Zenith of Happiness..

... For any book-lover would be a birthday bounty that looks something like this :-D. It doesn't surprise me anymore that half of these came from my blogger friends :)

Off late, the books I have been reading were failing to get me hooked! None of them transported me wholly into the land of Punjab or London where the books were set!

So I was glad, when I landed upon "More Than Just Biryani" - it took me on a delightful journey to Muslim kitchens (comparatively unknown for me) set in vellore, Bangalore and then Hong Kong! The book revolved around food and is full of lovely anecdotes!The story of a husband besotted by his wife's Shammi Kabab, to a new bride being accepted heartfully by her in-laws family only after she is able to dish out the delectous doodhi halwa, stories of how the matriarch doesn't share her secret ingredient(Glucose biscuit) which makes the most perfect 'Ande Ka Halwa', to how flipping rotis is the first step a young widow takes as she limps back to normal life, to the story of the protagonist for whom food is the only she knows to express her love and how the humble 'Biryani' opens up an all world of opportunities for her!

"More Than Just Biryani" is a book I finished in straight four hours and thoroughly enjoyed! The story crept in so much into my heart that I dreamt of it yesterday night and now I know I'll have to treat myself to a biryani Soon :-D. Its a book I will recommend to every food lover!

Thank You Mr.Museum piece, for taking the effort to read thru tons of reviews and zeroing on this book for me! I am indeed delighted :)

Linking this to AtoZ challenge - Z  is for Zenith Of Happiness :).

An Yummilicious Birthday :)

The one word that describes this Birthday must be - "Yummilicious"! From having my first taste of a custard cake to trying out Japanese cuisine  - we indeed had a gala time!

The custard fresh fruit  cake, came from a bakery next door, who went out of their way to accommodate a cake that was not even on their menu! Of course the choice of cake was spelled out clearly to 'Chocoholic' Pheno:-D

Dinner that day was a Japanese affair - another first! While I obviously cannot vouch for its authenticity, I absolutely enjoyed the experience @ Teppan. Pheno has reviewed it in details here. My abs fav were the Tuna Salad and Sushi- Indeed I have waited for a long time to taste them and they truly dint disappoint me :)

Japanese Cuisine is synonymous with Sushi for me!
For True Fish Lovers - The Tuna salad must be mana!

Linking this to Linking this to AtoZ challenge - Y  is for Yummilicious :). Another post coming up soon on best part abt birthday - gifts, what else :-D

X-Mas Eve.....

It was last X-Mas - my niece was home for her hols. At the last min, the little missy decides she wants to do up a Christmas crib. We did a quick dash to the local market with absolutely no luck! So literally on Christmas eve, we went about scouring a crib from the itty-bitties at home......

An empty oil box from the shop next door became the base for the Crib

Jesus, Mary, Joseph!

A few hours later, here's her cute little crib... ....
Did you like our little crib? Linking this to AtoZ challenge - X is for X-Mas

A Walk in a Coffee Estate...

The best part of any holiday for me are the long walks in midst of unadulterated nature! Its funny but when am on trips, am generally the first to be up and about!!

These are from a holiday at a coffee estate in Chikmagalur. The homestay there was amidst coffee estates - I have posted about it here. The day we landed there, the owner offered to take us on a visit to his estates. It was a monsoon evening - so armed with gumboots, raincoat and a stick we were ready to go!

It was an absolute delightful three hours that followed... The extra-green plantation due to the recent showers, the ravines, the grasslands and the streams on the way were an absolute delight!

Linking this to AtoZ challenge - W is for walk in a coffee estate!


Today was the 11th day death ceremony of her dearest Ravi. She couldn't believe that it was just last week that they had a four hour long Riyaz** - Ravi as always on his beloved Veena**! Despite the heart wrenching grief, Latika was thankful for this companionship that lasted more than seven decades.....

Indeed they had both come a long way from the tiny hamlet in interiors of Tanjore where they received their first lessons in Music.  Now the house was filled with dignitaries from the world of Music who had come to pay their last respects to their beloved Ravi. As they stepped away, most of them silently bowed in front of Latika.

