October 30, 2010

The unexpected saturation

Has it ever happened to you? You don't need something but you go to a store and are tempted and end up buying something? It maybe something as inexpensive as junk jewelry for 2€ or something as extravagant as that faux fur coat (ok all the men substitute with watches or Xboxes or what not). But I am amused and extremely happy that I seem to have outgrown this phase. I went "shopping" with 3 different sets of people, all because each of them needed to buy something. And on every occasion like this in the past I have ended up with a surplus of something or the other which was "nice" or "not bad for the price" and what not. And now, 3 straight days in a row and 6+ hours of shopping later, I haven't so much as bought a trinket. In every store I went to I saw things that were "nice" and "not bad for the price" and what not but I didn't have that urge to pick it up, try it on even and worse, buy it. Maybe this is an offspring of the reaction of ironing all those clothes 2 weeks ago or I don't know. Or maybe I've just grown up and realized that I really didn't need any of the things I saw. Who knew I would get here? I for one, didn't.

October 29, 2010

The really easy vegetable biryani

Owing to popular demand (read on Facebook and GChat), I’ve decided it might be worth my while '(and yours once you see how easy and quick this recipe is) to post this recipe on the blog finally. So here’s another look at this one.

IMG_3732-1  Vegetable biryani


For tempering  
1. Mustard seeds (kadugu) 1 tsp
2. Cumin (jeera) 1 tsp
3. Cloves (lavang) 4-5 pieces
4. Cinnamon (dal-cheeni) 1-2 1-inch pieces
5. Bay leaves 1/2 medium-sized
For garnishing  
1. Washed coriander leaves (kothamalli) 1 small bunch
Everything else  
1. Veggies 3 mid-large potatoes, 5-6 mid-large carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
2. Basmati rice 1.5-2 cups, well washed and soaked for 1 hour at least
3. Oil/butter 2 tbsp
4. Water 1-2 cups
5. Yogurt 1 cup
6. Salt to taste
7. Red chilli powder/subji masala 1/2 tsp
8. Turmeric (haldi/manjal podi) 1/4 tsp


1. First things first, leave the rice soaking while you do everything else.

2. In a heavy-bottomed pressure cooker (bonus points for using a pressure pan), heat the oil and add the ingredients listed under the “For tempering” title.

3. Wait for the mustard/jeera combo to sputter and then add the carrots and potatoes and give it a good toss.

4. Add salt, turmeric, and subji masala/red chilli powder and then give it another good stir.

5. Allow everything to semi-cook for about 5 minutes on an open pan, making sure the flame is on “simmer” so as to not burn the contents at the bottom of the pan.

6. Once all the vegetables are coated well and have semi-cooked, add the yogurt, cook for a minute after stirring and then toss in the soaked basmati rice (after draining of course) and give it another good stir.

7. Add the water, close the lid and pressure cook for 2 whistles.

That’s it! Once the cooker has de-pressurized, open the cooker, give everything another toss and add the coriander on top as garnishing. That’s it! Its easy, simple and very very tasty.

IMG_3734 One more shot of the vegetable biryani.

Serve hot with raita or daal or good old chips! Bon Appetit! Enjoy..

October 28, 2010

One cold tablet.. two cold tablets.. three co.... zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

What's up with my freaking cold anyways? I swear there should be a way for these diseases to make demands to the people they infect, get whatever they want and then leave... something like a ransom situation. I swear.. just when I thought it was going away... it returned this morning and with a vengeance. Which is incredibly sad considering that the weather in Paris has improved dramatically this week. So really, I don't get what it wants. And so I've downed samahan after samahan, masala chais, hot lemon teas, a multitude of tablets that would put pharamacists to shame... used salves and vaporubs and what not... have a permanent bottle of Axe Oil next to my bed and have exhausted enough tissues to carpet the house. What the heck more does it want? 

(Not-so) Dear cold, please get the message and get the hell out of my system. If my internal hostess played nice to you, it was a farce. You've overstayed your welcome now. Get out. Goodbye. Au revoir.

