Tag Archives: London

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.

Yo Partner!

‘And they lived happily ever after…’ – I’ve spent many a summer afternoon buried in fairy tales and adventures woven in a red-coloured hardbound, rather worn-out copy of Grimms. Three decades later, I had the privilege of visiting Disneyland Paris. Who said Disneyland was for kids?? I loved every bit of it, especially the parades where Princess Jasmine, Snow White, Cinderella and the likes were dressed in all their finery. With a deluge of thrilling rides (rain too!), good food, shows and parades, the trip was a dream come true.

However whenever I think of my trip to Disneyland Paris, one particular incident, a person actually, stands out in my mind. We had exhausted two days at the Disney resort, and were at the Marne-la Vallee-Chessy station, waiting for our train to arrive, so we could make our way back to London. The savvy travellers that we were, we decided to reach early (though the station was hardly a few minutes away from the resort!) and waited. And waited. And waited some more! But our train was nowhere in sight! In the meanwhile my little son, all of 4 years, managed to trip, fall flat on his face, and cut his lips! Murphy was right, you know? We needed the first-aid kit, and guess where it was? Right at the bottom of our bags! So, while we haphazardly unpacked, dug into and re-packed bags that overflowed unimpressively with  dirty linen, we heard an announcement that the train had arrived at the platform. There began our race!

We gathered everything we could find and stuffed it back into the boxes, grabbed the wailing child and ran like hell all the way to the platform, that was (in)conveniently a long flight of stairs down! However, the gates were closed! Panicking, we looked around and found another gate at the opposite end of the crowded station. Five minutes to departure. An entire length of station to cross! So, for the second time, we ran. Ran. And ran. Voila! The second gate was closed too!

Now with less than a minute to go for the train could depart, realisation dawned upon us! We were supposed to have checked-in through the security gates way before, when the announcements were being made cleverly in French. All we knew of French was the ‘kiss’ and that a guy called Sarkozy had a really hot wife! Just kidding!! We did not know ‘any’ French (well, we knew about Sarkozy.. bah!)! By then it was too late. We watched helplessly, as the picture-perfect train chuffed out of the picture-perfect station.

Our marathon wasn’t over though. We ran back all the way to the customer service desk. Imagine, to our surprise, a Mexican guy, aged about 30, was also carrying a bag and hurrying towards to desk. He too, had missed the train, exactly like us. Yo Partner! We sighed and cribbed in unison! Then we jointly explained the situation to the customer service officer. We had missed the last train to London. We had no place to go, no other trains to catch that day! Luckily, the Mexican spoke French, and kept gesturing to our poor baby with the bleeding lip, and garnered sympathy from the officer. He was relentless, sincere and so genuine!

We were so touched by his evident concern. Here we were, fellow passengers in the face of adversity, connected simply, by an invisible thread of humanity! This is exactly where life teaches us valuable lessons. In faith, in partnership, etc. Truly, humanity knows no boundaries. Colour/race/country…nothing matters as much as brotherly concern for another person in trouble!

Pic courtesy huddle dot com

The officer was a really kind gentleman. He offered a solution! Catch the local train (that was leaving in 10 minutes from the local station that was at the other end of this international station) to Paris Nord station, and catch the last Eurostar train from there to London! Yippee!!! We all but clapped with glee!

But wait! He added something in fluent, rapid French. The Mexican listened carefully. By that time, he had stopped gesturing to the bleeding lips. He stared at the officer. And back at us. Then, back at him. He wasn’t even attempting to beg for help any more!

And without a word, he made a rapid dash towards the exit that led to the local train station!!!

Perplexed, we waited for the officer to explain. He said, slowly and clearly, ‘There are only two seats left on the last train from Paris’. And there were 3 of us adults, and one bleeding child. So THAT was why our Mexican Partner ran for his life!!!

Anyway, with no hard feelings, we dashed too. Racing pulse, swollen lips.. we were quite a sight by the time we boarded the local and reached Paris Nord station. The check-in queue was winding all the way down from the first floor! We were quite sure that by then, the kind Mexican had hitched a ride to the station and was comfortably grabbed one of the two remaining seats on the train to London! Like I said, no hard feelings! We managed to reach the staff in-charge, who were incredibly kind, and who also checked us onto the train.

In true Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge style, we RAN towards the train, tugging child and luggage, and boarded it just a second before the doors shut!!

To our utter surprise, guess who jumped in just after us? Our Mexican friend!!!!

