Skywatch Friday… My Chennai

Though this year I havent travelled as much as I would have liked to, it has been quite an interesting one at that.  Here is one last post before 2015 swishes past..and what better way to end the year than by showing off to the world the beauty I call home, Chennai! 
I clicked these pictures today, about an hour ago as I rode to the meeting.  These are photographs of the Ripon Building and the heritage building that is right next to it.. There is Metro work going on which blocks half these, but they stand tall and majestic!! Good to see my city back on its feet and regale as always!! 
Happy New year to all !! Here’s to an awesome year ahead.. 

For more beautiful skies, visit Skywatch Friday … 

Dear Diary, memories linger

Dear Diary

I know, I know, this year too is drawing to an end and today is the last day… Gosh, where did the time go? Everyday was quite difficult, challenging, painful even and now all I am left with are memories…

Today while on the road, the cab had a pic of Velankanni Mother and that brought back so many memories. I realised I should send them a cheque and a letter, maybe even mention Thatha’s passing away. If there was one God he believed in outside of our Hindu Gods, it was to the Mother. An incident changed his belief decades ago and since then overtime someone would fall ill, go through a big transition, he would instantly and silently send a cheque and a letter seeking blessings.  The letter was scribbled on his letterpad and put in an envelope that had a stamp on it and shipped out. Few days later he would receive an envelope from Velankani with a Mother’s Photo and a letter saying his request has been placed at the Mother’s feet and wishes were with him. 
Sigh.. in another month it would be a year since he left us.. Everytime I walk into the front room, I half wait for him to come out in his veshti smelling of viboodi with a big smile on his face asking me if i wanted anything. There would be times when he would come give me money and say “keep it, you keep spending for the house”. And then there would be times when I would be working or on the phone and he would barge in and say something, oblivious to what I was doing.. Yes, there were times that were frustrating cos he dint understand boundaries and space, but then  now I actually miss them. we would be at logger heads more often than not, there would be verbal battles, arguments, disagreements but at the end of the day none of it mattered. 
Whenever I travelled, gramma would call daily to ask how I was doing. And when I come back, she would be like “your thatha kept saying the house is too quiet”.. 
What a difference a single person makes…. 
OK, ok, signing off before I go all teary eyed and melt in a puddle.. Well, here’s hoping 2016 is better, and brings forth many new challenges and ventures… 
See you soon
Adios
Me

Mountbatten Mani Iyer canteen at Vidya Bharati Kalyana Mandapam

It was Saturday, the day after Christmas.. I had decided to give Sabha Lunch a shot. Waited for the clock to chime 9:30 [cos that is when puliyogare travels would share the menu ] to decide where to head. Each sabha [hall] has a different caterer and there are meals from Breakfast, lunch, evening tiffin and dinner as well. So, it was such a treat for people here to go explore the treats across the sabhas during the one month. This is a trend that has picked up over the last few years, earlier the sabhas were renowned just for their evening snacks. Now, there are people who go to a sabha not for the concert but for the food.. ;o) 
Coming back, I saw the menu shared [ the toss was between Music Academy and Vidya Bharati Mandapam], asked a friend if she wanted to join in for Mountbatten Mani Iyer canteen‘s sappaad at Vidya Bharati Kalyana Mandayam and she agreed.Mount Sreenivasan of the famous Mountbatten Mani Iyer canteen is the man behind this company.. Few minutes later mom called asking about something, and I mentioned this plan and instantly she said she too shall join us! So, the plan was made and excitement was building. 
We landed at Vidya Bharathi Kalyana Mandayam close to 1pm, it is tucked away in a narrow lane and was quite an adventure getting there. While I waited for the friend, mom went and checked out the menu. I then went ahead and picked up three lunch coupons and made a beeline for the empty chairs. 

