Friday, January 28, 2011

DESI GIRL




At a time when your grasp of basic manners and etiquette is a projection of your status and professionalism, half the fun of dining goes for a toss. Given a choice, I prefer to focus more on what’s tickling my taste buds rather than how I hold my napkin. 


Last week, I had the fortune (?) of dining with a couple (professional acquaintance) at a fancy Italian restaurant. At the risk of being labeled an indolent blob, I have to admit that dressing up for formal occasions is not exactly my idea of fun over weekends. The guest couple (Indians) came along with the obsessive obsession of having lived in the hallowed land of opportunity, ‘You know- when I was in the States ’.

Adding to the woes was the fact that my dress was bursting at the seams. After a Delhi winter of piling sweets what else do you expect? Also faking a smile  is agonizing for me. The expression always reveals the inner state of mind. I am working on it.

Many have a palate for authentic Italian cuisine but for me, the Indianised version of pasta or pizza from ‘Pizza Hut’ rules over the bland and insipid  Italian food. Also, it so happens that I am a strict vegetarian and the most exotic starter I managed to order was ‘artichoke pasta salad’ in olive oil. While I was munching my damn zucchini and concentrating on using the silverware, the only solace in my agitated mind was that my aorta will remain unclogged for a few months.

All through the dinner the lady remained imprisoned in the glorious American past, unwilling to tread in the present. After some artful name dropping of celebrities whom she had spotted while watching her husband play golf, the pretty lady in pristine white rambled about her vacationing at Hawaii and shopping at Harrods,  between olives and asparagus. 

For me, after the goddamned Italian Lentil Minestrone, the dress tightened its grip. In my socially adept and savvy avatar I continued munching on my main course, ‘Lasagna Bolognese’ but in reality I was so freaked out that I wanted to go home, dress in my favorite pyjamas and watch daily soap. Little surprise then that as dessert was being ordered I heaved a sigh of relief.

“What would you like to have?” I asked as I glanced at the menu. The menu had an array of mud cakes, Tiramisu, Biscotti and Toffee ├ęclairs.
“Don’t they have Sweet Meat (Gulab Jamuns)?” the lady demanded.
“Unfortunately, it is not on the menu. Are you sure you want Gulab Jamuns?” I asked incredulously.

“Oh, I love Indian sweets,” she cooed. Her husband echoed her  desire to indulge in Gulab Jamuns.
Since the guests wish was our command, we proceeded to the nearby sweet shop and the couple had their fill of rasmalais and hot gulab jamuns . 

You can take the Indian out of India but can you take India out of the Indian?
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51 comments:

  1. hey!

    awesome post! cant agree more :D
    u cant, in fact take India out of the Indian!

    I am a pure vegetarian too and yes, wearing a mask of smile while u r fuming inside is the most difficult thing :)

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  2. Indians can't be lured by money but by cuisines. Being a Lucknowiite I'm born with this spectacular extravagant fact.

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  3. Aha! You flooded my mouth with water. Now I too want Gulaab jamun!!

    I remember, I went to an Italian restaurant with my parents and I was advised to be in human skin while I eat. Manners, duh! All I remember was that I ended up messing the dishes along with table cloth. :P

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  4. Ohh those gulab jamuns look so yummm

    Desi works for me to... I love to relish every bite my way... :D

    Faking a smile is really an art and I need to learn it too... :)

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  5. Social dinners are not for me. cannot stand the when i was in singapore types.

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  6. The Desi version of Pizzas is a big no for me! I mean if I want to have chicken tikka, why have it on pizza smothered with cheese.

    But gulab jamun after your insipid meal must have been a huge relief for you :)

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  7. Yepp, Gulab Jamuns rule over any phoren food. And its really a pain to grab on to table etiquette, it literally kills the dinner and appetite .
    Nice post.

