16 November 2009

Road romeos and the colour Orange - a vigorous case study

Something interesting has been happening to me over the last couple of months. Every time I wear an orange outfit or have some form of orange in my dress the men on Road no 12 go mad.

Most women reading this post will identify with Road Romeos (RR) - that brand of dedicated, emotionally stunted immature men, boys even, who like to acknowledge the female form by ogling, hooting, lewd commenting and when occasion presents itself, grabbing. Growing up, you recognize this species by their body language and try to either engage in a war of words, which you are sure to lose or devise a route that would avoid them no matter how convenient or inconvenient it was to change your path. You can sense this species, regardless of the direction it was coming from, trying to strip you of human dignity even as your eyes were saying, "Not even in your dreams you twisted freak..."

My first experience on Road no 12 from an RR: a jolly "Hello Sweetie" followed by a few flying kisses. The content itself was quite routine but what was odd was that this lout was on a bike and had to cross over traffic to make himself available within audible distance to me, also slowing down to make sure his flying kisses didn't get misdirected to the fruit seller by the side of the road. My first reaction of course was to give him the finger; a lousy, impotent gesture of rage and then, I wondered if I shouldn't have instead, kicked him off his bike , thereby getting indicted for manslaughter in the cause of discouraging RRs everywhere. Luckily the pace at which my muscles react is far slower than the pace at which my brain invents physical events so I am unable to execute most of my physical threats.

Now this routine of RRs on bike has repeated itself several times over, at different points of the day and at different points along Road no 12. Some RRs are even kind enough to offer a lift once they have conveyed their appreciation of my star-like good looks. But I started to notice a trend : the number of incidents seemed to increase exponentially when I was wearing the colour orange. For a while I thought it was wearing a kurta and pants, but when it started to happen even when I was dressed in a salwar suit I started to converge on the idea that it was a colour that was setting off this deeply ingrained neurological reaction. Even if I wear an orange duppatta its' enough for a reaction. Now, you are thinking: a) what's your sample size and b) where are the controls?

First let me address the issue of controls. I have used both positive and negative controls. For the positive controls I used an outfit made of knee length skirts and short tops. I tried them in various shades and they all elicited a full range of responses. Although, for ethical reasons, I must disclose that one time I was waiting in a flare skirt that was part of a figure hugging business suit, complete with 4 inch heels and looking quite chic, if I say so myself and I got nothing. I was waiting for a full 15 minutes trying to pick up a share auto and was so out of the ordinary that they weren't even willing to stop for me, so I had to get the office folks to pick me up. The most robust positive control, of course, would be the I would get in an orange skirt but alas, don't have one. For my negative controls I wore kurtas (non orange) with pants, and the same salwar suit but with a blue duppata (if your mind is boggling on how I can use an orange and blue duppata over the same salwar kurta, well, the salwar is black and the kurta is beige so I can wear just about any shade of dupatta with it) or red, pink dupattas and let me tell you, nothing.

Now, sample size. I wear something orange about once a week - I like orange!; so I got to test this theory out for almost 3 months now. Roughly, 12 times now and each time I get noticed about 0 - 3 times. Now, by noticed I mean someone coming over to coo in my ear as opposed to all those louts who simply stare open mouthed. On the rest of the days however I get a total of 0 - 2 incidents. So if you do some fun maths, on an average for the orange days my "notice rate" is about 1.5; where as on non-orange days its like 0.25. So about a 6-fold increase in attention on an orange day.

Ergo, I rest my case. Why, I do not know, but proved, I have, of this mind boggling correlation between me wearing Orange and getting "noticed". Oh, and yes, all this has done wonders for my self esteem. I suppose if the RR action escalated to grabbing I wouldn't be so pleased with the situation but so far, only coos and flying kisses.

Now to expand this study: do you have a colour in which you attract more imbeciles?

10 November 2009

Mushroom Barley Soup

I'm almost through my barley packet so this might *possibly* be my last post on barley for a short while. I am replacing my barley love with some millet that I got over the weekend. But till that breaks into my recipe imagination here is the soup...

