Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Restaurant review : Anjappar (South Indian, Tamil)

Anjappar Overall rating: 7/10
Cuisine: Chettinad (South Indian, Tamil) also called Chettinadu

On our fist visit to Anjappar, the place DID NOT disappoint. The flavours are spot on and the dishes are authentic.

Would we visit again ? YES.

However, despite a high rating I do not think we will be a regular because the food, by virtue of its authenticity and doing justice to its origins, is too spicy for our palette.

What to order? Chettinad Thali (opt for the meat one). The dish includes: Chapati, Rice, Sambar, Rasam, Kootu, Poriyal, Meat or Veg Curry, Curd, Pickle & Papadum
Food: 8/10
All in all, the food ranks very highly
The spices, true to Chettinad cuisine, are rich, potent and freshly prepared. One can taste the freshness right in the first bite.
On offer are both authentic Chettinad dishes as well as other staple Indian dishes such as Tandoori.
The menu has proper descriptions of the dishes and the spicy scales are honest.
Portions for the main course are more than sufficient – go with an appetite, it will be satiated.

Drinks: 5/10
While the food part excels, the drinks are lackluster in comparison.
It has the regular varieties lassi and the place serves wine as well as juices and carbonated beverages. But I would have liked to seen a bit more ingenuity and variety here, particularly as the South Indian and particularly Tamil cuisine has some interesting beverages to offer.

Ambiance and service: 6/10
The service is prompt and the courses are evenly spread out over the meal. The staff is well versed in the type of cooking and can be relied to make great suggestions – especially important if you can't handle spicy food – listen to them and ask them questions.
A great plus is that the place is located in a neighbourhood full of Indian/Pakistani/Nepali restaurants.

Value for money: 6/10  •  $$
The place is value for money.
Two mains, two drinks (non alcoholic), a starter and gratuity account for about $60.
I would have liked to seen a dessert and an Indian Masala Chai/South Indian Coffee included as part of the Thali meal, even it it meant adding a couple of dollars to the rate.

Other: 7/10
Neighbourhood and Getting there: Anjappar is located at 116 Lexington Ave, Manhattan.
It is in the Murray Hill neighbourhood. The 4 and 6 trains are a block away (at 28th and Park) and M101, M102 and M103 ply along Lexington, stopping half a block away. One can also take the downtown M15 (or M15 SBS), get off at 28th and walk two blocks west.
Kid-friendly: Restaurant is children friendly.
Table availability: One can walk in and expect a table (for 2); for larger groups advisable to call ahead.
Gratuity: 15% gratuity included for parties of 4 or less; 18% for those larger than 4.

Monday, December 5, 2016

The perpetual 'Benny's [REDACTED VERSION]

I had written this piece sometime ago when I had Jack on my side, the good kind of 'shrooms on my plate and the omnipresent chillum in my hand...

Obviously I wrote more than I was supposed to and hence the redaction...

I remember one conversation [...] we are like the Bhishma Pitamahs of Mahabaharat.

Devavrata, son of Shantanu and Ganga, became Bhishma when he undertook the most hardest of oaths that no matter what, he will serve the Kingdom and King of Hastinapur, no matter who sat on the throne. He had vowed that no matter whatever the King did, Devavrata would offer his most sincere and earnest service to his actions. And to ensure that no personal ambitions or greed come in the way, he undertook the oath of celibacy. 

His vow also included that he will not die without ensuring that throne and the kingdom of Hastinapur would remain protected for all time.

By making these promises, Devavrata became Bhishma and such a vow became the Bhishma Pratigya.

I knew the story of Mahabaharat, I knew Bhishma and I knew his Pratigya.

[...] had to bear the albatross, even though he had not arrowed the metaphorical bird through the heart.

It was an inherent, determined and devotional cause that, I think, made [...] bear.

[...] did wonders [...] helped many [...]

[...] why is the title of this post "The perpetual 'Benny's" -- well that's for a different day.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Fast bowling in about aggression, it is about driving fear

If you follow cricket, you must have seen a fast bowler with the bright red ball in his hand galloping in full throttle.

In a past life, I played cricket and was a fast bowler.

I did that too... being aggressive, sole aim to drive fear into the batsman.

My goal, however and above all else, was to dismiss the batsman -- always. But intimidating him with a sharply rising back-of-a-length ball aimed at his neck or into his midriff or the chest, below the arms were all fair game.

