Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Of bimbettes and other allergies

I sometimes wonder how I get by life, considering I have a low tolerance for most things. May be I am just lucky to be surrounded by people who get me. Topping my list of unbearables are bimbettes. Now, I have done considerable research on this species and have come to realise that contrary to what I used to think, there is no correlation between bimbettehood and IQ. Quite a few of them get into ivy league schools, make policy decisions, write poetry, know gadgets, blogs, the stock market and a few things tangible. But in essence, bimbettehood is about the consistent ability to act helpless in a given situation (usually more of the same) mostly in the presence of a member of the opposite sex (who by the way have a huge tolerance bordering on awe of this species).

Here are a few classics:

“Could you text me the directions to Prithvi Theatre? I am coming from town, and don’t want to get lost..”

I feel like telling them that if they are not enterprising enough to find out where Prithvi is, may be they don’t want to go there bad enough. And in any case, you Facebooking twit, Google has maps and we are on it!

But I don’t, since bimbettes somehow stay away from me. May be they know.

They also know that the recipient of aforementioned sms, usually a non-suspecting bloke, will actually take the time to reply to such messages, after consultation with direction divas like me. He does.. and it goes on further..

“Will it be possible for you to draw a map, scan it and mail to me so I can read it on my iphone?”

I feel like telling them, how come you never have trouble finding the Charles and Keith, Aldo or Mango store to shop for your weekend outings? Or haven’t they heard of Meru cabs? But then, I never get the chance.

The sms link continues..

“Would you know of someone who is coming from town, so I can get a lift?”

Yes, honey, if I had my way, I would lift you straight off this planet, is what I would have said. But they never ask me!

The bloke tears his hair out trying to find a pickup in the meanwhile.

“Will that person also be able to drop me back?”

Ummmmmmm

“Where exactly is Juhu? Is it near Andheri?”

That pretty much does it for me, and causes me to go into a rash, but then my inner circle makes sure such specimens never appear in my radius, so I am sorted.

Before the feminists leap at me, I am pleased to report that the male version of bimbettes, the himbette, if I may, has also been discovered, and reportedly has the same malfunctions, though a tad more aggravating. If I had a chance I would transport them all to an island and abandon them, so they can keep each other busy.

But I don’t, so I guess I will have to up the ante.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Cabbage claim

I wonder if the humble cabbage knows what people think of him. Does he, for instance know that perceivably, he leads the most humdrum existence in their minds? He is the one mostly relegated to the role of ‘roughage” when someone is having a not so easy time on the pot. Worse, he represents all things prison-like and sickly, like cabbage soup in Dickensonian novels.

The cabbage is perhaps one vegetable that sits in the vegetable tray in every refrigerator, waiting his turn to be cooked, or at least blended with other vegetables in a sabzi, dal, salad, or act as carrier for coleslaw on his lucky day.

Unlike its distant cousin, the cauliflower which has ascended into a vegetable of great merit, a modicum of glamour and individuality, the cabbage remains characterless and insipid. It has no sex appeal whatsoever, and to top it all, it is always cheap and affordable. (I am not referring to the purple and red ones here that cost an arm)

In most households, a cabbage is a binder, either thrown it in with a few other veggies like potatoes, peas, capsicum, or cauliflower when there isn’t enough volume, or added an after thought in a salad. I find it intriguing that the cabbage has very few secrets despite having so many layers.

My dad had his way of balancing the tartiness of a sambar with the genteelness of cabbage. Except that he did it differently from anyone else I know. “It should be crunchy and green, so you have to cook it just right..” he would say. He did nothing to it except a tempering of mustard and udid dal, a few green chillies, slit vertically and gently crushed.” The garnish with coconut kind of nailed it, but is entirely optional.

By sheer accident, I too found ways in which the cabbage redeemed itself.. and even if you are not an aficionado, they are worth a try


Cabbage and carrot salad

Finely chopped cabbage: one cup

Grated carrots: half cup

Juice of one lemon

Green chillies, julienned

Salt, sugar



Method:

Finely chop the cabbage (julienne looks better) and grate the carrots.

