The Calorie Night’s Watch


A double onslaught fast approaches- One of the most anticipated series Games of Thrones makes way as well as the pile on of calories. My arch nemesis for the longest time, the best description of these suckers is something I read; tiny creatures that live in ones closet and sew clothes a little bit tighter every night, drawing an analogous quest and claim for ‘Waist-eros’. Hopefully this season will be kind and not indulge me in binge eating over marathon sessions. Now while I sit back awaiting a challenge laid down by the lovely folk at PEMA a wellness resort in Vishakhapatnam, where I’m enticed to a multi-coursed 500 gram gourmet meal, the intrigue and surprise on my face runs comparable to the time the Mother of Dragons sat down to Khal Drogo’s breakfast specialty- a horses heart. Luckily, this all-vegetarian led holistic healing centers atop a hill with the picturesque coastline ahead has thrown down the gauntlet. Challenge accepted.

With grams weighed and a calorie intake monitor in place under the strict eyes of dieticians and master chef’s creating wonders, this is one of my meals. Starting off with a Curried Cauliflower soup (200 grams at 59 calories) followed by Herbed Mushroom Caviar (120 at 97) and a Soufflé de legume (200 at 186) and Honey glazed apple sandwich (100 at 70) totaling to an astonishing 412 calories over this four-course meal! Speechless. With the right exercise, water intake and calorie count with expert supervision for a variety of body cleanses, I drop an astonishing 3.5 kilos in 5 days. But it did get me thinking- the calorie wars can be won if we condition ourselves to avoid ‘binge eating and drinking’ over our favorite prime time shows. But if the need does arise, there’s hope in these substitutes that could combat one’s meteoric calorie rise.

Moong dal- Every Indian’s favorite, this dal is full of Vitamin A, B, C and E and many minerals, such as calcium, iron and potassium. It is often advised by dieticians to replace fatty foods with Moon dal as it is a weight loss food that is rich in proteins and fiber, so one feels fuller after having a bowl of dal for a long time and curbs your cravings. My recommendation would be adding finely chopped onions, tomatoes, boiled potatoes, sprinkle of rock salt, pepper, a dash of lemon and top it with coriander and bhel- “Voila! Chaat a la Moong”. Try substituting this for the buttered popcorn. Don’t hate me just yet.

Dhokla- This humble dish from Gujarat is famous all over. This light and fluffy delicacy is seasoned with coriander leaves, mustard seeds, green chutney and fried green chilies. Made from fermented flour it is rich in nutritive values. Being steamed and not fried, dhokla has less oil content, makes them low on calories. 100 gms of dhokla contains only 160 calories! Need I say more?

Cinnamon- Everything is nice about this weight loss food. This nutty flavor spice is also known for its diabetes fighting properties. Add ground cinnamon as a replacement for sugar in cake dough or in your tea and coffee to get the most out of this wonderful spice every day. If it’s too much of a hassle indulge in dark chocolate, the darker the better and stick to a few pieces, please.

Beetroot juice- Yes this is the odd one out, but trust me beet juice gives your body a stamina boost allowing you to exercise longer and burn more calories post the show. Beets are a blood-building herb that detoxifies blood and renews it with minerals and natural sugars. This weight loss food also aids in eliminating toxins from your body. Try my favorite concoction- 2 medium sized beetroots, 2 oranges, 5 slice of fresh pineapple, 2 tablespoons of Lemon Juice and a sprig of Mint. Voila- should keep your cravings to the least minimum. Blend and savor. 

Valar Dohaeris Caloris Non! (Loose translation; All Men must NOT serve calories!) Shoot me already. 

Enjoy the show.
 

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The Suitcase Diaries: Legend of Banaras 

Varanasi, also known as Banaras, plays home to much that is magical and mystical. A journey through the core of Uttar Pradesh’s ascetic region, highlighting why this destination is one worth exploring

 Varanasi, also known as Kashi or Banaras, is the world’s oldest continually inhabited city and has been a cultural centre of North India for several thousand years, closely associated with the Ganges. A major centre for pilgrimage in Hinduism, it is believed that death in the city will bring salvation. If one had to describe the soul of this place in a sentence, it would be aptly described in the words of Tahir Shah: “The combination of enlightenment and death is the primary business of the city.” 

