F – Fishy Tales #AtoZChallenge

Last Sunday I visited a fish market after very long time. It was refreshing in many ways. While malls, e-stores are convenient, I enjoy buying certain things myself and Fish is one of them. Observing my grandmother and then my mother I have learnt buying a fish is an art and bargaining is the masters! I am fairly good at art and fail in masters.

In my childhood we bought fish at the doorsteps. Our regular firsherwomen would visit us at a particular time. During my primary schooling, it would be the time for my school bus to arrive. The sight of my trying to jump over the huge fish basket was common. Granny would be checking the fish and bargaining with one eye on me to see if I am going down the staircase without falling. On some days I would get a chance to watch this routine process, try and imitate my grandmother. My cheeks would grin with a smile when the fisherwomen slipped couple of more pieces of prawns, Bombay duck extra to please me.

Over years we developed a different bond with fisherwomen. I would be eager to wave them out if I see them around in the area. Granny also knew what kind of fish to buy from which lady. Each of them had a unique way of selling fish. Many years later when I attended wedding of one of the fisherwoman’s grandson, I realized what this bonding was. The smile on her face on seeing us at the wedding said it all, likewise for us!

It was my mother who taught me to buy fish from a market. A few years later she started buying fish. Again she had her set rules and preferences. Our fish destination was the famous City Light market at Matunga, it remains so.  This market is packed with people and a variety of fresh catch.

My mother would take a direct bus from office, buy fish and come in time to cook it for dinner. Her shopping bag introduced me to huge pieces of surmai, king size prawns and fatty pomfret. On weekends I started accompanying her and was learning other side of household shopping. Buying other necessary items, other than fish. How to make effective use of this single visit. Round it off with a spicy pani puri !

And what I called the Masters – bargaining I observe from my father. After every visit to the fish market he asks me – what price did she quote, how much did u bargain for? Then I get advice on how should I bargain, what should I quote.. something I am yet to learn.

How can I trade these fishy tales for an online delivery? Will you? I rather enjoy my fish and the happiness!

Inside Mumbai’s jungle….

As we boarded the bus, the honking of vehicles, glittering street lights, sounds of breakfast sellers, morning walkers faded away to a thick envelope of trees and foliage. Wading through the way, I realized my mistake of not carrying a jacket along. It was cool, windy inside Mumbai’s very own jungle – Sanjay Gandhi National Park.

We had joined the nature trail to the park’s highest point. Our guide Nilesh made the 6 km uphill trek a pleasant discovery of the national park and its expanse:

Bamboo Hut Walk – A dense walk earlier, bamboo trees give 60% more oxygen than regular trees.

Ashok Van: I associated this name with an area around the park. The trail showed me, it’s a dense area with ashoka trees. So thick that the temperature can be 3-4 degrees lesser in this part, sun rays barely pass through to the ground.

Ghost Tree: It reflects moon light and keeps peeling itself to become white. Can be seen from the highway, resembles a lady in a white saree. Insects and birds flock to this tree for mating.

Karvee Trees: They flower once in 7 years. Flowers grow together, die together. Tribals use these trees to make huts.

Kanheri Caves: The Park has over 100 caves and was a Buddhist city of trade once upon a time.

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The Ghost Tree
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Bamboo Hut Walk
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View from the Highest Point

The nature trail brought alive a city landmark, which otherwise lays confined to our textbooks. More so, it made me aware of the need to explore my city as a tourist and equally appreciate the surrounding nature.

What have your experiences of rediscovering your city?

Travel date with Mom

This year I planned a long standing solo travel and a hard earned break to celebrate my birthday with myself. When my father and brother came to know of my plan, their first reaction was – take Aai along. For a while, I was that grumpy child not wanting to share my toys with anyone. And she would be the other child waiting to put her shoes finding the smallest opportunity to go out.

Few days later Aai & I boarded an early morning bus to Nashik. My solo holiday break was now going to be shared with her, and my dream of going on a solo trip continues. We enjoyed wine tasting & tour, a lazy lunch, bought some farm fresh vegetables and most importantly relaxed!

