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A tea-break allows a few minutes of respite at any time during the day.  It is a moment to place a hault on the demands of a whirlwind day in our highly accelerated modern society.  It enables us to take a break from emails, BBMs, phone calls, pings, tweets, status updates and simply revel in the luxuriating warmth of the soothing beverage.

In America, there is the regimented 9 to 5 corporate environment, where the mantra is maximum productivity.  Tea-breaks are not widely taken or encouraged.  However, in other parts of the world, it is the norm.  During a typical work day, people routinely take tea-breaks for a boost of rejuvenation and socialization.

In most parts of the world, tea is a connecting elixir, where even for a few moments you can get together not just with friends, but even with complete strangers, stand around a street tea stall and exchange the latest political sexl scandal, weather fluctuations or heavier subjects such as the fastest bowler on a cricket team.

Friendly invitations are usually cloaked in terms of tea invites, a common one being, “Please visit and have a cup of tea with us.”

The origin of tea spans thousands of years and cultures.  Its origin is traced to China and started off as a medicinal elixir.  It traveled through continents and cultures; went through compositional changes such as addition of sugar, milk, butter, herbs, flavors, powders and a plethora of condiments.  However, the essence of tea stays static; it continues to unite and is internally and externally palliative.

The following are a few examples of teas around the world that I love.  You will note that tea is brewed in diverse ways across the globe, with varying additives; yet the essence of it is constant. It soothes and fuses humans.

Qymak Tea from Afghanistan

Kaymak is clotted cream made from milk of water buffaloes or cows.  It is used in Turkey, Balkan countries, Iran, Middle East and Afghanistan amongst other countries.

In Afghanistan, Qymak tea is made on special occasions.  Green tea is brewed and a dollop of the scrumptious Qymak is added to the top that gives the tea the rich, creamy texture.  Eat with a sweet Gosh Feel (elephant ear pastry) or Naan (flat bread), and you are in Jannat (paradise!)

Mint Tea from Morocco

If you go to Morocco, mint tea is a way of life.  It is at every street corner, every luxurious upcoming Mall, every souk, every bazaar.  The bunches of fresh mint in the beautiful filigreed silver tea-pots are beyond aromatic.  However, the fun part is the pouring of the tea.  The higher the stream, the more ambrosial the flavors.  Caveat:  You need skilled hands for the tea pouring to avoid 2nd degree burns!

Cutting Chai from Bombay

The name of this tea is deep-rooted in pop-culture lexicon.  Its origin is most likely in Bombay, India.  It is a concoction of black tea-leaves boiled in a big metal kettle with milk, fresh ginger, masala and sugar.  The tea is boiled to a point where the flavors are pungent.  The flavor is so strong that it is served by the half  glass, hence the term “cutting.”  “Chai” is tea.  So, a literal translation,  is “half tea.”

Earlier, it was the “go-to” beverage for the blue-collar workers, such as in the construction workers.  Nowadays, it is a trendy treat for the 20-something, ultra- westernized crowd, trying to connect to their Indian roots!  It is delicious, especially when eaten with bun maska (hot, buttered fluffy bun).

 

Gur-Gur Tea (Butter Tea) from Tibet

Consumed in Tibet and regions of Ladakh, India, it is drunk not by the cupfuls, but bowlfuls.  It is made through a complex procedure of boiling and pouring in cylinders, thereafter adding fresh yak butter and a pinch of salt.

It is interesting to note, that tea originated as a medicinal elixir and continues to serve the same purpose.  The dollop of butter in Gur-Gur tea is not only lip-smacking, but helps prevent chapped skin in the sub-zero temperatures of these high Himalayan regions.

Turkish Tea from Turkey

If you go to Istanbul, the streets are littered with cafes where young and old, surprisingly mostly men, sit and discuss the dire conditions in Syria over hot cups of Turkish tea called çay. (Pronounced as chai.)  It is a pure form of tea, drunk black, with or without sugar depending on your disposition for sweet.  It is boiled in two stacked kettles called çaydanlik.  Turks are known to drink up to 50 cups a day.  Uniting, right?

Milk Tea from Hong Kong

Milk tea is a remnant of the colonial British impact on Hong Kong.  It is also known as the “Silk Stocking Tea” as sieved though a long stocking to intensify the flavors.  A black tea mixed with evaporated milk and my very favorite, condensed milk for the thick, luxuriant consistency.  You may want to ask for less condensed milk as at times can be undrinkably saccharine.

So, drink up, heal and connect.

