Monthly Archives: October 2013

Love Confessions

My column re-plugged from the Goan on Saturday.

In the first week of October, I took over as the curator for a Twitter handle called @WeAreMumbai – India’s first rotation curation account. I was introduced by the admin to some 16000 odd followers as a Goan in Mumbai. So as I took charge of the account, the first few questions only revolved around why I left beautiful Goa and came to nothing-less-than chaotic Mumbai. Also, do I love Goa more or is it Bombay that I love? I took at least a minute to frame a sentence within the limit of 140 characters. For once, the task wasn’t the character limit, but something even worse, putting together the right words.

Why did I leave Goa? For the ones who follow this column regularly, you already know the answer. But for the rest, I went to Mumbai for better opportunities. Almost six to seven years ago, Goa didn’t offer journalism courses, and Mumbai seemed the apt place to flee to. Gradually, Mumbai became a habit: I accepted the city’s pace, started loving the trains and got used to the angry yet enthusiastic Mumbaikars. I also liked the idea of escaping small town scrutiny. In Mumbai, it isn’t mandatory to sit with a couple of neighbours in the evening and share a few opinions about some people, which could be defined as gossip. I started liking this trend of being independent. Mumbai infused optimism into my veins. But when did I find myself overwhelmed with love for Mumbai?

The latter question cycled endlessly in my head. Goa stores all my childhood memories. Mumbai helped me discover myself and introduced me to the one I never imagined to be. Eventually, I embraced Mumbai as my true second home.

I like to be home (Goa) now and then — away from the city, the noise, the chaos. But then after a few days, usually less than a week, I miss it all and I want to go back to Mumbai, go back to work, wait for a Friday to arrive and take the weekend as it comes. And what about Goa?

Goa is where I was born. A lot of my friends do envy me because I’m a Goan. To them, Goa is a concoction of beaches, casinos, nightlife, live music and, not forgetting, pocket-friendly booze. Goa is a vacation spot and a place to unwind. Undoubtedly, Goa has this and much more too. Goa has people – people who think differently than I, people with rigid mindsets and then, there are people who care. The same group I come home for, year after year.

Last week, a friend from Goa asked me: How can you love two places all together? Isn’t it more like you’re married to Goa and having an affair with Mumbai? These combined questions were like a bullet in slow motion hitting my temple. My love for Goa and Mumbai was compared to a relationship. In that case, yes, I am committing adultery by loving Mumbai and Goa without a shred less or more.

Image courtesy: pearlstourism.net

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Cutting chai and the good ol’ Memories

#Replug from The Goan on Saturday.

Cutting Chai Memories

I once read, coffee is about taste and aroma and chai (tea) is about relationships and conversations. I couldn’t agree more! Come to think of it, I drink coffee because I like the aroma and the bittersweet taste. But chai, is more than this. It’s a beverage that’s a step ahead of coffee. It’s more than simply stepping out once in two hours for a quick sip.

If you associate Mumbai with vada pao, you cannot overlook cutting chai from the invisible menu that’s served by the street side. There’s a reason why it’s called ‘cutting’. The portion is divided into two halves to serve two different people so that they can take a quick sip and hit the road again. Suggests a lot about the city, doesn’t it?

Over the last five years, I didn’t realise how much I love chai, until last week when I was in Goa. My day follows a pattern — a pattern including four to five chai breaks every day. Sipping chai is not about killing drowsiness or a way of procrastinating. It’s about taking a swift break from work and having a nippy chat with a colleague or two. It’s not only about refreshment, but also about building healthy relationships. When I was in Goa, my mum served me a mug of coffee. The moment I sipped it, I realised I wanted tea — my regular masala chai. And I wanted it at least once in every two hours. I missed chai.

Chai ties back a lot of memories. Those good ol’ memories! As a student, I completed an internship with a national newspaper and used to cover crime related stories in Mumbai. Every time I entered a police station to ask a cop a couple of questions, I was greeted with chai. It used to always appear on my table in a tiny glass. Over chai, the cop (at times more than one) and I would discuss the crime scene, progress of the investigation, anything and everything so I could flesh out a good story. And chai at every police station came in different flavours.

