Thursday 29 September 2016

Sonam Kapoor Busts the Myth About Actresses Looking Naturally Beautiful

        Source: Instagram

Sonam Kapoor is known for her fashion style and ability to carry herself with aplomb. Her acting skills may have critics, but you will rarely find a person who doesn’t believe that she looks like a Diva. But as Spiderman said, “With great powers, comes great responsibility.”

How many times have you caught yourself staring at a magazine cover, wondering how a certain celebrity looks so incredibly stunning. Have you stood in front of your mirror, critically evaluating your body from every angle? Ever left that bikini in the closet and packed yourself a one-piece swimsuit, just because there is no way you can possibly look good in a bikini (‘good’ defined by the image we have of Alia Bhatt or Katrina Kaif in a bikini). Body shaming is when somebody else points fingers at your natural self, but what about when we are our own biggest critics? When we forget how to love our own bodies?

In a recent article for Buzzfeed, Sonam Kapoor makes some powerful statements. She shatters the myth that actresses wake up looking pretty, “Please know that nobody wakes up like this. Not me. Not any other actress. (Not even BeyoncĂ©. I swear.)” Further, Sonam offers a sneak peek of what goes into making a celebrity look so good – “Before each public appearance, I spend 90 minutes in a makeup chair. Three to six people work on my hair and makeup, while a professional touches up my nails. My eyebrows are tweezed and threaded every week. There’s concealer on parts of my body that I could never have predicted would need concealing. I’m up at 6am every day and at the gym by 7:30. I exercise for 90 minutes and, some evenings, again before bed. It’s someone’s full-time job to decide what I can and cannot eat. There are more ingredients in my face packs than in my food.”

The concept of beauty has stopped being subjective. More and more young girls are looking at celebrities, models and actresses in awe and then at their reflection in the mirror with disdain. Instead of celebrating their own body and trying to look the ‘best they can’, they try to ape these stars and end up with complexes and issues. And these complexes are not particular only to regular people like you and me. Sonam confesses that actresses are under tremendous pressure to look ‘flawless’ and end up stuck in a spiral of bad diet choices and an unhealthy view of themselves. What you see, may not necessarily be the reality. Critics argue that Sonam’s statements are hypocritical, she herself having lost 33 kg for her first film, and now a brand ambassador for beauty brands that promote ‘flawlessness’. But credit must be given where it is due and a celebrity coming out and busting the myth that all models/ actresses look effortlessly gorgeous, is commendable.  

Perhaps it is important to remember that the concept of beauty is relative and that it changes with times. Marilyn Monroe, still regarded as one of the sexiest women who ever lived, had curves and a soft belly, not washboard abs. As did Indian actresses like Parvin Babi and Zeenat Aman.

As Sonam says “The ball is in the media’s court to celebrate fit bodies rather than thin ones, and to know the difference.” At some juncture down the line, thin became synonymous with fit and healthy became another term for plump. Instead of focussing on celebrities and their supposed ‘flawless’ bodies, it is important for us to eat healthy, exercise regularly and be the best version of ourselves. Only when you truly believe that you’re beautiful, will your inner radiance shine through.

Monday 19 September 2016

Pink - Movie Review

I was silent as I walked out of the cinema hall yesterday, after watching Pink. The din around me seemed muted, as if I was insulated in a bubble of my own thoughts. Thoughts which were interrupted by my cousin who chirpily asked - So, how did you like it? How do I answer that, I thought. How can I put all these emotions into words. Instead, I just turned to her and nodded with a smile, and said - I liked it. 

The ride home was quiet too. The husband, concerned about my pensiveness. It was only when we got home and spoke about the movie for almost an hour, could I make sense of what I felt about the film. 

So, to put it in words, it left me unnerved. With an uncomfortable feeling. Unsettled. Perhaps these words can help you understand how the movie - Pink, made me feel. 

The movie itself is fairly well made. Good acting by the young cast, Amitabh Bachchan and all other actors also played their roles well. Great direction. Gripping, never sluggish.

But this movie is not one that needs to be seen for its cinematography or special effects. What stayed with me when I left the hall yesterday, was just how real the story was. And how easily believable. We've all done stupid things growing up. Things, which in retrospect seem so terribly risky. Never quite understanding how quickly things can spiral out of control.

The film also questions a lot of preconceived notions we have. I come from a very progressive family and have been married into one equally so. Even then, there are subtle perceptions that worm their way into the basic way we think, without us realising it. And that, to me, was what the movie was about. How a girl is perceived in certain situations, vis-a-vis a boy, only because she is a girl. How even in well-to-do homes, we still have an understated way of differentiating between our girls and boys. Different rules for both genders. Timings, freedom to live apart, relationships, parties, clothes... As Bachchan says in the film, a girl's character is tied to the clock..what time she comes home. The feminist in me (and many of my close ones) will rage at the above statement. There is no difference, they will insist. But we can not turn from it. 