“Wallah” is a term used in India as a suffix to describe a person who performs a specified task or business.  I won’t call it slang, but certainly a term that has become part of linguistics.  It is used to describe a specialist in a particular task, with the specialization obtained through years of experience and apprenticeship.  For example, a chai-wallah is one who is in the profession of making tea, an ice-cream-wallah is one who sells ice-cream, a dhobi-wallah is one who does your laundry, a rickshaw-wallah is one who drives a rickshaw.   The person doing this specific task was probably born into a family who has done this task for generations; he too will most likely work in this profession his entire life and will do so with great pride and joy.

My last blog was about TMC (Too Many Choices). I talked about how certain things in life are most enjoyed in their simplest form such as a glass of freshly-squeezed orange juice or a hot cup of fresh-brewed coffee.  Too many choices are not necessarily optimal.  In some instances, too many choices clutter the mind, thereby inhibiting a pleasurable experience.  Too many choices are absolutely no substitute for taste.

In our present society we are brain-washed into believing that multiple choices and options are a prerequisite to maximum pleasure.  This is a fallacy and I have evidentiary data to support it.  I have example after example to prove that an activity can be enjoyed without having multiple options.   In fact, most of these activities are so simple that they are most enjoyed in their unadulterated state i.e. without murking them up with multiple choices.

Today’s blog is a follow-up of my last blog.  It is an elucidation of unadulterated rapture without multiple choices.

Chai-wallah

 

 

He is the tea-man.  He makes and sells simple piping hot tea.  Just tea, no other options.   Sometimes he may add ginger or cardamom to the boiling hot water for that extra fragrance and flavor, but that all depends on his mood!  There is no corporate manual that he has to abide by and no test audience to please.  There are no cup sizes in foreign languages, no flavored shots offered, no options of caffeinated or decaffeinated beverage and no complex menus to decipher.  There is no paraphernalia that goes with the paper cups such as the sleeve and the lid, as he is not familiar with the term “tort lobbyists” or “burn lawsuits.” What he offers is a fragrant, flavorful, sweet, milky concoction in one size, that has been brewed to perfection and poured with such expertise that can only be attained after years of experience and training.  There is only one size and one flavor, but it is so pleasurable that it fits the taste of all.  The concoction delights the senses and soothes the soul.  A single option perfected to the “T.”

 

Juice-wallah

 

 

He is the juice man.  His skill is to make the freshest, pulpiest, sweetest, purest orange juice that one can ever taste.  There are no options of a gazillion kinds of fruit, no mixtures and combinations, no sizes, no add-ons, no ratios and no fractions.  Finally a “no-math-involved” glass of orange juice, just the way nature intended it to be.

Doodh-wallah

 

He is the milk man.  He delivers fresh milk with a thick ring of cream on the top that transports one to the Swiss Alps.  There are no options of low fat, skimmed, non-fat, 1%, 2%, lactose free, vitamin D added, etc. etc.  There are no strippings and no additions.  It is milk in its pure form just the way it should be, squeezed from the udders of the cow rather than churned and manufactured in an assembly line container, stripped off its innate element.   Nature has already added the necessary vitamins and minerals.   We don’t need to add the extra synthetic junk!  If calories is your issue, put down the toxic burger and drink another glass of simple milk.  Isn’t it a stipulated that Milk Does a Body Good!!

 

Fruit-wallah

 

 

He is the fruit man.  Caveat:  If you are looking for laminated labels advertising “certified,” “organic,” “preservative free,” “fertilizer free,” fruit,  priced at the amount of some worker’s daily wages in a developing nation, then this fruit is not for you.

There will be no fancy labels and no re-cycled packaging (which in most instances is a marketing ploy rather than genuine environmental concerns.)  There are no lofty claims advertising fruit “fresh from the farm,” which ironically is located 2,000 miles across the nation!

What you will get is a small sampling of fruit that your olfactory senses will detect from miles away.  What you will get is fruit that has not been sitting in the cooler for weeks.   What you will get is fruit that provides a burst of flavors and oozes with juice when you bite into it.  What you will get is a sensory delight.  So what if the sampling includes only apples and bananas, I will happily forego the variety for fruit that at least tastes like fruit and not cardboard with an overly polished skin.

Tiffin-wallah

 

 

What should I say about Tiffin-wallahs.  They have become a phenomenon especially in cosmopolitan cities like Bombay and Delhi.  In fact, New York City is aping the food delivery service to cater to our accelerated lifestyles.  Tiffin is a stainless steel lunch box consisting of a few food compartments.   In India, the Tiffin-wallahs deliver the tiffin lunches to hundreds and thousands of office workers on bicycles with such precision and timeliness that they could be the brand-ambassadors for Raymond Weil’s new ad campaign for precision.

There are no menus or multiple choices for the tiffin.   There are two options, vegetarian and non-vegetarian.  Yes, imagine that, just two choices.  What do you get in lieu of hundreds of choices that you could find in a restaurant?  You get scrumptious, perfectly flavored, healthy, preservative-free, fresh, home-cooked lunch for the busy worker.  No garnishes, no choices of cooking style, no less of this and more of that.  Just plain good old-fashioned lunch.

