May 30, 2008

Choppu Time

This is strictly not the choppu set that we were given as kids... But this is what's available in the market for kids of these days. For me, choppu means those colorful wooden toys which came in this special handwoven bamboo leaf carton. The toys were all made to match the south-indian kitchen and were the typical Chennapatna handiwork. I remember there used to be this cool ammi the grinding tool of the olden days, pots n pans, plates and ladles, a whole young girl's dream, all wrapped into that cute bamboo box. This choppu set was the quintessential cooking set that every south indian girl in India must have gotten as a child. Look what they have these days - a microwave, a coffee machine... all evidence of everything having gone hi-fi. The reason I am writing about this all of a sudden is that I dreamt about it last night... About the times we girls sat under the lift room on the terrace in Sai Dharshan, all equipped with out respective choppu samaan... Some girls had it in steel... some in plastic, complete with a mixi... But I loved mine best and we would always buy it when we went to Tirupathi and such... We would play house-house and sometimes our moms used to fill our pots with a few grains of daal and rice to make it feel more real. Indeed during Navarathri, these were the vessels we kept in front of the Chettiar-Chettichi bommais as if these were the goods they sold.

With generations changing... with new and more technologically advanced games for children, its a little surprise that the kids these days seem to do things either way faster than we did or way slower. With PS3s and Wiis haunting every household, I hope some of them pick up the Wii Fitness too... something that seems a refreshing change from the mundane sit-down brainlessly violent games that have become common for preteen kids as well. The best bet? Everyone go out to play.

May 22, 2008

The business trip

Laptop? -- Check
Notebook? -- Check
USB key, blah? -- Check

Having never been on a business trip before, I really had no idea what to expect from our meeting with the partners of the project. The train was at 7:24 am and that meant I had to get up atleast at 5:30 am if I had any chance of having my wake-up chai and make it in ample time to the station (I had better get there coz I had my professor's tickets as well). And after what seemed like eons (15 months since the defense), I stepped into formals and made my way to the station.

7:00am - Paris Gare du Nord. Yup, I was there. The train wasn't. They hadn't announced the platform yet. That meant I had enough time to grab a croissant at the Bonne Journee downstairs and yet, there was no sign of the professor. He and I had decided to meet there at 10 past 7. So he still had time to show up. Having munched my croissant and whiled away time just idling & looking around (I'd forgotten the Ipod - no 'check' for that one!), I glanced up at the DEPARTURES board again. And sure enough the 7:24 Lyon Parrache had Voie 3 (Platform 3)next to it... A quick glance later, I figured Voie 3 was right there and I wouldn't have to walk at all...

7:15am - No sign of the professor. I did have his phone number but I didn't want to bother him. Maybe he was waiting on the platform for me. I waded past the crowds upstairs and located our coach number. No. 5. Surely he had no idea it was no. 5 because I had the tickets. I flipped out my cell phone and called him.

7:18am - He's at the station somewhere at a coffee shop having coffee.
"There's time but I'll join you", he tells me...
Really? There's 6 minutes for the train to leave. There's time? I see him come by in about 3 minutes and I had just started to get really nervous and was contemplating a second phone call. We swiftly wave our tickets at the checking people. And no sooner had we located our seats, hung our coats and put away the luggage, the train glides off away from the station.

Now its my professor's turn to be shocked.
"It was this close?", he asks me in disbelief.
Hmm... I guess its the Indians that have the habit of making the train stations at least an hour before departure. Hmph

May 19, 2008

Foire du Trone

My earliest memory of going to a fun fair was when I was a kid when my dad took the family to the Ram Leela mela around Navrathri in some huge grounds in Bombay. I remember eating a lot of junk chaat, chewing on those ice candies and buying plastic bows n arrows with which my bro n I would play for days. And of course we went on the Giant Wheels (for everyone who calls it the Ferris Wheel... sorry, to us Indians its always the Giant Wheel). In fact I was a big fan of the giant wheels... maybe because I was sat on them from a very young age... On the miniature versions near Rajawadi Gardens or even the ones near Lions Park in Ghatkoper. I somehow attribute these childhood experiences as the reason for my love of rides.

This weekend, I had the chance to experience a fun fair all over again. Here its called the Foire du Trone (the Fair of Trone) and comes for a couple of months every Spring. It was a prime location quite in the center of Paris and indeed from atop the Giant Wheels, one could see the Eiffel Tower and other merry sights often associated with the Parisian skyline.

