Masti da Shaniwaar

“Kuch to log kahenge…” I was humming Kishore, thanks to the all-morning Hindi nostalgia, as I walked back home. I was looking at the moon. I love the sight of her shyness as she tries every now and then to hide behind the veils of nimbus. I looked at my watch.. 15 minutes for Sunday to take over… It had been a wonderful meal, thanks to Ajith. More than that it had been a superb Saturday. A very fulfilling one!

‘Sachin Ka Dhaba’ is one place in Chennai that can declare with authority that they serve ‘bona fide’ dhaba food. Might be that name they had kept has a lot to do with their class I guess:) . With every eat-out in town claiming “We serve Punjabi too” (“Naanum naan serve panren!!”) authenticity becomes the key differentiator. No wonder Shyam chose this place. After all, he is my cousin which means that I need not elaborate too much on the tastes he has. I had been to this place 3-4 times already. And the waiter, I guess, will automatically pen down “Ek Pudina Paratha aur ek Bindi Masala” the next time he sees me around. There have not been any changes to my preferences with regards to ‘Sachin ka…’. Arthi had come with Shyam in his RX135… the same RX135 that had kept Shyam ‘Lucky’ sometime back :) Ajith and Kishore joined us shortly even as I was gulping down my ‘Bhangra Pepsi’ (I was having this for the first time). I strongly oppose the fact that we Indians have got westernised in more ways than one. Rather we have ‘Indianised’ every western concept that had come our way… be it reducing the thickness of pizza crusts so that it resembles more like our dosai. (Italians must be startled to know that there are now pizzas whose thickness can give a real competition to our ‘paper roasts’!!)… be it dancing wild in Bangalore discs but to pure Daler tunes only.. be it flaunting our English in crowded MTC buses, not with undecipherable accent but with our vocabulary. The accent has always been our (read ‘awar’) very own… and be it fizzing off with cola but with all flavours of our land injected into it - ‘the Bhangra Pepsi’. And Ajith will be contributing his 0.005% in Indianising Thames too very shortly. ABN Amro’s acceptance testing requires Ajith’s presence in the UK and that is why he was treating us. All of us were happy for him.. all of us were happy that we had a wonderful meal.. he was happy for that Indigo Nation shirt (‘Split AC’ was the name of this particular series signifying the extent of coolness the shirt will provide for our body!!) we had gifted him. The tag on the shirt read “Best before 30”.

Earlier in the day… Morning 9:50... Isaiah woke me up. My friend Sankaranarayana turned Enoch increases Airtel traffic every now and then with messages from Jesus. “Fear thou not; I am with thee; be not dismayed” – Isaiah 41:10. Good thought to get out of my blanket. ‘Israel bombings; Natwar Singh and Volcker report crap; an article on Dhoni’ - there was nothing new in ‘The Hindu’. I switched on my iPod... connected it to my Sony music system… proceeded to brush. For the next two hours, Rafi, Lata, Kishore and Mukesh competed to push me into nostalgia… ‘Inhi Logon ne..’, ‘Chingaari..’, ‘Musaafir hoon yaaron..’, ‘Tere mere Milan…’, ‘Mera jeevan kora kaagaz…’ – music was flowing faster than the fastest of rapids. Before I could finish reveling in one piece, the next piece pushed me into awe. Two hours passed by… I, the gulabjamun was immersed totally in the ‘jeera’ of those classics. Timeless they are. Thank you ‘Madhava mama’!! (I was in my II year of B.E. Madhava mama, our neighbour in Tambaram gave me ‘50 years of Independence’, a compilation of evergreen classics organised into a set of 4 cds. This was when I got interested with the likes of Kishore da and Pancham da.)

When I stay at home everything is special. And the meal is no different. ‘Bisibela bath’, ‘Vadaam’, ‘Thayir pachidi’, ‘Bahaala bath’ – that list reads delicious right? After my meal it was time to train my niece Sandhya. Her ‘Vishnu Sahasra Naamam’ recitation competition is fast approaching. So too is her ‘Bhagavad Gita – VI chapter’ competition. “Atha shashtodhyaayaha… Shree Bhagavaan uvaacha: Anaashritha karmapalam…” I took a rewind to my school days even as my lips kept reciting and Sandhya repeating after me. Egmore Sanskrit school, Chinmaya vidyalaya, Ahobila mutt… I would be attending one competition or the other every Sunday. My amma’s eagerness and enthusiasm would increase every time I come home with some prize. Monday morning, the school principal would give the prize during the prayer assembly. Sri Sankara Vidyalaya had indeed given me a lot. May be I will dedicate a piece for my school in this space sometime.

Sandhya’s pronunciation is too good for her age. Her sharp and loud voice can give her that extra bit of mileage required in recitation competitions. And the speed at which this generation picks up things is amazing. Had I belonged to this generation I would’ve sat in a corner, demoralised for life!! These kids are into everything – music, sports, creativity and what not. This place has become competitive… very much competitive! Sai Charan, my nephew, is in LKG now. And he is also participating in these competitions. This essay would become very very lengthy if I start narrating about this 'awesome twosome'. So.. Sandhya and Charan! A separate essay reserved for you both!

Evening… Some good ‘Ulundhu vadai’ for tiffin. Some music again… this time from my guitar.. I was on the top floor of our apartment playing the ‘aarohanam - avarohanam’ of 'Desh' for Nanganallur to hear. I tried reproducing that guitar bit in KK’s 'Pal' for sometime. Then my mandolin class. Sir declared as I entered “I’ve scheduled a programme on the 24th of September… You are playing ‘Chinna china kannanukku…’.. solo mandolin piece…” Some quick tips ensued on tremolo. That will be quite a challenge I guess!!

As I keep writing, Sunday has already greeted me. So much more to do today also... I have this peculiar habit of smelling my right palm every now and then when I had had a real sumptuous meal. And my hand still smells pure ghee… the dhaba ghee… And my day still smells pure joy… Masti da Shaniwaar, can I say?