Categories
Culture

North Eastern and Uttarakhand Food: Explained!

Categories
Culture

Purba Banglar Khabar…

There was a time when kings and governments would try to draw boundaries between regions, claiming each for themselves. But the local populace would try to keep the camaraderie going with their new neighbors based on the one thing that can unite people, transcending all differences – food.

That is how the Dhakai cuisine came into being. It was food that was enjoyed by the people of an undivided India, where the land now called Bangladesh was earlier known as East Pakistan. Dhakai cuisine can trace its roots to the 7th century when Turkey established trade links and ruled the region. Later, Muslims took over, and then the British, which has left a solid impression on the actual Dhakai cuisine. Even the exiled royals, Wajid Ali Shah and Tipu Sultan, who spent their last few days there left a mark on the cuisine.

After India’s partition in 1947 and the Indo-Pak battle of 1971, a large number of people migrated to West Bengal, especially around the border regions, while others moved to different parts of Bangladesh. This explains how the Dhakai cuisine spread throughout the two countries.

Bhuna Khichri is the comfort food that most Bangladeshis run to.
Bhuna Khichri is the comfort food that most Bangladeshis run to.

THE REGIONAL VARIANTS
Dhakai cuisine traditionally emphasizes freshly caught seafood and freshly slaughtered meat as well as the fresh vegetables and lentils that are served with rice. The cuisine offers plenty of spicy or non-spicy options with freshly ground spices climaxing to give a splendid taste despite of the absence of red chilies, tomato and onion.

The cuisine obviously has variations from Bengali food, as people from Bangladesh or Dhaka shifted their base and re-located to various parts of Bengal. It can be broadly categorized under the following:

Western region: Concentrating on Khulna and Jessore areas as well as those close to the West-Bengal cities of Balurghat, Ingrej Bazar, Murshidabad and Dinajpur, the popular dishes here include Fish Head Curry, Dalna, Chachari, Hilsha with mustard, etc. The gravies are slightly sweet and ingredients are often fried before being added to the gravy.

Northern region: The North Bengal area, especially Cooch Bihar, Jalpaiguri and Siliguri also boasts of certain Dhakai traits. The main characteristic of this region’s foods are they are focused on desserts and use banana, raw papaya, raw mango, urad dal and grilled or smoked vegetables.

Southern region: The Sunderban belt has also been influenced in their style of cooking methods. Dry Fish (Shutki), Bamboo shoots,
sea fish, etc. are the specialty of this region, and the people here use lots of chilli flavours and coconut in their preparations.

UNIQUE CHARACTERISTICS
Apart from West Bengal in India, there are pockets in Mumbai, Bangalore and New Delhi where one can enjoy Dhakai cuisine. It is also widely available across certain regions of Europe especially in London, where over 13 restaurants serve this cuisine. Even the Middle East has quite a satisfactory number of people who incorporate this in their staple diet.

Fresh produce, freshly ground spices, dum cooking style and sautéing form the fundamentals of this cuisine. Unlike contemporary Bengali cuisine, which is improvised to cater to customer needs, Dhakai cuisine is more home-style and largely remains unchanged.

What makes this cuisine stand apart is that it derives a natural sweetness from onions, by caramelizing it. Another conventional aspect is that only mustard oil or ghee is used as the cooking medium. Whole black mustard seeds and freshly ground mustard paste are also a typical combination in most dishes. A pungent mustard sauce, called kasundi, forms the base ingredient for fish dishes and
vegetable dishes popular in Dhaka. Some of the well known dishes of Dhakai cuisine include Khasir Gelasi, Morog Pola, Ilish Paturi, Tehri, Kochur Saag and Pati Sapta.

Fresh produce, freshly ground spices, dum cooking style and sautéing form the fundamentals of Dhakai cuisine.
Fresh produce, freshly ground spices, dum cooking style and
sautéing form the fundamentals of
Dhakai cuisine.

POPULAR INGREDIENTS
Dhaka’s main staple food of sweet water fish comes from its river-dominated regions, which are home to thousands of fish types like Hilsa, Rui, Katol, Koi, Pabda, Boal, Citol, Magur, Sing, Mola, Dhlea, Kajoli, Kakchi, Aar, etc.

The staples of Dhakai cuisine are rice, with varieties like Chinigura and Kalijeera, which is a common component of everyday meals, and to a lesser extent, unleavened whole wheat bread like naan.

The five prominent lentils varieties used in most dishes include Bengal gram (chola), pigeon peas (oror), black gram (biuli), and green gram (moong). Pulses are used almost exclusively in the form of ‘dal’, except ‘chhola’, which is often cooked whole for breakfast and is processed into our (beshon).

Various varieties of green vegetables and fruits are available throughout Bangladesh. A host of gourds, roots and tubers, leafy greens, succulent stalks, citrons and limes, green and purple eggplants, red onions, plantain, broad beans, okra, banana tree stems and flowers, green jackfruit sapla, Arbi Stem, kochur loti and red pumpkins, are to be found in the vegetable markets or kacha.

