Posts Tagged ‘boy’

UMAMI

July 15, 2010

UMAMI

Short Fiction – A Delicious Love Story

By

VIKRAM KARVE

Part 1 – SPDP

SPDP.

That’s right – SPDP…!

You know what SPDP is, don’t you…?

You don’t? Don’t tell me you don’t know what SPDP is…!

Oh. I’m sorry.

Maybe you are not a Punekar.

And if you do live in Pune and still don’t even know what SPDP is, it’s a pity…a real pity…!

SPDP – Sev Potato Dahi Puri – that’s what the acronym SPDP stands for.

Why ‘Potato’ and not ‘Batata’…?

I do not know – you’ll have to ask the guys at Vaishali.

Now don’t tell me you don’t know what Vaishali is…?

That’s being real daft and clueless, isn’t it…?

Well, Vaishali is the landmark restaurant on Fergusson College Road which serves the best and tastiest SPDP in the world – no doubt about it…!

And talking about taste, do you know how many basic tastes there are…?

“Four…!” you will rattle out, and you will proudly tell me as if you were a know-it-all: “Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter.”

“Well, my dear reader, you’re wrong…!

There are five primary tastes – Sweet, Sour, Salt, Bitter, and Umami.”

Umami…?

You’ve never heard of it…?

Well I can tell you one thing: “Besides being a lost case, you’re no ardent foodie for sure…!”

Umami is the unique tingling ‘savouriness’ or ‘deliciousness’ of Oriental Cuisines.

Well let’s forget all that mumbo-jumbo. If you really want to know what Umami is, just go down to Vaishali, order an SPDP, gently put a portion in your mouth, close your eyes, roll the delectable SPDP till it dissolves on your tongue, and you will experience what Umami tastes like…!

Now talking of rolling the SPDP on your tongue – have you noticed that as you roll your food on your tongue its taste changes and flavour varies as the food interacts with different regions of your tongue…?

The ‘Tongue Map’ – ever heard of it…?

You haven’t…?

Don’t tell me you haven’t heard of the Tongue Map…?

Hey, you are a real dumbo, aren’t you…?

Then try this yummy scrummy mouth-watering game.

Take some spicy chatpatta stuff, like Bhel, Chaat, or SPDP, and put some on your tongue.

Never heard of these things…?

I knew it.

But not to worry, it doesn’t matter. Relax. It’s okay. It just doesn’t matter…!

You can do this eating experiment with Chopsuey – yes, yes, the usual American Chopsuey you get at these ubiquitous Chinese eateries proliferating like hobgoblins all over the place.

Close your eyes.

Yes, you must close your eyes to heighten your awareness, your mindfulness.

Now focus inwards to accentuate your gustatory, kinaesthetic and olfactory sensations, and gently press the rich juicy scrumptious Chopsuey against your palate with the tip of your tongue.

It tastes heavenly doesn’t it…?

That’s Umami…yes… the taste you are experiencing is called UMAMI…!

Now slowly roll the chopsuey backwards to the right side of your tongue and notice how its sweetness enhances, and it moves back the relish the tangy sweetish-sourness, the inimitable sweet and sour flavour – to the left – a tinge of delicious subtle bitter flavour – and as you move the delectable melange forward on the left side of your tongue, soak up the tingling vitalizing scrummy saltiness, till once again you experience the intense lip-smacking luscious flavoursome savouriness of Umami.

That’s exactly what I am doing here right now, sitting on a lovely rainy evening at my favourite table in Vaishali restaurant on Fergusson College road in Pune.

Dissolving exquisite tingling mouth-watering portions of SPDP on my tongue, my eyes closed, senses focussed inwards, luxuriating in sheer epicurean bliss, trancelike ecstasy, epiphany, when suddenly, unwittingly, on the spur of the moment, I open my eyes, and I am totally astonished, shocked out of my wits, baffled and dazed, to see her standing at the entrance.

Instantaneously, I avert my eyes, try to hide myself in the SPDP in front of me, wishing, hoping against hope, that it is not her, and slowly, furtively, with tremors of trepidation, glance, through the corner of my eyes, a fleeting look, and my hopes are dashed, my worst fears come true, the delicious zesty SPDP turns tasteless in my mouth, like cud, and I wish the ground beneath me opens up and swallows me in.

