Friday, August 31, 2012

So that I may not forget again

That I am a happy person with a cheerful indisposition

That listening to music always uplifts my spirit

That sky gazing and deciphering the shapes of clouds is a favourite activity

That I love waking up early and enjoy the company of solitude and the house

That I consider kindness as the biggest quality and honesty follows soon after

That writing is fulfilling

That reading is essential to being

That I can cry at the mere mention of certain things but that is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about

That I believe in life, resilience, hard work and laughter. ah! also hugs.

That I may need to have some more self confidence in my abilities from time to time but I often know better than what I give myself credit for

That I believe that no relationship is a waste of time and utna hi upkaar samajh, koi jitna saath nibha de

That going the extra mile is fun because it is not crowded and you get some time to be on your own

That I believe in holding my head and standards high

That I believe in the power of prayer

That I also believe that if God brings you to it, He will also bring you through it.

That Samay se pehle aur kismet se zyada kisi ko nahi mila hai

That people either inspire you or drain you. Once you recognise who is doing what, act quickly.

That taking a deep breath is an instant remedy to anger

That moving your butt helps in getting distracted and distraction often helps you embark on to better things than sulking

That my daughter will always carry a part of me and it is up to me to lend her the best there is in me

That I am a decent cook.

That I am blessed to have the time and resources to do what I want.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Accomodating the Indian Palette

When KFC opened an outlet in Chandigarh, it must have dreamt of cash registers ringing almost instantly; after all,  Punjabis are known to relish their chicken. Unfortunately though, the outlet found it a wee bit hard to attract customers, owing to the very typical taste of American fast food. Eventually things — rather ingredients — had to be toned to suit the Punjabi palate and now if you go into the same branch located in the Sector 8 market, you will hardly find a place to sit.
This is a case in point that in India we know our taste buds very well. A huge range of fast food coming from various countries has had to be adapted to suit us.
Look at the innovative pizzas that are available right, left and centre. Pizza Hut recently came up with as many as 15 variants of the Italian dish where flavours were derived from regional preferences. The names of these offerings were as sumptuous as the dishes themselves. You got to pick between Chettinad Paneer, Nimbu Mirchi, Sev Puri, Chatpata Veg Masala, Chicken Do Pyaza and Chicken Achari, just to name a few. Any bakery irrespective of its size will have a wide range of pizzas to offer to its discerning customer.
Pasta has also found devotion from the food-lovers of this country and you might find your chowmein wala bhaiya now diversifying into this. Pasta is another staple food from Italy. It is an essential part of traditional Italian cuisine. Pasta travelled with the immigrants crossing the border from Italy into Canada and America. It soon became a popular fast food owing to its versatility. It could be the main dish, have a soupy avatar or be simply part of a baked dish. We generally refer to all our pasta as macaroni but there are quite a few types of pasta available. They fall mainly in two categories — dried and fresh pasta. The macaroni, fussili, penne and farfalle are the most visible variety whereas spaghetti, which resembles noodles, is also gaining popularity.
McDonald’s had to take into consideration the local flavours of the country. The result is its most loved product, the McAloo Tikki Burger. A spin on our shammi kababs and you have the McGrill. Both these products are unique to Indian markets.
The most popular of our fast foods is chow mein or stir-fried noodles.
Offered at every market along with other preparations like a fiery soup or momos, the chowmein is available in both vegetarian and non-vegetarian form. You also get an American twist introduced to this Chinese dish. To add a unique spin and to may be Indianise it further, some stall owners will often add chaat masala to the dish before it is placed in front of the consumer on a paper plate.
The dumplings, from our neighbouring countries of Nepal, Bhutan and China, are also available at many evening markets. Steaming hot momos, coming out of round tins, are often served with a paste-like chilly sauce that has a hotness quotient equalled by few others. Momos are available in a fried form as well. Momos are an extremely light preparation and have very subtle flavours to offer.
The Nepali noodle soup called Thupka has also transcended the border and found a niche place at stalls in our markets.

(And here is the link to the article in my Food column in The New Indian Express first published on August 24, 2012)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Of old posts and lost friends

Visited my first blog at Sulekha. I feared that it might not be possible to track those entries but lo and behold, they are very much there.

These entries were a delight in themselves as they revealed a person who has now been missing for a while. They also brought back memories of people who at a junction were my world. None of them were present physically around me and I think I ever met only one guy from the whole gang, yet the love, the warmth and the innocence of those days has added a shade of mellow to this warm afternoon in Kolkata.

