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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Chp 635. Triggering Memories

So I'm currently stuck at home on a medical leave because I have a badass swollen eye. At first I thought it was an eye infection, but the doctor told me there's a boil inside my eyelid, caused due to strain because of continuous work in front of a monitor.

The doctor told me to take rest and not to sit in front of a computer for a while, so here I am, restfully sitting diagonally across my computer as I type this blog post :D :P

Sitting at home all alone and not able to play any computer games or watch TV shows is boring as hell. But I ended up noticing one thing I never did before. Every day, at around 3 in the afternoon, the sun's reflected glare from the solar panel on the rooftop of the apartment opposite my flat shine directly into my kitchen!

Other days, I might have just passed by without noticing it, but today, I did notice it, and the silhouette reflection on my kitchen wall was beautiful and kinda surreal in a phantasmagoric way.

I took a pic.

Beautiful right?

See, if I was a poet like some of my awesome blogger friends, I'm sure I would have already been inspired to write a poem about it. Something about being trapped by the shackles of inhumanity, or our souls reaching out for a ray of hope…

But I don't have that in me.

Instead, the above photos took me on a flashback, a strange blast from the past when I suddenly remembered my hostel days back in Mizoram.

My parents packed me off to a boarding school in Calcutta when I was just in class 3, but before that, they admitted me to a boarding school in Aizawl just to see whether I could cope with the separation and loneliness.

It was JJ School, Bawngkawn. Jehovah Jireh School. The above photos reminded me of my alma mater maybe because of the color and tone of the silhouette or the somber mood and ambience surrounding my shadow. It reminded me of the spooky horror stories we used to hear in that hostel, and how I might have got our hostel warden fired!

Yeah that's right. I think somebody lost his job because of me :(

Our hostel was co-ed. Boys and girls slept together in the same dorm. We were all kids back then, innocent and playful, and so there was nothing strange or weird about sleeping next to an opposite sex. There were around 15-20 of us hostellers, all on double bunk beds, packed inside a single room, and our warden's bed was next to the toilet in the same room. The adjoining room was occupied by the headmaster and his family.

On certain nights, our warden would tell us ghost stories, and we would all huddle around him on one bed as he would tell some of the most terrifying tales to us. And even though we were terrified, we loved the stories at the same time. Remember, we were young and naive. But many of us ended up being scared of a lot of things.

When I went home for the weekend (I think it was once a month), I guess my folks noticed how jittery I had become of the dark, or even afraid of going to the loo alone, and I finally told them there were these really scary stories our warden used to tell us in the night.

When I was admitted back to the hostel the following Monday, our warden was no longer there. All his belongings were packed and gone!

Our headmaster's daughter U Mami moved in to that empty bed and she became our new warden from that day onward.

Thinking back about that incident now, I can't help but think it was because of me that our warden was fired. Because I snitched about him to my parents. Even though I cannot recollect the name of that warden, I do remember he loved us very much, and we all loved him. And I don't think he would have left without saying goodbye to us.

Perhaps it is true what they say about certain sounds or images that can make you recall long forgotten memories. In my case, it is the two images above that triggered my memories, and I really hope I wasn't the reason our warden was fired. Perhaps it was another parent who complained. Or maybe he wasn't fired at all, and that he left voluntarily. Ahh the things we think of when we are sick.

That's my post for today.

Hope you like the two photos above. Cheers.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Chp 634. You wanna read this post, yes?

Sometimes, we end a sentence with words like right, isn’t it, aint it, etc to imply a question. Such sentences are usually declarative or imperative, followed by a short interrogative tag at the end.

You’re not gonna eat that pizza all by yourself, right?

You said you would come to office topless if Manchester United couldn’t beat Arsenal, didn’t you?

i lungtat hi chu a par ve ngailo, tiraw?

