फिर निकल चला मैं।
फिर निकल चला मैं।
I often come across as a slightly lost and confused kind of a person. Be it my extreme hyperactivity levels, or slightly irritating ability to connect random things, they tend to add to an aura of confusion around me. I try to be a WYSWYG (What You See is What You Get), with hardly a difference between what I show to the world, and what I am. But do I succeed?
Deep down I remain an extremely confused person. I am unsure about my life, career, settling down, choosing between poha and eggs for breakfast, or even about what my interests are.
Although beneath the multiple layers of confusion, both externally and internally, I always stay true to one thing- people around me. I learn things through them, see the world through their eyes, and interpret their tastes to venture into untested culinary territories. I believe my intelligence stems from the people I know, and it will keep growing as I keep connecting and sharing with more number of people.
But as the number of people I know keeps consolidating into smaller and smaller groups, I am totally at sea with respect to which ones to manage my relationships with. Manage lesser number of people and shrink this unique intelligence network of mine? Or, Keep growing it for an indefinite period and attain Moksha?
Confusion follows me everywhere, or rather I take it along with me. It is topmost on the list of things I carry, higher than my phone too. So when I was in Goa last weekend it chased me, and I guess it infected my friends too.
On a hot Saturday noon, we left our resort looking for something interesting to do in Goa. Goa always has options, but my mind was muddled trying to balance my quest for finding a new Goa and my friend’s zeal to discover the Goa I already knew.
We decided to venture out to this French Beachside place called La Plage (The Sea in French), at the Ashwem Beach. The ride was long and the sun was strong, but my Kokam Juice-powered body was turning the hot winds into a fearless cold sweat. The ghost of confusion was off my back, and I was calmly enjoying the ride. And then we arrived at La Plage.
Sitting neatly in one corner of the beautiful Ashwem Beach, La Plage is a French Cuisine hotspot run by a French lady. Once we entered the place, I could feel a difference in atmosphere. The decor was crisp, spacious, and well-organized. The tables were marked, and the owner took reservations. No wonder Haute Cuisine and its related culture had its origins in France, they can make even a Beach Side Shack run in an elegant manner.
I had a brief conversation with the owner. She was a charming lady, probably in her mid-50s. She had beautiful silver hair, a wrinkled yet shiny skin, and a demeanour which was friendly yet authoritative. I sensed perfection, something which had translated into this place, and into its food. She allotted us the table we wanted, having comfortable resting chairs, the kind of which my GrandPa used to have.
We ordered a Sula Zinfandel Rosé, served perfectly chilled tucked in an ice-bucket. A Rosé evokes fascinating memories of me drooling over Roohafza as a kid, but as the present sinks in, I am channelled back into a more alcoholic mode of refreshing luminescence.
I picked up the menu, and there was finesse sprayed all over it. The dishes were deliciously described, helping me imagine the culinary outcomes of my order. We ended up ordering Fried Sardines with a Red Pepper Sorbet and a Tomato Crumble.
I sat back and started sipping the wine back, the conversations were flowing, but I was a bit lost in myself. Probably it was the wine, or it was the heat. Or just me.
The dishes arrived, breaking my imaginary (order->culinary outcomes) equation with ease. The plates were just like everything else at the place, nothing short of perfection. The plating was so gorgeous that it would have been a sin even touching the dish, leave aside eating it. But then I took the fork, captured the dish, and poked in.
Sardines were a bit too Fishy and bland for my liking. For someone who prefers dipping in Goan Masala rather than the Sea, it was like eating a tasteless porridge. Probably that’s the way the French make it. But then I discovered the Red Pepper Sorbet.
Served as a dip for the Sardines, Red Pepper Sorbet took me through a dreamy journey of the La Plage kitchen. I saw someone roasting the Red Peppers on open fire inducing a lovely burnt taste. I saw someone blending it, adding Sugar, dash of alcohol and some lime juice to the mix.I looked around for some Ginger in the kitchen. Probably that could have taken it to another level. Probably not.
The fish dipped in sorbet was another being now. It had a new life, and its renewed life had a new meaning.
Tomato Crumble looked as a something ready to breakdown, but still so firmly bound. A layer of juicy tomatoes and a crust induced with three secrets of French cuisine (Butter, Butter, and Butter) was mixed with crunchy walnuts and separated by a sheet of melted mozzarella. The side was a simplified Caesar Salad with a thickish, and quite evident vinaigrette.
