Monday, September 29, 2014

World Tourism day celebrated in Mumbai.

 World Tourism day celebrated in Mumbai.
World tourism day this year 2014, has a purpose, to foster awareness among the international community of the importance of tourism and its social, cultural, political and economic value. This celebration on September 29th 2014 was organized with much applaud organized by Young Environmentalists Trust and Meluha ecotel Powai Mumbai aiming to address global challenges outlined and to highlight the contribution the tourism, hotel and travel related industry has made in up lifting the community around.

The glamorous and house packed event hosted by Elsie Gabriel saw H.E. Consul General of South Africa .Pule Malefane and H.E. Consul general of Vietnam .Vu Son Thuy, Chairman of Travel council of India Jay Bhatia, Ahmer Shaikh of MTDC, Niranjan Hiranandani,Celebrity Mukesh Rishi, Actor Karan Goddwani, Diplomat from Belgium Ms.Pinkey Ahluwalia,Master chef Saranch Goila of Food Food and celebrity Arti Surendranath as well as Punish Sharma along with diplomatic members from Oman, Thailand, Reunion islands, Tourism board of Kenya, Clarence Fernandes-Rwanda Development Board,Co-Chairman Travel, Tourism/ Hospitality Committee-Indian Merchants' Chamber, and a host of travel delegates from around the world. TAFI and Madhya Pradesh tourism as well as travel enthusiasts gathered to mark the occasion through various colourful audio video films connecting people on this day.

 Tourism and Community Development’ is the theme of this year’s World Tourism Day (WTD). The theme underscores the potential of tourism to promote opportunities for communities around the world, as well as the role that community engagement has in advancing sustainable tourism development.

This year’s World Tourism Day draws special attention to the role of tourism in contributing to one of the building blocks of a more sustainable future for all: Community development. This focus on the Sustainable Development Goals is the guiding principle which will be expounded on today by our esteemed guests with respect to their countrys and their organization.

As a sector representing 9% of global GDP, one in 11 jobs worldwide, and a key revenue sector for developing and emerging economies, tourism is widely acknowledged for its capacity to respond to global challenges. The consolidation of tourism’s economic influence has built up its social responsibility and political relevance, with a growing number of countries allocating a stronger mandate to tourism in economic and development policy planning.

With the special focus on the community, WTD 2014 highlights how tourism can be conducive to advancing sustainable development from the grassroots level. Community based tourism involves the local population in the decision making process according to local priorities. The opportunity to become part of the tourism value chain actively involves host communities in the development process. Tourism thus becomes a catalyst of social cohesion, going beyond the immediate impact of job creation and its positive economic consequences and enhances, for instance, local governance capabilities which multiply the tourism impact even further.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Saree creates a bond with its weft and warp uniting women. Bring on the Durga Pujoooo

Warp and weft of the Saree…. Elsie Gabriel.

In Bengal, the Durgo pujo festival binds the community and…. the supreme piece of garment… the Saree creates a bond with its weft and warp uniting women of all ages during the ten days of Durga pujo. And in Mumbai,right now the Saree fever is on.... 

‘Oree baba… I need my matching blouse’, has now evolved to  ‘aarrrre baba now I need my designer readymade blouse, every day should be different and brand new…..’…there’s always a rush and fuss, and giddiness and laughter..dressing up for Durga glad I have a Bengali community here in Mumbai which keeps all this humdrum alive and kicking….

I can hear the Dholl bringing on the Durga Puja here in Mumbai and along with it the sarees on display are a treat to the eyes. Of course coming from West Bengal ,the saree is nothing new for me, but has it stayed with me..Yes!!

I recall wearing Mothers saree’s during my childhood days, such delicate pieces. Of course there were some starched crisp cotton shutii ones too, she wore a different one every day to school during her entire teaching career..imagine the collection she had… Then I remember college days sharing all my bong friends ‘bondhu’s’ saree’s, being careful not to tread on them….trying to hold on for dear life while attending college classes on ‘Saree’ days were blissfully crazzyyy…I also remember winning the June Rose one a sareee!!!

