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.

Post Cards from Vile Parle: Snapshots of History, Buildings and Culture

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Simple living, flawless character, value of cultural traditions, an educated middle class, hobbies like reading, gardening and attending dramas and music performances, a ‘Tilak school of thought’ is the best way to describe Vile Parle and its inhabitants, the Parlekars.

Vile Parle, a suburb of Mumbai, is proud of its history. The narrow by-lanes were lined by tall trees and cobbled roads. When south Mumbai got crowded, the middle class Marathi manoos began living in clustered residential housing estates, that stand test of time. Vile Parle also boasts of bungalows in old art deco style, each vying for a place in history with elaborate shuttered windows, coloured glass panes, oval balconies and green area.

This small township took its name from Idlai Padlai villages. These villages of the 1800’s were formed out of Idlai, Irle and Padlai, fishing and farming towns adjacant to Bandra and Santacruz. Later the railway line cut through the area demarcating east and west Vile Parle.

Vile Parle (east) holds a special place in our heart. My mother spent her childhood days in a large bungalow when space was not a constraint and attended the much renowned school. At age 85+ her eyes light up, and she radiates a big grin just hearing about Vile Parle! A trip down memory lane and a small purchase of a traditional item was the excuse of heading towards the market, furing this pandemic time.

Vile Parle has a much contemporary look, but still trying to retain its old bungalows and cultural identity. Real estate is soaring, and old meets new, its a melange of two distinct communities – the Maharashtrian and the Gujrati (with a few Catholics and fisher folk community).

A gentle walk along the by lanes seems the best way to walk past the school, old bungalows, neighbourhood tailor and grocery shops as well as look at the new apartment blocks with large window panes and grills to keep out birds.

Passerby’s notice my touristy nature snapping photos of details: street vendor selling fruits, flowers, or newspaper and masks too! In the yesteryears, the residents kept an eye out for each other, you would inevitablly bump into someone. People knew you by name, fame or profession. And the ineveitable happened, just when I was taking pictures! An elderly lady in saree, walked past and turned ‘Do you live in …that building? I’ve seen you, my sister lives there.’ A quick exchange of conversation and said ‘Take care, lockdown begins at 4:00 pm.’

Parlekars were mostly Maharashtrians with a distinct Puneri flavour and mindset. But as the old timers collaborated with arriving Gujrati communities to set up business ( check out Parle biscuit factory…yummm) change was ineveitable. Shops were flooded with textiles, fancy garments,fashion accesories, Gujrati food and festival needs. Tailors and parlours sprung up. The simple, Marathi manoos, began feeling the pinch in his pocket and dilution of cultural identity, as prices soared.

The market was renamed. The street market extended at both ends, almost touching the residential areas. Traditional food items like puran -poli, besan laddoo, rajgira pohe and jewellery and Marathi sarees were pushed into corner shops. The business minded Gujratis dominated, Their food items like khakra, gathia, sev puri took up shelf space.

Wait, look at the different flowers!

@Button Marigold -used for door decorations, wedding pandals.

@White jasmine and white mogra – used for hair garlands called gajra, especially during puja

@Red rose and red Hibiscus – favourite flowers for Ganesh puja

@ yellow Champa – for hair decor and puja

The intricately woven flower veni is different from the gajra. The veni is tightly hand woven using a highlighter thread, the gajra flowers are tied at spacings using white thread.

I noticed the freshly painted art deco building. The stand alone bungalow has been converted into ‘Music house.’ Parlekars pride themselves for their cultural roots and quality education. Many temples have been built providing a community space for spiritual development for both men and women, and children. My mother used to attend an evening bhajan class, a good way of social networking in a cultural space.

Graciously this Bai, woman smiled and chuckled to get included in the photo. ‘ Are you going to make me famous? will I get more customers? she laughed. Her husband was weaving garlands in the back corner.He picks up the flowers each morning at 3 am at Dadar Wholesale Flower market. Living on the outskirts of Mumbai, where housing is cheaper, they commute daily by the suburban train, one hour each way, every day!

The pandemic and lockdown had its effect on this hyper bustling market. It seemed eerily deserted. The vivid hues on the blouse pieces, sort of made up for the street colours. Standing as if in defiance to time, these colourful blouse pieces are bought mostly by a small segment of womenfolk, as the younger women don fashionable one off saree -blouse wear or alternate clothing. Today the mix and match colours and designs imitate Bollywood fashion. The neighbourhood tailor exists albeit, smarter, splashing a fashion book as he awaits the fancy details and splurge of money for designing and stitching a blouse. Move over simpleton Marathi manoos, other communities have a more lavish dress up style!

Finally, I head towards the shop of the family jeweller. No, no! Not the authentic gold jewellers that Parle is famous for (Musalankar, Pendharkar, Gadgil, Pethe – the Maharashtrian business men who carved a niche and name for themselves for over 100 years!)

Tight on budget and just want an occasional wear of the traditional Marathi Nath, nosering- so imitation jewellery is the need. The traditional Marathi Nath was popularized by the women of the Maratha rulers and Peshwas. It is set with pearls and dotted with green emerald or a red ruby at the centre, and usually curved like the shape of paisley or a mango. Taking on a contemporary look, they now come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The Nath is a MUST HAVE be it festive or for a stage event and for a bridal trousseau.

The Nath is always worn on the left nostril, representing Ardh Naari, and feminity. It has been the source of many a poem and dance, and has deep cultural and artistic roots. Each region of India has its own Nath, the shape and size is a tell tale sign of the region and rulers.

To portray the character of a Maratha woman for a story event, the Nath will mark the true style. And the walk down memory lane compliments the yester year time. After all, it was from ‘ Aamcha Parle’ our Parle, as my mother would proudly say, with a twinkle in her eye!

Do you have a special piece of jewellery that you purchase from a particular region or country? Do leave your comments and make this space richer.

