Cricket, Food

This and that

I’ve just come back from a vacation plagued by flight mishaps which has had me spend loads of time in airports. Its dawned on me just how important a welcoming airport is. I’ve been thinking of things every big city airport should have (other than the important things like clean loos) – a ‘real’ sleeping area with curtain separations and keep silent signs, accessible wireless internet, an entertainment area with books to borrow, video games, movies to rent and perhaps a gym/swimming pool. I dont mind all of these facilities being charge-able, I’d pay a lot for a comfortable bed for instance. This might seem over the top but I spent eleven hours waiting for flights so all this could have been very useful. However, not sure if these investments would actually be profitable.

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I also (with my abundant powers) ban the production of dip-tea – the kind with teabags. Why oh why would anyone drink this when tea-leaves-tea is so divine?
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A team of Karnataka cricketers – Kumble, Srinath, Prasad backed by Dravid are now running the Karnataka State Cricket Association. This can only be a good development I feel since these individuals are known for their integrity and ‘change maadi’ mindset as Cricinfo says. There is however a risk of extremely high expectations and it will also be interesting to see how they manage their many commitments. However, if they succeed then it could potentially pave the way for several ex-cricketers to actually give back by managing the game – be part of the change process instead of simply griping about it. This is great but also disastrous, cricket fans like us might have to tolerate Arun Lal and Sivaramakrishnan’s commentary for a while more.

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Cricket

Ridiculous!

If you thought ‘Dekh lega India’ and similar such ads are hilarious then check this one out. Sky sports’ Ashes advert – must admit that Stuart Broad in a gladiator costume is one of the most ridiculous things I have seen in a while.

Food

The Burger Craze

….continues with Bergs. This Aussie joint started up at one of my favourite pubs in Singapore – Prince of Wales. They have two veggies burgers one with tofu and the other with felafel. Good Falla was hence ordered (who chooses tofu over felafel?!) and it’s surprise elements of avocado and lemon yoghurt made for a very interesting experience. The atmosphere is pretty fantastic – you can mostly find a live band and add the hoegarden (half) pint and pretty waitresses to the equation and it is a pretty fabulous place to be.

Food

You are what you eat

After graduating from university a few years ago, its fair to say that just ‘good food’ doesnt cut it any more. It has to be : the dosas from that place or the godawesome samosas from the other or as a last resort you try fire-defying stunts at home to produce these little pieces of heaven. So here is a short review of the places we’ve been to which are a bit out of the way:

1) Himalaya Kitchen: Our trip to Dharamsala early this year has made us crave for tibetan/nepali food including rocking momos and soul reviving thukpas. While this place doesnt serve thukpas, it does have some pretty brilliant momos with a sauce to match. They have a nepali chef who works nights and while we were only there for lunch, the place didnt disappoint. The dal was simple and bland (I’m not a fan of overspiced dals) if a touch gingery and my vegetable jalfrezi connoisseur girlfriend says this dish was good too. All in all, good food and good value for money.

2) The Garden Slug: This rather ulu place seems to have the only veggie burger in singapore with a potato patty. I’ve had portobello, tofu and other kinds but as a kid in India pocket money to meant me meant only one thing – burgers. Rs100 = 7 burgers with 2 rupees saved for next time. Those were brilliant days when happiness came in the form of a wonderfully gooey potato patty burger with onions and the works. Sigh. Anyway, The Garden Slug’s burger was a bit jugheady especially since I replaced my portobello with some tall and mean onions. It was a little drier than I would have liked it and ofcourse Indian burgers have a lot more oomph but it is by far the best I’ve had in Singapore. Top it off with a Hobgoblin and you will be a satisfied Indian teen graduated to adult all over again.

3) Stevo’s Salads and Such: Again, this isnt a place you’d call mainstream and it seems to cater for the Singaporean teen/uni student who just have waaay too many yuppie eateries like this targeting them. We had a veggie burger with a sweet potato patty and I must admit that I felt like slapping the chef for his laziness on this one. It was 2 buns and a patty (and maybe a tomato slice?)! Where is the mayo, lettuce, onions, tomato and all the other wonderful goodness that go into a truly special burger? Tsk Tsk. Anyway, this burger did have some real potential so if I do feel like traipsing all the way back to this place then I might take the trouble to ask for all of these ingredients and end up having a kickass burger. Think this place doesnt serve beer, yet another reminder of its target audience being below the drinkable age. Its ozzie some more!

PS : This image is an authentic poster from one of my childhood haunts – burgerola!

Travel

Enchanting Dharamsala

In the Winter of 2010, we set out to show India off to a group of friends from Singapore, Malaysia, Germany, Sri Lanka. Out travels took us to the usual places like Agra and Jaipur but we also decide to visit Dharamsala inspired by the mystery of this Himalayan getaway. We are welcomed by cold and crisp air here, a pleasant departure from the foggy and dark plains of Delhi. The sprawling army cantonment with its serious faced jawans keeps us company from Pathankot from where we have driven up. We keep climbing up the winding roads until the edge of the army accommodation announces “Cloud’s End” for the highest village in the area, Naddi. Naddi is 4km away from the bustle of the town and from our charming round hotel rooms here we have a panoramic view of the Dhauladhars. And it is some view: jagged snow streaked peaks give way to rolling brown-green slopes dotted with the occasional house. Our hotel staff is friendly and eager to give us as much information as possible. This has been my experience with mountainfolk in India, their enthusiasm and inclusive nature makes you think that this is the way around here, a stark contrast for all of us who have lived in cities for a large part of our lives.

Sound carries far here and soon you can hear the laughter of school children from the Tibetan school below. Because while this could pass for any other Himalayan retreat, it is a rather different place. Dharamsala is the seat of the Tibetan government in exile and also home to the revered Buddhist spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. He was forced to take refuge here in 1959 escaping Chinese persecution and several Tibetans followed him to Dharamsala braving a treacherous journey across the Himalayas.

Walking through McLeodGanj, the main street you soon arrive at the unassuming Buddhist temple gates which belie its importance. The temple complex walls abound with pamphlets about saving Tibet and the Panchen Lama. These obvious displays highlight the importance of this little hamlet refuge in the Tibetan struggle that is a constant source of political tension in Sino-Indian relations. The entrance to the temple even talks about a deep Indian-Tibetan bond since Buddhism originated in India and several Hindu holy places like the Mansarovar lie in Tibet. Inside however is almost a different world, one on which the temple has cast a spell of spirituality and calm. Monks in saffron robes clutching prayer beads walk around unhurriedly while tourists look on slightly bewildered.

Dusk in Dharamsala is heavenly, an indigo sky brocaded by orange, gold and grey. McLeodGanj basks in this soft glow and its unique assortment of Tibetan and Indian shops are even more inviting. We had momos, thukpa and fried rice in a place called Tibetan Kitchen that left us craving for more. Yet, despite being a tourist destination its possible to be anonymous in McLeodGanj. Our blond, blue-eyed friend attracted curious stares and pushy vendors in Delhi and Agra but in Dharamsala she gazes at many a local behind the lens of her camera.

Dharamsala enchants and captivates you and while several have been here before we feel like first explorers since at every nook, a different charm awaits.

Books

Sister Celebrity

My sister has been quite the creative genius but this one is beyond cool. She has recently been published by Writers Workshop which I believe was Vikram Seth’s first big break among other such eminent Indian writers. Her book of poems is called “Inklings: A Collection in Free Verse” and it is available in limited edition. She has also been featured in the local newspaper, Deccan Chronicle here. She can be followed on her blog.