Unconferenced and Electrified in Goa


Last weekend I was in a very different world. A world where a mildly shy and conservative girl like me spoke to almost 100 new people in two days, introduced myself as a writer and baker, spent the first night away from my 14 month old son , drank close to 4 pints of beer each day and met the original Made in India : Milind Soman. This might be a regular feature for everyone else at The Goa Project, but not for me – your run of the mill Chartered Accountant with a full time job and a small baby.

Arjun, my little monster weaned himself when he turned 12 months old. He wanted no more of momma’s milk. And it happened overnight. I was shocked and felt rejected. 365 days and nights spent feeding him had come to an end and he had fully transitioned to solid food. I needed a closure ceremony. A glass of wine was good, but I finally could go away for more than 4-5 hours. The Goa Project was perfect for this. It’s called an Unconference. A place where people from different walks of life come together to brainstorm ideas and get creative. People pitch in topics they want to talk about and those which get upvoted are finally presented in Goa. Over two days, I attended at story telling session by Deeptha , a spoken word poetry session by Rochelle, one on theatre by Danish Hussain, a workshop on Chindogu and how to publish a book by Tathagat, the 100 Saree pact story by my friend Monika, a dialogue about women entrepreneurs and related issues by Kavita a very interactive session by Avani on love (read sex) and glimpsed through several other sessions. The striking difference between this (un)conference and others was that you could move between talks, go and sit wherever you like and no one thought it was rude. The weather was jovial, free booze was flowing throughout and interesting conversations were happening at every corner. What was to not like about it?


I will be honest to you. Some of the discussions made me a little uncomfortable. I had sure read 50 Shades of Grey in the anonymity of my kindle, but I couldn’t sit through a talk on BDSM and all the Sub-dom terrains without cringing several times. When later someone asked a question that what if all money was to be replaced with sex, I was shocked and confused as to what would happily married people like me buy stuff with, I was promptly given an answer – ‘happily married doesn’t exist’. Well, I begged to differ, but never mind.

I had a good two days, talking to different people. Some of the most eye-opening insights were found in a place least expected. On the second day, I was talking to a DJ of a popular club and contrary to what I used to think, his is the most solitary job. A room full of people and yet no one you are with. And the terrible disadvantages of passive smoking and the guilt of encouraging people to get drunk so that the club makes profit. But he loved his job and thats what makes the world go round.

So many people are doing such out-of-the-box stuff – it’s hard to sit in an AC office and think of those things. Be it literature, theatre, poetry, conservation, renewable energy, love, sex, photography, documentaries – there is so much that can be explored and there are people out there doing that and getting funded for their innovations. It feels like the best time to be alive, alive in India. Albeit certain people might not think so, I firmly believe that.

The evenings there were especially beautiful with the cool breeze off Dona Paula and live music. I had a relaxing weekend and when I met my son once home, his raw emotions and happiness at seeing his mommy made him dance for a couple of minutes. And then he hugged me and planted his drool soaked kisses all over my cheek. That was the best best part. The husband took a video of it and I watch it a dozen times each day.

I like this place I am at. But if someone asks me, do you swipe right or left? I have no idea. I have been ‘ happily married’ for almost 5 years now and I guess all those Tinder phrases are lost on me. Well, I am getting too old for that shit anyway. The big 30 is approaching and it’s time to settle down.

See you next year at TGP 2017.

TGP snapshot

Photo by Nivas Ravichandran



Rustic Beetroot Cake (Eggless)

I have been baking often over the last few days. Simple occasions demand simple cakes without too much frosting or decoration. Real flavours and things that can be whipped up within an hour.

My 14 month old baby boy has begun to enjoy the cake decoration part. With his tiny little fingers he helps me put chocolate chips on the cake, but most of the fruits and sprinkles end up in his stomach. And now he gets excited when he looks at the pans, or the whisk or the even the weighing scale. He knows something delicious is coming up. I let him have little pieces of cake. Since he was 12 months old, he eats everything that we eat. And I bet he is turning into a foodie.

Since we are a nation obsessed with eggless cakes, I have been trying my hand on a couple of them. Substituting ingredients in a cake which calls for an egg or two doesn’t work. The whole composition has to be changed. So here is one based on a chocolate eggless cake from The Big Book of Treats by Pooja Dhingra.

