Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Catch-up #10

Though my last post was only last week, I feel like a catch-up post is in order, considering the number of things that have been happening.

We just got back from a gorgeous road trip in Iceland, and I'll get to updating my travel blog as soon as I'm done battling my PhD. Post-holiday Depression, of course. What did you think?

Our home has been a busy nest the last few months. First, Mom was here for a month and we had a super time. Strangely, her visit felt very 'sisterly' this time (and I'm not just talking about the times when we got on each other's nerves). We went for a 'glamping' vacation (Canopi in Bintan), a movie (Dishoom, which I thoroughly enjoyed mainly because of the company -- my mom is even more forgiving of Bollywood than me!), a pedicure, shopping, checking out restaurants, and generally roaming around for no good reason. Heck, I even took her to the Singapore Night Festival (which was spectacular, by the way)!

Within three days of her leaving, I had more visitors -- S2 and family! What's better than friends from Hyderabad visiting you? Friends from Hyderabad visiting you, armed with Paradise biryani! Yumzaaaadoooozaaaaa! (Dad was posted in Hyderabad for a couple of years. I'd made a brief visit during my university holidays, and the ONLY thing I remember from that trip was Paradise biryani.)

One of the highlights was Shub, Pizzadude and me going to Cafe Iguana, the place where we first met a decade ago! The good ol' jug of mango margarita, the good ol' jalapeno poppers, the good ol' riverside view, and the good ol' company. It was heartening to see that we were all still the same. I still can't believe we met through our blogs! I am very tempted to recount the hilarious incident that happened at the restaurant involving a hot waiter, but I'm sure I shall be lynched, so I shall just say this -- 'What happens in Cafe Iguana stays in Cafe Iguana'.

Workwise, it's been extremely busy as the 100th issue of the magazine that I work for is coming up. I started working on this magazine in early 2003 with issue 19, and so it's a big personal milestone for me too. Of course, the milestone issue meant that I had to work extra hard when Mom and S2 were here in order to make time to hang out with them, and also do a bit more to get ahead so I could have my Iceland vacation in peace, but it all worked out well. Of course, now that I'm back, I'm madly scrambling to catch up again.

Viv is travelling again. In fact, he took off for Melbourne on a work trip the very next day after we landed. Melbourne of all places in that terribly jetlagged state! But then like a friend says, "Company toh in logon ke jet lag se hi chalti hai."

Meanwhile, Xena and I are moping and coping with our respective PhDs. Luckily, an India trip is coming up and I'm thinking winter+Diwali+wedding in the family should be all sorts of fun.

Signing off till the next time,

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Ice, ice, baby

Okay, so I have a cool (quite literally so) photo to share today. We braved the cold, the wind and the rain, but we were determined to get as close to the Myrdalsj√∂kull glacier as we possibly could. Fortunately, Xena hiked along with us without any complaints! 

Viv and Xena admiring the grand glacier (photo not edited in any way)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

We have seen the light(s)!

It's 2.30 am and I'm posting this with the biggest grin on my face!

Okay, so we are on a road trip in Iceland right now. Knowing how elusive the Northern Lights can be in non-winter months, we decided not to plan our trip around aurora-chasing, but fill it with other things instead. But, it was SO HEARTENING to finally capture the Lights tonight, after many nights of closely watching the forecast and two nights of setting an alarm to wake us up every 2 hours.

I'd read that 2016 might be the last year to see the Lights in all their glory as they are expected to dim for a decade. I'm so glad we got to witness this stunning phenomenon. Even Xena woke up (Viv and I made quite a commotion I think) to witness them!

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Not a piece of cake

Like many people, I've also had my fair share of chuckling at articles that show the contrast between how a dish looks on the recipe website and how it looks when a normal human actually makes it. Which is why, when I saw the Youtube recipe for a cake that had a colourful checkered pattern on the inside, I went, "Yeah, right." Seriously? You want me to believe that I can cut open a normal-looking cake and it will magically have a colourful checkered pattern inside? Ha!

Months passed, but I still couldn't get it out of my head. The math in the recipe seemed about right, and more importantly, curiosity was killing me. So I decided to do it. In a low-stakes setting. Our old gang was getting together for a night out after ages, and Viv was flying off the next day, and as usual wasn't going to be in Singapore for his birthday. I figured this was the perfect setting to attempt to make the checkered cake.

