Death of farmers’ dreams

As the problem of farmers committing suicide stares us in the face, the artiste’s community in the region is ready to let its craft do the talking, writes Anuradha Shukla

It is due to their aspirations for a neo-rich lifestyle that the farmers get trapped in debt. Desire to live it up in style spurs them on. It is due to their aspirations for a neo-rich lifestyle that the farmers get trapped in debt. Desire to live it up in style spurs them on. — Navnindra Behl

India, a country of farms—rich, green and robust! All that seems to be changing now. The ever-smiling farmer is losing his existence to failed attempts to build on his dreams. News no longer new continues to pile up in a corner of our hearts, of another farmer succumbing to his pride and choosing to end his life. A part of Navnindra Behl’s heart died with each snuffed out dream till she decided to do something about these stories, refusing to let them go into oblivion. The result is her production Sadda Jaggon Seer Mukkeya. The theme of the play is: Farmers we owe our food to are saying good-bye to life as their dana pani is over.

“Farmers’ suicides are not a lifestyle story; but it is due to their aspirations for a neo-rich lifestyle that the farmers get trapped in debt. Desire to live it up in style spurs them on, getting a daughter married in style are dreams he is not entitled to; so say the experts and with these dreams turning into unimagined web of suffering the very hope of carrying on with their lives fades away”, says Navnindra.

As the problem stares us in the face, the art world of the region is ready to not just talk about it but do the thing they know best—let their craft do the talking.

Navnindra Behl believes in making theatre meaningful by “evolving subjects based on things happening all around us. This is how Kashmir Diary, Tapish, Nau Barah Dus and Razai happened”, she says. This was special though for her identity was shaped growing up in a Jat Sikh family. “I could not bear the sadness of the farmers that we owe our food to, losing the very ground beneath their feet”.

Agitation, anxiety and many more questions added to her heartache and stories from all such incidents came alive through art. It meant a year of research by her and later her students setting out in all corners of Punjab with camera in hand to catch the stories. They returned with 22 pained hearts full of reality bytes and ready to vent their emotions out on stage. “My students, many of them from farming backgrounds, related to the stories in a big way. I knew the heartache was common”. The pain grew more real.

Improvisations began on a story by Baldev Dhaliwal and real-life incidents were decided to be taken as extensions of the play. The character of a farmer who grows up in constraints and is deprived of good education metamorphoses into an angered man. A loan agent traps him in debt in the name of realising his dreams. The euphoria of instant money soon gives way to sufferings, as dreams turn sour. In the play neither is there shouting from the rooftop nor is the farmer shown killing himself. The aim is letting the audience think about what the 80 per cent of our population in the agriculture sector must do to survive along with their dreams. The end of the play shows a collage of six incidents of such suicides, by way of characters enacting members from such affected families, narrating their story while holding the news story clipping of the affected family in their hand and walking away on the zig-zag ramp of the set designed by Kewal Dhaliwal. The play staged for select audience in Patiala is being taken to Amritsar on November 15 at Preet Nagar and is likely to come to the city soon.

City art world speaks

Kumar Varma

Kumar Varma lauds such activism in theatre when it comes to highlighting real life problems. “Farmers suicides are new repercussion of a fast-changing world and needs to be staged through the powerful medium of theatre,” he says. Kumar who has himself always worked on themes of social relevance and the movement must carry on.

Viren Tanwar

“It is appreciable that the problem is now being presented through art. Theatre can help to emote the problem. Painting is a silent mirror of society and the facts depicted through it remind one of the era that it talks about. Artists being part of the same society cannot remain away from depicting such jarring realities for long,” he feels.

Jaspal Bhatti

“Farmers need to be made aware through a movement—be it theatre or comedy—that the basic ploy of loan providers is to take over the rich lands of farmers. The government should also make them aware whether the loans are viable for them and beyond a limit farmers can be refused loans, something on the lines of the movement by Sir Chottu Ram in Haryana”, says Bhatti. “Though through comedy it may be difficult to present the problem, I certainly want to take up the issue.”

Against all odds

City women are no longer afraid of giving up high-profile jobs to start their own ventures, says Anandita Gupta

Photo: Malkiat Singh
Photo by Malkiat Singh

You have insatiable curiosity, a razor-sharp mind and willingness to go out and experience life first-hand. More importantly, you loathe being an automaton who spends her entire life and energy on meaningless, repetitive chores.

