Monday, June 30, 2008

Piccadelhi Review

Have you checked out my feature on Piccadelhi yet? If you haven't find it here Piccadelhi Reviewed on Rediff

To set the record straight, the photographs are by The Husband. Below are some more snaps of the restaurant.

The Entry to the Restaurant - Through the Telephone Booths (Reminds me of Harry Potter and the entry to the Ministry of Magic)

The Charlie Chaplin Who Keeps the Kids Amused

The Open Kitchens

So Many Choices!!

Photographs: Rohan Tiwary

Friday, June 27, 2008

Of fairer skin and greener grass....

I have often wondered why the grass is greener on the other side. We Indians seem to be enamored with fair skin. We try all types of creams trying to change our skin tone. Until very recently, even the most talented actress would put powder all over herself trying to appeal to Indian audiences. Marketeers have gone to the extent of introducing “Fair and Handsome” – a fairness cream for men!

The paradox hits me every time I see fair skinned foreigners and their love for the sun. We usually run for the cover of umbrellas so as not to get tanned and they put extra lotion on themselves so that they DO get tanned. They can often be seen lying on pool sides or beaches trying to get a dusky complexion.

So is it just a case of greener grass on the other side? I think not. It is my opinion that fair skinned people have only recently started admiring dark skin. If that wasn’t the case, the evil step mother should have said “Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the darkest of them all”. To be ‘fair’ is associated with good things. To be just, to be pretty. White has always been the color of heavens and angels. But on the other hand, dark connotes evil, doom, negativity. Why is it that the Victorian era always saw women carrying little umbrellas to save their skin from the rays of the sun?

I am not a sucker for fairness. I don’t get a heart-attack if I get a tan line and I don’t think Bipasha Basu is any way less pretty than Aishwarya Rai. But neither is it alarming to me anymore when Indian women run for the cover of umbrellas when they come out of the swimming pool. It’s just the way we are….

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Coconut Chicken makes my day!

Its official.....I am the king of cool cooking!! Or queen...or get the idea. Driving home from work yesterday I started thinking of what I could cook to liven up the evening. My mind went through all the things in the refrigerator and then it struck me – Coconut Chicken. Not the pungent Thai types….rather the herbed coconut curry that most Manglorean food boasts of.

So I picked up my apron and started off. And once it was done...lo-behold. The Husband found himself indebted to me for treating him on a Tuesday night. He could be seen licking the plate some 20 minutes after he had finished. So magnanimous as I am, I decided to share this quick recipe with you too. Go for it….you’ll thank me…

Prep time: 10 min | Cooking time: 30 min | Serves: 2 as a main, 4 as a side

2 large boneless chicken breasts, diced into 1-inch cubes or half chicken cut into normal pieces
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2-3 green chillies, slit in the middle
1 tbsp garlic, finely chopped
1 cup coconut milk
5-6 curry leaves
1-2 dried red chillies
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
2 tbsp light cooking oil
salt, to taste
water, as needed

TOAST dried red chilies, cumin seeds and coriander seeds till fragrant. Grind in a food processor to fine powder and set aside. Alternatively, just mix 1tsp coriander pwd (Dhania Powder), 1 tsp cumin pwd (Zeera pwd) and half a tsp of red chilly pwd.

HEAT oil and saute garlic and curry leaves till fragrant. Add onions and fry for a few minutes till tender and pink.

ADD Ground spices and turmeric, and fry for a few seconds before adding coconut milk. Allow it to come to a boil, and then add chicken pieces along with slit green chillies.

SEASON with salt and cook covered for 10-12 minutes till chicken is done, adding water if necessary. If eating with bread or chapattis (best enjoyed with Appams or Neer Dosa), then add 1 tbsp cornflour mixed with half a cup of water into the boiling curry and boil for half a minute till thick (Stirring constantly).


Friday, June 20, 2008

21 - The Movie

A fast paced movie about 5 college students at MIT and their professor who have found a mathematical way of “Breaking the house” at blackjack. In layman’s terms, it means that they figured out a way to make sure that they win every time in the game.

