Monday, November 16, 2009

A movie-night dinner caper

[Found this post lying idle in my drafts, so putting it to some use. Wrote it when I was in Chennai, but didn't publish it earlier]

What is the most horrible thing you've done as a human being? My story unfolds thus:

Summer of 2004 in the sultry city of Chennai. Half a dozen of us, unaccustomed to Chennai's entertainment scene and eating joints feel lucky that the Sathyam theatre is just a couple of streets down our office. Lucky because in 2004, Sathyam was the only decent theatre around, and it was pretty much the only one which aired English and Bollywood movies in otherwise Tamil/Telugu dominated Box Office. We had to catch the weeknight shows since getting a weekend show ticket in Sathyam was harder than getting loose change from a Chennai Auto-rickshaw driver at night in monsoons. However dinner posed a huge issue. Working with western clients meant late hours at the office on weekdays and very little time for dinner. Money was tight and tastebuds wanted good non-veg food.

This led us to try out all possible eating joints between our office and Sathyam cinemas. There was Angan - a small but very good place run by a friendly couple, Gyan Vaishnav Dhaba - mouth watering and artery-clogging Punjabi Veg food, and another Aunty's paratha joint just on the corner of the Sathyam cinema road. They all offered hot and sumptuous (and cheap) but strictly veg food. But for some of us whose taste buds longed for non-veg food discovered a small joint Safari.

Safari - a nondescript, barely hygienic road side joint at the corner of Peters Road and West Cott road near Melody theatre welcomes its patrons with dust ridden, old furniture at the ground floor. You can (but normally don't) dare to look inside the kitchen. If the bugs and vermin don't trouble you a lot, it offers an upper air-conditioned floor with slightly cleaner furniture and a laminated one-page menu with a mark-up (and still cheap) version of its ground-floor counterpart.

So why did we go this shady joint? Simple. For its sumptuous large portions of liver biryani offered at a price of Rs 28 on the airconditioned floor. The price was incredible, the taste was good, the portions were copious, the waiting time was less, serving time even lesser. In short, it was a gift from God for us non-vegetarians and it made our early Chennai life good, cheap and worth living.

On any movie night besides weekends, we non-veggies (read dada) always haggled everyone else into going to Safari. And when other minority of veggies of the likes of Chatty and BDK had to accompany us, and they did so with a veg version of biryani and a groggy state of mind. Every time we ate there, we had to work hard to suppress a smile of satisfaction on looking at the paltry bill. On one instance, we even packed some Safari food and sneaked it inside the theatre and ate while watching the movie.

[Warning: Some people might find what is written ahead offensive. Read on at your own risk.] Life went on like this until one day THE incident occurred. We had always rushed in and out of Safari to catch the latest flick in Sathyam. But that day was different - it was broad daylight and no movie to catch when I saw it that afternoon while passing by the place. I saw it from a distance -- a bunch people coming onwards pushing a huge box placed on a gurney with loud, clanking metal wheels, which would have gone unnoticed on any other day. But then -- my eyes caught the board exactly opposite Safari restaurant. An arch in blue letters on a white board read "Royapettah Government Hospital and Mortuary". Those people were carrying on the gurney what looked like an unclaimed corpse into the morgue. The first thoughts that followed the brief brain-freeze and shock were morbidly sick -- morgue opposite Safari, unclaimed corpses, liver is the largest internal organ in humans! Liver biryani for 28 bucks?

Well, if my stomach just fell short of churning that day, later nightmare or two covered up for that.

PS: I never went to Safari again. Ever.

PPS: I still enjoy eating liver. If you happen to go to Urban Tadka in Mumbai, they serve some mean and awesome keema with liver. Goes very well with mutton biryani. It is their unique style -- no one else makes it like them. You will not stop eating it again. And again.

PPPS: I don't know what you think, but I say cannibalism is overrated.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Couldn't resist posting this one

Courtesy: Parker and hart, and their weird sense of humor

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Agile Abode - What's in a name

It was the Feb of 2006, when Jithesh Kalliath Gopi (aka Kali) from my office decided it was time to move on to greener pastures – and went on to Bahrain – not exactly green in much sense, but I’m sure the greenback made the move worthwhile.

