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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Chp 606. All I want for my birthday…

So last week was my birthday. I turned 36.

When your birthday falls right in the middle of a crucial Sprint review week, well, it sucks… All the plans you have made before, simply just… poof… disappears. Or should I say, crash, boom, bang. :(

But things weren't all that bad…

My mom and niece were also in town, but as I mentioned earlier, since we were in the middle of an important sprint review where we had to showcase all the work we had done so far to our CEO and other stakeholders, I had to cancel my planned leave and birthday trip to Lavasa. I'm sure my mom and niece would have loved it :(

But I did manage to take a break from office during the day and rushed home in the afternoon to take my mom and niece out for a nice birthday lunch. Since time was of the essence, I took them to Arthur's Theme.

I also had to pay my insurance policy premium on that day as it was the last date! Lolz, talk about multi-tasking. So after I had lunch with my mom and niece, I made a brief detour on my way back to office to make my premium payment.

That was when I learnt it the hard way that one should NEVER fill up application forms or cheques on their birthday!

I was so accustomed to writing the year of my birth whenever I write the day and month of my birthday that I ended up writing 21.04.1980 everywhere instead of 21.04.2016.

I had to reapply for new forms and filled them up again (wasted another 30 minutes or so), including writing a new cheque! Aaargh.

Back in office, it was back to the grind. And then at 5 PM, our HR called all of us to the cafeteria, where we had the traditional birthday celebration. All my colleagues wished me a happy birthday, sang a birthday song while I cut the cake, after which we also had vada pav as snacks. 

And then once again, it was back to work inside. I was finally able to go home at around 11:30 in the night, where there was a nice dinner waiting for me at home. My mom and niece had already slept though, as it was very late by Mizoram's standard.

So yeah, that was basically how I spent my birthday. Nothing great or extraordinary, but still filled with a lot of pleasant memories. I always hide my birthday on Facebook and other sources, so I am really thankful to those who still wished me on my birthday. Thank you all so much once again.

Now that I'm 36, am I too old to desire a birthday present?

What is the one thing I wish I had for my birthday?

As a 36 years old gaming freak, the one thing I really wanted for my birthday, and which I had been eyeing for a really really long time, was this…

A "Catastrophic Companions" cosmetic item!

OMG, they are so adorable, and will make the perfect outfit to wear after bludgeoning somebody to death with a bat. It can be worn by all TF2 classes, and just look at how awesome they look in it! 

Those three cute kittens clinging on to the wearer! *sigh*

Unfortunately, yeah, as is a rule in any freemium games, you gotta pay for the good stuff.

The "Catastrophic Companions" cosmetic costs more than 4 grand INR. Dayymm…

Hence that is something I would loveeeee to receive as a birthday gift.

4 grand is too much for me to spend on cosmetics, that too with no "strange" properties attached to it, especially since I don't have any items worthy of a good trade.

The other day, my Mizo TF2 friend Than Moya managed to unbox a couple of cool "unusual" weapons. I've never tried unboxing my crates because keys are expensive. But after completing the recent "Tough Break" campaign, I had a lot of weapon and cosmetics cases lying in my backpack.

And so I decided, what the heck. Lemme go for it, I might unbox some unusual items too!

Since TF2 market offered a FREE ITEM for every Rs. 1379/- spent in a single purchase, I bought 6 Tough Break cosmetic keys, 2 Tough Break weapon keys and 1 backpack expander, for a total cost of Rs. 1445. That was the most I had spent on TF2 so far.

With that, I was ready to unbox -

I said a short prayer, and then with my fingers crossed, I started unboxing them one by one…


And here are the items I unboxed…

Well… it was disappointing that I didn't unbox any unusual items. But still, most of them were worth much more than the cost of the keys I bought, and I needed such cosmetics anyway, so overall I wasn't disappointed.

But I won't be making such a purchase again in a long time…

More than unusual items, right now, my greatest desire is the catastrophic companions cosmetic set. Because like I mentioned before, them kitties are so adorable. And another reason is that, I'm still pretty much an amateur in TF2, clocking just 500 hours of gameplay. I don't deserve to wear an unusual hat or wield an unusual weapon yet, especially since people with such items are automatically considered to be pros and expected to carry the team forward… something that I can definitely not do (yet).

So until then, cheers, and always feel free to contact me if you want to buy me the catastrophic companion cosmetic as a belated birthday gift! :D


Sunday, April 17, 2016

Chp 605. Home chef pop-up: CKP cuisine

So last Sunday, I took part in a home chef pop-up event organized by "The Secret Chulha Pop-Ups" at Prem's, Koregaon Park.

