Author Archives: Veena S.

About Veena S.

'Travel broadens the mind.' It's been a wonderful journey through the past few years, living and travelling to many countries. Certainly there were few eye openers, at other times just a comparison on cultures and food and cuisines. My blog is my learning journey to capture and re live these moments, share photographs and use technology. Come ...see the world with me.

World Palate Recipes: Fluffy Idli (Rice and Lentil Steamed Cake)

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When you say South Indian breakfast, the first thing that comes to mind is soft, white fluffy idli (and assorted chutneys that go with it). Idli is a characteristic Tamil dish, perhaps one of the oldest fermented foods in India. The batter, made from soaked raw parboiled rice and urad dal, is then left overnight, placed on the kitchen counter to ferment. Traditional kitchen tops are  usually made with grey Cuddapah stone, but in recent times  granite is widely used. South India enjoys a relatively warm climate year long, making it conducive for the batter to ferment and rise to almost double, overnight. Natural bacteria and microorganisms (probiotics) do the trick and no yeast is involved! The ‘good bacteria’ in fermenting was a way of preserving food, long before the days of refrigeration. Fermentation can produce distinctive, strong slightly sour flavours…similar to sourdough breads or Japanese Sake.

What are the benefits of fermented rice? You are what you eat, say Yoga and Ayurveda.  Ever heard of the intelligent, witty, highly educated, culturally rooted South Indian, whose memory recall for reciting complex Sanskrit stotras is remarkable? Then its the Tam Brahm!(Tamil Brahman). Idli, dosa and appam are breakfast delicacies made from fermented food. ( Of course, other cultures have produced many a scholar too).

Cultural Notes: The home of a South Indian is distinctly traditional, religious oriented, disciplined in daily routine. Women of the household, urban or rural, are early risers. The stainless steel coffee filter is the first gadget on the kitchen top to be filled with fresh ground coffee. Then water is set to boil and pour into it, letting the deep brown decoction percolate. Time for morning stotras, music to be melodiously filtering the entire house. Next is drawing muggu at the doorstep with rice powder, and invoking goodness and clean Spirits to enter the household. This is done by sprinkling water (or mopping) at the doorstep /threshhold and placing exact number of pearly white dots for the muggu pattern. With swift and dextrous hand movements between those dots, a beautiful pattern emerges. Intricate dot counting becomes Art!

Kapi ready irke” she tells the house as she pours steaming hot frothy, brown brew into stainless steel tumblers ( yes, there is a reason for the metal tumblers of particular size, to keep the coffee warm and taste retaining too. Definetely better than Star Buck mugs!).

Its time for other gadjets to appear on the counter. Set up the idli stand and prepare the tangy sambar.

 

 

 

 

Muggu / Kolam pattern drawn with rice flour. 

I too have assembled my equipments. A Pressure cooker, idli stand, blender/mixer or a traditional stone grinder, small hand shaped spoon to remove steamed idli, banana leaves for serving, stainless utensils and katori (cups), stainless scooping spoon, stainless steel coffee filter.

Indian kitchen gadjets

Ingredients:

2 cups parboiled raw rice (not Basmati) or Ready packed idli rice flakes

1 cup urad dal

2 tsp. avval /pohe /beaten rice (optional)

few seeds of soaked methi/ fenugreek

water and salt as required

Method

Wash the rice ( or pakaged idli rice flakes) and urad dal few times, seperately till water runs clear. Grind them seperately to a semi fine batter along with (optional) beaten rice. Now mix both the batters, add soaked methi seeds and salt and water as required. The mixture should be semi thick, pouring consistency. Place in large bowl or utensil and cover with a plate. The batter should rise when left overnight (or 5-8 hrs.) in a warm place.

Next day early morning, check batter, give a good stir.

Now put 2 – 3 cups of water in the pressure cooker or steam cooker. Prepare idli stand by washing and lightly oiling, so the idlis can be scraped off easily. (traditionally each sieve is filled with batter and covered with a muslin cloth, that helps retain the steam, as well as easy to tip off idli, once ready). I do not do this at my home.

Place stand in cooker  WITHOUT the pressure whistle. Steam for 10 -15 mins, check if done by inserting a sharp knife or fork into the fluffy idli. Keep them to settle in the cooker for another 3-5 mins. Remove lid, take out stand and use the spoon to scrape out the fluffy, soft idli , place in warm box or serving bowl. The softness will depend much on the preparation of batter consistency and the fermentation due micro organisms, developed in warm place.

Practice makes perfect, so do experiment if you are a novice.

Now, as in a traditional South Indian home, light a lamp at the altar, light some incense stick /agarbatti and listen to some melodious chants. Serve fluffy steaming idlis along with Sambar (Tangy vegetable stew) and some coconut chutney.

           ‘Anna he poorna Brahman’ Enjoy your breakfast.

Wait here for the sambar and chutney recipes, please.

Do leave your comments in the box, it helps us all to interact and learn from each other.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Essay: Flowers – A Way of Life, Art and Business.

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Indian culture is almost incomplete without flowers. Flowers have an important value in tradition, culture and religion. Spiritually too flowers and blooms add positive effect to home and mental well being. They signify love, beauty, happiness and  generosity. Give a bouquet of flowers to a patient, friend or a loved one and see that instant wide smile.

     Flowers take the tears of weeping night, and give them to the 

                              sun for the day’s delight. 

Joseph Cotter.

