All posts by vijikumari

The gardens we all love

NTR Gardens thrives as it draws in people of different tastes

Among the many tourist destinations in Hyderabad, the Necklace Road stretch is thronged by people all through the year. It is common to see Hyderabadis spending time during evenings. From friends and families taking selfies, sharing hot mirchi bajjis and regular walkers, parents playing with their little ones to tourists visiting it as part of their itinerary… this stretch accommodates people with different tastes. One such place popular on this stretch is NTR Gardens.

Mix of people

Built in memory of the legendary actor and former chief minister, (late) NT Rama Rao, the gardens that opened in 2002 receives a wide spectrum of people. Even on a relatively dull day, it is visited by people especially parents who bring their children. “Unlike Lumbini Park, which stinks when the Hussainsagar lake is filled to the brim, NTR gardens is at a distance and is spacious, so most parents prefer to come here,” shares Sampath, an employee of a private company who visits NTR Gardens at least once a month.

Exciting ride

While the imposing entrance and the fountain attract several selfie enthusiasts, the toy train ride is popular with children and young adults. Mehzabeen who has brought her three daughters states her children love to buy the sugar candy and popcorn and enjoy it while they ride on the train. “We choose this place because it is quiet and away from the chattering crowd. We come to relax and have long conversations with our friends,” states Sirish, a B Tech student.

A couple from Guntur, M Hari and wife Mamata, on their first visit to the gardens, enthuse that they are big fans of actor NTR. “We spent some time at his memorial. We decided to come here when we saw the crowd,” says Hari, who runs a kirana store. One can explore the park or settle down at a spot to relax. The fruit park has huge structures shaped in the form of different fruits.

Foodies can satiate their hunger pangs at the car café. Although Suresh, a bank employee enjoys coming to NTR Gardens, he observes the authorities ought to look into maintaining the place well — especially the children’s play area. A good point since many schools pick NTR Gardens as their picnic spot. One witnesses a melee near the entrance due to heavy crowds, especially during holidays. The constant traffic and hawkers outside the gates only add to the confusion and noise.

COURTESY     THE HINDU

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ALL THAT WRIGGLES

Southern Africa’s mopane worms are an unmissable delicacy with their strikingappearance and earthy flavours

You don’t live in Southern Africa for 20 years without snacking on mopane (pronounced mo-pah-nee) worms at least a dozen times. The bright blue-and-black critters on a branch make for a spectacular photo; but seeing them immobile on a plate is a starkly different experience. And seeing this, you’d never assume that mopane worms are worth millions in the Southern African food-economy.

I remember the lead-up to and the experience of tasting my first; it was probably one of the most off-putting things for someone who isn’t familiar with Batswana culture. But at the age of 11, it’s more of an accomplishment than a daunting dare. It was Commonwealth Day at my primary school and everyone was crowded around the platters of mopane worms.

I asked the lady who was running the stall about the means of preparation; she mentioned the maturity of the worm is important. Batswana tend to avoid eating the head, as most of the flavour and nutrition is in the pudgy body. The worms need to be well past the juvenile stage and right before they enter the cocoon stage.

Sometimes, the worms are sun-dried and eaten as is, but other people prefer to fry or bake them to an appetising crisp, and then cook them mixed with fried tomatoes, garlic and onions… just like bhindi .

I picked one up, eyeing the body, then ate it whole; a slight saltiness with a smoky and earthy undertone filled my mouth. The worm wasn’t dry to the point of unsavouriness, but they do need an acquired taste that builds over time.

When eating them in a curry or a stew, the worms are a great way to add a salty taste to the overall flavour profile. And as the eating experience progresses, it becomes as natural as eating mutton or chicken for some.

Then I asked the all-important question: Why? She said the worm, named after the leaves it usually feasts upon, is a vital source of protein in an arid climate where food shortage is common. Indigenous tribes like the San in the Kalahari ensure children are fed these to build up weight and immunity in the early years. Yes, the common name is ‘madora,’ but ‘mopane’ is far more preferable, more homely to me.

Having moved out of Botswana, eating mopane worms has become a fond and unforgettable part of my growing food culture. It’s a happy bellyful memory I carry with me, daily.

COURTESY     THE HINDU

FLOWERS ON MY PLATE

From neem and moringa to agathi, there’s a wide range of floral flavours to be discovered

I remember the morning I found my friend Sujata plucking flowers from the neem tree in front of our house. She showed me the tiny white flowers with their subtle fragrance and told me the flowers would go into making a delicious rasam for lunch. That’s the first I had heard of rasam with neem flowers, and that set me thinking about other edible blooms.

