The magic of Mutton Rezala. Its the aroma of this mutton dish, which is tantalizing. The first bite is literally sinful. Its simply mutton magic which always brings back Kolkata memories. Every Bengali worth his/her salt has savored and enjoyed Mutton Rezala either at Sabir's, Nizam's or Aminia, or Shiraz's. Somehow the mutton rezala at Sabir's wins hands down when it comes to my taste buds.

Mutton rezala happens to be the super favorite dish of my younger brother. He made sure he ordered this whenever we were out for Mughlai food. But I had no clue as to how it was made. I always thought that such an exotic tasting dish, must be taking super efforts in the  kitchen, and a plethora of ingredients. Somehow had a desire that I would master the dish for my bro, someday. It took some research and a chat with a renowned chef of a well known Kolkata hotel, and the recipe was in my kitty, albeit in an easier format, which didnt compromise with the taste at all. Still remember the first time I had made Mutton Rezala at home, and the expression in his eyes as he savored the first bite. Priceless.

Cricket happens to be another bond between me and my sibling, like millions across the globe. Its a blessing that my husband shares the same cricket bond, so its the same fervour at home, when the Men in Blue are on the field. When India defeated the Aussies in the quarter finals, hubby celebrated the win with his colleagues at office over lunch. That somehow gave me the idea, that IF India won the Semis, over Pakistan in Mohali, it should also be a celebratory meal at home. It was one of those days when I was missing my brother a bit too much, and that gave me the idea. Let the celebratory meal to honor the men in blue, be  the favorite dish of my brother. Hence it was the World Cup special Mutton Rezala for the Dasgupta household in Kansas City for dinner, after the Men in Blue had created their magic in Mohali.


Mutton: 2 lb

Yoghurt: 1 cup
Onion paste: 1 large onion
Ginger-garlic paste: 2 tbsp
Almond powder: 4-5 tbsp
Pepper: 1 tbsp
Sugar: 1 tbsp
Salt: to taste
Dried Red chillies/ shukno Lanka: 7-8
Bay leaves/tej pata: 4
Kewra essence: 1 tbsp
Canola oil or peanut oil
Green cardamom: 4- 5
Potatoes : 2 : cut into half: optional

Make a paste of the yoghurt, onion, ginger- garlic paste, almond powder, pepper, sugar, and mix well.

Marinate the mutton in this mixture, over night, or at least for a few hours.

Heat oil in a deep pan, and let the dried red chillies, green cardamom and bay leaves crackle.

Spoon out the mutton from the marinade,and add them to the oil carefully. Let it fry for around 10 minutes,stirring often.

Add the rest of the marinade and salt to taste, in the pan, cover and cook, till the mutton is cooked. Do  not  add water,as the yoghurt and mutton both release water. Keep stirring frequently as its a thick gravy, and has a risk of sticking to the pan.

I added in some potatoes, as Hubby dearest always likes some potatoes with his mutton.

If you feel that the gravy has totally dried up, and the mutton has not yet cooked, add in some hot water, and   cook covered.

When the mutton is cooked, add the kewra essence, mix well, cover and keep on flame for around 5 minutes more. Keep it covered to seal in the aromas. Mutton rezala is ready.

Mutton rezala goes very well with butter naan or tandoori roti or even good ol' steamed basmati rice. The same recipe can be replicated with chicken as well, and tastes equally good. So next time you have a craving for Kolkata style Mughlai food, give Rezala a try. This recipe surely works wonders.


To be or not to be

"To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die, to sleep,
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to: 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished."

Yes, we are all very familiar with Hamlet's famous soliloquy. The opening lines have surely been quoted by everyone and anyone, at least once in any situation, which lief has thrown to us. Little did I realise the power of 'the prince's declaration,' when I was memorizing this particular speech for a school examination. And now after all these years, maybe it has become a bit too clear.

