Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Of Janmashtami, Malpuas, family tradition and more

Janmashtami (Janmashtomi) is one festival that we look forward to ever since the childhood days. It was the time we would have our house wrapped in some undefined joy of festivity. Janmashtami is celebrated all over India in the month of August/September and on the eighth day of the Hindu calendar. The birthday of lord Krishna is a very special occasion for the Hindus. They consider Him as their savior, philosopher, friend, lover and everything that is human, everything that is Godly.

The festival has transcended beautifully over the years and today I see it with much love since that is the time we are fondly reminded of our Dida (grandmother). She was a lady of strong integrity and was revered by one and all. She never forced the ritualistic regime. That probably is the reason that we have learned to imbibe the true fervor of the festivals in their entirety. It was never forced, it was never too much of something that we would have detested later in lives. We never detested it nor did we regret later. It was probably because of the values that were instilled upon us very subtly.  

We have grown up seeing the grandeur of family tradition while celebrating Janmashtami. At the wake of dawn, my grandma would immerse the idols of lord Krishna and Radha (his muse) a lavish milk and ghee bath, deck them with new clothes and ornaments and start the puja (religious rituals). The food offerings included assortments of seasonal fruits, our own home made sweets made for this occasion alone, Bhog – a special rice and pulses mixed food, rice polao, luchis (puris), kheer (condensed milk with rice), 8 different types of fries made from 8 different vegetables, other special vegetables side dishes, sweet and sour chutnis/ pickles and whole savory of sweets. Having said that, Janmashtami is never complete without Taler Bora and Malpua for these are supposedly lord Krishna's favorite sweets.

Our role was not more than just hopping around eating all the goodies. I particularly liked the occasion since I was not told to study that day, something that happened very very seldom. Things have changed since. We have grown up, my sisters have relocated to different countries, and my grandma is no more. But some things never change, I still live in the same old house and we still have the more than a century old Krishna and Radha idols along with the legacy that my grandma has left behind. Today i see my mother doing everything that she has grown up seeing her mother do, and I on my part still enjoy the Bhog, Malpua, Sweets etc. 


Coming to the special Janmashtami Bengali sweet savory, Malpua needs special mention. It is one savory that every other household celebrating the festival will prepare and needless to say every household has its own Malpua recipe. My mother has hers and I have mine. I have streamlined on the ingredients and made the recipe much easier and faster to cater to my taste and time.


What is Malpua

Malpua is an Indian delectable dessert much similar to sweet round pancake dipped in sugar syrup. It’s a gourmet’s delight. To prepare them you will need easily available kitchen ingredients. The ingredients will be available in almost every store round the corner.

Ingredients

Milk (8 cups)
Condensed milk (2 cups)
Water (2 cups)
Sugar (3 cups)
Fennel seeds (1 tablespoon)
Refined flour (3 cups)
Rose essence (1 teaspoon) - my addition
Clarified butter/ Ghee/ white oil (1 cups)
½ teaspoon of cardamom powder (optional)
Few strands of saffron strands (optional)
Silvered almonds and pistachios to garnish (optional)


Preparing the sugar syrup

Prepare a sugar syrup of single thread consistency. Add 1 tsp of rose essence and a few strand of saffron. Set aside to cool.


Preparing the batter for the Malpua

Bring the milk to boil and keep boiling till it reduces to half. Set aside and wait till it cools down.
Sieve the refined flour and add it slowly to the reduced milk. Keep stirring to avoid the lump formation. Stir well and stir continuously.

Add sweetened condensed milk. Stir to attain a smooth consistency of pancake.
Add fennel seeds and cardamom powder to the batter.


Process

Heat the ghee (clarified butter) on thick bottomed frying pan and pour the batter in a blob in the center to form small pancakes. Wait till the sides turn golden brown. Turn over and wait for the side to cook till it gets golden brown.

Dip the Malpuas in the rose sugar syrup and let it sip the juice.

Serving

Remove the Malpuas before serving and drain on a wire rack to drip the excess syrup. Dish them out delicately on a flat platter, garnish with chopped dry fruits.

And that's Malpua for you!

Note to yourself

With all those goodies, Malpua is, no doubt, a guilt food. Nonetheless you can indulge in it once in a while since it's irresistible. 

Image copyright: Mimpi

Monday, September 14, 2015

Natoker Moto (Like A Play) - More than a biopic a soulful tribute to the group theatres of the 60s

Natoker Moto (Like a play) is a film that certainly will make you think. The film is essentially the journey of Kheya - the maverick, beyond the time, theatre artist, whose untimely death raises questions on the various issues of the 1960s. The socio-cultural scenario, the emancipation of the womanhood, the hypocrisy of the male dominance, the changing face of bengali theatre and of course the indomitable passion for group theatre that had driven the likes of Ajitesh Bandopadhyay, Rudraprasad Sendupta, Keya Chakraborty, Shambhu Mitra to compromise the world against their unfaltering adherence to the cause of drama - a cause they believed in, they lived for.

The movie starts with the Calcutta Port investigation officer investigating the death of a famous theatre personality Kheya who died untimely while shooting for a bengali cinema. She was apparently sank. Suicide or murder - that was the talk of the town and the officer while going through the pages of her diary and while interrogating discovers the changing equation of the various relationships in the life of the actress. As the truth unfolds the officer confronts the changing roles of various people whose lives are tangled with that of Kheya's. The mentor and the group leader finds himself a minority while the chauvinistic husband captures the leadership with a majority. The changing roles bring about a change that may be considered as a game changer of bengali theatre. The changing face of idealism makes the mentor walks off and the husband takes over the group theatre. He takes immense pride in acquiring a falsehood while the idealist mentor finds emancipation in walking out.

