Thursday, November 05, 2009

Odd foods - kharwas

Been wanting to do this series for quite sometime now. So heres the first of the series - kharwas (the marathi name for this mildly sweet snack), also known as 'ginnu' in kannada.
For the uninitiated, ginnu is made from the milk of a cow that has given birth to a calf recently (within a week, the closer it is to 'calf birth', the better). Animal rights activists rest assured, the calf first has its fill and only the excess is used.
This milk, which is extra thick and full of nutrients is boiled with gur (jaggery) or sugar (jaggery version is better) and let to cool, and thicken. After cooling, it gains the consistency of jelly and is eaten as a snack/sweeet.
Available at the Aarey store in Aarey Colony, this mildly sweet sweet brought back memories of childhood when mom used to prepare it, getting the necessary milk from any of the many tabelas that existed (then) in cosmopolitan Mumbai.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

We, the people

The captioned event that yours truly witnessed, took place in that microcosm of life, the Mumbai local train. It was late evening and the train was fairly sparse. People were all lost in their own thoughts, ruminating over the day's events, when all of a sudden, this middle aged gentleman starts playing blaring music on his mobile. The numbers that the contraption belted out were jarring, to say the least. The eight odd passengers in the immediate vicinity, were visibly annoyed. To my great surprise, not one, I repeat not one person told the guy to pipe down. Even the chaps sitting next to him made faces, but did not utter a word. After watching this drama for a few minutes, I tapped the guy and told him to use his headphones. Evidently, the guy was oblivious to the nuisance that he was causing, apologised and switched to earphones. Half a dozen faces looked at me with a mute thanks. All it would have taken was for one person to speak up than suffer silently.
We, the people. We Are we like this only?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Kempaadavo yella kempaadavu

An amazing song from a Suresh Heblikar movie, with Lokesh in the lead. I think the movie was ಅಪರಚಿತ (Aparachita meaning stranger). Fabulous lyrics... the last paragraph is simply phenomenal. The lyrics in kannada (you can't beat the original) followed by the english translation... The song describes the sunset...
ಕೆಂಪಾದವೋ ಎಲ್ಲಾ ಕೆಂಪಾದವು
ಕೆಂಪಾದವೋ ಎಲ್ಲಾ ಕೆಂಪಾದವು
ಹಸುರಿದ್ದ ಗಿಡ ಮರ ಬೆಳ್ಳಗಿದ್ದ ಹೂ ಎಲ್ಲ ನೆತ್ತಾರ ಕುಡಿಧ್ಹಂಗೆ ಕೆಂಪಾದವು
ಕೆಂಪಾದವೋ ಎಲ್ಲಾ ಕೆಂಪಾದವು
ಹಸುರಿದ್ದ ಗಿಡ ಮರ ಬೆಳ್ಳಗಿದ್ದ ಹೂ ಎಲ್ಲ ನೆತ್ತಾರ ಕುಡಿಧ್ಹಂಗೆ ಕೆಂಪಾದವು
ಹುಲ್ಲು ಬಲ್ಲಿಗಳೆಲ್ಲ ಕೆಂಪಾದವು ಊರು ಕಂದಮ್ಮಗಳು ಕೆಂಪಾದವು
ಹುಲ್ಲು ಬಲ್ಲಿಗಳೆಲ್ಲ ಕೆಂಪಾದವು ಊರು ಕಂದಮ್ಮಗಳು ಕೆಂಪಾದವು
ಜೊತೆ ಜೊತೆಗೆ ನಡೆದಾಗ ನೀಲ್ಯಾಗಿ ನಲಿದಂಥ
ಕಾಯುತ್ತ ಕುಂತಾಗ ಕಪ್ಪಾಗಿ ಕವಿದಂಥ
ನುಡಿ ನುಡಿದು ಹೋದಾಗ ಪಚ್ಚಯ ತೆನೆಯಂಥ
ಭೂಮಿಯು ಎಲ್ಲಾನು ಕೆಂಪಾದವು
ನನಗಾಗ ಕೆಂಪಾದವು
ಜೊತೆ ಜೊತೆಗೆ ನಡೆದಾಗ ನೀಲ್ಯಾಗಿ ನಲಿದಂಥ
ಕಾಯುತ್ತ ಕುಂತಾಗ ಕಪ್ಪಾಗಿ ಕವಿದಂಥ
ನುಡಿ ನುಡಿದು ಹೋದಾಗ ಪಚ್ಚಯ ತೆನೆಯಂಥ
ಭೂಮಿಯು ಎಲ್ಲಾನು ಕೆಂಪಾದವು
ನನಗಾಗ ಕೆಂಪಾದವು
ಕೆಂಪಾದವೋ ಎಲ್ಲಾ ಕೆಂಪಾದವು
ಕೆಂಪಾದವೋ ಎಲ್ಲಾ ಕೆಂಪಾದವು
The translation with a few literary liberties...
Its red, its all red
Its red, its all red
Green shoots, creepers leaves
An’ the white blossoms
Av’ all burnished red, blood they’v drunk such red
Its red, its all red
Green shoots, creepers leaves
An’ the white blossoms
Av’ all burnished red, blood they’v drunk such red

