Posts Tagged ‘hotel’

Having seen most of the south, my wife and I were keen on going to a place we hadn’t been before. As our brain cells started working overtime, the phone rang incessantly one day. I was in the bathroom, while my wife was in the kitchen. I thought she would pick up the phone and she thought I would pick up the phone (not knowing that I was in the bathroom). As the ringing of the phone kept slamming my eardrums, I wrapped a towel around me and dashed to pick it up. A pleasant but heavily accented American voice answered (I really hate it when Indians who have grown up in India all along, start putting on an American accent)

“Can I speak to Mr. Narayanan Vincent?”
“Speaking”, I said.
“Congratulations Sir! You have won a holiday for two to Munnar, Kerala from Club Mahindra Holidays.”

I couldn’t believe it. I reeled. It was the happiest knockout blow I had ever received. Still reeling from the blow, I asked the heavily accented American voice (I forget her name now), how I hit the jackpot? She told me that I was chosen from a `lucky draw’ held at a shopping festival we had participated in, recently.

My wife’s face lit up, when I told her of the delightful news. And soon we started making arrangements. The best part was, Munnar had `eluded’ us for a long time, for strange and illogical reasons. One of them being that Munnar was `tea’ country and therefore there wouldn’t be much to see around.

Eventually when we got there, it was perhaps the most beautiful place on earth. Perched 6000 feet above sea level, on the Western Ghats, in Gods Own Country, Kerala Munnar enveloped me in her bosom like no other hill station had done before. (The exceptions being Darjeeling and Sikkim). If the colour `Green’ had another name, it would be Munnar. Yes! That was the most amazing quality of Munnar. Unspoilt. Sylvan. Idyllic. And definitely not the victim of a `gang rape’ that Ooty, Kodaikanal, Mussorie and Nainital were being subjected to, time and time again.

There were so many things to see in and around Munnar. From `Eravikulam National Park’ to hordes of lakes and dozens and dozens of waterfalls. But it was our stay at Club Mahindra that added a lot of color to our holiday in Munnar. There would be fun and games every day for all the holidayers staying at the Resort. And these fun and games would begin at 6 p.m. every day. These games were designed primarily to keep the guests entertained as it was not advisable venturing out of the Resort in the dark. In short, there were tones of fun for everyone.

And on one such day we had the `Best Couple’ contest. Infact the announcement of the contest was a complete surprise to every one of us. After we were all seated, the Master of Ceremonies said that he would be conducting a few `games’, at the end of which the `Best Couple’ would be chosen.

He then called for four volunteers to be the Judges. After two ladies and two men came forward, he asked for four couples – one from each zone, North, South, East, West – to volunteer and be the participants in this `fabulous evening of fun, games and revelry’. Hardly had he mentioned `South’, that I shot out of my chair, dragging my shocked, surprised and bewildered wife with me. And as the MC went about choosing the other volunteers from the other three zones, my wife kept tugging at my shirt sleeves.”You must be crazy participating in this contest. And even crazier, dragging me along”.

I `excitedly’ told her to calm down and go with the tide. But quite frankly I didn’t have the faintest of idea as to why I volunteered to participate and drag my poor and helpless wife along. But then I kind of convinced her saying, “This isn’t a figure skating contest or something where a cluster of medals are at stake. This is going to be the good old `Spoon and Lemon Race’ and `Musical Chairs’ kind of competition. So take it easy lady, we’ll win” I said.

“We hardly have the `figures’ to take part in a `figure skating contest’, leave alone run around with a Lemon that won’t stop bouncing around, and you are already dreaming of winning the damn event”, she butted in.

The MC interrupted us and started explaining to us the rules of the competition. The first round was going to be a “Husband Singing, Wife Dancing” round. Hardly had he mentioned this that Mrs. Agarwal looked at Mr. Agarwal, the couple from North Zone and blushed. I refused to look at my wife. But all those who noticed the Agarwal’s laughed. The second round was going to be both “Husband and Wife” dancing to a popular but old Hindi song. And the third round was going to be the “Balloon Bursting” round.

And so the competition began. We were the first to start off. I tried hard to think of something good to sing. But my mind went blank. Then my wife suggested “Surangani…Surangani”, the Sri Lankan `Bailo’, an extremely popular song at schools and colleges all over India.

