Welcome to my crappy world...

Welcome to my crappy world...
The inner landscape is often full of oxymorons...at least mine is!

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Thank You God for This!!!!

Today my research based article is based on something that is an undisputed favourite of all Indians, few of its neighbouring countries and all the food connoisseurs from across the globe; something that unites people beyond cultural and social barriers. Yes, I am talking about Pani Puri!
                           Whenever I get Pani Puri attacks, My husband gets a panic attack because I need to have at least one come what may to tackle it.
This lip-smacking savory consists of a crisp sphere made using either wheat flour or semolina that is stuffed with a variety of fillings depending on the place where it is being served; then generously dipped in flavored water which again varies from place to place.
We all have something that we secretly or not so secretly hate to share. For some, it might be your louis vuitton handbag, your Kanchivaram saree or your Apple products. However, for me, it is my plate of pani puri so much so that I cringe with pain even when my three and a half-year-old daughter (who is the pani puri of my eye) picks up only the puris from my 12 Dhirams plate of Pani puri that is generously served with 6 puris. My husband who has been funding this indulgence of mine since 12 years has had false hopes off late of demotivating me from eating lots of pani puri by orally converting Dhirams to Indian Rupees before me.
The filling or the flavoured water tells a story about that place. It is predominantly the boiled potatoes with spices that are available everywhere. There are variants to this as you visit different parts of India. Western India has Ragda filling(thick white peas curry), some parts of South serve this with boiled peas, grated carrots and diced onions. Some new age eateries claiming to make this healthier serve them with sprouts. The pani (flavored water) can be dominantly made out of tamarind, raw mango, chilies, mint leaves, dates, Garlic, and the list can only get innovative.
The world record of serving Pani Puri in the most number of flavours to be precise 51 flavours has been recorded by the Golden Book of world records. This has been jointly achieved by Indori Zayka & Dainik Bhaskar from Madhya Pradesh, India under the guidance of master chef Neha Shah on July 12, 2015, at Vidorra restaurant.
A lot of Indian cuisines have multiple folktales to describe their origin as the facts are somewhere lost in the pages of history. Similarly, there are 2 such interesting narratives that talk about the origin of pani puri. It is believed that phulkis first originated in Magadh (Present day Bihar) at a time when several traditional specialties of the region like chitba, pitthow, tilba & chewda of katarni rice were evolving.
                                                  Another legend associated with this dates back to the era of Mahabharata. The newly wedded Draupadi who married the Pandavas was put to test by her mother-in-law Kunti. Since the Pandavas were on exile, she wanted to test her daughter-in-law's culinary skill to manage with scarce resources so she gave some leftover potatoes with very little wheat dough and asked her to prepare a dish to cater to the hunger of all her five husbands. So, this was when the new bride invented Pani Puri.
Thank god my mother-in-law didn't choose to use this trick because her Daughter-in-law definitely couldn't have satisfied her own hunger in the first place forget about one or five husbands.

Talk about experimentation, this watery bread provides a huge scope for it. Those of you with a sweet tooth can bless your taste buds with chocolate coated pani puris filled with drool-worthy creamy fillings. You can find them served at the famous Kulfi House in Dubai.

Well, the pure non-vegetarians are also taken care here with the butter chicken Pani puris served as appetizers at many house parties.

The dish has also got jazzed up & you can have vodka Pani Puris. Of course, it can get lethal after a few puris so try this at your own risk.

Molecular Gastronomy, a subdiscipline of food science that seeks to investigate the physical & chemical transformations of ingredients has also reinvented Pani Puris in various ways; from deconstructed Pani puris to this street food looking like a sci-fi dish just out of a chemistry lab, they make it too pretty to eat. You can visit Spiceklub, Mankhool or Tresind Restaurant at Sheik Zayed Road to witness this molecular drama.

So far, we have addressed the desi, videsi, non-vegetarians, fusion lovers, cocktail lovers, but hey! what about the cleanliness freaks? They are the most important ones to keep this dish alive for the generations to come. Well, in the wake of Swatch Bharath campaign, there are pani puri vending machines installed at an eatery joint in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India. These machines are available online too for purchase. 

