Barley Vegetable Khichdi

One of the things I decided on, when the year 2015 began, was to try out as many new (to me) foods and drinks as I could. Another decision was to learn how to cook with as many new (to me) ingredients as I could. Recently, when I spotted a packet of barley in a departmental store, the latter decision was what I had in mind. Curious and eager to try it out, I got it home.

I have never had barley before – except for lemon barley water, which tastes lovely – so I had no clue what to expect in terms of taste. I had no clue about how to cook it, either. The Internet came to the rescue. I found several recipes for barley-based dishes, many of them slow-cooked stews or soups that make for a one-pot meal. Most sounded promising, but I was in no mood to cook the barley for close to two hours, as they seemed to suggest. So, I decided to make a sort-of fast, one-pot barley khichdi, with little touches adapted from several Internet recipes. I decided to pressure cook the barley, to make the process faster, instead of letting it slow cook in a pan. Also, instead of the basil and oregano that many recipes suggested, I decided to use ajwain aka omam, fresh coriander and mint. The result was, I must say, quite good!

In taste, barley is quite similar to sago aka sabudana, albeit a tad more sticky on the tongue. Made into a khichdi, the bland barley becomes tasty.

Barley has a number of health benefits, and it is good to include them in your diet every once in a while. I know I am going to, henceforth.

Here is how I made the khichdi..

Ingredients (for 2 people):

About 100 grams of barley

3 green chillies, slit lengthwise

1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped

5-6 cloves of garlic, peeled

1 medium-sized onion, peeled and chopped finely

1 small-sized capsicum, chopped finely

A handful of shelled green peas

1 small-sized carrot, peeled and chopped finely

2 ripe tomatoes, finely chopped

Juice of ½ lemon

A small bunch of fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped

A few fresh mint leaves

A pinch of asafoetida

1 teaspoon oil

Salt, to taste

Red chilli powder, to taste

1 teaspoon turmeric powder

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

1 teaspoon ajwain (omam)

Method:

  1. Soak the barley for about half an hour in just enough water to cover it. Keep aside.
  2. Grind the garlic and ginger into a paste in a mixer. Add a little water if required.
  3. Heat the oil in a small pressure cooker. Add the mustard seeds, and allow them to splutter. Then, add the asafoetida and the ajwain. Ensure that the ajwain doesn’t get burnt, otherwise the dish might get bitter.
  4. Now, add the onions. Saute for a minute or two, till the onions begin to turn brownish.
  5. Add the ginger-garlic paste. Saute for a minute or two.
  6. Add the finely chopped carrot, capsicum and green peas. Saute for 2-3 minutes.
  7. Drain off all the excess water from the barley, and add it to the vegetables in the pressure cooker.
  8. Add salt, slit green chillies, red chilli powder, and turmeric powder. Mix well.
  9. Add just enough water to cover the barley and vegetables, along with the chopped tomatoes. Mix well. Let it cook on a high flame for about 2 minutes.
  10. Now, add the chopped coriander leaves and lemon juice. Shred the mint leaves with your hands and add them to the pressure cooker. Mix well.
  11. Close the pressure cooker and put on the whistle. On a high flame, let it cook for 4 whistles.
  12. Once the steam has released entirely, open the pressure cooker. Serve hot.

Do you use barley at home? How do you cook it? Tell me! I’d love to know!

Some Discoveries, Of The Sweet Type

Pinacolada in a pineapple, Estrela Do Mar Restaurant, Goa

I was thrilled to see pinacolada being served in the shell of a real pineapple at the Estrela Do Mar restaurant in Goa, on our recent trip. I HAD to order one for myself, even if just for the sake of the presentation!

I was not disappointed. Not at all. The drink tasted super-duper delicious!

Kalimark’s Bovonto and Panneer

I am no fan of packaged or aerated drinks. In fact, I don’t consume any in routine life. I do have temptations at times, though. The only things I make exceptions for in my ‘no packaged and aerated drinks’ rule is Kalimark’s Bovonto and Panneer, old-time favourites from Madras. We get these whenever we visit Madras or whenever someone visits us from Madras, but recently, I hear, they have started to appear in stores in Bangalore as well.

