Saturday, September 09, 2006


Idle surfing of television channels sometimes yields some gems that you may have missed, had you been out on the weekend and actually doing something fun, or meaningful, or whatever. Anyway, so the gem I came upon was this show about food, and not just food: the topic of discussion was bread.
An Irani Bakery in Bombay ’s Flora Fountain was the venue. The owner, a man who could only be described as the ideal baker, was explaining the intricacies of his special breads. He expounded knowledgably on the subject, throwing in an endearing smile every few sentences. He explained the logic behind the twist in his khari biscuits- something to do with preserving the biscuit in its entirety even after you dip it in chai. If it’s an ordinary straight khari, it crumbles and what are you left with? Nothing.
Then came the signature ‘brun pao.’ This specialty is known for its crisp, brown top that comes after several hours of a unique baking technique. The baker endearingly referred to it as ‘crispy’, making you want to rush to Bombay and beat down the doors of his bakery.
Asked about whole wheat bread, he let out a sigh. Tolerantly, he conceded that some people place an emphasis on health and insist upon brown bread rather than the traditional white.
At the end of his talk, you became wonderfully convinced that there is no trouble in the world that cannot be eased by hot, well-buttered, fresh pao and a cup of steaming chai.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

The value of endorsement

It is a fine testament to the charm of John Abraham and the bikes he endorses. One evening, whilst the parents and I were watching TV in a pleasant torpor, he appeared on the screen. His teeth gleamed and his hair shone. He earnestly said nice things about his bike, and then he was gone.
It was one of those very rare occasions when the Mater had the TV remote in her hands. She now pronounced, with touching conviction and in her musical Malayalam, “If this boy asks me, I will certainly sit on the bike and go for a ride.”
Now this statement, to be recognized for its true significance, must be considered in light of the fact that the last time my mother sat on the back of a two-wheeled vehicle, Nehru and Gandhi were still alive.
However, the father took a dim view of this girlish confession. “Ptchhgh” he went from behind the newspaper. (If the remote is not within his control, he watches TV from behind a newspaper.) Also in chaste Malayalam, he gruffed, “Fat chance! That boy giving you a lift.”
Regardless of this unkind lack of faith, I still think Abraham and his bike bosses should sit up and take notice. He is certainly an effective ambassador- there can be no better endorsement than the above noted discussion.

Beach Zen

I often crave pitifully for another beach vacation, then make do by recalling the memorable ones I've had so far. This may be being fuelled by living far, far away from anything by way of a beach, unless you count the inaccessible shores of Ulsoor Lake. Anyway, there was this one family vacation when I was eleven, to a tiny beach town in Orissa.
We stayed at a delightful inn called the Mermaid Motel, run by a lively middle-aged lady and her teenage son. This son had a shaggy, round-eyed dog he’d named Jonga. The son and Jonga would fool around on the beach together for the most part of their waking hours, and for achieving this Zen-like state of contentment and the ideal life, I held both in rather high esteem. It was only later that I realized that at least part of their beach-time was owing to the presence of my striking 16-year old sister in her cherry-red bathing suit. Oh well.
We woke up and indulged in the luxury of walking straight to the beach while the parents labored over tea and Marie biscuits. We had amazing meals of rice and dal and fresh fish. We made friends with the weather-beaten fishermen with lilting accents and radiant smiles, who would keep watch on us while we swam. We accepted presents of shells and other priceless sea-treasures from the teenaged hotelier and his friendly dog.
It was a vacation to remember. A few months later, we read in the newspapers about a storm that had struck coastal Orissa. Immediate thoughts were of the Mermaid Motel and its delightful owners, and the unforgettable fisher-folk who’d held my hand when the waves got too strong. We could only hope that they’d come out of the storm and preserved that idyll. Maybe I should go there on my next vacation and see for myself, after all these years.

Mothers and bangles

Watching the news these days is fraught with unintentional entertainment. About a week ago, there was a fracas in Parliament owing to one esteemed member verbally abusing another esteemed member by saying something derogatory about the second member’s mother. It escalated into microphone throwing, shoving, and more yelling. Some parliamentarians were even carried off on strechers, no doubt with bloody noses having received a well-thrown microphone or two.
The inimitable Laloo, when asked to throw light on the goings-on, pronounced somberly, “We are not here to listen to abuses of our Mothers. We are also not here to wear bangles on our hands and sit.” (My translation of his chaste Hindi. By the mothers-and-bangles comment, he inadvertently highlighted the curious dichotomy in the way women are linguistically represented in Hindi, but that’s another matter.)
As a colleague of mine, discussing the matter at some length the morning following the fisticuffs, said exasperatedly, “Waste fellows!
And that’s about as succinct as it can it get.
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