October 27, 2010

The prologue – The dark night

This is a story I am working on. Needless to say, it's "copyrighted". :)

Now. 6 :15pm.

The steel-grey Maruti Suzuki Swift pulled into the parking space 1312A in the underground parking of the multiplex at Gandhi Nagar, Chennai.  Bharath killed the headlights and drummed his fingers on the steering wheel, reluctant to leave the comfort of his car and go home to his 13th floor apartment. Shalini and he had had their worst fight yet. It was the first time in over 3 years of marriage that they’d gone to bed angry and without making up. When he’d gotten up in the morning she was gone. She was the one to make up with him usually, no matter what and no matter whose fault it was. And it surprised him that she hadn’t called him all of today. What was worse was that she hadn’t answered his calls either. He felt unsettled. He knew to deal with the part of his wife that he knew – the part that yelled and screamed. He was a lot less sure when she clammed up. And she had hardly ever left anything unsaid. Audibly cursing the day he decided to get married, he reached for his briefcase that was thrown carelessly on the passenger seat and reassured himself. It was going to be okay. They always got through this kind of stuff. They had their share of infractions in the whole marital bliss package and he wondered briefly what the neighbours might’ve heard and if that changed the way they perceived them as a couple. But who were they to judge? Everyone fought. It was like the global vein of similarity in every marriage. And last night’s fight was downright stupid now that he reflected on it. Shalini had interrupted him for a second during one of the key moments of the foreign movie on TV that he’d followed for the better part of 2 hours. And he’d flown off the handle and yelled at her, blaming her impetuousness and her disregard for other’s preoccupations. He was just caught up in the moment and typical as it was, she just wouldn’t let it go. She screamed and ranted her side of the injustice of it all and it’d blown completely out of proportion ending with him slamming the front door of their apartment on her and leaving to get a smoke and some silence. When he’d returned, the lights were turned out and she’d retired to the bedroom. He himself had slept in the guest bedroom, not wanting to share a room with her that night. Now that he thought about it, it was downright stupid and he couldn’t wait to go back home and make up. There wasn't much a hug and kisses couldn't accomplish. Well, at least between married couples. He reached over to the backseat and picked up a single slightly shriveled red rose that had been carefully cellophane-wrapped by the flower-wala, which he had had the forethought to buy just outside the front gates of their apartment complex.  Small penance. He swore to himself to try to keep his temper under check thereafter. But he knew it was easier said than done. Hindsight was 20/20.

The ride to the 13th floor from the basement parking by the lift took just over a 50 seconds. He remembered timing it with Shalini once when she had remarked that it was lucky that neither of them was claustrophobic. A wry smile appeared at the corner of his mouth. And suddenly he regretted spending the night in the guest bedroom without so much as a goodnight to his wife. He supposed she was pissed off because of that and would be unforgiving for a while just to punish him. Ah well, tonight would be a better night. He’d make sure of it.  The lift doors eased open on the 13th floor, jolting him out of his reverie. He walked down the right-side hallway towards their apartment.

1312. Their home. Bharath & Shalini, the wooden name board proclaimed. It had been a wedding gift from one of her friends. He reached for his keys and unlocked the door. It was all quiet and dark in there. There were no cooking sounds or smells, typical of Shalini wielding her exceptional skill at the stove.