First things first, we got ourselves giant ice creams as we explored the length of the fair... There were quite a few rides, water and heights and all the works. There were also these fun stalls with the shooting games, the bow n arrow thingies, each with an enticing selection of prizes, mainly soft toys and sometimes electronic goods to be won. S being the boy, of course played out for the electronics and I as always for the cuddlies... There was also bungee jumping and some other utterly crazy rides for those who desired more than just a little thrill.. So, S, SK and I explored and played game after game, grabbed a bite of some yummy thing I can't pronounce and proceeded to win a whole bunch of toys... Here's my favorite one -

Recognize him? He's the dude from Ice Age scrambling behind the infinite acorns... It was total fun, I tell you... But at the end of the day, we were quite exhausted, having walked loops around the fair and quite broke (each of those games cost 4€ each types) and we'd ended up playing quite a lot. In fact we didn't realize just how much we'd played till we went to one stall and all of us emptied our pockets and still couldn't get enough change to pay for the game... and this given that we'd all made ATM withdrawals an hour ago. But you got to do what you got to do!!

May 12, 2008

Self Indulgence

Once in a while, not only is it forgivable to self-indulge, but its a requirement to... Self pampering is one of the best ways to all of a sudden feel good about oneself... I really didn't need an extra boost.. but while many others may have chosen to indulge in new accessories or clothes, I decided to indulge in my longest standing passion - books... I just finished ordering a bunch of books from Amazon for myself... half due to almost going crazy about not finding english books at bookstores out here and half out of longing to fill my half-empty bookshelf and do my bit for the wall of books fantasy. You may call me a nerd... But I can hardly get through a meal without having something to read or watch on TV. And guess whats the weirder part? I actually ordered them from Amazon USA and had them shipped to me international, rather than buying them at wee bit more extravagant Euro prices... Ah the considerations one must make before self-indulging! Good gracious me...

May 11, 2008

Tasty Tidbits III

I did it again!! I made Pav Bhaji on the husband's request and here's how it looked...

It tasted fantastic... had the perfect color, the perfect flavour n what not... The difference is my recipe... Its Pav Bhaji with a twist, with a few more additional steps than what conventional recipes tell you. But the extra effort is totally worth it. Its mouthwatering and beats any hotel Pav Bhaji you've ever had... If you want the recipe, all you need to do is ask!

Ooh by the way, the recipe to the paruppu usili is posted as a comment on its post. Check it out.. try it out and lemme know how you churned it out.

May 9, 2008

Tasty tidbits II

Ah... So I was making paruppu usili to go with the mor kozhambu that I made for dinner today. Usually, paruppu usili is made with beans or kovakkai (tindora), but I made it today with capsicum, the way my mom makes it. And it tastes as great as it looks... Wanna see?

If you like what you see and wanna know the recipe, leave me a comment.

Tasty tidbits

No no... I am not into food blogging.. But somethings I can't help. I usually fix this up when I am hungry and have to make do with leftovers. I just take a slice of bread, put it on the pan, sprinkle cheese on it and top it with anything I can find in my fridge - spread, chutney or subzi and it makes for a quick hunger fix. But yesterday at Franprix I found mini-canapes.. And they were sooo cute I just bought them. And so today I put that together today and here it is...

Isn't that appetizing? Bite-sized bread is cool and cute. I had topped it with the masala from yesterday's masala dosa and some tomato chutney. Was crazy tasty especially with the bread crusting n the other side. Here's another shot -

May 8, 2008


If you're the type that reads the news, you must be knowing about the devastating Myanmar cyclones. Read all about it here if you don't have a clue. Most of us are well-enough to do and definitely mean well. I made a donation through google. Remember- every penny counts. Here is the website - I urge everyone who can to please make a donation to help the survivors from succumbing to death.

May 7, 2008

Reality Check

So... I got down to making those dosas from that batter... And if I can say so myself, they turned out fantastic. But thats not precisely what this post is about. I had only 2 of us, S & I to make dosas for... Even so, I was taken back to those days in India where dosa invariably formed dinner for more than once a week sometimes. And my Chittipatti remains the master at the dosas and her dosas are paper-thin, tremendously crisp and with very little oil - its the ultimate combination all of us strive for while making dosas. And she's sooo good at it that people from all corners come home and request her speciality to savour. This post is about my Chittipatti, and occassionally Patti and definitely all Ammas in the world. An ode to them. How they unflinchingly make 30-50 dosas for the huge family/friends without so much a word of protest. In fact the more one ate, the happier they were... In fact my Chittipatti sits on the kitchen counter and amid the heat of cooking dosas sometimes, for well over 2 hours. Hats off!

