Sunday, 21 September 2014

The Assamese Lunch

Today after a very long time I decided to write........ 

"To experience new things you have to do things that you have never done before" - This is exactly what I did today. I love food - eating, cooking, reading, watching & writing about it. I came across this post shared by a friend Amrita on facebook.

Assamese food..... got me thinking. I have never even tasted anything Assamese except for the chai. So I decide to give it a try. This lunch was arranged by the secret ingredient - Small Fry Co at Sanctum, Khar West. They had 2 seatings - noon & 2:00 pm. I paid & booked myself a seat for the noon session. 

Sanctum is a store where you can buy stuff for your home & its 1st floor was the venue for our lunch. The best part - sitting on the ground cross legged & and having the lunch :) A long table with people sitting on either side waiting to be served. 

We were 1st served with condiments - Khorisa Achaar & Bhoot Jholakiya.
Khorisa Achaar is Bamboo Shoot pickle, which I liked & Bhoot Jholakiya is the World's most spiciest, hottest chilli & trust me its HOT. Along with this we were also served with a lime slice - Kaji Nimbu. It was by far the largest lime slice I had ever seen. For my taste it was really sour.   

The next was the Lau Khar & Rice. Lau Khar is the dal made with bottle gourd. The dal was mildly spiced & very light. Assamese traditionally have sticky rice but we were served normal rice wrapped in banana leaf. The rice was a little sticky for my taste but the dal-rice combination was perfect.  

As part of the appetiser came Baigana Fry - Almost similar to Baigan Bhaja. With a crispy masala cover & the mushy baigan, it was great with the dal-rice combi. 

As part of the main course we were served - 
Posolo Bhaji - Black Chana with Banana Stems
Rongalau Pat Aru Kothal Guti - Pumpkin Leaves with Jackfruit Seeds
Koldil Aru Til or Pitika - Banana Flower with Black Sesame & Potato Mash

Honestly, I was really surprised by all these veggies. They were really mildly spiced & had flavours that I had never tasted before. My fav amongst the 3 was Posolo Bhaji. As mentioned by the chef of this meal Ms Gitika Saikia, she hardly used any masala's in the meal. It was in just one sabzi she used the panch-poran masala, the rest were their natural flavours. 

The meal was then followed by the Assamese tea with Gud. I skipped the gud & sipped on my hot chai.

Being a vegetarian I cant comment on the non-veg dishes that were served which included a fish & a pork dish. But going by reactions of the non-vegetarians around me, they loved both the fish (Katla) & pork.

This was my 1st experience of going for such a meal - a meal which is not at a restaurant, with people whom I don't know & a cuisine I have never tried. But must say I had a great time - met new people, had an interesting conversation & the mildly spiced, light on your tummy Assamese food.

Go ahead & be part of this meal next time.  

Jaapi - The Farmer's Hat.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Che Ek Ki Local

“Why am I doing this job?? Why am I doing any sort of a job??? Why do I have to wake up this early?? Why do I have to wake up at all??? I wanna sleep…..” every weekday of my life begins with these questions. But again paapi pet ka sawaal…. I plead, beg, cajole myself to get up & start bribing myself to a treat of the awesome samosa pav & chez chili toss(Ramnath’s special cheese chilli toast sandwich, but that’s what he will call it ;-) )I drag myself up, take shower, get ready & leave at 5:45 am so that I get in my shared auto at 5:50 am & reach the station at 6:00 am & I don’t miss my 6:01am train to CST(Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus) earlier known as VT(Victoria Terminus) as the PJ goes one of the biggest sex change operations ever…. (sorry couldn’t control :P)

Have been taking the 6:01am train to CST for the last couple of months to build my career in Radio (what was I thinking???). Like every weekday for the last few months, papa came to drop me till the station to ensure I reach the station on time. Actually he wants to be 100% sure that I get in the train n don’t come back home half way from the station and go back to sleep….. L the 6:01 am train – Cheh Ek as the bambiyaa’s call it, arrives. I get in and go and occupy my seat next to the window. Bella & me wave at papa & the cheh ek leaves the platform. “What darling, kya huaa??? Kal raat main late soya tum??” Bella asks me in her lovely sweet voice. “koi nai, abhi suu jaau, mai tumko masjid pe utha dega” This is all I wanted to hear & I start singing lullaby’s to myself.

