Saturday, December 3, 2016

Mushroom Capsicum Curry! Day 4 #100HappyDays

Happiness is...

When you try a new ingredient in your kitchen for the very first time, and it turns out like this...

So I've never used fresh mushrooms in my kitchen before. The only time I made mushrooms at home was in 1998, and I used canned button mushrooms then. (Fresh ones weren't as readily available with vegetable vendors back then.) I was feeling a bit adventurous lately, so I decided to give them a try.

I went through a lot of mushroom recipes on the internet while having my morning tea today, and got a vague idea of how I will make a simple curry with onions, tomatoes, capsicum and mushroom. What I forgot to check was "how to clean the mushrooms"! And I emptied the whole pack into a bowl of water. [facepalm]

Apparently, you never do that. 'Coz they absorb all the water and become soggy. Tch. My bad.

Some of those mushrooms looked so disgusting in the water, with all the big black hairy thingies on the underside, that I almost threw the whole lot away. Then I decided to check google on how to clean and cut them. That's when I discovered that you aren't supposed to put them in water. I also realized that only about half of my mushrooms were fresh. Sighhh.

Anyway, I quickly took them out of the water, and dried them on paper towels. The ones with the bigger black hairy thingies (they are apparently called "gills") were the not-so-fresh ones. I removed the gills from those. (They looked very unappetizing!) Then I cut them all in pieces as advised in the recipes. Some of the recipes said to remove the stems, as they tasted different. Some said to keep them. Since it was my first time, I decided to play safe and removed the stems.

I then boiled them in the pressure cooker, with a little bit of salt. (Only two of the recipes said to use pre-boiled mushrooms, but I wasn't going to take a chance with under-cooked mushrooms. This step was completely unnecessary though. Next time, I'll make them without boiling.)

I made a light curry with chopped onions, ginger-garlic paste, chopped tomatoes, and the regular spices. Then added the boiled mushrooms and a cup of chopped and micro-cooked capsicum. I added a little bit of the water in which I'd boiled the mushrooms. Allowed it to simmer for a couple of minutes, and then served hot with chapatis.

Sorry, no coriander leaves for garnishing today! Hehehe! And no intermediate pics either. I was so tense about how it would turn out that I forgot to take pics in between. In fact, I even put some potatoes to boil, in case the mushroom recipe turned out to be a disaster and I needed a 'Plan-B'! :P

Thankfully, the dish was completely edible. It was quite tasty, in fact. So the 'Plan-B' wasn't called upon! Next time, I'll get fresher mushrooms, clean them the proper way, and won't waste time boiling them separately.

Attempting #100HappyDays for the first time. Today was Day 4.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

An Honoured Chef! Day 3 #100HappyDays

Happiness is...

When a dish you cooked for your brother-in-law ends up as the "Profile Picture" of a foodie group on Facebook!

My brother-in-law was in Jaipur last week for some business work. He loves egg curry, so I made that for lunch.

Normally, I serve it into the plates directly from the kadhai (wok). But this time, I wanted a picture for my blog, so I took out my borosil glassware.

Also, I usually don't have fresh coriander in my kitchen. So I do without it. But I had to garnish the egg curry for my picture, right? So I especially made Dad go and get me some of it from the nearby vegetable vendor!

LOL! Just kidding! He was going out anyway for some other work. :D (My Dad puts up with a lot, in the name of my blog, but even he wouldn't step out of the house just to get me some hara-dhaniya for a blog picture!)

Here's the picture then. Go ahead and drool over it!

Attempting #100HappyDays for the first time. Today was Day 3.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Green Monster Strikes! Day 2 #100HappyDays

Happiness is...

Finally being able to figure out why you (and so many other Indians) hate the Airtel girl so much!

Every time she comes on TV, with that smug look on her face, my blood boils. My BP shoots up. I'm taken over by this violent rage... to destroy.

And I've never been able to understand why I react like this.

Until today.

Today, I finally figured out what this emotion is.

It's the green monster of jealousy!

No... not because of her cute looks!

Not even because she is the face (most likely a very expensive one!) of such a huge brand!

It's a simple case of "uski saari meri saari se safed kaise"!

