Monday, January 30, 2006

Mofongo baby!

I've always wanted to try the "national" dish of the place I visit - couldn't make myself do it in Edindurgh where that involves eating somthing called HAGGIS (really hagish bong style!). If you think I am just being cute then read on ...

Simple Recipe for Haggis
1 sheep's lung (illegal in the U.S.; may be omitted if not available)
1 sheep's stomach
1 sheep heart
1 sheep liver
1/2 lb fresh suet (kidney leaf fat is preferred)
3/4 cup oatmeal (the ground type, NOT the Quaker Oats type!)
3 onions, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 cup stock
Wash lungs and stomach well, rub with salt and rinse. Remove membranes and excess fat. Soak in cold salted water for several hours. Turn stomach inside out for stuffin..... WANT MORE??!!

anycase, the reason why I started talking about national dishes in the first place was cos I managed to try one - the Puerto rican "Mofongo" yesterday! Much less dangerous than the haggis it is a simple sweet plantain pie with a spicy beef filling. Oh well, you know I am just showing off, yaha I did take another trip, this time to San Juan, Puertu Rico. And no, you can't say I am neglecting my PhD cos it was (at least ostensibly) for a conference!

To get it going let me start with some pics of the island, sun and beaches.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

More Wine

I am feeling all bluh duh after the long flight back home. The weather, I have to accept, is terrific, all snowy and white but beautifully sunny. Almost felt like joining Wanda in her search for frozen poo in the snowy back garden - crunching thru the knee high snow and chasing birds around the bird feeder. What a fun life she has...

Well my life is not too bad either - leaving for Puerto Rico tomorrow - supposedly for a conference but you know how much we will stay in conference rooms when our hotel is bang on the beach. But that's for later, I was supposed to complete the wine story...

So, after slushing thru a rainy redwood we stopped over at Viks' in Berkeley. Tons of Desis - very Nirulas or actually very Saagar style place where the man behind the food counter kept calling for Mohit, Dinesh and Kalpanas of the world - it was quite surreal! We ordered everything we could stuff our faces with- keema paratha (I was the only carnivore so I got to eat all of it!), Chhola Bathura (yah ma, I ate it as well, all naikamis about too much oil forgotten!), pao bhaji, sweet milky chai and gobi parathas! Ok, I can totally picture Ma baba's face at that list - all things I would cringe at back home . All it needed was a poori aloo and a deep fried bread pakora to make it the deadliest meal possible!

Rest of the day just drove around SF trying to find the twin peaks but somehow never got to it, drove on Lombard Street (the most winding street in the world or some such crazy claim to fame) and then got ready to hit the clubs HAHAHHAH! I never thought I would do that but I did.

And it was almost fun. Went to this place called Bubble Lounge - which app'ly is a desi hangout but surprisingly does not play any desi music. We figured that was a deliberate move to establish their undesi-ness- we don't like Bollywood bhangra and yah, we also have white friends (every group there had atleast a symbolic white member). It was very interesting to just watch these people in action - throwing their money around, dressed in almost nothing or in very expensive something, sipping champaign and giving those fake kisses in the air to everyone they met midway to the bar.

The other highlight of the night was the oscar deserving movie called Lajja that we happened to watch. Oh man, whoever this Rajkumar Santoshi is, someone give him a kiss from my side for making the most accidently hilarious movie possible. Poor chap tried very hard to be a "feminist" with his protagonists screaming "Jai Mata devi ki" or something to that effect everytime they did something "revolutionary". Like when Mahima screams out to her to be inlaws (who ofcourse were very evil and were demanding dowry from her hapless parents) "Tu rabies ka kitaroo, yaha se bhaag ja. nahi to tuney jo saare mere baap ke die kaprhe pehne hain, underwear se shirt tak, sab utarwa ke nanga bhaga doongi" ( You rabies germ, get lost otherwise I'll strip you off all the clothes that you are wearing - all of which are given by my dad- and make you run naked.) WOW WHAT A WOMAN :0 and who thought of the brilliant dialogues!

To get back to the travel story, left for the wine county - this place called Healdsberg on Sunday (near the Russian River). I was a bit apprehensive about the place msotly cos wines give me a headache. The place we stayed in did nothing to alleviate my apprehension - it was some Best Western "inn" right next to a gas station. I was expecting "right in the middle of vinyards" from their website, so I was a bit pissed off but my motto to "never regret" kept me going!

