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Happy Mother’s Day- Kyunki, Mere Paas Maa Hai!

I left home in 2014.

No, I did not run away to join the circus. Undoubtedly, that would’ve been quite the story, but I chose a tamer route.

I left home to pursue my Master’s degree in Journalism and it was a move that made me the person that I am today. I knew it would be difficult, but somehow, I didn’t envision being thrown headfirst into the world of adulting, while barely knowing how to swim.

Me, Circa 2014; reaching for the stars.

Me, Circa 2014; reaching for the stars.

But honestly, the most important thing that living alone has taught me, is to appreciate home. Never again, will I ever take “home” for granted. Especially not home-cooked food.

 

Sunday lunch ❤️ #goodfood #home

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No gourmet restaurant can match up to a hot lunch of pepper kuzhambu and fried potato curry on a cold rainy day. No waffle or nutella pancake can ever come close to the feeling of biting into a crispy dosa dipped in green chutney. Somehow, even the cup of Horlicks mom makes me tastes different.

No place like #Home

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Sunday Lunch #Mom #HomeFood #Goodfood #mushroom #biriyani #Love #nothinglikeit

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It’s almost the end of Mother’s Day, and I don’t have my Mother next to me to celebrate. While living with family is indeed, a comfort (especially in an alien city), it doesn’t really change the fact that sometimes, I really miss my mom.

I’ve come to realise over the years that home is a hot cup of chai waiting for you after a long day at work.

The people who live in a house are the ones responsible for making it a home. They may drive you crazy or make you laugh till your stomach hurts, but family is family. You can’t choose them, and maybe, just maybe… That’s a good thing?

To end, I’m going to quote Amitabh Bachchan, in a dialogue that didn’t make sense to me, until I grew older.

 

 

WIA: Theobroma’s million dollar brownie

It’s impossible to live in Mumbai and to miss Theobroma. It’s tagline is ‘The Food of Gods’ and for a damn good reason too. Theobroma debuted on Colaba Causeway in 2004 and Mumbai’s dessert scene hasn’t been the same ever since.

I was in a particularly indulgent mood so I decided to treat myself to one of Theobroma’s famous brownies. I pressed my nose against the glass as I peered closely at my options. My chocolate-lover’s heart was beating with anticipation as I ordered the Millionaire brownie.

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It took me three bites to understand how the brownie got its name. Made up of a thick fudgey chocolate and topped with rich chocolate ganache, the millionaire brownie is so rich in taste it’s not even funny. I’m normally a chocolate lover but this quickly became too much of a good thing.

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Since I was treating myself, I was alone. True, the initial burst of intense chocolate flavour definitely cheered me up, but I couldn’t take the flavour by the time I was halfway through. The oozing dark chocolate ganache filling every corner of my mouth didn’t help as I struggled to finish the brownie.

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Taste rating: 2.9/5

Kids, it really is possible to be deceived by the way something looks. Especially when food is so beautifully presented. The next time you’re thinking of ordering this brownie, make sure you at least have a friend to split it with.

 

The Flavours of Bandra!

When I was an intern at the BBC, it was an intensely challenging experience. For us, it was a whole new experience- to force ourselves to see things differently. One day, we had to sit with a huge stack of newspapers between us. Around lunch time, I glanced over at my friend B who was just looking at me. Her eyes were glazed over and I shook my head and sighed. “Lets just go get some lunch” I suggested. We left and found ourselves wandering through Linking road. When the famous Theobroma patisserie was closed, we found ourselves at a little restaurant that was no bigger than a 2 BHK apartment.

We ordered Mexican Quesadillas, a pizza and Spinach pasta.

It was the first time I had tasted Quesadillas and I must admit, it was slightly average. I have no actual complaints where the taste was concerned, but the chapati or whatever was a bit stiff. Salsa filling very “Indian” in how it tasted. In fact, it vaguely reminded me of the taste of chaat and chutney. Just, a lot less intense.

Quesadillas

Quesadillas

The pizza was undoubtedly among the most heavenly pizza I’d had in a while! The crust was soft and the toppings and cheese blended together so perfectly to create a melt in the mouth combination.

Best. Pizza. Ever.

Best. Pizza. Ever.

