Why you should never try panipuri in Bengaluru

When you are in the southern parts of India on a mini-vacation, do not experiment with your taste buds by feeding on quintessentially North Indian cuisine. “What on earth is this? I had placed an order for panipuri for heavens sake, please get this changed… someone”, panicked a little voice inside my head, half hoping that the guy was sincerely mistaken. Sadly, he wasn’t.

This was the famous Bengaluru panipuri served without any pani, as I realised to my absolute horror one evening in Bengaluru. Only partially puffed because someone was in a hurry, the puris stuffed with boiled green peas were accompanied by some lentil curry instead along with a cup of some strange liquid concoction. The thing not only was overpriced at Rs. 17 but it also caused a permanent damage to my taste buds. Welcome to Bengaluru panipuri!

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Image courtesy: Wikipedia

Panipuris, also called lovingly as puchkas or golgappas in the eastern parts of India are pure heaven to the discerning foodie. A burst of gustatory delight when puris stuffed with a mixture of mashed potatoes, raw onions, boiled moong dal, boondi, curd and what have you are washed down with the juices of tangy tamarinds blended with some hot spices and salt. In one word, it’s ‘awesomelicious’. You have to pop one to experience the burst of flavours in your mouth. But, not in Bengaluru, I warn you!

Every state of India has its own version but these are prepared within the rules of the divine recipe. But, some Bengaluru hooligans have broken these to serve you corrupted versions in your naive exploration of authentic panipuris in the southern city. For sake of the babus, please understand that curries are not part of snacks; curries are meant to be had with rice! These guys cannot and should not mess up with the recipe, else they should be punished with a lifetime ban on their eatery and be force-fed that gooey thing all their life. And that’s fair enough.

For starters, the puri has to be super puffed mind you. Oval, flat puris are not meant to be put into the mouth; they are best used as flying discs. And please, don’t make mini-UFOs out of them. The mixture however can vary but strictly between potatoes, chickpeas, moong dal and other edible stuff. You are allowed to use salt, jaggery, black salt, spices, as per your taste preferences and not ingredients meant for a full meal. Remember panipuri is an easy snack meant to be light on your tummy while lightening up your senses.

Having learnt survivals skills in Mumbai, I was no stranger to the variety of panipuris lining the streets of this hungry city. Sometimes the puris were stuffed with a mixture of only mashed potatoes but at times the potatoes found company of moong dal and boondi as well. The pani is sometimes made with mint leaves if not tamarind. But, not even once did I come across a lentil curry-puri; the South Indian eateries in Mumbai would also hang their head in shame.

In fact, another friend was horrified to see curry leaves floating in his pani in another part of Bengaluru!

Of gardening lessons and life…

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We had almost given up on this one and even tried consulting the nursery we bought this from. “Only shade, no watering every day,” an experienced advice came our way. We did that but no luck. The poor beauty was dying away and that was sad news for another reason too.

I had bought this red beauty on our second marriage anniversary this May; I wanted something that would mark the miraculous milestone. Me and the Mister had survived two years of marriage or lets just say we had tolerated each other successfully for 730 days! Now that was something, wasn’t it?  So, I went to the neighboring nursery in the peak summer heat, with the intention to buy a marigold plant.

You see marigolds are bright, cheerful and resembling the sun; these flowers can really brighten up your day. In fact, a little search on the internet tells me – Marigolds are known as the “Herb of the Sun” and are symbolic of passion and creativity. The Welsh believed that if marigolds were not open early in the morning, then a storm was on the way. Marigolds have been used as love charms and incorporated into wedding garlands. Yes, we had many marigolds adorn our wedding garlands two years back. In fact, marigolds also dominated our wedding ‘mandap‘ decorations with an assortment of other flowers including red roses. So, it was these culprit marigolds that saved us, but let me not digress.

I visited the nursery dreaming of the bright saffron marigolds that would soon grace my balcony garden and brighten up our life. But, my eyes fell on these red blossoms instead. A little shrub with many branches that ended up with a flaming red flower each. It was love at first sight. Then I examined the flowers quite closely and was delighted to find the velvety texture. I touched the petals to confirm. Yes, they were soft and velvety to the core and I was now truly, madly, deeply in love. I bought it in a jiffy.

A week passed by and the flaming red flowers stayed on. Another week passed by and the new buds began to harden instead of opening up; the existing flowers shriveled slowly and then fell off eventually. I got it diagnosed by the nursery guy – he may be semi-literate but he knows his plants in and out. ‘Only shade, no watering every day,’ he said with an all-knowing smile. He even taught me the ‘finger-test’ where one presses the index finger against the soil to judge its moisture level. Then there was a practical training session where I had to press the soil in the various pots at the nursery, while he explained the significance of moisture in each of the plant’s life.