I wish she doesn’t see me, so I look away, try to hide.

I do not want to meet her.

Tell me, which loser wants to meet a winner…!

Have you ever seen a failure attending a reunion, and enjoying it…?

At this stage of my life, I avoid people who are more successful than me.

The company of those less accomplished than you is always more comforting… at least for losers and “failures” like me.

Suddenly I sense she is near me.

Hesitantly, I look up.

We look at each other.

Priyamvada has blossomed. She looks exquisite, even more beautiful than before – radiant, slick, chic, booming with confidence – all the things that I am not.

“Hi, Praveen,” she says excitedly, “what a surprise…!”

“Yes,” I say nonchalantly.

“Hey, what’s the matter?  You’re not happy to see me…? Won’t you ask me to sit down…?” she says.

“Of course I am happy to see you. I’m sorry, but I was lost in my thoughts…do sit down and please do join me,” I say.

“Wow…! Having SPDP…? I too will have an SPDP,” she says cheerfully the moment she sits down opposite me.

“You like SPDP…?”

“I love it. SPDP in Vaishali – it brings back nostalgic memories too…!”

“Nostalgic memories…?”

“Vilas saw me for the first time right here – while I was having SPDP with my college gang.”

“So…?”

“He fell in love with me – love at first sight.”

“So…?”

“So he told his parents.”

“What…?”

“That he wanted to get married to me.”

“And…?”

“He told his parents that if at all he ever got married it would be to me and to no one else.”

“Oh…”

“His parents were delighted as he’d been rejecting proposals for years, avoiding marriage on some pretext or the other. So they found out about me from my college and landed up at my place to ask for my hand in marriage.”

“And you jumped…?”

“Jumped…?”

“Jumped with joy at the golden opportunity and dumped me without a thought and married a man twice your age…!”

“Twice my age…? What nonsense. Vilas wasn’t twice my age, just 30.”

“And you…? You were just a teenager then. Bloody cradle-snatcher…!”

“I wasn’t a teenager. I was 20.”

“It’s the same thing.”

“Praveen. Tell me, why are you still so bitter even today…? Just forget it…!”

“Forget it…? I can’t. You broke my heart.”

“Broke you heart…? I broke your heart…?”

“I was in love with you. We were in love with each other.”

“Love…? Come on, Praveen. It was just infatuation – one sided inchoate infatuation.”

“One sided infatuation…? I am sorry to hear that. I am really sorry to hear that. And then it was not only that. You made me the laughing stock of society. Not only me, my whole family…!”

“What do you mean?”

“What do I mean? You know what I mean!”

“What?”

“You know how it was then. A boy rejecting a girl is okay, but a girl rejecting a boy? That too in Madiwale Colony – you can’t even imagine the unimaginable agony I suffered. I became the laughing stock of town – not me alone, our whole family. I couldn’t even walk the streets peacefully without sensing those unspoken taunts and unseen jeers. It was terrible – really cruel of you.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you. But I never wanted to marry you.”

“Then why did you say ‘yes’?”

“I don’t know. My parents were in a hurry. They showed me your photograph – it was all so confusing,” she says taking a sip of water, “please let’s talk something else.”

“No. I want to know why you ditched me for that richie-rich tycoon. Was it just money?”

“No. It’s not that. You were too mediocre.”

“Mediocre…? I’d passed out from an IIT…!”

“So what…? Remember when I asked you what your plans were…and do you know what you said…? The way you told me your philosophy of life…”

“Philosophy of life…? I think I just said that I never plan anything, that I just flow along, and take life as it comes.”

“Oh yes, just flow along. No ambitions. No aspirations. No dreams. No desire to achieve anything in life. Well I always wanted to get out of the middle class, have success, prosperity, see the world, enjoy the good things in life, and not spend my entire life going nowhere with an apathetic husband like you with no plans in life, listening to sermons on thrift and frugality.”

Priyamvada pauses for a moment, and then continues speaking, “I’m so sorry, but in life one has to be rational isn’t it…? One has to have plans in life.”

