2 States

Chetan Bhagat’s latest offering ‘2 States’ proves yet again that he is undoubtedly India’s favorite author. Simple story; unpretentious and sharp language; subtle humor; and a narrative that is packed with emotion, drama and romance – 2 States makes the perfect lighthearted and entertaining read.

Set against the backdrop of IIMA, Ananya and Krish meet, become friends and move onto becoming a couple. They have their share of fights, laughs, tears, funny moments and even sex. That storyline would seem enough for an entire book but this is what Bhagat covers in the first few chapters. The real action begins when Krish’s mom – a stout, plump, loud and ostentatious Punjabi lady who lives in Delhi meets Ananya’s parents – soft spoken, traditional South Indians who are content with their sambar rice, Hindu paper, carnatic music and simple Chennai life. It’s a clash of the titans from the word go and the rest of the book takes us through the events that transpire between both the families – the “boys side” and the “girls side” which eventually takes a toll on Krish and Ananya themselves. So does their love blossom into marriage? Do they manage to convince each other’s parents?  To what extent are they willing to go to make it work? Well, you’ll have to read the book to find out. 😉 The book provides an insight on the Punjabi and Tamilian mindset, for those of you who aren’t familiar with either of these communities. Parts of the story are set in the cities of Chennai and Delhi and you can expect numerous references to iconic buildings and a splattering of local slang. The storyline is predictable; yet Bhagat’s ability to draw you into the lives of the characters makes this book an absolute page-turner.

Born into a North Indian family but having been brought up in Chennai I could very well identify with the book. There is no doubt that 2 States will appeal to the sensibilities of its readers – almost every Indian will identify with Bhagat’s theme and message. ‘2 States’ is absolute value for money. Critics may not find Bhagat’s latest offering to be “Booker” material; but who cares, it’s appealing, engaging and…kick-ass!!!

This is a must-read. Go get your copy.

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Kids say the Darndest Things?

I came across a very interesting video titled ‘The Future of Singapore’ where Singapore’s Primary school students (children aged 6-12 years) were asked the question “how many babies will you have?”

Just to place this question in context let me give you a brief of the population and birth rate situation that currently exists in Singapore. One of the overriding problems that the Singapore government keeps referring to time and again is Singapore’s rapidly decling birth rate. Having once advocated the “Stop at Two” campaign the government is today urging young Singaporean couples to have more babies. Incentives in the form of “baby bonus”, “paid maternity leave”, and “subsidized education”, to name a few, have been introduced with the hope of getting young couples to start having babies. Of course this isn’t having the desired effect, with more than 30% of the women choosing to either remain single, opting not to have kids, preferring late pregnancies or favoring a one-baby policy.

Given that population is Singapore’s current paramount problem Razor TV (a web TV service in Singapore with programming centered on issues that affect Singaporeans) popped the question “how many babies will you have?” to students of a local primary school. It’s quite interesting to see how a 6-12 year old answers this question and goes a step further to explain why (s)he wants no babies, one baby, two babies, three babies or even four babies. Most of the kids were positive about having babies in the future and the most common explanation offered was that having children would mean that they (as parents) would be looked after in their old age. I wonder where a 6-12 year old gets that logic from? They seem to very clearly know what they want and what’s more, they even offer perfectly logical explanations!

Where are the days of ‘Kids Say The Darndest Things’ gone?

Singapore Food Trail – Of Egg Biryanis and Andhra meals…

I hail from a family that loves food and simply loves to eat. Period. Actually, any self-respecting Gujarati has a fine appreciation for food – any food. Needless to say, memories of my growing up years include our family outings to Chennai’s numerous restaurants. We experimented with any restaurant and every restaurant and soon we knew where to head to for the best dosas, crunchiest vadais, softest idllys, spiciest biryanis, fluffiest omlettes et al.

Years later and miles away from hometown Chennai, I suddenly remembered how I so used to enjoy Hotel Ashoka’s “Andhra Meals”. It was not so much for the sambhar or rasam or vegetables that I relished those meals; it was only for the spicy “podi” that I generously mixed with several spoonfuls of melted hot ghee into the heap of rice that occupied the centre of my rice plate that I used to order the Andhra meals. That and some tangy hot “gonkurra pickle” was all I needed. Along with nostalgic memories of the ‘podi rice n pickle’, I also remembered the occasional egg biryani, which my sis used to pack from a lil stall somewhere in Annanagar (the residential area we used to live in). I can almost smell that wonderful heady aroma that emanates as soon as you rip the lid of the reusable plastic container, in which the biryani is usually stuffed until the brim. But wait. The most exciting part of the egg biryani was scooping out spoonfuls of rice until your spoon hits the nicely boiled egg, which is usually well seated in the middle of the rice. Now, that is what makes the dish so special.

So now, since I live in Singapore which is also known as the ‘Food Capital of Asia’, I was all out to track down the egg biryani and ‘podi rice’ meal. A friend suggested “Sankranti” – an Andhra restaurant in Lil India’s Syed Alwi Road, bang opposite Mustafa Centre. I must admit that I was initially skeptical but soon decided to give it the benefit of the doubt – all for the sake of egg biryani. So here is my verdict.

The ambiance: Simple yet tasteful décor. Sankranti is by no means plush; yet it is a far cry from the basic “canteen-like” atmosphere. The restaurant’s whitewashed walls adorn beautiful prints from Indian mythology. Look up to the ceiling and you will see colorful glass bangles that run across the entire ceiling, concealing rows of lighting. If I remember right, there were colorful zari borders that were made to hang from the ceiling. A distinct South Indian look sets the ambiance.

The menu: Although Sankranti is a restaurant that specializes in Andhra cuisine, like most other Indian restaurants, its menu also features North Indian and Chinese fare. I usually refrain from ordering non-specialty items in a “specialty restaurant” and besides, it was the egg biryani and podi rice that I was after remember?

The food: It is delicious! I savored their Andhra Meal alias “Bhojanam”. It’s a sumptuous and complete meal served in a uniquely shaped thali lined with a fresh green banana leaf. True to the Andhra tradition, the poriyals and curries were spicy, the rasam and sambhar were delectable, but it was the “parpu podi” that won my heart. To relive those memories of pouring ladlefuls of ghee onto my steaming rice with the podi – oh what a pleasure to the senses. The “masala omlette”, which was a side order, was true Indian style – I cannot quite describe it – but I am sure if you are an Indian, you know what I mean. As for the egg biryani, it was all that I had wanted and even more – thin long and fragrant grains of rice, that concealed a treasure of not one, but two boiled eggs. The helpings are more than adequate and I am sure all you biryani lovers will not be let down. Another side order was the medu vadai. Now I must admit that I am not particularly fond of medu vadais, but these were exceptionally good. Crunchy, yet soft.

The service: Tip-top. The staff is polite and the quick service ensures that you don’t clutch your tummy waiting for your food to arrive.

The damage: Not bad at all. The prices are extremely affordable. The biryani is around S$ 6.00 – S$ 8.00 and so are the meals. The side orders are around S$ 3.00 – S$ 5.00, depending on what you order.

Overall, Sankranti offers you a pleasurable dining experience, simple yet scrumptious, and it is one of the joints that has made it to “My List of Regular Makaan Places in Singapore”.

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