Monday, June 18, 2012

Food Bloggers: The New Influencers

First thing I realised after joining work after almost 2 years was blogging has arrived in India. It was the same client, familiar work profile, but a visibly changed media space.  As a PR professional and out of my liking to try 'new restaurants and food', I started following some food bloggers on Twitter. 

Twitter became the best place to know of a new restaurant and a cafe or latest food trivia. Mainline media was writing about how people have developed their blogs as a source of specialised information, thus generating revenues too. Professional reasons apart, I found myself relating to food differently through these blogs. Born and brought up in Dadar, Aaswad and Godbole stores are not new to me. But Kalyan Karmarkar's blog  of writing about Maharashrian breakfast at Aaswad puts these known things in a different perspective. Nikhil Merchant's pictures give another glimpse of the a culinary journey. On the other hand I met Manisha Talim who lucidly presents the health benefits - be is an Asparagus or a Seafoood Festival. 

No wonder foood blogger have become the new influencers and my door to  culinary wonders - be it new restaurants, new cuisines, trying new recipe, simply planning an evening or even a vacation!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Break ke Baad in Aamchi Mumbai

AI 130 was hovering over Mumbai to land at Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport. As I stepped out of the plane, the swanky new terminal was the first amongst the many changes I noticed in Amchi Mumbai.  

The new terminal, duty free shops were unlike what I had seen a few years ago when I first travelled abroad. But this was short lived as the two helpless scanners tried best to accommodate luggage of the passengers at the customs.  On my way home, I noticed the new construction at City Light theatre was complete, but was promptly told that it’s just a commercial complex with no theatre. One more landmark with many childhood memories has disappeared in the builder-official-politician nexus.

Prices of vegetables, basic food items have inflated

Eating out is too expensive 

The most striking was the sky high prices of fruits, vegetables and daily items. Prices for dozen eggs, a litre of milk, bread and vegetable made me think, perhaps grocery was cheaper or at similar rate in London. Our staple Idli sambar at DP’s now costs Rs 32 while the favourite sabudana wada from Prakash is for Rs 30. So much for the inflation.....  

It was the next day after Dasara, my first festival since my return J, I got a call from my brother ‘you missed ganapati visarjan this year; start walking towards Gokhale Road you will get a glimpse’. Sure I did, it was a long queue of trucks with Devi idols headed towards Dadar Chowpatty. Sign of another festival becoming bigger, louder, commercialised and politicised. This time my usual long drive at night to Marine Drive took another route on my way back – the new Lalbaug fly over. Another subtle and important change was the death of close relatives, friend and acquaintances when I was away, a loss which will never be relived.  

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Want to become backpacker again soon!!

Cafe at Hostel

Apart from the beautiful Scottish landscapes my recent holiday introduced me to budget travel and backpacking. The four days of travel were very different from the family holidays and tours we are used to in India. Must say I am looking forward to become a backpacker again!

Unlike in India, booking a tour did not mean I was offered a ‘posh’ hotel and three meals of the day with services to carry my luggage and local transport. It was fun to learn to travel light, which is so impossible for us Indians. I was amazed to see how western travellers manage to travel for weeks and months with a small suitcase or a travel sack. Here I was with a similar bag travelling for four days.
Travel wagon shaped bar

It was a pleasant surprise to enjoy the ambience that backpacking provides with the company of fellow travellers from different countries. So we had Team Australia, Team China, Team Turkey, Team Korea, etc on our bus. Having read about budget hotels as a professional, I had some idea what backpacking hostels would offer. The most happening part of the hostel was the pub or the cafe where travellers would relax after an early dinner. The self catering kitchen was ready with cutlery, utensils and chopping boards for those who fancy cooking. The lounge was a perfect setting to play cards or for net surfing.

The hostel I stayed in Edinburgh offered complimentary walking tours, pub crawl and pool competitions. It was this walking tour that I realised such hostels also employ backpackers who earn while travelling. Our walking tour guide was a Canadian student on a break, travelling around Europe with Edinburgh as his base.  He is in the city for 10 months, has travelled around Europe, UK and works at the hostel.  “What a wonderful life. I would love to become backpacker like him”, I thought.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Weatherman

This morning I stepped out to go to the university and realised it was a little dark and the sky was grey. Is it the white cloud or will it rain? Oh shit I forgot to check the weather forecast... The first lesson I learnt when I came to London was – Always check the weather before leaving.
Perhaps the only unpredictable thing in London is the weather.  I was least bothered about the weather in Mumbai as practically we have only two seasons – summer and rainy.  Winter season is a distant cousin who very rarely visits Mumbai. My most concern to know the weather was during monsoon just to know if there is any water logging or heavy rains are expected. Our metropolitan department was infamously famous for inaccurate predictions so these updates were also taken with a pinch of salt. Later the weather reporters clad in corporate suits explaining wind directions on private news channels also failed to get my attention.

In London BBC is my weatherman. I can check weather for London, Kingston and even according to the postcode. I am leaving at 9 am but it’s going to rain at 16.00 and temperature drops at 22.00.  Along with my travel the five day weather forecast helps me to manage my laundry routine.  My friend casually asks – is it a good day to wash clothes? Me – Yes it’s going to be sunny for the next two days.  Or weather forecast could help to decide what to wear. If it was not for London, I would not have paid attention to the wind speed. Once my friend said its sunny today with temperature about 10 degrees. I asked her to check the wind speed. Reason? To know if I need to carry a jacket. She was surprised is when I told her if the wind speed is above 7 mph means it could be breezy. That was my observation. I love to drench in the Mumbai rain, watch splashing waves along the sea shore. But in London, rains, cold weather and wind is a lethal combination.  The wind cheater I brought from Mumbai is going back home as I need a rain coat suitable for the London rain.
This new knowledge has taught me a different lingo – white cloud, sunny intervals, light rain, heavy rain, snow, drizzle. It was a sunny day; I was trying my best to cope with the market research class when suddenly it started thundering followed by heavy rains. Our Greek professor in his own style said "You know guyssss there is a famous saying in London You don’t like the weather? Wait a minute".  

