Friday, October 22, 2004

Still-born child

Posted on October 22, 2004 17:36 PM EST

There is a funereal pall to the day. One day I am given a vision of beauty and love and contentment. The next day I am told that the people in the vision looked content and peaceful because they were dead! How can beauty and love and happiness turn to death so quickly? What happened here? How is it even possible? It is like the child did not even have time to breath after being born. It was still-born. I am not able to get over it. I might never get over it.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Poem of the moment - Eat, my son, eat by M Udayakala

Posted on October 16, 2004 10:24 AM EST

Eat, my son, eat by M Udayakala

`Where was I all these years, mother?' `In the womb of my desire.'
`And you, mother?' `In the dreams of your father, my dear.'
`And father, what was he doing?' `He was in search of us both.'
`Son dear, it is time for you to eat now.' `Mother!' `Yes.'
`Why should I eat?' `To become strong like Rama.'
`Who was Rama?'
`You have already forgotten that story! Rama was also a child
like you. One day he cried for the Moon in the sky. His mother
showed him the Moon in a mirror to make him smile. Now we
worship Him. He's our God.'
`Why is Rama our God?'
`Because He punished all the bad people with his bow and arrow.'
`Like the one I play with?'
`Yes, but with one still bigger than yours.'
`Why did Rama punish them?' `They were all bad, dear little one.'
`What is bad, mother?' `That which is not good.'
`What is good, mother?' `You are good, son.'
`And you, mother?'
`Good when you smile like the full moon in the blue sky;
Bad when you smear your body with all the dust in the world!'
`Mother, I will always be good.' `Eat, then.'
`I will, if you sing a song.'
`You naughty boy, may Hanuman protect you, my little monkey!

Even before I was married to your father and crossed the doorstep
of this mud house,
You were born in my dreams when as a child I was playing with my
pretty dolls of wood;
Little one, if you smile, the world for me is a heaven brought
to the Earth,
But if you cry, my heart quivers as the leaf does when the mad
wind blows past it.

`Eat, my son, eat now.'

-The End-

Friday, October 08, 2004

Best Eateries in Portland (Vegetarian Special)

Posted on October 8, 2004 17:47 PM EST

I am a pure vegetarian (no meat, no eggs). The following recommendations in Portland have great food to suit my preferences.

Indian Food - The Real Taste of India : The best Indian food I have eaten in Portland is not in a restaurant or home. It is from a cart (rather a small RV van) which is parked on a downtown parking lot. It is called The Real Taste of India. It used to be called simply the Taste of India. But it was so popular that another Indian food cart was set up on the same parking lot with the name The New Taste of India. So the Punju family changed theirs to The Real Taste of India. So remember, you are looking for The Real Taste of India, NOT the New Taste of India. The portions are generous. The taste authentic. The price fabulous. Most vegetarian dishes are $4.50. Max cost $5.00. Be sure to try their vegetable biriyani or their vegetarian thali. Like I said the portions are truly big and one order with a drink and sides is easily shared with a companion. This cart is located on 5th Ave and Stark St, downtown Portland. Cash only.

Curry Leaf : All the time I was in Portland, I moaned about the lack of good Indian restaurants there. All the traditional ones are your usual jaded, lifeless ones serving same old boring North Indian food. God forbid you order South Indian food in any of these restaurants. I did that mistake just once and almost cried over the horrible dosa and the vada which wouldn't break even after soaking in sambar (they did not charge us for the vada). But why talk of the bad stuff, let's talk about the Curry Leaf! Apparently this place was started by a bunch of South Indian housewives who decided to put their talent to work. The result is a place that serves awesome South Indian food in Beaverton (15325 NW Central Drive). I was fortunate to eat here during a recent visit to Portland. The South Indian buffet (after a hike in the Columbia River Gorge) was an uplifting experience, although we were filled with food upto our neck. The 2nd and 4th Sunday of the month are South Indian Buffet days, and this includes 5 kinds of mini-dosas. Eat as much as you like (I tasted all five!). The 1st and 3rd Sunday are North Indian Chaat buffet days. Should time my next visit so that I get to taste this.

