Foodie shoodie

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Few years back, someone visited a restaurant I recommended and asked me “What do I order?” My reply was “Whatever you want”. I was a little surprised by the question. I have never asked anyone what I should order. It depends on my mood and craving. How can anyone tell anyone else what to eat.

I am wiser now and realize that the new world, with its social media icons, has a group of ‘foodies’ who treat eating out as a tick mark activity. They will go to a new city and ask for food recommendations. Then they will travel from one end to the other end of the city to mark it off their to-do list. This gives them a status of a true social media icon when it comes to food. Then they will go around telling people what to eat where. And to only eat that specific item in that restaurant.

They don’t enjoy food like you or I do. They don’t have personal views about a restaurant. The objective is to proclaim that all the popular places have been visited and now every person can turn to them for recommendations. Unsurprisingly, all these people have tried to make money out of this, by way of food walks or blogs.

This is how the conversation went with one such person:

Him – Arya Bhawan, Ramashray etc etc

Me- I have been to Arya Bhawan. Great food.

Him- But what did you eat there?

Me (confused because I have been there 4 times with different people and ordered something new everytime. Also, I helped my companions finish their food too)- Many things.

Him- What you should eat there is the thaat idli. For Pongal go to XYZ…

Me *subtle eye roll*

When I like a restaurant I end up trying as much of the menu as I can. In fact, all my favourite restaurants serve consistently good food. They won’t make a good sandwich and a bad pasta.

Sure, there are places like Smokehouse Deli in Khan market where I have only ordered eggs benedict. And yet, my answer to “what should I order at SHD at Khan market?” will always be “whatever you damn well please”. Because my preference for eggs benedict is personal. Am I the most knowledgeable or well travelled person? No. Neither are you. So, the best sandwich in your books won’t be the same in my books. So shut the fuck up and let people eat.

Don’t go to a city and ask people “where can I get the best dosas? or the best sandwiches? or the best kebabs?” Just experiment and come to your own conclusions which should be kept to yourself unless someone specifically asks you. Or check out Zomato and tripadvisor for balanced views.

And if someone asks you what to order at a restaurant, give them one tight slap and point towards the menu.

 


How not to conduct a foodwalk

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This is a rant. Because I had phone calls to return yesterday but couldn’t make the time. My weekend was absolutely packed and I wasted 3 hours (plus 2 hours) of my life yesterday on a foodwalk. The food walk was for Iftar in the lanes of South Mumbai and sucked. It was so bad that I left without eating anything and cursed the city.

I reached Churchgate station at 6.20 pm and met V. V was conducting the food tour and apparently he conducts all the food tours in Mumbai for this company. He kept praising himself and narrated stories about an uncle who flies down a chef from Lucknow to cook kebabs for him but V took him to amazing kebab places in Mumbai and he couldn’t stop raving. Another French lady, who does not drink beer, comes for every beer crawl he conducts. Which is strange because why would you pay someone to take you to beer places you have already been to.

I asked him if Shashi tukda is available in Mumbai and he looked blank. A foodie, who has not heard about Shahi Tukda. That is the problem with most self proclaimed ‘foodies’ or food bloggers. They don’t know about food outside their city. Mumbai foodies assume the best South Indian food in the country is in Matunga or that best kebabs are in Bhendi Bazaar. They have no idea about what the rest of the country has to offer. Don’t call yourself a foodie if you haven’t tried the cuisine in it’s native (for lack of a better word) place.

We reached some Masjid at 6.45 pm and waited for the rest of the group to arrive. People started trickling in and it was 7.15 pm when the walk started. People had started breaking their Roza and 25 of us walked near the Masjid where Bade Miyan has their pop up which serves chicken soup. V had not made prior bookings so there was no space and anytime crowds would pour out of the mosque. So, we waited. At 7.30 pm, we were served a sad soup filled with oil. I decided this wasn’t worth gaining calories over. One smart family decided to leave the group and explore on their own. V did not offer any information about the food. On asking, his reply was “I don’t do that. I will only take you to eat. I don’t have any stories to narrate”. Excellent. We paid Rs 1000/head (25k for the group) for 3 hours of his time. Wow!!!

We walked for 10 mins and came into an empty lane where people were eating chicken. “Finally, some food”; I thought. But that was not to be. We were served malpuas with rabri here. They were not sweet so that was good but why were we eating dessert first? Nobody had any idea. We walked again. This time V’s friend noticed I was alone and started a conversation.

Him : Hi. Where are you from?

