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December 2012

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An image which brings terror and rage to every Indian is the following image of the dome of Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai burning during the terrorist attacks of 26/11 in November 2008. The world watched in horror as one of the legendary landmarks of the financial capital of India was held hostage by a handful of terrorists while many brave heart army officers laid down their lives to save a hundred others! So when I read about the book ‘14 hours – An insider’s account of the 26/11 Taj attack‘ – I was curious to read the story of a survivor who took calculated risks to ensure that not just he is safe but also his hotel’s guests were safe!

14 hours – An insider’s account of the 26/11 Taj attack‘ is the eye witness story of Ankur Chawla, a young hotel trainee who was in the hotel’s bar at the time of the terrorist attack. He was one of the first persons to see a terrorist gun down a hapless guest near the entrance of his bar. He describes this horrific moment in a chilling manner thus:

“A man suddenly toppled to his side right in front of me. A big boned and well-muscled guy came running and halted beside the shivering body. He was wearing a blue cap on his head and had a grey backpack, hanging from his left shoulder. He could easily have been mistaken for a tourist had he not been holding a rifle in his right hand. He squeezed the trigger with his index finger. Bullets fired with sharp cracks into the body of the man on the floor, turning his pristine white shirt red. I could not believe I was not hallucinating.”

Ankur Chawla though an amateur writer, manages to hold your attention by recounting the incidents of that horrific night by clearly describing the layout of the hotel, the escape routes taken by them and how they put the lives of their guests before them. I was very pleased to know that Taj Hotel employees saved many lives by putting their own lives at risk. This piece of information was somehow lost in the coverage by our insensitive media. I was glad that I was able to read this account of heroics by the hotel staff which made me proud to be an Indian! Ankur writes in very simple language which makes it easier to read but a proof read was required as I found few typos in the book.

While reading the book, the part where Ankur and his friends get stuck in the linen room while rest of his colleagues are rescued from other places, your heart goes out to him as you can imagine how he must be feeling being inches away from death but still not able to move much. The rescue operations are well detailed out and you understand how much sacrifice firefighters and police and army officers did to ensure that civilians were saved. I was a trifle disappointed here though that Ankur didn’t get to see much of the action during the rescue but I was happy for him anyways that his calculated risks to hide in the linen room till he was rescued, helped his life! A good read if you want to know about an eye witness’ account of the 26/11 Taj attack but don’t expect any bollywood material story here. For that I guess you need to wait for Ram Gopal Varma’s movie on 26/11 coming soon!

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com . Participate now to get free books!

I have not been much of a Whisky drinker – I love my vodka! But recently at few parties and events, I tried out Black Dog either on the rocks or with coke and found it to be very smooth drink and it didn’t give me a hangover like vodka does or make me feel dehydrated! So it was wonderful when GingerClaps gave me a bottle of Black Dog to review courtesy Black Dog Easy Evenings! I jumped at the opportunity to review this wonderful Scotch Whisky which has origins both in India and Scotland.. Wondering how? Read on to find out!

Black Dog is a 100% genuine Scotch Whisky distilled, matured and blended in Scotland. When it is sold in India, the blend is made in Scotland and is bottled in India. Black Dog has a very distinctive taste and flavor. This classy whisky is available in 4 exciting blends – 8 Year Old, 12 Year Old, 18 Year Old and 21 Year Old. The bottle does come nicely wrapped up and looks good too. Once you open it up you are greeted with an unmistakable hallmark smell! Cost of a 12 Year Old bottle is about Rs.1800 in Bangalore but it could be quite cheaper in Goa and Pondicherry! For a 30 ml peg in reputed bars and restaurants you might have to shell out upto Rs.400.

The history of Black Dog dates back to late 1883 when Walter Millard (a Scottish national residing in India) who was a wine connoisseur went back to his native land in a quest for a sophisticated Scotch. His quest finally got over when he tried a blend prepared by James McKinley (He had a long lineage of Scotch blending too). Walter named this blend as Black Dog and thus the brand was born! Even to this date with a decent history of more than 129 Years, the blend is still serving people as it did way back in 1883! The legacy of the blend recognized by Walter Millard and prepared by James McKinley still survives to exist in the same form as its creators intended it to be!