So I did, and the results were phenomenal. Viv's expression when he cut open the innocent-looking pale cake justified the 46429436034532 hours I'd put into making this cake. And I got some high praise from the two big bakers in my family -- my mom and my sister. My mom said it was the most beautiful-looking cake she's ever seen. Praise from her on anything food-related is like ZOMG levels. Friends have been trying to figure out how on earth I made it. A neighbour has already asked me to help her make it for her daughter's birthday. Since it's been such a hit, I thought I'd blog about it, and also share the instructions for all you bakers out there.

Here you go!

You're welcome. :)

Friday, September 02, 2016

Blood brothers

It's after hours. Three figures, wrapped in black blankets, are quietly making their way into a tiny bar without any signboard... it's a hole in the wall really.

Strangely, it's open.

The three of them push open the small door and throw off their blankets. On each blanket is the word 'Being Human'. It's the three Khans! Collective gasp! Wait, no collective gasp, because there is no one else in the bar. Well, almost.

"On again, huh, you three?" The bartender jokes.

The Khans acknowledge him. They've known him for years. He's someone they can fully trust. He's a friend, a confidante. He's almost family.


He's also family, third cousin specifically, to... Bollywood reporter Sayesha Smitten Showbiz Kitten (SSSK). Which is why she is crouching under a chair at the very back, taking notes using a pencil and a notepad.

"Thanks for the support, guys." Salman points to the heap of the blankets on the floor.

"No worries yaar. Ab tuney dus-dus ghar bhijwa diye toh use toh karna padega na..." SRK says.

They make themselves comfortable on the bar stools.

"So... is it true?" Asks Aamir. "You're really getting married in November??"

"Sigh..." Salman sighs.

"I still can't believe it. YOU... are getting MARRIED?" SRK says.

"I'm just being human yaar... uska work visa expire hone wala hai. And Mom bhi zid kar rahi hai. Waise toh press bhi zid kar rahi hai, for about two decades now, lekin ab Mom ne bol diya hai toh... family comes first, no?"

They all nod gravely. Even the bartender who steals a quick look towards the back of the bar to make sure his third cousin is well-hidden.

"So... Iulia Vantur, huh? Sounds like a tourist blogging about India - yun liya van tour." Aamir says.

"Hey, don't make fun of your bhabhi's name! And you toh don't even say the word 'tourism'!" Salman looks angry.

Aamir sulks.

"Kya yaar, I'm sure they do the same to you in Romania. You must be Salmon Can there, no?" SRK tries to lighten the situation.

"Speaking of Romania, whatever you do, don't have the wedding in Romania, ok? Please please please?" Aamir pleads.

"Why??" Salman asks.

"Errmm... Kiran and I... err... can't go out of India anymore..." Aamir says sheepishly.

"Speaking of that... don't get married in Wankhede Stadium either..." says SRK.

"But tera ban toh lift ho gaya na?" says Aamir.

"Just playing safe..."

"Don't worry. You guys aren't even invited. I've decided it's just going to be a family affair. 15-20 people only."

SRK and Aamir fall down on the floor laughing. SSSK tries hard to stifle her giggles. Even the bartender is shaking his head and laughing.

"What?? What?! What's the big joke?"

"YOUR family? 15-20 people only?" SRK is clutching his tummy and laughing.

"Haan toh immediate family na..." Salman looks annoyed.

"Since it's just a family affair, we should at least have a rocking bachelor party, what say?" SRK says.

"Abbe! His whole life has been a bachelor party only, no?" says Aamir.

Collective nods all around. Including the crouching reporter.

"Give me some marriage advice, guys..." says Salman. "Can't go and ask Arbaaz and Sohail now, can I?"

"Marriage advice... Just... errrm... stay married?" SRK says, looking unsure.

"Marriage advice... hmmm... I have one! Never tell the press what your wife tells you at home. Rock. Hard place. Me." Aamir does a Chandler Bing impression.

"Speaking of the press, my advice to you is to actually never open your mouth in front of the press. Remember what happened during the Sultan promotions?" asks SRK.

"That was so unnecessary, Salman. At least apologise toh kar deta..." Aamir says.

"Apologise?? Abbe maine blackbuck mara, apologise nahin kiya. Maine aadmi mara, apologise nahin kiya. Main ek comment maarke apologise karoon???" Salman is getting riled up.

SRK and Aamir calm him down.

"I just had a funny thought..." says SRK. "Maybe after you get married, your fans will be so disappointed that even your movies will have half a chance of being flops, like ours? Ha ha ha!" SRK tries to lighten the situation. Aamir nervously joins in the laughter.

"Bhai's films are not hits because of the women who want to marry him. Bhai's films are hits because of the men who want to be like him." The bartender interjects, with a serious face.

They all nod. Even SSSK is nodding under the chair.

