My Annual Journey!

We pass the Himalayan ranges, Mount Everest the highest mountain of the world. We howl, we freeze, we carry storms and then we came to the plains of North India. We pass forests and mountains, we follow the route of the impatient rivers with crystal clear pure water, that rush and tumble to journey forth and reach the plains where several rivers converge to form India’s most famous river the Ganges.

We have no age, we have no belongings we only pride on how we affect the people who we come in touch with. We dance, we pirouette we take a bow and playfully allow other troop members to orchestrate a dance. A spontaneous dance that is created at that instant, for no wind of my group has ever practiced before and will never repeat a step again. We whoosh through the intricate marble carving of the Taj Mahal in Agra and the Red Fort in Delhi. We pass the majestic buildings, opulent residential colonies and slums and ghettos of Delhi. We are not snobs! We pass through them all, we howl at them and if we are in the mood we playfully take a bow, do a little cha cha cha and waltz away the debris on the ground.

We proceed to the deserts of Rajasthan. The camels crouch down as we approach and close their eyes, they are not willing to suffer a sand storm, and they too know how cruel we can be collectively. We slide through the palaces and forts that were built by mighty kings and emperors. Empty, cold, stone – hard monuments that too will soon disintegrate into dust, but only because my friends and I sweep through them each year!

They have all left their imprint on us. We remember the invasions that have entered our land, we remember the Moguls who were originally the Mongols from the Steppes of Russia. They entered India through the Khyber Pass and found unbelievable riches and prosperity in this green and wonderful land where people were generous and trusting and were willing to share their bounty and welcomed them. They found the local Hindu temperament fickle and suspicious in nature and they played one race against the other and ruled the country. They would not leave.

We watched the white men, come in their ships from far away Manchester and Liverpool. Our cousins, a band of strong winds from the seas had transported them here. We watched a group of hungry clerks from the East India Company in search of spices and silks trade in this country. We watched how they gradually were able to make India, the ‘jewel in the crown’, of there far away Empress Victoria. We watched them gloat when they found untold riches, like the world s largest diamond -the Kohinoor that even today nests in Queen Elizabeth’s crown, They found it easy to take the Indian peacock throne and carry raw cotton that grew abundantly, to their mills in Lancaster and sell it back to the natives.

We have cried and supported the Indian freedom fighters when they told the British to quit India, Gandhi the man we befriended in his attire of a loincloth and walking stick. We crouched around him when he was imprisoned. We followed him when he led a group of Indians in protest to the seashore to make their own salt. They refused to pay tax to the British for salt! The British were clever they used my friends the winds from the ocean and carried their ships home. We wept when the British left after they had partitioned this rich and fertile land in to two countries India and Pakistan and six million people were killed in communal riots!

My friends laugh at me. They tell me I have become too Indian. They remind me that we exist because we stay together; they say we exist because we have momentum and force; otherwise we are nothing but air! They warn me that all the winds on planet Earth have no loyalty, and when the axis of the planet tilts, we will probably have to relocate elsewhere permanently. I don’t believe them. Because I know each hot summer when my friends – the northeast monsoon enter North India from the Bay of Bengal I will retrace my steps. Gather strength to go back to my mountainous retreat. Refresh. Renew. As I have done each year and wait for my annual journey down ward. I love my route and want to do it again. Again and again! Call me a romantic if you will.

Posted in Travel


(A take off from the childrens fairy tale “Jack and the bean stalk” )

Jack is a young lad living with his widowed mother and a milk cow who is their only source of income. `

Jack tried very hard to fulfill his father’s last wish – finish University. It took him a little longer than most, but he had interests that he spent a lot of time on. During the day he loved to lie on his back and stare at the clouds. They were his friends and he created stories based on the shapes and sizes. Everyone thought him a bit queer, he was a loner, but he could be pleasant and friendly when he wanted. Jack’s mother was bedridden with rheumatoid arthritis and worried about him. They lived in the country and his father had left behind a small dairy farm.

When the cow stops giving milk, Jack’s mother has him take her to market for sale. On the way, he meets an old man who offers “magic beans” in exchange for the cow, and Jack makes the trade. When he arrives home without any money, his mother becomes furious, throws the beans to the ground, and sends Jack to bed without supper.

One day Jack informed his Mother that he had come across a bunch of investors who wanted him to form a company. His contribution was the livestock and cows and he had been given equity and the assurance that he would soon make a steady income without any hard work. The head office was in Thailand and they had invited him there and had given him some travel coupons. His mother was furious with him and threw a tantrum. He couldn’t understand why she was so upset and decided to give her time to cool down. He plans a visit to his partners in Thailand. Things are beginning to look up already!

A gigantic beanstalk grows overnight, which Jack climbs to a land high in the sky. There he comes to a castle, that is the home of a giant. He asks at door for food and the giant’s wife takes him in.

Jack goes to Thailand and realizes that the addresses he had been given didn’t exist. He is upset and spends his first night in a nightclub. He meets Lucy, a beautiful Thai woman, she is older than him and she buys him many drinks. Her big black eyes, masked in thick mascara and turquoise blue eye shadow and her waist long straight hair enchant him. She takes him to her huge palatial mansion and seduces him. Jack is ecstatic – things are definitely looking up! She tells him that she has a very Rich Russian benefactor who provides her with all her needs and asks only that she is available to him when he visits Thailand once a month.

Jack spends time with Lucy, they go to the beach and he lies down on the sand staring up into the blue sky, and recognizes his old friends the wispy white clouds. He squints his eyes from the hot sun and imagines a big juicy succulent plant that will transport him straight up to the sky! He remembers that as a kid, his dad had called him Jack from the beanstalk story that he had read to him hundreds of times. Jack laughs. “Yes I am Jack. I am the guy who has a beanstalk! I am the guy who has found the hen that lays the golden egg!“

When it is time for Jack to return home Lucy gives him money and packs his new clothes and gives him a packet of white powder. She instructs him to carry it back and tells him that it would be picked up on his arrival from his house. Jack’s mother is happy to see him and is overjoyed when he gives her money. She asks no question. She thinks, “ Thank God, things are looking up!” Jack looks after her but ever so often he returns to Thailand. The mother wonders who the people are who visit Jack with their strange accents and wear fur caps in summer. Jack goes again to Thailand and this time his girlfriend doesn’t pick up the phone.

When the giant returns, he senses that a human is nearby:
I smell the blood of an Englishman,
Be he alive, or be he dead,
I’ll have his bones to grind my bread……

The guards do not allow him into Lucy’s house. He stands outside and hears some strange noises. It sounds like someone is growling “ Fee-fi-fo-fum! Fee-fi-fo-fum! Fee-fi-fo-fum! “ Over and over again. Jack shrugs his shoulders. It must be the Russian.

A day later Lucy calls and tells him that she can’t meet him on this trip because her Russian giant is there. She sends him money and another packet of white substance to take home. He goes home but he is disturbed and listless looks up at the ceiling all day long. His Mother doesn’t know what to do with him. She nags him, she has opened a letter from the equity partners and has come to know that the ‘bogus’ company has gone bankrupt. Jack decides to marry Lucy and thinks that things will only look up after that !

Jack once again boards the flight to Thailand; Lucy waits for him eagerly and tells him that she must escape with him. She tells him that her Russian boyfriend is a drug dealer. She says she wants to run away with Jack to his home, marry him and start a new life. They catch a flight to return to Jacks home. Jack doesn’t know that the narcotic police force have been tipped and will arrest him at the airport on arrival. Jack doesn’t know that the Russian boyfriend will be at the airport to receive Lucy and hand him over to the police. He doesn’t know that he was just a pawn in this intricate plan between gorgeous Lucy and the Russian drug dealer. But right now Jack is happy, he looks through the window as Thailand is left far behind and says to Lucy “Life could never be better – things are definitely looking Up!”

Posted in Poems

Fire burns the old!

Fog embraces the Indian capital Delhi each winter night. Post sunset – moisture, smog and pollution settle down near the ground like a thick blanket .This is due to the inversion of temperature as the ground stays warmer than the cold sky above. Once again at daybreak the temperature gets warmer and all signs of fog are erased and the sky is once again bright blue. The dark thoughts of the night replaced with a buzz of activity of work and play and movement.

Yesterday the family got together in the evening and we lit a small fire in the garden. The monsoon had departed weeks ago and the temperature in north India had dropped drastically by nightfall. The fire was lit to bring a feeling of cheer and warmth to the family. The family gathered together, guests and friends dropped in, it was the festival of Diwali the season of lights. Tiny oil lamps were lit and placed all around the garden. Delicious traditional sweets and dry fruits – almonds, walnuts, cashew nuts and raisins in silver bowls were passed around.

There was chatter and talk and now and then the flow of conversation halted. Every one stared into the fire. Little golden specks shot straight up and then exhausted, drained of all sustenance died a natural death. An odd spray of golden specks flared up into the sky and got extinguished in seconds. A crackle and a hiss and then silence ! The play of flames continued occasionally replenished by more fuel. The fire gave life to our little garden in suburban Delhi. Fire released the pent up energy of wood and charcoal consuming the matter that had been preserved for years.

We avoid eye contact, knowing that it would only bring forth a spray of words, bringing to the surface irritation that had developed with over familiarity over the years ! Our children were around, happy to see the family together, enveloped in the evening fog. They too sensed that a spark lit between us would surface above the flames – but they knew that it would die a quick death. They had seen it so often, and had got used to it. They didn’t not want to give it energy and made jokes and teased each other to lighten up the atmosphere.

Feelings and old resentments compressed each day pounded by commitment to the family had created dead wood within me. Layers and layers of little thoughts and actions that I had chosen to ignore or not give energy to had created fossil wood in my soul. There were times when I longed to light the fire and let the dead wood blaze. Let yesterday go quickly and extinguish itself . Let my hurt feelings that had become charcoal in my soul crackle and evaporate as smoke.

I stared into the fire in front of me watching the sparks dance and die and realized that if I let my tirade out all too soon I too would extinguish myself. In seconds I too would end up in ash and smoke with no substance left. The spark of my soul existed nourished on my experiences. I knew the sun would soon appear and lighten up the morning sky. I would soon be busy with the bustle of activity and the dark foggy thoughts I had would fade away with the demons of the night !

Posted in Short Stories

Starry, Starry Night …..

Starry, Starry Night ….. Paint your palette blue and grey……

I look up into the sky and watch millions of stars twinkling in the dark black sky of the universe. It is a perfectly clear night with no clouds and the moon is just emerging. I feel I am in a planetarium, but – no! I remind myself I am out in the open and this is the real thing ! The feeling of timelessness and space that I get as I watch the myriads of stars out there in the universe only make me feel insignificant and small.

I am told that there are 500 thousand million stars in our Milky way! Zeros scare me ! I am terrible with calculations. I can never remember how many zeros there are in a million or a billion and then how do I figure how many zeros there are in 500 thousand million stars which just comprise our milky way and I am told there are thousands of similar galaxies as is our Milky way! Indians feel that the rest of the world is always indebted to India – after all ancient Indian scholars from the 5th–2nd century BC gave the world the ZERO but what we do without a calculator ?

Ancient Indian scriptures describe ‘Indra’ as being the God of the Universe He is the king of the gods and ruler of the heavens ( mainly in this case the Indian heavens). If the Universe is personified as a God – Indra then other elements such as the planets, fire, water, sun, thunder and rain also need to be personified. Each of them are under the command of Indra who commands them in war against the demons. Mythology gives us the consequence of these great wars – the eternal and universal war of good against evil! So we in India revere the planets and elements in the universe and give them names and worship them. Our myths are about how they interact , fight and love each other. The interplay of these mighty cosmos giants change the course of us earthlings. They fight and there is destruction, famine, drought or floods on Mother Earth, they love and share their bounty with us and there is plenty !

I remember many years ago, maybe it was in the late seventies, I am not sure of the exact year but we were informed by the Indian Meteorological Institutes in India that we would witness a total solar eclipse for a few minutes. We were told the day and time this would happen and were also informed of certain regions in the country where the viewing of the total eclipse would be maximum. As seen from the Earth, a solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between the Sun and Earth, and the Moon fully or partially blocks the Sun. This can happen only at new moon, when the Sun and the Moon are in conjunction as seen from Earth in an alignment referred to as ‘syzygy’. The disk of the Sun would be fully obscured by the Moon in full day light. Which meant that for a few minutes there would be almost complete darkness in the middle of the day!

