Saturday, October 29, 2011

Sinful Nirvana!!!!!

Today afternoon, Neeti and I had to drive down to Churchgate for an appointment with our home mortgage provider.
The meeting was at 3PM. Keeping a sufficient margin, for delays in traffic, we left home at 1PM.
With the kind of randomness the traffic in the city has, unexpectedly we reached Churchgate at 1.45PM.
We needed to kill time, we needed to quench our thirst in the sweltering heat of 37 degrees and we were famished.
Eureka! Just as Archimedes discovered buoyancy in his tub, we figured out that we were headed to Stadium, despite having a choice of other decent eateries around.
Stadium is an Irani café by the side of Churchgate station.
I first visited Stadium way back in 2000. And that was just the beginning. I kept coming back for more and more of their delights.
This was the place that I used to come to enjoy the bun maskas, keema paos, bhurji paos, dhansaks, keema ghotalas, caramel custards, during those good old days when office was at Churchgate! I once forgot my handphone there after a late Sunday afternoon snack. We had reached Annie Besant Road in Worli when I realised what an ass I was to forget my lifeline there. We turned around and drove back to retrieve the gadget, which had been safely kept by the cashier! Thank God for such souls!
The place is quite old, but is airy, with a ceiling that is at least 7-8 metres high, with a large entrance and fairly big windows - that's the closest you can get to dining I.
The tables were small but neatly laid out diagonally with charming green check table cloths covered with a glass sheet.
But change comes, slowly but surely. The green check table cloths were sadly gone! They were all replaced with brown table cloths.
As was customary, we went straight to the point. The order was for pao-bhurjis. Pao is what Mumbaikars call buns - the word is derived from the way the first colonisers of this amazing called the bread way back in 1500s.
The Stadium bhurji, a spicy scrambled egg preparation, with chopped onions, chillies, tomatoes and spices was greasy to the last morsel.
The paos that Stadium serves are soft, flaky and smell fresh, as though they've just been taken out of the clay oven!
We went for it - impatiently tore open the paos into morsels larger than bite-sizes and scooped out the spicy steaming bhurji, going into our salivating mouths! What a sinful nirvana!
To get all the grease settled in our tummies, I went in for a black tea, while Neeti took a lemon soda! Wow, what a meal.
After we were done with our appointment, we headed home. Both of us fell asleep the moment we left HT Parekh Marg. I was just woken up by the driver, as the Bandra Worli Sealink toll plaza was approaching!
The sinful nirvana had done its magic!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Look Beyond The Surface!!!!

One more inspirational gem from the internet:
A bat who fell upon the ground and was caught by a weasel pleaded to be spared his life. The weasel refused, saying that he was by nature the enemy of all birds. The bat assured him that he was not a bird, but a mouse, and thus was set free.
Shortly afterwards the bat again fell to the ground and was caught by another weasel, whom he likewise entreated not to eat him. The weasel said that he had a special hostility to mice. The bat assured him that he was not a mouse, but a bat, and thus a second time escaped.
The moral of the story? It is wise to turn unfortunate circumstances in your favor. Look beyond the surface.
You may find a varying perspective or option that can help turn things around.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Never Give Up

Another dose of inspiration:

A frog was hopping around a farmyard, when it decided to investigate the barn. Being somewhat careless, and maybe a little too curious, he ended up falling into a pail half-filled with fresh milk.
As he swam about attempting to reach the top of the pail, he found that the sides of the pail were too high and steep to reach. He tried to stretch his back legs to push off the bottom of the pail but found it too deep.
But this frog was determined not to give up, and he continued to struggle. He kicked and squirmed and kicked and squirmed, untilat last, all his churning about in the milk had turned the milk into a big hunk of butter. The butter was now solid enough for him to climb onto and get out of the pail!
The Moral of The Story? "Never Give Up!"

Break Free!

Another great story picked up from the net, is here to inspire you to break free.
Most people are like the circus elephant. Have you ever seen a giant elephant in an indoor arena tied to a little wooden stake. That huge creature can pick up two thousand pounds with its trunk, yet it calmly stays tied.


When that elephant was just a baby, and not very strong, it was tied by a huge chain to an iron stake that could not be moved. Regardless of how hard it tried, it could not break the chain and run free. After it a while it just gave up.

Later, when it is strong, it never attempts to break free.
The "imprint" is permanent. "I can't! I can't!' it says.

There are millions of people who behave like this creature of the circus. They have been bound, tied and told "You'll never make it," so many times they finally call it quits. The may have dreams, but the "imprinting" keeps pulling them back.

