Confessions Of A Chocoholic

God bless the Aztecs who discovered Cacao. Surprisingly, they didn’t want to eat it. They knew how to grind up the beans, boil them to a froth with water and sweeten the drink with vanilla and honey. So why didn’t the Aztecs drink this yummy stuff? Because Cacao beans were too precious and for an Aztec drinking a cup of chocolate was a sheer waste of money. Of course rich people liked to show off by drinking chocolate, they could afford it after all! At least now we have documented proof that mankind has been showing off since 1300 A.D. And thank god that you can now buy a tall glass of foamy chocolate drink at Theobroma (which is chilled melted chocolate btw), scrape the chocolate off from the bottom with your tongue sticking out and nobody will accuse you of being rich, although they might think you forgot to grow up.

I don’t have a sweet tooth, I have sweet teeth, all 32 of them. I have to end my meals on a sweet note. I like my mishtees, mousse, tarts, tiramisu and marzipans but I what I can’t absolutely live without is chocolates. In fact I’ve had a lifelong affair with them and why not, they have been my best friends through thick and thin, through my highs and lows.

Picture this scenario....You’ve had a crappy day, you have tired everybody out with your cribathon, you are stressed and feeling low. All you have to do is open the refrigerator, take out that box of pralines. Your brows are knit in concentration trying to decide between Irish cream and blueberry, you pick up one up, it feels slightly moist, ready to melt any minute. You quickly pop into your mouth, close your eyes and let the familiar chocolatey aroma envelop you with its warmth. Each taste bud of yours comes to life wanting to soak in its silky smoothness, its bitter sweet taste. You smile a lazy smile, your day just got better.

I grew up on Cadbury’s and it tasted far better back then - now it’s waxy, tastes less chocolatey and looks as if it’s on a perpetual diet (it keeps shrinking every few months). During my kiddie days, my favourite used to be Double Decker. It was this thick bar with layers of crispy cereals and nougatine wrapped in chocolate. One bite into the caramel nougat layer and I would be transported to the world of enchanted woods, elves and magical castles, my mind conjuring up childish fantasies. A book with my favourite bar of chocolate used to be my idea of Utopia.

The Tipsy-Topsy World

Of late, I have noticed a trend of gen X sporting a new appendage. They look spiffy in their sharp suits, ready to take on the world and then your eyes land on their protruding beer bellies. Of course the expanding midriff is a national phenomenon passed from generation to generation. But guys taking on this shape at this young an age is a recent phenomenon. And I blame the Pub culture. Go to any resto bar on an evening, and you will spot hordes of BPO types putting Bacchus to shame. And voila one fine morning they have more spilling out of that belt rather than tucked in.

But Americans kids are smart, they know how to keep their cake and eat it too. A lot of youngsters are now opting for a new kind of diet-drunkorexia. It involves starving to save calories for binge drinking. In order to maintain weight, many young men and women think it’s unnecessary to eat, especially if they are anticipating a boozing session later on. Aren’t kids supposed to be studying and doing other nerdy stuff in college? But for me there’s always a silver lining in that proverbial cloud. A path breaking, earth shaking business idea is already taking form in my mind – Your choice of booze now fortified with 21 essential Vitamins, Iron and Calcium. Brewed from organic multigrains, with floating fibres. Or perhaps a slim fast beer?

It appears that people who are really smart are inclined towards wine. Drinking wine is considered a reflection of your intelligence (insert meaningful smile and self gloating). A study suggests that more intelligent children grew up to drink more alcohol, more frequently and in greater amount than less intelligent children. And I can show a Mum lovingly pour out a glass of wine for her bright smiley kid.

Unreal Women In The Reel World

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The last smash hit Dabbang had a 44 year old Salman serenading a 20 something potter girl in impeccably styled backless cholis. Three Idiots considered an epic by many had a 45 year old Amir playing the college genius cum wannabe gynae with a vacuum cleaner. Shahrukh at 45 has yet to outgrow his cutesy expressions. And at 52, a haggard looking Sanjay Dutt is still playing the male lead and fancies himself as a rock star. Good for them!

Strangely when it comes to age, Bollywood is not as forgiving when it comes to its leading ladies. The moment the heroine touches her 30’s she is considered over the hill and has to earn her living endorsing hair oils and mosquito mats. And actresses in their forties are mostly relegated to maternal martyrdom. Yes, we do have an Aishwarya who at 38 still manages to rule the box office with élan but she is an aberration. Look at Rekha! At 56 she looks gorgeous beyond words, but is mostly seen at award functions in her bridal Kanjeevarams, (somebody gift her a sari) air-kissing her ex colleagues. She is beautiful, talented, so why is it that we don’t see her in movies?

