Half-baked Chef

My basic cooking lessons began way back, when I was in class 8 – the year 2010, to be precise. And to ensure I’ll learn quickly and stick through the entire ‘Basic Cooking Course’, Ma had entrusted me in my grandma’s care (Mamma, I’ve introduced her earlier to you all). So I spent my entire summer vacation of class 8 learning to cook. Mamma patiently taught me to cook – everything from assembling the pressure cooker to adding tadka to dal to rolling up chapatis.

And just to ensure I practically implemented my theory lessons, cooking lunch and dinner for those two months was entirely on me (I even got a stipend 😛 ). I wonder how my family put up with the food I cooked back then. Sometimes the food I’d cook would be barely edible, sometimes half-cooked, sometimes burnt, sometimes too salty (Unfortunately, salt still has an issue with me!). And though I would get a brutally honest daily feedback – whether the food was good, just edible or bad – from every member, they always appreciated the fact that I had finally managed to pick up some culinary skills. After all, the ‘baby’ of the house had learnt to take charge of the kitchen! 🙂

At present, my cooking skills are pretty good – not as good as my best friend’s though! The dear lady can whip up a proper three course meal for 25 people with lightening speed! I always pull her leg – “D, if you don’t figure out anything in your life, you can sure start off with your own catering business!”. And I know whom to approach when my home is crowded with a tonne of people – I won’t sit pulling out my hair, I’ll just call up D – the caterer 😛

I won’t say I love to cook, but over a period of time, I’ve come to like it. Cooking sometimes is fun.  But yes, depending on my mood, it can be soothing, therapeutic or plain annoying too!

After my rigorous cooking boot camp, I did start experimenting with some dishes on my own. According to my family, I make the world’s best Pav Bhaji (A statement I feel is exaggerated, but again, they are my world – so I guess what they say is fair! :P).
And after reading an article about how unhygienic roadside momos are, I decided I wouldn’t eat momos ever again outside ( I’m sure at this point Ma will be like – everything you eat outside is crap). But I couldn’t give up eating momos – what is life without momos? So I learnt to make momos – and people, they turn out pretty good, sometimes better than the momos-wala on FC road too!
Hakka noodles (from scratch – I make the noodles myself) is another specialty of mine. ❤

So along with the above three mentioned items, and our staple food – rice, dal, vegetables of all kinds and chapatis – that’s it, my knowledge of cooking ends right there. It’s not that I stopped learning, it’s just that I don’t want to learn anything more :P. So yeah, that’s me- The Half-baked Chef! 😛

Cooking in India is rigorous affair – and poor mom’s bear the brunt of handling the kitchen affairs every damned day. Cooking once in a while is really easy – you feel like you’re on the top of the world, like you’re a Master chef. But cooking every day? Like every single day? There are some who love whipping out delicacies for their families, but there is a humongous female population out there who would squeal with delight if they get out of cooking even a single meal in the day.

The sad part is, even today, we’re all modern in our thoughts, modern in our kitchen appliances, modern in our outlook and everything – yet, it’s assumed and understood that the responsibility of the kitchen lies solely in the hands of the woman in the house. Working women aren’t spared too. Not that I haven’t heard of men taking equal interest in sharing the kitchen duties along with their better halves – the percentage of people doing this is negligible, minuscule in front of the huge population of people who will want freshly cooked, warm food at the expense of the effort of the woman in the house.

Now let’s come to the good part of it –
During my entire cooking course, not once did Mamma or Ma utter the words,
“You have to learn to cook now itself, what will you do when you get married and go off to your husband’s house?

Instead they said,
Baccha, you better learn to cook now itself – what if you have to move out for higher studies or a job ? You should at least be able to take care of yourself, cook proper nutritious food for yourself”

At that moment, I may have not even paid attention to their words, to the way they put it forth– but sub-consciously, these words did play on my mind. The women I look up to every day of my life – they both didn’t make me feel like I have been born to get married and take care of the kitchen one day. They taught me to cook so that I would be able to sustain myself. They made it clear that I have the right to choose – whether I want to cook, or not is totally my choice. They didn’t bracket my dreams and future in the confines of the kitchen. They gave me a choice. They treated me like an individual with dreams, not like a girl, who will get married and take care of the kitchen.

And unfortunately, most of the girls – older to me, younger than me – still have to learn to cook not because they need to have cooking skills to survive, but because they will get married one fine day.

Sadly, it all begins here. We are brainwashed with these thoughts, which make us put our passions and interests on the backseat just to ensure we give our families every kind of comfort they need. Agreed there are a lot of them out there who love to do this, but don’t box us all in the same bandwagon.

Cooking in the house is masked under the tag ‘duty of the woman’. And this is really sad – it’s more of a shared responsibility, which unfortunately most men and boys don’t want to shoulder.

And to those superwomen – working or homemakers, who have dedicated their whole and soul to their families, do take some time off everyday and dedicate it only to yourself, to your passions, to the things you would love to do. 🙂

And to everyone who’s reading this post, just go into the kitchen today, send the weary lady out of the kitchen and whip up some delicacy for her. No matter how it turns out, she’ll be happy – not only to eat what you have cooked, but also to relish the time off she has got. 🙂

It’s high time we change – change to accommodate the modern woman, her dreams, her passions, her identity…

#BeTheChange ❤

Chef

 

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Poisaag Saga

 

Fortunately, our love for green leafy vegetables is one of the many things that binds us as a family (it basically means no arguments during meal times 😛 ). And it’s not restricted to only loving the greens, but also experimenting with them. So when Ma and me are on our visit to the local vegetable vendor, our eyes first move towards the green leafy section, scanning it thoroughly for some new genus of vegetable which we haven’t come across earlier (if we don’t find any new breed, we settle for the old classics – spinach, fenugreek……so on – haven’t really bothered to find out what they all are called in English, so you got to be content with the above mentioned names :P).

On one such visit, I came across a something new – thick stalks, big leaves and bright green in colour – this was something I’d never come across earlier. So I called out to Ma, even she was amused. On seeing our curious faces with the bunch of that leafy vegetable in my hand, the vegetable vendor, immediately swooped in to inform us about it.

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Picture Credits : Google 😛

“Poisaag”, he said –

I was like – what? Bhaiyya phir se boliye? (Say it again please?)

He said,” It’s called Poisaag”
Took me a while to register the name.
Then came Ma,” Isko kaise banate hai?” (how is this prepared?)

