Saturday, December 29, 2007

From Sassy to Plain Jane

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With this year end I have decided to restore the template of my blog to the standard blogger template. The truth is, ever since I started Travel Tadka, I have been tempted by the easy features blogger templates offer. Grappling with long code turned out to be quite sticky. It would take eons for me to add a new widget for the code had to plugged in seamlessly and all the appropriate tags had to be closed. When something would go amiss, it would seethe to the surface defacing my blog and restoring it would be an excruciatingly painful exercise (clearly a non techie issue here). Finding an easier way out, I sold myself to blogger.

In the process of shifting or migrating I did loose links to many of my favourite blogs. The good part however is, the damage is not too sever. Thanks to Sakshi (She’s got a blog mine, anything happening on the blogsphere or Bollywood she’s the first to know) I was able to refurbish my blogroll with some really interesting blogs. It allowed me to delete blogs I had stopped following, or those that were outdated, deleted or stopped existing. I even managed to kick out some pointless widgets.

I would, sometime later, look for a template that is crafted for me and my inane musings, but for now and till I can afford a designer its going to be 'Hail Blogger'.

The new look is definitely a whole lot cleaner, chirpier and clutter free. The paper scribble look of the old template was chaotic; it did not support many functions and was not really blogging friendly. However, I do miss the energy and the kind of nonchalance it had. I am also going to miss the ‘oh so fantastic template’ comments. But I am nearly 25 now and my blog ought to stop looking like schools girl’s diaries (I know I am consoling myself). Although I wonder if people who really know would be convinced by a template change:).

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Big Fat Punjabi Wedding

Punjus are a class apart; they are noisy, campy, colourful, flamboyant and loud and have no qualms about it. I envy them for that. A community that is the biggest consumer of practically everything from scotch to mercs has every right to be as cuckoo as them.

A week after attending my best friends wedding I am still reveling in the grandeur an authentic Punjabi wedding has to offer. I landed in the subdued town of Bariley, but subdued is not a word I would use for the wedding and definitely not for a Punju wedding.

The invite read cocktail evening, followed by cocktail and wedding the second day. So I was assured booze is going to be on the house for the next 2 days. The evening was nippy, a distant faint music was getting louder as we drove on and I could hear the music clearly “balle balle oh balle balle… sharabi…” humming along I smiled to myself knowing this was going to be one crazy evening.

When we entered, the party was in full swing. It was only 9.00pm, the Baggas (the bride’s side) and the Batras (groom’s side) had already gotten their guests dancing and tipsy. After a quick round of introductions we headed to the bar and had to fight our way through burly Punjabis. My bloody mary seemed meek amidst all the double large scotch and Patiala shots.

One had to be a Punjabi to drink like a fish and still be able to pull off a graceful balle balle on the dance floor. As the latest bollywood numbers began to reverberate in the hall, thousand rupee notes started flying all over the place. The party went on till the wee hours of the morning, punjus drank and danced relentlessly until they were forcibly asked to stop. The non punjus, well we were no competition, we passed out early on.

I am in the habit of calling my friend Neha, Bagga. When I met her on her wedding I called out to her in a rather girly high pitched voice, and had about 20 baggas turn around and look at me questioningly and then everyone knew me just like that. I loved it, punjus have a big heart and they accepted people warmly. Then all evening I had people fawning and fussing over me wanting to know if I had eaten, or if I was enjoying myself. I found food being sent to our table constantly and my glass being filled as quickly as its contents were being emptied. The buas and the mausies all hugged me and asked them to join me in their dance. In all the alcohol infused haziness guests weren’t forgotten, they made me feel a part of the family, I was truly moved.

Now punjus have an unwritten wedding rule that I unraveled during the course of the 2 days. Alcohol and dancing precedes and succeeds every little ceremony. The second morning I was surprised to find the Bagga family looking fresh as daisies despite having pelted countless double larges. We were groggy and hung over and every muscle in our bodies ached from all the dancing, while the Bagga family went around greeting us and the others chirpily. I was wondering if they were the same people who were wasted the previous night, if they were they showed no signs of it. After a hearty breakfast, I was quickly ushered next to the bride for the bangle and haldi ceremony.

These bangles are a symbol of a newly wed bride. One can spot her from miles away, the bright red colour of the bangles and its jangle always gives her away. To the red bangles the women tie a variety of golden trinkets. She later walks around clapping her hand on heads of young girls of marriageable age and when the trinkets fall on some girl’s head, it means she is going to be wed soon, similar to throwing the bouquet. We then smeared haldi on her face, arms and legs. Haldi has a lot of special properties, one of which is supposed to give the bridal glow. Later in the evening when I saw Neha ready to take her wedding vows I saw her glowing I don’t know if it was the haldi or excitement or both.

Like you guessed, after the haldi we danced again and the liquor flowed freely. This time I chose to stick to orange juice. The lunch had a huge spread and was very rich. Yes there was the butter chicken, dal makni assortment of rotis and rice but there also was the rather succulent mutton, vegetables, salad, raita, pappads and pickle. For dessert I had the yummy halwa and iceream and then decided to hit the sack for an afternoon siesta while the festivities continued. Balle balle was my lullaby that afternoon, I slept to the sound of laughter.

The evening of the wedding was the same as the previous evening, only 3 times more grand. There was a long queue of starters and snacks stalls that housed everything from pani purri to the Punjabi version of masala dosa. I obviously didn’t spare a thing, except the dosas, coming from the land of dosas I was only too happy to skip its punju version. The booze counter was bustling with activity when the groom arrived on a white horse. The dancing barath of the Batra clan were welcomed by the Baggas with garlands and host of refreshments and beverages. So you can say the drinking started at the gate only to stop at the mandap at 2.00 in the night.

