A Trip to Culinary Heaven

Calcutta is arguably the culinary heaven of India, with Delhi and Hyderabad as close contenders. The mention of culinary heaven must take you to an olfactory, ocular and gustatory paradigm of experience. It should leave you with a phenomenon, not  just an eating experience. Calcutta is pretty much capable of guiding you through an unforgettable culinary tour comprising of unimaginably varied food. You will find almost everything under the sun, especially with nuovo restaurants offering both world and local cuisine. But it is the heritage that still reigns the city’s food map. Allow me to introduce you to, and enlighten about five unique dishes quintessential to what we call ‘Calcutta cuisine.’ While you can still make/cook all of these at home, they are best tasted and tried at restaurants/street corners.

Kabiraji Cutlet – Most of us have been induced to believe that the wonderful, our own Kabiraji Cutlet has been derived from something called the British ‘Coverage Cutlet’. I’ve believed this blindly since time, but as I delved deep into the beloved Kabiraji Cutlet roots, it seemed Coverage Cutlet didn’t exist at all. To know more, read this wonderful article at Presented by P. I’d keep the discussion about the origin and etymology of Kabiraji Cutlet for later, and concentrate on the making and availability.

Chicken Kabiraji Cutlet at Mitra Cafe, Golpark

Chicken Kabiraji Cutlet at Mitra Cafe, Golpark

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Book Review : The Guitar Girl

Blurb  View: 

The Guitar Girl_Cover_Kindle

Image Courtesy: b00kr3vi3ws

Sixteen year old Rhea Shah never thought that she would find herself falling for her brother’s best friend, Joy Fernandez, when they come home from college. Because she never thought that the dork who used to go to school with them would suddenly reinvent himself in college.

The only people she’s able to talk to about her absurd crush, are her best friends, Sophie and Arjav. Both of whom at first encourage, and then almost blackmail, Rhea to confess her feelings, which leaves the poor girl more muddled than ever!

Plagued with upcoming Board Examinations along with her friends’ suggestions, Rhea finds it difficult to concentrate, because she’s fallen for Joy, hook, line and sinker. In an attempt to vent to her feelings, she begins a blog, where she publishes all her songs and poems, dedicated to Joy, keeping her identity a secret.

But things do not go quite how she planned when a certain blogger named J. Fern begins to read her blog, and wishes to work with her…

Will Rhea ever confess her feelings to Joy? And will Joy find out the real identity of The Guitar Girl?

Review:

How many times have you revisited childhood reading a book and felt familiar? Aniesha takes us to that precious time of our lives where each one of us has had crushes and infatuations, knowingly or otherwise, for people they know or just random strangers, at school or in their neighbourhood. We’ve all tried to ignore them, or fallen hopelessly in love, discussed them with our best friends or siblings, and hoped for more, some day.

The Guitar Girl is Rhea Shah, who has a pesky elder brother and his handsome college friend Joy Fernandez who she falls for when she’s sixteen. Yes, such things happen mostly at sixteen. Joy was a dorky senior in school who turned hot in college and stunned his best friend’s little sister. We also meet Rhea’s best friends – Sophie and Arjav – who turn a couple later.  There are ample teen elements in the story, love, maths, economics, homework, study sessions and love again. Young love is tender and Aniesha explores it quite deftly.

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Love Thy Neighbour!

“The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” – Saint Augustine

True. Having been taught the gospels of Saint Augustine in a school named after him, this is one of his teachings I believe in. You cannot discover more than half of yourself unless you have travelled. Each new sight and sound, flora and fauna unravels a part of you hidden hitherto from your own soul.

Image Courtesy: Google

Image Courtesy: Google

I have travelled in India, yes. As a family, we’ve done the usual ‘South India’ tours, the ‘Bombay-Goa’, ‘Rajasthan’, and the shorter ‘Puri’, ‘Darjeeling’ ones. There’s one more tour that people from Calcutta usually cover early in their life – Nepal, our beautiful neighbouring country. My parents had missed it, somehow. My in-laws have visited there recently. It seems we’re one of the few couples in our family not having been there. I’ve always longed to visit Nepal as I primarily adore mountains. The alluring chill of the hills, the tranquility that is hard to find in the plains, and the familiarity of the people in language and habits are reason enough for a visit or two. So I had planned a Nepal trip long ago including places to visit, food to eat, adventure, religious shrines, national parks and lakes. The itinerary got easier with Skyscanner providing a credit of 1 lakh rupees to accommodate all my plans. Here’s the plan all chalked out for any one to have a great trip in Nepal. I have pointed the key places I’d like to visit in the map here – Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, Patan (5 km from Kathmandu), Royal Chitwan National Park, Pokhara and Lumbini. Each has it’s own significance in my trip, read further to know how they fit.