Ofcourse if you take this skill to Las Vegas, it can earn you hundreds of thousands of dollars. Which is where this led them. Until the system caught up.

A true story, 21 is a slick flick which doesn’t let you get bored for a moment. The performances are all good but in particular Jim Sturgess who plays the protagonist outshines the rest. He easily moves from the nerd at MIT who can barely walk up to a girl to a suave rich kid in Vegas. His dorky friends play their role well reminding the audience on and off what the protagonist really is behind his mask.

Another great performance is by Kevin Spacey as expected. He plays the MIT professor who starts from winning your heart with his jokes in class to being the object of your hatred when he starts ruining lives of people who cross him. Spacey’s character is tight, arrogant and just right.

The story line is intriguing as is but the screenplay becomes more interesting with the narrative format. The movie is narrated throughout by the protagonist Ben and it comes to a neat close at the end.

Overall, a good watch. Throw in a lazy evening, some pop-corn and you have a winner.

Rating – 3 on 5

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Tale of a wonder-woman

I spent the last weekend in Ludhiana (a town in Punjab) visiting my ailing grand mother. Biji as we all call her was the magnet that brought the extended family together. And when you realize that she had 7 children and they further had children and grandchildren, that’s quite a strong magnet.

My earliest memories of Biji are of me lazing around in her beautiful (now palatial) bungalow while she kept shouting at us to get up and out of bed. We would resist till we could and finally would give in. A visit to Biji meant yummy food cooked by her with love. I remember sneaking into the kitchen with one of my brothers (Harry bhaiya) to eat her freshly cooked sweet rice. She owned a row of shops adjoining the house and would always ask the sweet shop there to send across some snacks, usually the incredibly tasty samosa (fried wonton filled with potatoes) served with cholle (chickpeas). Always out to pamper us, Biji never missed a birthday. Since I can remember, my excitement for my birthday was marked with the expectation of the customary money token from Biji. In retrospect I wonder how she did it. A widow at a very early age with 7 children to raise, she single-handedly shaped their future and gave them the platform to go into the world.

And if you think I am finicky, you don’t know her! My dad would love to tease her that he was using her towel and she would give him quite a dressing down. Dare anyone underestimate her. Even in her late 80s, she could walk up 6 flights of stairs if the lift wasn’t working.

Losing her eye-sight in her later years was quite a blow to her. Her usual self reliant self was hindered but her spirit wasn’t broken.

It seems like her spirit has left her now. She lies there on her bed, unaware of the world. She doesn’t move, doesn’t twitch, doesn’t speak. She just lies there in a coma. Her frail self is now reduced to bones and skin. She breathes, but she doesn’t live anymore.

It’s painful to see her like this. She is my roots, where I come from. But more painful than seeing her go is seeing her being forced to hold on. Her soul seems to have gone but for our selfish need to have her around, we make her take medicines refusing to let go.

I love her. It’s as simple as that. And it just doesn’t seem fair.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Sarkar Raj

I’ve been holding myself back from writing about the movie. I want you to go and see it before you get clouded with my opinion. But what the hell, here goes nothing…

Sarkar Raj follows in the footsteps of a well directed film – Sarkar. When Sarkar came out, I exclaimed in glee to all who would listen that Abhishek Bachchan had finally stolen the show from his father. Alas, he couldn’t keep at it. The movie is not as bad as Ram Gopal Verma’s attempt at remaking Sholay (A movie titled Aag which literally went up in flames like it was named). But that doesn’t say much. So in my attempt to give my analysis without spoiling the movie for you (not that they need my help on that), I will divide my thoughts into what I did not like and what I did.

The background score is obviously second grade when you compare it to the former. The main track ‘Govinda’ is the only bit that works. The rest (including the one odd song) could just as well be left out. The performances are bland. The crux of Sarkar’s success was that there were hardly any dialogues. The ones that were there, made an impact. All else was done with expressions. The sequel shies to follow suit. All the actors are given unnecessary dialogues including a 10 minute scene where Amitabh Bachchan literally seems to be tutoring Aishwarya on the political game that has been played. Give the audience some credit Ramu – we can figure things out!

