Aam Aadmi Petti!!!

It is that time of the season in Mumbai typically the onset of summer (Apr-Jun or the AMJ Qtr for those in sales 😉) when I equip myself with higher liquidity than normal. The equities get sold, the many mutual funds get redeemed, some dead wood furniture and the like gets sold (in OLX ofcourse 😉 😉) in short except for the immovable assets which essentially means the roof above my head and the 4 wheeler I use to commute get liquidated to raise cash. As much as possible. Even the previous 3 months (ending March) which is “taxing times” for salaried class, somehow gets managed without reaching out for assets disposal. But come April and if you want to enjoy the Aam (Mango) season that too the pedigreed variety like the Alphonso one doesn’t have any other choice but to cash the assets 😜😜

AAM

 If one year the prices of the Alphonso mangoes are high because of supply constraints owing to draught in Maharashtra, then next year it is higher due to supply constraints due to excessive monsoon. Another year, the prices are high due to excessive supply as the producers had to incur additional expenses in proper storage and transportation!!! Last year when the EU banned the exports of Indian Alphonso Aams I was one among many Aam Aadmi who had our Schadenfreude moment – gloating that the glut in the market due to the ban will lead to falling prices. But little did I realise that Alphonso is not called King of Mangoes for no reason – It defies all applied laws of economics. Supply and Demand rules can go to hell 😒😒

Even after spending so many years in Mumbai (20 years though in parts the wife usually the one who is good at dates, years, names,…in the house reminds 😄) I am yet to come to terms with the Mumbaikar’s unending obsession with the Alphonso! In the initial years in Mumbai I used to be flummoxed when train conversations in summer would invariably veer around the Happoos (another name for the Alphonso) next only to customary antics of the Sena or the diatribe of its leader the previous day in some interview/public meeting. Frankly speaking, when I tasted Alphonso for the 1st time I couldn’t fathom why this Aam (common) Aam was revered so much. Having spent most of my childhood years in Trichy, a small city in Tamil Nadu, the fuss about Alphonso was too much to bear.  Trichy apart from being popular for the many famed temples (Rockfort, Srirangam, Thiruvanai Koil,..) also used to house a place called Mambazha Chalai (Mango farm) where private owners cultivated Mangoes. These farms called Thathachariar Gardens spread around many hectares were embodiment of horticultural experiments around Mangoes in those days itself. So every year, new cross breeds use to hit the market – bettering the previous year in terms of size, taste and also price! My memory deceives me now preventing the recap of the names of the species though I can remember vividly one called Imam Pasand (whoever said Tamils hate Hindi 😄).  Apart from this, we also used to get a flood of stocks from nearby towns like Salem which had its own varieties like Malgova, Neelam, Banganapalli,…  Many people (other than Mumbaikars ofcourse 😄😄) who have tasted the Neelam variety have confessed that it tastes very close to the Alphonso and in fact a tad better. And I agree. The only problem is you find insects inside the mangoes more often than not.  So I realized that the Alphonso became the King of Mangoes because of better marketing, reach and better managed supply chain while the others just preferred to stay as local satraps.

Being generally a Mango fan (like most Indians I suppose) in the initial few years I avoided the Alphonso due to the heavy prejudice I had against it. But with the Imam Pasands, the Malgovas and the like ruling many kilometers away, had no choice but to become a dutiful citizen of the Alphonso. That’s when I realized that like you do your cash flow planning for so many life events, one has to do the same for “Aam season” also plus prepare yourself for the unique Happoos experiences 😜😜