Translated into Indian mythology it would be equivalent to the conquest of the mighty Sun God by the smaller and less powerful moon god even for a few moments ! Though the eclipse was a natural phenomenon, the effect of it could be easily attributed to supernatural causes or regarded as a bad omen or even the start of destruction of Mother earth! For anyone who had not been forewarned of its effect a total solar eclipse could be frightening.

I travelled with a group of college friends about 150 miles from my home to see the Total eclipse. People like us who travelled to remote locations to observe or witness predicted central solar eclipses were known as eclipse chasers or umbraphiles .We were told not to look directly at the photosphere of the Sun (the bright disk of the Sun itself), even for just a few seconds, as this could cause permanent damage to the retina of the eye. This was because of the intense visible and invisible radiation that the photosphere emitted. This damage can result in impairment of vision, up to and including blindness. The retina has no sensitivity to pain, and the effects of retinal damage may not appear for hours, so there is no warning that injury is occurring. We went armed to our expedition with special sunglasses to be used when we gazed up.

Look out on a summer’s day…..With eyes that know the darkness in my soul.

We were a little late to reach the suggested spot before the appointed time. We were just about 30 miles away and suddenly even before we looked at our watches we could feel the changes happening outside. From the road we noticed a small lake and a small grass thatched hut. We got out of the car and rushed inside the hut. My friends wanted to record the phases of total eclipse. It was about 3 pm in the afternoon and suddenly the sky became dark. A strong breeze gushed around us and we could see the dead leaves and dust swirl around us. Suddenly there was pin drop silence you could not hear a single bird. It was like an unseen force had unplugged Mother Earth we saw darkness cast on us we saw the shadow spread on the lake. The little animals did not understand what was happening – for them it had become night in the middle of the day ! The birds flew into the large trees to find shelter and wind and dust, the dogs stopped barking. We waited in silence for those few minutes which seemed an eternity. There was a doubt created in our minds, – should we appeal to the Sun God and ask him to vanquish the Moon God that had blocked the sun’s bounty from reaching us? Should we pray to the Moon God to spare mother earth and move away. Was the brightness of our souls being blackened by darkness from within?

Suddenly the darkness lifted and you could see the shadow recede from the lake. Light infused the atmosphere, we were happy to see the happy face of the sun. What joy – the earth was once again plugged in once again . The crows started screeching the hens, sparrows and little birds were chirping loudly! The dogs were barking and the village chatter started once again! The mid day darkness had receded,

They would not listen, they’re not listening still……Perhaps they never will…

( stanza from Vincent by Don Mclean)

Posted in Short Stories | Earth | Laxmi Dhaul | Laxmi Tendulkar Dhaul | Photosphere | retina | solar | Starry

Through Time

Belgundi village 1910 , a young boy Ganpat would race his classmates during the noon recess to the top of the nearby hill. He would try and reach the Jamun* tree before anyone else. The fastest and brightest boy in his class. Panting he would mark his territory by peeing on the side of the gnarled Jamun tree. Squinting his eyes from the midday sun, he stared into the horizon. Plush green paddy fields, a meandering river, clusters of mango trees, hillocks in the distance and the little village where he was born .“One day I will own this hill and I will build a glass house from where I can see the view from every direction!”

Belgundi village 1936, a young man Ganpat returns home from Berlin. He has been in Germany for several years and his employer – the newspaper Berliner Tageblatt sends him to India to report on Gandhi’s non cooperation movement against the British. He discards his leather shoes, his necktie and blazer and once again runs up the hill, to the same Jamun tree, to perform the same ritual. But in his hands are the title deeds of the hill that he has purchased! Still panting he gazes into the horizon, a cigarette resisting gravity in his lips, his jet black hair combed, his hands on his hips. He leans on the tree and thinks of how quickly the years have passed and shuts his eyes. For that instant he is at home !

Belgundi village 1945, Ganpat has been recently released from the local prison where the British had detained him as a political prisoner for the duration of World War 2 because of his long stay in Germany. He is now an activist in India’s Quit India movement against the British Raj. He is with his fiancee and they are soon to be married and they stand under the Jamun tree, he points to the horizon and shares with her his dream of the glass house he will build for her. This will soon be their home !

Belgundi village 1975, Ganpat’s memorial stone is laid under the Jamun tree as he had expressed a few days after he breathed his last. A huge crowd from the village come to pay homage to the man who set up industry locally and gave them a means of livelihood. They gaze into the glass walls of the mansion in awe – ‘Ganpat was one of us’, they think, but in their hearts they know he was different from them – he had lived his dream and had finally come home! They gather under the Jamun tree, that stood there through every monsoon and every season. With arms outstretched The Jamun tree had waited patiently for this day – to embrace his favourite Ganpat back home .

Posted in Short Stories | belgundi | berlin | ganpat | germany | in the shadow of freedom | quit india movement

Out of the snakes belly!

On one of my frequent journeys from my hometown Belgaum, down the forested hills of western India, I remember seeing young boys kick down a 3 feet high anthill . In seconds they maliciously destroyed what thousands of ants must have taken months to build. They knocked down the red – mud – animal – made edifice, the home of thousands of ants. Suddenly hundreds of ants of all sizes were streaming all over the place! This scene came to my mind when I journeyed on a local Mumbai train in the rush hour and had the same sense of wonder ! I avoid crowds and normally do not travel on the local Metro, never at rush hour but there was no other route to reach my destination. Witnessing thousands of people rushing around, without anyone bumping into each other, all finding their respective platforms and all in a hurry reminded me of those tiny little ants!

That evening I entered a ‘ladies compartment’, designated only for women and was crushed between commuters between the ages of 18 to 60. I watched two young girls, they looked like sisters with black kohl lined eyes talking and laughing. They both had hip length, long, black and straight tresses which they swished from side to side in rhythmic coordination. A little like when you visit a dairy and see the cows swish their tails right left and then right and then again and again !

Young teenage girls returning home from college sessions, mobile phones held in their manicured fingers. Others with sweat streaming down their faces, fatigue in their eyes and the tension of having to reach home in time for them to supervise their children’s homework or dispense medicines to their ailing elders . It reminded me of a television documentary I had seen on bees. I was fascinated at how well organized bees were. Each little creature knew its mission, it knew where it had to go and carry out its duty. Its responsibilities ingrained in its genetic code ! The Queen , the drone , the worker bees all part of a complex scenario!

I remember visiting a snake farm once. On display was a giant King Cobra with bloated and dazed red eyes. You could sense him enjoy the feeling of satiation after his heavy meal. He was waiting for the wild hare he had eaten alive to digest in his stomach. I am told that giant King Cobras can ingest an animal like a calf or deer many times their size ! The train reminded me of a King Cobra as it slithered through its tracks passing trains on the other side. Very few people got out, more commuters entered squeezing those that were already there. I could hardly breath, I was being suffocated, bodies pushing me constantly. The combination of smells nauseated me – pungent sweat, a whiff of fresh jasmines pinned in the hair of the sari clad women in front of me, stale perfume and the smell of fried samosa’s, a popular fried savoury snack sold at most Mumbai platforms.

I got up from my seat, squeezed through and barely got out when the train reached my destination. I had this wonderful feeling of still being alive, I could breathe! I walked out of the station to the cool breeze and a full silver moon in the sky. For that moment I experienced bliss – I felt I had gone through the King Cobra’s alimentary canal and had come out whole and alive !!

Posted in Travel | belgaum | Laxmi Dhaul | Laxmi Tendulkar Dhaul

We Are Told

Hindu’s believe in reincarnation. We are told, that the soul of the deceased are re-incarnated in another life. Maybe once, maybe several times, until it completes its karma, until its pays back its cosmic debt to the universe. Within a calendar year, we are told that the family of the deceased have to perform rituals to remember the soul and nudge the soul to ‘move on’.

Shital, my lovely daughter in law passed away last year. A vibrant, beautiful young woman of 33, had danced into our lives eight years earlier and had captured my sons heart. Almond eyes, jet black hair and an engaging smile , she was always a free soul and loved sufi whirling and yoga. Maybe it was her karma to have two sons quickly within a year of each other and she was a busy, content, happy person. Shortly after a ‘mystic’ yoga retreat that she had attended in one of the jungle resorts of South India she fell ill. She was hospitalized, and within 5 days of high fever she unexpectedly breathed her last. We were told, it may have been a rare mosquito bite that had caused the high fever and septicemia. We will never know.

Shitals parents told us to assemble at the Banganga tank in Mumbai not very far away from Malabar Hill, a posh locality of Mumbai. We drove there through the traffic and crowded streets of Mumbai. My two darling grandsons of six and four were in my car. They had been told that we were going for ‘Mamas puja’ and they were well behaved clutching on to their spider man and Benton toys. Occasional questions asked were “How does Mama know that we are doing prayers for her?” and then from the younger one “ Can she see us Granny?” and the older one again “ Will she come back to us soon?”

Suddenly we took a right, off the main road close to the entrance gate. We were amazed at the sight in front of us ! A beautiful large tank of green, still water with just a slight ripple that passed through with the breeze. Concrete steps all around and temples around its perimeter. At short distances from each other, groups were huddled around waiting for the Hindu priest to perform rituals on their behalf. We were suddenly transposed out of our lives in Mumbai city to this historical haven. We had been told of this beautiful water body in the heart of the city but had never been there before and were amazed and surprised to see this little oasis in the midst of the desert of one of the most populated cities in the world!

We performed our rituals and the children fed the crows, the ducks, the geese and even the fish in the water tank. We had a busy morning and with the satisfaction that we had completed the rituals as we were told to do, we returned to our busy lives!

Posted in Random Thoughts | dhaul | hindu | incarnation | karma | mumbai | shital | shital dhaul

Western Ghats

Driving down the mountains of western India to sea level during the monsoons is possibly what Dorothy must have encountered when she entered the Emerald city in search of the Wizard of Oz. Verdant green and picturesque. As you drive down the hairpin bends you pass clusters of teak trees and huge bamboo plants all part of the copious green emerald forests. The Wizard of OZ was a mystery to Dorothy, an unknown. Dorothy had been told that the Wizard had the power to transport her home ! I pass through the lush green forest and feel transposed to a higher level .The level that resides in my soul, within me but yet constantly alludes me, the level that my soul identifies as ‘Home’ .

Rain hits the windscreen and the motion of the wiper-blades lull me into a somnambulistic state. The windows are rolled down and I feel the spray of rain on my face, the breeze blowing my hair . The chirping of birds, an occasional cry of a peacock, and the sound of beetles are the only sounds I register. Driving down the mountains I look far into the distance, water falls, clumps of trees, green fields, undulating hills . The sun peeps through the clouds that open now and then to reveal the far away horizon. Is the feeling of completion that I suddenly witness similar to the feeling of finding Home within me? I remember a Sufi poet who said “ Am I in the world ? or is the world there because I am there to perceive it ? “

Posted in Uncategorized

BBC Asia Network, London: Nihal interviews Laxmi Tendulkar Dhaul

11 am, 8th July, 2013

Nihal: Stories about your parents and your grandparents – stories of pain and sacrifice and photos to piece together their lives….. (more…)

Posted in Interviews with Laxmi | BBC Asia Network | Laxmi Tendulkar Dhaul | Nihal interviews | Nihal interviews Laxmi Tendulkar Dhaul

Souffle Eggs on Vegetable Base

Egg Dishes:Souffle Eggs on Vegetable Base

Serves:2 People

Time Required: 40 Minutes


Posted in Cookbook | Souffle Eggs on Vegetable Base

Eggs Benedictine

Egg Dishes:Eggs Benedictine

Serves: 8 People

Time Required: 25 Minutes


Posted in Cookbook | Eggs Benedictine

Dal Gosht (Spicy meat and lentil curry)

Nourishing meals:DAL GOSHT

Serves: 6-8 People(Soaking time to soften lentils:2-3 hours)

Time Required: 60 Minutes


Posted in Cookbook | DAL GOSH

Deviled Eggs

Egg Dishes:Deviled Eggs

Serves: 6 People

Time Required: 25 Minutes


Posted in Cookbook | Deviled Eggs

Scotch Eggs

Egg Dishes:Scotch Eggs

Serves: 4 People

Time Required: 35 Minutes


Posted in Cookbook | Scotch Eggs

Curried scrambled eggs (Bhurji)

Egg Dishes:Curried scrambled eggs

Serves: 4 People

Time Required: 25 Minutes


Posted in Cookbook | Curried scrambled eggs

Prawn Cocktail

Seafood specialities:Prawn Cocktail

Serves: 5-6 People

Time Required: 20 Minutes (Chilling time:1 hour)


Posted in Cookbook | Prawn Cocktail

Crab Au Gratin

Seafood specialities:Crab Au Gratin

Serves: 5-6 People

Time Required: 55 Minutes


Posted in Cookbook | Crab Au Gratin

LAGANSALA (Vegetables Cooked in Spicy Gravy)

Nourishing meals:LAGANSALA

Serves: 5-6 People

Time Required: 30 Minutes


Posted in Cookbook | LAGANSALA


Nourishing meals:IRISH STEW

Serves: 5-6 People

Time Required: 60 Minutes


1. ½ kg mutton;

2. 3 large carrots (cut in rounds);

3. 100gms beans, threaded and cut in rounds;

4. 100gms cauliflower, in florets;

5. 2 medium sized onions, cut in 4 pieces,

6. 2 whole peeled potatoes, cut in quarters;

7. celery (optional);

8. ¾ litre water, more can be added;

9. ½ cup milk;

10. 1 tbsp flour or corn flour;

11. 2-3 cloves;

12. 1 inch cinnamon;

13. 1 large (black) cardamom;

14. salt and pepper.


