Friday, January 24, 2014

A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle

A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.

I did not say this. It was Irina Dunn, a student at Sydney university who scribbled this on the back of the toilet doors when she was a student in the 70's. And then it got Viral like that kolaveri thing... 
Actually there was nothing original about it. She merely paraphrased the philosopher who said,
“ Man Needs God like Fish needs a bicycle”.
I cannot say much about the  philosopher,
But trust me Irina Dunn was Soooooooooo…. wrong … because

A woman needs a man to kill cockroaches that mysteriously creep up at the kitchen sink…
A woman needs a man to change fused light bulbs… 
A woman needs a man to drive her around and lug the groceries…
A woman needs a man to make babies … 
A woman needs a man to lift the heavy baggage off the carousel at the arrival lounge in airports…

The list could have been endless … only until

Men invented powerful pest control and annihilated the entire cockroach species to near extinction …
Men invented voltage stabilizers  and energy saving lights that help them  go on for hours…
Men invented online shopping for groceries … 
Men invented sperm banks so women could have their babies …without …errr…
Men invented wheelie suitcases and trolley bags so women could just bump ‘em off the carousel…
(and walk away shooting a sweet smile and a ‘ I- am- sooo-sorry’ despite knowing that the hunk standing  besides her was silently braving his excruciating pain on the third finger of his left foot when the heavy trolley bag fell on his foot when she bumped it off the carousel…well ... men are supposed to be brave .. not cry like sissies …he will be fine…)

Men invented viA… so that women could …
Men invented viB…… so that women could … mmm …
Men invented viC…..’s   Secret to uplift … somethings

Ladies … stretch your imagination, fill in the blanks and you will get the point …

OK … coming to the real point of this blog post.
Irina Dunn … may have been right.
And I will tell you why.

It was a Saturday.  The plan was to go shopping and then catch up with friends over a movie.  
It was getting late. I carried the shopping bags and came to the parking lot to start the car.
No guesses for what happened. One of the tyres was going flat.
 I was the one carrying everyone’s tickets for the movie. And  there was just 40 minutes left.
The tyre couldn’t have chosen a better time to get punctured.’

There was no way I could abandon my car in the middle of the road and get to the theatre.  
I called my friends to tell them my woes.  One of them came flying on his bike like the Aamir Khan in Dhoom3, no, not to take me but to get the tickets so that they all do not miss out on the movie.
He took one look at my car and another one at my face.

There was this smirk on his face that only men are capable of giving when …

When they help a delicate little thing to lift the luggage off the carousel or
When they have just rescued the damsel in distress from the trauma of having confronted a live cockroach.

Drive on … he said. 
But ….but the tyre is punctured, I Said.
Drive on … he said with that smirky smile on his face. 

And I obeyed.  

Ladies … put your hands together for mankind and their wonderful  invention
The tubeless tyres.

A tubeless tyre can go on and on for another 30-40 kms or atleast till you hit the ‘Puncher shop’.

In the good old days a Woman needed a man to fix up the flat tyre.

Lifting a heavy spare tyre, pushing up the jack, screwing up ( the nuts and the bolts), was not for the faint hearted fairer sex.  
But not any more.  
Not after the invention Tubeless tyres and not to forget the Hydraulic jack.
The Hydraulic jack takes away the drudgery of having to huff and puff of lifting up the car to fit the wheel in.
Amazing inventions !!! 

Maybe it is true.

A woman needs a man … like a fish needs a bicycle.
Irina Dunn was a visionary.

Forgive Mankind … for they know not what they invent. 

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.

Friday, January 17, 2014

It is getting lonely out here...

 We lived in harmony on these beaches and hills with plenty of neighbours all of different backgrounds. Our forefathers and their forefathers always lived here.
We had plenty to eat, breed and thrive. 

A few years ago this greedy fellow came from the city and decided to build a resort on  our land
so that he could get all those city dwellers over here during the weekends to watch us and get entertained. That way he could make lot more money than he already had.   

