Thursday, September 30, 2010


Cast: Michael Douglas, Shia LaBeouf, Carey Mulligan, Susan Sarandon, Frank Langella, Josh Brolin
Director: Oliver Stone

The Story: Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) has been in prison for eight years – a very long term – for committing fraud on Wall Street. It is obvious that he is hurt when no one meets him outside the prison. But his daughter Winnie (Carey Mulligan), his only living relative, does not want to see her father, ever again. Seven years later, Gekko has authored a book and is trying to get rich, selling it. He finds that he is not accepted in the Wall Street circles and is quite bitter about it.

Jacob aka Jake (Shia LaBeouf) is in a live-in relationship with Winnie. He works for Louis Zabel (Frank Langella), an investment banker on Wall Street. The extremely successful Lou goes broke suddenly due to a turn in the stock market. He commits suicide and Jake is heartbroken that his mentor is no more.

Jake goes to meet Gordon for two reasons. He wants to know about the man’s relationship with Winnie and also about who had brought down Lou’s business. Fascinated by the man, Jake continues to be in touch with him despite Winnie not liking it.

Gordon never helps anyone without getting something in return. He makes use of Jake to get back at Bretton James (Josh Brolin) who was responsible for getting Gordon behind bars and also for breaking Louis Zabel. Gordon also wants to get his hands on the one million dollars held in trust in Winnie’s name at a bank in Zurich. Jake becomes a scapegoat in Gordon’s master plan.

Watch the film to see how the father-daughter relationship goes for a toss while dragging Jake’s and Winnie’s feelings through mud. Will things work out for the lot of them or no?

My perception: The film moved fast and ran for about 2 hours. It keeps the viewer interested in the plot. The bylines were a Godsend as I not always understand all the dialogues. And the dialogues were very good.

Michael Douglas gave a terrific performance as Gordon. His expressions spoke volumes. It is obvious that Gordon is torn between becoming big on Wall Street again and maintaining good relations with his daughter.

Shia LaBeouf was excellent in his role as Jake and was as good as the veteran. Carey Mulligan has very few dialogues but was extremely expressive. The father-daughter relationship was portrayed in a very touching fashion.

Frank Langella and Josh Brolin had also done well in their roles.

Verdict: The film is definitely worth a see!

Rating: ***

* Silly
** Shaky
*** Smart
**** Snazzy
***** Super

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Quick-fix Meal: RICE SEVAI

Lemon sevai & Coconut sevai

I know it has been a long time since I posted a recipe for a quick-fix meal. Here is one extremely simple recipe that takes but 15 minutes to prepare.

The main ingredient for this one the ready-made dry rice sevai that is available from MTR or Concord brands. You will find packets of 200 gm and 500 gm. The smaller packet is enough for two people and this recipe quantity is suited for the 200 gm packet.

I prepare two varieties of sevai from this one. The one common thing is add the packet of dry sevai to a vessel of boiling water and cook it for about 4-5 minutes. The process is similar to cooking noodles or pasta, only DO NOT add oil to this one. Once the sevai is soft, strain it and remove water completely.

Coconut sevai
Coconut Sevai:

Mustard Seeds – ½ tsp
Urad Dal – 1 tsp
Green Chilly – 1 (cut in 2)
Red Chilly – 1 (cut in 2)
Curry leaves – a few
Hing (asafoetida) – 1 pinch
Grated coconut – 4 tbsp
Salt to taste
Oil – 1 tsp


Take a kadai (saucepan) and heat the oil in it. Add the mustard seeds and once they crackle, add the urad dal. As they turn golden brown, add both the chillies and curry leaves. Turn them once and add the grated coconut. Adding the hing and salt, roast the coconut till it turns golden. Now switch the flame off and add half of the boiled sevai to the coconut mixture and mix well. Delicious coconut sevai is all set to be consumed.

