Thursday, May 31, 2007

Yay Ro Smith

Things to do before Aerosmith concert in Bangalore:

1. Curse DNA networks for obscene ticket prices.
2. Curse Aerosmith for coming to India at age 107.
3. Curse fate for being the only freak who didnt get free tickets.
4. Call all the cool people you know for free tickets.
5. Call semi-cool people for free tickets.
6. Call mortal enemies for free tickets.
7. Call gardener's wife for free tickets.
8. Call the single person you know who works for DNA 150 times, take out to drinks, press foot and watch them walk away saying "I left DNA last year, but listen, we must hang out again." with smirk on face.
9. Enter every single "Win a free ticket" concert on Radio Indigo.
10. Give up translating "Jaded" into malayalam in order to win "sing Aerosmith in any language" competition.
11. Buy Aerosmith double CD with every song composed by them and their extended families.
12. Practice making gaspy catfish faces in the mirror while singing "Crazy".
13. Spend a frantic night mugging up lyrics to look cool at concert.
14. Plan clothes that look better wet than dry (its raining, men, in Bangalore).
15. Rush to Palace Grounds in sheer desperation an hour before concert to buy tickets which in all probability will be sold out.


ANYBODY has tickets? I will do foot massaging for 1 month.

Monday, May 28, 2007

You fallow

I have gone and asked this very important theological koschan to various Bangytown residents at various locations:

What if god was one of us. Just a slob like one of us.

Jason M, student St Jo's Commerce: Matsssa, what da? Don't 'ave any better work kuh? Some f*&^all question you'll ask off on a Monday. Coming to Aerosmith thuh?

V Putnanjappa, Lecturer, Vijaya Dental: Alla kanri, seeee, yif gaad vas vun aaf us, vyyy he is naat visibal? If he is visibal, then vy ve have to build tempal gimpal and aal? So... gaad is naat vun aaf us. Is it naat.

Snehalatha P, Student NMKRV: Aye nooo yaaaan, god is one of us only yaaaaan. Evvvry day when we pray for poor people's health he listens yaaaaaaan. Aye tell him nooo.

Shirley da Cunha, MCC: glowers, rolls eyes, turns on heel, looks over shoulder.

Manjunath S Gowda, BIT: Lei, baa illi. Yenande? God aa? Yaake, kannada barallva? Slap Hogu silentaagi. Firshtu, full aagi Kannadadal maatadak kalthko. Gothaytha? Bandbudthaane shtylaagi English maataadkondu.

R A Varadachar, Scientist : Seeeeeeeee it is immaterial what we think, because in the bigger picture nothththting is relevant. You fallow?

K P Vedavalli, ageing aunt : As long as we pray evvry day, do good deeds and have kind thoughts, it dozzzznt matter who or where God is da kanna. (bats eyelids and smiles beatifically)

Gigglemol Kuriyakose, nurse: Nyo nyo. Goad snote van oaf us. Jusste he is uh kamming from heavenly boadice.

Pullala Venkata Sai, software engineer: Jushtu, I want one clarificationnu. When it is naat paajbull to prove thissu, why we are trying? Arriving at conclujon is naat praababul. Therefore attempting to saalve this praablem is naat feajbul.

Bikram Soni, real estate agent: O yaar, daffynutely yaar. God ij vun of us. Yasterday only I saw him eating butter chicken bonelass near Forum yaar.

Assad Eddappa, page 3: I reeeely don't think he's one of us. How would he let Bangalore close down at 11:30 if he was, dahling. And seriously, if he were one of us, the least I'd expect him to do is dressss well. You know- wear clothes that fffit him. Bangalore neeeeeds a role model. You know?

MN Seshadri Iyer, branch manager, SBI (retd), Malleshwaram: You maadarn generation people koschan yevverything I say. Simply aping this weshtern idea of rationalizing yevverything is naat necessary, isn't it. Some things are naat meant to be understood, and Gaad is vunnaaf them. Better you accept it.

But.. Is he a stranger on the bus?



Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Aye Wot yaaaaan

"What it is?" I asked my friends, pointing at a brown dish that looked like dal makhni.
"Wot." said my friend.
"Yeah thats what Im asking you", I said.
"Yeah. Wot."
"You don't know, do you?"
"Of course I do. It's Wot."
"You foolish fool of a foolish fool, I will make chakli out of your brain and feed to wild animals."
"Arre Its Wot. I cannot help if you can't figure out what's Wot and what's not."

This intellectually superior conversation took place at the Addis Ababa restaurant in Houston, where my friends had taken me for some authentic Ethiopian. When they told me we were doing Ethiopi Khana, I pictured a large communal dinner with piles of fragrant rice and large legs of mutton, followed by thick black coffee, all to the accompaniment of lively African music and drums. I was not disappointed. Everything was as I expected- except that the food that we ordered was entirely?
Hi. Vegetarian!

Happiness. First came a large plate containing something that looked and tasted like a soft neer dosa made out of Ragi. I learnt that it's called Injera, the main staple of Ethiopian food. In quick succession followed a series of pulses - boiled and half mashed like daal but each with a certain something different to them that I couldnt place. A couple of spinach dishes, a large salad of tomatoes and a bowl of curried potatoes followed the lentils and made for a wonderful meal, all tied together with the Injera. It was like a perfect mix of South and North Indian except for the distinct absense of oil and spice. Beauteous I say.

"Excuse please", I said to the pretty waiterni. "Why y'all are hawing so many vez item on your minu?" I asked in my best Desi Texan drawl, expecting her to tell me about a nouveau vegan movement in Ethiopia that resulted in these world fusion dishes. The waiterni gasped, whacked me with an injera, emptied a bowl of wot on my head, screamed "Dubaara mat poochna" and flounced off into the kitchen. Apparently Ethiopia has had mainstream vegetarian food for almost as long as India has. Ethiopia's Orthodox Christian faith - the oldest surviving in the world - requires rigorous abstinence from meat during Lent and so their cuisine adapted itself to the habits of the people. Arre how lovely, I thought to myself while I wiped the wot off my face with the injera.