“Shalini?” He called out tentatively. No answer. Ah well, she was probably out at the Nilgiris nearby buying vegetables and such. Was her car in the garage? He hadn’t noticed. Or maybe she was working late to avoid him. She would come around. She always did. He turned on the lights in the hallway and the hall, ditched his briefcase on the sofa while reaching for the TV remote to turn the TV on.  While the evening news blared on, he washed his face, hands and feet and went back to the sofa. He missed the hot cup of chai that Shalini usually had ready for him when he got home. He went to the kitchen to make some for the both of them. It would be a pleasant surprise. He busied himself for a few minutes hunting for the ingredients while marveling at how his wife, who worked full-time as an IT programmer additionally nurturing hopes as a writer also found time to cook every evening, stock the supplies for their house and keep everything so organized and spic and span (with the help of a once-a-week maid, but nonetheless). As the tea brewed, he went to check the answering machine on their landline. No new messages. Sighing audibly now he went back and filtered the tea into two freshly washed mugs. And suddenly he got a bit restless. This whole incident was completely out of character for her. To not keep in touch the entire day. No email. No SMS. No calls. Nothing. When she was too pissed off to talk with him she usually SMS-ed or IM-ed him. And regardless of what disagreements they had those SMS messages reminded him that she cared and that it would soon be ok. He settled on the sofa and set his tea mug on the settee. He reached over for the Time Magazine issue that had arrived in the weekend and mindlessly flipped pages while lending an ear to the news. Just as he was reaching back for the mug of tea, the landline next to it rang.

“Shalini?” he asked as he picked up the phone eagerly.

“Hi. No, this is her friend, Gitanjali. Hi Bharath, how are you?”

“Oh hi Gitu. I am fine. How’re you?” Bharath said mechanically, his spirits deflating.

“I am doing good! I am guessing Shalini isn’t home yet. She isn’t answering her cell phone either. Could you have her call me when she gets back? I don’t know if she knows yet but Priya had a baby boy today!”

“Oh that’s great! I’ll let her know when she’s back and have her call you.” Bharath said hanging up.

Babies. Sure Shalini and he had talked about it. But with his MBA aspirations and her wanting to change careers, they’d decided to put it away for a couple of years. And suddenly he was irritated with his wife. He had called her 4-5 times to try to make up although grudgingly after lunch (he’d expected her to call by then) and she hadn’t bothered to answer. Granted he was wrong, but weren’t they supposed to put this behind them now and just carry on? They were happy in general, he figured and which marriage didn’t have its hiccups? He pulled out his Blackberry and checked for missed calls. There were none. She probably wanted him to grovel. He sighed and speed dialed her once more, willing her to pick up. To his surprise, he heard the phone ringing on the little cubby in the front hallway, where they typically left their keys and stacked their mail. Oh. That explained it. Picking up his chai he walked over to get her phone. It was one of those old fashioned flip phones. He’d begged her to get a more savvy phone but she firmly shot him down each time. He could hear her voice echoing in his head even now– Why do I need a fancy phone? All I do is make calls and receive them. And the most I do is text. This is more than enough for all that. Besides if I get an all-in-one something, how will I use the ipod that you got me or the camera that Appa got me?

The phone was battered almost beyond recognition and the ‘Samsung’ was barely visible under the scratches and dents from the thousand drops and the brushes with all the junk in her handbag. Shaking his head with disbelief, he flipped it open. Sure enough -

8 Missed Calls

He clicked on ‘List’ and saw his own name listed 6 times with the various times that he had called. Gitanjali was the seventh. And Priya was the eighth. He sighed. His temporary surge of anger at her not answering the calls was now unreasonable, he realized. She’d just forgotten her cell phone at home. And with her memory, or the lack of it, for phone numbers in particular, she probably didn’t have his number memorized to make a call even if she’d wanted to. She could’ve emailed, he supposed, but he would let that be.  He left her phone right where he found it. His eye caught a stack of yesterday’s mail. He figured he should check the mailbox today. But that was 13 floors down and normally Shalini brought in the day’s mail. As he reached to stack the sloping pile of bills and general junk, a paper with a scrawl of his wife’s handwriting caught his eye. It was among the bills and some other papers, not hidden but neither particularly visible and was tucked underneath a framed wedding picture of theirs. He tugged at the leaf and it came out loose. He got an ominous feeling as he shook it straight to read it. It was a note. It was brief. It had no date. It had no signature.

It’s been good but I don’t think I can take it anymore. This isn’t about you. It’s me. I am the weak one. I am sorry.