Be it masala, adrak (ginger) or elaichi (cardamom) flavoured chai, every tapri (stall) has a unique recipe. No chai will taste the same at any given street stall in Mumbai. The best way to judge if you’re around a tapri is to sense the strong aroma of Indian spices, hear the hiss of a stove and the clanking of vessels. And voila! You’ve followed your senses to find yourself a cuppa chai. Sometimes, the chai is very sweet and otherwise, just perfect. But no one complains.

Before I conclude, cutting chai has nothing to do with class, race, gender or anything else that might pop up into your head right now. It’s a sip of relief for everyone. Cutting chai is a way of bonding. And once you’ve taken your first sip, you are already lured into becoming an addict.

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Priyanjali Cotta: On a special mission

Replug from The Goan on Saturday.

Intensive educational programme at Ganpathi Pendal, Tardeo

No educational qualification ever prepares you for the real thing! And Sofia Priyanjali Cotta (better known as Priyanjali) from Miramar experienced this very thing when she volunteered at SPJ Sadhana School some five odd years ago.

“I was named Sofia but my father chose Priyanjali as my everyday name,” said Sofia.

Today, Priyanjali, 24, is a Special Educator (SE) at Sadhana, an NGO for children with mental retardation. She left Goa after she completed standard X. “It was not my plan to leave Goa, but after class X, I was asked whether I would be interested in going to Sophia College in Mumbai,” she says, adding, “This seemed like a new experience and new challenge, so I packed my bags and came to Bombay to complete my studies.”

As an SE, Priyanjali’s role is to teach children with brain injury, mental retardation, autism, Down syndrome and other associated disabilities. “I head grades I and II which comprises kids between the age group of 4 and 11. We follow a developmental programme, which means that we focus on the overall growth of the child.” Ideally, an SE should start her day at school by 9:30 am and end work by 3:30 pm, but for Priyanjali, the day does not begin or end with a school bell.

As a child, Priyanjali dreamt a lot about her future, but was certain of one thing – her wish to teach. Little did she know who her pupils would be. It all changed when she offered a helping hand at Sadhana when she was pursuing her BA degree at Sophia College. “Working with kids individually, understanding them and the way they connected gave me more reasons to pursue this as a career,” she says.

Apart from this, Priyanjali has had a very unique inspiration. “My inspiration was two students – Anoushka and Sanjana. Anoushka was this chubby kid who ate an entire banana in a single gulp and she had these sad eyes that I saw light up every time I interacted with her. Sanjana is just a plain doll with the most captivating soul. When I started off, neither of them spoke at all, but I was able to understand them and when I didn’t, I still tried and they tried back and we had some really great time. I developed a very emotional bond with these girls.”

According to Priyanjali, every day at school is a challenge as you don’t know what to expect from a special child. The biggest challenge is getting parents involved in the overall development of these children. “It’s not easy to be an educator for a child with special needs, but it’s not easy to be a parent of one either,” she explained.

Commenting on the difference between being a teacher and an SE, Priyanjali distinguishes, “When you’re a teacher, you have more academically focused goals and being a special educator makes your look into variety of areas. Also, the overall group of students we work with is largely impaired in some way or the other.”

Very soon, Priyanjali will be returning back to Goa after staying away from home for nearly nine years. After completing a B.Ed in Special Education from SNDT University in Mumbai, she now feels it’s time to earn a master’s degree in either the same subject or any other allied course.

When asked where she sees herself five years down the line, Priyanjali says, “I don’t exactly make myself five-year plans because plans change when you least expect them to. I would someday like to start something of my own, do something for people from Goa. Give back to my community after all that it has given me.”

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Put Your Meter Down, Boy!

Replug of this week’s column for The Goan on Saturday.

Yours truly has recently moved into a new place at Prabhadevi in Dadar. And since I reside 10 minutes away from my workplace, my ride is invariably a taxi.

So as you know, metered Taxis in Mumbai have a monopoly from Bandra to Churchgate on the western line and from Sion to Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) on the central line. Apart from this, taxis also ride on the roads that lead to the suburbs along with autorickshaws. But this is not the idea behind this article. Today, let me introduce you to the variety of cabbies (drivers) we have to deal with on a daily basis.

Haan ji, Baithiye: This is the set loved by all! Also, this set constitutes only 1% of the cab drivers in Mumbai, and it takes about 45 minutes to find one. Confused? After many blatantly reject to be your ride, only one will feel sorry for you when you make that puppy face and say, ‘please, bhai saab?’

