June 29, 2008

Khandagiri trip - 1

A few days ago, Amanda suggested a cycling trip to Khandagiri. If Satchita, Amanda and I had three bicycles to make this trip together, it would have rocked. Anyway, I'm happy I did this...Market Building was getting a little monotonous.

"Idyllic" is how one could describe the weather. By the time we were past Pokhariput, we decided to sing...and we found Ramani ratana most appropriate. But I only kept it up till Gandamunda Chhak; it is difficult to hold a tune and bicycle.

Amanda attracted quite a bit of attention, especially in Jagamara. The fact that she was on a gents cycle didn't help much. Some people passed audible comments, my favourite being - Look at the whitey and negro on bicycles! We were at Khandagiri Chhak in 25 minutes. We crossed the national highway and cycled on. A comical wrong turn brought us to the western boundary of the Khandagiri complex, where I amiably cycled down a slope for 1 km...don't even ask what it was like on the way back.

Amanda had to pay a hefty entrance fee, but she did not give in without a struggle...she insisted she was Oriya. The place wasn't too dirty...I guess that is because it isn't an extremely popular destination...Konark and Puri seem to overshadow practically everything here.

The cave in the picture is Ranigumpha in the Udayagiri complex. It was raining heavily when we finally made it to Hathigumpha. We rested for a while, then outfitted ourselves suitably. Amanda photographed my bangs and I tucked in my kurta the way my sister used to do ghagra-cholis as a kid.

Love was evidently in the air - there were couples in cute poses all over...while some went the whole hog and "anka palanke shayan" ed their spouses, others looked like endorsements for Fevicol.

Anyway, monsoon fury prevented us from venturing any further. We also spent time standing on a rock and locating Lingaraj Temple and Dhauli from a distance. We walked down and reached the entrance of Khandagiri. After some deliberation, we decided to go in. When we reached the first level, near Tentuligumpha, there was an exodus of people from the temple above. We reached the temple eventually and went around, trying to read descriptions in Oriya. There was an awkward moment when I unbuttoned my raincoat and the men huddled at the entrance of the temple stared at my bohemian kurta tuck.

To be continued...

June 27, 2008

Dinning and dining

A grand dinner is being planned for tonight. Let's see how it turns out. Meanwhile, I've progressed to rava dosa and paneer sabji.

June 23, 2008

Pav Bhaji tales

I've been trying out the pav bhaji at various places around town.

The one at Food Junction in Bapuji Nagar is full of chhole masala and garam masala. And it is served with SWEET pav. The most distinctive feature of pav bhaji is its aroma. But this one smells like standard fare from a bad cook who thinks pav bhaji is from Punjab because both start with "P". When I talked to the staff about it, they said - try it again and you'll know the difference. Sorry guys, Rs. 40 means 4 days of good gupchup.

Last Saturday, I cycled towards Ram Mandir on an impulse. I had already had my share of gupchup for the day and was looking for a light dinner. I landed up at the New Marrion chat counter, outside Cafe Coffee Day. If Food Junction was a poor cousin of the real thing, this one was an outright alien. Tiny bits of capsicum, carrot, potato and a few stray green peas floating in curry - that's pav bhaji for you. And all this, with undercooked BUNS sliced in two...what a pity.

I remember the pav bhaji at Forum Mall in 2006 - at least it looked like pav bhaji. Maybe I should just haul that cycle down there and check it out again...

Vicious cycle

So I decided to go lose my cycle keys...

It's a long story, but its main elements are

1. Overhaul of my luggage
2. Prayers to my patron saint...and a host of other patron saints.
3. Cycling in the sun to Lingaraj Temple and back and back again.
4. Dealing with tantrum-throwing rickshaw drivers who are worried about the adverse effects of my dusty tyre on their nua-ly painted autos...with good reason!
4. Waiting around and admiring this uncanny ability that all Oriya mechanics possess - one that lets them do all the dilly-dallying of the world like it's their birthright.

One thing I've learnt - never lose your cycle keys. And now I have a headache...time to head home.

June 16, 2008

Bhubaneswar diary

I love cycling around Bhubaneswar. It feels so liberating. Nowadays, I feel uncomfortable when I have to take an auto somewhere. With my bicycle, I am the queen of the roads.

It's been raining all day. And quite heavily at that. I had been planning a trip to Bhubaneswar station for a while. Since I couldn't put off cancelling that ticket for the 18th anymore, I bicycled there today - autorickshaws take away all the fun. I had to pull my pants all the way above my knee. Only one side was partially protected by the raincoat. I've prayed to all the Gods I know - I shouldn't end up with a cold.