Phulkis, Paani Ke Batashe, Gol Gappa, Phucka, Gup Chup, Pakodi, Pani Puri...many names one soul. This simple streetside snack has undergone many makeovers with exciting fillings from healthy juices to Chinese, Thai and Mexican spices. It is also showing up on fine dining menus different from its humble avatar for those who feel like clutching their pearls while witnessing the table etiquettes going for a toss.

However, for those who don't mind calling out "Bhaiyya Ji thoda aur theeka banao" even if it was George Clooney making this snack, for those whose Pani puri  marathon is incomplete without asking for that extra sukha puri at the end, it is gratification time for this savoury that has shown many of us to find happiness in the smallest of things in life.

Thank you, God, for Pani Puri!

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The Angry Eyebrows!

A few years ago, while I was still recovering from my cesarean delivery and had barely analyzed the features of my one-day-old baby girl, I could hear only one conversation running in the room, "Whom does she look like?". It was of course only my husband who had contributed to her genes according to his kith and kin. The twentieth time I heard that question, I frankly wanted to scream that she looks like a potato right now! I love my daughter but how can a day old baby resemble anybody! I think clashing of ideologies began that day and doesn't seem to cease anytime soon.

Child rearing is like those baby soap ads which looks all glossy and glamorous only on Instagram and Facebook and that too when others post them. 

Parenthood is already imposed with so many practical hiccups that sleepless nights are just too mundane to talk about. Your toddler wants to poop only when you are having your food and these two activities have coincided so many times that I no longer understand the difficulty of others when I can comfortably talk about healthy bowel movements while serving food to my guests. 

Talking about the generation gap, I feel I have one with my husband who is elder to me by a full 3 months, forget about my parents and in-laws. I am sure all the ladies out here will agree with me that most men have a tendency of becoming these idealist protective fathers especially to daughters and can get only worse if you are staying in a foreign country. My toddler started her pre-school about 6 months back and I have been depending on my husband to get her ready for school from the past few weeks due to my advancing pregnancy (Yay! the second one is on its way{Pun intended}). My daughter couldn’t have felt more South Indian as her dad generously applies a gallon of coconut oil on her and when I say on her it's literally all over and you know how he convinced her? He has told her that her teacher will not be able to catch hold of her for any mischief she does because she can easily slip away and I watched it helplessly because Dr. Benjamin Spock says that parents should always pose like a team in front of their kids and trust me I felt nothing short of Saurav Ganguly in front of Greg Chappell. 

A week later she was playing around when we were watching a regional movie, which had a scene where a forest officer couldn't catch the thieves because they were disguised as local tribes with lots of oil all over their bodies and my daughter immediately got all excited saying "Just like me and my teacher" and my husband jumped with joy saying, "Yes, very good observation!". That is when I felt the apples don't fall far from the tree.

The battlefield can get only messier when it comes to the already messed up education system. My husband studied in a Kannada medium school till his tenth grade and then suddenly was enrolled into an international residential school because his parents felt his academic career can be better and he, of course, had his hardships due to the transition and overcame them due to his sheer quest for ambition and hard work. On the contrary, I studied in a CBSE school till my tenth grade and then suddenly joined a pre-university college where Geetha Gyana Yagnas used to be conducted every Saturdays because my parents felt I was losing on my traditional values which I successfully entrenched, thanks to my quest for clarity of thought. So, clearly, the confusion has always prevailed. We want our kids to be globally relevant yet retain the juxtaposed traditional concepts. This requirement has posed so many questions in my mind while growing up and still does that I feel at odds when I get free parenting tips especially from people whose current status is that of a non-parenting one!
                                                               However, parenthood is one such battlefield where the middle ground has to be found inevitably and we have to bow down to Dr. Spock and play a reluctant team player many a time. So, we decided to enrol her to a school that has an ICSE curriculum, a territory unknown to both of us. 