Pradzie, my first internet friend, Nimmi, Adra, Atracus, La Louve, IBL, Unni, Perpetually Perplexed.....people or identities, who gave me much needed love, appreciation and helped gain confidence in my voice.

To day I have left messages for them on their blogs though I saw that many have not visited the blog since years. Yet I am hopeful milegi baharon ki manzil raahi.

Some of the ancient entries:

Coming full circle was where it all started.

A Matrimonial Ad that I had wanted to post when boy-hunt was on.

A very important entry on Men and things that they know about women.

Also got re-acquainted with my thoughts on Love or something like that

The bus rides and the love for Chai has always been held at great esteem- this wass just a confirmation.

Eventually a thank you note to Life was an eye opener

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Culinary Gene: Black Garlic

Thanks to this one dear girl, Prerna Uppal, I got an opportunity to do a couple of articles for a magazine called Prismma. One of the articles is out in the July-August issue of the magazine. The main character of this story is Black Garlic.

If you have always liked the garlicky taste in your Indian or Italian dishes, you will love it all the more in the length and breadth your Japanese and Korean cuisines. Or maybe you would like to applaud the dessert for the taste lent to it by the black garlic. Yes, you read it right- black garlic- is here and is making place for itself in kitchens all over the world.
The Culinary Gene: Black Garlic

Finger licking good

You cannot escape its tantalising aroma as you cross the street and the mere mention of some of these preparations is sure to get your mouth watering. Yes! You guessed it right. I am talking about the rich variety of our yummy street food.
Earlier on, no mohalla (neighbourhood), worth its name was complete without these street hawkers who would come to sell their preparation, especially to the women folk during afternoons. Street food today ranges from simple snacks like chaat, paani puri, sev, chuskis, jalebis to full meals like aloo puri, fried rice, chowmein, aloo matar kulcha for the working masses.
Every Indian city has a special trademark ‘street food’ where it is a part of everyday life to take a snack break while catching up with the day’s gossip. Let us dig a bit deeper from one end of the country to the other.
Delhi, the nation’s capital, could well be called the street food capital of the country. Dilliwallas, I think would like to take credit for the one-of-its kind fare called chaat, but history points slightly in the direction of Uttar Pradesh. Then again one is reminded of the fact that both Delhi and UP were a single unit till we gained Independence.
Chaat, the mere mention of its name brings to mind a range of lip smacking, tangy and spicy delicacies. This could be a combination of seasonal fruits cut in easy-to-eat chunks or a mix of boiled potatoes, chickpeas and papri. Garnished with a range of masalas and herbs like coriander leaves, a chaat preparation generally uses strained curd and thus has a cooling effect on our system and also diminishes any strain that the spices or chillies might exert.
From this simple chaat up in the north, the name undergoes a change as soon as a little variation is introduced in its form. Here we are talking about the paani puri. They are called bataasha in UP, referred to as gol gappas anywhere else in the north as well as in Mumbai and Gujarat and lovingly called puchkas in Kolkata. These little water balls are a fiery delight.  Made up of maida or sooji,  the paani puri has found a translation in chaat terms with much the same use of ingredients like boiled potatoes and chickpeas, chutneys and curds as any other preparation.
Bhel is another popular cousin of chaat. Made up of puffed rice, prepped with onion juliennes, chopped tomatoes, boiled potatoes, groundnuts, the typical masalas like amchoor and garam masala, this is a hot favourite with those who are watching their calorie intake. In Kolkata this snack, with a little alteration, makes for the famous jhaal muri. Jhaal is the local word for chilly. So jhaal muri refers to a spicy combination of muri or puffed rice with jhaal or chilly as per your taste. Mustard oil is sprinkled towards the end as a final touch to the muri preparation.
We will find out more about other delicious street offerings next time.