Strictly speaking, these are not things I have ‘discovered’ recently, but I think they make for a suitable entry in this post. These are beverages that I like, that do not have an artificial, choke-your-throat kind of taste, something that I would actually like to recommend you to taste. Bovonto is a grape-flavoured drink that reminds me of the huge quantities of grape juice that my maternal grandmother would make at home, in the summers, when we would visit her. Panneer is nothing but the PET Bottle version of that quintessential Madras drink, panneer soda, with a lovely, mild flavour. I think these are available in glass bottles too, that you are supposed to pop the cork open and drink out of, but I suspect they would have a slightly stronger taste than the same beverages available in PET Bottles. I would suggest you go for PET Bottles.

For those of you who want to read more about these beverages, here is an interesting article on how home-grown brands like this have survived the Cola wars.

Paan-flavoured candies from Green’s

Remember the classic Paan Pasand advertisement from the 80s? If you are an 1980s product, like me, I am sure you do! :) Well, I was not a big fan of the taste of Paan Pasand then – they tasted too strong for me.

Recently, though, when I spotted a packet of paan-flavoured candies from Green’s in a little Bangalore grocery shop, I was tempted to pick it up. I am happy I did, for the candies taste lovely! They definitely taste of paan, but the flavour is controlled and not overpowering. I love popping a candy – or two – in my mouth almost every day after dinner. Takes me right back to the 80s!

Fruit Jackpot and Hot Chocolate Fudge at Corner House, Bangalore

Fruit Jackpot at Corner House
Fruit Jackpot at Corner House

Corner House’s Fruit Jackpot was a revelation for me. It was no ordinary dessert filled with tired, dry fruits that have no taste. Neither is it filled with inexpensive fruits that are in season at the time of the order. It is filled with a variety of fruits, fresh and tasty, some of them exotic too. From litchees and apples and bananas to cherries and ripe figs and mangoes, this dessert has undergone no scrimping on fruits. Must have for a fruit lover! The OH, being the lover of fruit that he is, adored it.

Hot Chocolate Fudge at Corner House
Hot Chocolate Fudge at Corner House

The Hot Chocolate Fudge from Corner House is another old-time favourite, recently revisited, and not exactly a new ‘foodie discovery’ as such. I think it deserves a mention here, though.

I love chocolates in most forms and, hence, this is the perfect dessert for me at Corner House. At least, of all the ones we have tried there so far. The extremely famous Corner House Death By Chocolate aka DBC is way too chocolate-ey for my palate. The Hot Chocolate Fudge, on the other hand, is just right. Cold, cold vanilla ice cream smothered in creamy, sinfully rich, hot chocolate, and topped with a lot of nuts – what is not to love? My, I am drooling even as I type this out!

Nolen Gur Ice Cream at Pabrais, Bangalore

I have been eyeing Pabrais ever since I noticed their outlet near Brigade Road, a couple of years ago. We never managed to visit, though, until last week! I discovered a whole new world of ice cream there!

For the uninitiated, the Calcutta-origin Pabrais is this store that sells all-natural ice cream. Their ice creams are made entirely with natural ingredients and, apparently, do not contain preservatives or artificial colours and flavour additives of any kind. They do sell a huge variety of flavours – hundreds, actually! – and most of them are very, very, very interesting. Bubblegum or South Indian Coffee or Lemongrass or Mascarpone Cheese ice cream, anyone? The staff at the parlour was very friendly, and handed us spoon after spoon of different flavours to try out, till we were in danger of having our stomachs filled and exiting without actually buying anything. We finally decided to go for a Nolen Gur and an Orange-Basil ice cream. Both of them were absolutely fresh, natural-tasting, and delicious.

