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Category: India

Chennai MTC Bus
October 28th, 2016 by Srinivas Krishnaswamy
A Crowded MTC Bus - Via Peter Haden / Flickr

A Crowded MTC Bus – Via Peter Haden / Flickr

The MTC bus is the lifeblood of Chennai, but…

The MTC (Metropolitan Transport Corporation) Bus is to Chennai what the Indian railways is to India! The ubiquitous MTC bus that hogs every major street and lanes in Chennai serve over 5 Million people every day! With over 4000 buses in its fleet, the MTC bus provides cheap transportation to all corners of this huge metropolis.

If you are a woman and new to the city, you will find it intimidating to board the MTC for various reasons.

Most buses are crowded and are packed like sardines in a tin can. The oppressively humid weather exasperates the challenge of boarding a bus and making it out of it alive!

There are way too many services and the associated acronyms that can drive  you crazy. LSS, Cut Services, M Services, PP Service to name a few.

You will be lucky to find information about bus timings or routes at the bus stop. Bus route and timing posters are probably hidden under some politicians face or washed away in the rains.

If you seek help from others, you will get a mix of conflicting responses that range from people sharing wrong information with supreme confidence or unwanted questions about where you are going!

Of course, women will have to deal with unwanted stares, catcalls, or groping in crowded buses.

MTC bus seating etiquette for women

Assuming you have done your homework about MTC buses and have decided to take the plunge, you will have the option to either squeeze yourself in with no chance of ever parking yourself in a seat or (if you are lucky) you may have to choose the right place to sit down.

While we don’t believe there can be any specific strategy for squeezing yourself into a crowded bus that’s miraculously riding on half the total number of wheels available at the driver’s command, you have the option to strategise the choice of a seat in case you find one.

Before we dive into our specific strategies for choosing a seat when riding the MTC bus, it is important you understand the typical layout of the MTC bus.

MTC Bus Layout

As you can see from the above image, ladies have fewer seats to occupy compared to that of men. That’s hardly surprising.

However, seats meant for ladies or men are subject to “occupation” by the either sex. It is not uncommon to see some thick-skinned men taking over a seat on the women’s side of the bus!

However, the segregation of seats based on gender works in most MTC buses.

What to do when you have a vacant seat (yes, miracles do happen)? 

If you have a vacant seat on the left side of the bus (meant for women passengers), take it even if you have empty seats on the other side. This is the easiest scenario and you will probably never encounter it in your lifetime unless you get into the bus before it starts the trip or take a late night trip.

If you find that all seats are taken by other women on the left side of the bus and you have vacant seats on the right side of the bus (aka driver side), here is what you need to do:

1. Approach the empty seat.

2. If there is no one at the seat (usually they seat two people), you are in luck. Just take the seat and make yourself comfortable.

If there is a guy already occupying a seat, you need to keep in mind the following:

Some guys will try to sit in the middle of the seat and spread their legs as wide as they can to discourage anyone from sitting next to them.

If you find a guy doing this, walk up to the seat and say “Anna” and at the same time gesture with your hand to signal your intention to take a seat next to him.

Most men will be happy to give you the space to sit and you don’t even have to say anything in Tamil other than “Anna” (Anna is “brother” in Tamil).

Here is how it works.

MTC Bus Seating

Some tips before you rush in to take the seat:

1. Purchase your tickets with the conductor who is has a cozy little seat for himself at the back of the bus. A typical conductor in an MTC bus is no different from a potted plant. He won’t move an inch.

2. Avoid the last row of seats in the bus at all costs even if you find a seat there. It’s meant exclusively for people who enjoy abrupt and sharp vertical motion. Not a great place to seat yourself after a meal.

3. Some women are accommodating and will make space for a third person to sit in a two seater! If you are on the leaner end of the body size spectrum, your chances of getting a partial seat are high. Remember to make eye contact and smile if you hope to squeeze in as the third person.

Pros and cons of sitting in the aisle seat or the window seat

If you know the bus will get crowded further along in the journey and you know where exactly you want to get down, take the window seat. This way when the bus gets crowded nobody can fall on you or misbehave under the pretext of lack of space!

MTC Bus

Your Anna will become a natural protective barrier for you against unwanted advances by MTC Bus Romeos, you are safe from the antics of perverts and molesters, and you can get lost in your own world as the bus makes it way to your destination.

But the window seat is not always the best option!

If you know that the bus will be relatively less crowded for the rest of your journey, always pick the aisle seat. Believe me, you don’t want to ruin your hair and bathe your face in carbon monoxide, sulfur, and other pollutants!

We have identified the dangers you are exposed to when you sit in the window seat and the below chart has all the gory details.

MTC Bus

That’s the price you pay for the relative safety of your window seat.

Let’s say you take the aisle seat, you are relatively better insulated from the pollution outside but not completely insulated. We have excluded air-conditioned MTC buses as the chances of finding one is pretty slim.

There are dangers lurking inside the bus as well and the below image has the details.

MTC Bus

 

Let’s say you take the only empty seat on the right side of the bus, and then during the course of your trip you find empty places opening up on the left side of the bus – move over to the other side. If you don’t move, you are taking away a seat from a man!

If you don’t move, you are taking away a seat from a man!

Tips for women electing to sit next to a man

1. If you smell booze, stay away. Hell, even sober men don’t go near drunk men on MTC buses.

2. Sometimes the pain of standing is worth the trouble especially when the bus is not all that crowded on a hot, sticky, summer day in Chennai. Remember, not all men use deodorant and the weather in Chennai is not forgiving.

3. Men do misbehave with women and groping is not all that uncommon. Keep a close watch and pay attention.

4. Men will stare at you. But, as long as they keep the distance, you don’t have to worry.

Go ahead, put all our techniques to practice when you take the MTC bus. After a couple of trips, your apprehension about boarding the MTC bus will soon fade away (just like the signs posted in the bus shelters) and you will soon appreciate the way the fearless drivers of MTC buses navigate their vehicles through crowded intersections without caring for the bright red light ahead.

Featured image via Eric Parker / Flickr.



Posted in Humour, India Tagged with: , ,

Indian wedding sweets
July 25th, 2016 by Srinivas Krishnaswamy

Indian wedding sweets

Significance of traditional Indian wedding sweets

Indian wedding sweets are the torch bearers of traditions and play a key role in setting the stage for families to come together. While we are all familiar with popular desserts like laddu, peda, jalebi, to name a few, we decided it’s time to bring to focus traditional Indian sweets that may not be as popular, yet considered a key component of Indian wedding ceremonies.

According to the book, Sweet Invention – History of Dessert by Michael Krondl, Indian wedding sweets carry forward the tradition of marking life’s key events with elaborate desserts. From birth to death, every stage of life is celebrated with desserts.

Traditionally, all Indian desserts are made on top of a stove, whether steamed, simmered, boiled in syrup, toasted, pan fried, or deep fried, or sometimes a combination of all these techniques!

Indian wedding sweets and desserts (in general) require a great deal of precision, technique, and labour. Making it on a large scale for wedding guests is not a joke.

Indian wedding sweets bring together simple ingredients to symbolise the union of families. The way some of the desserts are presented (cones, round balls, flat cakes) have religious significance as well.

Let’s take a closer look at 11 traditional Indian wedding sweets from all corners of India.

1. Paruppu Thengai Cones

 

Image Credits - Sri Sai Alamelu Catering Services

Image Credits – Sri Sai Alamelu Catering Services

The Paruppu Thengai Koodu is always the at the centre of every auspicious ceremony in Tamil Nadu and several other states in India. It translates to “lentils coconut cone” and is usually made of lentils, coconut, and jaggery stuffed in decorated metal cones. However, there are several variations in the recipe. This includes fried gram dal dipped in sugar syrup, Mysore pak, laddu, or candied cashew.

It is said that the cones represent Shiva and Parvathi and the shape is said to channel positive energy for special occasions.

