Beef Diaries

My nostalgia about meat was never about beef. That bloody piece of red meat wrapped inside the large teak leaves by the butcher was a rare thing to be brought home. We couldn’t afford it, unless of course for some sundays or festival days when it was cooked with plantain. And there used to be more pieces of plantain than beef in that curry. I always preferred chicken over beef in the childhood. And chicken too was a rarity, though we had raised some chickens for domestic use, because it was served to guests/relatives who came home on the church festival days and was cooked with potato (again there would be more potato than chicken, so we had the potato while the guests had chicken pieces in the curry).

But there is one beef delicacy that we had aplenty, though not quite frequent, in the early days. It is called “bOTTi” (also called ‘pOTTi’ in some other dialect). bOTTi is the intestines of the cow. Earlier the butcher considered it waste and would give it away for free. Then they began to charge a little for over a kilo and then more and now it’s a popular delicacy at least in Thrissur. It is a very difficult job for the womenfolk to clean up bOTTi before they cooked it. It had to be boiled in the water thrice or more, and every time you got to clean it up. So it was a time-consuming and physically demanding job to cook bOTTi. But the rubbery bOTTi was one of a kind in taste and is usually cooked with tapioca.

bOTTi was the poor man’s beef. Until it became famous and a regular dish in the roadside eateries in central Kerala. Among the meat-eating ‘elites’ in Kerala, bOTTi was like how beef is to vegetarian elitists – barbaric, unhealthy, cheap food for ‘cheap’ people. I wonder why the beef ban hasn’t evoked any memories of it among the fellow Facebookians. If I am to protest the beef ban by eating meat, it will be with bOTTi.

Hindi-India Bhai-Bhai

There is a peculiar thing about Rashmi Bansal’s book “Take Me Home” that introduces twenty small town entrepreneurs in India who made it big. Though the book is in English, she plugs in Hindi quite often with English translations in brackets. Sometimes long sentences and some times short words, like “sewa (service)”. Not just that it breaks the flow of reading for non-Hindi readers but adds an extra effort in reading. Mind you, this does not happen in chapters were she talks about entrepreneurs from other states, say like Kerala. Not a single word of Malayalam and it’s translation given.

A couple of days ago I watched an interview with a rather new politician who promised to be different. You know, the one who wears the muffler. This was on a national English TV channel, the questions were being asked in English, and the man is capable of speaking English, yet every answer he gave was in Hindi. You gotta give it to Rashmi Bansal here for she at least gave the English translation along, but here there were no subtitles.

I wonder what it is that makes people like this writer and politician plug in a language that is not spoken or read by a large chunk of people in India. Whom are they addressing, really? Or who, they think, is worthy of their address?

Music Review: Zikr Tera

“Zikr Tera”, the latest offering from Roop Kumar Rathod and Sunali Rathod, has a few things special about it. The album celebrates 25 years of togetherness of Roop and Sunali Rathod, the artists call it a tribute to the late ghazal singer Jagjit Singh, and this is the first album that the duo is releasing digitally. But more than any of these features, what makes it stand out in our times is that it brings back a music genre that is long forgotten in the mainstream music.

The Rathods bring back the flavours of ghazal that you loved, the one genre that Pankaj Udas, Jagjit Singh and Rathods themselves have reigned in once upon a time. The sound that was so common in the eighties’ and nineties’ mainstream music scene. This album gives a chance to listeners to enjoy the music that is easy on your ears and what better voice than Rathod himself to indulge in!

The album has eight songs, of which two are solos by Sunali Rathod, five solos by Roop Kumar and one song by the duo together. To be honest, I think the least interesting tracks of this album are Sunali’s solos. The singer seems to have lost the charm of her voice and seems uninterested. My favorite song from the album is “Haathon Mein Haath”, the duet which stands our primarily for the soulful rendition of Roop Kumar. “Meri Chaadar Tha” and “Sawaal Sabne Kiya” are other two favorites, again for the mellifluous voice of Roop Kumar Rathod. When you hear these songs, you realize how much you missed the man and his voice.

I hope this album brings back the old days of easy music listening where the composition talks straight to your heart with a beautiful voice. And that many more artists break free of the clutches of the record labels, now that a whole wide world of internet possibilities are open before them.

Click here to listen to the songs of Zikr Tera at

The Grand Christmas Circus – 2014

Santa can’t distribute chocolates to kids to ‘convert them to Christianity’ this Christmas season. At least not in Chattisgarh. Saraswati gets to visit, and stay in the schools instead.

The ‘good’ Christian folks who have been silent and treaded on the islamophobia and voted for ‘good governance’ gets their prize this season too. A school competition on good governance and other in-school activities for their children right on the day of Christmas (which seems to have been revoked after the issue had public attention).

