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Archive for the ‘Anecdotes & tidbits’ Category

Thank you Kellogg’s! You have restored my faith.

Am sure most people will agree that we have become so jaded, that we do not expect to win or receive gifts from major companies doing a promo. I also admit, albeit sheepishly, that I have also accused them of arranging for “someone on the inside” to win the promo or hogging the promo gifts.

In this day and age, good old Kellogg’s has proved me wrong. They ran a fun promotion where one can claim a free book from a list of 30 titles (***while stocks last), if we can show proof of purchase of two Kellogg’s products. 

I even faced technical difficulties on my IPad whenever I tried to go into the claims page. Pays to try a different device – my hardy android phone.

I sent away my claim with all the hope of recovering a stone in the well. I was told that the “book is on it’s way “!!! Yeah right and Big Ben will strike 13!

The eternal optimist that I was, not believing for a second it was getting sent, I was surprised by an email from them last week that it was despatched. 

Yet again, the cynicism coloured my reaction to the email. I thought to myself – ” Nah they are lying….it’s either they kept it themselves or NZ Post was going to lose it conveniently”.

But voila!!!! Guess who got their book! So thanks again Kellogg’s. Here’s to more small surprises in life.

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I feel absolutely cheated! Short changed! Furious!

I absolutely loathe book publishers at this point who kill a brilliant series all for the sake of numbers. Bah!

So here I was following this bloody brilliant and highly imaginative book series by author Victoria Laurie called “Oracles of Delphi Keep”. I was too into the series, a good 3 books deep. And frantically scouring book websites and the Internet to check when the next instalment in the series was out. And guess what I found, a teensy note from the author that there won’t be a fourth and final book because her publisher said so. And now you know why I am absolutely livid with the aforementioned parties.

What happened to good old “wanting to know how it all ends”… what of the value of the written word…what about putting readers and avid fans out of misery….oh the fallen justice…publishers have mercy.

This writers’ ability to make the readers live the story and be a part of the journey and adventure is mesmeric and powerful. And when something like this happens, you know what it feels like? imagine us going on full throttle on the highway and kaboom there’s no more road all of a sudden. And you are clueless on what just hit you!

Here we are witnesses to the talent being crushed underfoot without value for intellect, creativity or imagination. In this day and age of boundless talent shows and reality TV, where it’s all about nurturing talent and providing a platform, here is one of the instances of things going otherwise.

At this rate, that beautiful unique feeling of holding a book in one’s hands is going to be a thing of the past. I think when it’s all the more important to preserve the written word, we have snobbish publishers such as these telling their authors, ‘well this one won’t see daylight’.

Imagine how many manuscripts of worth, punctuated with hours of toil, thinking, imagining, missing plot lines, twining them together, linking the unconnected dots etcetera haven’t smelt the newness of unused paper. And I can’t even begin to fathom writers putting up with these outrageous decisions of their publishers when you have delivered a successful series so far, that too.

How many more such mass murders do I have to witness I wonder. More than outrage I think this blog piece is more a plea to all those brilliant writers out there to follow through and make your vibrant characters see daylight, act out what they were meant to, and put us readers out of misery because there is nothing more annoying than not knowing how it’s all gonna end. Even if your publishers do not publish, find another who understands your worth or better yet in such cases publish your own even if it’s only a small number of copies.

It’s all about how the story ends!

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I can’t believe 2012 has flown already. But I have no regrets. It was another year well spent reviving old friendships, celebrating new ones, changing jobs and paying off some of those damned loans.

Thank you 2012 for making us a bit wiser with me being living evidence with the sprouting of more greys hehehe…!It was a merry blast with many learnings and experiences. And guess what the much raved about “Apocalypse” didn’t happen. Yet another reason reminding us to celebrate life in the now.

And it would only be fair to make merry with some of the things we love most. Our four pawed son. Our people. Our food. And so us Ramkumars signed off 2012 with a 5 course spread as a wonderful thank you to 2012 with many more happy ones to come.

