the call of the wild

Wake up to the alarm on my cell phone…there was no water in the bathroom. Bugged the owner, ablutions and the city cab waiting, I was on my way to Mysore at 4:30am in the morning. The bus- stop was brimming with people at this hour of the day/night/dawn. Mysore was 2hours and sleep. At the bus stop, I remember the stares and the wares. The one and only bus to BR hills was waiting and this is no Volvo, so that means less comfort, no AC, no music and a bigger crowd. I loved my seat by the window. The many stops on the way saw me waving at the children who were mighty tickled to see a girl on a back pack. You smile, they smile. They wave, you wave back. Behave like a proper traveler since you cannot pretend to be one of them. It’s refreshing to see all the green corn fields, the palm trees, the cattle, the dusty roads, the stagnant ponds and the hyper magpies. Enquiries in broken, half-baked English with the conductor were not humorous but interesting. I was quite impressed with his communication skills, he managed to convey all that was asked of him. We stopped briefly at the Sanctuary gate. There is a small temple, the conductor opened the temple door and a waif in the bus got down and cleaned the porch of the temple. There was something primitive about the whole ritual. As the bus meandered into the pristine wilderness of the thick woods, one cannot miss the innumerable ant mounds/hills. I got a very creepy feeling. It turns out they are not anthills but they are termite mounds. Anyway, they are still creepy. I happened to watch the latest Indiana Jones and the movie had some unpleasant ant scenes.

Never mind, the green wounding climb up the hill is simply breathtaking. The valley below, wrapped and tousled in mist is worth a sight. At the lodge, we got down… I spotted two tamed elephants grazing near the pond and a lot of elephant poop scattered here and there in the slope. I was dying to rest my achy-stiff back. Got a log-house perched on a beautiful gliding slope overlooking some tent-houses and lot of wild grass around and all over. A quick shower and lunch followed by some simian visitors who were amused to see us relaxing on the hammock. A short nap killed time before the safari. The ultimate would be to spot the gentleman of the jungle but too many deer, stag and gaud killed all semblance of hope. We were greeted rather nastily by a family of elephants to stay away. Basic instinct is similar in nearly all forms of life.

We retired for the night after a simple meal and a campfire of sorts. Power was available for only 3 hours, the remainder of the night in the mercy of the hurricane lamp/lantern. On my walk back to the lodge, I thought I saw two hind feet of some smelly grunting creature dart past the slope of the hill. We slowly moved the torch up to follow and there he was- the wild hog come for his post dinner stroll.

The next morning we were greeted by the chatter of monkeys in the porch making merry of my morning tea and snacks. Bugged Narayan, the in-charge/manager to take us for a small trek, armed with a pair of binoculars after a filling breakfast, we take to the road less travelled. Narayan is a tall, not dark but handsome Coorgi dude in camouflage, has light eyes, quite attractive for the natural surroundings. He is a naturalist and wants to move away from the mundane thing that he was doing. He made us trek for a couple of hours, explained a lot of minute things. Small talk and exchange of phone numbers, what I will remember most about him is his cool in the eye of elephant panic when some fore wheel of his safari jeep got jammed somewhere and his good luck, he had a jeepful of weepies- old, young and infants.

By afternoon, we were at the gate, waiting for that one bus which will take us to civilization. Lot of good memories and quiet times, the winding road to Mysore and back to Hyderabad, many small things happened- like asking our Mysore bound bus to drive like a F1 champ and then having lunch at 5 in the evening and watching overly watched movies and dinner at some noisy joint where people forgot to look at their plate and kept staring at a female with slightly tanned lithe arms. I don’t remember sleeping, my major worry was not to consume “excess” water lest the bus deserted me in times of dire call!

House hunting- part one

When you are no longer in transit you have to look for personal space.

The house I immediately moved in from the hostel did not last me a month…all the heavens conspired to keep me away from it- some mishap in the form of inadvertent human error in judgement, the away from the maddening crowd kinda funda, MMTs did not look attractive anymore. When enthusiasm is smothered you just lose interest in the things around you. Maybe I was in a hurry or people are slow to decision. In the process, I lost faith and gained some back. Stayed out of a duffel bag, especially with the sensitized Hyderabad blasts and lived like a gypsy despite having a house. I no longer felt like going home to that house, not the house’s fault. Kinda felt weird having to stay with unknowns who never featured in my scheme of things earlier. The house was good, the rent was better, the owner is human and the surroundings nice. A couple of things ticked me off. Those who disappointed have their reasons, you can never question why. To each her own. I had to move away. A friend came. We made the house home for her last couple of weeks in the city. She loved the house as much as I did.

The housing secretary of the apartment made it worse. Probably, he has not seen anyone with fair skin below the knees or calves. This grumpy chap could not convince anyone to occupy his vacant house on rent. So, he picked and picked on me. He gave me a 2 minuteful of dos and don’ts and that it is a family apartment. No hanky panky and whatever he thought of me! I reported the matter to the Professor who took strong exception at the breach of conduct and what happened after that, I don’t know. That is it, I have to move out. I had not unpacked. The kitchen stuff was there…untouched. The bathroom was the only high-activity area. It is summer and whatever. I also spotted a BIG bee hive in the other bathroom. Helped my friend pack her stuff, she was leaving for Delhi. I was lucky to find replacements for the house. Professor was sad, his wife sadder. I am sad too.I missed a trip with my friends in my quest for a house.

Then, another friend called me. We all are so need driven. She needed a room-mate. plus another two.I needed a house, acquaintance only helps. We were anchored.

Jubilee Hills, yay! Housewarming as such we never had, all four of us were so busy, so busy we forgot to talk to one another or if we existed. This house lasted us for 9 months. Three sets of parents came, saw and liked the house. Little did we know that we would give up on this for all sorts of reason. But this house is special.

