My thoughts on experiences this far…
Saturday August 18th 2018

Joys of reading on ebookreaders

Recently, a friend remarked that he still sees paperbooks at our home, and asked what do we enjoy using the most to read books—paperbooks, the iPad, the iPod Touch or the Kindle? My answer was ­­­­the Kindle. I’ve meant to share my joys of using a seemingly unglamourous ebookreader for reading and reasons for choosing to do so…

My books with me where I go. This is what I love the most about owning an ebookreader. I carry around 800+ books effortlessly in my shoulder-bag and have the flexibility to read any of them sitting in a park or waiting someplace without the need for the WiFi.

No losing books from memory anymore. This applies to both my mental memory and the

Image courtesy Amazon

hardware I use. I used to forget the books I had read if I didn’t see them on the physical shelves at home. Now with the combination of the ebookreader and the home computer acting as my main repository, I don’t forget my reads for too long. They remain on a computer’s hard disk or in my purchased archives on Amazon even after I’ve removed them from the ebookreader.

Annotation is beautiful. I was never comfortable in marking up a paperbook. But mostly I was concerned that my personal observations would be there for borrowers to know. With the ebookreader, I liberally annotate and highlight text and have it all there in a single file to re-read and be reminded of those thoughts. Further, the beauty of annotating on the Kindle is that one’s highlights remain in one’s possession even after the source book has been removed from the device. Lovely, isn’t it?

Interestingly, I’ve learnt that annotating while reading is a woman-thing! I see that at home too–my husband and son don’t feel compelled to use the Kindle’s keyboard as much as I do. I’d be keen to correct this impression if other males feel otherwise.

Multiple reads remember the last read position. I’ve said this elsewhere that the ebookreader remembers my last read position in my multiple ongoing reads so it takes away the pain of managing that aspect as one must in paperbooks.

Buying of books now a liberating exercise. Instant gratification isn’t a bad thing when it comes to reading. I acquire books more frequently and swiftly on the ebookreader than I ever did through brick-n-mortar shops. I don’t have to make calls and urge the local shops to arrange books I seek as I can buy them instantly for the reading device.

So much that is free is mine to read. This aspect thrills me like few others do. Gutenberg or Feedbooks have all those classics for me to read that either I never got around to reading in my youth or found too expensive to buy as paperbooks. It’s all there for me to acquire painlessly now and read. And, I’m trudging along slowly through such wonderful resources.

In-built dictionary good to beat inertia. I was always interested in broadening my vocabulary but now cringe even less at stopping at a word long enough, to bring the cursor to it, and know it better.

Distraction free reading. No glamour of a backlit screen or lure of multitasking means that I use my ebookreader to simply read books. Even though it allows me to turn on the WiFi to browse the Amazon store or the Net, its purpose is clear—reading straight text. Therefore, I like the focus it’s helping me maintain.

Then, to those readers who already use ebookreaders but remain skeptical about their value:

Share reads, not the device. An ebookreader like the Kindle is a single-owner device. You get one to share with another member in the family and you’d always be apologizing for using it. Figure out ways to share your ebooks with other family members but do go ahead and acquire an ereader specifically for your own use.

Don’t banish paperbooks. ­­It doesn’t have to be a case of scoffing at either paperbooks or ereaders. We can adopt both in our life and use what works most effectively. I haven’t given up on paperbooks. Not yet, anyway. Strangely, many times they’re priced far cheaper than ebooks and easy enough to order from Flipkart so why wouldn’t I avail of that option? Then, many books are still publishing only as paperbooks…and why should my preference for e-resources preclude paper material from my purview? Won’t that be a ridiculous logic to keep?

But paperbooks will go away! Yes, I too miss colourful and glossy covers of paperbooks like many people but I’m not willing to forsake so much flexibility just for cover art. And, no I do not buy the argument of paperbooks promoting socializing—I do not travel by public transport regularly to make friends through my reads. I’m happier to make friends, and stay connected to the old ones, by sharing my impressions of reads on Goodreads or elsewhere instead.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on paper vs. ebook reading, and whether it should even be a matter of concern for readers.

Sindhi Food: Sai Bhaji

At a friend’s request, I’ll cover a few Sindhi recipes beginning with Sai Bhaji—a favourite spinach preparation in Sindhi families. Sai in Sindhi means green and Bhaji is vegetable so the dish is simply a green vegetable…but not all green vegetables are called Sai Bhaji in Sindhi cooking, only this one gets that name. Over the years, my mother has believed in teaming it up with tava-fried baingan slices that are topped with dry spices (somewhat like this picture shows but should have powdered amchoor/red chilli showing on top), and Bhuggal Chawar or brown rice – long grain rice browned with fried onions–also shown in that picture but needn’t have peas in them.

