Sunday, October 31, 2010


The perfect momo is utter bliss. A thin, transluscent wrapper artfully pleated around a scant teaspoon of minced beef*, onion and broth. Nip a little hole into one, suck out the broth, eat the momo, smile appreciatively at the cook. Sadly, this perfect momo is a little hard to come by. Most of the streetside stalls sell indianized versions without the broth and with garam masala. horrors.

But no worries. The line of restaurants near parade ground sell exquisite momos and thukpa. They also do chowmein, but I never liked that. These restaurants are in the Tibetan Bazaar, and across parade ground from the Gandhi park. 25 Rs for a plate, and I would encourage you to go ahead and have a second plate just to have the proprietor beam at you. there are four or five of these little eateries, and I have always gone to the pink one. Largely because it is pink (is that not enough of a reason?) and now also because I know and like the people who work there. And it is good to go there in the morning, around 10:30-11:00. Firstly, you can watch them make the momos, and secondly, the broth is exceptionally flavourful then- I think they just keep topping it up with water as the day goes by. And I wouldn't take my mum there- because of the meat and the non-pristine nature of the buildings.

And then there's Lhasa. Should you ever get tired of plain momos, Lhasa has a variety of them..cheese, veg, chicken. And little itty bitty momos in soup. And thukpa. And a whole other world of amazing food cooked like your little old Tibetan grandmother would if you had one. It's in Rajpur, on the main road, just a few paces from the Vikram stop, and on your left as you walk uphill. The only problem is that they tend to stay closed for festivals, renovation, cleaning, or just because. Do call before you start off  and go ahead, take mum along.

* When I say beef, I mean buffalo (or Buff, as it is called here , which always creates interesting images in my mind) . This IS the Devbhoomi, after all.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Twenty-five months..

That's how long I've been here. I know my way around this place now- I have my favourite little nooks, my escapes. I know where to go for cheap coffee beans (Satyapal, Paltan Bazaar), for good coffee beans (Kumar's, Rajpur road), for a bit of flirting (my sabziwallah), for being treated with gallant courtesy (Inamullah building, Tehsil Chowk).

It took me a while to do all this. When I came here, I tried to look for replacements to the things I loved in beloved Dorabjee's, the bounteous Shivaji market, the little Parsi eateries tucked away behind Moledina road, vadapav for Rs.4, Westside, Manney's book store, bananas and coffee from Kerala, the British Council Library, Mocha. That search ended in disappointment, of course. Dehradun did not offer me any of these things. They are still irreplaceable, longed for, and add zest to my annual trips to Pune.

But there are other things in Dehradun. Parsi cuisine is unheard of, but Tibetan foods are at every corner. Dorabjees isn't here, but Kumar's is. Street food leaves a lot to be desired, but the mountains are full of berries.

And it only struck me today that I need to share this. For visitors, for me, and for other people who will move to Dehradun dragging a trunk with them. Being me, I will start off with the restaurants I love here. In some cases, 'restaurant' might be stretching it a wee bit, but I am not awarding stars here. In all cases, the food will be good, the place will be safe. My classification system will not enable the ranking of places to eat, but will maintain harmony in the home. How, you ask? For the purpose of this blog, all places are classified as 'can take one's mother there' and 'hide from mother'.

Off I go now, to eat my way through Dehradun and post about it over the next few weeks. Tough job.

The photo? Dehradun railway station.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

It's that time of the year again..

when I can be upto my elbows in booze at 7am of a weekday and feel good about it.
We're having this cake instead of a pudding this year..using the pudding bowl is mandatory though. Have you started Christmas baking?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Meeting an old friend

When I first came to Dun, I was excited by the idea of living close to the mountains. And so early on-when I didnt even know how the city buses function- I armed myself with a sketch given to me by the Amazing M, and walked up to Mussoorie. And then I did it again. And again. And then I stopped. The summers were too hot, the monsoons were too wet, the winters were too cold.

When I finally decided to go there last weekend, I surprised myself by developing butterflies in my stomach. And the silliest worries too..what if I don't get the bus? what if I miss the stop? Should I take a Vikram instead? I couldn't understand it then. Sunday morning, only my stubbornness made me get out of bed and lace up my boots.

I am so glad I did.

I was cosseted by my guardian angel all the way. Yes, when I asked for a ticket to Rajpur, I was curtly told to catch the city bus. And my shrinking-violet mood didnt let me explain that I actually wanted to get off at the Moravian school and so needed the inter-city bus. But no matter. The city bus I caught miraculously turned out to be one of the few that do take the circuitous route past the school. And working on the hypothesis that taking care of someone else helps take one's mind off one' own worries, I was sent Red to accompany me- all the way to Jharipani and back.
She looks like an interpid explorer here, but she was actually a pretty urban dog. On the trail, she walked ahead for a few metres, but once we left the paved path, she made sure I went on ahead to flush out any dangerous bulbuls that might lurk there. It was good to have her around, and comfort her when she was terrified by falling leaves and other such perils.

