On A Fan-tea-stic Trail

Some call this their Elixir of Life. For some, this is their Holy Grail. A Chinese stamp that is loved by the entire world. 

Recently, I got a chance to visit the new outlet of Tea Trails, opened in Anna Nagar, Chennai. This was a place that I longed to go and when I got an opportunity to be their guest, my joy knew no bounds. After what seemed an eternity of searching and cursing the Google Maps, I located the place and walked in, to be welcomed by the Manager of the store.

He started off by explaining that Chai and Tea were two different things. While I have been a fan of the classic cardamom and ginger tea for a long time now, I hadn’t really thought about the difference between the two terms. Apparently, Tea is the version without milk and sugar, while Chai is the more Indianised version that we consume with milk and sugar.

Tea Pairings are more like Wine pairings. Not every food-tea combo is good. Some teas complement a particular kind of food, while some just doesn’t go well together!

I had the fortune to try out a fair share of the menu, along with its respective pairs. Silver Needle- Bun Maska, Kashmiri Kahwa- Burmese Tea Salad, Lapsang Souchong- Smoked Paneer Sandwich, Irani Chai- Onion Pakoras, Red Zen, a few other coolers and food, finally a dessert.

Silver Needle- Bun Maska 

Silver Needle is a variety of white tea. It had a very mild taste and was very light when consumed. It is paired with the classic Bun Maska, which is sugar filled mild bun topped with a dollop of butter. The combination was elegant and light even when had together.

 

Kashmiri Kahwa- Burmese Tea Salad

Next up was a brew of Green Tea, called as Kashmiri Kahwa. This one is had with almonds, saffron and other Indian Spices that gives it the distinct aroma of Indian Biryani. Pairing this up with a Salad is because of the low-calorie value of both the items, giving the health conscious people the full benefit of the tea. I loved the salad for it was crunchy at places owing to the occasional roasted Split Bengal Gram in it. Surprisingly, the salad also had infused green tea leaves that blended well with the brew I had with me.

 

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The Kashmiri Kahwa in the black cup and a plate of the Burmese Tea Salad, infused with Green Tea leaves

 

Lapsang Souchong- Smoked Paneer Sandwich

This is a Chinese Smoked variety of Black tea, which takes a little over 3 minutes to brew. The tea has its smoky aroma and aftertaste which is paired with a paneer sandwich. This variety of tea is a tad heavy and is aptly paired with a heavy food item. Well that being said, smoky dishes are not for everyone, so use your discretion while ordering this. I personally loved my smoky black tea.

 

Irani Chai- Onion Pakoras

Now we enter the Indian Chai domain. The Hyderabadi Special Irani chai was up for tasting and it was sweeeeeet (Yeah! That sweet). Being over-sweet is its trademark. Take sips of hot chai with bits of piping hot Onion Pakoras, that should be ideal for a rainy day.

Did you know?! Irani Chai is made with Condensed milk which is the reason for its extra-sweet taste

Red-Zen

This was another brew of hot tea that blew me away. This is technically not a variety of tea, but a tisane. Tisane is herbal extracts that do not form part of the tea family. Red Zen is one such extract of herbs, fruits, and flowers. It has a springy aroma which might remind you of some distant memory of Pot Pourri and may seem feminine for some of you. The taste was brilliant and refreshing, true to its name.

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Coolers

What about people who are not into hot teas but need something to cool their spirits? Fret not, for I also happened to try out some of their varieties of cool beverages.

Lychee Bubble Tea

The Classic tea, strongly flavoured of Litchies, with flavour-filled bubbles popping in my mouth. I would actually prefer to have the chewy variety of bubbles than the poppy ones (You can inform them of your choice when you place the order, actually). Nothing out of the ordinary, I found this too strong to my liking.

Matcha Shake

This Japanese Green tea is blended with cold milk and some butterscotch essence to present a rather heavy drink to the customer. The taste was good, with very slight trace of green tea. A healthy option when compared to the traditional milk shakes.

Better Wife

A rather controversial name, this drink is a mix of herbs, mint, and green tea. It reminded me of the mint lime coolers available in the market and was refreshing. A definite choice to beat the heat.

Veg Ham Bruschetta

I love bruschettas. The ones that were available here was well made with chunks of mushroom and basil leaves on the warm cheese. It was yummy and the taste lingers for quite a while.