Bhaiyya: Even I don’t know how exactly it is prepared, but if you happen to know anyone who is Bengali, you can ask them. It’s a popular vegetable in Bengal, and it has come in the market because the Bengali new year is in a couple of days”

We purchased it anyway – after all, experimental people!

Next task – search a Bengali!

We came back home. I suddenly remembered that we had new Bengali tenants in the last apartment on the topmost floor in our building.
“Ma, why don’t you ask them?”
“Not sure beta, they’re new here…we haven’t got a chance to interact with them as yet”
“So this is a chance na?!”
She finally took the bunch and went.

An old lady answered the door, with a confused look on her face. Ma immediately showed her the bunch, and the lady’s eyes lit up! ❤ Ma asked her how it has to be prepared, but the lady, though excited, was struggling to tell Ma – she wasn’t fluent in Hindi. But that didn’t dampen her spirits! After months she had seen something that belonged to her home town – and she was determined to get this through. She welcomed Ma into her home and scurried off into her kitchen to get all the ingredients that were required to prepare Poisaag. She explained Ma patiently, with whatever little Hindi knowledge she had. After around half an hour, Ma came back home, all smiles. After all she had a new acquaintance, a Bengali one that too! 🙂

The next day, Poisaag was prepared in our home – the way she had mentioned.
And it turned out to be one of the best green leafy vegetables we’d ever eaten! And after a little struggle, when Google understood what we meant when we typed Poisaag in the search box, we also got to know that it’s a vegetable that’s a powerhouse of essential vitamins and minerals!

A couple of weeks after this, Ma came across the lady again, and this time, the lady told Ma quite a lot about herself. She had a huge home back in Kolkata, but was now left all alone there. Her only daughter was married and her son-in-law had got posted in Pune. She joined them here, but she says she feels lonely here too!
“It’s not like Kolkata here…..it’s a bit cramped here…”

But she had that sparkle in her eyes, probably Ma was her first friend in Pune!

Every day after that, whenever I would leave for college early in the morning, she would always be by the Anant tree, picking out flowers for her daily pooja. Not a day went by when I didn’t see her. We cordially smiled at each other if we came face to face, which was quite rare, as the lady would always be engrossed in picking out the flowers, with her back facing me.

“Your daughters are just like you”, she once told Ma.

We smiled sheepishly at this compliment – we love it when someone says that! ❤

Our everyday meet happened as usual,  it was almost a week i hadn’t seen her – weeks turned into months and I wondered what happened. She probably had gone back home to Kolkata.

Fast forward to the next month, we had the annual Pooja in our society and we had all gathered for dinner after it. And there she was – draped in a simple handloom sari (famous in Kolkata).
I couldn’t stop myself from rushing to her and asking her,”Where were you all these days?”

As usual, she struggled to communicate but said that she had gone back home to Kolkata. Also, pulling my cheeks a little, she asked about our well-being. I cannot forget her gleaming eyes and that cheerful, jolly round face! She too, was equally happy on seeing us after days.

“She’s just like a roshogulla!”, I exclaimed later.

And our tryst of greeting each other every morning continues till date. 🙂

 

In the wake of so many communal differences that our plaguing the soul of our country, little incidences like these could create an impact, which is why I wrote this blog. Forget the rest of the country, in my building itself, we are 18 different families belonging to different parts of our country – right from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar in the north to Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka towards the south – we have it all. And the way we co-exist with each other, taking pride in learning about each others culture, customs, traditions – it’s just beautiful. We all make an effort to embrace each other’s culture and respect it. And that’s what the true spirit of being an Indian is – we sure have a lot of reasons to create that divide amongst us, but we consider our differences to be our strength, probably that’s what has helped us cruise through all these years. And I just hope we make it through all the years to come too. And a little reminder – we have a lot to be proud about, so embrace it, love it and live it ❤

Just like how Poisaag turned out to be the ice-breaker between us and our new neighbours, there a million other reasons and things out there which we can use to learn more about each other.

And yes, this Navratri, let’s burn down our differences and revel in the true spirit of being an Indian!
Aap sabhi ko Dasshera ki Shubkamnaye! (in advance) 😀

 

A date with the Dudhsagar Waterfalls!

 

People, I can’t keep calm! Ask me why? I visited the iconic Dudhsagar Waterfalls in Goa this Sunday! And apologies for pushing this blog in between the Teacher’s Day series, but I have to tell you about my visit to this marvellous place! And no, I won’t be boring you with the inside details (like last time :P) I’ll just be telling you about a few highlights (and what I feel even you should know) of this trek – and it’s gonna be fun – so read on! 😀

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PC: Parag Uncle 🙂 Thanks for this wonderful, full-fledged photo that indeed captures the magnificent waterfalls! ❤

During the journey and the trek, I came across a few stunning facts about Dudhsagar Waterfalls:
These are the very waterfalls where that scene in the Bollywood movie Chennai Express was shot! ❤ ( I haven’t watched the movie, neither do I intend to – but still, exciting fact na?!)
And secondly, Dudhsagar Waterfalls feature in the Top 100 waterfalls all over the world! (Like seriously? I went to such a place?!)
Isn’t it great? (Oh yes, it definitely is!!) 😀
Third fact: Waterfall is known as Jal Prapaat in Marathi (not useful information, but still take it :P)

 

The initial part of the trek, for around 7 kilometers, we had to walk on a railway track. And this track was frequented by maal-gaadi’s (goods train). These trains carry coal, and also spill some of it on it’s journeys to and fro. My point here is, this track is lined with raw, unprocessed coal on both sides (yeah, even we got that ‘koyla kaala hai, chattano ne paala hai’ feel). And if anyone’s interested in collecting coal, there’s ample here! 😛

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Reminded me of the nursery rhyme : Piggy on the railway, picking up stones (or coals :P)

 

And yes, 14 kilometers (to and fro) of walking on  railway track is a pain – because it is a concrete surface. So the next time you’re heading for some trek where a railways track is involved, prepare your mind, body and soul for what awaits you. Don’t go about later saying, “I didn’t know, no one told me!”

 

We encountered a lot of monkeys the moment we reached a little before the base of the waterfall. Here, there was a watchtower that gave you the best view of the waterfall. A little ahead this watch-tower has a board (sorry, I couldn’t get a pic for you all because of my dead phone) saying:

“Do not feed monkeys. Feeding monkeys is a punishable offence.”

