The Mirchi-Bajji Affair

If your ‘native place’ is North Karnataka(I won’t bother mentioning the exact place.Most Bangaloreans know N.Kar as one humongous flat piece of rock, with no boundaries) and you live in Hyderabad,I will be damned if you haven’t had some aspect of your life influenced by this masterpiece food item : the Mirchi Bajji(MB). It will suffice to say we are as passionate about Bajji as a Bengali is about a Rasgulla or a Mallu is about Parotta Egg Curry, probably more because the hotness quotient is more in a Mirchi bajji than the other two. Take my family for instance,myself included.Roughly speaking,the count of the mirchi bajjis we consumed during the 90’s was greater the cumulative sum total of all varieties of fruits dad got home during that period .Not that we ever complained. In fact, dad is still famous in the larger family circle for his Bajji fetish. All my elder cousins still never miss an opportunity to pull dad’s leg when they meet him – “Dattu kaka, nim makklige mirchi bajji tandilla(You didn’t get MB for your kids)?:D”.The proud gentleman that my father is,he would vehemently go on denying all the allegations and declare that he hasn’t been tempted by them in a long time now.

The Mirchi Bajji affair resurfaced during our house warming ceremony last week. Apparently, dad had ordered the cook to add the ‘delicacy’ as part of the lunch menu :D. At the last minute,some one found this out and politely suggested dad to change it something else,because having MB again is too boring.BTW, have any of you tried asking for sambar with your dosa at MTR? If yes, have you noticed the startled and offended looks the oldies sitting around you kept giving you for asking sambar? I tell you,never ask for sambar with dosa at MTR(or any of the popular breakfast joints in South B’lore). Coming back,my father’s antagonized facial expression was the same when asked to cancel the MB.  So me and some relatives were reminiscing this with amusement while going to the new house (dad was not present with us), our hyper-talkative and mutliloquent driver who works at dad’s bank piped in without warning “Saar eats lots of bajjis at work”. He didn’t need much prodding to gain full dramatic flourish before continuing – ‘What do I tell? Saar keeps sending me to get MB for him. I tell him that he needs to stop now and I wont let him go down like this. But Saar says – “What can I do Narsimulu?(cough cough) I need these. I can’t carry on without the bajjis.(cough) Don’t argue too much.I’m doomed anyway. Just get me those damn things(cough cough cough)”.My heart bleeds for him. But I am helpless’ he concluded. When contacted, dad had this to say “Aa soolemaga hang andna (That fellow said this)? I’ll see him at the office”.

(Disclaimer: Everything below as narrated by my brother)                                                  Mom has her own mirchi bajji story. The other day as I was going out, she said she felt like having MB and asked me to get two of them. Just as she had the first bite and was going for second,she froze. Tears started rolling down from her eyes. I was puzzled “Mummy,enaytu”? Mom went full retro. “Beta,this incident happened 22 years ago. You were still a baby then.We were traveling somewhere and the train stopped at a station.Your dad got hot MB and passed them to me from the train window.(Maybe all this started on that historic day). Nothing has tasted the same since then. I’ve been looking for the same out-of-this-world taste for the last 22 years now, and without success.Today,finally, my quest has ended with these bajjis”.I think she stopped short of saying ,”This is why you were brought into this world,my son. This was the purpose of your life. To get me Mirchi bajjis”.Sigh.

Another unrelated but funny incident. My dad and I were looking for an address in some locality in Hyderabad. Dad spotted a man getting into a swanky car,went to him and casually inquired about the address we were looking for. The guy totally panicked,frantically mumbled something and tried to get away quickly. Meanwhile, I walked up to him and shook his hand.He smiled back pleasantly and sped off in his car. Puzzled,dad asked, “That guy didn’t even tell the address properly. Why did you shake his hand and why did he smile at you? Do you know him?” I was hysterical with laughter by then.Struggling to control my laughter, I told him “Pappa, that’s Shekhar Kammula,director of acclaimed movies like Anand, Happy Days and recently, Leader. You totally scared the poor guy”. Dad was surprised, “Oh Happy Days director-aa?” and then,”So why is he roaming on the roads like this? Is no one giving him work these days?”