But that’s not all for this season (what’s the Xmas season without a grand sale, right?). Parivar shop has five lakhs for Muslims and three lakhs for Christians to convert to Hinduism on the Christmas day. But I think the people should wait a bit and see what counter offer the Christian and Muslim camps can come up with.

Christmas has come of age in India. And ‘good governance’ too.

Trip to Nelliyampathy

Nelliyampathy is a locally famous hill station in Kerala, located in the Palakkad district. It is very easy to ride to the top of the hills as there are not many hair-pin turns, quite contrary to the other south India hill stations like Kodais or Ooty. There isn’t a lot to see in Nelliyampathy, so it is a quick weekend getaway for you. I would say do not waste your time at the Pothundi Dam en-route, rather go straight to Nelliyampathy. It is not yet a very popular tourist destination, so there are only a few good hotels/resorts and restaurants. So you have to make your reservations well in advance because these days the number of local tourists flocking to the hills on weekends have increased but very few to serve the need. Otherwise you will end up paying too much for the cheap places with limited facilities (like I had, on this trip). Also make sure to include at least your breakfast and dinner because there are not many restaurants open outside except for those tiny tea shops meant for the tea/coffee estate workers. November to January would be the best time to visit Nelliyampathy as it will be cold and foggy in early mornings and evening/nights.

Here comes some photos of our trip to Nelliyampathy on the last weekend.

This was shot from the cottage that we stayed in. It was twilight already by the time we got to the cottage, which required us to park the car in town and get on a jeep because this place was in the middle of the forest. Even though the location was superb, the cottage was so expensive for an old and unclean place. But we were left with no choice because almost all places were full in that weekend (thanks-giving has come to Kerala?), yet we couldn’t complain much because of the location. We spent a whole night out doing barbecue, singing our favorite movie songs aloud. Some of us could see bison herds in the early morning in the nearby hills.

The famous jeep ride through the forest! Whenever you mention the name Nelliyampathy, those who had gone there would instantly recommend this adventurous jeep ride through the forest. You need the forest department’s permission for that but you can easily grab one on the way which your jeep driver would get for you. And don’t take it if you are unwell because it shakes your body towards all sides throughout the journey. One heck of an experience. If you ever visit Nelliyampathy, you gotta get on one of these. If you are lucky, you can spot some wild animals too. We saw some deers (and lots of monkeys but that doesn’t count, I suppose) on the way and traces of destruction caused by a wild tusker who is now the talk of the Nelliyampathy town. The locals call him “chilli kompan”.

The first peak/viewpoint on the jeep ride inside the forest. Don’t get fooled by the pic, the view is awesome when you are there.

The travel mates at the second peak/view point along the journey.

And me too! A bit shaky in that cold wind that blew strong but one for the memories. Regardless to say, the view was awesome!

We found many such abandoned and partly destroyed quarters like this one in the forest. It will be a photographer’s delight for some.

The famous AVT tea estate, on the way to Karappara waterfalls. As we stopped by at some of the empty places, some of us were bitten by the leeches also, so watch out for that.

We saw the Karappara waterfalls, but locals told us that there is a less touristy spot nearby where you can take a bath in the clear water or just simply enjoy the view in the silence. So one localite escorted us to this place and it was super cool! The place was quiet, the water was so cold, and if you have your drinks stocked up, this is heaven on earth. So once you are near Karappara waterfalls, don’t forget to ask the locals for this route. We also got some awesome Kerala meals with the help of this guy.

Another view of the place.

This suspension bridge was inaugurated just a couple of hous before we came to the place. This was also near Karappara waterfalls. It has a nice view of the waterfalls from on top of it.

And that summed up our one day trip to Nelliyampathy this year.


Isn’t it a pleasure to see people enjoy working on their passion? A musician swinging his body forward and backward slowly, swaying his head a little, while playing with those keys on the keyboard with his eyes closed on a moment of nirvana that only music can give. Or a chef shaking the stuff on his pan as if he is doing a salsa, playfully picking up the spice powders and spraying it on top of what is being cooked in the pan, as if he is making a move with his dance partner. Or a soccer player, who lets himself be the instrument that he wants to play, while feeding on the sweat, that odor, that his body produces.

You don’t know what chord that musician is playing, or don’t even know what a ‘chord’ is in terms of music, or you don’t know what the chef is cooking, or what that move is called in soccer. Yet their passion speaks to you. Not necessarily the art, but the passion. The art, right there, is a vehicle, a link, that connects you to his/her passion. Isn’t that amazing?