Here’s what you’d need for it:

Chopped garlic – 4 fat cloves or 8-9 thin ones

Ginger – minced to measure 1/2 teaspoon

1 large onion – thinly sliced

Channa dal (chickpea dal) – half cup – soaked for 30 min

Spinach – 500 gms – chopped

Methi (fenugreek leaves) – a handful

Tomatoes – 2 roughly chopped

1 medium potato – peeled and chopped in quarters

Green chillies – 2 slit into 2 pieces

Salt/red chilli powder/haldi

Cooking oil – 1 tablespoon

Now to cook it all,

Fry garlic for 30 seconds in a pressure cooker

Add the sliced onion and brown it with garlic (5 minutes)

Reduce the flame and add the washed and chopped spinach and methi

Make a little depression in the middle of spinach and put in washed and drained channa dal—making sure the dal doesn’t touch the bottom of the cooker as it may burn

Quickly add the rest of the things one after the other, which are: 2 slit chillies, minced ginger, chopped tomatoes, potato pieces, salt, red chilli powder and haldi (turmeric)

If the heap of vegetables is too high, cover the cooker with a plate for a minute so the spinach shrinks up and leaves some room on top.

Shut the cooker (without adding any water)

After the first whistle, let the vegetables cook for 15 min on a slow flame and then switch off the flame.

As the pressure is released, open the cooker and mash the vegetables quite thoroughly with a wooden masher in a circular and forward-backward motion.

Taste the spinach, add more salt if needed. Add 1/3rd cup of water if the mixed spinach feels too dense. It should look thicker than pureed tomatoes. The channa dal may need conscious mashing with the wooden masher.

Once the dal and vegetables look well mashed, give it all a quick boil.

End it with a tempering of bits of garlic fried in 2 teaspoons of oil for a smokey and glazed look. I usually avoid this step but seasoned Sindhi cooks love to see oil floating on their Sai Bhaji.

Enjoy it with brown onion rice and some mango pickle. Sindhis like to eat this dish for dinner.

Renewing Driving Licence in Gurgaon

For more than a year I’d been repeatedly checking the expiry dates on Kishore‘s and my driver’s licence and worrying about the pain we’d have to endure for their renewal. The dates were only a few weeks apart so–like many things in our married life–we considered ourselves somewhat fortunate on having to work on this project together instead of suffering alone.

From a post on a year ago, I’d learnt about someone’s experience of getting a licence from Mini Secretariat. Besides, the Gurgaon Police website gave some details but not enough to give full confidence over the process involved. About 5 weeks before the first expiry date, I decided to go over to Mini Secretariat to get hold of the required forms and figure out the process of renewal.  Based on my experience of renewing the licence after that, here’s an FAQ for those who may be wondering and worrying about the steps involved in renewing driving licences in Gurgaon.

Where is the driving licence renewed in Gurgaon?

In Mini Secretariat. This building can be accessed from two roads going left after taking the right turn from Rajiv Chowk on NH8. The first left turn takes one on the road with the right entrance to the building.

How are the renewal forms obtained?

The forms are available from the first counter in the first big hall appearing on the left side after entering the building. A cardboard folder containing 3 forms is handed by an officer on payment of Rs10. This office is open for form collection or submission from 9:30 am to 1:30 pm Monday through Friday.

How much in advance should one apply for one’s licence renewal?

One can apply anytime in the month preceding the expiry date. But a grace period of one month after the expiry date is accepted by the Licence Authority. Post that period, one has to explain in one of the forms the reason for delay in submitting the application. Remember that the old licence has to be handed over while requesting renewal so till a new licence is obtained, one can use the acknowledgement slip issued by the authorities as a proof of licence.

How are the forms filled and submitted?

The forms are easy to fill. They require one’s address, personal data, one passport sized photograph and 2 sets of address and photo id papers that should be self-attested.

One can go to the Licence office with filled forms at 9:30 am >>get the medical check-up done in another room >> pay its fee of Rs100 in cash >> get into a queue back in the main hall to pay the licence renewal fee of Rs220 >> followed by another queue to get clicked by a web cam and then >> go back to the earlier queue to handover the folder with forms and payment slips to take an acknowledgement slip mentioning the date for collecting one’s licence.

Anything more to the process of renewal?

The process of renewal for Gurgaon licence holders is simple. A medical check up followed by switching 2 queues repeatedly as mentioned above and collecting an acknowledgement slip, entitles one to the renewed licence after a period of 10 days. This licence can be collected on the designated date by anyone showing the acknowledgement slip.

