Parrot-ing Away

Most, if not all pertinent events in my life revolve around food and idling, preferably in that order. Therefore it would come as no surprise that recently my thoughts have been occupied by the study of certain food-related incidents that have occurred since my move to Bangalore a year ago.

Like most Trump-generation humans, I ascribe to the notion that if you say something confidently enough, even the universe will start to doubt itself, and eventually incorporate this new truth into the fabric of reality (and the fabric of reality is akin to a heavily used floor mop, in case you were wondering). Thus believing, I go about my life mispronouncing regional words as I see fit, slaughtering pedants along the way. That is not to say that I do not make sincere efforts to learn new words, cadences and sneezes; I try and fail almost instantly.

I was recently at New Shanthi Sagar (dubbed ‘NSS’ by the hipster elite), a small fast-food joint about 50 metres from office. The thing about such Bangalore joints (including Uttam Sagar, Shiv Sagar, Srinidhi Upachar, Nandi Upahar and all other Sagars and Ups) is that they all have nearly identical menus. And by identical I mean right down to the spelling of khara ‘bath’ and ‘rice bath‘ (which translates to ‘rice rice’ but who cares about semantics on empty stomachs). At NSS, I was fairly sure that I had understood the intonation behind order placement. So I went ahead and ordered one ‘parota’ (which is basically a naan-type object that has no shared history with the parantha). The cashier just stared at me like I hadn’t spoken at all. So I tried again, as though I were trying to unlock my PC using Windows voice-recognition.

No response.

Blink, blink.


“Aah, Parattaaa?”

I was somewhat enraged and relieved at the same time. However, as I nodded, he promptly followed it up with an ‘illa’ (no). Drained of my will to live, I went with a plain dosa instead.

Another instance of my weakness for the niche getting me into trouble was at one of our office’s usual dinner haunts. I was feeling more adventurous than usual so I decided I would have the dosa equivalent of a Maharaja Mac. I went up to the lady at the counter (with about a hundred people behind me) and said ‘one ghee podi masala dosa‘. Although in my defense it was on the menu, I don’t think anyone had ever bothered torturing their senses in that way. At first she didn’t get what I said and ended up printing a token for an onion uthappam. I repeated my order, and she looked at me incredulously and said, “Eh, ghee podi masala onion dosa?” like it was a game we were playing. Instead of adding more nouns and adjectives, I pointed at the button that would dispense the correct token, and with raised eyebrows she obliged.

I’m not sure how many serial-breakfasters have noticed this, but most breakfast menus have an item called ‘Idli’ and another called ‘2 – Idli’ or ‘Idli – 2’ depending on which side of the stove you used that day. When you ask for ‘Idli’ you get one idli as the almighty intended you to have, with some chutney should you deserve it. However, ordering one ‘Idli -2’ will give you two pieces of idli in one plate, which is a sudden deep-dive into quantum maths. It so happened that I was ordering for myself and a few others. While I wanted one humble piece of idli, someone else decided to roll a hard six and have two in one, and I did not fully realise the implications at the time. So I walked up to the Oracle of NSS and confidently declared, “1 idli, 1 2-idli, 2 parota.” I immediately realised my error, and my heart sank as I looked into those cold, defiantly uncomprehending eyes.

Published in: on July 13, 2017 at 11:59 pm  Comments (2)  
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A Series of Unfortunate Haiku (About Unremarkable Things)

A small dog’s pawprint
Set in the concrete sidewalk
Nameless walk of fame.

Power lines lie tangled
In the tree’s thin, frazzled hair
Crisscrossed wantonly.

I open my eyes
See myself every morning
Scrolling through their thoughts.

My watch walks away
Stealing breath and time, it ticks-
Leaving me behind.

I draw a finger
Down the matrix of time-
Days, weeks, memories.

The ‘W’ doesn’t work
Keys click in disapproval-
Stop asking questions.

Published in: on June 1, 2017 at 11:47 am  Leave a Comment  
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Half-drawn, half-blind
Peeks into your neighbour’s mind
What do you hide, privacy?
Who’s the voyeur, you or me?

Opaque gossamer
Easy to glamour
They flutter coyly
What was that, a doily?

I have hesitant windows
They open, close, don’t know
They’ve been broken before
The hinges are still sore.

But the curtains flutter
Though the room within stutters
Not sure how to present itself
I saw broken glass on the shelf.

Published in: on June 1, 2017 at 9:38 am  Leave a Comment  
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Somnambulism(n.) – Sleepwalking. From Latin ‘Somnus’ (sleep) and ‘Ambulare’ (to walk).

I was barely sleeping
I couldn’t stay awake
Alarms kept bleeping
Oh, for heaven’s sake!

I’d finally had enough
It was getting intense
So I rolled my cuffs
Called a somnambulance.

I watched the clock
After a minute more
Came a drowsy knock
At the front door.

A man stood, dressed
In a plain white coat
As I should’ve guessed
His body could float.

He looked right at me
(or so I thought, his
face was hard to see)
And opened a pop quiz.

“Are you the patient?”
The man’s voice droned
Uncaring and efficient
I nodded that I’d phoned.

“How long since you slept
For eight hours or more?”
“Records I haven’t kept,
But I know I don’t snore.”

“Have you had dreams?”
“I have a dream that…”
“Not that kind of dream.”
“Yesterday I saw a cat.”