The other pivotal characters whose lives were tied with Kheya's appear as the officer unfolds some beautiful relationships with that of the professor, writer-poet, childhood friend. But the most important of all was certainly with that of her mother. A mother with all cliques fights, yields and stands with Kheya in all her  nonconformist decisions, right from her decision to marry the college beau to joining the group theatre, to leaving her job as a professor to walking out of the marriage to deciding to giving off her gold jewellery or to act in movies in an endeavor to raise fund to the dying theatre group.

Debesh Chattopadhyay, the director, takes us through the interludes of reality and stage stretching over two decades (1950 - 1970). Subtle yet precise the delineation of the character of Kheya from a next door household girl to a strong free spirit whose indomitable courage to fight for her cause was beautifully portrayed. Paoli Dam as Kheya is a delight to watch. It's mind boggling to watch the Hate Story girl transform into Kheya with so much conviction. 

Paoli Dam immortalizes Kheya. She leaves a mark in all the scenes. In the stage scenes, while enacting Antigone, Noti Binodini, Proposal, she was brilliant. She even gives her voice o the song Ami jokhon meye thaki, a fresh composition by Debajyoti Mishra, very naturally. It would be unfair not to mention the rest of the actors who effortlessly did their role playing with equal finesse. Having said that the ensemble cast with the likes of Rajatava Dutta as the Calcutta Port investigator, Sujan Mukhopadhyay as the professor, Ushashi Banerjee as the poet, Rupa Ganguly as the mother, Saswata Chatterjee as the husband and Bratya Basu as the mentor, can never go wrong. 

The last scene is epic. The camera pans on Kheya's face which after much pain and sorrow is now poised on the river. This is followed by a long shot of Kheya's mortal remains wrapped in a 'Murshidabadi silk' floating downstream as Mousumi Bhowmik's Ami shunechhi sedin tumi plays in the backdrop. Amid this the pertinent questions like, "Dol-er jonyo theatre na, theatre-er jonyo dol" or every suicide is a murder put us to serious thinking.

Natoker Moto even though not really a biopic has strange resemblances with the artistic journey of the theatre artist Keya Chakraborty who had met a similar untimely death shrouded in mystery in March 1977 at the age of 34. She was shooting for Swadesh Sarkar's Jeevan Jey Rokom.

I came to know about this much later when everyone was talking about the biopic thing. The film was believable even without any preconceived notion. That for me was the success of the debutante director. The last scene, the portrayal of the theatre personalities along with the uncanny similarity in their names leave us wondering if Kheya and keya are actually the same person. Having said this, more than a biopic, Natoker Moto is a soulful tribute to the group theatres of the 60s by a passionate theatre artist of the current era, Debesh Chattopadhyay.

Natoker Moto is a must watch and you would want to watch it second time round. The last scene is a poignant rendition by Mousumi Bhomick's of Ami shunechhi sedin tumi. This for me was an insatiable climax that sipped into my being leaving me choked. I came out of the hall with a promise to relive the multi dimensional journey of the free willed artist who continues to live on embracing the living art form yet another time.


Photo credit and source: Natoker Moto, Timesofindia, Wikipedia

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

And my pimple saga continues


You are not going to be Monroe anyway - so happy living with pimples.
 Just when I started to think that I am over the pimple saga that I am assailed with yet another bout of eruption. As my friends you must have known by now that pimple have never really abandoned me. They have been there since forever.

It started all in my pre teen days and as every other girl in the block I got the first spell amidst much ado. I was started on homemade remedies on weekends for that was the only time I could afford to apply the fruit mashes, besan and egg mixes, yogurt, chandan (sandalwood) paste - you just name it! Every other day I uncovered new breakouts and by the time I went to college I got over the oh-no-not-again thing. I was used to the vicious circle and was used to living with the deadly aftermath.

Meanwhile, I saw skin specialists and used several tubes of ointments, several face packs and virtually tried every other suggestions that people came up with. People, however, agreed on one thing that I have an extreme oily skin and that I am bound to have it until a certain age.  They talked over length on the hormonal imbalance, excessive oil secretion, ineffective and inadequate cleansing, diet imbalances, physiological changes, commercial dupes - blah blah blah. All said and done the pimples never deserted me.


That 'age' when I was supposed NOT to get pimples never came. My face today has similar kind of scars from newer pimples which are verging on acne. Now, I have advanced and medicinal cosmetic tubes on my vanity. I have almost all the new launches that promise acne free flawless skin. I have sadly looked on the gorgeous packs of night creams, anti aging treatment, sun screens while shopping, have even bought many of them but could never really apply them like people do. They do not work for me. I am aware of the fact that the hyped commercial aspect on  the acne issue never going to go away except that I can get wiser and choose my product wisely. Right now I am just on aloe vera gel that should be able to do the daily moisturizing, not promising the repairing work though.

The years of unfaltering association with the pimples have taught me that the you can only control the outbursts if not totally get rid of them and that hot towel therapy or face spa help in opening up the clogged pores but flawless skin is a myth for people with oily skin. So, no matter how hard you try you can't stop them from coming.

I know its pointless trying to look beautiful with that big burst on your face but then you are not going to be Monroe anyway. So after several sunrises and coffee cups later my pimple saga continues.