Why is her net faster than mine?

P.S. - Why does she always have to look so irritatingly smug about it? Jale Pe Namak Chhidakna!

Attempting #100HappyDays for the first time. Today was Day 2.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Rich Enough! Day1 #100HappyDays

Mr. Modi bombed the entire nation 4 nights ago, with the demonetization of 500 and 1000 currency notes. The entire country has ended up in a big financial chaos since then. People don't have enough valid currency to buy necessities, pay salaries/wages to their staff, and even medical expenses. They are standing in long queues outside banks and ATMs, only to find out that it has run out of money before their turn came. People with hoards of unaccounted cash are looking for ways to turn it into white money, worried they might just lose it all.

In all this chaos, I'm thanking my lucky stars. Why?

  1. Because I don't need to worry about any unaccounted money.
  2. Because there's no medical emergency (touch wood) or wedding in my family in this period.
  3. Because I have already paid my rent, staff wages and other monthly dues, within the first week of the month.
  4. Because I have sufficient petrol in my car, talktime in my phone, and data balance in my internet plan.
  5. Because I did my monthly grocery shopping last week.
  6. Because I have a few 100 bucks in small currency, which is enough to cover my daily expenses for a week or so.
  7. Because I have earned enough goodwill in the neighborhood that I can get some stuff on credit if required.

So I don't need to go out and stand in long queues right now. I can wait, till the banks have sorted out all the initial kinks in the process and the queues have become shorter. I can wait till the ones with more pressing needs get a bit of cash first.

We live in times when markets are flooded with choices, and everybody wants everything. And gradually, the lines between wants and needs tend to blur. That's when such moments of crisis help us understand what's really important in our life.

Attempting #100HappyDays for the first time. Today was Day 1.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Book Review: Diablo by Douglas Misquita

Review: Diablo by Douglas Misquita

Author: Douglas Misquita
ISBN: 978-9352655021, 9352655028

Buy from:


Diablo, by Douglas Misquita, takes you on the next adventure of Haunted famed FBI agent, Kirk Ingram, whose family was murdered before his eyes. Driven by grief, guilt and nightmares, Ingram continues his relentless war against organised crime.

Blurb from Diablo:

The Migrant Crisis threatens the European Union with rising intolerance, disintegration and violence.

Driven by disillusionment, revenge, and a lack of faith in existing migration policies, The Council wields a horrific solution to the problem: an ethnic bio-weapon, Diablo.

FBI agent, Kirk Ingram stumbles upon their heinous scheme and is in a race against the clock to stop the genocide.

But when Diablo is seized by the United States, Ingram must join forces with The Council to prevent an even greater atrocity from being unleashed upon the world.

Diablo, by Douglas Misquita, deals with the very real and very current global immigrant crisis and genocide problem. While on the one hand, there are armored vehicles, modern weaponry, and futuristic technology (bio-genetics, space programs, artificial intelligence), on the other, the author portrays, with equal authenticity, the inhumane horror and suffering experienced by natives of a war-torn nation, fleeing in search of a better life, leaving behind everything familiar, everything they've ever possessed. You also get to see the other side of this immigrant crisis - the socio-economic problems created by illegal migrants in the host countries, and the resultant fear they generate among the natives of those countries.

The way Misquita has covered this from so many angles, shows that he's not just an "action writer" any more. Yes, he can describe his weapons and choreograph jaw-dropping action sequences, but he can also get into his characters' minds now. The book speaks of research into places, current socio-political events, artillery, technology, and also human psychology now. So another step in the right direction.

Diablo is much slower paced than Misquita's earlier novels, especially in the first half, but it is so much more violent and hard-hitting. The plight of the immigrants makes you squirm in anger at the helplessness and injustice of it all. The fights have become nastier and bloodier, and, at the same time, a lot more creative with the use of advanced technologies like artificial intelligence. The character sketches are gaining depth and are becoming more relatable.

Misquita attempted adding a bit of humour this time, but that didn't come out as confidently as the rest of his writing. His narrations read like a pro's work, but the dialogues seemed amateurish. Also, some of the details in the narration were too technical and went over my head. So I couldn't visualize those scenes as vividly as the rest of the book.

