My Friend Mohan

I met him today at the Kerala House. Where he serves up Malayali food.

I landed up there with all my colleagues – 12 very hungry beings – ready to pounce on whatever came our way (The usual gag at work is that everyone fasts from the night before when one has a birthday treat coming up the next day. The way we eat would convince you of it).

This was my treat for my day which happened to be on November 9.

We got in as guests of a Member of Parliament and thereafter behaved not unlike a bunch of famine-struck baboons. I mean the younger lot.

Because the big dining table was occupied (which was rightfully ours), we settled for whatever came our way – small square tables of four with real heavy wooden chairs.

Soon the food came rolling in. Big, fat brownish rice accompanied by veggie dishes that had my mouth watering. The side dish was piled generously with ‘thoran’ (cabbage with lotsa peas and coconut grinded finely) and ‘thiyal’ (this was my favourite, it had eggplant cooked beautifully with spices and sour tamarind).

There was pale yellow, watery gravy that was poured by one of the servers on the rice. It was called the ‘pulissery’ that came with chunks of green papaya. The yoghurt base was the reason I guess it was inordinately sour. And even though I love sour -- I mean I heart sour --but this was Sour.

Where Mohan comes in, of course, was this. He was bringing us plates heaped with papad. And he had the sweetest, kindly smile that touched me. He brought us a fish curry with tender ‘surmai’ fish pieces cooked in a thick, yellow coconut curry. It is one of the most delicious fish dishes I have ever had (not to miss out on my favourite ‘shorshe ilish’).

So when I get greedy, I get greedy. You cannot cap my greediness in any plausible way. So I wanted more fish. Mohan said, ‘Sorry, no more.’ But in two minutes he arrived with a baby plate containing two pieces of fish, fried to blackness along with onion and tomato rings and plonked it on my plate.

That swept me away.



I have finally found you. Or you found me. I don’t know which it is. But the one who seems to love me, understand me and kiss my three heads and make it all better.

So this is for you. If you are reading.

We met in a bar. Across a little pool of people, standing and sipping disinterestedly on a martini, a whisky, a vodka cocktail – whatever wooed them, in that dimly lit bar.

I saw you. A young boy (gets you worked up, I know sweetheart!) in shirt and trousers and oh so cute with this quiet, aloof air about him. You had come down for some sort of internship it seemed from somewhere in the States and I was kind of dating/meeting (don’t know how to describe it) another man.

It was one of those evenings where I seemed to know no one else except your and mine common friend. And I was starting to wish I was somewhere else. Then somehow we got talking. Exchanging notes on the band playing at the bar. Innocent little notes with no agenda I believe.

The evening wore on and said common friend took us to another pub. On the way she made me sit next to you in the front passenger seat. We chatted. I liked your smile. You kept cribbing about your mother’s ‘chick car’ – a cute hatchback – about it being not your style really. This time though I really enjoyed myself at the pub.

There were all my former colleagues at the place, dancing and snacking and drinking. I promptly joined in, in all the fun. Then I turned back when one of them asked me about you and found you standing alone. I wanted to be standing next to you. So I stood right where I wanted to be. I think somewhere that that was where it all started. This wonderful feeling that seems to be taking me places I never dreamt of going.

I remember how Carrie Bradshaw (you know the fabulous her from Sex and the City) took off on that word soulmate. ‘Two little words. One big concept. A belief that someone, somewhere, is holding the key to your heart. And your dreamhouse.’

And I cannot but help think of you.


I wish I knew…

What I want to do – spend time in a farm learing how to churn natural cheese, set up a shack by the beach, sell chocolate and churros in mini skirts and plaid apron, collect wild flowers and sell them in a quaint flower boutique up in the hills, train to be a professional yoga instructor, or just continue doing what I do best, catch power naps every now and then.

Whether I believe in God.

Why is it so important to live in the past. Isn’t it we who determine in what tiny ways it should live and for how long?

Does it hurt to listen to reason?

When I shall get that next ride in one of my most favourite rides since childhood – the ferris wheel. Feel the wind in my hair and the exhilaration in my being.

If I would get to tie the knot the way I want to.

Do we believe what we choose to believe or what is in front of us?

Does the world conspire to make you happy or sad or does it give you shots at both and keep you yearning for more happiness and more happiness till it seems there is nothing left but to drown in that feeling?

How to make you understand without having to say it loud every time.

Is this is IT?

When all this waiting shall end. It seems to be lasting what seems like eternity.

Do you often think like I do?


What do we have this time around? Hmm...

