Thursday, July 10, 2008

i love lychee

lychee has been one of my favourite fruits from childhood. and like all good things in life, they don't come easily. lychee has a short season and if you have missed it you have to rest content with the tinned stuff. its crimsoncoloured skin hides a lovely translucent white juicy flesh which when you consume gives you a heavenly feeling. recently during my visit to kolkata i was lucky to find plenty of lychees on sale on the roads. i bought a big bagful.

lychees originated in india and are mainly grown in bihar,especially in muzzafarpur district along the river gandak,thanks to its agro-climatic condition. searing heat this year destroyed much of the crop. the burst of heat was immediately followed by rains. a double disaster for lychees.i came across an article which said that israelis have an innovative technology that can help increase litchi life span by keeping it fresh for atleast a month after they are plucked in full ripe condition. i hope our government buys the technology to boost the production and improve its availability. last year we exported about 100 tonnes to the middle east,canada,russia and the netherlands. this year we might not reach even a third of that.export requirements are stringent. lychees have to be delicious and must have a diameter of six centimeters to be exportable!.

lychees are oval in shape, have a brittle leathery skin with a light pink to deep red colour and a small seed. they are incredibly juicy,very aromatic and give forth a delightful burst of unbelieveable flavour. one can make a 101 things with lychees. sorbet,fruit salad,and even ice cream with ginger.also known as chinese cherry, lychees are very popular in south asian countries. according to some horticulturists,they resemble the muscat grape. in china, honey is harvested in large quantities from hives near lychee trees.lychee seeds are credited with analgesic qualities.

lychees are also considered to be a symbol of romance. a chinese poet had wrritten about lychees thus: all flavours here are joined, yet none is master; a hundred diverse tastes, blend in such harmony no man can say, that one outstrips the other; soverign of sweets, peerless, pre-eminent fruit, who dwellest apart in noble solitude.

i could not think of a better tribute to my favourite lychee.

"turkish delight"

turkey is known for its baths and towels the world over. i recently realised that it makes good confectionery as well. our daughter l recently presented me with a packet of "turkish delight". it brought me much joy.

small cubes made out of starch and sugar and garnished with icing sugar to prevent sticking due to its inherent stickiness and having an added flavour of is also available with pistacchio and cinnamon flavours.

like many other inventions this too happened by accident. a famous sultan of the ottoman empire ordered the palace confectioner to prepare a unique sweet to please the wives in his harem. the confectioner, after many rejections, ultimately came up with the magic recipe that has remained unchanged ever since.

what did he do? simple. he blended a mixture of sugar cyrup,various flavourings and nuts. and voila! the now internationally famous lokum was born. and then a british traveller became so fascinated with this delicacy that he shipped cases of lokum to britain. thus ali mohiddin haci beker,confectioner to the royalty,who was asked by the sultan to make soft candy also became famous.

adnan ozdogru,a greek lokum maker,has applied for european union trademark protection.inspired by pop diva madonna's lyrics "i've got turkish delight baby and so much more", he has produced "madonna lokum". a formula containing honey and a few aphrodisiacs. he is immensely grateful to the pop music icon for endorsing the "turkish delight".

the sultan's selection and the harem's delight. very very enjoyable.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008


aamir is a film about hope with terrorism as the backdrop.besides the protogonist aamir(ajay khandelwal),the other main characters in the movies are the majority city mumbai itself and the voice over the cellphone. aamir is a man on the run. aamir ali is a practising doctor residing in london.he is visiting hs family in mumbai.from the moment he lands at cs international airport his saga of harassment begins.the immigration officer asks him a hundred one questions.being a muslim he is suspected.he tells the officer that had his name been amar he would have left the airport by now. and then when he comes out he does not find his family members to receive him.he is worried.he calls up his residence.there is no response.two guys on a motorcycle ride by and throw a cellphone at him.then a few minutes later when he is awaiting a taxi,he gets a call on his mobile.from then on his misery starts.he is asked to strictly follow the instructions.he questions the caller.he is told that his family is captive and if he does not follow what he is told to do,they will be finished.their picture is also flashed on his mobile phone screen by his tormentor. aamir is petrified. he has no option but to follow the instructions of the faceless voice(shashank ghosh)

he puts his baggage in a cab and finds that the cab has taken off without him.he gives it a chase.eventually he gets into the cab and again after some time when he tries to run away at a signal,the taxi speeds away.the baggage lands in the house of the caller.aamir is accused of leading a good life,making lots of money and not caring for the downtrodden brothers and sisters of his community.the caller asks him "tumne kaum ke liye kya kiya hai?"(what have you done for your religion?).the local mafia have trapped aamir and are making him a terrorist.the fundamentalist kidnapper tricks the reformist aamir to plant a bomb in a bus.he carries a red briefcase to be handed over to another person.the briefcase contains cash.and when he reaches the address of the person to whom he is supposed to hand over the briefcase,he gets badly bashed up.with the help of a prostitute he traces the goons but by then they have transferred the cash and replaced it with the bomb.little knowing its contents he proceeds to the bus as directed by his persecutor.

the film was shot in 25 days in mumbai on a three wheeler van with shutters in the back after cutting a hole in the shutter.the movie is directed by young rajkumar gupta and music is by amit trivedi.the ninety minutes movie is tightly edited and takes you through the lanes and bylanes of the muslim dominated areas of mohammed ali road,chor bazar,bhendi bazar,nagpada,dongri etc.the slums,the irani tea shops,the decrepit buildings housing the chawls,the squalor and filth,the congestion,the prostitutes and pimps are vividly shown.a brutal display of the horrendous living conditions of the poor. the cinematographer alfonso roy shows mumbai in a way never before shown on screen.its obscenity,vulgarity and its sheer madness are all shown as aaamir chases taxis and criminals through roads,gullies and chawls.rajeev khandelwal's portrayal of the hapless muslim youngster drawn into the vortex of terrorism with the hope that his family and child will be spared is outstanding.the entire gamut of negataive emotions-anger,hurt and revenge have been brilliantly expressed by the actor.for the tv actor this has been a dream debut.

supposed to be a copy of the filipino movie titled "cavite", it is the story of a man asked to commit heinous acts by a voice over the telephone. the voice tells him "kaun kahta hai ki aadmi apni kismat khud liktha hai"(who says that one writes one's own destiny"?), in reply to aamir's retort to his faceless caller that a man writes his own destiny.

aamir means the hunter(leader) becomes the hunted. the well dressed expat doctor is brutally chased and finally killed.his family members are also eliminated.the narrative span of five hours,condensed into an hour and half keeps you in suspense throughout. the message of the film is clear.don't succumb to the terrorists.stick to your principles:have hope and faith and work for peace and love and not death and at the last minute,aamir's conscience doesn't permit him to run away from the bus leaving the bomb behind. he does leave the bus only to come back and take the bomb away saving the lives of all the bus passengers.

the movie may not be a box office hit. after all it does not have bikiniclad heroines,titillating songs and sleazy scenes.but then it is a film worth will regret it otherwise.