Tuesday, March 14, 2017

ICU intimacy

ICU is  the Intensive Care Unit of a hospital. I had gone to see my Uncle who was unwell and by God's grace has recovered now. It is not easy to see your loved one on the hospital bed, with tubes and monitors. Your eyes brim with tears even when the patient is recovering..tears of joy, relief and gratitude. Sometimes it is tears of fear, the 'what if' kind of fear. The mind plays dirty tricks with your wellbeing as you wait in the hospital. It makes you think of the worst possible scenarios. 

In ICU, there is a scenario which is most dreadful. It is when the Doctor says that there is nothing more we can do. The family members who have to hear this, are shattered. Then it can be a  matter of a few hours or a few days. When the family visit the patient inside the ICU, they all smile. They talk of recovery. They never tell the patient that the end is near or the doctor is saying it is all over. In fact, they don't even tell the patient that the situation is critical. I am not going into the morality of all this. I know all of us have to die one day and everyone knows that. But knowing that end is near, is not going to help. I saw the Doctors advising relatives to shift their patient to the general ward of the hospital from the ICU as nothing more could be done, in terms of treatment. To a lady and her daughter, the doctor said to take the patient home and let him rest. He told a teenager to read in Google and watch on Youtube, what simple movements one can do with the patient. Once the Doctor was advising a single mother who was recently widowed to save her money and take the patient home, as there was no hope. The ambulance coming to the ICU was not a ray of hope but a sign of some patient had died. Every day I saw the ambulance once. We saw the crowd of relatives who used to wait outside ICU, reducing every day. When the patient falls sick, lot of visitors come. If the illness stretches long, then a single family member does the duty of waiting at the hospital. All relatives sat in the lawns outside and discussed how their patient was doing and what the doctor was telling them. No one spoke about how the patient was when he or she was happy and healthy. Some people were already resigned as they thought the age factor of the patient which did not help in recovery. People left all their work, business, children and home to just wait with the patient. The relative became a patient with a bed number. No one took the patient s name. But all the attendants talked to each other with a lot of love. Everyone wanted to know how your family member was. They also needed to know where you were from and what did the doctor say. The patient's medical journey is all that they talked about. My Dad used to be waiting everyday for 12 hours outside the ICU. Lot of people talked to him how the night was for their patient. They just needed a father figure to talk to who was also like a friend. I saw my father listening to so many people and being so hopeful for their patients. A couple, taking an evening stroll with their arms linked and laughing one evening, had lost their loved one the next morning. The tears and the howling starts  as soon as the bad news is delivered. People just break down. Sometimes, they are sobbing for hours, the quiet sobs. 

The ICU door was closed and manned by a watchman. There was a small lobby and then one turned left towards ICU and right towards CCU ( Critical care unit).  ICU timings were strict . Only an hour in the morning and evening. Rest of the time, the attendant or the family awaited a call to see the patient, message from the doctor or report from pathology Lab, a call to get some medicine or injection and sign some forms. Once as I came out of the ICU to this lobby, a Saree clad lady was crying and waiting to go in. She told me that she can't bear to see her Mother who is ailing. We just hugged each other in the dark lobby. Time stood still as we sobbed together. I told her to smile and go in, as I saw  watchman approach us. Next day, I never saw her waiting outside.

An old man wearing Kurta Pajama with hennaed beard sat there every day. He has worked for Tata Steel and his father too. Tata gives free medical facility lifelong to the employees and their family. I met his daughter who was a medical consultant with the Jharkhand government. The son worked in Saudi. He had studied in IIT-Powai. His children went to Aligarh Muslim University. We talked about Dubai and Bahrain. He said Saudi has eased up on their laws. He pointed to his wife and said they just have to wear a Burqa now. He was leaving his father to go to Aligarh to see his kids and then back to Riyadh. The old father continued waiting for his wife to get well and she did. Lot of patients got well and the family left happily. It is just that the pall of gloom was more visible. It was a task for all the people outside to keep their spirits up and pray for the best. 