1. Clean mutton and place with celery, cardamom and cinnamon in water.

2. Boil and let it simmer covered till the meat is done.

3. Add cauliflower, let it cook a bit. Add carrots and beans.

4. Cook together till the vegetables are cooked but firm and mutton is tender.

5. Mix corn flour in a little water, stir into stew and allow it to thicken. Serve hot.

Posted in Cookbook | IRISH STEW

Chicken Dhansak (Chicken in Aromatic Parsi Spices and Lentils)

Nourishing meals:Chicken Dhansak

Serves: 5-6 People

Time Required: 60 Minutes


1. ½ kg chicken pieces breast ;

2. 4 pods crushed garlic;

3. I inch fresh ginger ;

4. 6 dry red chilies tbs cumin seeds ( jeera);

5. I tbs coriander seeds (dhania );

6. I inch cinnamon stick;

7. 2 crushed green cardamoms;

8. 4 black peppercorns;

9. I1/2 teaspoons turmeric (haldi) powder;

10. teaspoons dhania jeera powder*;

11. 1/3 cup toover dal ;

12. 1/3 cup moong dal;

13. 1/3 cup masoor dal (yellow lentils);

14. I medium aubergine (brinjal) into 4 pieces;

15. I00gm piece of red pumpkin, peeled and cut into 4 pieces;

16. 2 large tomatoes, chopped ;

17. I tbs tamarind pulp;

18. I tbs grated jaggery;

19. 21/2 tsp salt;

20. 2 tbss vegetable oil or melted ghee;

21. readymade Dhansak masala ( preferably Motilal brand ) or 2 tsps sambhar powder.


1. Soak all the lentils together in cold water.

2. Heat oil and fry onions till brown..Add masala paste, turmeric haldi, coriander-cumin seed powder, cook 5 minutes.

3. Add tomatoes, cook 5 minutes. Add mutton and cook till water dries. Add the three lentils dals, aubergine brinjal, tomato, fenugreek methi leaves. Mix well

4. 4. Slowly add 6 cups water, salt. Bring to boil
Cover and simmer on low heat till the mutton is tender. Remove from fire and keep aside.

5. Soak tamarind and ½ cup boiling water for 15 minutes

6. Strain the liquid through sieve and extract all the juices. Discard the pulp

7. Remove mutton from the lentils dals and keep aside.

8. Mash the lentils dals through a colander into another pan.

9. Then mix into mutton again.

10. Add tamarind juice and jaggery to the mutton/dal and cook slowly for 10 minutes. Add extra water if too thick.

11. Before serving sprinkle on top one finely chopped onion, fried brown and ½ dessertspoon finely chopped coriander serve with roti and rice and garnish with lamb meat balls.

Note:-Dhansak masala is a special masala made for Dhansak and is available in stores usually run Parsis.

Traditionally the Dhansak is served with brown rice where a little brown caramelized burnt sugar, about 2 tspn is added in the boiling rice while the rice is being cooked.

Posted in Cookbook | Chicken Dhansak

Beefy Joes

Steaks:Beefy Joes

Serves: 5-6 People

Time Required: 35 Minutes


1. ½ kg ground beef;

2. ½ cup chopped celery;

3. ¼ cup ketchup;

4. ¼ tsp. salt;

5. ½ cup chopped onion;

6. 1 1/4 cups Stock (or beef gravy);

7. 4 hamburger buns.


1. In a skillet, brown the ground beef cook celery and onion till tender.

2. Stir to separate meat.

3. Add stock (gravy), ketchup and salt.

4. Cook over low heat for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally

5. Serve on split buns.

6. Makes four sandwiches.

Posted in Cookbook | Beefy Joes | steaks

Marchand De Vin Sauce

Steaks:Marchand De Vin Sauce

Serves: 5-6 People

Time Required: 15 Minutes


1. 4 tbs butter;

2. 6 scallions, minced (or onions);

3. ½ cup red wine;

4. 1 cup (or can) brown gravy;

5. 1 tbs lemon juice.


1. Melt 4 tbsp. butter.

2. Stir in 6 scallions, minced (or onions).

3. Cook for 5 minutes.

4. Add ½ cup red wine and simmer for 20 minutes.

5. Add 1 cup (or can) brown gravy and tbsp. lemon juice.

6. Before serving, heat slowly and add 2 tbsp. butter.

Posted in Cookbook | Marchand De Vin Sauce | Sauce

Steak Creole

Steaks:Steak Creole

Serves: 4-5 People

Time Required: 40 Minutes


1. ¾ kg. good quality steak;

2. 4 tbs butter;

3. several celery sticks;

4. 2 onions – skinned and sliced;

5. ½ kg. Skinned;

6. chopped tomatoes mixed with cups meat stock;

7. salt and pepper to taste;

8. boiled rice or noodles.


1. Cut steak into finger-sized pieces and toss into hot butter.

2. Add onions and celery.

3. Add tomatoes, stock and seasoning and simmer for 15 minutes.

4. Serve in a bed of noodles or rice.

Posted in Cookbook | Steak Creole

Shahi Murgh Badami

Mughlai Cuisine: Shahi Murgh Badami

Serves: 6-8 People

Time Required: 60 Minutes


1. 5 tbs vegetable oil;

2. 1 kg. chicken, skin and cut into 8

3. ¼ kg finely chopped onion;

4. 100 gms blanched almonds in slivers;

5. 8 green cardamoms;

6. 2 tbsp. Whole coriander;

7. 2 tbsp. poppy seeds (khuskhus) ;

8. ½ tsp. Chilly powder;

9. 2 cups yoghurt;

10. 1 glass water;

11. 1 tsp salt.


1. Heat 3 tbsp oil in a heavy bottomed pan.

2. Add chicken and fry till golden and drain excess oil

3. Add balance 2 tbs oil and heat.

4. Add silvered almonds and fry golden. Drain.

5. Lightly brown sliced onions

6. Add almonds, coriander seeds, cardamom and Khuskhus. Cook together for 5 minutes.

7. Add chilly powder, salt. Stir well and remove from heat

8. Let mixture cool then puree in a blender

9. Return to pan and add fried chicken pieces

10. Cook and coat chicken

11. Add all the yoghurt spoon by spoon, stirring after each addition.

12. Cover pan tightly – reduce heat and let chicken simmer for 45-60 minutes, till tender.

13. Let the sauce thicken
Place on platter and sprinkle with lightly fried almonds. Serve hot.

*Kewra essence is a strongly scented flavouring essence usedin festive dish, both sweet and savoury, of north India. It is used to flavour beverages, desserts and to add an exotic, flowery

Posted in Cookbook | Shahi Murgh Badami

Nawabi Mutton Pulao – Mughlai Cuisine

Mughlai Cuisine: Nawabi Mutton Pulao

Serves: 5-6 People

Time Required: 35 Minutes (Marination Time of 1 Hour)


1. 500 gm Mutton, cut into small pieces;

2. 2 onions roughly chopped, 1 tsp. Salt

3. 1 ½ pints water

4. 1 large onion, chopped

5. 1 clove garlic, chopped

6. 1 inch ginger, chopped

7. ½ kg. Basmati Rice

8. 2 onions, sliced finely

9. 3 tbsps clarified butter ( ghee)

10. 1 bayleaf

11. 1” stick cinnamon

12. 1 black cardamom

13. 4 small green cardamoms

14. ½ tsp. black cumin seeds (Kala zeera)

15. 2 cloves(lavang)

16. 4 tsp kewra * essence water

17. 1 tbs warm water and a pinch of saffron.


1.Put mutton, rough chopped onion, salt and water in a heavy bottomed pan.

2. Bring to boil.

3. Reduce heat and simmer for approx. 1 hour or more, till meat is more than ¾ done.

4. Strain and reserve stock. Keep mutton and onion pulp separately.

5. In a blender grind chopped onion, garlic and ginger.

6. Wash rice thoroughly and soak for ½ an hour in cold water.

7. Put 2 tbs clarified butter in a heavy pan

8. Fry roughly chopped onion till golden

9. Add ground onion mixture and cinnamon, cardamom, green cardamoms, black cumin seeds cloves

10. Fry mixture to a pale gold

11. Add strained meat and onion

12. Increase heat and brown meat well

13. Drain rice well.

14. Add to meat mixture and fry till rice is golden

15. Level meat and rice.

16. Pour on meat stock and top with water to cover rice by 1”

17. Reduce heat, cover rice and cook for approx. 20 Minutes or till meat and rice nearly cooked.

18. Pour on kewra water and cook, covered for 3-4 more minutes.

19. Infuse saffron in warm water – lift lid and pour on

20. Cook for another 3-4 minutes

21. Turn off heat and leave Biryani to stand.

22. Gently fork the rice.

23. In another pan, with remaining ghee, fry the finely sliced onions.

24. Scatter on top when serving.

*Kewra essence is a strongly scented flavouring essence usedin festive dish, both sweet and savoury, of north India. It is used to flavour beverages, desserts and to add an exotic, flowery

Guide to a Gentlemans Chef’

Posted in Cookbook | Nawabi Mutton Pulao mughlai cuisine biryani

Mughlai Cuisine: Mughlai Zaafrani Murgh

Mughlai Cuisine: Mughlai Zaafrani Murg (Mughlai Saffron Chicken)

Serves: 5-6 People

Time Required: 35 Minutes (Marination Time of 1 Hour)


1. 750 gms chickens, cleaned, washed and cut into pieces

2. 1 teaspoon salt, to taste;2-3 bay leaves

3. 4-5 cloves 1 tbs ginger-garlic paste

4. 1 teaspoon red chili powder

5. 1 pinch saffron

6. Paste of 4-6 tbss cashews that have been soaked in water

7. 2 tbs yogurt

8. 4-5 tbs oil

9. 2 tbss grated onion

10. 1 teaspoon garlic paste

11. fresh chopped coriander leaves to garnish


1. Mix red chilly powder with a little water, add salt, ginger-garlic paste, a pinch of saffron, yogurt and marinate the chicken pieces.

2. Heat oil in a pan.

3. Add bay leaves and cloves stir-fry for a minute.

4. Add grated onions and sauté till it turns brown.

5. Continue to sauté till the raw smell of garlic is gone.

6. Add the marinated chicken pieces and mix well.

7. Cover and cook for 15 minutes or until the chicken is tender.

8. Add 2-3 tbss of cashewnut paste and a pinch of saffron.

9. Mix well.

10. Garnish with fresh chopped coriander leaves.

Posted in Cookbook | Mughlai Cuisine | Mughlai Zaafrani Murgh

Guide to a Gentlemans Chef : Note From the Author

Guide to a Gentlemans Chef’

My friend Gitanjali and I wrote the book ‘Guide to a Gentlemans Chef’ some time ago. It was published by my good friend Bikash Niyogi of Niyogi Books and is available in the book shops. We were very sorry to hear about the passing away of Mario Miranda who had illustrated the book. Mario was amazing – he brought his own brand of humour to whatever he did. We just gave him the verses we had written that divide the book into different types of gentleman chefs. His sense of humour and wit manifested itself through his detailed drawings to match the nonsense work but he took his own time. You could not ask him to hurry or adhere to any deadlines. Gitanjali and I thought that we would give some life to the humour and some of the authentic recipes in the book by sharing a few of them on the internet through my blog. So friends every few days you will catch a few recipes on line. If you have any suggestions or want to share any other tips that you think may be relevant , do send them to us and we will figure a way to put up your suggestions
Laxmi Dhaul

Posted in Cookbook | Gentlemans Chef | Guide to a Gentlemans Chef

How to Cook a Wife Recipe

How to Cook a Wife Recipe

A good many wives are utterly spoiled by mismanagement in cooking and so are not tender and good. Some men keep them constantly in hot water; others let them freeze by their carelessness and indifference. Some keep them in a stew with irritating ways and words. Some husbands keep them pickled, while others waste them shamefully. It cannot be supposed that any wife will be tender and good when so managed, but they are really delicious when prepared properly.

