Thursday, December 31, 2015

Mah Homies and Mah Chuds

While I’ve written about all things from potty-susu to relationships on this online space, more often than not about matters inconsequential than personal, I think it’s about time I also write about things and people who matter. The family has often received a bit of a mention every now and then, but mah homies haven’t received as big a mention as a few of them rightly deserve. Here are a few special ones, who matter more to me than a plate of Dal Makhni with sirke wale pyaaz. And, who have been hoping I would do a post on them on their respective birthdays, but I never have. Bleddy, all of them want some popularity while none of them have the slightest idea about how over-estimated this site’s stats are.

As a disclaimer, this list is not exhaustive, so please do not kill me if I haven’t mentioned you here. If I’ve ever been romantically involved with you, you’ll probably be featured in another such anthology after all the romantic interests have married, have also attended my wedding, and have accepted themselves as Bua’s to my lovely children, whenever that may be.

Here goes, in no particular order.


Rahat Chhabra

If Bollywood clich├ęs were true, every love story begins with the protagonists hating each other. Ours began with a wild proclamation, “Aaj se Sarthak Ahuja hi mera sabse bada dushman hai”. Except, picture that being said by a six-foot tall Pillsbury Doughboy, who later fell in love with S-Man because the latter is so cool. A friendship that developed over geographical proximity and mutual love/hatred for women-kind in Rajendra Nagar has transcended all limits and led to fist fights over a game of Monopoly on New Year’s Eve, and has stood the test of evil girlfriends trying hard to break this bond of louu.

To add context, Rahat and I went to the same school, where we hardly spoke despite being in the same class for years. Our friendship developed over finding Math tuition teachers as well as women we could play our faux charm on in Rajendra Nagar. A Math teacher came, but the women didn’t (that’s what she said). However, the friendship developed deeper and stronger (that’s what she said) during our outings to various inter-school Ad-Mad competitions, where Mr. Chhabra would agree to play the role of a 250-pound Silk Smitha under Ahuja’s able direction.

He’s my bro from ano’ mo’, and the biggest threat to the women in my life. This is not just because everyone else in my life competes with the kind of attention this big boy gets, but also because all the heartbreaks I’ve ever had have been followed by a dream this gentleman has had about my break up. Why he can’t dream of his own shenanigans with the ladies, but only of my break ups whenever things in my life seem to be going well, is beyond me.

His professional competence lies in impressing uncles and aunties over the age of fifty and lending them an ear while I stand aghast by his side wondering how fun-filled our daily evening walks turn out to be. He’s the Sautan to mah Saheli’s and the guy I plan on buying a weekend house with to escape the moroseness of our married lives. Hoping that someday our children will be old and likeable enough to have this dosti turn into rishtedaari, and I can narrate to them the story of the time Mr. Chhabra looked at a Jaguar XF and exclaimed, “Yaar, Puma ki cars bhi aane lag gayi hain!


Anirudh Bajaj

Bajaj and I bonded over making filthy podcasts in the 9th grade. Except, he would be the techie and take care of all the recording and mixing while I used to be the voice for all the filth. Such was his smartness that if we were to ever get in trouble with school for all that was said in those podcasts, this guy would walk scot-free and I would not have lived long enough to document this.

The man is as smart as he is socially awkward. Having shunned away the best of the fairer sex from Springdales and Carmel Convent at the school bus-stop, this guy went on to join one of the few premier engineering colleges of the country. And we all know how much Engineers like to shun women. Mr. Bajaj has since then dated women who have uncanny resemblances to me, except for the receding hairline and bushy eyebrows - which goes on to show how much the man loves me. The ladies in his life and yours truly, a set not necessarily mutually exclusive, has contributed immensely towards making Mr. Bajaj a more socially pleasing person to be around. It is evidenced from the fact that he now greets both Rahat’s as well as my parents whenever he meets them, and does not just barge into our rooms during his once in a blue moon visits to our respective houses.

