Christmas is coming & I can feel it in my bones. The Travelling Belly surprise launch party

From the surprise launch party for The Travelling Belly
Thrown by Manoj and Annu Grover

Link to ordering The Travelling Belly on Amazon.in - Kindle and paperback
Link to ordering international Kindle edition on Amazon.com


This post is dedicated to our best friend and topmost well wisher and the most generous host ever, Jamshed Adrianvala,. He has taught us to never to give up on him because he is always there for us. Here's to dining with you soon at RBYC once again Uncle J with devilled eggs and lobster Thermidor, eggs Kejriwal and sandwiches with club ham and mustard and Trupti sweets to take back home 




A plan is hatched 

"Manoj and Annu has requested us to come over to chant this evening," whatsapped my wife to me yesterday morning.

Then a bit later, "they never call us so insistently, maybe something is wrong and worrying them. 8.30 pm it is."

K got home dot at 8.30 pm just as I was demolishing a mutton roll from Hangla's that I had Swiggy'd in after finishing some of the Christmas cake chef Sunil had sent us from the ITC Grand Central.

Onions fried, no sauce. That's how I roll



I finished the roll and gave K the last bite ("very little is left," I told her) before we went down to our friends house down the road.

At the lift I saw some of our fellow Buddhist friends from the Soka Gakkai International.

Priya and Monisha and Monisha's young daughters, Shloka and Nysa.

"You guys are here too. Is there a chanting meeting?" I asked.

The girls grinned and jumped into the elevator and went whizzed up.

Mahesh, my friend and Monisha's husband, was  left standing there with us.

I greeted him with a smile and said, "you here too? Are Annu and Mannu throwing a Christmas party?"

Mahesh's expression changed. His usual Buddha-like smile was gone and he looked frazzled. 

"It was as if he was caught with another woman," squealed his wife of 20 odd years, Monish later.

By which time Mohit had come in too and the conversation moved to his recently injured leg.

Mohit showing that noone is as happy in your wins
as much as your friends and family

"Thank god you had hurt your leg and we could change the topic as Mahesh almost gave it away," said Kainaz to Mohit later and he (Mohit) sportingly grinned in agreement.

Surprise!

We went up to Manoj and annu's house and rang the bell. The door opened and I saw Priya and Monisha and the girls and more friends...Rheena, Anita, Bakhtawar and her daughter Namita....and a table full of bottles of the choicest of liquor and beer cans on the side. That didn't look like the setting for a study or a chanting meeting!

Monsiha, Anita, Priya, Bakhtawar, Namita & Rheen
And their pretty smiles of welcome


I looked at them and said, "are Manoj and Annu throwing a party?""

Monisha looked at me and burst into laughter, "yes, and it's for you?''

"What?"

Mohit came in limping from his injury and beamed widely and said, "yes my friend, we are celebrating your success.""

Annu and Manoj walked in looking sheepishly happy.

Manoj, happy that his surprise had worked

The Travelling Belly launch party

I looked at Kainaz and asked, "you knew?"

"Yes, Manoj was planning this for a week after he checked me if you are ok with surprises." she said.

"You could have told me, I would not have stuffed myself with before before coming," I said and then, "and worn a more photograph worthy tee shirt."

The Travelling Belly Launch Party
'Many in Body, One in Mind'


And that folks, is the story of the launch party of The Travelling Belly.

A debt of gratitude


Ironically, a few days back, I had 'revealed' the book in public for the first time as we had gathered at Manoj and Annu's place for a Buddhist study meeting, which coincidentally was led by Vishal Vij, whom I have thanked in the book for being there for me through all these years in Mumbai.

And Dr Daisaku Ikeda, the president of the Soka Gakkai International, whose desire to promote peace, hope and happiness through the world had brought us all together.

Ending the acknowledgements in The Travelling Belly
With a debt of gratitude

Many in Body, One in Mind

The folks who had gathered were my friends from the Bharat Soka Gakkai. The Buddhist organisation I had returned to after a gap of 13 years in December 2013. Folks with whom, since then, I have chanted together and build beautiful friendships together as we egg each other on through life's trials and tribulation.


Manoj, Mahesh & Mohit
May you be lucky to find friends like these
Turning poison into medicine

I usedlow and listless and defeated back then. I had moved out of market research. Wanted to be a food writer. Nothing was moving in my life and I was like the proverbial headless chicken not knowing what to do.

