Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Exotic vegetables, on your pavement

I discovered this amazing vendor, off Khar Station, sitting along Hotel Jewel Restaurant and Bar (yes, I think it does say it is both hotel and restaurant:) on Khar's 2nd Road, where SV road (off Shamrao Vittal Bank) leads you to the station. He has EVERYTHING u want, I mean in terms of exotic vegetables... Avacado -- see that ripe and ready one. First time I am seeing this ready avocado in suburban Mumbai. Otherwise these fancy malls keep stuff half-ripe and u pick it and pray that damn thing ripens in your home. Btw. unripened stuff (that you ripen) are not as healthy as those which ripen naturally on the plant.

All those exotic things u want for your Thai curry recipe -- galangal, kaffir lime -- he stocks them. Just five bucks for a pinch you need... Thyme (in Rs 5 sachet), rosemary, fresh basil, lemon grass, cocktail tomatoes (for just Rs 10!!), dried mushroom (that last for years, he assured me), leek, asparagus.. everything. Zucchini too...
Great place if you are adventurous about food or health conscious. I used to be both, once upon a time. Nowadays, I am just a splurge who does not eat what she buys! But check out this corner for all your exotic veggie needs... What I liked was that he was not highly priced as are the supermarts or food marts that stock these things. Earlier I used to think them as rich rather than exotic, just going by the marked up prices of these things:) I have decided to, after chancing upon him, live on soups, mushrooms, grass and the rest of the stuff I have so wanted for long... I will visit him once a week and stock up. Yippee! You can be poor yet exotic now... when vegetables wander over to your pavement. I guess vendor encroachments do have their uses.. I am not going to join any crusade against them in the near future...

All things exotic

(Above: Snow peas)
(Zuchini, avocado -- raw and ripe)


Monday, March 30, 2009

Now I am also a Warli artist

As a deprived kid (who refuses to grow up) I always splurge on arts-for-kids kit. I have bead-makers, clay kits, moulds, mirror makers, science kits, and anything else you can think of. I simply cannot resist them. I always was artistically inclined (ha, we all think that) and only reason did not become Husain was because I was deprived (ha, we always think that too:)...
Any case while trying to pick up some prosaic notebooks for my daughter I saw this amazing Warli kit.. Resisting it, since these days I am mostly broke (being a yoga teacher) I returned home. But, then, that kit and my deprived childhood colluded together so much so that I was dragged back to that very same stationary shop and had to, simply had to, pick up this Warli kit for kids. I love it: it has clay thingies on which you may paint, but though I still have not laid ink on clay, I bought the kit for the book on how-to Warli yourself.

While a journalist I had wandered, with one of those agents who work these tribals, in Adivasi land and saw those amazing Warli wall pieces (natural paints like mud for that red tint) that the Adivasi women paint on those simple hut walls. Apparently done on some major occasion, like a wedding. But you know how human kind works: these women did it for free and for the love of it, and for being part of the community and all that. But the minute it got itself as commercially paying, the men step in and become cat of the walk:) See how most famous chefs are men? So also, in Warli art most of the painters who do the commerical pieces are men -- they are the one who get to Germany or Europe or wherever else the agent would take them, to showcase tribal Indian art.

Any case, it was fabulous to wander about in Adivasi country, huts far from one another. Where, in that rolling green -- hillocks and soft valleys and an occasional sliver of a sparkling waterfall -- that makes rural Maharashtra so beautiful and heart-stopping, you are lulled into sushegaad ( a state of mental siesta:) by the sight of lazy dragonflies floating over rich, tall grass. And in that seeming emptiness be surprised by a lone hut, and even more happily surprised by its hidden flare-up of this rich art. Glorious. It was what made journalism so fulfilling for me, those days:)

Any case somebody who liked that article of mine gifted me a huge Warli painting -- It had amazing scenes -- a woman being dragged by her man, by her hair!! Physical encounters.. Stuff like that you normally don't see in the clinically cleaned up Warli art available all over... it was a piece that told real stories. Apparently, real Warli art has these double entendre too... stories of money lenders, land-grabbers (from a rich, shrinking community in Mumbai) who would bribe these simple men with a bottle or two of alcohol.. Where such a conniving man may be shown as a rat etc.. That sort of real stories. But that painting of mine, which was layered in that special way, got burnt in the terrible fire in my house. My loving husband, sweet of him, later replaced that with another huge Warli piece. It adorns my hall wall -- but it is a tame one, compared to the riotous and rambunctious one I had...

