Riding Solo

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A cut above?

It’s almost every other day that you hear about a restaurant shutting shop, and another replacing it. To think of it, why? Do we get so bored of dining at the same place over and over again, or do they get tired of feeding us the same food day after day? What determines them to earn profit or run in losses? And what distinguishes a good restaurant experience
from bad? As a true bred Delhi foodie, I tried to compile a list of my top five go-to places in the city, and realised that the key problem remained “consistency”.

For someone who dines out often, and enjoys most cuisines; recollecting the best culinarybon ap
experience becomes a tad bit difficult. A meal is merely a meal if it only pleases the palate, but then again if it doesn’t then how does one sit through the entire course? A good experience however, is wholesome—the ambience, music, cheery staff, wafting food aroma from the kitchen, crisp table linen and nicely laid down cutlery.

Once passed, begins the foreplay, the sensorial journey from the aroma to the presentation and then the delectable flavours that gently burst into the mouth. Honestly, I’ve had only few such experiences so far, the most recent being at The Table, Mumbai and Gaggan, Bangkok.

Delhi, the city best known for its food, has given me good food or good service, sometimes both, but rarely consistent. And strangely so, consistency came out from the most humble and lesser known spaces, Café Lota at The Crafts Museum for instance offers an innovative menu and each dish surprises you with its presentation, ingredients and flavours. A must-try would be the Apple Cinnamon Jalebi with Coconut Rabri, a delightful substitute to the traditional sweet—crunchy from the outside, gooey inside. Carnatic Café, another one of those small wonders, tucked inside New Friends Colony’s commercial complex, it is my go-to place for home style dosas and rasam.

The not-so humble experiences include Indian Accent, well Chef Manish Mehrotra at least never seems to disappoint the taste buds. A loyalist, some of my favourite experiences in the city have occurred here and I particularly enjoy the fusion and theatrics attached to his food. An all time favourite has to be the Foie gras stuffed with galawati kebab. The others that have been a delight include Set’z, Diva, Farzi Café, The China Kitchen, Magique, Coast Café, Olive, Yautcha; however they’ve all had their good days and bad, and so have I.

But, comfort food remains the saving grace of every relationship. And my relationship with Big Chill and Yeti goes back to their inception. Call me biased, but they have given me, if not a shoulder to cry on, food to feast on and faith to believe in consistency in food and hospitality. Bon appétit!

(C) Ekta Marwaha

Oops. . .

Oops…

“Oh! my darling, you’re still so young; what do you know about love,” she said. “You’re just being naive; you’ll understand as you grow older.”

Years later at a dinner party someone asked him what he thought about love, “I was in love once, but then I grew up,” said a voice so deep, with much discontent.

“Ah! a love gone sour? You’re still so young, it will happen again,” she said.

“Really?” He paused. “I mean, you really think so?” he asked.

“Why not? Love is love, you don’t know when it strikes,” she said.

A moment of silence dawned upon the room. . .

And just like that, he walked out to catch some fresh air.

It’s funny we’re in disbelief when it happens, or overwhelmed. Scared to accept or scared to live it. When it’s there we may take it for granted, but when it’s gone, often or not we crave for it. New, old or futuristic, that’s what it does come down to.

Rings a bell? Missing your first ‘LOVE’? A word so diverse, a feeling so intense; a love that was pure. No malice, no expectations, limitless and dreamy?

Yes, that kinda love. The first time you stepped foot in a park, first time you played a sport, first time you made a friend, the first time you kissed. The first book you read, and the first time you chose your favourite subject, to the first time your eyes met. More often then none, you’ll find people ‘distributing gyaan’. Not like they’re in a good space but they want you to be the ones to guide and give you a little nudge for a better tomorrow. The art of letting go is difficult, but its also key to moving on. Agreed. Logical, practical and philosophical; but can someone give me a key to implementation?

Time they say heals everything, and as you grow older you realise it’s true. Several instances made of people and things around us; sometimes good, sometimes bad; take us back in time to rejoice our purest choices. .if only I held onto my belief, if only i didn’t let the world decide, if only I was stronger to fight back and not give in. .If only. . .

“But where to from here my darling?” asked the inner voice.

I have been where I was. . and then I got lost. A little evolution, a little revolution, not much acceptance but an escape route. Easy as that maybe, but it isn’t. The perseverance to commit to oneself, to a profession, a goal, a mission, a lover; takes courage, coupled with certain ups and downs that may just shake you up in the process.

The learnings, always good, and important. Experiences memorable or not sometimes, but the way you rise, and yes my dear you don’t go lower than that. You rise and shine like a diamond in the sky; because you survived the turmoil, you’re sure of what you are. Grow, evolve, mature but don’t let the world decide. Differences or similarities, it’s the heart that gives you light. Ask your head to listen while the heart speaks, because sweetheart love speaks no boundaries — compatible or not, cross cultural or not, his past/ her last, there yet or not; when you don’t reason and just go with it, just like you did the first time you dribbled a ball at the court, you will find a way, you will find peace and solace.

