Bollywood Fashion: Deewana is a WILD ride

After watching Deewar couple weeks ago for a writing workshop, I had a sudden urge to re-watch old Hindi films. And so, last evening, while the baby slept, I opened Prime Video and tapped on Deewana.

Why Deewana?

Partly because it’s Shah Rukh Khan’s debut feature film and partly because I was in the mood for a typical 90s drama. Okay, but mostly because it’s got Shah Rukh Khan.

Anyway, even as I got lost in the endless string of songs and the villainy of Amrish Puri and the classic desi mom-ness of Sushma Seth, I couldn’t help but notice the distinct style differences between the 1990s and today.

Old habits die hard, right?

So here’s a revisit to 1990s fashion from the Deewana lens.

Rishi Kapoor

Rishi Kapoor’s (Ravi in the film) costumes were a mixed (err.. confusing) bag of styles, like these:

  • Head-to-toe white with a multihued jacket lining, that was also embellished with white sequins. The look was completed with white shoes and sunglasses.
  • Outrageous printed shirts
  • Big striped and patchwork-type sweaters with dark trousers
Deewana- Rishi Kapoor dressed in white suit and shoes
Rishi Kapoor in all-white

Shah Rukh Khan

Shah Rukh Khan’s clothes in Deewana were more interesting than Rishi Kapoor’s, but sadly, the designers fell short of a cohesive look. Most of his clothes made Shah Rukh Khan’s character Raja look seem older than his on-screen age. A young, wealthy brat would be in slightly flashier clothes, that would grab attention and exude confidence.

Key looks:

In his introductory song Koi Na Koi Chahiye, Shah Rukh Khan donned a brown leather jacket, and this became a defining on-screen look for him for many years (remember the black jacket in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge?).

In the rest of the film, he wore oversized shirts with loose sleeves and high waisted jeans, often paired with a prominent belt and matching buckle. And oh, those dull colours—browns and greys. Eeeks.  

In true Bollywood fashion, the dream song sequence had the most unusual costume choices. So, in the cornerstone song Aisi Deewangi Dekhi Nahi, Shah Rukh Khan wears the most outrageous ensembles. Think teal shirt with teal trousers, a fully-blue suit (without tie, thank god), and a black and white polka dotted cravat!

Shah Rukh Khan in white suit and dotted cravat in Deewana, with Divya Bharti.
Shah Rukh Khan in white suit and dotted cravat in Deewana, with Divya Bharti.

As for the hair, it was long-ish, as was the fashion those days, though I’m not sure I dig it.

Divya Bharti

Divya Bharti as Kajal donned a wide range of ensembles in the film. As a single girl smitten with singing sensation Ravi (Rishi Kapoor) she wore simple salwar suits and some skirts. As soon as she was married though, she became a wealthy family’s bahu, wearing mostly saris of rich fabrics and embroideries. I especially liked the green sari which she wore in a pivotal sequence just before the intermission.

But once injured Ravi tumbled down a waterfall, Kajal had to adopt a widow’s attire. The white-wearing widow is not a custom I agree with, though it’s still practised in some part of the country. Depriving women of clothing (and other choices) is just another form of patriarchal oppression.

In her no-colour-no-makeup phase, she’s donning the nude look, with blush, pink eye shadow and pearl finish nude lip colour. In several scenes, she’s wearing loads of eye liner as well.

But her wardrobe comes to life again, after she marries Raja. So in the rest of the film you will see her in puffed sleeves tops, blouses and kurtas. Plus, lots of makeup and jewellery.

Her go-to accessories seem to be big gold earrings and gold kitten heels.  

Divya Bharti wearing black blouse and retro gold earrings in Deewana
Divya Bharti wearing black blouse and retro gold earrings in Deewana

As for makeup, Divya Bharti’s look featured carefully coordinated lip colours and bindis with wavy hair, reminiscent of a perm. The biggest surprise though were her French braids. They were super cute, and reminded me of my childhood, when I would wonder how girls made those complicated hair style (there was no YouTube then).

But her costumes sparkle in the song sequences, especially when she’s suddenly in “western” clothes.  Her clothes were carefully selected to suit her petite frame, and she carried them off with great confidence and flair.

Divya Bharti wearing blouse and skirt and Shah Rukh Khan wearing all-blue suit in Deewana
Divya Bharti wearing blouse and skirt and Shah Rukh Khan wearing all-blue suit in Deewana

There were bold colours like orange and smart silhouettes like tight, short skirts and glam off-the-shoulder blouses. Those were major drool moments for me!

Mealthy MultiPot Review

I’m certain I’m not the only one who’s had a tough time with household chores since the lockdown began in March. Despite the tremendous support from the husband, my very active infant leaves me with not enough time or energy for tasks like cooking, cleaning and simply managing my life.

And so, I was on the hunt for appliances to make my life easier, now and in the long run. (Has anyone checked if dishwasher and vacuum cleaner sales spiked during or after the lockdown?). I especially wanted something that would make cooking easier, given the amount of time it consumes every day and the sweltering heat.

Some friends who have lived abroad had mentioned the Mealthy pot a couple months ago, just before the lockdown began, so as soon as I heard Mumbai was allowing delivery of “non-essentials”, I quickly logged on to their website, explored it features, and I was SOLD. A few clicks later, and Amazon confirmed that my 6 litres Mealthy MultiPot was on its way.

There was much excitement when it arrived, therefore sadly no unboxing video. But now that I’ve been using this appliance every day since it arrived, it’s time to post my Mealthy MultiPot review.

Mealthy MultiPot with silicon mitts
The Mealthy MultiPot comes with silicon mitts like these red ones.

What the Mealthy MultiPot does

Dubbed the “9-in-1 Programmable Smart Electric Pressure Cooker”, think of the Mealthy as a pressure cooker on genius pills. Basically, you put your ingredients in it (vegetables,  grains, meat, seasonings), add sufficient liquid (such as water or stock), select a cooking programme with a specific time, and voila! Your dish is ready.

What you can cook

I’ve tried regular Indian dishes in my Mealthy MultiPot so far, such as:

  • Brown rice
  • Khichdi
  • Several types of dal
  • Sambhar
  • Dhansak
  • Boiled eggs
  • Dry subzis such as capsicum and aloo gobi

And they have all turned out well. The final dish is the same result as it would be after cooking in a kadhai, wok or a pot or standard pressure cooker on my stovetop burner.