Black Dog 12 Year Old Scotch Whisky

Black Dog is a blend of fine whiskies from all the regions of Scotland – Speyside, Islay, Highlands and Lowlands, each matured for a minimum period of 12 years creating a bouquet that captures all the flavours of Scotland, giving Black Dog its very distinctive flavour and taste.

Tasting Notes

Colour : Amber, with golden highlights.

Aroma : Robust malty, mellow woody, complex yet delicate aroma of sherry and vanillic sweetness with whispers of soft peatiness in the background.

Palate : Beautifully rounded, heavy body, pronounced malty, mellow woody, fruity sweetness with teasing light warm peat.

Finish : Luxurious and exciting, long and warm with a touch of cream.

The Black Dog 12 year old has also been awarded a silver medal at Concours Mondial de Bruxelles. Concours Mondial de Bruxelles is an organization recognized by the European Union, which conducts annual competition for various spirits and wines manufactured all over the world.

Black Dog has a smell which is fresh,and right from the start you can guess the ingredients. It’s not something you can try making at home,but there are tinge of spices,oak,vanilla and chocolate.The best way to taste whiskey is to add a spoon of water to whiskey,so that the aroma opens,and when you smell it again,it smells more rich. Next is to swish it around your mouth and let it go slow.You would feel the warmth go down the throat,but definitely this whiskey is not heavy and very smooth.

Looking forward to tasting and reviewing the 18 year old Black Dog Whisky next!

This post has been written by my wife Sunitha on my blog so that she could give some tips to women about how to get their husbands to lose their evening stubble; just the way she made me shave away my stubble!

“Since I started dating dhempe, he used to have an irritating stubble which he used to call as French Beard! He used to say that it adds a certain class and status to him. He would feel that it makes him looks thinner and also more smarter. He never used to maintain his French Beard too and would let his beard grow like a jungle unless his parents were visiting him or he was visiting my parents! His bewildered look in the following picture was how people reacted to him when they saw him with the unkempt beard!

When I told dhempe that his beard stubble doesn’t look nice and he needs to be clean shaven to look good, he couldn’t believe his ears! He felt as if he was very fashion conscious and knew all about styling! I told him to look at clean shaven and suave actors like Hrithik Roshan, Shahrukh Khan to see how he was wrong about stubble making him look cool! Dhempe wasn’t convinced and was quite agitated that he would have to lose his so-called wise beard! He felt he was like Samson from The Bible who lost his strength and life when his hair was cut! What hair was to Samson was the beard to dhempe!

I knew at that point that I had to make dhempe crave for me if I need to get him to shave off his stubble. I stopped meeting him, taking his calls, replying to his messages all the while making him realize that he needs to be clean shaven before he can meet me. He tried to give me a lot of reasons of how Amitabh Bachchan looks smart with a goatee, how Aamir Khan looked in Dil Chahta Hain; but nothing could convince me! I was adamant that its OK for him to have a beard while trekking but not when he is in civilization and has access to water to shave! He threatened to jump off the cliff when trekking but I knew he was just being lazy to shave so I didn’t budge from my stance!

Finally I gave a diktat to him that I will say yes to marriage with him and convince my parents only if he shaves daily and looks presentable not just to my family but to my friends too! I also told him that I will shower him with lots of hugs and kisses if he shaves daily and sports a clean shaven look! I also gave him a styling tip that if he sports a clean shaven look, he will look much younger than his colleagues and friends. I could also flaunt him around to my girl friends who will say ‘Neighbor’s Envy, Owner’s Pride!’ Finally dhempe took my advice and started shaving his daily stubble every evening. Things started looking up immediately for him – he met some international celebrities like Jonty Rhodes!

