“Idli, Vada, Masala Dosa, Plain Dosa, Mysore Masala Dosa, Pongal, Upma, Uttapam, Onion Uttapam, Tomato Uttapam, Cheese Uttapam, Peserattu….” He rattled away in that low, slightly nasal voice. Into my mind rushed vivid images from the past; a past that matched image to image, word to word in fact pixel to pixel with the present! The ‘Family Section’ of one of those old time restaurants. Cheap wooden tables painted in a strange wood color. Chairs with straight backs and small leather covered cushions for seats. The clanking of steel utensils welcomes you. Settle down for a bit and you’ll identify a peculiar buzz. A little more attention and you’ll find the culprit in the pedestal fans hanging on the walls at diagonally opposite corners of the room. Thankfully, the door opening into the interior room/kitchen or whatever swings open and closes noiselessly. Else, the regular entrants would have created a riot enough to ensure that you jump out of your skin every time they exit! Enter: A portly waiter; wearing a slightly crumpled, but clean red and grey uniform. A neatly folded patterned hand towel on one shoulder; a ghastly, unclean steel tray in the other hand. A toothbrush moustache shadowing his tobacco smeared teeth and a broad smile that lends an air of warmth and friendliness to the otherwise drab surroundings. With one look, he’ll know which language he should talk to you in- Telugu (and today, it is of importance, which dialect- Telangana/ Andhra!) or Hindi (or rather a brutally massacred dialect of the language, but Hindi all the same and we’ll let it pass simply, after all it’s the thought that counts- doesn’t it?) or English (which means, monosyllabic- yes saaaaaaaaarrrr or no saaaarrrrrr or bill saarrrr). The odd one-of waiter might even venture into Kannada or Tamil. If you aren’t sure about your order, he’ll help you figure that one out. If you are a regular, he might even ask about the rest of the family… He won’t write down your order. He’ll simply commit it to memory- no matter how long your order might be… he’ll rattle it back to you with the same ease that he did the menu! You’ll feel enough at home to be able to put your feet up on the chair and sit crossed legged. Yet, you’ll know that you are expected to leave soon enough, not because he’ll hover over- Nope! He has no time for that. Simply because that sense of urgency and action is so high there that you’ll know, you’d better leave. Within 5 minutes your order will be at the table. His fingers will not be dipped into the water glasses, but the glasses won’t be sparkling clean. It’s a sign of cleanliness of the glasses, if there are enough water droplets outside the glass as many as inside it. :) Don’t ever peep into their kitchen, you’ll probably faint- unlike the star-hotels, you’ll find many aluminum tins, lots of grime on the walls, sticky floors… but these kitchens are where you’ll find the most delectable Indian cuisine… A little plastic red dish will bring the saunf and the bill, a scrawl that for once you won’t have to dread- Rs 60 for 3 chai and one plate idli-vada. All piping hot and extremely delicious… There’s such an old world charm associated with these hotels… fast disappearing, these are some of the few places where feeling at home isn’t such an expensive affair; where being a regular means you actually share a bond and a relationship, not just with the place, but more so with the people who make the place.
Monday, February 22, 2010
We'll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes, But the plural of ox becomes oxen, not oxes. One fowl is a goose, but two are called geese, Yet the plural of moose should never be meese. You may find a lone mouse or a nest full of mice, Yet the plural of house is houses, not hice. If the plural of man is always called men, Then shouldn't the plural of pan be called pen? If I speak of my foot and show you my feet, And I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet? If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth, Why shouldn't the plural of booth be called beeth? Then one may be that, and three would be those, Yet hat in the plural would never be hose, And the plural of cat is cats, not cose. We speak of a brother and also of brethren, But though we say mother, we never say methren. Then the masculine pronouns are he, his and him, But imagine the feminine: she, shis and shim! Let's face it - English is a crazy language. There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins weren't invented in England .. We take English for granted, but if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square, and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig. And why is it that writers write but fingers don't fing, grocers don't groce and hammers don't ham? Doesn't it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend. If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it? If teachers taught, why didn't preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? Sometimes I think all the folks who grew up speaking English should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane. In what other language do people recite at a play and play at a recital? We ship by truck but send cargo by ship. We have noses that run and feet that smell. We park in a driveway and drive in a parkway. And how can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites? You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out, and in which an alarm goes off by going on. And, in closing, if Father is Pop, how come Mother's not Mop? I WOULD LIKE TO ADD THAT IF PEOPLE FROM POLAND ARE CALLED POLES THEN PEOPLE FROM HOLLAND SHOULD BE HOLES AND THE GERMANS GERMS!!!
at 11:02 AM
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Picture this: - A desolate, poorly lit street, late night and the only noise that interrupts the din of the fireflies and the rustle of the leaves is the faint sounds of music that the breeze steals from a speeding car. On a night just like this, not so long ago, I was driving back home, my mind meandering through the web of tasks set before me for the next day. My musings came to a crashing halt as I saw before my very own eyes, not more than 200 mts ahead of me, a motor cyclist collapse- the bike fell and the biker was flung off the bike on the other side of the road. Indeed a heart wrenching sight. All of this within a split second. Even as I slowed down to pull over and help, the parallel line on my brain was sending me warning signals of how unsafe it can be for a single woman to step out in the dark, especially on a desolate street. All of this happened within the batting of an eye-lid. Through this all, I saw another man, stop his bike and help the man who had fallen off… now, this is what makes me really proud to be and Indian, the innate humanness that every Hindustani has. An act that stems out of wanting to help another, simply because that is the way it has to be, not merely as a sense of duty, not even out of pity… but just doing it, cause it’s the right thing to do. Anyway, the accident victim couldn’t stand and from what I could make out; he had fainted and of course, sustained severe head injuries. Almost sub consciously, I reached out for my mobile and dialed the much publicized 108. Those ambulances that had many a time beaten the media OB Vans at every blast site, at every flyover collapse… I had seen these 108’s everywhere, had even done my bit of interviewing and publicizing, but, this was the first time that I had even dialed that number and even as I dialed, the cynic in me said, “now, we’ll know the truth. Is 108 all hype or does it really work”. “Namaste 108” a calm and reassuring voice greeted me. I was panic stricken and hurried and desperate that some help reach the accident spot. Through the jumble of words that I blurted and directed them to the location, the voice on the other end, remained, calm, composed and reassuring. He even got me conferenced to the nearest ambulance and suggested some doable first aid. When I told him that I hadn’t even gotten off my car, he was still reassuring and even supportive. Five to may be ten minutes later, as a crowd of passersby had gathered around the accident victim and his bike was successfully moved from the middle of the road, much to my relief, I heard the siren of the 108… It was the first time I had to call an emergency help line… I hope it’s the last too. But given my experience with the 108, I must say that it is indeed heartwarming to know that ‘help is really only a call away’
at 6:37 PM