Sunday, September 28, 2008

A hot and happened weekend

Yesterday as is the practice for the last twoindy years ( err one year actually, please excuse the Akkarakazhchakal overdose), we have been going to Jyoti Nivas College (JNC) to cheer for our college in the inter college Mad Ad competition. After screaming our self hoarse for our college and their spectacularly pathetic performance (so what duh!), we stumbled out hungry, hyper, hoarse and hot (not necessarily in that order) onto the road. Hungry because of the lusty screaming from 10 am onwards. Hoarse because of the hysterical screaming to drown out the rabid screaming of the Christ College and Joseph junta. Hyper because of the screaming competition over which nobody could hear anything and that included the judges. And hot because jumping up and down and screaming makes you really hot (hot as in thermal hot peoples…sigh)!!

As the junta poured out onto the road after the competition, we looked around for a place where we could sit down, compose our selves and stuff our faces. Most of the places were crowded. Cursing the JNC’ites because we were jealous that they had so many eateries around their college and because they gave a better performance than our wimps err I mean college, we trouped into a typical Bangalore Darshini. Now Darshinis have sentimental attachments for us Bangaloreans. Most collegians in Bangalore have derived 90% of their sustenance from Darshinis. It is not like our mothers did not cook in the house. But as soon as you got into college, as though by a genetic signal you start eating at least two meals a day in these Darshinis.

A typical Darshinis will have the word “Sagar” as an appendage after its name, for instance Jayanthi Sagar, Shanthi Sagar etc. These small self service restaurants will have only tables and no chairs. Some tables will be rectangular where more than six people can place their plates. Some will be circular where not more then two or three people could stand and eat. People grabbed their plates and placed it on any vacant space and ate. The tables will be occupied with strangers, eating comfortably oblivious to each other.

During college days we went en masse to these Darshinis for our breakfast, lunch, snacks etc. If we got separated into different tables then we performed an instinctive unconscious ritual called “edging”. Edging consisted of edging in as soon as a space next to your friend at her table got vacant till all group members were at one table! At this juncture the cashier can be seen beating his head against the cash counter and tearing his hair out in despair. This was not due to dandruff or head lice as you horrible people think. But due to the frustrating realization that he will have to kiss that table and the business it generates goodbye till every single girl in the group had finished eating, which could take a painful half an hour to 45 minutes or more. The maximum time a Darshini table in the self service zone is occupied is 10 minutes, No more! Oblivious to the howls and scowls and grumbles of the cashier cum manager, we would hang in there till the last girl had finished eating. A Darshini is a eating in a fast lane kinda zone. We did not care what zone it was! We had our own rules and regulations and due to the custom of a Darshini where minimal exchange of communication takes place between staff and patrons, no one ever asked us to get lost!!

Yesterday we fortunately got a table all to ourselves. Soon we all had our orders and were eating and yakking and giggling all at the same time. Well…there was more yakking than eating going on and the Cashier, an old man looked languidly on as it was almost 3 pm and close of the lunch rush hour. Now when our group eats, it looks like a sampling extravaganza. Everyone eats from everyone else’s plate. Somebody ate your vadai? Then you go and pick up another one. Zimble. While we were busy yakking and eating, we did not notice the place filling up and a young nondescript guy came and put his plate at our table and proceeded to eat his Naan and Peas curry timidly. Oblivious to his appearance we continued yakking and eating what we fancied from each others plate. Suddenly I realized that I had an onion ring in my hand and all of us had ordered south Indian food which doesn’t have onion rings as an accompaniment. With a sinking feeling I looked at the guy’s plate and realized to my horror and embarrassment that he had onion rings in his plate!!! I almost passed out with embarrassment! The poor guy continued eating timidly, oblivious to what had happened or perhaps a bit hurt by the insensitive girl at his table. I was mortified. I did not dare tell anyone or I would be butt of jokes for the next 150 years :( I did tell them after we were out of the place and my ears had stopped burning. And then I had to endure the ignominy of watching them rolling on the road laughing. Sigh!

About the competition folks…the biased, cruel, dishonest, improper, inequitable, iniquitous, oppressive, partial, prejudiced, and wrongful judges give the award to the Josephites grr. Agreed…our performance sucked, correction it sucked big time but that is no excuse for NOT giving us the award!!! We were by far the prettiest team!! So there!!

Have a nice week folks. I will be in a grouchy mood this week. Be nice to me please…like not mentioning the word “onion rings” while commenting ok?

Monday, September 22, 2008

What’s in a name, namme, nname or nnamme?

