Zarah Diaries … walk down memory lane

Oh , how I love wearing sarees !

What is about this 5.5 metres of fabric which once draped , brings unparalleled joy and confidence?!

That is why it is my everyday dress to work.

Today’s saree is a pink cotton with hakoba lace at the border ,crisp and fresh as when I first wore it , more than 20 years ago !

I iremember that day as though it was yesterday.

Zarah Medical and Cosmetic Skin Clinic had not yet come into existence.

It was Baisakhi and though a public holiday , I was always hungry for work and so had kept my small rented clinic in South Mumbai ,open . The day had been long, and I sat impatiently waiting for my last patient.

Finally, 15 minutes later, he swaggered into my cabin, filling the space with the heady scent of cologne and tobacco.

A biggish, middle aged man in a blue denim shirt and pants with a smile playing on his lips – not in the least bit apologetic for his tardiness !

‘Hi there ,what’s up doc?’

He looked every bit Indian but spoke with an American drawl , rolling his ‘R’ s!

‘Just returned from the US ?’ I asked .

‘No , Never crossed Indian shores’ he said .

‘How come the accent ??’

‘What accent ? ‘

he asked with a surprised expression.

‘THIS IS my natural accent !’

O ya ?? I thought … well Ok !

‘I want to get rid of these…’ pointing to the extra patches of whitish skin on his upper eyelids .

‘Sure ,can do ! ‘ I said , trying to match his Yankee drawl .

He had soft sparkling brown eyes ,

hooded with xanthelesma .

I had no lasers , none of the state of the art brouhaha I have at my disposal now.

Just a trusted radio frequency machine to get rid of skin tags ,warts ,cysts, corns in my armamentarium .

But for xanthesma I didn’t even need that . A few sittings of simple chemical cauterisation would do the trick.

I explained this to him –

But warned that xanthelesma is related to high cholesterol and that appropriate lifestyle changes would help keep it at bay !

‘Smoke less,

Exercise more ,

Less butter chicken !’

I said a trifle cheerily.

‘No problem doc , will do .

But tell me doc ,do you believe in destiny ?’

Before I could give my views he said ,

‘What will happen , will happen! You can make efforts but your destiny is already shaped .’

‘If you insist ,’ I mumbled .

He then spoke about

past life regression, Osho, Vaishnudevi Mata , Mcleodganj , Hariharan , the stock market , his class friends , his teacher Father Neto in school.

I tried to get in a word here and there.

But it was no use

He was on a roll!

‘Shall I schedule a date for the cauterisation?’ I finally edged in , trying to stick with the consult .

‘Why wait for tomorrow ?

Do it now , Doc!’

I painted the acid on his lesions ..all the time listening to the refrains of

‘Mary had a little lamb’

He was singing it ! Whilst I did the cauterisation!

He spoke about

driving to Lonavala in the rains, eating corn in Mahableshwar .

Betting on horses , cricket teams , on life !

‘You are quite a punter’ I said

‘Yes , I like to take risks !

Of course I take calculated ones .. and use my gut feeling to know which are which !’

‘Great!’ I said, making a rough calculation of the time I had taken to do a 5 min procedure!

It was already 45 mins !

‘Doc ,do you take pictures ?’

‘Before ‘and ‘after’ you mean??

I asked sheepishly , wishing regretfully that I had .

‘No no .. not of my xanthelesma! Of your favourite moments / of your favourite people …..to freeze them in time . Sometimes that’s all you have left …. memories and pictures.’

He had a point…I made a mental note to put the few photos that I had ….into an album.

In this present day and age of selfies and pics at -the -click of a mobile ..

this question sounds irrelevant but at that time in the last few years of the last century ( it was 1996!)photographs were few and far between and really cherished.

I must have looked reflective .. when he said,

‘Doc ,how much do I owe you ?

Hope you are offering discounts !’

‘No , sorry no discounts, ‘

I said defensively .

Haha ‘only joking ‘he said !

‘Good , stick with your guns ,don’t offer discounts to no one , but invest in machines, buy the best , SPEND money to EARN more !

Phew !

I gasped!

So much ‘gyaan’!

