Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Tata Lit Live: Book Bond with Ashwin Sanghi

Tata Literature Live is an International literary festival that is being held from 30th Oct to 2nd November this year. This four year old literary extravaganza has grown to be one of the best Literature festivals of India and this year it is larger than ever with over 120 writers, journalists and poets and more than 4 prime locations across Mumbai for four days of literary excellence. Imagine an event where you could interact with Ben Okri- Booker Prize winner, Neel Mukherjee – Booker Prize Nominee, ViJay Sheshadri – Pulitzer Poet, Devdutt Pattanaik – Historical Fiction Genius, Barkha Dutt – Do I even need to say, and many more – you wouldn’t want to miss it right? Tata Lit. Live is that very event!

As a promo to the festival, the organizers arranged a Book Bond event for bloggers of Mumbai, at Taj Vivanta and I was fortunate enough to escape from office early for the event, which by the way was AWESOME! The book bond event was an interactive session with Ashwin Sanghi – Chankya Chant fame, and Anil Dharkar – Renowned Indian Columnist and editor, and had topics varying from change in Indian fiction grounds, importance and significance of poetry, digital world of books and knowledge, breaking genre norms and traditional vs self-publishing. Ashwin Shanghi, being an author who himself came into the limelight after his first book Rozabal Line was self-published, talked about how self-publishing was a boon to aspiring authors who were refused the book platform by traditional publishers just because they did not belong to the conventional writers’ cluster (journalists, already famous writers and famous people or people with famous backgrounds.) His rise from a book-keeper to a book-write was an inspiring story. Despite his success his willingness to learn and break away from standard genres and try things was what made me a fan of his. He called himself ‘Ashwin a story teller from a India – A country of stories’, and not ‘Ashwin an author.’

The discussion was thrown open to all the bloggers and when asked about the sudden rise in the number of Indian writers, Ashwin correctly mentioned, “Along with the writers the readers have changed too.” Guess the change in reader base is what has influenced this unprecedented rise of writers and bloggers. When asked why poetry is not as popular as story telling in India, Anil Dharkar said, “Poetry is the final distillation of Literature, of thoughts. But very few get it and poets are even less.” He also announced the shortlist for three coveted Book Awards:
  1. First Book Award – Fiction & Non-Fiction (List has Naseeruddin Shah for his autobiography “And Then One Day)
  2. Book of the year Fiction Non- Fiction (List has Neel Mukherjee for his novel ‘The Lives of Others’ which was also shortlisted for Man Booker Prize 2014, and Ramachandra Guha for ‘Gandhi before India’)
  3. Business Book Award  (List has Dev Prasad, Rajiv Narang and Devika Devaiah, and Rama Bijapurkar)

But the highlight of the evening came after the whole discussion, when Ashwin Sanghi autographed copies of Private India (co-written with Jame Patterson) for all the bloggers in the house. It is said a book’s preface most of the time talks of the fate of the book. Imagine if the pre event was such, how would the four days be?

Monday, October 27, 2014

A Taste of Malaysia

Malaysia, as I had mentioned earlier, is a country with huge cultural influence from around the globe; so how could the local cuisine be untouched? The Malaysian cuisine is a mélange of flavors from the Malay, Indian, Chinese, Indonesian, Dutch and the Portuguese culinary styles. Like most of the South East Asian countries the local food of Malaysia is rich in spices but the sweets of the region and equally appealing. Here is my list of the top ten famous and savored dishes from the Malay land, one should not miss.
1.    Satay – Meat pieces marinated with an overpowering blend of spices, skewered and grilled - that is Satay the most famous of the local meat dishes (chicken, lamb or beef). It is usually eaten with spicy groundnut sauce or sambal chilli sauce and is a famous street food too in the region.
2.   Asam pedas – It is a spice rich fish dish with Indian, Indonesian and Portuguese influence. The sour and spicy dish is made with dried chilies, tamarind, shallots and dried shrimps, along with the main fish. It is one of the most loved Malaysian curries.

3.   Apam Balik – This is the most famous street snack in Malaysia. It is a thick buttery pancake that closely resembles the south Indian Apam but has a distinct Malay touch to it. The Apam is filled with crushed peanuts and glazed with honey before the gooey centre settles and then is cut into pieces and served.
4.   Durian Dodol – Inspired by the colonial Portuguese cuisine, Dodol is a thick sticky cake made from coconut milk, rice flour and jaggery. It is very much similar to the goan sweet famous in India but has and interesting twist of the local Durian fruit that makes this a ‘do not miss when in Malaysia’ thing.

