Sunday, August 12, 2012

Setting Set Dosas for the Caffeine Addict!

There is nothing that can bring more happiness to my senses than the wafting aroma of hot south Indian cuisine emanating through the kitchens of Wadeshwar. The much sought-after restaurant, is perennially thronged by Dosa lovers, molaga podi eaters, sambar drinkers, caffeine addicts and oh, the south Indian cuisine cravers of Pune city!  

Just the look of the two words ‘Set Dosa’ on the menu is enough to set a typical Tamilian like me drooling all over the place. The above mentioned dish, very classic of south Indianness, is usually made of rice batter, spread over the griddle in even circular motion with a ladle to form a thin layer of what is called a ‘Dosa’, except that a ‘Set Dosa’ has some ‘sets’ to it.  It is comparatively thicker, with freshly cut and fried onions, lip-smacking molaga podi (chilly powder) and coriander leaves for toppings. The plate is well adorned with chutneys that come in various hues, each of red, green and white and the sambar, which serves to be yet another colour, the yellow of the platter.

For the quintessential Dosa eater, this may seem like just another Dosa, but it is the craver who will understand the delight of the whole business. When the sizzling salver is placed in front of you, you tend to become oblivious to the existence of a world outside and delve deep into a realm where only you, the dosa, the multicoloured chutneys and the sambar exist. More so if you have been hungry for quite a long period of time.

After satisfactorily having attacked the meal, it would be incomplete to leave the place without a strong cup of coffee. The scent of freshly brewed hot filter coffee when it comes to you is so overwhelming that your attention shifts to auto-focus mode, directed solely on the cup. Grabbing it immediately, you drink it with all passion contained within you for so long. When the steaming concoction goes down your throat, it takes you to levels of ecstasy probably never felt ever and you place the cup down out of sheer compulsion, for it is over and time for you to leave.  Since then my dreams have been swarmed by delectable Set Dosas and never ending barrels of the hot beverage. Not just that, but my visits to Wadeshwar have increased for many weekends to come.  

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Book Review: The Sense of an Ending – Julian Barnes

Anthony Webster, the narrator is probably the only survivor of the lot of four friends from Form Six - Colin, Alex, Adrian Finn and himself.  A retired Tony describes events in his life from then, with the three of his intellectually sound friends, in bits and pieces. Of course that is what we can expect, considering the fact that the Englishman is already old and divorced, not to mention, a single parent. Memoirs from different times in the past are well strung to deliver the connection in their lives today.

Set in the London of 1960s and moving forty years thereafter, the narrative gives the reader scope to compare the culture of the sixties with the present times. It begins with Tony and his friends, revolves around their lives, starts heating up with Adrian’s suicide and gets complex when Veronica’s mother leaves Tony a bequest and a diary out of the blue, forty years from the sixties. To understand why this happens, is exactly the reason for Tony to reexamine his past and arrive at an astoundingly unacceptable inference.

Some parts of the book are not explained but events start taking shape towards the end. But then, that is the icing on the cake – it keeps the reader hooked to it. Innumerous long sentences and Tony’s time consuming, loud deliberations are not just sensible, but are very philosophical too. Barnes has a very subtle yet remarkable sense of humor, making the reader roll on the floor with peals of laughter.

“Tony, you still don’t get it, you never did and you never will.” Veronica’s words are meaningful in an inexplicable way, if not powerful on Tony. Veronica, whose entry in the first few pages of the book is very acceptable, her disposition clearly understood, becomes a mystery to the reader than to Tony himself in the latter portion. Adrian Finn, his charm and intelligence surpassing every single one in the group, is arguably the brightest, although the reason behind his actions later in life, are undecipherable.  Even when Colin and Alex form an integral part of the bunch, it somehow seemed like they left the story mid-way. Again, maybe that was because they did not form part of the actual story. In the book, Tony describes Veronica’s mother as someone who is ‘not a part of this story’, when she essentially is a part of it.

An agedTony with hazy memories of school, describing current events in his life with accuracy to his ex-wife Margaret and she, listening to it with great acknowledgement, compels the reader to think that they need not have parted, after all. It is very well written with exceptional usage of words, thoughts and ideas – it renders happiness to the reader, especially when the language is as smashing as that. Yet, some segments of the story are unfinished, leaving a lot of questions in the minds of the reader.