The OH and I just loved the Nolen Gur ice cream, made with date palm jaggery from Bengal, topped with liquid jaggery. There are chewy bits of something like sandesh in the ice cream. All of it together made for a WOW! experience. I can’t wait to have the Nolen Gur again and, of course, try out more flavours that we missed out on the last time.

Most Pabrais ice creams are priced between Rs. 80-90. Slightly on the higher side for a small cup, but I think it is totally justified for the freshness of the ice cream, its natural feel and the exotic flavours.

A visit to Pabrais is highly recommended, if you haven’t been already!

Cadbury’s Coffee & Almond Limited Edition Dairy Milk

On the occasion of Friendship Day this year, Cadbury’s came up with two limited edition Dairy Milk chocolates – Black Forest and Coffee & Almond. These will, apparently, be available in shops till stocks last. I spotted them on a grocery-buying expedition recently, bought them, and polished them off – with the OH, of course! :)

The Black Forest is good, but tastes the same as Dairy Milk’s commonly available Fruit & Nut. Nothing new there! The Coffee & Almond was an entirely different story. Hints of coffee, crunchy roasted almonds, and the trademark Dairy Milk smooth chocolate – I had to love a combination like that!

If you haven’t tried this out yet, I would highly recommend that you do.

These chocolates are priced in the Rs. 40-50 range.

What have your foodie discoveries been, of late? Tell me! I am all ears!

Manathankali Keerai Kootu| Black Nightshade Greens Curry

Recently, I was overjoyed to see a black nightshade plant growing in our apartment complex, all by itself. Black nightshade aka Solanum Nigrum, popularly known in Tamil as Manathankali, is a weed commonly found in South India. I have had some wonderful times eating the berries right off the plant in my grandparents’ backyard, holidaying in Madras as a child. I remember my Patti plucking the leaves off and making them into a delicious kootu. Back home in Ahmedabad, mananthankali leaves or berries would not be available, and so I never got to eat them. I haven’t seen them ever in Bangalore either, so the curry remained forgotten. till I accidentally discovered a plant growing in my very own compound.

Black nightshade leaves have medicinal properties – they are good anti-inflammatory elements, and can help soothe mouth ulcers as well as several ailments of the digestive system. Not only the leaves, but the berries of the plant too can be consumed. The berries can be eaten raw, and when dried, they can be used in other preparations like vathal kozhambu and the like.

One must be careful while plucking these leaves by oneself, though. There are several plant species related to the black nightshade, some of them scarily similar-looking, which are poisonous. The leaves of some other related species are known to produce ill effects – hallucinations, dizziness, nausea, etc. – when consumed. Amma and I know how to recognise the edible species very well, and so we had no qualms on that front.

I decided to make keerai kootu (a liquidy mild-flavoured curry) out of the greens, adding in some of the raw berries that we foraged too. It turned out delicious! This was my first time cooking manathankali greens, and I am pretty sure it is not going to be the last, as long as I am able to find them.

We have traditionally used fresh, grated coconut to make this kootu, but this time around, I used ready-made coconut milk, taking the cue from several recipes on the Internet. This made the kootu super-easy to make. It tasted nice and creamy, soothing, simple stuff for a palate that is tired after a lot of rich food. The next time around, I might decide to make this kootu with fresh coconut instead of coconut milk, though.

Here is how I made it…

Ingredients (for 2 people):

About 2 cups of mananthankali leaves, chopped finely (Include a few raw berries too, if you can find them)

About 1/2 cup of moong dal

About 1 cup of coconut milk

Salt, to taste

1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped

2 medium-sized tomatoes, finely chopped

Red chilli powder, to taste

2 green chillies, slit length-wise

5-6 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed

1 teaspoon turmeric powder

2 teaspoons oil

A pinch of asafoetida

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

Method:

