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Archive for March, 2011

Having reached ahead of me, Brody stood on an un-parked spot as if to reserve the spot for me. I got off the vehicle with my pawed friend in tight leash. Grimacing about the agonies of containing my mad canine especially when passing or stopping by an eatery, I walked with Brody till the front of the cafe.

He turned around and asked what he could order for me. I told him – “Just a strong hot Flat White, no sugar would be great. Thanks”. Brody went in to order while I found a table for 2 and settled down Molaga who started eyeing the cafe and back at me, begging with his pitiful ‘Poor Me’ whine and soulful eyes. I was just deciding whether to treat Molaga or not when Brody came with a packet of Biscotti and settled onto his chair.

Molaga on his best behaviour

And of course one can guess who Molaga’s new best friend would be. The traitorous mutt! He sat erect in his most well-behaved posture in front of Brody as if to say -“Hi! I’m a good dog on my best behaviour. So I deserve a treat!!!” Brody asked if it was OK for him to give the Biscotti to Molaga. And I just nodded my acquiescence. He smoothed Molaga’s golden head while the mutt munched and grunted on his treat relishing it every bit. Brody asked what his name was -?

I replied saying that his name was ‘Molaga’ meaning ‘Chilli’ in my mother tongue Tamil. He found that amusing and repeated the word ‘Molaga’. Molaga looked up as if we both were nuts to keep calling out his name while he was very much there. He turned around to look at me, as if to say -“Duh…”

After a few awkward moments of silence, both Brody and I broke into speech at almost the same time. I asked – “So are you from around here…” and he came with -“So do you like living in Auckland?”. And I told him I’ll answer first and replied that “Yeah. I do like Auckland. It’s a melting pot. Love meeting people from different walks of life! It’s been great so far. Knock on wood!”. He leant back and said “In reply to your question, yes actually. I have lived here pretty much my whole life. Best thing about this particular suburb is one gets the best of the country and city life”. I nodded and lapsed into silence.

View of Auckland

I observed him quietly sitting across me. There was something about him. He seemed to be on edge yet I could sense an inner struggle in him to act normal and relaxed. Up close, I sized him up concluding he probably would be about 5’10 – 5’11, toned & athletic looking, nice features with chestnut-brown hair and bright hazel eyes. A boy next door type.

He moved his chair forward a bit, and leant his elbows on the table joining his hands as if in prayer. He said -“About what happened just now, I am not like this…you know!!” I shook my head and replied – “Hey look, let’s just put that behind us and go our own ways. It’s no Biggie! You did buy me coffee to make up right?”

He started replying -“But you don’t deserve….

“Here’s the lady’s Flat White and the Gentleman’s Caramel Latte. Enjoy your coffee”, said the waitress smiling nervously hedging around Molaga. If only she knew Molaga up close. He was such a marshmallow once he gets to know someone.

“As I was saying, I shouldn’t have turned on you when all you were doing was try to help”. He took a deep breath and exhaled, looked up at me and said -“I had one of my panic attacks. I normally get them when there is lightning and thunder”.

My expression softened with understanding and said ‘Oh! I understand.” I was unsure if I could ask the next question and wondered if it would get too personal. But I went ahead anyway, -“So do you take any counselling and do you try to avoid wet weather outings?” For a moment he looked mortified and as if he was not going to answer it then he shrugged saying -“Tried both, been there, done that. What else can I say?”

I thought to myself, ‘Well that was short’. But didn’t answer any of my questions that were running at the back of my mind. ‘What made an adult like him be scared of thunder and lightning’. I mused to myself – ‘Perhaps a bad experience in childhood!!!’.

After we both took a few swigs of coffee, he straightened his spine as if to gather some strength. He spoke in a demurred voice -“I hate thunder and lightning, coz my dad died on one such night. And I get these attacks because it reminds me of that night…..images of a heavy downpour, flashing lightning and the horrendous sound of cracking thunder….fills my ears”. I didn’t want to interrupt him looking at him lost in painful memories, his eyes losing a bit of the brightness it had earlier.

Fear of lightning and thunder

 

He looked up with a drooping sad smile and pulled himself together saying – “Look at me telling my life’s story to a complete stranger”. I thought to myself that some of his behaviour at least made some sense. And my hand reached out to him on its own to comfort his palm, I squeezed his hand gently as if to reassure him.

He seemed embarrassed by his opening up to me the way he did and his cheeks flushed a bright tomato red. He withdrew his hand from mine.

I told him, “This is perfectly fine. Did you know it helps if you actually talk about your issues”.  He nodded accepting I was right but I knew in my heart that he didn’t buy that philosophy one bit.

 

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Fuming at myself for putting myself and Molaga at risk, and all for what – an unknown stranger??? I decided I was not going to do such a stupid thing again. I told myself I should thank my stars that I will never be seeing him again and that I should be glad he walked off the way he did. Cursing myself and asking what I was trying to prove out there, I gathered up Molaga’s leash and tugged him along. The rain had slowed down to a light drizzle. Huffing a sigh of relief that I was almost at the top of the track and sighting my car only a few yards away, I scanned the area for the urchins with the fear coming back to niggle my mind that they may come back to attack.

I reached my car glad that there was no one else about with the exception of an SUV. I loaded Molaga into the rear seat of my vehicle, shut the door and turned to open the driver seat door only to find the jogger standing right next to the driver’s door looking at me as though in anticipation. I was quiet and looked at him directly in his eyes questioningly – “Now what?”