‘You are getting late Doc . So sorry to have delayed you .

Let me drop you home !’

‘No Thankyou ! ‘ I said firmly ,’ I’ll walk ..

I Like the exercise !’

So I walked home from Kemps Corner to Carmichael Road , shielding myself under my umbrella ( I freckle easily).

On the road alongside ,I saw him

drive his car slowly ( probably at 15 kms/ hour) ,carefully adjusting his rear view mirror and grinning from ear to ear !

And that’s how I met my HUSBAND –

A Punjabi man with an American accent , a man of indefatigable spirit and the

largest of hearts , from whom I have been learning life’s myriad lessons , without rest or refreshment, ever since!

Happy ,happy birthday Bunty Gupta!

🤗❤️🤗❤️🤗❤️🤗❤️

Love you darling!

Indulge with Isabella.. Whilst in Spain ….

Hi all …its me Isabella!👩‍🍳

Sauntering along the meandering lanes of old town Madrid ,alongside several artisans workshops ,came across a quaint cottage – dining inn -called BOTIN

Only to discover that it is

OLDEST RESTAURANT in the WORLD!

Established in 1725 !

Specialising in traditional Spanish cuisine , the homestyle Iberian Steak cooked in an evergreen oakwood fired oven ,three centuries old ,

was wholesome , flavourful ,simply delicious !

Calorie rich too!

Very different was the

ONLY YOU boutique hotel in Madrid city centre.

Modern ,eclectic ,rated a 9.5 !

Breakfast here is served ‘anytime you want it ‘ from 7.30 am to 11.30 pm !

And the menu uses a vocabulary of ‘healthy ‘ options ,of course ,alien to you Twinny …

A for artichoke , asparagus,anchovies ,

B for Bavarian nuts ,Brussels sprouts

so on and so forth!

Isabella …you know very well I find ‘healthy’ options on a menu disgusting!

Twinny Twinny .. with even the most tentative distrusting bite of this Avocado / Arugula combo your fears will forever be dispelled!

Come on .. see my Presentation for today …a starter

‘AVOCADO on TOAST’

Avocados ,also called ‘alligator pears ‘

are a powerhouse of nutrition .. phytosterols to lower bad cholesterol, potassium ,antioxidants , everything good !

Here are the ‘indian’ and ‘foreign’ variety ..

Yes…the imported ones have the hard rind but the ‘more tender’ inside!

Just flavour the buttery flesh with a little lime and salt , maybe a bit of garlic

then Refrigerate !

Just a step away from a guacamole dip!

Tomato chutney is easy to prepare ..

Sauté cumin seeds in oil .

Dunk in onions and boiled deskinned tomatoes in the ratio of 1:7!

Salt ,red chilli powder!

Mash all up..

Done !

Sunflower / pumpkin seeds .. any Tom Dick Harry or Isabella can roast .. what’s to it ?

And Arugula .. just wash and use !

So did KUNAL like this simple preparation?

Have a look Twinny ….

Well Thank Goodness!

Now that you have fed your son in law Isabella … Lets partake of some ‘real food !’

Oh Twinny .. you will never learn …

Here coming up …just for you

One Tapas after another ..

Ham and blueberry yoghurt to begin with..

Next scrambled egg on a wellbuttered scone

Acaiberry soufflé as a sorbet !

Sautéed Mushroom with capsicums and bellpeppers

Hot hot Kebabs

Then cold chicken salad

Ofcourse a pitcher of sangria !

Armed and ready now for the FIFA World Cup final Twinny ??!

YES YES Isabella !

Hey you look a bit Sloshed to me , Twinny…

For that matter …So does the ball .!

Who is playing Isabella??

Croatia / France ??

Best of luck guys !

Go for it … We are all with you !

Twinny / Amruta / Isabella / all

Byeeeee!👩‍🍳

😊

This blog is dedicated to two people ..

KUNAL whose birthday it is today .. a photographer , foodie and football enthusiast.. Happy birthday son!🎉

And MALAN… a Romantic and busy radiologist….

Who suggested I have a Camp Nou experience whilst in Spain !

Thankyou dear friend !

As you did say .. the atmosphere in the ROMA VS BARCELONA match was electric!

