Khaas Baat : A Publication for Indian Americans in Florida


Book Reviews By NITISH S. RELE,
[email protected]

History of TeaA History of Tea: The Life and Times of the World’s Favorite Beverage” (216 pages, $14.99) by Laura C. Martin; published by Tuttle Publishing (

The history of tea with its medicinal origins in 4th century China is not rosy. Greed, power, exploitation, hunger and poverty played a role. Examples are Britain trading opium for tea or the Chinese emperor in the 8th century forcing peasants to produce tea instead of producing food crops. But there also are cheerful moments, cautions Laura C. Martin, such as providing livelihoods for millions of people and the beverage’s use as medicine, aid to meditation and of course for family gatherings and social occasions. The author has done a fabulous job tracing its origins to about 3000 BCE when mythical Chinese emperor Shen Nung was said have been the first ever to taste tea. Afterward, Buddhist monks spread its medicinal properties to the rest of the world, including Japan in the 6th century, Southeast Asia and beyond. Martin provides invaluable information on total tea consumption with China at the top, followed by India, Turkey and Russia. The No. 1 tea-producing countries are China, India, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Turkey and Vietnam. How do you brew a perfect cup and what are the best times of day for sipping various teas? Martin has the answers for you. Health-wise, she highlights the numerous disease-fighting properties of the popular beverage while cautioning that tea is not a panacea or substitute for fruits and vegetables. “The simple act of brewing a cup of tea and stopping long enough to enjoy it probably offers as much benefit as polyphenols or antioxidants or any other element found in the tea,” she concludes. As the late English actor Arthur Wing Pinero once said, “Where there’s tea there’s hope.”

Immigrant, Montana” (310 pages, $25.95) by Amitava Kumar; published by Alfred A. Knopf (

It could be called a novel or a journal, or even a compilation, with pictures, footnotes, drawings, sidebars, but masterfully and skillfully narrated, as is the case with all Amitava Kumar books. Set in 1990, Kailash, also called Kalashnikov, AK-47, AK, arrives in New York to attend graduate school. The seven chapters are titled after the women he encounters (more sexual than intellectual), beginning with Jennifer, a bookstore co-worker. After the breakup, he meets a playful Nina, a few more, till he ends up with Cai Yan from India. He observes, “The truth, Your Honor, is that the immigrant feels at home in guilt. How could I deny guilt and wrongdoing? I’m not talking only of the lies I had uttered when I applied for the visa, no, I’m aware at this moment only of the guilt of having abandoned my parents.” In the author’s note at the end, he cautions that there is no place called Immigrant, Montana. However, in one of the chapters, he writes, “It (Immigrant, Montana) was a name that I had long carried in my imagination; it now belonged to the past. For all these years it was a name that brought together, like the two hands of a clock meeting at the right hour, the two most deeply felt needs of mind, the desire for love and the hankering for home.” The new narrative is packed with sex, politics, race, art, migration, exile, guilt, etc., making it a must read like Kumar’s previous books, “A Matter of Rats: A Short Biography of Patna,” “A Foreigner Carrying in the Crook of his Arm a Tiny Bomb,” “Bombay London New York,” “Passport Photos,” and “Nobody Does the Right Thing.”

“If You See Me, Don’t Say Hi” (210 pages; $24.99) by Neel Patel; published by Flatiron Books (

Eleven standalone short stories deal with relationships: opposite or same sex, arranged and mixed marriages, and divorce. This debut collection by Patel about first- and second-generation Indian Americans rips apart outdated, old conventions and categorizations. So, you have a case of two brothers at each other’s throat; sparring spouses; a distraught rejected hubby; a youth discovering his sexual orientation on a family holiday; a couple struggling amid scandalous community chatter; and an anxious girl stood up by her online date, who notes: “No one ever told me that happiness was like a currency: that when it goes, it goes, and that few people are willing to give you some of theirs.” And then there’s the brother fighting his sibling, who writes: “While Deepak went to the motel each morning, to learn about franchising and how to hide small portions of money from the IRS, I went to school, buoyed by the prospect of talking to a girl … I gawked at her. It was like the final moments before hitting a car. You know it’s about to happen, you know there’s nothing you can do about it, and yet you try, pointlessly, to avoid it.” The author has made a solid impression with his first book of short stories with flawed and captivating characters. We eagerly await his debut novel, which is in the works.

Asian Waters: The Struggle Over the South China Sea & the Strategy of Chinese Expansion

Asian Waters: The Struggle Over the South China Sea & the Strategy of Chinese Expansion” (290 pages; $29.95) by Humphrey Hawksley; published by The Overlook Press (

Cuarteron, Fiery Cross, Gaven, Hughes, Johnson, Mischief and Subi. Just names to us, however, these seven remote Spratly Islands reefs on which Beijing has been building military bases in the South China Sea may one day lead to a full-scale war. The main shipping route between the Indian and Pacific Oceans carries $5 trillion worth of trade a year, writes Hawksley, an award-winning BBC journalist with vast experience in Asia. Though China, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia and Taiwan occupy/control the Spratly Islands, the effects of a conflict will quickly bear on India too. This is evident from the inroads China has made in India’s backyard, Sri Lanka, where “Chinese companies are in the process of creating a new trade area around a large modern port with an airport, power station, and oil refinery.” Hawksley points out that China also runs much of the Port of Colombo. Needless to say, Pakistan is a key ally of China too. Delhi has attempted to match Chinese influence in South Asia but most major effects have proved futile. The odds may be stacked against India in a conventional war with China but there is some relief as America opens up its latest defense systems. It does help that Australia, Japan, Indonesia, New Zealand, Philippines and South Korea are on the same side as India to curb Chinese control in the South China Sea. The author warns that “China is claiming great power status, and the West should address it exactly for what it is.” Talks to restructure the world order may be fraught with difficulties and challenges but there should be a change underway. “If China does see itself as the new force in the world, it is up to China to get it right. The first step would be to initiate a peaceful and pragmatic end to the disputes in Asian waters.” And that, as we all know, is easier said than done.