Country chicken, seafood, fish and mutton dishes are favorites across Bangladesh and the cuisine also incorporates various drinks such as Labang, Sorbots. A full Dhakai meal might look like it is meant for those with gargantuan appetites, but the cooking techniques involved actually make it easy to digest. You can easily wolf down Paat Patar Bora (fried jute leaves), then scoop up Khasir Gelasi (lamb curry with potatoes) or Boal Do Pyaza (a fish gravy) with some Polao or Chatur Paratha (bread made from gram our), and then polish off some desserts like Chitoi Pith. Then glug down a couple of glasses of Borhani, a digestive drink, to help you deal with any tummy pangs.

Categories
Culture

Ecuador: More Than Cocoa

Did you know that Ecuador has many active volcanoes and probably the greatest densities of volcanoes globally?

Did you know that all the three species of vampire bats are found in Ecuador?

Did you know that almost 60% of the world’s premium cocoa is produced in Ecuador?

These were some of the facts that Ecuador’s Consul General in India, Héctor Cueva Jácome, revealed. He also spoke about the country’s unique culinary culture, for instance the bizcochos, a shortbread pastry that is special to Cayambe near the country’s capital, Quito.

POPULAR INGREDIENTS
Ecuador has five distinct geographic regions: the Galapagos Islands, the Pacific Coast, the Amazon rain forests, the Cloud Forest and the Andean Sierra Highlands. Each region has its unique cuisines, though there are some similarities too. One such commonality is the use of fresh seafood, especially along the Pacific Coast, the Galapagos Islands and the Amazon.

The use of fresh local produce is very evident in most dishes of the country. Vegetables, beans (a favourite with Ecuadorians) and fruits are cultivated in the highlands and all over the country, which ensures supply of fresh produce all year round.
The use of fresh local produce is very evident in most dishes of the country. Vegetables, beans (a favourite with Ecuadorians) and fruits are cultivated in the highlands and all over the country, which ensures supply of fresh produce all year round.

The use of fresh local produce is very evident in most dishes of the country. Vegetables, beans (a favourite with Ecuadorians) and fruits are cultivated in the highlands and all over the country, which ensures supply of fresh produce all year round.

Rice and corn are part of the staple diet of the country along with some meat and vegetables. The other must-have in every meal in certain parts of the country is plantains and other tropical fruits. This healthy diet accounts for the robust physiques and untiring stamina of the locals!

However, what this country is better known for is its premium quality cocoa, the core ingredient for the one food that has the world swooning – chocolate. In fact, one archaeological study suggests that Ecuador was probably the original home of the cocoa bean.

SOME TRADITIONAL FARE
Like any other country, Ecuador too has some traditional dishes that might not be popular, but are regarded as comfort food by locals. Here is a look at some of them, which include the ingredients that are most commonly found in the cuisine:

FANESCA ECUATORIANA
The folks of Ecuador make the most of the seafood that is amply available to them. This traditional soup is quite special because it is only made once a year – during Easter. It contains a variety of porotos, or beans, some of which are found only in the Andean Sierra highlands including fava beans and cannellini beans. Sometimes mellocos, which are small and very starchy Andean potatoes as well as chochos, also known as lupini beans, are also added to this Easter soup.

Another key ingredient to Fanesca is the Bacalao Seco or dried salt cod, which has to be soaked for 24 hours properly so that the saltiness of the fish does not make the soup bitter.

Empanadas De Viento combines gooey cheese and onions inside a crispy fried empanada that is topped with powdered sugar.
Empanadas De Viento combines gooey cheese and onions inside a crispy fried empanada that is topped with powdered sugar.

LLAPINGACHOS
Potatoes are one of most important crops in Ecuador, especially amongst the Andean highlanders, and there are over 200 varieties of potato found in the country. It is part of most meals, in one form or the other.

Llapingachos is an Ecuadorian dish, which can have different consistencies, either to make patties or thick potato pancakes stuffed with cheese. Also called Yapingachos, they make for a great breakfast or brunch dish, and can be served on their own as an appetizer or even as a full meal accompanied by a tasty peanut sauce or Salsa De Mani, fried egg, sausages, pickled onion and tomato salad, some lettuce, avocado slices and Aji Criollo hot sauce.

EMPANADAS DE VIENTO!
Cheese is another ingredient that makes its presence felt in Ecuadorian cuisine. Empanadas De Viento combines gooey cheese and onions inside a crispy fried empanada that is topped with powdered sugar. This appetizer is often served during breakfast or as an afternoon snack.

]One thing can be said about Ecuadorian cuisine – it is not for the faint hearted. Though exquisite and comforting at the same time, the one thing an average person needs a er a hearty meal is a nice long siesta. Enough said.

Categories
Columns Culture

Navratri: The Story of the Nine Nights!

The air is fragrant with signs of festivity and fervor as India is witnessing one of its longest and grandest festival observed by Hindus- The Sharad (autumn) Navratri that usually falls in the months of September or October, also called the Ashwin month according to the Hindu calendar. This festival which spans nine nights and ten days assumes diverse colours and shape as it’s celebrated differently in different regions of India. There are four seasonal Navratris out of which two have greater celebratory significance-The Chaitra Navratri celebrated in March/ April and the Sharad Navratri. This year the latter began on 21st September and completes on 30th September.