Another word we regularly use to end a sentence with a question here in India, is the word "no". You understand what I’m saying, no? And I have read a couple of articles where people said the reason why the colloquial usage of the word "no" is so popular here is because of the Hindi word "na". You’re coming to the wedding reception, na?, He is "shifting" to his new apartment next week, na? After all, we are like this only, no?

In other countries, people use "yes" instead of "no" (Arsenal will win the title this year, yes?), and some people mentioned that using the word "yes" is a way of "driving the reply you seek towards the way you want", while others stated that this type of tag question (or tail question) is more commonly used in Germanic languages and Romance languages like French and Spanish.

Now I am not a grammar or language expert, and I don’t really know much about its history or correct grammatical structure, but what I do know is that I really like it when people end a sentence with the tag question "Yes". Especially if the person saying that is Eastern European or Russian. There’s something about it… Its sounds so beautiful and soothing, and there’s that… air of confidence around the person saying it.

Like for example, this weekend, I was watching the complete season of "Agent X", in which John Case (Jeff Hephner) and the beautiful Olga Petrovka travelled to Chechnya to recover stolen nuclear warheads. Olga had arranged some people to meet them, and when they turned up, she took them all out. When John asked her why she did that, she replied calmly -

See? So confident and smooth :)

Now if you haven’t watched "Agent X", I really recommend you do. It however has a bad rating on IMDB and I think that is mainly because people couldn’t accept the plotline that the Vice President had his/her own special Agent who seemed to be so much superior and powerful than the CIA, FBI, NSA, Secret Service or even Black Ops Special Forces. Oh comon, it’s just a TV Show.

Also, Sharon Stone :) Daymmm she had aged quite a lot. Still feels like yesterday when I saw her famous legs crossover scene from "Basic Instinct". First, Tea Leoni from "Bad Boys" returned as the 50-year old mother of three and Secretary of State in "Madam Secretary", and now Sharon Stone as the Vice President with a secret responsibility of commanding Agent X. All my childhood crush hotties are now returning as an authoritative and dominating boss. My fantasy is becoming a reality, yes? :D

Coming back to the topic, another TV Show I really love and where a lot of cast members used the question tag "Yes" at the end of their script is "Marco Polo". This is another show I definitely recommend you watch. It’s about the story of Marco Polo who became a subject in the court of Kublai Khan, the fifth Khagan (Great Khan) of the Mongol Empire and grandson of Genghis Khan.

Here are the many examples taken from the show -

Sweet! See how cool they all sound, yes?

So from today onward, I too am going to start talking like this, yes?

It’s gonna be so much fun, yes?

Jet fuel can’t melt steel beams, yes?

All your base are belong to us, yes?

Grab them by the pussy, yes?

The demonetization is causing the common man a lot of hardship, yes?

Never say yes to drugs, yes?

Ok this is starting to sound ridiculous, yes?

I’ll see you all on my next blog post, yes?

Cheers… yes?

Monday, November 14, 2016

Chp 633. Mizo Sesame seed delicacies

"Open Sesame", and the gate to the way Mizos prepare sesame dishes is opened. In this post, I would like to talk about how we Mizos consume sesame seeds.

Sesame seeds are an intrinsic part of our Mizo cuisine, but the way it is prepared has not been adapted in any of our mainstream Indian cuisines because of its gory history. In the year 1659, when emperor Aurangzeb sent his general Abdul Khan to conquer the Ahom Kingdom and Twipra dynasty of present day "North East India", Mizo warriors unified under the great Sailo chieftain Khumliana ambushed a scouting regiment. They beheaded all the soldiers and sent them back to Aurangzeb with sesame plants growing on their heads to indicate that Mizo headhunters will multiply in numbers just like the sesame seeds.

