T got married last weekend. Wasn’t it just the other day that T, P, smart marco and I were roommates? For that brief but glorious period, I doubt you would have found four people living more comfortably in each other’s faces in a space built for one. Then T and I embarked on a historic drive from FL all the way to NY. We both emerged scarred but triumphant at the end of those two days. I wonder if T remembers this or has blocked it out. Anyway, the wedding was a fun affair. Good food, Coorg-style, and two very sweet uncles decked out in the traditional outfits who kept me company because I was a solo guest.
The un-highlight of the weekend was definitely this: getting lost in Russell Market and walking around, with fast-fading hope and impending hysteria, trying to get to our destination. J, for some reason, is utterly comfortable in chaotic, crowd-filled situations. But he’s sympathetic to my plight and thankfully we got to the shop in question just before I sat down in the middle of the road and screamed. Offsetting this regrettable episode was the world music hour that I caught last night on the radio. It happened to be Portuguese music night. I think this language was made for music; it sounds exceedingly lovely when sung. I was especially happy because I’ve recently started listening to Portuguese music from all over, and could actually identify some of the artists. Also, caught two good movies: Life in a Metro and North Country. The appeal of the first movie was, however, considerably reduced by the frequent popping-up of a certain band to perform the soundtrack on screen, along with the characters. At times it seemed like this band was creepily stalking the characters. Anyway, North Country had no such diversions. Just the doll-like Charlize Theron and a superb cast in a very well written and directed movie. All in all, equal parts stimulation and relaxation over the weekend. Quite nice.
On the way to work we pass this huge wholesale vegetable market. The bus lumbers past piles of crisp green chilies, sunlit lemons and grumpy pumpkins. Women lop the stalks off fat cauliflowers; mounds of ginger, still encrusted with earth, lie about next to layers of potatoes and onions. Then come the flower stalls, creamy heaps of jasmine and other unknown exotics in luscious colors strung up in garlands. Lastly, fish, and, oddly enough, textiles.
“Garbage Free Zone” says a signboard fondly, tacked onto a tree. This is next to the heap of discarded veggie remains where dog and cow scrabble happily, cheek to jowl. Everyone is hollering. The bus squashes an odd radish or carrot or two. The air smells like fresh coriander and earth. There is so much life, it is almost hard to take that early in the morning.
Then one day, right next to this cosmos, a mall opens up. It promises fresh veggies and other sundries, and Mc Donalds and lots of other stores.
Since blogger is allowed this week, you would surmise then that online music would be blocked, and you would be correct. Just after re-discovering Pandora which would obligingly play me DMB and Juanes all day, I must now resort to sneaking in CDs. This is not altogether bad, but I still can’t help being miffed at this either/or situation we have going on here.
We bad children need to be rapped on the knuckles for wanting to have the abilityto blog and listen to online radio! What will we demand next?
In ancient Greece, an agon was a contest in which prizes were awarded in any of a number of events, as athletics, drama, music, poetry, and painting. In modern Bangalore, we should adapt this practice to suit the times. The traffic cops can come out with a modern agon: the events being jumping red lights, cutting lanes, spitting, driving on the sidewalk, and then the event at the pinnacle of all other events: honking. What would the prizes be, at the announcement of a winner? A laurel wreath and a medal? No. Maybe a better one would be to make them be a traffic cop for a day. Imagine this! Whether this does anything for the way traffic functions in the city or not remains to be seen. And of course the contest would have to be an ongoing affair, all year-round.
It is confirmed. What I had been suspecting and was a lurking fear is now a full-blown fact. Today, Yahoo had on its main page an article devoted to a Web site about lip-balm addiction. I should have paid attention when my sister rolled her eyes every time I pulled out my tube of life-saving mentholated balm. Of course, it claims to be all-natural and has the wonderful effect of surrounding me with the smell of pure peppermint. (In fact, sometimes when I use it my neighbor asks me if I’ve been slyly popping mints.) Its cheery yellow tube and unassuming name give no clue of the sinister addiction it actually fosters. I am also a purist. I tried out a honey variant of the usual peppermint one, recoiled in horror and immediately decided to stick with the original. I am doomed. I have no desire to “go cold turkey” as this Web site urges. Why? Why should I deny myself this? And besides, I don’t really have a problem. Not to mention, I have supplies to last until at least mid-2009. Of course I have an obligation to use these up.