In selecting a wife, you should be guided by the silvery appearance as in buying a mackerel; not by the golden tint as if you wanted salmon. Do not go to the market for her as the best ones are always brought to the door. Be sure to select her yourself as tastes differ. It is far better to have none unless you will patiently learnt how to cook her.

Of course, as preserving a kettle of the finest porcelain is best, but if you have nothing better than an earthenware pippin, it will do—with care. Like crabs and lobsters, wives are cooked alive. They sometimes fly out of the kettle and do so become burned and crusty on the edges, so it is wise to secure her in the kettle with a strong silken cord called Comfort, as the once called Duty is apt to be weak. Make a clear, steady flame of love, warmth and cheerfulness. Set her as near this as seems to agree with her.

If she sputters, do not be anxious, for some wives do this until they are quite done. Add a little sugar in the form of what confectioners call kisses, but use no pepper or vinegar on any account. Season to taste with spices, good humor and gaiety preferred, but seasoning must always be with great discretion and caution. Avoid sharpness in testing her for tenderness. Stir her gently, lest she lie to flat and close to the kettle and so become useless. You cannot fail to know when she is done. If so treated, you will find her very digestible, agreeing with you perfectly; and she will keep as long as you choose, unless you become careless and slow the home fires to grow cold. Thus prepared, she will serve a lifetime of happiness!

From the Yankee Kitchen Cookbook…Author and Date unknown, but from the early 1800’s

Posted in Cookbook | Cook a Wife Recipe

Ode to the Gentlemen Chefs

Ode to the Gentlemen Chefs

Bachelors, epicureans, gourmets, and such –
Savor this book which offers so much,

It’s full of recipes; wondrous and light
With ambrosial decoctions for that special night!

We cater to one, we cater to all
Be thee grumpy, frumpy or happy and joll!

Be thee married – a blessed state indeed
Or on that front, be thee in need,

Pick out a heading that suits your mood
You may have a shock – but none too rude,

For both bored and intellectual minds
We offer great salads with lemon rinds.

For mama’s boys there are goodies galore
Enjoy them with love – while the others snore.

For the happy go lucky; the young at heart
We have sandwiches, pinwheels and lemon tart,

The repentant and the almost read
On mega doses of mithai and stew are fed!

We offer these suggestions with humble pride
But request you to take them in your stride!!

Posted in Cookbook | Gentlemen Chefs

Guide for the Gentlemen Chefs By Laxmi Dhaul & Gitanjali Khanna

Guide for the Gentleman Chef

Guide for the Gentlemen Chefs is a tongue-in-check book of wonderful authentic recipes sorted out in humorous categories By Laxmi Dhaul & Gitanjali Khanna

A Guide for the Gentlemen Chefs is a humorous attempt to categorise recipes (Indian, Western and Continental) not on the basis of their ingredients or their mode of preparation but on the varied nature of Gentlemen Chefs. This is all the more relevant today as it is common perception that the best chefs are male and today cooking is a hobby that more and more men are taking up. Cooking is a wonderful stress reliever!

In the posts to follow, we will be creating a substantial number of posts and suggested recipes for each type. Each post will contain a tongue-in-cheek verse, a cartoon done by Mario Miranda, a few quotations and a few jokes!!

A Guide for the Gentlemen Chefs

Posted in Cookbook | Gentlemen Chefs | Gitanjali Khanna | Laxmi Dhaul

Discovering Islamabad 2012

Discovering Islamabad!

I was thrilled when my husband informed me that there had been a request from the Pakistani embassy for copies of the book ‘Sufi Saint of Ajmer’ for a delegation from Pakistan! I had written the book several years ago and had preserved a few copies. Never having visited Pakistan before I was a little hesitant. Friends had told me “ they are just like us” and the phrase stayed in my mind whilst my heart told me “we are all one “ !

Islamabad was beautiful, open roads and wonderful monuments. Islamabad felt a little like Chandigarh – beautifully laid out in sectors and yet the terrain and people reminded me of Tajikistan and central Asia more than any Indian city! Dinner at the Monal restaurant on the hilltop gave us a commanding view of Islambad. A chilly breeze was soon neutralized by the sumptuous barbeque and live ghazal performance .

The next day I was delighted to have the privilege to visit the magnificent sprawling Faisal mosque with a background of green rolling hills and a light drizzle. Shopping for ‘Punjabi suits’ material made from the famous “lawn” a texturized voile cotton with trendy prints, everyone from India had asked me for one! Shopping included buying framed Tabriz tapestry portraits and other local handicraft.

Once there, close Pakistani friends, wanted to know how my expectations differed from what I had actually encountered in the few hours that I was there. Several years ago I had read the autobiography of Tehmina Durrani, a Pakistani English authoress titled My Feudal Lord who described her traumatic marital life with Gulam Mustafa Khar, an important politician in the Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s government, who later became the Chief Minister of Punjab. The book described instances where ‘patriarchs’ dominated the household , and women were considered ‘inferior’ both intellectually and socially. I was therefore really happy to meet people like my friend Ahmareen Allauddin who was a University professor and had just enrolled for a M Phil program and still did a wonderful task of bringing up her very bright sons and being an excellent hostess! I was told that the book I had mentioned was the exception rather than the rule !

My husband’s maternal grandfather Sardar Sant Singh Seble had lived in Rawalpindi before 1947 when the partition of India and Pakistan took place . We visited his home. I was told that once it was a huge rambling haveli of 22 rooms and had outhouses for numerous servants, horses and livestock. It had been converted into the ‘FG High school for girls’ a few years ago and was a huge neatly white washed well maintained building. Apparently he had owned 27 cinemas before partition and a huge summer chalet in the nearby picturesque hill station Murree. This visit to Rawalpindi had given us a chance to pay homage to our very loved ‘Daddy-ji’ by visiting his home. Daddy-ji had been a powerful and enigmatic personality and like thousands of other Punjabis had to restart life in New Delhi as a refugee !

Coincidentally the day we reached Pakistan was the Baisakhi festival and this we considered as a very auspicious day to visit Gurdwara ‘Panja Sahib’ situated at Hasan Abdal, 48 kilometres from Rawalpindi. A holy Sikh shrine named after the imprint of Shri Guru Nanak jis palm on a rock . Legend has it that Shri Guru Nanak Dev ji along with Bhai Mardana reached Hasan Abdal on Baisakhi in the 15th century . Under a shady cool tree, Guru Nanak and Bhai Mardana started reciting Kirtan with their devotees gathered around. This annoyed a local saint, Hazrat Shah Wali Qandhari, meditating atop a nearby hill. Bhai Mardana was sent thrice to Shah Wali Qandhari by (Guru Nanak) to request him for drinking water . The irate Wali remarked : “Why don’t you ask your Master whom you serve?”

Mardana went back to the Guru in a miserable state and said “Oh lord! I prefer death to thirst but will not approach Wali the egoist.” The Guru replied “Oh Bhai Mardana! Repeat the Name of God, the Almighty; and drink the water to your heart’s content.” The Guru pushed a big rock lying nearby and a flowing fountain of pure water sprang up flowing endlessly quenching everyones thirst. The legend further describes that the water source of Shah Wali Qandhari dried up and he angrily hurled a rock towards the Guru from the top of the hill. The Guru stopped the rock with his hand , the impact leaving the imprint of his palm on the rock. Observing the miracle, Wali became the Guru’s devotee. This holy and revered place was named ‘Panja’ Sahib by Hari Singh Nalwa, the most famous Sikh General who is credited with having built the gurdwara.

Travelling from Islamabad to Rawalpindi and then to Hasan Abdal we decided to visit the Taxila excavations. I was amazed by the colourful trucks on the highway. Inspite of their huge size and noxious fumes they emitted, the trucks absolutely transformed the landscape by bringing colour and variety. Each truck was more spectacular than the next, painted with vibrant motifs of birds, fish and animals, huge colourful flowers, scenes from village life. Most trucks had a religious symbol of the Ka’aba appearing on the left and right of the front of the truck somewhere towards the top. Apparently ‘Truck Art’ was a legacy from the days of the British Raj when bus companies decided to decorate their vehicles to attract more customers. Decorating and painting the intricate designs must be expensive but was truly in sync with the Punjabi personality – big hearted, colourful and vibrant. A psychedelic ‘home away from home’ for the nomadic truck driver who would obviously identify with it and take pride in his multicolour palace on the highway, an expression of his very own personality !

Just off the Grand Trunk road we finally reached Taxila an important archaeological site. The excavated ruins date back to the Gandhara period and contains the ruins of the Gandhāran city of Takṣaśilā which was an important Hindu and Buddhist religious and historical centre. In 1980, Taxila was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site with multiple excavations at various locations. Excavation activity started here between the years 1913 and 1934 by Sir John Marshall, the then Director General of Archeeological Survey of British India who unearthed the remains of early settlement sites belonging to Neolithic, Early-Harappan and Gandharan Grave Culture periods. We were able to only visit the Sirkap mound which showed a city laid out with Buddhist Stupas, Jain statues and Greek sculptures dating from the invasion of “Alexander the great” . Laid out systematically on either side of a ‘main road’ we were told that the ruins were excavated from several layers below the ground . It was interesting to hear the guide show us Jain ruins and call them the belonging to the “Vegetarian God” ! I realized that there must be very few Jains in Islamabad and was amused how the local guide associated the religion by its vegetarian aspect ! Most of the interesting excavated statues were kept in the nearby museum which had shut for the day.

We witnessed the radiant orange sky with the setting sun which brought darkness to the ancient excavations at the Sirkap ruins, a truly spectacular scene and reminded me of my favourite Beatle tune ‘all things must pass’ !

Posted in Travel | Discovering Islamabad

Organising Chimi’s parade in the Panna forest- wonderful experience !

Chimi’s Parade in Panna 28/29 August 2011

WWF and Sarva Shiksha Abhyan Kendra ( Gov of Madhya Pradesh) have a 9 month residential facility for the children of poachers of the Behelia tribe living in the Panna Tiger reserve forests. Prithvi Media and Praanah had been invited to conduct a 2 day ‘Art for Nature’ workshop for the 150 children of this residential programme. Even today the Behelias – nomadic tribals poach the Panna forests in search of wildlife. Apparently the population of larger animals in Panna has decreased drastically and even the number of tigers are in single digits ! Today wild boar and pheasant are caught and sold in markets in nearby towns such as Satna and Khajuraho.

The principle behind the initiative organised by WWF (India) and the MP Government is to rehabilitate the children of these poachers, by offering them residential facilities and educate them with skills to survive in villages and towns. All this with aim to dissuade them from resorting to the traditional occupation of their forefathers and improve their lives!

WWF (India) representatives along with the Prithvi Media and Praanah teams organised a 2 two day workshop in Panna on 28th/29th August 2011. Prithvi Media, a platform for environmental awareness in education believes that it can spread its message of wildlife and nature conservation by organising workshops, movies and publications. It has recently launched ‘Chimi’s Dream’ an animated film (dubbed both in English and Hindi) based on the story of a young boys dream about animals in a forest who are about to embark on a green parade to protest against man for spoiling their environment . The movie was shown to the 150 children at their residential centre . They understood the message loud and clear – animals too have a right to a clean environment clean air fresh water and pure air! The children were then given musical instruments and divided into groups and along with their teachers coined a slogan

“ Lets go forward ,lets go forward .

We the children of the forests have pledged to save our jungles.

We the children of the towns have pledged to save our jungles!”

The children dressed in white ‘Chimi’ T shirts marched in two lines outside their centre beating on their drums and other instruments, cheering whilst repeating the slogan and having fun. The hot afternoon sun beating down did not deter their enthusiasm and joy !