  1. Heat the oil in a small pressure cooker. Add the mustard seeds and allow them to splutter. Add the asafoetida.
  2. Add the chopped onions and crushed garlic. Saute for a minute or two, till the raw smell goes away.
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes. Cook with a bit of water, till they turn mushy.
  4. Meanwhile, wash the moong dal thoroughly. Drain out the excess water. Keep aside.
  5. Add the chopped mananthankali greens and washed moong dal, along with the green chillies, salt and red chilli powder to taste, and turmeric powder. Mix well.
  6. Add about 1 glass of water. Mix well.
  7. Close the lid of the pressure cooker and put the whistle on. Let it cook for 4-5 whistles.
  8. Once the steam has released, open the pressure cooker. Switch on the gas and add the coconut milk. Mix well.
  9. Let the kootu cook till it starts bubbling. Switch off the gas at this point.

Serve with jeera rice or plain, white rice, hot.

Have you ever cooked nightshade greens? How do you do it?

India Day Celebrations, My Style

My Independence Day celebrations – I prefer calling it India Day – could not have been better than they were this year. 15th August, 2015, brought me closer to the real India than I have ever been, made me even more aware of the hugeness that is India, and awed me, all over again, with its richness, in terms of the food and arts and crafts from different regions. Yesterday gave me a chance to record many of the beautiful colours of India on camera. Yesterday I managed to do my little bit for my country. Yesterday I made a decision that is surely going to influence many of my future decisions. All because we visited one of Bangalore’s most-loved arts-and-crafts events, the Dastkar Nature Bazaar.

Ever since we heard about the Dastkar Nature Bazaar 2015 having started, I had wanted to go. Something or the other kept happening, and we did not, till I pulled the OH out of the house saying that we HAD to go, that the fair would end soon, and that I did not want to not go and regret it later. So, off we went, and what a time we had! I am so glad we went, in spite of being bone tired and having a number of other chores on our to-do list. (The fair is on at the Manpho Convention Grounds, near Manyata Tech Park, and today is the last date. I hope you have been already, or are at least making last-minute plans to go!) The OH baby-wore the entire day, which is how I managed to do the fair. Independence of a different kind, eh?

As always, Dastkar was beautiful and colourful and diverse. It brought together artisans from all across the length and breadth of the country – black pottery from Manipur, Madhubani painting from Bihar, Pattachitra from Orissa, Pochampally weaves from Andhra Pradesh, Bandhnis from Gujarat, lac bangles from Rajasthan, pretty embroidery from Kashmir, Phulkari from Punjab, wooden toys from Channapatna, and a lot, lot, lot more. In the back of our minds, I am sure, there has always been the knowledge that our country has a lot to offer in terms of culture, arts and crafts, and food (Yes, India is also becoming famous for all the wrong reasons lately, but I prefer to concentrate on what I think are the right reasons to praise India!). Seeing all of this diversity laid out in front of you, though, is sure to stir something inside you, to make you observe more keenly than ever before, to absorb, and to get prouder than ever before. That is just what happened with me yesterday. I came back home immensely touched.

Some colourful Rajasthani lac bangles as well as a Kalamkari saree and dress material from Andhra Pradesh found their way home with me, too. A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to get myself a Sambhalpuri saree from Orissa at Dastkar, and it happens to be one of my prized possessions. This Kalamkari saree too, I am sure, is going to occupy pride of place in my wardrobe. I have always had this dream of owning sarees and salwar kameezes from different parts of India, and yesterday’s visit to Dastkar has made this dream take strong hold of my mind. There is now a stronger-than-ever-before desire to turn this dream of mine into reality.

Lately, I have also been hugely inspired by this wonderful girl’s 100 Saree Pact posts on Facebook. (If you are wondering what the 100 Saree Pact is all about, click here). I can no longer claim to be very busy and not having enough time to wear a saree. I can no longer keep my eyes shut to handlooms and hand-crafted jewellery, no longer not experiment with them. Swaram, you don’t know how hard your posts have influenced me! The Dastkar visit has only catalysed my decision to stop for a few minutes, get rid of the bedraggled appearance that seems to characterise me these days, be more involved in the buying and using of hand-made apparel and accessories, and to do myself a huge favour that way.

