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Thursday, January 22, 2015

With love, from Thiruvananthapuram.

One lazy day, as I browsed through channels on TV I came across this white guy on an international food channel, probably on his first visit to Kerala, saying that kappa(tapioca) and red fish curry is his ‘comfort food’. I almost laughed aloud. Comfort food it seems. That is MY comfort food my friend, yours is bread, I thought, with a typical bigheaded grin. And this grin is typical of Mallus, as we are known to take immense pride in our food. And our ego comes from the fact that even though the world eats bread for breakfast, we Mallus eat bread only when we are sick or dying.

You may think that on a map, Kerala looks like an strand of onion that fell out of your Biryani, but remember, this is God’s own ‘country’ and we have diverse slangs and cuisines across districts. I was brought up in the capital city, Thiruvananthapuram, and had a tough time communicating to an earlier housemaid from Calicut. There was nothing common in the Malayalam we spoke to each other; sometimes I had to use Google Images to make her understand vegetable names. Not to mention the number of situations Google decided to get naughty when I searched vegetable names on it:-/

I married a guy from Cochin and that turned out to be something like ‘2 States’. This household makes me question my proficiency in Malayalam. When Cochin people get angry or frustrated, they say ‘Manga Tholi’ and scratch their heads/bang their fists. ‘Manga Tholi’ translates to mango peel, and why they swear with a reference to the harmless and actually delicious mango we’ll never know. But for me, this is highly amusing. :D I still laugh when I see Cochin characters in movies tearing their hair apart and saying ‘Manga Tholi’. Another distinct feature of people in Cochin is that they look down on Thiruvananthapuram, our slang and food.  They also migrate to Thiruvananthapuram in large numbers for jobs, to attend good colleges, schools and for better living in general. Because Cochin has only malls, more malls, and a whole load of Manga Tholi ;-)  

Seafood, especially the red fish curry traditionally slow cooked in a mud vessel brings us all together, despite our differences, which is a feat accomplished earlier by the Janashatabdi Express. Even hard- core non-vegetarians (majority of the population) enjoy the purely vegetarian sadya on the banana leaf, complete with four payasams. A true blue Mallu will lick his fingers when he finishes the last payasam. And that is how it is done. We also intend to invite Oprah Winfrey for Onam to eat a full-fledged sadya with fork and spoon.

Image Courtesy: Here
Sadya in Thiruvananthapuram is different from other places as we have a special item called Boli with Aripayasam (Paal Payasam). My husband hadn’t heard of Boli till he married me. And he claims to have eaten Sadya! How ridiculous is that? Pity, I say. Firstly, living up to age 27 without knowing the awesomeness that is me, and secondly, not knowing Boli? Sigh.

Now Boli is a traditional sweet, served with payasam for Sadya.
Boli and Payasam: Image Courtesy
This is a unique item mostly known and enjoyed only in Thiruvananthapuram. And that is my idea of comfort food, my friends. I eat it with my soul. I have attended innumerable Hindu weddings for it, without any idea about the bride or the groom. 

This Christmas, Mummy Boli and Payasam at home and needless to say, it was the best thing about Christmas. I invite all my friends reading this, to try this delicious dish, if you haven’t already. 

We forgive you for hating Thiruvananthapauram.

Monday, January 12, 2015

The pre-Christmas pickle.

December 14, 2014.

Hubby had to leave from Muscat to his home on emergency, which left me and Aaron in quite an unforeseen situation. Our tickets were booked for the 19th of December and we had four more days to go. 1. I had to manage work, home and Aaron alone for four days. 2. I had to control him at the airport alone on the day of travel. 3. I had to pack our stuff and keep a tab on the weight 4. Last but not the least, I had to calm down.

On the first night without the hubby I realized that I was not a brave parent. So we slept with a small light on, so that any ghosts, thieves or serial killers wandering in the corridor may find us sooner than they intended to. For a three year old, ignorance is bliss and he is a testimony to that. He ate, drank, watched TV and slept peacefully. It was me who stayed awake till 2 am trying to hear imaginary noises.

After successfully staying alive for three nights (yoohoo!), came our last day before flying off to our vacation. It was an extremely busy day at office, but I took a few moments off to check-in online and I logged on to the airline website. The website was sophisticated well designed and had all possible options an airline website could provide. I was impressed.  The air hostesses on the cover page of the website looked like they just fell off from heaven. I clicked on the link ‘Online check in’.

I entered the confirmation number from the ticket only to get a message that said ‘We are unable to check in using this number. Please contact customer care’. My heart raced.  I called up customer care and the conversation went like this.

Me: ‘Hello?’

Useless female 1: ‘Hello, Good Morning, This is Airline office. How may I help you?’

Me: I have two tickets tomorrow on your flight  XYZ. I am unable to check in online.

Useless Female1: ‘No problem Ma’am. Please give me your ticket number’

Me: “It is 12345.”

Useless Female1: ‘I am sorry Ma’am your ticket was cancelled five days back. You may want to book ticket again at our revised ticket rate’

The revised rate of the ticket looked like the approximate net price of the aircraft.

Picture courtesy: Here
Me: “This is ridiculous! My husband had booked three tickets, and he cancelled only his ticket. Just his. My son and I are travelling tomorrow!”

Useless Female 1: “Madam, we have refunded the amount of all the three tickets”

Me: “ WE DID NOT request cancellation of all three tickets!

Useless Female1: “Hold on, Madam, I will pass your call to the concerned Department”

Why did this female answer the call if she was not the “concerned” person? From the way these people handled airline booking I dint think that anybody was really ‘concerned’.

Useless Female 2: “Hello, Madam, you should know that the entire amount for all three tickets was refunded, you have to purchase ticket again”

Me : “What the hell are you talking about? Does it occur to you that unless it is mentioned explicitly you cannot cancel tickets at your own discretion?”

Useless Female 2: “Then you have to talk to that person who sent the cancellation number!”

Me: “What do you mean ‘THAT PERSON’. Who is THAT person? Do you have someone who can solve this issue? A phone number you can give ? How responsible are you?”

Useless Female 2: “We can’t do anything about this Madam…”

I disconnected the call. I had emptied the fridge, packed and informed all my colleagues. Our minds were anticipating this trip for months. That’s not all. To make matters worse, I wished my colleagues a happy new year in advance as I was going on vacation, and now I dint know how to undo any of that.

This was a kind of pickle I did not expect to be in the last moment. I could somehow explain the situation to my parents and Aaron, but showing up at office another day, after broadcasting my itinerary to everyone as if I was going to Malibu was beyond me. I quickly made plans B and C in my head, one of them being taking my laptop and working behind the office Christmas tree. Meanwhile I logged on to another website to check if there were any other flights available for the 20th of December. And there was one at a reasonable fare.

Finally when the aircraft touched down my home grounds, I felt a sense of accomplishment. I took immense pride in myself, for all the things that happened in the last moment and how we managed to see through it. It was like a Christmas suspense thriller with a Bollywood climax.

I am now back from a blissful vacation. J

Thank you, Jesus, for the strength. May be next time you could consider giving me surprise tests at other occasions and not Christmas. Just saying.  Hope you had a great birthday!

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