The menu was fantabulous with Avocado fries with roasted garlic spicy dip, French onion soup served with French stick & gruyere cheese, Cabbage Rosti, Lemon rocket risotto with roasted hazelnuts and ricotta and for dessert my most favourite part of the meal, the much lazy but super yummy homemade Tiramisu. Of course recipes will follow.

Avocado fries with Roasted garlic spicy dip

Avocado fries with Roasted garlic spicy dip


French onion soup served with French stick & gruyere cheese

French onion soup served with French stick & gruyere cheese


Cabbage Rosti

Cabbage Rosti


Lemon rocket risotto with roasted hazelnuts & ricotta

Lemon rocket risotto with roasted hazelnuts & ricotta


Tiramisu

Tiramisu


Review – Absolutely delightful!

After much indulgence we went to watch the fireworks display over the Sky tower. Surprisingly this year it went on for a good 5 minutes. So thank you to all those pyro tech greats who make everyone’s new year special.

With that I wish each one of you a fantastic New Year 2013 and that 2013 brings you Good Health, Cheer & Happiness.

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This morning I got up to let my dog Molaga out for his business. He wouldn’t go out!!!! He tried going out just to obey me but hesitantly and kept coming back into the house without relieving himself. Which I tell you is definitely odd given that it was over 7 hours since his last trip.

Anyway Molaga and I had our morning romp, fed him his brekkie and left for work, only to hear around lunch time on the news that 3 people were killed in a tornado in Auckland. Thunder and lightning raged on most afternoon. Molaga is not afraid of thunder/ storms thank heavens for that. With concerns of my dog going into withdrawal running in the back of the mind, I returned home to find my parents in law confirm he was still in the same state as he was in the morning.

After about 6 ish when the sky cleared up and the sun decided to peek out, came back my four-legged son’s boisterous mood as if a black cloud had been lifted. How else can I explain this…??? but dogs just have that sixth sense, that which us humans definitely lack. And we think we have a sixth sense…Duh!

I told Molaga to teach me such skills to predict such stuff, and all I got was his wide toothy smile and golden brown eyes grinning looking up at me as if he knew a secret…..

Next time Molaga, a heads-up would be real nice!!! Btw have you considered becoming a working dog and take on a job as a weatherman, or in your case a “weatherdog”.

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Buddha's Day

I found this interesting article on Herald late Friday evening that claimed that there was such a place in Auckland that would make us think we had entered a different dynasty. Finding it amusing I read the article further to find that it spoke of a Buddhist temple – Fo Guang Shan located in the Botany Downs suburb of Auckland.

Ram and a couple of my friends decided to check it out today especially since the temple was hosting Buddha’s Day and a multicultural celebration. And I have got to agree with the author every bit and more. Whatever the author of the article described was true to its word but thousands times more vibrant and colorful than my imagination.

Some of the scenes that are still green in my memory were the bamboo stalks lining the Zen Gardens, the cute little Buddha statues at every other part of the garden striking various poses, the stone lanterns, the Big Drum, the Iron Bell, Wishing bell and the stand out architecture in the middle of South Auckland. To give it an all gyrating mix which heightened our enjoyment of the first time visit was the traditional performances of various cultures. There were Japanese drums, Chinese Dragon dance, our very own Kiwi favourite -The Haka, Flamenco etc, Asian women and children decked out in traditional regalia and food stalls lining the gardens and paths with an all vegetarian fare to sate hungry tourists and devotees. As if that wasn’t enough there were stalls giving away Paper lanterns, Chinese zodiac stones, gift articles for a donation, which went towards the maintenance of the temple.