The Night DiaryThe Night Diary” (270 pages; $16.99; for ages 8 to 12 years) by Veera Hiranandani; published by Dial Books for Young Readers (

“So as of today, the ground I’m standing on is not India anymore. And Kazi (cook) is supposed to live in one place and we’re supposed to leave and find a new home. Is there a Muslim girl sitting in her house right now who has to leave her home and go to a new country that’s not even called India? Does she feel confused and scared, too?” writes Nisha in the journal. She struggles to understand the conception of the partition of India. Half-Muslim (mother) and half-Hindu (father), the 12-year-old and her family leave Pakistan for a perilous trek by train and foot to cross the other side of the border. She lost her mother as a baby, now the young protagonist Nisha faces the prospect of losing her homeland also. And so she questions in letters to her mother, “Sometimes I don’t really feel like anything, not Hindu, not Muslim. Is that a bad thing to feel?” The inspiration for the historical story came to Hiranandani from her own family and relatives who had to make the nearly-impossible journey from Mirpur Khas in Pakistan to Jodhpur, India during the partition. The story written as a diary from July 14 to Nov. 10 of 1947 puts the spotlight on the largest mass migration in history for the young reader. It resulted in nearly one million deaths. “Sometimes I think about why we get to be alive when so many others died for no reason walking the same walk, crossing the same border. All that suffering, all that death, for nothing. I will never understand, as long as I live, how a country could change overnight from only a line drawn.” The well-written and informative book, which tells a heart-wrenching story of the turbulent Indian history, is a good read for any middle-grader.

Murder at the Grand Raj Palace BOOK

Murder at the Grand Raj Palace” (368 pages; $15.99) by Vaseem Khan; published by Redhook (

After “The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra,” “The Perplexing Theft of the Jewel in the Crown” and “The Strange Disappearance of a Movie Star” comes another gem from Vaseem Khan. In the latest Baby Ganesh Detective Agency mystery series book, retired Inspector Ashwin Chopra takes up the case involving an American billionaire found dead at the Grand Raj Palace (Hint: it’s The Taj Mahal Palace!) in Bombay, now Mumbai. Labeled a suicide, the sleuth soon discovers several suspects who would want the tycoon dead, including an art critic, a renowned artist and a rich IT entrepreneur. Once he gets involved in the case, Chopra forgets about planning for his 40th wedding anniversary celebrations with his adorable wife Poppy, who is searching for a missing bride in the very same hotel. Other familiar characters include Irfan (former street urchin but now a bona fide Chopra family member), and of course, Baby Ganesh, whose encounters with a wayward lemur in the hotel are a hoot. Like previous books by Khan, there are several twists and turns. Several historical monuments in Mumbai come back to life, as in VT Station: “A grand building designed in the High Victorian Gothic style, the station’s spires, turrets, pointed arches and signature dome concealed a bewildering internal layout that, to the uninitiated, became a frantic maze designed to grind down the human soul.” Our kudos go to the author for yet another enchanting crime mystery. We await, patiently (or impatiently!), for the next in the Baby Ganesh Detective Agency series.

A State of Freedom BOOKA State of Freedom” (280 pages; $25.95) by Neel Mukherjee; published by W.W. Norton & Co. (

Like his previous novel “The Lives of Others,” which was nominated for the Man Booker Prize, London-based Neel Mukherjee has penned another intense, vivid and compassionate novel that will stir up emotions of hurt, anguish, desperation, pity and anger. The book is essentially five stories set in Kolkata, Mumbai and small villages. It begins with a father from America touring India with his young son before a tragic ending that will shake you to the core. Next up is a well-to-do young Indian man, based in London, on an annual visit to his parents. A writer and gourmand, he is curious to know more about the domestic cook in his parents’ household. The third part involves a man who deserts his family to take a bear “on the road” to make a living. Part four is about two friends who go on separate paths for circumstances beyond their control. Mukherjee delves on the mistreatment and torture meted out to a domestic worker (“caged bird”) in big cities. The final story raises the question of belonging. A master of narration, the author writes, “When she got her turn at the window, she saw, speeding past on the other side of the iron bars, a brick factory with piles of bright red-brown bricks stacked around it like unfinished walls and tall, thin chimneys spewing out blue-white plumes of smoke; scrub; endless stretches of fields and dry earth; a tin shed in the middle of immense empty land; deserted temples, some, it seemed, no bigger than a doll’s house; a scarecrow, arms akimbo, its figure tilted to one side, the rags covering it flapping in the hot breeze … there was too much place in the world and it made her afraid.” Amid oppressive poverty and squalor, there are overlooked people in India who are fighting hard to triumph over suppression. That very much sums up this brutally candid book.

