Monday, August 22, 2011

Short notes - The Missus on Coffee

Coffee is something the missus is extremely particular about. She's from Mysore, and in Mysore, coffee is drunk strong.

When I, wuss from Bombay, first had Mysore coffee, I had to close my eyes and hold my hands over them to prevent my eyeballs from popping out. Third parties advised that nothing of the sort would occur but it was a long time before I removed my hands off them.

The third parties were right. Nothing happened. But the main party, the party of the second part, hereinbefore and hereinafter referred to as 'the missus' was, with singular lack of tact, laughing her booty off.

What fascinates me and will eternally continue to do so is the way every Mysorean, when ordering coffee at a restaurant, tells the waiter "Solpa Strong Madiri" ("Make sure it's strong, dude") regardless of how strong the restaurant normally makes it.

Bombay restaurants, on the other hand, have no concept of strong. Indeed, they have little concept of 'coffee' for that matter.

I don't know if I've told you my favorite Udipi restaurant coffee anecdote. Forgive me if I have.

I went through a black coffee phase when I was convinced that if you wanted to show how classy you were, you had to have black coffee without sugar. This wasn't a problem at the Cafe Coffee Days and the Baristas but it mildly  boomeranged at Udipi Vihar Restaurant, Goregaon West where I once asked if I could have a black coffee.

"Can you give me black coffee?" I asked the chap.

"Yes yes".

Bombay is the bastion of capitalism and this is a fine example. The first response of a Bombay business is "Yes" to whatever the customer asks for. I have known shops to tell me they have whatever I asked for, its in the go-down and someone's getting it and actually the shop assistant would have run across the road to another shop and purchased the damn thing. Saying 'no' to a customer is unthinkable.

He came back a couple of minutes later, evidently sent with a flea in his ear, by the chef.

"How do you want it made?" he asked me.

"Just like you make your regular coffee, just don't add milk or sugar" I replied.

"Theek hai" and buzzed off inside only to return again and ask in a sheepish sort of way

"The cook wants to know if you want coffee powder in it"

The missus, who was with me, had a hearty laugh and later observed that no Mysore waiter would, even on the pain of injury, ask a thing like that.

"It's blasphemy, dear. "Do you want coffee in it", it seems. In the old days, people would be flayed for such things. Only in Bombay can this happen"

The missus actually had good reason to feel animosity towards Bombay coffee.

Here she is, on Bombay coffee and why it infuriates her:

"When we were married and the mandatory uncle-aunty visiting was happening, word had gotten around that I drank only kaapi. Naren and his entire clan are resolute tea-drinkers. And the worst kind of tea drinkers, I might add. You guessed right. Masala chai drinkers. Anyway, as I was saying, the clan would faithfully attempt to make coffee, but their technique was severely flawed. You know how we make coffee down south, don't you? A good half a cup of strong decoction, a spoon or two of sugar and a little milk, just enough to get the decoction to a buffalo-after-bath brown colour. 

Well, in Bombay, the procedure is to boil a quart of milk liberally sweetened with sugar and, I shudder to say this, cardamom. If Mysoreans were Japanese Samurai, which they arent, mercifully, they would have committed seppuku in droves upon being told about the practice of adding cardamom to coffee.

And the worst of it is, they don't add physically add coffee to the milk when they make coffee. I'm serious. The Bombay guys' idea of adding coffee to milk is to put some coffee powder on a saucer and use a mirror to direct its reflection into the milk. After a couple of minutes of this, the milk acquires sufficient coffee flavour for the Bombay guys. Five minutes, if they want to make it really strong."

Thank you Sheela. Your views are greatly appreciated.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Anna Hazare situation

Ordinarily, political imbroglios (sorry, but I've always wanted to use that word since I was so high and read it in a Readers Digest Word Power column. I don't really know what it means but it sounds kind of right and you probably dont know it either so we should be alright there) don't upset the harmony of our little home. I refer of course to the Great Lokpal Bill Drama, currently being aired on all channels except, bless their hearts, FTV.

We rarely have political discussions at home. The missus is more a bollywood person. And the boys are into cars and an obnoxious series on TV called MTV Roadies, which, as far as i can see, comprises solely of people abusing other people. But this Anna Hazare business is in our face so much of the time, it is impossible to ignore it.

The missus and I have views on the opposite ends of the spectrum. The missus is strongly for the Lokpal Bill Anna Hazare Version which, as far as I can see, involves spotting the corrupt, asking a select committee if they agree that the spotted person is indeed corrupt and, if they say he (or she) is, horsewhip him (or her).

Here's a sample scenario:

Investigating Officer: "Chairman, sir, respected members of the Lokpal and my dear friends, I have here a senior officer of the government who is corrupt"

Lokpal Chairman: "You don't say! Are you sure?"

Investigating Officer: "I am. You can bet your non corrupt ass on it"

Lokpal Chairman:  "And has he made lots of money?"

