Sunday, May 23, 2010

where the trees once were..

I see the gaping hole where the trees once were, where I ate roasted corn with college friends

and think of myself as the person who still thinks of MG road as Bangalore's main road.

A flyover has snaked its way above the road we thought was full. The grey concrete dragon

will transform into the zipping silver of the metro. And like in Delhi, sparkling people will

swipe their cards with a New Yorker's ease


Down the road in a little corner, a small slice of an old friend's Rajasthani haveli remains, the ground floor converted into a glitzy store selling guitars, its board placed on top of the placard that says

Estd 1807. Only the first floor retains the architectural details stolen from a desert far away.


Beside the house, a little further ahead is the shop 'Show Off' clothing people who frequent the

Clubs around, clothes that shine only in those lights.


Opposite is Ram Prasad veg where they serve pungent beautiful sambar that I remember from breaks rehearsing a play at Baldwin Boys School.


I wonder    if this happens to people who stay long in a place. But was talking to my friend Anasuya known better as Madam Mahila Mukti about how Bangalore was full of firsts for us, it was our first personal revolution, our first questions, our first foray into pain, into everything adult, the first signs of being grown up.

 So many parts of the city glow like scabs on a child's skin. One is never sure if the beautiful, playful memories overpower the faintly painful nostalgia or the other way round.

But I'll always be back, I guess.

After all, I left then to Chennai and then to Bombay. And nostalgia is homeground.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Have you ever seen the rain? - if you live in Delhi,pay attention

It has been raining in Bangalore , the rain is like a dream , the gentle caressing rain that takes care not to interrupt your day or dirty
your pants but ever so lovingly erases the memory of the ruthless Delhi heat.

It is wonderful to be back to my lovely bright home, to hear birds and drink filter coffee.
It is fun to scandalize my brother with stories of Uttar Pradesh, eat good food and relax for the last leg of my break before I move back to Delhi
and get back to work.

Does anyone know anyone looking for flat mates in Delhi? If yes please post a comment on this post.

I will love you4ever if something works out. :)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Sex,rides and autorickshaws

The other day I got on an autorickshaw which had curtains on the sides and in front. I exclaimed that it is really cool in here and great for the Delhi summer. 
My friend asked (how men think so fast about certain things no) him if he has the curtain so couples  can come and make out. The 'auto guy let's call him
Bholu said that's why he has it. So, he charges 500 Rupees for three hours driving around hormonal couples. He has a pen drive with five hundred songs. 'Punjabi, English, Hip hop, sab hain madam.'

Regular customers call him when they need him.He said, girls call much more than boys. He  makes much more money this way - atleast 1000 Rupees a day only from the autolove business. Cool no, this crazy city is. 

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Meal for two: Rs.1300


Amici at Khan Market is sort of an Italian Mama's kitchen meets a chic American cafe. Wooden floors and practical furniture make for a relaxing ambience. There are gorgeous black and white photographs on the walls, Italian movie posters and suddenly one of Che Guevara. (This made us wonder if we missed the point.)

We started with a pineapple, green apple and banana smoothie  ( Rs.160) which tasted like banana with sour butter milk so best avoid it but the Oreos shake (Rs.150) is rich , tasty and definitely a safer bet .

The crostini with goat cheese, walnuts and caramelized onion (Rs.200) had a nutty interesting flavour.

The wood fired pizzas are authentic and offer good value for money. Two people can share one. We had one with mascarpone, mozzarella, parmesan  and a generous sprinkle of fresh rocket leaves(Rs.350). It was excellent, thin crust and light but to my companion used to the fire of chilli chicken, a little bland, the chilli flakes gladly came to her assistance.

 The pasta with pine nuts, pesto, parmesan and peanuts (Rs.300) – a grandmother's recipe from Genoa tasted comforting and homely and as if Nonna (naani in Italian) actually stood in the kitchen and supervised every step.

We had the classic aglio olio peperoncino(Rs.260)  - garlic, olive oil and chilli flakes for the uninitiated .