I cut through a sizeable cross-section of the dish to taste. What followed were the slightly sugary notes of tomatoes along with the crunch of walnuts. A thought that Mozzarella and Tomato would have been married to each other in their previous lives crossed my mind. The dish was totally different from the Sardines Sorbet combination, as the results were much more on expected lines. But both the dishes had minimal spicing, and relied on the purity of the ingredients involved.
We took a break from eating and walked towards the beach. The sun was at its peak but there was a something more pleasant about the atmosphere here. I took a dip and came back to our table. I took a few sips and then closed my eyes.
I re-entered the kitchen looking for the refrigeration unit. I opened it up and tried to look for the Red Pepper Sorbet but couldn’t find any. I opened my eyes. My friends were back. And we ordered some Sorbets and Vanilla Ice Cream.
It was simply the best Vanilla Ice Cream I had ever consumed, as it relied more on the purity of the vanilla beans involved rather than anything else. It is a pity that the brilliance of Vanilla has been reduced to a default flavour by commercial ice cream makers. The term Plain Vanilla is both misleading and disrespectful to the delight Vanilla can be.
The sorbets were an experience, involving a series of tangy strawberry, floral litchi, elegant guava and regal flavours of mango.
Post the meal I sat with my eyes closed. The wind was blowing smoothly and my feet were tucked in finely powdered cold sand. I had found the new experience I am always on the lookout for in Goa. A sense of eerie calm had replaced the ghost of confusion which always rides on my back. This is what a great culinary experience can do to you.
I was still at sea, but more sure about my being than ever.
It is unusually close to the batsmen. It is a dangerous, yet a rewarding position. It gives new players a chance to learn the game, the nimble ones a chance to display their fielding prowess, and the wily ones a chance to show-off their “running-someone-out” smartness. But sadly it gives the careless, inattentive ones, a chance to get injured, or sometimes just die. No wonder they call it the silly point.
Over the years this spot has developed another utility beyond the realms of fielding. The unstructured and sometimes insensible rise of sledging or Mental Disintegration (as Steven Waugh famously honey-coated the practice) in Cricket has provided it more significance on field than ever before, for it is the only position apart from the bowler who can constantly throw a gaze at the batsman. Learning has been replaced with a know-it-all attitude, nimbleness has been verbalized, and wiliness is now wrapped with arrogance.
What has stayed the same is the fear. Fear of losing your senses for a moment. Fear of getting hit by the thread-infused leather. Fear of injury. Fear of death. Fear of batsman.
The best silly point fielders are those who overcome fear, for whom the dismissal is more important than the reactionary jump, the gaze more important than showing the back.
And then there is the stupid thing called life, full of conversations, good ones, bad ones, and those silly ones. In all our conversations we are either trying to learn something about someone, discuss shared interests, evoke a set of emotions, or debate with rationality and mutual respect. On certain occasions the conversations do not go the right way, leading to confusion, chaos, and ultimately a lot of pain.
Over the years we have changed and so have our conversations. We are trying too hard to talk at times, but too little to connect with others. Changing technology has increased the volume of our conversations, but its value is questionable. Changing social structures and behavioural patterns has led to people vigorously competing for attention. Conversations are being used as tools to please people, to judge them, and many a times to inflict insult or to demean them. Learning has been replaced with a know-it-all attitude, rationality with trivial emotions, and respect with arrogance.
What has stayed the same is the fear. Fear of losing your senses during an important conversation. Fear of getting hit by a verbal blow. Fear of insult. Fear of conflict. Fear of losing a friend, or a loved one.
The best of the conversations are had without any fear and inhibitions in mind, where measured responses take precedence over maintaining an image, and conclusion is more important than outcome.
Never be afraid of making an honest point which you truly believe in. In life, as in Cricket, even a Silly Point is not a bad idea.
If you liked the post, try reading this one: Well left
The idea of traveling is often accompanied by a variety of emotions and a switching mental state. Love, laughter, disgust, amazement, fear, curiosity are all significant emotions one can relate with travel. But nothing disturbs our mental state more than the fear of motion sickness on travel.
Motion sickness is a condition in which a disagreement exists between visually perceived movement and the vestibular system’s sense of movement (Wikipedia).
