20 December 2010

Food travels!

Visiting India after such a long gap was a much needed break and it was also an experience that was a treat for all of one's senses! It was the most amazing culinary experience. From the spicy ghee dripping parathas of Northern India to the typical fauji mess-style food and the simplistic Meitei cooking...and to add to all of this lots of lovingly made home cooked food everywhere we went. Each morsel was a culinary journey.
The mouth watering ghee-dripping, high calorie, aromatic Dhaba food along a highway in Northern India

Shatabdi express (train) served all this - a neatly packed vegetarian sandwich, a samosa, some sweets & I don't recollect what the thing was in that red packet. It was all very neatly packed & service was amazing which was a great experience considering the not so great experience on Jet airways!!

This variety of beans I've so far only come across in north eastern states of India. Its eaten raw in salads & has a delightful crunchy taste. It goes amazingly well with a paste that's made with fermented fish or ngaari and it tastes heavenly if you're into that sort of thing! :-)

One can never go wrong with deep fried fresh water fish

Singju - It's the manipuri equivalent of a salad but is 99% of the time way too fiery for the non-north eastern palate! The 1% is for children and tourists! It's incredibly healthy, crunchy and full of flavours. If you haven't had singju in Manipur, you've pretty much missed the plot! 

And some more fried little fish which were bought from the local fish market in Dimapur, Nagaland... perhaps fresh catch from the nearby river?! I can assure you, it was delicious!  

The Brahmans or Bamons in Meitei culture traditionally prepare the feast for all ceremonial or religious occasions. They have a penchant for making food taste heavenly even without such ingredients like ginger, garlic & onion and even meat and fish. Each dish they prepare is a testimony to an extraordinary culture that spans hundreds of years that is featured in a place as epic as the Mahabharata and in modern equestrian sport. 
And the countless cups of tea daily... so many cups shared over so many thoughts, joys, laughter & pain.
Next destination : Dimapur, Nagaland - the land of mysterious tribes & magical traditions!
Walking through a local market in Dimapur

The amazingly sweet & colourful maize corn that's commonly found in the northeastern states of India

Bhoot Jholakiya/ ghost chillies/ Oomorok... whatever you'd like to call it... it doesn't temper the hotness of this chilli variety... tread..i mean taste with care!!

Fat juicy silk worms... high in protein & apparently very yummy.. nope..I didn't try it! 

So green...so greeennnnnnn

Bee pupae still in their honeycombs

Dried fresh water fish of all possible varieties

Dimapur & Nagaland in general was full of delectable surprises. As is with every ancient tribal or ex-tribal society, there's an interesting mix of flavours and characters in the local cuisine. Dimapur has some fantastic restaurants that'll even surprise the seasoned restaurateur. 
 Raj Kachori Chaat at Gangaur in Kolkatta. Kolkatta street-style food is the bestest everrrrr!!!!! When visiting Kolkatta, one must sample all the amazing street food you get there - puchka, jhaal-muri, dahi chaat, momos, chowmein, rolls... yum yum drool drool

The classic egg-chicken roll from Nizams! 
If one begins to write about the varieties of cuisines one can find in India, one would run out of pages. Each cuisine from each region is distinct and an extraordinary experience. I'm sure I'll still have plenty to write about Indian regional cuisines in the days to come... till then Bon Apettit!!

27 September 2010


Years have passed and dreams have moulded themselves differently as I had once expected them to be
My mission to Pluto seems to be just as far away and the dogs in my old neighborhood still run astray
Children are still dying from unheard diseases across the globe for a vaccine I never did invent to cure all human ailments
I haven't yet learnt how to drive a car properly let alone a Boeing 747
and the fuel industry still burns the planet for the wonder fuel that I never created
No Grammy or Oscar award sits on my mantlepiece looking adoringly at me
and no accolades for having discovered a new plant or animal species
And despite all that I've learnt a million things that I can't even understand for real
These learnings & gifts can't be found in things material...
To treat people kindly and love with all my heart and that in Gods eyes all are equal...
for the earthquake and the tsunamis don't spare the rich, the poor, the beautiful or the ugly!
I've learnt that pain doesn't spare anyone but I can choose to handle it differently
That happiness is only a state of mind as much is sorrow
That the night always will be followed by tomorrow...
That everyone only really wishes to be loved and accepted so that they can learn & grow

09 September 2010

Thank You Oprah!

Talking to my brother this afternoon an interesting thought came up. For the last decade or so, whenever we, meaning my my two sisters, my brother & myself, have spoken to each other over the phone we've always ended conversations with 'love you's! And as a habit now I tell my close friends and family I love them at the end of each telephonic conversation I have with them. And this we owe to Ms Oprah Winfrey!!!! There's so much to thank her for even though I've never met her and may or may not ever meet her.

