Bombay Green- The Prince of Mangoes

Move over Alphonso and Banganapalli. What’s trending these days is the Bombay Green mango, aptly named so for its skin colour.

It was about three summers ago (Summer is here) that I had my first taste of this aam at a bageecha in Pachmarhi, Madhya Pradesh. As we were driving into the hill station, we had them fresh from farmers selling the just-harvested crop from cane tokris right from their orchards.

The outside green made us wonder if it was still raw. But when cut into, it was like waking up to a whole new world.

The outer colour did have us fooled. The greenish cover made way for the most unusual and sweetest bright orange fruit housed inside it.

I had been yearning to bite into another Bombay Green since then, and what a surprise I was in for when my friend offered it to me at her home in Nagpur a few days back!

As I happily sliced and bit into this tabletop variety of the fruit, my palate was engulfed by the full-bodied, unique taste that is hard to categorize-it’s got the right hint of sweetness, not too much, just pleasurably right. Needless to say, I couldn’t stop at one.

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Mangoes are the world’s most popular fruit and while Alphonso deserves the tag of the ‘King of Mangoes’, but Bombay Green as my friend tells me is not far behind and is referred to as the ‘Prince of Mangoes’.

An added advantage is that this exotic and premium variety is grown 100 per cent organically, without any carbide or other chemicals exclusively in the orchards of the Satpura range in Pachmarhi.

This variety of fruit has a niche market. It ripens and is ready-to-eat by the end of May, but is grown in limited quantities and sells out fast. It hardly ever reaches the open market. Even as film stars and other VIPs bulk order them, the other aficionados make special trips to this hill station to buy directly from the orchards.

So, it is indeed a pleasant ‘bolt from the blue’ that this variant of the summer’s favourite fruit is available in Nagpur this season.

The erratic weather pattern has impacted the mango production across the country this year and the yield is 40 per cent less than normal this summer.

Bombay Green stands out for me as the best premium quality available right now compared to the regular dump of mangoes flooding the mandis from UP.

What gets the cake, err, the mango is that it can be ordered in Nagpur now and delivered at home. Call on 98483 19195, 98230 25895, 80879 47296 to get your own box.

Not that eating a mango needs any reasons, but associated health benefits does make it a guilt-free.

·         Mango is rich in vitamin E and A which is needed for healthy eyes.

·         It contains special digestive enzymes like terpenes, aldehydes and esters that help in breaking down food, leading to good digestion.

·         Keep the skin soft and shining and brings a glow to the face. It helps in opening clogged pores of the skin and treats acne.

·         It is a rich source of Vitamin H and Vitamin A- contains over 25 varieties of carotenoids. All these strengthen the immune system.

·         It can decrease the risk of getting cancer. It contains high amounts of antioxidants or phenols such as quercetin, fisetin, astragalin, gallic acid, methyl gallate and enzymes. Also, the presence of Vitamin C protects cells from radical damage.

·         Mango is a good source of soluble dietary fibre, vitamin C and pectin that helps reduce cholesterol levels and low-density lipoprotein levels that cause a heart attack. It also has vitamin-B6 that lowers homocysteine levels, preventing any development of heart disease.

·         It contains Glutamine acid that keeps the cells active and boosts memory.

·         Raw or unripe mangoes are a rich source of pectin which prevents heat strokes.

-Tamanna S. Mehdi

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Summer is here

For the longest of time (read seven years), I managed to keep aloof of the euphoria that is GoT. Despite friends, cousins and family imploring me to watch ‘just one-episode to get hooked’, I held out for as long as I could.

Until, the summer of 2018, that is- when I found myself ‘out-of-action’ and basically bundled onto a bed for a couple of months. It was troublesome for me, having a leg encased in an uncomfortable and itchy cast, perched up on pillows, sitting/lying and watching the world go by… without me.

And that’s when I bit the bullet as it were, and watched that very first episode of season 1. As Bran says in the end to Jon, I too think I was exactly where I was supposed to be- watching it! 🙂 Before I realized, I was waiting for winter too (quite literally, it was a hot summer, after all).