 

And finally diverging from the “wallahs.”  In my last blog I discussed the bombardment of social media and its somewhat redundant and repetitive effect.  Above is an example of social media in its simplest form.  There is no streaming, no YouTubing, no Live-casting, no plasma flat-screens, no 70-feet screens.  Here, is a family enjoying simple television viewing in their flooded living room during the heavy monsoons of India.  It is not just TV viewing, but family bonding time as well.  I will take this form of social media any day over the faux socialization on say a Facebook!

Options are good, but certain activities are unparalleled in singularity.

 

 

 

 

 

Since childhood we are taught to make choices.  All of us at one point of time or the other have heard the familiar rendition from our parents,  “Make the right choice,” “Whatever choices you make now will impact your life forever,” “Once you make the choice there is no going back,” etc. etc.  We are taught to carefully weigh our options and pick one.

The premise of making a choice is that you have at least two alternatives available, thereby giving you the opportunity to choose one from the other.  Either you choose “this or that,” go with “one or the other,” settle on “A or B.”

Making a choice has a positive connotation in our society as it comes with a plurality.  It consists of choosing one option from multiple options, thereby honing our discriminatory skills, sharpening our minds and developing our judgment.

Somehow in modern society singularity is not seen in a positive light.  A single option is never good enough.  “One” simply does not have the pizzazz as “multiple.” So, I stipulate having the freedom to choose from multiple choices is good in many circumstances.

But, along with the benefits of choices come the burdens as well.  At times there are “too many choices,” leading to the fatigue of mental capabilities and a bankruptcy of the brain.  A “brain-drain” if  you will.

 

Yesterday I went to my local, organic, over-priced, yuppie, bulk-cereal selling grocery store.  I wanted a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice and since they have a juice bar thought it would be the perfect place to have it.  It is only logical that an elaborate juice bar will have a simple thing such as orange juice.   My salivary glands went in overdrive thinking of the whirring of the machine squeezing the warm, pulpy, sweet, tangerine juice from a succulent ripe orange.  No fuss, no complications.  Sweet, simple bliss.

 Au contraire!  The “juice specialist” reached into the refrigerator and brought out a plastic container filled with juice!  As she started to pour, I stopped her in mid-pour and demanded where the “freshly squeezed” juice was.  I was advised with disdain that this is all they had.  There was nothing “fresh” about the cold, “sitting-for-hours-in-the-refrigerator” juice.  Needless to say I was crestfallen.

But, hey we live in a world of choices, so I exercised my right to choice and ordered a mixed carrot, pineapple and apple juice.  I thought it would be an easy one as the store offers an extensive convoluted mixed drink menu.  The clerk looked at me with a dropped jaw and asked what “base” I wanted so that she could make the necessary division of fruit.  It was my turn to drop my jaw, as I had never imagined that a glass of juice could get so very complex.  It seemed that a simple drink had turned into a flow-chart of multiple choices with off-shoots in various directions.  Would I now be asked to divide my drink into fractions and percentages?  I shuddered with fright as my math skills border on being cipher and the calculator on my Blackberry gets stuck on the division key.

The array of choices had turned into a nightmare and needless to say my taste for the sweet juice had soured by now.

I don’t know if you guys have noticed it or not, but in today’s times we are constantly faced with an overabundance of choices even for simple things.  Items where one would not expect or want to make a choice, such as ordering a glass of juice that should not require algorithmic equations.

It makes me wonder, do these choices really help us or are they unnecessarily using up our brain data that should be reserved for higher, more complex and loftier purposes.

Another example is coffee.  I have written about coffee before as I love the heavenly elixir.  I go to a coffee shop looking forward to a cup of hot, milky, divine brew.  What am I faced with?  Choices, choices and more choices.  Complex volume sizes in faux-foreign languages; measurements of coffee shots in metric sizes that I am unfamiliar with;  milk calculated in percentages;  coffee whiteners made of items that I usually associate with eating rather than drinking, such as coconut;  use of a “shot” glass that reminds me of a Russian vodka bar rather than a warm, soothing, literary coffee shop.

Historically, coffee shops were used as meeting places for scholars, artists and the literary.  Ideas were born, debates were held, classics written and labyrinthine theories pondered upon over umpteen cups of coffee, yes plain and simple coffee.  The likes of Hemingway, Picasso and Henry Miller used to hang out in cafes such as Le Select in Paris.  I wonder if Hemingway could have written The Old Man and the Sea if he was spending time ordering a complex coffee drink and flustering  between choices such as non-fat, 2%, low-fat, one shot or multiple shots, venti, grande or whatever the hell the third size is latte!!!  Or if Picasso would have time or the energy to doodle Dance of Youth on a napkin after ordering a drink from a “not-so-easy-to-decipher” multiple-choice menu!

