Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Family Visits-Part II-Bangalore

When The Bunch reached Bangalore at 7AM, I took them straight to my place for breakfast. My apartment is very tiny, though cute (if I may say so!). They somehow fitted themselves wherever they could while they discussed what they should do in the remaining 3 days of their trip. My brother had already made his weekend plan- he was to meet his geeky friends. His friend's family, after brainstorming, decided that they should stay in the city itself. -_- We booked a room for them at the hotel closest to my apartment. By the time they actually got the room, it was 2PM.

In the afternoon, I and my mom went for wedding-invitation shopping to Chickpet. This was the major purpose of coming to Bangalore. There, after an hour of digging through piles of cards, my mom and I unanimously agreed on two patterns. Yay! One major burden off our wedding to-do list!

In the evening, we gathered The Bunch and went to a mall near my place. It was weekend, and noisy.

Next day, friend's family was invited for dinner at some place and so it was a perfect day for mother-daughter togetherness since brother was out with his friends.

Bonda & Filter Coffee- The B'lore feel

Mother-Daughter Bonding

Mom and I shopped knick-knacks for the wedding, I made her taste dosa and filter coffee and took her to a play at Ranga Shankara. In the evening, Uncle and Auntie went to Phoenix Market City whereas I, mom and the Manga Teens headed to UB City.

UB City scored high with them. Of course, it is known for its "phoren" ambiance. We sat there, in Cafe Noire, under white umbrellas with candles lit on every table and a colourful fountain in the background. It was a peaceful evening. Later on, I invited everyone for dinner at a Chinese restaurant near my place and we all told each other the adventures of that day.

On their last day in Bangalore, the adults separated from the Manga Teens. The adults wanted to go for Bangalore sight-seeing which the Manga Teens totally opposed. So, the adults hired a taxi and went their way whereas the Manga Teens were left with me to entertain them!
All Things Manga

I took them for breakfast at McDonald's, followed by a 3D screening of The Wolverine. After that, a bit skeptically, I took them to Lalbagh on the pretext of meeting the adults who were already there. I was quite surprised that they loved the garden. The adults took the golf-cart to see the gardens, whereas I made the Manga Teens walk through some parts of the Garden. We walked and talked... umm... actually, they talked and I listened... I do not talk tween anymore... yes, I'm old.

After the walk in the park, it was surprise time. I took them to St. Mark's road and there, infront of a colonial building, I announced "This is Hard Rock Cafe! For lunch, shall we?"

Rock n' Roll Lunch
I guess that was the precise moment I became a hero in their eyes. They gaped at everything on the walls of HRC; they walked as if they were in a museum of god; they clicked everything; they took extra pamphlets and put them in their pockets to show it to their school-mates. Lunch, my fellas, was a roaring success!!

After that, my brother's friend asked if there were any Manga available in Bangalore. Well, I was not sure... I am not into Manga, at all... but... but... there's Blossoms Book Store in Bangalore where you get a-n-y-b-o-o-k! So, we walked in and voila! Stacks of Manga in the stairway! Brother's friend got glued to the stairway and my brother immersed himself in the Computer section. I sat in the corner in the uppermost floor and tried to take a nap. They spent two hours there! I was dead tired by the time they finished ransacking the book store. I took them straight to where the adults were.. Enough of chaperoning for a day!

But my duty-time was far from over! Back in the hotel room, auntie was making a fuss because she could not shop in Bangalore!...

Yes, I fulfilled her wish of saree-shopping by taking her and my mom to Jayanagar. The women went slightly uncontrollable at that point. Their hands were full and their wallets were empty by the time uncle called us for dinner.

On the last dinner in Bangalore, I can safely vouch that each person on that table was happy and satisfied with their trip down south. Goa and Bangalore had charmed them completely. They vouched to come back soon.

Well, I am also quite pleased that I didn't do half a bad job at being a guide. Of course, I was grumpy and snappy at times but for the most part, I was competent and able to make arrangements for most of their needs.

But, man, like I said before, this was not a vacation for me at all. In fact, after they left, I was happy to go to office, sit at my desk and listen to my own calm breathing after five days!!

Thank you for coming to Bangalore. And no... no more open invitations for a few years!

