Rama Janambhoomi Temple (Ayodhya, India) and its architect

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The Sompuras have been building temples in the Nagar style of temple architecture for the last SIX CENTURIES; he is the 15th generation of temple architects designing Hindu and Jain temples in India and abroad. The Sompuras believe that their ancestors were taught the art of temple building by the divine architect Vishwakarma himself.

The Sompura official website states:

Treatise in Temple Architecture is unique in so far as it deals on palatial dwellings for gods and goddesses or even celestial creatures. They are known as Prasadas or Mandirs . Temple Architecture is now widely known to the world and accepted as a profession in its technical term while it very much existed in Ancient India since the era of vedas. The two basic architectural styles pertaining to creation of temples, arising under the geographical and cultural influences, in India are Nagara Shaily (North Indian) and Dravidian Shaily (South Indian).

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Chandrakant Sompura, now in his late 70s, had started work on the temple to Ram Lalla in Ayodhya 30 years ago, after he first visited the site with then Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) president Ashok Singhal. Industrialist Ghanshyamdas Birla asked him if he would take up the Ram Mandir project, and introduced him to Singhal. Sompura had worked on several of the Birla temples then.

When Sompura first went inside the garbha griha at the site in Ayodhya, dressed as a devotee, he was not allowed to carry any tools or instruments. The site was out of bounds — and restrained the architect from drawing up plans for the future temple. He measured using footsteps, he had studied how to measure a ‘feet’ using his feet; If he walks 100 steps it adds up to 1.5 feet/ step which means 100 steps = 150 feet.

Back then, Sompura would make the primary pencil drawing and the inking would be done by experts, on tracing paper. Sompura had drawn up 2-3 plans for the temple, one of which was approved by the VHP. He had also built a model with the three domes of the mosque intact (as per request of the then PM), and with the temple by its side — an arrangement similar to the one at the Krishna Janmasthan in Mathura.

He did not go to any formal school of architecture, having learnt it from his grandfather and father and the shastras, he says — his sons and others who joined in the temple project are, however, trained engineers or architects. He received the Best Architect of the year 1997 or incorporation of his creation of Shri Akshar Purshottam Swaminarayan Temple at London in Guineas Book of world record or appreciation of Akshardham at Gandhinagar by viewers of the world, and also quite a few renowned projects like 108 Bhaktivihar and other creations at Singapore or Pittsburgh, USA.

His great grandfather Prabhashankar built the Somnath Temple in Prabhas Patan on the Gujarat coast inaugurated by the first President of India, Dr Rajendra Prasad, in 1951. For the family, the Somnath temple is still the closest to their heart.

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The Sompura clan

Sompura has decided not to go to the site because of his age and the covod19 pandemic. But his son, Ashish, 49, who has made the site plan of the Ram Janmabhoomi temple, was present in Ayodhya to work out the details with Larsen & Toubro, the company that has been awarded the contract to build the temple.

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The proposed plan of the Ram Mandir is three-storeys and of 161 feet in height. It will have five-domed mandaps and one Shikhar, all adhering to the principles of Vastu Shastra at an estimated budget of 80-90 crores in 3.5 years as per the agreement.

Among Ashish’s projects has been the private temple in the Ambani home at Antilla in Mumbai. The family has built the Akshardham temples in the country, as well as the Bochasanwasi Akshar Purshottam Swaminarayan (BAPS) Sanstha temple in Neasden, United Kingdom.

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The Ram Janambhoomi Temple in Ayodhya as mentioned above will follow Nagara style of temple architecture. Nagara style is further divided into different schools based on the region like Odisha, Khajuraho, Solanki etc.

In the Nagara Style, normally found in Northern India, the temple is constructed in an raised platform called Jagati. Mandapas are present in front of Garbhagriha and are adorned with Shikaras, the tallest one being above Garbhagriha.

Nagara style does not usually have elaborate boundary walls or gateways. Generally there is no water tank in temple premise and padakshina path is covered.

Additional Info:

The basic form of a Hindu temple contains the following architectural elements:

Garbaghriha : The small room where principle deity/ deities reside inside the temple

Mandapa : Portico or hall at the entrance of the temple generally designed to house a large number of people

Shikhara: Mountain like spire which can have different shapes from pyramidical to curvilinear

Vahana: The mount or vehicle of the main deity placed generally in the line of sight from Garbhagriha

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All information and images collated from the internet.

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Beetroot Thoran

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Well as my Calcutta/ Kolkata bred and soaked in Bengali cultaar husband says, “The authentic Bengali community has denounced us. We now use coconut oil to cook food, have nearly given up meat and prefer Hyderabadi or Thalassery Biryani (if we at all have it) over the Calcutta style.”

