Bhaarath Mahaan, Food, life lessons

Rasam.

I’ve been sick the past couple of days. The flu has been doing the rounds and I didn’t want to catch it, so I went to the two most public germ filled areas I could think of : the mall and the movies. Yup, I was dying to get all coughed up. Now I have some coughing, sneezing and a runny nose. Ever since then I’ve been craving some nice home cooking. I Googled ‘How to make rasam’ and stumbled up on a fabulous Tam Bram pepper rasam recipe. Having sneezed four and a half times in a row, I just had to have it. So I made mashed rice and the most peppery pepper rasam for lunch. Ah, so yummy! I can feel my throat getting better already. Rasam is just the best.

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Bhaarath Mahaan, Eating Out, Food, life, madras, my crazy days

Me and my kuchi ice.

This blogging every day in January gig is proving to be harder every day. I have to wake up each morning and search inside my head to come up with something that’s even passable. It doesn’t help that its cold and dreary outside. No, something has to rain on my usual sunshine-y demeanor  I’ve been informed that the cold weather will end only at the end of February, maybe even March. I am so ready for summer already.

I loved summer holidays as a kid. Endless hours watching tv, playing with the apartment kids and scrumptious food provided my mommy dearest. You could say it was the perfect summer. But the one entity that had to dampen my spirits was the saravana Bhavan ice cream man. He would ring his little bell on his little vandi all the way to my street. I could hear the bell even at the far end of the house and would run as fast as my pudgy legs could carry me. There were times when I’ve even chased him down the street. We have all done things we are not proud of, so let’s not dwell on this?

All this hullabaloo was just to get my hands on the best kuchi ice ever – the grape flavored kuchi ice from Saravana Bhavan. So delicious, so slurpy, I’ve been know to inhale it three at a time. Good for me that my mother had the same interest in kuchi ice that I did.

But after a few years the losers at Saravana Bhavan decided to discontinue grape ice. And that’s where my story had to end. But it’s okay, I found the second best kuchi ice – Sravana Bhavan orange kuchi ice.

photo (2)Orange kuchi ice, outside Saravana Bhavan, with mother as the back drop.

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Bhaarath Mahaan, college, madras, my crazy days

Naan auto kaaaran.

Auto men in Chennai are very famous thanks to the antics they come up with. I have quite a few auto man stories and I was reminded of one that stripped me of my maanam . So during college days my college bus would drop me off at the main road near my house. Walking from bus stop to my house that was inside the streets would take at least ten, fifteen minutes. Some days I would just walk the distance but on lazy days I would take an auto. If I took an auto it would hardly take a couple of minutes to drop me off so I would want to pay ten rupees but some days,  persistent auto guys would ask for fifteen rupees.

So on one of my lazy days I took an auto. When I got down I handed the guy a ten rupee not. He looked at me like I was crazy and said no ten rupees, it’s twenty, lady. I was already on a short fuse that day and I blasted at him, “It hardly took two minutes to get here, indhe route nan daily varuven, twenty rupees too much, blah blah blah”. He listened to me patiently and said, “Ille ma twenty rupees dhan. Government has put new rule that minimum fare is twenty rupees. Nennege inniki paper padiklaya?”. He said that in such a condescending way! Me being the newspaper disciple that I am, that hurt my ego and I was like whoa, is he saying the truth? So I paid him the twenty rupees and ran home to grab The Hindu. I scanned every page for this piece of news. It wasn’t there.

And I was twenty rupees poorer.

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America, Bhaarath Mahaan, life, my crazy days

I’m doing okay.

People in this country are so friendly, it took me a while to get used to it. I come from Chennai where people are not particularly that friendly. I mean, I never had the experience of walking to my local grocery store (Ayyanar Stores) and have the boy who works there ask me how I’m doing today. I would just go and be like one Maggi packet please . I then pay him the money and leave. But here it’s hard. I have to always think of response to the question “Hey how you guys doing?”. Initially I would just smile and walk away but later I realized the pressure of having something to say in response to that question which seems to be the first thing every store clerk wants to ask. Do I tell them the truth that I’m not doing that great or do I just say oh I’m doing good, how are you and have a conversation that both of us really don’t want to be in? After a while I seemed to have found a response that can’t be deemed as curt or lengthy. I just say fine, thanks and give them a dazzling smile. I thought I worked that out just fine and was out of the danger zone. But then the cashiers at the department store started saying “Have a good night, guys!” when we left. I was stumped. What do I do now? Smile, nod or say “You too”? I settled for smile and nod. I didn’t want to hold up the line.

