Going Nuts over Coconuts!

TLDR: A long overdue post, delayed by my insipid routine. 
We are not normal people.

We are crazy.

We love being loud.

We love the intense fervor in life. We love our country, our religions, our festivals and everything that is associated with being Indian.

We love cricket, not only the gentlemanly game, but also the one with masala and mayhem. 

We are divided by our thoughts and actions, but come an outside farce questioning our integrity, then cometh the force with which we retaliate.

We are Indians first, then classified as a Malayali, a Tamilian, a Punjabi etc. etc.

Our festivals are something that always remain close to our heart. Be it in any corner of the world, your heart travels miles to feel at home. Supermarkets stock up festival items to ensure that the craving of the body, heart and soul is appeased despite the fact that you bear the groveling heat and bone freezing cold to fend for yourself in a foreign land. 

As a Malayali in the Gulf, a so called cliché adrift in the lands down south, we seldom find it difficult to celebrate our festivals, be it Vishu, Onam, Eid or Christmas.

Thronging in big crowds in the supermarkets during the festival eve, walking the aisles specially earmarked for the festival items, people load their trolleys with the festivity items. 

A glimpse into the Vishu shopping fiasco at a predominant supermarket chain in the “Gelf”
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She was tall and curvy in all the right areas. There was not a man (and a few women) who did not gawk at her. Her trolley lay filled with the choosiest items befitting a chef in a Michelin 3 star restaurant. Truffles, provolone cheese, apple cider vinegar, bagels and whatnot. She was gliding over the supermarket floor, her trolley inching through the maddening crowd, her estrogen overdose driving them nuts.
The Vishu counter was crowded. She stopped right in front. Lindt chocolates were on sale on her right side aisle. No, she moved left. To the Vishu counter. 
She marked her arrival, her perfumed self had instantly made the crowd part to 2 sides, making way for her into the stacked shelves of banana and jackfruit chips, of semiyas and paladas, of payasam mixes, condensed milk and pappadams. 
Helping herself with all the goodies, the jackfruit chips lay cozy with the provolones and truffles of the world.
>> 
<< 
The “Gelf” offers the Mallus amongst all other Kerala goodies, our ever-beloved coconut, in its rich and varied heritage. Imported from India, Thailand and Sri Lanka, Indian coconuts remain our favorite. To add to our convenience, scraped coconut in small plastic containers are our to-go purchase of every single visit of every single person. 
The coconut stall in this particular supermarket is unlike others. Scrapped coconut is not to-go. You can choose your coconut from the nut sack, and they are scraped in front of you. So now you can figure out what goes on during a Vishu or an Onam eve. Hell breaks loose near the counter and the coconut guy develops his biceps and triceps in a day. 
People run helter-skelter and  with their overloaded trolleys, a child in one hand and a lot of coconuts on the other, it is fun and scary at the same time. 
>> 
How much ever we wish to change, we still have something in us that holds us to our roots. 

iOS to Android- The Saga of a Paradigm shift!!

People often consider the iPhone as a lifestyle upgrade, a statement of a person who has arrived.
The social status symbol it has often been perceived, does using an iPhone speak volumes of what you truly stand for?
An Apple fan myself, having owned 3 iPhones and 2 iPads in the last 5 years l, I did the unspeakable.
I went and bought myself an Android phone.
Not just any phone, the much acclaimed Samsung Galaxy S8.
Having used the ever-famed Samsung Galaxy S2 in the past, I knew the ins and outs of an Android but found myself a teeny-weeny wobbly while using the new phone.
From the cool exuberance of the iOS to the practical cloak of the Nougat, the change was a vast stride.
Everything from having to unlocking the phone to the updates, a paradigm shift that undertook in the spur of a moment love for the bezel-free screen of the S8.
I miss the Mail app and Safari browser from the iPhone, but I have gotten used to the ease of typing in numbers from the same screen on the Android keyboard ( I wasn’t a big fan of 3rd party keyboards on iOS)
I miss the fingerprint sensor on the front of the screen, now I don’t have any buttons at all in the front. Unlocking the screen has been a hassle, having to lift my phone everytime to do so but the sheer brilliance of the infinity display lighting up makes it worth the lift.
Homescreen access, mail, browser, chats, and whatnot, everything has changed.
My phone charges from 0-100 in less 100 minutes. They drain off in less than 10 hours. Where is my strategic advantage?
Pairing to the Bluetooth in my car is a pinch. Every time I get a call on any app apart from the regular line, I need to go over to the phone to answer/cancel the call, while my ex-allowed me to do it directly over from the steering.
The change over was difficult, I agree. But the quintessential question that remains: are we connecting with people the way we were meant to? Technology has made it easy but we have taken it for granted.
What did I start with, where I ended and the short path I traversed? I am lost for words, literally and figuratively.
Yours truly.