Forget the pain, don’t regret. Move on and live. Remember how much it hurt the first time you fell off the bicycle? Did you refrain from going back? No. So, learn and forgive, go back if you must or put yourself out and be sure of what you want and who you are. Fall in love again, decide with no rationale but pure passion, because everything else fades away; if the passion sustains then it shall all fall in place. Profession, personal or relationship pick your love and rekindle. But, listen to the heart. . .

Kiss kiss 🙂

Ekta Marwaha

June, 2015

Let the music play

                  Let the music play

When we were kids, it was never about the words we spoke or understood, but about the beats that got us moving and the chord it touched within. Music generated feelings and movements—head bob, foot tap, hip shake and a sense of liberation. An interesting documentary on the king of pop, showed how MJ first began to tap his foot to the sounds of his washing machine! Least did his folks predict what a legend he was going to be.

Nursery rhymes, carols, jingles, they all come with a sense of nostalgia and feel good factor. Also because they create a platform of neutrality and equality, for generations, one era after the other made humpty dumpty sit on the wall, and stars twinkle in the sky.

Being a 90s kid and all, I woke up to the sounds of Boney M, Abba and MJ. Apparently, I often threw a fit and never went off to sleep till I heard some music, and so my father played my then favorite Brown Girls in the RingrecordBarely two-years-old, music had taken control. It was the time for MTV and MJ was king, ain’t no matter if you’re black or white played on loop. Thriller scared the daylights out of me the first time I watched the video, but it grew on me eventually. We would watch the videos for hours and emulate the steps. I know how much I was laughed upon, because it became a sort of a ritual. I picked up a song, mugged up the lyrics and steps before I put on a show for everyone, which had to be watched and appreciated at every family gathering!

Music was constant at our home. The radio, AIR, MTV, Records, we taped shows and music, made note of lyrics and it obviously was something that gave meaning to everything around. At school Aunty Stephanie made us sing, play the keyboard, express, and enjoy. (Of course she scolded us if we missed a note.)

Then came a time when all creativity came to halt. Drawing, Dance, Theatre, Sports, Music, etc didn’t remain to be subjects but recreational activity, subsided by the weight of Math, Geometry, History and so on. Creative expression got restricted. We wrote in a certain pattern, grasped a particular chunk, and that would divide us on our illegibility with a grade.

Puberty hit, silence crept in, and boy oh boy, was it me against the world suddenly? And when that ‘disconnect’ or ‘conflict’ takes place, it’s when one connects with music most. It was the golden era of a ‘walkman’.doorsed I don’t know any teenager who didn’t go quite and replace words with those gawky looking black chunky headphones. Spice girls, Backstreet boys, Boyzone, Westside; did those bands sing a tune to our heart! Well, that’s what happens when we let music play. It transforms us to another space. An alter ego, a parallel universe, that makes us forget everything else.

As we grow older, we open up to different things and similarly listen to music from a diverse genre. In my teenage years, I was lucky to be introduced to some old classics, jazz, pop and rock at home. Elvis Presley, Neil Diamond,  The Doors, Police, The Beatles, Janet Jackson, and so many more. It was the early 2000, internet had kicked in, and we were discovering new music on soundcloud, youtube, and unfortunately taking to piracy through Limewire. I discovered multiple genres and bands, and understood it was not just the music but lyrics that mattered. Words gave music a soul. Pearl Jam, Nickel Back, Morrison, Joe Sat, Zeppelin, Lennon, The Who, Goo Goo Dolls, Pink Flyod, Maroon 5, even Dido, Eminem, Shakira, Rihanna and Avril Lavigne spoke to me. The pain, remorse, love, life, rebellion, gave me a platform to be what I was, or wasn’t.

beatThese weren’t the only bands I listened to. Of course alternate rock was the closest to me, but I enjoyed diversity and tunes, and how we moved differently to each beat, from each genre. It was just about letting go, being free, and dancing or grooving mystically. Head banged to metallica, hips moved to Shakira, swayed to Steve Martin, among others. Today when I look back to how we evolved not just technologically from a walkman to disk man, to an ipod; but also how each decade that was about a certain genre, has now become about EDM.

Electronic Dance Music, sure it’s in vogue and has a buzz to itself. The gigs are exciting, the energy level is great, tempo is high, neon accessories add the quirk and mayhem, all in all, its super fun. But, I often wonder for how long? I doubt if EDM will leave the kind of magnitude that age old bands left behind.

I do enjoy these new emerging artists, but also feel it lacks depth. I mean its okay when you’re in a club, you wanna dance, unwind and have fun, but it ends there. So, call me old school but it does feel like a fling—exciting and fiery, with not a long lasting impact.

Moving on, what motivated me to write this piece was that in my near five years of professional writing, I refrained from writing on music. The reason? I have friends in music. I know how they’re anal about it and live, eat, breathe; music. Seeing it as their religion, I respect it even more and wish its best to let the experts talk the talk.