Today, eliminate the source of your limitations. When you mentally break free, the boundaries will be removed from your future.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Be An Eagle & Soar!

I cam across this story on the internet which inspires you to follow your dreams. Read on and follow your dreams!

Once upon a time, there was a large mountainside, where an eagle's nest rested. The eagle's nest contained four large eagle eggs. One day an earthquake rocked the mountain causing one of the eggs to roll down the mountain, to a chicken farm, located in the valley below.
The chickens knew that they must protect and care for the eagle's egg, so an old hen volunteered to nurture and raise the large egg. One day, the egg hatched and a beautiful eagle was born.
Sadly, however, the eagle was raised to be a chicken. Soon, the eagle believed he was nothing more than a chicken. The eagle loved his home and family, but his spirit cried out for more.
While playing a game on the farm one day, the eagle looked to the skies above and noticed a group of mighty eagles soaring in the skies. "Oh," the eagle cried, "I wish I could soar like those birds."
The chickens roared with laughter, "You cannot soar with those birds. You are a chicken and chickens do not soar."
The eagle continued staring, at his real family up above, dreaming that he could be with them. Each time the eagle would let his dreams be known, he was told it couldn't be done. That is what the eagle learned to believe.
The eagle, after time, stopped dreaming and continued to live his life like a chicken. Finally, after a long life as a chicken, the eagle passed away.
The moral of the story: You become what you believe you are; so if you ever dream to become an eagle follow your dreams, not the words of a chicken.

The Arty Café, Earthy Food & Caife Gaelach!

After a day of running around the city running errands and completing odd-jobs that had piled over the weeks, we missed our lunch. By evening, Neeti and I were famished, craving for anything edible with, literally, an intense fire in the belly!

As we finished the pending tasks at Santa Cruz (West), we took the the SV Road towards home. As we drove along the road, we recced the outlets there - Dominoes and Subway were ruled out. We turned left towards Mithibai College. Neeti suggested that we try our Amar Juice Centre or the Mithibai canteen. I vetoed that - Amar Juice Centre is at best overrated or at worst crappy! And I ruled out the Mithibai canteen as well - I wanted a wee-bit of sophistication at the place where we ate, instead of having raging hormones, strange accents with weird hair-dos around us.

As we approached the Gulmohur Road junction, I suggested that we head to Prithvi Café. With some amount of trepidation Neeti agreed and we headed towards Janki Kutir.

After parking the car on the road we walked into Janki Kutir. Janki Kutir is anything unlike any other place in Mumbai. With cobbled streets, giant leafy trees and single or double storied apartments, Janki Kutir has a certain village-like appeal.

Nestled in one of the cobbled streets lies Prithvi Theatre - this place is an institution in itself. It was set up by the veteran actor, Mr. Shashi Kapoor in the memory of his father, Mr. Prithviraj Kapoor, the doyen of Indian cinema!

Today we returned to the theatre after nearly 3 years. The place was bustling with people looking forward to the next play. There was other groups, arty people as was evident by their looks and style of dressing, gathered at the open air Café sipping on endless cups of teas, coffees and sodas, having long winding intellectual discussions. Makarand Deshpande was roaming around, so were a number of other theatre and television personalities.

The Café used to have a decent array of exceptional continental bites - baked beans on toast, sauteed mushrooms on toast, besides omelettes and beverages - Irish coffee has top of mind recall when it comes to Prithvi Café. But a few years back the Café contractor had changed and this was the first time we were visiting after the transition.

The croissants, muffins, sandwiches and other bites on display at the counter were hardly appealing. There was a chaat counter, the sev puri kinds, which hardly appeals to any self-respecting North Indian - that was easily passable.

At the very end, much to our relief, we discovered a new section serving full meals. The menu was limited but the waiter was eager to help. We ordered a dal makhani, gobhi paratha, roomali roti and tawa chicken, with lime soda. For some reason, I expected a mediocre meal, but the full bloodied earthy tastes were a pleasant revelation.

The dal makhani was authentic, the lentils were soft, the gravy thickened over the hours in true north-western style! The chicken was tender in a spicy gravy reduced over the heavy iron griddle. The roomali rotis were flaky and thin. The gobhi parathas were delectably thick with a generous filling of spicy grated cauliflower. Our waiter, Qureishi, was exceptionally patient and very courteous, a personality trait which is rarely found in newer eateries.

After quickly gulping down our early dinner, we turned our attention to the beverages. I am always ready for Irish coffee, while Neeti selected green tea with a pinch of lime.

