Monday, September 22, 2008

Rub-a-dub-dub, thanks for the grub!

The smell beckons you right from the head of Pali Road, early evening. And your mouth starts overflowing its banks, anticipating those deep-fried, golden brown, crispy-edged wadas and “rock-n-rolls”, samosas and bhajias.

Roll up, ladies and gents, Ram Lakhan beckons. The Maxim’s of fine dining at Pali Naka, way back when things like 1 Rupee notes existed. Hold on, you’ll get a table soon enough, if you push hard enough through the elite crowd thronging the entrance. Men in dhotis which get washed only if there’s a heavy downpour, banians torn at strategic locations (the first examples of ripped clothing). Mixing with the aroma of goodies frying in oil are the sweet smells of Eau de Armpite and Perspiratione No. 5.

The maitre-d’ (ok fine, a young lad in years-ago-white-now-perma-brown vest and checked almost-black boxers) guides you up, and you settle down at the sepia-toned and designer-chipped Formica table. Scrubs it ‘clean’ with a duster made out of an earlier pair of his shorts or vest.

We ask, “Hygiene hai?” He’s confused, almost checks with the kitchen, says ‘Kya?’, and we let it pass. “Pani”, we order. “Unglee kam.” Coz anyways the glasses have fingerprints on the sides, but we won’t have him dipping his fingers in them, even tho’ it’s easier to carry four glasses that way.

And then we tell him to keep the rock-n-rolls coming. Also called ‘bread’, tis but a loaf filled with potato bhaji, and the whole mess is deep-fried in channa-ka-atta. Sliced and drowned in green chutney, this is Food for the Gods. Thank God for teenage tapeworms. We used to down almost five each at a sitting, with samosas and wada-paos for company, and hot bhajias filling in the empty spaces between.

If there was a thick enough crowd, you could run down the steps and be far away before they realised you hadn’t paid the bill. The owner was busy with his curds and lassi, twirling his moustache and dropping a few hairs in for taste.

Great venue for a hungry teen – cheap, fast food. He’s moved away down the road, coz he can’t be seen in the down-market company of 5-Spice and Boat Club.

Man, we could eat in the good ol’ days. And we had some Superstar Epicures in the Colony.

Lemme take you on the Gourmet Tour that we used to do, around my area…

Balaji to Navrang for the Udipi standards. Track back to Elco for bhel puri and a dosa. Near the Post Office for samosa pao. We could do this entire tour in around 20 bucks. (Our parents laugh – “We’d pay four annas for the lot!” And our kids howl: “That’s the cost of an extra napkin at Macs!” Ah, sod off!)

Carry on… Salim’s near the station for late-night bhuna gosht – a friendly cat making love to your legs, with beggars sharing your bench. A-1 in the same area for kababs and khiri-kaleji, tongue if you were adventurous. The Chinese dude / Big Boss / Liao’s for Oriental delicacies. Cats all around (some I’m sure were part of the menu). Yankee Doodle ice-cream if your parents were in a generous mood.

MacRonell’s for the world’s best hot dogs. Andora’s, Jeff’s, A1 Bakery and Hearsch for more snacky stuff. Lucky’s for biryani, and some joints in the same area where you got rotis the size of manhole covers and handi fare (close your eyes and gorge – coz the dustbin is just outside).

And the Watering Holes! Casbah is enshrined – where the lighting was dim so you did not see the owner’s pets scurrying around, the roaches almost getting into your glass, or mixing with the masala channa and nuts. A quick LP before the last show at New Talkies made the pic more fun. Janata – the oasis in the desert. “Ya-chit” opposite Andrew’s Church, where the kheema was submerged ’neath 2 inches of oil. Deepa opposite the Goa Bus Stop, where a sweet old fart would try and get a sucker to pay for his quarter. Hotel Bandra International when you wanted to impress de wimmen, and had sold enough beer bottles and old newspapers.

Hill Road kabab wallas. Bhel wallas at strategic locations. Gola-men and sugarcane juicers. Boiled eggs and boiled gram outside the various Aunty’s. At that age, we found the hooch was pure acid and burnt you a new butthole, so we restricted. All places where we hungry fools and our money were parted – but who cared? God be praised, my belly is raised.

