Where To Buy The Local Snacks (or chakhana) in Kerala?

Each town in Kerala has its own local taste. I always try to find hotels or stores where I can enjoy such local flavors. In my trip to Kerala, I found two such places where the shops were filled with local snacks and I wanted to buy the whole shop.

The AK Bakery in Kayamkulam city is filled with huge bags of snacks and sweets. You can buy more than 10 types of banana wafers, 2 types of jalebi, 3-5 types of badami halwa, achhapam and so many other Kerala delicacies (very difficult to pronounce thus difficult to spell for me) under one roof. The owners of the bakery are very helpful and suggest you the perfect snacks to buy. The bakery is located near Parabrahma Temple, Kayamkulam.

The other store I visited was in Thiruvananthpuram (also known as Trivandrum). The Maha Chips store in the capital city is located near the famous Padmanabham Temple. Suitable to its name, the store is huge. It offers you very different flavors of banana chips like salty, pepper, masala, garlic, chilli etc. They also have jack fruit jam, different types of chakalis, sweets, badami halwa. Each counter has a helper and the person helps you to pack the freshly made delicacies. The store is always over crowded and doesn’t have a parking space near by. So I would suggest you to walk to the store from the temple (the distance is hardly 50mtrs) and take only your wallet when you visit.

Read more about Mah Chips:

http://mahachips.com/

Advertisements

कातळावर बसून अनुभवलेला कायल…

पूर्वेस सूर्य उगवतो आणि पश्चिमेस मावळतो. केरळातील कायल (backwaters) हे पश्चिमेस असल्यामुळे इथे लोक मावळणारा सूर्य बघायला येतात उगवणारा नाही. अगदी तुम्ही पश्चिमेकडे उभं राहून पूर्वेला उगवणार्या सूर्याचे प्रतिबिंब त्या पाण्यात टिपण्याचा प्रयत्न केला, तरी ते तितकेसे सुंदर दिसत नाही. म्हणून अनेकजण कायलवर सूर्यास्त टिपण्यासाठी जातात. पण ज्यांना पश्चिमेस दिसणारी सकाळ किंवा मुख्यत्वे पहाट अनुभवायची आहे त्यांनी  कायलला सूर्योदयापूर्वीच तशी वेळ बघून, गजर लावून जावे.

कायलला जसजसा सूर्य पूर्वेकडे उगवतो, तसतसा आकाश आणि पर्यायाने पाण्याचा रंग देखील बदलतो. राखाडी करडा, मग गर्द निळा, मग मधेच नितळ पांढरा आणि मग हळूहळू निळ्या शाईसारखा रंग होतो. हे रंगांचे खेळ सुरू असतानाच एकीकडे जवळ जवळ शेकडो पक्षी ह्या पाण्यावरुन उडत असतात.

निसर्गाचा हा क्षणाक्षणाला बदलणारा प्रचंड मोठा canvas डोळे भरून बघण्यासाठी कायलवर एखादा दगड पकडायचा आणि त्यावर बसून राहायचे. मी बसले होते तिथून मोठ्या संख्येने कावळे, घारी, बगळे, दह्याळ आणि अजून काही बारीक पक्षी उडून जात होते. पाण्यात लांबवर १-२ होड्या वल्हवत जाणारे स्थानिक कोळी देखील दिसत होते. बगळे आणि कावळे तर अगदी काही फूटांवरुन उडत होते. Tv वर, museums मध्ये किंवा शहरात कचर्याच्या ढीगावर दिसणार्या कावळ्यांपेक्षा इथे दगडांवर स्वच्छंद बागडणार्या कावळ्यांचे सौंदर्य प्रकर्षाने जाणवते.

माझ्या तीन फूटांवरुन उडत जाणाऱ्या एका कावळ्याच्या पंखातले एक पीस गळून पाण्यावर अलगद पडले. ते कापसासारखे हलके राखडी-काळपट पीस शाई सारख्या निळ्याशार पाण्यावर पडल्याने तीन तरंग उमटले.दोन सेकंदात घडलेल्या ह्या घटनेने माझ्या दिवसाची सुरूवात झाली. ते पीस लांब तरंगत जाताना पाहणे हा एक सर्वोत्तम आनंद होता.

त्यामुळे जेव्हा तुम्ही केरळच्या कायलला भेट द्याल तेव्हा निसर्गाने आयोजित केलेला रोज पहाटेचा हा अद्भुत कार्यक्रम बघायला विसरू नका!