There is more than meets the eye; lurking beneath this city, filed with a rich lineage and culture of education, music, gastronomic feats, history, mysticism and trade, this city has something for everyone. Vibrant and eclectic with a wide variety of choice, this city has churned out a number of prominent Indian philosophers, poets, writers, and musicians who live or have lived in the city. 

Home to one of Asia’s largest residential universities – Banaras Hindu University (BHU) – the city gives one the nostalgic feeling of a potpourri of religious beliefs as it is believed that Buddha founded Buddhism here in around 528 BC when he gave his first sermon, ‘The Setting in Motion of the Wheel of Dharma’, at nearby Sarnath, and Guru Nanak Dev visited Varanasi for Shivratri in 1507, a trip that played a large role in the founding of Sikhism. For the culturally acute, Tulsidas wrote his epic poem on Rama’s life called ‘Ram Charit Manas’ in Varanasi. Here’s through the looking glass of the recent Uttar Pradesh Travel Writers Conclave 2016, the marvels of what this spiritual city has to offer.

 Postcards from Varanasi

 

For those sweet tooth cravings, indulge in a Gulab Jamun – a milk-solids-based sweet mithai. Made mainly from milk solids, traditionally from freshly curdled milk, it is often garnished with dried nuts like almonds to enhance flavour. A dish prepared during the medieval times here, it is derived from a fritter that Persianate Central Asian Turkic invaders brought to India. One theory claims that it was accidentally prepared by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan’s personal chef. The word ‘gulab’ is derived from the Persian words ‘gol’ (flower) and ‘āb’ (water), referring to the rose water-scented syrup. ‘Jamun’ or ‘jaman’ is the Hindi-Urdu word for Syzygium jambolanum, an Indian fruit with a similar size and shape.

 

Stroll the serene and quiet morning scenes from the Sonwa Mandap in Chunar fort, near Varanasi; a fort filled with stories and legends galore. One tells the story of Nepali king Sandeva (1333) who built this structure for his daughter Sonwa (translates to Golden hair) when he was looking to find her a husband. 


He had but one condition: the suitor had to defeat him to win his daughter’s hand in marriage. Fifty-two kings tried and lost their heads in the process. The pavilion never donned the avatar of amandap (marriage hall) because as the story goes, Sonwa was spirited away by an admirer who chose not to fight. Blood and gore trumped by peace and tranquility. From supervised baths of royalty to executions and solitary confinement of prisoners over the years of its many rulers and reigns, this place has many tales to tell; after all, legends are but elements of truth, based on historical facts with ‘mythical qualities‘.

 

 The Silk Puppeteers are the weavers from an era past, entrusted with the delicate ‘zari‘, brocade work of the intricate Benaras sarees. During the Mughal period around the 14th century, weaving of brocades with intricate designs using gold and silver threads became the speciality of Banaras. Depending on the intricacy of its designs and patterns, a saree can take from 15 days to a month and sometimes up to six months to complete. With no room for error, and precision at its finest hour, these master weavers spin stories via silk. 

Did you know? In the old days, women used to cook food wearing pure silk sarees as they were fire resistant. Also, they had an anti bacterial property that made for hygienic cooking. 

 

Ever had that moment, when the beauty of an object left you speechless? Ponder and revel in Meenakari artwork. Expensive indeed, this art form was invented by Iranian craftsmen during the Sasanied era and Mongols spread it to India and other countries. Its name is derived from ‘Mina’, referring to the azure colour of heaven.

 

A group of priests daily at this ghat perform the Agni Puja (Worship to Fire) wherein a dedication is made to Lord Shiva, River Ganga (the Ganges), Surya (Sun), Agni (Fire), and the whole universe. Dashashwamedh Ghat is the main ghat and is located close to Vishwanath Temple. This is probably the most spectacular ghat. 

Two Hindu legends are associated with it: The First – Lord Brahma created it to welcome Lord Shiva. 

According to the second legend, Lord Brahma sacrificed ten horses during Dasa-Ashwamedha yajna performed here. The yajna dates back to ancient India and was a horse sacrifice ritual followed by the Śrauta tradition of Vedic religion. 

Used by ancient Indian kings to prove their imperial sovereignty, a horse accompanied by the king’s warriors would be released to wander for a period of one year. In the territory traversed by the horse, any rival could dispute the king’s authority by challenging the warriors accompanying it. After one year, if no enemy had managed to kill or capture the horse, the animal would be guided back to the king’s capital. It would be then sacrificed, and the king would be declared as an undisputed sovereign.