    Cheers,
    Blasphemous Aesthete

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  8. Hi Alka,
    I once worked with a woman project manager in France. She was a tough no nonsense Swiss German. Our team ( about five people) went to an Indian restaurant. She saw me eating food with hands( cautiously using two fingers and a thumb) not like splurging with hands. She asked me to teach her this. I taught her about how to break roti and after that she was all into food with her hand. Last she licked her all four finger and looked at me smiling. I was amazed at this (un) professional attitude. She said "I love eating with hands but do it when I am around friends". What a great complement ;)
    That day I learned that there are people who want to behave naturally at all the places in the world and then there is sophisticated c**p. Of course people would prefer to be sophis... for e.g. with client meetings but most of them would like to drop the guard as yours did.
    Congrats on a great ending.
    Ashvini

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  9. Don't remind me of table manners! :( its a pain in neck when my dosa is in front of me and i have to think of 'how to eat' with a certain someone beside me. :-|
    and the last line.. You can take a indian out of india but not vice versa.. *thumbs up* :-D

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  10. Too true.. My past month was particularly horrifying with one of my friends suddenly developing a taste for 'phoren' food and dragging me off to spiceless disasters :-( :-(
    The 'India' in me was positively bawling in agony :P

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  11. nice write up as always alka.True that you cannot take the 'indian'in you wherever you go.I love my 'indian food 'though i try a lot of italian and mexican food.But to tell you the fact ,when I munch on those green leaves and lettuce and raw veggies in my rolled 'Burritos'along with the red kidney beans ,it reminds me of a cow /horse munching on it's feed!:)Good narration of the 'phoren lady'incident.

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  12. @AS..being a vegetarian limits choices.Am glad you liked it.


    @Rachit....Lucknow...Chat at Hazratganj...yumm.


    @Prateek...food is all about relishing the flavours. Not about casting impression on others.lol.

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  13. @Tanishka...true. Nothing can beat ghar ka daal chawal..


    @Harish....When "How we are being perceived plays on the mind constantly" then taste and flavors take a back seat.

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  14. @Purba....Desi Pizza with paneer a big no for me too. Then it is an overdose of Desi



    @Blasphemous Aesthete..Its no fun when one is constantly judged while eating.

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  15. @Deepika...I can absolutely relate to your predicament.


    @stnomad..Spice less disasters...lol. But nothing like home food cooked by mom.

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  16. @Raji....Thats an hilarious comment.Some imagination that!


    @Ashwini...What a nice anecdote. No harm in eating in any which way, only it should not look offensive to the people who are around. Social/Company dinner is a different ball game all together. How one conducts at the dining table gives potential clients a sense how you will handle their business.So whats playing on the mind is how we are being perceived professionally.Which is fine but you can hardly enjoy the meal when your mind is preoccupied.Thanks for reading.

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  17. Awesome post. Laced with humor and wit. Loved it. :)

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  18. Lolz. I just want to eat those gulab jaman. hehe

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  19. ahha the last line steals the show :D
    awesome post :D
    table manners and use of cutlery sometimes takes the fun out :P ... so I usually reserve them when sitting next to the manager :P
    I really hate that phoren effect ... luckily my friends know how to come over it :D

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  20. @Ajay....Am glad you liked it. Thanks. keeps me going.

    @Talha...I wish I could send then over to you dear.Thanks for reading and welcome to Freebird.



    Rajlaksmi..Thank you dear for the appreciation. Eggs me on.

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  21. :) must have been a cathartic post! was fun!

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  22. @Magiceye...you said it. Blog is such a wonderful medium to rant, rave and just take it all out. Only the person at the receiving end shouldn't end up reading the post.

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  23. If I had a choice I would sit crossed legged on the floor and have my food.

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  24. oh yes desi rules .. how can anything compare to the Gulab jamuns, the ras malai's , jalebis .. white sponge jamuns..

    I am so hungry now .. you better send some for me too now ...


    Bikram's

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  25. Be it an Italian cuisine,Chinese, Lebanese or Mexican...don't we Indianise it and then only 'relish' it? And ofcourse nothing to beat the Indian sweets..:-)

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  26. Ultimately, all these fancy restaurants recycle "traditional" indian dishes, rename it 2 smthng stupid and present us. Wen it cms 2 indian food...desi beats rock :)

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  27. @BKC...That would be awesome...


    @Bikram....Awwww...I wish I could.


    @Atul sush...Agree. Thanks for spending time. Join the Blogosphere.

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  28. @DG....How are you Mayank? You said it. Thanks for reading.

