Thursday, November 17, 2016

Beat that

Usually, I like to play music on Saavn or Youtube while I work. And since I work from home, I can really play loud, blaring music. There are no colleagues to annoy. (Except the one found in the full-length mirror on my wardrobe next to my desk. For the most part, she furiously types away, hard at work just like me, but I have to admit, sometimes even she turns to give me judgemental looks on my taste.)

So I was looking for something to play yesterday, when in a very timely manner, my sis-in-law sent me a Youtube link to a song. The title was 'The Chainsmokers - Closer | Kabira (ft. Casey Breves) (Vidya Vox Mashup Cover)'.

I clicked on it.


No, it wasn't a virus. It was worse.

Okay, so first things first. There are some things I disapprove of rather strongly. I can't get my head around why they exist, why someone would do something like that.


Vodka pani puri (it's an insult to vodka and pani puri).

Remixes. DJ XYZ mixes.

Random English lyrics in Hindi songs. Yo baby. Let's party. Oh girl.

Words like mashup, cover, feat/ft.

It was therefore a very disorienting experience for me when I found myself actually liking the song she had sent. I actually liked it. I LOVE the song Kabira and here I was, NOT hating this mashup/mix-up/feat/cover version of it. Grrr...

Who was this Vidya and why was she Vox and why she did she look so familiar (my best guess is Vaani Kapoor before she got plastic surgery + Nigaar Khan) and why why why oh why was I liking this song?

While I was trying to get my head around what had just happened to my entire belief system, the next song autoplayed. And though normally I don't keep the screen with the songs open when I'm working, I simply had to stop everything and find out what was going on and who on earth was playing the tabla so impossibly well. The beats were slaying me. Even my colleague in the mirror stopped and gaped.

Good things must be shared. Here it is.

Suffer, my fellow humans. This song will not leave you.

Monday, November 07, 2016

Dessert safari

"I must be crazy," I thought to myself.

I had just read a comment from Prathi on my last post, and it said:

While in Chennai, do try "Theobroma" from Fresh Baked Goodness, Mylapore. It's what I miss most from my Chennai days..

"I must be crazy," I repeated to myself as I sent Viv a message with a link to the bakery's address and a 'Let's go!'

Speaking of crazy, Viv was out running when he saw my message. He, of mostly sound mind, had woken up at godknowswhat o'clock, to go running with his cousins at 4.30. A.M. Yes, you read that right. Did I mention we were on a holiday in India?

However, instead of sending back a "Are you crazy?", he sent a simple "Okay." I love that about him. Or maybe he was just too sleepy and tired to register that I was suggesting we go find some bakery in search of a dessert that sounded like a Greek or Egyptian person's name ("Cleopatra, meet Theobroma.") and had no other description, on the recommendation of a blog reader.

The other big reason that made us decide to go for it in a blink was how Uber and Ola have changed the landscape of getting around in India. In general, our visits in India and where we go each day are severely affected by the availability of the car and the driver. It's usually "The car is here, but driver has not come yet." or "The driver is here, but someone is out with the car." or "Neither the car, nor the driver is here." So outdoor ventures are usually limited and undertaken only when very necessary. This time, however, was totally different. We simply pretended that there was no ghar ki gaadi and ghar ka driver. We just went everywhere with Uber. I know I sound like an ad for Uber, but I was super impressed. We never had to wait more than 5 minutes for a cab and we never paid more than 200 rupees to get anywhere!

So after Viv got back from his run, he showered and we headed out in search of our Theobroma. This time we took an Ola Auto. I was blown away. Now they have Ola Autos?? How cool! We reached the address, sent the Auto on its way, looked around and found... nothing. There was no bakery, no signboard, nothing saying 'Fresh Baked Goodness'. Nooooooo........

"Google Maps can be quite screwed-up sometimes," Viv muttered.

And then suddenly, this guy standing in front of a house looked at our lost faces and asked us if we were looking for... Fresh Baked Goodness! Oh. My. Goodness. So we rushed to where he pointed (it did not look like a bakery; it was a house! And there really was no signboard anywhere!) and there it was, behind the glass display the much-discussed Theobroma. It was a giant layered chocolate cake, too giant for us to even think about buying the whole thing. But, they had these single servings of the same thing in cute little glass jars. So we got two of those and some slices of lemon cheesecake (me) and Nutella cheesecake (Viv) to share with the family.