Well, how do I describe the place to you. Hmm, so I think vineyards are prettier in some season than others - so don't expect to see all purple grape-y vines looking all pretty(I did), the vinyards actually look more like cemetaries (No I am not trying to be funny - they REALLY do) with the gnarled shrubs lined neatly one after the other. SOme of the wineries were very nicely done up - with gardens and fountains and picnic benches and ofcourse the wines were great. But the place got a bit dull at night once the wineries shut especially since we were the only non white couple under the age of 100 there. All the restuarants were too la-di-da (expensive) so we ended up going to a sketchy Mexican place. So I would recommend the place only if you really love wines or if you want to relax, bike around and generally enjoy being at a quiet low key place.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Wine and winding roads Part I

Anyone not planning a PhD should get inspired to do do once I finish writing my travelogue - yah ha I did travel some more last weekeend. Ille ille to you all who work on your computers all day, we poor PhD types are compensated for our poverty with an overabundance of vela time to do as we wish!

So thursday night (12 am) we set off on our much planned "road trip" to San Fran and the wine county (this place called Healdsburg, 60 miles north of SF). After a looong foggy drive reached Sf. The highlights of that day were lunch at Chaat Cafe (3rd and Folsom for anyone who gets to visit SF someday when u retire from your busy jobs :P). I was drooling all over the seekh kabab roll - I swear it beats Kareems. The crowd was enjoyably eclectic there - not just different shades of desi-ness (unlike at Viks' another Indi dhaba in Berkeley), mostly office goers in fancy -ass suits and some touristy types.

The weather was fantastic - perfect temp and a really bright sun so we spent the rest of the afternoon at Union square engaging in our favorite hobby - people watching! Union Sq has the perfect ambience for doing that without feeling stupid (never do that in the Simla Mall - you are bound to get classified as the pitiable Himachal university vela variety). The art exhibitions, pigeons and cafe music actually manage to make you feel very aantel (arty farty intellectual for you non Bongs) even if u know nothing about the art and all you care to check out is how many desis are around and who's wearing what..

That night was spent in hysterical conversation over Tamarind Margaritas (!) and an exotic Senagalese platter - I unashamedly accept that my life's happiness revolves around different cuisines. The place was young, fun and not too expensive. Definitely worth a second visit. This is beginning to sound like those restaurant rating websites so I'll change track.

Next stop was the much talked about "Redwoods" which obviosuly struck my Enid Blyton fancy - what's the point of having tall trees unless the tree tops hit a cloud and the Land of "Do as you want"! The woods were enchanting no doubt but the obsessive precautionary attitude of this country was a killjoy. Yah, it makes sense to preserve nature for the next generation and all that jazz but it does seem a bit excessive to treat tree trunks like dinosaur skulls in a museum with elaborate "Don't touch this and that" signs. Woods for me are meant to get lost in and not be spoon fed .. well, I guess I'd just have to get that kind of thrill from my mad-bull-infested pine forest trek in nainital!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

slide show

I ve been too unkind to my cute little village in the middle of a snowy nowhere till now. So here's snapshots of some pretty moments...
Snow outside my house this year, fall at the farm around the corner, chapel in school, pond - my favorite place on campus (where do the ducks go in the winters!?), gay parade in the sun and a castle in Vermont (don't miss the arty Nike angle) and some Amreekan style holiday cookie baking :P

Budday Naikami Syndrome

Wishing flags for the budday girl - may all her loony dreams come true! No really, that's what the Buddhist prayer flags are all about - each time they flap in the wind your wishes comes true... and these ones are still flapping somewhere near Rohtang.

What's this thing about birthdays that makes u so narcissictic? Why hasn't X (who I haven't spoken to a zillion years or who i broke up with so sadistically!) not called me yet, why am I not being treated like the center of the universe, why do people have to continue with their life on 18th of Jan why can't they all sit at home with me on their lap?!

It will be too predictable if I start recalling all my 27 b days now - so I won't. Instead I will try to be very bhitty and creatibh... I;ll need some time to prepare so see you in a bit :)

It's 4 pm and am not feeling any overpowering emotion except boredom. All I've done since morning is to stuff my face with cake and food and gossip with various old friends about totally inane things (yas yas I know I was pampered like crazy at 12 am but that is 17 hours away now and THAT IS NOT FAIR, I need to be a princess all day today HMPHHHHH).

The Lunatic is in my head is crooning in the background and I am still very far from any creativity. This song always reminds me of Ali, the glass painting card he gave me for my 21st birthday, the ricksha ride till Momo point and the coffee and chatting afterwards...Um, this threatens to take me soemwhere I don't want to go right now so a change of topic...