When the cable revolution began in India back in the 90s, it very quickly became one of our favourite shows. Whilst our friends were following the lives of the Forester family and the ups and downs of life in Santa Barbara, my sisters & I were immersed in the world of the talk show, very specifically in the Oprah show.

There's much to thank her for. Thanks to her shows, I learnt about the real hardships faced by the black American community in America during the post WWII era. I cried along with all the other members in the audience when the first Black American girl to attend regular school was on the show after so many decades. I watched in awe as brave firefighters shared rescue stories. I also learnt some very valuable lessons - there was one about heartbreaking accidents where a woman accidentally ran over her own grandson because she hadn't seen him in the rear view mirror - how could she; he was barely 2 feet high & had rushed out without creating any noise! After that I recall telling everyone to get out of their cars and checking if there was anyone behind as one can't see the entire view from the rear-view mirror!

The stories were always poignant and about the strength, the kindness & beauty of the human spirit. In one of the episodes, she interviewed people who had lost loved ones suddenly and it was saddening to see so many people's greatest regret was that they didn't get to tell their loved one how much they loved them. Oprah spoke about how important it was to let your loved ones know how much you loved them lest this be our last day in this life. It really hit me very hard and I decided right then that I shall do exactly that. Of course this was the most difficult task as I come from a family that is far from expressive about their feelings unless it was a feeling of anger or annoyance or something negative. Besides it was almost a taboo to use the 'i love you' words! Well it took time but now its become part of our family conversations. I recollect the first time my dad said he missed me... I was sad & happy all at the same time. Happy because I got to hear it for the first time form him. The tears wouldn't stop for a long time.

But I mostly want to thank Oprah for introducing loving kindness in our lives. For her we know about struggles of women across the globe and of pioneering women and men who have set out to change the world positively one stitch or one book at a time.

Dedicated to you Oprah, the most inspiring woman I've ever seen & hope to meet someday! I first saw your show when I was 17... I'm 31 now and I still love your shows as much as I did then! Earlier this year I learnt that her show was about to come to an end... I wonder if there ever will be another personality like her for a long time!

With Love.

13 July 2010

The Young Ones

For the last few months whatever little and limited coverage on Manipur that was available to the media was focussed entirely on the chaotic and depressing conditions that have been occurring there. It's not a new story but this time it came to the country's notice sooner. The unrest between the Nagas & the Manipuri people has only become more severe but something tells me that this unrest is propagated & perpetuated more by small factions of people who yield either political or gun power! If one were to ask the common people, the 'aam junta' in these states what they really want, one would get answers that were more focussed on immediate issues rather than the drawing of borders. Education, 24 hour electricity, better roads & infrastructure, better educational institutions, clean and continuous drinking water, financial encouragement for small entrepreneurs, environmental protection to name a few!
So it was a pleasant surprise when I found out about this little big group called 'Volunteer for Manipur!' It has been founded by a group of Manipuri youngsters along with the Youth Congress of Manipur who envision a better Manipur. They started the group online in April 2010 and they haven't stopped contributing to the society in their small little ways. Their most recent project being to encourage the cleaning of the river Nambol Naga that runs through the busiest part of Imphal. They conducted a survey to show the ill effects of badly managed garbage disposal in Imphal's most crowded and most famous market - the Ema market or the Mothers' market - a market run entirely by women. It has long been one of the state's most famous tourist sites but it recently gave way to the construction of a large mall in its place. The Ema's(Mothers) have been forced to have their shops along the roads and under very unhygienic sorroundings. The river Nambol Naga that passes through this area has clogged & choked up due to the amount of rubbish that gets disposed off into it.
The most encouraging part of this is the number of young people who have opted to join this movement. I choose to call it a movement as it is nothing less than that! The youth are desperate to make the situation better within first. I hope to contribute to the group from this point on... Its wonderful to know that there are many like-minded individuals who want to make a change & be the change!
Hats off to this group!!
Here's the link to their facebook page :


14 June 2010

Looking eastwards

Nestled in the north-eastern corners of India lie the seven states that have long remained ignored and if in news for all the wrong reasons. As the information age is progressing, this region is slowly lifting itself out of the situation it used to be in. Till late 1970’s this region lacked the coherence of the developed states within the country due to the presence of several tribal units that had for centuries survived unchanged. The global wars brought this region into news as it formed a formidable barrier between the Burmese and Chinese borders and India during World War II. Since then this area has had its share of upheavals. Assam of course developed thanks to the British exploitation of the land for Tea plantations & the discovery of oil reserves. This though didn’t entirely help in keeping trouble out of this state. The other northeastern states moved at a negligible pace towards development. Meghalaya & Nagaland though have moved considerably ahead of its neighbours. The missionaries and NGOs that came here after India's independence helped to build up the societies here. Of course much of the old ways of life in these regions have been lost to Christianity. But on the other hand the progress in the Christian dominated areas has been very optimistic and these regions are still developing further.

