Thursday, January 14, 2010

Pongal, Al-Barak and Nandan

As people geared up to celebrate the harvest festival, it did not bring good news to us. ‘Us’ would mean me and my roommates – with our cook going on a long leave and all nearby shops closed. Now, I don’t live in a place to boast of hospitality choices. So it was a major blow. And with the government mandating an obligatory holiday, we were homed without food L... By the way an interesting article on the history of Pongal can be found here. Seems it has its origin from the Sangam ages, during the ruling of Pallavas during 4th – 8th Century A.D -
Coming back to our food woes, lazy that we were, none of us wanted to cook; so we thought of hitting out at one of our usual place – Thattukada – A popular Keralite restaurant in Tambaram – the closest suburb. Sadly, they were exhausted of all their supplies. A surprising wave of customers swept all their food supplies. That’s how we land in Al-Barak – a newly sprung Arabic restaurant serving multi cuisine food. Well, an Arabic restaurant on the outskirts of Chennai is surely an ambitious project. Speaks about the changing dynamics of the city; with more and more companies being set up in these areas, there is a growing demand for quality services, especially in foods.
We walk in cautiously to their first floor (they don’t have anything in the ground floor J). A freak looking lad from the eastern parts open the door for us. All around, we see only people from that part of the world which left us wondering if we were in a Chinese restaurant. Then lo, we see a mallu right in the middle. When I ask him of their speciality, he promptly replies grilled chicken – “It will taste very different sir”. Well, we decide do try that out. But not with the usual khubboos but with kerala porotta prepared by Bengali cooks. A truly Indian restaurant- wont u say? Thanks to our hunger we order for mutton masala as well. In the next few minutes, we were served with one of most delicious grilled chicken I’ve ever had. The shawahi, as it’s usually called, is one of my favourite dishes. I’ve had that in almost all the Arabic restaurants in town. But this one was special. Absolutely mouth watering; together with the kerala porotta, it melted in our mouths. The mutton was so soft that we dint feel the need to chew . Just to add on, we order for crispy lamb as well. Though not as great as the chicken, it adds to the variety.
Now this is one place I would recommend to all my friends living anywhere in the vicinity of tambaram. And for my readers living outside, you could try this if you happen to land in Chennai anytime. It’s relatively close to the airport; it’s in a place called Tamabaram sanitorium. Ask anyone in the city and they’ll ask you if its in Chennai. J Trust me, Chennai is a really big city.
After that sumptuous lunch, none of us even bothered to think of dinner. Burp!! I can steel feel the gas inside. J J
Another good thing about today – I finally managed to complete Nandan’s book – Imagining India. It has taken me so long to complete this. The size and the hard cover would not allow me to carry this book with ease. And the content required some hard reading as well. So I ended up reading this only at home and when I am completely relaxed. I must say – a thoroughly informative and interesting book. Nandan explores various aspects of our country – Starting from his own journey of ‘accidental entrepreneurism’ to exploring a new paradigm in India’s demographic shift – he gives a wealth of information. As you walk through the pages, you can gain amazing perspectives on a wide variety of issues. The enviable positions he held till now – as co-chairman of Infosys(which he relinquished recently to head the National ID project) , President of National Council of Economic research, member of Knowledge commission, member of the review committee of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, member of the National Advisory group on e-Governance, Chairman of Government of India’s I.T Task Force of Power gives him access to people like few others can. And he has used all of his powers to paint the canvas with his imaginations. He has put in the books views of stalwarts of various fields – from Sam Pitroda to Ahluwalia to Joseph stiglits to numerous reformist civil servants.
All this coupled with his impressive narrative makes this a jewel to own. He speaks with passion on the importance of English and the powers it has in opening up employment. He gives an insider account on how I.T came into governance right from the time of Rajiv Gandhi. And then goes on to dwell on the power it can play in governance. He sings the Friedman song on globalization and takes you through to the various swings our country took towards opening up to the outside world. His account of how the government viewed entrepreneurship, immediately post independence – as a profit thirsty wicked soul ( got from the East Indian experience) to the more later realization in the power it could create, which showed up post the economic reforms Mr singh took.
What has amazed me is the deep insights he provides on every topic. He has got expert views on every subject he has touched. His research assistant has done a brilliant job too. He makes a strong case for a uniform ID and rightly got appointed to head it. He speaks for more reforms in tax, pension scheme and vouches for sustainable development. Lastly, he speaks on the importance of how our optimistic views of the future can transform our present. He gives a brilliant example too – jugaad – which literally means ‘everything put together’ (this is an innovative car which many people in rural north India use to travel, built on whatever they can lay their hand on. Check this pic out ). He rightly points out that in our people lies our strength. And a bottom up approach is what can transform us. For too long, the government has played a paternalistic role, always looking at the masses as needing pampering and care and thereby creating ineffective policies which do no good in the long term. And he minces no words in lashing out at the politicians for their election time freebie offerings.
Anyway, this space is too small to write a review of a humongous work as this. I only wished to share a few thoughts. I can assure you, after reading the book, you will feel invigorated. You will feel enlightened and glad to have learnt of the nuances of policy making. Of nation building and governing;
I would recommend this to all my readers...
On that note I’ll call it a day wishing all of you a happy pongal and Makr Sakranti ... J


A New Beginning said...

Same to you Issam :) It's always a big accomplishment when you're able to finish a book which you have been meaning to for a long time.
I went to this Afghani restaurant in Delhi, and found the food very bland, maybe because of my north Indian taste buds :) but some cuisines like the one youre talking about appeal to everyone, since the people make it in such a way that it doesnt taste very different from the food that we like to have.
Thanks for the brief but informative review!

Lakshmidevi said...

After seeing the post title, for a while i was wondering what is relation between Pongal, Al-Barak, and Nandan. :D Post poora padichodana tha puriyudhu it is about ur Pongal celebrations nu :D So you had sooper Pongal day huh.. Ensoi man :)

Issam said...

@Sana - Glad we have similar taste buds :)

@Lakshmi - A very good pongal it was :)

Jaunty anima said...

Good wishes to you too..!!
U had a great time, it seems!

V Rakesh said...

Quite a journey you took me thru! First the food that (always) appeals to me! ;) And, then the inspiration drawn from some of the finest Earth has come to see!

Thanks for this wonderful edition!

Issam said...

very much... :)

glad you liked it :)

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