We’ve been having a strange run of weather. Through the day the skies remain overcast, the temperature remains in the mid-20s and there’s little rain. The reduced rainfall will almost certainly have consequences in the summer of ’22 and I’m not sure if the catchment areas are dry too. However, it’s great weather for outdoors and for cycling. Due to the scarce rain the roads remain dry and bicycles don’t pick up much muck no matter where you’re going.
There’s an absolutely verdant green route that I frequent on my bicycle. I start early from mid-city and ride towards Pashan. Once University is behind you, the usual city traffic thins out and the green cover improves. This is the way it stays as you pass the National Chemical Laboratory, the NCL Innovation Center all the way to the Necklace Garden. It’s about 8.5 km one-way with a testing climb that starts at Pashan chowk.
On the way riders first pass the Loyola High School and Junior College. As a junior college student, my first day there fell in the middle of the monsoon (June-July) of ’94. The path up to the college was drenched and overrun with green on either side. Since the area predominantly belongs to the Maharashtra Police and other institutions, it has successfully resisted being overrun by concrete and has kept it’s green cover.
Beyond the Necklace Garden are favorite destinations of Pune cyclists- the National Defence Academy and then further beyond are Mulshi lake, Pirangut, Lavasa and so on. I hope to gradually increase my cycling range to touch these points soon.
My ride is a Schnell Sierra hybrid. Today’s ride was smooth and hassle free thanks to the expert team at Cycleologisst (https://cyclelogisst.com/). I’ve included a mention here because their work on my bicycle has improved my ride considerably. Pune cycling is seeing an explosion of riders right now. Paradoxically, it’s still early and uncertain days for dedicated bicycle shops like this one. We had a very recent closure of a landmark, premium retail and service center which might tell us something about the RoI from the bicycle services business. Perhaps this local industry could be close to it’s ‘uber’-moment.
I find the news about Tom unacceptable. I was unsure of what to make of it. I wasn’t alone. There were so many who felt like this. The furtive exchange of messages on various forums were a testament to the opaque and tragic nature if the news. I know that some of us who felt the loss turned to his blog to reaffirm his presence. He had raised his writing over the years and had been regular. Every story narrated with that seasoning of personal experience. In everyone’s mind Tom had been a brilliant personality. His writing will endure and reflect that brilliance in a small way.
It’s difficult to gauge the impact people have had on you. This blog was much livelier at one point of time. Why so? I think it’s an easy answer to give. At the time I was surrounded by individuals who drove me to think and write about things. When they moved on a lot of that motivation and flow went along with them. Now I’m trying to teach myself to understand and work with the void. Before the reader can exist, I think I have to learn to write for myself.
At one point when this blog just existed, I did write with a lot more freedom. It’s a whole lot easier that way. Somehow that conversation doesn’t seem to exist any longer. Like a flickering light bulb it brightens and then dims unpredictably. That training to just come here and write seems to have vanished. That training to focus for extended periods of time in writing seems to have gone.
I’d spent a great number of years writing here for the web. At the time blogging was still a pretty new concept. Nobody really read my blog, but then again anybody could read it. I didn’t really understand the idea so well. I started the blog as something I thought would just stick with me and it did.
A colleague who first found my blog remarked that I was writing ‘so that I would remember my experiences when I’m older’. That was prescient. In a way what we write will live on even beyond us.
I wrote through my first job, I wrote through my post-graduate years and then later I wrote some more. Altogether 6 years worth of writing existed. I compiled it all together on this place when I decided to move to India.
Back home, I’d begun working with a colleague closely. Let’s call them Tom. I recall we got together and reviewed my blog going through each post. I remember it being in a professional context, but my writing was personal. The review may have had something to do with the fact that the blog was very visible when someone searched for me. I’m certain that colleague got the idea of why something like that needed to exist. On the other hand, the implications were awkward to spell out. Should we hide some of the posts? I was uncomfortable with the idea that every word that I’d put up here was being scrutinized.
I respect those who can write about their work in a commanding and engaging manner. If you’ve been able to get to that point, it couldn’t have been easy. Writing about someone can help boost them, or it can hurt them irrevocably. I’ve been at both ends, as the writer and as the written. It can also be beneficial. Imagine a single founder plugging away their experiences on a blog. An outlet for the frustrations they’re grappling with. Here the line between personal and professional doesn’t exist any longer.
