Thursday, May 24, 2007

What do I say?

It has been a while since I posted anything here. Blame it on many things: a new job, the long commute, intermittent internet access at home and, of course, my new found love for food blogging.

But as always, there are so many things that I do want to write about. The commute everyday from Gurgaon to Delhi, the sand storms of summer, the hailstorms of summer, the fruits of summer, movies that we watched, places that we visited, food that we ate, it is truly endless.

I want to talk of the simple everyday pleasures – like getting a seat in the bus on my way back, especially a window seat, like watching the sun set on my way back home, like having S surprise me by driving all the way to Delhi just to pick me up. There’s also a not so everyday pleasure that I was treated to last evening – S got promoted. After all those long-into-the-night discussions about “if they don’t recognize what you’re doing, then you should quit”, it finally came through. So maybe they were paying attention.

I’m all by myself this weekend. I plan to bake some brownies and/or an apple pie. Let’s see. We have no cable TV at home and so I’m forced to watch the DVDs that we have or listen to music. I have been reading on days when I’m alone. On days when we’re together and not entertaining, we play Scrabble. I have started driving and we go on a trip a day (at least we try to). There are suddenly so many things happening. And I’m faced with the eternal – ‘so many things to blog about… so little time’.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mango: The King of Fruits

Summer’s here. And there’s only one thing that makes me look forward to this season. That, of course, would have to be the arrival of truckloads of mangoes into each market. I grew up at the IIT Madras campus and we had a reasonably huge garden. We had 2 coconut trees, one lemon tree, 1 sapota tree, a banana patch, and 2 mango trees. One tree was of the Rumani variety and the other belonged to the Humayun clan. Rumani is quite ordinary. It is available all over Madras by end of May or early June. Humayun, however, is unique in that it is not easily available. But it is one of the sweetest and tastiest mangoes I have ever eaten.

When I was much younger, I read somewhere that the Mango is the King of Fruits and I thought, “No, it can’t be. It has to be the orange.” I loved oranges then and continue to do so. I can finish a dozen or so of them in an afternoon if no one’s watching. Amma tells me she ate 2 dozens a day when she was carrying me and would sometimes not eat anything else. Maybe that’s where I got my love for oranges. I digress! I used to think that people loved the mango only because it was seasonal. Maybe not. I think I’d eat mangoes everyday throughout the year of they were available. I love them. I, in fact, love all kinds of fruit. But the mango is special.

One mango related incident that stands out in my, and my entire family’s, memory dates back to when I was about two and a half years old. We were spending the summer at my aunt’s place in Bangalore. Appa had taken H for a movie and Amma was at home with me. She took off my clothes and sat me down on a chair in a banian so that she’d have less to clean and gave me a mango. I ate it and by the time I came to the seed, I had mango all over my face and the white banian had turned yellow for most part. Just then, the movie goers returned. I quickly hid the mango seed behind my back and turned to H.

Me: What am I eating?
H: mango

Me (Wide eyed and full of awe, he was after all the hero in my life): How did you know?

H teases me to this day whenever I sit down to eat a mango. He says, “You had ‘mango’ written all over you and yet you thought that if you kept the seed hidden, I’d never know. Innocence was your first, middle, and last name. You should have stayed that way: tiny, na├»ve, and innocence personified. Why did you have to grow up?”

I spent many summers in Bombay, the city where I was born and the one that has gone down in all records as my “native place”. I ate a lot of Alphonso mangoes each summer, and while I do like them, I am not crazy about them as most Bombayites tend to be. Call me a true blue Madrasi, Chennai-ite or whatever you like. My favourite variety after the Humayun is the Banganapalli mango. People make fun of me for loving this fruit as it is so common. My friends tell me that the only real mangoes are the Alphonso, or Chausa or Dusehri varieties. How do I care? I love it and truly believe in making hay while the sun shines. So, since these beautiful yellow sun kissed Banganapallis entered the market in March, I have been buying them by the kilo. I can eat just that throughout summer and not want anything else. Or maybe just mangoes and vanilla ice cream. For breakfast, I could have a Rasalu mango too. I am not too fond of mango flavoured things like mango ice cream. Maybe I got that bit from Appa. Appa loves chocolate, but doesn’t care much for chocolate flavoured things like ice cream or milkshake. Likewise, give me mangoes anyday.

Mangoes and ice cream always remind me of this conversation I had with my FPG, Anand, when I was working in Madras. Both of us were crazy about mangoes and both of us ate cereal for breakfast.