Ok fine, I just made all that up. But I got your attention now, didn't I? :D It's kinda easy to BS to people who may not know much about our history, but in this post, I would like to talk about the awesomeness of the way we Mizos prepare sesame seeds, no BS I promise, and hope I continue catching your attention :)

In our language, we call sesame seeds as "chhawhchhi". Now as I was discussing with my friends about this, many were of the opinion that chhawhchhi and sesame should be termed differently. Because in other parts of India, sesame seeds are usually just added to a dish as condiments, or sprinkled over bread, muffins etc. But in our Mizo society, that is not how we consume sesame seeds.

First of all, we have different types of chhawhchhi, like chhipui, chhitak, chhibung, chhiriat, chhitunglung etc depending on the variety of the plant. They all have slightly different taste and smell, except for chhibung which stands out. It is more whitish in color when compared to the others, and it does not taste very good when grounded like the others, so instead, chhibung is prepared differently.

To make chhibung, the sesame seeds are usually grinded for a long time and after this, hot water is added until it becomes quite semi-solid in state. Then it is kept in a wide bottle or container and sealed shut and placed under sunlight for around 4-5 days (fermentation). After that, this paste is consumed as chutney or mixed with other side dishes. This is known as "chhawhchhi um" where um means fermentation or the act of preservation.

As for the other sesame seeds, they are first roasted until they turn golden black, and then grounded like hell until they become this chunk of awesome tasting and smelling dish.

The above grounded sesame seed is chhitak from Mizoram. Because it is grounded, we call it "chhawhchhi den" where den means grounded.

In most typical Mizo households, you'll find a "suk" and a "sum". A suk (pronounced "sook") is a large wooden pestle, and a sum (pronounced "soom") is a large wooden mortar. Thanks to my blogger friend Muantea who posed with his suk and sum just for this blog post.

The suk and sum are used not just to ground sesame seeds but other edibles like rice, wheat etc as well.

After the sesame seeds are roasted, they are grounded (with occasional salt added to it for taste) until they become chunks like in the first pic above. They stick to each other in chunks because of the oil present in them. The process of grounding it is quite tiring and rigorous, you gotta keep pounding and pounding with your suk for a really long time, but the final outcome is totally worth the trouble.

This dish is a part of our tribal heritage, and it is very popular among us Mizos. You can also just eat it with boiled rice by mixing the two together, making a ball with your fist (rice cake) and munching it. Yummm.

In fact chhawhchhi is so popular in my community that the name has become a part of our idioms and phrases!

For comparison, if people say "chhawhchhi ang" (translation: they are like chhawhchhi) then they are implying that all the things they have to select from are all very similar (considering there is no tastier part in a grounded chhawhchhi plate as they all taste similar because of the hours of grounding) and so it is not possible to choose what they actually want (for example, in terms of scandals, both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are like chhawhchhi).

If somebody say "Min be chhawhchhi" (translation: you speak to me like chhawhchhi) then they mean to say that you are speaking to them like a commoner, like you don't treat them any differently (usage can be a girlfriend telling her boyfriend that he was speaking to her as if she was just his friend and not his special someone). However, some of my friends also argued that the phrase "Min be chhawhchhi" is nowadays used to imply that "somebody's talking to them in a very simpleton manner, as if to undermine their intelligence" and they say this is a wrong usage of the phrase.

"Chhawhchhi hlo den" (translation: to do something like you’re grounding chhawhchhi) - This is used to imply a reckless and careless action, since the act of grounding chhawhchhi involves something rough and brute (for example, be careful while carrying that vessel of milk, don’t chhawhchhi hlo den, otherwise you’ll spill it). "Chhawhchhi buh kalh ang" is another usage of the name chhawhchhi to imply how two different entities are mixed up really densely. "Chhawhchhi buh pawlh" is used to denote a specific color that is a mixture of white and black, kinda greyish but not mixed in a uniform fashion.