Huffing and puffing, we made our way through the aisles, and found our seats, co-incidentally next to each other. We sank into our seats, heaving a huge sigh of relief.

Then, our friend turned towards us, flashed a huge toothy grin :-) and gallantly did a High-Five. ‘We did it!’, he added.

Yo Partner!! Ofcourse ‘we’ did! So much for teamwork. Remember those life-lessons I told you about.. the ones on faith, partnership..yada yada.. er, let’s just say, they were lessons best unlearnt!!

But hey, it made one hell of an interesting tale for the Indiblogger Expedia contest, didn’t it?

Good boys don’t watch porn!

So the last couple of days have been eventful! India won against Sri Lanka. Voting began in Uttar Pradesh. And three ministers from Karnataka resigned, amidst accusations of watching pornography during when assembly was in full swing!

TV news channels aired footage of the ministers Laxman Savadi (Minister for co-operation),  CC Patil, (Minister for women and children), and Krishna Palemar (Minister for ports) using a mobile phone to watch a porn clip.

Excerpt from Mumbai Mirror:

‘The two ministers, who were sitting next to each other, had no inkling that television cameramen had taken position in the gallery right above them. Savadi, bored by the speeches, began fidgeting with his cell phone. As cameras zoomed in, it could be clearly seen that a porn clip was playing on his phone. Patil then leaned towards Savadi and got completely immersed in what was on show.The duo watched the clippings for almost 10 minutes, with Savadi holding the cell phone under the table. They looked up only after the day’s proceeding ended.’

On being caught red-handed, the ‘honourable’ ministers came up with a host of explanations…

1)      Savadi claimed he was watching an incident of rape of a woman, not ‘porn’, to “prepare for a discussion [in the assembly] on the ill-effects of a rave party” in the state recently. (Well! Really?! But why DURING the session?)

2)      Savadi also claims the clip was of a ‘foreign woman’ and NOT a Bhartiya nari (‘Indian woman’). (Right! He was not watching an ‘Indian woman’ so he has clearly not offended Indian culture!)

3)      ‘I am not a criminal. It was not my phone’. (Reminds me of the lame excuses kids use at school!!)

4)      ‘We are not so uncivilised as to watch porn films’ –  CC Patil, minister for women and children. (So, only uncivilised people watch porn?!)

So what is the outrage all about?

1)      Gross misconduct

Is the problem ONLY with watching porn? I don’t think so. Many people watch porn (Wiki says – ‘More than 70% of male internet users from 18 to 34 visit a pornographic site in a typical month’).

Watching porn does not mean you are a ‘bad person’. ‘Good boys’ also watch porn! But the point is, when and where do you watch it? The objection is neither on feminist nor religious grounds, but on code of conduct and accountability!

Each session of assembly costs money – the tax payer’s money. Take a look at this article that talks about Parliament assembly disruptions costing Rs.2 crore per day!

Assembly (or ANY place of work, for that matter), has a code of conduct, rules and some basic responsibilities. Whether the ministers were watching porn or not, the question still remains – why were they doing it when the house was in session?! Even if we were to be as gullible as one can possibly imagine, and believe, for a second, that the ministers were indeed watching a gang-rape in order to prepare for a discussion, there is NO EXCUSE for doing it during working hours!

2)      Hypocrisy

Isn’t it surprising that people having the power and authority and who claim to be ‘moral police’ themselves often contradict themselves by their actions? Let’s look at the following examples.

Does the name ‘Pramod Muthalik’ ring a bell? Members of the Sri Ram Sena group had threatened to punish or marry off any young couples found together on Valentine’s Day. They were also the same thugs who had beaten up girls ‘in a pub’.

While people in power advocate ‘upholding Indian culture’ they resort to gross physical violence without batting an eyelid!!

Remember the controversial ‘Slutwalk’? Many groups of people in India protested ‘against’ the movement for its use of the word ‘slut’ as well as the thought of ‘women dressing like sluts’. Apparently, the movement was not allowed to take place in Karnataka, because it was ‘against Indian culture’! Excerpt from Times of India: “The vice-president of a women’s organization in Malleswaram called me and said that if any women were seen in skimpy clothing during the Slutwalk, they would be beaten with brooms”

On one hand, authorities ban a movement against rape, and on the other, they vicariously do the same by watching porn?!

Interestingly, on the lines of what Andhra Pradesh top cop said, Minister C C Patil had recently assumed the role of moral policeman, advising women to ‘know how much skin they should cover!’ so they can avoid getting raped – “I personally don’t favour women wearing provocative clothes and always feel they need to be dignified in whatever they wear.”

