A dash into Bosnia…

We were in Montenegro, when we decided to visit neighbouring Croatia. Dubrovnik in Croatia has achieved cult status in recent years because of the hit series Game of Thrones (GoT), many parts of which were shot in that city. We are ardent fans of GoT, and Dubrovnik was just an hour and a half by car from Perast in Montenegro, where we were so blissfully ensconced.

Only the desire to see the locations of GoT could have torn us away from Perast, to which we had lost our hearts. In Perast, each one of us had discovered that we could indeed be far from the madding crowd, and be happy. The ethereally beautiful Kotor Bay which was just outside our apartment window, had cast a spell on us so powerful that I had the mad urge to overstay our visa! If souls can talk to a place, mine did, to the tranquility, beauty, and the sheer peace of Perast. I remember a particular morning, when we had ventured out early, and were almost the only ones out in the cold, damp, clear morning. I remember looking out at the tranquil bay, taking a deep breath, and shutting my eyes, capturing the feeling at that particular moment. After returning, I have often wondered, why. Is human nature naturally attuned to the beauty and simplicity of peace and silence? Do we rediscover an innate, but an absconding part of our very being when we inadvertently discover places like this?

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The ethereal Bay of Kotor as seen from Perast

But as far as Dubrovnik was concerned, all of our plans came to a naught when we realised that we didn’t have the Schengen visa to enter Croatia. Our US visa had been enough to gain us entry into Turkey and Montenegro, our two ports of call on this trip. Sadly, we gave up the idea of visiting Croatia. But the urge to drive out was now upon us, and I think we looked forward to leaving Perast for the day, just so that we could ‘return home to Perast’!

That is how we found ourselves strapped into the car, setting the Google Map to Trebinje, Bosnia-Herzegovina. We heard there was a lovely monastery to see. The idea of seeing the monastery and eating lunch in another country, before returning to Perast, was so very attractive. So we set out. Once we left the Bay of Kotor behind, the road to Bosnia wound around vast fields and distant hills. At the border into Bosnia, we faced both immigration and customs, while seated in the car. How cool is that!

We were welcomed into the Republic of Srpska, which is one of the two entities of Bosnia-Herzegovina. And soon we were in Trebinje.

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Goodbye Montenegro, Hello Srpska!

Trebinje is a small city, with much history. The Tvrdos Monastery actually dates back to the 4th century AD, though over centuries it has been destroyed and reconstructed, the last one being about a century ago. It’s a peaceful monastery, surrounded by green vineyards, with a river flowing past it.

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The serene Tvrdos Monastery

The monastery chapel, as with most such chapels, is small and serene. There were tourists who were conducting some rituals, and we prayed briefly too. The monastery is known for its wine production, and is quite a tourist attraction, though we didn’t pause to taste any. We then left for the city of Trebinje, a mere 5 km away.

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Ishaan had a great time photographing the river, while a local fished!

Trebinje was for me a surreal experience. I have rarely been in any place in Europe, especially in recent years, where I have seen people stare at us as much as they did in Trebinje. Indians have reached most corners of the earth, and one would think Bosnia is definitely one of those corners. It wasn’t a rude stare, just a shocked one, jaws agape, at seeing a sight one isn’t accustomed to. It was a bit unnerving, but we tried to be nonchalant, three Indians, walking down a street in Bosnia, trying to look as if we belonged! In retrospect, what a hilarious sight we must have presented!

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In the centre of the town, a farmer’s market was just winding up, while we went inside a cafeteria looking for some lunch. Lunch was rather coarse, though tasty fare. A kind of ham sandwich, for which we paid with Euros since we very clearly didn’t have the local currency of Convertible Mark. They happily took the Euros and gave back change in Marks which we discovered later. So we now have a bunch of Bosnian Marks to add to our currency collection. People at the cafeteria thankfully didn’t stare, which went a long way in redeeming the city for me.

For dessert Sachin insisted on going to a rather busy and stylish cafe we had seen. We went with hope and got some lovely dessert, but also enough smoke to coat our lungs for a while. People here have the rather awful habit of smoking indoors. Sachin said it’s a sure sign of a still evolving society.

Trebinje overall, doesn’t give one the impression of being a vital place, which I hope isn’t symbolic of the rest of Bosnia-Herzegovina. There is almost a miasma of tiredness, and of being poorer cousins to their more alive, more prosperous neighbours. The town of Trebinje has loads of history. Yet, there is a sheen of dullness about the place. Despite the autumnal trees and the cool weather.

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We started back from Trebinje soon after and reached Perast by 5 pm, when the tourists had vacated the town, and what a relief that was! It was dark and quiet, and we were  just in time to see a humongous cruise ship glide silently across the bay in front of our apartment, its windows ablaze with lights. What a mesmerising sight indeed, to come home to…:-)

In intriguing Istanbul

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Girls with covered heads at the Topkapi Palace

“See, that’s what I am talking about!”, exclaimed our Istanbul guide Zehra (name changed to protect identity) in dismay, pointing to a group of young girls at the Topkapi Palace, a few of them with their heads covered with scarves. “Covering the head is forbidden as per Turkish law. But now, we are seeing more girls with their heads covered”. Zehra, a strong feminist, nationalist, and liberal, was our guide for the day in Istanbul. She was unabashedly critical about the path her country was treading, yet helpless in the face of the ultra-conservatism she saw slowly taking root in Turkey.

For both Sachin and I, this was our first experience of Istanbul. We had transited through the city before, but never explored it. Istanbul to me, seemed the very antithesis of Perast in Montenegro, where we had just spent a blissful five days. Perast was ethereally beautiful, peaceful, and by the second day we were on nodding terms with the locals, with our frequent forays out. It had been almost heart-wrenching to leave Perast. And the contrast, coming into Istanbul, couldn’t have been more vivid.

From the word Go, Istanbul to me, was a riot of colours, a smorgasbord of sensory experiences, and most of all, a perfect example of what happens to culture, facial features, and way of life, when Asia and Europe meet and blend, so riotously. We stayed at Hotel Ajwa located bang in the centre of the congested, tourist centre of Sultanahmet, on the European side of the gently flowing Bosphorus. On an earlier transit we had stayed on the Asian side, and I had been lulled into thinking that here was a calm, benign city. It’s absolutely not. Sultanahmet, to me, was in many ways, a reminder that for all its European efficiency and chic, Istanbul is essentially Asian at heart.