Why do we not let the men in the house clear the table after a meal? Or sweep the floor if the maid is on holiday? We give our boys so much importance that their ego can not handle it when they are refused something when they grow up. Why is it that when a 20 something boy goes out with his friends to a pub, it's ok, but when a girl does the same, parents feel uncomfortable. Security is only one part of it. When you dig deeper, you realise it is also their innate belief that it is not 'nice' for girls to be seen out drinking so late. 

Why is it, that when we see a young woman drinking, we assume that she is approachable and you have a greater chance of 'scoring' vis a vis one who doesn't visit pubs. The basic premise of this perception is utter rubbish. Girls in B-towns or lower middle class families are also intimate with men...the only difference being that they will not be open about it. 

Why are girls from the North East considered 'easy'? Because they wear more revealing clothes? Has it maybe occurred to you that they come from matriarchal societies where the women are more empowered...are safer. Thus, they don't have to hide behind 'what will people think'. 

Two dialogues in the movie touched a chord with me. One was when Amitabh Bachchan says that maybe we have been raising our children all wrong. Instead of teaching our girls to be careful and compromising, maybe we should focus on raising our sons right. Teach them respect, boundaries. Our daughters will automatically be safe. 

Lastly, but importantly, the crux of the movie. No means no. It does not mean maybe. It does not mean I'm considering it and you can keep trying. It means no. And when someone says no, whether it is a girl or a boy, you need to stop. She could be a stranger, your girl friend, a sex worker or even your wife. No means no. You need to stop. 

Pink - a movie that makes you think.      

Tuesday 13 September 2016

Mud Fort Kuchesar: An Idyllic Weekend in Rustic Surroundings

Things have been a bit crazy in my family for the past 7 months and thus my writing and my travel were both impacted. I can't really say that things have settled down now, but perhaps we are all trying to find a way to live this new 'normal' better. As a consequence, the travel has started again, albeit in short bursts and much closer to home.

Last weekend, we drove down to this lovely property called Mud Fort Kuchesar. Set amongst green fields and basically nothing else, the Mud Fort is merely 2 hours from Noida by road. This is a blessing, especially when you do not want to spend half your day in transit. The fort itself is 200 years old and belongs to the royal family of Bharatpur. It's quite a wonder that it is not more popular.

With a massive moat surrounding it, the fort has been divided into two, only half being used as a hotel. Our room overlooked the central dining courtyard and had a lovely shared verandah outside, where a drink or two kept me company as the baby slept. The room was large and airy, much like the high-ceiling(ed) rooms in my erstwhile ancestral house in Ludhiana. The AC provided welcome respite from the humidity and heat that is typical of UP.

Now let me put a disclaimer. If you like activities and amenities, you may be better off at a five star property elsewhere. This is a heritage hotel, in the middle of a village. And thus, to fully enjoy it, you need to be open to new experiences. I rediscovered the fact that I could ride a cycle (I haven't ridden one for 25 years, since getting grievously injured from one). What could be more exciting than riding along well maintained roads with green fields on both sides and the only traffic, a stray fellow-cyclist? We did pottery with a local potter, and made some not-so-perfect diyas for Diwali too.

Another great adventure was the bullock cart ride. Done in style, the cart had mattresses for our comfort and took us deep into the owner's lands towards mango orchards. The baby learnt how to climb trees and breakfast was picnic-style on a khatia. Post breakfast indulgence? We climbed atop the tube well and dipped our feet in the freezing cold water, watching leaves float by like sail boats!

The service deserves special mention. Nothing was too much to ask for. The baby always had 2 people running around her, trying to get her to cycle or play carom or just catch peacocks (did I mention the gazillion peacocks who live there?). The food was exceptional and homely. I only wish they did a few local dishes too, and a couple of chutneys to take it a notch up.

The weekend was idyllic and perfect. But perfection is relative. If the good ol' country life excites you too (and yet you like your comfort), Mud Fort Kuchesar makes for a great weekend break.

And for me, a reminder of how I really need to move away from the city :)   

Wednesday 25 May 2016

One year at NDTV Food

I just completed one year at my current job. A year back, I moved from Bombay to Delhi, a bit like opening a door blindfolded and walking in, with no idea of what lay on the other side. From a stable and extremely enjoyable freelance career as a food and travel writer, I was going back to an office job, something I had voluntarily walked away from. 

But my concerns were unfounded. The biggest thing I feared then, was how constricted I would feel with a routine, an office to go to. I didn't. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that my job is fairly flexible, allowing me to manage my life. Maybe its because the nature of the job is so exciting, being a food editor is exhilarating stuff, I can never get bored of it. Or maybe it is just the amazing bunch of people I work with. 

