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Activity Checklist… August 31, 2009

Posted by espritnoir in Miscellaneous.
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1) Check.

2) Check.

3) CHECK! CHECK! CHECK! THANK THE HEAVENS, CHECK!!!

4) Work in Progress (WIP)

5) Hmmm…Why the hell not as yet, i wonder??? *Devilish grin* Maybe tonight!

6) Check for Kerala. Many more pending.

7) Pending.

8) WIP. Happily!

9) Oh, definitely Check! 🙂

10) WIP

5 Checks, 3 WIPs, 1 activity lined up for dawn tomorrow, and only 1 pending!

I think that’s a damn good record for all the things i was excited about and planned to do post the wedding. Especially in the time frame of less than a month. Soon, time to add more things to the list…:)

Cheers.

Silence, please… July 27, 2008

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Footsteps.

High heels; Flats; Rubber soled sneakers; Platforms; Trainers. But concentrate a little more, and you can recognise certain patterns.

Confident strides in high heels; The decisive walk of formals; the shuffling steps of trainers; rubber soled sneakers pacing the same few yards over and over again; the dragging of the flat soles on the concrete; the thumping of the platforms on the pavement.

Walking sticks. Doors opening. The opening of a crisps packet. Crisps being eaten. The unfolding of a newspaper. Announcements. Jangling of loose change in somebody’s pocket. A trolley being unloaded from a train. Luggage wheels squeaking on the ground. Opening and closing of the train doors. A train horn hooting. Bottoms sqooching on benches to make room for more bottoms attached to various bodies.

Inside the coach.

Ventilation. The slight sigh of air brakes releasing. A distant horn. Plastic bags rustling. Muted whispers. Turning of the pages of a newspaper. Coughs. Somebody putting his hand inside his jacket pocket. Jackets being removed. The sound the train makes when it passes through a short tunnel. The soothing rhythmic sound of the train’s motion. The sound it makes when the coach you are in passes over a switch point. The crackle of the plastic sticker on a Coke bottle. Opening of a Coke bottle. The coach doors gently banging shut. Sniffing. The rustle of my pen scribbling across the page. Me keeping the pen down on the table in front of me. Me burping suddenly (Sorry!). People on cell phones. The cap closing on a Coke bottle. Creaking of the train coaches. Crossing a bridge over water. Gurgling noises. Keys jangling in the air. The vooshing sound the train makes when it passes a station without stopping. The ‘dede de dah dede de dah dede de dah’ sound when another train passes by the train I am in. The drivers announcements. Guards whistles. Laughter. The slow rhythmic sound when a train takes off from a station, before it picks up speed. It lasts for a minute or two, before it settles back to the soothing rhythmic pattern back again. Jewellery.

Me getting up. Footsteps shuffling to the door. Luggage wheels squeaking behind me. Doors opening and closing. The ‘ting’ of the door when it opens. Me getting off.

A sigh.

It’s amazing how many things you hear in a 10 minute halt at Southampton station, and the subsequent 20 minute train journey to Poole, if you stop bothering with everything else, and just listen to the world around you. I realised that after about the first 50 sounds or so, everything is more or less a variation on the same. So, what’s the big deal about it, you ask? So, I could hear what was happening around. But what good did it achieve? Well, it made me realise, that we have this amazing gift. To be able to listen to everything around us. To isolate every sound if we chose to and concentrate on what is happening around us. But, how many times do we actually listen?I for one had often hoped that I got a raw deal coz the powers that be didn’t give me any super human abilities. What would have been the point of having super hearing abilities, if we don’t even make full use of the some of the most basic human abilities we have taken for granted over the years.

Before that journey, I thought only Superman had the ability to isolate a sound and identity its source. For that half hour period, I realised later, I was Superman.

Try it sometime.

 

Okay, quick test blog… June 21, 2008

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Hi guys, am trying something new here. Hope this works. Pls ignore this one, as this is a test post…!

Cheers,

EspritNoir

Cooking for Four May 25, 2008

Posted by espritnoir in I, Me and Myself..., Miscellaneous.
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The last two weeks have whizzed past in a blur. Trips to London, Stratford-upon-Avon, dissertation meetings, planning a trip to Germany, and amidst all this exploring a new aspect of life. Serious cooking!

