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The Quirky Life of P

Humor and satire revolving around Mr P- a fictional mix of an avatar of Mr Bean and the veritable Bertram Wooster of Wodehouse fame.

Archive for the category “India”

Murder on the train

Overheard: This week’s writing challenge revolves around eavesdropping.

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P had been ill at ease with the night travel by train in India, especially when he did not get tickets for the air-conditioned compartment and had to travel second class with the windows left open to counter the heat. It was not helpful that only the previous day, he had watched the film ‘Madras mail’, which was about a murder on a train. Tired, he had however nodded off and was woken as the train jerked to a stop at a station.  As he lay there with his eyes still shut, slowly drifting off to sleep, he was jolted by the sound of a slap. He kept his eyes closed and listened…

Child’s voice: “Kill him, mummy, Kill him!”

Woman’s whisper: “Hush! I don’t want you to wake up everybody on the train!”

Through half-opened eyes, P slowly peeped at the family of three on the opposite berth, travelling in the same cubicle. The dim light was still turned on and he could discern the figure of the man slouching by the window, probably fast asleep.

The woman was now looming over the husband with her hand slightly raised as the tot stood by her side, anxiously whispering “Get him mummy, get him!”…

P was shocked to hear the child say those words… He couldn’t believe a child could be so evil!… But then he remembered the famous film, “Omen” and he shuddered.New Picture (19)

The woman was now leaning towards her husband and as her raised hand came down in a slap, P cringed and shut his eyes…

Child’s voice: “Did you kill him?”

Man’s voice: “What the…?”

Child’s voice: “Did he escape again?”

Woman’s voice: “Yes, Dennis. And stop calling the mosquito “him” and “he”. It is an “it”…

P breathed a sigh of relief…

The woman was trying to kill a mosquito… and not her husband!

Unless of course, by the term “mosquito”, she was alluding to her husband…

 

 

 

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Ode to the mundu

Welcome, Stranger

Think about the town where you currently live: its local customs, traditions, and hangouts, its slang. What would be the strangest thing about this place for a first-time visitor?

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If you are a stranger in my town,

Don’t let your brow be marred by a frown

If you see men walking in skirts

With T or dress or full sleeved shirts;

For skirts they are not, but wrap around

Mundus or lungis that are weather sound!

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No confinement to free-flowing air

For hot summers, they’re a choice attire!

The bottom  lifted, folded and tucked,

In the monsoons they don’t get mucked!

But before elders, ladies and as a sign of respect

The folds are let down, one should expect!New Picture (3)

New Picture (4)                                                                                     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d4dJvMTJ2U4

 

 

 

Welcome Stranger

Dances with elephants-Mr P takes a joy ride!

There is nothing wrong in dreaming about riding an elephant! Mr P wanted to ride an elephant, get his picture taken in that glory, and post it on Facebook. This wish had budded in his mind ever since he saw the movie Bride and Prejudice, where the hero and heroine rode on an elephant in the last scene. Mr P had thought it was pretty cool!

So this time on his tour to India, P visited the elephant park at Kottoor in Kerala. As soon as he reached the place, P booked his ride straight away. He was given a time to turn up at a spot for his ride and in the meantime, P decided to take a walk around the park. He saw several elephants – they ranged from very young, hairy ones to huge giants. It was then that P realized that all of a sudden he was actually getting quite nervous about riding an elephant. P began to feel that he needed to keep at a distance from them, even from the baby ones. The baby elephants were too playful and seemed to want to tickle his ears with their trunks! As for the big, adult elephants, he felt them giving him such deep looks as if they knew all his darkest secrets! Of course he had heard about how intelligent elephants were.

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He now started having serious reservations about the elephant ride but was worried that if he withdrew now, it would make him look like a coward.  So, when the time came, he made his way to the location with shaking legs. The mahout was waiting for him with a huge elephant.

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Faint heartedly, P gazed at the large mammal which seemed to give him a mean, disdainful look.

“Can I have a ride on that elephant?” Mr P asked pointing to a frolicking baby elephant that stood some distance away.

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“Oh! No sir! It is too small to carry people. We only use adult elephants for rides,” said the mahout.

With no way of escape, P decided to climb on top of the giant that had now bent down on its knees at the instance of the mahout.

“If Tarzan can do it, so can I,” muttered Mr P as he proceeded to mount.

Climbing onto the back of an elephant was indeed a feat and after several aborted attempts, P finally made it to the top. As the elephant stood up erect, he sat astride on its back. Those who have sat astride on top of an elephant would realize how wide apart you have to keep your legs! It was almost like doing the splits!