2. Paal Ada Pradamam

Indian wedding sweets

Image Credits – Kothiyavunu.com

Pradamam forms an integral part of the Kerala cuisine. One of the recipes served at wedding feasts, and during festivals such as Onam, is the Pradamam (payasam) to signify the end of the meal. The word ‘pradamam’ means the first one. Hence the Ada Pradamam is called as such since it is No.1 among the payasams.

In Malayalee cuisine, there are different kinds of this Indian wedding sweet, namely Chakka Pradamam made from jackfruit pulp and Ada Pradamam made from flat ground rice. The ingredients are rice flour (made into flakes), milk, sugar, water, cardamom, ghee, cashew nuts, and raisins. The trick in making the authentic Paal Ada Pradamam is getting the rice flakes right.

3. Obbattu

Indian wedding sweets

Image Credits: Ganesh Dutta / Wikipedia

Obbattu is a type of Indian sweet flatbread popular in the state of Karnataka. It is known by other names in southern states and is served in most south Indian weddings. The main ingredients for Obattu are maida, cooking oil, salt, turmeric and water to make the dough. There are two types of this Indian wedding sweet – one using lentils (Bele Obbattu) and the other using coconut (Kayi Obbattu).

In North India, Obbattu is known as Puran Poli. A recipe for puran poli is mentioned in Manasollasa, a 12th century Sanskrit encyclopaedia compiled by Someshvara III, who ruled from the present-day Karnataka.

4. Shrikhand

Indian wedding sweets

Image credits: Rob Wicks, Eat Pictures

Among the many milk-based Indian wedding sweets, Shrikhand is the king of wedding sweets in western states such as Maharashtra and Gujarat. This sweet is so popular that even Amul sells it throughout India.

In the book, Handbook of Fermented Functional Foods, Shrikhand is said to have been called Shikhrini in ancient Sanskrit literature. In fact, Shrikhand is said to have been made in Karnataka region as early as 1700 AD!

Need dessert ideas for your wedding reception? Check out Pinterest for a mouthwatering parade of sweets for Indian wedding reception.

5. Gur Paare

Indian wedding sweets

Image Credits: Archana’s kitchen

Indian wedding sweets make use of different types of sweeteners. Jaggery is one of them and The Punjabi Gur Paare which is made of sugar and jaggery is a staple wedding sweet in Punjab state. Jaggery is a rich source of iron and according to Ayurveda, jaggery is a wholesome sugar that is beneficial to health. Be warned, Gur Paare is addictive! Who wouldn’t like to munch on a bowl of candied biscuits?

6. Shahi Tukra

Indian wedding sweets

Image Credits – Fawad Ahmed, Dawn

Shahi Tukda, as the name suggests, means royal dessert. It’s an exotic rich bread pudding with lots of fruits flavoured with cardamom. This dessert is said to have become popular during the Mughal era.

Shahi Tukda is made by frying the bread pieces in oil and then dipped in sweetened milk. This Indian wedding sweet is then soaked in a rose/saffron flavoured sugar syrup and pouring the rabdi or sweet milk sauce over it. It can be garnished with edible silver foil, nuts, and cardamom powder.

7. Sandesh

Indian wedding sweet

Image Credits – Foodviva.com

Sandesh is a Bengali dessert created with milk and sugar. This Indian wedding sweet is mentioned in medieval Bengali literature, including Krittibas’s Ramayana and the lyrics of Chaitanya. The ingredients for this original dish is not known.

The best part of making Sandesh is that you can choose the type of flavours you want, and most importantly the sweetness levels. There are many different varieties of Sandesh, namely plain Sandesh, Gurer Sandesh, Norom Paker Sandesh, Kora Paker Sandesh, Paker Gurer Sandesh, to name a few.

8. Pitha

Indian Wedding Sweets

Image Credits -Mohammed Tawsif Salam / Wikipedia

Pitha is a popular Indian wedding sweet among the eastern states of Orissa, Assam, Bengal, and Bihar. Pitha is made from rice flour or wheat flour and is stuffed with coconut, cashews, pistachios, jaggery to name a few. Considering the fact that Pitha is similar to a dim sum (steamed or fried), savoury Pithas are also popular.

Check out these Indian wedding sweet ideas if you want to look at alternatives to traditional Indian wedding sweets!

9. Malpua

Indian wedding sweets

Image Credits – Sallusfood.com

Malpua is a fried Indian wedding sweet that is popular in North Indian weddings. The sweet has a pan-India presence and is also popular in Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Malpua traces its roots to Apupa, a sweet preparation from the Vedic period. This dessert was made with barley flour which was either fried in ghee or boiled in water and then dipped in honey.

10.  Chhena Jhili

Indian wedding sweets

Image Credits – Subhashish Panigrahi / Wikipedia

Chhena Jhili is an Odissi sweet prepared in fried cottage cheese and sugar syrup. It originated in Shyam Sundarpur village of Nimapada in Puri district and was created by Aarta Sahoo. The original recipe is a family secret!food lovers

However, the key ingredients are paneer, whole milk, hung curd, maida, sugar, wheat flour, cardamom powder, and ghee. Eaten hot, the soft, juicy cheesiness against the backdrop of a little hint of cardamom-y sweetness is divine.

11. Kulfi

Indian wedding sweets

Image Credits – Kalaiselve Murugesan / Wikipedia

Among all the traditional Indian wedding sweets, Kulfi can be considered as a dessert that is popular in all corners of India. Kulfi is the original Indian ice cream. It is believed that Kulfi became popular during the reign of Mughal emperors.

Kulfi (meaning metal cone in Persian) was made with evaporated milk, sweetened and garnished with pistachio and saffron, and immersed in ice after pouring the contents inside a metal cup.

What about the popular laddu?

History of laddu

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Posted in Food, India, Marriage Tagged with: ,

Indian summer
May 30th, 2016 by Srinivas Krishnaswamy

Indian summer

Indian summer is a state of mind!

Summer in India is getting hotter every year. However, nothing takes away from the fact that the Indian summer is what defines our collective memory. Every grown adult in India will fondly cherish the unique food, sights, and scenes that define the Indian summer. Nobody remembers the heat anyways!

“Hot weather opens the skull of a city, exposing its white brain, and its heart of nerves, which sizzle like the wires inside a lightbulb. And there exudes a sour extra-human smell that makes the very stone seem flesh-alive, webbed and pulsing.”Truman Capote.

While we cannot match Truman Capote in his rather imaginative description of summer, we have lined up 11 amazing artwork showcased on Dribbble and Behance to give you a glimpse of the essence of Indian summer. We encourage you to click on the images to find out more about the artists and their work.

1. Gathering under a Peepal tree

Indian summer

Illustration by Seerow.com

Villiage life in India revolves around gathering places like the temple or the peepal tree. On a warm summer day, the peepal tree provides a cool, shady place for the villagers to gossip or conduct the village council meetings. The artwork here was created for a consumer brand yet it captures the contemporary Indian village where modern influences are creeping in. If you notice carefully, you will see a smattering of Peepal leaves on the top of the image.

2. Dusk brings relief to a village

Indian summer

Anil Saxena on Behance

Villages across India look forward to summer and it is around this time that they would have harvested their crops and are flush with money. However, no amount of romantic notions we harbor of summer in Indian villages take away from the fact that men and women have to perform back-breaking work in the hot sun. This artwork is a clever amalgamation of images into one awesome picture! Click on the image to learn about the technique used by the artist (digital composting) to create this masterpiece.

3. Every Indian summer is synonymous with vacations

Indian summer

Contemporary Pattachitra painting by SCD Balaji

No Indian summer is without the obligatory trip to the hill station or a visit to the grandparent’s house. Nowadays, more and more families or visiting fancy resorts or exotic foreign locations as well. The idea of a summer trip is probably more romantic than the trip itself. The artwork shows a rather colorful couple with cool motifs and travel gear we will die for! This work was inspired by the Pattachitra style painting from Odisha. Pattachitra is considered to be a 1000-year-old art form and usually depicts colorful deities on a canvas. Click on the image to read more about the artist and his work.