  Hamlet is the Prince, who could have fitted in the real world, if he ever escaped from the pages of fiction. I have not been a student of Literature per se, but somehow the Prince of Denmark has always been close to my heart. He is not the quintessential knight in shinning armour, he is nowhere close to being perfect. It is his imperfection, which makes him more real. His procrastination, his inability to act on his own decisions, make him a character in flesh and blood. He is criticised for having a subtle Oedipus complex, but the mind wishes to write off that aspect of his character. He is not the tall, dark and handsome man, swooning over his lady love, yet he does not fail to strike a chord in the heart.

After reading seemingly chick-literature, in our teenage years often we have an ideal man in our minds. Yet often in real life its the imperfection in our men, which attracts us more to them. So smiliar to Hamlet in a way. Its the subtleties at times, which make them more real. When a man truly apologizes for his mistakes, the real feelings in his eyes, are more convincing of the bond between us, than maybe a dozen so called picture perfect romantic dates.Reality is so close to fiction at times. Prince Hamlet is embodied every day in our men. We lament about Hamlet, but do we appreciate the human factor in our men on a daily basis. We just keep expecting more and more perfection from them.   

Its not that Hamlet does not feel for his lady love, Ophelia. But he is too perturbed by the murder of his own father by his uncle, who has since then, usurped the throne of Denmark and the Queen. He sets his own feelings aside, but hesitates to act on what he feels right. He shuns her to a convent, yet on her funeral, claims that he loved her more than a few thousand brothers could have ever loved her. Maybe its the incompleteness  of this lovestory, which attracts the reader all the more to the prince. Hamlet and Ophelia are not an iconic couple, like Troillus-Cressida, or Romeo- Juliet. But the way, Hamlet storms into Ophelia's chamber oneday in a lunatic stupr almost, or the way Queen Getrude laments at Ophelia's death, proves the bond between the Prince and his muse.

Cutting back to my own life, I regretted a few decisions of my life, often when things went awry.I think this is a practice which all of us have indulged in. But now often, when I sit back and reflect, I feel that maybe its those wrong decisions in my life, which made me realise what right is. I was shunned by a few, I shunned a few, and all that made  me understand what acceptance is all about. Maybe a few incomplete love stories, or maybe a few lovestories which could have happend, and which I did not let happen, made the final love story much more authentic.   

Coming back to "To Be or Not to Be," the statement which has universally influenced multitudes, and continues to do so. What is that attracts us to this statement? Is it the Prince of Denmark's idea of revenge, is it his incapability to initiate action, is it his weakness, or is it his strength? 

I guess, its that moment of weakness, which we all have felt sometime in our lives, which makes u relate more to the seemingly sulking young Prince Hamlet. 

So is Fiction Stranger Than Truth, or is Truth Stranger than Fiction?!! Maybe we all have our own moments of weaknesses to account for that .


Pabda Maachher Jhaal: Flavours of the East

Soul food. Thats the ideal word to describe the magic of Maachher jhaal (fish curry) to any Bengali worth his/her salt. We simply love our fish, and literally have a myriad ways to cook it, with each dish being super special. It was simply a super satisfying session for me, when I stocked up my freezer some time back ,with nothing else but Fish. It was  a conscious decision, to absolutely touch nothing, which was not 'Fishy, this month.' Coinciding with this, was request from a  college buddy, a fellow Kolkattan, for some traditional fish recipes. She wanted to introduce her husband to the exotica called Flavours of the East. Now to introduce someone to the flavours of the East, what do I start off with?

Well, I just got partial. I pulled out the packet containing my personal favorite, from the freezer: Pabda Maach, or butter catfish. And decided to make a jhaal (curry), just as my Momma makes it.  Did I mention that this was also the first Bong fish dish, which I learnt to cook !


Pabda Maachh: 5-6 whole fishes
Mustard Oil
Kalo Jeera (Kaluanji)
Green chillies: 4-5, slit lengthwise
Turmeric powder
Potatoes: 2, cut lengthwise
Red Chilli powder
Coriander leaves


Rub the whole cleaned fish with salt and turmeric powder,and fry them in mustard oil. Ensure that the temperature of the oil is high, while frying. If the oil is not hot enough, then the skin of the fish starts peeling. Set the fried fishes aside. 

