Sunday, July 23, 2006

Instead of a siesta

Sunday afternoon, I’m home listening to one and a half people sleeping when I could have been at an Enthralling Quiz run by a Truly Erudite Quizzer, said quiz to be held in the manse of a Nice Lady who will Provide Refreshments (and Much Nattering). I am desolate at the Loss, until I Pause to Reflect and realise that I would have Known Nothing at the Quiz, thus shattering the remnants of my Reputation as an Elder Statesman in Calcutta Quizzing (thank you very much for pointing out that it’s “all in my mind”, I am not entirely insensitive to irony). Said reputation is already much battered because (a) I haven’t actually won a quiz since about May last year and (b) Do’B was short of smart lines at the last quiz and chose to dwell on how a certain “senior Government officer enjoyed his quizzing like a Cls. XI college student” (a species that exists only in my alma mater, where Cls. XI and XII are part of the college). That has rankled, though I am slightly mollified by his hat-tip (in his column in the Telegraph today).

Another deep dark reason for my not being utterly desolate is that I don’t want any more murukkus, thank you very much. (The Nice Lady tends to Overdo the Murukku Angle). Yesterday, on “Indian” (they had to rename themselves after a Kamalahaasan movie?!) I had the worst damn murukkus I have ever had in my entire life. For the three readers of my blog who have never been to India, a murukku is a snack thingy, spiced chick-pea flour forced through a nozzle and fried in sticks or spirals. For some strange reason, murukkus are always spiky, like sea-horses. Maybe there’s a market for them in the West? Spicy Spikys? Shaped like sea-horses … if you eat an entire collection you get to incubate your wife’s eggs?

Anyway, the point about murukkus is that they’re spicy, they’re fried and they’re crisp. The average male will eat camel turds if they’re cooked that way, so you can guess how bad the in-flight murukkus must have been if I didn’t eat even ONE. In fact, the entire meal was almost the worst airborne culinary experience I have ever had. Not quite the worst – I was once served greenish chunks of meat on Aeroflot, was so hungry I actually ate half of one chunk before the gag reflex took over, and spent my entire first day in Moscow sick in bed.

So this meal had – Item, three pieces of chicken kebab, dried to sofa-stuffing by 29 re-heats and about as succulent as a feather-duster; Item, one small faux baguette, sliced lengthwise and stuffed with curried cottage cheese that had gone sour; Item, one unidentified round fried object that could have been a potato roesti or, on the other hand, the product of some ruminant’s alimentary tract; Item, something that was probably meant to be a shammi kebab but had morphed into something from The X-Files, if the cabin lights had gone off I’m sure it would have glowed radioactive green. I was reduced to wolfing down the shahi tukra. When even fried bread in condensed milk seems good, one has had an unique meal.

And oh – murukkus. Three of them, lurking next to the loaf like lethargic vipers. I could smell their menace. Retreat seemed the best option. I retreated.

The real WTF moment came earlier. In the terminal. After check-in, I turned left as usual. Delhi airport’s layout is closest to our rural ideals. If you want to commune with nature, you go for a walk. A long walk. On either end of the concourse, somewhere over the horizon from check-in, there are washrooms. You take a deep breath, set your critical internal muscles to “HOLD IT!” and start the Long March.

Only to come up in front of a sign that says “The washrooms are freshening up. Together, we’ll make it happen”. WTF?! Are you inviting me to be part of a process that will culminate in a large inanimate AREA taking a leak? Compared to this, Kafka was stone cold sober all his life! The next sign is a little more comprehensible – “Toilets are under renovation. The inconvenience caused is regretted”. Yes, fine, but do you regret it enough to make alternative arrangements? How much would you regret it if three thousand passengers a day watered your plants, eh?!

I was a blur as I whizzed through security. Surely nobody could be daft enough to renovate all the loos at the same time? Sharp left, walk fast, there at the end aarrgghhhhh! They CAN be daft enough! NEVER underestimate moronicity!

I eventually found ONE functional loo, next to the door where they take passengers out (to identify their baggage, but am I the only one who cringes in expectation of a blank wall and a line of muskets?).

And there was not a single weirdo in sight. Did my last Delhi airport post offend them? Scare them off? Ah well ...


And all of Sunday we’ve been treated to continuous updates about a boy in a well. Poor kid fell in there on Friday and all the king’s soldiers and all the king’s men haven’t been able to get him out yet. But wait – the Chief Minister is on the spot, “Madam” has called, people all over the country are praying for him, spending money on offerings, throwing birthday parties for Prince.

There was an episode of “Yes Prime Minister”, the dog Benjy lost in the minefield on Salisbury Plain – does anybody remember that one? So yes, the politicos can’t afford to pass up this one, they need the situation, the bytes, the eyeballs. But the general public? Why do they have to come on in whiteface and cherry noses? Of course the TV channels go interactive. They invite calls. Text messages for Prince yield profundities like “They should get him out of the tunnel soon” and “You are the Prince of India”. And in all the coverage, nobody came up with the reason why they couldn’t just swing a crane down there and pick him up.

Some years ago, typically, this would have been a story in the left-hand column on the fifth page of the local papers. We’d never have seen it on the telly, let alone for hours on end (CNN-IBN held out for a while but eventually joined in the madness). Would we have missed much? On the other hand, if it hadn’t been for the media attention, the army probably wouldn’t have been called in, the rescue attempts wouldn’t have been so systematic.