Another use of the word chhawhchhi is "i hmai a chhawhchhi" (translation: your face is like chhawhchhi) which means that you have a lot of pimples on your face :D And of course as Muantea pointed out, there is another usage where if a woman is said to "chhawhchhi a ei hnem" (translation: she eats a lot of chhawhchhi) it apparently means "she has a… chubby vagina". Lolzzz, I swear I did not make that one up, and I fail to see the relationship between vagina and sesame seeds (maybe except for the "open sesame" part :P ) but I did ask other friends around, and this is apparently true it seems! Whoah! :D

Anyhoo, forget all that and let us come back to the topic :)

Chhawhchhi den. Grounded sesame seeds. So delicious. The ones that I got from Mizoram didn't last long, but I did enjoy them, trying them out with different Mizo dishes.

They went really well with my smoked pork dish boiled with cabbages…

For ingredients of the above dish, if you want to know how to make Mizo style smoked pork dish, you can find your answer here - Chp 390. Mizo Smoked Pork and if you want to know how to make the above potato dish you can read this post - Chp 582. The Bachelor's Potato.

Sometimes I would mix it up a little bit by combining our Mizo dish "bai" with non-Mizo dish like sausages and salamis, and the chhawhchhi den went well with the combination too.

And of course chhawhchhi den was perfect with our "bekang", known to us as fermented soybean but known to my non-Mizo friends as "that stinky stinky beans" :D

If you're new to my blog, you probably won't know that I'm sort of an amateur foodie who loves mixing up different cuisines, especially our Mizo delicacies with other Indian dishes. You can read some of my old blog posts like Food Fusion I, Food Fusion II, Food Porn, My Spiral Sausages etc etc.

One of the first things I tried out was having chhawhchhi den with Upma. OMG they tasted so well together!!!

I regularly eat these "instant" upmas for breakfast, where I just have to pour in hot water and the upma is ready in 2 minutes. The chhawhchhi den really spiced it up!

Here’s another food fusion I tried – North Indian dal khichdi, South Indian chettinad chicken, slices of fresh Bauwens ham from Nature’s Basket, my own egg fry concoction, and chhawhchhi den. It was amaaazing!

Chhawhchhi den too went perfectly with Hyderabadi chicken dum biryani! It was as if this was the perfect match that had been missing all this time :)

Earlier, I mentioned that people in Mizoram sometimes mix just rice and chhawhchhi den alone, and eat them like rice cake. Well I tried it too, but with Kerala rice!

For those unaware, Kerala matta rice is an indigenous rice that is grown mainly in Palakkad district of Kerala, where a lot of my Malayalee friends from School and College are from. As you can see from the photo above (click on all pics to enlarge), the rice is much thicker than normal rice and considered to be extremely nutritious. It also has a smoky and earthy flavor that blends so well with chhawhchhi den!

Speaking of Kerala dishes, I also tried chhawhchhi den with appam and puttu! It was perfect. The gravy dish you see below is Chicken Varutharachathu, made from spicy coconut gravy, and it truly complemented the chhawhchhi den flavor.

Chhawhchhi den went really well with Masala dosa too. Most of you who have only eaten in South Indian restaurants outside Tamil Nadu will not know this, but in TN, whenever you order dosa or idli or even "meals", you will be served this powdery side-dish called "podi". You take that powder, make a hole in the center and pour sesame oil in that and mix it yourself. It is so yumm. Chhawhchhi den perfectly plays that part, especially since it is sesame based too.

A simple bachelor dish like Malabar parathas, dal and egg can also be made tastier with the addition of chhawhchhi den.

Puri bhaji is another dish that truly went well with chhawhchhi den. Roll that soft puri into the yummy gravy and dip it on chhawhchhi den to have a truly fantastic taste.

And hey, I’m not talking about just gravy and dishes, chhawhchhi den was awesome with a couple of other type of food as well.

For example, here is my home-made egg cheese sandwich. Once the bread had been toasted, apply butter on them, add a layer of cheese slice, sprinkle chhawhchhi den on top of the cheese, top it up with egg and voila!

