Sassy Spoon – Food Photography

When friends visit from out of town, it’s a wonderful time for catching up. And food can never be far from the occasion. The day was spent meeting an old friend over lunch. (I had to create a ragtag prompt in advance yesterday, since I was scheduled to be out the entire time today.) The restaurant chosen to feast at was a place called Sassy Spoon, which serves mixed cuisines – Mediterranean, European, Asian. I had heard good reviews of the place that is known for its decor, food presentation, and courteous staff. Sharing a few pictures to feast your eyes on.

We started off with the beverages – a Fizzy Meloni – muddled fresh watermelon, with basil, lime and fizz, and Very Berry Khata comprising mulberries, orange, pomegranate and grape with kala khatta (jamun/jambolan syrup).

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Starters comprised garlic bread with cheese.

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From here we proceeded to the main course – grilled chicken in their house soaked BBQ sauce, grilled veggies and mashed potatoes.

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This was followed by dessert – a signature dessert titled “Seven textured hazelnut and chocolate”, comprising numerous layers of brownies, chocolate chips, mousse, and both solidified and dripping chocolate.

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All in all, a very enjoyable meal in one of the sassiest places around. The decor and ambiance are fabulous, with the rustic lighting adding a homely touch. Having visited during lunch hours, the place was packed, but never noisy.

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The sedate lighting.
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The wall covered with these trunk prints, providing a very old school vibe.
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A close-up of the wall featured above. See that palm print? It signifies a door that leads to the restroom. But the door is so ingeniously hidden in the wall.
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Tea Tales

The current stack of books to grace my to-be-read shelf for the literary days ahead, with some green tea-cinnamon-orange blend for company.

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Forging Connections

Another well spent Sunday morning in the company of fellow runners from around the city.

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And then I came across this picture in today’s news, featuring people practicing yoga as part of the La Parisienne event in front of the Eiffel Tower.

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What is it about community events like these that bring people together? They are extremely beneficial for recreational athletes and fitness enthusiasts who might not be professionally trained in a sport or particular activity, but look forward to being active as a form of healthy living and fitness. One doesn’t need to be engaged competitively in order to practice an athletic endeavor. In such situations, people seek to connect with other kindred spirits who share the same interests.

Our run this weekend, comprised people running across varied distances. The route was the same, but some ran the half marathon distance, some did a 10k, while others completed any chosen distance on the route. It is the friendships that people forge with like-minded individuals, and the camaraderie they share that make community events fun and fruitful affairs.

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Can You Read This?

“Literacy is the most basic currency of the knowledge economy.”

~Barack Obama

Today is International Literacy Day. It is a joy to read, and even more so to connect with fellow bibliophiles. The picture below is a collage made by marathoner, author and founder of our book club here, Lt. Cdr. Bijay Nair (Retd.). What started off as a bunch of runners who came together to share their common love for reading and discussing books, snowballed into a full-fledged book club which attracted even non-runners/athletes who attended and loved the book meets. We don’t discuss just running or exercise related books, though running was what brought us together. Founder Nair prepared this collage of some of our many meet-ups, as a reminder of the value books play in our lives. In a twist to Joseph Addison’s words, Nair quotes – “Reading is to the mind what running is to the body”. And we have been blessed to find like-minded souls from the runner-reader tribe. “A child without education is like a bird without wings” , goes a Tibetan proverb. Education is a gift no one can take from you – perfectly highlighted on a day that pays tribute to the importance of literacy. Pick up a book today, and be grateful that you can read it.

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Image copyrighted by DYRT

Blogging Anniversary

This blog-site completes a year today. Woohoo!! Those of you who have been following this site for a while, would be aware that Curious Cat was the outcome of an accident I had last year. For the uninitiated, I suffered from nerve damage and was bedridden for a couple of months – the entire right leg being paralyzed from hip to foot. Being a marathoner and dancer, staying put was more difficult than the actual injury. Books, movies, art and craft, online courses came to the rescue. I did a couple of random courses on Coursera, and began learning Russian on Duolingo. Along with painting, paper quilling and various other home-made crafts, I was aching to create something more. There was too much information input and not as much energy output. I decided to start a blog to write about things I was doing – thoughts on books I read, experiences on races I had run and dance shows I had performed at; just idle ramblings on whatever came to mind.

