Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Book Review - The Assassinations

Author - Vikram Kapur
Publisher - Speaking Tiger
Genre - Fiction
Pages - 211
Price - Rs. 299

First Impressions
The year 1984 is a very important special year for me, because I was born that year. Well, on the serious front, being a Delhiite I have heard many first person accounts of the 1984 riots. When merely listening to those accounts shook me, imagine what those people would have gone through. I hardly get to read anything about 1984 these days, so I was quite intrigued when i came to know about this book. 

The cover bore a fiery read look, symbolising the flames that had engulfed the once peaceful city and burnt many lives, hopes, desires and friendships. All that they left behind were burnt houses, burnt lives and ugly scars that refuse to leave the hearts of those affected. 

My View
If you have lived in Delhi during the 1980s, you would have your own set of memories related to the 1984 riots, irrespective of your religion. Having been born and brought up in Delhi, I have heard several accounts of the riots from my parents and in-laws. Those few hours of lawlessness left scars of a lifetime to many lives. I recall having once met a Sikh uncle at a social gathering whose one arm was amputated. When I asked my mom how he lost his arm, she made a grim face and told me in a hush tone, "He lost his arm in the 1984 riots". While uncle was happily enjoying his Patiala peg, I am sure the drink would do nothing to remove the ugly memories from his mind. When my mom in law came to know about the plot of the book, she went in past and recalled how houses were burnt in the nearby colonies. In my previous organisation, a Sikh woman told me how she and her family had to hide in the Gurudwara for days before they felt safe to venture outside. 

To feel unsafe in one's own home is the worst fear come true and sadly, this happened in the city I call my home. For those who unlike me, haven't had the chance to hear the stories of survivors, The Assassinations beautifully narrates how one incident can affect the destinies of multiple generations. 

The book portrays through Prem, Deepa and their families the physical, social and emotional trauma people went through in the times that followed the assassination of Mrs. Indira Gandhi. Prem, the son of a migrant Punjabi family and Deepa, the daughter of a an affluent Delhi Hindu family are head over heels in love. Even as Deepa's father, a beaurocrat has his hunch on the upcoming situation becoming tense due to Operation Bluestar, the father in him is unable to say no. While Prem and Deepa are engaged and weaving dreams of a rosy life ahead, the flames of Operation Bluestar and its aftermath reach Delhi. In the lawlessness and riots that followed, Prem was transformed overnight from a guy next door to a youth with endless turmoil going in his mind. The effect is seen on their relationship as well, however keeping the focus on the aftermath, the book does not unnecessarily drags on their relationship. While reading a book like this, one often anticipates the next, so while I had anticipated Prem and Deepa to be the focus till the end, I was shocked when they both die in a militant attack. I think it was the powerful narrative after their untimely death which brings brownie points to the story. The story suddenly shifts focus to the lives that remain, how they try to pick up the remains and move on. While Deepa's parents live a life of endless guilt having agreed for the match, Prem's family tries best to escape the tag of a militant's family. The story fast forwards two decades later, where both families are seen struggling with the after affects of the incident. They do move on physically, however the scars on their hearts refused to fade. 


  • One has to be very careful when touching upon such a sensitive topic as Operation Bluestar and the 1984 riots. I am impressed how the author beautifully captured the pulse of those times without any exaggeration or digression. 
  • The chapters are divided aptly before and after 31st October 1984, which makes it easy to understand the sequence of events.
  • Each character is penned thoughtfully and has an important role to play in depicting the mindset of each generation.
  • The consistent pace of the book is its biggest plus point. Without any exaggeration, the book is able to keep the reader glued and one literally feels transported to 1984. 
  • Unlike a lot of books that use such incidents to grab eyeballs without focusing much on the storyline, The Assassinations is a book that delivers what it promises. The powerful story not even once loses focus from the core issue and even as you flip the last page, your heart might say a silent prayer for those who suffered in those horrible times. For a moment, I felt as pained for the characters as I had felt while watching the 90s movie Maachis.