Mix well in a bowl, add salt and a few grains of sugar, squeeze the juice of one lemon and set aside.



For the tempering:

Splutter mustard seeds in a kadhai, add a pinch of hing and the slit green chillies and pour the tempering over the salad mix. Mix well. Serve chilled, after half an hour, when the juices mix well.



Cabbage tikkis

Tur dal: one cup

Chana dal: one cup

Udid dal: half cup

Half a head of a small cabbage, chopped

Green chillies

Ginger: a small piece

Onion: one medium, chopped

Curry leaves

Salt to taste



Method:



Soak the dals for a few hours and grind to a coarse paste with chillies, curry leaves, ginger, adding just enough water.

Add the chopped cabbage and onions to this dal mixture, and then add salt, mix well.

Shape into small balls and deep fry.

Stupid Cupid

One thing living with a cat does is that it raises the bar for suitable men in your life by several notches. I am shocked how I wound up falling in love and getting married despite my feline love interests of rather exacting standards.

I figured, if it can happen to me, how dare it not happen to my best friend? (this is one of the side effects of being married—you can’t bear a singleton’s open-ended life). Although, in retrospect I wonder why I ever attempted to disturb her equilibrium.

Anyway, I am guilty of playing cupid on two accounts.

The first time, it was a Goa-based restaurateur, best friend of bad boy I had a thing for. He seemed okay—smart, articulate, well-mannered, and all those things men are when they are playing the field. Anyway, I thought it was a perfect setting for double dates, in case bad boy and I worked out. Thankfully, we didn’t.

But bad boy’s best friend took a shine to my best friend. And I played catalyst, and egged her to go out with him. She did, and never forgave me.

She didn’t like the fact that he whistled for no apparent reason, and smoked without asking if she minded.

She hated his fake American accent.

She didn’t like the fact that he drove a car smaller than hers.

The last straw was: she didn’t like him getting a doggy bag packed from the restaurant on their date. Now this objection I could not sustain, since I always get doggy bags packed, as I hate wasting food. But her point was—you can’t do that on a first date.

Okay, point taken. I make a retreat.

Time passes. I meet old work buddy. I scheme again. Okay, this time I thought I got it right. He was into Akbarnama. She was into Akbarnama. He like Mir’s poetry. She liked Mir’s poetry. He kept a good house. She kept a good house.

Perfect, I thought.

It wasn’t.

He was smitten. She was not.

He was a “What’s up?” kind of a guy. She was not.

He was late. She was not.

He lived to eat. She ate to live.

End of story.

Needless to say, I got flak for it. “How could you?” she screamed.

Now I have a rather charming investment banker friend I would like to see her with, but I am resisting. Twice bitten, thrice petrified.

Till I found her a match she would give me her right kidney for. I put her in touch with someone who had found a kitten on the road and wanted it to be adopted. She responded immediately, “I want him..!!!” I was stumped.


Okay, finally I found her a suitable boy!

It’s been a year and now she doesn’t get enough of him, shoe shopping and salon time, so why add a man to that and complicate things?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Shaadi baar baar!

I recently got married for the second time. Okay that sounded scary—one marriage is work enough. What I meant was, I finally got my marriage registered. It’s now a deed done in full alertness—notarized, signed, and sealed by the powers that be. It's no longer something you did last summer when you were in a zombie state of mind (who isn't at 7 am?)
The reason I postponed the paperwork was because I didn't want the romance to evaporate on day one of being married (try spending an hour at the MHADA office in Bandra and you will know what I mean). After getting a tareekh and a token number, assembling assorted documentation and photos, getting them photocopied, attested and verified, our retinue (the husband, me and our three witnesses) boldly ventured into the mad, chaotic and highly populated world of marriage registration (I was told that approximately 70-80 marriages get registered everyday).

