In between : a verse

I am trying to find a word
that defines what lies between
the slats of time
forcing me to find it in unfinished
memories fading to black

recall stares at me
as though I had stolen
from its list of ‘to do away with’

am running short of moments
where I can rest my sepia collection
of what was once high color

perfect and combed snatches
with people I don’t see now
and most likely
never will.

SILL BATTA (the grinding stone) – a poem

SILL BATTA (the grinding stone) – a poem


The sound scape of
the sill
serrated in its plinth
pink like the flesh
that wanted marination
readied to be pulped
by bangled hands
of a near dizzy
trusted ‘masalchi’ (the kitchen hand)
of age unknown
and a buck
gentle as a breeze
like the marinade
of lamb that
got to be
the chosen one
for the sill batta
A must in a Sunni Syed
house blessed by Avadhi
cuisine in marriage.
Kababs weren’t a luxury,
the mandate they still
The tinkle of the bangle
the roll of the meat
the sill that hums
its own raga of ras
the cajoling of her hand
makes it the art that
is kabab e shammi
that only Ammi can turn
out in spite of fatigue from
hollering Urdu ghazal
at not too-bright pupils.

She – the mistress of
kababs and yakhni pulao
a feat that a poor
city mixer-grinder
Will never compete with.


Music makes it work for me


As I write this piece, my chronological  years and many years of listening to music come to me as a refrain that could best be sung as the “day the music died”. The precious video I share here is by a hugely subscribed website called Ithacaaudio and one which posts some really interesting tidbits and opinion on music history and soundscapes in general.

Since I am a die hard subscriber, my consumption of a lot of their material is equivalent to breathing , and as a fellow in music – here is what I think about influences :-
1. While growing up in the 70s and 80s and being in love with bands and artists like The Beatles, Eagles, Eric Clapton, Jim Reeves, JJ Cale, Anne Murray, Cliff Richard, Rod Stewart & Roger Waters, The Who, Peter Gabriel and the unmistakable Tom Petty – my personal influences were quite overshadowed by the ‘convent’ British English education led western music that I got subjected to as a kid.
2. My home turf exposure to the  Indian traditional form of ghazal and khayal comes from listening incessantly to Iqbal Bano, Farida Khanum, Malika Pukhraj, Begum Akhtar, Mehdi Hasan, Jagjit Singh, Bade Ghulam Ali, Rajan & Sajan Misra, and Dagar Brothers.  This certainly helped my music appreciation skill as an Indian from a Urdu adab & tehzeeb environment.
3. Add to this mix, a healthy serving of socially relevant Bollywood music from the stable of directors and composers like Hrishikesh Mukerji, Manmohan Desai, Naushad, Nasir Hussain, Basu Chatterji, and the unforgettable Laxmikant Pyarelal and Madan Mohan. With Lata, Rafi, Kishore, Manna Dey, Talat Mahmood, Suraiya, Noor Jehan, Geeta Dutt, Asha Bhonsle, Preeti Sagar, and Vani Jayram belting priceless gems that continue to play on repeat even today. I have been fortunate to be blessed by a music sensibility which can best be called ‘world friendly’.
4. And if I were to  say that my under grad years at University of Delhi further opened my ears to a new range of sound altogether, it will not be anything but the honest truth. Its been quite a wave, for I have had the pleasure of hosting at College and attending to artists like Pandit Bhimsent Joshi, Pandit Jasraj, Shivkumar Sharma, Hari Prasad Chaurasia, Gangubai Hangal, Kishori Amonkar, Balmuralikrishnan, MS Subalaxmi, Shubha Mudgal –  to list only vocalists. All this via a beautiful phenomenon called Spicmacay (Society for Promotion of Indian Classical Music And Culture Amongst Youth), and its inimitable head Kiran Seth – who had the passion and panache of a sixteen year old when it came to delivering an amazing concert at colleges and auditoriums that would allow the young in.

With so many influences affecting my impressionable mind then, I now sit with an advantage when I listen to really young and not so young bands and artists perform at a local community and concert level. I can fortunately tell the difference between excellent and mediocre. Am yet to discover really horrible sound and vocalists – so God help me never meet them!!

Food Perfect at 12

Food Perfect at 12

The big Indian epidemic we all suffer from is called “elderitis”. We, the utmost liberal, (or so we think) have the biggest problem with adjusting to new found youth. So today my piece is about a young person I know called Srishti Dhurandar.

Srishti in Sanskrit stands for “The Universe”- in this case a twelve years old’s universe that comprises of football, golf, school, graduation dinners, outdoors, trekking, skiing and coming to India to take an auto ride and sit in a tricycle rickshaw. Going on thirteen – to be chronological about it,  in reality Srishti could easily be a mature 21 years old, with the confidence of a young lady, ready to take on the world.

Quite the cat that she is, the outward elements she misses are whiskers and a tail. Athletic and totally graceful as any athletic young lady – she has the incredible talent to be a fence sitter. One that balances with ease, a personality that can be found at home in a hard core “desi” environment, where touching feet and rising when an elder arrives, to being equally comfortable discussing weight training as an avid golfer, and outdoors lover, as well  as turning into a mistress of spices at home in New Jersey.

A nutrition class in grade 7, turns her into a  chef, who can chop, drain, sauté and flip with requisite élan of a sous chef. A well spent hour in the kitchen later, what you get is a nutritious and good looking meal which just ain’t meant to taste good but look beautiful as well.


Seriously – what are the kids made of these days? Power puff material? Oops – shouldn’t call her that anymore, my blunder!! Meet Srishti Dhurandar – the young lady from Manhattan.



TASTER & CRITIC – younger sibling Aalok
‘err i don’t think this is good enough’