Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Roasting chicken on a wood fire!

The son was bored. He had just finished his class XII exams but had the IIT entrance looming over his head, and judging from the fact that he gnashed his teeth and furrowed his brow every time he was reminded of it, he wasn't particularly looking forward to the prospect. There are chaps who will excitedly jump up and clap their hands in childlike joy when told that the IIT entrance exam is just a month away and there are chaps who will not. Younger son was resolutely among the latter.

"Play your guitar" I suggested. But his heart was not in that either. Apparently he had heard the guitar playing of one Joe Bonamassa and he despaired that he would never play anywhere remotely as well as him. "Look at Annie", consoled missus. Does the fact that he can't sing deter him from believing that he will one day be mistaken for Mallikarjun Mansur?"

That perked up the lad a bit. Slanderous libel, of course. I sing very very well indeed. But mother and son had a laugh and the missus, going all "awww" at my evident inability to see the humor in that, said "Lets grill some chicken"

"On the Berkely  Darfur stove?" I piped up excitedly

"Why not?"

So we marinaded a kg and a half in one cup dahi, 6 tbsps chilli powder, 3 tbsps salt (it did turn out to be a tad salty so you can consider making that 2 tbsps) and let it rest for an hour.

That done, it was time to light up the stove. This is easier said than done for city slickers but I luckily found that missus has a decent amount of experience. After laughing impolitely at my very scientific approach at initiating combustion, she rounded up some dried leaves and wood shavings and lit it up in a few minutes
I remembered an article written by my friend Madhu Menon, in my opinion one of this country's finest chefs, in the Mint newspaper. Dug it out surreptitiously on the phone and using his principles, grilled the chicken first on a hot flame for about two minutes (the Berkeley Darfur stove's capacity to deliver a very hot flame came in handy here) and then the second side for about 6 minutes on a side of the grate where the flames were not that intense

The result was chicken nicely charred on the outside and beautifully moist inside. Missus and son both loved the beautiful wood-smoked flavour!
I grilled a few potatoes and onions as well, and some cherry tomatoes plucked fresh from mom's terrace garden. Oh, and some fresh oregano leaves as well!
 Cheers, and hope you had a great Holi too.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

In which we make Chicken a la Uday Velhe on the Berkeley Darfur Stove

Uday Velhe works with me. He is our press operator and is mostly a shy and retiring person. Like Blair Eggleston, Wodehouse's fearless novelist, Uday would, if he found himself ensconced in a boudoir with a scantily clad Russian princess, take the seat nearest the door and talk about the weather. But let him loose with a knife and some provisions and he can knock you off your feet with the awesomest chicken curry you ever ate!

Here he is, in action, with the famous Berkeley Darfur Stove, an energy efficient wood burning stove developed by UC Berkeley for refugees in Sudan's Darfur.

The recipe is elegantly simple, serves 15 and uses 3 kg of twigs on the Berkeley Darfur Stove!

In case you don't have Uday (not looking his best in this photo, alas, because when I clicked him, he was straining to break a largeish twig)

you will need 
2 chickens, dressed (about 2.2 kg)
1 kg chopped onions
250 gm grated coconut (preferably freshly grated coconut)
100 gm (or, if you're in Mumbai, 20 rupees worth) coriander (aka cilantro) leaves
0.75 kg tomatoes
100 gm garlic pods (shelled)
a 'small piece' (in Uday's words) of ginger
4 bay leaves
2 star anise
1 stick of cinnamon
2 tbsp Garam Masala
6 tbsp Chilli powder
1 tbsp 'Eastern' chicken masala (Rs. 5 only) though Uday says any chicken or mutton masala is good enough
Some oil, of course (Uday prefers Sundrop super refined sunflower oil, the healthy oil for healthy people)
Salt to taste


1. Light up your stove (DUH!)
2. Sautee the onions

3. When the onions are nicely caramelised, says Uday,and you will know this from the smell, which is rich enough to spurn wall street jobs which promise seven figure bonuses, remove them and keep them aside

