All posts by 17.shar@gmail.com

Rusted Chains Calling Out

You Say When I Bleed.

Don’t touch us. Your presence – An incarnation of Lakshmi one day and Durga the next. The harbinger of ill fate today.

Don’t step into our kitchens. Your food – Brimming with heavenly deliciousness each day. Poison to our hearts today.

Don’t enter our temples. Your prayers – The anchor for our lives every day. The murk in our sacred waters today.

Don’t come to our last rites. Your love – Spreading the sunshine of happiness. A curse to eternal damnation today.

 

I Bled.

I bled and I touched. You called my presence your lucky charm.

I bled and I cooked. You applauded me and licked your fingers clean.

I bled and I prayed. You praised my piousness.

I bled and I loved. You reveled in my affection.

I bled and I hid it. You lived. You liked. You found nothing wrong.

 

Tell Me Then.

My womb – revered when carrying a baby, yet unclean when preparing for one. WHY?

My mind – a disciple of reasoning, still looking for answers from you who think I’m wrong. WHEN?

My world – uncontaminated and healthy, notwithstanding my breaking the rusted chains of blind customs. HOW?

 

I wait with an open heart and listen with an eager mind, dear world.

Explain to me your ways and I shall comply.

Convince my mind and I shall not defy.

But if you fail,

Accept I have proven you wrong all my life, and send a promise my way.

A promise – to let go of what we cannot answer.

A promise – to ask a Why before we follow.

A promise – to keep alive in us, the essence of our past but not the past itself!

When My Sister Gave Birth & I Became A Parent!!

I am the youngest in our family of four. With a gap of nearly 7 years between siblings, there’s often a lot of pampering involved and I was no different. I grew up practically with 2 mothers, my mother-mother & my sister-mother. And while I had a great childhood, by the time I grew up, I realized I had become used to being the child of the house. And that meant I had absolutely no idea how to be a grown up with other children!!! As the years passed by, I would often see girls my age croon to babies and play comfortably with them while I looked at them as if they were aliens. I preferred puppies to babies and didn’t think that would ever change. My natural instincts were nowhere close to maternal…something which I thought many girls of my age already had. Sometimes I thought maybe my hormones had forgotten to kick in…you know, maybe the switch that goes off in girls at some age and makes them want babies just refused to flip or something!!

Whatever the reason, I just couldn’t imagine ever loving a snot-dripping, potty-expelling, vomit-issuing creature ever in my life. And that may have been true too!!

But something changed… My sister got pregnant.

The pregnancy:

All of a sudden, my life was all about the pregnancy milestones.

The first ultrasound image when I just couldn’t focus my eyes well enough to see anything at all! The day when the heart beat could be heard..Endless googling for pregnancy tips… The test when the baby was declared free of anomalies and we cried in relief… The first video where the baby steadfastly refused to remove her(we were pretty sure it would be a girl!!) hands off her face till my sister ate some ice cream… Shopping bigger and bigger clothes for my sister as she outgrew everything every 15 days.. Shopping for teeny tiny clothes of size 0… Waiting patiently with my hand and eyes glued on her tummy urging the baby to kick…Oh, those were some busy 9 months! My phone bills consistently went up as we spent hours figuring out baby boy & girl names. Lists were made for things to be packed in a bag in case of sudden labour. My sister googled for delivery videos so that she would be mentally prepared and I listened to her describe the details, both of us crying in fear!

The photoshoot:

I photobombed the pre-delivery shoot as well, standing between the would-be-parents in most photos, as excited as them, and they indulged me with love as usual. Blown ups of me kissing the baby bump were ordered for and I returned with a big smile. Soon we were excitedly counting the days down and I increasingly worried for my sister as the D-day approached.

The delivery:

And then my sister went into labour. My brother-in-law and I stood next to her, holding one hand each, teary eyed, telling her everything would get fine while not believing our own words looking at her pain. All through the delivery I stood outside, each of my sister’s screams piercing my heart, tears flowing down my cheeks, fervently praying that she had the strength to get through this and come back to me safe and sound. While the world thinks a baby’s coming is a beautiful thing, I still have chills when I think back to that day, they were really difficult hours.

It was she who was giving birth, yet I was experiencing more pain than I ever had.

When the screaming stopped, I waited with bated breath till my brother-in-law appeared with a smile on his teary face and said it was a boy and that the mother was fine. We entered the room and I saw my sister smiling at us, and that was when I dared to breathe again.

The first few days:

He was tiny. Like, really tiny. And for the first day, I refused to touch him. What if I dropped him? What if I couldn’t balance his neck properly? What if I hurt him by mistake? By night finally my sister told me I couldn’t avoid it forever. She had always been the one to instill confidence in me and this was no different. Finally, I took him into my arms, lifted him to my face and smelled him. And then I fell in love with him. I knew there could never be a smell as beautiful as his. There was no turning back then. He couldn’t latch properly for breastfeeding and I struggled with my sister to help him. Most of the times it is the mother who is with the daughter in such times. But in our case, it was me who stayed back with the new parents in the hospital to help with the baby. The elders laughed at this arrangement, but understood the emotions attached. The first night, there were 3 of us struggling to change his diaper, 3 adults fighting with each other on the right way to do it. The little brat kept us on our toes. The 3 days we were in the hospital we had to take turns sleeping and none of us managed to sleep more than 2 hours at a stretch. Little did we know that would be the norm thereafter!!

That first year:

By God’s grace, that was the year when my parents, me and my sister’s family all ended up in the same city. It was the most beautiful year of my life. My life changed that year. We lived from milestone to milestone. No jaundice, check. First vaccination, check. Eyes,ears tests, check. We cried on his first bath. We laughed as he enjoyed our massages. Sleep and rest were things to be dreamt of. I don’t think I have watched TV since that year, he didn’t let us and I just lost the habit thereafter. Somehow I was good at putting him to sleep. I would sit with him for hours on the rocking chair, crooning till my throat ached, not stopping till he fell asleep, scared to move an inch lest he woke up again. Handling snot, potty and vomit became my ‘baayn hath ka khel’! I would wake up in the middle of the night when he cried and when the parents were already too tired, and spend an hour again trying to soothe him. I do look like his mother at times and we used that trick to fool him so my sister could take rest. The first time he turned over on his own, the first time he lifted his head, the first time he smiled, the first time he started on foods other than milk, the first time he sat up, the first time he crawled, the first time he said “Dada” and “mamamama” and “phurrr”….my life that year revolved around his first steps in this new world.