My life got engulfed by the lovable Starks, the scheming Lannisters, the Stallion worshiper Dothrakis, the Targaryens, Castle Black, the un-dead White Walkers and the heads of numerous Lords and Graces flying in the air. Quite gory, one would say, but, hey, all is fair in love and the ‘Iron Throne’. 😉

GoT of course didn’t change my life in any way but provided terrific entertainment when I needed it the most. The fantasy-political drama with witty and cunning characters of RR Martin was my escape, a holiday of a sort, right from my bed.

There is a plethora of good TV series out there. However, it was Breaking Bad (2008-2013) that first broke all records for the greatest television of all time. One of the first series that I binge watched, it was hard not to sympathise with the high-school chemistry teacher turned meth maker Walter White (dying of lung cancer). Cooking meth from an RV ‘The Krystal ship’ along with his student Jesse, the trajectory of Walter going from a meek teacher to being Heisenberg, a drug producer was bewitching. I used to be riveted to the edge of my seat every time his DEA brother-in-law Hank, the local gangs or the cartels came calling him.

And then, Game of Thrones. Ironically, after eight seasons, there is no throne left to sit on. Very much like in my life where nothing is permanent. Not the lowliest of the lows or the highest of the highs- everything is fluid and transient.

It is, alas time to bid adieu to the kingdom of Westeros.

But, here is another summer, full of unending possibilities.

-Tamanna S. Mehdi

Published!

I have been writing a lot lately. Features, news stories, interviews…in the past two months, I’ve written a little about a lot. If two months back anyone told me I would be getting published on a web page or working at a newspaper, I would have most likely dismissed it. And 6 months back, this was not just a distant dream; it was highly unlikely that I would be doing anything at all.

But, cut to September. After the opportunity I got a few months back writing for http://www.voxspace.in, I work now at The Pioneer. A chance conversation with a friend set the ball rolling. The Universe does work in indefinable ways (Taming the Lions). Even in this digital age, there is no greater joy for me than to see my articles being printed in a daily newspaper. After all these years and quite a few by-lines later, seeing my by-line in print today feels like it is the first time ever.

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http://www.voxspace.in

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In The Pioneer, Hyd, 6-9-18

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In The Pioneer, Hyd, 6-9-18

I have just re-started. I still have a long way to go. I’m daring to dream again.

But today is all about this. For everyone who has helped me get these opportunities, for all of you who help me with the research and the invaluable ‘connects’, a big Thank You!

Tamanna S. Mehdi

Logged off, Shut Down… Went Outside

“In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir

My previous two camping treks were when I was still in school and as such, though I must have noticed, but I did not truly appreciate the beauty of my surroundings. It was more of an ‘exercise’ trip, and it helped that after each of those trips, I came back 5-6 kgs lighter. 🙂

I had been looking to go for camping/trekking for a while and this trip came as a great opportunity. We travelled through Haridwar, Rishikesh and Joshimath to Auli the starting point of our 5 day trek.

While walking, the rhythm of the breath moving through my body was like the movement of the ocean tides. As I breathed deeply, I learned to sense the breath in this way. It was like discovering that I had a beach front view inside of me. Mindfully walking, breathing, living and enjoying every moment was a novel experience. (‘Sweat the Alphabets, Dance the Digits’) (Taming the Lions) ( Let’s wander where the WIFI is weak )

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“THE UNIVERSE IS FULL of magic things, PATIENTLY WAITING for our senses to BECOME SHARPER.”~ Eden Phillpotts

Trek

I was a part of a large group of people hiking and camping to the popular Kuari Pass top. We were also the last group of trekkers before the trail closes for the Monsoon. Providentially, for us, it would be bright and sunny while we hiked, and the rain Gods would open up the minute we reached our campsites. So, luckily, all through the hike we enjoyed all kinds of weather without being inconvenienced by it.

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The trek is not as ‘easy’ as my pre-trip research made it sound. At some places, it was very steep climbing and at times with narrow trails with sharp 90 degree cliff drops. However, all the huffing and puffing lead to devastatingly beautiful views which were heavenly to say the least- worth the suntan and the sore limbs. As it is said, “the best views come after the hardest climbs.”