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  29. ABSOLUTELY RIGHT!...can't live without the spice and flavors of our food...and don't know still many Indians just relish on those dishes...with an typical accent while talking about them ;)

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  30. @Poonam...How are you dear?Its been long time. Thanks for reading.

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  31. I can totally empathise with you as regards to dealing with snobs. Do read my take on something similar at

    By the way, I have tagged you at http://cybernag.in/2011/01/could-this-become-the-movement/ I know you have already commented but please pick up the tag and give me the link to your post and spread the word around.

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  32. I forgot to give the link to the post I mentioned

    http://cybernag.in/2010/10/an-evening-with-a-culture-vulture-2/

    Do read when you have time.

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  33. after READING UR BLOG.. i AM SURE OUT FOR SOME Indian SWEETS!! LET IT BE Italian, Chinese OR continental... IF U DONT HAVE THAT Indian ZING.. ITS TASTES AWFUL!!

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  34. Roots beckon all. Those who ignore the call exist in disquiet.

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  35. faking smile..is nt difficult...just ignore whom u r with and think smthing beautiful in ur mind...we have to do it many times...and i m sure everyone does it...
    eating desi style is good..grass rooted..i fine myself awkward eating very polished...but try to manage...par bindass attitude alws rocks...

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  36. Nothing tickled my taste buds than the mention of gulab jamuns.. Very nicely described. :)

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  37. @Umashankar...True.

    Rohini....Thanks for reading. Well said.


    Ingignia...Welcome here. Appreciate your spending time.

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  38. @Pripat....Appreciate your spending time...Thanks for reading.

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  39. though i m very much cautious when it comes to sweets but can't resist when Gulab Jamun or Jalebis are offered.....and just don't care abt any etiquette like thing...desi mithaai desi ishtyle

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  40. The Gulab Jamuns were delicious, as was your writing!

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  41. "There is no denying that no pudding or cake can beat desi ghee dunked delectables when it comes to desserts"

    So aptly said! And yeah such experiences like the one you had makes you realise about any pastries/chocolates being no match to apni Desi Ghee ki mithaiyyan! :D

    Delectable post!

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  42. yumm gulab jamun....its my favorite and loved this foody post.It had happened with me and believe me it was too hard to wear plastic smile throughout that evening.Glad you said it.

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  43. loved every words of your write up- i am a vegetarian with a simplest food habit,so cannot say more about food.

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  44. @Irfanuddin, Vikram and Sourav....

    Thanks for the sweetening.Encourages me...


    @Pratibha, Arpana...Am glad you liked it.Thanks a ton.

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  45. east or west home made style is best
    like your narration

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  46. Relieved actually. Used to wonder if people like Gulab Jamun these days ( I do but without much company ) with the Pizza savvy generation choking me up !

    This reminds me of the constancy of things which are truly dear to us. My mother,48 ( hard to believe though ), still likes 5 Star. she is irritated when someone from her in-laws place passes a remark like 'you STILL like this all' and she is like- what is there not to like. Growing old does not mean giving up what you really like :D and I totally second her. We have these two-movies-in-a-day and chhola-bhatura escapades when I am home: thank god my village does not have the fancy restaurants :P

    Reminds me of the days in college when we had these group outings in such restaurants and all we ordered was appetizers and starters. Always had this perception that main course is for people who either do not have kitchen or are about to commit suicide :O :O. While we made a mess of the 'ambience', the civilized world around had trouble adjusting with our presence- maybe a part of theirs wanted to be like us :)

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  47. @sm...Thanks.

    @Sri Tatsat..Tell your mom, she has company. At 44, I love 5 Star. No candies, truffles or Belgian chocolate can beat it.
    The only sad part is that with sedentary lifestyles a lot of guilt comes free with every Bhatura and Gulab Jamun.

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  48. Desi pizzas! I also look for some desi taste whatever I eat! Else, I end up eating curd rice and pickle at home! That's the manufacturing defect in me! Should ask my parents!
    I always make desi ishtyle pasta at home and that's more easily acceptable by both S and I, adding palak, panneer, some masala powder! Ah! that makes me drooling over desi food!
    I 'm in love with your anecdote dear! What a dialogue. Wish Rajnikanth use such dialogues in his forthcoming movies!!

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  49. @Vaish..I am flattered. Thanks.

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