Monday, February 23, 2015

The Obsessive Foodie


Image Courtesy  - Google

All these years I used to fancy myself as a foodie. Not anymore. It appears that rubbing your belly in satisfaction after an enjoyable and describing it simply as good only qualifies you as lazy. You are not a true blue foodie till the mellifluous notes of hand ground spices in the bhutta korma makes you want to run down the hills singing – the hills are alive with the aroma of cumin! Experience heartbreak when the much hyped restaurant churns out mediocre fare and write scathing reviews to warn your foodie brethren. Happily brave traffic rush, smelly markets to scout for exotic ingredients, and always have a camera along with your cutlery.

The only thing I can come up with after a spectacular meal is – Oh shit, I should have clicked a pic!

Till a decade back I don’t think the term ‘foodie’ even existed! Or maybe it did but we were too busy burping our approval for a dish well cooked and preferred licking our fingers clean rather than reaching out for the camera to click the chicken corn soup with enough cornflour to bind the world. If you loved your food, you didn’t have to shout from rooftops and you definitely didn’t have to click your meal from different angles to get the perfect lighting and shot. If you did, you’d risk getting laughed at by strangers.

We didn’t mind having chicken curry cooked the same way meal after meal. Experimenting was something that was confined to Chemistry labs. Eating out was a monthly, low-key affair and ambience was still a word in the dictionary. Having fun was something we did in moderation. If we were watching a movie, there’s no way we could follow it up with dinner at a restaurant because according to your Maa, too much fun was akin to corruption. Our parents never failed to make us feel guilty by regaling us with their frugal living stories. A childhood denied of luxuries, where they had to wait for birthdays and Durga Pujo to get their two sets of clothes and eating out was an alien concept.

Modern living is out to prove that our parents were wrong and boring. It has seen a quantum shift towards a lifestyle which is all about excess. One look at Facebook and Twitter feeds and you’re inundated with images and vivid descriptions of exotic vacations, fun-filled evenings and gourmet meals your friends are having, while you stab miserably at your bowl of chopped papaya.

The new age foodie is now a gastronome, chef extraordinaire, food critic, photographer rolled into one. His taste buds have a high emotional quotient that can feel the butter-laden, cognac-kissed suavity in the pumpkin soup and sheds tears of ecstasy as he bites into a juicy, succulent, bursting with flavours tangdi kabab.

The problem is everyone and their aunt has started fancying themselves as the next Nigella Lawson. Just like every second person claiming to be an avid photographer, even if the only photos he clicks is that of his wife and children. Every dish being churned out is presented as the next masterpiece, so what if the cake looks like a gooey unpalatable mess with gems stuck all over it and the grilled chicken resembles burnt arbi!

Not every morsel that goes into your mouth is meant to be heavenly even if you’d like your 685 friends on Facebook to think so. Not every cup of coffee you are having with biscotti has to be clicked and shared with your followers on Instagram.

The desire to impress others with our culinary adventures is spreading like a contagious disease. Wives are cooking six course meals for their dear husbands. Dear husbands are surprising their lovely wives with herbed fish on couscous salad. We now have grimy karhais with ghastly orange butter chicken, out-of-focus bhel with green chanas, methi parantha pizza vying for our attention, aesthetics be damned! It’s as if we are eradicating world hunger by sharing our breakfast, lunch, dinner and in between snacks photos.

On the other end of the spectrum is a section of fitness worshipping gentry that loves regaling its audience with their treadmill and pushup sagas and their super healthy diet of wheatgerm aloe juice spiked with karela. Usually a self-righteous breed, they swear by their current diet and seek miracles from goji and acai berries and are never short of advice to transform your life.

It’s as if people are either eating too much or too little or too right and have abandoned the middle ground. I have started feeling terribly

I blame the motivational quotes exhorting us to live life to the fullest and savour every moment, for this recent trend of hedonism. Rather than fill us with joie-de-vivre, they fill us with an overwhelming sense of guilt about our mundane lives. Rather than wait for that trip to Piranha infested Amazon river, we seek adventure in our kitchen and stuff idli with cheese, marry dhokla with bacon and tingle our tastebuds with coffee infused kulfi. We may not close our eyes in ecstasy as the spices give up their soul when they dive into the hot oil or when the chicken skins turn the shade of an autumnal sunset in the oven but we make sure that we garnish our experience with liberal doses of exaggeration as we pen it to share it with the world. So, a peeled, seeded tomato becomes a concasse, the cake, a homespun masterpiece and food becomes porn, the sight of which makes you want to scream – yes…Yes…YES.