Lemon sevai
Lemon Sevai:

Mustard Seeds – ½ tsp
Urad Dal – 1 tsp
Green Chilly – 1 (cut in 2)
Red Chilly – 1 (cut in 2)
Curry leaves – a few
Hing (asafoetida) – 1 pinch
Turmeric powder – 1 pinch
Juice from ½ a lemon (can add a few drops more if you like it stronger)
Salt to taste
Oil – 1 tsp
Take a kadai (saucepan) and heat the oil in it. Add the mustard seeds and once they crackle, add the urad dal. As they turn golden brown, add both the chillies and curry leaves. Turn them once and switch off the gas. Add the hing powder, turmeric powder and salt. Mix well before adding the lemon juice and the second half of the boiled sevai. Mix well and the yummy lemon sevai is all ready to be eaten.

The two sevais may be consumed just plain if you are not too fussy or you can have them with coconut chutney or mor kozhambu if you like.

NOTE: This is not the same as the semiya (made of wheat) that you get. This is made of rice.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


Shera, the mascot
The Commonwealth Games 2010 are to be conducted in Delhi, India from October 3 to 14, 2010. I think this is something to feel proud about. Anything that is conducted on such a massive scale takes a lot of enterprising, organising, teamwork and of course a lot of money.

I am sure that a lot of efforts have been put into this venture and quite a bit is showing. But our media has taken to bashing the whole scene.

I think corruption is prevalent around the world and not just in our country. Of course, this does not mean that it is an accepted thing. But isn’t there anything positive to say about the CWG scene?

I watched a couple of shows on TV where they showed the kind of arrangements that have been made for accommodation, food, drinking water and disposal of the garbage. I thought that was a tremendous effort and would like to congratulate the organizers for the same.

What I keep seeing on the TV news channels and the newspapers is a lot of bashing being done. What sense does this make?

We all know that TV channels are viewed throughout the world and the internet has made it possible to read news of all top newspapers the moment they are published. If we portray so much of negativity, how do we expect the people around the world to respond? Is it any wonder that film directors like Danny Boyle would make a film like Slumdog Millionaire? People around the world pick up what we portray.

I am not suggesting that we bury all the filth under the carpet and behave as if nothing has happened. But we must consider the effectiveness of the negative promos that the TVs and newspapers bring about.

I am sure the common man does not care much, especially those below the poverty line. It does not matter to him how much money was spent on CWG or how much was swindled by whom. He is finding it so difficult to ensure that he gets two meals a day.

The too rich would not much care either as they can afford to rub shoulders with all those expensive firangis and be a part of the CWG.

That leaves the middle man that forms a huge population of this country. These are the ones that are never sure where they belong. To be a part of it or not to be a part of it. They swing either ways. The news floating around gives them no end of trouble, making them unable to decide whether to support CWG or no.

Something this big is happening right in our own country, why should we not support it? Do we have no responsibilities? Because we have the right to vote, does it mean that we have the weapon to bash up everyone who does the politicking? Can’t we be a mite more supportive? Can’t we take part in the event as if it belongs to all of us as it actually does?

It’s so easy to play the blame game. Just keep pointing fingers and keep complaining. What has it ever achieved in life?

You want to do something about it, go right there and guide the public, help the organizers, do something concrete. JUMP IN THE FRAY! Action speaks a lot more than words, or so the saying goes.
All the public who goes there – how many of us know how to behave decently? We throw garbage or urinate in public. The only thing that stops us is ridicule or the fear of the law. How many of us wait to do all this if no one is watching? All of us are the same and that is how our government is. Why blame a few people for the whole lot of us?

Everyone does just one tiny thing and so they feel they should be excused. “I just spat one little bit. That’s nothing much. But watch that guy, he is urinating” says one person and so it goes on. Blame the others and don’t take responsibility.

I am sure a different set of problems are faced in every country. But they do a lot to promote themselves positively. Only such countries rise to the forefront. Those who keep showing only the negative facets and keep bashing their own people find themselves ashamed of their own and not going anywhere.

Well, now it’s up to every individual how they perceive the Commonwealth Games 2010 as against their own behaviour. Are we going to take ownership or continue to bash up our own event?

Check out this link by NRI Indian for his take on CWG 2010

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Festival: GANESH VISARJAN 2010

Lalbaugcha Raja

Ganpati Bappa Morya, Pudhchya varshi laukar ya! So goes the chant as Lord Ganesha is given a royal send off with music, dance, fireworks and aarti. The above is the picture of the most famous Ganesh Idol at Lalbaug that must have seen hundreds of thousands of devotees this year.

