Thursday, October 25, 2012
I watch a Program on NDTV India International Channel called "Highway on My Plate" and it features these two crazy guys called Rocky and Mayur who roam the length and breadth of India sampling the Cuisines in the most accessible as well as the remotest areas in India.Today's Episode was based on New Delhi and featured a Shop I've loved and salivated over for my entire Life---Wengers---situated bang in Connought Circus!!!To me this one Shop is what the Taj Mahal Hotel's La Patisserie is to my daughters--a lifetime of wonderful treats!!
Daddy's visits to New Delhi during my childhood meant getting Parcels of the yummy Shami Kababs that Wengers is so famous for.Visits to New Delhi also meant standing in Wengers and eating calorie packed Fresh Cream stuffed Chocolate Eclairs,Pastries and Tarts---all fresh and just made!!The Chicken patties--made with Puff pastry shells stuffed with minced spicy Chicken as well as the yummy,meaty Shami Kababs--crisp on the outside and scrumptiously meaty on the inside tempered generously with Spices and Mint Leaves even today invoke a mouth watering nostalgia!!
Daddy's visits to Delhi during my childhood meant the fabulous Masalas or Spice Powders from Roopak Stores at Ajmal Khan Road in the Karol Baugh area of Old Delhi.This Shop was started by by a family of refugees from the Pakistani Punjab in 1958.Till today their Spices retain the old taste that my tongue remembers from my childhood---and this was one place where Sudhir would lose his cool each time we visited it--for our Luggage weight would rise by a minimum of 3-4 kgs on each trip---and my Freezer would be stuffed with my precious hoard!!!Even today I'm constantly on the look-out for this brand in Mumbai--and snap up the maximum quantity of these whenever and wherever I can.In the 1960s Kusum Atya--Daddy's younger sister lived there and Delhi became a place to visit regularly for us.The sights and smells of the fabulous Delhi "Chaats"--Street Food---still lingers in my mind each time I think bak to that period---so also does my father's naivete in buying stuff at Ajmal Khan Road in good faith--only to discover later that he'd be gypped!!Mummy never let him hear the last of his escapades---even though he surrendered unconditionally to her superior judgement!!
Sudhir used to get Migraines during the early years of our marriage--and because of this I would travel with him each time he needed to go to the Supreme Court in New Delhi.It was during one of our visits there that we discovered a delightful Hotel named "Centre Point" at Barakhambha Road in New Delhi.This was a short walking distance from Connaught Circus and became a favourite place to stay for us.The Centre Point was an old sprawling Bungalow or "Kothi" in old delhi parlance converted into a Hotel.Because of this their Suites were huge with huge Bathrooms--all old fashioned,marbled claw footed Bath Tubs and solid Bronze fittings.The Girls simply loved it when we stayed there in the Winter of 1978----the beautiful old World ambience and the huge Lawns were something they fell in love with at first sight!! Wengers became a regular part of their lives and walking in the chilly evenings to snack on the yummy Pastries and Tarts as well as the fresh,hot Chicken Patties and Shami Kababs became a regular routine for our family each time we visited New Delhi.We all loved Centre Point also for the wonderful taste of the wonderful Punjabi Food it served---eating it sitting on the Lawns was something that turned each well cooked Meal into a Feast!!
During those days we could still carry Food as a part of our Cabin Luggage and the number of times that we flew back home to Bombay with Cakes,Puddings,Pastries,Tarts,Patties and Kababs from Wengers as well as large Containers of Roghan Josh and Mutton Biryani from Centre Point are innumerable.Today the Security Staff at the Airport would confiscate any such Item as soon as they'd cast their eyes on it!!
New Delhi holds a host of Memories for us as a family for we spent many Winter Vacations and also parts of the Summer Vacations there.For me New Delhi has held a very special place in my heart and has been a part of my childhood and later my married life as well.This is a place that holds a lot of beautiful Memories--and a large part of my life is still somewhere connected to it because of this!!
