Unusual Occupations

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Eh ....Madrasi !!!

 Idli Dosa Vada Sambar !!!

A Madrasi was / is someone who could be constantly mocked at for his /her stubborn obsession with Idli-dosa-vada-sambar.

Not without reason. The proof of the pudding is in the eating.  Hotel Saravana Bhavan does roaring business not in the 20 odd outlets in chennai, but more so in its 43 branches outside India.  If one ever analysed the customer profile of their overseas branches you would know why I say this. Although this is a highly under researched  area in the matters of Culinary Adaptations,  it would be safe to hypothesise that a Madrasi’s  tastebuds are not very adapatable to cuisines with external influence. Prolonged exposure to alien culinary influences have forced many a Madrasi to flee for survival and take the next ship / boat / flight/ Train/ bus / bullock cart back home to a staple of idli-dosa-pongal-vada-sambar.

 A certain Srinivasan Ramanujam, whose brilliance and obsession with figures
(of the numeric kind) took him as far away as the Oxford and Cambridge, nearly died over there, because the poor fellow could not adapt to the bland British cuisine.
Those were not the days when Chicken Tikka Masala was the national food of Britain. But I doubt if even that would have helped poor Ramanujam.  He, like Paatti  never ate the food cooked by unknown sources.      

Many a Madrasi you may have known settles for a ‘Thair Sadam’ ( Curd rice) for dessert at five star hotels and fine dining restaurants.  It is besides the point that when eating out, more often than not that particular dessert is the only course of meal that the Madrasi prefers to eat.
Rajdhani – the Rajashtani ‘set’ thali place in Bangalore ( and Possibly in Chennai )  serves ‘Thair sadam’ in its otherwise authentic Rajasthani menu.

A recently opened KFC outlet in Chennai says thus ...

 ‘Use separate oil and utensils for Veg food 
   because  Mutter and Chicken don’t get along ‘

I say, they have got their customer psyche spot on.
But wait ...Hey all you KFC, Kelloggs, Starbucks & Mcdonalds
What got you there up north (in that flashy fickle Panju land )... just won't get you here.
Beware, the Modest Madrasi is a tough nut to crack ...

You may think you have wooed the Madrasi and become his muse and his mistress 
Ha... don't be fooled, it is his 'Thair sadam' that he goes back home to, when in distress.
( Please note : Above dialogue is best delivered in typical 'Thalaivar' style )

Ah .. I forget the Coffee... Kaapi. The filter Kaapi.  ... that has to be a blog unto itself ...

Eh...Madrasi !!!! part 4 To be continued ...

This post is submitted as part of WRITE TRIBE's Wednesday prompt ... I ME AND MYSELF

Friday, September 19, 2014

Eh ... Madrasi !!

FDFS  ( First Day First Show)

I know i am recyclcing this post ... that appeared some time ago.
Consider this the revised edition.
Because  today is  12/12 .

For most Madrasis it is an auspicious day ... as auspicious as a diwali or pongal

Click on the video to expereince the festivities.

For a detailed account click here and  read on.

They say it is not like what it used to be in the good old days .

This is how it was in Madras in the good old days.

Summer vacations were never complete without watching the latest Rajinikanth release in Kapali or Kamadhenu theatre.  

Paatti  (Grandmother) would wait for us grandchildren to arrive  so that she could take us for the Rajanikanth movie that had just been released.

In other times of the year , Paatti  would settle for nothing less than the first day first show ( FDFS) of a Sivaji or a MGR movie.  The Black ticket vendor at the Kapali theatre shared a platonic relationship with Paatti for many years.  She was his regular customer.  When it came to Paatti  getting her grandchildren coming from the ‘north’, the black ticket vendor would leave no stones unturned . It had to be the best of balcony seats for Paatti and her progeny.

The Black ticket guy at Kapali theatre ( I do not remember his name) was infact the nephew of Kamala, the domestic help at the Mylapore house.  In the days when neither mobile phones not telephones existed, she was the go between for Paatti''s  visits to theatres. Kamala and her extended family lived in the mud huts with thatched roofs in what would today be called a slum behind the 'Mundakakanni amman temple' in those days.  In today's Chennai, 'Mundakakanni amman temple'  is a monorail station where one alights for Mylapore and Luz. No one knows what happened to Kamala and the residents of those slums.

It is not that Black tickets for movie shows were sold outside the theatre when the demand and supply was skewed. That is what happens in a free market economy.

Not in Madras where movie going was entwined in its tradition. Black ticket guys around movie theatres in Madras hoarded a few tickets and sold them at very minimal profits only to ensure that their regular patrons get their rightful share of tickets when they visit the theatre. Especially those who are devoted to preserve the FDFS culture. It was more of a service than a business that these guys rendered.  

Clad in a nine yards sari, Paatti was your typical orthodox Brahmin mami, who would not eat ( nor let her grandchildren eat) food cooked from unknown sources.  Our trips to Kapali theatre were therefore something  of a picnic, what with Dosa smeared with milagai podi  and gingely oil, packed in steel  boxes  and a steel Gooja filled with water accompanying us inside the theatre . The intermission time was Tiffin time.
We were oblivious to popcorn and samosa until we came of age and went for movies without needing to be accompanied by an adult.

I must say I have a remarkable sense of family history.

My cousin Shankar was born the year Rajanikanth’s Tillu Mullu  was released. 
Cousin Ravi was born the year Rajanikanth’s  ‘Johny’ was released .

My parents got married around the time Sivaji Ganesan’s   ‘Vasantha Maalaigai ‘ was released.

