Do Visit my very own 'Food' Blog' for delicious meals

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Random thought-Sloppiness!

There are some lanes in India, untouched by redevelopment, where the lanes are so narrow that you can hear the conversation from across the opposite window. These lanes are unkempt, shabby and filthy but behind these long walls, are the private offices, luxurious and reeking of wealth, where business worth millions of rupees is exchanged.

Why do they pay no attention to the environment when they can easily afford to keep the helpers? Why don’t they repair the streets and replace the broken tiles?

I fail to understand their I-don’t-care attitude.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Flower Seller

Will she sell flowers outside temples all her life or will she get educated and maybe have a big florist shop in the suburbs?

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Chilling Times in Pune City

Pune is the city that is just 3 hours away from Mumbai by road, it’s the city where majority of my family lives, it’s the city where I have spend most of my free time doing nothing but sitting and lazing around, or going for movies, endless lunches and dinners and getting fatter with food, laughter, chit chat, teasing, ragging and love.

Pune used to be the city where nature smiled at all hours of the day, the weather was cool and birds cooed beautiful rhymes. We would wake up early hours to enjoy the cool breeze, in the evenings we would go for long walks on the main street, pick up sandwiches from ‘Mazzorin’ Sometimes we would go for long drives (long drives meant just two hours, driving through the lonely lanes, sometimes right up to the Pashan lake or to Khadakwasla dam, and sometimes a longer rides driving through the winding road up to Mahabhuleshwar, eating usal pav or egg omelets at way-side stalls, drink chai in an Irani restaurant.

There was no TV nor BlackBerry nor Iphones to distract our conversations. We played board games or simply joked all day. Simple things amused us, there was so much to talk about. Chatting would continue late nights and sometimes we would sneak out of house in the middle of night, go the Pune station to eat egg burchi from the road-side hawkers. We never worried about hygiene, never washed hands, never used sanitizers but surprisingly never really felt ill or had any stomach upset.

I can’t recall the conversation we had during those days but at the end of my usual one-month-stay, I always cried when I had to return home to routine life in Mumbai.

Not much has changed on the home front but a lot has changed outside my family home, out on the streets of Pune.

The greenery is slowly eroding and is replaced by huge, shiny malls, selling branded goods.

Traffic is disorderly, a big wigwam of cycles, auto-rickshaw, buses, cars, scooters, pedestrians all sharing the same space. Temper tantrums flying high in all directions, the weather that once Punites boasted is now humid. Redevelopment and constructions is the order of the day.

That quaint little city is now a bigger cousin of Mumbai, resembling in noise, breath and weather. The essence of place is lost forever.

Now the only reason I go to Pune is to visit my family and friends

Monday, 7 November 2011

Everybody Needs Two Extra Hours A day....

There is just not enough time to concentrate on more important issues

Inspired by BiggBoss season 5, the graphic on my blog expresses my deep concern for  peace and harmony in my world and if there were two extra hours, I would love to work on maintaining peace and harmony into this world by pointing out the uselessness of unimportant issues and concentrating on more important things in life.

Entry under  Surf Excel Matic, Get Smart Contest

"Surf Excel Matic #GetSmart Contest" 

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Anger –A Short Madness

It is not cool to use a foul language but somehow people are always seeking attention by being loud and bold.

Some people just get angry all of a sudden and you are left staring whether we can help them or not.

Lately I have been watching the BiggBoss season5 (although this is my first time, never watched this program before) and am actually following it diligently. My friends are astonished at my sudden taste in such a program where there is really nothing to gain. No intelligence, no information and no entertainment, unless arguing unnecessary is the idea of entertainment.

Anger and bitchy-ness are the core emotions in this program. Some or the other member is always provoking an argument (My friend tells me that it is the USP of this program)

Why do people get angry?

Most of the people get angry when their ego is hurt, or people are not appreciating them, or when the people are critical of their behavior. They start to shout to defend their ideas, nobody is listening, all play the blame game and the situation gets worse and the result is the bad vibration that causes ill-feelings and revenge……

And then there is silence, no-talking-to-each-other-for-months.

The language that is spoken during such outburst is unforgivable and it pricks for days, especially if there is tinge of truth in it. It gnaws at our mind and interferes with our peace and tranquility.

Anger is directly proportional to attachment, the more attached you are to the person; the greater are the expectations and disappointments from loved ones.

My friend is always angry with me if I am checking a message on blackberry. Many times he will snatch away the phone from me. I fail to understand what is his problem? In what way am I inconveniencing him while just responding to few messages? But then that is his nature. There are moments when I snap back, while grabbing my phone back from him but then I am surprised at my own outburst.

But these anger pangs are mild ones; they don’t mean anything and melt out in few moments.

During my teen years and early twenties, anger was something I could not control and there is price I have paid for it. Redemption is difficult. Over the years I have worked on controlling my temper. Now I am more in control and don’t get easily affected by people’s opinion or their limitations. Learning to live with myself has taught me many things. I have learnt to remain detached from other people’s problems and expect nothing from anybody. Anger now makes me creep into my shell and I remain there till my anger subsides.

