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I was always impressed by Aasif Mandvi who is a regular in Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show. So when I learnt that he had starred in a movie as a lead in a movie that had Naseeruddin Shah and Madhur Jaffrey as his co-stars, I was eager to watch it. I finally got around to seeing it after Netflix offered it on their instant streaming.

I found the movie to be utterly charming, funny and mouth watering.  Cookbook author and actor Madhur Jaffrey is great in the role of the mother of the central character played by Mandvi, a chef in the midst of professional and personal crises. Shah as the NY cab driver-turned-chef is utterly endearing.

The movie is about Samir,  a chef and first generation Indian-American who impulsively quits his job, is pressed into service at his family restaurant, finds his cooking mojo and realizes that approach to food is really an approach to life itself. Shah plays the role of Akbhar with sparkling charisma, as a wise mentor whose passion for life is positively contagious to even the most skeptical movie viewer. Likewise, Madhur Jaffrey as Farida is delightful as Samir’s meddlesome and endearingly overbearing mother who is determined to marry him off with the help of an online Indian matrimonial service. One of the highlights of the movie is when Shah and Jaffrey share a scene in the kitchen of the restaurant, where they meet for the first time.  Farida (Jaffrey) has been instructed by Samir’s father(another great performance by Harish Patel)  to check up on the restaurant and ends up meeting the eccentric cab driver/cook who is responsible for turning things around. Shah displays the art of impressing and charming a woman with élan and Jaffrey responds suitably, an endearing moment suffused with warmth.

The film is set in Manhattan and Jackson Heights, Queens, which a New Yorker can easily recognize and identify with. The story is completely predictable and formulaic, but with a film this enjoyable, who cares? Sure, it includes many clichés of dating and family strife but somehow there is a sweetness that tugs at your heartstrings. You don’t have to be an Indian to appreciate the culture clashes and modern drama that the lead character finds himself in; the story has a universal appeal. Overall it is sweet, romantic, sentimental and will make you want to go out for Indian food as soon as you finish watching this movie. Be warned!

As I complete four years of living in The Big Apple, this is the song that’s playing in my head. And I breathe in the intoxicating romance that makes the illusion of living in this city the gilded dream that it is.

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Grete Waitz won the NYC marathon a record 9 times. Sadly she just passed away.  Here she is running with Fred Lebow, the NYC Marathon founder.

Grete Waitz was dubbed the Queen of the road after her amazing record. Its sad that both Fred and now Grete succumbed to Cancer. She was just 57.

Two years after this run, Fred died from remission of brain cancer. He was 62.

Though Fred and Grete are NYC’s  running legends, Grete was from Norweigh and Fred was born in Romania.

What an amazing achievement by both of them.

Am writing this to explain the hiatus since the last post.

I did run the NYC Marathon on Sunday Nov. 7th.  But a few days before the race, I was aware that my mom’s condition in India was getting worse. That weighed heavily on my mind and I was expecting a call to rush home any moment. So, with a lot on my mind and a heavy heart I showed up at the starting point at Staten Island on race day. It was cold and windy and the wait was about 4 hours before the start of my wave. This wait is the part of NYC marathon that I did not like.

However, I was finally off the corral and breezed through Verrazano bridge and Brooklyn. By the time I reached Queensboro bridge at 15th  mile I was starting to cramp and was struggling to keep up with my race partners. I asked them to go ahead and told them I would walk for some distance. Team Galloway, the running group I belong to, had our own aid stop at about 17th mile. I stopped there for a while to overcome my disappointment and replenished myself with much needed snacks and Gatorade. The temptation to give up the race was very strong, but then I thought of my mom and decided that even if I had to crawl on my hands and knees, I will finish the race and get the medal for her.

So off I went, limping, walking and hobbling to complete the rest of the distance. At about mile 20 I saw Al Roker, the famed NBC weatherman. That’s when I had a sly thought. Come what may, I was not going to let myself finish slower than him! In the end I finished about 75 minutes ahead of him. He probably struggled during the last few miles.

Somewhere during the course, I had also seen the rescued Chilean miner Edison Pena running with two pace setters carrying the Chilean flag. He eventually finished a few minutes ahead of me.


There is me in the white cap somewhere during the race

I finally finished the race both physically and emotionally drained. A couple of days later, I received the much dreaded call from India. My mother was admitted to ICU, after her body reacted adversely to radiation. She was undergoing chemotherapy and was being started with radiation to arrest the cancer that had spread from her breast to most parts of the body.

I rushed to see her in Chennai. Though she could not talk, she did open her eyes a couple of times and I believe she recognized me. And then one morning she breathed her last. She had turned 70 couple of months ago.

Funeral and post-funeral rites were stressful and heart-wrenching. I returned to the US sad and reflective. Updating the blog seemed trivial given what I had lost.

I miss her and hope and wish her soul has found its resting place.

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