The Baggas, the Batras, the Mehtas, the Chopras and the Aroras did what they knew the best, danced and drank away joyously to the music and enjoyed every moment of it. I reveled in the festivities and was left in awe for the punjabis. By the end of it I was ready to become a bagga or a chopra.

As the night wore away the crowd dwindled till only close family and friends, i.e., us, remained. In the presence of these few the bride and groom took their wedding vows - the Sath Phere and then the bride left to her new home. The Baggas were in tears, so was I to see my best friend married off.

This blog has been really long for it is not the insipid Tam Bram wedding that can be captured in lesser words, it’s a carnival, it’s the big fat Punjabi wedding.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Peacock Trails

Grandmum’s tales would be insipid without the brave maharaja, the wily snake charmer or the playful elephant, and so will our mythology itself. These tales, so much a part of every Indian child’s growing up, are still echoing in the quaint streets of Mylapore. Be it the thriving temple economy or vibrant kolams adorning door steps or the colorful gopuram of the Kapaleeshwar temple, each has its own share of stories to tell. And what better way to savour the city than through its stories. One such story teller is ‘Peacock Trails’, a journey of unraveling these little traditions and customs that makes Chennai so kitsch.

The trail, starting outside, the Kapaleeshwar temple in Mylapore traverses many myriad rituals associated with the temple, the teeming life that has stemmed around the temple. It takes you to the tomb of the St. Thomas, the apostle who brought Christianity to, Santhome and ends with a grand breakfast at Saravana Bhavan.

A lot caught my fancy, for one the Jennal Hotel (Window hotel). It has been around for the last 50 years (like a lot of other stores in Mylapore), dishing out piping hot sambar and idli in the morning and a tiffin (light evening snack) in the evening. Living up to its name, the restaurant has no tables or chairs. It is not even what you would call ‘a stand and eat joint’. It’s an old Brahmin serving food from a window. The tradition has been handed down from father to son, and what’s more, the prices still haven’t changed much since then.

Ever noticed the intricate patterns decorating the threshold of houses? It’s what we call a ‘Kolam’ in the south, Rangoli in the north, but unlike the Rangoli the Kolam is not just for cosmetic value. It is an indication that all is well in the house. Incase of a death in the house the family stops putting kolam outside their homes so passers by would know they are grieving. The rice flour used in the kolam also serves as food for ants. The otherwise white kolam comes alive during temple festivals with the women of the house trying to outdo others with huge intricate patterns splashed with colour.

They have a story for everything – why do we have so many gods to why we go clockwise around the temple. Story Trails will even tell you the right place to get your ancestral veena repaired to how to drink your filter coffee. They believe stories show you the way of life. Flavoured with traditions, these stories have grown and evolved with civilization, dynasties and people, and continue to remain relevant even today. Vijay (founder of Story Trails) and Vishna (our storyteller) are like Scheherazade of Arabian nights. They have a thousand and one stories to tell, one just has to keep listening.

With a riot of colours, seasoned with the idiosyncrasies of the tam bram community, the wafting smell of filter coffee mingling with incense, the journey is exhilarating and intoxicating.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Technicolor Dream

Totally over the top and completely bizarre is Farah's new found signature style and with the success of Om Shanti Om I am guessing it's for keeps. The movie is totally bling with its giddy music and psychedelic colours. It was a complete treat to the senses. After a seismic speculation I've decided not to get in to the glaring loop holes in the plot or reviewing the complete lack of story line. But I must say, I loved the movie. So what is the plot? You're clearly reading the blog this is just film appreciation.

The film was a celebration of the 70's as Bollywood painted it, a world of flashy make up, elaborate hairdos. The film has glorified all Bollywood stereotypes - the ma, the sindhur and the dialogues are cheesy, but really funny. The lines were oozing with melodrama and kiran kher has done full justice to it with all the necessary overacting. I would have never known you can keep the audience enthralled for three hours without a story!

Looking all dolled up was the debutant Deepika Padukone. She was a decent actress and good dancer although I must admit she didn't have a crucial role, she made her presence felt with those perfectly timed and dimpled smiles. It's a movie reveling in everything typical to the tinsel town – the red carpet stroll, award ceremonies, gossip and bitching.

What's worth a mention here is the filmfare awards ceremony, my personal favourite sequence. 'we are just good friends' haven't we heard that a zillion times before but Farah's movie has a different take on it. SRK, Akshay and Abhishek starring in films like Dhoom 5, Return of the Khiladi and Phir Bhi NRI are competing to clinch the best actor title, this one is a laugh riot. One can find the clip below.

After the super fun first half the second half was a tad stretchy. After all we are on real time again, but the song and dance sequence salvaged it. Ok, what Farha is really known for is here creds and for that let the drums beat and red carpets roll out, and let the real heroes take the stage. It's worthy of another post.

All said, it's a fun colorful film, and that too coming from a person who is not an SRK fan. I am sure that says a lot.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

On a break!

There is going to be a lull at coffee and conversation but let me assure you It is only till the 11th of december. Then the blog post will be pouring in with renewed vigour. I off to Uttranchal and on the way manage to catch a colourful Punjabi wedding loads of yummy food, restaurants, jim corbett, chole bhature and experience on road. I'll have something to feed my new blog Travel Tadka as well...:)