Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Green Gaffe!

I always thanked my dad for instilling the travel bug in me. The very fact that he was a bank employee gave him the option to avail Leave Travel Concession. This was one of the perks for which he was entitled every year. Instead of consuming it annually, our preference was a five year chunk so that we could cover the maximum distance and the most number of days.

One such trip was to explore Delhi, the national capital followed by erstwhile Bombay and finally Goa. We had a tried and tested strategy which obviously worked out to be very economical those days. It was to target those locations where we already had relatives. This naturally helped to cut down the cost of accommodation and also to some extent, food and local travel expenses. I must remember with utmost reverence that those were the times when people never showed faces of displeasure when they had guests at home. Due credit goes to dad's amazing networking skills!

There we were, one fine day at the most happening part of the country, the wonderful city of Bombay! Dad's uncle was staying at Bandra, one of the well-off suburban areas in the city. They gave us a warm welcome and we relished their spirit of hospitality.

One of those days, dad's cousin decided to take us around the place and show us the real Bombay. It was a morning that saw slight drizzle. We took to the streets of Bandra which was trying to hide itself from the skies that opened its eyes. Little puddles of rain water clothed the roads. The tarred surfaces appeared polished and so we began our tour-de-Bombay.

My teenage mind was all excited to see a new part of the country. I looked up to the skies and shouted to the falling drops, "You just can't dampen my spirit with this!" We had started early in the morning and soon our stomachs started to add to the noises around us. A decent looking restaurant was round the corner and we decided to break the fast there.

I really am unable to trace back the time from which I started disliking mint leaves aka pudina. I was never able to appreciate the odor of the leaves and the dishes prepared, with that as an ingredient. I became so averse to pudina that I even wondered if I was allergic to that! Dad knew this pudina-phobia of mine and had warned me that you may find quite a few of these up in the North. I managed to avoid having a food item which had pudina while in Delhi and I was pretty confident that I could repeat the feat in Bombay as well. I somehow had this notion that south Indian cuisine does not use much of pudina.

The menu at the restaurant was not very enticing as most of the options were North Indian and I dreaded the green devil that will accompany the dish! Pages turned, options evaluated and finally at a completely insignificant corner of the menu I discovered a gem! A food item that brought some respite to my eyes but more so to the mind. A south Indian delicacy which I was sure not to have any of the stuff I hate the most. None other than a jewel from the land of Nizam, The Hyderabad Biriyani!

While the rest of the folks were open to experiment with their taste buds, I was contented with the good ol' South Indian food out of the sheer fear of pudina! Moments passed by, chit chats were reaching its pinnacle and slowly the food we ordered started showing up. The flavors of Bombay did a colorful pageant right in front of us. Tantalizing aromas filled the air. The renowned Indian cuisine which has created plentiful gourmets around the world woke up the counterpart within us. Everything we asked reached us except the one I was awaiting the most, biriyani. Guess, Hestia, the Greek goddess of hearth who presided over baking of bread, planned to test my patience level!

Everyone at the table was courteous enough to wait for my dish. But as the wait grew longer I suggested the rest of the folks not to wait any further. It seemed as though the restaurant folks are awaiting the next locomotive from Hyderabad to bring the biriyani! After what seemed like hours, a steward clad in a black and white vest came with a silver tray with an item he proudly announced as Hyderabad Biriyani.

He placed in front of me, an intricately designed copper-finish bowl with contents full to the edge. This was accompanied by a silver plated spoon so as to make the person feel special for ordering something as exotic as this. All what it took was one look at the bowl and I was totally disillusioned from tip to toe!

There it was, the carefully ordered menu item artistically decorated with pudina leaves so as to make a bed of green inviting me to dive in and have a painful death!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Game of Trunk

How unusual could names for games be?!! ‘Trunk’ was one such which used to generate so much of vigour, back when games meant more than PS3 and Xbox.

The mode of game was pretty simple, yet was one with a major impact on the players, literally and figuratively. A few stones, a ball and two teams were all that was needed. Those were the times when there was no dearth of getting kids from your neighbourhood to play along. I remember parents asking us to go out and play instead of being glued to the TV sets or video games which were just beginning to become a fad.

Back to the game, two teams will be formed. 7 pieces of stones will be made available. As in the case of any sport where decision making needs to be made, tossing a coin played a major role. The winning team gets to use the ball first. The pieces of stones have to be arranged one on top of the other. Aiming the ball at this stone pile follows. Each team gets three chances to hit the stack failing which the other team gets the turn.

All hell breaks loose as soon as at least one stone gets displaced! A totally irreverent melee follows! The team that played the ball runs for their life all the while looking at an opportunity to put the stack back in order. The most obvious action for the opposite team is to thwart that attempt at any cost.

One of the most exciting and painful sights of the game is to watch the ball fly at the speed of light with one of the poor souls trying to rearrange the pile as its target. Cries fill the air, pain fills the nerves, but the show must go on...

It was a game of exhilaration, sadistic pleasure and fraternity! One that taught team work, all the while reminding that you can achieve anything but of course with some pain!

Salute the good old days!

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A Basketful of Surprise!

After a few considerations, my only Brother-in-law decided to take the plunge into the wonderland called 'Married Life'. Needless to say, he was soon in a state of delirium tying hard to figure out the difference between nights and days, thanks to the late night phone conversations with his soon-to-be-sweetheart. All this while there was one little soul who was totally busy figuring out the artistic details about the wedding. My darling devil she was!

In the traditional Catholic society, a married sister of the groom commands a kind of respect which is something short of royalty. The reverence becomes manifold if she happens to be the only sister! I need to be a little immodest here and add that a fair share of the attention is also received by the brother-in-law of the groom.

With a few months into married life ourselves, I was fortunate to realize one fascinating characteristic of my sweetheart. She has a distinctive talent to create a marvel out of the most insignificant looking material lying around! So there she was; trying to make her brother's wedding a fairy tale one with the resources she had access to.

I heard her speaking to mom a few weeks before the wedding about buying some sort of a basket made of cane. She was also talking about nets and ribbons to add to the set. Conversations were plenty about size of the basket and color of ribbons. It is a matter of fact that I was not a keen listener to these and so didn't make out what she was up to.

The evening before wedding, I saw her scooting to a room back home with a basket and some assortments. The curious cat inside me got jolted up and swiftly followed her to the room. But all what I saw was a basket, some clothes, ribbons and nets in different colors. The cat lost its interest and moved to further more interesting actions which a wedding eve is never deprived of.

Moments passed by and I was cruising past the chocolate brown glass topped table en route to kitchen to pick up something. As if gravity got the better of me, my legs refused to move an inch beyond a spot. There, perched on that glass table was a heavenly beauty residing in all its glory! The simple basket of cane had gone through such a transformation that it became an incredible example for a work of art!

A pure white piece of satin became the seat, lovely nets floated around the basket giving it a fairy touch and curly golden ribbons were shining as though to proclaim to the world that a new life has been instilled! To top it all, a pair of exquisite lemon yellow roses adorned the basket to complete the royal touch!

Presenting the little beauty in its entire splendor to you…

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