Never ever have I cooked for others. All my experiments with cooking have been restricted to eating whatever I have had prepared. Well, I’m not counting the quick millions of half fries and omlettes, and bhurjis I’ve prepared over the years for friends and family. Anybody can make those. I’m also not taking into consideration the once in a while potato sabji and pithale bhaat, and other basic stuff. I think those are like a few basic quick fix dishes that anybody who has lived alone has to learn as a part of survival training. I’m talking about actual cooking, which involves thinking about what spices to put in the curry, gathering them, deciding how much to put in to give the dish the right flavour, etc. I’m talking about the kind of food that my mom makes. Well, my mom only makes vegetarian food, but trust me, it’s great food! To tell you the truth, she isn’t like a chef, she can’t conjure up exotic dishes and she doesn’t have a repertoire of a zillion dishes. But even her simplest food is definitely the most amazing. Good wholesome food, which is nothing less than an art form, I tell you. Now, this is the kind of cooking I’v always wanted to experiment with but never got around to try. In hindsight, I think it was because back home, I was way too lazy and was always making up excuses. We didn’t have the right spices. We didn’t have the right oven. My mom doesn’t like me cooking non-vegetarian food in her kitchen, although for the life of me, I can’t remember a single occasion when she said that. On second thoughts, I think like a lot of other things in life, I had a passion for cooking, but I was just way too scared to actually go and try it out, god forbid it turned out a disaster, and it was proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that I couldn’t cook. Or worse still, if it did turn out good, then I would have had a standard to live up to the next time I cooked. (Having put that down, and having associated that thought to a few other things I’ve done or not done in life, I just had a thought! Christ, how messed up in the head, am I?) Anyways, one thing or the other, and I never actually cooked for people. The only few times I did cook, was mostly just for myself and I must say I was always, too much flash and less substance in the kitchen.

Well, when I shifted to the UK, into my student accommodation, I brought with me tons of recipes and cookbooks and what not. I was going to experiment! I was going to explore my culinary skills to the limit. I was going to enthral friends with my gourmet skills. I was going to conjure up new dishes everyday of the week, and become the Gordon Ramsay of the student accommodation! In reality, for almost eight months, I ended up doing nothing. In eight months, I must have cooked exactly 10 times. Mostly eggs, Maggi instant noodles, pithale (so whats new?). The closest I ever came to cooking was when I looked up a recipe for Chicken Fried Rice one fine evening, but my friends who I wanted to impress with my cooking decided to go out for dinner that night, and I ended up eating rice for dinner all by myself, as well as breakfast and lunch the next day. And one time, I made palak paneer, (which was good, by the way), but how it got made is a different story altogether. Why did I end up not cooking in the UK? Well, I have my meals with friends from India, who stay in the apartment next to mine, and there’s this one guy who can cook. To his credit, he cooks really well. He is like a thinking cook. He knows how much spices to put in, how long to marinade the chicken, and how to save a dish if it’s too salty, or too spicy, etc. And he’s been nominated the official cook for the apartment. And after the whole fried rice incident, and a couple of others back in the early days, when I was still getting to know these people, I realized that I wasn’t going to be playing second fiddle to a kid who was younger than me. Not in the kitchen, and not anywhere. Also, he had an advantage in the fact that he could actually cook, while I merely fancied myself to be India’s answer to Gordon Ramsay, I never actually tried cooking in earnest. I had to swallow my pride here, and accept the fact that if it came out to a cook-out match between us, I would be the one who was least prepared for it. It was much easier to be a commis cook, and help out with the chopping, and cleaning and occasional making omlettes, all the time taking in notes learning how to clean chicken, how to marinade it and cook it etc, hoping that one day I would put it to use.

That was until he went on a 3 week vacation, early this month. In that apartment, the only girl who could cook was a vegetarian, and despite the fact that we like our greens, the thought of going without meat for 3 weeks was a scary thought. Something in me clicked, there was no excuse this time. And I decided it was time to put on the apron, and take the pan by the handle!

Since then, its been a food fest every third day! Murgh Kababs, Chicken do Pyaaza, Murgh Hariyali Kababs, Alu Gobhi, Alu Mutter. For the first time, in my life, I was cooking for others, and trust me when I started off it was a scary prospect. I didn’t know whether these guys would like my food or not. It was one thing me eating off something I had made, even though it wasn’t palatable, but for these guys to do it was expecting too much. But, they seem to like it. Off course, I’ve taken a few falls. I have a heavy hand with the chillies, coz that’s the way we cook at home, and these guys can’t handle my spice level most times. But, I’ve learned to kinda control it. So, my friends can go easy on the dinner time Coke now!