Nahi, Nahi: This driver doesn’t care if you’re getting late or not. Also, he doesn’t like a short ride. So if my journey is from Prabhadevi to Lower Parel, he will never let me enter his cab. Sometimes, there are some cabbies who have other reasons for declining. Like what, you ask? Either his shift has come to an end or he’s not in the mood, if you please.

Change/ chhutta nahi hai: Liar! I give you Rs 50 and the fair has come to Rs 49, but our dear cabbie doesn’t have a rupee to return. In the bargain, a lot of us prefer letting go of a rupee rather than getting into an argument.

Haan, tho madam ji…: This is the type that loves talking! They start a random conversation and expect us to participate too. The only way to get out of this conversation is by changing your cab, but please be warned, you might not get another cab any time soon.

Madam ye, madam woh: This is just a one-way conversation. We all know how difficult it is to drive during peak hours in Mumbai. Every road, lane, flyover will definitely be jammed with traffic. And what does our man do then? Start cribbing about the traaaffic!

No meter down: Last Sunday, I took a cab till Dadar station and didn’t realise that the driver hadn’t started the meter until I was about to get off. I couldn’t really argue when he asked me to pay up Rs 30 because it was partially my fault. I should have ensured that the meter was down when I entered the cab. And since I’m new to the place, I was clueless about the fair till the station. This is just one, there are many more drivers who actually ‘take you for a ride’.

Round and round: Usually, before entering the cab, I ensure that the driver knows the way. But this time, I got cheated. The cabbie claimed to know the destination I’d asked, but took me from a completely different lane. A lane that took longer than usual, and of course, cost me more. This ride was more like a Dadar darshan for me.

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Mumbai: The Street Food Paradise

#Replug of my column featured in The Goan on Saturday.

Did you visit Mumbai and leave without having paani puri? Oh, too bad! You just missed the taste of this city. And mind you, the taste does not end with paani puri. There are many more recipes you’ve got to explore from the streets of Mumbai.

Street food is not a new concept to us. But to Mumbaikars, it’s a favourite option when the tummy starts growling. A quick bite from a roadside stall can save us from fainting due to hunger. This is one of Mumbai’s finest characteristics. And what’s best? Street food in the maximum city is inexpensive and economical. Here, I list out some of my favourite items from the street stalls:

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Chaat: This term is mostly referred to anything that’s khatta-mitta (sweet and sour) and spicy. The chaat family includes paani puri, dahi puri, bhel puri, aaloo chaat and the likes. Most common ingredients would include puffed rice, chopped onion, boiled potato, tamarind chutney and red chilli paste, garnished with coriander.

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Pav Bhaji: This is one of the most loved street foods. And my favourite come from the stalls at Juhu beach. There’s no way one can go there and return without having pav bhaji. The pav is usually buttered and served with a mix of mashed potato and vegetables that’s spiced with garlic and red chillies. Too yummy to resist!

Frankie: The frankie is an imitation of the famous Lebanese peta bread wrap. Simply put, a frankie is a roti coated with an egg dip and stuffed with ingredients such as chicken, mutton, paneer (cottage cheese) and at time, some vegetables. Not forgetting, the spread of sauces and sprinkled spices that make for a delicious quick treat!

Sandwich: When I was young, my mother used to give me two sandwiches in my tiffin box with coconut chutney, jam, cheese, butter and at times ham spread on the thin slices of bread. The Bombay sandwich has this and lots more! You will find vegetable sandwiches with slices of tomato, potato, cucumber, beetroot, capsicum and little bit of chutney. More than enough to stuff your stomach! You also get to choose if you want cheese sprinkled over it or not, grilled, and of course, the size of the slice bread. At times, these sandwiches make for a good meal too.

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Mixed fruit falooda: This is my favourite dessert from the street stalls. You will find tiny carts at every corner serving falooda and kulfi ice cream. The pretty looking drink is a mixture of finely sliced fruits in milk topped with scoops of ice cream and dry fruits. Yummilicious!

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Gola: The last but also a favourite is this recipe of crushed ice on a stick dipped in flavoured syrup. Again, the best of golas can be found at Juhu beach. Invariably, there are questions regarding the quality of water, but considering how popular golas are, the concern is overruled most of the times. If not kala katta, the blueberry flavour is sure to do the magic!

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Categories: Open Letters | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

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