Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The illusion called Bangalore- 1

I am usually a cheerful person, but the 1 hr 45 min ride from home to work to travel a distance of about 25 kms in bumper to bumper traffic was enough to make the cheeriest soul grumpy!

Bangalore is an extremely difficult place to live and work. It is only the the weather, which is pleasant through most of the year that makes it compelling to overlook the awful roads, the construction rubble everywhere, drivers on the road who have no road sense whatsoever, poor work ethic and the rampant corruption.

It appears as if growth in the city has slowed down visibly in the last 18 months. Except of course, the government PR machinery and the wonderful Times of India that probably have their head deep inside sand and are yet to acknowledge the stagnation of a city with a lot of potential.

Its probably a standing joke to check what futuristic building/ flyover/underpass/road/etc.... the Times prints on page 2 and 3 daily which is along the lines of the regular tease on page 3 of most tabloids. Yesterday it was the picture of an underpass on a road that first needs to be relaid, and one I have to pass through to get to Bangalore. That the underpass work is expected to be completed in 2-3 days is most ironic.

This much touted "Silicon Valley" of India has a good percentage of non Kannadigas who have made the city their home. But it is a little odd that all government documents and bus signs are only published in Kannada. I am sure the bureaucracy has its own reasons for doing so but what I would like to know is why then go on and on about Bangalore being the Silicon Valley? I doubt a visitor from the real Silicon Valley would be able to use the public transport here. And what about when a non Kannadiga on the roads needs to use the bus to go somewhere?How is he/she supposed to get to his/her destination? I also have no idea if any of the official documents we have signed state what they are supposed to state or are actually something totally random. And while we are on this subject, why should the recently concluded Bangalore have been conducted in English? Why not compel all CEO's to speak in Kannada while in Karnataka?

So why do we continue to live in this city if its such an unpleasant place to stay in? One reason is the undying hope and optimism that people have about things improving. Another reason is that Bangalore is a really cosmopolitan city because people from all over the country and from many parts of the world have settled here, mostly seduced by the wonderful weather.

More on this another time...

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Reviewing Restaurants

I love eating out. And I like trying different restaurants and different cuisine. And I manage to convince Jin to do the same, difficult though that task is. We now eat out a couple of times a week during lunch. Lunch on other days is courtesy my cook Seema.

We tried out a new restaurant on MG Road, Bangalore a month ago. Its called EmGee's -- not very inspired, I agree. Its a vegetarian multi cuisine kind of place, on the lines of the ubiquitous Udipi restaurant in Bombay. It serves the different kinds of dosas, pav bhaji, sandwiches, chaat, punjabi, chinese.. you name it and its there.

But the food is amazing and given the location and the well done interiors, the prices are amazing too. Especially for someone like me who grew up eating at Udipi restaurants in Bombay and missed them when I moved to Madras. Somehow, I never liked the sambhar served at restaurants in Madras. We try to eat there ever other week if possible. So much for being adventurous and trying out new places. A meal for two would cost about Rs.200, if you really stuff yourself.

Another place we like is Mast Kalandar on CMH Rd. It serves veggie punjabi khana but in a fast food style format. The interiors are bright clean and with no unnecessary artwork and heavy furniture. Its just got bright tables and chairs and a friendly staff. They have awesome parathas and I highly recommend this restaurant for a quick bite. We practically lived out of there a year ago when we had a project to complete in that area. Meal for two costs between Rs. 250 to Rs.350.

We had a nice lazy Sunday listening to old hindi film songs on Worldspace. Jin wanted me to make some nice good old fashioned south indian dinner. We had keerai kuzhambu, lemon rasam and vazhakai curry for dinner.

Lemon rasam:

3 tbsp tur dal, pressure cooked with a little turmeric and mashed lightly
1 big ripe tomato chopped
1" piece of ginger pounded gently to release juice
1-2 green chillies slit lengthwise
a pinch each of turmeric and cumin seed
a few sprigs of curry leaves, finely chopped coriander leaves for garnish
2 tsp ghee or clarified butter

Add ginger, chopped tomatoes, chillies, turmeric, curry leaves and salt to 3/4 cup of water and boil till tomatoes are cooked and soft. Add the mashed dal and mix well. If the rasam is too thick, thin it down with more water till desired consistency. Fry cumin in 2 tsp ghee and pour on top of rasam. Garnish with coriander.

