NO END TO CELEBRATIONS

At Fidalgo’s Bhojan… most sumptuous thali meal deal in Panaji, but wish takeaway lunch would come in more eco-friendly containers!

BY TARA NARAYAN

WITH so many tragedies of the man-made kind around (eg Kerala, elsewhere in the world seeking globalization for better or for worse) I don’t know why anybody wants to celebrate anything! It’s kind of lack of sensitivity, no?? May be I’m growing older but increasingly I’m beginning to think that all our festivals are overdone, including the jamboree festival of Lord Ganesh festival. Overdone and in some contexts superfluous and just a squandering of money you may or may not have to burn.
Obesity is a huge issue now in India, but women still go into a crazy frenzy in the kitchen turning out sugar-ghee-flour dominated feasts to be offered to Lord Ganesh morning, noon and night. If you’re asking me it would be money well spent if one just went down south India to check if our real lord Ganesh…er…what’s happening collectively to our jumbos or elephants in their wild habitats, and gift them a few tons of organically cultivated sugarcane or some other treat. Find them a wild habitat if need be to be happy in elephant heaven!
I’ve also become cold towards these mindless vissarjan of our idols of gods and goddesses in water bodies. Time to grow up, no? Vissarjan of various denomination of idols is contributing towards big-time sickness of marine life and eco-systems. How much do we care individually and collectively in the name of religion? No point campaigning for official bans on these romanticized idol send-offs in wells, ponds, rivers, seas, oceans and especially if the idols are poisonously beautiful with lead paintwork. Must we be so sentimental when it comes to how we practice our religions when many things no longer make sense in larger and more important primary contexts?
(Sigh) Such growth and progress of the mindset cannot be enforced, it must come sweetly like fresh water from the wellspring of our conscience, voluntarily from the hearts and souls of we, the people of the world.
TO MOVE on, help! My bit of Shravan-ka-mahina fasting and feasting tamasha always leaves me disoriented and utterly in the dumps. It’s like to eat or not to eat and what’s there left to eat! Discontentment divine or not fills me and I feel I want to boycott eating itself for nothing tempts anymore and whatever I shove into my mouth is like it wants to regurgitate in disgust. When I first discovered the MTR packets of masala idli, upma, breakfast vermicelli, etc, I was thrilled to bits and took to turning out evening snacks in a jiffy.
Then I noticed the growing pile of plastics in my big black litter bin…overflowing with empty industrial food packets promising meals in three or more minutes. I’m feeling sick with my own hypocrisy! This is the worst part of buying semi-prepared mod con foods in terribly eco-unfriendly packaging. I mean I keep telling myself to buy food only if it is in good old-fashioned bottles, but this is happening only 50% of the time (one of these days glass bottles will become extinct and I’ve already starting hoarding glass bottles feeling insecure without enough glass bottles in my life).
Right from Goa Dairy’s pasteurized standard cow’s milk to all the packs of 3-minute masala oats, noodles, poha, upma, idli, vermicelli where instructions are to pour hot water only and wait with baited breath…to eat happily ever after. Life has really become about eating unhappily ever after while I preach one thing and fall for temptations of another servile, cringing kind.
The only alternative is to do it the old-fashioned way. That is return to buying fresh poha or rava or even the ready-made idli batters (I see new choices at Magsons every week), chop veggies, refresh my spice and masala dibba. It takes half-an-hour to an hour to make alu ka paratha or sambar-rice or masala dosa or rotli-shaak from scratch at home and look ma, no litter! Then why am I not doing it?
Because! Someone says I’ve lost the art of making a simple alu sabzi, `You’ve lost interest in cooking! Period. Phone up and tell Fortune Miramar you’re coming to get their packaged Indian vegetarian meal (`236 something). I counter: But their designer platter is all plastic and I can’t squeeze any more plastics into my big black bin of dry waste anymore, it’s choking already! See what I mean?
Take my own stainless steel dibba for the packed meal. Yes, but they have some eight pockets in their designer lunch pack and if I say no pickle, no salad, no atte ka sheera or gulab jamun, it would be down to five things…then, do I have five stainless dibba of varied size? What if they refuse to pack the meal in my set of washable stainless steel dibba…and so on it goes and everyone laughs in mockery.
In the end I put all vile thoughts aside and go get the Fortune Miramar’s Indian vegetarian lunch in their designer plastic pack, it’s the nearest thing to what is an agreeable meal and there’s peace on the dining table!
MORE thoughts pile up in a rigmarole of crazed frustration. I can do a ditto with Fidalgo’s Bhojan meal thali deal, can’t I? But their packed version of the Bhojan thali would gift me with a dozen little house-embossed plastic containers to uncover at home. It’s a better idea just to go there and feast on their sumptuous thali meal deal ….it offers a welcome sherbet (I don’t drink it), buttermilk (I drink it), a welcome papri chaat (very nice, I savour it), Then come two farsan or appetizers, may be dhokla, kachori, khandvi or moong pakodi; comes phulka/bhakri/puri; hell’s bells, a choice of four sabzi if you please and one more silky spicy sooka alu bhaji like a bonus; a Rajasthani kadi, a Guju dal, maybe a delicious varan tur dal with pure ghee trickled in, pure ghee on phulka and rice too if you wish! Plain rice or jeera pulao? Pickles and roasted papad (no, they won’t sell me a bottle of the mango chunda for love or for money, it comes all the way from Mumbai).
Who’s cooked all this food? Maharaj Bansi, the service boy enlightens me. No wonder the puri at Bhojan is of a far better quality than what is served next door at their Legacy of Mumbai…Bhojan has its own exclusive kitchen. But to stay with Bhojan why a choice of three sweets (motichur ladoo, sukhdi, a creamy yellow Bengali-styled cottage cheese kheer kodom)? I don’t want any of them! Okay, but whether you eat or not you’ll be charged in full, madam. Oh, go to hell, I mumble under my breath ungraciously.
Never mind that it’s an unlimited meal for `356 something. Pack up the meal? I did it once. It adds up to `400 something and then there’s the grand unpacking ceremony at home…post-meal, washing up all the plastic containers makes me tremble as I vow to take all of them back in a bid to do recycling! Sometimes I wonder why Bhojan won’t offer the option of a limited thali at half price or even three-quarter price?
A perfectly cordial, straight-laced Mr Kadam in charge here at Bhojan tells me, it cannot be done. Eat as much or little as you want or buy the full takeaway lunch. May I bring my own stainless steel dibba for that? Of course. Then again do I have a 12-compartment dibba? Hey, they don’t make these any more, do they? Remember the brassy, tin-coated inside tall tiffin dibba of old with their intricate interlocking systems? My friend Nandita Haksar (visiting African countries currently) has one of them, a real beauty of an old world tiffin dibba! Let her come back, then I’ll borrow her multiple compartment dibba to buy home a Bhojan thali meal and have a feast at home. Look ma, no plastics.
AS you can see my eating in and out woes continue endlessly! One of these days, I tell myself wearily, it would be so nice to stop drinking or eating in and out altogether, just because nothing pleases at a deeper emotional and mental level…tell me it’s all in the mind which is forever chasing body beautiful and pretty butterflies. Sadguru would call it the chattering monkey mind I suppose.
Note: Just want to share here that if you’re looking for pure white or dark chocolate modak in Panaji town…you may find them at The Chocolate Room (near Don Bosco High School) — `41 each elegant modak! This is an Australian chain chocolate parlour which has some good Belgium/Australian dark chocolates, also chocolate cakes. Damn it, I can’t find traditional steamed modak for love or for money this Ganesh chovoth in the market place, but I can find dark chocolate modak.

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