I see the moon peeking out from behind the roof of the front-door house. Looking nothing less than a ghostly galleon but with a quite resplendent, ivory halo surrounding it. And I watch it for a few seconds soaking in the beauty of it and wishing things. Like being with him, sipping wine on the verandah and just relaxing with no tensions or any troubles whatsoever for a few hours.

I can feel it in the air. The season’s changing. You know that feeling of pujo in the air. When the sun grows extremely bright during the day, but somehow the air touching the face is not burning or (worse) killing humid. So yes, I wonder how pujo will be this year. Every time it is a kind of a ritual for me to attend the family pujo back home in Calcutta. But now that I have already gone back once for E’s wedding and have to return for my London cousin’s wedding reception towards the end of the year, I guess it has to be spent in town. In Delhi. A tad bit different it shall be, I believe.

I have always thought that nothing can approximate the flurry of it in Calcutta. Truly. Right from the elaborate pandals, the amazing array of devi murtis, the extremely enthusiastic crowd of young and old dressed up in their new saris and kurta pyjamas tripping on from pandal to pandal stopping maybe for a quick phuchka by the roadside or waiting for the bhog to be served up. The constables in their black-trimmed white uniforms at every juncture, trying to control a traffic that refuses to go nowhere with most of the roads blocked, the pedestrians trying to cross quickly to catch up with the other lot of friends who have crossed and reached the other side and happen to be hollering to them vigorously to get over here already. The young college goers catching up for gossip, oily egg rolls, cheap Chinese and eye candy at Maddox Square.

It all makes me so nostalgic.

And you know what I love the most – the bitter sweet ending to it. I hate the feeling when the four days, like, fly by. But when I get home with my cousins and relatives, on this huge truck that carries us all the way back from immersion/bisharjan of the idol on the ghats of the Ganga, we get back to this super delicious dinner.

Wait. There is a proper build-up to it.

We begin my seeing this dead Hilsa fish that hangs on the door. Psst: It brings good luck. Then we all sit down for some last mantras chanted by our purohit moshai. Followed by bijoy dashami (during we touch our elders’ feet) which I basically get through with at breakneck speed to get to the amritti (in Hindi you know it as imarti, except that the Bengali version I believe is big ass).

There’s more in store. My favourite part. Main course. Hilsa. I concentrate and how. No distractions here. We call it the shorshe ilish -- the Hilsa is cooked in shorshe (mustard). Oh it is mindnumbingly delicious. I often forget that one should not overdo stuff (that old-and-oft-repeated-by-my-mother idiom, yes). Well, I go through three pieces of the fish at one go and even though sifting the bones out of the flesh might seem impossible to you, I don’t mind it as long as I get to gorge on it.

It’s making me mouth water.

The final parts to the dinner wrestle for favourite place in my list of loves. It includes the family’s traditional durga doi (watery yoghurt flavoured with lemongrass) and the tauk (a drink made of tamarind water). I down shots of these with as much as zest as I down those of say Bailey’s with crushed ice. You got me there.

Well, it seems that all I got to do now is hold on and see how it goes this year.


Caramelcustard is back to what she likes doing a lot...rambling

So many months have gone by. I have missed blogging. I have.

And so many things have happened. Mostly I have travelled, found new loves, lost them, found others, been gloriously happy, then again desperately sad, at times wallowed in middling peace only to venture into disturbing bouts of depression. I have bought tons of books, read tons (have tons more to read), officially got addicted to coffee, drank gallons of wine, bellydanced with Lebanese and Greek bellas to the tune of margaritas and Arabic music and got hooked to yoga.

Oh yes, I have also met a new breed. A breed of married men who like to philander. They have no qualms about it. Things are very clear here. They want to have ‘a good time’ and return home dutifully to wives and children. Ewww. Tacky. Steer clear I say women. I mean they have been there all the time, it is just that they never crossed my path. It makes me shudder with cynicism.

Soon I turn 29 -- towards the end of this year. Gives me the heebie jeebies. What will this birthday bring I wonder, besides of course another year as a gift….

But as I meet a lot of 25-year-olds (mostly men), I have been wondering, has the world suddenly turned 25? I mean where are the older men? All taken, they would point out. Or turned gay. Hmmpph.

Anyway, the last two weeks have been good. They seem to be looking up. I am up till late at night and I wake up groggy, but happy and content. The question is that I question the permanence of it all. After all, I have always watched happiness being rationed out.

Ands while we are on the topic of happiness, am happy for my other former flatmate getting married. She marries her sweetheart in August. It is sweet their story. Let’s say, people do fall in love and see it to the end. Though as a matter of fact, it really is the beginning.