And…somehow..surprisingly, he loved me back too.

He would stop crying when I took him, he would laugh the loudest when I played with him, he would come rushing to me whenever he was in the mood for masti…..and my heart would melt and I would fall in love with him even more each day, if that was even possible.

The Bidaai:

When he was 9 months old, I got married and had to move to a different city.

Telling him goodbye was the hardest thing I had ever had to do.

It was unimaginable not being woken up at night to his cries, not having his tiny hands pulling my hair, not listening to his gurgly bubbly laughter as I did monkey acts. I left my heart behind when I left, with the silent prayer that my baby doesn’t forget me, doesn’t forget the 9 months I spent with him pressed to my chest.

And now:

The bond we forged during those first 9 months has stayed on with my darling.

My angelic sister and wonderful brother-in-law make sure their son remembers how much his aunt loves him. From being a secondary-mother to being his friend who he asks to talk to over phone to demand for gifts, we have come a long way. Every time I skype with him even today, there is a desperate longing tugging at my heart to hold him close and smell his familiar smell. And though it isn’t always possible, I am happy to see him smile no matter how far away he may be. He is a big boy now, all of 3 years old, using big English words, acting grown up, asking us to leave him alone at times and I can’t help but think back of the day I was too scared to even pick him up in my arms!! 😊

And thus…

I still love puppies 😝 But today I know I do have a loving mommy in me who can handle human babies as well! And what’s amazing was the realization that it didn’t even have to be my child for me to love him wholeheartedly….

the switch had finally flipped! 😊

The Magical World of Enid Blyton!

A little girl, all of 9 years old, had locked herself up in her room. Her parents had been warned not to disturb her. Afterall, she had a few important meets lined up. First she had to visit Janet and her brother Peter and their 5 friends in their shed again. Their mother had promised there would be hot scones, ginger biscuits, sardine & potted meat sandwiches and huge jars of jam & cream for the high tea. Scamper was already present, tail thumping away, eyes drawn every now and then to the laden table! Then, she would have to visit George, Anne, Julian & Dick as they set out on their cycles up the hill to the little shop that sold lemonade, grape-fruit juice, ginger-beer, and delicious ice creams. Timmy would chase their cycles, as always, distracted every now and then by the rabbits scurrying down their holes at his sight!

A trip last week to the Isle of Wight & Dorset here in the United Kingdom, presented before me a moment of intense nostalgia. In a quaint little English restaurant, we tried the Cream Tea. Alongside the steaming tea were 2 scones, warm and fresh from the oven. A slice in the middle and dollops of clotted cream and jam later, this little piece of heaven melted in my mouth and transported me back to the little room, with my friends Peter, Janet & George from Enid Blyton’s The Secret Seven & The Famous Five. The little girl in me had come home 😊

Cream Tea @ Isle Of Wight, UK

Enid Blyton wasn’t just a British author. She was a magician. A children’s writer, she enthralled many, many young adolescents like me. The world through her eyes was an exciting place! She brought home to me my teenaged friends and amateur detectives who enjoyed adventure. Their little escapades…complete with their secret codes and hide-outs and mini picnics fascinated me beyond measure! Her plots felt nail-bitingly interesting to my young mind…who could the culprit be?! I would open her book and read her detailed descriptions and lose myself completely in her world. There, in the confines of my room, I ran alongside her characters and their dogs as they chased thieves and solved cases for the police, I sat beside them as they enjoyed delicious meals prepared by their mothers, I laughed with them as they chatted over ice creams and I cried with them when their dogs got kidnapped. In short, Enid Blyton showed me that there’s a huge vast world outside, and I could see all of it if I wanted, right from my room, as long as I had a book by my side. While I had started reading much before her books, I think it was she who truly instilled this passion for words in me. It was through her that I realized the power a book had in shaping my mind. Afterall, imagine a little girl having seen and felt in her mind’s eye the things that she would only be experiencing for real 18 years later!

The Secret Seven by Enid Blyton

As I grew up, I realized how many facets of my personality have been shaped around what I read as a child. My love for the written word was just a tiny reflection of how Enid Blyton had touched my life. When she had said “Dear, silky old Scamper, his ears flopping up and down as he rushed into the hall, his tail wagging nineteen to the dozen. He flung himself on the children, barking loudly in joy”, it was me that Scamper had been running to and I knew I would love dogs all my life. She had made my mouth water with “The high tea that awaited them was truly magnificent. Lettuce, tomatoes, radishes, mustard and cress, carrot grated up..lashings of hard boiled eggs. There was an enormous tureen of new potatoes , all gleaming with melted butter, scattered with parsley…Look at that cream cheese too. And fruit cake. And are those drop-scones?..And there’s cherry tart made with our own cherries and our own cream in it”! She spoke of jam tarts and ginger cake with black treacle and I fell in love with food. She would have been a fantabulous food blogger in today’s world. Her characters went boating to islands or cycling atop hills or swam in the beaches…and I grew up loving to travel.

The Famous Five by Enid Blyton

I have always believed that a fantastic fiction writer is one who, with their words, can stimulate your mind enough for you to create your own movie in your head. That’s usually why most movies on classics fall short of their original books, something is always lacking, because the movie that had played in your head had been wayyy more detailed & descriptive than the one playing out on the screen. Enid Blyton is one such writer. While there have been many more books from my childhood, if there is one book I pick even today when I’m craving for comfort, it is definitely hers. My personal favourites are The Secret Seven and the Famous Five series. I also enjoyed her The Five Find-Outers and Dog and The Naughtiest Girl series. Much later, I realized she was the one to have written Noddy as well. So my association with Enid Blyton goes back even further than I had realized!!