At Dastkar yesterday, we also had a heart-to-heart with the lady at the stall by Neev, a Jharkhand-based NGO that makes some of the most exquisite hand-crafted soaps, body lotions, essential oils, deos, moisturisers, hair oils, face washes and shampoos, among other things. Girls and women in difficult circumstances make these products to help their families and fund their higher education – great going that, isn’t it? We bought a few hand-made soaps that smell delicious enough to be eaten, and I can’t wait to start using them! Apparently, most ingredients used in these soaps – cucumber and roses and brahmi and reetha and what not – are grown on the premises of Neev, by the riverside, in a charming village. How do I not get blown away by a description like that? Plus, the NGO claims zero levels of pollution and no use of chemicals in making their products, something I am slowly becoming more and more conscious about by the day. Online reviews of these products are great, my gut feeling about them is good, and I am glad I gave in to my impulse and treated myself to some of Neev’s stuff!

The chat with the lady at the stall made me realise that I should be more aware in choosing the products that I buy, henceforth. I should be more aware of where they come from, who they are made by, and how exactly they are made. There are a lot of loopholes involved in this, I’m aware, but it is better to at least make an effort than doing nothing, I think.

Another ‘informed’ purchase at Dastkar yesterday was some very reasonably-priced terracotta jewellery from Chiguru, a Karnataka-based enterprise that provides a livelihood to impoverished rural women. I saw some of these women working in their stall, and was glad I managed to do a little something for them. Terracotta jewellery is an entirely new world for me, and I am hoping this will be the first of many accessory-based experiments. I am hoping this will go well, and that I will turn up more smartly dressed for the occasions to come!

The food court at Dastkar could have been better, yes, but if I complain about that, I would only be nit-picking. The entire event was, otherwise, beautifully managed. The food court managed to flood me with another wave of realisation – one as to how huge India’s culinary scene is. Even if I strive very, very hard, it is going to be impossible to sample everything that India has to offer in terms of food and drink. But then, I’m going to try – another decision, another dream that took stronger hold yesterday.

Post-event, my heart is full. My camera is full too – with pictures of the vibrancy and colours of India. I hope to put them up on the blog very soon.

Do wish me luck in my endeavours. Till next time!

I Is For…… Inji Puli

So, I suddenly remembered that I had left the Alphabet Cooking Challenge midway. I decided to pick up where we had left off, and that was at H. A dish for the next letter of the alphabet, I, was promptly thought of and made.

I made Inji Puli for I, that quintessential pickle that is found in most Tam-Brahm households. The dish gets its name from the two major ingredients used in it: Inji (Tamil for Ginger) and Puli (Tamil for Tamarind). I don’t know if all South Indian states have their own version of Inji Puli, but I do know that Tamil Nadu and Kerala have their own distinct styles of preparing it. I decided to go the Tam-Brahm way. I had a stock of fresh ginger lying at home, and put it to good use. :)

 

DSC05369

Here is how we have always made Inji Puli in our house since generations, which is exactly how I made it now.

Ingredients (makes about 3/4 of a jam jar):

200 grams of fresh ginger, cleaned thoroughly, peeled, chopped finely

4 green chillies, slit length-wise

A few fresh curry leaves

4-5 tablespoons of oil (Typically, gingelly oil is used here, but I didn’t have any, so I used Rice Bran instead)

Salt, to taste

Red chilli powder, to taste

Powdered jaggery, to taste

A ball of tamarind, the size of a medium-sized lemon

2 teaspoons of mustard

2 pinches of asafoetida

Method:

  1. Soak the tamarind in a little warm water for 10-15 minutes. Then, extract a thick paste out of it, adding more water as and when required, squeezing out all the juice that it has to offer. Keep aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a deep-bottomed pan. Add the mustard seeds, and allow them to splutter. Add the asafoetida.
  3. Add the chopped ginger. Cook for 3-4 minutes, till the ginger gets a little bit tender.
  4. Now, add the tamarind extract. Let it cook on a high flame till the raw smell goes away, stirring intermittently. This should take about 10 minutes.
  5. At this stage, add the salt, red chilli powder and jaggery to taste, slit green chillies, and curry leaves. Mix well.
  6. Turn the flame to medium. Let everything cook together till the mixture thickens to your desired consistency. Stir intermittently.
  7. Let it cool, and fill it up in a clean, air-tight jam jar. Refrigerated, it keeps for about a week’s time.