You can also prepare oats, curries and cakes, steam vegetables, dhokla or idlis, and stir fry dishes. Lots of food ideas are out there. Some of the standard programmes include eggs (for soft or hard boiled), multigrain (for brown rice, oats, quinoa and the like), poultry (for chicken), and slow cooker (for those ultra special dishes).

My Mealthy MultiPot already has its first battle scars!

Some cool features of the Mealthy MultiPot

Cooking timer: You decide how long to cook each dish, depending on your preferences. So if you like your rice a tad al dente, you can cook for a shorter duration. So each dish is completely customised to your taste.

Sealed lid: The Mealthy lid won’t open while there’s still pressure inside, which makes the pot a very safe appliance to have in your kitchen.   

Cooking indicator: An LCD screen tells you what stage of cooking is going on (pre-heating, cooking, or complete), so you’re not confused if you lose track of time writing your blog post (ahem).

Keep warm: Cooking done? The Mealthy will switch to Keep Warm mode so the food doesn’t get cold, and you don’t need to reheat.  

Delayed start: For me, the most exciting feature is the delay start button, which lets you set the timer for the cooking start time. So you can set the cooker for, say, six hours from now, fill in the cooker settings, add your ingredients, seal the pot, and then let the magic happen on its own, while you are away. Which means, that you can technically wake up to a cooked breakfast or come home to a ready dinner.

What I’m liking about the Mealthy MultiPot

The Mealthy’s features are easy to use and fairly intuitive once you get the hang of the appliance (it doesn’t take that long, really).

I love that I can set a cooking timer and forget about it. The other day I was in a rush to run errands, so I did a quick tempering (tadka), added soaked chana dal and sufficient water, sealed the pot, set the timer, and rushed out. When I came home, the dal was ready!

Making standard Indian subzis or dals is easy peasy. You need just two modes: sauté (for the seasoning/ tadka) and pressure cooking (for cooking). Nothing complicated!  

The MultiPot comes with a booklet of Indian recipes that you can try. I’ve been trying out a few recipes to see how they work with respect to timings and settings, so next time around I can adjust the timings and water proportion to get the texture I like.

What you need to know before you buy

Of course like any other appliance, the Mealthy has its limitations. For instance, I wouldn’t recommend deep frying in this pot. Nor can you prepare “instant” things, like noodles etc.

This appliance also has a bit of a learning curve as you learn to adapt recipes to suit your own favourites. You’ll need to do some experimentation and read up recipes on the Mealthy website or app to figure out how to adapt your recipe to Mealthy settings and proportions.

Having said that, once you’ve got the hang of it, there’s no looking back!

Verdict

Should you buy the Mealthy MultiPot? A resounding yes.

Where to buy

The Mealthy MultiPot is available on their official India website as well as on Amazon India.

Price

The six litres Melathy MultiPot is priced at Rs 9,990, while the three litres version is for Rs 7,750 (on the official Mealthy India website).

My super short list of newborn baby essentials

Planning for a baby and their things is a mind-boggling task, especially if it’s your first child. Trust me, I know.

When I was pregnant last year, I looked around for lists of baby essentials so that I could plan my baby shopping and be well prepared before the baby came. But nothing prepared me for the gazillion baby shopping lists I found.

Some lists I found online, a couple of lists came through friends and friends’ friends, while some were just verbal advice, “Oh, you must have this…”

It was all too much. I got overwhelmed looking at the sheer number of things my tiny person would need. But I was also determined to be organised. So I printed them all out, made notes on them, compared them, googled almost each item on the lists and… you get the idea.

By the end of the second trimester, I was super stressed just thinking about baby shopping. So one fine day, I decided to discard those endless lists, and went with what I thought was necessary for the early days.

If I something for the baby, I could always ask someone to buy it from the baby store or I could order it online (thankfully, my baby wasn’t born during the lockdown).

Thanks to my meticulous planning (yes, that’s me being humble), once the baby came, I didn’t really need much.

Phew. Those lists were just scaring me to death for no reason. These things are the newborn essentials I’d recommend any new parent to keep stocked and ready. Of course, there are a dozen (or several dozen) more things you may want for your baby, but if you must have only a few things, I’d suggest you keep these ready.  

Newborn baby clothing: Swaddles, rompers, sleepsuits

New babies come out from the comfort of the womb into the world at large and keeping them swaddled reminds them of when they were inside. It keeps them warm and cozy. Most babies younger than a month like to be wrapped up. There are some really cute swaddles in organic muslin and cotton you can buy. But remember, some babies start hating swaddles very early on, whereas some little ones would want to be wrapped for the rest of their life, if they could.

Rompers (also known as onesies) are the most popular form of baby clothing. They usually have snap buttons at the bottom for easy diaper changes. But many Indian families prefer jablas or loose kurta-like tops with strings or buttons. Go with whatever works for you.

Sleepsuits are a little different because they generally are of a thicker fabric and generally cover the baby completely, right up to their cute little feet and toes. Sleepsuits are also terribly cute.

Keep handy

Socks, mittens and hats, especially if it’s winter or it’s cold where you live or where the baby sleeps.

Baby changing stuff: Nappies, diapers, changing mat

Nappies, disposables or cloth diapers? That’s one of the early choices you make as a parent and a possible bone of contention in many households. There are pros and cons of each type of baby “underwear”, but whatever you choose, make sure you’re stocked up.

Not all households or bedrooms have space for a changing station. So we go with the next best option- a changing mat. You can choose from the regular plastic ones with fun baby prints or “dry sheets” that are easily washable.

Keep handy

Diaper rash cream.

Some kids have extremely sensitive skin and can break out in rashes in their diaper area pretty early on. Keep a cream handy (many options and brands available), or apply coconut oil.    

Baby cleaning stuff: Wipes, napkins, baby bath products

Babies pee and poop multiple times a day and need to cleaned just as often. Even if you’re using cotton dipped in clean water, it’s best to have store-bought wipes ready for emergencies and for the diaper bag (for doctor visits etc).

Napkins are also used all the time—for a quick sponge bath, for cleaning up spills and spit-ups.

With their delicate skin, newborns need special skin products. With dozens of brands offering baby washes, soaps, creams, oils and lotions, you (and baby) will be spoilt for choice.

