Trichur Days

Its going to be a year since Bangalore Days was released, but I guess everyone still fondly remembers the characters created by Anjali Menon and beautifully executed by the actors.  What makes the movie closer to me is that I have set of cousins just as crazy as them- we are 11, 9 girls and 2 boys. Each one of us as different as chalk and cheese but something ties us together; for many years we have wondered what it is, may be our grandparents, may be our aunt, may be our parents- the reason is still ambiguous.

Story started in 1979 when my sister was born and the list continued till early 2000. The age difference between the eldest and the youngest is 22 years- my sister says T could very well have been her daughter 😀 Every summer we landed at the grand velliveedu to celebrate Appachan’s birthday and what followed was 4 more weeks of laughing, playing, roaming around the town, along with lots of fighting and crying.

The strongest memory we all have is ‘pangu- vettal’- cold war, while nations did it the UN and WTO level, we did the same within the confines of velliveedu. A few of them ganging together and giving the cold shoulder to another one, sometimes even camps were formed. What followed a pangu-vettal was lots of sulking at the dining following which grandparents or parents indulged in some dispute redressal mechanism- a promise to be taken out on an icecream treat!

While our parents had their ego tussles and issues with each other, we were thankfully kept away from the politics. Simple pleasures like going to the annual fair- trichur pooram, trip to the zoo, sip-ups, talking a walk with Appachan watching him eat medicinal leaves directly off the trees, peeche dam, night stays at each uncle’s house was enough to keep us entertained; we even invented games when we were bored of playing with doctor/kitchen/doll sets. As I look back, there is a lot that my association with cousins taught me- we learnt to like people despite their differences, we learnt our manners from each other, we learnt to be tolerant – we will go lengths to get things done for each other 🙂

Now nearly half of the cousins are married and thankfully all our spouses support this bond and have joined this gang, especially our only sister-in-law who has taken to this group like a fish to water 😀 We are in various parts of the world and at each Christmas and Easter we reminiscence about the time we spend together. But Whatsapp, Skype, Viber still keeps us together- even our 80+ plus Ammachi is active on these forums. I am truly blessed to have these cousins and Ammachi and Aunty R who provides us with a home to come whenever we need space for some fun or just some mental peace!

As one of cousins rightfully stated- cousins are your friends not by choice, but still friends for a lifetime.

■ (a kaala teeka to avoid evil eye on us :P)

Delhi by-cycle

Delhi by-cycle

Our life at the moment is a bit like the famous malayalam movie ‘Midhunam’, where I behave like Urvashi’s character Sulu while the Man is toiling away like ‘Sethuettan’ in office and at home. In the last few days, the scene in our house was somewhat like the initial parts of this video. Our trip didn’t happen and I was sulking more because the airline company refunded me only Rs. 800 and lost 9k! I cringe at the thought of the manner I behaved… (eeeeeeishhhhh)!! Don’t judge me pls… I am just human and the Man super-human!

In an attempt to do something interesting, yesterday I booked myself on a DelhiByCycle tour of Old Delhi. I tried rounding up the Man, tried coaxing my friends, but to no avail. Had a few security concerns since I had to be in Daryaganj at 6.30 am. But considering that this initiative was set up by a cool Dutchman Jack Leenaars, had very positive feedback on Tripadvisor from non-Indians and only a passionate adventurer will be ready at 6.30am in Old Delhi, gut said I was in safe hands. Since I was in a bad mood, all the Man warned is to ‘be safe’ 😀

So 5.45 am, I zoomed down the Expressway, made it on time, met the charming Sudheer and his co-guide Raju. And my ‘cycle-mates’ were 4 brit babes and 2 german gents. Armed with our orange bikes, we headed out to walled city. We cycled through the wholesale chicken/lamb market (the perfect sight to kickstart you into vegetarianism), narrow gullys, twisted turns watching the city waking up. While some people snuggled cozily under their blankets on the pavement, others were busy at work.