Interfaith Marriage: Share & Respect With EqualityInterfaith Marriage: Share & Respect With Equality” (310 pages; $14.99) by Dilip Amin; published by Mount Meru Publishing (

Someone in your family that you know in an interfaith relationship, which could lead to marriage? Then this is the book you must grab for information pertaining to interfaith marriage, conversion, in-law relationships, religious scriptures, and best of all, real-life experiences shared by Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Jain and Parsi youth. As the world has shrunk, and rightly so, Dilip Amin points out that in North America, “about a third of the young generation of Dharmics (Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs) marry Abrahamics (Christians, Jews and Muslims).” As this trend continues upward, the author forewarns interfaith dating couples to discuss sensitive topics such as religion in the early courting period. He wants interfaith dating couples to be aware of the talking points before making a fully “informed” decision. The journey is never easy, says Amin, but despite all the potential marital pitfalls, a successful and fulfilling inter-religious marriage is possible as long as religious beliefs aren’t forced on the other partner. Other vital questions addressed are: “What religion will my children follow?” “How is the decision to select a faith usually made?” “Is religious conversion for marriage wrong?” “Interfaith relationships should be based on mutual respect for both faiths, and marriage should be solemnized without imposing religious conversion on a spouse,” notes the founder of and director of Peninsula Multifaith Coalition in San Francisco. “After marriage, both spouse’s faiths should get equal respect and consideration in home life and raising children. Eventually children will find their own solutions to the irreconcilable differences between the two religions.” Before you or somebody you know ties the knot in an interfaith relationship, do check out this book. It is a treasure trove of invaluable information and resources on different religious belief systems.

Note to Self: A Collection of Thoughts on LifeNote to Self: A Collection of Thoughts on Life: (106 pages; $9.99) by Cheryl Cherian; self-published.

In this debut book, Tampa native and University of South Florida graduate Cheryl Cherian has put together some ramblings and random thoughts on essential life topics such as forgiveness, friends and foes, grief, kindness, identity, positive vibes, relationships, struggles, happiness, etc. “Most of these were little pieces of observations or advice to myself, which in a way were my inspiration,” she notes. Well, the notes could also be motivational for the reader. While admitting that forgiveness can be challenging, she writes, “… it’s what I strive for, for my own peace of mind … Most importantly however, we have to learn to forgive ourselves. Sometimes we are our own greatest critic.” On struggles in life: “Whatever might be your obstacle in life right now, if you challenge yourselves to overcome it, I guarantee that you can meet the countless obstacles to come with the memory of how you overcame this one.” On ‘what ifs”: “Live in the present rather than in fear of the future or what might be. Challenge yourself and watch your fears disappear.” On optimism: “Surround yourself with positive things and positive people, and exuding positive vibes yourself will be that much easier.” On getting real: “Be humble. Nobody likes someone who is boastful. Humility will take you a long way in every situation and with every person you encounter.” On happiness: “If you want happiness, we have to wish happiness for others as well … Happiness is everyone’s birthright. Go out and chase your happiness. Do the things you love that make you happy. Spend time with the people who make you smile. Spread the happiness. Life is too short to not live it to the fullest.” Kudos to Cherian, who is pursuing a Master’s degree in Human Services with a concentration in mental health counseling, for a simple to read and understand self-improvement book.

Our Time Has Come: How India is Making its Place in the World

Our Time Has Come: How India is Making its Place in the World” (340 pages; $27.95) by Alyssa Ayres; published by Oxford University Press (

India is on the march and there is just no stopping the third largest economy (GDP PPP share of world total), the third biggest military and by 2022, the most populous country in the world. So points out the author, who served as U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for South Asia from 2010-2013. Of course, India has several vulnerabilities, notes Ayres, such as being home to the largest number of the world’s poor, strained infrastructure in dire need of repair, social discrimination and religious tensions, and its location in a tough neighborhood with Pakistan and China presenting challenges at every turn. While recognizing that Pakistan is a security threat, she writes with assurance, “Pakistan-based terrorist groups can do harm, but they cannot alter the fundamental transformation that has now positioned India among the world’s largest economies and with a significant contribution to global democracy, peace and security, development, and governance.” As India and America are drawn closer, she has several suggestions for the world’s sole Superpower such as developing stronger bilateral ties, expanding technical partnership with India on democracy, etc. Just as importance is given to countries like Japan, China, Russia, Brazil, India’s significance to U.S. national interests should also receive some spotlight, she suggests. “India, as a major rising power of Asia, should be better understand better appreciated in its own terms—as a competitiveness issue for U.S. economic and business interests, and as a matter of the demands of the new global diplomacy in which all of Asia plays a much more pivotal role,” writes Ayres. Whether you are an Indophile or not, this is a book to treasure as India moves toward “making its place in the world.” Against all odds.

The Milk Lady of Bangalore: An Unexpected AdventureThe Milk Lady of Bangalore: An Unexpected Adventure” (256 pages; $24.95) by Shoba Narayan; published by Algonquin Books (,

After 20 years in the U.S., the author and her family return to India. One fine day, she comes across a cow in the elevator of her modern high-rise apartment building. There it stood, angled diagonally to fit, not looking uncomfortable, merely impatient and tethered to its owner, Sarala, the milk lady who sells milk right across the apartment. “It is for the housewarming ceremony on the third floor,” reveals Sarala. The two quickly become close friends, which kicks off a wild adventure in search of a new milk cow. Though both women come from diverse backgrounds, they bond together. Along the way, the reader is treated to a history lesson of the cow in Indian culture and life in general as well. With a dose of wild humor. “Cows may foretell death, but they also give life.” “Cows are not slow; they are just deliberate. Cows don’t linger; they rush to their calves like a river rushes to sea.” “The Sanskrit word for cow is go, and cows are venerated as Go-matha, or ‘Cow-mother.’ ” “Milk is my way of reconnecting with the patch of earth that I call home.” “There are certain explanations that you can use with impunity in India – traffic jams and power cuts being two of them. I plunge in with the delicacy of an assassin.” “Is grief a luxury that the poor cannot afford, caught as they are in the business of making ends meet?” “I hate goodbyes. Always have. Goodbyes are guilt on steroids.” We too hated saying goodbye to this superbly written and stirring book by Shoba Narayan. This one deserves a spot on your must-read list for the year.

