Thursday, December 30, 2010

Celebration Biryani


Today, I had the world's BEST mutton biryani. I really did. Call it hunger or the severe deprivation of good food, or what you may, but from the second it arrived to many more after I wistfully left my plate to the starving atmospheric organisms, I couldn't think about anything else. Not the server who was probably still laughing at how badly I couldn't speak Malayalam. Definitely not how many cockroaches lived behind the cardboard walls and the kitchen. And not the three text messages awaiting a reply on my phone.* Nope.

It was all me and my biryani.

On my way to south Delhi I found myself in what is probably going to be my favourite place to shop when I'm living this part of the city: INA Market. A name-it-they-have-it marketplace filled with everything you could possibly imagine. And more!

I headed straight for the biryani place, of course. Kerala Hotel. One of those "meals-guaranteed" places that never seem to close. Perfect for college students' untimely hunger pangs. And their wallets, too. But so crickety-crackety, you're never sure whether it's the last place you'll enter alive. While experiencing aforementioned college student hunger pangs late last night, I'd read an exceptionally glowing review of their mutton biryani, and decided I deserved to have a nice meal. Just because.

After a LOT of linguistic fumbling -- I spoke Hindi in a place that spoke Malayalam -- I thought I'd ordered a meal plate; vegetables, rice, the works. Biryani, they told me, would take twenty minutes. I waited. I tried not to look at the cockroaches climbing beside me. I tried not to think about the origins of the water I was very parchedly sipping. I tried not to be offended by the miniskirt-wearing advert girl printed onto their cardboard walls. I tried, I did.

And then it came. Barely five minutes after I'd ordered my vegetarian meal, I was handed a very welcome steaming plate of rice covering what looked like... mutton! Could it possibly be that they'd understood what I wanted to say? I looked up at the gods, and accepted their offerings. I understood. And if meditation is thinking one thought for twelve seconds or more, I meditated upon that dish till the entire thing was demolished. Every single grain of fragrant rice stuck to every single bony piece of mutton. True, it wasn't biryani so much as it was curry-rice. But oh my god, it was the most beautiful combination of mutton and rice I have ever eaten. Absolutely perfect. Like every morsel was made to be loved, not eaten. But eaten it was. With so much joy.


I almost don't want to come out of that feeling to talk about the rest of my time spent at the market. But I will (very briefly), because it made me happy.

Before today, I'd only ever ventured into the side near the main road, which is unusual for me, because I usually spend so much time walking around places. But today, a few soon-to-fade beams of light shone through the tiniest possible walkway, to show me I'd been missing the most interesting part entirely, the fish market! Very celestial, yes. But meat and vegetable markets are like heaven to some crazy people. Bok choy, chinese cabbage, iceberg lettuce, seaweed, baby corn, dried chinese mushrooms, fresh mushrooms, fat chilies; all the perfect ingredients for stir fry. In bundles so large you could almost dive into. And fish! And prawns! And crabs! And chickens! Of every conceivable colour and texture and flavour. I felt like a child let loose in the city. Eyes wide open, mouth in an 'O', soaking, observing, wanting everything around. My personal, static little bubble as the world moved in slow-motion around me.

I so need to go back.

*Sorry, R

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Have Telephoto Lens, Will Use It

Jewish Man

Scoping out Jewish men from really high rooftops is always fun, no matter what your mother tells you.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Little Kids Know More

"Do you know what butterflies' favourite food is?", my cute seven-year old cousin very seriously asked me when she saw the picture below.


"Uh, leaves?", I meekly ventured, embarrassed at not knowing more.

"Bananas!", she leapt up, like it was the most obvious thing. "If you want to attract a butterfly, just hold a banana close to it, and it'll come flying to you."

"Oh" was really all I could muster. Is there a factbook where kids learn this kind of stuff?

"I tried feeding one once. It was very sticky, so I shook it off." Cue, hand-shaking hula-hoop wiggle dance.

"Wait, which was sticky -- the banana or the butterfly?"

Pause. She wrinkled her nose. "Well, the banana was a little soggy, and the butterfly was a little sticky too."


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Thank you for your infinite patience, Pak-Man.


In July, I bought a Rubik's Cube. I promised myself that I would be able to solve one by the end of the year. After carrying it around with me for a month, I put it to rest in a shoe box at the bottom of my cupboard, where it has lain since.

Well, it's the first day of the last month of the year. And I can solve it.

I'm so proud.