From dawn to sunset it’s a hectic time for flower gatherers and sellers. Flower picking, sorting, packaging and delivering to markets and then making garlands and selling them is a long day’s process. Whether they are used for decorating homes, for festivals, weddings, adding grace to a bride’s hairdo or offerings in a temple, flowers find their way into every Indian home! In Ayurveda and medicine also flowers of Basil (Tulsi), Coriander and Jasmine are widely used. Many a Bollywood song and dance sequence are in the midst of blooms. ‘Phool khile hai gulshan gulshan’ and phool tumhe bheja hai khaat mein describe the beauty of blooming gardens and sending flowers in love letters.

A trip to Bengaluru flower market

Malleshwaram and adjacent Yeshwantapuram street markets in Bengaluru, India were buzzing at 10 am. Women vendors busy completing arranging flowers, men making garlands of 3-4 kg. each, decorating them with glitter, and customers who wanted to offer flowers to the nearby temples made for a colourful sight. This place is not near the famous KR market, which is in the heart of the city).

Thanks to my dear friends who took me and guided me with many a local story and flower name as we busied ourselves with photo taking.

Street market, Malleshwaram, Bengaluru

Mounds of coral coloured Kanakambaram, yellow tiny petaled chamanti or crysanthemum, fragrant white malligai, pinkish white jaji malligai, petals of fragrant red roses, blossoms of orange marigolds or banti phulu and other deep purple crispy flower heads, the scene was surely a photographer’s delight! Forget the shabbily erected wooden platforms and petals strewn on the floor underneath, both men and women sellers had no time to waste looking at us with our cameras. They sensed we were not the ‘interested’ buyer!

 

Lakshmiamma and Narsaiiah are two such vendors who rise early at 2 am each day and buy flowers from the main market haggling for the right price of the day. Back home with heavy baskets, they begin to sort, pack and make malai for selling, along with family or others from community. By 7 am they have few baskets ready, lined with tender green banana leaves to wrap the flowers in. Off to the market, to set up shop, carrying their tiffin food. They (like other vendors) will spend much of the day sitting crouched or cross legged busy tying assorted flowers to make garlands and sell.

‘ It’s Friday today, day for praying to the Devi goddess‘ reminded my friend. Prices go up, especially for flowers used for temple offerings – like malli, kanakambaram, red hibiscus, lotus and Tulsi These flowers are associated with Indian Gods and Goddesses ( mind you, there are hundred different ones!) but Lakshmi, Vishnu, Saraswati, Kanak Durga and Maa Kali to name a few.

Flower garlands for temples and weddings

We watched a group of men working fast and concentrated on stringing white tuberose flowers. They inserted a long needle into the tubular end towards making a huge garland. To make it circular, each time 8 flowers were stranded diagonally. After measuring about 3 inches in height, they would then add 1-2 inches of rose flowers and folded assorted green leaves for a colour change. A garland would take 2 people about 4 hours and would weigh between 2-5 kg. Sold at Rs. 500 to Rs. 800 per piece, depending upon the weight and type of flowers the  garlands are truly works of creativity, besides being a photgrapher’s or artists delight.

Next stall a vendor delightfully called us to see specially crafted small ‘veni’ or malai made with tightly closed white buds. These veni are specially given to married women and young brides to decorate their hairdo’s on festive occasions. Extra thoughtful touch of this street artist to tie the buds in coloured threads of blue, green and red to match the wearer’s traditional saree. Sold at Rs. 70 each,for a small piece, they were special.

”Çome, come”….waved another vendor, eager for us to take some exotic photos. Bright pink rose petals tied tightly to form a long pendular piece and finished off with rolled tubular green leaves.’Where did you learn this?’I inquired. “From my father came the reply, I used to sit with him after school hours, now I own this business.”

Such artists find work ONLY if there is a customer! And exotic garlands and bouquets of flowers do not come cheap, and depend on the climate and season.

The traditional ever fragrant malligai malai was in circular mounds, flowers came from Belgaum or far away Madurai, world famous for these flowers. ( Even BBC travel magazine has an article dedicated to it.) Each ‘more’ or hand length sold for about Rs. 30, price adjusted higher for the festivals and puja season. These fragrant white jasmine strings are most popular with women. At times they are interspersed with rose petals, orange buds or green fragrant marjoram leaves to give a colourful twist.

Bride’s jada malai or garland for bridal hair do.

Not just flowers, but tender coconut leaves are crafted into Thoran used to decorate doors, a wedding dias or mandap and temple gateways. Deft hands and time tested experience is required to be able to source the best leaves and twist them as needed. ( I’ve seen elaborate similar craft in S.E. Asia, especially in Bali for temple decorations).

coconut leaves thoran or pendular hangings

This write up just cannot be complete without the highlight of our outing. Saving the best to the last!

There was a (trained) Indian bull commonly called Kole Basava parading the busy street, and his care taker played tunes on his pipani or shehnai. The bull was adorned with embellishments, trinkets and ankle bells and clothes, donated by people in exchange of blessings. Strings of colourful flowers- red, roses, yellow crysanthemums, white jasmine were tied around his neck and horns, the simplicity and purity of flowers was Mother Nature’s best way to decorate the animal.

We took lots of photos with this ‘special’ animal, as the Kole Basava or Gangi Reddu ( as called in Andhra) visits homes and market people only around Sankranti festival. The caretaker played some old traditional tune for us on his pipani, in exchange for some alms. The Kole Basava are a surviving folk art form, and the community lives on alms. The bull is taken from village to village, house to house and they collect and survive on the donated grain and clothing. The bull is much revered to date, as people seek his blessings.