There was a pair of old black leather sandals neatly wrapped in a newspaper under the bench. Someone whose patient must have died, must have forgotten them. They were lying there for days, as a reminder, that life can go either ways. The lady who removed the dry leaves and weeds from the lawns and the bushes, always left the sandals in the same place after cleaning. The flowers bloomed, in the spring, the sun showed its various moods, the clouds played Holi and the sandstorms happened. We all sat through it. The nature was very calm compared to the turmoil going inside each one of us. 

Monday, February 27, 2017

Jaipur Junoon

Jaipur 'Junoon' is still there in my head. I am simply not able to forget our Jaipur holiday. 'Junoon' translated loosely means madness or craziness. It is not the exact meaning but the best I could manage. I seem to compare my shopping experience with Jaipur. I accompanied my visiting relatives to a few boutiques in Mumbai.Thank Heavens for the 'Firangi' accent and a genuine one at that, that we were treated well in all shops. I have this Mantra of putting lipstick when I go shopping. Cant do much about the clothes I am wearing but my lipstick helps me to be treated well by most sales people in stores, malls and boutiques. The attitude is, they check you out and decide on their own that you are not a customer but a browser. Then the subtle rejection is there for all to notice. One experiences this as an Indian when one goes abroad even though Indian tourists spend a lot on shopping, the sales people will treat a fair skinned Caucasian better. This is the arrogance seen in the Middle East and Far East too. The frontline sales people are almost never Indian in big branded stores. Even a less English speaking person from an Asian country is preferred to a qualified Indian in the hi end retail business. 

In school, we were shown 'Junoon', a film with Shashi Kapoor and Nafisa Ali. We were really in a younger class and were taken to a movie theatre to watch this film. Never knew Shashi Kapoor's wife Jennifer Kendall was in the film. Nafisa Ali was beautiful and some scenes are clearly etched in my mind. Could not understand the violence or the subtle emotions but the chemistry between Shashi Kapoor and Nafisa Ali was dynamic. School showed us a lot of movies on special days. Those days parents did not go for movies or went rarely to watch films with their children. During my growing up years, films were considered a bad influence. Singing movie songs all the time or reading film magazines was not a sign of a good student. We got the Stardust magazine at home. The pictures of hero heroines were so delightful. We did not call them movie stars. In fact , movies were called 'cinemas'. The movie theatres were referred to as Cinema Halls. No one ever went on a date to a cinema hall as you would almost always bump into people who knew you or your date. If we talked movies with our friends and cousins, it was always in hushed tones. There was no concept that  good cinema would expand your mind. Knowledge came from reading books or listening or travelling. Definitely not from cinema or television viewing. Those were my simple growing up days. I was  not  exposed to much of world cinema or the world, for that matter. 

Jaipur has totally spoilt us for Mumbai restaurants . Every place we have visited in the last month and half, is falling short in the quality of food they serve. We keep comparing the taste, ingredient quality and the flavours to the food in Anokhi Cafe. It is not that Maharashtra has bad weather or no organic farms. In fact Nashik and Pune has a lot of farms and good produce. Sad to say it never comes to the restaurant tables. The 'Farm to Table' concept does not exist in the restaurants of Mumbai. The Mumbai customer is not discerning in taste. He goes out to meet as much as to eat. He is happy meeting family and friends and just wants a good ambience, good food be damned. The Chefs and the restaurant owners know this and don't bother with the quality of food or its freshness. The pasta and its sauce tastes like saw dust in most places in Mumbai. Anokhi Cafe has set a new benchmark for us in the freshness of ingredients and the taste. Even their desserts were delicious and not just gooey or chocolatey. In Mumbai, the restaurants start well but in a month or two, the cost cutting by the owners begins. The first to go is herbed butter then the quality of bread and then the greens in the dishes followed by the size of the portions reducing. 

