Thursday, June 19, 2008

A typical South Indian dinner at the in-laws place

Sunday evenings are typically reserved for visits to the in-laws place. My entry is treated like that of a king entering his mansion. As soon as I come in, I suddenly experience a never-before felt cool breeze in the peak summer of Chennai, courtesy a couple of ACs which get switched on when I set foot out of my own house!

Soon after arrival, the madam goes into the kitchen to talk to her mom while I start a conversation with dad-in-law on various topics including but not limited to health, wealth, career etc. Discussions typically veer towards what is going on currently on the TV channel that is presently being watched.

After sometime, tiny sounds (generally heard as “kada-muda”) from my stomach act as alarm bells to the in-laws. These are sounds of the type that are heard from the stomach of a person implicitly starving for a long time in anticipation of a feast; sounds that happen after the feast are reserved for later. A cup filled with three gulab jamuns comes flying at me like a tracer-bullet (word copyright expert commentator Mr. Ravi Shastri)

Thoughts of the word “diet” that had so eagerly arrived on my mind a couple of days back slowly start dissolving in the sugar syrup that surrounds the three large-sized gulab jamuns. Any word of refusal immediately raises eyebrows and low decibel conversations between mom-in-law and my madam asking whether hubby has developed sugar trouble. To ward off any such thoughts, the jamuns are gulped down the throat at the pace they came at. Here, some amount of caution needs to be exercised. If the speed of gulping down is too fast, more jamuns fill up the cup in no time. If it is too slow, frequent voices from inside the kitchen to finish off the sweet-dish interrupt your TV viewing.

Once the sweet dish is over and done with, the TV viewing typically continues for around 3.5 to 4 minutes (basically for the next set of items to get heated inside the kitchen). Then, there is a call for dinner. As I slowly tread towards the dining room, a large table awaits me and the madam. In the center of the table are three dishes that stare at me gleefully with ‘high cholesterol’ written all over them – urulai (potato) roast, fried pappads, and vethakozhambu (tough to explain – in short, a south Indian spicier dish similar to sambhar)

Nice shiny stainless-steel plates, resembling those carrying unlimited extra-jumbo meals in Saravana Bhavan, are placed in front of me. An additional sweet-dish (typically rava kesari or halwa) is served in line with the “start-with-a-sweet-dish” sentiment. Then lands a big mass of white rice: measures such as removing the plate away and use of force to hold up extra servings of rice are outright rejected. Typically, half the plate is filled with rice before you can realize what is happening. The other half is reserved for the aforementioned side-dishes.

A spoon with an extra large capacity to hold the dripping nei (ghee) gently passes over my plate. Within half a second, the white mass of rice is nicely soaked in the same ghee. Then land litres of vetha-kozhambu, and tons of urulai roast and fried pappads.

My History class in school would have ended sooner than the rice in my plate. Mammoth efforts to eat the food seem to all go to waste as I witness a never-ending supply of items in my plate. Desperate measures such as loosening my pant-belt and talking while eating (to let the ingested food digest) seem to just be desperate gimmicks without any success.

When finally I do manage to just about finish the rice on my plate, more rice, first with rasam and then with the customary curd / butter-milk (thayir-saadam) follow in equal quantities with even more side-dishes that literally seem to pop out of hidden corners in the kitchen. My concealing tactics are greatly tested here as I try hiding unfinished portions of the food under half-eaten pappads and potato chips. In parallel, I am constantly reminded of the weight I have lost over the last few weeks (the weighing machine always has a different opinion here) and how I should eat a lot more.

Eventually, after what seems like a patient Dravid inning, it is time to get up and wash my hands. It is not a good practice to meander on at the eating spot without washing one’s hands. But when the food is fully present uptil your throat and your pant belt is not the way it is supposed to be, you really do not have a choice. The 3 meter distance to the wash basin seems like that last mile for the completely exhausted marathon runner.

As I put in that last ditch effort to get up, there lands a plate of freshly sliced banganapalli mangoes. At this point, I cannot even open my mouth to talk, leave alone voice any denial. As the smooth and silky mango slices slowly but surely find their way through the food maze into my stomach, I more or less start thinking on when I am going to regain my capacity to talk and walk!

After the finger-bowl style washing process, I manage to get up, go and sit in front of the TV. As I try to muster up a smile and a nod of the head in response to every question, one can hear appreciation on how the son-in-law is such a nice silent guy. I very silently thank the food that is sitting right till my throat for the gentle remark.