The pasta was the only real disappointment through the entire course of this meal. The quantity was negotiable, but the taste was below average. There was paneer in the goddamn pasta. I mean who does that.  “I’ve heard of people adding cheese to pasta, not paneer” I said to B, making a face.

“Technically, cottage cheese is a type of cheese” remarked B with a somber expression as I burst out laughing.

Paneer Pasta. Ew.

Paneer Pasta. Ew.

It was a hot day that demanded a refreshing beverage, so we ordered a fresh lime soda that was mixed. it was supposed to taste sweet and salty. It just ended up tasting really really odd.

That lunch ended up costing us Rs. 790, which is not a lot considering the amount of food we’d eaten, but a slight disappointment considering the fact that the taste of two out of three items was not up to the mark.

Overall restaurant rating- 4.8/10

I liked it, but probably not enough to go back there. Oh well, maybe we’ll just eat a sandwich next time.

Mexiloko!

I have very little knowledge about mexico. My brushes with Mexico include Speedy Gonzalez, a few episodes from Breaking Bad and the 90s song by Carlos Santana, Maria Maria (Though I don’t think that’s a very good reference point. I don’t know if its Mexican at all to begin with.)

Let's be honest. Who doesn't love this guy?

Let’s be honest. Who doesn’t love this guy?

So today, when I was in Bandra, standing outside three restaurants, I was mentally weighing my options. Subway vs. Lebanese food. My friend asked if I wanted to try Mexican food. When I told her I had never ate it before, the decision had already been made. 

God sure knew what he was talking about

God sure knew what he was talking about

In a way, the restaurant reminded me of Harvey Dent from the Batman series. Half of the property was dedicated to the Mexican restaurant and the other half was dedicated to the Lebanese restaurant. It was like two children who shared a room had drawn a line down the middle of it after a particularly intense fight, but hey. This is Mumbai we’re talking about. This kind of thing can’t exactly be helped, I’m guessing.

Now the thing is, I’m not really welcoming to the idea of Mexican food because whenever I’ve tried it in restaurants or other places, I’ve never liked what I’d eaten. So this was a day of firsts in a way. In an effort to try and be at least a little frugal, my friend and I decided to order a shared meal for two. The meal consisted of two burritos, nachos and churros.

Best. Nachos. Ever.

Best. Nachos. Ever.

First up, served as an appetizer of sorts was nachos served to us in a black plastic basket. They were topped with chopped onions and tomatoes and topped with melted parmesan cheese. The quantity was so much that I began having doubts about whether we could actually finish the meal beyond all the nachos we were eating. These were hands down, the best nachos I’ve ever eaten. They weren’t too salty, too cheesy or too bland. The cheese was melted throughout and didn’t really became a coagulated mess even after it wasn’t hot.

The burrito was served with a jalapeno chilli dip and a tomato dip

The burrito was served with a jalapeno chilli dip and a tomato dip

While looking at it, the burrito reminded me of wraps I’ve eaten from places like Faasos, but it tasted entirely different. I opted for mine with potatoes and my friend opted for beans. The potato one didn’t have an overwhelmingly aaloo taste to it, surprisingly, but the flavours blended in perfectly with the other filling of the wrap. It wasn’t too spicy. It was in fact filled with a burst of flavours more than anything.

The best dessert I've had in a while.

The best dessert I’ve had in a while.

The churro felt so delicate that I thought it would crumble if I simply pinched a little harder. Served with a little pot of piping hot chocolate sauce and coated with sugar and the slightest dash of cinnamon, this dessert is the answer to any sweet tooth craving you could possibly have.

I just wish the restaurant had normal chairs. I know this is a really odd complaint, but all the chairs on that side of the restaurant were ridiculously high, as if they were masquerading as bar stools. For someone who is 5’2 and at times rather ungraceful, the chair proved to be quite a challenge in itself. Though admittedly, that is my only complaint with the restaurant. Good food, good service and economical fares made for an extremely good first tryst with Mexican food.

Flying high, gastronomically

The hospitality industry has always fascinated me. When I was invited to the LiteBites Airport food trail, I didn’t realise how much more about it I would be learning. A team of food bloggers explored the airport and had a chance to sample dishes from the various new food joints that were going to open there. Our journey began at around 2p.m and ended at around 4:45 pm! Quite an interesting day it turned out to be.

