Monthly Archives: January 2014

Simply frozen!

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When we moved to the Chicago suburbs a few months ago, nothing prepared us for the wintry days we were about to embark on soon. Our first neighbour warned us about the mighty Chicago winter, thereby advising us to get a garage for our car soon before winter approached. Newly found friends and acquaintances always talked about the weather here. Having lived in scattered parts of the globe before, we wondered, how bad could this be? Well, the answer was overwhelming.
What struck us first about Chicago was the windchill. They don’t call it the Windy City just like that. The wind blows hard all year round, but in winters, it reaches a different level altogether. It snows heavily, and temperatures below minus degrees start feeling normal soon enough. Recently, just one of the days, we had a single digit temperature in a long time, and it felt warm, so we rejoiced.
Initially, we got the shock of ours lives and often wondered as to how would we survive such extreme weather. But sooner than later, we realised, it is just the way it is. Once it settles in, it feels normal and bearable. And life moves on just like other parts of the world.
Being born and raised in a tropical climate, I have never been good with the cold, leave alone Chicago winters. But I surprised myself soon enough, and it all felt as usual. I still don’t enjoy winters to be frank, but my approach has certainly changed, all thanks to Chicago.
The recent Polar Vortex brought in some unimaginable wintry woes, and I was able to capture some outdoor shots while we managed to venture out for grocery shopping. I thought of sharing some with you all:

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Captivating Kerala!

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Whenever I think of Kerala, the word ‘pristine’ comes to my mind. This state situated in South India has an enchanting sort of unadulterated beauty about itself. When I first visited Kerala, the lush greenery left me wondering “is this for real?” I knew that this was the place to be in, any time, any day, any year, any season.

My husband originally hails from Kerala, but being born and brought up in Mumbai, he never really had the chance to explore the state excepting for a few occasional visits to his native town during childhood. And I come from Kolkata, so Kerala was always seen in textbooks or movies by me. So we were super excited to choose this as our honeymoon spot. The best thing we did while holidaying in Kerala is that we left behind our planning back home. We decided to simply go with the flow and see what the state had to offer.

Kerala is one of the most famous tourist hubs in India, and there is no dearth of places to visit or see here. We chose the quaint hill station of Munnar, the backwaters of Alleppey and the beautiful Kumarakom as our picks. We flew from Mumbai to Cochin International Airport in Kerala, and simultaneously rented a car to travel to Munnar.

The drive from Cochin to Munnar approximately takes about four and a half hours and is best enjoyed in the daytime, due to the magnificent landscapes that one gets to see while approaching Munnar. We however, were travelling late at night which had a different charm of its own. The road was curvy and we drove through a dense forest in the dead of the night. Our driver/guide was a cool and fun guy who spoke English as the main language, therefore making it easy to converse and understand., even though my husband speaks the local language. He told us stories about wild elephants tying to cross the roads at night in herds making all traffic halt, and the overall effect seemed thrilling.

We spent about a couple of days in Munnar before heading to Alleppey. Munnar has a lovely old world charm about itself, and everything falls into place in this dreamy romantic town. The fresh and cool air supplements the beauty, and one can take idyllic long walks, or drive down to the many tourist destinations, or simply relax and do nothing at all. Whichever way you like, Munnar is a place to unwind. We tasted some amazing local delicacies, took Ayurvedic massages, saw the rolling tea gardens,  and soaked in the flavor of Munnar at its best. You can get some of the best dry fruits, spices, honey, home made chocolate, coconut oil and other local produce here to take back for your loved ones. There are plenty of hotels to choose from, and booking in advance helps as Munnar is a favorite all year round. The place grew on us as we spent more moments here, and by the time we had to say goodbye,  felt this was a slice of heaven.

Munnar shrouded in mist

Munnar shrouded in mist

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Our next destination was the backwaters of Alleppey, also fondly known as the ‘Venice of the east.’ It surely lives up to this name, as it was one of the most serene and breathtaking places we had ever places. I was looking most forward to visiting Alleppey during our trip, as I had read up so much about it and seen so many fabulous photographs.Alleppey also has a beautiful beach, with the Arabian sea skirting the shores  We put up at one of the many houseboats tourists rent out in order to stay on the backwaters and canals. Our houseboat had a lovely homely vibe about it, and we shared it with two other couples on board. It was one experience we truly relished. While the boat cruised along the scenic backwaters and lagoons, we enjoyed some fabulous company of our new friends, gorged on freshwater fish curry, Kerala fish fry and rice,  watched the sun set, and woke up to a crackling dawn. .Overall, it felt surreal. I personally wished our houseboat stint never ended at all, it felt so so perfect. This experience simply cannot be explained in words, one needs to take a trip down here to know what the fuss is all about.