Food Trail-3- Beriani Flames

Soulful biriyani, vibrant packaging and sinful cravings- if a biriyani that gets delivered to your place can check all the boxes, yes; it is bound to be a delightful experience.

A delightful experience sans all its glitz, Food Trail trails Beriani Express and the faring of its beriani. 

The folks at office decided to try out Beriani Flames, a newly opened biriyani (read beriani) joint in Riggae, the latest business venture of the company’s star salesperson and an astute businessman, Mr. Manoj.  

The orders were placed and the delivery was on time, as promised. With a plethora of beriani options to choose from, the folks ordered chicken, mutton and vegetable beriani.
As a vegetarian, biriyani has always been a harrowing experience, good just enough to scrape through the plate, nothing to cherish. And then there was beriani that took me by surprise.

With the packaging befitting a cake, the beriani take-away packs arrived on the dot. The packaging had packed in all the goodness of the beriani along with an ambient temperature. Just as I opened the packaging, the strong aroma rose through the pack and wafted through the room.

The rice was cooked to the right consistency. The vegetables were properly sautéed and infused to the rice. The spice infused masala, drizzled with rose water and a few sprigs of saffron, struck the perfect chord between taste and smell.

The accompaniments: the raita was real bliss; pure curd blended with host of herbs and had bits of cucumbers floating on the top. The side gravy was the only let down with a thin film of butter on the top making it tad too heavy for the arteries. The pickle on the side, well, was a pickle.

The non-vegetarian berianis were also packed with goodness: ample pieces of protein, which were very well balanced with the spices.  

Biriyani, in Kuwait, for me, a vegetarian, has always been rated on the scale of 1 to disappointing. Beriani Flames is a realization that good biriyani is just stone throw away, well, a colleague away.  




The Way the World Works!

I am an Indian, a proud one. The beaming pride of being one shines on you the moment you step out of the country.

As I type this, I am traveling enroute Colombo from Kandy in Sri Lanka, sitting in the crisp chills from the air conditioner made in China, fitted in a Japanese car while the scorching sun sets the outers ablaze in its fury.

Truly, the world would cease to exist if country to country coordination and association takes a road bump or a bottleneck. If countries can, why people can’t?

As a tourist whose country’s border is just 32 kms from this country, I am often appalled by how we see each other. Being the face of a country, you expect people to reciprocate the compassion in brotherhood while the same ceases the moment I desist flipping out my wallet.

Being an Indian is hard outside India as much as it is in India. For people, any tourist is just a walking stack of notes, easy enough to manipulate.

The moment I turned down a tour guide, cold eyes and contempt follow me down the halls. The moment I don’t tip, smiles beguile.
The moment I step into a shop, price tags become least selling prices.
The moment I don’t buy, I get cursed in their language.

A taunt is a taunt in any language.
A deceitful look is the same in all places.

You, being the face of the country, show me an attitude belittling your already small island nation, guess what, I do care. I am not just a wary tourist pumping in my hard earned money to boost your economy, I could probably be a loggerhead for your country’s economic development. If I can stop one person from coming to your country, if I can stop one dollar from being spent, I am definitely one to watch out for.

Wait.

Doesn’t this malady happen in India by an Indian to an Indian in an all Indian context?

Well, yeah. It does.
And that is the sad state of affairs. Our affairs.