World Palate Recipes: Mango Rava Kesari ( Mango semolina pudding)

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Come summer, most Indians young and old look forward to the mango season. To the young, the fruit brings loads of nutrition and necessary sugars to beat the heat, to the street children it brings fun and naughtiness to pelt stones at the big branches and try catch that hanging raw mango only to munch on its sour, sweet taste! To me, it brings back memories of my own childhood at my maternal uncle’s home. They had 3 mango trees. Yes, THREE mango trees! That’s what the summer holidays were all about. We cousins used to climb the sturdy branches to pluck off fruit…or rather be bitten by flurry of red ants! Often, my maternal uncle used to complain to my mother about my naughtiness:).

But that proximity with nature, the nests on the tree, the smell of the intoxicating blooms and hugging the branches, scratching our arms while climbing, seeing the red dry Earth from above and stretching our small hands…just for a grab at the green fruit! It brings a smile to my wrinkling face now.

Mango tree and fruit. Photo courtesy: Tropical plant-flowers-decor

The arrival of spring is heralded by the Indian koel bird, the cuckoo who sits on the mango flora, calling out in loud cresending tones for a mate. Rabindranath Tagore, Wordsworth and Maithili, Sanskrit poet Vidyapathi Tripathi have penned many a poem on cuckoo bird.

Tagore writes: (taken from the monk)

From a great distance, comes with the wind, the sweet tune of the flute.

There is no one left in town, all residents have gone to the pleasure-grove to celebrate the festival of flowers.

Seeing the city totally deserted, silently smiles, the full moon of night.
In the lonely road under the light of the stars, the monk is the lone passer-by

Overhead there is the avenue of trees.

The cuckoo is cooing again and again At long last, has the night’s love-tryst eventually arrived for him?……….

There are so many varieties of mangoes, depending on the soil, sun heat and manuring/ watering process. Each state has its own jewel mango! But, I love to taste all the different varieties of seasonal mangoes be it King Alphonso, Niloufer, Dusseri, Mulgoa, Langda, Baganapalli, Sindoori, Badami or whatever a friend brings from their farm.

Visit here for the different types

http://www.walkthroughindia.com/nursery/top-12-famous-different-varieties-indian-mangoes/#:~:text=%20Top%2012%20Most%20Famous%20Varieties%20Of%20Indian,basically%20grown%20in%20North%20parts%20of…%20More%20

Today I made a simple twist to the rava kesari prasadam / semolina pudding offering.

Instead of banana I added mango pulp. The colour and taste were Divine! After offering to the Lord, I shared it with neighbours and fed spoonfuls to the children playing around. Such joy, lip smacking fun, boredom relief from the lockdown.

Ingredients

1 cup roasted rava / semolina (fine variety)

¾ cup ghee /clarified butter

1 cup water

¼ cup milk

8-10 broken bits of cashew nuts

1 cup (bright coloured sweet) mango pulp

¾ cup sugar

2-3 tsps. Grated fresh coconut

Tulsi leaves for garnish

Method:

Roast the rava /semolina in a big kadhai or heavy bottom pan. The roasting should be on medium flame, else rava will burn, and the delicate aroma wafting will give a burnt smell. Keep stirring while roasting. Set aside on plate once golden brown.

Heat the ghee in the pan, fry the cashew nuts, add the roasted rava. Stir. Add sugar, milk. Add water slowly, to bring out the consistency. Add mango pulp. Cover, cook on slow flame. Check after 3-5 mins, add water if necessary, cook further for 3-5 mins. The Kesari will get a beautiful orange colour and the kitchen smells wonderful with the aroma. It will slightly harden once cooked. Switch off and remove into container.

Before serving, add an extra spoon of ghee, garnish with coconut flakes and some Tulsi leaves.

Its ready for offereing at the altar. Or just on the table to serve family and friends. Don’t forget to feed little children, they need all the sugar, ghee protein and flavour of sweet fruit!

Would you like to share a mango infused recipe? Please contact me at seethepalliv@gmail.com, especially if you have an eggless pudding or cake recipe..yummm!

Guest Blog 7: Expat Life in Abu Dhabi

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Memories of our expat life in Abu Dhabi always surface around Ramzan Id time. We got a taste of not only the culture but taste the variety of Dates, both local and regional, stocked high on the supermarket shelves. Out short stay in Abu Dhabi was richly rewarded with a definitive taste of Middle East culture. Food, climate, clothing of local Bedeouins as well as the expat population and their work cultures. Both Abu Dhabi and Dubai are quite modern in their outlook, when compared to other Middle East cities. Both boast of plush air conditioned malls, wide roads, multi national schools, Date palm lined expressways mostly funded by the wealth brought in by liquid gold – the oil! As many expats come here to work, families including children need the infrastructure of schools, hospitals and food facilities. It was a wonderful chance for us to meet many expats from European countries, as well as Asian countries like Sri Lanka and Phillipines.

The mild winters brought out a variety of outdoor activities as well as local shopping. Cycling, walks along the Promenade, crusing the marine waters, crochet and knitting clubs, as well as plenty of barbeque nights. I often visited the local market near Al Mina, and had an impromtu conversation in Hindi with many of the Afghani or south Indian vegetable vendors.

See here for a very popular earlier post on the people in the market.

Other migrants to the city were from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Syria, Beirut, Turkey, India, Sri Lanka and also the Phillipines. Interacting with the migrant people in various jobs, it became clear that positions were quite compartmentalized to each community, an unwritten rule.

Date Palm fronds bear green cluster of fruit
Ripened Berhi dates

Here is a guest post by my dear friend Firoza, with whom I shared many a cup of chai and pakoras during the mild winters. At times we did window shopping and saw the expensive watches, bridal gowns, cutlery or ladies handbags at one of the many airconditioned malls. The well heeled local and expat population feasts on the luxury items, and that in return brings in renenue for the state. To soothe the aching feet we would sit down at a French bakery and pour out giggles and endless chatter.

But to taste her delicious Parsi dessert see here. I had to visit her home and indulge.

