January 25, 2008

Visa woes

With the impending wedding to the France-settled groom, the only thing remaining was to get the visa... Sure I have an admission letter.. a grant.. all the funds... the insurance and every conceivable thing on earth. So you would think getting the visa would be a piece of cake, right? Wrong. Its a whole week since I actively started the visa formalities and 20 days since I first did. And finally just yesterday I collected my passport with the visa splashed across its pages. My experience with Alliance Francais forced me to rechristen it as Alachal Francais... I have been there up and down a trillion times.. ok 4 times to be precise and spent no less than 6 hours each visit. Mr S there turned out to be real helpful but even then the stupid online form/system left a lot to be desired. It was forever before I could get the No Objection Certificate - something I believed trivial/unnecessary before I realized that the time I was investing at AF was essentially the time I would be saving at the consulate. And so Pa and I finally set off on Tuesday to Pondicherry where the consulate was situated. Having been told by many sources that the lines start forming at wee hours of the morning, we left the night before and got to a hotel in the hopes of finding ourselves at the start of the line early next morning.

5:00 AM - We were at the locked doors of the consulate, the first ones at the helm of the non-existant line only to be informed by the guard that no person in their right mind was going to come before 7:45AM to the consulate doors that opened at 8:00AM.

7:00 AM- The guard was right.. There wasn't an ee-kaka (housefly/crow) around.. It was the perfect situation to feed the rumbling stomach at Adyar Anand Bhavan.. And off we went.. A sumptuous breakfast later... there were still no people.

8:00 AM- There were 4 of us - the same 4 who made multiple trips to AF.. The consulate doors opened. I was first in and first out - all under 1 minute.. And the result? Visa approved. But pick up the passport the next day.

Nonsense. Multiple Pondy trips and a couple of sleepless nights later, I have my passport with the visa stamped.

A week to go. I am unlikely to blog until afterward.

January 16, 2008

The Manchurian Ravings

Yes.. I finally did it.. My maiden attempt - awesome yummy gobi manchurian.. It took 2 hours and it was all gone in 5 minutes. But it was worth every minute of the effort. And finally now that I can make it, the craving is gone.

January 15, 2008

Closing in...

The countdown began 10 months ago and now there's just 15 days to go... Good Lord! The rush has only just begun.....

January 7, 2008

Oru kozhaviyin diary

For those who don't know - a kozhavi is a honeybee.

Our house has always been the honeybee hub. Ever since I was little I remember the tiny kozhavis swarming the restroom in the chinna (little) room of our house. They used to bustle right up near the tiny window and build elaborate mansions which they would breed in and eventually abandon. Invariably we had the watchman clear the houses (hives) once the 'season' was over. Finally we netted up the window to prevent further incidents. But the kozhavis weren't to be fooled. They soon shifted base to the main window frame of the chinna room. I have always marveled at how hardworking the kozhavis were... They relentlessly brought in what I assume is mud and used some sticky body fluid to build their hives. (I have never seen any honey in the hive... it seemed just like a house for the bees to flock to every night). The structures got more elaborate and complicated as days passed. And soon we realized that not removing the hives earlier caused them to leave imprint patterns on the window or any other location which enabled them to find their way back again the next season.

The reason I remembered the kozhavis was that this time yet again they'd started building one at the same spot. My parents told me tales of how a large and very bustling colony had been constructed a few months ago. And due to an impending birth in the family, no one wanted to destroy the hive in case it rendered bad luck. This reminds me of a time when a bat found its way into the chinna room and lodged itself on the cupboard door. The poor thing had to be rescued from there and screeched in pain/terror till the watchman carefully set it free. And that incident of the other night when my bro was almost paralyzed with fear from the appearance of some animal which I have been fortunate not to sight. It seemed it was as large as a rat but looked like an insect and the watchmen claimed its nomenclature as a thundil on description. I can with no shame say that I would perhaps have fainted on such a sighting. Or the time a rat found its way in the house and we had no idea in which room it was - till we baited it by placing fruits in every room of the house and isolating it. It was the chinna room yet again. Back to the kozhavi - We had the housemaid dislodge the hive yesterday morning when the worker bees had all gone out. And we shut the window. Just when we thought we were done with them kozhavis, we saw one come in through the hall window desperately searching for its house perhaps. It is as my dad says - its the humans that need to be feared the most.

PS: We don't live in a jungle and our chinna room isn't filthy... But for some vague, weird reason its attracted almost all of the pests.

January 6, 2008

Chennai Chutzpah

Chennai has changed. I have said that each time in every post since I came to India. While many of the changes are the modernizations, this time I am out to crib. I can barely recognize the Chennai roads anymore and it has more to do with the traffic scene out there than the detours.

