Way back in the late 80s, when we came to live in this neighbourhood in Vikaspuri in West Delhi, there used to be rows of green patches of trees, shrubs, herbs, and flowers outside each house at ground level. Only one or two houses like ours had an additional floor.
With increasing affluence and expanding families, however, additional floors with internal parking spaces for accommodation of private vehicles were added to these houses. The green patches soon turned into concretized spaces occupied by more cars. You may wonder how these public spaces got concretized. Well, in its zeal to lay down new water pipelines, the MCD (Municipal Corporation of Delhi), a Government agency, accomplished this objective after indiscriminately clearing up all the greenery. Very much like a juggernaut. The same agency distributes free tree saplings these days. But where is the space to plant them?
Those of us who love greenery are now compelled to indulge in our passion by growing trees, flowers, vegetables, and Tulsi plants in flower pots on our balconies and terraces.
If you look again at the pic on the top clicked from my balcony with flowers and a karela (bitter gourd) jutting out, you will notice how the rows of plants stoically watch the rows of cars below them ocupying the spaces that once upon a happy time were theirs…
But things are changing again. Parking facilities and roads are insufficient. Come November 2019 and odd-even rule will be in full force. Owning a vehicle is, in fact, a big hassle these days and moving around in a Metro train or an Ola or Uber cab makes better sense.
Well, who knows, what the future holds. We can only hope that the green patches return where they were earlier without subjecting the Indian automobile industry to the kind of extreme stress that it is reeling under at present.
Or perhaps, the concrete road will remain and people will keep buying cars; but there will be a hydroponic farm on every terrace…☺️
Isn’t it tragic that in spite of being such a wonderful vegetable, pumpkin is not as popular as it deserves to be? Most people add a lot of spices while cooking it to make it more palatable.
I recently cooked pumpkin in two different ways with just the basic ingredients (salt, turmeric, mustard seeds, mustard oil, and one whole red chilli) and I was pleasantly surprised to find it so delicious! Well, that proves that food can be tasty even without too many spices.
Here are the step-by-step pics.
1. Pumpkin with Karela (bitter gourd): Pumpkin neutralizes the bitterness of Karela and the net effect is absolutely heavenly.
First chop the Karela into thin slices and soak them in salted water for about 30 minutes. Then wash them thoroughly and squeeze excess water from them. Deep fry these karela pieces in small batches in hot, smoking mustard oil till they turn light brown. Keep them aside in a plate.
Next, keep only 2 tablespoonfuls of mustard oil in Karachi and pour out the remaining hot muatard oil in a utensil. Heat the Karachi again and add 2 teaspoons of mustard seeds and one whole red chilli. Once spluttering starts, add chopped pumpkin, turmeric, and salt as per taste.
Once the pumpkin becomes a bit soft, add the fried karela pieces and put a cover after lowering the gas flame. This will prevent burning.
Keep checking every 2 minutes till the vegetables are tender without becoming mushy.
Your pumpkin-karela dish is ready. Bon Appetit!
2. Grated Pumpkin
Here, the method is same as above, except that this time you use the grated pumpkin.
Alu-Gobhi (potatoes and cauliflower) sabji is a very popular dish in North India. It has to be made with great care as Gobhi (cauliflower) tends to soften faster than alu (potatoes) and you run the risk of ending up with mashed cauliflower with potatoes standing out, which doesn’t taste good.
In an ideal Alu-Gobhi Sabji sabji, alu and cauliflower pieces are soft without being mushy and have a spicy, crispy, fried taste.
A lot of chefs first deep fry the alu and cauliflower pieces separately and then cook them together in a karahi with the required spices, curd, tomatoes, and some more oil. This takes far too much time and oil.
On 28 July 2019, I discovered an easier, simpler, and far healthier method of cooking Alu-Gobhi without compromising on that typical restaurant-like taste.
Here are the step-by-step pics. Do try out this recipe and write back. I look forward to reading your comments.
1. Start off by steaming chopped potatoes and cauliflower in a pressure cooker. Be careful while you do this as there is a risk of overboiling. Usually, one whistle or just when the whistle is about to begin is sufficient cooking time. My mini pressure cooker is of Prestige and in one whistle, it parboils without making the items too soft. Once done, place the veggies on a sieve and let the excess water drain out into a container below. You can use it in making other dishes such as dals or soups, etc.
