Thursday, 30 October 2014

Fruit & Nut Baked Fish and a tryst with the paranormal

Did you know that Mary Todd Lincoln, the wife of Abraham Lincoln, and a bereaved mother who had lost her son, organised a series of sessions in the White House, where the gathered, tried to contact the world of spirits? These sessions were attended by President Lincoln himself! Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of the world’s most rational detective, was obsessed with the other world too and often joined groups of people who together tried to contact the spirits of the dead, and this opened a rupture in Doyle’s friendship with celebrated magician and skeptic Houdini. Then there was Daniel Douglas Home, the Scottish medium who allegedly levitated during his recurrent stints with the spirit world.

I am intrigued by the paranormal. The dark secrets of the spirit world entice me. And I am crazy about horror stories, especially instances of real life paranormal experience. It is like an addiction. Some of you might laugh at me but I hesitate to dismiss something solely because I cannot comprehend it. And also because I have experienced things I have no explanation for, and God knows I did seek a logical explanation. So, on the eve of Halloween, I decided to tell you a particular story. Whether it is true or not I shall leave you to decide. 

October 2007. On my 21st birthday I took my first trip abroad, on my own, without my family that is. I accompanied my friend and her family on a tour of Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. Our first stop was Pataya. The hotel we stayed in was quite upbeat. The rooms were huge and done in vintage style. Three of us, my friend, a cousin of hers and I, shared a room. The first thing that struck us all was a sense of unease that came over us the moment we entered the room. It was the kind of room that should have made us jump with joy, but we felt uncomfortable. 

That night, while we were chatting over mugs of steaming tea we heard strange noises in the bathroom. We were too engrossed in our conversation to pay heed. But later in the night, a few hours after we had retired to bed, my friend woke me up.She said she was too scared to enter the en suite bathroom, she said she felt like something was in there. I must mention here during the day it so happened, time and again, that we would keep something at a particular place, and then wouldn't be able to find it and later discover it somewhere else. I might have thought one of us was pulling a prank if I didn't know them the way I did. 

Day 2. We had spent the whole day on the Coral Island, jet skiing and para sailing and frolicking in the sea and returned to the hotel late in the evening.  We  were so tired that we decided to skip dinner. I settled down with a copy of The Kite Runner, the book I was reading on the trip, pulled on the covers and began to read. Soon I could hear my friend's soft sing-song snores. An hour or so passed, my friend's cousin was still awake, she stirred and shifted in her bed, it creaked ever so slightly. Suddenly she sat up with a jerk, called me and said. "I don't want to sleep here. I want to go to my parents' room." "Why?" I asked. "This room is strange." Before I could convince her to stay she put on her slippers, picked up her pillow and left the room. 

I sighed and returned to my book. At around 11 a noise in the bathroom startled the daylights out of me. A loud rasp. I could feel my heart somersault inside my rib cage. But I didn't dare move, I did not even consider investigating. This is not a film. And then the real trouble began. A few minutes later I was startled once again, I thought I heard the empty bed on my right creak again. My mind was playing games I told myself. But soon a sense of dread overcame me. The definite feeling that there was someone else in the room with us threatened to choke me. I had no doubt in my mind that someone was pacing about the space right next to me bed. I held my breath for as long as I could, my eyes fixed on the pages of my book, not a word registering in my mind. I wanted to call my friend, but couldn't. The movies have got this part right. The fear perhaps paralyses you. Now the entity was walking around the room. 

 Suddenly my friend turned around and asked me what time it was. I couldn't speak, she went back to sleep without waiting for my reply. I wished she hadn't. But now that feeling of dread was gone too. I quickly kept my book on the table beside the bed, pulled my covers to my face and willed myself to sleep. Though I least expected it to, sleep came easily. 

The next morning I was the first one to wake up. It was almost 9 and it was a bright sunny day. My body was taut from the previous day's exertion and I headed for the bathroom. I was brushing my teeth when I heard a loud knock on the door. I rushed to the door. I could hear my friend's father calling out our names. We were late, he was saying. But I screeched to a halt a couple of feet from the door. My book, yes the one I remembered keeping on the table next to my bed, was lying in front of the door, open. The door was a at least 10 feet away from the table and it seemed like someone had flung the book at the door. The knocks grew louder and I hurriedly picked up the book and opened the door. Half an hour later we checked out of the hotel and boarded our bus for Bangkok. 

By the way, we lost the book mysteriously during the trip. 

In case you are telling yourself that I simply have an active imagination let me tell you that I travel often and have stayed in many a hotel room, sometimes alone. But I have never faced anything like this again. 

Happy Halloween friends! 

And now about today'r recipe. No it is not a typical Halloween special, but it is special nonetheless. Post Diwali, like most homes in the country, we have truckloads of dried fruits and nuts - Cashew nuts, raisins, almonds and pistachio. Today I decided to put some of it to use. My father had got some fresh Bekti fillet and has asked me to make some crumb-crusted fried fish. I said I'll give you a crust alright but one with a difference. And hence was born my nuts and raisin crusted grilled fish. I served it with some sweet and spicy date sauce, you could serve it with any condiment you like. Enjoy them over a horror movie. My picks House of wax, The Exorcist or The Conjuring! 


Fish fillet - 6 
Cashew nuts - 50 g 
Almonds - 25 g 
Raisins (finely chopped, almost minced) - 15 g 
Vinegar - 1/2 cup
Garlic (finely minced) - 1/2 tsp 
Garlic (finely chopped) -  1 tbsp 
Cayenne pepper - 1 tsp 
Egg - 1 
Corn flour - 1 tsp 
Salt to taste


Take the cleaed fish fillet in a bowl, add a tbsp of salt and pour in the vinegar. Keep aside for an hour. 

Take the fish out pat dry, season with salt and rub in the minced garlic. Keep aside for another 15 minutes. 

Beat the egg and corn flour together with a pinch of salt and add it to the fish. Mix well ad reserve. 

In a food processor grind the almond and cashew nuts together to make a coarse powder. 

Tip into a tray and add finely chopped raisins, garlic, cayenne pepper and salt. Work the ingredients into a uniform mix with your fingers. 

Now take one fillet at a time and coat it with the nuts and raisins crumbs. 

Pre heat oven at 175 degree centigrade. 

Generously grease at baking tray and line the crumb coated fish fillets. Drizzle oil on them and bake them in the oven for 25 - 30 minutes. Mid way through the cooking turn them over carefully, first releasing any bits sticking to the tray with the blade of a  knife. Once the crumb is a deep golden bring it out. 

Serve hot with a spicy condiment of your choice or wrapped in pita with some slaw. This one's yum!


  1. This is creepy, man! Did you guys bring it to the notice of the hotel authorities as to whether there was something wrong with that room or the hotel in general?

    1. Well Pritha! We didn't actually.....we were embarrassed...usually no one believes you :( we had our experience and that was that!