Friday, November 30, 2007

Shhh..... go back to sleep


Soft, cuddly body. Rhythmic rise and fall.
You look so cute, little thing.
Not a care in the world, save the next snack.

Don't you get up, lest you see what's happening.
It's a big, bad world out there.
Big monsters waiting to catch you
To pick you up and take you away
To a place you won't like.

They will tell you sweet nothings
And fool you to do bad things.
While you cry, they will laugh
To see you struggle to run away.
It is sad, but what can you do?

Shhh..... go back to sleep.
Sorry, I will not disturb you,
You, full of innocence and loyalty.
Hate means nothing to you.
Your heart is too small for jealousy,
Big enough for love.

But life is full of sunshine.
Chasing and jumping and smiling.
Everybody's a friend - even he who stamped you by mistake.
Even though he didn't feel sorry.

My love, you teach me so much
I held you, but it's you who touched my heart;
Thank you, pup.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Cornflour and baking soda - the miracles of food preparation

Ever eaten out and went home feeling like a pregnant woman? Then you know what I'm talking about. The secret, I am told, is one of the great discoveries mentioned above - cornflour and baking soda. Every self proclaimed Chinese (or Chines or Chinees as some stalls put it) cook is in love with these. Even if he happens to be a Tibetan, Nepali or in many an outrageous place, a South Indian.

Of course they have a good reason for adding such paunch enhancing powders to their dishes. It's all a calculated, systematic method of fooling our hunger receptors into believing we're enjoying a king's feast. King's feast, my foot! But, you may be wondering, why am I so agitated with them going on with the usual business tactics? Because I once did get the ‘royal treatment’. At the end, I was left feeling as big and lethargic as King George IV.

I had gone with my family to this decent place. Can't remember the occasion; maybe one of our birthdays. We begin with our usual - the soup. As is unique with that place, the waiter arrives within minutes with soup as hot as liquid cast iron. One careless sip and I lose a few million cells in my mouth to third degree burns. A quick glance at the others and I see four sets of repentant, watery eyes. We all subconsciously do the obvious - wait for a good ten minutes chatting about non-descript stuff, discreetly checking if feeling has returned to the tongue. It doesn't. For a good two days.

But then we couldn't wait forever. So we go ahead and cautiously taste the soup to find it as lukewarm as something that sounds like the letter P (formality folks; just like leading whiskey brands advertise their sparkling sodas. Fools. Like we don’t know what they are trying to hint at. Ha. Haha). And as thick as something else you don't want me to mention. Now that's what I call a miracle. Jesus turned water into wine. But these guys increased the viscosity of the soup so drastically, it ought to figure somewhere alongside that. The amazing things these cooks do with cornflour, I tell you. And oh, I nearly forgot. I once attempted (keeping in mind that some countries consider attempt-to-murder as horrendous as murder itself) to prepare soup at home. Towards the end of the recipe, it said 'add a quarter teaspoon of cornflour to thicken the soup'. I remember thinking 'what the heck, just a little harmless cornflour'.

Lesson 1: Do not under-estimate anybody or anything.

Lesson 2: Do not expect gravity to remain absent at any moment; especially when a sauce pan with (cornflour enabled thick) soup is dropped from four feet above your toes. Brings out the Linkin Park vocalist in you (I’ve become so numb...).

What else could we do with the soup but eat it like pudding with shredded chicken embedded at regular intervals. We then order the main course - naan and roti with bhaaji named after some random towns and princely states of India (I swear it tastes nothing like that in the aforementioned places). A quick prayer and the meal begins. The naans are not dangerously hot but they seem to be made out of high quality polyurethane. 'Tough li'l b*****ds', as Hollywood heroes would deliver with panache and flair. The culprit - cornflour again. No points for guessing. Somehow managing to tear them apart, we chew them for an eternity and move onto the next part - rice. Did I forget to mention? So sorry; you see, my family eats like there's no (food) tomorrow. Aah, the rice. It looked appealing and had a particular sense of calm about it. Maybe it's because they preferred to serve it in the original colour, a rare sight today. The rightful amounts are rationed and for once, it looks like we are having a decent dinner.

After licking the remnants off the plates, we go through the regular drill of rejecting the waiter's offer for cold drinks, ice cream, kulfi, desserts, juice and whatnot. We pay the bill and decide to walk home. And that's when it hits us - the thirst of a thousand dehydrated desert rats. It had to be the rice, dammit. Undercooked and sprinkled generously with baking soda is my guess. No refutation; everyone knows the truth.

By the time we reach home, the water matka is the only thing on our minds. All of a sudden, its tap seems too small, allowing only a trickle of water. Precious, life saving water. In go the glasses and out goes the hygiene. Anything to survive the Atacama curse. After making a gratifying mental picture of the water soaking up each grain in the stomach, I lie back on the sofa and heave a sigh of relief. Twenty difficult minutes later, the bedding is spread and off we go to sleep.

As far as I can remember, I've always slept soundly on a heavy stomach. No nightmares about monsters below my bed or free-fall simulations that end in an abrupt shudder. But no, not that day. Something was fundamentally wrong. Terribly wrong. An hour and a half later, I got up feeling awful; as if I'd licked a freshly rolled asphalt road or something like that. And my stomach, it had bloated up till the skin was stretched shining.

(Psst. Remember the time in 2004 when Reliance Industries started tapping gas reserves at every second location? Each contained about a dozen trillion (nine zeroes, mind you) cubic feet of the stuff, not to mention the oil in some cases. I used to wonder 'how is it possible, so much gas'. That blessed day, all doubts were cast into the deep sea. I'm telling you, it is very much possible.)

Just one glassful of effervescent Eno, and I was completely deflated; so was my ego. And like some of those reserves, it was only gas; nothing else.

There are some things in life you learn the hard way. No shortcuts. As I've always maintained, my stomach can brave most storms. Something that upsets it means it's really bad. If you don't agree, get in touch with me. I'll give you the address to that place.