Friday, September 25, 2009

Ashutosh Gowariker and his part in my downfall

We, the kids, missus and I that is, saw "What's your Rashee?" today. Just returned 15 minutes ago, in fact.  I am therefore dutifully filing my serious critical evaluation of the movie for the benefit of keen students of cinema who are doubtless reading my erudite blog for illumination. 

The story is about a gujju guy who comes from the US to India to get married, and has to choose from 12 girls, each from one zodiac sign.  And since I'm too exhausted to type out the story, and since you can easily read it on the net, and since it's mostly long and complicated songs anyway, let's take it as read. OK? Thanks.

I enjoyed the movie, of course. I thought Priyanka Chopra acted marvelously. I also thought Harman Baweja acted marvelously. I told the missus that. She gave me the look.

"You ok, buddy?" she asked me.

"Sure. Why?"

"Harman Baweja couldn't act to save a dying grandmother. Harman Baweja makes Akshay Kumar look like Naseeruddin Shah. You can't be serious about his acting".

"Come, now. You're prejudiced. I thought he was just the right shade of innocence and savvy combined."

The missus rolled her eyes. For once, she had the heartfelt support of both the kids. The younger one usually takes my side but this time he was very upset.

"I would have stayed at home and studied the chapter on the United Nations" he said, referring  to a funfilled chapter in his Civics textbook which tells you all that you ever wanted to know about UN resolutions and the veto power of the security council but were afraid to ask.

Missus gave me the "see? didn't I tell you?" look. And well she might, because I was really taken aback. This was a strong reaction. Gautham declaring that he'd study rather than do something is complete damnation of that something. His hatred for textbooks makes Israel Palestine relations look like Portuguese love sonnets in comparison.

"And the songs were too many and every bloody where" Vyaas, our resident music aficionado piped up.  Further strong stuff.

But I pigheadedly continued to defend Ashutosh Gowariker. "He is a fine filmmaker", I told  the brood.

"When he lost his hair, he must have lost his mind with it",  Vyaas said.

"Hush" said the missus with a barely suppressed giggle. "Annie's losing hair too".

"Hahaha" said Vyaas, exhibiting none of the spirit that, to take a random example from Hindu mythology, Sravana exhibited towards his father.

"Annie, is hair singular or plural?"  asked Gautham.

"Plural of course"

"Then Vyaas, you should say 'when he lost his hair, he lost his mind with THEM', shouldn't he, Annie"

"Er, I don't think, that is, it doesn't seem to sound right. Ask your mother", I said

"You're the blog writer. YOU tell me!" she retorted, hitting that full toss to the boundary

As often happens in family conversations in the Shenoy household, I was conscious of a swimming feeling in my head.

"We were talking about the movie, people" I tried to recapitulate.

"If you hadn't forced us to come, we would have been watching cartoon network now" said Gautam, ruefully.

"We hate you Annie!" They didn't say this aloud, but I could almost mind read.

Damn you Gowariker. All your fault.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sunday morning blues

Sunday mornings are usually very sedate in our house. Today is no different. I have woken up a full hour before the rest of the house, unlike the others who are sleeping in late. One reason for this is that I have a finely tuned  body clock. The other reason is that if I do not get out of bed at 6, I'm going to have to poop in it, thanks to the afore mentioned body clock. The missus finds this very irritating, because I am forever slamming doors, stumbling over randomly scattered soccer balls and wandering around like a blind bat looking for my spectacles, without which, optically disadvantaged as I am, I would probably go in the broom closet. She mumbles some words of recrimination and goes back to sleep mid sentence. What the hell, it is a Sunday morning!

A few hours later, when the household is up and awake, and humming with action, I am accosted by my children. The elder one makes an observation about Eminem. Perhaps a word of explanation is in order here. The kids are inordinately fond of rap music  and its practitioners. People like Eminem, Fifty Cent, a gentleman named- I kid you not- T-Pain, and many other worthies who wish to influence the world through their hair and tattoos, instead of mundane things like wisdom, courage and intellect. As I was saying, the elder one makes the observation that, should Eminem convert to Islam, he could call himself Muslim Shady. I go "huh?" at him in the way only a doofus father can. He explains that Eminem, for reasons best known to him, calls himself "Slim Shady". Muslim Shady was a play on Slim shady.  "It was a joke, Annie!" he tells me, with a sad look in his eyes which clearly reveal his estimation of the hopelessness of the older generation.