Since my 1st day at work, Bella has been waking me up at Masjid station. If it wasn’t for her I would have been fired on my 1st day for reaching late. I got in the train and had slept off…. Bella is one of the sweetest bawi’s (parsi) I have met. She teaches in one of the school’s in Colaba. In her early fifties, she is full of life & her energy levels are always high. Cribbing about the education system is her favorite topic of discussion. And her partner in crime Mrs Das, who travels all the way from Panvel(starting point of the train) with her 3 kids – Shonali, Sudeshna & Shourabh – to take them to school. Shonali is in 9th, Sudeshna in 6th & Shourabh in 3rd. Initially when I started travelling I used to hate Mrs Das for torturing her kids like this… I mean who makes their kids travel almost 1.5 hrs one way at 5:30 in the morning for school???? “Meghaaa, panvel ke isshhcool ka phhees baahut haai, keedhaar she degaa, tabhee to coolaaba jaana podhta hai”. 
Today I couldn’t sleep, very unusual though. I could see Shonali & Sudeshna studying and Shomu i.e. Shourabh sleeping next to his mom. Bella was busy reading her prayers & in the middle of that she questioned me – “ninu nai aaya??”  I smiled and shook my head for a no. Bella’s hindi like most of the parsi’s is a mix of gujarati & hindi which sounds pretty cool.

We had passed Govandi but maushi had not got in the train. Had not seen her for the last few days….   Reaching Kurla the all quite 1st compartment of the 1st ladies becomes nothing less than a battle ground. Women of all shapes and sizes, height, weight, volume, density, religion, cast - screaming at the top of their voice, pushing each other enter the compartment & start the battle of the seat. In this madness in a very shrill voice you will hear manju screaming “mogra, jai, jui, kevda le lo………. Yekdum phressh hai” Looking at manju no one can guess she has such a thin & shrill voice, doesn’t go with her image. Above average height, strong built, dark complexion, tamilian lady draped in a saree looking fresh as her flowers. “maushi nai aai aaj bhi??” she asks me & I shake my end & say no. The battle for the seat is over, few have won themselves the wonderful 3rd seat, some have managed to get hold of the 4th seat (on which majority of the women can just manage to balance only part their bum) & the rest stand swearing at the winners of the battle for the seat (in their minds ofcourse ;-))

There are some unwritten rules in the Che Ek – all women to finish their prayers, gossiping or whatever they are doing till the train reaches wadala. Once the train crosses wadala the bhajan madali gets into action & everyone in the compartment (well almost everyone) starts singing or atleast makes an attempt to sing. The bhajans are decided on the day of the week & today being Tuesday it’s the ganpati special. I usually get kinda irritated with this as it disturbs my sleep. Ghare kaku had made prasad & was distributed in the compartment after the bhajan session was done. With the train approaching closer to CST I started feeling a little restless. Bella & Mrs Das were getting restless as well. Where is she?? Why hasn’t she come in? Is she doing fine?? All of us were a little worried.

Maushi which is the Marathi word for maasi which basically means “maa si” (like a mother) is a maid in her late sixties. Travels everyday from Govandi to CST & works in a school. Will get in with the broadest smile on her face, in her nauvari, carrying her plastic bag. One of the most beautiful women I had seen. Struggling with her health she managed everything on her own. “ghega baala (take it my child)” & she used to give me sugar boiled toffees. That’s all that we shared everyday – a smile, few words & my toffee. I have been missing this for the last few days……   

Masjid came, as per the ritual Bella woke me up. I didn’t feel like getting down, wanted to wait to maushi to come & give me my toffee. As the train pulled into CST station we all were standing at the door to get down. The train stopped, we got down & started walking towards the exit. As we all were walking we could hear someone calling out for Shomu in a very weak voice…. There she was standing in her nauvari, broad smile & as pretty as ever. One sight of hers & all of us had a broad smile on our faces too. “mereko tumhara naam maalum nahi hai beta isiliye mai Shomu ko bulai. Kaisa hai tum?? Voh dus din ke liye mere isscool ka timing change kiya thaa isiliye mai nahi aai Che Ek main, kal se aayega pakka” J

Next day’s Che Ek ride I was awake till Govandi, waiting for maushi to get in. The moment I got a glimpse of her, I started signing lullaby to myself & was off to sleep with a smile on my face.   

Relationships don’t need proper situations or locations to flourish. Even the Che Ek ride is enough to build some wonderful relationships. J

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

A Lot Does Happen Over A Coffee

A Lot Does Happens Over A Coffee!!!!!