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view from our houseboat.

view from our houseboat.

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Kumarakom was our final destination before heading back home. Situated alongside Lake Vembanad, this popular halt is just a couple of hours driving distance from Alleppey.  Kumarakom offers a vast variety of flora and fauna amidst lush greenery. Rather there is no area which is not covered in greenery. The beauty enthralls the senses, and soothes the mind. We chose a resort which had its rooms designed like tree houses among-st a natural setting. Their swimming pool alongside the lake gave a mesmerizing effect, and we could watch in the sun go down while dipping our feet in the pool. In Kumarakom, we spent about a day and a half, but the resort had so much to see, including a bird sanctuary nearby, that we fell short of days. Kerala offers one of the best seafood range as well, and has equally good options for a vegetarian platter. But the best way to enjoy food here is to try the local cuisine made the local way.

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Lake Vembanad

Lake Vembanad

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Our Kerala trip is most etched in our minds forever because of the infinite range of natural beauty we got to see there. They do not call it ‘God’s own country’ for no reason. It truly is one its kind, and the pure greenery takes one aback at the first sight, especially us city people. We made some good friends there, watched nature in all its finery, interacted with the lovely locals, tried the fantastic native food preparations, and overall, were left wanting for more. Till we meet again, Kerala, you have been such a joy!

 

 

He says, She says.

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He says “I am right.”

She says “You are wrong.”

He says “I am the best.”

She says “I am no less.”

He says “I word hard.”

She says “I work harder.”

He says “I know it all.”

She says “Not more than me!”

 

The story continues

The saga continues

They know there is no end,

They know there is no beginning either.

The test of time continues

The war of words continues

No one wants to hurt the other one,

Yet, no one gives in.

 

He says “I love you.”

She says “I love you more.”

He says “I love you more than anything else.”

She says “I love you more than myself.”

He says “Let me handle this.”

She says “I too can handle this.”

 

There is no one right or wrong,

Its just the way it is.

Both cannot do without each other

Yet both do not want to admit it.

its their love which completes them,

And thus….he says, she says…;-)

 

Mangolicious!

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Whenever I think of mangoes, my mouth waters. Indians have a special love for this seasonal summer fruit, and we often wait all through the year to grab a few of these. Growing up, I could not control myself while eating this fruit and often ate up everyone’s share at home, so my mom had to restrict me to eating a few only at one go. So I opted for a better way to eat mangoes. I started making dishes and desserts out of them, where I could use mangoes sparsely or sufficiently along with a whole bunch of other ingredients. This turned out much more reliable than eating the fruit raw, which however, is still my favorite.

A few weeks back, I ran out of dessert options as I invited some close friends over for dinner. As I hovered through the grocery store searching for what to buy, my eyes feel on the irresistible fruit. There, I knew my answer lay right in front. Mango also being my husband’s pick, and he being from Mumbai, was introduced to me in the form sweetened mango yogurt, or aamrakhand as said in Hindi. It is a Maharashtrian delicacy, super easy to make, and whips up in no time.Image

Along with dollops of love my hubby’s eyes showered on me for making his dearest recipe, I used four basic ingredients to make this dessert. They are:

  1.  2 cups hung yogurt (you can make this by tying up normal yogurt in a muslin cloth and hanging it over the sink for a few hours to let all the water drain out. I however, am the lazy sort, and bought the greek non fat strained yogurt from the store.
  2. 1 can of mango puree normally available at all stores. You can also ripe mangoes to make a puree out of them, which gives a better taste.
  3. 1 cup granulated sugar. You can adjust the sugar portions according to your taste. If you want to avoid sugar, you can use honey and condensed milk together.
  4. 1 teaspoon of cardamom powder for flavor.

 The method to make this dessert is actually the easiest. You put all these four ingredients in a deep big bowl and whip it using a    hand blender. The smoothness and consistency of the mixture depends on how well you mix it, so make sure you give it some time. Once it is  all in one place, u can fill up ramekins or dessert bowls with this mixture. Then leave it in the refrigerator for around 3 hours to set.  After it is set, garnish with some blanched almond shavings.

This dessert is equally enjoyed by kids and adults. The smoothness of the mango simply melts in your mouth leaving a sweet aftereffect. You can garnish this with chocolate sauce, fresh fruits and cream, biscuit crumbles or mixed nuts. Or it tastes heavenly even if eaten just plain. Whichever way you eat, lick it clean, Mangolicious it is!

My sister, my lifeline.

