Kuch Khattee, Kuch Mithee

Huh… done with today’s purposeful outing at a mall !

A little over a decade ago, malls were so exciting; particularly, when our generation became salaried 🙂 . It was then when the ‘mall culture’ began across Indian cities and big towns. Almost every weekend or at least the alternate ones used to typically start at some fashionable mall, pace through a royal lunch, then had us fly high in car or bike rides or hooked up at a hi-fi cinema hall, and finally rolled into discotheques or pubs or late-night chit-chats on the open terraces. For some ‘poor guys’, the daytime meant office-over-the-weekend and at nightfall, they would join rest of their folks- again at some mall or pub. Only a few among us earnestly managed their weekend time and energy to learn an art or render services at charitable institutions.

 

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Well, the plus points with well-designed and well-located malls still are “relative” degrees of safety, dust-free environment, clean washrooms, one-stop junction for varieties of food, etc., saving of horizontal space (including parking facilities), streamlining distribution and management of infrastructural resources, increasing levels of employment, ground of opportunities for the ‘modern people’ to practice and teach mannerisms to their kids 🙂 and… good malls may sometimes, plainly map all its sparkle onto empty souls !! The last point acquires great significance when the youth venturing into career options, whether studying or working, in far-flung cities stay away from their families and confront various types of struggle or face loneliness during such trying phases of life; then they are usually prompted to visit a dazzling mall (alone or with friends) and ‘just chill’. That’s definitely a wiser thing to do than idling away in gloominess !

Moreover, malls are also excellent ‘match-fixing’ (matrimonial match-making) spots 🙂 … In many cases, not only the prospective couple but both the prospective families also meet without any hassle or raising their envious neighbour’s eyebrows. The same convenience is explored even for ordinary get-togethers among friends and their families because then the host just has to co-ordinate and make the payments only; he /she does not have to bother about the nitty-gritty in this minutes-starved world. This has therefore become quite an acceptable lifestyle in India.

 

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Hence even if one doesn’t wish to really shop, malls are somewhat good spots to catch friends up all on the quick gossip or catch rays of hope…

But over the last few years, I find malls and cinema halls terribly suffocating. This, even when I need to make serious business. In fact, nowadays I don’t visit malls alone because often I sweat profusely and feel dizzy at times… I don’t know if its the ever-increasing crowd or the insatiable cravings of many people over sales /discounts /offers on various items (branded or not) or their superfluous definitions of modernity or the crazy video-games counters or the jam-packed food-courts or the concrete roof or the artificial lights or the over-lapping loud noise or the pungent perfumes or vague constraints of space and time or an almost total absence of interpersonal warmth, or… a mix up of everything !!! And of course, it deeply concerns us to see many children and youth left unguided for taking appreciable interest in story books, classical music or other forms of art, physical activities or integrated development programmes; rather they too, knowingly or unknowingly, seem to be caught in perturbing rat-races and gibberish talks !!

Neither I enjoy the various online shopping options, particularly clothes because we cannot feel the texture, let alone checking proper fittings. And one usually finds all those famous wholesale or factory outlets stretched along ‘old city’ areas; reaching those spots means manoeuvring huge tasks through the motionless or erratic traffic, dust, noise and stench from nalas (drains) or chemical and leather processing units !

Wish we could still retain the old-fashioned simple layout of shops in lanes and by-lanes of approved market areas in a few places; primarily, to facilitate bad shoppers like me 🙂 and secondly, may be to cherish memories of by-gone days… In any case, at least employment and business would be guaranteed.