Me (Ummm. Wondering how it is relevant. Shouldn’t he ask where I am right now?) : Gujarat

Him : So, you are a vegetarian?

Me : Why would I be a vegetarian? And why would I come for this food walk if I was one?

Him : Because you are a Gujju?

Me : But Gujjus eat non veg

Him : Where do you work?

Me : I work in sales. FMCG sales. I sell confectionery?

Him : What is confectionery? I am a mechanical engineer

After 10 mins…

Him : Should I hold your bottle of water?

Me : Why? Do you want to drink water?

Him : No. No. I can hold it for you.

Me : No thanks. I can manage.

I had a purse and a bottle of water. The purse was heavier but he offered to hold the bottle because patriarchy won’t let him help a woman with her purse unless he is married to her. And why would I need help carrying a bottle of water? I don’t get it. Thankfully, he didn’t ask for my number.

After another 15 mins of walking, we reached a lane in Bhendi Bazaar with chicken and mutton kebabs. I asked V if they had buff but he said it’s over. After 15 mins of waiting around, V brought 2 huge naans. I didn’t see any kebabs with him. People in the group happily started eating the plain naan. I took a bite hoping there is something unique about this but it was a plain, fucking naan. That is when I lost it and told him am going home. It was 9.30 pm and I have an early morning.

I asked KC what he had for dinner. “I ordered kebabs from Khan Chacha”. That was the last straw and I spent the rest of the train ride ranting on twitter. Maybe the food walk improved and people did eat amazing food on that walk. Or maybe they ate mediocre food and raved about it because their standards are low. But I came away with the view that I should stop looking for good food in Mumbai. In my books, there is and there will never be anything about Mumbai that is better than Delhi. And if I ever change my mind, please shoot me in the head.

I have attended 3 food walks before this and they were all amazing. The first time, it was just the guide and 3 of us so we got a personal tour in the lanes of Old Delhi. The 2nd time we went on a foodwalk to Andhra Bhawan and Bengal Bhawan. The guide, who was a Punjabi, talked to us about the different cuisines in South and what makes Andhra food different from the rest. At Bengal Bhawan we tried the prawns malai curry (yummy) and bunch of other food. The 3rd walk was in a large group but we headed to Jama Masjid where the guide’s friend broke Roza and we had buff samosas and dates. Watching hordes of people breaking their fast together as the sun set was a memorable experience.

Here are some dos and don’ts of food walks

  • Stop charging insane amounts of money for it unless you are someone famous
  • Groups of less than 10 people are ideal
  • Making prior bookings. Do a recce of the route and talk to the shopkeepers in advance so they are prepared for your group
  • Start the walk on time, even if people are late
  • End the walk on time. If the walk is supposed to end at 10 pm, don’t extend it till 11 pm
  • I can get a list of recommendations for the food online. What are you bringing to the table? Talk about the food. Talk to the people in the group. That is the point of the walk.

Until this company refunds my money and gets their house in order, am done with their walks.


The Trek

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We didn’t have enough time to plan a special trip for our birthdays this year. The inclination was low and KC was supposed to be in USA for work. When the work trip was cancelled, I looked up options online. We have talked about going on a trek but never done it. The Bhrigu trek seemed perfect because it is 4 days trek and meant for beginners. The idea of trekking to 14,000 feet to see a frozen lake seemed exciting.

Last time we were at such high altitudes in Leh Ladakh, both of us had altitude sickness and it has taken us 7 years to gather the courage to scale that altitude again.

We took the bus for Manali and spent 1 day relaxing. Hectic trips are not KC’s thing and proper relaxation time has to be planned for him. We met the group of trekkers (26 of them) the next day in the afternoon. The drive to Gulaba 22 km from Manali took 2.5 hours because of the crazy traffic. The traffic here can give Bangalore serious competition. We managed to cross the checkpost because our car driver was a local. The other 20 people weren’t so lucky and they had to trek up the 2 km road. We were carrying 10 kg of luggage each in our 40L backpacks and trekked up 1 km. The mules carrying our tents had not yet reached and it started raining. We put on our rainwear and waited for our tents. The first night is a blur. At some point it stopped raining, we took in the beauty of our surroudings- green meadow surrounded by snow capped mountains, peed in the outdoors till the tents were ready, introduced ourselves to the other couples/family/solo travellers/group of friends, had dinner and dropped dead inside the cozy sleeping bags.