Any case if you wish to gift a kid a nice kit, then this Wah Re Wah Warli is a good bet I would think -- I paid Rs 349 for my piece. There is a smaller one on offer for Rs 225...
Check out this link for what else the kit contains etc... It is marketed by Pegasus international I have this number on my kit, in case u wish to place an order: 326651661..

Happy painting...

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Cafe coffee day: wake up call:)

(The image of the Carter Road cafe is from this site)

Say I earn a piddling small amount for a class.. What do I do with it? I splurge it at this coffee shop. Do I love it that much? Actually I do it because I like to take on Bandra classes and when waiting between two classes, since mostly I have no place to go, I go here and sip on a large Ethiopian coffee... It is a good sip, satisfying.

What I love about this spot?
  • Great view, far enough to miss those fellows defecating along the seashore and far enough to make pretend that this coastline is divine.
  • I love it that it is no-hassles spot where a woman can be alone and not get stared at as if she is a pick-up... In India that is so sick, with most men simply unused to the idea of women hanging out on their own. And woe betide that sad woman who is also a yoga instructor with muscled arms (like I), with a boho look (again, like I, with gemstone bracelets, strappy tops, and weird jute bags) that for some strange reason seems to, in the deep recesses of suppressed Indian male psyche, flash come-hither signals. So, here, at this coffee shop that is not such a bother, I am allowed to sip my coffee without having to look over my shoulder.

Though the variety is good, I stick to my Ethiopian because it is big and allows me enough sips over an hour or so. Occasionally, I have my laptop with me and typing out my pending columns.

What I do not like about it?
  • Non-functional loo or barred loo -- always it is not to be used, mostly, no water supply is the excuse. Waaah!
  • No breakfast... what sort of a coffee shop is that that does not even have a sandwich for sad sacks like me?
  • Often, unbelievably, I am told the shop (though buzzing with shop boys inside) is NOT open because there is no Water Supply. Earlier, I used to think I was being turned away for my boho look, yoga mat and muscles et al making the boys nervous! I mean after my yoga class off Carter Road, around 8.40 am when I walk in to wait, I am told this. A coffee shop that does not function by eight thirty on a Saturday morning?? Give me a break...
But I still go there and hang out...

Friday, March 27, 2009

Khadi stuff, wow to buy

Khadi Gram is holding a 50 per cent discount sale on its fabrics. Which are, btw, rather highly priced. Some are designed by Nift (fashion school) students but I did not find anything that gripped my soul.
But at the Khadi shop, on Irla Road, I always pick up some fabulous perfumes (yes, simple oils like rose and jasmine and spice -- for Rs 80 to Rs 124) and great uptans (face packs which my mom and hers used:). And massage oils and natural soaps. They make great, elegant gift packs. I usually buy a few for such occasions, but become too attached to gift them away. Mint soap, panchakarma soap, diamond (yes!) soap, silver soap, gold soap etc... And sandalwood perfumes... and they also have aroma oils, rather costly, but original stuff I believe.
It is a nice great place to browse about if you like Indian stuff and natural products. One can go completely berserk! Here is the contact number, in case u want to trek it there: 26714320. It is near Alpha mall. Car parking is a hassle, but there is a municipal pay and park close by. Btw the one off Fort, though a bit dark and dingy, can surprise you with some interesting stuff. It has metal works, nice kurtis, and artefacts ...

At the Irla one, I even picked up Dead Sea salt for some 100 bucks. Have to yet open it, but it is a great spot for female stuff. For men, the good old staid khadi kurtas in the same cut. But it can, I believe, make its own personal statement. Btw. khadi is also the place u buy the national flags in various sizes. We own quite a few. Two tiny ones with their onw metallic flag staffs held on firm tiny stand. Also, two huge ones which my husband acquired after industrialist Naveen Jindal won a case for ordinary citizens to fly the flag as a matter of fundamental right:)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Horse is cheaper than a Nano here

See what I spotted while house-hunting off Santa Cruz. Nobody was bothering to even notice this old man seated on a horse, with a large bag of some kurmur (must be that, or cotton, how else could he have held it so lightly aloft over an unprotesting horse). He was trotting off someplace quietly...

