Driving for Dummies

This is how not to drive on the road, for dummies. Most of you might be good, responsible drivers and you may not need this. But if you drive regularly and are like me I am sure you’ll share my sentiments on most of what I’ve listed below. If you’ve got more, please add your dos/donts in the comments column below.  1.     Dummies who speak on the phone while driving especially those riding bikes in that insane posture, phone crammed between shoulder and ear; I have to say this – You’re neither that busy (important) nor the call that important. You’re definitely not speaking on a conference call with the US clients (which may not be important either). You have your whole life to fight and trade insults with your girlfriend and you don’t need another credit card or personal loan. So use the call log in your mobile phone to catch up on the missed calls. 2.     Then there are those sons of mouses (sundelli ku porandhavange) who’ll try to wriggle their way through the tiniest gap. When you’re backing out they’ll squeeze through before you’re done. When you’re making a U-turn on the left they’d be going straight and they’ll squirm their way through on your left even though you’ve had your indicator on for the past mile or so. 3.      Picture this: There’s a busy main road and you’re trying to take a right from an adjoining road to join the main road. There’s no police manning the intersection. Nobody on the main road ever stops to let the others go which is in line with the general mean spirit of the times but when you finally get a chance and you’re almost three quarters of the way across the road, there’ll be those intolerable fools who’ll go around your vehicle as if tracing it’s shape but won’t stop for those few seconds to let you go. Aargh! For dummies who do this, please don’t. 4.      Keep left but overtake on the right. And don’t overtake on the left while turning. That’s wrong on so many levels. When turning on to a wide road, most of these idiots will not maintain the trajectory of their turn, they’ll criss-cross wildly. What’s with that? How are people to know where you’re going? 5.      I won’t even talk about lane discipline and switching lanes (No, I’ve not...

A Tour of George Town/Sowcarpet on the eve of Madras week – Part I

It’s Madras week this week. It was on Aug 22nd some 300 odd years ago that Madras (or a small part of today’s Chennai) was bought by the East India company from the Nayak rulers. Hey, who’s buying whose land man? Anyways, there are a host of events that are organized every year to celebrate Madras week – art exhibitions, photograph exhibitions, talks, quizzes, heritage walks and I am sure a few painting contests and debates as well. On the eve of Madras day, I am going to take you all not on a respectable heritage walk down Fort St. George or Besant Avenue. And definitely not Marina Beach, Mylapore or Mahabalipuram! Please! That is for backpack toting foreign tourists wearing oversized FabIndia kurtas. This one is for the locals. I am going to take you on a fun ride through George Town (Sowcarpet). Why George Town? Because nobody else will bother celebrating this old, crowded, congested little place. Park your car at home if you’re going to Parrys corner My dad is an ace kite-flyer, my family is sweet-addicted (the likes of Basundhi, Kalakand & Milk Halwa), we prefer our scooters over the car any day, we love little provision stores over department stores and we like buying pens & rough books by the dozen. Can you say I am from George Town? I grew up in George Town and it is like no other place in Madras, in every sense. It’s old, busy, cramped and full of history and mind-boggling shopping opportunities. Anything you want, you’ll get here. Anything! Hardware, electrical equipment, fantastic food, designer sarees, lehengas, dress materials, imitation jewellery, Cards and wedding Invitations, top-rate provisions, party supplies, stationary, toys.. Like Little India in Singapore, George Town is little North India in Madras. The area is full of Sethjis, their pawn shops, their hardware shops, their cloth shops, their sweet shops and their provision stores. You get the best cashews in Madras in the Jain provision store on Govindappa Naicken street. All over this post, I’ll give you precious tit-bits like these – Maane theane Pon Maane style. Enjoy. Don’t bother trying your hindi with them, they speak fluent Tamil all of them, but in Udit Narayan style and are the shrewdest businessmen around. The area is mostly commercial but the interior areas are residential. One of the few areas in the city where you’ll still find street-houses...