The most disappointing thing about the movie is the direction. You have a terrific story, great actors and what do you do with it? Waste it completely. The scenes are hardly ever riveting and the play of shadows often seems unnecessary. In my opinion, time for Ram Gopal Verma to retire…seriously!

The saving grace is the story. I believe that if it would have been written in the form of a book and sold, it would have made millions. It’s the kind of story that one can get completely engaged in with ample twists to pique the interest. Alas, the movie failed to capture the same.

So go and watch the movie – after all, everyone should have their opinion. But don’t say later that I didn’t warn you…

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The legacy of a great man....or two...

I’m sitting in a train, looking out my window as the lush landscape of Punjab (the agricultural state of India and home to my ancestors) rolls by. They’re great, train journeys. In my fast paced life with flights up and down the same day, I had forgotten the good old charm of sitting in a train and doing absolutely nothing.

The cacophony of people’s chatter fills my ears. There is an extended group playing Tambola (a game played in India where you have to tick off numbers on your ticket and win prizes). Another group chats away like there is no tomorrow. The pantry boy walks by giving us soup and bread to start with. And I have the urge to write. If Rowling’s genius found its form in a train, should I miss the opportunity?

I’m reading this book – Dare to dream, A life of M.S.Oberoi by Bachi J. Kakaria. Not usually taken by biographies, this one has caught my fancy like few books do. Written in story-telling form, it’s a riveting story of how a village boy left his village in what now is Pakistan and made his way to become one of the richest and greatest hoteliers of the country if not the world. As I read more and more, my admiration for his guts increases. All was not pure and innocent. He made his crooked deals, courted many a women and had enough faults. But for a man to single handedly do what he did and sit in his farm, 91 years old and tell the tale, it is indeed commendable.

The story also takes me back to my ancestors. My maternal grand father whom we fondly remember as ‘Daarji’ followed a similar but modest path. Born in Shahid Village in Punjab, he would walk kilometers altogether to go to school in the next town. Such was his determination to get out of the village and make a life for his family, that he went on to study engineering in Roorkie (now called IIT Roorkie) – one of the premium institutions in the country and served as a high official with the engineering department that built dams. He was even associated with the famed Bhakra Nangal Dam. He and my grand mother had 7 children, 4 sons and 3 daughters. He passed away one night at a very early age, I think my mother was not even 8 leaving my grand mother to raise 7 children all by herself. And she did – but that’s another blog, would not do her justice to force fit her into this one.

Oberoi may have left behind a legacy…and a chain of hotels. My grand father left a legacy in his own way. Of his children, 3 would eventually go and settle abroad. The eldest ran a successful factory generating employment for many. Another son joined the army. All married into well educated families and blossomed into a big, warm and successful group.

I wonder how he would feel if he saw us today. Me tapping away on my laptop, my brothers driving to work in a BMW, a sister buying houses left right and centre in Canada, another sister roaming the world in style. I never knew the man, but I feel proud to be his grand-daughter. We are his legacy and he is why we are where we are today…

Thursday, June 5, 2008

And we're back....

And I missed you too…..I’m back and I promise to write everyday…or almost everyday :)!! Well, the book is done and I’m quite proud of myself. I have had 2 great realizations in these 2 weeks:

1)Firstly, I LOVE to write…. It’s probably the one thing I can do even when I am old and withered in my bed. So, I need to find a way to make it lucrative enough to do it full time.
2)Secondly, I grudgingly admit that the Husband is way better in photography than I am. I would fight like mad when he said that and have taken some decent shots of him on our travels like the ones below but he is way better.

So, should we throw caution to the winds and start publishing books where I write and he does the photography as we travel the world?? Hmmm…perhaps not just yet. I tried doing that a while back and went quite broke in the process!! But an aspiration to hold on to don’t you think???

Some of The Husband's work...

And some of mine (not too far behind):

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