Categories
Incidents Thought and Reason

Sizzling South Indian Mela(m)

It is always tricky to plan weekends here, thanks to the lovely British weather (by the way, I do like cold n grey weather!). The last weekend was thankfully sunny, though a little chill. That didn’t deter us from making a quick trip to see what the South Indian Melam (an initiative by ‘INDIA NOW’) was all about. Actually, blame the TV adverts for luring us to it! All those pictures of steaming hot dosais/vadai, and ofcourse the cultural events 🙂 (lest I sound too shallow ;-)) were so inviting!

We reached the Mela venue by around 2 pm, and had originally planned to leave in a couple of hours, but ended staying till the very last show, which was a completely dhamakedaar performance by Shiamak Davar‘s team in London. (Will come to that later, as one sentence in passing simply doesn’t do justice to the amazing performance that it was!)

We were greeted with a mellifluous rendition of ‘Vaishnava Janato‘. Sadly, there was no encore 🙂 The compère Ms.Ambika, conducted a lovely little music exercise with all the children. There must have been atleast 20-30 participants, who sang along to Sa-Re-Ga-Ma with gusto.

It was a delight to hear, and an eye-opener too, about an art that we must not let die, but instead try to pass on to the future generations.

There were more performances – vocal, Bharatnatyam, etc. (I can’t review those as I’m not much of an art connoisseur) and an impressive ‘Kalari Payattu‘ performance too, that the boys were particularly interested in!

There weren’t as many ‘stalls’ as one expected. However, there was a great little massage offered at very reasonable prices. Another hot-dog/fries/coffee booth, that served awesome french-fries at delightful prices 😉

The stall for the ‘Save the Tiger‘ campaign, in my opinion, could have benefited with more prominence. The Diabetes UK team was strategically placed a few stalls away from the one with the droolworthy hot South Indian food 🙂

State Bank of India who were one of the Sponsors, held an exciting Raffle contest, with the prize being an iPad!!! Sadly, the winner of the raffle wasn’t around. Sigh!!! I wish…er.. never mind!)

Hot Dosai in the making… and different varieties of chutney to go with it… yummm…

Needless to say, the ‘food’ staff, hosted by Turmeric Spice (I hope I got the name right!), saw an endless queue 🙂 And it was well worth the wait. We ordered hot dosais and simple yet delicious lemon rice!

As they say, the best things in life come to those who wait! The last event was a Bollywood dance performance. I wasn’t expecting much, and the delay was putting me off.

However, when the troupe finally arrived, they took us by storm!!! The Shiamak Davar team in London pulled off a spectacular performance, making even the audience dance to the tunes of Chikni Chameli and Chammak Challo!

The compère /host, Rohan, did an OUTSTANDING job of drawing the audience into the performance.

Even the man behind the show, Mr.Manish Tiwari (Managing Director, Here&Now365) couldn’t escape grooving to the tunes of Chammak Challo 🙂

The audience learnt some easy steps, particularly some Shahrukh Khan motions, and the delightfully funny ‘nodding Indian head‘ 🙂 Team Shiamak had the entire audience spell-bound, and hungry for an encore (which again, they delivered beautifully).

We truly believed their quote – ‘Have Feet – Will Dance’. Add to that, they gave a gift voucher (‘free dance session’) for all the participants.

So, that was a truly scintillating finale to an exciting event.

Well done Team South Indian Melam 🙂 I think this was a good start, and do hope we see many more such events, that bring us closer to ‘home’ and help showcase our arts and culture.

Categories
Tags Thought and Reason

Tag you’re it!

I’ve been bitten by the ‘Tag You’re It’ bug too!! Kind courtesy: The one and only Bhai of blogworld. Our dear Hitchy!

The Rules:

1. You must post the rules!
2. Answer the questions the tagger set for you in their post and then create eleven new questions to ask the people you’ve tagged.
3. Tag eleven people and link to them on your post.
4. Let them know you’ve tagged them.

Here are the questions Hitchy asked, with my answers embedded.

1.) If you could have any superpower, what would it be ? Imagine !
>> To make anyone slim OR fat! I’d round up all the mean folks and make them super-fat, so they are grounded for life. (Er, today happens to be my Mean-Avatar day!!) I’d also grant nice people with a great figure (if they so wish it!). So be in my good books, people!