At the end of our visit it was time to tuck some fresh malligai into my hair known for its natural perfume. The trip however would be incomplete without the traditional Udipi dosa and filter kapi. Rightly so, it was the next stop.

Do tell us if you have visited a flower market and what did you see there ? Or leave your comments on this article if it has interested you. 

For another flower market see here.

 

Year End 2019: Finding Meaning in the Memories

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The year 2018 goes by. Another sunset. Another year to collect our memories.

Sunset 2019

Photo courtesy: Ulhas D.

What ARE memories? Memories are the mental capacity of reviving or retaining facts, impressions, events of people and places, or recalling numerical facts. However, on an average the worst memories stick with us, and the pleasant ones seem to slip away too fast. The importance of memories lies in the emotions and learning that takes place. Isn’t it befitting then, to shake out and share some memories at year end? By sharing we make our bagfuls lighter.

Here are some memories dear to me that gave me an ‘Áha‘ moment, enriching me.

On Events: 

What a wonderful way to begin the year! A surprise birthday party for me made magical with food, laughter and fun with  cousins. Traditional greetings and a game of story telling  involved everyone’s participation. Lessons learned in gratitude towards all the wonderful people in my life!

Visiting family and friends is always a great way to relax. Opportunities to exchange ideas, savour cultural differences and try varied cuisines. Remembering that ‘adjustment factor’ is key to living amicably. ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans’ is a wise old saying.

Endless memories of constant caring for our elders at home coupled with recent death of loved ones has been on front burner. Dealing with petty needs, practicing patience, understanding the psychology of demential behaviour are just some eye openers in caring for aged. The fear of being incapacitated and immobile tends to snatch away the self esteem and interest in their life. As for us – It is an honourable chance to do our good Karmic duties and negate any residual loans in Life. Ónce they cared for us, now its our turn to look after them and be part of the cycle of Life.

Both pleasant and mentally tiring memories come to mind. The few pleasant interactions and short conversations, singing, reading to them made life more beautiful for both of us. The faint smile and the frail hand that reached out lovingly brought tears to us both. And memories of feeding a ripe mango and sweet kheer (milk and rice pudding) that dribbled down onto the shirt brought back my own childhood memories of being fed caringly by my parents.

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Photo courtesy: express.co.uk

Then there are recent memories of attending my differently abled niece’s Talent show. Seeing these children perform with musical instruments, do traditional dance and learn a new language just demonstrated their grit and determination to learn as well as enjoy. Well done!

Can you recall any memories of social inclusion and work that you may have done?

On Friends and Relatives:

Friends, laughter, food, sharing thoughts and a shoulder to cry on -this sums up what friends are for.

Because of you I laugh a little, cry a little, talk a little …more‘ Thank you to EACH one of you, my dear friends. It was you who  comforted me when in pain and chided me when erring! (and I know some of them will be reading my blog post). Sitting in the warmth of your company, sipping tea or being fussed over with delicious home cooked food, or having discussions on storytelling and gardening- you inspired me!

On Skills Upgrading:

To stay young and fit, sharpen your memory’ is an old saying. True, as you age, the neurons in the brain shrink and you loose the ability to remember facts, names. One way is to keep learning, staying abreast, developing new hobbies, meeting new people or solving brain teasers. ( I’m nervous to upgrade to a new mobile phone and learn/unlearn many a function). Don’t laugh please!

Observing screeching parrots and noisy Cockatoos in one of the parks sparked a new interest. Time to buy sketch pencils, colours and a drawing book, I thought to myself. Since then I’ve been recording bird facts, observing and feeding birds, searching You tube tutorials, and sharing my book with friends and school children. Be inspired, get creative!

Here is a simple bird story for you.

The Peacock And the Crane

Storytelling is another tool in my cap. Just like reading, listening to stories brings numerous benefits to children. It improves listening, recall, imagination, public speaking and becoming creative to make up own stories.

What are your memories of Grandmother stories?

Good stories surprise us. They make us think and feel. They stick in our minds and help us remember ideas and concepts in a way that a PowerPoint crammed with bar graphs never can.”

Joe Lazauskas and Shane Snow, The Storytelling Edge

On Blogging: It’s been a wonderful journey since 2014 to date. in my first year I did not know the ABC of creating or writing a blog. Memories of late nights writing and erasing a post, getting stuck with a writer’s block or even crying over unsaved work make me laugh a bit now that I am more experienced. Phew! I survived. I learned. I’ve grown a bit. see here. for my blogging journey.

Let me stop here, for the bag seems a bit lighter now after sharing. Surely the memories have taught me many a lesson and because they are my very own…I can always tuck into them whether happy or sad.

It’s time to hear some of your memories of year 2018. Did they change the course of your journey?

Photo credit: Jeanna Gabellini  htpps://masterpeacecoaching.com

                 Wishing you all a very Healthy and 

                      Peaceful New Year 2020.

 

 

World Palate Recipes: Coconut Stuffed Banana( Malabar Style)

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When you mention bananas, lush tropics immediately come to mind. The banana tree is not a tree, but a herb. It is encased in a sheath of leaves, that blooms with a pendulous flower head, that will bear multiple tier of fruit. Bananas are high in nutrition – potassium, magnesium, vitamin B6. The easily digestible starch in them provides fiber and keeps hunger at bay. To lift your mood and keep blood pressure away – eat a banana. It contains serotonin and dopamine nutrients. Even the peel is very high in nutrients, and makes for a rich addition to kitchen compost. Humble banana!

