Faster’s feast

I have lived and loved Mumbai with a passion. I have combed through it’s crowded streets and hid in it’s quiet corners. I have loved it’s openness and enjoyed it’s diversity and yet, I have been taking the city’s spirit for granted. It takes an RK and WK to make me see the city like never before.
RK n his wife W live in London, while RK grew up in India, W grew up in London. Both have a passion for food and are very enthusiastic and outgoing. RK announced last morning that he wanted to visit Mohammed Ali Road during Ramadan. I had heard about it, I had seen celebrity photos but never been there.

So we started the adventure. Parents, A Mama and family, RK, W and family in tow. I was overwhelmed by the enthusiastic crowd on the streets. The steady flow of people ensured that one kept moving at a steady pace. Once we crossed the main road and stepped into the Minara Masjid lane, aromas of meat crackling on fiery coal, malpua sizzling in oil made sure that our mouth was watering. I wasn’t going to brave the roadside eateries, not with a bunch of pardesis whose digestive systems could collapse with the unhygienic conditions. However, those street stalls are all about the vibe or as they say in Urdu, ‘Mahoul’. Lights that made the Minarets of the Masjid sparkle, women dressed up in glittering outfits, add to that the street side shops shimmering with trinkets and more. One word for it all- fantastic (a bit chaotic but I am not complaining).

Minara Masjid by the night
Minara Masjid by the night

It’s one thing to enjoy the madness on the street but quite another to attempt eating there. If you like eating your food in a slightly less chaotic ambience head straight to one of the restaurants in the locality. I suggest you get there early- say by about 8.30 pm to avoid a long wait for the table. Shalimar Restaurant is said to be a one stop shop for all the Ramadan goodies and has an awesome AC section you can comfortably settle into. What’s more, the food is authentic and delectable!

We were all in a celebratory mood, so good conversation flowed. The table was soon jam packed with kebabs, cold drinks and more. There was Bhuna gosht, which was greasy enough to give my dietician a stroke. The tikkas, shammis and seekhs were succulent and packed with flavour. I’m guessing they came straight off an authentic Sigdi! No electric oven can match the distinct taste of the meat cooked on charcoal.

The Bhunas and Kadais were very oily, but they were so good on the flavour that just a bite sent me straight into heaven. We decided to take the adventure further with some Bheja fry and Bheja masala. The sweet n spicy masala, with the luscious brain meat made me go back to my childhood, when I enjoyed Bheja Masala served in Crystal Punjab (RIP). The rotis and Naans straight off the tandoor with the curries and kebabs were a match made in heaven! There was just no reason for us to complain about the food. I guess this is why the fast is worth it, spiritual reasons aside.

The entire meal would have been incomplete without dessert. We were directed to the Mithai section of the restaurant. Out came the Aflatoons, which were greasy to the core but they were packed with such wholesome taste and texture. Although the kulfis and the faloodas were mind-blowing, what took the cake was the Malpua. A dude sat there cracking eggs into a vessel to mix a batter and frying humungous pancakes and then stuffing them with cream and dried fruits and nuts. Just plain awesome.

Of course, last evening set me back by a month in terms of my weightloss goal, but I am not complaining. It was worth every single calorie and I mean it. You have two more days. Shun your inhibition and head to the food heaven that is Mohammed Ali Road. If you can’t make it this year, make sure you go next year. But do make sure you go there atleast once in your lifetime, because this, my friend, is a true foodie’s Mecca!


Eccentric Saturday!

After a hard week, one always enjoys hanging out with the family. I do immensely because I rarely get to see them. So, yeah W, RK and family are in town, and as usual RK was super excited about going film shoot observing at Film City. His enthusiasm is awesome, actually the whole family’s enthusiasm is like awesome! So three Mumbaikars, two Punekars and a whole bunch of Londonkars packed themselves in two cars on a bright Saturday morning and headed straight to film city. It was hot, humid and all sad shootings were happening. But that did not deter RK who hung around a few sets and spoke to a few people.