“Oh, yes. Plans in life…!” I say caustically, “And looking at you it’s evident that all your plans seem to have worked pretty well…”

I stop speaking at once, for seeing the sudden transformation in the expression on her face I instantly know that I have said something terribly wrong.

(To be continued…)

UMAMI

Short Fiction – A Delicious Love Story

Part 1 -SPDP

By

VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2010

Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

http://www.linkedin.com/in/karve

vikramkarve@sify.com

MONKEY TRAP

August 22, 2009

ARE YOU A MONKEY IN A TRAP

[Short Fiction]

By

VIKRAM KARVE

“And what are we doing tomorrow?” I asked my uncle.

“Let’s catch some monkeys,” he said.

“Monkeys?” I asked excitedly.

“Yes,” my uncle said and smiled,” And if you catch one you can take him home as a pet.”

“A monkey! As a pet?” I asked in astonishment.

“Why not?” my uncle said.

“But monkeys? Aren’t they dangerous?” I asked.

“The monkeys here are quite small and very cute. And once you train them, they become very friendly and obedient – ideal pets.”

And so, next morning, at the crack of dawn we sailed off from Haddo Wharf in Port Blair in a large motorboat. Soon we were crossing the Duncan Passage, moving due south; the densely forested Little Andaman Island to our right, the sea calm like a mirror.

I began to feel seasick, so I stood on the foc’sle deck, right at the front end sea-sick, enjoying the refreshing sea-spray, occasionally tasting my salty lips.

I looked in admiration, almost in awe, at uncle who stood rock-steady on the bridge, truly a majestic figure. He signaled to me and I rushed up to the bridge.

“Vijay, it’s time to prepare the Monkey Traps,” he said.

“Monkey-Traps?” I asked confused.

“Tito will show you,” he said. “You must learn to make them yourself.”

Tito, my uncle’s odd-job-man, was sitting on the deck, seaman’s knife in hand, amidst a heap of green coconuts. He punctured a coconut, put it to his lips, drank the coconut water, and then began scooping out a small hollow. I took out my seaman’s knife and joined in enthusiastically with the other coconuts. The coconut water tasted sweet.

“Keep the hole small,” my uncle shouted over my shoulder, “and hollow the coconut well.”

“But how will we catch monkeys with this?” I asked.

“You will see in the evening,” he said. “Now get on with the job.”

We reached a densely forested island at five in the evening.

It was almost dark. The sun sets early in these eastern longitudes.

And soon we set up our monkey-traps.

Each hollowed-out coconut was filled with a mixture of boiled rice and jaggery (gur) through the small hole. Then the coconut was chained to a stake, which was driven firmly into the ground.

And then we hid in the bushes in pin-drop silence.

Suddenly there was rattling sound. My uncle switched on his torch.

A monkey was struggling, one hand trapped inside the coconut. In an instant, Tito threw a gunny-bag over the monkey and within minutes we had the monkey nicely secured inside.

By the time we lit the campfire on the cool soft sands of the beach, we had captured three monkeys.

My uncle put his arm around my shoulder and, “Vijay, you know why the monkey gets trapped? The monkey gets trapped because of its greed.”

He picked up a hollowed-out coconut and said, “Look at this hole. It is just big enough so that the monkey’s hand can go in, but too small for full fist filled with rice to come out. Because his greed won’t allow him to let go of the rice and take out his hand, the monkey remains trapped, a victim of his own greed, until he is captured; forever a captive of his greed.”

“The monkey cannot see that freedom without rice is more valuable that capture with it!” he said.

My uncle looked at Tito and commanded, “Free the monkeys.” And, one by one, the monkeys jumped out of their gunny bags and started running, with one hand still stuck in a coconut. It was a really funny sight.

“There is a lesson for us to learn from this,” my uncle said. “That’s why I brought you here to show you all this.”

I looked at my uncle. His name was Ranjit Singh. And true to his name he was indeed a magnificent man! Over six feet tall, well-built, redoubtable; a truly striking personality! He stood erect in his khaki uniform, stroking his handsome beard with his left hand, his right hand gripping a swagger stick, which he gently tapped on his thigh.

