Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Made in Punjab

Situated at CyberHub, Gurgaon, Made in Punjab comes across as a restaurant that lingers between old world charm and modern chic in terms of ambience. The tables are big and accommodating and so are the chairs. We got to sit on one those revolving glass top tables, something that was a novelty when we were growing up and this did bring back some fond restaurant visit memories.

The first thing that struck me about the place was the menu and that it stays true to the name by being limited but with enough choices for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians. In this day and age when most restaurants try and please everyone, it’s refreshing to see that Made in Punjab sticks to what it knows best.

The food is typical Punjabi done so with a twist which gives the option of a few added dishes that stand out, at least on paper. Paneer Lababdar becomes Paneer Tikka Lababdar with the added smokey taste of the tikka which in turn flavours the dish differently. Similarly it was my first time having a Tadka Raita and Kababriz (pictured above) which are small dough ball type Naan bread-rolls filled with cheese and garlic. They might seem insufficient on arrival but trust me, they fill you up fast.

The quantity of the food served was also good as was the service which proved to be neither intrusive nor lacking anything. Now, while the quality of the food was good, the biggest issue that I had, along with my family, was that everything proved to be spicy, very spicy, by our standards. We did, as common practice, request for less spicy food when ordering and were duly told that the food was spicy but we still didn't expect the hotness levels to be this high. Add to that the creaminess, which adds flavour no doubt, but also makes the food heavy, left us somewhat bloated and disappointed. I believe keeping true to authentic Punjabi food the spice levels are kept high, and which is fair on part of the chef and the restaurant, but also as a paying customer I think if Made in Punjab were to have readily available non-spicy options it would certainly prove much more favourable.

Personally, I don't see myself returning to the restaurant, but the non-vegetarian food at this point of time has not been sampled, and some might rightly say that without considering non-vegetarian food the review is incomplete; although I would disagree with that to some extent. Still, if you do like a certain zing to your food and are okay with it being on the heavier side, then by all means give the place a try. 

PS: Unfortunately dining out with family means unable to take photographs of the food, because there just wasn't enough time. 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The 11 Annoying People You Meet During a Flight

I’m not one for air travel, even though I have been sitting in planes since I was two years old, over time my fear of flying has only increased. Still, I somehow manage to fly keeping a track of all my pre and post flight superstitions and by praying like there’s no tomorrow before, during, and after every flight.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to travel, and no matter how safe flights are and what statistics say, I still am a bag of nerves when I am in a plane. I can feel every slight bump vibrate though my body and my eyes are always fixed on the seatbelt sign mentally telling it not to light up.

This anxiety that I suffer, and yes I am making it sound much worse than what it is, isn’t helped any further by the type of people I end up meeting during these flights. I know everyone is tired, and everyone has somewhere to go, and I’m not being a snob, well, okay just a little bit, but there are some considerations I hope people would take when they, along with everyone else, have paid an enormous amount of money to be in this “flying tin can”. Mind you, I do travel economy, so those of you who travel Business or First and cannot sympathize with me, you can take you hard earned money and do some shoving with it. 

So before Mitch Albom could take this title (see some of his book titles if you don’t get it), I decided to come up with a list of 11 annoying people you are likely to meet during a flight.;

You can tell the type of flight it is going to be by counting the number of people who try to board the plane by trying to jump the boarding procedure. The amount of time airline staff wastes on telling every third person that their “zone” hasn’t yet been called is not even funny. That’s why I make it a point to travel with kids, because for us economy class folk, that’s the only way we can jump the queue; and you thought kids were of no use at all. To those who enjoy jumping queues for pleasure, I hope your zone is called right at the end.  

Once inside the plane human nature comes out fiercely as the fight over “space” begins. Since we can’t move around our seats, everyone aims for the next best thing. It seems property has value everywhere for if I only had a penny for every fight I saw with regards to overhead luggage space, I’d still be traveling economy class unfortunately. I’m sure you know the person I am talking about; the one who will open up an overhead cabinet, see that it is stuffed, but still spend the next five minutes taking everything out trying to fit in his/her bag only to end up with one bag in their hand, that does not even belong to them, and then go around the plane asking whose it is. Of course they are careless about handling the baggage and thus screaming and shouting begins as they are informed of valuable and breakable items in the bags they have just removed. The only thing I wish for such people is that they get to sit next to the toilets.

