Showing posts with label culture. Show all posts
Showing posts with label culture. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Poshan Abhiyaan and fighting malnutrition with Horlicks and Mr Amitabh Bachchan!

Horlicks, the iconic brand from GSK Consumer Healthcare has recently announced the launch of “Horlicks Mission Poshan” with super star Amitabh Bachchan supporting the government’s Rashtriya Poshan Abhiyaan (Nation Nutrition Mission) to fight under nutrition in our country. “Horlicks Mission Poshan will focus on the first 1000 days of a child with the objective of addressing malnutrition, stunting and infant mortality. Amitabh Bachchan will be part of many activities planned all-round the year including a 12-hour live Telethon and awareness camps across schools and villages.”

Amitabh Bachchan who spearheaded the campaign faced hard criticism soon after this despite all good intentions. This is not the first time though that he has faced critiques. Being the greatest star of the Indian film industry, Amitabh Bachchan has been a soft target since forever. We have closely monitored, disproved, condemned and trolled him for everything he does or he does not. After the Bofors scandal the star has wanted to distance himself from all kinds of discourses and controversies. He has tried his best to guard himself and his family from debates but in vain. He has been heavily criticized for his silence over Mumbai flood in 2015. He has been trolled for his poor choice of endorsements. (He has once refrained from endorsing Pepsi after facing scathing criticism). He has been ridiculed for his childish rants over his lost followers in twitter. More recently, he has been criminalized for his silence (and later an irresponsible comment) on the Kathua rape case.

At times, I feel that we are too hard on him. He may be the biggest star but he too has the right to his life, to be silent as and when he decides to especially in this age of post truth polarisation and alternate facts where our existence is too vulnerable too futile. However, this time it is different.
The choice of Mr Amitabh Bachchan to be associated with Mission Poshan is extremely plausible just like many others. The Pulse Polio campaign (2002) endorsed by the star has been a huge hit followed by his support for Swachh Bharat (safe sanitation and anti open defecation - 2016). So, it's no wonder that our government chose him to a part of Poshan Abhiyaan and he is the campaign ambassador of Mission Poshan of Horlicks (May 2018). Mission Poshan is a venture of Horlicks, a pricey malted "health drink" full for unhealthy sugar (carb) with a tagline: "a trusted bottle of Horlicks has been an indispensable part of the Indian household cupboard for the last three generations." 

It's surprising that with this kind of regressive standardization of health science we are "here to fight the malnutrition in our country”! Horlicks is harshly criticized for propagating unsubstantial health claims in commercials. It is harmful with high sugar content and is labeled as empty calorie by the health scientists. Several nutritionists and health campaigners have disapproved of this and voiced their opinion.

“Amitabh Bachchan’s association with Horlicks can be harmful. Sugar has no nutritional value whatsoever. It is a major cause of obesity and there is increasing evidence that added sugar increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and fatty liver,” says Dr. Aseem Malhotra, an internationally known campaigner for healthy foods.

"Promotion of Horlicks stating that it helps kids in gaining height, weight, brain development and the healthy immune system is inappropriate as these claims are scientifically unsubstantiated,” said Dr J.P. Dadhich, a paediatrician in Delhi.

Denunciation is but the hind side of super stardom and Amitabh Bachchan has relentlessly swerved it. But this time it is a different battle altogether. It's the future of our children - the health of the millennial we are dealing here. Corroborating with Horlicks, Poshan Abhiyaan has actively defied science of food and this is when the world is restructuring the health science and India has dissociated  itself from the campaign objective. A whole lot thing is happening all over the world everyday and the health advocates are coming up with new purpose and new ways to healthy living. It's very important that we remain well informed about pro health choices for the people of India will neither forgive its government nor Mr Amitabh Bachchan for any negligent and disagreeable choice concerning the health of our children ever.

Photo copyright: Flickr

Friday, June 1, 2018

A date with a rainy day

Today has been a non yielding day in more ways than one. No work (pre decided holiday which had nothing to do with the forecast), no chores, no writing and nothing at all precisely. All through the day I found myself utterly silly doing nothing but jibing on the long to do list that I was supposed to tick off by this weekend.

It all started in a happy note when I woke up to a beautiful toned down sun. My nephew turned twelve today and we were overwhelmed by the fact is he is already there. The sky gotten absolutely dark by seven in the morning. The wind was rapturous and almost swept the palm trees to the ground and sometimes on the other side to the wall.