She jerked her head at the loud wails coming from the house backyard. As she strained her neck, she saw a few lady relatives gathered around Menaka - breaking her bangles**. Unconsciously, Latika's hand tightened over the pedant dangling on the chain around her neck.

Latika's  mind as usual went back to the question that haunted her life for the last fifty years. What was she in Ravi's life? A friend? A Companion? Lead singer of his troupe? Or as Menaka accused her was she a Whore? A mistress?

Latika sighed and realized its time she made peace with it - Indeed as Ravi always told her, she was all this and more in his life! Mistress or not, she was thankful nobody could seize her Guru or his beloved "Veena' pendent from her .. A priceless family heirloom  he gifted her on her sixtieth birthday!

This piece of fiction is in response to WT prompt of Dangling on the chain was………. Linking this to AtoZ challenge - V is for Veena. This story is highly inspired by the plot of the book - Mistress Shakespeare.
**Riyaz (also Riyaaz) is an Urdu language term used for music practice, for honing of Hindustani classical music vocal as well as instrument skills.
**The Veena is a plucked stringed instrument originating in ancient India, used mainly in Indian classical music.
**The widow will break her bangles and remove her bindi as well. Many Hindu women will remove their nose ring and toe rings as well on her husband's death 

Urban Wanderers Nirvana....

.... are quaint little settlements, in midst of nature - deep in jungle or hill-stations, far far away from hubbub and sounds of Urban life! Haaa the nirvana that every urban soul craves for ...That's exactly what we did last weekend.

We were headed to Kolli Hills ... a picturesque hill station, a six hour drive from Bangalore. The drive up to the hill station is an riders delight - a total of seventy hair pin bends(which makes it a nightmare for people with motion sickness - yours truly). The "To Do" list for a tourist is nothing to write about. Just the usual "View Points", water falls that every hill station is endowed with. This is a blessing in disguise as it makes it keeps the horde of tourists away!

We chose to stay at "Kolli Hills Camp". This is a good ten kms from the Kolli town and is in middle of nowhere. The nearest human settlement is a good three Kilometers away! This place is a camp in its truest sense - wooden cottages with basic comforts, unpaved pathway, no-frill yet hearty food. For somebody used to urban life, the prospect of  staying alone(we were a family of three) with just the boy running the place for company and absolutely no other human in sight can be a bit unnerving (The tourists staying in the adjoining cottages were running late and arrived only around midnight!). Of course, we lived to tell the tale :).

Despite all this we had an excellent evening - imagine huddling around a camp-fire with your fav book in one hand, a beer in another with some lip-smacking good country-chicken to nibble on! Well this defines the perfect holiday for us :-D

Linking this to AtoZ challenge - U is for Urban Wanderers....

The Thinker!

That's Munch(My 3 month old Nephew) in action :-D.

Linking this to AtoZ challenge - T is for Thinker (This title is courtesy The museum Piece .... Despite that brooding look of his blog n FB DP, I assure you he has a fun side to him :-D)

Summer Treat...

Last week we went on a road trip across parts of Tamil Nadu. The summers here are scorching but  - as if to compensate for it -  its when the nature is at its abundant best!

One of the unsung heroes of tropical fruits should be the humble "Ice Apple" or "Nungu" as it is called in these parts. That Jelly-like fruit has a complex taste that's difficult to describe!

Now while I have had Nungu from my childhood, its for the first time I came across "Pathaneer". Pathaneer is basically sap collected from Palm trees. The Nongu sellers in interiors of Tamil nadu, usually have a pot of Pathaneer in their push-cart which is served to you in dexterously molded Palm Leaves!

Come summer, I make sure I treat myself to these delicate tasting Ice-Apples! Linking this to Linking this to AtoZ challenge - S is for Summer Treats!

Recipe: Pazhutha Manga Curry

Have you yet had a taste of the delectable , luscious , finger-licking good mangoes this season?