"Do you want to walk home?" Viv suddenly said. "It's only 1 or 2 kilometres."

"Sure." I said.

I'm telling you, crazy runs in our family.

It was the middle of the day, and here we were, walking through hot and dusty roads and lanes and by-lanes, with vehicles that looked like they were headed in all directions at once (and my direction in particular) honking at everyone at once. I got scared. I, who was born in India and had lived there for the first 18 years of my life, was fearing for my life. The last time I had pulled this stunt was in 2007 when Dad was posted in Calcutta and Mom and I had gone saree-shopping for my wedding. I was so amazed at her expertise at crossing the busy streets. She'd suddenly say, "Okay, cross after the taxi!" and I'd be like "Errr, which one of the 43792378 taxis coming right at us?" So she'd grab my hand and dash across the road, with me fervently muttering, "Jai ma Calcutte-wali, mera rasta rakhna khaali."

Anyway, so we were getting great at this walking on the streets thingie, though I couldn't wait to get home, when Viv suddenly turned and said, "Do you want to stop for ice-cream?"


Because we were not already carrying enough desserts with us, we stopped by one of the hole-in-wall shops and got ice-cream cones. And we continued walking on that hot Chennai day, navigating the traffic along with the melting ice-cream that was threatening to drip to my elbow if I didn't act at a given speed. Never have I ever finished an ice-cream cone as quickly as I did that day!

Finally, we reached home and plonked the desserts on the dining table and ourselves on the chairs under the fan, feeling like we had conquered Mount Everest or something. We got long spoons and doled out servings of the Theobroma for everyone. It was yum! (In case you're as curious about the name as I was, Theobroma cacao is the cacao tree whose seeds are used to make chocolate.)

And of course, photo to banta hai, so here it is -- Theobroma from Fresh Baked Goodness. Layers and layers of chocolate and dark chocolate and white chocolate and mousse. 
This one's for you, Prathi! Hope I didn't get you all depressed. If so, please eat some roadside pani puri on my behalf so we're even.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Chennai Express

Thanks to purana (ooh, that autocorrected to piranha!) bewda Arun who pointed out the very embarrassing fact that I did not blog at all in October, I'm back at the bar.

Viv, Xena and I are in Chennai for Viv's cousin's wedding and it has been nothing but FUN! It is hot though, and I'm glad I took the advice of my friend who burst out laughing when I told her I was packing a full-sleeved salwar kameez because, you know, "it's winter in India". Yeah, apparently there is no winter in Chennai. We sleep at night with the AC/fan switched on. Viv has been ignoring my dirty 'yeh tumhara winter hai?' looks.

Xena got to witness her first Diwali in India, and her constant question was, "Why is it so noisy, mama?" Noisy? This? Beta, this is nothing compared to the noisy Diwalis of my childhood, most of which was spent in Bihar/Jharkhand where my dad was posted for many many years. Both Holi and Diwali used to be, for lack of a better word, quite jungli. But I shall have you know that we used to have fabulous winters and at one point, the temperature went so low that the water froze in the pipes and when we opened the taps in the morning, nothing came out.

Anyway, back to the original topic. We just wrapped up day 2 of the wedding and 'wrapped' is the right word simply because of the number of saris I've sported. (#sarinotsorry) The sari is my favourite outfit of all. I'm partial to the chiffon kinds, mainly because they don't form a parachute around you when you sit down, the way silk saris do. So yes, I've been wearing a lot of saris and jewellery and yet that has not stopped me from eating pani puris (gaahhhh that autocorrected to pain puris!) like the true jungli that I am. I'm not kidding you, I attacked the pani puri stall at the wedding as soon as I possibly could, and stopped only when the pani puri bhaiya started to get a little judgemental. I'd have continued but it was getting hard to ignore his 'Didi, ab toh bas karo' looks. Hmmph!