 

From sages and mystics to a dip in the Holy Ganga to the Sadhu deep in trance, the city is bustling with activity at the crack of dawn. A man, wrapped in a white shroud, his head freshly shaved, sits mournfully and watches a burning pyre. A bamboo ladder, supporting another body, its shape visible under an orange shroud, makes its way to its final immersion in Mother Ganges. Cows standing idly, then settle down amidst the debris to chew cud. The omnipresent pye-dog picks its way down to the water’s edge. A purple kite flown by a child on a nearby roof climbs impossibly high into the sky. A burning candle, surrounded by flowers, someone’s offering, bobs along in their wake. Rub the sleep of one’s eyes and make way to the banks of the Ganga to see the ritualistic salutations to the elements via traditional beliefs. A morning snapshot for the senses.

How to get there?
• Distance between Varanasi and Goa is 1746 km by road along with an aerial distance of 1450 km.

• There are no direct flights or trains or buses available between Varanasi and Goa. The convenient and fastest way to reach from Varanasi to Goa is to take a plane from Varanasi to Goa via Mumbai and Delhi.

• The cheapest way to reach Goa from Varanasi is to take a flight from Varanasi to Mumbai then take Matsyagandha Express from Mumbai to Goa.

 Pic courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas Photography 

 

Objectivity & Opinions 


Over a gifted night of wine & cheese in the solace of my own dominion, I read this phrase that stuck with me till date. 

‘Opinions are like arseholes, Everyone has one’

Without too much of a pun on the word, in my ‘opinion‘ everyone is entitled to their own as long as they don’t subject it on the likes of others around them- at times forcefully imposing their point of view leading to culling objectivity in the process. 

A beautiful piece written by a talented fellow blogger for OHeraldo in Goa- Fernando Monte da Silva and I share a few thoughts on the subject. 

My excerpts as follows:

“In the field of throwing open ones ideas up in the air objectively speaking of course- is the false assumption of acceptability from multiple thoughts alike. Basing that assumption the objectivity of food is that of Russian roulette from multiple factors ranging from the chef having a lovers tiff to the improbability of sourcing the right ingredients thus leading to lack of continuity and monotony to produce the same fare time and again matching to expected objectified standards by patrons. 

As a writer it’s imperative to understand the perception of the chef to allow a deconstruction of his food through a presentation and taste storyline for acceptance and approval from the concerned recipient. Many a times, this is lost in translation thus leading to objectivity been thrown out the window without caution. Influencers and foodies alike play a integral part in this constructed ‘storyline’ and it needs to be cajoled with utmost love and care. Failure to do so would lead to quite the catastrophe. 

Let’s  break it down with an example. Not a particular fan of aubergine- does that make the ratatouille carefully crafted unpalatable to describe and eat to my readers? Objectifying the process and the closeness to home is something everyone looks forward too in a meal given Nuevo cuisine and international fare.

 Objectivity of a writer is paramount as their recommendations form the quantitative basis of food making its way to multiple palates for them to make a decision accordingly.”

“Monetization for the art of writing and blogging is a trend that has long been in parlance just as paid media is these days. 

My opinion on that is just cause it’s monetized, a seasoned writer should not be influenced by the same. There are two independent parallels. Cash for goods and services in this case words. 

Writing is an art form indeed and a mature writer should not allow the cost of words dictate the truth behind them. Are we saying that if it weren’t paid it would be truthful? There are two sides to that story. 

There are many incognito writers I am aware off who go unannounced and craft beautifully written articles, however died out naturally in coverage due to ‘life’ happening to them in the interim. Eating out is a serious business these days and let’s not forget extremely expensive. 

Having said that the cycle of ad space vs articles is something people are banking on these days. Also there should ideally be no demarcation between traditional media and website blogs. A few known blogs have coverage close to rival of many regional papers and hence capitalize on the same much like how newspapers and magazines run. 

More eyeballs. Having said this in the matter of objectivity it’s a sharp sword. Once bitten indeed if a writer is not true to his word it shows through the readership of fans knowing that monetization ruined the piece written was not objective enough. 

All it takes are a few bad reviews and voila, one loses credibility in the eyes of all.”