These "home chef" pop-ups are extremely unique and infrequent events where a particular cuisine belonging to a particular community are prepared and served to invited guests. Limited seating of course, so one must book in advance. This is the kind of food you'll normally not find at any restaurant. 

The first pop-up I attended here in Pune was of course my friend and renowned Assamese chef Gitika Saikia's event (which I blogged about here: Assamese food in Pune). It was there that I was introduced to the good people of "The Secret Chulha Pop-Ups", Richa and Sandy Singh.

Back then one of the things we discussed about was that, as somebody from the North East, it didn't make much sense for us to attend a North East food fest because (a) it was not a new experience for us, and (b) the cost at such events was usually high, considering we could make similar dishes at home anyway. But for somebody not from the North East, it was definitely worth attending such events.

As for me, frankly speaking, I was more interested in non North East related cuisines.

And so on December 20th last year, I was invited by Richa, founder and owner of "The Secret Chulha Pop-Ups" to attend the next pop-up. That pop-up was based on Parsi food by Villoo Anklesaria, and it was held at Euriska, just 10 minutes walking distance from my apartment. Unfortunately, I was already in Mizoram then, for my vacation.

I was really looking forward to such a Parsi cuisine, but there was nothing I could do about it.

The next pop-up after that was a Sri Lankan cuisine held on March 3rd this year. I was back in Pune by then, and I really wanted to go for that event too. Except, one very big impeding factor - I couldn't get any of my friends to go with me. Being an introvert, it's really difficult for me to go to such events alone.

Sigh, such a mouth-watering menu above… 

And so, with a heavy heart, I had to decline.

Last week, when Richa sent me an invitation for the next pop-up, I was adamant on going. But again, my friends weren't interested. And so I told myself, "You can do it Kima. You can do it alone. Just go in there, stand next to a group of strangers you've never met before, and just laugh whenever they're laughing and you'll slowly blend in". 

Richa also assured me that she would make me sit next to her friends.

The seating arrangement, unlike the earlier pop-up I had attended, was "community seating", meaning, people weren't going to be segregated into different tables and groups. Instead, it was going to be one large continuous table with everybody seated together. That made it even more terrifying for me.

But the menu looked awesome, and thus began a war between my stomach and my head. In the end, my stomach won.

This time, it was a Chandraseniya Kayastha Prabhu cuisine, also known as CKP cuisine, prepared by Anuja & Parikshit Vivekar. According to their description -

"CKP is a sub-caste in Maharashtra and the origin of the CKP community lies in the Indus Valley from Kashmir to Sindh. It is believed that in the 12th century the families migrated and settled mostly along the Konkan Coast. CKP food habits have an influence of Kashmiri cuisine which can be seen from the use of poppy seeds (khus-khus) in the traditional cooking. Having settled along the Konkan coast, fish, coconut, kokum, tamarind are an integral part of the CKP cuisine. CKP cuisine is known for its flavorful food and a very distinct taste and aroma."

Yummm, it was too good not to miss.

And so I arrived at Prem's around 9 PM. Unfortunately, Richa's friends weren't there. Fortunately, she introduced me to Dean Lobo, who also came alone. Dean was a journalist at Times of India, and we immediately hit off well. We sat together in the large community dining table and got ready to feast.

As we sat down, we all got our personalized invitation kit, which included a detailed description of every food that was about to be served…

See, that's what I love about going to such events outside my "comfort zone" - I get to learn so many new things. As I read the origin and history of the CKP community provided in the envelope above, I learnt that they were Brahmins. And yet, the CKP menu was rich in non-veg. Dean explained to me that since the community settled in the coastal region, sea food became one of their main staple diet, along with meat, poultry and eggs.

I was like, "wow". I mean I'm sure we all had our fair share of Brahmin or Tam-Bram friend who was brought up in a strict vegetarian environment but secretly liked to eat chicken with you when their folks weren't around :) But I came to learn that night that there was an entire Brahmin community that prepared awesome non-veg dishes!

Just as the food was about to be served, Richa's friend Susan joined us. She was late and her husband couldn't make it, but she entertained us well with her deep knowledge about food and different cuisines. She had organized Parsi food events as well, and was really interested in Northeastern delicacies. I told both Dean and Susan about where I used to order NE pickles and meat from.

The course started.