I was standing in the shadows wondering why do we have such a low quality tv industry! The actors look anything but good, they can’t act and the stories are the same, nonsense. There’s no variety.

And to top it all, there is no infrastructure as such within film city. WK couldn’t help but compare it to the awesomeness of Universal Studios. That’s exactly when I thought, hey, there was this talk about making film city a Bollywood tourist destination. Whatever happened? Just another government plan that must have fizzled out!

Of course after a lavish seafood dinner at Gazalee, I wanted to curl up in my bed and nap before I headed for my dance class and that’s when Sneha’s SMS shook me up. Yet another blast! I mean what is going on with our country. I can’t help but think, what is the terrorists’ goal in blowing places up and killing innocent people?

Some say they want to make their presence felt and want the government to take notice especially while making some policy decisions. But what does it achieve? Yes people are terrified, the government starts to act responsible (literally acts) and a few arrests and encounters happen.

All a Hindu hears is that a Muslim was behind the bomb blasts. All a Muslim hears is that he is being racially profiled and the government is after their race. It creates a wider rift between the two communities that are trying hard to overcome riots, fallen Masjid and Mandirs yet to be erected. The political parties, meanwhile, use the terrorist attacks to condemn each other or to further their chances of getting votes in.

The government remains unfazed and we, the citizens, get shaken. In our country, which is home, we cannot leave home and be sure we will come home safe. We cannot help but be petrified about what’s to come next.

I hate watching the news and seeing a blast or an act of violence in the name of religion. And what I hate even more is the fact that these incidents are becoming a regular feature in news. I dread switching on the news these days, because it tells me that our society, the Indian society, is crumbling.

PS: after I sorted these thoughts out, I went out with family, and then went drinking with Omu and Nanu. It was after a long long time that we got to hang out. The chaar chand on our get together was the sighting of an UFO! I’m not kidding, we saw random lights flashing in the clouds late in the night…

Magic 8 ball

When you’re stuck in traffic or at a doctor’s waiting room, time just refuses to pass. It is at such times that I get tempted to play games on me mobile. The latest app on my iPhone is the magic ball app. Any question, a slight shake and voilà! The app has an answer. It’s perfect for a girl like me. Don’t believe me, ask my best friend. Pannu should I wear the white top or the maroon one? Does the maroon make me look fat? Should I eat an ice cream? Or maybe I want that jalebi?
She patiently hears me out but am sure that she will love the magic 8 ball for reducing her question load. So I started:
Me: am I going to be a rocking writer?
Ball: signs point to yes
Me: will I make a lot of money
Ball: better not to tell you now
Me: am I going to end up living abroad
Ball: reply hazy try later
Me: then am I going to be in India?
Ball: it is decidedly so
Me: are you confusing me?
Ball: maybe
Me: go to hell!
Ball: most likely
Me: do you even know where hell is?
Ball: my sources say no
Me: you are an idiot!
Ball: signs point to yes
Me: I rock
Ball: definitely
Me: ok I am done
Ball: reply hazy try later
So there, I am asking questions, arguing and spendib my free time with a stupid application on my phone. It sounds like a relationship, no?

‘Taxi’ trauma

Bombay, Mumbai or whatever name you address this city by, is constantly on the run. Floods, blasts, strikes have failed to bring the city to a standstill. Everyone is trying to get someplace and they want to get there fast! I am not talking figuratively, nope, I mean literally. Life is all about catching the bus, train or a cab and beating the traffic. Time my friend, is priceless. And yet you spend so much of it just traveling around the city.
Every city has a peculiar cab driver. The New York cabbie is shrewd and the London cabbie is full of wisdom. Welcome to Mumbai, our cabbies are rude, full of unnecessary wisdom, have an attitude and they are doing you a huge favour by taking you from pt. A to pt. B. It doesn’t matter that he didn’t know the way, it doesn’t matter that the jerky ride killed your back and it doesn’t matter that the cab almost hit almost 10-15 pedestrians, 25-30 cars. What matters is that he got you there and you are intact (oh thank God).