  • Like when I lined up before the crowded fruit vendor and insisted on buying varieties other than Happoos – I could hear few ladies nonchalantly asking the vendor – “Aajkal ye saada aam bhi koi leta hai kya???” (“Does anyone buy these ordinary type mangoes these days???”)
  • Like the first time when I asked for the price of Happoos and the vendor dutifully replied as Rs. 400. He almost came to blows with me when I piously told him I was asking price for 1 kilo and not 5 kilos. That’s when he did the brahmopadesam of the 1st lesson in Happoos buying. That while other mangoes are sold by weight Happoos is sold in numbers usually a dozen or in Pettis (boxes of 2 dozens).
  • Like when I insisted that I want to buy only few and not in dozens – I could hear him telling his chela – “Aajkal mandi chal raha hai na, shayad naukri chala gaya hoga”. (These days recession is going on no? May be he has lost his job!!!) Its o.k, give him in loose. And then the parting shot, “Saab, jab naukri mil jayegi – petti hum se hi kareedna’!! (“Sir, when you get the job, please come to me only and buy in dozens!!”)
  • Like when I see exclusive Happoos outlets springing up suddenly in hitherto empty gaalas (shops) in the season all over Mumbai with prominent boards saying “Credit Cards accepted and ATMs next door”. I think to myself – “Smart move”!!!
  • Like when I found that a group of friends did a road trip all the way to Ratnagiri – the Happoos town just to search for the organic variety and buy a truck load of the same for consumption for a few days.
  • Like few years ago in a summer season, while waiting for the luggage to arrive at the baggage belt at Changi (my baggage invariably arrives last 😦 ) was watching the bright yellow/Orange coloured petti after petti of Alphonso mangoes doing the rounds and the owners tearing their hair to identify their own ones!!
  • Like when I see brands fuelling this passion for Alphonso with hotties like Katrina year after year. I must say that the Slice’s AamSutra campaign is not an Aam Ad, me thinks its Jakaas!

“This season, Alphonsos beyond Aam Aadmi’s reach” is a headline which newspapers get to copy and paste year after year. But still the rush to savour this King of Mangoes continues!! If only the Thathachariar family is listening and doing something to break this monopoly! Or we may have no option but to appeal to our PM to bring in a new “Aam subsidy” through direct cash transfer ofcourse to tackle the increasing price of Alphonsos year after year 😜😜.  Not a bad idea for the PM who can beat his rivals AAP and Congress in their own game no???

Postscript: My apologies if you thought that this post is my usual rant/rave about Aam Aadmi Party and got misled. Aam Aadmi Party may be the flavor of the season, but nothing to beat the tastes of the Aam Petti in the summer. 😋😋

By hook or Cook!!!

“For a great marriage, men must cook” – this headline of an article which appeared in ‘The Hindu’ caught my attention. You can read that here. The piece articulates that men must use food and cooking to build strong enduring bonds with their wives for peaceful and mutually fulfilling marriages. It set me thinking. Not that my marriage was wobbling but could do with some elements of surprise I thought. When was the last time I went to the kitchen to cook? If you discount the instances of preparing tea, rustling up dosas or putting together your breakfast cereals, it’s been a while. Really a long while.

My mind flashbacked to the time before marriage when as a bachelor, I did cook. My rendezvous with cooking started while in Mumbai just as I got into my 1st job at Godrej. I lived with my elder brother who was also a bachelor that time and our cooking experiments commenced. Mostly we cooked our own dinners on weekdays and on weekends the lunch. When we felt bored or we got late, we ate outside. The understanding was that whoever reached early will start the preparation like cutting the vegetables and keep the rice ready while the other will join to finish doing the rest of the stuff.  Unlike many would think, cooking was interesting and exciting. Particularly if you end up cooking something which was palatable (when you cook, almost everything is extremely palatable – that’s a different thing 🙂 🙂 )

Being a South Indian and a Tambram in that, our choice was limited to making the sambhars, rasams and the vegetables.  As a strategy (OMG, isn’t this word the most misused word these days???), we decided that we will keep repeating the same till we perfect it. So I think we must have made rasam for atleast one full week and may be sambhar for the next 10 days 🙂 :).  When we completed 1st quarter of cooking the end results were not bad. We started adventuring to next level of difficulty in the cooking game – I mean more exotic dishes,..  post that. So as self-cooking continued, one started losing weight ( 🙂 ) and became lean and mean.

