Thursday, May 25, 2006

Mumbai Street Food - Meet the Puris

Eating out has developed into a passion with me. Of course the fact that I stay alone and cannot cook to save my life has helped me immensely in developing this passion.

My eating out has ranged from 5 Star restaurants to the boutique restaurants that have sprung up of late. However the most uniquely satisfying, divinely tasty and totally unhygienic indulgence is the street food in Mumbai.

Those of you who have not tasted it are really missing something good.

Where do I start?

Hmmmmm, Bhel Puri, Sev Puri, Pani Puri, Dahi Puri, Pav Bhaji and the ubiquitous Vada Pav. How can I play favourites here? But let me try.

My favourite is undoubtedly the various members of the Puri family.

Chowpatty in South Mumbai and the Juhu beach in the north are supposed to be the best in business for this. But frankly I think they are overrated. The best that I have had is near the Ramakrishna Mission in Khar, Mumbai. (Actually it is on the Santa Cruz side but that is of minor importance).

Woof! It be good. I especially like the Dahi Puri there.
Boiled potatoes are chopped and then stuffed into the puri (6 per plate) and then half a spoonful each of theekha (hot & spicy) chutney and meetha (sweet) chutney is added to the puri. On it are sprinkled the various masalas. Then comes a liberal (one of the privileges of being a long standing customer) hand of dahi poured over the puris. The puris are then garnished with a masala that consists of chopped coriander, raw mango, boiled black gram and moong. Needless to add they are served with a flourish even as the dude wipes the sweat off his brow.

Eating into it is wonderful too. The crisp puris (you need to eat them quickly, else the puris lose their crispness.) the stuffing inside and the Dahi. Not to forget the garnish. They all combine to make the dish divine.

I was once rhapsodizing about the food there and someone, a cousin I suspect, asked me to rate it on a scale of 1 to 10 on hygiene.


Well! How daft! Obviously this ranked 0 on that particular scale. For those who are finicky about absurd things like hygiene, cleanliness etc. please treat this as a statutory warning and go no further than reading this. For those of you who are a bit more accommodating and who don’t mind an occasional bout of illness this is the place to eat Dahi puri.


Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Wake-up calls from Uncle Pai

This post was prompted by the reaction of friends to the closing remarks in my previous post: “Statutory warning: All reactions are based on reports that have appeared in the mainstream media”. A couple of friends even asked me why such a statement was required.

Now the only brush that I have had with the mainstream media was when I was featured recently in an article about Mr. Anant Pai a.k.a. Uncle Pai the man behind “Amar Chitra Katha” and “Tinkle” comics. (I work for Mr. Pai in his new venture that is focused on creating animation and live television software for children.)

In fact the article begins with me. The scenario is Uncle Pai calling me up and talking about narrating all tales in rhyme format for our forthcoming publication. And when I look at my watch it reads 5.30 am.

Nothing of that sort actually happened.
The author got the idea for this opening because I had (I think) casually mentioned that whenever we have any event or promotional activity Uncle Pai always calls me up early in the morning to discuss the same. This is to ensure that everything has been planned and taken care of for the day. In course of the conversation I mentioned that he once called me up as early as 6.15 am.
However 6.15 a.m. and preparations for a promotional campaign were not deemed interesting enough and the time shifted to 5.30 am. and the discussion shifted to rhymes and stories.
Purely from the point of view of maximizing the dramatic impact.
That there is dramatic impact in the opening line I do not deny, but it is not exactly what I want my Boss to feel I have said.
Especially not when I was trying, very subtly, to get a good increment.
And definitely not when the statement is not a 100% accurate.
Luckily all that the sentence elicited from Uncle Pai was a guffaw and all was well.

But it led me thinking about how much of media reporting, in general, is a 100% accurate and how much is because the author decides to sex things up a bit. Nothing malicious mind you, just to make things a bit more interesting and dramatic.

And how much of the reporting is based on the author’s own judgement, background and point of view? Does this mean that any given story can be viewed differently by different journalists depending not on facts but on their affiliations? Or the Network they belong to? And if the answer is yes, then what about that boring, pesky little thing called Truth?

Interesting questions don't you think? Will ferret around for answers; meanwhile do let me know if you have any opinion on this.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Taj Mahal in Pakistan with Tipsy Feroz Khan & Angry Mahesh Bhatt

So bald-pated Feroz Khan, fuelled by a liberal dose of alcohol in puritanical Pakistan, spake the truth. Or so he (and I) thought. But of course Mush & Hesh won’t agree. Oh! My, what a shocker!

I started out thinking that I would offer my two paise worth on the ban on Feroz Khan entering Pakistan and a few pungent remarks about banning the entry of terrorists into India sent by ex-commando and current Fat Ass General Pervez Musharraf.

To get down to writing my stuff I did a bit of research as I was not au courant with what really happened in Pakistan last month. The moment I read some news reports I immediately changed my mind. Now I just had to react to the comments of our very own Mahesh Bhatt, even if it meant giving him some more publicity.

Now don’t get me wrong. I have immense respect for the man. He is the only one I know who is absolutely comfortable on TV in his loud Jackson-Heights-meets-Juhu-Gully accent when he gives us his 99% content-free gyaan. On any topic under the sun. He just takes the topic by the scruff if its neck and launches ahead.
Amazing guy.

For those who have come in late let me quote, from media reports, what Feroz Khan apparently said at the function:

"India is a secular country, Muslims there are making a lot of progress. Our President is a Muslim, the PM a Sikh. Pakistan was made in the name of Islam, but look how Muslims are killing each other.”

Now for the life of me I cannot see any comment that is untrue. Please feel free to mention the ones you feel are incorrect.
I have even tabulated the stuff just to figure out what was wrong in the comment. Still can’t see any.

India is a secular country
Muslims there are making a lot of progress
By and Large True. Could be better though.

Our President is a Muslim

the PM a Sikh

Pakistan was made in the name of Islam
but look how Muslims are killing each other

However good old Mahesh went ballistic against Feroz Khan. Media reports state that he said:

"Feroz was part of a Bollywood delegation that had gone to Lahore for the premiere of an Indian film after 41 years. But he was intoxicated and said that in India the president is a Muslim and the prime minister a Hindu. But the Muslims in Pakistan don't get the same treatment as they do in India. This led to the argument. All of us were so embarrassed. The damage has been done. The situation became unmanageable as the party was well attended by the who's who of Bollywood and Pakistan."

Embarrassed? At what?
  1. That analysts believe that Pakistan is fast turning into a failed state?
  2. Or that the raison d'être of the creation of Pakistan has been falsified?
  3. Or that it took an inebriated actor to bring it up?
Can’t figure this one out.

And that the damage was done. The damage to what? Pakistan? India? India’s relations with Pakistan? Probably to the chances of doing business in Pakistan?
Aah, now we are talking.
Given that it is a military dictatorship obviously there will be none of the checks and balances that are present in India and therefore the cause for concern was obvious and in some sense acceptable.

But then our man went ahead and said, "All of us apologised to the people and the high commissioner of Pakistan. And they were magnanimous enough to look away when they heard him. I have apologised to Fakr Alam and the people of Pakistan for Khan’s behaviour, and I hope they will forgive us,"

I am sure they will forgive you. But may I ask why this kind of ass licking? Here he goes hell for leather at most people but the moment he touches Pakistani soil he is concerned about how to behave etc. That is quite a change and all it required was a crossing of the border. And again, someone please tell me what is he apologizing for?

I remember Riaz Khokhar making all sorts of comments against India when he was High Commissioner here and was invited to all Page 3 parties. I do not remember a single protest from any of the celebrities, including Mahesh bhai, present. And definitely none from Pakistan. To top it all Mr. Khokhar was the official representative of Pakistan in India. Feroz Khan was not. So why is Mahesh Bhatt getting so hyper?

Bhattji goes on to add, “I hope we can put this behind us and march ahead. We owe this to the millions of Indians and Pakistanis who want a peaceful South Asia."

Now what on earth is the bloody connection between peace in South Asia and Feroz Khan telling off a bunch of Pakistanis? And since when has Mahesh Bhatt become responsible for peace in South Asia? This is delusions of grandeur gone crazy.

Of course to top it all is Akbar Khan’s comment.

"We are very upset about the comment made by BJP vice-president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi in which he has called my brother a ‘true nationalist’. He is viewing my brother in a wrong light.”

Eh?!? Does he really mean what he says?

Statutory Warning: All reactions are based on reports that have appeared in the mainstream media.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Dr. Karunanidhi & his sense of Humour

Larger than life political adversaries, film stars, giant cut-outs, loyal party workers who are willing to immolate themselves at the drop a cape etc. all form the rich tapestry that is elections in Tamil Nadu.

The recent elections were no different. It was interesting watching Amma and Dr. Karunanidhi have a go at each other.

This time however I was more fascinated by the developments after the elections. No sooner did M. Karunanidhi take over the reigns of power than he affected a change of personnel. Not just anyone, but N. Narayanan, the Chief Secretary of Tamil Nadu – the most powerful bureaucrat in the state.

Ho hum might be your reaction.
All political dispensations do it.
Nothing special about this “shuffle” you might say.
Well! You might only be half right.

The thing is nobody has done this with the sense of humour that Karunanidhi has.

Which powerful and important department was the most powerful bureaucrat under Amma’s dispensation sent to? He was sent to … and here it comes…


That is rich. From controlling the fate of the entire state of Tamil Nadu this dude now controls the fate of Tamil Nadu’s archives. He probably has a rickety bench in the middle of torn and tattered papers and one peon for company. Imagine the poor guy’s culture shock.

My commiserations to him.
He hehe hehe he he he

There was a time when I really really wanted to get into the Civil Services. I even attempted to sneak into the IAS/IPS cadres but was rudely stopped by the UPSC. Twice. And until three days back this has been the biggest regret of my life. Not anymore.

Now whenever I think of what might have been just four words are enough to bring the smile to my face.

Hehehe hehe he he he.