Know your banana well! Cooking banana or dessert/ fruit banana, which one? Dessert bananas come in different sizes and colours. They are sweeter due to higher starch content. The yellow ones that sit on supermarket shelves are just one variety – others are deep purple, red, amber and yellow.Just a simple snack or smoothie or frozen banana yoghurt – bananas are just so versatile yet delicious!

The mild taste of bananas is great for cooking, frying or baking. Green raw bananas are popular in Kerala, Carribean, Honduras, Phillipines for making chips or fried vegetable.

Young banana plant growing in our garden. I love to make rice pockets with the leaves, or use them plate liners.

Recently I bought a dozen thick peel, delicious bananas. After munching a few as a snack, I wanted to experiment on a few desserts. Here is a very popular Malabar/ Kerala style dessert /snack called Pazhum Nirachatu ( stuffed banana) that I share with you today. Though I am not from that region, I remember my mother used to cook this delicacy for her ‘ladies lunch meet’ And as hungry children, we would get our share of warm stuffed bananas, right after school. Nutrition pack!

Ingredients

3 small size just ripe bananas (yellow or red skin)

1 cup grated fresh coconut ( use frozen/thaw if fresh unavailable)

4-6 cloves of cardamon

2 spoons maida / plain flour

1/2 cup fine sugar

few raisins, cashews for garnish

3-5 spoons of ghee

Method

Peel the bananas, check their firmness. Make a lengthwise slit /scoop and keep aside. In a pan add 2- 3 spoons of ghee , lightly roast the coconut, add sugar and stir. Do not let it caramelize! Keep aside and cool, add cardamon powder and raisins.

In a small container put the maida and add drops of water to make a thick paste.

Now use this stuffing to fill into prepared bananas. Coat the stuffed side with the paste lightly.

In a pan, add ghee, place the prepared bananas and roast them to a deep brown colour on all sides. See that they retain some firmness. Remove cool, garnish with raisins. Serve warm or at room temperature. If you wish, add a dollop of vanilla ice cream for a twist. Enjoy!

Stay healthy and blessed with Nature’s gifts.

 

Let me know if you make this recipe and have changed it a bit. How else do you cook your banana for dessert? 

Post Cards from Tonga: Life on an Island

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If you’ve heard the name Tonga, you will immediately think of  deepest blue seas, soft sandy beaches, and swaying coconut fronds! Are’nt most islands like that? Well, yes and no. Each place is unique and Tonga in the Pacific Ocean is where you can swim with the enormous, yet gentle migrating whales! So informs P.

Well, after a BIG swim P decided to head to the local Nuku’Alofa market to find some fresh local vegetables. Maybe a walk in the sunshine would dull the bobbing in her head due to boat rides.

Underwater Mother Whale and calf, Tonga.

Here are some photos for a slice of Polynesian life.

From hand-made woven Pandanus leaf baskets, to Tapa mats, bunches of ripe bananas, tuber vegetables to whale-bone artistry, sea shell artifacts the Nukuálofa Tongan market has it all. Crowded and buzzing like all other markets, there seems to be a carefree calm spirit. Maybe the Sea (Moana) watch’eth and protect them all.

Bunches of yellow – green bananas are major produce, being tropical wholesome fruit. Hmmm.. do they use the oblong leaves of the plant ? In India, eating on the banana/plantain leaf is a traditional feature, in Malaysia fish and rice are cooked in small leaf pockets called ketupat. 

The long, brown tuber roots are Taro -the only local grown vegetable. Taro is much revered in Polynesian culture. Nothing else grew here. Washed and cleaned the root is hammered into a loose reddish white paste and has a mild flavour.

With the coming of colonials and recent migrants exotic vegetables like cabbage, tomatoes and lettuce, Chinese leafy vegetables find their place alongside local produce.

 

Coconut trees grow in sandy soil and need plenty of water, thus commonly found on most islands. Almost every part of the the tree finds use. There are many stories woven around the coconut tree, though each culture has its own version.

The coconut tree legend

Being an island, life in Tonga revolves around the Sea. The Moana is deeply revered. Ancient Polynesians were great navigators who traveled the high swells to hunt for whales and other fish, that was staple diet. They used the night sky and stars as their compass.

Effectively then, womenfolk busied themselves in making artifacts from whalebone, wood and sea treasures. Fancy a big sea shell carving? Or a musical clinking chime of seas shell to  hang in your home garden? Polynesian wood mask carving and bowls would make a treasured souvenir too! Besides promoting local Art.

You can’t miss these stalls at the market. THAT is what attracts the global visitor ensuring a peek into local culture. Special fine woven mats Ta’óvala worn by men and womenfolk are tied at the waist for ceremonies or funerals. Made with strips of thick coarse Pandanus leaves and patterned with a distinct red border it can take up to 2-3 months of preparation and weaving. They are generally passed from one generation to another.

See the starched paper or beaten leaves with Aboriginal drawings? Mostly sea creatures like turtles, fish, mermaids, Sea God and waves are sketched and inked.

What then is life on an island? Away from buzz of city pressure. In reverence with Nature, listening to the sound of the Sea, of sunrise and moon rise making poetry in the sky, of soft steps on the sand making temporary foot marks in time, of scanning the coast for the swish of fish tails, of communal celebrations of Life.

Yes! Don’t you , the city dweller dream of it?

