Monthly Archives: September 2014

Heart Or Mind

‘The Bridges Of Madison County’….. one of the finest masterpieces ever made!
You have to watch it to experience it.

BridgesofMadison County
I’ve seen this movie every single time it’s been broadcast. That should make it countless. Yet, I keep channel-hopping every night in anticipation.  This movie is something magical! It brings some sort of mental peace and stability all through the time it plays …and even after that. Love between two middle-aged people or consenting adults!

Whether Francesca should have listened to her heart or was she right in conforming to her mind… Every time I put myself in her shoes, I wonder, would I do the same? The love-bug bites me hard and the selfishness just creeps within. But then, I’m yanked out into her reality of having a home – her husband and her kids. May be, her family of many years desired more of her than her love of four days. She wouldn’t have turned her back towards her responsibilities. May be she was right.

But the scene, when her hand’s at the handle and her eyes are fixed on her love who she knows will be gone forever…. I want and crave and desire that she opens the door and runs out straight in the arms of her love!

Organs at war –  the heart and the mind! Its mostly the heart that walks away with the title 🙂

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Vythiri Resort, Wayanad, Kerala

It was our Keralite friend who literally sold Vythiri to us. It was also the first time when we heard about Kerala’s hidden treasure, Wayanad, the tropical rain-forest. The guy painted the entire picture in such a way that we not only had Wayanad on our Kerala itinerary, but we also booked us for 2 nights at Vythiri.
Vythiri Logo

Vythiri is an exquisite, ecofriendly jungle resort situated in the heart of Wayanad. Its in the interiors, 3 kms from the main road. We had the resort vehicle pick us up and it was a bumpy ride in the erstwhile Mahindra jeep. I wholeheartedly enjoyed it.

Blanketed by the lush green rain forest, the resort is in perfect harmony with nature. Once you are in there, nature is all you have at your luxury. Sounds of flowing streams, fluttering of leaves and chirping of birds was I all that I heard for those 2 days. Its like, the ringtones of your cellphones are forbidden here in this realm of nature.

Rapture explodes, the moment you enter.
The reception oozes an old world charm with the tiled roof and seating made out of ruggedly cut log of wood.
Reception
There’s a small wooden bridge which leads to the reception area. The natural pool under the bridge is home to hundreds of colourful Koi fish.
Reception Way
Accommodation: They have 5 categories of rooms – Tree House, Honeymoon Villa, Pool Villa, Vythiri Haven and Vythiri Habitat. We’d booked the Habitat Room. There are only 4 rooms in this category.
HabitatRoom3
The room is spacious with an exclusive balcony which opens to the view of the stream flowing below. Pale warm colours with wooden flooring and interiors blend well with the natural surroundings. Can anything be more blissful than standing in the balcony, wreathed in the cool jungle breeze, listening to the humble songs of the stream and spotting varieties of those beautiful birds you’ve never seen before. Could I be any luckier!
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Dining: The buffet is an expansive scrumptious spread served in earthen pots. The resort kitchen whips up a host of local culinary specialties, many of which are unseen and unheard. There are variety of pickles and salads. Payasam is a must in every buffet. Its the food to feed your soul!
Buffet1
Dining area is massive. Look at the lush green surroundings! You literally eat out of the hands of nature, don’t you!
Dining
Activities:
I remember talking to the receptionist, asking her about the sightseeing in Wayanad. To which she humbly replied, “Mam, our resort is so vast that you’ll need an entire day just to explore the resort. The second day you can do the sight-seeing”.

She did mean what she said. The resort has a host of activities to do and explore. We spent one whole day just to explore the resort and then relaxed in the evening to soak it all in.

Walking up and down the long suspended rope bridge is an adventure in itself 🙂
SuspendedPool
There are an array of other options as well. You can start your mornings with timed Yoga sessions. Saunter around snapping as many birds as you can or laze by the stream and get mesmerized by its frothy white waters. If you are in luck, you may even find a Nilgiri Langoor. Feeding monkeys is strictly prohibited here.
Visit the nearby waterfall or take a leisure walk around spotting the famous and the resort’s very own Malabar Squirrel. This is a must-have shot and the coy lady does oblige by posing, although hidden amongst the greens. You need a real good lens to snap her.
Malabar Squirrel
They have an hour long informative session in the evening at 6. This is a slide presentation which takes you through the area’s flora and fauna, the traditions, culture and festivities of the place.
The resort also arranges a guided trek to the tropical rain-forests in the surrounding area.

All done and explored? Just sit at the natural pool area and watch the rain-drops hitting and disappearing in the pool water.
Sitout
Amenities: The resort is well-equipped with spa, health club, ayurveda centre, swimming pool, games room, kids park, multi-cuisine restaurant and coffee shop.