4. Roast the grated coconut. No oil and all, just roast

5. Grind the above, (i.e., the sauteed onions, the grated coconut, 3/4th of the 20 rupee worth coriander leaves, half the garlic, half the tomatoes, the small piece of ginger and the spices, ie, the star anise, cinnamon, bay leaves save two), into a paste on the mixie

6. Heat some oil (lots of oil, actually. About 200 ml.)  and fry the rest of the garlic and the two bay leaves you saved from step 5 above, in it till it is nice and brown

7.Dump into this half the paste from step 5 above, the chilli powder, the garam masala and the Eastern Chicken Masala and fry it, till all the water in it is gone. You will know this, says Uday, by the fact that the oil begins now to float on top 

8.Then add the chicken
and fry it for about ten minutes

8. Add the rest of the paste, the rest of the tomatoes, the rest of the coriander leaves and about 1 liter of water and boil the bejesus out of it. Here, you have to add the 'salt to taste' which I measure out as about 8 tbsp. But I could be wrong (I was drinking beer by this time)

And Voila! You have Chicken a la Uday Velhe!  

Best had with Pao or Chapati

Saturday, March 1, 2014

My black tea anecdote

I grew up drinking regular milk tea till somewhere along the way I started drinking black tea without sugar. I think it was those Indian Airline flights. The air-hostess would walk down the aisle with a pot of black tea and black coffee and then return after a half-hour with milk, by which time such tea that hadn't spilled on your shirt because of turbulence had turned quite cold and when mixed with the lukewarm milk, was very difficult to send down the hatch.

Anyway, I began to drink my tea black and once I got used to the slightly bitter and acidic taste of unsweetened black tea, I found that I no longer relished the with-milk version. This would occasionally be a problem in the industrial areas that I frequented, especially when I would visit someone's factory. Bombay's protocol demands the serving and drinking of 'cuttings', miniscule cups of tea which taste like very old tea leaves boiled in very stale milk for a very long time, which is pretty much what it is, but I soon evolved the ability to quickly swallow the foul brew without gagging. Whenever possible, though, I'd try to get my fix of my good old black tea, no milk no sugar

On one such outing, I landed up at an Udipi restaurant and, encouraged by the warm and welcoming manner of the waiter (he asked me "kyaa chahiye?" instead of "kyaa mangta hai?", showing himself to be a man of culture and breeding), I asked him if I could be served black tea.

"Of course" he beamed and went into the kitchen to place the order. He returned a moment later with a slightly apologetic look.

"Cook is asking, black tea means what?"

"Oh, simple" I told him "make the tea but don't put milk, and don't put sugar"

He smiled benevolently and went back into the kitchen to relay my instructions.

And returned after a moment, looking even more apologetic

"Cook is asking, should he put tea leaves?"

"Yes, please put tea leaves" I told him.

My order was properly executed. The son, when I told him this, laughed and said the guy was trolling me but I don't think he was. Do you?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

My Maruti 800 nostalgia post

Back in the 80s, one of my closest friends was Rajesh. He was a stock brocker. Or, to be more specific, a species known as 'sub-broker', with the right to go into the ring and trade on the out-cry based trading floor. The basis for our friendship was  that I used to consider myself a shrewd investor (until I craftily invested all my money away) and Rajesh was the chap who would execute my orders.

Rajesh was passionately interested in money. He would spend every waking moment thinking of money and let no opportunity pass of making some, regardless of how ridiculous or unethical it might be. Applying fraudulently for student discounts on air-fares on the erstwhile Indian Airlines, booking flats meant for poor people and profiteering on them, selling Amway subscriptions, he did them all. He called himself a moral agnostic (his interpretation of which was that he did not believe in the existence of right and wrong) but despite all that, (or, more likely, because of it) was good fun to hang out with.

One day, he announced happily that he had got an allotment for a Maruti 800. We were overjoyed. "When are you getting it?" asked Sameer, another of our faithful band of devotees

"Getting it? I'm not getting it. I'm selling the allottment. The going rate is 50,000"

There was a collective sigh of disappointment. "Buy, man. It is such a fantastic car. What will you do with another 50000? " someone advised, but without much hope, because we knew Rajesh was a hardboiled egg.