A Saree depicts the beauty of an Indian woman. But when you see a Bengali woman dressed in a Bengali saree..uree baba…the world spins around her and all those around her….Tant, Tasar, Muga silks, Jamdani silks, Bhagalpuri silks, Benarsi, Katha stich worked saree’s, pure cottons, ever so fragile and stiff Tangail and Dhakha,,not to forget the pure silks, Shantipur cotton and the stories written all over the Baluchori saree’s…..visiting the pandals I use my time wisely to keep reading the stories off the sarees………..most captivating…..,

The pure white tant saree with sindoor red border brings out the beauty in every Bengali woman.The weft is referred to as baana or bun-na, in Bengali 
it is called shoota, the weft and warp of life comes alive in sarees. The weft and warp of the saree will stay in my heart forever, even far away from home!!! It is this weft and warp of life which is called the journey of life, keep weaving....with strength and colour.

 I can’t wait to wear mine!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Cruise trip to the Seal island. Cape Town. Elsie Gabriel

Cruise trip to the Seal island.

Elsie Gabriel.

Cape Town is blessed with abundant marine life. Sharks, dolphins, Whales and seals swim off the Cape Town coastline very often and it is truly nature’s spectacular offering.
Cruise trip to the Seal island.All pics copyright Elsie Gabriel

I enjoyed the rough sea’s and had the experience of a lifetime on this cruise trip to Seal Island located only 8 nautical miles from Simon's Town harbour in False Bay which takes about half an hour to reach actually. Seal Island is home to 75,000 Cape Fur Seals and the hunting ground for the Great White Shark. Only 40 minutes from Cape Town Centre. One can not actually get off and visit the island as it is protected.

Seal Island, also known as Duiker Island, is an island off the coast of Hout Bay in Cape Town. Providing a sanctuary for Cape Fur seals, the island is also inhabited by many water birds, including Kelp Gulls, Pelicans,Cape and Bank Cormorants and Hartlaub Gulls.
Watching these seals bask on the rocks in the warm waters of the Atlantic is a sight I will always keep close to my heart.
Although next time I will pluck up the courage to go deep sea cage diving to see the Great White sharks.

 I visited in summer but if you plan well, choose the winter months where you will see the birthing of thousands of baby seals. And during these cold winter days you may also get to see the Great White sharks how off their aquatic tactics and it’s the best sight in the world for a nature lover.
 I unfortunately did not get to see any whales or sharks but was in awe of the huge granite island filled with thousands of seals. They have a good safe habitat now and are said to be multiplying well.

The only evidence of humans ever reaching the island, is a fallen World War II radio mast, and the remains of huts that were built in the era of guano collecting and sealing.
But on the contrary due to the increased number in the seal population, the island has become an attraction for Great White Sharks. So now the great White sharks hound the island and hover around it.
Seal Island is a nature reserve and falls under the Western Cape Nature Conservation Board.

You will always find some sort of marine activity around the islands so which ever month you choose, the guide will explain how the season is valuable.
I strongly advise you get a strong sun hat which gets well fastened to your neck, the ocean is so rough that it may just fly off. You must carry sun block, a warm jacket, and don’t forget your camera. The cruise boats aren’t that huge so hold on tight and look after your kids and companions if any. Book in advance and be there on time because the boats are very punctual.

Departure times are subject to change due to weather and number of passengers. You can always get a good look around the fishing harbour at Simons Town waiting for your boat trip.
I found myself this most loveable robust Seal and we enjoyed a hug. Although his whiskers ticked me to endless giggles!!They have this glistening fur, smooth and slippery but look expensive. I guess that’s why they were hunted and hounded for years until the government came down strongly on the protection of these creatures.
When in South Africa head for the Simons Town harbour and don’t miss the boat!

His whiskers tickled me silly!!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Goa Portuguesa spells love and passion! Elsie Gbariel

               Goa Portuguesa spells love and passion!