Each of the NE states is richly endowed with ecological diversities and an equally rich cultural heritage. It is unique from what you get to see in the other parts of the country. The flora and fauna, the culture, language and way of life are distinct and surprisingly multi-varied here. The features of the people here are dominantly Mongolian and language and culture an interesting mix between mainland India and the Mongolian races. It is here that the Dravidian, Caucasian and Aryan blend with the Mongolian… hence you get to see a wide range of anatomical variations. Of course, from the great Hindu epic Mahabharata, you also get references of this region signifying the recognition of the region across texts & over centuries.

This region also has its own share of global contributions. The game of Polo has its origins in Manipur. The great Indian Rhino has its habitat in the Kaziranga National Park in Assam. The Brahmaputra River carved out the largest mud island - Majuli, on its course in Assam. Manipuri dance is highly admired all over the world. The Naga tribes still invoke an ancient world charm and are part of the world’s indigenous peoples, just to name a few.

The biggest problem that this area faces is that of regional unrest. Political and social divisions here have created violent rifts amongst the people of this region. Insurgency is a major problem here. What started out a few decades ago as a resistance to political corruption has now taken on a different meaning altogether! Militancy and insurgency makes this region unfavourable for development of any sort. Attempts of industrialization and development have been grounded due to the presence of such anti-social elements. Many states of course are now realising the need to modernise and develop their territories if any progress is to happen. Nagaland and Meghalaya today are completely different from what they used to be. Shillong and Kohima are now urban cities perched in the most coveted laps of nature and are attracting people from all over the world. Shillong has been in the news recently owing to its people setting the World record for largest number of people drumming together for a given period of time. It might sound like a small thing but it has finally brought this region to the world’s attention.

Another aspect of this region is the presence of a textiles & handicrafts industry here that has existed for centuries. Almost every traditional house owns a loom – be it a handloom or a hand-held loom. One can go into even the most interior of places here and one can find evidence of the rich textile heritage of this region. It’s not only a means of livelihood but it also defines the people. Many well known Indian designers head here to pick up the well crafted cane products. This sector is unorganised as the crafts started more as a way of equipping the locals for their daily life and not for commercial purposes. Non-governmental organisations are now trying to change this scenario and make things more accessible not only for the consumers outside but also for the local craftsmen.

Tourism should boost the economy as this geographical area has a wide variety of activities to offer and the region is largely unspoilt by industrialisation – the only thing good that came out of the decades of non-entry of development! The local people will also have to make a collective effort keeping aside their differences and move towards developing infrastructure facilities and restoring regional pride.

There is much to be done in this north eastern corner of India and there is a need for a change in attitude not only of the local people but also of the rest of the nation. If only the mega industrial houses of India look east and see the overwhelming potential that this region has to offer. There is a customer base here that will lap up new technologies, new fashions and new anything at a neck-break speed as long as it is the latest that the world has to offer! It is a place that has an underlying hunger for change even if it is largely a need for the latest consumer products available.

Despite having grown up outside of this region, I feel strongly about it. I feel strongly about the lack of industrial development, the animosity between tribes& peoples, the absence of a good rail/road network across the region, the gigantic potential for eco-tourism in these states, the beauty of the region... I can go on & on about it.

The alienation of this region has existed for too long now and this alienation has become the identity sadly of some of the anti-social groups in the region. So many of the youth don't identify themselves with the rest of the nation & vice versa. There seems to be some comfort in being alienated as well. That ways they don't have to deal with finding new jobs where they have to work hard & earn less than what they can through extortion & exploitation! But for how long... I wonder if sometimes.. dont they want steady jobs with steady incomes where they are not hated..or feared... but respected, have families that don't have to worry about getting 'bad' news from police or the army or their neighbours!

11 June 2010

Check out Manipur blockade: Healthcare crisis


I want you to take a look at : Manipur blockade: Healthcare crisis.

It's high time the central government takes appropriate action & stop ignoring the severity of the situation....

Spread the word... raise your voices!!!

16 April 2010


Siblings can be a blessing,
they can even be a gigantic pain
but they can be like the soft breeze
that cools the heat when it rains.