I never had thoran in my life till I landed in this neighbourhood seven years ago, surrounded by Malayalees of all hues. Our neighbour, a Malayalee Syrian Christian would make all kind of tasty food and share with us. Initially we and especially my husband turned his nose at the fragrance (ahem as some would say the eeky smell) of coconut oil while food is being cooked, we slowly got hooked and have incorporated multiple dishes from various regions of Kerela in our daily meals.

We love Indian cuisine, so on most days our meals are a mix of various dishes from various states.

This is a very simple yet tasty recipe. It is vegan. And beetroot, the main ingredient is rich in fibre, folate, potassium, Vit C and iron thus offering multiple health benefits.

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Reading time: 7 min

Prep time: 15 min

Cooking time:  25 – 30 min

Vegan dish

Difficulty level: Easy to medium

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INGREDIENTS:

Beetroot – 500 gms

Once washed thoroughly, peel the skin. You can then grate them or cut them in fine pieces. This is the only time consuming part in the preparation. Please see videos on YouTube if you do not know how to grate beetroot.

1 medium size onion – chopped fine

Curry leaves – 8-10

Garlic pods – 10 medium size (chopped finely)

Salt and pepper powder – Based on your taste

Coconut oil – 3 tbsp

Black mustard seeds – 1 tsp

Pinch of turmeric powder

Grated coconut – ½ cup

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PROCESS:

In a deep wok (I use an iron kadhai) add the oil and let it warm uniformly.

Add the mustard seeds, let it splutter.

Add the garlic and curry leaves and stir for a minute.

Soak in that lovely aroma 🙂

Add onions and stir fry it till it turns translucent or pinkish-brown.

Add the beet root, mix it well and cover it with a lid.

Reduce the flame to low-medium.

Check after 10 minutes, add salt, pepper, turmeric and stir it a little.

At this juncture if you feel the vegetable is getting stuck to the bottom of the wok/ kadhai, please sprinkle some drinking water.

Pro-tip: Always keep half a glass drinking water next to the stove/ gas/ hob while cooking.

Let it cover and cook for 7 minutes more, the beetroot mostly gets done by then. By done I mean it turns tender.

If it has not allow it to stir fry for 3-5 minutes.

Add grated coconut, give it a good stir and switch off flame.

Serve with Roti, Parota or even with Dal- Rice combo.

 

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Taj Mahal 1989 review (a Netflix original)

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This long weekend, sit with your favourite snacks and beverages and binge on Taj Mahal 1989.

I am so glad that Netflix has started churning our good content keeping in mind Indian audience and nuances typical of our country and melting pot culture. In 1989, India went through socio-political changes that in various ways impacted the generations to come. It started with the murder of Safdar Hasmi by INC goons which many busy assuming that only one political party in India plays dirty games seems to have forgotten conveniently. Sachin Tendulkar played his debut match in 1989; Maine Pyar Kiya released in the same year. It was also the year the Berlin wall collapsed and Ayatollah Khomeini issued a Fatwa against Salman Rushdie. All in all it was an era pre internet, dating sites and dating apps like Tinder.

It is the love story of four couples, college politics, mid-life crisis and friendship that stood test of time and borderline jealousy.

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Pushpendra Nath Misra, the series creator has woven many tender moments in a very well written story line. Of the four couples perhaps it is easier to identify with philosophy professor Akhtar Baig (played brilliantly by Neeraj Kabi) and his physics professor wife Sarita (played equally brilliantly by Geetanjali Kulkarni). I said easier because given I am in my 40s and have been married to the same guy for 12 years I could identify with the couple who love each other but end up being at loggerheads while trying to navigate life and adulating. It was also much of a relief to see a man bawling his heart out in front of the local lawyer while filing divorce under mutual consent instead of the wife and the wife fixing electrical plugs while the husband keeps harping shayyari. These are small moments that break stereotype instead of hyping it up.

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The couple played by Danish Hussain and Sheeba Chadda who play Sudhakar Misra and Mumtaz respectively, is perhaps most tender. There are so many like Sudhakar and Mumtaz who in their own way break all the society inflicted shackles and tries to live their life with dignity and hard work only to be defeated by fate. And how despite how ill-fated the couple is, one still believes in doing the right thing.

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The show features a bunch of youngsters trying to find their way in love and life as they attend college. There is Paras Priyadarshan playing the good looking, hot tempered Dharam, Anshul Chauhan playing the bubbly pretty Rashmi who learns to let go and stand up against violence in relationships as the show progress and Anud Singh Dhaka who plays the witty and deeply caring Angad who reminded me of a younger Ranveer Singh.

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The series could have fleshed out the younger characters better and the camera could have stopped focussing on Camel Geometry box and other non-living objects to prove it is indeed 1989.

Near the end of the series, the ever squabbling couple visits Taj Mahal where Akhtar tells Sarita, it looks pink in the morning, white in the afternoon and golden at night. So even when the most well-known monument of love never looks the same, is it fair to expect love to remain unaltered? Taj Mahal 1989 may not be the most poignant or grand love story you have watched but the story is very relatable (buying cakes from local bakery, rickshaw rides, students making fun of profs and their lack of sex, a rich guy pretending to be a communist just to win over a college mate – it is all there, the way the world functioned once) and has powerhouse performances.