Have you come across any cultural story in the Polynesian islands? Do share with us readers.

 

World Palate Recipes – Re blog Dosakaya Pappu

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Once again the Dosakaya /yellow cucumber creeper is growing well in our kitchen garden. We’ve harvested about 5-6 mild flavoured, thin skinned fruit. I’m experimenting adding them into various different lentils – but it tastes best in Tuvar or Arhar dal.

After taking new photos, I found I have already shared the recipe with you a while ago. See here.

Under the creeper are the dark green coloured triangular Colocassia /Arvi leaves flourishing in the recent rains. They are supposed to be rich in iron. The garden leaves are so tender, they cook up very fast. It’s important to retain nutrients, so no overcooking greens. For a recipe see here.

 

 

Crochet: Eco Friendly, Reusable Draw String Pouches

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Who says granny pouches are so passe?

Potli bags or granny pouches were ideally reused fabric from old dresses, sarees, shirts or sheets. History mentions their effective use for putting in herbs, medicines and dry aromatic leaves, since the Vedic times. In recent years small pouches find utility as key holders or jewellery or coin pouches. Embroidered or lace edged or exotic beaded pouches have become a fashion statement in recent times.

I stumbled upon a informative post of an 80 year old lovely lady who keeps herself creatively busy making drawstring pouches!

It brings back memories of my very enthusiastic and deft mother who was a good seamstress. Often leftover fabric would be converted into carry bags. However, she did not crochet or knit, as the climate did not demand the need.

From Germany to New Zealand, This 89-YO Granny’s Potli Bags are a Global Hit!

The last few months was a wonderful ‘crochet time’ as I busied  myself making drawstring gift pouches. It was great way to learn new stitches and practice old ones too!

The pouches were then stuffed with a small jewellery gift and some traditional haldi -kumkum’ (auspicious turmeric and vermillion packets). At the Mehendi ( Henna ) party, after much laughter, karaoke songs and exchange of recipes it was time to give this unique parting gift and make a formal invite for the wedding.

The specially hand crafted, eco friendly, crochet pouches were indeed a surprise! There was much awe and smiles too. Each lady received a special drawstring pouch with her name tag. The tag also spread the message of love for crochet and the importance of learning a hobby and being creative.

Here are some of the stitches used :
Bead stitch, single crochet, double crochet, fan /shell stitch, lark’s foot stitch, granny square, mitered granny.


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To avoid much seams, and complete the project in desired time, all the pouches were made as a rectangle of desired length and width and then sewn up at the base end and side. At the top end, make sure to include space for inserting the string and closing off with a picot stitch or fan stitch for a neat edge.

Tips to think : Different thickness of wool, different stitches and the tightness of hand may vary the desired size by few centimetres. Keep extra wool for tassels making and joining. If adding embellishments like beads – good to practice on a seperate project. It takes time, but adds to beauty.

One of my favourite colour combination that was effective with the Larkspur stitch is this one. Try different colour combinations, use one in Nature. It’s a great way to appreciate colours!

So, what’s your hobby? What have you recently made with yarn or fabric or other materials? How does your hobby help you – financially or emotionally? 

Do leave your comments, I love an interactive audience. Cheers!

Summer Fruit: Mangoes reign Supreme

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Summer Fruit: Mangoes reign Supreme

Though the summer in most parts of India is now in full fervour,  mangoes are yet to make their abundant presence in the market and in the homes it brings the lip licking and drooling. Last week I did go to the market to get my first batch…but I was not impressed with its taste.

Mangoes when raw are green, but on ripening turn orange or golden yellow. Raw mangoes find their way into many a recipe and cuisine across India and South Asia. Mouth watering chutneys, tongue tantalising Andhra pickles, refreshing cool aam panna from Gujrat and Maharashtra, sliced wedges of raw mango dipped in salt for a tangy roadside snack to mamudikaya pappu or raw mango laced dal, a tangy dal salad or snack called vaatli dal.

In Sri Lanka raw mangoes are blended with coconut paste and used in fish curry.

So, as you wait for the mangoes with me, here is an older post. See here. I’ll be back soon.

 

 

 

Beachfront Weekend Market at Manly, Sydney

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Blue skies, warm weather, a long weekend in April were the perfect conditions to enjoy a day out at Manly beach, north Sydney. ( Yes, Sydney ‘Time Out’ listed its weekend markets, which was a bonus). Excitement and anticipation swelled as we waited in the long snaking queues at Circular Quay Ferry Wharf along with other tourists and Sydney siders for a ferry ride across the harbour.

At Manly wharf, eager holiday crowds descended on to the main street, heading towards the blue sea and surf. This quaint suburb had its very own distinct architecture. Art deco buildings of 1800 -1900’s had been given a fresh paint, buildings at street corners were shaped angular and balconies were round shaped. The main promenade or ‘The Corso’ has had multiple redevelopments. The local Council takes pride and interest in promoting local culture and heritage, which in turn stimulates business and tourism. The weekend market is one such project.

We passed many shops selling ice creams, sun hats, sunglasses and Billabong surf and beach wear. There were  travel agents selling flight brochures, a Cole’s supermart well stocked with groceries, and some other sundry items.

In the 1860’s there were just two or three hotels here and few cafes along the sea front. Today, Manly is a rich and bustling tourist suburb with many more charming beachfront bars and restaurants. White shade giving parasols and outdoor chairs made for a picture perfect scenic seafront.