Diablo maintains its suspense right till the end though. The climax was totally unexpected and exceptionally strong. Being a fan of English action movies, I have seen so many explosions on screen. But the one Misquita creates at the end of Diablo beats them all. An extra half star just for that!

My rating: 4 out of 5. Diablo, by Douglas Misquita, is yet another episode of myriad of characters, from varying social and geographic backgrounds, astutely interwoven together, into a gripping action thriller.

Buy more books by Douglas Misquita from: Flipkart | |

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book for reviewing, but that has, in no way, affected my rating and opinions.

Here's more in Books.

Friday, October 7, 2016

My Best Friend's Wedding

This post was long overdue. It's the one where I tell you how I got locked in the bathroom at my best friend's wedding. That's right. It really did happen. I'm not making it up. But before I go into that story, let me first tell you a little bit about my old school-time bestie.

That's Swati (the one in the front) and me, more than 16 years ago.

She seems like a serious, no-nonsense girl, but this is where you have to remember that "looks can be deceptive". She is the queen of leg-pulling. She knows all the markets in Kanpur better than the lines on her hand! (Shopping wasn't such a nightmare for me with her! Sigghhhh!) And she's probably the only person on Earth who's been able to handle me during my Capricorn "stubborn" phases. (She could make out when I was genuinely bothered about something and when I was just being irritating!)

What exactly are we doing in this pic? No idea. By the way, the SRK & Bobby behind us belong to my sister.

In her circles, she is well-known for walking into medicine shops to buy a loaf of bread!

And for sporting a bright-green contact-lens, in just one single eye (the other being normal), on Holi. And then smiling back at strangers who stare at her, believing they find her exceptionally beautiful that day!

And also for her messy cupboards, that I had to organize whenever I visited her. She once even called me up from Bangalore (after her marriage), when I lived in Patna, saying her cupboard was a mess, so I should come over! From Patna. To Bangalore. Just to organize the stuff in her cupboards.

I really wish though that she didn't stay so far away.

This was the day when her parents were out of town and we had an all-girls' slumber party at her place.

Anyway, her wedding was naturally a big deal for me. Best friend's weddings usually are, for most people. I had to help her with the shopping and the gift packing, and all kinds of miscellaneous wedding chores, you know. So I was the first one to arrive at her place, days before the wedding. And that's when the "catastrophe" happened.

The bedrooms were all on the upper floor, while the living area and the kitchen were downstairs. The dreaded bathroom (where I got locked) was on the upper floor, and had two doors - one from the bedroom, and one from the passage outside, that led to the stairs.

Anyone familiar with a typical North-Indian wedding will know of the custom where all the wedding gifts, lavishly packed on Styrofoam sheets, are displayed to visiting relatives. That bedroom was being used for that purpose. So it was kept locked when Swati's parents were not in it. The bathroom door from that room was also locked. We were told to use the other door to get in and out of the bathroom.

Somebody apparently forgot these instructions though!

One fine morning, there I was, having a shower in that bathroom. When I was done with my shower, I realized, to my utter dismay, that the door wouldn't open. The other door was obviously still locked from the outside. I did what most people do when they get locked in the bathroom. I shouted. And I banged on the door. But here's the worst part... there was nobody else on that floor that time who could hear my shouts! They were all enjoying the delicious calorie-rich wedding-breakfast downstairs!

I have no idea how long I had to wait in that stupid bathroom before I heard footsteps on the stairs. Somebody was coming up. I resumed my shouting and banging. Finally, they let me out! Uffffffff!

Needless to say, I was the biggest joke of the day!

"Kaddu, you got locked in the bathroom today!!! [Guffaws]"
"Kaddu, how did you get locked in the bathroom today? [Giggles]"
"Kaddu, who the hell locked you in the bathroom today? [Chuckles]"

Swati and me, days before her wedding.

Sigghhhhh! One of my life's biggest bragging rights... "I got locked in the bathroom at my best friend's wedding"!

No really! How many people in the world can boast about that?

What about you? Do you have any such crazy stories with your besties?