Over the two days various activities were done with the entire group of 150 children such as reciting of Hindi poems with actions, visualisation with actions such as enacting of wildlife and the growth of a tree, drawing environmental themes on hand cutouts and building a ‘Globe of Joy’ etc.

Sangita Saxena , Mita Nangia Goswamy and Soji James from WWF India supported Laxmi Dhaul from Prithvimedia in all these activities. Bhaktiveda Dhaul from Pranaah and her team Tarunima Sengupta, Kamia Sharma and Jyotika Katyal led the activities.

On the second day wonderful wildlife films made by musician and film maker Chinmay Dunster were watched by the children with avid interest . Each child related to the movements of animals and birds and clapped loudly ! The children performed plays one of them based on the story of Brave Amrita from the Bishnoi tribals in Rajasthan based on the Chipko movement.

It was a rewarding experience and it was decided that several Chimi Parades would be organised in various centres all over India.

Posted in Travel | Chimi's parade | himi's parade in the Panna forest | Organising Chimi's parade

Made in Isreal

Made in Israel

Travelling with me to Israel was  Veda, my 24 year old daughter. Charming, lots of fun and inspite of our generation gap someone who would occasionally allow me to be on ‘her’ side of the age barrier.  We were exemplary tourists on the  first few days of our trip. We lapped up the history, got up at dawn , diligently listened to our guide as  he took us from one ancient site to the next .  We went to Jerusalem and visited several  Churches, the Wailing Wall and the museum of the Dead Sea Scrolls. We went to Bethlehem to the birthplace of Jesus Christ and visited the church built  built to commemorate his birth and genuflected at the site of the ‘manger’. We visited the Sea of Galilee near the town of Nazareth which was famous for the first sermon where Jesus distributed bread and wine to all his followers. We went to the Church of the Beatitudes and read the words “ He who is meek shall inherit the kingdom of God”  and made the sign of the cross – our early education in Roman Catholic missionary school had trained us well. It was our first trip to Israel and we had gone with open and enthusiastic minds.

Veda discovered what a Sabbath ‘elevator’  was in a slightly embarrassing manner as we had never experienced a  Sabbath ( Friday )  which was a day of total rest and reflection. She followed me into the elevator  , one hand clutching her many recently acquired souvenirs and the other her life line – her cell phone. She persistently pressed the 7th floor button and yet the lift stopped on every floor. No one got in or out and she looked confused until someone politely told her that this was a Sabbath lift and would stop on each floor, irrespective of being empty or full . Guests  could get in and exit on their floors without pressing any buttons, and ….“would she please shut her phone ? “ Neither of us were familiar that during Sabbath no work was done and no gadgets or machines were used. Even pressing the lift buttons was unacceptable especially in Jerusalem which had a huge population of ultra orthodox Jews. The hotel that we were staying in had several lifts and the particular one that we were in was dedicated as the ‘Sabbath lift.’

After visiting the remnants of the port of Caesarea built by King Herod we finally landed up  in the beautiful city of Tel Aviv . We had heard much of the night life, the sea and shopping and were looking forward to enjoy the cosmopolitan side of Israel . Shopping in Tel Aviv was exciting with its vast variety of shops!  You had the option of going to the ultra modern  ‘Up market’  Malls with international designer labels, or  choose to go the traditional areas and visit dusty curio shops for tourists  in the old town of Jaffa with quaint handcrafted items . Interesting items we picked up were beautiful metallic Menorahs – traditional  candle stand lit on ceremonious occasions  and artistically crafted Mesusas ( sacred door  handles) . The young shopkeeper was quite smitten by my daughters dark curly locks and eyelashes and jokingly offered to marry her. I bundled her out of the shop super fast!

You could stroll through the bazaars, the  open markets and feast your senses on the  bright colours and the crisp smell of fresh vegetables, fruits , sweets and meats. There were also many open shops that sold other necessary items from clothes to suitcases, hangars to perfumes.  It was like being back in a Indian market  haggling with the shop keeper. Somehow whenever I was with Veda , we would always gravitate to shops that specialised in cosmetics, shoes,  junk jewellery and clothes . She enjoyed shopping and bought a lot of stuff, sandals and clothes and caps and a whole lot of makeup. One of the more interesting items she picked up was a novel mascara bottle. The moment you took the mascara brush out of its bottle the brush would start to vibrate vigorously till it was put back into the container, becoming still only once the brush was twisted tightly into place. The sales man reassured us that this vibrating action enhanced the thickness of the eye lashes on application!  Veda was amused with it and found the results quite satisfactory!

Our trip to Israel soon became a memory with its vibrant images immortalised on the ‘facebook’, and on our return home more mundane matters became important on a day to day level. Soon after  our visit, on a sultry hot evening, the family was getting ready to go out on a family function.  I walked into Veda’s room to ask her for some make up . Veda as usual was talking on her cell phone, combing her long locks with her other hand . She said to me hurriedly

“Mum here take this vibrator. I  brought it in Israel . Try it ,you will like the effect”  and handed me  the mascara bottle that she had brought in Tel Aviv and resumed her conversation on the mobile. Having showed me its effect several times I quietly took it from her and returned to my room.

A few days later suddenly Veda rushed into my room., she was very agitated.

“The silly people in this city – they are all talking about me!” she complained.

I looked at her , “ Now what have you done”

“ Done .. done nothing ,  that silly ……”  (she named her friend )

“He has gone and told all my friends that I share the same ‘vibrator’  with my Mom. “

I looked at her surprised not quite sure how I was to react to her remark. Then suddenly it dawned upon me – the vibrating mascara brush  – I mean the mascara ‘contraption’ with the vibrating mechanism that is what the buzz in town was about !  I reminded her of the incident when she had handed it to me and had hurriedly called it a vibrator  and we both had a good laugh. If only we had brought a few more mascara brushes with vibrating handles, made in Israel  and shared them with our friends back home !




Posted in Travel | Made in Isreal

Strangers in the night exchanging glances

Strangers in the night exchanging glances

One of the most beautiful sunsets I have witnessed recently was in the city of Tbilisi . The breeze wafted across us as we watched the sun set on a warm balmy evening whilst we were dining in a restaurant situated on a cliff . Below we could see the  Mtkvari river as it passed us having meandered through the city. We were in the heart of Tbilissi – the capital of Georgia,  a country famous for vineyards, folk dancing, banquets and sulfur baths. Infact the name Tbilisi is derived from the ancient Georgian word ‘Tbili’ meaning warm. Numerous sulphuric hot springs that dot the city give it its name!

Through the centuries Georgias famous hospitality and warmth has withstood attacks from numerous invaders – from the Mongols and Persians to the Ottoman Turks. The Georgians maintained their culture and identity even though their country was incorporated into both the Russian empire and the Soviet Union. Say the word “Russia” today and the Georgians do not smile, they have fought for their independence valiantly. We were told by our hosts that ‘after various attempts (some of them violent)  Georgia got independence  as recently as 1990’. Inspite of its violent history, Georgia as a nation has held  on to its unique cultural traditions.  Today Tbilisi its capital is a beautiful city bustling with restaurants, clubs, shops and galleries.

From our table we had a breathtaking view of  several churches built in the Greek orthodox style and the mountains of Georgia. It was a little dark inside the restaurant but the stage at the end was brightly lit up and  we soon witnessed several Georgian traditional folk dances. Beautifully dressed dancers in their traditional Georgian regional dress swayed to the accompaniment of live folk music , each dance lasting eight to ten minutes.

This was our first trip to Georgia and our group of 12 were seated on a long table which was almost groaning with the food laden on it . Large bowls of beautiful fresh fruit were surrounded by an assortment of atleast 10 different salads. If I remember correctly there must have been Assorted pickles (cherries, green tomatoes, pickles, peppers), Marinated mushrooms, Black Olives,Georgian salad, Greek Salad (with cheese and olives), Eggplant with walnut, Green Beans with walnut, Spinach with walnut, Cabbage rolls with walnut, a large variety of cheeses and delicious red caviar.

We were served Georgian wine and soon after whilst we were feasting on the several salads, the host of the evening got up to give a toast. He thanked us for being there  that evening and hoped that we would enjoy their hospitality and we all raised our glasses ! My husband the leader of our group also offered an appropriate toast on our behalf. Having arrived that day, hungry  and new to the Georgian banquet traditions we immediately wolfed down our salad with the local bread . We tasted everything, thinking that this was a remarkable meal where everything was laid upfront.  This was our first day in the country and we soon realised that what we were witnessing was no normal meal. We had not known that we were to witness the Georgian ceremonial dinner known as the ‘supra’ – a highly ritualized event  where rounds of standardized and improvised toasts alternated with the serving of warm dishes well into the early morning !

The first warm course was the traditional Khachapuri, which was like a pizza made out of dough, cheese and butter. This was accompanied by Red Beans in pots, similar to an Indian curry Rajma made out of kidney beans. Dolma (stuffed grape leaves),  Chakhokhbili (chicken in tomato sauce) , Chanakhi (lamb with vegetables, eggplant, potato, tomato) and roast chicken. Our Indian palates relished the  delicate sauces and sharp spices of the Georgian cuisine. We were also entertained by our local friends who willingly furnished us with snippets of information such as – “ The  Soviet dictator Joseph  Stalin was born in Georgia but he gave no support to Georgias attempts to win  national independence from the USSR ” or “ George Bush visited Georgia and had a sulphur bath and the nearby restaurant he visited is now named after him !”

This was followed by another toast. By this time our host and  toast master Mr Baker,  knew all our names and had something nice to say about each of us . The lovely wine and grape brandy that we were toasting with and all delicious food in our stomachs put us in great spirits ! We all swore total allegiance to Georgia and promised to foster close ties with the country. Luckily we had amongst us a fellow guest who was familiar with the customs and rituals of the ‘supra’ feast. He told us tactfully that it was not necessary that we eat all the food presented in front of us. To the contrary it was considered a mark of dishonour if the table appeared empty after a guest had eaten , as that signified there was not enough food on the table! That was an important snippet of information – what a relief  !

Another dance, more toasting this time on the popularity of Indian (Hindi) cinema and a special mention that all the pretty young Indian girls  present in our group looked like Hindi cinestars  and those not so young ( such as me ) vaguely resembled the Bollywood ( Bombay equivalent of Hollywood) heroines of yesteryear! It was interesting to observe that many of the senior  Georgians  loved Hindi cinema and the Indian culture. “We all love Raj Kapoor” they said. Raj Kapoor our beloved fair complexioned, blue eyed doyen  of hindi cinema, who had made several movies featuring Russian heroines in the 70’s .

More wine, more food , this time mushrooms with sour cream and mozzarella, Fried Trout, Fried potatoes with mushroom, Chicken shish-kebab and Lamb shish-kebab.

Finally our host rose up to give his final toast. He said ‘This time, this toast was going to be a toast with a difference” , he was going to “sing” the toast  to us. So the very charming and charismatic Mr Baker rose , walked up to the stage , took the mike and started singing Frank Sinatras

“Strangers in the night, exchanging glances, strangers in the night wondering what their chances ……doo be doo be doo….” . An old favourite with my husband, the song lured him on the stage as he joined our host Mr Baker. Their voices blended beautifully with each other. Everyone clapped and this was followed by much embracing and back slapping. To our relief no more food was served to us.

Finally our host sat down and informed us that as a special surprise for us the DJ for the evening  was going to play an Indian song that we would all enjoy. We waited  expectantly , confident that he would play a contemporary  movie song . We waited in pin drop silence waiting whilst the  DJ searched on  his laptop.  In the mean while another round of food – this time our dessert was served to us, ice cream and a special custard . Finally the DJ found the song he was searching for. The lights were dimmed, and we waited.

To our utter surprise we heard   the sounds of our Indian national anthem being played!  The DJ was not aware that the song he was playing  was the Indian  national anthem! “ Jana gana mana…..” He had only read the name of the artist “ A R Rehman” , the famous Indian music composer and artist who had recently shot to international fame when he  won an Oscar for the music he composed in the film ‘Slum Dog Millionaire’. Once  the  beautiful stylised version of the Indian national anthem started all the Indians in the restaurant  stood to attention. Gradually other diners followed suite and everyone stood up in respect. The DJ was totally bewildered , what he thought would be lively music to finish the party had actually turned out to be the Indian National anthem!  It was a joyous occasion and another reason for more vodka – the  final toast!  This time our generous host Mr Baker thanked us for our patience , acceptance of their hospitality, and understanding !