I have done this a couple of times in the US.. A dosa dinner for the North Indian friends who were pretty enraptured with the dosa (they always called it DO(like TOE)-SA; never got the "Dh"). And as usual, after making about 20-25 dosas, I was pretty much full from the smell. But I had VR there to help me out and we used to make them together and she would make them for me when we had finished serving everyone else and vice versa. Here, I turned down S's chivalrous offer to make me my dosas once he'd completed dinner. And I had to make myself barely 3 dosas before I could appreciate what all our moms did for us. By the time the second dosa was being made, I realized that the first one was going cold. And everyone knows cold dosas are about as much fun as a damp sponge. So I ate it as the second one cooked. Following this pattern, I even had time to do the dishes while the third was cooking. With this discontinuity, its hardly a wonder that my Chittipatti after making those 50 odd dosas for everyone barely managed to eat the 2 that my mom made for her.

The next time I am in India and being pampered with "Innum onnavadhu saapdu" (Eat atleast one more), this reality is going to hit me and I swear I will try to partake their efforts in the making (though I doubt the people in question will ever choose my dosa over the Master Chef's!) But ther's no harm in trying. After all, S can vouch that my dosas were crisp and yummy too...

May 6, 2008

Sweater Dosa

I did title this right... The husband and I had this immense craving for dosa a couple of days back... And with a brand new mixi sitting at home, there is barely an excuse not to go about making it! So, I soaked the rice n urad dal last night and like a good girl, I arachified it this morning... And all I had to do after that was to let it ferment a bit before spreading out those crispy hot dosas for dinner tonight.

Problem: The vessel I poured the batter into is this saucepan of sorts (I don't have smaller handle-less vessels). The weather though dramatically improved, isn't warm enough for ideal fermenting, especially not with closed windows and shutters.
Usual solution: I leave stuff in the microwave when I want them protected and at a temperature a little higher than normal.

Today's problem: The microwave is too small to accomodate a 3 litre saucepan.
Today's solution: Batter kept inside the vessel cabinet snugly wrapped with my warmest sweatshirt.

Problems foreseen: The batter ferments soo much that it outspills the saucepan and ruins my sweatshirt.
Solution: The husband can buy me a new one in return for yummy dosas.

Ah.. there's a solution to everything in this world, isn't it?

May 5, 2008

A French Wedding

It was a long weekend this past weekend and we were out to celebrate the weather and a wedding - that of S's boss. So it took us to the north of France... We saw the beautiful beaches of Normandy before heading out to the rustic St Dizier near which the wedding was... But while the pretty part of this experience will feature on Citystalkers shortly, I take this time to write about the wedding itself. The card said 4:OO PM to past midnight... I couldn't imagine what we would possibly do for 8 hours.. Until we did and I found out..

4:00 PM: Signing in -So the couple arrived fully dressed exactly at 4:00 to the registrar office where by 4:05, the minister had confirmed that they were not forced into saying oui to one another and they'd signed their contract of marriage.

4:15PM - The ceremony - A few handshakes, a lot of pictures later, the couple and indeed the whole bunch of invitees waded over to the church across the street where the ceremony began. There were a lot of songs and they'd given us each a Program book in which one could find the lyrics of the songs. I took immense pleasure in loudly singing off-key, invoking a few engaging and other mutinous smiles from surrounding people. Within the hour, the vows were taken, the
rings exchanged, the kisses, the flowers, the Wedding March, et al. It was an exercise of sorts for the witnessing public.. The Father made us rise and sit at will and indeed I started debating my decision of wearing the heels that i'd bought for my own big day. And already. The night was yet to unfold.

5:00 PM - Mini party - At the hall of the registrar, was a mini greeting party where people like me who didn't have an inkling as to who the bride and groom were, could be introduced to them. And then came the champagne and the mini-appetizers... things that looked like those things on the Monaco biscuit ads back in India. Having nothing to do makes you hungry and we all eagerly devoured whatever we could lay hands on (whatever veggie in my case) and set out for taking pictures.