Away from this frenzy quietly tucked away on Sydney street, was the colourful weekend market. With so many people there…it sure was a buyer’s and browser’s haven!

Care for a Hawaiian shirt or hand-made beaded jewellery? Soft smelling soaps or Art deco posters? The market had something for everyone! Else…head out to the azure blue waters and soft sands just across.

I took a carefree slow walk, peering almost at each stall. The open air market had a mixed smell – sea breeze mingling with aroma of roasted coffee beans wafting from the nearby cafes. How intoxicating! Stalls displayed a variety of loose printed shirts, beachwear in white, blue and coral colours, sunglasses, books and exclusive beeswax paper used to cover food items . There was handmade bead jewellery, bracelets of shells and raffia strings. Catering to the hungry crowds – the makeshift mobile vans at the far end of the street turned into fast selling food stalls. Caramel, boysnberry and pistacchio Gelato, Turkish Gozleme that are spinach and cheese wraps, burgers and sandwiches, hot fries, ham strips and Mexican nachos. “No one goes hungry. Come on, tuck in” called the vendors.

I settled in for a cappuccino and some handmade hazelnut chocolates. Hmmm…aromatic and the crunch complemented each other.

Want a Hawaiian print shirt? A soothing scented hand-made soap? Or souvenirs and paintings from locals ? Or just have a chat with one of the stall holders and hear about their way of life. Aren’t markets a great place to walk and talk?

Visit: http://www.timeout.com/sydney/shopping/manly-markets to know more and plan your trip.

Smelling the fresh seaside air, listening to live music in the background, smiling at children licking their ice creams while frolicking around water fountains, around this vibrant market was just so relaxing. I carried no bag, no intentions to buy.

But what is a place if you do not interact with its people? So…I introduced myself to the man behind the crafted books. “My name’s Bob, I’m a retired engineer” he said in thick Australian accent extending a friendly handshake. “Look, I have something special for you, Indian lady” he said as we exchanged more notes. ” Here is a lovely Indian dictionary for you, can you read it to me?” …..And as we re read…he turned pages to the discrete carved out hollow within! ” This is where you can hide your cash and put the book on the library shelf! ” he smiled and insisted he gifts me the book safe.

 

The lady at next stall was selling sweet-scented hand-made soaps and candles. “Making these is therapy for me, on weekdays I work as a Prison Manager” she said. “‘ The job is tough and compelling.” She has been a regular seller here for past two years and enjoys the market’s ambience and summer sea breeze. She is getting queries from customers for more product range and is planning to set up an online business. “Happy Easter” we wished each other.

I soon mingled into the ”other” seaside crowd. The soft sands, thundering waves and frothy foam seemed so magical. At one end were professional surfers and paddlers, at the other children and non swimmers gleefully wet their feet with froth and cool waters.

Manly – a slice of life for each holiday maker. Shopping street and cafes, the market and the seaside. What’s your interest?Come, live it up!

For another Sydney market, at the scenic Sydney harbour see here

Have you been to a beachfront market place? What curios caught your eye there? Do leave your comments below.

Post Cards from Pune: Historic Tulsi Baug Market

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History, tradition, crowds! That sums up this market in Pune, India. From being a barter trade market, to a temple area adjoined with shops, to becoming a bustling economic zone and a tourist spot …Tulsi Baug market has evolved generously over the years.

Apart from the crowded streets lined with everything households need, the area evokes old charm and rings bells of the Peshwai buildings and wadas. Carved with timber ceilings and lattice railings, low arches and high airy balconies they dot the surrounding areas that were once home to the ministers and officials. Peshwas ruled and designed Pune territories under the rule of majestic warrior Sivaji Maharaj.

Bajirao road, Laxmi road and Shanipur road are the trio of entry points to this centrally located market area. Today each road caters to specific sale of items – vegetables and fruits, kitchen needs, puja items and traditional clothes.

At the heart of the area stands the Ram-Sita temple, built around 1756 by the then ruling Peshwa. Its 150 m golden conical shikhar or spire can be prominently seen from the adjacent streets. History and architecture students stand in awe to admire the simple grandeur of wooden pillar work and lime stucco work  ( the temple is now under renovation and re structure).The surrounding temple area or wada, tucked interior and away from the bustling street market exudes a calm, soothing atmosphere. Once abundant with Tulsi (Basil) plants in the gardens, it is now home to shops selling traditional items. Two smaller temples and a Nagarkhana (music store room) are part of the temple complex. Brass lamps, artefacts, antique door bells and knobs, traditional kitchen utensils and brass, iron woks and spoons as well as fancy toran or door decorations made of plastic flowers or wool fill every inch of the tiny shops around the temple complex.

Old meets new, nostalgia meets novelty, Art meets History!

Out through the low wooden darwaza, onto the buzzing streets outside one is greeted with congestion, traffic and chaos (especially during the festive days!) The delightful, historic place suddenly becomes a nightmare! Beware of pickpockets and curt behaviour of people!

Bajirao road street market caters to clothing – cheap woollen shawls and socks ( yes, Pune did get cold to 12- 15 degrees.), eco-friendly cloth bags or pishwi in different sizes, traditional parkar- polka or girl’s long skirt/blouse, dhoti, jhabba, topi or traditional men’s attire worn by local rural population from Satara, Sangli regions.

Many shops in adjoining streets cater to puja lamps, cotton wicks, decorated seating stools, wedding clothes, fancy gift bags or potli and festival jewellery.