The resentment and guilt that Tony undergoes when he gets to read a copy of the last ever letter he sent Adrian, is depressing. To think that the polite and well-mannered Tony who has not even in the slightest possible way tried to hurt someone, has, in fact, maligned his best friend, by way of words - words that struck hard at Adrian and Tony himself, when he studied the letter later on, is very startling.

The ending, though very baffling, makes sense, but is movielike – not in the viewpoint of it being dramatic, but just well-set to match the storyline. A journey in itself, the sequence of events bank entirely on a person’s memory, acting as ‘corroboration’, just the way it is referred to, in the book. Overall, a decent fare – hats off to Barnes’ style of writing and presentation, it made it to the Man Booker Prize of 2011. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The ship story

As I sit here, on my bed,
I so fear, in my head,
Your love, care and worth,
And for all of it, there's no dearth,

I cry, thinking its time I'm back,
I miss you, for all I need is love,
Your hug and short little peck
I have so many things, I choose to shove

Your hazel eyes add sparkle,
I smile, you're just wonderful
I'm sailing, oh, didn't I say that?
M V Explorer, sans you, very bad

I'm happy, when you want me to be
I'm sad when I choose to be
It's the latter that is killing me
Oh you've done so much to me, so much to me

Should I say I love you,
I should do that in Hebrew,
So I know what I'm saying
And you think I'm only playing!

The ocean's INK blue,
It's rocking, why, we have NO clue!
We are miles apart, I miss you
You want me to do this, anything for you

When pen meets paper, some call it poetry
But for me, it is BEAUTY,
You don't want to hear this, my sudden gush of silent coo,
And, well, it is all only for you.

And this is to say, how much I love you,
If not for you, I wouldn't have been who I am today.
If not for you, I don't know what I'd do,
Yet again, I love you, today, tomorrow, everyday.

Friday, March 9, 2012

MV Explorer :D

I was in college when my phone lighted up. I normally don't switch it on when in college, but today was  important. There was a message which said "Congratulations, you have been selected as the Inter-port student to represent India for Semester at Sea." Well, I've been expecting this for the past two years, this being my fifth attempt.  Now I know how exactly Robert Bruce would have felt when he ascended his throne after his umpteenth try!

 Since that day, I have been excited about everything associated with it. I visited the Semester At Sea website at least 25 times each day to see how the ship looked like, the rooms, the number of decks, the size of the ship, the number of students and staff - The statistics of the ship were in fact, etched in my memory by the time I left India. 

Two Inter-port students are selected each year, this year being myself and Prem Shankar, we got to know each other a lot before we left - we discovered that we shared our birthdays, except that we were born a year apart and what's more, we both had the same camera! So, I made a mental note to self which said 'no showing-off of your newly-acquired-gadget'. Sad. 

I had a lot of packing to do the night before we left - the house was a mess. Emirates' food was a delight - our three hour transit in Dubai was just right to buy a calling card to call home. Our six hour journey to Mauritius was long, but I made it a point to sit near the window so I could have a glimpse of the little Island called Mauritius!
After staying in a posh hotel in the centre of Mauritius for three days, a day with my dad's friend and two other days shopping and clicking pictures of everything small, tiny and beautiful we could find on the beaches of Mauritius, we were all set to board MV Explorer, the world's fastest and safest ships afloat!

We reached the port early in the morning - 6.30 am! I was hyperventilating! The very size of the ship made me feel that way! The 83 ft high ship gave me jitters - well, my hands became cold, it just sank in, that I was, after all, going to step into MV Explorer - I was happy, for tears rolled down my cheeks. After all the formalities, we were asked to move into our respective rooms, we were given a card which we could used as a key to enter our rooms. My card said SWATHI SRIRAM - Student, MV Explorer, SEMESTER AT SEA, along with my photograph! 

Thus began my week long sojourn on the ship - Every day was new - it completely changed the way I looked at Americans, they were such warm people who embraced everyone ~ especially the Indians, for most of them were drawn to Indian culture and way of living, they loved discussing the concept of arranged marriages! My presentations that concentrated on Indian culture and marriages, were much questioned about! every single person on the ship knew Prem and me by our names - we had a very tough time having to remember the names of 400 and odd people we met on the ship! 

My friend making abilities extended to being friends with the Life Long Learners (LLLs) who were the best part of the colossal ship. I loved every bit of the ship and I'm still heady with the drug of having been aboard the MV Explorer, the world's fastest and safest ships afloat! :D