 Just that would have been okay. It did not stop with just one greedy fellow.  Other fellows followed him and before we knew it, they built a chain of resorts all over. 

That is when ...

Koel lost her nest along with her little ones when the trees were cut to make a sea-facing luxury suite for the resort.

Koel the cuckoo

Nagina mourns almost every day seeing one or the other member of her family  getting killed.

Nagina the viper 

Gomathy herself is getting skinny and bony like those models who come to these resorts, what would she feed her little one ?

Gomathy the cow

Chanchal flits all over the place full of melancholy.  Her little ones hardly ever transform into a beautiful butterfly these days. She does not know it, but it is the  radiation from those mobile phones from the resort guests that kill them before they are born.

Chanchal the butterfly

Little Dolly died and got washed away to the shore after she choked on a plastic cover that came floating into the sea.

Dolly the baby Dolphin

The local fishermen would never fish in the months that did not have an ‘R’ in them. They all thought it was just a myth. But it was a myth with a reason. In the months of May, June, July and August when the monsoon’s fury was at its best that Nemo and his clan would  securely breed in the deep sea.

Jonathan the Seagull

But ever since the big trawlers from the factory came and started fishing throughout the year, poor Jonathan the Seagull hardly gets any food.


Yours truly - Chimpu the Chimpanzee
I am only one out here with some intelligence, so I hide behind the bushes and helplessly watch it all unfold. 
It is getting very lonely out here. But what else can I do . 
It is only a matter of time...they might take me away and put me in a zoo. 

Photo courtesy : These crackpots from the concrete jungles.   

Anand Sethuraman and friends 
“If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and man.” ― Mark Twain

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.

Write Over the Weekend theme for this week

write a short story/incident (200-300 words) from an animal’s perspective.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Binary logic connection ...

A couple of weeks ago I chanced upon this article 'A house for Mr. Nilekani' and this one on Alan Turing in the Times of India. I was amazed at the research the author Anvar Alikhan  had done on Turing.

Having been professionally raised in this industry my humble research interest ( a very personal one) is in the area of chronicling small but significant people who make a living on the periphery of the Information technology industry.  I have been interested to study the Indian connections, in the world of computers.     

My interest in Turing was kindled when I was gaping in awe at the Turing machine at the Computer History museum near Palo Alto a couple of years ago. In 2012 we went on a sort of Pilgrimage tour to the original Silicon valley in California. We did a road trip from San francisco to LA visiting the headquarters of Google, Linkedin, Yahoo, Intel, Facebook and all others that are dotted down the line leading to the relatively lesser known Computer history museum near Palo Alto.

A protoype of the original Turing Machine

A latter version of what developed from the Turing Machine

1962 prototype - Pic courtesy Computer History museum 

 That was where I developed a fleeting interest in knowing more about Alan Turing, Charles Babbage and Ada Lovlace. Wikipedia and Google provided just about enough information on them that was known to the world.
Babbage machine
When I read Anvar ali Khan’s article on the TOI and the connection to the British period house called ‘Gables’ in Connoor and the fact that Mr. Nandan Nilekani bought that house without the knowledge that it may have perhaps been the place where Alan Turing spent his childhood.  I was intrigued by his research on the subject and Alan Turing's India connections. 

2012 was Turing 100th Birth anniversary and so he was in news once in a while.  But it was only when the British monarchy issueda posthumous pardon for the injustice meted out to the genius of Blethcley park who broke the German code and help the British win the war that the media lapped it up. When today’s Britain reflects upon this, the injustice seems soooo…. against the grain of what today’s liberal Britain stands for. That, a computing genius who helped the country win a war had to commit suicide by biting into an apple laden with Cyanide was such a colossal tragedy.

The homophobic Britain has indeed shed its Victorian sense of morality and come a long way  in the last 100 years. But among the legacy they left in their colonies, homophobia is a relatively lesser known but an intense one.  100 years on, the perception and legal sanction for people with alternate sexual orientation is not much different in India.   

Like Anvar Ali khan says,  if only Turing had  taken birth a little over half a century later, half way across the world ( where his parents originally lived and where he was conceived)  he would have probably graduated from an IIT or an REC, got recruited en-masse for one of the oldest programming companies, would have left off for the Silicon valley mid way through his career , may have owned a few patents, may have staged a comeback for a start-up of his own, would have advocated for curd rice to be national dish, been a die-hard Rajini fan and more importantly could have been the gay icon in India.

The insight that Alan Turing - whom I associated with everything British was in a very feeble way connected to India, made me take note of the fact that perhaps there is something Indian about the  world of  binary logic.

Afterall zero was arguably invented by Indians. 
Just a vague thought. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

creation of love

A florist who holds the contract for maintaining the potted plants that are strewn across in our air-conditioned cubicle jungle, keeps these flower arrangements  in the reception, board room, meeting rooms and a small one in my office everyday.

 I settle in for my day that day, I take one look at this unusual flower arrangement on my table and I instinctively know that whoever arranged it, did it with love and poured out their heart and soul into it.  

The flower arrangement also brought a smile and brightened the day of many a soul who walked into my office that day.

I made my enquiries and found out that the normal housekeeping guy who arranges the flowers at our office was on leave this week.

As I set out to find out the soul that injected this loveshot into our day that day,  I discover Varalakshmi - The Janitor who is chronicled in this feature of unusual occupations.

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.


Unusual occupations - The Janitor

On a cool and calm morning in the year 1994,  a young bride arrived by train at the Whitefield railway station with a suitcase and  huge bag piled up with her belongings from Hassan with eyes filled with wonder and a heart filled with trepidation and hope. She trailed behind her newly wed husband and walked a couple of miles along the coconut groves, mango and tamarind orchards  till they reached the Out-house of colonel’s farmhouse. Her husband worked as the caretaker of the lovely farmhouse adjoining the 25 acre farm  that surrounded the house. On weekdays it was a quiet existence for Varalakshmi and her husband, as they worked on the farm, caring for the  tamarind trees and coconut groves, watering the money plants, crotons, and numerous species of exotic flowers that she had never seen at her parent’s home in Hassan.  The flowers were picture perfect and  bloomed consistently and brightly in various colours, sizes and shapes throughout the year.

The colonel and his wife often threw weekend parties for their friends at the farmhouse.  That is when the farmhouse came alive. It was not long before Varalakshmi, the young bride got into the groove and took over the day to day tasks at the farmhouse. Along with her husband she tended to the flowers, plants, creepers and weeded out the unsightly plants and managed the garden in an impeccable manner.  She quickly learnt what to cook for the parties,  how to serve the dishes, especially for all those sophisticated people who ate their starters with forks and knives. She learnt how to un-intrusively clear up the left over plates or when to ask for a refill when the party was in full swing.

There were quieter weekends when colonel came along with his wife and they spent the time idling at the hammock in the coconut grove. Colonel and his wife, loved the farm house and tended to it with love and care. Over the week days they headed back to Bangalore,  where life kept them busy.   They were kind and generous to their caretaker, such that when he announced his engagement, they built him up a separate room, calling it the outhouse, where he and his wife could live.

At Hassan, when the proposal for marriage came for Varalakshmi, from their neighbour’s family for their distant relative who worked  in Whitefield,  Varalakshmi’s father immediately agreed.  Men with stable jobs were difficult to find and he was not prepared to lose out on this proposal.  She was taken off school the next month and before she knew what was happening , she arrived in Whitefield chaperoned by a stranger  who was now her husband . He was neither kind nor grumpy. He was not a wife beater but neither a romantic lover. He was just matter of factly.   Between them, they shared the upkeep of the farm house.  Life kept them busy and within an year, their daughter was born. 

The day a full-term pregnant,  Varalakshmi  along with her husband walked the length to Satya Sai hospital in kadugodi , before her water broke, she noticed ambassador cars with red lights screeching past the dusty mud roads  of Whitefield towards the Immidihalli village temple.  While cars were not an unusual sight in Whitefield, what with all the farm house owners from Bangalore heading over for the weekends, the traffic was never so frenzied and noisy as it was on that day. 

When she returned home with their baby girl, she heard the news that the 28 hectare farm land, adjoining  their farmhouse was now owned by the government and plans were on to build a technology park that would have multistoried offices and buildings. She always wondered, who would come and work in them, but she let the thought pass.        

In the adjacent village of Immidihalli and Pattandur Agrahara  the land prices had gone up in anticipation. When her second daughter was born, two years later, construction at the tech park was in full swing. Huge cranes had arrived and within months two glass buildings 11 storeys each had sprung up.  A lot of construction labourers migrated and lived around the area.

The visits by Colonel and their friends were by now far less frequent than before.  Colonel and his wife often spent time with their now grown up children in Australia or England where they holidayed.  The weekend parties with friends became a thing of the past. They were getting old and all their friends from their younger days had moved away.  On rare occasions when they came down to the farm house,  it was to seek solitude. Speaking of solitude, it was not something that they found easily at the farm house. The incessant construction work, the noise of the concrete mixers during the day and the sharp lights in the night from the huge cranes set up at the tech park made solitude and peace a thing of the past at the Colonel’s farm house. 

Varalakshmi, her husband and the two girls found themselves among increasing frenzy of activities around their  farmhouse.  A couple of years down the line Colonel came visiting along with some people. They did not stay back that night to party or anything.  Two weeks later he came again with a bunch of well-dressed people who were clearly not his friends or business acquaintances.
In the evening after the  visitors left, colonel called them into the study and told them that he was going to sell the farmhouse and settle in Australia.  Kind hearted and generous that he was, he promised to buy them a plot of land in immidihalli  once the sale was firmed up,  so that they could set up their own house.  He said, that with so much development going on, it was a gold mine that they were sitting on and that in a few years a lot of jobs would come into this area.

Varalakshmi’s jewelley was sold to pool in a lakh of rupees. With about another couple of lakhs that came as a gift from Colonel, after the sale of  the farmhouse  they built their house on a small plot of land  and were now residents of the Immidihalli.

When technology companies set up shop at  the tech park , everyone in the village was approached by the contractors for working in the offices.  That is how Varalakshmi and her husband landed jobs with MDS, a house keeping staff supplier to the offices at the tech park.

Her jobs involved, cleaning and restocking bathrooms, sinks and Toilets. It also involved clearing the garbage bins, restocking the restroom with adequate toilet tissues, keeping the mirrors clean. Cleaning the tables in cubicles and meeting rooms. Sweeping and vaccum  cleaning the carpets at the air-conditioned offices at the tech park. 

The transition from the farm house to Immidihalli and from being a care-taker of a quiet inn to being a salaried employee supervised by heartless vultures had not gone well with Varalakshmi’s husband.  She noticed that he increasingly began to come home late. It was not long before she discovered that he had turned into an alcoholic.

Immidihalli was full of neo rich villagers who had come into money with the sudden spurt of growth and mushrooming of innumerable technology parks between 2000 and 2010.  The cost of living shot up northwards but so did their incomes.  With frequent bouts of alcohol abuse, Varalakshmi’s husband lost his job as the sweeper at the tech park. With two growing up daughters, Varalakshmi was now  the sole bread winner of the family. 

I chanced upon Varalakshmi as a pleasant surprise.

Every morning when I arrived at work and went to the rest room to brush my hair or straighten up my clothes she would be around cleaning up a toilet or wiping the wash basin dry with a smiling face that did not give away all the years of hard work and drudgery. But I never gave her a second thought and returned her matter of factly smile with the due courtesy required.

Until that day when I found this flower arrangement at my table that simply brought a smile on my face and made me look out for the soul that arranged it thus.  It was a simple work of art.  Three leaves plucked out from the potted money plant, three wild yellow flowers and a magenta calendula inserted in the middle of a glass tumbler.  It was very different from the mechanical flower bouquet arrangement wrapped in plastic cover that donned our office spaces everyday.   There was something different about it. It was not just me. It also brought a smile and brightened the day of  many a soul who walked into my office that day. 