My Rating

A must read, for its powerful narrative.

I received the book from WritersMelon for an honest review.

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Easy Eggless Sweet Buns

I have a very old and loving bond with sweet buns, thanks to Harvest Gold brand of North India. 

Well, as luck would have it, both my school and college were at different corners of the city. So, one way commuting used to take me atleast an hour. As both the places were very strict about entry timings, for a good 20 years of my life, I was always out of the house at 7 a.m. sharp, which meant often skipping breakfast. While mom would exercise her control during school days and hand me a dabba (tiiffin), college being IHM, no dabba was required. So I began to skip breakfast as well and always had the excuse of "who will carry the load" to answer my parents. But, parents being parents know how to have their way. So mom would often pack sandwiches in foil/tissue paper that I didn't have to carry till college. I could eat and discard the packing in any streetside dustbin. 

Then one day, when I went to buy milk with Papa, I spotted Harvest Gold sweet buns. While I asked Papa to buy me one just to try, I didn't know I would be hooked on to the taste for life! I remember until I was working in Delhi, when in hurry I would often buy a packet of sweet buns and have them for breakfast while on my way to college/work. Those days a packet of 2 buns came for just 10 bucks!

Sadly, ever since I moved to Mumbai, I haven't had them. Often when in the morning rush, I miss my breakfast I sit on my desk and wonder, "Kaash Mumbai mein bhi Harvest Gold ke buns milte" (wish we got Harvest Gold buns in Mumbai).

Then, few days ago when I was feeling lazy to prepare breakfast for Mr. Hubby, I again began to miss my sweet buns. Bas, fir kya thha, after a quick google search, I went through a few recipes, tweaked a bit and voila! I had my very own sweet buns smiling at me from the baking tray!

While most recipes used 100% All Purpose flour, I used a good amount of whole wheat flour. Also, few days ago I was shocked to know that the tooti frooti I had been loving all my life is actually raw papaya cooked in sugar syrup and coated with artificial colours! So, I used raisins and trust me, they give the buns a better flavour than tutti frutti. Most recipes I saw use milk powder however, I prefer to knead my buns with milk instead as the it gives an amazing flavour and softness to them. I also use only desi ghee as fat as I am partial to the goodness of Cow Ghee!

So, sharing the recipe for sweet buns, more so that I don't forget how I made them!


Instant Dry Yeast - 3/4 tbsp
Grain Sugar - 1 tbsp
Salt - 3/4 tsp
Baking Powder - 1 tsp
Wholewheat Flour - 1 Cup
Refined Flour - 1/2 Cup
Desi Ghee - 1 tbsp + for brushing
Powdered Sugar - 3 tbsp
Warm water - 2 tbsp for yeast activation
Warm Milk - 1 1/2 Cup + for milk wash
Raisins - 1/4 Cup


1. In a bowl, take the yeast, sugar and mix well. Add warm water and mix. Cover and the let mixture rest undisturbed for 10 minutes for the yeast to be activated.

This is how the yeast looks after 10 minutes.

2. In a mixing bowl/Paraat, take the wholewheat flour, refined flour, powdered sugar, baking powder, salt and mix well. 

3. Add the activated yeast mixture. Now using warm milk, knead a soft dough. After you knead for 4-5 minutes the dough will start getting sticky. However, add the ghee to make things more manageable and knead well until the ghee gets absorbed in the dough making it soft and smooth.

4. Make an even ball of the dough by tucking all folds below and keep in a greased bowl for proving for one hour at a warm place. I use my switched off microwave to prove the dough.

After one hour, the dough has risen beautifully.

5. Dust the worktop (I used the same Paraat  that I used for kneading the dough) with some flour and gently knead and fold the bread for 1-2 minutes. Add the raisins and knead into the dough.

6. Make 5-6 balls of the mixture and keep for proving on a greased baking tray at a warm place for 30 minutes. 

This is how the buns look after second proving.

7. Brush with milk and bake in a pre heated convection oven at 200 degree Celsius for 20 minutes.

Here are the buns smiling at me from the baking tray!