Café Istanbul Mezze- the three different types of hummus. I have a huge weakness for hummus and coupled with pita bread that was dry, light and of the perfect consistency, this was a dish I really enjoyed.

Pita bread and hummus from Cafe Istanbul

Pita bread and hummus from Cafe Istanbul

Pineapple Panna- was a nice mocktail served to us at the beginning. It was made of smoked pineapple and the glass had a frosted edge that consisted of salt and chat masala. Very interesting as I’ve been acquainted with pineapple in its fruity, less intense form. Smoking the pineapples gave it depth and dimension, which really made the mocktail intriguing.

Pineapple Panna

Pineapple Panna

 

Pesto and Cheddar on Tomato bread, Baker street- It was an adorable, perfect little light treat. The tomato slice lent it’s flavour to the rest of the elements, making sure the dish had a particular taste to look out for. The pesto was very well done, though the Cheddar hardly made its presence felt in this little bread based snack.

Chef Rashmi, working her magic on the Pesto cheddar `

Chef Rashmi, working her magic on the Pesto cheddar `

 

 

Quinoa and nut, Zesty Honey Mustard- This was the dish that didn’t work well for me because of my own personal bias. I don’t like honey mustard and the flavours of Quinoa didn’t appeal to me. If you enjoy these flavours, then it’s a lovely dish. The crumbly consistency makes it fun and easy to digest. The dish was well done. Just wasn’t my taste.

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Szechwan Noodle Bhel Spoons (Bottoms up)- This was presented in the most appealing manner, but I didn’t enjoy this dish. The noodles were slightly hard and it’s way too much to take in one mouthful. The Szechwan sauce tasted nice. Not too spicy with a bit of ginger.

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Mini Taco Salad (Flamez n Roasted)- This was so good, I had to ask for a second serving. The shells were of the perfect consistency- crisp and light without being too crunchy or too soggy. Topped with shredded cabbage and stuffed with onions and tomatoes, this was truly, a well-crafted dish.

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Zambar express was a restaurant that specialised in south indian food. It was something I was looking forward to since I’d been craving South Indian food for a while, what with being away from home and everything. I was not disappointed when I was served mini idlies with three different types of chutney. This dish earns bonus points for presentation because it was neatly wrapped in a banana leaf pouch, secured with toothpicks. The second dish was idiyappam with vegetable ishtew and it was truly reminiscent of home for me. Strong accents of coconut and carrots helped bring the dish home into a perfectly stylized version of the humble dish.

Miniature Kutchi Dabeli (Street foods by Punjab Grill)- my experiences with dabeli have been limited to street food, so finding it in this slightly fancy setting was a bit of a surprise. I enjoyed how the originality of the flavour was retained while it was given a few fancy touches that included sev and even a few pomegranate seeds!

Kutchi dabeli

Kutchi dabeli

Rajasthani Pyaaz Kachori, thanda Baingan Bharta (Naashto)- The presentation of this dish had the group of us excited because of its innovative presentation. It was admittedly, the yummiest kachori I’ve ever had. The cool Baingan Bharta on top added for an interesting contrast between the essences of the two vegetables. In fact, I don’t even like Baingan. The fact that I didn’t mind its presence says a lot about how I perceived the dish.

Onion kachori and thanda baingan bharta.

Onion kachori and thanda baingan bharta.

Grilled saffron Polenta, marinated tomatoes & basil (Fres Co) Polenta is a dough based dish and it was the first time I had tasted it. I wasn’t majorly impressed by the dish as it seemed slightly dry and didn’t leave a lasting impression on my palette.

Polenta- beautifully presented.

Polenta- beautifully presented.

 

So much delicious food.

So much delicious food.

 

We had a blast tasting all the food, but we needed a break. While some of us had green tea, I opted for my favourite comfort drink- hot chocolate!

My palette cleanser of choice- Hot chocolate!

My palette cleanser of choice- Hot chocolate from Baker’s street.

 

 

The lovely dessert platter we were served.

The lovely dessert platter we were served.

Banana pakoda, coconut jaggery cream (Zambar Express)- I’m normally used to fried bananas in a savoury context, so it was a refreshing change to try it as a dessert. The two perfectly complimented each other to make a melt in the mouth, deep fried combination.

