Thursday, 27 September 2012

Singapore : Sea and the City

I may not be a fan of its hot climate and massive 'shopping paradise' reputation, Singapore fascinates me, nonetheless. It's the dusted, contradicting past that faintly shows in all its present glory that keeps it interesting for me. And I get most of it from the face of the overwhelming sea.  In a city that seems to be perpetually reinventing itself, it is one constant aspect that perfectly suits my senses.

Like a well Botoxed babe, this water body is carefully jeweled and studded with organised, humongous, some beautiful and some very smart, swanky concrete beings. Among these are some lonely patches of shop houses that don’t make it look that old. The overwhelming concrete affects are softened with clever streaks of green everywhere. Underneath this "ostentacity", the sea’s exuberance beds around the city, giving a sense of sweet subtle naivety to the whole up-to-the-minute look.

I can imagine a relaxed Singapore of the 1960s, declaring to the sea:

“My dreams are in haste, I calm them down to wait for me
I’m lazy and happy, shut off from everything that’s busy
For when I’m done, I’ll rush and rush
And fill you up with leaps and bounds of promises and dreams
And chase them all, till not one single dream is left a dream’’

Singapore has much to thank its deep waters for footing its dreams that in turn have brought such enormous prosperity.  I see that grateful heart, every time I visit the beach. I don’t know of any place that loves its sea as much as this city.  It keeps it so sacredly clean; you could almost see your face in its polished waves.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Eat Laroo La!

Eat Laroo La! That would be Singlish for devouring an Assamese delight!

They say some things always stay with you. For me, one of them is the lingering taste of the Assamese laroo, a traditional sweet made of good old coconut and lots of sugar (which doesn't make it all that good.)  This simple delight is one sacred gastronomic vice of mine!

Far away in noodle land, the tasty devil sits in one corner of my head and keeps waking me up on weird occasions. Once, in the middle of the night, it came rolling in my head like a fresh ball of snow. The thing just kept bouncing off the walls of my brain cells! It was like reverse, sweet vertigo. I couldn’t do much but reluctantly jibe along and ruminate sweet savour times. It didn’t help though.

To realise my laroo dreams, many a time I’ve tried to match the good old sweet with local ingredients. I'm not complaining, but what do you expect from a pack of dry stale coconut flakes and processed sugar, trying their luck to mould into a luscious laroo. All I got was a gummy flaky substance. If nothing else, it would have made excellent coconut flavoured adhesive for my craft work. Another time I got a coconut, the inside of which was unusually fragile and thin. This made it impossibly stubborn to blend in the whole spiritual concoction.

Then came last week. Accompanied with fresh determination, I went straight to the local wet market. By some fleeting good coconut testing instinct, I finally got a decent thing to go home with me and unfold the 'raaz’. I’ve made the sweet before and it turned out fine, and sometimes even great. So, it wasn't the lack of talent that didn't result in delicacy. I really hoped so.  I consoled myself with another chance to fulfill this craving through my own making.

It was the best Laroo I have ever made in my life. My dear husband was one delighted testimony; he devoured the devils, one by one till a pair was left. My daughter did the honor of finishing the couple off in a jiffy. Ha! I could have pinned a rose on my nose! I guess the 4th ingredient did justice to the genuine love I have for this food being. My doting father would have been very proud of me. I made ‘em just the way Khuri does back in Guwahati!

Voila Laroo! ooh La La Laroo!

Here’s the very simple recipe I followed:

1. Coconut (about 350 gms)
2. Sugar (250gms)
3. Cardamoms (2 pieces)
4. A dash of Rhonda Byrne's 'expect what you want and don't expect what you don't want'

Mix all the ingredients in a pan. Saut√© till you get a nice sticky form. Remove it and immediately make small balls. Do take care of the heat though. Make sure you wash your hands really well before digging into the sticky coconut sugar blend. Don't bother moisturizing; you’ll get loads of it when you're done! The pleasant smell and sumptuous look of the laroos is so tantalising, you'll want to wolf all of them down at once!

