Sunday, December 26, 2010

On me, my personality or the lack thereof and other weighty matters

Dear Reader

I hope you are upto reading a long, rambling, introspective and mostly pointless post because today, I have decided to look into my personality and write about it. And if you choose this moment to shuffle off to someone else's blog, I shall say to myself "Drat! Lost another reader. But sterling sense of judgment, I must say! He or she will definitely be Someone in the years to come, if he or she isn't already". But I digress. Coming back to the res, I told the missus of my intention.

'Don't be silly, Naren' was the missus' reaction.

'Silly? What's silly about this?'

'No offense, sweetheart, you are adorable and I love you, but you don't exactly have a personality'

And so it is. I've never had a personality as long as I can remember. I've always envied the strong, purposeful types, the people who could open an oyster at twenty paces with their gaze, to paraphrase PGWodehouse, the people who could get work done in government offices without shelling out a rupee, the people whose wives would be in a tizzy because they would be returning home any moment and needed a freshly brewed mug of coffee at the exact temperature, not too hot, not too cold, notwithstanding the fact that they, the wives, had just returned from work themselves, the kind.. oh, you get the idea.

And, as the missus seems to imply, people lacking personality shouldn't be writing autobiographies. They should be writing, I don't know, draft leave and license agreements or the vice-president's speech to a delegation of junior tourism development officials or whatever. Definitely not autobiographies.

How did I get this way, I often wonder. Was I born without a personality or was it snatched away from me? I've had one or two teachers fully capable of that, snatching away someones personality, I mean. My schooling wasn't so much schooling as a long series of various forms of corporal punishment. But no, it can't be that either because several of my classmates have evolved into personalities that would make the Hulk look like William Wordsworth.

No, the more I think of it the more it becomes apparent to me that I am one of those rare beings born without a mind of my own. For instance, whenever I hear an argument, I am instantly convinced of its correctness, till of course I hear the opposite side, whereupon I become instantly convinced of that argument's correctness. This makes me extremely likeable, at least temporarily, but tends to get me into an embarassing spot when both the opposite parties are present and debating.

Which is a frequent occurrence in the debates between missus and younger son. The elder son is a self-actualized soul (like myself) who usually avoids vulgar debate by the simple stratagem of agreeing with his mother.

The younger one usually argues the point, and with vigour. He lobbies with me for, say, keeping an airgun and pellets, 'for self-defence' he says. I agree. These are violent times we live in, he has just pointed out, and it is always a good idea to plug prospective robbers with a well aimed pellet.

Just as all this business is concluded, the lad is de-pelleted by the missus who adds, for good measure 'Do you have any sense, Naren? Those things are so dangerous! Don't you remember your cardiothoracic surgeon friend who told us about that pellet which lodged in that little girl's pericardium, and it was touch and go, saving her?'.

The missus remembers these things. All I can recollect is that the cardio whatever chap was sneakily eating french fries when HIS wife was not looking and surreptitiously spiking his virgin mojito with my vodka shots.

The upshot of all this is that I have to suffer the "you traitor" looks from the younger son for the rest of the afternoon.

I suppose you will now agree that people like me shouldn't be allowed to write their autobiographies. "What have I learned from this?" you must be asking yourself in exasperation, ruing the fifteen or so minutes you've spent reading this drivel. Well, you can console yourself with the fact that you now know that cardiowhatchamacallit chaps are as human as the rest of us, which you certainly wouldn't have known, if you hadn't read all of the above.

Cheers then, and have a good weekend

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Book review - "How the Banana goes to Heaven"

Today I shall be writing a book review. It is my first book review ever. I don't think I am qualified to do it. Not because I haven't read all that many books (I haven't) or that I don't have all that many brains (I don't) but because I am too emotional about the subject matter of the said book. Right, you guessed it. It's a book about food.

A little about my own history here. I breezed through some 40 years of my life without thinking much about comestibles, other than when I was hungry. I ate when I felt like eating, as much as I wanted and pretty much anything on the table. And then, when I turned 40, I got hauled off for a lipid profile test, a blood test designed to put the fear of dying into irresponsible middleaged people. An obscene number was observed against the legend "tri-glycerides" in the report and I was immediately carted off to various doctors, cardiologists and other busybodies. They collectively told me - and worse, the missus - that if I didn't knock off the calories, I would probably be the cause of the LIC reporting lower profits because of having paid out my life insurance. They observed that this would not be an entirely bad thing, because in virtually everyone's opinion, the LIC has far too much money and a little de-moneyfying would be great for their character but they (the doctors, cardiologists and other busybodies) would rather it not be a sterling chap like me. And at this point I realize I've been rambling. Sorry. You still with me? Good.

It's funny how one values things only when they've been snatched away from one. Post the tri-glycerides episode, I was basically put on a ration of gruel and water and the only way I could get any kind of nutrition was to sneak off into the kitchen when the missus wasn't looking and cook something. So I learned not only to cook really fast but also to wash and clean the pots and pans equally fast, dry them out and put them back in their places before the missus noticed. And that, dear reader, is the sole qualification in my otherwise unqualified self for writing this review.

And now on to business. The book - I loved the title - "How the Banana goes to Heaven" - is written is a breezy, cheerful style. It is organized into chapters, each chapter dealing with one ingredient of vegetarian cooking.

For instance, there is one on ragi, aka millet, which is a terrific food for anyone interested in living a long life. There is one on ghee which says such good things about it (the missus has sentiments towards ghee which make Arab-Jew relations seem like teen romance in comparison) that I became emotional. I love ghee, you see, and the missus is as likely to give me any as the US would be to give the Taliban a consignment of enriched Uranium.

The author gives a delightful, trivia-filled background for the item in question, and a summary of nutrition information which covers what current scientific opinion about it is, and a recipe or two using the said ingredient.

What I liked about the book was the engaging style and the consistently cheerful tone throughout the book. Makes it highly readable. The author, Ratna Rajaiah, is a popular blogger and columnist for The New Indian Express. She writes very well indeed. After reading I am equipped with dozens, if not hundreds, of little facts about food that will save my life when accosted by random aunties at parties as I so often tend to be.

There aren't many recipes in the book, just one at the end of every chapter, but then, it's not a cookery book, it's a book about food. The recipes look pretty nice though, and are fairly unusual. Which makes it interesting enough for me. I haven't tried many out but the few that I did, I liked. One, a preparation called Roasted Rice Dumplings, turned out really good. These dumplings went very well with beer. Though, as the missus would observe, if she knew about this, what doesn't.

Highly recommended for people who like reading about food. Also, suitable for random reads, since the chapters are little independent compartments. You can basically open it to any page and take a stab at it. The book is well produced. Lovely photographs throughout. The printing is very good and overall I think it is a great buy for anyone even slightly interested in the marvelous subject of food