Salty, sharp and garlicky, it made for a good meal except when we found a tiny piece of plastic in it which the waiter insisted was black pepper. When he realised it wasn't, he made up by offering us free Tiramisu (Rs.180)  described in the menu as the best in town and quite close to being it actually.

It had the right level of sweetness and the cream was nicely separate from the intense and bitter coffee.

All in all, a hearty Italian meal – good for a meal out with friends – the meaning of Amici in Italian after all is 'friends'.





Faces behind the Commonwealth games

Alok Gangi was resting at a construction site cordoned off from the main road by metal sheets. He was lying on the sand, amidst dug up earth and cables. It is 8 PM and he is alone in a dark puddle at bright Connaught Place. Surrounding him are circles of shining shop lights and fine dining restaurants. He jumps up when I go to him and asks ‘kya hua madam’. What happened?
Alok is one of the thousands of workers helping India get ready for the Commonwealth games.
Slight, light eyed, and handsome in a childlike way, Alok looks younger than he is. He is 17 years old and studies in 11th STD but he left his village, Bacchi Keda in Uttar Pradesh to work in Delhi for a few months. His right ear is covered with a thick bandage. He says he fell at the construction site. His supervisor, he immediately, adds, took him to the hospital and paid for all the expenses.
’I like Delhi’, he says, gushing about the large park and the bright lights at India Gate- which he says is his favourite part of Delhi.
‘But he longs for home, his mothers’ food and care – and is impatient to attend to his dream of being a ‘master’ – a teacher at the government school. ‘Right now, I have holidays but when I go back I will enrol in eleventh standard and I hope to get a job in the village’.
He makes 200 Rupees a day repairing the pavement at Connaught Place and works eleven hours a day – everyday. The money is a treasure by village standards where jobs are few for the landless.
But according to him, there is no sheen to city life, its largeness, its anonymity frightens him.
‘I live alone in a tent in East Delhi, I don’t have friends here and I don’t make the effort to make them.’
‘I went back to the village for Holi for two days but I had to miss out on my salary but it was worth it, acting silly and drinking bhang with the boys from my mohalla.’, he says , his grey green eyes crinkling as he laughed a loud bright laugh . Suddenly, he seemed more alive, somehow larger than our surroundings.

‘Dilli mein to ladkiyan bahut pyari hain’, (Girls in Delhi are very lovable) he adds, but that he will definitely marry one from his village. I ask him if he has chosen one already but he just blushes and looks away.
I ask him what he thinks about the commonwealth games that he is repairing the road for. He says he doesn’t know anything about them and that no one told him anything about it. I start talking about it but he isn’t really interested. Alok has been on the site since eight in the morning and he left home at six. He puts his aluminium dabba into a small green cloth back and gets up smiling at me, saying it was time to sleep. Tomorrow is another day and many more will pass till he can get on with his life as he imagines it.

Southern secrets

Meal for two: Rs.50

A narrow lane behind the PG men's hostel at Delhi University hides a delightful southern secret. Called PG men's' by the students it is an institution of sorts where most students have an account with the Anna who runs it.

He serves up homely South Indian fare with all the flavours right to the dot. There are the crisp masala dosas served with piping hot sambar and fresh coconut chutney (Rs.30). The soft fluffy idlies (Rs.20) make for a quick, light snack. PG mens' does a host of rice dishes as well, the spicy tomato rice is served with raita that it must be admitted has more onion than curd. The lightly seasoned curd rice (Rs.20) is a hit in the summer months.

The ambience is basic and the restaurant is demarcated by a lovely shrub fence separating the lane from the hostel. It is a no fuss joint and the service is quick but no one is pleased to serve you or anything like that. Expect to eavesdrop on jhola sporting students or boys from the hostel discussing notes photocopied from diligent students.

Obviously being the student eatery that it is, PG men's' serves the ubiquitous creative styles of maggi- egg, cheese, vegetable etc.(Rs.20) The many experimental possibilities that the humble maggi noodles offers might horrify the gourmand but the students here seem to love it and it tastes great so what's the harm?

The hygiene score would be 50% but students don't care about this so if you want to go there you have to think like one. All in all great for a quick bite of authentic, tasty South Indian food and it costs very little so if you find yourself in North Campus and craving for the flavours of the South, head here. 