Sankranti, is a harvest festival celebrated in January, heralding the Sun’s northern movement. Traditionally it is celebrated with exchange of til -gul   

and married women dress in quintessential black saree and young girls in black and gold parkar polka, adorning themselves with unique tilache dagine (sesame and sugar jewellery). Young girls and boys under 5 years of age are showered with til halwa and sugar beads. Making of this festive jewellery is a dying art ( tiny poppy or sesame seed is covered in white or green coloured sugar coating).

Tulsi Baug market is THE place for such traditional items.

In a quick turn around to the crossing I spotted the famous Chitale Bandhu store, famous for its Baaker Wadi, Pedha and Srikhand. For the Puneri non-resident Indians living in far away USA and Australia – THIS is the store! They must stop by for the delicacies or pack and carry home.

Long live Pune traditions and culture, the seat of Marathas and Peshwas is held up high with every new young generation that aims to hold on to its past, in this era of modernism.

Tulsi Baug holds a special place in the heart of every Puneri, and we hope the municipal corporation sets adequate funds for treasure and unique history.

 

 

 

 

 

Year End 2018: My Blogging Journey So Far…

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2018, another year comes to an end. How has my blogging journey been so far, I often ponder?

”Have you thought of blogging?” someone asked me a few years ago. I didn’t even know what a blog was, let alone create one. I baulked, shyly but firmly decide a blog will be born!

That brought a flood of questions to mind. Why write? Write what? Should I share my personal stories with an unknown audience? How do I create a blog? How to upload photos? What are the basic techno skills required? Writing demands a certain discipline and a focus. Am I ready to sit on the magic carpet and take my audience around the world?

“The magic of traveling is a change of perspective. The journey is more important than the destination.”

~ Maria Lehtman

Finding a focus

The first daunting question before creating a blog and naming it was to find a theme or particular aspect of that interested or changed me! The numerous Kodak prints and Iphone photos covered in dust (in online folders) awaited proper organization. Phew!

Travel had taught us many a history, geography and cultural lesson. Should I write about people? Their language and peculiar accents? Should I write about cultures or some hilarious or scary incidents we encountered? While travelling, we often visited local markets to buy fresh produce, breads or local food. It proved a cheaper, healthier, novel experience each time, instead of a meal at a restaurant.

I had found a theme. Writing about markets seemed apt.

Often walking along the cobbled paths in European towns, or dragging my shopping trolley in Singapore was the easy way to reach the local market. So ‘walktomarket’ seemed an apt title. I choose wordpress for its simplicity and support in technology.

Singapore’s 5C’s: What it means at the Wet Market

Hyderabad Two Cups of Chai at Monda Market

             Courtesy: Internet – Quotes on web writing.

Genre and Writing Style.

As the stories were my personal experiences, I adopted the narrative style, using first person while telling anecdotes. After studying the different writing styles, planning my layout (initially on paper, later more efficiently on the blog site itself) I slowly began posting online. But I soon discovered that to describe events or places in details, I have to use sensory language, make the place come alive actually. Was I able to deliver that to the audience? (Thank you readers for leaving generous comments sometimes). It required lots of writing and editing practice…and continuing determination.

Narrative writing is a way of story telling, personal, and yet conveying a moral or message. The reader must be able to learn, feel or gather a particular impression to remain interested. (Courtesy: Internet essays on writing.)

Throughout our life we learn from our experiences, and travel had given me a new perspective. THAT was the message I wished to convey. Thus my writing had to show that thought. I often had casual personal interviews with the cheese, bread or fruit or vendors while shopping. Including these was a wonderful way of projecting the human stories to a wider  audience. Other creative ideas like captioning photos, writing postcard stories and leaving questions for the reader helped support reader interest. And that’s important.

A Photo Essay – Al Mina Market, Abu Dhabi

The story and planning 

No work can be achieved without a proper plan or outline. Planning helps channeling of thoughts. In writing, after making a first outline draft, details are to be added.Then editing and proofing are next steps. Every narrative has a beginning, middle and end. Thus my narratives too required some structure. If I introduce a certain event or person, then at the end I must close this topic so. Learning to write, think and plan takes up energy, time and brain power, that at times left me happily exhausted.

“How should I introduce the place? Should I begin with an interview? Or describe the traditional attire? Whom should I highlight as main character? Should I focus on the historical aspect or pin point the road map for the next traveler?” So many questions to ponder and write about, to entertain the reader and keep him engaged in my story!

Mauritius – In search of an idol of Lord Ganesh

https://answershark.com/writing/essay-writing/how-to-write-narrative-essay.html

http://canuwrite.com/essay_parts.php

Read more to write better? What is a writer’s block?

Some days words would flow like a running tap, other times not a seed of thought crossed my brain. ”How can I be committed to blogging and my audience?” I grew worried.  Days would pass without writing even two paragraphs! That’s when I read about a writer’s block.( Dictionary meaning: the condition of being unable to think of what to write or how to proceed with writing.) Doing regular exercise, going for a walk helped me not only to revitalize, but also to literally think on my feet! At times, I rushed home to put thoughts on paper (laptop) lest they evade me later in the busy humdrum of life.

“It usually helps me write by reading — somehow the reading gear in your head turns the writing gear.” -Steven Wright

To write better one needs to read more. To improve vocabulary, to get creative, to improve grammar…read! So to improve my writing I began reading travel blogs, books, novels, biographies -anything to keep my mind in learning state.

ME Time. Hobby Time.