Chaos seems writ large in the city’s very fabric. From the wildly weaving traffic, to the eagerly gesticulating salesmen in the Grand Bazaar trying to attract your attention, it’s chaos. It was outside Grand Bazaar, while tightly sandwiched between two women in a mass of people, that I had an out of body experience. This, I thought, is how it feels when you have nowhere to turn, and nowhere to go. Literally. For many minutes we were stuck like that, and then we came unstuck. And I fled into the Grand Bazaar.

The Grand Bazaar is a covered, busy market, the interior of which brought to mind the beautiful baroque Cloth Hall of Krakow’s Town Square, which has stalls selling jewellery, ceramics, and dainty laces.

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One of the entrances to Grand Bazaar
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The lights that shine and beckon at Grand Bazaar!

The comparison ends there, of course. The Grand Bazaar is grand in every sense of the word. The colourful lamps on display blaze with a  zillion twinkling lights, while the vast array of gorgeous ceramics, bags, psychedelic stoles and shawls, chess sets, copper and brass utensils, and gold jewellery, vie avariciously for your attention.

It’s so easy to fall prey to the enticing charms of these wares, but for the bargaining. It is assumed, especially if you are an Indian, that you will bargain, so it’s a real pain to have to bargain. Much to my chagrin, one of the shop owners said, Madam, you bargain well! I hate bargaining from the bottom of my heart, and my attempt had been pretty perfunctory. So I knew he was just going on the charm offensive. Ignoring him was easier said than done, and I bought what I had to buy and got out.

But it was in the Spice Bazaar that we spent the real moolah. From lemon salt, dried fruits and pomegranate syrup, to sun-dried tomatoes and beautifully packaged Turkish delights (sweets) of pomegranate and almond flavours, the Spice Bazaar is a real cornucopia of foods and spices, and emits the most interesting smells.

The Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar can be a bit of a tourist trap though. Everything is way too pat, every response too rehearsed. The lanes and by-lanes outside of the two bazaars have some interesting stories to tell. Here, there are stalls selling a variety of things like the famous Turkish calligraphy, little figurines of the whirling dervishes, handmade soaps, etc. Even the gleaming fresh fish on display may just be of academic interest to tourists like us, but are still so attractive. As one traverses the lanes of Istanbul, every experience takes on more meaning, every sight is visually more appealing, every bazaar seems something out of the Arabian Nights!

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The lanes outside the famous bazaars have some interesting stalls

The proper introduction to the city came the next day though, with Zehra. Hailing from the northern part of Turkey, she has a healthy disdain, tempered with loads of affection, for Istanbul. With pride she pointed out the sights of her adopted city, narrating the history of her country which has seen, since the beginning of the Christian Era, the Byzantines, the Ottomans and then, the liberal Mustafa Kemal Pasha ruling over Turkey. Kemal Pasha was an especially liberal leader, who vowed to put Turkey on a secular, progressive track, which meant women’s liberation too. Something Zehra is immensely proud of.

But, things are changing subtly. The current political dispensation in Turkey has made education in Islamic schools free, which means a large number of children are being sent to these schools, depriving them of what could be seen as a more liberal, progressive education. Head scarves are back, and the general feeling is that the country is treading a conservative path.

Yet, Turkey is a country with a very large heart. It currently hosts the most number of Syrian refugees, nearly four  million officially registered. Such an influx of refugees has meant a degree of pressure on the social services, and in a bizarre twist, territorial squabbling between the ‘local’ beggars and ‘refugee’ alm seekers! There is a price to be paid for being welcoming hosts.

Not just refugees and tourists, Istanbul attracts all other sorts of visitors. We were stumped by a very strange sight we encountered often on the tour around Sultanahmet – men with bandages (sometimes bloodied) wrapped around their heads, sightseeing. What a sight! Istanbul is apparently, a major hub for people wanting to get cosmetic treatments like hair transplant, botox, etc. Obviously, the men with bandages were fresh from a hair transplant session. I could only marvel at their determination to sightsee!

We spent a considerable amount of time with Zehra that day. It is a testimony to her skill, that we didn’t realise the passage of time. With consummate ease she navigated Sultanahmet, telling us stories about each monument, even pointing out the resident cats of Sultanahmet! Among all the monuments in Istanbul that Zehra took us on the walking tour – from the Topkapi Palace, the Blue Mosque, the underground cisterns, the Grand Bazaar and the Suleiman Mosque, I was most impressed and awed by the Hagia Sophia or Ayasofya Museum.

It so well encapsulates what Istanbul stands for. Built in the 6th century AD, it is considered an epitome of Byzantine architecture. The remarkable thing about this awe-inspiring monument is that for more a thousand years it was a Greek Orthodox Church, which later became an Ottoman Imperial Mosque under the Ottomans, and is today the Ayasofya Museum. Though many of the original features like the altar, bells and mosaics depicting Christianity were glossed over, some still remain.

Ayasofya is built on massive lines, and when you enter through the Emperor’s Gate, you truly feel royal. The gates are so massive that they look fit for caparisoned elephants to enter, like some of the darwazas of Indian forts.

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The Emperor’s Gate at Ayasofya

The massive dome and the extremely high ceiling, as also the colourful mosaics, make for an extremely regal monument. The Ayasofya is also a highly controversial edifice, with ongoing debates about the uncovering of the Christian mosaics, and whether the monument should revert to being a mosque again. A sign of how the wind blows in Turkey today?

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The Christian mosaic inside Ayasofya

Zehra undertook to introduce us to not just her city’s history, but also to its food. Eschewing the more fancy places, she took us to a small, but a very colourful restaurant, Omar, in the heart of Sultanahmet, where we tasted the testi kebap, a meat dish cooked in a clay pot.

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Testi kebap being served

The last part of the cooking process is done right next to your table, when the clay pot is roasted in the flame, the lid opened, and the kebap decanted with a flourish. I must confess, while I found this dish quite tasty, I vastly prefer and absolutely love the traditional kebaps on skewers, and the ubiquitous doner kebaps that we had at the ‘Hamdi’ restaurant overlooking the Grand Bazaar. The doner is of course wildly popular beyond the country’s borders. It’s in fact, our go-to comfort food too, when we travel in Europe.

Ironically, one of our best meals in Istanbul was an Azerbaijani meal. Turkey has strong ties with Azerbaijan, and ‘Zeferan’, the Azerbaijani restaurant at Ajwa is quite  famous. The food was truly mind-blowing, especially the shah pilaf, a less spicy, more delicate version of our biriyani. When they brought it to the table, I thought it was a mistake, as the dish resembled if not a cake, but definitely some sort of a dessert with the garnish of apricots on top.

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Is this a dessert?