All the Beth Orton and DeFranco of the world had made me forget the magic of Floyd.. nothing can beat their power to make me maniacally nostalgic. For I don't know what. Maybe things I wanted to do but never did...

Like sing in a musical,

Walk in the snowfall catching the snow flakes with my tongue (I have no excuse for not doing this one cos in New England snow is something we have an abundance of)

Sit and sing songs next to Chandratal lake for a week with no worries about what my PhD topic is going to be

Swim in the ocean at night preferably not alone & not be scared shitless while doing it

Learn belly dancing (but not have a belly for it)

Be back in Pilani one more weekend, sit in M lawns the whole night just listening to someone with long hair and dopey eyes just strumming the guitar endlessly

~...Am I too old is is too late...~
Thus spake Guru Waters!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Baba black sheep

I am not sure what was the best part - the stairs in the peak of winter where we sat a million nights staring at the stars, pretending to be a group of thoughtful smokers, or the week of frenzied preparation just before the festival,the late night rehearsals with the varied contents of Baba's hipflask keeping us warm and in giggly moods! Do you remember the night the rehearsal went off exceptionally well (it was always so hard to please baba & I think for most of us having him applaud was more important than the Best performer awards - which we always won :P) & a mouse came out of the broken wooden panelling to see what we were upto! And the nights of our endless what-did-we-call-them, was it round table meetings??? Nah can't be that - but it was some pseudo official sounding name where all we did was bitch about each other!

One thing I have to thank Adil for (I take back "you remind me of Saboo") was introducing me to the group. I was scared shitless the first day - I mean I had never stood on a stage before and here I was being asked to yell out my introductions loud enough for the whole audi to hear.. and then to moan and whimper in front of a audience of 1000 in AIIMS! That was some crazy adrenalin rush tho - would go back in time just for that feeling once more. Ofcourse the sciency types did not appreciate the play at all (HEHEHE that gave us some perverse thrill that we were smarter than all of them even the judges!). Can't really blame them - it was an "experimental" play (Howard Brenton's Gum & Goo) with the most deliberately insensitive handling of the issue of autism & gender play. All that got the AIIMs audience excited was my moaning (while I transformed from a normal teenager to an autistic child) and as one illustrious young smartass yelled out "Larhka hua ya larhki"... well, each to their own! Incidentally our third co-actor has become a (big?) Tamil movie actor now!!

Apart from all the vices, I hold the group responsible for introducing me to so many types of people who (at the risk of sounding snobbish) I would never have willingly spoken to otherwise. And ultimately almost all 40 of them ended up becoming pretty good friends - I guess theatre does that to you. If you spend 24x7 on each other's face, eating drinking sleeping crying laughing together - it's bound to make you closer.

Well those were my 30 seconds of fame! Now back to being a boring PhD student BLAGHH

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Memory no.1: 1983?

Since the travel bug is in me now I might as well make most of it - and spew some wasted thoughts on cyber space!

If I think really hard, long long back in time, maybe I was 4, in a pink dress (why are memories always so gender conforming!), by the pavement in a little town in Kerala. I won't claim that I remember the face of the artist, but I swear I can still see snapshots of the charcoal portrait he drew of me (on the pavement?)... The same trip, some aunty's roof. Pia and I were throwing bricks down a chimney (I don't know why we were being so Calvin-ish). I am not sure we got yelled at but there was some kind of moral lecturing involved.

Mmmmmm and wasn't it the same place where we were in this fancy hotel with uniformed waiters who only knew how to speak in English? Pia the smarter one (I was at that stage when I pretended to know no language except when I wanted to sing songs to random foreigners) was rehearsing lines in english before calling Room service! Why had Ma baba abandoned a 4 and a 6 year old in the middle of Kerala and a balcony full of monkeys I have no clue....?

Is that what I meant to say at all?

Conches, drums and droplets of fire
Amidst smoke-filled dark rooms
Incense sticks and a slight musty smell
Of helpless believers chanting
In front of a pot-bellied maestro

It's all a dream, I know it is
But what if
I like the wet feel of sandalwood
The strange echo of a thousand silent wishes
The cold stone floor against by bare feet
The hollow sound of the big ancient bell

What if I did not care that
Your intense love is not any worse
Than my deliberate loathing
Will that still make me you?

Friday, January 06, 2006

does it happen to u?

