19 June 2006

"Too sweet ...."

... was the final verdict, after about 25 people watched me make coconut burfi and later eat it.

This is again part of the all the activities I ended up being roped into. SS-san from the International forum asked if I would like to attend a small talk at the nearby hamlet (town, they call it here) Atsumi. And yes, could I demonstrate the preparation of some traditional Indian 'candy'?

Candy? Now I was at a complete loss. What typical Indian candy could I make? So I spent about 2-3 weeks in intense research at local supermarkets. Why? Oh yes, I forgot to mention that Satsuki (SI-san), the session organiser, requested that I use ingredients available locally. So there I was desperately mailing mommy and anyone else I could think of asking for very simple sweet recipes, and then hunting in the supermarkets for availability of ingredients. Before I hit the stores there was a lot on internet and dictionary research trying to find the correct English or Japanese name for these things.

Simple and tasty delicacies were ruled out. To make kesari, I needed rave, something unheard of here. I couldn't even find condensed milk for some simple sweets. Finally mom's friend Radha aunty gave her a simple recipe for a coconut burfi, with minimum fuss, that I could make with dry or processed coconut powder. Thank God for that! So after giving SI-san a list of things that would be needed, I settled on this.

On D-day, I was told that I would be given a lift there by one Mrs Okabe, and was given instuctions where to meet her. So I go to the rendezvous and meet her there for the almost hour long drive to Atsumi.

Then we hit the first hitch. Mrs Okabe was Korean, and spoke fluent Japanese. I certainly don't know a single word of Korean, and my Japanese to date isn't something to write home about. So I reached into my bag and pulled out my notepad, pen and dictionary. So whenever Mrs Okabe said anything, I'd jot down what I assumed were the key words to the conversation, look it up in the dictionary, mentally phrase out my response, look up the right words in the dictionary, conjugate verbs correctly, adjust tenses and reply back. We actually managed to have a decently meaningful conversation this way!

The drive to Atsumi was lovely. We drove through the mountains, and the last twenty minutes, we had the mountains on one side, and the sea on the other side of the road. It was a cloudy day, and visibility was a quite poor once we reached the seaside. Since Mrs Okabe had to concentrate on her driving, I put away the dictionary and sat back to enjoy the view.

Atsumi itself is famous for its hotsprings and rose gardens. The town is built into a small valley along the Atsumi river. The houses at the edges of town look like they've been built into the very hills.

We got to Atsumi, and I finally met SI-san, who was so far only a voice on the phone. I was then told that I would have to speak a few words about 'bringing up children in India'. Duh? I told her that I would love to do it, but it wasn't going to be easy using an abridged dictionary. But fortunately, my Japanese teacher AB-san was there, and she was a part of the group who would be learning to make the candies from me. So I quickly wrote down something and she translated it into Japanese.

It was a very small group. There were only 4 of us per group. There were 6 groups in all, with representatives from India, Philippines, Brazil, USA, New Zealand and Korea. I knew AB-san from the classes. The other two ladies were quite curious about everything starting from my clothes, to bindi, to mangalsutra. One totally precocious little kid crossed over from another group to mine because he said he had many questions for me.

So we adjourned to the kitchens to start making our respective dishes. While the concoction was cooking, the little kid (and the ladies too) were full of questions. They were appalled that I hadn't eaten any local fish. And were shocked to realize that I didn't eat fish, period. So instead of a cultural exchange it turned out to be an explanation of vegetarianism. I had to explain just what a vegetarian ate if not fish and meat. To them a diet free of any sort of meat was incomprehensible. I have been told that the ladies and gentlemen in the group now want a full demo of a vegetarian meal.

The little kid was a firecracker. He asked me to speak to him in 'Indian'.. so I let rip in a nice combination of Tamil, Hindi and Kannada. His questions were endless. Finally there was the most priceless one of all.. do all Indians know the kind of yoga where you stand on your head? .... Huh?? where did that come from?? So I asked him: Do all Japanese people know how to fight like the samurai with a katana? Are all Japanese expert in martial arts?

By this time, all the kids were around my table, because word had spread that I was handing out candy... I still have no clue what was so funny about my question, but the entire bunch of kids broke into squeals of laughter, and went on and on and on. I asked AB what I'd said wrong. She too was a bit puzzled, but one of the other mothers in the group said not to think too much about what makes those kids laugh.

And then, there was the 'eating'... We all got to sample what the other groups had made.

Finally when I was leaving, everyone stopped to say how much they liked the candy, but did I add too much sugar by mistake? It was delicious.... but... it was too sweet.

Yes, Indian sweets can be rather overwhelmingly sweet.

And yes, my new friends have asked themselves over to lunch some weekend to taste meat-free food...

At the rate people seem to want to try Indian vegetarian food, Arun says maybe I should open a restaurant.

