Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Of Cannes Film Festival and Brain Drain

Come May and all everyone can talk about is the Cannes film festival. Cannes is an international film festival held in Cannes, France which showcases movies of all genres from all over the world. The invitation only affair became popularized in India, in the early 2000s when the princess of India, Aishwarya Rai scored an invitation to the event. The first few years were spent in criticizing her sartorial choices and bad mouthing her designers. However with time and the necessary exposure to the international fashion scene Ash nailed it. Over the years many other actresses like Mallika Sherawat, Sonam Kapoor and the likes have had their share of paparazzi moments at the Cannes. But Aishwarya continues to hold a special place. Even though I am not a fan but this year I was blown over by the pictures of her first appearance at the Cannes. She looked like an exquisite doll, 10 years younger and extremely flawless. 

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 Moving on, have you given a thought to this scenario where at least a distant or near relative of yours is based out of India. It may be the IIT nerd or the sister who got married off or the bad- at-studies-but-relatives-abroad kinda guy. When I was a kid, living abroad was like a distant dream. Once my father’s best friend and his family visited us from America. We were hugely excited about this impending visit. Apart from being excited about the quintessential chocolates we were nervous about how we would cope up to talk with their American born-and-brought-up kids.  

Needless to say my sister - the perfect hostess did teach me few pleasantries in English and made it a rule to talk only in English a week prior to their visit. Once we actually met them, we were quite put-off with their NRI type nakhras. However the gifts like chocolates, perfumes and phoren soaps were very well received. In the 90s the term imported was pretty huge. Shopkeepers sold scores of items by the mention of just one line “Madam, yeh imported hai”. Imported word linked the items to foreign locales and people and that was a sure shot winner. 90s was the time when Indian Movies majorly ditched Kashmir and Ooty in favour of Switzerland and States. On and on the foreign fever was never as huge as in the 90s. For the middle class however it was still an out of scope thing and they had to rely on their NRI uncle aunties for the dark Belgian chocolates, the Calvin Klein undergarments, cosmetics and the super-soft sweaters.

With the advent of globalization in the last decade, no place is far enough. Study loans and stuff means the overseas thing is pretty mainstream now. The Belgian chocolates, cosmetics and everything else is readily available, if not in shops then online. The world is literally on our fingertips. And most of our friends and family in the foreign companies or universities. From my batch I know atleast 25 friends, friends of friends and random acquaintance who have opted for masters in the USA. Most of the marriage alliances received these days are from these super-smart guys - MS from Chicago, working in California and no plans for settling in India. Masters in US means job in US which in short means they ain’t coming back.It is estimated that India loses $2 billion a year because of the emigration of computer experts to the U.S.Indian students going abroad for their higher studies costs India a foreign exchange outflow of $10 billion annually. Phew, some number that is!

There is definitely nothing wrong in being ambitious and I totally agree that India doesn't give as many options as desired. However if given a choice, I wouldn't be able to stay after from India and my people for so long. I love to travel, see new places but the mere thought of not being able to meet up for years together gives me shivers. In India staying up in different state you do have an option to visit as many times, as frequently or as quickly as you can. But sadly same option is not available for foreign travels. It takes months and months of handwork and hobnobbing with government officials to score a visit. And to top it most of our parents can't even afford to visit (unless sponsored). It would take a major chunk of their savings and a toll on their mental health for a trip to far-away lands. 
This post is surely going to make the overseas readers to hate me and most of my reader are based out of India.

Sorry Guys, just a random thought. Has been on my mind for sometime now. So....


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

10 Things I would like to do before I die

1. Crowd Surf

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I have no idea on how to accomplish this because let’s face it, I am no rockstar. But still I have always wondered how it would feel like landing on top and flying in the air together with a heart-wrenching fear of falling down.

2. Have a Cosmopolitan

I would really want to know what all the fuss is about. The cocktail that replaced the wine amongst the girls and tastes delicious according to hearsay. A drink apparently made popular by Carrie, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte is a rage in bars. At the right time, with the right people and at the right opportunity I am dying to say “One Cosmopolitan, please”.

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3. Chill-out in one of these 

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A pool overlooking the sea. Just one word – WOW. Imagine you inside the pool and the entire sea kissing the sky at the horizon right in front of you. It just can’t get better than this. But yes I do have some conditions. There should be no high tide, no extensive wave crashing and absolutely no turbulence whatsoever.

4. Volunteer

If I would not have been so lazy, I would seriously have done a lot of great work. In future I do want to be actively associated with an organization for volunteering. Maybe teaching, working for sanitation contributing basic amenities or simply spending time with elderly or little kids.