“It is important to have a hobby. It not only keeps your creative juices flowing it increases healthy mental activity. It even reduces stress, depression and loneliness. The secretion of good hormone endorphin acts as tranquilizer and is calming when one is happily engaged in a hobby.” (Courtesy: Internet)

http://docdreyfus.com/psychologically-speaking/the-importance-of-hobbies/

“Go away boredom and loneliness” I often found myself saying as blogging became my new hobby. As a beginner, I had to discipline myself to concentrate and write daily. “Yipee! another blog written and posted” I would cheer myself. “Has anyone left a comment yet?” Writing became therapeutic and I grew more responsible to my viewers.

Blogging provided me with ample brain food – writing, editing, saving my work, uploading and sizing photos, creating new sections and pages, adding widgets, changing the Header photo, responding to comments, visiting other blogs etc.

A new Category : World Palate Recipes was added to compliment my travel stories. Many a times our home kitchen was a culinary experimenting lab that reminded us of our different cuisines we had sampled across the world.

Finally, it’s been an interesting, enlightening and happy blogging journey this far. My aim of using the many photos and documenting some wonderful travel experiences  has proved immensely refreshing and satisfying. I hope you have enjoyed reading my blogs.

For Year 2017 see here

                 Happiness, Health and Friendships

                     to all in the New Year 2019. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Festival Markets: Nostalgic Childhood Memories of Diwali Celebrations

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Photo Courtesy:Internet :Holiday Spot.

Year 2018 Diwali comes knocking at our door. Whilst cleaning  the puja altar and preparing easy sweet treats, my cravings for the crunchy chakli, a lentil and spice based savoury and ghee laden karanji or khajjikaya bring back childhood memories. Did my old paternal aunt just knock at our door? I wish! Those were the fun-filled, aroma wafting days of a busy kitchen. Aunt used to help Mother to prepare big boxes of Diwali Faral treats. As children, we would patiently hide behind the kitchen doors, eager to hear the first call to taste the delicacies.

Here I share with you my home made Diwali Faral.

Home made Diwali treats

My friends and I ordered some dry fruit barfi and doodh pak online, keeping with the technology. We also visited our local store and bought some Faral off the shelves, that of course did not taste the same as home-made. Less cooking, less cleaning and no visit to the grocery stores are the choices of the day.  Weight watching, diabetes and BP have added to the lack lustre of relishing Diwali sweets, let alone preparing them.

Lighting of clay lamps and bursting crackers is an important part of the festival. Bright lamps signify light over darkness, good over evil. Traditionally clay lamps are made by the kumbhar potter communities. Life celebrated each person’s role in society and home – their ability, social involement and artistic qualities. Be it the simple kumbhar or the rich Bania merchant, the manual labourer or the wealthy household.

I rushed to buy some new clay lamps, traditionally old ones are discarded, another eco friendly concept. Roadside stalls, wheel carts, supermarket shelves, flower shops – all filled up every inch of space with different sizes and colours of these traditonal and modern diyas.  

As the sun goes down, rows of little oil filled diyas will beautify door entrances of every Hindu home, a symbolic representation to drive out negativity and darkness and illumine the home and heart. I filled out vibrant colours in the rangoli at the doorstep, inviting Goddess Lakshmi, Saraswati and Durga – each one celebrated for wealth, learning and courage. I was once again reminded of childhood memories when mother, aunt and friends gathered together discussing Rangoli patterns, importance of placement of dots, lines and curves -it was fun-filled learning at the doorstep of each home.

Contrast that with shops in recent times, flooded with pre cut Rangoli plastic sheets, plastic flowers, crafted thermocol pieces to decorate the home. Creativity and business, a move away from the threshholds of home. Add Goggle websites and videos for up-to-date technology. Who needs an artistic neighbour or Aunt? Where is the time and interest? Demands of work pressure at office and nuclear families at home caves in to no involvement, no dedication and decreasing traditional spirit!

Rangoli –  Courtesy:Internet – happyshappy.

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Last but not the least – wearing new clothes and discarding old ones is customary. ”Declutter” – not just your home, body …but also your mind is the message given out through cultural knowledge. Wearing handmade ghagra or lengha and choli, bending over the sewing machine, learning how to thread the beads and laces on to the dress was another nostalgic learning moment, a time for bonding together with elder ladies of the house. A once a year gift to be treasured!

Instead, come visit the mall and revel in multi colours of the shelves and hanging sarees, see the extra-large street hoardings, newspaper advertisements spread over entire sheets during the pre Diwali shopping spree. Try buying online, there are dedicated FB pages. Designers are selling pre ordered clothing, that reaches every corner of India, and the world over, be it Toronto, or Melbourne. http://www.fabindia.com, http://www.utsavsarees.com, Naqshi, Chakor and Saree Speak on FB are some examples.

Fast cash and more incomes, internet connectivity and consumerism and other social pressures are fast changing the deep rooted traditions and symbolic meanings of the festive spirit. ‘Change is the only constant” and it applies here too.

Fancy dresses for Diwali sales

See here for an earlier post on Diwali

Festive Market: Light up for Deepavali

It’s time now to fill the oil in the lamps, light the diyas and prepare for arriving friends to share the sweets and festive warmth.

Happy Diwali to all my Hindu friends, family and blogging family. May you have prosperity, warmth and good health. May you share your goodwill and bounty with others.

All content and images copyright belong to Veena S. (2013 -2018) http://www.walktomarket.wordpress.comPlease see copyright disclaimer.