Also, he owes his love life to me because he's gotten action in life only after the S-Man has sent love messages from his phone to a few lovelies. He will tell you that I'm adding masala to everything I say here, but who is he trying to fool; I have a reputation for being honest.

Today, Mr. Bajaj is a smart as frig man, showering in the money-money and constantly striving towards changing the world for the better. He's the next Elon Musk, if you ask me. He has made all those who know him proud on several occasions, and we’re sure the trend will only get better.


Sargam Sardana

Y'know, how there are women you're both sad and happy about being bhai-zoned by? Except, Sargam Sardana has didi-zoned me, where she not only strips me off my macho persona with her case-taking sprees but also keeps giving me a reality check about keeping my awesome in place.

We bonded over consoling each other over failed relationships that had begun at the same time. And then this wonderful lady accepted me into the college dance society despite my two left feet, making me wonder how a friend could do so much just so that I was surrounded by some of the prettiest women in college, all of whom were dancers. Reality struck when I figured I was invited only to do a drag act at every college fest and dance to Choli ke Peechhe Kya Hai, dressed in sequined harem pants and a dupatta with so much glitter, it hasn't completely gotten off my bed even after 5 years.

Sardana is a Sardarji sans joodi. Her PJ's are as lame as high is her spiritual-consciousness. She has been the bouncer to the shady dance club that has been my love life, where no lady walks in without her approval.

Possibly the only woman I’m as protective about as my own sister, I hope she reads this and realizes how long it's been since she last met me. For all marriage proposals for Sardana, kindly direct your Bio-Data directly to me, and we’ll see how that goes.


Navkaran Chadha

While I grew up on the idea that Sardar ji’s had a tough time convincing ladies to marry them, my time in college put me around such good looking macho Sardar’s that I could not help but wish that I were one myself. The biggest reason was how a turban is a more fashionable alternative to a hair transplant. But, a close second was the company of Mr. Navkaran Chadha, who is such a stud-muffin that I’ve been crushing over him since the first day I met him.

Navkaran is a junior from college, but much senior when it comes to entrepreneurial experience and being Punjabi – to the extent that he is fashionably late to his own parties, which he throws around multiple times a year in Rajouri Garden. He is the guy I’m really proud to be associated with as a friend, Chartered Accountant, financial consultant and general pair of ears for his innumerable start-up ideas.

Here is one guy who is passionate about everything he does, from leading clubs in college to discussing MBA college essays. However, his biggest passion is not keeping a secret. The world champion for being the Grandest Janaani ever, Mr. Chadha has a stomach that immediately digests Chaar Botal Vodka and Teen Plate Chicken Tikka, but cannot even wait for gossip to slide down his food-pipe before it’s all on the dance floor.

This gentleman is the real deal if you’re a young beauty pageant winner looking to get married. It’s a different thing that he wants some relationshipy experiences before he ties the knot at a Sunday wedding, where he will again be fashionably late. But seriously, line mein lago. It’s having friends like these which made me believe that my Ahuja Aunty ke Rishtey hi Rishtey idea would work wonders.


Nanditha Jagadish

There are four characters in every Tamil movie: the hero, the heroine, the comedian and the villain. Nanditha Jagadish is the perfect mix of all four, but in a Punjabi setting. She smiles with her big eyes like the gajra-wearing lady, jumps around clumsily like a Dravidian clown and then beats the shit out of all Tam-Brahm stereotypes like she's Shivaji The Boss.

Nandu and I became friends during a train journey to Ahmedabad, when we were a team against an elderly couple in a game of Antakshari. The following week at the IIM's college fest in 2011 witnessed Nandu-Boy sitting through hours of foot-stink and then finally going all: Oh God, your feet stink so much, it hurts! That was the point when it all moved from friendship to BFFFFship. So much so that just two days later, I found myself waking up in the girls' hostel with Nandice greeting me with a good morning. I was later told that I had such high fever that I had passed out and even missed out on some cat-fight that happened in that hall full of fifteen women that night. So much for spending a night at the IIM Ahmedabad Girls' Hostel.