There are two beliefs around Navratri. One says that a fast was advocated by the sage Narada to Lord Rama, so that he could eventually kill Ravana, the demon god. After the completion of the fast, Lord Rama attacked Ravana and killed him in Lanka. This is observed mostly in northern and western India. The second story says that Goddess Durga fought with the demon god Mahishasura for nine days from Pratipada till Navami and on Navami night killed him. She is thus, revered as the destroyer of evil. This is observed as Durga Puja in North eastern, Eastern and Southern states of India. In both the festivities there is a celebration of victory of Dharma (virtue) over Adharma (evil and vice).

Ravan Dahan- Triumph of good over evil image from Shutterstock.

In North India, the story of Rama’s victory over Ravana is enacted by performers in rural and urban centres, inside temples or temporary stages, over many episodes for nine days. This is called the Ramlila .On the final day, when Rama vanquishes Ravana with his bow, the festival is completed by burning effigies of Ravana and his brothers Meghnad and Kumbhakaran. People dress up in traditional attire, observe fasts, offer prayers to the lord and go around distributing sweets to relatives and friends. In Gujarat, people celebrate it through the colourful dance form of Garba.

Durga Puja synonymous with Navratri festival is the most important annual festival to many Hindus, and a major social and public event in other eastern and northeastern states of India, where it dominates the religious life and is like a carnival. The first day is Mahalaya which is spent honouring Durga and paying respect to all departed souls. It marks the end of the period called Shradh or Pitru Paksha. The occasion of Durga Puja is celebrated with thousands of temporary stages usually made of bamboo called pandals; built in community squares or parks, roadside shrines and large Durga temples in West Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar, eastern Nepal, Assam, Tripura and nearby regions. It is also celebrated by some Shakta Hindus as a private home-based autumn ritual.

Background Durga Puja Festival in Bengal in India image from Shutterstock.

However, it is on the sixth day that the goddess is welcomed into homes and pandals and the celebrations are formally inaugurated. On the seventh, eighth and ninth, the puja takes place. After the nine nights, on the tenth day called Vijayadashami, a grand procession is held with pomp and fanfare where the clay idols are ceremoniously walked to a river or ocean side for a joyous and emotional farewell to Durga. Many mark their faces with vermilion or dress in the colour red. It is an emotional day for some devotees, often characterized by emotional goodbye songs. After the immersion, Hindus distribute sweets and gifts, visit their friends and family members and pay respects.

Devotees fast and worship nine forms of the Goddess Durga also called Shakti. On day one (Pratipada), Shailaputri is worshipped.On Dwitiya goddess Brahmacharini is worshipped. Goddess Chandraghanta is worshipped on Tritiya. On Chaturthi, Devi Kushmanda is worshipped. Goddess Skandamata is worshipped on Panchami. Devi Katyayini is honoured on Shasti. On Saptami, Devi Kalaratri is worshipped. On Ashtami, Mahagauri is worshipped. The last day of the festival also known as Navami, devotees pray to Devi Siddhidaatri.

Indian Fasting Recipes, Navratri Food image from Shutterstock.

Some people observe fast strictly for all nine days, most people fast only on the first and the last days, while a few do not take alcohol, garlic, onions and non vegetarian items. During this festival only a few food items are considered appropriate while a few are to be avoided. Much importance is given to the consumption of dairy products, juices, whole fruits and light vegetables. The concept of fasting has many reasoning. Religion states that it brings us closer to the divine. Other cultures believe that abstinence arouses spiritual purification leading to a stronger willpower. It is also seen as a path to emulate and inculcate in oneself, virtues like self-discipline and self belief.

The significance of worshipping Shakti for nine days follows the belief that there resides an asura or demon in us who only loves and enjoys the materialistic things in life. Often, this asura overtakes the divinity in human beings. So, it becomes necessary to perform prayers to Shakti to liberate ourselves from the trappings of the qualities of asura. Thus, one has to do this for nine days to purify one self. Two other religions observe also worship the goddess in Navaratri-Sikhs revere Shakti worshipping as attributed by Guru Govind Singh. The second guru, Guru Angad, too was a Durga devotee. The Jain religion too observes this festival through social and cultural celebrations of Hindus. Wishing all a happy and peaceful Durga Puja and Navratri.

Featured Image: Durga Puja Kolkata, image from Shutterstock.

Categories
Columns Culture

The Significance of Ganesha Chaturthi

He sits on a quiet corner in a brightly lit alcove in a hospice. He also is a display among others of his ilk in a drawing room adding to the décor or is the little metallic locket adorning a woman’s neck. At times, he finds himself in print in the front side of a traditional Hindu marriage card or makes headlines in news papers being the object of devotion and adoration my millions of devotees worldwide, a certain time of the year.

He is Ganesha; The elephant headed god revered by millions not just in Maharashtra where Ganesh Chaturthi is the main festival but also in numerous Hindu homes across the length and breadth of India and elsewhere. Everyone loves to love this adorable god-the son of Parvati and Lord Shiva. Yes, this festival is much about Bombay and often finds top preference among many a celebrity home of Bombay’s tinsel town. But who is Ganesha and what’s the story of Ganesh Chaturthi. Let’s find out …

Lord Ganesha image from Shutterstock.