Parsi Sev (Vermicelli)

Covid- 19 & Life in AbuDhabi, UAE

The turn of the decade, turned lives across the globe 360 degrees. UAE was no exception. 23rd March 2020, a very exceptional scenario of a ‘Lockdown’ caged us in our homes. In Abu Dhabi, we experienced an unusually comfortable lockdown. Supermarkets and restaurants, were the only places doing brisk business. Hospitals and pharmacies, can’t say were overwhelmed with people but there was an initial surge. Insurance companies still were not so badly off.

 Malls witnessed queues for the first time! Else the expanse of space and airconditioned shopping experience were a luxury in the desert. People stocking up food and hygiene products made snake like queues, unheard or unseen here. A futile exercise. Salute, to the country for not allowing anything to go out of stock till date. This scene remained for the first three months. Curfew from 8pm to 6 am was even more scary ,as we saw only delivery boys zipping around as if they owned the streets on their risky bikes. It was a ghost town. Food parcels were the only entertainment for all the residence.

The fashionables thronging the cafes, were having their expensive drinks in disposable cups. Pitiful indeed! Mall culture, even today has not gotten back its luster after a year and two months. How can that be even possible, as most of the expats have been asked to go back to home countries. Remember, Abu Dhabi has a small local population, and the city state has sprung up much due to the migrant population. Expat life here, both for the blue and white collar workers makes up a major transient population. Companies want the bottom line to look good , so they provide the easy targets. Lives of the school going children and our future is at stake but the businesses and banks need to show a good balance sheet. So the scene is the same here, as the world over today. 
2020 slapped us with another reality too. Folks who had bought themselves safe havens ( foreign investments are permitted at certain exclusive areas) here were not allowed to return home after their 3 days 4 nights vacation in March, for a good three months. Some expensive and regrettable holiday indeed for those who travelled to home country!  Other travel woes are that today, we may not travel as freely between the other Emirates from Abu Dhabi due to many PCR test compliance. )which means for me, I cannnot visit my family in Dubai, as often). But business is as usual. Only the city has become more quiet. However, except for this hiccup UAE and specially Abu Dhabi, its capital have done a marvelous  job  keeping us safe.

Strict rules and motherly care, vaccinating most of its population without much ado. Hats off to their foresight and good governance the administration has done an un parallel job till date. Hope and prayers are the same as across the globe. May lives get back without masks and kids resume schools and classes, and have fun alongside other children. Universities thrive churning out brave and honest talent. Importantly, businesses start and employment brings smiles back on the faces of the very frightened expat population here. The livelihood of those workers in constuctions, hair saloons, catering and tailoring all come from a population that need to send money home to their respective countries, where living conditions are much poorer and less sanitation than here. So, let’s pray and hope for all those lives in trouble. Till then, stay safe everyone, be thankful for what you have in hand, be kind to your neighbour. 

Thank you Firoza, for summing up the life of an expat now to my memories of our stay there. I’m lucky to be living back in my own country, phew!

Till then, prayers and gratitude for all people, everywhere.

If you wish to write a guest post for me, please do share your topic, write up and short brief about yourself and send it to seethepalliv@gmail.com. Variety brings a different perspective.

World Palate Recipes: Simple, Traditional Pohe (flattened rice)

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If you ever happen to meet a Maharashtrian friend, invariably you will be invited over for a ”Chaha/chai and Pohe‘ meet. In fact, in the olden days, when the to- be groom and family visited the prospective bride’s house –the viewing and discussions would be over a table laden with Chaha and Pohe! Be it breakfast time or evening teatime, pohe have stood the test of time.

Pohe, Poha or flattened rice/beaten rice is one of the most popular and traditional snacks all over this western state of India. Myriad ways of making this nutritious cereal have changed through the time of Sivaji Maharaj, the Maratha empire leader, to present day fusion food. Today, traditional meets mix and experiments new flavours, regional authenticity and competition (Pohe from Nagpur, pohe made in Pune, pohe made on coastal Maharashtra for example, have distinct additions and spices). The western packaged cereals boxed up on the supermarket shelves have no competition with Indian traditional breakfasts that are hand me down recipes involving nutrition, Ayurveda, simplicity and even some history.

Essentiallly pohe are made from pounding rice by hand or mill, another way of utilizing and storing paddy for later use. Maharashtra has two distinct regions – the sea side Konkan (fertile with rice farming) and the Khandesh or Vidarbha on Deccan plateau, (semi arid with plantations of sugarcane, cotton, peanuts and millets). As the land, so is the cuisine, different.

Story: Have you heard the legendary story of friendship and karma between Lord Sri Krishna and his childhood friend Sudama, over a fistful of pohe? Well, almost every Indian mother will lovingly narate such educative tales while feeding her child. Stories are a great way to better mind, body and interpersonal relations.

Some may wonder how a handful of flattened rice would be enough to grant good karma spanning over several lifetimes as happened to Sudama, who slyly stole and ate up Krishna’s share of pohe that would keep them nourished in the jungles, while collecting fruit and sticks for fire for the Guru’s wife/mother. Though Krishna, the Godhead, had seen Sudama, take his share, he did not interfere, and permitted him to complete his karmic actions. This debt of food would then lead to another set of actions later in life. As the story goes, Sudama married and had children, but was never interested in material gains, rather always devoted to the Lord. Once when he visited friend Krishna, who had then become King of Dwarka, he meekily offered ‘a handful of pohe’ to him, with love and they chatted about the childhood incident.

Sudama had unknowingly done the greatest deed of feeding the Universal Form of the Lord Himself. With this handful of the rice, Krishna, in his Universal Form, fed all the creatures of the world. This act of Sudama wiped out all his negative karma in one single moment of time; whilst also earning him enough good karma to last several more lifetimes! Krishna in return for the handful of poha, restored wealth and benevolence upon his poor friend Sudama, says the story.

Lord Krishna Washing His friend Sudama's Feet - Phad Painting
Phad painting of Krishna washing Sudama’s feet – act of hospitality and respect.

Source: internet

Anna he poorna Brahman’ which translates as Food is Brahman, the seed lies in the grain itself. It is said that Annadaan, or the act of offering food is the greatest ever charity man can perform in his lifetime.