The bags are in place and I have just sat down on my chair. There has been this person who has been eyeing me for a while now but I choose to disregard that. I buckle my seatbelt, yes I do that as soon as I sit down, and just when I am comfortable enough, that person who was eyeing me, remember them, well, they decide to come over and request that I change seats with them because for whatever reason. Then I have to explain to the said person that being tall I prefer an aisle seat, and not their middle seat, which for some reason is beyond their comprehension as they look at with me with a blank face and all the hatred they can conjure up in that moment because for the next 8 hours they will have to sit 5 feet, in place of 1 feet, away from their relative or get this, "a friend they made while they were queuing outside to get onboard". For them, I wish that their overhead luggage keeps falling down when they open it for the umpteenth time during the remainder of the flight.    

And finally we are off… flying, without turbulence, at the right altitude. Everything is fine, smiles all around, and the person next to me decides to go for a walk. On his return he or she rests for about 5 minutes when they realize that it would be a good idea to use the bathroom before the food is served. Good thinking, but apparently another visit to the toilet is required just when the food is served, and a walk after. As you can imagine, this for me involves removing the headphones, pausing the film, removing my blanket, moving out, and because I don’t know how long the person will be gone for, settling in again only to repeat the same procedure upon their return, and evident departure, and return, and departure. In addition, this is also the person who will have the urge to use the loo just when the “fasten your seatbelts” sign goes on or when we are finally descending towards our destination. They pay no attention to the airhostesses, who by the way is now sitting and strapped, calling and asking them to sit down. I hope the next time they use the toilet, it is clogged and they get a nice scolding from the airhostess for clogging it, even if they didn’t do it.   

Now, as long as there is no turbulence I really don’t mind getting up once in a while and stretching my legs. You would imagine it is not such a complicated task, but think about it, 300 odd people in an airplane, all at different stages of restlessness, and you realize that everyone is just waiting for time to pass. Amongst such passengers are the ones who believe that along with the seat that they have bought, the aisle comes as an added bonus. They sleep with their legs hanging out, or will roam around making conversations with other known passengers while their arse is protruding into the aisle, so that every time we have to cross, one has to strategically twist and turn to avoid certain body parts from touching each other. Then we have the joggers and the stretchers making the most of all the common space available. While it is essential that you exercise on long flights, let’s just remember that it’s a good idea to use the seat you’ve paid for as well from time to time. For the compulsive aisle users I hope you gain an extra few kilos even after walking throughout the flight.

While on the one hand it can be a problem if you end up with a neighbor that needs to use the loo or just walk in the aisle ever so often, what is worse is sitting next to one that is fidgety. They will move about, trying to get in the best possible position for themselves, living under the impression that by doing so the airline provided space will miraculously increase, and in complete disregard of you. They can be annoying as they tend to move just when you have managed to fall asleep. They won’t apologize for hitting your ribcage with their elbow during this body adjustment routine or when their pillow keeps falling over you. To them, I wish a slightly itchy heat rash, because it will compliment their fidgeting really well.

Alright, enough about people hogging up space in the overhead compartments and aisles. The person next to me is now fast asleep. He is snoring, but that doesn’t bother me that much. I take this time to fill up the miscellaneous immigration/custom forms in the gentle glow of the seat-light. Big mistake it seems that proves to be. Now, everyone around me is under the impression that I do this for fun. First I get handed over a form by an elderly lady and I am more than happy to oblige, even though it takes me a while to explain to her that I cannot fill just “any number” as her passport details. What follows this is a barrage of questions from a few others around me who too are by now filling up the forms. “Do I have to enter my present address or that of my relative in the form?” “But the house I live in is in the name of my wife.” “I am carrying homemade food for my uncle, is that allowed?” “Where in India are you from?” “What do you do for a living?”… Wait! What? I am more than happy to help someone fill up their forms if they are unable to do so for a reason, but I just hope that those able would take a little time, actually read them and fill them up on their own rather than asking total strangers to do that for them. To such folks, I wish the plane bumps a little when they are about to finish filling up the form and now they have to fill it up again as this one has ink all over. It should be noted that the said bump should not happen when I am in the plane and during their next flight only.