First stop was Turkman Gate, the 17th century structure standing next to the modern (read ugly) glass Delhi Stock Exchange Building. Our Guide Sudheer set the mood- this contrast yet co-existence of the old and the new worlds. Peddled our way to Charwi Bazar, which I didn’t know was the pick-up hub of the olden days. I wasn’t even aware that the buildings looked very beautiful since whenever I didn’t have the courage to look up due to chaos during normal hours! We then headed to Khari Baoli and en route saw sacks of marigold dumped in the flower mandi- bright yellow wave amidst dirty sacks.  A trip to KB is good for the respiratory system as the spices choke you and then you sneeze your way to a clean pair of lungs! KB was quite active at 7.30 am- labourers loading and unloading sacks of pungent spices. Climbed up 4 floors to the terrace of a huge warehouse, which we were told was a haveli that served ONE family!! The view from the terrace was the highlight of the trip for me- rose petals set out to dry, the serene Fatehpuri Masjid on one side, the bustling warehouse on the other and the kabootarbazi training. Kabootarbazi is the coolest thing I learnt on this trip- men training flocks of pigeons to fly in a certain direction post which teams send their flocks out together, the pigeons get confused

and land up in different flock only to then be returned to their rightful owners upon payment of money. Remember Om Puri’s antics in this song- kabootarbazi is what he is doing and the sounds in the song other than the female singers are the calls made by the kabootar keeper to his flock. 😉

Old and new peaceful coexistance

Old and new peaceful coexistance

To experience the ‘contrast’, we then left KB via Mori Gate and headed to the serene Civil Lines, riding past Raj Bhawan, St. Xaviers School and came to office of the District Magistrate for tea- while sitting on the pavement! 😛

A cutting chai later, we got back into the chaos and headed to Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi Railway Station, labour market, Red Fort and finally for a much deserved breakfast of nihari at Karim’s. The huge khameeri roti served with succulent lamb floating in oil and fragrant curry was devoured by one and all. A 15 min ride later, we were back at our starting point.

Despite knowing about most of the places I visited today, this trip was still an eye opener for me:

A Dutchman set up an amazing cycling tour in the heart of old Delhi- how enterprising is that!

minerets in spice markets

minerets in spice markets

Cutting chsi

Cutting chsi

Kabootarbaazi- such a delightful sport using birds who, till now I thought, were things that pooped all over my balcony!!

Venturing out of my comfort zone and solo explorations are actually enjoyable- I didn’t miss company- I think I liked it A LOT!!!

We Indians treat our visitors disrespectfully- no! lack of education of labour class/lower class is no excuse for shouting out foreign maal, videshi cheez dekho, hellooo welcome to india jee while rubbing your balls! You don’t need education to be cultured! The non-indians on the tour were aware of the catcalls but still enjoyed the trip and were quite excited. I think I was more overwhelmed by things around than them!!!!

I gave Raju, the co-guide a tough time as I had confidence issues with the bike- the only indian on the trip had issues cycling on indian roads!!!!!

There exists another India which is diametrically opposite from the part where I live in and I consider myself blessed for all that I have. There are genuine issues that need urgent attention such as population control, cleaner environment, sanitation facilities, job creation, creation of a culture that respects women and our guests!!!!!!

PS: special shout out to Sudheer and the ever helpful Raju who I gave a very tough time with my low confidence cycling!

Random Musings

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Some random thoughts looming over my head these days:

~ I have spent last winter attending weddings. I still have one more to go. Phew! I also have friends around me who haven’t ‘bitten the dust’ yet and are perennially worried about the precarious situation they are stuck in. People around them constantly pestering them about their marital status and the importance of the ‘right’ age, the dangers of ‘higher’ education and the ‘perils’ of an ambitious career for a girl. But is it worth worrying yourself sick about your personal life which doesn’t meet the standards set out by society? Stop living your life to the fullest because you are not married? Or worse, get married for the sake of getting married? Or the worst, beg someone to marry you since you are crumbling under societal pressure? (Hellooo self respect, where have I lost you!)

~ There is baby bloom all around. People around me, including my cook, ask me when will I ‘do’ babies and ‘start’ family. I don’t feel the need or the desire to have one (well for the moment that is). Does that make me selfish? According to the Pope it is and this is coming from a man who doesn’t have any kids of his own! Have I not done a noble thing by sparing a life from coming into this world and joining the rat race? Have I not done a noble thing by sparing humanity from one more rat competing with it for the limited and rapidly depleting resources?

