Saturday, October 12, 2013

Durga Pujo Pandal hopping in Powai Mumbai India! Elsie Gabriel

Durga Pujo Pandal hopping in Powai!

Elsie Gabriel

Overcrowded streets of Hiranandani Powai Mumbai add to the excitement and pandemonium always involved in the pandal hopping atmosphere during the Durga Pujo celebrations every year.

Zig Zag lights, explosion of sounds, toys on the streets that make the most noise when blown into your ears as you try and make an entry into the pandals, standing in a long serpentine queue to get a glimpse of  Maa! What high spirited souls, Durga puja is truly a world festival. It’s a street festival filled with colours, crisp brand new dhakais and the balloon walla’s, all in all a heady offerings to your senses!

It was a double delight as Hiranandani Powai in Mumbai this year held two different Pandals in the same complex, which actually made pandal hopping a reality after twenty years of the one’s we visited back home in West Bengal. Childhood memories came alive as I narrated to my son Ridge how we used to be the privileged one’s to be escorted in the ‘Boozer’ all around the pandals .Pani Puris for a rupee! Chicken rolls for 50 paisa’s and ofcourse that Alu chaat and chicken cotlet!!!

Such happy faces partying away, holding on to their saree pleats with one hand and clinging on to little kids on the other! Spotted one Bong wearing the famous Baluchari saree, the one with the entire Mahabharata story engraved on it,,the saree was epic! Of course with sudden heavy rains sweeping the whole country, and the cyclone said to hit Orissa anytime soon, many devotees wore silk salwar kameez to move around faster with the wet ground beneath…..

‘Shaan’ the Bollywood sensational singer  stole the night today with his renditions as not only the Bongs but the whole of the audience doubled up in screams. It was no less than the head bangers ball, I tell you.

The gourmet spread was quite elaborate and you can smell the food a mile away. We bought a whole lot and stood and ate like the rest of the thousands who equally enjoyed being pushed around elbow to elbow while trying to get a Mosel in. Bhaapa Hilish, or steamed hilsa, and chholar dal, or channey ka dal, fritters, brinjal bhaja, potato fingers and pumpkin fries. Chicken rolls, Birayanis, Mutton curry and white rice, fish chops and fish fries,fish in mustard sauce.The mustard hit me in the nose like the dish always did back home, pungent and sensational enough to want some more.My diet plans simply vanished with the October breeze. Oh My Godh I want to go back and eat some more!  I brought some Misti doi back home for a midnight indulgence with the kids.

Dhol came out and stole the thunder too.It drove all those ladies crazy.Non stop dancing took over right in the middle of the arena,,,and ended only with the dunchuni dance with smoke and earthen lamps. What a religious call out with fervor
, conch and drums, deadly combinations and am sure Mother Goddess will hear all our prayers!
Gastronomical delights overpowered  the idol sighting, but I prayed hard looking keenly on Maa that women on earth be more like Durga, strong, righteous and win good over evil. 

Two of my women friends launched their Music CDs during the Durga puja celebrations and it was so apt.Violinist Sunita Bhuyan called hers 'Invocation of Maa',beautiful offering.Sunita also played the violin along with her Mother on stage and both put forth a loving duet.Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt and singer Hariharan Ji joined Music maestro Anup Jalota in launching the same.
Beautiful Sangeeta Nambiar offered her maiden music CD 'Megher Anchal' also to Durga Maa. Her collection is also a fabulous lot surely adding spice to the Bengali collection.

More to women power I prayed!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Vanishing Islands-The Maldives.Elsie Gabriel

Vanishing Islands-The Maldives.

Elsie Gabriel

Waking up to the sun rising over the ocean just a few steps from your bed, is a perfect holiday every one dreams of, as crystal clear waters and rich marine life beckon you to the shores outside your doorstep. The room at Holiday Island  Maldives is so romantic and large, with a beautiful backyard right on the Indian ocean! A holiday dream truly come true.

Ofcourse when hubby dear makes the best morning cuppa for you, delivers it with smiles and adds a session of some photo shoots of you, it is the ultimate in luxury. Turning you into that model on the lost silver pristine beach you always wanted to be, well, I must have done something good in my last life to deserve this. Yes Maldives is heaven on earth!

Maldives, considered the smallest county in Asia, is the lowest laying country on Earth. Located on the Equator, it never fails to see the Sun throughout the year.
There is nothing to disturb your tranquility as you sway gently in a hammock. The soft sandy beaches are fringed with coconut palms and caressed by the clear blue waters of the ocean.
When the seaplane landed on this Island I was speechless! Azure water simply surrounds you, it is overwhelming alright. There can come no other feeling but that of gratitude for life and for God who created this awesome expanse of water when you take in the blue world.

The islands central facilities are surrounded by unbeatable powdery white sands of landscape gardens, an inviting retreat to come back to after an exhilarating active day out on the sea.