This cake uses 2 small beetroots and gives a very nice flavour to the cake. it does not use any added colour. The texture is also very soft and crumbly. Topped with whipped cream and coloured sugar crystals, it looks very rustic.

Beetroot cake


Rustic Eggless Beetroot Cake 

What you will need :

  • 2 small beetroots, steamed/ boiled and pureed
  • 130 gram all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 100 gram Amul butter at room temperature
  • 20 gram castor sugar
  • 30 ml warm milk
  • 150 grams condensed milk
  • 150 gram dark chocolate melted

What to do :

  1. Melt the chocolate in microwave or double boiler and let it cool.
  2. Sift together all the dry ingredients – flour+ baking powder + baking soda and keep aside.
  3. Pre-heat oven to 180C for 5 minutes.
  4. In a big bowl, whisk butter till soft and fluffy. Add the sugar and whisk.
  5. Now add the milk, condensed milk and melted chocolate and mix well.
  6. Then slowly add the pureed beetroot and incorporate well with a whisk.
  7. Now fold in the dry ingredients with a rubber spatula.
  8. Line one 6-8 inch pan with parchment paper and butter and flour the sides.
  9. Pour the batter in the prepared pan and bake at 180 C for 20-25 minutes till a skewer inserted int he centre comes out clean.
  10. I cut the cake horizontally into half to frost and stack them up.
  11. Decorate with some whipped cream and coloured castor sugar on top.

Slice of beetroot cake

Notes :

  • I steamed the beetroots (just like steaming potatoes) in a pressure cooker, removed the skin and then pulsed it in a mixer for a couple of minutes.
  • You can easily serve the cake without any frosting, it is very soft and melt-in-the mouth.

My Swacchha Little boy

Arjun with a broom

Right now, if you come home, chances are that you will see my one year old boy with a broom cleaning the living room. Or with a mop wiping the tables or furniture. Or if I come to your house with him, the most interesting thing he will find and want to play with is a broom. Aka Jhadu. No wonder this boy was born under the Swatch Bharat regime, but it becomes really awkward when he sees sweepers on the streets and howls at them asking for their grass brooms with long sticks. But thats for now. I am sure when he grows up he will want to become a bus-conductor doing ticket-ticket, a driver doing beep-beep, or a soldier with guns and tankers. His dad already wants him to join the Indian army, but thats not happening if I have only one son. Heck if he is the only child I have, I am not even sending him away for college.

My father and mother in law started the business and husband and I are the second generation running the company. It is stupid to assume that Arjun-the third generation will want to join the business and take it forward. But my conservative middle-class upbringing will always want to tell him to get a good professional degree.

I remember, I was eight when Aishwarya Rai became Miss World. That was a very impressionable age and I followed her journey on television very closely. I loved the way she exclaimed and cried when she won the title, her petite pose when the crown was placed on her head, how she got interviewed later constantly for months after that and the whole concept of being ‘Miss World’. It was fascinating for me. I would later stand in front of the mirror and pretend to wear a jewelled crown and answer the flurry of questions. Who am I, what do I like, what is the most important thing for me in life, how would I like to eradicate world poverty, what do I think about equality, what are my aspirations for the future and so on. Alas, my height never increased more than 5 feet 2 inches and I have never been skinny, so those dreams got washed off pretty quick, but being a child and thinking you can become anyone in the world – its amazing.

There is a orphanage in Mumbai which houses several teenage girls . I used to volunteer there on Saturdays with the little kids. The director once asked me to guide those girls and show them education options which are not very expensive. Chartered Accountancy course being one of them, he wants me to mentor the girls and share my experiences being a CA. I never got to that and later I got pregnant and had the child and so this went to the back of my head. But I think the truth is:  I dont feel adult enough to mentor anyone. It feels too much of a responsibility. Now as I write this, I realise I should do it. Those girls dont have limitless opportunities like us or our kids, but they should be able to see some paths which they can walk on.

There was a period when my brother wanted to be a chef. Now I am not sure if he really wanted to be a chef or he was saying that because he knew dad would not approve, but as a matter of fact he did not go for it. He completed his Chemical Engineering in Mumbai, although quite grudgingly. Now he is in the USA doing MBA and I often wonder if he will become a Chef or get some culinary degree in future. Heck, no one ever thought I will go to Cordon Bleu to study Patisserie. I could barely make Maggi when I got married. But I did. And here I am, now thinking of quitting the baking side of blogging and concentrating on writing.

