Pune is reeling. The weather has been mercilessly hot and to top it, the auto-rickshaw drivers in the city have gone on an indefinite strike. With the city’s public transport already grossly inadequate, the strike is the most unwelcome thing you could ask for. I for one am all for the RTA’s decision to reduce the fares. The auto-rickshaw drivers did not reduce fares even when fuel prices dropped by nearly ten rupees. And though I have come across several helpful and considerate rickshaw drivers, a good lot of them are terribly rude, leeching hapless passengers with more than the already over priced fare. That said, the stir – now in it’s third day, is crippling. Especially for those who don’t own/drive vehicles.

Long distances are a nightmare. And an attempt to cover the shorter ones by foot in this torturous weather might just kill you. So urgencies, emergencies and other such contingencies are all on stand-by. Not a very bright prospect, but that’s how the whole situation is – helpless.

So when I chanced upon this little article in today’s paper I felt nice. Here were a different kind of Page 3 celebs. A band of youngsters called Adar Pratishtan is ferrying people around the city in their private vehicles- for free. Now isn’t that nice? AP is a group comprising of architects, businessmen, students, etc. helping senior citizens, disabled folks and patients to hospitals and other places. Once the strike was announced, this motley group of 40 went to rickshaw stands and hospitals asking people to contact them if they needed help. Now seriously, that’s really nice. Considering what a bomb private vehicles charge, their philanthropy is heart warming. I am glad there are so many good people in the city.

Just thought they deserve a thank-you- not just from me as an individual, but from all the people they have helped and for all those they want to help. It’s the thought that matters. And I hope this motivates others in the city (myself included!) and more such groups come forward to help the society in its need.

For more details you can contact Adar Pratishtan on 9822099447; or look into today’s edition of Pune Newsline, Page 3

My vote counts!



Today was an important day for me. It was the first time I ever voted – for general elections. No, I haven’t just turned 18 (I wish!). I only woke up just now. I was really so excited! I was determined to vote. Plus most organizations gave their employees a day off to vote, so why shouldn’t we then? After much hunting in the hot sun, we finally reached my polling station. I was a little nervous initially- not knowing if I was going to get everything right. I watched as one of the booth officers painted people’s fingers with the ‘purple stain’. And when I was told it was my turn, I bumbled into the booth and looked bewildered at the number of options before me. Trust me, for a first timer, it can get confusing. My husband, sensing my apprehension, called out, “Just hit the button of your candidate and come out”. I did just that and then felt on top of the moon! I bounced out happily, singing and jumping, much to the amusement of hubby.

And to think that all these years I played the skeptic. ‘Why should I vote?’ is what I always asked myself. With every candidate more insincere and mediocre than the other, it seemed like a waste of my time, hopes and energy. I believe that’s what most people still think in my state of Maharastra- the voter turn out was just about 40%. That’s how disillusioned India is today with her leaders.

With so many candidates with criminal backgrounds (thank god the election commission banned convicts from contesting this time) and the electoral process so tedious (I couldn’t find my name or polling station in the voter’s list- and when I finally did, it showed up in at least 2 different lists), it’s no wonder that so few people actually chose to vote. Some people just left the polling stations when the system took very long to locate their voting centers.

As for those who did vote, many conveniently went for the ‘favorites’. They didn’t want to be a part of the ‘losing team’- so what if they seemed more able. I agree that a multiple party system is inherently flawed. With almost 20 parties contesting from a single constituency, all we can expect is a hung result, with voters more divided than united on anything. But then again, I wanted to vote this time. And I wanted to vote for the candidate who seemed most intelligent, capable and clean. It didn’t have to be someone from my ‘community’ or someone who has a record of wins. I voted because I was told my vote counts. And I believe it does. I don’t think the candidate I chose will win. But a loss with a narrower margin will encourage people like him to stand for elections again. That’s what we want, don’t we? Able candidates? Change?

Change isn’t going to come in a week. It took almost 8 years for it come to the White House! So I chose to be real. Unregulated democracy (like in India) can be a dangerous thing, I know. And we have been witness to these ‘dangers’ time and again. But we have a workable start. There are many places in the world under autocratic regimes. I am proud to be in a democracy, Alhamdulilah.

Even if you think NONE of the candidates are worth your precious vote, go in for the least of the devils. Because if voters consistently vote in this pattern, the politicians will at least make an attempt to be the ‘lesser devil’ when compared to their rivals. And their rivals will try to be a still ‘lesser devils’ and slow as this whole process may be, it might just bring about some positive change. The shrewd lot that our politicians are, they can’t ignore voter preferences endlessly. It will cost them their coveted power seats. For now, that’s the carrot we should dangle before them.