I so much miss my hometown shops: the open vertical space around the by-lanes which let us breathe well even in a crowd, see the starry or blue sky and experience the drizzles.. the bindaas thele-waleys (carefree vendors of portable stalls) making hot, mouth-watering snacks and serving tea in little earthen pots.. the fruit-sellers and the florists from the beautiful countryside selling fresh produces.. the fragrance of the incense sticks and neatly stacked items in shops were always so attractive.. the greetings of the shop-owner and his staff (mostly well-acquainted faces) were so warm.. and the music- whether a bhajan (devotional song) sung by a beggar or the flute played by him or a pop number reverberating from a tape-recorder, always stirred up the dullest of spirits. In general, life’s vivid hues graced the senses wherever they turned to. And often, they taught us something wonderful.

I am sure every Indian city or big town has its own charmful notes in this context. Shopping, for any occasion… for any number of friends or relatives or for oneself, was so enjoyable then………..

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Desi Thelewale Bhaiyya, Zindabaad !

Today morning, I came across an article detailing certain analysis of Indian food by a well-known Australian culinary historian, Charmaine O’Brien. While reading it, I was prompted within to reflect on my own thoughts related to it.

Last week, we had fresh hot thelewale Samosas (an Indian snack from portable stalls) presented to us by our Help.

I was a bit hesitant since I have just recovered from Viral fever. But ultimately I couldn’t resist the utter temptation – toh “Jay Jagannath” bolke khaa liya (so I had it trusting Almighty) 🙂 … It was indeed so mouth-watering !

Then I remembered my hometown’s 50 paisa /1 rupee variety Chops (stuffed Pakoras) that were incredibly tasty, and just slightly bigger than old one rupee coins. Those from the thelewale used to be a perfect treat with Moodhee (puffed rice) and Masala Chaaye (herbal tea) on rainy evenings ! They are still there but with increasing awareness on hygiene and new options of snacks, now the portable stalls are mostly seen in properly monitored exhibitions and traditional melas (fairs).

samosa_kachori

hmmmmn… Kitna bhi badda restaurant ho le ya aap kaise bhi banalo (howsoever big may be a restaurant or one prepares it with all care), when it comes to Pakoras, Chaats, Jhaal Muri, Ghoogni, Pani Poori, Dahi Vada and these kinda stuff, you can’t beat that of our very own desi thelewale Bhaiyya (India’s street Hawkers) !

For a while, forget the hygiene: zindegi ki woh ‘zing thing’ kahaan se laogey (from whence would you attain that unique pungent flavour of life) 🙂 !!!

And the charchaa (gabfest) around fresh street food and the Hawkers’ portable stalls, under the thundering clouds and in the cool zephyr… usmein baat hii kuch khaas hai, hai na (there’s a special air about it, isn’t it)… ?

muddheemasla

 

Svalpa Adjust Maddee !!!

We are a highly populated country with intensely varied demographies and inadequate infrastructure. Perhaps due to such factors and somewhat due to our inherent liberalism, since childhood we come across these two terms on a routine confrontation “thodda adjust kar lo” (svalpa adjust maddee /please adjust a bit) and “chalta hai” (its okay).

And sometimes that “thodda” / “svalpa” / “a bit” is tremendous 🙂 !

It becomes our habit, then reflects in our behaviour and finally forms our attitude towards almost everything in life !

So much so that at one point, we either forget (do not realize) how to justly rebel or become simply lethargic in voicing our deepest concerns even against things we stood object right away !!! We quietly accept everything, whether subtly or openly- whatsoever unfair it is against us, our families, our societies or our nation.

From the vital healthcare industry to an ordinary kiraana shop (general stores), we keep hearing these two terms.

On my birthday last year, despite proper instructions, the confectioner in the by-lane in front of our apartment wrote my hubby’s name on the cake and that too was mis-spelt. Let alone offering a replacement, the confectioner advised us thus, “anyway, you are a couple na… svalpa adjust maddee” 🙂 !

Well, coming to a serious context… Down the line, when we join a profession involving thorough interactions with disciplined clients (may be desi or videsi), or we are posted abroad in a culture where there is no such ‘adjusting’ business, we find ourselves stuck somewhere. If not for all cases, still quite often, we are then unable to realize what the problem is and end up grumbling that the other person is “such a strict customer” or simply “such a rigid felaa” (friend /acquaintance /colleague /boss) 🙂 . This also happens when we over-commit on deliverables and on our failure to duly meet those targets, then fervently seek all sorts of adjustments and re-adjustments from the other person !!