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Thus, go binge 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Train journey 2019 (a short photo essay)

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I traveled in a long distance (or for that matter any distance) train after 7 long years. My friend and I, both train lovers, booked ourselves in a first class coupe at Udayan Express that runs between Bangalore and Mumbai December 2019.

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I was rather impressed.  The main stations,Bangalore Majestic and VT, Mumbai and subsequently a lot of smaller towns where the train stopped had spotless stations. The staff was diligently segregating waste at the bigger stations.

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Dogs who always zero in on me at did the same at the B’lore station and were well mannered and sterlized!

The bathrooms were cleaned periodically and sprayed with fresheners. The staff did clean the coupe twice during the journey. There are also boards inside each coupe to inform which bathrooms are occupied.

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Since we crib about most things managed and run by Indians, I felt appreciating the Railways for doing there job well is a must.

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Here are few words I penned as I looked out of the huge windows :

The sun rays reach out to warm the darkest corners of your heart

As you watch the vivid, vast land that is India

Wide eyed just like the look you had on your face when you first saw

A double decker bus, ate candy floss, felt lost amidst swarming mass at a slightly dusty book fair

All that had seemed magical

Magic now touches you only in rarest of rare moments.

 

The wide windows that chuk-chuk gadi offers

Are they the window to the world?

Vast fields – some tended, some wild, some partially cared for

Animals co existing with nature – like it was meant to be

Rolling hills that seem to have some mysterious stories hidden in their crevices

Flock of birds gliding towards their chosen destination

Children whom you will never see again waving with gusto as the train passes

Fleeting moments of human conditions in a so- called civilized world.

 

The chai-coffee wallahs

The pakoda sellers

The small kids rushing from one window to another, selling wares; childhood will pass them by

The hurried feet of the co passengers in this journey called life

The goodbyes with moist eyes, the hugs, the smiles when one meets loved ones.

 

The wheeler stalls that still offers you a dose of Mills&Boon and crime thrillers

Untouched by the lit fests and woke, radical poetry

The smiling attendants who address you Didi and not Ma’am

So much more personal certain words always are

Helps you smile back at strangers.

 

How to understand what India offers unless you criss-cross the country ground level?

There is so much more that the all-pervasive news about urban Indian crisis?

There are still pockets of magic as you sway rhythmically looking out of the huge windows

As it assimilates with the childhood that you always carry with you

The magic of train rides to faraway places

Which you once looked forward to during school holidays

The vacation days are now numbered, but the wish remains.

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Coorg Diary (snippets from the 2019 girl trip)

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Just one of the Coorg vista

“Akash bhora, surjo tara

Bishwa bhora pran

Tahari majhkhane ami peyechi mor shtan…”

 Loosely translated in my head it refers to the vibrant blue planet which has stars, sun and moon shining their magic wherein the mere fact that I have found a space to witness the magic is a surreal feeling.

For literal translation of the well- known song by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, you can visit :http://gitabitan-en.blogspot.com/2009/10/firmament-of-sun-and-stars.html

 

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Nearly 26 years of knowing each other on this planet 🙂

Two friends on a road trip hummed the same tune – one can actually sing while the other one is off tune but can ‘feel’ the lyrics. And it so happens that each of their father immensely loved this song written by Tagore. One of the father is alive and doing well (touchwood) at 75ish, the other ceased to exist at 48ish. Decades later the daughters still relate to the magical lyrics as they soak the lush greenery of what is locally known as Scotland of India aka Coorg.

Given traveling with the husband, kids, partners, pets etc., is a change of location and not a vacation, one or two yearly trips with girlfriends is the saving grace. This is one such short girl trip travelogue.

Reading time: 15 minutes

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26 years and still giggling

Coorg (aka Kodagu):

Coorg or Kodagu the well-known for the coffee that is grown here is located in the southern part of India, in the state of Karnataka. Known for the lush greenery and beautiful misty landscape nestled between green forests, Coorg is a must-visit for nature lovers.

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Madikeri

 

Brief history: Following Coorg’s British annexation in the early 1830s, the region was directly under British rule until the Indian Independence in the late 1947. Coorg was recognized by the Indian Constitution as part “C” state and elected a government to assume office in the early 1950s with a chief minister of its own. In November 1956, the State of Coorg was amalgamated with the onetime state of Mysore, as part of a state reorganization. Now, the district of Coorg (Kodagu) is part of the state of Karnataka. Throughout the history of Coorg, no ruler has held direct sway over the region. Coorg has always been under the influence of local chieftains.