The menu for the day was [right side column],

The food was piping hot, and though it was weird eating on a banana leaf somewhere outside of a wedding/function, it was a good experience. I bumped into a few familiar faces, also saw how people came in groups and alone to enjoy this meal. Food was served at a good pace, there was repeat requests and servings. The meal was quite filling and for the 1st time in my life the leaf was clean when I got up . We also grabbed a cup of coffee to finish off the meal.
Priced at Rs275 it was total Value for money… 

Mamagoto Comes to Chennai

Founded in January 2010 in Delhi, Mamagoto literally translated from Japanese means “to play with food”, and that is the very ethos of the concept – to make Asian eating fun, unpretentious and casual. So it was quite exciting to see the sigh board Mamagoto” on Khader Nawaz Khan road..  
I have heard quite a few rave reviews about this place from friends- the signature bowls, robata grill, asian salads, dim sum, wok dishes and curries – experimental flavours from China, Thailand, Japan and South East Asian combine with the super quirky manga inspired graphic design decor. Here in Chennai, they had quite a quirky interior design, colourful vibrant and one that has you looking all around, including the ceiling. Oh and I loved the mason jar lighting above the fruit juice bar.. Wonder if they will serve alcohol in the coming days/months?!
There is also the teppanyaki grill that makes it’s debut in Chennai,located at the far end of the restaurant with a few chairs along the counter. 





I havent eaten at this restaurant and so was very open to the experience. The food was beautiful- pan asian flavours which I have come to love.. some of the dips were quite spicy, one intact was a red chilli paste which all of us took a liberal spoonful of thinking it was sweet garlic chilli paste, only to have our tongues on fire.. 😀 

I went ahead and asked for a Wasabi Mary [a twist on Bloody Mary] while the guys ordered different drinks. We tried some of their starters- including the lotus stem dish which was wow.. That apart there was also a mixed vegetable tempura of sorts, which was crispy and light.

As the evening wore on, we decided to try some of their signature bowl dishes- one was a vegetarian Thai rice and curry which was outstanding. I loved the spices and flavours. We also had the Flat noodles, which was steaming hot and packed a punch. A friend kept talking about a fun menu they have in Bangalore. But when we spoke to the lady who was the Food Director, she said they have done away with the menu and might just introduce a few unique dishes into the menu to see how the response is and take it from there.

Moving on to desserts, we tried two desserts- the Banoffee pie which just blew us away so much that we asked for a 2nd serving.For someone not too fond of bananas, I couldn’t stop eating this one. The Soft warm sponge cake with sauce was also amazing.

We left the place with a promise to return and explore their menu some more.. For now, all i can say is Pan Asian[ esp Thai Flavours] is my kind of food and so this restaurant sits right on top with my other favourites. 
Address: 
Mamagoto
Shop No. 9, Khader Nawaz Khan Road, Nungambakkam, Chennai 

Meal for two – Rs 1200- 1500

For Reservations call: 044 33999610

https://www.facebook.com/MamagotoFunAsian/

When the going gets tough, the tough gets going…Chennai floods -III

When the going gets tough, the tough gets going…Chennai floods -I

When the going gets tough, the tough gets going…Chennai floods -II

As mentioned in both these posts, I relied heavily towards the Online world during the recent floods.. There was no news that was right or accurate elsewhere… Here is an article I wrote for DNA based on the same..

Next time someone tells me “you are spending too much time online” I shall give them OTS [one tight slap]. Why? Well, that is how awesome the online world has been the past few weeks. When the rains hit Chennai late November, I was following the action across the city via Twitter and then I discovered the forums on Facebook- Tamilnadu Flood- Support and Chennai Rains relief group. Soon after I found #chennairains and #chennairainshelp on Twitter. I live in Chetpet, an area that wasn’t too affected, so after I was done making sure our household help were taken of, I headed out to buy some pedigree, biscuits and bread and fed every possible stray that I found. I have also been leaving food and milk out daily, a couple of times along the streets in my area. I sent out about 20kg bags of rice, and 40 kgs of dal to a relief camp yesterday. For the dogs, I sent out bread, food, bowls, newspapers as well..
On the second day, I began connecting people who had relief materials with those in need, helping update the Google doc that had been put together and that is how the ball rolled. Teamed up with a best friend, Radha Srinivasan and her husband Jaishankar, we put a plan to collect material from all over the city and head out to see who needed what. Twitter was a big help in this. We tracked, we hunted and we went out into knee-deep water to give people basic necessities, food and everything else we thought they needed- clothes, medicines (especially for fever, headaches and Cybol for fungal infections), blankets, mats, juices, milks (tetra pack), water and soaps as well. 
Day before yesterday, we loaded their Ertiga with these items – 300 packets of food, equal number of water, some clothes, medicines and headed out towards the OMR area. There we found the Fathima Child welfare centre- with about 100 kids, and gave them water. A kid from one centre took us to their two other shelters, where we distributed more stuff. On a whim, we decided to drive down and find more places to help. We found Tsunami colony [road opp TCS], Chemmenenchery and gave out nearly 300 packets of biscuits, water and food packets. We also nearly got mobbed there, but managed to survive. We heard later that there were nearly 20,000 people inside and that some hadn’t received any relief. So we put a team together. 