” We are in times where nothing is easy and nothing is tough. That thought keeps us glued to the polarity consciousness. Stop labeling experiences. Let them simply remain experiences, each with a beautiful gift nestled inside!”~ Ishayas
It’s when there is social injustice but I cannot do anything about it, then the anger is profound, I am angry at myself for my inability to do anything to change the situation. What can one do, if people take you for granted? When people find you weak and you can do nothing to show your strength?

Getting angry should be resolved by finding the passion to change the situation or else what is the use of blowing just hot air?

My friend tells me that Pranayam has helped her a lot and I believe her, cause over the time, I have seen a marked change in her since she started spending more time on meditation although she still needs to work more on that. Why I say that is because recently she lost her control (once again) during the traffic jam when one person on a bike accidently scratched her car. Road accidents happen, sometimes by mistake, or sometimes if the person is pre-occupied with his own problems and has been careless, our reaction with anger does not undo the scratch.

Imagine how noisy the world would be if everybody who are caught up in traffic jam shouted and screamed out their frustrations. Cribbing has not helped anyone and nobody really cares, the traffic will move at its own pace, all we can do is to relax and let it be.

If we cannot change the situation, let it be. Whatever will be, will be………

It would be wise to shut the box of disappointment and relax, watch, allow and breathe… the anger dilutes and walks out from our system.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Hair Flair

Finally the day arrived.

My ‘Facebook’ friend of four years made a trip to my home town and was eager to meet me. Our feelings were mutual, we had exchanged virtual notes, loves and hugs many times. Although I knew her quite well, I knew that I would not be able to recognize her if I saw her on the road. All her photographs on FB showed only her face, she was always dressed in black from head to toe, exposing only smooth skin, heavy eye-make-up and a beautiful smile. When we met at the coffee shop of Hotel Marriott, we couldn’t stop talking, we had so much to share.

“Let’s go out for lunch and then we go shopping” I said

We went upstairs to her room to freshen up. I was stunned when she removed her Hijab and un-rolled her thick round bun, her jet black hair shone as it uncurled, and reached her hips covering her back like a thick satin curtain.

“Wow!” I whistled softly, and walked closer to her to strum my fingers through her thick mane, they were silky and slid smoothly through my fingers “Such beautiful hair you have, why do you cover it so? Let me click a picture of you, come stand here?”

“No, please don’t. I cannot remove my picture without my Hijab. My husband will be angry if he learns about this. My beauty is reserved for my hubby only. I cannot flaunt it in public.” She said.

Such beautiful hair and only one person could enjoy it? Utter waste of beauty! Didn't her happiness matter? Rolling up her beautiful hair like that and keeping it hidden behind the Hijab? Didn’t she feel like playing with her hair under the bright sunlight? Didn’t she wish to feel soft breeze blowing her hair or sometimes let it wet in the heavy rain?

I would have loved to keep the picture of her thick voluptuous hair that would inspire me to take care for my own hair but she wouldn’t allow me to click the picture. I wanted to know all the details of how she takes care of her hair, I begged her to share her secret...but she said there was no secret at all...just take fuss…..

But I too have taken so much care….and that too with so much fuss..pampering it all the time.....

I too have loved my own silky hair
Straight and brown but with scanty flair
Tortured it yes, guilty, had curled it many times
Hair-extensions I added to make it look divine.
No! Never did they grow long or beautiful like this

Never had thick plait that went bumpty bump on my back

They never grew long like that of princess Rapunzel
Nor lost the long veil through love and tears
chop, chop, chopped until it looked like this

Maybe I should wear a Hijab or a long scarf too
To hide my shiny scalp that can hold no more clips
Tried different shampoos, oh yes! oils and beauty tips
But genes and DNA just helplessly glare
No remedies have helped
In family history runs scanty hair
I am afraid of the future
My granny scalp was also so bare
I hope that in my old age they don’t look like this

I desperately look for hair-specialist,
That will teach me to care
With healthy hair I will try out
Many hair styles that could be rare
With flowers, beads and lace
I could walk with grace
Making a fashion statement that will look
like this

Just twenty-five feathers left, and now I am scared
With finger-tips I regularly comb my hair
Careful forever, never to break them into bits
Oil them, steam them, and tenderly massage those flicks
Hoping they will blossom one day
Into lovely-dovey tresses
I will be walking on the moon
If they start to look like this

Participated in  “Love your hair and it loves you back!” blogger contest.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Break the bones of Violence

At the age of 11 years, I had decided never to marry.

Mom told me that there is no true love in this world, it’s just all about compromise……”What you see in the movies is all myth,”, said mom, “ life is a long struggle of do’s and don’ts, and there is too much sadness and difficulties for a married woman. It’s better you study, be well-educated and make yourself independent, if you have enough money to support yourself, there is really no need to marry.” She said.

True that!

Over the years I have realized that if you have enough money, education and a firm belief in yourself, life for you is a better lot than those who have no faith in themselves, no spine to fight back and cannot respect themselves. If you decide to remain single, it’s not a curse at all but if you are married then you should learn to hold your reins of happiness.

