Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Text by: Tanya Munshi
Photographs by: Aranyak Sen

When you plan on visiting Sikkim, here are five major tourist attractions that you must pay a visit. Aranyak Sen, Director at Siddhartha Logistics Pvt. Ltd, shares his experiences and photographs on a memorable trip to Sikkim.

Sikkim's favourite sepoy
A visit to Nathu La is mandatory. Once a stop on the Silk Route, Nathu La, which means listening ears, is a pass connecting India with China which was opened after 44 years in 2006.

On your way to Nathu La don't miss the Baba's Mandir. Frequented by locals, defence personnel, mountaineers and tourists, this is a very popular tourist and pilgrim destination situated on the road to Kupup near Nathu La, at a height of 14,500 ft in east Sikkim.

This is a memorial built in honour of Sepoy Harbhajan Singh of the 23rd Punjab Regiment, who apparently drowned near here in 1968 and it is believed that his samadhi brings good luck. It is considered a good omen to visit the shrine before setting off for a journey.

Ever seen a clouded leopard?
The Himalayan Zoological Garden offers a peek into some of the most exotic flora and fauna of the mountains. Situated at a height of 5,840 ft. (1780 m) at Bulbuley, it is about three km from Gangtok. Spread across 200 hectares, the park is a home to the barking deer, the red panda, spotted deer, bear, the civet cat, the clouded leopard, the snow leopard. The zoological garden is really awesome, extremely picturesque and a relaxing place to spend a day.

The solitary temple 
Rumtek and Enchey are the best-known monasteries of Sikkim. Rumtek is the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Sikkim and 24 km outside Gangtok. Enchey which means 'solitary temple', is more than 200 years old and is in Gangtok.

Afternoon at Changu Lake
I particularly liked the Tshangu Lake. It was a good two and a half hour drive from the city. The Tshangu or the Changu Lake is about 400 kms from Lhasa and very close to the Nathu La (20 kms). Prior permission is required for visiting the lake as it is located in a restricted area. Your local guide/ hotel can arrange that for you.

Being situated in a high altitude of about 12,600 ft, this lake freezes during winter and that makes it one of the most exotic locations in Sikkim. The beautiful mountain flowers, like the gorgeous primula when it is in full bloom, together with the highland trees add further beauty to this lake making it quite like paradise on earth.

Published in, on 22nd June, 2007

Monday, March 7, 2011

Four food habits to avoid at work

Text by: Tanya Munshi

Your days are packed with schedules and lunch meetings. Sometimes you wish you ate one square meal that would not make you feel guilty, especially when you know you haven't eaten right. But most of the time, do we have a choice? The fact is, we have, only if we control our urge to binge.

Dietician Janaki Rawal of Parulekar's Gym, Mumbai offers some vital tips with regards to office eating habits:

Cheat foods
Cheat foods are those food items that help us satisfy our appetites, but don't provide us with any nutrition other than loads of useless calories. So the next time you sip on a cola or bite into a burger or pizza, know that you're cheating your tummy with the wrong type of food. Opt for the healthier option, rather than the tastier option.

Heavy-duty caffeine
Tea and coffee can surely add that zing to your day, but try and limit it to two cups. Too much of caffeine can lead to acidity.

Irregular meals
"By continuously being irregular about your eating habits, you land up confusing your body about the next meal of the day. As a result, your body tends to slow down its metabolic activities that further leads to food getting stored in your body as fat," mentions Janaki. So as far as possible, stick to your meal timings and avoid skipping meals no matter how important your meeting is.

Heavy dinner
Since work hours are becoming longer, and in spite of returning home late at night, we tend to eat heavy meals. It cannot be helped, especially when it's the only meal we get to eat with our families. But if wise choices are made, then this late night dinners can be made healthy. Dinner should always be light -- with salads, dal, chapatti, sabzi and a chicken/ fish dish (optional).
Keep your lunch simple too, with the same formula -- roti, dal, sabzi and chicken/ fish. Avoid too much of masala or gravy, if eating from your office cafeteria. End your meal with curd and fruit. Eat till the point you feel satiated, there is no point in over-eating, but don't skip meals or eat poorly either. Remember, with the hours that you put in, you must eat well.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day

Text by: Tanya Munshi

February 14, a very special day indeed. Lovers swoon with mushy cards, cuddly teddies, and candle-lit dinners. Lovebirds giggle away in cozy corners, sharing a strawberry sundae, oblivious of onlookers!
With an ongoing debate on the validity of this day that it's against our cultural values and ethos, it cannot be denied that love knows no culture or religion.

