Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Of Messes and Lanterns

Yesterday since mom had not cooked at home, had an opportunity to visit the nearby "mess" serving the standard north indian meal, . The very sight of the place would make any one nostalgic. Half a dozen tables placed in a small room, lot of "just out of college" guys and a lot of cribs about the mess food. These are the things that make a mess memorable. I mean I have never met a single guy who remembers and drools at the thought of the hostel or mess food. Its got be bad in order to produce nostalgia after a few years I guess.

Speaking of messes, Mysore, where I finished my engineering had a whole lot of them. It was very common to find the whole flock rushing towards some newly opened mess and raving about the excellent food and service available there. But it took a very short while for the novelty to wear off and the hunt for a different place to begin. But then there were some that really held our interest , until our gorge-capacities drove the owner to bankruptcy.

I remember the very first day I heard one of our seniors describing the directions to the SardarMess. "Us patli gali se neeche jao, ek naala aayega, use cross karna, gaadi lekar mat jaana, paidal jaana, fir vahaan par kafi bachche khel rahe honge, unmein ek sardar ladka bhi hoga, usse poochhna ki mess kahan hai, agar uska mood hoga to voh batayega varna kisi aur sardar ko dhoondhna". But what was surprising was that these were as precise directions as could be got. You walked down the narrow lane and bang there u could find lots of grimy kids playing some local version of cricket,(pitch catch out and so on), but what stood out amongst them was a boy who was the most vociferous with his shouts in Kannada. What made him stand out was that he was a sardar kid. In mysore finding a Sikh in those days was a rarity and finding one who knew his "maa", "behen" in kannada even more so!! As forewarned, this guy was least bothered about furthering his parents' business. And did not even bother to help us much beyond pointing a finger vaguely in the direction of a decrepit house. And questions as regards the timings and whom to contact were met with an impatient look.

Once we joined the mess however we realised that the seniors were as passionate about their business as the kids uninterested in it. I do remember an instance when the Sardar's son came back after writing his CBSE XII Maths paper. He being a good friend of ours all of us were interested in knowing about his performance but decided to leave the stage free for his parents for further enquiries. Sardar uncle stood up and commanded "Roti de de sabko....", and thats it!! And the son religiously went in and brought out the huge stack of rotis and started handing them out!! It was no different from any other day and we too continued our meal. Later we learnt that he had done pretty decently in the papers. But I definitely wondered whether the indifferent attitude towards the son's exams was intentional on the part of the father who himself was a very highly educated and respected person.

But the food served there was divine! Rotis,subjee, daal and onions. Bliss.. what more could hungry guys ask for before going to bed? And this too, after some exteremly hazardous driving to reach the mess, a path that could put any of the dirt tracks in competitions to shame. Whoever said "Parishram ka fal meetha hota hai", sure knew what he was saying!!.

What's a Reception??

Yesterday had to attend the "reception" of a friend. Or is it more correct to write the "Reception of a friend's wedding"? But what exactly is a reception? Is the concept borrowed from the west? Do they have anything called a reception? As far as I can see, this is the only function in Hindu marriages that is totally bereft of any religious ceremonies. Hope no priests are reading this, who'd sense an opportunity here. What appears obvious is that this is the time when the couple free from the rules imposed during the marriage procedure are much more relaxed and that sets the stage for "Kodak Moments". I guess it is the photo opportunities that are the driving factor for the "reception". The couple are free to dress as they choose and the photographer also is free to request any number of snaps and repeats (something that is frowned upon by the priests while the marriage was on). If u check out the wedding albums, it is the reception photographs that will be shown first. The actual wedding photographs would not have come out that well!!

As I write, I remember a wedding I had attended some months ago. The photographer was a close relative of the groom and was extremely passionate about his hobby. But so was the priest about his profession. The entire ceremony became a sort of cold war between the photographer and the priest. The priest felt that the chap was interfering with the sacred rites by requesting proper angles and repeats of a few shots, and the photographer was fuming because of not being given opportunities for good "shots". At a point the priest actually said "Idenu cricket match alla, replay madodikke"(this is not a cricket match to have replays). And the photographer was like, "let this get over and I will show him who is who". I am sure that the priest did not get much photo-space in the couple's albums:)

Anyway , one fact remains, I really enjoy the food served at "receptions", rather than the main ceremony itself, since that is more in keeping with the current trends rather than the ceremonial obligations.

Of limewater and lemons

Before going to bed yesterday, was thinking about my school days. Even though it has been 10 years(that long!!!), to that day my memories of most of my school life are surprisingly intact. I mean if u can recall the names of most of the girls in ur 6th Std class photograph(not just the babes mind you), then that is pretty good I'd say. Our class was full of the standard school characters, the bully, the class prankster(me??), the studious types, the squealers, the sportsmen and so on. But all of them together made my memories of the school what they were.

I remembered the yoga competition that I was forced to take part in. The smell of the dank carpets is still with me. I wonder what made the house master select me for participating in the competition. But the competition was rigged shamelessly, I even knew which asana I would be asked to perform. When my turn came I religiously started doing all the asanas in a sequence without even realising that these were supposed to be selected by the judges. But the most surprising thing was that neither the audience nor the chief guests smelt a rat ;) and I finished to ths sound of the tired claps of bored students just waiting to rush home.

We always used to have these competitions on Saturday afternoons. So when they ended there was joy for leaving the place and also for the Sunday. That was also the time when one could catch glimpses of the new students (babes).

But one memory of my school stands out. As a part of our Std XI syllabus we were required to conduct a science experiment and demonstrate it in front of the class with the explanation and the works. Guys came out with all kinds of stuff, me came out with the "Effect of pasteurisation on milk", another one came out with some major electroplating stuff. But there were two studs who decided upon demonstrating the effect of carbond dioxide on limewater. Remember this was the XI std and I distinctly remember the phrase "CarbonDioxide turns limewater milky" from my V Std. But what the heck, this was just a formality and the teacher knew that anything more ambitious was beyond the reaches of those two.

Anyway the couple since they had some good faith in my scholastic abilities approached me to witness their experiment and the explanation following the same. I was a bit apprehensive the moment the chap started blowing air thru the glass supposedly containing limewater. It was nowhere close to being milky. But the chap insisted that the water had indeed changed colour. Fine, I said, maybe I had colour blindness or something. He finished it with a decent explanation abt Carbon Dioxide and Calcium Hydroxide. As I was commending them, I noticed a couple of lemons on the table. When I asked abt them, they looked at me with a look that said, "what a guy we picked upon!!". They said, "Lime water kaise banayenge nimboo ke bina bata??".

It took me sometime to convince the couple that lime was what the neighbourhood paanwalla used to apply on their paans!!