First up was the "Kheemyache Pattice" for starters.

It's basically a mutton kheema cutlet, and it was deee-li-cious. It tasted like no other kheema cutlet I had before. This one was special and very different, and believe me, I had eaten a lot of kheema, not just because my name is kheema Kima.

After that came the first main course - the "Sodey Bharli Vaangi". As a layman, I would describe it as "brinjal stuffed prawns". However, it's not as simple as that, and such simplistic description would do no justice to the complicated and tremendous care taken to prepare the dish.

There was a warning disclaimer given for this dish - 

"A word of caution - Sodey like all other varieties of dried fish have a punch or a sharp smell/taste which is not necessarily suitable for all palates, so give it a shot but don't be disappointed if you don't like it this time, eventually you might come to like it."

Hah, you're telling me, a Northeasterner to tread with caution? Me, who had braved Nghathu, Nghapih, Ngari, Akhuni, Bekang? I was definitely not afraid to try it out :D 

I gobbled up an entire stuffed brinjal in one shot, and it was PERFECT!

Below is a photo of the same dish we had that night [source: Cloves Catering]

Next came the "Kaalya Masalyacha Kombdicha Rassa". The chicken dish. The description said, "This chicken dish is a CKP specialty, and it is made using a plethora of whole spices which are roasted at low flame with a tiny drop of oil, cooled and grounded. Tell us if you can identify the whole list of spices inside".

I, the amateur foodie, took a bite from the scrumptious chicken dish, ran my tongue around the meat inside my mouth, looked up thoughtfully with eyebrows raised and confidently said, "Coconut. I can recognize the subtle hint of coconut in this dish". The chef came up to us and smiled, "Sorry, there was no coconut used in this dish" :D ouch! :)

But coconut or no coconut, it was awesome. 

After this came my favorite dish of the night - the "Maasyacha Kaalvan". It was the fish curry made from red chilly powder and tamarind. Very spicy for most, just spicy enough for me. And as suggested, it was best eaten with rice.

The fourth main course was the "Kolambichi Khichadi". It was a masoor dal khichdi cooked with prawns, ghee and coconut milk! Yummmm. 

I love dal khichdi, especially non-veg ones. For a Mizo, "chicken dal khichdi" is the closest to our Mizo traditional dish called "arsa buhchiar". Back in Mumbai, I used to order chicken dal khichdi from Sheetal Restaurant regularly, but here in Pune, I haven't come across a single restaurant that serves non-veg dal khichdi. So imagine my joy when prawns dal khichdi was served that night! And of course the unique CKP ingredient added in it made it even tastier.

Sadly, my stomach was already stuffed from all the chicken and fish served earlier, so I could only eat one serving. Soon, it was time to end the feast and we were served "Ninaav", which was a sweet made from chana dal, whole wheat and condiments.

I found the sweet to be a little too rich in jaggery, hence it was difficult to swallow, especially after having eaten so much. I would probably rate it below average. However, I'm not much of a sweets guy, so the host shouldn't feel bad that I wasn't impressed by the sweet. That's just me. Overall, it was a fantastic dinner! I would give 5/5 ratings to all the other dishes.

Now looking at all the photos I took with my phone above, you must be wondering, geez, you're one of those people who always take a photo of the food they're going to eat? You're absolutely right! :D …and it felt good being in the company of others like me that night :)


Also, while I interacted with Dean and Susan on my left, the group that was sitting on my right, a couple of really sweet old people, probably in their 70's, politely asked me if I was a chef! Maybe they assumed I was a chef because I was busy taking photos of all the food I was eating, or they overheard me talking about Northeastern food, or maybe it was because I was fat. Nonetheless, it was flattering to be mistaken as a chef. I smiled back politely and said I was actually a mobile games developer. I guess there was nothing much we had in common to talk about from there :D

As we left, it was time for Richa and the organizers to have their fill. Here is a photo I took of them just before leaving. A standing applause to Richa and the awesome CKP team of Anuja & Parikshit Vivekar for preparing such a wonderful and terrific cuisine. Salut!

I'll end this post with a few other photos from the "The Secret Chulha Pop-Ups" Facebook page. We were the 9:30 PM batch, but the ones below were from an earlier batch before us at 7:30 PM. Just look at them enjoying the food with so much satisfaction.

Definitely, I would love to participate in such an event again, trying out new cuisines and delicacies.