No wonder, you are fast climbing the corporate ladder to the top. And then, destiny strikes—your husband gets a transfer, your little baby falls sick or your mom-in-law gets a stroke. As a ‘natural’ consequence, you are expected to give up your high-profile job to spend more time at home. You get depressed and aimless… right?

Wrong, the new-age city women have proved otherwise. Having left their full-time jobs due to familial needs, they are office-less, but not jobless. They’ve given full vent to their creativity and intellect by working from home.

No to martyrdom

She has an introduction that we’d all wish was ours— Nupur Mahajan has been a full-time writer with high- profile magazines like Verve, Femina, Hi Blitz, Elle, Beautiful People and even The Times of India. Married in a royal family, Nupur had the proverbial silver spoon in her mouth, but the added gold trimmings were very much earned by her. So how was it leaving a journo’s job and turning a freelancer? “I didn’t leave my full-time job due to any pressure. Rather, I did so as I am firm on consulting and writing signature columns for publications as opposed to restricting myself to a particular one. It’s fun and very fulfilling,” says the vivacious lady.


Call it chance or dub it as a pleasant coincidence. The fact remains that the first letter of her name (Priyanka) and her defining personality trait (perfectionist) remain the same. Meet Priyanka Khosla, MD, Flying Cats, who tip toed on the corporate ladder as a choreographer. “I believe in being the best and juggle many balls together—choreography, event management and administration. But amidst it all, I take some weeks off occasionally to relax and grow as a human being,” she muses.


Enter Vaishali Aggarwal’s aesthetically done up flat and you’ll be convinced that she’s an interior designer. A few more steps taken by you, however, prove you all wrong. Her snug study brims with books by Salman Rushdie, Tarun Tejpal, Kiran Desai and many others. “Giving up my teaching job at Bhawan Vidyalaya has been a rewarding choice. I’m finally doing what satisfies me—reading, writing and, of course, learning to live life minus the deadlines,” smiles the author-in-making, who’s writing a novel on a family’s encounter with God. Bidding their workplaces goodbye hasn’t filled these women with a sense of being left behind. They are still surviving in a world that believes in Darwin’s theory of the survival of the fittest. They haven’t shut out the professional world, and are still working, keeping themselves abreast of the latest happenings in their field.

The moving finger writes…
Nisha Diddi

Handwriting over the centuries has been considered to reflect the personality of an individual. At present, handwriting is used by many hiring agencies to better understand the individual’s profile for the job. Counselors/psychologists use handwriting to assess their clients and help them better during therapy. Many studies have shown that handwriting can reflect an individual’s strengths and weaknesses, along with learning difficulties and disabilities.

Perception problems

Research indicates that weaknesses in the writing process can give insight or an indication to an underlying disability. Children with learning disabilities may also have writing difficulties. These difficulties can reflect in the form of grapho-motor problems, visual-motor or just difficulties related to perception.

Writing is a complicated process. Writing on the physical level involves fine motor skills, which is muscular dexterity, pencil grip, and posture. On the cognitive level writing involves visual memory (correct letter formation), visual-motor perception, fluency, speed, spelling, and expression.

The fine-motor skills and the muscular weaknesses can be corrected through therapy. The child can be taught correct letter and number formation. Letter and number reversals up to the age of six or seven years are considered developmental delays. Any reversal after the second grade should be questioned. There is no harm in checking the eyesight of the child if difficulties are perceived in copying from the board or a book. The visual-motor difficulties mean that whatever is being looked at on the blackboard is not being completely coordinated with the motor activity of the individual. Thus information is lost or is incomplete. There are many other reasons for visual-motor perception difficulties other than the mere coordination by the brain.

Multi-fold process

Since writing is a multi-fold process, the child who is weak in spelling and has difficulty expressing his/her ideas can find writing a struggle. Help can be provided through looking at individual weaknesses and developing strategies to cope with these. Early intervention during the developing years of a child is the best time for most effective cure through physical or occupational therapy and individualised teaching strategies.

Your child looks up to you for support, guidance and nurturing. Therefore, enhanced information and awareness about any disorder that may afflict your child, a solid support system as well as timely action is the key to effective parenting.

