MARKIV’S NEW MENU, TO DIE FOR

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The cafe’ tucked a little inside at the entrance of the Churchgate station subway, Markiv’s, has good coffee, tea, excellent mushroom puffs, other nice snacks and pastries. Most of all it has functional airconditioners to help us bear the heat of Mumbai city.

It so happened that last week Manisha, my friend and I, were sipping coffee here, when the owners (seen in pic) were eating a meal. We two spaced out, which we usually are, did not realising they are the owners asked them taste something we had called for! Yes, laugh as you may, the couple then told us they were introducing new menu and they would like to have us both for the tasting session. Because we both told them we LOVE food and the pizza they offered was non-vegetarian. So suddenly this morning in my semi-stupor, relaxing on push-back chairs at #Insignia theatre at Inox I got a call reminding me to head straight for a tasting session. It was sheer food orgasm in store for us.

Those of us, used to fine dining, know the amount of energy and skills spent on presentation, which obviously is translated in the cost of any dish. Now many more have been exposed to this thanks to Master Chef on television. One expects it in fine dining restaurants, of course, however I would like to point out, in this cafe’ too that extra effort has been taken. The presentation is way ahead of the above-average expensive restaurants and what fantastic servers. The chef has got 100 on 100 points for the overall gastronomic experience.

This bread is etched in my childhood memory for Sunday breakfast. Brun paav, or as we know kadak paav. This has been innovatively used as a soup bowl. The advantage being, the insides of this bread get soft and you can scrape it easily to sip with the soup. The two most delicious soups – Leak and Garlic; Corn and Cheese chowder soup.

This is the lovely Spinach (see the greeen colour retained)stuffed corn and cheese Patti. It is served with a mouth-watering dip, with yellow and red peppers.

Before we finished the spinach dish, the next hot one and my absolute favourite food, the Mushrooms. These are Pickled Mushroom stuffed with Spinach and garlic. The most interesting bit, they are served on thin strips of Zucchini, both yellow and green and baked like wafer sheets. Moreover, on the sides, are slices of button mushroom served with a sweet sauce, I think it is beetroot, could be even jam. I ate as if the Mushrooms were running out of stock. Just see the way Zucchini is baked, it was attractive. This too had a nice dip with browned garlic.

This is one of the toughest dishes to make, Baked potato cheese gnochche. Tender, fluffy again well decorated with baked veggies. This we gorged on. I am a sucker for potatoes and cheese and though I felt guilty, when I asked Manisha how these Victoria Beckham and Gwyneth Paltrow types can remain so very thin, the things she told me, I rather enjoy the potatoes and cheese. I promised to walk a bit more.

Now the last is THE best. The unfortunate part of being vegetarian in a so-called anti-meat country – the way they are banning slaughter and eating of various meats we will soon be eating one another. I wish I was introduced and put on fish/ meat in my childhood, coz I would not have to suffer eating the most bland dairy product called as cottage cheese, or Paneer. My sympathies with the interim CM during the late Jayalalitha’s illness. Imagine having a name like Paneer, yah. I mean so thakela, paneer is pichpichit (in Marathi, like a wobbly slippery thing). And for the diet conscious, even far worse, something called as tofu is served. Both these need to be banned. But wait, coming to this dish, it is the Best part of the cuisine. However, since it was right at the end, I felt like a Rhino whose stomach was bursting and had there been a bed I would have simply crashed. The ABSOLUTELY DELISH dish, Three Layered Grilled Cottage Cheese steak with risotto.

Now the important part, they are soon to introduce these dishes on their daily menu. I can tell you it is a fabulous idea, there are only thali and udipi type cafe’s, else fine dining expensive ones. Markiv’s introduction of these dishes will be excellent for all those on way to their appointments for rushed ones. Also, for those like Manisha and me, who like to sit, chat, enjoy the food and complete it with a tea or coffee.

Psst, most important part, the staff do NOT throw you out if you even sip over a glass of tea forever. Moreover, they have excellent rock music. Go fast..

gym society

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Recently I had written about my weight loss and the many reasons I really dislike about gyms. Those were my hurdles, however I must say gym has taught me to be lot more tolerant. I’ve learnt about people lot more. I love to observe and hence I keep my eyes and ears open. It really has taught me to be less judgemental and every day I say, thank god for being the way I am, god bless for the parents I have and that i choose the decisions i make. There are all sorts who come to gym and believe me those who come to get ‘fit’ are an absolute minority.