06 June 2006

Things I know for a fact

I know that gravity is 9.81 m/s². I know that the boiling point of water is 100°C. I know that the moon orbits the earth, and the earth in turn orbits the sun.

To be precise, I have been told that these are facts and I have accepted them at face value.

I've also been told that using cell-phones can cause brain tumors. Today, I know certain facts about cell-phones that have been proved to my satisfaction, much to the detriment of the instrument in question.

Now I have listed some things that I have had proved, to my satisfaction, as irrefutable facts.

A cell-phone dropped in a pot of boiling sambar will never work again.

A cell-phone dropped in a loo has a very slim chance of ever working right again. Especially if it has been there for 4 hours prior to detection.

A sturdy Nokia 3310 may, under standard throwing and falling conditions, survive a fall from a 7th floor window, and live to tell the tale.

I certainly do not make any claims about being any sort of electronics expert. I do know some other random facts about other household electronics.

M&M candies should not be inserted into a DVD player along with a DVD. If it doesn't fall through, it leaves a funny coating of colour on the surface of the disc.

Pouring chocolate milk on a Tom and Jerry DVD doesn't assuage either protagonists' hunger, but does leave one big grandmother of a mess to be cleaned up.

And picking up a DVD with a pair of tongs can crack the said disc.

Does anyone out there have other facts to share??

04 June 2006

What a rip-off

We now know for certain that we aren't going to watch a single match played in the FIFA World Cup 2006.

Over the weekend, we went out to buy a satellite dish and tuner from one of two service providers. We go to the electronics store, make out choice, and then before we pay, for some reason (divine intervention probably) decide call our friend AS-san to talk to the salesman once, just to make sure we understooeverything right. Thank God for that.

We had 2 choices of satellite TV options, provided by service providers N and S henceforth referred to as spN and spS). Now, spN broadcasts every match live. But absolutely no replays or highlights packages or anything. And spN doesn't have a single non-Japanese channel in it's repertoire.

So we look at spS. spS offers some 20 basic, and 8 premium English program channels. We like that. And yes, the World cup matches will NOT be broadcast live. The games are recorded and telecast the next day. Ok, that doesn't sound too bad, does it? But they are all telecast between 9am and 6pm. And somehow Arun didn't think he'd take the day off to watch a match who's results were already available on any news bulletin on any media.

So, much to my delight, no cable television! Am off to make something sweet to celebrate!

Even if I am thrilled, I still can't help believing that it's all one big rip-off! Not one broadcaster has a highlights capsule or anything. You watch them live on one channel, or watch the recorded on another, no repeat telecasts, no highlights, nothing.

Just how long will people get taken for a ride like this? Broadcasting standards ARE fairly primitive!!

03 June 2006

Colourful local parade

Last week there was this parade in town in honour of the Tenjin Matsuri festival.

Here are a few pictures.

These masked persons are called Bakemono. Their primary function in life (or rather in this parade) is to remain masked for the duration of the parade, not utter a single word, stay incognito and most important, pour out sake for all and sundry. And juice for the kids, of course! Did I remember to mention that the sake is free??

Legend goes that one Sugawara, who was this education reformer in the late 9th century, fell out of grace with the powers that be. Since Sugawara was so popular with the masses, the powers decided to exile him.

The locals wanted to give him a fitting farewell, but did not want to be recognised as friends or well-wishers of a persona-non-grata. So the town turned out in force to see him off. Every man, woman and child masked beyond recognition.

Bakemono also means monster.

In the days of yore, during the Tenjin Matsuri, the bakemono could enter any home without fear of impunity. According to our friends here, some of the gentlemen who used to play the bakemono used this as an opportunity to visit their favourite ladies!

These are the Shinto priests leading the parade.

The next section of the parade were the traditional dances. This particular dance looked a little like the dandiya performed in a kimono! I didn't get around to taking any video, but picture a dandiya filmed in excruciatingly slow motion, and played back is slow motion! Yes, it was that slow!

Arun wondered if these people had ever watched a dandiya or a garba. I wouldn't recommend it. We wouldn't want then to suffer from motion sickness, would we?

This little girl was the youngest participant in the traditional dances. Looked like a Japanese doll! Aditi and Nadiya were thoroughly fascinated by her costume.

I really shouldn't have listened to Arun's suggestions for the right place to watch the parade. By the time the bakemono got to us, all they had was fruit juice.. they were all out of sake!!! Next year, we find a place closer to where the parade starts! Is there any point in missing out on as much free sake as you can drink?

01 June 2006

Oh no... not again!

I've been trying, with my bare minimum knowledge of Japanese to find out where MI-3 is playing. It hasn't released here yet! Release is planned for early July.... I just hope Pirates of the Caribbean 2 will be released on time.

Sigh... if anyone still wants to send me a b'day gift, please send me some curry leaves, chaat and maybe some movies.

How priorities change...

Am I getting old???? hmmmmm......

PS: Anyone who thinks Axe is gay say "Aye"......