However, two weeks later the plant was all leaves, barely resembling its former glory and the sad part was that some of the branches had paled at the bottom. My love was dying and I stood watching helplessly. The finger test had failed. I tried changing places so that the sun does not catch it, but in vain. Finally, I surrendered to the almighty, in an almost hopeless situation.

A miracle happened…and it happened in the form of rain!

The first drops of rains coincided with the beginning of the new month on the 1st of June. Monsoons had banished the sun and the weather was a pleasant cool. My love started breathing again – quite literally. A few days later the leaves and branches grew with renewed vigor. Next came the buds and this time they blossomed. The soft, red, velvety petals are a delight to experience. And, if you look closely, you can actually feel them talking to you.

Nature teaches you so much about life and the spiritual pillars on which it stands. Man cannot heal everything, no matter however scientific his methods may be. Nature knows what each of her beings need, indeed!

Things only a mother can teach

mother and daughter

Every morning I wake up to a sudden rush of consciousness and take a good amount of time to configure myself to reality. A reality that I am now married and do not have the privilege to be awakened lovingly by my mother. Or to be near her. “Wake up, kitty,” she would coo softly at first before picking me up in her arms till about I was nine years old. She also fed me with her hands till I was ten; I wouldn’t eat otherwise!

Today is Mother’s Day, a day when mothers over the world would be serenaded for their infinite love. I am taking the effort to remember everything she did for me as a daughter and which I took for granted. Perhaps, this is an escape route for my guilty conscience but strangely she has never expected me to be grateful. Today we will talk on the telephone as is usual on weekends and share about everyday woes regarding house chores. And we will argue again that I am not taking required care of my health along with work and family.

Anyway, let me share some incidents I remember. One day while we kids were playing in the society grounds, a brilliant idea struck us. We decided to climb a very gigantic and old tree and spend the day there. It was our summer holidays and adventure was all we had on our little minds. But, most mothers got a whiff of our plans and found it too risky for our inexperienced little limbs. Except for my mother –

Mum said it’s a genius idea, that we would always cherish its memories, only this tree is too big for us. We were all under three to four feet in height and the first branch of that tree was at least at three times our height. We searched for younger trees in the grounds but found nothing suitable for us. Finally, we climbed a water tank and stayed there with some tiffin boxes and water bottles with us. A little less adventurous than a day on a tree but fun nevertheless!

Many years later I realised the importance of what mum had taught me that day and indeed these are very practical words of advice to a growing up daughter!

Do not fear to take risks but also calculate before you do that, so that you know what is at stake.

Another memorable incident was when the first showers of rain had hit Mumbai bringing on the severe monsoons when I was in senior college. The day had just started with a pleasant cool weather that belied the hot summer just exiting around the corner. And then it began pouring large coin-sized drops of rain. Thick grey clouds formed a sheet around the sky hiding the sun behind them. There were intermittent bouts of lightning followed by thunder, with a heavy shower of rain just falling nonstop.

The academic year had not yet begun and I began to dread the thought of heavy rains, flooded roads, painfully slow traffic and all the muck through which I will have to wade through to college. In my mind I’ve always maintained Mumbai to be the worst city during monsoons and always wished to get out of there. Moreover, a patch of road between my home and college would get severely flooded even with half a day of nonstop rain. But, very soon all of that changed for me.

Mum said, “Let’s go to the terrace”. “What!” I exclaimed and she managed to drag me along up three floors to our building terrace. There she and I got wet in the rains, holding hands at first and then letting go to enjoy pure bliss on our one. I was reluctant at first and also began to shiver but then the magic of rain drops on my skin had worked. It was the most beautiful experience I had ever had.

Feeling drops of rain falling free from the sky right onto your skin is the most enriching shower one can get. It cleanses your soul most of all. Rain was fun and Mumbai became tolerable. This piece of learning has served me quite well over the years, where I look at Mumbai rains as a metaphor for life’s challenges.

No matter how many hurdles are there on your path, you need to accept them, enjoy them so that you can learn something from them.

There are many more stories that have spotted my entire life like pearls of wisdom. Yet mum never takes credit for all that. She believes it to be her duty to shape up her children’s character, make them strong from within, just like all mothers do. The next time I talk to her, I’ll not argue when she says I’m not taking care of myself. Instead, I’ll take care of myself, as that is the only gift I can give her.

