Tag Archives: Mumbai

My Christmas Tree Memories

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Ok….so I know it’s already the New Year…..but these thoughts have been floating around my head and heart for the past month….ever since I put up my Christmas Tree.
My Christmas Tree is always up by the first week of December, especially coz its my daughter D’s birthday on the 7th.
Besides it makes Christmas last that much longer!! My home feels so special and even on years when we are away, I make sure that our house is decorated for Christmas, the star hangs on the balcony and the tree is put up.
This year as I put up my tree,I couldn’t help but be amazed at the amount of meaning it held. Not just the tree itself, but the ornaments, each one special in its own way.
As we hung up each ornament, so many wonderful memories came flooding back…..memories of people and places, years that were especially wonderful and others that weren’t.
Yes, Christmas is about Jesus and church, carols and pressies, food and wine…..but it is so much more as well. Christmas is about family and friends, laughter, reunions, and memories…..creating new ones and revisiting the old.
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Living in Chennai, India….we only have access to artificial trees. Ours was a gift from my sister ML in the first year of our marraige…..that makes it 15 years old! ML is my big sis…..8 years older than me. I followed her everywhere and in every way! Probably still do!! As I put up the tree, I think of her and her family….although she lives in another part of the world, we are lucky enough to meet every year, most often more than once! An expert ‘organiser’, I admire the way ML values family and connections, making sure she meets up with them each time she is back home, tirelessly keeping in touch by email or telephone calls, which has made me in the recent past reconnect with cousins and childhood friends, bringing me indescribable happiness.

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Brought by Dutch friends from Holland more than 30 years ago, this ornament hung on my husband V’s tree each year through his childhood. Although his siblings are scattered around the world, I marvel at how they all gel and connect on the rare occasions they get together. V values everything and believes in perseverance and hard work to achieve what you want. It’s a rare value in today’s world, one that I admire greatly.

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These namesake teddy bear ornaments are gifts from my sis to my kids
J and D, who bring us not just joy, but also keep us on our toes with their insistent questioning about everything. J has a deep sense of justice and I admire his integrity and courage to stand up for it, although I struggle to guide him on how to acheive this without seeming brash. Unfortunately in today’s world ‘falseness’ is the order of the day. Fake smiles, sweet yet untrue words are accepted so easily, yet those who tell us the truth plainly from their hearts are brushed aside just because we cannot face it. As I write this I realise that I have a few yet wonderful plain speaking friends. I am thankful for that. That I am surrounded by genuine smiles a gift I would wish under my tree every year.

D has a boundless amount of joie de vivre. Ever creative, she never fails to surprise us with her ‘surprises’!! Art, craft, dancing, cooking, acting, talking, sports and people all excite her. She is accepting of everyone teaching me to be more so…..tough, as I struggle to accept the differences I see around me. As a result, she makes friends effortlessly.

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Our first Christmas together was spent in KL, Malaysia as V was on a training course there all through the month of December. These ornaments were probably the first I bought for our tree. Accompanied by my childhood friend Nathan, who happened to be living in Kl at the time, I raided the post-Christmas sales. As I put these up, I think especially of all the wonderful boys and girls I grew up with. We never had a ‘curfew’ but yet never abused the freedom we were given. In the environment in India today, all of us parents with daughters are afraid….very very afraid. How do we teach our daughters to enjoy the company of the opposite sex without being suspicious or afraid?
How do I bring up my son to be like the boys I grew up with. They looked out for the girls and we had good clean fun without the fear of being misunderstood or taken advantage of. For that I am truly thankful for all our parents, especially mine, who brought us up to respect each other and to behave in such a way that we earned the respect of others. Yet we never knew we were learning this…..I wish for a gift under my tree that would give me the ability to be able to teach my kids this. href=”https://josmojo.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/my-christmas-tree-memories/sept-to-dec-2012-264/” rel=”attachment wp-att-546″>Sept to Dec 2012 264

From our time in Sri Lanka, a beautiful land filled with wonderful people. As I put these up I think of our neighbours, friends, extended family and the most wonderful group of Indian women who I met there.
What’s so unusual about a group of Indian women bonding? Well, we were of different ages and backgrounds and yet we gelled. The older ones, a good 15 to 20 years older than us, have taught me that age is just a state of mind. They were rocking then and are still today as well!
There was an extended family in Colombo, my sister’s in-laws, who drew us into the comfort of their homes, wooing us with the most amazing food and warm personalities, friends who were as close as family……I love SL for all these reasons and it will always be a place that is so special coz it was where my D was born.
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This little crochet angel, makes me think about Bandra…..the place where my heart belongs. I love the energy and the people who truly know how to enjoy life….dancing through it with smiles on their faces and music in their hearts. Creativity and effervescence abounds. I love to see the older folk rock any dance floor as much as the teens, the natural effortless style in everything and the fact that this has been a place that my family has lived in since the 1500’s (as far back as the records tell us…..probably longer!!) A sense of belonging that is unmatched!