Dining With Keralites: Tips and Trivias

Food in Kerala is a bliss. It’s a paradise for vegetarians and non-vegetarians. Suma Chechi (chechi is the Malayalam word for sister) shared some of her daily kitchen secrets and rituals with me as I saw her cooking in amazement.

  • In Kerala people don’t cook Sambar or Rassam everyday. They make different types of curries using a lot of coconut.
  • Chor is the malyali word for rice. They eat the big grain rice compared to northern India. As me and my friends weren’t used to eat the big rice, they had to specialy buy small grained rice for us. The big grained rice is much easier to digest than the smaller rice. 
  • Everyday meal consists of tapioca, rice, various curries (fish curry too if non-vegetarian), aviyal (a vegetable mix) and pickles. They start their meal with tapioca and curry and then take the rice.
  • 99% times black pepper is used to spice up the food instead of red chilli powder. 
  • They don’t put the turmeric powder in the tadka. Instead they put it when the food is half cooked or at the time of putting other ingredients like masalas and vegetables.
  • Each kitchen has a coconut grounder attached to its granite kadappa. Thus it makes the daily coconut grounding job very easy. A family of four uses one whole big coconut daily for food.
Aviyal, Sambar, Curry and a vegetable mix loaded with coconut
Rice, Curry and Aviyal
Kerala Wedding Lunch : Look 1
Kerala Wedding Lunch: Main Course (later they served puranpoli, 2 types of paaysam, rassam and curd milk at the end)
When finished, you’re supposed to close the banana leaf like this as an indicator that you’re done eating.
Suma Chechi

Follow me on instagram to watch my Kerala picture blog:

disha.mahajan

Being in the God’s Own Country 

I always wanted to explore Kerala to to find out why they call it the God’s Own Country. I started getting answers to my question the minute I entered the lush green state of Kerala.

I was traveling from Mumbai to Kayamkulam (a small town on the backwaters of Alleppi). I was fortunate enough to spend most of my time in Kerala with a bunch of Kerali families in Putupatthy village of Kayamkulam. 

The whole train journey was mesmerizing. We (me and my friends) enjoyed the amazing views through the train windows as we ate everything that IRCTC offered. We saw through the train that most of the houses were coloured in the matt shades of pink, green, purple or yellow. The small houses were not bigger than one storey. In Kerala, you can see small bungalows surrounded by gardens of banana and coconut trees. 

The houses comprise of 2 bedrooms, hall, kitchen and 2 bathrooms (one inside house and one outside). The kitchen kadappas are slightly lower in height as compared to the maharashtrian kitchens I have seen. Each kitchen has a big stone grinder to grind chutteny and masalas. 

Living with Kerali people is not the only bliss of my stay here. I am writing this piece with enormous view of seren backwater body, numerous birds flying over my head with their sweet hummings, crabs walking by my side, huge coconut trees in the back and watching local fishermen catching fish at a distance. The water is touching the rock body I am sitting on, can hear the crackling sounds of pet ducks and chicken from the house I am living in, drums playing from the temple on the other shore. There is full range to our mobile phones, every house has a DTH connection and radio, speed boats and motors are also here. But I can only hear the voices nature is willing to give me. 

Now I understand why they call it God’s Own Country.

Follow me on instagram to view my travelogue :

disha.mahajan

The Book Thief 

There are two sides to every coin. When Adolf Hitler took charge in World War 2, he had his own reasons to fight the jews and so did the Jews had their own reasons to hate Hitler. But in this tug of war, it was the innocent children who were getting hurt the most. The war, the hatred, the pseudo nationalism made them shred their innocense and their little hearts were left filled with hatred and darkness. Many were confused about what was happening, many pretended to know, many traied to escape and many failed before their attempts. We have read many books and seen many films about what Hitler and his troops did to the Jews. It was one of the most terrifying scenes in the history of the world. But what about the German voices? The German children were brainwashed and lost their childhood the same way the Jew children did. The German children may not have been a part of the concentration camps but the war surely left huge impacts on their tiny innocent souls.

The story of the other side, the German side of suffering, was portrayed in The Book Thief. The film is based on a book by the same name written by Markus Zusak. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to read the book, but I saw the equally (I believe) powerful movie.

The movie is narrated by a voice of death. It tells us about the little girl who in the beginning can’t read but with the help of her adoptive father learns to read and write profoundly. The family is helping a Jew boy by giving him shelter in their basement. The girl steals the books from the mayor’s house (she justifies it by saying that she is ‘borrowing’) and reads them to that sick Jew boy.

