Monthly Archives: September 2012

TV Heaven: Jhalak Dhikhlaja Jaa

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Ever since I was a kid I LOVED dancing! My sister and I pretty much knew all the steps to any hit Bollywood number. The craze ended when I came to the US and sorta lost touch with dancing. During my first year of work, I remember having plenty of  un-eventual nights in front of the T.V., and that is where I stumbled upon “Dancing with the Stars.” I have been hooked ever since!

It’s the 10th and All-Star season of Dancing with the Stars (DWTS);  it has all of my favorite celebrity dancers from the years. The thought on missing out on fabulous dancing is a bit sad, but not too much because India has its’ own dancing with celebrities show called Jhalak Dhikhla Jaa!!! The format between the shows is almost identical, celebrities are paired up with professional dancers and then complete for title of best dancer. The best part of the Indian version is the judge, actually one in particular: Madhuri Dixit! And for anyone who grew up on Bollywood, how can you not know Madhuri?

Dancing Queen: Madhuri Dixit

What I love even more about Jhalak Dhikhla Jaa are the endless special appearances of Bollywood movies stars on the show. It’s almost a standard marketing and PR strategy in Indian films ; movie stars make appearances on shows prior to a major movie release. For me being a bollywood junkie, this is TV heaven. I can’t tell you how excited I get these stars come to the shows and actually dance with the participants or audience member.

Ranbir Kapoor, Bollywood star shaking leg with Madhuri Dixit

Such interactions you might not witness on the US show. I would actually like to see Len Goodman, one the esteemed judges on DWTS, actually shake a leg with a contestant.

Len Goodman: Judge on DWTS

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Daud: Training for a Marathon

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No, this blog is not about the 1997 Ram Gopal Varma movie; even though some scenes in the movie are absolutely hilarious. This post is about a different kind of daud (running in hindi); training for a marathon. A complete marathon is 26.2 miles (42 kilometers). An interest piece of trivia, the word marathon is derived from a Greek legend of a messenger, Pheiddippides, running from the Battle of Marathon in to Athens.

My Nike Marathon Shoes

I committed myself to training for a marathon back in April, and my first training day was April 14th. I vividly remember that chilly morning when I joined the members of North East Ohio, and heard the stories why people were running the marathon. I asked myself that question, why a marathon? For one, it has been something on my bucket list; see if I can really push my body to achieve this seemingly impossible task. Two, I joined running the marathon as part of a Asha Cleveland, a charity group that supports education programs in India. Lastly, and more a selfish reason, I was running to see if it would get me in any better shape.

So what has the six month journey been like? There have the highs and lows. A 6 month training program was provided by Northeast Ohio that comprised of short runs during the week and then long run during the weekends. This meant a lot of early on Friday nights so I could actually wake up at 5 or 6 am on Saturdays to make it for my runs. The rest of Saturdays was usually spent by cribbing about my knees and doing a very funny walk up and down stairs.

The training program has been a self discovery journey. I have learned a lot about myself and weird idiosyncrasies of my body.

Mental Strength:  Running is as much a mental game as its physical. If I let my mind tell me that I can’t run today, I can’t even get through 1 mile. So believe in yourself and I am sure you can do it. Positive thoughts all the way.

Remember the small stuff: A lot of water, sleep, and stretching. You can’t get through a marathon without getting enough of any of these.

Value the distance: I appreciate of value the distance. A mile or kilometer is no longer a joke, and it quite satisfying too. The distance covered served as a personal accomplishment.

Speed isn’t everything: When training for a marathon, you don’t have to go fast. Just take your time and complete the goal distance. During your first marathon, the focus is about getting the miles than speed. You can focus on speed later on in the training, or may be when you train for your second marathon.

Time Commitment: More than anything, training for a marathon was the biggest time commitment. Sometimes, I didn’t want to go to bed on a Friday night or miss out on night with friends, because I had to complete my runs. I felt like I was missing out on moments with friends and family.