As I tread through these ideologies feeling like a bundle of contradictions who is always the villain in the household and whenever my daughter asks me "Mom are you still wearing those angry eyebrows?", I wonder if she will ever know that her mother's eyebrows are the proudest set of eyebrows whether trimmed or not which probably may never get noticed. Well, that's why my mother laughs whenever she sees me juggling with these thoughts. I can literally hear her say in my head "been there, done that!" and now it's my turn. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

A Feminist's Confessions

Feminism- the outcome of choosing such a topic lies in the state of one’s mind while penning down thoughts. If you are feeling good then it can motivate men to become feminists. Otherwise, it can simply turn out to be a hate speech. 
 This ideology has many facets depending on the societal class one belongs to or the political situation one is subjected to. While we have few women fighting for equal pay at work and longer maternity leaves, we still have a lot of them struggling for basic political rights & requirements pertaining to personal health. So, this topic has a wide spectrum. Therefore, I will talk briefly about only one such stigma plaguing our society that dictates traditional gender-specific roles and I believe its impact is mostly on the middle-class ambitious women. The conscience is quite clear when it comes to other sections of our society. On one end, if we have women entrepreneurs paving their way to the Forbes list, on the other end the need for every family member to be financially contributive irrespective of their gender is a bare minimum necessity. There are always exceptions to every philosophy.
I believe the main hurdles in bringing about reforms in a patriarchal society are the women themselves because some of them are more male chauvinist than the men themselves. This can even be seen in most of the movies and if carefully observed even in our day to day lives where women either convince or confuse in prompting other women to take a back seat, to underplay their boldness & to morally make only women responsible to be the flag bearers of tradition and domestication.
These gender-specific roles have equally been a spoilsport in men’s lives as well. They have equally been pressurized to be the remunerative parent or son. We have always undervalued their role as caretakers. This is also another major root cause for men not being encouraged to consider full-time childrearing in the initial years of the child birth which can only aid both parents in thoroughly enjoying parenthood and suffer less on the career front.
In the middle-class fraternity, appointing a nanny is either financially challenging or morally questionable. Motherhood is certainly a blessing, but I am sure some of us who are god loving & not god fearing have at times complained about the bigger baggage it gets along. There have been times, where I have cringed looking at some of my friends (without kids) frequently holidaying or felt left behind looking at their updates in linked in profiles or for that matter even praying to god to have had twins so that there is career break only once. These kinds of thoughts never get empathized with; where a woman can seldom prioritize self-care over the needs of her family without guilt.
I strongly believe we can hope to live in a world where female strength is not remarkable but merely normal by empowering men to embrace domestic roles without much hassle. This will, of course, take its time, but there can be a beginning towards normalization. I believe there are already few positive exceptions to this as well. It’s time to fight for longer paternity leaves & benefits now that we have a few good reforms through the maternity benefits act. This change can go a long way in considering motherhood as a true blessing.
A woman’s life is already a bundle of time-bound settlements right from choosing professions to suit the domestic life, getting married at a certain age, making babies at the right time (with the biological clock ticking) and then, of course, the default caretaker of the young ones and the old ones. I used to wonder how some women pull off a successful career amidst all of this. I found a practical answer to this through one of the speeches of Indra Nooyi where she said a woman can never really do anything without adopting little coping mechanisms and stop feeling guilty for not doing enough.
When a woman is deprived of the decision making positions & from being financially independent, the ideological, social & creative freedom we all talk about is merely a theory. Consequently, we will have a lot of women frustrated & delusional and end up being feminazis instead of feminists. On the practical front, we are foolishly undermining the unpredictable life where a lot of women are left unprepared to take charge during the crisis.
With the current Prime Minister of New Zealand being the first sitting Prime Minister to be pregnant whilst in office, there is a silver lining in instilling compassion and empathy amongst the genders & in making motherhood just another milestone.
The man who gave me wings to fly- my father, had a better sense of home d├ęcor than me;
The man who showed me my maternal side much before I became a mother- my brother, has more inclination towards gold than me;
The man who is fueling my dreams-my husband is a far better cook than me.

All this makes me wonder if the world can be a happier place if we all just choose to do what we like best instead of being dictated by gender governing traits. 