Most people who know us readily agree that we're Jumping Jacks of the same category and I can pass off as Nandi with a wig of curly hair, nicely done upper-lip, snipped off eyebrows, a dusky shade and lots of plastic surgery.

Nandice-Jay and I are perpetually giving each other hope that love overlooks vanishing hairlines and expanding waistlines, and that things will eventually fall into place. She has been a constant since final year of undergrad and I would hope she remains so for years to come. She will travel the world, live independently, love like there's no other and then whine about life mein no excitement. How could there be, when all the excitement lies in herself!


Vikram Khanna

On the very same trip to Ahmedabad as spoken about above, Khanna and I happened to confess our feelings for the same woman to each other. And then were willing to give up on our respective love for the benefit of the other. Even more eagerly so when just hours from this 4 am confession, both of us realised how much of a bimbo-in-a-limbo the lady was. And thus started our praa'ness. Talk about Bros before Hoes.

They say lawyers are prone to behavioral side-effects of their profession, but no one talks about how crazy consultants can get. Any question asked to this McK-IIM-BCG consultant is broken down into causes and effects and pros and cons before he'll give you a convoluted answer that sounds easy, but isn't because the answer always leads to you-have-the-free-will-to-choose-what-you-want-and-define-your-life-experiences.

The man is so sorted in life that he gives the best relationship advice without having been in one. The one he was once in doesn't count. This gentleman is so sorted in life that he's the one who carries shagun ke lifaafe for everyone going for a wedding. With a glitter pen to put your autograph on the lifaafa with!

He anonymously comments on my blog posts, constantly urging me to write about deeper issues than the ones addressed here. Hoping he will find this post personal enough for him to see I'm trying to break away from my mould, when I clearly am not.


Vinit Aggarwal

Here’s an Aggarwal who rightly spells his surname with a double-G and not in a fancy ass way as “Agarwal” or “Agrawal”. This not just shows his affinity towards mithai, as is evident from his paunch, but also that he is a man of no bullshit.

Vinit and I have been friends since 2012, and almost everyone who has seen us together has exclaimed that we look like brothers, and over forty years of age. He takes this comment to be a compliment, disregarding the addendum to the part about being my doppelganger. We met at a random seminar, where we bonded over not having anyone else to speak with. It led to a chance meeting a couple of months later, and we decided to work on a little project called Career in Commerce.

Several unexecuted business ideas older, we’re now recreation partners. He’s the person I take rounds of Lodhi Garden with every Sunday morning while simultaneously narrating stories of “Ex”-Mas Past in a made up girl voice – often earning stares from the other morning walkers. Our discussion topics include: how to differentiate between desi ghee and butter; the kind of bahu he would want for his parents; why the VC funded, loss making start-up fad will someday burst; and desi-nuskhe to arrest hair fall.

A Financial Research Analyst and a connoisseur of all things laden with desi ghee, he’s the perfect catch in the high-yielding baniya marriage market, and I would hope he will love his wife as much as he loves his Honda City.

*Slowly hating the fact that all my friends fit the bill of the perfect marriage bakra’s, and it’s sad how everyone is marriageable age already*


Ankur Ahuja

I still remember the day I signed up for a post CA course on International Taxation. Little did I know that I would walk into a room full of a hundred and twenty Chartered Accountants with an average age of fifty. As the youngest in the group, my eyes scanned the refreshment area for a person of the same generation, and I noticed an impeccably dressed man in a grey-beige suit munching on a leafy-salad while the remaining CA’s gobbled down plate bhar samose with imli ki chutney. One of those ignorable samosa lovers was this fella’ Ankur Ahuja.

What started as an association with a selfish intention of Ankur wanting to be friends with me only so that he could have access to my study notes, went on to Karma slapping this boy on the face because neither did I ever get down to making any notes, but I also broke my personal best score at Candy Crush Saga while he tried to concentrate in class by my side. Talk about a deceptive string of multiple educational qualifications. Muhuhahaha. *cough* Cocky! *cough*

The friendship grew deeper over enjoying the weekly splendid buffet lunch at the Country Inn and trying to find female company that we could set this boy up with. Out of all those who wanted to marry him, Sarthak Ahuja topped the list. And then there were none.