It was a special and wonderful evening in Tbilisi, a cherished memory we brought back to India with us !





Posted in Travel | night exchanging glances

Marine Drive

Marine Drive in South Mumbai on the Arabian Sea. Ever since I can remember, evening walks there have served me as relaxation, exercise and recreation, and sometimes I find it hard to imagine that Mumbai, India’s Manhattan, was once a beautiful tropical archipelago of seven islands. Until the sun sets on Marine Drive. Then you can watch the magnificent sky change color from an array of oranges and purples to the dull steel blue of night. ‘Queens necklace’ transforms itself instantly, as thousands of lights flood the night sky in Marine Drive’s circular bay.

No wonder we call it the Pride of Mumbai.

Rotate 180 degrees, and turn your back to the Arabian sea – the ferocity of the city overwhelms you. The traffic, the people and the noise. First time visitors to Mumbai often ask “How can you call your city beautiful?”. Diehard Mumbai lovers shrug their shoulders. “The sounds, the smells, the sea , the colours , the festivals and the friendliness of the Mumbai people – we love it all !.” Foreigners are not aware of a secret guarded ferociously by Indians . The secret being that Indians are still evolving in the Darwinian sense – survival of the fittest. They have developed a special survival tool – it is known as “selective sight”. We only see what we want to! But there is not much to selectively discard in Marine Drive as it is quite a beautiful oasis in the crowded city!

Marine Drive ends in a plush area known as Nariman Point an explosion of high rise buildings, five star hotels and offices – the heart of business in Mumbai. Reclaimed extensively from the sea, Nariman Point is named after Mr. Khurshid Nariman a Muncipal Corporator, who in the 40’s reclaimed the entire area and filled in the shallows by using debris from various parts of the city. Eventually he was sacked for using reinforced concrete cement and imported steel obtained from the “black” market at exorbitant prices due to outbreak of World War 2. Today real estate prices in this area are said to be the highest in the world and what Mr Nariman spent was a pittance compared to todays value. He will never know this…it is said he committed suicide !

Most people who live in South Mumbai drive through Marine Drive at least once a day but only a privileged few actually experience Marine Drive at 7.30 am in the morning. The cobble stoned promenade between the road and the Arabian see is transformed into a ‘Walking path’ and nearby residents pursue their morning recreations with regularity and seriousness. Numerous residents walk in their regular groups, others walk with their friends and spouses or their pets. Nodding, waving and acknowledging each other is common. Drenched by the morning sun, all have a fixed glaze and look forward to the prospect of going home to their morning tea. Armed with their ipods the young run or jog, children often cycle or skate and dogs sniff each other. Sweepers gather ‘yesterdays evening’ garbage into wheelbarrows, pigeons alight on the parapet at will cooing their good mornings.

Of the hundreds of people and various groups one passes on Marine Drive one notices a prominent group comprising of retired stock brokers. God fearing and religious they greet each other by saying ‘Jai Sri Krishna’ . Many of them are from Gujarat, a state in India that has produced India’s best traders and businessmen. All wear traditional long shirts and traditional muslin ‘Dhotis’ , ankle socks and the latest Nike shoes. They walk and then sit down on the cement ledge and share home cooked savouries in steel tiffin carriers. Appearances can be deceptive and you would not believe that the networth of each person runs into millions of rupees in stocks and shares. A simple discussion or a heated argument on Marine Drive on a gusty morning at 7.30 am can change the stock market index for the day!

Posted in Short Stories | Arabian sea | drive | Gujarat | India’s Manhattan | Marine Drive | Pride | savouries

Short story created from a random newsclip

Bold Headline ” Man steals to finance Carnal Desire”

First para in the newspaper ” Gochan Bahadur Tapa’s dream of making it big in Mumbai came crashing down when he was arrested for allegedly stealing Rs 19,000 ( about $500) from a restaurant in a Mumbai suburb ”

I thought that the day that I walked into ” Uncle Chinese Restaurant” was the best day of my life. I soon realized it was my worst! I had come from Nepal in search of work. I had been roaming the streets of Mumbai for the last two weeks and had barely eaten a proper meal since I left home.

” Go to Mumbai… you will make your fortunes there ” everyone told me . Without thinking I woke up one day packed a few clothes and left for Mumbai. I didnt realise that it would be such a heartless city ! Smelly and dirty..

One day I walked past the Uncle Chinese Restaurant and saw a fat middle aged man sitting at the cash counter .

” You looking for a job?” he growled at me ” Want to be a waiter ?”

I nodded , the sweet sour smell of soya and frying wantons invading my mind like a narcotic. Realising that I would get food as much as I wanted I hastily agreed. The proprietor was good to me and soon I knew all the items in the menu from top to bottom and then bottom to top within 45 seconds. No one asked for menu cards anymore , they just called for me to take their orders. I was known as the friendly waiter and everyone tipped me generously. I was happy.

The problem started one day when I was strolling in the streets one day . I suddenly heard someone call my name and when I turned I saw a Nepali girl wearing a short skirt high heels and a slinky top. Not wanting to show interest I ignored her

” Gochan come here…”

” Gochan its me , Meena don’t you recognize me ?”

I turned . It was Meena . We were related , but all the Nepalis in the village were related with each other anyway . Meena had been clever , she was the first amongst us to learn to read and write. We had grown up together and then she disappeared from the village. I went up to her and then we embraced. We laughed and she took me to a park where we sat and discussed our lives. When I asked her what she did she burst out into tears. Then only did I notice the glares of passersby. Their raw naked desire evident in their half opened mouths and their gestures answered my question. I noticed the red lipstick, the cheap perfume and her eye shadow . Meena had become a prostitute! I was furious .

” Gochu don’t be angry what could I do . I had no job and no where to stay .”

I looked at her and deep within her eyes I saw the same sweet innocent girl I grew up with . We spoke and she promised that she would stop doing her trade and look for something decent to do. Suddenly whilst we were talking she started vomiting. She rushed behind the tree and wretched . Meena was pregnant!

” I want to have an abortion Gochu help me please .”

I promised her I would meet her again and would help her. I had loyalty to the people of my village and more so to a friend I grew up with . We started meeting and people started talking that I was frequenting a brothel and had got ‘hooked by a hooker’. They made fun of me and joked about me ..what did they know ?

” Gochu loan me money , I have found a doctor who will help me” she pleaded.

I promised Meena I would meet her the next day in her house with money .That morning I went to work and swept and swabbed the restaurant floor . I looked at the cash box .. It was open. I saw the money . A pulse started beating in my head, my breath was quick and short . Without thinking I took the money and ran to Meena’s house. I didn’t tell her where I got it from. I think she knew. She put the money in her purse and went to get me some food to eat. She didn’t come back. I waited all day. I was a thief, but it was so easy.

Suddenly I could hear the steps outside the staircase. It sounded like a battalion. I hid under the bed, nervous. “God help me..God save me” I whispered hoarsely . The door came crashing open and the head constable started searching the room and turning everything upside down! They found me and took me to the police station. I was put behind bars. Meena was missing.

The next day I read my name in the papers it said ” Man steals to finance Carnal Desire”. What did they know !

The newspaper : DNA , Mumbai dated 20.5.2008


Posted in Short Stories | random newsclip | Short story

Shri Krishna and Shri Vishnu : a celestial yet contemporary dialogue

The following is a mythological story based on a conversation between two Indian Gods, greatly venerated by the Hindu’s, who met each other in their celestial abode. They were both taking a sabbatical from their normal duties. Whilst they were strolling around the cold and lofty heavens they both took occasional glances down below on what was happening to the world below. Earlier the Gods had a much smaller area to look into which was limited to the area of the Asian subcontinent. However of late the population of Indians had spread alarmingly, and Indians had migrated to all parts of the world, from the Antarctic to the Tundra and from the Sahara deserts to Siberia.

It was said that – in the planet below every fifth person in the world was an Indian. So this spurt in the population of the Hindus resulted in an extra workload, and a larger area which had to be managed carefully by the celestial masters. The Gods in turn had to hear the prayers and dispensate blessings and boons , over a larger surface , wherever the Hindus were – whether it was the United States of America, South America or even China.

The two Gods were Shiva, the ruling God of the Himalayas , known as the ascetic God of destruction and the other being Krishna , the God of Brindavan , the God associated with the love of nature and dancing with the cowgirls and playing pranks. The following is a dialogue recorded to prepare the other Gods on the current scenario on Planet earth :-
Shiva: Hello Krishna , I haven’t seen you for a long time how have you been

Krishna : I have been busy trying to clear the rivers of the horrible plastic bags. Indians have a particularly nasty habit of throwing everything outside their houses. They have so little civic sense. Its only when they live in foreign countries that they conform to some extent to the civic rules prevailing in those cities.

Shiva: Yes I have heard that this is a very acute problem. Thankfully the Ganges when she starts from my base in the Himalayas is crystal pure and clean. My big problem is that Global warming has caused the temperatures all over the world to rise and because of this, the glaciers around me have started melting. All the wonderful shrines in the Himalayas are now in grave jeopardy!

Shiva continues : Have you heard the latest Bhajans ( prayer songs) that are being sung to us today? They are based on disco themes and tunes. I don’t know where the piety and silence in religion has gone to. Right from the entrance to the temples when the devotees ring the bells , there is so much noise everywhere .

Krishna: Yes I know you are so right , devotees now have stopped reciting mantras and saying their prayers, they just play the tape recorders and CD players now. Frankly I don’t mind to much as long as people remember me, I don’t really mind whether they pray to me with their own voices or they do it electronically. I keep hearing a phrase I have never heard before called a “MP3.

Shiva : You must have gone deaf by now Krishna from hearing the velocity that the Indians play their devotional music. Sometimes I cannot make out the difference between the devotional songs and the disco music. It sounds all the same to me !

Posted in Short Stories | Antarctic | Bhajans | devotional | Gods | Hindu Deity | Krishna | nature | Planet earth | population

Becoming Me

They gave me a hard slap on my bottom, and I cried! I am told that I cried louder than any other baby that was born in the ward. My cries were not of pain or discomfort they were out of indignation. They must have surely known that I was one of the ‘omega babies’! How rude the doctors were. I had hardly taken my first breath and gasped in the bright sunlight when I was unceremoniously slapped. How dare they! But my anger soon subsided when my eyes were dazzled by the brilliant sunlight!

How glorious it was to see light, bright beautiful light of many colors. I could see all the dust particles transformed and illuminated into dancing gold dust in the beam of light that flowed through the window. I could see the nurses as they moved up and down to look after the other babies. Dressed in their strange uniforms they were told to take special care of us ! We were not like other babies, we were known as the ‘omega twins’ . My sister and I. We were a genetic experiment – it was to be top secret. I know because I heard all the instructions and other chatter whilst I was in my Mothers womb. She was no normal Mother either. I adored her and all I really wanted was to be held by her and smiled at . Being a respected professor of biochemistry who was working on techniques to chemically stimulate prenatal babies, she had decided to experiment on her own babies that she was carrying in her womb. My twin sister and I were the Omega plus babies which means that we were intellectually superior !

We had been fed on special medicine so that our brain cells would develop more than normal babies. It is said that for all babies learning is survival ! So babies can learn anything you teach them – we were the guinea pigs ! My Mother was considered a visionary at heart and a biochemist by profession and had tried this experiment only with the help of her team of scientists from the University. These substances that were fed to me, made me aware of a lot of things whilst I was still in her womb. I could hear and understand her talk to her colleagues on how she was going to experiment with her own babies and that she would stimulate us to attain our full intellectual capacity before we learned to walk.

I don’t think my sister was as bright as I was. I have a suspicion that I was the main recipient of the medication and hormones and other unknown substances that were administered to us jointly. I don’t know if this was deliberate or accidental. She was a lazy baby and was always sleeping. May be I got an overdose of medicine and she got nothing. But I heard children speak once and the general consensus was that girl babies were quite stupid anyway.

My Mother would play special subliminal music all day long as this was part of the treatment and everything we were to learn was put on the music. My omega twin slept through everything. I wonder why everyone especially my super mom loved her so much and laughed when she would give one of her dimpled smiles!

