Thursday, April 29, 2010

Weekend getaway.....!

I am off to my parent's place for the weekend. They live 35 kms outside Hyderabad city in a gated senior citizen retirement community with all amenities is quiet, the air is pure and unbelievably clean, unpolluted, at least 3 degrees Celsius cooler than the city and you wake up in the morning to the sounds of birds chirping and cows mooing! So I will be away from the computer, and since my mom doesn't have to cook or clean, all I will be doing is playing scrabble, watching movies, reading, having her pamper me and take long walks. So for all of you - have a great weekend. I have an exciting post/artist profile for you on Tuesday. Here is a quick preview.....

Mango Mania

Summer is not summer unless there are mangos. On one hand you have the relentless sweltering heat, and then on the other hand there's mangos. Ripe, gorgeous, golden Banganapallis, Himayats, Alphonsos, Mallikas.....piled high in the fruit stalls and bursting with sweetness and the flavors and goodness of summer, waiting to be eaten. No fruit can come close to a mango that is in the peak of perfection....! There are a million ways to enjoy a mango but the best way - in my humble opinion - is to peel it, cut in pieces and eat. Of course if it is a Rasalu, then you make an incision at the top and suck on it and squeeze out the sweet syrupy insides of it, and let it all drip down your face! So enjoy the mango season and whichever way you choose to taste it, Bon Appetit!
Mango Mousse
Mango Cheesecake
Mango Trifle
Mango kulfi
Thick mango milkshake
Mango Falooda
Mango juice
Mango mousse Cake
Mango popsicle
And then, my favorite

Images coutesy various media sources.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Curled up with a good book

Here are a few of the books I have read recently..... I highly recommend all of them.

"No onions Nor Garlic" by Srividya Natarajan

One of the funniest books I have read in a long time. It is downright laugh out loud Wodehousian silliness at its best. I took it with me to the spa thinking I could read it while my feet were getting pedicured and polished....bad idea, I kept laughing, and rattling that big pedicure chair and annoying the pedicurist!!! So read it at home in the comfort of your own chair, preferably with a pillow on the floor so you don't hurt yourself falling down and rolling on the floor with laughter. It should appeal to all, but specially to TamBrams familiar with our peculiar lovable  customs and traditions.

Here is what one reader from Mumbai says:

Like most of the kids of my generation, I grew up reading the fantasies and adventure books churned out by Enid Blyton. Many years, authors and countless books later, that magician P.G.Wodehouse hooked me. Many again are the hours I’ve spent curled up with a PGW book for company, lost in his idyllic world that – as the blurb says – will never go stale. I’ve often wondered how it would have been if Blyton or Wodehouse would have written stories in an Indian milieu.

Srividya Natarajan provides the answer to that idle thought. “No Onions Nor Garlic” is as faithful a tribute to P.G.Wodehouse as can be conceived without becoming a parody or a farce. This book could not be called a pale imitation or a spin-off. She has faithfully carried on the stylised sentence construction, grammatical idiosyncrasies and pun-happy prose of the master and taken it a step further. The situational comedy and sundry oddball characters are all there and they pave the way for a book that’s a laugh-riot.

Here’s an excerpt:

"At 4:40, somewhere in the middle of Mount Road, lodged in the bumper – to – bumper like a jezail bullet in an Anglo-Indian colonel’s bottom, was the Pallavan Transport Corporation No. 27A bus that contained Akilan. Well, it did not actually contain him. He hung from the door rail by the tips of two fingers, and bore a poetic resemblance to an over-size jackfruit hanging from the tree by its slender stalk. Only one of his toes was actually resting on the footboard, and a good part of his considerable bulk was travelling outside the bus proper. His dark face, with its plump, lugubrious lower lip was the face of a dromedary that had recently suffered some nameless disappointment."

The story is set in Chennai and the ethos is urban Tamil Nadu to the core. This does not take away anything, but to my mind it adds to the flavour. For the readers not familiar with Chennai and its peculiar ways, this could be a rollicking introduction. For Chennaites, it’ll be déjà vu all the way.

"The Saffron Kitchen" by Yasmin Crowther

Loved this book, kept reminding me of The Kite Runner. Here is a review courtesy

In The Saffron Kitchen, Yasmin Crowther has captured, with uncanny accuracy and grace, the deep confusion and conflict visited upon a mother and her daughter by their respective histories. The mother, Maryam, is an Iranian woman, daughter of a general and member of a well-respected family during the Shah's reign. When she became separated from her family at the start of the revolution and was sheltered chastely overnight by Ali, her father's servant, her life was forever changed. Disowned by her father, she moves to Tehran to become a nurse and then to London, where she meets and marries Edward, a fine and gentle man who adores her. When the story begins, their daughter, Sara, born in England, married to an Englishman, and ignorant of her mother's haunted history, is newly pregnant. When she miscarries, during a dramatic confrontation with her mother and her young Iranian cousin, years of secrets and pretending unravel at last.
Maryam decides to go to Iran, to distance herself from these events. What follows, in Crowther's revelatory manner, is a perfect portrayal of a half-life, one lived only on the surface. Maryam comes into her own when she goes back to her village; the sights, sounds, and smells all beckon to her with their sweet familiarity. England falls away, with all its confusing customs and strange language, as does Edward, with his so very different background. Beckoned by her mother, Sara comes to visit and to ferret out the particulars of her mother's past. The question remains: will Maryam return to Edward and England or stay where she is once again at home?