I was like, oh really?
Now look at the irony:
A guy from another trek group was about to tear off the wrapper of his Cadbury chocolate until a monkey quickly snatched it from his hands, and sat right atop the above mentioned board and gleefully chomped on the chocolate (we could literally see him smirking) while the poor guy, took a few seconds to comprehend what just happened to him!

So, feeding monkeys is a punishable offense, but them snatching food from your hands isn’t. Ahem!

 

No spa in the world can give you that therapeutic feel that a gushing waterfall can! Mark my words – I’ve felt it. We all felt it. The force of the water falling from 1200 feet was just mind-numbing!! And yes, a little tip for you – the next time you visit such places, make sure you totally immerse yourself, splash water around – nothing is more relaxing! 😀

 

Dudhsagar literally translates into ‘an ocean of milk’ – and that’s precisely what it looked like! And to tell you the truth, after the above rendezvous with the waterfall, while treading our way back we realized that our skin actually had lightened – probably 45 minutes in the waterfall was enough to wash away our tan (and I guess our sins too :P) Effect of the milk bath, we later quipped! But again, this was momentary, as from the waterfall back to the railway station was a journey of 11 kilometers – we got baked again, with the blazing sun over our heads!

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Making our way through the dense forests

And yeah, I fell in love with this one particular station – Castlerock – the moment I saw it  – so much so, I got off the train at 4.30 in the morning just to click this! (The train had started moving by the time I was done with my photo session! And just so you know, there’s a huge rock here which is in the shape of a castle, which is why the beautiful name “Castlerock”! And from what I heard, it’s a serene and wonderful place to head to for a relaxing vacation! 🙂

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I wish this would be my permanent address!! ❤

 

And yes of course, no journey via Indian Railways is complete without arguments! No matter which bogie you are in, whether you have your reservations or not – arguments are like that missing ingredient -without which everything seems bland! ( We had one too :P). And during the travel, I came up with a tagline for Indian Railways

Bharatiya Rail – Ek Adbhut, Anokha Anubhav!

Suits na? 😛

 

More than anything else, the moment we reached Goa, everyone around was talking in Konkani! My mother tongue is Konkani, and though I was fluent with it, we no longer converse in Konkani at home ever since both my grandparents passed away – English and Hindi replaced Konkani. But coming here kind of pulled me back to my roots and made me realize that even I should not give up conversing in a regional language I’m well-versed with. The culture of speaking in regional languages and dialects is slowly dwindling, and somewhere, it made me realize that if it is in my hands, I should be doing my best to kindle the fire and keep it burning. And I mean what I said. 🙂

 

Oh and yes, if anytime you’re travelling by the Indian railways and Belgaum (Belagavi) is a station where your train halts, do order your food from Belgaum Food Plaza – these guys have the best biryanis (veg and chicken) and are perfectly suited for your train journey – not too oily, not too spicy – just right! Make sure you call them 45 minutes before Belgaum and tell them your train, coach and berth numbers properly – they will come with neatly done packages of delicious food right there!
Belgaum Food Plaza Contact Number : +91 8312400132

That’s enough gyaan for today! Ciao people!

PS:

  1. Dudhsagar is a fantastic place – make sure it goes in your bucket list – you needn’t go trekking all the way, other means of transport are available too. (But I secretly wish you go trekking :D).
  2. Just so you know, throughout the 22 km trek, I was continually like, “Oh this is going in my blog”
    I really love and work to bring new content to you guys with every new post – so yes, show some love to my blog, Like Share (Subscribe came into my mouth :P) And Follow.
    And do leave your comments and feedback – I love to hear from you guys! ❤
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Green frame for the white waterfalls! ❤

 

 

 

 

To those who made a difference :)

I didn’t want to begin this blog on a negative note – but I cannot deny this fact either – the last few years of my school life were pathetic. I don’t have any fond memories from those years, apart from a handful of friends, whom I still hangout with.

Further, junior college. It was fun. I had finally got out of the suffocating atmosphere in school. I was myself in junior college. And it was a lot, lot better than school. No wait, it’s wrong to even compare both – because, junior college was liberating. It had set me free. And you can’t put a price tag on freedom. It’s priceless.

And then heading to senior college, I discovered a completely different side to myself. I was at my best in my graduation years. And I can quite confidently say that those who met me in senior college would not relate to my earlier version at all. I took up everything that came my way – right from heading events to ultimately becoming the Ladies’ Representative. The last two of my graduation years were the best – because they had brought out who I truly was.

But through this journey from school to junior and then senior college, the one thing I will always remember are my teachers – those who made a difference in my life.

And today, I will be telling you all about my teachers who genuinely made a difference in my life. There were teachers who taught me what was in the book, and then, there were these angels – who went beyond books and managed to leave a long-lasting imprint on my mind with their words and actions. And I remember and cherish the latter, much more than the former. I’ll be narrating some very specific incidents which I remember very vividly. There were defintely more incidents, but these were the one’s that touched me the most. To all those angels in my life, this one is for you.

I have to begin with you, Miss Aileen.
“Take 10 demerits and fly away” – (all KBians will relate well to this)
On seeing someone ruining their paper sheets in art class, these were the words which would echo in the class. And the laugh we all would have!
But Miss, you were much more to me than that. Every time I receive a compliment about how well I gave the presentation, or that I don’t have any stage fear, my mind immediately drifts back to kindergarten – and flashes of how you would make me me stand in front of the whole class and sing the song are right in front of my eyes:

“Que Sera Sera, whatever will be will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que Sera Sera, what will be will be…………..”

At that age, I would sing it so confidently, just the way you had taught me to.
You wiped away my stage fear even before I got to know what it meant. And Miss, I cannot thank you enough for this.
And of course, you did teach me the right song – the lyrics (which at that age, I didn’t understand at all)  are such an encouragement whenever life comes to a chaotic standstill. And I know I can just sing away my worries!

Miss Nisha, you had the gentlest, kindest soul. My second mother, in school. After the wonderful things my sister told me about you, I was very much eager to enter into secondary school just because you taught the higher classes. And just like my sister, you took me under your wings too. I will forever cherish everything you taught me. You will always hold a special place in my heart – for nothing specific, but for everything! After passing out from school, I realised you were the teacher I was going to miss the most. I remember how the last time I’d met you, tears rolled down my eyes – you meant that much to me. And how quick you were to give me a warm hug saying, “Baccha,I will keep you in my prayers always”.