What was this? What was the meaning of this piece of paper? Bharath was hardly breathing. When had she written this? Was it a suicide note? Or was it just goodbye? Was it meant to be found or had she changed her mind after writing it? Suddenly he felt very weak. There were too many questions and as unlikely as any scenario was, here he was but where was she? He held on to the wall for support and sank into the single faux-leather chair in the hallway. Where he wore his shoes. The chair she picked out from Kalpadruma after painstakingly verifying that it wasn’t real leather. Because she was against animal cruelty amongst her many other principles. But she was ok with killing herself? And suddenly his mind wandered to last night. After he’d slammed the door on her and left the house, he had no idea what had really happened back at the apartment. He had assumed that she’d gone to bed when he returned. He had assumed that she was still in the house. He’d never checked. He’d not even said goodnight. He’d not even walked near their bedroom. What if she was still… in there?

To be continued.........

Opinions welcomed.

October 26, 2010

The foodie birthday

In honour of the husband’s birthday, I cooked. A lot. Here’s only a glimpse of 3 of the dishes.

The starter…

IMG_3708-1 Baby corn crispies.

The main course

IMG_3732-1 Vegetable dum biryani.

The dessert

IMG_3746-1 Hot and creamy – Carrot halwa.

And there’s always room for cake! Presenting one of the best renderings of black forrest that I’ve had. Ever. Period. And before you all freak out that I bake it, I will go on to credit the nearby boulangerie for their flawless effort. Light yet creamy.. sweet yet subtle, it was the perfect cake for the occasion.

IMG_3757-1 The chocolatey perfection – Black forrest cake.

Happy Birthday S! Hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed doing it for you. :)

PS: For recipes for any of the above (except cake), drop me a line and we can revisit them!

October 25, 2010

Viral infection

Maybe for me.. but surely for my computer! So I’ve been suffering from a terrible, relentless cold over the past week but that’s hardly worth any internet footage. But what is worth it is the fact that my computer contracted something over the weekend. Something that made it crawl like a learning baby, slowed it enough to alarm me and even went as far as disabling the battery. What was worse is like some haunted movie, it made a sound every few minutes as well. Something that sounded like disco drum beats and lasted a few seconds at a time. It was as creepy as it was crawly, if you get my drift.
So the first thing I did was to investigate the Task Manager to see what the heck was sapping all that speed that I had so lovingly configured and bought. Turns out there were 3 instances of Internet Explorer which held a large chunk of memory, even though I haven’t used IE for as long as I can remember. Shockingly each time I “ended” the task, it reincarnated itself and sat atop the memory usage pile, in essence occupying my strong systems’ wholesome memory. Surely it was a virus. My Norton that came with the system had expired a few months ago and lets admit it, how many of us renew it anyway? Neither did I. Big mistake apparently for the second I typed “iexplore.exe”, the default words that followed it were – virus, infection, worm, etc., none of them leaving a shadow of a doubt of what had gotten hold of my poor laptop.
The next step was of course to detect where the worm was lurking and so after reading a bunch of forums (which took insanely long), I downloaded something called PrevX CSI. And it was a free scanner only. But under 5 minutes, it diagnosed 93 infections. 93! A frisson of shock later, I tried hunting for a trial version (which wasn’t available) to clean it up. All along my computer’s performance kept declining steadily and this called for quick action… not something to ponder and then regret.
30 minutes, 2 restarts and 30€ of PrevX – licensed purchase later, the computer is back up and back running and fast again. All bugs gone. System protected. Sometimes, it is worth buying the good stuff. And I can’t tell how relieved I am not to hear those disco beats again. I swear it felt like the virus mocking me.

October 24, 2010

It’s just there!

Have you ever done this? Watched something on TV because it’s there? Like some movie you’ve seen many times over. But just the fact that you have to brainlessly only watch it and didn’t have to choose to (for instance if you own the DVD of the very same movie) makes it appealing somehow. I’ve done this more times than I can count. Somehow the appeal of something that was unintendedly chosen for me is way more than me actually going and choosing the very same thing by myself. And this kind of applies to most things for me (unless I hate it – which reverses back to the TV theory as well). What is the appeal then? Just that you didn’t have to dedicate that iota of time to choosing something that didn’t have much significance in the first place? (FYI – this theory doesn’t work well with stuff I really really like – clothes, shoes, bags, etc.) :D I guess so. Or maybe this is the true manifestation of being lazy. But then it’s Sunday morning. What did you expect?