So you could have knocked me down with a feather when the next morning, I got a call from Rajesh, asking me if I could drive. Apparently, he wanted to go pick up the car, the change of heart effected by his blushing bride Kamala, who expressed a desire to own one.

I couldn't drive, alas. The simultaneous control of the steering wheel and the bunch of pedals below was too much for my rudimentary thinking equipment at that point in evolution. It was only after the missus entered my life and taught me how, did I manage to make a car move without causing damage to life and property.

It turned out that none of our trusted band of friends knew how to drive a car.

"Kamala knows, no?" asked Madhukar

"Kamala has a drivers licence, yes, but I don't think she knows how to drive a Maruti 800"

"A car is a car, man, lets take her and go pick the car"

"Yes yes, lets"

Rajesh was still hesitant, but he decided to ask Kamala.

Kamala was a little reluctant. "I'm not very sure..." she said "I got my licence because the police inspector was my classmate's father. I've driven my dad's Fiat though"

"Driven a Fiat, no? Then no problem" was the general consensus and Kamala and Rajesh went to pick the car, with four of us in tow.

The showroom person laconically zipped out full speed in reverse with the car, making our collective hearts leap, and stopped it where we stood. Rajesh and Kamala did a little namaskar and Kamala put a red tilak on the dashboard and the hood. We got in, the four of us behind, Rajesh on the front seat and Kamala behind the wheel.

The car started, most eerily for that age, in one turn of the key. Most Fiats of that generation wouldn't sputter to life without the starter making sounds for several minuters like Navjot Singh Sidhu laughing.

Kamala shifted into the first gear and the car leaped forward. After a few dorso-ventral oscillations, the vehicle achieved a reasonable steady state and Kamala drove with something approaching confidence. Then, the road turned, but for some reason, Kamala didn't. The car headed straight towards a lamp post. "Khambo aave che!" yelled out Kamala, lapsing, in the panic, into her native Gujarati (it means "the lamp-post is coming at me"

"Do something! Do something!" squealed Rajesh

"Khambo aave che!" Kamala reiterated



observed the rest of the company and the car finally stopped against the lamp post. The front grill, the bumper, the radiator, a substantial part of the steering assembly and the blood pressures of the six of us went for a toss

Rajesh was the picture of calm. He comforted a near hysterical Kamala and soon had everything under control. The insurance company very sportingly agreed to pick up the tab and all was well.

Monday, January 6, 2014

From where do you get your temper, Annie?

('Annie', if you've stumbled on to my blog recently, is what my sons call me. The reason for this is a long story, but the boys, despite all kinds of protestations on my part, continue to call me Annie)

The breakfast table discussion this morning turned to anger and display thereof and everyone very democratically elected me as the one with the fiercest temper. I dissented, of course, but who listens to me?

"I'm the calmest guy in a crisis, I will have you know", I told the missus and the lads

"Ha, you manage to get pissed off by mall parking attendants even" said the missus, invoking a stray case where I heaped vituperation on an uncaring shopping mall security guy who, just for fun, made me change the location of my car thrice. "And he was perfectly right too"

"But my displays of anger are always bursts of sharp language" I told them "I have never hit anyone on the head with a coconut"

"There is that, of course" conceded the missus and we proceeded to consume the excellent khara baath that my mother had rustled up

"What coconut?" asked younger son, and I couldn't help smiling as I recalled the anecdote

My great grandmother had a legendary temper. She was a strong woman and a very severe disciplinarian. My father, who grew up under her care, recalls how she would dump unfinished breakfast on the head of the person leaving it unfinished, the punishment being that he or she couldn't wash it off all day. One of the earliest lessons learned in that household was that nobody messed with her.

She had five sons and all of them were devoted to her. So devoted that they would suffer all her displays of temper with equanimity. There was just one time when they broke that rule.

My grandfather told me this story. It seems they had a maternal uncle who was a very lazy devil and would lounge around all day listening to Hindustani classical music, of which he was inordinately fond. My great grandmother, whose day was just work and more work from the moment she woke up - cook, clean, wash clothes, tend to cattle and god knows what else -, hated to see him lolling around, but she bore it silently.