The Five Find Outers & Dog by Enid Blyton

My Father gifted me my first book when I was in class 1. In a gesture as simple as that, he had made sure that he had given me a companion for life. If you have youngsters at home, do pick one of her books for them, you could be giving them a gift for life! If not, it’s never too late to read her yourself….she just might bring back the child in you!! 😊

Isle Of Wight, United kingdom

The Isle of Wight is a gorgeous island in the English Channel, about 4 miles off the coast of Hampshire. Brimming with natural beauty, this island is a unique mix of quaint English towns, a magnificent coastline , some astounding views of the countryside with a surprising dash of modernization. If you’re planning a visit, here are a few pointers you could use:

Shanklin Beach, Isle Of Wight, UK

How can I reach there?

  • The island itself can be reached by Ferries that run from Southampton (Red Funnel Ferry or Red Jet) and Portsmouth (WightLink). Since I travelled from Southampton, I can only speak of the Red Funnel ferries.
  • The red funnel one is primarily meant for people who are carrying their vehicles with them. And although foot passengers are allowed, if you don’t have a vehicle with you, you must go for the Red Jet instead as it is much faster.
  • The prices for the ferries can be found on their websites. We had travelled for approximately £40 for the two of us. Charges are higher when you carry a vehicle on board.
  • How you reach Southampton or Portsmouth is another thing you need to think of. We had taken the train from Slough to Southampton and that cost us about £80 (for 2, with return).
Near Yarmouth, Isle Of Wight, UK

What Should Be the Length of my Visit?

  • Surprisingly, the inputs we received while planning this trip was that a day’s time was sufficient & more to visit this Island. Having been there, however, I would suggest atleast 2 complete days to explore this beautiful island well. There are LOTS of things to see here, suitable for different age groups and interests.
  • The best way to go about planning your trip would be to study beforehand which places you would like to explore and allot time accordingly.
Freshwater Bay, Isle Of Wight, UK

What should I see there?

  • The island has basically 4 main areas.
  • The North is the Cowes(East & West). Towards the East/South East, there are Sandown, Shanklin & Ventnor. The West has Yarmouth, Freshwater Bay, Needles Bay, Alum Bay & Totland Bay. And the center has Newport and the surrounding areas.
  • East Cowes has the famed Osbourne House which is Queen Victoria’s seaside home. It is supposedly beautiful(we couldn’t visit it) and has lot of artefacts from India as well.
  • West Cowes has some great places to eat and is a must visit if you want to see a quaint English town.
  • The West has come spectacular views from the bays and the Needles Battery point, and the drive to the top is truly breathtaking. Alum Bay is known for its intricate glass products.
  • The Shanklin and Sandown area has some beautiful beaches .
  • The Shanklin Chine is located very close to the Shanklin Beach and is basically a mountain ridge with a small river running through creating waterfalls amidst the scenic greenery. Known for its ancient woodlands the chine was supposedly an inspiration for famed writers John Keats, Charles Dickens & Jane Austen. Although enjoyable, its true beauty in my opinion can only be seen in the rains. A thing to look out for in the summers is the Chine Lumiere, when hundreds of lights will illuminate the paths, streams & waterfalls after dark.
Shanklin Chine, Isle of Wight, UK
  • The BlackGang Chine in the south has an interesting history as being a regular smuggler’s haunt.
  • The little town of Godshill has a cute little model village and an Old Smithy’s garden that gives a sneak peak into the days of the yore.
  • The Carisbrooke Castle located near Newport was home to Queen Victoria’s daughter Princess Beatrice.
  • The Brading Roman Villa is one of the finest Roman sites in the UK.
  • There are vineyards with free tours of their grounds.
  • And the one thing we really enjoyed was the Garlic Farm with an array of all things garlic and its delicious black garlic ice cream was a unique experience.
  • There are also lots of things children & wild life enthusiasts can enjoy. There’s a Monkey Haven, a Donkey Sanctuary, an Owl & Falconry Center.
  • For those with interests in shopping, there’s the Isle of Wight Pearl and the Oasis.
  • Do note that all these places are quite a distance apart and hence the more the things you want to cover, the more the time you must have on hand.
  • There are also lots of Festivals that take place in the summer, there’s the Jazz Festival from 31 May-4 June 2017 or the Isle of Wight Festival from 8-11 of June. You can try finding out on them ahead of your trip and plan accordingly.
  • One additional tip. If you are taking the ferry from Portsmouth, you can keep some time apart from shopping at the Gunwharf Quay. This shopping complex has loads of designer brands at discounted prices, and sometimes with additional discounts on it as well. If you find a good deal, that could be great start to your vacation 😉
View Atop Needles Point, Isle of Wight, UK

How do I travel within the Island :

  • The Southern Vectis buses running on the island are really good. For a mere £15, you could travel ALL over the island for 2 days. What’s more, this ticket allows you to hop onto the open top Breezer buses (Downs Breezer, Shanklin Breeser, Island Coaster & Needles Breezer), giving you brilliant views of the sea and the countryside on your way to the various attractions.
  • The down side of relying on buses is of course that you have to match up to their timings. So, although these buses run till very late in the night, there may be times when you waste time waiting for them.
  • Another disadvantage is that since these buses run on the main roads, there may be times when you have to walk a bit from the bus stop to reach a point or they may be no bus routes to a location at all. We faced this problem since we wanted to visit the Vineyard and the Garlic Farm. We also ended up skipping the Carisbrooke castle since we could see there was a long walk from the stop and we were short on time.
  • A third problem with the buses would be that the buses basically run from Newport, which is the central place on the island. Since we were staying in Cowes, we took a bus from there to Newport and then changed buses depending on where we had to go.
  • If you are planning ahead and are good at driving, I would definitely suggest hiring a car on the island. One point of caution I would like to mention here are the cycling options most pamphlets on the island recommend. What I realized once I reached there was that this is England’s Largest Island!! So while I had gone expecting a tiny place, the sheer vastness of the island shocked me. Going from Cowes to Shanklin or Freshwater is no cake’s walk. Also, vast stretches of the island are deserted with nothing but the countryside giving you company. So unless you are accustomed to cycling long durations, this is not the place to give it a try.
The Garlic Farm, Isle of Wight, UK

Where can I stay?

