Great Eggspectations!

Of all the curious things I’ve noticed about Mumbai, perhaps the strangest is the love this city has for eggs. Everywhere I go, I see a cart laden with egg cartons and a guy standing behind it, making omlettes and burji and toast. I come from the South, and people don’t really like eggs down there. Very rarely do I come across an egg cart in Bangalore. Over here, you throw a stone in the air, it is bound to land on an egg.

Mumbai Egg Guy

I walked up to one of these egg carts the other evening and ordered an omelet sandwich. As I munched on the little piece of heaven that seemed to melt in my mouth, I heard a voice behind me say, “You’re Nikhil, aren’t you?”

It was a woman’s voice and it sounded a bit angry, laden with attitude. My hand was frozen midway between the plate and my open mouth as I turned to face the voice. It was a strange sight that met me. A withered, old, toothless woman stood there grinning, with a heavy plastic bag in one hand and an empty bucket in the other. She was draped in a heavy shawl, too heavy for the weather here in the city, and a pair of the thickest glasses perched on her nose. Her bat-like eyes stared at me from behind those glass walls and her toothless grin grew wider as I turned. She looked vaguely familiar.

“How you are, child?” she asked me in broken English and I knew who she was. She lived across the hallway from my apartment, had three kids, four grand kids, and was married to a filthy rich younger guy, who was also the treasurer of our housing society. I had seen her around once in a while, when putting the garbage out or picking up my newspaper, and had smiled occasionally at her.

“Yes, I am,” I said giving her half a smile.

“Egg eating, are you?” she asked.

“Yes.”

“You eat egg at home, no?” she asked, suspiciously, furrowing her brows.

“Uhh, yes. I eat eggs at home,” I said, wondering what her issue was and why she was even talking to me.

“Ok, now. You eat egg at home and you do not throw egg shells in my kitchen!” she yelled. “Throw egg shell in garbage, child,” she added in a softer voice, with a smile and hobbled away down the road.

I stood there, stunned by her bipolar onslaught. I thought back to remember if I had ever thrown egg shells into her kitchen. Of course I hadn’t. I keep to myself as a rule when living alone in a strange city, and I had no good reason, yet, to throw egg shells into my neighbors’ houses.

So, that makes two curiosities in Mumbai that caught my attention so far – the love this city has for eggs and very eggcentric, crazy, old neighbors.

Great Eggspectations!

The 46-Rupee Meal

Ten years ago, when the world was a nicer place to live in, I was just getting out of high school, full of misdirected ambitions of making a difference in the world. Of the many things that were ideal back then, I liked the fact that I could have a hearty meal for less than ten rupees. That’s about 5 cents. Maybe not a ‘hearty’ meal, but certainly a couple of idlis and a vada for eight rupees. For the uninitiated, an idli is a white colored, steamed rice cake, about the size and shape of a BlackBerry Curve and a vada is a brown colored doughnut-shaped (and sized), deep-fried eatable that goes perfectly well with an idli. Ten years ago, a pair of idlis and a vada together used to cost eight rupees.

Today, ten years later, I realized that there has been a 475% increase in the cost of the same meal. A pair of idlis and a vada, today, costs 46 rupees.

Idli Vada
Two Idlis and a Vada - The 46-Rupee Meal

That’s still less than a dollar, but for someone who’s spent the better part of his life here in India, that’s daylight robbery. The strangest part of the entire experience today over lunch was not that I was fretting about the astronomical increase in the rate, but the equally enormous decrease in the quantity and taste.

The sizes of the idlis and vadas have reduced so much that its hard to spot them when you put them on a plate. You have to have a pair of really good binoculars to identify where they are and make sure that your spoon hits the mark. No, I’m exaggerating, of course, but you get the idea. And the taste, well, I have eaten pieces of cardboard (for free) that have been tastier.

I hate to call this inflation, because the term ‘inflation’ has a definition, a universally-accepted identity. I would call this phenomenon a gross negligence on the part of the Indian public, who have allowed this kind of injustice to penetrate every aspect of their lives. Our lives. Commonplace examples – a tennis ball that used to cost ten rupees now costs thirty. A piece of chewing gum that was half a rupee is now three rupees. A toothbrush that used to cost around four to five rupees is now thirty-five.