Miss Juliet, you made it a point to narrate one short story with a moral everyday in class. 4th class I remember. You did it – every single day, without fail. Every day began with a new story and left us with a moral, with a value that we were going to carry ahead in our lives. Although I don’t remember every story you told us, I sure know that the values are etched in my mind and heart forever. Thank you – the morals those stories gave are a treasure trove that I proudly carry around everywhere.

Miss Pradhan – an inborn artist with a marvelous talent, and the best Marathi teacher –I loved your art classes. I had lost touch of the creativity in me over the years in school, but in 8th, when you were our art teacher, I changed. Your encouragement, the personal touches you gave to improvise my paintings, your tips to improve my art work – all helped me realise that my creative side wasn’t dead, it had just fallen asleep! And you successfully managed to wake it up! And I cannot thank you enough for that.

Miss Nazira, apart from being the fantastic Hindi teacher you were, I very well remember something you’d said when I needed it the most. The Student Council for the year was announced and I was a bit disappointed at not being nominated into it. I brushed it off, saying it didn’t bother me. But when a classmate taunted me over it, it hurt. And you probably noticed the hurt in my eyes– which is when you told me this :

“Beta, dekhna, zindagi mei har acchi cheez apne samay par aati hai.
(My child, everything good in life comes at the right time)
You deserve something much better than this. And you will get it.”

And years later, when I pinned up my Student Council badges in Junior and Senior college, these words echoed in my mind – exactly the way you said it. And then I knew what you meant. You may have forgotten these words, but they are something I’m definitely carrying with me for the rest of my life.

Moving on to my junior and senior college teachers – I can go on and on writing about them, which is why, I thought it best to write about them in the next post.

So stay tuned and catch up with the next post! See you then! 🙂

 

My First Ever ‘Proper’ Trek! – Part 2

Beginning from where I left it….
For those who want to catch up with the first part, please scroll down and read it. 🙂

So, we were guided by three trek leads – Vinayak Sir, Dhanashree ma’am and Siddhant Sir – all three experienced trekkers. A friendly and enthusiastic lot, we all immediately warmed up to them and to each other too. We all started talking and joking with each other during the tea-break itself – So yeah, I was sure – this was going to be one heck of a trek!! 😉

As we went ahead, the trek leads kept giving us inputs about the terrain – there was an ascent, a plain and then the descent. So we were mentally prepared for what was awaiting us. We walked along, halting for brief moments, absorbing the beauty around us and capturing these moments to cherish when we go back home. 🙂 ❤

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Picture Credits: Dr. Parag Pathrudkar (Parag Uncle for me) Doctor by profession, Photographer and Poet by passion! 🙂

Amidst all of this, whenever the wind would blow real hard, I would involuntarily stop and replicate the Titanic Pose – yeah the one where you spread your arms wide open(although I did it alone :P). I must have done it at least 10 times, until Parag Uncle asked me to pose the exact same way against a scenic background and clicked my pic – that probably was my favourite pic from this trek, because those who know me are aware that I’m not much of a poser, and that I’m better behind the camera than front of it – but there I was – POSING! It just happened! And the picture speaks a thousand words – of me relishing the moment, trying to contain the blowing wind in my arms, topped with that “I’m on top of the world” feeling. Just perfect…And the quote on my T-shirt was apt too –
“Enough is never quite enough”!
Stands true for my insatiable trekking craze! ❤ 😀

And at the beginning, it was super cold – we took our sweatshirts along, but who knew 20 minutes through the trek the sweatshirts would be all sweaty! This is one trek tip I will keep in mind for sure – in moderately cold weather, you don’t need to tag your sweat shirt along – you’ll end up tying it around your waist more than putting it on!

As we went on, the ascent came to an end and now we had the plain terrain. The pathway here was lined with crab homes on both sides! And I didn’t even know these were crab homes, until Satish Uncle (Doctor, and a nature enthusiast)  enlightened us all. We went a little ahead and voila – we saw a crab – A small little crab lying sluggishly in a muddy puddle. Dhanashri ma’am picked it up so that we could have a better view and some clicks too! 😀

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The crab…looking straight at the camera! Or wait – Did we force him to?

After a walk of around an hour and a half, we finally took our first break. Where? By the riverside, with the river gently cooing beside us. Here we had our Chikki and Paperboat break. We sat for a while on the rocks by the river, again – absorbing nature’s stunning beauty. As people living in the city, we’re not really used to seeing crystal-clear, sparkling rivers, that have a mystic fragrance. So this was indeed a treat to the eyes…..<3

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The river!! Credits:To-be Doctor Sharayu Kand 😀 Again, to-be doctor by profession and artist by passion! 🙂

During this break, I spotted a snake – curled up on a rock. Not knowing whether it was alive, I asked Parag uncle. And then the entire group gathered there. Gentle prodding with a twig made us realise the snake was alive and slithering! It actually got a bit panicked, I think – but so did we! So we left it at that – didn’t bother to disturb it any more than we’d already done! 😛

After this was the fun part – we had to cross the river! If it were raining, the river-crossing would have been a little difficult, we’d probably require help from the trek leads. But the weather gods were in our favour, so all we had to do was take off our shoes and socks and cross the river – by ourselves (Of course under the watchful eyes of the trek leads!). The feeling of the cool water splashing against bare feet – it was so relaxing! No foot massage in the world could probably replicate this level of relaxation! 😀 ❤

After everyone successfully went across the river, we then started with the actual route that would go through the dense jungle. Until then we were on the simple, not-so-complicated route.

“What’s the point if we keep walking on the plain road with trees on the sides? Let’s amp it up a little!” were Vinayak Sir’s words.
And he warned us, “Keep walking, don’t stop anywhere and always ensure you are with one of the trek leads. There’s a probability of you encountering snakes and in rare possibilities, even a leopard”.

Ahem, what?  A leopard?
But then he brushed it off saying that animals venture further into the jungle when it rains, so the probability of encountering one is quite rare. But we still had to be watchful.