  • There are lots of hotels and B&Bs all across the island. Since we took the Red Funnel Ferry which dropped us off at East Cowes, we booked a B&B at Ashley & Simone’s lovely home. It was super convenient, being just 1 minute away from the bus stand. They were lovely & gracious hosts and the breakfast we had there was nothing short of restaurant class. They helped us with the drops, suggested places to cover, recommended restaurants and we exhanged stories of India & Goa. If you decide to stay over in Cowes, theirs would be the best place you could find. You can contact them at http://abnb.me/EVmg/cGulZ6ZfNC.
  • However, if what you have in mind is a stay on the beach then I would advise you to look for a place near Shanklin.
Shanklin, Isle Of Wight, UK

Where should I head for some great food? 

  • West Cowes has some good restaurants for seafood, Murrays (or Murries, I can’t remember) being one of them. The Coast is another such famous place. I would definitely recommend a meal at The Garlic Farm. Do call and ask for their lunch timings and don’t forget to try the Black Garlic Ice Cream. There are lots of Garlic products to shop there as well. The Fisherman’s Cottage is a good place at the Shanklin Beach, and the walk to the Chine begins very close to it. There are loads of other recommended places on the island that many pamphlets can inform you about.
Fried Squid with a dash of Rock Salt & Peppers, Prawn & Crab Salad @ Fisherman Cottage, Isle of Wight, UK
  • However the one thing I would ask you to not miss at any cost would the Cream Tea. We had it at the Vernon Cottage and the scones were superbly delicious. Before you start to eat the scones though, don’t forget to slice it in the middle and load on dollops of the Cornish clotted cream and jam, that’s what the tea is all about!!
Cream Tea @ Vernon Cottage, Isle of Wight, UK

Anything else I should know?

  • Yes, this one stems from my disappointment. Now when we planned the trip there, what I was looking forward to was a weekend on the beach. We covered Shanklin on the evening of the first day and thought there were lots of beaches on the West Coast to linger on the next day as well for a good time. Unfortunately, on the West, all you get to see are bays (spectacular, nevertheless). Upon asking for a sandy beach, we were directed to the Colwell Bay and again while beautiful, it was a very narrow stretch of sand near the water. For someone who’s used to vast stretches of sandy beach in India, this was a big disappointment.
  • So if you want beaches, Shanklin & Sandown area is all you can get. But if you are looking for some time well spent in the midst of nature, the island is a view to behold!
Black Garlic Ice Cream @ The Garlic Farm, Isle of Wight, UK

#I have loads of pamphlets and booklets with regards to the places to see and the bus timings on the Island. If you need any info, do drop me a note and I would be glad to share the PDFs with you.

Mineority By Saby, Kalyani Nagar, Pune

I had been thinking of visiting this place for quite some time now. The name intrigued me and its pictures put up on some food blogs were fascinating enough to finally push me its way. Unfortunately for me the reality couldn’t catch up with the expectations and I was a tad bit disappointed. Read on for more!

The first thing you love about the place is the ambience. It has a fresh café like look….bursts of colours here and there, big comfy sofas strewn about, lots of lights…it’s a vibrant look that preps you up for something unique and different coming your way.

Mineority by Saby, Pune

The second exciting thing is the menu. You read it and realize that you could taste authentic dishes from all over the North East under this one roof. There are dishes from Odisha, Bengal, Assam, Bihar, Arunachal. And although there are international dishes, I decided to stick to the national ones. We started off with the Kalimpong Chilli Cheese Rolls. These were really good, albeit oily. They were really fine crisp rolls stuffed with looaaddss of cheese with a serving of mayo on the side.

Kalimpong Chilli Cheese Rolls @ Mineority,Pune

Then we went for the Black Vegetable Skewer. This was again a good dish, although again, on the oilier side. It had grilled paneer, cauliflower & pumpkin in a black sesame paste served with coriander chutney. What disappointed me was the fact that the sesame didn’t make its presence felt in the dish…at all. Although tasty, it was almost like any regular tandoori vegetable platter. The serving of flat bread on the side too puzzled me as I just couldn’t see it going well with the grilled vegetables.

Black Vegetable Skewer @ Mineority,Pune
Black Vegetable Skewer @ Mineority,Pune

The main course is where the real disappointment set in. We ordered for the Arunachali Thukpa. It had momos floating in a clear broth with mushrooms and carrots around. The thukpas I have had in Sikkim have been surreal, with the clear water oozing with the freshness from the vegetables. To my dismay, in this one, I could see droplets of oil floating on top…so the extra oiliness seemed to continue everywhere I looked. Also, the broth itself tasted of haldi. The momos were good and the dish overall wasn’t bad, but definitely not the exceptional surprise I was expecting.

Arunachali Thukpa @ Mineority,Pune

We also ordered the Odiya Chatu Bhaja & Kasundi Vegetable Jhal. Being an Odiya myself, these were the dishes I was really looking forward to. I hadn’t had an Odiya/Bengali meal for days and I was craving the mustardy taste we typically incorporate into our dishes. Unfortunately, I didn’t find the dishes authentic at all. The Chatu Bhaja was way too tomatoey and thick and full of masala….the kind of gravy I have never eaten in Odisha. The menu had said it would be served with Ajwain Puri. Instead we were served an undercooked ajwain paratha.

Odiya Chatu Bhaja @Mineority,Pune

The Vegetable Jhal was alright in that I could taste the mustard here and there but again, nowhere close to what any authentic Bengali dish tastes like.

Kasundi Vegetable Jhal @ Mineority,Pune

In the end, I decided I wanted to give the place one last chance and ordered the Jurassic Cheesecake which is basically the Chena Podo , ‘the oldest cheesecake in the world’ as the menu says. As an Odiya I am extremely fierce about my Chena Podo being tampered with. But that’s exactly what this place did . The exquisite burnt cheese taste of this mouth watering sweet was definitely missing. In its place all I got was weirdly a taste of dry gulab jamun. Again, while not bad, definitely not authentic.

Jurassic Cheesecake @ Mineority, Pune

All in all, the place was a disappointment. Maybe if they had publicized it as a modern fusion of authentic dishes, I might have gone in with different hopes. But with the tantalizing talks of original dishes from the North East, this place unfortunately failed to deliver for me.