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As the elephant moved forward, P felt very uncomfortable, so much so that he decided to change his position to side-straddle. Slowly he moved his legs around and finally managed to get them both together and down on one side of the elephant. However, on sitting sideways he found that he had moved too much to one side. As the elephant walked, P kept slithering and sliding further down the side of the elephant every time it moved. His silky, smooth track pants only aggravated the situation.

P decided that falling down from the top of an elephant would not be an enjoyable experience. So a flustered Mr P then decided to return back to his original position and sit astride. He started moving his legs around once more. However, he had lost his sense of orientation in his anxiety and when he finished adjusting his seating, he found that he was sitting astride facing the tail end of the elephant! So P started to turn around again.

Changing one’s position atop a moving elephant is not an easy task for a person riding an elephant for the first time, but misfortune had not glanced his way, ……. yet. With the last move however, P nearly fell off and was saved only by grabbing the rope around the elephant’s neck. Somehow he maneuvered himself back on top. He was now lying prostrate on top of the elephant, facing its tail end and hugging the animal for dear life. Hearing a loud applause he slowly lifted up his head and saw that he had gathered a huge audience. A big crowd had gathered and was watching P’s antics on top of the elephant. No one could be blamed if they thought they were watching an atop-the-elephant-acrobatic show and were showing their appreciation with a loud ovation.

The elephant and the mahout however, had no such conceptions. The stressed probiscidean was getting very nervous and the mahout decided to end the joy ride. Very soon (though it felt like eternity to P), the elephant stopped moving and the mahout got it to kneel down. He gathered brave Mr P from the back of the animal. P had nearly fainted. A big cheering from the crowd got P standing up on his wobbly legs to acknowledge their appreciation but saw that the applause was intended for the elephant and the mahout. With an end to all the wriggling on its back, the Elephas maximus indicus breathed a deep sigh of relief and stood up.  The mahout and the elephant looked traumatised as they slowly walked away. They probably would need counselling! No pictures or videos were taken, so Facebook missed a hilarious upload!

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Things go wrong for Mr P on the yoga mat!

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Mr P could go on and on about the merits of yoga. Like most yogis, he also liked talking about the goodness of being a vegetarian. Yet P was a vegetarian only when there was no non vegetarian food available. Slightly misquoting the original saying P justified that though he craved to be a vegetarian, “the spirit was willing, but  flesh made him weak!!!” .

Anyway, coming back to the topic of yoga, Mr P had a yoga certificate under his belt. The Yoga Shiromani certificate gave him the eligibility to teach yoga.  After obtaining the qualification, Mr P practised yoga once in a while whenever he noticed that his waist line was expanding much faster than the progression of his spirit. The Asana that Mr P liked best was Shavasana or the corpse posture, where one lies flat on the back with arms and legs stretched and relaxing with the eyes closed. But mat time often became nap time for Mr P. He would wake up finally and look at his watch to see that he had spent at least two hours doing yoga… But the girth of his waist never seemed to decrease!

When he thought about it more, P realised that perhaps he would be able to do more active yoga if he did it in a group rather than all alone by himself. P then hit on the brilliant idea of starting a yoga class. He believed that if he taught yoga, he would be doing all the postures with the students rather than snoozing off. So Mr P spread the word around and soon had a class started. There were five students on the first day. Mr P started with his favorite posture – the Shavasana. He demonstrated it for his students.

Lying flat on his back on the yoga mat spread on the floor he began with “Relax your toes.”

More than any yoga stretches, what Mr P was really good at stretching, was the word “relax“. He felt that stretching it out helped people unwind more.

So he said “Relaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaax your toes!”

“Relaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaax your feet,” came after a long pause.

“Relaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaax your thighs” followed after awhile.

Relaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaxing the stomach, chest, hands, neck and so on he went upwards, slowly, in a gentle, sombre voice……

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

When finally Mr P opened his eyes, he saw that his students were sitting up politely waiting for him to wake up. Someone even commented on Mr P’s noisy snoring.

 

In the next class as well, Mr P started with his favourite Shavasana posture. Relaxing, he slept off as usual because …… he was all by himself on the yoga mat once again!

Pitfalls of cooking and Mr P: Things get more slippery!