  For a long time, the Republic of Maldives was one of the best-kept secrets in the world; a beautiful string of low-lying coral islands in the Indian Ocean, a paradise for watersports enthusiasts and sun seekers alike. We of course experienced simply everything from night-fishing trips, island hopping, windsurfing and scuba-diving.

Many islands embrace enormous lagoons, where bright blue-green water laps gently. Yet, even in paradise, trouble can bubble beneath the surface. It is precisely because the Maldives are so low-lying (80% of the territory is less than 1m/3.3ft above sea level), so transparent and perfect for snorkelling, that their very existence is especially threatened by global warming.

Despite being blessed by such natural beauty, Maldives faces an unusual future. 80% of its 1200 islands sit just above sea level. With the projected rise in sea level, scientists estimate that in a 100 years, Maldives will be submerged by the very sea that brings it life.

From a wide array of water sports, tennis and scuba diving to the cultural shows and adventurous island hopping, there is always a choice for all ages, tastes and moods. The restaurants and entertaining main bar are famous for its high quality of service and variety of delightful food and refreshing drinks.

Travel-Most International airports are well connected to Maldives or via Sri Lanka.
How to Reach your island- Seaplane or Speedboat .
Internal air services are operated by Island Aviation Services.The transfer from the airport to the resort islands may be an optional extra on the tour. These services are also available for trips around the islands too.

Visitors generally remain on their resort island for the duration of their stay, although island-hopping trips by ferries are widely available. Local charter boats are also easily available for hire. High-speed boats meet arrivals at the airport, supplied by the resort they are booked with, and boats are available for hire at the ferry counter near the jetty area.
Travel on individual islands does not present any problem since few of them take longer than half an hour to cross on foot. In Malé, taxis are the main source of transport.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A life well travelled! Dr. L. H. Hiranandani [1917-2013] Elsie Gabriel

A life well travelled!
 On the road to success!
Dr. L. H. Hiranandani [1917-2013]

Elsie Gabriel.

Dr. L. H. Hiranandani was the inspiration behind the Hiranandani group edifice and will always shine upon the family from Heaven.
Dr.L.H.Hiranandnai’s life was a true celebration. It is not the end of his life but a beginning to many to be inspired by him and work diligently ,silently against all odds aiming to achieve success always.
I have had the privilege to interact and talk about his beginnings many a times in the course of my journalism documentations. India’s separation, His Padma Bhushan award, his children and grand children and most of all the L.H Hiranandani hospital. I fondly called him Daddy. He was always soft spoken, articulate and spoke about his humble rising with utmost humility. I loved his attention for detail. I have a hundred memories of all the details he spoke about but one such sweet connection never fails to leave my mind. On his Birthday every year on September 17th he would receive thousands of cards ,believe me he would meticulously reply to each one with a thankyou note! To the environmentalists in me, Doctor would share how he would check his patients with the help of sheer bright sunlight in the old days in the clinic.
 I still remember waving to crowds along with him as we stood on the mobile platform creating awareness about World Aids day, outside the Hiranandani Hospital releasing balloons and chanting slogans. He said Elsie, ‘the Hiranandani Hospital is very close to my heart,join me in healing people and spreading awareness about illnesses.’ And thats a promise I wish to keep always, dear Daddy!
His roots were deep and engraved with challenges.
He was born in 1917 in Thatta, Sind (now in Pakistan). The family migrated to Mumbai in 1937. He completed his medical education in 1942. He was keen to further his education and went to England for his fellowship (FRCS). On his return to India in 1947, he joined The Topiwala National Medical College and B.Y.L Nair Hospital, Mumbai as Honorary Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) Surgeon. In this hospital he rose to be the Head of Department.
Under his professional guidance the department of ENT made a name for itself for its innovative specialized procedures.  He initiated several operative techniques which are known as "Dr. Hiranandani's Operations" globally. He was instrumental in initiating the concept in India that Head and Neck surgeries come under the domain of the ENT surgeons.
The first such department was set up in B.Y.L Nair Hospital in 1972. The department is till date known as "Dr. Hiranandani's Department of Otolaryngology and Head & Neck".
Dr. Hiranandani's work has earned him many accolades. The American Society of Head & Neck Surgery elected him as their first Indian member. The International Federation of 
Otolaryngology and Head & Neck Societies awarded him the "Golden Award" the first Indian and fifth in the world to receive it. He has been voted as "Millennium ENT" by SAARC Countries.
Social causes have deeply motivated him. In 1973 he gave up a flourishing private practice to undertake social work in drought areas of Maharashtra for a  period of 8 months. He has directed aid for the flood affected people in all over the country .  He was awarded "Maulana Azad Award" by Indian National Congress in recognition of exemplary work during 1993 communal riots in Mumbai. In the field of medical ethics he has spear-headed the passing of the Human Organs Transplantation Bill by Lok Sabha in 1994. B y this act the buying of kidneys is declared as a crime. His humane nature made him stand up for the rights of people and fight against capital punishment and euthanasia.Today the Hiranandani hospital,corporate brands and Schools are a living testimony to his concrete foundation which he laid years ago.
For his contribution to the nation, the Government of India awarded him the Padmabhushan in the year 1972. In 1988, he was conferred the "Dhanvantari Award", first time awarded in the field of ENT, for his notable contribution to science of medicine.
He has also helped many Sindhi Institutions, one among them is  The  Hyderabad [Sindh] National Collegiate board. This board manages premier educational institutes like National college, Bandra, KC  and HR College in South Mumbai. Government of India has recognized his services not only in the Medical field but also in the social arena 
Dr. Hiranandani , was blessed with three sons. While his eldest son Navin became a Doctor,  Niranjan and Surendra pursued business and today are rated amongst  the most well known Corporate houses in the country.  
Dr. Hiranandani had never forgotten his roots and has always been a savior for the poor , helpless and sick.   On the Social front, despite his busy schedule as a surgeon he always made it a point to be part of causes for the betterment of the downtrodden.  He worked persistently almost for eight months in 1973, when Maharashtra was under the situation of drought.  During the 1993 Mumbai riots , he played a significant role for keeping the peace and communal harmony in the city for which Indian  ;National Congress felicitated him with " Maulana Azad Award". 
Dr. L H Hiranadnani will always be remembered as a  visionary who worked selflessly towards the betterment of the society. I know Daddy is showering his blessings on us all ,as we read this.