There’s also the souvenir shop from which we bought T-shirts and some curios.
Sovenier shop
Lastly, a special mention of the sturdy jeep that ferried us. These jeeps have been the thing of the past…long forgotten. Posting the pic here. Nostalgia!
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I wholeheartedly thank our dear friend for introducing us to Vythiri. The ambience, hospitality, room, amenities, food… every single moment at the resort was worth every penny paid for.
The entire experience was fascinating! A must-visit for everyone visiting Wayanad 🙂

Ocean Palms, Goa

Ocean Palms is a 4 star eco-friendly resort that’s situated off the main Calangute road. Being in the midst of the hustle-bustle yet away from the noise, this resort is a perfect getaway for a comfortable, affordable and leisure stay.
Its just a few minutes walk from the Calangute beach, 45 kms from the airport, 16 kms from the nearest railway station and around 12 kms from the capital city, Panaji.
We’d been here in the month of February for our anniversary which collides with the Valentines Day. So got to be a part of the wonderful celebrations that the hotel had planned to celebrate love!

HotelExterior
We had booked the Palm Room for 3 nights. The rooms are spacious with ceiling to floor windows promising a view of the lush green trees in the hotel compound. The intention is to welcome more of natural light inside the room and thus save electricity. You can spend hours lounging on the sit-out, doing nothing but enjoying the view with a cuppa coffee.
PalmRoom1
Rooms are painted in pale colours that add to the brightness. The golden-brown upholstery gives a regal look to the rooms. The rooms are well-equipped with AC, mini-fridge, wardrobe, ironing board with iron, LCD TV, tea-coffee maker, electronic safe and complimentary bottled water.
PalmRoom2
The toilets are done up well and squeeze in as much natural light as they can. We were told that the soap and shampoo provided here were all herbal, a produce of the local market. That’s what I call, an eye to every minute detail of eco-friendliness!
Washroom
Amenities include Nautilus, a multi-cuisine restaurant with attached bar and lounge area. There is also a fitness centre, kids corner and a spa.

This spa room has my story to tell. I befriended Marie who had attended to me. She was a native of Kerala and was employed here. In that 2 hour spa session, I learnt a lot about Marie and her background. She used to visit her family in Kerala only once a year for only  for couple of weeks. That’s a major commitment to work, isn’t it!
The next day, I looked out for her, but she was on leave. So I left her the Valentines gift that I’d received from the hotel – a chocolate hamper, something I otherwise wouldn’t part with 🙂 . I also wrote her a letter and left her my mail-id.
Couple of days after returning to Mumbai, I received a mail from Marie acknowledging my letter and the gift. She loved the chocolates and also shared them with her colleagues.  Such things are my way of finding true happiness 🙂
SpaRoom
If this ain’t enough relaxation, there’s the swimming pool to laze around or have a dip in its clear blue waters.
SwimmingPool
The hotel, specially the pool area was all decked up with red, heart-shaped balloons for Valentines celebrations and red-dress code to match.  A DJ and emcee completed the do. There was also a lavish spread of a multi-cuisine buffet. Para, Goan-style pickle made of sun-dried, salted mackerel with some exotic spices, was the one I relished the most. You wont believe, but even now, while writing this, my mouth is watering already with the memory of its hot and tangy flavour.
Love was all around in the air. I wished my hubby had proposed to me again. Here’s a pic of me at the do….
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The hotel has 24 hour in-room dining facility. The staff are very courteous and helpful.

I loved all the three days of my stay here. The room, amenities, food, accessibility, staff and last but not the least…the Valentines party… everything here was super-amazing.

Thank you Team Ocean Palms! 🙂

Ganesh Chaturthi – The Idols I Visited

During the ten day Ganesh Chaturthi festival, there’s nothing more I enjoy than visiting as many Ganesh Pandals as I can and capturing the magnificent idols in my lens.
I was completely overwhelmed by the profound beauty and splendor that every idol exuberated. Totally awestruck, I kept gawking and wondering how much efforts and dexterity it must have taken the artisans to build these masterpieces.