Thank you for a wonderfully crafted piece.  

Ready.Set.Jump 

“Welcome to the jungle,” said the spider to the fly. You enter at ease, with dense scenic foliage around. Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary- a wildlife-protected sanctuary has an eclectic range of flora and fauna species nestled deep in the heart of South Goa. Painted billboards along the way, a guide to the forest dwellers inhabiting the jungle– king cobra, kraits, Russell vipers and the common rat snake and the elusive leopard and many species of spider and scorpion. Deep within the jungle is a hidden treasured extreme activity- Canyoning. An exhilarating technique-oriented sport, its activities range from walking, abseiling, wading and swimming through waist deep and open waters, scrambling, climbing, jumping and sliding down natural slopes. Imagine, Indiana Jones wet dream.

 Three guides, with a cumulative 25 years of experience, direct each expedition. Being a moderately risk defined activity- Safety is paramount. Medical kits are on standby– water, helmets and harnesses with a wet suit provided. Instructions are delivered post the signing, of a surreal consent form. It’s more dissuasive than persuasive. One has to be moderately fit, not afraid of snakes or spiders, and have no fear of water or heights.

 The jeep meanders an uphill road, a few grunts and shrieks later; arrives at the destination. You tread the off beaten path no more than a few feet wide with loose gravel and strewn spider webs on the earth’s floor for company. It’s humid and the smell of wet earth engulfs the air. There are ascents, which run 75o inclines that get you huffing & puffing. Itchy cacti stand guard to the river like militia. It gives you the sense of a quest for lost treasure – a secret to be discovered. One is allowed multiple breaks and the guides – Clement, Vlad and Philip – are an enthusiastic laugh riot. Their jabber makes the trek bearable. The sound of cascading water can be heard beyond the dense foliage ahead. The course charts 3kms in total, yet having barely crossed a kilometer, the lactic acids in ones legs start to build up.

 Standing at the cliff’s edge, one realizes there’s no turning back. Once underway, the way out is seeing it through the end. The Sauri River majestically makes its way over rocks and boulders with numerous waterfall drops in the distance. 

At a point in a deep cove, resides Brian- a water snake. Luck in their favor, the guides catch the elusive irate reptile and can make a formal introduction on request. The canyon puts one to the test, and chances to conquer it are high, though with a few minor nicks and scratches and a multitude of tumbles in tow expected. The ending for this beginner course is far more theatrical, to say the least. The last rappel against gushing water from up above, one is informed of the rope holding self is a few meters short. The only way left, is to let go!! Fear not, the water below embraces the fall tenderly much to the impish grins of the guides above. A sense of accomplishment beckons on departure amidst tired bones and muscle aches – which would have one ready to repeat this again. Or maybe it would be the adrenaline talking; longing to see Brian, once again.

 A great place to stay at is La Mangrove. A blink-and-miss eco resort in Katebag, it offers a modern tipi concept opposite a serene mangrove. An idyllic, tipi accommodation and river lounge garden in South-Goa, only 5 minutes by cycle from the beautiful protected Galgibag Beach, also known as Turtle Beach. It’s located in an authentic and charming Goan Catholic village, 25 minutes from the famous Palolem beach. The river lounge is a ‘bubble of fresh air,’ a place to escape from the hustle & bustle of life. 

A panoramic view of what expects you at La Mangrove 

The view transcends your senses to an alternate realm of peace and calm with only the occasional egret and Brahmin kite for company. Being an eco resort that’s one with nature, the tipis come with open-to-sky bathrooms and thatched walls right behind each with a common meeting and dining area right next to the mangrove. The reception is good with free wi-fi and a delectable organic menu to choose from.

 Perfect for an early morning awakening, with a hot cup of tea to watch the sun rise from behind the riverbed far ahead.

La Mangrove has an exclusive sitting area facing the river and mangrove. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are prepared daily with organic foods by their chef from a set menu. Serving a range of Indian, Tibetian & Continental -a must try is their La Mangrove Momos, Pasta a la carbonara, Tentuk soup. 

The deep fried chocolate momo’s with vanilla ice cream is a must try. 

The breakfast is part of the package with a choice of continental and a healthy option. The food prepared is fresh and wholesome. 

A scrumptious continental spread to start the day at La Mangrove 

Another option is 10 minutes away on Turtle Beach at Santosh Bar & Restaurant. Known for his fresh fish and recommended by Jamie Oliver you should ask for the catch of the day. 

