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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

My Experiments With ( kitchen ) Truth .

I have always been a foodie ,which means I love food ,not that I was a gourmet food specialist of the wine taster kind.
I enjoyed tasty food but was a bit of a stickler to one type and that was preferably south Indian food .
Having had a childhood in the streets of Madras ( I know it is Chennai now ) and that too in Mylapore which was a stronghold of tamil iyers and iyengars and thier heavenly delicacies my tongue was spoilt early in life .

What could one do if along with this fortune one had a mother who could in a jiffy turn out both tamil and malayalee cuisine fit for the Gods ?

The annual visits to parappanangadi my native village in Kerala was one more step to my early food addiction ,my grandma showered her love during these visits by feeding me in style ,with cashewnuts ,jackfruits ,bananas and ripe mangoes not to omit the tons of banana chips consumed with glee .

I still remember the foray into town with my cousins once in parappanangadi and the malappuram biriyani we stuffed ourselves with in hotel Malaya all with the money we made selling raw cashew nuts plucked from our trees ,this was just enough for the biriyani and we sacrificied the tea to follow this

shaven headed moplas watching us commented ..

" Entha kollothe kuttiyalku chaya vendde ?
khayyi nammalukodukkam "

which meant drink tea and we will pay for it !
strangely with all these gastronomic gymnastics I was as thin as a reed .

It took me 23 years after birth to put on girth and then I did that with a vengeance and have never looked back.
blessed with a wife who was as excellent a cook as the mother I was lucky in the department ,
she too knew the way to my heart ran through my stomach and saw to it this heart was hers .

As time grew so did I and so did my paraumblical tissues of lard ,
exercise and aerobics were not in my destiny
yoga and judo made a wide berth whenever they came near me .
with the bike and later the car ,and the busy schedules i added to my bit .
I waxed and waned but never became slim
All along I continued to enjoy food

The umpteen dinnered medical meetings( eatings really ) ,sumptous marriage lunches ,contributed to my kilos .

When I had been so good at eating I was hardly good in cooking ,for I rarely needed to ,in the early days even heating food was a great event for me .
But strangely I always felt I could cook if I had to and maybe even enjoy it !

It did happen finally now in the fag end of my forties when I forayed into the Gulf and to literal starvation .

When I landed in Al Ain in mid july the sun gave me a torrid welcome and I managed to hide in the conditioned comforts of hotel Hilton where I was parked by my hospital till I got the qaurters.
One month in a five star hotel is great ,but with food not included in the bargain ,all I could get was the infinite coffee, tea and fruit bowls provided so much so I hated these on sight the very expensive food of hilton was a torture for me as it was tepid and sat on my tongue like a buffalo would in muddy water .
so the friendly neighbourhood mallu ,parotta corner was the only option ,I did try other types of local food which of course I disliked immensely and immediately .
Finally exasperated I sneaked in a huge microwave oven into my smoke free room and started heating ready to eat parottas and ate them with a salad made of tomattoes , onion and curd ,
One good thing was my lard disappeared into thin air and my wife felt sad to see a gaunt me staring at her during chatting .
Finally because of my desperate pleas I was released from the hilton and given the quarters which was a huge villa but with a big kitchen and 2 fridges ,

so began my foray into cooking ,

I gleaned the net for recipe sites and printed them in reams ,trying out everything ,most of the time they were abysmal failures but since i was my own guinea pig I never conplained .
I still remember the biriyani I dared to make ,this looked very nice but tasted something in between a porridge and a masala kurma

with time and effort I improved
I discovered the charms of garnished onions,tangier tomatoes ,sauted potatoes and rolling chicken deeply fried ,

dosas became rounder ,iddlies softer ,and rice tasted like rice ,
the local lulu supermarkets would be always blessed by gulp mallayaleees as they provided us with real parottas and idiyappams frozen but fluffy and white and all in a jiffy .