4. Oranges and Indian summer are made for each other

Indian summer

Ollin on Dribbble

While no Indian summer is complete without the mangoes, oranges definitely occupy a prime place during summers in India. India is one of the largest producers of orange and the country houses over 1500 varieties of this fruit! When you go out to the market or get down from a bus, you will definitely find at least one street cart selling oranges. That’s not all, no Indian summer is complete with the ubiquitous orange squash! If you are visiting your friend or family member on a hot summer day, brace yourself for the cold, sugary, orange squash.

5. Summer circus spectacle!

Indian summer

Betit Group on Dribbble

Life in India was less complicated before the smartphones, televisions, and Internet hijacked our lives. In most towns and villages, the circus was a prime attraction in summer. How do you know you had the circus in town? They usually have a powerful spotlight beam illuminating the night sky and they also had mobile ad vans inviting everyone to attend the show. This artwork is a beautiful, cliched, and funny representation of what you might not actually see.

6. Indian summer and the Indian family

Indian summer

Shylesh on Dribbble

The best memories from childhood are summers and spending time with the grandparents during summer holidays. As joint-families are waning, grandparents look forward to meeting their grandkids and children love to be pampered. With no school or classes to attend to (if you ignore the zealous parents who are hell bent on keeping children busy with summer classes or summer camps), the bond between the children and their grandparents takes root with every summer vacation.

7. Summer travel and food – the dynamic duo!

Indian summer

Riya Mahajan on Behance

Romantic train journeys during summer are complete only when you taste the local cuisine and food items from the hard to ignore hawkers at every railway station across the length and breadth of the country. This amazing artwork chronicles the food items that you will come across when you travel from Mumbai to Madgaon. Click no the image to learn more about the artwork.

8. No Indian summer is complete without the gola cart!

Indian summer

Ranganath Krishnamani on Dribbble

If there is one thing that is not good for you, but you enjoy it anyways, it’s the colorful shaved ice sold by street vendors. Indian summer is not complete without stopping to enjoy the obligatory roadside sin! This artist has created a jaw-dropping illustration of the “gola cart” that will bring back moments of pure bliss you might have enjoyed smack in the middle of a scorching Indian summer. Click on the image to learn more.

9. The sweet sugarcane juice stall

Indian summer

Ranganath Krishnamani on Dribbble

A far healthier alternative to the gola cart is the sugarcane juice. You will notice that this cart has a motor to drive the presser. But this was not the case in the past. The juicer was powered by the vendor or his family members! The giant wheels had a handle and the juice was literally hand pressed.

10. The tender coconut seller on the beach

dribbble_coconutseller

Ranganath Krishnamani on Dribbble

Moving on to a healthier option to deal with the Indian summer, check out the amazing artwork of a vendor selling coconuts. You will find them even now going around the town on a hot summer day. Their sturdy cycles seem to defy physics to lug around three dozen heavy coconuts with the sickle neatly slotted into the handlebar. Click on the image to find out more about the artist.

11. Indian summer is IPL time!

Indian summer

Ankur Patar on Behance

Last but not the least, Indian summers and cricket are brothers in arms. What do children do during summer holidays? They play cricket! With IPL dominating the summer season in India, cricket will probably rank among the top entertainment options available for Indians in the summer. This artwork shows Dhoni wielding his bat nonchalantly. Just look closely at the background as well.

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Posted in Food, India, Lifestyle Tagged with: ,

Girl from a small town
May 9th, 2016 by Srinivas Krishnaswamy

Small town girlSmall Town Girls Are Underrated!

Are you considering marrying a girl from a small town? Chances are you are going through an arranged marriage and your family has shortlisted a small town girl.

Some city dwellers in India have an attitude problem when it comes to small town India. While there is no scientific study on this topic, here are some of the comments I have heard my family and friends say about people from small town India.

She has absolutely no exposure to the outside world! I am not sure who will ever give her a job. 

Hey, do you know how to use this escalator?

That’s a “finger bowl” for washing your hands. Don’t drink it!

In short, someone is considered less sophisticated because English doesn’t roll out of their tongues or they wear traditional clothes. The general lack of “modern” edifices that dot urban India such as shopping malls, multiplexes, hang-out spots, traffic lights (that nobody cares to follow anyways), automatically means small town India carry the mantle of a “glorified village“.

Every girl from small town India has to start off with a major handicap when interacting with a prospective match from a big city, i.e being considered inferior and dull.

If you are one of those who is considering marrying a girl from a small town, here are 7 compelling reasons to say YES!

1. Small towns girls with big aspirations

Girl from a small town

Changing story lines in Soap Operas highlight how small town India is changing.

Girls from small towns probably also have big aspirations and some of them also have the intelligence and the drive to be successful in whatever they do. This is not just my opinion. Television channels such as Star Plus base their programming on what their target market demands. One of the major markets that television channels focus on is women in the 15 to 35-year-old age group in small towns. Here is an interesting extract from a study done by one of the television channels.

When the marketing team traveled to viewer homes across cities, small towns, and rural areas, they came up with fresh insights on how aspirations have changed. Gupta says he met the wife of a wealthy diamond merchant in Surat. She lives in a joint family and is trying her hand at design for her husband’s business. “I want people to know me as Mrs. Reena Mehta, not Mrs. Mehta,” she told him. Gupta calls this “mega change”. 

Small town girls, like women in big cities, are ambitious and have big aspirations. They are capable of having the passion and drive to realize their dreams. Not every small town girl want to just settle with whoever the parents line up for them.

2. Ability to make the most out of everything

Here is an interesting story of Nirmala Kandalgaonkar. Nirmala is from a  small town and had to face incredible odds before she became a successful entrepreneur. Here is Nirmala’s story.

Nirmala Kandalgaonkar, Founder of vermicomposting tool provider Vivam AgroTech, grew up in small-town Maharashtra and decided to launch a rural venture after her children reached school age. She applied her science degree to develop controlled-environment products for soil engineering using earthworms. She had to travel extensively for promotion and training activities and eventually got government support after a Pragati Maidan exhibition as well as a TiE award. The company now works with large corporate and self-help groups for biogas projects.

Small towns are unforgiving to women. They have face strict religious and social restrictions on their personal freedom and independence. Yet, women in small towns fight through these barriers only to emerge stronger and make the most of what they have around them.

3. Value for money

Small town girl

A shopping mall in Madurai – Via Veethi.com

Anyone living in the city will agree to the fact that the cost of living has skyrocketed exponentially. Even in cities, people prefer to buy houses in distant suburbs to make ends meet even at the cost of dealing with horrendous daily commutes. As a city dweller, you expect everything to be costly and this resets your brain to accept higher prices as the norm. That’s not all, we may even assume just because something is expensive, it’s also of better quality!

The cost of living in small towns across India are obviously cheaper. Small towns are closer to where food is grown and the demand for housing and other resources are relatively less keeping prices low.

A small town girl will probably deal with sticker shock if she ever moves to the city. This is precisely the experience I had when I moved to Chennai after growing up in a town. In fact, I experienced the same sticker shock when I moved to the US!

Moral of the story, women from a small town are probably more conservative in their spending habits as they know they are shelling out much more that what they would otherwise spend. That’s good for any marriage.

4. Struggled a lot more to earn their independence

Small town girls have the fire in the belly and the drive to overcome immense odds. They may not have the opportunities that a big city may have to offer women and hence are fighting for their dreams and independence with one hand tied.

In general, small town girls have a lower quality of education as there are not as many good schools as there are in the cities, and tend to marry at a younger age. Job opportunities are also limited. If you think I am talking about small town India, you are wrong! I was actually talking about what women in small town America face! Just image the plight of a small town girl in India.

if you would like to get a glimpse of a life a small town girl, you should read the book – From Hindustan Cables Limited – The Journey of a Small-Town Indian Immigrant.

5. Rooted to traditions and culture?

Small town girl

Via Prabhu B Doss, Flickr

In a small town, everybody knows everybody else! The culture of small town India is still conservative when compared to that of cities and small town girls are more in tune with religious traditions and social customs as it is the norm.

Unlike cities, families in small town India maintain close contact with their neighbors and friends. If you are in a small town and miss your classes, the teacher is bound to pay a visit to your place! While many of these customs border on oppressive dictates by the society, it is also not bad to marry someone who is aware of the cultural / religious traditions.