Be’dewed blades an’ the crawlin’ creepers
Av’ all turned red, a burnished red
Frolickin’ babes nigh a malaise
Av’ too turned red, a burnished red

Tha blue sky like the ecstasy o’ my heart with your arms in mine
Dark heavy clouds like my dark moods of loneliness waiting for thine
Green of the earth heavy with harvest, chirpy as your laughter shine
Av’ all turned red, a burnished red
Av’ all turned red, a burnished red

With apologies to the author of the original, for the poor translation

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Never imagined that Turkey would be so awesome. Had heard accounts of the place from friends who had been there earlier, but nothing prepared me for what I was about to experience.
A narrow strip of land connects the Asian side of the city and the European side, with the Bosphorous Bay cutting through the middle of the city. The Bosphorous connects the Sea of Marmara (which in turn leads to the Mediterrenean) on one side and the Black Sea on the other. The blue of the Mediterrenean has to be seen to be believed. A pleasant 24 degrees C, we were told by our hosts that most of the populace had left for Antalya, a resort town by the seaside, to escape the summer heat! Our reaction was 'Heat? What heat!'
In Istanbul, the sky is clear and the air, crisp and invigorating. It reminded me of the Bangalore of the early 80's. Alas! There are very few high rises - most of the structures were not more than four stories tall and topped with red tiled roofs. The effect was awesome. There are signs of growth as well: the tallest building in Turkey (and the second tallest in Europe) was nearing completion, next door to our hotel. To add to the attraction of the place, our hosts were extremely gracious and hospitable. We are told this is true of Turkish people in general. The presence of our hosts saved us the trouble of having to survive on fries and bread. I was recommended various vegetarian delicacies: Black Sea omelette (a cheesy preparation of farm eggs and corn flour), veg mintas (fried dumplings with spinach, cheese and potato filling, though the dish in its original form has meat filling), egg plant salad (a less spicy version of our very own baingan bartha), pilav (buttered rice) with channa curry and bean curry (I forget the local names) etc.,
We were also taken by the surprising similarity between the Turkish language and hindi: pilav for buttered rice (our own pulav!), helva for halva, kofta, kebab, patata (for batata), dunya for duniya, sada for plain, hava etc., The place is full of roadside eateries, pavement cafes etc., We had our fill in some of these too: thick chewy Turkish ice cream, rolls, corn on the cob (mind boggling and a must have) etc.,
Unfortunately, since we had gone on work, there was little time to look around. Selim, one of our hosts went out of his way to host us: we drove around the walls of the old city, Hagia Sofiya (a medieval cathedral converted into a mosque), Sultanahmet Mosque (famously known as the Blue Mosque), Dolmabache Palace (the residence of Ataturk, father of modern Turkey). We also explored the place by travelling on local city buses, trams, metro etc., Ortakoy (a must visit for great night life) and Taksim Square / Istiklal Caddesi (for late European architecture, shopping) were some of the places that we visited.
With a long history and deep rooted culture, we found Istanbul to be an eclectic mix of the modern and the ancient: it is common to find a scarf covered woman wearing jeans.
All in all, a fantastic place: am surely going back for a vacation.