I was in for two startling revelations. The first one is that the Memorandum of Marriage (the form that legitimizes it all) doesn't deem it necessary for the bride to work. So while the “groom” and the three witnesses had a column of “occupation” to fill in the form, I (the bride) didn't. Which technically meant that I could live off the husband all my life. The thought actually made me feel happy and liberated from the onus of working, and I am wondering what is a good time to break the news to my “provider.”

Revelation number two was that the only real document that proves you exist and are of a suitable age is your passport. Not your PAN card. Not your Election card. Not your ration card. Not your Master’s degree certificate.

I unfortunately hadn’t attached mine as I thought I was empowered by the rest anyway. The slowest-lady-on-the-planet rummaged through my forms for a good 22 minutes and looked unimpressed. She declared that I had no age proof. I pointed to her my date of birth which was printed on my PAN card and Election Card and also vaguely indicated on my ration card. I was certainly old enough to be married by any standards. She was still expressionless. “Passport nahi hai kya?”

I didn’t think one needed a passport to get married, so I was a bit taken aback.

Then I did the unthinkable. I flashed my press card and told her that I was a reputed journalist from an esteemed paper and don’t do hanky-panky. This, despite the fact that I wasn’t really required to have a job, as per the form.

She was beginning to believe me when she saw the wedding card (another vital document) which had baby pictures of me and the husband. She continued staring at for three minutes. Now I was beginning to look shady. She passed it on to the slowest-man-on-the-planet who took one look at it and one look at us and said, “Child marriage?”

This was not going well. Of course we finally convinced them it was only us, adding how boring the other’s cards were, and how thoughtful we had been to think out of the box. Luckily the mob around them was soon entranced and the situation was diffused enough. The papers moved to the next counter.

We are now legally married.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Muddy waters

Somehow, a vegetarian writing about food is looked upon as a celibate talking about sex. Okay, I don’t think food when I see a lamb or a crab, and I do have a vegetarian kitchen for the most part (except one shelf in my freezer for he-who-must-be-satiated-with-cold-cuts). But this is not an attempt to celebrate vegetarianism or to condemn meat—just that I can only write about what I know.

And I do know my veggies—just the sight of them makes me happy. Bright orange carrots, shiny happy purple brinjals, tender green succulent beans and lady fingers, flaming red tomatoes, convoluted red, green and yellow peppers and luscious pumpkins with their guts spilled out, can do a lot to alleviate my mood.

I can’t help noticing the hierarchy in the vegetarian world. Like in the world of showbiz, there are stars and there is the supporting cast. Some vegetables —like brinjals, drumsticks, cauliflower, capsicum, lady fingers, baby onions will always be stars, since they have the personality and intensity to carry off a movie on their own.

The others get relegated to supporting cast—carrots, radish, tomatoes, cabbage, gherkins, sweet potato, colocassia (arbi) raw banana, yam, spring onions, bottle gourd (doodhi), fenugreek(methi), spinach (palak), white pumpkin, snake gourd (padval), peas, and the lesser varieties of beans that populate the periphery of most vegetable carts.

These, though with quirks of their own, lack individuality and sometimes, aesthetic and therefore need to cling to something else. Like palak with aaloo or paneer, methi with aloo, white pumpkin with beans, snake gourd with yam or raw banana, carrots with cabbage or beetroot, tomatoes with anything.

The potato is an exception, because it can either be the star or the supporting cast depending on the situation.

But sometimes, supporting actors can walk away with the accolades. Like arbi. My childhood memories of these muddy, messy tubers include amongst other things, feeling grossed out by the mucilage that coated your palms as each one slipped out of its skin when peeled post boiling.

“Have to do the work before you enjoy the fruit,” was what my dad would say. It was he who actually made me fall in love with this tuber, with his numerous creations, most of which involved tamarind. He often threw it into a sambar, and we greedy ones would eagerly fish them out one by one. He also made a fine dry arbi with a tamarind reduction (only we didn’t know it was called reduction those days).