Finally, My Ratings for the place would be :

Ambience : 3.5/5 ; Service      : 4/5 ; Food          : 2/5 ; Pocket Friendly : 2.5/5 (About 2500 for 2) ; Presentation : 3.5/5

Badrinath Ki Dulhania – A movie of the times, in the guise of a masala flick!

When my husband said he wanted to watch this movie, I actually looked down upon him…how can you want to watch such no-brainer movies, I said. The trailers had made it look like this movie would help Varun Dhawan carry forward his father’s legacy of commercial rom-coms of the 90s with no sense whatsoever and I went to watch this film as a skeptic! But I was in for a pleasant surprise.

Badrinath ki Dulhania is a movie that cleverly sends across socially relevant messages while attempting to retain its commercial viability. The story line is pretty basic. Badri, the son of a rich man in Jhansi, is attracted to Vaidehi, the younger daughter of a middle-class household in Kota. Thanks to his family heritage Badri considers himself a valuable catch for any girl. He decides that the best way to take things forward would be to ask the parents to discuss the rishta. Unfortunately for him, Vaidehi turns out to be a rebel who wants to make her place in this world and find herself a job , marriage being the last thing on her mind. Things go awry and the relationship doesn’t work out leaving Badri’s father fuming, wanting to “teach Vaidehi  a lesson for all girls to remember”. A hurt and angry Badri sets out for revenge, but as is pretty evident from the name, he gets his dulhaniya in the end.

Here are some moments where this movie, with a seemingly common story, scores:

  1. Right from the very start, the patriarchal customs & thoughts prevelant in our society are discussed. So ‘beta hua toh keemti laddoo and beti hui toh peda’ is the norm. Badri’s mummy is a mute spectator, whose name at one point is mentioned by Badri as ‘Mummy Bansal’, a woman without an identity. Girls’ parents are always under ‘pressure’ and ‘dowry toh banta h’. And Badri’s father in law is proud of his elder daughter in law who is ‘very qualified’ yet never talks of ‘faltu’ things like doing a job. The facts are just placed before the audience…no preachy stuff…with the hope that they understand the sarcasm behind these dialogues.
  2. Throughout the movie, Vaidehi’s family is depicted as extremely loving and yet when it comes to marriage they have very traditional views – a contradiction that most girls in our country face. So the daughter could study all she wanted, but once she had reached ‘marriageable age’ and her father ‘was to retire in 2 years’, there was no alternative but to get her married off as ‘after 30 finding options is difficult’. The girl’s dreams are conveniently sidelined as her sister explains that she must ‘learn to be happy with whatever she has in front of her as the future was anyway uncertain’. Vaidehi however has an undying spirit to reach out for the stars, even if that means she must travel the distance alone.
  3. There’s finally a scene of male molestation in a commercial Hindi flick, and that itself is commendable. Yes, the scene could have been more sensitive, but atleast this is an acknowledgement of the possibility of men being vulnerable and molested, and that too in front of a wide audience. The icing on the cake is that Vaidehi saves him….Get the point already, people!
  4. The ladies are the hero(in)es! Badri has no job to boast off, riding on his father’s fame while Vaidehi earns well, saving up to get her father out of his debts. Urmila (Badri’s Bhabhi) who was a topper in college, is the brains behind her husband’s business expansions. So basically the girls rock 😊

<<Slight spoiler alert for point 5, skip if you want!!>>

  1. Lastly, I think very importantly the movie helps the men understand ‘why feminism’. We have often seen that although the Hero himself understands the girl’s aspirations, it’s his family who must be convinced to give up on their archaic traditions. In this movie, however, what’s beautiful is the hero’s journey from thinking ‘what could a girl do with her life but marry’ and stalking her all over even if that meant jeopardizing her career to believing in ‘you needn’t be the son of the house, you are a pretty awesome daughter’ and ‘I wish my Bhabhi hadn’t got married, she could have achieved so much’! I loved the fact that Badri, a guy with inbuilt patriarchal thoughts owing to his upbringing, sheds them as he observes Vaidehi work hard at her dreams and actually gets inspired by her.

All in all, this is a good movie, albeit with its flaws(an over dramatic ending included), that tries to subtly pass messages that are very relevant to today’s society. Now the rest is upto the audience. You can choose to enjoy the movie for what it looks on the exterior…a regular masala flick with some great songs and an age-old love story…or you can choose to look at the finer nuances and try understanding the message they are trying to send you.

My Rating : 3.5

Candies In Her Palm – A Short Story #NostalgiaSeries

“They walked in the sweltering heat, the two sisters and Namita, the elder one’s best friend. Backs bent with the weight of the khaki coloured bags..the rectangular ones with two shiny clips that had to go ‘tak’ and ‘tak’ again, so you knew they were properly closed. Feet clumsily covered in battered chappals, dragging on the dusty road. Hair that had been carefully oiled and plaited by their mothers in the morning, complete with the red ribbon on both sides, now stuck to their scalps as sweat trickled down their faces. Little Rano walked ahead with a steadfast determination, her sister’s hand in hers. Pulling her, goading her to walk faster, they were almost there. Sunaina sighed and carried on, she could never refuse her baby sister. They finally reached and Rano looked at her big sister expectantly. Sunaina dug out her treasure from her bag, 20p that she had managed to save that week. She placed a 10p coin into the wrinkly hand of the shopkeeper and received a grunt in approval. Carefully she lowered the big glass jar and held it tight against her chest. With her free hand she twisted the cap open and counted out 10 candies, some red, some green, some orange and some purple. 1,2,3…9,10, placing each one gently into Rano’s cupped palms. Rano’s round face broke into a smile and her eyes gleamed with joy. Sunaina laughed as her sister struggled to wipe the drool off her mouth, her hands full of candies. With Rano satisfied, she went on to buy sweetmeats for Namita and her four other siblings waiting back home. That was the norm, all 6 brothers and sisters would sit down in a circle and Sunaina split the candies among them all. Happiness was to be shared, their mother had told her eldest daughter and Sunaina intended to take that very seriously. Rano skipped ahead, eager to reach home and gobble up her share. Come fast Sunaina, walk fast Sunaina…”

“Sunaina?…Sunaina?” She broke out of her reverie. The doctor was talking to her. “You can see her now”. Sunaina nodded at the others and they headed for the room. The same round face, she thought with a smile. But the eyes glistened with tears of pain now and the smile was forced. She looked at Rano lying on the bed, with its white covers, tubes coming out of the bedsheets, recovering after the 4th surgery that year. The disease was catching up and Sunaina knew in her heart that no candy could make her sister’s eyes gleam now. They all sat down in that hospital room. Sunaina and her 4 siblings, around Rano. All 6 of them. All they knew was to share…candies, tears, stories, fears…all they could do, was share.

