Wednesday, November 29, 2006


I happened to read this article online at the Hindustan times website and thought I would comment on it on my blog. My comments are in itallics. If anyone is interested the article can be found here. To my non-Indian, non-desi if you will, readers Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai are two Bollywood actors rumored to be dating.

What's cooking Ash-Abhishek?
Princy Jain
New Delhi, November 29, 2006

What's up, Ash? The whole world is dying to know whether Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai are tying the knot or not. With the two making a joint appearance in Varanasi, rumours have come out thick and fast from the holy town.

Who all constitute the whole world that is interested in Ash-Abhi's personal life? The poor people in India struggling to survive, the Al-Qaeda? Tell me, Dear Reporter, who are all these people? If any one is interested then they need to get a life...Seriously!!!

The official version of the trip has been what the head priest of the Kashi Vishwanath temple, Chandramouli Upadhaya, has maintained: "It was a naugrah shanti puja which the Bachchans perform every time they come to Kashi."

Shreedhar Pandey, another priest who was involved in the puja, added: "There was no mention of Aishwarya or Abhishek's kundlis." That is the official version but the grapevine has something else. A source close to the family, who doesn't wish to be named, says, "Due to the bad health of Amitabh's mother, Teji Bachchan, the family is looking at an early marriage. So, to ward off the mangal dosh in Aishwarya's kundli, this puja was performed."

So the point of the article is to let us know that the said parties are superstitious. Well that is no surprise as most Bollywood destinies are made or broken on Fridays! I must admit that this article is a fine example of investigative journalism *rolling eyes*.

The speculation gained ground with the way the visit was organised — the clan had made a kitchen-door entry in Taj Ganga, Varanasi.

Well who would blame them? Despite all this secrecy these guys have been snooping on them. Oh my God! One cannot even be superstitious on one's own time and in complete privacy. If this isn't invasion of privacy then what is?

While to add more fuel to the burning gossip mills, the latest buzz is that the Bachchans bought 11 Banarasi saris of different hues during their stay in Varanasi. Now, for whom and why looks like anybody's guess!

What are you trying to say? Abhishek Bachchan is a cross-dresser who loves Banarasi saris??

Well, these are, after all, rumours and one must not forget that the two have a film together due for release — Guru.

Dear Reporter, why is this newsworthy? Is it because you had a deadline and didn't have anything better to submit or you just love prying into personal lives of celebrities. For me this was readworthy because it is my lunch hour and I needed to take a break, unwind by making fun of you!

I couldn't help but notice the difference. Hollywood reporters speculate about romances when they see stars canoodling or adopting an African baby together. In India you see a Bollywood family go with another actress to pray at the Kashi Vishwanath temple in Varanasi and that is a sure sign of romance. I better stop before I choke on my food! My dear readers I promise I will write something far more important in my next post. This afternoon I just wanted to be irreverant!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Walmart moving to India

The big box retailer Walmart is moving to India. How do I feel about this force of globalization? I have misgivings, knowing and having studied the repercussions supermarkets have had on the landscape of America during the past five decades. Given the fact that in India no one really pays attention to planning and environmental costs, it is a lot more upsetting from an environmental point of view. Of course if these stores would be located in redeveloped older buildings then it is a different story; then my concerns would be more about the community.

I am concerned about the livelihood of the neighborhood grocer, vegetable and fruit vendor. This is because I am comparing the state of neighborhood mom and pop stores here in the United States. When I mentioned this to my husband, he said don't worry it will be like when McDonald's moved to India. It did not become a ubiquitous cheap 99 cent fast food joint that we see here in the United States and no one got rid of the vada pav and zunka bhakar stalls OR the lovely udipi (region to the South of India famous for its snacks and restaurants all over the country) restaurants serving better, healthier (in comparison to McDonald's) and faster food. Still I feel this is not about the Indian palate; this is about the new economic prosperity and growing disparity between the people. This is about protecting the interests of the Indian farmer and the small time grocer or shopkeeper.

Don't get me wrong, I am all about opening our economy and freeing our markets. In fact I am so glad we got rid of the Nehruvian socialism in the nineties yet the urban planner in me is very affected by this move; concerned about the unseen (as yet) economic and environmental costs to the people.

You can read the articles here and here.

Book: Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture

This afternoon I was listening to Terri Gross's program, "Fresh Air" on NPR. She was interviewing Ariel Levy, the author of "Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture." From the interview I gathered that the book challenges the raunch culture that you see in America today and views it from a feminist perspective. The interview was very interesting and unfortunately I had not heard of this book until then. This book is now on my wish list. It puts things in perspective when people like Paris Hilton are role models for today's teens. You know how her popularity rose after her infamous sex romp tapes were leaked.

As soon as the interview ended, I went online to read more about this book. For those who are interested, I found the synopsis on the publisher's site. For your convenience I have included it later in this post, the rest can be found here.

Publisher Comments:
Meet the Female Chauvinist Pig — the new brand of "empowered woman" who wears the Playboy bunny as a talisman, bares all for Girls Gone Wild, pursues casual sex as if it were a sport, and embraces "raunch culture" wherever she finds it. If male chauvinist pigs of years past thought of women as pieces of meat, Female Chauvinist Pigs of today are doing them one better, making sex objects of other women — and of themselves. They think they're being brave, they think they're being funny, but in Female Chauvinist Pigs, New York magazine writer Ariel Levy asks if the joke is on them.

