Thursday, July 24, 2014

It's the time to DISCO!

“This two year journey has been one of the most important periods of my life. It showed me that life is the best teacher; it teaches you till you actually learn your lessons. Life wanted me to be happy – something I did not learn during my first stint with cancer.  So, it gave me cancer again so that I could learn to be happy, to laugh at myself, to accept my circumstances and to not be too affected by them — to let go!”                                                                                                               -   Sumegha Gulati 
Sumegha is a 24 year old journalist working for the Indian Express and a two-time cancer survivor.

My dear friend Vijayashree Singh recenty shared a link on Facebook that was originally posted by her friend Sumegha Gulati. The article is titled "I Dated Cancer.” Normally, I refrain from reading articles related to cancer because I lost my lovely mother to the very same disease and even today, 19 years later, the memories still haunt me. But this title intrigued me. Hesitantly, I opened the link and was quite taken aback by the picture of a young girl sitting on the couch with her dog, with a big smile on her face. I couldn’t even tell for a second that she had actually dated cancer. Not once, but twice!

I slowly mustered up my courage and decided to continue on with the rest of the article, as I wanted to know more about Sumegha and her struggle. I read and reread the post. It sure made a compelling story and each time I read it, I got goose bumps. Every sentence in the article was so inspirational and touching; I loved the way she laced the dark truths of life with courage, hope and humor. There were many lines in the article which were quite hard-hitting, be it her realizing that a foreigner had entered her body right after her 22nd birthday without her permission or when she candidly admitted that her ego was hurt when she realized that her cancer had relapsed, telling her not to underestimate the enemy.

I smiled with her when she mentioned that one of the best things about chemotherapy was the awesome, hot and young doctors she met during her course of treatment. I could relate to her when she kept a check on her emotions and told the world that even in a situation like that, she broke down exactly once, when she saw her strong father break down and shed tears. I admired her zest for life when I realized that despite being so sick and in so much pain, she managed to wake up, eat, wear her beautiful clothes and head to work Finally, I bowed to her for showing such amazing composure and willpower by dealing with the complexities and the unpredictabilities of life so beautifully.

Bravo, Sumegha. Thanks for inspiring us and showing us what WILL is capable of. May you continue to live a life that is full of hope and happiness!

I have always been fascinated by life and its many facets. My 13-week stay in India this time was quite a unique one for many reasons. My initial apprehension of being away from my Chicago home for that long soon disappeared when I started to connect and bond with people whom I care for. The days went by really fast when I made a conscious attempt to break away from the mundane and try something completely different, something that I had not enjoyed in the past.
I promised myself that I wouldn’t sweat the small stuff. I happened to read Sumegha's article around the same time and it helped me count my blessings and appreciate life even more. Thus began my "Joie de Vivre" joyride in Mangalore — eating bella (jaggery in Kannada) ice candies with my little nieces; rejoicing in MODI’s victory with Appa; drenching in the first monsoons with my Sundari; gorging on oily Mangalore delicacies without the fear of gaining weight; making several temple stops for a quick "hello" to my favorite deities; eating home-grown mangoes for breakfast, lunch and dinner; and lazing around on the scorching sands of Mangalore beaches sans sunscreen.

In Bangalore, I visited the quaint antique addas, collected some amazing Raja Ravi Verma prints; closely observed the art works of many local artists; interacted with folk artists; met weavers from all over India; discussed textures and fabrics; ate spicy Chettinad food to my heart’s content; and learnt how to cook ‘Posto’ from my Bengali cook. 

For the first time in 19 years, I did not care about going to malls and taking mini vacations within India. Instead, I chose a simple path by indulging myself in things that made me really happy. At the end of the day, isn't this something we all strive for?
So the connection here between this post and Sumegha is NOT coffee, but happiness - finding it & focussing on it!

Rummaging through the antiques: something that I will never get bored of doing.

The highlight of my India trip: attending the "PHAD folk art" workshop, conducted by renowned, national award-winning PHAD artist Prashant Joshi.

Baking a mango, passion fruit, chili flake mousse with executive pastry chef Mr. Saurabh Shahi from Whitefield baking company, Marriott… That was fun!

With the Patachitra folk artists from Medhinipur district.

Amidst all this, the one thing that kept me going was my penchant for good filter kaapi. A good coffee makes my day, and it's something that I really enjoy.
Homemade, street-side or in a restaurant, I had coffee in ample doses. The aroma of the freshly ground beans and freshly brewed coffee added a much needed punch to this 3 month long trip. From the tumbler kaapi in Brahmin's coffee bar to the degree kaapi in Upsouth, from the traditional filter kaapi in Udupi Krishna Bhavan to the fun disco kaapi in Lakshmi Vilas hotel, I had them all. 

So through this post I want to take you all on a caffeine filled "Filter Kaapi" ride with me.

The MANE (in-house) filter coffee:

Nothing beats the taste and freshness of homemade filter kaapi.
I clearly remember those days when coffee filters were unavailable in a small town like Mangalore, this was how amma made her coffee decoction at home. A thick porous white cloth was tied over the mouth of a vessel, the coffee powder was added followed by the pouring of hot water. Then she would tightly squeeze the cloth and fresh coffee decoction was ready in minutes.