I have hit batsmen in the past. The one I remember always was this bespectacled fellow, he was dogged in defense, he was adept in holding one end up and marshaling tailenders around him.

The ball I bowled took a bad bounce off a green area of the pitch and went straight into his jaw.

He fell down like a sack, his face bloodied.

He was wearing a helmet but the bounce was very awkward, it climbed from under the grill.

Luckily there was no damage apart from a cut lip (that was where the blood came from).

After a short break, he was back, after having been tended to by the first aid people.

My bowling mate, also a fast bowler, threw me the ball and indicated to york him.

That's what I did, the batter was shaken by the blow, and tamely shouldered arms.

The wicket shattered behind him.

Numbers 10 and 11 lasted 3 balls between them.

We all wanted to be Allan Donalds and Shaun Pollocks...

...and we were

Monday, October 31, 2016

Borders can't stop the wind... neither can they stop pollution

Panchi, Nadiya, Pawan Ke Jhoke...
...Koi Sarhad Na Inke Roke

These are songs from a famous Bollywood movie - Refugee.

While in the movie, these take a romantic note. For me, these have a different, more philosophical, deeper meaning.

Borders can't stop the birds, rivers and the gusts of wind that just blow over them.

The wind simply blowing over borders, lines on a map that separate countries and their people, bring with them moist air that give rains, they bring with them warm currents that herald the end of winter, they also bring destruction in the guise of hurricanes and cyclones.

But for today's mankind, winds also bring something more -- dirt, dust and noxious, even toxic gases.

The subject of air pollution, especially in the context of South Asian countries -- Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka -- takes a completely different magnitude following a particular incident in the last days of October or first days of November.

This is Deepawali - traditionally the festival of lights, when families decorate their homes with little clay lamps - diyos, candles , prayed to Godess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, to bring prosperity, and Ganesha, the cute elephant-headed god who removes obstacles in our path.

Deepawali made everyone happy.

However, over time, Deepawali has also started to have an ever increasing more malicious (for us, both individually and collectively -- as co-residents of this planet) counterpart -- Firecrackers.

This year, after Deepawali, the levels of pollutants in parts of Indian capital Delhi's atmosphere were 30 times the World Health Organisation's recommended level. (BBC, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-37819843)

Levels of tiny particulate matter (known as PM 2.5) which can reach deep within the lungs reached as high as 750 micrograms per cubic metre -- more than half above the 'hazardous' level of 500 m-p-c-m. (ibid)

A young girl sits on broken wall inside an informal glue factory where workers process waste leathers to make glue in Hazaribagh area near Buriganga river in Dhaka (Bangladesh). UNICEF Photo.
A young girl sits on broken wall inside an informal glue factory where workers process waste leathers to make glue in Hazaribagh area near Buriganga river in Dhaka (Bangladesh).
UNICEF Photo. (source: http://weshare.unicef.org/archive/-2AM408JJLLF.html)

What does this mean? 

This means the air people -- all people, including the children, the elderly, the pregnant, those with chronic respiratory illnesses and those who set the firecrackers alight -- are breathing toxic air.

UNICEF, the United Nation agency looking after children's issues and lives, published a new report yesterday.

In this report, it said that about 300 million children in the world -- 1 in 7 children -- are living in areas with outdoor air so toxic (six or more times higher than international pollution guidelines) that it can cause serious health damage, including harming their developing brains. (UN News, http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=55439)

These 300 million are among more than 2 billion children who live in areas where outdoor air pollution exceeds international health guidelines -- 620 million of them (31%) live in South Asia. (ibid)

Around 2 billion children live in areas where outdoor air pollution exceeds international limits. Source: UN News Centre (http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=55439)
Around 2 billion children live in areas where outdoor air pollution exceeds international limits.
Source: UN News Centre (http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=55439)

What happens in part of the world affects the other.

While mankind can build walls to try to keep wars out, or dam up rivers to attempt to change their course, man cannot control wind.

Wind will flow and it will carry with it pollution, into the lungs of children who had noting to do with it.

Time has come that people, all over the world look at the issue of air pollution, and especially pollution that can be easily avoided.

I implore everyone -- stay away from firecrackers.

There are many, many other ways to enjoy festivities with equal or perhaps even more fervor but in ways that do not damage our environment and especially the air we and especially our children breathe.

This is the least we owe them... allow them to breathe freely and an air that is healthy...