How I wish I were living in the stone ages, where all I had to worry about was the next critter I caught for dinner and the next female I slept with. If wishes were horses, I’d be a very rich, sexually-gratified stable boy.

The 46-Rupee Meal

Gokarna & Why I Go There

This one goes out to all those unfortunate, uninitiated and uninspired individuals. Get off your high horse and read this.

There may be a hundred reasons why a person goes to Gokarna. People looking to get laid, people looking to score and get high, people looking for a nice, secluded beach and people wanting to offer their prayers in India’s most sacred temple. I don’t know if there are any other reasons, and frankly, I don’t really care why people go there.

I go there for a totally different reason, and its none of the above.

I lead a difficult life. I need to balance my passion to work, my unceasing urge to travel and roam aimlessly across the country, my singularly fierce attraction to beaches and my bank account. Juggling these four volatile substances while playing air hockey with the family, the bosses, the peers, the juniors, the friends, the foes, the creditors, the goons, the loons, the whackadoodles, the geniuses, the crap, the stench and the slippery slopes of bankruptcy, unemployment and loneliness around every corner is taking its toll on my nerves.

There are very few things I’m passionate about, and those that I am passionate about, I am so with a vehemence unseen in anyone else, for anything else. I do not go to Gokarna to ‘do drugs’. I do not go to Gokarna to ‘sleep with women’. I do not go to Gokarna to ‘drink drinks’. I do not go to Gokarna to visit the temple and offer my prayers. I do not go to Gokarna for the sea food. I do no go to Gokarna for the rustic beauty of the village. I do not go to Gokarna to ogle at half-naked women lounging in the sun. I do not go to Gokarna because I love beaches and water. I do not go to Gokarna to swim in the ocean. I do not go to Gokarna to live. I do not go to Gokarna to die.

I go to Gokarna once every three months because I need to get away from the Greek tragedy that my life is fast unraveling to be; to clear my head of all thoughts – good and bad; to reboot myself. I go to Gokarna because its the only place on Earth that welcomes me without judging who I am or what I have done. I go to Gokarna because that is the only place on Earth where I am at peace. Completely.

I have a sea rock, which I call my own, ten feet out into the ocean, at Om Beach. Its a bit of a hike to get to the top of the rock, and once I get there, I sit, looking at the waves crashing into me on all sides, rising twenty feet high and spraying me with a mist of cold, salty water. I listen to the rush, the gurgle, the power and the wordless songs of the waves and as I stare out into the horizon, imagining a place beyond comprehension, where the sky kisses the ocean, I realize that I am peaceful, within and without.

Gokarna - kudle beachNothing of what is happening in life matters here. Time stands still for me, for the 48 hours I’m there. I put my feet up at a cafe, sipping sweet tea and reading a good book, or people watching on the burning, golden sands. I take a nice pleasant trek up to Kudle through thick brambles and open moors and I wade in the white sands until the sun starts to set. I walk back amidst the gathering darkness to Om Beach, walk all the way up to Half Moon and back again. As night descends around me, so does the peace, deeper inside me.

I need this. I can’t do without it. For the unfortunate, uninitiated and uninspired individuals, I recommend it. The only thing I get high on, when in Gokarna, is Gokarna itself.

Gokarna & Why I Go There

Hunger Strike!

hunger strikeWe Indians have a peculiarly unique way of demanding justice. We stop eating and call a press conference.

It all started with the great Mahatma Gandhi, who went on a hunger strike to oppose the tyranny of the British Raj, back in the 1930s and 1940s. This habit has not died after we got our independence. Every time the government does something that someone doesn’t approve of, a hunger strike is called along with a press conference.

Recently, Anna Hazare did it to oppose corruption in the government. He was hailed as the present Mahatma and the press jumped to draw parallels with him and the original Mahatma. They called it the new Freedom Struggle. And more recently, a guy who made his living doing yoga, Baba Ramdev, went on a hunger strike and no one knows the reason why. I’m sure he gave a laundry list of reasons for doing what he did, but no one really understood them.