Lord Ganesha, is the harbinger of luck and new beginnings. Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated in his honor signifying his birthday. Most Hindu ceremonies are preceded by praying to Ganesha who is considered the Lord of arts, science and wisdom. Worshipped by 108 different names, Vinayak, Ekadanta, Ganapati, Devavrata are some of the popular ones. Many legends surround his creation. These are recorded in the Ganesha Khanda of the ‘Brahma Vivartha Purana.’ There are two versions of which the first says that when the Devas requested Lord Shiva and Parvati to create a Vighnakartaa (obstacle creator) in the path of demons (Rakshasas) and a Vighnahartaa (Obstacle averter) for the Devas, Lord Shiva and Parvati created Ganesha.

The other legend states that Goddess Parvati created her son Ganesha out of dirt off her body while bathing and set him to guard her door while she was completing her bath. Shiva who was out, on returning was stopped by Ganesha from entering. In a fit of anger and tussle Lord Shiva severed Ganesha’s head. Parvati was enraged and vowed to cause destruction unless her son’s life was brought back. Shiva promised to revive him back to life and sent the creator Brahma to search for a head for him. Brahma went in search of a head facing north of a dead person and could manage only the head of an elephant. Shiva fixed the elephant’s head on the child and brought him back to life.

In the Ganapathi Upanishad, Ganesha is identified with the Supreme Self. Here too there are two stories associated with the lord- The Curse of the Moon and who is Elder?
Legend says that on the night of Ganesh Chaturthi the one who glances at the moon, will be falsely accused. The story goes that Ganesha was a devout lover of sweets. Once, a devotee offered him sweets and he happily collected it during the day. At day end while returning home, he tripped and fell, scattering all the sweets on the ground. As he picked the sweets in embarrassment and looked up, he noticed Chandra Dev, the Moon God laughing at him. This angered Ganesha and he cursed the Moon for laughing at him. The Moon then apologized to Ganesha. The latter forgave seeing the sincerity of the moon, but he said that from that day forward the moon would no longer be full all the time and would disappear and reappear over 15 days. He then stated that since the moon had laughed at him on Chaturthi, thereafter anyone who would glance at the moon would be under an ill omen. To rid oneself of this curse, one had to listen or recite the story of the syamantka jewel, found in the Puranas-the ancient Hindu texts.

Another story is that once Ganesha and his older brother Lord Kartikeya had an argument over who was the elder. It was then decided that their father Lord Shiva would proclaim the elder of the two. Shiva stated that whoever came back first from a tour of the world from the starting point would have the right to be called “elder”. Kartikeya embarked on a world tour on his vehicle, the peacock while the little wise Ganesha circled in worship around his parents and asked to be bestowed with the title of elder. Lord Shiva then asked him that since he hadn’t gone around the world how could he demand to be called victorious. But the little one had an immediate answer that, by going around his parents, he had conquered the universe as they represent the entire universe. So there ended the argument and a beaming Lord Shiva proclaimed Ganesha the elder of the two brothers. Parvati gifted him a fruit as prize.

Indian Festival – Indian sweet food called Modak offered as prasad or prashad or chadhava over green leaf to Lord Ganesha on Ganesh Chaturthi with puja or pooja thali and decorated with flowers image from Shutterstock.

In Maharashtra, huge pandals are erected and the deity is worshipped for ten days starting from Shukla Chaturthi and ends on Anant Chaturdashi. Ganesha is also worshipped in Thailand, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Nepal and China. No festival is complete without some typical sweets associated with it. Modaks (a rice flour dumpling with coconut, jaggery, dry fruit stuffing), laddoos, gujiyas are popular fares in most temples and private offerings.

Beneath the food, fun and story, there is a larger picture that conveys its true meaning. It can be said that Ganesha is the lord of Ganas, which implies all elements of life from insects, animals, humans as well as celestial beings. All contribute to the natural process of creation ranging from weather, natural phenomena among the five elements of air, water, wind, fire and earth including each unique body processes in the animal world. So, to maintain balance one must honor the Ganas. Since Ganesha is the lord of Ganas, by bowing to him, we receive his grace that keeps our life peaceful and out of obstacles. He is the magician that vanishes our woes.

Cover Image Courtesy: Lord Ganesha image from Shutterstock.

 

Categories
Culture

Chole Bhature: Bhaiyya, Ek Plate Lagana!

I doubt there are many people out there in the north of India who won’t feel sorely tempted by the sight of a piping hot plate of chole bhature. Most of us walking through a busy marketplace can immediately and usually flawlessly detect the presence of freshly fried bhaturas and with the unerring instincts of an animal stalking its prey, make our way to the source, and say, “Bhaiya, ek plate lagana!”

img_20161012_140534

img_20161012_140450
The chole is packed tightly to one side of a large pan placed on a slow fire, and water added over the period of the working day to make a spicy gravy.