The food has been so spectacular that in spite of not having gymmed for a week, I'm indulging guiltlessly. Viv, on the other hand, has been feeling pangs of guilt and has really been holding back. He'd better not act like this tomorrow, because I have a Rajasthani thali meal planned for the whole family at Rajdhani tomorrow.

Over the two days of the wedding, I have been introduced to nothing short of 2772723664849494 relatives. Even my extended family is quite large, but Viv's is unfathomable. It felt like he really knew most of the thousand people present at the wedding, leaving me to wonder where on earth the groom's relatives were. On day 1, I just followed him around cluelessly, being introduced to, but not at all being able to keep track of, all the chitappas and chitthis and athais and athimbers and thathas and paatis and cousins and their spouses and kids. Luckily, unlike mine, his side doesn't have the custom of touching the feet of the elders, otherwise my back would have gone for a toss! And oh, if I had a penny for every time I heard the phrase "Remember me? I came to your wedding..."

On day 2, I fared much better, and it really helped that everyone speaks excellent English, including the grandpas and grandmas! Wow. I did get tested on my knowledge of Tamil at times, and so I flaunted my extensive Tamil vocabulary, which comprises key phrases such as 'rombha pasikeradhu' (very hungry) and 'saapaadu venu' (need food).

I also felt a little 'senior' because I'd been the only non-Tamilian bahu in the family so far, but this time in the new generation of damaads and bahus, there was a Lithuanian and an American! Also, the fact that I'm kind of half a generation above the younger, unmarried cousins I was hanging out with meant that I could switch from 'cool bhabhi' to 'mami mode' and back in a blink, which was kinda fun. I am going to find a suitable app to track the family tree on both sides, complete with photographs. Any recommendations?

It's been really fun so far and I'm soaking it all in before we get back to Singapore (and full-steam work!) next week. And yes, for those of you following my travel blog, I will indeed be completing the Iceland series very soon!


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Catch-up #10

Though my last post was only last week, I feel like a catch-up post is in order, considering the number of things that have been happening.

We just got back from a gorgeous road trip in Iceland, and I'll get to updating my travel blog as soon as I'm done battling my PhD. Post-holiday Depression, of course. What did you think?

Our home has been a busy nest the last few months. First, Mom was here for a month and we had a super time. Strangely, her visit felt very 'sisterly' this time (and I'm not just talking about the times when we got on each other's nerves). We went for a 'glamping' vacation (Canopi in Bintan), a movie (Dishoom, which I thoroughly enjoyed mainly because of the company -- my mom is even more forgiving of Bollywood than me!), a pedicure, shopping, checking out restaurants, and generally roaming around for no good reason. Heck, I even took her to the Singapore Night Festival (which was spectacular, by the way)!

Within three days of her leaving, I had more visitors -- S2 and family! What's better than friends from Hyderabad visiting you? Friends from Hyderabad visiting you, armed with Paradise biryani! Yumzaaaadoooozaaaaa! (Dad was posted in Hyderabad for a couple of years. I'd made a brief visit during my university holidays, and the ONLY thing I remember from that trip was Paradise biryani.)

One of the highlights was Shub, Pizzadude and me going to Cafe Iguana, the place where we first met a decade ago! The good ol' jug of mango margarita, the good ol' jalapeno poppers, the good ol' riverside view, and the good ol' company. It was heartening to see that we were all still the same. I still can't believe we met through our blogs! I am very tempted to recount the hilarious incident that happened at the restaurant involving a hot waiter, but I'm sure I shall be lynched, so I shall just say this -- 'What happens in Cafe Iguana stays in Cafe Iguana'.

Workwise, it's been extremely busy as the 100th issue of the magazine that I work for is coming up. I started working on this magazine in early 2003 with issue 19, and so it's a big personal milestone for me too. Of course, the milestone issue meant that I had to work extra hard when Mom and S2 were here in order to make time to hang out with them, and also do a bit more to get ahead so I could have my Iceland vacation in peace, but it all worked out well. Of course, now that I'm back, I'm madly scrambling to catch up again.

Viv is travelling again. In fact, he took off for Melbourne on a work trip the very next day after we landed. Melbourne of all places in that terribly jetlagged state! But then like a friend says, "Company toh in logon ke jet lag se hi chalti hai."