One morning, she was awakened by the sound of someone shrieking. It was extremely early, some 4 am or so, and she ran to the verandah, from where the cries seemed to be emerging. It turned out to be her brother, the maternal uncle, inspired by the mood of the hour, singing an early morning raga. Great grandmother lost it. She picked up the nearest thing she could find, which turned out to be a coconut, and hit her brother on the head with it. The coconut shell cracked, recalled my grandfather, and maternal uncle fell in a heap. By now the entire household had assembled and when they realized what had happened, all five of her sons yelled at their mother at the top of their voices.

Luckily, maternal uncle, who had to be hospitalized and was in a pretty serious way, survived and went on to raise a family. 'He never sang again, though" recalled my grandfather with a chuckle. "I wonder why"

Monday, December 23, 2013

In which we watch Dhoom 3 and nearly die of cheese overload

The missus and the son both wanted to watch Dhoom 3. Missus because she has been going nuts staying at home trying to motivate son to study for his fast approaching exams. Son..... for the same reason. Accordingly I was told to go buy tickets.

"But it's only Friday. We're going on Sunday evening"


I went. And good thing too, because, to my shock, the seats were filling up faster than Robert Vadra's coffers.

"Five pm show?"

"First row only, sir"

"Don't want to end up with spondylitis" I said, with a smile, attempting some levity. The ticket guy yawned.

"What's the next show?" I asked

"Five fifteen".

Wow. How MANY shows did they have?

"Seventeen shows sir. So can I give you 6.30 pm? Third row available"

I bought them, for roughly as much money as I had taken the family for their first vacation, to Matheran.

Presently the day arose. Wearing all our finery - ok, the missus. Son and I looked exactly as we look on Sunday evenings -like flower people who have slept the night on the beach - and heard out the missus on how depressing it is to go out with people who look like ...like...like...
"Out of work poets?" son suggested helpfully. Missus scowled and told us to atleast comb our hair.

The cinema wore a festive look. People milled about. Popcorn was being bought. Son met some school friends and got busy talking to them. Missus gave my arm a gentle squeeze "Don't look so morose, sweet. This too shall pass. I'll sit next to you and we'll watch it together"

The movie trundled along mostly featuring Aamir Khan and a cheesy back story about a circus magician and his son. Abhishek Bachchan put in a guest appearance every now and then. Uday Chopra, who irresistibly reminds me of the laughing cow on the Laughing Cow brand of cheese

floated in and out making what appear to be comic remarks. The man has to be the worst actor in the world, though missus found him "kind of cute". All through the film, the cinematography was wonderful.

One victim, unintended, I'm sure, was the entire field of Newtonian mechanics. Bikes, cars, people and random objects pursued trajectories through space which none of the sainted Isaac's equations could have described. I got a nice idea for a comic, which I shared with son. Here it is.

Scene: Heaven. Cherubs are playing harps in the clouds. A happy faced sun is sending beams onto earth. A bearded St. Peter is smiling benevolently. Einstien is seen wandering in a pensive state.

St. Peter: What is the matter, Albert? You look thoughtful
Einstein: It is Sir Isaac. Ever since I got here, he has been avoiding me and refuses to even look in my direction. He was such a great physicist! I'd love to be his friend

St. Peter: Oh, I know the reason for that. He believes that ever since you formulated your theory, people have stopped believing in his

Einstein: Oh no! On the contrary, he still rules in the everyday world. Nothing works without recourse to his laws. Even space travel

St Peter: Is that so?

Einstein: I will wager my gluteus on it.

St. Peter: Hmmm. We could tell him this..... but it would be so much better if he could go down and see for himself

Einstein: That would be so nice! Can you do it?

St. Peter: I'll have to ask the boss, but yes, I'll do it

And so Newton is sent to earth to see for himself. He wanders around in amazement, steadily becoming happier to see that the world does indeed follow his laws. Then he sees posters for movies. He decides to see one for himself. Unfortunately he watches Dhoom 3

St. Peter: Albert, we should have never done this. Isaac has been bawling uncontrollably ever since he got back and the boss is PISSED!

Son agreed it would be a nice comic.

"It'll be a bitch to draw though".