This post didn’t make much sense, did it? Didn’t think so either. Happy Sunday!

Mini rava idlis

I confess… for time immemorial, I’ve cribbed about how I don’t like idlis. Indeed, I followed on my brother’s and his friends’ adage of expanding IDLI as I-Don’t-Like-It. And as is usual in such cases, I am a big dosai fan. Which then evokes the surprise that now I not only like idlis, but I make them regularly too. But that is in keeping with the fact that I hated brinjals back in India but now have many a mean recipe to contend them with. So.. its a pattern of having the convenience not to eat something versus wanting to. Even then, rava idlis tempted my palate more than the traditional ones. Okay.. now that that’s all cleared up, let’s take a first look at today’s goodies – the mini rava idlis.

IMG_8656 Just off the idli stand – mini rava idlis.

The best part about rava idlis is their lack of need of preparation time or fermentation time and such. Overall to make a batch of these goodies, takes 45 minutes, tops. And for how delicious and refreshingly different from ordinary idlis they are, it is indeed worth investing this time and effort into it. Like ‘em? Let’s get started then!


Coarse rava (semolina) 2 cups
Yogurt (not too thick) 2 cups
Water 1-1.5 cups
Oil 1 tbsp
Curry leaves 10-15, well washed
Kadugu (mustard seeds) 1 tsp
Channa dal (kadalai paruppu or yellow gram dal) 1 tsp
Green chillies 2, finely chopped
Salt to taste
Additional veggies – carrot (if you want – I skipped this) Grated
Coriander leaves (kothamali) or cilantro 1 sprig, well washed
Kaju (cashew nuts) about 10 halves
Baking soda 1/2 tsp


It’s as simple as it gets really.

1. On a heavy-bottomed pan, dry roast your 2 cups of rava till they brown a little without burning them. Once it seems like it has browned a bit, set aside and shift to your batter container and let it sit (if you leave it on the pan, it will likely burn in some places and give an unpleasant taste in the end).

2. Meanwhile, prepare the ganishings! On a small pan/kadai, heat the 1 tbsp of oil. Add the mustard seeds, channa dal, green chillies, curry leaves, cashew nuts and let them “fry” till the mustard seeds pop, the cashews brown and the channa dal darkens. Set aside.

3. Mix in the curd and the water along with the roasted rava to form a smooth batter with no lumps. The batter consistency should be similar to regular idli batter. (Hint: Try “pouring” it from a height of about 15cm. It should pour down in a steady but thick stream. If it’s too watery, you may need to add more rava. If it clumps and doesn’t fall steadily, you’ll need to add more water.)

4. Stir in the garnishings.. the fried ingredients and the carrot and cilantro. Blend in the baking soda

There! Your batter is ready!

5. Let it sit for 30 minutes while you prepare something to go with the idlis.

After 30 minutes, load up the idli stand!

IMG_3690 Ready to be steamed: Rava idli batter loaded up on the idli stand.

Now just steam it regularly in the pressure cooker! This typically takes 13 minutes with a closed lid (NO WEIGHT/WHISTLE please!!) on medium-high with the water inside the cooker already boiling.

And voilà

IMG_8646 You are served. Steaming hot, ready-to-eat mini rava idlis.

And this was off to RK’s birthday. And they were soft, supple and very tasty if I say so myself! So, bon appetit!

IMG_8640 Packaged and out. Mini idlis go to party!

October 21, 2010

Aloo parathas

It’s comfort food. But a lot of people I know are turned off by assuming that there’s a lot of effort involved. That it takes too long. That its hard to roll. But guess what? Its none of that. Aloo parathas are a great variety of Indian bread and you can just as easily replace the aloo (potato) with any other filling of your choice (think onions, garlic, cabbage or cauliflower). Here’s a first look.

IMG_8621Aloo parathas, fresh from the griddle.


