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The milk saga April 28, 2009

Posted by globejam in Childhood, This is not bad. It's worse!.

When I was young, we used to get pasteurized milk in 500 ml bottles delivered to our doorstep every morning.  There was something nice and generous about these wide necked bottles.    They were smooth, shapely bottles capped with a thin foil of aluminium with a thick layer of cream hiding right under the cap.  The first one to reach the bottle got to dip a quick finger in and lick the cream, much to my mother’s disgust. The milk was also quite tasty in a pasteurized sort of way.

Then for some reason, these bottles went out of circulation and so we started buying fresh milk.  Having been used to the fat-rich bottled milk, we preferred buffalo milk at our house, it being thicker than that from one of the emaciated cows whose staple diet it seemed was largely movie posters that adorned the compound walls in our area.  

Everyday, the milkman would arrive in the morning with a long cylindrical container, a stuffed calf and a forelorn buffalo in tow.  He would start by deftly swinging the cylindrical container so that it was almost completely upside down for a fraction of a second, as proof that there was no water in the container.  Though in truth, he would have already primed the container with a couple of hundred milliliters of water.  The centripetal force of the swing would ensure that the water did  not spill out even when the container was upside down at some instant during its traversal of an arc in space.  He would then sit down and milk the buffalo then and there, measure the required amount of milk and pour it into the container that we proferred.  

Those were pleasant days. Chennai was little more than an overgrown village and there were quite a few people maintaining cattle and poultry right in the heart of the city.  Every day, the cowherd would take all the cows and buffalos through the streets to some place where he could bathe them and wash them. Or possibly where there was an abundance of movie posters, I don’t know.  Following him 15 minutes later, down the same path, would come his wife with a cane basket in her hand scooping up the dung dropped by the herd.  This cow dung, of course, would later be made into round patties and stuck on walls to be dried and subsequently used as fuel for cooking.  In the 15 minutes between the departure of the cattle herd and the arrival of the poop-scooper, the brahmins in the locality, who believe that the cow is sacred and the dung and urine of the cow medicinal, would step on fresh dung with gusto and where opportunity allowed, partake in some cow urine as it flowed out directly from the tap, so to speak.  This entire ritual would be repeated in the evening in the opposite direction as the cows came back home, the only difference being that the cowherd would have gone off to booze it up somewhere leaving the cows to make their own way back – which they did with utter nonchalance.

I got to watch these idyllic scenes for a couple of years before Chennai began to aspire to become a real city.  Soon the corporation banned all cattle within the city limits, and relocated all the cattle owners (along with the cattle) to the outskirts of the city.  Our supply of fresh milk dwindled quickly but was replaced by the milk sachets from the government driven cooperative milk units set up for the cattle owners under the brand Aavin.  The milk we got through Aavin was tasteless, odorless and watery, but we had no choice.  We made do with this milk for another couple of years before we relocated to our new house on the outskirts of the city.  It was fantastic to move into the new house, with more room and plenty of space outside for a garden and best of all, access to fresh milk again.

One of the first things my mother did on moving to the new house was to scout around and find the nearest source of fresh milk.  And soon we were all getting fresh buffalo milk again.  Though the milkman no longer brought the buffalo home, he would still milk the buffalo at his cattle shed and then  deliver it within 5 – 10 minutes.  He would bring it in a vessel covered with some makeshift lid or another vessel.  

After a few months, the milkman delegated the milk delivery to his son Pitchai.  Now, pitchai was one of the grubbiest people I have ever seen.  He had the blackest finger nails, the dirtiest hair, a hare lip that exposed his front teeth and some of his most recent meal, and his clothes and his body had never seen soap.  My mother would lament “oh! Why doesn’t the milkman scrub his son also along with the buffaloes?”, usually within earshot of the father or the son.  But to no avail, for the neither the father, nor the son seemed to care too much about cleanliness. 

Pitchai would come every morning with our milk and my mother would collect it from him with utmost distaste and boil the milk for a lot longer than usual and hope that we did not catch all the diseases he likely brought along with him. One day, instead of covering the vessel with the customary makeshift lid, he had covered it with some cloth.  My mother was livid.  She thought the cloth was some bedsheet or something.  Aghast, she screamed “Why have you covered my milk with your dirty bedsheet?  Aiya yaiyai yoo! How can we all drink this milk now?”.  To which Pitchai replied, “Idhu bedsheet illae maa, idhu en lingi maa!” (This is not a bedsheet, this is my lungi (sarong)).  Unable to banish vivid images of other things that the lungi would have surely been in contact with,  my mother promptly stopped buying milk from him.

