Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Adventures on an auto - I am a meter plus twenty

I got in an auto and the driver - henceforth autowala - asked me "How much will you pay?" "Meter plus twenty" I confidently replied. He said it sounded good to him and off we went.

Auto fares - like most cab fares - are supposed to be determined by a meter hooked up inside the auto. However, it is hard to find autowalas that go by the meter alone.  The price ultimately depends a lot on what you look like and how you talk. How meaning how foreign or gullible.

I know my price - meter plus twenty. Sharon- blonde and very white - is meter plus fifty on a good day and meter into two on any other given day. My purebred Bangalore friends would balk at paying anything but what the meter reads till 11pm ( after which your looks don't matter anymore. Everyone looks the same - needy)

Outside a mall in Whitefield there is an auto stand - a place where you will find a group of autorikshaws at almost any time of the day. Whitefield is also home to quite a few expat communities which in turn means home to a lot of foreigners. Thus this particular autostand is home to some rather ridiculous fare quotes and bargaining. The fare to our community is Rs 17 and it is fun to see what you are going to be quoted.

I have had Rs 100 thrown at me a couple of times and barring a day where I had Ashvin sleeping in my arms I have bargained it down to Rs 30. Peeyush on the other hand does look more Indian than I do so I was rather surprised when he was quoted Rs 100. Shorts and slippers - the recently american returned look - did it we inferred. The fact that he agreed to Rs 50 has doomed all the guys in similar attire I am sure.

So back to me being a meter + twenty. Over my multiple trips that is what I have inferred my fare ends up being. This ensures I am taken home using the fast and short route with minimum haggling. And what do I do when I meet the rare honest guy who does not haggle and goes only by the meter? I give him meter + twenty at the end. You got to be fair right?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Teppanyaki Learnings

We went for our first teppanyaki experience in India at Shiro, at UB City in Bangalore. Ankit and Ashvin and I were seated at a table hosted by Chef Alvin. Alvin started his intro with something out of Alvin and the chipmunks and had the kids – literally – eating out of his hands in a few minutes. The kids loved everything he made – the veggies, fried rice and chicken in ginger and scallion sauce. Their adulation seemed to have really added fuel to his showmanship desires. He rolled eggs dangerously on the spatula, close to the kids and even bought out a fake egg that made the kids squeal first in fear and then in delight. He sold Shiro to me. He sold teppanyaki and Shiro to the kids. We returned there for Ankit’s birthday dinner and Alvin went out of his way to make him feel special. He had him at the cooking counter, had him dance and juggle eggs. He made Ankit happy and me even happier. The onion volcano at the end had Ashvin hero worshipping him.
Then Alvin went away. We realized that when we made reservations at the restaurant this weekend. There was someone blah enough that I do not remember his name. Blah to me is normal. He cooked the food decently. He did try and cook up eggs separately for the kids cause Ashvin wanted it. But he was not Alvin. He was about the food not the teppanyaki experience. He did not go out of way to make a memory.  If he had been our first chef I am not sure I would have gone back to the teppanyaki table at Shiro again. I am not sure Ankit or Ashvin would have liked that particular “cusine”
Just goes to show what one person can do. Goes to show that a job worth doing is doing well. Value the Alvins you have at work. They are selling your product in ways you don’t know.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

You are going to die Mommy.

I have had the death conversation before. I have been told I am going to die. It seems somehow when they are around four kids decide that people die when they are a hundred years old. It freaks them out.

Ankit had reached this conclusion and discussed it during a car ride. People die at a hundred, he told me. I said “Ok”. He was not amused at my dismissive reply and adamantly said – “They die Mummy” I still said “OK”. “You will die Mummy, your mom and dad too”, he said. Then I realized how serious he was about it. He wanted me to know how bad it was to him.

He was the scientific one so we decided he’d grow up and research how to stop death. It kinda stopped him freaking out but he did improve his math skills – he’d ask people their age and then tell them how many years before they died unless he found a way to save them. We kept him away from old folks.

Ashvin bought this topic up yesterday in the car.

“Mummy, do people die when they are a 100,” he asked

I had heard this before so I was a little nicer – “Some people do but not everyone”

“But everyone dies right?” was the reply.

“Yes baby” I tried being nice.

“You are going to die Mommy”

“Yes baby” I did not like it but I had heard it before.

“I don’t want to die”

I was quiet as I thought of how to spin it to this one.

As chirpy and positive as he is he quickly replied “I will only celebrate my birthday till I am twenty. No more birthdays after that.”

He does not know the legal drinking age, I am sure he will change it to 21 soon and hopefully by then his older brother would have found a way to stop death.

And as for me - I am going to be 28 for a few more years, so I think I'll be ok.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

He doesn't like Mushrooms

Some eight years into my marriage I was cooking up some mushrooms for myself - little butter and little salt and pepper and a big smile on my face. Peeyush walked by the kitchen and picked up his plate of food. It was missing mushrooms. I loaded them onto my plate and joined him for dinner. “Where are my mushrooms” he asked. “You don’t like mushrooms” I replied. “What???” was a rather shocked reply. He likes mushrooms a lot and somehow in the past seven years based on some comment I had decided that he didn’t. I mean there was more for me so I had not thought too much into it but was living with a false assumption.

