Wednesday, June 29, 2016

A taste-bud's initiative

In Pune, every Thursday, I follow a ritual to go to a particular place of worship, for which I have to take a different route than the usual. And in this particular right turn that I take, Pune transforms to Mysore instantly! Thanks to the aroma of hot Sambhar wafting to the roads from Pune's THE South Indian restaurant. And thus, begins my weekly food nostalgia..

The same Thursday routine was followed in Mysore too (during my graduation days), and almost always ended up in the churmuri stall. I have travelled so many places in India, but I am yet to find churmuri like the one made in Mysore. Even neighbouring Bangalore does not come close. My brother once said, "I thought I will miss street food when I go to the US for higher studies, but I already miss it in Bangalore!" Such is Mysore's cuisine! :)
Churmuri!!                                                  PC:Pavan Reddy
My favourite and longest memory associated with food is during the lunch break at JSS Dental College for all the 5 years of BDS at the Katte. Lunch hour was the most anticipated hour of the day. The lunch boxes would be passed around for everyone to have a bit of the multi-cuisine lunch menu, what with having a group which had Coorgi, Christians, Muslims, Andhrite and a Kannadiga. So, you can imagine what a smorgasbord it was! 
Lunch time at the Katte
There were times when our dear friends in hostel would crave for home food during clinical hours. And student's lab was the best place to quickly go and sneak in some food into the tummy, irrespective of whether the tummy was grumbling or not! ;) The hostelites would return the favour by getting us bottles of yummy buttermilk from the hostel. Yes, you read it right-hostel food can be yummy too (conditions apply!) :P Speaking of students lab, we were overwhelmed when the patients, who were overwhelmed in the first place, got us food in those layered tiffin boxes! It was enough to feed an entire department! Cherish those fleeting moments :) By the way, am I the only one fascinated by these type of lunch boxes? I remember my salivary glands working over time while watching the movie 'Lunch Box'..
Eat while you work :P. My lunch box doing the rounds in the student's lab
When we are talking about food, how can one forget the place that we would resort to when we did not get lunch box - the canteen! During our times, the college canteen was pretty rudimentary compared to the huge building that it is right now there. I have seen the canteen's metamorphosis from the fenced wall canteen where fried rice was a standard order to the much more sophisticated, yet small canteen in 2005-2006 which served combos and swirl ice creams! Before this place came up, we used to buy orange/ mango/ grape ice candies from a small stall behind canteen which also housed a coin phone booth (yeah, thaaaaaat era!)

If we had slightly more time during the lunch break, we would head out to our then haven, Nimra. What a place! Pity, it does not exist in all its glory now. It catered to almost every cuisine (which we knew of then), and THAT was finger licking good indeed! The cost was very affordable and hence, it became our second canteen! Nimra has since then changed locations and hands. But, it still is a prized place for us. When one had little more vitamin M, then Blue Inn was the place to go. It was nothing like what exists right now. A tiny, not-so-dingy place where you would always bump into JSSites - that was Blue Inn back then. The testimony to their food is the fact that a deacde later, it is still much talked about in our Whatsapp group :) Cool Corner was another place that was frequented, summer or not. We had our first sip of cold coffee there and that beat every other feeling!!

Somewhere in between all these, emerged Nescafe. No, it is not just the name of a coffee brand. It was where students and staff alike, frequented more than once a day. A quick meal would most often be a vada pav and peach iced tea brought from a thoughtful friend while you were stuck in an extraction. The dishes got reinvented to noodle cutlets and noodle pakodas, and even the 'humble' Maggi has left us wanting for more. The boys working there were so accustomed to all of us that all we sometimes had to do was just find a chair, and our orders were ready without having us place them! It was our 'go to' place for the 11'o clock break or lunch break or post-college chit chat except, if you were posted in OMR or Conservative dept, as these departments had a direct view of Nescafe ;). In other words, it was the local 'cafe coffee day', where you could sit for hours with just a cup or sometimes nothing at all! 
Happy times at Nescafe! Our batch seemed to be there forever!! ;)
Many more eateries tug at our memories - the hot, yummy meals at Andhra mess, tea from Aunty's, sugarcane juice and corn cob from the stalls are amongst many Well, I could go on and on. But then, the salivary nuclei in my medulla oblongata has been stimulated with all the food talk :} Time to go and take a bite. Am sure, you will be needing a bite too. ;)