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Being an Indian I grew up in scented environments--the most frequent scents wafting in on the Breeze from our huge Garden.For me the Floral Scents have always fascinated me--and my childhood was spent experimenting with Flowers---trying to make different types of Oil Perfumes or Attars!!!Whenever I remember my childhood each memory is associated with some scent or another.For instance Diwali reminds me of the fragrant scrub called "Uttana/Ubtan" which was a must for our ritual baths each year.Our bodies would first be massaged with a perfumed Oil--most of which had those cloying Perfumes that I hated so I just used Patchouli Oil instead!!However the subsequent activity of scrubbing of our bodies with the fragrant Herbal Scrub made everything worth while.The mild,lingering perfume that exuded throughout the day from our bodies after the Ritual bathing was the highlight of Diwali for me!!This scrub is made according to an ancient Ayurvedic Formula-- with various Powders and Herbs dried and powdered together and then mixed with a little Chick Pea Flour and Milk Cream to form a thick paste before applying it all over the Body.After it is washed off with warm,Attar scented Water, it leaves the skin feeling moisturised and baby soft all over!!
According to Custom I used to anoint and bathe Sudhir each "Bali Pratipadaa" much to his embarassment and the amusement of our daughters every year!!However I could not do this for him in 2009 for we were with Sayali in New York and I didn't want to risk clogging the Drains--for she lived on the 17th. Floor!!In 2010 it was with Sayali again--- this time in London--and the same held true once more----2011 he passed away a few days before "Bali Pratipadaa" so he missed his Ritual bath for 3 years in a row!!I love following our ancient Traditions--as children in the very cold,dry North Indian Winters the "Uttana" Baths were a regular weekly feature for us when we were growing up as were Oil Baths which meant a regular oiling of our Hair and bodies with Mustard Oil before bathing.For me the home made Shampoo Powder my maternal Grandma Aaji sent was another high point--it smelt wonderful and very woodsy--redolent of all the various Hair rejuvenating Herbs she personally dried and powdered at home in their sprawling Bungalow in Poona.For me these Perfumes form an unbroken link with the Past--a thread that runs from the beginning of my Life till today--weaving so many different Memories in it's String!!
I also remember Perfumes that were a Gift to Mummy from Le Corbusier one Christmas--maybe in 1959.He had brought her these specially blended Vials from Grasse. One was a Pine scented bottle shaped like a Pine Cone in deep,dark, Emerald Green Glass with a Beige Ceramic stopper and the other was a jewel rich Lapis Lazuli Blue with a Gold Glass stopper---- redolent with the scent of Alpine Meadows in Summer--a subtle, elusive but haunting Perfume that simply lingered and lingered on.Mummy was allergic to strong smells--and specially allergic to a type of Jasmine called "Chameli" in India.There was a huge Creeper of this growing outside my Bedroom window--scenting the Air throughout the late Spring,Summer and early Monsoons.I loved it's scent and would draw it in deeply with each breath whenever the Breeze wafted it into my bedroom--Mummy on the other hand hated it because it made her Hay Fever Allergy worse!!The worst of this situation was when my paternal Grandma Akka would be visiting us during the Summer--she'd gather lots of the fat,long,Pink tinted Buds and string these up into a thick,fat string we call a "Gajra" during the hot Summer afternoons and then very lovingly insist Mummy wear it on her huge bun of thick wavy hair that evening----a Machiavellian way of playing the bitchy mother-in-law to the hilt!! Another scent that haunts me is Lavender--my father's favourite Perfume.Even today I love using Lavender in any form because it reminds me of Daddy--the fresh,clean scent lingering on in the Atmosphere!!In 1983 we had travelled to Kashmir for our Summer vacation--the heady scent of that beautiful,perfumed Air still haunts me--it was a very intoxicating mixture of Saffron Crocuses,Iris,Narcissi,Roses,Tuberoses,Wat
er Lilies and the tiny,yellow coloured Mountain Jasmines---all mixed with the woody scents of Spruce and Pine.Till date it remains the most tantalising and mesmerising Perfume I've ever come across--not even some of the best English Gardens I've visited can compare favourably to it!!