What other stories or experiences have you heard about the simple grain of rice or about pohe?

Even traditional Maharashtrian bridal jewellery is inspired by the simple grain of rice, or by pohe! When the Maratha empire at its height was wealthy, the Kolhapur region was the seat of power, temples, wealth and craftsmen. Kohlapuri chappals or leather slippers have withstood the test of time, fashion and simplicity. So too the Pohe Haar, neck piece garland, crafted in gold or silver.

Traditional Pohe Haar – inspired by grain of rice

Shall we get to the kitchen now?

Ingredients:

1 cup flattened thick rice flakes (brown or white) (most Indian stores will stock this)

1 medium potato

1 medium onion

few green chillies / or chilli flakes, if you wish

salt

1/2 lemon for juice

1 spoon sugar

2 spoons fresh grated coconut / or soak dry coconut flakes in some water

1/2 cup roasted peanuts or sprouted mung beans (optional, to raise nutrient content)

For tempering:

2 tbsps cooking oil (tradionally peanut oil, as groundnut is the crop)

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

1 teaspoon turmeric

2-3 sprigs of curry leaf /kadipatta (high content of nutrient minerals)

2 varieties of pohe /flattened rice -thick and thin.

Method:

Wash the pohe and drain entirely all water, keep aside. Chop the onion and potato (optionally add peas, carrot…but becomes sweeter). Prepare ingredients for tempering and garnishing.

In a big wok or kadhai, heat up the oil, add the tempering, stir.

Add the chopped potato and onions and any peanuts if using, Add some salt to cook faster, cover with lid. After a minute, stir and sprinkle water to cook further. Add the pohe, salt, lemon juice, sugar, chillies, torn leaves and stir well. Adjust salt and chillies to taste. Sprinkle little water if required, cover and cook.

Careful, it cooks quick, so dont get it mushy! Switch off gas, turn it all into a container. Garnish with curry leaves and fresh grated coconut. ( to add texture, garnish with a pappadum!)

Chala…pohe taiiyaar ahet, ya khavun ya sarve jana’ translates the Marathi invite to call everyone to sit at table and eat the warm, pohe.

Recipe 2: In the photo below, is a small container with dudh-dahi pohe, an ideal quick mid time snack. Just a fistful of pohe added to 2-3 spoons of yoghurt + 2 -3 spoons of milk + pinch of salt and some cumin powder for taste.

Do share how you make pohe or any stories you remember, any childhood moments of nourishment.

Re Blogging: New Zealand Art’s Centre Market and Some Recipes

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Covid has been disconnecting people, yet connecting them too – but virtually. The pandemic and lockdown continues to create anxiety, tensions and non- social boredom or fatigue. We all pray for each other, our loved ones may be staying far away,and even if they stay in the same city, it’s tough to visit them. So stay safe, stay alert! Pray for the community.

Few friends from far, far away in New Zealand have recently sent me messages, emails, some lovely picturesque photos too via social media. It brought back wonderful memories of our stay and unique experiences in the country.

Culturally is was different from India but the pleasant mannerisms and helpful attitude of citizens was welcoming. We enjoyed winter soup and sandwiches, in return spicy dal and crisp Roti was exchanged with the local families. We indulged in sparkling wine and variety of cheese, and not to mention the assorted breads both sweet and savoury were a treat! Adjusting to our first winter, witnessing snow and donning warm jackets and shoes to enjoy the brrr….cold was surely unique and bit tough. I remember a friend dropping by and suggesting ” Eat lots of nuts and chocolate this winter, you ‘ll survive better” she chuckled. One winter, I even raked some snow and made snowman at Hagley partk in Christchurch! On the language front, learning Maori language and songs was totally heart warming, connecting me to my own mother tongue in many ways.

Titiro mae na iwi, tataou tatoau e……was one such popular Maori song.

Till I write up my next blog about New Zealand’s countryside, gardens and old churches with some history. . . I leave you with some older posts.

My most favourite part of Christchurch city was of course the Hagley Park and nearby Art’s Centre. The Edwardian architecture in stone and spires, brought home memories of my childhood city Mumbai and its colonnial architecture. The Art’s Centre came alive each weekend with a buzzing market.

Home fresh Carrot cake by my friend see here

At the Christchurch college, my student batchmates and myself used to love the winter broth served at the canteen, and had to make an early dash, in case we got served left overs.

Till then, wait a while… hope to get some lovely photos from my friends in New Zealand!

Guest Blog 6: Therapy in Water Colour Painting

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Do you have a hobby? How do you re-juvenate yourself away from the challenges and meanderings of the daily life? Recently, we celebrated World Story Telling Day on 20th March, 2021 and the theme was ‘New Beginnings.’ The pandemic and lockdown has had its postive effects too – people are indulging in new hobbies, re learnings enrolling into new online courses, or taking up cooking with earnest at home, baking bread and cakes. In creative arts be it music, dance, poetry writing or telling stories there has been a surge of interest to use the ‘at home’ time effectively.

New beginnings happen every day, don’t they? It’s how we reflect for a moment and change our course, our thoughts, our actions. I kept aside my crochet yarn and needle and delved into storytelling and writing personal narratives. Telling on zoom sessions was an opportunity to connect with other storytellers.

That’s how I met K, an amazing storyteller, with plenty of fresh ideas and technological expertise.

Here is one of her recent water colour paintings – and her mind raced to Australian bushfires last year, thinking how the animals may have been affected.

Once K began painting with water colours, creatively using her lockdown moments, she showed her work on Facebook. ‘Why don’t you write a guest post for me?’ I pressed, loving the delicate, pastel shades “I often find in THAT stillness and quietude, is the seed for my creativity, that’s how a hobby is a blessing” I told her, citing examples of churning out my blog narratives, when my mind is most calm.

Even if things don’t unfold the way you expected, don’t be disheartened or give up. One who continues to advance will win in the end.”
― Daisaku Ikeda

Thanks K, for accepting to pen a post. You are a storyteller, techno geek, a budding artist and now. . .you are emerging as a butterfly in writing! Readers, do connect with K on her YouTube channel ‘Storytime with Kajal.’