Now this terrain was tough – narrow pathways (with enough space for one person to go through at a time) climbing through rocks, amidst all the slush…phew..it was a task! But we cruised through it too and then we reached the topmost point – right above Gupt Bhimashankar (Hidden Bhimashankar – will elaborate on that later)

So at this spot, there’s a temple on the top. This is the exact place where you can spot a lot of Shekhrus and monkeys. And guess what? We spotted both!! Shekhru, also known as the Indian Giant Squirrel or the Flying Squirrel, is the State animal of Maharashtra. It’s huge, with a tail that has a bright red flare – it’s elusive, but the tail makes it easier to spot it.
Spotting the Shekhru was like a childhood dream come true – I wanted to see the shekhru live ever since I was in the fourth grade – the first time I had seen one in my Geography textbook. And I finally spotted one (albeit 12 years later). And as mentioned earlier, animals go into hiding in the monsoons, spotting  monkeys was surprising – probably they were enjoying the beauty of the monsoon too!

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Look at his pose! Credits: Siddhi Pendse (A dear friend of mine, also an avid trekker – who went on the same trek two weeks after me -and managed to capture this monkey!)

After this, we went downwards, again crossed the river– towards Gupt Bhimashankar. This is where the original Shivlinga (One of the 12 Jyotirlingas across the country) is located – which is why devotees throng this place. And the waterfalls – just perfect! Milky white gushing waterfalls – falling atop the Shivlinga – the sight is purely marvellous! Visibility of the Shivlinga is low during the monsoon, owing to the gushing waterfall right above it – but we never the less managed to see it. Again, hotspot for filmi photo shoots – we had an elaborate photo session here – individual and group.

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Credits: Parag Uncle! 🙂 The waterfall over Gupt Bhimashankar!! ❤

While we were nearing Gupt Bhimshankar, we had encountered a huge log of a fallen tree that blocked the pathway. It had strategically fallen – either you had to climb over it, or go below it. Now I’m tall, so I easily climbed over it. But the girl right behind me – she was shorter, so she went the other way. And then we laughed over it, and got to talking. That’s where, I became friends with Meera –a bubbly, cheerful teenager. I love befriending people wherever I go. And it was Meera this time! (We later promised to keep in touch and now, I have a friend for life!) And Meera was my companion for the rest of the trek. 😀

We trudged, chattering along the way knowing that the trek was coming to an end. And so did it.

But the end of the trek was disheartening. The trek ended exactly behind the Bhimashankar Temple. And this place was full of refuse from the temple– plastic bags, pieces of cloth, flowers and other things. We had to literally walk through all this litter and unbearable stench– making us all wonder – is this true devotion? Why can’t people conserve, respect and adore nature as much as they worship God? The end of the trek was distasteful. I could see efforts made by the local governance – they had put up banners asking people not to dump waste, there were garbage bins placed. But no……merciless humans, managed to choke the serenity of a religious place too. This is not how we wanted our trek to end… 😦

Anyway, we got over it….

We made our way towards the temple, which is an architectural wonder.<3 There were sweet shops and corn shops lined up the temple stairs (climbing them up was a mini-trek in itself!). We made our respective purchases and finally reached the main gates – and headed for lunch. 🙂

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The Bhimashankar Temple

We had a sumptuous meal at a local dhaba – rice, dal, roti, ussal, shev bhaji (Local delicacies), – warm, tasty food to satiate our voracious hunger.

And after the trek leads had counted the number of people, we headed back to our bus – way home to Pune, back to the polluted, urban jungle – far away from nature’s placidity……

And of course, after a trek of 10 kilometers, burning 950 calories – we slept like babies on our way back home!! 🙂

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Another scenic view!! Credits: Parag Uncle! 🙂

Special thanks to Parag Uncle, Sharayu and Siddhi for lending me the photos! ❤

My First Ever ‘Proper’ Trek! – 1

First of all, apologies! I know it’s been quite a while since I’ve posted something. And quite some followers even asked me why I haven’t come up with a new post (it feels so good when you have such eager fans 😛 )…So yeah, as soon as I got some time off today, I decided to post this article ( which is something I was supposed to do almost two weeks back). Anyway, better late than never 😉

On 29th July 2018, something historic happened in my life – I went for a trek! And please note – it was my first, full-fledged trek!

Okay don’t start wondering why I’m so over-excited about this…(which you probably must be doing already!) Hold on….and read to know!

The craze for trekking in me probably arose because of the three times I climbed the tekdi behind my college with my college friends (yeah you guessed it right, we bunked lectures to go up there! 😉 ). So yeah, Hanuman Tekdi has to get it’s due credits in instilling in me this seed of trek-craze.

**A quick post-it for those who aren’t aware what Hanuman tekdi is – it’s hillock which is shared by the three of the most prestigious educational institutions in Pune – BMCC, Fergusson and Symbiosis. It’s a 45 minute climb, you can go up there have your lunch and then descend – all in 2 hours. And we’re quite proud of this Tekdi, because yeah, we get the privilege to escape without being caught loitering around in campus! 😉 😛

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The view from Hanuman Tekdi. Urban jungle vs Real jungle. The grey terrace which you can see is a tiny glimpse of my huge college. Credits: me, myself!

Getting back to what I wanted to tell you!

So the “historic” event in my life –
The Bhorgiri-Bhimashankar Jungle Trek!!

It was organised by an upcoming trek group in Pune – Via Ferrata Adventure Solutions. And as soon as we got to know about this trek, we immediately signed up for it.

Apart from this being my first ever “proper” trek (I will keep repeating this to amplify it’s importance 😛 ), this trek was special for a couple of other reasons too:

  • It was mom’s FIRST trek EVER. (note the drastic difference between First ever ‘proper’ trek and First ever trek). Quite a sporty lady – my mum, that is! 😀
  • Mom’s medical college classmates with their daughters were going to accompany us. And they are a fun lot – super cool doctors and even cooler girls!! 😀 😀

In the morning as mom put on her shoes, and her backpack – I couldn’t help but smile. And then,  she sheepishly grinned and  said – I feel like I’m a kid!! I grinned back, knowingly – it was a much-needed break for her. 🙂

So we were picked up from NH-50 (Pune-Nashik Highway) at around 6.30 am, which was after an unavoidable delay of half an hour – so imagine what we must have done waiting impatiently on the highway at 6 in the morning! Ranging from passing comments on a group of bikers to stopping a random bus, we did it all to kill that seemingly never-ending half an hour. No patience we have!