Tres Leche, Berry Compote (Flamez n Roasted) I didn’t enjoy this dish as much as I should have as it felt soggy and a bit overly sweet.

Churma Saffron Ghee (Nashto)- a traditional dish brought to life by serving and presentation. The Churma was rich and melted in your mouth, true to its origins.

Salted caramel nankhatai (Baker street)- This was my favourite dessert of the lot. It had a crunchy, hard outer covering while the salty and sweet flavour appealed to much to the indecisive soul who resides within me.

 

Overall, the airport experience minus travel was truly memorable. We got to see so many interesting sights like the one below

The view from the international departure area

The view from the international departure area

 

A food truck in an airport!

A food truck in an airport!

 

The folks at LiteBite were nice enough to give us this amazing hamper at the end of it all to spread the Christmas cheer.

The folks at LiteBite were nice enough to give us this amazing hamper at the end of it all to spread the Christmas cheer.

 

 

Our four legged friends also needed help.
Source: ibtimes.co.uk

Chennai, stay strong

The last ten days have proven to be a true test of Chennai’s character, and I could not have been prouder of how the citizens choose to act in a situation of such duress. It is the worst flood that Chennai has seen in the last 100 years

Chennai: People rescue from their Watter lodged houses during heavy rains in Chennai on Wednesday. PTI Photo (PTI12_2_2015_000351A)

Chennai: People rescue from their Watter lodged houses during heavy rains in Chennai on Wednesday. PTI Photo (PTI12_2_2015_000351A)

 

Picture source: Manorama online

Picture source: Manorama online

 

Our four legged friends also needed help. Source: ibtimes.co.uk

Our four legged friends also needed help.
Source: ibtimes.co.uk

 

I am not in a position to contribute financially, nor am I in geographical proximity of the rescue operations in order to volunteer. However, I’m going to try and do my part and raise awareness. Now, my writing about food is rather whimsical on many occasions, talking about cake, or pasta or pizza and their many wonderful flavours and textures. However, it is crucial for all of us to remember that food constitutes a significant part of our sustenance. In situations like this, there are a few guidelines you would need to follow in order to ensure food supplies are safe to consume

  1. Stock up

This is the first and the most important step. As far as possible, stock up on food items that do not require elaborate preparations, or if possible, no preparation at all. Think of items such as bread, jam, chocolates (for quick glucose and/or energy), ready to eat chapatis, packets of potato or tapioca chips. If you have traditional snacks such as murukkus or chakklis lying around, they too are good for consumption because of their shelf life.

 

  1. Do not rely on electricity

A lot of us are surprisingly reliant on electricity to cook. This could be in the form of microwave ovens, electric kettles, electric rice cookers, air fryers, toasters, sandwich makers, induction stoves etc. These gadgets were invented to make our lives easier; but in a situation where the electricity supply is uncertain, you cannot rely on these to cook. It helps to ensure access to a traditional gas stove in order to prepare hot food for immediate consumption.

 

  1. Keep it simple

When preparing food, keep it as simple as possible. Instant noodles and soups work well here. Similarly, while cooking traditional food, keep it limited to one main dish and one vegetable curry. Rice works well in this situation because all you need is a pressure cooker and a gas connection. Vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, beetroot, onions, garlic etc do not spoil easily even in the absence of a refrigerator.

  1. Store, do not hoard
    All food must be properly stored in containers. If there are vessels that contain food, ensure it is properly covered. In a state of panic, it may be tempting to buy as much food as you can get your hands on. However, when you’re in a situation where you have access to actually buying food, please do not hoard. Bear other people in mind, because when resources are scarce, everyone deserves an equal share.
  2. In case of flooding

Food is more important now than ever in order to keep your energy up. Pack a bag that contains essentials such as money, your cellphone, a power bank, etc and carry food as well. If you can get your hands on energy bars, they are the most convenient in this situation. If not, carry chocolate and chips and traditional snacks such as thattai, murukku, adhirsam and so on. These south indian snacks can be preserved without refridgeration, are good for immediate consumption and are a good source of energy. For that matter, Gujarati snacks also work exceptionally well. Think of dishes such as theplas, khakras and khandvi. They need no refridgeration or airtight containers to be stored in and are good for quick consumption.
Store food in packets or Ziploc covers rather than dabbas as boxes add unnecessary weight to your bag and tend to take up space.