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5. Get a Doll-house

I had built a doll house myself when I was a little girl. It was inside a carton with covered match boxes serving as bed and furniture. As I grew up, far from forgetting my dollies I developed a strong desire for a more sophisticated doll house. A duplex with beautiful staircase, elaborate cabinets containing china and beautiful beds with linen and stuff. Once I stop leading a nomadic life I will definitely invest a lot of time and energy into designing the dream doll house.

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6. Learn a foreign language and piano

As far as foreign languages are concerned I would like to learn Italian or Spanish because I feel that both sound extremely sexy. The piano learning need not be an elaborate thingy. Just a song or two and some notes. I would like to play it in my free time for relaxation and calm. It has to be one of those big wooden beauty of architecture which will occupy a major chunk of space in the living room.
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7. Solo trip to Afghanistan

Visiting Afghanistan has been on my wish-list since a long time now. I developed a strange longing for Afghanistan while reading Thousand Splendid Suns. It feels like there is some undone work or something that’s waiting for me over there. Considering the state of the country (Taliban and stuff) and the number of terror attacks there maybe it’s just death but it’s a risk I am willing to take.

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8. Sing for a live audience

I am no trained singer but my voice is not that unpleasant to hear. And together with a live band and acoustics I don’t think voice quality would come into much notice.

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9. Float in the Dead Sea

The Dead Sea has fascinated me ever since I first came to know about its existence. It was roughly in the year 2000 when I was in 7th standard. Our geography teacher Mrs Vijaylaxmi told us about the Dead Sea and how you could just sit and read a newspaper there. Listening wide eyed I was so smitten with the new knowledge that I pressed it on every living being that crossed my path for the next 15 days. Also the sea water has some really awesome minerals which are good for your skin and have great medicinal benefits. So the thing is that I would like to go and hang out in the water without the fear of getting drowned.

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10. Go on a family holiday

I have never really been on a family holiday since a very long time. Since the last 10 years it’s either been with my parents or with my sister and her family. What I want is one big gala event with all of us together.

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Well that's my list. There are many more things that I have to do in life that are in my TO-DO list. However the list mentioned above came randomly from a very deep corner of my heart and brain respectively. While brainstorming for this topic I was thinking on my list of things but surprisingly obvious things like better job, more money, marriage never came to my mind. Instread it was this very cool and hip list of stuff some of which seem a little too wild for a person like me :)

Do share your views on the topic.


Thursday, May 1, 2014

Confessions of a Foodaholic

There are two types of people in the world, one who eat to live and others who live to eat. Eating is a very interesting activity. The way people eat and what they eat explains a lot about their personalities and character traits. A perfectionist would love to have an elaborate meal together with proper china and glasses. An easy going person would stack up the starters, the main course and dessert in a single plate and be on his way. And a lazy person would eat whatever is in easy reach right in front of the TV just like a couch potato. Food is not just a survival requisite. For some people it is a constant source of distraction and lust. These people constantly worry and think about food. Their days are planned revolving around food. These people are those who fit to the description of the term FOODIE.

I always had this steak of a foodie in me but it took me a long while to understand it. While in college in a very anorexic frame I used to give a tough competition to the guys when we used to sit down to eat. Our college canteen had recently introduced a bliss called momos and we played silly games and bets to eat more and more of them. On an average I guess I easily ate around 40 momos per day. In the final year we used to discuss our future plans over cheese burst pizzas. My interaction in these discussions was limited to quietly gorging slice after slice of pizza oblivious to my deeply involved friends. People would be very surprised because none of the junk I ate showed anywhere on my petite frame. So far so good. But then the evil eye stuck and suddenly the cheese bursts and hotdogs started showing up in a not so flattering way. But how could that stop a foodie from eating. Migration to a new place meant a lot of new savories. Experimentation with cooking meant a lot of disasters in kitchen which sadly had to be eaten because of the hard work and dedication involved. The homesickness pangs were overcome with food, the office politics were drowned with aerated drinks, the shitty roommates were handled over cup-a-noodles, heartbreaks were taken care by chocolate cakes and happiness was celebrated in over-expensive restaurants.

That’s the thing about foodies, every major life event somehow turns into a celebration over food. I guess being an Indian it is drilled into our systems from the very start that food is an important arrangement for any celebratory event. Before pizzas and French fries became a rage, birthday parties were dominated by deep fried samosas and gulab-jamuns. Special guests at home meant paneer pakodas and spicy mutton kababs. As kids, me and my sister periodically made visits to the kitchen to wash off the extra stuff while mother was busy serving the guests. It was our guilty pleasure. Special guests or ordinary it is our Indian hospitality that mandates that the person visiting our home should not be sent empty stomach-ed. It is this mind-set that gets stuck from the very early stage that any big day = good food. Even now on any special occasions like my birthday or salary day, my mother always tells me “Aaj kuch accha kha lena” (Eat something good today). And these words of wisdom are definitely not lost on her daughter.

