Saturday, March 28, 2009

earth hour and candle night dinner

my wife is a greenie. what i mean is that she is a great believer in the new green movement. protecting the environment. saving the earth from climatic change caused by depletion of the ozone layer by our indiscriminate lifestyles resulting in degradation of the environment. so,when she asked me to observe one hour of lights out last night in response to a global call to highlight climate change,i readily agreed.

the timing was 8.45pm to 9.45pm.after all,i was also looking forward to a quiet candle light dinner free from burning lights and the sound of music and the glare of tv.i must say,i enjoyed the delicious food that our rajasthani maharaj had prepared.when you are just the two of you and there is darkness around,you feel a sense of tranquility and security with each other. then we retired to the living room and chatted up till it was time to put on the lights again.we discussed many issues which we tend to postpone to another day in our anxiety to keep up with the rat was back to harsh reality once again.

but that escape for an hour soothened my nerves. and i presume that it did the same to hers as well.a small action like this one gives you a feeling of having contributed to a very critical cause and it makes life more interesting and meaningful.i only hope that policymakers throughout the world make 'saving the planet',their topmost priority.

Friday, March 27, 2009

the 'new market'

not very uncommon in kolkata.suddenly you find lot of smoke bellowing out in the hear the sound of fire engines rushing to the spot and coming to a screeching put down a fire caused by some careless and irresponsible individual or greedy shopkeepers who do not follow basic safety precautions.the new market fire,the burra bazar fire,the haldiram fire(s) and yet another new market fire.the list goes on.

on wednesday 25th afternoon,i had landed in kolkata and drove down to my office at shakespeare sarani.a couple of hours later,i learnt that there was a fire in the new market.luckily it was put off before much damage could have been caused.the new market in its old avatar was badly gutted in december 1985,111 years after its beginning.the new market in its new avatar maintains the old british charm. the indian contribution to this classic marketplace is the country's first automated underground parking bay, inaugurated in april 2007.

the prize preserve of calcutta's british citizens and a contemporary of mumbai's crawford market,it was inaugurated on 1st january 1874 and named after sir stuart hogg who was the then calcutta corporation chairman.fondly referred to by the locals as 'hogg sahaber bajjar"(the market of hogg saheb),the architecture of the market done in gothic style is impressive.

as a youngster who grew up in kolkata,i have fond memories of this market which i used to visit so often with my mother.also pre divali it was a must to buy all the new clothing for the entire household. though a strict vegetarian,i remember having bought in the early hours of the morning fresh chingdi maach(favourite prawns for bengalis) for my bong boss at bangalore when i was working there some twenty five years ago.i carried it all the way to mumbai,kept it ovenight in my neighbour's fridge and carried it next morning to what extent do some of us go to please our bosses! he is no more but i am sure he appreciated the much so that he invited us to a party very soon thereafter and unknowingly i enjoyed the maacher jhal!

the underground car park which is 30 feet below the ground level is supposed to be an engineering has a shopping mall at minus one level and a gantry system car parking at minus two level.the project engineers claim that it takes only 90 seconds to recover your driver is not too enthused though.he claims it is a bit of a mess out put my doubts to rest,i must try it out and convince myself whether the claims are true or not.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

what is kanchipuram famous for?

best among the medieveal cities of india,a great place for education and fine arts in the olden days,this temple town of about 1.6 million and only about one and half hours' drive(75 kms) from chennai is every piligrim's must-see destination.located on the palar river,it was called kacchi in the olden days.a thriving and vibrant culture existed in this place which was ruled by the cholas,pallavas, pandyas and the vijayanagara empire.hieun tsang had visited kanchi somewhere in the sixth century and has written glowingly about this city's planning and the temples and architecture in his memoirs. gautama buddha had also visited kanchi.buddhism and jainism also flourished in the city at various periods of its history.the major temples that dot the landscape are the sri varadaraja perumal temple(lord vishnu),ekambaranathan temple(lord shiva) ,sri yathokktakaaryswamy temple(lord vishnu),kamakshi amman temple(saivite) etc. the kanchi kamakoti peetham founded by adi sankara popularly known as sankara mutt is an important landmark in this city.