 

  1. Beware of diseases

With rains and flooding come diseases such as cholera, malaria and dengue. As far as possible, try to make sure your water is boiled before drinking. This simple precaution alone can prevent a lot of water borne diseases. If you cannot ensure your water is boiled, try to make sure it is from a safe source, such as a sealed bottle or from one of those 20 litre water cans.

 

  1. Stay together

Staying united with your friends, family and neighbours. Do not hesitate to help each other out with resources, be it milk, oil or vegetables. I will say no more on this front because my people, the ones with hearts of gold; do not need to be told these things.

Here are a few more precautions to take during the flood, courtesy: manoramaonline.

Here are a few more precautions to take during the flood, courtesy: manoramaonline.

 

To all the residents of Chennai, I will just say this. Stay strong, and the whole goddamn world is praying for you. You will get through this and show the world how things are done. I’m already proud of how you’ve acted, and I am proud of this city that I call my home town.

26/11: We will never forget

I was 15 at the time of the 26/11 terror attacks.

I wasn’t in school because Chennai was having another cyclonic depression so it was a series of cold rainy days. I remember feeling horrified as I watched on. 24/7 news channels were having a field day with news coverage as almost any movement at the sites of the terror attacks warranted extended explanations.

Stories of bravery and human resilience surfaced soon after, causing me to marvel at the nature of how some people reacted in such intense situations. My stomach churned unpleasantly as I learned that the terrorists had entered the country via the sea.

I thought back to the beach and tried to imagine the calm waves washing ashore, a boat filled with gun toting monsters.

But the one thing I remember feeling the most strongly, was a sense of disconnect. I had never been to the city. I had never seen these monuments. I had never encountered these people. I wanted to learn how they were feeling. I wanted to see how they were coping. I wanted to understand what they were thinking.

After all, there’s only so much coverage a news channel can offer you.

7 years and 3 days after the horrific incident took place, I offered my bag to the security guard as they rummaged through it. I stood next to Miss BB and our friend as they repeated the procedure. My breath caught in my throat as I stepped in to the crowded café.

Established in 1871, Leopold Café needs no further introduction. It was also one of the first sites of attack where the terrorists barged in and attacked its patrons with guns and grenades.

Being a Saturday evening, the café was buzzing with activity. As I seated myself, my eyes fell on a sight that took my words away.

An irregularly shaped hole, on one of the pillars. Unmistakably, a bullet hole from the 26/11 terror attack. I tried to maintain a calm face as I suddenly felt insecure. All around me, everyone was busy with their beverages and their food and I looked down at the menu, trying to make sense of it all. Sitting there, the gravity of the attacks finally hit me, hard. The reality of the situation that was the terror attack on Mumbai on 26th November 2008… I finally began to understand the depth of the situation.

For more pictures of the cafe after the attacks in 2008, check out this article from Mashable.com

I imagined sitting there, dictating my order to a waiter as a gunman suddenly burst in and began firing. My throat was robbed of its voice as I caught sight of more bullet holes in different parts of the café.

What struck me, however, was how it had an air of stubbornness to it. The wait staff were slightly less than polite to us, though their service was impeccable. It was almost as if they were trying to send out a message- about how well they had recovered and how they were happy to go on.

Which sort of made sense, given the circumstances.

My heart goes out to those who did not survive the terror attack that day, and to those who have to live with the scars in their mind.

To all the soldiers, civillians and citizens who didn’t back down even when brute force tried to strike fear into our hearts.

We will stand tall… And we will never forget.

Image credit- IBN live

Image credit- IBN live

 

Hello from the city of dreams!

You’d think that a 22 year old with a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication would be able to wrap aluminium foil around two slices of bread with peanut butter on them.

I have never been more wrong in my life.

Hello my lovely readers! I took a rather unexpected sabbatical from blogging and here I am again, in the city of dreams. That’s right, I’m in Mumbai! I could not be happier to be here right now, interning with BBC in Mumbai.