The Nuances of the Webbed Life

Life is becoming wicked
As our thoughts are becoming crooked
The rapids sweeping you through
Into the world of lies
The world we call the web
Beneath the veils of obscurity and insecurity
Lies the person, scared to bear
The scars of being unnoticed
Gone are the days where we made peace
With gizmos to make our life at ease
Thus begins the nuances of life, in and out
Just like the duck face pics with a pout
Gone are the days you walk in tall
To any place or a mall
Now should you forget to check-in
Oh the trip is so in vain
Gone is the peace and quiet of a meal
Must post the pic of your veal
Measuring your worth on the world
Is the hearts on the instant gram?
Gone are the days you see a good hearted glee
Now all you see are pics shot awry
With the intention to go atop the web
Humans are in, humanity ain’t
A beggar gets a coin and you get a like
With this shall you preach your philanthropy
The world sees you for what you did
He who sees all shall turn a blind eye
With this shall I conclude my thoughts
In girdle of the mind, molded and wrought
The social world is a requisite
May it be free from your soul
Let the web and thy life not intertwine
Alas, it all may be over without a whine

Call me Old School!!


This has been a thought for a while.

This has been a known fact for a longer while.

People like you have known this all this while.

What I meant throughout this while is not our increasing dependency on technology and social media, but our entrapment in the clutches of it.

All this brewed as a result of getting a wedding invite from a friend over Whatsapp.

Dude, it’s my wedding on at . Please do come

I am sure that a lot many of you would have received something of sorts. Where has the element of interpersonal relationship and personal touch gone?

Call me old school; I still prefer the touch and feel of wedding invites by post. At least the painstaking process of fitting in your address on glossy finished cover has an input from a friend, meaning he/she wants your presence while he/she gets hitched.

Creating an event on Facebook, checking the names of the people you want to invite and mass sending the invite- despite the intent being good, the personal touch involved is not present.

While even the online marketers are using our browser cookies to generate ads based on our preferences, the kith and kin do not take so much of it being a minuscule task of taking the pains to putting in a personal feel. A telephone call would suffice with the same message spelled out; you know that he/she wants you there.

Call me old school; I still prefer reading news from the good ol’ paper sipping a cuppa coffee.

Call me old school; I still prefer the ATL promos that are beamed over all the media space.

Call me old school; this is just my point of view.


(checks iPhone and Samsung Gear S2 for updates and continues reading on Kindle)

Food Trail- 2- Anjappar Restaurant, Farwaniya, Kuwait

Ever had a meal where water was the best of the delicacies?
That was what was unveiled at the Anjappar Restaurant in Kuwait.
A vegetarian is almost always a downtrodden sect in food cycle, be it in the class 5 science textbook or in any restaurant for that matter. Vegetarian food lacks variety and is often a lackluster course. While the only vegetarian restaurants do justice on the aspect, the others are a letdown.
 
The story of a letdown begins here:
Dining at a restaurant chain renowned for its Chettinad cuisine, present in almost 10 countries across 3 continents, the expectations were sky high.
 
A ride of almost 30 kms, 30 minutes into finding the restaurant and a parking, what we had was camaraderie of disappointment and frustration.
 
Our order: tomato soup, veg kothu porotta, appam, veg kofta and coffee.
 
Tomato soup was watered down and a dollop of cream was added on top of it to mask its awfulness. The veg kothu porotta, a traditional Tamil fusion dish was absolute mockery to its ancestry, being too salty and lacking the finesse. The appam had an undercooked center, while the crust was crispy and kind of tasty.
 
The dish that topped the comedy of errors was the veg Kofta. The gravy tasted as if it was made using the second grade Chinese Manchurian masala available in the markets. The veg dumplings in the dish were nothing to complain about, but even if it is a cherry on the top of a pile of garbage, it becomes inedible.
 
The last straw of the meal –coffee, well, nothing good or bad would come out of writing about it.
 
The service was top notch on a scale to 0 to negative infinity. The waiters were throwing plates to the table with a grudge on their faces.  
 