As I made my enquiries, the head of Administration redirected me to the Supervisor of  House keeping contract staff.  He rushed in and was already apologetic without even knowing what the issue was.  I asked him who it was, that arranged these flowers in my room that morning.  He looked up his register and that is how a tensed Varalakshmi was summoned in .  All I had was a chocolate to offer her and I let her know that this little act of sweetness had made my day.

As her tensed face relaxed , she was overwhelmed and started shedding tears.  It was then that I realized the magnitude of the situation, I had inadvertently created for her. The insecurity of the contract staff and their livelihood’s fragile dependence on the fickle feedback from customers like me !!!

I complimented her for her good work and as the supervisor of the contract staff left the room, got her to sit down on the couch and chatted up with her.

Varalakshmi has been working in our office for seven years now.  Every two years the procurement department is obliged to change contractors inorder to avoid any conflict of interest situation.  The contractors change, but it hardly makes any difference to Varalakshmi and her colleagues. Their uniforms have changed from MDS to RTS  services every two years. But they pretty much work at the same work places and do the same jobs .

She earns about Rs.7,200 a month from the housekeeping job that she does for six days a week. Her job includes sweeping and vaccum cleaning the carpets  every workday morning,  keeping the glass doors, tables and chairs dust free and clean, emptying the dust bins and  cleaning the lavatories at regular intervals . On days when there are foreign visitors she gets assigned a single task like remaining on duty at the  rest room and ensure its cleanliness after every usage.  I have noticed her at the rest room from the mirror, when she stands there impatiently, if it is occupied to ensure that the hourly clean up routine is completed.  I have exchanged a smile or two on days when I have not been very busy or grumpy .

It was only after this delicate flower arrangement manifested at my table one morning, that I really took notice of all the hidden work that goes behind keeping an office premises clean, tidy and professional.     

 An hour after she described her job to me, she relaxed and opened up. It was then that she narrated  the farmhouses from an erstwhile whitefield of  the nineties. A lot  of that came alive in her description to a relatively new immigrant into whitefield.  

That morning when the florist’s housekeeping guy failed to arrive and Varalakshmi was assigned this extra task by the supervisor, she relived her days as the young bride at the colonel’s farmhouse tending to the crotons and ornamental flower beds that she and her husband tended to, with love and care. These were the flower arrangements she would make by gathering up the flowers from the farmhouse’s  garden and arrange them for the evening party thrown by Colonel’s wife. 

Those were the best days of her life. Her days as a young bride in a quiet and quaint farmhouse in Whitefield. 
Those were the days before the builders came in and erected those blue tin boulders. 
Those were the days before the huge trees were chopped down behind blue tin boulders. 
Those were the days before the huge cranes and the glass buildings took shape beneath the blue boulders. 
Those were the days before the migrant workers of the IT industry swarmed into multistoreyed apartment complexes like bees in a beehive. 
Those were the days when they lived a carefree existence under the benevolence of the Colonel and enjoyed his trust and reciprocated it with unflinching loyalty. 

It was no wonder that she poured out her soul nostalgically into that flower arrangement.
I instinctively knew that the person who had expressed herself had done that as a genuine outpour of her heart.  
Strange are the ways of destiny to connect  things.

Anyway ..I digress.

Varalakshmi,  the Janitor is the  mother of two teenage daughters now aged 18 and 16.  The younger one dropped out of school and does household chores at the apartments to make a living. On Sundays Varalakshmi joins her and does additional work by dusting rooms and upholstery and windows to earn a few extra rupees.

She pins all her hopes on her elder daughter. She studies BBM (Bachelors in Business management)  at a local college.  Varalakshmi wants her to work in an office like ours. 
Not the kind of job that she does, but the kind of job that I do !!!

I told her that for all her hard work and dedication, it was only a matter of time and her wishes would definitely come true.  


Friday, January 03, 2014

Find the purpose, the means will follow ...