Soon I was singing. And as I sang I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. My wife was moving around the dancing floor like a ballet dancer. Bet `Vyjanthimala’ and `Padmini’ would have been jealous. I had never known she could dance so well. She had never told me that. Because whenever we had gone party hopping, I would be the `wild’ kind of guy, while she would squat in a corner, hibernating and waiting for me to make a re-entry into her life. So this came as a big surprise to me. Her dancing gave me that extra pep in my singing. The audience was smiling. Some were laughing. While some were in rapt attention. In a few seconds as my `singing’ and her `dancing’ came to an end, the applause was deafening. We had scored 17 points with three of the Judges giving us 4 points out of 5 and one giving us a 5.

The other couples soon followed. While the Northern couple secured 15 points, the Eastern couple secured 13 and the Western couple scored 12 points. We were in the lead. And my wife couldn’t believe it. Neither could I. For the first time in our married lives `winning’ was beginning to mean a lot to us. And we were not going to let it go.

The second event followed. We were to dance to an Old Hindi song that was going to be played. We looked at each other. I discovered a `gleam’ in my wife’s eye. That was exactly what I was looking for. Now the party had started.

This time it was the Eastern Couple that kicked off the second round, followed by West, North and finally us. I must say, the Eastern Couple took the evening out of us with their skilful and synchronized dancing. It was amazing to watch them shake their bodies to the rhythm of the old Hindi song (I forget the song now. But it was one of those golden hits of the 60’s). When they finished, the applause was mind blowing. And perhaps mine was the loudest. They had really danced well. The couple form the North came in next and they danced well too. Then came the Western twosome and then us. We tried to our best. Guess we were dancing together for the first time and so the harmony was kind of `missing’. Still we received a decent applause. With some in the 60 to 70 odd audience even saying, “Hey! You guys really dance well. You make a fine couple”.

But the Judges were the decision makers. So we waited. The Eastern couple came first with 18 points. The Northern couple got 17, we got 16 and the Bombay couple got 13. But after two rounds, we were still in the lead with 33 points, followed by the Agarwals from the North with 32 points, the Bihari couple from the East with 31 points and the Bombay couple with 25 points. This was a neck and neck battle. I guess it wasn’t getting better than this. I could see that the Mumbai couple had almost given up. But there was a steely determination painted on the faces of the other couples. Well… if they had steely determination, my wife and I had an iron determination. We were going to try real hard to stretch the lead and succeed.

In a few minutes the third and final round commenced. This was the “Balloon Bursting” round. The wife was supposed to sit on a chair twenty feet away, while the husband was to take a balloon each from the MC, run to the where the wife was sitting and burst it on her lap. Then run back and take another balloon, run to the wife and burst it on her lap, with his backs towards his wife. Then run back, grab another balloon, run again and burst it on the wife’s chest. The fastest to burst all three balloons and reach the finish line would get 5 points. The second fastest would get 3 points. The third would get 2 and the last would get 1 point.

The first to take the floor was the Mumbai couple. And how the audience laughed. It was like one tortoise running to the other tortoise. At the end, the Mumbai couple took all of 23 seconds to burst all three balloons. The next was the Eastern Couple. And they were quite quick, running and bursting all three balloons in 18 seconds. The Northern couple came next and clocked a time of 17 seconds.

The `day’ of reckoning stared at my wife and me. This was big time. The audience was in a fizz. And there was a buzz going around. Could we do it? Or could we not? I took hold of the first balloon in my hand and saw my wife sitting a good twenty feet away from me. I imagined Carl Lewis’ Gold medal run in the 100 metres at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. The MC blew the whistle. I took off.

Not since school and college had I sprinted like this. My wife `froze’ seeing me charge. I could see her eyes closed. That’s when the first balloon went off. Then I `flew’ like the hare, grabbed the second balloon from the outstretched arms of the MC, ran wild, then turned and smashed the balloon on my wife’s lap like Michael Jordan jumping, turning and dunking in a basket. Then I `flew’ yet again. Grabbed the third balloon. Zipped back and banged it on my wife’s chest and tore away to the finish line. The MC looked at the stop watch. Then he looked at me. Then he looked at the audience. I could see the `unbelievable’ look on his face.