These days my repertoire has become longer ,I have become faster and my creations tastier ,I even had the guts to give recipes to others ,even to other ladies !

and above all I am as trim as a fiddle ..............( probably the time has come to add weight on my cooking now )

Addendum in Brunei after many years of trial and error

I have been always a foodie ,specially have a soft corner for Indian food !!
I feel Indian cooking has so much variety and is more complex and has subtler tastes ,this is not to demean other genres each have their own strengths and but just like Indian music ,art philosophy and science it has come down the ages maturing over time just like the slow cooking blending its fine spices to a delicate morsel
I have blogged on my experiments in the kitchen in UAE ,survival brings out your best and those years in Al ain all alone without much good choice of restaurants made my foray into the kitchen a practical proposition
online sources ,my own niece in America umitha who has an excellent cooking blog helped me a lot I also had a chef in a five star hotel for a nephew and an executive chef as a close friend
Varevaah cooking in you tube has given me finite directions
my wife says you keeping taking those photographs of your finished products to exhibit in FB no one knows whether it tastes so good point correct at times it never tasted as good as it looked salt was less it was dry and sometimes it just didn't taste what it was meant to but practice makes perfection
to me making a delicate biryani with fluffy basmati rice grains blended with the spices vegetables well cooked and exuding an aroma was a gaol to be reached it was a challenge ,
this time it was a success partly though not perfect

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Driven for a licence

To have driven in India for the past twenty years weaving through obstacles of the living and the non living kind in battered roads had made me supremely confident ,
if I could drive there I could do it anywhere was the message that was etched into my subconscious self .
If the subconscious self could eat its words it would have done so by now,
in fact it would have swallowed it in one go .

United Arab Emirates the country with roads as smooth as Hema Malinis cheek
( sorry Laloo I borrowed that ) ,and as broad as possible as a sumo wrestlers posterior with three or more tracks on either side and tree laden dividers made me amused ,
driving here would be a pleasure and getting a licence would just be a formality for a veteran like me .
( I was like a Vietnam returned marine itching for a street fight ."hey guys you wanna punch me ...comon .....")
I was warned by people who knew better not to take it lightly ,
"getting a licence here ,Hari ,is a big thing ,something like winning a lottery so dont be overconfident "they would warn
I just gave them a bemused all knowing smile .just you wait .

So I opened a file in the traffic department and joined the Emirates driving school paying a fat fee for the five day mandatory theory classes .
I never knew so much matter was there in trafficania ,
by the end of the high tech theory classes taken by American accented teachers with the most modern touch screen computers I felt myself enlightened .( now I know how the Gautama would have felt as he left the Bodhi tree )

We had a multiple choice exam on the last day and I passed it,
strangely about 30 % failed !
this was my first surprise as I was then thinking all this was just a formality .
Then we had to take private classes from driving instructors who charged forty dirhams per hour .
The first few classes were for the reverse parking test where one had to make acurate reverse within an L and not hit the sides all looking only in the mirrors .

My Ustad Mr. M an unadulterated mallu from Malappuram told me not to even try to crane my neck as people in India are tempted to do !!!
well well where was his highness from ? I thought
He had a sly smile when I told I had driven for twenty years in India
"Sad ,wish you hadnt , now it is all the more difficult for you to get a licence here ! "
"why so ? dear Ustaad ?"
" well we have to delearn you from all bad habits "
That sounded to me like delousing ,I felt unclean and literally picked nits
"what makes you think we are so bad out there ? can you drive there ?
"no no I cant and thank God for that ,doctor saar ,here it is different and you have to forget all that you did there, if you want to get a licence ."
Demeaning statements I fumed how dare he ? and he calls himself an Indian !
my patriotic spirit was flaring away .
People like these go away for a few years and become brown sahibs ,I would never be like that Bharath is the best .

So I started going for class M .... made me drive to the traffic park where one learnt reverse parking ,
Along the way he used to swear at me for careening off the lanes ,putting brakes in roundabouts ,not going fast enough ,daring to touch the horn ,looking back , not looking at the mirror and millions of other mistakes .
"doctor please here you have to drive looking at the mirror " he said
"True Most of the drivers I find are doing just that preening themselves or talking into thier mobiles ! "I would retort .
"Please dont argue they have the licence to do that and more ,while you dont have one ....."
"Have I the licence to talk to you at least ?" I would attempt at satire .
He would let out a sigh !exasperated.
Thus I laboured trying to perfect my L to perfection and finally the D day came when I joined a group of tense learners to perform my skill ,
it was dusk by the time I got the chance and my confidence returned as I got through in a jiffy ,
I had I told you so look on my face after that .
I wasnt worried about the road test to follow after a month .

Alas I never knew this would be my nemesis ,
My ustad now handed me over to his friend S..... as he had some urgent work in Naddu .

