The Penny Pincher's Guide to Chocolate Shopping

Chocolaty treats can cost the world. A sundae at Sandy’s Chocolab sets you back by Rs. 200 (so enjoy it occasionally), the smallest available pack of Hershey’s Kisses costs Rs. 250 (noted during innumerable visits to Amma Naana), Pepperidge Farm chocolate cookies cost Rs. 195 – and they’re not even that great, as I discovered when I asked my cousin to get them from the US.

So, how can you scrimp on them and still satisfy your cravings? You can actually buy small treats ranging from ten to twenty five bucks and get more of them, adding variety to your chocolate diet. Here goes the list:

Treat-O Cookies: Britannia’s answer to Oreo, by the cookie’s appearance and name. But I found it way yummier than the Oreos I bought (I licked the cream and dumped the biscuits – but after trying to eat them). Chocolate flavour’s better than vanilla.
Price: Rs. 10

Mini Mars Bar:
A low-guilt treat that’s worth every penny. Gooey, chewy, chocolaty and superior taste-wise to its competitors.
Price: Rs. 20

Choco-Hazelnut cream mini treats – I think these are imported from the Middle East or something. They’re available in bubble packs (like those single-use jam packs). There’s one that’s shaped like a heart and has exact half-half white and brown choco cream. Irresistible, and fun indulgence for the kid in you.
Price: Rs. 5

Kinder Wafer Bars – Chocolate coated wafer bars filled with milk & hazelnut paste.An anytime treat.
Price: Rs. 25

Lotus Chocolate Bar – Warning: I haven’t tasted it. But it costs only 10 bucks.

There is more stuff, that I’ll have to add to this list. You can get these at Brown Tree or Amma Naana. I wish you many happy chocolaty days ahead!

Dear Husky a.k.a. Bushki,

I hope you’re doing well in your beautiful, fluffy golden abode filled with love. This letter is long overdue. I have missed you tons all these years, sweetie pie!

You made a special difference in my life. You were all mine, “my dog” in every sense, in the two days that you whizzed into my life like a golden whirlwind.

It was in the month of May, 12 years back, on my cousin’s birthday. We noticed you lying in a sheltered place in our courtyard. You had a red rag around your neck – a gorgeous golden retriever growling back at us when we tried to make friends with you.

We wouldn’t give up. We threw out pieces of bread to you from the window, and you slowly came around. By evening, you were at the verandah, wagging your tail and jumping up to catch the biscuits we threw in the air. I had come up with a name for you – Husky – I know that’s another dog breed – but still, the name seemed right for you – because it sounded as cute as you. My cousin said that you should be called Bushki ;-).

We went back to the hall, and you stuck your head into the window, eyes shining, making sounds of pleasure as I stroked your head. We noticed that you drooled excessively, and wondered if your owners had decided to abandon you because you were not well (there still are people like that, Husky. In fact their number has only increased.)

Then granny tried to chase you away, but you went deep into the bushes and came right back in front of them when she moved away. This continued for about 10 minutes, after which she gave up.

That night, you wailed and yapped from the backyard, demanding to be let inside. Then you came around to the verandah and proceeded to scratch the net covered door, successfully tearing away a portion of the net.

The next morning, as me and I parents came outside you came running from the side of the house, joyfully leaped at me and licked my face.

The ice was broken with the family. You proudly took residence on the verandah. I went for driving class and you trotted along all the way to the compound gate. Then my cousin told me that you growled at him when he tried to call you back, and that you liked me the most. I did feel proud ;-). Once you even trotted into the hall and stretched out, looking into the dining room, without caring if someone was going to chase you out, feeling as comfortable as you would have in your old home.

That evening, I rode my cycle, and you ran all the way along, your enthusiasm not bogging down the slightest bit. Those moments were special.

Then Grandpa insisted that you had to be left at an animal dispensary attached to our campus, in spite of continuous protests from us. He put his foot down. We felt really sad as we took you to the dispensary, with you bounding down the road energetically, dragging us behind.

We came to visit you in day or two. You seemed tired and did not get up, but joyfully wagged your tail as we called out your name.

We visited you again a few days later. But shocking news awaited us. You had passed away from what one of the pet caretakers claimed was Tetanus. I had tears in my eyes, Husky.

During your last days, you managed to people who loved you and Husky, those days were equally special for me. I am glad that I found you that summer and brought happiness into your life. Rest in peace in doggie heaven, Husky. I’m sure it’s filled with love and happiness.

Woof woof!

Dear Audrey,

You’re one of my favourite actresses. And all it took was two movies. You bowled me over with your portrayal of a young princess in Roman Holiday (1953). Be it regality and elegance or the innocence and charm of a girl who wanted to escape her boring aristocratic life, escaping to the streets of Rome, falling in love and having to let go of it all in a day. It won you the Academy Award! And became the most coveted DVD in my house, after my father bought it and gave it off twice to his friends, after which we went searching for it again. On a recent visit home, I noticed that it was missing again.

Then I spotted Breakfast at Tiffany’s in Odyssey and promptly picked it up, thanking my friend for suggesting that we go there. Again you cast an enchanting web, being funny, yet vulnerable and fleeting.
And of course, made a famous fashion statement. I had even taken a picture of myself seated next to a wax replica of you, straight out of the movie, at Madame Tussaud’s.

I’d like to make a confession. I am deeply envious of your slender figure, the perplexingly (I have to say that!) small waist and elfin charm. You can see how much you’ve influenced me! All of this made me look
you up on Wikipedia.

