Apr 12

Games!

Have missed posting here, but i am in internet challenged Phagwara, little place, lovely farmhouse, cool swimming pool, near Jalandhar in Punjab… We are teaching about 3000 young people the Utsav Act I in Jalandhar… in a farily big university campus called (you won’t believe it!) “Lovely Professional University”. It has 15,000+ students studying here!!

But this post is not about Utsav, its about games, so lets get started! :)

So far i have talked about Art of Living and Guruji, books, music and food… one of my other passions is games, PC games as well as board games. Most people on my side of the world limit themselves to either mindless shooting or mindless driving games on the PC. Snakes and ladders, ludo, chess and monopoly are perhaps the only board games that most people have played or even heard of…

So in this post, contrary to most people’s expectations i am going to talk about board games! :)

A few years ago, when dinesh and i were teaching in Australia, I had ventured into this very small “hobby” shop in Melbourne and saw over there this whole host of games in big boxes… very attractive to look at, they seemed to promise a different world of interaction and excitement, and so i bought my first game: Elfenland. Beautiful board, superb pieces, terrific gameplay. Utter value for money, especially when we group of 5 adults got beaten by a 12 year old (all of us were playing for the first time!). Turned out to be one of the most difficult games to play, requiring intense concentration and ruthless cunning. Not recommended for a lazy afternoon, but definitely a game where a group of friends can pit themselves against each other over strategy.

So excited over the purchase, i went online to find out more and lo! an entire world unfolded before me… just google board games and you will see what i mean. The next game that i got which was highly recommended on the net was Settlers of Catan. Couldn’t understand the rules, and gave up on it, until i reached Montreal in Canada and went to stay at Antoine’s lovely home. Turned out that he was a board game enthusiast. His favourite game Settlers! He taught, i learned, we played. When i got back to India (with the expansion pack, and another game from the canadians Elasund as a gift), i taught the game to friends here, and it remains one of the best games we have ever played. It has almost everything a great game should have: Strategy, luck, fun, interaction between players, you name it… and the way the game is designed, the game board changes every time you play (it’s random), so a strategy that worked in one game, simply will not in another! This taught me that i should read and re read the rules and give any game a fair chance before giving up on it. btw, Elasund was a great game too, though Settlers was far superior.

Then on our next trip abroad, dinesh and i went board game shopping. Remarkably difficult to actually find a board game shop! We couldn’t find any in LA and New York( there must exist some, we just couldn’t find them). So we resorted to online shopping. Though if you ever have a chance to visit and buy stuff from a proper store, please go! It’s usually full of people who love these games and are extremely opinionated and love to share their views with anyone who cares to ask. The owner too is usually very enthusiastic and will rarely point you to game you will not like. They can be expensive, $40-$80, so its nice to read up on the games, listen to people in the shop about the game and then buy.

Between dinesh and me, we own many games now. Here is a partial list and brief description of the more memorable ones:

Ticket to Ride Europe (comes in 3-4 flavours, Europe is the best), it’s perhaps the best introduction to board gaming. Very well balanced, with nice strategy elements, a brilliantly designed board and pieces, it’s really good fun to play with 4 players. One of the games we keep coming back again and again to. This is a game anyone can learn to play in a matter of minutes, and is suitable for ages between 9 and 99 :). I would heartily recommend buying this one and playing it many many times!

Age of Empires III: The board game. not the PC game. Another very cool game. Lots of little interesting twists, nice board, many, many pieces. Its an attention grabbing and very beautiful game, has a huge board…

Colosseum, set in ancient Rome, a very nice fun game about being a manager of the Roman Circus.

Hoity Toity, a very different type of a game by the makers of Settlers. Its soooo much fun to play about 7-10 times. Then the novelty wears off unfortunately, but definitely worth playing a few times. (I will gladly lend my copy of it to anyone provided i get it back)

Power Grid, a fairly riveting strategy game, not too pretty to look at, and the paper money used in the game sucks, but has classic gameplay and nerve wracking choices to made…

Maharaja, a game set in Northern India about building palaces (palaces are represented by beautifully coloured marbles) is a nice blend of luck, fun and strategy. Not played it as often as i thought we would play it…

Pirates Cove, a game which has huge doses of luck and is unbelievably fun to play. I never thought after playing it once, we would play it so many times, it actually gives ticket to ride a run for it’s money in terms of how many times we played it!

