Cold Showers

I had my first cold water bath of the year yesterday.

Some of you might think I’m doing it a bit early. The majority of you will probably think I’m doing it very late.

While I’m not as extreme a hot water fanatic as Zubin- who reputedly has hot water baths well into June- I do admit that I like my weather and water warm. And as you will just have noticed, I also like alliteration, but that’s beside the point. Right now. Anyway. Coming back. Yes, hot water.

Apparently, I take after my maternal grandmother, who feels chilly even on Midsummer Night. While the rest of us are sweating buckets, she stacks blankets on top of herself.

While I’m not as extreme as Nani either, I admit that I don’t really feel the heat. I sweat so little that I actually enjoy the sensation when it comes. I go to my drawing room and bask in the sun, waiting for little drops to sweat to trickle down behind my ears and cool the bits of skin that get extra heat because of the insulation provided by my hair. This is something that even the rest of my family, who are equally, and in some cases, more insane than me, find weird and astonishing.

So, yes, a cold water bath at this particular time of the year- I started wearing only T-shirts just today- is something out of the ordinary for me. Here’s how it went.

I came home, suffering from the agonies inflicted upon me by evil deluxe bus conductors (see W-Fillet #12 for details) and decided to ease my pain with a bath. I also decided that it might as well be the first cold one of the year, since Delhi’s quite warm, especially compared to Patiala.

In the process of preparations- getting towel, fresh clothes, et cetera- I discovered that my brother, in conformance to his odd fetish, has kept only Dettol in the bathroom. I approve of Dettol for the washing of hands before meals, but using it to bathe with is ridiculous. A shower is something I now get only once every two weeks (why, oh why, did I move out of hostel B), and I intend to make it a pleasurable and sensuous experience, by Jupiter! A short trip to my parents’ bathroom, from where I retrieved a cake of Biotique plum-scented Aurvedic soap fixed that particular problem. Then I got down to work.

I can tell you, it wasn’t easy going. The minute I stepped under the shower, symptoms of analyptic shock stunned me. I stepped back, repelled by the water. Then, gamely, I tried again. Alas, it was with the same results.

After about two minutes of stepping gingerly into and out of the water stream, I decided enough was enough. I turned off the shower, and applied soap and shampoo. Then I turned the water back on, and stepped right back in.

Wooooooohh!! Wooh-wooh! Coldcoldcold! Ahhhh… refreshing!

What a wonderfully delicious sensation. After two weeks of mixing cold and hot water in buckets in my dingy hostel bathroom, and sloshing water over myself with mugs, this was a welcome change. The water literally blasted the lather off me, and presumably exfoliated any dead skin particles that may have been present. I stepped out of the bath with a glowing mood, not to mention a glowing complexion.

Now that I have restocked my bathroom with the essentials- Liril lemon shower gel (with loofah)- no more Dettol!- and Biotique Green Apple Shampoo- I anticipate that bathing will join breakfast as one of the most pleasurable pastimes home has to offer. Perhaps, like breakfast itself, bathing will become a twice-daily activity for me. If all my baths are as good as the one I had yesterday, I’ve got no complaints.

Deluxe Buses

That’s it. No more deluxe buses.

You get wonderfully wide and soft reclining seats, the bus travels much faster and stops at Haryana Tourism Panipat instead of some obscure dhaba for the food break, and this is quite a good deal even at double price.

But is it really worth it when they’re going to show Dil To Pagal Hai all the way from Ambala to the Delhi bypass?

This was the third time I’ve been able to catch a deluxe bus. The last time I did, they showed Ghayal- a movie purists would scoff at, certainly- but when you’re going home after two weeks, watching Sunny Deol bring about the timely demises of villainous scoundrels has a certain charm to it- especially if you have a packet of Nutyumz with you.