In addition to keeping your parents happy and scoring some brownie points with pesky aunties and uncles (pun intended), marrying a woman who understands the traditions of your culture or religion certainly will keep you centered and in touch with your ancestors.

6. Ying and Yang

Small town girl

Yin and Yang Via Pinterest

Ever heard of the concept of Ying and Yang? In the Chinese philosophy, Yin and Yang are about how two opposing forces are actually interdependent or interconnected when they come together! The concept of Yin and Yang has a bearing in marriages as well.

Here is an extract from Erin M. Cline, associate professor of theology at Georgetown University that explains who the Yin and Yang concept applies in married life.

Each person, male or female, has many aspects and traits of character, and one might argue that to varying degrees and in different ways, these aspects and traits express qualities that are associated with yin and yang. This means that spouses can contribute in distinctive and complementary ways to their shared goals.

Married couples might work to arrange their lives—including the division of labor in and outside of the home, as well as parenting responsibilities—in ways that draw upon each individual’s strengths so that the roles of each spouse complement those of the other. 

For example, when playing with their children outdoors, one parent may encourage athletic activities while the other parent may encourage observing wildlife. Both types of activities involve engaging with one’s child and encouraging a love of outdoor activity. Appealing to yin-yang complementarity, traditional Confucians argued that it is good for children to have parents who differ in complementary ways.

Small town girls bring to the table unique experiences and skills that city folk lack. Marrying a small town girl will be an enriching experience for you, her and your children in the future.

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Posted in India, Indian Bride, Marriage Tagged with: ,

Indian marriage customs
April 4th, 2016 by Srinivas Krishnaswamy

Indian marriage customs

North Indian marriage customs are like fine wine!

Elaborate, intricate and beautiful, a north Indian marriage is a celebration of all the wonderful things in life – families, friends, food, culture, religion, emotions and most importantly joy de verve! Unlike western marriages, north Indian marriage customs are elaborate and provide plenty of excuses to amp up the celebration quotient!

The sheer sensory overload of a big fat Indian wedding ceremony might overwhelm you if you haven’t grown up in India or if you haven’t attended one before. But no matter where you are from, you can’t stop yourself from being sucked into the festivities!

North Indian marriage customs have come a long way from the Swayamvarams depicted in mythologies to today’s intercultural weddings! But the more they evolved, the more they stay the same!

This is an extract from the book “Marriage Ceremonies in Ancient India” by Johann Jacob Meyer:

The Mahabharata (V, 72) relates how the marriage of Arjuna’s son Abhimanyu with Uttara, the daughter of King Virata, was solemnised with great splendour. Conches were blown, drums were beaten and trumpets sounded.  All sorts of animals were slaughtered by the hundreds, and many types of liquor were drunk in great quantities.

Seems like Abhimanyu had a Punjabi wedding for sure! Like a fine wine, north Indian marriage customs and traditions have aged well.

Jodi Logik Minions decided that the best way to give you a glimpse of the big, fat north Indian marriage customs and rituals would be to give a photo tour.

North Indian Marriage Customs

Marriages in north India are colorful, with lavish decoration and food that will make you forget your daily grind.

Once the couple and their families decide to move forward with the wedding, the first ceremony off the block is the Sagai or the engagement ceremony. The bride and the groom exchange a ring followed by merry making in the company of friends and family.

Here is an elaborate explanation:

Sagai is traditionally held at the bridegroom’s home where the family members and friends of both the bride and the bridegroom are invited for the ceremony. The bride’s family visits the bridegroom’s family with lots of immaculately wrapped traditional gifts, sweets and dry fruits, and tikka material to perform the ritual of Sagai/Kurmai/Mangni. Nowadays, the tikka ceremony has been combined with the Sagai ceremony. The tikka material that the bride’s family carries to the bridegroom’s home consists of a silver tray with a few grains of rice on it, a silver bowl containing some saffron, 14 chuharey (dried dates) nicely wrapped in a silver foil and a coconut covered in a golden leaf.

Indian marriage customs

Indian marriage customs

Credits: Manish Roy

On the day before the wedding, a mehndi ceremony is arranged where the bride and her sisters and aunts apply henna on their hands and feet. Beautiful intricate designs are drawn on the bride’s palms, extending to her elbows. The mehndi ceremony is probably one of the most beautiful north Indian marriage customs and you can check out more about it here.

Indian bridal mehndi designs

It is said that the redder the henna is on the bride’s hands and feet, the stronger her bond will be with her husband. In fact, there is a slew of other interesting tidbits about the significance of bridal mehndi in north Indian weddings.

Indian bridal mehndi designs

Music is an important part of any Indian wedding ceremony. Even at the groom’s house, the family gathers for a sangeet ceremony, with a lot of dancing and singing. The families unleash a mood of festive happiness all around.

Indian marriage customs

Credits: Braja Mandala

Indian marriage customs

Credits: Cosmin Danila Photography

On the morning of the wedding, a haldi ceremony takes place. The groom and the bride are liberally coated with turmeric paste at their respective homes. Close friends and family members gather to apply haldi. Here is a detailed explanation of the significance of the haldi ceremony:

“With its medicinal properties, haldi was (and still is) nature’s best gift to mankind. With its antiseptic qualities, haldi acts as the protective shield for the bride/groom from cuts, bruises, and any other seasonal ailments. Application of haldi also infuses a natural sheen and glow to the skin, readying the bride/groom for their wedding celebrations ahead.”

Indian marriage customs

Credits: Braja Mandala

Indian marriage customs

Via Qykapp

The actual wedding begins in the evening. The dulha (groom) arrives along with his baarat, seated on a female horse, his face hidden behind a sehra. The groom’s family arrives at the bride’s house dancing in the midst of crackers and music. Wealthy families are known to hire elephants and chariots as well.

If we declare that the atmosphere is grand and festive, we will probably be making the understatement of the year! Most north Indian families hire a brass band and the fashion-conscious families bring in a DJ to keep the festivities in high gear! This is one ritual where everyone has a license to drink and dance!

Indian wedding band

Via Flickr

Credits: pnglife, Flickr

Credits: pnglife, Flickr

Indian marriage customs

Credits: Proudly Imperfect

At the end of the baraat, they are met by the bride’s family. The bride’s mother does an aarti of the groom, where tilak is applied on his forehead.

The wedding ceremony begins with the groom on the stage along with the priest. The bride then arrives with her cousins, all decked in a beautiful saree and gold jewelry. Her head is covered in a ghunghat as she sits beside the groom.

The bride and groom exchange garlands with each other in the Jaimala ceremony. In some marriages, the groom’s family lifts him up high on their shoulders to make it difficult for the bride to place the garland. The bride’s brothers then lift her up too and then its game on! Any excuse to have fun is gladly accepted in north Indian marriages.

Indian marriage customs

Via Weddingbee.com

Indian marriage customs

Credits: The Big Fat Indian Wedding

Then comes the solemn rituals associated with north Indian wedding customs. The first major ritual off the block is the Kanyadan ceremony. In short, the bride’s father gives away his daughter to her husband for them to begin a new life. Here is a detailed explanation of the significance of Kanyadan.

Indian marriage customs

Credits: Four Seasons Magazine

Kanyadaan literally translates to “gifting the girl” to the bridegroom. As a symbol of acceptance, the bridegroom touches the right shoulder of the bride, promising to take care of her and holding her responsibility.”

Indian Marriage customs

The satphere is the next important ritual after the kanyadaan. The groom and the bride walk around the sacred fire seven times.

Indian marriage customs

Credits: The Big Fat Indian Wedding

Each round or phera has a significant meaning and is accompanied by the chanting of Vedic rituals. The first step is to respect and honor towards each other, the second for strength to weather their problems together, the third for prosperity for their household, the fourth for wisdom, the fifth for children, the sixth for health, and the seventh for affection and a lasting companionship.

Indian marriage customs

The groom ties the mangal sutra on the girl’s neck and applies sindoor to her forehead. This is when the marriage is complete and the bride and groom now become husband and wife!

