Thursday, June 11, 2020

Axone - More than just a film

Finally the film is releasing! I have been getting queries from my friends and friends' friends asking about “ How and Where to see this film” since last one year. Why me? Because I am “related” to someone very closely associated with the film. But hang on everyone, this is not a good / bad / paid review. I am writing how I felt watching AXONE . That’s it.

For those who don’t know, Axone or Akhuni is a dish from the North Eastern part of India. Various states among the 8 sisters use Axone in their cuisine in different forms and of course different names.
The official poster

Axone is fermented soya beans and because of the high protein content in these beans, in their
fermented stage, they smell like putrefaction. Well to many! The “stench” is such that when Delhi Police had a directive - “ Security tips for North east students / visitors in Delhi” in 2007- it mentioned Axone alongside bamboo shoots as a food item to be AVOIDED.

That “Directive” had many do’s and don’ts for people from North east in Delhi. After spending a couple of years in Delhi from 2004-2006, I was already back in Assam in 2007. If you ask me, if I had faced any issues because of the way I look or what I cook; no I didn’t. But while house hunting, I have seen people looking more curiously towards my younger sister whose Mongoloid features were more prominent than me. We managed to find a place / one room with an attached bathroom in Safdarjung Enclave, South Delhi. When we were leaving that place, me to move back to Assam and sister to a shared apartment with other girls, our landlady said “ How do we find people like you now!”
Sayani Gupta and Tenzin Dalha in a scene from Axone

Axone  is a small quirky lighthearted take on some bigger issues. A group of friends
want to cook Axone pork for their friend who is getting married that day. How they manage to do that, hiding its overpowering smell and hiding / facing / moving on with the stench of soft racial discrimination all around. The place where this story is based, is not very far from where we used to live. Of course in 2004, the place was “little” different than what it has evolved to be now.

Written and directed by Nicholas Kharkongor and Produced by Yoodlee Films, Axone offers many moments which anyone from North East staying outside the 8 sisters can identify with. That is why when the trailer was released a year ago, people lapped it up. You go to the Axone trailer on Youtube and read the comments and you will understand what I am talking about. This has become an emotion for many from North East India, staying in various parts of India and the World.

Lanuakam Ao / Bendang in Axone
It  is very human to be doubtful / wary of things unknown or something you are not familiar with. Don't we all have our doubts when stepping out of our comfort zones? Likewise in the film, people from the “mainland” are wary of these bunch who look different, speak alien languages and eat very very different stuff. For Example; in one scene a “local” guy casually passes an offensive remark to Chaanbi or when another character states “ How can I tell you apart, you all look the same!”. All these because the so called “ others” look different. That has led to some walls. It is not one sided though. In the film , when Bendang tries, fails and says “ I don’t sing Hindi songs” , he builds up a wall too. We from Northeast are as much a part of this country as anyone from any other part. What is the harm in learning and singing a Hindi or even a Punjabi song? The walls need to be broken from both sides. I firmly believe that. His story has hints of a rather infamous incident of violent racial attack on someone from North East. Sadly the person lost his life. Bendang here gets a second chance.

The film has some characters which are very stereotypical. I felt all the characters from the landlady's family were such. But they exist and Shiv aka Hyper steals the show with his "over enthusiasm". For every slur you receive, you wish you have a friend like Hyper who sticks with you without judging you.

Racial discrimination is an issue the world is battling with. As someone from Northeast India, I am not being biased to people from our part of the country. But in my 2 years in Delhi, I never disliked it. I still love visiting Delhi. Now living in Mumbai I have turned into a true blue Mumbaikar running in and out of local trains 5 days a week. ( That’s a validation my Bambaiyya dost log have given). Why Axone worked for me is because it tries to show both sides; though subtly, but it does and that’s the reason I root for this film.

Axone is releasing on Netflix on 12th June 2020. Go watch it and share your thoughts. I bet you have never seen this part of Delhi in any other Hindi film :)

Poster credits : Yoodlee films and Parasher Baruah.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Chicken Vindaloo

Four years ago my Father In Law gifted me a recipe book called 101 Parsi Recipes by Jeroo Mehta. Until then I had never heard of her. It is only then I realised that Jeroo Mehta is considered to be the doyenne of Parsi Cuisine. The book was first published in the year 1973 much before I was born! Since my experiments in the kitchen were growing, this was a very welcome addition in my kitchen.

To be honest I didn't make too many dishes from the book in all these years except for few egg recipes. This weekend I thought of celebrating the Nowruz / Navroze or the Parsi New Year by making Chicken Vindaloo from the book. I followed the recipe as much as I could; but had to make few "adjustments" here and there. Like the Assamese in me, prompted me to use Mustard oil. It's a belief that non vegetarian dishes taste better if cooked in Mustard oil. That's something I can't change though I have tasted many dishes cooked in various other oils and they taste super. All in the mind you see.

Here's the recipe as I followed - 


1/2 kg Chicken ( I was only cooking for myself)

1 large onion, finely sliced

2 dried Red Kashmiri chilies.