And the stories that I have read over the week on ‘Violence towards women’ are very distressing too….and many-a-times I count my blessings on remaining single.

I am not sure how I would have dealt with this situation if I had to face one, but I do know that I am not likely to take shit from I am not sure...

My point is not that you walk out of an abusive marriage but that you should not allow somebody to take advantage of you.

If he is taunting unnecessarily or randomly teasing you, it’s better to ignore him than to react, you don’t have to listen to his every complaint if you feel that he has ‘Middle-cast-mentality’. Fear is the main key of violence. When we show fear, we become subdued and that gives them greater pleasure in making him believe that he is powerful.

I am not a man-hater; in fact, I enjoy male company more than women’s company. I am not the type who enjoys discussing maid’s and children’s problems. I instead enjoy discussion on money and investments, life-styles and travel, movies and books and listening to lotsa jokes. I get along with all my male cousins, BIL’s, friend’s spouse and can talk endless on any topic with them, without being attracted to them or flirting with them. Some of them are abusive to their spouse (and I do voice my discomfort when they do so) but personally I feel they can be trained to behave themselves.

My point is that do not allow your spouse to abuse you under any circumstances, stand there firm and fix that problem.

Very easily said!!!!!

During this month of October, there is a campaign of ‘Violence Against Women Awareness Month’, that shouts “stand up, speak out, reach out”

I agree that every woman should be able to stand up and speak up for themselves but you cannot reach out to anybody else because nobody can help you except you, yourself.

Domestic violence rages in India, even against women of a new generation educated, capable of being financially independent, articulate. It rages because we allow it to.

Not that I have not tried to help people but many times I have heard them turn their back on me with statements like:

“You have never loved anyone that passionately, what do you know about love? Just little abuse is no reason to walk away, he loves me a lot and showers me with expensive gifts”

“You are single, you will never understand our problem, we can’t leave, this is our fate, we have learnt to compromise”

“If I will leave him, will you support me? No nah? Then leave me alone, you mind your own business or else I will tell my hubby”

“My family says to get a divorce and get the money then we will help you settle down, you have our full support”

“Actually he is very nice its only when my MIL or SIL interfere that he gets violent”

“Otherwise he is a gem, it’s only when he drunk that he becomes violent, I try to hide his bottles it’s my fault really”

Gem? He is violent only when he is drunk? But he drinks too much almost every day! No, my dear friend, it’s not your fault, you are supposed to hide those bottles or else help him see how his drinking is affecting you, but you won’t tell him that because you are living in fear, you are afraid that he will slap you.

Why didn’t you stop him the first time when he raised his hand on you? Why didn’t you stop him the first time he raised his voice over the silly mistake that you made?

That was the first time he tasted the blood of your cowardice and smacked his lips.

Women are not that weak as they are believed to be. When the abuse and torture exceeds the limitation of tolerance she is capable of doing drastic action.

“I want to show the women who are suffering that they are not weak. We are hard workers, we are strong. Women can do anything, and we can do it without men”
says Kiranjit Ahluwalia, on whose experience a film called “Provoked” starring Aishwaraya Rai as Kiranjit was made.

Yes, women are not weak and men are charming too, it’s the link that is delicate, if we wash our dirty linen in public there will be more complications than solutions. With understanding and proper communications, the problems can be ironed out.

Life is a very long journey, respecting each other’s needs is very important and if you can neither adjust, nor are you strong enough to change him, then stay single, it’s a bliss…..but only if you have a strong spine of your own.

Insensitive nah? How could I say that?

Well, The above opinion that I have is from the society that I have been exposed to, it is about the people who have walked out of marriage and then suffered at their parent’s home and have been coaxed to return back, These are the parents of high status who want to hush up everything. Parents of such women are not sure if their sibling will take care of them in future, and are not willing to help them settle until they get a divorce and bring back some alimony for themselves.

It is to these women that I say ‘don’t allow’ to be taken advantage of, stand firm and don’t allow abuse.

But I have realized that there is much too much pain out there, especially in middle and lower caste families, where people are brutally raped/tortured/ abused in the most inhuman way.

October is VAWAmonth and let me share their twitter links of VAWMonth and VAWAM where there is an open conversation about this issue. It is at their blogs at VAWMonth and BelBajoa that I have realized how very cruel life these women lead and how much help they need to come out of their pathetic situation and if you have capacity to help them, please help, it’s a day well-spent.

Friday, 30 September 2011

Tweet, Tweet and a Fairy Tale Weaves.

Image source for this picture

The story was ‘The fiery sun’ and before the team started; they decided that copyright would not belong to anybody.

I saw them weave their story on Twitter and was amazed at how the story was unfolding. Four tweeple (I was not sure if they knew each other- but I assumed they were friends) were tweeting a story. The story was for Pratham books that had enthralled the blogger world with their write-a-thon to celebrate the International girl child with ‘The upside down story’.