And then when the bus arrived, the people already in it had occupied the front seats, and even though there were 8 seats vacant enough for us, we girls opted for the last seat (yep, the jerky roller coaster one). And we don’t blame anyone for our unsuccessful attempts to catch up on some sleep. 😛

And as the bus cruised through, we just knew we were out of the city limits – because wherever we looked, there was greenery and extensive lakes – we didn’t even have to look out for any sign boards. For the rest of the journey, all we did was excitedly spot those far off waterfalls, gently falling through the mountains. No sight of the urban jungle, no smoke, nothing cramped – far away from the city, here we were – breathing pure, untouched air and experiencing what it feels like to just look aimlessly outside the window, without getting bored. Soothing to the eyes, to the mind and the body, too… ❤ ❤ ❤

We also stopped by in a village on the way and had breakfast – the entire group immediately split into two – missal and poha. And among them all,  I was the only one who didn’t drink tea (I hate tea), so yes, I was the butt of all jokes there! You aren’t a true Punekar – was one of the taunts (Man, that hurts!) 😦

So after this fun journey, we reached Bhorgiri – it’s around 10 kilometres away from Bhimashankar. We were to trek this entire distance and then get into our bus which would be waiting for us at Bhimashankar. Before we began the trek we all had our filmi photo sessions – with the wind blowing in our hair and all! After this, the experienced trek-leads gave us instructions and a few trek-perks: Chikki, an apple and Paperboat! Like eager kids we all took our share and put in our backpacks. 😀

And then….the trek began….!! 😀

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That’s the exact view from where the bus halted – the foothills of Bhorgiri! Credits: The one who’s better behind the camera!! 😛

To be continued……………………….. 😉

21!

 

People, a reason to cheer up – I’ve turned 21 today! I thought why not write a blog and post it to, you know, commemorate this special day, on which the weird me entered the even-weirder planet earth.
So this is basically the 18-year-old me writing a letter to the 21-year-old me. There will be lots of pleading, ordering, convincing, advises thrown in, prep talks, some funny stuff and drama. Buckle up, and prepare yourselves to listen to the rant of 18-year-old Jess!

 

Dear 21-year-old Jess….                                                                                 8th July 2018

Heartiest wishes – upon turning 21.
I know it’s tough out there for people like you. So yeah, Congratulations – for 21 years of successful existence. And though your journey until now has been a roller coaster ride(it’s like that for everyone, so don’t make a fuss out of it), I must say, you’ve done a good job. There were happy times, there were tragic moments, a dash of confusion and chaos, and mess (It’s you, so of course), and there have been times when you barely managed to scrape through – and after being through all this, you’ve landed here today.

And although you have seen the world three years more than I have, I would still love to bring to your notice a few things which you should keep intact and a few other things where you should let go. So here we go…

First of all, stop singing Taylor Swift’s 22. You’re 21 – have the patience to wait for another year rather than conveniently altering the lyrics to
“I don’t know ‘bout you,
I’m feeling 21….”
Doesn’t rhyme and sounds stupid. So stop right now.

You are different. So be that way. Do whatever it takes to keep your weird quotient intact. And you need to accept the fact that it’s perfectly alright to not like what everyone else likes, or does( they may not understand, but you needn’t care). Be #Dhaasu in your own way.

It’s okay if you prefer Fifty shades of Faber Castell Sketchpens over Fifty shades of Grey. It’s fine if you’re colourful – if you don’t follow norms. Remember why you chose Bohemian Blues as your blog name right? Because that is exactly who you are – a free bohemian soul, who finds joy in doing things which the world may find boring. “MAY”.

Stop being paranoid about crows, especially when you haven’t done anything to piss them off. Not every crow or wait, no crow flying past you is going to peck you. You have this stupid habit of ducking when you sense the presence of a crow near you. Grow up, please?
(This grow up was applicable only for this issue)

After a string of unsuccessful friendships, which taught you many lessons, you’ve finally managed to forge some friendships in your graduation years, who you know will stand by you for the rest of your life. Don’t let them go. Treasure these special people. I remember how, when you were me, how friendships terribly failed. It wasn’t your fault always, but it’s okay. You learnt your lessons and moved on.

Don’t give a dime to people who worry about your career more than you do. You maybe confused, and that’s perfectly normal. It’s okay not to know. It’s okay to take your time. Don’t succumb to any pressures and create a mess.

Don’t let anyone define “ beauty” for you. You’re beautiful only if you can see the beauty in others. Inner beauty. This is what you’ve been listening to when you were growing up, so make sure it sticks with you for the rest of your life.

Please learn to put on your swimming goggles properly. They have a catapult effect (which you must have realised the last time they hit your eye) and if you don’t want to go blind, for God’s sake put them on carefully.

Remember how I would always carry a novel with me everywhere I went? What happened now? Grew big enough to not feel alone even among a huge crowd? Start off with it again. It’s an order. There has to be a novel in your backpack or handbag everywhere you go.

Family. These are the ones you are going to treasure the most. Because at the end of it all, it’s going to be one of these shoulders you’ll be crying upon. They are your backbone, your cornerstone, your crutches when your legs stop moving ( Yep you got it right, Gone Gone Gone – Phillip Phillips). So hold them closest to your heart. Remember how they don’t sleep when you are upset and crying over another ruined friendship (as usual)? That’s what fam is. They’ll be with you when the rest turn their backs against you.

You laugh loudly. Many even bring it to your notice. But I won’t ask you to stop doing it. Because the way you laugh makes others laugh. Spreads cheer in this dull world. So, continue.

Also, you talk loudly. Only know when to keep your decibel low. Otherwise, talk as loudly as you want. Not everyone has that khanak in their voice which automatically makes people take heed of what you’re saying. You have it. Don’t let it go.

Relationships. They’ve become essential to validate existence and identity (sense the sarcasm) Thankfully, I don’t need to lecture you on this because you and I are on the same page with this. Live your life, free of any bondage. The right things will set in at the right time.

And yeah, don’t let anyone’s fashion sense influence yours. I know you won’t, but still, better to put it down,na? If you are comfortable in your jeans and plain tee, so be it. No one’s opinions as to how you dress should affect you.

And it’s okay if seeing the poor little kittens soaking in pouring rain breaks your heart. And if flowers blooming in your garden lights you up. For others, they may not be things to be sad or happy about, but they are for you. And that’s perfectly alright.

You seriously need to stop paying attention to petty issues. Learn to let go. It’s not going to help you, you’ll end up getting exhausted. So categorise what needs your attention and what doesn’t.