2. Grind ginger and make a rough paste.
3. Heat some oil in a thick-bottomed karahi. Once it is hot, lower the gas flame and add turmeric, chilli powder, whole Cummin seeds, and whole corriander seeds powder.
4. Then add the veggies, ginger paste, and one red chilli. Stir a few times and allow the veggies to fry properly. Mix well and add salt and amchur as per your taste. Your Alu-Gobhi bhaji is ready. Enjoy.
5. You can add grated paneer too in the end. I had some paneer-onion bhurji in the fridge, so I added this to the Sabji when it was done.
I think of my kitchen these days more as a laboratory than a place where I slave away morning and evening.
Not only does this fulfill my deep-seated, unrealized dream of being a research scientist, it also helps me to take every botched cooking experiment as a learning experience and move on to other things without any guilt whatsoever about wasted time and resources.
I recently discovered, for instance, pureeing vegetables, especially the unpopular ones like the pumpkin and lauki, and adding other ingredients yields amazing results. The vegetables, when combined in this manner, get completely transformed beyond recognition into food items that your family enjoys eating! Isn’t that a great thing these days with sky-rocketing prices of vegetables?
Given below are some examples with pics.
First assemble all the ingredients: chopped green onions, garlic, tomatoes, green coriander, soaked chana dal, boiled lauki, hing, whole jeera (cummin) seeds, mustard seeds.
Heat some oil in a karahi and add garlic, whole cummin, soaked chana dal, hing, and sarson.
Next, add onions.
Add green onions.
Add spices, roasted besan.
Now add tomatoes and green coriander.
Stir and add pureed lauki.
Add pao-bhaji masala. Stir and mix.
Keep stirring till oil separates and you get something like the pic on top..
The pic on top is of bhaji made from leftovers, potato-beans-peas combination and pumpkin, lying idle in fridge. I mashed the combo in a karahi and treated it with tomato puree, chilli powder, and pau-bhaji masala…It tasted heavenly.😊
Leftover Khichdi Pakoras
I pureed leftover Khichdi in the mixie and added besan, one chopped onion, one chopped potato, green coriander, and some spices along with salt to the batter. I added some water to adjust the consistency. I deep-fried spoonfuls of this batter and turned them into pakoras. They were amazing! See pic above.
On the night of 14 February 2019, after reaching home from work, I felt something crawling on my neck. I quickly brushed it aside and it landed on the dressing table. I was startled to find that it was not an ordinary moth, but a gold-colored beetle, something I had never ever seen all my life! Where it had come from, I had no idea. I watched it with wide-eyed wonder as it crawled upwards slowly in a leisurely manner…I quickly grabbed my phone and clicked its photos.
People say when such things happen, you should make three wishes. They are always granted.
You might wonder why someone with a postgraduate degree in Mathematics believes in these kinds of superstitions. Well, as you grow older, you realize that a lot of things defy logic and only love, faith, willpower, and positive thinking can make things happen the way you want them to.
I was, of course, too shell-shocked at that time to think of anything else. Today as I look at this pic again, I make those three wishes.
1. I hope and pray that my daughter Suroshri grows up to be a successful, happy, and wonderful human being.
2. My husband Sukhangshu becomes what he deserves to be, a famous Actor.
3. On the same day that this beetle crawled into my life, 40 Indian soldiers lost their lives in Pulwama in a suicide terror attack. Many innocent lives continue to be lost in terror attacks and wars. I wish and pray that violence, wars, and terrorism end and don’t exist even in a dictionary.
And now, my Dear Reader, here is something special for you and your loved ones. Watch this video and make those 3 wishes that you think will give joy to your loved ones and the world around you. Who knows, they might come true, like it did for me!
N.B: As per Google, the Golden Beetle is a native of the Americas. It is not known how this particular one reached India. Something to do with Donald Trump and reverse migration perhaps!☺️
When you work as a middle level manager in a big organization, you find yourself participating in various programs whose significance you understand only much later. You feel you’re being driven and not the one driving.
Take an employee development program, for instance. I never imagined that it could be organized like a sports event until I, with zero interest in sports, participated in Volkswagen’s Sarvottam Skill Contest in September 2018 and won a gold medal! Yes, a gold medal, for the first time in my life!