As some beautiful women have come and gone in this naughty boy’s life, none have gotten the kind of attention I do from this macho man. He’s my darling with six pack abs and possibly the closest CA friend I hold. We’ve lunched together at fancy places and then hogged on Lajpat Nagar Chinese on his rickety, half-broken bed. He’s the go to guy if you want muft-philosophy in life, and a friend you’d never want to lose.



 ...to be continued...

Friday, December 4, 2015

Kaanji Behenji (Guest Post)

It’s good to establish things in the beginning and I would do just that. I’m a research scholar, a defunct filmmaker and a closeted blogger/writer. I don’t shy away from writing, which is why I allowed myself to get bullied into accepting the honour of this space from Sarthak aka Jalebi (ignoring the fact that his life is Jalebi, not him) himself. Mr Jalebi had a request with reference to my post. At 2:41 am, which is way past the acceptable bedtime for Jalebi Boi (please use your sing-song manner to set this name to rhyme with this devastatingly beautiful song titled Jalebi Bai), he sent an email asking (read stating), could I write a guest post on Kaanji?

Now, first things first. If you’re from the down South, or any other part of the world/country besides North India, and do not have any affiliation with any Punjabi friend who has their roots in Pakistan/Punjab and the likes, I don’t blame you. Even if you do, and yet have not heard or have no clue about who or what Kaanji is, I can’t hold this against you. A simple Google search would yield that Kanji (which is, how it should be written) is one out of three Japanese scripts. I am aware of this because, at some point in my life, I attempted to learn Japanese, which I dropped out from when I knew I had CBSE Math board to pass. You can hear all about it if you ever get down to locating, and consequently stalking my blog. Besides, say what you may, I have to shake the ground of this blog and ask him, why isn’t your life murukku or butter chakli? Why is it Jalebi and not Imarti? An Imarti is just as sweet and juicy as a Jalebi, only less crispy. I need answers.

I digress, but coming back, Kaanji is not just a Japanese script or the misheard lyrics in “Kaanchi Re Kaanchi Re, Preet Meri Kaanji”, but it’s a fascinating Indian drink. I use the word fascinating because Jalebi Man’s done a bit of introspective searching on his Facebook friend list and found his friends, acquaintances etc being aware of this, vaguely if not completely. The top answer yielded in his search included, ‘Punjabi Sangria,’.  Given how I’m a research scholar (which is a fancy term for stalking the living daylight out of internet, if I get down to doing it), I used my superpowers to locate the connotations surrounding Kaanji (which reads) as, ‘a yummy spring Holi drink’, ‘desi probiotic drink’, ‘pungent drink with pickle’. All these definitions place Kaanji in the same league as exotic and delightfully interesting food names and types like Foie Gras, Caviar, Cucumber and Wasabi Sushi amongst others. So, how does something so unique finds itself neglected in the food habits of the new and shiny, Web 2.0 consumer? Why is it that the North Indian adults have chosen to forget this drink and moved to accepting chai as our national drink?

Let’s start with the basics. Kaanji is a drink to bid rib-crackling winters goodbye. It’s supposedly garam in nature, which means if you were to consume it in the Summer months, you’ll be dealing with a bad case of loose motions. Not only that, there’s a very specific weather which supports the fermentation of the laal gaajar, or black carrots used in the process to make this drink. Kaanji, then, is a digestive drink which is to be consumed in small quantity, not over one glass a day, only after cooling it in the refrigerator. It’s also to be consumed in the span of 6-8 days of it being ‘ready’. Keep it longer and you might find getting sick after consuming it, and keep it under 6 days and consume, you’ll possibly pass out with the pungent flavour which will hit you stronger than Skrillex dropping the bass. Kaanji is a dangerous drink, far trickier than Whiskey on the rocks or Chaar Botal Vodka. Because let’s face it,

