THE INDIAN SUMMER

Piles of watermelon stacked at pathways, cows munching on thick yellow flesh of mango skins and violet tongue of kids are true signs that the Indian summer is here. Different from the western world, the summer of yesteryears brought a gamut of very many interesting experiences; air coolers with khus, earthen ware pots for water, all night power cuts, sleeping on the terrace……

It’s also the time of the year that brings back the mother of all questions ’ Bhaiyya, Meetha Toh Hai Na’. The answer to this conundrum lies secretly in every woman’s heart, yet they to want to hear it from the horse’s mouth.

The street hawker with his best fake smile, swears on his half broken-fully rusted knife, & on his imaginary twenty kids and voila, it’s sold! The Watermelon is yours!

After all, we all need assurances in our lives!
 People in relationships have it as their weekly chore to ask “you still love me, na!

 After exams, I always got asked,’ pass toh ho jayega na?

 Just before your dentist is about to drill a hole, we ask, will this hurt?

 On hearing your wife being pregnant, you’d always confirm ‘are you sure?! Or in many cases ‘are you sure, it’s mine!

After facing the toughest jury comprising of your neighbours, relatives, close friends, wives & parents, you somehow do arrive at a conclusion and decide to celebrate!
And just when you are about to overcome your doubts and are almost sure of your decision, the comparison gene kicks in.

Our neighbour bought a new Honda City, and you’re still driving your old Santro, shame on you! Sharma jee’s son is in IIT and you’re from IIN? That’s really sad, you should try going to IIM-A & at the same time wish that he only makes it to B and C. After all, there’s always an over-achieving relative in our lives who is always better at everything we did.

As Hoteliers, there’s a list of unending assurances that we usually offer free of charge! The suffix and prefix of our lives lie between “I sincerely apologise” and “it’s been a pleasure”. Haven’t you read an email which begins with a phrase “allow me to assure you?” Well, the only thing we are sure of is that the incident which bothered you previously will happen again.
So next time you are about to ask these questions, think again! Do you really want an answer or just an assurance!

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Going The Distance

Measure the remoteness between your bed and bath, and that’s how far two people in a relationship should be. But off late, the term ‘long distance’ has become more common than people taking a leak on the streets. I wonder why Facebook hasn’t included it as an option for status as yet…

To make such situations work, these super-beings are also in a parallel relationships with Skype, Wi-Fi, 4G, makemytrip.com and discounted pre-paid plans. For the rest, Facebook updates are the only way to spy around and keep a tab on what their other half is upto.

I have been also told about an app which tracks your whereabouts. A very interesting hobby of such kind is to send a Whats-App and wait till the ticks on the screen and their face turn blue. But my personal favourite is the gestation period, when after a few hours the reply is still in transit and all that one can see on the screen is a word in italics is “ typing…”

Defining strategies and setting parameters to meet every quarter and re-aligning objectives becomes the norm. Just like a business plan! Some also agree for updating each other with work, sleep and recreational timings, sharing every little triumph and tragedy of their lives. In terror driven states, they also share list of people and their contact numbers whom they are allowed to be seen with, but reporting back home on time is a non-negotiable clause ( often written in smaller font) just because, misery does love company.

The left over quality time (if any), needs to be spent only on calls and voice chats. And beware if the screen on your phone shows the term ‘Missed Call’, this generally relates to another set of Q&A which generally begins with a tease, ‘whom were you speaking to’.

Terms like “re-inventing romance” are re-defined through refined glass screens on your favourite tech-device which almost lets you feel the person across. But look at the brighter side, you don’t have to be presentable all the time and can have plenty of ‘me time’. Best of all, you are often told that if you survive the distance, your relationship can survive anything. Bollocks !!

It may be a very strange comparison but hear me out. Hotels these days have come up with a 50 mile menu concept. They use ingredients that can be sourced locally and as close as 50 miles of their vicinity… Its local, its fresh, sustainable, hassle free and available whenever! And best part, it’s a shorter geographic distance, so you can visit whenever.
Isn’t that what we need in a relationship too?

It’s an adorable conundrum which I would hate to be in. I’d say, save yourself from the trouble and relish the local produce…. After all, it’s only a few miles away

Disclaimer: all characters & scenes described above are almost real. Any resemblance to real persons, dead or alive is not a pure coincidence.

