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Of Morning Walks and Beaches

There is something pure about a walk on the beach. Waves crashing at your feet and pulling away the loose wet sand from underneath. I am not a morning person but if I am in a beach town I wake up just for this…all by myself.

 
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One of my first memories with the sea was during one of my first few trips to Goa. We chose to stay at the shacks on the beach. I was totally unprepared for the serene sounds of water lulling me to sleep only for crashing waves to wake me up. It was almost as if the sea was in tune with me. I remember waking up wondering what the loud noise was. As I stepped out of my room I saw great big waves crashing on the beach, calling out to me to come and play. It was like meeting an old friend. One look at beautiful horizon and I was lost. I did not even realise how far away form my room I had ventured…blissful with beautiful, playful waves.

 

The beach in Pondicherry is another one of my favourites. It is best enjoyed at sunrise but that also means you have a very short while with them before it gets hot and sunny. I went there in the January last year – the best time of the year to visit any beach town in India. With waves licking my feet I walked a long way on the beach and as always found myself far from where I had started. I came across an old fisherman village called Pudukuppam. On the fringes of the village stood a small temple, ruined and dilapidated. The village was almost razed to almost nothing in 2011 when Cyclone Thane hit the coast, wiping away precious life. But life moves on and the villagers now recall it only as hazard of coastal life. One is can hear notes of A. R. Rehman’s hits floating out of houses and find women sitting outside their houses, making small talk as they prepare their meals and play board games. I believe chance discoveries like these make for great memories.

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Women at Pudukuppam village playing a local board game

 

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2016 in travel

 

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Sweet Delights from the Desert Land

Rajasthan, a place rich with stories of the brave kings and beautiful queens, of ghoomars and borlas, of satis and johars, of deserts and mirages. Mesmerizing folk tales that take you back in time. With roots buried somewhere deep down, my tryst with the scorching lands of this magnificent state began when I was 4. While I have never stayed in the state, something in my Karma keeps bringing me back and tied to Rajasthan. Now I am married to a Rajasthani and thus have a lifelong relationship with this place.

This is the first part of my Rajasthan Dairies series where I will share stories and memories that I have collected over the years. Stories about the rich food, culture, traditions, history and some folk tales. I begin my story with my love for Rajasthan’s mouth watering sweets. While the state is synonymous for some popular ones, different cities have their own specialties. Every time my mother-in-law comes visiting she knows what we would love to see coming out of her bags. So much so that friends and colleagues have started keeping track of her visits. God help me if I happen to go to Jaipur and return empty handed (read without a box-full of sweets)!!! So, here’s a list of some of my favourites –

1. Ghewar – These are mesh-like disc shaped sweets made with all purpose flour and drenched with sugar syrup…slurrrp! My earliest memories of this sugar soaked delicacy is associated with the big round box it comes in, something like those hat boxes you see in Hollywood movies! A friend of my dad’s knew my weakness for these and would bring it with him every time he visited us from Jaipur.  Associated with the festival of Teej, which is celebrated in the month of August, these mouth watering sweets can be savoured as it is or with sweet rabdi or malai.

 

2. Churma – Popularly paired with the traditional Rajasthani dish of Dal-Bati, Churma is coarsely ground wheat crushed & cooked with ghee and sugar. It is flavoured by adding roasted and crushed dry fruits, kesar (saffron), rose petals etc.

 

3. Mawa Kachori – This sinful sweet is a meal in itself. It is a deep fried kachori (or wheat flour disks) stuffed with sweet mawa (milk cheese) mixed with dry fruits, nuts and soaked in sugar syrup. Loaded with calories, this sugary delight is a specialty of Jodhpur.  the uniqueness of this sweet lies in its multiple textures. Bite into the crispy outer layer and savour the juicy soft filling mixed with nuts.

 

4. Gunjhiyaan – Specially prepared around the festival Holi, a gunjhiyaan is similar to a mawa kachori. What distinguishes this sweet is its momo-like shape. After deep frying and dipping in sugar syrup it is rolled in grated coconut to give it a distinct flavour.

 

5. Mohanthal / Dilkhushar – Mohanthal, or Dilkhushar as it is sometimes called, is a sweet barfi made from gram flour. It is prepared in large quantities on special occasions like weddings and is an all times favourite among all. Its one of those sweets that you cannot eat just one. The name Dilkhushar means ‘something that makes your heart happy’. 🙂

 

6. Malpua – These are fried pancakes, again dipped in sugar syrup and garnished with finely chopped nuts. Malpuas are also prepared during weddings, especially winter weddings, and are served hot. One can have them as is or with rabri to give it different texture and offset the extremely sweet taste of sugar syrup.