a)    A double peg of Single Malt minus any soda/water will be ‘bitter’, but won’t be pungent to your nose. Kaanji would hit you like Britney singing One More Time! only ten times stronger.
b)   Vodka will lead you into a terrible hangover. Okay, not one shot, but chaar botal would definitely give you Blue Eyes and you’d hypnotize yourself into passing out. Kaanji won’t give you a hangover or a reason to get in touch with your ex. However, one glass of over fermented drink can give you one-week long break from office/college/school/life. I may or may not have had first-hand experience. I cannot confirm or deny this.

So, why is it that inspite of such grave flaws, both him and I are still talking about the damn drink?

First things first, Kaanji is an acquired taste. Hipster kya jaane Kaanji ka swaad, is a stunning replacement here, to the age old, ‘bandar’ trying ‘adrak’ and showing his displeasure at it. Kaanji is what every Punjabi kid, who’s grown up in the company of grandparents, has tried, and attempted to understand with a serious look on their face what it is. As a child, I remember relatives coming over and making a big fuss about my Dadi’s version. I have vivid memories of drinking a small glass of Kaanji every winter in these tiny Air India glasses that a family friend had gotten us, as a souvenir from having spent a large chunk of his career in association with the Airlines. Of course years later, the family friend, those AI glasses and my Dadi- they’re all gone. All I have in my mind are waves of memories, that I wade through each year during Winter chill.

Last year, I’d pulled an end of the semester submission all-nighter for a final paper. A dear Punjabi friend was spotted online at an ungodly hour at 4:3o am that same morning. She and I got talking and went from messages to audio call, because boredom begets boredom. Very hesitantly, I let my words slip into a general catching up conversation,

“Have you ever heard of this drink called Kaanji? My Dadi used to make it for the family every Winter when I was a kid. I’m having the most absurd craving at this hour. Out of nowhere, in the middle of cock freezing winter while I write this paper, I feel like I need a glass of Kaanji.”

My friend shrieked in total shock on the phone.

“YOU KNOW KAANJI? OH MY GOD. HOW PUNJABI ARE WE? I USED TO HAVE IT ALL THE TIME AT THE FARM.”

(Friend’s got a farm in Nainital, she can drive a tractor like a boss, can’t park or drive a car in Delhi tho.)

We continued until my mother woke up and heard me excitedly talk in continuation about Kaanji. Now, picture your parent having been rudely woken up at 5 am, because you’re laughing on top of your lungs after having re-discovered Kaanji, which is really a comfort drink only for old Punjabi ladies. She (mother) was only ever too kind to promise that she’d make Kaanji for both of us. Which, she ultimately ended up doing that week as laal gaajar were in the market and she didn’t have to substitute it with a different variety of carrots. I had to share half a bottle of Kaanji with the same friend once it was done. My father was pleasantly surprised to see Kaanji in the house and everyone at home enjoyed three different rounds over 5 days to finish the supply. That particular year, I even took a sizeable quantity of Kaanji as a part of birthday presents I did for my Kaanji loving friend (I do extensive birthday gifts, complete with elaborate homemade cakes and the works, which was amusing because never have I ever taken Kaanji for anyone on their birthday).

I’m aware that you aren’t quite concerned with what happened to me in 2014 (and you shouldn’t be, I didn’t win an award for Blogging. Jalebi boi did). Which is why, I’d wrap this post with a recipe for you to experiment. Let Kaanji into your life this year, and next and maybe forever. It’s an oral tradition which I believe is dying a merciless death in the hands of a generation believing Rooh Afza is bae. I don’t mind my Rooh Afza shake but I do need my Kaanji and Gaajar ka achaar with Chole Bhature during the 90 days of Winter. Make sure you keep bananas handy and remember to not overdose on this drink when you do get down to making it If something goes wrong in the process, make sure you foot all medical bills to Jalebi Boi. I’ve heard he makes money out of numbers.

