21 July 2011

ATM Watchman

There is a profusion of watchmen in our lives. Like potted money plants, they are present everywhere, nestled to one side of any space and seeking little attention. Well, unless he has a whistle and is a parking lot watchman; then he makes a racket.

But I am writing this as an observation and concern. My building watchman works crazy 12 hour shifts; sometimes 24 when the person to replace him doesn't arrive. However, I see my building watchman busy, pottering about in the parking lot, sometimes directing people, sacredly protecting the residents of my building from pesky door salesman and keeping tabs on the newspaperman, the milkman, the maids, the dogs, the cats... But what of the other watchman?

I am particularly struck by the ATM watchmen. Some lounge indoors, in the full arctic blast of the AC but I rarely see them reading anything. They are simply sprawled on a wicker chair doing pretty much nothing. It's not like you can get any advice from them on your bank or your account. He (for it is always a he) stares numbly as you enter, and like a tennis match, his gaze follows you out. In my fertile imagination, I think of this person as a someone who can work with their hands and mind; perhaps repair watches? grow tomatoes? I am quite curious: does this person really want to be a watchman? The ATM watchman also bothers me because whom do they talk to? Sure they have chumps like me go in and out, but imagine having no office colleagues? Also, what is the job description of this person: I don't see this person being able to stop a bunch of hoodlums from doing as they please. He's been sitting on his bum all day long and really, how active do you think that sort of lifestyle is?

Growing up, a watchman meant that something important was happening and he was hired to shoo away the crowds. But in cities today there is an entire platoon of people in gray or blue outfits who are ubiquitous and we do take them for granted. They need jobs, they migrate from villages deep in Bihar or UP or the northeast; I see how economic necessity is driving this market? But shouldn't we stop to think about what we are building - a nation unable to even withdraw cash from an ATM without human presence?

16 July 2011

Ajwain Patta Parantha

The other day I googled "Ajwain patta parantha roti" and drew a blank. My colleague brings many dishes peppered with Ajwain ka patta and I had naturally assumed that Guru Internet would list a range of options. Sadly, besides the pakoda recipe there was little to be had, even on the normally fertile food blogs. So, inspired, I have jotted down my usage.

I have to give credit here to my colleague and foodie friend N, whose mom plies us with delicious rotis stuffed with these leaves. The crux of this recipe comes from his instructions. N gave me a plant cutting a few months ago and it has been relatively easy to grow; despite my homicidal tendencies, this plant has thrived in the garden. Newbie "edible garden" enthusiasts can easily use this to boost their gardening morale.

Main actors in the plot:

6 large Ajwain leaves pureed (minimum water) with
1 green chilli
3/4 cup whole wheat flour (atta)
3/4 cup fox millet flour (bajra flour)
1/2 tsp grated ginger
Salt to taste

Drama outline:

The trick is to not use water for making the dough, but instead to use the wetness from the ajwain puree. I essentially threw everything into a mixing bowl and checked for consistency as I would normally do for making roti dough. Because of the bajra flour the dough remains a bit wetter and stickier than just plain atta dough. The point to stop adding water is when everything comes together. Then you knead it with knuckles and thumping fists. Generally, this works for me.

Rest the dough for a while. I leave it in the mixing bowl with a wet cloth on top to maintain humidity of the chamber.

I made the paranthas after leaving the gluten to break down for about 20 mins. Drink a glass of wine in the meantime.

For the parantha, I normally use as little oil as possible. I cooked the parantha on one side, till little dark spots appeared, flipped it over and for the grease, put a bit of oil from the back of a spoon on the cooked part. Then I flipped it over again, greased the new side and generally, flip it back and forth till I am happy with the colour. I have noticed however that once the roti rests for a while it changes colour. When I first started cooking I kept looking for the perfect brown and ended up with the perfect black. Now I know to look for a slightly under-done colour.

Drama outcome:
Ajwain ke patte ka parantha

14 July 2011

WHY didn't I join the gym sooner?

Many (OK, the few that land here by mistake) might have assumed that I had not written a follow up to my new life at the gym because I may have dropped out. Wrong. I was merely being lazy about updates.

It's odd how for months I thought I didn't have time to go to the gym and yet, now I go religiously 3 times a week; even to the extent of planning my running days and times according to my schedule. A full work out (I have added some toning exercises to my 4K routine) takes me about an hour. Add to the fact that I travel to the gym in peak hour traffic, it's another 30 mins to schedule. So I have mysteriously found an extra 1.5 hours in my day?

My gym is also a great place for people watching. The windows overlook a car park that appears to cater to teenage brats driving their parent's Skodas. Double parking is the norm and countless time cars are pulled out, re-adjusted, pulled back in - it's quite interesting to watch because at least in the limited time I have watched this, there is no apparent rule.

Then there are my gym buddies. Technically, I don't even know their names, but I see them regularly and I have even managed to exchange smiles with one of them. I am absolutely inspired and impressed with my buddies. They come in all shapes and sizes, yet they are determined to work out. It's funny when some of them get on the treadmill with a newspaper or magazine, intending to catch up on their reading only to realise that reading and walking are not entirely compatible. Or I will see a whole row of damsels by the stationery bikes, with their legs mechanically moving as their minds carefully absorb the crystals on a dress worn by someone in a glamour magazine. My favourite though is the BB crowd. It's interesting how a mobile phone is like an an essential organ now. Some only keep it for emergencies while the some text non-stop. I have overheard flirting, cooking tips and bitchy gossip, and it's fun trying to imagine these people from the conversations. Who needs a TV with this kind of entertainment? It's all too jolly.

I broke one of my rules BTW. I weighed myself. About two weeks ago I was 55.4 and yesterday it had moved down to 53.9. No measuring tape yet so I don't know what the hip/ waist situation is like. I do feel lighter, and the crossword is getting is better.