1 tea spoon of Ginger Garlic Paste.

1/2 teaspoon of cumin seeds.

One major change here that I did was that I used the ready made Ginger Garlic paste. Mehta's recipe suggested that one piece ginger, 4-5 garlic cloves,  1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds and the kashmiri red chilies were to grind to a paste with 2 tablespoon of vinegar. I just ground the red chillies with vinegar.

2 Table spoons of vinegar to cook.

1 Cinnamon stick

2 Green Chillies, slit and seeded ( optional) 

1/2 Teaspoon Sugar

1 Teaspoon salt or as per your taste.

2 Tablespoons oil to cook ( It was vegetable oil in the book, I used mustard oil )


Heat oil and fry the sliced onion till they become pale golden.
Add the ginger garlic red chilies vinegar masala paste and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the chicken pieces, 2 tablespoons vinegar, cinnamon stick, green chilies and salt. I would like to mention here that the chicken that I had at home was boneless. Mix everything together well and let the chicken cook for 10 minutes. 
Add one cup of hot water, bring to boil then simmer, covered till the chicken is cooked. 

The recipe mentioned to add few small potatoes at this stage. I skipped that. 

When the chicken is cooked, add sugar as per your taste.

I must say, the result was something I myself relished so much. I had that with Masoor Pulav. 
But the chicken was definitely the highlight of the lunch. Hence, after a long time I decided to share this a recipe in my blog. 

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Magic of Millions of Fireflies

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The memories of my Enai's ( that's my maternal grand mother) home in Meleng, Jorhat are many and one very vivid memory that I still have in my mind is that of hundreds of twinkling fireflies. Enai's home has quite a big ground in front and there were paddy fields around. I am talking about 1985 here. In our summer vacations all our cousins would gather at her place and spend some time there. Electricity was erratic and it still is. Evenings when there was no electricity, we would sit in the long verandah and listen to Puthau's ( grand father) stories. And then fireflies would come twinkling. Some of us would run after them to catch them in our hands. Enai would shout " Don't touch them. Otherwise in the night you will have to go to the toilet!" Now that's something all of us wanted to avoid. The bathroom was outside of the main house. Just outside in the backyard. But if you had to go to the toilet at night, you had no option but to wake up an elder. If there was no electricity then, imagine the shadows on the wall from the flickering light of the hand lamp! No way.

Last week, I and P had been to Purushwadi. We heard about the place from a friend. She said " You have to see it to believe what I am telling you." We were intrigued. Every year just before the monsoons, millions of fireflies come to this tiny village and put up a spectacular light show, which now I also say " You have to see it to believe it." 

The Valley

We went to Purushwadi through Grassroutes They aim at , in their own words, " to create 1 million livelihood opportunities in Rural India." They have various stay options available. We opted for the canvas tents. There are shared western toilets with running water too. But please donot expect all the luxuries of the city life that we are used to there. That is NOT the idea and we must respect that. 

Valley facing Tents

We went by local train to Kasara from Dadar. In Kasara there are shared jeeps available which will drop you till Rajur, the nearest "town" to Purushwadi. From Rajur another jeep to Purushwadi. You can take your own vehicle too. Purushwadi is about 220 km from Mumbai in Ahmed Nagar district. The jeep travel part can be a bit harrowing. They stuff people into one vehicle way more than it's capacity. 

We reached the camp site by afternoon. All your meals will be at the village at a villager's home. Our hosts were ready with lunch. It's a simple vegetarian meal of what they also eat. We loved every bit. We thought of lying down for about an hour as were up since 4am. But it was too hot. But to our surprise, by 4pm we could clearly see the clouds coming in. The breeze got cooler and suddenly the sky opened up. It started pouring heavily. We enjoyed the weather with local mangoes. Since it rained we were in two minds about the sunset trek. But thanks to another couple that we met there, we just went out for a hike. Grassroutes assign one household in the village for each of the guests and that keep rotating thus making sure that everyone gets equal opportunity. All four of us were hosted by the same family. We went up to the Sun set point even though there was no " sun set view". But for all of us, we enjoyed the small hike, rains and the weather. 

Our gracious hostess

There was no electricity in the village after the storm. The camp site was lit by solar lamps. As we walked to our host's home for dinner, already the tiny twinkling lamps were everywhere. Our guide told us that it was just a trailer and the full show was still to come. How true was that. After dinner we started our walk to witness the magic of million fireflies. All along the way there were thousands of them. Then we were there. Standing across a bridge, we saw a light show put by amazing nature. The tree looked like glittered with thousands of tiny Christmas lights. The fireflies were illuminating all over.  But it was so synchronized that we were awestruck. We just stood there silently witnessing this phenomenon. We returned to our tents happy.

Magical Fireflies

Next morning after a delicious Poha breakfast, our guides took around the village giving us a glimpse into their daily lives. Even though it had stopped raining, the weather was little humid but thankfully not scorching hot. We walked till the river, but we did not take a bath. Just sat there remembering Enai - Puthau and the fireflies.