Sounds idealistic? Yes, it is. But we have to make a start, really. I am dissappointed at how few people chose to excercise this wonderful right. I wish I had encouraged more people to register. All I can say now is that the State elections for Maharashtra will be around in a few month’s time. This time at least, please, please vote. Because we ARE responsible. Because a nation only gets the leaders it deserves.


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India is the flavor of the season. The land of brown skinned mahouts on wrinkly grey elephants has had quite a makeover in recent years and now it seems, is showtime.  India, along with its neighbor China, is being touted as an incipient economic superpower. Whether or not that prediction will come true, only time will tell. For now, Indians are enjoying the sudden attention they are gaining from all corners.  With sprawling new townships, swanky multiplexes, towering IT offices, designer clad youth and of course, the new 100,000- Rupee car, people are suddenly taking notice. Of course, the slowdown is indeed playing a dampener. But it’s a consolation to know that unlike most developed nations, we are not officially in a recession yet.

However, what intrigues me more is not the spotlight on our economics, but on our culture. Indian music has swept the Oscars. The Saree is becoming a ubiquitous inspiration for international designers everywhere. And the Indian curry- it is finding some of its most ardent fans in the Western Hemisphere.  The proof lies in my blog stats. Posts under ‘Indian curry’ are getting unprecedented traffic. (Not that there are many on that though, ahem.) So here’s what. I will write another post on it. After all, I have got to please my darling readers.😉

These are some of my Konkani favorites. I got the Coconut Urad Dal  recipe from Rabia Aunty- one of the coolest Mumanis on earth (her fish dishes taste like heaven!) Of course, I can NEVER get it as good as her(I am only half Konkani, so the genes are little confused), but I make my humble attempts, nevertheless.

(P.S. The cheat’s guide to a simpler, faster and more convenient method is at the end- but it won’t taste half as good. So be warned.)

Dish #1: Fried King Fish (Surmai)

Fried Surmai (King FIsh)
Fried Surmai (King FIsh)


1 Kg King Fish

(Tip for buying fresh Surmai: Look for a taut skin. Better still, open its gills. If the inside’s are brilliant red and wet, you’re in luck. If it’s dry, pale or worse, dark brow/red, give it a miss. This goes for most fish, but for Pompfret, the gills should be pink and wet.)


1 Large lemon, squeezed

2 tsp Turmeric

2  tsp Red Chilli Poweder

3 tsp Coriander Powder (Dhania)

1  tsp Cumin Powder (Zeera)



Rice flour for coating (optional)


Mix the spice powders to make a pasty marinade (Add a few drops of water is it’s too dry).

Wash and pat dry the fish and slice it into fillets. Coat it with the masala marinade (Do not overcoat. Leave the excess marinade. Set aside for 15-20 mins in the fridge.)

Take a shallow non stick pan. Grease it with oil. When the oil is heated well, add the fish.

You can coat it lightly with some rice flour for a crispier finish if you like.

Let the fish fry till golden red on both sides. This should take about 15-20 mins on medium high flame.

Crunchy, crispy Surmai is ready. Easy-Peazy!😛

Dish #2: Coconut Urad Dal

This creamy concoction is a perfect compliment to the red hot fish.

You will need:

300 grams Urad Dal (Split black gram- veryyy good source of calcium and great for bones)

300 ml Coconut Milk (Don’t know how to make it? Just grate a fresh coconut’s insides. Blend in a mixy with water till extremely fine. Press it through the nylon sieve and voila! Fresh Coconut milk is ready!)

Onions- as many as you can bear to chop finely! Well, at least 3 large ones

2 Green Chillies/ 1 heaped tsp red chilli powder

Dash of oil


Soak the Dal in water for 2-3 hours.

Now here’s the tricky part – crush the chopped onions with your bare hands till it is transparent. Rabia Aunty insisted that it SHOULD be done with the hands. She also added the green chilli with the onions. But since that gives you uncomfortably hot hands later, you might want to just chop in the chillies in the end. Or just add the red chilli when I tell you to.

Once the onion flakes have been separated from their dear juices. Add a little oil, add the Dal and bring to a boil.

Now turn down the heat and let it simmer with little water for an hour. Yeah, you heard me right. A WHOLE hour. Please refer to the cheat’s guide if you haven’t the patience.

After an hour, the tough looking Dal should have a very soft look. Almost like cream. To make it really like cream, add the coconut milk. Stir and smell the magnificent aroma.

Add salt ONLY in the end.

You can add the red chilli now if you want.