The main part of the event of course should be mentioned, which would be the prayer offering to Buddha, with many people lighting colorful candles and incense sticks and placing it in front of the deity for their wishes to come true. Because it was a big event, there were many dignitaries present from different cultural backgrounds offering the prayers in their national language. Another notable new thing I came across was the special session for ‘Baby blessings’. As the name goes, it was exclusively for babies where in families brought them to get blessed so they would have a bright and prosperous future.

After watching few of the events and prayers, out we came on to the food stalls, where they had organized a coupon system of prepaid food. And redeeming it for what ever we wanted. Very reasonably priced and a lavish array of items to choose from. We settled for Pad thai, Iced lemon tea and Sago dessert.

Having experienced the Fo Guang Shan on one of its busiest days, I can’t wait to go there on a less crowded day. Most of the temple scape was dotted with throngs of people, which  I am hoping will be less crowded on other days. I can literally imagine the peace and calm of those ornate walls and stone gardens beckoning me already.

Here are some of the memorable images from our day out.

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Enjoy!

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Not even during my wedding did I feel this kind of jitters or leap through highs and lows that felt like a roller coaster ride. Resigning ourselves to the rather limp and stuttering version of online cricket live telecast, ordering extra data usage and getting prepared for the match lest we miss out on the nation’s verve, we waited for the hours to turn into minutes and minutes to seconds. So when our friends invited us over to watch the D-Day Final at their home joining in on the spirit, to watch the Historic match on Live Television, it was with both hands that we grabbed the opportunity. Now all there was to do was go through the pain staking wait for the match to start.

On one side there is all this historic data pointing to some supposed results, while the other side of unpredictability depicts the recent brilliance of the young talent within the team beckoning a new era in Indian cricket.

Superstitions and Hoping against Hoping rife in my mind, I read on my Facebook page, a friend write – “1983 and 2011 calendars are exactly the same. And the million dollar question – India won the World Cup Final in 1983. Can History repeat itself???” My childish heart grasped at the illusion of victory in India’s arms this time round.

For that Coveted gold trophy

So when the Indian team started off great with fantastic economy in giving out runs, sharp fielding by the likes of Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina and Virat Kohli saving precious runs, containing the Sri Lankans, there was much hope within me that the Boys in Blue (Indians) can pull it off with the stellar batting line up they had. My wishful thinking declaring that we had a positive chance of bringing back the World Cup if the Target was under 250 runs. With Zaheer Khan going great lengths for economy of run rate, it was an absolute shocker when the last of the power play resulted in India being thrashed taking the Grand Total to a formidable 274.

“No worries’, I told myself. We still have hope with greats like Sachin Tendulkar and Virendar Sehwag who if they built a partnership can crumble the opposition’s defence or attack to dust. But that was not to be, with the careless Sehwag being given out for an LBW (Leg Before Wicket) on his very second ball. Well we still have Sachin and the youngsters to rely on. Let’s not give up hope yet. Enter Gautam Gambhir who was being pressured by the Lankan attack, he started off shakily establishing a much-needed solid partnership. Sachin treated the crowd to a couple of boundaries and some classy shots picking gaps intelligently for the much-needed runs between the wickets. But alas, another punch below the gut, he was caught behind by the wicket keeper. The equilibrium was tumbling and so was the Indian confidence.

In came Virat Kohli who’s bullish attitude can be misconstrued for arrogance or false bravado. He and Gambhir started stabilising the Indian innings by running between the wickets and building a partnership and keeping the run rate under control. But my developing faith in them again was shaken by Kohli’s exit. What an unlucky catch being caught and bowled by the bowler it was! But mind you both Kohli and Gambhir had put in place a foundation, something for the rest of the line up to make up for the remainder of the runs. Something to build on!