For those who have never had Inji Puli, try it with curd rice – that is THE ultimate combination! I like eating it with just about anything – rotis and subzi and dosas included. Amma mixes it up with plain, cooked rice, adds some more gingelly oil to it, and slurps it up. :)

If you do decide to make Inji Puli my way, do let me know how it turned out. I’d love to know!

Meanwhile, I hope I’ll continue this cooking challenge further! :)

Farmhouse Grilled Sandwich

There are days when it drizzles all day long. The sky remains overcast most of the time, and it is chilly, but a good kind of chilly. On such days, there are dinner times when you want something hot and delicious, but all you really want to do is to grab a quick bite, cover yourself up with a warm comforter, and read a book in bed. This Farmhouse Grill Sandwich – a dish that I learnt by watching the ‘Mumbai Sandwich’- wallahs on the streets of Malleshwaram – would be the perfect dish to cook during such times. This, along with some hot soup would make for a great dreamy, rainy-day dinner.

DSC05383

How do I make it?

Ingredients (for 4 sandwiches):

8 slices of bread (I use brown bread)

4 tablespoons of salted butter, at room temperature

4 tablespoons of spicy, green chutney (See this post to learn how I make the green chutney)

1 medium-sized cucumber, chopped into thin rounds

1 medium-sized capsicum, cut into thin strips

1 medium-sized tomato, cut into thin rounds

1 medium-sized onion, peeled and cut into thin rounds

1 cube of Amul cheese, grated

About 4 tablespoons of tomato ketchup

4 pinches of chaat masala

Method:

  1. Spread the butter on one side of a slice of bread. Keep aside.
  2. Spread the spicy, green chutney on one side of a slice of bread. Keep aside.
  3. Put the bread with the green chutney on a plate, with the chutney side up.
  4. Arrange a couple of capsicum slices on the slice of bread.
  5. Next, arrange one piece of onion (or two, if you want) over the capsicum slices.
  6. Arrange two slices of tomato over the vegetables.
  7. Arrange a few slices of cucumber over the other vegetables.
  8. Sprinkle grated cheese over the vegetables.
  9. Close the sandwich with the slice of buttered bread.
  10. Prepare 4 sandwiches in this manner.
  11. Grill all the sandwiches in a sandwich maker, till they turn a bit crispy.
  12. Add 1 tablespoon of tomato ketchup on top of each grilled sandwich. Sprinkle a pinch of chaat masala on top of each sandwich.

Eat immediately! These sandwiches are meant to be eaten super hot!

Tell me all about your rainy-day lunches and dinners! I would love to know.

Nine months!

Dearest darling Bubboo,

You recently turned nine months old. The first thing that struck me on that day was that you have spent exactly the same amount of time on the earth as you had inside me – nine months.Yes, your mother is a sucker for such sentimental facts. :) Another thing your mother is is extremely lazy. This letter should have been written about 15 days ago but, as she famously likes saying for almost everything, ‘she was just not able to get around to doing it’!

Diversion over. Coming back to the point, I would like to say that you are an infant, still, but you are so much more than a helpless little baby. Your personality, your own personality, independent of everything and everyone, is coming to the fore. You are fast becoming your own little person. Three things that I have noted about you, at this stage, are:

1. You love having people around you. You do not take to strangers very easily, but you need people around you, family and strangers included. You are at your happiest best when all of us in the family sit around you, cooing and talking to you. And, you love talking back. Sometimes, you just glance at all of us sitting around you, and go back to playing on your own. It is as if our mere presence comforts you greatly. Be a people person, babe. I am hoping you will be a social, friendly kid!