Indian marriage customs

Credits: Ramit Batra

Finally, the marriage ends with a ceremonial send-off for the bride. Called Vidai, this an emotionally charged ritual as this is seen as a final goodbye from the bride’s family as she is now officially a member of another family. Who said north Indian wedding customs are all fun and frolic. There is an element of melodrama as well to cap off the festivities.

Indian marriage customs

Credits: Braja Mandala

If you think we missed out on more interesting north Indian wedding customs, use the comments section below to add your thoughts.

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Posted in Arranged Marriage, India, Marriage Tagged with: , ,

Holi in India
March 22nd, 2016 by Srinivas Krishnaswamy

Holi in India

Holi in India – A celebration of colours!

Holi is a spring festival celebrated mostly by Hindus throughout India. Holi in India is probably the most exciting festival after Deepavali or Diwali considering the fact that firecrackers are mostly absent during Holi!

Here are some fun facts about Holi in India

Holi is celebrated on the day after the full moon (in the Hindu month of Phalguna) in early March.

Why is Holi celebrated? Holi in India is a celebration of spring and a great excuse to indulge in merry-making!

Holi is probably the least religious of Hindu festivals. Anybody can join in.

Here is an interesting history of Holi. This ritual is based on the story of Krishna and Radha – Krishna’s mother asked the blue-skinned Krishna to colour Radha’s face in any colour, and they became a couple.  It is also commemorated as the festival of love.

Holi is spread out over 2 days. It used to be 5 days. In some places, it is even longer!

It is observed in Nepal, India and other regions of the world with a sizeable Hindu population.

Holi celebrations start the night before Holi with a Holika bonfire, where people sing, dance and party.

Some of the popular Holi delicacies are Gujiya, Mathri, and Malpua.

The morning after the celebrations is a free-for-all carnival of colours, where participants play and chase each other with dry powder and coloured water.

Holi in India is the only time men are allowed to throw colours and drench women in water! Did anyone say India is a conservative society?

Did you know that Bhang, an intoxicating ingredient made from cannabis leaves, is mixed into sweets and drinks and consumed by many people?

Holi also has cultural significance to end and rid oneself of past errors and to end conflicts by meeting others; a day to forgive and forget.

We scoured Instagram to get hold of the most colourful and stunning images of Holi. Get ready for a riot of colour!

Temples of India

It’s getting real #holi #india #jodhpur #color #sensoryoverload #strangers

A photo posted by @zachoren on

Celebrate #Holi with #indikitch on March 23rd and enjoy $2 #Feasts!

A photo posted by indikitch (@indikitch) on

Indian Summer artwork

The ramparts and ledges on top of the courtyard are filled with people with massive baskets of dry colour and rose petals. Handfuls are thrown on the revelers below and soon the entire temple is in a colourful haze of fine coloured powder. The chequered marble floor is no longer visible as the murky coloured water knee deep fills the courtyard. The pandemonium continues for hours and by the afternoon the throngs begin to make their way out of the temple. What is left looks like the aftermath of a riot mixed with a hurricane. Clothing and slippers float on the fast draining water, children continue to slip and slide on the wet marble floor, the priests shout at them and try to get them to leave but to no avail. #holi, #barsana, #colour, #holifestival, #festival, #india, #masses, #people, #festivalofcolour. Image shot in 2012 #nikon, #spring

A photo posted by @purisahib on

#Holi celebration #eve #culture #Nepal

A photo posted by Rupesh Rajopadhyaya (@nepalipirate) on

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Posted in India Tagged with: ,

Dating sites in India
March 3rd, 2016 by Srinivas Krishnaswamy

Dating sites in India

Dating sites in India are booming yet…

Dating sites in India, just like other western influences, is fast catching up in India. ‘Online dating’ was something quite unheard of even few years back. But today, it has become the ‘in’ thing. With everything going ‘online’ and ‘mobile’ nowadays, how could something like dating be left behind?

The young, tech-savvy men and women of India have easy access to smartphones, netbooks, and other such easy-to-carry gadgets and they are always ‘connected’ and looking to try new things through trendy apps. Dating sites in India are capitalizing on this trend and are booming!

Top 5 reasons why India is hooked to online dating

Here are five reasons that explain the phenomenal growth of dating sites in India.

1.Changing culture

The most significant reason for the burgeoning growth of online dating sites in India is the changing cultural mindset. A nation that took great pride in its traditional roots is suddenly witnessing a shift in its moral values and is becoming highly open to the concept of online dating. Needless to say, westernization has played a crucial role in the acceptance as well the popularization of digital dating in India.

2. Skyrocketing connectivity 

The growing popularity of dating websites can be attributed to the increased technological advancement, mobile penetration, and digital communication in the recent years.

The exponential rise in the use of smartphones and increased exposure to the Internet has resulted in the youth connecting over networking sites and dating platforms.

The number of Internet users in India had climbed to 354 million as of June 2015. Also, the number of smartphones in India is expected to rise to over 650 million in the next four years.

3. International dating companies are eyeing India

The entry of international dating giants like Tinder in the Indian dating market mirrors the country’s growing acceptance of online dating. International online dating players like Zoosk, OKCupid, Hinge, POF, and eHarmony are also expected to enter the Indian market in the near future as the dating market hots up in India.

4. There are plenty of local online dating products

Recently, new Indian entrants like Truly Madly, Woo, Cogxio, Vee, and dateiiTians have forayed into this fast growing market further adding on to soaring popularity levels of the online dating sites in India.

5. Investors are betting on dating companies

Global investors are backing Indian online dating companies and mobile dating apps. Truly Madly has raised 5.6 $ million from the investing group Helion Venture Partners and Kae Capital. Woo has received backing from Matrix Partners and Omidyar Network.

Challenges women face when using dating sites India

dating sites in India

Though online dating is becoming a popular concept in India, women still have to face many challenges as they dabble in online dating. Here are some of them.

1. Do you really know who you might be meeting?

Manipulation of personal data on online dating platforms is one of the biggest concerns for women. There is no guarantee that a man with whom a woman is interacting has shared genuine information pertaining to his identity.

There is no dearth of unscrupulous men running scams on dating websites. These men interact with women and once they have gained a sufficient level of trust, they demand money or start blackmailing using photos, or videos. Still others might divulge the woman’s personal details to undesirable people!

Indian women, despite all the waves of modern change, still retain a mindset that is culturally very much ‘Indian’. Blackmailing traps such as these tend to be a nightmarish experience for most women due to the fact that their family and even law enforcement tend to look down upon women who have been wronged!

2. Beware of stalkers and ‘players’

Stalkers, spammers, and verbal abuses abound on dating sites. Real life stalking is also a possibility and many women have had to face unsavory incidents of stalkers turning up on their doorstep.

A large number of men who sign up on online dating sites in India are not looking for a serious relationship. They are just looking for sexual partners. In this context, it is worthwhile to contemplate what Mauli Singh (35 years old), a divorcee from Mumbai says: “When I say I want marriage, most men disappear.”

There is a lot of offensive sexual content ranging from nude pictures to perverse videos doing the rounds on such sites. This is a serious turn off for the culturally rooted Indian woman who is on the lookout for a clean dating site.

3. You can always sign up but you can never leave!

After having explored the world of online dating for a while, if a woman wishes to exit, she may find that parting ways is pretty difficult. The removal of her account from the dating website doesn’t guarantee that her profile will be disabled. This might seem like a vicious trap to the lady and can cause her a lot of unnecessary frustration.

Raashi Kapoor (24 years) says: “I thought I took my profile off all the apps. But my friends still come across my profile and photographs. I still don’t know what to do.”

4. No means yes?

Men in India still have problems taking rejection in their stride. There are countless cases of acid attacks, kidnappings, and other forms of harrasment that goes beyond stalking. Bollywood also has driven home the point that if you try hard, every woman that says “no” will end up saying “yes”!