The partnership that gave Hope - Kohli and Gambhir

If you had been following the World Cup, you would have expecting Yuvraj Singh to make an entrance. Surprise Surprise! The skipper entered the arena. MS Dhoni decided it was time he stepped in, came in ahead to put a stop to falling wickets and build on a quintessential partnership. Gambhir trudged on bravely taking in the attack while the skipper quickly settled into a rhythm to complement him. Dhoni the ice man known for his ultra cool composure, made calculated decisions and risks playing aggressively turning the plates of pressure back on the Lankans. Once both of them got going, there was no stopping them. The Lankan bowling couldn’t infiltrate the Indian batting. No chinks in the armour. Of course no match would be normal if it weren’t for a couple of lucky turns, one of Gambhir being dropped early on in the match and Dhoni having a just miss run out ruling him safe after a third umpire decision.

The match was finally turning in favour of the Indian’s side with the duo piling up runs and not cowering under pressure. Dhoni inched on with selfless play leading his team to victory, and the crowd praying for Gambhir’s ton. Such a shame, the young man missed out on his World Cup 100 when he was dismissed by being bowled out when he moved away from the crease to go for a big one. Shy of 3 runs to the ton, the youngster exited but with much pride for what he had done for his country. He had done what experienced batsmen couldn’t. Given the Indians a new lease of life and a chance at a possible victory.

The tournament sweetheart Yuvraj Singh came with his breezy swagger, those face lines creased with determination, grit and steely attitude of taking his nation to the victory stand. It was a run a ball situation and the match could go either way still. The fear that Lankans could capitalise on one sign of weakness and could change the fate of the game did not go without consideration. And what finally turned the fates was the couple of boundaries that became the nail in Lanka’s coffin. With one more run between the wicket, Dhoni took stage for what would be the moment millions of Indians would come to revere. He blasted the ball to a Huge Match Winning and World Cup winning SIX

The World Cup winning sixer

making history in style. Yuvraj broke into joyous tears of disbelief while the first of the Captain’s smiles broke out just then.

Yuvraj's cry of victory

India had WON!!! Made history. Sorry, repeated History! But re-scripted the definition of what it was to be on a winning team. It was no more a case of Tendulkar shouldering on the nation’s burden like Atlas, but every man giving it his all to make this win a possibility. The known story of Indians crumbling if the great Sachin fell was no longer true, it has been disproved. The Indian team has been resurrected by a captain called Dhoni whose leadership greatness has reshaped the team morale, calibre, with talent being given the right recognition that they deserve leading the team to a memorable victory.

But on saying that what a dedication to the legend named Sachin who played his last World Cup. And about to retire from ODI. Although he did not get 100 Hundreds at the World Cup it was a poetic sunset on his career going away with a World Cup achievement under his belt. He had waited with bated breath for 21 years of his career. What a glorious way to end his career! Thank you Sachin for being a perennial inspiration to the young generation for giving cricket such a priceless legacy that cannot be obliterated till cricket’s dying days. May your legacy live unto eternity.

 

The Legend - Sachin Tendulkar

Here are some of my emotions that I shared on Facebook immediately after the match.

“WHAT A MASSIVE WIN!!! I AM SO PROUD TO BE AN INDIAN!!! JAI HIND!”

“I am reeling from the dramatic win by India….you’d think hope started dwindling after the first 2 wickets fell…but Gambhir & Kohli stabilised the Indian Innings and Dhoni rose to the occasion and gave the innings of a CAPTAIN….Hats off to Dhoni for keeping his cool till the last moment and what a six to finish off in style…
And its such a poignant send off for Tendulkar…..”

“Can’t hold back tears of JOY AND UNCONTROLLABLE HAPPINESS!!!!!!! It’s so amazingggggggggggg……”

“And wishing that India wins the same way in the Down Under as well in 2015!!!”

“It was so worth losing sleep if my nation could win….
Am reading and re-reading the cricket team reactions and fans comments trying to relive those moments of cricketing greatness…every word drawn out from the players and the people is so emotional and passionate! One can never doubt the nation’s religion is indeed CRICKET!!! Such an edge on seat FINAL!!!!!!! Well played Indians!!!”