In fact, I also had a pleasant surprise when on the very first day of the climb at Auli I bumped into a friend I had studied in Melbourne with. It was a pleasant coincidence that he was there holidaying with his wife. Such a small world!

Focus

In any outdoor activity, the focus completely shifts from us as individuals to our surroundings- making them the natural center-stage. Throughout my treks, the focus moved from the green rolling hills that were our campsites to the snow-capped mountains that glistened on the horizon. Sometimes, it was the soft clouds drifting in-between us as we made our somewhat arduous walk, and sometimes it was the angry dark clouds bellowing at us from above.

The pitter-patter of rain as we sat huddled in our tents with our cups of hot soup or curled up in our sleeping bags. Or, in sharp contrast, the clear starry evening sky, with the smoke curling up from the cooking tents as the meals were being prepared.

There were the gurgling sounds of fresh water streams we hopped across on our trails, small ponds awash with rain water, and wild strawberries and berries that grew with abandon in the forests as we trudged past them. Alternate to that were the patches of farmlands in the villages we criss-crossed with their organic produce of potatoes, rajma, apricots and colourful flowers.

The grazing sheep, the mooing cows, the tottering ponies, the sheep dogs that followed us… it was nature at its best. It suspended all my anxieties, thoughts and trepidation making them trivial in front of the the vastness and expansiveness of the Universe.

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Sheep scurrying past our camp

Many a time, I found myself sitting in silence over-looking the deep gorges with a mighty river meandering in the distance, or on large branches of trees staring into nothingness as birds hummed in the background. As a quote I read by Jon Kabat Zinn says, “Non-doing has nothing to do with being indolent or passive. Quite the contrary. It takes great courage and energy to cultivate non-doing, both in stillness and in activity”.

Gastronomical Delight

It feels slightly odd to talk about this, especially on a camping trek, where food is nourishing, but quite basic. In a delightful break from my previous treks, the food served at every camp here was a delight. Though vegetarian, the zeal with which the cooks whipped up not just North-Indian, but South Indian, Chinese and Italian cuisines with a selection of desserts, evening tea-time snacks and different soups would give any eatery in the city a run for its money.

I could not believe that after a tiring day I was having steaming hot macaroni, Chinese Manchurian, noodles, pani puri, samosa, cream of mushroom soup, idli, sheerkhurma, gulab jamun (the list is endless) at high altitudes in dense forests and grasslands, with no motor-able roads for kilometres, no electricity and completely cut away from any other civilization.

Needless to say, I doubt anyone of us lost any weight on this trip! Haha…

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We 50

Location: Kuari Pass (4264 meters above sea level), Uttarakhand

Trek route:

  1. Auli to Gorson Bugyal (3300 mts)- 4 kms
  2. Gorson Bugyal to Tali (3500 mts)- 8 kms
  3. Tali to Khullara (3650 mts)- 10 kms
  4. Khullara to Kuari Pass (4100 mts)- 4 kms
  5. Khullara to Tugasi -5 kms

Transport: Delhi to Joshimath by road. Then, to the 5-day trek start point at Auli by road or cable car.

Group Organized by: Mr. Farooq Haque at ‘Within n Beyond’

Tour Operated by: The Wanderers- Mrs. Farzana Haque. Ph: +91 9850427609

-Tamanna S. Mehdi

Taming the Lions

I often hear about ‘positive thinking’, benefits of meditation, staying calm, giving gratitude, etc. Lots of inspirational stories and many speakers try to motivate the benefits of these.(Mysticism and the KumbhBonding- Spiritual, Social, Cultural) (Logged off, Shut Down… Went Outside)

My parents, some family members and close friends have also advocated these to me. Everyday messages on the same lines flood my inboxes…these messages are fantastic to read, but can they be really practised in our daily lives?

Is it so easy and life altering to change thoughts ingrained in our psyche over the years?-thoughts ranging from self-doubt, loneliness, anger and other negative feelings that crowd through us every day?