On the face of it, a platter of chole bhature is as simple as they come a deep fried carb, a spicy ladle-full of chole, some pickle, a handful of sliced onions and there’s your quintessential platter, never mind what it’s going to do to our arteries. Nearly every part of a chole bhature platter varies from place to place and vendor to vendor.

If you choose to eat at a Haldiram’s or other such outlet, including restaurants and the like, you will likely end up eating a dish that’s technically correct in the manner of execution, but little else is usually present in these versions, including the flavours that have a million of us hooked to the stuff. No, a restaurant definitely isn’t the right place for chole bhature, nor are most of the famous names reliable any longer. If chole bhature is what you crave, it must be searched for, indeed hunted down on the streets of your ciity. Ask friends and family for the locations and description of their favourite chole bhature wallahs. Read blogs, remembering to avoid those that only have invited restaurant reviews; they are unlikely to know what they’re speaking of.

When you’ve begun your quest, you’ll begin noticing the additional notes played by different vendors, inserted into the symphony that is chole bhature.

img_20161012_141605

Before I begin describing the different variations, perhaps a brief description of the base product is in order. Each platter has two primary components; a carb and a curry. The carb is always made of refined flour (maida), leavened with yogurt (among other agents) and left to ferment, usually overnight. When ready for use, the dough is usually very soft, limp and stretchy, and is rolled out into a round or elliptical shape prior to being dunked into hot oil and deep fried. A platter of chole bhature is usually accompanied by two bhature. The curry comprising chole is usually a dark and somewhat spicy, though not chilli hot concoction that goes beautifully with deep fried bhature.

Now here’s where the fun begins. What I’ve described so far is just the composition of a basic platter. Quite a few vendors add a single, large piece of a boiled potato, tossed in spices as well. I’m not sure when or why this started though it is visible in nearly platter of chole bhature you’ll find in the north of India.

And then there are the pickles, oh lord, the pickles!

img_20161012_140926

In nearly every other application we’re used to somewhat aged pickles with a certain sophistication in the number and types of spices used. Not so here. They likely assemble the pickles in large vats and serve them soon after. Usually comprising carrots, raw mangoes and green chillies, these pickles taste fresh, spicy, chilli hot and oh so piquant. The piquancy is actually a required element in order to offset the greasiness of the bhaturas, that are usually dripping with oil.

The other element that quite a few purveyors of chole bhature include with their platters is green chutney, which each stall is likely to have a different recipe for, with the colour likely being the only common point. There’ll be mint, coriander, green chilies, tamarind, lemon, ginger, salt and any one of a hundred other possible ingredients.

Finally, there’s the salad; usually a handful of sliced onions.

img_20161012_140619

Bhaturas come in different avatars too. Restaurants among other outlets serve a somewhat stiff, thick, bloated version that is thick and spongy in texture – these usually use yeast, referred to by street vendors as khamir. Another version is the type you’ll find in food courts; huge and round and very very crisp. Speaking for myself, I dislike both. The former usually has no particular taste or character, and the latter are usually much too oily and so overdone that one ends up eating bhatura chips. And then there are two of what I believe to be the right kind – hot and soft with the mildest upper crust and the second, warm, soft and somewhat rubbery. Don’t ask me why; I love these two varieties and heartily recommend you try them too, if you haven’t already. The last two versions use active yogurt as a leavening agent, the resulting dough should be used within two hours or may over ferment and become sour and/or bready.

img_20161012_141614

So there you are; the essential platter of one of north India’s favourite foods chole bhature. Try a portion and just eat a bite with a spoonful of chole. Then add some soft, spicy potato to another morsel and try that. Go a step further with a dash of sour and spicy pickle. Venture deeper into the matrix by adding a dollop of chutney and experience how its acidity brings a whole new world of flavours to your palate. Finally, accompany everything with a slice or two of raw onion and revel in its pungent flavours and crunchy texture.

That, ladies and gentlemen is how we ought to eat a platter of chole bhature each time we come across it!

Categories
Culture

Your Fortnight (1st to 15th October) at a Glance

Fortnight at a glance: This fortnight is an onset for some major changes that are about to take place in the coming one month. What may seem like a swift roller-coaster ride at the start may only be a layered sum of some of the nicest things that wait to be gradually unfolded with the passage of time. Keep an open mind, and be a silent observer to the wonders happening around you.!

Aries

Zodiac signs - Aries

Something is not working for you in the domian of interpersonal relationships. Perhaps, it is the lack of communication. Do not leave understandings to chance. If you think a relationship is dear to you, no matter at what level, you ought to give it a fair chance.  And remember, this shall (most obviously) lead to a substantial amount of nostalgia.

Health Tip: Cutting yourself from others may result in lonliness and hence mental displeasure. Keep yourself busy, by staying surrounded by the right people.
Lucky Number: 1
Lucky Colour: Baby Powder White

Taurus

Zodiac signs - Taurus
You seem to be at the peak of a romantic period. If there is anything at all that you wish to confess, do so now. Do not think that your current happiness shall vaporize the moment you come out with your confessions. Instead, use this period as an opportunity to pour your heart out, knowing that the person in front of you is someone you can trust the most.