In her quest to uncover why this is happening, Levy interviews college women who flash for the cameras on spring break and teens raised on Paris Hilton and breast implants. She examines a culture in which every music video seems to feature a stripper on a pole, the memoirs of porn stars are climbing the best-seller lists, Olympic athletes parade their Brazilian bikini waxes in the pages of Playboy, and thongs are marketed to prepubescent girls. Levy meets the high-powered women who create raunch culture — the new oinking women warriors of the corporate and entertainment worlds who eagerly defend their efforts to be "one of the guys." And she traces the history of this trend back to conflicts between the women's movement and the sexual revolution long left unresolved.

In the tradition of Susan Faludi's Backlash and Naomi Wolf's The Beauty Myth, Levy pulls apart the myth of the Female Chauvinist Pig and argues that what has come to pass for liberating rebellion is actually a kind of limiting conformity. Irresistibly witty and wickedly intelligent, Female Chauvinist Pigs makes the case that the rise of raunch does not represent how far women have come, it only proves how far they have left to go.

Among other things:
I am currently reading this wonderful book, Landscapes of Urban Memory: The Sacred and the Civic in India’s High Tech City (University of Minnesota Press, 2001), by Smriti Srinivas, who is an Associate Professor at UC Davis. I just got that yesterday and couldn't put it down. Those of you who are interested in urban studies, anthropology and cultural juxtaposition between the modern and traditional, this is the book! It is an academic work with years of research, I honestly preferred it to the book that I was previously reading, Thomas Friedman's "The World is Flat." I have picked this up and once I am done then I shall go back to Friedman's book.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Dr. Kotnis

Most Maharashtrians, I am sure, might know who Dr. Kotnis is. He was famous for treating the Chinese soldiers during the 1937-1945 Chinese conflict with Japan. Dwarkanath S Kotnis and four other doctors were sent to China as part of an Indian humanitarian medical mission after China was invaded by Japan. While in China, Dr Kotnis fell in love and married Quo Qinglan - a Chinese nurse who worked with him. Tragically he died in China. Of course this was two decades before Nehru's infamous "Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai."

This is a Chinese stamp commemorating Dr. Kotnis obtained from wikipedia. I couldn't find the Indian one (1993).

As you know Prime Minister Hu Jintao was visiting India and visited Dr. Kotnis's 85 year old sister. I happened to read the article on BBC's website. You can find the article here. In his honour, stamps have been printed bearing his picture in China and there is a memorial to him in the city of Shijiazhuang in Hebei province, while he is relatively unknown in India. Ironic, isn't it?

Among other things:

This is the movie poster of the film

In fact there was a film made to honor Dr. Kotnis by V Shantaram during the 1940s, where he played the main protagonist and his wife Jayashree played the Chinese nurse. How do I know about this film? Well those of you who are from Bombay and were growing up prior to cable might remember that there used to be a sunday movie. This movie was shown one Sunday evening. I especially remember this movie because of the theatrical overacting, typical of India, by the actors. In fact I also remember regaling my sisters with wicked impressions of Jayashree and Shantaram. You can tell, I was always the irreverant one!

Friday, November 24, 2006


Someone emailed this to me. I thought the images were rather funny therefore including the ones that I found the funniest!

The site where they have been obtained from is mentioned on the images.

Art of entering?

Interesting proposition!

Come explore the scenic vistas

Evil Rubbbish from the Axis of Evil?

Why? Do they bite? Is the bite rabid?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

My First Thanksgiving in the United States


Six years ago I was a first year graduate student. It was my first thanksgiving in the United States. The prior night my classmates and I had gone for a few drinks at this happening student joint in Ann Arbor and the next morning the entire campus was like a ghost town, barring a few international students like myself. I used to share an apartment; my roommate was staying behind as she didn’t have any family in the vicinity.

My mother had told me that one of my sister-in-law’s relatives (whom I knew very well) had an eligible brother who lived four hours away and was single. My sister-in-law suggested him to my mother and she wanted to know if he was a good prospective husband for my younger sister (I was married at that time with my husband living in India). If so, then my parents would broach the subject with my sister-in-law. As I mentioned above, I knew this guy’s sister very well, who is a very smart and intelligent career woman living in Bombay. She gave my mother this guy’s phone number who in turn gave it to me. I am an extrovert so I like calling people up and chatting with them. So I called him up and introduced myself and he said that his sister had mentioned that I would call etc. He was two years younger and we knew a lot of people in common so we established a rapport and we used to talk to each other pretty often. We were in touch since September so we were talking to each other over the phone for at least two months prior to the Thanksgiving break. He asked me to come and visit him during the break. I wasn’t comfortable to do that as I didn’t know the guy at all so instead invited him to stay with me for two days. I enjoyed talking to him over the phone and felt safe to invite him home especially since my roommate was going to be around and I wouldn’t be home alone.

Anyway I had told my roommate and my two other Indian friends why I was inviting this guy over. So he arrived on a Thursday morning and we had a pleasant lunch and I showed him around the campus etc. I don’t go by my married name so he wasn’t sure if I was the married sister or the single one! So I clarified and told him that I was the married one who was his sister's friend. Anyway we came back to the apartment and he asked me if I had any family photographs. I showed him everybody’s photo except my kid sister’s! My sister is very pretty and I want someone to like her for who she is and not how she looks. Anyway so he asked me, “Don’t you have a younger sister?” I replied that I did but I didn’t have her photograph on me (which was a lie).