Ra! The ultimate fun auction game. Everyone should play this one!

Caracsonne and its many expansions: a Tile Laying strategy game, can be pretty interesting and is a nice way to spend a rainy evening… very easy to learn and another quickie intro to board games.

Thuirn and Taxis, a transportation game in Germany (one of the places on the game board is Baden Baden, where our German Ashram is). It’s another of those strangely simple yet utterly addictive games.

Pillars of the Earth where the action takes place in the shadow of a Cathedral being built, and you conspire to contribute to its building while making money and getting fame… the premise is based on Ken Follet’s novel of the same name. Made me want to read the novel, but have not yet got around to doing do :)

Princes of Florence, is where you are a prince with an estate, and how you develop that estate to attract geniuses, who then make works of art to make you famous. The point of the game is get fame, but to get the geniuses to come to your estate, you need to spend money… so quite a nice tight rope walk between money and fame. Play it with a gujju and you will definitely win, coz he will be so busy making the money and not paying attention to the fame points! :) :) :)

Puerto Pico is one of most tight fisted games i have ever played. You have to really make every penny count, and its cut throat competition till the very end. Not a game for beginners, and definitely for a patient, mature audience.

Notre Dame our newest acquisition is quick to learn and fun to play. Only played it once so far, so can’t really comment too much on it, except that i lost by 4 points. rashmin won :) and we didnt notice that 3 hours had gone by…

All these games that i have written about take between 2-3 hours to play the first time you play. After the first 2 times, when everyone knows the rules, its definitely more fun and much quicker to play, and can take between 1-2 hours to finish.

There are a few games that even after knowing the rules take a solid 4-5 hours. We own only one of those, its called Railroad Tycoon: The Board Game (Not to be confused with the PC game of the same name which btw is absolutely brilliant but i will talk about that game on some other post). Its good fun to play, fantastic strategy, changing starting conditions make each game completely unique. But if you make a mistake earlier in the game, the game mechanics are unforgiving and its impossible to catch up, and people just give up. A game only for very mature players.

There is another game called Shattered Galaxies, which takes an hour to set up, a week to learn and about 10 hours to finish….

In this time of electronic and individual entertainment, board games are very refreshingly basic, loads of fun, mentally challenging, and can be just plain addictive. When Guruji is not in Bangalore Ashram (physically), we have had many sessions and everyone who has come and played with us, has come back again for more… They do require patience to learn and teach, but you will be rewarded for the time you spent :)

Unfortunately none of these brilliant games are available anywhere in India as far as i know… infact if anyone knows where such games can be bought in India, please post a comment here… and so you will have to start being really nice to friends in the US, Europe (European board games may not be in english, but you can download instructions), Canada, Australia and New Zealand… They may be available elsewhere, but i don’t know… In Singapore for example you have to order and wait 40 days before they get the game for you at almost double its US price!

Finally, Thanks a lot to Sarang and Abhishek, my buddies in the US, for keeping us supplied with all the games we have asked for :)

Happy Gaming!!!!

and i hope that post makes up for the few days of silence from my side… Tuesday, i will be in Delhi, with more reliable inernet connections, and so postings here will become regular again… hope to see you guys soon… please do keep leaving comments, i love reading them and it gives me encouragement to write! :) Leave questions on the YES!+ website, i get a collated list from there which i answer in the QnA series…

and oh yes, Dinesh has written a huge post on Shivaratri in Surat, he is a perfectionist and so is polishing it up before he posts it here :)… hopefully we will all get to read it before next Shivaratri…

Apr 7

A lunch in Chennai

Yesterday we went for lunch to a restaurant called Sanjeevanam… blazing mid day sun notwithstanding…

They dont take reservations, its only on a first come first served basis… we went in at about 12 noon, had had no breakfast, so was very hungry :), and there were tables available… we were 5 and had our meal at a table designed to seat 4, but that was alright…

Its a complete health food place, and the meal is quite elaborate… There are 26 items in all, and they are all to be eaten in a specific order only… and no water is served between the meal (which is good i dont have any either)