On day 2, we had to trek 6 km and 2,000 feet to reach the base camp for Bhrigu lake. KC hired a mule and I offloaded all the additional luggage into his bag. We didn’t have a day pack only for essentials and I hiked with 5-9 kg of stuff in backpack. We crossed meadows and the higher we went, the tree cover reduced. The ascent was slow because there was no point reaching the campsite before our mules. The mules started late. We stopped at every 500 m to catch our breath and wait for the slower ones. The climb is so much easier without luggage but nobody except KC had hired a mule. There were waterfalls which were far away and we were admiring them. Nobody told us he had to trek to them. We crossed actual waterfalls on a narrow and steep path. It was scary because one wrong foot and we could have slipped to our deaths. After 5 hours, we reached the campsite.

There were 2 companies trekking that day and the best site was taken by Indiahikes since their mules reached earlier. Our tent was on sloping ground and the tents were placed close together. As soon as the tent was setup, there was a hailstorm. A bunch of us waited in the dining tent for lunch, which took hours. KC started having altitude sickness which got worse as time passed. He had a bad headache and dizziness. No amount of walking outside, sipping water and wear warm layers made him feel better. The claustrophobic tent enclosure didn’t help matters. Getting sick at 12,000 feet without medical help is very scary. There is no cure to altitude sickness, no medicine or precaution to prevent or cure it. Somehow we got through the night and decided to trek back a day earlier. It was our vacation and if he was unwell and not enjoying himself, there was no point to the vacation. I couldn’t have trekked to Bhrigu lake leaving him alone when he was unwell. We spoke to the trek leader who arranged for a porter to help with the bag and take us down. The trek back took only 2 hours. After 2 hours of wait for our cab and another 2.5 hours drive, we reached Manali and to civilisation with it’s hot showers, clean clothes, good food and a soft bed.

This trek was to check if it’s our thing or not. I loved it. I managed fine without hassles. Being in the beautiful outdoors which can only be reached on foot is amazing. I can only credit my running/gym schedule for making me fit enough to not be a lagger. We weren’t the first ones to reach the top but we were definitely in the 2nd group of people. To do it with 5-9 kg of luggage on your back isn’t child’s play. I will go on more treks, maybe weekend treks from Mumbai and I plan to come back for the Bhrigu lake whenever the weather is most accomodating. For KC, this is it. High altitudes are not his thing.

I leave you with some pictures of the beautiful terrains (can’t upload pics on phone. Will do so in sometime).

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People won’t let me take a break

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I have been under so much pressure to start blogging again. Especially since my sabbatical on social media is over. It wasn’t a stunt. I didn’t declare am leaving social media. I didn’t deactivate my account. I dropped by on some days to congratulate friends, like posts, catch up on what’s happening. Because without facebook, I wouldn’t know what’s happening. The social media sabbatical didn’t change my life in any way. I didn’t feel a void or boredom.  Getting back hasn’t changed anything either. It was there. Then it wasn’t. Now it is there again.

The reason I haven’t posted is because I didn’t feel like it. When life seems dark and dreary, all you want to do is escape. I didn’t want to talk about it on the blog since living through it was nightmarish enough. People close to me already knew what was going on. It wasn’t a secret, I just didn’t want to talk about it on social media and the blog.

Yesterday I met a friend from twitter. We had been planning to meet up for a year now and finally my funny tweets overtook his laziness and flakiness (just kidding. Am not funny enough to overpower laziness). The meeting was memorable because while hailing an auto for me, he asked me my name. HE HAD FORGOTTEN MY NAME. This is such a momentous occasion that I have to document it.

Halfway through our conversation he said; “You are prettier in real life”. I replied, dripping with sarcasm, “as opposed to? Social media?”. Sorry, but being a bitch comes so naturally. I turn 34 years in a few days and the compliment didn’t warm me or make me happy. It is nice to be at a stage in life where you know being pretty or good looking has no impact on life. In fact, anyone can turn pretty. Just get a good body. You can’t change your face but you can change your body. And being fit and strong at 40 yrs is so much more fun and gets more attention that at 20 yrs.

He paid for our drinks (non alcoholic) and didn’t have a reply to “Why are you paying?”. Rarely do I get to pay the entire bill as a woman when am meeting a guy for the first time. Either the guy pays or we go dutch. What are the rules? I prefer going dutch. Why should a man pay or offer to pay?

Anyway…. keep up the pressure so I can get back to writing regularly.


Do you …. ? 

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Who is sitting next to you?

Who wants you in their life?