“Where is Rajesh?” asked the Boss.
“Which Rajesh?" I countered. "The one with two R's in his name or two A's or with two S's?”
“The guy with the two J's” replied the Boss.
“Ah! He is on leave today.”

Boss had reasons to be peeved. Rajjesh was our single point of contact with the Sales Tax people and we needed some tax queries addressed for the CEO before the end of the day. He was in a spot now. So we, i.e. the Boss and I decided to ask around the office for people who could help us.

First we went to the Finance department. Besanth was the right guy we were told, but he was in a meeting with the Auditor. His colleague Girish was on a conference call while Asha, another colleague was on half day leave. Since this was a Sales Tax matter we were told that Bbesanth from Pre Sales would be the next best person to talk to. But Bbesanth from Pre Sales was not in his seat and his colleague Raman was busy. Raman however informed us that Assha from Sales may able to help us. Assha was helpful but she needed to clarify certain matters with Rraman her boss before she gave us any info she said. Rraman was traveling but his assistant manager Sanjay was very helpful. Sanjay directed us to Manjunath who introduced us to Girrish who was able to shed some more light on the matter.

Soon we had 75% of the information we needed and took the papers to our Legal Counsel Sanjayy for final whetting before submission. Sanjayy took a look at the papers and directed us get the papers stamped by his assistant. We went over to his assistant Maxine’s desk who stamped the papers and asked us to submit the stamped papers to Latha the corporate counsel. Latha gave us the final approval after she had her assistant Manjjunaath to read it over once. On our way back to our floor, we met Maxxine who was of no help to us so we ignored her.

Despite our best efforts we could not get the remaining 25% of the information we needed and by evening we had to face an uncomfortable truth that we had covered every single English alphabet twice over but for the alphabet “Z”. Err... what I meant to say was that by evening we had to face the uncomfortable truth that we did not have all the information the CEO wanted.

But then our ever dependable consultant Zarine came to our rescue and with the help of Zarine, we were finally able to cover all the English alphabets twice over. I mean...with the help of Zarine we were able to address all our sales tax queries. We handed over the completed info that the CCEO (formerly CEO) had asked for, to his secretary Zarrine.

And since we met with success in our venture, we i.e. the Boss and I have decided to not change our names to “Bboss” and “Annjjalli” as suggested by Lattha’s numerologist.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Only Yan can cook Chinese

I picked up a packet of Knorr Szechuan Mix and Knorr Chinese Manchurian Mix from Monday2Sunday the other day. The packet looked promising, the brand name reassuring. Having burnt my hand trying to make Chinese which never comes out the way the restaurants prepare it, I was wary. But I decided to give this a try as the photo on the packet promised me of instant Chinese Cuisine Superstardom. I could almost see the beaming faces of my Dad, mom, brothers and dogs sitting on the dining table, eating away in complete silence broken only by ecstatic gasps and admiring nods towards me. Then they all fall at my feet and pay homage to thunderous music in the background, followed by Chef Yan of 'Yan can Cook' fame sliding down a helicopter and presenting me with a Golden Wok for the spectacular feat of being the only non Chinese in the world, who made authentic Chinese food, while TV reporters throng my door.

A smug smile played on my lips as I picked out the vegetables that the packet mentioned should be used along with the powder in the packet. I came home and walked into the kitchen with a mysterious smile. I was going to surprise everyone!!! And what a surprise it was!! They were left gasping...literally.

I prepared the Szechuan sauce and the Chinese Manchurian sauce exactly as instructed on the packet. Then I fried the Paneer and the vegetable balls also as instructed on the packet. It is a very easy process and you cannot go wrong, right? Wrong!! Everything will go wrong with this dish. Read on and you will find out how. Then I put the fried Paneer and vegetable balls and mixed it into their respective sauces and viola...really terrible Chinese food was ready to eat!!

All I could taste was saltiness and sourness in the thick sauce. Absolutely no flavor!!

Chinese Manchurian tasted like Salt +Bitter sauce
Szechuan tasted like Salt+ Sweet Sauce

Try as I could, I could not get any other flavor from the bland sauce!!! Just plain thick sauce with salt flavor. (Please note I mean salt as a flavor and not “salty”) I thought perhaps, keeping the mixture aside will allow the flavor of the paneer and vegetable balls to permeate into the sauce. But half an hour later the sauce and the paneer and vegetable balls were still strangers and refusing to mix with each other. I felt like a hostess who invites the entire village for dinner only to realize that the cook she hired was not a cook but the village butcher!!

I had already ordered Fried Rice and Noodles from a nearby restaurant to “accompany” my gastronomic feat! But it ended up the main course and the “only” course that day! People who tasted the Knorr Wonder were unanimous that I needed a good ass whopping.