But from the time marriage happened, it was time for the enthusiastic wife to take over. She was also learning the ropes and it was best for me to keep away from the kitchen completely.  Coming back to the present, when I read the article it struck on me – Why not enter the kitchen again and surprise the wife? Though the wife knew that I was cooking earlier she never got a chance to endure my cooking. So last Saturday morning I grandly announced to the wife that I will cook a full meal that day and that she should just relax. And one important pre-condition was that she should not be seen anywhere close to the kitchen till I finish. (You know otherwise what happens 🙂 ) Though reluctant, she complied.

Since the mission was also to impress the wife, I decided to keep the menu simple with some staple stuff like rasam (yes) and potato podimas (yes ofcourse) and get away easily. Little did I realize that life is not so easy if you are out of touch. I started with keeping the rice in the cooker along with the paruppu (dal) which is needed for the rasam.   As I reached out for the dabbas, I could see many dabbas with different paruppus. Now which is the dal which goes into the rasam was the question. After a round of hinky pinky ponkey and applying bit of logic concluded that it is indeed tuvar dal which is the ingredient. 🙂

20 mins into boiling the rice in the cooker – there is no sign of the whistle in the cooker. Lessons from Mechanical engineering on what happens when a safety valve malfunctions unnecessarily kept coming up. Did I put the gasket and other fundamental questions arose. After another futile 20 mins. I decided to force open the cooker to see what the heck is going on.  If you have a faint idea of what forcing open a cooker means – you will understand what would have happened. The dal had overflowed, the rice had overflowed and it all resembled a Dal kichdi!!! And the kitchen- remnants of modern art!!! So the next thing was operation clean up (without making much noise ofcourse so that the wife doesn’t realize what’s going on) and a repeat of keeping the rice and dal again to cook. This time took extra care to see that water is not too much and all. After waiting with bated breath for another 10 mins. the whistle blew and “operation rice” went through smoothly.  I did a whistle podu for myself. 🙂 🙂 Followed then with making the potato vegetable and rasam. Having completely forgotten the measurements of salt, masala,.. several trials and more errors ensued. Fortunately no much adventure in making the rasam and the potato vegetable.  I was almost done.

After serving all what I rustled up, it was judgment time. The rice had to be cooked twice. While the 1st time suffered due to excess water, the second time was less of water and hence was bit Vethu Vethu (dry).  The rasam was fine though it could have done with more rasam powder and be spicier. The potato vegetable was extra salty.  But for these “small” hiccups the experience was worth it!!! The daughter surprisingly found it tasty and ate the food without much ado. The wife was more generous and said it was not bad at all.  And she said, “You are cooking really well, why don’t you do this every Saturday???”

Oh man, that author’s prediction was really working 🙂 🙂

cook

Toon Courtesy: The Hindu

When “Kanjivaram” meets “Patiala”!!!

‘2 States’ is a recently released movie from Karan Johar’s stable which soon went on to be a part of the hallowed 100 crore club.  In this movie which is incidentally based on Chetan Bhagat’s novel with the same name, the hero – a Punjabi falls in love with a Tambrahm girl. The movie goes on to show the struggles involved in marriage of the two 1800 different cultures before the actual marriage of the 2 individuals. It is understandable that in such a marriage involving 2 different cultures, there is a voluntary and involuntary fusion of rites, practices and ‘rasams’ (not be confused with Sambhar/Rasam 😉 ) in the marriage ceremony.

Still reeling under the hangover of 2 Tambrahm weddings which I was part of recently, which actually DID NOT involve “2 states”, the change I saw was interesting. This post is not about the movie ‘2 States’ but the changes in the marriage scene seen oflate. Before I get down to explaining that, a bit of backgrounder is in order.