Once you have had these mangoes to your heart-content, here is a "Curry" made of ripe mangoes that tops my list of favorites (My mouth literally waters as I write this :-D)This recipe is courtesy dearest Bhavs who has been delighting us this season of A2Z with her amazing stories..

Ripe mangoes (small sized variety) - 8
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp
Turmeric powder  - 1/2 tsp
Salt - to taste
Grated coconut - 1/2 coconut
Cumin  - 1 tsp
Thick sour curd (beaten) – 1 1/2 cups
Fenugreek powder - 1 tsp
Coconut oil - 1 tbsp
Mustard - 1 tsp
Dry red chillies (cut to 2) - 2
Curry leaves -10-12


Cook the ripe mangoes, chilli powder, turmeric powder and salt in one cup of water. Grind the coconut and cumin to afine paste adding a little bit of water and add to the mangoes when they begin to cook.
When the coconut and mangoes have cooked evenly add the beaten curd, cook for a very short while (do not allow the curd to boil) and remove from flame. Allow to cool lightly and then sprinkle the fenugreek powder. Mix again.
Heat oil in a pan and let the mustard, dry red chillies and curry leaves splutter. Add this to the curry and mix well.Adding a bit of sugar/jaggery to make the curry sweet makes it all the more yummy.

Linking this to AtoZ challenge - R is for Recipe

The Quest for life....

... Begins when you realize, 'YOU' are insignificant.......

Clicked by Pheno @ Sravanbelagola

Linking this to AtoZ challenge - Q is for Quest ..

A Plate Of...

See what's been on our menu over past few weeks!  I assure they tasted as yummy as they look here... Now if you need details on the recipe, pls do feel free to reach out to my resident-chef Pheno :-D (errr blame him for this food-porn too)

Golgappas with  a difference anybody - That dash of Vodka makes a difference Indeed :-D

Savory Tarts :-D

Now for this finger-licking good Pork Rib came from Cory :-D

Linking this to AtoZ challenge - P is for Panipuri\Pie\PorkRibs :-D

Hampi - Opulence in Stone

We visited Hampi a good eighteen months ago... But I realize I have hardly captured the place here!

Hampi is located in the northern Karantaka and was once upon a time one of the most prosperous kingdoms of India. But today what you see are the ruins of it! To imagine entire buildings, temples, palaces made out of boulders - leaves u in awe!Its literally stones and boulders all around!.

Indeed Hampi is Opulence crafted in stone....

Queens Bath! Opulent Bathrooms aint it :)

Linking this to AtoZ challenge - O is for Opulence....


Nrityagram - Lterally means Village of dance and thats exactly what the place is!

India's first modern Gurukul (residential school) for Indian classical dances and an intentional community in the form of a dance village,[2] set up by Odissi dancer Protima Gauri in 1990. The residential school offers training in Indian classical dance forms, Odissi, Mohiniattam, Kathak, Bharatnatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathakali and Manipuri, eight hours a day, six days a week for seven year, following the ancient Guru-shishya tradition.[3] Designed by Gerard da Cunha, the community is situated near Hesaraghatta Lake 30 km away from Bangalore (Source Wiki)

If you are a dance enthusiast, this place should definitely figure in your itinerary the next time you are in Bangalore or its vicinity! I was there sometime last year and was definitely bowled over by this quaint little place......

Cottages at NrityaGram

Entrance into Nrityagram.....

Beautiful sculpture isn't it....

You are not allowed to click the pics of dancers in action! This is the picture of a picture

Linking this to AtoZ challenge - N is for NrityaGram....

Malayalam New Year.....

Today is Vishu - Kerala new year. A new year hearalds for Malayaless......

Our VishuKani.....
 I have blogged about Vishu  here.

But what I will share with you today is the recipe for "Kaalan" - a regular item in a Kerala Sadya. This recipe is courtesy Pheno's grandmom

Curd (1-2 cups)
To Grind
1/2 Coconut
Green Chills
Jeera - 1-2 tbsp
Rice Flour(1 tbsp)

Curry Leaf
Grated Coconut 1-2 tbsp

  1. Pressure cook Yam with salt and slightly Mash it
  2. In the meantime Grind all ingredients under "To Graid" Together.
  3. Add the ground paste to the mashed yam and cook it together for max of 5 mins
  4. Once it cools down, Add curd to this. The purpose od adding curd is to adjust the sourness. So ad the amount of curd accordingly
  5. Mix it well and add the "Tadka"to it
This version of Kaaln is called "Kurukku Kaalan" as its almost thickish Gravy.