Pudhchya varshi laukar ya!

I have brought to you a few scenes of the revelry at Sion as Ganesh idols were immersed in the Talao (pond) at Chunabhatti. This is to the west of the Sion-Panvel highway and diagonally opposite where I live.

Here is the video that captures the atmosphere. I had created this thanks to my sister Lakshmi's request. I was going to be satisfied with posting photos but it was she who wanted to hear the music and see the dancers. This is my first attempt at video. Hope you all like it as much as I enjoyed shooting it. My son Vigneshkumar did the editing out of lengthy footage that I had taken on my camera.

Vada-pav stall
The vada-pav stall is being run by Keru, the office boy at Venkat's office. He does a roaring business every year during the festival.

Vendors selling their wares
The vendors sell wares that attract the attention of tiny tots. They also make a packet during the fest.

Drinking water
 Drinking water was being supplied to the thirsty hordes. I sincerely pray to Ganeshji that it was clean.

Venkat with some acquaintances
 The couple of policemen who knew Venkat were mighty thrilled to pose for the photo along with another acquaintance.
Crowds at the Talao

There was quite a crowd at the Chunabhatti Talao to say Goodbye to the elephant headed God.

Police Traffic Booth
 The police were directing the traffic from their vantage point way above. 

Going, going, gone!
Lord Ganesh being immersed at the Chunabhatti Talao close to Sion. See you soon, Mooshik Vahana!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Pav Bhaji
Well, this is an absolute favourite at home, for all of us. And it is not too difficult to make either.


Cauliflower – ½ kg (cut into big flowerets)
Potato – 2 (medium sized – peeled and cut into large pieces)
Peas – ¼ kg
Capsicum – 2 (big – chopped fine)
Tomato – 3 (medium sized – chopped fine)
Onions – 3 (medium sized – chopped fine)
Oil – 2 tsp
Amul Butter – 50-100 gms
Coriander leaf – 2 tsp (chopped)
Lemon – 1 (cut into quarters)
Everest Pav Bhaji masala – ½ tsp
Pav – 1 laadhi (6 or 8)

Garlic – 4 cloves
Ginger – ½ inch piece
Red Chilli powder – ¼ tsp (if you like it really spicy, increase this quantity)
Oil – 1 tsp
Salt to taste


1.    Take a pressure cooker and boil the cauliflower, potato and peas together with a glass of water, for two whistles.
2.    Grind the masala ingredients into a smooth paste with a spoon or two of water.
3.    Take a kadai (saucepan) and heat the oil in it. Add the onions and fry till golden in colour.
4.    Now, add the ground masala and the pav bhaji masala and stir well.
5.    Add the capsicum and cook for a few minutes before adding the tomatoes.
6.    While the above is cooking, mash the boiled vegetables with a pav bhaji masher.
7.    Now add the shallow fried vegetables to the pressure cooker and mix well. Add some water to get the right consistency and cook for a few minutes.
8.    Check for salt and spice and add any more as per requirement.
9.    While the gravy is boiling, add a teaspoon of Amul butter to add to the flavour.

The bhaji is ready to eat. Garnish it with coriander leaves and serve with butter toasted pavs, chopped onions and a piece of lemon. Tastes yummy, I promise.

NOTE: People many-a-time add carrots, cabbage, beans and other vegetables in this considering it very healthy. That is true! But using vegetables other than those mentioned gives a totally different taste and not what one expects from Pav Bhaji.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


I think everyone in this country loves the elephant-headed God. He looks so adorable and his birthday or Chaturthi is celebrated in a grand fashion all over the country, especially in Mumbai. The festival goes on for 11 days with Ganesh Visarjan happening on the 2nd, 5th, 7th and 11th days after the event. This blog is mainly full of pictures of the Ganpatis at Sion East, where I stay. Do check them all out. I only wish I had the time to go to the other areas to have darshan of Lord Vigneshwara.


Vignaraja is dressed like a King with a beautiful turban on his head. 

Vakratunda is one who guides people into the right paths.

Mayuresh is Ganpati sitting on a peacock. Well, I thought the name suited this one as there are peacock decorations on the sides.

Gajanana means the elephant-headed God!

