Tuesday, September 6, 2022

The little roadside library.


                                                             The little roadside library

 It's such a fun idea and only in the US where people are intrinsically honest can such a concept thrive. The little roadside library which is stocked generously with great books -- by the entire areas homes. The concept is very simple as you can read below the picture -- take a book and give a book. And thats how my 2 1/2 months flew by in Greenville.

I am a voracious reader and can watch movies intermittently. Only a book can hold my attention and so harassing Annika to drive me to a library I felt was infringing on her spare time. So it was with much excitement that I noticed this little library when I was out walking in the fancy neighbourhood that they live in called Cleveland forest.

I would stare in wonder at the fabulous homes in the neighbourhood and realised that my son was living in a posh address like ours on Hayes Road. Dad always told us about the value of a god address and the boys have luckily imbibed that from him. Both have bought in posh localities thereby keeping themselves and their families safe.

                                                     The cutest thing ever!

So once I was done with my book I would walk down and exchange it for another. Ofcourse I had to begin the cycle with one of my own. So I put in an Indian ( British) author Anita Desai with her " Inheritance of Loss" What a book and I wanted other readers to get out of their comfort zone and read a bit about our culture.

Ofcourse in no time when the homes around saw me patronising the library it was being mysteriously filled with just amazing books. It was a good feeling to see top quality books which were probably bought from COSTCO being left there for me to enjoy. 

You see we are the only brown family in the neighbourhood and we were living or my son owned Mr Cleveland's home -- the guy who in centuries past promulgated that no coloureds could live in the neighbourhood!! Well my son bought his house and I hope hes turning in his grave! Life comes full circle so don't push your luck!

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

My dream project !


Look at that black gold we get for free!

My dream project is ready to take off – An Educational Foundation to teach Sustainable Methods of Living to the next generation. Like they famously say when one door closes another opens. My Doc son has stopped my teaching in college given my comorbidity of diabetes and the covid situation and then BOOM! The US Old Boys whom I have worked with teaching the ISC kids for the last two years, were looking at a hands-on project. They were welcome to use my farm for free to educate the poor kids on the efficacy of sustainable living.

Absolutely my cup of tea! 

It's so easy if you want to do it!

Right here in our home on Hayes Road I have run a wet waste compost pit for the last 7 years which has fed the garden for free. A few of our apartment dwellers are environmentally conscious and throw their kitchen wet waste into the pit. Over the years the maali and I have perfected the art of composting quickly and safely.

The gloves help but thorns pierce them

Ofcourse we get the odd dweller who has no ethics and throws his dogs hair and poop into the pit. The sticks of spent roses which are full of thorns and hurt the hands of the maali through the gloves he and I wear. Those in their ignorance throw coconut husk and shells into the pit. Those take forever to compost and should just be discarded into the bins going out into the BBMP trash. But we shoulder on inspite of these cheap ignoramuses.

But by and large  we have very decent and caring residents and along with all the garden waste we compost the wet waste out of kitchens. This includes egg shells, banana skins, coffee grounds and tea leaves, watermelon rinds and pineapple skins. In the Mango season the mango skins MINUS the seeds because the seeds will germinate in the pit are composted!

It has not been easy in the building with owners who come from more ordinary backgrounds and do not follow the same sustainable ethics we were taught as kids. But here in my farm I am going to have a blast working with these Old Boys from the US and it will be a wonderful experience teaching kids how to protect and support mother nature as best they can.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Setting up an NGO to teach sustainable living !


The beautiful vine gifted to me by Mr Shetty from his eco friendly resort in Kundapur

It’s a dream coming true yet again for me! The use of all my education with UNFCCC, UNEP, UN Water and IUCN. A sustainable living centre being set up by the Old Boys of St. Joseph’s in my farm.A certificate course no less, a credit course to add to their college and school curriculum. How absolutely wonderful is that for me and the land I have loved with every fibre of my being. Sometimes I wonder at how God works in such mysterious ways. 

For the last two years I have mentored the ISC and ICSE kids of St. Joseph’s Boys School. Mentored them on Rain Water Harvesting and Wet Waste Composting. I even did a webinar on Menstrual Hygiene of Women! It’s amazing working with young ones, sharing all the knowledge I have been given free of cost by the UN. How they lap up all you say.

Enjoying vadas dunked in sambhar -- an OB from the US who checked out the farm.