I certainly don't mind sampling the odd meat dish, but am unfortunately a guilt ridden veggie at heart. So I was delighted to know that there's actually another countryful of cud-chewers in the world apart from good old Desland. Even the music sounded vaguely like a South Indian Raga. Or perhaps it was the relief of having eaten something so refreshingly un-Texan (ie, not attached to a cow) that was playing tricks with my head.

Here are some Wots (gravies) and Atkilts (veggie dishes) that I definitely recommend when you order veggie at an Ethiopian restaurant, though most restaurants offer platters with a sampling of everything.

Aterkik Alitcha - split peas prepared with light sauce
Atkilt Wot - cabbage, carrots, potatoes simmered in sauce
Atkilt Salata - boiled potatoes, jalapeno mixed in salad dressing
Buticha - chickpea dip mixed with lemon juice
Inguday Tibs - mushroom sauteed with onions
Fasolia - string beans and carrots sauteed in caramelized onion
Gomen - collard green cooked with spices
Misir Wot - pureed split red lentil simmered berbere sauce
Misir Alitcha - pureed split red lentil simmered in mild sauce
Shimbra Asa - chickpeas flour dumplings cooked in wot (brown sauce)
Shiro Alitcha - mild split peas are milled together slow cooked
Shiro Wot - split peas are milled together and slow cooked
Salata - Ethiopian salad, dressing: lemon, jalapeno & spices
Timatim Selata - tomato salad, onions, jalapeno & lemon juice

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

The hops

Part of my mixed up childhood involved growing up in the capital of Gods Own Country. I'm not sure what exactly was in those vitamin tablets that my parents kept feeding us during our childhood, but most of what I remember of growing up in Trivandrum now seems like some sort of surreal dream.

We lived opposite a wooden Devi (mother goddess) temple set in a grassy plot of land under a brooding peepul tree. The temple was called Idiyadikkodu (temple of booms and crashes). You could buy and set off crackers there for good luck. Boom! Crash! Luck! Fun! Needless to say my Bangalore mother would never let us near them.

I was petrified of the fierce temple priest who would scream "Daaaaaaaaaai!! Samayam ethrayaayi?" (Hey you! Whats the time?) at my brother and I whenever he saw us. My brother, the owner of the only watch in the neighbourhood would faithfully say "Naalu mani" (4 o'clock) , which was invariably the time at which the priest caught us. And all the kids around would laugh at his slight jesuit-school accent. My brother was a good head taller than everybody so he took it with a pinch of salt. I was a lot smaller and would titter nervously and make a mental note never to go near the temple during the priest's dinnertime.

But importantly, Idiyadikkodu, among many other temples dotting the countryside, was the favourite destination of the possessed. I would watch in fascination as people (usually female ) would be brought in shaking all over and and muttering incoherently, while the priest would attempt to exorcise them. A few hours later, the shaking and quivering would stop and the possessee would go home cheerfully. It never struck me as odd. I guess to a child, nothing really is odd. People would speak casually everyday about it like they were discussing the flu or a ear infection:

Yentharappi, kandittu kore devasam aayallee? (Trivandrum malayalam: Been a while since I saw you, child)
Aan shariya. Njaayaraazhchayeennu thullaan thudangiyathaa. (Thats right, I started hopping since Sunday)
Oh, appikku thullalu pidichaa? Kshethrathi pwaayillee? (Oh did child get the hops? Did you go to the temple?)
Aan innale pwaayi, ippa ellaan shari aayi (Yes, I went yesterday, now it's ok)

Most temples and traditional Kerala houses also housed the mysterious sarpakkaavu (snake cove) - A shady corner of the garden filled with eerie stone snake figurines. A lamp would be brought out of the house every evening and placed there for the serpent gods. Rat snakes (cheras) being quite common in Trivandrum gardens, you would almost always find one coiled up somewhere near the sarpakkavu. I was never very sure if that was a coincidence or whether snakes could actually sense the security and protection that the sarpakkavu offered them.

The devi kshetrams and sarpakkavus are just two out of many, many really bizarre things that are a part of every day life in Kerala. I've seen and heard about hosts of practices, rituals and phenomena that absolutely boggle the rational mind, but seem perfectly normal to a Keralite.

While its all very well to ooh and ah about mysterious Kerala and hope that her secrets are never fully discovered, here's my issue: While on the one hand Kerala has this dubious reputation of being the centre of the dark arts of wizardry, superstition and the surreal, it also has a contrasting image of being one of the most enlightened states in India. Long before all the rest of them started clamouring for infrastructure, the socialist government in kerala had already put in roads, hospitals, schools, and small scale industy units in every remote region in the state. I rode buses and trains in Kerala watching normal people sitting opposite me read Naom Chomsky and books on Differential Calculus. But many of the same people would talk cheerfully about Gaiian social systems and the benefits of an exorcism at the chotanikkara bhagavathy temple, in the same breath.

I don't know if it's even right to reconcile these two contrasting images. Maybe Kerala does have more spirits per square inch waiting to get into people's heads. Perhaps Kerala's muggy dark weather does indeed provide the perfect foil for ectoplasmic manifestations.

Or is all the mumbo jumbo just an old fashioned excuse to go nuts for a while, as my rationalist momma would say? I honestly don't know. I do know though, that as a kid, I always secretly hoped that I'd get possessed some day too, just so I could participate in conversations with the neighbour.