Friday, February 14, 2014

The Capital - 1.The Political Game Changer: aka Piyaaz!

This is the first chapter in this series and the topic for discussion was destined even before this idea was born. It had to be about the food. Nothing else could be thought of as being so mysterious and archaic about the north Indian food to the southee and vice versa. So there you go. Enjoy your meal.

Eating out in Delhi is a custom that is common to all metros. Mostly because the unmarried and educated working lads and gals do not have time to cook after a hectic day at work. The wealthy, usually afford a cook. But for post-grad-medico-students like us eating out is a routine act. It's usually the hostel mess, or the roadside dhaba and rarely the proper 'restaurant'.

Often I go out with my northee lads to such eateries. In the initial days, I wouldn't care less if someone asked for some piyaaz before ordering the meal itself or if someone asked for more piyaaz during a meal. By the way piyaaz is Hindi for onion or venkayam. Here in north, people use only the bigger version of the vegetable, I doubt that they would be even aware of the smaller variety that is so commonly used in the south and which is much more tastier (so says my mom!). Back to the hotel scene, as time grew I found myself wondering if this behaviour is normal. NO!! was the answer my brain immediately sprang at me. As any southee would tell you, eating raw piyaaz is a big no-no as it makes your breath go stale. It is true actually. However, the northee would almost obsessively and instantly look to chuck down a bunch of piyaaz springs down that throat, almost reflexively. The habit is so pervasive that they may have meal without water but not without piyaaz, even kids are affected. But, hey! who am I to judge?, they also drink sambar in a glass with spoon. 

Ever wondered why there is so much political conniption when the piyaaz prices go up. It has always been my inexplicable mystery while growing up down south. Political parties take to the road, agitating against the government, accusing each other over hoarding, poor crop management and illegal exports. Recently in Delhi, the ruling party was staging a 'road roko' for the rise. Confusing, isn't it? It would be even for the seasoned economist if he wasn’t a local. The mystery finally unfolded, and I had to come to the Capitol for the answer. Piyaaz is so entwined in the northee cuisine and so ingrained in their taste buds, that it is almost equivalent to the breathing air for them. If you ask me for a southee equivalent, I would probably think for a while and still I would come up with a few competing answers, no unanimous winner. History shows us that piyaaz holds to the key to government, here at least in the north. It has the power to make or break The Government. In my opinion, piyaaz symbolizes the true spirit of democracy in a country where common symbols are uncommon.

I must confess now, that after three years I have taken a liking to the piyaaz, as a symbol of unity, as a vegetable and as a revolutionary. However I miss the taste of small onions and the rice broth that goes along well with it.

The Wait on Valentine's Day.

Light from the screen of her mobile phone lit up the tear that had just landed on it and made it look like a pearl. She was trying to sleep but the dark room didn't help much, as did the moonlight casting a shy shadow of the window across her face. She awaited a call from him. “Or at least a text”, she thought. It was more than a minute into the day celebrated as Valentine’s Day. Deep down in her heart she knew that he did not truly love her and he was just performing a duty to her. But nonetheless she waited and expected. What is the loss anyway; they were bound together by the holy bond. Her logic tried to convince her heart that he would not call her, but her heart kept on believing in the impossible. The battle between the two lead to more tears and the fatigue had finally caught up. She fell asleep.

Throughout the day the battle continued. She kept checking her inbox and call logs. But there was no sign of love in the signal. The day was almost nearing its end as was her hope. The battle reached an impasse and she had almost given up. Probably he is busy at work, or his phone is not working or maybe it’s the poor network, she continuously thought of reasons to explain the non-event. However, she was consciously avoiding that particular reason which was possibly true.

She declared that enough waiting had taken place and vowed not to check her phone anymore. She switched it off and tried to concentrate on other things around her. But no matter how hard she tried, her heart kept imaging the impossible and imprisoned her thoughts like the bird in a cage. Every song on the TV, every hero in the movie and every scene in the day had his image all over. It was too much to bear.

She succumbed. She frantically switched on her phone and…