//This story is dedicated to my Late Aunt Smt. Suchitra Ray…you are forever in our hearts Ranu Mausi 🙂

What we women are doing wrong even as we fight for Feminism!

This post has been published on womensweb.in. You can find the piece at the following link :  http://www.womensweb.in/2017/02/fight-for-feminism-what-we-are-doing-wrong/

I was in a theatre a few months back when a documentary caught my eye, and has been disturbing me ever since. It was supposedly an attempt to make one understand the plight of women.So, It depicted how women toil in the kitchen and serve the husband who is already waiting at the dinner table, yet secretly, they dream of sitting at the table while the husband toils in the kitchen and serves her the food. And I thought, wouldn’t it have passed a more correct message if it showed that the man entered the kitchen too, worked alongside his wife and they both shared a happy meal together?

It struck me then, THIS is what’s wrong with the popular concept of feminism. THIS is what people think the women of today want….to give up all work, sit down as royals, and give men a taste of what it feels like to be a woman. The ad must have been seen by a hundred others apart from me and it feels sad to know that all of them went back with a twisted concept of feminism ingrained in their minds. I’m sure the intention of the ad had been to further the cause of women empowerment. But sadly, this isn’t the kind of empowerment women should or would want.

Feminism has ALWAYS been about equality, not about turning the tables on men and sitting back and enjoying watching them struggle and saying “See this is what we go through”.

This event set me thinking….Did all the women in the theatre inwardly cringe at the ad as I had done? Or had it been just me? With these thoughts in mind, I took to analysing how much the women of today actually understood feminism. As I discussed more with people around me,

I realised, that while women tend to remember the ‘women’s rights’ aspect of feminism, the core principle of ‘equality’ is often forgotten!

For example, on the one hand women shout out slogans for equality and feminism and on the other hand they don’t want to let go of all the ‘benefits’ or ‘considerations’ they receive as a woman in today’s society, leaving the men fuming and calling us hypocrites. I thus also realised, that most of the women in the audience that day in the theatre, would have thought that the ad was justified…that the wife deserved the right to sit back and enjoy the meal being served, while the husband who was now in her place drew no sympathy!!

Thus my conclusion: Change begins at home, and if we want the men to understand feminism better, we women must take the onus of living the philosophy of feminism in our everyday lives! Here is a small list, some pointers if you may, of the things I have observed women do, in fact unknowingly several times, that is not aligned with the concept of Feminism:

  1. Let me go ahead, I am a woman!

Many a time I have seen women break queues and move ahead using the excuse of being delicate creatures who can’t bear standing in the hot sun. I understand women sometimes have issues that entitle them for some slack. But why otherwise? Don’t use this age old concept of “ladies first” to weasel your way out of a situation while men struggle it out honestly.

  1. I shall let you have the honour of paying!

This is especially true of working women. If you want men to not treat you as “women” at the workplace, carry the same thought outside as well. Earning as much a man, but expecting him to pay each time you go out is completely unfair. With the demand for equal pay, comes the responsibility of equal expense.

  1. My husband has no right to demand I work!

I have been appalled several times that women take offence when their husbands ask them to work and help with the financial situation. Many well educated women, even in this day and age, consider the post-marriage period of their lives as an ‘option’ to stay at home if they so wish. In fact, what’s even more blasphemous is women themselves consider a man who ‘cannot earn enough to support her’ as ‘inadequate’. This is so sad. When in today’s world, we expect men to take care of the home & children as an equal partner, then what is wrong of a man to expect his wife to help him financially?

  1. No late shifts please, I’m a woman!

Well if you can’t share the burden at work, don’t expect to be treated equally. Yes, I agree that women are responsible for their own safety. But today’s jobs provide ample number of flexibilities that women can enjoy so that their work isn’t affected. So instead of saying a no, how about asking them for options. For example, can I do the night shift from home? Or… Can I be assigned a shift such that I can go back home early morning when there’s daylight? Or…can someone trustworthy from the team drop me back? Yes, we women are weaker in physical strength when compared to men, and we always need to be cautious. But don’t use it as an excuse all the time. The men in your team work equally hard, probably have wives and families they need to get back to or spend weekends with. Share their burden whenever possible.

  1. A man must know his manners!

Men at my work place don’t hold doors for me. My chair is not held while I make myself comfortable. Nor do I hear “after you”. One may argue..”these are manners”. Yes, but from which era? An era which deemed women were “ladies” to be “taken care of”, who were to be “guarded and protected” by the chivalrous men!! No, I don’t say that men who do it are wrong. If a man thinks he wants to do it for me, that’s sweet. But let’s not dismiss men who do not do it as “ungentlemanly” (Yes, I have seen this happening). As I mentioned above, if you scream for equality in all spheres then don’t demand “courtesies” as your birth right as a woman.

  1. A Man must be Manly!

This, in my opinion, is the worst of them all. Women, even today, even while demanding a change in the definition of ‘being a woman’, refuse to change their definition of ‘being a man’. If a lady’s husband works at home while she’s out working, the poor guy is mocked. If a man goes to a parlour, that defies our views of the right things a man should do. Men who cook lunch-dabbas in the morning for themselves and the wives are sniggered at….by women!! If a woman can ask for the right to live by her choice, why isn’t the same to be granted to a man?!

