Masala Chai, Anyone?

My dearest Komal, Anjli and Amar,

Masala Chai
Masala Chai

Please make yourselves a cup of chai before you commence  reading this letter!

A few days back, we had  a surprise visit from our dear friends and ex-neighbours, Gabriela and Enrico. The time was perfect, 4.30 in the afternoon, so I offered them some masala chai. I was not the good Gujarati host, in that I did not offer any chevdo or ganthia or home-made biscuits to accompany the chai. To be honest, I didn’t have any to offer! So the next best thing was to offer them some famous British digestive biscuits. These digestives were brought over from London as a ‘present’ for Ba! Now I couldn’t just offer chai on its own, could I? I think the digestives went down well with the masala chai!

Chevdo, Ganthia with Masala Chai
Chevdo, Ganthia with Masala Chai

Chevdo and ganthia are great snacks but who makes them at home nowadays? All that deep-frying and the fry-up-oily-atmosphere takes days to dispel. Just buy them from any of the Indian/Gujarati outlets in the U.K. or U.S.A.  As for our get together, it was a great afternoon of masala chai and nattering, something I would love to do with all of you. So many things we could chat about.

So here goes,….just imagine we are all drinking steaming chai and nattering at the breakfast table.

I would love to discuss all the reading I am doing. My book club encourages me to read subjects I would not otherwise pick.

Foal's Bread
Foal’s Bread

Take the last book we read: ‘Foal’s Bread’ by Gillian Mears. It was all about horse-racing and farming in Australia during the period between the two World Wars. Usually it takes me at least the first 30 pages to get into a book, but this one started with such a forceful dramatic scene, that it kept me engaged to the last page. I even ended up crying at a couple of points, and not just tears rolling down my cheeks, but a full-blown sobbing session! My secret is that I do love reading books where the situation moves me and I can empathise with the character.

I am at present compiling my contribution of recommendations for our book club for the coming year. Komal your involvement in the play, ‘No dogs, No Indians’ has inspired me to look up the famous Bengali author Rabindranath Tagore. Not that Tagore wrote this play but he was influential in the Indian thinking of that time. His beautifully written book ‘The Home and the World’ is keeping me engaged at the moment. Also the book you got for me from Lahore, ‘The Crow Eaters’ by Bapsi Sidhwa, made for some ardent discussions at our book club meeting. Thanks.

The other intense book was ‘All the Light We Cannot See’ by Anthony Doerr. I think Anjli you are the only one who hasn’t read it so far. Besides the Rabindranath Tagore book, I am also trying to read the epic ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ by John Steinbeck. Trying is the operative word here, but I think I have now reached a point of no return and should make it to the end of the book. Who says only Indian authors churn out sad depressing stories? I am only quoting what one of my friend said. Keep in mind that there are many upbeat Indian story tellers a…n…d all sad depressing stories have cheerful aspects and life long lessons to communicate. So keep reading.

Tell me, what are you all reading now? Amar I do witness that you are a fast and…prolific  reader. Thankfully, with the advent of Kindle, your room is not overflowing with books! Kindle is very convenient, but feel free to label me ‘an old person’ for I still prefer the touch of a physical book in my hand. I know, Komal, you are busy with your rehearsals and swatting your dialogues, but it warms my heart to know that you still make time to read.

Anjli on the Piano
Anjli on the Piano 

What about you Anjli?

I realise that your work requires you to do a lot of factual reading and so reading for pleasure becomes secondary. However, I am very glad to see you have resumed your passion for piano.

Many activities are keeping me busy, not the least of which are my letters to you. One other activity is to immerse into the innumerable free online courses available on the internet these days: MOOC, Massive Online Open Courses. Judging by the discussions during the courses, I can see they keep many pensioners’ brain cells working. That should not exclude you three though. There are many contemporary subjects on offer and you can do these courses at any time sitting in your own home, on the train or even at your local coffee bar! ‘Futurelearn’ is where I engage my brain cells. My current course is ‘Genomic Medicine’, dealing with diabetes and the human genome sequence. Diabetes is prevalent in the East African Gujarati community as is evident from my family history and genomic medicine is the  modern method of dealing with different diseases. This is where future medicine is moving to. My 70’s Pharmacy degree seems rather outdated now!

