/Day 06 – the dragon

Day 06 - the dragonअजीब सी है ज़िद,
जितना समझाओ उतना वो है टालती,
हर बार जैसे वो है याद दिलाती,
अपने मन के हम ही हैं सारथि।

(Kids own their mind, their decisions and they show these in every revolt or refusal, or power play. i think somewhere we forget that during our life and give in to demands of pleasing everyone – even though we know that it is impossible to make everyone happy. Dragon is the year our daughter was born in, a symbol of strong-headed)

/Day 05 – muddy puddle

Day 05 - muddy puddle

ना डर गीले होने का,
ना मैले कपड़ों की कोई चिंता,
क्या दिन थे वो,
जब ख्वाबों को था ना कोई गिनता।

na darr geele hone ka,
na maile kapdon ki koi chinta,
kya din the wo,
jab khawabon ko tha na koi ginta.

(do not count what we have or not have in life, that’s what spoils the fun … look at a child, do they think of consequences before jumping in muddy puddle?)

/Day 04 – sichuan style gung pao shrimps

Day 04 - gung pao shrimpsएक यहाँ, दूसरा वहां,
साथ छूठ जाते हैं कुछ निशाँ,
याद है वो महक, और वो एहसास,
कहीं वो बातें, और वो सामान।

Ek yahan, doosra wahan,
Saath chhooth jaate hain kuch nishaan,
Yaad hai wo mehek, aur wo ehsaas,
Kahin wo baatein, aur wo saamaan.

(there are certain experiences, spices, places, sights, people that remind us of a certain place and time. it is to relive that moment. sometimes as simple as cooking Gung pao shrimps with proper spices and recipe from china, where we have spent 4-5 years)

/Day 03 – shivani’s toy

Day 03 - shivani's toy

कितना कुछ है सीखना,
अभी तो बस है शुरुवात,
बस चलना हि है आया अब तक,
सपनों को समझाने की है बात।

‘kitna kuch hai seekhna,
abhi toh bus hai shuruwaat,
bas chalna hi hai aaya ab tak,
sapno ko samjhaane ki hai baat’

(I see in my daughter a constant effort to learn new things, be it words, expressions or actions.  The sentences are broken now but it is a race to find, explain and achieve the dreams someday.)

/Day 02 – in the sky

अथाह शांति है यहाँ,  और नीचे है सारी उलझन,  मन चाहता है स्थिरता,  पर इन्हीं उलझनों में है जीवन।  'Athah shanti hai yahan, Aur neeche hai saari uljhan, Mann chahta hai sthirta, Par inhi uljhanon main hai jeevan' #Hindi #poem #mythoughtsinpics — at in the clouds (in between amsterdam and bristol).

अथाह शांति है यहाँ,
और नीचे है सारी उलझन,
मन चाहता है स्थिरता,
पर इन्हीं उलझनों में है जीवन।

‘Athah shanti hai yahan,
Aur neeche hai saari uljhan,
Mann chahta hai sthirta,
Par inhi uljhanon main hai jeevan’
#Hindi #poem #mythoughtsinpics — somewhere in between amsterdam and bristol.

/Day01 – in Amsterdam

Baarish ki boondein hain wahi, Par aasmaan woh nahin, Dhara bhi hai hari-bhari, Par saundhi-saundhi khushbu mili nahin.

बारिश की बूँदें हैं वही,
पर आसमान वो नहीं,
धरा भी है हरी-भरी,
पर सौंधी-सौंधी खुशबु मिली नहीं।

‘Baarish ki boondein hain wahi,
Par aasmaan woh nahin,
Dhara bhi hai hari-bhari,
Par saundhi-saundhi khushbu mili nahin.’

(heavy rains in the middle of summer, watching the drops falling on office windows and reminiscing the days in Ambernath and Panvel – the sweet smell of summer burnt thirsty soil with the first drops of rain.)

