Author: Lily Swarn

Momo, a Popular Street Food in India and Nepal, has Worldwide Presence

Lily tells us the story of Momos, a popular street food in India and Nepal that the Tibetan refugees brought along with them. Momo is now the traditional delicacy of Nepal, Tibet and the Nepalese and Tibetan communities in Sikkim, Bhutan and Darjeeling district of India. The original Tibetan is Mog-mog. The Chinese names are […]

The Indian Jalebi Evolved from a West Asian Dish

The Hobson-Jobson says that the word Jalebi came from the Arabic word Zulabiya or the Persian Zalibiya, which are names for a similar dish. West Asian Christian communities serve it with a sprinkling of powdered sugar and cinnamon on the Feast of Theophany. A 10th-century cookbook of Iran, where it was served to the poor […]

How Biriyani Travelled from the Barracks to the Royal Kitchens!

Many centuries were spanned by the Biryani in its evolution from a dish for battling troops to a dish fit for the kings, it has been influenced by the gastronomic, cultural and religious differences of the regions. It’s now an all-India favourite. Biryani was savoured by the Nizams of Hyderabad and the Nawabs of Lucknow along with the Delhi […]

Our Yummilicious Ice Cream Dates Back to the 5th Century BC

Lily forages the history to unravel the origin of ice cream. The granddad of modern medicine Hippocrates advocated eating ice to his Ancient Greek patients as “it livens the life juices and increases wellbeing.” During the 5th century BC, Greeks ate snow blended with honey and nuts, in Athens. In 400 BC, the Persians served their royalty […]

Pizza: Italian Queen Margherita Brought the Street Food into the Royal Kitchen

In 1889, Queen Margherita decided to go on a tour of her Italian kingdom. She saw many peasants and common people enjoying Pizza in the streets. She would often ask her guards to bring her these bread to eat. One day, she summoned chef Raffaele from his Pizzeria and asked him to bake his pizza in […]

Chocolate, the Melting Ecstasy, was Currency in Parts of Latin America!

The history of chocolate begins in Latin America where Cacao trees grew wild. The Olmecs who lived in southeast Mexico in 1000 BC were the first to have probably used chocolate. It was the word Kakawa from their language that gave us the word cocoa. A place in Honduras lays claim being the original Cacao producer. It was 1000 years […]

Samosa won the Hearts of the Emperors and Commoners Alike!

Cookbooks written in Arabia between the 10th and 13th centuries speak about these savoury pastries as Sanbusak. This word comes from the Persian word, Sanbosag. The Central Asian communities carrying it while traveling. They would make and fill these triangular mince filled pastry puffs around the camp fire during night halts. These snacks would be filled into the saddle […]

Origin of Noodles Mysterious: Are China, the Mediterranean and Arabia Forerunners?

There have been arguments and disputes about the origin of noodles. China, the Mediterranean area and Arabia seem to be the forerunners in this claim game. An article said that perhaps the oldest evidence of consumption of noodles was from 4000 years ago in China. The Lajia archaeological site in China became famous as archaeologists working in the People’s Republic of China […]

Idli Emerges as the Moon-faced Health Food for the Present Generation

Food historian, KT Achaya’s speculation makes us believe that the idli might have its true ancestry in Indonesia. The present day Indonesia had a strong history of fermented food. Hindu kings of Indianised kingdoms there could have eaten the first modern recipe idli from the hands of their cooks in Indonesia. Achaya talks about the Indonesian dish Kedli, which according […]

Butter Chicken: The Emperor of Salivating Gluttons

The fascinating journey of Butter Chicken can be traced to a tiny eatery in the old city of Delhi. It rose to international acclaim and to being the staple dish of Indian restaurants both in India and the world, from truly humble beginnings. The real story of its origin shows that this yummilicious gastronomic delight was hit upon […]

Folklore: Lord Jagannath offered Rasagullas to Lakshmi to appease her!

The romantic legend that one hears in Odisha is that the Goddess Lakshmi was irked with her husband as he went off for a nine-day trip without her consent. She locked the Jai-Vijay Dwar, one of the temple doors to prevent Lord Jagannath to enter the sanctum sanctorum of the temple. Local legends tell us that Lord Jagannath […]

The Antiquity and Tradition of the Christmas cake

The origin and ancestry of Christmas shows us that it was actually an English tradition and that the cake was originally a plum porridge, which was eaten on Christmas Eve to line the stomach after fasting for a day. Over a period of time, honey, dried fruits and spices were incorporated, converting it into a Christmas pudding. By the […]

The Enchanting Story of Naan

The name, Naan, was first seen in the English language, in 1810, in William Tooke’s travelogue. Numerous languages in Central Asia and South Asia refer to it as a kind of flat bread. In Persian it means bread, therefore its Iranian lineage is certain. The Balochi Nagan, Parthian Non, Sogdian Nyn, Pashto Neyan seem to be the same thing. […]

Returning to the Roots: A Slice of Life in Picture-perfect Chandigarh

Chandigarh was Nehru’s vision for a replacement for Lahore as the capital of the newly halved Punjab after partition. It is was carved out by joining 50 villages. It has the unique status of being the capital of two states, Punjab and Haryana. It belongs to neither but is a union territory, governed by the union government. Designed […]

Ferozepur, a Frontier District of Punjab, Blends Memory, Martyrs and Music

Ferozepur, an ancient city on the banks of the Sutlej, is said to be built by Feroze Shah Tughlak in the 14th century. The old city is surrounded by ten gates. Each leads into a labyrinth of streets with a flavour of yore preserved in the dialect and food. The people are hospitable and warm and many of them […]