Devadeva means Lord of the Lords! And we all know that that's who Lord Ganesha is. Have to mention here that this Murti is from Meena Sadan at Sion. My aunt, uncle and cousins used to live here many years ago.

Balachandra is one who wears the moon on his forehead. Usually Lord Shiva is the one who does this. But in this case, as Ganesha is Shiva's eldest born, He is also called by this name.

Gauridanaya means the son of Goddess Parvathi!

Lambodara is the one who has a big belly. I have to mention here that this idol is made from environmental friendly materials only. You can check it out at Prem Sagar at Sion East. It is the same story every year and the Visarjan is on Day 5.

Ekadanta - the one with only one tusk (the literal meaning being ‘tooth’). The legend goes that the Lord had broken the left one to complete writing the Mahabharata that was being dictated by Sage Veda Vyasar.

Well folks, that makes it a total of Nine pictures of my favourite God. Hope you enjoy seeing them as much I enjoyed taking the pictures and posting them on this blog. 

Monday, September 13, 2010

Film Review: Salman Khan's DABANGG

Cast: Salman Khan, Arbaaz Khan, Vinod Khanna, Sonu Sood, Dimple Kapadia, Sonakshi Sinha
Director: Abinav Kashyap 
It was Ganpati Utsav as well as Eid when we went for this film. The theatre was packed and all of us were eager to watch Salman’s latest movie. It has also been released at a time when films have been either low profile or bombing (eg.: We are Family) on a regular basis. That could also have been a reason for the packed theatre. Then again the raving reviews – in Mumbai Mirror, for example, could have been the reason.

The Story: The film opens with the young Chulbul Pandey complaining to his mother (Dimple Kapadia). He is her child by her first husband who had died when Chulbul was barely two years old. Her second husband Pandey (Vinod Khanna) is totally stingy and any expenses he makes are for their son Makki. Chulbul (Salman Khan) grows up with a lot of anger and jealousy for both his stepfather and stepbrother. He adores his mother. While Chulbul becomes a police officer, albeit corrupt, Makki is good for nothing. Chulbul beats up thieves and takes away their loot. While he does use the money for himself, he also helps everyone around him. He jokingly calls himself Robin Hood Pandey.

Makki is in love and as the girl’s father is poor, he steals money from Chulbul to give to the old man so that the stingy Senior Pandey would agree to the wedding. But before things could be taken further, their mother dies and Chulbul is thrown out of his home.

Trouble comes to Chulbul in the form of the evil Cheedi Singh (Sonu Sood) while love blooms for Rajo (Sonakshi Sinha). The rest of the film is all about Chulbul defeating the villain and getting together with the love of his life. Watch the film to see whether his relationship with the other Pandeys gets healed or no.

My Perception: Salman Khan has given a lovely performance. He is his old self in this avatar as Chulbul Pandey and entertains the viewers with his antics. He has lost quite a bit of fat, especially since his debauched look in Wanted. He has done a commendable job – fight sequences, dialogues, song and dance and romance.

Dimple Kapadia was simply amazing, even while her role was not too big. Vinod Khanna and Arbaaz Khan have fulfilled their parts well.

Sonu Sood was excellent in the role of villain. His expressions were just perfect for his role. A special mention has to be made for a couple of scenes – the song sequence by Malaika Arora Khan and the one where he insults Arbaaz Khan.

Newcomer Sonakshi Sinha has done a very good job of her role as Rajo. I was not too impressed with her in the promos. But she is excellent in the film.

Verdict: Most definitely worth a watch, especially if you are a Salman fan.

Rating: ***

* Silly
** Shaky
*** Smart
**** Snazzy
***** Super

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Ganpati pooja at home

Wish every one of my readers a Very Happy Vinayaka Chaturthi! The above is the picture of the small Ganpathi Pooja at our home. The one below is of Venkat performing a cute little pooja and a display of the prasadams and fruits presented to Lord Ganesha.

Venkat doing the honours as Sastrigal
This was the most important agenda for the day. While the pooja itself was short and sweet, the lunch was quite heavy and prolonged. It's delicious too. Vinitha helped me prepare the same.