Oh look! Just as I finish filling up the form and settled down again, food is being served and my neighbor is up and they have a smile that would give the Cheshire cat a complex. What can be so exhilarating about airline food? Apparently it’s not the food but the free drinks, of the alcoholic nature. Yes, free “booze” can apparently bring a smile on anyone’s face. But, it’s not just the anticipation of free drinks, rather the idea of getting enough to take ahead on to their destination that is making them smile. So every time drinks are served, or in some cases on special request, two of each drink is asked for. Two wine bottles, two beers, two whiskeys. One is drunk, while the other is placed with stealth in the handbag, all the while the said person is giddily smiling. You would imagine that this person is in their teens and just discovered porn. What annoys me the most is when after a while they gather up the courage and “demand” that I too should ask for two of each drink and if I don’t want the extra, should give it to them. I am one for making the most of getting back from the airline, but come on people, draw a line somewhere. To them, I hope one of these bottles crack open in your luggage so that your clothes tell you relatives that you’ve just come for an alcohol infused holiday.

Another annoying model of a person is the one who will do the exact opposite of what is asked for by the airline staff. They get up when they are not supposed to, use the loo when they should be fastening their seatbelts, and most prominently be in a hurry to take the luggage off the overhead compartment once the plane lands, and I mean the plane has just touched the tarmac and still is traveling at a good speed, but this person is already up, with a smile on his face that can change into a clueless look just as the airhostess asks them to sit down. You can hear the airhostess shouting, requesting the person to take their seat. Somehow this reminds me of school. I just wish that the airhostess would get up, walk to the person, and give them a nice scolding, while the rest of us, like little children, can smirk and laugh about it. You know, like when your friend being naughty gets caught by the teacher.

We are finally out. The race to take the checked luggage begins. Everyone is in a hurry. I always love to read people’s faces during this time. Who could be carrying contraband in their baggage? Is there someone who might have a few extra iPhones that they bought for cheap during their visit to the US? But wait, I can’t really do that because I am being pushed and shoved around by those trying to grab their luggage. Big bags that they pull off from the conveyor belt and in the process knock off everyone around them. It’s a conveyor belt people. No need to push and shove others aside. What goes around comes around on these belts… literally. I just wish that these folks who were in such a hurry are stopped by the customs and have to spend a few hours while their baggage, and they, are checked thoroughly.    

I’m tired and just want to go home now. That’s the end of the trip and I’m happy to have reached my destination. Everything is okay with the world now. I thank God for a safe and non-bumpy flight. It’s time to hit the sack and sleep off the jetlag.

PS: Those of you keeping a tab and wondering about what happened to the 11th annoying person. Well, that would be me, the guy who thinks too much of himself and just observes everyone else with a smug smirk on his face, so he can go back and write a blog post out of it. Bloggers I tell ya!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


Situated at the far end of Ambience Mall, Gurgaon, Chili's has a very unceremonious entrance that might even make you miss it were you not looking for it. Nevertheless, it’s not what’s on the outside that matters, but rather what comes out of the depths of their kitchen that does.

Inside, Chili's is reminiscent of other international chains such as Ruby Tuesday’s and TGIF when it comes to the décor and ambience; each one having a sort of bar and grill concept when it comes to food and drinks. The branch I visited was surprisingly busy on a weekday afternoon and that is always a positive indication of the food they offer, or maybe the drinks, but since I was with the family, drinks were not to make an appearance on our table. Clean and tidy with comfortable seating, because leg space is very important to me, and a child friendly atmosphere the restaurant is welcoming; be it the host or the person providing the service. In fact their friendliness lied just on the right side of being over bearing and annoying, not too intrusive, but at the same time a few visits to either “play” with my one year old son or to ask if everything was in order. These minor intrusions were easily looked over as the service was brilliant, on time, and in fact appreciative when I was recommended the best option for my daughter, the kids menu, which proved to be perfect and to her linking.