We cut into it to discover the most flavourful, delicately spiced rice, and melt-in-the-mouth meat. Food like this makes one grateful that one is able to travel and experience, even if briefly, other cultures.

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Oh no! It’s shah pilaf, a rice and meat dish!

 

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I can drink Turkish tea through the day

I have only one grouse with the Turks, and that is that they take their warm beverages seriously, and I wish they wouldn’t. They slurp many glasses of tea and coffee every day. I love the Turkish tea, there is a charm to drinking black tea which is so light, and aromatic. But Turkish coffee is something I will never get my head, or my taste buds around. I found it thick, almost sludgy, and it tastes, quite frankly, horrible. I am a finicky coffee drinker, I agree, given my South Indian roots, but I can usually tolerate most types of coffee. Turkish coffee, I am sorry to say, I will never have willingly.

While their coffee is of questionable taste, the Turks are a friendly, polite, and a fair race, and I don’t mean their skin colour. They are aware of their place in the world because of their history, which has over the years and especially in the 20th century, been very progressive. The melting pot of cultures that Turkey is, has resulted in a race with bold, handsome, refined features, making them a very good looking race too. And they are confident about their place in the world. They wear their culture and history, very well indeed. I hope and pray, it remains that way.

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When She Died

Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was shot dead by her Sikh bodyguards on Oct.31, 1984. I was an 11-year-old schoolgirl in New Delhi. When the news trickled in, we were let off early from school. My sister and I walked home, where I promptly dived into an Enid Blyton book, and a lunch of aloo parathas and mango pickle. It is strange how these small details get etched in one’s mind when we often have lost more meaningful memories. As the day wore on, we heard that she had succumbed to her wounds. The evening news confirmed what everyone knew by then. The analysis of her controversial political career began, and for many, it was also a time for mourning. The backlash against the Sikhs had started brewing.

In those days, home was a central government colony in R.K. Puram. Our colony was two rows of flats facing each other with a small maidan in between. The colony was a microcosm of India; Punjabis, Telugus, Marwaris, UPiites, Malayalis, Tamilians, Bengalis – all co-existed peacefully, the children getting together every evening to play in the maidan. From learning to cycle (on a milkman’s unwieldy cycle), to playing hockey, and hopscotch, we kids tried everything together, sans hovering moms.

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The R.K.Puram colony which was our playground

In any case, my mother with her brood of three kids, and a  husband, who was always away on work, had no time to track us. During the cold winter months, we would come back from school to find the colony ladies sitting in the sun on string charpoys, knitting furiously, gossiping gaily. My mother was never a part of that, and sometimes I used to wonder why. I have realised today that both my parents were complete misfits in that government colony in Delhi, where we kids were very much at home. They were from Kerala, on the extreme south of the Indian peninsula, extremely well-read, their cultural moorings as different from Delhi as it was possible to imagine. Mismanagement of properties by family members had ensured that my father turned away from it all in disgust. It was my father’s stubbornness at holding down a cop’s job, which had landed my parents and us, in distant Delhi, where the weather and culture, were both so very alien.

Our neighbours in that colony often changed. Occasionally, there were those who refused to move even after retirement. They were given many notices and then forcibly evicted, all their belongings – furniture, vessels, mattresses, thrown out on the road along with the people. The kids watched wide-eyed but unperturbed. I like to think that these incidents in a way prepared us for what was to come after Mrs. Gandhi died.

The rumours started gradually. Like straws in the wind, they came into view and gently drifted away. Sikh bodyguards had shot Indira Gandhi, so the Hindus were taking revenge, the rumours said. We heard the adults talk about Sikh neighbourhoods and shops being ravaged. We heard about large-scale looting in the markets. No one believed them. But it was fear-mingled disbelief because we also heard that the Sikhs were taking revenge.

The Sikh community was omnipresent in Delhi. But during the time that Jarnail Bhindranwale held sway over the Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab, people had started looking at them with different eyes. We reveled in words like ‘mono sardar’ to denote Sikh men who had cut off their tresses, indicating that it had been done out of fear. My father, who was a CBI sleuth, used to visit Punjab to investigate cases often, in those days. If you remember, terrorism was rampant in Punjab in the early 1980s. Father would return from his long absences to tell us about Hindu families with Sikh kids, and of a gentle, Sikh daaba owner who used to keep his eatery open well into midnight so that my father and his colleagues would not miss dinner. ‘He slices extra malai (cream) and drops it into our lassi, my father would say appreciatively, while we kids would feel nauseous at the thought of that malai. My father was a tall, impressive figure of a man, and he used to tell us how he towered conspicuously above the devotees in the Golden Temple. I imagine, he with his cropped hair, must have stood out like a sore thumb – a Hindu – in that fast-festering environment.

But Bhindranwale was the one who caught our morbid imagination. We traded gory, imaginary details about the fate of Hindus caught by Bhindranwale and kept to be tortured in the Golden Temple. Yet, that didn’t colour our views about the Sikhs living with us and the Sikh children playing with us. Kids have the amazing ability to compartmentalise their lives.

When Operation Blue Star happened, and the Golden Temple was badly damaged in the crossfire between the militants and the Indian Army, there was widespread anger and disbelief among the Sikhs in Delhi. Mrs. Gandhi became instantly unpopular, and in a way, her assassination was almost inevitable. But what the Sikh community may not have expected was the brutal backlash against them in Delhi after her assassination.

That particular day is seared into my memory. Our colony had a market attached to it, as is the norm in Delhi. The market had all possible shops, including a Mother Dairy milk vending outlet, clothes stores, stationery shops, provisions stores, an electronics store, small daabas, and a very popular shop selling piping hot samosas and jalebis. Many of those stores and daabas were owned by Sikhs.

Mrs. Gandhi’s funeral was still a day or two away. That day, groups of people were talking furtively in our maidan. Many apprehensive glances were being thrown in the direction of the market. Something was surely afoot. A while later, I was leaning out of the balcony and saw a couple of men staggering out from the direction of the market carrying something heavy. A closer look revealed it to be TV sets! Just as I was wondering about it, a few more emerged, with clothes, pressure cookers, and more TV sets. Some of them were hollering, whooping, and running like the very devil was chasing them. Mobs, even small ones, acquire maniacal strength, and they collectively, even if only temporarily, lose their conscience and goodness. With horror I realised, these people were taking away looted goods. A chill ran up my spine at the thought that shops we patronised were being looted and vandalised. Unsettling noises from the market rent the air through that day. What if the mob decided to turn on the residents randomly? I was paralysed with fear. My father wasn’t around. I don’t recall seeing any policemen around, either. Did anyone try to call the police and report this vandalism? I don’t know. But I do know that the general, and oft-expressed feeling was, “Let the Sikhs pay. Didn’t they distribute sweets at news of Mrs.Gandhi’s death?”