Among the youngsters who come to the gym are mostly girls who want to get into the marriage scene. Either they’ve registered with bureaus, engaged or want to get, and they are the first to give free advice on how one should be religious about diet, how one should eat small portions. Like I said free advice, forget the fact that post marriage they are NOT seen few millimetres near any gym! The young men about to get married are what they are, trying to attract attention. Vests, tattooed arms, bulging muscles, who at that age believe their body odour is saxee (aarghhh) and will begin carrying deo bottles in their 40s, after being forced by wife to travel some countries around the world. They will eye young girls and women older than them.

The most interesting bit is about older women who come to the gym. There are docile wives of old men who accompany them, diligently work out, slow ofcourse, due to age. While their horny old husbands will flirt, charm their way through women’s groups at the gym, cracking jokes, talking till cows come home, did I say work out? Aah, well it is to be forgotten. These are the types whom I have caught staring at women through gym mirrors too!

Then are the younger wives, bubbly, getting good sex, still starry-eyed about marriage. Cooing on the phone when their husbands call, after many reminders from this rather young bride. They will shyly ask why they called so late. The speed of the exercise varies with the conversation and emotions attached to the interaction. For eg if the husband has time on hand and realises this is the ultimate call to speak to the wife, he will talk horny to her, she exercises fast, giggles and we around see it. Then in between she is trying to get Her point across the speed is real slowwww. The gym music has absolutely no effect, believe me. And yes, did I mention we have a view to die for, the Arabian Sea, so it adds to the romantic mood.

A young college girl meanwhile has ‘her guy,’ as they are addressed, besides many other ‘dudes’ on her WA and BBM. She will always be accompanied by a newly made fraand at the gym or from her neighbourhood. Arre, forget gym, it is rich father’s money being channelised to chat non-stop on WA and BBM. With plenty of calls “wassup, aaj kya plan hai? Pata hai tumhe usne kya kaha…haan yaar…hahaha…” and the conversations are interspersed with “sorry sir/ma’m, urgent phone hai..” IF by a remote chance any trainer asks them why they’ve been so long on the phone. Forget the fact there are notices put up everywhere saying “talking on the cellphone in the gym while exercising is not permitted,” joking or what?

Then there are those richie-rich who deal, negotiate on the cell like we’ve never heard before. And yes, they stand or sit looking straight into the mirro. “haan gym mei hu, cycle pe hu, I can talk..” or “arre yeh deal pass hua? Nahi? Kitna paisa boley?” and they will fidget caressing their mane, side-locks…

Then there are those many, rather majority, who really intrigue me, the housewives who are either bored or live in joint families. They come to the gyms to get a breather. Gym is ‘my time’ and we are so lucky those who understand it and choose it. There are many like these who have absolutely no idea about me-time. These are women who have never been given the opportunity or made to realise time for themselves is very important. So it shouldn’t be held against them when they come to the gym they seem clueless about exercise regime. They are interested in food, cuisines, gossip, talking non-stop about the pathetic lives they lead, many who are very well-off but now suddenly announce to me, “we want to have an extra-marital affair,” or the richer ones who sit there for 2 whole hours daily not realising this is time with their bodies, with themselves.It is really sad, they are mothers, grand parents, who have been ‘ideal’ wives, mothers, daughters-in-law, still toiling to get the approval and have never given attention to their bodies, to their minds, to their own needs and moreover no channelling of their emotions.

So here they discuss everything from affairs of Bollywood stars, their abortions, juicy gossip you and me would not have heard of, the inside stories of many a businessman’s family, who is swinging or having a torrid affair with, who has how many diamonds and shows off and who has that class of not bragging it around.

And there are those newly-travelled Indian housewives who has suddenly become ‘aware’ of fitness. Who has time at hand, as their husbands are busy minting money, who believe they know-it-all and will tell you as though their word is the seal. So be it marriage, sex, men, clothes, politics. They are first to tell, ‘gym is my passion,’ Hi5, because they are busy judging these all above women who at least come to unload their emotional baggage. These ones are the closeted ones, who hide their sorrows, who are obsessed with their looks and then have a word on all others around them. To the extent, they come and stand next to the members working out and talk about whether one is ‘looking’ thin, has lost weight or not, how others waste their time, are not interested and shouldn’t be here. Well, these are the first ones who need a shrink.