Typical Tambrahm weddings were quiet, staid affairs where

  • Serious mamas meet their more serious counterparts and use the opportunity to discuss world affairs and enhance their knowledge 😄
  • Enthusiastic mamis use the opportunity to exhibit their latest Kanjivarams (silk sarees for the uninitiated) and also expose their precious yellow metal jewelry to sunlight (which are otherwise confined to the dark interiors of Bank lockers) 😄 😄
  • Studious Ambis (Boys who are in schools/colleges and yet to be coronated as mamas) compare notes with their clan on the latest ranking of US Universities/B Schools and the like,.. 😄
  • Ponna poranthava (commonly known as PYTs) keep shuttling between here and there in the hall to garner attention
  • There is no official ‘Mehndi’ ceremony and all and the bride to be gets her work done in a parlour silently
  • The only sartorial indulgence from the men’s camp would be “bush shirt along with new Veshti”
  • Meal after meal in the 2 day marriage affair will be served in banana leaf with variations limited to the Payasam( Kheer) or the vegetable used in the Sambhar in the different meals (Brinjal Sambhar in the morning, Carrot/Potato one in the afternoon and again Brinjal for dinner) 😞
  • Noise levels are low except for the Nadaswaram considered a “Mangala Vadyam” which is played normally in functions, temples,.. in the South India. During key instances in the wedding like “Muhurtam”,.. the vadyars (priests) in the stage signal with their hands to increase the tempo and play loudly. Otherwise the music is pleasant and indeed soothing.
  • The Reception function is also quite a quiet affair where on the one side an artist (usually an emerging one) plays the flute or violin (Carnatic music mostly) and on the other side people queue up to wish the couple and pose for the customary photo-op
  • In general no major excitement in the events except for
    • ‘Malai mathu’ (Garlands Exchange) ritual where from both sides folks try to prevent the bride and groom from exchanging garlands easily. There are smiles and laughter all around from elders knowing very well that this will be last opportunity for one-upmanship for the groom in life 😉 😉
Malai Mathu ceremony

Malai Mathu ceremony

  • Or ‘Nalungu’ ritual after the wedding which is also a game of one-upmanship. Again, elders push the groom to have maximum fun as possible. Can you imagine what will happen if he tries to break a papad on his wife’s head the next day or few days later??? Hell hath no fury like a woman whose hair is disturbed 😠 😠 😠
Nalungu ceremony

Nalungu ceremony

In short, for the ever conservative, serious Tambrahm community marriages were occasions to meet and catch up with short moments of excitement here and there. That’s all.

But these have become passé.

Today even Tambrahm (could be others also) marriages are getting “obese” and are aspiring to be of “the Big Fat Punjabi Wedding” class. So even in a regular Tambrahm wedding don’t be surprised if Kanjivaram silk saree meets a Patiala suit. These days men turn up mostly in designer Kurtas, girls in Lehenga choli and ladies in backless! If not a very elaborate ‘Mehndi’ ceremony as yet, applying mehndi and preparing for the wedding is no more a dull affair for the bride to be. Choru(Rice) and Sambar are being replaced by Chole Batura,… and buffet fare atleast the previous day. At the reception, city’s popular DJs belt top of the pop numbers to which young and the old alike sway, croon and shake their hips and legs. Soon one can expect choreographed renditions of dance numbers I think. These changes have not happened overnight but have been doing the rounds gradually over the last few years. But today the trend is stark.

The credit for this transformation in the marriage scene must go to Bollywood and people like Karan Johar who in film after film thrust in a “Punjabi Wedding Song” and made this an aspirational affair for others. So don’t be surprised if soon the “Patiala peg” also mixes with the “Filter Kaapi”

Sundari Neeyum Sundaran Nyanum Chernirunthaal,….. Shava Shava!!!

P.S : While on this, please do read my earlier take on “Mamas” – http://wp.me/p1dZc2-jI

Images Courtesy :www.pinterest.com