How involved is the medical check-up?

A medical officer sits in Hall 2 for which directions are given on the walls out of the main hall. The day we visited at 10 am, there were just 4-5 people outside the medical officer’s room. People are first asked to pay Rs100 in cash to a cashier sitting there, obtain its receipt and join the queue to see the medical officer. The officer is extremely informal with his questions. All he appeared to be asking male candidates was to read one or two numbers to rule out colour-blindness. With women, he appeared to be even more polite and just handed them their folder with his signed report after a passing glance at the candidate.

Are those with outstation driving licences treated the same way as those with Gurgaon licences?

No, those with Delhi or other city licences don’t have it so easy. We learnt that only on visiting the Licence office and after paying fees for medical and licence renewal. Kishore’s licence was from Delhi and as his turn came to get clicked for the new licence, he was told to get an NOC (or No Objection Certificate) from the Issuing authority in Delhi to consider the application request complete.

We quickly drove over to the licence authority of his old licence in Janakpuri in Delhi, shuttled between 3 windows over 2 hours and managed to collect the all important NOC to submit it back at Mini Secretariat.

What is the process for getting an NOC for non-Gurgaon licence renewals?

In our case, the Delhi licence authority was in the DDA building in Janakpuri and for us, its location meant some hunting. We learnt from one of the agents outside this office that the action zone was Window No.14 on the groundfloor of the building. Then on, we surrendered the use of our legs over 2 hours to the 2 windows of 14 and 17 and did as told. At the end, it was no mean achievement to be owners of an NOC after paying a small fee of Rs50 and lots of good natured smiles but no cash bribes.

At this place, we had to give an application requesting an NOC with copies of our address proof and the old licence. It helped to be carrying blank sheets of paper and extra photocopies of documents. But there were at least 2 enterprising photocopier owners in the menagerie of people who were doing brisk business there.

Since it was already past 1 pm for us, we decided to handover the prized NOC to the Gurgaon licence office only the next day.

Are the licences handed over on the day of application submission?

No. They are given 10 days later.

What is involved in picking up of licences?

The confirmation or acknowledgement slip obtained on submission of the docket of papers in Mini Secretariat, carries a date for collection of the printed licence. On the designated day, all it takes for one is to handover the slip at one of the 2 counters in the main hall and acquire a glossy strip of paper as one’s driving licence.

Then what?

Once you have this insignificant looking strip of paper with your sad looking picture but, very importantly, the correct address on it, simply take it to a laminating place where it would be folded and laminated in a neat rectangle. The driving licence then on assumes some significance and the right size to slip into a wallet. Run off some photocopies to use them as your address proof and thank Gurgaon authorities for making the process at least somewhat streamlined and devoid of touts.

Of course, it’d be wonderful to be able to submit forms online, pay fees online, go over for a medical check up–if necessary–and see the licences couriered home. We live in the hope of a more organised administrative structure and transparency in the country’s bureaucracy but for now it helps to know that half a day’s leave can get Gurgaonites their renewed driving licences.


Update on 21 May 2012:
A recent comment from Avinash shares these details:
. he paid Rs150 instead of Rs100 for medical checkup and Rs350 for an LMV+MYCL licence (as opposed to my Rs220 for LMV alone)
. he had to give 2 photographs–one each on the medical and license forms

There are a few more comments on the post but they can only be seen on my old site against this link.


Homemade Fajitas

While I like all kinds of food, I keep trying to introduce small changes in flavours of regular subzis or offer us all some creative and healthy main course food options that keep the 3 of us interested in food at home. Kishore and I are foodies to begin with so enjoy changes in flavours but with Kabir, it’s a little more than that—he’s drawn to most things non-homemade so on some evenings, I like to conceive dinner options that are non-Indian in their flavour, that involve him, provide nutrition to him ­­­and still not create hours of work for me or our part-time cook. Homemade Fajitas are one such enjoyable snack cum main course food item.


1. Rotis: Homemade thin, largish and whitish roti
2. 250 gm Boneless Chicken: Cut into thin, small strips: 2 tablespoons of dahi+2 fat cloves of garlic to marinade the chicken
3. Tomato salsa: 2 large firm tomatoes, finely chopped and 1 green chilly finely chopped into them
4. Sour cream: a bowl of thick dahi, 1 small clove of garlic, some malai lifted off the milk or 1 tablespoon cream from a can
5. Salad: a bowl of finely chopped cucumber, onion, capsicum
6. Grated Britannia or Amul pasteurised cheese
7. Jalapeno slices from a bottle
8. Lime halves

Rotis: Shouldn’t be overcooked or browned. They should be thin and slightly larger than regular rotis to make rolls with all the juicy filling. I get several made and placed in a large casserole. Sometimes I get these rotis made with some maida for the whiteness I like to see in them.