Paneer Pizza

Again a heavy choice, which would go well with glasses of coolers, the pizza was generous in its toppings. So much so that I felt the thin crust was not able to handle the weight of all the cheese, sauces and the paneer chunks on its head. Extremely tasty, could have been cooked a little more, since the crust was still white and kinda raw.

 

Alfredo Penne Pasta

One just can’t have enough pasta. Let’s agree on that for peace to prevail. Well-cooked, amply loaded with black olives, capsicum, zucchini and chunks of tomatoes, the pasta had a distinct taste other than that of cheese. I think it extracted more of the zucchini pieces than what was necessary. The texture and the consistency were good though.

 

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The Alfredo Penne garnished with the usual suspects- The Oregano and Chilli Flakes

 

Schezwan Vada Pav

A Chinese twist to the desi vada pav, this was more like a potato pattice pav. Very yummy and piping hot, with all the right flavours, I enjoyed this one.

 

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Schezwan Vada Pav

 

Dessert- Chocolate Waffle with sauce and nuts

Freshly made choco waffles generously topped with Hershey’s chocolate sauce and nuts are enough to make a girl go weak in the knees. I would have still preferred those brownies to waffles.

 

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Choco Waffles with Chocolate sauces and nut toppings

 

All teas are freshly brewed and can be refilled twice each time you order, making it value for money

Each order of tea comes in a tray of steeping pot, a cup and a saucer with a timer. The card in the tray indicates how much time the brew must be steeped for and lets you handle it from there. If you need a stronger brew, feel free to dabble with the timing accordingly.

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The food is on the higher side of pricing. It sure is tasty and is suitable for those once-in-a-while cravings or splurging. Who doesn’t like that occasional pampering right?

The ambiance is great and so is the decor, which makes the outing picture-worthy. The people in there are cordial and warm, serving us with a smile.

 

The parking space is sufficient for two-wheelers and cars can be parked on the side of the road since this store is located at the fag end of an underused road.

My Picks- Kashmiri Kahwa with the Burmese Tea Salad, and a serving of the Red Zen

I had a great time and would recommend you to take yourself on a date to Tea Trails and experience it yourself.

 

*This is a sponsored post, although the feedback is honest*

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Hangwoman- K.R.Meera

Title-  Hangwoman

Author- K.R.Meera (Malayalam) Translated by J.Devika 

Published- 2014

Pages- 432

Genre- Fiction

There are so many people out there, whose existence we take for granted. It could be someone close to us, or someone who is essential for us carrying on our day to day activities without a glitch. This book is about one such essential cog in the wheel of the Judicial system in India, the hangmen. A hangman is a person who carries out the death penalty by executing the criminal in the gallows.

This book, originally written in Malayalam, is about a family of hangmen. Set in the state of Bengal, the book delves into the lives and lineage of hangmen. The story revolves around Grddha Mullick,a greedy and manipulative hangman, his daughter Chetna Mullick, who is touted to be the first hang-woman of India and Mitra, an opportunist journalist who manipulates them for his benefit.

The death sentence awarded to Jatindra Banerjee for having murdered children forms the backdrop of the story. The emotions that run inside Chetna, the rich legacy that she is expected to carry forward, the state of her freedom over her choices in life, the pressure on her on the symbolism that involves hope for women all over the world etc form the crux of the story.

The book explores, in detail, the emotional crisis that Chetna undergoes due to all the above issues. It is not easy for an author to convey the feelings and emotions of the character to the reader, which I felt was superbly done here. It was intense at a few places, especially where the pressure of the media is portrayed and the point where Chetna’s brother dies. In fact, I felt the book was quite intense for me and hence I took a long time to finish reading this book. I took multiple breaks in between to come to terms with what I was reading. The book slowly absorbs us into the story and makes us look at various aspects of the world with revulsion and disgust.

The portions where the process involved in hanging a convict in the gallows is explained is informative. Honestly, I never knew that there was so much behind every death sentence executed. It made me look at certain things in a whole new light, like how it happens to people sometimes.

I liked how Chetna was stubborn in her decisions without giving into her father’s manipulation. But even then, her heart yearned for a love which will always remain unrequited. That part felt real. Her conversations with Mitra’s mother, a beshya, also were noteworthy.