By evening the Hindus in our colony started spreading rumours of truckloads of Sikhs coming our way, seeking vengeance. It was said they would poison the water tanks. It was said they would cut off heads with their kirpans. Rumour fed on rumour, fear gorged on fear. All the adults gathered, and strategies were planned. In the event of an attack, women and children it was decided, would take shelter in the first-floor flats and terraces, while men would patrol the colony. Someone suggested that chilli powder in mass quantities could be kept ready to counter the attackers. We listened to all this planning, shocked. I remember a spidery web of fear spreading inside me. The adults were too stressed and preoccupied to notice that children were actively eavesdropping. We looked at each other in utter terror.

Night came and went. The men patrolled the colony in turns, but no Sikh mobs came to our colony, not then, not later. It was just rumours. The looting of the Sikh shops continued through the next day, till there was nothing left of their shops. The losses the community suffered, the trauma they went through, the rest of us and the Indian state have a lot to answer for. I, for my part, am selfishly thankful that I didn’t see anyone being burnt or killed, only shops being looted, which was traumatic enough. More than 300 Sikhs – men, women and children were butchered in Trilokpuri Colony, while many more hundreds were slaughtered across rest of Delhi. The miasma of fear that hung about our colony and indeed, the rest of the city, must have been a nightmare for the Sikh community, and I wonder how, and if, they ever got over it. It was, and is, one of the most damnable chapters in our post-Independence history.

Slowly, things settled down, as they must. India’s love affair with the new Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, began. I remember my friends and I sending a long letter to the Prime Minister’s  office, which ended with us requesting him for an autographed photo of his family! Of course, we didn’t get a reply, not even an acknowledgment, which rankled for a while. India’s obsession for Rajiv too did not last, but he did give us a great sense of hope, and new beginnings. Though, even he never attempted to ease the burden of what the Sikh community faced on those cataclysmic days.

 

 

My Top 10 Series – Part 2

Here’s Part 2 and final list of My Top 10 Series…I loved chronicling my favourite shows, hope you like reading it:-)

  1. Fargo (Season One on Netflix): I have watched the first season of this series, and it’s a crime story with the blackest humour you can imagine, helmed so ably and eccentrically by Billy Bob Thornton (Angelina Jolie’s ex-husband, the couple was known for wearing tiny vials of each other’s blood around their neck!), and the able Martin Freeman. Freeman plays a severely hen-pecked husband, who snaps one day and hits his wife on the head, and she dies. Helping him cover up this murder is Thornton, which subsequently leads to more murders and hilariously bizarre situations. Thornton is deliciously ironic, and this series is so, so worth watching. I hope to watch Season Two soon.
  2. Ozark (Seasons One and Two): The story of Ozark is similar to Breaking Bad in that, it is about a man providing for his family, and also trying to protect his family from his bad choices. Except that, after a point, the choices they make are more voluntary, than forced. Ozark keeps you on the edge of the seat, and is a superbly cast and produced series. Yet, Breaking Bad touches your heart more.
  3. The Crown (Season 1-2 on Netflix):  It is the biographical depiction of the life and times of Queen Elizabeth II, who is currently the longest reigning monarch in the world. The series has been dramatised superlatively, remaining faithful to the real events which are widely known. Two seasons are over and the third is eagerly awaited. Superb, not-to-be-missed series.
  4. Broadchurch/The Sinner (Seasons 1-3 and Season One, respectively, both on Netflix):  The British crime series, Broadchurch, is set in the fictitious town of Broachurch in Dorset. The investigation is into the death of 11-year-old boy which shakes up the close community. Leading the investigation is DI Alex Hardy (actor David Tennant), who is a sharp detective, but with his own personal demons to slay. Assisting him is actress Olivia Coleman as DS Ellie Miller. This unlikely duo works well. This is an outstanding series and keeps you on the edge of your seat. While, The Sinner is about a mother on a beach with her family, a seemingly pleasant, happy day, with nary a cloud in the sky, when suddenly something snaps, and she commits murder. Jessica Biel is the reason you must watch this, what a performance, and what a story!
  5. Alias Grace (Season 1 on Netflix): This American-Canadian mini-series is based on a novel of the same name by Margaret Atwood. The main protagonist is the intriguing Grace Marks who is in prison since the last 15 years for having committed murder. She tells her story in flashbacks, to the psychiatrist Dr. Jordan who is here to evaluate her for a possible pardon. Grace is no ordinary person and till the last moment one is kept guessing about the veracity of her story. Stunning portrayal by Sarah Gadon as Grace.
  6. Fauda (Season 1-2 on Netflix)This is an Israeli political thriller, which gives a glimpse into the complex security and other challenges between Israel and the Palestine territories. The story, though primarily told from the Israeli point of view, does depict the Arab thinking too. Though it has faced some criticism over its handling of the issue, for the rest, it’s a taut and suspenseful series.
  7. Humsafar/Zindagi Gulzar Hai (One Season Each on Netflix): Both these Pakistani serials star Fawad Khan. Bollywood movies no longer seem to have a place for the chivalrous, utterly romantic leading man, which Shahrukh Khan at one point had managed to craft as his image. Fawad is your quintessential romantic hero, utterly good-looking, supremely charming, and so very chivalrous. But not just Fawad, the rest of the cast of both these serials, have done a superlative job. How I wish such realistic, yet appealing serials were being produced in India too. But then, Pakistan has a long and rich tradition of producing well-narrated and sensitive TV shows. Remember Dhoop Kinare?
  8. Sherlock (Seasons 1-4 on Netflix): Most of us saw the first three seasons before it came on Netflix, but having said that, it’s one of the best series on the site. Benedict Cumberbatch plays Holmes as no one before, and even the formidable Robert Downey Jr comes only a close second!
  9. The Chalet (Season One on Netflix)This is a a French crime-suspense mini series. As with most things French, it’s absolutely stylistic, and it’s chilling and spooky, without depicting much gore. Hats off to the director for pulling off this almost implausible plot on the basis of its production values, sets, location and cast. A special mention has to be made of the haunting title song and music. Fabulous and riveting.
  10. Boston Legal (Seasons 1-5) and Grey’s Anatomy (Season 1-15): You may be surprised at these choices. Boston Legal is about a law firm in Boston, which has a set of lawyers, who are morally and ethically sometimes compromised, but are bright, and defend their clients well. I recommend watching this mainly for William Shatner (of Star Trek fame, remember the dashing Captain James Kirk?), and even more, for James Spader.  Spader who acts as lawyer Alan Shore, is brilliant, but is not averse to using shady means to get his victories. Yet, he is honest about his methods, and is uncompromisingly unhypocritical, and that is what I love about his character, and this show. Grey’s Anatomy is about a bunch of new interns at Seattle Grace Hospital in the US, who go through their gruelling training and exciting relationships at the same time. What sets it apart for me, is the sheer casting – Ellen Pompeo who plays Meredith Grey, Patrick Dempsey who plays Dr.Derek Shepherd aka McDreamy, and Sandra Oh who plays Dr.Christina Yang. The chemistry between Pompeo and Dempsey is superb. In its 15 Seasons, the serial has seen many shifts and changes, including the cast, though Ellen Pompeo has been the constant. I would recommend watching upto Season 8 or 9, till when it’s really interesting and keeps you glued.