I accompanied my SIL-to-be yesterday to Ranganathan Theru.. (For the unfamiliar many, its this winding street in TNagar buzzling with trillion stores and million times as many people). She wanted to buy some jewelry at Saravana Stores (This is one of those multistoreyed stores that sell everything from a 50 paise to over 50 lakhs.. from clothes to jewelry to toys to furniture). We snaked our way into the street vaguely keeping sight of one another and tight hold on our purses and wound up at the door of the store. It took us 5 minutes to get to the entrance.. Once there we were informed rather rudely by one of the security fellows that we couldn't carry her sari upstairs to match it.. but instead we had to leave it underground, where there were many large puddles of dirty water from recent rains, I might add. We used my cell phone camera to capture a handy picture of the sari in case we needed to match it.. That done, we decided it was better to climb the 5 floors rather than wait for the overcrowded elevators. Once upstairs we were in for another surprise. They wanted to seal our handbags in large plastic bags lest we steal anything. I was exasperated with the security measures (I secretly don't blame them but wish they had something more fool-proof that didn't inconvenience the customers as much). Once in, there were sooo many people that I could barely feel any airconditioning (wonder if there was any), the salespeople were overworked and could barely tend to us... Everything took frustratingly long. And yet there were all these people there.. buying, screaming, billing, brushing across and what not. Either people have too much time or too much money or both. On restrospect the crowds were thronging because of Pongal perhaps. But still it was more than I could bear. I was getting rapidly claustrophobic and I thought I would pass out by the time we billed the small jimiki (jhumka) I bought there. And the worst part of it all was that we didnt find anything for my poor SIL. :(

I experienced Part II of the madness today when we went to Mylapore for yet another bout of shopping. The shopping part went on reasonably well and we went to the Saravana Bhavan nearby for a refreshing meal afterward. The trouble began here. Though the restaurant boasts an underground parking, of course on a Sunday evening, it was full. Appa and I parked at the far end of the street and took a hunger evoking walk to the restaurant. And once done, the fact that there was a Thiruvizha (a large fair) in the locality dawned on us. And that didn't help traffic at all. Add to that the cows and bulls that meander the streets lovingly making it their own. Oh and of course the humongous college buses which can dwarf any street when present on South Mada street prety much take all the place that there is. It took me and Appa about 40 minutes to drive the block around Kapaleeswarar Temple. When finally the roads cleared, I didn't know what hit me. Who ever thought things could get his crazy in Chennai? Chennai.. which was the most tranquil of the metros has transformed into something more sinister. Why can't all the roads become like the IT Highway (this road is right behind my house and has been paved into the highest quality road where the traffic flows away like butter) ? Hmph.

January 5, 2008


Anyone who knows me knows just how attached I am to my camera. But its been about a month now. And I haven't touched it. Believe it? Ever since I landed in Madras, I have stored the S2 IS in pa's cupboard locker. This for someone who took 1.2 gigs of pictures in her last India trip. And so it hasn't recorded many historic moments - maybe the first n last time I met M's A.. for now atleast... The Kadalais once more together... My last few single days at home... going out with the family, etc. I last used it amply at P's wedding. I realize how it has extended to being my third arm only when everyone around stops bringing their camera's around claiming J will have it.. only to be disappointed more than once. Now I kind of miss it. Its probably time to whip it out and use it the most I can.. now that S is arriving in a week.

January 4, 2008

The Manchurian cravings

When you have lived out of the country for more than 3 years, certain things start to matter more. Food.. time with parents and friends.. food.. you know what I'm getting at. When I arrived in Chennai, I found it incredibly hard to balance two core desires - the desire to remain the weight I was when I landed (if not lose more) and the desire to eat everything I craved. Evidently the second option won because my dad's been telling me that I have gained weight (I am yet to figure out whether thats just to panic me or if its true - the house doesn't own a weighing machine). I have curtailed most of my desires to eat out a whole lot.. and have been eating supervised (by me) home-cooked food with less oil, frying blah blue.. When you are a bride-to-be, such things start to matter much more than you thought possible. But as we friends made dinner plans a couple of weeks ago, the craving to eat Indian Chinese not only didn't fade away but became sooo much that I found myself telling M that I wanted Chinese and she had to suggest some place to go to. As she ticked off authentic Chinese places, I realized that I hadn't made it very clear that I craved indian-chinese particulary the gobi manchurian... that too roadside. I hastily corrected my cuisine choice illiciting a few laughs from her in the process. As we put our plans to action the next day, we couldn;t make to the place we wanted to. And improvising led us to a new 3-star place near my house.. somewhere I was certain it would be possible to get the coveted dish. But it wasn't to be. And I was left with its paler cousin, the gobi 65 - not half as good. And so it dragged. It seemed I was jinxed.. most places we went to didnt end up serving it. And the craving escalated to what I assume will be a pregnancy potency. And it required exclusive action. And so my dad schemed with me and we decided it was never going to happen by itself and we had to make exclusive plans and we stopped at the Besant Nagar fast food, a roadside delicatessan (the highest level word for a potti kadai) which served elaborate junk. And they took 35 minutes to make my dish... and my patience wore thin. It was worth every millisecond though when I sank my teeth in for that first bite. It was out of this world.

I have had 2 more plates of gobi manchurian since (without sharing) and have enjoyed every bite of it.. I hope I haven't packed as many pounds along the way.. What remains yet to-be-eaten are Murugan Idly's dishes, Eden's Continental and American Chopsuey... Ah.. I guess I'll leave somethings for me n the groom to dine out. :)