Musings | Travel

Travel and the Art of Healing

The true traveller can heal anywhere. The moment you have to go home to heal, you cease being a traveller, and become homesick. Once home, you heal and are ready to go out into the world again, but in your heart of hearts you know you have to come back home. You have ceased to be a traveller.

Travel brings with it pains and hurts you never know you could experience. You recuperate, heal, become whole, when you see that sunset, that peak in the distance, or below you, that little pool of sunlight read more

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Books | Hyderabad | Writing

An Evening with Jeffrey Archer

Sunday evening was spent rather delightfully, listening to Jeffrey Archer speak. He was at Landmark to promote his new book, a re-write of his top seller, Kane and Abel.

The man is a genius when it came to handling the crowd – he had them eating out of his hand within the first few minutes – he spoke about what a great place India is, and Sachin’s brilliant century in the previous day’s game. It was easy to see how he would have swayed his constituents who sent him to the House of commons.

Jeffrey Archer
Jeffrey Archer

Here are bits of what he spoke about, as I remember them. Any omissions / distortions are mine, and I absolutely refuse to stand by anything here under oath!

He began by reading out a really short short story that he said was perhaps the best example of short story writing.

Then he spoke about the new Kane and Abel and how it came about. Having sat down to read the original work 30 years after it was first published, he found himself making corrections here and there. These became bigger and bigger, and he found himself rewriting whole sections. Finally, at the end of about 500 hours of work over a 9-month period, the new version was ready. He’s written over 50,000 new words, and the new work is about 7,000 words shorter – which seems to suggest that about 57,000 words from the old version have been jettisoned.

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Featured | Food | Hyderabad | Restaurants | Review

45 Jubilee Hills – Good food, slow service

We went to 45 Jubilee Hills for dinner a couple of weeks ago. Let me rephrase that – my entire team from work – about 30 people – went for dinner to 45 Jubilee hills about a couple of weeks ago. The experience was quite enjoyable, but only because the presence of so many of us together helped us while away the time playing Chinese Whispers while waiting for the food, while waiting for the water, while waiting for the dessert, while waiting for the bill… you get the idea!

We arrived at the restaurant around 8 pm, having informed them a day in advance of our plans, and were seated in a private area – al fresco, on a half-finished balcony separated from the rest of the restaurant (and air conditioning) by a glass door. The fit was a bit tight, but was not uncomfortable, and we all placed our orders – they’d told us there was no buffet for dinner. And then the games started while we waited for the food. Quite a few had ended by the time we got our first orders.

The food, wh

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Featured | Food | Hyderabad | Restaurants | Review

Lunch Buffet at IndiJoe – Crowded and Disappointing

Today’s lunch was a buffet at IndiJoe. We have been fans of Indijoe’s ever since Suresh introduced us to the fondue there a couple of years ago. We found ourselves outside IndiJoe at lunchtime and spying the buffet, went for it.

The food at IndiJoe has always been pretty good. Today’s lunch was a lesson in how a restaurant’s buffet food does not always stand up to the standard of its a la carte offerings. The buffet was adequate, though a bit on the leaner side for vegetarians. But the menu was rather unimaginative, and the food itself merely passable – not what we have come to expect from IndiJoe.

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Food | Hyderabad | Restaurants | Review

Ice ‘n’ Jelly – Good Ice Cream

After dining at Trance Lounge last night, we decided to try out a new place for dessert, and ended up going to Ice ‘n’ Jelly. This place is right opposite Pedamma temple, on Jubilee Hills Road No: 21. Don’t worry, if you can’t find it, the man in the teddy bear costume standing on the road will wave you in towards the place.

The place was not crowded – there was just one other patron as we entered, and two more sauntered in while we were there. The seating was on a lawn (complete with read more

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Food | Hyderabad | Restaurants | Review

Trance Lounge – Indian Food Rocks

We had dinner at Trance Lounge in Jubilee Hills last night. When we read the Description of the place as the former residence of the Telugu superstar Chiranjeevi, our curiosity was piqued and we just had to go.

