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Rara Avis, Black Swans, and Hornbills

For Indian birders, hornbills are the rara avis. Or maybe not, depending on where you live.  If you live in the Northeast or the Western Ghats, you will see hornbills.  Sitting in Bangalore, it is rare. The term rara avis is linked to the Black Swan.  The expression comes from the Roman satirist Juvenal, 'Rara avis in terris nigroque simillima cycno [A rare bird on this earth, like nothing so much as a black swan]. I interviewed Dr. Aparajita Datta about hornbills for the Bird Podcast.  Listen to it here.

Growing up Karanth: book review: for Hindustan Times

Why do we read a biography? Often, because we want to get to know greatness. We are drawn to charismatic compelling figures and we want to know the ‘real person’ behind the public persona. By this measure, Growing up Karanth delivers in full measure. It takes us inside the life and mind of the Karanth family. It shows us how they lived, the kinds of food they ate, the animals they kept, and the connections they fostered.

Tabasco’s Temptation/Fresh magazine

I wrote about the allure of Tabasco for Fresh magazine. It is a personal essay with a long narrative arc. When all else fails, I reach for Tabasco. It’s my go-to condiment, as comforting to me as a child’s blanket, as dependable as New England’s four seasons, as fierce as the women in my family—my mother, my grandmother, and my many aunts—whose cooking I longed for when I arrived at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts, from India as a young undergraduate in the late ’80s.At school and out of my element, I missed the stews my mother would cook on her outdoor stove under the moonlight, the dishes that teemed with the rich scents and spicy flavors of my native South India. In comparison, the cafeteria food was bland and arrived like clockwork: Pasta on Mondays, ratatouille on Tuesdays, burgers on Wednesdays, pizza on Fridays, and so on. I yearned for the fiery green chilies that flavored the curries back home. I needed some fire and spice—and that bottle of cafeteria mustard was no substitute.

Using Twitter/ Nieman Storyboard

For a writer, being successful on Twitter, accumulating followers, is a particular skill that has more to do with showmanship than writing.  Provocative, controversial and funny content attracts followers.  Can you do that? Writing click-bait type tweets that offer headline-like copy helps.  Can you do that? Keeping a steady cadence of content is key.  You have to keep putting stuff out there.  Some folks tweet four times a day. Can you do that?  It involves being comfortable with what skeptics call “oversharing,” and stopping the censor in your head that says “nobody cares about your every inane thought.” Can you stop that censor? Read my take on how journalists use Twitter.

About Rajat Parr/Sommelier India

The unbridled pleasure of orange wine   If you ask wine writers or sommeliers to pick a wine that goes well with Indian food, you get a few-- somewhat trite, tried and, one must add, tired-- answers.   “Pick a beer,” is what many will say.  The logic is that spicy Indian food will overpower delicate wines.  Most sommeliers will choose white wines over red. If they choose red, it would be medium-bodied slightly spicy wines over others.  Ask wine directors at fancy Indian restaurants in Europe and the UK and their responses will have a thread but also reflect their [...]

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