Wednesday, February 27, 2013

हमेशा, हमेशा!

तुम दूर हो या पास, 
रहोगे हर ख्वाब में, 
हर सांस में,
हर धड़कन में,
हमेशा, हमेशा!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Bombaypolis Moments.... Part 12

Bombaypolis Moments is back!

Is this Mumbai? Yes it is...

Aarey Colony looks lovely in the Monsoons!

From lovely greenery of Aarey to the high-rises of Dadar, Parel, Prabhadevi, Worli, this city has it all....
A road so empty? Is this Mumbai? Yes it is...

What's privacy in Mumbai?
This flyover at Lower Parel is barely a few meters away from the buildings...

Where old and new coexist, that's what Mumbai is....
A church from the mill day next to a swanky new building that's come up in the last 5 years....

Up we go into the skies!

And traffic snakes its way on the Western Express Highway....
This megapolis does not sleep....
Or cannot sleep?

But Powai looks glitzy and swank at night!

And this bird does get a moment of peace!

A view of Worli from Bandra.... and these were seven islands of fishermen once?

And a lovely view of Powai in the Monsoons!

The previous eitions of Bombaypolis Moments can be accessed here.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Ok Tata! Now Jet Set Go!

This afternoon I was surprised to see this news flash on my laptop that the Tatas were seriously contemplating re-entering aviation, albeit in partnership with the Tony Fernandes founded Air Asia.
Now this makes for an interesting development and frequent fliers, who have really gotten used to being treated as lumps of shit, will really be too happy to see a new carrier dawning and flying into Indian skies.
Traveling in the last few months has become really disgusting to say the least.
Visiting home now literally burns a hole in my pocket, with fares getting jacked up artificially to capitalise the lack of capacity after the exit of Kingfisher. Last April, Neeti and I traveled to Delhi on Jet Airways and paid about Rs. 3500 for each ticket one-way. By June of 2012, the fares touched upwards of Rs. 8000 a piece.
The so called LCCs were no different. IndiGo and GoAir were just about a tad lower at approximately Rs. 7500. So for the two of us, a return travel would cost us Rs. 30,000 or upwards, which really is unreasonable. The result - we got an upgraded internet connection for Skype or Facetime chats with folks back home. Man, that's understandable because we have mortgages to pay off!
And then quality of service on board on Jet Airways has gotten awful and pits. Food is bad to say the least. I would prefer avoiding a meal on board and rather fill up my tummy before the flight rather risk having the crappy food on board. The sole exception being breakfast, which still is quite palatable.
The filth on board Jet Airways is also to be seen to be believed. The windows are are rarely cleaned. The upholstery is dirty. The inflight magazines are normally dog-eared. On a flight back from Chennai a few months back, my window had vomit stains on it. To make matters worse, I could not get an alternate seat. The flight was overbooked, I was told.
Now that brings me to the other mystery - earlier this week I traveled to Hyderabad. While booking my ticket, I noticed that flights operating on the Mumbai - Hyderabad sector had been reduced by a third - only one flight was operating the full service Jet Airways code, while all other flights during the day had been shifted to the low cost the Jet Konnect code. Fares, in the economy class, were atrociously high at about Rs. 15000 (low cost?) except the 6.30AM flight which was priced at about Rs. 5000! The obvious answer is that Jet Airways was resorting to artificially reducing inventory to jack up prices.
It did make sense for me to take the 6.30AM flight into Hyderabad, with the lowest fare, relax at the wonderful airport for hour till my colleague flew in from Chennai before proceeding into the city.
My rant on Jet Airways would end with a suggestion - they should change their tagline from "The Joy of Flying" to "The Pain of Flying"!
I would give some credit to the likes of IndiGo and GoAir for being honest with the service they give on board. True they would not give you a hot meal tray on board, which isn't a worry for frequent fliers with credit cards like the Citibank Premier Miles or those with Priority Pass cards (that come complimentary with HDFC Bank credit cards) - with these cards they can access airport lounges, have a warm meal and then catch up on sleep on the flight.
So who needs Jet Airways afterall?
The other carrier that irritates the shit out of me is Emirates. You fly out of Mumbai at any hour and you'll an Emirates docked at the international terminal. Get into Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Delhi or wherever  at any hour - you'll see another Emirates aircraft there. They have upwards of 180 flights out of India a week. These guys are milking the Indian market and taking traffic out of India to Dubai and onward to Africa, Europe, North and South America, and are supposedly making loads of money. Little wonder that the Economic Times called Emirates India's national carrier!
But then the likes of Jet Airways have turned myopic and pulled out of New York JFK, San Francisco, Johannesberg and Milan (oops, my rant on Jet Airways hasn't ended)! Mr. Goyal perhaps needs a lesson or two in market development - he should not expect he would make money the moment he enters a market. Perhaps, its the myopia of Jet Airways that is giving Etihad the jitters now, though other issues are being publicly cited. 
It is sad that a country with over a billion people, which is just about on the cusp of becoming a superpower in the next 20-odd years doesn't have a carrier reflecting national prestige, proudly flying India's flag in alien skies.
And then you have Air-India, where a pilot craving onion kachori run riot and make an unscheduled stop at Jodhpur! How bizarre can things get? And some others rap out their genuine rants on YouTube, against the unions and the management and the governments and God knows who!

