Monday, May 28, 2001

Lal Maans, King Alphonsoes and Zhu Rongji

This seems to be the season of Food Festivals in Kats and there has also been a spate of articles on Indo-Nepal relations. While the provocation for the first are not known ( the tourists are not coming anyway ) the latter was probably prompted, at least in part, by Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji's visit to the Capital.
But, talking of Food first, there was the Karavalli Festival at the Anna, followed by the Thai fare at the Hyatt, the Singapore Fest at the Yak & Yeti and finally the Rajasthani at the Everest. Having visited two of them ( and, earlier the South Indian one at Radisson some months ago ) I have come to the firm conclusion that all Food Fests are FRPs ( Financially Ruinous Propositions ). The Thai fare at The Hyatt was an unmitigated disaster - they simply didn't have an honest dish of Thai. Anyday, I would vote for the Yin-Yang in Thamel or Humro Sulu and Prachnada's Ban-Thai on Durbar Marg ( even at the risk of offending my dear daughter's Darling Monica Auntie ) and better still say Zindabad to Ready-Made Lobo's Thai-pastes from the friendly neighbourhood Bhat-bhateni. The well marketed "Padharo Hukum" at The Everest , which was a big hit among the city's Marawari aristocracy and the 'diplomatic' ( pun optional ) diners, didn't quite live upto the hype and expectation ( and, on Friday night at the India House dinner, which was also catered to by The Everest, one suspected that we were served left-over Lal-Maans ). Vested interest groups from closer quarters of the family, of course, billed the Karavalli as the best of the lot, adding an unsolicited footnote as to how Coastal Indian Cuisine and Sea-Food couldn't have been appealed to the uncultivated popular palate . S, our self certified food critique, was not around to vouch for it - however, since then he has been seen making regular post-lunch trips to the Anna Coffee shop to get his quota of Alphonsoes and Vanilla ice-cream. ( One of the minor perks of shifting his office to a more 'central' location is his rather unconvincing explanation).
Any discussion on Nepal's foreign policy and relation with its Northern and Southern neighbours has to begin with a reference to the analogy of the proverbial Yam ( stuck between two boulders ) attributed to the late King Prithvi Narayan Shah some 2 centuries ago. But, recently some plain speaking articles displaying a greater semblance of balanced view-point have appeared in the media on both sides of the Indo-Nepal border. First there C. K. Lal's hard-hitting - "Tourism fizzles as India sizzles" in the Nepali times some three weeks ago. Lal wrote: The problem of Nepali tourism isn't that Indians aren't coming, the real problem is that deep down we do not seem to want them.
Then , there was Rita ( Manchanda)'s centre-piece in The ToI - Not A Himalyan Task. Though, it seems like the piece was a casualty of severe editorial pruning, losing some of its focus as a result, she makes a point for "enlightened introspection and imaginative re-structuring" on both sides to inject greater equality and mutual respect into Indo-Nepal ties. She quotes Ashok Mitra, the inveterate Bengali-Marxist analyst from the Economic and Political Weekly "A time will come when Nepal ( despite being the only Hindu nation of the world ) will join the ranks of the certified enemies of India". Then there was, of course, Dubby's little piece on the (South ) Block - but I preferred his earlier one on Eating Out in Kats.
We are told that, 'Ji' in Newari means 'Our Own'. So, the instant empathy evoked by by Zhu Rongji was not unexpected. But, for us the most positive take-out of the visit was, Soaltee flew down Apro Nelson Wang from Amchi Mumbai to cook for Chinese delegation. This was meant to be pre-publicity for Nelson opening a branch of his China Garden in Kathmandu - at the Soaltee, where the old GGs used to be. So, happy gourmet times ahead.