--- my own story ---

Years back, when I was 12 or 13, or even younger. A fireworks factory in India caught fire and exploded. This happened just a few weeks before Deepawali that year. Many died and many among them were children, no older than I was. They were all toiling to make crakers that the factory owner could sell and make a profit.

I made a conscious decision that day that I will not burst any firecrakers.

I told this to my father, who told me that he respected my decision and that the money saved would be used by the family to "have fun as a family."

This decision I took was in acknowledgement of the conditions that the children who died and hundreds of thousands of others found/find themselves in. I was not old enough or learned enough to think of environment at that time.

I still feel for and work for children who are forced into servitude, working for hours on end in various sweatshops and factories around the world.

And I still think of the people who perished that year, making fireworks so that they would have some money for sweets or toys to celebrate Deepawali with.

I have not burst crackers since.

Monday, October 24, 2016

US-based Nepali singer Shweta Punjali wins "Best New Talent" award

New York, 22 October: New Nepali singer Shweta Punjali has won the Best New Talent award for her song "Achammai Lagyo Malai" at the recently concluded 2016 Nepali Music Video Award.

"It is an incredible honour to receive this prestigious award!" said Shweta, whose debut album -- Udaan -- was launched last year amid much fanfare at Kathmandu's Theater Village.

"I would like to thank everyone for their encouragement in making my debut album come true, especially Durga Lal Sir, Nhyoo Dai and Anil Dai for their guidance and support," she added

Achammai Lagyo Malai, one of the six songs from Udaan has been written by master lyricist and poet Durga Lal Shrestha and its music composed by noted music composer Nhyoo Bajracharya.
The music video of this song is set in the picturesque mountains of Nepal in Sindhupalchok, Kavre, and Bhaktapur districts, and along the Sun Koshi river. The video was directed by Anil Tandukar and stars Shweta herself.
Achammai Lagyo Malai was also nominated for the Best Music.
Another song from Shweta's Udaan, "Bato Heri Rahechhu," also directed by Anil Tandukar was nomiated as the Best Music Video (Diaspora). This song is set in the pristine waters off Thailand's coast. In addition to herself, the romantic video features Shweta's husband, Vibhu.
"This award will encourage me to take my music forward and I hope to bring newer and exciting songs for all my fans," Shweta Punjali added with excitement.
With its 2016 edition held last month in United Arab Emirates' Abu Dhabi, Nepali Music Video Award recognizes singers, composers and technicians for their music videos.
Earlier this year, Shweta was also nominated for the Best Newcomer at the 2073 Tuborg Image Award for her song "Kasto Bhet," also from Udaan.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Shweta Punjali, Nepali Singer moves to United States from Thailand

New York, 20 July 2016 – Shweta Punjali, a new up and coming independent singer from Nepal has moved to New York city, United States of America after spending the last four years in Bangkok, Thailand.
“Thailand is very special and close to my heart. With the encouragement and support of all my friends there, I was able to realize my dreams and release my first album,” said Shweta, expressing gratitude to her friends and fans in Thailand.
“Now it is time for me to take the next journey in my life, it is going to be an adventure and I am looking forward to it.”
Shweta's first album Udaan that includes songs written by master lyricist Durga Lal Shrestha and music composed by Nhyoo Bajracharya was launched in April 2015. It has been nominated for multiple awards. Udaan’s song 'Achammai Lagyo Malai' has been nominated for 'Best Music' and another song 'Bato Heri Rahechhu' for the 'Best Music Video (Diaspora)' at the 2016 Nepal Music Video Awards.
She has also been nominated as the 'Best Newcomer' category at the 17th Tuborg Image Awards and as the 'Best New Talent' at the 2016 Nepal Music Awards.
Shweta has performed in concerts at many cities across Nepal and in Thailand.
With a promised that she will continue her musical career from the United States, Shweta added “I will be releasing some new songs very soon, I am sure that I will get the same love and warm reception that I got in when I released Udaan.”

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Shweta Punjali's latest music video featuring Vibhu Mishra

See me in the music video of Shweta's song Bato Heri Rahechhu. This is her third video. FYI, she has been nomination as Best Newcomer Artist at the 17th Tuborg Image Awards for this song. The Awards will be held in February 2016, in Kathmandu, Nepal.

The song has been written by Durga Lal Shrestha, composed by Nhyoo Bajracharya and the video directed by Anil Tandukar.

I look forward to your feedback!