Joint Family

Happy Independence day to all of you! I don’t have an orange-white-green coloured food recipe yet and I don’t have a patriotic speech either. I am happy we’re independent; better to get under-paid, out-sourced work than having them here. And I am really glad for the holiday. Some time with family. You know how I go on about my joint-family in all my posts. I thought it’s time for a little piece on joint-families. Don’t have women living abroad fool you into thinking joint-family is a sweet, dream-like, people filled Hum apke Hain Kaun set. Liars! Living in a joint-family is messy, tough but convenient and fun (rare times) at times. Here are the top 10 things that happen in a joint family. You know you’re in a joint family when 1.      Your husband likes Fried rice, others don’t. Others like vegetable biryani but your husband doesn’t. So you make a compromise, you make Lemon rice which nobody really likes. And that my friends, is why they say “When life gives you lemons, make lemon rice”.   2.      Everybody watches Vijay TV Super singer but on their individual TVs in their own rooms.   3.      Everybody pools in, but nobody saves. You have multiple sets of everything – TVs, cars, newspapers, pickles and podis but never enough eggs.   4.      You never get to read the day’s newspaper.   5.      Family Dinner: There’s a huge dining table where Prakash-Raj sits at the head of the table and the whole family joins him around the table and they eat together. Never! You never eat together. And rarely at the table. You eat in batches in front of the TV, by the stove and sometimes at the table if it is visible under all that clutter.   6.      The 5th Cheese ball dilemma: You know when there are four of you (friends) at a restaurant, you’ve ordered cheese balls and the waiter brings 5 cheese balls, the 5th cheese ball sits there while everybody is being nice to the others. The 5th cheese ball phenomenon happens all the time in joint families. You’re always fishing for tiny dabbas (boxes) to shove that one gulab jamun and the 2 spoons of chutney into the fridge. Like the 80:20 rule, bottom of the pyramid and other seminal principles, the 5thcheese ball is my contribution to the theory of joint-family dynamics.   7.      Always ask...

My Hate List

Although I like what A.R.Rahman says about loving everybody, there are certain instances, certain people that you’ve just got to hate. You need some Eminem too sometimes. I absolutely love the new Bournville ad; the gushing, sickly-sweet girl gets gobbled up by a Venus flytrap because she’s too bloody sweet. Bournville is “not so sweet”. So right. This hate list below is not in any particular order, I hate them all equally. Although, there are some that make me go absolutely ballistic. 1 and 3 would fall in that category.         1.   Men who harass women drivers: This is a particularly despicable group of people. There are a whole lot of shameless men who do this – auto drivers, smart-ass bike riders, call-taxi drivers and even the jobless bystanders on the road all of whom take it upon themselves to teach the woman driver how to drive. They deride her, provide annoyingly patronizing advice, intimidate and harass her. I had a harrowing experience once when I had unknowingly turned into a road that just narrowed down after a point and there was no way I could go further.         I had to back out the whole way and there was this smart-ass auto driver who said “Why don’t you get a driver if you don’t know how to drive?” I glared at him but kept my big mouth shut. The locality was such. Everyone, even the women glared at me and passed rude comments. There was one old SOB on a moped who kept tracking me all the way back giving me unnecessary advice and blocking my way. Bloody moron! I am a good driver, much better than many men drivers and backing out of that hellhole amidst that mob is no mean task.        I would have loved to have the kick, punch functionality that we had in “Need for speed”. I really       wished there was some 108 for women. But these issues are always so petty, aren’t they. If you         take it to a police station, you’ll just get more advice anyway.       Women drivers – It’s up to you to look after yourselves. Always lock your doors the minute you          enter the car and never roll down your windows or get out of the car for anything. Always have      ...

