What a wonderful way to end the year! Here is my recently published article on Hill Fort Kesroli, a weekend getaway from Delhi.
Read it here.
What a wonderful way to end the year! Here is my recently published article on Hill Fort Kesroli, a weekend getaway from Delhi.
Read it here.
After months of hearing about ‘Gunpowder’, the little nook of a coastal restaurant in the eclectic Hauz Khaz Village market, one sunny Sunday we decided to make the long trek down from dear ol’ Noida. The drive took us an hour, the parking 15 mins (finally settling for the DDA maidan) and finding the place another 15 mins. Lovely as it may be, wandering the cobbled winding lanes of this market, finding this place is quite a task. There’s an interesting shop we passed on the way which stocked old movie posters and maps, an old passion of mine. We even crossed the popular Kumzum cafe which works on a non payment model and is a place where travellers just go and chat with each other, sharing experiences and leaving tips to keep the kitchen running. Finally, after asking 3 people and getting exact instructions from a pan wala, we found our way around the block, over dumps of garbage and street dogs sunning themselves and found the building. Surprisingly, the restaurant has chosen not to put up a board declaring its presence. The only clue you get is an A4 sheet stuck on the ground floor declaring its arrogance of allowing only pre-booked customers.
Well, we decided to take the chance, climbed the very steep 3 floors and cajoled the manager to give us a table. Which he thankfully did, considering he refused 4 groups of people right in front of us! The first thing that strikes you about this place, is its view. Set in the back lane, directly overlooking the little known Deer Park and lake nestled in it, this place is a hidden gem. One can sit for hours in the sun, sipping coffee and staring at the unexpected oasis in this populated city. The second thing one notices is the crowd. It’s the kind of crowd I would often see in Ahmedabad in some hidden eateries only known to students of NID, CEPT, IIM and MICA. Journalists, students, expats…people discussing grass root microfinance or a heritage walk in chandni chowk!
The menu was not a very extravagant affair, in terms of the options. The prices on the other hand, rivalled even Swagath which I believe is very steep! We decided to order the dry Andhra Prawn Masala(Rs.350) and for main course we settled for the Kerala Mutton Korma (Rs.260) with Appams (Rs50 each) and buttermilk (Rs.65). The prawns,unfortunately were a huge let-down. Not that they were bad…just that they did nothing to excite the taste buds like a mutton fry in Andhra Bhawan would have….at 1/10th the cost!! The korma was flavourful but not one for which I would repeat the cross country drive I had undertaken. The buttermilk thankfully salvaged the situation and was absolutely delightful. Alas, a bill of Rs.1100 just wouldn’t let itself be justified by an exceptional buttermilk.
As much as I liked the view, the next time I want some Andhra food, I’m heading to Andhra Bhawan and Swagath for Kerala food! Gunpowder just doesn’t pack the punch!!
Rating: 2 on 5
Must Try: Buttermilk
Go for: The view…and the poster shop in the market
Address: 22, Hauz Khaz Village, 3rd Floor, New Delhi. Ph. 26535700
One of my all time favourite books has been ‘Sister of my heart’ by Chitra Bannerjee. It’s heartening to know that it wasn’t a one-off gem by an Indian author. ‘Secret Daughter’, by Shilpi Somaya Gowda is written with a similar empathy and understanding of human relations. I personally despise books that use the English language as a baton to tom tom in front of the reader convincing him/her of not being intellectual enough to appreciate it. Thus, I could never really find myself singing praises of Salman Rushdie and the likes (oh no, how uncool am I??). What attracts me to a writer is the ability to communicate emotions in a manner that they find their way straight to the heart of the reader.
Secret Daughter is the story of a girl born in a village in Maharashtra. To save the life of her unwanted girl child, her mother secretly gives her up for adoption where she is taken in by an Indian/American couple. The story traces the lives of the 2 mothers and this secret daughter that ties them. Not only does it delve deep into the psyche of an adopted child, it also intermingles that with the yearning of a person trying to find roots when they were growing right under her feet.
Secret Daughter is a tale that touches the heart. It is beautifully crafted, wonderfully narrated and begs to be read. Get yourself a copy.
Rating: 4 on 5
|Idyllic in Mcleodganj|
|Tibetian Colorful Tablets around the Dalai Lama's residence|
|Norbuligka Institute for preserving Tibetian Arts|
|Valleys that take your breath away|
|Tea Gardens in Palampur|
|Lush Green walkways inside Kaya Kalp - an Ayurvedic retreat in Palampur|
I love the rains. Yes, I know you’ve heard that before from just about any girl you have met, but I truly do. I love the feel of the cold drops on my face after a sultry Delhi day. I love splashing my car in puddles of water and hearing the whoosh (am pretty sure that its not very good for my car) and I love the smell of the mud when water falls on the parched earth. Monsoons are a great time to travel too. I understand people’s aversion to travelling during the rains – it can get messy, one can’t walk around and its tough to stick to itineraries. But if you ask me, the monsoons are my favourite travelling season. India literally comes alive during this time. The green loses its layer of dust and shines a bright neon colour. The air is fresh and cool. And the rest of the tourists stay home so one doesn’t have to jostle elbow to elbow with hordes of them. I HATE flying during this time (or any other time for that matter) but besides that, its a peach!