I'm a hoarder and my huge hoard of various types of perfumes is the proof of it.There is a bottle of "Opium" and "L'Air du Temps" lying unused in my Cupboard--both Sudhir's gifts to me--maybe on our 10th.Anniversary.Then there is an almost empty bottle of "4711" that Daddy sent me for my 21st. birthday from Mauritius a month before he died.There are also bottles of Chanel No.5,"Dunes","L'Air du Temps","Coco" all of them Gifts from my daughters--along with plenty of stuff that I bought myself on my trips. Sudhir however loved wearing "Aramis" when we got married--later replaced by Davidoff's "Cool Waters" ,"Black XS" by Paco Rabanne,"Boss" by Hugo Boss,finally "Burberry" by Burberry and Grey Vetiver by Tom Ford towards the end.Some bottles he threw away--some I still have ---for they hold the essence of some very precious Memories for me!!
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Ann's comment about Sudhir being handsome like a Movie Star reminded me of an incident we had on a Delta Flight to India.On our way back to India we boarded our return Flight at Atlanta---and the Stewardess received us warmly before doing a double take as soon as she saw Sudhir. She then escorted him to his Seat and as he seated himself,inquired very coyly with great warmth if he was an Indian Movie Star!!!I was enjoying the amusing interaction---because Sudhir was blushing furiously---turning purple with embarassment------the lady was gushing that he reminded her of Humphrey Bogart and continued giving him extra attention for the entire duration of the Flight!!To me it merely reiterated a point--that I had a very handsome husband--who himself had a very negative opinion about his own appearance!!
In India being fair complexioned means being beautiful---and since I inherited my maternal Grandma's milk white skin, people would exclaim over my skin tone.Till I put on weight I had a big nose which would get sidelined just because I was fair.The worst thing was when Sudhir himself would ask me as how I married him--seeing that I was so fair and he so dark!!He always referred to us together as "Vanilla Ice Cream with Chocolate Sauce"!!I am not fishing for Compliments when I say this but honestly between the two of us he had a much better facial Bone structure--and that's why he aged so well!!Like old Wine he matured into a very striking individual who somehow never really realised just how elegant and charismatic he actually was!!He exuded a persona that was witty,charming and so very well dressed--without prejudice he was one of the more impeccably dressed Lawyers in the High Court!!
Outside the Courts
He was very particular about the Whiteness of his Shirts--and mostly wore double cuffed Dress Shirts with a winged collar to Court.His White Shirts and Bands contrasted dramatically with his Coal Black Coat---which was the deepest Black I've ever seen--buying all these at Brooks Brother or Menswear Shops in New York and Los Angeles.A friend of his once asked him in Court whether he rubbed a Charcoal Stick over his Coat to maintain the colour!!!People say that it is Women who take time to make up their minds--they should have been sent out with Sudhir---shopping for his Coats,Shirts and Pants was very tiring and time consuming!!Besides he had very definite views about what really looked good on him--maybe that's why he never let me buy him anything---whatever I bought was either too dull or too loud--never exactly what he wanted!!
He belonged to a family that really loved Clothes--all of us are possessed of overflowing Closets!!When we got married in 1970, despite the hot,humid,sweltering Bombay Weather both he and his brother Milind loved wearing 3 piece Suits!!They'd leave the house dressed thus everyday for the Court--and change into their Black Coats and Gowns in the Office just before leaving for Court.The Weather did not deter him from wearing every conceivable Fabric for his Suits---there are many days I've spent bored out of my mind at Rao's--his Tailor's shop while he discussed the various Styles and Cuts as well as the various qualities of the Canvas used in those Coats---me and later both the Girls learnt to treat his Coats with respect--almost as if they were human--for if the canvas got crushed the fall and line of the Coat would be damaged!!So we crushed ourselves but made space for the Coats flung over the Seats---we'd all three iron out--but they wouldn't!!
If I was to sum him up I'd say that he was a very finicky dresser---who really planned the Outfits he wore meticulously and the care he took, showed!!He loved dressing up--and while I've given away his Shirts,Pants and Ties I still have a large Collection of his Coats----ranging from Tweeds to Linen----which I can't find in my heart to just give away.Sometimes I bury my nose in these to catch his scent--which unfortunately is fast fading away!!