On the twitter, they had invited tweeple to create one story and Asmita had taken up this challenge.

She put up her tweet-request to make a team and like a relay, each one wrote 5-6 tweets and then passed on the writing baton to the next participant. Asmita kept track of the story with a handle #swpb (story writing for PrathamBooks) which she would collate and post it on her blog.

I was following the story and was very impressed with the talent out there, Ratna wrote:

I reached the tree, bent down to pick 1 stone. To my surprise, it wasn’t a stone at , but a tiny, ice-cold blob of sparkly jelly! I put it in my mouth – silly me? – and it melted instantly into a mouthful of delicious, cool coconut water. I quickly gobbled 20 mouthfuls till my thirst was gone. Then i lay down under tree – a cool, dark place that smelled faintly of vanilla & dreamed.

Although the story was expected to be completed in one day with 100 tweets, it tweeted on for three days. The participating tweeple came in their own free time and tweeted the story, passing on their writing baton to the next person after their turn. I had decided that I would give my feedback at the end of the story but the story was so amazing that I could not wait no more. I wanted to cheer all the writers whom I knew.

My twitter chat with Asmita

Me: Loved the way your story is shaping out

Asmita: Would you like to add to the story?

Me: Ah! I wish I had joined in earlier, now your story is in its last leg, no? It’s truly lovely and you are doing good

Asmita: Even if we are at end you can join up, continue the story or end it. It is a collaboration effort- no hard and fast rule to it.

Me: Thank you so much, I am so very tempted to join in but it doesn’t seem fair to me to butt in last minute – maybe next time.

I slept off after the chat but in the morning I had change of mind and decided to give it a try.

Me: On the second thought- maybe I should, it sounds fun, pass me the baton please. And I was in…..just for few tweets. I wrote:

I looked closely at the gold handle, turning it upside down, round and round, examining each part running my finger over it. It was smooth. Too smooth, what a strange handle? The picture of that delicious map has shown that it was attached to the tree but I couldn’t see any hook, how will it fit on the tree, and how do I find that tree? Maybe Jin might know. The animal-shaped plants had said that he helped everybody, maybe he is somewhere around.

“Jin, Jin, where are you there? Can you hear me? Please help me.”

I looked around waiting for Jin to appear. There was no sign of Jin. Silence everywhere except those faint distant sounds of ‘“tabala tabala hiri hiri boom” I kept the handle aside and then saw those pair of rose-colored spectacles. They looked so pretty and I tried them on, suddenly …

No, I couldn’t end the story…there was much too much excitement to it…I tweeted only as far as my images clicked into my mind (was still warming up) with just about 8-9 tweets only and passed on the writing baton to the next one….and before I realized the story had swirled around into such a beautiful story somersaulting my imagination.

I have memorized every scene. Now I wait to catch hold of a child, straddle him on my lap to relate this story..and experience the bliss of story telling

To read the full story, please click here

Monday, 26 September 2011

Dear Vodafone and Crossword, Do You Really Care…..??

When the event in a remote area where there is no proper restaurant in its vicinity, it is important to have a cafeteria where one can soak their dry lips.
Last week I was invited for Vodafone Crossword Book Awards 2011 by my friend, Dipti at NCPA.

Normally whenever I go for any event I always make sure that I have eaten enough so as to not crave for food but on that day, being a Ganpati festival, I went visiting few places before going for this event and didn’t get much time to eat. (I don’t call sweets and Prasad as food and sweets are normally No! No! I avoid sweets)

So, I was hungry.
The event began, with Lillete Dubey as the host, presenting the show. I started to rummage through my purse to find something to eat and found a small packet of dry fruits. Pleased that I had something to munch on, I watched the show.

The show was quite interesting, with the 7-year-old Keshav’s beautiful performance on tabla, (Remember Kehsav, the one who had performed at “Rhythms of India”, the opening event of the Commonwealth Games (CWC) opening ceremony?) He never fails to enthrall the audience.  This was followed by the poetry performance by his mom- Ms Gopika Dahanukar and then of course the main event itself –VodaphoneCrossword Awards 2011.

I earnestly wanted my friend Annie Zaide (who was nominated) to bag that 3 lakhs money prize for her non-fiction work ‘Known Turf’ but it was not to be and I was disappointed.
My hunger grew stronger.
Dipti and I walked outside the auditorium looking for a cafeteria. A big buffet table was set with neatly arranged tables and chairs but (wait a minute) ONLY FOR THEIR ESTEEMED GUESTS. The waiters walked in and out of the kitchen with shiny silver trays laden with exotic snacks and I looked on hungrily like a starving street child. I tried to enter the dining area but the volunteers blocked me, asking me for a white-dinner coupon. White-dinner-coupon? Huh? I looked into the invitation envelop, nopes..there is no such coupon! I have been discriminated!!! There was no food, neither a drop of a drink for a commoner like me. I had no idea that my invitation card did not have the dinner-coupon. I offered to pay for the dinner but they refused. I did see some of the ‘esteemed guests’ begging for dinner coupons for their ‘commoner’ friends but I was not about to beg for such invitations. 