A sincere foodaholic,
Lakshmi Krishnan

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Your wedding is NOT your wedding

Yeah! Doesn’t make sense right? But, it’s true. Am sure some of the married ones agree ;)

Me being me, I did not want to get married, but then I loved the idea of being ‘wedded’. Alright, probably everyone dreams about their wedding. But it completely slipped my mind that my parents have been dreaming of my wedding too! And so, the saga begins…

Things wouldn’t have been difficult had I
  1. Not chosen ‘the’ guy all by myself
  2. Not attended the turtle walk which got me closer to the environment (read about it here)
  3. Not grown to be an independent girl with MY opinions, MY principles, and MY thoughts.
Well, what is an Indian wedding without all the drama, you say? ;)

I had always dreamt of a temple wedding. One of my cousins got married in Madurai Meenakshi temple and I thought it was magical! The thought was further romanticised by the wedding scene in the movie ‘2 states’ (do not bother googling the name of the temple – it was a studio setting much to my disappointment). And then, I attended a friend’s wedding in Guruvayoor, where the whole concept grounded me because of the simplicity. Brides along with their grooms stood in queues awaiting their turn on their ‘D day’ which was also the ‘D day’ for many others. It was then the ‘stardom’ feeling was kicked out of me. Needless to say, this feeling of ‘grounded’ was much stronger than the initial feelings of magic and romance of the temple wedding idea. I was never more sure about wanting a temple wedding. But well you know, ‘Your wedding is not your wedding’. The parents worried, “What will people say?”; the ‘people’ asked, “Oh! Why temple? You have only one daughter. You should get her married in style.” And here I thought we are proud of our temples' style and all! But gladly, the parents agreed :) So, finally it was to be a temple wedding in the morning followed by a lunch reception at a wedding hall. Wedding hall?? What??? WAIT!!! That was not what I meanttttttt...

After coming to terms to the wedding hall wala addition, I thought it was best to focus on the décor to feel better. After all, I had pitched in my ideas at various events, so I had a head start. Or so I thought. Turtle walks had heavily influenced my thoughts to ‘think local’. Our needs do not have to add additional burden on the environment for the sake of exotic flowers! Flowers are all about colours in wedding décor (not much for fragrance as we have cosmetics to do the job ;)). But hell I was wrong! Flowers have 'class' – the highly orchids and anthuriums, the middle class carnations and roses and the lower class gerberas and marigolds! Frankly, I was tired of all the orchids and huge canvasses at the weddings and wanted a traditional, simple décor using colourful marigolds, jasmine and roses. Inspired by a friend’s wedding in Chennai, I wanted re-usable components like bells and lamps and not thermocol which would add to the wedding generated thrash. Armed with the idea, I entered the battlefield. “Marigolds? Why are you saving so much? This is the only time you are getting married!”; the customary “What will people think?”; and the deadly “What marigolds? That is used only in funerals!” (while in North India, marigolds are even used as garlands for bride and groom!!). Negotiations later, I let go off the marigold because the funeral became an emotional point (I was already causing 'enough' emotional distress by choosing a guy of my choice….. ah!). So, roses , jasmines and bells it was! It involved a lot of drawings and re-drawings of the arrangement for the decoration guy, as he had never done something like this before. But thankfully, he was game for the challenge and this is how it looked..

Backdrop in white and red, and the bride was in green to contrast the colours :)
Yeah, the colours of my saree was decided after the backdrop colours were decided :P

Two discussions down, many many more to go…

I moved on to my favourite section – fooooood! I am generally the star at eating out, and have almost always been the one to order from the menu. Ergo, this was no big deal. Boy, I was soo wrong! Because, I not only had to satisfy the general criteria and wishes but also, the Marathi taste buds (thanks to yours truly marrying a Maharashtrian!). The only thing that was consensually agreed upon was the traditional south Indian yelle oota (plaintain leaf meal). And then it began..