Monday, October 22, 2012
Sudhir---Planning some Mischief
Sudhir was a great one for throwing Parties---but celebrating his Birthday was a big no-no for him.The same courtesy however did not extend to me--he'd loved celebrating my Birthdays!!!I'm going to recount here the tale of two Birthdays--my 40th. in 1993 and his 50th. in 1994---something that still makes me laugh today--in retrospect!!Then--I was furious and hopping mad!!!I'm not one for big Celebrations on my Birthdays either--for me the ideal way top spend the day would be with Sudhir--just him and me together--on a long drive preferably---leaving in the morning and returning home late at night.This was exactly what I told him when he asked me about what I wanted on my 40th.He however had other Plans.Early in the morning of my Birthday he quietly invited a mixed crowd of 45-50 people over for Dinner---Lotta had married earlier in the year--14th.February to be exact---into the Gujarati Community. There were her sister--in--law's people who ate Vegetarian Food without Onion and Garlic,then her in-laws who were Vegetarians but ate Onion and Garlic flavoured Food and finally the rest of our Family--- Non-Vegetarians----for whom the Menu included Fish,Meat and Chicken!!The best part?I was cooking it!!
Luckily I was used to handling huge quantities of Food---so I got everything assembled and began Cooking. The Veg. Food was cooked last because it took less time to cook.The Non-Veg. went first---spicy Kolhapuri Mutton, Chicken Curry and Prawn/Shrimp Pickle were ready by afternoon and then the Veg. cooking started---and I was finished by 6 p.m. with 3 different types of Food--in equal number of Variations!!By 7.30 p.m. I was refreshed and perky--for I hate looking tired and fed up whenever I invite Folks over--as the Hostess it is my duty to make my Guests feel welcome and ensure that they have a good time!!That done it was a really good Party--ending way past mid-night!!By the time everything was cleared up it was past 2 a.m.--and as I laid my aching body next to Sudhir's, he turned round and told me I should be very pleased with the great Birthday I had!!!That statement of his hit a very sore spot--but since I was too tired and lacked the energy to argue I just let it go!!!
However his Birthday the following year was something I'd been planning for a long time!!As Luck would have it,it fell on a Monday---and Monday means purely "Saattvik" food--cooked without Onion or Garlic!!I planned an extensive Menu,spoke to Ram Krishna--a young Decorator nearby about putting up a Marqee in the Condominium Garden--keeping it hush hush for I knew Sudhir would throw a Spanner in the preparations if he knew.Unfortunately one of Lotta's friends named Padmaja wholived in the Condominium, asked Sudhir himself about whose Birthday Party was being planned with such meticulous eye to detail--and that just did it!!Sudhir tore into me with his quietest,steely voice--ripping me apart with deadly precision--reducing me to a quivering jelly of tiny pieces--so thorough was he!!I spent the entire week crying my eyes out--for he clammed up on me and would talk to me coldly only if he needed something--otherwise there was no communication between us!!However there was nothing I could do about the Guests--his Siblings, Uncles, Cousins had invited themselves over along with their entire Family--and that meant our entire Flat was overflowing with people---since the Marquee had been cancelled!!
Son Chaaphaa or Michelia Flower with a lingering,intoxicating Scent
The Bakula Flower has an elusive perfume that it retains even after it is faded and dry!!
The entire Flat was scented with deep yellow "Chaafa" flowers for I had had these strung into Garlands for the Pictures of Sudhir's and my father's Pictures.Not just that,I had placed these Flowers in each and every corner of our Rooms---turning our home into a beautifully scented Paradise!! I had also hung strings of the tiny "Bakuli" flowers at regular intervals---turning the entire Flat into a fragrant Bower!1 I had cooked the entire Meal according to the Traditional Menu---and it was served in the Traditional way--with people sitting on flat wooden planks with short legs called "Paats" in Marathi.There were "Chaurangs" which are four legged square stools to place the Banana Leaves acting as Platters on and each person had a "Taambyaa" or small Steel Pot with an upended "Bhaandey" or small Steel Glass to keep and drink Water in.I had drawn "Rangoli" or a free hand pattern with fine White Marble Dust and filled in the colours in the Pattern to make it a bright circular border around each seating arrangement.As per Tradition, the Children were served first---then the Men and finally the Women.While the Arrangements and the Menu got me plenty of Compliments the only one that really counted for me was when Sudhir held me close and apologised for being so beastly to me during the entire Week--and then thanked me for putting in such a massive effort in cooking the entire Meal by myself--it made my aching back and tired body feel rejuvenated with the intense Pleasure it gave me--everything was right with my World once more--because Sudhir was happy!!!
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