Coffee Shop, a place where you can sit back relax & enjoy your coffee.  Have nice & long conversation with friends or just sit quietly & read a book. Located at the prime locations (most of them) they always seem to be buzzing with people, music, conversations, laughter’s, giggles, etc.

Have you ever seen a guy very formally dressed, kinda nervous eagerly waiting in a coffee shop?? Every time the door opens he looks up & tries to recognize his interviewer. Arjun has been waiting for his interviewer to come in for the last half an hour. He was kinda uncomfortable in the formal clothes which he wore very rarely. His style statement - “Jeans n shirts along with the canvass - the best & the most comfortable dressing ever”. After another 10 mins wait, he is sitting across Ananya –. He was expecting the interviewer to be a guy in his mid thirties but it turned out to be girl in her mid twenties. “she might be younger than me & I have to report to her????” he thought, he sulked.

The interview is constantly interrupted by the young couple sitting on the adjacent table displaying their love & affection for each other - holding hands, the guy tickling the girl & the girl giggling away to glory. They won’t sit on any other table (And no one is allowed to sit on theirs in the afternoons)as this is the table where they met for the 1st time & have been sitting on the same table for the past 1 year. J

“where did we go wrong?” wonders Mira, the lady in her mid thirties with a flourishing corporate career, sitting bang opposite to the young couple. She is waiting for her Kunal. She misses her long coffee sessions with her then boy friend & now husband. She used to enjoy every bit of it. Just that thought brings a beautiful smile on her tired face.  “Enjoy your coffee maam” says Ashfaque & servers her, her cappuccino with a broad & warm smile. He turns around & is called by the bunch of teenagers to place the orders of their drinks & make special sitting arrangements & other stuff like cake, candles, etc.

Its Sia’s birthday & Abeer has planned a small celebration at the coffee shop. With the standard broad smile Ashfaque starts making all the arrangements wondering if anyone will ever plan something like this for him. He had been working in this coffee shop for the last 3 years to support him through college. He has seen quite a few celebrations happening in the coffee shop – birthdays, promotions, proposals, etc. But the most memorable one has been when Ashish proposed Neena.

It was pouring very heavily that day & Neena had been waiting for Ashish for more than 20 mins now. Like the normal routine, Ashish walked in & started apologizing to Neena for coming in late. But that day Neena was really upset & was in no mood to listen to Ashish at all. That is when Ashish signaled Ashfaque to switch off the lights, play her fav song “you say it best, when you say nothing at all” , get the candle lit cake & flowers. Neena had the broadest smile on her face listening to that. Ashish got done on his knees and proposed to her. Neena soon became Mrs Neena Shah. J they visit ashfaque often.

The noise in the coffee shop brought him back.
Sia & Abeer’s friends had started to come in & the final arrangements were done. Along with Abeer’s friends walked in Kunal, for whom Mira had been waiting. She didn’t know how to react. Was she happy to see him today or sad as this would probably be the last time she would see him. He had come in to give her the divorce papers. Mira greeted Kunal & decided to have a coffee together. No one said a word to each other, Quietly sipped their coffee. Both lost in their own thoughts wondering if they can do something to make things right. 

The loud “Happy Birthday To You Sia” gets them back to the coffee shop. Sia was smiling, pictures were being clicked, hugs, kisses, gifts, etc. Abeer standing aside was observing Sia, the smile on her face, happiness in her eyes….. She deserves this & more thought Abeer. “I will always keep her happy” he promised himself.

“I don’t promise but I will have the HR call you by this weekend. It was a pleasure meeting you.” Ananya told Arjun while paying the bill. She stood up to leave, shook hands with Arjun & left. “How can I report to a female & that you younger than me????? Dude, this is bad……but paapi pet ka sawaal hai, karna to padega.” J Arjun gets up & vacates the table for Mr & Mrs Bhagwat & their NRI son Ameya, who according to his mom is the most eligible bachelor in their community(mom's love for their sons i tell u..... ;-) ). Ameya eagerly awaits to meet Tanuja his prospective bride, not sure about her parents though. Going through the questions in his mind over and over again.

Mira & Kunal realize that they have nothing to talk about, no conversation.

Under the same roof new relationships were being formed, existing were getting stronger & few falling apart.

Relationships & Conversations – personal & professional, experiences – good & bad, excitement, love, happiness & more can experienced here.