I usually take a bit of time to get to know people, and allow people to get to know me. But these girls, my incredible team, are each so amazing, that I could not help but fall in love with them. They are talented, quick on the take and work brilliantly together. I needn't have worried a year back. I was in safe hands. And yes, the most important part, they love food as much as I do. So office is usually one big party! 

Life remains as unpredictable as always. But maybe it is me who has stopped evaluating it so often. I don't plan beyond 2 months now, live pretty much in the moment. One year down the line, from the day when I walked into the doors of NDTV, I can look back and pat myself on the back for having the courage to do so. For moving cities, shifting back to an office job and for doing work that I can look back and be proud of. 

Happy anniversary to me :)  

Wednesday 27 April 2016

The Fine Art of Dining Alone in a Restaurant

Some articles are so much fun to write. Like this one...about dining alone in restaurants..

Have you ever done it?

Here's how to dine solo like a pro - Click Here 

Sunday 27 March 2016

A day well lived

Yes, it has been a very long time since I have blogged. What was second nature to me, became the one thing I ignored. I could partly blame it on my 9-5 job which provides an outlet to my need to write and express. But the truth is also that either I learnt the art of letting an experience remain just that without feeling a desire to share it with the world, or more realistically, found it within myself to share my thoughts with those I love and have slowly allowed myself to trust.

But today, after many many months, I felt a burning desire to write. Not the mundane traffic-directed writing many of us are relegated to, after a point. But the kind of writing that urged me to change my career, 6 years back. 

Mountains do that to me. Somehow, they always urge me, to find the voice of my soul, the voice that cities so well suppress. Every time I travel, I feel more alive. And it is not hectic city travel that I am biased towards. It is that where there is nothing but me and silence. This moment, for example. I am sitting here, in the patio of a stunning cottage in the hills above Bhimtal. There is no sound, but that of birds chirping, crickets making a racket and an occasional axe cutting a log of wood somewhere far away. I may love dancing and house parties and restaurants that have a ‘vibe’. But if you want to know the me that I hide, you will find her here. The girl who can sit on this chair and read a book for hours, or she who loves waking up early and going for a walk along the jungle-trails that villagers frequent. You will find her at peace. Unquestioning, content and with no plan in place. And if the thought of this girl doesn’t bore you, she may allow you to glimpse the thoughts that run through her head, or the feelings that she hides well in the crevices of her heart.

But I digress. What urged me to write was a perfect day today. I started the day today doing something that would normally freak me out – jumping off a cliff! I went paragliding. I’m not a very ‘adventurous’ person in the context of such things. But when I was wondering yesterday if I should try paragliding or not, I surprisingly found no fear in my heart. What is the worst that could happen? That is what I ask myself when there is terrible turbulence in flights these days. And when I think of the worst, it doesn’t scare me anymore. 

If you haven’t tried paragliding yet, I suggest you head here the next weekend you can spare, and give it a go. The joy of flying through the air is inexplicable. You feel alive. Real. There is nothing else in that moment but you and the wind that steers you. Many people I know have discovered a similar joy in deep sea diving or snorkeling. For me, it will always be flying through the air.

And when I thought nothing could compete with a morning like that, our cottage’s caretaker arranged for us to visit his home in the nearby village on my request. We trekked down, children in tow and found ourselves welcomed with open arms by the women in the village. 

They had laid out a plastic table for us, with a gorgeous red flower set in the center. I found myself wandering into the kitchen in the hut. Mud walls and a spic and span mud floor, covered by a slanting roof. Usha, the eldest, placed a low stool next to the choolah for me to sit on as she and her sister prepared food for us. And the food. What do I tell you about the food. Delicious, honest flavours, which did not need to hide behind garam masalas and chilies. The saag was perhaps the best I have ever had, with tempering of onion and ghee and the rajmah different from the version popular in Punjab or even Kashmir. They grew their own produce, palak and garlic, wheat and onion, amongst other things. Organic produce, that we city folk like to switch to. The good ol’ ways that people have been living by, the healthier way to eat.

A morning of soaring among the clouds and birds. An afternoon marked by smiles and acceptance. Such was my day today. A day unlike many others.

Thursday 31 December 2015

The Rediscovery of Magic

I was the girl who believed in Santa Claus and Harry Potter. Not just when I was little, I grew up into that girl too. I loved the excitement around festivals, loved gifting my people stuff on Christmas and loved dancing with complete abandon. 

Then I grew up. 

The thing about growing up is that you lose your rose tinted glasses. It's not a fab thing. 

But this year, something happened. Something incredible. 

Something that made me believe in magic again. 

Not the hocus pocus kind of magic. But the goodness of people, of warmth. 

I joined a chain on Facebook called #GiftaBook . The idea was simple enough - you send a book to a specific friend of a friend and get 6 more people to join the chain. The concept works such that if everyone does it right, you can get back as many as 36 books. 