The write approach

When a child shows signs of weakness in writing abilities or finds ways to avoid writing, the following indicators need to be assessed:

Physical limitations: Is the pencil grip and the posture of the child incorrect? If yes, it can exert pressure on the arm and the shoulder muscles and the child tires easily.

The letter/number formation. Is the child reversing the letters or is he/she having difficulty remembering the shapes and the formation of the letters/numbers? Is the child confusing the numbers for letters and vice-versa?

Does the child have difficulty copying from the blackboard and copying from another book? Is note taking a struggle?

Does the child have spelling difficulties?

Does the child struggle with ideas and expression?

Are there organisation difficulties?

Care for the senior petizen
Dr Jaspreet Singh

Age does not protect you from love, but love to some extent protects you from age. Your dog's breed and size determine when he enters his senior years. Although you can't hold back the clock, there are many things you can do to help keep him healthy and active as long as possible. Old age isn't so bad when you consider the alternative.

A regular check on your pet's health is a must once he is old. Visit your veterinarian frequently. Most vets recommend a check-up once every six months when your dog grows up. Blood tests, X-rays, ultrasound, electrocardiograms might be necessary. Be prepared to tell your vet about any changes in your pet's stamina, appetite or behaviour, when it began and what might have triggered it.

It's not unusual for an elderly dog's eyes to look cloudy, and the condition may not signal illness. Like humans, however, they can develop cataracts and glaucoma, and can experience hearing loss. If your pet seems surprised when you come close to him, bumps into things or doesn't come when you call him, the culprit may be failing faculties.

Grooming your dog often will help you find any abnormality early on. Brushing his teeth daily staves off tooth decay and helps prevent gum disease and tooth loss. Brushing regularly will also allow you to notice mouth and tongue ulcers. Bathe and groom him at least once a week. It's more important than ever to spare your dog the annoyance of fleas and other parasites: At this age, he won't be able to groom himself as easily as he used to. As you brush him, take note of any bumps, skin lesions or unusual hair loss. And remember that his skin is less elastic than it used to be, so be careful not to scrape or pull it. Be sure to clip his nails to help give him sure footing.

The old adage "use it or lose it" is as true for dogs as it is for humans. Exercise helps your dog maintain muscle tone, keeps his heart and digestion healthy and even improves his attitude. Walking is great. Gentle games of fetch and other play not only keep him in shape, but also keep him mentally alert and interacting positively with you. Swimming is particularly good for arthritic dogs. If your dog isn't able to exercise routinely, improve his flexibility and circulation by gently massaging his muscles and joints.

Keep your dog indoors and minimise his time outside. As a dog ages, he'll be sensitive to changes in temperature-aging hearts and lungs don't adjust as well to extremes of hot and cold. Since his senses, reflexes and thinking aren't as sharp; the dog is likely to be more prone to accidents, injury from other animals or even getting lost. Give him a soft bed. Arthritis, elbow calluses and other conditions will make it harder for your dog to sleep soundly.

And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.

Snug up in style

The fall 2006 collection is a modern take on old world style by Tommy Hilfiger. It’s about using classic preppy staples that are rooted in quality and craftsmanship and updating them with modern fits and new proportions. Rich fabrics like herringbone, houndstooth, fairisle and tweed are combined with a warm autumn palette of browns, forest greens, cranberries, maroons and deep oranges. For women, fall is all about highlighting the feminine silhouette by mixing fitted traditional suit blazers with sexy pencil skirts and wide-legged cuffed trousers. For men, the look is about layers and a great mix of textured fabrics, bold patterns and British-style tailoring with unexpected linings. The Tommy Hilfiger collection is available in Chandigarh at SCO 104-105, Sector 17-D.

Beautiful home

India’s first lifestyle magazine aimed at young homemakers. A must read for those who want a beautiful home, comes from Next Gen Publishing Ltd., a Forbes group and HDFC Ltd. Enterprise. The Ideal Home and Garden has launched the magazine in the Indian market. It aims at young homemakers and the magazine is styled to enhance the Indian home with international trends and thoughtful designs. It covers all aspects of making the space we call home elegant, comfortable, luxurious and relaxing. The magazine is stylish and trendy, capturing a lifestyle that the young of today aspire to and deals with topics like House fashion, garden ideas from balcony trimmings and indoor plants to well-manicured lawns, easy makeover suggestions, do-it-yourself delights, good things to do this season, value-for-money shopping, great gadgets, handy appliances, gastronomic indulgence, among others.