Fry the potatoes in the same oil, till the sides start getting golden. Remove and set aside. 

Put kalo jeera and the slit green chillies in the oil, and let them splutter. 

Make a runny mixture of turmeric powder, sugar, salt,and red chilli powder(according to heat preferences) with water. Pour this mixture in the oil in the pan with the kalojeera and chillies. Cover and cook for around 5  minutes. 

Add the fried potatoes,and cook till they are done. 

Add the fried fishes and cover and cook for another 5 minutes or so. 

Turn off the heat and garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve with hot basmati rice. 
This particular dish is such a favorite of mine, that I had absolutely ensured that this was featured in the menus of the parties of both my legal and social marriage. Yes, I married the same man twice, so basically double the fun, and two huge Bong culinary fests. Coming back to Pabda, there are quite a few ways of cooking it, but I decided to to stick to the most traditional and time tested formula. Its the simplicity of the dish which bowls everyone over. 


Pop Art is the apt synonym for Farah Khan's canvas on celluloid

As a journalist, I learnt how to read between the lines, and as student of cinema I had learnt how to read between the frames. Maybe thats the reason, I came up with this idea that Pop Art is the  apt synonym for Bollywood film maker Farah's Khan's canvas on Celluloid.I am not saying Farah Khan is the new age Andy Warhol. But she is a Pop artist in her own league.    

Pop Art, has its wild supporters and its harsh critics galore. With Farah Khan's films, though, the critics seem to be slightly in a higher proportion. The choreographer's move from the dancefloor, to the director's chair, and from superb dance numbers to somewhat loud and kitschy films, has been the source of many rounds of criticisms. But did we all realise that be it Main Hoon Naa, or Om Shanti Om, or the latest Tees Maar Khan, its her ode to pop art which just shines through. Was that a conscious decision to introduce pop art through her films, or am I reading too  much? Well, that can surely be a bone of contention. 

For the uninitiated what is POP ART? Its a precursor to Post Modern Art, but all this sounds quite wordy, does it not. Here comes our favorite encyclopedia to the quick rescue. Wikipedia defines Pop Art as an art movement  that emerged in the mid 1950s in Britain and in the late 1950s in the United States. Pop art challenged tradition by asserting that an artist's use of the mass-produced visual commodities of popular culture is contiguous with the perspective of fine art.Pop art employs aspects of mass culture, such as advertising, comic books  and mundane cultural objects. Pop art is aimed to employ images of popular as opposed to elitist culture in art, emphasizing the banal or kitschy  elements of any given culture, most often through the use of irony. Now this definition should already bring forth certain similarities, does it not? Or is my assumption about the Pop Art connect so dry? 

Now to deconstruct and debunk: 
KITSCH,  thats the word which comes to mind when one starts soaking in the frames of Khan's reels. And she has ensured that she has maintained that trend in all her films so far. Pop art highlights often the kitschy elements of any popular culture. Ms Khan does seem to be doing just that, if one decides to read between her frames. The 1970s and 1980s were known for the over the top Bollywood films. The larger than life characters, the  exaggerated sequences, were staple. And a quick look at Farah's  platter just shows the uncanny similarity. Om Shanti Om, Main Hoon Naa and Tees Maar Khan are quity kitschy for that matter. Many complain of stupidity, many complain of loudness, but do we all miss maybe the conscious effort to highlight her films as an expression of Bollywood Pop art of Bollywood kitsch. Her films  borrow heavily from all the exaggerations which were earlier a part of Bollywood. Think of the songs from TMK, and Main Hoon Naa and their picturizations. Now think of maybe a song from the film Himmatwala, for instance. How about a Jeetendra jumping around with his leading lady in tow, in a beach adorned with several dozens of dancers,and not to miss the oh so loud colors. The similiarites between the films shines through when we try to think. So basically in her ode to pop art, Farah has surely borrowed from a once popular phase of B town's own productions. 

