Satoma Asadgamaya

In Memory

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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

On the Santa Fe Trail

I had nothing to do this Christmas weekend. Nothing planned, that is. But, all of a sudden, I found myself on a Pontiac Vibe en route to Santa Fe.

The Pontiac Vibe is an insult to its illustrious siblings like the G6 and the Grand Prix. Indeed, it's an insult to automobile engineering. Just like this piece, which is an insult to Santa Fe. Nothing that I say or write will do justice to the city of Santa Fe.

Anyway. San Antonio to Santa Fe. With two hardcore gults (need I say more) and a pseudo-bong (my lucky day, I guess) for company. In the freaking Vibe. 710 miles. 400 miles of Texas wasteland. 300 miles of New Mexico desert. Non-stop gult rock.

Kotuthe six kotaali
Aaduthe rough aadali...

My god. I swear...


For a while, I wondered what I'd let myself into. But finally, at the end of the road, I saw the oasis - Santa Fe.

Let me just say this - it's not everyday that I make recommendations. Santa Fe is a truly amazing place. For those who value art, culture and beauty, it's an indelible mark on memory.

But first, to the geographically challenged, Santa Fe is the capital of the state of New Mexico - a state that America bought from a stupid Mexican President. Man, was he a ch** or what.

I'm not going to wax eloquent about facts and figures that may be more accurately obtained from a website or a tourist guide. I'll just talk about me and the city.

I've just fallen in love with the place. It's so beautiful. It's so f***ing beautiful. If American cities were girls, Santa Fe would be the Playmate of the Year.

You got to see the place to believe it. It's like stepping into some sort of a time corridor. All of a sudden, it feels as if the clock's been turned back a century or two.

It's not for nothing that it's known as the City Different. Yes, just like New York is called the Big Apple, Santa Fe is known as the City Different. Everything is so different. Everything is so artistic. So imaginative. So pretty.

The buildings. The offices. The homes. The markets. Everything is right out of this world. They call it adobe architecture. Adobe is a mixture of clay, sand, straw and stuff. Now, don't ask me what 'stuff' is. I don't know. But I do know it's beautiful. Everything has a distinctive reddish-brown or yellowish-brown colour. It's like some magnificent potter decided to 'just do it'.

The city hasn't been built with brick. It's been conjured out of clay.

It hasn't been designed by architects. It's been dreamed up by artists.

You don't see Santa Fe. You feel it.

You walk down to the heart of the city. You see the amazing pueblos (native Indian homes endemic to the region) You see the lovely churches. You see the quaint old homes with their ancient fences and rustic wooden doors. You see the narrow roads lined with galleries and museums and curio shops. You see the electric lamp-posts made of wood. You see the manicured parks with the leafless shrubs of winter. Damn.

Some people have the power to make this freaking world so beautiful. There's so much to see and to learn in this world. I don't know. Somehow, Santa Fe made me go sento.

Anyway. The place is a repository of Native Indian culture. Hispanic culture. And American culture (of the Wild Wild West kind). It's supposed to be one of the art and culinary capitals of America with loads of history behind it. In fact, it doesn't really feel like America at all. There are many places where you hear nothing but Spanish. I mean we Indians speak better Engish than the peeps of Santa Fe! And that's saying something.

Most places out there hang bunches of what are known as chili ristras. These are like the dried red chillies of India, only somewhat larger. Although it's now an ornamental practice, the native Indians believed that fastening ristras to their canoes warded off dangers from the water. It looks fantastic.

Because of the Mexican influence, they have lots of spices as well. I was surprised to find so many varieties of spices being sold in the local markets there. I was told they have a wonderful cuisine as well. Not much for vegetarians. I'm not going to forget the fajitas (one of the many variants of stuffed tortillas) at the Las Palmas restaurant in a hurry though. There are a couple of 'East Indian' (that's what they call us :-D) joints too. Don't ever go to India House. $21 for a buffet laced with laxative. Call it Cerrillos Road robbery.

Santa Fe has traditionally been a railroad hub as well. I saw trains in America for the first time there. Their trans-coastal trains are just like the ones in India, with the diesel engines and everything. No electric engines and stuff. They blended in perfectly with the city.