(The post appeared first as an article in the The New Indian Express on August 17, 2012)

Laddoos and Festivals

One of the most important festivals in Hindu tradition, Rakhi, has just gone by. This festival symbolising the great love between sister and brother is synonymous with yummy mithais being made in almost every household. We are two sisters but our mother made sure that we did not feel left out of the celebrations and so we were involved ceremoniously in making motichoor laddoos.
Oh! What an indescribable pleasure it was. The whole process of making those yellow balls of delight would get us excited days before the actual event.
As we grew up we came to love other variants of this versatile sweet. My sister, who is a much better cook than me, has gained proficiency in making modaks. Modaks are a popular form of sweet from western and southeren India. The mention of modaks brings to mind the colourful and vibrant celebrations of Ganesh Chaturthi. The sweet filling is generally made up of freshly grated coconut and jaggery while the outer shell is made of rice or wheat flour mixed with maida. Modaks are Lord Ganesha’s favourite food and for this love he is also referred to as modakpriya in Sanskrit.
Then there are my own favourite, the coconut laddoos. Modern day science and the boom in supermarket culture has ensured that making them is a task that can be accomplished in 15 minutes flat. I am sure that you must have also heard names like ‘till ke laddoo’, ‘besan ke laddoo’ and many others which are as heavenly and nourishing as their siblings.
We all know that laddoos are an irreplaceable part of our religious festivals. Unfortunately some new-fangled ideas about the best diet put certain restrictions on our consumption of these lovable energy balls.
I agree that anything in excess is harmful for our health and so would be any of these laddoos if you do not watch how many you gobble for their sheer taste.
But if you look closely at the ingredients of any of these laddoos, you are bound to notice the goodness and richness that they contain.
One of the most important elements of laddoos is ghee or clarified butter. According to ayurveda, consumption of ghee is like offering the finest fuel to the body for its optimum working. Ghee helps in keeping our organs soft, increases the most refined element for digestion called ‘ojas’ which underlies our immunity.
Another thing that makes all the laddoos an incomparable treat is the nuts that are either used as a ingredient or garnish.
Now, you may have heard that nuts are fattening but contrary to this perceived notion, nuts contain all those essential fatty acids which help maintain a glowing skin and lustrous hair. They also are a storehouse of essential vitamins such as Vitamins A, D, E and K. Many of them are a rich source of minerals like iron, magnesium and zinc, again, essential for maintaining good health and vigour.
In traditional recipes for laddoos jaggery is used to add sweetness and is a rich source of minerals and vitamins. So next time your mother or granny gets ready to prepare this wholesome sweet make sure you lend a helping hand and reward their effort with appreciation.

(My thoughts on the wonderful laddooooooos, that appeared first in The New Indian Express on August 10, 2012)

A healthy and versatile treat

As a child I was totally taken in by the beauty of these small, white pearls called sabudana, which I thought were made of soap. I don’t really remember where I gathered that impression but my interest in sabudana led me to find out more about it.
According to an urban legend, a European settler in Kerala once saw a local man sitting and digging under a rather tall and a thin plant. The European gentleman asked him what he was doing. The busy man answered in Malayalam, “Thappiyoka” which means ‘I am searching...’ The poor European thought that he had been told the name of the plant and gradually it came to be known as tapioca.
Sabudana or sago is basically starch. It is extracted from the tuberous root of the cassava plant. Tapioca or shakarkandi’s root is processed to gain a white starchy liquid which is then factory-processed into desired shapes. The white pearls are the most popular one though I am sure you must have savoured it as roasted papad, or as fried sticks as well.
What makes sabudana my favourite is the flexibility that it offers in terms of cooking. I use it for a sweet kheer as well as to make mouth watering snacks like khichdi, poori and tikkis.
Another reason why I love sabudana is that it is an instant energy booster. Being made of starch, sabudana is full of carbohydrates. And, as you might know from your science class, carbohydrates are an essential source of energy in our body. That is the reason why it is often found on many a breakfast table across India. Also, for this very reason it finds itself very popular during pujas and vrats. You must have seen it in its ground form during fasting periods when the flour is used to make flat breads or pooris.
The great variety of ways in which sabudana is made follows from the fact that sabudana in itself contains only traces of fat and protein. It is deficient in certain minerals vital for the human body. Hence it becomes important to add other ingredients like milk for the kheer or payasam, or green vegetables for a khichdi to make it a complete food.
Sabudana is popular in Indian medicine as well. It is said to have a cooling and balancing effect on our system, just like rice. It is recommended to people taking strong allopathic medicines and antibiotics. Sabudana gruel is easy on the digestive system and helps the body gain energy quickly. It is often considered safe enough to be fed to babies who have not yet developed a digestive system for complex foods.
Sabudana is not popular just here in India but has a massive fan following all over the world. In Malaysia, tons of sabudana are imported every year because it forms an important part of a local dish called kerepok lekor — a kind of fish sausage.
While in some parts of the country it is boiled and baked to make breads, in others it is used commercially to make noodles.
Surprisingly the uses of sabudana do not end in our kitchens; it finds extensive use in a variety of products like textile, polythene, paper and plywood.
I am sure all this must have piqued your interest in these energy balls. So go ahead, find out more, and share the information with the world!.