Meanwhile, Xena and I are moping and coping with our respective PhDs. Luckily, an India trip is coming up and I'm thinking winter+Diwali+wedding in the family should be all sorts of fun.

Signing off till the next time,

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Ice, ice, baby

Okay, so I have a cool (quite literally so) photo to share today. We braved the cold, the wind and the rain, but we were determined to get as close to the Myrdalsj√∂kull glacier as we possibly could. Fortunately, Xena hiked along with us without any complaints! 

Viv and Xena admiring the grand glacier (photo not edited in any way)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

We have seen the light(s)!

It's 2.30 am and I'm posting this with the biggest grin on my face!

Okay, so we are on a road trip in Iceland right now. Knowing how elusive the Northern Lights can be in non-winter months, we decided not to plan our trip around aurora-chasing, but fill it with other things instead. But, it was SO HEARTENING to finally capture the Lights tonight, after many nights of closely watching the forecast and two nights of setting an alarm to wake us up every 2 hours.

I'd read that 2016 might be the last year to see the Lights in all their glory as they are expected to dim for a decade. I'm so glad we got to witness this stunning phenomenon. Even Xena woke up (Viv and I made quite a commotion I think) to witness them!

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Not a piece of cake

Like many people, I've also had my fair share of chuckling at articles that show the contrast between how a dish looks on the recipe website and how it looks when a normal human actually makes it. Which is why, when I saw the Youtube recipe for a cake that had a colourful checkered pattern on the inside, I went, "Yeah, right." Seriously? You want me to believe that I can cut open a normal-looking cake and it will magically have a colourful checkered pattern inside? Ha!

Months passed, but I still couldn't get it out of my head. The math in the recipe seemed about right, and more importantly, curiosity was killing me. So I decided to do it. In a low-stakes setting. Our old gang was getting together for a night out after ages, and Viv was flying off the next day, and as usual wasn't going to be in Singapore for his birthday. I figured this was the perfect setting to attempt to make the checkered cake.

So I did, and the results were phenomenal. Viv's expression when he cut open the innocent-looking pale cake justified the 46429436034532 hours I'd put into making this cake. And I got some high praise from the two big bakers in my family -- my mom and my sister. My mom said it was the most beautiful-looking cake she's ever seen. Praise from her on anything food-related is like ZOMG levels. Friends have been trying to figure out how on earth I made it. A neighbour has already asked me to help her make it for her daughter's birthday. Since it's been such a hit, I thought I'd blog about it, and also share the instructions for all you bakers out there.

Here you go!

You're welcome. :)

Friday, September 02, 2016

Blood brothers

It's after hours. Three figures, wrapped in black blankets, are quietly making their way into a tiny bar without any signboard... it's a hole in the wall really.

Strangely, it's open.

The three of them push open the small door and throw off their blankets. On each blanket is the word 'Being Human'. It's the three Khans! Collective gasp! Wait, no collective gasp, because there is no one else in the bar. Well, almost.

"On again, huh, you three?" The bartender jokes.

The Khans acknowledge him. They've known him for years. He's someone they can fully trust. He's a friend, a confidante. He's almost family.


He's also family, third cousin specifically, to... Bollywood reporter Sayesha Smitten Showbiz Kitten (SSSK). Which is why she is crouching under a chair at the very back, taking notes using a pencil and a notepad.

"Thanks for the support, guys." Salman points to the heap of the blankets on the floor.

"No worries yaar. Ab tuney dus-dus ghar bhijwa diye toh use toh karna padega na..." SRK says.

They make themselves comfortable on the bar stools.

"So... is it true?" Asks Aamir. "You're really getting married in November??"

"Sigh..." Salman sighs.

"I still can't believe it. YOU... are getting MARRIED?" SRK says.

"I'm just being human yaar... uska work visa expire hone wala hai. And Mom bhi zid kar rahi hai. Waise toh press bhi zid kar rahi hai, for about two decades now, lekin ab Mom ne bol diya hai toh... family comes first, no?"

They all nod gravely. Even the bartender who steals a quick look towards the back of the bar to make sure his third cousin is well-hidden.

"So... Iulia Vantur, huh? Sounds like a tourist blogging about India - yun liya van tour." Aamir says.

