Monday, April 30, 2012

Mirror Miiror On The Wall...

Of late she has turned reticent this best buddy sister of mine. Gone are her anecdotes which overflowed with humor in real life. Devoid of her joie de vivre and bereft of her best mimicry i am often tearing my hair in despair in trying to fathom if it was something i have said or done to trigger this loneliness and sadness that seems to emanate from both ends now. My loneliness getting deeper we both seem to be wallowing in a common disposition which sees us in a quiet and serene surrounding far far away from humanity.

i am at the moment on a pepping myself spree. Instilling hope in me that maybe it's yet another phase which like other phases should pass and so i am holding on to her last one. Her last anecdote i mean. And although i laughed at what she said i did not hear even a dry ha from her. She just narrated what she was seeing and as if my laughter would elicit some from her i laughed the cheating laugh like those we often hear in the background of the many sorry comedy sit coms.

i am holding on to her last one for other reasons too. The most important being the thought that how easy it is to laugh at others. Obviously this only happened after i had had my fill of laughing at her neighbor's expense. i looked around me and saw that my attempt to do certain things of my own looked silly and funny too. Not that i am prone to doing silly things but this endeavor is a testimony of the bubbling creative Indian in me who just like many of her kind is trying a cost effective way to solve issues.
We also have a very Indian word to it which is called JUGAAD.

While many jugaad concepts get applauded as innovations or have the potentials of pioneering well designed and neatly executed easy to use equipments some elicit humor and laughter and can also provide food for light hearted tea-time conversations. One can go on discussing the feasibility and purpose and also analyze the IQ of the innovator.

i start my week by trying to put myself at ease. i want to laugh at myself first.
Although i was pretty serious at what i was doing i realize now as  i look at it that my own jugaad looks not only crude but quite funny.
And all my attempts of reinforcements to make it look less precarious makes the entire look not only rudimentary but even funnier.

But the one that can be awarded the first prize among the worst is...The Cage
There are no avian or rodents in this cage but...
Caged , packed  and partially fenced too...

Now as the corner of my lips twitch at all my jugaad i feel some ease in presenting that which my taciturn nowadays sis had provided me with. At this juncture it is inconsequential to discuss the why's of all this frugal engineering. What i want to test is whether it is easier to laugh at others. Deeply influenced by what i have just read

Presenting...through pictures... the story of The Caged Amrapali...

i will be dishonest if i say i have not laughed at this. And i am not surprised either that i did because it is so easy to laugh at what others do. Ignoring the fact that improvisation was the key issue it was so easy to fall prey to appearance. The essence however being the same in this and mine which is to protect. So is it the appearance versus essence that seems to be the culprit here or is it what has been my central thought?

i am unable to point out any single incident that has driven me to ponder about this at the start of the week but am certain about my own feelings on being ridiculed. i am affected most when anyone ridicules me on my efforts. i feel bitter and seek isolation. But i am blessed with a lot of resilience too.

This resilience also comes to me from borrowed sources. The words of wisdom from seers and saints, poets and writers, friends and relatives and now with the help of technology from various other known and lesser known in the world wide web. These words that heal the wounded self esteem, remind the self of the do unto others as you would have others do unto you and last but not the least prevent the boils from turning into tumors. Call these boils as disgust, frustration, irritation, bitterness... 

Another day with a new beginning i should be raring to go undeterred with what anyone has to say about my looking forward to projects.
And as i go about my endeavors to make my babies (plants) April-May storm resistant i will remember the efforts of my sister's neighbor with more kindness.
Sure i'm humming " Tell me mirror mirror on the wall..."


Jugaad: "... grassroots innovation to overcome any constraint".
Amrapali: Sharing the nomenclature with the royal courtesan of ancient India this variety of mango is as charming. The tree looks graceful and the fruit when ripe has an amazing aroma, is rich in it's color and tastes heavenly.