As legend has it, Irish coffee or Caife Gaelach as the Irish would call it, was concocted by Joseph Sheridan, a head chef at Shannon Airport, after a group of American passengers disembarked from a Pan Am flying boat on a miserable winter evening in the 1940s. Sheridan added whiskey to the coffee to warm the passengers. After the passengers asked if they were being served Brazilian coffee, Sheridan told them it was Irish coffee. So began the legend!

Prithvi Café does not use whiskey, instead it uses a flavouring. The glass of flavoured black coffee was topped with whipped cream, a centimetre thick and a coffee bean on the centre.

Although, Irish coffees are available at Café Coffee Days and Baristas, the Irish coffees here at Prithvi are different - the espresso is distinctly bitter here, the whiskey flavouring intense and whipped cream is barely sweet, making the whole sensation intensely flavourful!

Thankfully, though the menus at Prithvi have evolved, Irish coffee remains strong on the menu!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Headwinds or Tailwinds? - Some More Random Thoughts....

A few weeks back, I had written a blog titled "Headwinds or Tailwinds?" on the latest in aviation, including the launch of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Yes, we have shrunk distances! The Dreamliner goes a long way from the Boeing 720s and 707s that I used to fly with my parents from Addis Ababa to Mumbai. Then planes had to land in Aden to refuel because they burned a lot of fuel while taking off from Addis, blame the altitude! Then came the 767s, one of which crashed of the Comoros islands after it was hijacked. The moot question is, Do we need aircraft for long distances, or do we need aircraft for shorter hops? The Second question is, in spite of the hype, will the Dreamliner sell? The Airbus A380 is a high capacity aircraft. I wonder whether it will sell in large numbers because it would not be cost effective to fly below its full capacity! The same goes for the Dreamliner, will it be cost effective, will it be a money spinner, would you like to bet your money on it?

So true, we have come a long way in air travel. But the whole charm of flying in a Boeing 707 was something that is almost indescribable. My mind still has vivid memories of the very regal Air-India Boeing 707s in the early 1980s and that of the Zambia Airways Boeing 707, resplendent in the pan-African colours, and the classic "Z" stylised as an eagle on the green tail!

Those were the days when there was a certain charm in flying. Now it is more of a chore. And sadly now, there is only one scheduled operator of the Boeing 707 - Saha Air of Iran! The other Boeing 707s are either junked in boneyards of Arizona or the Mojave Desert in California or operate as fuel tankers for air defence forces, especially in the United States and other NATO countries. The Indian Air Force also did operate a fleet of Boeing 707s, but those are rusting away in the Palam Technical Area of Delhi Airport - they are clearly visible from the road that links Terminal 1 and Terminal 3.

I recall travelling in an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 727 from Addis Ababa to Bombay in 1981. It was raining heavily when we boarded the trijet through an aerobridge - that was such a wow for me, a 5 year old then! As we took off from Addis Ababa, there was a lovely site of green terraced fields on hillsides - those memories are crystal clear. The majestic Lion of Judah, which symbolised the airline was everywhere on board - on the meal trays, napkins, etc. Then the meal that was served was one of the yummiest I had!

My sister recently travelled Ethiopian from Washington DC to Entebbe, and she did say the airline is still damn good - in the same period, Air-India has gone to the dogs (sic!). As was acknowledged by the Economist a few months back, Ethiopian, South African Airways and Kenya Airways are effectively serving the world by linking major commercial centres of the world to African cities.

Now Mr. Lal spoke about the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 767, flight ET 961 crashing off the Comoros Islands. Yes, that was a sad incident which was widely publicised in India in 1996 - the flight originated in Bombay and after a stopover at Addis Ababa and was headed to Nairobi. The flight was hijacked by Ethiopians demanding asylum in Australia. The brave pilots refused to give in to the demands and the aircraft soon ran out of fuel and had crash land in the Indian Ocean. The horrific incident was videotaped by a South African couple on the Comoran beach, who actually though that the Boeing 767 was a part of an airshow.

Now coming to whether the Airbus A380 will be a viable option for airlines, in the long term, or not - well that's anyone's guess. But there are certain high density routes where such a massive capacity can be deployed. Airlines in Japan already deploy Boeing 747s on domestic routes. Korean carriers deploy Boeing 747s and Airbus A380s between Seoul and Hong Kong. There is a market at least for now. The Centre for Aviation brought out a listing of the busiest air routes last month, and the Delhi - Bombay route was listed as the 8th busiest in the world. Imagine, if we had carriers that were imaginative enough, a fleet of 5 Airbus A380s would be good enough to put the Rajdhani Express of the Indian Railways out of business - economies of scale will push down prices. We need to realise that travel time has an economic cost - it does not make sense to travel for over 16 hours when you do it in 3 hours, taking into account the checkin time.

