Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Saltpans: dreamy backyards of Mumbai

When Janu, our plump sweet little baby was a toddler we (Sai and I) would feel guilty that she was cooped up in the house most of the time because 1) we were working 2) our flat was on the topmost floor so we could not leave her to roam about on her own down in the compound 3) and our timings were such that when we were home we could not go down and hang about -- the tiny compound was not only gloomy but also mosquito-ridden in the nights...

So we would travel in our little second-hand Omni to some nice dreamy locales, where it was not too costly to spend a night, off the beach, with a stiff breeze, good homely food and nice family company about us ...some beer and even fish (when I was ok with that sort of non-veg fare before yoga sort of wore it out of my system). Domnica guest house at Manori, off Mumbai, near Gorai, was our regular haunt.

When you left the hurly burly of Mumbai, sort of epitomised by the malls in Mira Road, and entered narrow strips of roads hugged by expanse where sky touched earth, you felt truly free. The village homes looking cosy, the illegal speedbreakers, the scrawny or lush vegetation (depending on the season), the lazy clouds scattering the sky, good-clean looking boys on bikes, dhabhas, housewives selling tadgola or cucumber (according to season and availability) along the roads -- it felt heaven...

One of the sights that greeted you and still do, are that of the salt pans, immediately after Mira Road drops behind you. Something about those harsh white mounds, the marshy water in dark pools about, a lazy crane breakdancing in those marshes made such breaks so special. I used to pack food since there were no food-stalls that could accomodate a kid. When Sai and I visited the Pagoda (Buddha relics also there, off Esselworld) we once more passed this tract and felt uplifted...

Sad thing is our kid is now grown up. Possibly when you are a teen you feel suffocated to spend so much time with your old parents. So she resists the idea of the such outings these days, preferring her i-pod and her mobile phone to the break of waves and a bare sky. We oldies felt the stab of nostalgia when the salt pans rushed past us on the roads.. Maybe next year, we will surely make it....

Diabetes control plant

Where can u find the Diabetes control plant? At Thakur village
here are contact details of the nursery where u find that
Shop no 30, Hailey Blg, Blg 51, Evershine Millenium Paradise , Thakur Village, Kandivli East.
Mobile number of Vasant Bhogan : 9820744425

Watching a movie, in Mumbai

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We were watching the Tony Jaa film at InOrbit's movie hall. Can u imagine this? Many college kids were there and I was feeling happy that perhaps they are getting to become fit, love Muay Thai and like clean action films where a highly paid actress does not have to strip to make the movie sell...
No, but it seems the kids were there not for Tony Jaa ... and I could never figure out what they were really there for, since they kept jabbering throughout. And during the most beautiful moment of the film, rather evocative and technically splendid too, where Jaa jumps over the elephants -- some girls actually went out to buy popcorn!!! Mumbai children can be so frustrating that way, as company. I find that they are the most chilled out of the lot of kids (Generalisations are so passe, but I resort to them at such moments :) Chennai kids are introverted and shy, Delhi kids posturing and confident, but our Mumbai kids are the most casual and chilled out- rather gadget savvy. But I must say that they are rather illiterate in a lot of ways that is bothering, if you are a mother with a kid that age. You worry what sort of peer pressure some of these nitwits have!!! Hookah, I know for a fact. Sly smoking, sly drinking, sly heavy-petting (all of which common to all metros) but in terms of general lack of awareness,where you really feel that as an adult you cannot have much in common with this set, I think Mumbai kids rank highest!
I remember once going for Shakepeare in Love (I saw it thrice on the big screen, I was so smitten by it) and the kids laughed at all the wrong moments and did not seem to feel the poesy of the film. At the comic moments they were all serious so that the only voice cackling in the entire theatre hall was one voice -- mine!! I remember sitting with some bio students and they were blattering about something at the ankles and mispronouncing it so uproariously, that I could not help butting and telling them that it was Achilles Heels. The girls immediately awarded me with`You Clever Woman' look and looked so astonished and wanted to know how they knew what they were talking about... That sort of lack of awareness...

I can see something of that sort of orientation when they reject films like Akshay Kumar's Chandni Chowk or Tasveer 8 by ten. In the first one, the guy's heart was all over the film. I loved it, if only for that. The latter specially was a fantastic film, done with a lot of finesse (normally I am not a Nagesh Kukunoor fan since some of his films don't speak to me) but in this one he has bridged the gap between his docu-mode to Bollywood tamasha rather seamlessly -- yet the kids rejected it -- My daughter was amazed how her friends trashed it while she loved it..

You wonder, seeing that your tastes vary so much, whether in certain things you can call yourself a true Mumbaikar:) There is something so casual about criticism amongst Mumbaikars that you won't find in any other city -- a casualty that bothers on the moronic at times...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Cost of a film...PVR or InOrbit

Now that most Mumbaikars are mall rats or cine-goers, we have one entertainment which is absolutely free while the latter is becoming rather expensive.