If you do, then now is the perfect time to share them, because ZEE TV is bringing a new fun-filled chat show, called 'Yaaron Ki Baraat', that will put celebrity friendships to test through a series of fun challenges and tasks. I wonder which celebrities are going to participate in the show. It will surely be a riot of entertainment and fun. Best friends on national TV! I am totally looking forward to the first episode on 8th October (that's tomorrow) at 8pm.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

When Kids go Shopping... Alone!

Having a neighborhood stationery store means that more than 50% of your customers will be kids. School-going kids. Sometimes even just 4-year-olds. Shopping alone. Without any adults.

The arrangement comes with its own peculiar nuances and moments that tickle your funny bone.

For instance, the time when this 7-year-old kid unclenched his fist and produced a thousand rupee note. I was like - "Woah! How DO parents give a thousand rupee note to a less-than-three-feet-tall creature, who isn't even able to calculate the amount of change due to him?" And after he was done shopping, he started walking out of my shop with his purchases in one hand and the change (worth over 900 bucks, including coins) in the other. Such a lot of change in such a tiny hand! Ufff! Scary! I had to stop him and make him shove all the money into his pockets first.

Then there was this 3-year-old. He's been a visitor to my shop since I opened it, i.e. when he was still a thumb-sucking baby. He usually comes with his elder sister and mom or grandfather. While his sister does the shopping, he simply asks my Dad for a balloon (by pointing his chubby finger at the jar that contains balloons), and then busies himself with blowing it. The other day, he walked in by himself. (His grandpa was buying something from another shop in the market.) He is so short, I didn't even see him enter the shop. Nearly jumped out of my skin when he came and stood beside my table and said "balloon lena hai"! He then proudly placed a 5-rupee-coin on the counter, took one balloon, and started running out with a big grin on his face. Five rupees for one small balloon! So I called him back and tried to explain to him that he'll get 4 more balloons for that money. I don't think he understood that though, he was already too busy blowing the first one! Eventually, I just stuffed 4 more balloons inside his pockets and his grin just grew wider with happiness!

There are also those kids who spend almost all their pocket-money on stationery. (My favorites... naturally!) Sometimes they come with 100 rupees, sometimes with 500, and they have to spend it all. No taking back any change. And naturally, their shopping cart always exceeds the amount of cash they have. Then I'm supposed to do the math for them... help them remove items they can't afford that day!

Then there are all the "puzzles" that we've had to solve in the last 2.5 years.

For example, a "rule" is not a "ruler" here, but a "pencil". And "drawing" can mean any of the following:

  1. drawing notebook
  2. drawing sheets
  3. coloring book
  4. colors
  5. drawing box (pencil box)
  6. and once it even meant the photocopy of a drawing from one of the coloring books in my shop!

Once, there was this kid who wanted pins for "the machine used for covering notebooks". Dad and I were stumped. They'd invented a machine for covering notebooks! Wow! In our days, we had to do it all by hand! Turned out that he just wanted a box of stapler pins after all. And please don't ask me how we figured that one out finally!

Pins are, anyway, quite puzzling. There are stapler pins of course, but then there are also drawing pins, safety pins, gem clips and three different varieties of push pins. Kids usually just ask for "pins". After that, we play "20 questions".

We play "20 questions" a lot actually.

But some kids are smart.

Like the one who came in the morning today. He's probably 5 years old. Doesn't speak very clearly. Today, he asked for what sounded like "two apple waali copies". Dad asked him - "English copy?" He said no. I asked him - "four-line copy". He again said no. I asked him to come closer and repeat what he wanted. It still sounded like "apple waali copies". Eventually, he just walked around the counter, to the shelf with the school notebooks, and found it himself. English notebooks. "A for apple". Get it?

I know! And people think running a shop is easy!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Book Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian
Author: Andy Weir
ISBN: 978-0804139021

Buy from:


The Martian, by Andy Weir, is, in short "Apollo 13 meets Cast Away" or Robinson Crusoe in space. It is a gripping narrative of surviving against all odds, of resourcefulness and ingenuity in the face of adversity.

Blurb from The Martian:

I’m stranded on Mars. I have no way to communicate with Hermes or Earth. Everyone thinks I’m dead. I’m in a Hab designed to last 31 days.