We’ve never had fresh milk at home since then.


Hing in my molars April 19, 2009

Posted by globejam in Childhood, Childhood trauma.

Of the many things that have gotten unreachably wedged into my molars, and there have been quite a few, including Cadbury’s Five Star bar, toffees and the nutrine milk sweet in a green wrapper that we no longer seem to get,  the thing that gave me most grief was hing. 

To those ignorant of south Indian cuisine, Hing, or Perungayam(Tamil) is Asofoetida, a resin-like gum used as a taste enhancer with supposed medicinal properties.  Quite justifiably and without exaggeration, it is also known as the Devil’s dung and the Stinking gum.

In our house my mother was an enthusiastic user of hing, especially for Sambar.  While, today you can get hing in powder form, in those days it was available only in the form of a cake the size of a regular bath soap.  Despite serious protestations from the rest of the family, especially the children, my mother never failed to add a generous finger-nail sized chunk every day.

The hard piece would get cooked in the Sambar, and instead of dissolving, would turn into a gooey glob with a sticky outer layer and a hard inner core.  It would then camouflage itself under some dal from the sambar or hide under a convenient bite-sized piece of vegetable, waiting to attack the delicate taste buds of an unfortunate child.  

Invariably, I would be the one to get it and during the chewing process, it would get firmly wedged into one or the other molar. After that, let me tell you, no amount of scratching, yelling, clawing, gargling or rinsing can dislodge it.  Not for an hour, at least.  And during this period, the taste and smell that only the devil in his foulest mood could have conjured up would overpower all other senses and turn me into a blubbering wreck.

Some days, my mother would giggle and say “I wonder why you get it all the time! It’s never happened to me, not even once”.  On other days, she would outright deny having put any hing in the Sambar. She would just simply aver, “What nonsense!  There wasn’t even any hing in the house.  I was actually planning to ask you to go buy some this morning.  I don’t know where it came from!”

To this day, I think it was her way of exacting revenge for some things I may have done… like being born, for instance.

Blizz – for the Fat and Foolish. April 17, 2009

Posted by globejam in Scepticism, Woo-woo.

Last week, I saw a full page ad for something called the Blizz Bio sculpting.  I am not giving them a link here,  Google them if you want, they know their SEO well!  

It is apparently a far infrared based treatment that supposedly removes fat and can reduce your waist-line by as much as 7 inches in a single session.  I am guessing that a session is between 30 mins – 1 hour, though there is no mention of how long a session lasts. But unless it turns out to be months long and involves dieting and exercise, I don’t see how this treatment can work at all.

As usual, with no safety regulations nor effective law enforcement, it is going to be a field day for these con men.  If somebody dies, they will just pay the cops and hush it up.  Please warn people so they don’t fall victim to this – as a franchisee or a client.

All the hallmarks of a woo-woo are there on the site.  Let me walk you through some of them:

1.  They claim a higher purpose:  

Blizz BIOMED SYSTEMS DOES NOT aim merely to sell a product or service, Blizz was created to offer people everywhere an improved way of living. 

Absolutely. We believe you.  

2.  Liberally use jargon.

There is a lot of quasi-medical jargon on the website, some of it in ALL CAPS, in the hope that it will increase the credibility of the statements.   

3.  No pain, all gain.

It is non-invasive, requires no special diet, exercise, supplements and, though they don’t mention it, quite obviously, no brains on the part of the client/guinea pig/victim.

4. Hundreds of spelling mistakes.

To quote just one paragraph from the site

Non invasive body shaping painles fat reduction,skin tightening and reshaping of specific parts of your body like stimach, waist, hips, back, thighs, arms, legs, shoulders and breast ect.is possible with Bizz Bio-Sculpting.

(highlights mine).

5.  Unnamed authoritative sources.

There are many doctors and therapists all over the world who swear by it, or so the site says.  Have you heard of the “Infrared society” of Japan?  Well, neither have I.

6.  Miracle cure.

Apart from dramatic changes to your body weight and shape it also helps you relax, increases blood circulation, detoxifies you, tones your body, makes your skin youthful and radiant, de-stresses, boosts your mood, prevents injury, cures insomnia – basically everything short of immortality.