Let me know if you are interested in participating in the next event in Pune as well, and I'll let Richa know. Cheers for now then.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Chp 604. Farewell Shahnaz

From the messages that I have received since morning, the body of my friend Shahnaz Kimi will finally reach Aizawl today from Vienna. Her funeral service will be held at 1:15 PM at her family's house at Chawlhhmun later today.

I still can't believe she's gone. Two weeks ago, I received the shocking news that she had passed away in her sleep. News weren't very clear back then on how exactly she passed away, but one thing was confirmed though, that she was no longer with us.

I met Shahnaz online when I first started blogging back in 2004. Look through any of my blog posts and you will see many of her comments. She was present everywhere in the online world as well, from to and We spent a lot of time playing frivolous word games with other community members. Then came the era of and she became one of our most active members.

She was a regular at the comment section of whenever the post topic was about Mizoram, culture, photography, travel and racial discrimination.

To be honest, some members didn't gel well with her. That was because, being a "half Mizo", she experienced what most Mizos had not gone through in Mizoram – discrimination right at home. To some people, she was a gentle reminder that even though we may face racial abuses and discriminations outside Mizoram from other Indians, back home, a lot of us are no different. She was the counter to an accusation, the other side of a coin, the devil's advocate. And she was my friend.

The admins of loved her. When Lal Jo's dad passed away, she was one of the first persons to call him up to convey her condolences. When my father passed away, she was again one of the first persons to contact me. Such was her thoughtfulness and care for the dearly departed. It pains me to know I won't be at her home today to bid her one final goodbye.

I still remember how we used to argue about her choice of blogging platform. Back then she was blogging at LiveJournal, while most of us Mizo bloggers were on or WordPress. I tried my best to convince her about how user-friendly was compared to LiveJournal, but she was adamant and continued to stick with LJ. She called herself "old-school" and didn't want "change" :) She did create a account later so she could comment at various Mizo blogs, but her blogging platform continued to be at LiveJournal (her last blog entry being May 2009).

She was popular at flickr too, as she was an avid photographer. She loved travelling, and she's one of the strongest and steadfast women I've ever known. She didn't mind traveling to some new place at some corner of the world, even if she was alone. She had toured Mizoram a couple of times too, putting to shame people like me who had not even "discovered" most of Mizoram. Being adventurous was in her blood.

Unfortunately, that is the same blood that many Mizos tend not to recognize as one of our own.

But in the short years that I've known Shahnaz online, I will say with utter conviction that I've never met another person who cared more about Mizoram and the Mizo people, yet at the same time trying to "fit in". Yup, sometimes she did bring up controversial topics for discussion, but the sad thing is, some of us ended up attacking her "identity" rather than addressing the issue at hand. But in spite of all that, she continued to love her home and her people… do you really think we are worthy of such love?

As her LiveJournal blog is aptly entitled "My Land And My People", today I mourn the passing of a dear friend who cared so much about us.

I may not have known her for a long time like her St.Pauls classmates or close friends do, but the few years that I got to know her online filled me with complete respect for her. I did meet her once in person, and that was a very memorable day. It was the day the good people from invited the two of us for tea at Synod office, Mission veng. After that, we spent the rest of the day together and she was extremely lively and funny. We laughed so much that day.

Those smiles are now nothing but a memory. But one thing I will continue to do is to live by the principles of Shahnaz and keep fighting for the rights of the oppressed and minorities. To stand up against racial discrimination and abuses, regardless of whom the victim is. To seek justice for those persecuted in the name of religion or race. To be the voice of the voiceless and the support for the downtrodden. And doing so will I know Shahnaz is smiling down on me from above.

Rest in Peace my dear friend. I know you will be missed so much by your family and close friends. My blog will also miss your insightful and genial comments. And most of all, Mizoram is going to miss its daughter who cared so much about the people. Fare thee well.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Chp 603. When emotions overtake you

Boys don't cry. Or so they say.

These days, it is no longer embarrassing for men to admit that we cry too. Nobody can stop the tide of raw emotions from spilling over when the dam bursts. Crying is just what makes us who we are.

I'm sure we have all seen our fair share of movies where we cried. And by crying, I'm just saying it can be in any form, be it just a stifled sob and a slight difficulty in breathing, or a single trickle of tears flowing down your cheeks, or a ferocious and noisy wail of uncontrollable grief and despair, though I must admit, that last one, I would feel pretty awkward sitting next to such a person while watching a movie. :P

But the bottom-line is, most of us must have at least shed a tear or two while watching a sad emotional movie. Tell me you cried too while watching "A Walk to Remember". Tell me you cried too during that sad opening montage of "Up". Tell me you cried too watching Simba trying to revive his father. Yep, we all did. How about that moment in "Last of the Mizohican Mohicans" when Magua killed Uncas and Alice Monroe jumped off the cliff? Damn ninjas cutting onions.

