Oct 20, 2014

The 'Vadde log Vaddi baatein' post


I honestly haven't been to Mumbai a lot. The last time I was there - technically also the first time I was there - I had a pretty good time. I won the award for Best Creative Writing Blog in India, you see. Prreeeety good time, as I was saying. It's been nearly eight months to the day that I picked up that award and when the opportunity came to visit Mumbai once more, I would be lying if I said I wasn't licking my lips with anticipation.

You see, I had been thinking a lot about some advice fellow blogger Nisha had given me awhile back during a discussion - about saving a third of your money for traveling and seeing the world outside your regular walls. That's something I had not really done in the years prior to this one and it was something I did intend to change in style.
In the days to come, I would hear the familiar refrain of "Vadde log Vaddi baatein" many a time and I could only laugh. After all, I had decided not to think of the purse-strings for once and instead chosen one of Mumbai's finest five star hotels as my not-so-humble abode to stay in while I was there.

Grand Hyatt deserves every bit of applause that you could conjure up in your mind. Wonderfully pleasant staff, immaculately maintained rooms and a gorgeous ambiance are just the thoughts that crossed my head in the first hour I was there. From being extra-helpful in accommodating me when I landed there a few hours prior to the official check-in to catering to my every need with a smile, this hotel single-handedly redefined my image of a luxury stay.


Some of the things I would like to highlight from memory:

  • The overall design of the lobby interiors - par excellence. High ceilings, very spacious interiors allowing for a relaxed ambience as you stroll from one end to the other.  
  • The complimentary chocolates on arrival: best I have had in India. And that is not an exaggeration.
  • The 'shopping store' downstairs. My impression of in-hotel shopping stores has always been about the odd store which sells rural trinkets and the odd painting. Hyatt ups the ante with a two floor shopping complex, with designer gowns, Mont Blanc, luxury watches and suits et al. 
  • While I regret not being able to try out two of the in-house restaurants (Cellini and China House), I have no regrets about the place I did have my 'meals' at. I used to say that Barbeque Nation was the best buffet I ever had. Well, I change my stand.
Fifty-Five East is officially the best buffet I have ever had and I mean both for breakfast and lunch.
Once more, there is such a beautiful aura to the place with perfected lit backdrops and shades. The staff are not just courteous but extremely knowledgeable and helpful, guiding you with choices and yet being unobtrusive once the food has reached your table.

Grand Hyatt Mumbai


  • There are separate live counters in action for every style of cooking: Japanese, Thai, Chinese, continental and Indian. Each section offers a dozen or more options at hand. Watching the vast set of chefs in action as they sliced the hams and sushis while making the steaks as per personal requests was simply poetry in motion. 
  • This is in addition to the awesome range of unlimited martinis, margaritas, wines and mocktails too, for a ridiculously minimal price addition.
  • The dessert section again, consists of two sides of a very large table and I would be lying if I tried to tell you I recalled everything I saw and ate there. 
  • Honestly, this is now my official breakfast place whenever I step into Mumbai from here on in. Yes, yes... I know. Vadde Log...

Oct 17, 2014

As free as the air


In 1845, a dentist stepped onto the spotlight at the revered Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. He wanted to show his medical brethren something unique, something unheard of back then in the field of surgery.

He wanted to show them how the world could finally be rid of pain.

The young man - at thirty, that’s all he really was – had performed this miracle successfully for over a year prior to this moment. In fact, history notes that he tested it on himself first successfully before trying the drug on his patients. In the one year he had been using the drug, he never considered patenting it even once. In his words, pain relief was meant to be ‘as free as the air’. The stage was set for the greatest advance in surgical history – the discovery of anaesthesia and pain relief.

It was a soul crushing failure.

Oct 10, 2014

Bards of the Blogosphere - Week 3 Chapter 9: Epilogue #CelebrateBlogging

Authors note: This is the final chapter of the tale of the Bards of the Blogosphere. You can read the previous chapter here

“Would you like a balloon, little girl? Which colour would you like?” The vendor asked, pointing at all the colourful variations he held in his hand. She stared at them and smiled, before nodding and pointing at the green one.
“Hey!” A voice shouted out. “Hey! Step away from her.”
The vendor turned around, frowning. A middle aged man was racing up to him, his feet hindered by the resistance from the sand as he visibly struggled to make up the distance between them. As he neared them, the girl ran up to him. The man clutched her in his arm as he bend down, grimacing as he held his stomach. 
“Step… step away from my daughter.” He panted in labored breaths.
“Sir. I am just selling balloons. Are you okay, sir?”
Behind the man, the vendor spied a woman in a long flowery skirt and maroon t-shirt hurrying along, making up the distance between them. She seemed to have sized up what had happened better than the man who still stared suspiciously at the vendor.
“I’m sorry.” She told him, reaching into her purse and taking out two ten rupee notes. “Forgive my husband. Can we have two balloons please?”