In Chennai the only person with whom I had to actually converse with outside my immediate circle was the auto man with his permanent request of “meter ku malle anju roova“. Of course I had to say no I cannot part with my anju roova you thief and then we would engage in a little not so friendly banter that would end with me just giving him the anju roova to make him shut up.

I miss the good old days when I could just leave the house without having someone ask me how I’m doing and me having to evaluate my feelings of the day. Some days I don’t want to know how I’m doing, perky Starbucks girl, so please just give me my hazelnut hot chocolate and let me get on with my day.

And no whipped cream, thank you very much.

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America, Bhaarath Mahaan, Eating Out, Food, madras, restaurant review

Waiter, one coffee please.

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Meals, Saravana Bhavan, Fremont.

We finally went to Saravana Bhavan a few weekends back. The food did taste a little different than the one in Madras but I was satisfied. It felt like a little piece of home that I could visit any time I wanted. Granted there were no familiar waiters, the smell of coffee in the air and the general chit chat that only Madras offered. But dipping my fingers in their famous sambar after three and a half months of a dearth, this was more than I could ask for.

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Bhaarath Mahaan, life, life lessons, madras

Scar.

A couple of days back I woke up to read a disturbing article in the newspaper. A 19 year old sales girl from Chennai was gang raped by boys who were her “friends”. One of the boys, her classmate from school, had asked her to accompany him to visit another friend of theirs who had apparently taken ill. This unsuspecting girl went with the boy to the friends house only to realize that the boy wasn’t ill and was in the company of four other boys. They offered the girl a drink and after a few sips she realized that something was wrong with it. They forced her in to drinking and when she became unconscious the boys repeatedly raped her. By the time she regained consciousness they dropped her off at her house. The next day the girl was suffering from extensive bleeding and was taken to a Government hospital. The doctors informed her mother that it was a clear case of rape and asked her to file a complaint with the police.
On February 9th three cases of rape took place at the same night in Delhi. In the first incident, a 13 year old girl  was abducted and raped by a 30 year old man because she did not accept his Facebook request. In the second incident a 17 year old girl was kidnapped and was sexually abused in car while continuously roaming the streets  The accused was  a relative of hers. In the third case a 17 year old girl was walking back home from work with her friends was forced in to a car and kidnapped. Her friends who tried to fend off the kidnappers were assaulted. This girl is yet to be traced.
In Delhi, a constable was arrested for molesting an under age girl in a slum area. In Kolkatta a man was mercilessly beaten to death for a lodging a compliant againt some men who were sending obscene MMSes to his college-going daughter.
All these events took place this month. It makes me wonder if India is really a safe place for women. None of these girls asked to be raped. They were from working class backgrounds trying to find some means to an end.
I feel that men do not understand the extent of their actions. Most of these assaults are done just for momentary pleasure or it is seen as a way to take revenge on the girl. Sexual abuse is prevalent everywhere. I’m sure that almost every girl has experienced abuse/molestation of some kind. I’m talking of the smallest cases of molestation, a sneaky hand in a crowded area, an intended brush across the body. Sometimes abuse takes place at home, by someone who is in the family. The trauma that a victim of sexual abuse goes through is indescribable. It may be just a moment to experience pleasure for men but for the victim the after effects of this carries on through out her life, more often than not ruining future relationships.
Take for instance the girl from Chennai, she has been through so much mentally. It would be no surprise if in the future she does not trust any man. She may become skeptical of every person she meets and every relationship she has.
What are we doing to protect  India’s women? On one side we are advocating for the girl child. Educating people to not kill their daughters. On the other side there is rape and molestation at every corner. If this is how the country is going to be then the murdered daughters of India are better off in their graves.
As a country we seem to have lost our morals somewhere down the line. We have forgotten to care for whats right. We seem to have such a ‘take it in your stride’ attitude about everything. If the girl is raped or molested the blame game begins and all fingers are pointed towards the victim for “tempting” the man. I do not disagree that man is wired differently but because of this reason it his responsibility to keep himself in  check. There are stories of men molesting small children and pre-adolescent kids. “Temptation” does not play its part here. Abusing children is probably the most cowardly, most despicable and demeaning act there is.
It irks me to see that we aren’t taking issues like these seriously. But if a minister is caught watching porn in the assembly then that becomes front page news and every news channel worth its salt replays the video for days. Schools and colleges need to educate their students on these lines. They need to create awareness starting from the lower classes. The earlier children know about these things the easier it would be for them to understand how wrong it is when someone misbehaves with them. Schools need to have counselors who can help them in understanding what is wrong and whats right. As a society we are still shy to talk about this subject. We want to push it under the carpet and act like it doesn’t happen. But we need to open our eyes and accept reality. We need to be broad minded enough to not blame it on the victims. Parents need to explain this to their children.
As much as we want it to be, the world is not a happy, shiny place. It is dark, scary and like it or not we are vulnerable creatures.
These two issues are really close to my hear and it pains me to read news stories like this almost every day. I cannot imagine the angst the victim goes through. There can be no compensation for going through such a tough ordeal. Money cannot make the scars go away. Rehab and counselling can only do that much. Beyond that it is entirely up to the strength the person has to block the images, grit their teeth and move on acting like life is a happy place when at the bottom of their heart they know that things can never be the same again.
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Bhaarath Mahaan