Btw though Nano is a one-lakh car and its selling point is that, and which is what makes its rivals sweat, when u book it you will find this clause: it says price will depend on the rate prevailing at the time of delivery. What that means is that your Nano is not Rs 1 lakh after all:)

But I plan to book it any case... I like small cars... It makes me feel harmless. Apparently for men cars are an extension of their personalities, which is why they like `em large! While cell phones have to be small -- the smaller the cell, the bigger the man!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Real estate: the real picture?

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I saw some media-manipulated story on real-estate prices. You really cannot go by what some papers say since each industry has become media-savvy and knows how to pull strings. Projection is everything in certain quarters. Not good to bitch, now that I have left the trade, but journalists in the business papers specially are given tonnes of carrots by PRs and industry-leaders. Big-time gifts. Once you accept all that how much can u write honestly?? Any case that's not my bizness any more. House-hunting for someone else I found that some interesting things: that since real-estate prices are dipping, thanks to recession and no takers, builders are holding on to property and
  • preferring to give out plum property on leases. This way some money (good money) is being made while they will wait for the tide to turn.
  • In fact, the rent, somebody tells me, is likely to dip even further, by 25 per cent maybe. So, if you are looking for a premise on rent and if your business allows you to wait, you can get into contracts with those buildings still under construction and six months down the line know you got yourself a deal.
  • owners are ready to step back from the earlier insistence on a year's rent as deposit amount. They are ok with five to six months.. since companies are unwilling to shell out such big money any more...
More such wisdom as I continue to house-hunt...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Media missed this one?!:
My husband, who is travelling into some back of beyond spot in Karnataka, told me this. That there are some rickety long-distance buses that simply have the word `Volvo' painted on them, to fool gullible travelers. They are not Volvo but the owners think that adding that word gives them some value:) Amazing this city...Is there a law against such things? Can u write Ford on a rickety Maruti and get away with that... Possibly. It would not matter to anyone really.. But if it is part of a business tactic then maybe the authorties that do the inspections of these buses should tick them off/fine them for such a silly, unbelievable con job. Maybe the inspectors also feel that any idiot who mistakes a rickety bus for a Volvo deserves to be duped? Who knows?

Vada Pav, Jumbo King and why Mumbai malls don't sell it

(This image of a perfect vada pav, with a sprinkling of garlic chutney between two soft bread pieces, is from this site)

The other day I had the best vada pav (it is a traditional Maharashtrian favorite, a mashed potato fried in lentil batter, and eaten between two pieces of bread with a dash of some tongue-on-fire hot garlic chutney, or green chutney or both:) in a long long while. It was at the corner off Mahim Station, towards the Mahalaxmi Engineering Estate, on L.J. First Cross Road. It was being prepared by a housewife in a corner, with her utensils and stuff, and fried on the spot. So, its taste was extra-special. A touch of the garlic chutney and huge hunger made this a very special vada pav.

I have had some at Jumbo King: while they have the usual unusual mix-match to tweak Mumbaikar's obsessive need to experiment (including with food), I always stick to the traditional, old-fashioned vada pav ...Rs 10, so I won't crib. Just ok, is my verdict. This was at the outlet near my home, in Thakur village. Btw some of the combos they offer are really a bit `eeks'.

The other day, at Borivli's S.V. Road, where it curves into a flyover, at a Zunka Bakar stall I tried a vada pav -- he did not heat it, so my husband rejected it outright. What is a cold vada pav? Totally off-putting. But I bit into it. It was ok, despite my immense hunger and greater craving for comfort food. Somewhat flat. So, remember not all vada pavs are made equal.

BTW. DO YOU KNOW THAT JUMBO KINGS ARE not there in any malls in Mumbai? Because vada pav is too low-brow for them? Or maybe even low-priced? I wonder why local politicians have not made an issue of that...I would love to eat vada pavs in the mall, in the theaters and hopefully reasonably priced (how would a five-star vada pav taste?).. Perhaps it is not the mall rejecting them, but that the vada pav sellers find it difficult to hike the price of this humble food item to meet the malls's OTT rental costs. Either way, the loss is ours....