1 cup Barley (cooked as previously blogged)
1/3 cup finely chopped carrot
2 cups roughly sliced mushrooms ( I had botton; chopped in thirds)
3 tb sp finely chopped scallions
1 tb sp finely chopped dill
2 tsp chopped garlic
1 tsp vinegar
1/2 tsp soya sauce
1 tb sp Olive oil
1. While the barley was pressure cooking I chopped up the garlic, scallions, carrot, mushrooms and dill.
2. Heat the oil, add garlic, let it release its pungent odour, then add the carrot and mushrooms. Saute on medium heat. I purposely tossed the carrots with the mushroom as I wanted them crunchy to bite in the final soup. If you like mush, then go ahead and pressure cook them along with the barley. Although if I were to do that I would chop the carrot into one inch long thick sticks.
3. When mushrooms looks like they are changing colour, add the vinegar and soya sauce. Add scallions, toss and let it cook for another minute or so. Take it off the heat and cover it with a lid. The idea behind this was to steam the scallions rather than have them sauteed.
4. When the barley was ready, I added the above mixture and the dill. I again, purposely did not boil the whole concoction because I didn't want the dill to cook. Add salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste.
How was it? Excellent, if I say so myself. Notice that there is no spice in this dish besides the pepper so it was mild. Although I find the barley itself so tasty that it more than makes up for the lack of spice in the dish. But if you like some kick, then go ahead and modify. I think it could do with more soya sauce too.
I have been reading about soups online since it's winter but the temperature here is in the chilly mid-twenties...umm... degree Celsius so I would hardly call this my "winter" recipe. Now for the fox tail millet and beyond.

9 November 2009

Righteous Rage - killing it with a smile

I tried something differently this weekend and I must say it's been working like a charm.

Welcome to my my pedestrian and cycling world. So, when I have to go places where the bus service is not frequent I hop into an Auto. I also take an auto to work sometimes but that's a share auto: prices are fixed for various distances and there is no haggling. If your elbow or knee doesn't get sawed off while you ride spilling out of the auto with only a few feet of nothing between you and the asphalt, you know you have had a good ride. Compare this to an auto you have hired: all the room in the world but one mean negotiation before you and he agree on the best price. In my experience Chennai autos are the worst; a quick assessment of your dress and accent would nicely inform of them of your non-tamilness and from that point on you can only hope that you got the most honest of the rascals. Bangalore autos are attitude: they never want to go anywhere you want to go. "Too much traffic ma"; "Ayyo, can't come, it's one way"; "It will be too busy this time of the day" eventually leading you to ask "Swami, where are you going? May be I can get a drop if it's on your way?"

I like my Hyderabad autos for the most part. They are courteous and normally take me where I want to go without excuses and on the meter. But there are some silly twerps who think I just landed from US of A today morning. Matters are not helped by my living in one of the fanciest pin codes in town. For those autos who have traded the meter for x-ray vision goggles to count the money in my purse, once they have agreed to the destination they normally quote a price exactly double of what it would cost on the meter. Usually, I just increase the volume on my rant and then take off in a huff to find my next victim. This weekend I didn't feel up to the yelling so when I stopped Auto # 1 I sweetly inquired if he wanted to go to Begumpet. There were two others in the auto, so he first asked if it was OK if he dropped them to the end of the road; which was fine since I am quite gung-ho about auto pooling anyhow. Then I got in, at which point I realized there was no meter and a voice said 80 rupees. I suppose he arrived at this number by using his x-ray money goggles. It costs only 40 rupees so I immediately asked him to stop, smiled broadly like I was in a Colgate commercial and said (in hindi), "Sorry, but that's too much". 60 Rupees. Smiling even more generously I said "No, it costs only 40 rupees and I think if you are looking for that much you need to find another customer. Thanks anyway". 50 Rupees. No, said my swinging head and I started to walk. Auto followed and he persists, 50 rupees. I'm laughing as I tell him, again, that I will not ride for so much. He sighs, 40 rupees, get in. I tried pretty much the same sequence on Sunday as well and it worked like a charm. The key is two fold: patience and a huge smile. When the smile is without malice, innocent and loving in all its might, that energy reflects on any person you interact with. I have blogged about this before and continue to re-discover the positive effects of smiling.

I tried it this evening too, on a motorcyclist riding the wrong way on Road no 1 and almost knocking me over. I tapped on his shoulder and asked nicely if he thought what he was doing was right. He looked a bit shocked because I'm sure no one has caught him out like this. I repeated my question, smiled and waited. He was starting to form an explanation when I said, politely, that I was sorry to cut in but I asked a simple question - Yes or No. He said Yes and I just walked off. The sum impact of my little intervention: probably zero; but the quality of zen I felt: priceless. I get quite annoyed with anyone who doesn't respect pedestrian, ending up ranting a lot more and quite suddenly, I find that there's another way to get my message across and be non-violent about it.

Ho hum, let's see how long it lasts. But I do swear by the smiling technique; try it next time with an Auto and let me know if it works.