Thursday, November 29, 2007


I couldnt believe it. An hour ago I was struggling against time to send out a last minute doc to the boss, and now here we were in the airport, two insanely expensive samosas down, boarding a flight to Sossegado land!
Yaaaaay! Two whole days of sun, sand, corpulent Brit tourists, and sea!

"Humph", said the budget airhostess, as we got on the plane at Bangalore. I beamed back at her, hoping to make her day as good as mine. She threw her head back, howled at the overhead bins and gnashed her teeth at us in a most friendly fashion. Before she could reach out and snap our heads off politely, we dived into our seats and hid under our recycled budget-flight magazines.

From my foetal position in the impossibly crammed Spicejet seat, I saw the arid beauty of the Deccan slowly giving way to the lush green of the Sahyadris, and we soon touched down at the immensely charming Dabolim Airport. Minutes later, we were whizzing away to Calangute on the spectacular Goa highway, winding through villages, shipyards, pretty churches and amazing views of the sea.

Bags down, we set off instantly for the beach on a rented Activa. After wading across row upon row of slowly cooking white skin, we finally reached the sea. I'd almost forgotten how magical the Arabian sea can be in winter. Placid, emerald green and ethereal. Disturbed only by the incessant roar of waterscooters, wailing kids, paunchy uncles, and extremely silly looking parasailers. All very pretty though.

Out of the water and ravenous, we drifted into the nearest shack and ordered everything they had. I decided to be goody two shoes on the first leg of my trip, and ordered a glass of nice Goan port wine. The waiter plonked a whole bottle of the good stuff in front of us, and then set down huuuge platters of food with large helpings of chips and tartar sauce. 'Ow English luv, I thought, looking around at the astounding number of identically dour faced, sunburned Brit tourists sipping G&Ts and digging into chicken teeka masollas.

It was heartening though, to see that Goa had indianized quite significantly since our last trip. We saw more than a few twenty-something yuppie Indian couples dotting an otherwise lobster-pink peoplescape. Mostly punju, unfortunately. Their embarrassingly crass accents seemed to bounce right off the grim, silent walls that the Brit tourists had raised around themselves. Ah well, I thought. Silence was never an Indian virtue, and it would do the old coots some good to hear boisterous Indian chatter for a change.

"Tattoo brother?" Asked a local, and showed me into a beachside tattoo parlour. Two stern faced East European women were inside, getting mehndi tattoos. One of them was visibly upset, and was admonishing a Goan boy tattooing her foot with an extremely ugly daisy chain: "I had appointhmenth ath eleffen. Now I am lathe for ze anozer apointhmenth. Zis is verhy unproffessional". "Yeah, yeah, I'll do a good design", replied the Goan boy, with an unfazed Goan grin. What he meant of course was "Yeah fool, that'll teach you to make hourly appointments when you're ankle deep in Mehndi at a beach shack in Goa!"

"Come. I make. Good design. Ae Jigness bhai, book lao." said the main man. Okayyyy, a Gujju tattooist. Excellent! He pointed to various designs in his book and I shortlisted the following :
(a) My name in Gujarati
(b) My mother's name in Hebrew
(c) Celtic design containing a pot of Undhiyu and a pile of Thepla
(c) The words Anna-Saaru-Che entwined on a rose.
(d) "Lucky Laxmi" in purple and green disco dots.

I asked him how much he charged. "Sirji main aapse sirf 5000 maangoonga . Bahut kam daam hai." I resisted the impulse to to tattoo "Poda maanga madaya" (Go away mangofool) on his forehead and run. After much bargaining, he agreed to draw a much cheaper, temporary tattoo on my shoulder that looked like the imprint of a size 12 shoe.

Fake tattoo in place, all I now needed to do was scream "O yaar bill lao fatafat" to the waiter and I'd be the perfect yuppie Punju Goa tourist.

If you can't, mins..matlab.. beat 'em, Oye join 'em yaaru !!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Cardboards - Part Duh

And I'm back :)
Here you go childrenses.. By popular demand, Part II of Cartoons on the Keyboard, a.k.a..