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CalcuttaScape : Krishna Udayasankar

Presenting a new section to the readers : CalcuttaScape. It would be a guest column on One and a Half Minutes, in which published authors will write about their experiences on visits to Calcutta. I will be approaching non-resident authors who have visited for a vacation or stayed in Calcutta for a short while.

I know, dear readers, the first question cropping in your mind would be, why Calcutta? I’m not sure if I have a satisfactory answer for this one. It is my city, at times it has been my muse, it has been a companion in my early adult years, it has been a witness to a major part of my life. This is probably my way of paying a tribute to Calcutta, by bringing to you words flown from famous authors, on a city that never ceases to amaze.

The fifth article in this column is from Krishna Udayasankar, author of Govinda & Kaurava in The Aryavarta Chronicles series.

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Calcutta

Calcutta – I knew it before it became Kolkata, as temporary resident, then as frequent visitor and now as permanent admirer. ‘Cal’ does that to more than one person, I know. It’s a city that’s easy to fall in love with, a place that makes one feel at home. Perhaps that is why I remember the city as a sum of sensations and stimuli, sights and sounds that not only stir fond memories, but also come together in the present as a story that must be told, full of emotions, drama, intrigue, suspense and love.

Image Courtesy: Google

Image Courtesy: Google

Say “Calcutta” and I think of samosas emerging from the depths of a lightless, soot-stained shop in Kidderpore, to be eaten while walking over cobbled streets, sighted feet avoiding open man-holes and the washed remains of yesterday’s downpour. I also think of rasgullas (and its pronounced roshogolla, not roshogullo, as I’ve been oft reminded) from that piece of paradise on earth – KC Das on Esplanade. The informed visitor consumes the delicacy while showering many blessings on the father-son inventor duo of Nobin Chandra and Krishna Chandra Das. The less historically-inclined show as much relish, but affirm that both rasgullas and rasmalai from the decades old main store taste much better than what comes out a high-tech vacuum-sealed tin. Alternatively, one could indulge in street-fare phuchkas and jhal-muri, followed by dessert that would literally seem a world apart: melt-in-your mouth pastries at that unforgettable Calcutta institution –Kookie Jar.

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CalcuttaScape : Simi K. Rao

Presenting a new section to the readers : CalcuttaScape. It would be a guest column on One and a Half Minutes, in which published authors will write about their experiences on visits to Calcutta. I will be approaching non-resident authors who have visited for a vacation or stayed in Calcutta for a short while.

I know, dear readers, the first question cropping in your mind would be, why Calcutta? I’m not sure if I have a satisfactory answer for this one. It is my city, at times it has been my muse, it has been a companion in my early adult years, it has been a witness to a major part of my life. This is probably my way of paying a tribute to Calcutta, by bringing to you words flown from famous authors, on a city that never ceases to amaze.

The fourth article in this column is from Simi K. Rao, the author of ‘An Incurable Insanity.’

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Calcutta For The Soul

Image Courtesy: Rajdeep Mukherjee

Image Courtesy: Rajdeep Mukherjee

It’s said that memories fade with time which is probably a good thing or some of us would find it impossible to go on. But there are certain reminisces that cannot afford to be forgotten. They are like precious keepsakes that need to be extracted from the dusty realms of time. They have to be caressed and fondled with affection; reinforced and perhaps refurbished before being tucked away securely again.

One such precious memory that I’ve guarded fiercely is that of my trip to Calcutta. Over the years it has been revisited a million times; edited and imbued with subtle nuances so to add color and character.

I was perhaps ten, twelve or thereabouts (my mother stresses on the later and she is probably right because I’m pathetically poor with specifics.) The trip would never have come about hadn’t it been for my father, who after one of his numerous travels brought back an exquisite Bengali handloom cotton striped sari of olive green and cream. It became my favorite. My mother looked lovely in it. He also spoke of a land rich in culture that had produced the likes of Rabindranath Tagore, Vivekananda, Satyajit Ray and of course the indomitable Kishore Da. Therefore armed with miniscule amount of education and barely suppressed curiosity, I embarked on my sole journey to the east, with my tiny family in tow.