S ...too was a suddha mallu again from malappuram( some destiny indeed .....)

Breaking news ...mallapuram mallus drive a mallu in the desert

and to add to my woes ustadji was an amateur singer ,he was noted ( so he said ) for his mopla songs .
He said he rendered them with a finesse rarely seen these days .
and so we began the golden era of Ustad sunk in his songs and me driving his chariot ,
it was great fun as I too enjoyed some of his specialities though many were off key and made me drive off to the road side ,
Ustad was a good instructor though ,he never lost his bearing even in high pitch or when lost in rare ragas,he would command between the lines ,left ,turn right ,seedha ,issa ,urja ( the last two in Arabic which meant right and u turn ,I learnt this after making confused stops at roundabouts getting angry blares from drivers who werent amused by my antics )
"my dear S..... I do enjoy your singing but give me the commands in lingos I can comrehend please ,are we not from the same soil ?" I appealed to his good self .
"my dear doctor "the Ghana Gandarvan commented "the police officer will talk in Arabic sometimes so Iam making you get used to it ,"
well this was bad news for me
I never knew I had to learn a language for driving in this country !
our days went in music and ( not dancing ) driving and with time my wallet became lighter and lighter .
Finally the day of judgement arrived ,early in the morning I climbed into a bus like a Bukra laden with potential drivers following the test car for the coveted licence ,
one would get down from the bus when ones turn came ,go to the car and enter with a salaam malle kum to the surprisingly pleasant and respectful cops inside and would adjust the seat ,mirror ,put on the belt and release the handbrake and ease in the automatic gear to driving mode .
All these were practised steps choreographed by our instructors .
The cops would then ask us to drive through small roads or big ones giving us instructions to stop or park luring us into traps .
sitting in the bus like second world war POWs I saw many walking away from the car with forlorn looks while the rare few would give a jig with thumbs raised.
My turn came ,and I got in informing them I was so and so from T...... hospital ,
the cop next to me was impressed ,so thought I ,as he asked me about his persistent dyspepsia ,I told him all about gastric emanations and pepticised ulcerations adding that high profile and stressful jobs like what they were doing were potential timebombs for stomachs and all that was required was more tender loving care to thier tummies in miniscule medical detail while I drove with a smile on my face,
the cop was grateful as he made me stop
I got out waiting for the sure victory sign but was bambazooled when the cop in the back who probably had a healthy gut glared at me and told me "you failed "and sped off !
U Tu Brutus !!!!!
pretty ungrateful to a healer !!!
and what all I taught you !!!
the secrets of matirea medica in a capsule .......GRRRRR
I fumed and fretted and was totally depressed ,
I just couldnt believe it
why did I fail ?
slowly it sunk into me getting a licence here wasnt going to be easy
The second yuga of more days with the singing ustad and his mopla songs began .
He became braver and started bringing his recorded casettes for my listening choice
(weep weep )and karaoke to sing along ,I took revenge by joining him and it was a real party .
All the old malayalam music directors like Baburaj came alive in the streets of Al Ain ,I dont know what they did in thier graves but thier blessed souls probably wanted more of the torture for I promptly flunked my second test too !

This was shameful and I walked these days with a permanent slouch ,
I viewed drivers drivng in thier swank cars green with envy and thought I would never do that here !
All I needed for the atmosphere was a beard which I didnt have because one wouldnt grow on my pretty face
S... had no problem in this department as he had a luxurious foliage as you can see here ........
Finally with very little confidence I approached the third test ( moonam pakkam ) ,
but once in the seat I felt freed of all tension ,i was in suspended animation ,in a yogic trance of not bothering about results and drove with pleasure ,by now two to three months of driving had made me a natural here
( I wonder how I will drive in India now ,as the drivers side is in the opposite )
the cops too were preoccupied and allowed me to drive for long ,suddenly they asked me to stop ,gave me a smile and declared you passed .
Golden words to be engraved in the annals of my history if written .
(please note my biographer )
ustad was so thrilled and rewarded me with a song me
He said this shouldnt stop you listeneing to my songs ....

dear folks so this is the story of my being driven for a licence
and you know what , now I too can say .....

Hey u guys in India . u call that driving !!!!!


Monday, January 07, 2008

Pepsi my love

to lose someone you love is always heartwrenching ,having had a lot of such experiences ,I never thought Pepsi going away would wrench my soul !

