Monday, January 23, 2017

Clean socks

The past few years through winter in Mumbai, I’ve taken to wearing socks. Yes, what little we have of the cold in winter, is enough for us to make the most of some of our sweaters, scarves and other woolen garments!

This morning I remembered my weekend ritual of washing my canvas shoes and socks, when I was at school. It had to be done, or else, we would be shamed before the school for our muddy, dirty shoes and socks in Assembly.

We also had half an hour of parade for all the classes together. So the socks and shoes had to be clean also on Wednesdays for it. I would keep one pair clean for Wednesday. But lazy me faced many a Wednesday when I would wake up in panic, and remember I did not have a clean pair of socks or shoes. While the chalk from class came in handy for painting the shoes just before the parade, one couldn’t always fool the teachers with dirty socks. 

We had fantastic teachers at this school. Once, two or three of them, dressed in the school uniform, showed us all how badly we marched in the school parade! As most of us rolled in laughter, a little guiltily and a little embarrassed, they coolly enacted some of the girls who marched really badly. Needless to say, it had a strong effect on us and we marched most perfectly after that… for that day.

I remember wearing the canvas shoes and socks through school. Even the smell of my feet when I removed them on arriving home, especially after having played football, basketball or simply, after the school marching exercise. When I joined college, like thousands of others, I was glad there was no uniform and no wearing shoes every day. 

Later as a journalist, again, I did not have a uniform, or needed to wear formals at work. No one really cares if one wears shoes or doesn’t. But wearing socks thanks to the winter, brought back these memories. Of course, I am not so lazy now and do wash them much more regularly! But there’s a warm feeling that envelopes me when I look at my socks and remember the time from school, the day the teachers marched, and even the stinky feet.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Old chai in a new cup

Irani cafes. That celebrated, much talked about, written about and sadly, slowly disappearing integral part of Mumbai. Bun maska, chai, keema pav, khari - many a Mumbaikar has devoured these creations here, and lamented that some of these little time capsules are shutting down. The owners – most of them have owned these cafes for generations – are unable to sustain them in these times.

Kyani, Yazdani, Sassanian are some of these gems that have still managed to stay afloat. In 2015, as a tribute to these places, a restaurant that mimics their style and serves some of the cuisine they serve, was started. Today, SodaBottleOpenerWala has become ‘the place’ to be seen for the rich, who ironically, might not want to be seen visiting the real McCoys. This weekend I headed to it with friends.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. While the flattery seems to succeed at most places here, it falls flat with the food.

The interiors included a medley of items bought from Chor Bazaar, new furniture designed in the Irani café style, and tiffins or dabas to serve some of the dishes. The glasses were bigger versions of chai glasses.

The tables were covered in the uniform red chequered pattern fabric one sees in most Irani cafes. And they had made an effort in most of the place, to tell the customer about Irani cafes and Parsis and their food. Just in case a customer forgot.

What I really liked was the motif on the flooring. Really, really Irani café.

Old photographs from Irani/ Parsi families also adorned most walls. Wall clocks showed the time in Persia and London among other places.

As written, the place is a tribute to Irani cafes, so there shouldn’t be other expectations. This isn’t a review, but for the authentic experience, head to the real places, while they are still there.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Mug shot

Happy New Year! As we begin another year, I would like to draw your attention to the humble mug. More precisely, the ‘office mug’, as I would like to call all those ceramic drink holders we use at our desks.

It’s not just a mug. It’s also a life saver. I began to look at it differently after seeing the countless mugs gifted through Secret Santas at office recently. Each one of us has guiltily or without guilt (as me) gifted a mug to someone as their Secret Santa. Admit it. It’s the best unisex gift to give someone whose name came to you in a chit. You may not know the person, but he or she surely could do with another mug. A mug is something that can be recycled as a gift, and of course, you could always use another one in office. Like my colleague. She’s got two mugs, used alternately or even the same day for coffee. (She’s also got an electric kettle at office, but that’s another story)

The humble office mug is also more than just a tea or coffee holder. It serves as a Manchurian bowl (for one of my other colleagues). Or it can always be used for soup. And if you really didn’t like your Secret Santa gift, it’s a great pen holder.

There are other uses too. You could always land up with your mug at the coffee machine when the new or girl you want to know is there!

So look at the office mug differently. It’s more than a beverage holder. It comes in different colours, sizes and shapes, and has as many uses.