Chicken: Thin slivers of boneless chicken should be marinated in some thick curd, 2 minced cloves of garlic and some salt for about 15 min. This marinated chicken should be sautéed in a non-stick pan with or without a teaspoon of oil. It should be sautéed to the point of dryness (5 min) and left covered with the flame switched off so it cooks further in the steam.

Tomato salsa: Finely chopped tomatoes can be seasoned with finally minced/chopped green chillies, some black pepper, a bit of salt and a dash of lime and mixed up to make tangy salsa. A dash of Tabasco is optional.

Sour cream: Thick curd and a bit of cream and minced garlic can be whipped with an egg-beater for a few seconds till the beaten curd shows a peak or two. Too much beating may turn it into butter so watch out on that front.

Salad: Crunchy salad vegetables are finely chopped, mixed and presented in a large bowl as one of the filling items.

The last 3 items are just kept in separate bowls for adding to Fajita’s filling.

To eat it all:

Place it all grandly on the table and switch on a movie in your TV room…

Each person starts with a roti, puts a healthy amount of salad in the middle of the roti in a vertical row, tops it up with chicken bits, salsa, cheese, sour cream and jalapenos, carefully balances a half-folded and fully-loaded Fajita over a plate and goes for a big bite of it while watching the movie or relating the day’s stories. People are at liberty to vary the amount of cheese/peppers/cream/chicken with each successive Fajita to customise its taste. Usually, a glass of ginger ale or beer on the side makes the Fajita experience even more complete :)

Birding in and around Chambal Safari Lodge

We had been meaning to visit the Chambal Safari Lodge for over 2 years. Even this time it almost didn’t happen…the region gets its flocks of migratory birds only from November and this November felt awkward to be holidaying as Kabir didn’t sound happy about spending time on anything other than poring over his books in preparation for his exams in March…or, on being with his friends…or, on watching ‘only the most favourite’ TV shows. Birding wasn’t a priority in any way but I pleaded with him to get interested in this quick getaway and fixed up this trip a month in advance. We drove to the place on the early morning of November 10 for a 2-day stay at the Lodge.

Where is it:

The Lodge website gives a map and all that but–like any other offbeat holiday destination we’ve been to–unless we’ve actually gone there, it’s been difficult to know the exact coordinates of the place. For those headed to the Chambal Safari Lodge from Delhi or Gurgaon, drive up to Agra, cross the city, ask around for the ‘road to Fatehabad’ and as you see big-time hotels appearing on the Fatehabad road, you should know that you’re on the right track. Drive on for an hour and then some more. The Lodge is in a town called Jarar but on signboards, you need to look out for Bah. As you see a large board announcing Bah at a distance of 7 km, keep your eyes peeled for a small Lodge signboard appearing on the right side of the road—that point would be about 3 km short of Bah. Take this dirt road on the right, drive through the fields and turn left with the dirt track till you’re outside the Lodge gate.

What is to the Chambal Safari Lodge:

There are a couple of aspects to the Lodge. The Lodge environs have been mostly left in their natural state so the vegetation shows jackals, civets, jungle cats, mongoose, hare and forest birds endemic to the region and even some winter migrants. Its cottages are rustic from the outside but equipped with furniture and washroom that are nice enough in their décor and upkeep. The Lodge food is home-style Indian food, laid out as a buffet and lovingly presented either by its owner Kunwar R.P. Singh or one of his staff. The vegetable dishes are flavourful and the meat of the meal is always something to look forward to. Tea/coffee/cookies/mineral water are on-the-house and remain available to guests all day. There are a couple of Naturalists at the Lodge who take people around on walks in the surrounding fields as also to some places at drivable distances.

Two places outside of the Lodge that we covered were the Chambal river and the Sarus Crane Conservation Area. The Chambal river site is at a distance of about 14 km from the Lodge and accessible either by one’s personal vehicle or a Lodge vehicle. The latter attracts a separate charge and the former is also chargeable for the service of the Naturalist/guide and the 3-hour boat ride of the river. The Sarus Crane Area starts about 20 km off the Safari Lodge and carries on through fields and village roads for about 80 km. All through this drive, the accompanying Naturalist points out any birds of interest and otherwise urges visitors to scan small patches of fields on foot. He carries a spotting scope and expertly focuses on target birds to make birding more meaningful.

