Friday, February 25, 2011

The Taxidermist and other Telugu stories

I was brought up in Orissa and had the advantage of learning four languages: English from school, Hindi from surroundings, Telugu at home and Oriya from the domestic help and as part of learning third language at school.

My parents were very much in favor of our learning and speaking the MT at home. In the course, we were taught how to read and write the language. The Telugu guide called 'Pedda Bala Siksha' was considered a Bible and each day we were asked to learn a part of could be names of months of Hindu calender, the alphabet, numbers...all this and more. Strict punishment awaited the one who could not memorize and recite the same to father when he asked.

The learning was reinforced through buying of the monthly magazine for children, the Telugu 'Chandamamas'. Always hungry for stories, we kids used to look forward patiently to the issue every month and greedily lap up the contents. By this process, the MT got reinforced in the most delightful way.

The flip side was that a knowledge of the language when combined with an appetite for stories finds no stopping. The next target were the Telugu weeklies that my mom used to get at home. I remember her subscribing to three Telugu weeklies called the Andhra Jyothi, Andhra Prabha, Andhra Patrika and a monthly one called Yuva. We as kids were forbidden from touching the 'adult' magazines. My very obedient brothers never dared defy the orders but I being the rebel in the family, used to read the magazines on the sly. It was a wonderful world that had opened up for me through those magazines. There were serials, short stories, a mini novel (with Yuva), most of them containing the forbidden and banned 4 letter word 'LOVE'.

I was exposed to the world of love stories, one of which I remember as 'Prema lekhkalu'(love letters) by Sulochana Rani which was later made into a movie. I also remember the outrageous 'Maidanam' written by Chalam.Perhaps these unknowingly sowed seeds of awareness of the rights of a woman. Chalam advocated the thought that a woman has a mind , a body and a heart and these deserve the right to choose and be free. In the society which is still highly prejudiced against women, these thoughts were surely very rebellious in those times.

Also one of the short stories read in those days was one called 'The Taxidermist' about a set of parents wherein the husband plans the career path of his two kids, saying that the son would become this after growing up and the daughter that. I don't remember the exact details of the short story but I remember how much of an impact it made on my mind. At an age where I was not too good with difficult words in English, I was exposed to the word taxidermist and had to look up the dictionary to find out its meaning. In the story, the wife laments as to how the husband gradually brainwashes his children to give up what they are passionate about and to walk on the path which he chooses for them. Taxidermy, I came to know is the art of carving out the insides of the animal and re stuffing them to give them a life-like appearance and mount them for display.

The philosophy enunciated above finds its substantiation in Chalam's philosophy which finds a mention in Wiki.
1. He believed that the barriers created by the society precluded love and mutual understanding from human relationships.
2. In a society that believed in the children being indebted to their parents, he proclaimed caring for and bringing up of children as the fundamental duty as parents.
3. He was widely shunned during his times especially for his advocacy of women’s rights and his total rejection of the family system.

To this day, I don't regret reading those Telugu magazines. On the other hand, I am grateful to the awareness that they brought me. I learnt what I as a woman am and what I am capable of.
Thank you, Telugu literature!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Taj Tristar

I have been exploring restaurants especially vegetarian ones in quest of new tastes looking for that signature dish that would set it apart from the rest.

Funnily, the restaurants that I have been trying are far flung from my home and I haven’t really tried or explored many which are closer. So thought of trying Taj Tristar today. At the entrance to the restaurant, I was checked by one of the lady staff. After the scan she says, “Show me your bag (purse).” Everyone knows how irksome security checks can be. And when one meets a pleasant staff, the mandatory experience can be put up with. I asked the lady to add a ‘please’ to her request. Instead of taking the feedback, she retorts saying that she can say a please and still be rude in her request. I simply moved ahead after the security check not bothering to discuss.

Priced at Rs 300 for a weekend buffet, the vegetarian fare did not really do justice to the price. The spread was fairly good…four curries, a dal, biryani, Chinese stuff, desserts, two varieties of soups—clear spinach soup and tomato… (spinach was OKish but tomato was ughh!), two starters were good— cauliflower and vegetable gold coin; the Russian salad was tasty too. The biryani was mildly and pleasantly spiced. When I look for that one thing that’s different in the restaurant, it’s the dosa . After the starters, we were offered a dosa…a palak dosa. Later, I found out that there were an assortment of dosas but we weren’t told about it by the waiter. For those with a sweet tooth, there was the mandatory gulab jamun, rasgulla, banana souffle, khowa, halwa and ice-cream. It is quite evident that the restaurant is an old one with the furniture looking quite jaded. The staff though not impolite weren’t really all that outgoing or helpful.

Coming back to food…well nothing was bad in taste…there will be no regrets at having eaten here; yet nothing was so exceptionally good that it makes you visit again and again.

All-in all a 3/5 experience.