Last year, around this time my company was kind enough to organise our top management meet in Goa. It was perhaps aided by the fact that it was off season in Goa and they probably got a fantastic deal. Nevertheless, around 20 of us found ourselves making our way through the narrow lanes of this beach paradise. And you know all those people who told you that one should avoid Goa during the monsoons - ignore them! Goa is at its most beautiful in this month. The town transforms itself into a sleepy village adorning a green shawl. Ofcourse, the view from Taj Fort Aguada helped as well!
So this year, we pack our bags again and are off to another adventure. Another set of towns to explore, a few more tales to string. It is to the hills this time. Ignoring those who warn of landslides and floods. With our raincoats packed in, can’t wait to smell the fresh mountain air again! Adios amigos….till we talk again!!
Yes, the petrol prices are getting out of hand. No I am not an economist so I am not going to argue about how the energy costs are going up globally and how our fiscal deficit will be affected if our energy rates be forcefully reduced. It is not the issue itself with which I have issues. It is the manner of dealing with them.
There is a very competent set of people that we have chosen to run our country. And to ensure that they do not become autocratic, we have chosen a set of people we call the opposition. Now, both these sets of knowledgeable and opinionated people are given a place and a time to debate on matters such as this called the Parliament. The Indian Parliament is not just a pretty building (and it IS a pretty building), it is the citizen’s charter to the government to discuss, debate and decide on matters that affect the common man.
What does damage democracy though is when this exercise is abused. I hang my head in shame when I witness Parliamentary sessions where people shout like shepherds and start throwing chairs and microphones to display their dissent. If they did that at home, they would probably have been given one whack by their mothers, thus displaying their serious need for babysitting.
But what angers me even more is when these very people abuse democracy and make it into one big show. A Bharat Bandh used to be a tool used in extreme cases like the British Raj or to protest the emergency. It was about voicing an opinion. It has now been reduced to a ticket to vandalism. Who are these people who think they can dictate whether a billion people in India should work on a specific day? Who are they who have the audacity to burn busses and public property and then demand that it is the government’s treasury that should pay for the damage? And who are these sadly illiterate people who assume that the common man is so dumb as to not understand the difference between the right to voice one’s opinion and the removal of the fundamental rights of all citizens for one day.
I protest. Not against dissent but against the assumption that we are cattle who will approve of this. If you have the guts, sit on a round table with the economists of the government, the Prime Minister being one of them, suggest ways of tackling the problem of reducing the burden on the citizen while ensuring that the burden doesn’t bend our economy too much. And if you don’t have the courage or the intellect to do so, kindly stop wasting our time. We have miles to go before we sleep.
In a day and age where generations are increasingly ignorant about the intricacies of our cultural heritage and more importantly, literary epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana, television did what books couldn’t. When I was growing up, these epics were depicted in TV serials that ran for years and such was the fan following that people would literally drop what they were doing to watch them. We have come a long way from there but the audio visual route still remains the best hope for passing on these stories to our children.
Which is why I looked forward to the fact that skilful filmmakers like Mani Ratnam and Prakash Jha had decided to portray these epics superimposed into today’s scenario. It is a thin line to tread, knowing which elements to keep and which to modernise, how to keep it realistic and let the audience make the parallels without spelling it out for them. And in both these regards, Rajneeti did what Raavan could not.
Rajneeti took the concept of Indian Politics and played it into the mould of Mahabharata. With an ensemble cast of credible actors, Jha managed to give characters individuality and yet shadowed them on the Mahabharata character they represented. Ranbir Kapoor played an excellent Arjuna and Arjun Rampal getting better ever day with his performance with traces of Yudhishthir. But it was Bhishmapitama played by Nana Patekar which really took the cake. Always behind the scenes and yet directing everyone wisely, he did the role justice. As expected, Manoj Bajpaye did a decent job as Duryodhana and Katrina Kaif not only looked stunning but pulled off quite a good performance (and no, its not modelled on Sonia Gandhi). The only person who I believe got shot changed is Ajay Devgan as Karana. The role was perfect for Devgan yet one left feeling he was under-used.