Someone used the phrase “ipso facto” the other day in a conversation. I was struck, as I always am, by how appropriate these words would be if used to name a pair of pet goats. Of course, I wasn’t really clear on the meaning, either. These Latin terms tend to throw me on many occasions. I still have to hunt for the meaning of ‘carpe diem’ in the dim recesses of my brain. I barely know what ‘bona fide’ means. In situ? Search me. No wonder I think lovingly of Ipso and Facto, contentedly grazing in the meadow while I make cheese in my alpine cottage. Res ipse locquitor.
So, get this. Senators in Italy want ice-cream in their cafeteria, in order to improve the quality of life in the Senate. According to a letter they wrote to the building administrators, serving gelato can be considered as serving the needs of people’s daily lives. I like the way these guys think. And that does sound like something you can’t argue with. Fundamentally, gelato can be considered as life-improving. It seems, then, natural that Senators would want to have it in their cafeteria. Please, no one tell our desi parliamentarians about this. They might start agitating for phirni and such-like. Many microphones would be thrown in their struggles. Speaking of cafeterias, one co-worker asked me the other day what the most loosely-used word in our own cafeteria was. Instinctively, I replied, steel ladle clanging with steel plate while I served myself, “food?” After a short, bitter laugh, he said “Biryani.” Any rice that is non-white is thus classified, while plain rice is termed “White Rice.” Maybe we should campaign for gelato. I can just see the repercussions. Everyone would beat me to death. Their argument would be: We want food first, then gelato!
I must confess that I have been watching American Idol pretty steadily throughout the season. Now we are down to the finale; my favorite, Melinda, has been booted out and so I have very little interest. OversmileyChick and NonentityBoy don't quite grab my attention, though I can say with some surety that Oversmileychick will win. The other reality show I like is the Apprentice. The Donald, with his pink ties and his much-discussed bad hair, is quite a likeable megalomaniac at the end of the day. Of course there seems to be a reality show for everything now. Chefs, models, bikers, tatoo-artists, everyone. There was even one show on who is the more annoying member of a given couple. Eh?
A friend and I were discussing ideas for another such show, and we came up with one. It will feature another friend of ours, known for his love of the bottle. We will have this friend tottering about in various international locales, and the show will comprise events leading to him ending up three sheets to the wind. The twist would be that the locations would be out of the way, slightly weird places instead of the usual run of the mill cities that everyone's done to death. Yes. Ougadougou, anyone? And the name of the show? "WASTED." Imagine the girl from the T&L channel, in that sing-song tone of hers: "You're Watching.....WAS-ted." Quite a nice ring it has. Then we discovered that there was some such thing already on, on some channel, called Three Sheets. Damn.
Aid-worker friend is currently in Sri Lanka. He says that while Sri Lankans are like babies, Indians are like angst-ridden pre-pubescents. Now, he’s lived and worked in India, Guyana, Canada, parts of Africa, and of course, Sri Lanka. So I give him a fair bit of leeway when it comes to sweeping statements about peoples and nations in general. Moreover, after listening to what were, admittedly, patient and unbiased descriptions of how the visa process at the Indian embassy in Colombo works, I do not have anything intelligent to defend my country with. This morning, at a busy intersection, the traffic lights weren’t working and there wasn’t a cop around. My auto guy drove into oncoming traffic and went left when we wanted to go right. I asked him what he thought he was doing. He said, cheerily, “Fullu jam.” OK. Meanwhile, two other cars were standing still, head-to-head, blocking about a kilometer of traffic on either side. I thought about aid-worker friend and shook my head. I really do not have anything to say.