Save The Girl Child

The census report this year has some extremely scary statistics to report : the boy-girl sex ratio has dropped from 927 to 914 per 1000 boys. This is the worst statistics since Independence.

How can we call ourselves a developed nation when we choose to discriminate a child even before she is born? Although identification of the sex of the foetus is against the law, there are various medical professionals and clinics who still go ahead and identify the sex of the foetus. Once the foetus is identified to be female, many couples and their families choose to abort the foetus.

A pre-natal test is a criminal offence fined up to three years in jail and a Rs.10,000 fine for the first offence and five years imprisonment and a Rs.50,000 fine fro the second offence.
This does not just happen in the lower classes and in the uneducated sects of the society but it is also very prevalent among the higher and more elite societies where couples quite often travel abroad to determine the sex of the child without actually breaking the law.

That’s what it is : finding out the sex of your child before birth is breaking the law in India. In a country that deems itself to be so modern, so urbane and so ‘in’ with what’s hot and what’s not we are still steeped in age old customs and insane beliefs. We still celebrate the birth of a boy and mourn the birth of a girl. Somehow we like to hold on to that thin, almost dwindling shred of belief that the boy is going to save us and uplift our life and the girl will bring only misfortunes.

Every other week we hear stories of new born children found in dustbins, thrown in lakes and undeveloped fetuses in dust buns. It is nearly impossible to educate a society on the impact of this when they refuses to comply with the schemes. A few years back this piece made the news : In a small village in Rajsthan (I think) there was a dearth of girls. The drought of girls was so much that there was an unnatural number of young boys in the village waiting to get married.

Despite all the so called ‘development’ we are still a society that places the male above all else. Families from lower backgrounds feel that sending the son to school is better than sending the daughter because it will invariably be a waste of money and that he will be the bread winner. But the harsh reality is that, that boy would go grow up to be a ruffian and the girl would have to work multiple jobs just to feed her family.

How is it possible to bring a nation out from this ‘dark age’ and make them see the light of day that it is impossible to live in a society without girls? They are the founding factors on which any civilization is built on. Women are not important just to cook your food and have your babies. They play such an important role in the society at large. They become great doctors and lawyers, CEOs of major companies, entrepreneurs and artists, contribute a LOT to society and bring about changes in ways the others can’t.

Every girl child deserves the right to be born. No one can rob her of the right to be educated. Every child has a potential that needs to be identified and utilized to the maximum. It is her right to be the person she wants to be and to achieve what she wants in life. Unfortunately, we fail miserably to recognize that. As soon as the girl is born the family only thinks of the expenses she will incur.

The Government says that female foeticide can be stopped only through awareness. But how much of it will actually be effective? If in 2011, 64 years after Independence, we face the worst sex ration ever, then does it truly show that all the ‘awareness’ created by the Ministry for Women and Child Development is actually useful?

Will we ever change?

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