“The World Cup 2011 finale is one match that I wouldn’t mind watching again and again.
And there has been only one other match that held me in such awe….it was the match when no sandstorm on earth was going to stop the Zeus-like Tendulkar display his exemplary brilliance at Sharjah against the Ozzies!!!”

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The famous Jigarthanda

The famous Jigarthanda

For those who don’t understand what on earth ‘Jigarthanda’ means and for those who are wearing that puzzled crooked nose expression that I did when I first read the word, it’s a tall cold drink served in one of Tamil Nadu’s most famous eateries Murugan Idli Shop. Its originates from Madurai, South India and sells famously during summers.

Murugan Idli Shop

Murugan Idli Shop - Meals Ready 🙂

I said to myself, it is not every day that one gets to try weird or unheard of stuff. And I just about pounced at the chance of experimenting that on one of my outings during my holiday in India. After a maddening amount of shopping at Fab India and fashion parades for my family, I was ready to drop and could almost hear my poor feet cry, begging for some respite. And we still had to eat our lunch, I realised with dread my day was far from being over.

So while we were discussing about the nearest eating joints in the Besant Nagar suburb, the first thing that popped into my head was Murugan Idli and suggested we head there. I remembered those beautiful idyllic mornings, when my family and I drove down to Elliott’s Beach to watch the sunrise, go for a small walk along the walkway and somehow managed to end up at Murugan Idli for steaming hot breakfast and some superb filter kapi (coffee). I should admit that the sunrise and walk was merely an excuse to head in that direction. With Adyar being a hop skip and jump distance away from the beach, it almost used to be a weekend ritual for us.

Anyway coming back to present day, we parked in the most cramped parking spot we could find that barely gave us concession to twist our way out of the car. I came round the car and the first thing that my eyes spotted was…………

Jigarthanda

Jigarthanda

Remember that expression I was talking about??? Oh well I read the word and of course pronounced it wrong. My father in law said it was pronounced as “ji-guru-dhan-da”. But I think the word has been localized quite a bit. It’s literal translation in Hindi is “Jigar” meaning Heart and “Thanda” being “Cold”, in effect supposed to mean something that cools your heart. Whether it does just that, I am not sure, but good news is its considered to be a health drink and I sighed with relief that there was at least something that I could enjoy without lesser guilt.

About Jigarthanda

About Jigarthanda

So we went in, and to my petty and cheap thrill I saw the menu with prices under $1 NZD for an item. I thought to myself, I had lived here most of my life, you’d think I knew about it and that there would be no surprises there. But having paid $3-4 for a plate of Idli and to see it priced so reasonably was actually having a ‘jigarthanda’ effect on me!

Look at those prices!!!!

Not heart warming, heart cooling indeed. I ordered a nice crisp Onion Rava Dosa and Vada served in Banana Leaf + that Superb Filter Kapi which was awesome. South India is well-known for serving their meals on Banana leaves and did you know that food tastes thousand times better eaten off it and aids in easy digestion too!!!

For super digestion - eat on a banana leaf

I declare today Saravana Bhavan needs to learn a thing or two from Murugan Idli. Saravana Bhavan has lost their charm and authenticity of retaining local flavour, over pricing ridiculously and have you looked at the quantities recently. Living off yesteryear’s glory! Murugan Idli still has that southern charm, intensity of flavour, reasonably priced and still packs a punch.

Can you believe that 4 of us adults ate sumptuously and a couple of us even went for seconds yet paid a bill of only $10 NZD = Rs.300-340 approximately. Since I was so full up, I decided I’ll get a take away of the Jigarthanda as I didn’t want to miss out on that. And it was a such a refreshing drink that reminded me of the local flavours, aromas and colours.

Next time you go to Murugan Idli, you know what I’d be recommending. South Indian saapaadu South Indian saapaadudhaan!!! [Translates to South Indian food is truly South India food only, meaning no other cuisine can be of the same league].

 

 

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