This was too embarrassing for me.  
How much does the dinner cost anyways? huh?  If, considering that more than 20 lakhs have already been spent on this event (that includes prize money, auditorium booking, participants, publishers and readers) can’t they spend extra few pennies to make dinner available to all the attendees, those who remove time from their busy life and honor their show? After all its going to be common people who will give them business, isn't it? Of the 1000 people attending the show, there must have been only 100 commoners like me. Is it so expensive to cater to those too? Why so much stinginess on hospitality?
Dear Crossword and Vodaphone, Thank you very much!! This is what I would call penny wise, pound foolish!!!
It was late evening and I was too tired to go to any fancy restaurant, I just wanted to eat something to stop those restless hunger pangs. We decided to go to a vegetarian restaurant opposite Churchgate station. It was closed. We looked for another restaurant inside the station, it was closed too. We started to walk towards the train and on the platform there was a tiny, sleepy kiosk, selling wafers and snacks. I bought two Samosas for myself and I almost puked because of the stale oil.
Bad day indeed!
I had a noodles soup for dinner at home.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Good Indian Girl

My friend launches a new book called ‘The Bad Boy’s Guide to Good Indian Girl” and sends me the promo on U-tube.

While making this promo, she had asked me if I was a good Indian girl, but I couldn’t think of anything intelligent/dumb thing to say, in fact I was not even concentrating on the word ‘girl’. I was just thinking if I was a good Indian person. But this is a tricky question.

I do what I please; I had memorized 'Gita' page by page and have forgotten it too. I decided to my live according to the rules etched in my mind. Basic thing is to do what you think is right and not be influenced by other people’s opinions. If I were married, maybe (I repeat maybe) I would have looked after my lazy and pampered family too (their laziness would be the result of my pampering) because during my childhood I had seen my elders dote on their men and little boys in the family. By nature, I am calm, cheerful, although sometimes aggressive too, ( especially if the things don’t go to my liking) go on…judge me, Am I a good Indian girl? Who decides?

I have travelled around the world and met many girls from different walks of life.

Each individual’s personality is shaped with the respect to their environment that they have been raised into. Those from broken homes have different perspective to life. Many of them are abused in their childhood and they develop an aggressive behavior. The Indian girls who are raised in the foreign countries are more exposed to western culture. Although most of them belong to secured Indian family, many of them are confused lot. They cannot decide as to what are the right etiquettes that will be acceptable when they visit their family home in India. If wearing a saree and making a good cup of tea makes one a good Indian girl then they would be willing to learn that too. (In many Indian homes, it becomes mandatory to know the basics of cooking and outside food is strongly discouraged.)

Whenever NRI’s visit their cousins in India, they see the different culture. They discover that their cousins in India are more religious, (well, most of them) God fearing and do listen and respect their parents. They look after their grand-parents and maintain a special bond with their close relatives. They are caring and understanding and will happily nurse you if you are in distress. NRI cousins admire the Indian’s great tolerance and patience and their willingness to forgive easily

But does that mean that girls who are raised abroad are bad girls? Is having a mind of your own a bad option? What do the Indian girls think about their NRI cousins?

Indian cousins admire their NRI’s cousins and think them to be very fortunate. They accept their rudeness, their drinking and smoking habits, their late nights to the clubs, their freedom to talk to opposite sex without any inhibitions, their carefree attitudes. Although, one common question that every Indian girl will ask her NRI cousin is why do they need a tissue paper 24X7? Deep thought there! Personal care is the last option for every conservative girl. ‘Me first’ is a very selfish option.

While living in Spain I noticed that people are very friendly. There was no high or low caste/class. Every one greets other with equal jest and respect (unless they have personal issues).You can share stories/opinions with the taxi and bus drivers, with the electrician and carpenters, with store salesmen and their bosses. You could go alone to a coffee shop and start a conversation with a stranger.

Different people have different ideas and devise their own scale of judgment.

Most of us (in India) cannot or won’t express our feeling too openly, because we live in fear of being rejected, of being judged, of being branded as social outcast. We are kind and compassionate, even to those who hurt us, we pretend to forget and forgive, we keep a smile and move on, and we lead a double-faced life.

My friend posts a FB status that says “I'M A HANDFUL - unfortunately most women WON'T re-post this. I'm strong willed, independent, a bit outspoken, and I tell it like it is. I make mistakes, I am sometimes out of control and at times hard to handle but I love and give with all my heart. If you can't handle me at my worst then you sure don't deserve me at my best. If you are a HANDFUL, re-post! I dare you..I'll be looking for the ladies who re-post”

I asked her “Are you a good Indian girl?’ and she replies “not a chance..not even trying.” And I am set thinking if the above status makes you very un-Indian?

I am still searching the meaning of a ‘Good Indian Girl’. Maybe a good Indian boy could answer that…………..

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Birthday Party of One-year-old

 9th of August, I am invited for the children party at 5pm and I decide to go. And why not? The kid is my sister’s grandson, who is celebrating his first birthday.