And the first ever occasion I traveled by deluxe bus, they showed Saudagar. Since all I had after buying the ticket was the princely sum of two rupees and fifty paise, I had to watch Saudagar on an empty stomach- something not very advisable, condiering Saudagar is the movie that brought the phrase ‘ilu-ilu’ to an unsuspecting and unprepared populace. But- at least Saudagar had blood feuds. And Manisha Koirala. So I soldiered through bravely.

But Dil to Pagal hai? That’s evil. It’s psychological warfare, it is. What kind of sadistic fiend derives pleasure in inflicting Shah Rukh Khan and Chopratrash on people- that, too, in a moving bus?

Fortunately, I had Nutyumz to see me through, and keeping the window open attenuated the sounds of Shah Rukh Khan’s incessant blathering and Karishma Kapoor’s caterwauling to some extent, but I have suffered, oh how I have suffered.

So that’s it. No more deluxe buses. Who needs cushioned seats anyway?

Dipping IQ

I’ve been practicing sample CATs. I’ve been consistently getting scores around the 80-85% mark- always half to two points short of ideal scores.

Though my scores will probably improve with more practice, this is a bit worrying, since I had been getting 90-95% in sample CATs and GREs I had given in first year, and that was without sitting down with a strategy and pencils and scratch paper- I would just go and give the exam. Evidently, my aptitude and IQ have actually decreased after two and a half years of university education.

Taking all factors into account, there are two theories to explain this- the first is that the more you specialise, the more your general intelligence and aptitude decrease. In other words, by the time you get a PhD, all you’ll be good for is the subject of your PhD. For everything else, such as tying your shoelaces, and inhaling oxygen, you’ll be dependent on other people.

The other theory is that stupidity is contagious, and I’ve been catching it ever since I started college. This theory is supported by the fact that many people in my batch are morons. And if that wasn’t enough, my university is sistuated in Punjab, that land of sardars- a nonhuman species whose members are capable of rupturing their appendices instead of breaking their bones when they fall off rikshas; and who would rather have chicken wings than drink wine off Yana Gupta’s legs.

Hence Proved….

Wedding Bells III

This is a bit late. In fact, this is very late. More than a week. My apologies. I’ve been so busy doing things that I’ve had no time to write about them.

All right. Wedding Bells was supposed to be a three part series, but due to the very interesting reception, it’s now four part. Taking into account the fact that the wedding itself had been so utterly boring, I had told Anuj that I expected the reception to be no better. n00j, ever the optimist, said you never knew, and that something might happen.

It did, and how!

Moments after we arrived at the venue of the reception, one of the caterer’s gas cylinders exploded.

An exploded gas cylinder is a sight not to be missed, especially when the gas has already been burning. The gas first rushes out with a whistling noise and then goes kaboom. After that, it burns off with a spectacular flame, resembling the burning tapers one associates with Egyptian pyramids in B-grade movies, but on a larger scale. In other words, an inverted cone of flame, about three or four feet high. After that, it burns steadily, illuminating the nearby trees, and after five minutes, the flame finally subsides reluctantly, allowing the caterers to return to their business of preparing Fish Tikka and Stuffed Aloo (which, I might mention, were only two of the utterly superlative snacks on offer that night).

A beginning like that sets the tone. The reception turned out to be one of the most interesting social gatherings I have attended in recent times.

There was free booze on offer, which prompted me to drink, after about four and a half years of abstinence. I promised myself not to exceed two Bloody Marys. As a matter of fact, I never even went beyond one, mostly because I was too busy eating. However, other people were not as restrained as I was. Over the course of the evening, I was accosted by no less than four very drunk strangers, who were presumably impressed by my striking good looks and gorgeous attire. The worrying fact is that they were all male. A facsimile of the first, and most interesting of these encounters is provided below.

Middle Aged Gent: Hello.
Aadisht (assuming that MAG is an obscure relative whom he should know): Hello.
MAG: What’s your name?
A: Aadisht.
MAG: Aadit?
A (realising that MAG is not a relative, and also extremely drunk): Yes.
MAG: Aadit! What a beautiful name!
A: Thank you.
MAG: I wish I could have a son. Then I would call him Aadit.
A (amused): Thank you.
MAG (abruptly changing topic): Are you married.
A: No.
MAG: Good. Never get married. (points to wife) She dominates me.