My Top 10 Series – Part I

There was no way I could do just one list for My Top 10, so am going to cheat a bit, and do two lists:-) These are series which are either ongoing, or finished in the recent past, across platforms. Each of the below has given me many hours of unadulterated entertainment and joy. For that, I am truly grateful. I have mentioned and reviewed only the seasons I have seen. So, here goes:-)

  1. Game of Thrones (Seasons 1-7 on Hotstar): What can be said of GoT that hasn’t been said already? Except that this series has created extreme fandom, with each season awaited with intense longing and impatience. The cast, the locations, and the story, are at an epic scale, and the special effects are out of this world. The question which will be answered at the end of the last season next year is – Who will finally sit on the Iron Throne? My bet is Jon Snow (er, Targaryen)…whom are you betting on?
  2. The Peaky Blinders (Seasons 1-4 on Netflix): This series came as a bolt from the blue. It’s about a gang called Peaky Blinders running the bookie and other illegal business in 1919 Birmingham, England. Led by the ambitious Thomas Shelby (played brilliantly by Cillian Murphy), it’s a family run ‘business’. Murphy’s chilling eyes mesmerise, and even as his gang is violent, his own treatment of his women is extremely chivalrous. Each season deals with a fresh set of challenges the gang faces in its effort to become more powerful and influential. Season 5 is so eagerly awaited.
  3. Breaking Bad (5 Seasons on Netflix): This five-season series is one of those series, which if someone had narrated the story beforehand, I would have baulked. The very ordinariness of the characters is finally what attracts one the most. A rather dull, chemistry teacher, diagnosed with lung cancer, starts making and selling methamphetamine with the help of a student, and not only makes loads of money, but gets into much trouble in this life of crime. Bryan Cranston who has acted as Walter White, the chemistry teacher, is so very real. He’s the reason you must watch this.
  4. True Detective (Season 1 on HBO) – Mathew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson act as detectives investigating the murder of a prostitute and other connected crimes. The story line spans almost two decades, with a lot of flashbacks, but this winning combination of actors, particularly McConaughey’s absolute, absolute brilliance, is what makes this series stand out. McCanaughey brings so much conviction to the character, Harrelson being a truly worthy foil. When I heard Season Two didn’t have either of these actors, I just didn’t watch it. (My hubby says it’s foolish of me not to, so perhaps one day, I will). It has brilliant title score.
  5. Homeland (Seasons 1-7 on Hotstar): This is an American spy series, starring Claire Danes as CIA officer Carrie Mathison, who is bi-polar, and brilliant at her work. The series is shot amazingly realistically, and most of its plot is eerily close to reality. It also addresses American jingoism and insecurities. The next season is sadly, likely to be the last.
  6. Forbrydelsen (Seasons 1-2): What a  series this Danish whodunnit is! Brilliant actor Sofie Grabol plays detective Sarah Lund, with each episode in a season covering 24 hours of the crime investigation. It’s bleak, scary, and utterly suspenseful!
  7. Sacred Games (Season 1 on Netflix): This is the first original Indian (Hindi) thriller series on Netflix, with awesome performances by Saif Ali Khan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Saif Khan’s turn as police officer Sartaj Singh has to be his best performance to date. The series has violence and gore, sex and nudity, and somehow, it all seems to fit in. Season 1 ended as a cliffhanger, and the next season is eagerly awaited.
  8. Big Little Lies (Season 1 on Hotstar): Aha! This is my most favourite series of 2017. A complete gem of a series starring mega stars Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon and Shailene Woodley, it is set in the community of Monterey, California, where it’s the first day of a new school year for a bunch of first graders, whose mothers are divided into close-knit groups. One of the kids gets assaulted by another on day one, and from there on, the battle lines are clearly drawn between the moms. There is also adultery, domestic violence, commentary on parenting, jealousies, and tests of friendships. And finally, a murder, which is revealed in the first episode itself (though not who is murdered), but is resolved only in the last few minutes of the final episode, leaving you strung out, gasping, exhausted, and absolutely shocked! The best news is, Season 2 is being shot even as I write this, with Meryl Streep joining the cast:-)
  9. The Outlander (Seasons 1-4 on Netflix): Much smaller in scale than Game of Thrones, but almost it’s equal in story and gore, Outlander is also an epic love story in a way that Game of Thrones can never be, given it’s sheer vastness. It’s based on Diana Gabaldon’s book series about time travel into 18th century Scotland by a married Army nurse, Claire Randall, at the end of the Second World War.  There she encounters the handsome Jamie Frasier with whom she falls irrevocably in love, and gets involved in the Jacobite uprisings. Am eagerly awaiting Season 5.
  10. This Is Us (One Season Only, on Hotstar): This American series is essentially about three siblings – Kevin, Kate and Randall, the last of whom is racially different from the rest of the family, and is adopted, and their lives with their parents, mostly told in flashback. They are adults now, and each is going through life, often facing demons from the past. What is it that tugs one’s heart about this series? It depicts the challenges of parenting, the choices we make as parents, and the ups and down parents undergo in their own relationships, in a very honest and forthright manner, which you can so, so, identify with. The bond between the parents and the siblings is heartwarming, and their deep angst is understandable too. You feel these are real lives being lived, and you become such an intrinsic part of this family. It’s a complete tearjerker, and if you don’t like an emotional overload, perhaps you ought to give this one a miss. Otherwise, Watch IT!

Getting fit, post-40!

In this, my fairly new quest to become fit, I have very serendipitously, come across this book Fit after 40 by Dr. Sheela Nambiar, who is an Ob-Gyn based in Ooty, a fitness consultant, and a practitioner of lifestyle medicine.