Cardboards - Part Duh

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


My dear boys and girls,

You may breathe a big sigh of relief as I will not be writing much today. For I have channelized my prowess on the keyboard, borne out of ten years of non-stop yahooing, into more creative avenues. Therefore, kindly have it, the following batch of Cartoons on the Keyboard, OR:


More to follow (or not as the case may be) :)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Missy M and the potter

Missy Morkozhambu, by the way, is the best baker in the world. And I don't say this lightly. There's sponge cake, and there's Missy M's sponge cake. There's chocolate torte and then there's hers. Worlds apart. And whoa, those cheesecakes! Slurp city downtown!

When Benson Town was under seige and all the shops had closed down, she stepped into her garden, plucked a papaya off her tree, mixed it with godhi hittu (aata) and baked a glorious papaya gateau. Another day she made a kothambri soppu (corriander), avocado and strawberry bread which was, well, interesting.

While she says the secret to her phenomenal baking is gobs of amul butter, I haven't given up searching her pantry for that little vial of magic potion that's actually responsible for it. The most wonderful part, however, is that I am her self-appointed food taster. With her success rate of 100%, I am only too happy to stuff myself to bursting capacity with all her goodies, while giving her my extremely satiated two-paisa opinions on them.

Missy M made a green almond sponge cake the other day, which she had layered with chocolate and pistachios. She'd also made an unpronounceable Italian dessert with bansi rava (semolina), and called wondering if I wanted to drop by and try them out. Didn't I just! In about 43 seconds, I was squeezing through her front door, trying to prevent Coco and Buster from squeezing in with me. Dogs out of the way, I addressed myself conscientiously to my assigned task of stuffing myself silly. No eggs, she announced, since it was Deepavali after all.

The almond sponge with pistachio and chocolate icing was wonderful, as expected. Or as Appa would say "Mundiriparuppu, pista, vennai, sakkarai ellaam potta kasakkumaa?" (Cashew, pista, butter, sugar, all put means bitter it will be aa?). As always though, there was Missy M's unmistakeable touch, that made it a superlative almond sponge with pistachio and chocolate icing.

A quick kodbaLe break later, I was onto my next arduous task: sampling the unpronounceable Italian dessert. It was a cake-like kesari bhath, with the consistency of a very very fluffy Mysore pak. I blinked appreciatively at the legendary baker, unable to move any more muscles in acknowledgement of her fantastic culinary creations.

"Alright", she announced, "I figure you could use a walk. Care for a stroll down Williams Town? I need to buy some clay lamps." "Glurgh", I replied, indicating that I needed to be rolled off the Benson Hill first. So off we went: one goggle-eyed cake-taster and one diligent baker-deepavalist.

Williams Town, though adjacent to Benson Town, is in stark contrast to it. It struck me as nice and quaint, though not particularly affluent or spectacularly beautiful. Neat rowhouses abutted a sweet looking park, in the old world Bangalore style. The vaulted mangalore-tiled roofs of the rowhouses stuck out at the back, while their modernized frontages lined the clean streets. A few 1950s-style biscuit boxes with rounded verandahs stood in pristine splendour in their little gardens. A bunch of boys, a gaggle of girls and an assembly of aunties stood around in groups discussing the happennings of the day. We saw kids bursting crackers and lighting lamps, old men readying themselves for the evening namaaz, and several young people at the shrine of the virgin, lighting candles and singing softly. I was amazed at the diversity, and charmed by the old-wordliness. Missy M snorted a pretty snort and strode on smugly, reminding me that we were in the Cantonment after all.

A few well-swept streets later, we found ourselves at the central square of Pottery Town. "Wow. There's a potter's square in Bangalore?", I said, looking around in amazement. "Um, yes", said Missy M, "but it's been here forever, and we've never thought of it as one." I gaped open-mouthed at the quaint potters' shops around the square. Huge terracota planters, lamps, urns and basins lay around everywhere. Shopkeepers looked up at us lazily and went back to doing nothing. I meandered off into one of the shops, fascinated by some large urlis that seemed perfect for my irritatingly non-blooming water lilies.