At this point, I moved away hurriedly.

I’ve mentioned before that the catering was superlative, but I’ll mention it again. It bears repetition. The brides parents, who in addition to being dumb-looking, possessed of foul siblings involved in active politics, and pure vegetarians, also have no sense of judgment, had selected absolutely rotten caterers for the wedding itself. In addition to the whole mamaji and LK Advani fiasco, and the fact that there was no last-minute substitution of bride or groom, the food that night had turned to ashes in my mouth. By contrast, the caterers at the reception were, to quote Ron Weasley, bloody brilliant. The Tempura Fish, the Stuffed Aloo, the Subzi Rangbirangi, and the multifarious species of chicken tikka on offer were just a teaser to one of the greatest dinners I have ever eaten. The caterers knew their stuff. The Italian cuisine on offer was not just pasta dumped out of a packet into a tawa to be deep fried in mustard oil, but something as close to the genuine article I have ever eaten outside of Flavors (under the Defence Colony flyover). The salmon steak was the best fish preparation I have ever eaten in Delhi, and the third best ever (the first two being butter fish at a wedding in Calcutta, and fried crab and fish curry at a beach shack in Goa). Of course, this is not to detract or demean the Indian stuff on offer, which, after two weeks of hostel food and insipid catering, brought me a little closer to heaven. The full bodied texture and warm sweetness of the gulab jamuns is something which still produces a frantic itching at the tip of my tongue.

Of course, I needed several glasses of Eno once I reached home, and I was so stuffed that not even the DJ playing Kaliyon Ka Chaman could induce me to come on to the dance floor- a Herculean task that only the Tomato Song could manage- but I have no regrets. It would have been a travesty and an insult to the chefs not to have eaten as I did.

All in all, one of the most enjoyable evenings I have spent this semester.

Coming soon: Wedding Bells IV, which will finish the series and comment on the entire concept of marriage.

Sign Language

Simran Stores has this banner up on display:

GRAND OFFER!!! 3 PAIRS LADIES FOR 500 RUPEES ONLY

Imagine that.

Wedding Bells II

I apologise for the delay. First there was the wedding, then there was replying to all the mail the previous Fillets have generated (thank you everybody!), and finally there was just sheer laziness.

So, here we are. Wedding Bells II- Part 2 of a three part series- in which I provide the scoop on how my cousin Vishal’s wedding proceeded.

It was very disappointing. The airport girl didn’t gatecrash the sangeet and ask Vishal to marry her, and Vishal doesn’t have a deaf brother who could raise objections to the wedding. Everything proceeded smoothly. Tritely. Boring.

I shaved for the wedding. Before and after photos shall be made available shortly.

As usual, the uniquely defective relatives that we are all cursed with were the items of maximum interest.

Vishal has these aunts or great aunts on his mother’s side. A pair of these toothless old crones fancied themselves as a singing chorus of sorts- Shastriji could hardly do anything without them bursting into some foul folk song or the other. People stared askance at them, but they continued unabated. Since staring didn’t work, these people then just shook their heads silently and sadly, and muttered ‘Had hundi hai, yaar’ to themselves.

Well, if not exactly ‘Had hundi hai, yaar’, at least something equivalent.

But by far the most dysfunctional relative to grace the wedding was the bride’s mamaji.

Mamaji’s overriding achievement in life seems to be the fact that he befriended LK Advani and Atal Bahari Vajpayee back when they were all young. The very fact that he knew them when they were young itself suggests that he is slightly over two hundred years old, and, in all decency, should have died long ago, but some people just refuse to show consideration to others.

Mamaji, in fact, went out of his way to be inconsiderate. He invited Advani and Vajpayee to the wedding. And Advani actually accepted.