5.   Kuih Ketayap – Kuihs are Nyonya tea time snacks and Kuih Ketayap is the most loved one of the range. I is a Pandan crepe, tube shaped, mini spring role with dark brown, jaggery rich coconut filling. This was personally my favourite authentic Malay sweet.
6.   Kuih Lapis – From tapioca, to durian to coconut to Pandan – this sweet has it all in its nine layers. Kuih Lapis is a steamed, layer Nyonya snack made from coconut milk, tapioca flour, coarse sugar, rice flour, Pandan leaves and at times tinge of durian. This is available in almost every eatery in Kuala Lumpur and though it is sweet it is considered a tea time snack as it is not overpoweringly sweet.

7.   Seri Muka – This is yet another Kuih with Pandan and rice. This two layered sweet – sweet pandan custard on the top and steamed glutinous rice on the bottom – is one of the most popular Malay sweets and can be found at every nook and corner of KL in the evening and the eateries with Seri Muka are actually the most crowded ones too.

8.   Ondeh Ondeh – They look as funky and they sound, but are winners when it comes to taste. Coconut and palm sugar center in green rice castings enveloped in coconut shavings are the perfect pop and savor sweet.

9.   Abok Abok Sago – This is a snack that resembles the Indian Pan but is absolutely nothing like our local appetizer. Abok Abok is a mixture of sago and coconut, wrapped and steamed with banana leaves. I admit, I didn’t like it the first time I ate it, but by the time I was having it for the 5th time I did develop a taste for it.

10. Bingka Ubi – Malaysia is a tropical country and so is an amazing place to try exotic fruits like kiwi, dragon fruit, tapioca, durian etc. The Malays have cakes and custard of almost all these fruits but the one that totally stands out in the lot is Tapioca Cake with is also known as Bingka Ubi.

There are many more flavours the beautiful country has to savor – from the durian puffs to the rose drink, from Redang to Rojak, from local breads to Roti Cenai but these ten totally top the list. The Best places to enjoy a perfect Malay dinner or a filling Malay snack in KL are – Songket, Saloma Bistro, Cucur (Suria KLCC) and local market stalls in Chinatown and Bukit Bintang.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Moon

The freezing zephyr whispers again
Sifting clouds in heaven’s yard
And the lonely moon peeps through the veil.

-Vaisakhi Mishra

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Dear Diary Fascination

There was a time when every 1st January began with “Dear Diary” for me. I would religiously write for a week or two and then my best friend – Procrastination would start keeping me busy with elusive stuff and I would sleep with just the thought, “Dear dairy I will fill you in about both the days tomorrow.” The two days would then grow in to 2 weeks and slowly My Diary would make friends with dust and the dark drawer where I would have kept it the last time. Then there would be some random days in the year where I would have this crazy urge to whisper it all to the silent listener hiding in some forgotten corner of my room, but the minute I would open the dusty jacket journal the number of empty pages and date tags would ignite a guilt in me that would stop me from writing even a word. And again the next 1st Jan would see me in company with a new Diary soon to meet the same fate. This used to be the chronicles of My Dear Diary and Me until I started blogging.
When I started blogging I used to pen down all my thoughts and Poems in a diary – luckily with no dates this time; and later filter out what I wanted on my blog and post specific stuff only. But then life caught up, the diary got over and I started writing anything, anywhere and posting it. This practice came with a stark issue – I started losing my work, my written thoughts. Irritated I stopped writing on paper all together. But I am a person who still picks up pencils and scribbles her heart away anywhere; who loves drawing random silly doodles in the margins of her books; whose last page is a shayari or poet’s corner and I miss writing, or atleast missed it till 3 weeks back.

The Matrikas Journals

Matrikas is now the reason I have started filling pages with pencil again! 3 weeks back a friend of mine showed me a diary she had got from Matrikas and my instant reaction was – I want this! Now I have four of their products and these journals and diaries have made me realized how much I missed writing diaries. For me diaries are not a day to day lifestyle recorder or an emotional ranting tool. For me they are places where I can write anything I want anytime – Dates don’t really matter, and Matrikas' Antique Classic Journal is the very old typical journal with no dates! *My Thing*

Don’t we all have the habit of reading “Thought of the Day”, imagine a journal that not only has the aura of positivity in its look but every page is etched with a thought of a great personality. The Personality Journals of Matrikas is this very kind of a journal, which with thoughts, lets you maintain a schedule, memo and acts and the perfect planner cum journal. And yes the size of the journal is such that it can fit in any random bag. So “Scribble your heart away” whenever you want.