Curious Cat was named after my pet cats, who are always interested in what’s going on. And having spent much time with all my pets during the recovery period, I noticed how snoopy cats can be – in contrast to the indifference they are usually known for. This blog was not intended to be read by anyone; just a means of putting my thoughts into words. The settings were initially set to private because I didn’t think anyone would want to read any of it. Unlike a travel blog which would interest travellers, or a fitness site that would bring in exercise enthusiasts, or cookery or book blogs which cater to specific reader groups, I have varied interests. I love all of those things and write about all of them, and much more, and that was where the dilemma lay – in finding like-minded people who also share varied interests. About two months after I started Curious Cat, two friends found out about it from a casual conversation and wanted to read. So I had to change the private settings to public. Within a few days, a large number of “followers” cropped up. I had no idea what they were “following” because my “about” section clearly mentions my ramblings, without offering anything specific to follow.

The initial write-ups centered around book reviews and art work since I was reading a lot and crafting some thing or the other at the time. I’m not from a writing background professionally and didn’t know what to write on, besides the topics that randomly came to mind. When I turned the settings public, I also chanced upon The Daily Post and the word-of-the-day they offered bloggers to write on. November and December were spent diligently writing to every word – I didn’t miss a day! I learnt new words, and expanded and expressed on the ones I knew. It was a great initiative for newbie writers, offering them a base from where to grow. Sadly, The Daily Post discontinued this endeavor within a few months of me finding out about them. But I did connect with some like-minded people through the daily prompts, and realized there were many like me who benefited tremendously as non-writers turned somewhat writers, who wanted to continue writing daily. Stephanie from Curious Steph was instrumental in bringing us all together, and in June this year we formed the Ragtag Community – seven of us from around the globe, working in different time zones to fix a word each day for bloggers to write on. The team presently comprises Sgeoil, Margaret from Pyrenees to Pennines, Tracy from Reflections of an Untidy Mind, Mary from Cactus Haiku, Gizzylaw from Talkin’ to Myself, and of course, Steph and me. The ragtaggers recently completed three months and are growing by leaps and bounds with fellow bloggers dropping in daily to share stories, poems, photographs, or just about anything related to their interpretation of the daily prompts. Each of us has our day to fix the prompt, and Margaret has given us today’s word – energy. (For those who would like to participate.)

About two months ago, some reader friends mentioned they found it difficult to navigate Curious Cat for book reviews and literature related articles. So I started Tomes and Tales – a purely literary venture for fellow bookworms. I love reading and there’s always lots to say and share about books and authors. So at the moment, I manage three blog-sites.

At current count, Curious Cat has 211 followers. I still don’t know what everyone’s following since this was never intended to be a technical blog. But I’m glad to have you all here. The stats show I published 389 articles in the last one year, and the blogging community has played a huge role in inspiring me to write more and connect with fellow readers, athletes, musicians and a plethora of individuals with varying interests. It is rightly said, good things can come out of the bad too. The accident and its aftermath was a horrible time for someone accustomed to moving about, but if not for that forced sedentary lifestyle I might never have ventured into the blogging sphere and met so many lovely people out here. Even a year later with all my energy returned, and easing into races and dance shows step by step, I still try keep up with writing almost every day. It has been great connecting with you all. Keep reading and sharing. 🙂

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The Capoeira Family

My Capoeira school celebrated its anniversary over the weekend. Cordão de Ouro was founded by Mestre Suassuna on 1st September 1967, along with Mestre Brasilia. Suassuna taught regional capoeira, while Brasilia meted out teaching in angola capoeira.  Hence the name, Cordão de Ouro which means “cord of the world” – all different styles under the same roof. Mestre Brasilia later formed his own group, São Bento Grande.

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An archived photo from the sixties with Suassuna’s first students in Itabuna, Bahia.

Cordão de Ouro was the birthplace of many prominent names in capoeira – Flávio Tucano, Biriba, Marcelo Caveirinha, Urubú Malandro, Espirro Mirim, Xavier, Lúcifer, Torinho, Pial, Cangurú, Sarará, Zé Antônio, Ponciano, Bolinha, Geraldinho, Cicero, Ze Carlos, Penteado. Suassuna believed in recycling and creation, was never satisfied, and laboured to up the ante of his game. His creative and restless mind led to the development of the miudinho sequences. The new generation of capoeiristas continued and added to his legacy. Boca Rica, Mintirinha, Saroba, Coruja, Chicote, Chiclete, Kino, Pintado, Lú Pimenta, Barata, Esquilo, Romualdo are considered agents of a new and rich game.