Sweet #1 – Payasa of Sabudaana 
“That is fasting food! Not a celebration food”
“Okay, so semiya payasa?” “That’s so ordinary”
“Dry fruits payasa?” “That is too rich that I have seen people leaving it on the leaf, such a waste”
“Fruits payasa?” “Very courageous I would say”
“Ah! Let us just stick to safe semiya payasa”

Sweet #2 – “Chiroti laddu is a must”
“Too many diabetes patients these days, it will get wasted”
“But young people will eat na?”
“Majority of the guests will not be young, it’s a weekday wedding”
“But it is a signature dish. It will look grand too – separate plate and ….”
Wait! No food items that will consume plastic. Cancelled! 
Thankfully, this was not overruled!

Starter – Gobi Manchurian
“That is Chinese, not south Indian!”
“And it contains garlic”
“It can be made without garlic”
“But the taste wouldn’t be the same”
“Everyone has it these days. It is so ordinary”
“How about vada?”
“Nooo! It is served only in certain festivals and funerals”
“How about bajji?”
“Bajji is best when served hot and it becomes soggy later.”
“Oily too. People will waste it on the leaf”

And so it goes on for three hours before we finalise details - from the size of the water bottle to whether beeda needs a separate counter. Phew! After all that food talk, I am hypoglycaemic! ;)

This is only the first half of the menu..
A Maharashtrian fascinated by the south Indian plaintain leaf meal at the wedding captured this :)
Loved the colours!
The next ‘big’ decision was about invitation cards. And to ensure there is an argument, invitation cards come in all sizes and shapes; in single sheets to multiple layers and in vaaarious styles. Our ‘wants’ ensured that they go the full way too - from wanting it big to wanting it small enough to have just the date, venue and names. After all this, they find their way to the dustbins, not to mention the wastage of paper (in case you still don’t get it – climate change is for real, even before Leo said that last month). So we decided to get the simple card. And that was only the beginning of the card story. From the name of the male god and the female goddess to grace on the card, to the length of the address, to the size of the font - everything was a debate. We had the additional printer here who had to say no to almost everything we suggested. As we wound up, he asked, “cards for your friend madam?” Ah! And I thought we were in a digitised world.  Well, this is the ‘logo’ I Whatsapped to invite my friends and they were the coolest to consider it 'sufficient' to attend my wedding. Thanks dearies :)

The logo also went on tiny fridge magnets as souvenirs - custom-made with the famed Mysore palace as the backdrop :)

Talking about the attendees, I realised that my parents' invite list only grew lengthier each day – not by tens, but by hundreds!! Yeah, happiness should be shared and my folks took it rather seriously. And while I went about shrinking my personal invite list, my parents stretched it to include their 35 year old colleague’s neighbours who were known to my parents way before I was born! And that is when I gave up and realised that well, your wedding is not really your wedding! So there I was, standing on the stage, sweating it out in front of those lights, smiling on auto-pilot mode at the 1000 odd people - my parent's friends/colleagues/relatives, who have been their co-passengers in the journey of life. So, rightfully they have chosen an occasion to meet them all. I think I finally understood my parents, although it is very unlikely of me to follow their footsteps in making a wedding big and fat.

I frankly don’t remember much of my seemed like a blur. Sometimes I wish to marry again, just to remember the events of the day you know. I mentioned it to my brother, and he asked, “you want to plan it all again?” No no! Not again!!

Well, while this blog was a lot about how things don’t really go the way you want them to, it is also my humble attempt to create awareness and engage in a healthy conversation at how we could downsize and downplay events. So feel free to share your thoughts. 

P.S – I thought I could manage my own wedding and trust me I did it till the last week. But then friends, family and most importantly, my parents did a great job in executing it! Here is a biiiiig shout to all of them :)

P.P.S – The blog above is just the tip of an iceberg, and has dealt with only few topics with a modest approach. Feel free to exaggerate and imagine on the other issues. It is an Indian wedding after all! ;)