I write so I can breathe. I am constantly evolving, mindless at times, frustrating even perhaps but heck, I wouldn't change the smell of freedom that comes with writing.

Monday, October 14, 2013

We Got Served

There is a mix of frustration, anger and amusement when one moves from a metro city to a smaller city. We had a dose of it last night. It doesn’t help when you are a foodie, especially when you know how to cook, know how the dish has to be prepared and served. My husband and I began our hunt for good eating joints in Jaipur when we moved here from Mumbai two and a half months ago. (Wow! It has been that long!)

We look like a pair of firangs. Well…maybe not so much but it is obvious, we carry the distinct Mumbai touch wherever we go. You can take a person out of Mumbai but you cannot take Mumbai out of a person. So, the incredible Jaipur journey is something that continues to make me pause time and again and shake my head in utter disbelief. Each time I eat out in Jaipur, I have this great longing to open my own food place…I am getting ahead of myself.

My nephew recommended a place for sizzlers last evening. After burning an effigy of Raavan (in RaOne robotic form), we headed out for dinner. He wanted to go to the only place he ever wants to go. Dominos. I have this thing about food. Don’t repeat the food within three days unless you really cannot avoid it. I was bent on not heading out for pizza again and since it was Dasshera, I insisted we have a proper sitting-in proper meal. Niros was overflowing. That is our usual place to go to. The beer there is chilled proper, you tend to get, by a greater percentage, what you ordered, and it is all reasonably priced with decent service. I say decent service because my measurement of great restaurant service is a considerable notch (read way above) what I experience and see.

So, we turned around and headed to this recommended sizzler place at Crystal Palm called IndiJoes. I entered the place and was fairly impressed by the mixers I saw at the bar. It was a proper bar with the walls done up like any trendy pub in Mumbai, low lights, good furniture and an array of lovely cocktail glasses lined up. We grinned in agreement, parched for a good drink.

The service disaster began with delays in service of water or presentation of the menu card. We asked for a bottle of water at room temperature which finally was served to us. The steward Ravi even had Atul check the temperature of the bottle (like it was beer) before he opened the bottle to pour water. Ahem! Here is what followed:

Us: We would like to have the bar menu.

Ravi: Sorry Sir, we do not serve alcohol. (Whaaaaaaaat!!!! Oh damn…we are visibly shattered)

Me: What is that bar for? (I cannot believe what I hear especially with the super bar I see in the corner.)

Ravi: Err…that was before. Now we don’t serve.

We open the menu to see the line-up of mocktails. Amay orders a Mountain Dew (not available), Sprite (not available) and settles for a Seven Up. By the time he orders that I am cringing on the Virgin Marry, Virgin Mohito, Pinna Colladda, Cocnut Crash…the spellings makes the Grammar G in me surface and dread the drink that will come to the table. Eventually, we order the Virgin Mojitos’ and shake our head. Drinks arrive. Not enough ice but, will do.

I am appalled at the spelling errors in the list. At some point later while we are eating I mention to Atul how reflective a menu is on the state of affairs in any restaurant. It tells of the carelessness and lack of attention to excellence in service and quality of food. It will be compromised. The menu, but the way, has only three listed sizzlers, all vegetarian. The carnivore in us is fairly alarmed. Amay pipes up that he has eaten Chicken Sizzler here and describes to us what a sizzler is. Patiently we hear him out and then when the manager is called here is what and how we order:

Me: What sizzlers do you have?

Manager: We have Mixed Vegetables Sizzler with Cheese, we have Mushroom Sizzler and we have Chinese Sizzler.

I am a greater shade perturbed by now.There are several pauses before the Manager responds.

Me(cautiously): Is this place vegetarian?

Manager: Oh no! We...we have Chicken Sizzler, Chicken Shashlik Sizzler and Chinese Chicken Sizzler served with Noodles.

Amay wants a Chicken Sizzler and says he won’t be able to finish it so we agree to share. Atul orders Chicken Reshmi Tikka, Amay a Chicken Cheese Kabab and I am undecided.

Me: What is the best food available here on the menu?

Manager (in a barely audible voice): Veg sizzler.


Me: Chicken Shashlik Sizzler? (He nods. I sigh.)

Me: Apart from that?

Manager: Continental. (Ah yes! Right!)

I decide to test out the continental fare and pick ‘Roastad Potatoes’ that describes the dish as roasted potatoes served with vegetables and tartar sause. He wries it down.

Atul: For the main course, I will have Mutton Keema with Butter Naan.

Me: Alright, that’s all. If we need more, we will order later. Could you repeat the order please.

Manager: One Chinese Chicken Sizzler

Me (I am beginning to get real frightened now): No, it’s Chicken Sizzler

Manager fumbles and reads on: Chicken Shaslik Sizzler

Me (Oh my!): No…cancel that. Just Chicken Sizzler.

He nods and strikes out.

Manager: One plate Chicken Reshmi Tikka, one plate Chicken Cheese Kabab, one plate Roasted Potatoes, one plate Mutton Keema with Naan. (I nod). Shall I serve it all together?

Atul: No, bring the starters first and then the main course.

With a ‘Yes, Sir’ he walks away.

The Roasted Potatoes get served while I am speaking to someone on the phone. I am distracted. I find myself (and everyone else) served something that looks like hash brown potatoes. I take a bite, it is a bad version of hash browns. They are edible though. The kababs arrive and we get served some really salty chicken cheese kababs with mint chutney. The chutney is great while the tartar sauce is a blob of mayonnaise with chopped capsicum in it.