If wishes could grow on trees, I would pluck them and fulfil all my wishes.

As a child or as an adult, I wished I could do this and that. Singing, Crocheting, Gardening has never been my forte, just like art or drawing or painting, yet I am very persistent in trying all of them.

I clearly remember as if it was yesterday, the very 1st month into my first year of college the Zoology sir called me over and asked – “Kajal, are you sure you wish to continue in Microbiology as you would have to draw a lot.” Drawing was one reason I jumped ships from Biology to Mathematics.

Coming to the present, randomly I ended up creating a master piece of my own in painting, but that was rarest of the rare occasions! I always wished I had the flair of a painter, over the years I tried to wake up that painter within me, alas without much success.

They say a chance encounter can change it all, my encounter was a video on YouTube by CEECEECREATIONS. Her easy ways of doing water colouring were inspiring. Water Colouring was something I hadn’t heard much about, aptly so, as its one costly hobby if you wish to go beyond the chalky grade student watercolour.  

My tyrant with watercolour started with her videos, the flow of colour on the wet paper and amalgamation of various colours was so soulful, I was hooked! Lock, stock and barrel. And there has been no looking back, I can finally say – Rise! Painter within me, Rise.

A variety of cards painted in fresh water colours, bringing the gaiety of Nature indoors.

Still in infancy stage of learning the art, I can rightfully say that watercolouring has not only helped me calm down but has constantly worked as a medium of going in to ‘mindfulness.’ It’s like being in meditative or Zen like state whenever I watercolour. Pictures that were inspired from artists who posted in Youtube or Pinterest has helped a novice like me to achieve one of my wishes with multiple benefits. I find it has successfully helped me calm my mind and helped me sort between the ideas that rage through my mind.

So, what have YOU to say about this budding artist? Or do you have a hobby that brings about mindfullness in you, why?

Some of my hobbies include crochet, quilting and gardening. You will find them here and here. With my latest passion of storytelling, even blogging might take a back seat. But see the journey here. It all began few years ago. Do keep me motivated by being my audience.

World Palate Recipes: Garden Fresh Flat Beans Stir Fry Vegetable

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There is nothing better than a story from the kitchen garden! You are in for a sensory experience.

From the wet, brown soil after watering to the expanse of the green creeper, growing almost wild and taking up every inch of space with its long tendrils, the visual and nasal appeal in the kitchen garden is sensorial rich. Stand under the canopy created and gaze at the little purplish white flowers, some maturing to little pods, other pods stout and ready for harvest. Wonder how the plants grow, spring forth leaves and flowers, and why only certain have this colour? Nature even sends forth the correct bird or bee to match the flower! On the pomegranate’s ruby red flower tweets the tiny indigo coloured Sunbird, its long beak stuck inside the flower to extract the sweetness. On the bean creeper comes the large indigo Bumble bee. It hovers aound the flowers pollinating them in the process ‘zeee zeee, hmmm…’ as if to say “don’t disturb the harmony and let nature do its work.”

Next comes the joy of harvesting! pluck, pluck, snap. . . Tuck the pods into the container, bring the bounty to the kitchen counter. Take a deep breath, run your fingers through the shiny bean pods. Look at their colour and tender skin. There is NO fragrance to the bean or flower, but ever wondered how the bee or bird got attracted to the flower?

See the bean cluster pods and trifoliate leaves of the creeper

Back in the kitchen, continue the sensory titilation and mindful cooking.

Sit down to string the beans from both ends. open the pods to release the young seeds. As they are home grown they may not have insects inside (but ones form the market, be careful to discard pods with caterpillars crawling inside). Wash and dry the opened pods well, keep aside. Prepare other ingredients. Google check the different names these beans have (Chikudkaya, ghevda, papdi , Fava beans …).

They are extremely nutritious with loads of iron, potassium and fibre. These legumes generally grow in mild winters and the ‘seed to crop’ time is about 3 months. Being a legume variety, they enrich the soil, rather than taking away nutrients…so cut back the roots and leaves after harvesting and dig them back into the soil to fertilize it. They are hardy, and dont need much manure, but need plenty of winter sun. The creeper grows fast and wild, be prepared to make a canopy in advance, place a net over it, to allow the tendrils to hold on. The tri foliate leaves are slightly rough, tending to hide the pods under them.

Ingredients for the stir fry vegetable

500 gms. flat beans /pods opened/seeds retained

1 or 2 brinjals or carrot

1 medium size onion

1 cup coconut grated fresh or dry powder

100 gms roasted peanuts or bengal gram (optional, only for nutrition and texture)

3-4 sprigs of curry leaves (or coriander, optional)

masala of choice (roasted and powdered cumin, coriander, sesame seeds is my choice)

4-5 dry red chillies or adjust

salt to taste

1/2 spoon jaggery or sugar ( to cut out any bitterness)

Tempering – with 1 ladle of cooking oil + small spoon mustard seeds, cumin seeds, 1 spoon turmeric powder)

Method

Par boil the stringed beans with the seeds in 2 cups salted water for 5 mins, drain and keep aside.

Prepare the tempering in a heavy iron wok preferably (to add minerals to our food) or use traditional pan or kadhai. Heat the oil and add the tempering, to splutter. Add the chopped brinjal or carrot, salt, curry leaves, peanuts, dry chillies and stir fry for 2-6 minutes. Add the par boiled beans, adjust salt, jaggery and add few spoons of water if required. Beans contain fibre and iron, take a while to cook. Do not cover, the green colour may diminish.

Keep stirring and cook till edible or tender. Switch off gas, remove. Add grated coconut and mix. This adds to texture, flavour and nutrition. Serve hot with warm rice or as side dish with Roti.

‘Gardening is the art that uses flowers and plants as paint, soil and sky as canvas

Elizabeth Murray

What’s growing in your garden or terrace pots? How do you cook these legumes? Do you like gardening, why? Let’s hear and share some photos.