Enjoy it with hot steamed rice with a little ghee or just by itself as soup.

Vazhakai or Raw Banana Curry

2 raw bananas cut in half lengthwise and sliced horizontally
2 tbsp grated coconut
1/2 cup tamarind water (soak a small ball of tamarind in water or dissolve 1/2 tsp tamarind paste in water
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp chana dal
1-2 green chillies slit vertically or 2 dried red chillies
few sprigs of curry leaves
1/2 tsp turmeric, pinch of asafoetida (hing), salt to taste
2 tbsp coconut oil

Cook the chopped banana in tamarind water with turmeric and salt for a few minutes till just lightly cooked Strain excess water. Heat oil, add asafoetida, mustard seeds, chana dal, curry leaves and chillies. Stir briefly, lower heat and add grated coconut. Roast gently till it begins to turn red and add the cooked banana. Increase heat slightly and cook for 10 mins till banana starts browning.
Eat as a side dish with rasam and rice

Monday, October 15, 2007

Goan Holiday

We are back from our short family vacation to Goa. Or rather, to the Club Mahindra Resort at Varca Beach.

Oddly, in spite of having lived in Bombay for 20 years, I hadn't ever been on a Goan vacation. Last week was a nice timeout from the regular monotony of our busy and active life. And Ananya got enough time with just the two of us. The last time she had that luxury was during our London trip in August 2006- which we all really enjoyed, but more about that in some later blog.

We have had the Club Mahindra membership for over 5 years but just got around to using it. And I must say, we were pleasantly surprised. The resort is, as are most of their other resorts, quite a distance away from the city centre (about 30 kms from the Airport). While this distance doesn't in any calculation, seem far off, it is when considering nearby amenities and infrastructure. The resort is a haven for holidaying groups of families and a definite no-no for couples looking to spend some quiet time together in a romantic environment. They have a couple of big nice swimming pools, with a lot of space segregated for toddlers and young children to splash about, which is what Ananya did most of the time.

For Jin and me, the highlight was the very brief jet ski ride available on the beach nearby. Half a minute after I got one, after a lot of misgiving, we rode into the biggest wave ever and I was sure that was it for me! Miraculously, the guy driving the scooter held on to the handlebars and successfully steered us into the next big wave. Thankfully I was too busy hanging on to the scooter for dear life, else I would have started blabbering about wanting to get back to the safe and solid shore that seemed to be getting further away from me. However, I survived the experience and I loved it. There is something amazing about being right in the middle of the deep blue sea and nothing else around. I can't wait to do that again sometime.

We also visited the Shantadurga temple- why is it that there is someone in the family (in this case, my mom) who manages to influence a mandatory visit to a temple? My mom had gone to this temple before Ananya was born and made this "vaenduthul" for her safe birthing. This temple is quite old, but what's interesting is that the temple architecture has the look of an old church.

I really wanted to visit the Anjuna flea market that I heard and read so much about, but apparently that is only open between November and April. Bummer!!Maybe next time.

Comfort food time. Plain old yummy mac-n-cheese, that can be dished up in no time at all.
Mac and Cheese

1 cup shell pasta- I used Fettucine here, though its usually macaroni if its just for Ananya
1 cup milk
3 tbsp grated cheese- I usually use a mix of cheddar and Parmesan
Salt n Pepper to taste

Boil macaroni as per package instructions. Just before you drain it, heat milk in a shallow pan till hot. Add the drained pasta, reserving a bit of water for later. Once you have mixed the pasta and milk, slowly add the cheese and pepper. Voila! Before serving garnish with a little more cheese and parsley. On days I want to add veggies and make it a healthy meal, I steam broccoli, peas, carrots and add them along with the pasta and increase the amount of milk used.

My mom used to make a nice and flavourful Indian version of macaroni with garlic, onion, capsicum, tomatoes and regular spices. And we, my sis and I, really loved it.