Maid of Honour

I have always longed for this feeling of being woken up by someone who really understands me and knows exactly how I want certain things to be! Someone, who doesn’t necessarily talk much but still, gets you,

That for me is the maid of my dreams. But lately, no one seems to stick around. It seems as if some one’s casted a spell. Working for a single guy is so much easier for them! Or so I thought- no nagging wives, no screaming kids, no visiting in laws and hardly any expectations….

But when the fourth one decided to break up with me, I had to ask – What went wrong! Why didn’t we click? I thought she gets me. But all she said was- It’s too boring!

She wanted someone to talk to and I was never home. We never fought, barely argued and I thought it was going just fine. But little did I know, what she wanted was meaningful conversations where she could gossip about our neighbour’s drowning married life and their annoying kids. Knowing women had never been my forte but this one really shook my confidence.

It is difficult to forget the Firsts in life especially when you have never had one before. And so was this. Every day, sharp at 7 she would almost take the life out of my door bell. This was the only difficult part as for the rest, I was never awake.

Somehow, she knew exactly where all the clothes lying on the floor went and never asked how they got there. Every morning she fought with the car cleaner for the only bucket I had and with the laundry guy to wipe his feet before he entered. While all this commotion happened, I was still asleep, for I knew she would wake me up before she leaves…The deal breaker here was when her weekly offs and leaves exceeded mine.  As a Hotelier, you can never ever swallow this. To her defense she had a much busier social life.

My second and third attempt didn’t last that long either as we didn’t speak the same language. It was like the worst relationship ever. We always tried to make the ends meet but the day she washed my silk Boggie tie and made it look like a sanitary pad, I called it off.

I still don’t know what ticks them off or makes them stay but I do know that the best maids you find, always, work for someone else.

The relationship between a maid and her employer is a tenuous and delicate thing that has far more to do with moods than with money. Given a second chance, I’d like to be a changed man- come home on time, have long unwinding conversations, I’d even try and learn Spanish if I had to… we all want to be in their good books, don’t we!

Truly, Madly, Deeply

Since my days at the Hotel School, I always had this fascinating delusion of working in a destination with soft white sand and sky blue waters…

So years later, against all the odds, I got transferred to Maldives. The sight was prettier than I ever imagined but after exactly three hours of me landing there, I realised, I couldn’t do it anymore. Seclusion was not my cup of tea…..

How should I say, It’s almost like the craving for visiting a strip club. You love going there but never want it on your resume. It’s a paradise for those in love- no sightseeing, no shopping! Just long walks on the beach, sun sets, skinny dipping in lagoons, picturesque skies, gazing at the shooting stars and drinking till cows come home!

But for many, especially Indians, it’s amongst the top 3 boring vacations of their life time. The other two being when their TV didn’t work and when they couldn’t order a half butter chicken.

While the others are busy holding hands, smiling & gazing in each other’s eyes, even trying to have a conversation with the doped out waiters, I amused myself watching a couple over a dinner table. For hours, you heard an utter disturbing silence! Absolutely nothing to discuss or ponder! As if they have been punished with the gloomiest day of their life!

For them, days have passed by without going to a multiplex, they haven’t been able to click a single picture outside a Gucci showroom and have no stories to boast about their bargaining skills. They haven’t fought with their maid in days, haven’t spoken to their chauffer/ man-Friday and worst of all, they have already missed their Kitty Party- twice! And they find the ocean too blue. Green was their favourite colour,

A breath of fresh air passed by when a waiter comes over and they finally have something in common to talk. ‘the Chicken Tikka Masala lacks a bit of zest’. Yeah! Just like your life!

And that’s when you know, you shouldn’t have married so soon
And Maldives is so not for you! It’s a haven for the ‘Romantique’, whose indulgence is only limited to exploring constellations, soaking feet in warm white sand and enjoying fine cuisine. It’s the closest you would get to being lost amidst the fascinating blue!

So, in your check list for Maldives, do make sure to have someone, with lots of compassion for doing nothing…

P.s.- Saari may be the official bikini of Gujrat, but please don’t jump in the pool with them….. Find something of an equal size that covers you up………

Aside

The Faulty Towers

If you haven’t watched this show, I seriously recommend you do before you read on…
My favourite British sit com turned to reality when I moved to this amazingly wicked land named, England. And by the way, what you see as ‘England’ on TV is not the one I lived in.

Fresh from the oven of Swiss hotel school, with a flair for French cuisine, white dawn glove service and an American twang, I land in to this barn called Yorkshire. I somehow had this weird notion, that there would hardly be any difference between America & England. What I did realise that these were two nations separated by a common language.