Keep stirring the milk till the Dal reaches a boil.

Creamy Dal is ready to be served.

The Cheat’s Guide:

You still want to read the Cheat’s Guide, don’t you?  Whatever happened to the good ‘ol fashioned cooking??? Tch Tch. Oh well. Here goes:

Substiute the fresh coconut milk with mass produced, tetra packed, preservative laden ready made milk. Dabur sells it. But Rabia Aunty refuses to vouch for it. I would, if not for the taste, then at least for the convenience!

If you havn’t got a whole hour for the Dal, just use a pressure cooker for fifteen minutes, man! Add in the chopped onions too. Not a Top Chef technique, but we don’t have Padma Lakshmi egging us on for a grand prize either. We have to do what we have to do- especially when the dish concerned is so laden with nutri-goodies. But you should try the original recipe at least ONCE. That way you don’t stop kicking yourself for taking shortcuts all the time!😀

I would have written one more recipe that’s on my menu- the basic hot prawn konkani curry. But I am too tired and I guess others are too bored. So that for some other time! Tell me how this turned out though.🙂


Dear Hubby asked me to read this article on Time.com about a new revolution that seems to be sweeping the Muslim world. I think modern Muslims should definitely give the article a go-through at least. Personally, I found it quite encouraging that Muslims are turning back to the Islam to find the answers to the questions that have recently beleaguered the community.

The Muslim youth it seems, is finally waking up, Alhamdulilah. And by waking up I do not mean the dumping of one’s roots, as has so often been associated with the term ‘moderate Muslim’. The new Muslim is proud to be a Muslim, not ashamed of his beard or embarrassed by her head scarf. And yes, the new Muslim does not care two hoots for the wanton killing that has recently been (inappropriatedly) awarded the title of ‘Jehad’.

The new Muslim asks hard questions- to his leaders, to the blind practice of social customs not authenticated by Islam, to the apathy of his own community and to himself; no one is spared. 

The new Muslim apparently also values knowledge. And that is why both he and she are taking their education seriously- and are returning to the scriptures- The Quran and subsequently the Hadeeth- to understand the demands of their faith. And having thus satisfied themselves of the truth, are feeling even more inclined towards God. 

What is Islam, they ask themselves. They begin their quest and realize that the meaning of Islam lies in the total submission to Allah- an exclusive God with no partners what so ever. Incidentally, they realize that it is also in peace. It is in the feeding of the beggar, in the supporting of the orphan, in the holding on to the truth, in the obedience to parents, in chastity, in the care for the neighbor and in the saving of an innocent life. I would like to emphasize this last object. For the Quran says:

 “Say: ‘Come, I will rehearse what Allah hath (really) prohibited you from”: Join not anything as equal with Him; be good to your parents; kill not your children on a plea of want;- We provide sustenance for you and for them;- come not nigh to shameful deeds. Whether open or secret; take not life, which Allah hath made sacred, except by way of justice and law: thus doth He command you, that ye may learn wisdom.’ ” (Chapter 6 (Al-Anaam): Verse 151)

And elsewhere:

Nor take life – which Allah has made sacred – except for just cause. And if anyone is slain wrongfully, we have given his heir authority (to demand qisas or to forgive): but let him not exceed bounds in the matter of taking life; for he is helped (by the Law). (Chapter 17(Al-Isra): Verse 33)

And also:

“On that account: We ordained for the Children of Israel that if any one slew a person – unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people. Then although there came to them Our messengers with clear signs, yet, even after that, many of them continued to commit excesses in the land.” (Chapter 5 (Al – Maida): Verse 32)

The last verse should clarify all doubts on the value placed on human life by Allah. The analogy ensures that it is not taken lightly. One life = The whole of humanity. The math is simple.

My conclusion? Don’t judge Islam just by the individual performance of some wayward Muslims. The best way to understand Islam is to read about Islam itself (look for authentic sources, please!) and if you must judge it by its followers, kindly look for ‘followers’ who are actually ‘following’ Islam. A Muslim name alone does not qualify you as a Muslim. 

So there. Here’s to the gen-next of Muslims.

Day two in Ca.

We woke up to a beautiful, bright morning. The weather was definitely on our side, Alhamdulilah. Me and hubby excitedly got ready for the big day. MB dropped us to Lawrence Station from where we boarded the Cal-Train to San Fran. Boy, was I excited! We knew we wouldn’t have too much time on us, so we wanted to cram in as much as possible. The lovely Californian landscape whizzed by us and an hour later we stepped on the Promised Land.

