Wednesday, June 19, 2013

An evening with children, stories and gourmet food!

(This is my entry to the Indiblogger-ITC Kitchens of India contest. The contest is about one's own dream weekend party with gourmet food from Kitchens of India)

Weekends. They are a boon. Time for us to escape the drudgery and indulge in luxury, isn’t it? But for some, especially women in the Indian context, what unfolds is more to do with grocery, cutlery, crockery and cookery!  Phew!!!!

I like food. I sometimes enjoy cooking too. Note the word ‘sometimes’. When I have something more interesting to do, something that would give me more gratification and make me immensely content, then I’d rather do that than invade the kitchen. One such ‘something’ is donning my storyteller hat. Go and blurt out stories to children. I visit one particular place in Bangalore where the children welcome me with open arms. While I have to accept that I’m not going there as often as I wish to, my connection with those children is rock-solid.

By now, you would have guessed where my party would be and who the guests would be.  Yes, it will be at the orphanage cum school and my guests would be the children! These children are either orphaned or come from the weakest sections of society, so a gourmet party would be a life-time experience for them. My son and I will play hosts and will plan out the menu. If my little one approves it, those little ones will approve it too, right?

The guests

Here comes the first factor – Ambience. Chirping of the birds returning to their nests, cool late evening breeze and loads of laughter. When you have happy, lovely little children around, what more can one ask for? I’d probably put up a makeshift pandal, just as a contingency measure. Weather in Bangalore is totally unpredictable.

The location

The second thing to take care of is entertainment. What do you think? Would there be any other source of entertainment than my stories??? The idea may not interest you that much, (may be even make you queasy!) but for those little children, I’m their Story Aunty! So that evening will see free flowing stories including impromptu performances by children, story contests and more!

The entertainment!

As you can see, there are big plans, which means, me cooking for the party is out of question. Here is where I see Kitchens of India coming to my rescue. I can make/order rice and rotis and just get the accompaniments from Kitchens of India! Talk about convenience! Not just that, it would also help me focus on the stuff that I’d need to get done for the D-day.

Finally, here comes my menu. I have carefully selected the items based on the nutritional value, taste factor and of course, my son’s inputs!


  • Rotis

  • Mild Mughlai Paneer (peppered with a story from the Mughlai era, of course!)

  • Cucumber Raita (To counter the Spicy Mirchi and to balance the Biriyani)

When children are around, can sweets be far behind? So I’ll grab a few packets of every dessert available with KOI, especially the nutritiously yummy Jodhpuri Moong Dal Halwa . I can imagine the ecstasy in their faces as they lap up the delicious dessert!

So, that would be my dream weekend gourmet party - an evening of stories with lovely little children and great gourmet food.

I am sure, at that moment, I’d be the most contented person on this planet.

(Do visit Shishukunj Vidyalaya in Ramesh Nagar, Bangalore. The children’s English skills will leave you awed. Even the tiny tots in primary school speak excellent English. Kudos to the teachers and the management for envisioning and executing it all!)

Sunday, June 16, 2013


By Malini Gowrishankar

(This is a post that I penned for the Headstart Network, a pan India entrepreneurship network for which I've recently started writing/volunteering. To know more about Headstart, click here. Hope to see more such posts in the future!) 

It wasn't yet another lazy Saturday morning, at least for a bunch of us. It was a jumpstart Saturday. The reason? Startup Saturday was back in town! Thanks to Yahoo, we had a wonderful space for the event this time too - The Yahoo office at Bagmane Tech Park,  CV Raman Nagar. The audience turnout reflected this edition's theme - 'Building your Startup', with more than half of them having just started or aspiring to start their own business ventures soon, which in turn meant that quite a few were attending the event for the first time. Though the turnout was lesser than usual, it was an eclectic mix, which ensured a great session.

The event commenced with Prashant of Headstart giving the audience an introduction to Startup Saturday and to Nasscom 10000 Startups.  This was followed by the first scheduled talk of the day by Mr. Chetan Kulkarni, Founder and CEO at Vizury.  True to the theme, Mr. Chetan spoke about how Vizury was built, tracing along the timeline, the milestones of the company with respect to funding, customer acquisition and expansion.  He also spoke about the background of the co-founders and the common thread that brought them together. The talk was peppered with some interesting anecdotes, the most notable one being the incident that marked the beginning of their China operations. The talk ended with an interesting Q& A with Mr. Chetan and not surprisingly, the questions revolved around starting-up itself.