The place is easily located – coming from Hitec City, turn right at Jubilee Hills checkpost and take the second u-turn. Drive on for about fifty metres and you’ll see a brightly-lit sign indicating the left turn you have to take for the restaurant.

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Featured | Food | Haleem | Hyderabad | Restaurants | Review

Haleem at 4 Seasons

My second haleem experience of the season, and not a typical one at that! I was in GVK One to pick up Vidya after she had finished watching Kaminey. After we met up, we decided to get dinner, and since neither of us had been to the food court, we decided to check it out. The food court is called Polynation and has a weird payment system where you buy a prepaid magnetic card, load it with cash and use it to pay for food at the different outlets. The food court itself is pretty extensive, with a lot of choices for food – from Chinese, Pizza, Pasta, Hyderabadi, North and South Indian – all were available.
I was rather thrilled to see that there was a 4 Seasons counter, and even more thrilled to see that they had haleem on their bill of fare. About a couple of weeks ago, I had a wonderful lunch at the 4 Seasons in Hitec City, and their food was really delicious, and I jumped at the chance to taste their haleem.
The serving was medium sized, and would not have sufficed had I been as hungry as I usually am at dinner. A rather heavy lunch had left me not very hungry, and a single haleem seemed to be the ideal dinner. At first glance, I could see that it was a lot less greasy than the previous haleem I’d had. It was topped with cashew nuts and mint leaves along with the obligatory fried onions.
The haleem itself was easy to eat – it seemed to have been ground rather than pounded, giving it an even consistency that took away a bit from the experience. The meat was well ground, and there were no bones. What came as a pleasant surprise was the subtle and well-balanced spicing – something almost impossible for a Hyderabadi ustad, one would have thought. Again, the grinding rather than pounding had ensured the spices were mixed in well, and the taste was definitely a notch higher than Sarvi’s.
Because of the delicate and subtle flavouring, the haleem also lent itself nicely to an on-the-table taste modification. The bowl of haleem had been accompanied by two thin slices of lemon. I experimented with a drop of the juice on a spoonful, and liked the way it modified the taste. So, once I was halfway through the bowl, I squeezed in the slices and mixed it well, and had a different tasting serving of the same haleem! The lemon juice went very well with it, and the effect was most excellent!
Overall, while in taste and ease of eating, this haleem beat Sarvi’s hands down, the texture wasn’t quite haleem-like – that can be achieved only by pounding and not grinding. This was the lone negative in an otherwise quite outstanding bowl of haleem. Of course, some might quibble that at Rs. 95 for a smallish bowl, this was a steeply priced haleem, but I think it’s really worth it – the bonelessness alone was worth the extra thirty bucks!
What do you think about 4 Seasons haleem? Where have you eaten your best haleem this season? Leave a comment or write to me!

My second haleem experience of the season, and not a typical one at that! I was in GVK One to pick up Vidya after she had finished watching Kaminey. After we met up, we decided to get dinner, and since neither of us had been to the food court, we decided to check it out. The food court is called Polynation and has a weird payment system where you buy a prepaid debit card, load it with cash and use it to pay for food at the different outlets. The food court itself is pretty extensive, with a lot of choices for food – Chinese, Pizza, Pasta, Hyderabadi, North and South Indian – all were available.

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Experience | Featured | Food | Haleem | Hyderabad | Restaurants | Review

Haleem Ho Jaye!

It ‘s once again that time of year when the streets of Hyderabad overflow with numerous haleem joints, and every Hyderabadi worth her or his salt is out there every day in search of the  perfect bowl. Dhruv jumped on the bandwagon yesterday and I opened my account last night. Dhruv and I were chatting about trying out more places near Hitec City, where we both work, and decided to start right away. We managed to drag Nikhil along, just like the last time we went to Hitec Bawarchi.