In simpler terms it involves travelers puking, or feeling uncomfortable in an about-to-puke stage (called nausea) while traveling on different modes of transport. Interestingly throughout my life I have been through all of the above listed emotions when it comes to motion sickness.
As a kid I was completely occupied by the idea of vomiting on travel. I recall the bus journeys we took to Bilaspur to catch trains, or the long drives from Korba to Jabalpur, or the shared taxi rides from Bhopal to Devas, I had left my mark on an entire state. Avoiding food, gulping soda, keeping a clove in my mouth, drinking less water, popping Avomine pills or keeping the window open- I tried everything, but everything failed. The constant fear in my mind of vomiting on road journeys, the disgust of actually doing it, and the love of my parents when they helped me clean up sort of sums up how I traveled on that dusty, warm, red-soiled, bumpy, teak-wooded M.P. landscape. Just to add I was traveling on the worst roads in the world.
And one day it stopped. I went through an entire road journey without throwing up. I was amazed by the sudden stoppage of uneasiness and vomiting. What a relief it was!!!
But nothing can actually beat the relief one gets immediately after the act of vomiting. The freshness which follows vomiting is in a close competition with the event of a first rain, or that of taking a dip in an icy chilled Ganga at Har ki Paudi, or drinking water having saunf.
But I started missing it, motion sickness was inseparable component of all my travels as a kid, almost as inseparable as a Digital Camera is to any travel nowadays, and from that day the way I traveled changed forever.
Although like all things motion sickness came back again and again in all my travels, and non-travel situations, stirring up various emotions and creating memorable instances. Few of them which come to my mind:
More than the stories I guess if you are or have been suffering from this sickness I have my own set of cures for the same. Please try them at your own risk:
Do you have interesting stories related to motion sickness or some whacky cures for the same which you would like to share?
Featured image by Prasoon Gupta
It was my first winter in Ahmedabad. And a cold winter it was. I remember very few things from that period, maybe there was hardly anything worth remembering. Not from that winter, and not from the few months which followed it.
Although I do remember the irritating smell of fresh paint in the new hostel, the constant playing of Sayonni by two lovely seniors, who were never awake in mornings, and who hardly wore anything more than a lal chaddi. And yes, I recall sleeping a lot, waking up to my roommate singing Kishore Kumar songs. I remember him slowly breaking out from his pre-college cocoon, ready to fly, but confused how to flutter his wings. I remember the dingy and dark classroom, so much different from the first semester, when things were brighter, when gardens seemed greener, and people around me seemed so cheerful. I recall the guys not taking a bath, and I certainly recall guessing which girl had n0t taken a bath. There was a new food court in plans to challenge Brijwasi, putting my new found weight loss to test, a 15 KG miraculous loss was unsustainable few said. I remember me evolving from a small town slightly confused person, to an extrovert and loud, but still a confused person. Film club, cricket club, elections, cultural festival, joy, fights and sorrows, the second semester in DAIICT was about everything, other than studies.
I remember that it was around this time that I started reading a lot. Past couple of years had been spent in flipping through thick volumes of PL Soni and Morrison and Boyds of the world, but it had still not killed my childhood passion of exploring books. More than gaining knowledge and killing time, reading at DAIICT was about walking together with a brilliant flock of students and faculty who also read a lot. I remember picking up classic fictions from friends, few biographies and short story collections from library, and also at times fiddling with Asimov and HG Wells after which I decided to stay away from Science Fiction as I found it slow-paced and inconclusive.
It was during these times that I encountered Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings in my friend LKP’s hands. LKP (read la ka pa) always used to carry it around with pride and laziness. A torn book with yellow brittle pages and green cover had been a subject of two recent blockbuster movies and innumerable discussions (although nothing beats the amount of discussions on Matrix during that year) at hostel. Quite naturally I went ahead and borrowed the book.
It was a slow start to the book, as I progressed I flipped back and forth to have gaze at the Elvish key and the map of middle earth. The initial journey and formation of the fellowship was still not arousing the level of interest I had expected.
And then Chicken Pox happened.
It had been spreading in the hostel, I got it, missed 4 weeks, missed the mid-terms, screwed my academics, who cares, this semester was not at all about studies.