 

How about social media?  We all love it and use the gazillion choices in social media.  I understand it is all about visibility.  But after some time doesn’t it get redundant, repetitive and non-innovative.  The same content is posted on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, Instagram, Pinterest, Hootsuite, Tumblr etc.

Are we creating new content in the various mediums of social media or is it simply transmission of the same content to various channels.  Would the works of Leonardo di Vinci be masterpieces if he took photos and blogged, Tweeted, Facebooked and Tumblred them.  Wouldn’t the glory of his masterpieces be diluted by the number of choices available?

Choices are great as they give us freedom.  They give us options.  However, certain things in life should be kept simple.  They are enjoyed most when in their simplest form such as a simple cup of coffee.  Too many choices create Horror vacui, cluttering the mental faculties and debilitating the brain, thereby leaving little room for the brain to perform at its maximum capacity.

 

Travel is the spice of life; it is crème fraiche on a basic sponge cake; it is the vibrant lipstick on a bare face, it is the statement necklace on a basic black dress, it is the bold stroke on a plain canvas.

We live our daily lives performing various duties, chores and activities.  Some we enjoy some we don’t.  In any event no matter how exciting our daily jobs and lifestyles are after some time, well they become “daily” or “routine.”  The familiarity even though comforting brings with it some vacuous boredom.

Travel jolts us from the quotidian routine and infuses the requisite amount of fervor and excitement to get back into the “routine” upon return.

Upon her return from a world tour, my friend told me that she could not find the food that she is accustomed to in her home country and hence from that aspect it was a little hard for her to travel.

It made me think, what is the point of traveling if you cannot immerse yourself in the culture, the traditions, the food, the style of that country and get a true feel of its soul.  When I travel I have a ritual, I visit the grocery store and the pharmacy of the new place.  It provides me an opportunity to get a true local feel of the country.  I also try to buy at least one small traditional clothing item and incorporate it with my daily wardrobe.  It enables me to take a nostalgic trip down memory lane when my life returns back to being “daily.”

When we travel, we all visit the famous sites recommended by Lonely Planet.  The key to travel is to diverge from the well-traveled “touristy” path at least once and get a true flavor of the country.

Travel is about exploration and getting out of your comfort element, stepping out of self-imposed parameters and crossing boundaries literally and metaphorically.

If you are in Istanbul, you will of course visit Hagia Sophia as you should, but also take the time to sit in the little cafes and drink umpteen cups of cay with shakkar (tea with sugar).  You truly get a feel of the old culture watching the men play board games.

If in China, eat the dumplings from the enormous steamed bamboo baskets.

If going to Italy, do buy at least one sartorial outfit from Via Condotti (no matter how small) to be a part of the most stylish culture in the world.

In Mongolia throw caution to the strong Gobi desert winds, ride a yak and later drink its warm milk!  No need to crinkle your nose, it is delicious!!

So, pause your hectic itinerary for a few minutes, take a long breath, inhale and envelope yourself in the essence of the country you visit.  You will get more out of it than visiting every miniscule “must see” site written in the travel book.

Perfection is not instantaneous, not exigent and not speedy.  It is a laborious, tiresome and toilsome journey.

Perfection can be achieved in any field by giving it enough time, patience, perseverance and that “one more thing” as per Steve Jobs that is always required even when you think you are almost there.

Steve Jobs recent demise made me think of how everything that is perfect or even comes close to perfection takes time or that “one more thing.”  There seem to be no short-cuts to perfection and no quick schemes.  Interestingly, it does not matter what you are trying to perfect.  It can be a small thing such as whipping up a perfectly risen delicate soufflé or a colossal and complex project such as inventing and designing the revolutionary Apple gadgets.  It all takes time and massive effort.  The question is what mettle are we made of?  Strong enough to withstand failures and defeats, with only a steel drive propelling us to move forwards towards perfection.  Or do we want to chuck the whole thing after a few tries as it is “just too hard.”

As a confession, in most instances I probably will take the easier or the latter path, only to be burdened later with a heavy sense of regret for having forsaken the sweet taste of perfection and my goal.  Hopefully, writing this blog will be a cathartic experience and will steer me to strive towards perfection in achieving my goals in life, no matter how big or small they are.

Steve Jobs is an example of perfection.  He was a drop-out from college, co-founded Apple Computer only to be ousted nine years later from the extremely lucrative company he founded.  It was not a deterrent for him, but an opportunity to further hone his craft.  He came back with marvels such as the iPod, iTunes, iPhone and iPad creating a revolution not only in technology, but a cultural revolution that changed the way people listened to music, read books and used computers forever.