I wanted to see how he reacts in social situations and with people whom his family does not know. Later in the evening we decided to have a small dinner get together and my roommate and I cooked and we invited two other Indian students, a guy and a girl. The girl is a typical Delhi girl. So let us call her “D.” D is a bindaas type person with a wacky sense of humor. This guy started hitting on her. He did that every time I wasn’t present in the room. It annoyed her to no end. He also made a ridiculous comment that was totally ungentlemanly. Fortunately at that time I entered the living room and heard it. I told him that this is totally uncalled for! D was ready to kill him by that time and told me that she would if he came anywhere close to her.

I shared a two-bed apartment. I had a room and my roommate had a separate room. We had put this guy up in the living room. Anyway my roommate came to me Friday evening and said, “I don’t know if you have noticed but this guy is really annoying.” I said yes I did notice and then asked her what happened. She said that he entered her room without knocking as the door was ajar. She was very uncomfortable in his presence and told me she thought that this guy was a creep and probably didn’t see so many women, who weren’t his sisters, in his life! I told her that she needs to calm down and I will get rid of him as soon as possible. Meanwhile I noticed that he was getting constant phone calls on his cell phone. He would excuse himself and leave the room. My roommate said to me, “what the hell is this all about.” He would return and tell us that someone from work called. We would all reply with a disinterested “u-huh.”

Anyway on Friday evening I told the guy that he should leave as early as he can on Saturday morning as I had to go to the library and do my research and that my roommate had to visit some relatives. He said that he would leave after we had lunch. I don’t think I could have endured him till lunch. So I lied, “Oh I am so sorry but I fast on Saturdays so you might have to get breakfast on your way.” Before leaving he tells me, “Oh by the way those constant calls weren’t from my office but from my girl friend living in Bangalore. She wanted to know if any of you girls were flirting with me.” I looked at him straight in the eye and told him point blank, “Well you need to assuage your girlfriend’s fears. I am married so I am out of the picture but I know for a fact that my two single girl friends wouldn’t look at you even if you were the last man alive on earth. I am most certain that they would die virgins than look at you.” Then he replies, “Oh come on Sai, can’t you take a joke?” I said that I understand jokes and have a sense of humor but he needs to first understand what sense of humor means before attempting to be humorous. I was so relieved when he left. As soon as his car left our apartment complex, my roommate and my friend D told me, please call your mom as soon as possible and tell her this guy is a total creep and that she shouldn’t even entertain him socially, forget about forging a relation!

Can you imagine how these people go to India, get engaged in fifteen days and get their brides to the US of A? In such situations they are on their best behavior so one cannot really guage how they actually are. Last I heard this guy did just that. He didn’t marry the girl from Bangalore but some girl from a small town in India and they are living happily ever after in the United States.

I am thankful for getting an opportunity to hang out with this guy and see how inappropriate he was as a prospective groom for my lovely sister and most importantly to be my brother-in-law!

Among other things:
I thought I might share this painting that I did a few months ago. It is from a photograph that my husband took when we visited Nrityagram, Bangalore a few years ago.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Go Blue!

This was taken this morning at the computer

I am not a football fan. In fact I really don't care much about sports in general. I am however a Michigan alumna and love to wear my Michigan sweatshirt, T-shirt, and other paraphernalia. My boss who is a football fan has been reminding me the entire week about the game with Ohio State this evening! No matter what I feel about sports in general, my loyalty lies towards the Wolverines. So anyway this morning I went to the post office to finally mail my cousin’s painting. The temperature was 45F and I was wearing my Michigan sweatshirt. So anyway I wait in the long line of people who are posting parcels of various sizes. So after the long wait I am finally called to the counter. So I hand in my parcel and a packet of special stamps, supporting Breast cancer research, to the guy. This guy looks at me and says I hope you know these stamps cost $9 and not the usual $7.80. I said yes I know and I have bought them for a reason. So then I pay up the total by credit card.

Before you think I am crazy, let me clarify that this photo was taken in the summer and not this morning!

My credit card has the Michigan insignia (the M in blue and gold) and a “Go Blue” on it. So the guy looks at it and says, “Oh so you are a Michigan fan.” I just smile and don’t respond. Then he says, “The big game with Ohio State…..your team will lose.” I almost wanted to ask him if he was a soothsayer. Then he looks at my sweatshirt and says, “Wow you are a big fan.” I said, "Well I am an alumna so I wear this regardless." The woman standing next to me suddenly yelled “GO BUCKS” and then said “Your team is going to lose.” I am thinking to myself that I am in Jersey and not in Ohio, why the hell does she care? If I were in Ohio, would I be beaten up by zealous fans for proudly wearing my blue sweatshirt with MICHIGAN written in gold letters?

PS: I am not going to watch the game tonight but I know for sure that I will be screening my calls as my husband’s aunt and her husband, who are proud OSU alumni, always call up to rub it in when their team wins!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Bad Driver or Jersey Driver?

I had stepped out this evening to run an errand. While returning home I was driving on a road that ends into a T Junction, with a left and a right turn lane. I am behind a car, whose driver is rather erratic and is totally disregarding the lanes. I am not sure if it is a senior citizen or a drunken driver. But this happened between 6:30 to 7PM, which is too early to have drunken drivers so I tell myself that it must be a senior citizen. Before I know it, the years will whiz by and I will be playing for that team myself; therefore I better be considerate and not lose my patience.