When I had my own kitchen, arbi would make an appearance ever so often, at least once every two weeks. Here are three of my favourite arbi recipes—one inherited from my father, and two from my mother-in-law.


Arbis in tamarind gravy

Juice from a lemon sized ball of tamarind, soaked in water

Arbis: ¼ kilo

Sambar masala: 2 tsps

Salt to taste



Method:

Boil and peel the arbis. Cut the bigger ones into twos or threes and transfer to a large bowl.

To these arbis, add salt, turmeric powder, two teaspoons sambar powder, and the first and second pressed juice of the tamarind. Mix well and set aside.

Heat oil in a kadhai and add a teaspoon of mustard seeds. When they splutter, add hing and curry leaves followed by the arbi mixture.

Cook on a slow flame for 10-15 minutes, tossing occasionally till the tamarind juice is completely reduced and the arbis are dry.

Serve hot with chapattis or rice.



Arbi cutlets

¼ kilo arbis

Chat masala



Method:

Boil the arbis for at least three whistles in a pressure cooker. Cool and peel.

Flatten each peeled arbi on your palm, shaping the edges as you do so.

Heat oil in a shallow pan and shallow fry the arbis, turning them over as they turn golden brown.

Sprinkle chat masala on the arbi cutlets and serve hot.



Ajwain-wale-arbi

Arbis: ¼ kilo

Ajwain: 1tsp

Salt, chilli powder, amchur to taste



Method:

Parboil the arbis and peel them. Cut into round slices and set aside.

Heat one tbsp oil in a pan and add the ajwain. When it splutters, add chilli powder and the arbi slices and stir.

Add amchur powder and salt to taste and cook on slow flame till the arbis are somewhat crisp.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Eureka, Eureka!

The husband complains that I often use my column to spank him and he usually waits for Tuesday with bated breath to find out what he has done this time. He is also convinced that through the column, I am trying to build a support group for myself by making me out to be the poor thing and him the incorrigible.

My argument is— what’s the point being married when you can’t even generate enough material for a gender column? Plus he can always write a counter column to mine, I tell him—nothing is stopping him.

I also assure him that he has enough supporters too, like men and women who write to me saying, “How sweet of him to actually think of a Play Station game that you both can play,” and “How cool that he wants to watch football with you and not with a bunch of rowdies in the bar,” and ‘I wish more men celebrate their women like your beau does..” etc etc. So no worries on that count—enough brownie points have been accrued.

He says no more and grins his famous grin. But a few weeks ago he appears on national television to discuss what men want and propounds that every woman treats her man as a life-long science experiment. I am intrigued.

Now, I am a science junkie. I loved proving the Archimedes’ principle, synthesizing Aspirin and Para-amino-benzoic acid in the lab, understanding the hues and complexities of Azo compounds or even studying the effects of Castor lipase on Curcumin. I love the fact that there is an objective, a supposition, a procedure and a deduction for every experiment—that’s how science works (at least that’s how it did when I was in it)

But can there be something more fatalistic and unrewarding than the experiment of fixing a man? Why would we want to do that? I would rather study why cats don’t fetch and dogs do.

Let’s just assume for a minute that my experiment is to find ways to make the husband game less, eat on time and sleep more.

If this were an actual science experiment, I will go about it by proving that the intensity of gaming is inversely proportional to REM sleep which is scientifically proven as good sleep. Or I will demonstrate how the body’s metabolic activity reduces by 10% for every hour after 9 pm— hence, later the food consumption, more the load on the digestive tract, less the coefficient of metabolism, more the cumulative disorders of various kinds.

But this is not a science experiment. It is a husband. So I have to find non-scientific ways of making a point— like suggesting to him other ways of recreation or unwinding. Unfortunately, cooking, reading, yoga, swimming or gymming seem to be more of a production and require a time, space, posture, discipline and above all, props much more intense than his favourite antidote which only requires a gaming throne, an ash tray, a can of beer and a controller. It’s minimum pain, maximum gain, and there’s no way science can counter that argument.

Science loses. I sleep on. Life goes on.