Saturday, September 29, 2012

All Over in Love, with Amoureuse

After falling in love with Véronique Sanson's Amoureuse, I googled for the lyrics of this lovely song.
Une nuit je m'endors avec lui
Mais je sais qu'on nous l'interdit
Et je sens la fièvre qui me mord
Sans que j'ai l'ombre d'un remord
Et l'aurore m'apporte le sommeil
Je ne veux pas qu'arrive le soleil
Quand je prend sa tête entre mes mains
Je vous jure que j'ai du chagrin
Et je me demande
Si cet amour aura un lendemain
Quand je suis loin de lui
Quand je suis loin de lui
Je n'ai plus vraiment toute ma tête 
Et je ne suis plus d'ici
Oh ! je ne suis plus d'ici
Je ressens la pluie d'une autre planète d'une autre planète
Quand il me serre tout contre lui
Quand je sens que j'entre dans sa vie
Je prie pour que le destin m'en sorte
Je prie pour que le diable m'emporte
Et l'angoisse me montre son visage
Elle me force à parler son language
Mais quand je prend sa tête entre mes mains
Je vous jure que j'ai du chagrin
Et je me demande
Si cet amour aura un lendemain
Quand je suis loin de lui
Quand je suis loin de lui
Je n'ai plus vraiment toute ma tête
Et je ne suis plus d'ici Non je ne suis plus d'ici
Je ressens la pluie d'une autre planète d'une autre planète
The English translation explained what a beauty the song actually is:
One night I fall asleep with him
Though I know we aren't allowed to
And I feel the fever burning inside me
Without having a shadow of remorse
And the dawn brings me to sleep
I do not want the sun to come
When I hold his head in my hands
I swear to you I feel sadness
And I wonder
If this love will have a tomorrow
When I'm away from him
When I'm away from him
I've lost my mind a little
And I'm no longer from here
Oh! I'm no longer from here
I feel the rain from another planet from another planet
When he hugs me close against him
When I feel that I fit in his life
I pray for fate to pull me through
I pray for the devil to take me
And anxiety turns its face towards me
And makes me speak its language
But when I hold his head in my hands
I swear to you I feel sadness
And I wonder
If this love will have a tomorrow
When I'm away from him
When I'm away from him
I've lost my mind a little
And I'm no longer from here. No I'm no longer from here
I feel the rain from another planet from another planet
Man, such beautiful lyrics!
Songs like Amoureuse do remind you how beautiful love is, it did that for me!
And Kiki Dee's English rendition of the song is equally lovely. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Amoureuse - Loving Life!

Sometimes life has a strange way of telling you things that we fail to realise.
There has been a musical piece that is being played inflight on Jet Airways that I have particularly liked. The piece was very soothing, calming and mesmerizing. On my recent trip to Hyderabad, the composition was played again - it all seemed ethereal against the backdrop of the brilliant blue sky that lay outside my window, absolutely mesmerizing!

On landing, I Shazamed the piece (Shazam is a mobile phone application to tag and identify soundtracks) - the piece that had mesmerized me for so long turned out to be Amoureuse, a instrumental rendition by the French musician, Franck Pourcel.
Originally Amoureuse was sung by the stunningly pretty French singer, Véronique Sanson in her 1972 album of the same name. Later, Kiki Dee came out with an English version of the song.

Ever since I returned back home to Mumbai, I have been listening to Franck Pourcel's instrumental rendition of Amoureuse. True to its meaning "being in love", Amoureuse reminds me to fall in love all over again, with life, it reminds me of the beauty that is all all around, that I so often fail to see, waiting to be appreciated. Amoureuse calms me, soothes my soul, leaves me in deep thought, takes me to a different world!
Even as I am writing this, Amoureuse is playing in the background!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

A Pesto Night!

They say when life gives you lemons, make lemonade!
That opportunity came calling last night. Our cook has taken a few days off, to visit the Konkan coast to celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi and the subsequent immersions. She left behind a replacement cook, whose food, I have frankly not been enjoying very much.
So last night I took a call that it had to be a pasta night - this is something Neeti had to agree to, for shee too freaks out on Italian! We chose the simplest kinds, that could easily be done after over 13 grueling hours out of home!
Out of our cupboards came out a packet of Del Monte pasta, which was boiled. After boiling for over 10 minutes, the tubular penne rigate pasta was al-dente, we put in a whole lot of ice cubes to stop the boiling water from overcooking the pasta. After draining the water, the pasta was mixed with 3-4 tablespoons of pesto sauce, heaped generously. 
Pesto sauce has been a recent introduction into my very prized kitchen storage. Pesto originated in Genoa, hence the term pesto genovese. Traditionally Pesto is made from crushed garlic, basil and pine nuts blended with olive oil,  parmigiano-reggiano, and fiore sardo (cheese made from sheep's milk, a specialty of Sardinia).
It is said that the name pesto is derived from the Genoese word pestâ, which means to pound, to crush, as was done traditionally with marble mortar and wooden pestle. Somewhat like how the name of the Spanish specialty paella has been derived from the Latin term patella
We added about 10 pitted green Del Monte olives and a tablespoon of capers. And this was mixed with a table spoon of Del Monte extra virgin olive oil.