Apart from human intervention, nature has done its bit for the city as well. I'm sure there are many places more endowed by nature, but Santa Fe hasn't been treated too unkindly either. Surrounded by scrubland on two sides and by hills on the other two, it presents a picture worthy of a postcard. The hilltops are covered in snow and coniferous forests. It is a popular retreat for skiing aficianados across America. I tried a bit of skiing as well. It's an exhilarating sport and a dangerous one - one of the guys in my class ended his tryst with a sickening crunch. But I'm going to be doing more of that. And I'll be doing a lot of it in Santa Fe.

The drive from the city to the ski area is very scenic with stately larches and proud firs standing sentinel over the long and winding road. Lucky tourists can catch a glimpse of a mountain lion or a brown bear along the way. I saw nothing more than some deer. While climbing the hills, one may see half-hidden log cabins and dirt roads heading off into the wilderness. The motel receptionist told me that quite a few celebrities from Hollywood have cabins in the Santa Fe hills.

And hey, the city's got an eponymous pretty little canal of a river too. It's sweet.

It's also got ranches and pastures in the vicinity with lots and lots of cows. Their cows are so big and so furry. But I think the famished Indian cows, with their ribs sticking out, are much better off. At least nobody eats them.

I'd like to describe it properly but I'm unable to. It's not only Santa Fe but New Mexico as a whole that's a great place to be. Deserts, lakes, hills, mountains, forests and the great Rio Grande river - it's got it all. For adventure sport enthusiasts, it's a dream world. Skiing, white water rafting, hang gliding, ballooning. And on top of that, it's got so much culture deeply ingrained in its daily life.

Santa gave me a wonderful gift for Christmas by way of Santa Fe. What a place. Inspite of those bums, what a place. I mean, get a load of this. These freaks are in Santa Fe. It's so damned pretty and these fools are like, "What the f***?" They want to go to some godforsaken Hanuman temple in some useless place four hours away. When time's at high premium. How many temples have these dworks seen in India? Seriously.

What bums. The look on the faces of these hardcore gult bums when I spent a couple of hundred bucks on some beautiful pottery. That itself was worth a million dollars. LMAO.

Whatever. We left Santa Fe. We were driving through the New Mexico desert. The night sky always puts on its most seductive look over a desert. The deepest shade of black and zillions and zillions of stars. Not a cloud in sight. So beautiful. It was nine o'clock at night.

I saw a board by a field which said, "UFO Crash Site." I was in Roswell. Roswell, New Mexico. I could not believe it. The X Files. Fox Mulder. Roswell. I was in freaking Roswell. I asked them to stop the car. Nope. You expect hardcore gult bums who work for a certain global top 10 company to understand what Roswell means.

Sometimes I can't believe the way I've let myself down. Anyway, I said I was going to piss in the car, if they didn't stop. I got out for a minute, looked longingly at the starlit sky and inhaled the breath of life. That was the best part of the trip.

Next time, I'm going there alone. Hopefully, I won't have to come back.

Management Class : Unravelogues

mental baba 11:28 AM | pathar ka lakeer | 0 baba ka katora |

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Nightmare on Murugan Koil Street

Dark was the night. A no moon night. Even the stars seemed to have retreated to safer havens. There were no clouds – only blackness - a sinister pall of blackness which hovered menacingly over the doomed city. The wind howled in a mad fit of rage and terror. Far away, waves of vengeance crashed into the hulking gauntness of the cliffs. Farther away, Etna trembled uneasily. A young mother trembled as well, as she tried to put her crying infant to sleep, "So jaa bete, so jaa. Warna woh aa jayega." Such was the night. A no moon night. Darkest of all dark nights.

Down Murugan Koil Street, the electric poles swayed unsteadily in the wind's frenzied onslaught. The coconut trees shivered with fear, throwing eerie shadows that danced grotesquely on the crumbling walls of the Murugan Koil, which had shrunk into itself, as if with foreboding. There was not a soul to be seen on that street. The black Doberman, brandishing his canines at No. 13's gate, did not seem very likely to have a soul.

Such was the night on Murugan Koil Street when the clock struck twelve. The date turned Friday the thirteenth. The lights went out. The wind died. Far away, the waves died. Farther away, Etna whimpered. The child stopped wailing. All was still. The black pall now hung over the city like a shroud.

And then, the Doberman bayed powerfully through the night. Like a herald.

Thunder roared, sending bolts of lightning streaking across the petrified sky. It started to rain.