My interest in football has grown by leaps and bounds ever since !🏀

And Messi did do magic with the ball!

Even if that was Then !

🤗❤️

Travel with Twinny … Spanish surprise

One of the easiest languages in the world to learn is Spanish and the first word which comes to mind is OLE’!

This oft used exclamation has its roots in the Arabic ‘WA ALLAH ‘ meaning ‘ Oh God!’

Now thats a surprise!

Soon one learns that Azucar is Spanish for Sugar,

Aceite for oil ,

Fideo for noodle ,

Jarra for pot or pitcher,

Azar for luck or chance etcetcetc

and that all these are Arabic words ,

routinely used in NORMAL Spanish conversation.

There are some 4000 words ( mostly nouns) along with

one preposition ( hasta.. meaning ‘until’) which form 8% of the Spanish dictionary!

Wow! How come Twinny ??

Hold on Amruta , let me tell you more.

Visit Alhambra ( the MEDINA citystate of Granada in Southern Spain ,’medina ‘again an Arabic word) and you will be startled by the beauty of ISLAMIC architecture in this UNESCO world heritage palace -fortress. Look…

Elegant gardens, fountains , honeycombed vaulted domes( muquarnas)

mesmerising alcoves, cornices, inscriptions ..

800 years older than the Taj Mahal and stunning to say the least !

Similar Islamic elements are in the mosque of Córdoba …

and in the Giralda of Seville …

One begins to wonder

‘ Am I really in a European country which is 90% Catholic or a Middle Eastern one instead??’

Good grief Twinny .. How come ??

There you go again Amruta …

Patience dear!

From 711 AD to 1492AD ,

that’s close to 800 years .. SPAIN was ruled by MUSLIMS !

‘MOORS ‘

from Morocco and Northern Africa ..

Naturally black and superintelligent .

They brought paper which they had learnt to make from the Chinese , cotton , silk, rice, saffron.

They introduced oranges, lemons, peach and apricot trees, figs, dates, ginger !

They constructed libraries ,universities ,

public baths ,pavements and provided street lighting !

Astronomy , Maths , art ,architecture and handicrafts flourished!

As did other religions besides Islam !

Amruta my dear ….in the reign of the Moors …SPAIN saw its GOLDEN AGE !

Wow Twinny that is simply Amazing!

Oh there’s lots more Amruta !

Musical instruments like the Spanish guitar ( kithara), the lute ( el oud) and the lyre added haunting music to soulful poetry and fiesty dances .

Interesting too that many present day

Spaniards/ Hispanics have a mixed lineage from North African blood .

Simply fantastic Twinny !

Tell me Twinny ..the Arabians had such a profound impact on the Spanish ..

Did the Arabs also imbibe something from the Spanish ??

Of course they did Amruta !

THE VEIL!

Veiling was essentially Byzantine in origin .. Orthodox Catholics and Jews used to wear head scarves as a symbol of piety ,devotion, modesty, humility , self expression , liberation!

The Spanish veil or MANTILLA is worn till today ……Here is a picture of a baby wearing one!

Ooooh that’s lovely .. will don one myself ..

The headscarf was one article the Moors / Arabs adopted . Over the last two centuries of course ,they took it to another level ..

Hijab , Niqab , Burkha !

I quite like the hijab Twinny .. there is an element of mystery in it …

And a sense of pride too ..

See!

Who needs a falcon ?

Geese are the new millennial look!

😎!

Hasta Manana( until we meet again )!

Travel with Twinny … Flamenco!!

VOLUPTUOUS is the only way to describe a female flamenco dancer!

No ‘skin and bones’ like a ballerina, or the plump jiggling frame of a Hawaiian dancer…

Just sheer FEMME FATALE !

Dressed in red or black the señorita magestically sings, dances, claps , stamps , snaps her pretty fingers .. all …more or less simultaneously!

The first thought that struck whilst watching a Flamenco show in Barcelona was that

Hey this sure is LOUD!!

LOUD

Stamping and stomping of feet ,

LOUD snapping of fingers,

LOUD raucous Clapping of hands together or across ones body ,

LOUD crooning,

And LOUD though wholesome Strumming of guitars !