/Spicexperiment #2 :: Mutton Paya (Trotters) soup

/An experiment that has been in to-do list for a long time, mostly for the reason of recreating the taste from my childhood memory. The taste of paya soup from a road-side eatery nearby my home still lingers on my mind. I did search for recipe on internet but all it returns is recipe for Kerala (south Indian) style soup. South Indian mutton soup uses coconut for taste but North Indian soup is all strong on spice. So, i got on the experiment lab and did create a good mix in the first attempt (atleast that i and my wife think 🙂 ).

here is the recipe for 4 servings,

Ingredients :

500 gms of Goat feet (yes, Feet/Trotters!  do not buy legs or thigh, you will specifically need trotters)
100 gms of Goat shank
3 tbsp olive oil
1 big onion (fine chopped)
3 big tomatoes (small pieces)
3 small green chillies (fine chopped)
4 garlic lobes (fine chopped)
1 inch long ginger (fine chopped)
1 tea spoon Jeera
1 tea spoon Coriander seeds
2 tea spoons Coriander powder
1 big bay leaf
5 Cloves
5 Cardamoms
1/2 tea spoon turmeric
1/4 tea spoon Garam masala
salt as per taste
red chilli powder as per taste
fresh grind black pepper as per taste

Experiment steps :

1.  First things first, use a vessel big enough to take 2.5 litres of water.  Now, heat oil in this vessel.  Add Jeera, Cardamom, Bay leaf and Cloves and wait till it splutters.  Then add fine chopped onions and fry till it becomes soft and translucent.  Add tomatoes and cook till tomatoes turn into sauce.

2.  Add the Trotters and shank pieces to this mix.  Add salt, turmeric, black pepper, Coriander powder and Garam masala.  Let it cook for another 10 mins.

3.  Add about 2 litres of water to the mix.  After it gets the first boil, reduce the heat to minimum and cook for another 4 hours (it takes that long for the bones to leave the taste in mix) with vessel covered.  Make sure that half of the original quantity of water is left by the end of 4 hours.  You may also increase the heat in the end for water to dry off.

4.  Keep a good balance of salt and spices in the soup and add a few drops of lemon juice in each bowl. The end result has to be this amazingly spicy soup that is heavy in calories and nutrients.  Serve with white bread.  I love to eat the bread soaked in the soup, but that’s just me 🙂 .

/A trip to the land of mystic Incas – Peru

/Started our trip with the wrong impression that Incas were ruling Peru for the longest period and the most powerful of all rulers, but this trip became the best Peruvian history class for us. The best because we could learn the history while looking at the ruins and museums. And by the way, Incas did rule the whole of Peru but just for about 100 years, the pre-Inca tribes were the ones that actually brought a lot of innovation and cultural beliefs to this land. Incas just added on top of it. There isn´t much available online but you can read the pre-inca peruvian history here.  Do search for more information about Pukaras, Tiahuanacos, Kollas, Nazcas if you are planning to head for Peru.  I wouldn’t recommend much about spanish colonial history as the only thing they did to Peru is destroy the mystic Inca and pre-Inca culture and massacred Inca empire.  But do read about churches in Lima as Peru was the central point for spread of Christianity in South America.

By the way, if you do not want to book a guided tour for Machu-picchu, before you travel, do book your entrance tickets here.  They have a limit of ~2800 people on any given day and you do not want to miss it after traveling for thousands of miles!

So here are a few recommendations based on our experience :

Day 1 : arrival at Lima, and i felt like landing in Delhi! overnight stay as our flight to Cuzco was scheduled the next day morning

we stayed at Machu-Picchu suites as it is closer to airport and has good enough accommodation.  For a longer stay than 1 night, see the hotel that we took on the last day of our trip.