Who fights to keep you around?
Whose head is on your shoulders?

Who surrenders to you, heart and soul?

Who is bereft when you’re gone?
Who always has time for you?

Who does not need to find time for you?

Whose hand is on yours?
Who trusts themselves with you?

Who takes your complications in their stride?

With whom the silence does not feel awkward?
Who travels miles to see you?

Who hugs you when you cry?

Who refuses to laugh at your bad jokes?
Can you see this person? 

Or are your heart and mind closed?


Kidney stones

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I am holed up in Gurgaon because of a kidney stone scare. I will write about it once am sure it’s over and am ok. While the doctor is convinced it’s over, I want to be absolutely sure.

This post is about the first time I had kidney stones. There is 70-80 % of kidney stones recurring and hence, due care has to be taken. In fact, doctors are convinced the pain in my tummy on Monday night was stones is because of this reason even though there are no clear symptoms and nothing specific in the test results. And no, it wasn’t because of eating too many mangoes or gas and methi seeds isn’t the cure. Stop diagnosing someone’s illness.

Flashback :

I was in college and sexually active. One day, there was blood in my pee. I thought it is periods and wore a pad. But it would bleed only when I peed. And even after I finished peeing I wanted to pee more. I spent large amount of time in the loo. Though my dad was a doctor I was very scared to tell him this. For one, how do you talk about blood in your pee in a traditional family? Second, I was sexually active and worried this was a STD. Yes, we used a condom. Always. But I had zero knowledge then and limited access to the internet. The women in my hostel knew lesser. I had given sex education to females in my engineering hostel AND MBA hostel.

I turned to my boyfriend. He agreed to take me to a gynaecologist but refused to come inside the clinic. He was afraid he would be spotted by someone who knows him and tell his family. And then he would have no answer to why he accompanied me to a gynaecologist. Logical. But when it comes from someone who you claim to love and care about, it’s a dick move. The fact that even in times of someone’s illness, you are only worried about yourself is a neon board for everyone “stay away from this man. Nothing good will come out of this”.

The gynaecologist said it is probably kidney stones. I heaved a sigh of relief and decided to call my parents. My boyfriend wasn’t very happy with the decision because incase it turned out to be STD, my parents would know I have been sexually active and his source of sex would get cut off. Worse, I may tell them it was him and they would tell his parents. In best case scenario, we would have to break off. In worst case scenario, we would have to get married.

Thankfully, nothing of the sort happened. I went home and the kidney stone passed out on it’s own. I know I drink less water and the fear of a stone is always at the back of my head. I wasn’t aware that its chances of a recurrence are so high. So am going to take extra care.

I met an old acquaintance from college in A’bad and the bf’s name came up. Nonchalantly I was telling him about some incident in college which featured the boyfriend. He was shocked I was talking about him and said “you are still talking about him. You are not over him”. I wasn’t sure how to respond. Who we want to spend our life with is a complex decision and prospective people for that are judged solely on incidents like the one mentioned above. Would you want to be friends with someone like this? I wouldn’t. Forget about anything more. In fact, I parted with people and ended friendships over smaller issues than this.

I am not writing this to bitch about a college boyfriend but this is the only memory I have about a kidney stone. Until now. If it was a stone. I am still not sure.


Challenges ahoy

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I started reading The Unquiet Land by Barkha Dutt today and a chapter on feminism made me think. I have been upset and depressed for the last few weeks. This is my 9th month in Mumbai and I still don’t like the city. KC, expectedly, has not been able to move. Even if he had, I would pine for Gurgaon. It is clear I can be happy only in Gurgaon.

But I have been thinking about this from the wrong end. I put myself at the centre of the story. The story and situation is much bigger than me. For starters, why should the organisation move me to Gurgaon within a year? Especially since there is no opening. All my colleagues have made that shift.

One guy’s family (wife and kids) is in Bangalore. They can’t make the shift because his wife has a gvernment job and won’t find a suitable one in Gurgaon. Also, he hasn’t been able to find a good ICSE school. He shuttles between Gurgaon and Bangalore (6-7 hours journey one way) 1-2 times a month.

Another person’s wife is working in Mumbai. He has shifted to Bangalore but his wife can’t make the shift because she has a dental practice in Mumbai. Since he does not plan to settle in Bangalore, no point in her starting from scratch in Bangalore. He shuttles between the two cities, paying rent in both cities.

A third guy has spent most of life in Delhi. After 6 months of staying apart, his family is moving to Mumbai with him this month. It is convenient that his wife isn’t working.