Then I got to know that cancer had claimed your life.

That made me really sad. You had learned of your condition very late and had lived barely four months after that. I’ve seen cancer up close. People in my family have been cancer victims – my Granny, who, like you, lived for only a little over four months after diagnosis and an aunt, who fought it bravely for 1 ½ years before succumbing to it. All this time, I tried to keep my hopes up and feed encouragement to my family.

Cancer is one of the cruelest things that can happen to man. I fail to comprehend why a bunch of vicious cells would spoil someone’s happiness, making life a struggle, and the treatment may create more suffering than the condition itself. Why can’t people make themselves more aware of the early signs and make an effort to lead a healthy life, so that the repercussions aren’t so severe? As I found, even the smallest ignorant habits (such as skipping your breakfast) may cause major health risks. It’s sad to see that the world appears to be going in that direction of ignorance today. It’s time to turn things around!

Together lets pray for a healthier world, Audrey; for a younger generation that is aware of risks and the negatives of junk food and improper eating habits. Thank you for listening to me.

Your enchanted fan,


The Life and Times of Julie - as narrated by him ;)

This was my first blog post :-)

I was an adorable caramel coloured dog, young, full of life, raring to establish my canine reign, bringing all members of dogkind under my control.

Then I got lost, and found myself in unbelievable wilderness (in the heart of Chennai!). I wandered around for a few days within a huge campus where my companions or rather, predators, were foxes, snakes and poisonous insects. A few harmless mongooses also went about here and there.

Then I discovered a place called Sriram Colony within this Amazonian forest in Chennai (which I found, was called Theosophical Society). There I trotted into the backyard of a big house that was bustling with hullabaloo created by five kids on a summer vacation.

I didnt feel upto being too sociable. I really missed my old human family. But all this wandering had made me very hungry. So I offered one of them a friendly paw.

And what a welcome I got! The girl I made friends with was called Aishu, and she named me Julie (a bit off-putting, considering I was a boy, but I didn't mind much). The kids were excited with their new friend, and petted me and fed me. I faced opposition from a few members of the house, and they even chased me. But I could sense that they were nice people after all, who didn't want to encourage strange dogs.

I tolerated all of it cheerfully, hung on, and wagged my tail as much as possible. One by one, each of them started displaying their affection, in small ways.

I soon settled in well, was given kingly treatment, became famous all over the campus, and was feared for my ferociousness. I will never forget this incident when I chased a suspicious-looking foreigner who was tottering on her bicycle. That made me even more famous, or to be honest, infamous. Yet I was possessive, protective and had deep affection for my family, and they showered overwhelming affection on me.

My visits to the vet involved me being affectionately carried on the lap by  grandma, with grandpa driving. Of course, the place was very unpleasant, but the mollycoddling made me put up with it.

My weekly bath was a special occasion. The verandah would be cleared, a couple of buckets of water and a bar of Lifebuoy (the only choice for keeping dogs healthy!) would be brought out. Then the pandemonium would begin. I would undergo a thorough scrubbing and dousing session, in spite of my continuous physical protests. The kids would have a gala time watching me (though not seriously laughing at me).

I would have a playful revenge (I like the kids... no serious anger for me) by shaking my body vigorously and spraying water all around.

I experienced some frightening moments too, which would call for a dash under the biggest table or bed. These were sometimes during Diwali (but soon they understood my problems and burst the crackers a bit further away), and always, when the big, noisy mosquito repellent dispensing van came.

One of the difficult periods was when one of the naughtiest kids of the lot was around 2 years of age, and was constantly at home. He used to ride me like he was a jockey and would twist my ears. But I didnt take the pain to heart. Mischievous kids will be mischievous.

Gradually all these kids grew up, and I grew older. I started getting out of the house more, and roaming around. Grown-ups like their freedom. But whenever I felt like coming home I would go and take my pride of place in a comfy corner.

Now each of them are studying in college, some are getting married, and familiarising me with their spouses... so it's more family, and with them, more warmth and affection. And now as I am retired, I lie back, basking in their love, happy and content.

  Julie is my dog who has departed to doggy heaven, but still he lives in our hearts, loving us with his big, glowing, caring eyes and actions (he knew in and out about us). God bless his soul.

2011 – Year of the Chocoholic

Finally my “happy New Year full of great times (but restricted to one topic)…” post is out. A whole month late, because it is only now that I have acknowledged one of the purposes of my 2011. Which has incidentally been the purpose of half my adult existence. Yes, same old chocoholism. And an allied purpose is to avoid the dentist.

I’ve been experiencing terrible chocolaty cravings (even more than before) this year, because I’ve not been having much of an appetite – but chocolate and an appetite are unrelated – it connects straight with the heart. So I ended up going to Coffee Day in the evenings and skipping my dinner (felt proud of myself) a few times. And had frequent fantasies about chocolate mud pie (after tasting it at Pasta Bar Veneto).

Keeping fit has also been one of my concerns – as I’ve hardly done any hula-hooping (yes, it’s a great exercise) in the past month, apart from which I do nothing. I just hope to start a good exercise routine, so that I can accommodate the chocolaty stuff without guilt ;-).

On a concluding note, I hope that the cravings go down and I exercise more & I want to fit in a daily walking routine as well. These are my resolutions for now. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a good 2011. And hey, happy short and sweet February!