2. You are extremely curious about the world around you. You love watching people and things move around you. When you are exposed to something totally new to you, you love exploring it, as long as it does not make you very uncomfortable. A walk in the apartment complex, looking at the trees and flowers around, consoles you greatly. You stop crying immediately, your attention absorbed in the new things around you – outside of your usual world. I hope you maintain this level of curiosity always. Always ask questions, seek to know, seek to understand the world outside of home. It is beautiful! It will work wonders for you, and help you in ways beyond your comprehension.

3. Somehow, I have the feeling that you are mature beyond your little age of nine months. It is not just me who has noticed this.. Like your Patti says, you have loads of ‘sukshma buddhi‘. You are a sensitive child, understanding and feeling a lot more than other kids your age usually do. Let me tell you, it is going to hurt. But then, it is a beautiful trait to have. A sensitive, compassionate nature is a blessing more than a curse. It will give you a far, far, far richer life than one led without these qualities. In spite of the hardships it brings, I will tell you to retain your sukshma buddhi as long as you can.

As you grow further, as you journey through life, I will always be there for you, as best as I can. I will hold your hand and take you through the phases you feel stumped by. I will be your friend and enjoy the little moments of happiness with you. I hope you grow to love me deeply, and be proud of your mother, in spite of her laziness and her wayward ways. :)

Loads of love,

Your Amma

Featured!

Baggout has recently chosen The Girl Next Door as one of the top 15 personal blogs in India! It is, indeed, heartening and humbling to see this! Thank you, Baggout!

While we are talking about being featured, let me also tell you about The Girl Next Door’s being featured in the bi-monthly travel magazine Travel Secrets, back in 2014. I don’t think I wrote about it then – and better late than never, eh?

1521863_205899926266098_294070486_n‘We think this is a charming, down-to-earth blog with some good travel and life stories. The photos are not always bright and beautiful, but the blog has a soul,’ they say.

Travel Secrets also found my post on Bhoochakra Gadda very interesting and, with permission, reproduced it in their March-April 2014 issue.

1912480_226534904202600_1669989614_nThank you all over again, Travel Secrets. It was great seeing this once again!

Thank you too, dear readers, for showering your love and appreciation on The Girl Next Door. It has always been a pleasure to voice my thoughts here, to see them reflected by many. Your comments have led to several interesting discussions, and have taught me a whole lot more about life and the world around me.

August Is Here…

… bringing with it the start of the festive season in India.

Before long, it will be time for Ganesh Chaturthi, one of the festivals I enjoy the most. I love seeing the Ganeshas in their various avatars – a doctor, a computer operator, Spiderman, a little baby in the lap of Lord Shiva and Parvathi Amma! Not to forget the Ganeshas depicting the current social issues – these ones are made with a special amount of creativity. I love watching the huge decked-up Ganeshas of different associations – dressed up with American diamonds and flowers and what not. I love the simple Ganeshas too – the Plaster of Paris ones with their bright colours, and the earth-friendly mud ones made of bio-degradable clay or turmeric.

I love the lead-up to the festival – the arrival of gorgeous varieties of sweet-smelling flowers in the local market, window displays going the Ganesha way, the preparation of idols at various hubs across the country, and so on. Whenever I get the chance, before the festival, I stop by for a few minutes at these little hubs that prepare these varied Ganesha idols. I love watching the work in progress, by craftsmen who have been doing the task over and over again for years, for generations. This year, I managed to do that at Devasandra, near New BEL Road, where artisans live in little huts, make earthen pots and ‘drishti bommais‘ and garden accessories, as well as Ganesha idols during the festive season.

Let me take you on a visual tour of the place…

DSC05038
All lined up…
DSC05042
Various forms in the making!
DSC05041
God made Man, and then, Man made God…
DSC05046
I wonder what colours will adorn these idols, and what decorations. Where will each of these Ganeshas go to?