Younger son is studying. I'm pottering about in the living room, trying to get the TV started with the remote. Missus watches in serene amusement for about 5 minutes and then points out that I am using the cordless phone. "Try using the remote. It works really well with the TV, though I don't know why that should be so". She revels in these kind of shots.  I give her my coldest "Dignified Silence" look, completely wasted on her because her mom has called up from Mysore and they are exchanging very sotto voce remarks about something. This means
a. Someone is getting divorced
b. Someone is getting married
c. Someone is having a child
d. They are discussing the latest Chinese GDP numbers.

Ok, perhaps not 'd.'

Anyway, I digress. I was talking about the younger son. With his mom in a long conversation over the phone, he is like a political activist just released from prison. Brimming with things to say, if you know what I mean.

"Annie" he goes, "is reproduction a bad thing?"


"Ask your mother. She'll be happy to tell you." I try to slink away, but he's not having any of it.

"I'm asking YOU"

"I, er, no, not  really. I mean, reproduction is, like, very necessary for life. But of course, we don't discuss it very openly er.. er.. "

"Why not?"

"I beg your pardon?"

"Why don't we discuss it openly?"

"Well, I think... that is... I think your mother would be better placed to answer that."

"She's going to be on the phone for an hour, you know. That's grandma on the line."

"I know." Sigh. "Ok, why are you asking me this NOW?"

"Well  it says here, in this textbook that I'm reading that 'reproduction in any form is expressly prohibited' "

Rascal.! He was stringing me along. I try to clout him one on the side of the head but he's like Muhammed Ali, dodging and weaving around while I get shorter of breath.


Friday, September 18, 2009

The "Other Gastronomic Adventures" from the previous post

Well, after that 6000 rupee butter chicken, Ajay asked me if I had ever sampled the wares at Muhammad Ali road and thereabouts, at Ramzan time.

What with all these world events happening, it so happened that I had not. I said so. Ajay immediately raised eyebrows and gave me the "what stone have you been living under, my friend" look. I squirmed under his critical gaze and implored him to remedy that defect in my otherwise blemishless character.

"Alright", he told me, "present yourself at Kala Ghoda at 6 pm tomorrow. I'll see what I can do."

Kala Ghoda, for those of you who are ignorant of Mumbai geography, is an important city landmark named after a black horse (kala ghoda) which does not exist.

I know this for a fact. I have searched high and low for it, often when I was perfectly sober, and found no evidence of horses of any color.

And the search was never easy, let me tell you. Can you imagine walking around in broad daylight, or worse, dark night light, trying to look nonchalant while actually seeking out a large black horse among automobiles, office goers and random municipal corporation teams digging up the road in the hope of finding buried treasure?

Which by the way is a confirmed fact, the fact that they're hunting for buried treasure, I mean, because another fine thinker  (who blogs  here)   arrived at the same conclusion independently, as we both discovered recently while having a philosophical beer, proving that it MUSt be true. And what the devil am I rambling about here? Get back to the point. Right. Sorry folks.

The other important thing about Kala Ghoda is that it lies 35 traffic filled kilometers south of Malad West where yours truly resides. I decided to take the train. Now local train journeys are something I really look forward to, in Mumbai, for the simple reason that nowhere else in the world can you find so many people digging out little bits of snot, rolling them into balls of nanometric dimensions and sticking them under the seat or on the dangling handles overhead, with such dexterity and precision. It's hypnotic. I did not join them. I wanted to, really did, but when Yo Yo Ma plays the cello, you listen, however much your own fingers are twitching to play, if you get my drift.

By the way, if this post lacks the usual precise, compact, power-point-presentation-to-the-board-of-directors quality of my arguments, you can blame it on a rather jolly little beer called Tuborg which is so named because if have tu many of them, and you happen to be with Bjorn Borg, you are liable to see tu borgs. There. I've gone off the rails again! At this rate, I really doubt if I will ever get to the point where I tell you about what I ate at the Mohammed Ali joint.

So here goes, before I fall asleep.
1. Tandoori Chicken
2. Paya barahandi
3. Khichda
4. Firnee
5. Malpua with cream.

All of which were made from low calorie ingredients, of course, and had special cholestrol lowering vitamins added to them.

(It might have occured to the alert reader that I could have said this right at the beginning and saved myself the trouble of typing a few thousand words. Hmmm. True. But it's such fun to ramble on pointlessly. Also, my MBA training requires me to use a thousand random words for every little thought or else they will formally strip me of my degree)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The world's classiest butter chicken and other gastronomic adventures

This was courtesy my brother in law Ajay Sharma, who serendipitously  discovered it on Facebook  and was intrigued by its price. For the site says, in the most apologetic manner, that it costs Rs. 6000 per portion and very sorry but that's what it costs. 