The Dreamliner will sell - the aircraft is built with composites and plastics, making it much much lighter than similar aircraft in its class. In this age, where fuel costs are high and emission trading schemes are being enforced in the EU, airlines would look at the likes of the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350 favourably.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

నమస్కారం రాజమండ్రి - Namaskaram Rajahmundry!

About two weeks back, I travelled to Rajahmundry on the eastern coast of India. Strategically located on the banks of the banks of the mighty Godavari river and the city is base for India's future energy security - it's the principal city providing logistical support to India's offshore gasfields located in the Krishna-Godavari basin.
As our Kingfisher Airlines ATR72-500 turboprop descended towards Rajahmundry's tiny airport, we hit an air-pocket and I was jolted out of my snooze mode. What I was wonderous - the mighty Godavari and magnificently long bridges spanning the width of the river. It took me a while to start clicking on my camera phone, obviously it was in airplane mode.
When I did start clicking, all I could see was endless stretches of enchanting greens and coconut groves, something that places like Kerala are fast losing. We had a bumpy landing and the ATR72-500 taxied noisily, with its characteristic sound (which is undoubtedly so retro), towards the terminal building. There was a private jet - Reliance Industries' Dassault Falcon 900EX with a VT-AKU designator neatly parked in tiny bay. The company operates flights between Bombay and Rajahmundry on a daily basis ferrying executives and engineers to their gasfields in the Krishna-Godavari basin. The terminal building was tiny - no conveyor belts(!) - baggage was brought out in tractor trolleys. Despite the lack of amenities, the emergence of air connectivity has brought about a change. Hyderabad is no longer an overnight train ride, its just 45 minutes away, with easy connectivity to the rest of India, and of course the world. The flight was full, proving the potential, but there is more potential to connect other parts of our country. As we drove out of the airport terminal towards the city, the greenery looked even more inviting. If tourism were to develop in these parts, coastal Andhra could give Kerala and Goa a good run for their money.
After a few visits and meetings, it was time to break for food. There was an amazing array of spicy sambhars, rasams, fiery chicken curry and succulent freshwater prawns, all in true spicy Andhra style. Coming from Bombay, where we are used to sea-water prawns, the freshwater prawns here were different - incredibly sweet, when compared. This was a welcome change - the sweetness of the prawns blended well with the fieriness of the green chilly gravy! Despite being a full-bloodied North Indian, I would concede that spicy Andhra food is best enjoyed with steamed rice! And to top it all, there was a thick green, sour and spicy, gongura chutney that went very well with the rice.
Curd rice brings every South Indian meal to a fitting end and as I was enjoying the curd rice, I was offered a sweet called Sunnundalu - dark brown balls, which were absolutely heavenly. I was later told that the sunnundalu prepared along the Andhra coast has jaggery as an ingredient, which gives it a dark brown colour, whereas the rest of Andhra uses sugar, giving it a lighter texture.
By then the day was almost over and it was time to retire to my hotel room, but I was fixated on one thing - getting a big box of sunnundalu to take back home.
Next morning we had a flight at 11 back to Hyderabad, but markets in Rajahmundry only open at a leisurely pace, so it became Mission Sunnundalu for Hyderabad!
I had a 6 hour stopover at Hyderabad with two meetings scheduled. In between two meetings, I was directed to G. Pullareddy Sweets at Begumpet, where I did get my pack of treasured sunnundalus! Though these sunnundalus were half as good as those I had at Rajahmundry, they did last me long enough till now, as worthy accompaniments to my bedtime cup of tea!
Rajahmundry is one of those many offbeat gems that India has which are unknown, but with unlimited sights that please the soul, with delectable cuisine that can fire up your excitement and what not! I wish places like these prosper with sustainable tourism unlike what we have seen in Goa or in Kerala!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Up In The Air .... Part 3

The hangover's still there, the hangover of visiting Ladakh back in August earlier this year. This post reflects that hangover, it simply relives the beauty of the grand Himalayan range from up in the air.
The first view of the sun rise, snow clad mountains basking in the golden burst of dawn and first sight of the mighty peaks were captured forever by our lenses and still continue to mesmerise me and make me speechless....

It was soon time to head back home to the grime, sweat and hypertension that a four hour commute, mindlessness of city life and work-stress. As we looked down at the bounties of nature and captured the enduring memories, I thought to myself, "Is this mindlessness worth it afterall?"
"Will I ever die with a sense of contentment that I have lived, I have seen, I have experienced the world?"
"How much is enough?"
These questions bugged me as we flew back from Ladakh, and they still do!
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