Engineering a Life – A MemoirEngineering a Life – A Memoir” (312 pages; $16.95) by Krishan K. Bedi; published by Spark Press (

He may not be a household name but his story of perseverance and resolve is a tremendously stirring read. At just 20 years of age, Krishan Bedi left India and landed at a port in New York after a three-week journey by sea. The year was 1961 and you can imagine the culture shock he faced while beginning his new life in Knoxville, Tenn. To make ends meet and fulfill his dreams, he did it all: janitor, dishwasher, cook, commercial laundry employee, city transit bus driver. Finally, he earned a master’s degree in industrial engineering at the University of Tennessee. It was then back to India where the author married Raj before returning to the U.S. to become a successful healthcare executive. In the beginning, disillusioned by the process of applying to become a student in the U.S., his mother advised him, “Krishan, if you really want something, you should not give up simply because it is too hard. Please, you have my blessing to try again.” And he did, with success. Even after a move-back to India with the entire family for a new hospital administrator’s job didn’t pan out, he wasn’t disheartened. He carried on. Today, he resides in Peoria, Ill., with his wife Raj. Bedi has three sons and five grandchildren. He ends on a convincing note, “I have learned to not worry about uncertainties, but instead, to do my best and leave no stone unturned.” His tale is the very essence of the American Dream, truly an inspiration for the young.


A Rose from a DreamA Rose from a Dream” (362 pages; $19.99) by Kanchana Krishnan Ayyar; published by Kanchi Books (

In the prequel, “When the Lotus Blooms,” Kanchana Krishnan Ayyar took the reader on a journey to British Colonial India while following the lives of two child brides. There’s Rajam who is fighting her failure to conceive, tormented by a dominant mother-in-law. And Dharmu, who is struggling to adjust to her husband’s Westernized life. In this sequel, “A Rose from a Dream,” the Coral Springs resident brings together the two mothers’ respective families, and their children Kamu and Kandu amid the backdrop of turbulent times. Such as the catastrophic Great Bengal famine of 1943 in which three million people died and the horrific Calcutta riots of 1946. The author introduces several intriguing characters, including brown sahibs, who struggle to show loyalty to the crown while keeping their patriotic feelings in check; revolutionaries, out for revenge; and probably the most colorful and interesting of all, the devadasis, among the forgotten lot today. Amid the upheaval of the battle for freedom, the author lays the foundation to unite the two families of distinctly different upbringings. And we must point out, she has done a superb job of weaving the lives of the rich and poor into a fine, gripping story. It is no easy feat to capture the essence and chaos of the longing for freedom. A native of New Delhi, Ayyar lived in Mexico City, Buenos Aires and New York City before moving to Coral Springs in 1999. Her other book credits include “The Present: A gift from the Divine” and “Snapshots.”

Karma CurryKarma Curry” (296 pages; $14.95) by Jerry K. Durbeej; published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (

Set in the 1970s, this story takes you on a journey from village life in Guyana’s capital, Georgetown, to New York City. The story is simple but told beautifully by the author Jerry K. Durbeej, another resident of Coral Springs. Karamchand, the eldest son of Raman and Raani Mohandas, is engaged to Priya, daughter of Bharat and Sunita Etwaroo, who live in Mortice. However, the 21-year-old backs away from marriage and deserts his fiancée by taking off for New York City. But it is not just Priya who suffers this fate. Another woman, Gaitri Kumar, also falls to hopes Karamchand has shown in their relationship. As they say, what goes around comes around. And it does when both Gaitri and Priya end up in America about four years later. It appears Karam’s karma has caught up with him when one fine day, he is deported back to Guyana by U.S. immigration authorities for being an illegal alien. Durbeej brings out Karam’s mixed but sad emotions and feelings on the plane back to his motherland. “Twilight. Men leaning on polished akyah sticks, women squatting separately on the clay floor daubed weekly with mud and cows’ dung; the smell of smoke from fires repelling mosquitoes from the sheep and cows, the scent of strong bunjal curry wafting through the air, and the sad Hindi songs yearning for the return of lost love, lost friendship, or lost gods. India kept calling …” For a debut book, this is well written with all the hodgepodge of love, despair, heartbreak, revenge, passion, betrayal, remorse, ambition, and, of course, karma. We hope Durbeej has more such fascinating books in store for us.



cuisineBollywood Kitchen: Home-cooked Indian Meals Paired with Unforgettable Bollywood Films” by Sri Rao; photography by Sidney Bensimon; 310 pages; $25; published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (

sdfThis is probably the most unique and rather unusual cookbook we have read and reviewed. While providing simple and straightforward recipes, the author takes the reader on a guided tour of Bollywood films such as “Guru,” “Kahaani,” “Queen,” “Devdas,” “Lagaan,” among others. In Sri Rao’s opinion, these are the best contemporary Bollywood films. And the 69 recipes, all credited to his mother, are paired with the movies and use simple, American ingredients. “The result is homemade Indian food you’ll enjoy sharing with your family and friends because it’s delicious, healthy, and easy to prepare.” For example, with “Kapoor & Sons,” Rao recommends dinner of Geeta’s Roast Chicken (whole chicken marinated in Spicy Yogurt and Nuts), Sweet and Savory Pumpkin (simmered with Indian Green Chilies, Sesame, Coconut, and Brown Sugar) and Bagara Annam (tasty Cashew Fried Rice). Each film has a Flavor, Recipe, The ‘Dish’, ‘Ingredients’ and ‘Taste This’ description. In other words, he introduces a film, explains why readers will love it, and reveals juicy details from behind the scene. There also are suggestions on similar Bollywood movies to watch if you are interested. Other fascinating film pairings include a dinner of Bollyburgers (succulent, spicy hamburgers with Mango salsa) with “Gangs of Wasseypur,” brunch of Dosas (crispy lentil-rice crepes) with “Dil Se,” Cocktail Kofta (mini meatballs in creamy cashew sauce) with “Dabangg,” and Chicken Korma (chicken breasts smothered in rich yogurt sauce with almonds and raisins) with “Bajirao Mastani.” Interspersed with captivating film and recipe photographs, the book is a “dinner and a movie” treat for the reader. In Technicolor, we must add.