Lebanese - Nicholas's : This place has fantabulous food. It is unarguably the best Lebanese (or any Mediterranean) food in Portland, may be all of Oregon. Heck probably all of the American Northwest. It is crowded during lunch or dinner times and the wait can be as much as 45 min. The important thing about this place is the food, not privacy. So, you will easily brush elbows with all kinds of Portlanders - yuppies, hippies, students, goths, execs, etc. I once met the President and founder of Tazo tea here. The food is so fresh and so yummy. They have a Vegan combo and a Vegetarian combo. The falafels are the most perfect that I have ever eaten. Fried to perfect texture and bursting with flavor and aroma. They also have a yummy peach shake (or was it juice) and yummy desserts. The portions are generous, especially on the combos. I highly recommend the vegan or vegetarian combo. Ask the waiter. S/he may be able to mix and match a few items between these combos to customize it for you. Don't miss out on the spinach pie and a dish called marakesh which are found on these combos. Located on Grand Avenue and Pine St. in SE Portland. Cash only.

Thai - Thai Pepper : Portland is a good place for some great Thai food. I really liked Thai Pepper in Downtown Portland (Front Ave and Pine St). They are certainly open for lunch on weekdays. But they seem to be rather erratic for dinner/weekends. Or may be I was just unlucky. I never found them open when I went there for dinner or during weekends. There are several other Thai places downtown, which I heard are good. You may search for them online. There is also Sweet Basil (3135 NE Broadway). This place is a bit expensive, a bit gourmet, a bit pretentious, but I liked the taste. Then there is Eagle Thai! Located on NE 8th AVe and Broadway. This is close to the place where I used to work. And ALL my desi colleagues went here without fail EVERY Friday. They just could not moved to consider any other choice on Fridays. This place is quite popular with the desi crowd, but not so with SE Asians who are sticklers for authentic Thai food. If you are not a stickler for authentic taste, but enjoy great taste, you may visit this place. If you are willing to drive West of Portland to Beaverton, there is another fabulous placed called Thai Angel (3829 SW Hall Blvd). I highly recommmend this place. Great service, better food.

Cajun - Le Bistro Montage : Located right under the Morrison Bridge on the Eastside of Portland (301 SE Morrison St). Must be the best Cajun restaurant in Portland. One of the few Portland restaurants open till 2 AM in the morning (Sat and Sun nights, open until 4 AM, next day). The neighborhood is not all that great. Nor is the interior of the restaurant "classy rich", but the ambience and the food is really good. This is a great place to take your date out for a quiet evening with candlelight and talk. Most of the tables are community style - a long row with chairs on either side and strangers sitting at the same table. So if the place is very crowded, the romantic talk with your date might not be quite so private. But every time I have have been there, we have had no problem finding a spot a little away from the others. I don't remember all the vegetarian selections they have. I have had the vegetarian Jambalaya over rice and they have a variety of mac-n-cheese, some of them quite spicy. They also have yummy cornbread on the side. I don't remember if this is served free as an appetizer or if it comes on the side with certain orders. But do ask for it and eat it with honey or butter.

Ethiopian - Abol Cafe : When I discovered and frequented Abol Cafe, it was let us say, quite unsophisticated. I have had an experience of being served on paper plate and paper cups here and too when I took my friends there for the first time. I am not sure if they have gotten their act together yet. Needless to say my friends were totally unimpressed and quite doubted that they had made a good decision by trusting me and coming there. But what this place lacks for finesse, it more than adequately makes up for in taste and heart. My friends' hearts and tummies were won over by the time we left the place. This is a total home setup. The living quarters and kitchen are in the basement and the sitting area on the ground level. The food is cooked by the elderly woman of the house in her own kitchen. Quite often she took the orders and served it herself. She did not calculate the dollars and portions. She just served with an open heart and hands. The food was the most delicious and authentic Ethiopian food I have ever tried. The staple Ethiopian food is the injera bread which is not much different from a thick dosa, although the flour can be sometimes more sour than the typical dosa. This bread is eaten with different kinds of curries. They have a vast selection of yummy vegetarian and meat-based curries, much like Indian cuisine. Some of them spicy, some of them mild. The traditional way of eating is for everything to be served in one big plate and people sitting around the one plate and sharing food. This is how it is served in most Ethiopian restaurants. We desis asked for and got our own individual plates. This place came up with an innovation that no other Ethiopian restaurants in Portland had at that time. They introduced the lunch buffet for just 6 bucks. I think the buffet is pure vegetarian, no meat dishes. You have to order meat separately. The typical Ethiopian restaurant serves just one curry per order. So, this buffet with a variety of curries is great, and let's you taste all the typical Ethiopian dishes. Since this place is basically a home, sometimes social visitors (relatives and friends of the owners) walked in and greeted all the customers with a friendly smile. Ethiopians don't look like the typical Africans. They look more like a mix of South Indian, African and Egyptian features. One such visitor at the restaurant was a young lady with a vivacious smile and friendly personality. She passed us by like a breeze smelling of rare pleasant intoxicating herbs, greeting us and asking how we liked the food. It must have taken all of 45 seconds. I never saw her again. I will never forget her. Mmmmm! If this place is closed when you visit, you may try Mudai Restaurant which is just a couple of blocks west from Abol Cafe on Broadway.