First Raw banana thinly sliced (3-4 slices) with just a hint of dessicated coconut
then 5 petit glasses, just 3 gulps big, of date milk, veggie soup, rice bran water, lassi and one more which i forgot… quite nice
The they put the banana leaf and serve 4 raw veggies, the raw mango salad was delicious… then you get four semi cooked vegetables, i loved the raw papaya and the petha sabjis and finally you get 4 fully cooked veggies, there was something to do with palak and amla which was quite delicious…
Then you are served the rice (unpolished v good for health red rice) with a paste of cooked moong dal, finally a choice of red and normal white rice with rasam and dahi kadhi (which has an unpronounceable malyalam/tamil name and was really tasty)
next buttermilk (v yummy) and payasam (made with jaggery)
Then a glass of hot jeera water appears when you have finished your meal to wash it down (had 5 sips)
Finally a spoonful of honey is poured into your hand and you slurp it signifying the end of the meal!!

All the food is cooked in bronze, copper or earthen ware, the kitchen was clean, the service a little slow but quite friendly… when extra portions were asked for they were given quite stingily :)

It was very nice food, very different… some of the sabjis were not hot (maybe they were not supposed to be, but i would have preferred them so)… the rasam was cold which was quite unforgivable…

Would i recommend this place?… yes definitely quite an experience, with mostly very tasty and really nutritious food… felt very light after such a long drawn out meal, though later in the evening i had almost no appetite for dinner… the ambiance could have been much better… thankfully there was no music, and you can properly focus on the food…

When we left there were quite a few people waiting in queue, so if you are planning to go, go a bit early, then you dont need to wait in the heat(waiting area is not air conditioned)… am pretty sure i would have left if i would have had to wait…

Would i go there again? Maybe once in every two trip to Chennai…

Bon Apetit!

PS Followed the lunch with juice in the fruit shop at greams road (thats the name, they have branches at a lot of place but still call it at greams road, we went to the fruit shop at greams road in spencer plaza, i am pretty sure it is something to do with the heat in chennai:))… really really yummy juices and milkshakes served here… if you goto chennai, please do go here and taste as many as you possibly can! :)
i had a flosberry flop (pineapple, lemon and mint), kavi had a pink panther (lemon, ginger and some other stuff to make it pink), Seema had a milkshake Ban the Banana (hint of banana with strawberry and milk and something else… they dont tell you its a secret), and we took home a sheik shake for dinesh (dates whirrled in with ice cold milk)…
many more really exotic juices and shakes to experiment with… my only complaint about this place is that they are not uniformly good… a juice on one visit will taste divine, on another terrible… but its far more likely to taste great than bad, so do go for it and if you have not too good an experience, give them one more chance :)
The other complaint: terrible loud music :)

Apr 6

Andrew LLoyd Webber

His music is almost uniformly fantastic!
One of the only composers of our times who effortlessly manages to combine various music types in one single play with gusto and elan… He has managed to come up with some of the most endearing music i have ever listened to and would sincerely recomend everyone to hear it and fall in love with it like i have :)

Here is a list of his musicals which have done brilliantly on broadway (in New York) and westend (London)

1. Joesph and the amazing technicolour dreamcoat (very old one, is now on a revival and playing right now in London… one of the best reasons to go there!)
2. Starlight Express (i have seen this one live atleast 4 times :), its about a train that gets enlightened :)!! )
3. Evita (yup, scored by ALW, the very famous Dont cry for me Argentina is from this musical)
4. The Phantom of the Opera (still running in London, perhaps the longest running musical in know of, running since 1986!!)
5. Sunset Boulevard (very depressing with some really brilliant music)
6. Jesus Christ Superstar (a rock opera, depicting the last few days of Jesus’s life as seen thru the eyes of Judas… fantastic, but can leave you quite shaken)
7. Cats (Terrific show, classy music Super hit song Memory is from this one)

8. By Jeeves ( A musical based on the characters of P.G. Wodehouse… i couldnt stop laughing… top notch music, somehow didnt do too well on the box office to my eternal wonder… if it ever comes on DVD grab it!)