So why am I writing his? Well because, I am angered by their arrogance, dishonesty and lack of integrity. I want to relieve myself of the anger, or I might just end up being the serial taximan killer.

I work in an area full of swanky offices and parking is an issue. My relationship with BEST buses is another story altogether. So, I hold on to my dear life and make a run for the nearest taxi. I happily chat with Sneha on the phone or read the papers and voilà, I am at work!
Cut to the evenings. I get out of the office, aching to go home in time to watch friends. I flail my arms at every cab but all are taken. A few empty ones slow down for just a minute, I ask then if they’d oblige and take me to Dadar. They shake their head, give me a sad look and zoom off!
Yes, they refuse to take me where I want to go!
This is a day when the rain isn’t threatening to drench me and believe me, its a happy situation. When it rains, the traffic is worse and I am flailing my non-umbrella wielding arm to stop any cab I see. I see a lot of them empty, but with their doors locked and windows rolled up. They refuse to take any of the passengers, gape at drenched women in a vulgar manner and make their way out.
Some of the ones forcibly opened, claim they are running out of gas. But happily accept a fare for Andheri after you curse and get out. This has happened to me not once but about 10 times and I don’t know how to get some authority to punish them for such unprofessional behaviour!

Now, today there’s a brand new reason I’m pissed with the men in balck and yellow. It’s their job to take me to my destination and their job profile requires them to know the friggin’ roads! But fine, I’m ready to show them the way but the dude must ask! He takes a turn he does not need to, takes me on an extra long ride! When I argued with him, he said that I was mistaken and that his way was the right way. Okay whacko! On reacing the destination i can’t believe that the meter reads almost twice the amount I usually pay. I ask for the tariff card. He merrily shows me the October 2000 card which is the wrong one. A brand new tarriff card has come into being from 2007 and acording to that card the price I need to pay is 10 bucks lesser. I am irrtated. I am convinced he has tampered with the meter. Consumers forget to ask them questions and these guys try and make that extra buck by cheating them.

“Why do so much natak (drama) for 10 rupees?” He shamelessly asks me. How do I explain this stupid man that it’s not a question of those 10 extra rupees but that of integrity. I want to ask these questions even if it means 10  minutes of my precious time is wasted. There are a number of times my female friends have had horrifying experiences on account of their taxi drivers. Some have even been sexually harassed. If all of us bother asking, maybe they will start behaving themselves.

Mamma Mia I’m Impressed

During the summer that me and my sister spent holidaying in UK, we waited and waited for a cheaper ticket to show up for the musical, Mamma Mia. We ended up not seeing the show and when I saw the movie today I realized what a fool I was to try and save a few pennies (well pounds actually).
The movie version of the musical is absolutely over the top, full of drama and still has the hangover of a typical musical (the yelling shrieking and flailing of hands all the time!)

All said and done, for an ABBA fan, its an absolute treat. With the picturesque Greece and good looking people, the song n dance story takes you into a different world. However, if you’re not into ABBA, it’s just another chick flick with a whole lot of singing, dancing and more. The karaoke lyrics for all the songs were fabulous and I was singing along shamelessly! There is a magic about ABBA’s music!
The Bollywood fan in me couldn’t help but curse Sawan Kumar Tak for distastefully copying the story and making Mother with horrifying Rekha and all!
Meryl Streep’s rendition of The Winner Takes it all was fabulous. She is natural, composed and emotes brilliantly. Donna couldn’t be Donna without Streep’s exceptional performance (much like Miranda Preece of Devil Wears Prada)
Pierce Brosnan’s attempts at singing are cute but the dude can’t sing to save his life. Oh but he looks gorgeous!
I couldn’t help but think again and agin how they executed the story on a stage. I could almost imagine colourful lights, grandiose sets and a brilliant cast and I was aching to see the musical more than the film. What I really liked about the movie was the grandeur that it retained.  It goes over the top at times, but Mamma Mia, how can they resist it.

Thank you for the music!