Guest Blog 5: Miniature Paintings and Artists in Rajasthan

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A trip to colourful, majestic Rajasthan is a ‘must visit ‘ on any traveller’s bucket list, be it an Indian local or visitor from across borders. This western state of India has just so much to offer in terms of its forts, palaces, artificial lakes built to collect water in this arid land, as well as culture, stories of brave Rajputs and their queens, oral story telling with puppets and music, that a flitting butterfly visit will do no justice! Wait a minute, I have not mentioned the history and geography of the food as yet! Each region distinctly has their own flavours, masalas, ingredients that are seasonal and their availibility in the region. So get packing your bags, look up homestays or plush hotels if you wish and come aboard – travel to Rajasthan! (Sorry! its virtually, this year, due to the pandemic)

Our young guest blogger Miss R. shares a brief glimpse of the vacation she could sneak out to (before the expiry of her air ticket, purchased prior to the pandemic). An architect by profession, living in Mumbai, she embodies virtues of patience, love and compassion to the brim! An avid reader, dabbles in writing for a magazine and relaxes with either a paint brush or a kitchen ladle in hand. R has a natural eye for architectural designs and loves everything that involves creativity. “Why not explore the wide spectrum of the traditonal Art and pintings of EACH state of India? she says. “There is just SO much to explore and understand!

Thanks R. for your guest writing, keep sending us your travel updates.

The city of Udaipur is known for its luxurious palaces and scenic lakes. The name itself brings visuals of grand monuments, opulence, history and royalty. However, during my recent visit, I realised that there is more to the city , especially its by lanes, than its shopping outlets and Dal Baati (a popular local Rajasthani dish).

                    Udaipur is also home to Miniature Art Paintings – a detailed art form depicting scenes from history. There are several talented artists in Udaipur whose miniature art is sure to astound you! They are usually traditional artists – the third or fourth generation in their family who proudly carry forward the legacy. Miniature paintings are painted on silk using natural stone colours. As told by one of the artists, the stone colours available naturally are merely 4 or 5 in number. However, mixing these five colours enables them to create up to 100 shades which are visible in all the paintings. The colour gold is used profusely and is predominant in all the designs. Most of the paintings depict the Royal events in history or life in the Mewar region (olden day Rajasthan). Finely painted animals and birds are also popular along with paintings of Gods – especially Shreenathji and Radha Krishna. What remains a favourite amongst the tourists is the highlight of the several Rajasthani cities which makes a great souvenir.

                  The noteworthy aspect of my interaction with the artists was that they proudly conveyed that they operate only as freelancers. The Government has provided them with a studio space entirely free of cost which enables them to paint and sell on their own terms. Moreover, this studio is along the road to Sajjangarh Monsoon Palace – a popular tourist destination. It was heartening to see this kind of support to the artists which is crucial to encourage traditional art and create an environment where artists are appreciated and get their due.

The next time you visit Udaipur do pay a visit to one of these artists and you shall surely be mesmerised with their skills.

Thanks R. it brought back memories of our (sneaked out) trip to Jodhpur recently. A getaway from the lockdown at home. The local artist and musicians playing their simple stringed instruments and dholak were surely attracting the few visitors to the Meherangarh fort. Due to the pandemic, their livelihood and earnings have taken a deep hit, but some do perform at nearby lakes, visit homes and teach the next generation. We attended an evening performance here and were amazed at the hidden talent of these simpletons!

And here is a piece of architecture in the by lanes…the famous Jharokha windows with floral embellishment, a trusted way to keep the heat and desert dust away from the women folk at home, yet permitting them to get a view of the street outside. Many by lanes are now havens for small shops, trinkets, artists ware etc.

Hoping you have all enjoyed a virtual visit to popular destination Rajasthan to admire the beauty and read up history. If you wish to submit a guest blog do write to me at seethepalliv@gmail.com. There is so much to share and explore from each other.

Guest Blog 4: Don’t Wait Too Long for Work/Life Balance

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Today I got a call from a woman who heads an NGO to do an experimental story telling for 6 weeks for a rural school, as part of my volunteer work. She is loaded with so much work and is always energetic to do some more. I wonder how? But the more interesting part of the talk was about how she, her husband and their long distance family members have made Tambola cards using apps and weekly they ‘discharge the negativities and stress collected during the week’ with Tambola and singing via Zoom, especially during the early days of the pandemic. Thanks to technology!

Then about my disciplined daughter, who works long hours and has enough work stress that she cares not to become any high profile – high earning- high stressed CEO of any company. ” I need to de stress and enjoy life a bit, have my weekends to do some Nature walks and swim and go paddling” she retorts. In between, meditation and cooking with friends helps balance the game of life.

Be moderate in order to taste the joys of life in abundance.’ Epicurus (wise sayings)

Or take another friend working part time, recuperating part time, healing back from cancer. “My work drives me crazy and its boring” but painting and walk around the tree lined colony garden roots me down, gives me fresh breathing space and I return with a calm mind” she nods.

Thanks Vivek Vaidya for sharing with us YOUR thoughts on work /life balance.

Vivek: I am a partner in a global advisory firm working in Singapore. Work is very hectic and I am happy it is that way but nurturing my hobbies is equally important if not more. I am an outdoor enthusiast. I organize weekly hikes in Singapore. I started with blogging but landed up publishing a book named ‘Why do Indians?” (available on amazon). I am in the process of publishing a mini-novel. Recently I wrote a marathi play which was launched on YouTube as a living room drama. 