Investigating Officer:  "Crores, I tell you, crores!"

Lokpal Chairman:  "Say, Investigating Officer, has he salted it away in Swiss Bank accounts, do you think?"

Investigating Officer:  "Once again, you can bet your non corrupt ass on it, because you won the last bet!"

The Bloke under Investigation:  "I say, here, please, listen to me, it's nothing like that. Just a bunch of fabricated lies.."

Lokpal Chairman:  "Silence! You are corrupt! You do NOT have the permission to speak or say anything in your defence.  So, Investigating Officer, what do you say we do with this low-life?"

And so on.

I've oversimplified it of course, but the entire thing will firmly be in the Haroon Al Rashid territory. You know the chap. The caliph who was wise and summarily executed the wicked. I may be thinking of a couple of other chaps of course, in which case, please forgive me, but what I meant was that there doesn't seem to be much by way of legal process. What if the said select committe, god forbid, isn't as wise as Haroon al Rashid at all times?

As it turned out, the missus was incensed this afternoon, possibly for a different reason.  Actually, I think the reason she was incensed might be the fact that I had, unbeknownst to her,  a couple of beers at lunch (we had a visitor at work, what to do) and then drove home. I am strictly not allowed to drive if I've had a drink.

"Answer the following question in one word only" she said to me

It did not augur well.


"Did you have beer at lunch?"

How do women find these things out?

"Answer me. Yes or no?"

"Er, yes"

"Are you out of your mind?"

This one was easier.

"Er, no"

"You drove. You know what a big no-no that is"

"It was just one pint" I protested meekly.

"They've arrested Anna Hazare"

This was unusual.

"He was drunk driving?"

"No, you idiot. Don't you watch news or get any information on your silly twitter feed? The government has arrested him because he wants to fast unto death. That's attempt to commit suicide. Punishable offense"

"Wow. The stuff must have hit the fan. What are they going to do now? The protesters, I mean?"

"They're planning to have a protest march."


"All over the place. There's one planned here, near Inorbit Mall"

"Protest march! What next?"

"I know Annie" piped up the youngster "they will have a protest April"

"Go to your room, Gautham. You have geometry tomorrow!" bellowed the missus and turning to me, added "it's all your fault. You encourage them to crack these pjs and that's all they do all the time. It's driving me nuts"

Anyway, the country's still seems to be holding itself together, despite the best efforts of the chaps in the government whom the missus refers to as "what the Reverend Spooner would call shining wits".

I really wonder what is going to happen. Perhaps a whiskey would help me clarify my thoughts.....

Sunday, August 7, 2011

In which we go to a fashion show

It's been a dull week in Bombay. We did go for a fashion show, a jewellery based thing, but it wasn't much fun. I felt about as at-home there as a nudist at an HJS convention.

I had tried my level best to wriggle out of it. "Jewellery shows are only for silly vain women" I told her, and then quickly added a "mostly, that is. Not you of course", when I realized what I had just said.

The missus was in an uncommonly good mood. Normally I would have got a real dagger-look for something like that but she just smiled indulgently.

"Silly vain women, it seems. That is so Coltrane! Typical of you. Anyway, wear your finest, my prince. Many pretty ladies will be watching you"



"Oh". Sometimes, carrying on conversations with her require nimbler minds than mine.

I put on the gentleman disguise and turned out rather dapper and spotless, by my standards, but the missus is a nit picker.

"You might consider zipping your fly. Remember Konrad Lorenz?"

{The said Lorenz, if you don't know the story (and a graphic one it is. If you're sqeamish, skippez s'il vous plait, as they say in French) was a biologist who studied birds. He used to feed a wild raven, for research purposes, with strips of meat which he would carry in his pocket. One day, after a biology department lunch with lots of beer, he decided to relieve himself against a wall in the garden. The raven saw this with eagle eyes (as Bobilli might have put it) and decided it was a strip of meat it wanted. The upshot of this was that Herr Konrad practiced celibacy for a long time}

"I forgot, re. You're looking stunning, by the way". A little oil never hurt anyone.

We trundled in at around 6 pm and I was pleasantly surprised to find a functioning bar dishing out the essentials.

"Don't even think about it" said the missus. "I haven't brought my drivers licence. You're going to have to drive back"

I sadly picked a fresh lime soda. "Haha" said the missus "you look like Socrates drinking the hemlock".

I ignored the barb and occupied my seat. The lights dimmed and the usual speeches were heard. A flowery one about the sponsors. An equally flowery one about the designer.

The spot lights came on and some extremely tall and thin women walked down the ramp to the accompaniment of music which sounded like two radio stations playing simultaneously, one being temple music and the other a trance track.

Their slendernesses marched up and down, pausing every now and then to pout at random people in the audience. Very nice of course, but with the sustained dramatic interest of a kabuki performance.

The missus of course enjoyed herself immensely.