Anyway, I got the first preference to move into his much sought-after apartment nearby the office. Knowing nothing about the apartment, I asked around people whether I should move in or not. Doc and Chatty strongly recommended it. Only later it struck me why: both of them used Kali’s house to sneak out of office everyday for a quick siesta ;) No wonder they both had this earnest nostalgia in voicing their reco. Finally when Kali asserted in his quintessential Mallu tone “Tayg id !”, I decided to move in.

The house is good and all. Awfully close to the beach, Satyam cinema, Citi Center and, ahem, my wife’s office. Some trivial facts which didn’t deter me from taking up the apartment – other well-known tenants in the building were colonies of native red ants, and in the kitchen were home-grown breeds of cockroaches. Did I mention the total area of the apartment is slightly less than my office cubicle. Whole new meaning to the concept of super-built up area.

But believe me, the toughest part of living in this apartment is spelling the name to the pizza delivery guy. Who in his sound mind would name his house as AGILE abode?!?! – unless he wants the residents to move out very quickly. Well, Jithesh did move out eventually. The red ants didn’t.

I have wasted countless precious weekend hours spelling out the name of my building to delivery guys, couriers, insurance agents, credit card and telephone companies. Your typical pizza delivery guy comes with hearing skills worse than a boss-on-an-apprasial-day, spelling skills slightly worse than the red ants in my building and unique verbal comprehension skills due to which he doesn’t understand over phone difference between T & D, G & H, B & P, L & Yell etc. Phone conversation on a typical Sunday afternoon would be like:
Name is Sanjay, take down my address: Flat no. T1 on 3rd floor…
T1 T for telephone. Name of apartment is Agile Abode… A G I Yell E
A B O D E let me repeat ….
Usually this goes on for several minutes. And when the delivery guy shows me the bill, the name spells Sanjaee, D1, and the building spells in various variants- Ajyle Aboat, Agil abartmend… but surprisingly they manage to deliver it.

It’s a torture, but I still think it’s not so bad compared to many unlucky souls. Imagine the plight of someone living in some Chennai suburbs having to explain their residence to Northern Indians. How does Nanganallur or Nungambakkam sound? I would never want to be found anywhere near Nala Sopara for instance!!

Sarabjot Walia’s take on some of the Mumbai suburbs – Ye Borewali aur Kandewali samajh me a gaya, par ye Dombewali ka kya matlab hai? Grimy!!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Beautifully illustrated

© Bill Waterson & United Syndicate

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Blogspot banned!!

In case you did not know, the government of India has banned viewing blog sites, particularly blogspot and typepad. So you might probably not be able to see this post in India till the ban is lifted.

Once again the governement is questioning the very intelligence of the educated Indian. Someone who reads/writes blogs has to have at least that level of intelligence to not to be influenced by some random and unheard communal site and start reaping hatred in their minds!!

I'm not sure if the blogs spread communal hatred, but it might sure spread some hatred for the I&B ministry. I for sure am never going to vote for anyone who is remotely associated with either Congress, or it's allies or Priyaranjan Das Munshi!!!

This looks like a very low-IQ move from many perspectives - instead of banning the sites, they could have tracked down the culprit with the kind of technology available and deal with them using the legal framework. Blanket ban on blogs sounds absolutely ridiculous. You don't cut the head off if you have a head-ache.. It's like banning mobile phones because terrorists use mobiles. Blogs serve much larger purpose than just spreading communal hatred.