Day 2, 3, 4 : fly to Cuzco and the altitude-sickness hits you like you just hit your head to the wall 

We had the warnings and alerts from Lonely Planet and friends regarding altitude-sickness (mainly caused due to less oxygen and high pressure) and use of sunscreen in order to block straight and strong sun rays above 2000 meters.  I was too anxious about the experience but ultimately it was just the matter of taking it slow for first 2 days and no exertion.  The other thing that helps is Coca leaves tea.  Even if you do not like the taste of it, do drink it.  We had the medicine for altitude sickness but didn’t help, instead Coca leaves are the best.  Addition and a warning from my wife, If you plan to shop a sweater or decent stylish poncho then Cuzco is your place, not Lima.  Bargaining goes sometimes to 1/2 or 1/3 the price and do check if you are getting real Alpaca wool if you are buying one.  By the way, don’t feel sad if they say it is Alpaca baby wool as it is most probably not from a baby but just the first wool of grown up Alpaca.

Stay : at Eureka San Blas hotel. It is a cheap hotel and we liked it as people were warm and helping.  It is quite close to Plaza de Armas (city center) and other touristic places but best part is it’s closeness to recommended restaurants :-).

Eat : we tried >>>> restaurant for the first night and it is worth a visit.  We also tried Cicciolina but i must say that even if the food was delicious, the quantity was really tiny for the price.  Also, they are busy most of the time as it is recommended on Lonely planet too.

Travel agency : Our 2 days tour for Sacred Valley and Machu-Picchu was booked with Tropical American Adventure and very well organized for the price.  We paid $255 per person and it includes the full day tour of sacred valley (no entrance fees) with a tour guide and bus, complete transport To and Fro train from Ollantaytambo to Machu-Picchu, guide at MP and entrance fees (125$ per person).

 No words or National Geographic photographs can describe the real beauty of Machu-Picchu and its location.  it is just beyond words and it will be better if you keep the full day. yes, from early morning till 4-5 pm to take the whole vista in your mind.  It will be worth the pain even if you have to wake up at 3:30 am to take the train :-).  Oh, by the way, while you are traveling to the station in the taxi (if you travel from Cusco to Ollantaytambo), do not sleep.  The time is of sun-rise and valleys are waking up with clouds still low down in valleys waiting to be lifted.  it is a beautiful site when you are at 3800 mts and looking down and snow-capped mountains far away.  Also, when you are taking the journey back to Cuzco hotel, do not sleep! 🙂 It will be pitch dark outside but with the moonlight snow capped mountains will reflect the light.  The sight is beautiful with clear stars and only snow-capped mountains glowing in the dark.

Day 5, 6, 7 : Train to Puno (for lake titicaca) …. for once we felt like Royals 🙂

We took the Peru Rail’s Andean Explorer that runs about 3 days a week from Cuzco to Puno.  The train costs $220 per person one-way but worth every penny so do not think much about it and take the run.  You may book the tickets online and if the system is down, the customer service staff is very helpful and usually responds in a day or two.  On board, they have fashion show, music, dance  performances and amazingly delicious lunch.  Do carry a packed snack box or some fruits as the train starts at 7:30 am and they do not serve lunch till 1 pm.  You may buy the food on-board but it is very expensive.  Overall, 10 hours of train time just flies by as the landscape is just stunning with green and snow-capped mountains, changing to dry but still high mountains, interesting village life, flowing Urubamba river next to tracks, llamas and alpacas farm lands, etc.

By the way, Puno is higher placed than Cuzco so altitude-sickness takes the second round on your body so keep it slow and easy for the first day, even if you travel by train.

Stay : Libertador Hotel is the best choice if you want the best view of the lake.  it has it’s own island and has a clear view towards the Puno peninsula.  While you check-in, do ask for the room facing the lake, not the city.  Casa Andina can be a good choice but more expensive than Libertador and no hotel can beat the view of Libertador.

Eat : Balcones de Puno is certainly a choice if you are really interested in various dances and music of Peru rather than food.  We did the same, more interest in culture than food.  Food is so-so but performance from 7:30 to 9 pm every night is just good.