Don’t wait too long for work-life balance
We are living in strange times. Everyone around be a corporate worker or homemaker is overworked. What is most surprising is due to the current pandemic situation we are happier that we have a job to cling on to. What we are forgetting is this is coming at a cost to us. We are slowly burning ourselves out slowly, but surely. There are a few friends around who have earned enough to see themselves through but most of us haven’t, so quitting a job to strike work-life balance isn’t an option at all. Then what do we do?
In my own limited way, I have found a solution. I don’t wait endlessly to strike a work-life balance. I try to strike it every year, every quarter, every month, every week, everyday. I nurture my hobbies that take me away from work and help me recharge. I live in a modern metropolis like Singapore. In one look it looks like a concrete jungle but when you look carefully there are many opportunities to go closer to nature. I have explored them on a weekly basis. I have formed a group of like minded people who accompany me. Initially, I was the motivator and the group followed. Now after three years of weekly outings the group is the motivator and I follow! 
This weekly ‘switching off from work’ has unintended consequences. Going closer to nature has made the creative juices flow. I started getting ideas to write. Initially, I wrote some blogs that became popular. So I converted some of them into a book “Why do Indians?” This book consists of five humorous stories of Indians living abroad who are often confronted with existential questions such as ‘Why Indians don’t eat beef?” or “Why Indians get arranged married?” The first edition is sold out. That motivated me to write my second book which should be out very shortly. I also tried my hand in Marathi play writing successfully. My first play recently premiered on YouTube. 

My job is stressful but this habit of pursuing my hobbies regularly recharges me. There are some hobbies I have to pursue on an annual basis. I go for treks with unknown groups on an annual basis. So far I have done The Everest Base Camp, Mt. Fuji, Tour De Mont Blanc, Mt. Kota Kinabalu etc. 
My message to the world is: don’t wait to strike balance between your work and life that you always wanted to live. Find a way to strike balance on a periodic basis. 

Look forward to reading a copy of your book and adding some humour to my day, Vivek.

Readers, how do you create that ME space for yourself? What hobbies do you pursue to take the workload off your head and shoulders? Do share with us and with Vivek.

World Palate Recipes: Tomato Pacchadi ( Chutney Andhra Style)

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Tomatoes are in season this winter, growing plentiful in our kitchen garden, in bunches of 4 to 6. When the sun shines on them, the raw green tomatoes ripen into fruit within 2-5 days. Tomato is a botannically classified as a fruit- as it grows from a flower and has seeds in it, just like bell peppers and chillies. Vegetables are stems, root tubers or leaves of the plant that are edible and useful. The abundance of vitamin C, Vitamin K1, Folate, Potassium, BetaCarotene (which gives it the orange -red colour) and Lycopene in tomatoes makes tomatoes highly nutritional.

They are so versatile in their use – sauces, chutneys, pickles, soups, gravies, salad they can be made into anything, that’s why culinary chefs use them in a variety of recipes. My mother-in-law taught me a few tomato recipes, an Andhra delight. This one is my husband’s favourite! Retirement has given him time and patience for gardening and the fruit is from our garden which makes the pacchadi or chutney very wholesome! The plants are easy to grow, need minimal care and need a trellis or support as the stems are weak, and bend low with the weight of fruit.

Tomato Pacchadi or Chutney (Andhra Style)

Ingredients

½ kg ripe red tomatoes

For the tempering

½ cup cooking oil

1 tsp mustard seeds

1 tsp methi/fenugreek seeds

1 tsp tamarind paste (adjust to the taste)

1 tsp jaggery or sugar (adjust)

Few curry leaves

6-7 garlic cloves(optional)

6-8 dry red chillies (adjust)

Asafoetida (to taste/optional)

Salt to taste

Method

Wash and clean tomatoes and cut into pieces. Set aside.

Prepare oil for tempering in wok. Add mustard, asafoetida, turmeric powder, urad dal, chillies, curry leaves and stir. Grind to a paste and keep aside. In the remaining oil in the wok, add the tomatoes and cook. Add the salt, jaggery and tamarind pulp. Stir and cook till tender. If you wish, remove skin when cool.

Mix the masala paste in this. Stir well adjust the chilli and salt as per taste. Garnish with coriander leaves or curry leaves. This pacchadi can be eaten with warm rice or with dosa /lentil pancake.

Call it Indian salsa if you wish, but it’s a typical Andhra south Indian recipe. The tangy, chilli and salt taste make it very appetising. Store it in regrigerator for few days…that’s if it lasts!:)

Do post a comment here if you like or tried this recipe. Do you make it different in your part of the world? How?

Guest Blog 3: Tree of Bounty

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My friends and family are responding with interest to my call for Story Bites, a reader’s contribution project to connect. I await some posts from the wordpress readers too! So do leave me a note in the comment box or check Story Bites.

My dear friend Geetha who lives in Chennai is like a walkie talkie Wikipedia! Many years ago, when I too lived near her home, we often met as young mothers, with babies in arms or prams, walking around the tree lined colony. I remember a few moments of badminton play too, that eased our ‘motherhood roles’ as we ran around the court, laughed and steadied our shots. Geetha, is still an avid reader, has a great sense of humour touched lightly with dose of advice or peppermint on how and why of things. Born into a Tamil Brahmin family, she rightly conjures up to the image of early moring rising, filter kapi and idli /chutney/sambar for breakfast. In fact, few years ago when I visited her, I was served a delicious, healthy upma. Wait I’m not talking of recipes and food here. Let’s get back to her pattu silk Kanjeevaram sarees, or just the distinct borders and pallav of the Chettinad or Salem sarees she casually wears. Where is she hiding her mother’s heirloom treasure? Maybe another blogpost on the saree stories?

Look what growing in Geetha’s garden! And the strong smell of THAT fruit is wafting all the way to my home in Hyderabad. Infact, it reminds me of the fruit’s cousin – the Durian! Have’nt you heard people say ‘Dont judge a book by its cover, or what’s inside may be sweeter than what you see on the outside’. In the case of both jackfruit and durian, it’s true!

Here is what Geetha writes:

Living in Chennai with its insistent hot weather,water scarcity and proximity to the sea made me a less than average Gardener.As a result my house could only boast of a lack luster unplanned garden ……until my helper planted a healthy jack fruit seed in my back yard. Presto! one day, we had a magnificent jack fruit tree occupying as much space as she could in the place offered.It was almost like Jack s bean stalk because  I don’t even remember how it sprouted and grew .From the very word “go “she was ready to yield and what yield it was .

My front garden along driveway with neatly trimmed Hibiscus plants, that love the summer heat!