I know, there’s been a lot going on in my life right now and I’ve been really caught in the thick of things. Luckily, you’ve probably been able to get a hold on how my life is going right now if you’ve been following me on Instagram (@thatepicfoodiegirl) and Twitter (@aish7793)

Bombay, started off with one big amazing trip.

 

Nothing could defeat our spirits! Even at 5 a.m :D

Nothing could defeat our spirits! Even at 5 a.m :D

We literally had to brave a storm. I'm not even sure how they let us fly in weather like that.

We literally had to brave a storm. I’m not even sure how they let us fly in weather like that.

 

Up in the air!

Up in the air!

This made me so happy

This made me so happy

 

I’m living near Bandra right now. Pretty posh upscale area, and for these two months, there is going to be a new character in my life (and blog) whom I’ll be making frequent references to. Miss. BB is a bright, young, promising woman and the most important part is, she’s a vegetarian <3 It’s like it was meant to be.

The thing is Ms. BB is possibly the only person in my life I know who loves food and cooking as much as I do. She’s always prompting me to try new cuisines and explaining things about cooking to me, in addition to having conversations about pretty much anything under the sun. I’m happy I get to be around her.

Miss. BB and I have also started our own Instagram page which will chronicle all the food we eat in Bombay. Follow us @thehungryinterns on Instagram.

I hope to keep you all engaged and enthralled with all of the things that I plan to post. Keep watching this space for more adventures in the land of dreams, shopping and of course, food.

Till next time, much love darlings!

Shubho Mahalaya

I first met a Bengali when I was 11. His name was Gogol Ganguli, and Jhumpa Lahiri spoke to me at great length about identity crises and generation gaps. That was the first time my curiousity was piqued by the culture as described in that book. I became increasingly fascinated with their expressive eyes, their ‘well-rounded’ language, their passion, their intellect and of course, their fierce love for Calcutta. The Namesake was my earliest exposure to Bengalis. Before I joined college at Symbiosis, never did I imagine that I would have the pleasure of meeting so many of them and that I would go on to become close friends with some of them.

So when you know as many Bengalis as I do, you’d know how they speak of home with an air of reminiscence and a twinge of nostalgia in their voices. Well, my beloved bongs took it a step further. They organised a feast, which is called ‘bhog’ to celebrate Mahalya.

So I went a step further and tried to find out what Mahalaya is all about. It’s an auspicious occasion observed seven days before Durga Puja. It was originally an invocation. When the demon king Mahisasura was increasingly cruel to the gods, the gods pleaded to Vishnu to annihilate this demon, unable to bear his tyranny. The Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva came together to create a powerful female goddess with ten arms- Goddess Durga or Mahamaya. Goddess Durga rides on a lion to battle Mahisasura and then slays him. After he has been slayed, heaven and earth rejoice at her victory.

Such a victory of epic proportions would certainly not go uncelebrated here at Symbiosis International University!

First up, we were served Luchi. Luchi is the Bengali name for Puri and I didn’t really find it different from the puris I’ve had elsewhere, but they had less oil and I really appreciated that. The first dish to be served with it was Alur Dom. That’s the Bong version of dum Aloo. A dish that (incidentally) I’m not very fond of, but I bit into it nevertheless and I was pleasantly surprised. The gravy that the Alur was in was full of flavour and spice without being overwhelmingly spicy and the potato actually retained its natural flavour, hence adding a few sweet notes to the dish.

Luchi and Alur Dom

Luchi and Alur Dom

Next up we were served Khichuri, which is their version of Kichdi. I quite liked it because it was warm and I could taste the slightest trace of ghee somewhere there. My friend Jui directed me to eat the Khichuri with Labra. Labra is a mixed veg curry that had carrots, beans and a few other veggies. Again what I loved about the Labra, was how the true flavours of the vegetables came through beautifully, despite the fact that it was cooked with oil and spices. The vegetables retaining their flavours puts a very interesting spin on the dishes and they make them feel so much more organic and beautiful.

Khichuri

Khichuri

My personal favourite was the Bhaja. Bhaja was thin crispy potato fries served with roasted groundnuts and garnished with a hint of chilli powder. The potato melted in my mouth instantly and though one would think that the flavours of the groundnut and the potato would clash, they didn’t. They formed the most beautiful symphony in the simplest of snacks.