Before the second speaker of the day was ushered in, Prashant brought in a whiff of social entrepreneurship to the event, by familiarizing the audience to ‘Jagriti Yatra’ -  the incredible train journey for entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs organized by Jagriti Sewa Sansthan. The fact that we had two ‘Yatris’ amongst us added to the credibility of the intro.

Next on stage was Ranjan Kumar of Oye This session was a product demo ; Ranjan walked us through the various features and differentiating aspects of OyeParty. He also shared the current setup and the future direction for OyeParty. We must say he did a good job convincing the audience and taking on their bashing, as majority opined at the end of the demo that the venture would be a hit! Here’s Headstart wishing you goodluck with OyeParty, Ranjan!

The second talk of the day was delivered by Mr. Naren NS, Co-founder and Global Head for Banking and BI solutions at  He took the audience on a time-travel, allowing them to have a peek into his career trajectory. Tracing back right from his college days, working on a core banking solution as a techie, starting up, getting that elusive first customer etc. to growing and expanding his business overseas, he covered it all. He also briefly described the company’s transition from being a services provider to providing product based solutions and the challenges associated with the same. Overall, it was a well-received talk with a lot of interesting questions thrown in by the inquisitive audience.

The final offering for the day was a ‘Spark the rise’ pitch by Ihitashri Shandilya of Mithilasmita. A nominee of Mahindra’s ‘Spark the rise’ campaign, Ihitashri emphasized the importance of supporting our local art and culture. She spoke in brief about her replicable business model for promoting art, with the model currently being applied to something that she grew up with and is very close to her heart – Madhubani paintings from the Indian heartland.

With that truly inspirational pitch and the networking time that ensued, that day’s event drew to a close. However, for each one of us there, it was just the beginning, for the spark to be rekindled, the beliefs to be reinforced, the ideas to be evaluated, yet another time. 

Rendezvous with Rhododendrons #6 – Shopping spree in Siliguree!

Not so long ago, but actually a little while ago, I penned the penultimate post in the Rhodendron Sikkim series. My blogging frequency has now become erratic owing to the entrepreneurial bug that has been bugging me in the recent days. However, writing is cathartic for me and as you have waited for quite long, here is the final post in the series.

That morning, when I scaled Barsey Top and viewed sunrise from there, I literally felt on top of the world, although it was just 10000+ feet.   That made my day, but it was time to step down from cloud nine and get back to ground reality (literally).  Yes, it was time to descend to the plains. This was the journey – Barsey to Hiley by trek, Hiley to Siliguri by cab. En route, we covered Daramdin Saibaba temple. A beautiful temple with beautiful paintings. A must-see if you are in the vicinity.

Mr. Bandhu, Owner of Guras Kunj, Barsey

The trek back to Hiley

A painting in Daramdin Sai Temple
Not sure what these lavender coloured blossoms are. Anyone?
Our next stop-over was at Siliguri – Mainak Tourist lodge. The place is run by West Bengal tourism and is actually a very safe, comfortable, centrally located and decent boarding option in Siliguri, while the name ‘lodge’ suggests otherwise.  With the Hongkong market at a stone’s throw distance,  my urge to shop became irresistible. So, off we went that evening, on a shopping spree.

The Hongkong market in Siliguri is a world in itself. It is a flea market for goods imported mainly from China and a few other countries. You  name it, you see it here. The usually alert me was also conned into buying a Nepal made Colossal Kajal, only to find that it is a duplicate. So unbelievably good was the finish! I also bought the cheap Asian version of the Swiss army knives, Chinese army knives to be precise. So when you are in Siliguri, a visit to the Hongkong Market is highly recommended. We also bought tea in one of the government authorized shops in Siliguri.

Now to the thing that I enjoyed the most here – Street food! Momos, chats, agra pethas – we had it all! For me, this is the most important and worthwhile factor  - visiting the local hangouts, chatting up with locals and having local food. The experience is simply mind-blowing.

Mishti Dahi
Thukpa at Jorethang
Momo and soup at Jorethang
Chat time
Chat wallah
Momos in Siliguri
So, what happened after that? The next day we packed our bags and headed back home. With heavier bags and happy memories, of course!


Best time to visit Barsey:
March-April is when most Rhododendrons bloom. A few species bloom in May, so that months isn’t bad either.