I read on a Sify link now that the Shiv Sena had launched a Shiv Vada Pav last year, after holding a vada pav competition and a vada pav conference . Oh wow!! How fantastic.... And that this Shiv Vada Pav was to be touted as a global phenomenon.

Yes, I also think making food is better than making war. And eating it is even better:) Especially if it is a hot vada pav with some aha-hoo garlic chutney:)
Spotted in town: Bargains galore. Buy one, get seven free??!!! A shirt brand waving this carrot to buyers...

Dilentantism Mumbai style: a butterfly before u are caterpillar

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It is a good or a bad thing I don't know. But as far as any commitment goes, the citizens can be really guilty of diletanttism. My kid goes for dance classes and she is a dance freak. She tells me that in a class of 11 or so, only one to three persons may be hardcore followers of that particular dance style. Otherwise, u have dance `teachers', some nowhere graceful, who actually finish one level and go on to teach that style! So, they sort of mix and match and create some pop sort of dance and give it a classical name, and lo, there are people who actually pay money to learn that! Since such diletantte stuff can be cheap, Mumbaikars are so happy they got themselves a bargain. This is true of such difficult styles like salsa, krumping or belly dance.

Why this city is particularly cursed that way, is beyond me! I started Kick-boxing four-five months ago. Now I am so hooked that I am hiring my trainer as a private instructor to learn it far more deeply. And the reason I don't want to do it in a general class is because I realise most others are just floating about, not really serious about kick-boxing! What draws them to it is a big, BIG mystery to me! I find being in the same space with such learners constricts my own learning... I can see that while I was in kick-boxing class, every month one young thing will pay a month's fee, learn to frisk wrists, then leave. Most of them were my yoga students, much to my dismay, since it bothers me that people can be so shallow, that even while signing up, they have committed to only one month (of kick-boxing) I mean.

Similarly I have been learning music for the last three years, from a classically trained, highly talented teacher. She is not a music teacher by profession, obviously because there is no money to be made that way: thanks to diletante waywardness of this city. In my music class, I keep revisiting old bhajans, so that I can correct my mistakes. I insist on this though my music teacher wishes to teach me something new. But I hear from my music teacher that this is different from what she normally (and frustratingly no doubt) encounters from some other old aunties (who used to bargain and not pay her Rs 25 per session): they used to insist that she teach them new songs even though they had not perfected the old ones!! They think they are learning???!!! With my music teacher also, due to this sort of nonsensical participation from others, I take private classes. I find it terribly frustrating to be spending time with people (learners) who pretend to be learning and those who have low commitment quotient. It is bad enough I deal with that while teaching yoga!
This same sort of `disloyalty' to commitment to learning something full-fledged is what powers this city commercially perhaps. U can set up shop and hope to steal your neighbour's customers. Malls are brain-wracking to find how they can hold on to their footfalls! This city loves motion, and that means they will not commit!! Brands, exercise styles, sports styles, clothes styles (real mismatch, mix-match that is boldly Bombay, you won't find elsewhere), boyfriends, mobile phones, mobile phone numbers, caller tunes -- they want CHANGE!!

It is its strength. This dilentantism.... But perhaps it can be its weakness too... as its commitment to causes are also so vague and vapid... But you cannot say that to a hardcore Mumbaikar...for whom the only thing that is constant is change... Cliched, but true.My prayer? Maybe that will change, too, someday:)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Spotted in town:
I saw an eaterie today with these words to describe, itself as a place where `food, fun and fumee happened?' What is fumee?? Somebody please explain!

Momos in Mumbai

The first time I had Momos was at Kavita Mukhi (the unconventional, torchbearing nutritionist-entrepreneur)'s shop which was selling her goodies. I loved it then. The right amount of rice (without which South Indians wilt) and those spicy stuffings from which you try to pick flavors and find out which of the ingredients is now turning you on. After that, with a huge gap, I had it recently at Goa... at the little Tibetan shack off Calungute beach. Lovely. But then, found this outlet at InOrbit and celebrated by buying one full plate and shamelessly eating it all by myself, without sharing with anyone from my family. Rs 30 for the veg plate... It was so Wow!