His designs are not only highly efficient but an example of style and elegance.  He enabled the world to discard the clunky obsolete gadgets and replace them with minimalistic, highly efficient, utterly cool gadgets.

He can be analogized with pioneers such as Edison or the Wright Brothers.  He was a visionary who with his intelligence, years of toil and hard-work, built a company that consumers cannot get enough bites of.

Hermes is another company that takes extreme pride in perfecting its craft.  It is a rare company in this day and age of mass produced, assembly line, sole focus on “filling-the-quota” kind of products.

Yes, you do pay a premium for Hermes products, but perfection should not come cheap.

Thierry Hermes started the company 74 years ago with a vision.  He brought his vision to fruition by using unsurpassed quality materials, attention to detail and hard work, lots of hard work.  The Hermes bags are a superlative example of quality.  Each Hermes bag is cut by hand, piece by piece with individually inspected materials.  Each artisan works only on three to four bags at a time.  They are made-to-order in the true sense of the word.  Each bag is made by hand, inside and out!

Even the saddle stitch used by the artisans has been in use since the 19th century.  In fact, nothing much has changed in the technique of the design and manufacturing since the inception of the company.

Along with quality, Hermes has been a visionary in marketing and branding.  When celebrity endorsements were unheard of and a rarity, Hermes introduced the Kelly and the Birkin bags, an homage to Princess Grace Kelly of Monaco and the uber stylish Jane Birkin (trivia, she is the mother of Charlotte Gainsbourg.)  The bags have acquired iconic status and cultural eminence.

What about a perfectly scrumptious, delicate, fluffy soufflé?  It is not a dessert that you can order “off a menu” and expect it to be delivered instantaneously.  No, it takes time and patience to make it.  It has to be coddled, delicately whipped and baked for at least a good 45 minutes for it to rise to a cloud of warm, sweet perfection.  You have to order the dessert even before you order the appetizer in order to enjoy it.  It takes time to make a perfect soufflé!

So, to conclude and a note to myself-Keep working towards perfection.  It takes time to perfect perfection, assuming that there is a Utopian point of perfecting perfection.

I am from India.  Hence, befalls upon me the duty to blog at least once about the industry that is the beating heart, deep soul and the throbbing pulse of India-The Indian Film Industry aka BOLLYWOOD.

 

 

Indian film industry is based in Bombay (now known as Mumbai).  It is fondly known as Bollywood, possible name origination from Hollywood.  It is massively influential not only in the home country but has a growing popularity internationally as well.  With India being on the global map, Indian cinema’s popularity has exponentially increased.

Bollywood churns out twice as many movies as Hollywood in a span of one year.  With movies such as Slumdog Millionaire and exports like Freida Pinto, an increasing number of Western audience are becoming familiar with not only the colorful song and dance routine that is so integral to Bollywood movies, but thanks to the portrayal of slums, the debilitating poverty in India as well.

For the purposes of this blog and because I am an insider, I will introduce you to a quintessential theme in Indian cinema that is patently latent for the foreign eye, yet prevalent in most Indian movies.  It is also a little insight into the pre-disposition of the Indian brain, especially the male brain.

It is the Madonna-Whore theme on celluloid.

Women are an integral part of Indian cinema.  In most Indian films women are portrayed in two ways.  Either they are shown as a pious, sacrificing, maternal figure or Madonna.  Or they are depicted as the wanton, sexy, lustful, glamour doll or whore.

The sacrificing maternal figure may as well be called a sacrificial lamb.  The adversities of her life are higher than Mount Everest and insurmountable; not even Edmund Hillary in flesh and blood could peak the heights of such misery.

The hardships start at a young age when she is coerced into marriage against her will to a much older man and from there on the misery chapter of her life starts.  The script usually goes like this-she gets pregnant after marriage; one of her kids is born without a limb and is handicapped; the burden of taking care of this child falls entirely upon her slim shoulders; the husband is an alcoholic loser who drinks, gambles and at the end of the day beats her up; she works like a dog doing menial jobs where again she is abused and exploited by her employer and then the poverty, oh such cruel   poverty that two square meals will be considered to be a banquet.  Despite all these calamities, she is able to educate her handicapped child who in turn becomes a famous doctor and just when one would think that the anguish is about to end, she gets cancer and dies.  Throughout the movie she is dressed in a white sari, the color of grieving.  It is a perpetual saga of despondency, melancholy and wretchedness.

One of the great classic Indian movies of all times named Mother India, is a perfect example of this ideal, sacrificing woman.

The audiences come out of such a movie with tears rolling down their cheeks and a renewed respect and reverence for a woman.