How it began
It all began with a third Century tale of heroism, bravery and love. A St. Valentine took the courage to defy the Emperor Claudius. Why? The power thirsty emperor wanted to possess the biggest army possible. Since men refused to join the army for the fear of losing their families, Emperor Claudius banned marriages.
But braving all odds, for what he believed, St. Valentine continued to get lovers married secretly, till he was thrown into prison by the cruel emperor. While being in prison he befriended the jailor's daughter and just before being hanged, he left a note to her, signed `From your Valentine'.
Valentines for all

What the emperor tried to erase back in history still thrives in our present century. This day is celebrated all across the world. Openly or secretly, it only proves that love thrives in all possible conditions.
But is this day only meant for lovers? Not necessarily. Valentine's Day can be celebrated by one all who enjoy life to the fullest. Wearing the colour red to work, buying fresh flowers and placing them in a vase in your house, baking a cake, cooking something special for yourself or your folks, going out with friends for a movie or lunch, watching your favourite movie at home over popcorn and coffee are just as special in celebrating this day.
Keeping aside the red hearts for lovers for a while, this day can be used to express one's affection for a friend, a sibling, parents or even your pet. We need not limit love to only our spouse or a lover, your favourite plant in your balcony can also be a part of this celebration.

Be in love with yourself first, if you wish to love another. So celebrate this day even if you are single. If you're in a relationship, don't let commercialism bog you down. No diamonds and pearls, or expensive dinners can earn you the affection of another. Don't expect riches; be true to one another, stand up for one another and be committed to one another: This what matters at the end.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Calcutta Restaurant Guide> Someplace Else

Image 1 - Behold - the menu card..err...plank!

Image 2: The crowd at Someplace Else

Image 3 - Basket of fries - where's the basket and where are the fries?

Text by: Tanya Munshi

Someplace Else is a haven for wannabes, snooty people, women with loud costumes and the like. I am sorry to say, Someplace Else is by far the worst place I have ever visited. Where do I begin from? Their menu card which looks like a cross between a weapon, boomerang and a Frisbee. Come on, being stylish is one thing, but one should know where to draw the line.

The food is overpriced for the paltry portions they offer. The waiters at Someplace Else have their ego and snoot up their sleeves. I am really amazed that in Calcutta, the places that I have visited so far are full of snooty staff and people and for what? Why can't just people be normal, be human!

This time some of us childhood friends who are from Mumbai met up for the first time in Calcutta. We thought it would be best to celebrate over dinner at Bar-be-Que. But one of them who was visiting Calcutta after seven years was keen on checking out the night life of the city, and was adamant no matter how much we thought it would be best for a quiet dinner for four. Reluctantly, we headed to our pub hopping spree in Calcutta.

The other friend who is also from Mumbai and owns a company in Calcutta is now more familiar with the city. He did mention that Thursdays are the most boring days for pubbing in Calcutta. Reluctantly, we headed to the Underground, but it was not open to public thanks to a private party. Then we headed to Tantra - it was empty and finally we headed to Someplace Else and it was full of I don't know what to call them.

There was a live band performance that Thursday night in Someplace Else and they were trying so hard to be cool. Somewhere they lost the connection between their audience and what they were playing.

There were hardly any women in the pub, only two or three who walked in and with what they were wearing, it was blast from the past. The dress sense was atrocious, please ladies, those are passé. Its time you moved on with your dress sense.

I am told that Someplace Else was one of the best and hottest night clubs in Calcutta, I believe them. But now, they tell me, its no longer that good.

A place gets its reputation, character and style not only from the people who work there, but also with the clientele who visit; and neither of this was good at Someplace Else. I recommend, if at all you are planning to visit Someplace Else in Calcutta, either you skip it or go in a group as you're going to get thoroughly bored and irritated with the crowd and ambience.

When I was looking at the wooden plank of a menu card, the waiter came up to our table and turned the plank around for me with a raised eyebrow, as if I don't know how to read a menu card. I gave him dagger looks and said thanks and he apologized immediately as he realized he was trying his stunts at the wrong place.

The so called basket of fries, minus the basket of course came with a few fried onion rings, french fries and some cheese balls. We were fed up by the place and left within an hour of arriving. Someplace Else - can be totally skipped, unless The Park decides to do something positive about it.

A party at home with friends is a much better option than a visit to Someplace Else. In short, Someplace Else is a highly overpriced, snooty and a not-so-happening pub in Calcutta.