Fight dryness

FMCG major Cavinkare, known for putting out innovative products in the personal care domain, seeks to tap the large winter protection market. Announcing the launch of Nyle Cold Cream and winter lotion, the company hopes to make an impact with a break through innovation of protecting skin from winter dryness that lasts for 12 hours. Most consumers start feeling dryness of skin within 3-4 hours of application of cold creams, lotions but with Nyle cold cream or Lotion you get long lasting dryness removal and smooth glowing skin in winter with its apple and olive oil. Nyle cold cream will retail at 9.8 ml bottle Rs 5, 30 ml for Rs 20, 60 Ml for Rs 36, 100 ml for Rs 50.

Swaranjali from Lata

India’s nightingale Lata Mangeshkar has unveiled the solitaire ring collection from Swaranjali the diamond jewellery brand personally designed by her and crafted by Adora, as an offering from her to her fans. Available in classic and timeless designs, the solitaire collections is Lataji’s design inspiration, her passion for solitaires coupled with Adora's crafting skills. Lataji's vast experience, her keen observation of Indian and International jewellery creates an abundance of knowledge; her wealth of knowledge has blended with her deep-rooted Indian culture background to create Swaranjali solitaire collection.

Glam winters

Turquoise and emerald colors in fabrics and accessories in vogue this season can be complement with glossy lips and satiny eyes, in an irresistible palette of pinks and lilacs, injected with plum for a twist of drama…Bejewelled, for the vibrant modern look. Summer may have been feminine, but make your winter glamorous with Avon! The glam look for the season teases your senses with flirtatious lilacs and vibrant pinks. Get in vogue with Avon’s latest color collection. Complement your vivacious attire with Bejewelled’s bright eyes, shiny lips, playfully fresh angelic glow and polished tips.

Triumph of spirit

Speech and hearing-impaired Pooja has made the most of her life with confidence and elan, says Gayatri Rajwade

She is indeed special as is her longing to touch the shining stars in her world and reach out without being bound by her disability.

Speech and hearing-impaired Pooja’s pluck lies not just in her ability to beat the odds but also for a sense of normalcy that she brings to normal people around her.

She chats nineteen to a dozen (and yes she can make herself understood better than a whole lot of us!), can make the softest, fluffiest idlis and dreams of a wonderful man who will marry her and whisk her away to America.

But today it is the charm that her creative hands weave that keeps her pretty face smiling. At 23, Pooja Garg is known as a first-rate beauty therapist and make-up and mehndi artist amongst her varied clients in Sector 20, Panchkula, where her home and parlour is.

“I used to love lipsticks and blushers as a child and I always knew that this is what I wanted to do,” she smiles.

But it has not been an easy journey says her mother Shivani, who discovered that Pooja could not hear only when she had turned a-year-and-a- half old. “All I could think about was that I am going to make sure she does not grow up with complexes about her disability,” says Shivani, determination still writ large on her face.

MAKE-UP MAGIC: Pooja tries out beauty tips.
MAKE-UP MAGIC: Pooja tries out beauty tips. Photo by Malkiat Singh

The initial years were spent in a school for speech and hearing impaired children in Hisar after which she was enrolled in a regular school on the advice of her speech therapist. “When I went and met the teachers, I asked them for just two things, to let Pooja sit right in front and not let the children laugh at her.”

Schooling over, Shivani not only taught Pooja computers but also put her into a beauty academy in Ludhiana where Pooja put more than 14 hours each day learning the craft. She practised threading on a towel to hone her skills.

Right from draping a sari in Devdas-style to make-up au natural to haircuts that suit your face to filigreed mehndi, Pooja does it all in a day’s work.

She spends hours painting and drawing images which she then translates into the most beautiful mehndi. Her current special is a lovely design for Karva Chauth of a woman holding a thaal and a chalni (sieve) all dressed up and look up at the moon or even a wedding choora (bangles) drawn out with mehndi on the wrist.

Her latest USP however is the Jal Jyoti mehndi, a necklace made of coloured mehndi cones and adorned with zircons to look like the real thing.

The really beautiful aspect in this whole story is her confidence, élan and a grounded sense of self that comes from her own success. “I feel no different to anyone. I say to my family be brave, do not think or worry about me,” smiles Pooja.

