25 August 2008

Last few days in my native land

After all this eating and meeting I had to do some shopping. Comm Street ki Jai ho! No Orchard Street can compare to Indian market experience. Be it Commercial St in Bangalore, Lajpat Nagar in Delhi, Laxmi Road in Pune, T-Nagar in Chennai, Gariahat in Kolkatta, or any other market in any other city in the native land. The colours, the noise, the people, the smells, the prices, the deals, the merchandise, the merchants, the people, the food, ... (Never ignore the food in an Indian market).

Indian markets are like a bhelpuri of all aforementioned things - the good and the bad - all mixed, tossed, and served up with dhania and sev on top. थोड़ा खट्टा, थोड़ा मीठा, थोड़ा crunchy and थोड़ा chewy. Am lovving it!

So on Thrusday I shopped in beloved Comm St buying 100 rupee to 2000 rupee chappals all morning. In fact I got so carried away with my chappals that shopkeepers started offering me business deals - they thought I buying all these chappals to set up a shop abroad! Aghast, I quickly dived into Shiv Sagar to lagao a juice and चाट and restore my composure.

Did Dalam or pomegranate juice (which is YUM there) and decided to do one chat... which somehow got followed by the Shiv Sagar Thali. Replete with all this I rolled off next door to visit Mecca Stores - a book library, a ladies fancy item shop, and a household fancy items shop - all in one. This place has been around for ages, ‘cause everyone remembers it being there for as long as they can remember. It’s not changed an iota, expect for the sorry demise of the elderly gent presiding over the shop, but his son is running the show and its business as usual.

The ladies fancy item section (1/2 part of the entrance), according to me, has the best collection of earrings, hair clips, hair bands, and other sundry ladies fancy items, in all of Commercial Street. Their general fancy store section (one wall and 1/4 of the entrance) has an inexpensive fast moving collection of ceramic vases, cookie jar sets, flower vases, and other time pass glass and ceramic items. Bought my essential earrings, hair bands, scrunchies, a vase, a jar, borrowed a few books, chitted and chatted a bit, and this is what being in Bangalore for me is all about.

Next stop was to the temple of creativity. A visit to my best friend in Comm St. namely Vijay - my trusted and much harassed tailor. Pleaded with him to make time for me and make me some new apparels, the moment he gave in, off I rushed to Pooja Collections, Shoba Collection, New Choice Collections, Lal's Collection, Mysore Udyog Collections etc. to collect materials for skirts, tops, dresses and dumped it all on Vijay for him to do his magic and to turn them into wonderful creations, which I must say, he miraculously does.

The sun was beginning to set and it was time for the Bangalore Night to take over. The spot for this night was a very घर पे बना हुआ place; it was such a made-at-home a place that I've even forgotten its name. Its a karaoke bar, very Bangalore Cantt owners, very Bangalore Cantt crowd - which should have been really charming and fun and hospitable but... Anyway we were in a mood to belt out songs and had a pretty decent time but made it an early night as the food was just about passable, the management nasty, and the service god-awful.

The next day I had pretty much the same schedule, took one last look into all the shops to ensure I'd not missed anything. Lunch was with Chint at Tiger Bay, which I must say, does a very decent Non-Veg Thali for lunch. Of course, the added bonus to eating in Tiger Bay is that one needs no excuse to browse through Bombay Stores. While I am the most ardent believer of retail therapy, and practice it most religiously, shopping in Bombay Stores is a double therapy. One, which of course is retail, the other is an almost Zen-like soothing and relaxing atmosphere of the shop. Browsing through their multi-mid-level floors, little niches, very pretty desi uber chi-chi merchandise, quite ambience, and nearly empty shop (yikes! not a good thing for them is it?) I feel as great a calm as having done half hours mediation. Rested, refreshed, and completely at peace. Bombay Stores - you ought to bottle and sell this!

Dinner was at friend's favorite restaurant - Paparazzi. Allegedly, 'One of the World's 82 Best' restaurants. Set on top of Central Park Hotel (now called Royal Orchid Central, I think) it offers nice food and a great view of Cubbon Road. Must have is the 'Bread Basket with Multiple Dips' I totally love it. The rest is kinda pendulum type - the chef can be very good to disappointing, the service can range from very attentive to I'm-so-totally-ignoring-you. Royal Orchid Central people - you've really got something good going - please be consistent, stock up your bar, your cellar, or wine cooler, or whatever and train your staff. I'd love to patronize you more, give me a little more reason.

