Thursday, January 29, 2009

Kerela 2 - What is pongal?

It was only 10pm after one round of pulling legs. Kumar, on his way to the restroom, unknowingly knocked the head of another passenger with his elbow. This presented us with another opportunity to target him again! All he could do was smile – you really can’t do much when you are the target because anything you say in defence will be used against you!

Berths for four of us were in one compartment while Kumar’s berth was two blocks away. To his dismay his berth was already occupied by a person – a middle aged man who was part of a gang that had occupied all eight berths in that compartment. Everyone there was fast asleep and Kumar tentatively woke up the man. The man didn’t budge but after a couple more of our guys joined Kumar the man reluctantly gave up his side upper berth and Kumar happily jumped in.

The train had a LED display near the toilet that displayed the next station and the time due for the destination. A nice addition to the Indian railways.

I hopped into my upper berth and was lost in thoughts for a while – the berth in a train is one of the best places to contemplate over anything – present, past or future. Just lying there chugging along, with a slight rocking effect, staring into a ceiling that is just an arm’s length away, with no one to disturb you does stir up some fascinating and romantic thoughts!


The five of us were awake by 7am. Only KY had brought a toothpaste in our group!
Someone commented, “Kumar was mobbed by girls while brushing his teeth”.
“Oh; it wasn’t him they were crowding around – it was for the wash basin that they were there!”
The train was supposed to reach Kozhikode at 7:45am. A Nepali coffee vendor came over to our compartment. In the comedy that ensured with KY asking a ‘How much’ and then following it with a ‘Too much’ we all burst out laughing. In Hindi I asked the vendor when the train would reach Kozhikode and he said he didn’t know but the train was half an hour late. The LED display wasn’t working in the morning and so we really didn’t know where we were and just sat gazing through the window trying to identify our location. At around 7:45am we saw some signs on boards that indicated we were in Kozhikode. And in fact the next station was Kozhikode itself.
“I guess that guy wanted to take revenge on us. The train is on time and he said it is late!”

We had arranged for a van to take us to Wayanad, northern Kerela. But before Wayanad we had to stop for breakfast. The Keralite driver, probably thinking we would dine in high class restaurants, took us to a hotel where they had a breakfast buffet. Judging by the looks of the place we knew it would be costly. The problem was that none of us knew Malayalam and the driver knew only Malayalam. With the little Malayalam we knew we told him to take us to a “siriya” (small) restaurant.
“The driver was having a high impression about us and now all of that is destroyed”, Praveen commented. The next restaurant we stopped at was a typical way side restaurant.
Karthik, while seated in the restaurant, confidently said, “Here in Kerela appam is called white pongal”.
Everyone thought he knew some Malayalam and accepted; but Viswa wondered if appam is pongal here then what is pongal called?
His doubt was cleared when the waiter announced that appam was on the menu. So much for Karthik’s Malayalam.

Jabradamus said the kadalai (black channa) curry was a speciality and so both of us ordered appam with kadalai curry while the rest asked for idlis. The appam had a tinge of sweetness and the combination tasted great. We guys had occupied three tables and while paying the bill confusion ensued – we were billed for four tables instead of three; the extra table was occupied by guys of our age; they were into non vegetarian food for breakfast and the bill was pretty hefty! We had to repeat our explanation a few times before the waiter realized that he had made a mistake – huh; I wonder what all troubles we will get into because of the language barrier! be continued...

No comments: