Sunday, September 16, 2007


Three weeks or thereabouts. Hectic travel, sudden summons, day-long meetings. An evening in Delhi that stretched into the wee hours, ending with the retrieval of a cell-phone. A spiral staircase up a 60-ft tower, leading to a honeymoon suite - children not permitted because the railing on the staircase has large gaps. A winding evening highway at 100, the road lined and outlined with bright reflectors that put me firmly back in 1979, thrilled by the first arcade 3D car games. A would-be MP in Business Class, pulling up page after page on his laptop to explain why the Hyde Act is pernicious.

Walking down from the 8th floor of the Chennai Secretariat, each landing is a sudden flowering of women in bright saris, flowers in their hair, seated in circles upon sheets of newspaper in front of the lifts as they eat their lunch from round steel dabbas. It seems such an orderly and bonhomous arrangement that nobody grudges the lifts being shut down.

The Hotel Dupleix in Pondicherry, stone floors and period furniture, louvred windows framing bougainvilleas and tiled roofs. The meal was superb – fresh seafood platter, fried fish crumbed in ground curry leaves, duck in a local variation of brown sauce, a risotto and lasagna (there were four of us!). The duck, in particular, was a revelation – tender, almost flaky, succulent, complemented by and not drowned in the spicy sauce. Dessert, alas, was cold, dry and crumbling. And contrary to what I had heard, there are no local wines.

Then the summons that put paid to my plans - of an evening on a roof-top in the sea-breeze, sipping from my nip of Smirnoff green apple flavour. A hurried return, three bleary high-pressure days handling a workshop and Visitors from On High, the satisfaction of not having allowed any grounds for criticism, a sense of unfairness at an unjustified rebuke but stifled in the interests of long-term peace. And preparing to party as soon as their flight took off.

This weekend is particularly sweet.

(We may return to our scheduled programming over the next few days.)


Debjani said...

Not really a comment on your post although the food looks absolutely inviting! Was writing to ask what you thought of the Ramsethu--we all know of course that it is true --but what would you have to say on this piece of truth!

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Welcome, Debjani. Pleasant surprise.
Ram Sethu ... I try to stay away from political issues on a public forum. Not that I can always hold myself in.

There's a memory of afternoons at your place here -
31st July 2005.


Tabula Rasa said...

a food post to mollify. wikkid.

progga said...

I love the picture through the window.

eve's lungs said...

Lovely lovely place Pondicherry . I felt exhausted reading your post. Did you remember to take your vi-tamins ??

iz said...

That was one of the only food article I enjoyed! I usually find them pretentious. (Not yours other's) OK. you know what I mean!

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Prof, THIS is a food post? (cf: Crocodile Dundee)

Progga, story of my life, I keep passing the open windows.

Eve's L, like MacArthur, I Shall Return. And green apple vodka beats vitamin pills.

Iz, thankee. But see reply to Prof.