Winter Trees

There’s a lot on my mind and plate at the moment and so I find myself a bit less engaged in taking photos or writing something down here. But I will be back soon with my next post for the Cook, Eat, Repeat Challenge and am excited for that!

Meanwhile, I was going through my older photos, looking for a specific one when I came across these ‘winter trees’, as I have decided to call them and I fell in love once again with their beauty. They never cease to capture my eyes and are on top of my “when- I will be- capable -of- capturing- better -photos” list. Till then, these will have to do!

 

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Thanks for stopping by and wish you all a restful weekend!

A Photo A Week Challenge: At Play

As I have mentioned before, behavioral patterns of my kids are in stark contrast with each others. The older one is still the quieter one, the one that would sit still for longer and play with his toys for hours when he was an infant and a toddler. Which also gave me ample opportunities to take his pictures! My younger one has been a bundle of energy from the very beginning and it has been challenging to photograph her…be still or at play! But my efforts continue! In spite of their differences, however, they are good at playing with each other and that makes for many a wonderful afternoons:) I wish I had some good photos to post but I don’t and at the same time, I did not want to miss out on the challenge this week! So, here I go with this week’s post for Nancy Merrill’s Photography Challenge.

 

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.

A Photo A Day: December ’19-Jan

In the frenzy of bidding 2019 goodbye and all the hoopla that is usually a part of that, I put a hold on my ‘a photo a day’. And now that all that craziness has subsided and we are again back into the usual humdrum, I wanted to share photos from December through today as part of my a photo a day project!. Many of these photos I have already shared as part of various challenges and some on my other posts, but here they are as a collage.

 

 

 

 

Moments big and small make up for this tapestry that we weave everyday. Etched across the pocketbook of our memories, some are soft, some hurt and some make us roll on the floor with laughter. They help us look back into the vignette of the time gone by and remember a particular afternoon. These were my moments. Hope you are sketching in your pocketbook of memories too.

Thanks for stopping by and I wish you all a weekend that lets you do whatever you want to!

Cook, Eat, Repeat Challenge: A Drink to Cherish

                                                   Tea/Chai/Cha:  Call what you will

Thin frozen puddles crackle under my boots and as I have, once again, forgotten to wear the gloves, my hands almost freeze the moment my fingers touch the icy steering. It had rained last night and the below zero temperatures turned the tiny droplets of water into a beautiful work of art, resembling a fern. I quickly get out of the car to take a photo and turn on the wiper to give it a couple of quick swishes and my boy and I are off to school. Winter has made itself comfortable here in New Jersey and while snow days have been few and far in between, the early morning frost has been a regular visitor.

As I drive back home after dropping the kiddo off at school, I suddenly have this urge to make myself a cup of tea the moment I get home..but not the simple one I am used to drinking. I want to sip on a more aromatic version, one that is steeped in milk and sugar and has a hint of ginger and cardamom, giving it that heady smell that easily transports me to some cold evenings in my hometown of Calcutta, railway stations, the joy of stopping at one of the many tea stalls scattered throughout this grand old city for a refreshing sip of the city’s famous ‘bhaar cha(bhaar– Bengali for handmade tea cups that are typically made of clay and have been used for serving ‘cha’ -Bengali for tea, that is sold on the streets throughout India and definitely Calcutta, where Bengali is the native language).

e2fe0202-10e4-447f-b157-a5d19ae2c195This is what bhaars look like in a typical tea stall in Calcutta. Notice some plastic jars to the right of the photo- these usually hold biscuits and other tidbits to accompany the cha that keeps boiling (see the big pan) for as long as the stall remains open to never return a customer. These are rustic road side tea stalls and cater to people from all walks of life. The tea is then poured into kettles like the ones seen here and it goes around filling up these tiny bhaars.

 

I hear from friends and family that bhaars are rapidly disappearing from the streets, railway stations, train cars and even street corners and getting replaced by the awful plastic everywhere in India. My city is no exception but I hear she still perseveres; probably an example of its unshakable love for the quintessential past that gets reflected in the contemporary lifestyle of the youth and creates a unique juxtaposition of tradition and modernity.