Like me, if you have clambered onto the fitness bandwagon only in your 40s, then your natural instinct will have been to take things slow and easy. The last thing you would want is an injury caused by over enthusiasm and ignorance, which ends up derailing your whole fitness plan.

Fit after 40

Almost three months after I embarked on this journey, I was at that stage where I knew I had to graduate to the next step, but was not sure in which direction. This book thus made an appearance in my life, when it was exactly what I needed, but had no clue! So my baby steps towards fitness have metamorphosed into toddler steps with Fit after 40. The writer addresses in very practical terms the psychological, physical and emotional changes we undergo once we cross 40. She discusses diets, disease, stretches, flexibility, exercises, weight training, stress, etc.

For me, the biggest challenge has not been the gymming or the walking, both of which I love and look forward to every day. The diet has been the biggest challenge. I have found that any drastic diet is not sustainable. Yet, the unhappy truth is that diet constitutes a significant chunk of any weight loss/fitness programme. Yet, if you are a foodie, how do you reconcile that, to the need to be, if not svelte (a pipe dream, in any case!), but definitely fit?

This book has a wealth of information on these and many diverse topics. The book particularly addresses the challenges of being fit post-40, and that to me is a winner. You must read the book for yourself, but I can’t resist giving some nuggets from the book which specially appealed to me. My main, and most practical takeaways from the book are:

Turn your plate around: Instead of serving yourself a large portion of carbs (rotis, breads, rice) and then ‘dot the plate’ with veggies and proteins, fill your plate with salads and veggies and lean meats, and place the carb/s in a far corner. This sounded eminently doable to me, especially since we all tend to ‘eat’ with our eyes first, before we ever get down to taste it. So a full plate like this, while visually satisfying, will also be a more healthy one.

Intermittent fasting: It’s a much-bandied phrase these days. Indians are already well-aware of the concept of fasting. The author’s brilliantly turned the same concept on its head. She says you can do it your way, with your fast lasting 12 hours or more. Instead of fasting during the day, you can fast at night, which anyway we do, but in a more controlled manner, and for longer hours. So, eat your first meal around 8 am and last meal around 6 pm, which gives you 14 hours of fasting period (6 pm-8 am). Or, delay your first meal till 10 am and that will give you 16 hours of fasting period.

The benefits? It improves over time the ability of the body to handle glucose,  enhances brain health, has beneficial effects on genes related to diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, improves heart health, and may even protect us from cancers, says the author. Whoa!

I am trying to implement the 14-hour fast routine, while trying not to stuff myself too much during the 8 am to 6 pm period, which would kind of defeat the whole purpose, right? I do get ravenously hungry by 10 pm, which means I have been trying to sleep relatively early (there goes my Netflix time!). But I hope with time, my system will get used to this radically altered routine. Such a routine is not possible of course, on weekends or if you have a dinner commitment. But doing this even 3-4 days a week should help, is my hope. And boy, what self-control one develops:-)

Stretch to be flexible: The writer emphasises on a good stretch routine of at least 10 minutes in the workout. What’s more, she has illustrations showing the best stretches for you. Again, some of these stretches I had already incorporated, while so many more I have learnt new. According to the author, three of the most common causes of injury and pain during training or working out are overuse, lack of warm-ups, and poor flexibility. Stretches before and after an exercise routine or walking are therefore, mandatory.

Weight training: This is the most significant thing to burn fat, says the writer. As we age, we lose muscle mass, an area where Indians especially, are already deficient. The muscle is a very important tissue when it comes to mobility, and the main utiliser of carbs and fat as fuel for its own functioning. So the more muscle you have, the more the fat and glucose in your body are used up. So building up those muscles, is one of the most vital parts of fitness, post-40.

The author has touched upon many other relevant topics like the importance of sleep, the pros and cons of stress, how to age well while keeping the brain healthy, and so on. Read this book even if you are well on track with your fitness, as it will not only reinforce your healthy habits, but will further clarify your doubts about aspects you may not even have thought of.

To my friends who have hit their 40s, I can’t recommend this book enough. But even to my younger friends, I say this – don’t wait like I did, for wisdom to dawn. Make fitness (yoga/stretches, gymming, walking, swimming), a part and parcel of your daily life. After all, you yourself get to reap the rewards now, don’t you?:-))

P.S: Those who live close to me, around me, do feel free to borrow the book from me!

A strange visitor

Long years ago, we lived in Colombo, Sri Lanka. We lived in a sprawling bungalow on Polhengoda Road, a shaded lane, where large houses existed cheek-by-jowl with tiny hole-in-the-wall takeaway places offering the most delicious  kottu roti and buriyani (Sri Lankan for ‘biriyani’). The house we leased had a large, green lawn, where mango, jackfruit and coconut trees cast their glorious shade. The house was old and rambling, with a sloping, tiled roof, and hosted us and a myriad other creatures, as we were to learn soon. Our Sinhala landlady who lived in England was kind, but a bit eccentric, and gave us a house filled with heavy furniture, bronze pieces, crockery and vases.

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The house which the monitor lizards visited!

Like most Sri Lankan houses, this one also had two kitchens – a ‘wet’ kitchen for all the wet work like cleaning meats and vessels, while the ‘dry’ kitchen was for all the other less cumbersome cooking. Honestly, I never used the wet kitchen at all, it was completely the domain of the house help, who swore she couldn’t function in the more modern dry kitchen. I had no quarrel with that, as she turned out the most delicious prawn curry and dried fish sambol (chutney) you can imagine.

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The house had an eclectic collection of vases, chandeliers, and even a monitor lizard or two!

Now, the house had plenty of lizards, which strangely we never saw, just heard their call.  Lizards have a peculiar call, and only by the end of our stay did we realise the sheer population of lizards in the house. They cleverly inhabited spaces away from our eyes and while today I would jump a mile-high even at a glimpse of one, then, it just didn’t matter to me. The roof of the house was inhabited by a pole cat, which made its presence felt often, and at nights. But the strangest of creatures which came calling was the monitor lizard.

It was a hot, muggy day. The watchman came running to say that there was a snake in the garden shed. My city-bred mind immediately panicked. Sachin (who functioned out of a home office), went to investigate, while I climbed the mooda in the patio, and flailed my arms helplessly. The watchman and Sachin peered into the shed, shone a torch, for what seemed to me an interminably long time. They came back excited, nervous, to report that indeed they had glimpsed the snake’s twitching, long tail. After conferring with the other staff, a call was made to the pest control people, who arrived with admirable alacrity.