If the Oxygenator breaks down, I’ll suffocate. If the Water Reclaimer breaks down, I’ll die of thirst. If the Hab breaches, I’ll just kind of explode. If none of those things happen, I’ll eventually run out of food and starve to death.

So yeah. I’m fucked.

I saw the movie adaptation of The Martian before I read the book. I didn't even know then that it was based on a novel. I was searching for a different movie to download (My Favorite Martian), but I found this instead, and Matt Damon on the cover image caught my interest. I LOVED the movie! Weeks later, a friend mentioned on Facebook "the book has a lot more details". That's when I found out there was a book behind the movie. Naturally, I had to order it immediately! I loved the book so much that I read it twice within a month of ordering it!

The Martian, by Andy Weir, is the story of Mark Watney, an astronaut who gets stranded on Mars after a freak accident almost kills him, and his crew mates are forced to abort mission without him. He survives that one accident by sheer luck, but luck alone is not going to help him last four years on that barren planet, with the limited supplies he has on hand, until he can be rescued by the next manned mission to Mars. As Watney says -

"In the face of overwhelming odds, I'm left with only one option, I'm gonna have to science the shit out of this."

Luckily for him, he happens to be the botanist and the Mr. Fix-It for that mission, and his knowledge of botany and mechanical engineering is what's going to save him. Another thing working in his favor is his attitude--his natural disposition towards making light of stressful situations with humor. He knows there is a high possibility of his dying there, but he doesn't spend too much time feeding that thought in his mind. Instead, he is all business-like, focusing all his attention on solving one problem after the other. Weir has portrayed him as an intelligent, funny, witty and a mentally strong person, not easily swayed by fear and despair. This is how he handles the routine fear that comes with his unique circumstances (of being stranded on Mars)...

“I’ll be playing with high-voltage power tomorrow. Can’t imagine anything going wrong with that!”

“From this, I concluded the following:
1. I’ve been in a dust storm for several sols.
2. Shit.”

“Just once I’d like something to go as planned, ya know?”

And this is him at the extreme depth of despair...


You know what!? Fuck this! Fuck this airlock, fuck that Hab, and fuck this whole planet!
Seriously, this is it! I've had it! I've got a few minutes before I run out of air and I'll be damned if I spend them playing Mars's little game. I'm so god damned sick of it I could puke!
All I have to do is sit here. The air will leak out and I'll die.
I'll be done. No more getting my hopes up, no more self-delusion, and no more problem-solving. I've fucking had it!


Sigh...okay. I've had my tantrum and now I have to figure out how to stay alive.”

Mostly though, he's just making fun of everything--of his situation, of scientists, of NASA and of himself. Here are some samples of Watneyism...

“I started the day with some nothin’ tea. Nothin’ tea is easy to make. First, get some hot water, then add nothin’.”

“Maybe I’ll post a consumer review. 'Brought product to surface of Mars. It stopped working. 0/10.'”

“I tested the brackets by hitting them with rocks. This kind of sophistication is what we interplanetary scientists are known for.”

“They’re not much different from kitchen trash bags, though I’m sure they cost $50,000 because of NASA.”

“I started with a large rigid sample container (or “plastic box” to people who don’t work at NASA).”

“Also, I have duct tape. Ordinary duct tape, like you buy at a hardware store. Turns out even NASA can’t improve on duct tape.”

The rest of the characters in the book have very short roles (naturally), but I liked them. Venkat Kapoor, the JPL guys, Mark's crew mates on Hermes, and Mindy! I specially liked Mindy Park in SatCon.

The Martian, by Andy Weir, has been written predominantly as logbook-style entries by Mark Watney, interspersed with third-person accounts of what's going on back at NASA and with the rest of his crew mates. I loved that style of writing for the scenario presented in the story. What didn't work for me was the sudden non-linear approach at certain places in the book. Those random "flashbacks", despite being very few, disrupted the natural flow of the book and seemed unnecessary.