Small Rewards: To get through some of these runs, especially those I didn’t even want to start, I would set tiny goals. These goals would be silly things and most of the time was just ability to have good food or drink. Thinking about butter chicken or a pizza through the run, and then being able to have it afterwards without regret is the best feeling ever!! This made it fun for me.

Age doesn’t Matter: I think the biggest learning or motivation for me came from those running the marathon who are older than me. I am going to be 27, and was one of the youngest people in the training group. Most of the participants in the group were older and super inspiring. To see them run, and most ran faster than I did, was the best motivation ever. I mean if they can do it, I should be able to it too!

Saturday Morning Run

I can go on and on about the marathon, but let me save that for another day. The marathon is in another 4 days, and I will let you know how it goes.

But in the meanwhile, I would encourage you to think about training for the marathon. Major cities in India have started organizing marathons now; see if your city has one. You never know what you might end up learning about yourself.

Foodgasm: Whole-wheat Double Chocolate Chip Muffins

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When I get bored, I either shop online, or I experiment in the kitchen. Since I had indulged in way too much shopping in the past few weeks, I decided on the later. Plus, its lighter on the hubby’s wallet, not so much the waistline though.

I started off wanting try a new banana muffin recipe, came across a whole-wheat one. And turns out there is a whole world of baking that uses whole-wheat instead of the traditional flour or maida. After much browsing and drooling I settled on Whole-wheat Double Chocolate Muffins. I want to thank Lauren Zietsman of the blog A Full Measure of Happiness for the easy to bake, scrumptious muffins.

I really do wish I had better pictures to show off my creations, but so far I haven’t exactly mastered stirring and handling a camera simultaneously.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup butter
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Steps

  1. Preheat the oven to 175 degree Celsius.
  2. In a mixing bowl, beat together butter, sugar, baking powder, salt, vanilla extract and eggs, and beat them until light and fluffy. I used a hand-held mixer whisk, which makes this task a whole lot easier. Also, I did not melt the butter, just let it sit outside for a while to make it soft.
  3. Add flour, cocoa powder and milk, and mix until the ingredients have just about blended.
  4. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  5. Spoon the mix into the muffin cups and pop the tray in the oven for approximately 25 minutes.
  6. To check if the muffin has been baked through, push a toothpick in the center, and if it comes out clean, you have a batch ready.

Note that as the muffins cook, they will rise and crack and the top will be slightly harder than the rest of the body.

And finally, the best way to eat them: fresh out of the oven and with a generous serving of vanilla ice-cream.

Do try and let me know how they turn out for you.

Making the Move

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In 12 days, I will probably be making the biggest journey of my life; moving from Cleveland, Ohio to Mumbai, India. Moving from one apartment to another is a big deal in itself, forget states or even countries. So why am I making this move? To be closer to my better half!!

I get peppered with questions as to how I am feeling about the move having lived in the US for almost 9 years now, I actually moved from Bangkok, Thailand to a small town called Hiram, Ohio to for my undergrad education. For the most part I am excited to move to India. My mind tells me that I am ready for this. The decision came naturally to me; not only would I be closer to him but also my parents. However there is one aspect that has been causing some stress to this move, and that is the packing.

I will be traveling via Air India (yes, they have restarted direct flights from JFK to Mumbai) and I am so thankful for four simple words when I was reviewing my itinerary: 2 checked baggage allowed. In today’s travel world this is a luxury which I am happily going to make full use of 🙂

I actually started mentally preparing for my trip in July when I got my tickets. I started by getting rid of clothes, shoes, decorations, etc by putting them up for sale and donating items at the local Goodwill (thrift store). Me being the planner I am, even had the dates outlined as to when I would leave my apartment to stay with friends, rent a large truck to move furniture, and clean my apartment before turning in the keys. I do have to say all this did ease the process a bit, but not by much.

