Tuesday 29 April 2008

Rakhi Sawant

I'm quite sure that after reading the title itself, half of you would already be ready with your opinion regardless of what I'm about to say. And that by itself is quite a feat. In a world where celebrities come and go and model turned actresses can be found under every other stone, it takes helluva lot for someone to create mindspace. Rakhi Sawant did that and more. She created an opinion of herself in everyone’s mind. She ensured that she got to be on headlines of most news channels more often than not so that you and I would end up remembering her.

So let me play devil’s advocate. Before I go into why I like the girl, let me see things from your point of view. There are numerous reasons not to like her – she’s dramatic, can be seen as being crass and cheap, will do any item number in as skimpy a dress as the director wants, is always pulling stunts to be in the news …so on and so forth….

Getting down to why I like her, and you know what? I really DO like her. I think it takes a lot of guts to stand up and say your mind, especially when you know that not too many people take you seriously. She doesn’t use her upbringing as a crutch – on the contrary, says quite frankly that she is not as polished as others because she is not from a well to do family. But not in an apologetic way…more like a ‘take it or leave it’ sort of way. It take guts to be frank, to say your mind and to act like a foolish child. I don’t know if all this is an act or not. But as far as perceptions go, I cheer her on for being so bindaas. Go on girl…a frank opinion is a refreshing change in the world of celluloid pretence.

Friday 25 April 2008

Karim...the original!

Many have praised Karim and even more have condemned it. It is too oily, they say…not as good as it is hyped to be. The food is just average, the location is not very approachable… just not worth the effort.

As usual, I beg to differ. Please note that I am only talking about the original Karim in Jama Masjid and do not hold any loyalty to its many franchisees mushrooming across Delhi. Reaching the restaurant is an adventure in itself. Walking through the brightly lit market in the back alley of the beautiful Jama Masjid, you find yourself in a non-vegetarian heaven. Disclaimer: If you are vegetarian or vegan or eggetarian or belong to any of those groups, do not even TRY to go here…or actually avoid this post altogether. For the rest of us, as my boss used to say…if you can “eat anything that lives or has ever lived”, go right on! The aroma of fried chicken fills your nostrils as you walk past a row of shops frying chicken and making hot tikkas. As you find your way through, there is a small opening between two shops with a signboard – Karim that you just might miss. Enter this lane and you find yourself a very peculiar sight. The story goes thus – the owner had three sons. Each son wanted to break away and open his own Karim. The father kept one condition. They could open their own restaurants but the kitchen would remain the same. So, coming back to the story, as soon as you enter this tiny lane, you open into a courtyard with an open kitchen in the centre and 3 Karims around it. Don’t hesitate or wonder which one to go to – they all serve the same food silly!!

A board on the wall claims that Karim was started by one of the head chefs in the mughal kitchens. Since then, each ancestor passed on the legacy and secret recipes to the next generation. And frankly, once you eat the food, you wont doubt the legitimacy of this tall claim. The mutton burra and seekh kebabs are highly recommended. The burra is roasted perfectly to give the smoky taste and seekhs could give most kakori kebabs in the city a run for their money (with the exception of Salim and Dum pukht of course). For the main course, the most popular dishes are mutton korma and mutton stew though I am particularly fond of the saag chicken as well. They serve hot rotis with this…the rotis are probably the most unique item on the menu. Crisp yet soft, they have a slightly sweet flavor but are so delicious that my dad often eats a roti by itself at the end of the meal!!

If you are wondering why I haven’t mentioned prices till now, the reason is that it just doesn’t matter you see! The rates are ridiculously low. A meal for 2 including 2 plates of kebabs, 2 main courses, rotis and cold drinks will only put you back by around Rs.300-350. No, don’t fall off your seat, my friend, you read correctly….

So next time you are with company that doesn’t demand plush interiors as long as the food is delectable, don’t think twice…Karim won’t let you down!