This contest was organized by Volkswagen India for their Dealer Staff at their Volkswagen Group Academy (VGA) in Gurgaon. The contest results were based on our performances in the various role plays, interviews, written tests, and case study discussions related to our respective job profiles that we participated in at VGA. Read about it here.
This gold medal got me the coveted entry into the final phase of this contest, the Sarvottam Skill National Championship, held in December 2018 at VGA, Chakan, Pune. It ended with a glittering awards presentation and closing ceremony ‘The Volkswagen Uprising’ in the lawns of The Hotel Renaissance , Mumbai, overlooking The Powai Lake.
One most striking thing about the closing ceremony, something that I personally felt quite quite flattered about, was that the VIP seats were reserved for us, the Sarvottam contestants, not the celebrities, the rich, the mighty and the powerful ones sitting there as part of the crowd!
The National Championship was extremely well-organized with about 70 participants. All possible efforts were put in by the VW team to take good care of the contestants during their stay and ensure smooth and hassle-free running of the event.
Given below is a chronological account with photos of the National Championship 2018.
Day 1, 9 December 2018:
After a 2-hour flight from Delhi to Pune and a subsequent hour-long cab journey, I finally landed at Hotel Courtyard Marriott, Chakan, in the afternoon. That was where our lodging arrangements had been made. I was all alone when I reached. But slowly and steadily, participants from other cities began trickling in. Immediately upon arrival, we were all given a VW bag and a T-shirt to wear as uniform during our next 2 days’ sessions at VGA, Pune. The bag contained a very stylish black diary holding an equally elegant black pen and a USB. At 8 PM, we all assembled in the Hotel’s banquet hall for VW presentation, introductions, and a buffet dinner. As luck would have it, my room partner moved into another room with someone from her dealership and no one else took her place in mine. So I had the double room completely to myself, an unexpected windfall, which allowed me to soak myself in luxury in complete privacy, peace, and solitude.
Here are the pics.
At the Delhi Airport, raring to go…
Inside my hotel room…
Sight-seeing in Chakan, through the window of my room…
The VW bag and its contents…The diary, the pen, and the T-shirt and the I-card with contest schedule that I wore during next 2 days at VGA…
Selfie with Chakan’s setting sun…
Day 2, Contest Day 1, 10 December 2018.
At around 8 AM, after an early breakfast, we boarded the 2 Volvo buses lined up for us to take us to VGA. We reached there at around 8:30 AM. We were completely floored by the courtesy and warmth extended to us immediately upon arrival. All the trainers were lined up at the entry point with huge welcoming smiles, clapping for us with a resounding applause!
That was very touching indeed, the kind of honor and respect that few OEM setups in the Indian Automobile Industry give to their dealer employees. It could be because of VW group’s realization that in an industry with stiff cutthroat competition and differentiated only by the quality of customer service, it makes sense to invest in people. Because only happy people can create happy customers and happy customers are the keys to the success of a successful business.
Nevertheless, many contestants had their anxious moments, sleepless nights, upset tummies, fevers, and migraine headaches, which is, I guess, inevitable when you come out of your comfort zone for a while and invest so much of yourself in playing the winning game.
And I was probably the only one who was completely chilled out, happy to be alive, enjoying the lovely weather of Pune at this time of the year. I kept on reminding myself and everyone around that life holds so much more beyond all these contests.
Far, far away from the anxiety, tension, and excitement down below, the sun, moon, stars, flowers, rivers, lakes, the sea, the mountains and valleys at Chakan obliviously carried on their lives as usual; calmly, peacefully, looking gorgeous, unbeaten…
We were brought back in the evening at our hotel, around 5:30 p.m. I clicked some pics on the way and outside the hotel. After playing table tennis and carrom in the hotel lounge, we returned to our rooms to take rest. Buffet dinner began at 8 p.m. and by 10 p.m. after reading a few pages of a novel, I fell asleep.
Here are the day 2 pics…
All set to go to VGA Pune. Here I am with VW Dealer staff (After sales) from Punjab.
Going towards the buses…
Inside the bus, with Surama from VW workshop, OSL, Kolkata…
At VGA, in between sessions…
Other pillars of Volkswagen Group
At the cafeteria…
Tense, pensive faces….
On the way back to hotel…
Outside the hotel….