Monday, May 25, 2009

In love with Parbati...

Four of the five rivers from which Punjab derives its name flow through Himachal Pradesh. Of these, the Beas (pronounced ‘Byas’ locally) flows through the Valley of the Gods. The Beas has several tributaries and the Parbati is one of the more important ones. Fed by glacial snow from the Pin Parbati glacier, the waters of the Parbati are cool, clear with a greenish tinge from mineral deposits high up. How water so clean and clear could have such a greenish tinge was a mystery to us. It was not the murky green of the rivers of the plains, nor was it the green of the sea at Chowpatty. This green was different, a glassy green that flows with a gushing force, a personality of its own.
Our destination Manikaran is an important religious spot on the banks of the Parbati, about 30 – 35 kms from Manali, high up in the mountains. Rich in religious lore, the place, visited by Guru Nanak, has an important gurudwara as well as an ancient Shiva temple. The gurudwara is well maintained, with attached lodging for pilgrims. The langar of the gurudwara serves meals to all pilgrims. The food at the langar was among the best we tasted during the entire trip. There is also an ancient temple of Shiva adjacent to the gurudwara. The langar serves food to an endless stream of pilgrims, without any break in service. We were wonderstruck at the efficiency of the kitchen that could feed with such speed… until we saw the kitchen. The kitchen, is actually the hot spring adjacent to the gurudwara! At more than 90 degrees C, these bubbling springs are hot enough to cook rice and vegetables! Huge brass and copper pots with upto 10 kg of rice are immersed in the hot spring and in 20 minutes flat, the rice is cooked, ready to eat! We were witness to a batch of cooked rice removed from this amazing kitchen. See it to believe it…

Until the earthquake of 1905, the spring used to shoot up to a height of several feet, but now, is just a bubbling spring at ground level. The underwater channels are so hot that the boulders nearby turn hot to the touch!
After a sumptuous lunch at the langar, we headed back to Manali. The drive back has much signs of progress and civilisation: several hydro power projects dot the scene. At some places, the road was almost at the waters edge. We stopped to take in the enchanting scenery: the crystal clear of the Parbati, the gushing over rocks and boulders, conifer forests on either bank, the tall peaks in the background… I could sit here in quiet solitude forever…
The water of the Parbati is crystal clear with a visible greenish tinge, from mineral deposits high up. The water is clean, cool (cold!) with an energy of its own.
Inevitably, we fell in love with the Parbati and got into the water. Had it not been for our impatient driver, we would have spent more than the two – three hours that we did at the bank of the Parbati!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Valley of the Gods