He awoke. He, who had been sleeping for so long, awoke. He, who should not have been awoken, awoke. The darkest of all dark creatures awoke. If anyone could have seen him, they would have seen the mad glint in his eyes. The mad glint in his bloodshot eyes. The mad glint in his cruel bloodshot eyes.

He was mad. He was mad with hunger. He had to feed.

He looked around in his lair, darkest of all dark lairs, for remains he might feast upon. There was nothing. Nothing. A tremendous shriek rent the night on Murugan Koil Street.

He arose. With madness in his bloody eyes. He arose. To hunt.

He cleaned his canines. He accoutered himself and sheathed his weapons. He was ready.

And then he stepped out into the night. The very night seemed to freeze. Time came to a grinding halt. Even Murugan Koil, supposed guardian, shook violently in its foundations under his evil stare. The vicious Doberman cowered as he, most vicious of all, walked past the gate.

He stopped and looked back. His red-rimmed eyes bore into the Doberman's. His tongue rolled lasciviously over his lips, considering the possibility. The Doberman shrank in terror. He crowed mirthlessly and walked into the night.

The damned city quivered, awaiting its doom, under his fateful strides. Bird, beast and man had gone into hiding. Little did they know that there was nowhere to hide from him, darkest of all dark creatures, on the darkest of all dark nights.

The wind and the rain kept a fearful distance from him as he prowled the dark streets of the damned city, in search of prey.

His eyes delved deep into the night. His ears listened far across the night. The city seemed desolate and deserted. But he was the hunter, darkest of all dark hunters.

And then, in an instant, he jumped across into a street. He had seen something. Nothing could escape his hawk eyes - he had it effortlessly in his claws. He sank his fangs into it. There was no juice in it. He crushed it, crushed the life out of it, and tossed it away.

The wind moaned. The rain faltered. The city lay still, curled up, awaiting its next sacrifice to his dark altar, darkest of all dark altars.

Ah, finally! His favourite prey! It was on the run. It was getting away. Hunter that he was, he ran swiftly and pounced on it.

It struggled a lot. But he had it in his claws. He would kill and he would feed. There was no escape from him, darkest of all dark creatures, on that night, darkest of all dark nights.

He drew his weapon, darkest of all dark weapons, to slaughter it - to slit it open from ear to ear.

Diner's Club Card.

"Look, pal, I know you're closing but I need this. Chilly bean, please. Extra cheese and extra chilly peppers."

Good pizza can light up any night - even the darkest of dark nights.

Management Class : Tall Tales

mental baba 9:32 AM | pathar ka lakeer | 0 baba ka katora |

Monday, December 05, 2005

What's cooking?!

Macbeth be damned. "To cook or not to cook" - that is the question.

That is the question I face everytime I return from office on weekdays. That is the question I face everytime I wake up on holidays. That is the question I face everytime I look at the input into my digestive system. That is the question I face everytime I look at the output from my digestive system. That is the question I face everyday of my life.

Hell, it's a tough one.

Now, I'd like to take a moment to go through the Top Ten 'answers' that I keep getting.

Answer #1 (54%) : Get married.

My comments : Let's toss these people a few other situations as well. You know, just for the kicks.

Oh, there's an ant!

"Don't worry, there's a sledgehammer in my backyard."

Oh, my boss scolded me!

"Don't worry, there's a Howitzer in my closet."

Oh, whatever will I eat?

"Don't worry, there's a girl in my family."

Well, my question was not "Oh! What will eat me?"

And, by the way, I didn't know that girls still cook these days.

Seriously, these are the sort of people who, if you were to approach saying that you've a headache, would've a machete ready to take your head off. And they'll even say ,"Don't worry." Ch**s.

Answer #2 (11%) : Just cook it.

My comments : I would but for the fact that my brother calls me Mohammad Lazybones. And not for nothing. I actually start crying while chopping onions. That's because I'm just too lazy. Back in Chennai, the maidservant would clean up after me and even chop the vegetables if I asked her to. Here, it's like I've got to everything myself. I'm allergic to all that stuff. I find it easier to eat bread or have packaged parathas with Heinz ketchup ( I love Heinz !). And there's always Budweiser or Hershey's milkshakes.