I am NOT including the loud ones who are only nuisance value in all gyms, or those young guys who go around calling every woman older than him as ‘aunty.’ They will fall into one of the above categories, they are still in infant stage, don’t know where to fit themselves. All in all, gym is just the reflection of our society. It really tells you the kind of upheavals that are occurring in our society. I always thank these women for giving me an insight into our society, about how pathetic is the status of a woman even today!

Dr Binayak Sen -fighting charges of sedition

The medical practice is the only profession in our country (atleast i know India) that has to take an oath. The docs are not supposed to be profit oriented and more so, since diligent tax payers like me file returns & pay taxes, their medical education is highly subsidised. So they are supposed to take an oath of serving 1 yr in rural villages & be committed to public. That is the main reason for subsidisation of this otherwise expensive studies.

One such diligent medical professional & gold medallist is the man in the picture above. Dr Binayak Sen. Who has a wife, Ilina & 2 daughters. Today the family is scattered thanks to Govt of Jharkhand, GOI & High Court that has ordered him to life imprisonment.

Dr Sen went on to Chattisgarh which was once part of Bihar before. Sen dedicated his life to the poor, mostly those who can’t afford to eat even rice twice a day, forget 3 times. And they are totally deprived from absolute basics like food, opportunity to earn living, basic education & will to survive. Most of us will never be able to identify with that. So let’s be honest about this fact.

Sen gives them medication, helps them to live, ensures the women don’t die while pregnant, at the time of delivery, lack of nutrition,  don’t die after delivery due to lack of iron or blood. He ensures the children in that region don’t die due to malnutrition & starvation. This i am sure is of most significance. He also treats them for diarrhoea, cholera, malaria & they get medicines free of cost.

People in cities may never know the importance of these things. It is so vital to have healthy, normal citizens who are not a burden on our economy. Ill, disabled deprived population adds burden to the economy, Which the governments should be reducing, but play politics with it. This most valuable difference is so vital. Even more when we realise he’s made a difference in an area where govt has never bothered to reach or never will.

In the interim period. The Communist Party of India (Maoist) reached in these remote, tribal areas of India. The cadre & workers mostly educated, rich, who left their comforts & warm environments came to dedicate their lives to the betterment of these poor tribals. Well they never will get medals for sure. Yet someone was acknowledging them, someone valued & cared for them. The fact that the tribals would never forget. Soon many felt frustrated, the lack of governmental intervention has its limits too. The cadre also began feeling it. They realised things & systems are not changing & soon we saw the rise of extreme Maoist, Naxal activities of their cadres resorting to violence.

Killings took place -till now mostly of the officials, administration of those who were key players of our corrupt systems. Till then most felt, “Its ok, the govt calls for trouble if they don’t change & get to the grassroots.” the govt never has done it & will never do. So then anger, frustration drove many to guerilla war fare. The naxals began attacking civilians. However the tribals never diminished their support to the naxals. For the reason that they survived indifferent death.

Dr Sen meanwhile dedicated his life to serving these poor tribals. His wife & children lived in Wardha & would frequently visit him in Raipur too. their lives took a change for sudden. Dr Sen was arrested. The last 7 years he is fighting all sorts of charges put on him forcibly, for which there is NO evidence at all.

OK, tell me when you go to visit your personal doctor how do you like your dr to be? Detached, Impersonal, straight up, come to the point Ms/Mrs/Mr so & so. Or at least i like my dr to smile, laugh, relax, be warm welcoming & i want to tell him something personal -my illness.

May be its an Indian trait or what i don’t know, we don’t stop here. We patients know about the doc’s life, more so he knows lots more about ours. We feel nice if our doc enquired about our spouse, gf/bf, children, their progress, our personal problems, etc. The usual appointments of docs go on for a while.

We tend to consult the doc see him as a guide & in a country like India, Doc is equated with GOD. Whoever, whatever there may be. Many of us want our parents or kids to listen, follow certain course of medication, diet we ask our doc to do so. We request him to have a talk with our family members, because we are confident they will listen to the doc. Its understood. The doc doesn’t simply ‘passes on our message’ goes beyond & convinces the individual. So we want the doc to be our advisor, counsellor or communicator, to get some work done.