There was a time when men were kind, And their voices were soft, And their words inviting...

...the very words have me crying tears, tears of shame and pride, as I watch a frumpy old lady take over a dais even amidst ridicule and mockery. To watch the audience look at her with contempt for even daring to come on and take part in a talent show, to witness the judges shake their heads with barely hidden contempt again. I mean so much of contempt.

And then she just sings the first line and you feel the hair on your arms stand out.

You must be wondering why I am reacting a tad bit late. I mean I guess it is several hours late! But you see, I have almost given up watching news AND reading news. So I am pretty cut off from all that is going on in the world except for when I happen to glance up at the giant plasma screens in the gym showing snippets of the news on CNN or NDTV, or of course when my colleagues happen to be discussing current events (and I happen not to have my ears plugged with my ipod headphones). I am pretty much insulated from the world at large. Not a good thing I know for one who is in the business of reporting. But hey, I write for lifestyle! Thank god for some mercies.

So it was only yesterday or the day before maybe (I am not so sure) that I watched CNN reports on singing sensation Susan Boyle. Initially I thought it was a spoof. And I kinda forgot about it. Tonight however as I finished watching a film and started surfing, I suddenly remembered. I keyed her name into YouTube.

And I couldn't stop the tears as I heard her beautiful voice pouring out the words I Dreamed a Dream. I felt incredibly proud of her at that moment.

Why do we almost always judge a book by its cover? I know I am guilty of it too many a time. So what if a person is frumpy or fat or ugly or not perfect looking? Does it really take away from her personality?

And how did Susan indeed answer that. I am overwhelmed.


So that's how I feel right now...

I have spent my day today in inordinate boredom. Sitting in front of my work terminal, staring at the screen, making a few calls for a story, going out for coffee, getting tempted to stuff my face and then return to resume staring at the screen.

There’s this sense that I am waiting for something. Is it what I think I am waiting for, is it something other than that I am waiting for without knowing about it or is it just that my senses have been put to sleep to the extent that they are choosing to be fanciful to shake themselves up.

Because even when I get back home and sit on my bed, settling into the comfort of my blue fat cushion and turning the pages of one of my favourite writers -- Amitava Ghosh – I feel like I need to do something else. It is unsettling.

What better time than to wrap up my Goan tales, only there’s so much to tell that I think I would be sitting up all night!

As a follow-up to the previous post, I have to start off with saying that the rest of the days there were spent in a haze of drinking and dancing and walking by the beach.

It was the hedonist’s holiday.

Sometimes I wonder how it would feel to work in a beach town. I mean after work head off to the beach and let the salty breeze of the sea ruffle the day’s worries away.

Hardly have I not received a message from friend S (he of the casino manager fame) in the middle of a boring/harried/contemplative/happy day informing me – Hey, sitting in Rudy’s Shack, sunning myself and listening to the waves, with a few bottles of Budweiser by my side, OR hey, just woke up from a nap and going to down some more beers, but tell me how does it feel to get back to the grind, my dear?

Thoughtful fellow, my friend S. It is with him that I put up in Miramar. It is his fridge that me and my friend raided in the wee hours of the morning after we had come back from a night of hectic shaking our bodies to the music at Mambo’s, where we were mostly to be found if not tanking up in Cocktails & Dreams.

And if perchance we were not at Baga, we would be sitting on Anjuna Beach in Zoori’s grabbing a quick bite of juicy mushrooms stuffed with fried blue cheese that would be quickly enough washed down with wine. Following which we would hit the dance floor at Paradiso with a vengeance.

On other nights, the party was at Butter and Shiro’s in Candolim. All was well till the night of the 31st or it might even have been the morning of the 1st. When at some point my drunken senses reeled under the discovery that I was not holding my beloved blue cell phone in my hand.

All teary hell broke loose. While on hindsight I cannot help guffawing at the thought of howling over a phone, at that moment my anguish knew no bounds. I caught hold of C and sobbed my heart out over the loss of my precious little, useless but attractive phone.

In the background all I could make out in my bleary eyed consciousness/semi-consciousness were three guys hovering around helplessly. One of them being an Aussie guy who had befriended me the first night of our binge drinking session in Baga and the other two being similar friends of my friend C. I think they were genuinely taken aback at the angst one can display one losing a mobile. The others had left by then. They lost out on the drama afforded by me and my mobile.

A few hours later as I entered S’s apartment somewhere in the early hours of the first morning of 2009, I was curiously content. Something had happened to make me let faith in. Faith in something good. That when you lose something, you also find something.