One afternoon Paatti returned from Kapali theatre after watching the matinee show of ‘ Raman thediya seethai’ and she got the telegram announcing my birth. The birth of her first grandchild. Incidentally 'Raman Thediya Seethai'  was a super hit movie from Jayanthi Productions that year.

You get the drift... don’t you !!!

In Madras movies are not synonymous with  entertainment.   It is a religion and is an inevitable part of your life.  In our case, it is a part of our family folklore.

First day first show (FDFS) of Rajinikanth movies are what legends are made of .  Giant cut-outs of the Thalaivar is bathed in milk before the FDFS. Fireworks galore the movie theatres and the police department works overtime to ensure the smooth release of Thalaivar's latest films.

Wanting to experience the fanatic frenzy that goes with the FDFS, I pleaded with a die hard Rajini fan who happens to be a good  friend, to take me for an FDFS.  He avoided me and my request.  Here is a guy who spends a good part of his salary to buy an FDFS movie ticket at Albert talkies in Chennai every time a Rajini movie gets released.  He has apparently never missed one since he was a young boy.

When I asked him why I could'nt go  with him to Albert Talkies for an FDFS he scoffed at my request as though I was asking to Trek Mount Everest with Tensing and Hilary.

He explained that in the frenzy that surrounds the release of  a 'Thalaivar' movie, a non-believer would get blatantly exposed. He did not want to risk that ordeal with a non-believer like me on the tow.      

Like they say the Madrasi's fanaticism for movies and the fanatic frenzy around FDFS cannot be described, it can only be experienced.  

Eh... Madrasi ... Part 3 - to be continued ....

Click here to Read Part 1 of Eh....Madrasi 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Eh... Madrasi !

Eh... Madrasi !

Chapter one : The Eternal Summer ...

It  is a city I love to hate.  It was always a city I loved to hate.
I am not sure about it any more though.

Chennai – then called Madras was where we were packed off for our summer vacations.  The very next day after the annual exams, Appa would see us off at the Railway station and the 24 to 36 hour long  train journey  in the second class sleeper to Madras would begin.  He would join us for a weekly holiday  later during the month.
Madras was where my parents were born.  Madras was where my parents grew up. 
It was for them their annual homecoming to affirm their roots.  As children we did not have much of a choice in where we get to spend our summer vacation.  

And summers they were. 
Madras was, is and will always be known for its summer. The eternal summer. The sultry, sticky and humid weather that is hot, hotter and the hottest at the best of times.     
A highly self conscious school girl that I was, my summer vacations were not  something I would proudly talk about when I went back to school with my school friends in Maharashtra.  Being a minority in itself was a shame. But the bigger shame was to be called a ‘Madrasi’.
To all Indians living above the Vindhyas anyone from down south was a Madrasi. I know many a Kannadiga or Malayali protesting against being stereotyped  as a Madrasi.
But there were no such ambiguity about me.  
For a Madrasi,  I was . Make no mistakes. 
A Madrasi, that too from Mylapore. 
 (As age catches up on me, everytime I  look into the mirror I cannot but observe  the  unmistakable’ Mylapore mami ‘gene pool and its contours that I have inherited.)

Summer vacations meant idling away the afternoons at the Mylapore  house and stepping out, duly escorted by an uncle or grandfather to the Marina beach in the evening.
Standing on the water and letting the waves lash out your ankles while the sultry evening breeze cooled the city down was as pleasant an experience as one could experience in Madras. 
 The visit to the beach would never be complete without the sweet sour and spicy 'Thenga maanga sundal’  filled in paper cones. The after dinner dessert  would be the Rita ‘Kuchchi’ ice cream.  That milky white icecream that the vendor would push along in a wooden cart with a shrill brass bell alerting all children about his arrival down the street. The ice cream by itself would be frozen around a stick and had to be licked on all sides in great hurry lest it should  melt down in the sweltering   evening heat.


This is part one of  Eh ... Madrasi .... part two to follow soon.

This post is submitted for Write Tribe's wednesday prompt - I , ME and MYSELF.   

Sky blues

Sky blues...

Insisting on a window seat when boarding a flight
Watching Mega Cities look tiny and tidy from that height
Its traffic looks like a sparkling row of red and golden necklace in the night.
But the best of views from the skies is clearly when it is broad daylight  ...

Here are some of the snaps taken over the French Italian Alps enroute Rome aboard an Alitalia flight.

 This picture taken almost seven yeas ago, is etched in my memory as possibly one of the best views from the clear blue skies of the snow covered Alps beneath ...

  Submitted for the Thursday Challenge where the theme this week is BLUE

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Tea leaves readings

Tea leaves readings

As a first generation immigrant, his father owned a Tea shop. 
When he was a young boy he would help his father, when he would leave the shop in his care from time to time.  
It was a city that was at the cusp of becoming a buzzing metropolis. The myriad of people whom he observed  over the years at the tea shop left  a rich understanding of human behaviour imprinted in him.

Years later, it was his accurate sense of instinct and his ability to judge people, situations and reactions that marked him out from other people around him.

His point was simple. If you are tuned into your instincts and observe and register  everything around you, however trivial and disconnected they may seen at that time,  you  will learn to decipher the patterns and see beyond the obvious .  

This post is written for 100 Words on Saturday Prompt  for Write Tribe  on the quote

Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any.   -   Orson Scott Card

Thursday, September 11, 2014

A day @ kew gardens

It takes all kinds to make the world.

Kew gardens is a wonderful treat for plant lovers and those serious about conversation of Biodiversity.

Here are some from their Orchid collection taken in Feb 2012.

Submitted for the Thursday Challenge where the theme for this week is garden.