Ganpati pet puja
 I have to tell you what the menu was. 1. Pal Payasam, 2. Cucumber Pachidi, 3. Rasam, 4. Sambar, 5. Yellow Pumpkin Cootu, 6. Vaazhakkai Curry, 7. Sweet & Salt Kozhukkattai, 8. Fried Appalam, 9. Rice & Ghee and 10. Paruppu. There was curd at the end, of course.

Ganpati Pookolam
This is a picture of the Ganpati Kolam made of flowers by my sister Jayu and her husband Karthik. I thought it was too cute for words and had to add it to my blog.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Despite the advent of TV and the internet, this is one art that will never go out of fashion or so I would like to believe. I have taken this up under the section ‘nostalgia’ as talking about this brings to me a lot of memories from my childhood as well as those times I spent weaving tall tales to my two kids.

We – my sisters and I – used to hear a lot of stories from all the elders in our house. There were tales from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata as well as many individual stories that my mother, grandfather and grandmother had to tell us. What we heard from our father were the tales from his own life – they made a number of interesting stories by themselves.

Amma used to tell us about Arjuna’s (the third Pandava prince) focus, determination and courage. I remember hearing about the contest the Pandavas and Kaurava princes had. This was conducted by their Guru, Sage Drona. They had to pierce the eye of the toy parrot perched on the branch of a tall tree. My mother had told us this story so many times. Then there were the stories about the many kings and sages of those days – the passions that ruled them. I have heard about this young boy who turned wise every time he sat on King Vikramaditya's throne. Tales of Shakunthala, Nala Damayanti and more were first heard at home and later on I used to be fascinated to check them out on the pages of Amar Chitra Katha.

We heard about Sibi Chakravarthi parting with the flesh on his thigh from Thatha. King Harischandra was a hot favourite in those days. I have shed many a tear hearing about Dhuruvan (Dhruva) and his mother being exiled by the vile stepmother, the king’s second wife. My grandfather was a fountain of information that Amar Chitra Katha could have tapped into. Thatha used to tell us about the birth of Lord Murugan and his teaching to his own father, Lord Shiva. Then there was this story about how Manmadan or Kamadeva (the lord of love) was burnt down by Shiva’s temper and later on revived as per his consort Rathi’s request. Manmada was made visible only to her eyes. There were stories of Avvai Paati and then one about Ganapathy taking away the precious mango from Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathi by outwitting his younger brother, Kartikeya.

I recall Paati telling me many small stories. I heard about the snake and the mongoose from her. There was this cute tale she used to tell – about an old lady living all by herself. She used to be half blind. While she was cooking, a black pepper escaped the pounding stone. Later, the pepper became a great help and used to do all the household work for the old lady, making her one happy person indeed. This story was as good as the one about the little elves making shoes as told by Brothers Grimm, or so I believe.

Rajamani Chippa (my dad’s brother) used to tell us – rather enact to us – the antics of NS Krishnan, a famous comedian of his times. When chippa’s family used to visit us, he used to entertain us and our cousins with very many stories. We used to roll on the floor laughing, as he used to speak the dialogues and sing the songs in a sequence. Chippa can do this till this very day.

I remember laughing and shedding tears depending on the emotions faced by the many characters. The elders at home used to give so much expression to the tales, that I could imagine every scene there was. It touched my little heart so much that I recall most of them till date.

There was this aged cousin of my grandmother’s – Gnanam Paati by name. She had no one to take care of her and used to stay with her many cousins in turn. She has spent many months at our home at different points in time. I remember those days when we used to hang on to her every word as she told us stories after stories from the many books that she had read. She told us tales of King Vikramaditya and many magical tales. In large families in those days, especially where there are many children, evenings were spent together. Rice and sambar used to be mixed in a large vessel. We used sit around in a semi-circle and the food was served in turns on the palms of our hands. This is one of the times when Gnanam Paati used to weave her tales. Some of them used to be so long that she needed to tell them in parts over weeks at times. You can guess how much we must have nagged her the next day for the continuation. A wonderful experience indeed!

There was Padhu, the owner’s daughter at our home in Chetput. She was Suja’s and my best friend. There used to be a big terrace at the back of our house. We used to sit there at every opportunity to hear stories from her. She had so many to say and she also loved the way we used to hang on to her every word. She used to read a lot and while I cannot recall the tales, I remember the feeling of joy just listening to her stories.