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Reinaldo Ramos Suassuna

Originally started in São Paulo, Cordão de Ouro presently has numerous branches in Brazil and abroad – the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia. The many different groups of capoeiristas all belong to one large worldwide family – representing Mestre Suassuna’s sport and culture, and the work done by him and his supporters. Speed, agility, resilience, creativity, music, and not forgetting one’s roots are what Suassuna teaches, and dedicated capoeiristas labour to stay true to the philosophy of the Master and his group.

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With Monitora Alegria from Israel.

Bookworm Babies – Literary Choices For Children

“A child who reads will be an adult who thinks.”

Our monthly book club meet was held over the weekend. The debate segment for this month was titled “Freedom To Choose Books” . The floor was left open for discussion on the subject of whether parents should select books for children, or should kids be allowed to read what they want to read. As with any debate session, we were not looking for right or wrong answers, but a fair conversation that shed light on both hemispheres of the argument.

The points put forth regarding parents deciding what literature the child should avail of, cited reasons of children not knowing what to choose if left to their own devices. When it comes to very young kids, language learning with growth in vocabulary and improvement in grammar are of prime importance. At this age, the child is picking up new words, stringing them together into sentences, and learning how to make coherent conversation. Picture books were suggested as essential learning aids at this age of development, where the child associates a word/phrase with pictures, which helps in imprinting what is being read. A child left to pick whatever he/she wants at the bookstore might choose on the basis of bright colorful books with eye-catching covers that might not necessarily contribute much in terms of the text. When parents read to children, the latter learn to associate the words heard with those displayed in front of them.

Moving on to older kids, pre-teens or teenagers, the opinions were quite divided. If the parents, grandparents or other older family members are all avid readers and the child is born and brought up surrounded by books, they might try exploring on their own. A member cited an instance of her ten year old reaching for a Sidney Sheldon from the mother’s bookshelves. The latter offered an Enid Blyton instead as more age appropriate reading. When books are on full display, curious children will want to read them all, not knowing about genre or age-specific reading. The parents’ prudence comes into play here – in not only discouraging the child from picking up a book not meant for them, but also suggesting appropriate alternatives.

When it comes to age appropriate books, there is, however, a wide discrepancy in what is available in the market. Most kids love comics – they are fun, quick reads and help pass the time if the child is left unattended and needs to be kept busy. They might not, however, build vocabulary or sentence structure, and do not teach paragraph formation or changing between direct and indirect speech in a longer text. Translated books (or just about any book for that matter) might have grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, or any editorial inaccuracies that the parents need to check for, since the child is at an impressionable age and might assume what they are reading to be absolutely correct.

An observation was cited about pre-teens/teens who access Kindles and other e-readers, wherein parents are unaware of the kinds of e-books being downloaded. A helpful aid here is to encourage the child to analyse and share their thoughts on what has been read. Three children at the book meet reviewed books they had read – Anne Frank’s “The Diary Of A Young Girl”, Ashwin Sanghi’s “The Krishna Key”, and John Green’s “Paper Towns”. These happened to be all paperbacks. But even when it comes to e-books, initiating a literary discussion enables parents to know what books are being read, and at the same time respecting their kids’ literary choices. Some might prefer to write down their thoughts, reflect on the story in case of fiction, or on world events in case of non-fiction, or draw comparisons with what they have just read and other books by the same author, or books on similar themes. Children who prefer being vocal can be led into a conversation on the same lines – would they recommend the book to others, any quotes or phrases that stood out, any new words they learnt, their reasons for liking/not liking the book or parts of it. An added benefit of vocalizing one’s thoughts is that parents can check for pronunciations, and correct any discrepancies in the written word versus spoken word. Very often even avid readers mispronounce words because they have never heard them and only read about them.

A point was also made of the role of siblings in reading choices. When it comes to new writers in the market, parents might not be aware of current works of literature. Rather than pushing one’s own childhood reads onto one’s child, elder siblings or cousins who have read newer books might be a good lead in what they would recommend to their younger selves. Children being curious also like to see the books their siblings are reading and this offers an opportunity to diversify reading habits, and have an engaging book discussion with someone from a similar age group.