I reach his house on the dot of 5pm (thinking that rightfully children's party should be betwen 5pm to 7pm) but the kid is still in his nappy’s. His birthday suit was brought the last minute and his pants were long, so his mom had gone back to the shore to do some alteration. He is dressed in his new shirt and a nappy. Cute!

“Happy Birthday dearest Hirankh” I say handing him his birthday gift. He slaps the gift few times and then throws it aside. (what does he care if I braved the heavy rains and spend thirty full minutes at a toy store searching an approriate gift which is educational and musical, quite suitable for his age- a musical tea-set which sings different rhymes every time you pour out the content from the kettle into the cups)

“Won’t you open the gift and see what I got you” I say, he looks at me and grins,takes another small plastic toy and stuffs it in his mouth. He just has two teeth up and two teeth down and he is always putting things in his mouth.(to stop the itching perhaps)

I start to sing a nursery rhyme, “twinkle, twinkle, little star…” he gets interested. I have been singing this same poem since last six months with actions and now he had learnt to recognize it and imitates my gestures for this poem.

I feel good that he is responding and want to sing more nursery rhymes, but the little master with short attention span, soon he is bored and shifts his attention to more plastic toys to stuff into his mouth.

His mom returns from the store and dresses him up and he is ready for his friends. He crawls to the hall which is decorated with lots of baloons and streamers.

His first guest, a 14-months-old, arrives at 6pm, one hour late. A loud music to full volume is played and both the kids shake heads and hands as they sit opposite each other.

Soon more friends arrive, all under five-years old. All shy at first, hiding behind their mom’s legs but with little nudging they start to smile and are attracted by the basket full of toys kept in the middle of the room.

Hirankh loves kids and he is gurgling and babbling, happy to be amongst so many kids around him. He rolls on the floor, tries to stand up, falls, stands up again, shakes his head and enjoys the music. They play with soft toys, kicking ball, squeezing the noisy toys and jumping on a bean bag. The care-takers stand at a small distance, alert, watching the kids while mothers discuss the likes and dislikes of their children.

Potato wafers and smiley-shaped snacks are served and all kids move to the centre table, nibbling the wafers and dropping some on the floor. Its 7pm and the party has just begun.

The party goes on till 8 pm when the birthday baby cuts the cake.

This was a fun party where I enjoyed one-year-olds interacting with each other…….

Thursday, 4 August 2011

“Dare to Dream” I am Kalam

Children are the best performers and there is no doubt about that. They have the sincerity and powerful expressions that bring life even to a dull story.

This week I received an invitation from Smile Foundation for the preview of the film “I am Kalam”

Smile Foundation is the NGO that believes that the desired changes in the lives of underprivileged children will come only when more and more privileged people start participating proactively in finding a solution. The Foundation also believes that the only way to ensure a better future for these children is by educating them.
Keeping that vision in mind, the central theme behind the film “I am Kalam” focuses on need for education to change the destiny for a better tomorrow with the powerful message of ‘Dare to dream’.

The film is set in the remote area of Bikaner, Rajasthan and shows the brighter side of India. For once there are no slums, helplessness and poverty or any other negative aspects of India. It was pleasant to watch the colorful and ethnic beauty of Rajasthan. The folk music added the glamour to the film. I loved the scene where different musicians from different culture strike a chord on different instruments and produce a striking harmony at the road-side dhabba

There was no moment of boredom as the story progressed, although its more of a fairy tale about the friendship between prince with a commoner, each one happy in the other’s company, learning and exchanging knowledge while the adults unaware about their friendship. The poor friend conveniently climbs up to tree and sneaks into the prince’s bedroom to play with his toys and Prince too, sneaks out on the streets and learns to climb trees and sit by the lake without the knowledge of his conservative family.

The scene that impressed me the most was when Chottu (Harsh Mayer) goes to the hotel delivering tea, seated on a camel and peeping through windows, asking “Want tea madam?” The part of the palace is converted into a heritage hotel, but has no in-house kitchen and has to depend on Dhabba for their daily meals and tea. (lucky Dhabba has no competition)

Nevertheless, it still amuses with its witty dialogues and sparkling cinematography which makes the film a visual treat.

'I am Kalam' celebrates the survival of a human spirit and has a ‘feel good’ factor, it's simple and yet quite moving.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Clubbing in the City

Don’t know if there is age for everything and if you do something unusual it might seem odd to the public,so much so that they might raise objection, might even go into their judgement mode awarding you with an odd dunce cap because the rule is that discos and loud music is for youngsters, temples or walking by the sea-shore is for oldies and for middle-age there is coffee shop, gossip and theatre.

But all my life I have followed no pattern whatsoever and have done whatever the opportunities have provided me at that time and I have never felt like a bull in the crockery shop in any of these instance and of course, not worn the dunce cap either because of my ability to fit into every group and change my colors matching the company.

Therefore last late evening when my nephew asked if I would like to go with his group of cousins and friends for a drink to a club, I found nothing odd about that.