How to reach:
Till New Jalpaiguri station by train or Bagdogra airport by flight. Rent a shared jeep or a cab from there.

Shared jeep: Upto Jorethang and from there to Okhrey. You will spend less than 800 rupees but be ready to get sandwiched amongst 9 to 10 locals.

Cab: Our full cab trip with NJP – Pelling – Okhrey – Hiley – Daramdin- NJP cost us Rs. 12000. It was the least of 3 quotes and was a good deal, considering the fact that it was peak season.

Pelling  - Sikkim Aurora. At the highest point in Pelling, right opposite helipad. Highly recommended for budget travellers. The owner Mr. Raja is always ready to help. TripAdvisor recommended.

Okhrey – Sherpa lodge. Sherpa hospitality is unbeatable.
A Triple room in Sherpa lodge, Okhrey
Barsey – Only Guras Kunj and forest barracks available. Try to get that elusive double bed room there. Book early. Mr. Bandhu, the owner, is very friendly and hospitable.

Siliguri – Mainak Tourist Lodge.

The total trip is doable in approximately 7K per person (excluding airfare) if you are in a small group.

With that,  I end my six-part travelogue. Hope this is inspiring enough for you to plan this trip next year. Go ahead, have a great Rendezvous with Rhododendrons and let me know! 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Skywatch Friday #9 - Peek-a-boo moon!

We were camping as a family in the outskirts of Bangalore, thanks to CampLinger. It was a cool and cloudy night. The campfire was burning bright and the moon was nowhere to be seen. All of a sudden, there she was, the full round moon, gleaming in the night sky and playing peek-a-boo like a little naughty girl. The pictures do little justice to her beauty.

This is my entry this week to the very popular Skywatch Friday.

Listen to your body...

It was one March afternoon in Chennai. A bright sunny afternoon it was, but a very dark one for a few. In the drawing room of that small apartment, he lay, sleeping peacefully, albeit in an ice box.   His 19-year old son kept talking to him, leaning on the box, asking his Dad to come back. It was a heart-wrenching sight that I’ll never forget in my lifetime. Over the past few months, I had seen him gradually melt down and now, he had diminished in the horizon. Gone forever.


The occasional twitch in the stomach was bothering him. Episodes of indigestion were also becoming frequent. He had erratic work schedules owing to which his meal times were haphazard. The initial diagnosis was Ulcer. Of course, given his schedules, that was a disaster waiting to strike. But, it didn’t feel like a disaster to him; he brushed it off as a casual lifestyle problem. But being a staunch believer of natural medicine, he started consuming Keezhanelli leaves regularly. However, the pain was here to stay.


He had lost oodles of weight over the last few years. The occasional twitch had by then turned into incessant excruciating pain. Unbearable it was, so much that the family dragged him to consult an allopathic doctor. And the diagnosis? Not Ulcer. Not any stomach disorder. It was Cancer. Cancer, not just isolated to any one part of the body, but spread across the digestive system.  Years of misdiagnosis, ignorance of warning signs and self-medication had cost him dear. The carcinoma was in its advanced stage and all that the doctors could do at this point was to extend his life by a few months. And that too, by chopping off most parts of his digestive system in a series of surgeries. A cheerful, witty man with a sharp sense of humour, he never stopped cracking jokes even during these dreadful times. Post surgery, what was left of him was just a bag of bones.


He had become bedridden. The doctors had given up. The family, inconsolable.  The IV fluid line was the one that was tugging him back, keeping him alive.  And on that fateful morning, that March afternoon, he breathed his last. I had gone to meet him; held his hand, the previous evening.

THE MORALS/INFERENCES (I wouldn’t call this a story though)

  • I’m not advocating allopathy here, nor am I saying that natural medicine isn’t good enough.
  • All that matters is the right diagnosis at the right time.
  • It’s about respecting one’s own body. The body clearly gives out signs. When things are wrong, the body sends out alarms.  The alarms may not exactly scream on your face, but they are there. Notice them.
  • Self-medication may not always work. Whatever branch of medicine, a systematic therapeutic plan is needed to cull any disease or cure any disorder.

As I write this, I remember the tamil saying,

“ Suvar Irundhaldhaan Chiththiram ezhudha mudiyum”

(“One can paint only if there is a wall”)

Stay healthy. Stay happy. Chase your dreams.

(This is my entry to the Indiblogger "the moral of the story is" contest. More health related articles here)