"You will turn poison into medicine. Your life will become much better than better and than what you could have imagined," my friends assured me. "You will be happy, you have it in you, we will pray for you and with you," they said. "We have changed our lives, and if we could, so will you."

I began to get a grip on things after that. Soon my book contract from Hachette came through and I began writing The Travelling Belly, a book soaked with lots of love, goodwill and support from some truly wonderful people. They supported Kainaz and helped me get up and get back into the ring again.

Writing the manuscript of the book took care of my lack of purpose and self worth then and once done, work started coming in.


Yesterday, we basked in the glow of the happiness of our friend and the lovely food which Annu and Mannu had put together starting with starters (loved the chicken specially) from the legendary Bandra caterer, Harpal. This was accompanied by a a lovely pav bhaji made by Annu. There were more delights from Annu's generous kitchen which feeds us through the year the way the langar of a Gurudwara would. There was an amazing black dal, a light and refreshing dahi bhalla, creamy paneer which my wife, momin law and I have eaten in the past and loved, and amazing chicken curry, hot phulkas with ghee and pulao with Amritsari vadi. Food cooked at home by their cook Mary, a local Catholic lady, who had been trained by Annu and her late mother in law.



A big hearted Punjabi menu that was so apt in the house of this Mumbai Punjabi Manoj, who had married an Amritsar girl, Annu, 24 years and 10 months back and had brought her over to Bandra.

Chef Annu and sous chef Mary labour of love

The chicken from Harpal was so good that I went back and took a pic


For desserts there were soft and juicy laddoos brought by Bakhtawar from Brijwasiand a lovely cake that Mannu and Annu had ordered from Bunty Mahajan of Deliciae cakes. What they didn't realise is that Bunty is the one whose house we often go to for Buddhist lectures!

The sweetest cake ever
With the lovely and loving Annu Grover


The best dessert? The look of glee on on the face of young Nysa as she read the book while the grown ups chatted.

Young Nysa holding the book


"This is the first book she has ever read, " ribbed her mother, Monisha.

"Not true," little Nysa huffed in protest.

The laddoos were amaze balls

Folks have been asking me when is the 'launch party' of The Travelling Belly is planned. The book went on sale on Kindle and Amazon while my publishers and I discussed whether one should do the on ground launch in December, when folks are busy with year end specials, or in late January when people are back from their breaks. Or in February when the book fairs and festivals happen. Hotelier and restaurateur friends of mine warmly offered venues for the launch. 

We kept deliberating by which time Manoj decided enough was enough and threw me this wonderful The Travelling Belly Launch Party.


Manoj and me
So happy

The Karmakars don't forget their debts

Just as my brother's friend Satra earlier, stepped in as a mama for my niece Pompi, and went to their home with his lovely wife Ayesha and baby daughter Aru and did a private annaprashan (rice eating ceremony) as little Kimu had come of age and waiting for the whole family to get together for a proper annaprashon was taking too long.

From what I hear, Kimu was happier eating payesh from Satra in that intimate gathering at home then when I tried to feed her some later in a restaurant surrounded by many unknown faces.

As I think back of 2016, it has been the year of friends for the Karmakars. This post has told you a bit of why. Then there are my friends in Kolkata, Kaniska and Manishita, who sent their car over so that my granny could go to the doctor, Ruskhana and Suneha who sent cakes and cookies to cheer didu up and Anindya, Debjani and Sherry who tried to help her get an ayah. Alka, Anjali, Kurush, Rhea, Manisha, Pradeep, Priyank and Preeti and Ranjit and others who read my mother's blog and urge her on and tried to meet her when she is in Delhi and Kolkata. Soumik, Ratoola, Kaushik, Dhruti, Rahul, Irin, Romi and Gaurav, Suprio and Dolly...my Bengali rat-pack in Mumbai who always make sure we are a part of gatherings at their places... and of course Harshad Rajadhyksha who painstakingly photographed for and shot the cover for The Travelling Belly

The fantastic cover designed by
the award winning advertising professional
Harshad Rajadhyaksha


There are many more to thank and I will write more posts for that but most specially I would like to thank everyone who has supported The Travelling Belly.

As Kainaz said yesterday, the love the book has got so far is unprecedented.

Christmas is coming and I can feel it in my bones.

Christmas is coming

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