I was thinking of my earlier trepidation and realized that it is the same feeling that has caused me to lose touch with so many friends. The 'it has been so long, can we pick it up again' feeling. But as would have happened with the trail, I end up the poorer for listening to it. The trail is amazingly beautiful and stunningly welcoming. I should not deny myself that, no?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

a day's work

If I've learnt anything by now, its that the multiverse does not allow me to stay despondent for long.
The day I wrote about the mahseer and how I felt incompetent at work, I experienced little victories in two other challenges I am working at.
Firstly, my little girl and I had a breakthrough. After realising that she still did not know the meaning of 'up' and 'down', I had written down a set of basic words she ought to know and asked her to both translate them and make up sentences using those words. That was an absolute hit with both of us. After that, she wrote a small note on her playtime that day. She enjoyed the opportunity to write whatever she liked, and I understood finally how to explain concepts. With trying to craft sentences by herself, she understood the idea of splitting verbs, and transposing the subject, and other such things. The sentence structures are still pretty random, but now we have the key. She was so happy that evening, she danced around me all the way home,'You are happy with today's work, na?I made you happy na?'

At the risk of sounding condescending, I told her 'you always make me happy.' And I did mean it..she is a wonderful child who teaches me a lot more than I do her- and gives me gifts besides. Like Ssarp in the photograph above. She made him at Latika Vihar and gifted him to me.He is actually a Very Ferocious Guardian. The pie-eyed look is just a disguise.

And that wasn't the end of the day either. I had started off a bread that morning- a recipe I have been trying repeatedly but never quite 'getting'. And that night, I did. The bread sang to me throughout its making, and finally all the things I had read about made sense- how the the tension in the loaf is evident while scoring, how it peaks during the final rise, how the crust audibly crackles as it cools. And so that night after I sent my crust-and-crumb photos to Mian, it was my turn to clap my hands and dance around the computer. 'You are happy with today's work, na?I made you happy, na teacher?'

Monday, October 11, 2010

Am depressed

Back home, my sister thinks I am fighting the good fight and saving rivers. In reality, am utterly ineffectual.

I am at work right now, and my colleague has asked me for help designing a dam. It is small, but on the main drain of a catchment area. Worse, the amount of water stored does not justify the damming of a river. Even worser, the dam is most likely on a Mahseer run where hundreds of fish swim upstream to lay their eggs. Next year, they will find their way blocked by concrete. Unable to comprehend the futility of their desires, they will continue to batter against an unyielding obstacle until finally, they die.

I ask my colleague, 'do you know that there is a very strong probability that the stream is a fish run? Where Mahseer come to lay eggs? That you are blocking their access? That they will DIE?'
He stares at me uncomprehendingly.
I try another tack, 'It is doubtful that the dam will justify its cost'
'The villagers asked for it', he says, irritated at the turn the conversation has taken.
'so what?' I persist 'did they hold a gun to your head that you cannot refuse?'
He laughs at the crazy woman.

When in Himachal, I did that..I negotiated my way out of just such a dam. But now I am powerless and sad. There's more. At one level, there is my 1.5m high Mahseer-killer. At another level altogether, there's this. Jairam's professional ethics are being labelled his 'whims'.

I want a blanky to hide under.

Monday, October 4, 2010


I had posted earlier about how my mum is good at making friends wherever she is. And she had given me a tip - to offer food, which also means offering time, space, security, and companionship.
And so every morning, I keep food out for the birdies that visit our terrace. Watching them is pleasurable and their antics a great source of merriment. Mian and I had begun to identify some regulars- the babbler that sat in the bowl and refused to share, the aggressive bulbul that even the mynahs were scared of. The time a squirrel came to the birdfeed was the highlight of the week for us.
And then one day, he came to me bursting with suppressed excitement. 'You've got to see this'. I went obediently, expecting to see another squirrel.

Not quite.

I don't really have the heart to shoo monkeys away. Poor things, they get chased away from everywhere, denied access to everything, and then labeled as criminals. But at the same time, I am a wee bit scared of them. So I stopped putting cooked food out.

And now they've started bringing their own packed lunches.

Friday, October 1, 2010

of gods, people, and a crowded planet.

सुना हैं, कुछ सज्जनोंने ढून्ढ निकला भगवान का जन्मस्थान
एक तोड़े हुए कुब्बे के ठीक नीचे
मुझे किस फैसले तले दफ्नाओगे?
कहाँ तै की हैं इंसान के मौत की जगह

I have heard that some good people
have determined the birthplace of God.
Right below a destroyed dome.

What decision will you bury me underneath?
Where have you determined
a place for a human to die


I had decided not to write about the Babri Masjid verdict, finding my words inadequate.
Thank you, Nadi.