Rachna works as a content writer for a Fortune 50 Multinational media company. It was the job she got in the campus placement soon after she completed her course in Journalism and mass communication. It was one of the high profile placements in her college for that year which paid a handsome salary. 
Of course, her work involved long working hours but there is always a trade off that you need to make especially when you are young, ambitious and all raring to go.

She did smell a tinge of jealousy in her classmates after she got her offer. After all not everyone landed such jobs with high profile brands when they graduated from a relativelyy unknown, tier 3 college like hers.  

It has been a couple of years since she started off. Everyday was a new learning for her. Her highly sophisticated colleagues opened up a new world for her.  She was an important member of a team that designed and wrote the website contents for a diverse set of customers who needed to update their site with latest trends  in mobile phone accessories in the United states to hottest deals in the fashion line up at the Milan fashion week.   
She received rave reviews from her customers for her down to earth content and rustic creativity that appealed to the masses and took their website traffic to hitherto unexplored markets where there was tremendous potential. An year from now she could expect a promotion and may be an onsite trip for a couple of weeks if her appraisals went well.      

Long working hours and longer hours to commute from her suburb were taking a toll on her health. But she was hardly complaining. Afterall she was the one who got the most coveted job from her batch. She came from a lower middle class family. Money was always short in the family and it was only after she started earning that her family was finding a breathing space after all the struggles to make ends meet month after month.  Her lower middle class upbringing would not fit well in the work-hard-party-hard environment at her workplace.  She was always conscious of her background and was consistently working hard to live up to the lifestyle and grooming that her colleagues expected of her role and salary levels.

Rachna, lived a ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ type of existence. While she was a ‘Plain Jane’ of the neighbourhood by the weekend, by the weekday, she was a neatly groomed, chic career woman who kept up with the latest in fashion trends that befitted the 'international' atmosphere at her workplace. She could not afford to be a sharp contrast from her colleagues who came from posh neighbourhoods and had graduated from pedigreed colleges. They drove their own cars to work and the salary that they earned was their pocket money. They vacationed at destinations that she had only seen in Yash Chopra movies.       

 Today was yet another day at work. She walked to the auto stand and boarded the first  share-auto in the queue. It was empty. She opened her bag and busied herself putting on her makeup before the share-auto got overloaded with all the fellow commuters who boarded around the same time to commute to the nearest station to get to work. This was her ‘transtition ‘ time from being the ‘Plain Jane’ of the neighbourhood. She had finished with a coat of moistourizer over which she applied the foundation, and then she quickly brushed her hair.  Her face-make up could wait and her morning breakfast could also wait. She needed to optimize her time and so she took out the MAC nail polish from her Satya-Paul hand bag and applied a coat on the finger nails of her left hand and then attempted to paint the finger nails on her right hand.  She had to do it before the share-auto took off, because there was no way she could apply a coat while the vehicle was in motion on the bumpy road ahead. The roads were full of huge potholes, that would put the Grand Canyon to shame. But that did not deter the auto drivers, who vented their machoistic aggression on the roads.   

By now, another familiar co-passenger had boarded the share-auto. She was not a regular, but normally got out to work around this time and most of the days shared this auto.  In a few minutes, the share-auto was full with four other regular passengers and took off. There was a traffic jam ahead.  A water tanker had broken down and was creating chaos all over the place. The heavy inflow of water tankers that the entire neighbourhood depended on, for their water supply had created enough potholes on the road and were adding to the traffic woes.

Rachna was making sure her nail polish dried quickly when she started noticing something different that was brewing in the vehicle. There was an eerie silence and a puzzled look among her co-passengers. It did not seem not normal. She looked ahead and noticed that the Auto rickshaw driver just could not take his eyes off the rear view mirror. She knew she had decent looks and would normally attract snide and sometimes vulgar remarks from the neighbourhood men. Like most young women in the city, she turned a deaf ear and was pretty much immuned to such looks and remarks. She was not stupid enough to get hassled by such remarks, unless she instinctively felt that there could be danger lurking around.  As a regular commuter in the city who needed to work long hours, she knew that her safety was her responsibility and with a little bit of common sense and caution, it was not such a bad situation as they made it out to be in the international media.  