Most have gone to the Great Buffet in the Sky, as Bandra has exploded with countless eating joints. Cuisines from all across the world. All kinds of budgets taken care of, so you’ll never go hungry. The thrown stone don’t hit the Pereira’s pig anymore, but a strolling peanut-seller or a fancy new pig-out paradise.

And it is all good. This is heaven on earth for belt-busters like me. Ain’t no Point To Ponder in this post. Just – indulge, life is short. And if you see me racing at top speed down Pali Road, don’t tell the Ram Lakhan manager you know me.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Praying and Playing Together

Two things were guaranteed to get everybody – and I mean EVERYBODY – down on to the SPC lawns at least once a year.

Mass. And Housie.

There’d be a Thanksgiving Mass around Easter-time. That’s when we get out our bottles of tap water to have them blessed. Of course, the previous years’ bottles are still a-standing on the wall, almost full to the brim. 17 days in Purgatory if you pour them down the sink. Used to bless the kids before they raced off to school, or during illnesses (along with Fr Agnel’s mud, it was the most potent cure), sprinkled on anything to make it holy.

Some priests go out of the way to make the Mass special, encouraging interaction and neighbourly bonhomie. And it’s a good thing, coz everybody participates – in decorating the altar/lawns, arranging chairs, making the prayers, singing in the choir, joining in the offertory, doing readings, helping the old folks, etc. Community Spirit at its best.

Mass was usually followed with snacks-n-cold-drinks. Mandatory is the boiled gram. Many a sleepless night was had by all, as sweet aromas made you wonder if Mahim Creek had flowed into Bandra. Hey, who cares? Gimme two handfuls, and I’ll be running back for more!

Or there were crumbly patties, maybe ‘sim’osas, Rasna that could swing both ways – mainly water with a blink-and-you-miss-it hint of sugar, or so sickly sweet your teeth went on edge and your jaws screamed in pain. Why wasn’t Jesus around to work a miracle with the Rasna, then?

And then, the best part – Housie!

Tickets were distributed – at a princely sum of Rs 2, sometimes free. The money went into the prizes, of course. If there was a generous Uncle, or a visitor from Canada / the States / Oz, then we could have TWO Full Houses AND a bucket luck!

There is this hardcore breed of Aunties who frequent Housies at all the Gymkhanas in town. Travelling for miles sometimes, to get that elusive ‘Snowball’. For them, this is the most serious business on the planet, up there with a heart or brain transplant, or getting Nancy’s eldest an honest, sober, fair, own-flat-owning, Dubai-working Goan Brahmin. Spectacles polished with the ubiquitous eau-de-cologned hanky. Ballpoint pen checked for smooth ink flow, with a spare behind the ear. Grandson’s exam board for holding the tickets in place. Some play with 12 tickets at a time – incredible speed & concentration, coupled with the sheer desperation to win by covering all bases.

Now, scratch away the dandruff and ponder – where in the mists of time did the calls come from?
Legs – 11.
Top of the House – 90.
House of the Bamboo Door – Number 54.
What babies do – Number 2.
Ulta Pulta – 69.
2 fat ladies – 88.
Downing Street – Number 10.
Sweet – 16.
Two little ducklings – 22.
Men get naughty at – 40.
Hockey sticks – 77.
The list goes on…

False alarms? The Aunties would scream for the ticket to be torn and the offender to be stripped, flogged and burnt at the stake.

Or maybe seven people got the same line – and the Uncle-in-charge went nuts trying to divide Rs 50 by 7. Keep the change, aage chalo.

Yep, ’twas the best fun you could have as ONE community. Personal jokes flew thick and fast – references to people’s ages as the higher numbers were called. Naughty giggles at “88” and “40”. Cries of “Shake It Up!” as we ‘sweated’ and begged the MC to call out “47” coz we needed just that number to bag the line or ride away with the Full House. For me, that number never ever came. Ah well, if I had a dollar for every number I just missed… I’d get my hair woven.

Game over, civic sense prevailed as everybody helped stack the chairs and clean up bits of paper. Folks stood around chatting, some rushed back to hit the sack. A day well-enjoyed by all, and when’s the next get-together coming up?