Well, I am not going to go into the details. The method is pretty similar to most Indian bread varieties. But the way my mom makes this is by boiling potatoes separately, seasoning them separately and then individually rolling a small ball of the potato filling into each ball of paratha dough. I find this method tedious and have as usual found a shortcut. I boil the potatoes, mash them and then mix them directly into the dough and blend everything with adequate amount of salt and spice, turmeric and other seasoning that I want. I then let it sit for about 2 hours to soak in all the flavour. And then when I roll them, they roll out as easy as anything else and then it’s just about adding a wee bit of oil on the griddle and cooking both sides as required. Easy-peasy!

IMG_8628 Serve hot with chutney, pickle or daal or good old' raita. Anything works!

And so there you have it.. easy, simple, tasty and very filling – aloo parathas. Bon Appetit!

October 19, 2010

The creepy crawly in me

When does going to the loo in the middle of the night become an adventure? When you are extremely careful not to wake the sleeping husband. When the ancient wooden floors resonate creaks with every move. When the bathroom door makes it's typical whine as it eases open. When the light switch in the bathroom also sets off the exhaust fan. Ah so many parameters... which make the simple act of a midnight loo break into some bizarre game. And typically I have found a foolproof strategy. But of course, there are steps involved. And most of them involve creeping around in the dark and pausing to hear supersonic sounds. And once you're done, you can allow yourself a sigh of relief for a game, well-played as you tuck back into sleep. And if the husband is awake and only pretending to sleep? Well... he gets an eyeful of you looking extremely stupid creeping around in the dark in your own home.

October 18, 2010

Kabootar ja ja ja


Iconically Plaça Catalunya, Barcelona.

The promised recipes

Ok so there were 2 recipes that were pledged to appear on MindBlogging. True to my word, here they are.

“Pudhu Vidha kozhambu”

Amma’s nomenclature. It literally means kozhambu made a new way. Don’t ask me why or how or where from. All I know is that she discovered this some place and once I tasted it, she shared the knowledge with me and now I share it with you. Here’s a shot though, in case you need some motivation.

PS: The shot doesn’t do justice to the actual flavour/taste of the kozhambu.

IMG_8564Pudhu vidha kozhambu”.


For the grinding  
1. Onion 1 large, coarsely chopped
2. Tomato 1 Medium-sized, coarsely chopped
3. Fresh grated coconut 1/2 cup – 2/3 cup
4. Dried red chillies 2 medium sized
5. Jeera 1 tsp
6. Oil (preferably gingelly oil) 1 tsp
For the rest of the kozhambu  
1. Chinna vengayam (if available) 1/4kg or 2 medium-sized onions, finely chopped
2. Tamarind 1 small piece, squeezed out to 1 large cup of juice
3. Oil (preferably gingelly oil) 1 tbsp
For seasoning  
1. Curry leaves 10-15 well washed
2. Sambar powder 1 tbsp
3. Salt To taste
For tempering  
1. Mustard seeds / Kadugu 1 tsp
2. Cumin/ Jeera 1/2 tsp
3. Asfoetida a pinch


1. Lightly roast/fry all the ingredients under the “For the grinding” heading in the teaspoon of oil on a pan and set aside to be ground. (Grind when the ingredients cool down a bit)

2. Meanwhile in a heavy-bottomed vessel allow the 1 tablespoon of oil to heat up.

3. Temper with the kadugu/jeera and asfoetida when the oil is hot.

4. Once the mustard seeds sputter, add the chinna vengayam to the oil and allow it to cook well whilst releasing it’s juices.

5. Add in the sambar powder and allow it to cook well in the oil as well.

6. Add the tamarind juice and bring to a boil.

7. When the mixture is boiling, add the ground mixture from Step 1 and bring to a boil again.

8. Season with fresh curry leaves and serve hot with steamed rice and any side dish of your choice.

Recipe 2- Kadai Subji

So here’s another look at what we’re recreating..

IMG_8595 Steaming hot “Kadai subji” ready to be served.