Thought of sharing some of these pics with you 🙂

The Ganesh idol of our building:
Our bldg
The Kanjurmarg Ganesha:
Kanjurmarg
The Bandra Ganesha:
Bandra
The Bhandup Ganesha:
Bhandup1
The Nahur Ganesha:
Bhandup2
The Sion Ganesha:
Matunga
The Vikhroli Ganesha:
Nahur
The Andheri Ganesha:
Sakinaka
The Matunga Ganesha:
Sion
The Thane Ganesha:
Thane2
The Ghatkopar Ganesha:
Thanehouse
Magnificent would be an understatement! Each and every idol oozes divinity….
I wish I could have visited some more of them 🙂

Ganesh Chaturthi – My Visit To Lalbaugcha Raja

Ganesh Chaturthi is one of the most awaited and celebrated festivals in Mumbai. A festival which brings the city together, which is a reason for happiness and in which religion doesn’t matter.
There are thousands of Sarvajanik Ganesh Mandals vying for the title of the biggest, the wealthiest or the most beautiful idol of all. Efforts of the artisans who put their skills to test throughout the year are finally rewarded when their idol wins.

Among all these idols in Mumbai, Lalbaugcha Raja which transliterates to “The King of Lalbaug” rules  the roost and how! I’ve been visiting the King of Lalbaug consecutively for the past 6 years.
I owe it to my sister who introduced me to this place in 2009. But I have to hand it to my beloved hubby who, despite being from a different faith, has helped me continue this tradition since then. Yeah, we are two religions under one roof 🙂

At Lalbaug, the idol is kept for public display for eleven days and thereafter it is immersed on the auspicious day of Anant Chaturdashi.
Its believed that this Idol of Lord Ganesha is Navsacha Ganpati, which means the “one who fulfills all wishes”. No wonder 1.5 million people visit this Ganesh Pandal daily during the 10 day festival.
The idol, now in its 80th year, stands a magnificent 12 feet tall and has a divine aura around it.
Lalbaugh Raja
There are two queues for taking blessings of the Lalbaugcha Raja – the Navas or the Mannat Line and the Mukh Darshan Line.
The Mannat line lets you on the stage and touch the feet of the idol. It attracts huge public and takes around 25 to 40 hours to get darshan. Crazy is the word!
The Mukh darshan line gets you a glimpse of the idol from a distance without going onto the stage. This is fast-paced and less taxing.

My sister always opted for the former, the Mannat Line and coaxed me to do so in my maiden visit. It was a good 18 hours wait before we could touch the feet of the Lord. A  real test of patience and persistence!
That was my first and last experience of toying with the idea of the “Mannat Line”. I am a devotee but not the penance kinds. So from next year, I was content with the “Mukh darshan” itself 🙂 . Its equally exhilarating and with much less efforts.

My visit this year:
We planned our visit in such a way that we get darshan in less time and the place is comparatively less crowded. It was the fourth day of the festival. We started off at 4 am.
The place is as lively as it would be during the day hours. Brightly lit up area ensures your eyes are wide open however sleepy they may be. Gigantic hoardings stare right down at you. There are police men everywhere to maintain the law and order. Barricades maintain the queues. The tea-vendors roam around on their bicycles untiringly trying to sell tea even in those wee hours. There are few make-shift refreshment stalls to help grab a quick bite. Garlands and offering stalls are scattered everywhere. and there are non-stop announcements reminding you to take care of your kids and belongings.

Suddenly someone shouts an impromptu “Ganpati Bappa” and all the unknown others quickly and loudly respond “Morya”. A wonderful feeling of unity that is!

Our cabbie, reluctant to dare making his way into the crowd, dropped us at least a kilometer before the starting point of the queue. People were running, sprinting, jostling, doing every possible stunt to get ahead in the line. There was a lot of pushing and shoving, but none seemed to care, except for a few frowns. I saw a man carrying a child in his arms, who tried to barge in the middle of the queue by squeezing himself and the child from the space between the barricade. In the meanwhile, he also managed to bang his head on the rod, and with a bit of “ouch” he rushed ahead to continue his mission.

Devotees included people across all ages, backgrounds and faiths. There were office goers in formals and with their laptop bags who seemed to have headed straight after their office hours. There was septuagenarian lady who sauntered with the help of her middle-aged son at one hand and her old husband at the other. There were parents trying their best to keep their kids together, teens who seemed in more of a party mood. The homeless slept under the flyover, oblivious to all the hustle-bustle around them.

Buying of offerings and a little rambling later, we were inside a huge pandal where the queue was strategically planned, and which would lead us to the main area of darshan. Inside the pandal was an enormous LCD that incessantly gave a live feed of the happenings in the vicinity of the idol.

It took us numerous pushes, shoves and twenty minutes to get in the open and the final stretch from where we could see the beaming Lord. Not clearly though, with all those raising hands trying to capture His glimpse on their cellphones. My husband had volunteered for this, while I began mumbling all those prayers I knew and the long list of wishes I had on my mind, till the time I reached the idol. Finally, after battling the crowd, it was my turn to get the sight of the Lord in His full glory. It was just ten seconds, before I could even soak His mesmerizing beauty, I was pushed towards the exit. Its narrow already and is further narrowed by the flooding of small stalls that sell the Ganesh merchandise. The brownish Mawa Pedha sold here is otherwise a rare find.

