Achilles Heel

Last week my friend Asmita Deshpande visited us in Mumbai from Neemuch, MP.

So, what was so special about her visit?

Her single statement added feather to her visit.

After dinner, she wanted to go for a stroll. As she was to travel, she had come wearing her comfy shoes, which she didn’t want to wear now for a stroll. Fair enough, but my feet are very small so my slippers were of no use, I proposed to her, “wear my husband’s Bata Chappals.” She reluctantly agreed, but after walking few steps, she said, “These are so comfortable.” She added, “Footwear for men is so comfortable, whereas for women, footwear is only fashionable and uncomfortable. Why women succumb to such torture.”

She is blessed with good height so she doesn’t know the pain of short girls.

It was a simple remark and not her trademark “feminist remark” but yes why only girls need to look Taller? Whiter? Slimmer?

Unfortunately, I was one of those…

My life as a short girl was all about wearing high heels (not conventionally high, but not flats either) most of the time, be it in college, office, social or official outing. It was a pain to select a proper heel that was comfortable, sturdy, stylish and didn’t pain my feet, if worn for longer hours, sarvagunn sampan!

I was sharply focussed on buying such footwear and spent years scouting for such footwear in New Delhi’s Janpath, Connaught Place, Sarojini Nagar, Kamla Nagar, Lajpat Nagar…I had assorted a battalion of footwear. Do they made me look taller or brought drastic change to my five feet nothing frame? No, I don’t think so now. But in those days good footwear which made me look taller was a prized catch.

What to say when some Ladkawalas were coming to see me? My big focus was on footwear over anything relevant for matrimony. A ‘matter’ of few inches over my ‘grey matter.’

After elaborate arrangements of their hospitality and our hopes, the next morning message use to come, “Ladki ki height thodi kum hai, sorry.”   Why you should be sorry? God should be sorry for creating tall people like you. After nth rejections, 90% over height and 10% over the complexion, I met my husband who is over 6 feet tall and married me for who I was as a person. On the day of my marriage, I decided to wear the highest heel, so that I didn’t have to throw Jaimaal around 6 feet tall gentlemen’s neck.

Karma rewarded.

Cut to footwear, I came to know about Liberty Footwear’s grand showroom in Connaught Place, and could not resist my visit there. The showroom was grand, and I could lay my hands on a piece that was just right for me (Cinderella moment). I had found my match and stuck to it for years.

Time passed and my passion for heels started waning, I decided to go for comfortable footwear, which enhanced my personality, not necessarily added few inches to my height. Still, the keeda of wearing heels kept bugging me. I use to travel for work in the locals, wearing my floaters or Athleisure and use to change into heels as soon as I entered the office. I never attended any meeting, discussion or regular office without my heels. I use to climb stairs in a jiffy with my heels and everybody use to marvel – how? Practice makes a woman perfect.

For the last few years, I have not worn heals at all. Why? I am no longer conscious of my height; I want to be comfortable and not irritated because of those artificial extra inches. How I achieved that? That’s another story…

I saw a photo of Aishwarya Rai wearing particular footwear which was not flat, stylish, sturdy and comfortable. Now, the frantic search began for that footwear, and finally, I could lay my hands, oops feet on that. Not to say of the bomb I paid for those.  Now, I wear only these…

Thanks, Aishwarya for taking the Achilles heel out of my life!

Alice in wonderland of food 2

In my last post, you read about my adventures rather misadventures with food which put me in a tight spot and how I overcame these, professionally.

As was destined, marriage beckoned, that too in a Gujju family. Amidst happy and joyous ceremonies, I moved to my future home. After the initial few days of greeting and meeting, now was the time to understand what was going on in the kitchen. The ‘moment-of-truth’ arrived…difficult scenario to be in. Coming from a well-known Kayastha family from Lucknow, it was a new world for me. I was (still am) a true-blue North Indian and they were true-blue Gujjus, so one can imagine.