Fresh catch of the day. Basic. Scrumptious. 

An unforgettable sunset amidst the crashing waves

Word of Advice: 

  • Avoid Canyoning if you suffer from arachnophobia
  • Canyoning is best done between October and March
  • If you suffer from any serious medical conditions it is best to avoid this activity as it is very strenuous on ones body.
  • There are a variety of levels to accomplish depending on fitness levels.

Tour Operator: It is recommended you book your stay through the website http://www.lamangrovegoa.com for the best deals. Thibault can be contacted on +91 8408086365 or lamangrovegoa@gmail.com

For the canyoning experience it is best booked with Emanuel Ferre the owner of Goa Jungle Adventure. He can be contacted on +919850485641 or manu@goajungle.com


 This article was written for Lonely Planet Magazine as part of their Easy trips. No part of this publication  can be reproduced without prior consent/ approval of LPMI. 

Chocolate momos, Fresh catch, breakfast, panoramic views, hammock Pic courtesy by Nolan Mascarenhas Photography. Shot on Iphone6. Images for main article shot by Sameer Mangtani.

Ant’s in my pant’s 

Many of you reading this post would relate to a statement in the affirmative if I stated ‘The ants in my pants, take me places’. Before you get naughty, let me course alight your ‘thought trajectory’- it’s directed towards my thoughts travelling at the speed of light and my body taking me places on roller blades ( I can hardly roller blade to save my life). I’ve lived the life of a nomad ever since I can remember. That would explain traversing and immersing myself in the culture of 5 states so far, though, all along being a true blue GOAN at heart. 
My last port of call was Aamchi Mumbai. I was content with the hustle bustle the city offered. The adrenaline rush garners from mad traffic jams, the eccentric neighbor hanging her inner’s for a breakfast view which was always abrupt (thank god for small mercies) except the occasional Sunday morning. Oh, the pollution and the smell of salt water form the docks nearby. I loved it all- learnt to love it more likely. Though, what did tug at me, was being away from the motherland- (NOT Portugal folks!!), GOA. 

Anyone who hears of someone coming back to Goa from the world outside, would whisper in closed circles of NOT being able to cut it in the real world and hence come running home to Mummy & Daddy. 

I always wondered, after 13 successful years in Corporate India ,what would Goa have to offer that I couldn’t find waiting for me outside? The answer would come to me a few years later-A state of mind. No pun intended. 

These days, I wear a multi dimensional hat and travel destinations my readers (i.e. YOU) get to read through my writings (aka rantings) 

People ask my parents- ‘what does Nolan do?‘ The poor folk with a befuddled ‘deer caught in headlights look‘ on their face,fail miserably on most occasion. A typical Lost in translation moment. 

If I have to straight jacket it in a nutshell for all you potential matchmakers out there- I consult for a few corporates and handle branding and marketing solutions along with a predominant role in the Hospitality, Lifestyle and Travel Industry. I am a techno savant. What is that? Ask Google. And, I live out of a suitcase 14-17 days a month (on a slow month

As a consultant, it allows me to lend suggestions and help boost the tourism of our fair state as an influencer, of a different kind of Goa- (that would entail NOT! entertaining last minute requests from ‘friends’ who need passes for Sunburn orSupersonic every December.)It’s for the betterment of Goa- rich in so much heritage and culture, food and traditions, and more importantly blessed with a right balanced ecosystem. 

A Goa, who I have shamefully abandoned all these years , in the quest for something better out there- only to realize it was here all along. 
Here’s to you GOA. Proud of be GOAN. 
The Burning Question- Times of India on hinteland tourism 
 

The Burning Question on transportation and taxi drivers in Goa-about their rude behavior and whether justified? 
 

GOA Calling: A Homestay Guide 

Every once in a while a magnum opus project comes ones way. For me this was in the form of the latest trends of #homestays for #timesofindia for the season 2015-2016. 

It was an arduous task traversing the length and breadth of this fine state of ours to being to you the top 20 #homestays     across India. 

Lucky and honoured to have catalogued and compiled the Goa chapter for this fantastic initiative. 

The guide is is available at your leading  bookstores. So before you head on over for the season do check out the list. It’s a home away from home experience. 

 

  

Grab your copy today!!