Imagine this situation a tribal area. It’s far more intensified. The families who may know nothing about medication, treatments & illness in the first place. Besides imagine the activists who lived here, leaving behind their families in cities while they lived in remotest corners. Now take this further. Some of these got arrested. Not all have worked in arms training or imparted arms training or even picked up arms. Some really went there to teach -educate the children/adults.

The informal non-religious, non-formal and absolute socialist form of education. So what. At least they informed poor, illiterate tribals of their rights, schemes, funds available that they can use. As a result, many who got arrested and have been sent on rotation from 1 jail to another do have families. Some have multiple families. Some have really tiny kids. In fact one alleged Naxal saw his kid last when he was just born! They feel lonely. They too are human concenred of their families & more so the academic progress of their kids. They are given crap food, with worms, stones, etc. Most have been beaten. You can make out after their releases interim ones though.

These Dr Sen types have been languishing in jail for like 7 years plus. So while they are in jail they also would to reassure their wife, kids, daughters especially how to cope with these circumstances. They want to tell their children to not fall for loose talk, taunts NOT to get emotionally vulnerable. Also words of caution, ask them to be careful.

This is NORMAL. I’d have done or communicated lot more. Remember the arrested naxals are denied all rights. NOT even allowed to write letters to their families. What if they have sent encoded messages you know!

So the Chattisgarh govt of BJP stepped up its anti-naxal activities. & while they wanted to arrest the violent Naxals, whom they couldn’t zero down upon, they simply arrested Dr Sen. He got bail after 7 years and trial began. Unfortunately during the trial most media IGNORED the issue. in this interim period i happened to write a piece on children of few naxal leaders. I spoke to Pranhita.

“When rumours of Binayak’s Sen’s arrest were doing the rounds in Raipur, where he lived and worked, his family was on edge. Pranhita was at the time studying in a college in Kharnagar, a few hours from Raipur. Her life changed after Sen was arrested on May 14, 2007. She started getting threats.  Leaflets would be slipped under my door, saying ‘they’ knew I lived alone she says. I am now scared to talk to people. Even when you messaged me for this interview, I felt nervous. Free Binayak Sen campaign, and is the cinematographer for a documentary the People’s Union for Civil Liberties is making on the case. Working for the campaign has also helped Pranhita appreciate her father’s work. ” At the same time, she says she holds no grudge against the neighbours who shut their doors and windows when a posse of nearly a hundred policemen arrived to take her father away. “They called my father a terrorist and shut us out. But calling him names does not make it true.”

The daughter & other children have to live with these tags like “terrorists”. The Chattisgarh court has charged Dr Sen with ‘sedition;’ The definition – “actions or speech urging rebellion against the authority of a state  or ruler.” So to treat the poor, live among them. To pass on messages if the cops are to be believed, is this a crime? More over to prevent illnesses, death of women & premature babies, immunise them is going against the country.

Do we not always communicate, send messages to one another? what’s social networking i wonder? Now if Dr sen has sent messages of these arrested in Jail to their family members, it becomes sedition? This is maths gone wrong. Bcoz the police aren’t doing thorough investigations, they have failed to catch real culprits. They can’t put an end to Moaism so they catch the person doing some good work there. Sure some good work this is.

Instead of calling for other NGOs, calling CPI (M) cadre to talk, taking schemes to the poor in those remote areas, ensuring even if there’s 1 child he gets to study, instead the govts send para military troops, naxal combat teams to finish the activists, people? the real problems remain unsolved.

But the truth is those who know less about the movement, about Maoism, Communism in this country, will draw their own conclusions. Worse still, since most do not have family doctors who take the extra effort, charging pittance & helps to prevent disease, we will never believe Dr Sen is only pracitising medicine. Dr Sen has at no time propounded, promoted or supported violence & killing in the name of maosim. To call him naxal in itself is wrong. Actually they are driving nice people towards it. Worse still they’ve called Dr Sen as terrorist? Who exactly has given us the right to call this med doc such names?

People also say, “what’s the truth, he was a naxal na?” He helped the naxals, maoists, so he is anti-national . On what basis are these allegations being made? Read what i’ve written. Ask ourselves the basic questions we have read. Draw your conclusions based on it. Else find a better family doctor yourselves.