It’s like an infectious disease here in India. If one person goes on a hunger strike, it spreads like a virus on heat and before you know it, your neighbor’s on a hunger strike against the local corporation office demanding better roads and clean water. It’s about time I joined in the fun.

I am going on a hunger strike from today onwards to oppose hunger strikes all over. I will eat obscene amounts of food and go on a strike against hunger until everyone stops their respective hunger strikes and eradicates the country of this ridiculous disease.

My diet, during this hunger strike consists of the following:

Breakfast: 12 eggs, 24 slices of bread, 2 pints of orange juice and a quart of coffee
Lunch: 5 helpings of rice, dal and a 12 rotis with vegetables
Dinner: 16 helpings of rice, dal, 20 few rotis, along with some sweets for dessert

I vow to not go hungry again until my objective is fulfilled. This hunger strike will prove to the whole country that I am quite serious. I will not end this hunger strike until all hunger strikes have ended in this country.

I am ready for my title now. I prefer something cool, and nothing with the word “Mahatma” in it. That’s become cliched.

Hunger Strike!

Cooking With Love

Someone said that the food I cook tastes nice because I cook with love. I started wondering about that comment ant this is what I imagined myself doing:

It was a hot, sultry afternoon and the sweat trickled down my skin in thin rivulets as I stood in front of the stove and watched as the oil in the pressure cooker heated. In slow gracious movements, I reached out and grabbed the packet of jeera. The plastic cover felt tingly in my sweaty palms, like a frail body waiting to be loved delicately. I added a bit of the seeds into the hot oil, just a bit, and watched as they turned brown and started sizzling, giving out the most heavenly aroma, wafting up slowly up to my nostrils and tickling my most sensitive senses.

I grabbed a pair of onions, one with each hand, and ran my fingers all over them, caressing and squeezing the soft mounds, and kissed them softly at first, and the nibbled hard at the ends, biting them off. I slowly peeled away the thin outer covering of skin and ran them both under a stream of warm water. The steam rising off the onions and my hands as I washed them was a feeling so sensual that it brought tears to my eyes. I picked up a clean, sharp knife and sliced the first onion cleanly in half. It was like cutting butter with a hot knife, as I made the gentle motions of dicing the onions, with some of its juice oozing out with each cut, in and out, in and out, in… and out…

I added the sliced onions to the oil in the cooker, and immediately, they started sizzling, moaning in pleasure as their cold bodies touched the hot oil, jumping in ecstasy and turning brown with pleasure. I gently poked at them with a ladle and began stirring them, softly, thoroughly, ensuring that no stray piece of onion sticks to the side, clockwise first and then, counter, feeling them sautee in the warmth of the fiery stove.They soaked up the oil and were dripping wet after a few minutes, completely fried and waiting to explode all our senses as they touched our wet, hungry lips.

I spiced up the whole affair with a bit of MTR Pulao Masala, gently sprinkling the powdered essence onto the wet, oily core of heaven, and watched as the onions hungrily ate it up, soaking in the taste and the color and spewing out the amazing aroma of the spicy mixture. The smell gushed out in torrents and filled me up, filled up the whole room, the whole house, and it seemed, the whole world stopped and wafted in the fragrance. I continued my gentle stirring motions and after what seemed an eternity compressed into two minutes, I added a bowl of fresh, green peas.

The little balls of green flavor ran and hid amidst the forest of hot wetness and sizzled where they stood, adding their own little sensuality to the fragrance. The onions, the spices and the green peas danced together in a carnal dance, a threesome made to last, enticing my every sense and oozing with fragrant pleasure and moans of sizzling heat, fulfilling their destiny, filling each other up, completing each other…

After a few minutes of watching them play out their desires and the moans and sizzles settled down, I added two cups of wet rice, washed and cleaned. The Basmati, angry at being left out of the party, took over the gastronomic orgy with a vengeance, and orchestrated the most breathtaking display of fragrance and it seemed to show the other three lovers just how it is done. The onions, the spices and the peas gave in to Basmati’s superiority and embraced the millions of tiny specks of lust and didn’t want to let go.