Here are just two of the recipes reproduced with permission from the publisher:

dsfSri’s Signature Chicken

I can’t decide if I have a favorite movie in this book, but English Vinglish is certainly near the top. Likewise, if there’s only one recipe you take with you from this book, my signature chicken curry should be it. Every home has a go-to chicken dish—the one that you make more than any other, that pleases everyone in the family, and that you’re proud to serve to guests. This is that dish in my house.

I’m incredibly satisfied with this recipe just as it is, rich with spice and flavor, but you can also view it as a base from which to create slightly different curries. For a creamy variation, swap the coconut powder for 2 tablespoons of Greek yogurt. Or for a saucier version, add one finely chopped tomato after you’ve sautéed the onion (and skip the coconut). In fact, if you choose to cook with chicken breasts instead of thighs, I recommend opting for one of these variations because they’ll provide more moisture for the lean meat. (I also suggest reducing the amount of time you cook the chicken by about 10 minutes.)

This recipe, like all curries, is inevitably better the day after you’ve cooked it, once the spices have had a chance to soak even deeper into the meat. So make it a day ahead if you can. Once you get the hang of it, you could easily be cooking Sri’s Signature Chicken every week . . . at which point, you’re welcome to call it your signature chicken.

SERVES 4 to 6

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a Dutch oven or heavy saucepan over medium to medium-high heat. Season the chicken pieces with the turmeric. In multiple batches (to prevent crowding the pan), lightly brown the chicken on all sides. Remove to a plate.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in the pan and add the bay leaves, allowing them to begin infusing the oil for 15 seconds. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until golden brown, reducing the heat if necessary to prevent burning, 7 to 10 minutes.

Add the garlic and ginger pastes and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Then add the salt, red chilli powder, cinnamon, and cloves. Stir the spices into the onion, allowing them to bloom for another minute. Return the chicken to the pan. Stir well to coat all the pieces evenly with the spice paste. Decrease the heat, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally while scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan, for 15 minutes.

Remove the bay leaves. Stir in the cilantro, coconut powder, and coriander. If you’re making the dish a day ahead, turn off the heat at this point. Cool before refrigerating and then finish cooking before you serve.

Decrease the heat to the lowest setting, cover, and continue cooking for another 15 minutes.

Stir well. Adjust the seasonings to taste. Turn off the heat and allow the meat to rest for 10 minutes. Garnish with the lemon wedges and slices of onion. Serve with rice.

Sri’s Signature Chicken from Bollywood Kitchen by Sri Rao. © Copyright 2017 by Sri Rao. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

sdfVegetable Hakka Noodles

Rani and Vijay’s endearing first date in a Chinese restaurant reminded me of something. I realize I may offend over a billion people when I say this, but I have to confess: the most delicious Chinese food I’ve ever eaten has been in India.

It may come as a surprise to a lot of people, but India has amazing Chinese food. The two ancient cultures have shared centuries of trade (and conflict) due to their close proximity, so it makes sense that there has been significant culinary crossover as well. Today, Chinese food is incredibly popular in India, enjoyed by middle-class families and couples on date nights, just like Rani and Vijay.

But Indians’ version of Chinese food is different from what we have in America (or, for that matter, authentic Chinese food in China). Indo-Chinese cuisine melds Chinese cooking techniques with Indian spices to create dishes that I absolutely adore, like Chilli Chicken, Gobi Manchurian, and this dish—Vegetable Hakka Noodles.

This simple veggie lo mein can be made with any combination of vegetables that you have on hand. Just make sure they’re thinly sliced to make for quick cooking. You’ll find that the spices in this dish are bolder than your traditional American lo mein. Garlic, ginger, and red chillies create a flavor profile that’s reminiscent of takeout Chinese, but with a fiery, Indian twist.


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook until al dente, following the instructions on the packet. Drain well and rinse briefly under cold tap water. Then drizzle with a bit of olive oil to keep from sticking.

Heat the canola oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Add the red chillies, ginger, and garlic paste and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds. Then add the scallions, bell pepper, carrot, green beans, mushrooms, and lima beans. Cook over high heat, stirring, until the carrot is tender, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add the pasta to the wok along with the soy sauce and vinegar. Using tongs or two spoons, toss the pasta with the veggies for a few minutes, until well incorporated. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds, black pepper, and sugar along the way.

Adjust the seasonings to taste. Transfer to a serving platter or bowl. Garnish with chopped scallions. Be sure to warn your guests about the chillies!

Vegetable Hakka Noodles from Bollywood Kitchen by Sri Rao. © Copyright 2017 by Sri Rao. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

A Life of AdventThe Strange Disappearance of a Bollywood Starure and Deligh

The Windfall” (296 pages; $26) by Diksha Basu; published by Crown Publishing Group (

Meet Anil and Bindu Jha, a middle-class couple living in a raucous, dilapidated housing complex with a troubled son Rupak, studying business in the United States. Anil is thrilled to sell his online business for a $20 million windfall. His joy knows no bounds. Even more so than his wife’s. He immediately buys a Mercedes and an expensive home in Gurgaon, a Delhi suburb. The best parts of the book are the interactions of the Jhas with their old and new neighbors. When Anil points out to his new neighbor Dinesh Chopra that his son studies in upstate New York, Ithaca, where Cornell University is, the all-knowing Chopra replies, “Ithaca. That is a town in Italy if I am not mistaken … I am a big fan of Michelangelo.” There are sparkles of subtle humor and wit throughout, one during Bindu’s first trip to the new neighborhood. “The only sign she had seen of people on this road was a passing blue Aston Martin with such darkly tinted windows there was no way of knowing if there was a dog driving this car. A year ago she wouldn’t even have known what an Aston Martin was.” This gem of a complaint to his wife from Anil when visiting the shoe handler at a temple had us in splits. “They’re robbing people blind with the shoe check-in. I’ll leave one shoe outside the temple and keep one in my back pocket—nobody will steal a single shoe.” All in all, “The Windfall” is a fun read that will leave you cackling every now and then. It’s been termed a “comedy of manners.” And rightly so.