A heavy heart , ten minutes walk and a sip of coffee later, we hailed a cab back home. “Ganpati Bappa Morya! Pudhchya varshi lavkar ya” echoed in my ears in a rewind-and-play mode. Such is His intensity!

The latest news that was flashed in the newspapers was that the pandal had around around 1.5 crore visitors during those eleven days when the idol was for display. The pandal also has an insurance cover of around Rs. 50 crores and reportedly got donations of around 7 lakhs in cash, about 6 kg gold and 100 kg silver. Can you imagine, people donate cars too!

Its amazing how faith makes us do things that are beyond imagination and understanding.
I am a worshiper too and its my faith in Him that pulls me here every year. But the thought of bartering with the Lord, somehow doesn’t agree with me. I mean, what’s God gonna do with cars, gold, silver, money? Does He even understand these worldly materialistic pleasures? How can anyone even think of asking something from God for something in return? Basically its a way of bribing the Lord, isn’t it? Big people, big bribes!

I still remember a chapter we had in school, about a poor man who earned his living breaking down huge stones in the sweltering heat. That was when I first learnt what “Sweat of one’s brow” literally meant. And that was when I first learnt that God is present right here, in the destitute and the deprived. I grew up, but never did forget that chapter. Since then, I try and do my bit whenever and in whatever way I can. We owe a lot to the society we live in, don’t we?
I wish, these opulent guys understood even a bit of it. Imagine how many empty stomachs would be fed by a simple shift of thinking.
The Lord would rather be happy this way, right?

Dal Gosht (Meat in Lentils)

I love the way food helps connect to the roots and the tradition. The word ‘Gosht’ transliterates to meat in Persian. Dal Gosht which means, mutton or meat cooked in lentils, finds its roots in Lahori cuisine.
This royally delicious but noble dish is a meal made in heaven.

Dal Gosht
Cooking Time: 1 hour
Serves: 5

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 kg lamb boneless and cubed
  • 1/2 cup toor dal (pigeon pea)
  • 2 tbsps ghee + 1 tbsp vegetable cooking oil ( optional)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 onion finely sliced
  • 1/2 tbsp ginger paste
  • 1 tbsp garlic paste
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala powder
  • 2 large tomatoes chopped fine or 1 can of chopped tomatoes
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tsps lime juice
  • Chopped corriander for garnish

Method:

1. Pressure cook the toor dal and keep aside.
2. Heat the ghee in a deep pan. Add oil (optional). Ghee has high boiling point and can withstand high heat. So doesn’t burn easily.
I prefer adding a tsp of oil for balance.
3. When hot, add the cumin seeds. Fry till they release aroma, but don’t let them burn.
4. Add the onions and fry till they are soft and translucent.
5. Now add ginger and garlic pastes and fry for a minute.
6. Add all the spice powders – coriander, cumin, turmeric, red chilli and garam masala powder and fry till the oil separates from the masala. Stir so that the masala doesn’t burn.
7. Add tomatoes and fry till soft. Leave the lid on for 2-3 minutes, so they soften fast and also the masala doesn’t burn.
8. Smoosh the mixture a bit, so that the onions and tomatoes mix well, leaving no chunks.
9. Now add the lamb, salt to taste and stir well. Fry till browned.
10. Now add the cooked toor dal and mix.
11. Add water as per the consistency you desire.
12. Leave the lid on and let it simmer on medium heat till the meat is cooked and tender.
13. Add lime juice and garnish with chopped corriander while plating.

P.S.: A perfect companion for Pulao and Jeera Rice. Also with all type of Indian breads (chapati, tandoori roti, roomali roti, naan, paratha, etc.)
I always drizzle a little more ghee while garnishing.
Forget the calories and rejoice in its flavour 🙂

Breakfast – Start Your Day In A Healthy Way

Breakfast is the very first meal of the day. It therefore has to be an explosion of rapture and loaded with nutrition and energy to keep you going through the rest of the day.
Nutritional experts emphasize on a healthy and hearty breakfast if you wanna keep the problems like lack of concentration, metabolism, weight, and cardiac health at bay.

Breakfast
Toasted multigrain bread, smoked bacon. baked beans, sunny-side up eggs sprinkled with black pepper and a pinch of oregano…
All these accompanied by a mug of perfectly brewed coffee, bundle up to make the perfect start for a perfect day.