Summer plans

The heat is on in Chennai. I am feeling thirsty all day, every day. I am craving tall glasses of chilled fruit juices but I don’t want to pick out seeds, strain the pulp and wash all these dishes for a single glass of juice. I will also complain that juice shops charge exorbitant rates for a single glass of juice. And I just can’t seem to resist Watermelon juice and Jagan beer. Don’t worry. This is not a recipe post for Watermelon juice. It is not a recipe post because Vitamix, Hamilton and Kitchenaid and even Preethi mixie said they don’t want to sponsor this post. And I trust you my readers to chop up the watermelon, discard the green pith and blend the chopped watermelon to a juice. Promise me you won’t go wrong. Also since many of you told me you look forward to my stories more than my recipes, I decided to skip the watermelon juice recipe this time. I have big plans and bigger dilemmas come summer. I have a long list of vadams and pickles that I plan to make on my weekend dates with mambalam maami friends that I need someone to organize for me. I try to get out of calling people. I am not social enough. Before that I need to go shopping for the maa vadus (tiny tender mangoes) and ingredients. I need to make lists. Every time I look at the lovely low hanging mangoes in our terrace, I remind myself I need to go buy some maa vadu. I have two Hattori/Motu Patlu binge watchers at home that I need to keep from scraping their already battered knees doing cycle races through their very own dirt track over the siphon, into the puddle and through the mud track between the road and the pavement. I need to keep them away from the TV, away from all the smartphones in the house; pins and passcodes of all of which they have memorized. I need to keep them from razing all the crayons down to wax powder, from drawing on the newly painted walls, from raiding the cookie boxes and feeding the extras to crows, from drenching themselves under the garden tap, from bringing the garden into the house, from cooking their leaves and dirt curry in my non-stick kadai, from coating the living room floor in biscuit crumbs, sticky...

My non-encounter with Kamal Hassan

I did not realize until a few weeks back what a complete cinema crazy fan I am. I realized that I go near hysterical on seeing Kamal Hassan a few feet in front of me, my skin tingles in excitement and I can’t stop smiling that wide vacuous smile. I hear his voice and I go bonkers, I try to wolf whistle knowing I can’t whistle. I clap after every sentence and how – in big sweeping motions.  He tells a joke and I am still laughing after everybody’s stopped, he says something touching and I get choked up. I was star-struck, benumbed, done. A few weeks back I had been to Crazy Mohan’s 777th show of “Chocolate Krishna” and Kamal Hassan was the chief guest at the show. I was in the fifth row from the stage and I could see the back of Kamal Hassan’s head while he watched the show from the front seat. Every joke I laughed and turned to look if Kamal Hassan did. So did my husband and my sister and my friends. It was a great evening, such fun. We dropped kids at home (most important decision of the evening) arrived early, ordered filter coffee from the sabha’s bustling Woodlands canteen and sipped our coffee scanning the crowd for Kamal chella kutty while regulars ate Rava dosai, sambar vadai and filter coffee at the open-air tables nearby. We spotted ARS (police commissioner in Nayagan), Y.G. Mahendran and comedian Sathish. I was this close to Kamal Hassan’s Land rover when I walked past in the opposite direction. We had to hurry inside though as the show was about to start. Watching a live show is nothing like anything. The atmosphere is electric and the excitement and cheer palpable. The drama was hilarious in true Crazy Mohan style. I am totally smitten by the drama scene. It is so quaint and retro in a way. These dramas are still in the 80s and 90s right from the Doordarshan like simple sets, speaking out the dialogues at the standing mics, the storyline and the special effects. I loved it. Madhu and Crazy Mohan were brilliant. So was Appa Ramesh. The “thiruttu paati” was fantastic. I am a huge fan of Tamil comedy dramas if I haven’t told you before. S.Ve.Sekhar and Crazy Mohan are iconic in the Tamil comedy drama scene. I haven’t been to too many...

Want to be a food blogger?

Want to be a food blogger? But why? Food bloggers are an obsessive crazy madpack who cannot finish their sandwich without thinking if they should have clicked it first. They speak food. Food is their lingua franca. Food moves them the way good movies do. They collect all kinds of junk for their food photos, spend enormous amounts of time on Pinterest, celebrate every conceivable day with food (red-blue themed independence day food, Aadi maasam food) and wake up to their blog stats everyday. It’s no surprise that majority of food bloggers are women. And many food bloggers I know are mommies.  But being a food blogger is not easy. It is fun though. This is not a guide for aspiring food bloggers. This is not a how-to. This is more of a ”what you’ll do” if you become one. It’s a fun take on what food bloggers do. If you still want a disclaimer please head to the bottom of the post. Disclaimers spoil the fun if they’re at the start. You’ll need to know a dozen different words to say something tastes good. You’ll invariably love love the karamani usili, Red velvet cake, Roast chicken, Curd rice, bulls eye or bournvita that you made and you need to proclaim to the world how wondrous it is. Kids of mommy bloggers will usually gobble up everything mommy makes. The dozen different words will also come in handy when you’re commenting on your friends’ blogs. Commenting on fellow food bloggers’ blog is absolutely imperative so that they return the favour. I am woefully inept at this and generally at social networking of any kind. You may at times spend more time commenting than blogging. You’ll spend hours online searching for Bread Upma to understand all the permutations and combinations in which bread upma is made worldwide and then make your own version with grated carrots (instead of finely chopped carrots like the rest of the world) and just a dash of Tabasco sauce – Recipe Development. Cake pots, rasam shots, pasta patties, pizza sandwich… you get the hang? You’ve got to make it smaller, change the shape, crumble it, put the inside outside and the outside inside, stuff it, roll it, dip it, sprinkle it, top it, drizzle it and dust it. There – a new dish is invented. Be prepared to kneel down, bend, twist, crouch, squat, sprawl and...