The Chambal river boat ride

The main objects of fascination on the river are the migratory bird Indian Skimmer, the resident Indian Eagle Owl, migratory ducks, Gharials, Gangetic dolphins and at least 2 kinds of turtles. We learnt that Indian Skimmer was still awaited and expected end-November. Usually its flock stays on till end-March or early April. The Naturalist took us to a small island during the boat ride to show an Indian Eagle Owl–a large cat-sized owl. It was an amazing creature. Clicking it wasn’t easy because it was behind a lot of foliage on an extended part of a hill but the Naturalist’s scope got us a clear view of the owl. Kishore clicked many record shots of this lifer of ours.

Migratory ducks hadn’t arrived but we saw a few pairs of Ruddy Shelducks, some Bar-headed Geese and some scattered Greenshanks, Common Sandpipers, River Lapwings, Kentish Plovers, Temminck’s Stints and 2 kinds of Terns—River Tern and Black-bellied Tern. There were lots of highly animated White-browed and White Wagtails and at least one Citrine Wagtail. The long snout Gharials were easy to spot but dolphins became visible only for fleeting moments, showing only a small part of themselves. We got some really lovely shots of a lone Pied Kingfisher on the owl island. And saw a pair of Jackals from the boat.

The boat was fiber-bodied with a petrol-run motor. It had 2 narrow benches along its two sides. The boat ride was as comfortable as the drive to the river site was bumpy. The density of birds at the river was low. We were told that December through March was going to offer a different view of the river. The high point of the river experience was the Indian Eagle Owl that offered a comfortable sighting through the scope for a long stretch of time.

Sarus Crane Conservation Area

The first stop was approximately after 20 km of driving on the first morning. It was at a small Hanuman mandir with a metal gate leading to an algae-layered water body that was surrounded by a high wall. There were many Pond Herons, some Woolley-necked Storks, and at least one Bronze-winged Jacana on the wall or in the water. We managed to get close to a stone bench some distance away by walking along the wall on the mushy grass to peer over the wall, and were gratified to see a flock of Red-headed Buntings (our lifers), some Indian Silverbills, some Bluethroats sporting a bright blue collar, a pair of Rosefinches (our lifers) and some Plain Prinias.

The light was poor and photography was nearly futile but we managed some record shots of the species. The next 5 hours were spent driving through fields and stopping near water bodies or some weeds as we saw any birds of interest. These birds were Baya Weavers, Pied Bushchats, Rosefinches, Red-headed Buntings, Indian Sarus Cranes, Large Grey Babblers, Bronze-winged Jacanas, Common Storks, Black-winged Stints, Wood Sandpipers, Spoonbills and Purple Moorhens. Altogether 10-12 Sarus were spotted.

Around the Lodge

The Lodge has a pair each of resident Spotted Owlets and Collared Scops Owls. They were beautiful to watch but impossible to photograph. A regular visitor to the Lodge from November-March has been a Brown Hawk Owl whom we were fortunate in meeting and photographing. Other birds spotted on the Lodge were Indian Grey Hornbills, Verditer Flycatchers, a single Black-rumped Flameback and hundreds of screeching Rose-ringed Parakeets and Jungle Babblers. On an hour-long walk around the Lodge, we saw Red-headed Buntings, a flock of Rosefinches, Red-collared Doves (our lifers), Bluethroats, Pied Bushchats, Tree Pipits and Black Shouldered Kites.

Altogether the Lodge was good to experience over 2 days and a place we wouldn’t mind revisiting when its star visitor Indian Skimmer is also in the region. A few selected photos from the trip are available in Kishore’s online gallery.

Why only Steve Jobs?

These last four days I’ve read some beautiful sentiments expressed for Steve Jobs. I didn’t know Jobs from Adam but I too have felt traumatised at such an early end of a life that was capable of doing so much. Of creating so much beauty through his devices and enabling such effectiveness at doing things that earlier required cranking up clunky computers. His devices

20111009-104042.jpghave not only worked consistently, they have looked pretty, have been easy to carry around and done much more for us than we initially envisaged for them. My 2-year old iPod Touch not only acts as my highly portable computer, it’s been a constant source of joy for me because of its ever-expanding app eco-system. Apps that have been either free or cost little. Most of all, even after some upgrades by Apple, I haven’t had to pitch my 2G Touch as most new apps have continued to honour its old hardware. I find this approach so ethical on the part of the company that it doesn’t matter to me if it’s labelled as ruthlessly ‘closed’. It’s provided great value for my money, given gadgets that are intuitive to use and enabled many activities for me through simple taps and minimum pain.