In the farm we will set up RW Harvesting in different forms other than what we have already set up when we started the farm.  We have a huge pit into which the water of the land and surroundings pour into and percolate down into the sub-strata. By doing that the borewell we sank with my Dad in the initial stages of setting up the farm and then the subsequent bore which we sank, have been rejuvenated much to our joy. Both borewells dried up and we were buying water to water the trees. Now Narsimappa is so thrilled that we are getting water at as little as 100 feet with the rain water harvesting. Fr Saldanha of the school would be proud to see what we have achieved. He was the prophet of Rain water harvesting and told us about it when we were barely in our teens.

Enjoying fresh tender coconut off the trees

Wet Waste composting is what I do in our building and learned from my Dad and grandfather in the property we live in on Hayes Road. We have always composted the leaves and everything from the kitchen. And the garden has always been fed by the compost generated from the pit. Now we have a more fashionable pit with bricked up sides and a strong cover. But how many of the ‘educated’ in the building care to throw their waste in is the point. After all, the memsahib looks down her nose at her own waste generated and the servant has to get it out of her sight. Who cares where she throws it?

The BBMP is throwing up its hands desperately and saying they cannot handle so much waste which Bangalore generates. It will finally be fines which will turn the tide. People need fines to act sadly. So that's the whole idea of the NGO. To teach the kids young.If we educate and touch even 1% of the kids, to think sustainably,  we have achieved a lot in terms of sustainable living.

Cutting off the ripe Ramphal fruit off the trees loaded with them!

It’s my dream to have this sort of NGO, where education on sustainable living is imparted by experts to the kids. And its coming true with the Old Boys from the US all gung ho about it.  My baby school benches which are lying there can be used. School benches which helped me buy the farm with the fees I got running my preschool. 

It's come full circle and another one of my dreams is coming true. Look out schools in Bangalore and all the educational Institutions run by the Jesuits. We are setting up shop to educate you guys sustainably! 



Saturday, November 27, 2021

Escape from Pakistan by Debora Ann Shea

This is the cover Debbie always had from the start!

 It was out of the blues that I met an old Convent of Jesus and Mary, New Delhi, school mate. Debora Ann Shea. She had been my sister Christine’s classmate, but remembered me well ‘cause of my athletic prowess on the tracks she said. It was a very convivial meeting in her gorgeous home on Rest House Crescent. The house had belonged to the Demello’s when we were kids. It was an old ramshackle place where many brothers and their families lived. And then going into this plush and fabulous home, my jaw just dropped and stayed dropped for the whole of our meeting. What a change the Puravankaras had wrought. We had gone over after Mass in St Joe’s,  just to collect a donation to feed the poor by the Don Bosco fathers. Her brother in Australia who was visiting had connected and asked for my help.

Debbie and me!

We sat around the swimming pool while liveried waiters served us coffee and snacks, while a smiling and simple Debbie hung on my every word and told me how she was one of the adoring younger school kids who thought I was a star. Breaking two records in a Delhi state meet did give me the star status which I always shrugged off. No big deal really but so many remember me for it!

An old family friend speaks!

And HERE was Debbie -- fabulously wealthy Puravankara and yet so simple. I always say if you are born into opulence you remain simple, it’s the ones who never had who grow an obnoxious persona, which can be terribly disgusting, to those coming into contact with them.

Interior deco so tastefully done!

She had heard I ran a book club and wanted so much to publish a book she had wanted to write on her father Commodore Jack Shea. Ok I thought wryly -- here’s another rich, would be writer who wanted to be published. I was convinced by her to read  her manuscript and give her genuine feedback. How does one give genuine feedback to a school chum? I thought after reading a few chapters. It was awful, like a schoolgirl writing an essay.  

Debbie answers a question from the audience!

BUT the story was riveting -- I absolutely LOVED her story. It was quite like no other, but how do I tell her it needed to be turned on its head by editors. I am a professional editor and charge professional fees for my work, BUT how could I charge her and chop up her work? So I took the cowards way out and connected her to a friend in the next building who also does professional editing. Keerti called me and whispered --” What do we tell her?”  I said, “ Do what you can and then send it back” 

Keerti speaks!

Poor Keerti did as much as she could and sent it back. Then as usual guilt hit me. She had been so genuine with me and I needed to give her solid help. So, I called her and asked for a hard copy of the manuscript. In minutes her driver was at my door with the manuscript and the heliconias I requested for from Rest House Road park which they maintain.  Wielding a red pen like I do as a professor, I cut and chopped, shifted chapters. I was ruthless, BUT I called and said let's talk face to face.

Moderator in action!