2.) What was your favorite childhood television program?

>> Spiderman and He-Man.. they both give me a feeling of ‘Sunday’ 🙂 day of rest and fun!

3.) Have / had any celebrity crushes ?
>> Hritik Roshan, who else!!!

4.) If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go?
>> At the moment it would be India, cos I’ve not been there for almost 6 months!! Yeah, I’m homesick.

5.) Name 1 thing you miss about being a child.
>> A calorie-free life. Not that I ate sensibly then, I was blissfully ignorant of words like Carbs, Monosaturated fat, blah blah blah.

6.) Name the one comic/book character that you loved the most and why ?
>> Er…. Suppandi 🙂

7.) What is the one thing that you are dying to try but haven’t had a chance to do so yet ?
>> After watching ZNMD, I think I might want to try sky-diving sometime, provided my BFFs join me!

8.) Do you have a role model – someone you want to emulate? Whom do you admire the most?
>> Chetan Bhagat.. who else can relentlessly dish out so much crap and still manage to become a best-seller?!!

9.) What do others make of you ?
>> (You mean, on my non-bitchy days, right?) That I’m very caring and pleasant.

10.) Have you ever gotten into a fight or punched someone ?
>> Nah! I’m too nice (read: timid) for that! But there are a lot of people I’d like to punch some day!

11.) For Girls – If you woke up tomorrow to find out you are Brad Pitt, what would be the first thing you’d say upon looking in the mirror !
>> Go, look for Writerzblock and take her out on a lovely date to Paris 😉

Okay, my job’s done. Now its your turn!!!

These are the lovely folks I’m tagging:

1. Ashwathy
2. Urmi
3. Snowleopard
4. Vaish
5. Aaroo
6. Reema
7. Uma
8. LG
9. Shilpa
10. Bikram 
11. Mon

And here are your Eleven questions:

1. If you were crowned ‘Ms/Mr/Mrs/etc’ World, how would you start your ‘thank you’ speech?

2. If you had to turn yourself into a cartoon character, who/what would you choose?

3. What would be your response to a troll comment like ‘Your blog is utter crap!‘?

4. If you found a bag of cash (huge cash), what would you do? Take it to the police station, keep it for yourself, or any other option?

5. Describe your first poo/wee accident as a child. Ha ha ha!:wicked: If you don’t remember, then just invent one!

6. If someone pays you a million dollars to watch a scary horror film, sitting ALONE in a graveyard at midnight, would you do it?

7. What is your one piece of advice to Rahul Baba (Gandhi)?

8. If you could banish the Bacchhan parivaar, where would you send them?

9. What is your proudest moment?

10. What is your most romantic moment?

11. And finally (phew), if you had a time machine, which year would you transport yourself to, and why?

(Needless to say, if anyone wants to willingly become a bali-ka-bakra and take up this tag, please do so!! The more the merrier!!)

Categories
Food and recipe Health n Fitness

Calling all lovers.. er.. ‘curry’ lovers!

There are lots of things different here in the UK as compared to India.

Like for example, many of us (Indian parents/grandparents) pride ourselves in saying our children are ‘Oh soooo naughtyyyy….’ whereas here ‘naughty’ indicates the kid is ‘bad’!

And when I say ‘tea’ I really mean the sweet, hot liquid with milk.. tea! Not the ‘London’ version of tea that means a nice evening snack (that tea is a part of!)

Or for example, ‘curry’, which to me, means vegetables, diced/chopped/etc, tempered with mustard seeds and seasoned with regular, mundane spices and not a thick gravy flavoured with cream or coconut milk! Which by the way, reminds me of what a local tour operator once said… ‘Britain’s favourite food isn’t Fish n Chips, but ‘Chicken Curry’!

So here is a dish, that we absolutely LOVE! With a Japanese/Chinese flavour, this is a one-course dish, scrumptious, filling, healthy (well, in part!) and absolutely droolicious.

Its actually a signature dish of Wagamama, called ‘Yasai Katsu Curry’ (Fried vegetables curry with rice). Obviously this is the ‘vegetarian’ version (actually, ‘eggetarian’ as you do need a little bit of egg to coat the veggies in). However, you could easily replace the veggies with slices of chicken and it would taste just as good (my non-vegetarian friends would claim it tastes even better!) The curry here refers to a Japanese style of curry. Wiki says it all!