The Family Visits-Part I-Goa

I have been complaining to my mom for close to eight years, bi-annually, of not coming and visiting me in Bangalore. I mean, people just don't dump their wards in Bangalore; people come and visit their wards once in a while. Yet this was not in my case. I have been living here since eight years and the only time she came to Bangalore was during my law-school admissions. Once admitted, she never bothered. Or rather, she did bother and felt guilty, but she is a working woman and she couldn't find the right time to visit me.

Goa: anticipating rain
But now, in a few months time, I shall be leaving Bangalore and so I told her to visit me and see Bangalore before I leave. For some weird reason, she agreed this time.
And we booked her ticket (#happy)
... along with my brother's ticket (#incredulous)
.... and my brother's friend's  ticket (#twomangateens?!)
... and my brother's friend's mom-and-dad's tickets!  (#facepalm)

After tickets were done, there was a frenzy of plans happening in Guwahati. All wanted to go to Goa. Brother wanted two days to be with his friends, the other family wanted to visit another place besides Goa, mom wanted to do some wedding shopping, auntie wanted to go for saree shopping... they had five days in hand and I had a handful of hair in mine!

This vacation was NOT going to be my vacation: I was to be their guide. I don't make a good guide.

Nevertheless, this is how it happened:

It so happens that Indigo airways have started operating a direct flight from Guwahati to Bangalore that lands at Bangalore right at 8pm. The flight landed 20mins early (which is unheard of!), yet my group trickled out at the very end of the flight-crowd.This was a warning of how things could get hold up when there are five people from the "land of laahe laahe".

There was no time to lose because we had a bus scheduled for Goa at 11pm. I packed the entire bunch in a hired Innova and asked the driver to speed it up to Orion Mall for a quick dinner. On the way, we caught up on the news of everyone from Assam, from Assam politics to neighbours' politics and reached Orion Mall by 10pm. They gaped at the Mall like it was a thing from another planet. Frankly, I had never been to Orion Mall and damn, it was huge! I would have gaped too, but I pretended as if every other mall in Bangalore is just as big (*grins*).

For the next 45mins, I became the ring-master of my group, keeping a timer by which they need to finish the dinner and arrive at the bus stop. And sharp at 10:45pm, we reached the bus stand. And the bus? It was late!

Customs Govt. Guest House- Rs. 100 a night!!
The bus showed up a good 30mins late; however, we were all too tired to complain. They were impressed once again seeing the cleanliness of the "night-super" and the cleanliness of the public toilets in Karnataka!

By noon the next day, we were in Goa, settling in the Customs Guest house that my uncle had booked for us. It being August, the Goan rains were in full swing. The rain came and cleared for brief periods. For people getting scorched in the Guwahati heat, Goa was a blessing!

The first day, we decided to visit the Baga and Anjuna beaches. At Baga, I took them to the famous Britto's and made them taste the Pepper Prawns. That was a huge hit! Another bigger hit was the shandy I prepared. A crowd-pleaser everywhere!

The famed Pepper Prawns @ Brittos
The beach had a crazy effect on The Bunch. I guess it is the fact that they don't get to see the beach that often that made them go so crazy! Because of the monsoons, the waves were huge and the beach was wet. Yet it didn't stop them from enjoying the sea. It was just lovely seeing my mom and aunt screaming their lungs out to the sea... the sea must have turned partially deaf :/

Dona Paula
After the beaches, auntie voted that we go on a Goan cruise. I was extremely skeptical but 'course, they voted me out of the vote. So we all went. It was my first time on a cruise and it was extremely bad. The MC sucked, the music sucked and for the cultural experience, they provided three Goan dances with the same dance troupe. Well, it didn't suck for the families present there. They were dancing on stage. Brother and his friend (let's call them the Manga teens) gave one look at the stage and went upstairs on the deck and never came back. The cruise was an hour long excruciating affair; nonetheless, in the end, I was actually beginning to enjoy the part when auntie went up onstage with a group of married ladies to dance. Painful for her son, yes, but fun for us! ;)

The next day, we covered Dona Paula, Basilica of Bom Jesus, Fort Agoda and Calungute Beach. I haven't been to Dona Paula before and I quite liked the place in the early morning. We were almost alone, without tourists around, with the sea surrounding us. It was nice.