My husband, thanks to recession, has become more conscious of all the cash outflow. He has found out that two tickets at Inorbit (Malad) are worth one at PVR (Goregaon).
That is quite a difference, even though he insists he likes the spaciness of the chairs and the general cinematic experience of PVR screens.

I myself have not felt any difference: I only go by how a hall winds up the show: does it show the last tail-end features, those songs they make specially to flash at the end, those `Making of the Film shots' they exhibit also? And is there enough space to exit without being elbowed, nudged and pawed?

I have found this -- the tailend features of a film -- can be missing at some suburban halls -- always keen to cut costs, they are thinking of only driving the audience out, so they can switch off the AC. I remember that one theatre near home did not switch the AC for long after we had entered it, and the kids were wailing after a while for the humidity. Some of the suburban theatres also smell lightly of urine and unwashed socks -- from the uncleaned chair upholstery I think... I have already complained about how once male guards were checking female bags during the morning shows...

I hate also the stampede at some suburban theatres after a show, as all the doors open into a narrow claustrophobic exit: clearly indicating that the norms of exit, to prevent stampede during catastrophy like a fire hazard, have not been kept in place. Pawing men, foot-stamping kids... and elbows into you -- nerve-wracking way to experience cinema.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Expensive simple delights

They say coconuts are not coming into Mumbai -- but I still manage to get them at Rs 18 each, so the position is not so bad this summer. But what is happening to beloved and seasonal jamun. Seems this summer may pass without me staining my tongue purple. It is costing Rs 50 a kg, that too at limited spots, like the vegetable market outside Khar station. Can u imagine... I felt looted, but I bought them any case, half kg for Rs 100, before the recession does me in... the jamuns look raw to me. I have put them away in the fridge foolishly and now have to eat half-raw jamuns costing the earth and not even get my tongue purple:(

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Did u know? In Mumbai...Garlic & shampoos have something in common

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My maalish lady (masseuse) found some empty shampoo bottles in my toilet and asked me if she could take them away... I agreed, thinking she was using it to mix her own concoctions or massage formulas. Curious I asked her what she needed them for, and she tells me that she gets garlic in exchange for that... I was amazed. They still give you `ever-silver' vessels (out here, they call them steel) for old clothes. And now garlic for shampoo bottles..Good if that plastic is getting recycled. Of course, I remember once doing a story on fake things and how in Ulhasnagar (a far off suburb in Mumbai) there was a thriving fake industry making copies of everything!! Even now u can be conned by that... I recently bought a pair of `Reebok' sun glasses, looking rather sleek, paying an appropriately high price for it, at the corner shop where I got my reading glasses also. The reading glasses lasted. But I had to go to the shop twice to replace or complain about my Reebok glasses and then, finally, the third time the shop-keeper gave me a non-branded substitute... Which just goes to show that there are still fools like me and there is an entire industry catering to such fools, in this city!
Garlic for shampoo bottles. I think u must buy your shampoo only from good stores -- or you may well be picking up fakes...

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Pumpkin seeds, whatdayacall them here?

I know pumpkin seeds are sold at supermarkets like Nature basket, Food court etc. However, one time I bought a packet at one of Chennai's marts and almost threw up (and died) when I chewed into broken pieces of glass!! It was an extremely traumatising experience for me since I am a very bad `chewer' and it was merely a fluke that at that particularly bite, some instinct kicked into me and I bit into it, to bite glass! So, in an animalistic reaction I sort of warily avoid packed pumpkin seeds. Which just shows how stupid the mind can be in its avoidance behavior --because in India, if you are talking of such careless packaging, you can bite into glass into any packed food stuff! I once found a staple pin in a dosa... You know, survival of the fittest. Or the most deliberate chewer?!!

Any case, while discovering a pumpkin seed dressing recipe (toasted seeds ground with olive oil, garlic clove, cumin seed powder, salt) I also discovered that it is highly nutritious. Protein, which I sorely need but don't bother about. Zinc, also what I need, since I do not eat meat. Magnesium, since I like its happiness quotient and muscle-powering effect. And calcium, which also I can do well with. So, having got this into my head that I MUUSST have pumpkin seeds I tried to locate it in the grocery shops around my home. And guess what, nobody stock them hereabout. I described it and was sent on wild goose chase by some well-meaning shop-keepers. Since I did not even know the name, that was sort of a difficult task, wandering about, trying to locate something that nobody had. I peered at the glass jars with dana (seeds) but found the usual suspects -- walnuts, cashew, etc. but no pumpkin seeds. Then, finally, as always happens with me, I found it at a shop close to my home (and which I had passed just then thinking he won't have it). He calls it kalingat seeds (water melon seeds). And I am having about a tablespoon of it (it also has good fats -- lack of which is puffing up my protein-fat starved eyes) daily and feeling smart...

So, if you want pumpkin seeds, you must ask for water melon seeds, in Mumbai:)

Monday, April 6, 2009

Diabetes plant? Oh wow...