"Hey, don't make fun of your bhabhi's name! And you toh don't even say the word 'tourism'!" Salman looks angry.

Aamir sulks.

"Kya yaar, I'm sure they do the same to you in Romania. You must be Salmon Can there, no?" SRK tries to lighten the situation.

"Speaking of Romania, whatever you do, don't have the wedding in Romania, ok? Please please please?" Aamir pleads.

"Why??" Salman asks.

"Errmm... Kiran and I... err... can't go out of India anymore..." Aamir says sheepishly.

"Speaking of that... don't get married in Wankhede Stadium either..." says SRK.

"But tera ban toh lift ho gaya na?" says Aamir.

"Just playing safe..."

"Don't worry. You guys aren't even invited. I've decided it's just going to be a family affair. 15-20 people only."

SRK and Aamir fall down on the floor laughing. SSSK tries hard to stifle her giggles. Even the bartender is shaking his head and laughing.

"What?? What?! What's the big joke?"

"YOUR family? 15-20 people only?" SRK is clutching his tummy and laughing.

"Haan toh immediate family na..." Salman looks annoyed.

"Since it's just a family affair, we should at least have a rocking bachelor party, what say?" SRK says.

"Abbe! His whole life has been a bachelor party only, no?" says Aamir.

Collective nods all around. Including the crouching reporter.

"Give me some marriage advice, guys..." says Salman. "Can't go and ask Arbaaz and Sohail now, can I?"

"Marriage advice... Just... errrm... stay married?" SRK says, looking unsure.

"Marriage advice... hmmm... I have one! Never tell the press what your wife tells you at home. Rock. Hard place. Me." Aamir does a Chandler Bing impression.

"Speaking of the press, my advice to you is to actually never open your mouth in front of the press. Remember what happened during the Sultan promotions?" asks SRK.

"That was so unnecessary, Salman. At least apologise toh kar deta..." Aamir says.

"Apologise?? Abbe maine blackbuck mara, apologise nahin kiya. Maine aadmi mara, apologise nahin kiya. Main ek comment maarke apologise karoon???" Salman is getting riled up.

SRK and Aamir calm him down.

"I just had a funny thought..." says SRK. "Maybe after you get married, your fans will be so disappointed that even your movies will have half a chance of being flops, like ours? Ha ha ha!" SRK tries to lighten the situation. Aamir nervously joins in the laughter.

"Bhai's films are not hits because of the women who want to marry him. Bhai's films are hits because of the men who want to be like him." The bartender interjects, with a serious face.

They all nod. Even SSSK is nodding under the chair.

"Achhe rehne de, aage ka kya plan hai? Matlab bache-wache kab? Soon, I suppose? Since you're like... 50." Aamir asks.

"Nahin yaar... I'll wait about 20 years or so."

"20 years???!! Are you crazy?? Why???!!" SRK and Aamir are shocked.

Salman lets out a long and deep sigh.

"Let Aryan, Suhana, Abram, Junaid, Ira and Azad get established first. Then I will unleash my progeny upon Bollywood. I can't let my kids do to your kids what I have done to you guys. You guys are my brothers, yaar." He looks at the two of them, teary-eyed.

Everyone gets emotional. The three Khans get together for a group hug. The bartender discreetly wipes away a tear. SSSK puts her notebook down and says a silent 'Awwww...'

Friday, August 26, 2016

Burning questions

So this was supposed to be a part of the last post, but that kinda took on a life of its own, pushing this into the next post. The friend who had organised the Bollywood-themed party had asked me for ideas for games so I did up a Bollywood quiz to conduct if there was time. However, the DJ was rather competent, so most people ended up on the dance floor for hours, and we didn't have time to do the quiz. I thought I'd post it here to see if any Bolly-hungry bewdas would like to have a go at it.

The first question is from a quiz that my friends had conducted as a challenge for me at my surprise birthday party many years ago. (By the way, they'd also asked me what Gabbar Singh's dad's name was, and I answered correctly muahahaha!) The second question is from my own blog post from 6 years ago. I'd casually mentioned it in a post about something else, but someone took it as a challenge in the comments space, instantly earning everyone's respect. Of course, now the answer is even longer, so I thought it was worth repeating the question here.

