Friday, March 06, 2015

Holi 2015

Special Thanks!
BANOO APA: for spoiling
us silly with tons of eats!
luddoos celebrating his 
son's wedding 
biglaaf's Holi 2015 album on Photobucket
Rang barse bheege chunar wali...
The HOLI song from the film, Silsila was not an act here. It was in everybody’s heart and spirit. While most in the city were either fast asleep or still enjoying their morning cuppa on this festive day, it was raining colours and flower petals on the 50-odd people in the Garden who had joined the Club’s Holi celebration.
The group was at its festive best, playing with gulal and wishing one another. All those apprehensive of the colours and the talk of ‘restrained Holi’ was nowhere to be seen. The highlight of the celebration was the ‘loot girl’ Bhaswati Bose (ref post of March 1). She took control of Bose Babu and invited everybody to ‘colour assault’ him. Out came the 'champion of fun', Dilip Babani, to douse the hapless captive.
Many mobile cameras got raised to capture this lively moment.
Such was the involvement of our yet-to-be member Siba Prasad Maitra, that he applied gulal to one and all and wishing them. Another worth mentioning sight was somebody touching the feet of all elders after applying gulal. In today’s India, where else can you witness this traditional Indian culture, but in the Garden? And if colour and petals were not enough, the group was also treated with plenty of eats to be gulped down with refreshing glasses of thandai -- thanks to Srichand Arora.
The early morning exercises too had its moments of excitement. The absence of Shekhawat’s make-believe sallis and the presence of his wife deprived us the pleasure of witnessing the true colours of Shekhawat we are so accustomed to. In the absence of seasoned teachers like Nahid Khan, Arora had no choice but to conduct the physical exercises. Many thought that his faltering on the sequence was because of his wife present in the circle. Arora agreed to disagree. Kiran Prakash eventually suggested not to look at his wife while conducting the exercises! Another surprise for the day was Bihari Milwani. He was seen, for the first time, in a pair of shorts. We are leaving you with some lively pictures to let your imagination run wild... till we celebrate the next Holi in 2016.
Srichand Arora:
Wow, my dear Kiran Prakash! What a true description of the day's celebration. I can bet you have written a couple of books earlier. Keep it up. Would like to see you, Dilip and Bhaswati as guest writers again and again.
Lt Col Angad Singh (retd):
The fervor and gusto with which Holi was celebrated, reflects the love of everyone has towards one another. This is a spirited devotion to be emulated by everyone. Kiran Prakash-ji, you have described the whole event in a befitting manner. Keep it up.
Bhaswati Bose:
Very enjoyable read. The festive spirit of our celebration has been captured so well by our new guest writer. Kiran Prakash-ji, we look forward to more of such refreshing blog posts.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Coldest Morning

Mallika wraps her shawl around Sunita
Grover soaks in the warm sunshine
After an unusually chilly night, we woke up to what must have been be the coldest morning of the season. Yesterday, the temperature had dipped to 14.7 degrees – a clear 5 degrees below normal. Today, it could well have plunged to 10 degrees for all we know.
This is rather alarming for a coastal city like Mumbai, especially at this time of the year (March) with Holi a day away. As everyone pointed out, we ought to be celebrating the advent of spring at this time (for that is what the ‘festival of colours’ is all about) and here we were freezing in our cottons. Some narrated how they woke up shivering at night and wondered if they had caught malaria.
During the exercises, many like Tara Chand Seth and Siba Prasad Maitra were in full-sleeved polo shirts. For a change, Ved Prakash Grover chose a spot where he could catch the morning sun rays to keep himself warm.
Shekhawat wants to celebrate his wedding
anniversary on March 14
Others were not so lucky. They kept rubbing their palms in exasperation -- or perhaps to generate some body heat.
Mallika Kagzi kept wailing for hot tea. And when nobody paid any heed, she got hold of Shekhawat. “Please order for tea, sir,” she pleaded. “I am freezing. Mujhe thand lag rahi hai.” But where was Shekhawat listening? He was already prancing about like a jack-in-the-box and took Mallika’s plaintive cries to be his cue and broke into a ludicrous song: “Mujhko thand lag rahi hai, mujhse door tu na jaa!” That put paid to all hopes of anybody getting any tea this morning.
However, it must be said to Mallika’s credit that she was the only one to notice that Sunita Jajodia had come ill-prepared in the cold and was literally shivering during the exercises. Without ceremony she took off her heavy woolen shawl and wrapped it around Sunita. It was a touching gesture, not missed by anyone. All through, Mallika made do with a flimsy dupatta around her shoulders. Who would do this for anybody in today’s times?
No wonder Mallika is turning out to be so popular among the ladies.
Lt Col Angad Singh (retd):
The sudden change in climate is not healthy, especially for senior citizens. They have to be extra careful as their immune system is now at a low ebb. The gesture of Mallika Kagzi towards Sunita-ji shows real brother(nay sister)hood -- a healthy gesture worth emulating by everyone.
Bihari Milwani:
Mr Shekhawat has the answer for the cold: Daru Piyo aur Dance Karo. You will not feel cold.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Kahwah What?