And when I take the trouble of gracing the kitchen, I'm not a bad cook at all. In fact, there was a time when I used to cook pretty regularly. Quite a few peeps have positively complimented a couple of my preparations. But, to be frank, I'd rather watch television.

Answer #3 (9%) : Get a cook.

My comments : Dude, last time I checked, this is America. It's easier to get my PL to give me a five than to find an Indian cook here. Even if I do find one, I'd have to find a new job as well.

Answer #4 (8%) : Eat out.

My comments : Right. Like French fries and boiled broccoli and lettuce, perhaps? Or maybe I could just have your credit card in order to hotfoot it to The Madras Pavilion everyday?

Answer #5 (6%) : Paying guest funda.

My comments : Of course. Like this is the Bay Area or New Jersey. Can I just pay you and your solutions to disappear? Permanently.

Answer #6 (4%) : Just drink.

My comments : Finally! Proof that there is intelligence left on this planet! The stomach, unfortunately, loses out in the intelligence sweepstakes to the liver.

Answer #7 (3%) : Be a parasite.

My comments : They have big bad leukocytes manning every home I know. It's like I attack their refrigerators once and then they mysteriously acquire immunity. I don't understand why. I don't understand how.

Answer #8 (2%) : The supermarket.

My comments : Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to have the pleasure of introducing to you the super ch**. But, to be fair to the super ch**, this is what I do most of the time.

Answer #9 (2%) : Die.

My comments : I hate to disappoint you but I'm kind of enjoying my life, these woes notwithstanding.

Answer #10 (1%) : 42

My comments : F*** you. 42 times.

It's tough being a vegetarian in the US of A. And a 'pure' vegetarian on top of that (I cannot do without my pastries though). And a fussy 'pure' vegetarian on top of everything else. I guess it's tough being a fussy 'pure' vegetarian anywhere in the world except in India.

You know, it's only veggies who need to find an answer to this question. It's party time for non-veggies. They have all the answers they'd ever need. Steaks and stews and stuff are not too expensive in American cafes and delis. I've been told they taste pretty okay as well. They have seafood and stuff I don't even know about. There's lots of packaged stuff for them in the supermarkets as well. The only reason why Indian non-veggies squeal and scream so much is because all they're interested in is in scrounging for a nickel here and a dime there. They'd make Scrooge McDuck look good. Bums.

All that veggies get is a thenga. There's hardly any packaged stuff available off the shelves unless you want to live on Kellogg's cereal. There's some stuff in Indian stores but it's bland and overpriced and comes without expiry dates.If you can walk into any restaurant and find a menu that even 10% vegetarian, I'll eat my shirt (with Heinz ketchup). You can order any dish saying "No meat. No eggs." The result is always the same - bad salad. Indian restaurants can burn a hole in the pocket. If you go regularly, it's like you go with your trousers on and come back in your singed underpants. And, what more, the ones in the San of Ant suck. I'd tried out a few places at Dallas - it was like being home. It was worth it.

The other day, I was at this Thai place. I know that the word 'vegetarian' is synonymous with 'eggetarian' here. I specifically asked for my dish to be made without meat and without eggs. And they still put in eggs. When I shook my head, they just took it out of sight, removed the eggs and brought it back. I could smell it all over the place. God, I hate that smell. Sometimes, I get frustrated at how insensitive people are.

I like eating out and trying new stuff but, here in America, it's some sort of a mixed bag. Now, don't get me wrong. This is a great place and it's a lot of fun (for peeps who're not averse to promoting local economies). But their food is hardly better than horse shit (not that I've tasted it). I just go to the desserts directly - they outscore Indian cuisine, with the sole exception of authentic Bong rasgullas, by miles in that department. They have amazing dairy products as well.

Anyway, I've sort of realised that it's better to stick to Chinese or Mexican restaurants out here, when I'm out. In fact, Mexican stuff is the closest you'll get to Indian cuisine. It's pretty good - I especially like their tacos and chalupas and pizzas. Chennaites, I'd suggest you try out Cafe Picasso/Hot Breads @ Anna Nagar which serves good Mexican cuisine and even better (yummy!) pastries.

There are a few things that veggies really need to keep their eyes peeled out for here .

