Sunday, September 29, 2013

Lunch, Tea and Dinner

Went for the much hyped – “The Lunchbox” last Sunday morning. Charming film. It’s beauty lies in understatement. Understated script, understated dialogue, understated acting. Everything minimalistic. One doesn’t expect anything less than competent from Irrfan Khan and Nawazuddin Siddique. But, Nirmat Kaur is the real find. Hope she doesn’t get type-cast to do de-glam roles. Yet, I think the movie been  trifle over-rated.   The Karan Johar and Anurag Kashyap connection does help in getting PR – as indeed does the Sony Picture Classics banner. Still, it didn’t manage to become India’s official entry for the Oscars as widely expected in the social media. The Gujarati – The Good Road was the unanimous choice of the selection committee. Nandini Ramnath has a good explanation why the critics voted for The Good Road over The Lunchbox in Mint  (click here to read)

Goutam Ghose – the Chairman of the Jury spoke in 2 voices.  First, while announcing the choice of the ‘The Good Road’ he said it was a unanimous decision of the jury. Later, he told the media, ‘The Lunchbox’ was his personal favourite (click here to read) thus fanning an unwarranted controversy.


Haven’t been exercising much in the past one year. Never a morning person – don’t find the time for walks even in the evening. Didn’t swim this entire season. The punishing travel routine becomes a convenient excuse for not doing anything. Foreigners always manage to pack in a gym schedule or a jog even when they are on the road. My yoga teacher has given up on me. I keep two Books on Yoga next to my bed – perhaps, in the hope they’d be working on the subconscious mind – a new form of Transcendental Yoga one might say J. But, in reality – I know this is unpardonable at my age. It goes much beyond simple laziness – perhaps, bordering on incipient depression.

The only form of physical activity – I enjoy these days are my Sunday evening walks through the alleys and by-lanes of South Calcutta, the locality where I grew up. It’s amazing how little has changed in this area over the years – barring many of the old bungalows turned into small apartment blocks, the new saree boutiques and cafes. But, beyond that it remains just the same – a grim reminder of the economic stagnation of the city. The tea stalls on the pavement, phuchka-wallahs at street junctions – dimly lit and with pathetic hygiene and road-side snack take-aways selling the most unhealthy  Fish fry, cutlets, chops and rolls.

But, there is a charm in travelling back in time. So, I make each of these walks a destination outing. My favourite being a tea-stop at Radu-Babu’s Hotel next to Lake Market. I’m amazed at the incredible prices – he still keeps. It requires a lot of will-power to resist the special Chicken Kobiraji. But, his speciality is the Bong-style ‘Roasted Chicken’ available only on Thursdays for a limited period. A whole-spring chicken at a princely Rs 96 is hard to digest. But, don’t know how he manages it even in this day and age. I suspect it’s a ‘loss-leader’ – a reward of sorts for his loyal customers.

Burnt-garlic Squid

When I started going to the Mangalorean restaurants in the Fort area in the early 80s – you could still have a meal at Mahesh Lunch Home for Rs 25, the lunch allowance for many offices on PM Road (those were days before Sodexo and Ticket Restaurants) – Citibank, HTA (Hindustan Thompson) and Liptons. Since, they were discovered by Imran Khan and Lonely Planet – Trishna, Mahesh, Bharat (Excellensea) and even Apoorva, have turned high-end specialty sea-food restaurant . But, there’s one treasure – yet to be discovered by Mumbai’s Page 3 crowd – Pratap lunch Home, tucked away in the lane next to the Fort Parsi Agiari. Had an outstanding Burnt Garlic Squid and authentic Mangalorean Crab Sukka with Neer Dosa – the other day. A watering-hole in the evenings for the “janata”  of nearby office goers it still remains affordable and unpretentious. Strongly recommended for the mildly adventurous and the less snooty.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

A tiptoed comeback...

Daughter is back in Calcutta for her college after spending the last 6 years of school at Boarding in Pune and Bangalore. Major cultural change for her – from the protected environment of Krishnamurty Foundation (KFI) Schools to a basic (‘pati’ – as we would say in Bengali) Government College – though she seems to be having a ball with all her new found independence. Travelling on packed Metro-trains and auto-rickshaws or ‘bussing’ it across the city for “outdoors” – are thrills she is just beginning to discover and the charm hasn’t worn off yet. Then having “lemon tea” in plastic cups (that have replaced the earthen “bhaars” of our times) and ghugni by the road side are another level of education.

There are different dynamics playing at home between the mother and daughter – sharply contrasted with my recollections of the father-son tensions of my late adolescence and early youth. That both are undergoing hormonal changes of their respective ages don't help matters surely.

I am going through my umpteenth bout of professional ‘burn-out’ and the idea of retirement teases as seductively as ever. But, a cursory look at the Bank Statements and Credit Card Bills is enough to shatter any idle reverie – and one shudders at the thought of the unpaid Home Loan EMI like hearing the sound of crash on Dalal Street.  Getting out of Calcutta remains my biggest challenge. The city sends me into throes of despair. All the Prozac in the world can’t cure me of the depression that Calcutta brings over me.

So, the best I could do for the time being was take another one of our standard therapeutic break in the Nilgiris, as we have been doing for years - whenever the blues become unbearable. This was a trip of sinful laziness – with the spouse’ leg impaired by a medical condition (synovitis) and my sagging spirits badly needing to be propped up by some real stuff (Beefeater Gin in the afternoons and Glenlivet in the evenings – to be precise). Had a lifetime’s quota of fresh cream – with an assortment of pies and pastries – as fitting finale to loads of red meet (no rubbery chicken or the tasteless scavenger Bassa for me, please). Coonoor Avocados and Acres Wild Cheeses (from Mansoor Khan’s farm)  were at the healthier end of the food-chain. To hell with Cholesterol and Diabetes !!

Read this review of ShovonChowdhury’s maiden novel  The Competent Authority. Promises to be a good read. Knew Shovon briefly – when he was in advertising (Bates-Clarion, Delhi). Good to know he has made this successful transition to writing. Looking forward to the book.