Thursday, July 31, 2014

Shravan again - we lose a Test match again

History repeats itself.

Problem is no one listens to me, much less read the pearls of wisdom I write.

In August 2011, I had written about the problem plaguing our cricket team that was then on tour in England. The Indian cricket team was being roundly beaten by the English. I had known at that time that the real problem was it was the Hindu Holy Month of Shravan in August 2011. Our deeply religious cricketers `observe fast’ – to use an Indianism – during Shravan. If you are an international sportsman and you fast during an international test match you cannot be expected to perform at your best. Thus, the fasting Indian cricket team was demolished.

Fast forward to July 2014. India are in England for a series of 5 test Matches. The Second Test match was played at Lords on 17th to 21st July 2014. India won the match and took a 1-0 lead in the 5 match series. I was not surprised. I knew the reason. It was NOT Shravan. In fact it was Ramazan. This means two things, first, that India was at full strength, secondly, Moeen Ali was fasting, he was operating at half speed. Let me assure you that I knew that the victory was pyrrhic.

By the time the Third Test came along on Sunday 27th July 2014 tables have turned. Shravan started on Sunday 27th. Saturday 26th was `Gattaari’. The match started and the Indian bowlers were being bashed. Isshant Sharma a hero at Lords was injured. The bowlers failed. The batsmen failed and India have lost the Test match.

If that was not enough, Tuesday 29th July was Idd. On cue, on Wednesday and Thursday Moeen Ali bowled like a champion. He has taken 6 wickets. Moeen Ali is a spin bowler. Indians are supposed to be experts at playing spin, however with Moeen Ali back to full strenght post Idd and the Indians struggling with fasting, knowing how to play spin was academic.

The next test is at Manchester on the 7th of August and the last test is at Oval on 15th August. Shravan will still be on. We are bound to loose.

Why oh why can we not play during Shravan. All matches should be during Lent when the Christian World is fasting. We do not tour Pakistan so playing them in Ramzan does not arise.

Could someone please tell this to the BCCI. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Amar Juice Centre - The best Pav Bhaji?

I am often told that I should go out a bit more, eat at some new places, there is such exciting food in Bombay. Frankly, I couldn’t be bothered. Generally the food is rubbish, drinks overpriced and, if it is a `trendy’ restaurant, it will be full of vapid Yummy Mummies and Daddies. The last decent new restaurant that I can recommend with my hand on my heart is The Table. The Table has good food. In fact, the food is so good that we go there in spite of the hugely overpriced drinks and masses of vapid Yummy Mummies and Daddies that inhabit the place. I say the same for Yauatcha, good food, overpriced drinks, vapid crowd with the added disadvantage of having a smattering of Bollywood `tara’s’.

Anyway, we were at our Travel Agent, a lovely Gujju boy, scared of nothing, absolutely nothing, except – `non veg’. I asked him a totally random question, where do you get the best Pav Bhaji? His eyes lit up, a smile crossed his lips and he said - `Amar Juice Centre. They really charge a lot, but, their quality is fantastic.’

Now, we trust our Travel Agent with all our bookings. Plus, as I have written earlier he is a lovely Gujju boy, so, logically he must know his Pav Bhaji. So, after we finished our work for the morning, we decided to have lunch at Amar Juice Centre Chowpatty.

For those of you in the know, Amar Juice Centre is very famous. The original Amar Juice Centre is at Vile Parle, a Gujju Ghetto if there ever was one. Amar Juice Centre built its reputation on excellent Pav Bhaji, Juices, and, the fact that it remained open till very late at night [or early in the morning] depending on how you looked at your glass. These two factors ensured large crowds which disturbed the neighbourhood. So, the Right Honourable Raosaheb Ramrao Patil sent the nutty Vasant Dhoble to investigate. Vasant Dhoble went there armed with a posse of `Sakharams’ and a hockey stick with which he threatened the staff, the manager and all the patrons enjoying their Pav Bhaji and Pineapple Juice. This ensured further fame for Amar Juice Centre.

Amar Juice Centre now has branches in Andheri and Chowpatty, where we went.

 Pav Bhaji was food for the blue collar worker and the barely white collar worker. Cannon Pav Bhaji Stall outside the V T Station [it still exists] was probably the best known. Then, sometime in the early 1970’s a roadside stall called Waikiki – I have no idea why it was so named – opened at Breach Candy, just outside the Hospital where today you have a BEST Bus Shelter. This was bang opposite Rajabali Patel Road. Even today the road/footpath sort of widens at this point. Waikiki served Pav Bhaji, and this was a huge hit. The rich and famous thronged Waikiki and ate this great new thing – Pav Bhaji. Soon Pav Bhaji became hugely fashionable and you had Solly outside Heera Panna Building at Haji Ali and Sardar at Tardeo. Everyone ate Pav Bhaji. This was a time before the mushrooming Sukh Sagars.

Neither I nor the Queen of Kutch had eaten Pav Bhaji on the road or at a restaurant in years. Literally years. If we had the choice we would always opt for Kebabs and not Pav Bhaji. I was deeply suspicious of homemade Pav Bhaji however much I was assured that it tasted just like street food. I do remember buying Pav Bhaji from Maruti Pav Bhaji Walla, also at Vile Parle, several years ago and getting it home. That was quite distinct; it was dark brown and tasted of Malwani type masala. Quite good, I recall. Maruti Pav Bhaji Walla still exists in Vile Parle but in a slightly different location. I was quite looking forward to the Pav Bhaji at Amar Juice Centre.