As we entered the Trilogy Club at SeaPrincess after dinner, it was alive with loud music, so loud that I almost turned 180 degree to return back, but the d├ęcor inside the club distracted me and I wanted to experience the ambience.

There were too many bouncers dressed in black inside the club, who guided every body with their laser-torch, they were highly alert, stood at their specific post with their eyes surfing the crowd and later I discovered their usefulness when the crowd got rowdy and somewhere, somebody was playing with a gun and he had to be quietly escorted out of the club. The matter was resolved so silently that those busy with dancing didn't notice the fuss.

There were a group of people at the bar enjoying their drink, and there was a separate area for smoking. We walked upstairs to the dance floor. Everybody who entered the dance floor walked in with their shaky butt. I took a high bar stool and perched myself on it to watch the people dance. The music was loud and instrumental but not the type that I am used to hearing. The type of music that I used to like was those of BoneyM and TinaTurner and more recently MariahCarrie but this 'Baysurri' music was beyond my understanding. The instrumental music was screeching from the juke box, slow at first and then to higher crescendo mixed with the rhythm of drums. The thousand bulbs twinkled with the music in orderly manner creating the chain of dancing lights.

My nephew got me Margarita that had an icing of salt-dust at the rim of the cup. I normally don’t drink but one sip of Margarita was quite refreshing. I watched people dance, some of them lost to the music, swirling their body, shaking from top to bottom, as if struck with an electrical shock, others imitated the MichealJackson/Mithun/SalmanKhan dance steps while some just shook one part of the body, just their arms like trafficPoliceman, or the pose of dancing Cobra, but most of them were in Nirvana under the influence of music, stuck to their own group of friends occupying only a small area of the crowded dance floor. I sat there feeling the vibration of the loud music on my finger tips as my hands clutched around my handbag and some time later, I was tapping my feet too. Most of the young girls were dressed in halters and short skirts while boys in loose jeans that kept slipping from their waist, at every pause in the music there were hugging session, boys-girls, girls-girls, boys-boys.....and a sip from their drink.

I was still sipping Margarita, when my nephew brought another drink, Jaeger bomb, in a tiny glass. I was hoping I don’t get too tipsy or else people might have to carry me home but the drinks were so very delicious that I had to use a strong will power to stop myself from drinking too much.

The rule in Mumbai says that all parties must end by 1:30am and thus, much to my relief it was time to go home.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

You are Invited For a Tea Ceremony

If you come and spend a day with me, we will chat a lot, you can talk, I will listen, if you like a game of scrabble, we could do that too and in-between our usual activities we will have tea ceremony.

What say you, will that do?

Well, you may ask me what is this tea ceremony and how do I know about this? So let me begin to tell you that I just attended a talk by noted tea connoisseur ‘Radhika Batra’ who educated me on how to soothe my senses by refreshing and aromatic tea ceremony.

Did I tell you that I am regular at Nature Basket and I seem to be shopping for all my groceries from this store that includes sauces n cheese n those exotic stuff. So, this month my shopping coincided with this talk-show on tea ceremony and I walked into the wine section of this store, where normally all that food talk takes place.

The table was laden with fancy teacups and tea-kettles, different types of tea jars and bottles of spices like rosemary leaves, thyme and cloves, lime and cinnamons.

Now normally when people visit me, I just give them a Indian cutting chai, a black variety cooked on the gas with milk and sugar and the conversation is never about tea, I mean what can we discuss about ordinary tea making? We have been having our cup of tea from childhood with no extra fuss except to crib sometimes about the quantity of milk or sugar..

Every country has its own traditions and customs in serving tea  Like for example:
The samovar, a symbol of tradition, is used to brew tea in Russia. At the base of the samovar, a charcoal fire burns, and a metal pipe runs up inside the container to heat the water. Tea leaves are infused in a concentrated form in a small teapot that rests on top of the samovar. Water dispensed from the copper vessel is mixed with the strong tea to create a hearty drink that is often served with sugar cubes that are held in the mouth while drinking. In Iran and Turkey, the Russian samovar is used for special occasions and holidays.
But this time I have decided to make some fuss over you if you visit me. I will have a tea ceremony with you and that means we will have the ritual of tea five times a day, yes! You heard me right, it’s a tea ceremony remember?

Early morning we can have ‘Longjing Chinese Green’ tea. All we need is hot water and patience. Just one teaspoon of green tea with hot water, and we keep it for brewing for five minutes and it’s done. This tea I always order in the Chinese restaurant after meals; it washes down the grease form the food. But when you visit me, we shall have this green tea to start the day.

Now you may ask me what is this Longjing tea? This is one of the purest and most popular green tea mainly from the mountain lakes of Hangzhou in China. These pan fried leaves give out a pale yellow liqueur and as you sip it, you get a slightly sweet cherry blossom aroma.

At noon we shall have mid-morning blue, a Darjeeling Black tea. We shall brew one spoon of black tea with lemon and cloves. If you like thyme or rosemary flavors, we could do that too. Black tea is best brewed in a kettle instead of on stove. Since these are plantation fresh, the same leaves can be brewed twice. I could even flavor this black tea with tulsi and ginger or cardamom and cinnamon.