So now, when one of us makes an assumption about another – you don’t like those kinda pants, movies, phones, actors, actresses, weather, country, car - one of us quickly squeaks up the word mushrooms.
Just goes to show you can be living for a long time with someone and not know them. And you don’t even have to be on them magic mushrooms to do it.

Friday, July 15, 2011

God – what does he eat?

God - as seen and drawn by Ashvin.
He - God-  is behind the cloud.
There has been a sudden interest in God by Ashvin. It started with him gently prodding me. “Where were people borned from before there were any mommy’s and daddys?” He sneaked this in slyly one night as I was putting him to bed. I looked confused so he clarified “All people are born in houses to Mommy’s and Daddy’s, but before there were any Mommys and Daddys how were people borned?” I was stumped for a bit (read "Why are moms dumb" to understand my dilemma).  I tried to buy some time and said I’d look it up and tell him in the morning. Then I heard him whisper “God”. “What?” I asked, “God” was a matter of fact reply. I felt cheated. I did not know I could use the God card.
Ashvin joins his dad many a time in folding his hand in prayer. He is respectful in temples but we had never had a God discussion before. I am not religious but do value God. I pray when I am scared – recite the Lord’s prayer that was ingrained into me in my years at a Christian boarding school.  I ask him to get me to places faster when I am running late. Twice on a rocky plane ride I think I said “Sorry for all I have done” under my breath. But I can’t explain God and I really do not believe enough to be strongly convinced in presenting any theory.
That night I let God slide in and since then he has been featured in many a conversation. What does God eat? Why is he transparent? Does he always live above the clouds? I don’t want to remove God from his life but I also don’t know how to tell him stories from Hindu mythology and from the Bible when I know I will get more questions. I also have Ankit listening in to add to the grilling. These are the times I wish I was actually religious and convinced about some Godly stance.
But, In a way I am glad he sneaked God into our lives cause it is much easier to explain many things to a pre-schooler – pregnancy, love, evil, why he can’t get all the toys he wants – when you have the God trump card J
And, what does God eat? I flipped the questions to Ashvin – “Nothing” he said. Makes sense. We eat all the stuff we offer to God. Never seen even a nibble gone.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Jaded – Trying to recapture the first time.

I lived in a small town in a very backward state in India. A trip to the city – Patna - was a big deal. Patna had good bread and pastries. It even had a video arcade parlor with three video games. You could shoot fish and play pacman. It was super amazing. It even had a Chinese fast food joint. Every trip to Patna was something I looked forward to.

As I grew older we left Patna behind and reached Delhi. The pastry choices were more as were the video games. They had buildings with more than four floors. Patna was so yesterday.

Then I made it to the US. I was wowed by an apartment complex in San Diego on my first day there. It looked like a five star hotel to me. The beach was so clean and beautiful and the food - I stood gasping at Safeway's bakery pastry display. Disneyland was everything I imagined and more. The fireworks at night were out of the world to me. You could see the joy on my face at every turn.

Huge Chocolate Flowers on display at Aria, Vegas.
Then somewhere along the way I saw it all. Disneyland looks a little old now. The lines to the rides are seen before the ride. The huge lollipop is not that huge and Mickey’s ears have been done a few too many times. Pastries need to be works of art and studded with sugar master pieces to get me to smile. It takes a forty-foot chocolate fountain to get me to raise an eyebrow. The beaches are clean and blue and still make me smile but it is not the same yelpy – I got to jump in the water right now – feeling.

So, what do you do when you are jaded? You have seen too much. When little things don’t do it for you anymore? Well, then you work on derived joy. Get someone who has not done these things before and pile onto their joy. Have a kid - raise the kid a little and see these things through their eyes. Take a four year old to see the fireworks. Take a four year old to Disneyland. Treat a relative that has not been able to travel much to a trip to the beach. Take some pretty pastries to an orphanage.  Take your mother-in-law for an awesome pedicure.
Lalitha and Aisha at the beach.

I took my housekeeper and my mother’s housekeeper to Goa with us. Watching them learn about and thoroughly enjoy the lavish buffets was more filling than the food. Plates filled high with treats, second and third helpings reminded me of my first buffet in Vegas. Seeing grown women walk into the sea for the first time. Watching them sit and giggle – yes giggle – as the waves tried to push them ashore. The derived joy I had was very similar to my first trip at the beach.
So, I may not want that extra-large lollipop at Disney for me anymore but I must say watching a two year old wonder where to start licking it is something. That’s beating Jaded.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Shiro Bangalore Review

Located in UB City it is a higher end Chinese/Japanese/Thai restaurant. Decorated nicely it has plenty of seating – inside, by the bar, outside and around two teppanyaki tables. A meal averages Rs $1500 pp and can go up considerably with alcoholic beverages.
Awesome – sushi and dimsum buffet during weekdays (~ 1000 INR).
Good- Teppanyaki table. Good entertainment and decent food ( ~ 1500 INR). Good mojitos and other cocktails.
Blah – Some of the Korean dishes off the alacarte menu and during rush hours their service. You have to work hard to get attention from the servers.
Point to note – it is a good place to take children along during the day – add a little sushi and dimsum to their lives -  but in no way during Friday, Saturday or Sunday evenings/nights. It is a party place at that time.
Weekend nights - Great for adults to hang out and have fun but not a place to lounge and chat. Loud music, lots of smoking. Fun for a bar scene and people watching.

They take reservations:
2nd Floor, UB City Mall,
Vittal Mallya Rd, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India
080 41738864