And then there is me. Am I expecting special favours because am a woman? If I expect to compete on the basis of merit, I have to play my part. All the male colleagues before me have made adjustments. Sure, they didn’t have working spouses but the current lot of colleagues do have working wives. And while their career may or may not be as important, the additional money sure is.

I wish I knew ambitious women who have put their career before marriage and kids but I can’t name one person. Instead I see more and more women putting their careers on the back burner to accommodate their husbands. We seem to be regressing as a society. But more on that later.

I feel calmer and better geared to return to Mumbai and deal with a very challenging month.


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I haven’t blogged in 15 days because I have been busy and upset. The lowest points in life are when you are helpless. When your life has to change because of decisions other people are making. And even your reaction to this needs more information and time. All you can do is wait and watch. And because you are feeling low, you end up messing up other things too.

Sorry, I lost my chain of thoughts and don’t have anything to say.

 


Watchlist

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Stuff I have been watching these days

  • Haraamkhor

I wanted to watch this movie when it released by KC refused to accompany me. It is available on Netflix for viewing. Starring Nawazuddin and Shweta Tripathi, this flick is about the affair between a teacher and his 14 year old student in a small town. The affair should make you go ugh but the subject is treated very well. Not that it isn’t creepy. Nawazuddin is married and only wants to sleep with Shweta. While Shweta does not have a mother and her father is barely home and this affair is the only joyful thing in her life. I know many girls who had affairs with older men when I was in a hostel. It is quite common. I loved the movie. Do catch it online. The fact that a Bollywood movie on this subject has been made and released in India is a big deal.

  • Lion

I watched this movie yesterday and loved it. It may have left me cold if it wasn’t based on a true story. A kid from the slums gets separated from his brother and family. He does not even remember his mother’s full name or the name of his village. He is adopted by Australian parents (Nicole Kidman) from the orphanage and grows up as a privileged kid. 20 years later the memories come flooding back and he tries to find his name. Dev Patel is awesome. Worth a watch.

  • Riverdale

This is the modern day version of the Archie’s comics. Throw away all your innocence out of the window. Archie is sleeping with his teacher, Betty’s dark side is waiting to break through her perfection, Veronica’s parents have lost all their money and there is a murderer on the loose and Jughead is so sensible. If I ignore the inspiration from the comics, the series has nothing new to offer. But keeping the comic in mind, I like the dark take. It is too early to judge basis 1 season and am waiting for season 2 to make up my mind. Check it out on Netflix.

  • House of Cards

I know. I know. The entire world has already watched it. I tried watching it a year back but could not understand all the politics. Now am watching with subtitles on Netflix. I download episodes on the iPad and watch them in the cab or auto during the commute. Traffic makes me happy. Reading has gone for a toss because am spending every spare minute on Netflix.

What are you watching right now? Anything interesting?


We lean in too much 

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“I think he is more risk taking than we give him credit for”

“Really?”

“He did promote you. I wasn’t expecting it”

“Neither was I”

“Maybe he saw a certain potential”

I wondered why I didn’t expect to get promoted. Why didn’t I go and ask for it? I know men; juniors, at the same level and seniors; who ask  demand a promotion every few months, whether they deserve it or not. Why didn’t I? Is it low esteem in general or is it because am a woman. Why did I keep hoping for a lateral movement instead of a movement vertically. In all the profiles I worked in, it has been difficult to fill my shoes. Except for the first 2 years because am not THAT awesome. Sure, maybe the company didn’t find the right candidate or maybe they did. But all my ex bosses have come back and told me how I had done a great job and the new person does not match up. Even my team mates have told me they miss me even though I sucked as a boss. They weren’t flattering me, they missed someone who was pushing them to be better everyday. 

I am doing a good job today. Everyone has been telling me so. More importantly, I come back home at night satisfied with my day. I wonder if the standards are so low or I am that good. Possibly the former. Anyone with common sense can do this job. So why didn’t I lobby for it? Why am I still surprised am here? This job has nothing to do with the gender. I can choose how much I want to travel and where. I can choose not to travel. 

What Sheryl Sandberg mentioned in Lean In and what so many other articles talk about is true. Women in the corporate don’t demand and negotiate as much as men do. Not even half as much. This is a scary thought. 

The fight to the top gets steeper from here and the roles are fewer. Good work alone isn’t going to cut it. It will require immense confidence in my abilities and a clear idea about my weaknesses. 

Sigh.