The music and tracks in the film are phenomenal. Each track worth humming, my favourite being “Mora Piya Mose Bolat Naahi”, a soulful ballad. Unfortunately, what the movie achieved in 2 hours, the last half hour destroyed. The climax of the film seemed to stretch forever and ended up making the film seem amateurish. I truly wish they had just chopped off the last reel, I would have left the hall a happier person!
Raavan on the other hand, is an example of how not to do it. Don’t get me wrong. It is a beautiful piece of art. It sweeps over stunning locales, with cinematography such that at times you feel like it may just be National Geographic. But what the director set out to do, he failed to achieve. The story is not even disguised, it is Ramayana with the names changed. Dialogues like “woh dus sar wala raakshas hai” when refering to the villain Bira or “Woh bhagwan hain” when refering to Dev modelled on lord Rama dont leave much to the imagination. I wish I had seen the Tamil version instead where Vikram who plays the hero in the Hindi version plays Raavan instead. He would undoubtedly have done a much better job than the half baked performance by a plump Mr.Bachhan (and not the one with a beard who can act). Aishwarya Rai looks absolutely beautiful in some shots and one wishes that cinema halls also came with a mute button when she starts screaming in her incredibly shrill voice (in the same league as that of Diya Mirza or Riya Sen). To her credit, we do get a reminder of how beautiful and graceful an Indian woman can look during a dance sequence in which she seduces her husband doing classical dance. The man with the smallest role, Govinda who plays Hanuman does absolute justice to his role and perhaps even he may have played a better Raavan.
The movie fails to build a plot, fails to make the audience empathise with Bira. The villagers love him and the police hates him but we are never given to understand why so. What really are the socio economic reasons for this almost naxal leader. Instead, the film seems like a personal feud – your wife for my sister kind of an approach. Very lame. The songs are upbeat and in a certain wedding sequence, don’t miss the locale in the background – it is Orchha, the hidden gem we found in MP when we travelled a couple of months back. All in all, unfortunately very boring and avoidable. See it on mute and marvel at Incredible India.
Ratings: Rajneeti (3 on 5 with .5 deleted for the last half hour)
Raavan(1.5 on 5)
8,888 says the site meter. It is a humbling feeling, if you pause to think about it. Over the past few years, my blog was read 8888 times. It never fails to bring a smile to my face when I bump into people I may not have met for years and they tell me that they read my blog and love it. My readers who recommend my blog further to their friends and it is followed by people whom I have never met! And my friends and colleagues who I know follow my blog, but as silently slip away without commenting! The best part is that my best friends probably don’t even know the url of my blog. Why do I need to share my life with others, they ask? When I have them.
I write because I am. I have never written a page that I did not believe in, or because I had to. I wrote because I had something to say. That’s it. And what is wonderful is that so many people were interested in what I had to say. They debated my opinions, countered my viewpoints, encouraged my arguments. At The Thought Express, one doesn’t need to agree, that would be too boring. The name of the blog was kept because my thoughts race through my head, desperately begging to be poured out into words. What my personality doesn’t let me do with my voice, I do with my words. Some people can converse with strangers, some can dance with them, some can even travel with strangers. I share my words with friends and strangers. Only because I have something to say.
Thank you. For saving this in your favourites. For typing this url in the address bar. And for clicking on a new post. For making this a dialogue from a one sided rave.
And yes, the reviews for Karate Kid and Rajneeti will follow soon!!!
Being a writer in constant search for her genre where I write most expressively, I have often been interested in how did best selling authors know which genre would work for them. Did Jeffrey Archer wake up one morning and decide to write fiction? Did JK Rowling pen down a drowsy biography before coming up with her masterpiece?
This question must have haunted them as it haunts me. What is even more interesting though, is that once an author has established himself in a particular genre, is he able to ever break out of it and try a new genre? Take for example Jeffrey Archer himself. What do you want when you are one of the most celebrated fiction writers of all time? He took a risk and wrote ‘Paths of Glory’, mostly based on real events around the life of George Mallory. The risk paid off, the book turned out as much a page turner as the others. This transition hasn’t been easy for all though. Equally famous writer, John Grisham tried his hand at fact in the book ‘The Innocent Man’. Though a compelling story, the book was too leading and having read the first chapter, it was easy to guess where it is headed. Take for example the factual writing of William Dalrymple. Based on real events, he has the flair of weaving a tale so intriguing that it makes history lessons interesting.
The one person in my opinion who manages to blur the lines between fact and fiction is Dan Brown in ‘The Da Vinci Code’. He took facts and then he put in a dollop of his imagination and skilfully stirred the two together in such a way that the reader never knew where fact ended and fiction started.
So the question remains. How does an author find his genre? And having found it, is it wise to experiment outside of it? Do you know any other person whom it worked for?
Legends are a complex animal. They may not be the fad of the day, there may be shinier and better things coming up everyday, be they actors, stories or restaurants. But legends hold their own as places, people or things that have stood the test of time. You must experience them to have an opinion on them, whichever way your opinion may swing!