Time to  re-acclimatise myself to Amchi. Time to fall in love with my Karm Bhoomi.
Jaipur, you will always have a special place in my heart.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Jaipur Jaunts 2

Anokhi Cafe did not get mentioned in the last out for just one reason: The children did not like the food. We loved the vibe of the place and the fresh salads from Anokhi Farms. The menu did have pastas and sandwiches and the Falafel was good too. Children are not used to the tomato sauce with farm fresh tomatoes. Mumbai children can only dress well and know how to use the latest gadgets. The outside world is alien to them. Mumbai is the easiest city to live in. People are so helpful and the city is safe. Here the working women culture has been there for years. So all help is attuned to catering to them. And Mumbai s convenience has been there much before the super markets, Malls and the helpful websites like concierge services, arrived. Here right from the building watchman to your watch repair shop to the local grocer will help you beyond their core business or service. People are approachable. The only time you can get lost in Mumbai is when you are using Google Maps. People are your best resource in Mumbai. 

In Jaipur, a guide is must at Amer Fort or else you will be walking around like headless chicken. Don't dream of the one way elephant ride to the fort as the queue is too long. The guide we got was a gem. He explained the history of the temple inside the fort. He said he keeps learning history from the tourists who come in as some of them are well travelled and well read. The shop in the Amer Fort is quite good for gifts and decently priced.By the time you come out after skipping the Cafe Coffee Day and 1135 AD which is the hi end restaurant, you will be hungry. Then, Rice papad with little chilly powder on top is crunchy and fresh. Ice cream and Kulfi taste bad and are avoidable. The 'Chanachor' sold by an old man outside City Palace is really good. Actually everywhere I noticed the 'Chanachor' is fresh with lots of tomatoes and coriander. The beauty about our Nation is its fresh healthy junk food. The variety of berries is vast. They add Masala or salt and give it on small leaves. Fresh roasted peanuts with their shell intact, is another good thing to eat. Please do avoid all packaged food in Rajasthan as you will have a huge variety of fresh food to munch . 

In Salasar Balaji and Khatu Shyam, two pilgrimages close to jaipur, we had fresh Mung Dal Bhajiya/ Vada. The green chutney with coriander, Palak/spinach, Pudina/Mint and lime was tangy and gave the 'chatak' flavour to the Bhajias. Freshly soaked Mung Dal was hand ground on stone to give this unique taste which is not found in all the electric Mixer grinders we use. I went to our friend's house for dinner there and even they had a ' Sheel Pathar'. That is the Indian grinder made of stone and heavy in weight. The Chutney or the wet 'Masala' to be added in the gravy is ground on it and the texture is unique.  I did not learn to grind the chutney or the onions properly on the 'Sheel Pathar'. I remember once grinding spinach to apply on my face. Yes, when you are young and Grah Shobha magazine tells you that, you follow blindly. My face started burning because in the morning there was green masala ground. Though the pathar was washed, it still had the 'jhaal' i.e. the chilly. 
 It took me and my grandmother, years to like 'roti' made on a gas stove. When the 'Phulka' or Roti is made on the coal fire, it tastes very different. Same is for Baingan Bharta roasted on gas vis a vis cooked on fire. Rajasthan took me back to the way food was made in our households when we were young. And as they say, we are always looking for a slice or a sliver of our childhood. So many times, it comes and just slips away, before the brain can fathom and process it. My home is a prime example of that. I grew up in homes with a staircase inside the house. Always wanted that in our house in Mumbai. Now I have it and I am the happiest when I am on the stairs climbing up or down, sitting, chatting or cleaning. I do most of my work there like reading my messages, oiling the kids hair and combing it, making an important phone call and what not. 

Jaipur took me back to Jharia.....

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Jaipur Jaunts

December is a lovely time to visit Jaipur. It is a manna for the cold starved Mumbaikars. The city is buzzing with holiday makers and yet it is so unlike one of our metropolitan cities. Jaipur has character, as my little one would say 'Bhar Bhar ke', which means, loads of it. 