We sprinkled a finely grated helping of parmigiano-reggiano - something that we more commonly know as parmesan, the hard Italian cheese that comes from Parma - the region that is also known for the so very delicious prosciutto crudo or Parma ham!
We microwaved the pasta for about 90 seconds on full heat and enjoyed the aroma that wafted out of the microwave! And it tasted great great too!
Man, I envy the Italians so much, for they have all these delightful delicacies day in and day out! I do love Indian food, but get bored with too much of one kind, as I crave for variety - delicacies from all over - Japanese, European, Lebanese, Moroccan, Ethiopian and whatever you can randomly name - all that makes a worldfoody! And my kitchen is the laboratory in my quest for sampling delicacies from far and wide!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Joy of Reading

After a long hiatus, I have rediscovered the joy of reading, all over again. First it was High Commissioner Madanjeet Singh's Culture Of The Sepulchre, which incidentally had been edited by my sister, Neelima. High Commissioner Singh chronicled his stint in the Pearl of Africa, Uganda, during the period of Idi Amin's dictatorship. It was such a pleasure to read the vivid descriptions of Uganda's natural beauty, which makes me so proud for I was born there. I completed reading the whole book in less than a day flat. 
Neeti recently bought Ruchir Sharma's Breakout Nations which again I devoured literally line by line. Ruchir's incisive analysis of emerging markets through his journeys and experiences was again very readable and exciting. He is particularly appreciative of South Korea, an economy he terms as the "Germany of Asia". He prescribes a slower growth for China, which he says would be less disruptive and would lessen friction. His indictment of  crony capitalism and official corruption in India is particularly stinging. And there are question marks on natural resource driven growth in Brazil and Russia.

Now I am reading the venerable American diplomat, Henry Kissinger's On China - a gripping account of China's political and economic evolution over the last 400 or so years. He vividly account of the journey of China from unification under the Qing Dynasty in the 1600s to the very insulting intrusions by Western power, the Opium Wars and his seminal journeys into the post-Cultural Revolution Maoist Middle Kingdom in the 1970s that practically triggered the single most defining event of this age, the rise of China.
Kissinger's numerous anecdotes and recollections of early interactions reveal a single-minded objective that Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou En Lai had - a controlled, definite and robust rise to power, a painfully slow game of wei-qi ( 圍棋) played in statecraft. Wei-qi is a board game, played on a 19x19 board, based on the principles of encirclement and containment. Considered painfully slow in the West, but patiently played in the Orient, the game deals with global influence, interaction between distant stones, keeping the whole board in mind during local fights, and other issues that involve the overall game. Unbelievably, in wei-qi, it is possible to allow a tactical loss when it confers a strategic advantage. 
Perhaps it were these wei-qi strategies laid out by Chairman Mao, Premier Zhou and Chairman Deng Xiaoping that prepared China for the long haul to pre-eminence on the world stage. Even though my political leanings are towards conservative capitalism, the book makes me doff my hat to those pioneering Chinese statesmen.
Reading On China makes my blood curdle that India never had leadership of that stature, excepting PV Narasimha Rao and Atal Behari Vajpayee, to steer the polity beyond tactical moves to defining long-term strategic moves. Prime Minister Rao's Machiavellianism and Prime Minister Vajpayee's vision worked wonders in those 12 years, which have defined the India that we know today. They are the true unsung heroes of India. Only if Prime Ministers Rao and Vajpayee stayed on a little longer.....
But today, we are "blessed" with underachievers.... sic!

I am still reading on Kissinger's visits to Peking (now Beijing), I have to get back to read on what happened next, in the Deng regime. On China is as gripping as a spy thriller and simply unputdownable!
No matter how convenient an ebook on Kindle or an iPad is, there is a certain thrill in reading a physical book. I have rediscovered the joy of reading!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Our Own Delightful Paella!

