Hand in Hand…

Today, on the last day of the tumultuous year 2016, I offer you my first attempt at poetry. It was inspired from this sketch by my husband..



Together we stand hand in hand
Life’s mountains looming dark and high.

HE who united us,
Lights our path,
A path that took root from our hearts.

Traverse it we shall
Hand in hand
Through thorns and rocks and shackles of despair.

For though the world may shun and shame
We each in our hands hold
The biggest benediction that all may behold!


I write…

I write…
Not because I have to but because I do.

Like the dragonflies that flit around me
My soul flits around from place to place.

Like the breeze that weaves its way through the petals of a water lily,
My spirit yearns to wander.

Like the Monsoon clouds pregnant with rain, my heart yearns to sing.
Like that solitary Comorant, my dreams hope to soar.

Like the raindrops that prance about, a thousand pin pricks on the waters of the Vembanad,
My words seek to dance.


Where one does not just see Nature but
Becomes one with it.

(Video made by my husband Sarath Chandran RJ)


Grandmaster’s Kitchen: Not Quite a Checkmate

Pooja Sarath

It’s not often that one walks into a much hyped about restaurant to be greeted by an apologetic manager.

At around 8 p.m. on a Saturday earlier this month, my husband and I saunter into the Grandmaster’s Kitchen in Thiruvananthapuram for a quiet dinner.

“We’re sorry the tables are all full and there is a queue of reservations as well. We suggest you try the buffet. It has a much better spread than the temporary menu we’ve set up for the crowds,” said Vipin, the manager.

“Temporary menu?” we wonder aloud.

“You see, this restaurant is meant for a niche crowd, the kind who come to dine at a fine restaurant discussing movies, art or literature. It’s for their tastes that our menu has been structured. But being the first film-themed restaurant here, we have a lot of people coming in just to see the place. We’ve developed a basic menu for them,” he said.

“So when will this place be in full swing?” I ask, staring at the sepia tinted photographs of cinema greats plastered all over the walls in the foyer.

“It will take another week ma’am. Tonight our Saturday Special Grandmaster’s Buffet is the highlight,” he says escorting us up a flight of stairs.


The deco and ambience wins us over whetting our appetites. Designed in black and white, the central themes here are chess and cinema, the passions of the owner B. Unnikrishnan, a filmmaker. The photographs of film posters and actors from world cinema, great chess players, dialogues from popular Malayalam films and film songs playing in the background jostle for our attention.

The deco is neat and uncluttered albeit crowded. The tables are spaced a tad bit too close to each other for comfort.

The Grandmaster’s Buffet, priced at 599 rupees per head, was quite a basic spread.

We started with the Hot and Sour Chicken Soup. Even I who don’t usually like soups as they are often bland with too much corn flour actually liked this one. The flavors and spice were just right.

The Shrimp Salad that followed was a tad bit disappointing and uninteresting.

The Saffron Chicken Kebab as starter made up for the earlier disappointment with its balance of coriander, garlic and onion. The meat was succulent and had fully absorbed the subtle flavors of its marinade.

The rice and breads offered for main course were the usual spread of Tandoor Roti, Kerala Paratha, Steamed rice and Cashew Pulao. The accompaniments included Chicken in Chilly Oyster Sauce, Grandmaster’s Chicken, Beef Ularthiyathu and Fish Mango curry for the non-vegetarians and Baby Corn Mushroom Masala and Veg Kolhapuri.


Not exactly spoilt for choice, we decided to mix and match. My husband chose to have Kappa from among the starters with Beef Ularthiyathu and Chicken in Oyster Sauce while I chose Cashew Pulao with the Grandmaster’s Chicken.

The kappa, well cooked, paired well with both the Beef Ularthiyathu and the Chicken. While the Beef did justice to the traditional recipe, the Chicken in Chili Oyster Sauce was an explosion of flavors. The Grandmaster’s Chicken lived up to its name and was an ideal accompaniment to the Cashew pulao. The Gajar Ka Halwa for desert was a perfect end to the meal.

As for the service, well, there was some confusion in the air among the staff. But I guess they are just finding their feet in the initial days. We definitely will make another visit to Grandmaster’s Kitchen because it wasn’t as damp squib as some of the recent Malayalam flicks!

(Grandmaster’s Kitchen is located behind the Saphalyam Complex at Palayam in Thiruvananthapuram.)


The Wilderness Beckons


Ever been to a land where the air that embraces you hums and throbs with “Life”?

A land where the wilderness seeps in through the pores of your skin and conquers your heart.