Keep handy

Burp cloth.

I’d never heard of a burp cloth till I saw it on one of those newborn essentials list. It’s basically a longish napkin that you place over your shoulder when you burp the baby. The idea is to keep your clothes clean if the baby spits up.

Coming soon: Essentials for new moms

The ultimate list of kitchen essentials: Part 2 (cookware)

A while ago, I shared the first part of my ultimate list of The ultimate list of kitchen essentials: Part 2 (cookware) your kitchen and keep it running smoothly.

But then you also need tools to turn those ingredients into edible, delicious, satisfying food.

So, what do you need for your kitchen to cook?

Cookware.

With just a few cookware pieces, you can cook a whole variety of foods and dishes. Most of the utensils are versatile and multi-purpose, ideal for small kitchens and compact homes.

Luckily, most utensils are available in a variety of sizes, so if you’re cooking for just one or two people, you can go for the smallest sizes or just a size above the smallest. It’s always good to have a larger cooking utensil or two for when you want to cook in bulk for the next few days or next couple of meals, or have guests coming over.

It’s tempting to go for the smallest utensil size when you’re cooking for just one, but if you plan to cook for at least a couple of meals together, you will need a larger vessel.

Pressure cooker

Every Indian kitchen needs at least one pressure cooker. Why? Because a pressure cooker can be used for many, many things. Need to boil potatoes in a jiffy? Pressure cooker. Want to cook brown rice quickly? Pressure cooker. Prepare dal? The pressure cooker, of course. 

Of course, you need a bit of umm… “special skills” to use a pressure cooker, because they need to be opened and closed in a very specific way. But once you get the hang of it, it will be super easy. (The first time I used a big pressure cooker, I had to Google “how to open pressure cooker from X brand” and I was lucky enough that they had posted a YouTube video demonstrating this).   

The most popular brands in India for pressure cookers are Vinod Steel, Prestige and Hawkins, though there are many more that are also very good.

Small frying pan or skillet

Again, a versatile piece of cookware for the Indian kitchen.

A small-sized frying pan is useful for cooking for eggs and omelettes, making a quick tadka (tempering) for your dal, pan-frying something, and even making pancakes and small uttapams. Another great use- spread some butter, use it to toast your favourite grilled cheese sandwich on medium flame to get the right bit of melted cheese. Yum!!!

I use the skillet to sauté something quickly (in very small amounts) , for roasting makhana (fox nuts) and whole spices, and for cooking something lightly like pieces of paneer.

Kadhai or wok

You need at least two kadhais or woks in your kitchen, even if you’re a small household. After all, Indian subzis are best made in kadhais. 

Saucepan or pateela

You will need the humble pateela every morning to make chai. These are available with a single long handle or with two or none, and both serve your purpose. I also use a medium-sized saucepan to make instant noodles, to boil some sprouts or small quantities of pasta, and even to toss up a salad (off the flame).

Large pot for dals and curries aka tope 

Most Indian kitchens have large steel pots they use for a variety of reasons, for cooking rice or curries. You can invest in one such pot if you are going to cook in larger quantities. It is most helpful to have such pots with handles so they are easier to move about. But many of the larger steel pots come without handles.

Other cookware (optional, but useful):

Griddle with “lines”: This is like a stove-top grill on which you can toast your sandwiches, grill chicken, fish or even veggies and paneer.

Flat tawa with handle for dosa: This can be a non-stick tawa, because they’re generally easier to handle.

Tawa for chapatis and parathas

Other cookware essentials

Sometimes the most useful things are overlooked, because they are small, and you realise how important they are only when they are missing, like a button on your shirt.

These cooking tools are as useful as the pots and pans and griddles, and you definitely need to budget for them when you go shopping.

Wooden spoons and spatulas: For cooking, stirring, stir-frying

Ladles or karchhis: For cooking, stirring, serving dals and curries 

Spatula for frying (this is the one with holes): They are also called skimmers, but not many people use that word! 

Flat steel spatula for eggs, pancakes and dosas

Colander: This is a large steel strainer with a mesh for washing vegetables and draining cooked spaghetti.

Tongs aka chimta: For chapattis and parathas

Kitchen pincers aka pakkad: For lifting pots and pans that don’t have handles

Rolling board and rolling pin aka chakla and belan: For chapattis and parathas 

Large steel plate aka paraat: For making dough for chapattis and parathas

Small strainer: For tea and milk

Chopping board: If you cook meat, best to have a separate board to use only for meat.

Knives: Knives are of different shapes and sizes, and each knife serves a different purpose. The small ones are inexpensive and easy to manage. The fancier ones that are similar to chef’s knives may need regular sharpening.

Peeler: For potatoes, carrots and other vegetables 

A word on kitchen storage

If you love cooking, especially different cuisines, you will have a gazillion ingredients and you will need containers for them all. Your counter will fill up and your kitchen cabinets will be overflowing. Even your fridge will always be full.

Sigh.

Yet, we all need to make the best of what we have. Look for ways to optimize your storage space, and don’t go all crazy buying too many ingredients. You will also need to be very organized and keep everything back in its place, if you don’t want things to get lost!   

Kitchen storage essentials

Steel containers for storage: Keep several containers in several sizes, to store everything from atta to biscuits.

Plastic or glass containers for storage: If you are saying NO to plastic (good thing!), opt for neat-looking glass containers with airlocked lids. This ensures your snacks stays fresh.

Oil pot: These are usually of steel, and make it easy to pour oil when you cooking.

Ghee pot: Again, made of steel and they have an easy open lid to get out the ghee quickly.

Masala box:  The focal point of an Indian kitchen, my steel masala box has travelled with me from India to Myanmar and back. Six years plus, and still going strong. With the right quality steel, you will quickly get attached to your spice box. 

Useful tips on buying cookware

Sizes: If you are a small household, then buy the smallest or the medium sized utensil. You don’t need big ones, unless you are cooking for a larger family.

Maintenance: Ask the retailer about the correct way to wash and use the utensils. This is especially true for pressure cookers. Each brand has its own special technique, so if you’re not used to it, you could be struggling for hours!

Comfort: Try to buy kadhais and other cooking utensils with heat-resistant lids and handles.

