The Man Behind India’s Favorite Snack Foods

Saveur · October 27, 2017

Three years ago, I packed my suitcases to move to Colombo, Sri Lanka as an Indian expatriate. In addition to the glossy silk saris and the gold jewelry I had been given for my wedding, I packed several small, sealed packets that carried their own significant emotional heft. I had tucked away small batches of milagai podi—“gunpowder,” a searing South Indian blend of roasted and powdered lentils and spices known as to mix with rice or sprinkle over buttered bread, along with plastic bottles of ghee and a few kilograms of fine coffee powder. Like Indian migrants through the ages, I had a contingency plan for homesickness—and it included condiments and ready-to-eat meals by Maiyas.

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The Perfect Day in Colombo

Parts Unknown · October 26, 2017

When I first moved to Colombo from Mumbai, India, now more than three years ago, I was immediately struck by how horizontal the city seemed to be. Having lived most of my life in the populous and vertiginous commercial capital of India, Colombo’s squat skyline, composed of spacious houses and vast, open spaces draped in a thick cloak of greenery, took me somewhat by surprise. Unused to the idea of a city that laid out its charm so plainly, I assumed that it would be easy to get to know the “real” Colombo. With time and experience, I have come to the humbling realization that despite its diminutive size, Colombo is several cities contained in one.

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Hungry in Ho Chi Minh City

Livemint · September 30, 2017

I don’t have an aptitude for maps. When I arrive in a new city, my mental compass still in transit, the lines and squiggles on a map give me cold comfort. Unlike those who fearlessly conquer unfamiliar roads, wielding their maps like a weapon, I generally straggle along, searching for a signpost that can set my bearings straight. Usually, that signpost is a street cart. There is no surer consolation than the yeasty aroma of just baked bread, or the smoke rising from meat barbecuing on a rickety roadside stand. No matter how disoriented I am, hitting upon a street stall is usually all it takes to push the reset button.

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Sri Lanka’s bread vans: Bearers of short eats and happiness

Express Foodie · July 31, 2016

Afternoons tend to be quiet in the tree-shaded inner by-lanes of Colombo, with the stifling tropical heat bearing down on the city like an unwelcome blanket. Very little seems to stir in these languid hours until a faint tune, often a speedy version of Beethoven’s Fur Elise (or a similarly familiar number), draws closer. The tune is a clarion call to the neighbourhood that the bread van is on its midday rounds. As the shrill horn plays on loop for maximum impact, customers begin to trickle out onto the streets for their dalliance with their daily bread.

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Ticking Japan Off the Bucket List, One Meal at a Time

National Geographic · July 5, 2016

A few months ago, shortly before my husband Vishnu and I embarked on our first trip to Japan, I woke up one morning, checked my email and felt my heart skip a few beats. A day earlier, I had written to the travel writer Pico Iyer, who has made Japan his home for nearly three decades now, asking if I could interview him during my visit. I had not expected a personal and warmly worded reply from the man himself.

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22 Things to Know Before You Go to Sri Lanka

Roads & Kingdoms · June 03, 2016

Sri Lanka = serendipity. Serendipity is not just the name of a New York bakery and a mediocre John Cusack movie. The word serendipity (“happy accident”) came from Serendib, an old name for Sri Lanka. It may be a South Asian cliché, but it’s also a fitting expression for the-happy-go-lucky fatalism that governs life here. Time is elastic. People make grand promises and don’t follow through. Events unfold as the heavens will them. And yet, Sri Lankans try their best to make the stars align in their favor: parents have detailed horoscopes done for their children based on the time of their birth. Wedding dates and job changes are planned in close consultation with astrologers, and former president Mahinda Rajapaksa even set an early election date on his astrologer’s advice. (He lost).

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Food Guide: Sarafa Bazaar, Indore’s Legendary Night Food Market

National Geographic · March 3, 2016

Unforgettable meals in the bustling city in Madhya Pradesh.

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Dutch forts and marine sanctuaries: Sri Lanka is ideal for a long weekend trip

Hindustan Times · February 11, 2016

Sri Lanka is south Asia’s newest hotspot. Perfect for a long weekend, the undiscovered parts of the country boast of marine sanctuaries and Dutch forts

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So ‘kool’ in Jaffna

LiveMint · January 09, 2016

A seafood stew that unites the region’s principal produce, and a cuisine shaped by absences…

Stacked high on sheets of newspaper, the large lagoon crabs challenged me. Having grown up vegetarian, and been one for well over 20 years, the fiddly process of cracking a crab’s shell to get to its sweet meat still made me a bit queasy. Not held back by any such apprehensions, my travel companions on this trip to Jaffna were making easy work of the crustaceans. Ultimately, the thought of being a bystander began to feel more tortuous than the thought of getting my fingers dirty, and I staked my claim to the Jaffna crab curry that had been delivered to our hotel room a few minutes earlier. Within a few moments, I was sniffling and smiling stupidly, all at the same time.

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Food Guide: The Hungry Traveller’s Guide To Colombo

National Geographic · December 21, 2015

Where to eat fish curry, kothu rotti, and other stars of Sri Lankan cuisine.

Of all the cities that I’ve called home over the years, Colombo is the only one where “school traffic” causes almost as much angst as evening rush hour. Most schools let out roughly at lunch time, when the roads of this usually laidback city become gridlocked with honking cars, school vans blocking traffic, and anxious parents escorting their children home. As a newcomer to the city, I used to find all the hand-wringing over school timings amusing. But a year-and-a-half later, it attests to how much I’ve become a part of the city (and vice versa), that I feel a tiny bit victorious at having dodged those treacherous afternoon hours by arriving early at Lantheruma to buy my lunch packet.

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