The TRADITIONAL filter coffee:

The old school technique mentioned above was then simplified and traditional decoctions were made using a filter. Coffee filters come in different sizes and vary from steel to brass. These are my in-house coffee filters- steel for daily use and the brass one for large gatherings. Filter kaapi tastes best when served in a steel lota ( cup in kannada).

The DEGREE filter coffee:

What's your degree- strong, medium or light asked the barista and I stood there wondering what he was talking about. It took me a few minutes to understand what this degree was all about. The unadulterated first and second batches of a coffee decoction are called degree and normally they are pretty strong. Try the degree coffee from Upsouth ( A fast food chain from the people who own South Indies and Bon south) and you will surely ask for more!!

The TUMBLER filter coffee:

At the end of my 3 month stay in Bangalore, having tasted coffees from almost every corner, I finally came to the conclusion that "Brahmin coffee bar" in Chamarajpet served the best filter kaapi in town. When I visited this small joint, it was packed with people and getting inside the bar was difficult. With the jostling crowds and the not so friendly owners , taking pictures here was almost impossible. That's when my Canon zoom lens came in handy. And believe me, at the end of it all, it was so worth it because the coffee here was simply out of this world.... had 2 tumblers straight!

The RIMJHIM filter Coffee a.k.a DISCO coffee:

I am definitely saving the best for last and I highly recommend all coffee lovers to visit this place near Mangalore for the taste and unique style of presentation of its Disco coffee.

Hotel Lakshmi Vilas is a small hole in the wall kind of restaurant in Kaladka ( approximately 33 kilometers from Mangalore). This restaurant is extremely popular for its Rimjhim coffee and has received ample coverage by the food channels. Apparently Rimjhim coffee is also called Disco kaapi because the decoction floats on top of the frothy milk and makes a pretty presentation.

When I went there with my camera, the crew happily gave me a tour of the place and took me to the kitchen right away.

The decoction is made fresh and is allowed to cool to reach a certain temperature.

The coffee guy made the disco kaapi in front of me with pride.

The frothy milk is prepared and with a shallow spoon, the decoction is poured slowly, so that it just sits on top.

The floating dark decoction on top of the frothy milk gives the illusion that the kaapi is dancing - yes, disco dancing.

I am a happy camper!


  1. A very dear friend of mine is fighting her battle ...I sincerely admire the ones who have crossed this crucial path and have won ! On a lighter note...all these pictures of 'Filter coffee' have left me craving for one:)


  2. lovely article jayashree ...loved the pictures of traditional coffee making !

  3. Nice segway to the writing on coffee ! More power to Sumegha, so hard to do but I agree with you both, find what makes you happy and continue to focus on it! Time to wake up and smell the wonderful filter kaapi! Laxmi Nivas is definitely on my list of places to visit. That mousse looks absolutely delectable! Another yummy post by you Jay!

  4. Jayashree - very inspiring post! I totally agree with Sumegha that life is more beautiful after my cancer experience. I enjoyed going on the 'kaapi' journey with you! Thank you.

  5. Reading this early in the morning left me craving for some coffee! Like you I too am very fulfilled with the just right cup of kaapi! Be it Starbucks or hand made by you... But jay the power of a good coffee to brighten your day and carry you through it and the power of our will to power us through the dark tough the ugly the unexpected harrows of our life share similarities and strengths! Today is all we have ... But today's hope for a beautiful strong sunny or rainy tomorrow is also all we have! Loved the read and all the lovely captures of coffee.... If will keep me focused and strong! Aanu

  6. Well done great article Jayshree. An inspiring article about the people that suffer with cancer at a young age – be it child or adolescent is a tough journey. My prayers are with Sumegha and wish her a healthy life. Your Kaphi journey with pictures definitely made me get back to my good old day in Bengaluru. Keep it up girl, hugs

  7. What a lovely post! I salute Sumegha for her spirit and strength. Loved this post, I am off to Bangalore next week, will make sure to drink 2 tumblers of coffee at Brahmin's.

  8. Loved your article and salutations to brave Sumegha. I have a close family member who is a brave survivor just like her so I can understand the feelings to some extend.....excellent transition into coffee, will definitely visit Brahmin's on my next trip soon.

  9. Very inspiring post Jay. I salute Sumegha for her courage and spirit. God Bless her with long healthy and happy life. Your journey of filter kappi was very tempting and mouth watering. I am also a great lover of filter Kappi and would love to have enough during my visit to Mangalore next week.

  10. Very well written, lyrically flowing and temperamentally beautiful blog entry. I enjoyed reading it Jay. Such a pleasure to see you grow into a quality blogger and lifestyle Guru in your own right !! Congrats.

    Great positive vibe and uplifting start with a heart warming story of Sumegha. Her ability to keep her spirits up and have a sense of humor through it all was well-narrated. Technical details to the art of coffee making add such a nice 'n yummy touch. Well done !

    Shwetha Garde