First, let me post a picture.. to see if it tempts you!!

Did you like this, did you? Did you?

Ok, so I hope I have your very kind (stomach-growling) attention now!

Before I very generously share this magic recipe with you, let me give you an estimate of how much time this dish takes, to make. Er.. around an hour (more, if you make all the ingredients from scratch, and less, if you decide to play smart like I did, and buy some of it from the store).

The trick, really, is to get all the ingredients ready before-hand, and then the actually cooking/serving is actually quite quick.

I can guarantee you, the effort is really worth it, considering this is a one-pot meal, that your folks are going to LOVE!

So, for the ingredients.

We actually have FOUR sets of components here.

1) For the main Yasai Katsu:

(a) Vegetables like Brinjal (aubergine), Butternut squash and Sweet potato work best. Just slice them. This really depends on how you want your veggies. Wagamama serves thick slices, whereas I like em thin 😉 so I sliced a brinjal into 0.5 thickness.

(b) Half a cup of ordinary white flour with a pinch of salt

Crisp bread crumbs mixture

(c) Two full cups of a mixture of crumbs (Bread crumbs and plain salt crackers (I used Melba Toasts) ground into fine crumbs, to add a crisp texture to the veggies)

(d) One egg, beaten lightly.

You could add your choice of spices to any of these, really. I just added some salt to the flour, and some more salt, coriander powder and tumeric powder (Tee hee… an Indian cook after all!) to the bread crumbs mixture. But make it the way you like it. If you like your food spicy, then go for it!

2) The side: Now you could serve either crunchy vegetables or a side salad. I chose the veggies, simple because I had no salad at home 😉 Take your pick of colourful capsicum(peppers), baby-corn, mange-tout… vegetables that will suit a quick stir-fry.

Mmmm... stir-fried crunchy vegetables!

3) White rice. You could either use plain ponni rice/sona masoori rice or basmati rice. It tastes good either way. Wagamama serves this dish with some yummy sticky white rice, that I have NO clue how to make. So I faithfully stuck to our aromatic basmati 🙂

4) And lastly, the curry sauce. Now, Google says it is to be prepared this way.

Onion, garlic, ginger, tomato, turmeric powder, cumin powder, coriander powder – Fry it all, simmer with a little water for about 15 mins, cool it, and grind it with a little more water. Simmer again for about 15 mins.

Now, how do you cook this delicious meal? Really , truly simple!

Step 1: Cook your rice. I washed 1 cup of basmati rice, added 2 cups of water to it, and chucked the bowl into the microwave, first for 10 mins, then a quick stir, and another 7 minutes.

Step 2: Now, while your rice is getting cooked, take a couple of minutes to grind the bread and the crackers together to get a fine bread-crumbs mixture. Beat an egg, and keep it aside. Keep the flour ready. Start heating up the oil. Don’t slice your brinjal until it is time to fry them.

The Yasai and Katsu stuff

Step 3: Get your curry sauce organized. I’ll be honest. I didn’t make the curry sauce myself. Just bought a pack of ‘curry sauce powder’ from the supermarket and added it to boiling water. Voila!! A nice, thick, sticky curry sauce.

Side aside

Step 4: Roughly chop your side vegetables into 1-inch pieces. Heat one teaspoon of mild/medium olive oil (for health reasons… well, don’t ask me why I insist on olive oil, when the bleddy veggies are going to be deep-fried!!), and throw the veggies in. Stir-fry on high heat for about 3 mins and take them off the pan. Puhlees, for heaven’s sake, don’t cook them soggy!

Also, if you have a couple of minutes to spare, do peel a carrot, and slice slivers of it, for garnishing. It adds that ‘special’ touch, you see 😉
Step 5: OK, now for the frying bit. By this time, you should have your rice, your curry and your side salad/veggies READY. So take those slices of brinjal (if you are using sweet potato/squash, please cook them in boiling water before frying them), coat them lightly in flour, dip them in the egg, and load them with the crumbs. Once you have about 3-4 ready, slide them gently into the hot oil. You know how to fry, don’t you? Just ensure it does not get burnt! And, drain excess oil onto tissue paper.
Step 6: Pile your plate and serve Hot Hot Hot!!!! Invert a cup of rice, arrange the fried veggies, add some side veggies, ladle the curry sauce, and garnish with carrot!! And.. Bon Apetit!!!
Mmmm.... Yasai Katsu Curry!