So it occurred to me that I might not be the best bet if someone wants a mentor. Let me qualify that: this is true, if the person does not have any special interest in doing anything, and tends to treat life like a giant soap bubble party. Hmm. When I was an instructor at a coaching institute many moons ago, on some occasions I simply threw out the students who didn’t work. This left the students who did, and the purpose of holding the class was validated. Of course, this coaching was very intense and was for a very specific purpose, and the chucking out technique was openly admired by some, and secretly by the throwees out. Now, it’s different. I cannot throw people out of anywhere. I must wear pretty white kid gloves and put on a gentle smile. Ha. No one said life is easy.
Owing to nasty bout of insomnia one did not get the requisite 8 hours. Thus it happened that there was a daisy-fresh and enthusiastic phone conversation with someone at the other end of the world. It was the first time we were talking, and I doubt that they knew it was 1 A.M. in this neck of the woods. With me sounding bright and chirpy-like, doubtless they thought it was a perfectly reasonable daylight hour. Alas, today I pay the price. Nothing pleases me, my beloved online radio included. While I am well-equipped to appreciate the musical genius and lyrical excellence of works like “Da Cops” and “Can U Werk Witdat” I would rather NOT listen to them today. (Incidentally, the 'Clean' versions of these pieces would still make my mother's ears curl.) Yet that is all my long-suffering ears have been subjected to, since I turned the thing on. Gah. Now to take the trouble of actually changing stations.
By way of travel, went on a trip to Kerala last weekend. First for a Mallu wedding. Now these weddings are so short that you have a high likelihood of missing the entire thing if you stroll in at a leisurely pace.
This is exactly what happened to our party. The girl and the boy were well and truly married, under the blinding yellow lights and the hanging strands of marigolds. We then stood under these same lights and marigolds to be photographed with the two poor, dazed sods; I spoke expertly out the side of my mouth to ask the bride in my rudimentary Malayalam how she was coping with it all. She flashed back an equally expert reply. In none of the photographs has this blasphemous conversation been captured. We look perfectly respectable, teeth showing in lady- like smiles.
The journey to Calicut was in a rented taxi, one of those biggish ugly cars favored by BPOs as pickup vehicles. Anyway, we passed through some jungle-type terrain, gloriously dark and mysterious. At about 4 am or some such hour, we stopped at a check-post that appeared to have a tea stall. The poor chap there had run out of milk though, so none of us got any tea. Back on the road, and a short time later, I opened my eyes to a whole field of mountain peaks covered in mist: the famed hills and valleys of Waynad. It was glorious.
Everyone got out and the photographers were busy at work. I touched one very expensive camera and posed gingerly for one picture because there was a group of very busy monkeys headed straight towards us. They passed us by, though; we apparently just weren’t that interesting.
The second part of the trip consisted of crashing at the grandmother’s house in Cochin. I slept a lot. Whenever I woke up (at a scandalously late hour) the cook had coffee for me. Otherwise she cooked splendid meals. My grandmother took me shopping. I read. That is the life, eh?
Now I am back to home turf. Chomping at the bit to make another, longer trip. Where, I know not. After my visa for foreign shores was so rudely turned down, I will stick to native ground.
I have just had my bheja fried listening to ceaseless hold-music which went like this: oolalalala-layo, oolalalala-layo - repeated, ad infinitum.
On top of which, the customer care fellow addressed me as Miss Devika. This is a famed pet peeve of mine. It reminds me of old Hindi films, where the hero was always addressed as "Mr. Vijay" or "Mr. Ajay." This was employed mostly by doctors when they had to tell Vijay or Ajay that the patient had been given the injection and would be conscious by morning.