"Focus", said Missy M gently, as she dragged me into a shop where she spied the diyas that she wanted. The sweet toothless adukulajji (betelnut grandmother) at the shop took an instant liking to us and made us come into her house and see all her wares. Pots, that is. We bought about 75 lamps for 100 bucks or so, and walked back through Williams Town, stopping to admire a collection of unsold clay ganeshas that escaped this year's mass-drowning. I chattered incessantly about the quaintness of it all, until Missy M suggested cooingly that I shut the hell up, as she was getting a migraine. I muttered my remaining remarks to my sandals and followed her back home, where she fed me home-made pizza and sent me away.

So if you're into quaint small-town 1950s enclaves and aren't afraid of jumping across a nullah or two to buy some pottery real cheap, go check out Williams Town and Pottery Town. And if there's enough of you coming that way, I'll ask Missy M to set up a bake-shop shop next to adukulajji.

Monday, November 12, 2007

You hate me, but I love you!

So this new donut place opened up the other day near work. Being the full-on Thames nan maga that I am, I ran off instantly to sample their wares. I was not disappointed. The donuts were the yummiest I'd ever eaten and sold for like 20 bucks a go. There were all manner of killer combos involving medium to large scale sugar overloads, with caffeine fixes to boot.

The shop assistants, imported as always from a different planet, nodded and shook their heads for everything. Several sweet delights later, I waddled back to work and realized my wallet was gone. "Aiyo!" I screamed, and huff-puffed back to the donut shop. "Did you see my wallet?" Nod, shake. "Wallet, purse. Left here. Anybody saw?" Nod shake. "No?" Nod shake. "Yes?" Nod shake. I gave up, wrote my name and number on a paper and told them to call me if it turned up. Nod shake.

The wallet contained credit cards (easily replaced, whew), cash (as good as gone) and.. gasp! My Driver's License!

I quailed at the thought of getting a duplicate. The prospect of coaxing, cajolling, pleading and... shudder.. bribing my way through the RTO, had me wondering if I should bother getting one at all. But knowing my penchant for getting goosed by the traffic pulliss wherever I go, I figured I pretty much had to.

I made a few calls to friends who'd been in similar situations before, and figured out approximately what to do:

(1)Lodge an FIR with the police, get it attested (Bribe opportunity 1),
(2)Go to the RTO, pay Rs 235 duplicate license fee
(3)Submit several papers to the assistant RTO for approval (Bribe op 2)
(4)Collect my license 3 days later (Bribe op 3)

Four years in a Gowda college taught me to suspend my dignity for long periods of time to get my work done, but the art of bribery had, for some reason, always evaded me.

"Bunnrrrreee, koothkoLi, tea-gee kudeetheera?" (Come in sir, sit down, tea and scones perhaps?) said a pleasant SI as I walked in to the police station and told him my story. He read my FIR, written in the best Governmentese I could muster at short notice. It was a jewel of colonial composition. Every sentence had at least three of the following words : kindly, respected, faithfully, the same, therein and purse. Susy miss would have given me 10/10 for following the "Official letter format" down to the last tee.

Bunnree plodded through the letter and asked me how I could prove my wallet was stolen. "Err umm, it wasnt there when I looked for it?" I said. Dry sarcastic laughter ricocheted off the walls of the police station. He tossed my literary gem nonchalantly in the dustbin and glared at me. "Take down", he commanded. I almost fainted. Strip torture?? Oh no! What did I let myself in for!!In a few seconds however, I realized that his intentions were considerably less evil, and I faithfully took down the following letter:

"Bariri (write)" :

Two: Yes Eye, Sadasivnagra Polittashionu


I walking roadu, coming aaffice to hotelu.

Aaan date-u, timu ella bariri (Aaan date time write ri)
When I going backu, purse miss-seddu. Pursu containing faalowing eyetams:

Aan bariri yenen itthu antha (Aan write what all was there).
Yif yanybody returannu, please caantactu my numberu.

Number gimber addressu giddressu ella bariyappa (Number gimber address giddress write father).
Saaaaaar, kindly request give that ackka-naalijmentu this FIR faar duplicate licensu.
Regardsu, gigardsu hesaru-gisaru bardhu sign haaki.
(Regards, gigards, name, geeme, sign put)

I nervously handed my hen tracks back to the SI, who gave it a once-over, regarded me with a beady eye and sealed and signed the letter.