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Whether the leather weathers anymore…

My husband has always owned a pair of Woodland shoes, you know the brown rugged pair that men everywhere sport when they want to project a little outdoor-ish kind of image? My husband was one of the early converts, ever since Woodland advertised with the line ‘leather that weathers’. I’ve known him to hunt high and low for the pair, but as with all things popular this particular model was clearly on the way out.

Arre, it just doesn’t wear out, he would exclaim after 2-3 years of totally mindless use, in water, on treks, in the desert. See, the sole is still intact, what a brand, wow!

Gently I would try and tell him that such a long-lasting model doesn’t make sense for the manufacturer, his commercial interest lies in you not keeping a pair for three years but ideally buying one pair a year.

Every time Woodland announced a sale my husband would pop in trying to find out if this model could be had cheap, but no. He would always find that the discount sale did not apply to this popular model. Rs 2800 it cost, and Rs 2800 it remained.

Recently, when we visited Thakur Mall at Dahisar checknaka (I had blogged about this mall recently), he stumbled on to a Woodland factory outlet which had an ongoing sale. And hubby’s eyes lit up when he learnt that his favourite model could be had for a throwaway Rs 1000. Eagerly he tried on the pair, and his eyes crinkled in dismay. But this pair doesn’t feel like they are from the same family. The right shoe feels different from the left, he said.

The salesman, eager to make a sale, refuted the claim. No sir, they are from the same pair of course, he reasoned. No, my husband was adamant. Try walking in my shoes, you will know what I mean. See how firmly the right shoe grips the floor, and see how the left shoe slides on the same floor, they are from different pairs.

Finally the salesman tried on the shoes and agreed. Then my husband’s eyes caught the different lining on both the shoes. See, if the shoes are from one pair the lining will be the same, but they are different. In fact, one shoe’s front is curved and the other shoe is squarish.

Sheepishly the salesman brought out another pair, and my husband was thrilled to note that they were alike in all respects. And they matched his existing, but down in the mouth, pair externally in size. But on a whim he said he’d like to try these on. And grimaced soon after. The shoes were just right for his feet, there was no room for his toes to breathe.

Give me another pair, preferably one size bigger, he said. Sorry sir, came the prompt reply, this is the last pair we have, said the salesman. Meaning, take it or leave it, knowing full well the ardour in my husband’s eyes.

We took it, the husband hopeful that given time the shoe will ease to his foot size. Alas, every weekend he wears it (yes, he uses Woodland on his weekends) he would end up in pain in the evening. Two months later, the shoe clearly was not adapting to his foot size and he was resigned to buying a new pair.

As luck would have it we recently passed by a Woodland showroom announcing a 50 pc sale, and we walked in. To my husband’s query about the model, the salesman replied, no doubt shattering him: Sorry sir, that model has gone out of production.

See, I told him on the way out, Woodland makes no money from this model if it doesn’t wear out as you say, it makes sense for them to phase it out. But, what about men like us who love it, he asked, to which I had no reply

But worse was to follow. The very next day, as we were shopping around our complex, suddenly my husband started limping, before bending down to pick up something from the ground. His sole, from the months-old shoe which he boasted just goes on and on, had come off! Looking shattered at this breach of trust, he limped back home, holding the sole in one hand till I took pity and put it into my shopping bag.

At home as he struggled to put shoe and sole together with Fevikwik, he was a disillusioned man. How could Woodland do it to us, isn’t nothing sacred anymore, he asked rhetorically. Something tells me Woodland won’t come back into his life again.

Friday, March 13, 2009

This city and its autos:)

I don't know: barring one incident when I felt the autodriver was taking me for a ride, literally, I have been having a decent run with these fellows lately. Cannot imagine what has come over them. It feels just like my old beloved Mumbai.

I even spotted this auto with this sign: see the slideshow, though it is not too clear. The auto owner has actually put a sign on the back of the driver's seat where he has given his phone number, to which u can call and complain if there is any complaint against the driver. Oh, wow!! Possibly the owner has a daughter and wants to make the whole world a safer place for the rest of womanhood? Possibly he has had bad moments with auto drivers and feel it is his karmic duty to clean up the city of some who can be like the very vermin...

Can we have more of such auto-owners? Can there be a law that insists on such a sign?

The world is becoming a better place?