Ramchandra Guha had written an article a few days back of 11 courageous women who had sent Gandhi a letter way back in 1939. In the letter, these women explained to him as to why he was wrong in making the statement that “The modern girl dresses..to attract attention”. I read that article and realised how many men & women generation after generation have been fighting for our cause…fighting to get us the rights, privileges, honour we have always seen only men enjoy. And today, we are so close to achieving that. But what I fear is that in the process of making sure we get our rights, are we committing the same injustices that our gender has been facing all along?

Are we women too becoming insensitive to the opposite gender…a quality we have always associated with a Patriarchal society?

Are we women forgetting that the true meaning of Feminism lies in equality? Feminism isn’t about taking a patriarchal society and turning it inside out into a matriarchal one! It’s about creating a beautiful world of equality for all lives, whether of men or women!

We women have a huge task ahead of us….of convincing the society of the need for Feminism for its own betterment. But while we gear up to shove the boulder, let’s not ignore the pebbles. And as we fight and struggle with the society, let’s step back for a moment, stop ourselves and analyse if WE women are TRULY following the SPIRIT OF EQUALITY in our daily lives? To usher in a new era, let us first rid ourselves of the stereotypes in our own minds. Small changes at our end can change the outlook of people around us, can make them respect us for what we ask and not mock us for what we get!

How my relationship taught me to be single!

This post has been published on mycity4kids with 12000+ views, you can find the piece at https://www.mycity4kids.com/parenting/live-love-think-askwhy/article/how-my-relationship-taught-me-to-be-single .

Come Valentines Day and everyone around me is talking of togetherness and being grateful for it. I on the other hand have something very different to be grateful for. I am grateful that my relationship made me rediscover the ‘ME’ that was getting lost in the chaos of ‘WE’. Confused? Read on to know my story 😊

Like most girl friends/wives, I too was once intent on spending all possible free time with my then boyfriend and now husband. My life revolved around going for movies with him, eating out with him, and all those moments when we weren’t physically together were spent on the phone with him. Of course, as is always the case in the glorious beginning of any relationship, he too enjoyed it. But this beautiful phase? It has a shelf life..an expiry date. And when that day came, I didn’t know how to get my head around it. Nothing drastic changed ofcourse, but sometimes he would be too tired from work to meet up, or maybe he didn’t want to watch the movie that I had been looking forward to for months, or that he felt I should go by myself to do some shopping as he wouldn’t know what to do…I guess the regular stuff we hear all guys say. Afterall, slowly, when the novelty of fresh love wears off, you are shuffled up and down in the priority list. And that’s when I realized that for each NO from his side, I told myself a NO too. If he didn’t want to come shopping, I cancelled the plan altogether. If he didn’t want to watch some movie, I ditched it and watched the movie that he wanted to. This would have gone on and on….But I got lucky. I got unhappy.

I relied so much on HIM for my happiness that I ended up making myself sad. I was lucky my boyfriend didn’t relent. My tears and pleas of “I just want your company” couldn’t move him and he would cold-heartedly(that’s how it seemed to me then) say “Learn to be independent. Do things yourself” and I would just resent him all the more for it. And one day, when this resentment and anger and sorrow boiled over, I decided it was time I taught him a lesson. I dressed up in my best, went shopping all by myself to the biggest mall and splurged all I could…I was doing it to avenge my insult at the hands of an ungrateful boyfriend by showing him I COULD find happiness even without him.

And that’s when it struck me. I COULD FIND HAPPINESS EVEN WITHOUT HIM.

I felt relieved. I felt like I had broken free and enjoyed myself and my heart was soaring. I felt like there was no stopping me! Such a melodramatic reaction to something so minor, you would say.  But that was the day I discovered myself. And guess what, when I met him that evening, I was in a great mood, he was overjoyed that I had had a great time, I showed him all my purchases and he said I looked wonderful in all of them, and our time was spent with so much love, with no place for anger and resentment, that it was truly refreshing!

That was the day I realized, how wrong it was of me to burden someone else, even if he were my life partner, with the job of making my life happy. Why did I expect him to keep my happiness over his own all the time? If he wanted to watch cricket, why did I expect him to watch Friends with me because that’s what I wanted? If he wanted to take rest on a weekend, why did I force him to go out just because I wanted to? And in this whole process what was I achieving? Not only was I making him unhappy, more importantly, I was making myself unhappy too! Instead of enjoying whatever things we could do together, I was only bitter thinking of all those things I couldn’t do because he didn’t come along!

I also realized that if this went on, I would always look for a shoulder for support. If not my partner, my best friend, or maybe my siblings or even my children in the future…I would always expect the important people in my life to make me happy.

That was the day I turned my life around. I decided once and for all that I would take charge of my happiness.

Today, if my husband is busy at work and I badly want to get out, I go for a movie, order a full bucket of popcorn and my favourite drink and laugh my heart out. I must admit, I do cheat, in that I generally go for those movies alone that he anyway wouldn’t have watched. But that lets me have his company in other movies that he likes to watch too! On weekends, when he’s busy catching up with news and sports and other things on TV that I just don’t watch, I sit back with a book and read to my heart’s content! We both have friends we spend alone time with and at the same time we have common friends who we meet up with together. I spend hours on creative things I love to do…making something artistic or cooking…something I used to disregard earlier because that was ‘time away from HIM’.

And then when we are done doing things in our own space, we enjoy doing things together even more. The dinner together becomes much more interesting because we have stories to share of our lives apart.

The new found space we discovered in our relationship helped us make time for our own lives. I could now do things like going to a cake class or learning dance GUILT FREE knowing that he was having a good time too in whatever he was doing. The immense joy I feel in doing all these things I am passionate about percolates down to our relationship. A cheery happy wife is all my husband needs to be happy too 😊 And in this process, our love and respect for each other grew by leaps and bounds.

The day we stop burdening our relationships with expectations, each little thing becomes a pleasant surprise to be cherished!

That day when I set out to teach my boyfriend a lesson, the universe taught me one. That my happiness was in my hands and nobody else’s. That when I stop drawing happiness from those around me, and create my own, I will be at peace with myself. This knowledge has opened up gates of freedom I had never dared cross! And today, our relationship has the space to breathe openly and fearlessly, nurturing the seeds we had planted, of togetherness!