What I see in this passionate couple; and their labour of love -the restaurant Goa Portuguesa is a deep connection between food and love!
I recall a quote by Henry Ford-" Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress and working together is success."
This is exactly what Dr. Suhas Awchat  and Master Chef Deepa Awchat  stand for.

The Goa Portuguesa  at Andheri Mumbai, bang opposite the  MHADA Telephone Exchange, near the Ambani Hospital is a Restobar which serves the best in Goan and Portuguese gourmet cuisines prepared by Master Chef Deepa Awchat .
The restaurant on the first floor is welcoming and has a warm ambience. The chirpy happy ring of the English pop music of the 80s filled the air while dining. Bringing back memories of when the Goa Portuguesa at Mahim, first started in 1988 by the very same gourmet couple, who I believe are madly in love as the first day they met.

Of course their food speaks of it and stands testimony. You should hear Dr.Suhas narrate his version of how he fell in love with this Goan girl Deepa, he recalls every detail of how they both then fell in love with food. That’s how the marriage took place between Goa/Portuguese and Maharashtran cuisine.

 Dr.Suhas speaks very fondly of  authentic Goan vegetarian food and how it is still a myth that people believe that Goans are all about non vegetarian food alone, like pork and fish. The menu spread does equal justice to both non vegetarians and vegetarians. The food spot is hounded by celebrities and socialites who enjoy the Goan Portuguese delights.

The restaurant is upbeat, filled with smells and essence of Goa alright. I was served piping steaming hot Portuguese Shrimp Dumplings with the wildest twist. It had cheese inside. This one is one of my absolute favorites also called  Rissóis de Camarão in Portugese. This was a good way to kick start all my taste buds. I couldn’t wait for more. This is what one calls clever cooking and good service. I left my hungry soul entirely on the staff and I wasn’t disappointed.

I was also served Goan sausage pulav, a little hot and tangy which went down well mixed with the Goan prawn curry in coconut milk. Aromatic and insanely smooth, it complimented the sausage pulav with ease.

I experienced the most refined Goan cuisine in all it’s splendor, believe me the Chicken Xacuti (pronounced shaa-koo-tee) was exotic. They say every Goan guards their recipe of their Xacuti authenticity with his or her life and believe me, this restaurant does the same, there is some hidden magic portion for sure here, I have never tasted better Xacuti anywhere in the world. The ingredients were smoothly fused and you could literally feel the burst of flavours in your mouth  with the smooth curry consisting of  Cardamom, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, cloves, cumin seeds and of course red chillies and ginger-garlic as well. The coconut milk is not at all overpowering, there is just the right hint of it to sooth the palate. This chicken dish here takes food to a whole new level with the complex layering of flavors and textures.
The menu spelt out many other dishes in addition to serving iconic Goan dishes such as Vindalhoo and Balichao. They have a large offering.

Everything is very fresh and tasty. The Food served  echoes the ethnicity of Goan and Portuguese culture.

I have yet to hear of the Master Chef Deepa Awchat’s version of her love tales, both  about Dr.Suhas and Dakshin Culture Curry/ Diva Maharashtracha, I guess I will wait until my next visit. Meanwhile I washed  down my meal with tangy Sol kadi. So healthy and yet so uplifting!

I believe that Deepa Awchat is a table tennis champion, an ex Customs Officer and now an author too, while Dr. Suhas Awchat is an Ex Army Officer , who is a medical Doctor [F.R.S.H. (UK)], a special Police Officer, winner of President’s Medals and endless laurels, who now successfully plays the role of the Managing Director. 

Now you have Sudeep, their son, who gives back willingly to the food business I hear. Obviously coming from a highly acclaimed restaurateurs family, this second generation MBA expert has grown up on the eclectic cuisines of home made restaurant food which instilled into him the passion for food. His Inspiration, his parents Dr. Suhas Awchat  and Master Chef Deepa Awchat have so rightly passed on the value of good food.
                       Get Goa on your plate, right here in Mumbai, I say, it’s even better!