Passing through a challenging period in my life right now, I desire to try to bring a change in the way I think. I chance upon an app in the App Store and try their ‘7 days of calm and happiness’ to see if it is easy to feel these despite the daily challenges.

Day 1: A few minutes of concentrating on my breathing and trying to calm myself down. Every few seconds I find my mind wandering, but I calmly bring it back to my breathing.

Next is a 10 minute session on feeling gratitude for all that I actually have in life. Wow! I do have a lot of blessings to count!

Day 2: I concentrate better on my breathing- following my breath as it goes in and out is slightly better than day 1. My mind still wanders, but it is easier to bring it back to the task on hand.

This is followed by a session on self-love and realizing my weaknesses without passing judgement on them. Listing my positives and my negatives without criticizing made me feel strangely quite contented.

Day 3: Breathing while concentrating on every part of my body from scalp to toe ensues. I breathe into each part individually trying to feel the signals they send me.

This is followed by an exercise of ‘letting go’. This is not so easy. Letting go of pent up feelings of anger, resentment and past failures and future uncertainties is challenging. While doing the exercise, momentarily, the mind ‘let’s go’, but doesn’t forget.

Day 4: Today’s session is about pulling out of ‘auto-pilot’ and ‘living in the moment’. This is difficult, as my mind is crowded with many thoughts and constantly wavers. But, as the session goes on, it becomes easier to bring it back to concentrate on the breathing exercise.

It is an exercise to appreciate the moment that we are in right now. Though hard, the few minutes of meditation does help bring a perspective to my life.

Day 5: The exercise on concentrating on breathing today involves taking breaks through the day to ‘do nothing’. Again, my mind wanders, but it is easier than earlier to bring it back. Breathing into each part of my body- the knots in my shoulders and back though they don’t dissolve completely, but they feel softer.

The session to embrace uncertainty and look at it is an opportunity is an ideal situation, but requires lot of effort.

Day 6: The session today is about building patience and better mental and physical health. Counting 1 as I take a deep breath saying 2 as I breathe out helps to maintain my focus on breathing. The first few times the mind is concentrated, but again it wavers. It requires an effort to leave the comfort of ‘thoughts’ to bring it back to concentrating on breathing.

Apart from breathing into different parts of the body to soften them, the exercise also urges us to breathe into our emotions and feelings. As I do that, I feel a softening of my anger- I feel less angry at certain things that have been troubling me.

Day 7: Today is the last day of the exercise. It wishes to inculcate being ‘aware’ and taking time out for hobbies and other leisure interests. The exercise is about breathing into each part of my body one after the next and only feeling the signals they send me and not alter them. It is a fairly long session and as everyday it is a challenge to keep my mind only on the breathing.

The next part of the session urges me to think about the last time I laughed, and what I like to do for a hobby or my idea of relaxation. It is a jolt to me that I cannot find answers to these basic questions right away. As I breathe in and out trying to soften my tense muscles, it makes me think about them.

Doing craft is my hobby and I remember feeling so creative and joyful every time I made something. The session inspired me to decorate some pieces.

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Focusing only on breathing and not thinking about anything else is hard. Meditation is not something that I look forward to do daily. But practising it this past week, I do sense a change in me, however small, but it is unmistakably there. I feel calmer and more accepting of my circumstances. It has served as a reminder for the many good things in my life, instead of only focussing on the not-so-good.

I haven’t tamed all the raging lions in my mind, but they feel more pliable now. (Published!)

 

Vizag at ’18

There is much to do in Vizag this New Year! From graveyard slot movie shows at 1 am to stand-up comedies to new dining and better shopping.

My friends and family usually hit me for places to eat, things to do and what and where to shop while in town. While the beach is a major attraction, we usually skip venturing in the cool waters this season.  There is ‘new’ every season here.

If you are visiting Vizag or even if you live here, this is a roundup of some of the new things you can do in a day this January. (Ah Vizaaag!One Lazy Sunday)

Comfort Food

Head over for a scrumptious lunch of hot soup and some winter comfort carb-rich food to the new diner in town- Pepperazzi. This glitzy new place is loud, not just in colour, but in din too. Done up in bright red, it aims to create an American diner atmosphere. This diner is a good place to stop by when hunger pangs strike while you are out and about exploring the city.

