Friday, 29 November, 2013

On a Thali Trail

One of the best parts of being a food critic is that I get to sample lots of delicious food. My work, besides my interest, takes me to unknown or lesser known places in the search for good food. The last few months, we went around town checking out the State Bhawan canteens and what we found was lipsmacking good food (in some of them) at prices which were a fraction of what you would pay in a fancier place. 



My latest article on Rediff helps you navigate the food scene at the State Bhawans in Delhi. What not to miss and more importantly, what to completely miss. You'd be surprised at some of these, I'm sure. 

Check out the article here. 


Monday, 25 November, 2013

Balmy weather!

So I am in Canada. In the month of November. There is snow on the ground outside though indoors we are nice and toasty. But I'm not allowed to say it's cold. You see, whenever we step out of the car into the bitter chill and my nose is almost falling off from frostbite, my sister..my crazy Canadian sister...looks around, smells the air and coos "Oh it's sooo niiiiice"!! Atleast that is what I think she says as the sound filters in through my scarf, earmuffs and fur lined cap. And if I wasn't in such a hurry to unbuckle the car seat and save my only offspring from the onslaught of the arctic winds, I am sure I would have a fitting reply (ably supported by an incredulous expression).

Ok I admit it's not so bad. But it IS cold. Whatever your definition is, this fits it! And finally....finally today my sister succumbed! She actually changed plans and we chose to go home instead of shopping because today, wait for it....my crazy sis R finally said "OK, it's slightly cold".

It is only -10°C, with windchill freaking -16°C so yes, you could say that there is a nip in the air!!

AV decides enough is enough...I'm outta here!
Jokes apart, though my first snowfall was at Yosemite in California (and that was surreal in it's own way), yesterday's snowfall was just ethereal. From indoors ofcourse ;). With soft snowflakes gently falling on the ground, transforming the landscape into a winter wonderland. The trees seemed like someone had sprinkled powdered sugar on them with a sieve. Time seemed to stand still. It was unreal. It was pristine. It was gorgeous.

If only he was here to share this with me...


Wednesday, 20 November, 2013

Of Dreams and Reality

You're here, at this point in your life, for a reason.

No, this is not a post about fate and destiny. A few years back it may have been. But today, older and none the wiser, I believe in reality. My profound reaslisation is this...are you ready for it....(drumroll....)

"We are where we are because of the choices we make and those that others make affecting us". 

There is no greater hand involved, no guiding light, no stars of destiny. At every crossroad of life, we are presented with options. And we make the choice we believe to be the best one at that point in time. Sometimes, people make choices or decisions that affect our lives too. And an amalgamation of these choices brings us to where we eventually land up.

Movies and books have us believing otherwise. Entire generations have grown up counting stars and looking for signs or waiting for the perfect moment or person. One often lives in retrospect, fantasizing about 'what if' or look outside your life, dissatisfied with today, with the hope that something outside is better. This post is not about acceptance or resigning yourself either. It is merely about the fact that fantasies are always rosy. No one has a dull one. They seem exciting and promising, for the sole reason that they are untouchable and unreal. Reality has a way of sinking into your life and peeling away the magic. But if you look at your life in the mirror, you may realise that your reality could be the fantasy of millions of others. You may realise that you have been too harsh on yourself and on life. That you have everything around you to smile. And to be grateful. Because of the people who chose to be with you. To nurture you and stand by you, through good decisions and bad. To dream and to live with you. And as far as places go....that is a good place to be....  

Tuesday, 12 November, 2013

The kids figure it out

3 adults, 2 toddlers and 1 dog. Piece of cake, right? Oh, you have no idea!

Living with my sister has never been so eventful. Reporting in from Canada, we're holed up in the house today for my benefit, outside temperature being -9*. This trip has been super interesting, especially in terms of observing how N behaves around other kids. Growing up with doting adults around, my Sonu has always been the center of attention and always has someone to pamper her. Her cousins in Delhi are 5-7 years older than her so they also treat her like a doll, giving in to her every whim.

Act 1, Scene 2. Little Miss Muffet arrives in California where her 4 year old cousin has enjoyed a similar status in her kingdom. Thus ensues a constant battle for supremacy, each trying to come out on top. They enjoyed each other company thoroughly, yet always bickered over who gets what.