The characters of children are written with great admiration. You feel sorry for them, pity for them, you get angry as we see them enjoying the news of war, we can’t understand why they are behaving so devilishly and most importantly we keep wishing a happy ending for them.

We feel the pain of the mother of 4 children as she kisses good bye to her husband and sends him to fight a war knowing that she might never see him again. We feel extreme anger in our hearts as young soldiers make fun of an old man who was conscripted. We feel our heart skipping beats as death suck the life out of people sleeping soundly in their beds and from children trying to say I love you.

I won’t say that the movie ends with a happy ending, it takes away one last soul. As the death says nothing is forever and forever is a small word in front of death. We humans are haunted by death from the moment we are born. But in this movie I got a chance to witness the death haunted by humans.

I strongly recommend everyone to watch this movie to know the other side, to know what death thinks and to feel the emotions of the children who lost their innocence.

Traveling With Your Preiods On

We all love to travel but many times many women avoid traveling during their periods and miss on many opportunities. Jobs, career, workout, late hours, taking care of family, shopping, sex nothing stops us when we are on our periods. Then why should we skip travelling? Yes I know that those unbearable cramps, weird mood swings and fear of getting stains keep women away from traveling in ‘those days’. But if you plan neatly and pack your bag with proper ‘equipments’ to handle your period, you can have a blast on the roads!

Pack The Right Panties

If you are traveling with your periods on, never ever pack your fancy panties. In your travel, you will be walking, jumping around, sitting in different styles so you need a perfect panty to support the sanitary napkin or tampon you are wearing.

Adira provides special ‘Period Panties’ according to your flow needs. You can buy them from the nearest lingerie store or online from the link below:

http://www.myadira.com/period-panties.html

Carry Painkillers

One should not take painkillers unless its really necessary. In travelling, the exhaustion of travel it self can add in your pain. So carry painkillers like combiflam but don’t take the pill unless you REALLY need it because it comes with its own sets of side effects, one being sleepiness.

Keep yourself Hydrated

Traveling in period can cause exhaustion and exhaustion can be dealt with either painkillers or by keeping your body hydrated. Carry a water bottle with you and fruits which are enriched with vitamin D to fight with exhaustion. When you eat outside make sure that along with local delicacies, you eat dishes with higher water level. Avoid eating too spicy food too.

Pin The Washrooms

Finding a clean washroom is a difficult but not an impossible task in India. Before leaving for your tour, use the Google maps to pin the washrooms or hotels/restaurants having washrooms on your route. Also make sure that you write online reviews about washroom services through various travel websites so that it will be helpful for other women travelers.

Sanitary Napkins/Tampons

While traveling make sure that you are using XL or XXL sized sanitary napkins. Use those napkins which are gel based, can hold the flow for long and most importantly don’t use the dry pads. Use pads with soft texture to avoid itching. I personally use Sofy Sidewalls anti bacteria pads to avoid infections and you can use it as long as eight hours straight.

Also I would recommend you to use tampons while traveling. When you use tampons, you don’t have to worry about them like sanitary napkins as they don’t slip or show lines on your tight pants. But do not use tampons on your heavy flow days if you are not used to as using tampons on heavy flow day may require you to change in every couple of hours which is not physible while traveling.

Learn how to use Tampons perfectly from the link below:

http://www.theperiodblog.com/how-to-guides/how-to-insert-tampon/

Heating Pads

These you can use while traveling and even at your home. But in travel they come real handy as they help you come over the nasty cramps quickly. You can buy the easy to use electric heating pad at your nearest medical store or online.

http://www.amazon.in/JSB-H03-Electric-Heating-Waist/dp/B00B6ZT2N4

Avoid White

No matter what type of sanitary wear we use, we always have a fear of wearing white during periods. When we wear white, it becomes more than a piece of cloth: it becomes an Everest of distraction. So girls, I would sincerely suggest you not to wear white during traveling if you carry the fear of being stained.

white-pants
PC.: Internet

To all the men, who read this article, if you are traveling with a woman on her periods, make sure that you don’t piss her off and help her out whenever needed.

Generation Gap of a Father

Yesterday I was watching Mohabbatein (with a voice in my head saying Aditya Chopra ruined Dead Poets Society) and suddenly started analyzing Bachchan’s character. It also reminded me of Piku and I started comparing Bhashkor Banerjee and Narayan Shankar.