Non-stick or not: There is a general belief that non-stick cookware is harmful and can make your food toxic. But they are easy to wash and you can cook with less oil or butter. So should you use them or not? While most experts say non-stick is safe as long as you don’t cook it in very high temperatures, choosing to use non-stick (or not) is a very personal choice. Read this article by Nutrition Diva and another one by Good Housekeeping to get a better understanding on the subject.

Living a smart life

My sponge cake batter is yellow and fluffy and almost ready to bake. The oven is pre-heated, and I pour the batter into my cake tin. I remember my mom’s instructions very clearly, “Remember, the cake should be baked for nine minutes, and nine minutes only.”

The oven dial is not exactly accurate, and I need a timer. I will have to scramble to get my phone from my bedroom, open the clock app, seek the timer and set it to nine minutes.

Or I could just say, “Ok Google, set a timer for nine minutes.”

And when nine minutes are up, my cake will be all soft and sweet and scrumptious.

The uses of my smart home assistant extend beyond the kitchen.

I use it to get a weather update. My mom uses it to discover new recipes. The husband uses it to get the news.

And this nifty little smart device is not the only smart thing at home.

In our small household, we have a few smart devices between us. And they’ve made our lives easier. My productivity has gone up (I work from home), and it’s easier to organize my tasks and errands. My home feels cozier, warmer and even more personalized.

But should you invest in such devices?

There’s only one answer here: A resounding YES. We need a Smart Home in the 21st century.

Why? Because smart devices will give you so much more than you could ever imagine. It’s time for a #SmartHomeRevolution.

Here’s how they make your life easier.

Unwind and relax

You come home from a long day at work. You want to relax on the couch, listen to soothing music, and catch up on football scores.  And you want to do all that without lifting a tired finger from your tired body.

So what do you do?

You ask your home assistant to do it—it will dim the lights to your favourite setting, play your favourite Kishore Kumar songs at low volume and narrate the scores of the Premier League matches.

Stay on top of things

I hate to say this, but old age is quickly catching up to me. I can’t remember everything anymore. So when I need to keep track of things to buy, who else do I turn to but my handy assistant?

Starting a shopping list with just my voice, all I need to do is keep adding things to the list and then access it when I go shopping.

And then I can also remember to pay the utility bills, the domestic help and credit card bills on time, using the voice reminders.

Learn more about the world

The other day a kid was caught using a smart home device to do his math homework. I think that’s brilliant, and it turns out the kid later thanked the assistant. The kid’s mother was rather amused as well.

Arithmetic apart, the world is a wonder, and any curious soul is filled with mind boggling questions that need precise, accurate answers. The smart home assistant comes to the rescue. How heavy is an elephant? What is the currency of Japan? When was Akbar born? Who fought in the Second World War?

Useful for homework, useful for work, useful for kids, teens, grownups and grandparents.

Get entertained

It’s party time! Get your home assistant to do the entertaining so you can focus on having a good time with your buddies. Your handy assistant will set the perfect mood lighting by syncing with your Smart lights, pull out recipes that will impress your guests, and even play your choice of movies and music.

Meanwhile, the kids have fun play dates with their little friends when they have quizzes, games and nursery rhymes for company.

Feel independent

Seniors and differently abled people often struggle with simple day-to-day tasks that we take for granted, like booking a cab on their phone. The font is too small, the location is difficult to pin on the map, and the phone app itself can be confusing.

But a virtual assistant can provide tremendous support. They can book cabs easily through a series of voice commands. And then, they can order food, book movie tickets, and listen to their favourite devotional text… without needing to ask anyone for help.

How wonderful is that!

Get fit

When the husband embarked on his weight loss journey, his constant companion was his fitness band. It kept him motivated, alert, active and engaged. The result: around a dozen kilos lighter, he ran a half marathon in less than six months!

And if running and exercise is not your thing, your smart devices can help you with your wellness activities. De-stress with meditation and sleep guidance, access healthy recipes and count your calories by simply asking your assistant.

And so, say yes to #GetFitwithFlipkart.

Keep yourself secure

My friend in Mumbai uses a Smart Camera to keep an eye on her bedridden mother’s household in Bengaluru. With this easy-to-use technology, she ensures her mother’s needs are attended to at all times, day or night.

When I heard about the daylight theft in my neighbours’ house a few months ago when they were away, my first thought was—why didn’t they have home cameras? With such inexpensive yet super useful tools, their hard-earned money would be secure.

Still sitting on the fence about creating a smart home? It’s a new year, it’s time for an upgrade!

#GetFitWithFlipkart #SmartHomeRevolution

The ultimate list of kitchen essentials (Part 1)

I’ve had to set up kitchen for myself not once, not twice, but THRICE in a span of three years.

Which probably means that I’ve become a champ at setting up kitchens (no, not really), and that I live a nomadic life (not anymore, I believe).

Let’s face it, setting up a kitchen is a HUGE task. You need to have cookware, you need basic cutlery, you need so many handy little things, and of course, you need ingredients to cook your food.

If you aren’t used to cooking (like I wasn’t) or you’re a cooking/ kitchen newbie, the mere idea of getting a kitchen up and running can be incredibly exciting and super confusing, frustrating and overwhelming.

When I was teaching myself how to cook very basic Indian food, I would go through recipes online and ask myself, “Why don’t I have this ingredient in my kitchen? Am I missing out on something essential?” And that would lead to serious self-doubting of my cooking abilities, second guessing what I was already cooking, and lamenting on why there wasn’t any help available on kitchens for newbies.

Moms, aunts, grandmas can all get quite cagey on kitchen-related questions, so asking them can be stepping into a minefield. Sure, there’s lots of gyaan on things like how to use ingredients, and there are gazillions of recipes, but how is a girl (or guy) supposed to even get to recipes without knowing what to stock in their kitchen?

Like once I spotted a recipe that called for onion seeds. The recipe seemed simple, but what on earth were onion seeds? I didn’t know onions even had seeds? Turns out they are also called kalonji in Hindi and are quite commonly used in Indian pickles. I did buy some onion seeds, and I used those in my kitchen, guess how many times in over a year? Twice. Yup, twice.

#Facepalm.

Deep down I always knew I would write about my nasty kitchen experiences some day (I have a book outline saved in one of my fancy journals), but first, it’s time to help someone with their kitchen.

What should you start with? What do you really, truly need? What’s nice to have, but not necessary? What’s nice to buy for later?

