Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Vegetarianism - Vegetables - Nutrition

**** Read after your lunch/dinner *****
BeetRoot Poriyal and Pakoda Koorma - read the South Indian menu in my office canteen. I bet half of those interested in taking SI meals would have backed off on seeing beetroot. I was equally depressed by seeing Pakoda Koorma, though was delighted to see Beetroot and Dosakai Dal (Cucumber) after weeks of Bhindi (Bendakaya/Okra/Ladies Finger) complimenting permutation and combination of Aloo (Potato), Patta Gobi (Cabbage), Gobi (Cauliflower) and Carrot (Gaazar) with a change in name - Mix Veg Curry, Veg Kurma, Veg Kadai, Veg Jalfrezi, Cabbage-Carrot poriyal.
For reasons like not having hygienic Andhra mess in the vicinity, well wishers’ concerns about the expansion of my pot-belly and the heaviness of the Andhra food at nights means that I generally visit a North Indian food joint for dinner. And the menu usually has a curry made up of one or more of Aloo (Potato), Mutter (Green peas), Rajma (Red Kidney Beans), Paneer (Cottage Cheese), Tomato and Gobi (Cauliflower) and occasionally with Palak (Spinach), Lauki (Sorakaya/Aanapakaya/Bottlegourd) or Methi (menti/Fenugreek) .

When I went to native for a week long Diwali vacation, I told my Mom to not include Okra (Bhindi), Potato, Cauliflower, Cabbage, Carrot and Tomato in any menu. And, what I had the following for a week – The menu commonly included one curry and dal supplemented with a freshly grounded chutney (noorudu pacchadi) with a vegetable or a leaf (Gongura, Pudina/Mint, Kottimeera/Corrainder), one or two pickles (preserved chutney/ooragaya) like Avakaya (Mango), Chintakaya(Imli/Tamarind), Usirikaya(Amla/Gooseberry) Nimmakaya (Nimboo/Lime) and a grounded powder like Gunpowder, Kandi podi (Toordal powder) or Palli podi (Groudnut/peanut powder).

Curry was from one of the vegetables of Dondakaya (Tindora/ Ivy Gourd), Vankaya (Baingan/Brinjal/Eggplant), Kakara Kaya (Karela/Bittergourd), Sorakaya (Lauki/Bottlegourd), Chikkudukaya (Large Beans with seed), Goruchikkudu (Beernis/Long thin beans used in Fried rice), Beerakaya (Turai/Ridgegourd)

Dal was either Toor Dal (Red lentils) or Moong Dal (Yellow gram) cooked with a vegetable from Tomato, Dosakaya (Cucumber), Mango, Sorakaya or a leafy vegetable from Palak (Spinach), Chukkakura (Sorrel spinach), Thotakura (Amaranthus), Bacchalikura (Malabar Spinach), Menthikura (Methi/Fenugreek).

I haven’t even got a chance to relish my favorite and Mom's special Chemadumpa (Arvi/Taro root) Vepudu (Fry). I haven’t yet talked about other root vegetables like Beetroot, Kanda (Yam), Potlakaya (Snake gourd), Aratikaya (Plantain), Gummadikaya (Pumpkin), Panasa pottu koora (Jackfruit).

There was no need/time for regular Sambar, Pulusu (similar to sambar), Majjiga Pulusu (sambar type of preparation with sour buttermilk), Menthi Majjiga (rasam type preparation with Methi), Rasam/Charu and Pachi Pulusu (Dry Soup).

Ok, enough of foodies, what I wanted to tell is vegetarianism is not always about Dal, Aloo, Gobi, Paneer and some pulses like Rajma, Chole and Chana. It is primarily about all vegetables, though not a daily dose of salads with raw vegetables and cheese as Americans think. Also, eating raw vegetables in India is not advisable sometimes due to high pesticide use.

Many people (irrespective of generation) like to eat only a few varieties of vegetables and face problems while eating anywhere outside their home. I pity them. The world is full of vegetables and I like to eat all of them, though I enjoy some of them at one or two levels up. Though recently, starting to hate Bhindi and Cabbage courtesy the FC caterers. Curries are not that boring if the vegetables are rotated and the preparation is tweaked.

My Mom (sometimes I too) can prepare a curry out of a vegetable in at least 3 different methods. Add to that you get excellent combinations when you mix two three vegetables (No, not talking about cabbage-carrot poriyal or Mix Veg Curry served in canteen).

Whatever I get at home is a proper Vegetarian Meal that provides nutrition as below:
Rice/Roti – Carbohydrates
Dal – Protein
Vegetables – Vitamins, antioxidants, Iron and other minerals
Curd/yogurt and Majjiga/Buttermilk/Chaaz – To cool down the stomach and improve digestion.

A Pakoda Koorma, a Malai methi chamn, some Kofta or Kadai (Besan/Bengal Gram Fluor + Buttermilk) and even Rajma/Chola/Chana would not give me same nutrition.

Note: It is not only about Andhra or South Indian. Most of the Indian menus have given due importance to all vegetables, though I would say the Andhra menu includes a higher number of vegetables.
P.S.: I am a vegetarian (lacto-vegetarian to be specific) with not eating egg (exception to birthday cakes).
P.S.2.: A caterer produced a new dish called 'Chola-Soya Ka Dostana' today!