Calcutta has been called ‘a city with soul’ (Vir Sangvi) and I couldn’t agree more. Not because it is my city, my birthplace, a place that has seen me through my best and worst and embraced me with a warm hug every time I have visited it in the last 13 years but because it is true. As true as the sun that rises everyday. There is a warmth of emotions that reigns supreme and lets you drown in the genuineness of passion. And the clay cups, the bhaar’s are a testament to that. The often rickety benches at these tea stalls have been a seat of powerful discussions about art and culture, about sports ranging from the gully cricket to that played by the likes of Gavaskar and Viv Richards, about political ideologies that have had people miss their last bus for home. When you walk along the side walks of Calcutta, you might find, in some, such bhaars crunching under your foot. You see, it is said and believed that after slurping on that aromatic concoction, people smash it on the ground to return the clay to the earth from which it was made. I have never done that myself as every tea stall has a bin meant for throwing the bhaars there, but I have surely stepped on broken clay pieces a great number of times. While it does not speak to the ‘keep your city clean’ banners and posters that are seen splashed all over the city, it certainly speaks to the emotional side of bhaar cha lovers.

If you ever visit my beautiful city or any other lovely city in India, you should try sipping on this tea, that aside from being intoxicating, also has an earthy flavor distinctive of its holder that may or may not transport you to the bygone days but which would definitely make you pause a bit. And if you are lucky, you might get to experience that on a rainy day when that earthy smell of the rain will act as the perfect setting for your bhaar cha experience.

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The sweet concoction that is far superior to any chai tea/ masala chai that is sold in the supermarkets and cafes in the Western World and I say this not just out of my love for this! These photos were taken by my brother yesterday of the local tea stall near my parents’ flat in Calcutta. Thank you, my dear brother:)

 

I digress.

The well heated kitchen of our apartment about 8000 miles away from the streets of Calcutta is not a place for that experience. Nor are the cups. But I still made that tea and while it lacked the heady smell of the rain, or that of the kettle that is usually black from being on the stove all day long, as boiling milk and tea pour down the sides, it was satisfying nonetheless. The western world has a version of this tea “the masala chai”or the “chai tea”, but the bhaar cha of Calcutta differs.

So, as I was pondering about what to share with you on my first post at Cook, Eat, Repeat and what to hear from you about, I could not think of anything better than drinks that comfort you, that transport you to a different place maybe, that bring joy to you, that you cherish occasionally. It maybe something that you sip on everyday or something that is reserved for special days. Or something that you stir up with memories from days gone by. It could be anything. Anything that makes you smile.

Please share your own memory, an anecdote or just the recipe of your favorite drink or drinks and let’s all toast to a wonderful New Year!

Here’s the recipe for two cups of Calcutta style ‘bhaar cha’. I must note that there are quite a few versions of this and so to claim that this is THE ‘bhaar cha’ will be incorrect. Many also add cloves and cinnamon.  Tea that is typically sold as “Chai Tea or Masala Tea” here in the Western World  is similar to the more aromatic version with cloves and cinnamon. But this recipe is a much lighter, yet fragrant enough version. I, for one, do not like the smell of clove or cinnamon in my tea and hence always omit those when making myself a cuppa! So, if you are like me too, go ahead and give this a try and I hope you won’t be disappointed.

Here’s how you make it

Serving size – 2 cups
Total Time  –  About 10-12 mins

Ingredients–   Lipton Tea bags: 4

                Water: 1 cup

                 Milk: 1 cup

                 Cardamom: 2 pieces

                 Ginger: a quarter inch, smush it a little with the back of a spoon.

                Sugar: 3 tsps (less or more depending on your sweet tooth)

Method  –  Add water in a saucepan and to it, add the cardamom and ginger. Let it boil on the stove top for 3-4 mins on a low flame so that the flavors from the spices are released. Increase the heat and bring the water to a boil.  This may take another minute or so. Then, add the milk and carefully let it bubble. Add the tea bags (I cut open the tea bags and pour out the tea into the saucepan) and sugar and boil on high for a quick minute till the liquid is almost about to pour out of the pan. Lower the heat and partially cover the pan with a lid and let it simmer for about 3-4 mins. You have to watch it carefully so as not to let the tea spill over and leave you with a very sticky saucepan and stove top. You will notice that the tea might change color from a brown to a darker brown (almost orange-ish). Strain it. Let it cool a bit and taste for sweetness.