Too many questions, but not enough (clear) answers.

So here I’ve put together a list of essential ingredients and foods that you need in your starter kitchen. This is only scratching the surface. Indian cooking is complex and vast, so maybe you read this and go tut-tut-tut. But trust me, I’ve lived with only this much for a while and I’ve survived.

Good luck to you!

Indian spices or masalas- essentials  

Food needs flavour and in most Indian dishes, the flavours come from these masalas.

  • Salt
  • Black pepper powder*
  • Red chilli powder
  • Turmeric powder
  • Cumin seeds aka jeera
  • Powdered cumin aka jeera powder*
  • Coriander power*
  • Black mustard seeds aka rai
  • Asafoetida aka hing (remember the scene in the film Queen?)

*How to ground spices (black pepper, cumin seeds, coriander seeds)

You can buy these spices in the powdered form (easier) or you can buy them whole and ground them at home (for which you need a dry grinder).

How to grind whole masalas:

Heat a small pan or kadhai. Do not add oil or ghee. Keep it on low flame and add a small handful of the whole spice (black pepper, cumin or coriander seeds). Stir the spices with a dry wooden spoon or spatula. After a while, the aroma and colour of the spices will begin to change. That’s when you take it off the heat, let it cool a bit, and then run it through a dry grinder. Voila! Your powdered masala is ready.

Storage tips for Indian spices or masalas

Indian masala spice box

Since I have a small household, I usually buy masalas in packets of 250 grams. Some brands offer smaller packs of spices. I have a steel masala box (a common sight in Indian kitchens, and super useful), in which I empty out all the masalas. Then the remaining contents of the larger packs go into separate steel or reusable plastic containers and into a corner of the fridge.

Indian spices and ingredients- optional

  • Aamchoor or dried mango powder (used in north Indian cooking)
  • Kasuri methi or dried fenugreek leaves
  • Ajwain or carom seeds

Ingredients for Indian cooking- essentials

Every kitchen needs a strong foundation, and I don’t mean the flooring here. The items in this short list are the building blocks of most Indian cuisines.

  • Cooking oil: The right oil to use for cooking is a hotly debated topic, and I’m not going anywhere near that debate! Pick an oil that you are used to, and that suits your taste buds.
  • Ghee: You can’t make dal or khichdi without a tadka made in hot ghee. Ghee adds another dimension to anything.
  • Chaat masala: This innocuous masala mix adds flavour to everything, from omelettes to subzis (because, why not?). You can also have variations of these like sandwich masala, kitchen king masala and even pav bhaji masala!
  • Ginger garlic paste: Brings flavour to dals and subzis in less than a teaspoon
  • Atta: For those who want to make chapatis, rotis or phulkas
  • Rice: White, brown, red, organic, basmati- stock whatever you like.
  • At least 2-3 types of dals: Everyone has different favourites when it comes to dal, but yellow moong dal and toor dal are easy and quick to cook.

Storage tips for Indian ingredients

Rice and dal can be stored in steel or plastic containers in your kitchen cupboard. If you buy them in bulk, it’s best to tuck them away in the fridge so they last longer.

Rice stays good for a long, long time though some types of dal can go bad in a few weeks, especially in hot Indian weather.

Refrigerator essentials

There’s nothing for comforting than a neat, well-stocked fridge after a long day at work. With your essentials, you know you won’t go hungry.

  • Bread: Refined flour, whole grain, multi-grain, gluten-free, baguette, sliced loaf etc, take your pick
  • Butter: Amul is a classic but new unsalted butter varieties are also available
  • Jam: For sweet breakfasts, yay!
  • Cheese as cubes, slices or both: Great for sandwiches and garnishes
  • Eggs: Can be cooked for breakfast, lunch, dinner, brunch, supper or any other meal you can think of.
  • Milk: Fresh cow’s milk, packaged milk, almond milk, grass-fed cows’ milk, soy milk, your choice!

Storage tips for refrigerator essentials

Bread is good for 3-4 days, maybe a bit longer if you’ve bought it fresh and stored it in the fridge immediately.

Butter, jam and cheese: Refer to expiry date labels. They easily stay for a few months from date of packaging.

Eggs: This is a tricky one. You can keep them for a few days to a couple of weeks in the fridge, and even longer. They do lose their freshness, and you will feel it in the texture of your fried egg or omelette. But I use this egg freshness test to check if they are still “good”. My simple rule: If they smell funny after cracking, throw them away.

Vegetables- essentials

Subzis or cooked vegetable dishes are the backbone of Indian cooking. So it is difficult to define the “essential” vegetables, but these are the top three:

  • Onions
  • Tomatoes
  • Potatoes

Vegetables- some more essentials

Some people love karela (bitter gourd), some like cabbage. So the “essentials” vary by household. Make a list of subzis you want to eat soon, and that becomes your “essentials list” for the next few days. Some recommendations:

  • Green capsicum aka bell pepper, carrots, french beans, cauliflower, brinjal, lauki (doodhi) or any other of your choice.
  • Green peas (can freeze after shelling or buy a frozen pack)
  • Cucumber (because I love cucumber-and-butter sandwiches)

cucumber sandwich tea book

Fresh produce for Indian cooking- essentials

Always have these at hand for flavouring subzis, dal, khichdi etc. They are all available at your neighbourhood vegetable vendor or subziwala.

  • Whole green chillies
  • Curry leaves
  • Ginger
  • Garlic
  • Lemon
  • Coriander leaves
  • Fruits of your choice

Storage tips for vegetables and other fresh produce:

Onions and potatoes don’t generally go in the fridge but I keep them in the vegetable drawer anyway.

Tomatoes in refrigerator? The jury is divided on this one, but I prefer to refrigerate them so they last longer.

Green chillies, curry leaves, coriander leaves and ginger are best stored in the refrigerator in separate containers. They can easily last up to a week.

Coriander leaves should be stored separately, in steel boxes with tiny holes. They dry out quickly.

Most veggies last at least 3-4 days in the fridge, even longer if you bought them super fresh.

It’s best to store fruits at room temperature.

Basic non-Indian ingredients- essentials

Indian cooking can be tiring some times, and we all need a change too. Pastas and noodles are easy to put together with just a few ingredients.