For the gravy  
Tomatoes 2 – medium sized, finely chopped
Tomato purée 1 tbsp
Onion 1 large, finely chopped (I didn’t add onions because it was Vijayadasami yesterday)
Garlic 2 cloves, finely minced (again I didn’t add any because of Vijayadasami)
Dhaniya-Jeera powder 2 tbsp
Garam masala 1/2 tsp
Turmeric a pinch
Salt to taste
Oil 1 tbsp
Everything else  
Veggies 1 large carrot, 1 large potato and 1 large capsicum, all cut to mid-sized pieces
Cream/concentrated milk 1 tbsp
Kadugu 1/2 tsp
Jeera 1/2 tsp
Fresh coriander 1 sprig, finely chopped and washed


1. Fry all the ingredients listed under the “For the gravy” part in this order – Heated Oil, Garlic, Onions, Tomatoes, tomato purée, turmeric, dhaniya-jeera powder, garam masala, salt, etc and make a fine gravy, adding water as required to get the desired consistency.

2. I pressure cooked the veggies in a cooker for 2 whistles so that I wouldn’t have to “fry” them. Hint: If you’re adding a dal to the meal, cook the dal in the same go.

3. Add the pressure-cooked veggies to the gravy and toss them well, coating them with the gravy well.

4. Once the gravy starts bubbling a bit, blend in the cream. This is what gives it the colour and richness of taste.

5. Check for salt, spice, etc and add whatever as required.

6. Temper with mustard seeds and jeera.

7. Garnish with fresh coriander and serve steaming hot with steamed white rice or chapathis or any other Indian bread variety.

Bon Appetit! Enjoy :)

October 17, 2010

Barça Barça

Ah so all of you’ve gathered from a couple of blog posts that I was indeed in Barcelona last week for a conference. And without dwelling too much on the actual purpose of visit (which went great by the way), I am going to talk about Barcelona. It’s easy to fall in love with the city, its sights, its restaurants, its architecture, its culture and its lifestyle. On the other hand I was forewarned big time by everyone about the theft scenario there. As in that the ratio of pickpocketing stories were abnormally higher than other European cities or at least what was the word on the street. But before I go further, here’s a quick look at the center of Barcelona – Plaça Catalunya.
IMG_2748_HDR_MBPlaça Catalunya – center of Barcelona. Fountains, pigeons and wide open spaces make it festive and fun. BTW, call me vain but I love this picture. :)
Ok.. back to the pick-pocketing warnings. So my friend NN lost all her documents and stuff on the beach there and she wasn’t the only one. A lot of others reported similar things and it all had me pretty spooked. Spooked enough to take a taxi to the hotel first thing and dump all the valuables in the secure room safe. And even after, I hugged my bag for dear life in the metro, on the streets, and glanced suspiciously at everyone to identify the next thief. Constant Vigilance, as Moody (née Harry Potter) would say. And well, it worked. Thankfully I didn’t lose anything. But after my first day there, I realized something. By being extra-vigilant, I was actually losing out on the fun. And the other thing.. no one was going to punch the daylights out of me and make away with my belongings. It would only happen if I turned out to be careless (which on trips I usually am not – a kind of “foreign radar” kicks in and keeps me alert at non-hyper levels). And so after Day 1, I relaxed. I even allowed my bag to slide away to the seat next to me even though my arm was looped around it. And it was far more fun than always waiting for something happen. 
Anyhoo, so I got to see a lot of places, a lot of notable architecture by their modernist movement pioneer, Antoni Gaudi, whose masterpieces quite literally encompass a big majority of the Barcelona skyline. And it was all breathtaking. Right from the La Sagrada Familia, more popular as the iconic church of Barcelona to the loopy Parc Guell… a wonderful contribution to a beautiful city. And here’s another postcard from the Parc Guell. You can see the Sagrada Familia and what I call the “lipstick” building as the two tall structures on the landscape.
IMG_3153_HDR-1View of the city of Barcelona from Parc Guell.
That apart the culture was quite distinctly young and alive. The city seldom slept.. the shops were open all over up to 10pm and the restaurants well past midnight. And in the weekends the cranked it up a notch and went all out for all-nighters too. Specifically I have to mention La Rambla, the pivotal central street of Barcelona and indeed its No 1. sight. A mile-long road all the way from the beach to the city center, the road is filled with such a variety and extreme of things that are hard to imagine as co-existing. From street-side vendors to 5 star fares, from Le Meridien to hostels under 20€ a night, from street hawkers to bird-merchants, from fresh fruit to exotic food, from nudists to transvestites, its all there crammed into one never-sleeping, ever-crowded street. A sight that mere words can’t do any justice to. You’ve got to be there.
More later! Byee!