We decided to put my skills to the test 2 nights back. There was just me and CM, one of my Indian friends here, in the apartment. Out of the blue, we decided to call over some friends over for dinner and drinks, something light, nothing too fancy. I decided to make Kababs, and hoped that everybody – 2 Croatians, a Turk, a German, and a Nigerian – would enjoy them. In the evening, there were 7 of us for dinner, and for the first time in my life, I experienced that feeling that people get when they say feeding somebody is so much better than eating. I’m not kidding, CM and I actually had to go dinnerless, coz all the chicken got over. For lack of a better word, it was a mindFUCK! Watching people eat something you’ve cooked, and liking it (I was tempted to use the word ‘loving’ instead of ‘liking’, but I think that would have been too strong a word) is a feeling that I won’t be getting over soon!

Last night was great too. For the first time in my life I made Chicken curry just the way I eaten at my relatives place ever since I was a kid. All my life, I wondered how the hell, people could cook something so well, so effortlessly, and now, I can’t believe how simple it is. But, the toughest part is getting the portions of the ingredients right. I think I managed it right last night. Hope I get it right in the future too.

So, for anybody who is interested in basic cooking, here’s the recipe. I don’t know where I got this recipe from. Its something I picked up from the net, and I have tweaked it a bit to make it something different.

Chicken Curry

Serves: 3-4 approximately
Cooking time: 30 minutes

  • Appoximately 800 gms chicken, thighs and breasts, with some gashes on the fleshy parts (That’s roughly 4 drums and 3 breast pieces in all. If you like it boneless, cut the chicken into 1 inch pieces)
  • 3 medium sized onions, finely chopped
  • About 4 tablespoons ginger-garlic paste.
  • About 1 cup curd (set yogurt)
  • 2 tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon red chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoons coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoons cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon(s) garam masala powder
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 4 green chillies, chopped
  • 2 cup(s) hot water
  • 3 sticks of cloves
  • Some cinnamon sticks, for flavour
  • Oil, for cooking and shallow frying
  • salt to taste

NOTE : The way I cooked this dish, it requires some multitasking, and cooking 2 things on the hob at the same time. I am going to explain this just the way I made the dish. You can prepare the chicken in advance first, and add it to the curry later, but I think this way makes it better, so pay attention.

  1. Blend the ginger garlic paste along with about half an onion, finely chopped. Add a couple of chillies to give it some kick, if you like. While blending, add a little water, and a pinch of all the dry spices in the list. You can keep it just a little bit coarse instead of making it a very fine paste, but that’s your call.
  2. Coat the chicken with the ginger-garlic and onion paste and keep aside for a few minutes.
  3. In a heavy bottomed wok, heat oil. Add the rest of the onions and fry on a medium flame till they are golden brown. Add some chopped garlic, green chillies, cloves and cinnamon and continue frying for about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and the yoghurt. Stir constantly. Fry for about a couple of minutes more or till oil separates.
  4. While the oil in the wok is heating up, put another saucepan on the hob, and heat some oil for shallow frying the chicken. Then, while the onions, and then the tomatoes are frying in the wok, shallow fry the coated chicken pieces for about 5 – 6 minutes each, turning it over to make sure that it cooks evenly on all sides. Once the chicken pieces are done, place them on a dish with a paper towel on it, to soak up the excess oil.
  5. Here’s where the multitasking begins. While the chicken is being fried, add in the rest of the red chilli powder, coriander powder, cumin powder, turmeric powder, garam masala and salt to the wok with the onions and tomatoes. Increase the heat. Fry for about 5 minutes or more till the mixture in the pan looks well blended.
  6. When the onion tomatoes mixture looks well blended, add in the shallow fried chicken to the wok. Let the chicken cook in the mixture for a while, and absorb the flavour of the mixture. Coat the chicken with the mixture to make sure that it catches the spices.
  7. Add hot water and mix well. Add more garam masala on top, if you like. Cover and cook on medium heat for about 20 minutes or till chicken is well cooked and has soaked in all the flavour & has become tender.

It’s not the most complicated of dishes, but it is one of the best. It has a bit of a kick, so if you like it to be a little less spicy, go easy on the chillies and the chilli powder. If anybody ever gives it a try, and likes it, lemme know 🙂

A New Review… May 6, 2008

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So, okay. 2 days back was what you might call it an exceptionally brilliant day for me. So, I didn’t go to Brown Sea Island with the others. So, I didn’t do too much of research on my dissertation topic. So, I didn’t cook an awesome meal and dazzle friends with my culinary skills. So what? I did something even better.

I saw three movies in one day! And not just mediocre ones, either. The three movies ranged
from a very faithful adaptation of a poignant novel (The Kite Runner), to the funny-if-you-learn-to-appreciate-the-dark-humour (Grosse Pointe Blank) to a fast paced cerebral action thriller (21). (Note to myself : Cerebral action thriller? Is that even a genre? Does it even make any sense? Well, it does now!!!)