The presence of children at the meet ensured a well-rounded discourse by receiving their perspectives as well. The session came to an end with the youngest participant expressing her views that she would prefer having her parents select books for her to read, because she trusts them in making better choices.

At the end, there is no right or wrong between who selects the books. The emphasis is on the context of reading in children. The age of the child, external influences from schools and peer groups, presence or absence of older/younger siblings, the child’s grasp over the language of reading, reasons for reading (pass the time or improve vocabulary) – many factors play a role in whether children should pick their own books or parents need to intervene in their literary choices.

 

Bibliophilic Endeavors – Book Club Meet

Another month, another meet. Our book club DYRT (Did You Read Today) just wound up our monthly get together this evening.

Our guest author kickstarted the session by introducing and reading from one of her books, as well as providing snippets about her writing and publishing journey. Savita Nair is an advertising copywriter by profession, whose genre as a published book writer is poetry. She describes her poetry as “straight-talking prose” that anyone who has dealt with the chaotic madness of modern day urban survival can understand and relate to. Her poetry can be described as a mix of romanticism, thoughtfulness, stoicism, pragmatism. Her poems are for those who enjoy poetry that doesn’t shroud itself in fancy analogies and jargon. Nair revealed she began writing poems at the age of seven, and cites Dorothy Parker as her primary inspiration. Her work reflects her state of mind – complex, candid and fearless. For the book meet today, Nair articulated six poems from her collection titled “Tell Me Your Real Story” – a fusion of angst and heartbreak, celebration and romance, disbelief and skepticism, sarcasm and fun. The poetry bandwagon takes you on a ride that is urban and chic, cynical and syrupy. A wonderful orator as well, Nair has herself read the audio versions of her books. She presented four autographed copies of Tell Me Your Story to randomly selected readers present at the meet.

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The author session was followed by the book review segment. We started with “Sambhaji” by Vishwas Patil, a book originally written in Marathi, but reviewed in English and Hindi by one of our members. A story of the unfortunate journey of the emperor Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj who spent most his life being compared to his father Shivaji Maharaj. The politics behind the throne, the defiance against various forces, the epic wars of Shambhuraje against the British, the Portuguese, Aurangzeb – all in all, a detailed narrative of Shambhaji’s history.

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The little bookworms followed this in-depth analysis of historical facts with some more world history. Some of the children of our members accompanied their parents to the meet, and reviewed their reads as well. Starting with Anne Frank’s “The Diary Of A Young Girl” by a ten year old who was fluent and fabulous as she described her analysis of Anne’s life through her diary entries. A thirteen year old carried forward the reviewing session with Ashwin Sanghi’s “The Krishna Key” – a historical and mythological thriller set around two timelines, five thousand years ago at the time of Lord Krishna (the Blue God), and a child in the present who grows up believing he is the final avatar of Krishna. An exhaustively researched plot which provides an alternate interpretation of the Vedic Age, and can be relished by conspiracy buffs and thriller addicts. Another articulate thirteen year old followed this with a delightful review of John Green’s “Paper Towns” . An attentive, intuitive and funny story about Margo Spiegelman whose adventures are the centre of attraction at her high school. She goes missing one day, and her friend Quentin Jacobsen sets about in unravelling the mystery, which in turn takes him on a splendid road trip across America as he follows the clues left for him. The storyline and plot are simple, but Green’s storytelling bumps the narrative up a notch keeping it funny and poignant, with relatable characters.

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The floor was then left open for the debate session which followed the book reviews. The topic for today was “Freedom To Choose Books” – should parents select books for children or should kids be allowed to choose what they want to read? Various perspectives were put forth, siding with both hemispheres of the argument. The age of the child, external influences from schools and peer groups, presence or absence of older/younger siblings, the child’s grasp over the language of reading, reasons for reading (pass the time or improve vocabulary) – many factors play a role in whether children should pick their own books or parents need to intervene in their literary choices. A well-rounded discussion where there was no right or wrong, with the emphasis on the context of reading in children.

The venue for this month’s meet being the YMCA, the merry bunch of bookworms wound up our monthly undertaking by donating books to the organization. The customary photo session and snacks brought an end to the evening’s agenda. Until we meet again next month. 🙂

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