I am not a very patient person (those of you who know me, stop chuckling) but for some reason since childhood I have had a lot of empathy for elderly people and I always go out of my way to help them. Sometime back my boss had noticed this about me and had told me that it is called “Mitzvah.” It is a term in Judaism to describe any act of human kindness.

Anyway I patiently follow the car albeit at a safe distance. So at the T-junction the driver, who is towards the left hand side of the two lanes suddenly makes a right turn. I am in the right lane but since I am following at a safe distance, the driver missed hitting my car. By that time my heart rate was dangerously high. I gingerly follow the car anticipating the driver’s move. We were in a 25 mph zone and this car is in the center of the road (I am not exaggerating) moving at 15 mph. The oncoming traffic virtually pulls over to let the car pass and we finally come to a light. Fortunately the driver gets on the left lane while I get on the right lane. I am completely relived that I won't have to follow this driver. By that time I wasn’t in any mood for “Mitzvah” or “Punya karma” (good deed in Sanskrit).

Anyway I pull next to the car to make a right turn and look to my left for any oncoming traffic when I notice the driver, a young woman totally engrossed in a cell phone conversation! I am furious because women like her give the rest of us, female drivers a bad name. I cuss at her like a sailor but fortunately since my windows were rolled up no one but the Almighty and my conscience heard me! *blushing*

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Abstract Art

I love painting….I love sketching and I LOVE colors. Anyway here is the abstract water color that I made for my cousin, who is an amazing person and whose wife is the sweetest, as a housewarming gift. I made two paintings for him; one a Ganesha and the other is this painting. His wife loves abstracts and requested one from me. Anyway I mailed the Ganesha a few months ago but had not completed this one then.

(This photo was taken right after completion. Since I took it, as opposed to the husband, there is no composition. Don't have patience for all that!)

My mother of course has to warn me with consequences, like she used to when I was a child, if I were to do kanjoosgiri (miserly behavior in Hindi) and embarrass her by sending it as is without framing! Of course in response, I get annoyed with her for even thinking that I would do something like that but the actual reason for my annoyance is that she knows me so well! By the way it's not kanjoosi but procrastination that is the culprit.

Anyway so I got it framed and have even packed it (keeping my fingers crossed) for mailing. The only challenge is that I have to overcome my inertia and go to the damn post office on a Saturday to mail it! I actually did overcome it last Saturday only to find that the post office was closed due to Veteran's Day. Anyway I must mail this before this year ends OR maybe I should have a new year resolution "I won't procrastinate in 2007." What do you think?

PS: If anyone cares or wants to know, this was done on a 300 lbs Arches hot press paper and the size is 11" by 14."

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Samosa Chaat: The Healthy Way!

When you are a glutton on a diet like yours truly and her husband, you look for ways to make your food interesting without being guilty of crimes of the dieting world. We were craving some samosa chaat last evening and therefore decided to make some. I have used minimal oil and have baked the samosas in lieu of frying.



For the coating:
2 cup plain flour (maida)
Water for mixing.
1 tsp oil
Pinch of baking powder
Salt to mix

Mix flour, baking powder, oil and salt. Then add water to make a stiff dough. Let it stand for half an hour.

For the filling:
3 potatoes
½ cup green peas (cooked)
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds powder
1 tsp carom (ajwain) powder
1 tsp fennel seeds powder (saunf)
1-2 tsp oil
Red chilli powder as per your taste/tolerance, I added 1 tsp.
1 tsp turmeric powder
Salt to taste
Juice of one lemon
1 tsp of Kasuri Meethi (dried fenugreek leaves)

(I purposely abstained from adding onions or garlic to see if the taste is compromised and found that it isn't).

Heat oil in the kadhai (wok), add the cumin seeds to the hot oil. Once the oil is heated, set the stove on low then add the cooked peas, potatoes, and sauté it on low heat. Add the above-mentioned spices and get if off the stove. Then add the lemon juice over it and mash it.

Take the above-mentioned dough and divide it into 3” diameter balls. Roll the dough out consistently into about 8”-10” diameter slightly elliptical in shape. Cut through the center to divide it into two crescents. Take one crescent and join the straight ends to make a cone. Keep a bowl of cold water. Dip your fingers into the cold water and run your fingers on one of the edges. This will seal both the straight edges. Fill the shell with the mashed filling and seal the edges with water, as explained above. The samosa should be able to stand!

Pre-heat the oven to 400 F then lower the temperature at 300 F at the time of setting the tray of samosas (in the center rack) for baking. It takes around 50 minutes to perfectly brown the samosas. I would recommend setting the kitchen timer at 25 minutes and then checking the oven at the end of it to turn the samosas over and then leave it for another 25 minutes.

The baking powder does the trick as the samosa shell doesn’t turn out to be chewy.


1-2 small onions finely chopped
2 tsp of ginger garlic paste
1 can of chickpeas (Normally I soak chickpeas overnight but since this was a last minute craving hence canned chickpeas)
1 cup tomato puree
1 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp cumin and coriander powder
1-2 tsp chole masala (readymade)
½ tsp home made garam masala (Optional)

Heat 2 tsp oil in a wok, add a pinch of asafetida (for digestion). Saute the onions until they are pink. Add the ginger-garlic paste and the tomato puree. Add red chilli powder. Add the chole and the masala’s to the mixture and mix it well. Add salt to taste. Set it on medium to low heat for about 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. The idea being that it should be sauce-like for the samosa chat.