Its not just the songs which scream about the similarity of  Kitschy Bollywood. Its her entire MISE- EN- SCENE, which screams KITSCH. Mise - en -scene refers to everything that appears before the camera  and its arrangement—composition, sets, props, actors, costumes, and lighting. The uber colorful clothes of the protagonist in Tees Maar Khan, the overtly oldish style of Ram Prasad Sharma, or Sushmita Sen's chiffon sarees, or Amrita Rao's grungy avatar, in MHN's  college saga, or the lifestyle of of Om Kapoor, in OSO. Everything seems to be over the top. Farah has carried forward this notion of being over the top, in her characters, sets, costumes, frames, in all three of her films. Its a thread of conitinuity which passes seamlessly. And Pop Art is often criticised for being over the top.  

Now who remembers the sequence from Main Hoon Naaa where Shah Rukh Khan tries to dodge the saliva from his professor in a Matrix like avatar. We laughed our hearts out at the stupidity of naminga  rickshaw "Dhanno." Or the mere introduction of the Mohabbat Man character in the film within the film in Om Shanti Om. How about the Ismail Koyla connect in Tees Maar Khan where the offenders teeth shine through like in an award winning chewing gum ad? How about Master India the thief in TMK, and why not any other thief? Bollywood scriptwriters could have come up with any other thief? Pop art is known to borrow imagery from advertisements,comic books, and popular music. Isnt Farah doing just that. She is consciously borrowing from popular culture, borrowing from images already well known to us, to create a text of her style of filmmaking. If you watch the films carefully, then many more such elements will come forth, how and where she has borrowed from, to form her canvas on celluloid. Matrix or Superman, Sholay or Chewing Gums, the connect is there for you and me to notice. 

So next time  we decide to write off any film maker as making absolutely meaningless films, maybe we should delve a bit deeper, and read between the frames. 


raindrops are falling on my head

From a sunny morning, its suddenly all grey. Its almost dark, although the clock says that it is still afternoon. The first few drops of rain on my balcony, seem to be a total mood uplifter. And when it starts to pour, its almost magic. Rains and romanticism, have been spoken about, and written about, in a zillion. But somehow, its never enough, to write about the magic of rains.

Songs and poetry, novels and columns, stories and lives, many things rush to my mind, as I just enjoy. Enjoy the magical raindrops kissing my cheeks, wetting my eyelashes, and almost soaking me to the bone. The temperature is still at whats the coldest in my hometown, but why do I not feel the cold chill down my spine? Maybe its because the rains are soothing my bruised heart, caressing my shattered soul, so the rains are calming me finally, from the restlessness my mind was in.

I start humming," raindrops are falling my head," as I head indoors to change into something warmer, and my restless mind starts to race again. Rains bring forth so many memories. In reconnecting with me after almost a decade, a certain man close to me, had said, that he would love get soaked in the rain, while he walked the roads of the city of joy, holding my hand. Boy, was I floored that day, when he had just mentioned this. Its a different story that our hearts were not bruised as they are now. So everything seemed magical. Rains came and went, but we never did walk hand in hand with the raindrops falling on our heads. Now we just rush for the car, when the first drops of rain come down. But never say never, maybe we will walk in the rains, some day, when our hearts are healed for good.

I remember a lunch with a friend and a co worker who was visiting my city. suddenly the Kolkattan afternoon was all dark. And the first thing I heard was , rush and go and do a story, how dark it is in mid day. We did rush, and picked up my camera person from office, and shot the story, in central Kolkata. Shot the story, as Kolkattans and tourists ran for cover, hawkers covering their wares with plastic sheets, and 'Him, photographing me and my moves, in the melee of raindrops.' Rains and so many memories.

Rains and wading through almost waist deep water, for work, to show how affected the city was. Standing in the waist deep water, to do lives, and get teased by one and all at office, as to how they thought I would drown in the water logged streets. Rains and lives from atop the office, clutching onto the umbrella in one hand, and the microphone in the other, craning my ears to listen to the anchor, when the transmission often went noisy in the bad weather.