So who knows right? Arjun might decide to join the business or he might just join the Indian army. Or become the Chief Cleanliness Officer. We are yet to find out.



That first time..


Husband and I. Our first picture together. Young and care-free.

I have currently registered for a ten-week online writing workshop. It was the top most from my have-to-accomplish-this-year lists and boy, it is so intensive. Makes me think harder, dig deeper, look into the well of my experiences and draw energy from there. Gather inspiration and dwell on it. I will write more about the workshop later, but in this second week, one assignment was to write about the List of Firsts. Here is a section from what I wrote.

The first time I failed an exam was when I was 13. A singing exam. My mom used to send me to her friend to learn Hindustani classical music. The Sa Re Ga Ma Pa was just not my cup of tea. I loved to sing and listen to music, but those alaaps and ragas were way beyond my comprehension. I sorta hated the class, the only silver lining being a guy from the neighbouring building used to come down to see me walk to to the class everytime. I was 13, stalking was glamorised by the Hindi movies and I loved being the centre of attention. I was the only one among my friends at that time who had a secret admirer. But once I failed that exam, (God! how miserable was the day of the test, the examiner would shudder everytime I answered her question), I convinced my mom or perhaps my teacher convinced mom that I should stop coming to the class. Good riddance, but those secret stalker/admirer sessions also came to an end.

The first real date husband and I went on was the Kala Ghoda festival. Six months before we got married. We knew each other since the 9th grade, but both of us had evolved from being gangly teenagers to what we were then. Still awkward, but more educated and more aware of the world around us. The freshness of that time still lingers in my head. To be 24 and independant without any major responsibilities, it was awesome.

I remember that first kiss way back when I was 18. He was my first real boyfriend, apart from the dozen crushes I had by the time I was that age. The anticipation of the first kiss was building over for a while, but there was no place where that coziness was permitted. And then about a couple months after we started dating, we were at a friend’s house after college. And that was the day. I remember stepping back and wanting to record every little thing about that awkward time. We were in my friend’s bedroom, her heap of clothes and pile of books were staring at me from the table and I was constantly worried that what if mom finds out where I am. I would be dead.

My first breakup was obviously with him, a year after we started dating. I was heart broken, ofcourse, but I vividly remember knowing that this was it. It was good while it lasted, but now was the time to move on.

When I was working in a bank, I used to smoke for about a year. It was cool back then. Being independant, being able to smoke without parents knowing it, hanging out with my 6-years-younger brother and smoking with his friends. How silly, yet how cool! But the first time I smoked, it was so disgusting. A group of us from the CA class would stand near a railway station (all of us aged 19-20) and we would pretend to be chic. I could never inhale it deeply and exhale, it would just be staccato bursts of in and out, in and out. And most of the time it would burn away between my fingers. Later I genuinely began to like it, and one particular brand of clove cigarattes was beautiful, but that was a different time and age. I haven’t smoked a single one since getting pregnant and having the baby, and I dont want to get back to it. Ever. But again, it was a good time in life. And I will remember it for that.

I read somewhere recently, that the period from 15-25 is the period we remember the most. It is the period of most novelties, the most number of firsts. It has a strong impact on our memory and I think it is also because theose events are most discussed. I remember, till the time we got married, me and my best friend would discuss about the day in detail, EVERYDAY. And dissect every little thing anyone said and make sense out of it. Now a lot of events are so mundane, they go unnoticed. Two days back, the husband came back from a 4 day tour. I felt as if I hadnt seen him in a long time and couldnt wait to snuggle in and cozy up in his warmth. This event could have made headlines with the said best friend, but in the larger scheme of things it feels very usual. Even un-romantic when it comes in context of marriage, but how important it was for me, at that time.

The first time I held my baby in my arms is also a very precious moment. He was perfect. I had made him. I always wanted to be a mom, and here I was. This little 3 kg dumpling would be my aankhon-ka-tara. And right now, we have a long list of firsts by him, in his first year, almost everything he is doing is for the first time. First smile, first little tooth, those first steps wobbly like a drunk, first time he said mumma, his first little kiss on my cheek – all of it is treasured beyond words.

Of course everything is documented now – a dozen photos and videos each day, so the list of firsts is extensive, but our generation relied on memory. We might be the last ones to do that.