Here we go!

1. Name 10 movies from the last 10 years with Shah Rukh Khan in the lead, where his name is NOT Rahul or Raj. And state his name in these movies.

2. Name 13 actresses who have worked opposite all 3 Khans (SRK, Aamir and Salman). Name one film each.

3. What are the real names of these Bollywood stars? To save you the excessive googling that might result out of this, I've included the answers here but in white font. Simply use your mouse to highlight and read the correct answers. (Of course, this won't work if you read this blog on your feed reader, and in that case I will just advise you to be honest and not look at the right column until you have thought of your answer. Hehehe!)

Screen name
Real name
Sunny Leone
Karanjit Kaur Vohra
Salman Khan
Abdul Rashid Salim Salman Khan
Jackie Shroff
Jaikishen Kaku Bhai Shroff
Mallika Sherawat
Reema Lamba
Akshay Kumar
Rajiv Hariom Bhatia
Shree Amma Yanger Ayyapan
Sunny Deol
Ajay Singh Deol
Bobby Deol
Vijay Singh Deol
Mithun Chakraborty
Gouranga Chakraborty
Bhanurekha Ganesan
Sanjeev Kumar
Haribhai Jarivala
Preity Zinta
Preetham Singh Zinta
Sivaji Rao Gaekwad
Mumtaz Jehan Begum Dehelvi
Guru Dutt
Vasanth Kumar Shivashankar Padukone 
Kishore Kumar
Abhas Kumar Ganguly

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

All dressed up and... somewhere to go!

A few weeks ago, we were invited by a neighbour to a Bollywood-themed party! You can only imagine my delight.

So I racked my brain on what Viv, Xena and I could wear to this party. Xena is at the stage where she wants to wear everything I wear. If I'm wearing a dress, she'll insist on wearing one. If I'm in a short skirt, she'll want to change to one too. So when I told her that I was considering going as 'Babita', she did not ask me who on earth Babita was. She simply said, "I wanna be Babita too." So I told her that we could do two Babita looks -- dress Babita and salwar-kameez Babita. To my surprise, she agreed.

So we had a dress rehearsal. I was dress Babita, in a black and white polka-dotted dress, gigantic white goggles, hoop earrings, plastered-on-forehead hair and a flower hairband that I borrowed from Xena's collection. I dressed her up in a sleeveless floral churidaar-kameez that we'd bought when we were in India and made a very Babita-hairstyle for her using her dupatta and a fake bun that I ordered online.

So here we were, having multiple dress rehearsals, while Viv was just chilling. "Dude, you'd better not turn up as yourself. Xena and I will look ridiculous if you look... err... normal!" I told him. That got him up and about, and after looking through his wardrobe, we realised that we could put the most colourful stuff together to make him Munna from Rangeela. So he wore a pink shirt over a blue cricket singlet, put on his dhinchak cricket glasses, and borrowed a bandana and a hat from me to complete the look. And oh, he folded up his pants a bit to make it look more 'tapori'. And gosh, he even said he wouldn't shave for a few days to be true to his character!

Seeing him all suddenly enthu like that, I briefly considered switching to Mili from Rangeela, for I have the tight pants and the knotted shirt, but I do not have that voluminous head of hair that Urmila is blessed with. Besides, Xena was already excited about going as babita and I didn't want to mess up the plan.

So there we were -- Munna, Babita senior and Babita junior, and all of us got rave reviews at the party. It was the most fun party we'd attended in a long, long time. My normally shy child had no problems even hitting the dance floor with me!




A few years ago, we had a Govinda-themed costume party, and would you believe it -- I didn't win the first prize in spite of my light blue pants, a fluorescent green spaghetti strap top, a red-green-blue-black checked shirt and bright pink slippers! You can only imagine what a ghastly sight the winner (my good friend Pizzadude) presented.

A friend and I have been discussing about organising a Bollywood-themed party for Christmas or New Year's this year. We are even entertaining the thought of having it for Halloween instead, where you can only wear costumes from Hindi ghost movies! Any ideas (other than candle-holding white sari-clad singing ghost)?