Rachna realized that the auto driver was not staring at her.  It was the other female passenger in the share-auto who was attracting all the attention.  Sitting next to her seat, Rachna could only get a side glimpse of this woman who was attracting the attention of all the men in the share-auto.  It was a biting cold, december weather, with the mercury dropping to very low levels. The woman was wearing a navy blue sweater with flowery design patterns, much like the ones that the hawkers from Nepal sold on the pedestrian platform near the railway station. Also she had draped herself with a shawl to beat the cold. She was wearing wollen socks that were probably knit by her grandmother and wore sturdy walking shoes from a famous local brand. The eerie silence continued until they reached the destination. 

Rachna was totally unprepared for what hit their vehicle as soon as it halted by the side of the road. A zillion cameras and microphones thrust themselves into the tiny share-auto.
It was now that she realized that her fellow passenger was Rakhi - her classmate from college.

Until the day before yesterday her classmates at college believed Rachna was the one to have landed the most coveted job. It had all changed yesterday. Here she was, travelling with the most powerful woman of her neighbourhood and probably the entire city. The one who had defeated the three time MLA in the recent elections.

'Awesome … the minister keeps up her promise and arrives by public transport.
Is this a populist gimmick and how long will this last ?'
Screams the reporter of a famous news channel, as cameras from different TV channels zoom in and thrust their microphones into the limited space in the share-auto to capture a glimpse of their Minister getting down from the public transport.

Rachna, alighted the vehicle amidst chaos and waddled her way through swarming reporters. As she was walking across, to board the metro that would take her, to her work place in Gurgaon, she noticed a billboard from her employer advertising their latest hiring campaign to attract young and ambitious graduates.

Find your purpose, the means will follow …

Find your Purpose - the means will follow  
They had indeed picked up a very seductive sentiment, she thought, as she boarded the metro.

While climbing up the escalator she noticed an onlooker on the other side, who was wondering from afar as to what what chaos was happening down at the station that was blocking the traffic.... 

Awesome, said a proud Rachna to the onlooker, over there is a classmate of mine whose steely determination made her find her purpose and follow her heart to pursue what she believed in'. 

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.

This is a pure work of fiction. However it has been inspired by this personality who has been attracting a lot of media attention in the past few weeks.
For a 100% non-fiction account read this blog post that I had posted a while ago.                    


Wednesday, January 01, 2014

A Toast to the city of Boiled beans

In the last week of December and the first week of January when the temperatures dip and it gets pleasantly nippy, 'Benda Kalu Ooru'  comes alive with the Avare Bele – Mela and lives upto its tradition that gave it its name more than two centuries ago.   Benda kalu ooru – The town of Boiled beans, founded by Kempagowda a couple of centuries back has come a long, indeed a very long way to becoming the Anglicized Bangalore and now a confused and ever changing Bengaluru.

Around this time every year, Sir Vishveshwariah’s neighbourhood  celebrates the Avare kalu festival at the food street in V V Puram in South Bangalore. Surrounded by umpteen Vaishnavaite temples, the otherwise non-descript street adjacent to Sajjan Rao circle comes alive and is a treat for street food lovers. Vasavi condiments the main merchant over there with a small shop on the street, brings the festival of Avare beans by doling out different recipes and dishes based on the city's traditional Beans during this season.  

Legend has it that in the months of December and January, when Bangalore experiences its winter, local bangaloreans, then a bunch of small town happy go lucky, jolly good fellas would dorn their monkey caps and gather around make shift  fire places, indulge in some local gossip and shell the pods from the avare beans that would be harvested in abundance around this season amidst the Ragi crop.

Avarekalu  is Karnataka’s answer to the green peas (Matar) that is in season around the same time in the north of India.

