Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Register for the National Bone Marrow Registry

I care very deeply about this topic and as a south Asian, would like to do my fair bit. Until five years back, the only thing I knew about bone marrow was that they produce cells in our body - different types of them. I didn't realize the importance of the marrow till I was told to write an article. A day before my editor told me about this, I had told A that there are two Indians who are in urgent need of a marrow transplant as they had Acute Myeloid Leukemia. The next day, my editor said she wanted me to feature one or both of them and their significant others. As a former writer, I have had the opportunity to interview several people - from different walks of life. I think I can say that I've never been as attached to a story as this one. Five years later, I still find myself thinking about the families of Sameer and Vinay. I had interviewed Sameer and his beautiful wife Reena when he was yet to get a match to get a marrow transplant. A lot of south Asian people in the United States may know of these brave men - who battled leukemia and very unfortunately, succumbed to the disease. I didn't know either of them, or their families. But I was one of the many who used to visit their sites very regularly, and occasionally, still do.

It can be a whole different blog about their fight, their social media strategies, and the campaign strategies that they executed to encourage south Asians to register in the National Bone Marrow Registry. But this blog is about the fact that there are VERY FEW south Asians are registered on this registry. This significantly reduces the chances of finding a match when a person really needs it. Since Sameer and Vinay passed away, there have been several young (even kids) south Asians who have needed a marrow transplant. If more people register, the chances of finding a match go up, which may increase the likelihood of the person surviving as well.

Bone marrow registries are not very well set up in India also. Because of the way our body physiology works, a person of south Asian descent who is in dire need of a marrow transplant will either get the best match from his/ her own family, or someone who is of south Asian descent. Please don't wait for a bone marrow drive to take place in your city's temple or summer fair or any event. You can ask for a kit from the National Marrow donor program. They will send it to you, at no cost. There is no pain at all to register. All it requires is a simple CHEEK SWAB. That is it. When you fill the paper work, keep names, phone numbers and addresses of three people handy. Other than that, you won't need anything.

You may be a match for a person in one month, one year, six years or maybe never. If you are found to be a match and decide to go ahead with helping a patient, you may likely have soreness in your lower back. One reason that south Asians are hesitant to register for the marrow registry is because they fear what repercussions it may have on them if they are found to be a match. Please read these articles to find out more.

If you think you have incomplete information, these articles will help. Another place where you can find valuable information is SAMAR. It is the South Asian Marrow Association of Recruiters. They do a great job of trying to get more south Asians to register. Their website is: Please consider being a part of this registry, and believe in the power to be able to give a person another shot at life.

Here is the article I had written on Sameer Bhatia and his wife.
It has information on cord blood donation also and how it may be used. Pregnant mothers can decide if they would like to donate their precious cord blood to someone who needs it.
Please think about this, and if you would like, please be the next person to join the south Asian registry, or host a bone marrow registration drive. A and I had conducted a drive when we lived in Connecticut. Apart from creating fliers to let people know of the drive, there is little that you have to do. The National marrow Donor Program will send the kits to you, and you have to send the cheek swab samples, along with the respective paperwork back to them. Things like this are not highlighted too often in the news media. I have not urged you as readers to share my blog posts until now. But I do urge this time. Please share this article. Please send to as many people as possible, so more people are made aware of it. And hopefully they will register on the National Marrow registry.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Maa ki Daal in the True Sense of It

For those of you who read my blog regularly, you'll know that I write a lot about food-related things, but have never posted a recipe. This is a first for me. I have always wanted to participate in something that is food-blog related. Go back to this post, and you'll see my love for food blogs. The number of food blogs I have bookmarked since writing that blog has significantly gone up. It is all these amazing food blogs that I follow that has given me the inspiration to write this blog post. In my next post I will write about how these food blogs are more than just a platform to share recipes.

Here is my recipe for the Indian Food Palooza event that Prerna of Indian Simmer and two other bloggers have created. Apart from the fact that this dal is called Maa ki daal, the post is titled 'Maa ki daal in the true sense of it' as this recipe has been passed down to my sister and I by our mother. Maa ki daal is Hindi for lentils cooked by mom. It is very simple, and if you are new to the world of Indian cooking, you will find this recipe very simple to follow. It comes very close to the black dal you eat at a restaurant. In the picture, along with the dal, are jeera rice and simple potato vegetables. The jeera rice goes very well with the dal. If you are short of time or feel lazy, then by all means, please use plain rice.