And as she gets ready to whiz off on a scooter to the market never mind that she cannot hear a single honk, we realise she could teach us a thing or two about life—how to make the most of it.

A brush with tradition
Gayatri Rajwade

Photo: Parvesh ChauhanTo be young and to be an artist—ah the world seems so rosy.

And young 17-year-old Amit Aggarwal’s works—murals and watercolours—all carry the stamp of happiness, joie-de-vivre and interestingly, tradition.

For someone who devours R. L. Stein (remember the ‘Goose bump’ series of books!), plays computer games with a heady passion and surfs the net reading up on art, Amit already has a potent one-liner ready. He calls the process of painting and creating ‘spilling of his imagination and mood’. And while his murals demonstrate his desire to play with mediums and experiment, it is his watercolours depicting Lord Ganesha that show a definite ability and an adroit hand.

Yes, he has miles to go but he has already taken those first few steps into a long future, as he talks resolutely about nothing else but becoming an artist when he grows up.

A commerce student at S.D. Public School, Sector 32, his fascination with colours began when he was a little boy and experimenting with tissue paper dipped in Plaster-of-Paris and playing with moulds he picks up from markets around the city, he has come up with murals galore. Dancing forms in a textured ‘frog’s eggs’ backdrop achieved with rice and dal painted over with black and gold paint, Surya Pranam—people dancing in ecstasy as the sun rises, Pracheen Kaal with its ancient clock hands and swirling textures and even the sea-green mural of Durga (inspired from a story that talks of the Goddess emerging from a hara samudra—green sea) demonstrate his interaction with his imagination amply.

In fact all his works pull from India’s traditional cultures and mythologies and are best illustrated by his Ganesh paintings. Gentle watercolours and some mixed with acrylic produce some interesting works especially in one where the white on paper denoting the truck of the Elephant God stands out for its earthy tones and an abstract figure.

Ganesh playing the flute, dancing, sitting in a large drum, meditative all find expression here. This colours weave together fluidly in the backdrop and his God’s form comes alive in the black lines that bring it all together.

Playing with potter’s clay, using his mother’s microwave to dry moulds, styling his material to suit his work—Amit has done it all without any formal training. Now, however, with this, his second showing within a month (the first one was just of his murals at Panjab University last month) he is getting ready to dream once again and this time it is the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad that he wants to take his budding imagination to.

Check out this young lad’s efforts at Indusind Bank Art Gallery, SCO 53-54, Sector 8C, Madhya Marg till November 10.

Playing the new-age bahu

Confident, charming and adventurous, these are a few qualities that describe Gunjan Walia. She plays the lead protagonist Krishna in the serial Kuch Apne Kuch Paraye, to be aired on Sahara One Television from November 13. She shares her thoughts about her role in the serial.

How did you bag the role of Krishna?

I met producer Navid Antulay and the director Rahul Mevawala. Before I could realise, I was a part of this ambitious project.

How did you prepare yourself for the role?

I paid a lot of attention to the look of the character, Krishna. I tried that it had a certain panache and charm. The character demanded a lot of attitude.

What expectations do you have from the audience?

I think the audience will enjoy watching Kuch Apne Kuch Paraye and hope that my work will be appreciated.

How was your experience of working with director Mevawala?

This is my debut on television and I think that Rahul is sweet. The production house has provided a healthy environment for the actors.

Tell us more about your character Krishna?

In the serial, the director has captured the essence of a father’s relationship with his loving and caring daughter-in-law, Krishna, and how she fulfils her role. It also showcases Krishna’s life as she jostles with odds to bring the estranged family together.

Are you doing any other projects now?

I am focussing only on Kuch Apne Kuch Paraye right now. — DP

Madonna questioned

MadonnaPop diva Madonna has revealed that she is tired of being questioned by people for adopting a black child.

“A lot of people have a problem with the fact that I’ve adopted an African child, a child who has a different colour skin than I do. I don’t live in a ... in a white world,” she was quoted by the Daily News, as saying.

“I live in the world. And my children are exposed to all cultures and all races and many belief systems,” she added.

Meanwhile, the ‘Material Girl’ claims she first offered money to the poor African farmer whose son she adopted so he could get the boy out of an orphanage and raise him but he turned her down.