Ever the skeptic, I reasoned that even if I got back 2 or 3 books, it would be fun to be a part of this. So I sent off mine, Miss Funny Bones by Twinkle Khanna, one that I loved reading recently. 

And then it happened. Books started pouring in. Literally pouring in. And it wasn't just the fact that people sent in books. It was the fact that people took time to think of what book made a difference in their lives and sent that. Some even went to the extent of finding out my wishlist and sent me books from that. One realised that he sent me a book I already had, so he sent me another! Complete strangers, whom I do not know, neither will I ever have any other interaction with them, took time out to make my day. Some wrote little handwritten notes and wished me Merry Christmas. Told me what the book meant to them and hoped I would enjoy it too. 

This is, undeniably, one of the most incredible experiences of my life. 

Santa Claus may not be an old hefty man in red. This year, my Santa or rather Santas were people like you and me. Sprinkled across the web of Facebook. Weaving magic, one book at a time. 

Don't listen to the cynics. Magic exists. I found it this Christmas.  

Sunday 18 October 2015

What is it like to be born a girl in India?

I read a very well written editorial piece yesterday in the Mint titled 'What is it like to be an Indian Muslim?'  A fairly well written piece, the writer had me do a double take when he concluded with the following:

"..It is a fine thing to be male, middle class and Hindu in India. Even in a deprived part of the world, one is privileged.."

I did not think too hard into that until last evening when I was driving back home. But to explain that, let me rewind a little.

The very fact that I am writing something titled thus, seems inappropriate to the hilt. I consider myself lucky and privileged, to have been brought up in a family that does not differentiate between boys and girls. They actually wanted two girls and we decided to fulfill their wishes. We grew up with equal opportunities, being told we must make a mark in the world and with freedom that millions don't have.

Unfortunately, this differentiation is so deeply entrenched in our belief structure that it shows up when you least expect it. When I was driving home at the extremely respectable time of 9:45pm, I found myself urging the car to go a tad faster, lest I receive an sms asking where I was and when I would get home. I usually make it a point to get home by 10pm if I am driving alone or else try to get a friend or a friend's brother/dad to follow me home.

Take a minute to think about that. I am 33 years old, yet I or my family does not have the confidence that I can spend a languid night out and come back when I want to.

I do not remember any guy I know being asked a similar question, with the same intention. If a guy is asked what time he will get home, it is either from a logistical point of view (does he have the keys to enter?) or that you'd prefer him to come earlier to spend time with you. But it's never he 'should' be home by 11.

'Should'. The connotation that I tried to understand one day.

Now that I work in an office set-up again, I get free to go out only by around 7:30-8. Take Delhi distances and traffic, which means that wherever I wish to go, I will only reach by 8:30-9. And I should be home by 10...which means I should spend only 15 minutes at the place I plan to go to?? Ridiculous much??

To understand this 'should', I sat down with my parents recently and asked them why they felt so uneasy if I were to come home late. Safety was the obvious point, which I agreed to and said I'll keep something in the car, download an app, msg them where I am, when I leave and be followed if it is beyond 10:30. After a little hesitation, my extremely-modern parents also let it slip that it doesn't seem 'nice' if girls are out in the night. Ok then. Let me reiterate. I am 33, fairly balanced a person, have friends who are equally so and whom my family 'approves' of, when I go out, if I go out, I'd probably go for dinner or to a new place opened up; yet, if someone saw me out with my friends (in an extremely respectable place) at 10pm, it would not seem 'nice. I wonder what those people would be doing there if it is not a place I should be at. I also wonder if the same point would have been put forth if it were a guy who was out for drinks with his pals. It wouldn't.

I am extremely privileged. I do believe that. However, if such an incredibly deep bias rests inside us without us even realising it, imagine the unseen shackles other girls live with, girls born into families that are not even a fraction as modern as mine is. Ponder on that as I make plans for a movie in the afternoon today...because you see, a night show is out of the question. 

Thursday 8 October 2015

Talvar, the movie

I saw the movie 'Talvar' last night. And no, this is not a movie review. It can't be, because I find it difficult to be unbiased about this one. 

I was living in the same sector (Jalvayu Vihar, Noida) when this incidence took place, merely 3 blocks away. From afar, I witnessed the media frenzy, heard gossip from anyone who knew the family and read newspapers which for the longest time were obsessed with Nithari and Aarushi.

Which is what I think the problem was. The fact that these 2 cases coincided with each other. Don't even get me started on Nithari, I have my theory on Koli merely being an accomplice. But through the years (and I just realised that it has been 8 years!!), I continued feeling strongly about the Aarushi case. A lot of people I know do too, which unfortunately amounts to nothing. 