These buns make up for excellent and filling breakfast on the go and even taste super yum as bun maska during teatime.

Sunday, 24 June 2018

Easy Eggless Banana Marble Cake

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Ever since I baked the Banana Walnut bread, Mr. Hubby and his colleagues had been demanding more of it. However, the item waiting on my wish list was Marble Cake. The situation had become so funny that each time I would request Mr. Hubby or MIL to finish off the last two leftover bananas (which had become overripe by then), they would either ask me to have them or say "Why don't you use them in a cake?" Neither could I let the bananas go bad, nor could I let go of my craving for Marble Cake.

So, the way out was best of both - Banana Marble Cake!

The best part, apart from saving life of those two bananas is that the cake is made of 100% wholewheat flour and does not require you to buy that expensive tin of Condensed Milk. You can prepare it anytime to satisfy your craving since all the ingredients are easily available all time at home. The marble effect, apart from adding to the beauty of the cake, also compliments the banana flavour.

The cake can be stored in refrigerator and enjoyed for 2-3 days however, mine didn't last more than a day!

An excellent cake, which is healthy and very fulfilling. In fact, I packed it for Mr. Hubby's snack time and he was all smiles!


Dry Ingredients

Wholewheat flour/Atta - 1 1/2 Cup
Cocoa Powder - 2 tbsp
Castor Sugar - 2 tbsp (for chocolate layer) + 2/3 Cup (for banana layer)
Baking Powder - 1 1/2 tsp
Baking Soda - 1 tsp

Wet Ingredients
Vanilla Essence - 1 1/2 tsp
Ripe Bananas - 2 , pureed
Warm milk - 2 tbsp
Curd - 1/2 Cup
Soft salted Butter - 1/2 Cup
Water - 2 tbsp


1. In a mixing bowl, take soft butter. Add the castor sugar and beat well until the mixture becomes white and fluffy. 

2. Add the banana puree, curd and vanilla essence. Whisk well into a smooth and light mixture. 

3. Sieve together the wholewheat flour, baking soda and baking powder. 

4. In a separate bowl, take the castor sugar, cocoa powder and make a mixture using water. The consistency should be sauce like. 

5. Add the sieved dry ingredients (Step 3) to the wet ingredients (Step 2) and gently fold into a batter. The batter should be neither too thick, neither too thin. Do not over mix. I added 3 tbsp warm milk to adjust the consistency. 

6. Grease an 8" Loaf tin.

7. Add half the batter to the tin. Pat and spread well.

8. Now using a spoon, spread half of the chocolate mixture unevenly. Then, using a fork/knife/toothpick, make uneven swirls. Ensure to dig the fork/knife/toothpick deep into the batter to ensure that the chocolate mixture shows in every layer.

9. Now spread a layer of the remaining cake batter on top.

10. Finally, spread the remaining chocolate mixture on top like we did in step 8.

11. Bake in a preheated oven at 180 degree centigrade for 40-45 minutes. I first set the timer for 35 minutes as the original recipe mentioned that. But then, when I poked a knife in the cake, it didn't come out clean. So, I baked for another 10 minutes and the cake came out wow.

Unmould and cool on a wire rack for 15-20 minutes.

Enjoy with breakfast, as dessert or with tea.

The softness test...

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Easy Eggless Sandwich Bread

Only he can understand the joy of baking a bread, who has got his hands dirty in the bread dough! 

Bread making is therapeutic. From the day MIL and I baked our first bread, each bread that turns out great gives us a feel good factor which is difficult to understand, unless you get your hands dirty!

Let me make an honest confession. Till now it was always my MIL who was kneading the dough. In her words, kneading dough is an activity she loves soooo much that she can even wake up at 3am and knead a dough! Now, can there be a better thing than this for a lazy daughter in law like me? Yes, I am counting my blessings!

However, I wanted to do everything by myself this time around. We hadn't baked the sandwich bread so far. Mr. Hubby insisted we bake our own sandwich bread, since commercially available breads have chemicals. So, I got on to the task. 