We loved the restaurant Tapri in Jaipur. Tapri is a terrace / rooftop restaurant in the heart of the city, close to all the sightseeing places. The crowd is electric and the food is fresh and warm. The open terrace tables are in huge demand. You get the view of the twinkling stars, and our National flag flying high in the park. Lot of wedding plots in the vicinity which we could peep into. Kept wondering when the crowd will start trickling in as it was getting cold in the night. But the local people have late night weddings and the cold doesn't t bother them as there is a lot of bling and metal around. Small bonfires are set up all over the lawns to keep the guests warm . In Tapri, if you want to stay warm, then take the inside tables where the decor is interesting with books lying around amidst extremely comfortable seating. The plates are made of green leaves ..eco friendly all the way. The tea is served in kettles with small glasses. Not Vanilla and Blueberry teas but really home made flavour of the Chai. Went there thrice during our stay and loved it more on every visit. They seem to have cracked the right menu with Maggi, Mung Dal Pakora, Sev Puri, Kanda Poha, Batata Vada and more. No Pastas and Garlic breads and seriously thank the Chef and the owners for that. In Mumbai, most happening places serve this continental/ European/Italian/Greek food and all of which has only Pastas, Risotto and some pizzas. The food tastes alike may be due to the same brand of pastas and readymade sauces being used.

Bar Palladio at Narayan Niwas Palace hotel is grand. Every table in the lawn gets a bonfire and a little white tent like patio to sit. The crowd will give Mumbai and Delhi a run for its money. The waiters have the semblance of the Raj left in them. May be it is due to the fact that it is run by a white woman and that must be a part of the training. The bar building is newly constructed like a palace with white and teal blue walls. Children are not allowed and the place is full almost every day. This is the place to show you have arrived in life.  Narayan Niwas caters to the foreigners who want to experience the Rajasthan grandeur. They have lot of foreign groups through travel agents coming for dinner,with traditional Rajasthani singers, performers and puppet shows. I loved the hotel, the lawns and the way it is maintained. The temple on the property is alive. By alive, I mean it is not a showpiece for the tourists, but locals come to worship Shiva there. Rest of the property stands still in time.The peacocks are seen walking around the porch and the lawns. There is a little hut with a garden where a foreigner lady lives. That is her home and she goes back to whichever country she belongs to in the summers. The entrance is royal and there is a long drive to the actual building of the palace. The Palace is in the heart of the city yet once inside you are serene. 

Forresta at Devraj Niwas is what I liked. The restaurant is in the garden. Space starved in Mumbai, I simply love the open air concept. The have these lights on poles which are  electric heaters to keep us warm in the winter chill.  Candles melting away under a tree. Staff attitude was just right neither too sweet nor too overbearing. Service is quick and they advice you on the right quantities very well. Children can run around and enough space for adults to party. They have opened a new terrace bar called Jay'Pour. I thought that was a really interesting twist to the name. The hep crowd was running towards Jay'Pour. The old ones were happy and settled in Forresta. I am sure it would be lovely to go to Forresta for breakfast too. They have a long hut like structure where a college kids party was going on. it just has a roof and is open on all sides. Very well turned out, the Jaipur youth is. I do wish to stay in this hotel on my next visit for its open layout. 

These places were not filled with tourists. The other places like Baradari and 1135 AD are full of Gora tourists. They are run by Goras like Bar Palladio and get a lot of mention on all the tourist / travel and food websites. We were not dying to feel a part of the Rajathan royalty and pay through our nose, so skipped most of that kind of  places. Gem Palace is another place found on all websites and is full of attitude. Only Gora customers and Gora sales people. The variety is huge and  the ambience is dull and depressing, also frightfully over priced. I should say they are correctly priced for their clientele. 

Laxmi Mishtan Bhandar  or LMBis a big No No because and only for the crowds. Go in the morning and pack your sweets from there. Food is too heavy. The decor is so bad and the air conditioning is stuffy. We asked for Gur Chikki but they packed sugar chikki in the box. The staff is polite and efficient except for this one thing. 
Chokhi Dani, Jaipur is the largest in India and there is so much to do. Too much crowds but all in all a novel experience. 

Jawahar Kala Kendra is light on the pocket and heavy on art and design. If you have time, spend a lazy afternoon there and soak in the architecture. Do visit the art gallery. The place simply engulfs you in its stark 'Howard Roark' type of beauty. The awesome simple Indian Rajasthani meal is now served on advance order and for minimum of 20 people. 