Mumtaz Jahan ceremoniously pours the kahwah
Till this morning, many of us had no clue what kahwah was about, till Mumtaz Jahan graciously treated everyone to a glassful – thus adding to our repertoire of sampling some of the most exotic gastronomical delights from the unlikeliest places on earth.
“This is a Kashmiri celebratory drink,” Mumtaz informed, while pouring out the hot colourless potion from a thermos flask – typically green tea enriched with shredded almonds, cardamom, ginger, ground cinnamon, cloves and white rose petals.
Cap doesn't fit Mallika's head 
“This is like hot sherbet!” everyone concluded.
Mumtaz’s cause for celebration was her birthday on February 14. She kept her word about joining hands with Zareena Khan – just that the treat came a day late. Zareena had distributed chocolates yesterday to mark her birthday.
Laxmi Naidu joins Big Laaf
Today, both ladies jointly hosted the celebration with food packets and yes, kahwaaah... Waah, kahwah!
While the celebration was on, Shekhawat introduced a new Club member, Laxmi Naidu. Since she has been a part of the yoga group, she gets automatically co-opted into Big Laaf.
Monthi Serrao
But we know her mainly from the many outstation trips she has accompanied us on – particularly Himachal Pradesh and Kerala.
Adding to the merriment and good cheer was Mallika Kagzi, who was at her entertaining best. Suddenly this morning, she discovered that her Club cap was “growing small” on its own. She accosted Srichand Arora straightaway, refusing to believe that her head had “grown big”. Arora advised her to suitably crop her head and transfer some of the excess hair to his bald pate. But Mallika was still not convinced. She offered to sport a “boy cut” if the Club were to guarantee her that the cap will stop shrinking. She firmly believes that her cap has a life of its own and is conspiring to make her existence in the Club difficult.
In all this madness, there was a bit of a dampener. Monthi Serrao has had to suddenly leave for Mangalore, where her father-in-law was ailing for some time. Last night he breathed his last. The funeral is tomorrow and Monthi will have to stay put at Mangalore till March 15 or so. Our condolences go to the bereaved.
Jagmohan Papneja:
Double the fun with one celebration. Wow! It was Mrs Mumtaz's and Mrs Zarina's joint venture. You both are so very special and so are your birthdays. Happy Belated Birthdays.
Lt Col Angad Singh (retd):
Way back in the 1980s, when I was posted in J&K, I used to relish kahwah almost every day. It used to be very nice, especially in winter. Today, after a long time -- due to the kind courtesy of Mumtaz-ji -- I could enjoy this wonderful drink once again. We welcome Mrs Laxmi Naidu in the Club. Hope she enjoys our daily sessions. We wish the father-in-law of Monthi-ji rests in peace on the feet of the Almighty.
Bihari Milwani:
Where is the 'Loot Girl'?

