Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Off to Pondicherry

I am a wannabe avid traveller. I have no memory of a place visited as vivid as Pondicherry. This was my first independent trip with friends, without family.

We were ten of us; on the first day, soon after the first four of us reached, we got down to have breakfast on Bharati street. It was disappointing considering all that we had heard about the South Indian food there but I didn’t mind for the excitement of discovering a new town was overpowering. Wrapping up with a cup of coffee, we set about wandering—the best way to discover a place. It was sunny and humid. We were all in jeans and sans umbrellas. If I were to be in such a situation in Hyderabad, I would have been nothing less than a crazy woman ready to unreasonably run after you with an axe. We walked, looked around, walked and just walked. This took us to the sea side which was close to our service apartment but we didn’t know better than taking the short route back. It is true that the whole town can actually be covered by foot. The town is well-designed with streets segmented one after another, vertically and horizontally. This way, no matter where you are, you easily and quickly reach wherever you may have to.  I was keen on hiring cycle rickshaws to recall what it felt to sit on them after more than 15 years. As fun as the ride was, it shockingly fell ridiculously heavy on our pockets.

I had packed only those clothes which I never dare to wear in Hyderabad. On the first afternoon, I wore short shorts and never had to face even one ugly stare from any man or woman on the streets. We lunched at Bamboo garden, a simple restaurant that looked gorgeous to me even as only plants and bamboos adorned it. I don’t quite remember what the others ordered but I enjoyed my Malabar prawn curry with rice as much as I had expected.

We spent a lovely evening by the seaside by Promenade hotel. Luckily I have pictures to support this memory. Watching sea waves rush, play and jump, witnessing the sunset, wondering how far the sea must spread, concentrating on its zenith as though it were to unveil secrets of the universe, sharing silly jokes upon each other with three adoring and genuine friends and an honest and lovely boyfriend will always keep that hour an icon of the good old days.

By dusk, we were familiar enough with the streets. In this way, I think Pondicherry and we had befriended each other. The next day, we vroomed everywhere on rented bikes. And a grumpy person in my head believes that even in a little town as that, we just could not get the Hyderabad out of us.  

The next day we went to one of the closest beaches. I spent the entire time in fear of being confronted and bitten by a crab, star fish, turtle, water snakes and swallowed by the monstrous sea itself. The mud stuck to our bodies and we had no room to change; that left us with no option but to ride back as we were, and we did. We stopped by for coffee and I went out of my way to fulfill my long lasting desire of relishing bhajjis with hot coffee after drenching myself.

The next day was the last day. I hopped into a short white dress that I have never had the courage to walk out in back home. A restaurant that promised French cuisine was our destination for lunch. Sadly I can’t remember a thing that I ate there except that they were all yummy. The image of ten of us spread across tables adjoined to make a long one— eating, talking and living in the moment is another I choose to hold on to as my first trip to Pondicherry ended soon after.

Being a Hyderabadi girl who is a part of the jam-packed, seemingly never-ending traffic engulfed in tall straight white buildings without character, huge advertising hoardings, overflowing garbage bins and people feigning personalities, Pondicherry is a place I will always fall upon when being simple won’t seem simple enough.   

Friday, June 8, 2012

One-Minute Writer: Opportunity Cost

Posted: 05 Jun 2012 03:00 AM PDT
"Opportunity cost" is what you give up when you choose one option over other available options. (For instance, by blogging right now, part of my opportunity cost is that I'm not taking a walk.) Think about something in your life, and describe the opportunity cost associated with it.

A part-time mother, I am
To travel, I want
To dance, I love
To act, I enjoy
Write, I do
Read, I do
Love, I do
The rest, I am unable to
Such wishes, I have
Such opportunities, I stumble upon
But many responsibilities, I must keep up to
May be today, I can't
Someday, I will

One-Minute Writer: Best

Did what I like
It takes discipline
It takes patience
It takes restlessness
Dug out an old piece
Of written words
Read. Edited. Published.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

One-Minute Writer-Friend

I don't want to take his name. Not only I but this very earth lost him last June. Even now, I find it hard to believe he is no more. I wish he were still alive. 

Tashreef rakhiye! :)


Last evening, I made sure I reached home in time. My dad and I had an appointment to keep—attend a wedding reception. There were two reasons why I was so keen on it. The groom’s father worked under my grandfather since he was 10-12 years old. His name is Abdul Jaffar Kareem and my father’s generation addresses him as Kareem. It has been five years since my Bauji (grandfather) passed away but he still pays his services to my Tauji (dad’s elder brother).

From what I hear, Kareem uncle and his team of boys were very well looked after by Bauji and they in turn have always been loyal and trustworthy. This makes for my first reason—if bauji were alive, he would have attended the ceremony come what may.

An Islamic wedding reception is called Walima. The food is prepared on wood fire and is known to be delicious beyond imagination. That was my second reason.

So I dressed up and we set about. We were addlepated by the route and we had to inquire with strangers. I quite enjoyed it. I call it a part of living-in-Hyderabad experience. I have never found a stranger who refused to guide me. Refusal is, in fact, out of question as they are always quite eager to help. Their gesticulations might seem vague, so might their wordings. That’s just how Hyderabadis give directions—“seedha jao, right lelo, left lelo”—without mentioning any landmarks whatsoever. Well, that’s the Hyderabadi way. It can get annoying in testing times but it is quite endearing, too.

We went through narrow lanes taking in mixed fragrances of raw meat, fried bhajji, flowers, cow dung, mangoes, camphor, incense sticks and many other unrecognizable ones. It was no Times Square but the lanes were bright and lively, alright! Even though the invite said 8 pm and we were late by 30 minutes, we managed to be the first guests to arrive. The next came half an hour later. By 10 pm, there were hardly 10 of us. Miraculously, the hall filled itself while we were inside eating. That, I was told, is just how it is at Muslim weddings. Come what may, a pakka Hyderabadi will never come on time.

Kareem uncle was delighted to see us and I think I saw some quaint pride on his face. May be it was my imagination but he seemed like a child showing off his favorite people to his peers, and to his favorite people what he had achieved. But then, it could just be my imagination. 

The hall was huge and lit. It was partitioned by a long curtain, on both sides of which, the stage was set with flowers in the backdrop and a large, red armchair. One part was for the groom and the male guests and the other was for the bride and the female guests. I being ‘apne hi ghar ki’ (as told by Kareem uncle) could conveniently sit with my dad in the male division.  

While he was busy being the groom’s father, my dad and I sat. My dad told me how he started working with bauji. I asked more about bauji and when he was young. I made a mental note to find out more about him from any possible source.

My father’s elder brother arrived. Though they are not on good terms, my father never fails to greet him cordially and respectfully.

After sitting for a long time and watching other workers greet my dad and tauji and their short small talk, my appetite was finally paid heed to. Kareem uncle insisted that we went in the dining hall with him. The table was set with crockery and food. I sat readily and wholeheartedly ate everything that was served. I was disappointed that there was only chicken and not a trace of mutton which I prefer. There were three kinds of kebabs with roti, hareesh (haleem made with chicken), hara chicken, a red chicken curry and biryani. For desserts, there was qubbani ka meetha and kheer. The kheer was the best I have ever had in this life
 Our table had not less than five attendants at every moment and we were met by ultimate mehmaan nawaazi. Food was served and offered several times. Dad and tauji hardly ate anything but I made sure I tasted everything.

While I ate, I felt each eye was upon me, the only person eating there, But I didn’t care. I wanted to eat. I wanted the experience. I was there for the daawat. I savoured it all—the daawat, the mehmaan nawaazi and anecdotes from my grandfather’s time.