Expansive Salt Desert of Bhuj: A Blend of the Ancient and the Contemporary

Bhuj has a 4000-year- old history. It dates back to the Harappan culture. Khadir shows prehistoric archaeological finds of the Indus Valley Civilisation. It could be the most ancient civilisation of India. A Harappan inscription with letters written in it may be the oldest signboard ever written in the world. Dholavira is the name of the place that […]

Pearls, Palaces, Cuisine, Culture and Passion make Hyderabad the Gem of Deccan

Lily tells us about the beautiful city of Hyderabad that is built mostly around artificial lakes on a hilly terrain. The most prominent one being the Hussain Sagar Lake. The twin city of Secunderabad is across this lake and that is where we lived in the Cantonment, which was our home for seven wonderful years. Known as the […]

Music, Monuments, Culture and Style gives Lucknow its Nawabi Nazakat

The fragrance of kebabs wafts out of the very mention of Lucknow and the cultural bonanza it offers is the stuff dreams are made of. The city is synonymous with Nazakat and Nafasat. The name may well have been associated with Lakshmana, Lord Rama’s brother, according to some beliefs. Lucknow was ruled by the Delhi Sultanate, shifted to the […]

Rivers, Religion, History, Culture, Literature and Finesse Mingle in Allahabad

Brahma performed his first sacrifice at Prayag (Allahabad) after creating the world. It also finds mention during the Vedic period as Prayagraj, the king of all pilgrimages. It has a unique status in ancient Hindu scriptures due to the Triveni Sangam or confluence of the three rivers the Ganga, the Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati here. History reveals […]

Happy Diwali Munni!

In this poignant verse, Lily tells us the story of Diwali. Here’s her take on the Festival of Lights, in the special feature on Diwali, for Different Truths. The beauteous city of Ayodhya  Iridescent with luminosity  Bathed in the holy haze of  Heavenly haloes  Welcoming with whoops of joy  The son  who went to the forest  […]

Meerut: Life in the Second Largest Cantonment Replete with History and Camaraderie

Meerut was the place where the first rumblings of rebellion against the British started in 1857. Soldiers of the Bengal Cavalry were given cartridges that were covered with paper, smeared with animal fat that had to be torn off with the teeth. When orders were given to fire the Enfield cartridges, 85 out of the 90 men refused. […]

Army Life in Dinjan: The Land of Fauna, Flora, Fear and Folklore

Dinjan, the Cantonment, was famous for its airfield. It was built by thousands of plantation labourers on an Assam tea plantation, in March 1942, due to the Japanese invasion of Burma. Just 45kms away from Dinjan is the large pulsating city of Dibrugarh. It is rich in flora and fauna. The Dibru-Saikhowa National Park is situated in the […]

The Trial and Tribulations of Life of an Army Wife in Kathua District

Lily went in an auto-rickshaw to teach in Kathua town. The ride was long but she enjoyed the young vibrant faces of the college students. Militancy was rearing its monstrous head again and again. Ravishing Kashmiri beauties poured in from the higher reaches of the state with their frightened families. It was devastating to see their plight. The sing song […]

I met Goddess Durga as an Army Wife in Bengal and the Gorkha Regiment

The Durga Puja celebrations in Bengal were definitely very memorable as a perceptible aura of vivacity and verve presided over the holy and divine solemnity. Ladies dressed in their traditional attire of exquisite sarees with vermillion in their hair partings and a huge red dot, the bindi, on their intellectual foreheads made them look like goddesses to my wide […]

Invocation to Mahishasuramardini

Lily invokes the slayer of the buffalo-demon, Mahisasuramardani in this verse for the Durga Puja special feature, in Different Truths. O Cosmic energy incarnate Hail Shakti, Sati, Kali, Parvati Hail Tara, Amba, Basanti, Annapurna Multi-dimensional Goddess Worshipped since the dawn of being The Yajurveda knew you O ye! Part of the two fold personalisation Of the […]

A Slice of Army Life in the Serenity of Pune

In 1817, the third Anglo-Maratha war broke out between the British East India Company and the Marathas. The Peshwas were defeated in Khadkee, called Khirkee, by the British, and the city, then called Poona, was seized by the English. They built a Cantonment here, which still houses the Indian Army. The National Defence Academy is in Khadakvasla. It […]

Army Life in Tea Gardens: Where Elephant Herds Robbed and Leopards Prowled

From the deserts we moved to the eastern part of the vast Indian land. Each state has such diversity that one never ceases to be goggle eyed at the alluring span of culture. The clothes, the food, the climate and the vegetation, change every few miles. This one was a field posting in the tea gardens in Bagrakote, […]

Fun, Frolic, Magic-n- Mystery Mingled like Splendorous Peacock Plumes at Alwar

The posting at Alwar excited Lily as she had heard of the daunting forts and quaint gullies and bazaars of the towns of Rajasthan, brimming forth textiles and crafts. Alwar was known as the Tiger Gate of Rajasthan. It was the erstwhile kingdom of Kuchhwaha Rajputs in the Royal colourful state of Rajasthan, midway between the national capital New […]

A Slice of Life of an Army Officer’s Wife in Deolali, a Picturesque Hill Resort

Lily tells us about Deolali Camp. It was a Class 1 Cantonment built in 1869 for the rest and recuperation of World War II troops. Situated on a plateau 2000 feet high, surrounded by the picturesque Sahyadri Range. It is a popular hill resort not too far from Mumbai. The salubrious climate of Deolali made it the perfect […]