Small talk

Living in a paying guest/ working women’s hostel is not a great option for me. Switch off the lights before so and so, dinner won’t be served after this, the maid/boy/man won’t come to sweep/swab your room everyday. You can’t complain about a single thing because this is the least of the best they can commit with. You fight for the bathroom every morning. Hygiene standards are different from person to person. I hate to step into a bathroom just relieved by someone. If I am cribbing so much, the obvious reactions I would have got by now is why the hell I don’t get married or better still, I should not be a cry baby and a million etc etc solutions. What do you do when your stay at a place is that in-transit feeling? No tenancy rules will come to my rescue and allow me to occupy an independent accommodation. So, the hostel.

1. I used to hate it when my hostel owner would just insist on barging into your room and showing it to prospective hostelites who are new to the cityt any time of the day. We are deaf in the night.

2. I used to hate it when on Saturdays I go down at 10 am and the breakfast is over. I can’t even enjoy my weekend sleep.So, Sunday I am most punctual.

3. I used to hate it when my afternoon lunch has to be between 12 and 2, what if I am not hungry then? What if I want to eat at 3?

4. I used to hate it when the maid uses Surf excel (which is some cheap detergent and not Surf necessarily) to clean the bathroom tiles and the commode.

5. I used to hate it when she used the broom for both the commode and the bathroom floor, yuck!

6. I used to hate it when she insisted she will sweep/swab the room after the bathroom chore.

7. I used to hate it when the gate used to be locked by 10 pm and you cannot enjoy a proper movie or meal, forget shopping.

8. I used to hate it when every morning you came down the stairs, you have 15 pairs of eyes digging into your countenance and attire.

9. I used to hate it when I have to fight for a space at the common dining table.

10. I really used to hate it when people around you spoke in a Martian language and despite your "Excuse me, can you pass the salt/pickle?" they still look at you like you didn't existed.

Men and cooking

Men and cooking, recipe for disaster is what comes to mind? Eh, no cooking a storm? Maybe and definitely ‘yes’, ‘nooooo’ and ‘sometimes…well…’ is what is evoked. At the most Maggi? Or with some struggle omelette? Or go get some roadside junk for peanuts?

I don’t remember Papa cooking frequently, not that his culinary skills were challenged. He made all the forbidden ‘meaty’ dishes for all rebel Adams and Eves in the cowshed. His dal preparation is by far the best dal in the world, simple, low on spice and high in taste. We would literally slurp-gulp it down like some fast food Chinese soup. He thinks spice kills all great food preparations, Mama begs to differ, albeit diplomatically. Ahem, ahem is what she says and declines to comment when Papa would go head over heels praising something that Mama whisks in a jiffy or otherwise.

Bro has his fetish at what level the wok should be when his omelette is made and that it has to be a certain cream color without the masala except salt and pepper, no chillis and onions or the Spanish kinds. He can barely make a cup of tea without saying loud hi/hellos to the utensil rack and also, knocking a few potatoes here and there. It’s like scaling Mount Vesuvius in its active state of volcanic activity. Whew!

A bunch of us in the university used to trek by bunking Friday afternoons. The majority being boys, they insisted we carry a lot of food. They would get a can of mackerel, some packets of bread and Amul butter, steal salt and pepper, and a spoon from the canteen, pluck cucumbers along the way from the orchard and one among us essentially did not fail to carry that day’s newspaper and a knife for cutting betel-nut. Boy, they prepared the best sandwiches.

A very dear friend of mine made sure all the pistas in the kheer…er…was it gajar ka halwa…should be aligned in a particular way for aesthetic appeal. I almost killed myself.

Most hotels, high and low end restaurants have men as cooks. If there is a Nigella Lawson, we also have a Sanjeev Kapoor who I adore so much. I am sincerely envious of his wife. She must be getting the best cooked food in the world, 24/7, 365 days…served with lot of love, care and whatever. Even the roadside dhabas, the fast food joints and my Papa’s office halwai are good- my god, I love every new preparation Rajkumar makes!

Why is that, men make good cooks outside the kitchen-at-home? Or is it there too? Even the cooks at office are, incidentally men. I liked being served my double cheese masala omelette with all specifications by M and M only.

Men romanticize that the best thing they can start a Saturday morning, even grudgingly by cutting down on their sleep is surprising their sweetheart with breakfast. Gosh, I am going weak in the knees! I love this species! Rules are being re-written, yes. The lady sleeps, the gentleman in shorts or dungarees runs down the street to see if all the ingredients in the battleground are ready and he should be well armed and armoured. Some have a fetish the pan has to be like this, some toss up magic with elan, some love the toast to be arranged like this or better still, anyway. Will she like it with honey? Or sauce? Oh, but I don’t have sauce. They get jittery when it comes to preparing omelettes lest they are passed a value-judgement. What becomes of the kitchen after that is a nightmare, that’s for the maid to clean. I love that funda of a clean desk being the sign of a messy drawer kinda thing. It’s simply amusing, hilarious and ADORABLE.

It’s rare to find a guy who can cook for himself and also, for another and others. Run a survey and you will find, they are the most popular among all, no prizes for guessing especially among girls for picnics and those quiet but noisy and populated dos at homes. Some make it difficult for you by intimidating you to competition. Some teach you that even a novice in South Indian fare can make her first dosa with oomph! But whatever it is, they learn the art from their moms even though they protest learning cooking is the foil of surviving the agonies of bachelorhood.

But the Eves love it, we really love the cook in our men. Talk of uber-equality, haha!

Even if he is doubly old as Amitabh Bachchan in Cheeni Kum. Sexy is the word.