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I was never good at making sketches as a kid. I was even worse at coloring them. The colors would never stay within the bounds of the outline, would always mix in undesirable ways, and would simply never obey my command.

As I grew older, I realized that life is a canvas, not a blank one though, but outlined by various economic, social, political and other constraints. And this sketch can be colored in many different ways. So why not start coloring this mosaic with the colorful plate of vegetable mixed rice (aka namkeen chawal).

P.S.: Just discovered that cooking ‘real’ food can be a good way to color the relatively bland and monotonous last few months of a graduate student. You won’t be annoyed by a few pictures cropping up on your timeline every now and then, would you? 🙂

On the Dutch Dining Table


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A spoon, a fork and a knife; and a large chunk of chicken leg piece on the plate. And just besides that, a person utterly confused about what to do with the silverware. Never ever in his wildest of dreams had he imagined that one could use any of those to eat chicken. Why can’t I eat with with my bare hands? What’s more? A bowl of red chili powder on the table and the person not pouring it all into his food just for the sake of humility. Why? Because the person besides the table is an Indian (that’s me) and as per his standards that chili powder isn’t hot at all. Really… Believe me, I added 4-5 teaspoons of it in my food and the the taste didn’t change at all.

Enjoy!”, said the Dutch friend sitting opposite to me. “Enjoy!”, I reciprocated. “So, how do you say ‘Enjoy’ in…”, the Dutch paused and pondered for a couple of seconds and continued “’Enjoy!’ in INDIAN?”. I corrected, “You mean Hindi?”. “Oh ya… ya… in Hindi”, he smiled. This seemed to be a trivial question for my friend to ask but it was one of the most difficult questions ever asked. “Do we ever say such a thing in Hindi?”, I thought. But in a desperate search of answers gave it my best try, “Shuru kiya jaaye…”. “Shu-ru khi-yaa jhaa-ye?”. “Yup! That’s right”, I smiled. Now my Indian friends may suggest the possible better versions of the response, but you would have to admit; given the fraction of second I had, that was a good try.

I spent about two months in Netherlands and realised one thing for sure. If I ever get an opportunity to teach them something, I would definitely go for cooking. Whenever I added a ‘chhaunk’ to daal (pulses) in the kitchen out there it was the most amazing thing they had ever seen in life. The shrilling noise of the process and the aromatic fumes which which brings smiles to the faces of us Indians, brought tears in their eyes and concern on their faces. “That thing which you did there… Isn’t that hazardous?” “Nope! We do it all the time”. I tried to be convincing and reassuring but still the expressions on the faces could almost be heard out loud, “I am telling you dude! You will kill us someday.”

My visit to Netherlands made me realise one undeniable fact. We live in one of the most ‘complicated’ countries of the world… A large, weird, diverse, colourful, confused and complicated country. The look on the face of the people around you when come to know of the population of the cities… when they come to know that we have 18 official languages, hundreds of dialects and still no national language… when they come to know that it takes almost 3 days to cross the country… THAT expression on their faces makes us truly realise the great identity of the nation we live in… It gives you the true feeling of being an Indian… A feeling which we generally overlook.

I realised for the first time that we live in a ‘diamond’ shaped country. A country with the largest populations of followers of (at least) 5 different religions, with almost all possible geographical terrains and probably the most number of festivals. No surprises that we live in a diamond shaped country… No surprise we live in India.

P.S. –

1. The meal which I was talking about earlier… I took 2 hours to eat the meal. And then I realised the true meaning of the saying, “Apnaa haath Jagannath” 😛

2. I also realised how complicated our mythology is. An interested friend asked me to explain the gist of the story Bhagwad Gita… And I had a tough time explaining why we worship a man who persuaded his friend to go for war against his own kin. After all the gods are supposed to be peace loving. Isn’t it?

Vijayadashami… Festival, Mythology and Musings


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With her divine presence spread throughout, she fades away to nothingness… Only to return once again

 

Days of celebrations are over as the days of wait begin. A-midst the rhythmic  beats of the drum we bid adieu to mother with her promise to return again next year.

 

And in these moments where tears awkwardly merge into joy, the mind switches to the thinking mode and tries to look beyond the stories… and asks, “What is the essence of the celebration?”. For those who are unaware of the story, here is what the Hindu mythology has to say about the festival (in brief)…

 

Once upon a time, there was a demon or ‘asura’ named Mahishasura (The demon who could change into buffalo) who aspired to capture the all the worlds and rule them via unjust means. To accomplish his task, Mahishasura meditated and pleased Lord Brahma (the creator). As a boon he got the assurance that he won’t be killed by a man. Overjoyed with the boon, he fights and conquers the heavens and the earth. Commotion is created across the universe. On seeing this dangerous situation, the supreme gods: Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver and Shiva the destroyer combine all their powers to give rise to Durga, a female warrior. She is depicted with 10 arms, adorned with numerous weapons gifted by various gods. The creation of Durga is marked by Mahalaya (the first day of the 10 day festival). Subsequently after 10 days of fierce battle, Durga kills Mahishasura and perishes his army. The 10th day is celebrated as the day of victory called Vijayadashami.

 

Overall, it is the same old story of victory of good over evil, but the subtleties are worth pondering upon. One of the highlighting features of the story is the depiction of woman in her powerful, ruthless form. The same woman who is seen as peaceful, loving and caring in motherly forms like Parvati, Saraswati or Ganga is depicted in a devastating form here. So if time arises, women can perform acts of courage and bravery which are even beyond the reach of men.

Some other points that catch my attention include the meditation and boon of Mahishasura. The creator gave the boon to Mahishasur knowing its potential misuse in future. This in my viewpoint shows the concept that regardless of who you are, efforts always yield the fruits. Anyone who is dedicated to his work, gets his reward – be it a saint or a demon.

There is also a point of unification of powers. Durga was created by the combined powers of the trinity. To me it signifies the importance and necessity of unity of good to combat evil.

It may be very well possible that there was never any Mahishasur or Durga in the real world. But this story would always be a source of motivation and inspiration to millions. The story, which may seem rudimentary at first glance has simple yet deep interpretations hidden within…

Anyways, this festival has much more to do with culture than religion. This is an excuse for thorough cleaning of the household; new clothes; fabulous food; creativity in designing of idol, pandals, rhythms and… overall the environment. There has to be a something in this grand festival that so many eyes await her arrival, so many hearts celebrate her stay, and so many eyes moisten as she departs… There has be a reason so many poets write in her praise and so many musicians sing in her awe.

Shubho Bijaya to all… Celebrate the victory… Spread the joy 🙂

Restaurants and Food at Ahmadabad


The four layered Mocktail

Clicks of Some Mouth-Watering Delicacies…At Ahmedabad

Panner Tikka Masala
Another Delicacy: The Name Betrayed my memory
The all time favorite: Tandoori Chicken

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