Because in the 21st century, where we talk of women seeking an identity of their own and making a mark in this world - the cine world, unfortunately is still stuck in the dark ages. And women are stuck with stereotypes. She is mostly scantily clad, hot and the object of desire for many a Pappu, Sonu and Rocky. No wonder the leading lady has such a short shelf life. Her midriff evokes more interest than her acting skills. Her weight loss becomes the subject of a national debate. She is not expected to cover up, even in freezing cold locales. So what if she is going blue in the face and almost dying of hypothermia, the audience must get its paisa vasool !

Growing Up With Delhi

Even though I am a true blue Bong, I hardly had any relatives in Kolkata, till I got married. My Dad is from Lucknow, Maa from Kanpur and I was born and brought up in Delhi.

For someone who has spent a little over four decades in the city, I have seen Delhi metamorphose from a laid-back Punjabi by nature city to a bustling, chaotic Punjabi at heart metropolis. Oh, what a transformation it has been- whether for better or for worse, is matter for another long debate.

As a child, recreation would mean boating in boat club, followed by ice cream at India Gate and watching performances at the city’s many cultural spots. And we watched movies in large, single screen cinema halls. Chanakya was meant for English movie buffs. I remember the time, when my parents had gone to watch The Exorcist at Priya. Their ride back home, well past midnight, on that lonely stretch in Vasant Vihar, was way more scary than the movie. And now Vasant Vihar is a constant cacophony of blaring horns and frayed tempers.

Karol Bagh was THE place to shop and South Delhi had yet to acquire its glamorous avatar. I had my first taste of butter chicken, Delhi’s national bird at a restaurant in Daryaganj. I hated it – found it too sour for my taste. Delhi was all about Mughlai and Punjabi Khana and if you wanted to try something exotic, it was the posh 5 star hotels you headed to. Does anyone remember Akbar hotel, one of Delhi’s earliest five star establishments? it shut shop long time ago. All I can recollect is the colourful chains of bangles that would hang from its ceiling. I would watch in fascination at the light dancing off those colourful pieces with my head craned up, my fingers dug deep inside the sofa. Eating was not a priority then.

Pujo Madness

I spent the last weekend getting stuck in a nasty traffic snarl, staring soulfully at cars, buses and fellow sufferers, only to land at a place teeming with almost 3/4th of Delhi’s bright, shiny population decked up in their festive gear. Packed with cars, the air resonating with a curious cacophony of excited chatter, impatient horns and beats of the dhaak… Overdressed, over enthused crowds, moving at a hectic pace, eager and hungry to soak in all that the evening had to offer... Just another typical Durga Pujo evening in bustling Chittaranjan Park, the much touted mini Kolkata of Delhi. 

But this what Durga Pujo does to you, it makes you defy logic and let go of your sanity. You drape yourself in your finest saris, walk endlessly in your impossibly high heels and strangely you don’t mind the discomfort, the jostling crowds, the heat and the dust. It is as if you have been seized with this invisible energy. You patiently stand in serpentine queues, get busy checking each other out surreptitiously, no jostling, no pushing, only to catch a glimpse of the superbly crafted pandals and Maa Durga’s protimaa. And then with sweat-streaked backs you make a beeline for the food stalls. Devour platefuls of oily biryani, take a far from delicate bite of that fish chop and happily slurp masala chuski! Ahh… divine.

Kalmuddy Waters

Cacofonix  is down with a serious hangover from the games, hallucinating about the speech that Kalmadi never gave.

Namaste from Shoerace Kalmuddy! I love you all! With events now over, it is my pleasure to welcome you all to the Commonwealth Games credit-taking – no, I am sorry – thanksgiving ceremony. Among many distinguished guests this evening, we have Prime Minister Shri Manmohan Desaiji, His Highnesses Louise Phillip and Van Heusen from UK, and Princess Bloody Mary from Mexico.

Games have been Smashing Success, as you see from celebration of Australian athletes throwing washing machine and bathtub from 8th floor of games village. It is feat that Indian weightlifters will repeat in next game in Scotchland. I am thanking Smt Sonia Gandhiji in advance for making me head of that delegation because I like Scotch.