Rewind to a year and a half back: I dined solo at Anjappar in Chennai for lunch. Amazing food it was. The spicy kara kuzhambu complemented the sweltering heat and chilled water. Reasonably priced with pretty decent service, it was a good choice to dine there.  
 
The verdict- if you are vegetarian, avoid the place. If that isn’t a possibility, at least avoid eating, just watch them dine.
 
The bill: KWD 5.100 ($17) for 2

 

 
Happiness: *1/2

Food Trail-1- Udupi Restaurant, Sharq

 

Being a vegetarian in a predominantly non-vegetarian country is kind of an uphill task. The number of vegetarian restaurants are quite a few, hence eating out might turn out to be an experience appalling than appealing.
From a vegetarian whose occasional visits to the shawarma joints are masked by a pretentious veil of notoriety and obscurity, here begins a journey of eating and documenting vegetarian food across Kuwait.
Food, as we know, fuels the body. As for me, it fuels passion more than life.
For a vegetarian, Udupi cuisine is as indispensable as salt in a dish. The most prominent vegetarian food chain in Kuwait, Udupi restaurant serves as the best option for dosas and thalis while the unexplored other varieties seems forgotten in dingy corners of the menu card. What is a more apt way to start an attempt to be a food blogger than to try to review the best vegetarian cuisine of the subcontinent. 
Nestled in a cozy spot amidst the hustle bustle of the city, the Sharq branch of the chain was almost full as we came in for a quick dinner. While the menu listed North Indian cuisine, we decided against it and placed the safest bet- dosas.
Our order was curd vada, masala dosa and onion rava dosa and coffee to wash it down.
The extremely soggy vada dipped in sour curd was a pretty bad start to appease our ravenous hunger. The masala dosa were a fitting reply to the bad setback done by vadas. Eating through crisp outer layers to reach the “highlight”- aloo masala, we dug in with great expectations.
As the saying goes, with great expectation comes great disappointment, this was a classic example. Oddly shaped potatoes mashed with bland masala- something that did not do justice to the looks as well as the palate.
The onion rava dosa was crisp and had copious amounts on onion which were charred to perfection. While the batter had a hint of age, it was far from being a bad choice.
The sambar served was a distant cousin of a dish whose next door neighbor knew the real Udupi sambar. The chutneys were the best of the lot. Something that tasted like gongura made up one chutney and that was mmmmmm….. The other one was a coconut based chutney which had nothing to complain about.
The filter coffee served here was basically like a cheap Chinese rip off of the original- the infamously famous traditional filter coffee. Overly sweet but drinkable, period.
The verdict: Batter matters.
The cost: KWD 2.500 for 2 hungry and crazily food fanatic adults

Happiness: **1/2

Pinoy Gourmand!


The monotonous procedure of eating the same kind of food daily is often drudgery. At times, to rejuvenate the taste buds, a change becomes the need of the hour. Changes are inevitable, especially for the chawal eating mankind in the great subcontinent.
While the palette rejoices the fervent cravings with a dash of international cuisines like Italian, Arabic or Chinese, little explorations were done on the other gourmets of the world.
And little did I know that my need for change would land me up in a Filipino joint outside the hustle and bustle in the great Arabian country, Kuwait.
The eatery looked like it was lifted out of a pre-industrial revolution setup, with dim white light creating halos over the food behind the counter. While my knowledge of non-Indian cuisines is pretty amazing, the things behind the counter looked like I was gazing into a crystal ball of an alien fortune teller.  
While the lady behind the counter told the names of the dishes, all I could figure out was some myriad mis-orchestrated nasal music notes (like Himesh Reshammiya’s songs, but better)
The laid out spread had a few fish dishes, one chicken and a vegetarian item. I guess I could see a slight flapping of fins and shudder in the gills as the counter staff picked up a whole fish for the person in front of me. I am sure that I saw the fish’s eye roll in agony and plead for mercy as the person walked to his table, lips smacking. 
Being a righteous vegetarian who indulges in chicken once in a blue moon, I thought it was the best choice and second safest bet to choose the vegetarian dish.  The primordial safest bet was to walk out, as my imposing figure entering the place, had woken up the people enjoying their afternoon ambrosia. The time had passed for that.
I seated myself in the rickety chairs. The table had variety of sauces and pickled jalapenos for helping yourself. People around me were looking at me with awe, like I had wandered into a fine dining restaurant and seated in a table-for-1 on Valentine’s Day.   
The lady served my food- rice and some curry. The rice was sticky but was not that bad. The curry was some green vegetable cooked in a not so spicy broth, but was sharp in taste due to the citric acid. This was topped with fried tofu. Accompanied with the tangy jalapeno pickle, which had occasional chilly and onion to go, make it a revelation of citric acid and more citric acid.
The food was a no nonsense affair, simple and elegant, but apart from who likes experimenting new thing, I highly doubt whether the DalChawals and Thayirsadams of the country would live up to like the cuisine of this side of the world.
After getting back to office, I googled up the mental image of the dish and the closest resemblance for the same was something called ‘Ampalaya Guisado’ which was sautéed bitter gourd. And good heavens, it was nothing close to bitter.
While my monotony of chawal did not bring out any particular benefit, I could get to experience a whole new cuisine and get to know a civilization. (ahem, ahem, a simple yet powerful punch-lie to end an article)