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IMG_0171My sister is arguably the best gift my parents have even given me. Generally, everyone is close to their siblings, but I share a different bond altogether with my sis. Maybe, many of you will relate to me in this aspect. There is no world I can imagine without her, there is no thought I do not share with her, there is no day which goes without talking to her, there is no me without her.

The funny thing is, me and my sister are apart by 17 years. Once when she accompanied me to a grocery store during my her first year, I heard a young couple exclaiming, ” see how young they have them nowadays!”. When I first got to know that my mom was pregnant with her, I was ashamed, angry and irritated with my parents. Ashamed because I felt my friends and peers would laugh at me at having a baby sis at this age, angry and irritated as to why and how could my parents have her so late. For a long time, I refused to speak to my mother.

The first moment I held her in my arms, it was like she was always meant to be. She had this intense connection with me which has only strengthened today. I was old enough to babysit her by myself, which eased out my mother’s responsibilities. My father went on a five year tour to another city after she was born. My mom and myself took care of my baby sis as much as we could in my dad’s absence. This time together formed a bond between all three of us, in a way each of us nurtured each other’s being. I realized the value of how much our mom did for us, the sacrifices she made, the unconditional love she showered on us in every way. And that is exactly what I tried to do with my sister.

When I tell a lot of my friends that I have a sister who is so much younger to me, and to whom I am the closest in my family, they often look at me in disbelief. Mostly people find it difficult to relate to the connection with respect to the age factor. But then I just smile at them and tell that she is simply the best. I have had no inhibitions in babysitting my baby sister by taking her along to friends’ get-togethers, dates, college functions or even to a beauty parlour. She was somehow, always there with me. I still remember, when my mom attended my college PTM’s , all my classmates used so to look forward to cuddling my baby sis, it was a joy to watch.

I have spoken about all my heartbreaks, heartaches, joys, achievements, failures and about myself to my sister first, and then to anyone else. When I got my first job, I told her first. When I kissed my first boyfriend, I told her first. When I failed in a college class test, I told her first. When I felt everything was falling apart, I told her first. There is no secret of mine my sister does not know of. She is my confidante, my friend and my punching bag. Whenever I needed to vent out my anger, celebrate my victory or cry on a shoulder, it has always been my sister first.

Now when she is a teen herself almost of the age I was when she was born, she has In a lot of ways become my mom apart from being a sibling. With her generation gap from me she sees the world differently and in a lot of ways, more wisely. See, that is the best quality about my sis. She is wise beyond her years. Mostly, in the toughest of situations, she listens to my woes and counsels me, always coming up with the best possible solution. I just do not know how she does it at such a tender age. My husband sometimes jokes and says, she should have been my elder sister in a lot of ways. Growing up, I mostly had life very easy for me. But my sister saw a lot of problems growing up, be it with me, or my parents, or the household, or something or the other. This is what made her what she is today, with a firm head on her shoulders. And I feel like a proud parent, because I know she will make a fine human being in life.

One thing I regret not being able to do, is giving her more time. Our difference in ages made it impossible for me to stay home and spend as much time with her as I wanted to. I was mostly living in other cities by the time she was five years old. When she was a kid, she used to look with big watery eyes every time I left for the train station from home. When she became a little older, she used to smile and tell me to come back fast. In a lot of ways, I feel she has tended to me much more rather than vice-versa. I have no qualms in saying that I am totally and completely mentally dependant on her. I do not know what I have done to deserve this, but undoubtedly, I am the luckiest girl to get such a wonderful sister. She is mine for life. To my amazing baby sis, who is my biggest strength and weakness, let’s always do this together.

The journey.

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The journey.

It is that feeling of displacement,
That familiar feeling.
The feeling of unbecoming, unwanted ness,
The feeling that wrenches the heart
And we are left wondering,
Why does no one want me here?

Life is a strange, strange road,
It is a journey you cover alone.
There are so many we meet
So many we love
And yet, that familiar feeling returns,
Why does no one want me here?

The soul cries many a times,
It fights to hold its own.
It battles, it screams, it wages, it shines
All just to want to belong.
And yet, that familiar feeling returns,
Why does no one want me here?

We live, we marry, we love, we die,
There are so many roles to play
Still the search, still the pain,
The similar feeling haunts
And we keep on running and thinking,
Why does no one want me here?

The mind kills the heart
The heart cries like a child
We know not which road to take
There is no pleasure in the pain.
We know life is still out there, and yet,
Why does no one want me here?

There is no friend but myself,
There is no strength but myself,
There is no home but of my heart,
There is none but me till the end,
The path is dark, but the heart is bright,
I still think, He wants me there.