“I offered that in court when I met him. I couldn’t really understand that decision..... I believe he remarried and had moved to another village and was kind of getting on with his life,” the pop queen said in an interview with NBC’s Meredith Vieira.

‘Casino Royale’ toned down

James Bond fans in Britain will be leaving the theatres a little disappointed, as the much talked about brutal torture sequence involving 007 and Le Chiffre has been edited to secure the 12A rating.

Film censors ordered cuts to a torture scene in new Bond movie Casino Royale, so it would be suitable for family viewing.

The film had earlier boasted of including the most disturbing Bond torture scene ever filmed. The scene shows Bond’s private parts getting gruesomely whacked with a carpet beater by the villain.

The BBFC had earlier advised the company that the torture scene placed too much emphasis on both the infliction of pain and the sadism of the villain for the requested ‘12A’ category.

The movie will be the longest Bond film at 144 minutes and seven seconds, reports the Sun.

However the US release of Casino Royale, which is rated PG-13, contains the entire torture sequence uncut.

Image-conscious Craig

British actor Daniel Craig might have sounded like a lunatic, when he went around asking strangers on the street as to what they thought about his chances of being the next James Bond, on being offered the role.

The star was nervous Bond fans wouldn’t approve of a blond super-spy ahead of filming his 007 debut Casino Royale.

His fears came true when there was wide spread criticism from Bond fans on the Internet calling on to boycott the next 007 movie. He insists that he couldn’t believe himself when he was first offered the role of James Bond, and conducted a voxpops on his own by asking strangers, whether they would like to see him as the next 007.

“I asked everybody, passers-by, the lot. ‘Hello mate, can I talk to you about Bond?’ I would ask, to which they would respond, ‘Get lost, lunatic,’” Contactmusic quoted him as saying.

Kate content with life

With her career and personal life now at the top of their game, Kate Winslet for sure is a ‘content’ person today, but life hasn’t always been a bed of roses for this British beauty, as she claims like any other mortal, she too has experienced her share of sorrows in the past.

The four-time Oscar nominee explains that nearly a decade ago when her career was enjoying a meteoric rise, her personal life was sinking to new lows.

Prior to her acting accolades, Kate told Parade magazine she grew up being called “blubber” and sought comfort in the arms of her first love Stephen Tredre, who later died of cancer in 1997.

“He was the most important person in my life. My life revolved around him,” quoted the mum-of-three, as saying about Tredre. — ANI

Creamy concoctions
Anandita Gupta

As the approaching November fills the air with the excitement of Christmas, the City Beautiful begins taking it’s baking seriously. Five-star hotels get all set to turn their cake mixing ceremonies into press events and bakers across town steep their cakes in spoonfuls of brandy. Amidst all this, there’s a baker who stands alone in her fiercely guarded private domain—her domestic kitchen. Working alone, with a quietness of purpose, she bakes just right, for that gentle bite. The outcome, no wonder, is sweet and savory, succulent, mouthful indeed.

Alluring shapes, deliciously flavoured fillings, strongly contrasting, colourful hues—the tantalising trove of cakes, that greet you at Neeta Sukhija’s Sector 9 residence, promises all this and more. Savoring feathery light, fluff, flavoured cakes for birthday parties and wedding receptions, the lady has been operating from her home. “I lend that special, extra personalised touch to my cakes, and so do everything on my own, in my own kitchen,” she chirps.

And what’s the main difference, according to her, in preparing a wedding cake and a birthday cake? “Today both wedding and birthday cakes have become centerpieces of grand proportions, as elaborate and creative as one can imagine. For the hosts, their party cake serves as a canvas to express their creativity. For birthdays, most kids want their cake very colorful, usually decorated with strong contrasting hues, while others want it shaped like a bunny or teddy bear. But for a wedding, cake cutting is one of the most important photo opportunity, and so, the wedding cake should be well coordinated with the décor colours.

Coming to decorations, the most important part of any cake nowadays, she smiles, “If there are silk flowers or other artificial decorative pieces, they have to be removed from the cake, lest they accidentally find their way into someone’s mouth. So I use edible flowers, fruits, leaves, dolls and figurines to decorate my cakes.”