Look who’s made its appearance on the tree…finally!

T

Here I need to mention how one senior helper of mine tied a slipper to the tree in the dead of the night and whispered a rather curt message ordering her to bloom and bear fruit.And she did in no uncertain terms ….BIG, sumptuous ,beautifully textured honey sweet fruits . The fruit was cleanly structured and it was a delight to open it up and take out the fruits .Even inexperienced me could handle it with deftness and the precision of a surgeon .As the produce was plenty about 40 to 45 fruits per season , each containing around 200 melt in the mouth segments ,there was plenty to go around and be shared . My staff got to take home whole fruits  and as it’s fame spread to the satellite staff ..the milk maid the dhobi   and the newspaper boy came ahead and booked their “copies”.I now had a definite fan following in the friend s and relative circle and come March the enquiries and requests  poured in .As always there were some who simply hated the strong smelling fruit and put off visits to my house .But the lovers were delighted and happy and received their share with awe and respect! ”Never  have I tasted a divine fruit as this”was an oft repeated remark .

They came in to view my tree and thank her and gave her a loving pat on her back.March is round the corner and we are gearing up for the season of Tree of bounty “May you bloom and grow, bloom and grow for ever.. “(Reminds us of a familiar song?“)

Thanks Geetha. Yes, Nature is so giving! We need to learn that aspect, and share her bounty. For ‘what you give, is your ONLY investment’. Anyone wants to share their thoughts on Nature, fruit trees or your garden?

For past few months of mild winter here, my garden has been blossoming with tomato plants. They need such little care and manure and grow up almost like weeds, till you see the small yellow flowers blooming on them. Then we put on the trellis or make- shift bamboo sticks for their long, long thin branches to find support. Once the small yellow flowers turn into raw green bunches of tomatoes, the weight bends down the branch. At times we let it trail the ground, naturally.

Neighbours children scream from their verandahs -“Auntie…I can see green tomato, water it, water it.” So at times…I call few children over, show them the plant botany, even provide some paper and pencil for a drawing and then if listening carefully…they are rewarded with few tomatoes raw green or ripe red! Can you hear the peals of laughter and delight?

That’s it …till next month, a new guest post. What will it be?

Guest Blog 2. Musings on Winter and Nature

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My cousin H. lives on the other side of the world, in USA. We in India, love to see photos of snow covered lanes and trees that she sends during winter. That’s when I told her to write up a few lines for us. Thanks dear H. Stay safe and happy in the snowpocalypse as you mentioned.

Falling snow and the white blanket it makes on Earth, look just so magical, mystical and mesmerizing! There IS something that brings on awe about Nature, whether it is the opening of a tightly curled bud, or the first shoot on a bare branch or the snow dropping lightly from the heavens above. (Those living in the colder climates may not find this poetic or inspiring and may tend to look at the snowfall as hampering daily commute or bringing on additional workload to rake it all up to the side. I do remember one such mystical morning when I was living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Sitting indoors at the window, the entire night, I heard plop..plop..fainter plop..yes it was the snowfall. It hid all the green and brown under its fluffy flakes, telling Earth to rest a while, rejuvenate. Nature brings on seasons and reminds us of the variety in life!

Spring, summer, autumn, winter

Who are’t thou? How we await to see you?

You come and go, just like the sun, bringing change into Life on Earth

Life, That has so many wonders that we forget

But whence you visit, you bring joy and awe,

For Who are WE? we forget. And rest in your lap

Spring, summer, autumn, winter…We connect.

Here is what H. writes:

January 10, 2020 – the day that we moved into our new house! After tagging and packing our belongings, we left; We had said goodbye to all of our cherished memories of that house.

The next morning, while we were in the grocery store, the sun had suddenly disappeared. As soon as that happened, snow had started to fall from the sky, covering everything in white. Because of that, we had decided to pay for what we already had in our cart and leave for home as quickly as we could get there. Over the next four days, over a foot of snow had accumulated. We were trapped, and had no way to leave our new home.

  

At times that we were able to do so however, the nature around us had looked the best it had in a while. It was this beauty that reminded us to enjoy life. The snow wouldn’t be here forever, so we had to relax and enjoy our surroundings. It wasn’t as if we would be stuck in our homes forever, after all.

Not long after, we were stuck in our homes again. After a month or so of being able to leave our home freely, the novel coronavirus pandemic had struck. School, work, entertainment, everything had to be done at home. This caused me great anxiety; Everything felt so radically different. For a while, things seemed bleak and black. But eventually, spring rolled around, and for a while I felt reassured that everything would return to normal.

Our front driveway was turning shades of pink and green. It brought in newness and fresh spirit.

Starting with charismatic and big Magnolias, Tulips, daffodils, and fragrant lilies, they soon bordered our yard giving way to next bloom of fragrant peonies, columbines, jasmines and so many more. The blooming vegetable garden, flowers, blue berries, and wild animals (deer, cayotes, owls, foxes, bobcats) promised us new friendships in the year of lack of human interaction ( COVID 2021). Once again, gorgeous, colourful fall came back filling air with aromatic food – apples, squash and pumpkins. The colours of spring, gave way to summer and bounty. Soon the colours fade away as autumn sets in. And here we are midway in winter, yet again in 2021.

Going back to the cycle of nature again, we lead up to the spring 2021, it’s telling us to have confidence that spring will come again, enjoy the beauty now.

Thank you dear H. for sharing beautiful thoughts on Nature and your feelings during the Covid quiet, locked in home moments. I end on the change of season, leaving you with a photo from my collection, in India. We recently celebrated Vasant Panchami, arrival of spring, that reminds us of new beginnings, fresh, green and re birth of Nature. The festival of colours will soon be here as Nature lays out her colourful blanket of yellow marigolds, pink and white Oleander, white fragrant jasmine, coral coloured Aboli, pink lilies and lots of new green shoots.

In tune with Nature

If you wish to write a guest blog, do contact me on seethepalliv@gmail .com and browse my October Story Bites blog

Do leave your comments and encourage H. for her post. Thanks.