Features in Indian dating sites that appeal to women

Dating sites in India

In spite of all the challenges that women face in the online dating world, there is a lot to look forward to. Dating sites are attempting to offer features that will appeal to the Indian women’s unique cultural background and expectations. Here are a few examples of features in dating sites that appeal to women.

1. Curated dating experiences

Dating sites like Foot Loose No More and Floh offer women an opportunity to meet a curated set of people in the real world. These dating sites bring together couples at curated events so that the awkwardness quotient is less. For most Indian women, the issue of secrecy and of “parents not finding out” is important. These events offer a chance of interaction without the fear of getting discovered!

2. Stringent moderation checks and filters 

Many Indian dating sites come with very strict moderation checks that keep filth, abuse, and spam away and thereby offering women a safe dating experience. For instance, Quackquack, a dating site launched in 2011, guarantees that all its site is free of fake profiles.

Footloose No More employs a special rule to filter out casual daters. The rule is simple; any member who misses 3 footloose events in a row will have his membership revoked thus weeding out men who are not looking out for a serious, committed relationship.

3. Countless options to pick from

Online dating gives women the chance of meeting a large number of single men; many of whom they would not have interacted with in real life. In a way, online dating broadens the chances of meeting potential mates so that a better selection can be made. Interestingly, dating sites in India report that a majority of their members are male. For example, Trulymadly reports that about 30% of its users are women. This automatically means that women have a larger number of dating options when they join these sites.

4. No obligation 

Online dating is mostly obligation free; people who meet or chat through such sites can stop seeing each other and usually there are no questions or obligations attached to dating. This is a far cry from arranged marriages where there is a pressure to agree with the family! Dating sites are capitalizing on the growing clamor for independence and freedom when it comes to choosing a soulmate.

5. Tailored search features

Many online dating sites in India offer a vast range of tailored search options for users. For instance, sites like Metrodate and Mingle2 allows its members to set up preferences on the basis of gender, geographical location, age etc. and receive profiles that match their preferences.

6. Psychoanalytic profile matching facilitated

Several online dating sites match profiles based on psychoanalytic algorithms that are constructed by a team of psychiatrists and social researchers. The end result is a selection of matched profiles which have a higher chance of being liked by the other party than a random search result. Tulymadly claims to do just that.

If you are a woman, read this before you sign up for online dating in India

Here are some things which can help make the online dating experience safer and more effective for you:

1. You must prepare a list of criteria that you are looking out for in terms of online partners. Interact only with people who conform to those parameters.

2. Select the online dating site carefully based on your requirements. Are you looking for a serious relationship or do you just want to hook up?

3. Do not presume that online dating sites will tell you everything you want to know about the person you are meeting. This is not arranged marriage, and even with arranged marriages, you may not really ‘know’ the person you are meeting.

4. Matching algorithms are not necessarily 100% accurate.

5. Trust your instincts and withdraw if the person seems weird or seems to be lying.

Mixed feelings about dating sites in India

Dating sites in India

Online dating is fun!

The younger generation is amused with the idea of getting to know an individual they have never met before. In their opinion, the best part about online dating is that it gives you the liberty to be yourself since the person you are interacting with is an absolute stranger.

In this context, it is worthwhile to quote what Gaurav Gautam, a 27-years old PR Professional says:

I think the concept is really good. It has not only bridged the gaps between potential couples but also provided a medium through which two strangers could get in touch and share their emotions.

Online dating helps find true love!

Online dating has proved instrumental in uniting many hearts. Rani Kapur, a 25-year-old New York-based woman found her soul mate Khalil Ahmed through an online dating platform and this is what she has to say:

This is actually my first serious relationship, and we’re at almost a year now. Things are great; I’m so happy. The one thing that is a bit of a problem is, funnily enough, although we’re both Indian, he’s Muslim, and my background is Sikh.

Horrible experiences

Here is an interesting comment from a 24-year-old Mumbai-based woman, “I really do not have much time to socialize after a hectic day at work. So these apps are a good way to find like-minded people. However, after a couple of “horrible” experiences, I uninstalled these apps.

Online dating lacks charm!

There are many people who feel that online dating somehow lacks the charm of meeting someone in person. They feel that there are hundreds of fake profiles on dating sites in India, which dilute the essence of dating. Many others feel that the body language and gestures tell you more about a person when you meet them time and again in real life as compared to an algorithm.

Most Indians still feel that it is better to connect with a person in real, especially if the aim is as serious as choosing a “life partner”.

Here is a classic example of how the clash between short-term trysts and long-term relationships can result in wasted efforts even when using dating sites.

So I liked this guy. He was very good looking with a gym-toned body. He had also liked my profile so we were matched. We communicated over WhatsApp, finding out things about each other and then he suggested we meet. For the next few days, I was on cloud nine. I had this massive crush on him, but I called it off because I was not looking for one-night stands.

Whether you use a dating site or not, it’s hard work to find the right someone and then to keep the relationship going!

Here is an interesting viewpoint: “I remember the first time I ever saw my first boyfriend: playing rhythm guitar on Metallica’s “Am I Evil” in his band, wearing a Nirvana shirt and black Chuck Taylors, head of longish blonde hair in headbanger’s stance, and I just knew. It made for a great “how we met” story for the seven years we were together … even if it didn’t last forever.”

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Posted in Dating, India Tagged with: , , ,

Thali
February 29th, 2016 by Srinivas Krishnaswamy
Thali

Via Busyorders

Thali – What’s great about it?

Thali is by far the most popular lunchtime meal in Indian restaurants. One of the most frustrating experiences in Indian restaurants is the fact that there are way too many menu items to choose from. Deciding on the items to order is a painful experience :). The thali is the perfect meal for people who can’t decide! It also neatly brings together the mind-boggling array of dishes that every regional Indian cuisine offers.

Here are five great reasons why you should try a thali meal at an Indian restaurant:

  1. You can never lose: In one swoop, you can try all the regional delicacies on a plate. By far, this is the biggest advantage. You will find at least two or three items from the Thali that is to your liking.
  2. Balanced food: Believe it or not, the different tastes, textures, and ingredients in a thali provide a perfectly balanced meal that has proteins, carbohydrates, salts, and other nutrients.
  3. Gastronomic adventure: The easiest way to savour the diverse regional cuisines of India is to go for the regional thali. Almost every state and every region of the country has its own version of thali!
  4. Seasonal variations: Even if you love a thali from a specific region, the dishes that comprise the thali will vary according to the season! It never gets boring with any thali.
  5. Promotes sharing: The idea of having a large variety of dishes in cups makes it easy for sharing food with your friends and family. After all, food is more enjoyable when you have people to share!

Not convinced? Our list of 15 mouth-watering thalis below will change your mind and make you hungry!

15 amazing thali meals from around India

Let’s dive straight into exploring all the fantastic regional thali variations from around India.

1. Tamil Nadu

In Tamil Nadu, thali meals are served on plates as well as on a banana leaf. Considered to be the birthplace of the elaborate sappadu (meal), most restaurants in Tamil Nadu offer a vegetarian thali that has sambar, rasam, poriyal. kootu, kara kozhambu, pappadam, keerai, payasam, to name a few. Click here for some interesting recipes for a Tamil Nadu thali!

Thali

Via Suresh Hinduja

2. Chettinad

The Chettinad cuisine has a distinctive place in the gastronomical map of India. The Chettiars of south Tamil Nadu live an arid region and many of their dishes involve sun dried meats and salted vegetables. To get your fill of a Chettinad meal, visit the Anjappar chain of restaurants.

Thali

3. Andhra

The Andra cuisine is known to be spicy and full of flavour (this is actually a cliche as most Indian regional cuisine falls in this category!). The avakai (mango) pickle, brinjal preparations, a variety of cooked dals, dried lentil powders (podis) are considered staple items. Andhra food is also diverse. Rayalaseema, coastal Andhra, Telangana have their own regional dishes that are more in tune with the climate and what grows there.

Thali

4. Kerala

True to its name as the ‘land of spices’, Kerala cuisine offers amazing thali options that span vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian dishes. The coastal areas of Kerala are known for their seafood delicacies while the plains are known for their vegetarian items. Rich in coconut oil. jackfruit, and of courses spices, the sadya is an epic thali served on a banana leaf for special festivals like Onam.