According to our traditional Tamil culture, a glass of milk is essential to round off the day* (see footnote for explanation). At this point, you have totally lost all control of what gets into your system. The milk manages to find its way through the mouth of a half-conscious me. I have already started thinking on whether I would fit into my car door on the way back home and whether the car will be able to take the extra load. After the customary good night and the promise to come same time next week for an even better dinner with more items (like they do usually for next-week show announcements on TV), I walk in a trance towards my car, guided by the madam.

As soon as I get into the car with the madam, thoughts about the impending diet for the coming week to compensate for this food start afresh in my mind…

* - No references of any kind whatsoever exist

24 comments:

Sriram said...

Good one ! Lucky you , seem to have a king-size experience every weekend..

Jeeves said...

thx sriram. king size life is not so often nowadays since i am in blore and visit chennai only once a month or so! (tonight's trip just going for a sixer with the guwahati express from blore to chennai being canceled!) oh i was waiting for this weekend!

CuriousCat said...

Great read! Came via DP.

Now, you should have given more details such as was there avial? How about vadai or something so that starving people like me could salivate vicariously :))

Lekhni said...

Well, this looks exactly the way my Mom treated R when we visited India last month. The part you left out - how did your wife feel about you being treated like royalty by her Mom?

Sands said...

Classic read! Got here from Desi Pundit. I felt like I was reliving my memories with mom, growing up in Chennai & even now when she visits me here.

Arvind Iyer said...

Nice!
(Another visitor from DP)

Jeeves said...

curiouscat: Thx! Oh yes - avial, vadai (to be more precise kunukku!), maavadu were some of the items that came in from those remote corners; lekhni: true - she must hv been thinking this guy eats whatever is thrown at him at home and here he is being treated like a king!; sands: thx too! yeah the episode repeats if mothers visit US or vice-versa; arvind - thx!

Rada said...

Your description of that fabulous "sadya" has made me hopelessly hungry! :-)

See you after a while...

indicaspecies said...

Reached here via DP.

This is a hilarious read..haha!

gayatri said...

Yum... slurp.... Makes my mouth water. Next time I come to Bangalore, I am piling on your in-laws. As it is, this time I missed going to MTR (sigh!)
Delhi has really pathetic places to eat Tam food. In fact in one of the malls they were serving Shezuwan Dosa (they dont call it Dosai)- it was pathetic. And Shezuwan comes with Paneer!!!Can you believe that ....my eyes poped out man (Chinese would faint when they see that)?
BTW, why do you call it a typical 'South Indian Dinner'? I would assume that Mallus, Gults and Kannadigas have fairly different cuisines.
And how come you call it Sambar and Rasam and not Nelikari-amudu and Satam-amudu?

Jeeves said...

rada - hope you are enjoying your vethakozhambu and poricha appalam! indicaspecies - thx! G - in-laws r unfortunately in chennai! yeah its more a typical tamil dinner. and the phrases u use are iyengar bashai (which my in-laws are) while what i use is iyer bashai..

Shantanu said...

Ha ha! I guess we are like that only, everywhere in India. :)

Vidhya said...

Absolutely Hilarious.. Wish i get this from my " mamiyar veedu "...

Jeeves said...

shantanu: yeah thats so very true! vidhya - in 'maamiyaar veedu', you only get pazhaya soru + thagara thattu... (if u know what maamiyaar veedu i mean)

Nag said...

good one! reminded me of a post on Telugu "full meal" I have recently read (URL:http://www.kanneganti.com/social/telusa/thanksgiving-dinner/)

cheers,
Nag
P.S: which batch of IIMB? me from '99 batch.

Jeeves said...

nag: thx! my mouth (and eyes cause of the chillies) hv started to water on seeing that telugu food! me from batch of '04 btw.

Harish Kumar said...

Excellent read. Came here via Suketu.Decided to follow you on Twitter!
And linking to this post on my blog :-)

Jeeves said...

harish: thanks a lot for the comment as well as the linking!

Sudheer Narayan said...

very strong narration. very akin to rk narayan level stuff in terms of the description of the happenings..

themadrasi said...

has the missus seen this post of yours ?

pankajp said...

Nice :) !!!

Anonymous said...

Nice narration Rajiv...but additionally for maaplais, it will be on nuni vaazhail elai and typically not in thattu...right?

Jeeves said...

thanks sudheer, pankajp. yes themadrasi - the missus has seen this! anonymous - the elai is only for occasional special events. for weekly binges, its not required!

andrea chiu said...

I am so glad to read your wonderful article. Im looking forward to read more of
your works and posts. You did a good job! Try to visit my site too and enjoy.

triciajoy.com

www.triciajoy.com

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...