7. Peppered with vaguely related science facts.

There is one whole page on what is Infrared, far-infrared and description of the Sun’s output.

8. Hilarious explanations.

I can’t concoct anything better than what they have written, so I will just quote:

Influenced by a ultrasound field and SPECTRAL FIR energy,watermolecule in the human body starts wagging and Shaking with high Speed. As a result,heat is produced by the friction between water molecules passing through body impedance, the SPECTRAL FIR energy produces heat and higher temperature occurs at the depth of Several millimeters under dermis with no harm tobody tissue.

Apparently this burns up the fat.  As you can see, somebody has copy-pasted bits and pieces of how a microwave oven works with other crap.  Don’t miss the capital letters in between.  I, for one, do not want to be shoved into a microwave oven, no matter what the results.

Just imagine your fat evaporating right in front of your eyes (if it is from your derriere,  you may have to settle for the smell of burning fat).  I know people use the phrase “burning fat” in a loose way, but nobody actually thinks you can stick a wick into your love handles and light a match and see the fat disappear.  Or do they?

9.  Before and after pictures that are clearly doctored (doctored! – ha! ha! get it?).


If these were before and after pictures for a photoshop training class, I wouldn’t mind.  Notice how every hair on the eyebrow in the after picture is exactly where it was in the before picture.

10.  Exuberant testimonials:  

I lost 9 inches around my tummy in one session and then did 10 more sessions” says Rajeshwari of Chennai.  Even assuming diminishing results at every session, she must have lost over 45 inches around the waist.  That could have only happened if she had died due to the treatment and then they cremated her!  That should surely work.

11.  Long history.

From the time of Socrates, for crying out loud!

12.  Finally, and here is the clincher.  

Anybody in the personal care and beauty treatment industry can become a franchisee!  That’s it – if you are a barber or a beautician, that would do!  

Like they say in tamil – Endha mayir pudingi vaena arambikkalaam!

Seasonal games April 16, 2009

Posted by globejam in Traditional Games.
Tags: , ,

Long ago, when I was a kid, before television started providing intravenous entertainment, we used to be out playing in the streets all the time. During those days, for inexplicable reasons, games used to be seasonal, like fruits before the advent of cold storage!

One such season would start every year in early August. There would be ample signs around for the discerning. General merchants would notice a significant jump in the sale of commodities such as thread, bamboo sticks, colour paper, and gum. Wholesalers of powder dyes would be swamped with significantly higher demands, especially for red and black dyes. Burnt out light bulbs were much sought after and even perfectly working ones disappeared from their sockets with considerable regularity, much to the chagrin of parents and householders. Schools and PT masters complained of missing wicket keeping gloves. Cycle repair shops did rich business selling threadbare cycle tubes that were long past their useful lives. The items that disappeared from homes all over the city, ranging from boiled rice to broom sticks, would have befuddled the best of detectives, unless, of course, one already knew that it was the start of the one of most colourful times in the city – the season of kites.

Of course, most of the ingredients mentioned above went into the making of kites and the killer manja thread used to fly the kites and our house was not immune to these strange happenings. In fact, with 3 enterprising boys in the house, it probably had more than its (un)fair share of disappearances. Soon after the onset of the season, my mother would begin softly with “Arey, did you see the broom that was here yesterday? I am sure I kept it right here behind this door” when the first disappearances started. Within a couple of days, as more things went missing, the tone would become a little suspicious and she would ask, “Hey! B, Did you take the 60 watt bulb from the verandah?”.  Soon the questioning would  become more demanding with “C, Bring back the tubelight now, don’t deny it. I know you must have taken it”.  Finally, in a matter of a week or so, her voice would reach a shrill cresendo and she’d shriek “If I find anything else missing from now on, I will break all your hands”.

We were used to these threats and would lie low for a couple of days at this stage before resuming our pilfering. When more threats failed to work, my mother would change tack and try to scare us boys into giving up kite flying by recounting horrendously exaggerated urban legends of  kite horrors. “Boys, I read in the newspaper yesterday that three boys, about your ages, flying kites from the terrace of a high-rise building, just like the one you go to, fell down and broke their necks. Don’t fly kites or this will happen to you”, she would say.   Or “Did you know that a guy riding his scooter down our road had his head cut off by some boy’s manja thread?” she would exclaim with widened eyes. Instead of fear and disgust, she would only find admiration for the manja owner shining in our eyes and compliments of “cool manja” on our lips. Undaunted by the lack of any positive reaction she would set free her imagination, and add “and they arrested the boy and put him in jail along with the severed head for three days. I believe that the head was wailing and cursing the boy throughout. The boy has learnt his lesson and has vowed never to touch a kite or use manja thread again”.  The story would be met not with fear and dread but uncontrollable giggling.