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CalcuttaScape : Laxmi Hariharan

Presenting a new section to the readers : CalcuttaScape. It would be a guest column on One and a Half Minutes, in which published authors will write about their experiences on visits to Calcutta. I will be approaching non-resident authors who have visited for a vacation or stayed in Calcutta for a short while.

I know, dear readers, the first question cropping in your mind would be, why Calcutta? I’m not sure if I have a satisfactory answer for this one. It is my city, at times it has been my muse, it has been a companion in my early adult years, it has been a witness to a major part of my life. This is probably my way of paying a tribute to Calcutta, by bringing to you words flown from famous authors, on a city that never ceases to amaze.

The third article in this column is from Laxmi Haraharan, a Kindle bestselling author and blogger for Huffington Post.

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The Calcutta Comeuppance 

Image Courtesy: Author

Image Source: ehttp://wordhavering.wordpress.com

Over the years my father has let small clues spill about his past. He lived in Calcutta when he was starting out on his career as a trainee bank officer. I pieced together a picture of the girl he had met here. One who loved to dance the twist and drink lots of cha. She was a widow, someone who flaunted societal rules to enjoy life. He had been enamoured with her but chose

to move on, knowing he wasn’t strong enough to face up to his family and society to marry her. At least that’s what he told me. When he speaks of her, I see the look of a man frozen at the crossroads of life from which he has never really moved and yet lived a lie. But leave he did. Then it was my turn to meet the city.

Calcutta had always seemed to be in a dimension apart. As if it were this planet existed on one plane and that exalted epitome of imagination on the other. Did I have enough soul to be accepted into its fold, I wondered as I walked through Park Street hand in hand with a man who was born in a street not too far away. He, whose parents met in this city fifty years earlier; they had been together since.

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The Serpentine Kiss

Circa 1975, Bombay…

James had invited me to a party at his place. He said it was a debut party for someone. Since I was not alone in Bombay anymore, I decided to take my new friend Marie to his party as a plus one. We reached his place at Parel on the particular evening. Marie was more excited than me as she was about to meet James for the first time. A man servant ushered us inside the huge duplex apartment. I had come here twice before, though I doubt if he had recognized me. He led us directly to the floor above where I had never been in my earlier visits. As we entered the hall through an unusually bolted door, it felt as if we had stepped into a different world altogether. It was an extremely strange and eerie hall for a debut party. The entire room was lined with cages as far as I could see. They had live snakes. And frogs. And baby alligators. The hall was dark except for soothing matted lights above each cage. I wasn’t absolutely dumbstruck, knowing James, but I surely had forgotten about Marie. As soon as I spotted James under the light of a cobra cage, I turned to Marie for an introduction. But she had vanished into thin air.

Image Courtesy: Google

Image Courtesy: Google

***

I was confused as to what astonished me more: The weird debut party by James? Or the disappearance of Marie? It was dark, but I could gauge at least thirty more people in the hall. Marie could have sneaked into the other side, though it was more likely for her to have fainted by this time. I had not revealed to her till now that James was a reptile supplier for the Hindi movies. She was crazy about movies and the tall heroes prancing around trees. I had just mentioned to her that James worked in those movies and she was ready to come to the party with me. Marie was actually a distant cousin of mine. I had stayed with her and Aunt Lily for a month in their tiny flat in Colaba when I arrived from Calcutta six months ago. As of now, six months later, Marie was my only friend in Bombay though I had known James since childhood.

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CalcuttaScape : Nalini Rajan

Presenting a new section to the readers : CalcuttaScape. It would be a guest column on One and a Half Minutes, in which published authors will write about their experiences on visits to Calcutta. I will be approaching non-resident authors who have visited for a vacation or stayed in Calcutta for a short while.

I know, dear readers, the first question cropping on your mind would be, why Calcutta? I’m not sure if I have a satisfactory answer for this one. It is my city, at times it has been my muse, it has been a companion in my early adult years, it has been a witness to a major part of my life. This is probably my way of paying a tribute to Calcutta, by bringing to you words flown from famous authors, on a city that never ceases to amaze.

The second article in this column is from author Nalini Rajan, her first novel ‘The Pangolin’s Tale’ was longlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize, 2007.