In this context, the Tata - Air Asia venture could be a breath of fresh air provided they can overcome the lobbies of Emirates and Jet Airways that are well entrenched in corridors of power and are able to scale up both on domestic and international skies.
It's probably time we said Ok Tata!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Goodness of Eggs!

If there's one thing that's both fulfilling and satisfying, and yet healthy, wholesome and nourishing, it's the humble egg.
You can have it raw, half-boiled, hard boiled, fried or made into an omelette, the possibilities are many. All the yummy goodness, the richness of the humble egg makes for a hearty meal, or perhaps a dessert like a caramel custard or a hearty egg-nog for a cold rainy night.
Eggs for me have always been special - right from when I was a toddler and Papa fed me half-boiled eggs - chanda mama aur badal - I was told the yolk was like the full moon hiding behind the cloud like egg-white and I used to happy believe the story. 
And I utterly adore Mom's runny tomato omelettes and also those rare spicy bhurjis - spicy scrambled eggs - that come out of the kitchen on rare occasions when Papa transforms into a cook with a surgical precision!
For the cook, the possibilities of innovating with eggs are endless as I discovered today.
We made a prawn and spinach omelette - diced prawns were sauteed with onions. When the prawns turned transparent, in went blanched spinach.

That was followed was beaten eggs and herbs and loads of coarsely crushed pepper for an spicy crunchiness.
Prawns, spinach and eggs - the taste of the sea, the goodness of spinach and the richness of eggs - all in one amazing preparation! After a spinach pizza and a spinach omelette, Popeye would totally adore me now!
As one advertisement used to say - Sunday ho ya Monday, roz khayen andey!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Who Said Pizzas Are Junk Food?

Earlier this week, I went to Churchgate for some work. On my way back, I passed by 210 Degrees, a vegetarian cakeshop, frequented by kids from KC College and HR College close by. The place has some lovely cakes, pastries and cookies on offer, and used to be a usual post-lunch pit stop for dessert for me when my office was in Churchgate.
Now those days of gorging on post-lunch desserts have gone past me. But whenever I get a chance, I do pick up some stuff for home.
This time was no different. Besides cakes and cookies, I picked up a pack of pizza bases with me - the crust was pretty thin and made from whole wheat. At that time, I did not give much thought on how to make something different with them - not the run-of-the-mill pizzas that we usually have at home.
Today after being tossed around like a football by the pressures at work, I needed to unwind. Nothing could have been better than a bit of time in the kitchen. And when I realised that, I forgot the crap of the day and my mind raced at the speed of light.
Eureka! I got an idea for a healthy pizza!
My Mom played sport and blanched a good bunch of leafy green spinach. Onions were chopped, mushrooms were sliced. And a different twist - instead of sausage or pepperoni, how about chicken seekhs?
And how about giving the red pizza sauce a miss? Instead using a blend of lovely green pesto with a few table spoons of red sauce for tanginess?

That's how I "built" the pizza, spoon by spoon, slice by slice and chunk by chunk.
The thin whole-wheat base was oiled with the goodness of olive oil, on top of which a generous 2-3 tablespoons of the pesto-red sauce emulsion were added. On top of that went the blanched spinach, followed by chopped onions, sliced mushrooms, sliced chicken seekhs and black olives! A bit of grated cheese was sprinkled on top and all that goodness went into the oven for a good 8 minutes at 250 degrees!
I waited anxiously, looking at the oven every 5 seconds or so.