This mother or “ Madonna” figure is the signature illustration of an ideal Indian woman in Bollywood.  She is pious, sacrificing and wallowing in eternal suffering.  The audiences bow to her-she is Madonna.

In the opposite extreme you have the woman depicted as a seductress.  She is an enchantress, a femme fatale, a temptress, a vamp all rolled into one tight package.  She oozes sexuality and lust with flat abs, protruding breasts, luscious lips, cascading ravenous hair, skimpy clothes and a husky voice.  Most of the camera frames are angled to focus on her anatomy, especially the sexually stimulating body parts such as the plump lips, heaving breasts and swinging derriere.

 

The sexuality interpreted through this woman is so over the top that it makes all the Victoria’s Secret models look like nuns.

The audiences come out of her movie panting with lust and sexual tension.  This woman is purely objectified as a sex-object-she is a whore.

You must have noted the dichotomy in Bollywood movies by now.  Women are either put on a pedestal and given the veneration and respect of a Madonna or simply portrayed as an object of lust.

Interestingly, most Indian cinema is hesitant to portray Indian women as both being a mother and also a seductress.  The two concepts appear to be diametrically opposed and do not seem to merge in a Bollywood woman.

In all honesty, the tides are changing in Indian  cinema.  Modern cinema is becoming trendy, issue based, somewhat intelligent and more realistic.  But for the past many decades the true and tried formula of the Madonna/whore theme has been a sure shot success at the box office.

What is your opinion?  Can meaningful cinema depict a woman both as a Madonna and a sex object?

There is a lightness to life in Italy.  A buoyancy, an effervescence, an inconsequential grace. You might say, what does that mean?  In simple terms there is looseness in living, an elasticity, nobody takes life too seriously.  They eat, drink and are “contento” and “felice.”

I too feel the lightness of being when I am there.  The sordid thoughts are dispersed; the worries are dispensed; the weight of the world slips off my slender shoulders (at least I think my shoulders are slender!)  I espouse the infectious energy of the Italians. 

Going with the flow is part of being an Italian.  They do not try to control every aspect of their lives.  I suppose being loose is a big part of cultures other than the United States.  Indian culture is the same, there is a lack of rigidity in day to day life.  So, the shops open at 11 o’ clock in the morning and after a mere few hours close at 2:30 for the afternoon siesta.  In America, that is a no-no.  After all, time is money baby!  Every second of the day must be productive.  Well, not in Italy.  I learnt to take those afternoon hours and fall into a sweet slumber, wake up with a rejuvenated glow on my skin, ready to take on the world, face any challenge, confront the mightiest of an obstacle.

But wait, wait…first I need to sit and take a break with my cappuccino and tremazzini.  After that I will take on any challenge.  

Oh really?  Did I forget that after coffee, it is time to meet friends for a Prosecco or Spritz Aperol with potato wafers and olives.  That is a dilemma!  Well, I do have a solution for the dilemma.  The solution is there is no hurry, no rush, nothing urgent.  I can always confront the challenges “Domani” (tomorrow.)  Yes, that is the attitude of the Italians.  I call it the “Domani Attitude.”  Why not, there is nothing wrong in it.  The past is gone; the future is unknown; it is only but the present moment we have; it is only but the present moment we have to fulfill our desires. 

So, armed with my Domani Attitude, it is the simpler things that I enjoy most in Italy.  Yes, Italy is a treasure of ancient art, architecture, culture, languages and beauty.  But, what brings me most joy is sitting in a cafe sipping my coffee with the biscotti and seeing life go by, observing, watching, reveling in the beautiful moment.

For me food and drinks are a big part of living life elegantly.  What better place than Italy to exercise the elegance.  I want to share with you a few of my favorites that help me enjoy the moment. 

prosecco

  • Prosecco

It is a sparkling wine made from a grape grown in the Veneto region of Italy.  It is the sweetest, most ambrosial, delicious bubbly you will ever taste.  It has absolutely no effects of alcohol, at least for me.  Even my mum, who has never had a drop of alcohol in her life, found it to have medicinal capabilities to soothe her stomach!

  • Spritz Aperol

The national drink of Italy.  At any hour, particularly after 3 or 4 o’ clock you will see a bevy of Italians sitting in crowded cafes and bistros, laughing, joking and drinking the orange colored beverage in goblets.  It is a reflection of the lightness of being that I talked about earlier.  It is an aperitif produced by the Campari company.  It stimulates the appetite. 

You can make one at home, but nothing like sitting and drinking it at a cafe on Via Condotti.  In a goblet pour 1 1/2 ounces Aperol, 2 ounces chilled Prosecco or other sparkling wine, and a splash of chilled seltzer or mineral water. Garnish with a piece of orange.