The pest control ‘team’ was a pair of young, grinning, Tamil boys, who seemed very amused by my panic and antics, and less concerned about the situation at hand. I rather curtly told them to get on with the job at hand, in Tamil. They nearly fainted when they heard me speak in Tamil. They were promptly marched off to the shed and after peering into the innards of the shed, they too came back saying there was indeed a paambu, snake!

This was now stale news for us. The question was, what was to be done? They were most reluctant to kill the snake, as were we. But what was the alternative? Now, a gurgling drain ran behind the house, past this same garden shed. There was an opening to it, from the shed. Could we nudge the snake towards this opening in the hope it would enter the drain and swim away? Armed with a long pole, the pest control boys, the watchman and Sachin, gingerly entered the shed. Bravely they poked around and that’s when they got the shock of their lives! This was no snake! This was a fully-grown, monitor lizard, about 4-5 feet long. It had obviously entered the shed from the drain, and was all coiled around the discarded articles in the shed. It was more panicky than us, for sure.

Anyway, this was a nasty surprise for all concerned. How does one deal with a monitor lizard? That’s when Sachin sheepishly mentioned to me that a baby monitor lizard had been occupying the guest room in the house since a fortnight, and he had mistaken it for a normal lizard, and had let it be! I stared at him, aghast! The watchman pitched in saying, did you know monitor lizards are carnivores? They have even been known to lift babies? I was frightened out of my wits, even though there was no baby in the house. Sachin’s usual sangfroid faltered for a second, but he revived soon enough, after all, a strategy had to be charted out.

The only way out for the monitor lizard was the way it had come in. After much prodding around the creature, and thumping on the floor, it uncoiled itself. Sachin later described the creature’s head and size, which just made me thankful I hadn’t been anywhere near it!  Much to everyone’s relief, the tactic worked, and the monitor lizard slipped back into the drain, and was gone. I think we sealed that gap instantly. I made the boys locate and rid the house of the baby monitor lizard. That house, coming to think of it now, was a regular menagerie!

We dined off this tale for many years. We told this story with much embellishment to all our local friends, and later, to friends in India. Of course, with each telling, the size of the monitor lizard grew and grew, till it eventually reached ten feet and more!

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This house exists no more

This was in 2001. We left Colombo and that house the following year, with a heavy heart, and relocated to Bangalore. For my 40th birthday in 2013, we went to Maldives, and on the return journey, stopped over for two days in Colombo. I insisted on visiting our old house. When we reached there, I wept. That beloved house no longer existed. In its place was a modern, multi-storied office building, with concrete where the green lawn had stretched. I was heartbroken. A piece of precious memory from my past keeled over and died.

 

Finger-licking good!

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Photo credit: pexels.com

We were attending a traditional wedding in Kerala a while ago, where the wedding feast was the elaborate lunch or sadya served on large banana leaves. A traditional Kerala sadya is purely vegetarian, with multiple courses, all eaten with rice. Even the dessert of payasam or kheer is often eaten on the leaf itself.

So, there we were, waiting in anticipation, and in order, all the dishes were served, the rice the last. My husband and I started to dig in, only to realise after a few moments that our ten-year-old had not started, and was trying to attract the server’s attention. He wanted a spoon, and heaven help us, a fork! Under the bemused gaze of the rest of the clan, who like us, were all eating with their fingers, and with some gusto, Ishaan got his spoon (they were rather apologetic that they couldn’t provide him with a fork).

It was a moment of epiphany for me. Family  members jovially called out, he’s a true saipan (foreigner), isn’t he? I was quite embarrassed. It had never occurred to me till then that my boy didn’t know how to eat rice with his fingers! In my quest for hygiene, and since I was not always at hand to feed him, from babyhood, the emphasis was on using cutlery. It was only a clean means to get the victuals into the child. It had become so habit forming that even after he could eat on his own, he continued with his spoon and fork routine. And I never ‘taught’ him how to eat rice with his fingers. Rather, it didn’t occur to me to teach him.

Sadya
My son waits for his spoon, while the rest of us dig in with our fingers!

Eating with fingers, if you are alien to the culture, is an art to be learnt. We who have been bred in it, don’t realise that it can be intimidating for others. A Canadian I met in Colombo, many, many years ago, said there is a technique to eating with your fingers. I looked disbelievingly at him, wondering why he was making a meal out of such a simple thing. So he demonstrated by scooping up some rice in his right hand and just tilting his  fingers into his mouth, which looked clumsy and messy. He looked at me quizzically, where am I going wrong? I mimicked his action. And only then did I realise that after we scoop up the rice, we use our thumb as a kind of piston to push the food into our mouth. It was an Aha moment for me. Go on, try it. You will understand what I mean. So unless someone has shown you the right way, it can be a difficult task. That was also a moment of epiphany. Just like we have to learn how to use chopsticks, for instance, people from other cultures have to learn how to eat with their fingers!

To me, it’s the most natural thing in the world. I have always only eaten with my fingers, and learnt the art (if it can be called that) of eating with a fork and a knife, much later in life. And I am still a reluctant user of cutlery. There is a reason we say ‘finger-licking good’, don’t you think? Of course, some foods are not suited for eating with fingers. But for the rest, especially for Indian foods, fingers are the best.

When babies were born, in an earlier generation, there was this custom elderly women had of rubbing sugar into the gums of the new-born with their fingers. Needless to say, they rarely ‘sanitised’ their fingers. My son thankfully escaped that, and though I have a soft corner for old customs, this is one practice I find truly disgusting. Some limitations have to be imposed on fingers too, I guess!

They say eating with fingers has a myriad health benefits. I don’t know. I just know that the taste of steel with the rice is rather off-putting. So in polite company, and maybe in impolite ones too, I will use cutlery. But at home, I will do as my heart pleases:-)

After that Kerala episode, I took it upon myself to teach Ishaan how he must eat rice. I have to say, some habits are best formed from childhood. When eating with his fingers, there is still an awkwardness about him. He fumbles a bit, like we would when attempting a newly-learnt, and still unfamiliar task. It’s a bit painful to watch him, and I eventually hand him that precious spoon. And he sighs in relief. But I have ensured that he won’t ask for cutlery at our next sadya outing…:-)

 

The new religion!

 

person on elliptical trainer
Photo credit: Pexels.com

There is a certain symmetry and logic, to gymming. And I have discovered this rather late in life. I have never been a gym-goer. I much preferred walking to gymming. But about a month ago, a switch flipped in my head, and I found myself in my building gym.

Now, the gym in question is a superlative one. Well-equipped, and immaculate. When I stepped on the treadmill and started walking, it just felt so right. The act of putting one step in front of the other, in a regular, timed rhythm, was almost military in its precision. I can imagine how soldiers marching for their army must feel. That nothing matters more than that next step.