Uniqueness: The culture of Coorg has never been assimilated with the neighbours and has always maintained their unique identity. Coorgis have interesting cultural amalgamation. Even though Coorgis follow Animism and Hinduisms their marriages, birth celebrations are performed by a priest. A patrilineal tribe, the women are mostly educated and have rights and treated well. For example, widow remarriage have been an accepted social norm for a long time though in parts of India in certain sections people still raise their eyebrows over it. Guns have always been a part of their culture (for example there is a gun salutation when a son is born) though they hardly misuse it.

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Coorgi women in traditional attire (Image taken from the net -Utsavpedia)

Best time to travel: This tranquil part of Karnataka, Coorg, can be a year round destination keeping the pleasant weather in mind. However end of September to April is recommended. We did a brave thing by visiting it during (in)famous Indian monsoon; in fact the red alert was sounded just after a day after we left. Certain areas in Coorg are low lying and gets flooded cutting off supplies and electricity so do check thoroughly before you make a monsoon plan.

Duration: A lot of travel sites and random people will suggest that it can be just a weekend gateaway from Bangalore. But if you truly want to explore Coorg and also relax (not one of those tourists who must tick all boxes within a 48 hours trip) then do plan a minimum 2N/3days or 3N/ 4days trip. You can take leisurely walks, trek, enjoy visits to the coffee and pepper plantations, visit nearby places of interest and have a wholesome short holiday.

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Bangalore to Coorg: Coorg can be accessed from various parts of India by bus, trains and planes. Do check (and discuss with the place you will be staying) for the nearest station/ airport from your starting point.

I have always driven down from Bangalore, jotting down the route we took. Bangalore Nice Road – Kanakapura – Malavally – Mysore outer Ring Road – Kushalnagar (via Hunasur) – Madikeri.

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Tobacco cultivation

We started at around 7.30 am, while it is great to start even earlier; we were not in a hurry and wanted a leisurely drive. The road conditions are mostly okay, as of mid-2019, and you have small villages and lots of greenery to feast your eyes. You should be able to reach Coorg within 6 hours (including lunch break). We stopped at Bylakuppe (one of the biggest settlement of Tibetans besides Dharamsala) and ended up spending nearly 2 hours. Bylakuppe in itself has a lot to offer, so if you have time in hand you can stop there for a day.

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Inside the magnificent Namdroling Monastery

 

Homestays:

The town of Madiketri is the region’s centre point with all transportation for getting around starts from here. Besides Madikeri, cover the beautiful towns like Virajpet, Kushalnagar, Gonikoppal, Pollibetta, Kakkabe and Somwarpet, and if you are someone who do not wish to stay at resorts and hotels, you have the option of experiencing the concept of “homestays” to make your experience more memorable. However Homestays can be a great, good, okay and downright bad experience depending on which one you chose. Do research extensively prior to zeroing in.

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Red Earth which we zeroed in for a number of reasons provides clean rooms and bathrooms. The staffs are very polite. The food is home cooked and tasty. The main hall where food is served and which also doubles up for sitting and playing board games is aesthetically done up. However there are two points I will categorically mention:

  1. This place works very well if you are in a bigger group. You can take up the 3-4 bedrooms in the main bungalow and surrounded by your friends and family feel home away from home. But if you are a couple or just 2 women traveling like we were, I found it unnerving that there was not a soul in the property the day we reached except 3 male staff.  There is no phone signal and our driver was not around for the night (they do not provide driver accommodation though food is served at a nominal price) and neither my friend or I self-drive it was slightly scary. The crime rate across globe is high and if I call something a ‘homestay’ either someone from the family or at least a woman around would have made us feel safer.
  2. Another issue is in places like this there are no small hotels close by. The nearest place is Madikeri, some 8 kms away which is not at all walkable in rain. Drivers made to sleep in the car especially after a long journey may not be the best idea. I always choose places that offer driver accommodation. Everyone needs a proper bed to rest. If you believe in dignity of labour. This is a very personal pov.

 

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Part of the seating area in the main bungalow

Things to do: Coorg has various offerings for various travelers. You can explore the quaint towns, trek to the waterfalls, visit numerous temples that this region has, take a coffee plantation tour, try rafting at the rapids, try out the jeep rides at Mandalpatti, explore camping and fishing options and spend time at the Elephant camp nearby (though I am VERY skeptical about most wildlife camps in India since I am associated with animal welfare and know what goes behind the scenes and I will DISCOURAGE elephant rides till my last breath).

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I am one of those slow movement believers and when I am on vacations I do tend to mostly read, soak in nature as I sip my favourite alcoholic beverage and walk aimlessly. The trip to Talakaveri was not in my personal agenda. Nan, my friend, was very clear she will visit it and I tagged along. It has been a surreal experience, an eye opener and thus finds a special mention in the blog.

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Steps that lead to the Talacauvery

Talakaveri:

I have deep faith in God though I am not much of a temple goer. However this is one temple that made me feel I can leave everything behind, walk into clouds and seek the divine within us. It was so magical, so peaceful, so deeply calming with clouds floating all around, that I felt purged of the daily stress of urban life and the decadent society we live in.