Does it ever happen to you that you enjoy the memories more than the event itself? Every time I travel I feel that way. In 2003 went for a week long trip to Edinburgh - going by all the great things I had heard about the place it should have been all "ooh aah and this is like heaven" but the week went by quite undramatically. The cobbled streets, castles, islands and green meadows were definitely impressive but (ok, I am going to sound loony here) parts of Cheena peak hike are as impressive. I know I know, it's not just about the trees but the "cultural experience" .. see I told you it's hard to communicate this feeling...

No, I DO not belong to that species of "Jana gana mana" desis who sneer at all "wonders" here and claim that India has prettier places. I don't even want to go there. Even when I was in the unbeatably wonderful Chandratal lake the summer before Edinburgh, experiencing the lake was not as striking as reliving the expereince to missing -in-action friends later on. And the more I wrote and talked about it, the more I reminisced staring at the photographs - the more monumentally amazing the lake became in my head. I guess it's partly cos while I was there, the daily discomforts (of crapping on stones with limited supply of TP & sleeping in a tent with two snoring drunk men in sub zero temperature) overpowered the joy of "yippy I am at 15,000 ft next to a deep blue glacial lake with ulimited supply pf alcohol and nothing else!"

Edinburgh was relatively hassle-free but then there were these sleepless nights in the closet sized room and then the living room haunted by a dead cat which caused some misery (I swear I heard a cat mew every single night I slept in the living room, the sound coming from the fireplace and on the last night to make its presence felt it decided to jump and land on my tummy & No there were no cats in that inn just the pet cemetary next doors )

That reminds me - to digress totally from the topic of present vs memories- saw this spooky movie "Exorcism of Emily Rose" last week. I've been waking up at 3 am each night and sniffing around for any trace of a burning smell. thankfully nothing's happened as yet. I wonder if "believers" find the movie spookier?? It claims to be a true story - I don't think I am convienced(crossing my fingers while saying that cos I definitely don't want anything/one to convience me otherwise)

PS: As you can guess I just discovered that I can upload images on the blog - so showing off my techno skills with some snaps from C'tal and Edin HYUK HYUK so lame

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Happy Anniv :P

This is addictive - even when I have nothing smart to say. hearing wedding news from everywhere .. I must be getting reeely old! My "best" friend from school getting married this october - i havn't seen her for ages now but I was one of the first ones she invited! I guess marriage does that to u - makes u all nostalgic and senti. Most others from the nearer past are either planning marriage or pretending to "not want to yet". Obviously I am going to talk in third person and not about how I fit into the pic!

I find it really wierd when a lot of the desis here proclaim very assertively " One thing I know for sure - I WILL NOT bring up my kids in this country.." I wonder why they say that... what's so sacred about childhood that it has to be nurtured in the holiness of homeland??? I am probably the last ones to say I love the comforts here - the "heating system" (I swear to you, a lot of ppl say that's one of the big things here!), dishwashers and civilized traffic system (another top cited reasons for "why I chose to stay in the US!!) - but then I can't get it when the die hard yankee lovers pretend that they want to move out as soon as a baby comes in the pic... No one actually does move back tho'

Enough rambling. Am reading this book by Isabel Allende for the 10th time "City of beasts", it's just made for the dream traveller in me. Ma would love it as well I am sure. Alternate that one with this national bestseller - Me talk pretty someday (? I think that's the name) it's hilarious and made me laugh out aloud so often on the flight to LA that ppl thought "kallu aurat pagla gayee"... Ofcourse that is also on halt while I exhaust my present obsession with Sudoku. Played that yet?

Sunday, January 01, 2006


Another year ... very predictable beginning to a new year entry!
Nah, it feels no different. Been chewing my bf's brain telling him what an exciting life I've always had till now - claiming that I party like crazy every 31st... as far as I can recall all we've ever done in India is to sit next to a bonfire and get totally trashed and sing pondy hindi songs...
I am sure the rest of the gang is still doing the same, unless everyone's fought with each other by now and are sulking...

Did the burning wishes game yestreday at 11:59. I was adamant about repeating that this year - cos my first wish came true :). Well, lets see what happens this time. I'll let you know if I am lucky again this time!
It's funny but there are two intances in the past when I tried to be a serious believer and both times the wishes didnt come true... hmm maybe god doesn't love me too much... kyu ji ?? One was the phase when I became almost convienced and started all the chanting business. It lasted for exactly 2 weeks and then there was this BIG thing I was hysterically praying for and ofcourse i didn't get it so I sulked and gave up.. the earlier one was less gory - I think I was 10 or some similar insignificant age and tied a dhaga at salim chisti's dargah and wished to beat shalin in EVS (HEEEHEHEHE - confessions of a juvenile nerd) and he beat me...

ok no more
talk to you later

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