Another movie that always made me cry no matter how many times I watched it again is "Hotel Rwanda", especially that scene when the foreigners were just about to leave with the special task force and suddenly, survivors escorted by missionaries arrived shouting "Wait!" and the soldier told the priest, "No Rwandans, foreign nationals only, sorry Father, those were the orders", while the song "million voices" played in the background... Ni ryari izuba rizagaruka hejuru yacu? Ni nde uzaricyeza?

What an overwhelming tear-jerking scene indeed…

Likewise, books can make us cry too. I confess it was tough trying to hold back a tear while reading "The Fault in Our Stars" (funnily though, I haven't watched the movie till now). "The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini and "Half of a Yellow Sun" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie are two other favorite books of mine that transported me to a new abode of teary eyes. And of course, clich├ęd as it might sound, "PS I Love You". Love means never having to say you're sorry. At that moment, you just put the book down, utter "dayymm" as you wipe your eyes, but you know, in a very macho and manly way… :D

You don't even have to watch such movies or read novels to get "the feels". Just go to YouTube, search for "Emotional Thai commercials" and watch those short 3-minutes ads that are guaranteed to take you aboard the Feels train.

And so, those are the effects books and films can have on us.

I never expected a game to have such an effect on me!

So lately, as some of you may know, I've been playing a lot of games on Steam. Steam is a gaming platform that you can install on your PC, and through it, you can buy and play thousands of games while interacting with other gamers. Now one of the advantages of Steam is that, it has an achievement system, where people can unlock various achievements for different games. Since I currently own almost 300 games on Steam, my average completion rate is extremely pathetic, at just 28%. And so, in order to push my stats up a bit, I decided to play games with easy 100% achievement.

As I looked at the list of games that were easy to score 100% achievement in a short time, one such game that caught my eye was this 16-bit RPG game called "To The Moon".

I had already bought the game during one of the many Steam sales but never tried playing it. The only two reasons why I bought the game was because it was on sale (duh!) and that it had an "overwhelmingly positive" review, though I had no idea what the game was about. That fact that it had a very positive rating was enough for me to buy it.

To get a 100% achievement on "To The Moon", the only thing players had to do was to complete the game. And so I decided to play it...

Man oh man oh man...

What an effing game! Screw the 100% achievement; "To The Moon" was totally something I didn't expect at all. 

I spent 4 and a half hours to complete the game, and I did get the achievement after I reached the end, but by then, that was the last thing on my mind. I really didn't care about the achievement. All I cared about was the game story. What an absolutely lovely and awesome game!

As a gamer and formerly a copywriter for 5 years in an ad agency, one of the things I had always found lacking in most games, is the narration

"To The Moon" had of the best game narrations I had ever seen. The conversations were simple, funny and easy to remember, and you could easily identify with the main protagonists. But more than that was the story-line.

I'm not going to give away any spoilers, but the main crux of the game was about two "memory doctors" who tried to fulfil a client's dying wish of obtaining a particular memory. And so they traversed back in time through his memories trying to build that artificial memory. Dayyymm the things they went through and discovered...

Kudos to the amazing soundtrack as well that supplemented the emotions in every scenario. Now every time I listen to the game theme, I still get the chills.

As one reviewer aptly said, "This is not just a game, it is an experience you must feel". Amen to that. I rarely do this, but this is one game you MUST buy and play, especially if you are a sucker for emotional movies and novels.

Game link: Steam: To The Moon.

Currently, the game is available on Steam for 369 bucks INR. Like I mentioned earlier, I bought the game on sale for just Rs. 79, but trust me, it is totally worth the full price. However, if you still think the price is too much, then just "wishlist" the game on Steam and you will be notified the next time it is on sale, and when that happens, I really advice you to buy it.

I swear, you will not regret such an experience as this!

Damn, this game hit me right in the feels. But I'll stop talking about it now, lest I give away any spoilers, and that is something I definitely do not want to do. Just get your hands on this game and I bet you, you will cry your ass out. And don't go to Google or YouTube looking for this game's gameplay or walkthroughs. It will not be the same experience.

So cheers then until you play this game and we meet again :)

"Because one day... I'm going to befriend one of them."