The Epic City: The World on the Streets of Calcutta” (272 pages; $27) by Kushanava Choudhury; published by Bloomsbury (

It doesn’t matter if you have been to Calcutta. This part memoir and autobiography by Kushanava Choudhury etches before one’s eyes a legendary city of great hopes and sunken dreams. Born to Indian American scientists in New York, the author and his family migrate between India and America at least four times before settling in Highland Park, N.Y. After graduation from Princeton, he moves to Calcutta in 2001 where “The past is never left behind. It haunts every world you live in. Sometimes it drags you back.” Choudhury vividly paints a picture of the city: “The mildewed concrete buildings, the bowl-shaped Ambassador taxis, the paintings on the backs of buses, the ubiquitous political graffiti, the posters stuck onto any flat surface, the bazaars full of squatting fish sellers, the tea shop benches on the sidewalks, the caged balconies of the middle classes, the narrow entrails of corrugated slums, nothing had changed, not even the impassive expressions on the faces of clerks. The city was in its own time zone.” Believing that “an account of the past should help a people to understand its present in order to imagine a shared future,” he recounts with repulsion the Hindu-Muslim riots during partition and the great Bengal famine. “No monument remembers those pasts, which have been willfully forgotten.” Not everything is doom and gloom in Calcutta as the author introduces us to publishers of literary magazines who have a Bengali love for the arts or catches up with unknown but talented poets. Join Choudhury as he enters “countless portals of the city, following streets upon streets, pavements upon pavements, to another life” in the epic city. You will enjoy the journey like we did.

Shared Tables: Family Stories and Recipes from Poona to LA“Shared Tables: Family Stories and Recipes from Poona to LA” by Kaumudi Marathe; 302 pages; $14.18; published by Speaking Tiger Books; (

The Konkanastha and Saraswat cuisines may be poles apart in every respect but can easily stir an appetite or two. Like they did for us as Kaumudi Marathe related stories dating back to her roots in the two clans. We read anecdotes (not just about food but also crossing social barriers, caste, creed) of some fascinating time spent with her maternal and paternal grandparents. The reader is then taken on a ‘flavorful’ tour of Poona, Canada, Nagaland, Hyderabad and Wales before the author settles in Bombay as a journalist covering fires, interviewing Amitabh Bachchan, meeting Mother Teresa and writing her first book, “Temples of India: Circles of Stone.” Marriage transports the author to Texas and then Los Angeles where she settled down and started Un-Curry (, a catering company, cooking school and pop-restaurant, unlike any other. “I wanted people to move past the idea of Indian food being greasy, spicy-hot food you got for cheap in a dive. I wanted them to explore beyond samosas, tandoori chicken, naan and tikka masala, which were all delicious but only represented a tiny portion of India’s rich culinary diversity,” she writes. Now, who would deny that? Cooking classes allow Marathe to share stories, history, folklore and a good meal with people who want to learn about Indian food. She nixes the belief that all Indian food is spicy. “Before we had chillies, we used black pepper and ginger.” At the end of the book, she skimps on her favorite recipes. We could have used some more of the “un-curry” ones. The author of two other books, “The Essential Marathi Cookbook” and “Maharashtrian Cuisine: A Family Treasury,” remembers her grandmother’s words loud and clear. “Tell the stories you’ve been gathering all your life. Say the things I never got to say.” Marathe would make grandmother Veerbala proud for “hearing family stories, documenting the past, cooking traditional Marathi food from recipes shared by older generations to revive flavours not often tasted today.”

Here are two recipes reproduced with permission from the author:

Marathe Clan: Konkanastha Braised Okra with Tamarind and Jaggery

Serves: 2-4; Time: 30 minutes

My great-aunt Susheela Marathe shared this unusual Konkanastha recipe for okra with me when I was researching my first cookbook.



  1. Chop okra into ¾-inch long pieces.
  2. Heat oil in a medium wok.
  3. Pop mustard seeds. Stir in asafoetida and turmeric.
  4. Sauté okra over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes.
  5. Stir in tamarind, water and jaggery.
  6. Reduce heat and cook covered, stirring occasionally, 12-15 minutes.
  7. Add salt and cook uncovered 2-3 minutes to evaporate most of the water.
  8. Serve hot, garnished with coriander leaves.

Sirsikar Clan: Saraswat Pan-Fried Pomfret

Serves: 2-4; Time: 30 minutes marinating + 30 minutes cooking

The Saraswats love fish and I am no exception. Vahini's fried pomfret makes a delicious appetizer. If pomfret is not available, try it with thin fillets of firm, white fish like tilapia, cod, or turbot, even shrimp.



  1. Rub fillets with salt and turmeric 30 minutes before frying.
  2. Spread rice flour in a small plate.
  3. Heat 2-3 tablespoons oil on the griddle till very hot, 4-5 minutes.
  4. Sprinkle some red chilli over each fillet and transfer it to the rice flour, pressing down to coat both sides evenly.
  5. Shallow-fry 6-8 coated fillets at a time, 3-5 minutes per side.
  6. Drizzle a little oil around them as they cook.
  7. Turn fillets when the first side is firm and golden brown.
  8. Replenish oil as needed.