Our Wedding was in the evening and he ensured that he shaved off his 5 o’clock shadow beard that he started doing on a daily basis, so that he appears smart and cheerful in all the wedding pictures! His smart move to shave his stubble created wonderful memories of a lifetime through our wedding pictures!

Needless to say our honeymoon in Thailand was amazing as I showered dhempe with hugs and kisses and a lot more where the stubble was no longer the barrier for our love! I could see many women feeling jealous as I sauntered with my handsome hunk husband on the streets of Bangkok. I would love the smooth shave that dhempe got with his Gillette razor and would stroke his cheeks and chin to feel their smoothness which was like a baby’s bottom! Since then dhempe has been shaving regularly twice a day, not just to be ready for office during the mornings but also to be ready for wonderful evenings with me either at events or at home!”

This post is a part of the ‘Shave or Crave’ movement in association with BlogAdda.com

I have always loved Thai food and my trip to Thailand for my honeymoon earlier this year only had me craving for more! So it was wonderful to hear about the Asian Grill Festival at Shiro Bangalore which was from November 19th to December 16th, 2012. I decided to check it out to enjoy some smokey flavors, tangy sauces which accompany all grills there. I heard that the menu crafted by Executive Brand Chef, Rahul Hajarnavis featured some really exquisite Chicken, Fish and Pork grills along with brilliantly crafted vegetarian grills too so I was really excited to be part of the Bloggers’ table to check it out.

Shiro has got a wonderful feel of a Buddhist monastery with huge statues and double high ceiling nicely adorned with lights. It is a tastefully decorated place that you can bring your date along to or have a quiet dinner with family too. We met up with Executive Sous Chef Priyank Chouhan  who walked us through the Asian Grill Festival menu and the specialties that they have for this festival. He checked with us whether we wanted to have something particular or should he send his favorites. We were fine with him sending us his favorites.

First item we tried out was the Tsukuni Chicken Skewers which were perfectly grilled minced chicken skewers with just the right kick of spicy chilli mayonnaise for accompaniment. We relished this and the Chef nodded in agreement too that he loves to eat his burgers with this chicken. I was reminded of the street food in Thailand and the taste was almost as good as it!

I wanted to have a drink to accompany the wonderful tastes of the Asian Grill menu. Priyank suggested that I have the Fig Mojito which is not from the Asian Grill menu but from the exhaustive drinks menu that Shiro has. I love my drinks in an exotic fashion so it was wonderful to taste this stupendous drink!

Next we tried out the Indonesian grilled chicken. This was warm, grilled chicken marinated with Sambal Oelek (raw chilli paste). A little bit of tang was added with the serving of Avocado Salsa. I enjoyed the different flavor but this definitely wasn’t my favorite dish of the night!

Next up was Grilled Thai Prawns which were delicious prawns infused with just the savory blend of coriander and scallion. This was served with Wasabi Mayonnaise. I love Seafood so enjoyed these prawns thoroughly which were grilled perfectly with a smoky flavor!

I enjoy non-vegetarian food a lot and rarely try vegetarian food when I’m at a non-vegetarian restaurant. But Chef Priyank insisted that I try out some vegetarian grills just to understand how well they are prepared at Shiro. So I decided to try out Grilled Mushroom Skewers which is fresh button mushrooms which is grilled to perfection after being flavored with a unique blend of Hoisin (Chinese Dipping Sauce) & Balsamic (Italian) vinegar. I really enjoyed these mushrooms and felt that Shiro maybe only one of the very few places in Bangalore where mushroom can be made so perfectly well that even a non-mushroom lover would lap them up!

Continuing with Seafood, I tried out the Grilled Snapper Brochettes. This was a fish dish spiced up with Thai Green Marination which offered me a unique authentic burst of flavors! It was served with carrot pieces and lime which were a perfect accompaniment with the fish. I felt a sauce could have added more pleasure to this dish though!