Okay, I don’t think I will take you through all three of them right away, so I will go through just one of them for now.

Started off the day bright and early, at 7 am. Made myself a cup of coffee, and sat down in front of my computer to check my emails and stuff. And just checked on the download status of a movie I had been trying to get for a couple of weeks, The Kite Runner. Finally downloaded. So, I start up Media Player, and off we go.

To read the review, click on the ‘movies & books’ tab on the top and then click on the page for ‘the kite runner’. Or if you’re really lazy, just click here

cheers…

p.s. yes, i know, i promised a review for “Death At A Funeral” soon. Hopefully, that’s coming soon.

One Line Movie Reviews April 27, 2008

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One of the best things about going back to university again is that you get to lead the student life all over again. Which generally includes – apart from the inevitable writing assignments and studying – drinking beer at odd hours, staying up late till 2 am playing pool, partying in night clubs till 4 am (okay, truthfully, in my case that happens very rarely, iv never been too much of a party animal, but iv seen others do it, so I guess it counts too), go out for walks to the quay in the chill of the night (damn, I so miss my scorpio!), discussing cricket, music, politics, business and movies with flatmates over drinks, and since we’re Indians and we just can’t live without it, playing an improvised version of cricket with a padded baseball bat and a sponge ball in the apartment hallway! (Cricket-ball if you wish. That’s playing Street Cricket rules with baseball equipment. If the ball hits the ceiling directly, you’re out! “One tap” out! Batsman faces 3 overs. Maximum score wins. You get the drift!)

But for me, one of the best thing about the last six months have been the fact that I’v got back to watching movies regularly after so long. I mean, seriously, in the last six months I must have seen at least 40 movies or so, which is like watching at least 2 movies a week. Agreed, a lot of them have been repeats, ones which I’ve already seen before. But some have been movies, I’v always wanted to see from the 80s and the 90s. Not to mention some recent ones as well. Here’s a one line review of some of them :

“Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” : A good movie, spoiled only by the realisation that ‘Phir Hera Pheri’ was a copy of this.

“Dances with Wolves” : Amazing cinematography and direction, marred only by the bad subtitling in the movie file that I saw online.

“Fried Green Tomatoes” : Excellent narrative, well scripted, great characterizations.

“Midnight Cowboy” : Slow, but interesting in parts.

“Blade Runner” : Futuristic, from a retro perspective. I love the way they shot the ending. Haeur and Ford on the terrace. “…time to die…”. Brilliant.

“Dombivali Fast” : A good Marathi movie, but sorry to say, in spite of whatever the director says, it looks too similar to “Falling Down”. Still a decent watch.

“The Bucket List” : Pretty predictable, but good acting by both the stars.

“Munich” : If you look deeper, it really makes you question is retribution really worth it all?

“Horton Hears a Who” : WHO THE *@!* TOLD ME TO WATCH THIS CRAP!!!

“The Shooter” : I hoped till the very end that a stray sniper bullet came out of the screen and hit me, putting me out of my boredom!

“The Darjeeling Limited” : I wanted to whop Wes Andersen’s sorry ass from one end of India to the other, for presenting such a stereotypical image of India.

“The Bourne Trilogy” : Goddamn, I can’t believe I didn’t watch this series for so long, just coz I was being an idiot! Really edge of the seat stuff.

“There Will Be Blood” : Lewis, Lewis, and nothing but Lewis. Nothing else to the movie. And very frankly, I think he was just about better than average. Nothing exceptional about it.

“No Country for Old Men” : Coen Brothers. Interesting plot. Nice progression, good characterisation. But I really don’t think I’ll watch it more than once.

“Jumper” : I actually expected a lot from this movie. Too bad!

“Sunshine” : I kinda liked it. Cheesy, but still interesting.

“Taare Zameen Pe” : Aamir Khan plays it safe, and makes a very very good movie in his debut as a director.
It’s not a phenomenal movie, but what makes it stand out is the different subject of the movie and the way it has been handled. Touching and real.

Those are just a few of the movies I can remember top of my mind right now. But there’s one more I would suggest you all to see, if you haven’t seen it already. “Death at a Funeral”. I’m gonna be putting up a review of that one in the reviews section. Maybe in a day or two. But don’t let that stop you getting your hands on a copy of the movie if you can before you read the review. See it, it’s really a movie that works on a lot of levels. Hope you come back again soon to read the review.