Basket of Fries - Rs. 315/-
Large Blender's Pride - Rs. 350/-
Large Celebration - Rs. 350/-
Small Baccardi Breezer - Rs. 250/-

Overall Rating:
Ambience - *
Service - *
Presentation of food & drinks -  *
Quantity of food served - *
Quality of food - *
Price - *
The Snoot Factor - They top the chart!

Someplace Else,
The Park

*Please Note - Pricing may change/ vary according to location and time.

Calcutta Restaurant Guide> Arsalan

Text by: Tanya Munshi

Our flight was late, thanks to the single operational runaway at Mumbai airport. We reached Calcutta after 10pm and the hunger pangs were running overdrive and so on our way home, we stopped by at Arsalan an extremely popular Biryani joint.

It was almost 11 pm, mutton biryani was over. We were disappointed, but we opted for the next best thing - chicken biryani and two plates of reshmi kebabs. We reached home by midnight and wolfed down the biryani with not a trace of the food left on the plate; which means, the food was fantastic and of course we were hungry.

If you're in Calcutta, and you don't taste biryani, then I think you may have missed something. You must have a biryani dish at least once in your trip and of course from Arsalan.

The place was packed that night, while some chose to eat there, others did takeaways. Since it was Christmas week, Arsalan declined all home delivery offers. I don't think people minded that. I got their takeaway menu and they have a lot to offer from Mutton in gravy, Chicken in gravy, Tandoori and Kebabs, Fishy kebabs, gravy and seafood, vegetarian and rolls.

The only thing I remember that night was enjoying a warm goblet of brandy, relishing the fluffy rice of the chicken biryani and dozing off to sound sleep in the cool wintry night of Calcutta.

Mutton Biryani - Rs. 75/-
Mutton Biryani special - Rs. 120/-
Biryani Arsalan - Rs. 80/-
Chicken Biryani - Rs. 75/-
Chicken Biryani special  - Rs. 120/-
Vegetable Biryani - Rs. 30/-

Overall Rating:
Ambience - * * * * (food is more important here)
Service - * * * * * (super fast)
Presentation of food & drinks -  Don't bother
Quantity of food served - * * * * * (excellent)
Quality of food - * * * * * (brilliant)
Price - * * * * * (total VFM)
The Snoot Factor - None.

1) Marina Garden Court,
191, Park Street
7 Point Crossing
Phone - 033 - 2284-8556/ 3291-8297

2) 28, Circus Avenue
Phone - 2281-3921/ 2290-0487

*Please Note - Pricing may change/ vary according to location and time.

Calcutta Restaurant Guide> Mama Mia

Image 1: Mama Mia! What is all this?

Image 2: The staff. Their in-charge (missing in this photo) was super snooty

Image 3: Dreamy desserts

Image 4: Cup cakes!

Image 5: Dessert delight

Image 6: Dessert dream
Photographs by: Tanya Munshi

Text by: Tanya Munshi

My only interaction with Mama Mia was at the Calcutta Club's Bakery Carnival. They made my visit to the carnival memorable by being snooty. Frankly speaking, they had the best stall at the carnival with some of the best baked exhibits on display, but mama mia, it won't earn your bread and butter -sorry, pastry and gelato (pun intended)  from being snooty and rude to your customers. But honestly, had I been a judge at the carnival, I would have given them first prize for the best presentation, but then the buck stops there.

I asked for a slice of a chocolate cake and the staff at Mama Mia said, "Ma'am, would you like an ice cream to go with it? We have ice creams too."

I thought, why not and when I paid Rs. 65/- worth of coupon (we had to buy coupons from the club counter), he said, "Another Rs.65/- Ma'am."

I asked, "For what?"

He said, "The ice cream."

I said, "You should have told me it's extra cost, and there was no price list that says, ice cream scoop cost extra!"

The snooty Mama Mia guy said, "If you don't want it, don't take it'!"

Woah! I thought...what attitude. Doing us a favour by serving ordinary pastries and ice creams. Let me tell you, Monginis is far better ;) The point is, it is not about paying the extra Rs. 65/- bucks, but to be honest and not thinking your clients are fools.

There is a lot that goes into making a brand successful and being snooty and over smart is definitely not going to take anybody anywhere. There is a way of handling miscommunication. The price of the pastries were mentioned in tags, but if you are charging extra for something, do let your customers know.