Drain well before serving hot with lime wedges and sliced onions.

The Strange Disappearance of a Bollywood Star” (386 pages; $15.99) by Vaseem Khan; published by Redhook (

After “The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra” and “The Perplexing Theft of the Jewel in the Crown” comes another gem from Vaseem Khan. In the latest Baby Ganesh Detective Agency mystery series book, retired Inspector Ashwin Chopra solves the case of a kidnapped, rebellious Bollywood actor Vicky Verma. As always, he is aided by his adorable wife Poppy, Irfan (former street urchin but now a bona fide Chopra family member), Baby Ganesh and ex-police colleague Rangwalla, who gets a fascinating sub-plot of his own that involves flamboyant eunuchs and a long-buried, hush-hush family story. Like previous books by Khan, there are several twists and turns, one even lands Chopra in a rural prison for hardcore criminals. Once again, we have Baby Ganesh to the rescue. Truly, Bombay, now Mumbai, comes back to life as in: “Caste prejudice, religious prejudice, social prejudice, prejudice in all its myriad forms.” And we couldn’t agree more with Khan on this vivid description of Film City studio in Goregaon. “Serving as a canvas to the unbridled creativity of legendary art directors and megalomaniac producers, Film City had played host to every manifestation of Indian life imaginable. There were lakes, hills, deserts, clifftops, fake villages, and miniature cities. Mughal palaces rubbed shoulders with modern skyscrapers and seedy dance bars.” Hats off to the author for yet another enchanting crime mystery. We await, patiently (or impatiently!), for the next in the Baby Ganesh Detective Agency series.

No One Can Pronounce My NameNo One Can Pronounce My Name” (400 pages; $26) by Rakesh Satyal; published by Picador Hardcover (

The story is straightforward but the characters are passionately complex. In a suburb outside Cleveland lives Harit in his mid-40s along with his mother. Since the untimely death of his sister, Harit has been dressing up in a sari daily to pass himself off as the deceased Swati. He believes this imprudent attempt is the only way to stay sane and keep his nearly-blind mother somewhat normal too. Employed at a men’s clothing store, he is close friends with a gay coworker Teddy. Not too far away is Ranjana, another immigrant in mid-40s, who is married to Mohan. The two have a son, Prashant, who is studying chemistry in college. Ranjana, who works as a receptionist at a doctor’s office, incorrectly believes that her husband is having an affair and seeks solace by writing paranormal romances in secret. Satyal sets up the characters and their backgrounds eloquently before Harit and Ranjana meet to stir up a friendship of sorts, among many other feelings. The author can be wildly hilarious. “He had a common Indian male physique: second trimester with a possible sail into the third,” he notes about a character. Or here’s another: “It’s just that, well, I’m Indian, and I’d be killed by firing squad if I don’t study science.” And two specifically about Harit: “It was enough to send him screaming back into his sari.” “Uncles were supposed to wear dress shirts—open at the collar—the skeletal silhouette of a T-shirt underneath them, and some gigantic wristwatch.” Despite rampantly confused characters, Satyal articulates their lives in a witty and insightful manner.

A Life of Adventure and DelightA Life of Adventure and Delight” (202 pages; $24.95) by Akhil Sharma; published by W. W. Norton & Co. (

Akhil Sharma is one of our favorite authors. His award-winning “An Obedient Father” was an absolute delight and so was “Family Life,” an elegantly written novel filled with dark humor. The latest is a collection of short stories previously published in “The New Yorker,” “The Atlantic” and “The Paris Review.” Gautama, a young graduate student who finds thrill among prostitutes, appears to have found an ideal companion with whom he can settle down. However, growing frustration with his parents and girlfriend leads him to “A Life of Adventure and Delight” once again with a prostitute. “Cosmopolitan” is in the same vein as “A Life …” with a middle-aged man looking to start a new relationship. The story “Surrounded by Sleep” is essentially the condensed version of “Family Life,” in which the elder brother, Birju, is severely brain damaged after an accident in a swimming pool. The young sibling Ajay tries to cope with the tragedy and even tries to coax God. “Just get rid of the minutes when Birju lay on the bottom of the pool. What are three minutes to you?” In “You are Happy?” a mother’s bout with alcoholism leads to her murder by her own family. “The Heart is Such a Heavy Thing” looks at love versus dowry (furniture set). Thankfully, love wins for a foolhardy young man. These and a couple more stories explore the pressure from families and society on common people that can lead to silence, accusations and bitterness. Sad and tragic as the stories of their lives are, Sharma is a master storyteller at bringing them to life.


We Are One“We Are One” (38 pages; $14.95) by Param Patel and Pinky Mukhi; published by Mascot Books (

Six-year-old Mintu has invited his friends over for dinner. But he isn’t too sure about whether he should communicate with his mother in Gujarati or offer Indian food since “it is so different.” But his mother assures him, “Your friends love you for who you are, not what kinds of food you eat or what language you speak …” The three friends, Chirpy, Curio and Mintu, have different interests but realize that they are closer than ever after accepting their diverse backgrounds. Sure to instill children with pride for their own food, language and culture, this book celebrating diversity is a moving story that should lead to a meaningful dialogue with children of all ages. Author Mukhi was inspired to write the book after Param had been asking questions about differences between him and his friends while growing up in the United States. “We are brown. We are black. We are white. We are colorful. We come in different sizes. We come in different shapes. We speak different languages. We celebrate different festivals. We eat different food. We like different things. We are so different. We are friends. We help each other. We feel sad for others. We love each other. Love is something deep in us. We feel one with all we love. We are one in love,” reads a touching one-page note at the end. One couldn’t have said it any better.