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Characteristic Indian Head Shaking

"Oh boy! What does that mean? A Yes or a No!? For God's sake just speak it out!' the client asked me when I nodded my head as a response to his query. I understood his fury as that was not the first time I had done that in front of him.

I have seen this characteristic in Telugus (Andhrites), especially from my native district, not to generalize though. We simply nod our head in response to a lot of questions. And that would neither be a perfect vertical swing in agreement nor a horizontal in denial – but a unique way of shaking that only natives could understand (correctly) and would make outsiders pull their hair to guess. So, for an American who expects mainly a word of ‘Yeah/No’, there is no surprise that my nods irritate him.

While the silent nods are a distinctive feature for my natives, the head-shakes among many Indians are such vigorous that I sometimes visualize cows watching them. Almost every Indian – we move our heads a lot while talking and even while listening too. While moving hands in the right way when talking is considered as a good non-verbal gesture, I do not remember something similar being said about heads. In fact, it is suggested to keep head still and make proper eye-eye contact while speaking or listening.

Whether during my stay in US or in Hollywood movies, I have rarely seen an American moving his/her head as much as Indians do while talking. While listening too, they just nod their head vertically once/twice as acknowledgement – nothing more than that.

Some of you may think I have generalized it too far, but these have been my observations over the last 4 years :->>

Though I annoy people with my silent nods (shakes), I think I hardly move my head while listening. This used to annoy my lecturers in college, who felt I was not acknowledging and not paying attention in the class room, in fact, with my blank stares were defying them!

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Bhuvanagiri adventure

Those were the boring routine weekends in 2009. One day, roomie Venkat and I decided to go on bike trip to nearby. While searching for any such place not more than 100km far from Hyderabad, Bhuvanagiri (Bhongir) fort came into my mind. I see this fort whenever I go by train to native from Hyderabad (Can be seen on the left after crossing Bibinagar junction on Hyderabad-Guntur line).

Bhuvanagiri is on Hyderabad-Warangal NH202 highway and Secunderabad-Kazipet railway line. It is around 35km from Uppal and 65km from Gachibowli.

We started from Gachibowli on a Saturday  morning, 6.30 AM. I have the route map print-out from and so crossed Mehdipatnam, Liberty and Narayanaguda without any problem. Then, we lost the way after Barkatpura. Somehow, we found the directions from localites and reached Uppal ring road around 8. We had our breakfast there and started again.

Since, those were the days before Infosys phase-II and extension works (the highway is being extended to 4 lanes), the traffic was less and we rallied smoothly. The weather was pleasant, with rain on the previous day, cool breeze, no show from sun and so it was the perfect day for a bike ride.

After reaching Bhuvanagiri by 8.45 AM, nobody could give the right direction to the hill base, though it was a small town. Somehow, we reached the hill-base and were surprised to see a locked gate at the base. We checked with a shop-keeper there and he informed that the gate should be opened at 9. Luckily, the watchman had come by 9. There was no trace of other tourists. He gave us a wry smile and issued us tickets. That added more doubts about the place.

After crossing the gate, we came across a statue named Sardar Sarvai Papanna at the base of a slope. We could see something like a small fort at the top of slope. We were disappointed to know that we came all the way to see such a small hillock and fort. It was a surprise too as the fort appeared to be on the top of a big hill while viewing from the train.
***Click on the picture to see full size***
Walking on the steep slop reminded me an old Telugu movie.

After hiking that steep, we could not find a way. Hiking was easy, but found it hard to come down.

Then, we found some steps on the left. After climbing the steps, we realized that what we had seen from the base was just a tower (guard point) and need to climb up to reach the fort.

Bhuvanagiri bus-station from the tower base -

There were no steps from this point onwards, it was just a hilly path.

Trekked this rocky path and seen some cannons there. Then, we were looking for a way to reach the fort at the top. It was like a huge rock without any proper stairs. There were some carvings like steps with railings to support here and there. We were in a dilemma whether to proceed or not. 

What if we fall from there? Who would be there to inform about us?

Suddenly, we saw a person going up with an ease. That gave us some courage. Also, two tourists joined us - we exchanged pleasantries and came to know that they too were like us, biking from Hyderabad. They followed us on this adventurous part of the trekking.

That trekking was the best part of the trip and the thrill made us forget the effort we put in. However, the scene on the top was disappointing. There were just broken walls representing the fort. Actually it was so small that I would not call it a fort. Though, we could not refrain from appreciating the efforts of the coolies who brought up so many stones atop that steep hill.

There was a BSNL telephone tower too on the hill-top and the person who trekked before us was an employee, who looks after that. He told us that he would trek everyday to attend his office duties. And, I grumble about my software job in AC room and had to drag myself to the office everyday.

Though, the fort was a disappointment, the nature scenes from the top were breathtaking.

Slowly, the place got filled up with tourists. We could see around 20 of them. So, it was not such a neglected place. We started to trek down and reached the base by 11.30.

I heard that there is a trekking path from the back of the hill, which is frequently visited by trekking and adventure clubs from Hyderabad. 

Though it was an unplanned trip, the whole experience of bike trip, trekking and scenes were awesome. We vouched to do such trips regularly, though soon broken by sudden break journey to onsite.