That’s the unusual thing about Flamenco!

It SHOUTS out EVERYTHING !!

While what the lead singer was trying to say in her song remains a mystery (she sang in Spanish)

one could guess by her pained expressions that the content was tragic and the events that she sang about in her life were steeped in pathos.

Punctuated with fits of anger and bitterness too !

No joy , only oceans of grief!

Ole’!

The accompanying male dancers sporting long wild hair and longer sideburns, danced skilfully stamping their feet akin to tap dancers ….And of course never a smile escaped their lips!

Ole’!

The guitarists .. a welcome addition ( since the 1800s) to this art form which took its origin in 800 AD definitely enhanced the evenings experience.

Flamenco guitars are lightweight ,made of cypress rather than rosewood and are strummed very deftly and lightly !

The beats in the cafe cantata that night rose in cadence from gentle to frenetic , from a trot to a canter to a climaxing gallop !

So how best to describe flamenco except that it expresses FEELINGS!

Feelings of angst ,passion, bewilderness, of love lost !

A deep seated lament!

A mystery !

It is born of so many influences ..

ARABIC / CHRISTIAN / a little JEWISH/ a little GYPSY !

All fusing to produce a crosspollinated flower of uniqueness !

The hand movements look definitely Arabic ,

The Foot movements European folk ,

The guitar ranges from soulful to violent ,

The singing bursts with Moroccon overtones!

What an unusual mix !

Heady too !

No wonder then this art born in Andalusia , Southern Spain.. with its cousins in Morocco and Latin American countries

Won the UNESCO prize for INTANGIBLE WORLD HERITAGE TREASURE in 2010!

🎖🎖🎖🎖🎖!



With all this clapping and stamping ,

am tempted to practise the footwork ….

And to don my black dress…

Here goes….

Ole’

💃💃💃💃💃!

Byeeeee!

Travels with Twinny..FLAMENCO!

VOLUPTUOUS is the only way to describe a female flamenco dancer!

No ‘skin and bones’ like a ballerina, or the plump jiggling frame of a Hawaiian dancer…

Just sheer FEMME FATALE !

Dressed in red or black the señorita magestically sings, dances, claps , stamps , snaps her pretty fingers .. all …more or less simultaneously!

The first thought that struck whilst watching a Flamenco show in Barcelona was that

Hey this sure is LOUD!!

LOUD

Stamping and stomping of feet ,

LOUD snapping of fingers,

LOUD raucous Clapping of hands together or across ones body ,

LOUD crooning,

And LOUD though wholesome Strumming of guitars !

That’s the unusual thing about Flamenco!

It SHOUTS out EVERYTHING !!

While what the lead singer was trying to say in her song remains a mystery (she sang in Spanish)

one could guess by her pained expressions that the content was tragic and the events that she sang about in her life were steeped in pathos.

Punctuated with fits of anger and bitterness too !

No joy , only oceans of grief!

Ole’!

The accompanying male dancers sporting long wild hair and longer sideburns, danced skilfully stamping their feet akin to tap dancers ….And of course never a smile escaped their lips!

Ole’!

The guitarists .. a welcome addition ( since the 1800s) to this art form which took its origin in 800 AD definitely enhanced the evenings experience.

Flamenco guitars are lightweight ,made of cypress rather than rosewood and are strummed very deftly and lightly !

The beats in the cafe cantata that night rose in cadence from gentle to frenetic , from a trot to a canter to a climaxing gallop !

So how best to describe flamenco except that it expresses FEELINGS!

Feelings of angst ,passion, bewilderness, of love lost !

A deep seated lament!

A mystery !

It is born of so many influences ..

Arabic/ Christian / a little Jewish / a little gypsy !

All fusing to produce a crosspollinated flower of uniqueness !

The hand movements look definitely Arabic ,

The Foot movements European folk ,

The guitar ranges from soulful to violent ,

The singing bursts with Moroccon overtones!

What an unusual mix !

Heady too !

No wonder then this art born in Andalusia , Southern Spain.. with its cousins in Morocco and Latin American countries

Won the UNESCO prize for INTANGIBLE WORLD HERITAGE TREASURE in 2010!