My sister and I have a lot of great memories associated with this simple rice and dal dish. Whenever mom made this, it meant an escape from the usual evening meal. It also meant we got a more delicious meal, than the one we had everyday. And finally, I love everything associated with rice. So having this dal with rice and papad was a great break from the routine and we looked forward to these dinners. Here is the recipe:

• 3/4 cup Whole urad dal (black in color), also known as Black Gram
• 1/4 cup Chana dal (Bengal gram)
• 1/4 can of red kidney beans (optional)
• 3-4 cloves of Garlic
• Cinnamon sticks
• 1 tsp Ghee
• 2 pieces of Laung (clove)
• Cumin seeds
• 1.5 tsp Cumin powder
• Chilly powder
• Garam masala (very optional)
• Dry red chilies (very optional)
• 1 - 1.5 tbsp Yogurt

1. Take 3/4 cup of dal and 1/4 cup of chana dal.
2. Wash the urad dal and chana dal and cook in the pressure cooker.
3. Once cooked, run a hand blender through it, so that you have small pieces of dal. keep in mind the consistency you have in a restaurant. i like that you can chew the dal. so i blend it till the dal breaks, but is not all mushed up
4. In another pan, take 1/2 - 3/4 tsp of ghee (clarified butter). and add cumin seeds and one and a half dry red chillies. Omit the dry red chillies if you don't have them or like a mild flavor.
5. once they start popping, add finely chopped three to four cloves of garlic. A and I love garlic, so I add lots of it. You can use lesser than three cloves, depending on your taste.
6. Cook it just a little. Don't let it brown. Do keep in mind that the garlic browns very fast.
7. Lower the heat and add about 1.5 tsp of cumin powder, salt to taste and chilli powder. If you prefer mild food, add less.
8. Roast a little, and let the dry spices with the garlic and ghee.
9. Then add the blended daal.
10. Add water if needed - to improve the consistency.
11. Cook for sometime and heat till you get bubbles for a minute or two.
12. Add yoghurt at the very end. I used to add light or heavy cream some years back. But smooth yogurt gives the same richness as the cream. Keep on the gas for just about a minute after adding yogurt. It is only to get the richness. Tastes really nice. Again - if you're making for 4 people, you won't need more than 1 -1.5 tablespoon of yoghurt.
Voila - dal is ready! Like a lot of Indian dishes, this dal will taste even better the next day. Enjoy with rice or hot-of-the-stove chapatis!



• 1 cup rice
• 1 tsp ghee
• 1 - 1.5 tsp cumin seeds
• Salt to taste

1. Cook the rice as you generally do.
2. In a small pan (a 1-egg maker pan is best for this purpose), take the ghee and cumin seeds and heat it.
3. When the seeds begin to splutter, add the ghee with the seeds to the rice.
4. Sprinkle some salt to taste.
5. Fluff the rice and mix the ghee, cumin seeds and rice with a dinner fork. This will ensure equal mixing and more importantly, the rice will not break.
6. Cover the rice after it is cooked - to preserve the aroma of the cumin seeds.
7. Serve with dal.

NOTE: A good addition maybe to take very little oil or ghee and roast cashew nuts till they turn light brown in color. Set them on a paper towel for the extra oil or ghee to be absorbed. Before serving, garnish the rice with cashew nuts

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Arts and its Audiences

A and I enjoy going to music programs, dance recitals and to watch plays. I used to freelance for Indian newspapers and magazines when we lived in Connecticut (we left the place in 2008) and I used to cover events. I was still new to the country, and so it gave me good exposure to see new plays or dance recitals or musical performances. One event that I had covered was a play based on Mahatma Gandhi's life. It was in Stamford, Connecticut. After the play got over, I met with the main organizer of the event to get her thoughts. She said something that A and I had noticed in the previous events we had gone to. The organizer said that if one looked around the auditorium, there are fewer Indians at Indian events like this, and more non-Indian people.
She was very appreciative of the fact that Indian culture is of high importance to a lot of people over here. It was also very evident how much they enjoyed the program and were engrossed. But at the same time she was saddened by the fact that there were only a handful of Indians at that event. And even among those, there were hardly any younger Indians. She wished that more young Indians came to such events and saw the rich heritage that our country has to offer. We met with one of the audience members (a non-Indian), who had a theater studio in Hartford, Connecticut. He too, echoed the thoughts of the organizer and told me that, if there was some way, that people knew about it, they will take notice and things may change. Over the years, as A and I continued going to more performances, we saw how true this sentiment was.
We had gone this past Sunday to an event organized by the Gandhi Memorial Center in Bethesda, Maryland. It was based on the River Ganga, where a poetess read some paragraphs from her new book on the river and a Kuchipudi dancer, well known in the greater DC metro area, gave her rendition to one of India's most-worshipped rivers. There were more Indians compared to what we had seen in Connecticut, but hardly any younger Indians.
The arts is a beautiful field, but sustaining it is not easy. At a time when it is very difficult to host a show, or invite international artistes, one should appreciate the opportunity they are given, and give the artistes a boost. There are several groups across the country, who try to call budding artistes from India to give them a chance to establish themselves. These artistes need the encouragement. Think about it this way. If you were going to go play a basketball game, or a football game, or play the violin, wouldn't you want that more people saw how you did a great job by doing a 3-point shot or how you were a great teamplayer to win that crucial game. It is as simple as that. It is a sincere request that you please share this small blog post with others. Next time on, when you know an event is taking place in your town, take the time to spend a few hours of musical bliss or learning more about your home country.