                                 Amrapali Mango

Amrapali Mango
This hybrid is from a cross of Dashehari and Neelum. It is dwarf, regular bearing and late maturing variety. The variety is suitable for high density planting as about 1600 plants may be planted in a hectare. It yields on an average of 16 tonnes/ hectare.
Dashehari and Neelum are names of popular varieties of mango both having their own unique tastes.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Optimism an essential pre-requisite for Some Gourmandism

This looked perfect for lunching with a stomach which still battled with the undigested remnants of a large buffet breakfast.
Trust me!
If i could experience nirvana of the gastronomical kind with that ' No Vacancy' stomach of mine so can you. Go for it blindfolded any day you encounter the same dilemma.
Conditions apply * you have to be an optimistic meat eater.

Well let me confess that this delectable plate took a nice twenty minutes for me to convince the over enthusiastic searching- not- only- for- the- delectable- but- also- the- exotic palate of mine. It was not easy for me to make the selection because whatever the board proclaimed the eager and enthusiastic- for- new palate wanted to try them all.
It should not be difficult to visualize how the no.1,5,6 and 8 mentioned in the list of the a la Carte would've kept me on my tenterhooks till i had sampled my not so hungry mouth the first morsel out of my own chosen one.

Great adventurous palate yes! but how can i deny that in any eatery/joint i am the most fidgety customer who bothers and confuses the waiter/waiters many times because she is mostly attracted by what others are eating. No wonder then the overexcited, " What was THAT which was served on the neighboring table?!" also" What is THIS brilliantly colored platter that the waiter is carrying!?..."
Finally, Oh God! i want to eat this and that but wait a minute i had come to try the speciality...

So now to dispel the suspense surrounding that tempting looking plate- 
What i had ordered was Tandoori Trout with green chutney. The entire made a wholesome but light lunch served along with deliciously flavored with herbs and not very crisp but just perfectly toasted garlic bread slice and the most unique and scrumptious salad i've ever tasted. 
As for the drink, it was a cocktail called Margherita ( this one with some vodka as there was another option with gin too).
i am dying to talk about the salad and the greens that it had. i loved the nutty but smoky taste of that green. It was nothing like i had ever seen before what to talk of tasting. So i asked the gentleman in black who stood at our table about the new to me delicately aromatic leaves. He enlightened me with a rare spontaneity coupled with a warm and friendly smile not only about the green in the salad but also about other interesting aspects of the cafe as well including the fact that if i wanted to meet Deepika Padukone and Ranbir Kapoor (Bollywood Actors) in person then i should try and make it during dinnertime when apart from the celebrities who dine there i can really enjoy a delicious hearty meal sitting by the log fire in the garden terrace.

ROCCOLA that's what Pawan (gentleman in black) told me the name was. That herb in the salad. i still have to find out the vernacular for it. It is quite possible that just like celery or lemongrass, Roccola may not have any vernacular at all.
Although one look at it and you get to feel that it is celery but according to me this looked darker, wider, crunchier and tasted distinctly better than celery .

While i thoroughly enjoyed the Tandoori Trout with green chutney, garlic bread, salad and Margherita i had ignored another interesting, cute, aesthetic and very functional aspect on the table. The designing of which expanded my admiration range further. My admiration after tasting this and seen that now encompassed not only the cafe with a nice garden, a  pretty patio and great food but also the people who owned and managed the place. i was admiring their choice on cutlery and other sundry items that makes fine dining comfortable unlike the high-end restaurants where the dim lights and the primness make me nervous, tense and somewhat not so comfortable. 
i feel slightly less than i've conquered it all with my visit to yet another landmark in Manali, The Johnson's cafe.
i sure do feel great to have visited the famous cafe but the good and nice feeling is of the sort that tempts and seduces you asking for more. For it was not only the fresh river trout or the salad or even the polite service of the staff but that comfortable vibration emanating in the cafe which apparently looked upmarket but surprisingly felt very homely and relaxing. The kind of place which should see you soaking in some serene moments alone reading a book, perhaps sipping coffee/drinks or where you could be with  friends and catch up on everything between good supping and relaxing. If not for any of these then just to admire the carefully designed and spaciously laid out small garden and lawn. Another short tour to Manali soon has to happen for me. This time just to stay at the Johnson's Cafe and savour the delicacies one by one including the Manali Curry Thali. And this next time i shall remember to take a good picture of the beautiful lily version of that amazing flora that prompts me to utter... The Winner Has It All... 
Tucked in the corner of that beautiful green lawn was a solitary Magnolia_liliiflora2 . This one is a borrowed image of what i am absolutely sure of. The corner in the lawn of TJC which shall look even more glorious and radiant than the borrowed picture when i stop by next time.