Things were organized well for us. Should I call it a time of peace? Our food was regulated , our baths and lessons and especially the times we had to listen those horrible tapes. As we grew into toddlers my sister would play with toys – those inane ones with the faces of animals cartoons painted on them. You could press a button and the music would start. I was given numbers to remember and told difficult data and I would respond correctly. Initially I got all the attention . Then things started changing …..

I started wondering why everyone loved my omega sister more than me. Then one day I had a look at my face in the mirror. I compared myself with my sister, I recognized the same bright brown eyes and curly hair that she had. But I realized that I didn’t have the same smile as she had. Nor her innocent dumb expression that appealed to everyone . In place of that I had a pained expression of someone who knows things way beyond his age. Even my parents loved her and cuddled her more than they did to me. Was the price or burden of early knowledge that no one would love me?

That’s when the realization dawned on me and I realized that I had to become a baby once again. I refused to look at the flash cards with complicated equations and large words that were presented to me. I would close my eyes and then I learnt an invaluable tool that I had seen my sister use since she was born . It was called the ‘magic’ of crying. It was only with the combined techniques of sulking and crying alternatively that I learned to become a baby once again. I loved gurgling and trying to put my toes into my mouth and play with my inane toys with silly animal faces and push buttons that started colourful lights . It was only by doing these silly things that I became a baby once again ! I became the silly baby loved by everyone……


Posted in Short Stories | Becoming Me

The captive deity

“She is coming , she is coming….. she will kill me”.

“I can see the goddess Kali , with her black hair streaming from her face” .

“Look, look she is riding her tiger , her lips red with the blood of the demons. I can see her lance wanting to pierce into my heart… help me help me”

The old man ran hysterically behind each pillar on the outskirts of the ancient temple muttering to himself. The cold black stone under his feet,the fragrant yet familiar smell of burning joss sticks and the warmth of the glow of candle lit lamps calmed him a little , These were the sensations and smells he was accustomed to. He had lived in the vicinity of the temple all his life . Yet now each moment was sheer torture . He had no where to go . A thief trapped in the prison of his own guilt.

Once he had been the head priest, a post he cherished with great pride . His father had been the head priest before him. His grandmother would tell everyone that her favourite grandson was special, that he would lead a charmed life, he was blessed as he grew up in the ‘lap of the Goddess’ .

Prison for seven years had been a nightmare for him, but release was worse. He had been released a few months ago and he had to now face the entire village for having done a deed which no mortal soul could forgive, leave alone his beloved deity the goddess Kali – no penance was hard enough. ” I will have to be reborn a thousand times , before this sin is wiped out,” he would cry to his wife each night beating his chest .

No one else would speak to him. The villagers would shake their fists at him and glare at him . They had once respected and had held him in high regard. They entrusted him with all their ceremonies . He would perform the birth ceremonies when their children were born and he would perform the last rites before the bodies of their dear departed were carried on the funeral pyre. He had performed their matrimonial ceremonies and prayed for success in their businesses and lives.

At one time people would turn a deaf ear when they heard whispers that he was not always straight in all his dealings. Especially with respect to purchase of essentials for the temple services. This had been tolerated by the villagers who felt that though he may be a petty thief, he would do nothing to harm the temple, or the village. He had been a pleasant man, caring and kind. However over the last few months every thing changed ! He turned capricious and became ambitious for his growing sons. His sole desire in life was to send his children to University in the big city. ” My Amar will be a chartered accountant ” he would say and

“My second son Avinash will become a lawyer.”

The boys were bright and they had trained to chant the Sanskrit prayers by rote and had learnt how to perform all the ceremonies .The earnings of the Head priest from all these ceremonies was not enough and it had been apparent to him that prayer alone would not be enough to fulfill his dreams. He had to somehow augment his income.

One day he came across two business men ,examining the deity closely. Usually, the deity was covered by ceremonial clothes when the temple was open to the public. These two strangers seemed to have spent the whole day inside the sanctum sanctorum of the temple. They had bribed the junior priests. Thereafter instructions for ’special handling’ had been transmitted down the hierarchy. After the ceremony the clothes adorning the beautiful statue of the goddess were being changed and the two men had photographed the priceless necklace embedded with precious jewels worn around her neck.

It was late in the night that the two men approached the head priest at his home. They took him aside and spoke to him in a low hushed tone. They promised him huge amounts of money and steadily and slowly into the wee hours of the morning wore down his resistance and guilt. They promised him sums of money he had hitherto never had access to. Finally they were successful. That very night they actually walked away with the priceless necklace. The head priest locked away the large leather bag bulging with wads of soiled currency notes in his cupboard.

Now it was time for repentance for just these few moments of weakness.

“Kali mata is my Mother. A son has robbed his Mother …..” he would cry banging his head on the stone pillars at the periphery of the temple.

On his release he had to face a far bigger trial, a trial where there was no mercy – the trial and the judgement of his own family, the boys who had once looked upto him now would not look into his eyes…… what example or tradition had he left behind them … the legacy of the ’stolen necklace’ ? He had cried and begged for mercy from the other junior priests. He had no where else to go, they had allowed him to come back to the temple though he was forbidden from going inside near the deity. After the heinous crime had been performed, a large lock had been put near the entrance of the sanctum sanctorum, or the garbhagriha the womb of the temple as it was known . The statue of the goddess was no longer accessible to all; a grilled iron door separated her from the rest of the temple which was opened only under police protection.

The dishonored priest had returned the money to the temple and another beautiful necklace had replaced the stolen one. During the evening ceremonies, the jewels reflected the lights from a thousand lamps and shimmered bright colors – a psychedelic feast. Villagers who went to offer their prayers would look at their beautiful Goddess in captivity and shake their heads in despair. They would ask each other….. “what sin had their goddess committed that ‘She’ their beloved deity was to be eternally behind bars on account of the greedy priest?”


Posted in Short Stories | The captive deity

The enemy of an enemy is a friend

“This is Subhash Chandra Bose, who is still alive speaking to you over the Azad Hind Radio…” the date was March 1942 ,the middle of World War 2. Bose was in Berlin where he launched his ‘Azad Hind’( free India ) Radio broadcast over Radio Berlin. It was a particularly strange phrase to have used in a public radio address.

” who is still alive….”

One seldom addresses a congregation by saying

“This is so and so…. Who is still alive” .

What a strange affirmation to make….. you could hardly say

“This is so and so who is still not alive !!” .

But Bose had a point to make and the remark was aimed at various British propaganda agencies who had issued reports about his death . Bose reacted to these rumors in a vindictive way especially as it proved to him that he had actually outwitted the British again.

Subhash Chandra Bose believed in a very simple premise that “an enemy’s enemy is a friend”. So inorder to remove the stranglehold that the British had over India he tried to convince the Fuhrer Adolf Hitler to help him to fight against them. Coming to Berlin had not been easy . He had to escape house arrest in Calcutta by the British – escaping unnoticed stealthily. It had been a formidable journey and that too in incognito. He had traveled on foot , by truck or by bus via Kabul (Afghanistan) and finally reached Berlin. His spirit exhausted but not defeated .

With the help of a few Indian supporters Subhash Chandra Bose was able to establish base in Berlin. His attempts to convince Hitlers officers to give him support against their common enemy were successful ! People were amazed with his ability to negotiate with the Third Reich. The manner in which he dealt with the Germans was amazing and he was able to achieve diplomatic status for his free India movement – ‘ The Azad Hind’ movement .

“Ever since I left India last year, British propaganda agencies have from time to time given contradictory reports about my whereabouts… The latest report about my death is perhaps an instance of wishful thinking. I can imagine that the British Government would, at this critical hour in India’s history, like to see me dead since they are now trying their level best to win India over to their side for the purpose of their imperialistic war”. Subhash continued in his articulate manner. He spoke fine English like an educated well bred and well educated Bengali gentleman with a slight Bengali accent in which the v’s became b’s .

Finally his broadcast from the German radio sent shocked the British. It also had its desired effect on hundreds of Indians who were further highly motivated and encouraged that Subhash Chandra Bose was working on a master plan to free their motherland. Indians logged onto the radio program from all over the world. To be addressed by your own countryman from Germany was indeed heartening !

Bose knew that every broadcast he made would be transmitted to the British powers . The British were his enemy. Every statement he made was targeted against them. Bose was not always supportive of Gandhiji’s passive resistance movement . But when Gandhi gave a call for Britishers to “Quit India” in August 1942 and coined the logo “Do or Die” for Indians he had a lot of support. Subhash Bose gave his full support to this call through his Radio Broadcast from Germany.

Once Bose was asked whether he was not scared of being caught by the Gestapo and being but into prison? Bose retorted that ” Had I been scared of going to prison, I would have stayed back in India . The British officers are brutal and cruel to Indian freedom fighters torturing them and giving them inhuman punishments. ”

People in India today have forgotten that the ‘ Azad Hind’ also known as Indian Infantry Regiment 950 with 3500 men in 4 battalions took an oath of loyalty to Hitler, Bose and “free India” in September 1942. The Legion was paraded on 6th November 1943 at a ceremony at the Hotel Kaiserhof in Berlin announcing the creation the Indian National Government.

Eventually Bose had to leave Berlin to seek the support of the Japanese.


Posted in Short Stories | an enemy is a friend | enemy

The value of a life

“The dilemma occurs when the doctor gets a call in the middle of the night – there has been a road traffic accident and the family of the deceased vehicle driver is willing to donate the liver to a needy patient in the hospital. The reports of the donor , match with the medical criteria required for a liver transplant with both his patients. Who is to be the recipient for the precious organ?”

‘Generosity when channeled positively often results in heroic deeds and highly acclaimed achievements’ Are words he sees glaring in front of him on a placard from the back of the cabbie. The old cabbie driver has different ‘pearls of wisdom’ for each day of the week. As he enters the hospital compound. He is in a quandary – who is to be recipient of the life saving organ? His first patient is a young woman who has recently had a child after many years. Her family can hardly afford to pay for the cost of the transplant operation. The other patient is a wealthy middle aged man whose business interests are expansive, whose family life is indifferent as he is separated from his wife. His children are well settled and are not interested in him.

The dilemma is in the Doctors mind. He remembers the Hippocratic oath that he will not work for money but for the welfare of the patient. Was it less than a month ago that the Business man had barged into the surgeon’s house. He had thrown a bundle of notes on the table. The doctor had explained to him that the woman’s heart was more precarious and in greater need of the transplant .The business man laughed saying that her family would never be able to pay for her. The young doctor disclosed that he had assisted the lady patient by applying for a grant for her medical expenses from a Charitable Trust.

The Doctors cell phone rings, it is the business man who tells him that he has come to know about the donor organ and requests him to meet him as he has something to say.

The doctor walks into his hospital suite and finds the businessman very quiet and resigned.

“ Do you know to which trust you have applied for aid for the young lady “ he asks the Doctor.

The doctor mumbles the name.

“This trust was started by my Mother and has been run by our family. I am the principle trustee. I came across your application this morning and I know the young lady. She is a distant cousin of mine. I have known her from a distance. Please give her the organ , she has her whole life in front of her and I will see to it that the Trust takes care of her entire hospital expenses. ”

The doctor was shocked he had nothing to say…… The words he had read in the cabbie a little while earlier were almost prophetic. He often came across these unexpected twists in the lives of the people he interacted with.


Posted in Short Stories | value of a life

Coming Home

The wind had picked up momentum, the trees swayed violently in the overcast skies. It was the start of the monsoon, all the elements of nature allowed themselves to submit to an entity larger than themselves. In this case to the onslaught of the first monsoon shower. Like a bottled genii let loose after centuries the monsoon wind rushed in every direction – trying to be everywhere at the same time. Rain fell and the sky was charged with the interplay of thunder and lightening that marked this June afternoon.

It was as if the whole world bowed done to the fury of the elements. Along with rain there were inch long hail stones that fell from the sky. Hail , thunder reverberating and occasional flashes of lightening reached a crescendo just as the heat had got to its highest peak.

Unbearable heat and then relief – a hail storm –it was the beasts of burden – those that were closest to nature that were not sure what was happening to ‘their’ world. They scattered helter skelter in panic, as golf ball sized hail stones started hitting the ground around them. The bulls pulling heavy loads in the bullock carts started running off the roads confused, seeking shelter from the onslaught of the skies. Hail followed by a heavy downpour giving life to a thousand rivulets simultaneously , brown and grey serpents appearing from no where – having a life of their own. It was over as suddenly as it began.