So… the thought for the day…

1. Community spirit keeps us together – good neighbours will always be there, in good times and bad. Folks that pray together, stay together. Of course, you gotta move out of your door and enhance the relationship.
2. It ain’t about winning, it’s all about enjoying what you’re doing, giving it your best shot (even if it means buying 12 tickets), sharing the joy even when someone else wins – just coz s/he’s a near / dear one. Not only in Housie.
3. Think healthy, think of your figure. So when they say, “Two Fat Ladies!”, you don’t try to hide under the seat. (Me should talk!)

Peace, y’all.

I Read Therefore I Am

There’s a dying breed out there. Called a “Circulating Library”. For Generation-PSP, that’s a place where you go to pick up a book or two, devour them, go back, take some more, repeat ad nauseam.

Tear yourself from Google and Facebook, awhile (or even this highly entertaining blog!). Ask around, you may find one of these old dusty places in your vicinity.

When the T-Rexes still ruled the earth, we used to haunt these places. St Stanislaus’ Library with the sun shining in, the long benches, the stacked shelves and cupboards, is still one of my Best-Loved Places in the World.

We had a regular lending network across SPC too. Yeah, yeah some of us never returned stuff, and went blue in the face denying we ever took them! Why buy when you can steal?

We find-outed and Noddy-ed with Enid Blyton, idolized the Hardy Boys (we even acted out some of their adventures – whoever was fattest got the role of Chet Morton), followed the Three Investigators (Nancy Drew and the Bobbsey Twins were for the eep! girls!), and went wild over the Westerns – Sudden, L’amour, JT Edson.

Tried the Classics too – Verne, Wells, Dickens, Stevenson, Scott, Dumas… Yeah – the Brontes and Alcott were for the snort! girls!

Remember comics? ‘Course you do! Mandrake the Magician “gestured hypnotically” while Lothar bulged from every pore. DC's Superman, Batman, the JLA, et al, Tarzan, Rip Kirby, Bahadur, Garth and… The Phantom. The Ghost Who Walks, who – in addition to the statutory underwear-over-pants and eyeless mask – could hit baddies only with his right hand which had the Skull Ring! Special mention – a little strip about this little bald, dumb (as in he never spoke) boy – Henry, hilarious stuff on one page!

There were Amar Chitra Kathas, which I used to borrow – and gave back! – great stories that made our Indian heritage so damn interesting. Still around, thank God! Commandos and Westerns came in pocket sizes (Judy and Debbie and Mandy were all for the yuck! girls!). And those Epics – which I still go bonkers over today – Tintin, Asterix, Lucky Luke, Iznogoud, Richie Rich, Sad Sack, Baby Huey, Dot, the Madhouse set, Hot Stuff, Casper & Wendy, Hagar, Wizard of Id, Beetle Bailey…

Now, how could I forget that Icon of All Time? (Coz your bloody old, bugger!)

Step up, Archie. With the Gang. We loved him in every avatar – the dumbass loverboy, the super-hero, the Li’l version, at school, at Pop Tate’s, torn between two lovers, whew! Special mention must be made of Big Moose – whose classic phrase has entered the vocab of kids everywhere today: “D-uh?” Special mention: Josie & the Pussycats, Sabrina, Katy Keene too!

We even assigned Archie characters among ourselves. This was all to help the Great Cause of Pataoing the Colony Girls, so matches could be made legally. Most bombed – so sad, men. No clue why, but I was Jughead. Wha?! Coz I was as thin as an Ethiopian’s cow – my capacity for tucking away more than three burgers at a time was a skill I ‘acquired’ much, much later. Now, who the hell was Ethel?

Drumroll for MAD Magazine. The Mecca of Moronness, the Apex of Assininity, the Gods of Goof. 2 bucks got you one from the Bazaar Road raddiwala, and you read them cover to cover, squinting to decipher Aragones’ marginal masterpieces. That’s where a lot of us got our cynical, crude sense of humour from… learnt a whole new vocab (e.g. barf, furshlugginer, potrzebie and Don Martin’s sound effects). Today’s version is just a pale shadow.

So what does Old Man Mozz say to you today? Simple – spare some time for the printed word. It’s not as painful as it looks, turning pages in a book. You can carry them around, you don’t have to wait while they boot up or suddenly hang.