Funny however but not strange. As i am narrating all this i seem to miss another of my favorite which feels in retrospect like a close cousin of TJC's. This one in Chennai called Amethyst.
Some good soul has to guide me to something like any of these two in Saddi Dilli (Our Delhi). 

Anyways for the time being i am patting my own back for having spent an entire day reading and getting tips from the few travel guides about the place my husband had zeroed down for a short vacation.
For apart from dispelling the doubts created by my own pre-conceived notions the reading also enthused in me an adequate dose of that looking forward to feeling that i seemed to lack erstwhile about the trip.
i have this tendency to create something to look forward to each day. And i may sound like a glutton if i say that one such thing i look forward to each day is FOOD.

Thus Manali happened to me a full circle with TJC. Good food to satisfy the palate and plenty of flora for the eyes to feast on. The latter however also proved to be the healthy and happy food for my soul.

i am blessed with JUST the right amount of optimism in so far as exploration of the palate for the palate and by the palate is concerned and maybe it is this optimism which always rewards me with the best results. i mean i might be sitting with my own group of friends/ relatives and we order our grubs of a varied kind, each ordering what he or she would like for drinking and eating and it always happens that from that wide assortment of fairly new my chance selection turns out to be the best not only for me but for others too.

Wanted to share some more of TJC's food for the soul through pictures...
Just can't help myself. Maybe food for the soul could've formed the subject matter for another post but this thing that i do...this hotch potch is yet another just being me...



Japanese rose (Kerria japonica)

...of Course you could enjoy the artistically landscaped and spread around, the best of the seasonals too. Cineraria, Petunias, Primulas ...common Daisies peeping out of the grass or just from anywhere like pink with a heart of gold mini pompoms....
English daisy/Common daisy
Daisy...cutiepie, appearing randomly
undaunted... next to the luxuriant foliage
of the Plantain lily

Other promises kept aside i have to visit TJC once again to know if my Tandoori Trout with Riccolo garnished salad was great or that other version deserves better praise from my palate. The one for which the cafe is more sought after. The no.8 of that hand written menu- Steamed Trout with Dill and Lemon Sauce. Sure enough i will also remember not to indulge too much in the main course and be prudent enough to pump prime the craving for all those sweet sinful indulgences i missed this time.
So this time let me dream on ...
... Apple crumble pie with custard ... Lemon cake with fresh fruit sauce ... Creme caramel...

Will catch up next time with maybe other dreams that have been duly realized.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Best Firsts

Hello = שלום (Shalom)
Oh it feels great to be back again.
Yeah sure i am alive and kicking and finally life seems easy in that same way it was a few forgotten months ago when i  could go on untiringly and endlessly about my intense feelings and random thoughts.
Also i am getting some revelation of a new kind in which i see myself as empathizing instead of criticizing my gender for being more eager and most keen to take up some office job rather than being an educated and brimming with potentials but lost to the world homemakers. Trust me! i'm beginning to appreciate the choice with more clarity in the brain and genuine kindness in my heart than ever.
i wish i could go on and on about how taxing life is for just a homemaker who is struggling hard to settle down in a new metropolis sans any assistance but i'd rather not because that's not what would give me any bit of pleasure.
i assume that by now if one is familiar with my rantings it should be easy to guess what constitutes my favorite topic for uninterrupted monologues.
That's another thing however how many would be willing to be patient enough to go through these monologues.
i would care less. For this opportunity has presented itself after a long and abrupt hiatus.

