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Thursday, April 30, 2015

There's a Hole in My Bucket- and it refuses to go...

Many years back, don’t even begin to ask how many, infact in kindergarten, our class enacted Harry Belafonte’s "There's a Hole in My Bucket".  The song is actually a dialogue between two characters, Henry and Liza.  Henry has a leaky bucket, and Liza tells him to repair it. However, to fix the leaky bucket, he needs straw, to cut the straw, he needs a knife, to sharpen the knife he needs to wet the sharpening stone, to wet the stone, he needs water and to get water he needs a bucket- but in this case there is only that one leaky bucket.  The song, albeit humorous in tone, always left me wondering if Henry’s and Liza’s work ever got done. Did they manage to get the straw, sharpen the knife, wet the sharpening stone…. ? Did they finish off everything and then were able to relax, just chill, not worry about any more tasks or pending jobs?

So, now I know the answer. It is: No. Never.  Absolutely Not.  I laugh at the naivety of the kindergarten me. The laugh is hollow and cynical. I have also now understood why our vedic forefathers trotted off to the jungles in their vanprasthic stage of life. As a student of history one had always felt sorry for the oldies- banished to the wild jungles while the youngsters whoopeed in joy and wished each other ‘happy freedom day’. But now I realize that the oldies must have broken into a foxtrot or a waltz or done a bhangra as soon as they rounded a corner and were out of sight.

I know you must be wondering what makes me feel so. Allow me to take you through just a day of my life. So, one of us switches on the living room air conditioner. There is a series of staccato sounds and I  understand something is not right. I rush and switch off all electrical appliances and electronics. News floats from downstairs that there has been a fire in the meter. I ring up the electrician, thanking my stars for having  paid his exorbitant charges without a fuss at his last visit. He saunters in an hour later. Transpires that major work needs to be carried out. He gives a lonnnng list of what all has to be bought. By the time one has mentally calculated the kharcha the husband has given him money to buy all the stuff. I totter off to the kitchen. The maid gives me one of those looks- you know the look that says: why am I  stuck in a house which has no bijli. I smile wanly . She announces that her mum is not well in the village and she has to leave. I dig out a beautiful suit I know she has been coveting and buy peace. The electrician comes back with a small packet to show for that humungous list and does some magic and presto –we have light in the house.However, with the light comes the smell of some wires burning- the main panel of the burglar alarm system has got burnt!!

 I dig out the bulging file in which we keep all the receipts/ guarantee cards etc and fish out the company’s customer care number to lodge my complaint. They promise to send someone soon. I keep the phone down only to get a call from my bank. My signature is not tallying on some document and could I please come and to the needful. I toodle off to the bank to do the needful before the husband comes to know. One can very clearly visualize the ‘haven’t I being telling you to be more focused when doing important things like signing …’.

I come back home  and the daughter announces that she will make some really nice, chilled cold coffee for me. I am not too sure if it is a good idea given that she barely knows her way round the kitchen but too exhausted to demur just give in. Ten minutes later she comes with two tall glasses of lovely cold coffee and the news that four of her friends are ‘dropping in for ten minutes’ to say hi to their Anju aunty. The ten minutes, but naturally, stretch till after dinner. They finally pile into a car, promising to come visit ‘very soon’. The living room looks as if a hurricane has hit it and I try and bring some order to it.

Almost as an afterthought I check my mail. The publisher has signed off with ‘warmest regards’ but before that has inquired about the status of the work and also reminded  that the deadline for the submission of the work is looming large.

Oh! for the life of the jungles.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Restaurant Review: The China House by Q'BA

As soon as my friend and I entered The China House we looked at each other and shook our heads. This shaking of heads is not a rite of passage. It just meant that both of us could feel it in our bones that the meal would be nothing much to write home about and that we should exit pronto, Sadly our entry had galvanised the staff in the yawningly empty restaurant , lunch time on a working day in Connaught Place, and whereever we looked we saw faces which seemed to be almost beseeching us to be seated. Oh, the burden of being kind hearted !

Interestingly, once we were seated the faces all melted away into nothingness and we were left with  just one, a sort of Jack of all trades. So, he poured water in our glasses, straightened the table cover, handed us the menus, poured us some 'china tea', rushed to answer the phone and rushed back to take our order. I settled for a clear soup ( 135/) and my friend for a Tom Yum ( 160/). The dimsums looked interesting and we ordered a Broccoli and Sesame crytal vegetables dumplings ( 205/) for me  and a garlic chicken dumplings ( 260/) for the friend. Jack ran to, presumably,the kitchen to  tell the same and then hopped back to feed our order into the computer.
The soups was fine and VFM ( value for money). However, the dimsums were a disappointment. The filling in my dimsums seemed to be solely confined to grated cabbage/broccoli with the sesame crystal part seemingly being held back . I didn't really have to ask the friend how her dimsums were. The fact that she ate only one answered any unasked questions.
For the main meal we ordered silken  mapo  tofu  with vegetables in spicy chilli sauce (260/), sliced chicken and cashew nuts in ginger chilli sauce ( 336/) and the mandatory rice and noodles. The tofu looked and tasted like nothing tofu has ever tasted before - it looked like the paneer cubes we cut for our  ghar ka matar paneer. The friend had a few bites of her chicken and left the rest. Her verdict was that the chicken didn't taste good. The rice and noodles filled me with nostalgia- they were just what we used to make at home a decade back.

Considering The China House is ' by Q'BA' one would have expected better . Was there any redeeming feature/ Yes. Two things. Firstly, the  dessert-death by chocolate ( 185/).
Secondly, Jack.

Will I go back? You can't see me but I am shaking my head!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Restaurant Review: Smoke House Deli, Khan Market

Ever heard the popular homily: Smile, it doesn't cost much? Well, the guys at Smoke House Deli (SHD) have clearly not only heard about it but have also decided to apply it. So, when on a April afternoon we enter the place we are greeted by the maƮtre d' with a smile , seated with a smile and served with a smile. Get what I am trying to say?- that they pretty much know how to apply another adage: Well begun is half done.

Our table for two faces the glass windows spanning one full wall. From the first floor the view through the sparklingly clean glass windows is of tall trees full of fresh baby green April leaves.The wall on our left has lovely sepia tinted frames of Lord and Lady Mountbatten. Very near to these two is one of  JawaharLal Nehru ( but naturally). There is a nice one of Khuswant Singh too. The piece de resistance ,however, is a slim rectangular frame with beautifully calligraphed lines of  poetry.

We order a smoked carrot and ginger vichyssoise soup( 190/-), the SHD signature burger( 440/ ) and wild mushroom and artichoke crepes gratin( 480 /-). The server whisks away the menus and places before us a well arranged bread basket with a dish containing a pat of butter. The croissants look  fresh but the aunt and I stick to the soup sticks. The soup is just what a good soup should be- light, with a lingering taste of fresh herbs. The burger is huge - thankfully we were going half on it -and great on taste. The best for me ,however was the gratin. The crepes, stuffed with wild mushroom and artichokes, were  arranged on a shallow plate and covered with a cream cheese sauce.

After every course someone from the staff would come to the table to find out if everything was o.k, if we were liking the food etc . SHD definitely steps up the PR quotient for the other restaurants. We rounded up the meal with a ' baked yoghurt of the day'.  The dessert was comsi comsa- slighter sweeter than what one looks for in a baked yoghurt and with an indeterminate flavour.

Will I go back to SHD? definitely. For the lovely interiors, for the food and ofcourse, for the smiling exteriors!