What a feast it was! Photo courtesy: Swastika De Sarkar

What a feast it was!
Photo courtesy: Megha Varier

The organisers, hard at work Photo courtesy: Swastika De Sarkar

The organisers, hard at work
Photo courtesy: Swastika De Sarkar

Overall, the experience was absolutely magical. It made me feel satiated without feeling stuffed and uncomfortable. I felt a sort of comfort that lulled me from deep within when I finished my meal. I may not be Bengali, I may not understand their language, but in those few beautiful fleeting moments when I was eating food, so lovingly served to me by my own friends, I finally felt like I was home.

 

Ganpati Bappa in Pune is the true definition of larger than life.

Ganpati Bappa Moriya!

Image courtesy: Dekhnews

Image courtesy: Dekhnews

 

Punekars bid goodbye to their favourite Elephant faced God- Ganpati, Ganesh, Vinayak, Pulaiyaar, Ekadanta, or whatever name you want to use to address him. This Ganesh Chathurthi has been a significant time in my life because of how I was tested. But I’m going to save that for later.

If I was in Chennai, I would’ve woken up to my mother (in all probability) yelling at me for sleeping in (read as sleeping till 8 or 9 a.m) and me hustling to get out of bed. I’d quickly shower, wash my hair and get dressed and rush to help my Father make Kozhukattai, all while hungrily eyeing the hot and crispy vadas my mom was making as the divine smell filled the entire house. My sister and I would join hands and say a prayer that we learnt back when we studied in the same school together and we would then fall silent as we prayed for each other’s health, success and joy.

This year's Ganesh Chathurthi spread at home.

This year’s Ganesh Chathurthi spread at home.

After lunch, and our prayers and offerings,  we’d all gather around and watch a hit movie that was being played on Sun TV or Vijay TV. Most probably involving Rajinikanth ( <3 ).

*Deafening whistles and screams* Image courtesy: Indiannerve.com

*Deafening whistles and screams*
Image courtesy: Indiannerve.com

I felt miserable and alone when I woke up to cloudy skies at Noon this year, on Ganesh Chathurthi. I spoke to my mom who seemed preoccupied and slightly distant on the phone. There were puja celebrations happening in the recreation and wellness center of our campus as well, but I felt so poorly motivated to actually be a part of them. I’d taken a trip home only recently, but somehow that day I missed home more than ever..

Then we were handed an assignment by our professor to go to the city and cover Ganesh Chathurthi celebrations in Pune. I was reluctant to, but I did go, and when we went, I was speechless at the grandeur of celebrations left me stunned, finally lifting me out of the misty gray dullness that had enveloped me over the few days that followed Ganesh Chathurthi’s first day.

Ganpati Bappa in Pune is the true definition of larger than life.

Ganpati Bappa in Pune is the true definition of larger than life.

As I roamed the streets, I understood for the first time in my life, what the phrase ‘larger than life’ meant. There was festive splendor everywhere and I couldn’t take my eyes off the sights and sounds. It was so invigorating to be part of that crowd and report.

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Found outside a pandal: If you can throw a coin into that pot in the middle, then all your desires will be fulfilled.

Make a wish.

Make a wish.

On the last day of our reporting assignment, I felt like we had come around to a full circle. It had been almost 4 or 5 days of continuous shooting. Those days were filled with fun, despite the hard work and running around we had to do. We were walking on a narrow footpath on a busy crowded road when we chanced upon a small shop that sold sweets and (of course) modaks.

Yay! Modaks!

Yay! Modaks!

My friend and I eagerly dug in as a huge smile spread across my face. It was like tasting something my dad had made. I smiled kindly at who appeared to be the shop owner and told him this was the best modak I’d had in a while and that it reminded me of the ones I ate at home. The outside was soft yet firm and on the inside was jaggery and coconut. I took my time in relishing and eating the dish as never before had a sweet dish come so close to what we eat back at home.

That’s when I realised… Home is not a place that you leave behind. Home is everywhere, if you look hard enough. Home is in the same blue skies and the shining sun that warms your face. It is in the people, whose hearts you happen to touch merely by the virtue of you saying hello. You can never leave home behind. Home is somewhere you carry in your heart.