My elder sister is a whiz in all she does
She's clever as can one ever be
But she's a regular nutter
Who is as sweet as can be!
She's full of life & wisdom
and many crazy opinions too
You'll fall in love with her right away
Like many people usually do
She can be quite a strict disciplinarian
whenever the occasion arises
but she's more likely to stuff you
with loads of gourmet surprises!
She's a mother of 2 naughty boys
& I have a cool dude bro-in-law
who's family is part of our lives completely
We even resemble each other now :-D

My big brother is super talented
Everyone agrees he's really good
but when we were younger
we fought like kids in the hood
He's a father of two precious girls now
And he has a lovely wife
but i can't believe just yesterday
how we used to fight & strife
He's over-protective & also annoying sometimes
But this life wont be the same if he was otherwise!

Then the youngest one, our little sister
who's not so little anymore
She's everybody's sweetheart
And she has love to give galore
She's a lawyer by profession
She can really clinch a deal
But her heart is pure as a baby's
Her feelings are for real.
She can sometimes be overtly critical
& at times surprise you with candid words
She loves all cuddly things
but is amazingly afraid of birds!

We are all very different
yet we are remarkably the same
We love each other & fight like crazy too
Watching us together can be like watching chimps in the zoo!


18 March 2010


It's been a while since I've been writing/blogging. There are numerous ideas I have that I want to share. I start writing...the words come easy initially till a debate starts out in my head & I start contradicting what I've just penned down so easily! What seemed a funny/cool/strange idea ceases to be so & my brain comes up with more ideas to dull it down or make it seem less cool somehow.
I thought I'd write about how there exists this group of people that are content to go to work every morning from 9-5 and spend the rest of their life doing just that. How they seem to be just fine to go to work, bitch a bit, enjoy the gossip and the tea & coffee, work some more and based on their financial situation or moral preferences take the bus, train, bike or car home! And how there's another group that can never be content doing exactly that... with a burning desire to change the world, to create something super-duper fantastic, to shine and sparkle!! Every single cell in their body aches to create something extraordinary.... and then there's everyone else in between.
Then I started writing on a topic called - 10 random things about me... then I chucked the idea as it sounded too full of the person I was writing about :-p Oh yes... there's always something I feel like writing about Manipur so I thought let's start a new one. Oh dear! I started with the outflow of talent and skills from the region to the rest of the country & some of us around the world and didn't realise where I moved into the state of schools in the region and then to insurgency till it came to the point where I was debating how the alienation of a region creates frustrations and in this case takes extreme forms of retaliation. And then whilst I was citing the example of how the brave people of Punjab took up matters into their own hands and brought to an end the long period of insurgency and trouble there, I was zoning!!
Oh yes, there's another one lying at the back of a notepad somewhere about the vicious cycle of skinny-dom. I gave up when I found myself gaping at a photo of Kareena Kapoor - she looks super cool and super hot at the same time which is a feat in itself and found myself wanting to have a body as fit as hers! She wasn't even in my list of favourite actresses till I saw Jab We Met!!!
So what am I doing playing all these contradictions in my head. Am I really that muddled up (Oi...don't nod your head in agreement!) or drastically confused... (you can stop shaking your head now....) A little voice in my head said it's alright... it's only a means of not going into extremes, of staying on a middle path. To stay in the middle path and not judging either sides of any story. A story is a story and that's all there's to it.
And here I am finishing off today's blog and still teeming with a zillion other thoughts. Watch this space for more contradictions...ahem thoughts I mean.

05 March 2010

Something to smile about

Kids say some amazing things... And it's so hard to keep a straight face when they are doing so.
I was sitting next to a mother of twin girls in cute red hoodies in the bus. The twins were having an elaborate discussion about their day at school and about how they didn't like to fight as it made them cry in the end. :)
One of the red hooded twin said - we made posters today at school.
Mom - what was it about.
Little Red hoodie- it was on how to get information.
Mom- thts nice (I thought that was nice too considering they were probably just 5-6 year olds). So what did you make?
Little red hoodie - television.... Maps... And bells! (did she just say bells...? Okay...that has my somewhat adult mind wondering!!)
Mom - bells? And by now everyone in the bus has smiled plastered on their faces probably thinking awww..so sweet..kids...etc etc.
Well little hoodie explains - you see when you ring the bell, someone answers the door & you can get information. And when the school bell rings you know if school has started or if it's time to go home!! So bells give information.:-)
of course that was brilliant & she was adoreable. I loved it and I'm so thankful I was there when this happened!

KEEP SMILING coz u look soooo sweet when you do.