“Any dreams not of cats?”
“Not particularly, no.”
“Not lions, bears, bats?”
“Other mammals didn’t show.”

“Are you under stress?”
I sighed dramatically,
Prepared to sadly confess
But was stopped prematurely.

“I should remind you, sir
To state facts, not whine;
Any whining that occurs
Will incur a heavy fine.”

I acquiesced grumpily
That stress was low
While the man quietly
Made notes for show.

I prattled on, eager
To be taken in ease
To Neverland (sans Peter)
For mid-20s retirees.

The levitating man
Eventually decided
That a complete scan
Would be provided.

He fixed a device
On top of my head
It felt quite nice
But I wanted a bed.

As it buzzed with a glow
The faceless man frowned
Don’t ask me how I know
Too sleepy to expound.

“It’s quite severe,”
He said ominously
Giving me a scare
As I gaped thusly.

“Something in my brain?!”
I wailed, alarmed.
“Sir, you’re insane,”
Then oddly, I calmed.

“So what’s wrong?”
I asked with unease
Then something strong
around me squeezed.

I cried out in dismay
And thrashed in vain
They planned how they
Would fix my brain.

As they strapped me
Into the somnambulance
I tried to break free
Nothing made sense.

Suddenly in the gloom
I was jerked upright
Found myself in my room
Walking about at night.

Published in: on February 19, 2017 at 3:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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I set out on a ‘grand’ voyage, seeking
Lands unexplored, people unacquainted
Of the former I found no trace, since
Every island had been marked for sale
But of the latter I found an abundance
And I did not tire of strangers’ tales.

When our paths would align, the strangers
Of those strange lands would murmur quietly,
“Sarandip, Sarandip,” smiling to themselves.
And I would be left wondering, pondering.

I asked around obsessively, and some said
That Sarandip was a place, while others
Shook their heads, smiling indulgently
As they would at a child’s questions.

I hardened my resolve, and set sail
For this mysterious island, hoping
At last to enter my name in the book
Of explorers, gentleman adventurers.

Right in the middle of the edge of the sea
A storm broke upon us, claiming every soul
And my last thought as I was pulled under
Was bitterness at this cursed Sarandip.

I awoke with salt in my mouth, and a snout
Between my eyes. Startled, I coughed, and
The snout sniffed loudly, then pulled back
To reveal two black eyes set in curiosity.

He barked once, then leaped over my head
But I did not have any strength to move.
As I lay there, burdening the wet sand
Another face darkened the sun above me.

This face conveyed shock, and the eyes
Were just as curious as the earlier ones.
The man helped me sit up, and I squinted
At an empty beach running to the horizon.

He shook his head, waving his hand around
And muttered ‘Sarandip’ in residual shock.
Grabbing him by the arm, wide-eyed, teary
I sputtered, “What is Sarandip? Is it here?”

He raised his eyebrows, and then laughed.
“Me. Here, now. Finding you. Sarandip.”
Then the pieces clicked together, in a
Sudden rush of realization, and I laughed.

While I had been looking for Sarandip
It decided to powerfully reveal itself
So that I would never forget the rule;
Sarandip is not found, it is experienced
The wise glimpse it in every encounter
If you can’t imagine it, more’s the pity.

Published in: on February 12, 2017 at 11:54 am  Comments (3)  
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Creativity, Chaos, and Karma in a Teacup

It’s my hypothesis (unproven)
That how you make your tea
And what ways you improve in
Is an easy way for me to see
What your future might be.

Let’s start with the end;
What colour do you envision?
Black, white, brown or blend?
This will affect all decisions
And my predictive precision.

Let’s say you pick a dark brown
Which implies a strong flavour
That an aunt would sip at and frown
But your morning self would favour
And your evening self would savour.

First, we pour water into a saucepan
(Not a wok, pressure cooker or kadhai)
Try not to measure it, if you can
Else some elitists, smirking and wry
Will mock your attempt at perfect chai.

When will you add milk? Now or later?
Haste signifies a boiling temperament,
But if you’re a calm, patient waiter
For greatness, your dishy face is meant
While the twice-boiled milk laments.

Do you take sugar? One spoon or two?
Think carefully before you decide.
Your phobia of diabetes is a clue
To the identity of your future bride
And whether your antics she’ll abide.

When would you add the tea leaves?
After the milk, with, or before?
Don’t forget, brands are pet peeves
A Wagh-Bakri is no Tetley, for sure
This stage might be the very core.

As my sister once said, “What is this!”
When I’d been boiling the tea for ages
My concept of flavouring was amiss
I thought I was following the sages
By extracting the tea-ness in stages.

Those who brew their leaves are wise
For this is what lies at the heart
Of the entire chai-nese enterprise
This is what mothers try to impart
To their children; the key to the art.

But what matters at the end, you see
Is the spice of life you choose to add
Cinnamon, ginger, cardamom or tulsi
Of any and all of these, I’d be glad
If it isn’t unique, wouldn’t it be sad?

And when the magical liquid is strained
Finally poured into your favourite cup
If your efforts have you feeling pained
Glance at the cauldron before you sup
The vanquished dregs might cheer you up.

One thing will be dreadfully clear
If you follow the process above;
If your efforts are truly sincere
And if your tea is made with love
Then nothing in the world will seem as dear.

Published in: on January 14, 2017 at 9:08 pm  Comments (2)  
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