Rightfully has Himachal been described as the Valley of the Gods. The clean air, the clear waters, the breathtaking views of snow capped peaks... Truly, this is paradise on earth. After spending a day in Chandigarh, we proceeded to our destination, Manali. Armed with bagfuls of warm clothing (compared with the 40 plus of Mumbai, anything southwards of 30 degrees warrants a sweater), we undertook the overnight trip to the place of Manu.
Manali in the morning was cold (10 degrees I suppose) though our driver complained that it hadn't snowed in town this year and the resort, which is a few kilometers away from town did not receive the usual three feet of snowfall! Three feet? Gosh! For someone who hasn't ever seen snow, even one inch will make my day! Set away from the bustle of Manali town (thankfully!), our resort, Sarthak Resorts, is perched IN the Beas valley. Though basic, the lodgings were cosy and comfortable. The best part was the view from the balcony... the private balcony opened up into the vally, with a commanding view of apple orchards (foreground, not yet in bloom), the Beas river and the Pir Panjal range. I could sit here watching the mountains all day!
Treated to hot and tasty aloo parathas, pooris and aloo bhaji by the very hospitable Narender, we headed to explore the countryside on foot. There is not really much in Manali for the sightseeing tourist: there is Jagatsukh - an ancient temple of Lord Shiva believed to be worshipped by the Pandavas, Arjun Gufa - where Arjun meditated upon Lord Shiva and obtained the Pashupatastra, though the place is now buried deep under a landslide, Nehru Kund - a natural spring from which Nehru drank water, though this place was destroyed by a landslide a few years ago. Then there is Vashisht Kund (not buried under any landslide) and Manu Temple (it is believed that at the end of Pralay, Manu first disembarked at this place, hence the name Manali). There is also the Manali market where traders will pester you with deals for Chingu and Chamanga. More about Chingu and Chamanga is a different post. The market is quaint, selling dry fruits, warm clothing, souvenirs, trinkets and other touristy stuff.
There is also the Hadimba Mandir, the place where Hadimba, Bhim's wife dwelled. The gargantuan deodhars led us to believe that giants did live here in the hazy past. At well nearly 150 feet, these conifers lorded over everything else. For the local outing, we tried all modes of transport: walking, local bus (that was swell, with one old gent remembering his son after looking at me!), hired motorcycle (believe me, all my biking skills were put to test), paddle boat, and even a yak!
We spent one day in the snow (though we had to drive for over an hour to reach the spot that had enough snow to frolic in), guided by the affable Pinkah and concerned Rudra. We spent so many hours in the snow that Pinkah, our driver, thought we had fallen off into a chasm and came looking for us! The sheer excitement of the place (and some well intentioned thermals) numbed us to the sub-zero temperatures. Our local guide Rudra turned out to be a brilliant photographer in his own right. A few masterpieces he clicked: M pasting me with a snowball and me ducking another...
We had a swell time, skiing (falling all over more than skiing), sliding in the snow, throwing snowballs at each other. In the process, we managed to get snow inside the gumboots and gloves and by mid afternoon, we were freezing. An enterprising local (god bless his soul), was selling hot Maggi noodles and tea. Though overpriced (Rs 40 for a pack), they were a life saver. It had started snowing and with snow in our boots, we were freezing. The temperature was cold enough to freeze water in a bowl and we had to drink tea straight off the kettle (no kidding!) to get the life back in our limbs!
That was one fun day! We also had days cooped up in the room, due to pouring rain and a day spent in the company of Parbati - M and I fell in love with her... More about that later!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

You are only Bala, no?

Some phone conversations are memorable. Several years ago, I was part of one such conversation on my mobile. The time: sometime between late night and early morning. The location: a friend’s place, partying. The person on the other side of the line: a young lady with a shrill voice and a strong kannada/tamil accent. Here goes…
My phone rings.
Ding! Ding!
Me: Hello?
Lady: Hello?
Me: Hello? Yes?
Lady: Hello? Bala speaking?
Me: Sorry ma’am, you got the wrong number.
Lady: Hello? I want to speak to Bala?
Me: Sorry ma’am, I am not Bala.
Lady: You are not Bala?
Me: No ma’am.
Lady (every word drawn and stretched, the way only women can): Heyyyy, you aaar only Bala. I know you are Bala.
Me: No ma’am, I am not Bala.
Lady (petulantly): I know you are Bala. You always fool me like this only.
Me: No ma’am, I am telling you I am not Bala.
Lady: Ai, you are only Bala, no?
Me: Well ma’am, I am not Bala, but if you still insist, I have no problem speaking to you.
Some phone call that!

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Smell the roses

We took off on a longish vacation last week. The destination was a small town off Manali. Enroute, we had a day in Chandigarh and we took in the sights and sounds of Corbusier's very well planned and well laid out city. The best part of the day was the visit to the Rose Garden. We reached the place late evening, immediately after a light drizzle just as the sun was beginning to set and were immediately captivated. Acres of well manicured gardens, swathed in green and dotted by thousands of roses in vibrant hues... A picture is worth a thousand words... here are a few of my favourites... Other than blowing up and cropping the edges, the images have not been touched up / photoshopped in any manner.This one is my favourite... just look at the intricate folds...
Another favourite... the hues are mindboggling...
Magical... Wish I had a pro camera with a better macro lens...
I want to blow this up into a 4 x 5 and put it up in the drawing room...
The effect of sunlight streaming through the 'water lens' is captivating...
Need I say anything...
I just love the effect that a black and white snap gives... unfortunately, there isn't a good photo lab that develops b&w negatives on silver paper...