Monday, 28 January 2013

The magic and romance of Sri Lanka through pictures - The Land of a 1,000 smiles

Majestic and mysterious Mount Lavinia Hotel, Colombo:
Mount Lavinia Hotel, Colombo

The view from the hotel

The imposing colonial structure and the erstwhile residence of British Governor General, Thomas Maitland stands proud and high with a breathtaking view of the Indian Ocean. The hotel has long been a symbol of resilience and beauty having successfully survived calamities such as the World War and the Tsunami.

It still reminds one of a bygone era of high teas and ballroom dances when people had time to sit in the large open balcony facing the ocean and observe the beauty of nature.

The hotel is no stranger to history. But perhaps the most interesting piece of history is about the hotel and its owner itself.

Legend has it that Thomas Maitland, after arriving in Sri Lanka, fell in love with local dancing queen, Lovina. The ill-fated lovers whose love was not accepted by the rigid social conventions of the time, had to meet through a secret passageway that some believe still exists today. The governor was forced to leave Sri Lanka and Lovina too moved away but the hotel stands even today, a testimony to their unrequited love.

Breathtaking Bentota:

Seafood by the sea?
No flurry of tourists, no sea of human bodies littering the crowded beaches, no loud voices drowning the relentless lashing of the waves - Bentota is still relatively undisturbed and clean, offering picture perfect views of the endless ocean. 

Its pristine beaches call out to the people who might just want to sit and gaze at the silent fury of the ocean or enjoy a sumptuous meal with the waves at their feet.

The moonstone mines:

The moonstone mines on the way to Bentota are testimony to the country's long heritage in mining precious gems and stones. These gems sell for high prices in the colorful stores of the cities of Sri Lanka and are a must-buy for many tourists. But for the workers in these mines, the routine of life remains the same - mining, washing, cleaning and polishing the beautiful gems day after day.

Miners at work in a moonstone mine

World Heritage Center, Kandy:

Tooth Relic temple, Kandy
Tooth Relic Temple, Kandy
Kandy, the cultural capital of the country which held out against the British rule till the very end is today a symbol of the country's multi-cultural and and cosmopolitan influences. The famous Tooth Relic temple which supposedly houses Buddha's tooth resides next to the St. Paul's Church. On the eve of Christmas as we stood in front of the temple and the church and watched people walking into both with equal fervor, the melodious strains of the carol songs from the Church merged beautifully with the bells from the temple to create a magical symphony.

The elephants at Pinnewala Elephant orphanage:

Pinnewala elephant orphanage

Industry from poo paper

Home to about 200 elephants, children would really enjoy the Pinnewala elephant orphanage, located about 2 hours from Colombo. If you check the timings in advance, one can also feed the baby elephants and enjoy bathing them.

And hard to miss is the industry that has sprung up around the orphanage - an entire industry from the abundant elephant poo paper!

Life post the Tsunami:

Vast stretches that were destroyed by the Tsunami

Sri Lanka is known as the land of a 1,000 smiles. The country has been ravaged by extreme violence during the civil war and more than 30,000 reported deaths during the Tsunami. But people still hide their pain, anger and despair behind quiet and warm smiles that openly welcome the visitors.

As one leaves behind the vast open stretches of land bordering the ocean that were once destroyed by the Tsunami one cannot help but wonder at the magic of the beautiful country. A country that so effortlessly sways between the past and the present, the heritage of centuries mingling with modern ways of today. Sri Lanka is today far more accessible to tourists than before and tourism as an industry is all set to take off as more travelers discover the beautiful tear-drop shaped island. 

I would hope that the essence of Sri Lanka and its mysterious beauty does not fall prey to the commercialization attempts to please the tourists. And that Sri Lanka would remain today and forever, the land of the 1,000 smiles.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Link for published article in Chillibreeze -Key ingredients of a good travel piece

Just another day

Sometimes, in the middle of the day,
When nothing seems to be going your way.

You smile, you laugh, as if nothing's wrong.
But your heart's not in it, you've lost your song.

A chance predujiced glance, a remark snide,
O, how you wish you had a stronger hide.

You wish for a moment alone, just to reason why,
Away from the madness to just do and die.

But then, a voice tells you, it's just another day

Under the shattered sense of peace, you don your 'don't care' mask,
In the sheltered cabin of glass, you go about your next task.

The best mushroom recipe

I live in constant hope that the day will come when my daughter will start appreciating vegetables more.

At present, she is staunch 6 year old non-vegetarian who has grown up watching cookery shows such as Masterchef Australia and leafing through covers of BBC Good Food Magazine, Nigella Lawson and Gordon Ramsey's books. She probably learnt about pork ribs, well-done steaks, chicken kababs and fish tikkas even before she learnt her alphabets.

Not to mention the annual trips to various cities and countries where she gets exposed to local cuisine ranging from "Meen Moilee" (kerala style fish) to "Spaghetti bolognese" (Italian spaghetti recipe with beef).

So the poor vegetables have a tough task at hand competing with the fancy fishes, chunky chickens, tasty turkeys and the wide world of non-vegetarian delicacies that my daughter is hooked on to.

So, when I chance upon a vegetarian dish that she likes, I am thrilled and want to share with other mothers who might be in the same boat.

This is a mushroom dish that I chanced upon in BBC Good Food Magazine and added some of my own   flavors to. My daughter simply adores this dish. The recipe is mentioned below:

Mushroom Stroganoff


  • Mushroom
  • Garlic 
  • Onion
  • Fresh cream
  • Mustard sauce
  • Parsley
  • Chilli flakes


  • Cut mushroom into pieces. I generally steam them in the microwave for 5-7 minutes first.
  • In a non-stick frying pan add 1 tsp of olive oil
  • Add onions and freshly grated garlic
  • After onions are cooked, add the mushrooms and saute them
  • You can little bit of salt at this stage
  • Add fresh cream and mustard sauce so that the mushrooms are not dry and are just covered in the sauce
  • Turn down the heat and let the dish cook for about 10 minutes till mushrooms are soft
  • Add parsley leaves and chilli flakes. Chilli flakes can make it spicy so you can add as much as the child's palate would allow.

Serve with rice or simply as an evening snack.

Hope other kids enjoy this simple yet tasty recipe too.