Rediff recently published my article on Legends of Delhi’s Belly. It traces legendary restaurants in each cuisine in Delhi and includes places of worship for Delhiites like Big Chill, Karims and the eternal HCF from Nirulas.
Check out the article HERE.
Disclaimer: The photographs in the article need an apology. Could have been and will be way better in the future. Food tends to make me lose focus!!
Big Chill’s signature Fuseli Chicken Piri Piri
Mutton Burra at Karims
Gigantic Golden Fried Prawns at Chungwa
The Mecca of all deserts – Nirulas for their HCF
No…this is not the description of the restaurant. Actually, it may as well have been. The Iraqi Restaurant, set in a bylane in Lajpat Nagar 1’s residential E Block (E-178 near the gurudwara) is indeed an Iraqi Restaurant and for the sake of simplicity, the owners decided to use the description for it’s name as well!! It takes a little bit of searching to find this nook and its best if one asks around for Krishna Market and thereafter locates it. On a hot Delhi afternoon (and the afternoons are getting sweltering hot these days), we braved the weather and went ahead in our endeavour of constantly trying to find new places to eat.
The decor was much better than we expected. Expecting bare tables and chairs like Bline (the Russian restaurant that is now shut), we were pleasantly surprised to see the minimalistic yet aesthetic look of black tables and sofa seats. The waiting staff, like the owner, are all Iraqi students and speak just a tad bit of English but pointing and hand gestures should get you by.
Very interested in exploring a new cuisine, we decided to start with the appetizers. A platter of kebabs, a mix seasonal salad and a dal (lentil) soup. The kebabs came impressively on their skewers but were dry and very bland in comparison to their Indian counterparts. The salad was great though – was one part an eggplant and onion salad, one part cucumber and tomato and a part of hummus. The dal soup was a large bowl of ..well what did you expect…dal! It had some boiled rice thrown in, so your quintessential khichdi!!
Telling ourselves that there must be an upside to this place, we went ahead and ordered the main course. The Qosi Rice is the most recommended dish to eat here so we ordered a plate of that with a bowl of beans for our vegetarian friend. Trying to figure out what the beans dish is like, we asked the waiter and he said it was like baked beans…we thought that perhaps that is just a metaphor. Alas, he was forewarning us, it was indeed just a plate of baked beans! Having said that, I have a feeling that our vegetarian friend had a better meal than us because the Qosi Rice turned out to be one large mound of rice with a ‘boiled’ piece of sheep meat on the side. Thats it. No gravy, no flavor. Literally just a boiled piece of meat! Thinking we must have ordered wrong (rather desperately praying that we had), we asked him to get any other dish with a gravy – the house speciality. What he plonked on our table though looked like he was very very mad at us. In the huge bowl, there was a lot of runny red water, submerged in this water was 2 huge rotis broken into bits and on top of this pile was yet another piece of the boiled sheep meat similar to the one that we had been struggling with!
The prices are low. A meal for 4 cost us just Rs.1000. Yet, we walked out hungry, discontent and very very unhappy. Nothing that a quick stop at the Def Col Nirulas couldn’t fix with their Hot Choc Fudge though!
All in all, a very disappointing experience. If Iraqi food is like this, then perhaps this is one country I’m not planning on visiting soon! If not, I hope to find a restaurant that does it justice!!
Rating: –0.5 out of 5
Some things are just meant to be – they have been staring you in the face for so long and you just never saw them! Often I get calls from friends and family who are in a particular part of the city and want a restaurant recommendation for a specific cuisine in that area. Or colleagues who are going out of town and just wanted my suggestions on where they should go, what to eat there, how to travel, where to stay etc. Add to this, the fact that I have been writing about Travel and Food for many years now, on websites like Rediff etc. When you put this all together, I saw what had been staring me in the face. A Travel Advisory. Sharing local insights about North India with inbound travellers – helping them experience India in a unique way!
Thus, Ladies and Gentlemen, was born JourneyMyWay. The Travel Advisory helps travellers customise their itineraries to suit their personalities and not go for the tried and tested packages which make them adjust their personalities to their itineraries.
JourneyMyWay (JmW) first tries to understand the clients in terms of their preferences, their comfort levels, what aspect of a city would they be most interested in, what cuisines, how much would they want to spend on the trip etc. Taking these personality traits into account, JmW creates a unique itinerary for them, giving them recommendations on what to see, how to schedule their day, what to eat and where, what to wear, weather temperaments, how best to travel, where and what to shop etc.
Whenever one goes for a trip, the most credible source of information are friends who have already visited your destination and thus may have local insights. JmW is a traveller’s local friend who can help plan and guide him/her for the duration of their trip.