Half an hour later, Shekhar and Tara sat by the dunes of the beach, watching Roohi as she gleefully ran from side to side, doing her best not to allow the waves to touch her when they come forth. The parental duo looked almost comical, a couple of fluorescent balloons held absent-mindedly in their hands as they watched their child play.
“You want to talk about it?”
“I really liked his balloons. I was just running to make sure I got the best ones before someone else got them.” Shekhar quipped. Tara noted that his eyes remained focused upon their daughter even as he spoke to her.


“Shekhar.”
He sighed and shook his head. He reclined slightly, his gaze towards the myriad shades of the evening sky. The cacophony of the other families in the beach seemed a million miles away, almost as far as the sun setting peacefully at the farther edge of the beach. When he did not respond, she continued.
“It is okay to be scared, you know.”
“We almost lost her, Tara. She did not do anything wrong. She was sitting at a table in a conference you and I took her to and a random man came and sat beside her for a few moments. We almost lost our child because of that.”

“I know but…” Tara started but Shekhar cut her off. His voice rose as he spoke.
“At Kochi, I was so scared in that moment when the crowd was running all over the place and I was searching for her. My heart was just pounding with the possibilities. We was really lucky to have her found unharmed through such a stampede of imbeciles. It should have been over there… but it wasn’t. A man came into our house and nearly killed her and I could do nothing to save her. If Jennifer had not…”

Oct 7, 2014

The Liebster Award tag

Back in the early days of blogging, a common way to escape 'writer's block' was to take up tags. It's been years since I've done one, yet I have to admit that I enjoyed seeing the "tag culture of blogs" is still prevalent even a decade later.

Fellow blogger and co-author Asiya tagged me for the Liebster award.
Quoting from her blog,

"According to Lorraine Reguly's research of this award, this award exists only on the internet, and is given to bloggers by other bloggers. It has German origins – the word “liebster” has several definitions: dearest, sweetest, kindest, nicest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, welcome, sweetheart. "

These are the guidelines to the awardees:
1. Post 11 facts about self.
2. Answer the 11 questions given to you by your awarder.
3. Nominate/award 5-11 bloggers you find deserving and probably have less than 1000 followers.
4. Tell them that they have been tagged by you.
5. Include the image of the award in your page.

11 Facts about myself:
1. After wearing glasses for over twenty five years, I underwent Zyoptix laser surgery on my eyes a couple of years ago. No issues thus far.
2. Though I am a doctor, I never read Robin Cook novels or watch shows like Grey's Anatomy. Scrubs and House M.D. are my style of doc based shows.
3. I am a comic book geek, always trying my best to be up-to-date on what goes on at Marvel and DC Comics. I find they deal with more mature themes than Bollywood, frankly.
4. Blasphemy alert: I would say that on any given day, James Spader (The Blacklist, Boston Legal) is a much MUCH better actor than anyone in Bollywood, the Big B included.

Sep 26, 2014

Of Man & Dog



































No matter how close we are to another person, few human relationships are as free from strife, disagreement, and frustration as is the relationship you have with a good dog. Few human beings give of themselves to another as a dog gives of itself. I also suspect that we cherish dogs because their unblemished souls make us wish - consciously or unconsciously - that we were as innocent as they are, and make us yearn for a place where innocence is universal and where the meanness, the betrayals, and the cruelties of this world are unknown.” 
                                          ― Dean KoontzA Big Little Life: A Memoir of a Joyful Dog


A random moment between Snoopy & my father...


The early days

Sep 24, 2014

BardsOfTheBlogosphere Week2 Ch 6 – What lies beneath the surface #CelebrateBlogging

Authors note: This is the sixth chapter of week 2 in the "Game of Blogs" for the team "Bards of the Blogosphere." #CelebrateBlogging To read the previous chapter, click here.