Worst of all : since many things can be adjusted as “chalta hai” (even when they are not at all okay!), in the process, sometimes we don’t even learn some of our basic rights !! Politeness and generosity are fine but not at such a cost !

Hence, as sensible elders, I believe it is very important on our part to teach children a right BALANCE between tolerance /acceptance and rebel /objection, particularly in any Indian society.

Irrespective of our global status or rank, let’s together address this attitudinal issue and write a new chapter for us… Primarily, it shall serve us good within.

Reflections: Part-V

Here, I actually have one reflection and one confession…

Reflection :

The morning cuppa tea tastes the same. But three things that have certainly changed along with it are –

1. the basking temperature
2. content of the newspapers
3. ‘chaaye pe charchaa’ (chit-chat during tea-time), including the medium of ‘charchaa’

That reflects so much of life !!

Now we realize what that cuppa tea meant for our parents, teachers, elderly relatives and college seniors in stirring up their days…

Confession :

Whether ‘Act of God’ or ‘Hand of God’… 🙂

In any World Cup Football, whether Argentina wins or loses…

It remains my favourite team because of that old teenage crush on the heroic image of Diego Maradona !!!

Now, reacting to the result of this World Cup Football, let me thus confess…

My weakness for Argentina, as always : Maradona !

My weakness for Germany : whether right or wrong ideology – Netaji’s ally in our freedom struggle, and my first posting abroad !

Dil bola : gam hii sahi… wohi manale… tab tu phir bhi Maradona ke saath hogi (even though I had opportunity to rejoice, my heart swayed towards defeat because that way, it would still mean to be with Maradona) 🙂 !!

A Psychiatric Fallout !!

Under the new Budget in India, the price of aerated drinks (water with sugar content) has been hiked up by 5 percent, making soft drinks and sugary juices costlier.

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Health experts are hopeful that this financial step shall help reduce sugar consumption and thus check obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart diseases and dental decay – a theory many countries have begun to acknowledge but brands still profusely dispute !

Interestingly, last year I had a terrible dream : after the last gluttonous sip of a soft drink, I “saw” myself discovering active maggots at the bottom of the glass – and that was the end of all sugary relishes 🙂 !!!

Next morning, as soon as I woke up, I threw the remaining bottles out of the refrigerator. We do not buy any soft drink or ice-creams unless a guest arrives and indicates a desire for it.

Now howsoever thirsty, we prefer plain water. And since then, if we really need to have a soft drink as an accompaniment, only fresh home-made sugarless nimbu paani zindabaad (hail lemonade) ; thus goes our newly chosen flavour with spicy Biryanis and Pizzas as well 🙂 !

For the same “visual pothers” of my dream 🙂 , we have ditched other sugar-containing items and drastically reduced quantities of sweets or amount of sugar in every possible ‘prepared’ item, howsoever attractive – jalebis, chocolates, pastries, ice-creams, tea, corn flakes, milk shakes, cookies, smoothies, cakes, pan cakes, porridges, etc.

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Luckily, my husband volunteered to “share” the psychiatric fallout of my dream 🙂 ! So that has now led us to limit our daily sugar consumption to even less than six teaspoons as recently set by the World Health Organization. Normally, I take only one teaspoon – in my morning cup of tea which I definitely require to stir up my day.

Well… my father (who is also a Doctor), tried for years to make me get rid of soft drinks; so he has been very thankful to God for blessing me with that thoroughly health-effective dream 🙂 !!… Now his other routine insistences are about regular exercises (particularly Yoga), a 20-minute exposure to the morning rays of the Sun and having maximally green diets along with natural anti-oxidants. My husband has sincerely met almost all these expectations, whether of his father-in-law or his Family Physician 🙂 , and of late, I am trying hard to partner him in it.