Garnish this with chopped onions, a dollop of yogurt and fresh cilantro leaves and serve it with mint chutney and date-tamarind chutney to the side.


Friday, November 10, 2006

Snooty sales staff and frumpy customers

For the most part I like to be well turned out. By that I mean my eyebrows are always in shape, my hair is always styled not coiffed and I seldom step out without lip gloss, some mascara or kohl/eye shadow and always smell good. I don’t follow the dictates of fashion yet try to have a smart wardrobe with classic peices. Well that is me on weekdays but on weekends I tend to slack a lot. I prefer wearing glasses as opposed to contact lenses, colorless gloss and won’t be caught dead wearing mascara/kohl etc. This is especially true when I am out biking, I don’t want to attract bees and wasps to the sweet scented cosmetics and fragrances that I love.

Anyway I have noticed that whenever I am dressed down, as in sans make up with track pants, I am treated snootily by sales girls in the mall. This is especially true in stores selling cosmetics and make up. They probably talk about me amongst themselves saying, “Eww she is like so like blah….why should I even help her.” “Oh my God Tiffany…did you see her hair.” “Yeah Krista, she needs some serious highlights and needs to do her nails....oh my God she needs a manicure,” etc etc….a la Legally Blonde. Anyway usually it works in my favor because appearances are deceptive and I am a makeup and cosmetic fiend hiding behind the frump and this way I end up buying whatever I need as opposed to buying stuff I don’t need at all!

Case in point being last night when I went to Macy’s because I was craving for some nice MAC lipglass and do enjoy some retail therapy from time to time. Those of you, who haven’t tried them, please do. This is a lazy woman’s solution to lipstick and gloss. Plus it tastes like vanilla, lasts longer than drug store glosses and looks so natural! Anyway I went there in the evening after work so was in my office clothes. I stop by the MAC counter where the ever so zealous sales girls help you. I kind of know what I want but there is this cute looking gay guy at the counter who always talks to me about skin care. I love talking to him and he has the most amazing tips to offer for example,“Girl you shouldn’t forget to exfoliate your hands." He is flamboyantly gay, so he has the stereotypical mannerisms and will touch you, as in your arm and hair, while talking. So anyway I know what shade I want and I tell him what I am looking for. He is an amazing salesgirl because I ended up buying mascara, eye shadow, lipstick and many other items not to mention the lip gloss I originally set out to buy! I am planning to return the others in a little bit as I don’t really need the stuff that I purchased. I am hoping that the guy isn’t there and by the way I am wearing my glasses, old jeans and sweat shirt!

Movie Review: Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna

I saw Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna last evening. Why? Well I did not have anything better to do so I thought I might as well torture myself. Yes, the verdict is out now…Sai is a masochist. All I can say is that Karan Johar (KJ), whose level of maturity is comparable to a fifteen year old school girl (scratch that I am sure a fifteen year old would be more mature than Karan Johar), should restrict himself to writing candy floss, feel good romances about inane people who are caught in a time warp and adhere to customs and traditions that are totally irrelevant in today’s society. This time the moron has tried to explore extra marital affairs and relationships in general. I don’t know where he has met such people or on whom has he based this film on. If they are based on real life characters then I am so grateful to God that I haven't met such people.

He hasn’t established the reason or reasons why Shahrukh or Rani who are married to Preity and Abhishek respectively have had troubles in their respective marriages. The reasons he has alluded to are rather flimsy and unconvincing. Shahrukh broke his foot and couldn’t play soccer professionally while Preity became a successful fashion editor…big deal! Life is tough and for some people it is lot more tougher than others. Preity's character is just a busy professional and a rather nice person and if KJ would have looked around beyond the vacuous Bollywood types, he would realize that a lot of female professionals in our generation are indeed very busy and it is not a big deal in most modern homes. You actually feel sorry for Preity's character to land up with such a loser spouse!

I want to understand the thought processes that go on in KJ’s head. This will enable me to understand why someone like Amitabh was cast as an elderly debauch? It seemed that this character was introduced to provide some comic relief but I fail to find humor in vulgarity. Here is this man who leads a licentious life but at the same time during crises wants to guide his family. He has a hypocritical view to life. I cannot imagine a man with no respect for women based on his tasteless jokes would have so much wisdom. KJ is insulting the intelligence of his audience. Preity Zinta was cast as a fashion editor for some fashion magazine in New York. Now if one has to see a convincing fashion editor it has to be Meryl Streep in the movie “The Devil wears Prada.” The sleekness, sophistication, the subtle sarcasm and drive were so elegantly portrayed by the wonderful Meryl Streep. She was fabulous…."that’s all. " The reason why Rani was unhappy with Abhishek was not established in a convincing fashion at all. In the end it appears that the characters potrayed by Shah Rukh and Rani are these selfish, unhappy, egocentric people who walked out of a perfectly workable situation.

Someone needs to tell Karan Johar, who only knows to show films about people falling in love in exotic locales and running across snow clad hills in chiffon sarees and halter blouses, that people usually work hard in consolidating their relationships. If one has made a commitment then one does need to work (some days are especially arduous) to nurture and strengthen it. People holding hands and walking into the horizon is just the beginning not the end! There will be situations where one has to work hard to keep that relationship alive, expecially when there are children involved.

