Thursday, November 17, 2016

Beat that

Usually, I like to play music on Saavn or Youtube while I work. And since I work from home, I can really play loud, blaring music. There are no colleagues to annoy. (Except the one found in the full-length mirror on my wardrobe next to my desk. For the most part, she furiously types away, hard at work just like me, but I have to admit, sometimes even she turns to give me judgemental looks on my taste.)

So I was looking for something to play yesterday, when in a very timely manner, my sis-in-law sent me a Youtube link to a song. The title was 'The Chainsmokers - Closer | Kabira (ft. Casey Breves) (Vidya Vox Mashup Cover)'.

I clicked on it.


No, it wasn't a virus. It was worse.

Okay, so first things first. There are some things I disapprove of rather strongly. I can't get my head around why they exist, why someone would do something like that.


Vodka pani puri (it's an insult to vodka and pani puri).

Remixes. DJ XYZ mixes.

Random English lyrics in Hindi songs. Yo baby. Let's party. Oh girl.

Words like mashup, cover, feat/ft.

It was therefore a very disorienting experience for me when I found myself actually liking the song she had sent. I actually liked it. I LOVE the song Kabira and here I was, NOT hating this mashup/mix-up/feat/cover version of it. Grrr...

Who was this Vidya and why was she Vox and why she did she look so familiar (my best guess is Vaani Kapoor before she got plastic surgery + Nigaar Khan) and why why why oh why was I liking this song?

While I was trying to get my head around what had just happened to my entire belief system, the next song autoplayed. And though normally I don't keep the screen with the songs open when I'm working, I simply had to stop everything and find out what was going on and who on earth was playing the tabla so impossibly well. The beats were slaying me. Even my colleague in the mirror stopped and gaped.

Good things must be shared. Here it is.

Suffer, my fellow humans. This song will not leave you.

Monday, November 07, 2016

Dessert safari

"I must be crazy," I thought to myself.

I had just read a comment from Prathi on my last post, and it said:

While in Chennai, do try "Theobroma" from Fresh Baked Goodness, Mylapore. It's what I miss most from my Chennai days..

"I must be crazy," I repeated to myself as I sent Viv a message with a link to the bakery's address and a 'Let's go!'

Speaking of crazy, Viv was out running when he saw my message. He, of mostly sound mind, had woken up at godknowswhat o'clock, to go running with his cousins at 4.30. A.M. Yes, you read that right. Did I mention we were on a holiday in India?

However, instead of sending back a "Are you crazy?", he sent a simple "Okay." I love that about him. Or maybe he was just too sleepy and tired to register that I was suggesting we go find some bakery in search of a dessert that sounded like a Greek or Egyptian person's name ("Cleopatra, meet Theobroma.") and had no other description, on the recommendation of a blog reader.

The other big reason that made us decide to go for it in a blink was how Uber and Ola have changed the landscape of getting around in India. In general, our visits in India and where we go each day are severely affected by the availability of the car and the driver. It's usually "The car is here, but driver has not come yet." or "The driver is here, but someone is out with the car." or "Neither the car, nor the driver is here." So outdoor ventures are usually limited and undertaken only when very necessary. This time, however, was totally different. We simply pretended that there was no ghar ki gaadi and ghar ka driver. We just went everywhere with Uber. I know I sound like an ad for Uber, but I was super impressed. We never had to wait more than 5 minutes for a cab and we never paid more than 200 rupees to get anywhere!

So after Viv got back from his run, he showered and we headed out in search of our Theobroma. This time we took an Ola Auto. I was blown away. Now they have Ola Autos?? How cool! We reached the address, sent the Auto on its way, looked around and found... nothing. There was no bakery, no signboard, nothing saying 'Fresh Baked Goodness'. Nooooooo........

"Google Maps can be quite screwed-up sometimes," Viv muttered.

And then suddenly, this guy standing in front of a house looked at our lost faces and asked us if we were looking for... Fresh Baked Goodness! Oh. My. Goodness. So we rushed to where he pointed (it did not look like a bakery; it was a house! And there really was no signboard anywhere!) and there it was, behind the glass display the much-discussed Theobroma. It was a giant layered chocolate cake, too giant for us to even think about buying the whole thing. But, they had these single servings of the same thing in cute little glass jars. So we got two of those and some slices of lemon cheesecake (me) and Nutella cheesecake (Viv) to share with the family.

"Do you want to walk home?" Viv suddenly said. "It's only 1 or 2 kilometres."

"Sure." I said.

I'm telling you, crazy runs in our family.

It was the middle of the day, and here we were, walking through hot and dusty roads and lanes and by-lanes, with vehicles that looked like they were headed in all directions at once (and my direction in particular) honking at everyone at once. I got scared. I, who was born in India and had lived there for the first 18 years of my life, was fearing for my life. The last time I had pulled this stunt was in 2007 when Dad was posted in Calcutta and Mom and I had gone saree-shopping for my wedding. I was so amazed at her expertise at crossing the busy streets. She'd suddenly say, "Okay, cross after the taxi!" and I'd be like "Errr, which one of the 43792378 taxis coming right at us?" So she'd grab my hand and dash across the road, with me fervently muttering, "Jai ma Calcutte-wali, mera rasta rakhna khaali."