What made me a disbeliever, is not the theory that parents allegedly killed their only child. Honour killings (unfortunately) happen all the time as does female infanticide. No, it was more than that. I think it was the way news kept pouring in about the case and how over time we realised that the findings were all contradictory in nature. One lab would find something, another would refute that altogether.

Over the years, I have also followed Nupur Talwar's cousin who has spoken in international media about the loopholes in the case. You can read some of it here.

I am not a lawyer, neither am I a forensics expert. However, as this was largely a media trial and barely a judicial one, I am allowed to raise my questions. And my questions are plenty. Why was the theory of the other 2 helpers being in the house not followed through, when there was clear evidence of their visit in Hemraj's room. Why would the fact that a parent who has just lost her child is stoic in an interview (here's the opinion piece by Sonia who interviewed her on NDTV 8 days after the murder) translate into her being un-emotional about it. Why was the main door locked from outside? The theory of Hemraj being killed in the room and then his blood being wiped away seems ridiculous considering Aarushi's blood was all there...thus parents somehow knew exactly which blood splatters were his and which were hers! Why were the narco tests overlooked, wherein the parents were proven innocent and the compounder confessed and even led them to the murder weapon. There are plenty of questions like these, many of which you can also read about here.   

But the 2 biggest questions I have are these. If the Talwars were guilty, why, why in the world would they reject the closure report of CBI that said there wasn't enough evidence to convict them. If they had accepted it, they would walk free. But they said that they believed in the judicial system of the country and got the case opened. And we all know how that turned out. 

In most countries including USA and UK, a conviction is given only when it can be 'proven beyond reasonable doubt'. The entire case (as confessed by CBI too) was based on circumstantial evidence. There are so many holes in the theory, so many botched up investigative turns, that it can not be said 'beyond reasonable doubt' that the parents killed Aarushi. Yet, they were convicted and are both currently serving life sentences.

Times of India and many other media houses are working on trying to get the case relooked at. It has happened before with Jessica Lal, and there is always a chance it can happen again. But what shook me up when I walked out of that hall last night, was how fragile our sense of security is. A well respected, educated, well-to-do family's life changed overnight and the belief they had in justice and judicial processes shattered forever. The parents died anyways, that exact moment when they saw their daughter dead (whether they are innocent or guilty). What scares me is how easy it is to get stuck in a legal vortex and how helpless that can make you. 

May the case one day be reopened. May truth be known, whatever it is. And if, by any chance, the parents are innocent, may the country hang its head in shame for allowing this to happen.    

PS- In other news, wonder why we haven't heard a word about the Sheena Bora case since Maria was transferred (such a coincidence, isn't it?). Oh well. 

Wednesday 9 September 2015

SodaBottleOpenerWala: Restaurant Review

The lovely terrace of the Khan Market outlet, sans seating now. Source: Facebook/SodaBottleOpenerWala
I believe in giving second chances. I do. But when it comes to food, I am very stingy about second chances. There is so much to eat, so much to explore in one lifetime that I do not like to waste a meal on what may have already proven to be an average experience. However, when my dining experience differs drastically from that of most people, I sometimes eat humble pie and go back to the restaurant for a re-run. Sometimes I come back with my beliefs reinforced and sometimes (rarely though), my opinions are transformed. 

SodaBottleOpenerWala launched with much fanfare in Gurgaon more than a year back. In a market where diners were starved for Parsi food, the only other option being the canteen at Parsi Anjuman, it promised to recreate the legacy of Iranian cafes, so popular in Mumbai. Launched in the bustling Cyber Hub courtyard, it went on to open an outlet in Khan Market, one in Bangalore and is all set to launch in Mumbai (more about that later). 

My first experience with SBOW in Cyber Hub was underwhelming at best. The decor is quirky and recreates nostalgia with the checkered table cloths and the Irani bakery counter. However, as interesting as the menu is, the food failed to impress. My palate, nascent to Parsi food, did not complain too much though.

And then I moved to Bombay. The naysayers may dis Britannia or Ideal...but I personally fell in love with them. The fact that all 3 generations of the family are always there to greet you or serve you at Britannia, the cat which owns the cash counter and claims it as its own, the buzz and the nostalgia, it is all real, acquired and not something that can be recreated. And don't even get me started on the Berry Pulav, the Cutlets or my favourite, the Sali Keema.

Sali Keema at Britannia, Fort, Mumbai
But I digress, which is what food memories make me do. In the recent months, I have had the pleasure of interacting with many ingenious people who have been involved in building SOBC, like Chef Saby who's recently opened the gorgeous Lavaash or Mohit Balachandran (known better as ChowderSingh, his pseudonym) who runs the entire SOBC franchise nationally and ofcourse AD Singh himself. And the fact that such great chefs and restaurateurs diligently backed this franchise, urged me to go back and give it another go. 

