Cheap Food

FIP, Whither Art Thou??

Kinda miss the chap’s blog. The answer to that question though, is writing a book. Or rather, that statement should be in the past tense; the book’s already been written. The Gamechangers, if yer so interested. And which, in keeping with the abiding tradition of publication sleight of hand, has its release perfectly timed to cash in on all the IPL hoopla. And which should also mean a hefty bonus or two for the editors in question. Don’t think I’d want to read the book though. 

Ancient Hindu tradition has it that there are four phases to human life; Brahmacharya, Grihastha, Vanaprastha and SanyasaI though, am of the sincere opinion that the sages and the powers-that-used-to-be missed out on enunciating a fifth, and possibly, the most important phase of ’em all; Laundry. There is a school of thought which posits that other religions like Jainism and Buddhism evolved primarily as a reaction to such lax identificatory paradigms as prevalent in Hinduism. The true trailblazers in this respect were/are ofcourse, the Digambar Jains.

Crawford’s sells this small pack of custard creams for 59p. Absolutely love ’em. For one particular reasons. Back at law school, we used to have this entire array of shacks outside our side gate. And they basically used to sell only two, no, make it three, things of note; Dim-wala Maggi (mentioned in passing here), Kismis Bars (which are bloody brilliant, and which I’ll probably blog about, along with Pudina Chips and Phantom Cigs sometime later), and finally Parle-G creams priced at some 5 bucks a packet.

These creams, if memory serves me correctly, used to come in flavours like orange, pineapple and elaichi. And used to be bloody awesome. Many must there have been days when I used to wake up a min or so before the classes begun and had to rush pell-mell into the acad block, or for that matter, those days when there used to be something shady for breakfast (which to be fair, happened only on those glorious occasions we used to be served uttapam. And a brief digression here: Imagine. Imagine, waking up, for the first time in weeks nay, months, in time for breakfast. And then Imagine, being served, but with what, Uttapam @#&%). ‘Twas then, that these Parle-G creams used to come into their own. And by God, they were a lifesaver. I might not get Parle-G in London. But, Crawford’s ain’t too bad either.

Was watching Two and a Half Men yesterday. To be honest, its a bit like Two and a Three-Quarters now. Ultra-weird.

And now a word about food. And related follies. Had fried squid yesterday. At this place called Tai Won Mein in Greenwich. Snag’s b’day celebrations. The Soccer-Man and Ms. Steinbeck were there as well. Bloody, bloody awesome. The rest of their fare was strictly middling though. That being said, for the monies paid, the portions were humongous. Which was much, much good 🙂 There is this pub off Shaftesbury Avenue called Freud, which the Soccer-Man considers possibly the last word on pubs with “Character”. It is this dark, dingy, sub-terranean hangout, you know, and to be fair to the man, the place probably has as much character as it is possible for anything embedded in the bowels of earth to have 🙂

Of Fosbury Flops and Angst-Ridden Ditties

Read a piece yesterday about how Air India chooses to treat Sarods and maestros (Had blogged previously about Air India’s unsurpassed consumer relations skills here). The moment I read that though, I couldn’t help but think of this classic video:

Never knew locating decent acco in London would be so much of a goshdarned  hassle. I don’t think I have researched as much even for my final drafts! Hell, for my IPC paper…., but, I digress 🙂

My stomach’s screwed up. Like, seriously seriously screwed up. Its currently doing Fosbury Flops and Ferris Wheel imitations every half an hour. Like  clockwork. Of Swiss Vintage. From the Old School. Probably serves me right; Karma, comeuppance, the works. There’s only so much cheap, Jewish fast food that one should hog! (Do not worry 🙂 ; the only way yer getting that reference is if you stay in Golf Green and/or frequent the narrow bylanes of Bijaygarh)

The Art of Cool

Sergio Leone meets tacky WW II iconography. Throw a couple of marquee names into the mix. Have an impossibly implausible plotline. Don’t even dare to think about cutting back on the gore. Always remember that humour, like good coffee, is best served black. And most importantly, mangle up the bloody title like its nobody else’s business. Yet, or perhaps ergo, Inglourious Basterds is possibly Tarantino’s best work yet.