The long meandering menu covers Italian, Lebanese, Indian and South East Asian cuisine, but skips American.

The bread bowl soups are my fav here. I have been craving for them since I last had them at the Fisherman’s Warf in San Francisco. So happy to find them now on the menu here. The bread bowl is very fresh and the soups are top-notch. I have had a few varieties here and they are all good. I enjoy the rice dishes the most here and when you are taking a day off, it doesn’t matter if it makes you long for a siesta later.

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Soup in a bread bowl

Their hawker menu includes the Korean fried rice and the Indonesian Nasi Goreng. While the Korean version tastes good, it reminds one of any local fried rice, nothing Korean about it- not even Kimchi.  The pick of the dishes for me is Nasi Goreng. It comes served topped with a fried egg and chicken satay on the side. Really good!

The potato dumplings served with Mexican rice is also good, but a little heavy with all the cheese. A dessert of brownie with ice cream was delectable. The brownie was fresh and melted in our mouths.

I wish they served ‘diner’ food though- burgers, eggs, sausages…

Swap the sambar for some soup.

Sizzle with the Kebabs

Make space in your tummy for the yummy kebabs at Roast and Grill. Based on the lines of BBQ Nation, the unlimited veg and non-veg kebabs are delish here! Unlike other such places, where every dish tends to taste the same, here each item has a different flavour to it and it is really hard to choose one best one.

It is interesting that their selection reflects a mix of multi-cuisine in its flavours and doesn’t just stick to the Indian masalas. We really enjoyed the Creamy Florets (cauliflower in a white sauce), Mexican mushrooms and the Beetroot steak in the veg selection. The vegetarian spring rolls might taste even better if served with a sweet and sour sauce.

In the non-veg, the Australian grilled chicken, the chilli garlic fish and mutton seekh kebab were the pic of the dishes. The fish was falling off the bones. It had a nice crust to it (maybe egg-wash?). The seekh was a little spicy for me, but eating it with the yogurt and green chutney dips cut some of the spiciness. There was a mango chutney dip too for those who like mangoes.

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Cauliflower, mushrooms and garlic potatoes served steaming hot

The rest of the buffet was largely Indian Biryanis and curries. However, their rogan gosh was excellent in medium spiced brown gravy. They had a chicken roast in grape sauce with vegetables- it was the highlight dish of the evening. I wish they have more roast dishes…

If you are not yet bursting at the seams already, they have a regular selection of Indian sweets for desserts.

Psst: This is a Keto diet friendly place.

‘Handmade soap is the new black’

Hydrate your dry and chapped winter skin for some ‘me time’ after a long day at being about and around with the chemical free  soaps, scrubs, body lotions and balms made by soaper Nitya Mutyala at Amoda Handmades.

As they say, soap is to the body, what laughter is to the soul. What I love about her products is that unlike the commercially available ones, hers only use vegetable oils and butter, pure essentials oils and natural colour. I like how each of the soaps that she handcrafts with love and care retains glycerine which attracts moisture, and keeps my thirty winter skin hydrated. The same holds true for her moisturising body and lip balms as well.

My favourite soaps from the extensive range on offer are the coffee scrub and the lemongrass soaps. Her soap’y’ operas smell oh so fresh every time I use them. Her creative gift packs make for fantastic giveaways to take from the city.

‘Be in’. Stay stylish.

This season- ditch the old, do the new 🙂

Where to find these:

Pepperazzi – Waltair Uplands, Siripuram

Roast and Grill– Hotel Green Park

Amoda Handmades- Nitya Mutyala- 8897387344

-Tamanna S. Mehdi

Let’s wander where the WIFI is weak

We passed through Araku valley last week on our road trip to Nagpur. It was so crowded that it made us want to get away as soon as possible. On the quest to find some relaxing getaways close to Vizag, we found two off-beat places with little or no phone connectivity. (Logged off, Shut Down… Went Outside )

)In sharp comparison to the throngs of tourists in busloads to Araku valley and Borra caves, the Gangrel Dam and the Chandoori Sai resort are the perfect spots for people looking to get away from the ‘maddening crowd’ for some calm and quiet.