I suppose all health advices, increasing prices or taxes and making rules in these dietary matters aren’t going to help for long… So I wish that my folks who sincerely intend to get rid of aerated drinks and non-intrinsic forms of sugar, also “see” such a loathsome dream 😉 !!! Perhaps, there is no other way by which someone like me can be more motivated firstly, to quit all those unhealthy molecules feeding potential cancerous cells and secondly, to maintain sustainability at it 🙂 !

 

Memoirs of Indian Dhabas

Period: 1970s-1990s.

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Travelling in a car or jeep on Bhubaneshwar-Mayurbhanj-Kolkata NH during the rainy season, lunch or dinner at an original Dhaba was a wonderful treat then; especially, the home-bound journeys after completion of an enterprise.

Sitting on the blue /green /yellow wooden benches or charpoys under halogen or oil lamp lit thatched roofs, the whole family would chat and relish the mouth-watering, steaming-hot dishes on big steel thaalis or freshly cut, green banana leaves :

typical Dhaba meals, various Kebabs, Tandoori Roti, Daal Tadka, Paneer Tikka, Gobi Manchurian, Rajma Masala, Tandoori Murg, Egg Bhurji, Chingri Malaikari (Prawns-in-Coconut Milk gravy), Mutton Kasa, Murg Makhani, Lassi, etc.

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(Oh God, help me… I am so much drooling !!) 🙂

While watching the promising rains, the shrines of several Faiths beside meandering rivers, the green fields swaying in the drizzles, the farmers working in a row wearing their jute hats, the local vendors selling colourful wares, the movie posters glued onto poles, variegated art themes painted on the walls of the Dhabas, the twinkling mini-bulbs strung in pretty designs…

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And the decorative trucks that sometimes squeak-braked on slippery roads and had boldly labelled all over its robust frame, either wishful or funny or spiritual messages in different Indian languages- awaaz karo, burey nazar waale tera mnuh kaala, bye bye dost, abaar dekha hobe, jaldi baata chadda, ikkada nuvu, nenu miru chudaleru, surakhiata rahina, ram-allah ek hain, sai ram-sai shyam-sai bhagvaan, jai hanuman, hum tum bhai bhai, hum se duur raho, meri himmat teri kismat, badda bhai tej chalega naraz mat hona chhotu, etc. 🙂

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Amidst the cat and kittens mewing, and the puppy wagging its tail hard – all, for a bone ! 🙂

Grand-parents or uncles would sometimes lend their ears to an interesting tale or two of the then Chhotus (the young, resourceful and jolly Helps at the Dhabas) . Down the line, a re-narration of it to the children (us) meant so much of revelation of life’s unknown joys and sorrows…

Gradually, the meals would end with a flavoured Paan, that was always claimed to be the famous Banarasi brand :-). And then the remaining journey would begin against the background of quite a setting Sun, with the music of a Bollywood number as selected by the high-spirited Driver 🙂 of the unfailing white Ambassador or the bouncy red Gypsy (vehicle models).

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On some trips, neither the windscreen wipers stopped nor did the music until we halted at a roadside gumti (small stall), usually under a banyan or mango tree, for a “special Chaa /Chaaha” (Tea) or to buy farm-fresh vegetables.

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And if we happened to meet close friends travelling on the same route, it would transform to a great merry-making. At times, even seats in the vehicles also had to be exchanged since the heart-to-heart conversations never paused and the game of cards never wrapped up… 🙂

Once we reached the gates, the faithful Watchman would briskly unlock the doors and the House-Keeping staff at the bungalow would cordially greet us. Combined with a warm shower, all the tiredness of the journey seemed to fade away into the veil of the night and next morning, we would be freshened as the shiny drops of rain trickling down the velvety leaves.