Kaanji

Ingredients:

  • 250 gms Laal Gaajar/ Black Carrot (which is not black in colour, contrary to what our boi believes. They’re deep red and you’ll be able to identify as they’re usually in the market by January end. Else, go to the mandi and speak to vendors about Kaanji wali gaajar. They’ll help you out).
  • 2-3 Tablespoon Brown Mustard Seeds/ Rai (Not Aishwarya. Sorry).
  • Punch of Red Chili Powder (I go for a tablespoon)
  • Two Tablespoons Tata/Catch Salt (Do hit me up if you use any other variant, yet to meet an Indian family who uses a different brand).
  • One Tablespoon Rock Salt/ Kala Namak
  • Lots of RO processed drinking water
  • Two Plates Chole Bhature

Bonus Secret Ingredient:
(If you’re from UP/or have affiliation to food from UP you must add this.)

  • Asafoetida/ Hing - Just a tiny pinch. Don’t be a rebel here. You’ll regret it.

Preparation
  1. Wash your hands with soap. Wipe them dry and head to the kitchen. Wash the carrots rigorously. Think of life, the universe and how you’re just a speck of dust in the larger frame of things while you do that. Waste some more time doing this. Not water. Water is precious. Okay?
  2. Chop the carrots in juliennes, preferably not too thin but not too thick. If you’ve a Punjabi Dadi/friend’s Dadi who can help you out, ask them about the gajaar ka achaar shape. That’s what we want.
  3. Once you’re done figuring out how terrible you’re at chopping vegetables, move to the next step. Put together all the ingredients (except Chole Bhature, don’t order them just yet.) and dunk it together in 2.5/3 litres of drinking water in a martbaan. Don’t forget to give it a good stir and when you think you’ve done a good job, don’t just keep standing there. Take a spoon and taste it. It’ll probably not taste good but sample the salt and chilli scene. Adjust accordingly.
  4.  Shut the lid tightly and leave this jar in a dry, sun-lit space. Forget about this for the next 4.5-5.5 days. Put out a Google notification for the 6 day that you’ve to move this jar.
  5. On the 6 day of this strangeness, remove the jar from the sun-light and bring it back to the kitchen. This is judgement time. Open the lid, give it a couple of stirs and taste a little. Pungent? Sour? Hits your nose like nothing you’ve ever had before? If you answer yes to all three, your Kaanji is ready.
  6. Transfer the Kaanji to empty pet water bottles. Make sure you transfer carrots too, but in the process of transferring, separate a bowl full of these fermented carrots and keep aside. Put the liquid in the refrigerator after storing this in the bottle.
  7.  Move on to your favourite food delivery app. Alternatively, you could even do a take-away but you’d rather not. It’s winter and you’re lazy.  Locate your favourite halwai and order two plates of Chole Bhature. Second for the Dadi who helped you out with this.
  8. Once Bhature are on your plate, replace the salad with fermented carrots and Chole. Share this with the grandmother. She’ll be super touched and massively impressed. Even if your Kaanji ki Gaajar tastes like crap, she’ll love it. 
  9. After you’re done eating this, take out your Kaanji from the refrigerator. Pour two small glasses and fill it to the top. Share it with your grandmom, someone else’s grandmom and the rest of your family. Make sure one member of the house hasn’t had it and that person knows how to ride a bike/drive a car. 
  10. When you’re dying after OD-ing on Kaanji and adding Chole Bhature to it, contact that one other family member and ask them to bring you Vizylac and bananas. Send the bill to Jalebi Boi. 


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This post has been written by mi louuu, Anisha Saigal aka Saigalster aka Snobster aka Dadi Amma with a pout. You must follow her on all the links given here, even though she hasn't asked me to do this. I'm just asking you to do this because gratitude. Also, this does not mean that you follow her in real life. Line mein lago. Abhi bohot bande khade hain.

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Image Source: ribbonstopastas.blogspot.com