I couldn't hold myself back and started musing as I used to as a child. 'Mashi', our cook, passed me the second cup of steaming black tea which I found still holding after many minutes. I was completely contained in the scene. An euphoria that failed me in recent times. I have developed this crafty little thing recently that helps me barter all the liberating things (very conveniently) with erratic work hours, back logs, inundations and other ilks. But on other occasions I find myself procrastinating on the same stuffs! It's funny how I have become an ace on making excuses these days.

So, several minutes later I decided to do something productive. This was when the phone rang and I indulged in an engaging chat session with my sister. Much recharging that was, I decided to clear off the remnants of the recent repair work and discovered a wee leak on the staircase faucet from the recent drilling of the electric work. This discovery (although it was actually 'mashi's') was the only tangible achievement of the day.

Around this time, the lovely little girl showed up. She is the daughter of our house help who accompanies her mother and sits through as her mother helps us with the chores. I fondled the little one for a while. Meanwhile the rain almost flooded the balcony and the plants were cleansed of all the grime. Loved the green color on them today. So supple, full and so green.

Rain never quite stopped today and I had to come inside as it started to get really dark by six in the evening. And to my surprise, my mom decided to prepare khichuri (a mix of rice and lentils in equal portion in mostly running consistency) - the ultimate rain food for the bengalis. What better end could have been to a perfect rainy day! Khichuri, dim bhaja (omlette), ghee (clarified butter), achar (pickles) and papad (poppadam)! Heaven!

To end this memoir I would like to share an open birthday note that I wrote to my nephew earlier in the day hoping that he would understand what I meant many years later when he actually grows up.

Dearest Golubabu,

Happy 12th birthday from all of us here. Did we tell that we love you so so much and will do so no matter what! (you are giggling, right?) 

The day you learn to forego minecraft, morse code, roblox etc. and understand that life is as good otherwise we will cherish your growing up more. You have such big heart. Aka and you are appreciative of nature and animals more than any of us in the family. Be kind, be curious. Grow your own plants at home, nourish them, touch them, see them grow each day. Kindness is beautiful and sharing your little acts will attract more such. Do share whenever and wherever and inspire us with your brilliant ideas.

Meanwhile here we are going to cherish your growing up like never before. 

Much love, 

Photo copyright: MouD

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Khichuri - the ultimate rain food for the bengalis

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Prepare Bengali Garam Masala at home

In my previous posts I have shared my fondness towards authentic Bengali vegetable recipes. That was when I decided to write about an important spice blend, garam masala. The heart of most Indian and of course Bengali recipes contains a very interesting blend of spices,. We call it ‘Garam Masala’. ‘Garam’ means ‘hot’ (as in the strong flavors that the spices exude) and ‘masala’ means ‘blend’. As you must be knowing that Indian cuisine contains a lot of oriental spices and 'garam masala' is the most common of them. Keeping the basic ingredients intact the masala varies from region to region. Here, I am going to write about the Bengali garam masala which includes a proportionate mix of cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, cumin seeds, star aniseeds, clove sprigs, peppercorns, bay leaves, nutmeg and saffron. 

Even before it's prepared the whole spices release an extensive aroma that enrich and enhance the food they go into. It’s the essential seasoning that the vegetable recipes (niramish ranna) cannot do without. We can find the ready-made version of the spice blend in almost every shop around the block. However, there is nothing like preparing it at home, a batch ahead, and using it straightaway. I have seen my grandmother, and now my mom, picking, clearing (with clean cotton cloth) and grinding the spices at home. Although it sounds elaborate, it hardly takes 10 -15 minutes, depending upon the quantity you wish to grind.

The mix is prepared in simple steps and it needs to be stored in airtight containers to retain the fresh, exotic aroma. Garam masala adds texture, color and flavor to the food and enhances a simple recipe.

The chief ingredients are easily available and once you get those, arrange for an airtight container and a grinder (coffee grinder will do as well). Roast all the ingredients, except the saffron, on a slow flame till the spices get a shade darker. Remove from the flame immediately, add the threads of saffron and allow it to cool down. Once cooled, grind the spices in the dry and clean grinder. Sieve the mix and store in an airtight container. Garam masala prepared at home can be stored for several months while still retaining the original flavor.

The ingredients:

2 tbsps cumin seeds
1 star aniseed
1 tbsps black peppercorns
4 pods cardamom
4 cloves
3-4 sticks, moderately sized cinnamon sticks
2 bay leaves
1 whole nutmeg
A few threads of saffron (optional)


Be patient. Roast on slow, low heat.
Add the saffron after the skillet is removed from the flame, but when still hot.
Sieve thoroughly to remove coarse particles.
Store in an airtight container only after it has cooled down.
Try putting a little amount in your food to start off since it has a strong flavor that you might need time to get used to.