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Just a few of the ornaments from around the world that remind me to be thankful for all the experiences I’ve had by meeting people of different cultures and for the gift of being healthy and lucky enough to travel to many interesting places.

These are just a few of the many ornaments that hang on my tree each year. Every year I add a few new ones. This year I got 2 picture frame ornaments from my friend Jo. Meeting her after a gap of 8 years set the tone for my Christmas season this year. Amazingly, I bumped into many more friends that I had not met in eons…..so these new ornaments will have pics of my reunion with 2 of my BFF’s that made my Christmas 2012.
As I get ready to take down my tree this weekend, I am grateful for all the people in my life, those who form a big part of it, as well as those who have breezed through. I believe there is always a reason for everyone and everything we encounter. So this New Year 2013, I look forward to all the ‘encounters’ that will fill my year.
May you too have a year filled with happy memories of old and memories created new.

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Aunty Acca’s Buriyani

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Last month I received a beautiful gift from my sister.

A recipe book.

Not just any recipe book but ‘Cooking with Leila Viswasam.’Image

We never knew Aunty Acca as Leila…..only ever as Acca. 

Acca was the eldest Aunt-in-Law of my sister ML.

At the time of my sisters wedding, a host of relatives had flown down from Colombo Sri Lanka, armed with the most gorgeous orchids which were to serve as the wedding bouquets, buttonholes and head pieces.

Acca, was one of them, her effervescent personality endeared all the younger ones to her.

Her deeply religious side, endeared the older ones. Especially her devotion to St. Anthony, whom all of us true blue Bandraites pray to whenever we’ve lost something, always miraculously recovering the item, and offering up 13 loaves of bread on Tuesday, St. Antony’s Day.

All her family referred to her as Acca. All of us in Bandra thought that was her name, not realising that in Tamil it meant elder sister.

Acca, never corrected us, and to this day she still remains our Aunty Acca.

That was over 20 years ago. Her reputation as an unsurpassable cook had preceded her arrival in India.

After dining at her house, my sister had  requested Acca for the recipe of a particularly delicious fried fish that had been prepared that evening. We tried the recipe out at our home and it was soon our family favourite too! So much so, that at my sisters wedding reception, we served “Fillet of Fish Leila”……which proved to be as much a hit with the guests as it was with us. It soon became a standard on the menus of Majora…..my parents catering business. The recipe for this is also included in her book.

Much later, our family moved to Colombo for a few years. Acca welcomed us to her home with open arms. It was where we spent our first Christmas in SL, with D our baby only 2 weeks old.

She was one of the best cooks I ever met. Her recipes were great but there was so much of the elusive ingredients of love and generosity in her food that it reflected this in the intensity of its flavour.

Yesterday I tried out the Biriyani recipe from her book.

What I loved about the recipe was that it was perfectly balanced between easiness of preparation and flavour. It was a tasty ‘Buriyani’ as the Lankans call it, just the perfect recipe for a lazy weekend, when you don’t want to spend too much time in the kitchen but would like to make something ‘special’.  It does not pretend to be an authentic Indian preparation but rather a tasty meal. One that leaves you oh so satisfied, that all you need after it is a good siesta. Thats exactly what I did.

Aunty Acca’s Biriyani

A}

1 1/2 lb chicken

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp chilly powder

1/2 tsp saffron (by this I think she meant turmeric)

Cut the Chicken into 10-12 pieces. Wash, wipe and mix with the above ingredients and set aside.

B]

4tbs yoghurt

4 medium tomatoes

4 cloves garlic

1/2 inch ginger

2 small green peppers( I used green chillies)

2 tsp Corriander powder

1 tsp cummin powder

1 tsp black pepper powder

1/4 cup corriander leaves

( I also added 2 roughly chopped onions)

1/4 cup vegetable oil

Puree all the above ingredients in a food processor except the oil. Set aside.

Sautee the marinated chicken in oil till it changes colour and then add the mixture from the food processor. Simmer till the gravy begins to thicken. Remove from heat.

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C]

1 medium onion

2tbs oil

1 small cinnamon

4-6 cardamom

2 cups Basmathi or other long grain rice

Fry the sliced onions in oil along with the whole spices till golden brown.

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Add washed and drained rice. Add a cup of gravy from the chicken and enough of water to cover the rice and cook till done.

Serve the rice with the chicken arranged around it.

( I only partially cooked the chicken and mixed the chicken gravy and rice together with water and cooked it in a rice cooker)

I served the rice with boondi raita ( a staple from home), appalam and boiled eggs.( something I’ve picked up in Chennai.)

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Acca says at the end of the preface to her book: ….” I hope you enjoy your time trying out these recipes and your guests relish the results of your efforts. You will realize that as you continue to try out the recipes you will begin to make modifications to suit your taste, adding your favorite ingredients, flavors etc. You will then have your own personalized version of some of these dishes. If you derive as much pleasure trying out these recipes as I have had compiling them, I will feel amply rewarded.”

This to me sums up Acca’s unique and special personality.

Thank you Acca for the gift of your recipes, wherever you are, watch over and guide my humble efforts.