Want to make office work or school work fun? The Matrikas Cube Works hand Book is the perfect tool for you. And did I mention doodles??? Yes, the appearance of the book itself makes you go OMG! When I showed this hand book to a friend of mine he actually had asked me how was I going to review the journal and we came up with version of “Ishq wala love” which was way more logical than the actual song.
Soft wala page
Smooth wala feel
Writing wala skill
Doodle wala book
Awesome wala look
And a lot more lines…

Point - good products lead to creativity, no typical review are needed. After all, a lot of times products speak for themselves or force you to speak for them.

Now coming to – The 5 Subject Notebook. Remember, when in college how you ended up writing every subject notes in one book that would have a triangle page in the center but still by the end of the year you used to be clueless of what was written where. Well I definitely was that kind of a student and every subject book of mine would end up being a rough book by the end of the year cause I was too lazy to carry books according to lectures or check book sections. Well fear not Matrikas 5 subject book is the solution to lazy bones like me. It is a diary, small in size but effective section wise. And cause I love sketching, the blank pages in every section would me my sketch base :D

First Page of my 5 Subject Notebook

In the end guys if you do miss your handwriting, the feel of the books in your hand, the whiff of fresh book (The crazy me spent atleast a couple of minutes sniffing the print smell in case of each journal) and if your fingers are itching to hold a pencil or pen and scribble away to glory – Get A Journal now! And if you want the journal to be of Matrikas you can get it on Flipkart and Snapdeal. You can also view the entire collection on their website or follow them on facebook for regular updates. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Melaka – Malaysia’s Cultural Best

View of the Straits of  Melaka

We have always heard the jingle of Malaysia truly Asia, but there is lively corner of this beautiful country that rejoices in cultural joys and heritage of not only Asia but Europe as well. Melaka in Malaysia is one of the oldest known ports of Asia and had attracted merchants from all over the world in the past. Starting from its founder, Sultan Parmeshwara, to the reigns of the Portuguese, the Dutch, the British and the Japanese, the UNESCO Heritage city of Melaka has various cultural flavors to imbibe along with that of the Chinese, Malay and Indian natives. During my recent visit to Melaka, the town flaunted the energy of Merdeka – their Independence Day, in harmony with all the traditional and cultural influence, and gave me the chance to be part of its cultural extravaganza to a great level.

Malacca Sultanate Palace

Melaka’s Harmony Street has a 600 year old Chinese temple - Cheng Hoon Teng Temple, one of the oldest mosques of Malaysia - Kampong Kling Mosque, and a South Indian Temple - Sri Vinayagar Temple next to each other. On the other hand the Heeran street has Malaysia’s only Private Museum which belongs to the 4th generation of a Peranakan family. Peranakan’s are descendents of Chinese-Malay origin and have been part of Malaysia for centuries now. This museum, which is known as the Baba-Nyonya museum, showcases the Peranakan way of life of the 19th century at its best and the guides’ tales have a tinge of humor with a dose of traditional history making it a highlight of tour to Melaka. On one side where Jonker street hoists the Chinese influence on Melaka, Little India is the best place to see the vibrancy of Indian festivities and enjoy Indian cuisine.

Kampong Kling Mosque

Inside Cheng Hoon Teng Temple

Cheng Hoon Teng Temple

Jonker Walk

Baba-Nyonya Museum

South Indian Cuisine in Little India

The Dutch square has the old general’s office and Christ church that face a British made Victoria fountain and leads to the St. Paul’s hill that faces the aquamarine straits of Melaka on one side and the Porta de Santiago on the other. Porta de Santiago is the only remaining part of the Portugese fort at Melaka but even today street players flock at the arch to give you the European feel. The river cruise also tells you that Melaka was influenced by the merchants of Venice and trishaws - the hint of the Dutch. It is not wrong to say - if you don’t have enough time to explore the essence of Malaysia, just visit Melaka as it is the soul of the Malay land.

Independence Memorial

Musician at Porta De Santiago

Porta De Santiago

St. Paul's Church - The oldest Church of the area (Portuguese Church) 

Christ Church - The Dutch Church of the area (Dutch Square) 

Trishaw in Dutch Square

View from the Cruise - Melaka River

What to do in Melaka in the coming months:
  • Moon Cake Festival - celebrated by the Chinese community in honour of their win over Mongolia. Involves the cooking and eating of tasty moon cakes.
  • Diwali - The Festival of Lights and candles galore. If you are visiting in November, this exciting extravaganza is well worth attending

  • Feast of St. Francis Xavier - early December, St. Paul's Church holds Mass on the first Sunday nearest December 3rd to honour missionary St. Francis Xavier
  • Christmas - December 25th, shopping centers and streets light up and feature seasonal carol singing. The Midnight Mass services on Christmas Eve are especially popular with visitors to the city 

P.S. - All picture are personal.