You may recall from the earlier post that Mr P had wanted to cook some Dahl for his guest ( http://avatarofmrbean.com/2012/03/28/pitfalls-of-cooking-and-mr-p-the-saga-continues/ ). The way Mr P prepares Dahl is quite easy. You just have to pressure cook lentils (either green gram which is also known as moong dal or red gram or Pigeon pea which is also known as tur dal) in water with a pinch of turmeric powder until they form a nice soup. Then you heat two tablespoons of oil in a pot and add half a teaspoonful of mustard seeds, cumin seeds and a couple of red chillies. You add the cooked lentils into the pot when the mustard starts popping. Into the liquid you can now add salt to taste, a bit of garlic paste and a very tiny pinch of ground cumin and optionally a pinch of garam masala. Green chillies, onion and one or two tomatoes may also be added. The Dahl is ready when the soup boils for a few minutes. moong Ki dal, Moong Ki Daal

Just as Mr P was about to start preparing lunch he realized that he had run out of dish washing liquid and cooking oil. So he brought out the bottles of Canola oil and Sunlight dish wash he had bought earlier in the week and placed one by the stove and the other by the sink. Mr P then cooked some lentils in the pressure cooker and nodded off in the kitchen chair reading the day’s newspaper. The cooker’s whistle woke him up when the lentils were thoroughly cooked into a soup. Mr P poured two generous tablespoons of oil into a pot heating up on the stove. He was in a hurry because he had spent time reading the newspaper (he definitely would not admit to napping) when he should have been doing other things to get lunch ready for his guest G who was soon to return from shopping. He did not wait for the oil to get really hot before he added the mustard seeds, the cumin seeds and the pieces of red chili peppers. He was in so much of a hurry that he did not wait for the mustard seeds to pop before he dumped the cooked lentils into the pot with some water and added the garlic paste, cumin and the garam masala powder. He left the pot to boil on the stove and scurried to the kitchen sink to do the breakfast dishes. He opened the tap, stoppered the sink and poured a generous amount of the new dish washing liquid into the basin.

“This is one funny dish washing liquid”, thought Mr P. “Looks like someone has invented a non sudsy detergent!”.

He put the dishes in to wash. As he tried to rinse the plates, he noticed something strange. The dishes had turned very slick and greasy and no amount of rinsing with fresh water could make them clean. They had tiny globules of something like oil all over them.

His hands also felt very oily. He smelled his hands and the plate he was trying hard to clean. Instead of the lemony smell of the dish wash, he smelled something very different.

“If it feels like oil, smells like oil and looks like oil, it must be oil,” he decided and checked the bottle that he had put by the side of the sink.  It said “Pure  Canola Oil”.

Mr P groaned. He was in for a big job now to get the dishes oil free. However, he had not yet realized that he was in Double trouble with Bubble trouble. Have you, now?

A lemony smell was wafting from the pot on the stove. Mr P rushed to check his Dahl. Something strange was happening to it. It was all frothy, sudsy and lathering up!!!

Pitfalls of cooking and Mr P…the saga continues…

After the breakfast debacle (The Intricacies and Pitfalls of Indian Cooking and Mr P! , http://avatarofmrbean.com/2012/03/26/the-intricacies-and-pitfalls-of-indian-cooking-and-mr-p/), do you think that G would have stayed for lunch if invited? Guess what? He did! He understood that Mr P was feeling a bit downhearted and so he agreed to give him another chance to prove his culinary skills. There are some people who would take any amount of beating and would still turn the other cheek because of a soft heart. G belongs to this rare, endangered species of ‘softies’ that is on a path of accelerated extinction. G is also a vegetarian.

Mr P decided to cook rice and make daal, pappad and Aviyal to go with it. Aviyal  is made from finger sized pieces  of all the vegetables such as cucumber, snake gourd, eggplant, green chillies, long beans, carrots, yams, green bananas and drum sticks (of course not drumsticks that are chicken legs, but long fruits of Moringa plants). Variety of fresh vegetables being sold on a st...

These vegetable pieces are washed well and cooked in a little volume of water with tamarind and salt to taste.  Turmeric and red chilli powder or pastes are also added. Ground coconut and cumin and curry leaves are added towards the end.

For Mr P, the most difficult part in this whole recipe was cutting the vegetables to size. “The vegetables are to be finger sized. “They cannot be cubes or any other shapes because that is one thing that distinguishes Aviyal from other dishes,” Mr P had learned. While cutting them into finger shaped pieces, he was worried he would cut his fingers as well.  However, since he started wearing finger gloves on all his fingers while slicing vegetables, he had become more confident.

So while G left to do a little shopping, Mr P stayed home and cooked the meal. Something happened to the daal which is matter for my next post. “Let’s forget the daal. Yoghurt would serve equally well and I’ll also serve a little bit of mango pickle”, decided Mr P. When G came back and they sat down for lunch, he had the meal neatly served on the dining table minus the daal.

Two spoons of food later, G suddenly choked and turned red. He was staring at his bowl of Aviyal.

“ You do know that I am strictly vegetarian, don’t  you Mr P?” he asked.

