Monthly Archives: June 2010

The Journey from Start to Finish?

Update for week ended 25 June 2010

Sometimes, exploring new cities and towns on foot can be lots of fun. At times not, but you have no choice. Take for example, the small hilltop town of Matheran in Western India – this forest on the hill is a no motorized vehicle zone; so you will see no cars, two-wheelers or any other gas guzzlers; and the only way to move around this town is either on foot or on horseback. And going by Indian standards, there is little signage on the streets or lanes that are actually dirt tracks crisscrossing the wooded terrain. This can lead to some tragicomic incidents, like this guy who went from the rail station towards the cottage by the lake, but took the wrong turn and ended up back at the rail station. (For those with puzzled looks, rail is the easiest way to get into this town – as you ride the toy train up the hill and right into the town centre; the other option is to drive your car up the hill to a parking lot 3 kms short of the town, and then trekking up, with your luggage, et al). And another incident, where instead of turning left from the lake, this guy turned to the right, only to slip down a few hundred feet onto a ledge behind a waterfall; lucky for him that the ledge did not give way, else he would not have survived to tell the tale. Well, experience tells me that even in the western countries, one can get lost in the maze of the lanes, bylanes, despite carrying a map. I spent 45 minutes one tired evening getting from the seafront of a canal town in north-western Italy, towards my hotel along the main canal; but ended up at the seafront after the tired trudge. The alleys were narrow, and landmarks few, for people to actually retrace or trace their steps. My horrified accompanists on this “expedition” had to be mollified with cones of frozen, but delicious gelato, local ice-cream with little cream!

The D Boyz also seem to be in a zone of alleys and lanes that crisscross each other and with little distinguishing landmarks, ending up this week where they started off on Monday… So if the D boyz perked up the SENSEX for 3 days; they retraced their steps on the last two to end exactly 4 points away from last week’s level – at 17574. So one day the D Boyz gave reliance to the sometimes warring, sometimes hugging brothers; and on another got spooked out by inflating grocery bills and petrol prices; and a potential threat that their banker may hike their interest rates. But I think the real reason is the Boyz are dejected that Gauls will not meet the Romans; but I urge them to take heart and watch out for the clash of beer and ale! So this weekend seems to have some interesting things to look forward to. 

The journey of start to finish for the soul of Satyavan started at the base of the banyan tree and it almost ended at the gates of the netherworld – the place from where no-one returns, but a perseverant wife, Savitri’s ingeniousness, helped bring him back to life at the base of that tree. So women across India celebrate today for that woman who defied even the God of Death!

Have a nice weekend; Cheers…


Brown + Grey = Green

Update for week ended 18 June 2010

It is amazing how some grey clouds can work wonders with brown soil and coax the green outbursts that is so soothing to the eyes and other senses. The Indian obsession with the Monsoon is legendary and odes have been written, ballads sung, paintings dedicated to this season that conjure up romantic visages, (which at times can be quite the contrary). And this is the season when the average Indian arrives home soaking wet but looks forward to that piping hot cup of tea, spiced up with the aromatic ginger root. They will not settle for the regular “biscoot” (biscuit – which is usually the Marie), but eyes will lighten up at the sight of the sizzling golden fritter, bhajiyas or bajjis or pakode. And every household will have a different favourite, a twist, a soft corner. So if the usual suspects use the brown tuber or the tears inducing red onions; the South Indians will always swear by the raw banana bajji. The large Bhavnagari green chilli, though is a favourite in Gujarat; its variants are also devoured universally. The Bengalis love the Baigun Bhaja – fried eggplant; while the Punjabi can never pass a Paneer Pakoda – a cottage cheese mint chutney sandwich dunked in gram flour and fried golden crisp. The seafoodies can crunch on the golden fried prawns; though there are quite a few people who stay away from seafood in months that don’t end with an “r”.  And for the busy housewife, or cook, the easiest is the mixedbhajiya that can have potatoes, onions, raw greens like fenugreek or spinach and anything else that just adds to the crunch. But the unusual ones that I have eaten were on an island off the coast of Thailand – where the most crunchy and tasty carrots, cauliflower and cabbage were separately deep fried in batter and served up as their version of the bhajiya, pakoda, bajji.