Health Tip: A couple spa or retreat seems to be a perfect reason to spend time with your sweetheart. Go ahead! Plan your mini-vacation.
Lucky Number: 7
Lucky Colour: Squash Orange

Gemini

Zodiac signs - Gemini

It is a good time to convert long term relationships or friendships into partnerships. If you’ve been looking around for people you can trust your business with, look no further. The right people are just around you, just that you never realised. A small word of caution – allow the transfer of trust to be gradual and not sudden or abrupt.

Health Tip: For all those of you who require a fair amount of motivation to exercise, find yourself a great partner who’d inspire the best within you.
Lucky Number: 8
Lucky Colour: Heather Purple

Cancer

Zodiac signs - Cancer
You may just have visitors from your past – old neighbours, folks from your native town/city, or even childhood companions. The hitch here is that though this may seem like a pleasurable opportunity, you may just not be prepared to welcome anyone amid your hectic schedules. Now that you’ve been told, try and stay prepared.

Health Tip: Chances of you falling ill are high at present. The least you can do for yourself is to not neglect your health in even the slightest manner.
Lucky Number: 2
Lucky Colour: Porpoise Gray

Leo

Zodiac signs - Leo
Time to experience major change in place dear Leos. You may just have to shift out from your home due to a considerable amount of refurbishing or you may simply shift base all of a sudden. Whatever is the case, make sure that your next move in terms of a pad is a wise one and serves all your purposes.

Health Tip: Taking a second opinion is always a good thing. But, make sure you’re in safe hands even when it comes to that. Try not taking things lightly.
Lucky Number: 9
Lucky Colour: Blush Red

Virgo

Zodiac signs - Virgo
There was a reason why you worked days & nights alike. And, you do not owe an explanation for your actions to anyone. Because, the results of your foresight and hardwork are about to show. Oncce that happens, your family shall be proud of you and naysayers shall be left red-faced. Let karma takes its course.

Health Tip: Your limbs need special attention, at least till the end of November. Exercise is the best option to keep yourself away from trouble.
Lucky Number: 5
Lucky Colour: Butter Yellow

Libra

Zodiac signs - Libra
You’re on an emotional high and it looks next to impossible to get you down to the ground. Make sure you have your support system in place. Do not be overtly confident about things going your way, for one thing going awry can trigger off a few other unpleasant events too.

Health Tip: Your health seems to show no concerns as of now. So enjoy life to the fullest.
Lucky Number: 6
Lucky Colour: Persian Blue

Scorpio

Zodiac signs - Scorpio
You need to stop underestimating the power of public support. You need to realise that as an individual, there are limitations to what you do, and that teamwork is always superior when compared to a solo show. All you need to do is start trusting the people around and try and make the most of the resultant unity.

Health Tip: If you’re taking any kind of prescribed medication, make sure you do not miss your doses.
Lucky Number: 1
Lucky Colour: Flamingo Pink

Sagittarius

Zodiac signs - Sagittarius
You seem to be revelling in a world of your own. Yes, ignorance is bliss, but not when it reaches a point of deception. While you may continue to be least bothered about petty opinions, make sure you don’t let go of the ones that count. And for this, it is going to be vital that you segregate close ones from the rest.

Health Tip: Don’t let go of any sign (big or small) that your body gives you. If there’s anything unusual, simply get a medical opinion.
Lucky Number: 4
Lucky Colour: Crocodile Green

Capricorn

Zodiac signs - Capricorn
You are at your strongest best as of now. Though you may reflect modesty with regards to the power position that you find yourself in, you do know in hearts-of-hearts that it has taken a lot to reach there. Don’t forget that this position also puts you at the top, which in turn may end up making you vulnerable. Strike the right balance and you shall be good to go.

Health Tip: Aerobics is a perfect way to help channelise your energies and keep you going.
Lucky Number: 3
Lucky Colour: Lime

Aquarius

Zodiac signs - Aquarius
The pace of life has slowed down considerably. Well, this is going to get aggreviated further in the next few days. While there is nothing much that you’re going to be able to do, you can simply sit back and enjoy this slow-mo ride. For all those of you who’re hyper-energetic, please understand that there is no need to feel guilty about things you can’t control.

Health Tip: Revisit your hobbies. Follow them. And stay active.
Lucky Number: 7
Lucky Colour: Copper Brown

Pisces

Pisces. Zodiac sign.
All the results that looked clogged in an bottomless time-warp, are about to gush into your life. You may find yourself in a situation where due to too many positive results, you may feel challenged while taking decisions. Make sure you have your priorities set in a hierarchy that you’re convinced with, so that life becomes simple when you’re pressed on time.

Health Tip: An illness from the past may come back to haunt you. If you have a certain history, it is adviced that you exercise proper precaution.
Lucky Number: 6
Lucky Colour: Sable Black

10552445_10152635181615948_4181538293322477783_n

A professional Tarot / Angel Cards Reader & Reiki Practitioner for the last 7 years, Sonum is an ardent believer in the Karmic circle. Her practices steer clear of rigid predictions, and focus greatly on guiding / assisting folks to enhance their lives by making informed choices and taking sound decisions.