Mohabbatein was released in 2000 and Piku was released in 2015. Mohabbatein is a mushy mushy fairy tale romance and Piku is comic family drama. Both movies have their own set of philosophies and very different perspectives to look at life. Plot, genre, music, locations are totally different in these movies. There is nothing common in them except Amitabh Bachchan portraying a ‘father of a young woman’.

In both the movies, Bachchan portrays strong, possessive, pain in the ass yet a loving father. Both fathers love their daughters but fail to understand her. They take her for granted and like many Indian men, they consider woman as their property. So they make decisions for her without her consent.

In Mohabbatein it was easier to hate Bachchan’s fatherly figure as his character didn’t had many facades. He was a strict father who was against his daughter falling in love. So to judge and hate Bachchan in Mohabbatein was easier. But in Piku it was way too complicated. Bachchan’s Bhashkor Banerjee had his reasons to behave in a particular way and those were made crystal clear by writer and Bachchan himself. That’s why instead of hating him, audiences felt mixed emotions of pity, sorrow and sympathy. In Mohabbatein audience put him in a negative box without even understanding his character or without giving him a second chance to hear his story. But in Piku Bachchan kept attracting audiences towards him, telling them about his e’motions’, thus giving them multiple chances to understand his character.

Death is another common factor in both movies. In Mohabbatein, Bachchan’s daughter dies, leaving him alone in agony, full of guilt that he failed as a father. In Piku, Bachchan, the father, dies leaving his daughter alone but with an assurance that he lived his life to the fullest and now she doesn’t have to live with an agony or guilt that she failed to perform her duties as a daughter. Bachchan has dealt beautifully with both deaths in respective movies.

The main factor of comparison in these movies is the maturity of the characters. Mohabbatein was a table turner for Bachchan as he left his decades long ‘hero’ image, was trying to handle the bankruptcy situation and finally got a more mature role suitable for his age and experience. That’s why in Mohabbatein, sometimes he looks like he is trying very hard to give that mature feel to his character by giving strong pauses, showering deadly looks by turning his face to a 300 degree angle, his red eyes and sudo pride. But in Piku he comes natural and effortless. There is a gap of 15 years in both the movies, which obviously gave Bachchan the time and experience he needed to do such mature roles. That’s why it becomes easier to accept Bhaskor Banerjee but way too difficult to accept Shankar Narayan with open arms.

Amitabh Bachchan is indeed a versatile actor. But portraying those fathers with a gap of 15 years shows us how much he has grown as an actor in the so called second innings of his life. By noting the differences in these two roles he has proven that there are no boundaries to learn, experiment and experience. In the future, if Bachchan portrays another father on screen, (irrespective of the genre) I believe that it will be even more mature than his role in Piku.

P.C: Internet

Book Review: The Tales of Beedle Bard

The 1st book of the Harry Potter series written by JK Rowling was published in 1997 and the 7th was published in 2007. The 8th addition in the main series was a play script which was published last year. In between Rowling wrote various book from the Potter series and others. ‘The Tales of Beedle Bard’ is one of them. I read this book a few months ago and wanted to write a review for a long time.

About the book:

All the potter fans know about this book. Professor Dumbeldore gives his copy of the book to Hermoine Granger in ‘The Deathly Hollow’. Every child from the magic family knows this book and its stories as every muggle knows the stories of Snow White or Peter Pan. Hermoine’s copy is the one in which Dumbledore has made notes and some sketches. The copy I got from Amazon was the same.

The book is of just 108 pages with a big type font which makes it a day’s read. But like any other Harry Potter book, you can read it millions of times and you won’t get bored.

The Stories:

The book comprises 5 stories: The Wizard and The Hopping Pot; The Fountain of Fair Fortune; The Warlocks Hairy Heart; Babbity Rabbity and her Cackling Stump; The Tale of The Three Brothers. In addition it also has a personal note by Dumbledore and at the end a personal message from Georgette Mulheir, Chief Executive of Lumos.

The protagonists of these stories: Asha, Athelda, Amata, Babbity Rabbity and the youngest bother are the real life heroes. They are more real and easy to relate than our regular fairy tale heroes like Peter Pan and the Beast. These protagonists take their faith in their own hands instead of waiting for someone else to come and change their destiny.

In the stories of muggle, ordinary people get in trouble and magic helps them out (Fairy Godmother for Cinderella; true love’s kiss for Snow White). But here in these stories, people with magic get into trouble and how they solve their problems with magic and great determination is portrayed aptly.