Article source: http://www.dnaindia.com/india/comment-chennai-rains-how-the-social-media-helped-chennaites-reach-out-to-people-in-distress-2153424

Food is all that matters- Chennai Floods IV

“Thani oru manithanukku unavu illai enil jagathinai erithiduvom”  said Bharathiar.. 

[Meaning- If there is no food available for even one individual, we will destroy this world.]

How true! 

During the weeks when it poured like there was no tomorrow, the only thing on everybody’s mind was “do we have adequate drinking water and food”.. The bunch of us who were working on providing relief were also focussed on the same thing! We realised, people might be stranded, might not have power, phones were down, so was internet, but the one thing we all needed was clean drinking water and three meals a day.. 

The two weeks was sheer madness, figuring out who was doing food packets,who was collecting water packets/bottles. All we did was run from pillar to post, collecting as much of these as possible and getting it to people who were stranded. 

A friend of mine who lives in Pallikaranai, one of the severely affected area said he got food courtesy a chopper one noon. I can’t even imagine what it must have been like. And then there were others struggling with little ones and no milk/biscuits/bread even..

We saw people make a grab for anything they could get their hands on. The minute they saw a car or truck come by, they knew it was relief materials and would attack instantly. People fought, there were words exchanged, children who came to pick up stuff were getting squished. 

One of those days when we were on OMR, we discovered Fathima Child Welfare centre, the place had a good 2-3 ft water. The lady in charge, came out in that to meet us at the gate. She told us they got lunch courtesy the local counsellor but they had three centres in all and did not have enough water or other things, including medicines.  We gave her a bag of water, some medicines,and sanitary pads as well .. One of the kids from that centre was sent to show us the way to their other two centres, and he was one spunky kid. Said hot food was sent over daily, and he had been there for a few months now.. There were little ones at one centre, where we gave quite a few biscuit packets.. There were teen girls who sheepishly took the sanitary pad packets, some refused to come out and had friends picking up stuff for them. 

There were moms in some areas who were happy to pile in as many biscuit packets as possible, and some even gabbed the Glucose boxes we had. They said there were few old people who were zero on strength and this would help them..

Food packets given by a team in Anna nagar.. 

Relief material at Hyatt Regency 

Just 10% of what we loaded that particular day.. we were all to track in this lorry but it was overloaded with stuff that we drove in cars..


While it made us happy to help people, we also noticed a few being rowdies. They would take food packets, inspect the content and either chuck this to eat the one they had received earlier or chuck that and eat this… Biryani over lime rice.. you get the drift… and one or two were trying the sell the food packets they got to people who had no energy to make it to the trucks.. we also stumbled upon a few who graciously turned us down saying they had already received food, and asked if we had few other times..  

Another interesting moment to be shared is – we had hired this lorry and had gone to give out relief material.. Friend, her husband , son & I were in one SUV.. We had stopped in one place, loaded stuff onto the cars and went to distribute. The kid saw the lorry driver pick up a food packet and dig in.. few minutes he grabbed a bottle of water when loading and gulped it down.. this continued through the day. The kid got peeved. He kept saying “how can he just like that take and eat/drink.. not done… “. We smiled and told him “its ok, as long as hungry soul is fed, we are doing good..”