In these times of consumerism, when we’re already used to a choice in the selection of our phones, laptops and now, tablets, it’s only been a couple of products that have integrated into our lives seamlessly. Steve Jobs brought us most of these marvels. And with them, easy learning and a higher appreciation for beauty in plastic and metal.

I wish Jobs’ outlook towards India was more positive and we could access his gadgets at global prices and on time. But I’m willing to accept the points of India being a complex market to enter and a paradoxical place to experience. I’m just grateful that he figured in my timeline and, through his marvellous creations, brought me much joy and some learning that I opened myself to.

{This has been my first attempt at using my month-old iPad2 to create and publish this post. And to texturise the included image using a free app}

Goa for Vegetarians

My early impressions of Goa were that of a place of churches, sea and meat in various forms. But, over the last 3 years that I’ve been figuring the place some more, I’ve had to alter many of my earlier beliefs. Now the one about food is that not only are there many vegetarian items on any restaurant menu in Goa, there are many strictly-vegetarian food places around. On our last stay this June, we even found a brand new, beautifully laid out resort near Vagator that was completely vegetarian. Then, on a walk of Baga, we came across at least 4 ‘100% pure vegetarian’ restaurants that I’m still to check out.

Even though I’m generally a carnivore, there are days I prefer vegetables over meat and I’m happy enough eating vegetarian food in a regular restaurant. It was for some members in the family that I’d once gone seeking strictly-vegetarian places, and now have the following recommendations for others looking for vegetarian restaurants in Goa:

Sharanam Green on Candolim
About the best place for North Indian vegetarian food. Dishes look and smell good and probably have some UP influence in cooking. They seem loaded with oil/ghee but the restaurant does have dry, vegetarian tandoori items that show less fat in them. I’ve found this restaurant open all year round.

Navtara in Mapusa/Panjim/Porvorim
A mixed cuisine with shades of North Indian, Maharashtrian, Gujarati, ubiquitious idli-dosas and even Indian Chinese preparations. Only vegetarian though. A new branch in Porvorim looked glitzy from outside on our visit in June but we’ve only eaten at the other two. The Panjim branch has poor airconditioning and disinterested staff but Mapusa has been okay in our experience. This branch has thali in 2 modes: the airconditioned area on the first floor has an expensive version and the fan-cooled ground floor has it cheaper without yellow biryani and the dessert. Both thalis are fine but in May-June when I’m usually there, I prefer airconditioning to saving a few bucks. The restaurants are open all year round.

Rajdhani in Panjim
It is part of a chain of vegetarian restaurants all over the country that offers Rajasthani food in eat-as-much-as-you-can-thali format. The restaurant is on the Ist floor, small in size but easy to locate and offers a great eating experience.

Shravan in Panjim
Only Gujarati thali in this basement restaurant that tasted better than that was eaten at the more famous Gujarati thali place in Hotel Fidalgo (below). But Shravan appears to be a seasonal restaurant and wasn’t open even by October last year. On our only visit to it, it wasn’t airconditioned but its cool chaach and polite servers sort of made up for that shortcoming.

Bhojan, Hotel Fidalgo in Panjim
A Gujarati thali restaurant inside a hotel, Bhojan is popular for its food and has long waiting on weekends. Between Shravan and Bhojan, I’d prefer the former for its food but latter for its airconditioning. Bhojan’s thali costs more too.

Kamat Hotel, Church Square, Panjim
I avoided this place on a couple of visits to Goa as it looked so uninviting. But once I took the advice of another part-time Goa settler, went up to its Ist floor restaurant and wasn’t disappointed with its rava dosas, filter coffee and thali. It’s open the whole year round.

Spicy Idli, Arpora Road
On the last visit, we were pleasantly surprised to spot this tiny eatery on our drives up and down the Arpora-Calangute road. Its idlis, dosas, upma, dosas and chutneys tasted fresh and authentic in their flavor. Its smiley and friendly owner, Ramesh Iyer, said that he’d keep the place open the whole year now that he’s got an encouraging response from people. We hope to see him on our next visit.

Then, there are some places I’d suggest avoiding:

Hotel Rajdhani’s ground floor restaurant in Panjim: Shouldn’t be confused with Rajdhani restaurant mentioned above. This is a different vegetarian thali and snack restaurant on the ground floor of ‘Hotel Rajdhani’ on Atmaram Borkar Road in Panjim. It’s kind of more visible but less worthy of one’s time and money.

Anand Sagar on Calangute: If you must eat there, please avoid their dense idlis.

