Saturday, December 12, 2015

Bean town - My treasure chest

Just a casual mention of this city brings a smile on my face and heart. Often during conversations, my mind dips into my huge treasure chest of pleasant memories that I have made in this city. The lovely, lively people like my family, my friends, my neighborhood,my school, my college, my work place, my parental home, my marital home, the roads, the buses…etc…. This city called Bangalore is an emotion for me (apart from chennai and hyderabad) and I can sing paens about the city that groomed me and brought me up.If I have to mention and describe about my favorite city wrt the DRIVE,DESIGN and CONNECT then, it would be this city.

Drive:What drives this city is the warm people of this city who at the first instance ask you “ oota/thindi aitha?”( had your breakfast?/Lunch). Their adjustable nature of “swalpa adjust maadi”( please adjust a little) is evident from the cosmopolitan population of the city. While the IT revolution made the major cities of India into a mini India/ world, Bangalore had been one ever since the public sectors came into being there. The climate and the pace of life was an asset to this city which earned it the sobriquet “pensioners paradise” and “ Air conditioned city”. The lovely gardens, beautiful lakes, large lung spaces and the boulevard avenues earned it the name “garden city”. It never occurred to me then that the broad tree lined avenues of laburnam, margosa, jacaranda, gulmohar, Indian cork would leave such lasting impressions on me years later. How many times have I zipped on those traffic less roads in my dad’s Enfield bullet and Crusader as a child. It was a breeze then to drive on those roads which went up and down and was never on a level in our area.Years later, it was the same roads that took me to college on the red BTS bus.Route no’s 75, 61, 64 and 60 A have played an unforgettable role in my life. The bus ride also reminds me of a special blue bus I travelled on the route from Majestic to Malleswaram when I went for my aunt’s place. It was two buses connected with a vestibule and at turnings it would turn like a train. This was called the trailer bus and I have to mention the double decker bus. We would miss the regular bus just to get into the double decker bus , climb on to its level and have a lovely sight seeing trip  as we traveled to our destination. Such simple pleasures when traffic snarls were unheard of.

Design : Design wise too , I lived in the BDA designed layouts where the layout had houses of dimensions 30x20, 30x50 and 60x40. The layouts had cross roads and main roads with good planning. There were trenches to carry rain water .No stagnant water, all would flow downhill into the various lakes of the city. The layouts also had a park, a playground, a hopcoms( veg store of Lalbagh),Janta Bazaar( for groceries and toiletries) a nandini milk parlour, a rose garden,a BDA shopping complex with a citizens center. My 30x50 home was right in the middle of this layout on the 5th main road. Behind us was a playground while in the 6th main road was the flood lit foot ball ground. Such beautifully designed BDA layouts formed the Bangalore I belonged to. Alternatively we also had the public sector quarters of BHEL, HAL etc and the private layouts of employess of a few banks and organizations like Binnyston gardens(Binny mills), MICO, REMCO,etc . All these too were designed in keeping with the infrastructural needs and were built on legal lands.

Connect: What connects me to a city is also the people and landmarks. The people are the heart and soul of a city. So many people help shape you during your growing years. Their contribution may seem miniscule at that point of time and may seem insignificant . But looking back today, those small acts of kindness , courtesy and generosity connects me to the city making the bond stronger.My teachers, lecturers, neighbours, friends, the service providers. 
Their friendly banter, the routine bargaining and the exchange of news, the warmth, My heart brims with gratitude for all those memories. How does one disconnect with such city?. 

There was also the landmarks like my school, college, music class, favorite ice cream parlour, stationary shop, bakery, chaat corner, our regular provision store and that market which was always throbbing with life and pulsating with energy with its vibrant products of vegetables, clothes and other essential needs. This was one of our hang outs then when malls were unheard of.  Every city has those landmarks but what connects us to the city is the memories we have made at those landmarks.  The sunday concerts at cubbon park band stand, the ganesh immersion at Lalbagh lake, my first comic book at Glass house, The movies at Nanda ,Tribhuvan, ALankar, Minerva etc  and this is what I cherish the most about Bangalore, especially when you have lived for 30 long years.

Today’s story is ofcourse different, no major city is ideal generally, thanks to globalization. Overpopulated, traffic congestion, metro construction hurdles, lack of lung space , multistoreyed apartments on encroached land and lake  and people always in a hurry,. Every community, every language, every tradition has a presence in every major city. 