This was probably our 4th or 5th holiday together, just me and her. The first time we travelled alone was to Nainital, almost 10 years ago. Remembering all our holidays, I realized we both have agreed or are comfortable on a certain pattern and enjoy it:

  • Non-touristy holiday – Either travel off-season or visit a place that is not very crowded
  • Homestay over hotel – I introduced her to homestays, and now she prefers it over hotel. A good farmhouse / nature stay and home cooked food!
  • Local food – At restaurant I was thinking of ordering some Paneer starter. She quickly said order Misal, eat local food we keep eating Paneer all the time.  My memory jogged to our Coorg holiday where I took her to a Tibetian restaurant, a first for me too
  • Comfortable travel – Bus, train, flight, car; mode of transport does not matter. It has to be comfortable and flexible to travel
  • Relax or enjoy some activity – While I was busy acknowledging birthday wishes, she enters the room and says “they have so many books. I picked up books on travel, philosophy and wildlife”. The wintry mornings meant we woke up late, bathed in the morning sun followed by a hearty breakfast. Realized it was a luxury for both of us

On our way back home she mentioned she trip has given her the confidence of travelling again, eyes have regained some strengthen to look far, sun is not hurting much.. She was finding a new ray of hope amidst her journey of recovering from a major illness.

A different birthday present I gifted myself…

5 Marathi children songs that bring me smile!

A few days back I noticed a young mother’s Tweet about rapping Sassa Sassa Kapus Kasa to her twins. Her Tweet made me nostalgic and next day I woke up humming Asava Sundar Chocolate Cha Bangla. I wondered when was the last time I heard someone humming Marathi children songs… couldn’t recollect.

This weekend we eagerly went to watch second part of Bhai – a biopic on Maharashtra’s favourite writer, director, orator Pu La Deshpande. Bhai is a visual treat for all those who have read, watched, and heard Pu La Deshpande. The simple, emotional and beautiful rendition of Nach Re Mora Ambyachay Vanaat Naach again took me back to my childhood. After almost two decades I still enjoyed this song, mind going back to the time I use to listen to it as a young girl.

A young girl growing up in early 80s I was blissfully unaware about whom the writer, composer or singer was. For me, Naach Re Mora and some of other children songs were a part of my childhood. They bring memories of my aatya feeding me food while reciting Chandoba Chandoba Laplas Ka, me singing Nach Re Mora while playing on the swing… Somethings are so intrinsic to your upbringing that you do not want to associate them with anything else.. Like while watching Bhai I realized that song is written by GaDiMa and composed by Pu La Deshpande..

That evening I found myself searching for these songs on YouTube and reliving this childhood magic. Sharing with you my childhood favourites –

Asava Sundar Chocolate Cha Bangla: I imagined this bunglow while listening to this song. Chocolate chya banglyala toffee cha daar… I perceived this bunglow made of all chocolates from Nanu Mama’s shop, where we usually use to buy toffees and biscuits from. No wonder chocolate is my weakness!

Naach Re Mora: I think this was my all time favourite. I had never seen a real peacock, untill a few years back. My village tales were made of mango trees and rain. This song brought peacock’s picture in our school textbooks live to me. Maybe my liking for rains was subconsciously ingrained by this song?

Zuk Zuk Zuk Agingaadi: I have a funny memory of this song. My father use to take Mumbai local for work. All the stories of my village were related to ST bus or road travel. So I use to think who goes to a village by train?  One day I asked my Aaji, she said some people travel to village by train. The other train travel I associated was with Pune, as visiting Pune meant going by Deccan Queen. Somehow I associated the train in this song with this.. Again I had never visited Pune till then.

Chandoba Chandoba Bhaglas Kaa: Our house had big wooden window overlooking a tall tree. Watching the moon over this tree is one of my distinct childhood memories. As a toddler, my aatya use to make me sit near this window to feed. This song was her way of making me eat.

Gori Gori Pan Phulsakhi Chan, Dada Mala Ek Vahini Aan: I liked the rhythm of this song. I imagined a Vahini been pampered and loved. I got this love from my family in reality. I liked the hot chapattis that Aai prepared. This song refers to Poli and Shikran. I was delighted that Aai’s chapattis are mentioned in the song!

What children songs did you grow-up listening to?

When a rainy day meant happy memories

Sitting in office I was yet again seeing social media feeds of Mumbai’s flooded roads. Uprooted trees, railway tracks flowing with water, cars submerged, colleagues and friends struggling to reach to work. Helpless citizens monitoring the rain situation on social media and WhatsApp groups.

I thought to myself. These are not the memories of a rainy day I had as a kid growing up in this city known for its monsoon. The month of June meant reopening of school, classrooms and corridors filled with the smell of new raincoats and gumboots. We use to look forward to the month of July, a chance to get that one mandatory rainy day holiday.

Staying at Dadar West, travelling to my school in Hindu Colony, Dadar East use to be fun during monsoons. Then too, the low lying areas of Dadar TT, Hindu Colony, Matunga were prone to water logging. On the days it rained heavily and school bus service was suspended, we use to eagerly wade through the water and walk home. Crossing the famous Tilak Bridge, connecting Dadar East and West, on a rainy day with friends is my everlasting school memory. Enjoying corn on cob, tamarind and other roadside picks was our feast.