And yeah, you always had this dream of leaving a mark on this earth right? A mark which will make you immortal? While you’re still struggling to find out what it is that will help you do it, let me tell you – your blog has already done it. You have left your mark – before the age of 21.

And before that temper of yours flares up, let me take leave.

Happy Birthday, dear….And all the best for your journey ahead.

 

Love,
18-year-old Jess.

 

#TanClan

Born in a family of fair-complexioned women, I was always insecure of my dusky complexion as a kid. It never really bothered me, until one day, my friend in school pointed out the difference in mine and my sister’s complexions. Now I didn’t know it mattered so much and I couldn’t answer her back, so I just kept quiet. The song “Mai aisa kyu hu” kept ringing in my head till the end of school that day.

I went back home and narrated this to my “fair peeps”. And then they explained to me that it’s not the complexion of the skin, but that of your heart that really matters. That was enough for me. Because I knew I had a heart that would make even the Chaand feel shy! (Exaggerated :P). So I made peace with myself and accepted my dusky complexion and even sang the song “Hum kaale hai toh kya hua, dilwaale hai!” (I still do!). And then, the questions about me being dusky also died down.

Now. My complexion has come into focus again. Reason? I got back to swimming regularly.

I remember when I’d learnt swimming in the summer of 2nd grade, the tan had taken almost 9 months to fade away. And let’s accept it: no amount of sun screen can keep that tan at bay. Until then all the aunties would be like “ Kya hua…kaale pad gaye??” As kids, these questions don’t really bother you. But as you grow up and become more conscious, these questions are very annoying.

So last year, when I contemplated taking up swimming again, the question I asked Ma was:
Ma, What about that ziddi tan?
To which Ma replied,
What’s more important to you – Swimming or that stupid tan?
Of course, Swimming!! ❤

Now, whenever I come across any acquaintance at the grocery store or anywhere else, the first question flung at me will be,

“Arey beta, tu kaali pad gayi?!
And my eyes will involuntarily roll.
“Haan aunty, swimming jaati hu na…….”
“Arey beta kya zarurat hai itna karne ki………blah blah blah..
(A point at which I turn a deaf ear)

To be true, answering these aunties (and even girls) is a waste of time and energy. Paste a grin, add a few nods, hmms and haan’s and you’re sorted.

These incidents may seem common and funny, but they have certainly set me into thinking.
And I haven’t found answers.

I do not understand society’s obsession with fair skin.
I cannot understand how being born in a dark colour is anyone’s fault.
I cannot understand why girls can’t run under the blazing sun or dive deep into the pool because they love doing it and  it’s their passion.
I haven’t understood the logic behind those matrimonial ads that say :
“ Wanted: Fair-complexioned girl” ( for their son who’s probably a piece fallen off a coal mine)

And worst of all, I don’t understand why girls give in to these norms set by society for them. We bend and break under the pressures of this ruthless society, and they keep setting higher barriers.
I know girls who are consciously aware of the fact that they’ll die if suddenly pushed into a water body, but still refuse to learn swimming because of the tan.
I have seen girls who give up swimming within 2-3 days just because their complexion got darker.
Seriously? Your colour is more precious than your life? And please don’t even utter the words
‘Mere papa / mera bhai bachayenge mujhe mai doobi toh’.  
I’m not saying swim every day, but at least learn it as a life-skill.

How and why should it matter to anyone? If you’re scared that you won’t find anyone to get married, you need to get that thought off your head. True love sees the complexion of the heart, not that of your skin.

You should do what you feel like. Do what liberates you. Do everything that makes you feel more confident by the day. And yes,
Flaunt your tan proudly.
Be proud of dusky.
Be proud of dark.

Be proud to be a part of #TanClan.

 

Mamma…..

My maternal grandmother, “Mamma” as we fondly addressed her, was one fiery, strong woman. She was an independent woman, and though feminism wasn’t much talked about in those days, I now know she was one. She held her head high in the toughest situations life put her into. I remember how she took charge of Grandpa’s garage when he met with an accident that left him immobilized for a long time. I never really looked out for any role models beyond my home, because I always had two feisty women – Mamma, and the daughter she brought up, my mother  – to look up to. My sister and me, we were always treated at par with boys…and both of them made sure we learnt everything that was in our reach!
Mamma had been an integral part of my childhood…and was the coolest granny one could ever have!

It’s 31st May today. My granny was born on this day. It’s her 75th Birth Anniversary and if she were here with us, we’d indeed make this day memorable. I wanted to make this day special even otherwise, which is why I wrote this letter…

 

 

Mamma…

It’s been three years since you left us. We carried on with our lives (exactly the way you would have wanted us to), but let me confess – Your loss has created this void in our lives and still, even after three years, it’s hard to believe that you’re not here, with us. And in every little thing that I do, all I miss you a lot and wish you were here with me….

I just wanted you to know that…..

I wish you were here to see how I carefully pick out vegetables – following the exact tips that you gave me:
Tomatoes – Firm, red and not spotted, Potatoes – Never pick the ones that are slightly greenish, Onions – press the head and don’t pick it if it’s soft….and so many others…I will never forget.

I miss those “Information exchange” evening walks the both of us had. You’d tell me the medicinal usage of every plant and tree that we passed by. Till today, I remember that the tree around the corner on the opposite road is used to treat kidney stones and the one five buildings away cures arthritis…In return, the naive me, would keep chattering about all the stuff that would happen in school or college – telling you about all my friends who had boyfriends or girlfriends in class. Each time you’d listen patiently (even when it was a repeat telecast) and then in the end, mischievously grin and say ,” When you have a boyfriend, tell me first, okay?”
….Of course, you would be the first person to know….

I wish you were here to see me put up the Christmas Star (and the lightings also) confidently, all by myself. And also to watch the fun when the other boys in the society fumbled with the wires and bulbs! If only, like me, you would be the one who taught them how to do it… When I do it effortlessly, I realise how well you had taught me to do it.

I wish you were here to see the perfectly round, soft chapatis that I roll up now. Unlike the khaakras and maps of countries that I’d make when you were around, I’ve finally mastered the art of making them – exactly like you taught me to do – Yes mamma, I roll the folded triangles into perfect circles…
If only you’d be here to relish them…

I miss that chilled passenger in the back seat of the car when I was learning to drive. Yeah no matter how much I messed up with the gears and forgot to press down the clutch while changing gears, it was always pacifying to watch you smiling from the backseat. That proud look you’d give every passer-by that said – “Look, my third generation is driving!!”
And when I got that panic attack of not wanting to take up driving again, those words of yours still ring in my ears… ”I learnt to drive in those days, back in the 1960’s. Your mom did too. It runs in your blood, girl – now get back in there and start driving!” ( And man, did I dare not do it!!)

