Friday, March 31, 2006
Imaginary conversation between colleague 1 and colleague 2 in cafeteria during Chinese food fest
C1: This noodles is only so-so
C2: Yes but the gobi Manchurian is good stuff. Kimchi is awful though
C1: Don’t think that’s what the kimchi is supposed to be though, going by the actual culinary dictionary.
C2: Heck what are you saying? They hung balloons. That speaks volumes for the dedication they’ve put in. It must be an authentic Chinese food fest.
C1: (nodding sagely) : Oh yes, you are right.
Coming back to the ugadi fest, it was the menu which set my taste buds tingling. It just sounded so exotic. Merapakkaya gujju. Rubudu charu. And so on. What epicurean delights would these dishes hold? If the dishes were half as good as the names sounded, I would be getting my money’s worth. After all, who has not licked his lips in anticipation after reading about Anatole’s Timbale de ris de veau Toulousaine or escargot a la crème, but reading it as snails with cream sounds so unbearably unedible. For those who have lost the plot here, and haven’t heard of Anatole, or his cooking, well, wake up! Instead of wasting time reading this, go read Wodehouse.
After starting off with a sweet ( whose name I sadly don’t know) , I started off with the pesaratu and the pulihara. Then loaded my plate with the pappus – pappu namidikiya, pappu mandikaya and pappu passhogaya. Think we were cautioned against taking too much as it would be very spicy but one of them, unexpectedly, turned out to be very sweet. Next item on the buffet list was bangaluthupa koora. Who would’ve thought that the humble aloo curry had a super human alter ego and would metamorphose into an amazing dish when taken as bangalathupa koora.
It turned out our mundane rasam was rubudu charu, and that just made it so enticing but deciding to free annam( or rice) I unfortunately didn’t get a chance to taste it. The last course was perugu annam which amply justified the theory that thayir sadam by any name would still be as divine. The gongura was good, as spicy as it should be, and the avakkaya urukkaya with its deep red and black shades drew my friend and I to question its etymology to Tolkien’s Uruk-Hai, who look much less frightening though compared to this fiery dish, looking hot enough to cause submerge all coastal cities and cause massive floods by causing all polar ice caps to melt.
With a contented burpu, I ended the meal, determined to try out more Andhra places ( mandatory caveat --- list of dishes has to be present and described fully )
Monday, February 27, 2006
Though there was no moon, the sky was brilliantly lit by stars, light bulbs suspended from the sky, merrily twinkling, not too bright but just enough to provide the necessary comfort and a friend had just earlier that evening kindly pointed out the Big Dipper to me. Thankfully, the light was enough for me to observe her properly and I could clearly see the contours of her back. Just between you and me, she seemed too have been through many a fight as it was rather scarred. The wind blew past us, the pleasant breeze that ruffles the hair and luckily not the cold inducing sea breeze that carried plenty of spray. Still, it was past one in the night and it was quite cold. I pulled my jacket closer to my body and though she wasn’t wearing anything, she seemed to be unaffected by the cold. She moved restlessly in my hands. Shouldn’t I be taking to her to the water, which I had been told she liked? Was she getting impatient with my inattention? Was it time to lay her down and get down to matters more pressing?
Deciding to do so, I kept her down and got down to the process of getting her to the water, an ingenious process which involved using a Nokia 1100 torchlight as a guide.
Thus began my tryst with the fast disappearing species known as the Olive Ridley turtle.
PS --- This was a baby turtle, about the size of a matchbox, and was being helped towards the sea. Just to clarify.
Sunday, February 12, 2006
Determined to prove him wrong, I was woken up promptly at six and the combination of the unearthly hour and deep sleep was enough to make me contemplate to silently ditching the expedition for another day. However, somehow or the other, my willpower triumphed over sloth after a few minutes battle, and I awoke, realizing I have to rush if I have to make it before sunrise. Which my father informed me should happen at 6:33. Actually let me reframe the previous lines since I seem to be portrayed in a negative light. Let us pause a moment and hither to a parallel dimension, an idyllic world where men are men; dreams come true; Dubya doesn’t win elections; and pizza tastes as good as it looks in the ads.
Woken up by the shrill cackle of the rooster, I burst out of bed bustling with energy. With a brisk good morning to my parents, and a quick glance at the headlines (for those nit pickers out there, the paper delivery boys give the papers just before the crack of dawn), I step into my neatly pressed and matching track suit, strap on my well worn Nikes, and rush out.
Back on Earth
Having just got up, and still feeling extremely groggy, somehow I strap on my running shoes (which haven’t been used at all), and rush out. After a few minutes breathless run, I convince myself to slow down to a trot before I realize that the sunrise was scheduled in another ten minutes and unless it followed Indian Standard time like trains did, I would miss it. Another minute of determined run before I find I’m panting far too much. A traffic signal gives me much time to get back into shape before a few more minutes of haphazard jogging, after which my pace slows down to a fast walk. Nearing the beach again, I hurry into a sprint that peters out into a slow walk after a hundred meters or so. The slow walk continues till I reach the beach
My legs moving in perfect unison, breath perfectly controlled, I chomp away at the distance covering my house to the beach. Making a quick calculation that at my current speed, I would reach the beach 12 minutes before sunrise, I slow down by the requisite amount so that I would reach the beach exactly 7 and a half minutes before sunrise. Hardly sweating at all, I take offence at the protracted traffic signal and glance with a supercilious smirk at the tired and sweat drenched runner beside me who seems to be glad of this break. Continuing again, I reach the beach much before time and do a quick few minutes of power yoga while I waited for the sun to rise.