For when Tarantino, that purveyor of coolth extraordinaire, makes a movie, he makes cool movies, which cool peeps go and watch in theatres, and for which cool reviewers trying to illustrate how cool they are, write cool reviews extolling the director and the movie’s uber-coolness. It’s all about being cool, you know. And given how much of a philistine I am in all matters pertaining to high cool, I have usually found myself singularly incapable of truly appreciating Tarantino’s greatness.

I liked this one though. The movie has its moments for sure; a pretty strong cast, decent performances (Brad Pitt’s constipated looks notwithstanding), a riveting background score, but then again background scores were always Tarantino’s patch (case in point, Kill Bill Vol. I, The Bride vs. O-Ren Ishii, Santa Esmeralda tripping away in the background, très CULT), and a certain someone called Colonel Hans Landa.

For me, if there was any one factor which elevated this movie from being strictly middling to anything vaguely approaching the sublime, it has to be this part essayed by Christoph Waltz. Funnily enough, If Variety is to be believed, then this part was not even meant for Waltz in the first place. It was supposed to go to DiCaprio instead. Well, thank heavens it didn’t. I, for one, cannot for a moment believe, that even DiCaprio for all his cinematic virtuosity and thespian nous, could have carried off Landa. There was just one moment though which I found slightly jarring in the character portrayal of Landa. For someone that suave and smooth, the act of brutally throttling a woman did seem a tad out of place. Or perhaps, the director just wanted to show that beneath that outward veneer of sophistication and charm, there still lurked a Nazi pig.

For all that, this one’s a decent enough watch, and speaking for myself, total paisa wasool for the fifty odd bucks I spent on it.

Food tip: Panfried Momos at Tibetian Delight. Well, the place is pretty much unplottable, but if you do manage to make your way there, make sure you try out these killer momos doused liberally in ultra-spicy red sauce. It IS absolutely brilliant. They had a dish called Shyphalley as well, which (or to be a wee more precise, the description of which) sounded equally enticing, but the resto-wallahs had run out of it by the time we placed our orders! Shall try that out next time I head there 🙂

‘Tis Puja Time (And Other Things)

‘Tis Puja time in Cal. Everyone seems happy and chirpy all of a sudden; Pandals have been erected overnight, every square inch of acreage’s been milked for all they’re worth; the dhakis are all set to do what they do best; the street food wallah’s are ready to make a killing again. Nothing’s changed. Nothing ever will.

Had gone back to NUJS a couple of days back. Didn’t go back to Room No. 217. The last time I’d been there, I’d found somebody else cooped up inside. Bit of a shock to the system, that. With the vacs on, there were hardly any peepul around. Met up with the Tea-boys, the LAN-man, Miskhan and the Poet Jr. They were probably the only few fellas still left. Also, ran into Rookie who is up to strange and wonderful things at the SC. And of course, had Dim-wala Maggi with onions and chillies 🙂 Friggin’ brilliant. Brought back lots of memories. Most of them though, from those unfortunate mornings we used to have uttapam for breakfast.

Speaking of food, Benjarong’s the new Mainland China. Most certainly so. And their Chicken Satays are bloody awesome. Sigree’s finally spruced up on its main course act. And that was the best Dum Biryani I’ve had in a long, long time. Who knows, people might actually start going there for a reason apart from them kebabs.

Henin’s apparently making a comeback. All’s well in the world again. There ought to be some sort of a law expressly forbidding anyone with a backhand like hers from being ever allowed to retire. Mein Gott, I could keep on watching replays of that single-handed backhand for hours on end!

The Post Office on Southern Avenue has got to be the cleanest, most well-ventilated, supra-spacious government facilitated message disbursal mechanism I’ve ever been to. ‘Tis speshul. The fellas behind the counters though are having none of this speshul-ness. There was this one lady in particular, simply refused to tell me which counter to go to. Thankfully, I’m of a calm, equable disposition. In fact, at times I’m positively Zen. Otherwise, (mutters darkly……)

Speaking of Zen, I present another Zen master.  ‘Tis truly a measure of the times we live in, that I get to see stuff I might not have even heard of otherwise. I hereby present, Zidane – A 21st Century Portrait. Real Madrid vs. Villareal. April 2005. From the first whistle to the last. 17 Synchronized cameras. All focussed on ONE man, his slightest actions, his every movement, his sudden sprints, his subtlest feints. On Zidane. (Cross-linked from here)