Contrary to popular belief, which is that all of us are eating better and more diverse food than ever before, I believe that we have given up on some delicious and wholesome local foods. We are always looking elsewhere for the rare and exotic, and hence miss the wonders right under our noses. Flowers are one such category of plant foods that we often overlook.

Banana blossom is the first thing that comes to mind, being a commonly used ingredient in South Indian cooking. My favourite dish with banana flower is a stir-fry using chopped banana blossom and cooked green gram, which is a staple at home. While many people have started using banana blossoms again, and featuring it on cooking blogs, it is a difficult flower to clean and prepare. I choose to think of it as a meditative process, but since most of us don’t even have time to breathe in the mornings, let alone meditate, that is not a great selling point.

The edible flower that my mother favoured was the blossom of the moringa olifera. As children, I can’t say we loved it; our mother overrode our objections and moringa flower stir-fry appeared on the table whenever in season. As I grew older, I learnt to appreciate the distinct flavour of the tiny, creamy-white flowers. They can be eaten steamed or slightly cooked, and we usually have them in a steamed salad along with sprouts and peanuts, or in the traditional stir-fry with a lot of grated coconut.

Another discovery in the last few years is the agathi flower (sesbania grandiflora, also known as the humming bird flower). I love the shape and colour of these flowers, with their rich succulent petals in cream or a rich burgundy. To me, they taste as delicious as they look beautiful.

I have eaten only the cream-coloured ones, which are available locally. I just wash the large flowers and buds, chop them into pieces and lightly steam them, to be added to salads and the ever favourite stir-fry, garnished with grated coconut or roasted and crushed peanuts. I don’t throw away any part of the flower. A friend told me that a stir-fry of these flowers with eggs tastes great and these can also be fried in batter.

 

Pumpkin flowers are on my list too. The season starts with male flowers, and then the female flowers start putting in an appearance. It is popular in some cuisines, where fritters are made by frying the flowers in a batter of rice and gram flour.

The added advantage with agathi and moringa is that these are perennial shrubs/trees that are beneficial for the soil and easy to grow. Both are also nutritive powerhouses. Neem and cassia fistula are hardy trees and can withstand dry spells, more of which unfortunately seem to be coming our way. Banana trees are the constant companions in most South Indian homes. So, in effect, all of these are friendly neighbourhood flowers.

Being a pedestrian cook with a limited repertoire, I love anything that becomes flavourful with simple cooking, and I found to my delight that flowers fit the bill. What I enjoy about them is how lightly they need to be cooked and spiced.

Light steaming is usually enough; anything more and they can turn into mush. It goes without saying that we should choose flowers which have not been sprayed with any toxic chemicals. Now, it’s time to eat some flowers along with fruits, leaves and stems!

COURTESY     THE HINDU

MOMS ARE MOMS……


A 50 year old lady, who suddenly started learning how to swim instead of her usual routine work of going to a temple !!!!

Everyone was curious and asked her:  “why the change in your interest to swimming now a days?”

The lady, with a look of helplessness replied: “Whenever my son and daughter-in-law quarrel each other She ( Daughter-in-law)  always asks my son : – “If your mom and I fall in water, whom will you save first?”

And because I do not want to put my son in a difficult position, so I am learning how to swim!”

A few days later husband and wife were quarrelling again, and the daughter-in-law unreasonably asked:  ” now tell me! If your mom and I fall in water, whom will you save first?”

Husband replied:
“I don’t have to get down in the water, my mom knows how to swim, she will save you.”

Wife refused to relent: “No, you have to jump in the water, and have to save one of us”

Husband replied: “Then you will surely die…. because I don’t know how to swim …. and my mom will definitely save me first.”

prolific traveller

Hyderabad-based Indranil Chowdhuri has already been to 107 countries around the world and is showing no signs of slowing down.“Take nothing but pictures, kill nothing but time and leave nothing but footprints,” is Indranil Chowdhuri’s motto. No wonder then that the 56-year-old has travelled to 107 countries so far, among them Panama, Cuba, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Mexico, Sudan, Ethiopia, Egypt, Libya, Iceland, Czech Republic and Iran.

After being bitten by the travel bug in the early 1990s, he plans to explore 150 countries in all. “My initial target was to visit 100 countries, but now that I have completed 107, I want to reach 150 countries before I get sick or bedridden,” says Indranil. Naturally, he has had many exhilarating experiences, including bumping into the former President of the USSR, Mikhail Gorbachev! Indranil says that he had to explain to the security that he was just a tourist before he could be arrested. Another time, when he was in Kosovo, the security did not understand why an Indian would want to come there for a holiday and it took him a lot of explaining to convince them otherwise.