But let us look at the bright side friends…yes there is one. Yan did come down that helicopter and thwacked me hard for attempting to cook Chinese with something that is named “Knorr”!! And then the TV reporters laughed at my face and my family threw me out to introspect on the carnage I delivered to the lunch table. I am back home dear friends, but the very mention of "KNORR" has my entire family including dogs go GRR!!!

So all you bachelors and bachelorettes out there, please don’t waste your money buying this abomination. If you have too much, kindly send them over to me. Right now my tongue needs intensive care having lost all its taste eating the insipid goo!! Yeah, my parents made me eat it. “No wasting food” rules are still very much in place in the house. *sigh*

One Knorr Chinese - Rs 25/-
Vegetables and other ingredients - Rs 50/-
Look on peoples face when they ate the end product - Priceless!

There are some things money Knorr a Mastercard can buy! And that's learning from past experiences that only the Chinese can cook Chinese! :(

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

What's in a name? Everything!

I went to pick up some provisions today for our office Onam function and a product on the store shelf, bought some memories flooding back. A particularly revolting and gross memory that I had successfully regressed myself from over a period of time.

Last year we i.e. my department were invited for a party at a senior management types, house. The occasion was a spectacular performance by our team.

The evening was fun with cocktails, good food and camaraderie and a general feeling of well being. Yours truly was on antibiotics and had to regretfully say no to some fine wine being served by the host and his gracious wife.

The plush Duplex apartment reverberated with the sound of laughter and clinks of fine crystal glasses. As the evening progressed, people formed interest groups and chatted away while an unobtrusive waiter refilled their glasses with some of the finest liquor from around the world.

I was standing in a group comprising of the Boss, the host and a lady colleague from another department. The conversation was engrossing with equal participation from everyone. Midway through the conversation, the host looked at his wrist watch and his half empty glass and languidly reached over to the side cabinet and picked up a packet of Sat Isabgol ( natural laxative). And then, in front of my disbelieving eyes, he poured some of its contents into his glass. He then picked up a spoon, mixed the drink briefly and emptied the glass in one big gulp. The conversation continued unabated around him. Then he poured some water into his glass and downed the remaining stuff that was stuck to his glass.

I looked at Boss but he was pretty intent at driving home a point with the lady. The lady was busy trying to get a word in edgewise, which is next to impossible with my Boss. I managed to keep a straight face for the rest of the evening. When I could not bear it, I laughed uproariously at Boss PJ’s. Finally when I got a chance, I told him of the incident. And then I watched with great satisfaction as he desperately fought to keep a straight face for the rest of the evening.

And if you are wondering why the Boss was having such a tough time keeping a face straight...well...sometime back (as is the practice with Boss with people who piss him off), he had nicknamed the host, 'tightass'!


Thursday, September 04, 2008

Ze vintage art de ordering food...blah!

Ze small print: Bhery bhery long post. Read if you are very busy and want a really really bad performance appraisal and or pink slip. For better results, please read during your performance appraisal.

I hate to order food! Period. I admire people who can order a good meal. Period. My second bro M is one such people, though I rather be dead than be seen eating with him in a restaurant. Period. In case you are wondering why, it is not such a nice sight to see two grown up siblings throwing food and cutlery at each other in a restaurant no? Not a very polite thing to do to people who have come to the restaurant for a quite meal and quality time together duh!

That reminds me of the time we actually sat at a restaurant alone for 5 minutes. The occasion was bro’s usual Friday lunch out with pals and pals grumbling that they had not see me for a trillion years which in guy language means two and half days. So I went to this restaurant to join them for Friday lunch and found my brother who had come early from some meeting. The both of sat and looked at the menu and by the time the waiter came to take our order, I was lunging at my brother with a knife and he was defending himself with a plate, napkin and flower pot. To cut a very very very long story short, the arrival of his friends and quick assurance to the management that they will ensure that no blood will be spilt during the course of lunch were we allowed to eat, but with wary bouncers keeping a keen eye on the warring siblings. They need not have bothered cos very soon M ordered food and there was absolute silence at the table but for the delicate chink of cutlery and the brief but muffled exclamations of gastronomic ecstasy, from the rest of the folks.

Anyways we have digressed friends. Let me get to the main course. Among my colleagues, Foxy is a good orderer (if there is such a term, if there is not, I am copyrighting it hmmph!). For a guy whose head is stuck in some other realm, he sure knows how to order food! He is a vegetarian, but his "orders" are simply non vegetarian…I mean delicious! He has this uncanny knack of ferreting out (literally) non existing items on the menu, for our dining pleasure. The trick is in asking the waiter I guess. I have asked too...