As we entered, I realised that this was a `Shetty’ operated place, only Tulu and Kannada spoken. For some reason I believed it would be North Indian operated. Anyway, no problem. We waited patiently as what seemed like an entire division of FYJC students from Wilson College trooped down the stairs. Soon we were seated and looked at the menu. Obviously, since Pav Bhaji is what Amar Juice Centre is famous for, this was at the very top of the menu. On offer were several types of Pav BhajiSpecial Pav Bhaji, Jain Pav Bhaji, Khada Pav Bhaji, Masala Pav Bhaji, Cheese Pav Bhaji, Cheese Khada Pav Bhaji, Amar Pav Bhaji, Cheese Masala Pav Bhaji, Paneer Khada Pav Bhaji. No, I do not know what many of them are.

The menu was divided into sections, I kid you not, here are some of the titles:

On The Roll – this has Veg Hot Dogs, Veg Garlic Hot Dogs, Manchurian Roll etc

Grill – Nope not a juicy steak but Veg Grill Sandwich, Sweet Corn Cheese Grill Sandwich

Chat Lo – Yup, Bhel Puri, etc

Dakshin Express

China Town

Chinese Gravy

Blossoms Delight – Water Melon Blossom, Shogun Blossom [Frankly, I have no clue either]

Swath Saath – Extra Pav, Roasted Papad etc

We asked the waiter which was the best Pav Bhaji, and to get us two plates. In retrospect, I should have ordered two different types but now that chance is gone. We got two Melamine plates with 3 sections. The largest had Pav Bhaji – Special Pav Bhaji was what we got – one section had two Pavs with lashings of butter and the last had two Lime cheeks with Chilli Powder sprinkled on them. The Bhaji was a lurid red, hot [as in temperature] and spicy with the taste of raw uncooked out masala and garlic. The Bhaji was less than nice. Frankly I was disappointed, but then I do not know of a `Gold’ Standard for Pav Bhaji with which I could compare this. I do not think I have missed much in my life by not having Pav Bhaji all these years if this is supposed to be really good Pav Bhaji. If this is regarded as `fantastic quality’ and worth the price [Rs 130 ++] by a Gujju who knows the price of everything then it only reaffirms my belief that Gujjus seriously need their heads examined.

The waiter, a friendly young guy told me that weekend are absolutely chocker block, evenings are crazy, and many days they have Kitty Parties attending. Weekday lunch is generally the students from the nearby colleges.

The waiter got a tip of Rs 50/- on a bill of Rs 230/-. Good chap. Not really his fault that Gujjus need their heads examined.

No photos alas.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The story of a `Bai', a relation and the MCA.

HRH the Queen of Kutch is a member of the hallowed MCA Bandra. This is a new club whose name is Mumbai Cricket Association Recreation Centre and it is located at the Bandra Kurla Complex. In all honesty, this is a very good club. The facilities are excellent. The pool where I swim is far better than the much more hallowed Bombay Gymkhana. The Gymnasium beats the socks out of most gyms. The food is above average, and being a new construction everything is modern and nice. It is a good club.

The problem is the members. Many of them are strange to say the least.

Have a look at this Notice. This is put up on the notice board of the club.

A few quick quotes on the subject:

“God gives us relatives; thank God, we can choose our friends.” 

“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relations.”

“I sustain myself with the love of family.” 

Now you may well as what is the fuss about? Why is the club issuing such strange notices? A bit of background is needed to make bring this out.

Most clubs permit entry for `ayahs’ or maids. The maids are permitted entry to supervise toddlers, infants and young kids in need of supervision. Consequently, while entry is permitted, total access is not permitted. So a maid can only accompany the child to certain areas in a club – the children’s playground for instance. Maids cannot enter the dining rooms, pools, gymnasium, and library and so on. Because of this, a maid is not charged an entry fee.

On the other hand a guest is charged an entry fee and can, with his host, go to all parts of the club.

Got it? Nice and logical.

Now, into this neat set of rules bring in our genius members interpretations. These genius members have a lot of money [actually you don’t need a lot of money] and no sense. So what they do is sign in the maid as a guest. Signing in a guest is a mere Rs. 100 or maximum Rs. 200/- so money is inconsequential. Then once the `guest maid’ is signed in she can accompany them everywhere like the dining room. So on one large table will sit Papa Smurf, Mama Smurf, Baba Smurf, Baby Smurf, Aji Smurf, Ajoba Smurf and `Bai’!!!

Yes folks, at the MCA dining room `Bai’ will sit at the same dining table as `Saab’. Not at home, no never, kabhi nahi, but at the MCA it’s okay. Then, since `guest maid’ is actually a `Bai’, signed in as guest, she cannot be given any food. Now that would really be too much to expect. So `guest maid’ `Bai’sits at the table while Papa Smurf guzzles beer, and others chomp down on Pizza. The neighbouring table sees all this and questions how the `guest maid’ `Bai’can be sitting at the table since she is actually a `Bai’ who is not allowed in. So our genius members say, she is not a `Bai’ but our relation and is signed in as a guest!!

Got it? Nice and logical? Fully in keeping with the rules? All guest entry paid, so bringing in `Bai’ is not a problem. And `Bai’ is not `Bai’, she is Fui.

I am staggered by the brilliance of these geniuses.

Like I wrote in the previous post, I have only questions no answers.