Homemade Muesli

Twice a month I toast muesli for Kishore’s breakfast. It takes about an hour to put together and the stock lasts him about 2 weeks. Before I began making this muesli about 2 years ago, Kishore had tried various cereal mixes and used to mostly favour the one marketed by Wahida Rahman. In that period, I made some attempts at creating various mixes of my own, but it was only once I chanced upon a video on making of muesli on some site and got some basic things right, that my brand of muesli became a success with Kishore and some friends. I follow this rather hands-on but simple process to toast muesli at home.


White oats:  One 500 gm box (I use Bagrrey’s)Homemade muesli

Cornflakes:  5 small cups (I prefer Mohun’s over any other)

Wheat bran: 1/4th small cup (Bagrrey’s)

Oat bran: 1/4th small cup (Bagrrey’s)

Ramdana/Amaranth/Rajgiri: ½ small cup (usually I bash up 2-3 ramdana laddoos)

Flax seed: 1/4th small cup

Black and green raisins: 1/3rd small cup altogether

Almonds: ½ small cup, broken in big pieces

Honey: ½ small cup

Olive oil: ½ small cup

How to go about it:

Each item has to be dry-broiled/toasted under an OTG’s grill. I keep the grill setting at nearly 250 deg celsius and use an ungreased aluminum oven tray to toast each item separately. Cereals should be spread in a thin layer so they get somewhat evenly toasted.

  1. I prefer to start with cornflakes as they toast quickly and the 5-cup quantity takes about 3 or 4 tray-loads to complete. Under a hot grill, each tray-load takes about 2 minutes to toast. Collect the whole stock of toasted cornflakes in a large mixing bowl and crush it somewhat with a wooden pounder or potato masher. This brings their large flaky size to a size slightly bigger than oats.
  2. Then I toast thin layers of bran, raisins, flax seed, ramdana and end with oats, one after the other. Other than oats, every other item takes just a minute or slightly more to toast so can’t be left unattended. I like toasting even raisins as warm raisins allow bran or cereal to stick to them. Flax seeds should be toasted only as far as they start popping. They taste nice and nutty and can’t be avoided because of their cholesterol lowering properties. Wheat bran acquires a brown look very rapidly but oat bran takes a wee bit longer. Big broken pieces of almonds would take longer to toast than raisins but not so long that they should be left unattended.
  3. Oats take the longest to toast. Their quantity is also more than other cereals as oat as a cereal is considered beneficial for its cholesterol lowering quality. Use only thin layers of oat shreds on the tray and toast them till slightly brown—will take about 5 minutes per tray. Overly brown oats or cornflakes would make the mix bitter.
  4. All the dry toasted items can be placed in a heap in a large mixing bowl. Or, 2 mixing bowls as I find the whole quantity difficult to toss properly.
  5. The last item to add is the combination of two liquids. Olive oil and honey can be put in a single mug and heated in the microwave oven for a minute or less. The mix should be hot, not just warm.
  6. Once heated, the liquid mix is poured on the heap of toasted cereals and nuts, and the whole mix is mixed well with 2 large spoons.
  7. Then, it’s as simple as letting the mix cool before filling it in jars.

One can have this muesli with cold or hot milk and even with sliced bits of banana or some stewed apple added to milk. If one prefers a sweeter taste, the quantity of honey can be increased or a bit of sugar can be added while eating the day’s muesli. Kishore finds the amount of honey used in the recipe enough for his requirement of sweetness in the cereal but it’d be less for me!

I enjoy eating this muesli as a topping for vanilla ice cream once in a while…so, that’s another use for it for its consumers.

Let me know if you make any kind of muesli at home and follow a different method or ingredients. If I happen to have another toasted grain, I add that too to vary the taste, but generally follow the same method.

Roasted imli seeds

I’m a big fan of suparis. My absolute favourite are big pieces of chikni supari, dried paan and some mixes that aren’t overly fragrant or coloured.  But I try consciously to not let them become an obsession. After all, how good would be betel nut, and all the additives used on it, for one’s stomach or teeth? Not much, I’m sure.  Yet I like the challenge a piece of hard supari offers while being chewed, and then it also keeps me off frequent munching on snacks.

I was, therefore, quite taken in by the sight of roasted imli (tamarind) seeds included in a sectioned-box of saunf and digestives in a small eatery in Gir. I liked the idea of finding an alternative to suparis that was simple enough to arrange and devoid of suspicious food colours. Upon airing a general question about what and why of it, another restaurant customer helpfully clarified that the seeds were roasted and had to be peeled before eating the white seed inside. And that it offered a great ‘time pass’ activity! I grabbed a couple and resolved to look for a shop selling those seeds.