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The temple premises

Situated approximately 40 kms from Madikeri and 8 kms from Bhagamandala, the winding road to Talacauvery is breathtakingly scenic with pepper, coffee, cardamom plantations and lush green paddy fields and storybook pretty bungalows dotting he landscape on either side. The Talacauvery temple premises situated on the slopes of Brahmagiri mountains is at a height of 1276 mts above sea level.

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At Talacauvery there is a small square tank, the holy pond, called Cauvery Kundike or Brahma Kundike, which is the Ugama Sthana or the birth place of River Cauvery. Cauvery is one of the seven sacred rivers of Bharat (or India). Here, River Cauvery emerges as a perennial spring and disappears underground. She again surfaces at Nagathirtha near Bhagamandala and joins with Kannike and Sujyoti (at Triveni Sangam) and covers a distance of 800 km through Karnataka and Tamil Nadu to merge with Bay of Bengal. The temple premise has three quaint temples dedicated to – Goddess Caveriamma, Lord Agastheeshwara (Lord Shiva appeared before Sage Agasthya) and Lord Vinayaka.

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You can read up the interesting story of how Cauvery flew underground in a rage (most Indian rivers have a mythological story of their existence) from various sources. I liked the way it has been simplified in the Kathakids blog. Link as follows:

https://kathakids.com/mythological-stories-ganesha-katha-the-birth-of-kaveri-9fc514d016c3

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Must shop:

Organic, unadulterated coffee, handmade chocolates, wine (the wine here is not just made from grapes and gooseberries but also uses ginger, betel leaves, banana, pineapple and passion fruits as ingredients with sugar-free version available), spices, honey, Tibetan artefacts from Bylakuppe and Kushal Nagar market and the Kokkethathi pendant (crescent shape pendant mandatory for the Coorg bride).

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Coorg cuisine (Pic taken from the net NDTV food)

We tried out local cuisine at Coorg Cuisine in the Madikeri town. There are various options one can research and then explore depending on what suits the palate. Pandi curry and Akki roti is well known though Coorgi cuisine is much more than that. If you are not into eating animals, try the beetroot halwa at this restaurant at least. It is finger licking good.

It was very short but very worth-it vacation. Hope all of you who choose Coorg have similar experiences to cherish.

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Basa fillet (with coriander-butter)

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You know how there are days when you are so dazed that you mind processes everything super slowly? If you are in that zone, where you want to hibernate with books for hours, cutting out all external jazz but alas you have to get up and prepare lunch/ dinner here is something super easy and tasty to save the day.

Only important point is you either can order fresh Basa fillet or if you had it refrigerated, thaw it enough so that it can be cooked/ baked. Yes this can be baked if you wish to.

Reading time: 5-7 min

Prep time: 45 min (40 min for marination)

Cooking time: 10 min

Difficulty level: Easy

Ingredients: 

Cleaned Basa fillet (I have used 4 pieces)

Salted Butter : 30 gms

Coriander leaves (finely chopped) : half cup

Black pepper and paprika powder : 1 tbsp

Salt: According to taste (butter used is salted so you can go low on this)

1tsp white oil (can be excused for those who wish to keep it less oily)

1 lime, juice extracted

Process:

In a plate, pat dry the Basa fillet. Take a small bowl, pour black pepper and paprika powder. Add little salt. Coat each piece properly with this mix. Add the lime juice all over evenly. Keep aside for 40 min.

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Heat butter in a pan/ skillet. Add the chopped coriander and mix it as well as you can

I make this in microwave, so I take a microwavable bowl, coat it with little oil on all sides. Place the fish fillet. Pour the coriander -butter over the fish. Please turn over and ensure both sides have the butter coating.

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Cook on each side for 4 minutes. That is, once 4 min is over, take the bowl out, flip the fish and place it back.

Once done, serve with mashed potatoes and herbed rice. Or take some greens. Or plate it whatever works for you.

I just dive into the awesomeness of butter, lime and coriander fish and go back and hibernate.

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Quicksand (A Netflix series)

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Once in a while, rarely to be precise, you end up watching a television show with zero expectations which stays with you weeks after it ran its course. Quicksand, the Swedish 6 episode series available on Netflix, is based on the novel by the same name.

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It starts with stark visuals of a shootout in a school. The initial few minutes establish that there is blood all over a young survivor ( at that point you do not know whether it is her own blood) and the audience comes face to face with Maja Norburg, an intelligent, beautiful 18 year old from a well off family. Maja along with her lover Sebastian is on trial for the multiple murders.  With Sebastian dead, wherein Maja shoots Sebastian fatally possibly in self-defence, Maja is left to face justice alone. The law firm that takes her case up looks confident but as viewer you wonder how can someone get off unpunished from something so grave – after all whichever corner of the world you live in news about mass shootings in schools trickle in and leaves its bloody marks on your heart.