Alas, the second visit was equally disappointing. The Khan Market outlet is smaller but cozier with a nice balcony (which now doesn't have seating due to the MCD sealing). I tried the Chicken Farcha and the Komli Fry with my drinks. A word about the drinks first. Though the cocktails here are named creatively, they sit on the edge when it comes to delivering flavours. The Masala Vodka had way too much masala and one couldn't even taste the vodka or lime in it. The Banta drink tried to be quirky and was mango based but was a far cry of the perfection that Monkey Bar's (from the same restaurant owners) Mangaa has been able to achieve. Their version of the Whiskey Sour, thankfully, is a winner and the one I recommend you order here. 

Chicken Farcha and Komli Fry at SBOW

The Chicken Farcha came accompanied by a delicious and fresh coriander chutney, onion and lemon. As seemed to be the theme of the evening, the chicken was underwhelming. The meat was a tad bit too dry and even fared worse than the passable farcha (where passable is being generous) one gets at Ashmick's Snack Shack on Pali Hill.

Ashmick's Chicken Farcha, Pali Hill, Mumbai
The Komli Fry, thankfully, single-handedly saved the day. Delicious and moist jumbo prawns wrapped in onion strings and deep fried, it was akin to having onion rings and a spicy prawn starter, all in one. Absolutely scrumptious and a must try.

I also tried the Tamota Papeta Par Eeda, which I remembered as being the only thing I liked the last time I ate here. A skillet with tomato-onion chutney, sliced potatoes and 2 fried eggs, this goes well with Maska Pav. The latter is something which you can order by itself too, freshly baked inhouse and loaded with melting butter, the pav reminds me of the fabulous bhajia pavs sold by the guy who would sit outside my complex in Bombay. 

With hits and misses, unfortunately SBOW remains on my list of places that I may not recommend or return to. However, you should try it to have an opinion of your own. And if you do, make sure you try the Mutton Berry Pulav, Prawn Patio, Veg Cutlet and Goan Sausage Pav, recommendations by Mohit that I wish I had received before I ordered my meal.

With their doors opening in Mumbai soon, I stand as a third person to witness how the city reacts to their food. Will the 'trendiness' be able to help them carve a niche or will the average Bombayite realise how blessed they are to have the age-old Irani Cafes that still hold their own in the city.   

Thursday 14 May 2015

Smart Tricks to Stay Fit While at Work

Yes yes, we all know how tough life is. Office hours are long and you just don't get the time to go exercise. 

A word of advice? Stop making excuses. If fitness is important to you, this may help. My latest on NDTV talks about 5 smart tricks to stay fit while at work. 

Read the article here

Wednesday 13 May 2015

The Red Sari - Book Review

Written by Javier Moro, The Red Sari tries to recreate the life of Sonia Gandhi. A public figure open to scrutiny, she has often been judged, sometimes justifiable so but more often than not, as a consequence of her surname. But let's backtrack a little.

Let me mention as a disclaimer that I am not a fan. I do not have any political alignments, though I wish feverishly for a leader that I can believe in. Thus, for the most part, this review is from the eyes of a curious reader.

Moro traces the life of Sonia from her childhood and doesn't glorify her growing-up days. The daughter of a hard-working mason, Stephano Maino, her initial years centered around her family. Growing up in the small town of Orbassano, she and her sisters studied in a convent school 15 km away. The first time she spread her wings was when she requested to go to Cambridge and learn English. This is where she met Rajiv Gandhi, and her life changed forever.

The author may have interviewed many credible sources but a large part of the book is fictional and the authenticity of it is debatable. The facts are all correct, it is the emotions and the internal turmoil that fall in the grey area.

The book travels with Sonia as she and Rajiv fall in love, convincing her conservative father and his politically-bound mother to get them married. Perhaps as a consequence of one of the sources being Indira Gandhi's personal assistant, a large part of the book focuses on Indira herself. She is portrayed in all her shades, the obedient daughter, the confused wife, the love-blind mother, the iron lady, the strategist, the dictator and a tired woman at the end of the day. The home-dynamics of the Gandhi household are interesting, especially when Menaka enters Sanjay Gandhi's life.

What captivated me was the struggle of a woman, so far from anything familiar. How she witnessed the political climate change and realised the burden of the surname that she had married into. She has often been shamed as a gold-digger and unless you know her personally, it is all up for speculation. But Moro pens a credible tale of how she fought against fate and finally succumbed to it. Staying on in a country which had not only shot her mother-in-law at point blank range but also blown up her husband to bits, and where her children were under constant threat, must have taken a lot of courage. Whether she did so to keep the Gandhi name alive or to safeguard the future of her children can be argued. But it remains an undeniable truth that Sonia Gandhi was dealt her fair share of trials and she managed to walk through them without breaking.