The car and driver were at the gate and my resoluteness melted when I saw her eager, trusting face. How can I wet and diminish her dream I thought? Tread lightly you fire sign, with no diplomacy! Tea had been laid out with onion pakoras and other yummies but I had decided resolutely to be honest. We sat poring over the manuscript for an hour. And tactlessly I began -- “ Your story is great! But it won’t get published in this state!”

She took everything I said so simply and readily I was humbled and all my red marks were accepted willingly. Fill in another chapter here -- flesh out this chapter. This sounds odd here, on and on I droned with as much care as I could and she accepted it all the sweet person that she is. I have had idiotic kids in the newspaper offices arguing wth me over ridiculous changes in their silly newspaper reports and here was fabulously wealthy and gorgeous Debbie, who was as humble as anyone could be, just accepting all my changes with such good grace.

After the videos were played!

THAT is a true success story and success story she is today. She went to Penguin through a friend -- networks always help -- and got one of the greatest editors ever -- Satya Saran who had been Feminas editor to evaluate her manuscript. As expected -- it was a story like no other and Penguin snapped it up with editors working with her back and forth and only then closing the deal. It was the pinnacle of success, to have her story published by Penguin no less.

I handled her Bangalore launch. The book is called “ Escape from Pakistan”. She could have had Bollywood stars do the launch but NO, she asked only for me! She came back to me at the launch and said, “ You said it could not be published!” -- “ in that state!” I added. I did say that to her and the story is wonderful and worth any reader's time and patience. I handled her posh launch after she had one in Teen Murthi Bhavan in New Delhi! Her father would have been proud. My book club were her guests in her fabulous home. We did not need any silly hall in any silly club. The Lounge as it is called was festooned with the most resplendent and grand flower arrangements. Debbie was radiant and all my book club members feted her, while she wined and dined us with food from the Oberoi!

I am so proud that her book is doing so well. It’s a very sad story but we are advanced enough to understand that cultural norms set down by us, should be broken if necessary. No spoilers from me, but buy the book this Christmas and enjoy it. It’s available off Amazon and cheaper off Flipkart. 


Drive and determination is something one has to cultivate, it’s so easy to be lazy and be a has been -- but Debora Ann Shea  has proved to be her fathers daughter and I am happy to be an important part of her close family circle. Just sad my Mum and sister Christine missed being part of the launch!     


Thursday, August 5, 2021

Banana Bread --- an old favourite


We always have bananas in the house

Banana bread is an old favourite which we all have enjoyed as children. Now with the pandemic on, I have gone back to baking, which I did while the boys were growing, with their huge appetites and our very limited finances. If there were some over ripe bananas, I made them into Fritters or Banana bread which they polished off. Strangely those bananas which they refused to eat were fine in another avatar.All the faces made at the overripe fruit vanished when I fried or baked them! 

Banana bread loaf chopped up and ready to be polished off

I love walnuts in any form and adding them in Banana Bread, gives the slice a delightful crunch. Dad always bought wonderful Kashmiri walnuts for us as kids in New Delhi and our Christmas stockings always had to have at least a dozen of them, which we crushed open and savoured. 

Quick energy boosters for the boys who were triathletes.

Here’s my easy peasy recipe which has stood me in good stead over the years. It’s sure fire like all the recipes I have perfected making it multiple times, through the boys growing years.

40 minutes in my old perfect Racold which I will never sell



2 cups maida ( I love the cup measure-- no need of weighing)

1 tspn baking powder

¼ tspn salt

½ cup butter

¾ cup sugar

2 eggs

2 ½ cups ripe and mashed bananas

1 tbsp chopped walnuts


Heat oven to 160 degrees, while getting the mix ready.

Sieve flour, baking powder and salt.  In a bowl cream butter, sugar, stir in eggs and mashed bananas with walnuts. Then stir in the flour in two parts and check consistency. If too thick add milk and thin slightly.

 Oil baking pan and pour mix in. 

Bake in the centre of the oven for 40 minutes or till it shrinks from the side or the pick comes out clean. Switch off the oven and remove top cover inside and let the loaf brown slightly. Leave to cool and then slice with a sharp knife.

My tweaks: 1) I cut the sugar down to less than ½ from ¾ cup.

2) Slightly over- ripe bananas are very sweet anyway.

3) Freshly bought maida always tastes better.

4) Use extra walnuts if you like, but chop them up before mixing in.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

No cook mango ice cream!


Less than half the crop we got this year

If I can find easy recipes, that's truly me. Unlike my sister Christine who enjoys making the most difficult recipes very patiently. Rather than kill myself like I saw Mum do making icecreams for us five, I just buy the Amul icecreams from Big Basket and the men enjoy the cones and even the various 1 litre box icecreams.