Travel agency : All Ways Travel is the one suggested by Lonely Planet due to their sustainable motives.  We made our bookings on the last moment with them and they were very helpful.  Our trip was off the tourist tracks trip as we took 1 day tour of Amantani island.  it did involve a short stop at Uros floating islands but these are interesting and worth a stop.  Amantani island is far away from touristic route thus gives first hand view into villagers’ lives, even a chance to get invited to a communal lunch session.  The delicious caramelized onion salsa with modest but from their fields potatoes and beans.  The hike on island is tiring because of low oxygen levels at 4000 mts, but it is worth the view that you will see of Lake Titicaca.  It is a beautiful blue lake with the view of snow capped mountains on Bolivian side.  Do eat some good food in one of the villager’s houses, it is delicious.

We also went to Sillustani and that is a few hours tour.  The view of national park from Sillustani is amazing.

Day8, 9 : Fly to Lima … phew, back to sea level…. lots of oxygen

We took StarPeru flight from Juliaca airport (closest to Puno) to Lima airport.  This flight goes via Arequipa so try to get the window seat while check-in.  You will get the view of volcano and biggest canyon from the flight.  Isn’t that the fastest way of seeing Arequipa?  🙂

Stay : 3B’s Barranco Chic hotel is the place to stay in Barranco district of Lima.  A tastefully designed and maintained boutique hotel, has simple but well-thought rooms and simple but good breakfast.  Also the people are very helpful.  It is close to the Mira flores art scene but has it’s  own cool art scene going on.  Taxi from airport to hotel costs about 50 soles. A taxi ride to Plaza de Armas is about 12 soles from this hotel.  The sea is just 100 mts from hotel so do catch a glimpse of waves and surfers with chips and Inka cola in your hands.

Eat : Critiques say that Lima is the food capital of  south america and they are super right about that.  For the first night, we decided to eat the Ceviche (seafood marinated in lime and served raw with onions, etc.).  Hotel suggested us the La Canta Rana restaurant as it is just in walking distance.  The restaurant has all football memorabilia hanging on walls, especially from Argentina and do not be mistake it with a sports bar.  The menu is only in spanish but if you ask for help with the server (he sits in a corner and wraps fork and knife in tissue paper the whole time), he will give you some translations with hand actions.

For the second day lunch, we decided to crash at Cafe Museo of Museo Larco and the decision gave us the most delicious food of our trip.  The prices aren’t too high but the food is amazingly delicious, eat it till the dessert.  A tip, do order the local dessert with Lucuma herb in it.  It is super delicious 😉

/Overall, an amazing trip with some of the most beautiful landscapes we have ever seen.  Andes are just beautiful so keep your camera with lots of extra memory sticks and battery.  Also, try to learn some spanish words to greet, those helped us a lot.  People are warm and exchange of greetings is a normal thing, unlike as in India.  We would always be ready to take a second trip to Peru and maybe second time we can cover Arequipa and Nazca lines.

and a slideshow of selected pics

/while India was becoming a Communist country ….

/I have been silent for some time but during this time while India turned a communist country with blocking all protests from Anna Hazare and  India against corruption’s non-violent movements, my country also saw 2 more incidents of bomb blasts on two major cities.  Every time I try to refrain myself from writing about politics, Indian politics pokes me to write more of it, mostly the frustrating part of it.  I am amazed to see the land of Mahatma Gandhi, the land where non-violent protests took birth, is where it also getting forcefully curbed by the government.  Of course we ‘voters’ are to blame for the state of politics but can a strict law and its implementation help us to abolish socially accepted corruption?  this is a topic for argument but no one way to support.  So, i will stop here for politics.

So, while India was becoming a communist country, i was enjoying the Canadian summer for the first time.  No wonder they say that Canada has the best landscape, not only for eye-soothing views but for adventure sports.  I am hooked to biking (GT Transeo 4.0) these days and explored a few provincial parks with not so tough but beautiful terrains.  Ontario Trails is a good website to explore the bike trails, also the other activities possible in various provincial parks across Ontario province of Canada.