I’m not suggesting that there’s anything wrong in sharing experiences that make us happy. And visuals will always integral part of it. What we eat is as much a source of nourishment as it is of pleasure as well as an outlet for creativity. I only wish we’d exercise more discretion in what we share and how frequently we post updates.

Remember, the more you share, the more people jeer, like this particular badass lady who has made you her subject.




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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Aham Bhumika Needs Your Help

It's always nice to come across NGOs that extend a helping hand to the underprivileged, empowering them with opportunities denied to them otherwise. A lot of us want to do our bit but are either constrained by lack of time or unsure about which NGO to support.

Aham Bhumika is an NGO ( Registered ) based in Bhopal. Besides providing basic education to rural children, the organization has trained over 30 rural women in hand embroidery. This enables these women to earn by working from home.
This where you and I step in.
Aham Bhumika desires to make this hand embroidery initiative self sustainable. From past three months they have been marketing the sale of hand embroidered products mainly through Twitter and Facebook. Besides this, the organization has also tied up with a  retail store based in Jaipur to sell their hand embroidered cushion and bags.      
So, why don't you hop over to their  Facebook page, take a look at their wares and if you like something, order and spread the good word around?

I particularly liked these designs.




 





Monday, February 9, 2015

RIP, Voice of Reason?



 
 Image courtesy -  www.telegraph.co.uk


Barely had Modi come up with his ambitious program ‘Make in India’ to transform India into a global manufacturing hub, that self-appointed patriotic Indians went into an overdrive to make his dream come true in the shortest possible time. Thanks to their untiring zeal, we are now the largest manufacturer of ‘outrage and intolerance’ (O&I).

I am not suggesting that other nations are free from such predilections. But what sets us apart is our talent to overlook the obvious like the appalling state of security and crumbling infrastructure, but forage for the unusual. Like one fine morning, Khundak Sharma will wake up with a bad case of acidity and decide he doesn’t like Amir Khan’s face in the PK poster and claim his religious sentiments have been hurt. And before he can belch, his outrage has spread like Ebola afflicting thousands who will claim similar symptoms. And who would then bestow on themselves the licence to go out in droves, vandalise public property and create nuisance with utter impunity.

India has a vocal constituency of sentimental citizens who can draw from neat buckets of topics like minority, religion, region, caste, gotras and the ever obliging ‘sanskriti’ so that they are never short of sentiments that can get hurt at any point of ‘time’. A ‘time’ that consults no calendars or astrological charts but comes unannounced like Khundak Jee’s acidity.

The moralistic Indian when hurt will drag girls from pubs for sullying the much venerated image of the adarsh naari, hound a celebrated author so mercilessly in the name of religion that he’s compelled to announce his death as a writer, force one of India’s most gifted artists into exile because someone decided that he insulted our goddess with his depictions. Getting offended comes as naturally to this breed as coughing to Kejriwal. They like to position themselves as guardians of Indian morality and culture, protecting it from corrupt, purportedly western influences. Interestingly, the same heritage they safeguard like a possessive lover, actually advocates expression of unpleasant facts and unpalatable opinions as a means of arriving at the truth. Upanishads, Puranas and epics have asserted that truth itself has many facets and dogmas and doctrinaire rigidities are totally out of place in Indian philosophy. 

But hey, we adopted hypocrisy as a religion that finds it perfectly acceptable to preach with no intention of following it, but will expect others to toe the line or be prepared to face the consequences. So, we have enraged mobs burning books that they haven’t even read or a state government ordering a probe into a celebrity roast because some bloke who was neither at the giving nor the receiving end of it decides it was obscene and files a written complaint. The same state where Shireen Dalvi went into hiding from fringe elements after her publication carried Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons, yet the same government machinery, this time, chose a frosty silence.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

May the Most Beautiful Face Win the Delhi Elections


The keenly fought Delhi Assembly Polls are proving to be the Bigg Boss of elections with each party stooping lower to conquer. Just a few weeks back, Kiran Bedi, BJP’s brahmastra against Aam Admi in muffler, anointed Modi as the most beautiful face and leaving Amit Shah heartbroken.