Gupchup is going strong - the rains do not deter my hardy stomach. Only malpuas do. Even the sight of them makes me want to puke. The gupchup vendor near Market Building now recognises me. They cleared out all the hawkers from the interior and opened the road to two-wheelers. I miss my "Bhubaneswar Gupchup". Narula's Kulfi has diversified to include Badam Milkshake on the menu.

I watched Sarkar Raj with Sujata Apa and Amanda a few days ago. It was an interesting film and it was interesting to observe the theatre. The electricity was cut during the movie and while they switched to an inverter, people kept yelling their heads off and booing the theatre management. There was claps and whistles from the stalls when Abhishek held Aishwarya's hand, but that happens at Alfred too. What was most intriguing was the way the lights went out...almost funny.

I had a very bad experience at an ATM that very day. It has again reminded me there are some idiots in this world. And I am not one of them. How narcissistic!

I'm happy I went today - I got one of the last tickets for that date. Since its just a few days after Rath Yatra, there are probably a lot of people going back. I hope it doesn't turn out to be a very bad idea though...I have a middle berth...that's shitty...but it's at least a berth. Poor Amanda travelled SITTING...sharing the ticket collector's seat with others. She says there was stuff even in the loos...I hope it's not that bad when I go.

I've been cooking! My first attempt was upma - a fortnight ago. That very night, I made some biryani. I must have asked a hundred people how to cook rice. I added some paneer and carrots. And biryani masala. And it turned out perfect. Satchita came that night. I went to Sangita Apa's house with a small sample. Though I landed up at 10 pm without any notice, they were quite nice to me. She tasted the biryani and approved of my culinary expertise.

The next day, I went bonkers. Sabudana khichdi. A jinxed dish that our family has been unable to perfect over decades. Since Sangita Apa had returned my tiffin with peanuts in them, I roasted them and Satchita crushed them. I soaked the sabudana, cut potatoes and chillies...my fingers burned for the rest of the day. I used a really tiny kadhai and burnt it a bit, made it slightly soggy, but I think the effort was commendable.

Now I feel like I can give any five-star chef a run for his money, but psst psst, whenever I make khichdi Sangita Apa has to measure the stuff...so you know where I stand...

I love the view from the terrace. My favourite occupation is - standing on the terrace and staring out into the vast open field that borders Ekamra College and faces our house.

Too much khichdi. Time for a menu change. The downside is we have no gas.

Time to go. This cafe's closing. To "Benasin". For dinner. Am tired of bread and cornflakes.

Gupchup competition

Sangeet challenged me to a gupchup competition. Well, actually it was the other way round. He was talking about he had those with his friends, and I told him how he would lose with his nose in the mud if he tried competing with me.

So off we went last Monday. We walked to Deula Sahi but there was no one because of the rain. So we went back to get the scooter and then went elsewhere. Once we started, I ate twenty gupchups comfortably. After 30, we took a small break. At 40, I started draining the water out.

When we reached 50, the vendor asked us if we really wanted to eat any more. He cautioned us against the ill-effects of gupchup. At 57, I had to throw the towel in...all that water made me feel pregnant. I paid the bill, since Sangeet ate 58 to defeat me. But that's a narrow margin...someday the world gupchup record shall be mine...

June 09, 2008


57 gupchups today...my best ever. But I still lost to DJ Geet. He didn't have dinner though...I did :P

June 04, 2008

Ants and dogs

Our new house in BDA colony is a palace compared to the Old Town hovel. Thanks Sangita Apa, for helping us find it. Life's getting better.

However, I have reconciled myself to the fact that nothing can be perfect. And don't even go near picture perfect. My new house is a magnet for red ants. My first morning here, I awoke to find my beloved coconut oil bottle surrounded by ants. I went to Cuttack on Sunday and returned the next day. Only to find all the provisions swarming with ants. In the evening, there were scores of moths around the lights. I went out and came back to a bunch of them lying dead on the kitchen floor, being eaten by...none other than...the ants!

I spent the rest of the evening bathing the house in lindane powder and Laxman Rekha.I cleared all the ants from around the food. But they were back soon.

Yesterday, Sangita Apa got me breakfast. How the ants managed to smell the chapatis and enter a SEALED tiffin is beyond my imagination...they beat my gupchup radar.

Then comes the dog. Shera, my downstairs neighbour, hates me for some inconceivable reason. He believes that his divine calling lies in leaping at me and mauling me to death as soon as he sees me. Which means that every trip past his house has to be made with extreme caution, after confirming that he is tethered to something as strong as an iron pole.

Have to go cook dinner...the next edition of insectopedia will be here soon.