~ a couple of people around me are on a sabbatical. I am proud of such people – the ability to not have your job define you. But then everyone around you seems to be extremely concerned that you don’t have a job, so much so that you will end up spending your sabbatical looking for a new job! Isn’t a break from a job the reason why you took a sabbatical? And shouldn’t Indian firms, which emulate western working culture, take a leaf out of their HR manual and permit sabbaticals for reasons other than pregnancy and sickness.

Don’t let society dictate terms on how you live your life. Get married if you want to but MARRY RIGHT- when your relationship is in trouble, the same society will derive sadistic pleasure listening to your misery. Have kids if you want to but PARENT RIGHT- you are responsible for the life you bring into this world, have expectations, but try to not impose your aspirations and dreams on those rats. Please also train your boys to cook, clean and respect women. Tell your girls that it is not ok for anyone to treat her disrespectfully. Take that sabbatical but PLAN RIGHT- learn a new language, pick up a new skill, volunteer, travel- do all those things which you promised yourself when you were your slogging yourself at your desk!

Live your life and don’t let society get to you.

Highway Treats: White Butter Paradise Part 2

Day 2

The suprisingly adventurous Man said that we should head to Amritsar. So strategically light breakfast later, we were on the road. 1.5 hrs later we were in the holy city. A trip inside the Golden Temple, and a booboo later (where we ate the prasad without offering it inside and this was pointed out by a good hearted admonishing sardarji), we landed at the Langar Hall to have the Guru ka Langar- one of the largest community kitchens of the world.

Jalandhar

(left) Mise en place for the langar                                                (right) Hungry thousands

Have you ever been humbled by the food? The Guru ka langar at Harmandir Sahib (aka Golden Temple) will do that you! Being part of the 1,00,000 odd people being fed that day, watching the amazing sense of crowd control and chivalry by the managers, the selflessness of the sewadars chopping vegetables, making rotis and stirring dals in big cauldrons, eating a simple meal of roti, dal, kheer and watching hordes of volunteers cleaning your plate, fulfilling one of the basic needs of a human being- hunger, without any discrimination of caste, creed, wealth and for no material consideration-This to me is religion done right! There is no menu, no tables waiting to be seated and NO white butter, but this meal reminds you what every dietician propounds for a healthy life- simple, wholesome, nutritious meal J

Guru's langar

                               Guru’s langar

Following this we strolled in Jallianwala Bagh, a reminder of the sacrifices made for our freedom. It makes you wonder whether these sacrifices were made in vain.

(left) Phirnis set out to set  (right) Phirni set out to be gobbled

(left) Phirnis set out to set                          (right) Phirni set out to be gobbled

An argument (which I won obviously) later, the Man and I decided to head to Kesar da Dhaba for its famous lassi. We ordered the lassi, aloo parantha and phirni. The lassi was served in the tallest glass I have seen. We stir the drink, take a sip and guess what??? WHITE BUTTER again! It did live up to its reputation. Then came the aloo parantha in a thali so big that I could literally sit on it. It was expectedly coated with white butter, but Sukhdev paranthas won me over. Lastly came the phirni which was of melt-in-ur-mouth consistency and the Man gobbled up everything and left only 2 spoonfuls for me! The lassi n phirni at Kesar are definitely worth a try.

Lassi n Aloo Parantha

                                                                           Lassi n Aloo Parantha

2 hrs drive and COMA later, we were back at the hotel to witness the Punjabi hot chick wed her golfer beau..ok fine we didn’t watch them wed as the pheras were to happen at 4 am and our systems shut at 2am (old age i tell u)! A fun weekend, some hilarious moments courtesy the alcohol (I think I had a vision of jagjit singh doing flamenco), new friends made, memories with old acquaintances refreshed, we are back in guru ka gaon- tired, sleep deprived but motivated- for another road trip! 😀

Wishing N&M our best!!