     “Okay. You now have my undivided attention.” Minister Kurien Nambiar said as he leaned forward and locked eyes with Cyrus. It was an hour after the minister's speech and the crowds were still in the main hall listening to other dignitaries.
“According to my secretary Chandy, you requested to meet me for quite a few days and refused to take no for an answer. When he pencilled you in for an hour after lunch today at the hall, you refused. You demanded a private audience with me, claiming that it was a matter of national importance. Again, you were refused and once more, you persisted. And yet here you are, seated beside me in the convention centre’s private VIP chamber, doors closed and the guards sent away.”


      Cyrus started to speak but then stopped as the minister raised a hand. The silence was deafening as the two sat still, staring at each other inside the confines of the regal décor of the room.  
      “I was not finished, boy. You are here because you said you had evidence which I needed to see. You told Chandy that there were things being hidden from me by my party members regarding the topic we are all here for.”

      The minister once more paused as he stared at a decorative brass cube sitting upon the mahogany table. Without warning, he picked it up and tossed it underhand to the lawyer. Cyrus flinched but caught it with one hand almost reflexively. He looked at the minister who gestured at him to look at the cube. Cyrus stared at the depiction upon the heavy object. Engraved upon it was the familiar figure of the Lady of Justice, the Greek Goddess Themis.
       “She remains forever blindfolded, Mr Cyrus, so that all are equal in her eyes. But I cannot afford such luxuries in trust. I cannot remain blindfolded to the truth. Chandy felt you were genuine and I trust him more than I trust you. That is why you are seated across this desk from me. You have five minutes to convince me that Chandy made the right decision.”

      Cyrus cleared his throat. He felt a bit light-headed but knew he could not afford to let his fears get the better of him. Placing the cube down, he opened his file and stared down at the first page and began.

     “Sir, as you know, human trafficking is a significant problem here in India. In fact, the most recent studies suggest that up to…”
     “20 to 65 million Indians are direct victims of human trafficking.” The minister said, his eyes focused on the table.
    Cyrus looked up from the file, flustered. Seeing no response from the minister, he took a deep breath and started again.
    “Yes. Of this, nearly 1.2 million…”
    “…Indian children have been trafficked worldwide for the sole purpose of sexual exploitation including video clips, photographs and other such media.” The minister’s face remained impassive as he finished the sentence once more. When Cyrus did not respond, the minister finally looked up at him.

     “Did you come all the way here to give me a lecture on human trafficking? You think I, a minister who has been called here to discuss my stand on this topic at a national convention, do not have the latest statistics at my fingertips? Let me guess what comes next in this verbal slide show of yours.”
He started to count off points on his fingers as he talked.

Sep 22, 2014

#5sentences Thank you note


Earlier this month, I had asked for your help for getting my short story considered for Indireads Second Short Story contest. A lot of you were gracious enough to help via social media platforms in sharing the story as well as by your comments on the story.



Along with Indireads, I want to thank you all sincerely. 
My story, “The Ballet” did eventually win the Popular Pick award

Click here for the announcement

It feels very heartening to move away from the genres I'm more comfortable with and win while trying something entirely different.


Authors note:
September 21 was World Gratitude Day. For other bloggers views on gratitude, do click the Write Tribe link.

Sep 21, 2014

Kalathappam


If you carefully observe the savory dishes showcased in a traditional Onam sadya or even the traditional Malabar cuisine, you will find an abundant use of easily available local products including coconuts, rice, bananas et al.

Thus, it should come as no surprise if I reveal to you that when it comes to making sweet dishes too, the usual suspects once more find their way into our recipes.

Kalathappam is a sweet dish prepared commonly in the Malabar regions of Kerala, especially in Kannur and Thalassery. Think of it as a jaggery based rice cake, if you must.

  • Commonly seen as a tea-time snack, it is quite easy to make. 
  • Key ingredients include rice (or rice flour), coconut flakes, jaggery and shallots. 
  • The dish itself can be prepared using a pressure cooker or a non stick pan.
  • While it may not look amazing at first glance, the real beauty (at last for me) comes when you cut it and you see these wonderfully distinctive 'incomplete striated columns' (for want of a better description!) 
  • Thus, much like how we describe various luxury chocolates, the humble kalathappam too boasts of 'a hard and crunchy exterior and a soft interior.'


 




Spongy? Juicy? Crunchy? The kalathappam has it all. And it makes for a wonderful tea-time snack. For those who would like to try it out, I'm adding a couple of recipes for the same which I came across online ( here and here ).

Authors note:
All pictures shown above were of a kalathappam made at home by le mom.