Ironically, gushing about your leader’s beauty is far from a foolproof way of towing away your electorate’s heart, especially when it belongs to form

Image courtesy - twitter.com
er Press Council chairman and retired Supreme Court judge, Katju. After a close inspection of Kiran Bedi from all angles and a round of questions grilling her on world peace and her beauty regimen, he declared Shazia Ilmi as the most beautiful, hence deserving to be BJP’s CM candidate.

He said “If Shazia had been made their C.M. candidate BJP wud(sic) have definitely won the Delhi elections. People vote for beautiful faces, as in Croatia. Even a person like me who does not vote wud(sic) have voted for Shazia.”

He further added that almost all Indian politicians are rogues and scoundrels, so, it makes more sense to elect a beautiful face to betray the electorate’s trust.

This is yet another milestone moment for women who are solely judged on the basis of their looks, irrespective of their achievements and the accolades they win. This comes as a great relief to the Australian journalist who in writing the obituary for the bestselling author (and neurophysiologist) Colleen McCullough, chose to focus on her lack of looks and ample weight and how she, despite these shortcomings, managed to attract men.

It’s hoped that Katju’s counsel will have many takers since “90% of Indians are idiots” (and most of them in Delhi).

Interestingly, much before Katju came up with this well-meaning advice, Indian voters elected the ‘most beautiful face according to Kiran Bedi’ to show them achhe din.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Growing-up With A-Musing

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'This post is a part of #UseYourAnd activity at BlogAdda in association with Gillette Venus'.


Five years back when I left my job as a high school teacher, my friends thought I was mad. A part of me believed they were right. I had no idea what I’d do next, just an overwhelming desire to live life on my own terms. I’d be lying if I said it was I who took the decision. But when your work starts making you bitter and not better, it’s your nearest and dearest ones who intervene and force you to take a long hard look at yourself. In my case it was my husband.

At 40, I joined a dance class and learnt to pirouette, plié, jump and leap with girls younger than my daughter. I learnt driving yet again only to not drive, yet again. I reconnected with my school friends and finally got down to doing what I wanted to all my life – write. The first time I took time off work was when our daughter was born. I was naïve enough to believe that between my new found role as Mother Dairy and changing nappies I would find time to pen my thoughts. I did manage some juvenile poetry where I mostly end up wondering if I was wasting my life. I think this is one of the reasons why we are so apprehensive of being alone with our thoughts. Our mind, a repository of our fears, throws back at us some unpleasant questions that we avoid by keeping ourselves busy.

When I finally got solitude and plenty of ‘me time’, I was so ecstatic that instead of fighting my inner demons, I chose to write how it felt unshackled from the monotony of my nine to five life. At this point I had no idea what a blog was. When I finally compiled all my write-ups that I had written for other sites, I ended up creating a separate blog for each of my posts. Yes, that is how naïve I was. All I knew was, I had to write like I was talking to my impatient friends whose attention I had to grab by sounding as funny as possible. I wrote about the much dreaded ‘auntydom’, ‘a mirage called marital bliss’ and my life through the eyes of a much married woman trying make light of her experiences in a jungle called Delhi. To say that I was shocked that scores of men and women, including a group of friends in a college in Lucknow related and avidly discussed my writings, is putting it mildly. It required immense will-power not to do a happy jig when I started getting fan mails.