 

  • Fresh blood orange juice

It is ruby red, it is freshly squeezed even at a gas station, it is not chilled, it has pulp and most times served in a warm sterilized glass.  I would take the ruby red glass over a ruby ring any day.

 

  •  Tramezzini

The word tramezzino means “in-between”, hence you have it in-between meals.  It is a triangular Italian sandwich made from two slices of heavenly white, soft bread with crusts removed.  It is a reminiscent of my Heidi reading days.  A most cherished book of my childhood written by Johanna Spyri where Heidi used to take divinely soft bread rolls for her grandfather. 

My favorite is the funghi (mushroom) Tramezzini.  Delizioso!!!

prada

  • PRADA

I don’t care what people may say about my taste and style, but I adore the eccentric, intellectual, cerebral, anti-establishment, non-conforming, highbrow genius of Miuccia Prada.  Forget the shopping, buying, credit cards, debts, all the wearisome, burdensome worries.  Just pop into Prada on Via Condotti in Rome and absorb the view of the Spanish steps from inside Prada. 

An experience par excellence.  A tribute to the Domani Attitude.

Ayurveda is a word of Sanskrit origin. It means “the complete knowledge for long life.” It is native to India and has been practiced for centuries by the great Rishis (sages) whose lives spanned over a period of a thousand years. They never aged, always maintained glistening taut skin (sans wrinkles) with lustrous hair and had physical fitness akin to the great Atlas.

Wow a good hook for a blog in our youth-centric society, isn’t it?

In modern world Ayurveda comes within the penumbra of holistic medicine, alternative medicine or some may even call it “hocus pocus.”

It is a form of lifestyle focusing on the mind-body connection. It was shunned for sometime by the Western world and was taken over by modern medicine, pharmaceutical companies and drug companies. But many have realized that only “quantity” of life is not sufficient–it needs to be symbiotic with “quality” of life–and hence have reverted back to this age-old way of life.

Under Ayurveda, we each have a unique mix of three mind/body principles which create our mental and physical characteristics. These three principles are called “doshas.” The three doshas are Vata, Pitta and Kapha. You can analyze your doshas in the quiz below. It is fun!

Chopra Dosha Quiz

Living and eating in accordance with our doshas leads to harmony of the mind and body. Proper intake of food is the underlying theme of Ayurveda as what you take in is a reflection of what you are.

Today I will share an Ayurvedic dish recipe with you that is easy to make, scrumptious and has the utmost health benefits. For me, it is comfort food, loaded with protein, yet easily digestible. It is warm, soft and soothing. It is suitable and beneficial for all doshas.

It is called Khichdi, which basically means a jumbled-up mixture of “this and that.”

Khichdi is eaten with a spoonful of what is called Ghee. Ghee is clarified butter in the purest form with no adulteration.

You fat-phobic people, please do not cringe as Ghee will make your skin glow, stall the Botox injections and keep all your doshas in order. It is the remedy for various ailments and you will not gain a kilo, pound or ounce!

amul ghee

 

My style of cooking is eclectic, just as my fashion sense. I do not do measurements, do not follow recipes and simply go by my instincts–a pinch of this, a handful of that, a dash of the other and a dollop of something else. In the end it all works out. Here is a simple recipe for Khichdi from my kitchen. Bear in mind, it is not about perfection. We are not at a big-box store. The universe does not call for perfection, but does call for experimentation at various levels. So let’s have fun!

You will need:

  • 1 cup Basmati rice (available in all grocery stores).
  • 1/2 cup mung dal (available in most grocery stores or a specialized Indian grocery store).  It looks like this:

mung dal

  • 4-6 cups water.
  • Rock salt or table salt to taste.
  • Pinch of  turmeric.
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds (available at most grocery stores).
  • Thinly sliced fresh ginger.  I love lots of it!
  • 2 tbsps Ghee.

Wash the rice and mung dal. Use a heavy bottom pot. Sauté the cumin, turmeric and ginger briefly in ghee until the cumin turns light brown. Add the rice and dal along with water. Stir and mix. Partially cover the pot until you get one rolling boil. Then turn the heat down to low, cover the pot and let the Khichdi cook until the grains are soft and it is a mushy mess, like porridge (told you, I cook with instinct!).

Serve yourself and a loved one in a deep bowl, top it off with a dollop of ghee in the center (watch the ghee melt in the hot Khichdi, delectable!). Offer it to the universe of which we are a part and melt in the goodness of your being!

Namaste!

Street food’s inception is the street. Hence, a busy street is the integral part of street food.

I was mesmerized with street food on my recent visit to China. It gave me a different perspective of street food. I realized street food depicts the soul of a culture. It is a reflection of the community, economy, diet, religious bent and customs of a culture. It feeds the underlying belly of most cosmopolitan cities. It is a watering hole for busy people who value fresh, almost home cooked food, but do not have the time to prepare it at home.