A lot of home-care, further weight loss, and few neem baths later I was back to college. I tried to get a grasp of the acads but they were too distant now. Trying to complete Frodo and the fellowship’s journey was of much more interest to me than exploring shortest path algorithm or breadth first search. So it was a week before the final exams that I picked up the book again.
And then Viral Fever happened.
The exam and its results are something which I don’t want to discuss. But over the next couple of months I went through an intriguing journey of discovering rural India and its tribal populace with one of my favorite professor and a bunch of inquisitive teenagers. Even during this period I read a lot and discussed my readings with friends and professor. After the rural internship and vacation I was back on campus again, the bright semester had started (somehow I felt, the odd semesters were always brighter and better, the even ones despite the fests were somehow marred by something or the other) and I decided to pick up the book again and start reading.
And then conjunctivitis happened.
People close to me know that I am a bit more than the usual superstitious fellow, and the next thing I did was to give the book back to LKP. A few months later I went ahead and saw the movies, and I have seen it hundreds of times since then admiring each and every piece of what Tolkien imagined and how Peter Jackson articulated his imagination. But it has been extremely difficult for me to order that book. In fact I have never dared to touch a copy of it again.
The small yellow pencil, wearing a friend’s wrist watch, putting on the same jeans for each and every exam, the timing of a haircut, sitting at the same place or doing the matchstick trick during a cricket match, eating the same breakfast on important days, not drinking on certain days, scratching the forehead before an important meeting etc. etc.
Is it only me who is afraid of superstitions or do I have others around for company too?
Over the past 2-3 years I have travelled across various parts of the country. Most of these trips were planned and executed around a friend’s wedding, and given I have had so many friends getting married in the recent past, and at locations such as Indore, Dhanbad, Raipur, Kerala, Rajasthan, Interiors of Maharashtra, and Delhi, these trips have resulted in experiences worth mentioning. On some trips the destination overpowered the entire wedding experience, and at some the wedding was an event to remember. Needless to mention I have also returned gastronomically satisfied from most of these trips, learning a lot about the diversity across Indian food preparations, wedding delicacies and food on the road, rail, air and even water.
But out of all the trips the one which I made this weekend holds a special place, simply because of the people and place involved. And yes as always slightly because of my flirtations with food on the trip.
I was going back to Korba after about 9 years, a period in which I have moved away significantly from what I was at Korba. A relatively simple person who was mostly immersed in books, gully cricket, and mostly lost in his own thoughts went on to talk, travel, eat, make friends, and talk a lot. I became more expressive and confident, adapted new habits – both good and bad, met a lot of people from different backgrounds, slowly started spending more money and became more experimental about life in general.
It is interesting to note how roles change once we are back in Korba, whatever we have done in the past so many years, when my school friends get together, we behave as we behaved for all those 14 years in school. Surprisingly, they are the only ones who know how to make me sit quiet. Very rare! And for us everyone is still the same, no one is a Doctor, MBA, Engineer, CA, or a businessman; everyone is just the same old DPS Korba student they were, and I am still the Pattu they met in 2002.
Korba has changed, the township hasn’t. The city seems well maintained with brilliant roads, shining shopping complexes and even a flyover! Although all the forests around the city have disappeared and all I saw on the road from Churri towards Korba and beyond were just power plants.
The township remains the same, all our addas are still there as we left them. But I heard that the kids are gone (after 6th most of them are packed away to a IIT/Medical coaching location), people hardly come out, there are no fights in club for badminton courts or on Mansarovar to play cricket, and those community gatherings and activities which gave the township its life have become rare.
Oh, by the way I also tasted the famous Chhattisgarhi Daal Wada with the spicy brick red chutney (a cross between a schezwan sauce and a pickle masala), my favorite Indian Coffee House Cutlets –potato and beetroot stuffed and shallow fried tikkis (although I tasted them in Nagpur as I knew I won’t have time in Korba), 4 different dosas (one outside the CST subway, value for money Butter Sada; second from Nagpur Coffee House, now Rs. 40 as compared to Rs. 14 back in the days of school; third at a friend’s home at Bilaspur, simple homemade dosas served with a spicy peanut and dal chutney; fourth on the return journey at Bhusaval junction, a regular dosa with a Jeervan like spice sprinkled on top, hot and fresh), and some good food at the wedding. But for me the cutlets stood out, and to benchmark them I even had the railway cutlets (http://beingdesh.com/2010/04/the-story-of-indian-railway-cutlet/), but I would say the Coffee House ones win, again because of the memories attached to it. On the healthier side we munched onto tonnes of Oranges and Sandwiches parceled in Raipur. The craving for sweets was satisfied through Spongy Rasgullas, Flavored Dry Fruit Bites (a sweet which according to me is the true competition to my other favorite, Mysore Pak), and Santara Barfi (a petha style sweet, flavored with orange juice).