Cheers for now…

finally, its launched… February 18, 2007

Posted by espritnoir in Miscellaneous.
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i have finally managed to put up a movie review (akly two) on the site…yippie di doo dah! so check out the movie reviews tab, and hope you enjoy them…its my first attempt at public writing of movie reviews so, please bear with any obvious mistakes…also beware, there may be spoilers in the reviews, so beware…

and cheers to all…its time to enjoy the champagne…

from instant noodles to kababs and baida rotis… February 12, 2007

Posted by espritnoir in Miscellaneous.
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Well, once again, i seem to have promised something on the blog, and not been able to follow it up. The truth is, i spent the whole of yesterday (like most of Friday evening, and Saturday) looking up post grad courses in the UK. Filling in application forms, getting details off the Net, searching sample Reco letters, finally learning what a course transcript was, and the works. What with life at a stage where i have to make certain decisions – and soon – about how i want my future to shape up, i am looking at this course in Marketing Communications in the UK. At Bournemouth Media School. Nice little town near the South of England, right by the seaside. Also, a few other Marketing majors, in other places. Having never done this before, and having a tight deadline for making these applications for courses starting later this year, its a royal pain in the ass…Hope i make it in time. Lets see, how that progresses. Have a couple of other options lined up as well, but more on those later…

And in all that crazed action over the weekend, the promised reviews went down for a toss. But, i won’t leave you starving. For food, at least. Here’s a quick tip. A food review, if you will. If you are ever in the Four Bungalows side, in the Market, near Chinese Pavilion, is a kabab wala called Rajubhai. If you are tired of eating in fancy restaurants, with AC and elevator music, and want to trade it in for a “get down and dirty” kind of eating joint, which serves great tasting food, with value for money, go to Rajubhai. An ideal time would be, after you’ve had a guys night out, a couple of drinks down, and need to catch up on a late dinner before you make your way home. (Hopefully, you are in a cab or a rickshaw, and not driving yourself after the drinks. Responsible drinking is so much more enjoyable!) Once you reach there, even before you order, the aroma of the food hits you like a ten ton bomb. Its the perfect combination of masalas, the sizzling hot butter on the tava, and the marinaded meat. Even if you are not hungry, it will whet up your appetite.

Do yourself a favour, and don’t look at the laminated menu. Wade your way thru the six-seven people who are crowded around the stall, tucking away to glory to culinary heaven, and just ask the main guy there, (obviously Raju bhai), “Rajubhai, khane ke liye kya doge aaj?” (“What will you serve us today, Rajubhai?”) Listen to what he patters off. Chicken masala, bheja fry, kaleji, gurda kapoora, gurda fry, chicken tikka masala, sheekh kabab, mutton masala, kheema, baida roti roll, chicken masala rice…the list is endless. Make your choice, and if it’s a gravy dish, ask for pav along with it. He normally serves warmed up roomali rotis with it, but at times, they are slightly tough to chew. So, ask for pav. Try to distract your mind, while he prepares your order. Enjoy the aroma, from what the others around you are eating. If you have some company, make small talk with them. Just like it’s not polite to stare, it’s not too polite to sniff too. Even if it is meant as a compliment to the chef. If you do, try to keep it discreet. Once your order is ready, dip the pav in the masala gravy, let it soak in for a few seconds, and then savour the … abey, itna footage khayega, to khaana kaun khayega? What are you waiting for so long? Break loose! Like I said before, this aint’ a fine dining place. So, forget any airs you may have. Roll up your sleeves, dig into your food with your fingers, and enjoy the experience. I guarantee you, the aftertaste will last with you long after you are safely tucked away in the soft comforts of your bed.

That’s it for now, folks. Have a great Monday morning, and a great week ahead!

Cheers!

Adopt-a-Cat! November 18, 2006

Posted by espritnoir in Miscellaneous.
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Need some help. Fast. Anybody know anybody who wants to adopt a damn good cat in Bombay? A close friend of mine has had to give up her pet cat of 4 years for some unavoidable reasons, and is naturally quite cut up about it. The cat is in a animal shelter now, but in about a week or so, they may release the cat into the open. Hope to find a nice good loving home for it, before that happens. Please please please. If anybody wants to see a picture of the cat,Curly, look up : http://dietraeume.blogspot.com/

If anybody can help out positively, i promise them free dinner and drinks at a fancy place of my choice, and trust me i have good taste, so you wont regret it:)

Bombay, here’s your chance! Stand up and give a loving cat a home! At least, spread the word.

Anybody interested, email on : espritnoir@gmail.com

Please note that quick action is essential.

Thanks and regards,
EspritNoir