The narrative is quite long for the substance of the story. There are numerous anecdotes which form a part of the legacy of the family of Grddha Mullick described during the course of the story. A thread of love, grit, determination, patriarchy and abuse is also woven intricately along the lines of the story, so as to give it more flavour.

The translation of the book has been done with great care, such that it feels original. Kudos to that. I would love to read the original one for there is every possibility that something was missed out in translation. The book is a lengthy read, which will be liked by people who love reading historical anecdotes along with the main story.

Lipstick Under My Burkha- An Afterthought

 

This post comes as an afterthought. A thought that cropped up in me after having watched the movie, Lipstick Under My Burkha.

The movie is about four women, from different walks of life. Each of them is dealing with their own set of problems. There is also a rule book prescribed for those women by the society which they are expected to adhere to at all times.

There is this middle aged widowed woman, who is seen as the bold and uncompromising matriarch of an entire mohalla. She commands respect and is warm to those living there. A young mother of three, who is seen working in a job and doing great at it, all unaware to her husband. Inside the confines of their bedroom, she is just seen as a woman who is supposed be an object of pleasure for him. An unmarried girl, who is forced to take painful decisions regarding her own wedding, because of many other constraints. This girl is seen as a repository where the woes of the other women are shared for consolation. Lastly, there is a young college girl, who yearns to live in her own free world, devoid of a burkha.

The stories of all these women are related and yet parallel. They all represent a certain class of our society and the expectations the society has of them, how ever unreasonable those expectations might be. Each of the above-mentioned women has been suppressed in various ways, which makes for a disturbing revelation later on in the movie.

I loved the way this movie opens a can of worms. I was left with the question of substitution. Would the degree of ostracising be the same, if it were men in the places of those women? One can only imagine. The movie, in a way, portrays what is wrong with the social set-up that we live in. The different rule book, the unrealistic expectations, the fear of being slut-shamed, the reluctance to assert one’s own preference or sexuality for that matter, everything.

The dark undertones (lighting) in around half the movie might be to convey the dark reality of the society that we live in.

Personally, I loved the movie for having been a mirror to our lives, and I swear any woman could relate to at least one scene in this movie on a personal level. The movie moves a tad slow at places, but overall, I enjoyed it. I just fervently hope that this spirit does not die down.

 

Ananta Shesha Naga- Sanjeev K. Sharma

Title-  Ananta Shesha Naga

Author- Sanjeev K.Sharma

Published- 2017

Pages- 279

Genre- Mythology- Fiction

An abysmal combination of words and grammar.

This book is a classic example of how a story can be layered unnecessarily and packaged to the unassuming readers as a “book”. Poor writing, pathetic editing and copious amount of cringe-worthy content find their places in this book.

This book is basically about an enchantress who is assigned the task of getting five powerful snake kings laid and stealing their power weapon from them. The resultant war between the three worlds of the Devas, Asuras and the Nagas (serpents) and who wins and who dies at the end, form the remaining part of the story.

The story begins only after a good 90 pages. Till then, its all about sex, written in a very poor way. Post that, bad editing makes up for the absence of sex in the story. By the end, I cursed myself for picking this up to read.

Erotica is different and writing crass content is different. For quite some time, all I was seeing was page after page of a sex scene, THE SAME SEX SCENE, explained in bad language.

Although the book showed a tiny ray of promise somewhere in the later half, it vanished as quickly as it had appeared.

All I could think about, after reading the book was that THE EDITORS HAD ONE JOB TO DO! Misplaced prepositions, different spellings for the same word on the same page, ridiculous usage of words, some non-existent, some out of context and some bad-sounding.

Here are some examples of what I would call the total absence of ‘editing’ (Click on each image to find what is wrong with them). I swear these are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

This book does sheer injustice to the cover page and also to the reader’s expectations.

Story Mirror should seriously do a quality check within the organisation to stop this massacre on the English language. Their editors must undergo training in ‘editing’ before calling themselves one.

Would I be re-reading this? Heck No!
Would I recommend this? Not even to my worst enemy.

Disappointed.

Indira Gandhi, the Emergency, and Indian Democracy- P.N.Dhar

Title-  Indira Gandhi, the Emergency and Indian Democracy

Author- P.N.Dhar

Published- 2001

Pages- 440

Genre- Non-Fiction-Politics

Indira Gandhi is remembered for the Emergency more than anything else. This book, written by P.N.Dhar, who spent almost seven years working under her, tries to give the backstory and details about the event. A lot is written about the East Pakistan crisis, the denial of the economic aid to India by the United States, her relationships with the leaders of the neighbouring countries, the Emergency, her equations with Indian leaders, her relationship with Sanjay Gandhi and the Simla Agreement.