Every time you read a story, you find something new. The stories and their plot points are so different for an Indian reader, that it changes our perspective in terms of what we should read and what not. The writing style is so rich and unique that it enhances our quest to read better content.

Though we have read and seen ‘The Tale of Three Brothers’ in Harry Potter and Deathly Hollows book and movie, actually reading the story adds many facades to our imagination.

Each story comes with a high moral aspect and still it does not bore us.

Dumbledore’s Notes:

Magic comes with a price. And Dumbledore’s notes in the book try to explain the same to us. Dumbledore has compared his thoughts on the given story and the muggle world. He has made the stories easier to understand for the muggles. Along with Dumbledore’s notes, Rowling has given footnotes on some occasions for the magic world vocabulary.

The Final Word:

Do I need to say anything? Yes, buy the copy from the link below and read it ASAP.

 

Book Review: The Palace of Illusions

After taking a long time, 5-10 pager per day, I finally finished reading The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. The book is super interesting and those who have ample amount of time in their hands, can finish it off in merely 2-3 days (unlike me as it took me a month). Before recommending the book to any other person, I thought of sharing my views about the writing, story, chapters, characters and the perspective of the book.

The Language:

This is the first book I read by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. The English is very simple yet rich. Not once I had to stop reading and grab a dictionary. So all those people who want to improve their English or trying to get hold on over all English reading, this book is a go for you. She has also incorporated some Hindi words (you can call those proper nouns) which gives you a very familiar feeling while reading.

The book has also been translated in Marathi, Gujarati and Hindi but I read the original English copy.

The Story:

A few years back, I read the whole Mahabharata and my heart told me to be on the side of Kauravas. Pandavas and Kauravas both sides were bad, nasty, they both broke the rules of the great battle, both were selfish and both were equally wrong yet right. It’s all about our perspective, as how we see the story. I hate Pandavas, Draupadi, Kunti and most importantly Krishna for the part they played in the great battle. And I believe that Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni has given the exact words for my feelings.

The book is like the memoirs of Draupadi. Banerjee has written beautifully about the emotions and traumas Draupadi faces from the moment she is born. Her Draupadi is selfish, ruthless, narcissist woman with high temper. Her confused emotions for Karna are so apt that even I shred few tears for him while reading.

Mahabharata is a very big canvas and writing it from one person’s perspective is a very difficult task. But Banerjee has re-written the story beautifully. But still those who are absolutely blank about Mahabharata or those who know only majors characters of Mahabharata or those who are unaware of the other related stories with Mahabharata (like the story of Yadu clan) can get lost in the pages. The story lacks at points where the subsidiary stories of Mahabharata are mentioned slightly. There are chances that the readers might not understand what they just read or its significance.

The Chapters:

Banerjee has divided her story aptly in many chapters. The titles of the chapters are of not more than one or two words. She takes the story further the Mahabharata war. Till then each chapter holds a balanced equation of philosophy, love, hatred, past stories, character introductions, drama and well thought emotional levels. But after the Mahabharata war, the chapters take a philosophical turn. In the whole book Draupadi uses the words like I and We to tell her story but in last few chapters it becomes too much of ‘I’.

I know it’s Draupadi’s perspective, her story and her emotions but that much of narcissism bored me a little bit. I literally glanced through the pages after the Mahabharata war and jumped to the last chapter.

The Characters:

The protagonist Draupadi (who I think is also the antagonist if you get into the philosophy) is portrayed perfectly by Banerjee. She is exactly what I had always thought of. And what can I say about Karna? Like many people even I used to feel pity for Karna, but as I started reading Banerjee’s Karna I fell in love with him. Her Karna acts and talks when necessary, he is calm and composed, he is strong yet foolishly emotional. I was able to put faces on Pandavas, Kauravas, Kunti, Bhishma, Dhritarashtra, Drupad and others as I kept reading.

Even the secondary characters like the people of Hastinapur, Draupadi’s maids, their servants, the widows of the soldiers and the animals of Nakul-Sahadev were written with great visual detailing.

The Locations:

The story covers many palaces, forests, huts and battle grounds in the book. The description of The Palace of Illusions is worth a read. I won’t write much about the locations here and would recommend you to read those in the book to avoid *spoilers*.

The Final Word:

Yes you should definitely read this book. It’s a good travel or weekend read. But before reading, make sure that you know a little bit about Mahabharata or keep the internet close to Google the story or characters which you don’t know.

You can buy the book from Amazon:

A WordPress.com Website.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: