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i-deal not

Idealism makes my skin crawl. That it makes my skin crawl, makes my skin crawl. But not so much.

For Nita,

Drafted well past midnight on June 4/5 (it will never be half as good as the poems you wrote me woman).

Hey, the birthday bumps are still due.

CAN OF WORMS

Something about that week’s edition of ‘Top Chef’ caused enough upset for me to throw up this post. I may be over reacting. My rambles shall be conveyed nonetheless.

One of the tasks on that episode was to put together breakfast using ingredients from an enormous range of canned food, within 15 minutes. The contestants were visibly distressed, mortified even. I’m talking furrowed eyebrows, heavy gasps, bleeped out expletives and muffled screams. You might think that’s the archetypal reaction to any task on any reality show. However it was not so much the smallness of the deadline that bothered them, as the prospect of dealing with canned food.

Sure, I understand that they are culinary geniuses in the making. But genius must not have to frown on lesser mortals who may resort to cooking out of cans. “They’re not trash cans! There’s a difference right?” I scoffed, looking over at Mum. She didn’t return my doubtful laughter. Instead of it came the dry observation, “That food does taste like trash.”

The reason I mulled over this at all is because of the deeper nature of the problem. I could foresee an impending crisis.

You can count the dishes that I can make on fingers of one hand and you would still have fingers to spare. ‘Instant, ready, canned, packaged…’ that stuff is designed with the likes of me in mind. Until that fateful day of reality TV viewing, the tin and plastic packets had appeared almost friendly and handy.  Now, I won’t be surprised if images of screeching Top Chef contestants haunt me whenever I decide to take at shot at convenient cooking.

Alright, I have to stop pretending that I knew nothing of the hazards of canned food- not only does it taste like the regurgitated version of real food but also poses serious health risks. There is no escaping the facts, no matter how much one may fake oblivion. Yet I feel freshly cheated by this stale world where everything happens in 2 minutes. Maybe some sick part of me was still seeing hope.

Nothing that happens in 2 minutes can be anything except an atrocious charade. How can one simply dismiss all the steady processes involved? For, in the process lies the magic. And what is already processed is only a done to death magic trick. I imagine nobody has said that before.

Screw Popeye for having us believe that all ye really needs is a can opener. I know it would have been ridiculous for him to handpick spinach, clean it, chop it, steam it and stir it while Bluto scored with Olive. Still (thanks to a quick Google search) I can safely assume that while he beat the big man silly, the Bisphenol A of  the tin containers would eventually have left Popeye with increased chances of fertility/reproductive problems, cancer, heart disease, diabetes and liver problems.

On an even unhappier note, all the magic processes of the kitchen will have to be learned.

befoodled

I haven’t since deserved a meal as well as on that summer’s day in Ghatkopar. It commands a lasting place in my memory and this blog-

Among others, voting time in the city last year meant one important thing for us interns- a field day. It also meant strong chappals and six hours on the road, a sling bag and camera. I could have been a tourist. I was perhaps. I didn’t cast a vote anyway. Choppy train rides, amla sherbet that tasted a lot like peace at Prachi’s home and another chance to test my Marathi skills. A hundred faces, questions, shrugs, election jokes, sidey smiles and raised eyebrows later, I broke out in a sweat. Then the ‘partner in crime’ called.

In typical newbie fashion, we had overworked. Priya and I. Despite being posted in a low activity constituency where adventure is an hour-long power cut. This is what we planned to take back to office. Not before that royal meal though.

We spoiled ourselves rotten in the first big looking restaurant Ghatkopar had to offer. We would have nothing less than air conditioning, burying ourselves deep in the red of the Maharaja-style couches. Nobody could touch us here. The world seemed ridiculously powerless.

I don’t remember what we ate. Only that it was heavenly. Comfort served on a clean, white plate. The waiters let us be. And be, we did.

The rest of that day is a blur. People in a newsroom are painfully pleased around polling time. I sipped on coffee and watched the fun.

I distinctly remember food from that summer because we considered it a vulgar luxury. Lunch at ‘Aaram’: where one fellow waited on all tables and yelled at us for being indecisive. Domino’s: much craved pineapple on pizza. Street side bhel and chana chor garam and chai downstairs with Serena.

Having an overdose of random nostalgia and blaming it on the times. The run up to the end of final year seems quite like PMS.

SYBMM- Roll No. 9213

Struck gold today while sifting through old projects. SY Introduction to Journalism assignment. We elected Pralhad as our ‘personality’ for the profile. P-Man, I made you seem half brilliant. In memory of the good times-

Pralhad Tipnis’ manner is as relaxed as his clothes. Dressed in a white t-shirt and baggy jeans, the second year media student from Ruia College has a ready, almost rehearsed answer to everything.

What could easily be mistaken for coldness is really his composure. The youngster with a passion for music is mature beyond his 20 years and gives off the impression of a wise hermit one might find on a remote mountain. His skinny, gangling frame only adds to that idea. Pralhad was not always all-knowing though. He confesses, “There was a time after my 12th standard, when I didn’t know where to go and what I wanted to do. BSc IT, BMM, the options were varied and I was flummoxed. This state of confusion was the worst phase of my life.”

Music acts as a drug for the reticent lad who swears by his guitar. “I remember the first time I learnt and played a song- it was Day Tripper by the Beatles, a happy song that I didn’t like much. But that feeling is unforgettable, my happiest moment,” he recollects. Heavy metal and classic rock are his preference. He also enjoys some classical music.

Apart from music Pralhad also cherishes his family, collection of movies and his close friends who have taught him valuable lessons. Another person who appears to have taught him lessons is Ayn Rand, his favourite author. “In addition to the timeless generic mystery novels, I love Ayn Rand’s works,” he quips. His approach to life is similar to the one upheld by the characters in her books. Though he admits that Rand’s idyllic objectivism cannot be practiced to the word, he believes in living for oneself. “Ultimately you make yourself; no one else is worth living for.”

A question about his ideal match is met with a nonchalant grin. He rubs his uneven, three-day-old stubble thoughtfully and pronounces that she should be someone who is “intelligent, with a sense of humour and who can overlook my quirky behaviour.” His future plans are to be an independent and established ad-man and settle down professionally. As for his personal life, he has no plans. Perhaps a wife, home and music on the Himalayas, one imagines.

A Funny Film

My short, unprofessional recollection of the latest offering from Ethan and Joel Coen- ‘A Serious Man’ (2009), nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture:

Larry Gopnick is not an evil man and he is trying to be serious. Mostly, he is a man you want to hug and wish well. This is hopefully why Sy (Fred Melamed), the man Larry’s wife is about to leave him for, holds him close every time they meet.

You shouldn’t lose sleep if you “did not ‘get’ A Serious Man” because that is the point the Coen brothers seem to be making. It is not important to get, understand or even search for answers to everything. That is also the point the protagonist refuses to accept. To him, everything is mathematics, including Physics. All events must have an absolute and tangible explanation. You are sure to have known at least one figure of reference whose personality matches Larry’s exactly.

There can be no spoilers here for revealing all would still mean revealing nothing. As the ‘dybbuk’ scene that it opens with would testify, the film is as random as the probability theory.

The Gopnicks are fully dysfunctional – Larry is boring with a surly wife who wants out. He has an anti-social brother addicted to gambling, a beauty obsessed daughter and junkie son. Even their neighbours are ungodly.

Murphy’s Law seems to have taken over the wannabe-permanent-professor’s life.So help from the Gods is soon to be sought. The quest for enlightenment that follows provides consistent laughs, one Rabbi after another. Again, you shouldn’t lose sleep if you do not find the sequences funny. Humour in the works of this duo has never been universally approved.

Micheal Stulhbarg (as Larry), slightly reminiscent of Robin Williams, comes out of nowhere with a stellar performance. Whoever designed the quirk of him walking daily into school with briefcase clutched tight to his chest is genius. The rest of the cast too is relatively new and brings along fresh talent. Aaron Wolff as a jaded and reckless teenager (Danny Gopnick) is particularly impressive.

The art and cinematography crew make the 60’s come alive such that you ache to be there. Jefferson Airplane has been resurrected in style, and the band’s music woven effortlessly into the script.

The wide open ending makes you wonder first, and then nod in partial realisation. Of nothing in particular. ‘A Serious Man’ is existentialism explored.

baxbillant boy

He lives next door to me-

A little boy of five,

Sprightly, with a pair of happy eyes,

His tears are rare, unlike the smiles.

He lives next door to me-

Unaware that his father is no more,

He was sent away during the last rites, you know,

So he didn’t watch his dear Baba go.

He lives next door to me-

He senses something is amiss.

When his mother now tucks him into bed,

He wonders when Baba’s holiday will end.

He lives next door to me-

And the boy will soon figure out,

When he can’t answer an innocent ‘what’s your daddy do’?

I’m ‘fraid he’ll put together two and two.

He lives next door to me-

Much protected and loved,

by his Aai, Aaji and all others who know him.

He will never feel alone,

For we’ll teach him how to cycle,

We’ll cheer at his recital,

Buy him ice-creams with swirls,

We’ll warn him about the girls,

And by the time he’s ready to take off the training wheels,

Even the rare tears will have been switched with joyful squeals.

‘Baxbillant’ is what 5-year-old Manas says everytime you say ‘Excellent’ which is often because he is just that. Another weak stab at poetry…but I really hope his life brims with sweet joy. Please make a wish for anyone who has lost a loved one lately.