South Indian Cuisine on the net….

As you probably realised by now….this post is about South Indian Cuisine on the net….or the lack of it…Yesterday, I suddenly wanted to eat kaara kuzhambu. Not the Vathal Kuzhambu my mother makes and labels kaara kuzhambu…I wanted to eat the real thing. The Authentic kaara kuzhambu with garlic. I asked my mother and she had no clue how to make it. She told me to ask a friend. Friends? Here? All my friends here are from the north of the Vindhyas. So, they had no idea just what kaara kuzhambu was, much less how to make it. So, here I was, doing what is obvious to any tech-savvy individual, googling it!

Here is where exactly my grudge against the Internet started. While you get about half a million recipes when you google Gobi Manchurian, or Paneer Butter Masala, all I got after half an hour of searching for kaara kuzhambu was one measly recipe for onion vathal kuzhambu. Anyone who has tasted the two will know what the difference is. Finally, I gave up and typed “South Indian Recipes” instead. Even there, all I got was a handful of sites with one tiny section dedicated to South Indian Recipes. And pray, what did I find there? The standard sambhar and rasam recipes that any Chennai born girl who knows to cook who is worth her salt will know how to make! Aaaaarghh!! This was frustrating. It took me a solid 45 minutes (no exaggerations there) to find a decent recipe for kaara kuzhambu. Even that was so complicated that I gave up my efforts and just made it the way I thought it was made. I am happy to say it turned out quite well.

This incident set me thinking. Does India always have to mean North India? Not that I have anything against the north, but it is rather irritating to see the same stereotypes reinforced in every aspect of life. It makes me think that the importance of a sub-culture is inversely proportional to the square of the distance from the capital. I can’t help thinking this way because Tamil Nadu and Tamil culture are so conspicuously absent from the collective conscience of people outside India that one cannot help but wonder about its importance in the overall scheme of things. This indifference is not restricted to Tamil Nadu or its culture. It is the same case with Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Kerala, in the meantime, reinforces another stereotype. That of God’s Own Country. Well….granted that Kerala is a beautiful place. I do agree. But that is not the only beautiful place south of the Vindhyas. Anyone who has travelled along the western coast of Karnataka or has toured the southern districts of Madurai, Thirunelveli, and Thanjavur will agree with me. The greenery is unrivalled. The paddy fields are a striking green, or golden, depending on when you visit these places. So, why is that India is always associated with the colourful clothes of Rajasthan and the sandy Thar desert? Where are we going wrong? Is it really possible to capture the essence of India in a single picture? Or even in a set of pictures? Is it not something that must be lived, not seen?

Its cuisine is as good as anything one can find in the North. One visit to a restaurant in Paris will tell you. Variety is a bad word for these people. There is South Indian cuisine in some restaurants in the Indian quarter. Even that is so bad that my 11 year old cousin will cook better. When it comes to vegetarian cuisine, you only have a choice between Paneer Butter Masala, Gobi Manchurian, Dal Makhni and Brinjal Bharta. Well…that explains it all. In one word, there is no choice. For goodness’ sake, if I wanted Dal, I would make it. Why would I spend 20 euros on it in a restaurant?

That is it for the moment. I have to force myself to stop. Otherwise I never will. I think I am completely justified in my frustration. What say?

PS: I have tried correcting spelling mistakes in previous posts….Nita…your job to let me know if there are any other.

A reflection on many issues…

As the title suggests, this post is a reflection on many issues, some pertinent and some frivolous. Yesterday, I was talking to my friend, who is Belgian. She seemed genuinely surprised that we, in India, could not take a vacation when we wanted to with the one we love. Not that my office would not sanction leave, but that going on a vacation with my boyfriend will not exactly be welcomed with open arms by anyone. She asked me what I would do if I wanted to spend some time alone with Anand? Well…good question, that. A question I have been struggling to answer for nearly 2 years. Let’s face it. It is not possible. I just have to content myself with sitting in a random Café Coffee Day and holding hands. About the holding hands bit…you can do it if you do not mind attracting some (unwanted) attention from some middle aged stuck-up women (or men) who choose to visit it then. Just why do I have to get married to Anand if I just want to spend some quality time with him, away from the blaring noise of Cafés that people like to label as music? Why do I have to be married to hold hands with him when I am feeling low or just want to express my love for him? I suppose I just have to accept the fact that in India, it is like that. The rest of the world dictates your life-style and choices. If we want the safety net of family, then this too is part of the package. The sooner I accept it, the better it is for me.

That brings me to the second thought of the day. Family…and people. I have never understood who all these people are and just why they are so interested in my personal life. During the difficult times involving arguments with mum over my relationship with Anand, she kept repeating only one thing. That she can not face people and answer them when they ask her why her daughter got married to someone who does not belong to the same caste. Just why does it matter to all these people that I am marrying out of caste. How does it affect them? I do not go around telling them to match-make for me. So, why is it that our family, extended family, friends, neighbours and even the extended neighbourhood decide to take the onus of finding me a suitable match on themselves. Are people really that jobless? Tell me if you know. All this just frustrates the life out of me. All I want is to live my life without these people breathing down my neck and scrutinising every move I make in life.

a dormant blog revived…

It’s been exactly 2 months since I last blogged. Between work, TV and fighting with my dad for access to the computer, I had no time to blog or even post a single line as a follow-up to my last post. A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since I last blogged. One thing i wanted to blog about was the hanging of Saddam Hussein. Not that I am a great supporter of Saddam, but I finnd it extremely disconcerting that the media played it out over and over again on prime time. Does ethical jurnalism still exist? Or am I being an idealist in expecting journalists to be ethical and not telecast something that will bring it mass attention and mega revenues? Maybe I am just a naive citizens who still believes that some things are better left unsaid…

Coming back to France has been an eye-opening experience. For one, you realise how important sunshine is to your life and well-being. My plane landed at 9 am and it was a depressing grey all around. An overcast sky, constant drizzling and the cold weather were all as unwelcoming as ever. Secondly, you realise that there is no-one to run around doing your vessels and your clothes, no one to fill your plastic bag at the supermarket, noone to help you when you are lost and above all, no autos to transport you to your destination that is a few minutes away. I would have given up anything for a lift home given that I had 32 kgs of baggage + a laptop on me…Air France had broken the handle and I had to carry it and not drag it along. Oof!! What a nightmare…

Anyway, I think this should do for a single day….be back soon, with ideas more creative than today’s…