Why this blog is called "Gallimaufry".

gal-uh-MAW-free\, noun.

Originally meaning "a hash of various kinds of meats," "gallimaufry" comes from French galimafrée; in Old French, from the word galer, "to rejoice, to make merry"; in old English: gala + mafrer: "to eat much," and from Medieval Dutch maffelen: "to open one's mouth wide."

It's also a dish made by hashing up odds and ends of food; a heterogeneous mixture; a hodge-podge; a ragout; a confused jumble; a ridiculous medley; a promiscuous (!) assemblage of persons.

Those of you who know me, will, I’m sure, understand how well some of these phrases (barring the "promiscuous" bit!) fit me.

More importantly, this blog is an ode to my love for Shimla. I hope to show you this little town through my eyes. If you don't see too many people in it, forgive me, because I'm a little chary of turning this into a human zoo.

Stop by for a spell, look at my pictures, ask me questions about Shimla, if you wish. I shall try and answer them as best as I can. Let's be friends for a while....

25 December 2009

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas

Today is Christmas day. The sky is a robin's-egg blue. Bright sunshine sparkles over the hills. The air is still. Not even a little chirrup escapes the birds. You couldn't ask for a more gorgeous day. Yet, such is the contrariness of human nature that I look out of my window and pine for snow!

Can't remember the last time we had one in Shimla in the recent past. My own memory of a white Christmas goes back to 1992. Flurries of snow, and then later, pile upon pile of snow as far as the eye could see. Trudging through little walls of crunchy snow all the way from Chaura Maidan to the Mall. Snowflakes melting in a jiffy as they settled on your hot gulaabjamuns.

Still, I leave to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow to the do the honours for today's festivities:
I hear the bells on Christmas day,
Their old familiar carols play
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth and goodwill to men.

I thought how, as the day has come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along th'unbroken song
Of peace on earth and goodwill to men.

And in despair I bowed my head
"There is no peace on earth", I said
"For hate is strong and mocks the song:
Of peace on earth and goodwill to men. "

Then pealed the bells more strong and deep
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
Of peace on earth and goodwill to men."

Till ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime:
Of peace on earth and goodwill to men.

16 December 2009

Food first, then morality

The following story has no basis in fact, but is worth repeating anyway. Apparently, back in the 1600s, poor old Emperor Shahjahan was imprisoned by Prince Aurangzeb in his fort at Agra. All royal privileges were withdrawn, but the old man was given a choice: he could pick some one item of food, which he would be allowed to eat for the rest of his days. The old deposed Emperor chose the humble chick-peas: chhole (छोले) to you and me! This was so because he was assured by the palace (read prison) cook that he could turn out different varieties from this humble legume every day.
Now anyone who lives outside India would wonder what all the fuss is about. After all, this is only one of those ghastly gas-inducing edible legumes, albeit one high in protein and tracing its genealogy to 7,500 years ago!
The fault, Horatio, lies in the preparation! What is it that elevates this humble dish to being saluted as the food fit for an Emperor? It is all about the chhola being cooked to the right consistency, coloured to a nicety and spiced to perfection: admittedly an art known to a very small and exclusive club of cooks. Some names spring to mind: Sitaram Deewanchand in old Delhi, Mama-Bhanja in Amar Colony, and the grand-daddy of them all: Ahuja Chhola-Bhatoora in Amritsar.
This brings us to Shimla. Or specifically, to finding a good plate of chhola-bhatora in our lovely town. Old-timers unanimously recommended Sita Ram And Son.

This is an unprepossessing little place located on the road which goes from the Ridge towards Lakkar Bazaar. The picture above tells a thousand tales on its own. The owners have a Spartan approach to marketing their wares and clearly little or no thought has been spared to embellishing the establishment. You would think that this is so because ofthe confidence they repose in their customers, in what is called "return value" in Bombay film parlance: the ability of a certain product to make its buyers return over and over again.
And this is what puzzles me.
Having sampled the fare, I am totallyat a loss as to what is it that attracts people to this place. The chholas were not as beautifully coloured as you'd find at Sitaram's (a well-kept secret, but one hazards that tea leaves are used), nor is there an explosion of flavour a la Ahooja (all caused by kasoori methis, among other things). They were over-cooked and there was an under-taste of baking soda. Too many slices of potato had been added, something which is a strict no-no in any self-respecting chhola-bhatoora joint, and where were the diced green chillis, the slices of onion and that special pickle/chutney which the more famous names add as a signature to their chhola?
As for the bhatooras, they were a parody - pre-cooked viscosity, a travesty of those golden orbs one has samples in Delhi and Amritsar! Sitaram's were flat, rubbery and re-heated. The re-heating had robed them of the crispness and lightness which is the hallmark of a good bhatoora. Also, the flavour was very doughy and had clearly not been allowed to rise enough prior to being fried. A cautious addition of sooji goes a long way in giving a good bhatoora a je ne sais quoi, but that was rather missing in Sitaram's dish.
All said and a plateful consumed for Rs 20, I'm not sure I'll be returning to this eatery again.
Rating 5.5 on a scale of 10.