Javed’s a seasoned traveler and so the first thing he did was buy tourist passes to ride the Muni buses (intra-city transport) for the whole day and then we headed towards the Fisherman’s Wharf. What struck us were the streets in SF. Each looks like a giant slide! All streets seem to originate on some steep hill and end in the sea. The incline is such you could practically roll down like Jack ‘n Jill on them! We also passed China-Town and frankly, it seemed more like an exotic Mumbai muhalla with throngs of crowds, only the people here were of Chinese origin.

Like a typical tourist, I clicked pictures of almost everything I saw, hoping to capture the essence of the moment. My suggestion to anyone silly enough like me: carry an extra battery with you- before long, your camera will be out and you will wonder why you had to click the same street from five different angles. I kept ooh-ing and aah-ing at whatever I saw when Javed told me to look to the right instead. The sight took my breath away. There before me was the most spectacular scene: a sparklingly azure sea, white gulls soaring over dreamy clouds and quaint ships and yachts dotting the expanse. I scarcely think pictures can do justice to experience. Some things are great not so much because of their extraordinariness but because they have been experienced. I stood there, inhaling the excitement. Was this for real? The Ghirardelli chocolate outlet stood opposite, a vintage car fair just in front, all types of people scurrying about me, and then the trams! Oh, those lovely, classic trams! Trademark San Fransisco. I was enjoying every single bit of it. But the best was yet to come. The Golden Gate Bridge was what we were here for. MB gave us the best way to see it-take a cruise under it! So we lined up at the queue at Fisherman’s Wharf for two golden tickets. Yessirs, an entire childhood spent watching the red suspension bridge on Full House and here I was, on my way to actually see it, for real.

We hop on the ship with a troupe of excited Japanese tourists. I jostle in to the stern for a better view but there are just too many people. We are given audio kits for a running commentary of the things we see on the cruise. The Japanese shriek with excitement and start taking pictures feverishly. I don’t yet have a great view because everyone wants a picture of themselves at the stern with the bridge in the background. Sigh. Why must everyone be so obvious? I wrestle in further. I want a shot like that too! Javed tells me to be patient; the bridge’s still miles away, he says. I chuck the audio after a while. I mean it’s great and educational, but I want to breathe in the sea air and drink in the calm instead. Besides, there are gulls flying with wings outspread just over our heads! After a while I give up the camera too. I can’t keep up with my Japanese counterparts and besides, I want an experience too – not just pictures. We inch closer and I feel a new surge of excitement. There it is, the grand, Golden Gate Bridge. I try listening to the audio again, about its architectural design and all, but my hands are frozen numb by now and I can’t care much. I look up at the magnificent structure and am awestruck. What beauty, Mashalah. Honestly, it’s splendid. Under the bridge, people are wind surfing. ‘Are they mad?’ I think. It’s choppy cold and they are prancing about in the iciness! Silly Adventurers!

The ship begins to turn around as we pass under the bridge. There’s my moment. Just a year ago and it feels like some distant dream now. We head backwards, but not before we close in near the Alcatraz Prison Island. Oh yes, the same ‘The Rock’ Alcatraz. The deadly dungeon; real life Azkaban. We could have toured inside too, but no time. The ship moves back to the wharf and I get an amazing view of the SF skyline. Right at the top stands Coit Tower and like a trail of an eclectic red carpet gown, follows the rest of the city. After we step out, I can barely feel my hands. They are stiff cold and I need something to warm me up. I really do. So we head to Ghirardelli for some- well, what else, hot chocolate of course! And they are giving away complimentary Ghirardelli squares at the cash counter. I am hungry too, so I pick up two each, for Javed and me. Needless to say, Javed is shock embarrassed. Oh well. I am like that only.

We browse around the local market and buy post cards and a SF fridge magnet- one of my prized possessions. It still hangs proudly on my bedroom cupboard! Anyway, it’s evening already and there’s yet loads to see. We still have to get on one of those cable cars and then walk down Lombard Street- the crookedest street on earth. Well at least, that’s all we can cram in before it’s time to catch the train again. The line for the more ‘touristy’ tram cars is hundreds of meters long, so with much heavy hearts we decide to give the ride a miss. Instead we board a rather boring version of the same, which as it so happens, is even slower than the cyclists on the road. When we finally are done with the drab fantasy trip, we decided to take a bus to Lombard. Not a very bright idea, it turns out, because we lost a good deal of our already limited time in switching buses and then walking up the dreadfully steep roads to finally reach there. The roads were so steep that the cars parked on the sides looked as if they were all poised to go down a slide! Of course that also meant a rough work out for both of us. It was literally a battle against gravity.