In short, I have discovered a new religion, with its own set of dogmas, stories, and rituals, yet totally undemanding! To think, I was such an unwilling devotee at its altar, convinced that its ‘sterile environs’ were not for me. My earlier attempts at gymming had always fallen by the wayside. I guess, one has to be in the right frame of mind to receive even the most positive of changes.

A friend and I decided to start together, on this new adventure. We entered the gym with much trepidation. Except the treadmill and the cycles, the rest of the array of machines were unfamiliar, and we had no clue how to work them. But the gym trainers, kind people, put us through the paces. So I now have a nodding acquaintance with about half the machines there. As for the rest of the machines, I have called a truce. We have decided, the machines and I, that we will meet and greet at a future date.

But the one thing I decided very early on was, I was going to go solo, instead of enrolling under a trainer, ever since I saw what they were capable of. Take my word for it. These trainers come from a land where gentleness and moderation are held as depraved qualities. Their utmost satisfaction is when their charges are huffing and panting, and screaming out their pain and frustration. They puff up with pride when their students mock-complain about how their particular trainer pushes them to the extremes of endurance. I swore to myself, I was going to maintain a safe distance from them.

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Fitness has become my new religion

So far it has worked for me. Since I am on my own, with no one to tell me what routine to follow, each day is a new day for me. I choose what I want to do, and which routine to follow. I absolutely love the machine weights section. You see, it’s just the machine and I. The machine helps me, guides me, even as I get to decide how much I want to push myself, or how many repetitions I want to do. Even, which of those to skip and which to keep coming back to. There is a certain logic to it. More important, there is no deception here, and machines certainly don’t judge you! I get a big high the days I have made my way around most of those machines, not the heavy-duty ones though, which to me, still resemble torture racks.

I enjoy being around others who gym with so much focus. Once in a way, some unsolicited, but welcome tip comes my way. I don’t mind it, in fact, I quite like it. It’s fun to be the newbie in the room!

I enjoy the routines so much now, that the days I don’t gym, I am crabby and grumpy. I am aware that my more relaxed pace will not yield the desired results soon. The world of fitness is like an unfathomable ocean. I know that I have barely skimmed the surface, a bit akin to flinging the tiniest pebble into its depths. But I know myself enough to know that rushing headlong and pell-mell, into gym routines will only drive me away with as much speed. Slow and steady does it for me. So if you are hoping to see a svelte me any time soon, you are bound to be disappointed. Give me time and I hope to show you why the tortoise is still the winner:-)

And have I stopped walking? Oh no! Gymming is for the body, while walking with friends, is for the soul:-))

 

An ode to Paradise

The Paradise restaurant in Colaba has shut down. We woke up to this  news on Sunday morning. It was inevitable. We had been meaning to visit it one last time these past few months. But couldn’t. Now, Paradise has downed shutters, and we will miss it.

My entry into Mumbai fourteen years ago, was through Colaba. We rented a spacious apartment in the rather run-down Geetanjali building, behind Radio Club. And one of the first restaurants, Sachin, a Mumbai boy took me to, was Paradise on Colaba Causeway, which served mainly Parsi food. Parsi cuisine was alien to me and I was intrigued at his description of the food.  When we arrived at Paradise, I wasn’t very impressed. It was a narrow space, though the decor was quirky. I found Jimmy, the owner, slightly testy and irascible. He barely looked up when we entered, though just another table was occupied at that time.  We ordered the food. When the signature Scotch Broth arrived, I tasted it and found it slightly underwhelming after the eulogy I had just heard. But I instantly fell in love with the salli murghi and salli boti. That was enough, and it signalled the beginning of my love affair with Paradise and Parsi food.

Till we lived in Colaba, which was for a little more than two years, we visited Paradise every week, sometimes even twice a week. We were footloose and fancy-free and fancied Paradise food all the time! I not only started liking Scotch Broth, but started craving it, especially during my pregnancy. In fact the waiters would see us walking in and disappear inside to emerge with two bowls of the broth. It was a thick, mutton broth, with slivers of chicken, accompanied by a quarter plate of crisp, butter-soaked croutons. Yum! Paradise’s chicken rolls, salli boti and salli murgh with thin chapatis, the dhansak and rice, and a cutlet called Temptation, were our top of the charts dishes. Of course, we experimented with almost everything else on their menu, including some of the continental and Chinese dishes on offer.

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Happy times at Paradise!

We had become regulars. Jimmy, whom I soon discovered to be a warm person, would always do a pit stop at our table and chat away, wishing me well for my delivery, describing the visits abroad to his kids. Jimmy didn’t have a liquor licence, in fact, never got it, which kept the foreigners away, who preferred Leopold and Cafe Mondeagar at the other end of Colaba Causeway. But we didn’t mind, and Paradise became our ritual.

After Ishaan was born, we didn’t waste much time in visiting Paradise, with the baby in tow. Though he couldn’t taste the Scotch Broth yet, Sachin felt it imperative that he breathe in the air of Paradise! Jimmy was pleased, and responded by gifting the baby ₹ 51. I was very touched. Before Ishaan turned two, we took him to Paradise for his first taste of Scotch Broth. He absolutely loved it! Till two years ago, even after we shifted residences several times, and out of Colaba too, we often made it to Paradise.

Paradise 3
This was more than a year ago, and now we will miss Paradise and its Scotch Broth (in photo) always!

I tried to take my love of Parsi food beyond Paradise. We visited Jimmy Boy and Ideal in Fort, and a few other places. But nothing could match Paradise for us. Jimmy’s wife Mehrooo was the brain in the kitchen. We hardly met her, as we tended to visit the restaurant mostly for dinners. On the rare occasions we went in the day, she would be presiding over the kitchen and the cash counter with much dexterity. We learnt that she fussed and supervised over everything, including the cleaning of the meat. No wonder the food tasted and smelled so good.

About two years ago, we noticed some changes. One or two of the familiar waiters were missing. The new, young waiters didn’t know us and we felt it strange to have to ask for our staples. There was some small, but noticeable decline in things like the chapatis, which didn’t seem like they were freshly made, anymore. Jimmy too looked tired, more detached.

Our visits slowly wound up. Caught up as we were in the rigmarole of daily life, Colaba and Paradise seemed too far from Lower Parel, where we now lived. Restaurants like SodaBottleOpenerWallah opened up a new wave of Parsi food for us. We had replaced Paradise.

And now, Paradise has downed shutters. But the taste of that Scotch Broth will linger in my mouth forever, and I wish, I could taste it just once more…for old times’ sake!