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Random thoughts on my mind

 Last week I read some tips to attract new readers to your blog. The most important tip I felt was - Be yourself  and Content is king. I am a rookie blogger but think my blog name says it all. Random Thoughts - I try to pen down random thoughts, sometimes to make sense of my own feelings and thinking.

I identified with another tip of writing about things you actually are passionate about instead of attempting something indifferent. This is what happens with me. Some topic or issues keeps coming to my mind and I write about it. But last few days have been different. I thought of writing on 3-4 topics. Many of my friends are working on their dissertations, which requires us to collect primary data. Hence since past few months I have filled many online questionnaires and irritated others to fill mine. So one of the topic on my mind was Survey Mania. Never in my life I must have consciously thought about advertising effects, juices, supermarket shopping, hotels & restaurants. A dinner at a chinese restaurant made me think about Chinese vs Indian Chinese. How we are always on lookout for Indian Chinese. Another interesting issue on my mind was Is social media becoming a battle ground for political awakening? This was of course related to the ongoing 'Anti-corruption movement in India'. 

But alas I have not managed to write on any of these topics. Reason - The Big D. I mean dissertation. My 3 month break is over and am back  to university library, struggling with numbers, analysing data. But still this mind full of Random Thoughts did make for a new post. Will be back soon with another post. Till then Chow!!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Enduring faith in Indian values and parenting

The following article Raised to rampage, made me write this blog and further endorsed my faith in the Indian values and parenting. Pointing towards timid adults and fearless children, the article blames the parents for the UK having ‘most indisciplined and frighteningly moronic youngsters in Europe’.

It is the same fear that instilled disciplined and taught us values. As kids everyone of us was scared of mother, father, or some elder. It was a daunting task to hide those low grades, complaints or mischief from parents or elders for the fear of been punished or scolded. In return were encouraged to obey and respect elders, not to misbehave and still enjoy the joy of childhood. Once my friend mentioned about her professor stamping on the stack of lecture notes while teaching when an Indian student interrupted and asked him not to do that as Indians consider books as god. Another friend working in a fast food chain regularly narrates incidences of how children throw away money while paying for their favourite fries and Diet Coke.

Early days in London we use to adore chubby kids moving around in buggies on the streets and buses. My friend said ‘don’t adore them so much, the same kid will become a spoilt brat when he grows up’. His comment in a sense summed up the youngsters in general we observe here. As many now opine, the youngsters here can use their freedom and independence constructively to show dissent for the right cause instead of looting shops for frivolous reasons. One needs to reflect why opinion leaders have to emphasise parents to ask tough questions to their children.

We in India have always been given examples of how youth in the western countries start living independently and work from young age. But I believe what we forget is –With freedom comes responsibility. My stay in London tells me, sure youth here are independent and free but lack responsibilities: Responsibility towards their parents, elders, friends and society at large. I admit this freedom allows you to become independent and manage yourself better. I would not have learned many things had I not lived away from home. But the biggest test is to enjoy this freedom with a sense of responsibility and gratitude towards others.
It makes me wonder what must be the relationship between parents/ mother and children when mother of a 14 yr old kid scolds her friend for disturbing her sleep when her son was seen in the riot prone area past mid-night. This is when the memory of my mother waiting late night till I return from work becomes special.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Sometimes is it good not to be ‘socially connected’?

I was enjoying an ice-cream at Leicester Square when a friend from India called and scolded me for not answering her mail. Reason – she was worried after reading reports of riots in London. I was totally clueless about the latest incidences till I reached home to find my room-mates following the London mayhem on-line.

I knew about riots in North London but for some reason was not ‘glued to my lappy’ to know the details. I was at central London when I noticed some missed calls from friends and relatives in London and Mumbai. A friend informed me about some disturbance at Oxford Circus, the same area I had passed barely half an hour ago. The Oxford Street was as usual buzzing with shoppers and tourists. I noticed a police car screeching away while leaving the area but thoughts of riots in that area never crossed my mind. Harrods, London's famous luxury department stores, was also crowded with shoppers and tourists alike.

I figured my lack of knowledge about the fresh violence was that I was not ‘socially connected’. I don’t use a smart phone and hence was not twitting, updating FB messages or checking in places through Four Square application while enjoying a day out with a friend. This disconnection had kept me away from the panic, confusion, concern, discussion on the internet from policing in London to the fate of India-England test match. Later I came across reports and comments on how BBM was seen as one of the reason for spreading the violence. I stumbled upon this skype interview , which discussed about BBM’s role in the London riots.

No doubt social networking, internet and technology are playing a greater role in every aspect of life. It’s not even a month since Mumbai was yet again rocked by bomb blasts, one of which was very near to my home ( I was first informed about the incidence and my family’s well-being only through the net. Today also I am seeing how people are comments and organising messages online, which is a positive sign. I have seen riots and bomb blasts in Mumbai and am now in London for almost a year. This kind of riots and looting needs to be condemned and is not justified. But still I thought to myself – Sometimes is it good not to be ‘socially connected’?