Yes, God could not be everywhere, and therefore he made mothers!

Image source: Carla’s Sculptures

The laughing club lessons and more

Every morning I’m awakened by an orchestra of sorts – a myriad of laughter sounds in various sizes and shapes emanating from the neighbouring ground. When we shifted home in the middle of this year, all we were in search of was a place with a good broadband connection. But, as luck would have it, we were blessed with much more.

I love the lush greens surrounding my compound walls and the colourful birds nestled amongst the branches. I love the hollering boys playing cricket in the grounds, while a few serious ones practise their yogasanas in the shade. I love the karate class kids too, especially the really little girls and boys. But, what I love most about the ground is the lessons I have learnt just by observing the laughing club members.

This group mainly consists of bright senior citizens – the politically correct term for elderly people – with a sex ratio of 1:1 and I find them really adorable. These guys start coming one by one to the ground beginning 6 am. Only when the entire group is present do they start and that happens in half an hour around 6:30 am.

Members of the Gateway to India Laughter Club in Mumbai

They quickly assemble in a circle with women and men forming half the circumference each. After the initial introductions and the calling out of consequent numbers by each member, the motley group is all energised for a session of laughter and joy.

The session begins slowly with soft giggles and then catches pace with a laughter barakhadi (ha-haa-he-hee-hu-huu-hey-heey-ho-hoo-houu-humm-hahahahaha) followed by bouts of weird body movements and sounds. Sometimes, they scare each other with a simple ‘boo’ or sometimes its a little startling roar by sticking their tongues out. Its adorable to watch the old men and women claw the air and play animal-animal. The session that started with frail laughter and gestures, then reaches a crescendo of sorts, to finally end in a full-bodied laughter, by which time the onlookers have also had a laugh or two.

But, it was never a cacophony of laughter. It had rhythm, it had style!

I remember in the beginning during my morning jogs, I was way too embarrassed to be crossing them. There they were, the wise old group laughing away to glory without a care in the world. And here was me with my extra tensed neurons and all, so conscious about my rising weight and striving to burn it out frantically as if that is the cure to all my ills.

Gradually, as the days turned into months, I developed an attachment towards them, so much so that if I did not wake up to their laughter, the day would feel incomplete. Come rain or chill, the group was always out there on the grounds, but it was only me who woke up late and missed them. I saw a month of summer followed by four months of monsoons with heavy showers welcoming the early mornings. Now, it is winter and really chilly. I don’t venture out in the morning; just a little verandah watching suffices me. But, the laughing club goes on!

As I sit beside my work table, adjacent to my large window, trying to concentrate on the smaller things in life, the things outside creep into my thoughts. More precisely from the laughing club. The discipline, the dedication, the sheer energy and will power of the group amazes me. Their approach towards laughter, the motivation they share with each other, the laughter sounds reverberating in the air is all so inspiring, that I’m all charged up and raring to go.

Yes, were it not for laughter, we would all go insane!

Hope

“What is this life if not about agony, despair and sorrow?” cried the young medical intern at the government hospital.

Blood, tears and mutilated bodies dwarfed his vision as the uninvited tremors had uprooted thousands. His young blood, infuriated.

“No, it isn’t…”, stated the nurse, ‘…the lady in bed 8 has just delivered a baby!”

Tagged – A Photo Story!

He was frail now, as frail as the grass underneath the bench. He knew his fingers had started shaking again. He joined them tight across his folded knees and began to wonder, “How long?” He was tired and this evening that he sat on the park bench symbolised the evening of his life too. He longed for the night – the night of his life.

Every little wish of a child cannot be fulfilled for want of a slightly higher need and bread was indeed necessary than an admission to kindergarten. So, Anna being the eldest took to the family profession of tailoring. He did the measuring and the sizing with precision but one hardly ever saw a ‘measuring tape or scale’ in his shop. Years passed by, Anna grew up, the only tailor in town to sew the best for the best though he was un-lettered. His siblings were posted in government agencies by virtue of their literacy. So, Anna brought the family a notch above. Bread is good but not better than school.

But, little Anna had a wish – he wanted to go to school, he wanted to read, write and sing just like the children at the nearby school. The wish died as he had grown up. Learning the letters seemed unnecessary and he could fend for himself and his siblings. He improved with every suit and sometimes was even amazed with the precision perfect cutting! Still, he just couldn’t feel the calm – the kind of calm that comes to a man who has found his calling in life. He felt like a light-house keeper, the old man who does his duty, watching endless horizons of black, blue or green and sometimes with the sun playing along, he would be treated to reds, golden yellows and vermillion. Days merged into nights and the horizon would disappear, but the light house never failed to guide the ships that roamed the nights.