After a couple of reminders, our driver managed to find a tiny shop in Ahmedabad that sold them along with roasted peanuts, popcorn and channa. I picked up small quantities of all the items and felt mighty successful in securing imli seeds. About 200 gms cost Rs10 and were packed in a newspaper cone. On return, however, I was disappointed to find them tasting stale and soggy. Sogginess was remedied using the Microwave oven but their staleness made them unpalatable.  Since then I’d been on the lookout for regular imli seeds but could only find a few in the stock of imli at home as branded imli packets carry seedless imli these days. I kept them visible to work on them in some manner. At some point, I roasted them on a tawa over 5-6 minutes, switched off the flame and left them on the tawa itself to get crisper. Later, I was worried to find one side almost charred. I’d no idea they’d cook so rapidly! But I was surprised to find those semi-charred seeds tasting wonderful. They were a little like well-roasted peanuts without their disadvantages, and gave me both the challenge and company I seek of suparis! I’ve finished that small stock in the last couple of days and am now hoping for more to surface so I can roast them!

Have you ever chewed imli seeds? I remember chewing even the raw, unroasted ones as a kid. They didn’t taste good but provided some activity on long walks back from school :)

A FLING WITH GUJARAT–Ahmedabad-Gir-Veraval–Part III

Veraval: Temple town that fishes and builds boats

I hadn’t heard of Veraval until I started researching Gir. Most buses from Ahmedabad or Junagarh that pass by Gir terminate at Veraval. Its main reason of popularity is the presence of Somnath Temple that is said to be one of the 12 important temples devoted to Lord Shiva. The temple has been destroyed many times over by invaders to the country and now stands tall in its rebuilt state since 1951. With a distance of only 42 km from Gir, we’d decided to have a quick darshan of the temple before our return to Ahmedabad.

I happened to mention our plan of covering the temple toOutside Bhalka Tirth Mr. Anil Bhagia of Northwest Safaries on the phone while still in Gir, and he strongly suggested that we cover Bhalka Tirth and Treeveni Sangam to make our visit to Veraval somewhat complete. We did just that.

We set out from Gir in our taxi just before 6 am and found ourselves at the Bhalka Tirth temple in an hour, just in time for aarti. The temple marks the spot where Lord Krishna was hit in his foot by a hunter by mistake. In the outside yard of the temple, a white-clothes-clad young pandit was giving a discourse by holding a loudspeaker in one hand while his audience of about 30 people was sitting on the ground around him. The temple hall with Krishna’s idol had him sitting with his injured foot raised off the platform instead of one of his usual poses. The hall was large and clean but the outside area seemed unswept.

On the way to Bhalka Tirth, we were fascinated by sights of huge semi-finished boats arranged in yards. We stopped by a yard to take pictures on the way out. It felt unreal to be in a port town smelling of fish where boat building was a serious industry when the town was known to us only for its temples!

Boats under constructionFishing boats

We were headed towards the Somnath TempleTreeveni Sangam Entrance (about 2 km away) but our driver, Panna Lal remembered to stop by the Treeveni Sangam to show us the confluence of three rivers Hiran, Kapila and Saraswati and their merger with the ocean. We could just see a flat expanse of water and some people bathing on its bank, and otherwise were happy to be at the recommended spot.

Earlier, on seeing my interest in fresh coconut water, Panna Lal had suggested that we have it at Veraval where coconuts weren’t just cheaper, they were sweeter too. We had 2 small fresh coconuts right outside the Somnath Temple costing Rs10 each. On his other suggestion, we’d left our bags and phones in the car as a visitor to the main temple area could just carry a small pouch of money or offerings of flowers or sweets to the deity and nothing else. Even leather belts had to be removed. Any possessions had to pass through an x-ray machine too. On seeing crowds at the shoe deposit area, we decided to take turns to go inside the main deity hall to guard our possessions that we couldn’t carry inside. It was about 8 am but already hot. I’d bought some flowers to offer to the deity but later saw that all offerings had to be simply dropped in a big drum at the barricade before the Shivling.

Somnath Temple

We felt lighter after fulfilling our main purpose of being in Veraval, and moved forward to figure our breakfast options. Panna Lal again came to our rescue and took us to Sukhsagar whose new branch had come up at Gir too. We had idlis and aaloo-onion paranthas with coffee. The two-bearer staff at this fast food café was much sought after and could barely cope with orders from 4 tables. We were happy to have found some service and set off on our 7-hour drive back to Ahmedabad around 9 am.

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