*Bangalore( Bengaluru in kannada) derives its name from Benda kalu ooru meaning boiled bean town hence my title.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Need of the hour - # Responsible tourism

One of the greatest destressor is travel. It helps people handle stress of various kinds. Change in climate, change in place of stay, meeting new people, the journey ,the destination all these allows you to explore new energies. The whole idea of travelling is allowing yourself to experience something you haven’t done before.

Today, no matter what age, more and more of us are traveling for work and leisure compared to a few decades back. Needless to say our mode of traveling, our stay in hotels, resorts have all contributed to increase in Carbon foot prints.

While on a holiday or work, most of us think less about environmental degradation or unaware of the carbon foot prints we leave. But , When we think as a conscious global citizen , we share the world with over more than 6 billion people, our space and our resources are finite. How can we guarantee that there’s enough food, water, land and energy for the future gen. To promote tourism, m
any fancy resorts and hotels are built to meet the tourist demands. More and more trees are cut and lot of natural resources like sand, water are used for constructing them.  While it is necessary to boost tourism, it is also an equal responsibility to minimize the use of our natural resources and to decrease our carbon foot prints, It is now time for us to act responsibly when we travel, follow and promote “ responsible tourism”. 

Here are a few ideas to promote #responsible tourism.

1) we must promote and encourage hotels built and designed with minimal environmental impact. 

2)  promote, encourage and stay in hotels which reduce “food miles” and use “ farm to plate” or locally grown food.

3) Hotels or resorts can use biodegradable toiletries like soaps, shampoos, detergents and tell the tourists the benefits of this on the environment

4) Encourage the hotels to use solar heating and lighting or use CFC or energy saving bulbs

5) Ideally most hotels or resorts have a landscape. We can encourage them to grow more native and plants local to the region and reap their health benefits while the greenery around can offset the carbon foot prints.

6 )As a responsible tourist, While we travel we should ensure we plan and travel short routes and use that mode of transport where we leave less green gas emissions.

7) It is best to forego bottled water which travels miles to reach the users destination, instead it would be ideal to carry our own personal bottle and refill RO water at the hotel or during our journey. This way we can avoid the usage of use and throw plastic bottles. On an another note, it would be better to buy and always carry a personal copper bottle whose  copper charged water is a health benefit we reap.

8) instead of cold storage food which are refridgerated and reheated with microwave, we can opt for the “Pan to plate” freshly cooked food by minimizing the energy used by the appliances.

Plastics in the form of carry bags,cups, bottles, plates, spoons are the major contributors of pollution. As tourists/travelers,we avoid using disposables as far as possible and use reusables.

10)  We have to leave zero or minimal waste.  We  must dispose wastes like wrappers of biscuits, snacks, chocolates, fruit peels responsibly. We must avoid food wastes. Even the wasted food, we ensure it reaches the nearest bio gas plant and suggest the hotel, the  food excesses can be sent to the needy (incase, it is not a practice).

11) When we buy souvenirs, we buy from local artisans and promote local handicrafts as tourists which will augment the income of the local people.

12) we visit local areas of interest like museums, places of worship, handicraft centers and promote them during our conversations or through blogs or on social media.

13) hire and use services of the local workers and local transport .

14)  promote and encourage hotels which use the 3 R’s “ reduce, reuse and recycle” while we too practice the same.

While these are some of the ideas that can be promoted, I must say that I do practice most of what is written above and I dare to rewrite this famous quote on traveling

             “Take only memories, leave only footprints.”  Chief Seattle
as " Take only memories, leave only footprints, lessen the carbon footprints"
“I am blogging for #ResponsibleTourism activity by Outlook Traveller in association with BlogAdda

Some of my memorable stays have been in such homestays/resorts

1) at a place called Peechi near Guruvayoor. This place was on the sholayur range of westernghats and close to the famous Athirapally falls. We stayed at a guest house which was designed and built by the famous Laurie baker who was famous for building with sustainable and local raw materials with focus on natural ventilation. This region is a total plastic free zone

2) at a resort in Farahabad near Srisailam. This resort has cottages built with mud, thatched roof and the lighting in the whole resort is solar powered. 

Monday, December 7, 2015

Kudos to all the unsung heroes

I have always believed that Mother nature is a great teacher and yet again, she  proved and taught a great lessson that almost washed out the coastal area of Tamilnadu like chennai, cuddalore and Pondicherry. . Suddenly, the  New born, the old, the sick , the differently abled , the strong and the weak, rich and poor had nowhere to go .People lost their homes and many souls had no food and water and were on the roads.

Even the few, who were safe in their homes felt as though they lived in the dark age. They had no clue of what was happening around them. In a highly advanced tech world when all of us were boasting of communication shrinking the world, mother nature showed she could cut us off from our near and dear ones.

