believers.
Addressing Empty Chairs
I could never imagine that the aam aadmi of India will one day turn so heartless. I was shocked beyond measure by the press reports – must have been planted by Sangh Parivar – that Sonia Gandhi addressed empty chairs at Palace Grounds in Bangalore in a recent visit to Karnataka to ensure Congress victory in the State. How on earth can this happen? People, I know, are so keen to hear about the great plans that the UPA Government has for their welfare. And straight from horse’s own mouth!
Flabbergasted, I turned to veterans for an explanation. “You’re stupid if you don’t know, no one comes to hear the political leaders. The entire audience is brought.” Brought, I later learnt, means paid to attend. Cha-paani apart, those who attend these meetings are paid in cash and so are the contractors who arrange audience. Half the settled amount is paid in advance and the other half, after the function is over. The agents demand overtime in case Netaji is late, which invariably is the case.
Shell-shocked to hear all that, I was still keen to know how with no dearth of money, Soniaji’s meeting was so poorly attended. My veteran friend expatiated: “These things happen. On certain days the demand for audience far outstrips supply of audience. You don’t know the laws of supply and demand?”
I always thought we had an oversupply of netas in our society, but that there can be shortage of audience, I didn’t know.
Even a layman like me knows that the Finance Bill is the most important legislation of the year. Understandably, the proposals to raise money and where to spend it are supposed to be discussed most thoroughly. Several amendments are moved and thoroughly debated. These are either accepted or rejected with or without vote,
Sessions of both Houses of Parliament have now been converted into circus shows. Each session sees additions to the old tricks on display ranging from shouting and howling competition to jumping and dancing in the well of the house. The latest addition in the show is battles in which decibels triumph over numbers. So exhausted are the Hon’ble Members after all this that there is no time to discuss and debate the budget proposals.
All MPs, however, know one thing that, if the budget is not passed they won’t be able to draw their pay and allowances. So this formality has to be done. So on some day by mutual understanding everyone attends the House and quietly lets the proposed finance bill be rushed through both the Houses. Thereafter, it is business as usual.
May I go back to a fundamental issue? Why do we elect a Parliament? Obviously, it is there to legislate laws for the governance of the country. That is what the Constitution stipulates.
So far, we have had, since 1947, fifteen Lok Sabhas elected for a normal tenure of five years. Only six of them lasted out their terms, the first three and then the 8th, 10th and the 13th. The present one – the 15th Lok Sabha – was constituted in 2009 and may or may not last till 1914. However, it has established a record. So far it has passed only 96 laws – the lowest so far in the first sixty years of the Republic. The second lowest number was 64 laws passed by the 11th Lok Sabha, but it lasted only two years that is from 1996 to 1998.
Hence, going by the criterion of laws passed during its tenure, the current Parliament has the most dismal record i.e., 96 laws in four years from 2009 to 2013. This year’s finance bill has been passed in a most cavalier way in about ten minutes without any discussion.
If I’m retained by a company and given a handsome retainership, I’m expected to live up to certain expectations which are mostly spelled out in my terms of appointment. Now look at our Parliament. We spend crores and crores to elect a Parliament. Each minute of running of Parliament during sessions costs the exchequer Rs. 2.5 lakhs. And all it does is to spend its time to have a contest as to who shouts the loudest and organizing walk-outs.
Do you recall what a Speaker disgusted with the behavior of MPs, said?
This House of People should be adjourned sine die. People’s money will be saved. Useless allowances should not be given to all of you. I think that is the best thing to do. You do not deserve one paisa out of public money.
His name was Somnath Chatterjee.
Think it Through
Margaret Mead was a famous, but controversial American cultural anthropologist whose reports about the attitudes towards sex in South Pacific and Southeast Asian traditional cultures had, it is believed, a significant impact on the world-wide sexual revolution of the 1960’s.
She once said: “What people say, what people do, and what they say they do are entirely different things.”
Is that applicable to all of us – you me and anybody you know of – or only the politicians?