Turning 24

At the age of 12, I often thought about how my life would be at 24. It’s a random age to pick but I was very curious about how my life was going to be at this age. I had a dream about all the things it was going to be.
The age that I couldn’t wait to be, was 18. Every year I was glad to count one more candle on my cake. It brought me closer to 18.
I couldnt wait to drive, vote, be allowed to sign MY cheques for MY bank account. On the parental level, I was promised permission for rock concerts, stay overs and a CAR!
For a girl like me that was all that I wanted, at that point in time that is. On my 18th birthday I was exhilarated with anticipation. I got all that I wanted. But I didn’t feel fantastically independent like I’d imagined. I still was chubby and I was still my parents’ little girl (they wanted names and phone numbers everytime I went for a stay over or a concert)

But I had two fab friends, a super enthusiastic group of friends in college and a fabulous life in general. After 18, every additional candle felt weird. It took me away from my fabulous age. Being 18 then meant a license to be a baby when you want and be an adult when you want (Eg: Mom please please buy me that new watch! or I am going yaar Mom, I’m old enough to take care of myself) I didn’t want to move away from that age. There came a lot of stuff after I turned 18 which toughened me up but at 18 there was a magic about the crises even. In fact, crises were  adventures. Sigh

My Cake courtesy colleagues who are more like friends

My Cake courtesy colleagues who are more like friends

This week, I blew 24 candles, and suddenly remembered the dreams I’d had back at 12. I am nothin like that girl was supposed to be an yet everything I want to be. I am not a hotshot MBA who has a fancy car and an awesome boyfriend. I don’t sing and write songs for a rock band in my free time.
In fact, I am no different than the girl I was in college or school. I still cry in the movies, I still sing along to my favourite songs, I still love my friends and go out of the way to be there for them and happily so. The friends are different though. I still ask my parents for their opinion before I make a decision. I still love my sister but I have learned to love our crazy fights.I still like to eat but I have found joy in exercising.
I am still me. A slightly different version, but the soul remains the same.
How stupid was I to have wanted to be all that was not me.
And yet so lucky to have found the people who love me and people I love. People who’re not blood relatives but thicker than ever with me. They love me for me and not because they have to. And some that I am just glad to have as family…
Nani, Om, Pannu, Satam, Lathi, Shefali, Shetty, Mariam, Sneha, Jugal, Parnil, Urvashi… A treasure trove of love I have scouted and will preserve for life.
After all someone’s already said ‘the only real difference between you now and you back then is the people and circumstances around you.’

Good timepass read!

Sunday evening shows are hard to get tickets for and me and my sister badly wanted to watch Rock On. So we reached the theatre an hour early and bought one of the last few tickets and headed straight into the Imax Adlabs multiplex. With more than hour on our hand and nothing to do, we wandered into the Crossword store. With the sale on, we just browsed through books, getting a glimpse of the first few pages. That’s when a book caught my eye. With a colourful map on its cover, Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan’s first novel, ‘You are here’ enticed me to pick it up just to browse. Get this. She has been a compulsive confessor and I am a compulsive writer! So yeah, I had to buy it. And I don’t regret it. The novel is great quick read. Enjoyable, and well to an extent, one can relate to the protagonist, Arshi.Getting lost in Arshi’s world is easy, especially since her world is so close to our won world but yet her world is just so different. We all have boyfriend issues, we all have mean bosses and we all have internal issues that we just don’t deal with. Arshi is a PR professional living one her own Delhi. She is 25, doesn’t love her job, adores her life, has a hot guy, she’s unsure if he’s her friend or a boyfriend, has the ‘it’ life (living on own, partying when she wants and all that) and yet somewhere she’s miserable. Her life is all over the place but fun, and I simply love the way she sorts out each distinct problem in her life. The book is a pleasure to read but if you’re looking for something to enrich you, this one’s not for you. It’s Chick-Lit with a real twist to it. Just like Meenakshi’s blog, which I promptly checked out after I found the link on the book. Grab a copy on a rainy day, sit down by the window with a hot cup of coffee (though you might want some Vodka as you explore Arshi’s numerous drinking parties), and relax.