Aadi Maasam/Aadi Thiruvizha – Part II

On the day of the Paal Kudam, women assemble at a nearby temple (not the Amman temple but another one) with turmeric and kungumam smeared pots (sombu) filled with milk. After a brief puja at the temple which is sort of the Ready-Get-Set-Go, the women walk over (run rather) to the Amman temple where wooden barricades are put up to regulate the crowd. Policemen and police-women wait at the Amman temple bracing themselves for the “Om Sakthi-ParaSakthi” chanting women force. It is believed that if you pray for something and carry the paal kudam, whatever you pray for will happen before the next Paal kudam (within the next year).  That’s my husband and that’s me behind him. These paal kudam laden women are force to reckon with, they shove and pull in order to cut through the line. You’ll have to be strong and gutsy to get out of this crowd. When your turn comes, the milk from your pot is poured atop the Amman. After everybody’s milk has been poured, the Amman is washed, dressed up and adorned with jewels and a final puja is done.    The day we offer Koozhu is the most tiring, absolutely back-breaking day of the year. The cooking and preparation starts around 6 or so in the morning and goes on almost non-stop till night time. By now you should know that moderation is not one of my family’s strong points. Largesse and extreme entertaining are. We don’t have as many people over as we used to in the olden days! If we were to invite the whole clan, I think I’d have to be hospitalized for a day or two. I haven’t seen the full crowd myself in my 4 years of marriage but I can just about imagine and just thinking about it makes my head spin. The day’s menu reads like a Muniyandi Vilas menu. Kazhuvattu Kuzhambu (dried fish curry), Meen Kuzhambu (Fish curry), Meen Varuval (Fish fry), Varutha Muttai (Fried hard-boiled eggs), Chicken Korma, Pepper Chicken thokku (Pepper chicken semi-gravy) are just the non-vegetarian side of the menu. There’s a slightly shorter vegetarian menu that includes Murunga keerai poriyal, Vegetarian mixed-vegetable kuzhambu, Ragi and Jaggery based kozhukattai, Rice, Rasam, Idli and Dosai. Koozhu and its accompaniments – Murunga Keerai poriyal, Kazhuvattu kuzhambu and varutha muttai are served mid-morning once at home and then again at the temple. Return home to have a quick bite and then...

Aadi Maasam/Aadi Thizhuvizha – Part 1

Yesterday was the huge Aadi Thizhuvizha at Nagathamman temple, the culmination of 10 days of festivity and processions starting with Paal Kudam and ending yesterday with Koozhu in the morning and the final grand procession at night. I am tired, exhausted and totally beat but with a camera load of not magazine quality but really good Aadi-smacking pictures. Aadi signifies everything Tamil to me – Tamil music (Urumi), Tamil cuisine (Koozhu, Kazhuvattu Kuzhambu) and Tamil customs and having been ignorant of all of this for most of my life, I am finally waking up to these traditions. I finally sat down to write this long-pending piece on Aadi. At home, Aadi Maasam is THE most hectic, activity packed month of the year. Before marriage I had no clue about Aadi other than the Aadi thallupadi (Aadi discount sales) that happens at this time of the year. But Aadi is huge in my in-laws place. It’s the most important occasion of the year even more than Diwali. Aadi for other clueless folks like me is the fourth month of the Tamil Calendar and is usually considered in-auspicious for weddings. Newly married girls are sent off to their mother’s places during this month. Why? Thank Bhagyaraj who famously busted this Aadi-myth in one of his movies. It has nothing to do with Aadi, there’s a very practical though embarrassing reason for this. If women get pregnant during the month of Aadi, they’ll give birth during peak summer which is a very tough time for small babies (maybe not so relevant in this age).  Aadi is generally very special for women and for farmers. Amman (Goddess Durga, Shakti) temples are the centre of action during this month, apart from Lifestyle and Chennai Silks. Picture this: Huge speakers outside the temples blare L.R.Easwari songs, massive lighted Amman cut-outs flank the road leading to the temple, women march to the temple with turmeric smeared, neem-leaves wreathed milk pots (paal kudam) for abishegam, evenings the Amman idol is decorated and taken around the streets of the temple in procession, and then the culmination of all the Aadi festivities in the Aadi thizhuvzha, where Koozhu (Ragi porridge is traditional poor man’s food) is served along with Drumstick leaves poriyal and Kazhuvattu Kuzhambu. In cities, you’ll see the urumi only during the Aadi month. This is a traditional hour-glass shaped drum that is played at Amman temples when...

[jetpack_subscription_form title="Get Foodbetterbegood in your inbox" subscribe_text="Like what you are reading? Never miss a post. Enter your email address to receive updates by email" subscribe_button="Subscribe!" show_subscribers_total="0"]

Subscribe!