Whoa! That was easy- and they were actually sweet(u) !!

Off I went to the RTO, quailing again, thinking of the number of touts Id have to avoid and the corrupt officers I'd have to deal with. There wasn't a soul about, save one non-scowly man sitting by himself at a desk on the second floor. I touched the center of my chest(Bangalore version of Namaskara), and he nodded back.

"Banni, banni heLi." (Come, come, tell me). Wow, polite, but my jaded soul suspected that the politeness came with a price. This one's gonna fleece me dry, I thought, as I told him my story.

Luckily I'd gone online to the RTO website earlier and managed to get all the documents for the duplicate license ready. He looked at them and told me to go back to the police station and get an FIR acknowledgement challan. "Saaar", I said, scratched my head and tried to look harrassed and helpless. I asked him if the stamped FIR copy that I already had wasn't enough. He cleared his throat, flung my papers back at me, and looked ahead grimly.

Back I went to the police station, and haltingly told the SI I needed a challan. "Challan close aagide" (out of challans), he said. "Uh oh!" said a little voice in my head. Money time.

Suddenly a dulcet voice from heaven came wafting through the sultry air of the police station.
"Yaaeh, compter nal idiyalla saar faarmyattu. Sumne print haaki sign haak kotbiddi papa avarige. Math-mathe yaak barak heltheera" (Yaaeh, just print the damn thing out and sign it I say, why make this poor dude come again and again"). I turned around and saw a tough looking ladiss police with woollen scarf around head (winter, you faallow?). I beamed at her gratefully and was rewarded with a scowl.

I grabbed the attested print out, almost fell at everyone's feet and looked around waiting for someone to say "Saaaaaar.. hehehehehe scratch scratch" which is how I've always pictured people asking for a bribe. Noone moved. I left!

Back at the RTO the next day, the helpdesk people (Wait there's a manned helpdesk?) guided me up to a series of neat queues (Whoa!) near the cash counter where I paid the prescribed duplicate fee and had the receipt flung in my face. Took a deep breath, collected the receipt and went back to non-scowler. He muttered something about pinning the papers in the wrong order, scribbled all over my application, and sent me off to get my picture taken.

At the picture office, an efficient young lady looked up my old license number and, wonder of wonders, brought my old license up on her screen. "Allright, you may go", she said, and directed me to another guy who looked like Lt. O'hara from Duckburg. He scribbled furiously in a ledger, and wordlessly handed me a slip of paper with the collection date written on it. I waited briefly for Lt. O'hara to scratch his head or object to my existence, but left after he glowered for 5 more minutes at his ledger.

What? No bribe?

Arrived bright and early on the collection date and went straight to Lt. O'hara. He rolled his eyes sideways indicating that I go meet Gladstone Gander at the next table. Gladstone eyed me meanly through his half moon glasses and continued working. After a practiced 5 minute pause, he looked up and said: "God has given you eye. Father has given you spectacle. Take ten minute, sit down and kindly read distribution time." Uh oh, I thought, bribe time. Read the distribution time: one hour later. Whew.

An hour later, Gladstone had assumed an even more evil expression than before. He rummaged about and fished out a smart looking duplicate license card. Flinging it at my face, he slapped a piece of paper down on the desk. "Sir?" I asked in my smallest, scaredest voice. Gladstone flashed me a look of utter contempt. "Haiyyyyo.." he said, slapped his forehead, rolled his eyes, looked at O'hara and gave me another vile glare. "Ree swami! Sign haakri, Receewadu antha." (Swami (sarcastic), sign I say, received like that).

Signed. Waited. Gladstone started barking at someone else. And I left!!

What? No bribe?


Moral: They scowl, frown, treat you like dirt and all that, but a little obsequiousness and a total suspension of dignity can get you very far indeed in government offices.

Seriously though, hats off to the Yeshwantpur RTO! Sure they don't have the best bedside manner, but they do their job!

And thank you, thank you, my dear scarf wearing, scowling godess!