The English speaking Tamils

I was at the parlour yesterday to get my son’s haircut and there was another mom-son duo already waiting, the mom fiddling with her S3 (maybe S4, I am no good at mobile models) probably looking for that unique smiley on whatsapp and the boy, a 6-7 year old just idly kicking around next to her. Note this – no conversation at this point. Then it was the boy’s turn. So the hairdresser sat the boy in his chair and the mom went along and stood beside the boy. The boy to his mom: “I want Shah Rukh type hair, oh wait – no, I want Aamir Khan’s haircut.” Mom: “Oh Like in Dhoom. Ok He’ll do it that way” (smiles at the hairdresser who pretends not to notice) Boy: “Mom, I want my hair to be gelled and spiked.” Mom:  “You are only 6 and you want it to be spiked. That’s not appropriate. I can’t allow that” Boy (whines): “But mom, that’s how I want it. You said I could choose my hair-style…” There was more but I couldn’t stand to listen. Without the audience, the mother would have probably not replied at all or just said “Nothing doing, keep quiet”. But with people around, they continued this fully English BBC conversation throughout the time the boy got his hair cut and quite loudly making sure everyone around approved of their English speaking abilities. This is in Chennai and I can safely say they are not British. Chances are they are tamil. I won’t blame the kid. I won’t blame any of the kids who go through these English-speaking performances. Lately in malls, restaurants and schools I see more and more moms and dads talk to their children in English and English only. And especially when there are people around. I can get beaten for this – but I feel housewives do this much more than working moms. You see super-singer daily, eat puliyodharai for lunch, go out to aapa kadai and saravana bhavan, watch “Naduvula konjam Pakkatha Kaanum”, are Kamal Hasan’s fan but cannot speak Tamil? Sowcarpet Sethjis speak Tamil. Our Telugu neighbours speak fluent Tamil. The pretty bharatnatyam learning American girl in the next street who cycles to Kalakshetra, speaks Tamil. Kushboo speaks Tamil. Shah Rukh Khan speaks konjam konjam Tamil. But Tamil-born Tamil mom of Tamil child in Tamil Nadu doesn’t speak Tamil to her...

George Town – Part II

I am yet to schlep over to George Town for those pictures that I promised in Part I. But I couldn’t wait any longer to post part II. The all-consuming daily grind of work, e-mails, kids, cooking and cleaning leaves me no time for anything else. Forget driving over to George Town, I’ve not had a pedicure in months, I’ve been paying late fees on my credit card bills for 2 consecutive months (I can never remember the payment due dates) and our room looks like a railway platform (a box of toys and random junk here, handbag there, laptop bag on the side, random bags strewn around). I’ll hopefully have those pictures within a month. Before that, here’s more about this great old place. While you are in George Town, do visit the neighbouring streets as well. Kasi chetty street has lots of imported stuff, gift articles and party supplies (streamers, plastic toys etc). If you are into imitation jewellery, Narayana Mudali street is the place to be. I don’t have first-hand experience of this but many of my friends claim to have saved enormous sums by buying here.  Anderson street has a series of wedding invitation shops and paper shops. I once scoured the entire street looking for colourful designed envelopes but I couldn’t find any. They had only the standard white envelopes and a few plain pastel coloured envelopes. Nothing fancy. It’s not just shopping in Sowcarpet. But it’s mostly shopping. There was one lone theatre in the entire area – Select Talkies. Remember theatres of those days? Dirty paan stained corners, grainy ice-cream & soggy pop-corn. Well, Select Talkies was pretty much the average (below average actually) dirty theatre. Thankfully it closed down long back while we were still there. Other places worth visiting are the Kandhaswamy temple and Bairagimadam temple. I loved visiting Kandhaswamy temple when I was a kid. There was this huge tank in front of the temple filled with water and lots of tiny fishes. You could feed pori (puffed rice) to these fishes and there were vendors sitting there selling puffed rice just for this purpose. There are wholesale stainless steel shops near the temple. If you are looking to buy stainless steel dabbas in large numbers for wedding favours, party favours or items to outfit your own kitchen (on my wishlist are steel thali plates, small sambar bucket like Mani...

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      ...

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