Thursday 24 April 2008

The Infamous Work-Life Balance Dilemma

Though I enjoy a corporate job, it is not the end all. It is a means for me to do the things that I like to do, travel being a very important part of that. When I am at work, I give it my 100% but the day it starts taking over my life, I know there is something wrong. Instead of coming in late like a lot of people, I am the first person to enter my office. The first 2 hours at work are my most productive ones. I don’t take casual breaks and make sure that I finish with my work by 6 in the evening. 9 hours of focused work is enough to do justice to any job at hand. The same job can be done by coming in at 10:30 … sitting around till 8 in the night with some coffee breaks thrown in, but I can bet you that my productivity level will be as good if not better. Following this work ethic also allows me some time to myself and at home. Even though the traffic ensures I don’t reach home before 8pm, I atleast have time to read a book, take a walk, chat with my husband…things that seem so normal but we normally ignore. The weekend helps me recharge and look forward to getting back to office on Monday.

It is not true that the other way of living will kill me. I can work till 8pm everyday, get home around 9:30, eat food and sleep off. But I see no point in existing that way. Life is too short to waste. I do justice to my responsibilities but guard my personal space and time in a manner that borders on fanaticism.

When you think about it, it is quite surprising that the concept of sabbaticals doesn’t exist in India like it does in most countries. It is assumed that if you don’t jump from one job to another without a break in the middle, your CV value is reduced. How do you explain one becoming a worse manager or losing the skills he/she had just because they wanted to take some time off to invest in themselves or their family. From personal experience, I can endorse that I am as good a manager and probably a happier person because I decided to take a break and experiment with things that interested me like travel, running my father’s business or even managing my own house.

It is really asking for too much if I want to take some time off in a few years when I plan to start a family? Isn’t it more important to nurture the experience rather than worry about 3 months of maternity leave getting over? Will I really not be as good an asset to a company just because I made the most obvious choice? India really needs to grow up and support women and their dilemma in this regard. And I am glad that the ball has started rolling….Tata has come up with a Second Career program addressing the exact same issue that I am plagued with while planning for the future (http://www.tatasecondcareer.com). Cheers to Tata and here is hoping that this sentiment spreads far and wide in our professional culture.

Monday 21 April 2008

IPL Fever

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IPL fever has gripped the country!! For those who don’t read the newspaper (or listen to radio/ talk to people / see the news…) and for those not living in India and thus not consumed by this phenomenon, IPL refers to the Indian Premier League. The concept of sport clubs is not that novel, it’s been done to death in soccer, baseball, basketball and most other sports in the west. What is novel though is the fact that India picked up this concept, merged it with a format that is racy and gave it a shot of entertainment. Lo and behold, what do you have? An alternative for those bored of family soaps on TV!!

Critics have enough to say about this series. They cry hoarse about the fact that it’s not about cricket anymore, it’s about entertainment. The 20-20 format is taking away the skill and the art of the game. It’s a batting game and is unfair to bowlers. Everything is too commercialized; the seriousness of the sport has gone away. It won’t work because people watch cricket with the fervor of national pride and will not care less about regional teams….

Well, you know what? It works. There is no questioning the fact that it is a runaway success, shutting up all those who turned up their noses at it. Stadiums are packed, people are glued to their screens and it’s the topic of discussion in every office cafeteria. Loyalty to teams may be missing, but people are happy taking sides in each match and predicting the result. I agree, there is much more of the entertainment factor than we are used to. But then, who said that’s a bad thing? A person like me who slept off while watching a one-day match in Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium can not wait to watch who will win tonight. The target audience is being redefined; there is a new enthusiasm in the game, whether it is a product of Sreesanth’s antics or Akshay Kumar dropping from the sky, or even Shah Rukh Khan dancing every time his team hits a shot. In a world of individualism, where people are going more and more into themselves, IPL in its own small way is bringing people together. Drawing rooms are being filled with friends and its something exciting to talk about and debate. So for once, just drop the criticism and go cheer with your friends as two teams battle it out tonight…after all, the party has just begun!

Wednesday 16 April 2008

Last night@Fortis Hospital

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Asleep at 12 in the night, I got a call last night from my dad and all he said was that he had fallen off a bus and I needed to come to him quickly with enough cash on me. The call came at 11:58 and at 12:03, we were at his side, to pick him up. But this blog is not about him….thankfully he was alright. He slipped off the bus (Dont even try asking why he was on a bus at 12 in the night in the first place) while getting off and dislocated his finger. Painful as it looked, it could have been much worse and by god’s grace, he was fine.