 

7. Monng dal halwa – Last on my list of favourites is Moong dal halwa which is prepared from split yellow moong dal. Making this delicacy is a tedious process involving overnight soaking of the moong dal and grinding it into a paste. Then it is slow cooked with mawa and oodles of ghee and sugar until golden brown. My mom made them e very year on Diwali and now no Diwali is complete for me without a generous dose of this mouth watering sweet.

 

While these are some of the more popular ones, Rajasthani cuisine has many more sweet treasures to delight your sweet tooth. Every household has its own traditional sweets and no meal is complete without a sweet. An interesting tid-bit about Rajasthani sweets is that these are not called ‘desserts’ which is supposed to be had at the end of a meal. They are  had before, during and after the meal. So next time you are planning a trip to this majestic land indulge in its sweet delights and don’t worry about gaining some extra kilos.

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2016 in travel, world

 

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Make the Best of Weekend Getaways

Weekends are tailor made for short getaways and if there is an extra day or two thrown in in the form of a long weekend its too good an opportunity to let go. As weeks are becoming more and more stressfull this trend is catching up. People look for quick options to fulfill their travel quota. Some do it to de-stress and some to satisfy the travelling kida in themselves.

Having lived in Mumbai for the past 10 years I have had my share of these weekend escapades where we just up and leave the city to explore nearby locales. There are so many beautiful places to go to within driving distance near Mumbai…but I’ll save that for another post. What I want to share here are some key tricks I have picked up while on these trips that truely ensure you have a good detox on these getaways.

So here goes. My tips on how to make the most of short getaway trips –
1. Dont pack in too many things on the itinerary – remember the whole point of this is to destress. Don’t make this a tick-mark trip where you have to see everything and do everything. For once just sit still and let the peace settle in.

2. Travel light – since you are going for just 2 days refrain from packing in all the spoils of your latest shopping spree! Keep your baggage light…it helps to unpack fast when you return late on Sunday night and have work the next morning 🙂

3. Go in for a spa therapy – you may not be a spa person but make that rare exception and go for a spa. Let the massuer work their magic on your tired muscles. You’ll be grateful you did when you are hunching in front of your laptop on Monday morning. Couples can opt for joint spa sessions. Some places even offer family packs!

4. Rent a bike – If the place allows it rent a bike or a cycle and explore the local area. Finding a lesser known water fall in the middle of nowhere makes for a better anecdote than the air conditioned tour guides.

5. Drive down – Road trips have a charm of its own. Stop on the way to click that perfect sunset or to have freshly squeezed sugarcane juice at a village on the way. Play car games or just lose yourself in soulful music as the scenery passes by. Choose an old highway over the expressway – they are more picturesque :-).

6. Go Gypsy – Try staying at a homestay or rent a villa instead of booking into a resort or a hotel. Lots of websites today offer exciting off-beat stay options. Explore those. They are easy on the wallet too. Plus if you are lucky you get to taste the real authentic food.

So get your bags ready. 2016 is a year of many long weekends. Here’s a ready list for you to get started. Happy Holidaying 🙂

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2016 in travel

 

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Holiday Art!

Some cute art by my 6 year old to make Christmas holidays interesting…

Ice cream stick art and clay art by Siddharth

Ice cream stick house by Siddharth

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Birthday cake for dad!

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Octopus family…daddy, mommy and sid

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Ice cream stick Dragon Fly

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Ice Cream Stick Dragon Fly & Garden Stool

 
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Posted by on December 28, 2014 in Motherhood, Siddharth

 

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Ramblings of a mother

Never have I been so conscious of my own shortcomings as I am now as a mother…to watch how I react every time I feel something. Then again, I think, by monitoring how I react, am I not killing my son’s spirit of spontaneity? While my lovely son has brought back the many delights of childhood in my adult life…the child in me longs for the freedom to be!

If I’m angry, I try not to show anger. If I am impatient over something, I try to be calm.  If I get a sudden fright, I try not to scream, lest I scare away the little one. If I get hurt, I do not howl, lest I’m teach my little one to howl every time he hurts himself. He is watching me at every step…every move I make becomes his role model to follow. Or adds to his confusion, because I am not perfect. But when I teach my kid, I teach him to be perfect. You should not cry over little things. You should not shout when angry or irritated. You should not run around when out. You should not hit someone just because they have annoyed you or taken your favourite toy before you could reach it! Etc. etc. etc… If my child goes to a shop and asks for things he likes, I tell him don’t pester. If he looks at things I know he likes and doesn’t ask for them he is suppressing his feelings because he has been taught not to pester.

I wonder why we lay so much stress on being good, doing the right thing, teaching the right behaviour? What happened to childlike spontaneity? Or is teaching behavior all about ingraining the childlike spontaneity with good reactions and actions?  What’s wrong, I say, with howling for 10 minutes when you hurt yourself? What’s wrong with hitting someone who has hit you? Oh! the confusion called motherhood.