How would KJ know all this? Alas! From his movies one gets the impression that the only serious literature he must have read in school must have been romance novels like Mills and Boon. Perhaps that is where he gets his inspiration from. Note to self: It will be more fun to pick lint from my sweater OR even watch the ever so boring “Chocolat” over and over again than watching any of Karan Johar’s movies!

Devil Wears Prada

Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestley in the movie "The Devil Wears Prada"

Since I mentioned the movie “The Devil Wears Prada,” while reviewing KJ’s “KANK,” I thought I might just add my two cents. I saw this movie first day first show in July. It was a Meryl Streep week for me. The previous Friday, we had had seen the movie “Prarie Home Companion,” which is a fictional account of off-the-stage activities of one of our favorite shows on NPR with the same name. For some reason I love the Midwest and the polite Midwesterners, who are such a contrast from people from the east coast especially the tri-state area, are so beautifully portrayed by Streep and others. I even thought her accent was dead on!

The movie “The Devil Wears Prada,” is based on chick lit book with the same name and is allegedly semi autobiographical. I NEVER read chick lit so haven’t read the book, but do sometimes watch chick flicks, having enjoyed films like “Bridget Jones diary in the past, therefore I have seen this film. I know it is paradoxical, isn't it.

Anyway I digress, so moving on to the story Ann Hathaway (Princess Diaries) who is a graduate from Northwestern, is this frumpy girl who lands up a job as an assistant to the high priestess of fashion and an editor of a fashion magazine, essayed so beautifully by Meryl Streep.

The one thing that bothers me is the notion that if you are academically inclined then you must be frumpy or must take pride in not being stylish. Most of us, including yours truly, are guilty of frumpiness in our teens and early twenties; especially when you want to be taken seriously. For some reason if you are stylish and wear make up, then of course it is assumed that there is nothing going on between your ears. That is a stereotype that must be busted and usually is busted by women in their thirties and older (for example, the journey of Hillary Clinton from her Yale days to her current avatar) who are more confident about themselves and are confident to not care how others perceive them.

This movie showcases her journey as this gawky young woman who gets transformed into a fashionista. She initially looks through the superficiality but then gets sucked into the high fashion world of New York and Paris. Betrayal of trust and doing whatever it takes to get ahead seems to be the norm there. She seems to be on-call 24/7, running errands for the demanding boss than spending time with her boy friend who teaches fourth graders in South Bronx, which is such a contrast to her career. Her friends make fun of her but neither are they paying her bills nor are offering to do so.

Ann Hathaway is refreshing but of course the film belongs to Meryl Streep. She has given such a human touch to this ogre boss that you actually like her in the end. You feel that she is just a victim of circumstances, which is staying ahead in the dog-eat-dog world of fashion. Of course the movie is not a complete satire but there are funny moments, when as an outsider you look at that shallow and superficial world but think that it must be exaggerated and could be more a caricature of the personalities than their reality. The dichotomies faced by Ann Hathaway are understandable and you empathize with her character. She is immensely likeable in that movie. Predictably she leaves the job to pursue a more serious writing career.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Methi Parathas

I had blogged earlier that we are avoiding meat these days. Instead of going cold turkey we are taking baby steps. When I say meat I do not include fish in that because neither of us can ever give up fish! To rephrase the above statement we are avoiding red-meat and limiting chicken to every other week. Besides there is only so much chicken one can eat; therefore for an interesting meal, I am digging into the wealth of amazing vegetarian recipes that Indian cuisine offers. In my humble opinion, apart from Indian cuisine no other cuisine in the world can offer so many tasty vegetarian dishes!

This evening I was craving for some nice Methi (fenugreek leaves) parathas. I don't care about Methi preparations in general but absolutely love METHI PARATHAS!


Wheat Flour 3 Cups
Gram Flour (Besan) 1 ½ Cup
Fresh Methi (Fenugreek) leaves washed & dried 1 bunch
Kasuri Methi (dried fenugreek leaves), crushed ½ cup
Fresh Cilantro finely chopped ½ cup
Cumin and Corriander powder (ground Dhania Jeera) 1 tsp
Carom powder (Ajwain) 1 tsp
Turmeric 1 tsp
Red Chilli powder (Paprika) 1 tsp
Salt to taste
Oil (you can use olive oil) 1 tsp
1 cup Yogurt for mixing


Mix the wheat and gram flour. Finely chop the fenugreek leaves and mix it with fresh cilantro and kasuri methi. Add this mixture to the mixed flour. Add the cumin and coriander powder, carom powder, turmeric, salt to the flour as well. Spread the oil to the above and add a little yogurt (do not add all the yogurt. I estimated about one cup but you might not need all of it). Care should be taken to avoid the above mixture to become completely watery and sticky hence the tip to add just a little and then some more if need arises. Keep on kneading till the dough is soft and consistent. The softness should be just enough so that you can roll the parathas. Let it stand for at least an hour.

Rub some oil on your hands and knead it once more before dividing the dough into small golf size balls. Dip it in rice flour and roll evenly into 6” diameter circles. Care should be taken so that it does not stick. Rice flour makes the parathas rather fluffy. Heat an iron skillet and add few drops of oil. Roast the paratha on one side and turn it over. At this time add a few drops of oil to the side. Roast on both the sides, till you see brown specks. Serve with cucumber and yogurt raita. This is a mixture of yogurt, finely chopped cucumber and tad bit of mint chutney for flavor.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Am I a lady?