I made a mistake in the above sandwich because I also added Thai bird chilly (which I think is what we Mizos call vai hmarcha). It was so bloody spicy that I didn’t feel the taste of chhawhchhi at all. In the next sandwich, I avoided the chilly and finally got to enjoy the great fusion of cheese and sesame.

I even tried chhawhchhi den with Pork ribs! :D

I ordered Spicy Honey-Mustard Glazed Pork Ribs from Effingut Brewerkz. And man it was bloody expensive. This is why I miss Mumbai. Back in Mumbai, I could order good pork ribs for around 300-400. Here in Pune, hardly a few restaurants serve pork ribs, and the few that do price it above 600 bucks! :(

So, how well did the chhawhchhi den fare with Pork Ribs?

AMAAAAAZZZING :) It went well with the fatty pork, it went well with the mashed potatoes, it went well with the boiled veggies, it went well with everything!

And if you think I’m going overboard with this whole chhawhchhi den thing, check out the next combo I tried :D

Yup that’s right. Pizza baby! :D

Just add some chhawhchhi den on top of the hot steamy cheesy pizza like how you would add oregano and chilly flakes, and then devour it like you’ve never eaten in a thousand years! Sooooo good! So so good!

I wanted to try so many other combos, but unfortunately, I ran out of chhawhchhi den.

So I hope I was able to entertain and inform you about the Mizo delicacy that we call chhawhchhi den. I sincerely believe it should be more popular in mainstream Indian cuisines.

Special thanks to my friends from and Mizo bloggers whatsapp group who explained different phrases and history of chhawhchhi to me. And of course Muantea for sending me his suk and sum photo, along with explaining the meaning of "women who eat too much chhawhchhi den" which was totally unnecessary :D


Friday, November 11, 2016

Chp 632. Demonetization of 500 and 1000

Two days ago, the Govt of India dictated a very bold and surprising move -  the demonetization of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes!

This was an enormous decision on the Government’s part to combat “black money”. Now all of us have seen enough WhatsApp forwards and news articles and op-ed pieces regarding this action, so I am not getting into the details of it. But this is indeed a very huge step that is affecting all of us.

As for me, I was working late in office, around 8:30 PM, when the news broke out. At first, it sounded like one of those WhatsApp hoaxes your technologically impaired friend would always forward without even attempting to verify if it’s true or not (we all have at least one such person in the different groups we’re in). But then seeing PM Modi announcing it LIVE on a news website portal confirmed how true it was.

I panicked. Not because I have any black money (hell, I don’t even have enough white money), but I knew at once that it was going to be chaotic at the banks where every citizen would be storming to exchange/deposit their 500 and 1000 rupee notes. I could already imagine how long the queues would be.

I wasn’t going to have any of that shit, especially since I had so much work in office.

And so, my friends and I decided to spend all the 500 and 1000 notes we had before the midnight deadline was up!

I had just one 500-rupee note in my wallet :D but like most people, I had some "emergency cash" stashed up in my apartment, just for a rainy day, like what if there was a total bandh or a sudden flood or the Apocalypse happened, you know, normal stuff that could happen any day.

My colleagues took me home and I dug out my hidden stash.

And so, there I was with 13 notes of Rs. 500 that were about to become defunct in the next few hours.

It was already 9:30 PM, most of the shops had closed, and so we rushed to the nearest store that was still open.

And by a big stroke of luck, it happened to be a Wine Shop :D :P

News travelled really fast, and the wine shop owner was already aware of the demonetization announcement. He asked us how many 500 and 1000 notes we had. I told him I had Rs. 6500. We didn’t want to buy so many bottles of different alcohol and so decided to buy just 1 or 2 bottles of something that was a bit expensive. My friends bought Baileys and JDs. I went for the Jägermeister (4400) and two Captain Morgans (2100) which came to exactly 6500 bucks.