The show unfolds slowly in a non-linear format and keeps moving between flashbacks and the present. The protagonist admits the murder at an early stage but denies the crime – the entire trial and the series is about why than whether murder was committed. At the beginning, it is difficult to like Maja. She looks utterly shocked and confused when the police nab her but her insolence refuses you to feel anything but contempt for her when the series starts. Maja is shown to be suffering from PTSD and there are blank patches in her story. However since the story is told mainly from her pov, you get to understand the world she inhabits – rich parents with little time for their children, very little parental interference even when they can see that the child is going down a nasty slope, the adult world these teenagers navigate without the emotional bandwidth, self-absorbed friends and entitled classmates who attend drug fuelled parties like it is part of school curriculum / homework.  As the show progresses, Maja wants to keep holding onto her past which is strength and flaw both, to her well-developed character. There is phenomenal change in her as a person within the span of time when she meets Sebastian and who she becomes as a result of the relationship with him.

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Maja keeps asking a lot of ‘why’ throughout the 5 episodes. Why Sebastian did choose her? Why did she stay when everything was falling apart? And as a viewer you ask those questions in your head too.

Sebastian Fagerman, is a rather grey character. The handsome, charismatic son of one of the richest man in Sweden, he sweeps Maja off her feet. There are yachts and an entire team at the disposal of these teenagers, weekends are for Paris, they jet set to Africa just to shoot some hapless animal (trophy hunting). But all these entitlements aside, there is no emotional connect between Sebastian and his elder brother and father. Sebastian has enough pocket money to throw the most lavish parties in town which includes expensive drugs and hookers. All this as a 17 year old! He is so far gone wallowing in self-pity and the concoction of drugs he uses that he does not even care for Maja (the one person who possibly genuinely cares) and he steadfastly refuses to focus on a future path; his father often drops the hint that he can get him enrolled in any expensive career course he wants.

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There are moments of deep tenderness in this roller coaster ride. There is a scene where Maja has a breakdown and the female guard comes to hold her hand – a very unlike prison guard but a very humane thing to do to a young, 18 year old. Then there is that poignant moment when Maja’s best friend’s, Amanda’s mother is called as a witness. The shootout resulted in Amanda’s death among others. Maja and Amanda met each other at pre-school, became friends that extended to include the respective families over years wherein Amanda’s mother openly states she loves Maja as a daughter. The prosecutor asks if she believes Maja killed her daughter and the mother says, “No. She is not capable of killing Amanda”. Imagine organising your daughter who had a bright life ahead, her funeral and then few weeks later looking at the child who possibly accidentally shot her and still doing the right thing as an adult – not putting blame on her for something with such devastating consequence.

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Maja is a complex character to play. A teenager who does not trust her own parents especially her mother, dotes only on a much younger sister, sniggers when she describes the teacher who was shot to death as someone who thought “rock concerts could save the world from war, famine and disease” and exclaims that her bff Amanda was so superficial that “When she watched YouTube videos about the world’s fattest man leaving his house for the first time in thirty years she would say ‘Sshh! Not now! I’m watching the news.” She oscillates between being the uber cool teenager who had it all and the hunted animal that has nowhere to run and hide and all that she has endured including being raped now out for all to see and discuss. Hanna Ardéhn’s phenomenal performance made it so believable and human.

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Those of us not clued into Swedish legal system may find the way the trial went a little too one dimensional. However, the main characters have a wide arc and able performances by most of them lifts this series few notches up.  Add good storytelling and good cinematography (you can see stark difference in the way American and European series are shot and I love the latter) to that.

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Go watch it. It encourages you to look at crimes committed by young people from different perspective and showcases the grey zone that exists in humans. Maja keeps making poor choices in life, the parents whether Maja’s, Sebastian’s or Amanda’s seem to have very little control, no one clearly states whether Sebastian behaved the way he did was because of mental illness that was never addressed – it makes you fill in the blanks yourself. But it makes you think. What if the entitled teenagers leading this wild life had another chance to grow up differently? And does the society judge spoilt rich brats more harshly just because superficially they seem to have it going for them?

Note: All pictures used in this blog has been taken from the Internet.

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Jhatpat Egg

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Not sure how many of you agree with the saying that ‘your husband will remain your first child that needs constant adult supervision’.

I do.

When it comes to food in our house, I feel I am hanging out with a young kid with hazaar issues about home cooked meals! Apparently meals (and it is always a minimum of 3 course) must never be repeated (serving same dish for lunch and dinner is considered a sacrilege) and the dishes must be prepared as differently as possible on a regular basis ! Of course there are some dishes prepared a certain way which has credibility in our house but then it has to be prepared EXACTLY the same way each time, even .00001% deviation is not subtly frowned upon 🙂

So one fine day when I was terribly rushed and knew there will be a long face if egg curry is served during lunch (nothing else was available when I raided the fridge) I had rustled this very-easy-to-prepare-but-tasty egg dish. In case you are looking for an easy way out, you can try this.