So, tell me, did you like it? Did you?

Categories
Incidents Wordless Wed

Wordy Wday – Desi girls and some non-sense

To all the ‘innocent folks’ who landed on this page, googling ‘desi girls’ or ‘nonsense’ – you’d be disappointed, so close the window right away.

So my friends, a very boring wordy Wednesday, this.

Spotted this ‘appertisement‘ on a local bus last week, and thought the model looked really really familiar!

And hey! It was our very own Genelia 🙂 I loved the cute characters she played in the Sachin and Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na. Seen it? Seen it?

Isn’t that sweet? Wouldn’t we love to see more Indian actors and actresses in advertisements abroad, even if it was only for  Dabur Vatika!!!

Except Shilpa Shitty Shetty. And Lara Dutta. And the entire Bacchan clan. Pretty please!

And, just when I was thinking how peaceful reel life has been without the presence of the Bacchan family, here comes the announcement that the whole of India  (and apparently, Reuters too) has waited for, with bated breath.

Methinks the only other news that will be a cause of national celebration would be Rahul baba’s wedding. You know, like we could then have our very own ‘Royal Wedding!’

Anyway, its time to celebrate. Ash Rai is pregnant. (Wiki says 1.9 million women get pregnant in India every year). Whatever!!

Now for some more bits of non-sense.

1) The gorgeous LCD Tv-screens at my local Gym continuously air cookery shows at the time people are slogging their a$$ off to burn some calories. Tell me, how can anybody lose weight, when all they see in front of them, is a delicious pie being baked in the oven, or a giant-sized cream cake being readied for a party?!! Ridiculous, if you ask me!!

2) Apparently, actor Abbas’s recent acting venture is.. guess what.. a Harpic ad!! Yaar, he was one of those cool-dudes that every teenage girl in Chennai used to droooool over. Once upon a time. Look how he has fallen! Vaat-ey-pity 😦 And on that note, do read this brilliant blog that I’ve been hooked onto all evening! And for those of you don’t know who Abbas is/was, check this video. That used to be our ideal of ‘being hip and cool‘! (*Shakes head wisely, without knowing whether to laugh or cry – in retrospect, that is!)

3) Watched Karate Kid. Loved it. Absolutely loved it. Every character was brilliant. Realised that Kung Fu is not about ‘fighting’. It is an art. Ahem. But Jackie Chan has grown so old 😦 Didn’t expect that!! And 12-year-olds kissing??? That makes no sense. Not to an old fogie like me!

4) Ah, but that, you see, is what happens in foreign countries. Not in India. Never. We are a culturally rich country. What happens here is this and this. Quite sadly, though, one is not surprised. It makes complete non-sense. But it happens more often that we imagine.

Ok, before I make you feel any more depressed, I shall sign-out with a post scheduled for tomorrow’s Thursday challenge!!

Ta ta!

Categories
Friday Frolic

Friday Fun

Just saw this post on someone’s FB page:

Every Women is a Rani Lakshmi bai

Every Women is a Rani Lakshmi bai

Rani Before wedding

Lakshmi duing wedding

Bai after wedding

Hee hawwww 😆 🙄 😆

Happy Friday, folks! And happy long weekend (wherever applicable :-))

(PS: My apologies for not being regular at my blog or at yours!!! Will be back soon!!)

Categories
Food and recipe Health n Fitness

Friday Feast 2 – Utterly simple

I was wondering if my Friday Feast posts were turning boring, when Deeps said she was actually looking forward to it!!! So I plunged into writing this post, on a Tuesday, and scheduling it to be published on Friday (Whoa @ my commitment to blogging, no?).

This Friday, I have not one, but Two Feasts for you!