Moreover if i stuck to explaining what took me so long then the post would appear even more ridiculous. For one thing it would be a cribbing archive of rantings. Rantings of someone who is more confused than ever.
Confused !?
Even now after i have taken my own sweet time of about one year to settle down with all the amenities and privileges that modern life has to offer in a modern metropolis i am still unable to realize if i am comfortable here or was more comfortable there where i had spent twenty one years of my gradually evolving life.
Ironical indeed!
All the modernity, fast foods, home deliveries, assistance at the press of a button or buttons failed to provide any shortcuts for me.
Anyways i am back and can't tell how this luxury called free ranting time feels. Can't express enough through words how soothing it is to hear the sound of the keyboard once again.

i have just returned from a short vacation too which actually means that life is finally getting back to it's normal but smooth and exciting routine. No more juggling rapid fire chores but the kind where mundane jobs are accomplished with the pace that suits and if and when one holiday provides an extended weekend then a short tour through hills and valleys.
This vacation was another major milestone for not only did it rejuvenate us and provide succor to our bored out of our wits end soul but also that it has a list of firsts to it's credit.

This was the first time when the road tour was wholly planned, designed and executed by my husband and i can't seem to thank him enough.
It was also the first time we actually experienced the joys of being in a hill station which did not bore us with it's usual topography. That of a lake with jejune pedal boating, a botanical garden with varieties galore that leave you in the lurch as the most endearing ones that you choose and bring to the city wither and die a pathetic death for lacking what they need more than just abundant fake promises of keeping them in the shade, a suicide point for the unfortunate who decided to kill himself/herself but a major spot for landscape, honeymoon and last but not the least family photography , a golf course where X Y Z Bollywood film dance sequences/ scenes were/ are shot...

Manali  took us by complete surprise as it supplied us with our first and new list of thrills and chills to talk about for days on. The romantic and picturesque landscape that justifies it as the Switzerland of India  stopped us in our tracks as we laid our sights on the breath taking view of well defined snow capped peaks, the Beas river with it's clear, singing waters as it meandered through the town , the deodar and pine trees and the bonus of the season the sights all around of the fruit orchards in full bloom. Any side we turned, the eyes lingered upon the apple, cherry and pear trees in full bloom. Some virgin white, some pink and still others which had a mix of both pink and white blossoms. The entire tree covered with blooms over which bees and butterflies hovered. The eyes feasted on the beautiful  sights while the heart craved for a permanent lodge here. Enjoy the moment! Don't crib... the moment is now!

Thus onwards we had to try all that we could.
Skiing at Gulaba, Paragliding in the Solang valley and River Rafting in river Beas in the Kullu valley unleased the throttled and bottled kids in the 46 something enthusiastic couple to the extent that a failed attempt first at Zorbing and then not daring to try River Crossing did nothing to dampen their spirits rather left them in fits of laughter at their own ridiculous self which battled with the eternal question ' To Do or Not to Do'. What they lacked in their agility and confidence they made up in their fervor at applauding and congratulating the physically fit and fine young somethings perform the same activities with panache. And btw somethings are best enjoyed if you are a spectator instead of being a participant.
Like this spectacle...
A stunning profusion of purple...with a delicately, jasminely aroma that could elicit reactions of a varied kind.
For me it made me think of the invisible creator and all that i could hear inside me was...Oh God x n number of times.
This was the most incredible first for me of the ever so surprising nature which has endless but amazing firsts to offer. i had never seen anything so beautifully lavender, lilac, mauve, light purple before. i used to think that i have some connection with Jacaranda but i think it's the color i have some unexplained connection with.  Love is... The color makes me forget everything around me. At that time when i was close to this purple veil, this shower of fragrant mauve i felt like bidding goodbye to everything else. Just be there and to mull, reflect, cogitate and find an answer to my connection with the color purple...lavender...mauve.
i may have done a shoddy job at picture shooting but then not only am i a below average shooter but also that the excitement, the joy of that eureka moment was making me more jittery than ever. i kept taking shots after shots as if taking endless pictures would conjure some magic and the creeping tree would creep along with me and be by my side forever filling me with its royal color and fragrance.

For those who are interested kindly tilt your laptop screens away from you and you shall see the amazing hues of the purple i am talking about. Please excuse me for not having made any adjustments to the amount of light that should suit for i confess i am an absolute sifar (zero) at doing all that. Actually i am seriously thinking of joining an amateur photography course and if he finds time enough to go through this post of mine then perhaps now my son should understand why i rejected his generous offer of gifting me an SLR camera.