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Side dish with main meal / can also serve as a snack

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

5-6 eggs (for 2 people)

2 large onions (sliced thin)

3-4 green chilies (coarsely chopped)

1 tsp pepper corns

1 tbsp dark Soya sauce

1 tbsp chili -vinegar (or juice of 1 lime whatever is available at home)

Alternatively you can soak 4 -5 dry red chilies in vinegar for 30 min and grind them to a coarse paste.

Salt to taste

Method:

Hard boil the eggs.  Once it has cooled down, break the shell and cut the eggs in half. For 6 eggs, you will have 12 pieces.

In a wok, add 1 tbsp white oil of your choice. Once hot, add onions and saute till golden brown / translucent. This will take 10 min in medium heat.

Add the green chilies (or the red chili paste), pepper corns, soya sauce, salt and vinegar and saute for 5 min more. Switch off the flame.

Take a plate / serving dish. Place the eggs. Pour the onion- chili – sauce fry all over the eggs. If someone wants an additional  twist, sprinkle white pepper powder and garnish with chopped coriander leaves.

Bon apetit !

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On the path of finding myself….

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One keeps hearing about how we should gather experiences in this lifetime.

Mostly, I see people relating that to going on adrenaline high adventures or traveling to an exotic destinations.  I just wanted to get COMPLETELY out of my comfort zone, let my mind and body unlearn and try to connect with the bigger power – all at one go.

Thus, having practiced Yogasanas for 9 years I finally made up my mind to go for my Yoga Training Certification not in a swanky AC fitted Yoga Studio or a Yoga retreat cum resort but in a Gurukul set up.

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Was it different from anything I have experienced? Hell yeah.

Was it enriching and worth it? So much that I want to go back again.

Note:

  • Gurukul or Gurkulam was a type of education system in ancient India where students (or shishyas) lives near or in the same compound as the Guru (teacher). In a Gurukul, students living together are considered equals irrespective of their background and social stature.
  • Yoga is not a stagnant knowledge pool; it is a vibrant living system addressing the needs of NOW. However finding a teaching system which is authentic and closer to the roots of Yoga is important.
  • Out of the 8 limbs of Yoga (Asht+anga or Ashtanga as mentioned in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra), asana just forms one part. Trying to rediscover myself through the other limbs has been on my personal agenda for a while and I researched for nearly a year before zeroing in to study here.

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This course needed full attention. Which effectively meant I had to leave behind 7 dogs, a planted aquarium, around 180 plants in the sole care of my husband who treats the house like a hotel and has no clue how it is run. But even he pitched in to help once he realized it is important to me 🙂

I have not taken a bath at 5.30 am for as long as I can remember (except once while visiting Vaishno Devi – a much revered holy site for Hindus in India) and this was January, though southern India does not witness harsh winters. I have not shared a room with a stranger for a very, very long time. I always travel either to visit family or friends or stay in luxury resorts; I never backpacked or lived in youth hostels / dormitories even when I was a young, solo, female traveler. The last time I shared accommodation was when I landed for my graduation studies in the university hostel and that was some 22 years back. And here the ‘roomies’ were from different countries, different age group and different culture altogether. We had to work on finding the common threads to connect.

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I had no time (and inclination) to access news and information on current affairs that I am addicted to in my daily life. I have always stayed in places (besides my own home) where I could eat (or snack) what I want, when I want. Sit with a drink (of my choice) when I want. All that was a complete no-no. We had fixed times for meals and did our own dishes. We sat on the floor, our back straight and maintained silence white eating while being grateful for the food and our body’s ability to consume it.

Note: When we sit on the floor and eat, we are multitasking. Eating and doing Yogasana at the same time. We mostly sit in Sukhasana or Half Padmasana which helps in digestion, expands our spine and helps in blood circulation.

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The Ashram kitchen

I also have not hand washed clothes since leaving my college hostel. And I have DEFINITELY not practiced antar mouna* – ever! I am a very talkative person so to maintain silence and focus on inner self seemed impossible and my husband cracked several jokes on it when I embarked on this journey.

These all seem small stuff. But our lives are so defined by the comfort zones we create that when it is all left behind for a couple of weeks you do start facing yourself and your thoughts. Sometimes that is a very dark place to be. However it also helps you understand Pratyahara** at a physical level and that is such an important limb of Yoga which hardly gets talked about!

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The adorable Shiva (indigenous Indian bull)

Since it was Gurukul system our daily schedule which was anyway quite hectic involved Karma Yoga – anything from watering plants to cleaning the rooms to collecting Honge (Pongamia in English) seeds that can be dried and used for making oil to light lamps to clearing dried leaves off the huge compound. We had our sunscreen on, our hats on and had a ball sharing personal nuggets while doing community tasks. It also reiterated that all work is equally important including menial labour. The one thing I missed doing was helping in bathing the cows; I love animals so would have loved grooming them.