The food as Chili's looks as unassuming as its entrance, some of it served in “baskets” in a very informal and casual manner, which is by no means a negative and in tune with the entire theme of the restaurant. In fact it eases the tension of eating at a sit-in restaurant and makes it fun to just dig into it with both hands. My daughter had the child’s menu, which mind you is a bargain, consisting of a Margarita pizza, fries and hot chocolate, each of which she enjoyed. Even the fries were slightly thicker in cut (for some reason in the photograph they don't look as thick as they were) than what is available in most fast food restaurants and thus better in taste. The Margarita pizza, a part of which I too had, looked somewhat unwelcoming, but tasted pretty good owning to the cheese they used. Most Margarita’s lack a certain taste, but the chefs at Chili's definitely pay attention to the cheese used and the same was evident when I had the Pepperoni pizza which once again had a very distinctive cheese taste and thus proved to be scrumptious.   

As I dug into my juicy Santa Fe Sandwich which consisted of “Cajun rubbed chicken breast, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, guacamole, and chipotle aioli in a philly roll” my wife experimented with the Chilis’ Quesadillas, which too was to her satisfaction.     

Furthermore the damage to the pocket doesn’t pinch as we managed a stomach-filling meal which included three mains, two non-alcoholic drinks, and a child’s menu for roughly Rs 2000,- I am also happy to say that Chili's serves its drinks in normal glasses and not in mason jars which seems to be a clichéd trend being adopted by quite a few restaurants.    

Chili's has quite an extensive menu and with big enough servings (we had to get some of our food packed) it is difficult to try more than just a couple of dishes per visit, but what I tasted I enjoyed, thus it should not be long before I visit Chili's again to experience some of their other offerings.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Old World Charm of Fontainhas

I first came across Fontainhas when I did an online search for self-guided walks in Goa. Located in Panaji, the capital of Goa, and also known as the Old Latin Quarter, Fontainhas is famous for its pretty and colourful Portuguese-style private residences. I was charmed by the description and the many images of Fontainhas available online convinced me that I should visit the area while in Goa.
So after a day spent at Old Goa, I decide to head towards Fontainhas. There’s only one problem: my cab driver has no idea where it is with the result that we spend quite a bit of time in asking around and locating Fontainhas.
It is an hour before sunset when we finally arrive at the Panjim People’s Inn, a landmark in the area and now an art gallery. I would have loved to see the exhibits at the gallery, but have to give it a miss as otherwise I will not be able to take advantage of the remaining daylight to see Fontainhas.

A walk through Fontainhas reveals an old world charm in old, colourful houses with tiled roofs, narrow curving streets, vintage house signs, children playing football, a vintage car or two, gift shops selling souvenirs … The only thing that does not have a splash of colour is the local St. Sebastian’s Church; it’s whitewashed, neo-classical, single-towered façade is in stark contrast to the colored houses all around.
In spite of the evening time, it’s quiet and peaceful and it’s easy to imagine a bygone era. If not for all the modern cars around me, I would probably have thought that I had travelled back in time.
I wish I could have spent some more time at Fontainhas, but daylight is fading fast and there is nothing more that I can see. I drop into Marcou’s Artefacts to pick up some gifts for friends and family before I leave.

My last view of Fontainhas is from the steps of the nearby Church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception. Or rather it’s an imagined view as I can’t really see any of the buildings of Fontainhas and can only imagine them hidden behind the trees and out of sight. A colourful blue building with red windows opposite the church is a reminder of the wonderful evening that I have just spent at Fontainhas.

Sudha is one of the founders of #TSBC (or The Sunday Book Club), a traveller, a bookworm, an editor, a communications consultant, an amateur photographer, a Classical music (Indian, Western, and Arabic) lover, a mythology enthusiast, a closet graphic designer... She claims that she is a nerd who is chained to her office desk during the day, reads books and listens to music in the evenings, and dreams of travelling to faraway lands at night. In between all this, she finds time to blog a bit.