After ten hours of flying and two hours of train ride, I arrived in York. With the name sounding like New York, what could possibly be wrong! It took a good ten minutes for the taxi driver to convince me that the ruins I am starring at might be my new hotel!

I was a state of awe… as in “awe! My god!” There I was, standing in front of a 165 year old fortress (more like a renovated brothel with a green staircase) that could fall anytime.

After taking a deep breath and saying a little prayer, I entered the York dungeons! I had yet again out done myself! From a swanky 22 storey hotel in America, here I was basking and strolling in the glory of English history, praising my brilliance.

At work, my team consisted of 17 college going kids, mostly girls, who cared two hoots about their job and 3 Spaniards who didn’t speak English! I Even had a bet with one of them, that’s she’s pregnant! And gosh! At 17, she was!!! Only I knew it before her! I was so disappointed; the only pretty soul in my restaurant got screwed from a guy who sold hash for a living!

My manager who was in her forties, didn’t have any teeth and was in love with the pot wash guy. So we got our plates on time! And the head chef had just been sacked for stealing hotel paintings.( I’m serious) The Adam’s family had truly come to life.

Another marvel was a girl with a squint. Looking straight in to the eyes and talking was not her thing. She also had a cousin whose only dream was to become a stripper and got her tongue pierced only for oral pleasures!

There was so much admiration in the room that they always lauded one another for who they were and what they wanted to become! Yes- they even admired the stripper for her aspiration! Life couldn’t be better.

The kitchen wasn’t so far either. One fine morning; the 80 year old breakfast chef encountered his biggest culinary challenge of a life time! Someone ordered an egg white omelet. In his age & time, this was unheard of!

He gave a zillion reasons as to why the British egg whites won’t cook alone. The same evening, one of the chefs decided to chop off his finger and I somehow land up in the kitchen! So, I did cook for one night and that too a New York Club Stacker for the then famous pop artist, Craig David. Poor guy had no clue who was cooking & I had no clue what I was…

When you went back to the house, thinking the worst is over, you were greeted by three warming flatmates putting nail paints on one another, with their freshly laundered lingerie, sprawling all over the living room, occupying every little space, marking their ‘Territory’! I had no choice but to help them with their chores if I needed my space to sit! (Yes, I did paint their nails)

This is the England I lived in…..! It was a place where the Queen was unheard of and we all spoke a language that only we could understand…

Till next time, ‘Ta, Luv!’

Bells, Bottles & Sand…..

What do you do when an adorable friend decides to bite the dust and say ‘I do’ (in Punjabi of course…) and tells you to be there!

Weddings usually are a scary affair for me. Women turning in to bride-zilla, endless menu discussions, running against time..I actually wanted to be a part of one wedding where I am not responsible for anything.

And this was one wedding I could never say No to, especially when the back drop said- Goa!! For all the intricate knowledge I had from Bollywood flicks, Goa somehow seemed to be a place where the Russians took asylum from their traumatic lives…a place where lobster grew on trees and where kids were raised on home grown weed, plucked from their back yards.

Escaping weddings had been a forte all my life. There’s something revolting about them. All the toothless women seem to recognise you instantly, claiming to have seen you naked!! They also claim to have access to all the single women in town, endorsing a “happy ending”. My beloved match making aunties…

Try refuting their declaration and they instantaneously grab your face choking you with kisses flavoured with the last snack they pounded upon.

Which is why going to a friend’s wedding is so much safer, especially when it’s an effort towards national integration. A Rajput girl marrying a completely bald, half Goan-half Punjabi-half Bengali guy, settled in Bangalore.

The guest list was equally unpretentious too. Corporate lawyers turned photographers, over grown air hostesses who claimed they were only half their current size just a few weeks ago, an innocent Chinese who confused spider webs drawn on her hand for Mehendi. To her defense, someone had spiked her Fanta.

Amidst all this, you barely stayed sober, spent unending after hours at the beach and for some strange reason carried women’s clutch all evening…

And just when you think you could dance the night away with those multiple clutches in your hand…. You somehow get swept off your feet and get twirled in the air by a Psycho Punjabi Moron straight from DDLJ…Thankfully, it was the only romantic moment I had!!!

Next morning, just when you are recovering from this trauma that almost killed your willingness to live, you realise it’s show time!!
You forget about everything else and get ready to enjoy every ritual in the company of friends, celebrating every moment. May be that’s what makes a friend’s wedding different. You are there for someone whom you really know…….

When you return home and start extracting sand off your cell phone and from every single piece of wardrobe, you smile and wish it never ended!

Travels like these remind me of the song..…
Nothing from nothing, so must have done something good
in child hood…..