Then oven buzzed - the 8 minutes were over. Out came the crispy aromatic pizza.

And it smelt delicious, tasted yum and was quite healthy, all to be demolished bite by bite and morsel by morsel! And who said pizzas were all junk? 

For once, I was pleased with myself and I guess Popeye would be glad with me too!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Can I Borrow Rs.25/-?

A friend mailed me the trailing story that made me ask myself whether the lives we are leading are really worth it? Read and answer that question for yourself...
A woman came home from work late, tired and irritated, to find her 5-year old son waiting for her at the door.
SON: 'Mummy, may I ask you a question?'
MUM: 'Yeah sure, what it is?' replied the woman.
SON: 'Mummy, how much do you make an hour?'
MUM: 'That's none of your business. Why do you ask such a thing?' the woman said angrily.
SON: 'I just want to know. Please tell me, how much do you make an hour?'
MUM: 'If you must know, I make Rs. 50 an hour.'
SON: 'Oh,' the little boy replied, with his head down.
SON: 'Mummy, may I please borrow Rs. 25?'
The mother was furious, 'If the only reason you asked that is so you can borrow some money to buy a silly toy or some other nonsense, then you march yourself straight to your room and go to bed. Think about why you are being so selfish. I don't work hard everyday for such childish frivolities. '
The little boy quietly went to his room and shut the door..
The woman sat down and started to get even angrier about the little boy's questions. How dare he ask such questions only to get some money?
After about an hour or so, the woman had calmed down, and started to think:  Maybe there was something he really needed to buy with that Rs. 25.00 and she really didn't ask for money very often.The woman went to the door of the little boy's room and opened the door.
'Are you asleep, son?' She asked.
'No Mummy, I'm awake,' replied the boy.
'I've been thinking, maybe I was too hard on you earlier' said the woman. 'It's been a long day and I took out my aggravation on you. Here's the Rs. 25 you asked for.'
The little boy sat straight up, smiling. 'Oh, thank you Mummy!' he yelled. Then, reaching under his pillow he pulled out some crumpled up bills.
The woman saw that the boy already had money, started to get angry again.
The little boy slowly counted out his money, and then looked up at his mother.
'Why do you want more money if you already have some?' the mother grumbled.
'Because I didn't have enough, but now I do,' the little boy replied.
'Mummy, I have Rs. 50 now. Can I buy an hour of your time? Please come home early tomorrow. I would like to have dinner with you.'
The mother was crushed. She put his arms around her little son, and she begged for his forgiveness.
It's just a short reminder to all of you working so hard in life. We should not let time slip through our fingers without having spent some time with those who really matter to us, those close to our hearts. Do remember to share that Rs. 50 worth of your time with someone you love.
If we die tomorrow, the company that we are working for could easily replace us in a matter of hours. But the family & friends we leave behind will feel the loss for the rest of their Lives.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Taste of the Sea at Sadichha

Today, we went the traditional way and headed out to Bandra's leafy and quaint Kala Nagar locality which is home to a Maharashtrian and Konkani community. Sadichha, an unpretentious, hole in the wall eatery, was our  pit stop.
Sadichha is located on a lane behind its more famous cousin, Highway Gomantak, but its offerings are pretty decent and taste very fresh.

We started the bing with a glass of sol kadi - a concoction of coconut milk and kokum! That built up quite an appetite!

As we waited for the meal to arrive, I enjoyed the quips, quotes and tips that they had displayed. Some of them were so true!

That was the chicken thali with some extra gravy!

And the surmai thali, made from the freshest king fish available!

Now that's a plate of bombil fry or Bombay Duck fried in semolina batter. It was simply the "melt in the mouth" kind of variety.... And if you thought it was a duck, my friend, it was a fish, a species called harpadon nehereus native to these waters. Notorius for being extremely stinky when fresh, it remains a hot favourite for sea-food lovers!

And then came the stuffed pomfret - the filling was made of shrimp, coconut, onions and a spicy masala!

We were served by a gregarious waiter who had a very strong resemblance to our deceased driver, Santosh! As we ended the meal, I prayed for the peace of his soul and well-being of his loved ones!
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