Anand: Good morning.
Me: Hey, morning. Guess what? Instead of adding banana or raisins to my muesli this morning, I added mango. It tasted great.
Anand: Oh you tried that too. You know what? We had corn flakes and milk. And I added chopped mango too. And much to Vidya’s surprise, I added a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It was heavenly.
Me: I should try that too. Ice cream in the morning. Wonder what Amma’ll say though.

And we got back to our desks to begin work. Five minutes later, I walked up to his work station.

Me: Anand
Anand: Yeah?
Me: I was thinking about your breakfast.
Anand: Hmmm?
Me: What were the cornflakes and milk doing in the bowl anyway?

There are a few mango recipes that are very typical of Saraswat cuisine. I will soon post the recipes in my other blog. Keep watching this area.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007


This is the my friend's creation who entered this world in January this year, bundled in my creation. :)

This is my creation: a cross stitch blanket for baby Sid.

Monday, May 07, 2007

A celebration

Last year on the 7th of May, I wrote about The Many Incarnations of God. Had my uncle and aunt been here with us, my uncle would have turned 80 and we would have had a grand celebration. There is not a single day that passes without my thinking about him. It could be a memory relating to a dish I made, about a person we were both close to, about a book, about something on TV... just about anything.

The 7th of May is also the day that I first met S. And we celebrated our "anniversary" last evening by going out for dinner to a highly recommended Italian restaurant in Gurgaon called Italiano.

The 7th of May has always been special and I am glad that as a couple, it is a special day for us as well. My biggest regret is that S never got to meet Bappa. I wish he had. This will always be one of those things that's outside our control. But I am forever thankful for whatever I have.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Land of Five Rivers

Last minute plans are always the best, aren't they? S and I were planning to visit Ludhiana over the weekend. My close friend from my Hyderabad days was visiting home after completing her exec MBA from IIM-A and I wanted to met her family. Having only spoken to them over the phone in all the time that I'd known her, I was very keen to meet them and get to know them.

S had work in Chandigarh the day before we were to leave, so he asked me to join him. I didn't want to pass up the opportunity. So we drove down on Thursday night. It took us 4 hours to get of Delhi and we reached Chandigarh at 4 in the morning. Fortunately, S's office had taken care of the reservations at the hotel and we were able to turn in within half an hour.

As soon as S left for the site, I tried to catch up on a little sleep, but I didn't succeed. I kept looking out the window as the cleanliness and organization of the city wowed me entirely. My friend and her brother reached Chandigarh around lunchtime and we ate at Lyons in Sector 17. After that I insisted that we go see the Rock Garden. This is one of the city's claims to fame. The garden, designed by Nek Chand, is an example of how beauty can be created from waste. Some of the items were creative. But to see tens of thousands of the same... can get a little boring and repetitive. Also, the place was meant for children and they shouldn't have allowed adults in. The entry doors are about 4 feet in height, and extremely narrow. I hit my head at least 3 times. The place is also filthy and no one has bothered to clean the place. The city on the outside is so pretty, but inside, the picture is very different. Later that evening, we drove to Ludhiana.

My friend's family could easily qualify for the host of the year award of there ever was one. We were treated to sumptuous traditional Punjabi fare... nothing like the stuff you get in restaurants. All of us talked late into the night and my friend's niece kept us great company.

The next afternoon, we left for Amritsar. I had always wanted to see the Golden Temple and this was a great opportunity. To be able to visit it with my friend! The city of Amritsar reminded me of Agra. Filthy, crowded and polluted. But the temple complex is very beautiful. The restrooms provided are cleaner than most, if not all, airport restrooms that I have seen so far.
Nothing prepares you for the beauty that hits you when you enter the complex. Spotlessly clean, calm and serene, the complex complements the temple beautifully. I just kept staring and staring at the colourful work on the gold, the lovely marble inlay and the murals within the temple. This is not what's in the pictures, this is for real. I had to tell myself that. A meal of amritsari kulcha and chhole outside the temple comples prepared us for the drive back. And the next day S and I drove back to Gurgaon. From among the list of "Places to See", I had finally ticked one off.


The sweltering heat had me wondering what I would do at home on a holiday... inside the house with no AC or cooler. Varun must have heard my silent crib and he sent down some rains. The weather's lovely. The heat's come down considerably and I'm enjoying it. It's just that today had to be the day when I'm home and S is at work.
The perfect weather for chai and pakodas. Or a drive... or just about a million things.