Writing these letters to you and also my other passions have made me read and follow many other writers and websites. I will list here my current ‘blog roll’ as it is termed. Perhaps you too can follow some of these or even better, share your own blog roll with me in your comments. I would love to know what keeps you all animated.

  • LESSONS IN LIFE Marc & Angel Hack Life Great website for boosting my self-confidence and keeping me grounded.
  • FOOD BLOGS Chef in Disguise Love the middle-eastern recipes Sawsan uploads and her photographs are just exemplary.
    • Dinner For N(one) Wonderful ideas for quick meals and using everyday (and exotic) ingredients.
    • Pink Rose Bakery Perfect place to look up baking recipes and detailed write ups on gluten-free products.
    • Yoga with Adriene Adriene uploads yoga videos on YouTube on a regular basis and makes regular yoga practice seem so easy.
    • Diary of a Mazungu Mazungu=a white person. This is Charlotte’s diary of life in my country of birth, Uganda.
    • Bookshelf of Emily I get lots of inspirations for reading through this blog and the fact that Emily has visited Pune makes me feel like I am her buddy.
    • Mimi G Style This website fulfills many of my sewing aspirations. Mimi was also inspirational in my blogging  journey.
    • Shooter A Facebook link to our friend Ujjwal Majumder who takes some amazing photos.
    • Photography with Emma Davies I have been following Emma for almost a year. I now need to actually put into action some of her substantial suggestions.

After my hectic life of London over a period of 15 years, when you were all very young, and I was running a business and tackling the ‘headless-chicken’ life of London, coming to Switzerland has been just the exact opposite. If you are ever at the cross-roads of life, remember, stay positive and you will always find a more wonderful new opportunity to embrace. If you ever doubt that, just remember all the wonderful opportunities life has thrown at me over the years. I never got around to learning the piano or riding the bicycle last summer. Perhaps this summer! Yoga and hiking are still high on my activity list. I am now working towards enticing Dad to join my yoga sessions.

This last weekend we had a few of our friends over for brunch. A variety of Indian, British and Swiss foods were on offer. Besides the masala chai, Dad was also offering Bucks-fizz as the traditional breakfast drink. Judging by what was left, we feel everyone enjoyed the food. It also gave me an idea to send you some details of the planning of this event. Like a diary of the choice of food, the shopping and sequence of preparing. I would hope such a diary could help you in planning a dinner party for your friends. Interested? If so, let me know and I will include this in one of my future letters. Now drink your tea up before it gets cold.

In the meantime, please find recipes for , Masala Chai (obviously), and Puris (પૂરી). Puris, specially tikhi puri (તીખી પૂરી) and chundo (છુંદો, sweet mango pickle) are a favourite Sunday morning breakfast items. You can buy chundo from some of the Asian store or of course there will always be a bottle ready (made by me) for when you are next home. I will put up the chundo recipe in the near future, but would you attempt to make it?

Before I end this letter, I want to know if you made the time to work out my quiz in the letter titled, Patels of Gujarat? I am waiting to see your answers in the comments. Show me that you still have some Gujarati heritage in you!

Until my next letter, with all my love, hugs and kisses,

Vishfully yours,


8 thoughts on “Masala Chai, Anyone?”

  1. Dear Peter, Thank you for your encouraging words. I am curious….how did you stumble upon this website? Do please tell.
    All the best and stay safe.

  2. Hi Mum,

    I would love to read some of the books you mentioned above. I’m currently reading Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. After working on this play I really want to read “A Fine Balance” which I know you keep on recommending. Please do keep the books aside so I can read when I visit.

  3. It certainly is your beautiful cup. Eagerly await to hear your tune(s). As for the dinner party guide, I am working on it. Be on the lookout! Looking forward to seeing you soon. Lots of love, Mum

  4. Your new ‘keyboard’ (it’s a digi piano right?) looks amazing!!!’

  5. I recognise that tea cup in the first pic mum! In fact I just had masala chai out of it this past Sunday (with the masala you brought me last time you were here!)

    I’m enjoying getting back into piano, hopefully I’ll have something to perform to you when I see you next! Working on a nice piece right now, I’m obviously a bit rusty tho, having not played properly in 10 years!!

    Yes I would love a dinner / brunch party guide in the next letter, I can only hope to become half the hostess you are!

    Love Anjli

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