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Sambar by gora? Thanks, but no thanks!

Remember the time when there was talk of Sonia Gandhi becoming Prime Minister and everyone was angry about why a 5000 year old culture, a country with one billion people needs a foreign prime minister? Indians have pretty much the same attitude about food – we’ll eat all types but we don’t want the goras and the expats messing with our culinary traditions, do we?

I mean, I don’t mind.
I love it when the food boundaries splinter and you can have a khichdi that’s sort of a ‘’ non-syrupy Indian basmati risotto’’ or ‘’Gul-aam- gulab jamun with aam ki kheer’’, scallop brochettes with raw mango and black lentil khichdi.
I love it when cuisines blend like water colours ever so harmoniously. Obviously my first experiments in blending unlikely flavours began in boarding school when we’d crush boiled egg into sambar or put jam in the porridge. For a while after though, I was fated to eat only boxed cuisine like paneer butter masala and butter naan or adai with avial. There is the occasional paneer dosa, the concept of which I abhor, Schezwan idly which can be nice and since I am a pizza purist- paneer on pizza is blasphemy.

There is this fashionable vegetarian restaurant in Edinburgh – David Bann where for instance you can have Chilli with sweet potato and chocolate sauce-
A chilli of butterbean, kidney bean and tomato with roasted sweet potato and corn cake. Served with green beans, guacamole, chocolate and chilli sauce with crème fraiche
Now, in Switzerland I went to Restaurant Hirscheneck, the rebel among restaurants – the only place in Basel where you will find more than one woman with a nose stud and a long colourful skirt.
Bright, informal and loud in a welcoming way, the chefs here pick elements from Asian and European styles of cooking and come up with a different menu every day. Locals say it was a hotspot during the student protests of the 70s and 80s and it seems like a relic from that time and spirit.
But the menu is as new age globalization as ever – Sweet potatoes served with a Thai sauce and Swiss cheese. (This was divine). These two restaurants were my first experiences of creative food, of food as an art, as a representation of the world we live in where we’ve learnt to adopt each other’s cultures in some parts of our life – culinary or otherwise.
C is an expert at inventing recipes although cooking is relatively new to me.
As he says one of the yummiest ’fusion’ things he makes is a roll made of Mexican chapatti(tortilla), sugo all'arrabiata (tomato sauce with herbs and chilli) , Asiago cheese and lots of fresh rocket leaves – essentially Italian and Mexican influences. But it worked- the sharp flavour of rocket and the rich full bodied spiciness of the sauce nicely balanced by the mild cheese.
He just put these things together and it worked.
Now getting to my point about experimental Indian cooking, this article talks about why India is the toughest market for modern Indian food. A part of the reason they say is the attitude that foreigners can’t do better what we’ve been doing for hundreds of years.
We don’t want someone from Dover to reinvent Dal Makhni for us but apparently that’s what expat celebrity Chef Vineet Bhatia does in Delhi.’’ Dal Makhani that’s first scorched and then scolded in a liquid grinder into a thin, intense buttery sauce, and finally laced with truffle oil to give it shine’’ And spicy foie gras that even Bikki Oberoi admires.
There is this restaurant I remember in Belfast (out of all places) that did Indian tapas. Even I laughed. The first time I heard of Tapas is when I ate at Zara in Chennai but Indian Tapas seemed like a strange idea to me. Not anymore.

Ofcourse, only when food types accquire snob value do they make it to magazines.
Because oppossite the World Trade Centre in Cuffe Parade,Bombay, 5 enterprising men set up a makeshift stall every evening and sell the most magical invention ever - Mongolian pasta. This costs hundred bucks but we know that only South Bombay people would pay that much for street food, that is if they ever eat it at all.
Come on guys, Puritanism in food is passé.

(Photos from Tehelka)
2)Patti aloo with beetroot khichdi
3)Roast lobster with brocolli khichdi
You might like to read about ME and the art of cooking.

Monday, May 03, 2010


Explaining and defining reality only through science is like looking at the Pacific ocean through a hole in the wall and thinking what you see is what it is.