The post appeared as an article first published in The New Indian Express on July 27, 2012

Monday, August 06, 2012


I was so busy

That I forgot to look at you
And appreciate the strength your muscles have acquired

I forgot to smile at you
And extend to you the warmth that my heart feels for you

I forgot to reach out to plant kisses on the scrapped knee
And let you know that I am around

I forgot to hold you tight before you left home
And convey that I will be waiting for you to come back

To see that you were waiting for me to get on with myself
So that I could come back to you

I was so busy
But now I wonder what else I might have missed
While I was too busy
Did I sign the notes that your teachers sent?
Did I get a hug for baking a cake for you?
Did I read stories to you and sing songs?
Did I win you friends with craft-work?
Did I take you for the walks?

I now wonder what do I have to show for all that time that I spent being busy
I dread if you ever ask me to show something for being busy always
I wouldn’t have anything
Because I was so busy
Doing nothing

Friday, August 03, 2012

Thoughts on your departure

Dear Sub

I googled the distance from New Delhi to Columbus and I am told it is:

7562.9 Miles or 12171.3 Kilometers / 6567.6 Nautical Miles

Approximate flight duration time from New Delhi to Columbus is 15 hrs, 42 mins but I know you have a longer flight. You must have been on a plane for more than half the time, as I sit down to write this. Initially I had wanted to write about how I felt about your leaving yesterday night but then thought that maybe I was too overwhelmed to do it straight away.

I got up unusually early with the task on my mind but I spent my those early morning hours doing routine stuff. Then when Netra was out of the house in the evening, the usual time, we would have a chat, I again sat down with my laptop and I googled.

Yet again something came up and I had to rush away. All in all it is almost exactly a day after you have left that I am putting how I feel about your going away down.

First of all, and I should have told you this before you left, I am so proud of you that I think when you graduate I am going to feel as if it is my own achievement.I am so proud of you for going with your own conviction and not listening to anyone else. Many people we know and maybe us- a couple of radical ones- in the family would not have done what you have done- followed your heart.

I know the journey is long and a difficult one. I also know something about our genetic make-up, our never say die spirit and I have full faith in the fact that you will be invincible now onwards.

You called me just now to say that you have touched down in NewYork and the excitement in your voice was so palpable.I kept asking you in every conversation yesterday about how you felt and you would say not a thing. I kind of knew what you meant because even I did not feel anything till the time you had almost sent a text from Brussels. Maybe years of living in different cities has brought this kind of resilience.

That, however, does not undermine the velocity with which I have been missing you since the evening. Anyway, I will miss you even if you were in an apartment next to mine, knowing fully well that within 15 minutes of coming in close contact we would get one each other's nerves.

My attempts at lecturing you, being the big sister, were squashed last night by you and my dear husband and so this is also about a few tit-bits that I would like to keep in your head always.

1. We love you. When I say 'we' I mean anyone and everyone who has come in touch with you and has survived the impact. Many of us are not good at expressing that love, but it is there. Close your eyes and feel it whenever you feel lonely in Pardes.

2. We are extremely proud of you, especially me. The lazy bum that I am, I would have been dithered by the prospect of filling zillion application forms and writing down those many essays. But I saw you at it and even if you would not have made it to any place I would have been very proud of your determination.

3. Forrest Gump's mum would tell him, Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you gonna get.(I can hear Tom Hanks right now)Life is going to offer a great variety, I am sure, please keep your head about while choosing a piece of chocolate. Also remember that you have every right to change your mind, if you don't like the taste of one that you choose. Be extremely choosy about whom you share your time with and experiences you gather.

4. We will be constantly worrying about you but don't let that faze you. Go embrace life and all that it offers you (keeping in mind point number 3, of course)Maybe we will learn not to, but that has a slim chance of happening.

There is a lot more that I would like to add to this list but you have given ample proof that you are a sensible young girl. So instead I will go, sleep and dream about your graduation.