A coffee shop is not just a coffee shop anymore as “A LOT DOES HAPPEN OVER A CUP OF COFFEE J

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Meera & Me

Meera & Me

It was a recent realization, Meera my house maid who has been working with us for the last  4 years is as old as I am. It came to be as a little shocker coz she does not look her age, she looks much more older & mature than her age. “Dinky, aaj mi kaam nahi karnaar. Mazaa happy budday aahe aaj. J Tai aaz dinky kaam karnaar aahe” Tai who is actually my Aai, got the shock of her life hearing I will be cleaning up the house today.

Meera – around 5 feet tall, broad smile, sparkling eyes, dark with kinda sharp features, on the plump side, is the 3rd daughter in her family, married to her own uncle(mama) & has 2 kids now. Living in a joint family she works as a house maid in my neighbor’s n my house. She cooks, cleans, washes, etc & has very strong views about certain things in life. Even after being repeatedly instructed by my Amma, she will come exactly during or just after lunch time(dad would have juuuusssstttt gone to sleep). “kai karnaar??? Kiti kaam hota tikade. Aani tya tar mala sodatch nahi” will be her explanation for coming at that time. My amma’s version will be “she will never finish her work n come here, she will sit there & chat with all of them” (amma can actually hear her, as our kitchen & my neighbors drawing room are kinda connected). Offer her chai, nashta, fruits, etc & pat comes the reply “aaz mazaa upvaas aahe”. She fasts almost everyday even on Sundays. Will never ask for her salary, loves chocolates, imitates me & loves being teased by me. Any festival or special occasion Meera will be all dressed in her new bright coloured saree, gold jewellery & beautiful gajraa’s. I love irritating her & teasing her a lot. She doesn’t mind it either. J

Meera started working with us when I moved to Andheri(w) coz of my work place. I thought it was a better idea to move into a rented apartment than to travel 3 hours one way. Convenience was important for me than money. Ask Meera & she’ll say – train travel is not that bad, atleast you save the rent money. You could buy something from the money that you could have saved. “lagna saathi kaam aala asta na…… “ married at the age of around 14, Meera delivered her 1st baby before she celebrated her 1st wedding anniversary. In the 4th year of her marriage she had her 2nd kid. Loaded with the responsibility of a wife, mother, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, aunt, she still manages to take care & fulfill all her responsibilities with ease. She is well informed about all the activities/gossip happening in the society & has her own point-of-view on the same.(which is more logical & practical than the secretary of my society). Meet her in the evening & she will be all decked heading for the evening chores at my neighbors place. Worried about how her kids will study & clear their exams she starts cooking & discussing the latest happening in the Marathi TV serials.

The smile on her face hardly fades away. When I am alone at home, she will sit & chat with me, discussing TV shows, recipes, kids, studies & my career. She will do the extra dusting, cleaning & put all the stuff in place when Amma is not there (wont ever do it when she is around, her explanation for this “Dinky office la zaate na, kaam karun damun yete”) . Though I cook & take care of myself, she will unfailingly ask me “jevlis ka?? Kai khalla??” etc. She gets protective when my parents are not at home. The transformation from a mother, daughter-in-law, maid to being my protective buddy is so smooth that it surprises me. Makes me wonder if I could ever manage so many roles & responsibilities with such an ease.

Without even basic schooling Meera manages her finances without any flaw. Grocery, school fee’s, bills, etc. Me earning more than 100% of her salary & having a certain financial expertise cant manage to my PNL accounts. After all her monthly expenses she manages to save & buy herself her favorite earring. I have been saving for the last 3 months to buy my favorite one’s ;-) but still not managed to save enough. Hers are small gold earring & mine are diamonds.  :P

Same age, different backgrounds – educational, family, financial, etc basic needs almost the same. But point-of-view, expertise, perspective so different. Makes me wonder is formal education more important than experience. Food for her is basic & healthy, food for me a way of troubling my amma with my choices. Its bright, colourful & jhatak clothes for her, brands don’t make any difference to her. It has to be a Biba, levis, etc for me.  Give her Rs 500 & she will save it for something important or emergency, Rs 500 for me will be few more cups of coffee. (“tikde zaaun, itki mahaag coffee ka peeta??? Ghari karun peeta yet nahi???” – Meera yells at me when her Tai(my amma) tells her about my spends). Watching a movie with the family is what matter for her 
unlike me who needs a box of cheese popcorn along with the pepsi in the red lounge.

Small things – different perspectives. Same points – different agendas. Issues – different point of view. Thou, Meera is not educated as I am, I have loads to learn from her, let it be multitasking, understanding people, maintaining finances, etc. But one thing she needs to learn – coming home early & not when my dad has jussssttttttt gone to sleep J