Thali

5. Karnataka

The Karnataka thali has a similar variety of dishes you will find in a South Indian thali. However, regional variations in how the items are prepared as well as completely new items make it unique. For example, the rasam of Tamil Nadu becomes saaru in Karnataka and acquires a sweeter taste due to the use of jaggery. North Karnataka has a distinct cuisine and one of the most interesting items I look forward to is the mirchi bajji!

Thali

6. Maharashtra

The cuisine in Maharashtra is considered to be simple reflecting the economic condition of people there. Meat is rarely used, but seafood is common in coastal regions. Here is an interesting insight on a typical Maharashtrian thali meal:

The order in which the thali is presented is also given utmost importance. When arranging a meal, consider thali as a clock, the number 12 position is salt, to its left is a lemon wedge, and then to the left are an array of chutneys, pickles (Lonache) and salads (koshimbeers). To the right side of salt are different vegetables like paatal bhaji(vegetable curry), paale bhaji (leafy greens), suki bhaaji (dry stir fry), usal(sprouts), Amti (daals). Cooked white rice is moulded in a small mound called bhatachi mood, with a bright yellow plain daal (varan) anointed with a dollop of clarified butter (toop).

Thali

7. Punjabi

The Punjabi cuisine is known for its liberal use of dairy products such as butter, ghee (clarified butter), and paneer (cottage cheese). Since Punjab is the bread basket of India, wheat is a key ingredient and the naans cooked in tandoor ovens are world famous.Perennial favourites include sarson ka saag, aloo paratha, dal tadka, and chole. Of course, non-vegetarian items such as butter chicken are popular too! Capping off a Punjabi thali with hot jalebis is something worth trying!

Thali

8. Bengali Thali

There is something fishy about Bengali cuisine! Fish is an essential item along with rice and lentils in any Bengali meal. But that doesn’t mean there is the lack of vegetarian dishes. Here is an assortment of vegetarian items that can find a place in the thali – Ucche Bhaja, Begun Bhaja, Aloo Poshto, Cholar Dal, Chanar Dalna, Aam Pora Sherbat, and the sweet Rosogolla!  Here is a unique set of recipes if you want to try authentic Bengali dishes.

Thali

9. Rajasthani

The Rajasthani cuisine is shaped by the barren desert conditions of the state. The need to preserve food for a long time and the usage of milk in place of water have defined the Rajasthani cuisine. The Marwari thali is popular throughout India and is from the Marwar region of Rajasthan. Check out this page for a complete list of Rajasthani items that go into the thali. The Rajdhani chain of restaurants is a great place to try out traditional Rajasthani dishes. Thali

10. Oriya (aka Odisha)

Here are a couple of interesting titbits about the Oriya cuisine and the thali.

The ingredients used in Oriya cuisine typical to the region are plantains, jackfruit, and papaya. The curries are also garnished with dried raw mango (ambula) and tamarind. Coconut is also used in several dishes. Panch phutana is a blend of five spices which is widely used in Oriya cuisine. It contains mustard, cumin, fenugreek, aniseed, and kalonji.Garlic and onion are also used but is avoided in temple regions. Turmeric and red chilies are also commonly used.food lovers
Oriya thali consists of a main course and dessert. Traditional bread is served as a main course for breakfast and rice is served for lunch and dinner with the classic dalma and varieties of vegetables. Sweets are enjoyed after every meal and there are varieties of milk based sweets being enjoyed here.

Thali

11. Assamese

The Assamese cuisine and flavours are based on the fact that fermentation and drying are commonly employed to preserve food. Fish is a key ingredient and poultry is also widely included in Assamese dishes. Here is a typical list of items you will find in an Assamese thali: Steamed Rice – Bhaat, Xaak Bhaaji – Dry green leafy vegetable, Daal – Dail or Daali, Khaar – A kind of veg / non veg item, Bhaaji – Dry veg, Torkari – wet veg, Maasor Aanja – Fish Curry, normally sour (tenga aanja), Mandxor Jol – Meat or Chicken, Chutney, Pitika – a side dish, kind of a mash, and Asaar – achar or pickle.

Thali

12. Goan

Goan cuisine is all about concocting dishes from coconut, fish, kokum, rice, and vegetables. Goan cuisine is influenced by the Portuguese who introduced pork and beef. The Hindus have also developed their own variety of food items. Some of the popular Goanese dishes include Humann, Suke, Kalputi, Shak, Varan, Tondak, Solachi Kadi to name a few.

Thali

13. Kashmiri

If you are a goat, you will probably steer clear of Kashmir! Kashmiri’s love their goats and there are over 30 mutton varieties in their cuisine. The Wazwan is a special meal that includes three dozen varieties of meat dishes served on platters that are shared by a group of people. But if you are a vegetarian, you do have some options. Kashmiri Dum Aloo, Methi Chaman, Rajma Gogji, Gogji Nadir, Chokh Vangun, are just some of the vegetarian options!

Chandramukhi Ganju

14. Gujarati

The Gujarati thali is probably one of the most popular choices in a restaurant! This is probably one coastal state in India that does not count seafood as a staple diet. This is because of the influence of Jainism. North Gujarat, Surti Gujarat, Khatiawad, and Kachchh are four distinct regions with their own flavours and recipes. Gujarati thalis come with Dhokla, Khadi, Aamrus, Phulkas, and a host of tangy vegetables. One distinct feature of Gujarati cuisine is the mix of sweet, spicy and tangy flavours.

Thali

15. Chattisgarh

Chattisgarh is a tribal region and there are plenty of tribal dishes along with local variations of mainstream dishes that most people are familiar with. Angakar roti, paan roti, chusela, dehati vada, muthia, fara are some of the items that go into their thali. Here is an interesting dish – Chapra is a special chutney made by the tribal population of Chattisgarh. This chutney is made of dried red ants and their eggs!

Thali

Via Desi Fiesta

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Posted in India Tagged with: , ,

The History of Laddu
February 23rd, 2016 by Srinivas Krishnaswamy
History of Laddu

Via flickr / Rajesh Pamnani

History of laddu in India

The history of laddu in India dates back to several centuries and, even today, the laddu rules the roost when it comes to India’s preference for sweets. The long history of laddu in India explains the mind-boggling varieties as every region of India has it’s own take on laddus as dictated by the local availability of ingredients. There are only two things in common across all types of laddus you will find in India – They are all round and sweet!

Across India, the laddu is invariably an integral part of the wedding ceremony. Boxes of laddus get exchanged as soon as the engagement is announced, some wedding invitation comes with a box of laddus or laddus are served as a part of the wedding feast. But the culture of distributing laddus to express happiness goes beyond weddings. Birth of a baby, buying a new car, getting a promotion, you name any happy occasion and laddu immediately comes to your mind!

We unearthed five interesting stories on the history of laddu in India. Don’t read this article if you are a diabetic!

1. Laddus first came to be used as medicines!

This interesting article published by the Indian Express charts the transformation of Laddus from being used as a medicine to becoming the most popular sweet across India (arguably). Here are some extracts from this article that highlights interesting stories about the history of laddu (Believe these stories at your own risk!).


The origin of this laddoo was more because of the medicinal properties that the ingredients used proffered than as a sweet. It is said that these laddoos were given to teenage girls to keep their raging hormones under check. In fact, treatment, and not the indulgence led to the discovery of some of the popular laddoos including methi, makhana and sonth.

Eastern folklore often talks about the accidental discovery of the laddoo when a Ved’s (medicine man) assistant to cover up the extra ghee he poured in a mix turned them into small roundels that eventually took the shape of the smooth egg shape balls we see today. Was it the real way how laddoos were invented? While there no credible source that supports this story, Ayurvedic scripts are replete with recipes that can be considered the first iteration of the laddoos.

One of the earliest examples of this was of sesame seeds, jaggery, and peanuts, which we all know as til ke ladoo. It is said that around 4BC legendary surgeon Susruta The Elder began using this as an antiseptic to treat his surgical patients. For easier consumption, the sesame seeds were coated with jaggery or honey and shaped into a ball.