The final dish for the evening was Grilled Chicken with Citrus Tamarind Glaze. This was succulent chicken marinated with Shiro’s in-house special tamarind glaze. The experience was enhanced with a serving of charred corn kernels. I loved the flavor of tamarind glaze with a creamy sauce which was pleasurable to my taste buds. This sure was one of the highlights of the evening along with Tsukuni Chicken Skewers.

I was a little disappointed that Asian Grill Menu doesn’t have a dessert menu. Chef Priyank asked me not to worry and told I could select from many nice desserts in the Shiro menu. One was the trio of cheese cake which was a platter of mocha, lemon and chocolate cheesecake. I enjoyed the mix of 3 flavors at one time.

Another dessert not to be missed at Shiro was Chocolate Volcano – dark chocolate with a chocolate ganache filling served with vanilla ice cream. This sure was the highlight of the evening with regards to desserts!

Overall, it was a wonderful evening at Shiro to bring in the festive spirit of Xmas and the New year with wonderful tastes thanks to the Asian Grill Festival!

Thanks to BlogAdda.com I have been reading some very interesting books lately. One of that books is Ravi Subramanian’s ‘The Bankster’ which was proclaimed to be as good as a John Grisham thriller! I was a bit skeptical at the beginning but once I started reading it, I got totally engrossed into that book. Just reading the back cover made me feel very eager to finish the book in one sitting. Just have a look at it:

In Angola, a covert CIA agent Joseph Braganza is about to exchange weapons for blood diamonds..

In Kerala, an elderly man called Krishna Menon will do whatever it takes to fulfill a promise made to a dying son…

In Mumbai, an international bank GB2 is stunned by the mysterious deaths of its key employees..

With a premise like that which offers you three unrelated stories which could have some connection, you are bound to stop everything you are doing and just concentrate on finishing the book. That is just what I did. When I later looked at the Facebook page of the book, I was glad to find many images of the characters which gave me a feel of reading a graphic novel (though it isn’t one!). Let me give you a brief summary of the book so that you can ‘taste’ it before you buy it!

In Angola, CIA agent Joseph Braganza goes through war strife regions to meet with UNITA (Union for Total Independence of Angola) to exchange weapons for blood diamonds. There is a lot of tension on his trip while he reminisces how he was saved in the nick of time while his team was blown to smithereens in Iraq. Will he be successful in his mission or does he face any threats on the way? How did he get these weapons in the first place? What is he doing in this god forsaken place? If you want to find out more, you need to read the book!

In Kerala, Krishna Menon is against Trikakulam Indo-Russian Nuclear Project. The back story goes that his son who was a scientist in Japan died from nuclear blasts which happened due to earth quakes there. He had made a promise to his dying son that he would rally against nuclear projects. He gets his funds for this struggle from an NGO which a certain Mr.Jayakumar runs.

In Mumbai, three employees of Greater Boston Global Bank (GB2) die in mysterious circumstances. Harshita Lele dies mysteriously while vacationing in Vienna, Raymond Saldanah of Compliance team seems to have taken his own life and one more employee dies on the Mumbai highway. These mysterious deaths rattle GB2 and its CEO Indrani who wants to get to the core of this problem!

Enter Karan Panjabi, ex-employee of GB2 who is a crime journalist now. Indrani gives him permission for just 36 hours to find out the real culprits. Karan unearths some really startling stuff about how many employees didn’t do the obligatory background checks when few accounts were opened. He also suspects the hand of the HR Tanuja.

How are Jayakumar, Tanuja & Joseph Braganza connected? How does Karan use technology like iCloud to find out some vital clues from Harshita’s iPad? Is Vikram Bahl, head of retail banking, involved? If yes, what is his motive?

All these questions and more will be answered in this thriller ‘The Bankster’. You will find the world of benaami accounts, money laundering and breaking customers’ trust in abundance here. I loved the simple writing style which was very descriptive and created a lot of suspense and excitement for me. My wife and me were practically competing with each other to see who finishes the book first while waiting for each other’s turns!

Kudos to the author Ravi Subramanian. If you are looking for a refreshing change in Indian crime writing, you must pick up this book for sure!

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com. Participate now to get free books!

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