Sample this, some famous Gujarati dishes discussed, prepared and served in Vaghela household, which were Greek and Latin to me then, like Khandvi: Soft Layers, Dhokla: Spongy Squares, Handvo: Sweet & Savoury Cake, Gathiya: Besan Snack, Thepla: Like Thin Parathas, Undhiyu: Mixed Vegetables, Fafda Jalebi: A Blend Of Sweet & Salty, Gujarati Khichdi: Simple Yet Amazing, Dabeli: Most-Eaten Snack, Khaman: Fluffier Than Dhokla, Farsan: Salty Dry Snack, Locho: A Savoury Side Dish, Dal Dhokli: Wheat Flour Noodles, Rotlo: Traditional Gujarati Food, Khakhra: Crispy Flatbread, Mohanthal: Sweet Dish, Basundi: Similar To Rabri, Sev Tamatar Nu Shaak: A Tangy Dish, Gujarati Kadhi: A Combo Of Sweet & Sour and Ghughra: Fried Sweet Food.

& to top it all, they loved to talk, prepare, discuss and read about food round the clock, there was hardly any discussion on any other topic, whereas I came from a background where food had an important but peripheral presence.


So, coming back, I had learnt some North-Indian cooking to impress my future in-laws but what a spin it turned out to be. They won’t eat anything else except Gujarati food and that too cooked in a typical Gujarati style. My gentle mother-in-law understood my dilemma and started telling me what goes into Gujarati cooking. She was an expert cook and what to say of my sisters-in-law who could cook quantities with taste and speed. Now once again, I became ‘Alice-in-Wonderland’……Amidst all this, I landed the job of executive editor in a leading publishing house and got to work on a book by a famous Gujarati Cuisine Curator – Mrs Tarla Dalal. I owe all my expertise in Gujarati cooking to her. This helped me big time. She was kind enough to explain everything in detail and precision. Her paperback became my Guru and a mainstay in my kitchen.

One stark difference, I noticed in Gujarati food was that they added sweet, either jaggery or sugar to almost every dish. Before this, I hadn’t even heard of sweetened daal, paneer, curries, khaman, dhokla, thepla or kadhi or any other vegetable. They blended sweet in just-right proportions suiting the dish, which enhanced the taste. When I added sugar to daal to impress my father-in-law, it tasted like dessert and was outrightly rejected. Till now, I had known teekha lehsun tadka for daal. So…

Gujarati families cook even the most complicated dishes with ease. In my past life, I had not known any Gujju person either personally or professionally while in Delhi/ Lucknow. I had only known Gujarat for its traditional handicraft and just loved these.

Joining my sisters-in-law in the kitchen, I got the hang of Gujarati food, what was used in what proportions and the way it was cooked.

The family which loved and lived for food, was a new concept of living for me. Their mornings began with a conversation on food which lasted till night with ladies working in the kitchen. Every dish was cooked properly with all possible ingredients, there were no short-cuts used. Watching them working and listening to their dictats while in the kitchen I honed my culinary skills. Thankfully, the husband was not a typical Gujarati eater, he was fine with North Indian dishes, spicy and without sugar. This certainly made life easier.

Tarla Dalal

So, coming back, the names mentioned for the lunch, dinner and breakfast, I had never heard these, forget eating them. Every day 6-7 items were served in big thalis interspersed with small katories (bowls). Another thing, Gujaratis serve everything in small quantities. So much so, the tea was served in such small quantity, that I use to tell my mother-in-law, “Mummy Polio drops nathi, moto mag”  

I take pleasure in associating with some highly popular Gujarati dishes which are loved globally, courtesy: Television serials that served Gujarati culture in dollops, which was not the case then. But these dishes or terminology were alien to me then, today I can cook many of these with elan, with appreciation from many Gujju friends, family and colleagues.

But while achieving this rare feat, I never compromised my North – Indian identity and for that cooking, Celebrity Chef, Sanjeev Kapoor is my Guru. His cooking has a unique identity and flavours which helped me in improvising my cooking. Today, I have a big fan following for my both cooking – North Indian & West Indian. Still, I need to go a long way to catch up with this rare craft, which is an integral part of Indian culture.

Hope you found my food journey of years interesting!

But yes, one never stops learning and I too am learning, still the hard way!