Four cups of water, three table spoons of salt, three whistles on the cooker, and one of the best man-made slices of pleasurable heaven was complete. Completely sated and thoroughly exhausted after the incredible display of kama, I had peas pulao for lunch.

Cooking With Love

The Great Banana Run! :)

ba~nan~a

[buh-nan-uh]

noun

1. a tropical plant of the genus Musa, certain species of which are cultivated for their nutritious fruit.
2. the fruit, esp. that of M. paradisiaca, with yellow or reddish rind.

the Great Banana RunOne of the more fascinating aspects of being cooped up in a room that stinks worse than a ten-year-old freshly dug-up coffin is the ease with which we can find blackened banana skins in the most unexpected places. I found seventeen last night.

My brother doesn’t clean his room. Ever. I think the last time the room faced the business end of a broom and a mop was when it was built, more than a thousand years ago. We exchanged rooms for the night as he said he had to prepare for an exam and needed the computer all night. My guess is as good as yours – I found three porn sites in the internet history later. But anyway, I don’t want to digress into a 19-year-old’s late night exploits.

Entering his room is akin to stepping out of civilization and entering a neanderthal realm of sabre-tooth tigers, mammoths, man-eating men and rotting food. I stepped into a half-eaten box of ice cream lying on the floor, as soon as I entered the room. This should’ve warned me what to expect, but I blissfully ignored it and crept in to the bed. It was unusually warm and cozy.

Unfortunately, the warmth was due to the fact that the bed was partly drenched with fresh coffee, and I hadn’t noticed it in the darkness. I changed the sheets and crept in again, and realized that the pillow seemed to emanate a strange smell, that distinctly reminded me of the frog dissections I used to do in school. And there it was, under the pillow, nestled snugly, the first of the blackened banana skins.

I realized that I can’t sleep unless I was satisfied that nothing else was hidden in the bed. I stripped the bed of all sheets and turned over the mattress, and immediately, cursed myself for doing so. In the midst of a couple of cockroach corpses and old newspapers and new porn magazines, I found sixteen more banana skins.

I spent the night in the living room, on the couch – safer and a lot wiser.

PS: I got a pounding from the creep this morning for destroying the chaotic sanctity of his room. A great start to the day.

The Great Banana Run! :)

Encyclopedia Of The Eternally Lazy

People like me who are eternally lazy need a ready-to-use encyclopedia, something that is easy to use, easily indexed, heavily archived and doesn’t involve moving more muscles than required. Google Search beautifully fits into this category, so much that a whole meme is based on Google Images. Apar tagged me to do this a long time ago, and very subtly, she reminded me that it’s still pending.

The objective is to type the answers to all these questions in a Google Image Search field and pick an image from the first page of hits. Quite an interesting assignment – it’s very misleading in it’s simplicity. :)

Here goes:

1. The age you will be on your next birthday…

25!
25!

2. A place you would like to travel to…

the dark side of the moon!
The dark side of the moon!

3. Your favorite place…

toilet humor
The Loo...

4. Your favorite food…

anything edible
Anything Edible!

5. Your favorite pet…

hot dogs
Dogs!

6. Your favorite color combination…

any color that blends in
Any thing that blends in!

7. Your favorite piece of clothing…

hiking boots
Shoes!

8. Your favorite TV show…

small wonder
Small Wonder!

9. First name of your significant other…

crazy
Crazy...

10. The town in which you live…

bangalore
Bangalore

11. Your first job…

Anal-yst!
Programmer 'Anal'yst!

12. Your dream job…

relaxation therapist
Sleep Therapist!

13. A bad habit you have…

rationalizing alcohol consumption
Rationalizing Alcohol Consumption!

14. Your worst fear…

i will never have her back
... is that I will never have her back!

15. What would you like to do before you die?

Grow Old...
Grow Old...

I hereby kill this tag right here…

Encyclopedia Of The Eternally Lazy