COOKBOOK REVIEWDeepa’s Secrets: Slow Carb/New Indian Cuisine

“Deepa’s Secrets: Slow Carb/New Indian Cuisine” by Deepa Thomas; 234 pages; $24.99; published by Skyhorse Publishing. (

It is no secret that India is the diabetes capital of the world with more than 50 million people suffering from type 2 diabetes, including the author’s husband, Thampy, of Indian origin. The culprits are rice and bread – two staples of Indian cuisine at the top of the glycemic index (GI: rating determined by a food’s ability to raise your blood sugar on a scale of 0 to 100). As soon as Deepa Thomas discovered the culprits, she dwelt into six months of cooking and eating “New Indian.” The result? The author of this well-written, invaluable book lost 20 pounds and freed her Thampy from a 10-year routine of insulin shots. No doubt, it isn’t easy to let go off carbohydrates such as rice, bread, potatoes and pasta, Thomas warns. Her solution is embracing foods high in nutrients and/or fiber and lower on the GI like whole grains, nuts, berries and leafy green vegetables more often, every 2-3 hours. The first two weeks of a slow carb lifestyle are tough but things get better, she assures you. “What I’ve invented, or reinvented, is Indian low carb or slow carb cuisine. Not no carb, which emphasizes fat consumption.” In the 70 recipes of the book, which is interspersed with interesting anecdotes from her childhood, the author advises using gut-healthy ingredients like beans, cabbage, mushrooms, leeks, blueberries, yogurt, etc. The founder of the now-defunct Deepa Textiles, who is also a painter and journalist, hopes “my food, your food, gives you great pleasure and good health, and that your healthy choices free you to find, do, be, and feel your best. That’s everything. Except the carbs.” But, of course.

Here are two of the recipes reproduced with permission from the publisher:


avielAviel is Malayalam for vegetable medley. It is the celebration dish in Kerala. I kept the concept, but I didn’t feel the need to cook it to a mush-like consistency. This vegetable medley is al dente—a lot faster, a lot fresher, and every bit as festive.


Yogurt dressing:

Vegetables (cut into 2-inch sticks resembling French fries):



  1. Puree yogurt dressing ingredients in a blender or food processor. Set aside.
  2. Vegetables: Blanch potatoes and beans in a large pot of salted boiling water for 2 minutes. Add carrots, blanch for 1 minute more. Add zucchini and bell peppers, blanch for 1 additional minute. Vegetables should be firmly cooked, not mushy! Drain.  
  3. Heat coconut oil and sauté onion. When onion begins to brown, add curry leaves (protect yourself from crackling leaves, with a lid) and stir for 30 seconds. Add blanched vegetables and continue sautéing for 2 minutes. Don’t overcook! Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Add yogurt dressing to the sautéed vegetables and toss gently to avoid breaking up the vegetables.
  5. Tadka: Heat coconut oil in a large 12-inch saucepan over medium heat. Add mustard seeds and curry leaves (shield yourself from spluttering with a lid). Add shallot and stir until it begins to brown (5 minutes). Lower heat, and add cayenne flakes. Stir for one minute, and spoon tadka over the sautéed and yogurt-dressed vegetables.
  6. Drizzle with a final tablespoon of coconut oil as a flavor booster! Check seasoning. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serve Aviel with Heritage Barley (Better than Rice) Pilaf, Ammachi’s Clay Pot Fish Molee and Peppery Papadum. 

The humble onion promotes the growth of healthy gut bacteria, which is good for digestion, immune response, and brain function. The inulin in onion also stabilizes blood sugar levels, helping to control diabetes. Onions contain powerful antioxidants, and red and purple onions have anthocyanins (the same water-soluble pigments found in berries) with powerful anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.

Smashed Chickpea and Toasted Peanut Cakes

smashed chickpeaVendors in Delhi used to toast peanuts on the streets during the cooler winter months. They’d light fires and warm the peanuts in their shells, then slip them into newspaper cones. The peanut-chickpea combo doubles the protein in this recipe for a great vegetarian meal, side, snack, or appetizer.


Toast and grind:

Make ahead: Cakes, cooked or uncooked, freeze beautifully for a grab and go snack, appetizer, or meal. Use parchment or waxed paper to separate layers before freezing. 

  1. Toast and grind seeds. Mix all the remaining ingredients except for the flour and coconut oil. Use a hand blender to puree to a rough consistency. Check seasoning.
  2. Shape into 2-inch patties.
  3. Press patties into coconut or chickpea flour to help them hold their shape.
  4. Heat oil in a 10-inch nonstick skillet. Use enough oil to “moisten” the pan (about one tablespoon). 
  5. Brown the cakes (several at a time, without crowding) over medium heat (about four minutes). Gently flip (I use two spatulas) and brown the other side (another four minutes). Repeat until all cakes are done. You may need to add oil between batches. Keep the finished cakes warm in a 200ºF oven until ready to serve. 
  6. Serve with Reemsie’s Tamarind Sauce or Chutput Ketchup for dipping.

The chickpea and peanut cakes are a nice starter or accompaniment to Crackling Okra and Chukku’s Yogurt Salad. 

homeeventsbiz directorysubscribecontact uscontent newseditor's notehealth
immigrationfinanceMINDBODY/NUTRITIONmoviesfashionbooks/getawaysIIFA 2014ART
astrologyyouthmotoringplaces of worshipclassifiedsarchivesBLOGFACEBOOK
Read the Editor's Blog. By Nitish Rele Classifieds Motoring Astrology Books Fashion Movies Finance Immigration Health Editorial News Content Find us on Facebook! Art