All these places were recommended by friends or their families. 

Friday, January 13, 2017

Taxi Tales

Uber rides have added a new dimension to my life. Most drivers are relaxed and willing to talk. They are not complaining or cribbing about the traffic or the weather. They seem to be enjoying their work. From our end, we seem to be treating them better. That seems to be the case when we pay more money for a service which we got cheaper earlier. Is this a combination of  better customer service and well behaved customers?

This ride was in the evening to collect my child from a birthday party. Traversing the Mumbai evening traffic and keeping your calm, is the stuff legends are made of. The driver, Altaf, said he has seen very rich days. They had the largest bungalow in Mahim, near Mahim Dargah. His grandmother used to sit on a mattress which was lined with bundles of currency notes. The drums which we use for storage of water, they had it full of 'chillar' i.e. coins. In today's currency value, their income was two lac rupees per day. They lost it due to some reason. He did not tell me the reason or the sob story around it. His parents are no more. His Mother had taught him that whatever work you do, do it better than everyone. He works from 1pm to 1am. Even if he is shutting down the Uber app and gets a call or booking from a customer, he takes it. He takes it not to make an extra buck but because he feels someone really needs that late night ride. For that, he is okay to sacrifice his sleep. On his way home from a far off destination, he gives free rides to people who are walking or waiting for a bus. He drops them at their convenient point. This is the good work he does everyday for himself. No one is going to take any money when they die, but they can create a kitty of good deeds. He kept referring to God as 'Upar Waala', the one who is above us. He talked of Karma. He talked of good deeds making good Karma.

Altaf's Mother had told him that you should marry only if you can hold on to that relationship. He is doing that. He has two sons. The elder one died when he was six days old. He had 10 lac cash at home as he had sold a property but all the money could not save the six day old infant. I could hear the sadness on loosing his first born. He said if money could save people, the rich would never die. Why did Dhirubhai Ambani have to die? His sons would have spent on the best medical help for him. Why did the best dancer in the world Michael Jackson have to die? He loved Michael Jackson. He was seventeen when Michael had come to Mumbai for a show. He was waiting outside for a glimpse of his Hero. He heard some wild stories about how women were going berserk on seeing the Pop star. He told me that women were fainting and the cops did not know who they were with. One woman stripped herself for MJ. And then the cops shouted at her. How can that woman be so ' Jaahil'? I smiled and told him nothing like that happened as I was inside. He wanted to know what price ticket I had purchased. I know I was there in the first row with my close friend cum office colleague. We were right near the stage. There was only a barricade between us and Jackson. It was thrilling to be there and watch the Star perform.

Altaf's earlier owner had cut a thousand rupees from his pay as the car had got a scratch. Thousand rupees is a day's income. He was very angry but he controlled himself. The owner was abusing him when he will be getting insurance to pay for the car repairs. Altaf said when we walk on the road, people bang into us or push us. We are not able to prevent that, then this is a vehicle. If someone bangs into the Uber, how can he stop this even though he is driving correctly. He said all drivers are at risk when they drive a car. No driver wants the vehicle he is driving to be banged. The owners of big cars need to realise this. All of thirty seven, he feels he has lived his life and learnt a lot. Upar Waala has made a role for everyone and not made anyone equal. It does not mean one is superior than the other. This job role cycle helps the world go round. He has seen the neighbours making quick money by wrong means including killing. They always meet an end. The world is created for good people. There are more good people everywhere. If the world was full of bad people, a Tsunami (Pralay) would have come and destroyed Mother Earth (Dharti)

The world is full of good people and we all need to remember that. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Mirchi and Mime