We both reflected on the truth of that.

So in conclusion, if Newton and his laws don't mean anything to you personally, I recommend one viewing. It is cheesy as hell, but well shot. Logicians can expect to die or be seriously addled. The rest of us will come back mildly woozy but in one piece. Like all Hindi movies these days, you can almost feel the desperation when they try to flesh out the 3 hour duration that the paying public expect the film to run for with songs, chase scenes, more songs and Uday Chopra giving his Laughing Cow impression. Katrina, who seems to have done some radical plastic surgery to get rid of her saddlebags, gyrates with a hint of desperation, but is generally pleasing to the eye. The music is mostly loud.

Cheers. Enjoy

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Grilled Chicken

'Nooobody makes grilled chicken for me!" said the missus.

The correct response, for those of you who have not married, is not "what?" "where?" "who?" or even "how?". It is "I will make grilled chicken for you".

Thus it came about that I stood in front of our oven, aka OTG, trying to figure out how much 450F is in the stupid machine's settings of "warm", "hot" and "mallika sherawat". I'm kidding. The calibration was in degrees C and when you are a couple of decent single malts down, with a recipe culled from the internet and, sadly from an American website which tells everything in Fahrenheit, you're not at your best deducting thirtytwo, multiplying by five and dividing by nine. The lad came to the rescue, but not before he conducted some embarassing prelimary questioning.

"What are you doing?"

"Making grilled chicken"


"Your mom wants to eat it"

"Oh. But why haven't you skinned it?"

"She wants it Chinese style, with the skin roasted. Some roasted chicken chinese style or something"

"You got the recipe?"

"Yes. It says to sprinke salt and some oil, and grill at 450 F for thirty minutes"

"Sounds easy enough"

It was confession time.

"Yes, but how much IS 450 F, blast it?"

"Oh, easy, 232"

So I ended up doing a decent job. The kitchen, for some reason, filled up with smoke. "The devil are you doing?" came the missus' distant yell

"All fine, sweet, all fine" and then, to younger son "why the devil is there so much smoke""

"Dude! You are cremating the chicken. You want 230. You've set it to 275"

"Oh" and I corrected the setting. Damn these newfangled variable lens glasses the optician fobbed off on me.

"How long do you reckon I should keep the chicken in there?" I cravenly asked the lad.

"Half hour. Perhaps forty minutes."

"Will you tell me if it's done?"

"Dude! I have some kind of exam, you know"

"I'll buy you new guitar strings"


So at last the chicken is done. We are eating it with store-bought oyster sauce but missus has that expression which says "ummmm!"

Reward enough.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Part 2 of the Walk-in-the-woods post

After our snack break, we carried on towards Kanheri Caves. Somewhere along the way we had been joined by a dog of an unusual shade of brown. He kept pretending that he was on an independent mission but that he was with us was unmistakable.

Chuck promptly christened him Sanjay.

"Because he has appeared to us as the spirit of the park" he explained.

Sanjay strolled along with us without affecting to know any of us personally. Indeed, he would keep going off on tangents, investigating interesting smells and the occasional posterior of such fellow members of his species as would cross his path from time to time but his allegiance was unmistakable. We felt like the UPA government getting issue based outside support from a small regional party. Just as inexplicably, after a little while Sanjay vanished. Looking around, we found he had decided to tag alongside another group of people walking in the opposite direction.

"Definitely small-regional-party-with-issue-based-outside-support", concluded Mohan, and we all silently nodded our heads

The road had now become an incline. My age began to show in the shortening of my breath.

"Damn" I thought "What if it turns out I'm having a heart attack?" and tried, unsuccessfully, to look nonchalant.

"Why are you looking like a dying duck?" asked Harshal.

"I -er -I was wondering if er- I was having a heart attack"

Harshal luckily was quick on the uptake "Oh the breathlessness? Don't worry, everyone's winded".

I was reassured. But this is an old failing of mine, this paranoia. I once went, with three other friends, to a high altitude lake in Sikkim called Guru Dongmar. I had read that it was at an altitude of some 16500 feet and was quickly consumed by a conviction that I would die of altitude mountain sickness. Two of my companions were dismissive

 "Dude, we are DRIVING there. Not walking. You wont have any altitude giltitude sickness" averred one of them.