“11 seconds” he announced.

I screamed and jumped and flew to where my wife was sitting. We hugged each other. We couldn’t believe we had won. We had scored 38 points from the three rounds. Second was the Northern couple with 35 points. Third was the couple form the East with 33 points and the last was the Mumbai couple with 26 points.

And as we were `crowned’ the Best Couple, our joy and happiness knew no bounds. This wasn’t just a holiday, but the BEST holiday we had ever had. This was certainly a new chapter in our lives. The chapter of winning together. It was a wonderful and blissful feeling. A feeling that was second-to-none.

Copyright © 2009 by Narayanan G. Vincent -All rights reserved.


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With every increasing trip, my love for Mumbai was taking on gargantuan proportions. But sadly every one of those trips lasted at the most, a couple of days. But there was one trip I’ll never forget. This one lasted a good 10 days.

It was my fifth time in Mumbai. I had arrived to work on some `priority’ advertising campaigns for my Mumbai branch. I was put up in a decent hotel in Dadar and everyday I would take a cab to my office in Churchgate. And soon work began. For breakfast I would have Dal-rotis. For lunch I would have Dal-rotis. And in the nights, Dal-rotis. If my mood swung left, it would be Biriyani and if it swung right, it would be fried rice. I had to swallow these with a strange rigidity; because none of the restaurants offered the cuisine that I liked the most – Sambar, Rasam and Curd Rice. Or in more simple terms, the good old South Indian meal. And Mumbai being a place of distances, I couldn’t see myself traveling ten to fifteen kilometers, just to have Idlis and Dosas for breakfast. And Sambar, Rasam and Curd Rice for lunch. So I had to make do with Dal-rotis, as I despised the bread varieties in the mornings. I needed something nice and spicy to break my fast. And all that was available in good old Dadar was Dal-roti.

By the end of the third day, I was fed up. I couldn’t take it anymore. And my colleagues were amused to see me getting annoyed over a plate of food, everyday. It was fine for them to be amused over my precarious situation, but would they
live on Sambar, Rasam or Curd Rice if and when they came to Chennai, Bangalore or a maybe Cochin or Trivandrum? The answer would be a big NO!

So on the fourth afternoon, I had made up my mind that I would pull out all stops and travel to the very end of Mumbai, if required, to get my Sambar, Rasam and Curd Rice. Just then one kind soul in the office, told me that there was
this restaurant close to Eros Cinema that was offering `Thalis’ (meals). The very mention of `Thali’ and a different kind of creative juice flowed out of my gaping jaws. And in no time, it overflowed. And before it could flood the office and swamp the streets, I jogged to the restaurant this kind soul told me about.

There was a black board pitched outside the restaurant, with white plastic letters that shouted out in thick round fonts.
“Vegetarian Thalis” – Rs. 90/-.
“Non-Vegetarian Thalis” – Rs 110/-.
My heart sank looking at the price. But my spirits lifted me almost immediately and I heard my conscience crying out.
“Damn the price. Go have some Sambar Rice.”

So as I trudged in, all the stewards and waiters exchanged curious glances. I wondered why. And when I went to wash my hands in the wash basin and looked up at the mirror above, did I realize why they were continuously exchanging those
`curious’ glances. My face was radiating a light that would send the mighty `Sun’ into hiding. And my face had also developed a fabulous smile that was as long as the River Nile.

I sat down at a corner table. Soon a tie-flapping, nose-twitching, hungry-looking steward appeared next to me. I ordered for a “Thali” and asked him to get it real quick.
“Sir, it would take 10 minutes” he said.
“Areh Baba! I have a plane to catch, thoda jaldi lao na” I cried.
I was lying. There was no plane to catch. It was just that I was desperate for good old Sambar, Rasam and Curd Rice. In three minutes the tie-flapping, nose-twitching, hungry-looking steward accompanied by a sad-looking, eye-popping, gelled-haired waiter announced their arrival at my table. They set the `Thali’ in front of me and disappeared.