Over the past weekend, I layed out the two suitcases that will be carrying majority of my things and I was simply shocked and horrified. How will my clothes, shoes, and necessary toiletries fit into these two 29 inch bags with the weight being under 23 kilos each? These clothes and shoes have taken years (okay, I am exaggerating here, but still) to put together.

My first step was to get Space Saver bags that would compress up to 16 sweaters/jackets to into the size of may be 5 shirts. This trick was a success! Just remember, that less space doesn’t mean less weight!

Next, take all the cases out. Do you really need to carry your watch in the box set? Earring and necklaces can be transferred into plastic ziplock bags to save space. I also took my necessary lotions out of the packaging and packed them as is.

These two steps did help a bit. However, it came down to answering the tough question. Do I really need all my clothes and shoes to follow me to India? The kid and wannabe fashionista said yes, but the practical me had a different answer: NO. In the end I decided that I will take a few essential pieces, jeans and a few shirts and two pairs of shoes, the rest I can leave behind and may be a friend will be nice enough to bring them during a later trip.

How do I feel now after making this choice? I actually feel good and excited. This will be my chance to add some Indian fashion/trends to my closet and give it a completely different spin. So I am content and feel this packing journey has been good. Yes, there were minor moments of anxiety and stress, but is this move really about bringing my clothes with me?? I am keeping myself open to all that India has to offer whether in terms of clothes, accessories, and shoes, etc.

May be I will regret my decision, may be not. I will keep you posted.

India-Myth or Reality

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You hear something often times and it starts being true, but is it really? These are some of the myths that I had before I moved, and not all of them have turned out to be true. You live, you learn.

  1.  It is cheap to live in India: I have been living in India for just over a year now, and let me tell you, it is definitely not that cheap. Sure, street food is and it is abundant supply, but other than that living in Mumbai is like living in any other global city. I have never hit a convenience store and ended up paying less that 1000 Rupees (approx 55 USD). Comparatively Bangkok seems like a much cheaper city to live in. I mean you can buy a decent meal there for under 2 USD. Try looking for a one room rental here and a fresh graduate will have end up parting with half his salary. And when i head out shopping I see myself paying more than I would in Bangkok for the same brands, plus there we had benefit of numerous sales, which you do tend miss here. Making up for the lack of sales however, are plenty of online shopping options that offer excellent discounts to soothe the shopaholic in you.
  2. Avoid street food: sure you have places that are not hygienic, you just need to avoid those and you are set. I mean half the fun in eating paani puri is standing on the pavement, with five other people as cars zip by. I have fallen sick eating ‘street food’ at a restaurant. So, I say take your chance, learn as you go, or you really are missing out of the myriad of deliciousness. You don’t want to be missing out on your vada pao’s, dabelis, sev puri and tikis, trust me.
  3. India is hot: that is true, for most of the country other than Bangalore, where the weather is more or less pleasant year round. Mumbai is hot and humid and I am not saying Bangkok wasn’t but you tend to notice it a lot more here. Winters, however in this part of the country are pleasant, head up north and you would not want to leave your blanket.
  4. People have no sense of time: this again  is absolutely true. I have a beautician who comes over for my waxing and threading –this place is convenient like that- and no matter what time I make the appointment for or how many days in advance, she is always 20 minutes late. Her record was an hour and a half and this after I had mentioned I had a flight to catch. Go figure And even though I am one of those people who likes being on time, hell I would prefer getting to a place 5 minutes before time, I have learned to improvise. I have no understood that 5pm does not mean exactly that, it can be any time in the next 30 minutes. Going out for dinner or a movie with friends takes some skill.
  5. I won’t find food items that I am used to: you’ll find everything from Thai green curry pastes and couscous to brown rice and pasta in India. Sure, your local kiraana wala might not stock it or even have heard of it. But, one trip to the nearest Hypercity or Nature’s Basket and you’ll be a fan.