Chef Ritu Dalmia proves the world that women still rule the kitchen! Elsie Gabriel

Chef Ritu Dalmia proves the world that women still rule the kitchen!

Chef Rushina Ghildiyal shows you how!

Elsie Gabriel.

I was elated to be on the guest list of chef Rushina Ghildiyals inaugural release of Chef Ritu Dalmia”s green book on vegetarian cooking. Two great women chef and one complimenting the other, it was an outstanding lunch alright!

Rushina’s cooking studio at Chandivli is magnificent and full of all the ingredients that a chef would ream of! As I watched Ritu Dalmia cook with such ease and expertise, sprinkling her culinary artistry with such spicy conversation and narrations, vegetarians stories about her childhood back in Kolkatta, she surely enlightened me as I too hail from West Bengal!A pure Marwari going out into the world and becoming one of the worlds best women chef, is something which doesn’t come too easily, a lot of hard work, research and travel can be witnessed in Ritus culinary presentations, most of them non vegetarian ,believe it or not!

 Rushina hosted the show as Hachette India launched ‘Diva Green’: A Vegetarian Cookbook by super chef Ritu Dalmia.It is truly an ode to all things vegetarian, the book amazes me with it’s simplicity and mundane vegetables which add exotic taste to famous dishes. Ritu makes vegetables luscious and spicy. After reading her Diva Green I assure you, believe me, you hardcore carnivores will give in and be a green convert alright!

After flicking through the pages of her fresh book in my hand, I was a convert alright, I already had an eye for all things green. Simplicity is the key element Ritu follows and that hit me in the mouth literally! Take your pick from a perfectly seasoned Green Mango and Banana Flower Salad or Mushroom Ceviche; a fun combination of Grilled Eggplant with Pepper and Sesame;  a wholesome Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart; or a comforting Papaya Curry or Carrot and Ginger Soup.
Uncommon yet easy-to-prepare, inventive and exciting, the recipes in Diva Green will reacquaint
you with vegetables in all their vibrancy and value, and have you celebrating shakahari!

Ritu Dalmia is among India’s best-known super chefs and restaurateurs. Her restaurants in New Delhi – the award-winning Diva, Café Diva and Latitude 28 – have been widely acclaimed for their superior quality of service and cuisine. She also runs the popular café at the Italian Cultural Centre in Delhi, and hosts two immensely successful cookery shows on national television.
Through her new book dedicated to her Mother, Ritu encourages all to master vegetarian dishes that are rich in flavour. "Actually I think it was time to redefine vegetarian food, and also showcase how great it can be. Saying that, I have to admit I find more people turning toward vegetarianism, something which I have been seeing a lot with our guests at all the restaurants"Ritu explains rightly. Ritu has put the simple pumpkin, beetroot and  eggplant on a pedestal. Making everyday vegetables truly heroes’ is what we Indian are really about. Aren’t we? Thats what Ritu Dalmia gives us without the fuss and complications. Cooking the Saints Day pasta with brinjals and spicy mushroom salad was simplicity with blissful taste.
Rushina M. Ghildiyal you are a lady chef who honors and proclaims the works of many other chefs at your cooking studio kitchen, sharing the platform together in the same culinary world, that’s what is so beautiful about you as a Woman chef! No competition, you simply celebrate food and all things tasty! Take a bow! Rushina invites all foodies to her kitchen, even children who love to cook, her world is a global kitchen!
Not only did I learn how to cook vegetarian but also learned that you have learn to share and learn from your seniors, colleagues and co-laterals in order to keeping your world spinning!