Happy Vijayadasami!

Happy Dussera or Vijayadasami to you all! And the main reason I am reviving the blog today is the belief amongst South Indians at least, that whatever you do on this day.. you will continue to do the rest of the year. Vijayadasami falls on the day after Saraswati Pooja (the day we are supposed to pray Saraswati- the Goddess of knowledge) and hence honor her by not studying anything. However the day after, i.e. today signifies the day that the Hindu God Ram triuphed over his nemesis, Ravan and returned to his hometown of Ayodhya. But as it happens, over the years, in addition to the golu and the yummy food on this day, it is typical for one to do “everything” they wish to do the whole year. So people study a bit, classes for arts (singing, dancing etc commence on this day as the first day of the year), they do whatever else that they enjoy in the hope that it’ll last.

However, it being Paris and it being Sunday, the festivities stand reduced a bit. Yes, we did poojai yesterday and today. We kept our books in prayer yesterday and “studied” a bit today (thanks to me doing PhD, it makes a lot more sense than otherwise), I sang a bit and then… settled for a cookathon. I’ve only just exited the kitchen after 2 long hours where I cooked away to glory. With Friends playing ont he mini-DVD player installed atop one of the counters, it barely felt like “work” at all. And here are the results -

IMG_8600 Bottom-up: 50+ theplas, Kadai Subji and Dal tadka.

And here’s a closer look at the dishes. Should you need any recipes, drop me a line; The theplas of course are an old favourite and you can find the recipe here.

IMG_8607                                Theplas. Serve with dal or any subji, pickles or good old chai!

IMG_8581                   Kadai subji or Subji Mughalai – Tomato based- gravy stewed with mixed vegetables. 

IMG_8586Dal Tadka. Cooked yellow dal (moong) garnished with split green chillies, curry leaves and tempered with mustard seeds and jeera. 


So, Bon Appetit and Happy Vijayadasami!

PS: I owe a huge bunch of posts on Barcelona and my recent trip there. Postcards and anecdotes to follow.

October 4, 2010

You've been warned!

So if you've even vaguely been following the news, you know that a variety of countries have issued a "security warning" for its citizens traveling to the Europe because of "intelligence" of possible "terror attacks". There. That's the exact language used and description given to us - the people who actually live in the Europe. And tell you what? It neither makes our life easy nor does it do anything at all. Unless there is some level of specificity in these warnings, its really as vague as being told not to cross a street for the fear of a moving vehicle killing you. Seriously. All that's happened in France over the past couple of weeks are a couple of evacuations of the Eiffel Tower and a couple of other Metro stations around the tourist hubs, all thankfully to no avail. The larger level of scrutiny has been seen only today when another couple of countries jumped the bandwagon to warn their citizens. And so our college, for the first time ever, decided to have a one-on-one checking. We had to flash our ID cards for detailed scrutiny everytime we entered the school buildings. Hardly efficient but barely foolhardy, too. 

So as a citizen who has to go about her everyday life in a country supposedly under threat, I just think its prudent for the governments of other countries to share any solid evidence/information with the governments here and issue specific guidelines rather than tell us what we already know - Oh that don't cross the road when the light is red.. or don't bang your car onto a walking civilian. Who does it help really? No one. All its done is to draw attention to the countries and have people sizing each other up with suspicion in a land of touristic bliss. Smart move, USA.