A land where the splash of a single raindrop sends ripples through your entire being awakening senses you never knew existed.

Welcome to Thekkady.

Home to the richly diverse Periyar Tiger Reserve, Thekkady lies on the Kerala- Tamil Nadu border, barely 4km from the picturesque Kumily.

It is a mere 3 hours away from Kumarakom- the village tourism destination which witnessed the rise of Responsible Tourism initiatives in Kerala, Alappuzha- the hub of backwater Tourism and houseboats and Munnar- the land which regales visitors with the history of tea plantations in Kerala.The Periyar Tiger Reserve with over 1965 flowering plants, numerous species of wildlife and a vibrant variety of birds is where Nature unabashedly flaunts her beauty and grace.

 The way the artificial lake formed by the Mullaperiyar Dam reflects the myriad hues of green and entwines it with serenity is in itself disarming.

Situated on the northern boundary of the Periyar Tiger Reserve, deep in its dense forests, is the ancient Mangaladevi Temple. Made of huge pieces of granite, it stands at an altitude of 1337 m above the sea level embalmed in spiritual aura.

Yet another jewel hidden deep in the Tiger Reserve is the Lake Palace Resort. This century old palace was the summer retreat of the erstwhile Travancore kings. Today travelers stay here to take time off from the world to listen to the call of the wild. Thekkady offers travelers avenues for a wide range of accommodation facilities to choose from- both pocket-friendly and otherwise.

Be it praying at this mystic temple, trekking through the Tiger Reserve, Boating in the lake, bathing in the waterfalls, bamboo rafting, exploring the tribal life, art and culture, savouring the Village Life Experiences, enjoying the Elephant Safaris, pursuing the tiger trail or camping in the Jungles, Thekkady is sure to make you return to its embrace over and over again.


Draped in simplicity and adorned with grace, Thekkady is not just a destination. It is an experience in itself. Nuzzle into its arms, take a deep breath… and let go…

[A script written for a film on Thekkady.
The video of the same title is available on You Tube]

A Fragrant Legacy

Ever felt the cool mists of the Hill stations in Kerala kiss your cheek? Or trekked through the luxuriantly green forests of God’s Own Country?

When you do, stop in your tracks and breathe deeply to discover the fragrant blessings hidden deep in the bosom of Nature…

Every year the Monsoons conspire with the unique geography of the land to churn out a sensuous gift.

Spices- a small thing that made a BIG difference…


Their fragrance, enticing as it may be is subtle. Centuries ago it was this very fragrance- the scents of spices- that made ships from foreign lands set sailing in search of God’s Own Country.

Spices shaped Kerala’s destiny. It was the enticing scents and flavours of the spices that awakened the curiosity of explorers across the globe. Many braved mighty oceans and seas to seek this land out for its veritable treasure. Kerala’s spice trade with the world dates back to the 3rd millennium BCE when the legendary Spice Route was first formed.

Ancient Kerala was the hub of world trade. The Malabar Coast of Kerala was witness to the arrival of Arabs, Chinese, and European powers like the Portuguese, the French and the British. The spices of Kerala had become the most treasured and traded commodity. The port Muziris became the busiest of ports with sailors, traders and explorers making a beeline for it. For years this fabled land mesmerised Babylonians, Assyrians, Egyptians, Arabs, Chinese, Romans and Greeks.

Kerala with its warm, humid climate and hazy hill stations with loamy soil rich in organic matter and adequate rainfall makes it ideal for spices to thrive here. The high ranges of the state where most of the spices are grown have a unique climate and geographical features that give the spices a distinctive quality.

Cinnamon and Cardamom were the first to draw the attention of foreigners. It was much later that Pepper became the chief attraction of the Malabar Coast and received the title ‘Black Gold’.

Soon, one at a time Cloves, Ginger and Nutmeg also found their way into the list.

In Kerala the spice plantations are concentrated around Wayanad, Idukki, Munnar, Kumily Thekkady and Wagamon.

Kerala’s tryst with spices has survived the test of time. Remove spice from Kerala cuisine and you will understand how bland and flavourless Kerala would be sans its spices.

Irrespective of cultural, religious and other differences, spices occupy a special place in providing a unique flavour to the culinary specialties of Kerala.

Even today the scenario is no different. Spice extracts are a booming industry. Spice extracts are produced by extraction and distillation and represent the true essence of the spices. They represent the true essence of the spices and can replace spice powder with equal or better flavour characteristics.

Spices have and always will be an integral part of the cultural fabric of the state. The flavours and scents are timeless and have been passed on from generation to generation.