Highway Treats: White Butter Paradise Part 1

I was pleasantly surprised when the Man said that he wants to go to Jalandhar to attend his friend’s wedding. It was unbelievable- a workaholic leaving work and travelling 7 hrs by car one way!!- guess the Man really needed a break! It was a road trip after a long time and for me, a car, gps and internet connectivity are sufficient to hit the road! (err…hand sanitiser and tissue paper also :P)

Got ourselves into a cab by 8am and the journey began. The skyscrapers of Gurgaon gave way to the illegal constructions in North Delhi and finally we were on NH1. Sceneries comprising of yellow mustard fields, green cauliflowers, saffron marigolds, creamish sugarcanes and the orange kinnows prevented me from catching up on sleep. Little did I know that I was about to land in white butter paradise, where I would go into a coma after each meal!

First stop: Amrit Sukhdev Dhaba at Murthal

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That’s not yoghurt, its white butter!!

Condiments galore

Condiments galore

Not really a dhaba anymore, its more like haldirams on the highway. Bustling with patrons, we had to stare at people to make them uncomfortable and vacate the table 😛 We ordered mix veg paranthas which came with a big dollop of white butter, served with pickled onions, green chillies, mix veg pickle and a sweet lemon preserve. The paranthas were true to the dhaba style- warm, medium spicy, with the right amount of stuffing and greasy (basically yum!). We ordered tea, which is just the way I like it- milky, sweet, spiced with cinnamon and served in the chaiwala glass- in short Oxford Book Café’s truck driver chai!

COMA

I woke up and it was Ludhiana!! 😀 We stopped for a late lunch at a dhaba called ‘Punjabi Dhaba’ (how unique) Sadly I didn’t take any pics as I was still groggy from the previous butter assault. This time we ordered roti, dal and kadhai paneer. The Man served himself what he thought was a piece of paneer floating in the dal, only to realise that it was a big piece of..u guessed it right…white butter! Special mention abt the staff, who were very exceptionally good hosts. When we could only eat 2 gigantic rotis, the ‘manager’ told us that we hadn’t eaten enough! And when we were leaving he was kind enough to give us a bottle of drinking water, which he had billed by mistake. Such experiences make me realise that some good people still exist in the world… 🙂

COMA

Wake up and we are in Jalandhar to ‘attund wedding’. The Man met his friends, some of them long since his graduation. They are a motley gang of fun people, which unites under the influence of alcohol 😀 It was hilarious dancing to Punjabi pind songs and Honey Singh songs with an Italian, Spaniard, Brit, Chinese, and making new friends on the dance floor- Alcohol, music and dance floor has always done that to me. There was even a clash of Djs, with the local DJ playing hans raj hans and the IITian DJ playing Swedish house mafia, finally the uncles choice for Punjabi songs won the battle. And not to forget, the Spore batch trademark dance to ‘I’ve got a feeling’ was also performed to complete the evening.

Delhi Marathon… Check!

Well almost!…ok fine….i only did the Great Delhi Run! Well that’s all I am capable of right now keeping in mind my fitness scorecard!

I was brought up with the mindset that top 3 ranks in class is all that mattered ultimately in life. I did go to piano, drawing and dance classes, but sports was never the agenda. Then came the brother-in-law, for whom sports is a way of life- not something you did in your childhood, but an activity you carried on in life to help you survive the mundane routine of daily life. He managed to get 2 cows- my sister and me running. When I heard that my Chettan did a half marathon, I was kicked, but always thought that half marathon is for boys and Ethiopian women. Until I signed up for airtel delhi half marathon.

So the great delhi run is a mess, very crowded. You will feel like being stranded on rajiv chowk metro station/stuck in virar fast at peak hour. But the energy of the crowd present makes one forget everything. I was happy that I did the GDR, till I went to the refreshment area. The number of middle aged indian women who completed the 21km run was not small. It was pleasantly surprised at seeing so many women train and complete the half marathon. Extremely humbling and very embarrassing for me, considering the amount I huffed and panted with 6Km.

On the metro back, I saw a women extremely tired after her 21km. During our tete-a-tete she told me that she did the 21k after 14 years; she got tired after 10km but the motivation to reach the finish line was the fact that her 18 year old daughter and 23 year old son were waiting there!!

With the learnings from the 7th edition of the race, I hope to do the 21km soon (I need that finishers medal!!!!!)…who knows may be adhm 2015!! 😉

Till then keep running… 🙂