Saturday, my last weekend started with breakfast at Vidhyarthi Bhawan - really nice dosas, but everyone complains that they were better - well I didn't find anything missing. Post dosa went to pay my respects to Dodda Ganesha and Dodda Basavanna at the Bull Temple.

Basavanagudi is super quaint and charming. With shops selling pooja samagri, snacks like congress kadle, ready-to-cook food like fresh hand-made idiappams, a huge vegetable market, and traditional Indian flower shops selling loose flowers and elaborate flower garlands. All this right in a austral heart of cosmopolitan, almost-metropolitan Bangalore. Travellers, if you want to see the 'real' old Hindu Bangalore, do make a visit here. After making one full round from VB to Bull Temple, to all the shops and back, we were ready for one more dosa at VB. Glutton, that me! Finished that off perfectly with a post breakfast snooze.....Zzzzz....

Saturday night I was lucky to attend a very dear friend's father's 65th birthday bash. As with everything uncle does, this was also in grand style. Lovely Manglorean people, with their great food, and their great music, fun and laughter. One of the most hospitable people and man do they like to party! It was a great ending to a lovely Bangalore holiday.

Sunday was spent with mom and dad, eating (again!) home food, chatting, finishing packing, weighting the suitcase a 100 times, removing stuff, weighting again, adding stuff, weighing again and you get the drift. All that done, I chilled in my room in Bangalore for one last time, for a long time to come. Come evening I was off to the airport.

Ah! another update on the airport, so it was well organised, there are weighting machines to weight your luggage outside so you can remove stuff from your bag if it’s too heavy and give it to the relatives who have come to see you off, the terminals were well lit and everything looked clean and tidy. But then there were 4 terminals for check-in and only 2 working, resulting a long and serpentine queue. There were not enough seats for people/kids to sit, and the loo had the most MAJOR surly cleaner who refused to speak in any language and resisted all entreaties' to be even remotely helpful. Also, considering there was no seating space outside, people occupied the toilet seats and refused to vacate! No! I am serious.

All this endured, there was some time left for a little browsing in the few upgraded duty free stores, got a beer at the sports bar, munched on the goodies mommy packed for the flight. Boarded the flight at 12; a 4-hour-flight-that-seemed-like-10-hours, no sleep, and landed bright and early on the shores of Singapura Monday morning and am sure I don't need to spell out the hue of this Monday morning blue.

13 August 2008

Friends, Food, & Nagarjuna

It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

The ii pals I met for lunch on Wed 2 July @ the love-of-my-life-restaurant 'Nagarjuna'. Shee and I met downstairs and our usual enthusiasm, kick-ass-chick-fun, and bonhomie started:

Shee:"Aye, what ya Singapore you've settled off in aa? Chumma why you went off only I don't know."
Me:"Shut up ok Shee, what you're going off to UK no?"
Shee:"Aye no ya, I don't want to go only ya.."
Me:"Aye your mad aa? Why you don't want to go mein?"
Shee:"Go ya... who'll go so far. You also come back yaa…"

We reach upstairs and keep talking while the waiter is standing with a pained expression on his face; quickly I tell him a table for four.

Shee:"Aye listen ya..."
Me:"Shee you saw the look he gave us aa? Heheheh"
Shee:"Heheheh. Poor fellow ya, why you trouble him like this mein"
Me:"Me aa? You're the one who is going on and on, ok"
Shee:"Shut up ok, I've not said a word."
Me:"Yappa! What a lie! You were always a liar only Shee."
Shee:"Shut up okkkay". Aye, where we going ya?"

Meanwhile the ಚತ್ತ್ರಿ (clever? chalu? wily?) waiter has led us to the last table at the end of the world. Shee and I see the table and collapse into another fit of "hehehes" and the waiter makes his escape. While were are happily "you shut up ya, you shut up ya-ing" the waiter throws the menus at us and runs away to hide again.

Menu in hand and we have instant focus:
"Biryani or meals?... Which (which) chicken?... Chilly chicken is too spicy ya! No ya, I will die if I don't eat it, okay.... Aye you have Sholay Kebab ma, lovely it is. Is it?...... If it's not nice no... Aye it's nice ya, very nice, I am telling no? No fish aa?........ Aye I won't eat without fish ok?! Yappa!!! Who is saying no to fish ya......? Get fish no... Nobody wants prawns aa...?

Just then सबसे नज़रें चुरा के [hiding from all eyes] the boys arrive and ask us to spare them, the rest of the fellow eaters, and humanity is general, and stop our non-stop high-pitched jabbering। So we "shut up okkayyy" the boys in chorus and and hush up.