The ancient legend of Gilgamesh mentions Enkidu’s diet as consisting of, among other interesting things, worms, figs, cucumbers, honey and bread made of sesame flour, which was again made into a roundel or a laddoo so that he could have it with ease.


2. Laddu, Modaka, and Sanskrit

Here is an interesting tidbit from the book titled “Sweet Invention – A History of Dessert“. This goes beyond the history of laddu and instead dwells on mythology.

Lord Krishna’s mother had made an offering of modaka (steamed rice flour dumpling stuffed with jaggery / sugar and coconut shavings) for a Ganesha idol. Wary of her son’s thieving ways, she tied Krishna’s hands. Lord Ganesha did not like this at all! Apparently, the idol came to life and lifted the sweet with his trunk and fed baby Krishna!

History of Laddu

Now comes the confusion! According to another version of the story, Lord Ganesha actually fed laddus. In Sanskrit languages, modaka referred to what we know as laddu!

3. When did the Tirupati temple start selling laddus?

Any blog post on the history of laddu will be incomplete if it doesn’t include the famous Tirupati laddus! The Balaji Temple in Tirupati started offering Laddus as an offering to the God as early as August 2nd, 1715! That makes this famous offering over 300 years old!

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

Did you know, there are three types of laddus prepared by the temple?

Asthanam Laddu: This type of laddu is prepared for the high and the mighty (Aka politicians,  and officials) Each laddu weighs 750 grams and has liberal quantities of ghee (clarified butter), cashew, almonds, and saffron.

Kalyanotsavam Laddu: This laddu is distributed to those that take part in special religious ceremonies and cost Rs.100 per laddu.

Proktham Laddu: This is a small laddu that most pilgrims get and weighs about 175 grams.

4. Tirupati laddus can be only made in Tirupati!

Who said God and commercial ventures aren’t compatible? Another landmark event in the history of laddu is the fact that the famous Tirupati laddu has acquired the Geographical Indication (GI) tag. The purpose of issuing the GI tag is to preserve collective community rights.

History of laddu

This was a controversial move as some people felt that the Tirupati laddu was a money spinner for the temple and was not made by the local community. However, the courts decided to grant the GI tag in early 2014 and the naysayers lost.

The argument that a GI tag on the Tirupati laddu is an example of commercialisation of divine affairs and would inspire other temples to follow the Tirupati example, and thus lead to “irrevocable damage to the values of society”, was rejected!

5. Ever heard of the pink laddu?

October 11, 2015, is not much of a history in term of time frame. However, it is a date from our recent past that brings to focus the role of laddus in gender equality.

The Pink Ladoo initiative was launched in the UK to coincide with the International day of the girl child. The initiative aims to bring in a sense of equality when a new baby is born. It is a South Asian custom to celebrate the birth of a baby boy by distributing laddus while there is no such practice to celebrate the birth of a baby girl.

The History of Laddu

So how does this initiative promote gender equality? They distribute pink laddus to celebrate the birth of a girl child.

PS: One of the reasons for the popularity of laddus is the versatility that its recipe offers. Motichoor laddu, besan laddu, rava laddu, sesame laddu, dry fruit laddu, bandar laddu are just some of the varieties!


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Posted in Food, India Tagged with: , , ,

Indian wedding band
February 22nd, 2016 by Srinivas Krishnaswamy
Indian Wedding Band

Illustration by Mayur Mistry

The origins of the marching Indian wedding band

The practice of hiring an Indian wedding band baja (baja roughly translates to a musical instrument) for marriages started in the 19th century according to the book Brass Baja: Stories From The World of Indian Wedding Bands. This trend took hold as Indians were influenced by British traditions in all walks of life. As colonization took roots, many practices associated with the wedding such as the reception or even the practice of printing wedding invitation cards became popular among Indians.

Interestingly, the British military introduced marching brass bands in India to impress the locals! Here is an extract from the book Music & the British Military in the Long Nineteenth Century by Trevor Herbert and Helen Barlow – “They were a crucial apparatus through which Indian subjects could be impressed by, and British rulers assured of, the strength and purpose of the imperial enterprise.

British Brass Band

Interestingly, some of the musicians from the Imperial military bands trained Indians on using the instruments.

Here is another interesting information from the book.

The book calls out one specific individual (John Mackenzie Rogan) from the British military band who trained a set of volunteers from the Indian Railways to play the military band music. He also transcribed some of the Indian music after he befriended local royalty. These Indian tunes went into his compilation called the “Fantasia on Melodies of our Indian Empire“.

Rogan’s band also started playing at wedding ceremonies of aristocrats for additional income! Interestingly, they never actually marched with the wedding procession and instead sat in a circle when they played.

As we can see, the Indian wedding band music evolved from these early British influences into something that’s uniquely Indian. The tradition of hiring an Indian wedding band is a lot similar to how Indians made the Ambassador car something that’s uniquely India.

It is estimated that the there are over seven thousand Indian wedding bands or brass bands!

The Indian wedding band is not all that appreciated!

Sadly, the practice of hiring a wedding band is no longer the in thing. The advent of professional DJs and changing preferences when it comes to music and rituals has resulted in a steep decline in the viability of this profession.


According to this article, “Poor wages, irregular work hours and endless travel eventually take their toll, said Shanawaz Ali, a bandmaster who plays several instruments.

“At the end of more than 35 years of playing in different bands, I have no savings. Nothing,” said Mr. Ali, who has urged his children to take up other trades. “There is no future in the band musician’s profession.”


There are several reasons why the Indian wedding band is disappearing fast.

1. First of all, the marching Indian wedding band is a part of the “baraat” or the groom’s wedding procession in North India. This is seen as a celebratory occasion and is not seen as a religious ritual. Celebratory events are prone to changes depending on the latest trends and concepts. The same way cheerleaders went out of fashion at IPL while umpires are still employed!

2. A typical Indian wedding band has musicians drawn from villages. They come to the cities only during the wedding season to make some money and then go back to their villages. Every person in the band makes about Rs.500 to Rs.600 per wedding and see this as a way to augment their income. This is not a serious profession and hence, the quality of music is not a big focus for the band members.

3. The band musicians are mostly drawn from the lower strata of the Indian society and are not accorded any respect. In fact, their presence is completely ignored during a wedding procession! They wait endlessly for the groom’s party to assemble, churn out Bollywood songs with their loud instruments (good enough for drunk members of the groom’s / bride’s family to dance wildly) and get back to their cramped temporary accommodations very late in the night.

4. The advent of more ‘sophisticated’ music preferences, the popularity of hiring top DJs has disrupted the practice of hiring wedding bands. More and more families are playing their own music from flash drives to save on wedding expenses. Companies that offer the services of wedding bands have now started diversifying into other areas such as renting out colorful umbrellas for processions as well as horses for the groom to ride on. The band itself is losing importance.

The Indian wedding band is a photographer’s dream!

An interesting trend we often come across is that photography is probably the only way a declining trend gains prominence. For example, the disappearing “truck art” in its traditional form has seen a spurt in interest from filmmakers and photographers!

The endangered Indian wedding band is no different. All the colors and pomp set against stark working conditions make any surviving Indian wedding band a photographer’s dream.

We lined up a bunch of interesting photographs of Indian brass bands. Enjoy!

Indian Wedding Band

Via Flickr

Indian Wedding Band

Via Flickr

Indian Wedding Band

Via Flickr

Indian wedding band

Via Flickr

Indian wedding band

Via Flickr

Perhaps the most poignant photo series on the life of a typical Indian wedding band is captured by Mansi Thapliyal of Reuters. Click on the image below to view her photos.

Indian wedding band

New York Times has also documented an interesting video on Indian brass bands at weddings.

Tell us what you think of hiring a wedding band for your own wedding. Add your thoughts in the comments section below.

More posts about everything we ignore!

15 Cow Artwork That Will make You Go Moo!

15 Amazing Truck Art Photographs From India


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Posted in Arranged Marriage, India, Marriage Tagged with: , , ,