Crowther writes with great insight about attempting to cast off one's past--and the impossibility of doing so. The saffron kitchen of the title is a lovely evocation, both symbolic and actual, of what gets left behind and of one daughter's willingness to occupy both worlds.

"Three Cups of Tea" by Greg Mortensen and Oliver Relin
The inspiring account of one man's campaign to build schools in the most dangerous, remote, and anti- American reaches of Asia

In 1993 Greg Mortenson was the exhausted survivor of a failed attempt to ascend K2, an American climbing bum wandering emaciated and lost through Pakistans Karakoram Himalaya. After he was taken in and nursed back to health by the people of an impoverished Pakistani village, Mortenson promised to return one day and build them a school. From that rash, earnest promise grew one of the most incredible humanitarian campaigns of our timeGreg Mortensons one-man mission to counteract extremism by building schools, especially for girls, throughout the breeding ground of the Taliban.

Award-winning journalist David Oliver Relin has collaborated on this spellbinding account of Mortensons incredible accomplishments in a region where Americans are often feared and hated. In pursuit of his goal, Mortenson has survived kidnapping, fatwas issued by enraged mullahs, repeated death threats, and wrenching separations from his wife and children. But his success speaks for itself. At last count, his Central Asia Institute had built fifty-five schools. Three Cups of Tea is at once an unforgettable adventure and the inspiring true story of how one man really is changing the worldone school at a time.

The Sound of Language by Amulya Malladi

Malladi is a wonderful writer. More: she’s not only a great storyteller, she seems to always have something to say. Consistantly. And her background and her interests and the things she seems to care very deeply about fall in line with the backstory of our times. She has a finger on the contemporary cosmopolitan pulse and together with a talent that is not slight, she weaves all these disparate things into stories that almost anyone will care about.

Her most recent novel, The Sound of Language, illustrates all of these points. In the novel, the Afghani Raihana escapes Kabul to stay with relatives in Denmark, a country that is as damp and cold as Afghanistan can be sunny and warm. In fact, everything is foreign to her, everything tears at her heart. Even the sound of the Danish language which, to Raihana’s ears, sounds like the buzzing of her uncle’s bees.
Raihana connects with an elderly Dane named Gunnar. Gunnar has been left widowed and he needs help looking after the bees that were in his wife’s charge. That is, left to Gunnar, the bees will die. They were not his department. Over the course of a summer of Raihana’s keeping of Gunnar’s bees, the pair forge an unlikely relationship, one that gives both of them solace from their separate heartbreaks, but that their friends and relatives find impossible to stomach.

The Sound of Language is an almost impossibly beautiful book. The coolness of the Danish landscape, juxtaposed against the heat of the immigrant’s heart. Raihana is a stranger in a strange land, of course. But with his own actions and the choices he has made, Gunnar has become almost as much of a stranger as Raihana. And, as seems always to be the case with the very best of this sort of tale, while we begin seeing everything that is different, before very long, we see all that is the same. And not all of those commonalities are good.

Author Mulladi knows these roads. Born and raised in India, she has an engineering degree and worked in Silicon Valley for several years. Though they met and and married in California, Mulladi and her husband, the Dane Søren Rasmussen, moved to Copenhagen from the United States in 2002. In a reading group guide published with the book, Mulladi says she didn’t think that living in Denmark would be much different than living in the United States had been. “Needless to say,” Mulladi writes, “I was wrong.”

I just started on "Stones into Schools", the sequel to "Three Cups of Tea". I hope it will be as absorbing and interesting! But here is a reader's review of it:

I read Three Cups of Tea and was incredibly inspired by Greg Mortenson. His second book is even better in my opinion. Teaching people that they have the power to change themselves is so simple but sometimes takes incredibale amounts of work by other people. Greg and his team have performed incredible acts of bravery, endurance, and dedication to the noble cause of providing education to the girls of Pakistan and Afghanistan. You will not be able to put this book down. You also learn firsthand accounts of the success of many of the first girls to go through Greg's schools.

Read this book for an incredible account of an individual who has changed the world for so many people.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Orange you happy?

These days I'm loving orange. Not that it has ever NOT been my absolute favorite color (ask anyone who knows me well and they will confirm this, my house is full of orange)......but these days I am just more into it than ever before! The vibrant citrus shade is a symbol of energy, warmth, happiness, success and creativity. Orange is now being called the new neutral. It is versatile and will add a pop of color to anything when used in small doses. It is also being hailed as the go-to gender-neutral baby color of choice! Beyond that, some even hypothesize that the hue actually increases the supply of oxygen to the brain, stimulating mental activity. Color theories aside, from an aesthetic standpoint, orange makes for an appealingly modern palette. Here are some fun ways to add a dash of orange to your life.....get inspired!