But how has she survived in this trigger-happy, bling-bling frenzied era that believes in ‘smart packaging’ as the mantra for popularity of anything and everything? Neeta Sukhija explains that she has full faith in her ‘custom-made creations.’ “All my efforts are directed at satisfying my clients, instead of marketing my work. Like some clients want interesting shapes while others want specific colours to go with their party theme, beams the lady.

Little wonder, her spongy, creamy concoctions have been adorning many-a-special-occasion-tables since 1995. And why shouldn’t they, when she’s been blessed by the magical power to wield her spatula with an unmatched expertise?

Food & Fresh Air
Smriti Sharma

Eating out is no longer a humdrum affair. No more sitting on plush sofas in extremely chilly restaurants, no more clattering of cutlery on faux china plates, no more blaring music or non-stop chit-chat of the RJ (24-hour FM channels are to be blamed for it). How about a bit of fresh air while you gorge on your favourite paneer kathi kabaabs or spring rolls?

Drive down to the market in Sector 8, Chandigarh, park yourself in front of Degchi (in case you are lucky you will actually get to park!) and be a witness to this latest trend.

It’s not just the lip-smacking food that is driving the youngsters crazy nowadays but the sheer comfort of having food right in your swanky car on cosy winter evenings under the stars. All you need to do is park your car right in front of the food joint, honk once or better yet not at all, for the serving staff knows exactly what you are there for and before you can bat your pretty mascara-lined eyelashes, a waiter in his chic uniform appears with the menu.

What’s more, can one ask for when all one needs to shell out for Hot ‘n’ Sour Chicken Soup is just Rs 30 and Rs 25 for steaming Cream of Tomato Soup. If the soups are not enough to satiate your taste buds, there are a variety of tikaas and kabaabs, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian, to be devoured and all of these delicacies without digging a hole in your pocket. It’s not just the ‘comfortable food’ that gets them here every evening but the idea is to unwind in the company of friends and savour some ‘eye-candy’ (read pretty girls).

“We are a group of eight boys and the idea of going to some quiet restaurant doesn’t suit us. So we all catch up in the evenings for soup here,” says 21- year-old Nakul, residing in Sector-9.

“I never miss a chance to come here in the evenings. After a day’s hard work, this is the best way to chill out with friends and family without exhausting much dough,” says 26- year-old businessman Rahul.

So its time to leave your blanket at home and drive down to grab a bite!

On the House
Gayatri Rajwade

Its latest avatar is swank unlimited and its red walls leave you gasping for a cuppa strong coffee! In fact, ‘eating out’ err ‘house’ has never been better with everything under one roof. For the curious ones, here is a quick uptake on Aroma Hotel’s 24-hour-eatery that has decided to revamp its interiors, tweak its menu and welcome the youngsters in a flourish of bright peaky colours.

‘Eating House’ which opened in 1992, was first renovated in 1996-97 to move it away from its ‘takeaway’ reputation to a more familial eating spot. In its second face-lift, it decided to draw in a more intellectual crowd servicing ‘well-meaning but not so well-to-do people’.

Now it is the turn of the young brigade to lay its claim on the place and on September 27 on the World Tourism Day, ‘Eating House’, teaming up with Café Coffee Day, opened its new lounge spot for youngsters on the prowl.

Aroma’s charming and courteous owner Manmohan Kohli says that it was with a ‘heavy heart’ that they succumbed to the taste of the younger generation and had to up their prices a bit too.

“For years we have had people from all walks of life coming in but as the night-life grows and young people throng the city what with the IT Park and call centres mushrooming, it is these young people who have to be catered to.”

Essentially what all this has translated into is better quality of people, less rowdy and more appreciative of the varied cuisine on offer and the sprightly décor, more in tune with their lifestyle.

The emphasis is now on continental, quick-bites and light stuff.

A sandwich festival, Sandwich Hamper, is on the cards with 10 to 12 options up for grabs as are a variety of salads—colourful and exciting—to nibble. From bright green broccoli to macaroni, to cream dressing to light vinaigrette to chicken bits and tasty bites, you can try it all.

With it are the sizzlers—Mix Grill, Chicken Shashlik, Masala Paneer, or even something as exotic-sounding as Chicken Steak-a-zellar—and if your stomach needs its butter chicken fix, well then all the Indian delicacies are up for the asking too.

Not just this South Indian from Sundarams, Chinese tadka maar ke, puffs and rolls, pies and tarts, and of course Aroma’s own cakes and bakes from their in-house bakery and ice-creams churned at the ‘House’, truly make it an all-in-one experience.