As he surveyed the scenic surroundings – the moonlight sea, the swaying Causarina trees, the silver sands of the beach in between – he looked majestic, like a king cherishing his domain. Indeed he was like a king here – after all he was the Chief Forest Officer, in-charge of the entire islands – and this was his domain.

Uncle Ranjit was an exception in our family—the odd-man out. My father always said that he was the most intelligent of all brothers. But whereas all of them were busy earning money in Mumbai and Delhi, uncle Ranjit had chosen to be different.

To the surprise of everybody else, uncle Ranjit had joined the Forest Service when he could have easily become an engineer, doctor or even a business executive, for he had always topped all examinations – first class first in merit, whether it be the school or the university.

“So, Vijay, you like it here?” he asked.

“It’s lovely, uncle,” I answered. “And thank you so much for the lovely holiday, spending so much time with me. In Mumbai no one has any time for me. I feel so lonely.”

“Why?” he asked, with curiosity.

“Mummy and Daddy both come late from office. Then there are parties, business dinners, and tours. And on Sundays they sleep, exhausted, unless there is a business-meeting in the club or golf with the boss.”

Uncle Ranjit laughed, “Ha. Ha. The Monkey Trap. They are all caught in monkey traps of their own making. Slaves of their greed! Trapped by their desires,caught in the rat race, wallowing in their golden cages, rattling their jewellery, their golden chains – monkey-trapped, all of them, isn’t it?”

As I thought over Ranjit uncle’s words I realized how right he was. Most of the people I knew in Mumbai were just like that – trapped by their greed, chasing rainbows, in search of an ever elusive happiness.

“Happiness is to like what you do as well as to do what you like,” uncle Ranjit said, as if he were reading my thoughts. “Happiness is not a station which never arrives, but the manner you travel in life.” He paused, and asked me, “Tell me Vijay, tell me, what do you want to do in life?”

“I don’t know.”

“Come on, Vijay. You are fifteen now. By next year you have to decide, tell me what your plans are.”

“It depends on my percentage,” I said truthfully.

“I am sure you will get around ninety percent marks in your board exams,” he said. “Assume you top the exams. Secure a place in the merit list. Then what will you do?”

“I’ll go in for Engineering. Computers, Software, IT,” I said.

“Computers? Software? IT? Why? Why not something more interesting – like Arts, Literature, Philosophy, History, Humanities?” he asked.

“Job prospects,” I answered.

“Oh!”  He exclaimed. “And then?”

“Management. Or I may even go abroad for higher studies.”

“Why?”

“Qualifications.”

“And why do you want so many qualifications?”

“To get the best job,” I answered.

“And earn a lot of money?” uncle Ranjit prompted.

“Of course,” I said. “I want to earn plenty of money so that I can enjoy life.”

Uncle Ranjit laughed, “My dear Vijay. Aren’t you enjoying life right now, at this very moment? What about me? Am I am not enjoying life? Remember – if you do not find happiness as you are, where you are, you will never find it.”

He smiled and asked,” Vijay, you know what Maxim Gorky once said?

“What?”

“When work is a pleasure, life is a joy.

When work is a duty, life is slavery.”

“Slavery!” I exclaimed, understanding the message he was trying to give me. “Slavery to one’s elusive desires, one’s greed. Just like the Monkey Trap.”

“The Monkey Trap!” we both said in unison, in chorus.

It was the defining moment in my life – my Minerva Moment!

And so, I decided to do what I wanted to experience an inner freedom.

And guess what I am today?

Well, I am a teacher. I teach philosophy.

And let me tell you I enjoy every moment of it. It’s a life of sheer joy and delight – being with my students, their respect and adulation, my innate quest for knowledge and a sense of achievement that I am contributing my bit to society.

I shall never forget uncle Ranjit and that crucial visit to the forests of the Andamans, the turning point, or indeed the defining moment, of my life.

Dear Readers (especially my young friends on the verge choosing a career) – whenever you reach the crossroads of your life, and have to make the crucial decision of how you would like to live your life [selecting a career, life-partner, a house, a place to stay – any life-decision]; think, be careful, listen to your inner voice, and be careful not to trapped in a ‘Monkey-Trap’!

VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2009

Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.

vikramkarve@sify.com

vikramkarve@hotmail.com

http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com

http://www.linkedin.com/in/karve

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