At one end we teach our children to express freely, and in the same breath we teach them to monitor their feelings and not display extreme behavior. The balance between teaching good behavior and encouraging natural instinct is a fine line one needs to tread very carefully. The secret, I guess, is to guide and not teach or preach.  But who on earth has been able to unravel this secret?

 
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Posted by on November 29, 2012 in Daily Life, Feelings, Motherhood, People

 

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Simple Modak Recipe

Its time to please the pot-bellied lord and what best to serve than Modaks. Here are my 2.00 am recepies for Besan and Chocolate Modaks.

 

Besan Modak – For about 25 – 30 modaks

Ingredients

1. Besan – 1/2 kg

2. Ghee – 350 gms

3. Coarsly ground sugar – 1/4 kg

4. Ground Cardamom – 1 tbsp

5. Ground Pistachio – 1 tbsp

6. Ground Almonds – 1 tbsp

7. Modak molds

 

Method

1. Heat ghee in a wok

2. Add besan and saute it on low flame till it turns light brown

3. Remove from heat, transfer it to a cool utensil and let it cool a little

4. Add cardamom, pistachio, almonds and sugar. Mix well

5. Grease the molds

6. Fill the molds with batter and put it in the fridge for 1/2 – 1 hour

7. Remove gently and serve 🙂

Tips:-

1. Saute the besan in low flame ONLY. It will take a lot of time but do not increase the flame as it will becoe brown but not roast properly.

2. While doing this if your mixture looks liquidy, do not worry. It will cool down and become good for you to mold.

3. Use coarse besan rather than the fine besan we get in super markets

4. If the mixture is dry while roasting, you can add more ghee

 

Chocolate Modaks – 30 – 35 Modaks

Ingredients

1. Khoya – 750 gms

2. Coco Powder – 4 tbsp

3. Icing Sugar – 1 cup

4. Milk Powder – 1.5 cup

5. Ground Almonds – 3 tbsp

6. Molds

Method

1. Add khoya, milk powder and coco powder and almonds in a wok

2. Cook the mixture while stirring continuously

3. Once the khoya is cooked remove from heat

4. Add icing sugar and mix well

5. Let it cool a little but not too much

6. Grease molds and fill them with batter

7. Place your molds in the fridge for 1/2 to 1 hours

8. Remove from molds very lightly and serve

Tips:-

1. Do not let the better cool too much before you start making your modaks

2. If you feel the batter has cooled, then heat it before starting the process of molding

3. If the batter after cooling is a little dry, you can cook some khoya separately and add to it. But ensure that it is properly cooked

 

So here are the two recipes that I used to make the modaks for my Ganapati Carnival. If I can do it, anyone can…trust me! Happy Ganesh Chturthi to you all!

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2012 in Festivals, Recipes

 

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Ganpati Bappa Morya!

Its festival season and the air will soon get filled with echos of ‘GANAPATI BAPPA…MORYA!!! What better way to usher in this pot-bellied Lord than to fill it with fun and creativity.

In this age of cartoons and video games, its difficult to ensure kids understand the relevance of our festivals. We organized a Ganapati Carnival that introduced children to the feats and stories of Ganesha and the relevance of the festival. Along with this, the kids made festive delicacy with a chocolaty twist – yummy chocolate modaks and beautiful festive souvenirs to brighten their festival.

Our day started with a bubbling bunch of kids listening to cute stories of Lord Ganesha and the race with brother, Karthikeya, around the world for a mango. The kids loved hearing the antics of Ganesha and his smartness in taking 3 rounds of his parents and declaring them their world! Some of them shared anecdotes about their races. Some even got charged up and ready to race then and there…ah! The energy of the young ones!

Having learnt how naughty and smart our little Ganesha was, they proceeded to make tasty treats for him – Chocolate and besan modaks. It was difficult for the young cooks to decide whether to mould the modaks first or to eat the yummy batter. With great show of will power they completed their moulds and once the moulds were sent off for setting they licked the batter off their fingers to their hearts content…lick lick! For Recipe please click here

After this they all set out to create their festive souvenirs, making baskets to carry their yummy modaks in. The young artists were soon engrossed in choosing bright coloured stones for their baskets and listened as they shared their ideas on how to make their basket pretty. We watched in wonder as each and every child created unique and beautiful patterns using the colourful stones, sparkles and lace trimmings. 

While one young boy covered his basket handle with colorful stones, another wanted to make flower patterns with stones.

A little 2-yr old wanted to add sparkles on her basket…all by herself! And we were happy to oblige!

It was heart-warming to see their enthusiasm! If you have kids around you who could use some cheer…please gather them up this festive season and have your own Ganpati Carnival! It will be a day well spent.

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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