Finally there is the ubiquitous Café Coffee Day counter with its aromas (get it!) wafting through and even a momo and pogo stand for a bit of steamy splendour.

However, one thing that has not changed is ‘value for money’ and you can expect the same fulsome helpings as earlier! After all, USPs are not established overnight and ‘Eating House’ now offers sunshine with its bright pink lights, enticing ‘foodie’ posters, its comfy cane chairs, fluffy gaudy cushions and multi-cuisine all for a wee-bit more! Are you ready to sample the fare?

Potato Possibilities

In Germany, there is a monument to the potato with an inscription—“To God and Sir Francis Drake, who brought to Europe for the everlasting benefit of the poor, the Potato”. The Tuber-hero is hardly the bad guy it’s made out to be by the “Cut-the-Carbs-Campaigners”. The real villains of the plot are the additional butter, ghee, cream and cheese we soak the potato in. Loaded down with grease, the potato could be a potential contributor to heart ailments.

Otherwise an exceptionally low calorie, high-fiber food, the potato offers significant protection against cancer and cardiovascular diseases. A good source of vitamins C and B6, copper, potassium and manganese, it has anti-oxidant qualities and blood-pressure lowering potential. The potato skin is a concentrated source of dietary fibre, so to get the most of nutritional value from it, please put the peeler away in the drawer. Simply scrub the skins with a firm bristled brush to loosen the grit.

Here is something for the Maharashtrians to gloat about— the word ‘potato’ originated from Batata of the Marathi language! I bring you two potato possibilities, one being desi, and the other, continental.

Potato and Sausage Parmentier

Monsieur Parmentier was a French horticulturist, who encouraged large-scale potato cultivation in France during the 18th century. This dish is named after him. A vegetarian version is pretty good, substituting the sausage with mushrooms.

500 gm peeled potatoes

2 peppers, one red, one yellow

300 gm tomatoes

300 gm sausages

4 eggs

1 cup cream

150 gm grated cheese

Salt and pepper

2 tbsp butter


Thinly slice the potatoes and blanch them for three minutes in five cups of boiling salted water. Remove and drain. Cut the peppers into strips, roughly chop the tomatoes and slice the sausage into thick discs. Layer half of the potatoes into a greased casserole dish. Then arrange all the pepper, tomatoes and sausage pieces, ending off with a neat layer of the remaining potato slices. Whisk the eggs with the cream, seasoning, and most of the cheese. Pour the mixture over the dish, followed by the remaining cheese. Dot with butter and cover the dish with foil. Bake in an oven, pre-heated to 220? C, for 40 minutes, removing the foil covering after the first 20 minutes.

Kashmiri-style Dum Aloo

500 gm small, even sized potatoes

Oil for frying

1 ½ cup thick dahi, whisked

5 Chhoti elaichi

6 Laung (cloves)

1 ¼ tbsp Saunf (fennel seeds)

2 sticks Dalchini (cinnamon)

1 tsp Soonth (dry ginger powder)

Salt to taste


I recommend the use of mustard oil for this recipe for an authentic Kashmiri flavour. Its good to remember from time to time that home-ground, fresh masala imparts a flavour, miles better than that from a packet!

Grind together the elaichi, laung, saunf and dalchini. Keep aside. Boil the potatoes until they are cooked halfway. Peel while still warm. Pierce each of them several times with a fine toothpick. Heat the oil in a kadhai and fry the potatoes till they are evenly browned. Drain and remove from the kadhai. Ladle out most of the oil from the kadhai, leaving behind about 4 tbsp. At this point, reduce the heat and add the ground masala, stirring quickly to prevent it from burning. Add the dahi, almost immediately, along with the chilli powder, ginger powder and salt. Lower the potatoes into the gravy once it begins to simmer and then continue to cook till the gravy thickens. This could take 10-15 minutes. Remember, dum cooking itself means slow, don’t try and speed this up on high heat. Serve hot with jeera rice or plain boiled rice.

Health tip of the day

A particularly hazardous movement to the lower spine is a twisting turn while lifting or pulling. It is MUCH safer, whenever possible, to rotate the body and face the load squarely so the force is exerted in the body’s middle and not to one side. — Dr Ravinder Chadha



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