  • Pasta of your choice (macaroni, spaghetti, penne etc)
  • Chinese noodles
  • Oats (plain)

Storage tips for basic non-Indian ingredients

Pasta, noodles and oats can be stored at room temperature and should be consumed by expiry date mentioned on their packets.

Cooking shortcuts- essentials

Just what you need on lazy days.

  • Packaged instant noodles like Maggi, Top Ramen or Wai Wai (ummm yeah, not ideal, but why not?)
  • Ready made pasta sauces (a pre-made spicy red tomato sauce saved my life once!)
  • Ready made dosa or idli batter (if you like making these)
  • Instant soups
  • Instant oats in various flavours

Add-ons for non-Indian cooking- essentials

Use these seasonings to create delicious woks, salad dressings and more.

  • Soy sauce
  • Vinegar
  • Assorted Chinese sauces of your choice, like Schezwan (from Ching’s Secret or similar)
  • Mayonnaise and other “dressings” (I don’t have this, but many people find it useful), useful for sandwiches and salads
  • Dried oregano, red chilli flakes, basil etc. General stores also stock seasonings like “Mexican seasoning mix” and “Italian seasoning” which can be very handy when you’re quickly tossing something together. These are quick albeit tasty shortcuts to the “real” thing.

Storage tips for add-ons

Refrigerate the mayo, dressings and sauces, especially once you open it.

Follow the expiry dates for all the seasonings, sauces etc.

Other essentials

  • Your favourite brands of tea and/ or coffee
  • Favourite snacks like wafers or biscuits

How it all comes together

With just this list of kitchen essentials, you can make at least a dozen dishes that will keep you nourished, satisfied and happy. 🙂

  • Chilli cheese toast
  • Omelettes, fried eggs, sunny side up
  • Stir fries and woks
  • Several types of pastas
  • Several subzis
  • At least 5-6 variations of dal, depending on the tadka (or tempering)
  • Many types of sandwiches
  • Chapatis, rotis, phulkas
  • Khichdi

What are your absolutest must-have can’t-do-without-them kitchen essentials?

PS- Everyone has different food requirements, so maybe my list won’t match yours. But I will keep adding to this list, if something new occurs to me. 🙂

Book Review: Korma Kheer and Kismet by Pamela Timms

Korma Kheer and Kismet: Five Seasons in Old Delhi by Pamela Timms

Rating: 4 out of 5

At the beginning of her book Korma Kheer and Kismet, writer Pamela Timms declares that she wants (no, she needs) the recipe for the mutton korma at Ashok and Ashok. That sparks off her street food adventure in Delhi and beyond. She samples jalebis, daulat ki chaat and even chhole kulche in Amritsar. She loves them all and must know how to recreate these dishes at home.

Her approach to the mission? A direct and tireless one. She asks vendors for their recipes, takes help from Delhi foodies, gets invited to people’s homes and even breaks bread with the families of vendors and food business owners.

Korma Kheer and Kismet book cover

Since most of my food-related reading has been restricted to mostly blogs and cookbooks, I was doubtful if a longer piece of food writing such as Korma Kheer and Kismet would sustain my interest. Yes, it did.

The result of the author’s efforts is a book that is a delicious, irresistible and natural culmination of her quest. Her expedition leads her to old Delhi, where she encounters the city’s signature dishes, from kheer to jalebis to daulat ki chaat (which I had never heard of before).

The journey to discovery

Throughout the narrative, Timms weaves in the history of the city, bits of her personal life and the stories of the people she meets. Through these experiences, she discovers the food culture of the city, and as a side dish, the Indian ethos.

The writing is subtly humourous and remarkably descriptive. The pages come alive with people and food. You can smell the fresh jalebis, hear the sizzle of a tawa, feel the warmth of a stove and enjoy the camaraderie and Indian chaos on the streets.

With the author, your mouth waters at the all-season favourite aloo tikkis, you admire the grittiness of the vendors who produce the same food day after day to the exact flavours, and you giggle in understanding as Timms scrambles around Delhi to gather ingredients for a single dish.

And along with the author, you feel a sense of wonder about your own extraordinary yet commonplace food traditions. Timms writes:

I looked hard at the ‘kitchen’. How did such a divine dish come from such unpromising surroundings? How did that threadbare old man tossing dough manage to produce perfect flaky pastry in temperatures which fluctuate from zero to fifty degrees, when everyone from Auguste Fauchon to Nigella Lawson knows that you can only make good pastry if your kitchen, ingredients and hands are constantly as cool as a slab of marble?

Serving fresh

Timms has brought a fresh perspective to Indian street food. Street food is no more just the common man’s daily fare (cheap and delicious), but as an essential ingredient of Delhi’s diverse and historic culture.

It’s refreshing to see food writing that steps away from fancy restaurants, foreign-trained chefs, and tough-to-find ingredients. Some of the recipes in the book may never work for me (how can I get the Delhi winter in Mumbai for the perfect daulat ki chaat?), but the recipes Timms has sourced are very close to the “real thing”. (As an expert Punjabi cook, my mom agrees the kulcha recipe is as genuine as it could be).

Toward the end of the book, the central question remains—what about the mutton korma recipe? Timms hunts far and wide for the true story behind the place, and the authentic recipe. Does she find it? Now that is a question of kismet.

Laced with humour and woven with anecdotes and things quintessentially Indian, like family rivalries, filmy connections and friendly hosts, Korma Kheer and Kismet is much more than a food account.

Toward the end you do lose track of some of the characters, but the book is a delightful read and perfect for those unfamiliar with Delhi food, familiar with Delhi food, food lovers, food haters, and everyone else.

Korma, Kheer and Kismet: Five Seasons in Old Delhi

Author: Pamela Timms

Publisher: Aleph Book Company

Available on: Amazon.in

Get Ayushmann Khurrana’s look in Badhaai Ho

Ayushmann Khurrana in Badhaai Ho sports a super snazzy and stylish look. Modish and natty, his smart casual style is perfect for the urban Indian male in his twenties.

Ayushmann Khurrana’s smart casual look
Ayushmann Khurrana plays Nakul, a 25-year-old middle class Delhi chap who is at ease in the confusing space that is urban India. He lives in the cramped railway quarters, but is comfortable in a spacious South Delhi-type home and in a cubicled office in a modern glass building. He speaks Hindi in his native accent, and neutral English without hesitation.