The romance of the season was heavily laden in the air around D Street, as the dreamy eyed D Boyz saw the grey clouds surrounding Europe, looked down at the brown and hard hitting local economic numbers like inflation, but magically transformed that into the green SENSEX graph almost all through the week (with the slight down move on Friday – somewhat like the romantic rains that can have some contrary results). So if SENSEX closed last Friday at 17065; it moved up this week to end at 17570 – a good 2.8% up. The rains on the west coast of India, the advancing monsoon in central and eastern India must have also buoyed their spirits; as also the football action in the southern hemisphere. Although, secretly, I feel that the D Boyz got to chomp on their favourite fritters while watching the soccer matches, that got them heady. It is good that the monsoons are here and the football season has some time to go.

This is also the season for the roasted corn (bhutta / makka) that one chews off the cob while traipsing down rain sodden streets. Wow; the rains are getting me into such a romantic modd. I must stop, and go out to get wet; the lightning strike outside and the silken drizzle under the grey sky is too much to resist.

Have a nice weekend and Cheers…

If it is Summer, it will be hot!

Update for week ended 4 June 2010

The Indian summer is at its peak. It is hot and wherever close to the sea or ocean, it is humid as well. But I find it interesting at times, when people complain of the heat and also go to the extent of terming this the hottest summer they have seen. Odd, because the mercury levels are largely at the same levels as they have been in previous years; but yes, if you get used to working in airconditioned offices, travel in air conditioned cars, shop in airconditioned malls and supermarkets, then spending some time at home without the air conditioner, can be quite severely hot; moreso if it is a weekend, when you really cannot rush off to the office to cool off. How different from our childhood days when we switched to wearing muslin kurtas and white pyjamas; and had oil baths every alternate day; and our mothers or aunts or grannies would smear oodles of aromatic oils onto our heads to cool us off. Playtime was always after 5 pm in the evening; and white cotton hats or caps were the de riguer. Mornings were lazy with lots of nudgings and yellings to awaken; and then the lazy stretches, yawns, sleepy eyed brushing of teeth would be followed with slow sips of the morning milk. Mid mornings were many a times sprinkled with interesting activities, like slyly eating the raw mangoes that the women of the house had just cleaned and chopped up for pickling; or popping in the freshly steamed vadams (the intermediate stage for crispy rice or sago crackers), instead of spreading it out to dry. Of course, over-indulgence is at times a reward for helping out with the chores; like taking the large bowls of mixed pickles for sunning; or helping with drying out the vadams on stretches of old saris or dhotis on the hot and sunny terraces. A little discomfort is bided by for the extra treats. Afternoons were snooze times in the cooler rooms, after the light lunch. And the wakening drink of cool vetiver (khus) or rose milk is a welcome energizer before heading out to play with friends. Summer was also the time to reunite with cousins either at your house or their house, or the best part, at grampa’s. I don’t remember us complaining of the heat with power cuts and no air conditioners, perhaps because there was no school!

Summer heat has been driving the D boyz into a tizzy. First they spend time thinking about Greeced poles and let the SENSEX slide, and then they hear from the weather bureau of a normal monsoon, and rejoiced; pulling back the SENSEX. The cyclone in the Arabian sea spun them out of control, wrecking the SENSEX upward move; and when the D Boyz were told that it was headed towards the Omani coast, they felt relieved. One day, Greek made no sense, while the other day, it did not matter. So after a month of heady ups and spiraling downs, the SENSEX is now at 17117. But let me assure you that even if the D Boyz are worried about Spanish paellas or Greek Moussaka; the Spaniards are only focused on South Africa while the Greeks don’t have much of a choice, but they will still focus on South Africa and root for a European team as long as it is not Turkey. So D Boyz, stop worrying about others; let us enjoy the football season.

Umbrellas are common sight in Kerala – rain or shine; quite useful against the oppressive heat. Interestingly, no other part of India uses this against the summer sun. It may have something to do with the Chinese connect that this little state has; from its fishing nets, to the cheena chatti (frying woks), or cheena bharanis (the porcelain pickle jars); to the Pagoda style roofs for their homes. Don’t forget that the oriental Asians are the only others always prepared with an umbrella, rain or shine! Trust me.

So what do you plan to do this weekend to take your mind off the “oppressive” heat! My take is simple, if it is summer, it will be hot!!