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

An aside:

As of tonight, people have viewed pages on my blog over 3000 times. Numerical milestones not being a measure of success and all that apart, I couldn't be happier. Or feel more loved. Starting this endeavor, and continuing with it -- despite perpetually-looming exams, internet troubles, and the occasionally guilt-laden yearning to upload something already -- has given me a feeling of self-fulfillment like nothing I've ever done before.

So, a gigantic hug to everyone who has ever viewed this blog, and telepathic warmth to all the people who won't see this. Snowflake cookies to you if you've told a friend. And rice-krispie treats to you if you've viewed my blog on international holidays: I love seeing Finland and South Africa up on my countries-who-viewed-pages list :)

Honestly, without ALL the love from anyone who has ever said anything to me about my blog (and there's love in criticism too), I don't know for sure I'd keep posting and sharing. So do comment if you ever have anything you think I should hear (good or bad). Tell me on the phone, in class, by mail, chat, or even on this blog(!). I've tried to keep the commenting process as simple as possible, so it should help. If you like something, tell me. If you want more accompanying text, or less, tell me. And if you think I'm being too much of a flootsie, tell me. Just don't swear.

I don't know how far I've come in these past five months,** but my god, I still have so much further to go. I've been doing a lot of macro shots and un-posed portraits, because I feel they convey much of the core essence of a thing. But there are still so many styles I have to explore. So much I have to do before I can declare myself an accomplished photographer.

And till then, and much after, I welcome you on the journey.

**Step one of a staircase? Maybe. Loop One of an infinitely-sliced Mobius strip? Probably more like it.


  1. Well partly yes, little Nanya. (To respond to your sms on a more appropriate place)

    -You know who.

  2. 5 months and 3000 views on, you are not only doing better and better as a photographer but also taking in more of life's flavours. I look forward to seeing a new post as it gives me yet another opportunity to be with you and meet you in the virtual world.
    Keep it up.

  3. I am heading to INA market when I next visit INDIA!Your post has inspired me to do so! I look forward to my visit to Kerala Hotel!

  4. I've loved your photography. I always have.<3