Sonum is based out of Mumbai and can be reached at +91 96654 88877 or tarotlyyours@gmail.com.

Categories
Culture

The Legend of Ganesha

I love stories. Who doesn’t? Especially the kind that are passed on by previous generations over dinner table conversations. The person regaling the audience taking their own sweet time to build the momentum, creating anticipation, pausing at the most inopportune moments and finally wrapping it all up in a beautiful bundle. Mysteries unraveled, lessons learnt, countless hours spent on rumination and with each passing year, a new perspective gained on the original legend.

The Birth of Ganesha

There are several versions, at least four that I am aware of, of how Lord Ganesha was created, but the one that appeals to me the most is where Parvati creates him. Legend has it that Nandi, the bull and the bodyguard for Shiva is asked to not allow anyone inside the house whilst Parvati goes for her daily bath. Nandi, unable to refuse Shiva allows him in at his request. This causes anger and resentment in Parvati for she finds that she has no one as loyal to her as to Shiva. Not one to bow down, she goes on to create her own; a little young boy out of turmeric and asks him to guard the doors whilst she follows her ritual.

Hindu God Ganesha. Ganesha Idol.

Soon enough, Shiva arrives and expresses his desire to go inside his own house. The little boy, having been told otherwise refuses Shiva the permission for same. Angered, Shiva sends his entourage to fight the boy. In no time, Shiva’s army is defeated. Realising that this is no ordinary boy Shiva himself takes up his weapons and slays the the boy, chopping off his head. Parvati, by now having finished her bath returns to find her little boy slain and lying on the floor.

Deeply angered, Parvati vows to cause destruction everywhere for the wrong that has occurred. By now, Shiva whose anger has subsided, pleads with Parvati to calm down. She agrees to do so on two conditions; firstly asking that her boy be brought back to life and that he should always be prayed to first before offering prayers to any other God giving him the status of Ganapati i.e., ‘The Lord of all’. Shiva sends the Creator Brahma to bring the head of the first being he finds in the North direction and thus the elephant is the first to be found whose head is fixed to the little boy and he is brought to life.

The instinct to protect her own creation to such an extent that not only was she willing to pick cudgels up against the Creator and the Trinity but also, that they had to drop down on their knees is an extremely powerful message.

A similarity between all of us is our love for food. Legend has it that once brought back to life there were huge offerings made of coconuts, bananas, laddoos, modaks, undrallu, gujiyas. Having had a hearty meal, Ganesha was going on a ride on his Mooshika (mouse), perhaps an example of a simple existence, when he slips, somersaults and falls on the floor and his tummy splits wide open causing all the food to roll down on the ground.

maharashtrian festival food, sweet modak, made up of coconut

As a child I thought this a hilarious scene and I do not blame the moon for thinking so too. But, mothers! Parvati would not have any of it and, angered that her son was being laughed at and bullied by the moon she lands him a curse saying that, whoever sees the moon on this fourth (Chaturthi) of Bhadra (September) will be falsely accused or go through apaninda with repercussions.

At this point, all the Gods complained and requested a way out. So, Parvati agreed, saying as long as on this day, one took a bath, offered prayers and prasad to Ganesha along with listening to the story of Samantakamani, even if they did see the moon, the effect will be nullified.

Don’t you love the way mythology operates with so many get-out clauses?

The Story of SamantakaMani

One day, in Dwaparayug, Krishna, the cowherd was milking a cow when he sees the reflection of moon in the bowl of milk he begins to drink. Realising that he will soon be falsely accused he braces himself for the repercussions. (At this point I have always wondered, how Parvati asked to listen to the story even before it actually took place!) Never mind, it does get interesting.

Satrajit, a Yadava nobleman, father of Satyabhama and a devotee of sun- god was given the glorius Samantaka gem. Krishna had once asked Satrajit for the same and Satrajit had refused him. Instead, he gave it to his brother Prasenjit who wore it and went on a hunting expedition. Prasenjit dies after a scuffle with a lion in the forest. The disappearance of Prasenjit in mysterious circumstances makes all suspect Krishna as the culprit due to the Samantaka jewel. Krishna realises the reason for this accusation and decides to disprove everyone.

Closeup of Indian God and Goddess Sri krisna and Radha Idol for sale in the market

Krishna on reaching the forest, finds Prasenjit’s skeleton, a dead lion, and a few yards away a bear and his children playing with the jewel. Refusing to give the jewel to Krishna, the father bear, Jambavant fights for 28 days with Krishna and finally realises that he is fighting reincarnated Vishnu. He drops his weapons, gives his daughter Jambavati’s hand in marriage to Krishna along with the jewel.

Krishna returns the jewel to Satrajit. Satrajit, too realises his mistake and offers his daughter Satyabhama’s hand in marriage to Krishna who gladly accepts and all is well again in the world. Although, it began as difficult times eventually the episode was a blessing in disguise for Krishna.

The way I see it

His simple existence (no fancy chariots), his desire for food making him as mortal as all of us, his wit and ability for problem solving (remember the three rotations of his parents!), loved by one and all, isn’t he a true mascot of peace and harmony?