 

Makes one wonder, was the woman in the clip dressed inappropriately, perhaps ‘arousing’ the curiosity of an otherwise ‘civilised’ man?!!!

 

Such incidents only prove one thing – the sleaze is in the mind of the criminal/perpetrator! Therefore, instead of pretending to respect women and Indian culture (and then watching porn during an assembly session!), perhaps they should focus on being sincere in their work, for starters!

3)      New lows all the time!

For a country whose image has been severely tainted with scandals and scams, we seem to find new lows all the time!

BJP leader Manohar Parrikar has supposedly just said proclaimed:

“There are people all across the country who do worse things. Congress leaders have chopped women and burnt them in a tandoor…Then there was the Bhanwari Devi case (from Rajasthan). They (the three BJP ministers in Karnataka who resigned yesterday) were only watching and not doing it!!”

The three ministers are perhaps not the ‘first’ people to engage in this deplorable act, but they sure can be the last!

Why are our standards so low? In UK, ministers were forced to resign for over-claiming expenses. In India however, we live through a new scam each day! The 2G spectrum scam, Nira Radia tapes, Commonwealth games scam, Adarsh housing scam… the list is endless!!

AND YET, ALL IS FORGOTTEN.

We hit a new low each time. This is one such case!

The BIG question now is – What will India decide? Is resignation enough?

This link refers to the weaknesses of the cyber act, due to which the ministers CANNOT be booked by the cyber police!

Will the ministers receive any punishment at all? Or will they get away (as always), because as they claim, ‘good boys don’t watch porn’!!

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?

Fair or not?

I started this post as a lazy Wordless Wednesday but simply couldn’t NOT write a couple of lines about it!

Do take a look at the picture below ….

Is this fair?

And we don’t spare even London!

 

What is with our Indian mindset that ‘fair’ people are automatically considered ‘good looking’? Why this obsession with fair skin?! I have never understood this!

I know of so many girls/boys who are praised for their ‘beauty’ ONLY because of their skin colour (I say that because they utterly lack other features!). Just the same, I know some people, who are truly beautiful, but are not considered so simply because they have dark skin!

Why is someone with a ‘milky-white’ or ‘wheatish’ complexion considered to be a better human being than someone who is dusky or dark (worse!!)?

Why is a fair-skinned person rated higher on the matrimonial scale than a dark-skinned person??!!!

Westerners go all our to get a ‘tan’ and we layer ourselves with skin-lightening creams!

On my last trip to Chennai, a nice elderly gentleman mentioned that he was trying to find a groom for his daughter. His exact words were ‘She is very fair and good-looking, like your relative xyz’. I was amazed at his simplicity, naivete and crudeness all rolled into one. I don’t blame him. That is simply, a part of our culture! We are ignorant enough to assume that someone who is fair is indeed more beautiful than someone who is dark!!

I wished him well. And also wished his daughter had more to her than just fair skin! Like perhaps some inconsequential things like confidence, education, capability, etc.

I met someone the other day, who said something at the opposite end of the spectrum, but that was, in essence the same! This acquaintance casually mentioned a distant cousin who was an extremely intelligent and wonderful person, but was unable to find a bride because he was ‘extremely dark’. Well, what can I say! Had this been the ’2000 pounds’ scene from ZNMD, I would have just laughed! But this is real.

We just seem to be obsessed with skin colour! Something makes us believe that being fair is an achievement in itself!! There is some underlying factor that makes us proud of our light (read: ‘superior’) skin-colour? I would really like to know what it is.

Is this ‘fair skin’ purely an Indian obsession? Or is this rampant world-wide?

Please, do share what you think!!

Midday – Moon or Noon? (Wordless Wednesday)

Hello lovely folks.. I’m back with another Wordless Wednesday!

Do take a look at the below pictures and tell me, what you think this is? Mid-day Moon or Noon??!

Midday Moon???
or Noon??

Took this picture of the Moon in broad daylight, and within a couple of seconds the sun had engulfed it!!

Thursday Challenge – Wooden

So Ash’s comment made me so enthusiastic about doing the Thursday Challenge, that I clicked a picture of something really cute, and scheduled it for next week (which is , ‘today’).

Every time we apply for a Schengen visa, we queue up at this VFS office, which is just off Soho Square. While the little alley where the office is located looks rather seedy, the Soho square itself is just so pretty. See for yourself!!!

Soho square park

Isn’t that the prettiest wooden house EVER?

:-) :-) :-)

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!