Zurich, Kadare, Steinbeck and Something Freaky

I had promised in my last post to write about the books I got on Saturday just after I finished with the Evidence exam. I finished with the paper around an hour early and almost instantly set out thereafter with some of my friends. First stop was Zurich, right next to the Indian Museum. I had heard plenty about how good this place was, how its pancakes and mashed potatoes were simply out of the world and was quite curious to see how good this place could be to elicit such strong feelings and admiration. Appearance-wise, the place wasn’t too imposing. Full of foreigners, a medium-size room with Christmas decorations (yeah, still), with ACs which didn’t work and fans which thankfully did. I had a chocolate banana pancake and a plain choco milkshake. The former was okay, nothing to send me raving about, and the latter, frankly I’ve had better. However, the service was in one word, dreadful. We had to wait like forever for our dishes to arrive. Imagine, I asked them for a bottle of mineral water. That took them around a good 15 minutes and then they turned up with a god-forsaken brand I hadn’t even heard of before. Still, the first impression might not always be the most accurate one. Gotta come back later to get to know this place a little better. And I’ve got to hand it over to this place in at least one respect. Its dirt-cheap.

Next stop, Oxford. Their annual sale is on till the 19th of this month and I could hardly miss this oppurtunity to pick up some new titles. I finally settled on two. Ismail Kadare’s The Concert and John Steinbeck’s East of Eden. The problem with me and bookshops is that there are so many books which I want to buy, but given my straitened financial condition, there are so few which I can. And books are also some goddamn costly these days. I mean to say these two titles alone cost me one grand!! Coming back to the books now. Kadare is one one of Albania’s best known, rather, he is Albania’s best known novelist. What Pamuk is to Turkey, Kadare is to Albania. I am yet to start this book. Steinbeck, on the other hand needs no introduction. One of the greatest storytellers ever. East of Eden was exactly the way I like books to be. Thick, voluminous with really short print. Finished this book in one day flat. Although a literary tour de force, this is not the best I have read. Notwithstanding the unquestionable lyrical supremacy, which is to be only expected of Steinbeck, the book end with an element of inadequacy, something unconsummated, underdone. Still, it is a brilliant piece of work. Lastly, about that something freaky, its the book everybody had been raving about in 2005, Freakonomics. Dad picked that up and from whatever little I have gone through, to even have such a concept as behind this book is outrageous. To actually implement it, is even more so. No wonder it is named Freakonomics

The Cal Carnivale

Made a visit today to what is undoubtedly the largest spectacle (ok, other than Durga Puja and those damn rallies, maybe) this city has to offer. And obviously, for this city famed for its intellectual pursuits, intellegentsia, Bengali Bhadraloks et al, that could only be a book fair. That is notwithstanding the fact that most people who throng the Maidan are in quest of far baser pleasures ( in point, the Food Stall). Yeah, that brings me to one of my favourite topics, food. I really have to hand it over to Calcuttans. They seem to have developed some kind of an inbuilt defence mechanism, completely immunue to almost everything under the sun. They way all the street food was being devoured amidst all that dust, had to be seen to be believed. Really, its way too dusty at Maidan, especialy when it has such multitudes trampling all over it. Perhaps, things shall take a turn for the better from next year when reportedly the venue is being shifted to someplace of E.M. Bypass.
I have never really been a big fan (or even a small fan) of book fairs. Why on earth should I go and jostle to have a look at books in all that dirt and dust, when I can do that easily in the air-conditioned comfort of Oxford and Landmark. And anyway, you’re likely to get more of a discount at the College Street bookstores or even the Family Book Shop. Still, there was no way I could’ve returned empty-handed from this place.
Got Banville’s Revolutions Trilogy and Eco’s The Name of the Rose. Banville is a guy have a read a lot about and the three novels are supposed to be his best works. Ergo, my choice. Eco, on the other hand, after my experience with his previous work, was more in the nature of a calculated gamble. Perhaps, all that arcana would be easier to tolerate if the novel itself was steeped in an era where all that arcanity actually counted for something. Foucault’s Pendulum, with its abrupt leaps from contemporary to medieval climes did not have this element. I expect Name of the Rose, touted as it is, as a taut Renaissance mystery to have it.