Italian - Pastini Pastaria : I love Italian food. But I have not visited any of the expensive Italian restaurants in Portland. In fact, the only other Italian restaurant I have visited in Portland is probably the Olive Garden chain. But don't let my lack of experience be the sole judge of Pastini. This restaurant has been voted as one of the top "cheap eats" in the country! That's right, it is called cheap eat because of the cost of food, but the food in no way lacks for quality and taste. They have so many different kinds of pasta dishes to choose from. Just see the menu here. Whenever I have been here with friends, we order different dishes and share. You just can't be satisfied tasting only one dish from the available selections. Don't let the "cheap" tag throw you off regarding the location and ambience of the place. It is located in beautiful commercial neighborhood in the Lloyd District, has a nice, clean ambience, courteous staff and frequented by office-goers and Lloyd Mall shoppers. If you like Italian food and are in Portland, you just should not miss this place. And of course, the Olive Garden is pretty good too. It was one of our favorite places to go to after a day long hike in the Columbia River Gorge and we were absolutely famished. Olive Garden in Lake Oswego is the last restaurant I visited when I still lived in Portland. Since then, I have not visited another Olive Garden at the time of this writing.

Mexican - La Carreta : I can't believe I am posting last about Mexican food, considering that this is one of my favorite foreign cuisines and Mexican must be the most eaten and dated foreign food for me in Portland. I guess I just did not think of writing about a Mexican restaurant because frankly I don't know the the best Mexican restaurant in Portland. All of the above restaurants I have mentioned, I can bet, are some of the best in their class in Portland. Don't let that make you think La Carreta is not all that great. It has a rating of 9.3 out of 10 on Portland Citysearch. So that must count for something. The food is great, the drinks are great, the service is great, they have daily specials on food and drinks. This place too has sentiments attached to it because this is the last restaurant I visited with my Northwest gf!

I have to make a special mention of the beloved Northwest bakery, Grand Central. As a kid in India, I have often bought "special bread" in Bangalore bakeries. Grand Central showed me how special bread can be.

And I cannot end this without telling you about NE Broadway Street in Portland. This is an amazing street for the variety of food choices it presents. It has everything that you can think of within 3 miles starting at I-5 in the West and going East. There are at least 6 fast food restaurants, at least 3 Ethiopian, at least 4 Thai, at least two Chinese, one Japanese, two Asian bistros, one Italian, one pizzeria, at least 3 burger-pizza-fries kinda American fare, bakeries, coffee shops, etc. Some of the restaurants I have mentioned above are on this street. It is amazing. When I was in Portland, my office was very close to this street and I lunched at a different place daily. I really really miss this place here in dry Phoenix. Just one of the many great Northwest things I miss!

For Portland visitors: Portland in Oregon

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Indian Expletives

Posted on October 6, 2004 17:25 PM EST

Unlike English, most Indian slang and expletives cannot be picked up by simply watching movies. One has to spend time on location - market place, construction sites, play grounds, college/highschool campus - in order to truly know the local slang and expletives.

Consequently native expletives are more potent than English ones. One is kinda used to and indifferent towards English expletives. I mean, imagine someone exclaiming "s*hit" in a native Indian language in public! It would sound very bad and degenerate. Yes, this same word is so commonplace in English among people of all types.

I am not much into using expletives myself. But I like to know them for their entertainment value. Since it is hard to know the Indian expletives without spending time on location, I think a book about Indian expletives might sell well. How about publishing a humorous coffee book of Indian expletives?

Monday, October 04, 2004

Portland in Oregon

Posted on October 4, 2004 15:39 PM EST

Wow! You are so lucky to be in Portland. And that too FOUR days. I wish our places were exchanged right now, despite what you say about being busy at this conference most of the time and having only evenings free. Here are things to see right in Portland:

Portland - Downtown and surrounding

Pioneer Square Area - this is the very heart of downtown. There is a cute little open square. People hang out here all day long. Starbucks in one corner. Hippies and goths closeby playing chess, ball, etc. Pigeons, fountains, etc.