 

The Olive Branch - Picture Courtesy http://www.decorativetileshop.net

He held out his hand saying, “Hi, I’m Brody!!! I am really sorry I behaved that way. And I just wanted to say thanks for coming to my rescue. I really don’t know why I behaved like that…I really appreciate what you did out there….I…I….” He was a deluge of words all of a sudden and he was hanging around unsure what to say next because all the while he was apologising, I still had not shook his hand and I was giving him a stern impatient glare.

I saw he was indeed sorry but my ego within struggling whether to give in or not. I looked around everywhere but him and then grudgingly nodded my head in acknowledgement, held out my hand and said -” Name’s Dhriti. That’s OK”, my good manners coming to the fore.

And Brody smiled a slow uncertain smile which turned into an apologetic expression of not having caught my name. He replied -“Nice meeting my saviour. Sorry I didn’t quite catch your name….”. I spelled it out for him – “D-H-R-I-T-I” and pronounced my name again. He mimicked my name and almost got it right. So after the name practice, I signalled pointing to the car plastering a fake polite smile that I had to head back.

He stepped back giving way and let me board my car, with him still hovering near my car. I wound down my window and called out a “Bye” and started the vehicle. He bent over the driver’s window  and asked – “Do you mind joining me for a cup of coffee…err..you know…just as a…. emmm… just as a thanks??? There’s a decent cafe just up the road ahead of the round about.”

I did not see that coming….uh uh. I hesitated my expression uncertain what to make of it and what to do about it. I didn’t want to sound reserved and at the same time understanding his need to offer his thanks in the form of a coffee and call it quits…which is exactly what I would have done myself had I been in his situation. I asked him “Now…???” And he nodded his head eagerly. I said “OK…a hot coffee would be nice.”

The Unexpected Coffee

He pulled his keys from his jacket, gave me a sailor’s salute and jogged back to his SUV. I looked at him belting himself confused by his reactions. I thought to myself, just when I was thanking my stars that I never would be seeing him again, this happens. I conclude I can’t seem to grasp the ironies of my life sometimes and that I just had to go with the flow really.

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The famous Jigarthanda

The famous Jigarthanda

For those who don’t understand what on earth ‘Jigarthanda’ means and for those who are wearing that puzzled crooked nose expression that I did when I first read the word, it’s a tall cold drink served in one of Tamil Nadu’s most famous eateries Murugan Idli Shop. Its originates from Madurai, South India and sells famously during summers.

Murugan Idli Shop

Murugan Idli Shop - Meals Ready 🙂

I said to myself, it is not every day that one gets to try weird or unheard of stuff. And I just about pounced at the chance of experimenting that on one of my outings during my holiday in India. After a maddening amount of shopping at Fab India and fashion parades for my family, I was ready to drop and could almost hear my poor feet cry, begging for some respite. And we still had to eat our lunch, I realised with dread my day was far from being over.

So while we were discussing about the nearest eating joints in the Besant Nagar suburb, the first thing that popped into my head was Murugan Idli and suggested we head there. I remembered those beautiful idyllic mornings, when my family and I drove down to Elliott’s Beach to watch the sunrise, go for a small walk along the walkway and somehow managed to end up at Murugan Idli for steaming hot breakfast and some superb filter kapi (coffee). I should admit that the sunrise and walk was merely an excuse to head in that direction. With Adyar being a hop skip and jump distance away from the beach, it almost used to be a weekend ritual for us.

Anyway coming back to present day, we parked in the most cramped parking spot we could find that barely gave us concession to twist our way out of the car. I came round the car and the first thing that my eyes spotted was…………

Jigarthanda

Jigarthanda

Remember that expression I was talking about??? Oh well I read the word and of course pronounced it wrong. My father in law said it was pronounced as “ji-guru-dhan-da”. But I think the word has been localized quite a bit. It’s literal translation in Hindi is “Jigar” meaning Heart and “Thanda” being “Cold”, in effect supposed to mean something that cools your heart. Whether it does just that, I am not sure, but good news is its considered to be a health drink and I sighed with relief that there was at least something that I could enjoy without lesser guilt.

About Jigarthanda

About Jigarthanda

So we went in, and to my petty and cheap thrill I saw the menu with prices under $1 NZD for an item. I thought to myself, I had lived here most of my life, you’d think I knew about it and that there would be no surprises there. But having paid $3-4 for a plate of Idli and to see it priced so reasonably was actually having a ‘jigarthanda’ effect on me!

Look at those prices!!!!

Not heart warming, heart cooling indeed. I ordered a nice crisp Onion Rava Dosa and Vada served in Banana Leaf + that Superb Filter Kapi which was awesome. South India is well-known for serving their meals on Banana leaves and did you know that food tastes thousand times better eaten off it and aids in easy digestion too!!!

For super digestion - eat on a banana leaf

I declare today Saravana Bhavan needs to learn a thing or two from Murugan Idli. Saravana Bhavan has lost their charm and authenticity of retaining local flavour, over pricing ridiculously and have you looked at the quantities recently. Living off yesteryear’s glory! Murugan Idli still has that southern charm, intensity of flavour, reasonably priced and still packs a punch.

Can you believe that 4 of us adults ate sumptuously and a couple of us even went for seconds yet paid a bill of only $10 NZD = Rs.300-340 approximately. Since I was so full up, I decided I’ll get a take away of the Jigarthanda as I didn’t want to miss out on that. And it was a such a refreshing drink that reminded me of the local flavours, aromas and colours.

Next time you go to Murugan Idli, you know what I’d be recommending. South Indian saapaadu South Indian saapaadudhaan!!! [Translates to South Indian food is truly South India food only, meaning no other cuisine can be of the same league].

 

 

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