12 December 2009

Blue skies smiling at me / Nothing but blue skies do I see....

A slash of Blue
A sweep of Gray
Some scarlet patches on the way
Compose an evening sky
A little purple
slipped between
Some ruby trousers hurried on
A wave of gold
A bank of day
This just makes out the morning sky.

Emily Dickinson

11 December 2009

The rapt, imperious, sea-going river

I was reminded of these lines by Ramond Foss:

“And you give them drink from the
river of your delights.”

Cool clear untrammeled waters
An endless river of the wellspring of life

Hope in the wilderness
manna from heaven
and the light in the darkness

The path along the way
and our hope for eternity...

And this one by Ella Wheeler Wilcox:

I am a river flowing from God’s sea
Through devious ways. He mapped my course for me;
I cannot change it; mine alone the toil
To keep the waters free from grime and soil
The winding river ends where it began;
And when my life had compassed its brief span
I must return to that mysterious source.
So let me gather daily on my course
The perfume from the blossoms as I pass,
Balm from the pines, and healing from the grass,
And carry down my current as I go
Not common stones but precious gems to show;
And tears (the holy water from sad eyes)
Back to God’s sea, from which all rivers rise,
Let me convey, not blood from wounded hearts,
Nor poison which the upas-tree imparts.
When over flowery vales I leap with joy,
Let me not devastate them, nor destroy,
But rather leave them fairer to the sight;
Mine be the lot to comfort and delight.
And if down awful chasms I needs must leap,
Let me not murmur at my lot, but sweep
On bravely to the end without one fear,
Knowing that He who planned my ways stands near.
For Love is all, and over all. Amen.

9 December 2009

Surely joy is the condition of life.

Then a woman said, "Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow."
And he answered:

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.

And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.

Is not the cup that hold your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter's oven?

And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?

When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Some of you say, "Joy is greater than sorrow," and others say, "Nay, sorrow is the greater."

But I say unto you, they are inseparable.

Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.

Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.

When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.

Khalil Gibran.

6 December 2009

Thou soft, thou sober, sage, and venerable liquid....

Poster seen in Lower Bazaar that said "Have tea every day and live for many days"!

When you were there, and you, and you,
Happiness crowned the night; I too,
Laughing and looking, one of all,
I watched the quivering lamplight fall
On plate and flowers and pouring tea
And cup and cloth; and they and we
Flung all the dancing moments by
With jest and glitter. Lip and eye
Flashed on the glory, shone and cried,
Improvident, unmemoried;
And fitfully and like a flame
The light of laughter went and came.
Proud in their careless transience moved
The changing faces that I loved.

Till suddenly, and otherwhence,
I looked upon your innocence.
For lifted clear and still and strange
From the dark woven flow of change
Under a vast and starless sky
I saw the immortal moment lie.
One Instant I, an instant, knew
As God knows all. And it and you
I, above Time, oh, blind! could see
In witless immortality.

I saw the marble cup; the tea,
Hung on the air, an amber stream;
I saw the fire’s unglittering gleam,
The painted flame, the frozen smoke.
No more the flooding lamplight broke
On flying eyes and lips and hair;
But lay, but slept unbroken there,
On stiller flesh, and body breathless,
And lips and laughter stayed and deathless,
And words on which no silence grew.
Light was more alive than you.

For suddenly, and otherwhence,
I looked on your magnificence.
I saw the stillness and the light,
And you, august, immortal, white,
Holy and strange; and every glint
Posture and jest and thought and tint
Freed from the mask of transiency,
Triumphant in eternity,
Immote, immortal.

Dazed at length
Human eyes grew, mortal strength
Wearied; and Time began to creep.
Change closed about me like a sleep.
Light glinted on the eyes I loved.
The cup was filled. The bodies moved.
The drifting petal came to ground.
The laughter chimed its perfect round.
The broken syllable was ended.
And I, so certain and so friended,
How could I cloud, or how distress,
The heaven of your unconsciousness?
Or shake at Time’s sufficient spell,
Stammering of lights unutterable?
The eternal holiness of you,
The timeless end, you never knew,
The peace that lay, the light that shone.
You never knew that I had gone
A million miles away, and stayed
A million years. The laughter played
Unbroken round me; and the jest
Flashed on. And we that knew the best
Down wonderful hours grew happier yet.
I sang at heart, and talked, and eat,
And lived from laugh to laugh, I too,
When you were there, and you, and you...

~ Rupert Brooke ~

Related Posts with Thumbnails