Even today the whole world stands enamoured by the fragrances of this quaint strip of land.


[Script written for a film on the Spices of Kerala

The video of the same title is available on You Tube]


The Legacy of Muziris


A legendary port, the heart of the historic Spice Route vanished off the grid over 3000 years ago. Historians and archaeologists spent years hunting far and wide for it but to no avail. Little did they know that a small town in Kerala, Pattanam, held the secrets to that ancient port hidden in its bosom.

The ancient world’s greatest trading centre in the East, the lost port Muziris traded in everything from spices to precious stones with the Greeks, Romans and the rest of the world. The name “Muziris” is said to be born from the native Tamil name to the port, “muciri”.

Hundreds of Amphora jar fragments, West Asian and Mesopotamian pottery, thousands of glass and stone beads, small gold, lead and copper ornaments, brick structural remains, human bones, roof tile pieces and more have helped piece together the rich legacy hidden in these sands.

The Muziris Heritage Project initiated by the Government of Kerala with the support of the Central Government is reviving that lost legacy to conserve and showcase a culture of 3000 years or more for posterity.

The heritage that sleeps in these sands is as significant as the Indus Valley.

The project utilizes at a global level the possibilities of a region that forms a part of the heritage tourism circuit between North Parur and Kodungalloor.

The Muziris region is home to social reformer Sahodaran Ayyapan, Nationalist leader Abdul Rahman Sahib, scholars like Kunjikuttan Thampuran and Kesari Balakrisha Pillai and social movements like the Paliam Satyagraha. The entire project is designed to involve and integrate the local community in all intended developmental initiatives.

A MoU with the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has been signed to begin a historic cooperation between the State and the world’s foremost cultural organization for promoting and protecting the ancient Spice Route heritage.

Muziris welcomes you to the cape of trade culture, left behind by its ancestors from around the world, to the waves of Azhikode where Christianity first entered India, to the Cheraman mosque, which gave out the first Muslim call for prayers, to the legendary Kodungalloor Bhagavathy Temple, to the original culture of the Jewish synagogue, to the village where handloom spins think of heritage, to the Palium palace and to the old waterways that lead one to Muziris.

Once the doorway to India for varied cultures and races including Buddhists, Arabs, Chinese, Jews, Romans, Portuguese, Dutch and even the British, Muziris has stood witness to civilisations being born, wars being waged and history being written.

Come… let us together clamber down the ladders of time to a past whose riddles await us. A past cloaked in the grandeur and glory of our ancestors…


The video of the same title is available on You Tube]

When it Rains Memories :)


The rains have a way with people. Ever noticed it?

I don’t know if it is snuggling together over hot tea in the cold, damp weather or the topic of school day memories that triggered it but teatime at office today was heartwarming 🙂

I’d like to think of it as a bit of both or more frankly, the rains.

As the skies rumble, the day darkens under the heavy, black skies. Huge luscious Raindrops splatter down crooning ballads to the heart.

Sitting at the age old table around which teatimes have been enjoyed for years now, I watch each of my colleagues being wooed into the soothing notes of the rains. Nostalgia stirs awake in each eye. Lips curl into smiles at some distant memory of perhaps fighting with siblings over paper boats in the muddy waters of their homelands.

Somebody mentions the joy of her 3year old son in going to school today as he was excited about getting to wear his brand new pink raincoat.

Dams burst. Nostalgia surges forth from each of those gathered. Childhood tales are shared. 40 year olds become 3 year olds with memories sparkling in their eyes. Laughter ensues. Time flies.

The rains do have a way with coaxing nostalgia out from its slumber doesn’t it…?

Or is that this Season in Kerala with its blend of soothing winds, crooning raindrops and luxuriant green rejuvenates our hearts, awakening the child in us…?

The Monsoons have finally arrived! 🙂

A life of Deaths or Births?

Life is filled with many a death is it not?

The death of a baby when she becomes a toddler. The death of a toddler when she becomes a child. The death of a child when she comes of age and becomes a teen. The death of a teen when she grows up into a maiden. The death of a maiden when she becomes a woman.

Or is it that life is built with many a life..?

Is it that the baby, toddler, child, teenager and lady all together build, a bit at a time the woman or man you were born to be?

32 days ago the unmarried, carefree girl in me died as I stepped into the comforting embrace of matrimony.

I am no longer alone… 🙂

‘I’ has become ‘WE’ in all my thoughts and actions.

My world has a new occupant and I now occupy a new world.