🎖🎖🎖!

With all this clapping and stamping ,

am tempted to practise the footwork ….

And to don my black dress..

Here goes….

Ole’

💃💃💃💃💃

Byeee!

Travel with Twinny .. Seville

Disappointment writ large on our faces!

12,500 Tickets to the Bullfight at the

PLAZA de TOROS , SEVILLE

all SOLD out !!!

How could one visit SPAIN and NOT witness a MATCH between MAN and the mighty BULL ??!

No no Amruta, it’s not like what it appears!

BULLFIGHTING in Spain is NOT considered a BLOOD SPORT , rather an ART FORM and very much part of Spanish culture.

Fortunately ,just like outside Bombay Talkies one could earlier procure cinema tickets at blackmarket rates, friendly Spanish touts cheerfuly SOLD us tickets at TWICE the original price,

no doubt for the very BEST seats,

the ones closest to the ring and in the shade! Sol tickets or tickets in the Sun are much cheaper!

You sure were DESPERATE Twinny !

Agreed Amruta!

But then ,when ever would I see a LIVE bullfight ??

Bullfights have been banned in Barcelona since 2010 and animal activist laws may soon do the same in Madrid!

You can see when you visit south of France , Peru ,Cuba …….Twinny !

At least THERE they will NOT fight till the bull drops down DEAD . They will stop short at harassing . No KILLING of the bull!

Shhhhhu Amruta !

It’s not like I am condoning this spectacle . I am just a curious spectator- LET me see!

YELLOW OCHRE is the colour of Seville ,the welcoming ,romantic CAPITAL of ANDALUSIA , home to the Muslim ALCAZAR castle , the gorgeous Gothic CATHEDRAL, also where legendary explorer Christopher Columbus was buried….

YELLOW OCHRE is the colour of the centre of the bullfighting arena!

GRAND is the stage!

Dressed fashionably as though going to the Derby and armed with cushions to sit on the stony steps of this huge arena established since 1700, the heady smell of cigars filling the air , PASSIONATE Spaniards wait for the DRAMA to unfold.

And it does!

The orchestra begins to play, the intrepid matador enters with a prayer on his lips, places his hat on the ground at the centre of the ring

And Ole’

Here charges in the angry 😡 bull!

First , PICADORS try to exhaust the bull with their RED capes ! I learn later the capes need NOT be red, bulls are colourblind!

Just the MOVEMENT of the cloaks is enough to incense them !

Hither thither the maddened animal runs, sinewy despite his bulk !

In come the blindfolded horses , with a HORSEMAN who expertly spears the back of the charging bull …..

…….followed by the picadors

thrusting 2 darts at a time on either side of the bulls spine!

2 this side , 2 that side , 2 back on same side as first!

A total of 6!

The poor ,poor animal already is at a disadvantage, exhausted and bleeding, yet

valiantly fighting on .

The crowd raises white handkerchiefs in appreciation of the brave bulls efforts!

Now struts in the matador .

Ole’! Ole’! Shout the crowd!

Gracefully pirouetting and swirling his cape just inches away from the bulls horns ( the hapless creatures ONLY defence and attack weapon) the matador in a series of well calculated moves majestically spears the heart .

Down falls the doomed animal

to

be carried away by a train of horses in a trice!

Ole’ Ole’!!

How GRUESOME is this art Twinny !!

Before you become so judgemental Amruta,

consider THIS …….The bull sent in to fight has lounged on a lush bull ranch ,been fed and cared for , for 5 years.

The one that is killed for its meat is just a baby , a bull calf , only 18 months old!

Now WHICH is better?

To die a death in glory,

Or prematurely in the slaughter house?

OMG Twinny!

I can’t say which is worse !

If IBERIAN STEAK were not so delicious , I would have turned vegetarian long ,long ago!

Alas!

Stop whimpering Amruta !

Am off to Barcelona !

Have to ” catch a bull…

……by its horns ”

…… and procure RINGSIDE tickets for the football match at CAMP NOU , BARCELONA !

At COST PRICE !

NOT at ‘ ANY COST !’

….even if MESSI is playing! 😌

OLE’ !