They don't offer much of an explanation  other than that they use fine ingredients including Evian mineral water (which tastes terrible on its own, if you ask me) and Hunt's tomato paste (which I have never heard about).

There were a few who, very rightly, ranted on the Facebook page, that they must be out of their mind to price, at Rs. 6000, something like a butter chicken, excellent specimens of which are available for Rs. 200 or less a portion.

 As if in anticipation of  these kind of responses, the site actually suggests two places which serve excellent butter chicken (Moti Mahal and Mughal Mahal) where the stuff is way cheaper. It's just that OUR butter chicken is Rs. 6000 per portion, they say. They don't say "period" after that sentence but you can just sense it.

Ajay, of course, gastronome that he is, promptly became their fan on Facebook and wrote them an appreciative comment. And lo, they decided to gift him a sample of their Butter Chicken  - one portion flown in from Hyderabad (where it is made, and where it is sold) for his exclusive enjoyment. 

I rushed to sample the stuff as soon as I heard about it, partly because of the fact that I was getting it free and partly because I was very hungry, the missus having decided basically to starve me, over the last few weeks, with egg whites, celery, iceberg lettuce and other things currently banned under the Geneva convention.

At Ajay's house, I ran into the founders of Anaarkali themselves. A youngish couple, one Mr. I. B. Saxena and Ms. Padma Prasad, they had personally carried their culinary masterpiece with them. I was touched. 

They were extremely reticent and seemed embarassed at all the gushing appreciation about their business spirit that Ajay and I were heaping on them. Eventually, we got them to talk a bit about themselves and found out that they cooked it themselves. Personally. No cooks, lackeys, assistant vice-presidents, nothing! Moreover, they're pretty successful businesspeople in everyday life, worth many doubloons and in no n eed for the moolah they must be earning from this venture, if indeed they earn any. Amazing!

Anyway I'll cut a long story short and say that the butter chicken was awesome. Superb. Excellent. Definitely the best butter chicken in the world!

Ok, I'm probably not the world's leading authority on butter chicken, my earlier experience of it having been the "Lalit" butter chicken of Goregaon West. Lalit, a fine restaurant in my opinion, interprets "butter chicken" as "butter 50%, chicken 50%". This makes it yummy but unidimensional. 
Anarkali's version, on the other hand, is a lot more sophisticated. It has many nuances of flavour, with ingredients like saffron and olives finding their way into the plot. 

Comparing "Anaarkali" to "Lalit" is not fair. It's a bit like comparing Laurence Olivier to Akshay Kumar. But like all bourgeois, I could not but ask myself the inevitable commercial question "Is it worth Rupees Six thousand"? 
The answer, dear reader, is a resounding "yes"!
Provided, of course, that it is somebody else's Rupees Six Thousand.

No, I'm being mean there. I would pay 6000 for this butter chicken. It would have to be an occassion, though. The chairmanship of the Federal Reserve, perhaps. Or appointment to the casting department of some prominent bollywood production house.

Something befitting the Classiest Butter Chicken in the world.

(tune in tomorrow for the 'other gastronomic adventures' because i'm falling asleep)

Monday, September 7, 2009

Writer's block, yoga lessons etc.

Really can't think of anything to write. What a bummer these writer's blocks are! Not that anyone's forcing me to write or anything. But as a card carrying MBA, it is shameful to be at a loss for words. (The missus points out here that I am not at a loss for words, my problem is that I am at a loss for ideas. She might be right there but it's nitpicking).

What to write? Ok, here's something. The other day, the missus thought it would be nice for me to learn yoga. Probably sick of hearing me whine about having to work out in the gym, she decided to set me up with a competent yoga instructor.

Well, I have nothing against this fine form of exercise, except of course for the tendency of the yoga instructor to try and make you hyperflexible.

I mean, I can see the utility of this. Let's say you have two full mugs of beer, one in each hand, and you want to scratch your ear. If you were good at yoga, you'd just use your toe, nonchalantly like, instead of having to find a table to keep one beer mug, scratch your ear with the free hand, and then pick the mug again. A most convenient talent. But the steps leading to the acquisition of this ability are punishing, to say the least.

After one session of this, I slunk back into the gym. Better to risk dropping the dumbbell on one's toe than chancing the painful possibility of accidentally biting your own nuts.

What else? Oh, we had a chilled out saturday. The younger son decided to prepare for a career in rock music, aided and abetted by yours truly, till his mom caught us  and bawled us out. Caught on video. Cheers

Saturday special from narendra shenoy on Vimeo.