Medicinal value

'Garam masala' is an amazing blend of spices that keeps us warm in winter and cool in hot months. The individual spices have great medicinal values, that add to the usefulness of the spice blend. It has intrinsic qualities that help in digestion (they help stimulate the secretion of enzymes), nutrient assimilation, reducing inflammation and in relieving pains. It also relaxes the body muscles, eases out mental stress, acts as an appetizer and helps coping with cough, cold, bronchitis.

Garam masala has a strong flavour and not everyone likes it. So striking a right balance is very important. I like it when used in small quantity and only in a few specific dishes. My mother has mastered the art of what it takes to make a dish just perfect and hopefully I will too soon.

Photo copyright: MouD

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Authentic Bengali 'niramish' Shukto recipe

A traditional Bengali gastronomy comprises of five or more elaborate courses starting with a bitter vegetable dish and ending in a sweet note. In between we have some delightful range of varied Bengali delicacies that's going to make you revisit Bengal again and again. 

Today I am going to share a vegetable recipe that needs hands on apprenticeship before you can actually plate it to the guests. Shukto is usually eaten in the beginning of the afternoon meal (lunch) which is considered the main meal of the day. It has a bitter taste due to the primary vegetable bitter gourd and it has gut cleansing science behind it. There are several variations of shukto recipes and both East Bengal and West Bengal have experimented with this traditional dish keeping the basic ingredients intact. My mother cooks a few alterations depending on the season and availability of the vegetables.


Shukto is an appetizer packed with vegetables and some very special spices. It is usually served at the beginning of the meal with steamed rice and a liberal spritz of clarified butter/ ghee.


Fresh produce cut in slices include:

Bitter gourd (uchhe/ korola)
Sweet potato (optional)
Egg plant/ aubergine/ brinjal
Plantain/ raw banana
Parwal/ a type of gourd (optional)
Drumsticks (optional)
Green chilies


Mustard seeds
Radhuni seeds (optional)
Bay leaf

Coriander ground
Cumin ground
Ginger paste
Poppy seed paste (optional)

Ghee/ white oil

In a wok deep fry the "boris", drain the oil and keep aside. Fry the cut bitter gourds till medium brown and put aside. Sauté the rest of the cut vegetables in while oil (mixed with ghee) till half done. Dish them aside. In a wok put oil and sizzle the mustard, radhuni seeds and the bayleaf till they start to pop. Add ginger, coriander and cumin paste and cook for a minute before putting all the fried vegetables in the wok.  Add sugar and salt and the slit green chilies. Then add lukewarm water and simmer till the vegetables are tender and once it is done add a cup of milk. Bring it to boil. Add ghee on the top before dishing out.

Serve this delicious shukto with steamed rice, gondhoraj lebu (lemon) and ghee.

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Kichuri - The ultimate rain food for the bengalis

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The meat scandal and the Bengali delirium - To eat or not to eat

The recent meat scandal took a psychic toll on Calcutta a.k.a. Kolkata. The food loving city witnessed a delirium that shook the nation overnight. In what seemed to be a compulsive frenzy the Bengalis turned from being meatatarians to being vegetarian just in a wink of eye! That is particularly strange because the Bengalis swear by fish, meat and everything that is "non-vegetarian". So, to turn
a Bengali meatless you need to do something really horrific and nothing more horrific can ever happen to any nation than to mess up with the staple of its people. 

The meat scandal unleashed a whole new perspective of consumerism in Kolkata. What we wanted to buy and what we actually bought - the disparity has been staggering. The horrific act of supplying rotten meat and carcasses of animals to the eateries and we, as end users, eating it in delicious packaging left us shocked and disgusted. It’s a different level of never seen before criminal connivance.

Following this, copious bytes on television channels unfolding news of unhygienic and criminal act of meat scandal has left the meatatarian Bengalis pathetically shaken. 
The ghastly criminality traded
in the toxic rotten flesh even to the reputed eating houses and made us loathe it more. So, when we as a family, found ourselves refraining from eating meat and chicken it was not a surprise.  The decision was compulsive and generic. 

Our kitchen, too, like most Bengali household, is hit hard by this sudden sting operation. In an endeavour to replace the meat satiation, my mother is busy revamping her culinary skills. She wanted to do this since long and now she has enough reasons and motivation. The end result – we are enjoying the traditional, almost forgotten, delicious vegetable recipes at home. So, if you find me writing down about vegetable Bengali recipes in the several of the articles henceforth don't be surprised. 