Anyway, so we were getting great at this walking on the streets thingie, though I couldn't wait to get home, when Viv suddenly turned and said, "Do you want to stop for ice-cream?"


Because we were not already carrying enough desserts with us, we stopped by one of the hole-in-wall shops and got ice-cream cones. And we continued walking on that hot Chennai day, navigating the traffic along with the melting ice-cream that was threatening to drip to my elbow if I didn't act at a given speed. Never have I ever finished an ice-cream cone as quickly as I did that day!

Finally, we reached home and plonked the desserts on the dining table and ourselves on the chairs under the fan, feeling like we had conquered Mount Everest or something. We got long spoons and doled out servings of the Theobroma for everyone. It was yum! (In case you're as curious about the name as I was, Theobroma cacao is the cacao tree whose seeds are used to make chocolate.)

And of course, photo to banta hai, so here it is -- Theobroma from Fresh Baked Goodness. Layers and layers of chocolate and dark chocolate and white chocolate and mousse. 
This one's for you, Prathi! Hope I didn't get you all depressed. If so, please eat some roadside pani puri on my behalf so we're even.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Chennai Express

Thanks to purana (ooh, that autocorrected to piranha!) bewda Arun who pointed out the very embarrassing fact that I did not blog at all in October, I'm back at the bar.

Viv, Xena and I are in Chennai for Viv's cousin's wedding and it has been nothing but FUN! It is hot though, and I'm glad I took the advice of my friend who burst out laughing when I told her I was packing a full-sleeved salwar kameez because, you know, "it's winter in India". Yeah, apparently there is no winter in Chennai. We sleep at night with the AC/fan switched on. Viv has been ignoring my dirty 'yeh tumhara winter hai?' looks.

Xena got to witness her first Diwali in India, and her constant question was, "Why is it so noisy, mama?" Noisy? This? Beta, this is nothing compared to the noisy Diwalis of my childhood, most of which was spent in Bihar/Jharkhand where my dad was posted for many many years. Both Holi and Diwali used to be, for lack of a better word, quite jungli. But I shall have you know that we used to have fabulous winters and at one point, the temperature went so low that the water froze in the pipes and when we opened the taps in the morning, nothing came out.

Anyway, back to the original topic. We just wrapped up day 2 of the wedding and 'wrapped' is the right word simply because of the number of saris I've sported. (#sarinotsorry) The sari is my favourite outfit of all. I'm partial to the chiffon kinds, mainly because they don't form a parachute around you when you sit down, the way silk saris do. So yes, I've been wearing a lot of saris and jewellery and yet that has not stopped me from eating pani puris (gaahhhh that autocorrected to pain puris!) like the true jungli that I am. I'm not kidding you, I attacked the pani puri stall at the wedding as soon as I possibly could, and stopped only when the pani puri bhaiya started to get a little judgemental. I'd have continued but it was getting hard to ignore his 'Didi, ab toh bas karo' looks. Hmmph!

The food has been so spectacular that in spite of not having gymmed for a week, I'm indulging guiltlessly. Viv, on the other hand, has been feeling pangs of guilt and has really been holding back. He'd better not act like this tomorrow, because I have a Rajasthani thali meal planned for the whole family at Rajdhani tomorrow.

Over the two days of the wedding, I have been introduced to nothing short of 2772723664849494 relatives. Even my extended family is quite large, but Viv's is unfathomable. It felt like he really knew most of the thousand people present at the wedding, leaving me to wonder where on earth the groom's relatives were. On day 1, I just followed him around cluelessly, being introduced to, but not at all being able to keep track of, all the chitappas and chitthis and athais and athimbers and thathas and paatis and cousins and their spouses and kids. Luckily, unlike mine, his side doesn't have the custom of touching the feet of the elders, otherwise my back would have gone for a toss! And oh, if I had a penny for every time I heard the phrase "Remember me? I came to your wedding..."

On day 2, I fared much better, and it really helped that everyone speaks excellent English, including the grandpas and grandmas! Wow. I did get tested on my knowledge of Tamil at times, and so I flaunted my extensive Tamil vocabulary, which comprises key phrases such as 'rombha pasikeradhu' (very hungry) and 'saapaadu venu' (need food).

I also felt a little 'senior' because I'd been the only non-Tamilian bahu in the family so far, but this time in the new generation of damaads and bahus, there was a Lithuanian and an American! Also, the fact that I'm kind of half a generation above the younger, unmarried cousins I was hanging out with meant that I could switch from 'cool bhabhi' to 'mami mode' and back in a blink, which was kinda fun. I am going to find a suitable app to track the family tree on both sides, complete with photographs. Any recommendations?

It's been really fun so far and I'm soaking it all in before we get back to Singapore (and full-steam work!) next week. And yes, for those of you following my travel blog, I will indeed be completing the Iceland series very soon!