I miss you whenever I put on my socks the wrong way ( yeah I still do it sometimes). I remember how when in 4th standard, we rejoiced when I finally learnt to put on socks the right way! Until then, you would always be the one to put them on for me…

I miss that lip-smacking pudding you’d prepare –and even though mom follows the exact same recipe, it never tastes the same….

I wish I’d learnt to climb trees when you were coaxing me to. I never paid heed after a few failed attempts and now when the mangoes at the top of tree go beyond the reach of my stick, I always regret not listening to you…

I miss you when the White Lilies bloom…your favourite colour and favourite flower…I still can recollect how they didn’t bloom for three years despite the tending you gave them and I also remember the mini-party we had when four stalks budded and bloomed at a time! And yes, don’t worry, Mamma, your garden is being taken care of!

I miss those Work-days we had…when I was your assistant! “Go get the spanner! Bring the box of screws! Find a bolt matching this screw….Hammer this nail into the wall…” If today, I’m well versed with the names and uses of every tool, it’s only because of you…

I miss that lullaby you’d sing to me, whenever I was upset and put my head onto your lap…You knew I’d grown big enough for you to sing me that lullaby…But you also knew it was that very lullaby that would calm me down put me to sleep..

I miss how you’d keep all sorts of names for the hard-board boxes, wrappers, coloured papers that I’d save back for my art work…and how you’d  stop anyone who wanted to throw away my box of “crap” saying, “It’ll break her heart. Keep it back”

I wish you were here today….to see that I have my own blog. You were always a fan of any little thing I wrote – be it that essay on ‘My Summer Vacation’ or that childish poem on ‘Baarish’. 354 people follow my blog, Mamma…I wish I could see your proud face…

I miss you a lot. And I know you were already aware how much I’d miss you in your absence, which is why you had prepared me in so many ways – some which I cannot even imagine…And yes, I’m not troubling Ma too much…and I am following all the instructions you’d given me and will always do…

I also want to say something I never said to you while you were with us…A heartfelt Thank you. Inspite of everything, you made our childhood worth remembering….you were and will always be my Superwoman. ❤

 

Lots and lots of love,
Your grand-daughter.

JACK!! <3

 

My affair with Jack goes a long way back….. Whenever the news of my arrival would reach my native place, Jack would be all ready…eager to meet someone who loved him truly…. I vividly remember the 3 ½ year old me checking him out 😀 !! The moment I reached my ancestral home in Konkan, I’d run to the backyard…only to see him sitting atop a huge pile of logs of wood…the mere sight of him would make me drooool!!! 😛

So let’s meet my love… Jack…  🙂

 

 

 

Gotcha people!!  ;D

My fondness for Jack is something known to my entire village now! My people there would keep 6-7 jack fruits ready upon the pile of wood a day prior to my arrival for a week-long stay! And when I reached home, I’d shoot towards the backyard just to see if my unsaid demands have been met! 😀

Then the customary ‘Tichki’ ceremony would take place. In the presence of all the elders of my home, I would give 3-4 tichkis to each jackfruit (that’s how you find out if its ripe enough for consumption – it was taught to me by my great- grandma when I was a kid) and confidently declare,

“Hyo pikla…aaz kaapuyat” (This one’s ripe..we’ll cut it today)

With an approving nod, the chosen jack would be taken away from there. And all the people witnessing this actually knew which ones were ripe. They would just see if I would find the right one…and glee… I always did!!

I’d hear them say, “Your kid is smart” (I know, I know!! :P)

I have a record of eating an entire jackfruit in one sitting. And yes – no tummy ache or anything after that 😛 ! (Touchwood!!!). Imagine the look on my family’s faces (both immediate and extended) when they discovered that the entire jackfruit had been devoured by me – a 4 year old kid! A feat na? I should have had the sense to check out with the Guinness World Records people…even Limca Records would do! 😛

Reactions varied from…
“How did she…….an entire one??!!!!”
“Here have some coconut oil…you won’t get any tummy trouble!”
“I hope you didn’t drink water over it!!” ( A rule to be strictly followed, by the way – else you’ll end up shrieking at the Doctor’s with a terrible stomach ache! – Never happened to me though :P..Touchwood…again!!)

And my reply was simple..
“I don’t want anything…nothing happens to me!” 🙂

And I guess that’s the day when Jack fell in love with Jessica. (Why won’t he? I stood up for him against the masses…and cleared false allegations levelled against him……my poor little tough guy…!!)

Even today, whether I visit my native or not, my summers are incomplete without my Jackfruit quota. And whenever I go to the local bazaar to buy one for my family,…( I have to share here..its not free na 😛 ) the ‘tichki’ ritual is still intact as it was years ago!
This is the normal conversation:

Me : Bhaiyya, this is Kaapa…I want Rasaal..see its over there
Bhaiyya : How do you know? Are you from Konkan?
Me: ( With a broad grin lighting up my face) Yes…I am!
Now a little enlightenment here.
Quite a lot of people don’t know that Jack is broadly classified into two – Rasaal and Kaapa.

Rasaal – It’s smaller in size and each “gar” (the fleshy part inside) is very sweet and jiggly. It has to be consumed the day it is cut open. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but I love it! Even among Jack lovers, Rasaal fans specifically are typically hard to find.

Kaapa – The one’s which are not small 😛 The bigger and comparatively harder gars. They can be consumed over a period of 2-3 days. Preferred among jackfruit lovers. I won’t say I don’t like it – but I’d prefer rasaal over kaapa any day.

 

The sad part of our romance is that I get to see him only during these summer months..It’s tough..but I put up a strong front during the rest of the year…..I eat jackfruit chips…or something else that contains jackfruit….

A lot of people have so many complaints against Jack…
“Urghhh…he’s so smelly…can’t bear his smell!!”
“How can you even stand his sight…he looks weird!”
“I hate him…he made my tummy ache like hell….”

Well to all those people, nothing comes in between my love for Jack…After all, true love is accepting each other with flaws and all…

I’d still like to make my point here:
Jack has no flaws…it’s the people who are crazy…..Jack is the BESSTTTTT!!! 😀 😛