At home the rainy day meant pampering and playing with friends. Grandmother’s nudge was all it required to bunk school and tuitions. Listening to pitter patter of the rain against our roof, watching the rains lashing against the window was my favourite timepass. Some days we use to venture outside to get wet or watch local boys play football at a garden nearby.

This badaas attitude continued during college as I joined Ruia. Later a long drive to Marine Drive, Worli Seaface was added to the rainy day plan. Then I started working and 26th July happened. The deluge that gripped Mumbai has completely changed what monsoon meant for this city.

Memories since then are flooded with instances of severe water logging, loss of property and lives. While the popular ‘Spirit of Mumbai’ is high, every monsoon has increasingly started affecting the mobility – bringing the city to a standstill. More so, the earlier badass attitude is now clouded and I have to think twice before travelling to my office on a rainy day, which is barely 10 minutes away from my house.

Ladakh – The land of grit and determination

Over the last few years Ladakh has become the biking capital of India. Come June, social media timelines are buzzing with people going for their Ladakh adventure – exploring the hilly terrain and getting mesmerised by its natural beauty. So did I – but by chance.

I was planning a trip with a friend when I read an advertisement of a Ladakh tour package. From that moment I decided Ladakh it is. I started planning a family trip to Ladakh – not a group package but an individual itinerary. The first pit stop was to understand if my parents can manage – most importantly when we are not opting for a group tour. My mother had completed Chardham Yatra many years back, but father had never travelled to the hills. Preparations were in full swing of finding the relevant information, medical precautions to be taken, knowing Dos and Don’ts, etc. My brother was so inspired that he planned his long cherished dream of a bike tour the following year. Hence my second chance of visiting Ladakh came exactly a year later – this time accompanying my brother in a support car.

While we city dwellers are awed by the chilly hill tops, gigantic passes, changing nature, for me the visit to Ladakh is that of grit and determination. Completing the journey requires psychological and physical good health. My parents enjoyed the trip, but I took a little time to acclimatise to the climate. Travelling through the narrow passes, seeing army posts, workers paving the roads, observing the local life gives you a glimpse of what grit must be required to survive in this region. More so, during the winter.

This belief was more strengthened during our second trip. Another lesson on how weather gods are so crucial in the region. Once we crossed Jispa, one of the last points in Himachal, it was rainy and weather started changing fast. As if we were trying to race with the nature to reach Leh in time. Indeed we were lucky. Another group reserved at the same hotel did not reach Leh and returned to Manali. Seeing my brother and his friends cross the icy streams on the bike, sometimes dodging the fiery winds was another proof of strong determination required to navigate through.

This essence was visible in many subtle ways like listening to the tales of our driver, understanding how they cope with the harsh climate and circumstances, striving to protecting the topography and witnessing many labourers working along the way to keep the roads in good condition. What I took back from Ladakh was the people’s will and determination to withstand natural and other calamities and forge ahead steadfastly in their lives.

 

Kalyan Karmakar:Kajol of Food Blogging

What made Finelychopped interesting is unlike other food blogs, it featured common eating places, some hidden gems and made local street vendors the hero

While thinking of a new topic, one name that flashed across my mind was Kalyan Karmakar. On second thoughts, I realised as one of the million social media followers, I have seen him transform from a market researcher, food blogger, curator of food walks, author, panelist to guest speaker… it’s an inspiring journey of following your passion and keep reinventing yourself. Somewhere along it seemed as if I know him, but I don’t know him.

Have you ever come across a situation that you have never met someone personally but still seems like you know that person? We have our favourite authors, sport stars, actors. We follow their work so much that it seems we know them. Internet and social media has made this more common and convenient.

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I started following Finelychopped blog some 6 – 7 years back. What made Finelychopped interesting is unlike other food blogs, it featured common eating places, some hidden gems and made local street vendors the hero. Then the food walks followed. An idea I thought the time had come, but didn’t know how and when to do. These food walks and the blog made regional food and local eateries sexy. Kalyan’s love for Bengali and Parsi food was one of the biggest reason. Over the years, my knowledge of Bengali food has increased thanks to him. His experiments with Maharashtrian food gave me personal happiness. Dadar Food Walk put my neighbourhood favourites and childhood memories on an international platform.

Another thing that distinguishes Kalyan, is his responsiveness and ability to interact with readers. He appreciates feedback, comments and suggestions openly. That’s how I have managed to engage with him. These engagements allowed me to understand him as a person and know some commonalities – like SGI. When I read his experience I realised one of the secrets behind this amazing journey.

That’s perhaps the reason I thought of calling him ‘Kajol of Food Blogging’ – an honest perform straight from the heart, not worried about stardom, the next door foodie !