My twelve year old black German Sheperd +Irish setter pet looked impressive and did her job of seeing that none dared enter when she was around although Pepsi would quitely go to a corner with a wagging tail when someone dared her and came close !

she ached for attention and played pranks with a busy us ,

taking bath for her was a punishment for her and would hide whenever we touched the hose ,sheepily she would surrender to our demands and cower wet and sad as we towelled her .

when my wife told me Pepsi refused to eat for almost a week when I left home to UAE I realised her true love and now when she rang up and told me Pepsi left us my eyes filled .

(picture not hers )

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Taare Zameen Paar ( Stars on Earth )

Movie making is a business ,all the more in Bollywood ,producers expect thier invested money to multiply or at the minimum to get it back ,so one is pleasantly surprised when rare movies come out not bothering about costeffectiveness but more intrested in conveying a message .

Taare Zameen Paar conveys a message and HOW !

The world of Dyslexics or those affected with learning disability is one lost in the quagmire of msinformation ,sad because correct information could make all the difference here .

All the writing or documentaries on such subjects cannot equal a commercial movie by a saleable star in disseminating such information .

Hats off to Aamir for working on such a theme thus introducing a ray of light to the many affected by the disorder .The movie has been rightly given tax free status and now it should be made compulsory viewing in all schools too .

Ishaan Nandkishore Awasthi is a dreamy loveble imp of a boy who is lost in his world of colours ,animals and fishes ,he gets into trouble because unlike other children he finds difficulty in reading ,writng and simple math and as like any other dylectic his comprehensive capabilities are lost by a missing link in his neurological development but at the same time he is intelligent and an excellent painter .
The teachers who fail to recognise his problem are irked by his poor perfomance while his parents pressure him to do better .
His father Nandhkishore Awasthi wants his two sons to be high achievers but sadly finds his younger son failing unlike his supersmart elder son Yohaan ,so he frets and fumes at the poor boy to improve .
Ishaant loves his father and wishes he wasnt so strict and that he would take him to places like the aquarium where he would have loved to gaze at the fishes for hours ,but Nandkishore is the epitome of a rigid man .

Ishaants mother Maya awasthi is helpless in front of the father ,she loves her son dearly but is confused at his poor perfomance .
Yohaan is very supportive of his brother and once even writs a false absence note on Ishants request and things turn awry when it comes to light and Nandkishore blows his top and finally decides to put Ishaant in a strict boarding school as he feels the boy needs such a place to become better .
The boarding school and its environs draws the poor boy into a shell .

Darsheel Saffery who acted the role has lived it in these scenes when your heart goes out to the poor boy bullied by his classmates ,threatened by his angry teachers and sadly deserted by his parents ,
A song here rightly portrays the pathos with the child crying that even his mother whom he had always believed had left him to this fate too and he has nowwhere to turn .
It is then that Aamir Khan comes as the lively drawing teacher Ram Shankar nikumb and quicly grasps that the withdrawn boy is suffering from dyslexia which has never been discovered by anyone ,he wins the boy over in a very clever way introducing the class to a list of celebrity dylexics who had become great achievers like Newton ,Edison ,AbishekBachan ,Walt disney ,etc .

To Ishaant he tells later that one more name could be included in the list and and that is the one of himself .
Aamir also goes to Ishaants house and tells his parents his problem ,the father naturally fails to accept and goes to denial getting furious with Aamir for suggesting that his son had a problem which he calls retarded ( this just shows the amount of knowledge even educated people in the country have about such disorders and its consequent problems )

Aamir approaches the principal and requests him that he would personally train Ishaant and the school should give him some more time to cope up with the others ,which is agreed upon .

He then uses special teaching techniques mingled with lot of fun and slowly Ishaant flowers open .
Aamir himself a good painter recognises Ishaants talent for painting and organises a gala painting competion for the whole school for staff and students and Ishaant goes out to be the winner and his painting appears in the cover of the school magazine .
By the time the year ends Ishaant is much improved and had become popular ,his father by now realises his mistakes after a stinging repartee from Aamir ,they go home for the holidays as a happy family .
Though directed and produced by Aaamir the concept and scriptwriting came from Amole gupta who had worked with disabled children .
Hats off to them for producing such a fine movie
please dont miss this ............ ( for info on dyslexia )

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