Fabric, flooring and carpeting

Add some zip to your table setting with orange dinnerware
A touch of retro - funky orange furniture
Thick fluffy towels
Colorful bedding and pillows
Lamps and lanterns which will cast a rich exotic glow to any room
Candles to create a warm romantic mood
Some strappy shoes
All girls definitely need some orange bling
And then relax and have a popsicle!

Photgraphs courtesy Elle Decor April-May 2009 issue, various media sources and my own.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Artist Fawad Tamkanat

Saturday turned out to be a serendipitious day for me. My mom and I visited the Daira Center for Arts and Culture to go see an art show by eminent artists. It took a while to find it but after much phone calling and asking around we found it in the basement space of an apartment building. It is a beautiful space, large and spacious and to see all that beautiful was an absolute inspiration. Truth be told I had not heard of any of them, most were local artists but the few that caught my eye were by one Fawad Tamkanat. They were big and bold and colorful, just the way I like art work to be, but way too expensive for me to even consider buying them. On the way out I tripped on some overgrown money plant which had brazenly spilled out of a pot and was trailing across the pathway. That is when I realized we were right beneath a sign covered with the leaves which said "Artists Studio" Fawad Tamkanat which I had competely missed earlier. There was a room adjacent to it with the door ajar and I could see paintings propped up against a wall.
We poked our heads in wondering if we should go in or not, and just as we were deciding against it someone called out to us and asked us to come in. Sure enough it was the studio of Fawad Tamkanat, whose paintings we had just seen and admired in the gallery. He invited us in and I watched open mouthed as he was working on one of his paintings. He chatted about his work, his inspiration and gave me a lot of tips on how to improve my technique. He comes every day to the studio to paint and told me I could drop in any time I wanted to see him work! Now isn't that something???? Most people need to make an appointment to see him! I spent about an hour in his studio and actually got to touch a Laxma Goud painting given to him worth 10 lakhs!!! WOW! Its the one you see propped up on the easel.

Fawad was born in Hyderabad in 1962, to a family that already had artistic inclinations running through its veins. His father was the famous Urdu poet, Shaz Tamkanat. Early in his career, Fawad was invited to participate in an installation workshop in Denmark where he also worked for a few months in the printmaking studios with renowned printmakers. He became very taken up with printmaking, and launched his professional exhibitions showing only monochromatic prints. Now Tamkanat experiments with several different media and surfaces, diversifying to include those like watercolours, acrylic, etching drypoint and tarpaulin in his oeuvre. Fawad has held twelve solo shows in India and abroad to his credit, and has participated in state, national and international exhibitions and group shows at major art centres.
Here are some of his can see why they appeal to me. The colors are vibrant and bold, the strokes are brash and confident with paint applied in wild reckless abandon.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Mosaic Monday - Kerala

I don't want to get too repetitive, but I felt like these pics I posted a last week ago deserve another look, only because they were taken by my great grandfather almost 60 plus years ago. Was photography even invented then?
To read more on that post and the pictures.....go here.
Anyway, I decided to use them again for Mary's Mosaic Monday. Thanks Mary!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Happy Sunday

What are your weekend plans? Are you going to be lazy and read a book? Watch a movie? Do the Sunday crossword? Taste some wine? I plan on picking up my paintbrush after an almost 2 month long hiatus. I might actually experiment with charcoal pastels and give oil paints a break....! Today I stumbled into a bit of good luck and met an amazing artist...that too a world renowned artist. I mean I literally stumbled into his studio.......but more on that in Tuesday's post. Till then have a fabulous weekend....!

Images courtesy various media sources

Friday, April 23, 2010

How do you take your coffee?

I love coffee. I have always loved it and my 4 years of working at Starbucks deepened my appreciation for it even more. I had to do a one day training as a barista - as do all Starbucks employees irrespective of what job they hold in the company - and I learned that it is as complicated as can be bold, acidic, smooth, mellow, full bodied, bitter, caramelly, chocolatey, fruity...the list is endless. However, with all due respect, there is no coffee on earth that comes close to the way we South Indians brew our coffee. A coffee filter - something similar to the Turkish coffee press - is a must in every South Indian kitchen. The Madras filter coffee is nearly an institution - one that most thoroughbred Tamilians cannot do without. The wafting aroma of freshly brewed filter coffee heralds the new day in most South Indian homes. The ubiquitous coffee filter can be found in the kitchen occupying pride of place, creating a thick decoction that is mixed with the right amount of hot milk and sugar. When I was little, my grandmother used to roast the raw green coffee beans every night till it was just the perfect shade of brown...and then it was my job to grind them in a hand cranked machine. Does anyone do that anymore?
There are many ways to enjoy coffee, but I like mine strong, scalding hot with milk and sugar, not too milky and not too sweet.

Then I pour it in my favorite mug and sit in my favorite chair......and savor every sip!

How do you like your coffee?
Black with chocolate and a biscotti like the Europeans do
Or just straight up plain black so you taste the coffee
Or a Cappucino topped with mounds of creamy froth
Maybe a muffin to go along with it
Smooth and mellow with cream and sugar
Strong and bitter like Turkish coffee
With a book to read along maybe

Hot, strong and sweet in a steel tumbler


Images courtesy various media sources.