P.S: I suddenly wonder what’ll happen if one day Dad somehow stumbles across my blog and goes through it? Have I written anything that he would be proud of? Proabaly not. I will be extra careful :D

The legend of Masala-X

I am pining.I am pining my dinners away.The sambar masala which mom packed (lets call it masala-X for easy readability) me for Diwali is nowhere to be seen. No ordinary powder this one. One look at it and you would be reminded of gunpowder. Bend down a little and smell it and the spicy flavor of it intoxicates . Just don’t get your nose too close,for all you’ll get is fits of sneezing and coughing. You have been warned.You might not convinced yet.Let me compare this to the popular MTR Sambar masala. The most efficient way of putting it is this :

That sums it up (I knew my calculus would be put to good use someday). Few of us might argue there is no way one can integrate MTR masala from 0 to e powered x to get some mom’s sambar masala. If that’s the case,you are cordially invited to a Sunday afternoon sambar-rice lunch to my place over which I will prove to you beyond doubt the above equation. Fine, we shall take a more real-life example for the present, say traffic in Hyderabad. Another mathematical equation comes handy again :

                 Masala-X : MTR’s   : :  Hyderabad city traffic : Galli traffic in Ejipura

An inquisitive mind (probably one of those who had a problem with the integral)or a Bangalore loyalist would raise a question as to why Hyderabad was quoted and not Bangalore, although I daresay this matter is none to be proud of. I am afraid I will have digress further assuming that my intelligent reader is capable enough  to keep track of the narrative.Lets take a simple case of a pedestrian crossing the road in Himayatnagar, a fairly upmarket locality in Hyderabad. Once you reach the middle of the road, 6 out of 10 times you find yourself dead straight in line with an adrenaline charged biker zooming at an inestimable speed, usually returning from a telugu movie at a theatre at RTC X-Roads where he would have seen the super hero (there are only superheroes in telugu movies)  beat the crap out of the 50 people surrounding him in an epic climax. At that instant as you look into his eyes, you know you are done for. And at that very instant,your entire life will unfold in front of your eyes in a series of snapshots, rewinding fast from frame to frame. Then blank.Peace.….A deafening noise. The bike has zoomed past and you are standing like a dead trunk in the middle of the road,heart in your mouth You have been warned. Again.

Now that we have effectively described the credentials of this masala powder, I have to clarify one more thing. Granny will be stirring in her grave hearing me address the legendary Masala-X as mom’s, for it was her patented recipe. As a kid, when I visited grandma’s place for summer holidays, I would get down the auto and run straight to he kitchen shouting “Ajjjjji, masale haaki huli madidiii?”(Grandma,have you prepared the sambar adding the masala?) Grandma would walk to me at a slow pace, chuckling, peck me on my mouth (Why do grannys do that!?) and then open the container to proudly display the brownish-red sambar, its aroma filling the entire kitchen.And then we cousins would have the rice and sambar for dinner,with dollops of ghee to add, sometimes in the verandah by moonlight. My summer holidays were made of such memories :). Ajjis and Ajjas have gone, but their legacy remains.

So what now? I have lost all hopes of finding masala-X. And so the X-factor wil be missing in my dinner till I go home next time. Until then, I will just have to make do with the e^x times differentiated version from the MTRs.

A passion that WAS – Part 1 ;)

Arre Pavan, Yahaan pe jo koi bhi hai sab ko international cricket mein jaane ka 0.0001% toh chance hain, par tera toh bilkul bhi koi chance nahi yaar…

These were the exact words as I remember the Chimpanzee(aka Naveed ,Team Captain & Classmate) had said. He & people around were rolling on the floor with laughter. He said that neither because I was out clean bowled with each stump landing in three different directions nor because I was a big duck in the match. He said that after seeing me walk back after getting out. Flustered, insulted, angry, face as white as a ghost & now come to think of it probably a bit scared too :D. I just gave a wry smile back and crashed onto the ground. And see, his prediction was right. I didn’t make it to international cricket :P :P . That was my second official match for Section A Team. I was in 9th standard.