Do you share such stories with the younger generation? What new things could you share with us? Do write in the comments below.

 

Categories
Columns Culture

A Thousand Years of Fusion

Parsi Food, the words evoke images of Dhansakh and Patra ni Machhi in most people’s minds. But there’s much more to the cuisine of this much beloved community epitomised by philanthropy and eccentricity in equal measure. The Parsis arrived in India as refugees from Iran, a little more than a thousand years ago and first settled on the Gujarat coast. Legend has it that the leader of the earliest groups went to meet a local chieftain to seek asylum. The chieftain showed him a bowl brimming with milk and said his land was like that bowl, with no room for more. The leader of the refugees sprinkled sugar into the milk and said, like the sugar, he and his people would not only blend into the milk but would improve it too. And thus the Parsis remained in India, and not only did they blend in, they certainly added plenty of sweetness to the land.

A Rich Food Heritage

 Traditional India : Children - Enfants Parsis

In Iran their diet included plenty of meat and wheat, punctuated with a profusion of fruit which was also dried to last through the year, pulses, herbs, a few spices, saffron, onions and garlic. Bread was a big component of the meal and they were skilled bakers. In India they found an abundant variety of fish, fresh vegetables, fruits, herbs, a wide range of spices, and coconuts. Most of modern Parsi cuisine that we see in India is a result of a fusion of Persian with Gujarati and coastal dishes, with influences from British cuisine, along with a dash of Portuguese thrown in.

There was no Dhansakh in Persia, nor was there any Patra ni Machhi. However we see Persian ancestry in the Pullaos, and in various other preparations that use dried fruit like apricots, raisins, currants, and saffron.

Evolving Classics

Thus were born classics like Patra ni Machhi that uses coriander and coconut, the vividly red Parsi curries that use coconut, dried red chilies and poppy seeds, the Patio which uses vinegar, red chilies, tomatoes, and is garnished with vegetables like drumsticks and baby brinjals, Lagan nu Custard which is a classic British egg and milk custard with cardamom and nutmeg added to the mix and topped with nuts and dried fruit, to name a few. There was no Dhansakh in Persia, nor was there any Patra ni Machhi. However we see Persian ancestry in the Pullaos, and in various other preparations that use dried fruit like apricots, raisins, currants, and saffron.

Parsi Prawn Patio_1000

Navroze, the ‘New Day’, is the first day of the New Year and brings with it hope for a new beginning, celebrated with feasting and family outings to plays and concerts.

Festivals and Celebrations

August is a month of celebration with three important days – there’s Pateti, Navroze, and Khordad Saal. Pateti is the last day of the year and is a relatively solemn occasion where one reflects on the deeds of the year gone by; taking stock of the good and bad one has done, and resolves on doing better in the forthcoming year. Navroze, the ‘New Day’, is the first day of the New Year and brings with it hope for a new beginning, celebrated with feasting and family outings to plays and concerts. Khordad Saal is the day of the Prophet Zoroaster’s birth. All three days are marked with visits to the Agiary (fire temple) and plenty of good food.

An invitation to a Navjote (initiation) or Lagan (wedding) is quite coveted, for the guest is guaranteed to be wined and dined in style. In the old days a wedding feast menu featured mutton dishes from start to finish. The menu featured Aleti Paleti (pan fried offal in a spicy gravy), Bhaji Dana ma Gos (mutton cooked in fresh greens and peas), Khattu Gos (mutton cooked in curd) and a sumptuous mutton pullao or plain rice accompanied by Masala ni Daar (spicy daal). Mhowdi, a liqueur made from the mahua flowers, would be served in little silver cups called ‘fuliyas’.

Parsi Chicken Farcha_1000

The Wonder that is Eggs

The advent of poultry farms and broiler chicken has changed the Parsi diet considerably. Eggs have always ruled the roost in Parsi kitchens and there is an endless variety of egg preparations, the most well-known being ‘Sali per Eeda’ or eggs on straw potatoes. Kasa per Eeda or eggs on something is an entire chapter in Parsi cuisine where eggs are steamed on top of a variety of bases. The base could be leftover vegetables, a simple mix of onions, tomatoes, and spices, a piquant kheema, or something as decadent as clotted cream! Fish also gained popularity and today, no Parsi feast is complete without Patra ni Machhi or Sahs ni Machhi made with pomfrets, the Parsi’s favourite fish.

To Sum it Up

While the Parsi loves proteins more, there is quite a variety of vegetarian recipes in the repertoire – much to most non Parsis’ surprise. Granted, most vegetable recipes have some meat added ‘to make it palatable’ but there are plenty of completely meatless vegetable preparations too, no doubt the result of intermingling with local communities and the sheer abundance of vegetables in India. The cuisine today is a wonderful mix of original Persian preparations with strong local influences starting in Gujarat, going south along the western coast as they moved towards Bombay and beyond, right down till Goa. A thousand years of fusion has resulted in a unique cuisine that celebrates local produce and ingredients and yet holds on to the rich culinary heritage of the land of its origin.