Why did I start watching Game of Thrones?


Why did I start watching Game of Thrones?

Sheer boredom could sum it up as an answer. 

The next question could have been why did I start binge watching GoT? Could I have stopped watching it at any point in time?

I have stopped watching many a TV show because the whole idea of entertainment becomes botched up. I stopped watching Two and a Half Men shortly after Charlie Sheen was chucked off. With his exit, I guess a huge chunk of viewership also got chucked off. 

With regards to watching GoT, well, you could probably guess why.
The gripping story line and the effortless acting led by the ensemble cast made the series worth every moment of sleep lost. Every moment of the show, I could feel my heart beating against my Anand’s apple (damn you, Joey Tribbiani)

Since I didn’t bother to read the books, I guess each frame brought out a novel viewing experience for me. 

From the first minute in the first episode of the first season, I was blown away by the sheer amount of talent in the show, intertwined by the amount of macabre and nudity in the show. 

With almost each episode ending in a cliffhanger, I bet each one of the many million viewers would definitely be counting days till the 24th of April 2016. 

With the numerous talents behind the scenes, I would personally vouch for Lena Headley and Peter Dinklage as the better of the lot. 

Queen Cersei, a manifestation of cruelty and malignance within the whole plot leaves no stone unturned when it comes to the protection of her children and their father (ahem. ahem!) Every single frame of Cersei had a myriad set of emotions ranging from joy to authority, from hatred to pity, from lust to nonchalance, she was absolutely a delight to watch. 

Tyron Lannister, a dwarf always subjected to rebuke from his father and sister, was an amazingly effortless performance by Peter Dinklage. The facial facade of this marvelous casting is guaranteed to leave you in awe. 

In addition to them, the characters Jon Snow, King Joffrey, Arya Stark, Ned Stark, Catherine Tully and the ensemble makes it more likable and hateworthy, depending upon the inclination of the character. 

While the audience prayed for the death of some characters, their ends came in as a bit of a surprise with the ends being slightly off-putting. King Joffrey, for example, was a loathsome character, who had his end, in a not-so-the-way-we-thought-of manner. The murder of Robb Stark was at a juncture that was totally uncalled for. The sacrifice of Stannis Baratheon’s daughter cemented his position in the minds of the viewers as a uncouth insane human. 

The season 5 finale leaves the major stars in tantrums, Jon stabbed, Arya blinded, Theon and Sansa plummeting to the grounds and everyone else under a veil of verbose uncertainty. The season 6 teaser is shown with quite a lot of kick-on-the shins for the viewers. 

The fight for Iron Throne and mistimed murders of the characters makes Game of Thrones a TV show never to be missed. Not to mention the locale, casting and costumes (or the lack of it), the factors contribute to making its season 6 premiere highly desirable and most sought after. 

Valar Morghulis
Valar Dohaeris


Game of Thrones Season 6 Teaser