As always I have deviated from the core discussion around Korba to food, but then things have been this way since back I was child, food has always been a key component of my discussion, at Korba, or after that.
In hindsight moving out of Korba was probably good for me, as I understood life and India in a better way and become truly Desi. But still Pattu remains a part of me, and I hope it continues to be.
Featured image by Harsh Mehta
Today I received an article from a friend of mine, Where did conversation go? No where. It talks about the “about-to-die” habit of having conversations. It also debates whether forms of new media have eclipsed the intimacy of having a one-on-one, or sharing a happy moment together.
So is it the end of the Chai-Biscuit era? Chai represents much more than to us than a mere beverage, it is a conversation starter, our true friend during a conversation and the tastiest dip for a biscuit. From the addas which are still commonplace in Bengal, to housewives sipping that post-siesta tea, from office tea breaks to evening tea with families, chai has shaped the way Indians converse and share thoughts for a long time.
So what happened now? When did walking to someone’s home without telling them in advance become a crime, when did talking about things personal and private online become a habit, when did the happiness of connecting with a few and bonding with them transform into the ever increasing desire to have more Facebook friends and Twitter followers, when did the keeping things to oneself become more than a one-off thing, when did our life become private in front of our parents and elders, when was the real smile overshadowed by the fake smileys, when did chatting and messaging steal the look of the face and tinkle of those eyes, and when did we start getting detached from the world, lose our sense of being together to being more individualistic?
So is it the beginning of a new era, the Coffee-Cookie era? Coffee shops have replaced the meetups at home, 5 Rs. Parle-G has been replaced by 40 Rs. a piece Cookieman cookie, but more than that both of them represent a transition. A transition in habits, triggered by technology, economy and the society as such. It is not bad, its a transition, although its fun to live in nostalgia, these are changes which will shape the future. It is useless to trigger the age old debate of tradition vs. modernity, and it would be ruthless to declare a winner.
In my world, Coffee exists with Chai, with Parle-G in one pocket, and a Cookie in another.
He could feel a few giggles right behind his back, he knew it was gone. Again!
As Rattu turned back and put his hand into his bag’s tiffin box pocket, he felt plastic and not the usual steel, infact before the lunch break this is all Rattu did with his tiffin, as he always scared to eat it before lunch. He kept feeling his steel lunch box between the classes, and almost every day, he would find someone else’s tiffin box in his bag. A yellow colored plastic one, from the one for him (as declared by all his friends). His dabba was always swapped with his supposedly the one’s dabba which usually resulted in uncountable hours of leg pulling (aahhh…who would touch those beastly legs, like Wodehouse said long time ago) and Rattu going mad throwing his Milton water bottle all over his friends.
But Rattu really liked what Vaifav Ghar usually did with his tiffin, mostly an omlette sandwich, it was always munched during the history period. Ghar used to stand as our history teacher looked somewhere else, showed the omlette bread to everyone, used to take a bow towards our history teacher and start hogging. Everyone giggled as the teacher talked about 3 points for 3 marks, 6 points for 6 marks and so on.
Lunch break was always a nice time, there were different kinds of people, firstly the looteras. Loot lo iska dabba they said, and started running behind the ones with their dabbas intact. There was always a gang for whom lunch breaks meant playing leg cricket, it had been going on from very junior sections till almost Class 12th.
As everyone did this Rattu with his group of friends usually used to enjoy our dabbas, saving them from the looteras on the open terrace. The paratha subjis, maggis, sandwiches, idlis, all of them being shared over general chit chat of cricket, entrances, studies, girls, new possible couples, boring classes, good classes, the smell from chemistry lab etc etc.
Although there was always one weird thing about the lunch break, the girls were always quite. They used to finish off their dabbas, quietly, nicely sharing the stuff among themselves and then go back to the class mostly. Very peaceful. And unlike the boys they never had yellow oil stains on their uniforms.