Me: And what else do you have besides the items listed in the menu?
Waiter: Nothing else besides the items listed in the menu duh!

Now see Foxy in action

Foxy: This Paneer dish...can we have this dry and a little less spicy?
Waiter: Sure sir, I can give you Paneer Akbari, Paneer Lal Mirch, Shredded Paneer with Coriander, Paneer Chutneywallah...
Foxy: Great! Hmm I don't see much variety in Dal…
Waiter: We also have Khata Meeta Dal, Dal Kohlapuri, Kathiawadi Dal, Navratan dal

I swear none of it was listed in the menu!!! Sigh. No wonder he gets invited out to every team meal in the company and from other companies in the campus too!! I guess I am just not into ordering food or I would also be like Foxy, eating out every week, one week with own company teams and the other week with competitor company teams. And pssst I don’t think the competitors are even bothered that Foxy is from a cut throat rival company.

Team lead: And now Foxy will order lunch for us. He is too good I tell you.
Team Member: And where do you work Foxy?
Foxy: XYZ Corporation!
Team Member: That makes us rabid rivals!! I should be strangling you heh heh!
Foxy: The feeling is mutual heh heh
Team Member (wagging his finger): Now remember young man, I am partial to Spinach.

Ordering food is an art I think and if ordering food is an art, then my bro is Vincent Van Gogh and I am a toddler with crayons. My policy is to flip to the rice section, then the chicken, then the veg and my order is complete! People like my brother and Foxy on the other hand, actually read the menu with a lot of chin scratching (too lazy to shave I guess) and hmmm's thrown in like they are reading a highly complex project specification. Which is perhaps what it is! Dining out is perhaps a very complex procedure which ordinary folks like me do not understand. I guess there are people who can order and those who cannot. I am happy not ordering. In fact I will be happy if someone serves me my food and feeds me too. I am a simple and uncomplicated person.

But people like my bro and many of you here are not the same. You "celebrate" food. Last Sunday, I keenly watched my brother in action as he went about ordering the family lunch. First it was a starter. My instinct was to protest. Starters spoil my appetite. But this time I kept quiet. I decided to watch and learn and not block my learning process with protests. M ordered two starters. And while the waiter went to arrange that, he carefully scanned the menu from top to bottom, page by page. I am sure he noticed the thickness of the paper the menu was printed in and the fonts too. Perhaps he noticed the color of the font and the design too which perhaps helps him in his awesome "ordering" capabilities. Then he called the head waiter for a chat. The chat went like this.

Bro: What do you recommend?
Waiter: Veg or Non Veg sir?
Bro: Both.
Waiter: In that case....

This became a long discussion on the days special, how it could be modified, and what accompaniments it complimented. After the discussion, while the rest of the family was busy with the starters (which I suspect is ordered to keep us bad orderers busy), he scanned the menu again and ordered what turned out to be a totally novel but perfect meal. None of it was what the Head Waiter recommended. Then why on earth did he have the conversation!! I have no idea. Perhaps, waiters and good "orderers" talk between the lines.

Bro: What can you give us in vegetarian?
Waiter: Bhindi Sunhari.
Bro: What bhindi do you use?
Waiter: Pure Bangalore bhindi Sir.
Bro: Which farm?
Waiter: Kempegowda’s farm.
Bro: He has two wives no?
Waiter: Yeah! This was from the land his second wife Yellamma tends to.
Bro: Ah! In that case tell me my man, what else you have in Vegetarian!

I am sure he follows the same procedure for non vegetarian too.

Waiter: And for the non vegetarian let me recommend, Lamb Tikka Lababdaar.
Bro: Lamb? How old?
Waiter: One year!
Bro: Good! And was it fed on cornmeal or natural grass?
Waiter: Natural Hosur grass Sir!!
Bro: And what lineage were his mother and father.
Waiter: Mother is a stock from Dharmapuri and father from Trichy.
Bro: One last question. What time was it born!
Waiter: IST or EST Sir?
Bro: IST my man!
Waiter: That would be precisely 19:40 hrs Sir!
Bro: In that case, we will have two plates my man!

And thus he ordered the perfect meal out of nowhere which I cannot, even if the Lamb was the Nawab of Lababdaar!

I so envy all you good “orderers”. Are you all members of the secret cult of “Great Meal Orderers”? In which case can I please snoop in on your meetings? I swear I will behave myself in the premises and not do unmemberly things like try and swat my brother. I also swear to listen to everything you discuss with great respect. I will even take notes!! Howzzat!!

Something tells me the answer is “No!!” Sigh.