Love changes everything is a beautiful song from Aspects of Love (didnt quite like any of the other music in that one)

He has written a few more, some of which i personally didnt like too much… There are some great DVDs and CDs which are available of his shows and music and make really great entertainment value…

Michael Crawford, Joesph Donovan and Sarah Brightman do super justice to ALW’s music… though i have even heard Antonio Banderas sing ALW’s music brilliantly! :)

The other musicals i have throughly enjoyed… i will leave that for another post… another day! :)

Apr 5

In Chennai

one word: Hot!! :)

its an absolute mystery to me how people can choose to live here… i wouldnt buy a house here… i would expect to be PAID to live here :)

But Raji aunty (Harish’s and Kavi’s mother) makes it all worthwhile by cooking up an avalanche of the most delicious dosas!!

i finished reading 2 books today… have been reading one for some time now, its called the Unwaba Revelations by samit basu… its the third part of his gameworld trilogy, and while the other 2 were absolutely fantastic (The simoqin Prophecies and The Manticore’s Secret), this one drags along… one big fantasy was after another interspresed with a few extremely funny and ingineous pages! I would keep reading to get to those parts… a very disappointing book, given the author’s earlier work… its a good read in the toliet or a long boring journey, but not much else…

The other is called Garlic and Saphires bu Ruth Reischl who used to be the New York Times food critic… utterly delicious and almost unputdownable for any person who enjoys food and some great humour… the only big problem i had with this book was that she talks about alsmot only non veggie restaurants and almost all the superb recipes in the book are non veg… will see how to convert some of them to veggie versions and post them here after cooking and tasting them for all of you :)… A throughly enjoyable read, i would recomend it quite wholeheartedly…

Cheers to the people who designed and made the Air Conditioner!!

Jai Gurudeva!
love
bawa

Apr 3

Criticism

Someone had asked me how to stay enthusiastic while doing things when many people or the people you care about criticize you often… Here is what i had written to that person :)

Firstly, know that when you are criticized, it means you are doing something. If you are just sitting around doing nothing, no one will criticize you. They might ignore you or scold you, but they can’t criticize you :-)

Secondly, because you are doing something, it means there are flaws. As Guruji says, there is no action that doesn’t have flaws. Some flaws are apparent and some are not. Forget about us, people even criticize Guruji!!

Thirdly, if there are flaws, feel good that you are coming to know about them, otherwise they may not go away.

And fourthly, yes, it’s tough to be able to take criticism and still not lose your enthusiasm. The best way is to invite criticism and then play with it ;-)

Life’s a game, not to be taken too seriously… Relax, Smile and Breathe!!

Jai Gurudeva!
love
bawa

Apr 3

Tomato Basil Soup

One more soup :)… i really love this one, its very quick to make and quite hearty… usually have just the soup with some bread and its a full meal for me…

10-15 red juicy big tomatoes pureed
10-16 leaves of fresh basil
Olive oil (extra virgin, cold pressed olive oil gives the best flavour)
Butter 1 inch cube
Salt to taste
1 carrot chopped up into very small cubes
1 small bunch of spinach roughly chopped
some fresh cream (optional)
Braggs Seasoning (optional) 2 -4 squirts depending on taste

Heat the olive oil and butter in a pan. Add salt and Braggs.
Add the basil leaves and let them crackle a bit.
Add the tomato puree and cook until done, you will see a bit of oil formation and the mixture will be bubbling away quite merrily. You may need to add water or vegetable stock depending on the consistency you want, i usually dont and leave it to be quite thick and hearty.
Just before serving add the carrots and boil, the carrots should not get cooked completely. They should remain slightly crunchy. Add spinach at the very end, it gets cooked in less than 1 minute.

Serve immediately!! It goes brilliantly with toasted multi grain or wheat bread.
A small dollop of fresh cream gives it a really rich look. If you are doing garlic, just 1 small clove of garlic chopped finely can also be added right at the start to the olive oil and butter and allowed to brown a bit before adding the basil leaves… it gives an entirely different, subtle flavour to the soup.

Apr 3

Pesto!!