Then there was silence. The wind stopped and suddenly the sky cleared – brighter then ever before. The ground radiated and glistened in its clean avatar. Not only had it been washed and drained but the down pour had given the red laterite soil a sense of freshness and renewal. The smell of rain on the parched hot earth pervaded the whole area.

The villagers were happy. The monsoon had come in time. The prayers had been answered, this hot parched land had been blessed once more, the miracle of millions of tons of water coming from the faraway Indian Ocean had repeated once more. Now life was assured for one more cycle….There had been many pujas performed and prayers made to the Lord Ganesha. The benevolent God would ensure a good monsoon and bestowed a bountiful crop on all those who prayed in the temple and gave large offerings to the village priests. They prayed to Ganesha, the god of fortune and good tidings to bless their homes, livelihood and their existence.

Tendulkar had spent many years in Europe. World War 2 was eminent and he no longer wanted to stay in Germany. He had lived in Germany almost 17 years . But never for a single moment did he forget his country or his people. He was able to adapt easily to the European life style. The year was 1938, very few Indians traveled or lived abroad . It was his intention to study in Germany for a few years and return to India one day and to set up an industry. He had come back home to India with the dream of starting a business venture. Either the start of a factory be it cement or aluminum. The creation of something which was going to have an impact on hundreds of lives here after . The creation of something from just an idea to reality.

Tendulkar visited his village after many years. He had been away too long! The villagers were not sure whether he had been in the nearby town, although they were told that he had visited countries across the seas. Both equally inaccessible to the villager. The villagers first looked at him with suspicion and thawed considerably after his warm interaction and affectionate demeanor.

He told them “I have traveled across the seven seas but my heart has longed to be back where I belong. I have never stopped being one of you ! “ . They were fascinated with the black automobile he had brought back. He allowed the villagers to touch it and feel it. No one had seen an automobile before and when it entered the village the young children ran after it enveloped in a trail of red dust. Some were lucky …….they even get to ride in it.

Tendulkar introduced the farmers in the village to scientific farming encouraging them to use the latest cropping patterns. An agricultural scientist had been summoned to advise and guide the villagers on how they could improve their crops by using fertilizer along with the manure. The villagers trusted Tendulkar and therefore listened with childlike simplicity to what the agricultural scientist had to say.

“Tendulkar is one of us isn’t he?” …..

“………also born in the village?”

“Did n’t his Father and Mother live here? “

“He even went to school for a few years here in the village before he left and went away.”

“Now he has come back and he wants to help us.”

The leaders of the village would assemble at his house and listen to him. They trusted him and he had showed them how to coax mother earth to share her bounty with them. Now there was success and the farmers had a bumper crop of groundnuts and sugarcane – more bountiful then anything they had ever seen. They come to his house with baskets of fresh ground nuts and pails of fresh sugarcane juice and fresh vegetables, to thank him for his support!


Posted in Short Stories | Coming Home

Earth meets Fire : The Dance of Shiva

The earth shakes, the ground trembles
Lightning streaks across the sky
Shiva with his flaming locks
a drum in one hand and the vigilant cobra round his neck
one thigh high balancing on the other
is about to open his ‘third eye’

Destruction, the end of creation
The great lord of the Himalayas dances
The mountains tremor, rivers and streams go underground
animals and beasts and birds gather
Siva the ascetic clad in tiger skin
covered with fresh ash from the crematorium.

He controls the fragile balance of
creation, life, destruction.
With no death there is no birth….. no rebirth
The endless karma of life
He meditates with all three eyes shut
in the Himalayas and once awakened
The third eye can never close again
It can only destroy itself !


Posted in Poems | Earth meets Fire | The Dance of Shiva


They call me a gizmo mum .
I collect and use more cameras,
cell phones and laptops then most people!
And yet my teenage daughter laughs
When I tell her ………….

That though she is
the ‘i-pod’ of my eye and
the ‘i-trip’ of my life
the ‘i-mate’ of my heart
……………….She is still the ‘i-ching’ of my soul!


Posted in Poems | GIZMO MOM

Old Age

Those little drops of water collecting
By the side must be tears
from some yesteryears.
Tears accumulated but withheld for another day.

And now that day has come
And the tears emerge slowly.

I can see you shake your head
The glory of old age is not what is understood
The glory is not the crown but a silence
Of what is not said

And now the years have passed
And there is the finality of ‘no tomorrow’

Old age is not the wonderful state
that younger people idolize
and use the words ‘noble’ and ‘dignified’!
It is fragility and pain that is unspoken

What dignity is there in helplessness
What words can be used for pain
How do you share the sorrow of not being
Master of your own fate ?


Posted in Poems | Old Age

Todays Dracula

Todays Dracula does n’t suck
Blood – haemoglobin or
corpuscles he sucks
from his victims
Straight from the jugular
the vein closest to the heart.

is in great demand
Its what makes the world go around
And separates the haves
From the have nots
and brings terror to
our doors.

No garlic to this rescue
Nor the crucifix and once
The current day Dracula
is satiated and his quota
……..and the victim sucked dry
And cast away dying deprived and derelict

Dracula goes forth- debonair
welł groomed armed
with his grin charged with
the blood of the under dog. Never to be satisfied
he still seeks fresh territory
Compulsive obsessive traits
Live for ever……


Posted in Poems | Todays Dracula

The Price of Captivity

Sharekhan had been caught a few days ago. He loved being called ‘the king of the jungle’. There were not many large animals left in the forest although he had heard that when one of his ancestors had roared the emerald forests would tremble and shake, shedding their leaves and that the smaller animals would run for cover. Times had changes and it was difficult to find a full meal these days, he had to migrate closer and closer to the villages where the human beings lived. Then one day as he was close to the edge he was trapped and caught and taken by cage on top of a vehicle. The journey was long as he saw the sunset and the moon and sunrise and again the moon stationery in its oblique splendor.

He had been taken to the ‘Mumbai’ zoo, the second largest in the country and was given the largest cage that wild cats had. ‘Wild cats’ what a name he said wryly. He had seen many stray cats roaming freely around the zoo trying to get morsels of food from the cages of the ‘big cats’ but they had another name ‘stray cats’. It irked him that ‘stray cats’ were free and he was not “Ah yes…… but they were hungry and he was not!” he told himself.

Then one day whilst he was waiting for his noon meal, the usual chunk of raw buffalo flesh, he saw that the zoo keeper had left his door unlocked .

“AH-ha” he thought “ now finally – release …..I can go free , but let me wait for my noon meal , I don’t want to leave this zoo cage with an empty stomach and am not sure how I will return home to the forest.”

Once he had been served his lunch the royal king of the jungle decided to nap as was his habit. It soon became evening and he saw the guard come and wink at him, as the guard passed by he noticed that the lock to sharekhans cage was open. He observed the glint in the lion’s eye.

“Oh ole chap and where will you go? once you leave the zoo you will only enter a concrete jungle. No getaway there .There is only one way out for people like you and that is straight up !………….” he said adjusting his little khaki cap on his bald pate , grinning, showing a small cluster of his red betel nut stained teeth and pointing a brown gnarled finger heavenward . Sharekhan roared at him and was livid at what the stupid guard had said to him. “ I shall be free tomorrow , I will be far away from that silly guard” Sharekhan thought as he nestled in the straw and fell into deep sleep.

Sharekhan tossed and turned that night he dreamt that he was running through the streets of the crowded city, he could hear the human beings chase him in those filthy smelly ‘four- tires’ that left a trail of black smoke and shoot their pistols at him. Then he suddenly heard a huge bang and he awoke startled. Someone had banged his door shut .

The guard passed him by and said “See Sharekhan you are better off where you are, once you give up your soul there is no spirit left in your body “

Sharekhan refused to open his eyes, he refused to eat for the next three days, it had slowly dawned on him that when he had the opportunity to escape he let go the chance because he really didn’t want to. The zoo managers were concerned for his life, they tried to douse him with vitamins and tonics they purged him and put the choicest meats in front of him. If Sharekhan died of starvation it would hit the headlines in the newspapers and they would be out of a job! . Sharekhan on the other hand had lost his will to live, his spirit was broken. It took him a while to reconcile that his life was in his own hands – he alone had been given the option to escape but he didn’t have the courage to face the consequences! When Sharekhan finally died several years later the news said ‘The longest living lion died in captivity ……in Mumbai zoo’.


Posted in Short Stories | Price of Captivity | The Price of Captivity

Ascent and Descent

The house was silent late in the night and she lay on her back, frail and tired in her room which had been made into a small hospital room for her. She looked up to see the fan rotating constantly the purr of the blades moving the air. Who said “air made no noise “? “ Cant you hear the dull grey sound the fan makes – like the insipid taste of yoghurt ?” she asked herself . She lay on her back, it was the end of the ‘diwali’ season, the day that is supposed to be a day of celebration in India , the day when the whole country was lit up with decorative lights . She had celebrated Diwali for 94 years she thought to herself “and this would be the 95th “

The only other sound she could hear was the sound of the lift go up and down, up and down…… all five floors. “They called a ‘lift’ an elevator in America”, she thought to herself “ that’s where I had studied in the 40’s in Michigan Ann Arbor” . Her memories were rambling – the years in between had no chronology, no value ! Every time the lift came up she could feel her weakened intestines constrict supporting the ascent of the lift and the weight of the passengers and every time the lift went down she felt her guts relax. This constant contraction and release reminded her of so many things in her life which she had faced .
She imagined the wizened lift man Aziz going up and down in the lift. She had seen him for the first time almost 40 years ago, when he was a young man fresh from his distant village. Through the years she saw a young man metamorphise kafka-esque into an old man with a stoop and a toothless grin! . Did he also have to bear the load of each passenger that he transported up ? She smiled knowingly that he would shortly tell everyone, that, he was finally going to retire and go back to his village and therefore collect money from all the residents as a baksheesh for good service and as his “goodwill pension”. Over the last ten years he had done this thrice before and everyone humored him because he knew the comings and goings and the deep secrets into each of the tenants families. She knew he would return again ! She always associated him with the colour of brown , his dark tanned skin , his brown teeth , his brown uniform.

Lying down in bed bored, restless with the tubes of the life support machine entering her emaciated body she was strangely at peace. The crescendo of the lift as it went up and the waning sound at its descent and the constant purring of the fan gave her the answer. Life would still go on …”up and down, ….up and down” . She knew that she had only a few more days to live …. It was a relief, soon the silence that would surround her would have no purring and no up and down ……only silence !


Posted in Uncategorized | Ascent | Ascent and Descent | Descent

Brave Amrita Chipko movement and environment protection.

I am a jamun fruit tree and I live in a forest where the local tribals love nature! They used to call us trees their friends and they used to sing and dance around us. They were known as the Bishnoi tribe and this tribe were scattered over several parts of north India. But their livelihood came from our produce, they would sell or eat the fruit, they would use our branches for shade and if they had to build a hut they would cut only the branches that they needed and use our dry bark for firewood. But I have heard that there are others who don’t care about their trees and they are willing to cut them down. These people don’t realize that it is our roots that keep the nutrients in the ground and it is because of our roots that land erosion during the floods do not happen.

I remember the story of brave Amrita. She was a young Bishnoi girl and she was walking in the forest with her friends when she saw some guards from a distant kingdom enter the forest. The guards told the young girls that they had come to the forest to cut down a few trunks of trees because the king wanted the wood to build a summer palace . The girls panicked and immediately went and circled the trunks of the trees with their arms. The guards got angry and told the girls to stop hugging the trees and go back home.

Amrita said “ No , we are Bishnois and we love our trees and nature and we cannot let you cut down the tree. You will have to cut us down first.” Another young girl said “ We are Bishnois and we believe in doing “Chipko” to the tree. Chipko in our language means to hug the tree.

The guards furiously retorted “Please don’t do this, please don’t obstruct us from cutting down the tree – because the king has given his orders and we will be compelled to hurt you against our wishes !”

The next night the king heard the unfortunate story of these brave girls and passed through the forest. He had been shocked to hear about the merciless behavior of his guards. Expecting the little hamlet to be in gloom he was surprised to see the village celebrating.

“ We believe in preserving our forests Your Majesty , for us our forests are our life and our means to a livelihood. Our daughters have gone to a noble death but if they had not done what they had done yesterday they would not have been able to stop your men from cutting our most prized possession – our trees. The death of the trees is the death of mankind ! ”

“It is when I hear this story again and again” said the jamun tree “that I feel that my life has well been worth it !”


Posted in Uncategorized | Brave Amrita | Chipko movement | environment protection