But the third chap was a man after my own heart. He did his own internet research and came to conclusions similar to mine.

"Boss, we need an oxygen cylinder. Your dad is a doctor, no? As him where we can get one"

The parent was puzzled "You cant carry an oxygen cylinder to Sikkim from Bombay. Have you any idea how much one weighs? Look for one locally"

The local Sikkimese were equally non-cooperative. The mountaineering supplies shop we went to told us that the cylinders were all in his go-down and he would be damned if he would go down to his go down and open it just because a couple of weirdos wanted to go somewhere, especially since the mountaineering season hadn't begun yet, or words to that effect.

And what luck we didn't find a cylinder! When we went to GuruDongmar lake, it was full of septuagenarian aunties and uncles happily strolling about and cracking jokes. Perfect doofuses we would have looked, a couple of mid-forties guys staggering around with a whacking great oxygen cylinder.

Anyway, coming back to the res, after a longish climb, with the old heart thumping along in allegretto tempo, we reached the caves. A small stall stood near the entrance and when it was noticed that the said stall was selling soft drinks, a beeline was immediately made for it. Presently, everyone had slaked their thirsts and we decided, spontaneously, to climb up to the top of the hill.

"You can see the Tulsi Lake from there" said Divya.

The only dissenting note was from Srikeit who had had enough of all this climbing geeimbing and decided to sit in silent satyagraha. We left him there and carried on to the said spot, observed the said lake Tulsi, I showed off my knowledge of forestry by pointing out to a random tree and declaring it to be sterculia urens, and returned to base. On the return journey, mercifully, even the diehard commandos in our group agreed to take the bus back.

I returned home and rounded my eight km walk to the nearest round number and told the missus I had walked ten kilometers. She looked at me with skepticism but I think my demeanor must have been sufficiently beat, because she did not challenge it.

All in all, a day well spent

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

In which I take a walk in the woods with some fellow lunatics

You would never believe this but there is a 103 square kilometer forest right within Bombay. "You mean Asaram Bapu's beard" you will say, with a twinkle in your eye, for you love your little joke of a morning, but you would be wrong (and not just because Asaram Bapu is not in Bombay). The place is called the Borivili National Park. At least that is what it used to be called when I was a kid. Now, like all things big and small in this country which fall within the government's power to christen, it is named after a deceased member of the Gandhi Nehru family and goes by the wordy title of Sanjay Gandhi National Park. Which of course suffers from the minor problem that it quite a handful to type and hence shall be hereinafter referred to, unless repugnant to the context thereof, as the lawyers like to put it, as SGNP.

My friends Chuck and Divya thought it would be a lovely idea to stroll around this place on Sunday morning and I enthusiastically jumped up with a "me! me!" when they asked around if anyone would like to come. Chuck and Divya are capable, among other things, of making jokes of unsurpassed silliness and their puns are so groanworthy that you are ill advised to carry sharp objects while hearing them lest you give in to the impulse of stabbing yourself. For instance, Chuck's recent masterpiece was this story about two Aryan priests one fine October morning in 1000 BC where priest-1 proudly declares to priest-2 that he has written this manuscript full of original hymns and spells which will surely guarantee him immortality when to his consternation he discovers that someone has changed all the words. So priest 2 tells him not to worry and recommends that he call it the Rigged Veda. You will have got the idea.

Like me, a few other fans of Chuck and Divya also decided to tag along and when we assembled at SGNP gate on Sunday morning, there were Tony, Srikeit, Mohan, Harshal and another Divya who is called Dibba to distinguish her from the previous Divya. 