1- ONE-POT STIR-FRY MEAL

As always, a quick n easy one-pot meal idea :  Stir-fry noodles/rice

Utterly simple – Roughly chop up loads of veggies – Spring onions, onions, baby corn, carrot, capsicum (all colours), cabbage, mange tout, beans – toss them into a pan with a tablespoon of oil. Stir-fry them on high heat, for about 2-3 minutes, until they get slightly brown, but not fully cooked. Do remember to keep the veggies crunchy.

Now add in some salt to taste. I don’t usually add Ajinomoto as I cannot serve that to my little brat. If you like, you could add in a tablespoon of soy sauce and vinegar. Or a ready-made packet of Knorr hakka noodles masala (which tastes quite good!).

Finally, throw in the cooked rice or noodles (as you like), toss briskly, without mashing either the rice or the veggies. Basically, you are doing a stir-fry and not cooking food.

Knorr goodies for foodies

For the more enthusiastic folks around, a side-dish (cauliflower manchurian or paneer manchurian and the likes!) could be made as well. I usually just stock up on the Knorr Manchurian or Knorr Schezwan packets, and use them sparingly on my feeling-lazy-days!

They are extremely simply and taste divine. Just follow the instructions on the pack and its really easy to make the side-dish. Otherwise, ofcourse, you can do it from scratch, and there are loads of recipies on the internet, that I don’t want to bore you with now!!

Personally, I am very happy with this one-pot meal. Its simple, easy to make, tasty and well, let’s face it -what could be healthier than vegetables?

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2- THOMAS DOSAI!!!!

The second Feast for today, is specially meant for your Kiddies and Kiddos: A yummy dosai in the shape of a Thomas train (with wheels!), decorated with cooked potato and spinach 🙂

My mum used to make dosais in the shape of Ducks and Houses when we were young!

The important thing to remember while making dosai in different shapes, is the temperature of your tava. Heat your dosai tava slightly, not too hot (otherwise the batter will become clumpy), and not too cool either (as then, the batter will not cook!!).

When the tava is warm, ladle the batter onto it. First draw a circle, and then a little rectangle adjoining it. Lastly, spoon a tiny bit on the top to make a funnel! Don’t forget the wheels!!! Cook little circles of batter, and just arrange them under the train before you serve.

You can top this with any veggies to make a face. The possibilities are quite endless, really! I am quite sure your child will wolf this down in no time 🙂

Do try and let me know!

And – Happy Weekend, folks!!!

Categories
Book review Thought and Reason

A real treat – Palace of Illusions

(Apologies for having to bombard you with this – but *** A gentle reminder : If you liked my earlier post titled ‘Past Promises, Forgotten Futures’, then please Vote to promote it on Indiblogger, here:http://www.indiblogger.in/indipost.php?post=34664 *** Thanks :-) *** And again, do vote for a post, ONLY if you like it)

After having read the review of Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni at Smitha’s blog, I ordered the book from the local library. The thickness of the volume, however, put me off. Until this morning.

I picked up the book, and only a few pages into the story, I could not… absolutely could not.. put it down. I took a couple of ‘essential’ breaks 😉 but was otherwise hooked onto it completely.

The book is the narration of the Mahabharatha, seen through the eyes of Draupadi.

I’ve always loved reading mythology, Indian and otherwise. To me, reading this book was like a flashback of a movie seen in childhood, but this time, in technicolour 🙂

It isn’t boring, I assure you. And for once, I have read a book that has left me with absolutely no words of criticism or nit-picking!

I love the way the author has humanised (is there such a word?!) the characters. She turns a mythological Draupadi into a living, breathing woman! In this character called Draupadi, you will probably see a piece of yourself. Or others you know.

It makes one realise Draupadi was not an average person, specifically a woman, whose life revolved around cooking, keeping house and breeding!!

Draupadi is beautiful, confident woman, with higher aspirations, but is typically trapped in a man’s world. She is intelligent, fully aware of both her ‘desires’ and ‘limitations’. She realises ‘a woman’s place’ in this world, and abides by it.

I loved the way Draupadi beseeches to Arjun, to stop her from being ‘shared’ by his brothers, and where he subsequently redirects his fury and frustration on her, as if she were the culprit, not the victim!! Isn’t that exactly what happens even in the modern day world? In the case of rape, the first reaction is that the victim must have done something, to provoke it.