And Back Again
Enough of parallel dimensions. As I reach the coast, I find to my immense relief that though the sky has attained a pinkish hue; the sun hasn’t crept over the horizon yet. After a few minutes of waiting, all my effort is finally rewarded as the sun first peeps timidly out and then bathing the sky and the sea in mild pink rises out, an orange ball suspended from the sky and drawn by an invisible string, perhaps by the Hand of God. The rays glance off the sea, causing the waves to shimmer, a dull blue with the region under the sun suffusing with orange, as the sun steadily makes its progress up. After some time, I decide its time I leave, and this time walk back, making no effort to run, or even break into the slightest jog, but resolute that I would attempt this epic journey some time in the near future.
For those who wanna know more about how to get there, here are the details
Location: Besant Nagar Beach
How to get there: Take the second right and keep jogging ( If one can reach NeverNever Land that way, no reason why one cant reach the beach too)
Means of transport: Since the idea is to go jogging, no reason for me to mention that the place is well connected by rail and air. Note : I haven’t mentioned it so the previous statement could be right.
Time to visit: Look up sunrise timings at the Hindu
Thursday, February 02, 2006
Saturday morning. Me fast asleep. Phone rings. Its my friend Nandan. He calls me to the book fair in Quaid e Milleth college. Though still groggy, my mind registers that he has mentioned the word ‘book’ and instantly I agree to come.
Pleasantly surprised at the large crowd, we went in, hoping that perhaps we could unearth some rare gems. Initially it was a big letdown. The first few stalls had mostly Tamil books (If a dim witted snail started crawling on a Tamil sentence and I started reading it too, it would be a close call as to who would finish it first. My money would probably on the snail) The other stalls were none too inviting with entrances piled with Oxford dictionaries/ Manorama yearbooks/ Word power Made Easy and other such stuff designed to ennoble the mind.
In fact, this was maddeningly repetitive giving the fair a maze like appearance (If one sees a Watziznames stall piled high with Tamil books and English dictionaries, followed with a Watchamacallit stall piled high with Tamil books and English dictionaries, followed with a You-get-the-picture-stall piled high with Tamil books and English dictionaries for like 20-30 stalls it gives the feeling of moving around in circles. After all the market for Tamil books and English dictionaries cant be that immense can it?)
The first stall which in I though would cater to my reading interests was the British Council stall ( and this had nothing for sale!) The next interesting stall was the Rupa stall (actually only interesting because they had a collection of Wodehouse school stories for less than hundred which I hadn’t noticed before at Landmark/Odyssey. An immediate buy.) Satisfying to note that among popular fiction, Enid Blyton was selling well too. However times change, midnight school feasts and Ol Clear Orf doesn’t change. There was an American books stall too but since there was no major discount, the throngs of people there made no sense to even consider perusing. An interesting hardbound stall caught my attention but with prices way beyond my budget, it was sadly written off.
Only on coming out did we notice the second hand bookshops outside. This looked Promising. Very Promising. Starting from the Mount Road entrance, we decided to work our way to the college entrance. The first shop was the 10 buck stall. Most of the authors I hadn’t heard of or ever wanted to read. A few books in German. I mean proper German. And Spanish. Loads of other stuff I couldn’t imagine anybody (and I mean anybody!) would be in their proper minds to buy, even less read. I mean which shopper here would be interested in Easy Ways to Backpacking in Maine? Or a Russian travel guide( in Russian)?
Digging through the dirt though, one unearths a few diamonds. Very hard to imagine a decent copy of Danny the Champion of the world (Roald Dahl) selling for 10 bucks. The owner who gave that book away needs to be executed without any trial. Convinced my friend to buy it. I found a Peter Wimsey novel and a Mary Poppins. Nothing I particularly wanted to buy but just had to when its selling for so little. Got a pleasant surprise when I found a text on Ramayana by, hold your breath, G Krishnamurti. (Right down to the current spelling of m-u-r-t-i) I just HAD to buy it.
Got a cheap Carl Hiassen and a Ram Guha from the next few stalls. And a Graham Greene. 10 bucks is decent for a slightly torn dog eared copy. On a whim purchased a book on travels in 19th century Egypt by some arbit guy. Sounded interesting though. Steered clear of the pirated books stall redolent with Dan Brown and Harry Potter but even a cursory glance there seemed to be a market for Pony Tailed Guru’s books.
Getting dark, we decided to leave. Not before noticing a scary sight of the book sellers using kerosene lamps and placing them carelessly over the books. A single spark would have been enough to have set fire to the entire set ( which in my view was much much better to the actual fair inside