Gangrel Dam

Gangrel Dam is built across the Mahandani River and is located in the Dhamtari district of Chhattisgarh. Chitrakoot falls are more popular in this region, but the Gangrel dam filled to the brim in the winter season with its pristine blue water is a sight for sore eyes.  On the way from Vizag to Nagpur, we took a planned detour and a single-lane road from Dhamtari town (15 km away) led to this vast expanse of water.

We spent the night at the Bardhia Lake view cottage, owned by Chattisgarh Tourism. We reached at night and woke up in the morning to the soothing sight of water right in front of our large balconied rooms.

The new log huts, ready for occupation look straight out of picturesque postcards from Thailand or Indonesia. It is hard to imagine that this is located in a remote tribal region close to Vizag (475 km).

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The new log huts

The night sky was clear and we were greeted with a brilliantly lit blanket of twinkling stars. It was very comforting to recline on garden chairs in the cool December night sipping our hot teas. As it was a weeknight, there were no other guests and we had the whole resort to ourselves.

The friendly staff served us piping hot breakfast of aloo-puri, poha and eggs in the morning. There are water sports at the dam and we passed a park on the way. They all looked like good picnic areas. The small surrounding villages and canals with flowing water made for a picturesque ride back to the highway.

Note: The new log huts are not yet opened and we stayed in the older rooms which though not luxurious were large and adequate.

Chandoori Sai

Lounging in a manicured garden overlooking the rolling hills, watching the smoke from the neighbouring chimneys as the evening meals are cooked or gazing at the stars in clear skies at night, the faint sound of the nearby flowing brook and the chirping of crickets. If you aspire this, then believe it or not, it is only 200 kms from the hustle-bustle of Vizag.

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View of Gouduguda village from a drone Pic Courtesy: Mark Thomas

Chandoori Sai is nestled in the forests of Orissa. Conceptualized, built and managed single-handedly by Leon Mahoney, an Australian, this luxury eco-friendly homestay in the picturesque pottery village of Goudaguda is to be experienced to be believed. In order not to disturb the tribals, this accommodation is unobtrusively placed in a secluded part of the village.

With only five spacious guest rooms, this unique guesthouse is styled on the tribal village homes of the ‘Poraja’ and ‘Khonda’ tribes that live here, but within a secured garden setting. The accommodation is modern and the bathrooms are extremely clean with hot water and shower cubicles. From the hand-made terracotta floor tiles, to the coloured ochre used on the walls to give the rooms a warm earthy look- everything is pristinely local.

The continental fare of pasta, home-made freshly baked bread, and pies and tarts for dessert could give the best of bakeries a run for their money. All the vegetables are organic and sourced from his garden or the local markets.

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Leon busy baking pizzas for dinner

We had a truly unique opportunity of seeing and experiencing a different way of life first-hand.

 Truly places where on a clear day, you can see forever!

NOTE: There is little or no mobile phone connectivity at both these places.

Travel Info:

Gangrel Dam: Located in Dhamtari district of Chattisgarh. By Train: Dhamtari is the closest railway station. By Air: Raipur is the closest airport at 90 kms. By Road: Visakhapatnam is 475 km via Araku or National Highway 30 from Vizag to Raipur. http://cgtourism.choice.gov.in/resorts-&-hotels-in-chhattisgarh/5/CTB%20Resort

Chandoori Sai: Goudaguda village is in Kakriguma in the Koraput district. By train: To Koraput via Araku valley and a taxi thereafter (about a 50 km drive); or the twice weekly Intercity Express to Rayagada stops at Laxmipur station from where the village is 25 km away. By road: Take a taxi from Visakhapatnam. www.chandoorisai.com

-Tamanna S. Mehdi

Other travel blogs- (A Royal Retreat, Iraqis,Bonding- Spiritual, Social, CulturalPalaces, Lakes and MemoriesWhat-e-‘Numa, Mysticism and the Kumbh, Ah Vizaaag!, One Lazy Sunday, Vizag at ’18)