A couple of salient facts about this cafeteria at work. Being the hub of much social activity and butt-kicking at the pool table, naturally it features prominently in many work days. But what about the process of getting yourself a fresh juice? It may or may not be fraught with difficulties. Mostly, it is fraught. For instance, if you say “no ice” you can be sure your glass will be crackling with crushed ice. If you say “no sugar”, chances are the drink will be sugary enough to make you reel. And heaven help you if you go so far as to say, “lots of ice, no sugar.” Then you’ll get the wrong flavor. But this is all offset by a bunch of rather sheepishly good-natured boys behind the counter who have their own peculiar charm. Their hideous orange outfits apart, they’re a pleasant lot. They specialize in stocking strange varieties of gum and candy that no-one has ever heard of (and for good reason.) The fine print on these is always in a different language each week. Once I was confounded and kept turning the gum around until I finally figured it was from Turkey. Turkey?? Then there’s the boy at the coffee machine, who doesn’t make eye-contact. Usually he takes extended breaks with a placard left propped up on the machine: “BRACK.” This leaves you standing there, very deflated, looking at the machine; just when you think you can simply get your own coffee by pushing the right buttons, you realize Brack-man has cleverly switched off the thing from the mains, and neither man nor beast can figure out how to switch it back on. This way, he ensures his clientele is properly humble every time they want a shot of caffeine. On the subject of corporate network security, it appears that no firewalls are required on Mondays. This means you can blog and listen to online radio, if you so desire. But come Tuesday, and the firewalls are back up. You cannot access certain sites. Online radio is allowed. But then again, maybe not. So it is best to come to work everyday and gingerly check the situation before you get your hopes up. Remember, you may not even get that cup of coffee if you are depressed because you can’t listen to the World Beat station.
Conversation with aid-worker friend last night included topics like helicopters crashing and burning, angry cobras on doorsteps, and catching the chickengunya virus. Well, well. This is what happens when you try to build schools in war-ravaged countries very few people have even heard of. He said wryly that the job-descriptions for his kind of work should include the disclaimer: “high possibility of death.” Of course, driving in this city’s traffic every day also means a high possibility of death, but somehow this doesn’t quite have the same ring. No nobility in dying in a jam on Bannerghatta Road, as opposed to getting bitten by a cobra in the wilderness of Sierra Leone while trying to build a school.
For no particular reason I am putting this recipe up here. No particular reason except that butterscotch and peaches together seems like a damned good idea. (Damned good idea or damn good idea?) Especially on a somnolent afternoon when you have no chance of getting your teeth into either butterscotch or peaches.
6 medium or 5 large ripe peaches 4 tablespoons unsalted butter ½ cup cream ½ cup sugar 1 tablespoon honey Pinch of salt ¾ teaspoon vanilla, ½ teaspoon ground ginger or ½ teaspoon almond extract Vanilla ice cream Almond biscotti, gingersnaps or other cookies.
1. Fill a large bowl with ice and water, and set aside. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Place peaches in boiling water for 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to ice water. When cool, drain and pat dry.
2. Working over a bowl to catch the juice, peel skins from peaches, squeezing as much juice as possible from the skins. Slice each peach into 10 to 12 slices, and set aside with juice; discard skin and pits.
3. In medium skillet over low heat, melt butter. Raise heat to medium-high and cook butter until it foams, subsides, foams again and begins to brown. As soon as butter is nut-brown, add the peaches with juices. Sauté 2 to 3 minutes, then place skillet over low heat to keep warm.
4. In medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine cream, sugar, honey and salt. Place over low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar is completely melted. Raise heat to medium and let boil without stirring until it turns a rich golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. (Because of honey and cream it will appear to turn pale brown before it has caramelized; wait until it has darkened noticeably, thickened and reduced before proceeding.) Carefully pour contents of skillet into saucepan; it will boil and spatter; stir to combine. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Add vanilla or other flavoring. Serve warm or at room temperature over ice cream, with cookies on the side.
Ah, the pleasure of having a cup of hot adrak chai! Even when temperatures are frighteningly hot as they are today, a cup of chai is still a stimulant. However, the father disagrees. He belongs to that school of chai-drinkers who must have it brewed to perfection, for x number of minutes, at y temperature, and poured at such and such angle, and the cup held in a certain manner, etc. etc.