The book was condemned by the Congress party and an unofficial ban was issued for seven years. It has only recently been released here, though the Spanish edition was published seven years ago. This in itself nudges me to believe a part of the story, as it humanizes this woman who hides behind an inscrutable mask and a name that weighs more than what one can imagine. A riveting read, both for the followers and the naysayers.

Sunday 12 April 2015

Pangat - The Maharashtrian Food Festival at House of Asia

This month I complete one year in the Maximum City. I came here with the prime motivation of exploring the food scene and seeing how it compared to cities like Bangalore and Delhi. 12 months down and I still hadn't tried an authentic Maharashtrian meal. Thankfully, Hotel Mirador's House of Asia decided to host a Maharashtrian Feast Fest titled Pangat. Invited as part of the FBAI team to share a glimpse of this state's food culture and thereby share my thoughts on the same, it was an opportunity I couldn't pass up.

Located on the lobby level of the hotel, House of Asia a cozy little space with live music and table-seating. Traditionally, meals like these are served as you sit on cushions on the floor. This set-up is called Pangat, after which the festival has been named.

The meal started with beverages. We tried the Aam Panna and the Solkadi. The Aam Panna was a disappointment with not even a fraction of the punch that it should have. The coconut milk and kokum based Solkadi was a step up. Traditionally, the Sol Kadhi is served after the meal as it serves to soothe the spices and cool down the digestive system.

Crab Soup
The Crab Soup (Khekdyche Saar) was full of masalas and not very palatable. Surprisingly, the tomato soup scored over this one with its tangy zest. 

Steamed Coriander Cake
The appetizers were a mixed bunch. Though I liked the Jeerameerichi Kombdi (chicken with roast jeera and black pepper) it could very well have been any grilled chicken in a European eaterie. Nothing authentic about this one. The Kothmir chi Vadi (steamed coriander cakes) were delicious and fresh. 

These came accompanied by a range of delicious chutneys, my favourite being the black sesame chutney and the khatta raw mango chutney. 

Banana Flower Fritters
Dalimb Batate (tangy potato patty with pomegranate seeds) were nice but nothing to write home about and the Kelfulache Vade (banana flower fritters) had a bitter aftertaste. A fan of squid, I was a tad disappointed with the Makli masala (squids masala) which was coated too thick and fried till rubbery. 

Grilled Bombil
The savior of the appetizers was an excellent Tawache Bombil (grilled Bombay Duck). 

If you do visit, the mains are what you should head straight for. The Maharashtrian thaali not only made a pretty picture but it also included dishes representing the various parts of the state. From the Konkan region to Kohlapur, each dish complemented the other and yet held it's own. A huge portion to satisfy even the most voracious eaters, this thaali comes highly recommended. Desserts included soft Puran Polis and Olya Naral chi Karanji. 

The festival is currently running and is on till the 16th of April 2015. 

Tuesday 24 March 2015

Bombay Canteen reviewed

Tandoori Pork Ribs with a Chilli Glaze and Green Beans
I recently ate at Bombay Canteen in Parel and came back impressed. You would too, if you were there. 

For the lowdown, read my review here

The Punch Bowl served with Tea Cups

Monday 23 March 2015

Be There For Your Child

As N turns 4 tonight, I wonder where this time went. The sentence comes to mind - '...the days were long but the years too short..'

My latest article on Askme talks about how you can skip the shortcuts and try to be there for your lil' one. Even if it is for a little while every day.

Read the article here

Tuesday 10 March 2015

20 Best Meals in Delhi

Gung, the Palace

If you have ever wondered where to eat in Delhi, this one's for you. 

An amalgamation of my food-related work in the capital and my undying love for the city, my latest feature on Rediff lists out the best 20 meals in the city. I did not agree with Ritu Dalmia's list in Conde Nast, thus decided to come out with my own. 

Make sure you tick each one of them. Not one is worth missing. And if you have had the pleasure of doing these with me, what can I say, you're a lucky soul :) 

Delhi's 20 Best Meals. Read it here.

Monday 23 February 2015

New Menu Tasting at Moshe's Bandra

When I was invited to Moshe's Bandra for a new menu tasting by Food Bloggers Association of India, I didn't think twice before accepting. The distance notwithstanding, Moshe's is all about comfort food and I could have done with a bit of both (comfort and food, that is).

Tucked away on the first floor next to Holy Family Hospital, the restaurant's location pales in comparison to the more prominent Mamagato downstairs. The space is large enough though, once you enter, with wall-to-ceiling picture windows allowing light to flood into the restaurant. The air conditioning alternated between freezing us and allowing us to stew for a while but that could be a one-off day.