The entrance to SGNP was surprisingly crowded. Citizens of Bombay, for all their faults, love to sleep in on Sundays as far as I know, but on that morning many had decided to take in the park scenery. I had prudently lugged my eight seater minivan along because Mohan had mentioned wanting to go to Kanheri caves, a minor matter of eight kilometers into the park, several of them uphill, and I thought we would all fit into it. I had, alas, figured without the maniacal levels of biophilia sloshing about within the members of the group. "No, no! We will walk" said Harshal. "Of course" said Mohan who, being Australian, is given to practicing self flagellation in various ways such as running marathons and climbing Himalayan peaks "I used to come here to practice when I went for my last mountaineering trip". And to my dismay, I found no voices of support for my lets-go-in-the-van-its-such-fun doctrine. Feeling like a Marxist-Leninist at a convention of Tea Party activists, I shuffled along in a subdued manner.

But the company was too ebullient to let me be morose for long. There were several groups of people with naturalist guides who were evidently pointing things out about the forests of the "this plant is an epiphyte, that insect there is a member of the order phasmatodea" variety.  For a while, all that erudition cowed us into silence but soon, someone - possibly Chuck - broke out into a faux eco-tourist-guide mode and some wholesome fun was had by all.

Presently, we came across a woman selling cucumbers and guavas and in true Bombay style, everyone took a snack break. A word about this snack break thing. I don't know if this is unique to Bombay -it certainly isn't evident in other places I have lived- but there is an overpowering urge here to be eating something all the time. The citizen of say Mysore, will hungrily consume his set dosai and strong coffee for breakfast and might even add a baadam halwa or two if he's particulary ravenous, but once that is done, he will steadfastly refuse to look at purveyors of foodstuff till it is time for lunch. But the Bombay guy? Scarcely will the chana chor have settled in his stomach when his eyes begin to yearningly seek out the batata wada so famous in that area. And even that will not sate him for long because there is this legendary sandwich walla to check out and so on. ... (to be continued)

Friday, November 8, 2013

On the greatness of Sachin and other timepass things

I've been inundated with TV commentary on the greatness of Sachin these last couple of hours that I've been watching TV. It's not something I normally do, watching TV, I mean -congenital defect - but today, I've been stood excellent beer by an old friend, who is also a bit of a Sachin-is-god pill, and one is obliged to indulge one's hosts.

"Sachin", he told me, over an ill-suppressed beer burp, "is God Himself". I had surmised as much, given the gushing quality of the commentary pouring over the tube.

"Really? I don't see HOW he is significantly better than, say, Hayden or Ponting" I rashly responded.

"Ponting? PONTING?" my friend foamed at his mouth "You are lucky I am not Henry the Eighth, or I would have you beheaded"

"A fate reserved for his wives, as far as I can tell". The beer had made me needlessly reckless

"No, no. A vast majority of the people he sent to the executioner's block were chaps like you, with unsound views on cricket. Ponting, it seems!" And with the aid of a julienne of carrot and a peanut, both thoughtfully supplied by the restaurant to its beer consuming customers, illustrated how Sachin had dispatched an Andre Nel delivery to the cover boundary, a feat, apparently, beyond the cricketing capabilities of messrs Ponting and Hayden.

Just not my day, in short. Earlier, the missus dragged me out shopping for bed linen.

"We want duvet covers", she told me, "and they have to be bought NOW".

"It's like the Nike slogan, Annie" said the younger one.

"Nike slogan?"

" Just duvet".

He nimbly evaded my attempt to slosh him one and disappeared into his room singing "Duvet, just duvet" to Michael Jackson's "Beat It"

We went to the most insanely crowded square mile in Bombay, the square mile around Crawford Market, and bought, along with the duvet covers, bed sheets, turkish towels, door mats, dupattas, salwar suits and one box of mulberries

On my way back I was stopped for breaking a red light (Bombay is REALLY changing) by what must be the nicest policeman I have ever been hauled up by.  "Sir" he addressed me, and you could have knocked me over with a feather, "can I see your licence please?"

I kept the poker face


"Sir, you jumped a signal"

I smiled my most ingratiating smile and, proffering him my licence, muttered conciliatory things in Marathi. To no effect. He firmly and politely told me to cough up the princely sum of Rs. 100, wrote me a very legible memo recording the transaction, and wished me happy divali.

The missus was not unduly upset. The successful procurement of duvet covers seemed to have mollified her. With a distracted "I wish you wouldn't drive like a doofus" she continued gazing at the package containing the duvet covers.

The day, all said, seems to have turned out all right