I think we all need to condemn government's moronic move by trying to restrict our right of freedom of expression. Hell, this is no China or Pakistan and these are not the dark ages.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Death of an old friend.. rather a pair

It was around this time of the year in 2000 when I bought my first pair of sneakers which my parents hadn’t paid for. God has blessed me with a weird foot size. Size 10 is a bit fit and 11 too loose. That being the principal knock down factor, a relentless pursuit for 3 continuous days in June heat in the discount stores or factory outlets, as they call them, in the by lanes of Parel, finally offered me a choice between a couple of pairs. And considering that my CA internship earned me a really modest stipend, there wasn’t much to chose from. I subsequently chose the white Nike joggers which comfortably fitted me. The conversation between me and Abhishek, who accompanied me on shopping was roughly on these lines:

Abhi: Dude nothing seems to fit you.. what does one eat to grow feet like yours?
Me: Will the blue sneakers be better? Will white look too Jitendra style?
Abhi: (struggling hard to muster that extra ounce of patience) Look why don’t you just decide on either of them..
Me: (looking in the mirror – front and sideways) These whites are damn comfortable.. Bless their soles..
Abhi: (despicably stares at me first and then at the irritated salesman as I imitate infront of the mirror) Yeah right! And they suit you a lot. Buy them. JUST DO IT.

I did.

For initial couple of times, the sneakers looked obnoxiously white. But the monsoons brought in kind of a worn-out look in them which I liked a lot. It’s hard even for me to believe now, but I did do a lot of jogging wearing my nikes. They were an inspiration in themselves to get up at 5.30 in morning and complete 5 rounds of the MIG grounds in Bandra before the sun rises with full fury, and before the women folk in the ground go away.. tellingly, they were an inspiration too :)

The most vivid memory of the utility of these sneakers is the grueling Sahyadri treks around Karjat in monsoons. Will write a post on one of my trekking expeditions soon. But these sneakers provided the requisite grip, ensuring survival and avoiding humiliation in the midst of slippery, trail-less treks.

Over the years, they were there for me when I needed them, like a faithful dog – showering me with undemanding adulation and comfort in return of friendship. The more worn out they looked, the more I liked them. But it was just a matter of time before the signs started showing. The sign came when the vulcanized latex layer at the bottom of the soft rubber, which forms the sole started peeling off. A common shoe ailment, which was promptly QuickfixedTM. But until then, the gap looked like a morbid smile on a dying sole. Not before long, other vital (rather, fatal) signs started showing. The spikes at the bottom wore out making it awkward to walk on slippery surfaces, the shoelace broke a couple of times, the sole started peeling off again on both the shoes, the insole gave away.. And finally last month, after a faithful service of 6 years, my old sneakers finally threw in the towel. I now wear my other pair of Lottos, but as a sign of comradeship I don’t keep them in the same rack where my good old nikes rest in peace.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The resurrection

19 January 2006. No, I’m not talking about the National Popcorn Day, but the day when I last posted on my blog. 138 days may not be a long period in a greater sense, but a lot has happened during these days. Won’t give any excuses for not posting but an apology seems to be in order – for those who visited this blog but did not find anything worthwhile (the small hitcounter at the bottom of the blog went from 500 odd to 1000 plus). As a separate matter, some would cast doubts whether there is at all anything worth their while on this blog (present post included :D).

In these 138 days, temperatures have soared in Chennai (the city where I work). At work, my serial number in the company rolls soars up a few notches every month. That is because many colleagues have moved out to better jobs (talking about soaring, their pay-checks have also soared). Tushar, Chatty, Dada, Jithesh, Vijay (doc)… the list goes on, and The dwindling friend circle is a little upsetting, but there is respite in the thought that their times are changing from Economic Times to Financial Times, if you know what I mean.

Trading on stocks got fire-walled in my company, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Sensex which defied laws of gravity earlier, subsequently gave in to “what-goes-up-must-come-down” law of karma, but in the process collapsed faster than a limping sumo wrestler.

The latest gadget that I found out is feedreader Newzcrawler. It syndicates articles from news sites and blogs in an incredibly user-friendly manner and also embeds a browser for MS Outlook type interface. It comes with features, speed and ease of use. Now I can read at one place all the sites and blogs that I frequent. I guess this was the biggest factor to put me back on track on the blogosphere. I hope I will write more often now.

Parting shot: A lady in Orissa married a snake. Odd? I think she just exercised animal rites !!