A new home, family, people, experiences, feelings, thoughts, environment…

I took a leap of faith.

(So did my husband for that matter. 😛 )

I am scared. Terrified in fact. I have left behind what had been my biggest comfort zone for the last 24 years.

I now stand with Life looming large over me.

But with each day passing though there is a bit of heaviness in my heart, I feel happy. Safe. Content.

My Man is everything I wished for 🙂











A Perfect Fit!

‘A’ for Amma (Mother)

“Is that chain’s lock tight enough? Take it off for a sec, lemme see…”

My heart was pounding. I had spent the entire week rehearsing how to break the surprise to her over and over again but still had no clue whatsoever as to how to go about it.

Y’see, I had bought my mother a gift, a locket and wanted to surprise her with it.

Why then am I more scared than thrilled?

Well, it isn’t any ordinary locket. It is what is called the ‘Thali’ in my native language, Malayalam. The Thali is considered to be the symbol of matrimony and is worn by all women when they are wed. In our weddings, the ritual in which the groom ties the Thali around the neck of his bride is the moment that solemnizes their union.


In my Mother’s case, through the years, at some point she had been forced to pawn the gold chain and later the locket and had thereby lost both.

It is only in some remote childhood memory that I remember seeing my mother adorned with the Thali around her neck. Later her priorities shifted from herself to her children and so it never had occurred to her to get herself a new one.

Recently, Dad had gifted her with a new gold chain but sans the locket. I had, since childhood (after having overheard her mention her Thali to Dad in a fit of rage), planned on getting her one when I finally start earning my own living.

This time, I had finally gathered enough funds to buy one. The purchase was in itself fun. I had no idea whatsoever about buying gold. After a bit of asking around and gathering information, I got Espero to accompany me.

It was a rainy, wet evening. The roads were blocked and was slushy everywhere. The two of walked into the jewelers drenched to the bone.

Now, how does one select a locket?!

Who would’ve imagined the sheer variety of designs available for such a small locket! From fancy, gaudy designs to simple ones. Espero and I both liked the simplest of the lot.

There! For the first time in my life I had bought gold with the money I earned. 🙂

The rest of the week was spent imagining how my mother would react to my gift. The biggest fear was if she would be angry or offended by it.

So here I was, watching Mom with a racing heart as she removed her chain from around her neck and placed it in my outstretched palm.

We were both sitting at the dining table in the midst of an animated discussion about fashion when I slyly snuck in the topic of different types of gold chains. I needed an excuse to make her remove hers so that I could give it back with the locket on.

I held the chain in my hand inspecting it innocently.

So far so good except that the locket lay upstairs in my bag.

“Lemme try it on. Just a sec.”

I jumped up from my seat and ran up to my room with the chain on the pretext of wanting to see myself in the mirror.

I hurriedly dumped the contents of my handbag on my bed in search of the tiny jewel box. I opened it, took out the locket and tried to string it in the chain.

Drat! They don’t match!

The eye of the locket was way too small for the chain to fit in.

I felt my heart sink. So much for all that planning and excitement.

I replaced the locket in the tiny box and walked down the stairs along with the chain.

I gave her the chain and along with it the small box.

She looked up quizzically.

“What is this?” her eyes were surprised.

“I wanted to surprise you Amma but all my plans got screwed. Open it. I bought it for you.”

She opened it, saw the locket and threw me a look I shall carry with me unto death.

It was one of those rare moments when you can utterly feel joy ripple forth.

Amma’s face flushed. Eyes welled up.

As I knelt beside her busy explaining why my plans flopped and pretending I didn’t notice the weight of emotion in her eyes, for the first time in years she caressed my hair and for a fragment of a moment held my face in her palm.

The next moment she was racing up the stairs to show dad the gift. That moment, my friend, is by far THE BEST moment in my life!

To be responsible for that drop of joy that shimmered in her eyes that day…

Blessed I am! 🙂

I love you Amma. Always have. Always will.

P.S- As for the locket not fitting in, it was a misconception taking root from the fact that I knew absolutely nothing about chains and lockets.

It was a perfect fit.

From Ms. to Mrs.

On the verge of getting married, here I am taking stock (kind of) of my life so far.

In an attempt to understand this whirlwind of emotions in my heart right now, I hope to take myself through the A-Z of my life.

An alphabet for each facet of my life that alphabet brings to mind.

As usual, I have no idea if I will complete this but I’d like to believe I will.

They say it is good to be vulnerable from time to time. Iliria gives me that space and hopefully it will help me discover why they say being vulnerable is good. We’ll see….

So here I go!