Linking this to  AtoZ challenge - M is for Malayalam New Year.....


"My pretty doll - how pretty u look today" laughed  Rajeev as Pia twirled around in the new range of "Princess" skirts they had bought over the weekend. "Be my little gal always"…

No sooner did Rajeev  step out to office, Pia rushed  into their bedroom and stripped her Salmon-Pink Skirt! The gaudy "Love" sign splashed all over the skirt filled her with distaste. But Pia knew as long as she acted the clueless pretty girl who was helpless without Rajeev, he would be the perfect husband…..

Only if somebody had told her every marriage was built on “Conditional Love(s)”….

"Conditional Love" is the prompt for 100 word fiction at Write Tribe.

 Linking this to AtoZ challenge - L is for Love.......

Konganpada : A temple Fair

Pheno's grand mom hails from this small town called "Chittur" near Palaghat, Kerala. Considering they are all settled in Chennai, I have hardly visited this place. So when his grandma expressed her desire to visit "Konganpadaa" - I knew it was the perfect chance and what better guide than the grand old lady who has spent a good chunk of her younger days there.

The entire town of Chittur is little more than a few streets - a quaint little place. Their lives revolve around the temple of Chittur Bhagvathi  - the village goddess. The most happening event in the lives of its citizens is the annual temple fair "Konganpadaa". This fair has a interesting lore to it....

A centuries ago,  the king of "Kongan" (Somewhere in neighboring Tamil Nadu) waged a war upon Chittur. The citizens of this small village were ill-prepared to face the war. So they turn to their goddess Chittur Bhagavathi for help . Off they go to war - all warriors dressed strategically as ladies - ably led by Chiitur Bhagvati. Needless to say, Kongan warriors were taken by surprise to see these valiant lady warriors and soon lose the war!

Its this entire war sequence that's played out during "KonganaPada"....Even today, young boys(less than 5-7 years) are dressed as girls. Would you want to join me as we visit "Konganpada".....

The procession is led by the Toddy Tappers. This is interesting cause in a typical south Indian Village, in days gone by toddy tappers are at the lowest strata of society. But here they are given place of honor cause as per the lore they were the first to sight the enemy.........

Then comes the traitors... and thus their face(and body for added effects) is painted black.

After this procession starts the actual "War Procession'. Here is a facet that didn't make sense to me - In this fair, the most coveted position is the man playing King of Kongan.  Now considering, this is a war the village of Chittor is fighting against  Kongan Raja - shouldn't he be the 'Villan' instead of the hero!

The coveted Kongan Raja
Off goes Kongan Raja to wage a war in which he is royally defeated and the 'konganpada' ends with the the victorious Chittor warriors coming back.....

Linking this to  AtoZ challenge - K is for KonganPadaa....

Thus comes to an end the trip to interiors of Kerala..... 

Vellinezhi - A Journey For Life

Here are glimpses from a journey - no, make it pilgrimage - I undertook earlier this year. A journey that will always continue to hold a special place in my life, a journey that has given me memories for life....

 It was after all a journey to the tiny village of Vellinezhi - the village my daddy called home as a little boy!

Velinezhi is considered the center for "Kathakali" and many other cultural arts of Kerala. Recently it was declared as the "Kalagraamam" of Kerala. The govt. School of Vellinezhi has the honor of being the only school in state o teach 'Kathakali'.....

But somebody had a reputation of spending more time on football ground adjoining the school...

Today, daddy's house is been grazed to ground. Here's a glimpse of another house in neighborhood that was his childhood haunt

But his favorite should be this puzha - where he frolicked as a child and then as a teenager. He had the image of 'Casanova' to live upto after all ;)

Linking this to AtoZ challenge  J is for Journeys to take before you die :)

Puzha - Small river

Ramasseri Idlis....