It was my youngest niece's birthday. The celebratory lunch was at a restaurant in Powai. I have always had a problem going to this far flung suburb of Mumbai. I have traveled there when I was working and the first of the offices were moving to Powai. We, in hotel sales, full of our uppity attitude, were scandalised to the core of our crepe sarees and block heels. Powai was where IIT and Powai lake was. This was our knowledge of Powai. Hiranandani building flats there never mattered to someone living in a hostel. I never ever dreamt of buying my own house. A house, a foreign holiday or an SUV or a high end watch were never in my purview of things.  I do not think the word SUV was prevalent in those days. I only knew Jeep and Gypsy. Jeep was a police vehicle for me. Gypsy was made by Maruti, the coolest automobile car manufacturer, during my teens. A Gypsy ride was 'the' thing to happen in life. The foreign cars which people owned were bought from some crooked agents or second hand. Those days,there were no foreign car showrooms in Mumbai. I get scared when I write of my childhood years and wonder how the young people think of me. Do I sound ancient to them? My child has a perpetual question for me which triggers me no end and that is: "Aap ke zamaane mein yeh hota thaa?". It means 'Did it happen in your time?'. 

 Powai is quiet, green, leafy and well planned suburb. It has beautiful large buildings, green lawns, public parks, shops and restaurants. When I could not complain for its beauty, I could easily complain about how long it takes for one to commute to Powai. In reality, I was jealous of the large beautiful spacious houses with green lawns and my unaffordability to buy a flat there. The only time I visited Powai was during the Durga Puja. Saw it at night, all lit up and lots of people. Kept saying Powai is far from everywhere. It is in the middle of nowhere. The railway stations are so far and so are the Eastern and Western Express highways. The traffic to reach an exit point in Powai is crazy. So what if it is a self contained suburb, no one can work and live in the same area in Mumbai. On a few rare occasions, I have been to Powai to meet a friend or have a meal and the food was sad. Now I was clear that the Vastu of the Powai restaurants is all wrong, so even the pizza from a chain of pizzerias does not taste good in Powai. Who is stopping me from making my bias stronger against Powai? 

 All this was in my mind, till I reached Mirchi and Mime. I was bowled over from the moment our car turned in that lane. Beautiful Feng Shui, energy and vibe in the lane. My favourite store Fab India also located there. The staff standing outside had a tree for a canopy. No aggressive valet rushing to park your car. I could hear birds chirping and feel the cool breeze from the Powai lake. The staff who serve the food have speech and hearing disability. The Manager Lionel, explained the concept of the restaurant. Mirchi and Mime does not make a big deal of hiring these people. It is their largesse to provide employment to the deaf and the mute and they are committed to enabling them to earn a living. We were taught the signs to call a waiter, order our food and how to say Thank you. Tariq was serving food to us. He introduced himself in sign language. Our experience of the staff was heart warming and service was impeccable. The soups, salads and the starters were delicious and had a unique twist to the taste and the serving style. The waiters did it with such elan. The food came with a plastic name tag which the waiter kept next to us. The vegetarian items had a green one and the non vegetarian items had a red one. The open kitchen was fascinating and the entire experience was of seamless service. We did not have to call Lionel even once as at no point was there a hitch in communicating with the waiters. They were trained so well and such amazing people. The food was fresh. The decor was open and spacious and yet traditional. They have not tried to give this rustic look as in most restaurants and lounges in Mumbai with the  distressed furniture, cycle tyres on the half cemented walls with bricks showing. The Indian food restaurant has Indian decor without going total Rajasthani. That seems to be the problem with so many food places. Indian decor means guilded mirrors or mud on the walls and ethnic cloth patches as wall decor. The architect has kept the lines clean, the seating has a lot of privacy. You cannot eavedrop on other guests conversation, even if you are finished reading all your whatsapp messages. 

With Christmas around the corner, everyone is posting invites for a charity gala or asking for old clothes for an orphanage or an old age home. What 'Mirchi and Mime' has done to these boys and their families is not just for this season. Most charity homes in Mumbai have a uniform for the children and a fixed set of comfortable clothes for the old. Our Mumbai fancy party/ casual wear is not used for the inmates. I have been to  orphanages where they said, we do not need so much milk powder, toys and baby clothes. We live in a city of excesses. People shop a lot, hoard a lot and do give away too. But I would rather go and eat at 'Mirchi and Mime'. Providing employment and bringing up their self confidence, letting them feel self worth, transforming so many families, is simply awesome. Writing a cheque, buying a few groceries and daily needs and giving away old clothes, is easy. I am sure that is needed for the society too. But what the owners of 'Mirchi and Mime' have done is commendable. Take a bow, Guys, along with your super powered Team!