KRSNA an emerging Hip Hop artist in India, and a friend introduced me to the genre a couple of years ago. For some reason, or maybe culturally, I didn’t quite like the sound of it. However, when he explained the history and the movement, and made me listen to what he considered good Hip Hop, it started to ring a bell. I guess that’s all it takes, understanding, interpretation and appreciation. The music, dance and culture surrounding it, there was a connect; and thank you Dr Dre!

pjfThe point however is that music rings a bell within all of us. Regardless of the genre or language; through school and high school, it defined the ‘cool’ kids from the ‘not so cool’ kids; and made it easy for us to make friends, or connect to people who got the same music as ours. It’s as pure and simple. Listen to all, but see what touches your soul the most and let that rhythm take over.

When we grow up and real life kicks in, remember in the middle of all the complexities, the only music that will connect you to people is the one that ‘gets you’. When the heart, mind, and soul connect to the music of another being, it’s time you know what it is; accept it, treasure it and nurture it. It is stronger than any genre or lingo, because it’s pure and simple—a beat, similar to that before we learnt to speak or understand what we listened to.

(C) Ekta Marwaha

April, 23; 2015

Do we have a mind of our own?

Do we have a mind of our own?

I often wonder who determines a trend. Who decides that a peplum dress is in vogue, and green tea helps in ‘weight reduction’? I mean isn’t that why so many around seem to be daunting the dress and sipping those countless pots of tea? Do we really like red velvet and macaroons? I remember this particular incident a while back when these two yuppies walked into a patisserie and straight towards the dessert display—“abbe ye toh cheeni ke bataashe hain, bade meethe hote hain”. And, let’s not make fun of them we know how shitty the macaroons here taste. The red velvet on the other hand made a stellar debutant performance in 2013. So many takers but all fakers! Do you even know how that damn thing must really look, taste and feel? Except for a few home bakers in the city, I don’t know one place that makes it right. But then again, it’s the ‘inn’ thing, so everyone must eat.

In the year 2014, it suddenly became cool to be a ‘foodie’, but mind it—we love to eat ‘healthy’. And, no, a foodie doesn’t mean that you savor and understand what you chew or that you have a fine palate. It means gobbling down anything that’s cooked, overcooked or in-between. If a restaurant is ‘trending’ we must love the food (even if the appetizer lacked character and foreplay), we must all take a picture, be self proclaimed critiques, and wait for it #foodie #foodgasm #yummers #mustgotoauntymomo #instagram. Such is the apathy of my city.

Anyway, did you hear about ‘Crain Bedi’ joining the #@$ political party? Well, of course not. It wasn’t on instagram, dude! But, hey, it was trending on fb and twitter. And the patriots that we all are—informed and active, we must share our viewpoint on social media. So, regardless of the fact we vote or not, we must opine because everyone does so. If the year 2000 was about anti-Modi, then 2014 was certainly for Modi. I mean common, not like we know ‘left’ from ‘right’ or the ideology of any party, but if everyone’s on his side, he must have some ‘swag’, right?

Health and fitness—for starters, yes they are two separate entities. One of the biggest dilemmas of this country, and we say so why? Because we love fads and fats! A friend who understands health and fitness like none other explains how it needs to be scientific and person specific. At first, I wondered what that meant, but then, hey! If everything we do is customised to taste—food, clothes, fashion, and even personal computers; then even tailor made diet charts and exercise sheets make sense! What if my body needs more carbs that yours? But, science and logic is something we refrain from, isn’t it? As a nation, more than hard work and perseverance, it’s faith and fortune that keeps us going. Think about it, “sab toh kismet ka khel hai.

It’s Friday evening, and ‘car-o-bar’ is so passé, so let’s go sip some wine because it’s what everyone around is doing. So what if we don’t know our whites from reds, dry from sweet? “Get me the finest bottle of white.” Who cares is its chenin blanc, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, or what you say?

“Travel is the way to grow,” and that’s profound. Of course it’s enriching, the experience is wholesome and it helps us understand the history and culture of different geographical locations. But, do it only when you can, and not on plastic money, because everyone else is doing so. Travel, explore and travel more when you can. Earn your travel, live your escapades, observe, breathe and grow.

Read, it’s essential. We have a brain that needs to be exercised and fed with information. Exercise, because we are meant to exert. Talk, have no inhibitions, we are social beings. Do not hold back. Live, forget all rules. Breathe.

And no, it doesn’t just end here. I can go on ranting about my frustration as an ‘Indian Youth’. I love my nation, and I really do. But I take no pride in our collective ignorance, hypocrisy, lack of enthusiasm, the culture of instant coffee and satiation. What happened to knowledge, finding ourselves, science, logic, values, and other things we once stood for? Struggle, sweat and toil? To all those reading this or snoring away, please take time out. Not for me, but yourself. Think. Think. Think. Introspect. Work. Act. Do something. Make it worth a living.

-© Ekta Marwaha

January 18, 2015