Keep visiting folks. I will be up with some wonderful authentic Bengali vegetable recipes soon. Thank you.

Pic credit: LiveLiving

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

If it is Chinese it's Calcutta Chinese

My love for Chinese food began from the streets of Calcutta. The just sprouted roadside stalls tucked in every other corner of the city would sell stir fried, extra bouncy Chowmein,  a.k.a Chowmin as pronounced by the local Bengalis. It was served with squirts of orange red tomato ketchup and onion-cucumber julienne. 

I was the child of eighties. That was the time when home made Chinese food was not in vogue. We were used to the 3-5 courses of traditional Bengali gastronomy.  Once in a while we did go to the restaurants that sold Chinese food. But then that was a rare indulgence. One such restaurant, I remember, had a fancy name, “China Palace”. This quaint little place with red dragons and golden chimes on the walls, was the most sought after eatery in the neighbourhood. Having to eat there was an affair to remember. We would plan for hours many days in advance and once the day arrived our excitement knew no bounds. The restaurant was nearby and the aroma of irresistible Chinese broth would draw us to the restaurant sooner. We would sit on the same corner where the regular happy waiters would pry on us. The course invariably would start with my father’s personal favourite, clear chicken soup. It was a broth prepared with miserly amount of chicken and lot of spring onions. My sisters and I used to skip it in order to binge on the main course. The main course would almost always include mixed fried rice, boneless chili chicken, mixed noodles and sometimes we would eat ice creams as dessert. That was the standard platter and we didn’t get to experiment beyond since that was all the quaint eatery had to offer.

Later, as I was growing up I realized that the Chinese food that we were eating was actually a over simplified version of Indo-Chinese flavour. The Calcutta Chinese food was generated from the Chinese diaspora living in Calcutta since the eighteenth century. A cluster of people came from China in times of turbulence and worked as labourers. More people flocked in due course and they formed a sizeable community with unique appearance, culture, belief and cuisine. They started to live as a separate community in Tiretta Bazaar and the adjacent areas of Bow Bazar. Soon they started dispersing in Tangra area which came to be known as the city’s Chinatown later.

This was that chunk of China that came to Calcutta when still young or the second gen of the diaspora who was born in Calcutta. To start with they contained in themselves but soon they started selling their unique stuffs in order to sustain. They sold home made stuffs like sauces, condiments, steamed and fried food which they later incorporated in small eateries and liquor shops. Some opted for leather and carpentry business. The Chinese diaspora in Calcutta started experimenting with their food which went through exciting changes over the years to oblige the Bengali taste buds. The typical red gravy, heavy on sauces along with ginger, garlic, hot chilies and a consistency reminding of Indian curry soon became a delectable Indo-Chinese concoction that the world drooled over.

Calcutta had a few reputed Chinese restaurants as well. But not everyone could eat there and the pocket friendly roadside eateries had hygiene issues. Some small local restaurants had to close down to other lucrative businesses and we were left with the option of over simplified Chinese food made at home. It was cheap, "healthy", tasty and soon the children started to swear by it. Meanwhile, the raw spaghetti like noodles was abundantly available in the market and soon the Bengali families were indulging in the most sought after food at home.

In my teens, while play dating once, I remember eating noodles cooked with soya bean chunks and potato fritters along with onions, tomato ketchup, black pepper etc. in a friend's place. We persuaded our mother and soon she too gave in and one day, to our dismay, our lovely cook prepared the most delicious noodles at home. And that was the beginning.

Chowmein became extremely popular because it made both the children and their mothers happy. The forever anxious mothers had learned the trick of sneaking in lot of seasonal vegetables in their noodles and finally their kids were eating veggies. My sisters and I used to love it as well. Once in a while good restaurant happened and we were satiated. 

Several years past, as I look back now, I see it as an unhealthy eating trend. Today, I wouldn’t want any kid to eat noodles as much as we did as children. The in depth demonization of health standards is not only deeply rooted in our system but is hard to eradicate. However, we can certainly educate our children towards better understanding of healthy food fads. But then that's another story altogether.

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Image courtesy: Youtube

Friday, June 16, 2017

Why puffed rice aka muri is the ultimate survival food

There has been a major shift in health paradigm, from high carb to high fat and vice versa and we have seen it all over the past couple of years. What we thought was right for our health is actually a deterrent, what we believed we should be eating was manipulated by the big pharmas and the US government and people were duped into eating mashed potato, corn flakes, eggs without yellow, fruit juice etc. That's lot of carbs and very little fat. Now that the big fat lie is out, we have come to realize that fat is good and real and has extraordinary power to shape our health and that culprit sugar and is the new tobacco!