"Achhe rehne de, aage ka kya plan hai? Matlab bache-wache kab? Soon, I suppose? Since you're like... 50." Aamir asks.

"Nahin yaar... I'll wait about 20 years or so."

"20 years???!! Are you crazy?? Why???!!" SRK and Aamir are shocked.

Salman lets out a long and deep sigh.

"Let Aryan, Suhana, Abram, Junaid, Ira and Azad get established first. Then I will unleash my progeny upon Bollywood. I can't let my kids do to your kids what I have done to you guys. You guys are my brothers, yaar." He looks at the two of them, teary-eyed.

Everyone gets emotional. The three Khans get together for a group hug. The bartender discreetly wipes away a tear. SSSK puts her notebook down and says a silent 'Awwww...'

Friday, August 26, 2016

Burning questions

So this was supposed to be a part of the last post, but that kinda took on a life of its own, pushing this into the next post. The friend who had organised the Bollywood-themed party had asked me for ideas for games so I did up a Bollywood quiz to conduct if there was time. However, the DJ was rather competent, so most people ended up on the dance floor for hours, and we didn't have time to do the quiz. I thought I'd post it here to see if any Bolly-hungry bewdas would like to have a go at it.

The first question is from a quiz that my friends had conducted as a challenge for me at my surprise birthday party many years ago. (By the way, they'd also asked me what Gabbar Singh's dad's name was, and I answered correctly muahahaha!) The second question is from my own blog post from 6 years ago. I'd casually mentioned it in a post about something else, but someone took it as a challenge in the comments space, instantly earning everyone's respect. Of course, now the answer is even longer, so I thought it was worth repeating the question here.

Here we go!

1. Name 10 movies from the last 10 years with Shah Rukh Khan in the lead, where his name is NOT Rahul or Raj. And state his name in these movies.

2. Name 13 actresses who have worked opposite all 3 Khans (SRK, Aamir and Salman). Name one film each.

3. What are the real names of these Bollywood stars? To save you the excessive googling that might result out of this, I've included the answers here but in white font. Simply use your mouse to highlight and read the correct answers. (Of course, this won't work if you read this blog on your feed reader, and in that case I will just advise you to be honest and not look at the right column until you have thought of your answer. Hehehe!)

Screen name
Real name
Sunny Leone
Karanjit Kaur Vohra
Salman Khan
Abdul Rashid Salim Salman Khan
Jackie Shroff
Jaikishen Kaku Bhai Shroff
Mallika Sherawat
Reema Lamba
Akshay Kumar
Rajiv Hariom Bhatia
Shree Amma Yanger Ayyapan
Sunny Deol
Ajay Singh Deol
Bobby Deol
Vijay Singh Deol
Mithun Chakraborty
Gouranga Chakraborty
Bhanurekha Ganesan
Sanjeev Kumar
Haribhai Jarivala
Preity Zinta
Preetham Singh Zinta
Sivaji Rao Gaekwad
Mumtaz Jehan Begum Dehelvi
Guru Dutt
Vasanth Kumar Shivashankar Padukone 
Kishore Kumar
Abhas Kumar Ganguly

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

All dressed up and... somewhere to go!

A few weeks ago, we were invited by a neighbour to a Bollywood-themed party! You can only imagine my delight.

So I racked my brain on what Viv, Xena and I could wear to this party. Xena is at the stage where she wants to wear everything I wear. If I'm wearing a dress, she'll insist on wearing one. If I'm in a short skirt, she'll want to change to one too. So when I told her that I was considering going as 'Babita', she did not ask me who on earth Babita was. She simply said, "I wanna be Babita too." So I told her that we could do two Babita looks -- dress Babita and salwar-kameez Babita. To my surprise, she agreed.

So we had a dress rehearsal. I was dress Babita, in a black and white polka-dotted dress, gigantic white goggles, hoop earrings, plastered-on-forehead hair and a flower hairband that I borrowed from Xena's collection. I dressed her up in a sleeveless floral churidaar-kameez that we'd bought when we were in India and made a very Babita-hairstyle for her using her dupatta and a fake bun that I ordered online.

So here we were, having multiple dress rehearsals, while Viv was just chilling. "Dude, you'd better not turn up as yourself. Xena and I will look ridiculous if you look... err... normal!" I told him. That got him up and about, and after looking through his wardrobe, we realised that we could put the most colourful stuff together to make him Munna from Rangeela. So he wore a pink shirt over a blue cricket singlet, put on his dhinchak cricket glasses, and borrowed a bandana and a hat from me to complete the look. And oh, he folded up his pants a bit to make it look more 'tapori'. And gosh, he even said he wouldn't shave for a few days to be true to his character!

