Friday, July 8, 2011


I am listening to the songs from Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey as I begin my 10-day bed-rest period. I can't imagine how I would pass the next 9 days. I am always restless and the thought of lying down at one place for most of the time for the next 10 days is painful. But the alternative is even more dreadful.

I have always liked the songs of KHJJS a lot more than the film. Probably because I don't have to watch Abhishek Bachchan while listening to the songs. I had quite liked the film when I saw it a few months back on Tata Sky. The film and the music remind me a lot of Kolkata and Bengal.

My earliest memory of Kolkata is of visiting my mother's parents - can't recall if it was Ballygunge or Tollygunge - but have very fond memories of those trips. I remember this cloudy day when someone who used to work at the house - I have a feeling his name was Narsingh, but not sure - took me for a trip on the metro, and also to the Nehru's Children's Museum. I could not have been more than 5-6 years old and I remember so much of that trip so clearly. I visited the Museum several years later and it was very underwhelming. I do not remember much from this later visit.

The next visit I remember was in December 1995. This was the first time that our four-member family took two rooms to stay while on a trip. We were staying at the company guest-house and the luxury of having my own room felt amazing. The trip was very memorable on the whole too. Kolkata is a lot more bearable in the winter.

The next visit, on the other hand, was not memorable at all. I was back in Kolkata in 1999, a couple of months before my first shot at JEE. I used to get stuff from Brilliant Tutorials by post, and they were having a crash course before the exam in some of the larger cities before the JEE, and my parents decided that it made sense for me to attend. It was one of the most painful experiences of my life. I was staying at this very sad Maharashtrian guest-house with my father, where the food was bad, I had to walk for over 4 km to get to the class, and once at the class, I hardly understood anything being taught there. My preparation for my first attempt was really bad and I was made aware of that very starkly in the 2-3 weeks I managed to stay there. On one of my frequent phone calls with my mother, I just broke down and said that I could not do it, that JEE was not meant for me. I was called back. Never felt more like a failed person in my life. Or since then. Of course, I went to Kota, gave up living for almost a year and cracked JEE the next year. But that period in Kolkata still gives me nightmares.

The next visit and two subsequent visits after that to the city have been to Joka. A place I love in a way it is not possible to describe. Kolkata is as much a part of me as Delhi is. And I miss it badly as I listen to these songs from KHJJS. And the film's not even based in present day West Bengal.

I miss Joka like hell. And the feeling that this feeling will be there for ever kills me. It's like a person close to you going away and you knowing that he won't come back ever.


Update: Just saw the trailer of Chittagong, starring Manoj Bajpayi, Raj Kumar Yadav, Nawazuddin Siddiqui (the man with the best performance in Peepli Live) and Barry John. The trailer seems to suggest that it's a much better made film than KHJJS. I hope it gets a proper release and does well too.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Sunday Night Fever

Had a near perfect day today. And such days are so rare that one needs to record this for the future me.

First, found a store that has clothes that fit me. I understand that I have ballooned up a lot in the last few years, but I am sure there are tons of Indians who are my size and maybe larger than me. Where do they get their clothes from! Surely not everyone gets them custom-made. Thankfully found a place today (and got to know of some others, which I'll try out in the coming days) where sanity prevails and there is some thought given to poor blokes like me, who can't fly to the US to do their shopping. I am actually surprised I am writing about clothes, but one does need a few shirts and couple of pair of jeans to cover one's modesty (and not keep wearing the same thing everyday).

Two, was THE MOVIE. But, will come to that in a while.

Three, was a meal at the Dakshin at ITC Maratha (or is it Grand Maratha - how can anything Maratha not be Grand?). We had gone there planning a meal at Peshawri, and in anticipation of the beautiful non-veg platter there I hadn't eaten the whole day. But, since they don't take confirmed reservations after 8, we were stuck with a half-an-hour wait and decided to try out Dakshin instead.

Instead of trying out the a-la-carte menu, we just decided to take it easy and settle for the Thali. Which is an extensive 3-course deal. We were three of us, and ordered one each of the three Thalis on offer - veg, non-veg, sea-food. Since all cost the same, they were fine with us sharing stuff across plates, which is generally frowned upon at most restaurants.

I can't go through the Thali item-by-item for you, so would just say that this was far better than I had expected. Right from the poppadums, chutneys and pickles they began with, through the chicken and fish starters, the unbelievably delicate appams, the lovely avial, the unforgettable fish and chicken curries (I was having the non-veg version), and finally the delicious sambhar - it was a beautiful experience. And the service was impeccable. Good food and good service. Makes your day.

But, the best was for the last. I am not exactly a sweets person. Except for some very select dishes like kaju barfi, I am not a big fan of sweet stuff, and generally avoid dessert after a good main course just to retain the tastes. Thankfully I decided to have a try today. My cousin, who was having the veg version got this light, just about sweet, coconut dish, which was quite interesting. He also got the payasam and another dish that I can't recall much of now.

My sister-in-law (who was having the sea-food version) and I got the same stuff - payasam and another dish that looked like a burnt barfi.

But, what do morons like me know! I stuck my spoon into it and the spoon just went right through it. So, it was no barfi. I scooped up a small part of the slightly gooey thing and put in my mouth.

"Oh my god" was probably my first reaction. I won't remember because I was in a daze for a few seconds after that. This was my first encounter with a Vattal Appam. This dish made from pine jaggery is the most brilliant dish I have had in a very very long time. It's just the right amount of sweet, feels very light on the tongue, is absolutely mind-bogglingly delicious.

I asked for a second helping. I have been thinking about it since I got back home. I think I am going to dream about it tonight. I think I am in love with it.

Will talk about THE MOVIE later.

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