Those were such utterly charmful days…

Shadows of Height (Reflections: Part-III)

In a qualifying round of a beauty pageant, on being asked about the adequate height of a woman, a contestant had famously responded thus – ‘The height of a woman should be sufficient to reach her father’s mind and her husband’s heart’ !

I am not certain if it was her original answer or a quote… but it was indeed, all beauty and brains. 🙂

Now here’s my reflection on height, in general, which I gathered over the weekend during which I was advised to take a small rest.

Heights can be a blessing or a curse !

Once we are into this world, then to consider height either as a blessing or a curse, first we must understand two aspects. “Physical” height that depends on our physical environment and situations, and “abstract” height that depends on our ambitions and social status.

First aspect is pretty obvious. To briefly explain the second aspect, here is one quick example- “abstract” height is a blessing when a rich person gets anything he/she desires and when a common man has nothing to lose; it is a curse when a tall figure in the society has to search a niche to hide when badly blamed for something and a common man trying to reach for the stars bears lot of obstacles, even undue ones.

My experiences (situational) with my average Indian female “physical” height has been interesting.

Blessings : always invited to the front rows in an audience or photoshoot; having played a mischief in childhood, managing to hide in the dark shelter under the ever-protecting cot :-); getting the maximum options to shield myself during a hide-and-seek game; drawing kindness or mercy of elders during hard physical assignments or punishments; saving on length of cloth and cot :-); easily treading paths and sort of crouching myself in places where others can’t even imagine; etc.

Curses : unable to pluck mangoes or steal Grandma’s pickles single-handedly, which implied prompt sharing :); sitting in the front-rows in a very disciplined school- totally devoid of participation in pranks and fun :-); usually being the first one to face a question from the Teacher; being the first one to be called for running small errands; getting awfully suffocated in any crowd; unable to well-exhibit flowing gowns, Anarkalis and Sambalpuris /Kanjeevarams /crisp Hand-loom apparels; difficulty in playing certain sports; requiring block-heel sandals for lending pose and poise typical of certain outfits and match-fixing (shaadi) purposes :-); etc.

My latest story follows.

Last mid-week, in a big solo cleaning-drive, I had over-stretched to dust corners of the walls, curtain-holders, unused dabbas (containers) in top shelves, to oil far-fixed hinges, to rearrange books, and once had to manually wash-off pigeon droppings from the huge drying bed-sheet. Yes, manually because I did not want my washing-machine to be deprived of its pavitrataa (sanctity) ! 🙂

Nateeja (consequence) : my ribs had to bear wear and tear (not fracture) of some binding tissues… I woke up with excruciating pain one morning, unable to turn sideways or simply lift my hands !! The episode lasted 2-3 days with mild fever now and then, as my body struggled to apply a patch on the tissues by virtue of its natural defence.

I got relief with the Doctor’s anti-biotics and a few pain-killers; and now continuing with extra dosages of vitamins to speed up the recovery. And for the unfeatured but gracious part in this episode, my generous husband played the motherly role of also managing the kitchen amidst his busy schedule ! …… Ohh ! And whhaaat – appreciation for my solo cleaning-drive ? Could I have asked him more ? 🙂

But the first realization of the pain due to my unweighed attempts in rendering a shine-bright look to the household, was indeed dreadful – it pierced right through my heart, giving me jitters of a typical early morning heart-attack !!!!

Hmmmn… here too, same lesson of life learnt: there are odds in life but unless we practice things regularly, stars- whether big or small, cannot be well-achieved. I say ‘well’ because after we achieve it, we or/and our kith and kin should also be in a position to preserve it good. And fruits of at least some labour are definitely to be dreamt and cherished by us too- the sole or solo performers like me in this case :-), unlike inherent preachings of the great Karma Yoga !!

toh phir kad ho ya kaddu, kuch cheezein “haule-haule” hii sahi hote hain (so whether its height or achievement, certain things prove right or form well only gradually)…

Aamjunta – what do you say?

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