The first and biggest mistake that most make is with the cheeseburger. Well, let me put it this way - you order a cheeseburger thinking you'll get something from a cow's udders but what you actually get is the cow's udders. Never ever order a cheeseburger (Mc D's, Whataburger, wherever) without saying "No eggs. No meat." Well, you'll be done in anyway because you'll end up paying the same amount as non-veggies just for a bun and a few slices of tomato and lettuce. It's Murphy's law. If you're veggie, you're screwed.

Second thing. Pepperoni pizza. Let me narrate an incident.

It's my first week. I go to my one of the many cafeterias in my office for lunch. I look around. There are over a hundred items available but there's nothing I can have except salad and pizza. I say to myself, "Okay. Let me try out the pizza here." (The pizza out here is not a patch on the ones we get back in India with the paneer and the masala and all that.) Anyway, there are three options - Cheese, Pepperoni and Supreme. Now, I don't know what pepperoni means (hey, I admit I'm as dumb as George W Bush). I've never had anything to do with it back home. I make a logical assumption that it's got something to do with pepper. Logical assumptions don't work in America. This is a country that elected George W Bush twice. No sooner than I get my order that I know I'm screwed. And hey,the best part of it, no refunds.

Third thing. French fries (and, for that matter, anything that's fried) may not be as veggie as you think they are. Although the major brands don't do that, some of the local ones fry stuff in oil extracted from animal fat.That's pretty hard to stomach.So watch out.

Fourth thing. Most products out here do NOT carry the green/red circle-in-a-square markers to make things simpler for veggies. You just need to know the product before hand or go through the list of ingredients (which is not a lot of fun). Maybe they've a website or something - I need to check that out.

Fifth thing. They always use the same gloves for handling stuff. You don't even want to know what happens back in the kitchen. You'd be surprised to know how developed some of these 'developed' countries really are when it comes to some things.

I'm sure there are many more but I'm still in the process of being caught unawares by them.

To put things in perspective, really, I once went to Taco Bell (which is one the major Mexican chains out here) and asked for a vegetarian Taco Supreme. The girl at the counter looks at me and says, pretty rudely, "Huh? What's that?"

Politely. "A vegetarian Taco Supreme."

Indifferently. "I'm confused."

Well...I was confused too. These people are supposed to know more of colloquial English than I do.

Politely (with a touch of frost, perhaps). "The dictionary defines the adjective vegetarian as having no meat and no eggs."

Sarcastically, "Oh. So you don't want any meat or eggs? That's funny."

Icily. "Really? You're funny too. And beautiful."

Acerbically. "And you have beautiful hair. Must be all that vegetarian stuff you eat."


Sardonically. "Honey, just make that taco as hot as you are."


My friend tells me, "Man. She's going to spit in your taco."

Some of these white bums and bumettes...seriously.

So, I guess you can understand why I'm faced with this question, time and again.

I guess it's a process of trial and error that everybody has to go through. You'll always find people like me handing out fundas but then most stomachs and livers are fiercely independent and need customised inputs. All said and done, there's no way a fussy 'pure' vegetarian can avoid the trials and tribulations of the kitchen in America.

I remember, in my first week here, I overreached myself in trying something and there was a bit of smoke. Just a little bit. And the fire alarm went off. It's really loud and crazy. I had no idea how to turn it off - had to get my neighbour. Man, you learn a lot of things here the wrong way.

Anyway, as much as I used to rubbish Chennai (and still do), I must say I never had any trouble in finding decent food. It was cool. The answer was pretty straightforward back then.

Now, hunger's once again on the prowl.
And I can hear my poor stomach growl.

Ah! To cook or not to cook?
For succour, where do I look?

I can make do with milk and bread
But I'd like something else instead.

Don't tell me I need to make something
I'd rather lay down in my bathtub and sing.

Hey, I just don't want to go out again.
It's cool only if I do it now and then.

Damn! My flatmate's cooking tonight.
The kitchen will be an ungodly sight!

I think I'm going to just tell this guy
That he really should not even try.

His preparations have always sucked.
Aaarghh! My dinner is once again f***ed.

"To cook or not to cook?"

The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind. I sniff at the draft from the kitchen, shake my head despairingly and heave myself off the bed. I'm feeling a bit adventurous today. Maybe I'll try Mirch Ka Salan and flambe it in Bud Light !

Management Class : Meandering thoughts of a fickle mind

mental baba 1:39 AM | pathar ka lakeer | 0 baba ka katora |