kanchipuram is also wellknown for hand woven silk sarees of rich textures and is also referred to as the 'silk city'. 'kanjeevaram sarees' as they are referred are exquisite and the preferred dress for south indiam women for all auspicious occasions and social functions.they are world-famous for their thickness,intricate details and heavy zari hindu religion,silk is a symbol of sanctity.every south indian bride will possess at least one kanjeevaram sari though she may wear it only once in a bluemoon. the men too get their silk dhotis,angavastrams and even kurtas in the hundreds of shops selling the local produce.there are about 5000-6000 handloom weavers at kancheepuram and nearby making cotton and pure silk dhotis and sarees.

while the city satiates the needs of the spiritual seekers and those who are fond of good indian-style clothing, it is also famous for the different types of kovil prasadam( the food offerings to the gods) prepared by the temple kitchens-the kal dosai,vadai,maavu and the signature "kanjeevaram idli".after my recent trip to kanchipuram and the loads of prasadam that i brought back,i preserved the delectable idli for many days.i had it for breakfast,for lunch and for dinner too.if that urges you to try it out,don't fret. here is a recipe which i picked up from the net.

1 Ï¿½ Cup Steamed Rice
1 Ï¿½ Cup Raw Rice
1 Ï¿½ Cup Urad dal/Split Black Gram
1" piece Ginger
Ï¿½ tsp Jeera/Cumin Seeds
Ï¿½ tsp Peppercorns, Crushed
Ï¿½ tsp Dry Ginger Powder
Few Cashew nuts, fried
1tbsp Curds
3 - 4 Curry leaves

For the Seasoning :
1tsp Oil
1tsp Mustard Seeds
Ï¿½ tsp Asafoetida


Soak Steamed Rice, Raw Rice and Urad Dal separately for 5 hours.

Grind, Urad Dal with Ginger to a batter and keep aside. Grind the Rice coarsely.

Add all the other ingredients to the batter. Heat Oil and add Mustard and Asafoetida.

Add this to the batter and mix well and leave overnight to ferment.

The next day grease Idli plates and pour the batter and steam for 7 - 10 minutes."

it's a no-brainer.if you have not been already initiated into making it,go ahead and do will not regret it.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

some 'dim sum'

i was introduced to 'dim sum' which actually translates to "touch of the heart" many years ago by my s-i-l, h. it is one of my favourites when i go out dining with him. he loves pan-asian food besides his weakness for the western variety.being a vegetarian,there is an obvious problem for me.but h does not get intimidated.he goes all out to see that a vegan can love dim sum too.or put it in another way,he will make me eat 'dim sum' to my heart's is not an appetiser for me. it is a meal by itself.

'dim sum' originated in guandong province and the famous city of hong is traditionally a brunch is also taken with green tea.i love these steamed dumplings. they go under different names and different containments inside.the varieties are many. whether 'char siu bao' or 'har gau' or 'siu mai' or 'cheong fun' or 'dan tart' they are gobbled up by h with great relish. for me it is mostly 'cheong fun' -steamed plain rice rolls without the accoutrement. only dipped in a special chinese sauce,it is plain mouth-watering.

next time you visit 'china garden' or 'east' or 'busaba', just ask for 'dim sum' or any of the above. and i am sure the chef will roll it out for you in a jiffy, at the speed of lightning. i have had them at numerous chinese restaurants abroad starting with my initiation in san fransisco and then in new york and later in london. but back home in mumbai,'east' and 'busaba' are my favourites though. nibbling on bite-sized morsels loaded with fresh vegetables and minced spinach with tea or 'yum cha' is my signature meal in an oriental restaurant.