I didn’t start writing to prove a point, to earn accolades. I write because it makes me and hopefully others happy. It helps me connect with so many talented people who I would not have met otherwise.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Behind a Monkey Cap is a Shivering Bengali

                                             Also published on Huffington Post, India. 
Google Images

A Bengali’s love for phish, phootball, adda and gluttony can only be rivalled by his fear of ‘thanda lege jaabe’ (catching a cold). Researchers in Malda University have come out with findings that suggest that six out of ten Bengalis keep themselves warm by chanting ‘kee sheeth kee sheeth’ (how cold!). The more the number of times they repeat it, the warmer they feel. This is exactly why the Monkey Cap, a Bengali’s armour against winter, covers the entire face and the scalp but keeps the mouth and eyes free from any encumbrances. Of what use are your eyes and mouth if they cannot derive the sensory pleasure of simultaneously seeing fellow sufferers shiver while conveying your own agony!

Bengalis, especially in Kolkata, have a special relationship with winter. The moment the temperature drops down to 25 C, doting moms mummify the apples of their eyes under layers of sweaters and bandor toopis, lest they catch a cold. Which is why Bengali siblings can never get lost at the Kumbh Mela because they are the only ones dressed like eskimos in thermals, sweaters and head gear.

The ‘beta sweater pehno’ mom in the Polo ad was most definitely a Bengali, even if somewhat nasal.

Maybe this explains a Bong’s fascination for the monkey cap that travels with him anywhere he goes, even if it’s a vacation on the seaside! The cap reminds the bhadrolok of his mom! Every time he yearns for his Maa’s warmth, he slips his head inside its womb. Not just the bandor toopi, but also Boroline and Gelusil that symbolise tender motherly love squeezed in a tube or a bottle protecting Bengalis from all ills and germs.

But does a Bong’s morbid fear of the catching the cold hamper him from having phun? No siree! Your childhood isn’t Bengali enough if you don’t have memories of being huddled up in a bus eating cold boiled eggs, with bread butter and a banana, singing Robindro Shongeet only to have mangsho bhaath (mutton curry with rice) at some far off picnic spot. But not before a few rounds of badminton, cricket and some more Robindro Shongeet while the cauldron of freshly made mutton curry bubbles away merrily. By the time the lunch finishes, it’s time for evening tea with some light snacks like shingara (samosa) and a couple of mishtees.

It’s only when everyone complains of acidity is the picnic declared a resounding success. With Gelusil handed around in silent comradeship.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Urmila’s Resolve: a review of Sita’s Sister





This book was reviewed by Trisha Ray.

The Ramayana is one of the oldest and oft reinterpreted stories in the world. Author Kavita Kane shifts the focus to Sita’s sister, King Janak’s firstborn Urmila. Urmila is feisty, fights for what she wants and fiercely protective of her elder sister. She is a complete contrast to the demure Sita. Sita’s Sister is a glimpse into her struggles to keep her family together circumstances split them apart and their loyalties are tested.

Urmila (or Mila as the sexy serious Lakshman calls her) has long been deemed the forgotten heroine of the Ramayana. She stayed behind as the man she loved left to protect his brother in exile. In some versions, the Goddess Nidra grants her wish and put her into a deep slumber in Lakshman’s stead. I, however, prefer Kane’s interpretation. Rather than simply falling asleep for 14 years (which honestly sound like the best thing in the world), Urmila helps Shatrugana with affairs of the state and prevents Ayodhya from falling into anarchy.

One of the biggest issues I have had with Ramayana is the uni-dimensional portrayal of the women- they are either pure and virtuous or evil and scheming. Sita’s Sister doesn’t abide by these character tropes. Instead the reader gets a nuanced and complex reading, especially of the often ignored women. We see Kaikeyi, Sumitra, Urmila and Mandavi in a new light. These are all women trying to be good, dutiful wives but they are betrayed repeatedly by those they love. Kane also doesn’t fail to emphasise that they were all accomplished individuals in their own right, learned and brave.

“Does the man have no duty toward his wife and mother? You may be the best of princes, the perfect sons, the ideal brothers, probably the ideal king too, but never the good husband!”

The structuring of the story is a bit uneven, where the two month courtship covers half the book but the 14 year exile is covered in a few chapters, but I can’t really blame the author for that since complete accounts of Urmila’s life would’ve been hard to come by. I am also not overly fond of the lengthy descriptions of Urmila’s curvaceous body and Lakshman’s dark brooding looks (and the slightly clichéd descriptions of love-making) but again, Sita’s Sister isn’t meant to be a romance.

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