But I wanted to give mango ice cream a try, because we always had mango icecream as kids and no store bought one could have our wonderful Mallikas or Raspuri mangoes from the farm in it. Most bought mango icecream will have a dash of mango and not like we make at home-- the BEST ingredients.

Saved boxes of pulp for the kids

So I scrolled and scrolled the net for a good mango icecream recipe. No boiling stuff which bubbled and burned hands like Mums. And lo, there was a quick one by a lady in Canada. It had NO cooking in it and was certainly a recipe I could try. So here’s the recipe.

The Ice cream reminds me of Dads bucket icecream as kids

Fresh Mango Icecream

1 ½ cup fresh mango scooped out of 2 mangoes

½ cup sugar

½ cup condensed milk

2 cups milk

1 tspn fresh lemon juice.


Combine mangoes and sugar and blend with mixer or smash with dal hand smasher till smooth.

Combine everything else and mix once again.

Pour into a stainless steel dish and cover with aluminium foil.

Semi set in freezer-- then take it out, beat well and return to the freezer.

Serve the following day in your prettiest ice cream bowls. You can add cubes of mango or cherries as deco.


My recipe tweaks: 1) I dont put ANY sugar as the mangoes from our farm are very sweet.

2) Don't miss out on the beating stage as that makes the icecream creamy rather than icicled.

3) Buy a large tin of Amul Mithai mate condensed milk so you can make it at least twice with the same tin.


Thursday, July 22, 2021

Baking can be pretty therapeutic!


Baath mixed and ready to bake!

I was not one who enjoyed cooking much as a child or teen, cause I had a sister who was an ace, so ---I can call myself a late bloomer. The reason is simple. I am NOT allowed by my sons to go back to work in a classroom as I am a chronic diabetic and can't afford to catch COVID. “ Nope! Sorry Mum you can hold classes on Zoom and Webex, but NO classes face to face just yet!” commands the doc son and I accept. For me staying well is all important as I want to travel to see the babies. And live too. But! Never the unforgiving minute for me and keeping busy is my style of living through the day.

So, checking on one of my Mumbai colleagues new Cooking videos, I decided to try making Coconut Baath. Why you may ask, why Baath?? Well I love the stuff and thats all I want to buy when we go to Goa. There’s this tiny bakery off the Candolim Tinto which sells the most divine Baath and even though a small slab cost Rs 400, we would buy it and enjoy every crumb.

The electric coconut scraper off Amazon!

Then! I saw Veena’s video which made it look so simple, PLUS and a big plus, my sisters Danish tenant gave me his grandmother's baking tray before he left, to remember him by. Now Johnny gets pictures of the Baath in faraway Aalborg, Denmark which is close to Aarhus where I studied for 6 months. Makes him happy and as he says, it keeps his connection with Pilerne, the place he enjoyed living in for two years.

So, one of the first videos made by Veena, who is Goan was Coconut Baath. Looking at it it seemed pretty simple and so I decided to give it a try and was hooked. I mean to date I have probably made over a dozen Baath cakes and besides sharing with my bestie who has come back here from Dubai, we polish off the stuff in house. I cut it into rectangle bits and put it in a Tupperware box on the dining table and its polished off through the week.

Slice and keep in tupperware and in a day or so its polished off.

As always I cut down the sugar content to negligible so that I can have a tiny slice everyday with my coffee @ 11 am. Making this cake also made me invest in an electric coconut scraper. I got it given to me for my birthday and have never been able to scrape a coconut quite so fast. This coconut scraped by the machine is easy to use directly in the cake.

Leave to cool and then cut into rectangles and put into box on dining table for family to enjoy. Here's the easy recipe:

Coconut Baath


1 ¼ cup ( 200gms) semolina rava 

1 cup ( 200 gms) sugar

1 ¾ cup scraped coconut.

100gms butter 

3 eggs

A few smashed elaichi seeds

Cap of vanilla essence

⅓ tspn baking powder


Roast rava for 5 mins on tava 

Blend with hand held mixer butter, eggs and sugar till fluffy.

Add elaichi, vanilla, baking pwdr and mix.

Put in coconut and mix well.

Then pour in rava in two parts and mix with spatula thoroughly.

Pour into baking tin, preferably a loaf tin for easy cutting. 

Leave overnight in fridge to swell or outside for an hour.

Bake in 160 degrees for 20 minutes till tester comes out clean.

My reductions and additions: 1) Reduce sugar to half and put 2 heaped cups coconut. 2) I use a 100 gm pat of Amul butter and use the balance butter paper to grease the tin.