After lunch around 2 pm, we could have mid-eastern infusion, a ‘Barush Flower’ tea.. This will not contain any real tea leaves but it will be made from the potpourri of flowers and herbs. I love this tea because of the sweet aroma of different flowers. Hhmmmn..deep breath..Nirvana! This middle-eastern flower blend is bedecked with colorful flecks of dried flower petals of Rose, Chyrusanthanam, Marigold, jasmine.

During evening we could have oolong Shanghai style, the champagne of tea. We could swirl this with cinnamon sticks or Vanilla pods to get that fragrant whiff. You will love the toasty sweetness.

And late evening we could have the fruity lovers’ tea, which is simply from mixture of fresh and dried fruits.

Imagine the VIP treatment you will get if you visit me on the days when I am in that mood of hosting a tea ceremony…you can enjoy the tea all day but just let me win each game of scrabble, one after the other, without getting annoyed each time you lose….hehehehe….want to come?

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Enter Mumbai at your own risk- This is a twilight zone

It had been a long and tiring day and I was returning home by AC bus. It was raining heavily outside, but I was comfortable by the window seat. Having skipped my lunch, I was thinking of ordering delicious dinner from KFC as soon as I reached home. The thought of dinner delighted me; I shut my eyes and listened to the music plugged to my ears. Periodically I opened my eyes to look at the woman sitting opposite me. I started to admire the henna tattooed on her hands as she finger-chatted on her Blackberry; I was tempted to remove a picture of her decorated doodled hands curled around the mobile, it made beautiful composition, but was not sure if I could. What if she was annoyed? What if she snatched my camera? I put away my thought back into my sleeve and continued to enjoy the conversation and the music on FM radio.

Suddenly I was distracted by the conversation on radio. The speaker off-handed mentioned that there had been a blast somewhere in Mumbai and said not to panic, it could be just a rumor but he would report as soon as he got some more information. I was not sure if I had heard him right because the very next moment the music continued to play. I look around in the bus to see if anybody else was listening to the radio. The woman opposite me was continuously talking on the phone. I put off the radio and went online on my BB. There was much activity on twitter and they all were talking about serial bomb blasts. I let out a soft scream “Oh my God!, there had been a Bomb Blast” The woman opposite me heard me and started a conversation with me. She informed me that she too had received a call from her family and that there have been three blasts in the gap of ten minutes, “Dadar kabootarkhana, Opera house Panchratanna and JaveriBhazar” the three most crowded areas of Mumbai.

She made few more calls to her family members and to her children asking them to stay indoors and that she was on her way. It had stopped raining but there was too much traffic jam. I started receiving messages and SMSs from my family and friends inquiring about my safety and asking me to call them back when I reached home.

I reached home, safe and secure, ordered dinner and sat down to watch the news on TV.

That’s when the pain sets in.

Helpless Mumbaikars stranded on the roads, with no clue of what they had wronged. The news spoke of the bomb blasts at the crowded areas, about injured people being rushed off to hospitals, some limbs chopped into pieces flown into different directions, and angry people on the streets. The whole stretch of road was bloody. The bomb blast was triggered by a timer and nobody had seen it implanted there? On crowded streets of Mumbai, nobody had noticed the bomb being implanted on a scooter at Javeri Bazar, on the top of the bus-stop at Opera house or under the tiles on the road at Dadar. People went on with their business unaware of the danger being built up and terrorist were successful in their destructive and inhuman act.

Over the years, say many analysts, the state's authority has been eroded as a nexus of greedy politicians; a thriving underworld, unscrupulous property developers and a discredited police force seem to have been ruling the roost, undermining institutions. The most commonly peddled narrative is that by attacking its much touted financial and entertainment capital, you deal a body blow to India and get global media attention. Source
 From TV news to FB discussions to Twitterati, all had the same voice -tones of anger and disgust of not doing enough to make Mumbai a safer place, or being subjected to repeated attacks  and cry for help to find some solutions.

I was really touched by Mumbaikar’s unity last night, people were offering their house to stay to those stranded on road, offering lifts in their empty cars, tweeting away to offer their help, while the telephone lines were jammed there was lots of activity at twitterati.

Within 30 minutes of the explosions, twiteratti began circulating a Google spreadsheet with important numbers and information. As time went by people who wished to help, (be it by providing transport or a place to stay, by making calls/finding out information on behalf of people or by providing blood) began adding their names and contact details to the list. The hashtags #here2help and #needhelp began trending in India, with other twitter users trying to match requests for help with offers to help in various areas. Others trawled the #here2help tweet stream and updated the Google spreadsheet. Source

While the officials tried to figure out who is behind these blasts, the life goes on, and today is the another day, its raining heavily again, people are back to work commuting in crowded trains, although they are not sure this time if they will return home safely at the end of the day, life move on. School going children are interviewed randomly and into the camera they scream “We are not afraid, we are not afraid at all….” although the fear rings in undertones behind every smiling face.

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