We reached Fortis hospital around 12:30 and went straight to the emergency ward. Dad with his impatience with incompetent doctors, was content when he saw that the doctors on duty were very efficient and knew their stuff. Of course the ridiculous system of making payments and filling forms before the doctor will even help was there, but besides that, they were extremely helpful. The x-ray they took of his hand was nothing less than a horror film; the finger was completely dislocated from his hand and stood at an awkward angle. 2 injections and a quick procedure later, it was all fixed and looked as good as new. We had to then wait for them to do a 2nd X-Ray to confirm. The clock was striking 1 at this time.

The next three hours seemed right out of a movie. As we waited, we were robbed of the right to demand attention as we saw cases come in that were much more serious than ours was. A biker who had been through a really bad accident rolled in. His X-Rays itself took an hour before he was rolled into the CT-scan room. Dad kept trying to raise the guy’s spirits by telling him that he was a very lucky man and it could have been much worse. As the night progressed, it got even more surreal. The recent spate of violence in the name of carjacking in Noida seemed scary but it took the magnitude of horrifying when the police rolled in this guy around 2:30-3 in the morning. He was also a victim of the same gang. He was a driver and had just dropped his employer home and was returning to his house in Nithari. The bikers chased him all the way to Indirapuram and finally forced him to come out. They left with the car but not before stabbing him multiple times all over his body. And this was the state in which we witnessed him!

Reaching home around 4-4:30 in the morning, I felt nothing but humbled….and sleepy of course. Life is so uncertain, you don’t know what will happen in the next few hours, what you will have to face, what you may have to endure….its so fragile that it can be taken away within a micro-second….and everything can change from what you had ‘planned’ it to be. Whenever people said, ‘Life is short, enjoy it’ or as Rohan’s favorite quote goes ‘May you live every day of your life’, I never really understood it to what it meant. It was like denial – nothing can happen to me. This crazy night left me a little shook up and cleared my head. There is no time, if you need to say something…say it now…if you want to go somewhere…go now….don’t just exist today with the hope that you are securing your tomorrow….go….live….

Tuesday 15 April 2008

I'lario tries hard!

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There’s a new Italian kid in town and its name is I’lario. My mom and I keep each other entertained by hanging at coffee shops quite often. Costa has been a favorite since it opened but curiosity got the best of me and I couldn’t resist it when I saw a new coffee shop (or so we thought) in the Noida, Sector 18 market. Upon entering though, we realized that it was more of an Italian food joint and thus decided to return later.

And I am glad we returned. On one of our evenings when we ‘just had to eat something yummy’, Rohan and I decided to give I’lario a chance. The ambience is quite like that of a coffee shop, though I would recommend sitting in the ground floor section rather than the basement. The latter has a tendency to get a little drab.

So here we were, ready to be surprised. One look at the menu and I knew that this was directly influenced by Big Chill Café. Variety ranging from salads and open sandwiches, from pastas to main grills, the menu was selected carefully and appealed to a mean menu critic like me. The Big Chill influence was obvious when you saw dishes like Fusilli with Piri Piri Sauce and Main Grills that came with a choice of 2 accompaniments. Thus, basis our subsequent visits, here is what I recommend:

•If you are a pasta person, and if you have already eaten at Big Chill, then don’t go for the Piri Piri sauce. It doesn’t hold its own in comparison. The white wine pasta on the other hand looked very tempting on the table next to ours.
•Their thin crust pizzas are great. Try the one with four different types of cheese and an equal variety of meats
•Salads are also quite good – fresh and seasoned well
•The grill is made quite well. Grilled well, not too greasy and seasoned as per your preference, it works well. The side dishes are great and you can choose from jacket potatoes, French fries, Mediterranean salad, side green salad and pasta in white sauce.

Overall, worth a visit. Meal for 2 can set you back by around Rs.500. Not as good as Big Chill yet, I’m afraid, but a great menu and lots of potential. But hey…don’t take my word for it, go try it out for yourself!