Ayushmann Khurrana Badhaai Ho crew fashion

His smart casual look fits in with the theme of Badhaai Ho and Nakul’s background in the movie. It’s also a style that is easy to get right, and appropriate for all sorts of occasions. For instance, Ayushmann Khurrana is in smart casuals almost throughout the entire film, such as when he’s at work, at an informal gathering, or out on a date.

Read below to get tips and suggestions on how to dress like Ayushmann Khurrana in Badhaai Ho.

Ayushmann Khurrana in Badhaai Ho: Complete look breakdown
The Basics
Ayushmann Khurrana’s basic wardrobe essentials in Badhaai Ho begin with plain round neck tshirts in multiple colours such as white, beige, grey, black etc.

With that, he teams a simple shirt in a variety of prints, patterns and fabrics, such as a denim shirt or checks, but nothing too formal.

The next wardrobe staple for Ayushmann Khurrana is a pair of straight cut jeans in dark washes. A guy with his physique could carry off skinny jeans easily, but in the context of the film’s middle-class Delhi setting, it would end up looking wannabe. (To be fair, Ayushman Khurana looks great whatever he wears.)

Tshirt from Roadster available on Myntra

Tshirt Roadster Badhaai Ho Ayushmann

Shirt from Highlander available on Myntra

Highlander-Badhaai Ho Ayushmann

Jeans from Levi’s

Levis jeans Ayushmann Badhaai Ho

Outerwear
It gets cold in Delhi, so Ayushmann has a range of light jackets to wear over his shirts, from denim to leather.
When he’s chilling with his buddies at the neighbourhood paanwala in the evenings, he dresses down, and throws on a hoodie instead.

Jacket from Mast & Harbour available on Jabong

Mast & Harbour Badhaai Ho jacket

Shoes
What can I say, but sometimes I think men have better options for shoes than women.

And one of those times was when I spotted Ayushmann Khurrana’s footwear in Badhaai Ho. He’s got some cool sneakers to sport, and he makes white sneakers look completely cool, without being all hipster or gangsta or a trying-too-hard dude.

Sneakers from Sparx available on Amazon.in

white sneakers Ayushmann Khurrana

Accessories
Since he’s no longer a student, but a working professional, Ayushmann has ditched the one-shoulder floppy casual backpacks that teens use. Instead, he has a tan (imitation) leather backpack that he carries to work and almost everywhere else.

Girls and guys will both like Ayushmann Khurrana’s backpack in Badhaai Ho (trust me, it’s the highlight of his look). The backpack has straight clean-cut lines adding to his slick look, and it’s also functional and stylish.

I’m tempted to buy such an accessory for myself.

Backpack from Zara

Ayushmann Khurrana leather backpack

What do you think of Ayushmann Khurrana’s look in Badhaai Ho?

Crazy fashion in Crazy Rich Asians

You just can’t miss the crazy-stylish clothes in Crazy Rich Asians, can you?

In his book Crazy Rich Asians, author Kevin Kwan doesn’t leave a single detail spared when it comes to the wealth and opulence of the Singaporeans. He describes palatial homes, decadent interiors, ethereal weddings, and, of course, fashion, down to the minutest sparkle. No, really. Take a look:

Rachel couldn’t help but notice the enormous canary diamond flashing on her hand like a translucent egg yolk, and the pair of three-carat solitaires in her earlobes, identical to Peik Lin’s. Like mother, like daughter—maybe they got a two-for-one deal….Rachel quickly registered two versions of the Venus de Milo, one in white marble, another in gold, of course. There was a huge round dining table that seated eighteen comfortably covered with a heavy Battenberg lace tablecloth and high-backed Louis Quatorze chairs that were, thankfully, upholstered in a royal blue brocade.

So naturally, an avid reader and cinema fan like me would expect the film adaptation of Crazy Rich Asians to feature striking fashion that brings Kevin Kwan’s vision to life.

Crazy Rich Asians fashion poster
The fashion scene in Crazy Rich Asians
Set amidst the ultra-glam world of uber rich Singaporeans (the kind who spend $40 million on weddings), Crazy Rich Asians features classy settings, and lots of high fashion and haute couture clothes, but with a strong Asian touch.

Costume designer for Crazy Rich Asians Mary Vogt along with Andrea Wong (consultant and senior costume buyer) sourced clothing from a range of designers, such as Ralph Lauren, Elie Saab, Dolce & Gabbana, Stella McCartney, Valentino and Dior, along with several Asian designers.

The actors in the film wear clothes suited to the Asian sensibility, and style themselves according to Asian standards of style and beauty.

Crazy Rich Asians wedding fashion

Which means you will be delighted and surprised to see fashion choices most Hollywood actors would not make on-screen. In most of Asia (including India), fashion, accessories, jewellery and makeup choices are as much about aesthetics as they are about showing your wealth.

In most western cultures including Hollywood, less is generally more, but in Asia, the rule is “less is too less, go for more”. Hence you will see multiple accessories in a single look, splash of colours and embellishment, and daring prints.

My favourite fashion looks from Crazy Rich Asians
Awkwafina as Peik Lin Goh
Awkwafina in Crazy Rich Asians fashion

Peik Lin is quirky and funny, she knows it, and she dresses for it. In a sea of Singaporean Asians with long, dark hair, she chooses to go short and blonde. This spunky gal also dresses like she doesn’t care. Her outfits feature quirky prints, bold colours and mix-and-match separates that seem to be just thrown together in the morning.

But that doesn’t take away from the fact that Peik Lin is a fashionista in her own way. She has a closetful of pricey designer dresses, and she carries multiple outfit and accessory options in the trunk of her car for fashion emergencies like a sudden cocktail party invitation.

Constance Wu As Rachel Chu
Rachel Chu is a New Yorker, so her signature style is laidback and casual. As an economics professor and humble upbringing, she doesn’t care much for high fashion. Even when thrust into the world of crazy rich Singaporeans, Rachel maintains her style sensibilities and sticks to her simple aesthetic style. Meeting with her boyfriend’s mother and grandmother? An “auspicious” red dress. All-expenses-paid shopping spree? An understated cotton outfit.

Awkwafina Constance Wu Crazy Rich Asians fashion

But her dear friend Peik Lin helps her up her fashion game when it’s time for Rachel to show she can be classy too. Peik Lin chooses a multi-hued shimmering gown for the first meeting with the formidable mother, and a baby blue tulle Marchesa dress with a tiara for a grand wedding.