Idlis is a staple breakfast in almost all south Indian Homes. Each region has its own slight variation - - from your regular idlis to Kushboo Idli to Thatte Idlis. A good 30 years of living in South India and just as you think you have sampled the entire plethora of Idlis  - there comes another that is subtly different from everything else you have tasted...

'Ramasseri Idli'...... from the village of Ramasseri a few kms off Palaghat district in Kerala. These idlis seem more like steamed version of Mini dosas - So thin and flat are they! Here is a picture of the idli we had for breakfast one of those days.......

Am told that in this part of Kerala, Ramasseri Idli is a regular item during feasts at home and hotels. But of course, we had to drive the extra 10 -15 kms to Ramaserri village and sample the 'original'(cue to roll eyes)

You could read more about Ramasseri Idli and its cooking procedure here

Linking this to AtoZ challenge - I is for Idli. N thus we head off to Palaghat and its interiors for the next few days.....

Holidaying @ Ooty

Come next day morning, we took the first trip on the "Ooty Heritage Train" - our co-passengers were a group of Japanese scientists  visiting India. What a delightful company they were - a straight lift from "Big Bang Theory" I should add :-D. Just ensure you book your tickets in advance in one of the first class coaches(the remaining coaches would be literally overflowing with tourists) you are set for a quaint one hour ride......

The view from the train.....

That done, we drove down towards Lovedale to visit a tea garden and a few Victorian era churches - no crowds accosting us here and for a moment we were transferred to another world.

The Stained Glasses in these churches are centuries old.....

A hearty lunch later, we stepped into the botanical garden - The first few pit-stops were full of hooting college kids, honeymoon couples and huge families! We moved along  ignoring them. The air by then was cold and crisp after a afternoon shower. Walking together in that high altitude - with hardly any soul for company - amidst tall pine trees for company, we soon hit upon the the Toda tribe settlement(Do take a moment and read up about them). Todas are the indigenous tribes of Ooty.....

Place of Worship of Todas

Maybe the secret behind a good holiday lies in meeting people on the way, exploring places outa way and not really bothering about the "to do" checklist that a tourist book will recommend! Indeed Oooty was a pleasant, refreshing break....

Linking this to AtoZ challenge . H is for Holidaying @ Ooty

N thus comes to an end our weekend getaway to Ooty. So where should we head next people :-D

Gorgeous Nature : Enroute Ooty

After Maharastha road-trip will you join me for a quick weekend getaway....

Pheno won a holiday voucher  last year that offered a 3D - 2N package across India and abroad! The late lateefs we are, we woke up at last minute to realize that the voucher expires in next few days. In the last minute frenzy, the only viable option was Ooty! Yea, our reaction was exactly that -  "ooty $%^%&%^%". I mean who in their senses would want to visit Ooty to relax - a place that's bursting at its seams with tourists!!! Anyway we consoled ourselves that its about the journey and not the destination...

The road trip to ooty from Bangalore passed through Bandipur forests, eucalyptus-bamboo groves, tea gardens at Gundalpet, Paiakra lake and grass lands of Niligiris. Pheno was literally squealing in delight......

Please drive Carefully on these roads thru Bandipur Jungle......

@Pykara Lake. It will give Ooty lake a run for money Anyday

Gurgling Waters of Pykara......

For those of you driving down from Bangalore to Ooty, I will suggest you take the Gundalpet route(as against the Ooty Hairpin route) at least one way - Nature will definitely bowl you over! Indeed it was the perfect start for our holiday...

Alas, The moment we entered the famed "Charring Cross" of Ooty, our bubble burst! The streets were overcrowded with tourists -   so what if it was a off season at the fag end of monsoons! We were booked in at Club Mahindra's Derby Green( part of the voucher - I have reviewed it here). But as evening set in and we settled down at the resorts patio with a  drink or two , everything seemed hunky-dory again :-P.

Linking this to AtoZ challenge  G is for Gorgeous Nature