Friday, 14 September 2012

A visit to Mawsmai

Whenever I was asked where Shillong is on the map, I would say its near Cherrapunji or Sohra, the place which get's the world's most rainfall. Today, it's no more reigning rain (with Mawsynram enjoying the lead) and I'm tempted to answer queries about my roots with a happy "near Cherrapunji, the runner up to Mawsynram when it comes to rain." But I do manage to stop myself and cross-check my wikipedia facts - which are as inconsistent as the rains these days!

Rain or not, Cherrapunji is one of my favourite places, one big reason being my maternal ancestors being from there. I know I may get bashed up for this fact by my Khasi friends who would surely see the contradiction of my ancestry in my surname. I assure them of an explanation in another post. 

The last time I went there was in 2008 when I visited my relatives - to invite them to my wedding. After working in fast Mumbai for four years, I was looking forward to a country trip like this. I vividly remember the marks of old rusted British establishments giving a slight European accent to the the farms that formed most of our journey to Cherrapunji. The clouds were generous enough to make us feel like we were driving to a mystic abode! So yes, we missed the canyons and falls, but relatives were waiting at Mawsmai and we couldn't wait to meet them.

Sweet melancholy - Mawsmai

Having Cherrapunji as a distant hometown sometimes makes me take the place for granted. I always procrastinate the whole joy of knowing this beauty better. I like to just go along with whatever the group was doing. So when my cousin invited me to visit the Mawsmai caves, I happily agreed - just to realise that I would be left on my own as my mom and her wanted to be alone with mutual interest in discussing my marriage details.


So I went about on my solo 'caving' experience. The cave was well lit though the visual felt weird when I just stepped in, quite like when you enter the theater. I took my time and it gradually became thrilling. The narrow passage and slippery uneven cave floor made it interesting and challenging (unless you're with kids or elders). 
In a Verne-ian imagination. It could well have been a gateway to the centre of the Earth. According to me, maybe it should be Ms. Cave or Madam Cave - she has so much personality!

Glimmer of Light

She seemed to be crying sweet salt water which gradually formed the baby rocks along the way. I felt a strange sense of belonging in this "almost science fictional place". It was like a soothing haunt.I happily combed her thoroughly till I saw a vague greying afternoon light so unaffected by the cheerful catching up session happening between the two "Family"ar women.
Our trip ended with lovely lunch at the restaurant run by my cousin - quite near to the cave. Indigenous indulgence was the theme of the day! My mother made sure we got back some local tomatoes from the Mawsmai market. She said they couldn't be compared to anything in the world to which I nodded my head vigorously. 

As this is a short personal experience, for more information, you can go to

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

In-SA-NE is simply Indian-South Asian-North Eastern!

"Different people make differennations
The many tongues that speak many different languages
Is it food that makes a culture or culture food?
Subtle sarong can never be out of fashion
Can the sound of my name be sweeter that the chantings of OM?
Did I tell you egg shells and a cereal box could marry and make a photo frame?
Isn't amazing to see orchids blooming in good ol charcoal
If all books were page tuners, the fire brigade would have been good business....
Is the Internet really as BIG as China?"

Welcome to INSANEty !
The above pretty much makes up InSANE! The name is my dear husband's idea. Interestingly, Insan also means human in a few "√Źndian" languages.

I come from one of the most beautiful and exotic places in the world- North East India. Though I am presently based in Singapore, my visits to the region have never been sporadic. Due to its geographical location, the NE region's massive tourism appeal has not been justly explored. My friends always seem so impressed with our NE expeditions. It's concerning though that they know nothing, absolutely nothing of this beautiful corner in the wide geography of India which itself is a subset of the beautiful South Asia. So its only fair that the the region assumed to be cut off from the country owing to its disadvantageous geographical location should get some online presence - and attention from the rest of India as well as South East Asia. That's how this insane idea came about. The similarities between the NE of India and the SE of South Asia can be a theme to fill a library - you will hear a lot of that on this blog! 

All said though, Insane will also explore other fascinating places and experiences in diverse India and South Asia. I will share with you my everyday adventures and the lessons learnt along the way. I hope my Insane journey enriches your life and gives us the opportunity to connect through common threads and paths in this big wide maze!