Score one for the media, they probably helped save a life here. Now if only the world's morons would put their money in the right place instead of spending it on garlands and ghee.

**** ****


km said...

ROFL...murukkus and lethargic vipers! A tip o' the imaginary hat to you, JAP.

thalassa_mikra said...

One less incentive for me to switch from trusty ol' Rajdhani. The food's still pretty much gold standard for travel grub.

I love murukku too, especially the fresh homemade stuff my friend's mom used to make, except they were Telugu so they call it "jantikaralu". And we have a family friend who's Bengali, married to a Telugu woman who always refers to them as "jantu koyek".

Rohini said...

Ugh. Your description of the airline meal actually made me want to hurl. Poor you!

Tabula Rasa said...

i lucked out. (on saturday, also on indian, flying into delhi :-) they ran out of non-vegetarian dinners by the time they reached me, and the veggie gunk looked SO unappetizing that my appetite went for a walk till after touchdown.

Bonatellis said...

as far as I am aware there aren't too many proper schools in Calcutta where XI and XII are part of the college :)

silverine said...

"And there was not a single weirdo in sight. Did my last Delhi airport post offend them? Scare them off? Ah well ..."

rofl :))

Salil said...

Random musings after reading your post:
- Muruku isn't that bad, in very small doses.
- Airline food - I sympathise. I was on a Singapore Airlines flight a few hours ago, and the contrast, I'm sorry to say, couldn't be more stark. Food was very good and the wine selection was brilliant. If your's compared to an Aeroflot meal, I can only offer my condolences. I've never flown Aeroflot, but friends who have gave me very good advice on how to fly with them: take sleeping pills along, bring your own water, and those two along should get you through the flight safely.
- YPM - yes, that's a brilliant episode. Sadly, there was no Sir Humphrey with his wonderful machinations to enliven up the episode in India. I found the story a little overdone (and certainly didn't enjoy every local news channel in Bombay showing it as 'breaking news' each time I switched the TV on). Oh well.

hutumthumo said...

"...blank wall and line of muskets" - darun! attack of the spiny murukkus!

Gamesmaster G9 said...

No murukkus. Lady was under the weather hence Naarth Indian snacks were served - zamozas and suchlike from friendly Marwari confectioner.

progga said...

JAP, murukku brings back Sunday afternoons at home with Musical Bandbox and the Bournvita Quiz... :)

BridalBeer said...

What's the connection between rains and murukkus? I want one now, brishti porche.
About media, it reminds me of Amartya da's link between media, democracy and media. How India had less starvation than China because starvation deaths are newsworthy. But we have more malnutrituion because that doesn't make for good news...

The Marauder's Map said...

Re: murukkus, all your fault as usual. Who told you to fly Indian? Always fly Kingfisher, they have good food, in-flight entertainment and pretty stewardesses in short red skirts. Plus they give you earphones for keeps, just imagine. I love Vijay Mallya (and I think I will start demanding plug-money from him).

30in2005 said...

Being partly of South Indian origin I am always the recipient of gasps when I say I don't particularly care for artery clogging murruku's. Homemade stuff can go terribly wrong!

You are so entertaining!

Priya said...

Second MM there! You can have Bose speakers in your office and you choose to fly IA? Weirdo or what? Even if the food's stale (which is unlikely)or buxom Yana doesn't personally serve you the wine and the cheese, at least your eyes can feast on some succulent legs, no?;)

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

KM - thankoo, kind sir

Swati - a first-class coupe in the Rajdhani is a holiday in itself.

Rohini - what a coincidence, I felt queasy too

T Rasa - you should have flown into Cal, could have made up for it at Nizam's

Bonatellis - I wasn't part of the school, I joined in Cls XI

Silverine - eh? That was funny?

Salil - I can do murukku in large doses, it just has to be good

Hutum - na na, the murukkus are a Fifth Column

G9 - been there, done that!

Progga - at least you didn't descend to (shudder) banana chips!

Bridal B - something that goes "crunch" when the world is soggy?

M Map - the KF flight timings aren't all that hot. Your first two points make a diff; at my age, if I see short skirts on girls where the AC's on, I feel compassionate rather than lecherous.

30in05 - thank you. (Why do I feel like I've just received a gift at a fete from the Lady of the Manor?)

Priya - think Frequent Flyer. Besides, I appreciate "succulent legs" only on the kind of chicks I get on a plate, thank you very much.


purplesque said...

Delicious blogs..despite all the pukeworthy food described. Just pack your own food, man, mommy always knew best!

eve's lungs said...

2 words of advice :- Try the chaklis and murukkus from Mumbai or the South only and dont fly IC :). And always fly Jet if u're moderately hungry , the salad and dahi will do .

shivam said...

Hey, I hear you are in Delhi? You may want to join us at the delhi bloggers' meet on Sunday:

panu said...

"morphed into something from The X-Files..."

Ah the imagery... JAP, start pencilling for Calvin and Hobbes.

Kaushik said...

Jabba the Hut! Thou has self actualised.

Teleute said...

' has had an unique meal.'

an unique? a unique?

kaku, e shob ki hocchhe?

Perspective Inc. said...


Erythrocyte said...

Aha! now i know the REAL story why you didn't turn up that day!

eeesh! said...

trooped by yr blog after ages.. your still as funny and readable. Keep at it!

Rimi said...

Listen, I hate to sound whiny and demanding, but can we PLEASE have the next post? Please, now.

And get rid of the word verification. Deleting spams will help kill the time you otherwise spend pretending to work (supercilious smile)