One of the yummiest pestos i know how to make, i usually have a small batch always ready in the fridge for a quickie gourmet meal :)

2 cups fresh basil leaves packed
1/2 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons pine nuts or walnuts
Optional: 1-3 cloves of garlic finely crushed and 1/4th cup grated cheese (preferably parmesan)

Whirrr the leaves in small batches in a mixie until well chopped, add the nuts to the leaf mixture (and all the garlic if you are adding the garlic) and whirrr again… add half the cheese and blend while slowly adding the olive oil, stopping to scrape down the sides of the container, you can now add the rest of the cheese and anything else that may be left and finish the blending into a delicious thick smooth paste… i find that adding a pinch of salt makes it tastier too…

It keeps well in a fridge for about 10 days and for much longer if frozen

Next time you stir fry some veggies, dont add any indian spices, just aute the veggies until cooked and then add a generous spoonful of the pesto (to about 1/2 kg to 3/4 kg of veggies) and watch how the bland dish magically transforms into something really special… vary the amount of pesto according to your taste… serve with toasted bread

This pesto can be stirred through a cooked mixture of noodles and veggies for a surprizingly tasty meal…

Finally, toasted bread with butter and pesto spread tastes heavenly!

Will leave it to you to figure out other uses of the pesto…

PS Thanks a lot to Bharat Bhayya who keeps me supplied with the freshest of Basil leaves from his organic garden in the ashram… btw, Basil plants are remarkably easy to grow, and 5 pots lasted me over 5 months of almost daily continuous use!

Apr 3

April 2nd

Guruji came just for a few minutes to Satsang yesterday night… and He didnt say anything… watched a short little dance by some girls, and waved to everyone and glided out…
However, His silence and His love was profound and is still with me… i always wonder how He does it… even when He does nothing, He does everything :)
He left for Germany and met all of us who were there, and we were all feeling so blessed and loved and tender and warm as His car almost seemed to float out from the drive way and disappear into the night…

Chennai is at 65+ registrations!! Congratulations to all of you working out there :)

Apr 2

Satsang on April 1st 2008

Yesterday night’s Satsang was short and sweet…
Guruji has started a “new” way to meditate… NO i am not going to give it away here… you will just have to wait… and learn it when someone who knows how to teach it is where you are, or you are where they are :)
Ofcourse it was awesome :)
Knowledge was about Satsang:
Satsang is not just sitting and singing, it has four flavours:
1. Karma Satsang, when people get together and do Seva
2. Gaan Satsang, when people sing together
3. Gyan Satsang is when Knowledge is discussed in a group and
4. Moun Satsang is when many people meditate together

He also added that the fourth is perhaps the most important of all, but that all others also need to be done!

I am very proud of the YES!+ team in Mumbai in particular who are really doing all four, they participate in the Clean Up! Mumbai project and do hard work on the streets making them clean… after 4 weeks of it, now people have started to notice them and appreciate them… They are daring to dream of a clean Mumbai city, and i am sure with their dedication it will happen much sooner than most of them think :)
They then sing together, watch some Knowledge of Guruji and then do their Sadhana together… They are really rocking and totally enjoying themselves! many other cities in the world could learn from their example :)

Jai Gurudeva!
love
bawa

PS Chennai has organised a YES!+ DSN in just a few hours!! Kavi called me yesterday afternoon and said she wanted a DSN to happen in Chennai… i told her that the only free dates i had were from this thursday… she jumped at the challenge and by evening had 41 fully paid up confirmed registrations! She was in Bangalore while all this happened :) They are gunning for 100+… anyone wants to do a YES!+ DSN should land up in Chennai tomorrow evening before 4:00 pm… we may even start the course on friday evening… for more details call up +91-9884473469

Bonus Knowledge:

Question: Guruji what is Shanti(peace)?
Guruji: We must make you sit in a closed small room and play loudspeaker 24 hrs. And not some good music, some heavy loud music you dont like. Then after 24 hrs, when we switch it off, for sure you will come to know what is Shanti!!

Mar 29

Curious Lives

Another book i am reading right now… Curious Lives by Richard Bach
quite nice, the second story in it i really liked a lot… though no where near the absolute genius of his other books that i feel everyone must read:

Johnathan Livingston Seagull
Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah
A Bridge across Forever
One

His writing is surreal, vivid, joyful, funny, poignant… makes you feel fresh
The other books that he has written, somehow i have not enjoyed so much…
Happy Reading!
Jai Gurudeva!
love
bawa

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