After much huffing and puffing we finally reach the summit and look down at the sinuous Lombard. We can see the Coit twinkle in the twilight and car after car rolls down the serpentine landmark. Wow. It’s past sun down but hubby can’t get enough of the city so we linger on for one last stop. The City Hall. After that, it’s Cal Train again. Hungry, tired and sleepy we look forward to the Halal Chinese meal MB has ordered for us. Hmmmm. Seriously, a delicious end to our yummy day!

Californian Fantasy

February 2008. One of the best Februaries of my life and I procrastinated for a whole year to blog about it. Sigh.

Anyways. Don’t want to waste too much print on lamentations.

Flashback 12 months. Hubby and I are still the star struck newly weds. It’s my second month in the US of A and I have already had a delightful trip to Ann Arbor, Michigan. Hubby loves to travel and so he suggests we pool in our resources and take a second mini vacation of the month. The destination? California!

My uber cool cousin already lives there and so it’s the proverbial two birds with a stone plan- hang around with Munnu Bhai and gallivant in San Francisco. Stuff that dreams are made of, said Shakespeare once. Alhamdulilah. Allah has been very kind.

*Sinks into dreamland before jerking and getting back to the post*


So- the date is marked out. It’s going to be the President’s day weekend. Off we are to Midway airport to catch the Southwest flight to San José. Full four hours to get there! Whoever thought America was THAT big? That’s longer than it takes from Mumbai to Dubai!

Me and Javed at Stanford University

Me and Javed at Stanford University

We land, I call my brother, he says he is coming in his car to pick us up and I just can’t control my excitement. After all, it’s been ages since I last saw him in flesh and blood myself. So I peer restlessly into every car that comes at the airport curb, hoping to see my good ‘ol cousin pal. I see a white sedan and lo behold! That must be him in it! Oh he’s waving too! I wave back frantically with both my arms, I jump and I yell, “There’s Munnu Bhai! There he is!'” The car closes in and the driver slows down near another passenger instead and before Javed can say, ‘ I don’t think that’s your cousin,’ I do a quick about turn to hide my mortification. For once, I am more embarrassed than my husband at my antics. Grrrr.

Oh well. Munnu Bhai does eventually turn up, albeit to a much soberer reception. He drives us into his super posh apartment complex as I look around agape with eyes popping out and say things like ‘You live HERE?’, ‘a WALK-IN closet?’ and things to that effect.

View from MB's window

View from MB's window

The good ‘ol cousin does a Top Chef and cooks up some delectable chicken curry. We munch and watch a movie on his Bravia and flip through a coffee table book on the godfather. (He swears by it)

Top Chef!

Top Chef!

I need to pace this thing up. I am still in San José! I don’t get in to SF till tomorrow! But I do need to mention that MB took us to the Stanford University campus that evening. No, I am not going to gush out superlatives here. It might make me sound immature, because seriously, the campus was a rocker! Now I know why Stanford’s such a big deal.

Javed at Stanford

Javed at Stanford

Brother-Sister :)


Brothers (in-law) in arms

Brothers (in-law) in arms

Next, MB drives to the Google complex. Unfortunately we can’t get in. Visitor hours are over but I can proudly say, ‘I WAS THERE’. I honestly was!

OUtside Google

Outside Google

I have to say, the area around San Jose is beautiful. The landscape just took my breath away, Mashalah. After weeks of the freezing Chicagoan winter, the sun, the smiling bright flowers and gentle green mounds of grass on all the roads were such a welcome delight!

MB was being the perfect host. He rounded up the day with some sizzling barbecued fish on his terrace. Umm yumm. I say, he’s all in the wrong profession. He really should’ve been a hotelier or something.

Barbecued Fish: Anthony Bourdain would've been impressed!

Soon later, the flight’s after effects begin to take a toll on me so I simply flop on the cushy-cushy bed. Yawwwn. Actually I am feeling quite sleepy myself. I think I’d need a recharge before the next installment. Zzzzzz. Seeya in a bit!

More pictures of the trip

Confessions of a Lazy Bum

Ahem. I confess. I stand guilty. I am indeed a classified lazy bum. There’s no other way to explain my almost year long hiatus. Well, actually, you could add another reason- a morbid addiction to Facebook. Not that anyone must have particularly missed my ranting though. But at least while I was at it, it made me feel that the incidents in my life were worth the print. So what made me pick up the keys once again? Actually, a neat little message in my Facebook inbox from a cousin’s cousin(life’s irony). Anjum Mukadam, you have made me think! Thank you. I am back on my keyboard-for at least the next 3 posts. Can’s promise more than that, however. The lazy instinct is too hard to shrug off. So here’s where I begin.