Who takes care of the light-house keeper? Well, alcohol did for Anna. He took to drinking like a baby turtle to the sea. He drowned in its many flavors but was awake somehow at the sewing machine. Days merged into nights and slowly into years…Anna had made a name, Anna was the very symbol of sacrifice and hardwork. But, one day he coughed and coughed and spewed out blood – his liver gave way.

His nieces take care of him now; they teach him the alphabets but he cannot seem to have any control on his shaky fingers. He can read and sing but he still longs to write…

Moral: Nature has its own way and takes its own sweet time in fulfiling our desires. Be patient and trust in the forces. There is always an “and it happened” moment some time.

P.S: This is my feeble attempt at meaningful fiction. I am thankful to Kanagu for tagging me with this wonderful idea. I tag all my blogger buddies and request you to weave a story around any photo in your pics folder. Sorry Kanagu, I relaxed the rules a bit. By the way, this was the last photo in my favorite photos folder and it was the fifth!

What every woman must know…

OK! I’m no expert nor am I doing any research on what women must know, have or do to be happy. This is just my collective experience as a human and especially as a woman to be happy in these stressful and fast times. And of course, it is not only for women readers, men too can take a cue to understand women better and hopefully keep their wives, mothers, sisters and above all girlfriends happy! Firstly, we are also Homo sapiens just like men and not any lesser in any way other than a few curves here and there and the obvious absence of excessive body hair. We cry when we are happy too – we are wired that way. We give birth to men and nourish them with our blood and that too joyfully. Just for that, we need respect and a sense of awareness of who we really are. Sadly, men don’t want to accept our strength and so deem that we are from ‘Venus’!

Here are a few things I can recollect and I’m sure you guys have more.

1) A Smile – Every woman needs to keep a smile in her heart always which will reflect on her face. The smile makes us feel good about ourselves and enhances our appeal. It is not easy to keep smiling in our hearts if our hearts are injured so the next tips are about how to have a ‘happy’ heart!

2) Forgiveness – Again, this is the first thing we need to know – our hearts should be filled with only love and not hatred. A ‘love-filled’ heart is a ‘happy’ heart! Forgive men for they know not what they do – should be our motto!

3) A girlfriend – A close friend from ‘Venus’ is the sure shot way to a healthy heart. She should be ready to meet you even in her pajamas and oil champi, if need be. Both of you can serve each other better than empty walls and beds.

4) A friend from ‘Mars’! – A close male friend with whom we are not romantically involved is a wonderful experience. We not only understand ourselves better but also our ‘male’ partners better too. No more ending up with fights related to conversations about our dream vacation while our partners would be dreaming about watching the FIFA cup live! That’s just how they are wired –So we refer to them as ‘Martians’!

5) Shopping – Whoever coined the term ‘Retail therapy’ must be The Goddess herself! Shopping helps us heal anytime and especially after a break-up. Anyways, most of us lose so much weight in grieving that we need a whole new wardrobe!

6) A cute teddy bear – This one I need not explain, one must experience a close friend in a teddy – he never abandons you, loves you just the way you are – un-waxed, un-threaded, a little moustache, a little stubble whatever – you are always his princess!

7) A bar of chocolate – Need any explanation here? Its not ‘diamonds’ but ‘chocolates’ that are a woman’s best friend. Every woman should carry a bar of chocolate on her at all times and especially during that time of the month.

8) Surprise gifts – Every woman should gift sweet surprises just like that – like a warm hug, a charm, a trinket, a junk ear ring, a musical box, a little singing birdie, a gift coupon, a fresh perfume, the latest lip gloss, whatever…it may not be expensive but it should be thoughtful. What goes around comes around, so ladies, be ready to receive all this in much more abundance!

9) A good book – Every woman needs to curl up with a good book. Knowledge is the only way towards empowerment and happiness. Do collect and keep a small shelf beside your dressing table and make sure that you share them with your women friends. Have at least one book of poems or quotes and one book by a woman author – they write really well!

10) A healthy bank balance – This is an area we are scared to tread but trust me we need to be financially independent no matter who we are – who’s daughter, who’s wife, who’s sister – everything is about our sense of achievement by what we earn. It really brings in a whole sense of being and gives us our freedom of self-expression like nothing else does.

11) An interesting wardrobe– Have a nice set of clothes, jewelry, cosmetics, shoes and bags all bought with the help of that close girlfriend. Accept her opinion if something you love looks horrible on you in her eyes.