I read this book out of curiosity and I must confess that I was not entirely disappointed. Though about 40% of the book is filled with assumptions which aim to validate or justify Mrs.Gandhi’s actions that led to the declaration of Emergency.

Mrs.Gandhi had to come into the larger picture of Indian Politics after the death of her father, Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru. She was initially dismissed as a powerless puppet (gunghi gudiya) by her own colleagues in the party and also her political opponents. How she rose to power within and outside her party, how she consolidates power in the country and how she asserts herself in the middle of the dominant patriarchy in the Indian political scene is described in this book.

Her relationship with Jay Prakash Narayan who was another prominent person during her days as the Prime Minister is also recorded in detail.

The Emergency was a very dark period in Indian history, there are no two ways about it. The way the author has tried to take a softer stand regarding that era made me a little uncomfortable. P.N.Dhar has tried to give a variety of reasons ranging from the ‘need to discipline the country’ to ‘ her decision being inevitable given the situation in the country in relation to neighbors, political opponents, and the judiciary’ for the imposition of the Emergency. If I may add, I understood then that that was the precise phase when Indian Judiciary lost much of its teeth. I did wonder how it would have been now, had the Judiciary been as powerful as it was back then.

Her perception and apprehension about her own son, Sanjay Gandhi is also covered quite in detail, especially his tyranny and waywardness. That portion is very interesting to read, to be honest.

I found this book to be heavily biased in favour of Mrs.Gandhi and her rule. Something that I had expected, but this was a bit beyond what I had imagined. I would suggest reading this book if you don’t have better books in stock to give information about the dark era.

The GST Experts’ day out

By an odd coincidence, the CA day and the GST rollout falls today. We are probably the only country that celebrated the rollout of a new Tax law with so much enthusiasm. I am so proud of us. Twitter has been on fire since morning with people tweeting the same damn bill from Murugan Idli Shop (Shobha De, I am talking about you!) after having ghee pongal and tweeting that idlis have become unaffordable.

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This is the bill that people shared claiming that they paid extra due to GST. The same bill used by at least ten different people. 😀 I still don’t see why people would come out of this shop without having their podi dosa and jigarthanda though!

Now, I just happened to observe in silence, the nation’s reaction to GST and the surrounding confusion. I am amazed to realise that all this while, we have been surrounded by scores and scores of economists! Thumping good ones at that. People who had been ignorant so far as to what all taxes they have been paying, have all become GST experts overnight. Don’t even get me started on the GST commentary and bashing that is going on in almost all the media.

GST, as far as I observed, has an effect of reducing the cost for the manufacturer in the long run. So when the cost price reduces, logically, keeping the other price variables same ( including Profit) the selling price also should be lower. That is the logic. This is because now the manufacturer will be able to take credit for every input he uses without the usual border troubles owing to different states and different taxes.

But trust me, that is not gonna happen. The manufacturers will be profit hungry and so will retailers. Even if the sourcing rate comes down, they are going to keep increasing the price at least a little because, hey! GST. Bashing the government for this is not fair.

Secondly, the loud noise that says the implementation is confusing and not in order. My dearest people, name one damn law of this magnitude that was implemented as smooth as a hot knife driven through a chunk of butter. I bet you can’t. Ever heard of the Companies Act? It was revamped big time in 2013 and rolled out. Any idea about the confusion it created?? I suppose not. Believe me when I say that there are still clarifications pending for a lot of issues regarding the Companies Act 2013.

So don’t even think GST will be a cake walk. It will not be and rightly so.

Hi-speed internet has actually given us a lot to be thankful for. We boast day in and day out about how information is just a click away and how we are all connected 24*7. It would be equally great if such information is verified before outraging on.

It would not be wrong if I say that arm-chair activism has reached a whole new level with the advent of such super instant messaging platforms.

Before hyperventilating on something, study, for God’s sake. Study the concept thoroughly. Study the intention behind such action. Study the implications. Study the time that would be required for such an effect to materialise.

Remember one cannot become an expert without studying. But hey! We have WhatsApp and Facebook so even I can become an expert in anything.