Well it's my lunch hour and I am bored therefore took this quiz to find out if I am indeed a lady. I have moments of extreme self-doubt but I have an efficient mental edit button that hasn't failed me yet. It cleverly edits a lot of my thoughts before I blurt them out to give the following impression.

You Are 84% Lady

No doubt about it, you are a lady with impeccable etiquette

You know how to put others at ease, even if their manners aren't the greatest.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Parvati Bai

I saw "Dor" on Friday evening and have blogged about it. The movie affected me in so many ways. It drives home the fact that women are mistreated in India, which goes even further shedding light on the plausible reasons why certain nonsensical and regressive customs are prevalent even today.

This reminded me of the story of Parvati Bai, who is a caretaker of one of my father-in-law’s weekend homes. When I got married around ten years ago, I met this woman for the first time. Her Marathi was pretty weird and it sounded more like Hindi. I asked my husband, “Where the hell is she from and where did you find her?” My husband told me that she was from Rajasthan and then proceeded to tell me how she started working for them.

When they were developing their property in the late 80s, there was this group of migrant construction workers working on the site. Upon completion of the project, the entire group left, except for this woman. One evening my husband, along with his parents, had come to their new home and found this woman sitting and crying by the gate. They asked her what was wrong and she said that she had nowhere to go and that the group had left her behind. My in-law’s felt compassion for her and offered her a job, to take care of their property and to take care of its maintenance, etc. So she has been working for them for the past 18 years. They also gave her a self-contained room on their property, so she had a roof over her head. This woman has absolutely no idea how to cook but takes good care of the house and garden. She has a green thumb and has grown avocados, passion fruit, lemons, roses, etc. I had planted a few bulbs of gladioli and tuberoses and she nurtured them as if they were her own children!

This photo of Parvati was taken when we visited our home in February 2006.

When we were newly weds, my husband and I would go to that home every other weekend. We also moved there for two years while working on some projects outside Mumbai. I noticed that her arms had many tattoos. That lined face and tattoos had so much character and told a story. Once I asked her if she would let me do her portrait. Painting is not just my hobby but my passion as well. She happily agreed and we had around two to three sittings.

I started asking her questions about her life. She told me that she was born in a remote village in Rajasthan, not far from Jaipur. She was married at a young age. She couldn’t bear any children therefore her husband had married again. She was treated badly by her husband and his family, who would starve her and her own family disowned her. She couldn’t take it anymore and escaped from there but had nowhere to go to. Yet she had the will to live. She worked day in and day out on different construction sites for years. She even worked on a construction of a dam and shared a lot of horror stories about that experience with me. This kind of arduous manual labor took its toll and she eventually lost the strength required to work on construction sites; therefore no one wanted to employ her. She found some hope to live when my father-in-law offered her this job, which she considers a very easy job.

She loves children very much so whenever my older sister used to visit with her son, who was five years old then, she would take him with her to the park and entertain him. You would see her with other children in the neighborhood and it was obvious that she loved them a lot. I always felt very sympathetic towards her. My in-laws used to tell me that she had found a gullible idiot in me! That is untrue because I am not at all gullible and have a good perception about people. She would always tell me in her broken rural dialect of Marathi, “Bhabhisaa….lai vaitag kadalaya,” which means that she has had a very difficult life.

One day she told us that she had never seen the sea and wanted to see the sea. My father-in-law owns another weekend house by the Arabian Sea, so we offered to take her with us the next time we went there. As one descends the beautiful Sahayadri Mountains, the small homes in the valley below look very scenic. That particular day was during the monsoon season, when the mountains come to life! She was in the backseat, jumping up and down like a child and clapping her hands and exclaiming, “Aiyyaaa baaya….Khaddyat lee ghara,” which translates as “Oh my God, look at the homes in the hole (gorge)!” She had never seen different landscapes that we all take so much for granted! She used to always tell my husband and me with tears in her eyes, that no one treated her well and that people always have been so mean and nasty to her, till she met our family. She told my husband that his parents gave her money and shelter but both of us gave her love. We didn’t think and still don’t think that we were doing anything exceptional. This is the least a human being can do for a less fortunate fellow human being.

This brings back to the question are women commodities for barter? Is she worth only when she can bear children, albeit a male heir to continue the family legacy? God forbid if she were to lose her spouse then she can be exploited and her fate can be decided by some callous male member of her late husband’s family. If she felt helpless and didn’t have courage to fight back and was exploited and consequently was to get pregnant, then the family loses face. When did such people even have any credibility to begin with?

The moral of Parvati’s story is that one should take one’s own decisions and not let someone else take them for you. Yes, her life was full of hardships but isn’t that better since she has led it on her own terms and not dictated by others. The movie “Dor” was just that… a movie. You are entertained and when it’s over you go back to your life. Experiences of women like Parvati, is the cruel reality of life. Yet if one has the guts and courage to fight all the harshness, life does offer some clemency...EVENTUALLY!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Movie Review: Dor

This evening I saw the movie "Dor" (means cord in Hindi), written and directed by Nagesh Kuknoor. If I were to review in Mumbai street talk I would assess Dor as "Dor phillum boley to ekdum hatke hain.....kuch dhinchak nahin hain par apun ko ekdum jhakaas lagaa," which if any non-desi wants/cares to know translates as, this film is not your run-of-mill Bollywood fare but is unique, there isn't any glamour in the film (that is typically associated with Bollywood) but still I loved it!