The Big Fat Surprise: The myth of High Carb Low Fat diet explained

Being an Indian and living in India we have just begun to realize the harm that has been caused to an entire generation over the decades. The ripple effect has come to shock everyone here and everywhere. The power of this kneaded falsehood is so deeply ingrained that it's no rocket science to understand the humongous task of back pedaling the credence of the populace. So, it is our minds that we are fighting everyday more than anything else and trust me, it is hard.

When my cardiologist boss asked patients to eat whole eggs or meat or butter or not to eat biscuits and bread they were in complete disbelief. They still are and this skepticism is something that's not going to go overnight. That said, we have been spending days figuring out the right and real food that is healthy, nutritious and delicious. Quite a bit of research work later, we found out that even with all the snags puffed rice is the best possible snacks we can fall for especially if you are an Indian or if you plan to live in India.

So what is puffed rice? (This of course is for my friends from abroad). Trust me it is the ultimate survival food! Muri is indigenous of South Asia and is prepared from rice kernels in a similar manner as popcorn is made from corns. Traditionally it is made by heating rice over sand filled earthen oven. It serves as an excellent cereal food and can be eaten just as we eat corn flakes or oats with milk and seasonal fruits. Muri is healthy and has immense likelihood of turning into a super food when tossed with assortments of veggies like cucumber, parsley, green chillis, tomatoes, boiled potatoes, onion, sprouts- you just name it! Bengalis love it with pure raw mustard oil (mustard oil is one of the best oils we can eat nowadays, so you can eat it guilt free) and hot green chillis and occasionally with "aloor chop" (potato fritters) and often with friends and family.

Another snacking food is flattened rice or rice flakes (chura/ chire) which is also a powerful comfort food. Nowadays we get lovely roasted chire which is not only tasty but also nutritious. If you are an Indian and have survived numerous homesick moments it's needless to introduce you to poha. You know how you can add lovely fresh veggies, sprouts, peanuts, raisins and more to cater to your taste buds making it hugely popular among desi and not-so-desi friends.

The benefits also are immense. If you are a weight watcher you can never go wrong with this super food. It's high on iron, carbohydrate and have low gluten content. Besides, it is a fantastic mood lifter and reminds me of camaraderie. Although the brown variety is hard to get these days but both muri (puffed rice) and chire (flattened rice) are better picks than suji (semolina) which is totally a white stuff. Having said that, be a smart buyer and a smart eater. Try not to look for stuffs that are glossy, inviting and too good to be true. The crude variety is less appealing, less puffed and are less cosmetic. And I know you are a smart eater and never go on binges.

Now, a takeaway. We went to the US last year and sitting there miles away we relived our Calcutta days merely by eating muri, chanachur (spicy snacks mix) and chai over bangla cinema on youtube (courtesy my lovely sister who rolled in a whole lot of bengali essentials in no time). So, no brownie point for guessing that I am insanely in love with muri. Although my family will disagree I can tell you that they too resort to this super snacks, aka muri, in times of nostalgic Calcutta moments.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Trust your doctor

Coming to the point straight - charged with expansive info (half truth, all dark), we are in a state of compulsive confusion today. This calls for serious rethinking. What we see, what we hear are not always true. We need to question our rationale; we need to take a bird's eye view of the situation.

Being a proud part of hospital industry, I have been privileged to know several medics and medicos who work with all their goodness, 24 hours on call, day in and day out, without any timeout. They have saved thousands of lives over the years. They have also treated many without charging their fees. Yes they have. That said it would be unfair to equate them with God. They can't reverse mortality but what they can do is something super. They do their best to save us. And of course they deserve love, respect, empathy and more if not for this but for the simple fact that they are humans who have vouched for our wellness. 

So, when you abuse doctors, nurses, healthcare staffs you disrespect one of you. When you abuse doctors for one death remember that they have also saved thousands. Pls use your sense of judgement. Trust your doctor.

The problem today is more socio-political, more infrastructural than anything else. How to resolve this? Corporate greed is one thing and doctor's ethics is another. Going by that perspective, we just need to sustain faith. Hospitals can't thrive without doctors, can they? So trust the doctors, respect them for all their goodness. We need to endure this ghastliness with hope, integrity and strength. Yes, this too shall pass. 

A personal note to the doctors:

Dear doctors,
you have saved me and my on several occasions. I respect you for all the respect you have shown. I love you for all the love you have bestowed on me. I stand by you since you have stood by me when I was sick. I salute you for your righteousness and kindness.

Thank you doctors.

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.


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.


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.


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