Consequently, the baraat route was lined by submachine gun wielding police officers intent on making nuisances of themselves. During the course of the pre-dinner period, I was accosted brusquely by a plainclothesman who demanded to know who I was. This was very galling- if policemen are going to look at me suspiciously even when I’m clean-shaven- why not have a beard after all? The situation is similar to my Class XII English board, where I resisted the temptation to submit my answers in geek rap- and received 58 nevertheless.

Anyway, Advani came for a grand total of about five minutes. We were all quite relieved as he, and the police contingent, left.

My parents inform me that Mamaji is a namedropper of the worst sort- when asked his views on the Iraqi situation he claimed that Bush would be calling Vajpayee that night, after which Vajpayee would seek his, and the German ambassadors advice.

Clovis Sangrail would know what to do with Mamaji. If you don’t know who Clovis Sangrail is, buy the collected works of Saki.

Moving along to the bride. While I can’t comment on her actual intelligence, she certainly looks very dumb. However, as far as her relatives are concerned, they live up to their looks- they seem to posses the IQ of a dull-witted slime mould.

They attempted to steal Vishal’s juttis. All well and good- you could expect nothing less of them than to carry on a time honoured tradition. Where one finds fault with them is in their mode of execution. They not only neglected Vishal’s juttis altogether, but what they eventually purloined was my brother Bhavya’s right jutti, Vishal’s father’s left black shoe, and my father’s right brown shoe. How they managed to mistake these three diverse items for a pair of juttis I shall never know, but I strongly suspect either sensory or cognitive retardation.

Um yeah, that’s it for this Fillet. Stick around for the next part.

How to Combat Communalism

I’ve had this brilliant idea on how to defang the VHP.

It’s to assemble a team of devotional singers noted for the beauty of their voices and their combined lungpower. This team would follow Praveenbhai Togadia around wherever he goes. Whenever he opens his mouth, they would burst into bhajans. Whoever Togadia might be trying to address would be entranced by the beauty of the bhajan, and would stop paying attention to him.

The beauty of this idea is in it’s non-violence. If you were to follow Togadia around and heckle him, you could get arrested, beaten, or worse. Similarly if you were to follow him around with a rock band and play ‘In the name of love’. Especially if you followed him around and sang Christian hymns of forgiveness. But to follow him around and sing Bhakti bhajans at VHP meetings- nobody’s going to do anything for that.

Togadia will be so nonplussed and frustrated, he’ll eventually tear out what little hair he has left on his head. Once that’s gone, he’ll tear out his moustache.

TV anchors will also stop inviting him once they realise that their studios will be invaded by bhajan singers who sound much better than they do.

Comments anybody?

The Most Important Meal of the Day

Phirni Rocks- shrewt (Quotes 2:45)

It’s tempting. It’s not like I’ve ever tasted it before.- Mriduben (Quotes 3:28)

… so we were soon out of there and out for some good indian grub- Mridu (Quotes 3:41)

My life’s all about a sugar rush.- Anuj_Himself (Quotes 4:9)

Chawal Chawla donon ko khaoonga- Adi Bedi (Quotes 9:8)

I love prawn- Ghodi (Quotes 11:28)

Iski dieting aise hai, TK vaise hai- Big Man (Quotes 13:37)

you’ve reduced me to a domesticated spaghetti making idiot- Comfortably Bum (Quotes 14:25)

oh come now, surely ervery1 knows dat….even nirula’s hv had viennese coffee on their icecream menu since time began!!!- Mannis (Quotes 14:21)

I had a conversation with Mrs Vanita Mehta recently. Breakfast was one of the things I talked to her about.

Breakfast is my primary incentive to come home on weekends. Cutthroat long distance telephony price wars and the march of technology ensure that I can always stay in touch with my family and friends (and my enemies, but who wants to talk to them) whenever I like, from the comfort of my hostel room. Should I ever feel like gazing upon their visages- well, a digital camera, the GIMP, and a printer take care of that. The college ‘Net line is 2Mbps, compared to the 64 kbps DSL at home. I like Linux so much now that I am loath to go home where I will have no alternative but to use Windoze. Moreover, Delhi’s superior markets and ‘hang-outs’ lose some of their sheen when you realise that the are infested with monotonously homogeneous young people who all look and talk alike (that’s a repetition, but some of you may have thought I meant chemically homogeneous).

But there’s one thing I can get at home that I can’t get in Patiala and that’s a decent breakfast.

Nutritionists acknowledge breakfast to be the most important meal of the day. I should know- my mother is one (nutritionist, not breakfast). But aside from the nutritional aspect there is also a sociological side to breakfast. A civilisation that does itself well at breakfast will do itself well in other fields as well. Most people fail to make the connection, but the British Empire was at its peak at the same time as the British breakfast was at its peak. When World War II intervened, and prevented Britons from getting their regular supplies of tea and bananas, the Raj collapsed. The post-War geopolitical dominance of the United States is easily explained- it, after all, is the birthplace of breakfast cereal. And France and Germany would not have been so successful in preventing war as they did recently at the United Nations, had the healthful European breakfast not being making a comeback.

Keeping all this is in mind, I’ve decided that one should ideally have breakfast twice a day- once for breakfast, and then again for dinner. My ideal meal scheme is detailed below:

For my morning meal, a sweet breakfast over an hour, consisting of:

  • Apples, bananas, and/ or grapes
  • Honey covered corn flakes or muesli
  • Fruit juice
  • Nutella and/ or jam sandwiches
  • Danish pastry and doughnuts
  • Cold coffee, or Earl Grey with honey and lemon

For my afternoon meal, lunch over half an hour, consisting of roti, one sabzi, dal, and kheer- either phirni or seviyan wali. The object of lunch would be to build up my fat reserves- $deity knows I need some.

For my evening meal- ideally beginning at seven and proceeding over an hour and a half or more- a salty breakfast, consisting of:

  • Chicken soup with lots of vegetables
  • Green salad, ideally consisting of lettuce and other assorted green leafy vegetables, jalapenos, artichokes, walnuts, and/ or apples. With a vinaigrette (sp?) dressing.
  • Toasted cheese sandwiches on garlic bread. With the same stuff that goes into the salad.
  • Scrambled eggs with paranthas or fluffy omelettes on toast.
  • Chococcino

The great advantage of having breakfast for dinner is that you can prepare it and eat it at leisure. The rate determining step is how long it takes you to cut up the vegetables- once those are done, mixing them into a salad takes negligible time, grilling or toasting them into sandwiches is just a matter of arrangement- your OTG does the rest. The only things that would really require personal attention are the eggs and the soup. Also, dishwashing would presumably be simpler with this sort of dinner than with a dal, dahi and two sabzi meal- you’d just have to clean one frying pan, one soup pot, one salad bowl; and two mugs and one plate per person. And the mugs and plate wouldn’t need scrubbing- just rinsing and wiping.

Of course, at the hostel mess what you eat is what you’re given (WYEIWYG), but with a five day interlude coming up, I intend to put this meal system into practice at the earliest. As always, you will be informed of all successes and failures (of the economic or digestive variety).

Wedding Bells

No, not mine. My cousin Vishal’s. He’s getting married on Wednesday. And thereby hang a couple (or more) of yarns.

Since last year, my cousin has been anxious to get married. Whether this is a wise state to be in at all can be discussed another time. For now, accept it as a given.

Anyway, whlie he was waiting for a flight at London-Heathrow- the flight, being an Air India one, was delayed- he met this girl. He struck up a conversation, and found that he quite liked her. But then, boarding for the flight finally started. And in the haste and worry of boarding, he forgot to ask her for her contact details.

He was thus quite depressed when he took his seat. And then his depression ended.