I thank Rahul Gandhiji for witnessing many sports events as common man in kurta, little beard and dimple. I am thanking him for not pulling me up for not sending him VIP tickets because ticket printer, imported from China, did not have manual in English or menu with Manchurian Chicken. It also did not have bill in English and we made mistake of paying more, confusing money and decimal point. I thank CAG in advance for understanding the reasons when they investigate.

My biggest thanks to people of Dilli. School and college was closed so students could practise for opening and closing ceremony dance, and could be volunteers for Shera with clean socks and armpits every day. Dilliwallas have s’ported sporting spirit by reducing traffic. No school bus. No U-special. No blue line. No car because no road remaining for non-CWG vehicles. No rickshaw because all rickshaw pullers gone back to Bihar and Bangladesh. Many people left city for holiday and are now happy, like respected Money Shankar Iyerji. He even told me I have a humorous middle. He is joker.

Come Scratch My Back

Warning : This is one hell of an itchy post

You are like the last sack of potatoes of the drought stricken season. Everyone desires you, everyone must have you. You are their last chance for survival.

You FB message box keeps blinking like a deranged strobe light. Your hitherto unknown, undiscovered blogger pals are landing in droves from The Planet of Nowhere. And they all seek communication with you. You have what they all wish for – your vote. Ek salaa vote mujhe zero se hero banaa dega. Ha! You think... Now you want me. All this time you ignored me like an insignificant cretin. Now it’s my turn to make you stew. Should I.....Should I not..... You file your nails. Dust imaginary cobwebs , try to memorize Munni Badnaam’s lyrics, before you hit the vote button. It’s just a measly vote, you think.

When I started blogging, it was because I love writing. True, I couldn’t differentiate a post from a blog when I started. But with the constant encouragement of my wonderful, vibrant blogger friends, I took baby steps in this unknown world. I joined Indiblogger, a fantastic platform for aspiring, famous, infamous bloggers. And I steadily got what every blogger survives on, an eclectic set of readers who believe in me and constantly goad me to write better. I also learnt my first valuable lesson – a chunk of the community survives on reciprocity. And why not? It’s a good way to increase your reader base. No one is here for charity.

Cooling Off In Uttarakhand

The last time I was in Ranikhet, I was Phoolan Devi with her band of followers, plundering fruits from the not so amused caretaker’s garden. Not content with sour pomegranates and unripe guavas, we the bachha party devised a clever strategy (okay it was my brainwave) to pillage Amulspray -sweetened milk powder for adults but manna from heaven for us, from the kitchen. To hoodwink the parents, we would pretend to have a loud dancing session behind closed doors of course. The youngest was assigned the duty to sing loudly, while I would shovel spoonfuls of that sticky gooey stuff in waiting mouths. Oh, that was when Ranikhet was still part of Uttar Pradesh and not the newly formed Uttarakhand and I was barely 13.

I was revisiting Ranikhet after 29 years, with my husband and my 16 year old daughter. But this time, it was not going to be just Ranikhet but a road trip through Uttaranchal- an eight day tour that would take us through Ramgarh, Kausani and end at Ranikhet. We had almost cancelled our trip, with Uttaranchal being savaged by the heaviest rainfall in 40 years. Severe landslides had blocked off most of the roads and the floods in the plains had washed off chunks of the highway. But where there is will there’s a way, so what if we have to make constant detours and add couple of extra hours to our journey.

It took us ten long hours to reach Ramgarh, a picturesque hamlet near Mukteshwar. The parents have their cottage there and had reached a day earlier. This was supposed to a great family re-union on hilly terrains. It is great to reach a home and the comforting warmth of parental affection after a long gruelling drive. Curled up on the sofa sipping freshly brewed tea and listening to the pleasant banter, mostly centered on what we will be having for dinner, has a great unwinding effect. Standing on the balcony, one can hear the gurgling of a brook meandering through the forest below. The hilly slopes are a riot of colours with Chrysanthemums growing abundantly. In summers the trees are laden with apples, nakh and plums. I know because I’m forced to eat the sour, fresh off the trees specimens at our Delhi home. My heart soared with pride as we watched the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth games in far off Ramgarh, although I did feel a bit let down by the Rahman induced cacophony. The man needs to rejuvenate in the solitude of hills.

The Bumbling Mum Diary –III

We Bengalis take the art and science of nomenclature rather seriously – as if our life depends on it. Years of singing Robindro Shongeet, reciting Robi Thakur’s poetry and reading anything from Chekov to Chattopadhyay is effectively put to use, to name our progeny.