I had seen Nagesh Kuknoor's "Hyderabad Blues" way back in the 90s. I haven't seen any of his subsequent films. Based on my past experience I did know what to expect from a Kuknoor film and wasn't disappointed one bit. This story is about two women from different parts of India who, by cruel stroke of fate, are bound by one common thread. One of the women, Zeenat is a strong independent muslim woman from Himachal Pradesh. This part is essayed beautifully by Gul Panag while the other Meera, is a very young girl from rural Rajasthan, essayed by Ayesha Takia. Both their husbands are working in Saudi Arabia. The former's spouse is wrongly accused of murdering the latter's spouse and is facing capital punishment. The only way out would be amnesty granted, if the victim's widow signed a petition forgiving the accused. By the way what kind of law is that, when someone is condemned to a death penalty without any trial? I have read the book Princess, written by some female member of the royal family, which describes the life of women in Saudi Arabia. Why am I surprised by this law?....duh. Anyway this movie talks about Zeenat's journey to find Meera, their friendship and the subsequent emancipation of Meera.

It is a feminist film, written by a man. There are couple of things which are very disturbing in this movie. One is that women are treated like a chattel, with no rights and their lives are filled with despair on widowhood. Also it drives home the fact that women are sometimes each other's worse enemies. The other thing is that her father-in-law, played by the venerable Girish Karnad, on one hand talks about the family honor but on the other is ready to send his young, beautiful, widowed daughter-in-law to the bed of some man who will save their ancestral mansion (haveli). A widow lives a hopeless life where she is treated as a commodity for barter. This makes sense why women from Rajasthan used to jump en masse on their husband's funeral pyre during the medieval times. For them a horrific death was a better option than being a part of the conqueror's harem! What is this nonsense about the family honor? The men in this film are all emasculated.

This film isn't dark, except the fact that two young women's lives come crashing down, but is in fact positive. It is very heartening that Zeenat inspires Meera, which gives her the strength to break the shackles that bind her. Gul Panag was very convincing as Zeenat. Ayesha Takia is a young, talented actress. She brought out the emotions and poignancy to the character but her accent was way off! She did not have the rural rajasthani accent that was so necessary for her to be convincing. Girish Karnad has a miniscule role so he is wasted in this film. I loved Shreyas Talpade as the "bhairoopiya," who helps Zeenat in her quest and is besotted by her. Bhairoopiya means someone who is a master of disguise. These are entertainers, who are nomadic and move from town to town entertaining people. He however doesn't have the strength to go through the entire mission with her and leaves to go his way, which implies that women don't need men to give them courage. This should be intrinsic.

The cinematography is beautiful, moving from the verdant slopes of the Himalayas to the desert of Rajasthan. The colors and character of both these distinctly different places is captured superbly. The clothes and make up are realistic so you don't have any village belles wearing heavy make up a la Bollywood from the 60s to the 90s. The music score is mediocre, except for Kesariya Balama. One of the songs sounded like a TV commercial from India (like "Jo OK sabun se nahayein kamal sa khil get the point). Jokes apart, if you haven't seen this movie, I would definitely recommend that you watch it.

Thursday, November 02, 2006


The above picture is of yours truly, haven't included my face. I figured since it is past Halloween there is no point scaring my readers! Its alright you needn't thank me, for being so considerate.

In my previous posts, I have mentioned the fact that I do enjoy a good glass of wine. Of course I prefer white and blush wines to red. The bottomline, however is that wine is wine, therefore why discriminate based on color? This morning when I started reading this article about the health benefits of resveratrol present in red grapes and wine, I was ecstatic! Till I read the end of the article, which said “even if resveratrol does turn out to be a miracle drug, a wine glass would probably not be the preferred delivery method. According to Kaeberlein, it would take over 300 glasses of wine per day to equal the amount of resveratrol fed to the obese mice in this study.” Now that is certainly not good news for my liver and my expanding girth; therefore note to self: please scratch the plan of including a daily glass of red wine.

Among other things….

I had gone to my car dealer for an oil change this evening. I am currently reading Thomas Friedman’s book, “The World is Flat,” so took it with me to read in the interim. In the waiting area the TV was on full blast and since I was the only person present there, I shut the damn thing off! A smart and attractive woman, who could be in her early to mid forties, walks in a little later. She asked me if I had shut the TV off. I reply half guiltily, “Sorry I did, but you may switch it on if you like.” She said that it didn’t matter to her and it was alright since I was reading. Sighting of such courteous people is a rarity in New Jersey. Now had I met her in Michigan (where I used to live previously and like to go back and visit), I wouldn't be surprised. Then she commented about the book I was reading, as she had listened to the audio version. We started talking and she told me about what she was currently listening on her morning commute. It is an audio version of "The Sonoma Diet" book. According to her this diet is wonderful. Apparently you can lose a dress size in ten days. She told me that it was fantastic and described it in detail. She looked fabulous so I take her word for its effectiveness! I don’t know though if I would have the discipline to follow any diet seriously. Anyway I came home and did a wikipedia search about it, which you can read here.

These days I have stopped stepping on the weighing scale and I don’t dare to look in the mirror when I have my glasses or contact lenses on. With 20/20 vision I look like a nightmare! The only plus point is that I am 5’7.5” tall, therefore I can carry some excess pounds that my desi genes have generously bestowed upon me. The only problem is that these days I feel like I am bursting at the seams. Oh well, right now I will enjoy this chocolate while typing and shall think about my weight issues tomorrow!