When the Matar parathaSarson ki saag and Makkai ki roti do the rounds up north during the winter, down south Bengaluru comes alive with  its indigeneous Avare bele dosa, avarebele masala idli, Hithakabele Saru, Hithakabele Payasa, Avare bele uppitu, Avare bele Masala Vada, Avarebele Ragi Rotti, Avarebele Akki Rotti and of course the hot favourite,  Avare bele Obbattu.
But the best in adapation is the story of Avare Bele pani puri.  You have to try it to realize that the humble Avare bele can indeed be a good substitute to the green Peas imported from the north during this season.

While the commercial hybrid variety of Avare kalu is what is known in the super markets as Beans (Scientific name : Phaseolus coccineus ) or runner beans in its longer form, it is the uneven unsightly and brownish looking local variant that is truly the indigeneous variety,that sells at the Avare Kalu mela at VV puram in South Bangalore.

Also Also known as Chapparadavare,chikkadikai (Kannada), avarimochai (Tamil), anumuluchikkudu (Telugu), mochakotta (Malayalam), semballar (Hindi), and val(Gujarati). 
Courtesy : Wikipedia Thank you Wiki Bhagawan :) ( it pays to be a wiki donor) 

Bangaloreans throng the street for the street food where the theme is the Benda Kalu ( boiled beans) that gave the now-not-so-sleepy town its name.  Here the Local Bangalorean as well as the nostalgic desi who is vacationing at his hometown during the Christmas vacation rub shoulders to sample the street fare.  (There is a vendor selling not-so-authentic Kingfisher brand bottled water for the  hygiene conscious visitor.)

Priced at Rs.30, the Ragi Muddhe with Avarai bele saru is the most indigeneous fare in the menu on the street.  Owing to dwindling demand, it is available only during the afternoons for lunch.  The Ragi Rotti too is available only on demand. The order time can be anywhere between 5 and 15 minutes depending on the crowd in the street. But the wait is definitely worth it.

Everything is hot from the oven smeared with generous quantities of ghee or butter.
When you have sampled the fare and begin to wonder just how many more dishes can one cook up using the humble bean, the Avare bele mixture in different varieties, colours and levels of spiciness hit you and seduce you to pack a kilo or two for the road and for the days ahead. 

A food mela that is not hosted in a five star hotel and is hosted on the open street for all public can conjure a different perception and put off many a Hygiene conscious Bangalorean.  Street food, oil, water, hygiene, crowd, traffic,  pollution and parking  are some of the unsightly battles one needs to fight and it may feel like the experience may afterall be not worth it. 

While one cannot vouch for a 100% Hygiene (after all one man’s food in another man’s poison) you can certainly expect traffic around the place to be well regulated.
Cannot say that for the parking, as there is limited parking around Sajjan Rao circle for two wheelers and four wheelers. Using public trasnport, especially auto rickshaws to get to the street is the best bet. 

The street food is straight off the hot oven (actually you need to wait for atleast 2-5 minutes to be served even a common dish like Avare Bele Dosa) and best of all there are no disposable plastic plates strewn around on the street. The food is served on eco-friendly ‘tad patra’ plates layered with banana leaf and there are adequate litter bins all over the street to dispose waste.

Affordable and sumptuous street food aside, the visit to the Avare Bele -mela is truly worth it, just for the experience.  Especially, if you are a visitor or a relatively new migrant to the ‘ooru’ of boiled beans.  Not just, Sir Vishveshwariah’s neighbourhood, but a good deal of south Bangalore exudes a quaint tradition and culture that Bangalore in the 1950 to 1980’s embodied, before the Pirates of Silicon valley set shop and changed the landscape of this garden city that once was Young Winston Churchill’s favourite hangout,  then a British Cantonment base, later a  pensioner’s  paradise, and then an intellectually ambitious city that set rolling the scientific revolution in independent India and yet remained content being labeled a poor cousin to its neighbouring city, Mysore that prided itself as the culture capital of Karnataka.                  

Here is a Toast to this city of Boiled Beans aka Benda Kalu Ooru aka Bangalore aka Bengaluru. 


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