Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Shall we eat out today - Part 2

It’s been a while since I wrote this. And now the “shall we eat out today” phrase has boomeranged to me in a totally different fashion. Now that I am in a country which looks upon vegetarians as aliens..err .. Should I say psychopath aliens, the challenge has risen to a new level. I know there have been millions who have undergone this, given the fact that every other software engineer working here would either be a tam brahm, gujju or a marathi.(We are not considering goltis here since they have been proclaimed as extended American citizens).

So left with little options, I ventured into the unknown territory of cooking. I always sucked at Chemistry lab experiments. Putting the right amount of acids to neutralize the alkaline never was interesting for me. And I never could get a good result. And I always believed that cooking was an extension of a chemistry lab. But we do not give up so easily, do we? Especially when it is the question of survival. So I have started getting my fingers cut and burnt; started making rasams forgetting to put rasam powder in it, and have even started cleaning the vessels up. And the other day when my firang team mate asked me what I had for lunch, I ran out of words to describe what a sambhar is! And she of course found it hard to believe that I eat rice/wheat day after day without any meat what so ever.

It is alright when you have to cook for fun; for a change from the outside food, like I used to back in Pune. But dragging yourself to the kitchen every other day to make something can be a torture. This is the point when I realize what my Mom, or any womanhood for that matter, goes through day after day. I would surely have yelled out at amma if she had made sambhar or dal every other day. I have screamed my lungs out if she were not to provide me with a proper breakfast on Saturday morning and fill in with cornflakes or bread. Now I eat those daily for breakfast. And even for lunch or dinner at times. Except for coffee, I don’t think I can make anything at all which can be termed as “good”.

The Indian restaurants here give a good break. And so do the Thai and the Mexican ones which do have options in the vegetarian menu. But you would really relate to the term “khaas-poos” while you are in one of those trips. And having an isolated veggie in the group can be a pain in the butt for others for they would not be able to taste the animals/birds from that part of the world! Most of the vegetarians give in at this point of time in life. I was surprised when my colleague told me how she has started cooking chicken for her husband wearing gloves, even though she sticks to being a veggie. Heights of chauvinism I thought.

On hearing my woes, the only suggestion the people close to me give is “Get married”. But I wonder what the girl to whom I will be getting married is being told now! Get married and be ready to spend 1/12th of your life in kitchen? May be that is why we would be hearing the phrase, “Shall we eat out today”, more often.

Song for the Occasion: “Mummy bhookh lagi hai!” ...“Do minute!” ... “School se aate dhoom machaate. Ek hi baat pe khushi manaate, Maggi Maggi Maggi!”Mom: Pal bhar mein tayyar….Khaane mein mazedaar!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Pack your bags……. Go!

This is not a travelogue. I am not sure if I am competent enough to write one of those, although one of my dream jobs is to become a travel host in the discovery channel!

One of the things people do religiously while they are abroad is to travel. Travel to different parts of the country they are in. Eventually they end up seeing more places/cities in the country they are touring than they would have of their own country. Well, I have been no different. First it was the trip to see the liberty aunty at NY and then to the “who’s your daddy” Vegas. I am not describing either of them out here. But I am going to dwell into the whole process of planning and executing a trip.

It all starts as a secret mission. Carefully evaluating the people you want to go with - The forming of the group for the trip. Should we ask X. Why do we need to ask Y. Z would also come if Y comes. And thus a huge mission would be flagged off. Most of the times the group would comprise of close friends. If they are not available, then the co-workers would get an opportunity. And most of the times there will people who miss a trip and would have to tag along with another group. Factors such as commitment to team mates, room mates, and friend’s friend play an important role in finalizing the trip team. This would be followed by a huge row of tu tu main main for doing the bookings. Booking flight tickets, hotels, rental cars and much more.

Most often there will be a huge conference calls to decide the time, date and places of visit. And this is when it breaks loose. The more the number of people, the more would be the opinions and hence the confusions. And if people are coming in from different parts of the country, the confusion multiplies. The problem also is that we Indians are good at maths. Calculating the time, distance and more importantly the money, in N number of ways can be quite tasking for even a PC! And of course the famous “theory of Dollar to Rupee conversion” makes it worse. It always amuses me how often the thought of spending over rides the fun that we should be having in the trip.

And So eventually with an awful amount of luck, the trip plan is readied. The combination part of it after reaching the destination could be taxing. Within the group there might be a couple who would want to be together alone in a group!! Then there would be the possible couples who should be left together too. This causes a huge confusion while forming subsets within the main group.

Chaos galore when the trip finally kicks off. From dealing with people’s sleep-ish-ness to adjusting to the fast/slow pace of walking to talking care of vegetarians, I would suggest this as a good management lesson. And once the process is started there will be lot of complaints from everyone suggesting that we should have booked a better hotel, we could have started earlier and so on. And God forbid if there occurs a real fight amongst the travelers. The scene would get ugly. But apart from that there would be a photography tournament running throughout the trip. The person who does not carry a camera mostly wins the race. He/She would be clicked the most. You would come across other such similar groups all through the trip. Also you would be seeing desis and families awed by the Amkarikan grandeur. One of the most ridiculous thing I saw was an old desi couple along with their son in Vegas. Why on earth would you want to take your ever so conservative parents to the city of sin!? Anyways, I am sure he would have written a blog about that too!

The events do not get over when the trip actually ends. After that begins the trading of the photos. And putting up the pics on Orkut. Again the early bird catches the worm here too. When everything is done, there will be the infamous XL sheet session, to settle the expenses. Most of the times this would be started by the guy who spends the most!

But all the pain and hardships you take to put the trip together pays off more often than not. Keeping the sight seeing part apart, the trip would provide some amazing moments. Like they say - Flight tickets to Vegas - $300, Trip to Universal studios - $65, Renting a car - $100, Moments you get to spend with your friends – Priceless.

Song for the occasion: Abhi abhi mere dil mein, ye khayal aaya hai.