Sunday, December 4, 2016


We are seeing the new generation being so tech savvy. They know everything to do with gadgets and are so good at adapting to newer versions of gadgets and apps. I have that kind of adaptability to kitchens. I can cook comfortably in any kitchen. It has to do with me visiting relatives as a child with my Dadi, Grandmother. When we visited people, it was natural to help them in the kitchen or in chopping vegetables or folding clothes or cleaning wheat and rice. Yes, we had unpolished grains which were not branded as 'organic' and we had to remove little mud and small stones from the grains. First the lady of the house used a tray called ' Soop' pronounced as 'soup', to clean the grains. Around half kilograms was taken in the 'soop' and the grain was thrown up in the air and collected back in the soop. This helped in removing the dirt from the grains. The dirt fell back from the air in the front portion of the 'soop' and the grains came back. Women were very good at cleaning the grains in this manner. The 'soop' was made of a jute like bark..a tray with edgings on three sides. The back edging of the 'soop' was higher and the two sides were in a sloping fashion, high to low and ended at the open side of the tray. This also helped remove any insects from the grains. Then we took the rice/ wheat/ dal in big steel 'Thali' or plates with edging around and cleaned it in some portions. When the new grains were bought, people stocked up for the year after cleaning them. Neighbours went to each others house to help clean the grains. This activity was done in the afternoons where sunlight was at its best. Ladies talked and laughed around as they cleaned sacks of grains. Sometimes, they sang 'Bhajans' or prayer songs as they did this task. Bhajans are celebratory in most cases. There is no significance about them. Anyone can sing and it need not be in a serious manner. I don't think tea was offered after this. Milk was considered a sacred commodity. Tea for guests was always watery compared to the tea for the home owners. People ran back home to make tea for their old parents, in laws or for their husbands. 
Women wore their 'ghar ka saree' or home clothes to come to help for this task.  When I was really young, we were the only two Gujarati families to own a car in Fatehpur Lane. Gauri Bai went to a far off place near Barvadda where there was a wholesale grain market, to stock up for the year. A lot of her friends or relatives would accompany her for this trip. I remember going with my Dadi, some eight ten women in the sturdy Ambassador car along with the driver, to choose and book our sacks of grains. It was such an exciting outing. Open air market and some godowns to store the grains. My Grandmother knew her grains and masalas very well. I always feel that I did not even learn one percent from her. She had so much knowledge to share. 
Now when guests come home, be it friends or family, the appropriate conduct is to sit on the sofa in the living room, as the hostess goes to prepare tea or instruct her staff. People do not walk into anyone's house easily. Everyone values their privacy. Now no one wants to share the secret of their glowing skin or the price at which they buy tomatoes. Everything has become about giving each other space and valuing privacy. Am I the only one feeling that the distances are increasing? 
'Soop' had a sacred meaning in Jharia and Dhanbad. Being a part of Bihar, Chhath Puja celebration was the biggest in our town. Offering to Adit Baba or Sun God or Surya Bhagwan was made in a 'Soop'.  Soop was the vessel used to keep the fruits, sugarcane, grapefruit and 'Thekua'. Thekua is the Prasaad made by ladies at home who are fasting for Chhath. It is a pattice of wheat, jaggery and some spice which is deep fried. It tastes divine. Women offered many 'soop' or one 'soop' for Chhath. Then this 'prasaad' was distributed among all. In Mumbai, this year for Chhath, I saw people had kept 'sukha chana' ie 'black chana ki sukhi sabji' as offering. The women use  'soop' made of 'brass' for the Puja. In India, the vessels of each region are so distinct from another and are used in the kitchen. in interesting ways. There is a museum of vessels in Ahmedabad at Vishala. I was the only one excited seeing the utensils as my family walked with me.  
In Mumbai, most grains are sold clean. We don't use 'soop' to clean. It is buy and use policy for all the things.