Look what I found.. The DIABETES PLANT.... It has been making waves internationally, and is being rediscovered in India now... Sold at Rs 50, I found it in a corner shop selling artificial plants, real bonsai and real ferns... The lady at the counter informed me that you have to eat one leaf a day to keep your blood sugar naturally low. That is really decent of nature... But I remember the Leaf Man ( I have blogged on him in my yoga blog) telling me that nature has created plants for every known disease in the world. And that we can cure ourselves naturally. I had, I remember, been cured of corn with just the sap of a weed that grows by the roadside. ( I have blogged on that too). So now more about this diabetes plant -- ask in nurseries. If you are desperate then land up at Thakur Village, Kandivli East, and take the road off Rama's restaurant for this nursery. And don't come on Mondays which is the weekly off in this area. I will return later with the phone number of the shop soon...

The plant's botanical name is Salacia reticulata, and according to news reports (see this news report in 1997 in New Scientist) floating on the net, a Japanese team discovered the ingredient which blocks blood sugar.. And apparently this plant has been in use for over 3000 years in India (We were diabetic even then??I always assumed that it was the part of the new age syndrome -- though Dr Sharon Maolem in her extremely gripping book on mind-body links and healing in her quite iconoclastic book Survival of the Sickest suggests that diabetes is part of the body's healing mechanism to compensate for a cause from environmental triggers) ...

Any case some reports also suggest that there are over 400 known diabetes-controlling plants.. So I have no clue which one is the one I have shown here... But it is good to see that Mumbaikars can buy plants beyond money plant (the most common plant on balconies and homes, including its variants, because it is such a no-fuss, one pot plant)...

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Restaurant decorum

Aw, my camera missed the crucial parts of this menu card exhortations. What u see above is a list of do's and dont's on the back of a menu card. Some interesting rules are below:
* Not to hang on after receiving bill.
* To wait for food, since good food takes time to cook.
* Not to read paper or do paper work here. (Not your regular coffee shop).
* Left-over food will not be packed..

The last one was a bit unfair I thought... the rest of the stuff rather innovative and clearly comes after some bad experiences the restaurant owner has had, with people refusing to budge before finishing their morning paper (maybe reading it into the night:) or people who hang on after just ordering a cup of coffee... and even after the bill has been placed deliberately on his table:)

Imagine this from a restaurant owner whose establishment is encroaching all over the pavement (in this city, where else?). Who has erected some structures, including concrete ones on pavement that belongs to you and I. And who clearly is paying all the concerned authorities some huge sums, to do what he will. Even he has a sense of right and wrong. I wonder when our administration will follow suit and acquire some sense of similar decorum ... I simply cannot understand why they don't legalise encroachments in certain areas -- so that at least the money clearly being pocketed by all the `authorities' goes into the government coffers. This way, it feels so much like goondaraj...Not evidence of good governance but the starting point for criminality ... And then, even goondas will start making rules...

Friday, April 3, 2009

Pigeons, a sort of menace?

When I came to Mumbai I used to think pigeons were very romantic -- which just goes to show that we can be made to believe anything. I even attempted to keep a birth bath at my old home, which fortunately, never worked well enough to attract any pigeons. Now, at my new balcony, I find pigeons, in the manner of all things that are regarded as dumb and therefore harmless, create a lot of damage. Last week, a lush plant of mine, which was beginning to drape long and beautifully, was viciously ripped from the pot. By pigeons. I fail to see any agenda to that --not even the oxytocin-induced nesting one -- in that gesture. The entire plant seemed to have been snipped by a neat, but vicious pair of scissors. This has been a constant from our pigeon neighbours who seem to think they own my house.

I won't get into other naughty things they do -- but apparently there is a law, a civic law, which forbids u from feeding pigeons in public places. Or other creatures.. Rs 500. Yet, when I do the yoga class at Carter Road I have had to go up politely and dissuade an old gentleman who insists on feeding crows just where we are doing yoga. I cannot see anything peaceful in his behavior -- though apparently the urge to feed creatures comes from something sattvic. I had requested him to move ahead, if he wishes to feed and avoid the spot where we are doing our yoga -- he has a choice of moving elsewhere, we don't. His insistence, for several days, indicates the sort of mulish stubbornness some of us enjoy displaying when we perceive something as our birth right -- esp if it also bears a hint of pious sanction...There is another gent opposite our flat who also feeds crows everyday at the same time. I recall, back home in Chennai, when we were supposed to feed the crow, it was a handful from the food you were eating -- to be left where one lone crow could eat it... Not thousands that swoop menacingly all over you...

The week before, another `peace-loving' pigeon-feeder put a full bag of grains on the exact spot where we do yoga... Something not so-sattvic about that sort of petulant behavior. So, we had no choice but to go over to the platform to do yoga -- and the entire hour we had a horde of deprived Indian men, seated around the steps circling that platform, trying to ogle into the girls' yoga pants.. As an instructor that had me so-fuming..

Any case, this is Mumbai and people make their own rules here......