The blog of mine would be incomplete without giving due credits to the warm, humble and affectionate owners of not only this beautiful woody creeper that adorned the front of their old typically Manali style wooden house but also the owner of another equally beautiful concrete cottage complete with all modern amenities which they have newly constructed and which lay just behind the front wooden cottage. In fact they told me that i was lucky to see the wooden cottage standing for soon it is to be dismantled. My prayer for the time being is that for eternity the fragrant creeper should remain just like the lush mountains of Kasol where i chanced upon what i now presume to be Wisteria. i hope i am not wrong in identifying the fragrant creeper and if i am please help me with the correction Mr Karthik.
Anita Singh with her daughter Punit Kaur

The house belonged to Sardar Iqbal Singh. Although i did not meet him in person yet i consider myself fortunate to have befriended his gracious wife Anita and his two lovely daughters Punit and Amrita. There was an instant bonding of the sort which saw Anita ushering me inside her new home and showing me around. All this while she offered to treat me with some hot snacks and tea. In barely 15 minutes we had exchanged all about each other enough to make us feel like long lost friends. i hope when she visits Delhi  i am able to reciprocate. Punit who has just finished her air hostess training at Frankfinn is engaged to be married soon. i wished her the very best for that exciting new chapter in her life. And while i reluctantly moved towards the waiting cab with my patiently waiting husband i couldn't help but turn back and have just one last look at the beautiful people who had an amazing fragrant Wisteria caparisoning their house. Don't know how or why a sadness too stole it's way inside me. Probably it was that feeling of uncertainty about having another rendezvous with friendly people who suddenly meander into your journey and create memories for you to cherish. Or else it was that sad feeling that stealthily ambushes you when you realize that no matter how effervescent anything might seem at first it is just a matter of time when effervescent turns evanescent.

  The ride back to the hotel was suddenly filled with thoughts of my next door neighbor. Here in Kasol of all the places i meet strangers who are comfortable and eager to share so much with me and back home in my new metropolis my next door neighbor who stays just a few footsteps away can't find time enough to have an unhurried conversation with me. Not to mention that in these past few months she has not obliged me with a single visit even. Although undeterred by the not interested in socializing insinuations i have shamelessly intruded her private cloister quite a number of times and gladly had conversations with her. That's another thing that those conversations always left me in the lurch because they ended abruptly with unfinished chronicles. Empty dialogues the aftermath of  which saw me feeling more apologetic than ever for stealing some moments from that precious busy time of hers.
Now after many failed attempts at bonding i have gifted my screaming for company soul other kinds of involving and intense activities to indulge into. Watching with renewed vigor Dexter on Fox Crime for instance is one. My ever so coming to my rescue son has obliged me by gifting me all the previous seasons that i have missed. OOPS!! need i feel apologetic again to have digressed...
Please excuse me again for the irritating ads which features before and after the report on the Mini Israel- Kasol.

For most tourist this town/village Kasol situated in the Parvati Valley in Manali on route to Manikaran is a must visit site for it being the little Israel of the Himalayas. They can try and decipher the signboards which are in Hebrew. Perhaps even taste the typical Israeli cuisine staring at the beautiful/handsome Israelis. Some who stay in Kasol for months while others who have blended well, married locals and bought properties here. As far as i am concerned Kasol will forever be etched in my heart as that amazing valley where i had my first encounter with all that we as Indians vouch for. That soon to be evanescent glorious tradition called " Atithi Devo Bhava" and my first encounter with the delicately fragrant Wisteria. And i consider myself blessed on all accounts for a loving husband whose decision to take me to Manali in the not so peak season provided me with feasts of all kinds. Visual as well as gastronomical.  And i shall talk about these feasts in my next post. If by any chance my post has once again become exhaustive blame it on Sunny my savior who has arrived finally to gift me generously of that leisure that can only see just a homemaker chattering away to God's glory. Assistance indeed is a boon for some and bane for...(fill in the blanks whichever way you choose)
Till then... 
Good Bye = להתראות (Lehitra'ot)