You might have to make it a couple of times to get the perfect balance of sweetness from the sugar and the flavor from the spices. Neither should be overpowering!

As I had mentioned previously, this is a version of the Calcutta “bhaar cha” that I prefer…a bit subtle yet flavorful enough to be enjoyed on a cold day:)

I remembered to take a photo only after I had taken quite a few sips!

 

This is a monthly challenge so you will have the whole of January to share anything you like on your favorite drink/s. You are more than welcome to share more than just one drink recipe! I will be posting through the month about drinks that are my favorite and I am looking forward to hearing from you. What’s your favorite cocktail? What do you like to drink after a stressful day? Is there a special drink that is reserved for your most important people? What’s your favorite beverage from your childhood days? What’s your favorite holiday drink? Are you a tea or a coffee person? It can be anything! The recipes don’t necessarily have to be original as long as you share them with due permission from whose the original recipe is/ share the link to the blog/website you are sharing the recipe from.

Here’s how to participate…pretty much standard stuff!

  • Create your own post with your recipe, story, photosanything that you might wish to share that represents the theme of the month.
  • Create a pingback (link to this post) or maybe leave a link in the comment section.
  • Join whenever you can!
  • Visit some of the other posts shared.

Cheers and thanks for stopping by!

 

Of untold tales

Every house has a story or two. And stories often remain untold.

Stories about…

“…empty cane chairs on the balcony of the family house that no longer sees people. The paint on the walls outside have started to chip in places while spider webs are the only artwork inside. The reading glasses of its inhabitants remain on the table, next to the open book that was just being read…or so it would seem. The sarees remain folded neatly in the almirah and the dishes in the kitchen neatly kept away. Legal complications have left this house in limbo, unloved un-lived and un-cared. This house does not care if a year ends or another begins. Time has stood still here from a couple of winters ago when, cocooned in her blanket, the old lady peacefully passed away in her sleep.”

 

“…summers that have always been awful in that part of the country. Sweat trickled down the face in rivulets and the heat almost suffocated you. The glare of the mid morning sun sliced through the bamboo shades and water from the earthen pitchers provided the only respite from the sweltering days. The courtyard in the center of the house cracked from the heat and one would have to sprint across it if the bathroom, at the other end, had to be used. But in another corner the mango, papaya, and guava trees provided a shade that would easily calm down the uneasiness and the sweet smelling bel phool (bel flower: a type of the jasmine flower that is native to tropical Asia) would make one linger around the shade for several minutes. The querulous call of the crows would occasionally break the eerie silence that prevailed on such afternoons, both inside and outside the walls. As ceiling fans whirled overhead and circulated the heady aroma of the paan (betel leaves), people enjoyed their siesta, almost oblivious of the stifling heat. From its bare bones today, it it would be hard to tell that in its prime, it nurtured life with love that was rare. It has stories that if told would surely embrace the listener in a warm and exhilarating hug.”

 

“…a small well that stood at the entrance of the two story house and one would have to maneuver with care when passing it or the chances of getting one’s shoes wet were high in the puddles that were to be found at all times of the day. The long verandah with the wooden chair at one corner had seen many a special moments like people bursting out in cheer (and some in anger) as they watched the soccer World Cup back in 1986 when Argentina won a crucial match by the ‘Hand of God’. It had been witness, not once but a couple of times, to a lone langur that would often seat himself on that chair, and hold up the newspaper that would usually be found on the table right next to it and spend sometime ‘reading’ that. Where the langur came from and where it disappears to, was another story the house could tell. It could also share one of its favorite memories which was that of the owners’ nine grandchildren posing for a photograph on the steps of the attic. That old house with the well has been taken down and a grand flat stands in its place where there is no well to be maneuvered.”

 

Another year ends in a day and with that we add, or at least hope to add, another year to our lives. We live another year to tell stories that have remained untold. We live to cherish the past more and weave memories from the present for the future. Let’s make sure we keep telling stories that matter, that make people heard and that remember those who no longer are there to share their stories.

Thanks for stopping by.