Tough times teach you to survive, it also teaches you it is survival of the fittest.. 

Well,all said and done, the relief centres were all whipping out food packets and relief materials by the millions.. each packet hopefully reached the hungry souls, giving them hope to get through the day!! 

The other posts in the Chennai flood series can be read here,
When the going gets tough, the tough gets going…Chennai floods -I

When the going gets tough, the tough gets going…Chennai floods -II

When the going gets tough, the tough gets going…Chennai floods -III

When the going gets tough, the tough gets going…Chennai floods -II

I did what I knew best.. took to the online world, which is where I got all information from and where requests/updated flowed faster than the #Chennairains.. 
I began sharing updates, images and videos from home and around… But the one thing I stayed away from was sharing pictures of people receiving relief. Now, this is something I don’t understand.. People want to see others come begging for relief/for help.. what kind of sadistic pleasure do you get by that is something that beats me!  Yes, we did have a few donors ask for photographs as proof of their funds being rightfully used, but here too we clicked pictures only of relief material, the lorry and things like that. It was never of people actually receiving them.. We have no idea what they are going through, what has driven them to literally putting their arms out and begging for things. So, it is not right to take pictures of them taking the materials. 
During one relief distribution outing to Tsunami Colony, Chemmenchery, I was chit chatting with a people around there. A girl looked at and said “akka, ethavathu velai irundha sollunga”. I then asked her “have you worked somewhere, what have you done?” And she replied “we have completed Bcom and are stuck here”. They used to live in Perambur, but their house burnt down and the Government relocated them here to the houses in this colony… Felt so helpless and depressed.  This is just one story… there are so many… Shall share them in coming posts..just to give you an idea of what the floods did to the amazing folks in our city… 
Here are a few posts I shared on Instagram…

When the going gets tough, the tough gets going…Chennai floods -I

When
the going gets tough, the tough gets going…
Well
this is a song I love and true to the lyrics, I saw the city of Chennai come
together during the recent rains. I know a lot has been written and said about
this deluge… But I wanted to do a series on my blog where I share my personal
experiences. This blog was born few days ago, but have been overwhelmed and just unable to get to it… 

Had
it been a few years ago, I would have just stayed at home, and enjoyed the
rains, worried about power cuts and whether stores would be open…  But now I realised I have changed. I was
restless from Day 1, I was online checking on updates. I discovered #chennairainshelp
and #chennairains and decided to get on board, and kick into action.
I
would share posts, I would verify numbers and requests, update people on what
was happening and so much more. I also received tonnes of requests from others
asking me to help trace their loved ones, or send relief to inundated areas. It
was heart breaking. Most cases the phone lines were down, and that is when we realized
Whatsapp calls worked, and I started using that mode to reach out.
Apart
from these, I joined hands with few other friends who were keen on helping out.
We started gathering momentum, invited volunteers, scouted for places with supplies
and thus began our journey towards getting our city back on its feet.
Alongside
sourcing materials for people, I began collecting food and utilities for our 4
legged friends. I began feeding the strays on my road and neighborhood. People
at home were constantly wondering what kept me out even when it was pouring,
but that did not stop me.. I also sent out messages to my circles, inviting
donations and resources.

Today when I look back, am amazed at how people came forth instantly ready to
help.. My uncle in Delhi connected me to a friend of his sending stuff from Bangalore,
my other uncle in USA connected me to his friend who was doing some relief and
wanted some help. And then there were cousins and friends abroad who were
itching to help but did not know how. They sent me money that I used to buy
materials. Best part was they did not question me on what I did with their
contributions.
Another
guy I had connected with on Facebook sent a message that his dad was bringing
quite a bit of medicines, was old and so requested if I could have them picked
up. I sent out a message and one guy from my team went and collected them.
I
could go on and on… The days have rolled on, the rains have stopped, the
streets have dried up [ except for a few] but we are still at it… Am still working
with friends sending out relief materials, teams and information.. It has been
one of the most distressing times, but glad to have contributed a teeny bit…
To
be continued..