There was an array of dishes. From Dals and Currys to something that looked like Sambar and Curds. Then I attacked with all five fingers. They dived in just like the Spring Board Diving event at the Olympics. My taste buds were in for a rude
shock. The dish that looked like Sambar tasted `sweeeeeeet’. Would you believe that? I was jolted. Then I checked the other dishes by putting a spoonful from each bowl into my mouth. Every dish that lay spread out before me tasted
`sweet’. I thought somebody had played a prank. I could see my face turning beetroot red. There was smoke coming out of my ears. I wanted to scream. But I held myself, and beckoned the steward. The tie-flapping, nose-twitching,
hungry-looking steward, flew to my side, saw my beetroot red profile and bowing low, almost kissing the carpet, asked me with a politeness that I had never heard before.

“Anything wrong Sir?”
“Why is everything so sweet? Where is my South Indian Thali?” I blurted out.
“Sir! This is Gujarati Thali, not South Indian!”

I ran from the restaurant, totally defeated. What kind of a cosmopolitan city was this? How could Mumbai not have a single restaurant that offered decent South Indian meals? For the first time I hated Mumbai!

So I went back to the office. The kind soul, who had told me about this restaurant offering “Thalis”, wasn’t around. I think he was really lucky not to be there. Then one of the Art Directors told me about Hotel Kamat at Colaba. She said that Kamat definitely offered South Indian food. For the first time I could vouch for that. Because there were quite a few Kamats in the city I lived. So I confidently took a Cab, reached Hotel Kamat at Colaba only to find that “Thalis” were `over’ and that only light `eats’ were available. I looked at the menu and ordered for a “Sambar Vada”. I was starving. In five minutes the hot-hot “Sambar Vada” arrived – a steel bowl containing two round cakes made from rice flour and dal batter, fried in oil and soaked in Sambar. My hair stood up and I could not believe it. The Sambar Vada was sweet, sweet and sweeter than sugar. Was it yet another Gujarati concoction? Or were all these restaurants being run by Gujaratis and Gujaratis alone? Now I was really beginning to hate Mumbai.

That same evening, a colleague of mine Ganesh Iyer, seeing me suffer promised to bring me food from his house the next day. Being a Tamil Iyer, I knew that this was going to be a feast. I told him: “Drumstick Sambar, Potato Curry, Tomato Rasam, and Bagala Bath (Curd Rice)” were my favourites”. But to my shock, he did not turn up the next day. I was aghast and heart-broken. And I sulked to a corner just like a puppy would after getting a thrashing from his master.

Then at one in the afternoon, a fleet of creative and media guys descended from the office and set out to the Fort area nearby, to have lunch. And in no time I saw my feet being dragged along too. I had no other choice. Just as they trooped
into a restaurant close to Sterling cinema – that offered continental cuisine – I stopped outside the restaurant and asked the Security Guard, if there were any South Indian restaurants around. He immediately told me there was one “Madras
Hotel” a few minutes away and gave me the directions.

My eyes lit up and my appetite hastened back. I felt like a Tiger waiting to spring on a lonely Gazelle. I started to walk briskly. Then started trotting. Then jogging. Then running. Then flying. I was panting profusely when I screeched to a halt outside a small hotel with a faded blue colored board that said “Madras Hotel”. I galloped in and sat down. It was a small place. And giving me company were cab drivers, auto drivers and small businessmen. Who cared of what company I kept! All I knew was that my poor stomach was in the need of some spicy company. And all I needed was a good meal, full of Sambar, Rasam and Curd rice. I ordered for a plate, then another, then another and another and yet another, leaving the waiters and the cashier gasping for breath. It was the best meal – or meals – of my life. Meals that numbered five. On day
number five. During my visit number five. I loved Mumbai.

With my stomach full and the colour back on my face, I hummed, whistled and slowly trudged back to my office at Churchgate. I never knew, that a bellyful of fabulous Sambar, Rasam and Curd Rice would make so happy. I walked up the
stairs, ambled into the office and sank into my seat. I was drowsy. Then I turned and glanced at my desk. I found a big Stainless Steel Tiffin carrier parked on the table. Somebody tapped me on my shoulder. I turned. It was Ganesh

“Sorry! I am late” he said. “I have brought you your favorite Drumstick Sambar, Potato Curry, Tomato Rasam, and Bagala Bath (Curd Rice). Go ahead, have a feast!”

Copyright © 2003 by Narayanan G. Vincent -All rights reserved.

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