The order is placed and while the food arrives we catch up with each others news - about Venk's wedding, about Shee's job hunt, about VJ's study plans, about my time in Singapore. In our enthu to hear all and tell all, naturally the tempo of the jabber rises again. This time the boys join in too and as much as they would like to deny it, we are all going full throttle. The food arrives to save the day and us from the tempers of fellow eaters). Appearance of food on the scene has a magical effect on us, its like someone suddenly used the mute button on us.

The food, as usual, is lovely and we consume and consume and order more and consume. All in all, this is ordered and consumed:

- 1 Chicken Chilly
- 1 Chicken Sholay Kebab
- 1 Prawn Sholay Kebab
- 2 Fish Fry
- 4 Buttermilk
- 2 Meals
- 2 Chicken Biryanis
- 2 after Biryani Meals

Thus we spent over 2 hrs chatting, eating, and laughing. What's really sweet is that it's a week day and everyone except me is working and has very sweetly made time for this long ".com" type lunch break. Ah! Love my friends. Long live my friends! (If any of my friends' managers' is reading this, errr... free meal courtesy me @ Nagarjuna for you).

After polishing off Nagarjuna's day's supply for provisions we rolled down. Of course no meal in Nagarjuna is complete without a desert from Corner House aptly situated below. So we do 2 by 4 desert and sit around for another hour and finally I make my replete way back home with sole intention of sleeping off the food.

10 mints later:
~Beep-beep beep-beep~ [SMS tone]
Shee: Aye, how much we've eaten ya, I can't stay awake only, how am going to work?
Me: Roll-eye, ignore, and sleep.

1 min later:
~Beep-beep beep-beep~
Shee: You sleeping aa loafer? Am sitting in office and you are sleeping. Aye wake up ya, I can't stay awake only.
I succumb and reply:
Go home and sleep no Shee. Why you troubling me?

20 secs later:
~Beep-beep beep-beep~
Shee: No ya I got work to do, can't go home. You sleep ya, what for you. Its holiday no for you.
Me: Small evil smile for full happiness (no strength for bigger smile) and sleep.

10 sec later:
~Beep-beep beep-beep~

Shee:You've gone to sleep aa loafer? Heheh

I have a feeling that this is going to take an ugly turn so I pre-empt my clever friend, turn off the offending phone and अपनी आँखें मूँद लीं [died in peace].

God bless Nagarjuna, their chef, their food, and most of all, my friends.

Mind(less) over Matter

Succumbing to incessant and painful nagging from the parents I (re)started one of the more unfruitful almost-ritualistic chore, which has become a part of my home-going for the past 6 months or so. It is 'Mindless Relocation' and this is what it involves:

  1. Go through all the stuff packed in cardboard boxes, remove each piece, decide that I still want it, and put it aside. (Aside mind you, not back in the box)
  2. Follow this procedure till all the cardboard boxes are empty or mom calls for lunch.
  3. Eat lunch, feel sleepy and fall asleep.
  4. Wake up and mom look @ the disapproving looks on parent's faces and get ear bruised by mom's incessant complaining about how I've ruined the running of the house by making a mess of the cardboard room. And how I've always started things and never finished them, how I've always been like this, how I will never change, how this will be the ruin of my life, ending with my dad chanting that it's all about 'Mind Over Matter'.
  5. Getting close to the one straw short of a haystack stage, I go back and repack all the objects in a new 'order' as dictated by the parents. The theme time it was 'what-you-want-preserved-for-short-term' and 'what-you-want-preserved-for-long-term'.
  6. By the time this is over I am making frantic calls to all my friends and acquaintances to meet up for dinner, drinks, movies – anything to get me outta home!

The logic behind it has always baffled me, but I always give in as it seems to set the old folks minds @ rest and hence like the dutiful daughter I am, I have indulged them the following times:

  1. When I left Bangalore for Chennai
  2. When I came from Chennai to Bangalore for a vacation
  3. When I moved back to from Chennai to Bangalore
  4. Before I moved from Bangalore to Singapore

    And now,

  5. I came for a vacation from Singapore to Bangalore

And I am this close to losing my mind! One more time and it's a padded cell for me. So, to do me good and to preserve you all from my madness, you are not going to see me in India for a long long time to come.

But I also have a memory of a dog… so I will forget all about this and walk right back into the trap – again. Till then, see ya around folks!