This post was selected by Blogadda for Tangy Tuesday Section.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Missing (Part 21)

This is the twenty-first part of the short story that I am writing in collaboration with nine other bloggers on Blogadda. Our team is 'Tete-a-ten'. Read the previous parts here: onetwothreefourfivesixseveneightnine,teneleventwelvethirteenfourteenfifteen sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen and twenty.

Cloud Nine Hospital

Dr. Sneha Phadnis walked into the hospital with an air of nervous anticipation. She stared at the chaotic reception with a blank gaze and stood in the busy hallway, lost and unsure. Tara’s words were still ringing in her ears, one name in particular – Dr. Aryan Ahuja. She finally pulled herself together, headed towards the reception desk and asked to see Dr. Aryan Ahuja. The receptionist told her that Dr. Aryan was out, but she could schedule an appointment with him for the next day.
Next Day! Another day…
Sneha’s eagerness got the better of her and made her lose her usual cool demeanor. She snapped at the receptionist saying, “Madam, please this is urgent. I need to see him immediately. Please give me his number or else...!”
Everything around the reception desk halted within seconds. The receptionist was alarmed by the comportment of this woman, desperate to see Dr. Aryan. Suddenly she was reminded of the woman who had called her and beleaguered her for Dr. Aryan’s number earlier in the day.
Mentally making a note and self-confirming her guess about Sneha, she wondered how to send Sneha away. ‘She looks decent,’ she thought, ‘but definitely mentally unstable.’ Thinking quickly, she politely asked Sneha to be seated, and that she would do her best to help her. She watched as Sneha frowned and made her way to one of the empty couches in the waiting area. She noticed Sneha was totally lost in her thoughts and took the opportunity to inform Aryan about the situation at the hospital. She then quickly dialed Aryan’s cell phone number.
“Doctor, that girl who called earlier is here!” Veda blurted out with urgency. “She seems desperate to meet you. By the looks of it, she might be mentally unstable. What should I do?”

 “The girl who called?”, Aryan thought for a moment and looked at Jennifer. Stunned he stood there with the gust of realization but thinking about it again, he calmly replied. “Why, she is with me right now! Don’t over-react Veda, this one must be a worried parent. Just schedule an appointment for tomorrow, and I will see her then.”

P.S. You can find the 22nd part HERE.

My team and I are participating in ‘Game Of Blogs’ at #CelebrateBlogging with us!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Malaysia Moments - Merdeka

I always wondered why Tourism Malaysia flaunted the tagline Malaysia truly Asia. And as if that phrase wasn’t puzzling enough Visit Malaysia 2014 came up with the catch phrase of One Malaysia. Lucky for me, I got the meaning of both the taglines on a national platter during this year’s Hari Merdeka celebrations, where I along with two other Indian bloggers (Manjulia and Ragini) was given a chance to be a part of this ethereal experience courtesy Tourism Malaysia and Blogadda.

Malaysia celebrates its Independence Day on the 31st of August with the spirit of oneness every year. Amidst the color galore and the catchy beats of national songs, Merdeka not only flaunts the national might but also people and pride of the Malay Kingdom. Malaysia is the house to a numerous ethnic groups from south East Asia, and has a large nationally recognized population of Chinese and Indians along with the local Malays, and all of them merrily marched in the parade as one during Merdeka.

Malaysia is also very proud of its technological achievements but at the same time they haven’t forgotten the Mud that made them – Tin. The national day parade hosted at the Merdeka Square, also had the jubilant faces of local companies along with the numerous army battalions. 

This year’s Merdeka (the 57th Merdeka) theme was Malaysia, Di Sini Lahirnya Sebuah Cinta (Malaysia, Here Where Love Begins) and the adorable national Mascots Upin and Ipin along with the performing kids spread the message to one and all present at the square - from 6:30 AM (That is when the celebrations began). The arrivals of the His Majesty - The Supreme Head of Malaysia, the ministers, the embassy officials and the cheer from the crowd for them showed the tremendous support people have for their government.

Tourism is one of the most prominent industries of Malaysia and the treatment every guest of Tourism Malaysia received silently speaks of their dedication to people all around the world. We the Tourism Malaysia FAM participants were given special designated seats amongst the elite from Sabah, Sarawak and other parts of the country and FAM participants from Thailand, Georgia, Japan, Indonesia, UAE and Myanmar. Having seen India’s Independence Day and Republic Day celebration, this seemed to be less extravagant but surely was a total ‘People’s day’.

This track got looped for quite sometime and made Merdeka 57 the most memorable day of my first ever trip to the Malay Kingdom.