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Calcutta

Howrah Bridge, 1945 (Image Courtesy: Wikipedia)

Howrah Bridge, 1945 (Image Courtesy: Wikipedia)

I have visited Calcutta three times, and I have mere fragments of memories of this city.

The first time I went to Calcutta, I was nine years of age. I was travelling by train from Delhi with my 12-year-old sister and a 20-year-old male cousin, Shekhar. “Girls, there are lots of things you should see in Calcutta”, our father advised us. “This is a city, brimming with history!” He looked somewhat dreamy. “And Howrah Bridge is something you see, anyway, from the train”, he added, as he waved us goodbye at Delhi station.

Right at the beginning of the 20-hour journey my sister and I knew one thing: we loathed our cousin, and he, for his part, simply forgot that we existed. It was lucky that our mother had packed loads of food for the train journey – else her daughters would surely have perished of hunger. For the most part of the trip, Shekhar would hang out with people his age, and usually of the opposite sex. Not once did he ask us, out of cousinly concern, if we needed anything! We were so puffed up with righteous indignation at this benign neglect, that we missed seeing Howrah Bridge altogether, as we approached Calcutta.

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CalcuttaScape : Timothy Jay Smith

Presenting a new section to the readers : CalcuttaScape. It would be a guest column on One and a Half Minutes, in which published authors will write about their experiences on visits to Calcutta. I will be approaching non-resident authors who have visited for a vacation or stayed in Calcutta for a short while.

I know, dear readers, the first question cropping on your mind would be, why Calcutta? I’m not sure if I have a satisfactory answer for this one. It is my city, at times it has been my muse, it has been a companion in my early adult years, it has been a witness to a major part of my life. This is probably my way of paying a tribute to Calcutta, by bringing to you words flown from famous authors, on a city that never ceases to amaze.

The first one in this column is from an American author, Timothy Jay Smith (winner of the Paris Prize for Fiction 2008) reminiscing two of his visits to Calcutta in 1978 and 1990s.

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Enduring Calcutta

I boarded the train at a way station north of Madras; and it was still called Madras then, not Chennai. I had managed to avoid buying anything resembling a Madras shirt—those myriad colors swirling in soft fabric worn so ubiquitously by the Sixties flower children. Perhaps now they are called Chennai shirts, but I hope they’ve retained the name Madras. The word defines an era well beyond a fashion statement.

Traveling third class, I stepped over dozens of feet—in sandals, sneakers, one foot bloated with Elephantitis—and found a spot on the wooden bench. I stowed my backpack under it and sat down. Across from me was the strangest man I had ever seen: stick skinny, smeared with green paint, naked except for a revealing loincloth, and fingernails so long that they had looped back on themselves. By contrast, I could not have been more ‘normal-looking’ in my jeans and button-down blue Oxford shirt.

And everybody on the train was looking at me.

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Of Rain, Calcutta, and Other Lores

It’s raining in Calcutta now. And I’m writing about it sitting in a sunny, humid, sweltering city a couple of thousand kilometers away. That itself should be proof enough of my yearning for rain, in Calcutta. Every year at the advent of monsoon, there is a part in me which unfailingly craves to be in Calcutta to savour the climate. The dilapidated city looks surreal, feels surreal, and infinite memorable moments are born with each earthward drop.

Photo Courtesy: Subhamoy Sinha Roy

Photo Courtesy: Subhamoy Sinha Roy

I have lived in Calcutta for eight years only. I have also lived in a few other metropolises of the world during rains. Miami – yes, Mumbai – yes, Hyderabad – yes, New York – briefly yes, London – briefly yes, Belfast – yes. I have watched the preparation, the actual precipitation, soaked and froze myself in those rains, and yet, whenever it rains anywhere it reminds me of Calcutta. I have eons of memories as I spent the crucial monsoons of my life in the city. The shadows of deep dark pregnant clouds on the moss-lined walls of our old Ballygunge flat used to bring out the poet in me each monsoon. They were not necessarily works of art, I must assure you, but they never failed to fill the pages of my diary. I was naive then, yes. Even an edged word from my best friend drove me to melancholy and made me seek solace in the rain. I could sit hours on the window sill and day-dream with incessant patter in the background. That is something I still do. The rains compel me to day-dream. They make even amateurish dreams seem achievable.

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