Romance, bravely ignoring the grim dreariness of an Air India flight, struck. The girl whom he had forgotten to ask for her contact details came and took the seat next to him. This time, at the end of a twelve hour flight (I assume it’s twelve hours, it’s been a while since I flew LHR-DEL. With Air India, it would of course seem like eighteen, but for my cousin it must have passed in less than two), he did take her contact details.

For the next two months (October and November 2002) he ICQ’s and SMS’s and various other TLA’d that girl.

After that, of course, I had my endsem exams, so I was unaware of any further unraveling in this regard. But then, shortly after I came home for the winter holidays, I was told to dress up- we were going for dinner to meet Vishal’s fiancee.

He got engaged to the airport girl? I asked with interest.

Apparently not.

It seems that romance just can’t stand up to Air India, however hard it tries. To refer to the airport girl now would be to commit a faux pas to end all faus pas, my mother warned me. Vishal’s fiancee had been carefully chosen to not do whatever it was the airport girl had done.

To this day, I am unsure what exactly happened between the airport girl and Vishal. All I know is that within a very short space of time, Vishal forgot all about the airport girl, and asked his parents to find him a wife.

So.

He’s getting married to quite another girl this Wednesday.

Such are the ways in which life moves.

Coffee Bars

I remember quite distinctly that back in 1996, a bowling craze had started. People used to go bowling as if there was no tomorrow. It gradually tapered off- people started to go bowling as if there was no next month intead- and was replaced by a pool craze circa 1999.

The pool craze was even more all-pervasive and widespread than the bowling craze, because a pool table does not require quite as much floor area aa a bowling alley. You couldn’t walk past five houses without seeing one that had a pool table in its basement.

But the pool craze has also worn off. Pool tables are still around, but there’s no mass movement towards playing pool anymore- just a few afficionados. Nobody goes to play pool just like that.

Most people are watching the World Cup these days, but the World Cup comes only once in four years. That leaves three years and eleven months unaccounted for. That’s a whole lot of leisure time that’s either vanished or in which people aren’t doing anything very interesting.

So, after analysing all the available data- I have come to the conclusion- they go to coffee bars.

Coffee Bars are the only thing that are springing up with as much fervour and verve as pool parlours used to back in the ’90s. Even more, in fact. In certain markets (Basant Lok, South Ex-2, Green Park) Baristas are now spaced less than half a kilometre apart. Add to this Cafe Coffee Day and Qwiky’s trying to catch up, and you have a situation that, to paranoid minds like mine, brings up memories of the planet Frogstar B described <i>in The Restaraunt at the End of the Universe</i>- where the planetary society collapsed overnight when the number of shoe shops on the High Street exceeded critical mass.

Another reason to be paranoid is that though the pool craze was bound to collapse- faced with competition everywhere, pool parlours had to keep dropping their prices until the whole deal became unsustainable- the average price of coffee in coffee bars keeps rising. Starting in 2000 with a menu in which nothing was more than 50 rupees- Barista has gradually started introducing combos and eatables, so that now if your go in and order a coffee, it’s a Borgia for 70 rupees, and you have a 50 rupee sandwich with that. And since people are actually buying it- the coffee bar revolution will just keep on expanding forever- there’ll be no Big Crunch.

I appreciate that this is a somewhat sweeping conclusion to jump to, especially since I’ve jumped to it only in the last two minutes, and haven’t backed it up with adequate data. But I have a course on Simluation and Modelling this semester, and to Simulate and Model the growth of coffee bars in India should not take very long.

If, then, the growth of coffee bars in India is exponential rather than linear or sigmoid- we’ll eventually reach a stage where all structures will be coffee bars. Everyone will be going about their business from Cafe Coffee Day tables, using laptops and CDMA connections. Nobody would ever sleep, because of the high concentration of caffeine fumes. Sleep deprivation would then eventually take it’s toll and kill everybody.

Then again, my entire premise could be wrong.