What shocked me though, was that since Draupadi was to be ‘shared by her five husbands’ – one husband a year, Vyasa ‘blessed‘ her with a ‘boon to become a virgin every time she went to her next husband‘. I almost felt the bile rising in my throat, as I read this. Draupadi or Divakaruni (the author) rightly says, this is a boon, made very conveniently, for the men, and not for Draupadi.

The delicate relationship of mutual mistrust between Draupadi and Kunti is described in such a simple, practical manner. It makes one realise why MILs and DILs co-exist the way they do 😉

Draupadi herself is a survivor. She does not simply make her mark in her household. She tries her best to not allow any adversary into ‘her’ palace, where SHE is the Chief Queen.

I enjoyed the way Draupadi tried to make amends to Karna, for her insult to him at the Swayamvar, but where he refuses to be mollified, and yet, he does his best to protect her from harm, when the court broke into pandemonium!

There is a brief moment where Draupadi (in this book) admits to not being very maternal. She says being a wife to five men, and stately duties sapped her, and she was more than happy, to have her nanny take the children off her hands. Why are ‘women’, specifically in Indian society expected to ‘want’ to take care of children? Why is it not a choice? If a woman does not enjoy feeding her child, does that make her a bad mother? Do we, as a society, have the maturity to realise that a Mother is also an INDIVIDUAL who might simply yearn for more in life, than mundane chores?!

I’ve encountered very severe reaction from a couple of friends whom I sometimes call to watch a movie or something over the weekend. Their reaction is one shock – ‘How can I leave my family, that too on the weekend?’ Its not like I’m asking them to elope!! They feel guilty to even ‘want’ to dedicate some time to themselves. Earlier, I used to feel sorry for such women, who ‘constrain’ themselves. Now, though, I feel sorry for the handful of ‘Draupadi’s that remain, for wanting ‘more’. Strange as it may sound, it is they who are constrained by their wants!

Nevertheless, what struck me most, was the fact that despite being foretold her future, she did not stop it ‘because of the circumstances’.

Arjuna's deadly attack on his half-brother Kar...
Image via Wikipedia

Draupadi could have chosen Karna over Arjun. She did not. (Which by the way, makes the reader feel really bad for Karna, who was always the subject of unfair treatment. In colloquial language, Karna got a bad deal!)

She could have given up her life, rather than be a Queen to five Kings. She did not.

Krishna could have stopped the Great War if He wanted to.

There are just so many instances.

Which made me wonder, is Life about Destiny or about Choices? All my life, I thought it was Destiny. Today, somehow, I think, it is probably not as simple as that.

The book isn’t without humour either. There is a reference to Yudhishtra being ‘blissfully unaware’ that people could mean them harm. And to Bheem’s plate being piled higher than the other brothers. It all made them very HUMAN. There is a Yudhistra in each of us. A Bheem too. Some brave ones even have a piece of Arjuna in them.

There were some extremely distressing moments as well. Like, the murder of Abhimanyu. Or that of Karna. Both these ‘hunks’ 😉 were killed unfairly. What really moved me, was the description of young Abhimanyu staring in ‘disbelief’ at the the unfair play by those whom he had always respected.

Caution: This book is not for the judgemental reader. You read, you nod either in agreement or disagreement, and you move on. If one were to start judging any of the characters as moral or immoral, cowardly or brave… then, IMHO, it defeats the purpose of the book. Any book, perhaps.

This book, is the life of a woman. Of her aspirations, her boundaries and her will. One cannot help wondering how similar it is to the story of a woman in today’s world. Not much has changed over the centuries, has it??!!!

I leave you with some snippets from the book…

– This one: ‘Between Yudhistra and Krishna, a woman cannot even enjoy being in misery!’ LOL! I loved that line!

– Or this one: ‘There is a strange freedom in realising one is not that important!’

– Or this: Krishna says to Dhritharashtra: ‘If you had believed all (Kauravas and Pandavas) were YOURS TO LOVE, this war would have never taken place’. Isn’t this exactly what we need today? Look at the Ayodhya issue. If only we believed we were truly ‘one’ – would there ever be bloodshed?!!

The book is filled with glorious and inglorious incidents from the past, but in that, one can clearly draw references to today, and even to the future!!

I hope this inspires you enough to grab a copy of the book!!

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