Later Tom and I moved apart. I like to think he took something from here. He began to write for himself at a very different level, mastering the medium. I loosely stayed in touch with him and his writing. The void rolled in as time went on.
This afternoon, I was with my toddler when I received a text ‘Did I know the news about Tom?’ I did not. I hadn’t spoken to him in a while. I learned through friends that he had passed away in a freak accident. The unpredictable nature of life had hit hard. Remember that void I spoke about earlier? I felt it right there. There was nothing else to go by. I found some time for myself and I looked up their blog. I started to go over Tom’s writing. In an abstract way, he was there for that little bit, narrating his experiences.
On my mind: How can deAzzle help home chefs, bakers and other home businesses?
My coffee dose: Mysore Nugget Bold from Kumaradhara traders.
A cause I want to share: “Mission Vayu” by MCCIA. Maharashtra has been hit hard by COVID19. Mission Vayu helps by providing Oxygen concentrators and more to the worst affected districts of Maharashtra.
Sunday morning mist clings desperately to the trail.
WA, September 2005.
Mist rolls down the hillside.
WA, September 2005.
At last! We’ve reached our destination.
WA, September 2005.
Fellow trekker and companion. A well behaved boy throughout.
WA, September 2005.
The Moka Pot is an unusual device and not exactly easy to decipher. I’ve learned a lot about brewing coffee with my 3-cup Bialetti in the last few weeks. This is a real short version of what I believe are the key variables that change the brew taste. The post assumes you already know basics of Moka Pot brewing.
Heat application: This is in my opinion the number one variable. Can be controlled on a stove top by getting a good steel heat diffuser which prevents the pot from being directly exposed to the heat. It also needs to be cut off at just the right time to prevent steam rushing through the pot’s lower chambers and scalding the coffee. It really need not be constant throughout the brewing process and is tightly connected to the next variable:
Brew Time: I didn’t realize how important this was until a friend pointed out that my brews were taking too long (8 – 9 mins). On cutting short the brew time (< 4 mins) using pre-boiled water, the sour taste in the final product was noticeably lower. The running theory is that in longer brews the lower temperatures of the water leads to extraction of the sour flavors from the coffee.
Grind Size: The Moka Pot can brew with a wide variety of grind sizes from medium-fine to fine. I believe the finest you can go is when your coffee grounds literally start getting through the upper metal filter in the Moka Pot. Grind size does make a noticeable difference to the taste of the final brew. It’s worth controlling and experimenting with. I’ve found it difficult to go finer if you can’t control the Heat applied. In my early trials where I’d exposed the pot directly to the flame, finer grinds would sputter violently. Once I had the diffuser in place those same brews had a consistent flow.
Other variables include Roast (medium, medium-dark and dark), water quality, coffee dose (the grinds must swell to fill the basket for best results), water volume in the lower pot – all play a role. The coffee quality too is worth mentioning. I was truly startled by Ethiopian Yirgacheffe (medium-dark). It had light qualities I couldn’t find any of our Indian SO or blends I’ve tried so far.
That’s all for now. This post ought to morph into something much more detailed later on.
I’ve been brewing Red Earth’s Espresso Blend beans in my Moka Pot. I skipped the brew for 2 days and my mornings were noticeably duller with cravings. It’s official, I’m hooked! I have the espresso-like coffee with 3 parts milk, no sugar. I enjoy the caramel, dark feel to the coffee. Who would’ve thought it’d be addicting.
There’s something oddly satisfying about watching coffee percolate.
My younger brother picked up a few light roasts for tasting and had them shipped over to my place so that I can send them on to him. Unfortunately, it looks like export of coffee beans to the United Kingdom have been banned! I’ve come into 3 small bags of light roasts, plus a large bag of Baalmadi beans. Let the tasting begin!
I brewed my cup while waiting for a call with a connect to begin. He promised to fit me into his tight schedule and warned me that I might have to wait. No regrets. That beautiful and delicious cup is from a 4+ min brew in a french press, 15 gm of coarsely ground beans and 200 ml of hot water. A real pleasant accident.
The aroma of fresh ground coffee revives faint memories of friends from the south. Their homes exuding the warmth of filter coffee. Those familiar with Deccan, Pune will remember walking by the captivating aroma from the roasters next door to the Good Luck restaurant. Coffee adds it’s own magic to my breakfast. It helps bind every social experience, helping you remember them thanks to the number it does on your olfactory senses.