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Holi Preparation

Mallika is apprehensive about playing with colours on Holi
Zareena celebrates her birthday with choco-sticks
The Club woke up today to celebrating Holi on March 6. With three days to go, Srichand Arora brought up the subject this morning after the exercises, asking members for suggestions on how we should go about the festival this year. Although this is supposed to be a ‘festival of colours’, he gave us the option of playing with flowers for a change. “Some of us may not be inclined to be dabbed in dry colour (gulal),” he pointed out.
“If you’d play with gulal, I will not be able to participate,” Mallika Kagzi declared. “You may count me out. My family will not let me step out of the house in that case.”
Realising that Mallika could well be speaking on behalf of other women of her community, Arora quickly changed tack: “In that case, we shall shower you with rose petals only,” he quipped. “What else do you want?”
The Club has been celebrating the festival every year with thandai – a refreshing drink prepared from cold milk and a mixture of nuts, dry fruit and seeds along with saffron, cardamom and sugar. Bhang (cannabis) is an option for those so inclined. There would also be some salties as usual. And for those insisting on colour, Arora would be getting a small packet of gulal to be applied as tilak on the forehead. In other words, we can look forward to a fairly restrained Holi this year, sans any unruly behavior.
Meanwhile Zareena Khan celebrated her birthday for the first time with us, with chocolate sticks. It was a welcome departure from the overload of fried stuff and sweets that we have been having so often. We wish Zareena all happiness, good health and a long life.
Jagmohan Papneja:
Thanks, Arora-ji for making such elaborate arrangements. I am sure you will arrange for sweets, thandai, bhang and colour without which Holi has no meaning. Better to avoid synthetic colours which cause skin irritation and affect the eyes. Also wishing you, Zarina-ji a very very Happy Birthday. I hope today marks the beginning of another wonderful year for you.
Lt Col Angad Singh (retd):
Holi is an important festival. It is good that we are celebrating with flower petals and this will be liked by everyone. Happy birthday to Zarina-ji. We wish her a happy, healthy and enjoyable life.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Kanji Day-2015

Cheers to the most divine kanji on earth! 
They call it 'winter’s parting bite' – an unusually cold March morning, marked by occasional blasts of wind and intermittent showers. But all that was fine till a huge dark cloud appeared over the Garden and left us drenched to the skin within minutes. The exercises were instantly disrupted. No one came prepared, least of all with umbrellas. Arora grabbed a plastic chair and held it above his head to shield himself. The rest of us simply took shelter in the dripping bushes, bones rattling in the freezing downpour. In such foul weather conditions, what could have been more god-sent than a stiff glass of kanji, shaken and not stirred?
Santosh Tyagi conjured this miracle with four big bottles of the crimson, body-warming drink – enough to go for all of us twice over.
Santosh personally serves the crimson drink
Arora protects his head with a chair
Made mainly out of fermented beetroot and carrots, this spicy, lip-smacking herbal concoction is considered an antidote to cold, not to mention its other health properties. But not everyone can make kanji. The trick lies in the fermentation and here, Santosh holds some kind of a copyright. A little this way or that, the kanji could taste horribly bitter or unbearably sour. Today’s kanji was just perfectly balanced and blended -- better than anything Santosh has been treating us to on our annual Kanji Day.
Mohar Singh shivers in the rain
Navin Shah (in white)
Whether or not this had to do with a ‘trade secret’ she holds or the weather conditions we were caught in, it must be said that kanji has never tasted better from any other kitchen.
Significantly, we found a new admirer of Big Laaf in Navin-bhai Shah today. A regular at the Garden, he had been observing us from afar, occasionally commenting on our dress code (eg. wearing green on Wednesdays), the sense of discipline (Ho-Ho), the way we conduct ourselves freely regardless of community or faith and so on. Today, he made bold at complimenting us and with pronounced humility, offered to treat us to idli and tea on Saturday morning (March 7). “It is not much, but should you all agree, I would be very happy,” he explained.
He must be joking. Who can refuse such an offer? Anything to make anybody happy… and our tummies happier!
Jagmohan Papneja:
A big thanks to Santosh-ji for hosting the kanji drink. Really, it was wonderful, having good taste which refreshed everyone. We now look forward to Saturday (7/3/2015) for the idli-tea party, sponsored by a good-hearted man, Naveen Bhai Shah.
Kiran Prakash:
BIG LAAF keeps on surprising me. Thank you very much, Santosh-ji for the delicious kanji. Sometimes I feel that the way Santosh-ji conducts herself, cares and treats us, only a mother can do. Navin bhai's invitation too teaches us a lesson in human relationship. If anybody needs proof of UNITY IN DIVERSITY, he should visit our Garden.
Lt Col Angad Singh (retd):
The unexpected rains left everyone feeling sticky. The excellent treat of kanji prepared by Santosh-ji came as a great relief. Everyone enjoyed it. Many thanks, Santosh-ji. It is nice of Navin Bhai Shah to invite everyone for idli and tea on Saturday. Good luck to him.