Pioneer Place Mall - Mall right by Pioneer square. Typical downtown mall spread across several blocks, connected by underground and overhead path ways.

Downtown Library - beautiful place. Beautiful building. Saturdays and Sundays they have events going on. I think Saturday 3 pm is Jazz time every week. Free show. Very nice.

Downtown area has numerous restaurants and shops of all kinds. Just walk around and see. All of the above places are within five min walking distance of each other.

From downtown, you can walk/take bus to Pearl District. It's just 5-10 min away. This place has many nice arts shops. Kinda like the yuppie living quarters.

10-15 min away from Downtown is the NW 21st and 23rd Avenues. This is a busy hippy-yuppy area. It's fun to just walk up and down these streets, check out the various stores and restaurants. I really love places like these. Hawthorne is another similar street in SE Portland. It is 15-20 min away by bus from Downtown.

Right by downtown is the Willamette River front park. Nice place to walk, run, watch people. It's especially great to hang out here on warm weekend afternoons. During the warm season they have numerous events and festivals and gatherings happening here. May be something might be going on right when you are visiting.

Saturday Market - Closeby the waterfront park is Saturday market. It's a bunch of temporary stalls put by local artists and craftsmen. There's food and music and lots of interesting stores. IT's on every Saturday and Sunday, day time hours only. They close it down during the winter months, but it is definitely on now.

If you happen to go to Hawthorne Street in SE Portland (I suggest you do), there is a little treasure that almost no visitors and even most residents don't know about. Very close to intersection of Hawthorne and 12th or 15th street is a residential neighborhood where the streets kind of spiral around a very special rose garden. It's beautiful. Many different types of rose planted on a plot of land in the middle of the neighborhood. I once spent better part of an hour or more walking around this garden in moonlight, smelling the roses with a date. It is not easy to find this garden. Go to Hawthorne and 12th street and ask somebody at a store or a passing local. They might direct you to it.

And of course there are also the beautiful Portland bridges. Drive up and down all of them. Walk if possible. Each one is a different structure. Gives awesome views of the city and the Willamette river.

Max Train - Portland and neighboring towns are connected by the Max train. It's a two car train. Very convenient for locals. It's fun to ride this train up and down. From downtown the journey to the last stop on the East is about 1.5 hours and a similar duration for the last stop on the West. So, you could drive by car close to a park-and-ride stop towards either end of the train line (suggest the Gresham end) and then ride the train up and down. Nice timepass for 3 hours, watching all the different kinds of local landscape and local people. The train goes through suburbs and downtown and across river. Some beautiful views of the city and Mt Hood (if you are luckY) and the river. There was a time when I used to travel this train everyday. Every time I go by this train and it crosses the Steel Bridge over the Willamette, I get my favorite view of the bridges across the Willamette. I put all my thoughts aside and have a zen moment just taking in the beauty of the river, the bridges, the open sky, the city.

Zoo, Arboretum, Rose Garden & Japanese Garden
We of Portland is the zoo, arboretum (just a big park with many different kinds of trees), Rose Garden (diff from one described above) and Japanese Garden. You could spend an afternoon-evening checking these out. The arboretum is a nice place to go for a walk. This whole area is set on the Portland Westhills. There are some places from which you can see Mt Hood and other in the distance. The effect is such that you feel as if there is no sprawling city between there and the far off mountains. It's wonderful.

Outside Portland

Multnomah Falls - Almost anybody who visits the Portland areas goes on a pilgrimage to Multnomah falls. It is by I-84 East, around 2 hours out of Portland. This falls is in the Columbia River Gorge area. The whole Gorge is a paradise, especially for hikers. You probably don't have enough time to check it all out. If you visit Multnomah Falls with time on your hands, I suggest hiking upto the top of the falls. It is just a mile one-way, I think. You get a sample of the kind of hiking trails and views the gorge has to offer.

Canon Beach - About 2-3 west of Portland. Beautiful beach. Beautiful little beach town. A little to the North of Canon Beach is Seaside. Another nice beach and cute little beach town.

That's just a few suggestions. I have left out scores of other places. This hardly does justice to the place nor to the feelings and sentiments I have associated with each of them.

Must see pics:

Next weblog: Best Eateries in Portland (Vegetarian Special)