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The week old calf (cuteness overload)

There were multiple sessions of Yogasana and Yoga Nidra and I ended up learning more than I had signed up for.  But what invigorated my mind the most was our initiation to studying Tantra and the Vedas and the Mantra chanting, especially pre-dawn when the world seems completely at peace.

Krishna (or KP), the founder of Shrimath took these classes and he said two things which found a deep connect within me. It was as if I finally heard another voice telling me something I have always inwardly believed. Providence is an interesting term and I realized that sometimes we are herded towards what we seek by a divine force.

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As part of our stay we spent an hour each day helping the village school kids. THAT was so much fun; it made me realize that my love for children is very much there. I just cannot handle the entitled, manners less urban kids. Here the kids clean their own classroom, help each other, have no gender bias and was overall a boisterous lot happy to share colour pencils and chocolates 🙂

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One of the young girls with her pigtails and smile was so cute I wanted to bring her home and raise her!

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The friend who came to pick me up (I have these awesome girlfriends) when the course was over said I looked very fresh and that my skin is glowing. I was reset in so many ways. I had healthy and very tasty home cooked food, a routine life balancing exercise and rest thus enhancing mental and physical help, made friends from people who came from such diverse backgrounds and left with a quest to deep dive in our ancient scriptures and focus more on finding the divine within.

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Not to forget I can now officially teach Yoga (till a certain level) in more than 100 countries with the certification from Yoga Alliance International.

*To get a basic idea of what the term Pratyahara means, you can read this piece:

https://yogainternational.com/article/view/pratyahara-yogas-forgotten-limb

**To understand the basics of Antar-Mouna, read this:

http://www.yogamag.net/archives/2002/cmay02/amtarm.shtml

Shrimath official site and contact details are available at: https://www.shrimathyoga.com/

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Yoga is not about touching your toes, it is what you learn on the way down.

Some of the photographs were taken by Shiv, one of the course mates I met here.

Basa-chili

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Basa-chili (main course)

Have procrastinated most of 2018; at least till November when I finally dusted my 41 year old self and have started to take charge of my ‘middle aged thug life’.

2019 should see me do a lot of things I have a penchant for. Back to blogging more often is step 1 in that direction.  Let’s start the new bright year (albeit brrrrr-wala cold as of now) with an experimental recipe.  For the heck of it I have decided to name it BC. Nah, not BC/ AD or one of the most used phrases in Delhi-lingo but BC here stands for: Basa-Chili (gravy).

I was introduced to Basa in 2012-13. Since then it gets consumed on and off at home and obviously when eating out. The husband feels it is too bland, and you must forgive us fishy Bengalis if we dissect each fish too critically (look, smell, colour, taste and after taste wise) but we mean no harm. We just like eating, cooking and discussing Fish – that’s all.

A Basa blends well with various preparations because it’s easy on the taste buds. Added to that is the fact that this is a relative easy recipe. If you are a newbie in the kitchen and want to rustle up something easy or if you are a seasoned home chef but want to try something new, it can work wonders for both of you.

Type: Non vegetarian main course

Prep time: 15 min

Cooking time: 30 – 40 min

Difficulty level: Easy

Ingredients:

  1. Basa cubes – 500 gms. Cleaned and dried with a paper towel
  2. Onions – 2 medium sized
  3. 6 sukhi lal mirch (dry red chillies) soaked in 3 tsbp chili vinegar
  4. Pepper powder – 1tsbp
  5. Salt to taste
  6. Ginger and garlic paste – 1 tsp each
  7. Coconut milk – 1 cup
  8. Butter – 2tbsp

Method:

  • Coat paper dried fish cubes with 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper powder. Set aside for an hour (at least)
  • Make a paste of the dry red chilies and vinegar. Keep aside. You can add few drops of water if needed
  • Chop onions into thin slices; keep aside
  • Take a wok and warm it for a minute on high flame. Add the butter.  As it melts, pour in the onions and sauté
  • Once the onions are brown-ish (which means they are moderately done), add the ginger – garlic paste, salt, chili-vinegar paste and keep stirring. Keep sprinkling drops of water so that it does not get stuck at the bottom of the wok.  It normally takes around 10 minutes of stirring. Keep the flame on medium the entire time
  • Add the fish, coat it well with the masala and add coconut milk. Also add 1/4th cup water
  • Cover with a lid and let it cook for 15 minutes
  • Open the lid, add the pepper powder and let it cook for few minutes more
  • You can insert a fork lightly in one of the fish pieces and see if it is done
  • Ensure the gravy is not extremely thick, if you feel it is turning so add little water
  • Serve with white / brown rice

Note: If you are high on garnishing can add some beresta

Bon apetit!

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