Monday 7 April 2008

"Khuda ke liye" - A Revelation

I saw "Khuda ke liye" 2 days back. Usually, after I have seen a good movie, I am itching to get to my computer and write a review. It is not often that I am so in awe of a movie that I keep trying to postpone the review as I feel I may not do it justice. So in my humble attempt to get you enthused enough to go watch this film, I will only discuss what the movie stands for and how it made me feel instead of revealing the story.

Khuda Ke Liye (In the name of God) is the first film by Shoaib Mansoor and he has written, directed, produced the film and even written lyrics for a few songs in it. And it shows. His passion for the subject and his quest to get it right comes right at you.

The movie is largely about the 2 sections of society in Pakistan - the moderates and the extremists. It is about the struggles of the new generation of Islam which is finding itself stuck between these 2 extremes. It also deals with the way the world views islam in a very delicate manner, neither being too fundamentalist, nor blaming circumstances rather than acts of people.

In my opinion, the movie is an eye-opener. In terms of direction, editing and cinematography, it is flawless. The music score is unrivalled and has the ability to transcend borders, religion, race and just any other divide. The dialogues are beautifully crafted and though are difficult to comprehend in places, the beauty of the urdu language compensates for that. The movie also was an eye-opener as my perception of Pakistan is only the picture painted by media and history books. The similarities between our countries are endless and the aspirations and struggles of their youth are similar to ours. The fact that a movie that questions the systems in place and the islamic way of thinking can not only release in Pakistan but go on to be the biggest grosser ever, is proof enough that our perceptions are due for an overhauling.

A 3 hour film that holds you to your seat, performances that convince, music that stays with you long after you leave the hall and an altered opinion of our neighboring country....these are just a few of the reasons I would give you to go watch the film. You do not have to love it...you do not have to even like the film....but you will miss a great opportunity if you do not go see it even if it is just to have an opinion to share!!

Friday 4 April 2008

Street Food in Delhi

It's not rare that I get a call from friends on their way out asking for my advice on where to get the best xyz. Ofcourse, given that xyz is related to food! Modesty aside, I guess that I am a sort of guru when it comes to eating out and I'm proud of the same. So I figured, why not jot down a few of my favourite places for you too...

So here goes, this blog is dedicated to my favourite street food in Delhi.

Where to get the best:

1)Chaat - The best papri chaat I have ever tasted is in GK1 M block market. The chat wala next to Prince Pan is just brilliant. His bhalla is oh so soft and for the hygene conscious, he wears gloves and uses bisleri water!!
2)Kakori Kababs - Salim Chacha anyday! Though many will disagree and say Khan chacha is better, I think Khan chacha is mere hype. Salim Chacha's kakori roll just melts in the mouth and you dont even need to chew!! There have actually been instances that we were waiting for our table at Big Chill and ended up filling our stomachs at Salim's by the time our table was ready (and for the people who dont know about my love for Big Chill, it's more than you can imagine!)
3)Momos - Though I'm not much of a momo fan anymore, the charm of eating momos at the sikkim stall at dilli haat with the chilli sauce and fruit beer is just unbeatable.
4)Hotdogs - Ever tasted the hot dogs made by the vendors that are seen in any mall these days? I think they are also called 'HogDogs'...the sausage is meaty and soft and the bread is fresh! You can choose from a choice of sauces, be it mayo, mustard or barbeque sauce.
5)Mutton Patty - The mutton patty at Wengers in CP is an experience in itself! The filling is just right and the patty flakes before you can even bite it!
6)Zinger Burger - I know I know...it's not really street food...but well, how could a fast food blog be complete without this one! The king of all burgers available in Delhi, the Zinger Burger at KFC truly takes the cake (and the icing ....and everything with it!) A HUGE fried chicken patty, soft bread, mayo and crisp lettuce....enough to turn me into Pavlov's dog...
7)Shawarmas - Though I have touched on this topic in my Egypt article, this blog would be incomplete without the mention of Shawarmas. Dont even try to find the best...close your eyes and go straight to Al-Bake in New Friends Colony market. The shawarmas in this tiny, not so posh eatery, I promise you, will just completely blow your mind!

But then, as I always say, dont take my word for it....go try it for yourself!!