The Hyderabad-based traveller’s latest trip was to Mongolia. “I have been in the field of export, so that’s how I got interested in travelling. I go on five personal trips and at least three business trips every year. I have covered all the countries in Europe, most countries in Southeast Asia, entire East Africa and all of the Caribbean and Central America. I am also a sports enthusiast, and have been to global events like the Summer and Winter Olympics, the Football World Cup and the US Open among other tournaments,” says Indranil, who is also an avid souvenir collector. “My shot glass collection (3,000 glasses) can easily qualify for the Limca Book of Records. The Guinness World Record is set at approximately 5,000 glasses. Apart from that, I also collect swords from different parts of the world,” he adds.

Indranil, who currently works as the head of the international marketing division at Al Jazeera in Oman, thanks his wife for all her support. “I spend all my money in travelling. I am not overtly concerned about my professional life and the endless rat race. I don’t wish to be the CEO or MD of a huge company, travelling is what keeps me happy. My wife also funds my travels sometimes. She has travelled 30 countries with me, but travelling together doubles our expenses. We are trying to travel together more often,” says Indranil, adding that getting a passport to some countries is a bigger challenge than his financial woes.
Ask him about his favourite countries among the ones he has been to and he immediately quips, “Brazil, without a doubt. Brazilians enjoy their lives and their spirit is exciting. The Brazilian Carnival is something that I enjoyed the most.” To those who wish to see the world like him, Indranil has a word of advice. “Every place I travel, I learn something new. I realise how little I know. If you are passionate about travelling, go for it. Have no regrets,” he says as he signs off.

courtesy    deccan chronicle

 

city to see super moon lunar eclipse on jan 31 2018

Visakhapatnam will witness the Super Blue Blood moon, rare lunar eclipse that occurs only once in a few decades, on January 31 about 20 minutes before it is seen in the rest of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

While Hyderabad residents will witness the lunar eclipse in totality, North Eastern states and Kolkata will witness the eclipse happening as the moon rises earlier there.

The day will see a lunar eclipse which is also a ‘Super Blue’ moon, making it truly a once in a blue moon event. It is the alignment of three different lunar phenomena.

The total lunar eclipse will happen when the moon will enter the Earth’s shadow, ensuring that the Sun’s rays do not fall on it.

The second phenomenon which makes the moon a ‘Blue Moon’ is that it is the second full moon of January, the first occurred on January 2. The third makes it a Supermoon i.e. the moon will be the closest to the Earth.

  1. Raghunandan Kumar, director of Planetary Society, said, “The moon goes around the Earth every month in an oval orbit, and it is far and near the Earth one time in a month. It is coincidental that the eclipse is happening when the moon is closest to the Earth making it seem bigger in size. The moon will also appear red due to the lunar eclipse and is also called ‘blue’ because of the popular saying, ‘Once in a blue moon’ as there are two full moons in a month very rarely.” The visible part of the eclipse will begin at 5.18 pm and last till 8.41 pm.  Although a lot of speculation and rumours have been flying around about this celestial phenomenon happening after 152 years, scientists have denied the claims. They state that in 1982, a lunar eclipse did occur with a blue moon. However, US missed it because of the timeline. Many parts of Asia witnessed that event as it happened on December 30.

Dr Vijay Bhaskar, director of Centre of Space Medicine, has meanwhile asked citizens not to encourage superstitions associated with the lunar eclipse.

He said, “Pregnant women are not allowed to move during the lunar eclipse and people say a person gets a cleft lip by looking at the eclipse… people should not entertain such false beliefs and treat the day as any other day. Don’t harass pregnant women by not letting them eat food or take medicine.”

The planetary society has advised citizens to be on their terraces to witness the phenomenon, and asked school children in the city not to miss the opportunity to increase knowledge about the moon and space.

“We are glad to help children in case they need any equipment to see the celestial event,” said N. Raghunandan Kumar.

 

courtesy       Deccan Chronicle

 

Game of chance

One day some friends dropped in on a Sindhi couple, without warning, for a cup of tea. The wife pulled the husband aside and said, “There’s no sugar in the house, how can I serve tea?”
The husband winked at her and said, “Make tea without sugar for all, leave the rest to me.”
As soon as the tea was served the husband says to the guests, “Let’s play a game of chance. One cup of tea has no sugar, who ever gets it will take us all for dinner tonight.”
The result? All guests claimed they had never tasted such sweet tea!