Friends met there and our guides Sandip & Avdesh

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Harud by the lake

We, i.e. P and I, love Kashmir. It's the place, the food, the people and the stories which have struck a chord with us. 

The last time we were in Srinagar, Kashmir; for me it was for a really short time. Only 2 days. It so happened that P was working there. When his work got over, it was a Thursday. So we decided that he would stay back and I would join him over the weekend. Those were the last few days of Autumn, sometimes in  early Novermber. It was about to rain and then the red leaves of the chinar trees would start  to fall, heralding the onset of a bitter winter.  Since last 3 years I was planning to be in Kashmir during Autumn, when the Chinars turn red!Every year something would come up and I would miss it. 

Kashmir has it's own charm during all the seasons. And we fell in love with the beautiful Harud (autumn) there. The slight chill in the air, the dry leaves in the trees, those big chinars with their red/brown leaves - everything added to the beauty of this heaven on earth. For those 2 days, we  roamed around the city at our own pace. Walked around the Nishad Garden and Chinar bagh. Sipped Kahwa from roadside small eateries,visited the famed sufi shrine of Khanqah-e-Moula .Looked for Rainbow bakery and had their amazing walnut brownie.We even  made plans with our friendly and trusted Auto driver Manzoor bhai to go to Downtown Srinagar at 5 am to have Harissa,a winter specialty served by just a handful of restaurants in the morning. But alas the last thing we couldn't do because on that day, our last day in Srinagar, there was a bandh called for and Manzoor bhai refused to take any risk by taking us there.

Slightly disheartened we came to Daal lake for a stroll before we left the city. We just sat by the lake, doing nothing just looking into this beautiful lake that defines the city. There were very few "tourists" that early in the morning. The sky was still gloomy after the previous night's shower. As we sat there, the sky slowly started to open up. There was still a light mist in the distance.For Kashmir the last 2 years had been really dismal in terms of tourism. Hotels and Houseboats were empty, shikaras were running into losses. The Shikara owners we got talking to told us how  bad the previous "seasons" were.

But still there was some hope; that the coming year would bring in peace and people will be back to enjoy a Shikara ride on Daal lake. We looked towards the lake and as we were about to leave, P said " Let's take one selfie with the daal lake". We looked out and P hit the click button on his phone, just in time to capture the Shikara in the frame too.

It was a beautiful moment captured in our minds and in P's Selfie Camera forever. 

Selfie with the Shikara

Just like this beautiful moment, there are many more special moments that we want to keep frozen in our lives forever. Here comes Mobiistar ; who has entered Indian market with plans to develop the smartphone segment in India by understanding the consumer need for a selfie smartphone and their desire to gain more enjoyment at great value. The main highlight of the Mobiistar handset is the integration of a dual selfie camera on the front with the ability to capture images in a stunning 120-degree wide-angle shot. So next time we are in Kashmir we can capture a wider image with the stunning mountains around. For that matter anytime we want to click a selfie, we can plan a wider shot with whatever we wish to capture. How cool is that! 

Mobiistar will soon be available on Flipkart. Do check out Mobiistar on Flipkart to enhance your Selfie Experience.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Narasingha Diya Masor jool

Since last evening I was craving for a typical Assamese fish preparation called Narasigha Masor Jool / Fish curry with Curry leaves. We all know what health benefits curry leaves carry within them. Back home, this fish curry used to be a special one; not very regularly cooked like the other tangy preparation or Masor tenga. But atleast once in a month this was made specially if anyone was unwell and was suffering from loss of appetite. We in Assam eat river fish. So this is also made with river fishes.

Here it goes :


A bunch of tender curry leaves / Narasingha paat ( in Assamese)
Few fish pieces ( I cooked Katla / 3 pieces)
One boiled Potato ( optional)
Turmeric ( To marinate and to put into the curry)
Salt ( To marinate and to put into the curry)
Half tea spoon of mustard seeds
One teaspoon of black pepper powder.
Mustard oil 


Wash the fish pieces and add turmeric and salt and keep aside for 10 minutes. Wash the curry leaves and grind them. I remember while growing up there were a pair of mortar and pestle at home and curry leaves were ground using these. But now it's the job of a grinder. 

Half fry the fish pieces in mustard oil and keep aside. Add one table spoon of mustard oil into a kadahi / vessel. When the oil gets hot, splutter some mustard seeds. Add little turmeric and salt as per taste. Pour the ground curry leaves paste. Let it cook for 5 minutes. Coarsely mash the boiled potato and add into the curry leaves at this stage. As everything gets mixed well, add 2 cups of hot water. Bring this curry to boil. Add the fish pieces now and sprinkle a teaspoon of black pepper powder. Let the fish curry boil for 6-7 minutes. 

Serve hot with steamed rice.

While the curry was boiling, the aroma of the curry leaves filled the kitchen and transporting me back to my childhood. This was the aroma of afternoons at home on school holidays. Why did I grow up!