Royal China, Mundhwa

As with all my other food discoveries, this one was not only by chance but in fact was the cause of a tiff between my husband and me. My husband, who believes in zomato blindly (apparently correctly so!!) said we must try this Chinese place, while I said I wanted to have something light and satiating and Chinese would just be too oily and heavy with the sauces. Finally, pretending to be a loving partner while holding a grudge for the future 😉  I sacrificed and gave in to his dictum and ever since, I haven’t stopped hearing of the amazing choices he always makes. And in this case I actually have no arguments, because it turned out to be the Best Chinese I have ever had!

And now for the food. This is the most authentic Chinese I have ever had. Everything isn’t tossed in extra oil and double extra soy sauce to match the Indian tastes. And yet, in no way is anything bland. The flavors are delicate and mild and every single ingredient in a dish makes its presence felt. We tried loads of things and after each one, our hearts screamed for more and surprisingly, our stomachs agreed! And the best part was the offer they have on Mondays and Thursdays….for 1095+Taxes, we could order ALL we wanted from the ala-carte and dimsum menu, no limits on the number of dishes, nothing. What’s the catch then, we asked? Well, honestly no catch at all! The secret is in the portions. They give you a reduced portion of any dish you order, which is still more than enough for 2 people, and you get to try all the variety your heart craves for!!! For people like me who have got tiny stomachs but insatiable palates, this was an amazing deal!

Royal China, Mundhwa

To start with, we chose Creamy Sweet Corn Soup & Chicken Coriander Soup from the elaborate menu. The sweet corn was truly creamy with a good amount of corn and very fresh in taste. The coriander soup was light and very refreshing. This was the first time I had soups which were actually appetizing rather than filling.

Sweet Corn Soup @ Royal China, Pune
Sweet Corn Soup @ Royal China, Pune
Chicken Coriander Soup @ Royal China, Pune
Chicken Coriander Soup @ Royal China, Pune

There was no way we were going to give the Dimsums  a miss. We chose Vegetable Crystal Dumpling, Roast Pork Cheung Fun, Chicken Shanghai Dumpling & Sesame Paper Prawn Roll. They were Out of the World Delicious! The dumpling covers were transparent, thin and really soft and could be seen oozing with the stuffing. Served with them was a chilly soy sauce which was mind blowing. I can literally eat ANYTHING after dipping it in this sauce. I had to ask for it thrice during our meal and I still wish I had brought back some (Yes, it was just a soy sauce, I know I sound mad)!

Vegetable Crystal Dumpling, Chicken Shanghai Dumpling & Roast Pork Cheung Fun @ Royal China, Pune
Vegetable Crystal Dumpling, Chicken Shanghai Dumpling & Roast Pork Cheung Fun @ Royal China, Pune
Vegetable Crystal Dumpling & Chicken Dumpling @ Royal China, Pune
Vegetable Crystal Dumpling & Chicken Dumpling @ Royal China, Pune
Sesame Paper Prawn Roll @ Royal China, Pune
Sesame Paper Prawn Roll @ Royal China, Pune

For more starters, we tried the Smoked Shredded Chicken and we just couldn’t get enough of the amazing smoky flavor. We also had the Cambodian Basa in Chilli Oil & Spring Onion. The fish was cooked to perfection and the dish was heavenly!

Smoked Shredded Chicken @ Royal China, Pune
Smoked Shredded Chicken @ Royal China, Pune
Cambodian Basa in Chilli Oil & Spring Onion @Royal China, Pune
Cambodian Basa in Chilli Oil & Spring Onion @Royal China, Pune

For main course we had the Vegetarian Royal China Lotus Leaf Rice with Mixed Vegetables in Yellow Bean Sauce. After eating Chinese for all these years, I never knew a simple yellow bean gravy would drive me crazy, but it did, and I don’t think I can just feel the same for black bean sauce again!! We also had the Pork in black pepper sauce, but were unfortunately disappointed with the way the pork was cooked. This was probably the only so-so dish among all the ones we tried.

Vegetarian Royal China Lotus Leaf Rice @ Royal China, Pune
Vegetarian Royal China Lotus Leaf Rice @ Royal China, Pune
Mixed Vegetables in Yellow Bean Sauce @ Royal China, Pune
Mixed Vegetables in Yellow Bean Sauce @ Royal China, Pune

Finally, it was time for desserts. We went for the Banana in Toffee Syrup, Chilled Mango Pudding, Steamed Chocolate Buns and the Mud Cake. While all 4 were good, I loved the Banana in Toffee Syrup best!

Banana in Toffee Syrup @ Royal China, Pune
Banana in Toffee Syrup @ Royal China, Pune
Chilled Mango Pudding @ Royal China, Pune
Chilled Mango Pudding @ Royal China, Pune
Steamed Chocolate Buns @ Royal China, Pune
Steamed Chocolate Buns @ Royal China, Pune
Mud Cake @ Royal China, Pune
Mud Cake @ Royal China, Pune

All in all, we indeed had a Royal Dining Experience! The grandeur of the interiors only enhanced it further. This restaurant is in fact in the same complex as Hotel Westin. And yes, for those who think, same compound, must be similar price range, you are right. This place is not for a pocket friendly meal. I went there twice, once with just my husband and that cost us around Rs.4000 and the second time we were a group of 4 and that cost us around Rs.7500 inclusive of all taxes. But we tried an enormous amount of dishes (yes, there were many more to my pics above, I just got tired of clicking pictures and decided to dig in!!) thanks to their Eat All You Can Offer and by the end of the meal, we felt every penny was truly worth it! And although most dishes I have mentioned above are non vegetarian, there are LOADS of vegetarian options as well. I just happened to go with a group who preferred non-veg. The menu is as extensive as it can get and I really wouldn’t mind going back a third time to try more.

If you love Chinese food, or even if you don’t, you MUST visit here for an “Ahh La-Dolce-Vita” experience!!! 🙂

My Ratings for the place would be :

Ambience : 3.5/5 ; Service      : 3/5 ; Food          : 5/5 ; Pocket Friendly : 2/5 (About 4000 for two, no alcohol) ; Presentation : 3/5