Homestyle Hummus Platter
The afternoon started on a refreshing note with a Melon-izer, a wine based cocktail chased with chilled watermelon juice. The drink was delicious but bordered on being a virgin version. This was complemented by a Hummus platter, the perfect way to kick off the lunch. Over chatter and clicking cameras, we dug into the three types of hummus presented to us. My favourite was the beetroot hummus, visually attractive as it was, the taste was delicious as well. The cream cheese and sun-dried tomatoes hummus hit the right notes but was very similar to the original version. My least favourite was the broccoli hummus, a vivid green in color but it lacked any distinct flavor.

Moshe's Signature Harissa Chicken Skewers
The Signature Harissa Chicken Skewers hit the right notes if you like a little spice in your life and your food. The juicy boneless chicken was slathered with a North African marinade with hints of red chilli (ok, more than a hint), cumin, ginger and vinegar. A dash of lime brought out the flavours of the marinade and stepped up the dish a notch.

Fresh Pear and Rocket Salad
A half an hour wait was followed by the Pear and Rocket Leaves Salad. Drizzled with honey-mustard and orange dressing, the walnuts added a crunch to the salad. The salad leaves were fresh and the worked well with the rest of the ingredients. My only grouse was the overpowering sweetness of the dressing. I missed the kick of mustard or the tang of orange, the only flavor I could decipher was honey. The addition of goat's cheese or feta cheese would have worked well to add saltiness to cut through the uni-dimensional flavors.

Portobello, Porcini and Button Mushroom Soup
The mushroom soup was delicious and what I would suggest you go have on a chilly winter evening (Ok, that is a rarity in Mumbai) or when you're feeling under the weather. The soup used portobello, porcini as well as button mushrooms. Chives were added to give it a crunch. Many on our tasting table were of the opinion that the chives were not required and perhaps too much in abundance. But I enjoyed the bite amongst spoonfuls of the hearty soup.

For mains, we were served the Brick Chicken served with pesto white beans and a tomato sauce. The chef explained that the chicken is cooked with a brick on top, in an effort to trap the moisture in and keep it succulent. I found mine juicy though many co-diners felt their chicken was too dry. The accompanying sauce though, tasted of tomato puree and as if it came out of a can. The star of the dish was the slow-baked potatoes stilts that the chicken sat atop. The potatoes were perfectly seasoned and delicious.

We also had a taste of the vegetarian Malaysian Curry served with steamed rice. I am a huge fan of Malaysian Curry and unfortunately, this did not cut it for me. There was no distinct flavour in the dish, unlike what the original is popular for.

Even though the clock was hitting 4 pm (time taken between courses was averaging 30-40 minutes), I couldn't leave before tasting the desserts that Moshe's is well-known for. We were served a sliver of a Chocolate Fudgy Cake with vanilla ice cream on the side. The cake was dense and decadent, a must for chocolate lovers.

The new menu is available in both the Moshe Restaurants (Bandra and Cuffe Parade). An afternoon of meeting new like-minded people, great food and attentive service (would have liked the food served faster though), was an afternoon well spent.

Sunday 22 February 2015

The Bohri Kitchen Reviewed

My previous Rediff article was about the evolution of dining concepts in India (find it here). As an extension of that, on popular demand, I have experienced and reviewed the home-dining concept of The Bohri Kitchen. 

Dining in the intimacy of someone's home always has a certain charm to it. If the food is great, even better. The Bohri Kitchen is a recent addition to the city's dining scene and a welcome one at that. Read my detailed review by clicking here

Images: Courtesy TBK

Sunday 15 February 2015

Travel diaries

My country overwhelms me. Not in the same way it seems to overwhelm the cool-bunch around. It overwhelms me with its beauty. In this crazy life where we seem to be running all the time, we only notice what slows us down. We notice the traffic and the potholes and lack of infrastructure. But I see more.

I just got off from a train journey from Bombay to Indore. I love train journeys. They’re languid and allow you time to absorb and process. I can put up my feet, read a book or just stare out of the window, lost in my thoughts. I love eating puri aalu at train stations, picking up magazines from a bookstall and waking up to a cup of hot chai (unfortunately no longer served in a kulhar).

And the countryside. What do I tell you about the countryside? Which brings me back to my initial thought. There is so much beauty around, raw and stunning, only if you can take off your designer glares to see it with honest eyes. Lush green farmlands for as far as the eye can see. Lovely stretches of roads, sometimes canopied, sometimes bare. I love the landscape changes as we move across the country. From the ghats of the west towards the fields of MP or the arid stretches across Rajasthan compensated by the colors in their attire.

There’s something about raw greenery that just makes me catch my breath. It energizes me, reminds me of how lucky I am to be born in this country. To all the naysayers, and those jaded who see the worst India has to offer (yes it has plenty of that), I wish I could lend you my eyes. I wish you could see it like I do. I wish I could give you my heart so that you could feel for a moment, the extreme pride and love I feel when I see such beauty all around me. I wish you could understand why I choose to live in this country, not because I don’t have a choice, but because there is no other place I could ever call my own.