For me street food is a bond that unites the old and new. It is a bridge between old times when big family meals were cooked daily and eaten communally, as opposed to the new times, when grabbing a burger from McDonald’s and eating it in our car is defined as a “meal.”

Street food is a quick meal and adapts to the modern “on the go” meal mold; yet it stays true to the roots of a culture. Street food for most part is healthy, nutritious and fresh with local ingredients used. It provides an opportunity for people to stand around, even if for a few moments, and participate in a communal activity, thereby a throwback to a bygone era of family meals.

When we travel, street food is a must to fully explore the pulse of a culture. China has amazing offerings of street foods, fresh long noodles (a symbol of longevity), an array of meats (yes, a carnivore heaven for the meat lovers), interesting locally grown vegetables, and even sweet glazed fruits on a stick.

All old cultures have some type of street food. Can you possibly forego the Injera in Ethiopia or the Kebabs and fish sandwiches in Turkey?  How about the gol gappas and chaat in India brimming with sour tamarind and an array of flavors that simply burst in your mouth creating an amalgamation of sensual delights? What about a bowl of yak milk in Mongolia? Oh, a foodie like me could go on and on.

My suggestion to you is that to fully delve into a culture, to fully touch the vein of a culture, be brave and experience the hidden enchantment of street food. Don’t fear gastrointestinal discomfort–it is only in passing and is far outweighed by the joys of gastronomic delight….Buon appetito!

My friend Albert has written a book on constitutional law. Currently, he is on a  promotional tour discussing the various nuances and intricacies of the Constitution.  He is debating heavy topics such as First Amendment, Gay marriage, Freedom of Speech, Obscenity, etc.

I on the other hand am writing a blog on coffee.  Yes, coffee! Yesterday, I experienced a dead hand. I thought, I am a practicing attorney and the partner in a law firm, yet I am writing about something as trivial as a cup of coffee.  Should I not be discussing serious subjects such as trademarks, patents, copyrighting and even if I do discuss coffee, shouldn’t it be in the context of interstate commerce rather than merely describing my enjoyment of the frothy beverage!  Doubts started seeping into my mind..am I shallow?  Is my cerebral matter limited to the extent of discussing only “froth” topics?  Then I sternly admonished myself and said…I love coffee, it is not a mundane topic, it is not trivial.  In fact, it is probably one of the most valued products in international commerce these days.  Many a contracts are drafted around coffee, many a closed door corporate meetings are held around coffee, many a brain storming sessions are held for coffee and most importantly many a cups are enjoyed all over the world.  So, I am basically writing an analytical piece on an international topic (so, I tell myself.)

Dean & Deluca Fine Foods

I am an olfactory challenged person. My sense of smell and taste have been destroyed by a chronic sinus inflammation.  Alas, the doors of the wonderful world of discriminatory palette, discerning taste and the new “hip, recently discovered” sense of UMAMI are ever closed for me.

LavAzza

New York City

As you must know by now, I am a being of finesse and luxury. My affliction however leaves me gustatorially (if that is a word) challenged!  With the paucity of my olfactory senses I cannot discriminate the boldness, flavor, body, aroma and finish of my very favorite beverage-COFFEE!!

So what do I do? I use the neurotransmitters in my brain to provide me the pleasure that drinking coffee does to connoisseurs.

I use my hands to feel the warmth of the cup. The joy of cupping my hands around a hot cup of coffee on a cold day and feeling the warmth seep through is inexplicable.  Forget about the unsightly brown cup sleeves that were solely designed to avoid a “burn lawsuit.”  I will take my chances with second degree burns!!

I use my eyes to visually thrill myself with the steam emanating from the cup.  The delicate brown swirls in a cappuccino exult me.

I use my tongue to feel and imagine the bold aroma of the concoction whiffing through the steaming cup.

I use my brain to imagine the far flung corners of the globe that the coffee has been imported from.  Imagine a hot, steaming beverage coming all the way from the forests of Brazil, Ethiopia, Indonesia, India and Columbia, an ode to international commerce in a culinary global world!

Imagine all the people who work on the coffee plantations and have the joy and good karma of tasting and smelling the fresh roasting of the coffee…brings tears to my eyes.  You might think I am being melodramatic as it is JUST coffee and WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL!! Well, it IS a big deal for me!!  I love the warm beverage as it invokes feelings of happiness, community, relaxed times with loved ones and a moment of respite in our hurried lives!

The act of drinking any coffee, whether it is a cappuccino, Madras coffee, cafe lungo, cafe macchiato or Turkish coffee, brims my heart with frothy rapture and bliss…whether I can taste it or not, who cares…AFTER ALL it is “ALL” A STATE OF MIND!!