So if I did ask them as to why they did not mention the extra cost in the first place, there was no reason for the guy in charge at Mama Mia to raise an eye brow. Dude, you're just an employee, and you behave like you own the place! (You can see how pissed I am with their unprofessional behaviour).

You may think you have made an extra profit of 65 bucks, but ask yourself, is it really worth the bad publicity and your customers going back disgruntled? Anyway, we paid that extra Rs. 65/- for a piddly vanilla ice cream scoop and I made up my mind to write about this. 

We have grown up with brands like Monginis, they were never rude to us. There is a Monginis everywhere in India and we remember growing up celebrating every birthday with a cake ordered from Monginis (my favourite Pineapple Pastry Cake), and they never made us feel out of place. So why the snoot factor from new comers? Just because brands like Mama Mia come up with gelato and pastries which are phoren sounding,  does not give you the licence to be rude to your customers. 

Calcutta Restaurant Guide> Wow Momos

Image: The Bakery Carnival at Calcutta Club

Text by: Tanya Munshi

Started by Sagar Daryani, Wow Momos is the new momo destination in Calcutta. I met him with my aunt at Spencer's in Calcutta two years ago, when he had just launched Wow Momos. While my mom and aunt shopped for groceries, I longingly admired the hot steaming momos and was pleasantly surprised when they offered me a free sample. Now I am a Wow Momo fan!

Later when Sagar came up to my aunt and she was very happy to see that the little boy she taught in Class IV is now a proud owner of Wow Momos.

When we were in Calcutta in December 2010 for Christmas, we attended the Bakery Carnival at the Calcutta Club. It was a field day for my husband and I as we love the food in Calcutta and thanks to the carnival, we got a wide variety in one single destination. What more could we ask for!

While we browsed through the many stalls, we came across the snooty Mama Mia stall. Nothing extraordinary. Just that their stall had some of the best looking exhibits. I asked for a slice of a chocolate cake and the staff at Mama Mia said, "Ma'am, would you like an ice cream to go with it? We have ice creams too."

I thought, why not and when I paid Rs. 65/- worth of coupon (we had to buy coupons from the club counter), he said, "Another Rs.65/- ma'am." I asked, for what? He said, the ice cream. You should have told me it's extra cost, and there was no price list as well! The snooty Mama Mia guy said, "If you don't want it, don't take it'!  Woah! I thought...what attitude. Doing us a favour by serving ordinary pastries and ice creams. Let me tell you, Monginis is far better ;) The point is, it is not about paying the extra Rs. 65/- bucks, but to be honest and not thinking your clients are fools.

Anyway, we paid that extra Rs. 65/- for a piddly vanilla ice cream scoop and I made up my mind to write about this. People at the Calcutta Club were brimming with ego and snoot! So ofcourse, only lesser mortals like me would ask why don't you put up a price list like the other stalls and why don't you say that an ice cream scoop will cost extra along with a cake slice! I could see the aunties with kilos of make up and off shoulder blouses almost fainting upon hearing what I said. Come on kakimas and mashimas. it's really okay.

What saved the day, were the chicken momos at Wow Momos and I got to meet Sagar Daryani again. It was really nice to meet him again and seeing him do very well. He had also placed a copy of The Telegraph with an article about him and his friend and how they started Wow Momos. I am very happy for him and more so, I can see my aunt beaming with pride as well.

I like Sagar's marketing skills, his perseverance which gave momos a brand new dimension to the people of Calcutta. I know, a lot of people swear by the momos in China Town and else where, but then this isn't bad either. His staff was warm and courteous and I was glad to see how well they handled the heavy rush at the carnival with no signs of distress. Hats off to Wow Momos.

Steamed Chicken Momos - Rs. 45/- per plate
Chicken Capsicum Momos - Rs. 45/- per plate
Prawn Momos - Rs. 70/- per plate (can be better)
Paneer Momos - Rs. 39/- per plate
Mushroom Momos - Rs. 50/- per plate

Overall Rating:
Ambience - Fast food stalls in various malls
Service - * * * * *
Presentation of food & drinks - * * * * *
Quantity of food served - * * * *
Quality of food - * * * * *
Price - * * * * *
The Snoot Factor - None.

You'll find Wow Momos in Spencer's in South City Mall, Avishar, Pantaloons in Gariahat, Big Bazaar in Sealdah, Gangulibagan, Ecospace in Rajarhat and New Empire Cinema in Lindsay Street.

Phone: +91-9830744776
*Please Note - Pricing may change/ vary according to location and time.