DATING A VEGETARIAN

I get ecstatic just by the mere thought of having a good meal….
My friends refute on my request on seeing a menu & never let me decide… because of my ‘disorder’. I do not order excessively, they just feel so!

Well, these days my urge seems to be under control, thanks to the current city, I am living in!

I have always had this peculiar obsession of browsing through the best restaurants around the globe and then drool over their menus. From the Eleven Madison Park in New York to Nahm in Bangkok, they are all on my bucket list.Nothing to me is more amusing than a well written menu that can excite your senses.

I only know one more person who’s as crazy as I am when it comes to ‘food’. And she fortunately is not a #Hotelier, She is much prettier than that. The problem begins when you try & search for this insanity or shall I say ‘quality’ in others!

Last weekend, I decided to browse through San Pellegrino’s 50 Best Restaurants. After having gone through the first ten, my pupils dilated, there were cramps all over and hunger pants which cannot be explained. The moment was excruciating yet satiating.

These were only indications that I can never date a vegetarian!

So, I found a potential match. Like the same music, we get each other’s humour, like the same movies, both like to travel and take long walks on the beach.

Everything looks great and the heart jumps a beat as I get ready for that first #date. I make my way to the restaurant to enjoy an intimate dinner when out of nowhere She drops the big “V” bomb.    A #vegetarian or worse… a vegan.

So is it a deal breaker? It’s not like she smokes cigarettes and I have asthma. But let’s face it, I am a carnivore and that’s simply something I am not willing to change. You start to wonder, What’s next? Tree hugging?

I like a girl whom I can enjoy a bacon, egg and cheese with, someone who can slurp freshly chucked oysters and whose eyes glitter when she sees a steak tartar… And not someone who gags at the smell of meat! Does that make any sense?

I recently read an article which said, ‘Look for someone who matches 80 percent of your interests,”. “If the remaining 15 to 20 percent is about religion, politics or food, don’t let that be an issue.”

But what if 80% of your interest lies in that 15%! What if that 15% is much more important to you than that 80%..?

I have always believed in the fact that all joyful moments of our lives are connected with memories of great food, wine & conversations. Replace any one of them with cabbage and cauliflower and my remembrance becomes faint & bleak.

May be carnivores like me are only capable of dating those with whom they can share a rack of ribs…..

WHAT’S FOR DINNER

is my favourite question…Only difference being that I need to ask, answer and cook myself. It’s the only meal of the day I enjoy and I won’t settle for #Maggi!! The planning phase of this question begins as I walk the isles of the super market. I pass each row and the dinner begins to come alive.Rows of parma ham, strawberries, vine ripe cherry tomatoes, pak choi, fresh herbs, oriental sauces, jumbo olives….. Exasperating is the word!!

But with years of living alone, I realised one thing, – Never go food shopping empty stomach- You will end up buying everything you don’t need!! And secondly never try and shop for healthy stuff! The so called low sugar, high fibre goodness burns such a hard hole through you that the fat melts as is.

But these gourmet #food stores are such a therapy…it’s like being in Disney land.

After hours of wandering and bags full of food, I reach home, stack up the fridge and then comes the big question…What’s for #Dinner! Do you think after all the hard work I just did…I will now stand and cook? It’s the argument I have with myself almost every day.

Instead I plonk myself on the big couch and hone my culinary skills while I watch the #Master Chef! That’s the kind of baloney I give my lazy self for not getting up.

After a lot of convincing from #Jamie Oliver, #Gordon Ramsey and Heston ( my three imaginary friends from the food world ), I enter the kitchen and realise that the essentials which I need to compete against these names are somewhat missing!

It’s almost 10 in the night and I still haven’t eaten and I won’t succumb to a lousy take away Biryani & Curd rice! It still needs to be fancy, tasty and good looking… For all such occasions, my creative brilliance has only one option- Eggs!! A rosemary, parma & cherry tomato omelette or my favourite-a Croque Madame- baked egg yolks with parmesan, white sauce and more cheese and a blueberry banana smoothie… good looking and rich !! Bare essential qualities that one looks out in a partner and a good meal.

I live right next to a grocery store and I don’t know if it’s the bachelor in me, but I just go in and shop for what I need for the day. The clerks a the store always give me a big grin thinking what an idiot to come every other day! I’m a bachelor in the old sense of the word, meaning I flirt, I have very many close relationships, never try to think before I speak but then I like coming home with bag full of groceries and ask myself, ‘What’s for dinner’…..