Monday, July 16, 2018


As the name suggests, it’s the desire to wander which sometimes happens by choice and the other times without one. I have been a true wanderer both in terms of my mind (with innumerable questions) & my feet literally doing the city hopping. I have a few anecdotes from my experiences that I would like to share today that will hopefully give you all a peek-a-boo into my life’s journey so far.
I was born in Mysore, Karnataka the cultural capital of the state as it is widely known, but I’d prefer to call it one of the most well planned & cleaner cities of India. I received formal education till my engineering in Mysore & having born in the year 1987, my childhood was pretty much the same as that of any 90’s kid across the country which had chances of developing cold occasionally due to playing in the mud or rain rather than developing a texting thumb syndrome due to smartphones.
Thank god for that!
I always thought I knew my city very well until my husband who was my then boyfriend busted that bubble. My husband hails from Hiriyur, a small town in Chitradurga another historic place in Karnataka who had enrolled for an engineering course in Mysore(basically destined to meet me). That’s my first stint with a traveler’s insight. A visitor can know so much more than yourself about your city. He made me realize that I knew only the locations of all the pani puri stalls in the city (perhaps a little more than that).
At that point in my life, never had I thought I would be city hopping henceforth which holds good even today!
As destiny had it, I moved to Pune to do my Masters. I think from then on, I have been haunted with a question “will I ever get a chance to stay in my hometown for longer duration?”
So here I was at the juncture of my life where I formed strong opinions about the city like an outsider just by looking at the badly maintained forts & conveniently felt that my city was much better mainly because I had a bad experience with an autorickshaw driver, felt the idlis served were too hard and they didn’t know to prepare filter coffee! However, the puneite in me had seamlessly taken over my mysorean emotion. I remember explaining to someone that Pune was like Mysore of Maharashtra because I had found a new home away from home.
Life has its magical ways to teach you lessons like they say what goes around comes around. I had to stay in Bangalore for 2 months in a hostel during my internship. I had a Bengali roommate who once had a bad experience with an auto driver & decided to hold the entire Bangalore responsible for his bad behavior. Strangely, that’s how visitors judge any new city guys! I could only laugh at my past and wished she would find her Bangalorean connection soon.
On that note, thank god Dubai doesn’t have autorickshaws!
My next stop was Hyderabad for my first job. My first salary, my first high of being financially independent. Nevertheless, my struggle with food was still on as I am a vegetarian and u will have to satisfy yourself with dal pappu in Hyderabad for being one. Things got a little better when I got familiar with veg biriyani (though my non vegetarian friends strongly refrain me from using “veg” as a prefix for biriyani). Having had a chance to visit my hometown only for a fortnight every 4 months I was again left gasping with the same question- “will I ever get a chance to stay in my hometown for longer duration?”
Then, Doha happened!
With Pakistani, Egyptian, Sudanese, Filipino neighbours, the concept of co-existence beyond boundaries practically materialized. Of course, u tend to take a huge learning about one’s culture & cuisine & my first interplay with the middle east folklore has been an everlasting one.
I got my Qatari PR renewed only to find myself applying for a PR in Dubai in the next few months. Apart from meeting all my old friends from Engineering & post graduation who are working here, another best thing that has happened to me is, I have reconnected with my most enjoyed interest that is blogging.
Finally, I got the opportunity to stay in my hometown for a considerable amount of time during my brother’s wedding & relive my growing up days. Trust me; I made the most of it. However, on the last day when one of my cousins remarked that it would be nice if only I could’ve stayed a bit longer, I was amused at my reaction. I told her I can’t wait to get back to Dubai to my husband & daughter!
About homecoming? 
I have come to realize that home is whom you come to rather than where you to go to. I would love to come back home any day to my kids, husband, parents & parents-in-law. This ideal home that can have all my loved ones under one roof resides in my mental celluloid & I wonder if it will ever cease to be a reality.

As I continue to wander, every city I have invested my time in has left a piece of its essence in me & I have left a piece of myself in every place I have touched...
happy backpacking!