When my kids were growing up, I tried reading to them from fairy tales, Amar Chitra Katha and Tinkle. But I realised that more then the reading, they enjoyed listening when I told them stories of Kumba karnan and the other characters from the epics. I used to make them laugh by making them imagine about the demon. He was as tall as our building (four floors in all) and he used to eat a rice mound as huge as the hill garden near our home – so on and so forth so that they could relate to what I meant. Vinitha and Vignesh used to listen with wide eyes and at times roll on the floor laughing. It was a treat to watch and the tales used to get taller with each subsequent telling.

Thus, storytelling had a lot to do with developing our imaginations and made for a very enjoyable growing up years indeed. I am sure all these experiences have culminated in my becoming a writer of fiction.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Book Review: PRINCESS by Jean Sasson

I got curious when I saw an office colleague having this book. I borrowed it from her when she told me that it was ‘awesome’. It took me less than two days to complete the book as it flowed pretty fast.

The book follows the real life story of Princess Sultana Al Sa’ud of Saudi Arabia – the name changed for maintaining the lady and her family’s privacy. Jean Sasson has narrated the story in first person in the voice of the Princess herself.

Princess Sultana talks about her life from childhood, beginning at the age of four. She speaks about the way the women of Saudi Arabia, including those in the royal households, are dominated over completely by the men. Even her father’s driver Omar appears to have had more authority in their home than her mother or Sultana and her sisters.

Sultana’s brother Ali is given so much importance that the young girl believed that he was God. It is after her mother sets her right does Sultana understand that Ali was treated the way he was because he is the SON of the house and for no other reason.

The book is all about Sultana’s frustration and rebellion to gain her father’s affection and respect in the beginning. Later on, it turns to hatred for her brother. She quotes many instances where women are treated so terribly. We living in the metropolis of Mumbai would find them all so strange and non-relatable.

Young women of barely fourteen and fifteen years being stoned to death, drowned in the house swimming pool with weights tied to them or enclosed in a dark airless room with a hole for a toilet and kept there to die way before their time are just a few of the incidents that happened at the end of the twentieth century in this land ruled by the Koran. There are also many instances where girls between the ages of 15 and 17 were married as third or fourth wives to men over fifty years of age. Being raped on their wedding nights was pretty common with the womenfolk in Saudi Arabia.

Princess Sultana is convinced that the religious men (but of course) or mutawas ruled the land and had more power than the King himself.

The horrifying details of the women’s plights and Sultana’s rebellion about the situation make for an emotional read. It’s heartrending to imagine the situation that had prevailed – and probably does till date – till the end of the last century.

Of course, living in India and hearing about twenty-first century child marriages way up in North India; grooms being kidnapped in Bihar and forced to get married to the daughter of the house and murdering couples who are in love and insist on getting married; kind of makes the situation in Saudi Arabia quite believable.

It is so pathetic that only human beings have the capacity to hurt other humans in the name of religion. I cannot believe that any God or his son would have foreseen this situation when they put the Koran or the Bible together – to be misinterpreted or twisted to their own ends.

The book is about Sultana as a kid under her father’s thumb, then later being harassed by her brother. She gets married to Kareem. She believes she has found the ideal man whom she could respect and love. It remains true up until the point when Sultana is diagnosed with breast cancer. While her life is not in danger, the doctor warns them against having more kids. They already have a son and two daughters at this point.

Sultana had always believed that she would be Kareem’s only wife and is quite proud of the fact. She also respects and loves him for the same reason. Her heart breaks when Kareem talks to her of his intention of taking another wife as having many children is very important to the men-folk in Saudi Arabia.

Sultana runs away from home along with her three children till Kareem agrees not to marry again. She does return to him but her spirit is completely broken as she understands that women will always remain subordinate in their society.

This moving tale gives one an inside perception into the minds of the Muslim society in Saudi Arabia and also probably in the rest of the world.

I have always believed that the Indian society in their treatment of women has changed a lot after the advent of the Moghuls – women were treated with way more respect in yonder days. And this book convinces me that I perceive right.