Talking of stains almost every bag had a very oily patch in the area where lunch box was kept. Speaks volumes about our Parathas, Subjis and Achaars.
And then there was the case of Dabba not brought, which was then given to Dutta Bhaiya on the school gate later by the parents, and delivered in between a classroom by Dashrath Bhaiya.
Rattu’s school never had a canteen once which was closed after cockroaches were found instead of aloo inside samosa.
Post lunch break was the time for a nap, a slight nap. It was a deadly period to take for a teacher I assume. Much more challenging than anything to keep students awake at that time. Somehow Rattu never fell asleep in school, never ever, even after a nice lunch break. School was always so much fun.
And so were the Dabbas.
Do you have any memories associated with school lunch box?
Life has been a bit off colour lately, as if what happened last month wasn’t enough here I am at home, for the past two weeks, eating boiled food and fruits and sleeping like kumbhakaran throughout the day. In the past few days I have developed love for idlis and extreme hatred for daliya, spinach, hospital and medicines. In a lazy weak format, deprived of all the chutputa food and chutputy bakar in the world here is a man just lying in his room, and bored. And uff, this needle on my hand bugs me.
Given I sleep so much I am having my fair share of dreams, and they have been mostly horrifying. From playing with my worst fears and flirting with my weirdest nightmares they have ensured that I don’t sleep that soundly. To fight with them, I go on kickstart my own train of thoughts, those lovely memories which have kept me happy over the past few years now.
So everytime I wake up from a bad thought here is what I do, I close my eyes, take a deep breath and think of:
Omlettes: Of the lovely ones I had in Goa, or on that Trihun trek (with a chai sipper, choc eater, and great driver), ones which are so videshi with minimal spices and loads of cheese, ones with all the masala tones of green chilies and kanda. World’s best anda bhurji at Andheri station, or that decent one which I used to have at SP mess to help me go through with the food, or the egg biryani be at Raj Palace, or be it at Paradise Hyderabad. And those lovely Gadar Andes I cooked along with Abhishek at Gurgaon with loads of Jeera.
Indori Food: Well I have talked about it so many times, but aloo ki kachori at lal balti/GSITS, poha/jalebi anywhere, sawariya ki sabudana khichdi, namkeen (double laung), Sarafa ki galiyo main Jaleba, shikanji, vijay chaat house ki batla patties, joshiji ke dahi vade, bhutte ka kis, garadu, gurukripa main bhojan, aur ghar pe mangode aur daal baafle. Did I mention mawa baati, shikanji and ASPI? Indore mahaan hai.
Lazy trips: With mostly nothing to do apart from changing CDs in car, pepping up the greatest driver in the world by offering him cans of Red Bull, eating dhaba food, enjoying the scenery, talking to other car-mates. Jannat.
Dosa: I have never tasted Dosas better than Bangalore or Korba’s Indian Coffee House. Both of them stand out. Bangalore’s Vidhyarthi Bhavan being my favorite, enjoyed with Atishay Bhaiyas khilkhilati hasi and Ananda’s coffee gulping on the day when India beat Aussies at Perth post the monkeygate match. Or the World beater Benne Dosa or Paddu served at that small shop on the way to Basvangudi, or staple on treats (just 11 rs back then) of which I had 11 in Davangare once.
Aloo Parathas: I fell in love with them in Shimla, they were like Sharmila Tagore of Aradhna, young, hot, shiny with all the makkhan on them, I was like Kaka eager to fall in Love and make the haseen galti of munching those daily morning before I started my day. For one and half month everything in Shimla bored us, Aloo Parathas were our only hope. I tasted the ones at Moolchand once, and for me the taste is still there on some part of my tounge.
Naturals: More than ice cream Natural’s was a remedial place, I used to take hopeless friends there, enjoy the first cup listening to them (grunts which I mostly ignored) and the second talking crap to them (which I enjoyed). There was seldom the third one (with just one exception with whom chances of fourth came up) but I loved the place. 28 Rs. bought them a malai or a tender coconut and more than that peace of their mind. Lokhandwaala one with its shoftu couch was better.
These were a few positive thoughts, I need more, help me. Maybe I think its just the overdose of spinach and lauki speaking here…
If down, how do you get back to thinking positively?