With books, your imagination is let loose, you picture the events as they happen – the way you want them to. And they stock up the attic in your brain with things you can always pick out when you need them most. Ideas, inspiration, even insults, whatever.

Feel it. Smell it. A book appeals to all six senses (come on! All kids chew paper, even if it makes you stammer! But I digress). Ain’t nothing to compare, not even a trayful of Andora mutton burgers.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Rock on and on and on…

Saw ‘Rock On’ yesterday. Great movie. All about the power of dreams. Great music too.

Took me back to the days at SPC when we were young and wild and free. We had a band too. Every kid worth his/her snotty nose was a part of it.

If you could play a musical instrument, you were in the limelight.

If you could sing, or even make those sounds some call singing but actually resembles toads in heat, you were in. Bugger the world, men.

My brother Gerry was guitarist – the world’s best coz he can play anything, and can raise baby-tomato-sized goosepimples when he plays.

We had a guy who played flute and harmonica too. And the comb was essential. You took one of those plastic thingies, which usually hang out of any oily haired Hero-bhai’s bum pocket (methinks it’s welded to their arses – don’t leave home without it). Then the silver foil from an old fag packet was smoothened, placed over the comb and blown on. It was an art (I never mastered), and sounded like a wet blast of flatulence.

OK, who’s missing?

Me! Me! The DRUMMER! Times were hard (no, that’s not the reason they picked me). Talking about the kit. Zildjian is still rotating in his grave. One plastic Dalda can (these buggers were all over the damn place) for the toms sound. One metal tin for the snare. Bass tom was a plastic bucket. And the thali my mum used for kneading the chapatti dough (make sure she’s not at home when you ‘acquire’ it, or she’d bat your butt with the rolling pin). Turn it over, put a small steel scissors on it – et voila! A genuine Tama cymbal going “Tish” at key points (or whever you pleased)! The scissors kept drifting off to explore the world, so you had to be quick to put it back, or well, you did have a clanging gong.

And how we jammed! All dem “oldies”, belted out with heart and soul, making a bleddi racket! Jailhouse Rock (my cuz and me knew the words to ALL the verses), Abba, Boney M, Beatles, Carpenters, Osibisa, Caribbean medley, Waltz medley, Saints-go-marchin’… tons more.

Send up burnt offerings for the Green and Orange Pop Hits books. The Holy Bible for all Katlic picnickers and sing-songers. Which gave us CHORDS! too. And the saddest song in the world ever – Nobody’s Child.

We handpicked gems from Saturday date. Yep, Saturday night – when every Mac and his mudder sat around the radio, listening to the top of the pops (with seventy-eight thousand requests from the folk in Orlem, Byculla, Dhobi Talao, et al - play the damn song already!).

Grew up, started on air guitar to the sounds of The Police, Deep Purple, and my favourite bands ever – the 80s lot: Duran, Culture Club, Spandau Ballet, Kajagoogoo, Status Quo, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Men At Work, A-ha, Howard Jones, Depeche Mode, Imagination… I could go on all day! Google or YouTube for the golden period of music (fine, according to me), miles ahead of today’s expletive-filled, “uh-huh-uh-huh-uh-huh-uh-huh” rappers.

So here’s the message: Don’t let the music die. Your kid got some eentsy-weensty aptitude or liking for an instrument, indulge the little one. Buy that cheap Reynolds or Givson or Casio, till you’re sure s/he really wants to play it every waking hour. (Gerry taught me – and I remember playing an ancient Reynolds till my fingers bled. And yeah, my Granny loved to hear me play the Anniversary Waltz played again and again!)

Save up for the lessons from a good tutor, or there’s truckloads of lessons to download from the Net. Today, there’s millions more opportunities to create and showcase all kinds of music, even Bollywood. You may be whacking the little arse of the next Rahman or Bach or Metheny or Morrisette or Satriani or Winehouse or even (gawd!) Timbaland, right when you finish reading this.

Maybe I’m talking about you too. Who’s got an old box guitar in the loft, which you stopped playing ever since you started ‘Working’. Make a date this Saturday, to pull it out, dude. Change those rusted strings. Tune up. So what if its warped neck resembles a rusting coita (coconut-breaking sickle, Einstein!).