“Sure, I do,” said Mr P.

“And this Aviyal….. Are you sure it is vegetarian?” asked G slowly moving the vegetables around in the bowl.

Mr P looked at G’s bowl of Aviyal. There, partly covered by the gravy and vegetables was something that looked like a finger! Mr P surreptitiously checked whether all his fingers were intact. Assured, that the strange THING in the Aviyal was certainly not one of HIS body parts, Mr P investigated further. It was bent at an angle that reminded Mr P of the celebrity actress’s leg at the last Oscars that had jutted out through the dress slit, sending the whole world a-Twittering and starting an account-Angelina Jolie’s Leg @AngiesRightLeg.

Mr P probed further. Amidst the vegetables, it looked like an alien finger.  “Probably from Mars” thought Mr P. “But then, the THING was not red coloured and isn’t Mars supposed to be the red planet?”

Mustering all his courage Mr P pulled the THING out.

 It lay in full surrender on top of the dining table.

Lo and behold! It was the one finger glove that was missing when he had put them away after washing the vegetables!

The Intricacies and Pitfalls of Indian Cooking and Mr P!

Mr P was in a flurry. He had a guest G, from overseas, coming for breakfast and he wanted to make an impression. Initially he thought he would make Dosa. Dosas in their simple form are nice, thin, pancakes made from ground rice and black gram made into a paste and fermented overnight.

Mr P’s cook could make somewhat well-shaped and tasty Dosas but unfortunately it was her day off. Mr P could never cook well-shaped, circular Dosas. He would have been happy even if they were not perfectly round but turned out at least in the shape of Sri Lanka or even Australia. Sadly however, Mr P’s Dosas were often the shape of India, America and some other countries of the world including New Zealand, Singapore and Japan! So when Mr P thought about it further he was not that sure about serving Dosa to his guest. Moreover, the last time when Mr P had tried to cook a Dosa all by himself, it had developed an attitude and a mind of its own and had refused to come off the pan.

Finally he had to scrape out bits of sticky mess from the pan which in no way looked anywhere related to a Dosa. In fact it had resembled the humble Upma. With this thought, Mr P’s mind that had been flitting like a butterfly in the garden of Indian breakfast gastronomy, suddenly settled on Upma.  

The Upma had become world famous when it had helped Floyd Cardoz in New York, to walk home with the award for Top Chef Master Season 3, of 2011. Mr P in all his humbleness was confident of beating any Top Chef Master in Upma preparation. After all wasn’t it a South Indian preparation and who else could claim to cook it better than Mr P? He also decided to make tea the Indian way to serve with the Upma.

Before continuing with this anecdote, let me impart this knowledge for those who are not aware of the intricacies of Indian cooking. Upma is prepared by adding roasted semolina into the correct quantity of water while it is boiling. The name Upma is derived from two words. The first word, Up for Uppu, means salt or salty. The second word is Ma and you have definitely got it wrong if you think Upma means Salty Mother!!!  

The term Ma stands for Mavu which means dough. So together Upma means salty dough and it is easy to guess that salt is a major ingredient. The required amount of salt is to be added into the boiling water before the semolina. Ginger, green chillies, curry leaves and sometimes onions are added to give flavor. In Kerala, plenty of grated coconut is also added.

The traditional Indian way of preparing tea or “chai” is by boiling water on the stove and adding tea leaves/powder directly into that water. Sugar is also added into that boiling water and the liquid is then strained and mixed with boiled milk.

“Easy meal to prepare” thought Mr P and roasted a cup of semolina for the Upma first. He then put a pot of water for tea on one burner and a pot of water on the other burner for the Upma. The cooking went off incident free and the Upma appeared to be alright albeit a little bit sticky.

Guest G arrived on time and Mr P served the Upma and the tea to his guest. We can imagine how lyrical Mr P would have been praising the Upma as a wholesome food and what a winner it was at the Top Chef Master competition.

G put a spoonful of Upma in his mouth. Mr P waited eagerly for a comment and the guest cleared his throat. “Interesting”, he said. G was in a cover-up mode and with a face devoid of any expression, hastily took the cup of tea in his hand. 

Mr P tasted the Upma then. It was slightly sweet. But was there any salt in it? No, not a teeny-weeny bit! Nil! None! Nada! The “Salty dough” was totally salt free, unsavory and unpalatable! 

“Where did all the salt that I put in the water go?” Mr P wondered. He glanced at G furtively. G had taken a big sip of the tea to wash down the bad taste of the Upma from his mouth…. 

A tortured look came over G’s face and he gagged…. in an involuntary retching reflex!

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