And taking it a step further, we have not one but two names for our offspring. A bhaalo naam and a daak naam. Bhaalo naam, the formal name to be used outside our friend and family circle will always have literary connotations – Porineeta, Madhumita, Charulata, Shashwati, Mridha – names intended to send an unsuspecting tongue into paroxysms. And the daak naam – the pet name will be as silly as silly can get – Ghochoo, Potol, Buri, Luchi, Natoo – just to prove to the rest of the world, when it comes to humour, no one can beat us.

When my baby girl was born, it was a historic moment for the Rays (the in laws) and the Bhattacharyas (the outlaws...the parents). And why not? She was the first born of their first-borns and also the first to arrive from the next gen. To put it simply, she was their first and for a very long time their only grandchild. Our younger siblings were just not interested in the business of procreation.

Now couple it with our literary leanings and the legendary Bong eccentricity and you have the makings of a disaster. A name can’t be just a name, it has to be like a whiff of fresh air, has to convey a thousand emotions, it has to be meaningful. Damnation awaits those who were naive enough to name their kid a frivolous Tanya, Pony, Goldie.... I remember a family friend who had a strange fascination for all things Russian and had named his son Pushkin. Pushkin was sent to Moscow for his degree in medicine but became a gangster instead (so much for fulfilling his dad’s Russian aspirations). A gent with French leanings named his daughter Monami. My Maa wanted a mouthful of a name for our German Spitz (we always accused her of favouring him over us) and wanted to call him....guess what? Buta Singh. It took a major tantrum from us to make her change her mind.

And so began the quest to name Baby Ray. Books were fished out, memories strained and long lists were made. Me, I had a very simple criterion for name selection. Growing up in Delhi I have seen many a Bangla name getting distorted beyond recognition. Shutopaa becomes a harsh Sutaapa, Shoibal becomes Cybal almost sounding like an erstwhile computer chip, Kollol becomes Kallol....Basically I wanted to protect my child from a lifetime of distress of having to explain the finer nuances of her name. I wanted a simple name which would easily roll of a toddler’s tongue and not intimidate a non-Bong sensibility.

Marital Bliss - Happily Ever After????

I'm off to the hills to escape the CWG heat. Leaving you with one of my earliest posts. Will be back, hopefully with more anecdotes. Ciao

We start early when it comes to acquiring aversions. As children we are mostly averse to milk, studies, pesky relatives who love tweaking our cheeks. I had all of these and a special one – an aversion to newlyweds.

My first brush with this strange species was as a six year old on a summer trip to Mount Abu. A giggly, coochie-cooing group infesting the back rows of our sightseeing bus. Unfortunately they took a shine to me and I was mostly perched on their laps, privy to the most inane conversations ever heard and embarrassing public displays of affection. Every time we halted they would scurry off to the nearest cliff and pose kamasutra style with me as the hapless spectator. Needless to say I was traumatized.

From Gangtok to Ooty, Kanyakumari to Kalimpong , there was no escaping them. You could hear them before you could spot them. Hysterically happy, over made up girls tottering on high heels clinging for dear life to their macho mates. But what puzzled me the most was how just a few years down the line the same couples would turn into stoical uncles and aunties with a bunch of wailing kids in tow. Domesticity kills and how! Quite like the before and after ads that slimming centres love splashing in newspapers.

Time stops for no one and soon it was time for me to bear the ignominy of being “newly married”. After a whirlwind courtship where I managed to run up telephone bills that had my parents in the throes of panic attacks, I was ready to play house with the man of my dreams.

On our honeymoon, I was cautious, very cautious. I didn’t giggle and maintained a safe distance from my puzzled husband. I looked somber, almost angry at the world. I was so sans the usual jingbang one associates with a newlywed that we had curious people make surreptitious enquires about our marital status or rather the lack of it. We didn’t bother to clear the air.

Hey! We had fun too. Smoked my first cigarette, had my first bottle of wine, tried my hand at cooking and failed miserably. A tantalizing teaser to our rosy future.

Men and women have diametrically different expectations from this holy union called marriage. We, the fairer sex have silly romantic notions and the men expect us to be a wife, and not just an ordinary wife. Now these are guys who grew up watching ads which show the lady of the house cooking up a six course meal with a beatific smile plastered on her face. Is overjoyed when her kid comes back home in soiled clothes. And cleaning utensils is her lifelong passion. She scours and scrubs from morn to noon and she still manages to look like a million bucks. The occasional back pain is taken care of by MOOV massaged lovingly by the husband.