Rains and the madness with my dogs at home. Going out in the garden with all my dogs and just acting wild. With Ma shouting how all of us would catch a cold, and with all the excitement streaming through my pooches. Rains and ma's lovely cooking. Rains and Khichuri-begun bhaja at home, with hot gheee. Rains and hot coffee, rains and vodka on the rocks. Rains and shayari by Gulzaaar saaab.

Rains in school days meant the elusive midweek holiday--Rainy day, as we called it. Rainy day which started getting rare and rare as we grew up. Rains meant giving the colorful raincoats a miss, when parents weren't around. Rains meant splashing and jumping around in puddles, with childhood friends in tow. The memories are so sharply etched in memory, that it just seems like yesterday.

And how can we forget Bollywood and Rains. They seem to have an age old connect. From classics, to sleazy, from romantic, to fun, the rains and Bollywood's leading men and women have been captured in every mood and every possible combination. From Raj Kapoor- Nargis, to Shahrukh Khan- Kajol, from Zeenat Aman, to Mandakini, from the "pehli bhool" to fights during film climaxes , we have seen and enjoyed it all.

Amongst all the memories, all the romanticism, all the madness, rains come with that healing touch, rains come with hope. Rains cleanse our broken hearts, heal our overworked minds, soothe our souls. Rains urge us to walk the extra mile, instill the much desired optimism, in our otherwise dark and pessimistic reality. Rains, I shall love always love theee. The love story just gets stronger and stronger.



Chicken curry is always a Bong favorite, the typical comfort food. So to play with whats so special, is often a risk, but I always believe in risks, rather than a boring sojourn. Kitchen is after all the innovation zone.

It had all begun with a large bunch of coriander leaves/cilantro, which had been picked up for green chutney. The green herbs had teased my mind a wee bit. And all this was way back during my college days, when cooking meant just about once in a fortnight, to try out maybe what I had seen on cookery shows on television. I thought, why not Chicken and Coriander, rather than just taking a few sprigs to garnish the quintessential chicken curry. The temptation was to create something without typing out the keywords, namely Coriander Chicken in our all favorite search engine. I decided to have my own spin on the herb and the bird. This particular curry for the bird, had become quite a hit, in my maternal home, but somehow, it just got lost in the pages of time, with me shifting so many cities, after college.

It was just another cold winter night in good old Kansas, when me and Deb were in our respective cosy corners of the twin couches. Comparing notes about our respective college days, suddenly, this particular recipe and the story came to mind, which I related nineteen to the dozen to him. How sweetly I had completely forgotten my own spin on Dhania Chicken. So we decided that it had to be this particular curry which would be the star in the next day's dinner menu. Why not? 

Its an ideal dinner menu,when the temperature dips down a bit. Dhania chicken goes really well with plain steamed basmati rice. Just ensure that the coriander leaves are fresh, and have not been wilting away in the freezer. A simple green salad of cucumbers, onions and tomatoes with a dash of salt and lemon juice, compliment Dhania Chicken really well. And cook it for someone you love, and the dish will surely turn out to be super tasty.


Chicken: 1 whole bird, cut into medium sized pieces: Skinned 
Cilantro/Coriander Leaves: 2 large bunches
Coriander Powder: 2 tbsp
Mustard Oil
Salt: to taste
Green Chilies: According to heat preferences
Onion: 1 large: Grated
Ginger-Garlic paste: 3-4 tbsp
Sugar: 1/2 tsp
Lime/lemon juice: 2 tbsp
Red Chili Powder: 1 tsp


Wash and clean the coriander leaves. Chop them with the green chilies, and with a little water, blend in an electric blender, until smooth.

Marinate the chicken with the ginger garlic paste for around an hour at least.

Heat mustard oil in a pan, and fry the grated onion, till they turn light golden brown.

Add the coriander powder and red chili powder and fry them for a couple of minutes. 

Then add the marinated chicken pieces, mix well and cook covered, till the chicken is almost half done.  

Add the cilantro/coriander leaf and chili paste,and mix it well. Do not add any water. Add the sugar and salt.

Cover and cook till chicken is fully cooked. The gravy should be coating the chicken pieces, and not be runny.

Turn off the heat and add the lime/lemon juice.

Bon Appetit !!