We took 2 trips to Montreal, European oasis inside strong north american cities.  I feel that roads and streets inside a city make it an interesting city.  A predictable street like in the case of any north american city with grid pattern makes it boring.  There is nothing left to explore behind the next corner as all the roads meet at 90 degrees.  So, Montreal has a small old city part that retains the old european feel, not to mention that it has amazing french food restaurants and a more party feel as compared to Toronto.   If you end up at Montreal, do go for french food at Le Mas De Oliviers.  Everything on their menu is delicious but my favorite is rack of lamb.

By the way, Toronto is not the capital of Canada, and not Vancouver either :-).  Had an update to my general knowledge when we took a road trip to capital of Canada, Ottawa.  A more government town with all embassies and government seats around.  Do not miss the light and sound show on Capitol Hill, during summer.

Next trip in line is Peru, starting on 1st October.  Machu picchu and Lake titicaca are on the itinerary.


/10 things We are learning about North America

/The article is not to be restricted to just 10 points but i just like how many blogs or tech reports have these type of titles.  As we are surprised, amazed, stunned and sometimes just depressed by the North american culture, i start this list to write our experiences.

– Multi-culture is the key

Call it competitive genes or ‘struggle for a better life’ genes, Asians are so present here in the society that we haven’t missed Indian food at all.  Although, Chinese food has been disappointing as it is totally americanized, they constitute the bigger proportion of immigrant community.  Feels like home but with charms of a developed country 🙂 and fresh air.

– NA is such an Oil-based economy :

They just cant live without Oil, cars and 24 hours of electricity.  When i was here for the first time for interview, upon my inquiry regarding public transport quality, everyone had just praises.  I forgot one thing and it was that these people new nothing better.  The public transport is built and managed as if with only one aim – to discourage its users from using it !  Just a look at Toronto’s transportation system (subway and tram), it is so archaic and mis-managed that suddenly, Delhi’s metro system looks like heaven.  For a few months now, i am using Go Transit buses and the schedule of the bus is so designed that there are no buses for a whole 2 hours during the peak hours !  i might be cooking a conspiracy theory, but it seems oil and car manufacturers are making some favors to the Public transport ministry here.  If someone thinks that i am being unfair to the efforts by public transportation authorities, then please have a look at London’s super efficient tube system (Transport for London) or at Berlin’s U-bahn.  No wonder, so many households have more than 1 cars and thus dependent on oil to reach places.  i have been asking this question that developing nations like China, India can make an efficient subway system in their cities so why not a developed nation like Canada.

– Shopping Mall is the new park

teenagers, kids, grown-ups, housewives ….. all just love their shopping malls.  Humongous, energy-eating monsters, products of ‘consumerist’ system (sort of Communist, but ruled by Capitalist companies 🙂 ) and surprisingly, every 100-200 meters there is the next one.  Most of the malls here are almost the 1 or 2 times of a football field, usually Ground+1 structures, fully air-conditioned and has most of the brands.

– Educational degrees are important in signature

Email signatures are big here.  It mentions  all the education degrees and specializations, address and all the contact numbers that have (it might as well have the numbers that you ever had in your life !).  Somehow, it feels like people want to show off their degrees in order to get the authority.  I am trying to avoid this so far but somehow it looks like this :

Hitesh Bagai
B.Arch (Mumbai University), M.Des. (IIT Kanpur)
company name
### Columbia St. west, Waterloo, ON, Canada
mobile no. : ####
landline : #####

– ‘Canada’ means ‘Village’ and Toronto is known as ‘Big Smoke’ 🙂

Was funny to learn about the origin of ‘Canada’ name during conversation with Canadian colleagues. and i did some research on net, found this on Wikipedia.

‘The name of Canada has been in use since the earliest European settlement in Canada, with the name originating from a First Nations word kanata (or canada)for “settlement”, “village”, or “land”. Today, Canada is pronounced /ˈkænədə/ in English and [kanada] in French. In Inuktitut, one of the official languages of the territory of Nunavut, the First Nations word (pronounced [kanata]) is used, with the Inuktitut syllabics’

and, here is the link to article.

Also, Toronto is known as ‘Big smoke’ … inspired from London’s local name.  By the way, ‘Toronto‘ means ‘where there are trees standing in the water’.