Last weekend, lazing around at home, we watched a show "From Spain With Love", on Fox Travel, a food and travel show hosted by Annie Sibonney. Annie, a Moroccan-French gourmand based out of Toronto, brings a inexplicable passion to her show that makes it so enjoyable.
The episode in question was that on the ubiquitous Spanish Paella. Rustic and delectable, Paella is a delight that exemplifies how food travels, how locals marry foreign traditions with the goodness of local and fresh produce.
Paella, the name comes from Patella - the Latin word for pan (uncannily, it sounds like the Indian Patilla!). Paella evolved in the Valencia region. Moorish influences brought rice to Spain - they used to cook rice alongwith meats and vegetables and a pot. The Spaniards adapted this technique as their very own to make Paella - something that has  now become ubiquitously Spanish.
Usually, Paella is made on a wood fire, in a wide open pan with meats sauteed with saffron giving the dish a delectable yellow-orangish hue. There go in vegetables, paprika, grated or pureed tomatoes. Finally, goes in Bomba rice - a visible symbol of Arab and Moorish influences in Spain. Then goes in a stock - the wide pan ensures that each grain of the Bomba takes in the richness and the goodness of the stock. Paella is usually cooked outdoors, the slow heat from the wood fire ensures even cooking and ensures retention of the rich meaty flavours.
Annie's show walked us through a variety of Paellas - rabbit, chicken, snail and seafood Paellas. That was a real revelation because the first I heard about Paella in 2008, it was of a basic version. Padma Lakshmi, who is better known as Salman Rushdie's ex-wife hosted a show of her travels through the world  - one episode covered Spain and had a few minutes devoted to the Paella.
We were so enthralled by the show's depiction of Paella that we made it at home, our own way for our New Year dinner, ushering in 2009. The star of that dinner was Paella alongwith other Spanish stuff - a chilled tomato Gazpacho and a baked pomfret casserole with vegetables cooked in white wine.
My attention was focused on the Paella - I picked up the widest kadai we had at home. In heated olive oil chicken pieces were fried with 4-5 strands of saffron. Once chicken turned golden, in went onions, deskinned tomatoes, which got pureed in the heat of the kadai. Then we added coarsely shopped bell peppers and capsicum. Then went in lightly soaked rice - we used coarse rice available, as I could not lay my hands on Bomba!
The rice began take on a saffron tinge from the chicken. A thick chicken stock was prepared and added to the pan. Once it started simmering, I added a few table spoons of white wine, jumbo prawns and calamari rings. In next few minutes, the rice turned fluffy - swollen with the goodness, the lovely flavours of the saffron and chicken.
That was New Year's dinner to remember - tomato gazpacho, pomfret casserole and a very delectable Paella, with white wine!

Neeti and my folks did say that Paella was much like our own biryani, Spanish biryani
Now again I am watching another of Annie's journeys through Spain's Andalucia - this time she's covering gazpachos, sangrias, anchovies, artichokes withe green peas! 
And I am also thing how good would a Paella be with coarsely chopped chorizo? Perhaps a chorizo paella would usher in 2013!
Man, I am hungry, again(!), for all things Spanish!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Up In The Air .... Part 9

Up In The Air is back with the latest from a short trip to Hyderabad!
The awesome blue of the skies makes me go crazy. Probably I would have been a pilot in my last life, for this seems like home!

The earlier editions of Up In The Air can be accessed at:
Up In The Air .... Part 8
Up In The Air .... Part 7
Up In The Air .... Part 5
Up In The Air .... Part 4
Up In The Air .... Part 3
Up In The Air .... Part 2
Up In The Air .... Part 1

Sunday, September 9, 2012

CJB Ahoy!

Coimbatore or CJB was my point of call for a day in the mid of July. I took an IndiGo mid-morning flight - it was an Airbus A320. We took off amidst rain, but I was in snooze by then - sad I missed taking photos.
When I woke up, the cabin was bright, we were at cruising altitude. There was a thick cloud layer beneath us. But the sky above us and on the horizon was a bright blue. As always, the enchanting blues outside enthralled me. Only if I could the moment forever and always be in the midst of that bright blue sky!

The approach to CJB is wonderful. That part of India is pristine - dense forests teeming with biodiversity - wildlife and plantlife. We overflew the lush green hills of Conoor and Ooty to touch down down at Coimbatore.

As I headed from the airport towards the city, signs of a real estate boom were everywhere. I passed by a shopping mall which had just been completed. And a McDonald's was opening here. 
Oh no! Not here! This is the heartland of great spicy South Indian cuisine.
And surely I had my priorities right - after a few meetings I headed straight to the most well known Sree Annapoorna Sree Gowrishankar, which claims to be "The Pride of Coimbatore"!

The People's Park branch of Sree Annapoorna Sree Gowrishankar on Arts College Road had its walls adorned with portraits of our freedom fighters.

I was busy clicking away photographs and this lad found that a bit too amusing and could not help but smile. But soon it was time for him to dig into his thaali!

