Sunday, April 26, 2009


Red Devil forever

This was a week when God turned 36. And this was a week when Man United took their brethren close to God.

2-0 down at half time, and the most die-hard fans couldn't help but hope that the miracle of September 2001 would be re-enacted. Re-enacted it was and how. I've never seen a more fired-up and menacing United side. Berba, Tevez and the Boy Wonder Wazza up front. Carrick, Scholes and Ronny in midfield. The solid back 4. Wenger, Scousers, Rentboys beware. Sadly, I'd missed the first half thanks to the very unpredictable Noida electricity. But what a second half it was. Right from the word go, it was evident that the hairdryer had done its job at the break.

What do you call it when a team, 2-0 down at the half, begins the second half as though the first had never taken place? What do you call it when the same team, in the same half, looks set to score at will? Imagine the moment when Christiano Ronaldo, who's one of the surest spot-kick takers in the world looks tense before a penalty. How important is that? And just imagine the emotion when a guy, who knows he's going to get a yellow, takes off his shirt to celebrate. How significant is that? 5 goals in 35 minutes and almost 2 more in the last 10. Rooney's the man.

The FA Cup semi-final in '99. The UCL semi-final in the same year. The victory over Sheffield some years ago. Kiko's brilliance against Villa last month. September 2001 against the Spurs. April 2009 against the Spurs again. And I've not even mentioned the Nou Camp fairytale yet.

Martin Tyler was right when he said, "This place has a habit of inspiring players to play on a different level." This is a team which cannot be written off even with a 2 goal cushion. This is a team which relishes coming back from behind, and has proven itself again and again.  This is indeed the Theatre of Dreams. And that is why this is just one more tiny piece in the infinitely large mosaic which makes Manchester United so much more than a club.


Friday, April 03, 2009


The Golgappa race

They’re called Paani Pooris in Maharashtra, Phuchkas in and around Bengal, Gup chups in Orissa and Jharkhand and Golgappas in most of North India. According to Wikipedia, they originated in Uttar Pradesh- literary sources indicate Benares. Gradually they spread, literally by word of mouth, to other parts of the country and then to Bangladesh. Golgappas generally mark the end of a chaat eating session.

In the heydays of my childhood, I confess I wasn’t too fond of these miraculous snacks. I was even more rigid when it came to sour or chili food then and Golgappas in Patna tend to be on the khatta side. But following our move to the capital, it became next to impossible for me to stay away from these orbs of temptation. In the city where there’s an Aggrawal (various spellings included) at every nook and cranny, ready to dish out lip smacking plates by the dozen, the tongue learns to make allowances and discover new tastes. Delhi is the land of aaloo-chaat after all and eating golgappas here is an adventure by itself. The local thelas will give you a plate (5-6 pieces) for 5 bucks. Aggrawal or Evergreen, will have their proper token system, will offer both aata and suji golgappas and will charge 10 bucks. Nathu, the MNC, draws the health conscious. They use Bisleri and accordingly charge 25 bucks per plate. As far as the taste is concerned, I’ve found all 3 classes more or less the same- and that is extremely delicious. You could avoid the thelas perhaps, if you’re concerned about the dust and the grime and feel that ambience does matter.

For me, Suji golgappas win over their aata counterparts any day. I know the shell is supposed to be tasteless, but suji does seem to taste better. Perhaps it’s the texture- Suji being smooth and aata being rough and porous. As far the stuffing goes, I’m not too fussy. Mashed potatoes with the usual jeera, black salt and some chili powder is perfectly fine. I’ve been to places where they stuff the golgappa with chana and that’s ok too, but I’m just more comfortable with aaloo. The stuffing doesn’t really contribute to the taste. It just makes the golgappa substantial, you feel that you did have something solid. I guess it’s the reason why I’ve never gone beyond 3 plates at once. In my opinion, it’s the water which really makes or breaks the golgappa. There are generally two kinds of people- those who prefer the golgappa khatta (sour) or those who prefer it meetha (sweet). Since Facebook as declared that I’m ‘sweet as pie’, I suppose it makes sense that I fall in the latter category.

When I bite into the phuchka, I like the golgappa to explode its various flavours right then. The sour taste generally engulfs my mouth first, making me all the more eager for the meetha to hit the right taste buds. When that happens, bliss. At that moment, I find it the easiest thing in the world to forget everything and just savour the tangy sweet taste that holds me in a trance. I’ve tried golgappas that are predominantly sweet but they’re not the same. Just like you need to cross a desert to taste the elixir in water, you need the khatta to love the meetha. Somewhere during this heavenly moment, I chew the crust and aaloo and swallow it, not really noticing when. The process over, I hold out my plate eagerly for the next one.

The golgappa eating ritual is particularly interesting. As most of you will doubtless know, you order a plate and stand there with the bowl in hand, while the vendor stuffs the phuckha and gives it to you one by one. In case there’s more than one person, as is usually the case, he follows the card dealing routine- one golgappa to everyone, two, three etc. Whenever this ritual is enacted, I always have a mental race with the vendor. The rule is simple. If at any point of time, there are 2 golgappas in my plate, I lose. Otherwise I win. Nice and easy. I’ve seen that when there are 3 or more people, I usually win and rejoice in my puerility. In case of 2 people, the going gets tough, and the tough bites on the golgappa, desperate to win on one hand and eager to enjoy the golgappa on the other- pondering on the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything in the meantime.

As the first golgappa is served, I take a bite and am hit by ecstasy. Having been told that it is healthy to chew the food 42 times before swallowing, I’m somewhere around my 20th munch when the worthy opponent, may he serve many more golgappas, pops the second into my plate. A couple more munches, a gulp and the next golgappa is in my mouth. Not to be outdone, the vendor has already prepared his third round and it lies on my plate now. Frantic chewing follows amidst silent mmmm’s and I manage to pop the third one in before the fourth golgappa finds its way to my plate. Things are difficult now. I’m on the brink of defeat. I resort to grey tactics. There shouldn’t be two golgappas on my plate right? Very smartly, I pick up the fourth one with my free hand. So now, there’s a half-eaten golgappa in my mouth, one in my hand and my slimy though respected opponent has put one on my plate too. Recognizing that defeat is near now, I turn philosophical, thinking- there’s more to life than winning the golgappa race and its in my mouth, hand and plate right now. The fourth golgappa is taken, the fifth is still on my plate and the final blow is dealt. The last one slips into the place left on the plate and Lefty bites the dust. Or Suji and aaloo to be more precise. With grace, I finish off the last 2 pieces with great relish; think about having another plate, occasionally do and toodle off towards the sunset. Chequred flag.

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