OK, so maybe some of that was an exaggeration. But still, sighting me slurping a cup of what he terms "lowbrow" tea is enough to start him lamenting the fact that I must have been exchanged at the hospital for another baby, because what baby with his genes would fancy lowbrow tea?
Imagine his chagrin when the older sister loudly proclaimed her love for the same revolting brew! That leaves him with only one child who still drinks the propah tea. However, unbeknownst to him, this very child has quietly defected to the other side and can be seen brewing lowbrow tea with gusto every morning.Shh, no one tell him.
So today Tango and I went walking in the neighborhood adjoining ours. As soon as stepped out of the gate, the bunch of construction workers walking by scurried over to the other side. One of them adjusted his helmet, and another readjusted his belongings into a shield across his chest. Tango, however, had found something interesting on the ground, and owing to having his head buried in six inches of grass, didn’t respond to this group. Then we came upon the evening cricket match, being played by a total of three players. The bowler was preparing to spit on the ball and no doubt, deliver a fearsome one to the tensed batsman. Then we hove into sight: Tango sniffing at the ground, I hanging onto his bright blue leash while he amiably pulled me along. The batsman fidgeted. The fielder edged into the wall bordering the New Friends Provision Store. The bowler, heroically nonchalant, asked his friends if this here dog was a Doberman. “Nahi” squeaked the fielder as we swept past, “THAT’S a German Shepherd.” Next was a toddler in a pram who mewled pitifully to her mother as soon as she saw us. “Nahi beta” the mother cooed. “He’s on the other side of the road.” Waves of shock and awe were spreading fast. Folks peered over their walls and balconies. One young woman who looked like a bored new bride looked over rather hopefully as we walked past; maybe this was the most interesting point of her day. The object of the attention, however, remained as blissfully heedless as ever. As soon as we got back in our yard, Tango nuzzled my knee and went back to his favorite pastime: looking for butterflies to chase.
I have been dreaming of beaches for three or four nights in a row now. In fact, even my afternoon nap today featured me on Baga beach, Goa. Two nights ago I was in Baga too, having lost my cell phone and loving it.
This could have something to do with reading Bougainvillea House, a brilliantly creepy and readable novel by a surgeon called Kalpana Swaminathan. (The book is set in Baga). A surgeon, I ask you! I wonder why the woman is not more well-known. I fairly careened through the last section of the book, my eyes hurting with sleep under my harsh fluorescent tubelight. I couldn't care less. The ending left me a little shaky and disturbed and I couldn't sleep very well. But that just shows you the power of a well-written book.
After this tome, I picked up not one, but two books by other Indian authors who shall not be named. Suffice it to say, the surgeon had raised the bar too high and I was disappointed by the other two. Their work seemed dull and dishwater-like. Their characters were hair-pullingly boring after the compellingly vicious Clarice Aranxa that lived in Bougainvillea House.
So I went back to Uncle Fred in the Springtime by PG Wodehouse. Uncle Fred is cracked and proud of it. He shall deliver me from dullness, and how. Next, I'm going to read The Clown by Heinrich Boll, about a fellow who was a professional clown during WWII, I think it was. The friend who lent me this book once said that he had thought about me while reading it because the clown apparently gets a lot of headaches too. So now I remind people of a morose, ageing, migraine-suffering clown. Gah!
In a fit of inspiration, I decided to substitute the word “goal” with the word “goat.” Much hilarity ensued, including searching questions like how to decide if a particular goat had been successfully met. One response: “A fond nuzzle”. That sounds like a good title for a novel. A Fond Nuzzle. Ha. In other news, Kurkure has a new flavor: tamarind. As though the others weren’t addictive enough. Although, by a cruel twist of geography, the cafeteria is located upstairs and every time I buy one of the packs and try to come back to my desk downstairs, I must face that dreadful scourge of the times: the Security Guard. It’s against policy and all you know, to have eatable stuff at your desk, you miserable cretin. But this is nimbly sidestepped by shoving the pack into the hands of our resident firangi colleague: naturally, no questions are asked, and the Kurkure make it to my desk in all their crackly splendor.