Seeing him all suddenly enthu like that, I briefly considered switching to Mili from Rangeela, for I have the tight pants and the knotted shirt, but I do not have that voluminous head of hair that Urmila is blessed with. Besides, Xena was already excited about going as babita and I didn't want to mess up the plan.

So there we were -- Munna, Babita senior and Babita junior, and all of us got rave reviews at the party. It was the most fun party we'd attended in a long, long time. My normally shy child had no problems even hitting the dance floor with me!




A few years ago, we had a Govinda-themed costume party, and would you believe it -- I didn't win the first prize in spite of my light blue pants, a fluorescent green spaghetti strap top, a red-green-blue-black checked shirt and bright pink slippers! You can only imagine what a ghastly sight the winner (my good friend Pizzadude) presented.

A friend and I have been discussing about organising a Bollywood-themed party for Christmas or New Year's this year. We are even entertaining the thought of having it for Halloween instead, where you can only wear costumes from Hindi ghost movies! Any ideas (other than candle-holding white sari-clad singing ghost)?

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Free space

"Ours is an era of distraction. It's a punishing drumbeat of constant input. It follows us into our homes and into our beds. It seeps into our... into our souls, for want of a better word."

Viv and I have been binge-watching 'Elementary' on Netflix lately, and though initially I found this version of Sherlock quite OTT, almost grating on the nerves, I've come around to not entirely disliking him. And I believe it was this statement of his that caused the switch. He'd finally said something that showed his vulnerable side, something a regular person could instantly relate to.

I often think about this. The constant cacophony of noise, news and distractions in our lives, and our inability to escape them even though a part of us really, really wants to.

And it is for this reason I love the beach next to our place. It's a beach all right, but the part where we adda-maarofy is different. People do not come here to make noise. They come here to sit and watch and listen and contemplate. I've lived near this part of Singapore for nearly 12 years, and even now, I just love, love, love it.

It's amazing that in the busy, crazy, noisy, crowded, unforgiving, relentless, fast-paced, metropolitan city that is Singapore, there exists a space that tells me that my home is but a tiny little island and if I seek it, I can find both joy and serenity in the same place.

Photos taken during a family picnic last evening at the beach

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Glamp shots


It was a word I'd never heard of, until two weeks ago.

I came across the strange term while looking for ideas for a short vacation to take my Mom on. There is even a website called www.glamping.com. It defines 'glamping' as 'a way to experience the great outdoors without sacrificing luxury'. The Wiki page on 'glamping' defines it as 'a portmanteau of glamour and camping'.

Though I'm all for fully outdoorsy camping, it didn't seem like a practical idea considering the 5-year-old and the senior we had in our group.

So glamp we did, and boy, was it awesome.

I'll take the next few days to update my travel blog Hopscotch about this trip. The first post is already up, and here's a preview!

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Cakewalk... not.

I have been reminiscing with Mom about my childhood days. I told her that only after attempting to do the same for Xena did I really really appreciate her efforts at making something new for my tiffin box every single day, even though she had to get up really really early for it (my school bus used to come at 5:45 am because my school was in another town, which was marginally bigger than the tiny town we lived in).

One of the things that came up in our conversations was cake. Mom had an extremely primitive oven, consisting of two aluminium hemispheres, a cord and a plug. And even with that, she used to make the most amazing cakes. My school friends still remember how she used to send cake for them, with their names iced on the slices.

My sister was the next in the family to get into cakes, and because she moved to the US, she got into it real deep. Sometimes I don't even understand the terms she uses when she describes the cakes she makes. She sends me recipes where I can't recognise half the ingredient names. Recently, she made a cake for her colleague and iced some complicated C++ joke on it. I didn't get the joke at all (even after she explained), but I did get how much effort she had put in, and I imagined how delighted the roomful of coders must have been to see a cake like that.

I was the last to get into baking, and I only started last year after we renovated our home and bought an oven. I started off slow and steady, but over the year, I have developed a real love for making and decorating cakes. I'm still using very basic ingredients for decorating, but I hope to get better.

Recently, I made a cake for a friend's kid's 6th birthday party. It was a real hit with the kids. Both Mom and my sister also said it was beautiful. Coming from them, that was high praise indeed.

As with all food, Xena is not a fan of cake, and is probably the only child I know who refuses to eat, or even taste, birthday cake at parties. I do hope that changes soon, because it would be real nice to have her ask me to make a specific cake and do it exactly to her liking. And have her eat it too.

Now that would be the icing on the cake.