We try to like the ambience; anything that can get us to feel better about the food and service. We notice the walls have whisky and beer collage on it. It makes us feel cheated somehow and we end up cracking jokes on Ashok Gehlot’s eight p.m ban on sale of alcohol in liquor shops. I recall saying this place has so much potential to turn into something great. Atul says it could become a great pub. I agree. We wouldn’t need much work on the ambience at all; just move the furniture a bit. I even see a corner where a live band can be placed. Atul indicates the ceiling and I stop short. The ceiling is painted with semi-naked women in three sections. I look around and see children sitting around having meals with families. I cringe. I have a twelve year old with me. Quite obviously a full-fledged adult bar and restaurant has turned into this family joint sans alcohol without making an effort to do something about the ceiling.

Getting back to food…The sizzler arrives before the starters are fully served. I send it back. I have registered the fact that the sizzler plate was overflowing with rice. I will deal with it later. We eat salty kebabs and send back the unsalted chicken tikkas only to find it come back to us, the same plate within ten seconds. I am getting exasperated and annoyance wells up. We eat.

Starters over, we ask for the sizzler to be served. It arrives without the sizzle. I expected that, considering I sent it back ten minutes ago because it was served in advance. I question the pile of rice and the measly dollop of chicken (which suspiciously looks like chinese chilly chicken). Ravi insists that it is their speciality that sizzler is served with rice. I am adamant by now. I tell him, I ordered a chicken sizzler and not a shashlik. Quite obviously, he cannot see the difference and I ask for the manager to come. I tell him I asked for a chicken sizzler and this isn’t one. He argues while I patiently explain to him the difference and what a real sizzler is all about and how each one differs. He agrees to replace it.

What comes back is that same dollop of chinese chilly chicken, very salted mushroom, barely steamed vegetables and fries that are not to die for. I sigh. We all do. We eat it slowly and now the anger and frustration has changed to resigned acceptance.

No wait…there is more.

Remember Atul’s main course order? While we chew on the sizzler, we are served, into the same plate (without asking) keema stuff naan. Yes, we did order different. Atul really cannot take it anymore and calls for the manager. He sounds it off and the manager once more apologizes, removes the naan from the plate and goes to replace it with Mutton Keema and butter naan.

By this time, I am desperate to know who owns this place and I wonder what it will cost to buy out a place like this and change service and the food.

We are not over with the agony yet. The man serves butter naan with Mutton (with bones) in Keema gravy. I admit, the mutton is cooked to perfection and tastes awesome. It is NOT what we ordered but we are beyond caring. In utter disbelief, we quietly eat and eventually ask Ravi to parcel the rest of the mutton for us. After a point, we are convinced the parcel has been packaged to be couriered via a third party because it doesn’t reach us.

Refusing dessert, having already decided to have ice-cream from Baskin Robbins we pay an undeserving two grand three hundred and walk out. We laugh but it has been another disappointment for us as foodies. We miss Mumbai food and service. I could do so much with this place if only I could buy out this place…I need to get rich fast and open up a place that will awaken people here to excellence in service and quality food that is a memorable one, something one would want to return to over and over again.


- Sandy

Thursday, October 3, 2013


This is a long gap from my last one. I guess when things are intense you either write some of your best pieces or enter a block. I don’t know which one this one. I am still figuring that out but that is not what I want to write about today. 

I am forty-one and about three weeks ago, I sifted through my old stuff finally; the stuff I had packed away when I left the Navy in 2001. Yes, that long ago. Old trunks full of treasures, papers you thought you had lost and so many memories. I found two of my slam books from way back when I was in college and school. John Stamos glued as a cover and another blue-eyed guy at the back, too shy to even admit then that I really liked John Stamos, it was covered with a translucent cover. I smile when I think back. I flipped those yellow pages and it was more smiles. Guess what? My classmates from way back in school and college had me figured out well before I spent another couple of decades figuring me out. 

I even had a survey page on my Slam Book from College where I asked people what they thought I was like. I was apparently friendly, helpful, nice, sensitive, trusty and responsible. But, Himanshu, you said I was unpredictable. Well, I guess, you saw that way before anyone else did. 

I love you all! Across the years, thank you for making me smile! 

I am in touch with about twenty percent of them. Some of the names I do no recall a face, some faces, just photographs has me struggling to recall names (that’s from the huge bunch of pictures I found as well). I wish I could find some friends I have wondered about over the years, like Priyanka Singh. No online search has emerged with the one I am hunting for. I have remembered her every birthday and I have prayed she was doing well and happy wherever she is. 

I also found a page written by my brother then. I believe, for each other, we have remained the same. My eyes did tear up reading that he had so much faith in me then and he still has. I thank God for that. Beliefs and trust, a desire to not be forgotten, the marvellous eighties, the crazy fun times, little things I had forgotten. 

I also found a napkin with the signature and basketball players tag numbers mentioned from the 1990 Senior National Basketball team from Jammu Kashmir. It was my first Senior Nationals and it reminded me of how carefree those days were. It also filled my heart with heaviness that half of those players who were from Srinagar are those who no longer played subsequent nation tournaments because suddenly we lost all those girls to the endless abyss of terrorism and restrictions that came with it in the state. And they were brilliant players…Zeenat, Jeeya, Shabana, Amrita…you were missed. 

I rummage in the frail pages, paper napkins for memories of those I will probably never meet in my life. I smile reading about referrals to crushes I had, to the pranks we played, to the beer we drank at NASA during my SSB in Bangalore. There were five of us who hung out together. One of us didn’t make it. Three guys joined the Army and I the Navy. Kumud, Teddy, Harry and Mahendra, you guys are remembered.

I am still reading stuff. I am smiling as I go through old pictures that have so many untold stories. I got truly slammed! 

- Sandy