Now I never thought I would ever buy a bottle of Jägermeister in my life. I guess demonetize times call for demonetize measures :P

This coming weekend, I am so gonna make a Jägerbomb! :)

Demonetizing the 500 and 1000 notes definitely generated a great amount of noise in social media. Some supported it, others criticized it, others forwarded jokes related to it, and most people were just forwarding information after information regarding what to do, how to do, when to do etc etc. People actually forgot about the ongoing American election.

Not to mention WhatsApp groups and messages, I was also bombarded by the many apps I have installed on my phone, with many grabbing this occasion to take as much advantage as possible. Box8 pushed its customers to make online payment…

Food Panda too immediately offered discounts on online payment.

Faasos on the other hand, I guess, was trying to cash in on both the demonetization and the American election result :D

And ugggh of course the numerous spam push notification from various ecom apps like Jabong, Amazon, Flipkart, Snapdeal etc were there as well.

Not to mention the push notifications from transportation apps like Ola, Uber, Meru etc

In the midst of all this chaos, I listened to the many issues many of my friends, especially those in Mizoram were facing. With 500 and 1000 notes now considered invalid and with ATMS still not operational across the country (hopefully, they will start working from today or tomorrow), a lot of people went through a tough time.

Like for example, in Mizoram, yesterday, people stood for hours at the bank to exchange or deposit notes. And then they found out that only those who had opened an account in that specific branch were allowed to deposit money. Apart from that, the limit people were allowed to exchange was just one 1000-rupee note (or two 500 notes)! I can imagine how difficult it must be for the common man, especially in Mizoram where most people don’t use plastics.

In a way, I guess I consider myself really fortunate to live in a plastic world. Because of my debit and credit cards, life is still the same for me. I had around 600 rupees in loose change of 100s, 50s and 10s in my wallet after buying the Jägermeister that night, and today, Day 3 of demonetization, I still have around that much.

To go to office, I simply pay using Ola Money if I’m taking an Ola auto or Ola cab. And I already have my Uber account linked to my credit card, so no hassles there as well when it comes to commuting between work and home.

For cigarettes, bread, milk, diet cokes, bisleri etc that I require daily, the General Store below my apartment accepts debit card payment, so taking a puff is just a swipe away.

And for the basic necessities, like vegetables, rice, cooking oil, processed meat, I shop at Nature’s Basket, which is just 10 minutes walking distance from my home, where I don’t even have to pay using my cards because I have these!

Yeah, suddenly my Sodexo passes feel so valuable right now! lolz.

And when it comes to eating lunch or dinner in the office cafeteria, I usually order from Zomato, where I not only have options to pay via debit or credit cards but also through many wallet options like Paytm, PayUmoney, Mobikwik and FreeCharge.

Like for example, this is what I ordered yesterday for lunch (can anyone see the special cooking instructions I requested? :D "Lungtat" is underlined in red because my keypad didn’t recognize it as an English word, lolz).

Zomato had discontinued COD payment option for now because of this demonetization process, but I wasn’t planning on paying by cash anyway.

What I love about Zomato is that, apart from all the different online payment options they offer, I also have a lot of Zomato Credits left that I could spend.

I have accumulated a lot of Zomato Credits because I am a regular customer, and every time there are inconveniences caused to me, like late delivery or wrong order etc, Zomato gifts me some credits lest they lose a valuable customer :)

Finally, the time has come to cash in on all those credits :)

Like I said, I feel lucky to be unaffected by the current situation so far, but I do hope things get better for other people too, especially the daily laborers and people who do not have Aadhar or PAN cards. And based on all the information people have been forwarding, I think this is a storm that will pass by quickly, bringing in a new era of corruption free society (well at least that’s what people are claiming it will do). Let’s not forget that this is a big landmark in our Indian history, and in a way, I feel lucky to be living right in the middle of it. I don’t think we’ll ever see another demonetization of this scale in our lifetime again.

So cheers to you all for now, and hope the ATMs start functioning again soon!