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Experience | Featured | Musings | My Life

Onion Pakodas for the Soul

Eight life lessons from an afternoon of making pakodas
Vidya wanted to eat pakodas, and I decided to surprise her by making them when she was taking her Sunday afternoon siesta. After making sure she was sound asleep, I chopped the onions, mixed them with the dough, heated the oil and deep fried them. As I was finishing up, Vidya woke up – from the smell of the oil, she said – and walked into the kitchen. I proudly showed her my handiwork – fried pakodas resting on a newspaper shedding as much excess oil as they could. She popped one into her mouth, pronounced that it was delicious, except for a lack of both salt and chilli powder, both of which I had thought of, but had forgotten to add. She said we could toss them in salt and chilli powder and that should make them taste okay, and that was just what we did – before proceeding to eat them with some awesome tea she made.
Thinking of the whole pakoda-making process, and the ‘journey’ it was, I could not help but see how many life lessons were hidden in that short afternoon activity.
I started out with four peeled onions, and once I had chopped two of them, I could see I had enough. I stopped, storing the other two for later use. When initial estimates are wrong, it makes sense to revise them.
When I was mixing the onions into the dough, following the instructions, I could see that the mixture was dry, and it was mixing unevenly. I added a little bit of water, and the mixture came out smooth and even. When the instructions don’t make sense, it’s good to do what makes sense.
I’ve always been taught that the best way to make pakodas is to by hand – to drop the dollops of flour and onions into the hot oil with your fingers. This is messy, and involves washing your hands every time before taking a ladle to the continue the frying. I tried using two forks instead of my fingers, and it worked wonderfully well. I was able to control the size of each dollop, and the forks did not have too much dough sticking to them. Sometimes, it’s good to leave traditional wisdom aside and try out new things and tools.
Every time I picked up a dollop, it would seem the right size. Things rapidly changed as I approached the frying pan. A small or mid-sized dollop was often too large to be fried, and I ended up putting in dollops half their original size. Our estimates of magnitude are very often way off. Only by placing them in the right context can we get a realistic estimate.
The oil seemed to have been heated up to the right temperature when I started out. Very quickly I realized there was not one right temperature, but at least two different ones – a lower one when I dropped in the dollops and a higher one once the dollops were all in. The higher temperature golden-browned the pakodas, and I had to reduce it again when I took them out of the pan. I had to constantly keep changing the temperature as I was frying them. We always tend to look for the golden balance in everything. This is a myth, and only by constantly changing various things can we keep things balanced.
As I was into the frying process, I was so taken up by it that I did not notice the smell of frying oil had spread throughout the house. I had a door and window open, but I did not have any other door open to allow for cross-ventilation. Only when Vidya pointed this out, and opened another door, did I realize my oversight. Very often, we get so involved in what we do that we fail to realize the effects of our actions on our home life, and the lives of the ones we love.
When I was frying the pakodas, I realized it was a short step between golden brown and inedibly black. However, this wasn’t so short as to be impossible – I just needed to keep my eyes on the pan and not be distracted. Most of the time, concentrating on the job at hand and remaining focussed  is crucial to success.
Finally, once the pakodas were made, it just took one taste for Vidya to figure out what was missing, and her simple solution set it right almost instantly. No matter how much we’ve planned and checked our actions, there is always bound to be something we have overlooked. We have at least one person in our lives who can see what it is and tell us what we need to do to set it right. Keep such people close, and listen to their counsel.
It is not often that such thoughts strike me, or I feel like feeding onion pakodas to my soul. But then, it is not often that life’s lessons stand revealed to you.
Have a good one.

Eight life lessons from an afternoon of making pakodas

Vidya wanted to eat pakodas, and I decided to surprise her by making them when she was taking her Sunday afternoon siesta. After making sure she was sound asleep, I chopped the onions, mixed them with the dough, heated the oil and deep fried them. As I was finishing up, Vidya woke up – from the smell of the oil, she said – and walked into the kitchen.

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