Sunday, June 29, 2008

Mastering the Art of Cooking!

We have become really wonderful cooks. I made this amazing dal with aloo, tamatar, pyaz, ginger and garlic and it was moong dal of all the dals.

We have had wonderful culinary adventures and experiences including sarson ka saag, rajma chawal with kachi aam and pyaaz kachumbar, sev batata puri, pita bread and hummus, khichdi, bhindi masala, patarwalia, thepla, dal makhani!
I never thought I would be able to make the perfect rajma chawal that too at the first attempt! But with Parth around, nothing seems impossible.....

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Thirsty Indian!

One of the ways I judge vibrancy of the culture and economic freedom is by availability of local brew (alcoholic drinks). In Nigeria, as elsewhere, in a local shop you can buy the choicest wines and spirits from around the world, but nothing really customarily local.

Given the abundance of palm and coconut trees, their customary drink has been 'palm wine' or what we would call in India toady. More surprising though that is the only customary drink they have, at least from the people I talked to in Lagos. With more than 250 tribes with their spoken languages, how could there be only one type of local brew?

The local Star beer is quite good, lager beer like Kingfisher. I have been rather taken by the flavory concoctions of Gin and Vodaka with about 5% acohol content--Gordon's Spark and Smirnoff's Ice. We only have Bacaardi Breezer but Spark and Ice could give any good beer run for its money.

(Investors: get out of beer and get into gin and vodaka companies. You read it first here!)

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Badagry: The Point of No Return

Parth and I had known about the slave trade, but we felt its gruesomeness for the first time at Badagry-which is the oldest slave port in West Africa. The slave trade here was at its peak in between the 16th and 18th century. European traders would bring new goods like tobacco, wine, gin and barter them for men, women and children who would be bonded in slavery for life. One bottle of gin would buy two abled men or five women. These slaves would literally be piled in ships and taken to the Caribbean where they would be forced to work as domestic help or plantation workers. Chains of various dimensions were used to restrict their movement and punish them. In the sugarcane plantation for instance, their lips would be sealed with a nail so that they would not eat the sugarcane! The finished products were brought back to West Africa to be traded for more slaves, thus completing the Atlantic Trade Triangle.

Badagry is a small town just 45 km from Lagos which has successfully preserved this inhuman period in human history. All along the lagoon, is a Heritage Museum (with a very good guide), the Slave Relics Museum, the canons (which used to be fired across the lagoon to scare the locals who would be captured into slavery). Just across the lagoon, is the "Point of No Return", where slaves were transported through ships out of Africa. Just before boarding the ship, they were forced to drink water from a well which would make them delirious and have loss of memory by the time they reached their destination. We went there by boat and walked till that point which is marked by a tall structure of two iron chained men facing each other and the Atlantic Ocean.

It was a humbling and unsettling experience, to tread the path which was once walked by these helpless people who lost the right to own their lives and destinies.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Badagry: The First Two-Storey Building and School in Nigeria

One of the two things for which Badagry is known for is the "first two-storey building" constructed in 1845 by the first missionaries in Nigeria. The first storey was used as the first western school in Nigeria which started with 40 men. It was in this building that one of the bishops translated the Bible into Yoruba.

The building still stands solid even today with a functional well, a safe, floors and roof! The guide also showed us a rare collection of coins dating back to the 19th century.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Happy Father's Day, Dad!

I am a compulsively organized person (AKA a milder version of Monica in "Friends"). I like things to be neat, clean and organized in some logical manner. I don't like a mess including cluttered desktops! Well this is a trait I am quite proud of and one which I have acquired from my Dad! His properly labelled files to a well stocked stationery drawer all inspired me to be like him. And today if I can boast of being a fairly organized person, all credit to him.

Thank you also for showing me the world! I feel so lucky to have been able to travel all over the world which has not only given me a diverse perspective but helped me to think out of the box.

Thanks for making me love tennis! I remember I was so young but I still knew Steffi Graf, Edberg, Samprus (in fact I was so proud when I won a quiz in school with a question about tennis to which only I knew the answer!) .

Thank you for bringing the best food home after a tiring day. I still remember the yummy kebabs and pastries from Wengers....

Thank you for believing in me and what I could achieve!

Thank you Dad for making me into who I am today.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Happy Birthday, Nidh!

Classes IX-XII, I would call the "formative" years of my life...the time I think I really "grew" and there is one person who played a n invaluable part of that growth-Ms Nidhi Bajaj! Nidh and I were in the same school since kindergarten but somehow our paths never crossed untill class IX when we were together in the Student Council. I think the magnet was our different personalities- my "easy going, what ever you put in is what matters not the outcome" and Nidhi "I have to be the best and the outcome does matter"!

And if today I have the urge in me to do the best I possibly can, its all because of Nidh! The four years of school were the most invigorating and creative years of my life. Many things happened then that have shaped the life I have today. One of them being the conference I went for in Geneva. I still remember I was not the first choice for the team that represented our school, but somehow I became part of it. Once I was selected, I had to write a daunting project. I dont know how much of wrath Nidh earned from our teachers for the hours and hours she took out to sit with me in the library and help me in my project, owning it as it was hers and pushing me towards perfection!

During exams, it was talking to her and our "playful" competition that got me through! She of course would miraculously finish the course and the revisions much before me...but that kept me going! Class X was harsh on Nidh, on us. I still vividly remember our teacher announcing our names like oranges being picked in the market...deciding who will go in the other section. And when Nidhu's name was announced, our hearts sank and Nidh just bent her head on her desk. She went through a very very hard time that year but she never once failed as a friend and we were back together in class XI thanks to our choice of the commerce stream!

The next major milestone in our relationship came after school when Nidh got into a different college than me and then she moved to UK! I think something between us changed and I think from my part it was the fear and pain of losing a dear dear friend that added to our separation. In the intermittent times she visited home, we somehow glued our scattered relationship together..until my marriage. I know that the news of my relationship with Parth was a shocker none the least and the fact that I didnt share such an important development in my life with Nidh (and Parul and Rohi) was very painful. It took Nidhu time to get over that and I think somewhere along the way we got our closeness back! And I am just so happy that we are still going strong!

Nidh used to write beautiful poems in school and some specially for me. Today, on her birthday, I would like to dedicate to her one written 10 years ago that I relate to the most even today.....Happy Birthday, honey!

Time passing
Life goes on

Love dying

Relationships created and torn

Left constant only one feeling

My feeling for you

A feeling I cant define

Except to say I love you..

A foundation of friendship

Strengthened with time

Sweetened by memories

Dreams-yours and mine

We created us

Growing together

Not a bondage rigid
But a bonding like no other

You made possible me

What I am, I am only with you

The truth of myself – I can only say
I love you…

Friday, June 6, 2008

Dancing at Monthly Office Party!

An evening out in Lagos

When Thomas (a passionate Nigerian liberal) asked if I wanted to go for a play at the famous MUSON centre (Musical Society of Nigeria) on VI (Victoria Island: the so called "happening" part of Lagos), I was obviously quite excited. My first evening out in Lagos since I arrived on 27 March!

We picked up our dinner in a nearby mall-creamy ice-cream and strawberry pie. Though it turned out to be a production concert by an artiste called "Olufunmi" and not a play, the performance was quite electrifying especially with the "talking drums" that give the music the uniquely Nigerian flavour!

Eku se o (Well done!)