Constance Wu Crazy Rich Asians fashion wedding

In a critical moment in the film, Rachel opts for a game of mah jong with her boyfriend’s mother Aunty Eleanor. In this scene, Rachel shows Aunty Eleanor what a New York gal can really do. Dressed in a flattering floral print dress paired with subtle makeup, Rachel stuns Eleanor with her grace and class in terms of style and as a human being.

Michelle Yeoh as Eleanor Young
As one of the richest women in Asia, Eleanor Young (played by Michelle Yeoh) epitomizes elegance in every frame. As a woman with impeccable manners and taste, her fashion choices are always accurate and her looks are perfect down to the finest detail.

Michelle Yeoh in Crazy Rich Asians

My favourite Aunty Eleanor look is the cocktail party at her mother-in-law’s home. She wears a pleated burgundy floor-length Valentino gown with a gorgeous brooch and matching earrings. Her hair is in a classic updo and her makeup is just right. Perfection!

Gemma Chan as Astrid Young Teo
Astrid is an heiress with a passion for all things rare and beautiful. She has an eye for vintage, a big heart and a contemporary outlook. On ordinary days, she wears silk blouses with high-waist trousers, form-fitting dresses and loads of oomph.

Gemma Chan Crazy Rich Asians Dior dress

My favourite Astrid look is her introductory scene- a stylish Dior dress with a high draped collar, oversized sunglasses and a cute designer handbag.

Which is your favourite look from Crazy Rich Asians?

All pictures courtesy Warner Bros (from Crazy Rich Asians official Facebook page).

Get Taapsee Pannu’s fashionable look in Manmarziyaan

In Manmarziyaan, Taapsee Pannu plays a character whose fashion journey is as crucial as her personal journey. As she evolves, her clothing choices reflect the different stages in her life, and finally when it’s time to make a big decision she makes a style decision to reflect her state of mind.

Manmarziyaan’s costume designer in Prashant Sawant.

Pre-wedding style aka Rumi the Carefree

Rumi, played by Taapsee Pannu, is a tomboy and a badass. She plays hockey, goes for a run through Amritsar, rides a Bullet, works with her uncles at their sports goods store, and sneaks around to hang with her passionate boyfriend Vicky (Vicky Kaushal). She doesn’t hesitate to give non-committal Vicky a piece of her mind and a few kicks and punches when he pisses her off with his reluctance to take things forward.

Taapsee Pannu as Rumi style in Manmarziyaan
(Photo by Khamkhaphotoartist)

In this tomboy avatar, Taapsee wears men’s shirts as kurtas paired with loose patiala salwars. Makeup is markedly absent, while her jewellery is only a pair of tiny earrings. In her daily life, Rumi wears plain cardigans and hoodies over her shirts and rolls up the sleeves to look tough.

Rumi has streaks of red in her hair, perhaps to match her boyfriend’s blue highlights, and it’s a curly mess (her aunt calls her Amritsar’s “Laal Pari”). What’s just as outrageous is her pair of bright-tinted sunglasses (I found them bold!).

When Rumi carries a dupatta it’s completely mismatched with the rest of her outfit, showing her nonchalance for anything sartorial, too feminine or too conventional.

Taapsee Pannu fashion in Manmarziyaan
(Photo by Khamkhaphotoartist)

But guess what is Rumi’s most out-of-sync style choice? The sporty sneakers she wears with her salwars!

Want to adopt Taapsee Pannu’s pre-wedding Rumi look in Manmarziyaan? See our style picks below.

Checked shirt by Roadster available on Myntra

Checked womens shirt for Taapsee look

Patiala by Go Colors available on Myntra
Blue Patiala salwar for Taapsee Pannu look

Sneakers by Clarks available on Jabong

Post-wedding style aka Rumi as a Married Woman

Every Punjabi bride gets a trousseau from her family with clothes and jewellery that the bride will need in her new home, and Rumi gets a set of 21 outfits. Since Rumi doesn’t seem to be fashionable types, I get the feeling that her aunt chose her trousseau.

Once Rumi gets married, she wears her new outfits as she must, albeit a bit reluctantly, complete with her bridal chura and some jewellery. The little studs give way to small jhumkas but there is very little attempt otherwise to keep up the appearances of a blushing bride or bahu.

Taapsee Pannu Rumi in Manmarziyaan song
(Photo from Manmarziyaan official Facebook page)

As soon as they reach their hotel in Kashmir for their honeymoon, Rumi pulls out sneakers from her suitcase, ties them up and off she goes running, music in her ears to nurse her heartbreak.

The post-marriage wardrobe upgrade expands to smarter jackets, bright-coloured wedding embroidered kurtas and salwar kameez sets with (ahem…) matching dupattas.

Meanwhile, Rumi’s hair is still a mess but then there’s a hint of lipstick, nothing too obvious, just a nude shade to make her look a bit more well, married and grown-up.

As Rumi’s marriage goes through a series of ups and downs, her clothing choices fluctuate. At her family’s home, she is pretty much her old self. But as rapid changes happen in her life, she seems to grow. She begins seeing things more clearly and she makes some changes to her wardrobe to keep up with her newfound maturity.

Most notable is the final scene of Manmarziyaan, when Rumi heads out to woo her man (no spoilers here!). Rather than her usual careless look, she makes an obvious effort with her appearance, but without compromising on her crazy personality (she still asks impertinent questions and speaks random stuff to throw off people).

In this scene, Taapsee Pannu wears a knee-length straight-fit kurta with little embroidery motifs all over and carries a somewhat-matching purse. Then she applies lipstick and wears earrings, even though she doesn’t need to. Clearly, it’s a woman in love putting herself out for her man.

Get Taapsee Pannu’s post-wedding look in Manmarziyaan. Here are some suggestions.

Kurta suit set from Biba
Biba pink suit Taapsee Paanu in Manmarziyaan

Zaveri pearls jhumkas available on Myntra

Zaveri-Pearls-Jhumkas for Taapsee Pannus look Manmarziyaan
Lipstick by Kiki Milano available on Nykaa
Kiko Milano lipstick Taapsee Pannu in Manmarziyaan

What do you think of Taapsee Pannu’s look in Manmarziyaan?