With her entire repertoire of options exhausted, she would then reconcile herself to another month of tension and shelve her anti-kite campaign for another year.

Terms of endearment April 14, 2009

Posted by globejam in Marathi.

Deshastha Marathi 101 :- Common phrases

Arey mada (m)

Meaning: Roughly translated as You dead body.

Usage: A term of endearment.  Between brothers or by father towards son.  Can also be used to address any male  who happens to be the object of your affection.

Related word(s):

Aga Mada:  The feminine form of Arey Mada (see above).  Used by husband to address wife, typically starting immediately after the honeymoon.  Continues to get used even if the relationship turns sour (but with different tone).

Marathi and the deshasthas April 13, 2009

Posted by globejam in Uncategorized.

Marathi, as spoken by the deshastha clan, you could say, is an amalgamation of Marathi and Tamil. That is, you could say that only if you want to be decent about it.

Basically, if you took your mother tongue and mixed it with the local language with no care for the purity/sanctity of the two languages involved,  ignored word boundaries, mixed constructs and idioms,  conjugated the words in one language with the extensions in the other, threw out of the window most rules of grammar and let George Bush preside over the whole process, you will end up getting the language we speak at home.

The reason we speak this language only at home(as opposed to outside) is because we are ashamed of speaking this abomination of a language within earshot of anyone who knows either of the two languages.

For the benefit of those with guts of iron, I will give some samples from time to time.  Reader discretion recommended.

My first brush with idiots! April 12, 2009

Posted by globejam in Uncategorized.

When I was very young, there lived 3 brothers down the street from my house. They were the first really obnoxious people I met. They made lewd comments at every woman passing by their house, stole whatever and whenever they could, and vandalized homes at every opportunity. They were also really dumb.

Their father, a professor in some college, when informed of the atrocities committed by the trio, would beat them to pulp, but that only made them hardier and more violent.

The father had a pet dog named Tiger on which he showered all the affection that his sons did not deserve. Tiger, in turn was like his shadow, always with him, and let me assure you, every ounce of affection he ever got he returned with interest. You could not think of one without the other and their bond was so strong that the professor came to be known around our street as Tiger’s father.

The three uncouth delinquents will never be named here, but when and if I write about them, they will be collectively referred to as Tiger’s father’s sons.

About me April 12, 2009

Posted by globejam in Uncategorized.

Once upon a time, there was a village. It was a rather crowded village full of extremely selfish, self-centered people. In the middle of the village was a huge tree and on that tree, lived a monkey. The monkey saw all the goings-on from its vantage on top of the tree and grew to dislike all the selfish people that lived around it. To display its displeasure, every time some villager passed by, the monkey would shout the choicest abuses at them. It would call them names, compare them to various body parts, make obscene gestures and generally taunt them.

The villagers first tried to ignore the monkey but soon could not stand it any more. So the village chief called all the people together to discuss how to get rid of the monkey. First they decided to throw stones at it and chase it away. But the monkey was far too nimble footed and dodged all the missiles thrown at it. When several other plans failed and they had all but given up, they came to hear of an expert monkey exterminator who lived in a city far, far away. At great cost, they brought him to the village and asked him to get rid of the monkey, one way or another.

The expert tried his usual bag of tricks without much success. One thing he realized however, was that the monkey had this habit of repeating everything he did. So the next day the expert bought two identical looking knives, one the real deal and the other with a retractable false blade. He threw the real knife to the monkey and kept the false one with himself.

He then rubbed the blade of his knife against his hand and the monkey did the same with its knife. Next he pretended to comb his hair with his knife and the monkey followed suit. After several other actions, the expert finally thrust his false knife with great force into his abdomen, screamed on top of voice and dramatically fell down dead!

The monkey did the same, bringing the knife down towards its abdomen with all the force it could muster. Just when the expert thought that it was all going to be over, the blade stopped, an inch from the monkey’s abdomen. The monkey then coolly turned and looked the expert in the eye, and with a wicked grin, said votha dai!

I could be that monkey.