Since I had to use the bread to prepare grilled sandwiches, I did keep a good share of all purpose flour, in addition to my favourite wholewheat chakki wala Punjabi Atta from Sion. The bread came out so well that I was beaming with pride!

Try it out and I am sure you too will stop buying bread from outside.


Wholewheat flour/Atta - 1 Cup
All purpose flour/Maida - 1 1/2 Cup
Instant dry yeast - 1 tbsp
Grain Sugar - 2 tbsp
Warm Milk - 1 Cup
Salt - 3/4 tsp
Water - 3-4 tbsp
Ghee/Butter - 1 tbsp for dough + 1 tbsp for greasing tin and brushing the bread


1. In a clean bowl, take the sugar and instant dry yeast. Mix well.

2. Add 2-3 tbsp warm water. Mix well. Cover with a plate and keep aside undisturbed for 10 minutes. 

3. After 10 minutes, you will see that the yeast has risen beautifully.

4. In a bowl/Paraat take the wholewheat flour, all purpose flour and salt. Mix well while it is still dry.

5. Add the activated yeast mixture and knead well to form a smooth dough. After few minutes of kneading the dough will begin to stick to your hands but do not fret and continue kneading. The dough will automatically leave your hands. However, in total you will have to knead for a good 5-7 minutes to get a good dough. Also, stretch and knead the dough for good results.

6. Add 1 tbsp ghee/soft butter to the dough and knead well to form a soft dough. 

7. Shape the dough into a smooth ball with all the folds tucked below.

8. Transfer to a greased bowl. Cover with a dry cloth and keep for proving in a warm place (I use my switched off microwave oven) for about an hour or till the dough doubles.

This is how the dough looked after an hour.

9. Punch the dough in the middle to knock off the air.

10. Dust some plain flour on a clean kitchen platform/chopping board (I used the same Paraat I had used to knead the dough). Start kneading the dough by stretching and folding. 

11. After 2 minutes of kneading, spread the dough in an oval shape.

12. From one end, start rolling the dough, with soft hands but give a tight fold so as to avoid gaps in the bread. 

13. Pinch and seal the last fold and seal the sides as well.

14. Transfer to a 8" greased loaf tin. Spread the dough to cover the corners and lightly even the surface.

15. Cover with a dry cloth and keep at a warm place for proving for 30-40 minutes.

This is how the dough looked after 2nd proving.

16. Bake in a pre-heated oven for 200 degree centigrade for 10 minutes.  Then lower the heat and bake a 180 degree centigrade for 20 minutes.

17. Brush some ghee/butter on the bread as soon as it is out of the oven. Cool for few minutes and demould. Cool on a wire rack to avoid perspiration at the base. Once the bread is cooled, cut into slices and enjoy as a sandwich or just with a slice of butter. 

Few Tips

1. As soon as you are done with the yeast, wrap the packet really tight and store in refrigerator.
2. Do not disturb the yeast bowl when kept for activation.
3. Keep the warm milk handy before you start kneading the bread. I once got the milk few minutes late and my bread did not take the wait very well.
4. If you don't find a warm place to prove the bread, your oven is your saviour. No matter how the weather is, I always keep the dough bowl for proving in the empty oven (switched off, obviously!). It gives a wonderful rise plus saves accidental disturbance to the bread, in case there is space constraint or you have children at home.
5. Cool the bread completely before you cut the slices. You will get much neat slices. If you try to cut slices while the bread is still warm, there will be a lot many crumbles. If you notice my pics, you will notice few crumbles. This is because my overenthusiastic MIL couldn't resist the aroma of the bread and enjoyed a slice before the bread could cool completely. 
6. The water used to activate the yeast should neither be too hot nor too cold else the yeast won't rise. It should just be warm enough so that your fingers can tolerate the warmth. 
7. Always use good quality yeast.
8. Never ever leave the bread in the loaf tin for cooling else the bread will have perspiration at the base. Always cool on a wire rack.