Monday, December 07, 2009

South Indian Meal

As I wrote in my blog on talent, I eat a lot. And I love the meal or saapadu as it is called in Tamil.

I must say, amongst all the restaurants in Chennai that I have eaten, Tanjore is easily the best for saapadu. Like McDonalds’ QSCV, I can say Tanjore must be following the QQP dictate - Quality, Quantity and Price.

The place is absolute value for money. Costing about Rs. 60, you have to buy a token at the counter before you go the first floor at New Woodlands, Cathedral Road. Do not expect luxury though seating is comfortable. The bucket or balti service reminded me of a Tamilian wedding. The tables are straight and long; not like the rectangle four or six seater tables usually found in restaurants. Food is served on plantain leaf.

The food tastes like home cooked. It is tasty, sumptuous and non-greasy. It is more in TamBrahm (stands for Tamil-Brahmin, for those who didn’t know) style.

None, whether it's New Woodlands' other restaurant like Vrindavan or Sangeetha or Saravana Bhavan or any other, came close to it.

As I had mentioned in my blog on restaurants in Chennai, the others cannot be called authentic South Indian Meal. First thing that puts me off is Rotis or Chapattis. Wheat is not the staple Tamil Nadu; it is Rice, Rice and Rice. But, I guess the fascination of South Indians to eat wheat has led to the inclusion of Indian breads. Two, I love the fact that it is bucket or balti service. This means that the food is served hot. Other places give you accompaniments and gravies in cups or kinnams (in Tamil and katories in Hindi). First, all kinnam items go cold by the time they arrive at your table and, second, they are just not sufficient. So, you have to think twice before asking for more because consistent reordering for kinnams might lead to people think that you are a glutton. Further, if the restaurant is crowded, by the time kinnams come, your fingers would have dried up and so would your appetite.

For those who are aware, typical vegetarian Tamilian saapadu (pretty much the same for other South Indian states, I think) comprises of Rice (the staple), Paruppu (lentils or dhal), Sambhar (dhal and tamarind gravy), Kara or Vattal Kuzhambu (hot and spicy), Rasam (a thin soup made with Tamarind as base), Kootu/Poriyal (veggies) and Curd. Appalam (Pappad) and pickle are also part of the meal.

For desserts, a plantain. For digestion, a beeda (beetle leaf and beetle nuts).

So if you are in Chennai and are looking for a place for a typical and authentic saapadu, head to Tanjore.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Capitalism, better?

A forward I loved reading!

An economics professor at a local college made a statement that he had never failed a single student before, but had once failed an entire class. That class had insisted that Obama's socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer. The professor then said, "OK, we will have an experiment in this class on Obama's plan".

All grades would be averaged and everyone would receive the same grade so no one would fail and no one would receive an A. After the first test, the grades were averaged and everyone got a B. The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy.

As the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too so they studied little. The second test average was a D! No one was happy.

When the 3rd test rolled around, the average was an F. The scores never increased as bickering, blame and name-calling all resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for the benefit of anyone else.

All failed, to their great surprise, and the professor told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great but when government takes all the reward away, no one will try or want to succeed.

Could not be any simpler than that.

Read this, too.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Talent: Inborn or Developed?

I think talent is inborn, though I would love to believe otherwise. I can't even lie because I have gone through some experiences which led to the fortification of this belief.

I have always had issues with dancing. In past and even today, I am scared of going to parties. I am always worried that there might be a dance floor and that I might be forced by colleagues to perform shakes and moves. I can promise that with my size and weight, I am only capable of pushing people besides me or, worse, break the dance floor. I loved and detested people who could dance. I loved women for the beauty and detested men with jealousy.

I would shy away either by hovering around the bar counter with a glass brimming with liquid or find people, who like me, had two left feet. Or better no feet, at all. I remember situations when I was forced to the dance floor and wouldn't know what to do. I would smile like a fool and wriggle myself out of the embarrassment under the dim and flashing lights.

Similar things can be said about my singing but I think I make a positive attempt and am not as nervous when forced.

So last year, I joined Mani's dance class. Mani has studied dance in UK and teaches various Latin American dance forms - Samba, Rumba, Cha Cha Cha and Jive. No, that is not the entire list. I learnt these. During that period, he also did Ballroom and Salsa workshops. He is a great dancer and a fantastic teacher. He breaks down the steps to such fragments that a person like me starts believing that (s)he can dance. He displays an amazing amount of patience.

I tried dancing for about a year and under Mani's tutelage did manage to go through two levels of exams, improving every time. But then whenever I took exams, I would be close to nervous breakdown. If I got the steps it would not be coordinated with the beats. If I concentrated on the beats, I would miss my steps.

Then it had to happen. Other priorities overtook and I had to leave the dance class.

Then, I tried my luck with playing instruments. I joined guitar classes at The Unwind Centre. I must say the experience was no different. On side note, Unwind Centre sucks! The classes would never be on time and teachers were atrocious. I am not saying that they didn't know how to play guitar just that they were very bad teachers. Of course I too missed a class or two. My exam nervousness returned when it came to tests.

I analyzed my failure in my tryst with art. If I wasn't moving that well under Mani, I seemed strumming air rather than the strings in Unwind Centre. There seemed to be one common thread in both cases. During exams, I was sweating from every orifice in my body.

Did I have learning disability?

I seemed to learn languages better. Whether French or German, I seemed to love learning them. I didn't get nervous when I took exams. I took to tennis only a couple of years back. Despite my weight and shape, today, I play competitive tennis, even if it is at amateur level. I seem to learn serving and playing shots better with every game. Even when I play league matches, which is akin to the exams in Dancing and Guitar classes, I seem to look forward to playing them.

Only after this did I start thinking about talent. I believe that if you don't have it, you don't get it. While it may not be about the DNAs you inherit from your parents but the seeds are sown when you are young, I think. You must have a liking for the activity. I am very sure that even if I put more years in practicing, I would never be able to match Mani's grace and elegance.

Savitha, I am so sorry that I mocked at you every time you got into the pool and just watched. As you used to say, now I realize that everyone has his or her own strengths and WEAKNESSES.

Focus on strength, try but don't break your head and heart over the weaknesses. You tried!

1. The person dancing is Mani, not me.
2. Tennis personality is Roger Federer, just in case you thought it was me.
3. I am also not the person whose image first appears in this post. You can find my picture in my profile. It was taken in a restaurant and I love to eat a lot.