My masala dosa was awesome - steaming hot, light and flaky. The accompaniments were a spicy sambhar and three amazing chutneys - it all bordered on awesomeness!
A cup of hot and strong filter coffee had to follow! I had no space for any more when I saw the sweet counter. I had to literally pull myself away from this counter.

My next stop was Race Course Road - an leafy tree lined avenue with a certain laid back attitude that is hard to imagine in a metro.

And in the evening, it was time to get back home, but not before picking up a box of Mysore Pak at Sri Krishna Sweets' outlet at Coimbatore Airport!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

A Sweet Journey To Orissa

Mid-July took me to the interior of Orissa. We took an early morning JetKonnect flight from Mumbai to Bhubaneshwar.
We had a quick bite at Cafe Coffee Day. Then there was a bus ride to the Boeing 737-900 which parked a short distance away. As it usually is during the Monsoons, take-offs and landings on the wet runway are interesting - the thrust of the engine leaves behind a magnificent spray!

We landed at Bhubaneshwar at 9AM. This was followed by a 4 hour drive to Angul district, through a magnificently green foliage.
The next day, we drove back to Bhubaneshwar for return back to Mumbai.
We stopped half-way between Cuttack and Bhubaneshwar at village called Pahala. There at a roadside shack, it is said that you get the best Chhena sweets. Chhena is fresh, unripened crumbly soft curd-cheese, much like ricotta.
The shacks at Pahala have huge vats of Chhena sweets - Rassagollas, Chhenapodas and. Chhenagajas. The Rassagollas are unlike those in Bengal - these are beige in colour, far sweeter and a lot more chewier!  But Oriya Rassagollas are equally delectable. It is believed that Rassagollas originated in Orissa and the secret was taken by the Bengalis as their own, who then went on to commercialize the sweet all over India. The Chhenapodas are smaller than the Rassagollas, little cubes of nearly a centimeter on each side.

Chennapoda is a unique dessert - cheese alongwith cardomom, sugar, raisins and cashews are shaped into a cake and baked to give it brownish crust. It is said that this heavenly delicacy was discovered by accident. Surely some accidents are interesting and good for mankind!
Very soon we reached Bhubaneshwar. We had an Air-India flight back. Interestingly, our captain was Manjeet Bawa Hirani, who happens to be the filmmaker, Rajkumar Hirani's spouse!
As we touched down at Mumbai, an interesting journey came to an end!

Up In The Air .... Part 8

Earlier this July, after the interesting incident involving the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh and his cronies at Rajahmundhry airport, I headed back to Hyderabad for an onward connection to Mumbai. I had covered this incident in detail in my earlier blog - Shameless Men in White.
When my JetKonnect ATR72 took off from Rajahmundhry, the drizzle had just started. The SpiceJet Q400, which flown in the "dignitaries" looked awesome against the backdrop of the ominous dark clouds.

Incidentally the previous night had seen a massive downpour, said to be the heaviest in years, which had flooded the streets. Despite the dark clouds, the takeoff was rather smooth. The views of the massive Godavari River, after take off, were stunning, the ground was lush green - an indicator of how the Monsoons have a magical effect on India.

Very soon we reached cruising altitude, above the cloud cover the blue sky looked pristine, the clouds looked like cotton layered underneath us. Reflection of sun rays looked amazing on the short wings of the ATR72.

In less than an hour, we were set for touching down at Hyderabad, which is undoubtedly one of the best airports in India today. I had a two and hour hour stopover here.
Thanks to Jet Airways who have undone their partnership with Citibank for their cobranded credit card, I had recently migrated to the Premier Miles card which gave me ready access to the Premier Plaza lounge at the airport, where I had a lovely lunch - salads, chatpata chicken gravy, rice and green tea with tea cake. Complimentary net access got me hooked on to my mails - I was traveling light without my laptop, for a change!

The lounge itself was plush and trendy and quite welcoming. The best part was an exciting view of the runway and the ramp, a delight for any spotter - you can see my blog Plane Spotting at HYD for more pictures.
For some inexplicable reason, my JetKonnect flight to Mumbai was delayed for over half an hour. But when I boarded, I was upgraded to business class, which was a pleasant surprise.

While service in business class borders on awesomeness, I wonder why Jet Airways or even JetKonnect can't shape up in "cattle class", without resorting to what I would call mindless cost cutting. If they do that, they sure would get a lot more fliers.
Thanks to the upgrade, I enjoyed a warm cup of lemon tea with a ITC Sunfeast chocofill cookie. That kept me awake and I could complete Ruchir Sharma's Breakout Nations, by the time we touched down at Mumbai!
The earlier editions of Up In The Air can be accessed at:
Up In The Air .... Part 7
Up In The Air .... Part 5
Up In The Air .... Part 4
Up In The Air .... Part 3
Up In The Air .... Part 2
Up In The Air .... Part 1
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