And the plot thickens. Canada brings her to her little brother A. For the first time, N finds herself to be a big sister, asked to be responsible. She did resist at first, wanting to remain the little baby. But eventually she started enjoying the role of being 'elder'. She now has learnt to share toys, be gentle with him (sometimes) and whisper when he is asleep. It is especially touching to see her overwhelming concern when he cries...she goes to him and asks him if everything is ok...even offers him toys to distract him. Being all of 2 years old herself.

Its strange that as a travel writer, my post from my Canadian travels centers around 2 kids. But then, with 2 toddlers in the house, it is far more action packed than any Jackie Chan film...

In my next post, I promise to talk more about this gorgeous land...the yum food...the unlimited shopping. Till then, I hear a baby call me upstairs....adios amigos. 

Thursday, 7 November, 2013

American Diaries

In work environments where we have to fight superiors to avail our own annual leave, the concept of an annual international vacation is becoming rarer as we talk. Thankfully, by hook or by crook, we're still managing to see wonderful parts of the world. My week in US seemed like a long time to spend only in California when I booked tickets but I couldn't have been more wrong. The 6 days that we were there, no single day was wasted, every moment used to see something new, experience something we haven't before. 

I think one of the most difficult parts of going back home is going to be getting used to houses that don't have huge driveways and backyards opening onto lakes! I could gush for hours about the houses we stayed in, the lovely gorgeous and yet homely spaces, but frankly with the hectic schedules, we barely got much time to just sit back and enjoy them. There was so much to do! N ofcourse believes that in North America, every house has to have atleast 2 dogs...every family member we have been staying with has had atleast a couple. 

My nephew training his horse
It is a humbling experience living in the Silicon Valley. There is something intangibly exciting about driving through the lanes of Palo Alto or San Jose...addresses we've only seen on the HQ locations of iconic companies like Google, Yahoo, Apple, eBay etc. There is an energy in the place, of new things being done, the next big thing being cracked! 

Stanford - where I should have studied rather than go as a visitor!!
 We spent our first day in Sacramento, walking around the restored old town (which looks like something out of a wild wild west movie). The evening had a part of the gang from Morgan Hill driving in to spend the night ...though we all knew that it wasn't love for us that brought them..it was the promise of the world's most delectable Tandoori Chicken that one of my brothers grills up. The chicken was as mindblowing as promised and the nip in the air couldn't keep us indoors as we sat around the bonfire till late night, doing more tequilla shots than I remember doing in college! AND we all woke up early without a headache...what else can one ask for :) 

Winery in Napa
You can't go to California and not go to Napa Valley. The vineyards stretching over undulating landscapes was a treat to the eyes but to be honest, it seemed to be more hyped than the experience itself. We did manage to do a wine tasting and then headed straight for an absolutely delicious lunch of burgers, pizzas and some appetizers that we couldn't get enough of. Burgers we had plenty of in our week there...and not so surprisingly, the best burger we had there was from a chain (not unlike McD) called In&Out. The crisp and fresh lettuce added a crunch that set it apart from all else. Must do if you are visiting the west coast. 

The Golden Gate itself
The other awesome experience we had was when we drove up to Yosemite, home to the granite mountains. We expected it to be a little chilly but we did not expect to drive through snowfall, with snow flakes daintily floating down to earth all around us. The landscape was transformed into a winter wonderland, something out of a fairytale. Snow in October...in California!!! Who would have thought!

Winter Dreamland at Yosemite
Our 6 days in US flew by in the blink of an eye. But more than the things we did, I remember the warmth and love we received, how each person made an effort to make us feel special! My brother who has NEVER taken a single day off in the 6 years that he has been with Apple actually took 2 days off just for us! My bhabhis cooked delicious food for us....from Chole Bhature to Thai Curry, from Sticky Meatballs to Mutton Curry, we were spoilt for choice. And at the unearthly hour of 7am when we had to leave for the airport, we had everyone dropping in to say bye...enroute while dropping kids to school, while cycling to work or just out for a jog. BB, I know I probably wasn't as radical and exciting as you pictured me but you all were everything I hoped to find you to be...

Halloween time
A trip that was long overdue and one that will be cherished for a long time. The cold lands of Canada beckoned...but that's another travel diary. Over and out. 
 
Gold Rush in California