12) A ‘No’ – The power to say a ‘no’ when you mean a ‘no’ is the first sign of empowerment. Do not do anything if you are not comfortable with it. Learn to say a ‘no’ even if it hurts somebody’s sentiments. We cannot please everybody. We are not super-beings.

13) Forget numbers – Yes, every woman should forget stupid numbers like her age, weight, hairfall rate, etc. These have nothing to do with a ‘happy’ heart rather if she worries with these numbers, she will only end up with high blood pressure! I gave up on my weight gain program:)

14) A little exercise regime – Every women needs to spend some time on her muscles, bones, blood circulation, etc. Even walking for half an hour adds oodles of happiness to your heart. So, ladies, go take a walk!

15) Eat whenever your hungry – This is the best thing towards a happy tummy and thus a happy heart. Trust me, our body needs food only when we are hungry or rather we feel hungry since our body needs food. Everything else like diet etc. is all humbug – bakwas…so go on attack and eat whatever!

I.P.S. (Interesting post script) : I could go on and on but these are and will be the most important ones I have experienced. Sorry about the long post but I almost feel like it’s ‘Woman’s Day’ today!! Don’t forget to share your ‘happy’ heart tips too!
Have a ‘Happy’ heart guys!

Lessons learnt in the year gone by…

1) Never be obsessed with your name; it’s just a dead asset which never appreciates or depreciates in value no matter how beautiful your name is! The final judgment is not based on your name; rather it’s what you have achieved to live up to it.


2) A friend forever in need is a foe indeed! In fact, a foe can be dealt with but these – they can be classified rather as ‘parasitic organisms’ that believe in living off the sweet nectar prepared by some busy bees like you while they go fluttering awhile. You the busy bee wouldn’t even know what’s been eating you from within!


3) Never trust a woman’s tears; chances are that you would take an altogether dangerous path in the process of wiping them away – a path which no man has dared to ever take in an otherwise tranquil state of mind, and then realize that the path is a one way and her tears: the perpetual waterworks gifted to her as an organ of offence and defense.


4) Sympathy is the most inhuman emotion; not even for your enemy should you show any sympathy. Every one of us wants a fair fight, a fair strife, a fair share – no matter which side we are on…even the physically challenged! Never confuse sympathy towards a friend as ‘love’: it is everything but love which springs from respect and acknowledgement of man’s true potential.


5) Look at the donkey seriously. It carries burden without any appreciation or expectation of concern ever, moreover it never complains, though tired and moves on in the present state as if there is no tomorrow. Next time, be grateful if someone calls you an ‘ass’ and direct them to this post!


6) Forgiveness is difficult but the only path to freedom, agreed! So, always start forgiveness as a ‘down payment’ followed by monthly installments. This attitude to ‘forgive’ always works than trying to forgive all at once, which more often leaves open scars. Who knows, in the process…one day forgiveness might come as a natural response to hurt!


7) Learn respect for duty as a higher form of love from the trees. Trees will live only silently; do their duty without a sigh – never heard of a tree that stopped giving sweet fruits since some insane human cut its branches or cut it off altogether. The tree is wise enough to gift its wood for our shelter as if its fruits are not sufficient reciprocal to mankind’s barter.


8) Kidnapping a child is not always bad. A child when it is a prostitute’s one especially should be kidnapped and gifted to ‘childless’ couples. There is no other ‘shameful’ childhood than being a whore’s kid even malnutrition and nakedness can be outgrown but the shame associated with such roots always leads to ‘dis-associated’ adults.


9) I will fail at first, maybe second, maybe many more times; but same was the case with Einstein, Newton and other ‘normal’ geniuses. Every idea or thought has its purpose already defined before originating. A time will come when that idea or thought has fulfilled its purpose; in whose action has it fulfilled its purpose is nobody’s matter. So carry on, be humble. I am just a vehicle.


10) Never take a loan. Being in debt is akin to donating your spine to the devil, neither the devil wants to return it nor will it be returned in all its glory. The only loan we have to accept and continue to repay is that of our Mother’s womb, no amount however large is sufficient enough to tilt the balance in our favor!


11) All energy or matter that forms our beautiful world listens. If I have got pain, it is because I asked for it. Now on, I will ask only for happiness and cease my analysis and judgments for once. God is our loving father indeed!


12) Rub my slate clean. Start afresh. Even a scribble here and there and I will never set out to do whatever I originally intended. So, wishing you all a Fresh New Year!