It is heart wrenching to see the visuals and read the stories doing the rounds. But amongst, all these one positive point that emerged through is humanity. Apart from the Ever green heroes from our  3 forces, Army, navy and AF,  This deluge has thrown many more heroes and super stars.

 It is heart warming to read temples sheltering non-hindus, a muslim helping a hindu pregnant women to reach  a doctor, a daily wager like fishermen, auto drivers, security and maids contributing in kind and cash for the relief fund. Neighbouring states which fought for water now uniting over water by sending volunteers and relief materials.

 Amazing stories of humanity unfolding and social media like facebook, whatsapp and twitter which has born brunt of ire from many were the angels without wings  which threw many online volunteers and help spread the message fast. I think we need no more hysterical news channels.

The youth especially who are always hooked on to the social media did a great job. The army of college students and school students volunteered at many places to help reach the relief material

It is not the spirit of chennai, /cuddalore bombay, new york, bangalore but it is the spirit of man helping another....Kudos to all the unsung heroes..God bless!! I am sure this spirit will help rebuild Chennai, cuddalore and Pondicherry.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

A dessert from my ancestral town

I had invited my cousin home for lunch and   had decided on the menu but wasn’t sure what dessert to make. My son suggested I must make the donuts that I often make. The donuts I make are a hit with my daughter’s hostel friends, everytime she comes home, this is one of the tuck foods she takes to the hostel.

As I was to trying to assemble the ingredients for making donuts, a thought struck me that I must make a traditional dessert which is not very famous or well known especially for this cousin who was born and raised  in the northern India  and now lives in the US. Today desserts/sweets like donuts,pannacotta, tiramisu are more famous while some of our own traditional Indian desserts are forgotten. I decided to list out the traditional desserts and two of my favorite desserts topped the list…the dumroot/ kushmanda halwa of Udupi or the Asoka halwa of Tiruvaiyaru. And Tiruvaiyaru asoka halwa won. The reason......

Tiruvaiyaru is a sweet little temple town on the banks of River Cauvery in Thanjavur district of Southern Tamilnadu. Although this town is famous for the ancient temple, this is more famous as “Mecca of Carnatic music”. Every year in January, Carnatic musicians from all over the world congregate to celebrate “Thyagraja Aradhana” on Bahula Panchami day which is the Samadhi day of the famous Carnatic composer Saint Thyagaraja. Along with music, the other thing this town is famous for is the high calorie orange colored halwa dripping with ghee called Asoka halwa, Which many national and international tourists pack it to their home.

Enjoying to a famous kriti (compostion) sitting on the banks of River Kaveri and relishing this delicious  dessert on a moonlit night is a simple pleasure I want to experience one day in this town. I have experienced this in on a sunny morning at 9 am though. My daughter sang the famous kriti of Thyagaraja “Raghu nayaka.......” at pushya mahal ghat with no one around, I sat on the steps of the ghats and watched the slowly meandering river and listened to her sing the kriti. Pure bliss!!

And there is another reason for choosing this halwa famous in Tiruvaiyaru, because this musical riverside town is our( my husband's)  ancestral village:)

Now over to the making of this dessert….I have tweaked this sinful high calorie  traditional recipe to make it a  guilt free low calorie dessert by adding natura sugar free, substituting food colors and reducing the quantity of ghee.This is also a regular on the wedding menu of Thanjavur Brahmins.

Asoka halwa recipe:


Moong dal – 1 cup
Wheat flour – 2 tablespoon
Natura sugar free – 1/4 cup 
Ghee – 1/2 cup 
Cardamom powder – 1 teaspoon
Cashew nuts – 10-15
Permitted food color-  orange ( I used 1 teaspoon beetroot juice and a pinch of haldi)

                                              The making of Asoka halwa


  • Roast the moong dal lightly and soak it in water for 10 minutes.
  • Pressure cook the moong dal till it makes a mushy paste.
  • In another pan, add a tablespoon of ghee and roast the wheat flour till the aroma emanates and allow it to cool.
  • Now add a table spoon of ghee in a thick bottomed pan and add the mushy moong dal paste. Simmer it on low fire ensuring it does not stick to the bottom of the pan. Add natura sugar free and blend it well. Once sugarfree natura blends well, add the roasted wheat flour and mix it well till it binds in to the moong dal mixture , add the extracted beet color and haldi.
  • Keep stirring it by adding a table spoon of ghee  at regular intervals till the mixture leavens the pan. Sprinkle the cardamom powder before switching off.
  • Finally,Garnish it with fried cashews.

                                               Guilt free amd Sugar free Natura Asoka halwa