2 years ago

(Dad) “Why so serious, Son??? Lets put a smile on that face…” (All you Dark Knight fans relax, I am not The Joker! :P) Yippee! This has got to be one of the best days in my life until then! A no-strings-attached permission from Dad allowing me to play cricket every Saturday after school :P :D… that too despite vehement protests from Mom :D….Phenomenal! Well… I have to admit I don’t remember much of my cricket playing days before my 6th standard. But I sure made up for it during the later half of my school days. Now all you readers, sit back, and let nostalgia kick in as I recount My Experiments with Cricket ;)

Cricket on Saturday afternoons was awesome fun. As soon as the last bell rang on Saturday 1 pm, we would all meet up & everyone in the group would be intimated as to what time to be back to the ground (around 2 usually). I would take a drop on someone’s cycle and rush home, drop the bag, change, have lunch and rush back to the school ground. Our school ground had no name as such, but for us, it was the Mecca Of Cricket, bigger in stature than the Ovals ,The Eden Gardens etc etc . My homeground :)

Let me explain the format of our game first. We, as a group, were unanimously against full length games with 10-15 overs a side, full length pitches and full arm bowling right from the beginning. Wise men that we were, we knew that would waste a lot of time and we would be too tired too soon to enjoy the game. Thus the concept of “short boundary” came into being.

Rules & Regulations:

– Number of overs depending on the number of players (universal rule ;))
– A very short boundary (so that we don’t need to slog much running)
– A small pitch (around 10 yards I guess)
– Bowling is standing from the bowler’s crease and delivering the ball.
– A six would get the batsman out. (That’s why the name short boundary)

Now to the selection of the stumps. This is one area where every Indian gulli-cricket-player is at his imaginative & creative best. We promptly zeroed on the kho-kho pole! That should’ve been the smallest stumps ever used in terms of breadth. ;) Now the best part! Right from the time we started playing, we always used only cork balls to play and never ever turned back to tennis or rubber ball after thatJ . Playing with a cork ball is pretty exciting. Also as it gets older, the surface of the ball gets rough & patchy. So it becomes easy to grip & it generates much better spin than a tennis ball or a rubber ball. Now everyone in the team was a Shane Warne! :D Also surprisingly, I don’t remember anyone getting seriously injured during all the time we played :)

We had decided right from the beginning that we needed more practice on the offside for us to blossom into great players.:P The decision was taken with immediate effect . No runs on the onside! Modesty be damned, I was the most dependable player in the group. And I guess much to the amusement of others, I used to take the game way too seriously. Others were the kind who would not hesitate to forfeit the match after batting just because they don’t want to field. :D. And we got used to this kinda cricket so much that when we played matches against other team where runs could be scored all round the wicket, most of us had forgotten there is something called onside where we can hit and score runs too :D . Soon we were regularly playing on weekdays too after school hours. I sometimes used to reach home at 6:30 – 7 pm on weekdays after a 2 hour session of play. Life was good then, in fact, great. And the images just don’t disappear from the mind’s eye…. The memories don’t fade…. And one of those days when I returned home late, took off my shoes and was about to enter the house , I could see a silhouette framed against the open door. Dark & eerie. I strained my eyes to see what it was. And then a lightning struck far far away and threw light for a split-second on the figure at the door. I could feel a terrible lump go down my throat & land in my stomach .My legs would give away, not out of exhaustion & fatigue but out of dread. Mom! A very very pissed off Mom! Yeah, some memories just DON’T fade away… :D.

Then there were the Section A – Section B matches. I was from Section A. And we pretty much sucked in our cricket. Chimpu (our Section A captain :D) used to come and play short boundary cricket with us regularly. He discovered an unpolished diamond in me (:P) and one fine day he said, “Pavan, Tu team mein aaja…” Yay! I was in the team.( Yeah yeah, Section A team, not even class team, oh let’s not even talk about school team. It should be pretty much clear by now I ain’t hear to brag about my talent in the game :P) And overnight we became the undisputed champs!!! Just Kidding . We still got pwned in most of the matches and in the process some cash to the other team :D :P

You will see some improvements in standards once you start playing for the official team – you use a proper cricket ball (the red ball all with the leather & the seam over the cork core), there is a mat along the pitch so that an even bounce is generated and you get to wear gloves on your hands and pads on your legs! And that was my nemesis in my first official match. I couldn’t run to save my life wit the pads on!!! And then, as wretched as it seems, I had to call for a runner. One fine delivery, I hit for a single, my runner ran & I ran along with him & then there was chaos. I was run out after scoring one :P . My 2nd match, as already explained , was a superior debacle. But soon I found my confidence and started making useful contributions. Alas! All good things come to an end. The clock was ticking. Soon they said – “ You have had enough fun now .You need not come to school from tomorrow.” And they handed me a certificate. :( The end of an era ….