The amount of research Weir has put in the book is clearly visible and makes the story completely plausible and realistic. This is hardcore science fiction, and parts of it can seem really complicated to those not interested in so much science. But I liked it. All those problems related to mass, weight, speed and time etc. took me back to my Physics classes in school. The plot moved along at a brisk pace. One problem after another. Combined with Watney's own brand of humor. I loved the book more than the movie. It has many more problems for Watney to solve.

My rating: 4.5 out of 5. The Martian, by Andy Weir, is probably the best science fiction I've read in a very long time! Highly recommended for all sci-fi lovers. It will suck you into the world of Mark Watney and will leave you in a "hangover" that could last for weeks.

Here's more in Books.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

A to Z of Me: 26 Things About Me

Found a new blog tag after a long time. Saw it on Shilpa's blog. It's been started by Debbie Doglady though. I've got to share twenty-six things about me... from A to Z. And here I go...

A. Age : Forty. Oh alright! 38 then. But I will be 40 soon. Like real soon. :)

B. Biggest fear : Having a surgery. (I keep thinking they'll leave a needle or a pair of scissors inside me. Or worse... a watch that plays "Om Mangalam mangalam" every hour!)

C. Current time : 8:09 PM

D. Drink you last had : My favorite... tea!

E. Every day starts with : These days... it starts with pain! :( And then the hot-water bag.

F. Favourite Song : Already told you guys about this one. It's the song Pehla Nasha from Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar. You can watch it again here.

G. Ghosts – Are they real? : They could be. Anything is possible unless proven otherwise.

H. Hometown : Was born in Patna, Bihar, but I certainly don't think of it as my "hometown". Got horrible memories of that place.

I. In love with : Books, music, sunsets, perfumes... so many things man!

J. Jealous of : People who can eat ANYthing and still NOT gain weight!

K. Killed someone : In my mind... yes! So many times!

L. Last time you cried : Crying is frequent these days. Last time was in the afternoon, while doing the physio. God! When will the pain go?

M. Middle Name : None.

N. Number of siblings : Just one sister by blood, but have got several "adopted" brothers.

O. One wish : Right now... I just wish I was healthy again... with no food restrictions and no movement restrictions.

P. Person you last called : One of my "adopted" brothers!

Q. Question you’re always asked : (By the kid customers in my shop) "How can we call you Aunty? You're not married..." :|

R. Reason to smile : Watching the dance series Step Up and imagining myself doing all those wicked arm & shoulder moves! (Yupp, that's the injured part of my body. I'm not even allowed to hold my handbag with that arm currently!)

S. Sounds that annoy you : Incessant honks, hammering/drilling, electronically "enhanced" songs!

T. Time you woke up : The alarm went off at 7... I finally woke up at 8 though, after the pain/hot-water bag routine.

U. Underwear colour : Really now!

W. Worst habit : Overthinking, definitely! (We are alike in this, Shilpa!) There have been so many times when I've wished I could take my brain out and put it in the freezer for a while!

V. Vacation Destination : Anywhere not cluttered and crowded.

X. X-rays you last had : Abdomen.

Y. Your Favourite Food : Woah! I've said this earlier, and I'm saying it again. How is it possible to choose one food over the other? They're ALL my favorite!

Z. Zodiac Sign : I'm a Capricorn. And this is what Capricorns are like.

That was quick. Feel free to take on the tag. Cheers! :)

P.S. - I just realized... I have done another version of the A to Z tag long ago. Check it out here. Some of my answers were so silly back then! :P

Here's more in "Tags (or memes)"!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Why Haven't I Blogged For Two Months?

There I was, doing the A to Z challenge in April. Then I announced I wouldn't do it as a daily blog challenge. And then I completely disappeared from this space. You guys must have been wondering what happened to me.


The physiotherapy (refer to this post if you have forgotten) didn't go well. I was started on a new set of exercises, which severely aggravated the pain, until I couldn't take it anymore and changed my physiotherapist.

The good news is that this guy seems to know what he's doing. He's taking it slowly and is able to release any pain during the session with him every alternate day. The bad news is that I am now doing one-hour routines of physiotherapy four times a day.

So, obviously, blogging has taken a backseat.

Have you ever thought about this? It takes just a moment to get hurt, but then it takes months to heal from it! And then there are always some wounds that never get healed...

So much for today, folks. See you when I see you...