A one a two a three a four!
“The warden threw a party in the county jail…”
Rock on.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Girls and boys, come out to play!

Throw away the PSPs, the Playstations, the X-Boxes. The Zapaks, the Need-For-Speeds, the whole damn computer. Let’s get out and indulge in those runaround, sweat-till-your-BO-can-kill-a-man-at-5-paces, frenzied GAMES. That we played when the world was young and new, and God was resting.

Ok boys and girls, time for Gaming 101.

Start with Chor-Police? Two teams – preferably boys vs girls. Wink, nudge – 'tis the only way the girls will chase a dawg-face like you, dawg!

And with a Colony like St Peter’s, there’s a thousand places to hide, and huge lawns to sprint across, and bushes and trees to crouch behind, and staircases that go on up to the terrace, and the Colony Office with its water tank, and the watchman’s shed, and balconies of empty houses on the ground floor, and … whew! Chors’ heaven!

Cheat till they throw you down and sit on your head – but that’s the only way to get your gang outta jail free, forget collecting the 200 dollars when you pass GO, tho’.

Then – the best part. You get to chase the screaming girls! And drag them screaming louder to the jail. Yeah dawg, 'tis the only way you can ever get to hold that cute lil ….. (whoops! names have to be protected) errr… person’s hand.

All caught, it's time to switch – to Frozen-Melted. Girls-vs-boys (of course!). Touch someone, they freeze in whatever position, till someone from their team touches and ‘melts’ them. Cheating mandatory, here’s where you first learn to lie with a straight face.

Relay? Run like your butt’s on fire, holding a bent stick aka baton. Hopefully, no Uncle or Auntie is exiting the building at the same time, or BOOM! Straight down the paths, round the Mayflower tree, back down, round the Christmas tree and pass it, men!

Kick-The-Can? An ancient Oats, Dalda, whatever trophy, rusted preferably. Now, pay attention to the choosing of the ‘Den’. All stand in a circle, wave your hands, shout “Majority Wins!” and thrust palms forward, either facing up or down. All white, do it again. Till one Cleverdick stands apart and goes against the majority. Cleverdick counts to hundred or fifty, usually stops at ten and charges around searching for the hidden. Finds ‘em, and yells, “I spy NevilleAshleyBernuRalphNainiCoretteClaudeSushil … huhhhhh … (deep breath) KarenFionaOrvilleKeithDesiree …” and BAM! Up rushes Sunil who kickblasts the can into outer space. Loophole – if Cleverdick didn’t call your CORRECT NAME, you could blastkick the can. And Cleverdick had to start all over again.

A variation – Sardines, anyone? One dude hides, all others have to find him. Then huddle up till the rest find them. Like a can of sardines. Or a wraparound string of Goa sausages. (Yeah dawg – the only way you’ll ever get close to a girl!)

Seven tiles? A pagoda of old asbestos bits or flattish stones was erected in the middle of the lawn. Members of a team took turns in flinging a ball at the edifice, till they crashed it. The opponents had to grab the ball and fling it to hit any Team 1 member, before Team 1 managed to stack up the tiles into a miniature Eiffel Tower, once again. That bleddi ball could hurt, men, if you took a tight shot!

Langdi? Hop on one foot till you catch the others. I remember some bleddi kangaroos, who took great pleasure in slapping your back so hard when they caught you, the dust didn’t settle for an hour, and the palm-print stayed for a week.

And we wind down with the songs! Boys and girls, all together now… “In and out the sparkling bluebells…” “We’re going to the talkies, we’re going to the fair…” (Found out later the word was talkies, tho we mumbled “turkeys” or “chuckies” or someshit.) Rumble to the bottom??? Who the hey wrote those lyrics, and who the hey taught them to us?

Then “Is the Lamb at home today?” Hold hands in a circle, while the Wolf pushed and shoved to get to the Lamb. Key insight: Make sure the Wolf Guy and the Lamb Girl are ‘pataoing’ each other… Adds to the passion in breaking through the circle.

Then – 9 o’clock and the mothers start their litany, calling the prodigals home for dinner. Happily tired, clothes filthy, BO that would raise the dead. Till tomorrow then, and “Let the Games begin!”