We idled... we chatted and we gossipped.. but the time was barely 6:10PM. It was too long to just wait around drinking more n more champagne after all. We decided to explore the countryside. The husband found out about a bar called Moulin Rouge about 10km away and so A, SK, V, S and I set off to 'explore'. As beautiful as it was deserted, we enjoyed a coffee/beer at the bar and then decided to make best of our 1 hour before the formal dinner to take pictures at the mustard fields, near unsuspecting cows and a tiny brook and became one with the nature out there.

8:00 PM - Back at the dinner - The dinner was at a community hall close to the earlier venue and featured beautifully arranged round tables with place names as souveniers. We seated ourselves there and were soon served the first course in our 6+ course menu. And that was the only thing to be served early. Every course following that literally came an hour later in between which there were silly games, a slideshow of the couple's pictures, a few karaoke songs, the couple's first dance soon joined by many other couples. All went great until S decided this was as good a place as any to embarass me... and offered the groom that I would sing for all of them. He then convinced me that singing in front of 30 people was a piece of cake and that I would manage blah blah... Well, if I was going down, so was everyone else. I smoothly convinced all the Indians on our table that we would all sing together. And so what do you know? There we were... rendering It's the time to disco to tumultous applause. Thats not all... guess what happens next? They play the song again and now want to be taught dance steps to it. Put in the centre of the happenings, unable to refuse the 25 odd eager people who'd formed a circle around me to follow my dance steps, I wildly invented. But that wasn't half as strange as seeing everyone repeat the steps I taught. It was crazy. Everyone had a blast... and the DJ proceeded to play Mahi Ve next and off we went inventing steps once more. Bollywood music was a raving hit and the DJ actually ripped our songs to play at other functions. S and I danced for a long while before returning famished for each course after almost an hour. But before long, everything had become a little too much to take. It is especially taboo to leave a party before the bride and groom have cut the cake. And the cake wasn't cut till 1:30 am. And after that came the champagne and the toast and then coffee!

By the time everything was over, I don't know what time it was... because we excused ourselves at 2:30 am. Then we had a long winding drive of 33km in pitch dark to get back to the hotel.

One hell of an experience. And to think that I had unsuspectingly asked S, 'Can't we leave around 10?', we would've not even have made it past the two appetizers. Lol.

May 1, 2008

The outlet power

Ah... This phrase can have sooo many meanings... But I am quite sure very few really guessed what I intend to write about here... I was watching an episode of Frasier and something that happened in it set off a train of thought... The need to have an outlet... for anything... from drainage to a volcano.. I know it sounds dramatic.... but its requirement in one's life is just that - dramatic. It makes a lot of difference to be able to vent one's feelings to another. And in Frasier, neither Frasier nor his brother Niles are the variety to make too much of their emotions in public. In retrospect, I am not a fan of public bawling either... but some emotions need to be vented... anger, tears, laughter.... I take that back... It is better to vent every feeling but in the right situations... in the privacy of your friend's circle, in the heart of your relationships, all the walls should be able to come down. Thats the mark of security. And anything is better out than in...

I for one have the distinct record of having bawled to my closest friends, sometimes for the stupidest reasons (SM knows what I'm talking about), but usually my tears are those of anger/frustration and I am not flattered by them being mistaken for me being a weak person. Of course when my hormones are sitting on the top shelf, I can weep for stupid TV shows like Sex and the City's last episode. And I literally walk away from brooding/tense situations. A walk and fresh air calms me down like nothing else.. and it helps me see things clearly. Often, the issue is not about making peace with the other person at all... its about making peace with myself. I am less forgiving about myself than about anyone else. I guess thats a Scorpion trait. And everyone deals with things differently. My dad has this really effective yet annoying way of dealing with things. He just stops talking to you. And believe me, its a very harsh punishment. I have barely been at the receiving end... but the once I have been was bad enough. I have tried to be like that.. but have failed miserably. I can't stay 5 minutes without saying something provocative to fuel the argument on... My brother on the other hand has this amazing ability to keep his voice down and controlled even in the tensest situations. For him, its all about the tone and not the pitch. I haven't managed that with any panache either. Gosh, and all this from one episode of Frasier.. They don't say for nothing not to have too much time on your hands. Happy May Day.