The daughter, which would be me, makes it a point to pamper herself to a good greasy meal for any think she feels is an achievement. If I diet for a whole week, I feel it’s mandatory to reward myself with a fiery grilled chicken. Late night watching of television series seems totally non-enjoyable to me without a packet of potato chips and mango fruity. Like a pregnant lady I sometimes get sudden cravings of food items. Like having ras-malai in the middle of the night or butter pepper prawns mid-afternoon or good ‘old Maggie in the late evenings. Sometimes these un-fulfilled cravings lead to foodie dreams. In my dreams I am happily chomping away my desired delicacies. And what feels great is that I am not alone here, my foodie friends also is a partner-in-crime for the dream sequences. Her’s is a hilarious one. She loves potatoes and in her dreams nightmares the potato keeps running away from her, the moment she nears it, it keeps getting up higher and higher and sadly farther farther from her reach. She always wakes up crying from the dream but happy to realize that it was just a dream. Me and my potato foodie friend easily spend more than 35% of our monthly salaries in expensive restaurants on food and drinks (not counting special occasions or parties). One gets a craving of batter fried squids, the other simply follows. One feels like eating some tandoori chicken other happily complies. Our friendship started with the shared love for food and restaurant hopping. Our appetites combined together can put a bunch of guys to shame. Our outings (shopping, site-seeing or simply roaming) are carefully planned to include atleast one major and popular food joint. Between us we have this huge list of places popular for their exquisite cuisines which we HAVE TO visit before we leave Mumbai.

Now after all this food talk I present before you a list of my personal favorite food items (selected after careful analysis and deliberation). The list comprises mostly of comfort food which reminds me of home. Needless to say the selection was pretty difficult, the competition was cut-throat. Items that made to top-ten are as follows:

1. Chicken
There is nothing more versatile than the white feathered bird. What party would be complete without chicken tandoori as starters? It is something that is edible into everything from soups and salads to main course. Chinese food is unenjoyable without a healthy dose of chicken Hakka noodles together with chilly chicken. Grill it, toss it, sauté it or cook it in dum – the end product is surely got to be finger licking good.

2. Koshur-Haakh (Kashmiri Saag

This is a pure ghar-ka-khana type of dish for us Kashmiri pandits. The green-leafy bliss comes from Kashmir and sells like hot cakes when in season. The dish contains no special species or ingredients yet it feels like a blast of flavors in your mouth. This dish is best enjoyed with plain white rice, curd and desi French fries which we call aoulu churma in Kashmiri.

3. Roganjosh 
There is a popular saying which goes – Mutton is to Kashmir what beer is to Australia. And roganjosh is easily the king of all the different types of varieties available. It is a tender mutton cooked slowly with a myriad of spices. It is very spicy and best enjoyed with rice.

4. Matar-aaloo (Potato-peas)

This is undoubtedly my most favorite vegetarian dish. I like it without onion or tomatoes. Crisply fried, spicy and melt-in-the-mouth kind. Enough said.

5. Maggie 
I have literally grown-up eating Maggie. The first thing I ever cooked was Maggie. It was the reason of many fights between me and my sister on who gets the major share. The best thing about Maggie is that it is so versatile. You can make it with vegetables, shreds of chicken, with egg or just plain. After all these year the love for Maggie remains. All week I eagerly wait for weekends so that I can gorge on a very unhealthy breakfast of Maggie, lays and thumbs-up.

6. Maasch (Minced mutton balls)

Minced mutton balls mixed with spices and cooked in a red gravy. Sometimes the balls are filled with dried plums which gives it a very distinct taste. It is best enjoyed with plain white rice, pulav or piping hot paranthas.

7. Prawns 
Believe it or not, I had never tasted prawns before I came to Mumbai. Now I am so in love with them and other sea foods like squids. Did I mention that the potato foodie friends is an expert when it comes to sea food. It is under the careful reign of the sea princess that I am slowly venturing into the sea food territory.

8. Mutton pulav 

A very mild and fragrant concoction of rice and boneless pieces of mutton. Cooked in desi ghee with aromatic spices like cinnamon, cardamom, black pepper and bay leaves. It is enjoyed as it with a little bit of pickle.

9. Baigan-ka-bharta 
Baingan ka barta is something is was very rarely made at my home. But here I cook it atleast once or twice a week. What helps is that both me and my roommate love it. The smokey flavored barta is enjoyed best with chapatis.YUM.

10. Goshtaba

It is a dish they say fit for kings. It is prepared with fresh mutton minced to perfection for hours and hours manually and cooked with curd and spices. The taste lingers long after you are done eating. One of these big balls of heaven and you are done for the day.

Well, must be said that the selection was easily the most difficult task I had to do in a long time. Now be a sport and let me know your feelings about food. Your favorites, your cooking experiments and the food that is in your to-be-tasted list.