We wrapped up the Basilica and Fort Aguada as fast as we possibly could and headed to the beach. There, the Bunch went mad, once again... Knee-deep in water, screaming, plunging... they didn't mind the rain... they loved the sea!
For lunch, we went to Souza Lobo's in search of authentic Goan cuisine and we weren't disappointed. The shandy was becoming part of lunch ritual now. Later, we went to a cashew-nut and fenny wholesaler and bought "souvenirs" for people back home.

Late that night, we caught the bus back to Bangalore. They looked at the sea and made promises to come back and visit Goa soon!

Footprints in the Sand
On the 3rd day of their 5 day trip, weary and beaten by the sea, The Bunch reached Bangalore. Continue>

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Naga Kitchen: for Gahori-lovers

Gahori. n. 1. Assamese word for pig, 2. commonly used slang for my dear, beloved friends.

I have heard of the Naga Kitchen arriving to Bangalore a couple of years ago. In fact, I once had a taste of the Bangalore version of the Naga Kitchen at the Assamese Bihu Function held in Bangalore, and I remembered the food being sold out within seconds after being displayed at the stall. Well, that's what good Naga food does: It disappears... fast!

For those who don't know what Naga Kitchen is- it is simply a kitchen wherein lip-smacking Naga food is cooked. The first Naga Kitchen opened in Guwahati, perhaps 4 years back (not sure!) and I still remember how swollen and stung my lips felt after having their dry-fish chutney. Teary-eyed, relishing, good Naga food.

Though I have been told of the happy news that the Naga Kitchen arrived in the Koramangala neighborhood a few months ago, yet it was not until last month that I had some gahori-lovers (re: pork-lovers) who took me to this place.

I'm happy to say that the place is not pretentious. It is not pretentious from the outside or from the interiors or from the food aspect. The place gives me a vibe of being back in the North East; (I don't mean sitting in the Guwahatian version of the restaurant which was a bit too dark for my liking). I mean, the feel of wood, the sights of bamboo and cane artifacts, the wall hangings of things pre-dominantly Naga, pieces of Naga handloom framed on the wall. The place felt so much closer to home.

And the food... well, I cannot comment on what is available on the menu. My apologies. I didn't want to go through the menu when I knew perfectly well what I wanted to eat. The Naga Thali. All four of us ordered four thalis. Three Gahori Thali vs. One Chicken Thali.

I must say that I was an equal lover of pork and chicken and didn't know why pork-lovers made such a fuss about gahori being superior; however, that's all changed after my trip to the Naga Kitchen. Now I know why Gahori-lovers wring their noses on the mention of Chicken or Gahori-lovers go to the ends of the world to find a kitchen that serves succulent pork.

With both Pork and Chicken on my palate, Pork won hands down. Both were cooked in the same style with onions, garlic, chilli and tomato being the dominant ingredients but it helped that Pork has its own fat that gives a pure, distinctive relish. The Chicken just felt blah!

Besides the pork curry, we were also served with smoked-brinjal chutney, chilli chutney, vegetable stew, fried pork (which was seriously yum) Naga-style dal and steamed rice. We attacked the food in silence with "mmm"s and more "mmmm"s in between bites.

Even while I write this, my mouth slowly waters as I reminisce the taste of that delightful gahori.

Let's just say, all is good at The Naga Kitchen. I was mightily pleased with the thali. Though, if I may add, my lips didn't swell with the sting of chilli like it did the last time. Maybe, just maybe, they did not spice the food enough because I don't remember feeling "comfortable" after a Naga meal. If you know what I mean... we are suppose to feel the chilli-burn gnawing away our intestines after an intensive session of hogging Naga-style gahori (pun, obviously intended!). Nonetheless, it was a damn good meal. We "oooh"ed and "aah"ed with satisfaction. We felt our tummies touch the floor as we walked (rather, rolled) out of the restaurant.

For those still uninitiated into Naga-kingdom of food, you may find the cuisine to be very different from regular Indian food. I cannot explain it. It is not correct for me to explain it. You have to go there yourself and taste it!

The Koramangala branch is at 112, 6th Cross Road, 6th Block, Koramangala.

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