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August 21, 2008

Digest this!

I am so tired. Yet it's after a while that it feels that I've literally'earned' this fatigue. I'm studying and working now. Today, I woke up at 5 am, reported for work at 7 am and stood and made sandwiches -- and other assorted kitchen jobs till 1.30 pm.

After being a mainstream journalist for the last 9 years, now I am a sandwich hand. I make sandwiches and I learned as of today that cranberry sauce and turkey -- though an unusual combination -- make a damn interesting sandwich. I also realised that choice of sandwich pretty much describes the kind of person you might be. Like the lady who refuses to have anything but cheese-toast every single day of her 5-day workweek. She does not smile when requesting her order, she doesn't smile when you give her the toast and since it's a pretty basic toast, of course there is no question of her ever saying that it's nice. Markedly different is the guy who likes to try a different sandwich everyday, the more bizarre the better. He leans on the counter, chats with the girls working and takes a lot of interest in what's going into his bread. Despite working in a hardcore corporate environment, he is usually unshaved, has spiked hair and an ear-ring. Also, Indians standing in line stare at you the hardest; perhaps because it's not a Subway and they are not used to an Indian making sandwiches.

My entire culinary experience and taste bud exploration is going through a 360 degrees change here in Melbourne. Some things are hard to digest.

Like the fact that bread -- I don't mean roti, naan or parantha -- has always been paav-roti (quarter-bread literally) in Hindi and Bangla and something you eat for breakfast. However, here it's the staple diet. I had a hard time not saying "But there's no butter on it" when during one of the women's association meeting, girls happily chewed on some 'dry' bread. Initially, I revolted against eating 'bread' for every meal and sorely missed my rice. Even when I do eat rice here -- mostly when we eat out at a Chinese/Thai/Malaysian restaurant -- I am supposed to eat my rice in a bowl and with like a tablespoon of oyster sauce on it. Where is my jhol (curry/gravy) I say?! AND with chopsticks. It's also criminal how much of chicken and meat is wasted on bones because you are eating with a bloody fork.

Daal (which is pronounced and written 'dhaal' here!) is 'lentil soup' and not a main course. And not eaten on top of rice. Or with ghee. In fact ghee would become clarified fat and while people load their sandwiches with cheese -- and slug beer for breakfast -- ghee apparently would give them clogged arteries. Subzi or vegetables are usually eaten raw -- salads you see -- and don't go through the preparation we have in India. However, I must say, thanks to sandwiches, I am eating more 'green' than I've ever had. Also perhaps because in India the green usually becomes yellow or red, depending on haldi and mirchi in it.

It was ironic that bhindi (okra, ladyfinger) is one of the easiest veggies to cook -- chop finely, saute some onions, throw in the bhindi, DON'T add water, salt, half teaspoon turmeric or none, salt to taste and cook will it dries out, delicious! -- is not on the favoured veggie list for celebrated chef Gordon Ramsay. "I find okra extremely difficult to cook, it is gelatinous." Idiot. The range of bread though is quite astounding. I wonder why no one tries to sell Indian food with a health twist to it. 'Roti' is whole-meal bread, unlevened, has no oil or yeast in it. Paranthas can be rolled. Puri will blow their mind and can be an indulgence. Ghugni (a green pea Bengali dish) will blow their minds, here's salad you.... But. ALL that Indian restaurants sell here is tandoori.

Anywhoo. Sorry. ANYHOW. Brrr... The per force language transformation that's happening to my English here is frightening. All those hours spent debating about the correct pronounciation with Dad are being anywho-ed. That's another post.

Below is today's column for The Hindustan Times. The reference to Usha's much-loved Ageless Bonding blog is neither to take her on nor to ridicule her point of view. However, she touched a raw never and since I was working on a sport post, it fit in. It pisses me off. The fact that while every other major nation BUT India is winning golds in the Olympics, our newspapers shamelessly declare that we have 'managed' a gold after 28 years. The last was when I was born.

While I am proud of Abhinav Bindra's feat, perhaps we should ALSO be asking as to why we don't manage to win any golds at all. We are a billion-plus nation, we have enough money to HIRE other cricketers for an IPL and yet, ONE gold?! Unlike China, which is hosting the Olympics and winning gold, I am bloody nervous about the Commonwealth Games in 2010. We will perhaps be the only nation in the history of hosting games where we will foot the bill, other players, write columns about their wins and NOT win anything. We are already creating a scam around the games. What shit is this. Other than cricket, why the fuck do we suck in every other sport?!!!

The Hindustan Times, published August 21, 2008
It's only about winning, stupid!
With blogs on sporting
scandals outnumbering
those on sports, is
'the game' still about
patriotism and the
sporting spirit? Or is it
about something else?

Even as sport has become one of the most lucrative professions, with sporting events promising high TRP ratings, some sporting debates refuse to die down. With the Beijing Olympics dominating headlines -- and the Google search bar -- it's no surprise that the Games are the theme for a post or two in the blogosphere. But it's getting a bit boring.

For one, winning is still a dirty word as bloggers write about the spirit of participation and other such glorious philosophies. Do you think Shah Rukh Khan was interested in 'just participating' when he bought the Kolkata Indian Premier League team? For those missed the point, he was interested in winning. It's all fine to say that Olympics should be a showcase of sporting excellence. But take away the medals and the four-yearly games wouldn't create as much buzz (even with the 'China factor' this year).

A second favourite topic for bloggers seems to be the entire sport-means-national-pride equation. Questioning why the Olympics should be "about representing one's nation", blogger Usha Vaidyanathan of Ageless Bonding asks, "Is it right to criticize her for putting her passion to play before considerations of patriotism?" The 'her' Vaidyanathan mentions is American basketball player Becky Hammond who opted for a Russian citizelnship to be able to 'participate' in the Olympics. To answer the blogger's question, yes, it is reprehensible. Would her blog read the same if in the next World Cup, Sachin Tendulkar was to play as part of the Australian cricket team?

Quoting George Orwell's Sporting Spirit article made perfect sense at one time. In 1945. Not anymore when there are more blogs - not including news websites and sports channels -- on sporting scandals than sport itself.

If Bob Reno's Badjocks has a scoreboard that lists sportsmen (and women) 'tasered' by cops, high school coach sex scandals and golf carts in water, Buddy Maguire on F&*%$d sports comments on the daily dose of sport scandal. Then there's Off Wing Opinion's Eric McErlain who takes a dig on anything and everything sporty. Those are just three of the few blogs on sport and all point to the fact that the spirit of sport has perhaps changed.

And in the spirit of times, perhaps it's high time for Indians to stop lauding participation. Think nationalism and put more merit on winning -- lest we have to wait another 28 years to see some gold.


maxine said...

Hey,congrats,jb.The first line is good enough for you to earn a massage getting back home.
The people who stare,if only they knew they are just a thought away from being blogged!

Stir fried Okra in yogurt is good too.Well..I havent tasted but i get good reviews.

"Its only about winning" hmm...should implement that into my game plan.

avijit bakshi said...

I wouldn't mind if Sachin played for Australia. Jingoism is sadder than a player playing for another country.

Mystique said...


anyway, i don't think India CARES about anything other than cricket.....

Anonymous said...

Oh Man!! The Staring Indians!! I CANNOT Stand em!! Steer Clear of Melbourne Central and Flinders Street Station.

Anonymous said...

goat meat - vic market
masala maggi - indian spice stores

Makassar Infocom said...

Nice info