Day 3, 11 December 2018, Contest Day 2:
Like the previous day, we were brought to VGA again as 2 bus loads of contestants after an early breakfast. The contest ended at around 12 PM. After lunch and a photo session, we were transported in the same 2 buses to Mumbai’s Renaissance Hotel. The long ride across the expressway, contrary to my apprehensions, turned out to be really enjoyable with great scenery on both sides, as in a painting. I had a great time clicking their photos. At a brief stopover on the way, I got the chance to buy Pune’s famous Maganlal chikkis as well as per my husband’s suggestion. We reached Mumbai at around 5 p.m. By 6:30, we were all ready and assembled together in the Hotel Renaissance lawns. We were joined there by other invitees, the senior personnel of VW dealers and VW India.
The star attraction at Mumbai, in keeping with the flavor of the event, was our famous Badminton player Saina Nehwal. She started off with a very inspiring speech about her own struggles through all these years, injuries and surgeries, etc, to win the Olympic medal and many other trophies. The audience was completely bowled over by her earnest girl-next-door style of speaking right through her heart. It was a great experience indeed as far as I was concerned.
During the Q&A session, a somewhat elderly gentleman asked her for how long she intended to play. She said she would like to ask him the same question. She didn’t know, she continued, and didn’t want to think about it. Badminton is her job, her life, something she loves and worships, and nothing can equal the joy she gets when India’s National Flag goes up with her on the podium. She echoed the sentiments of many out there, including me…
Though I didn’t win any medal this time like the regional round, I consoled myself with the thought that I managed to get this far at least within such a short tenure with VW and got the kind of exposure that not too many get.
After dinner at The Renaissance, the same 2 Volvo buses drove us to Hotel Hilton, Mumbai, where we spent the night. The hotel is very close to the airport, which turned out to be a blessing the next day. We reached there in just 5 minutes. After 3 days of feasting and constant mental activity, I was now feeling exhausted and yearned to lie down in my own bed…
Here are the pics…
In the morning, just before boarding the bus to VGA…
Photo-session at the end of contest…
On the way to Mumbai…
Sceneries, like paintings, on the way…
Maganlal Chikkis, bought on the way…Turned out to be very tasty…
After landing at Renaissance Hotel, Mumbai…
After changing into formal dress for the gala night…
Pics clicked at Hotel Renaissance lawns…
Ssssh….The Great Night has begun…
Brief speeches by the Directors…Mr. Stephen Knapp, Mr. Boparai etc…
Saina Nehwal…In heart-to-heart talk…
Watching expectantly from the VIP seats…
A dance performance on wheels…
At Hotel Hilton with my room mate Smita Podwal (Parts Manager, VW Kolhapur)…
Day 4, 12 December 2018, Going Home…
Here I am in GoAir flight on my way home to Delhi from Mumbai with my colleague and fellow contestant Pushkar Nath (Technician), a gold winner in both rounds…
That night, while I slept comfortably in my own bed with my familiar quilt around me, I suddenly felt a little tinge of disappointment. If only I had won a medal, I thought, I would have had something to celebrate about, both at home and in office…I could understand better now how sportsmen feel after returning empty-handed from major sports events like Olympics, Commonwealth Games, etc…
Anyway, like Saina, I now have a goal ahead to work for; a gold medal in the Sarvottam Nationals 2019. A big uphill task indeed…
When innovations work in a developing country like India, it feels like a great miracle indeed!
A few days ago, I read in the newspaper that the Delhi metro card can now be used to pay DTC bus fares too.
So, last week, with much trepidation, I gave my Metro card to the conductor for a Rs.5 ticket to go to Janakpuri West, which was just one stop away.
He said, “Let me try.”
As I had expected, his ticket vending didn’t work. He didn’t have any change either and I was just about to reach my stand. A frantic search in my purse, however, yielded a Rs.5 coin and I managed to drop off with a ticket in my hand.
A few days later, on 21 November 2018, however, I was luckier. Though the machine took some extra time and I had a Rs.5 coin ready, the bus conductor asked me to wait. He was determined to make the machine work. I was absolutely delighted when a ticket came out of it just in time. See the pic on top.
When I said, “Thank you, Bhaiya,” he responded with a triumphant smile and a thumbs up gesture!
The following day, however, I was in a different DTC bus on my way to the same stop. This time, the conductor said, “The machine is not updated yet for metro cards.”
Well, each day is different, isn’t it? Everything can’t be perfect.