Saturday, September 15, 2012

Fooooooooooooood Morning Delhi!!!!!

Rain-soaked, shivering, chilly Delhi. 
Tuesday morning, yawning lazily, rubbing its eyes as it slowly takes over from Monday night. The weather and the early morning making you crave for something unhealthily tasty. 

The ideal time for some Delhi-type gallivanting!

A trip to The Pracheen (ancient) Hanuman Mandir (Temple of the Hindu-God Hanuman) near Connaught Place or CP, is sure to get you food, both for the soul, and the tummy, all days of the week, but especially on such a wet, hungry, full of craving, Tuesday Morning.

Located on Baba Khadak Singh Road, the temple comes alive at about 4 in the morning (yes you read it right! 4 am), with a long queue forming for the Aarti or morning prayer. Tuesdays are particularly busy and full of excited energy. 

The temple complex, right opposite the long lane of State Handicraft Emporiums, has interesting flower and prasad shops, the typical offerings for the "Monkey-God". His favorite sweets 'Boondi' and 'Ladoos' are in ample supply, catering to the needs of the hungry souls and stomachs! 

In addition to the "sweet-tooth addict's dream come true" yummilicious Boondi (see picture above), the complex also offers some very interesting options like fresh and piping-hot bread pakoras, sinfully fried with besan (gram flour) on the outside and deliciously tender, with melt-in-the-mouth stuffing on the inside!

However, the star-attraction of the morning, in addition to Hanuman-ji, is not the bread-pakora but another deeply fried, oh-so-awesome, eagerly-awaited, snack, that has a long line of contenders waiting for it at the halwai-shop (sweet shop). 

While the batter gets literally battered, to get molded into these part-round, part-UFO  shaped delicacies, the crowd grows. People on cycles and in Audis, on foot and in Mercedes,  on Scooters and in rickshaws, stop and eagerly count the people standing in front of the shop, mentally estimating the time it will take for them to get their hands on some of the beautiful, golden-brown, fried awesumness. 

And then the wait ends. 
A huge basket of too-hot-to handle kachoris or fried flattened balls made of fine flour stuffed with a heavenly mixture of pulses and aromatic spices arrives. The excitement and eagerness is palpable, with all conversation ceasing, and everyone waiting to count how many are being bought by the people ahead in the queue. Hoping, and silently praying that all the hot ones wouldn't finish before their turn comes. 

The speed and efficiency in distribution is amazing. Out comes a small disposable bowl, in goes one kachori, on it goes a huge spoon of some spicy potato-gravy, and you are good to go. Oh, take-away is possible too. Some take 30 kachoris, with the potato-gravy packed separately, evidently to feed a waiting-in-anticipation family back home!

It is impossible to eat more than two! 

Heavily stuffed and smoking hot, the Kachoris are a perfect match for the rainy Delhi morning. Interesting, spicy, full of flavor and character, and perfect with a hot cuppa of tea, the snack is a reflection of everything Delhi is. 

So, while the homeless sleep on the footpath in the complex and ask for food as Tuesdays usually witness many people offering free food to those sitting around temples, people drive down in big cars to enjoy Kachoris and bread pakoras. 
The same contradiction that silently lives in all our cities.

But we overlook it. We are untouched by it. It is almost like a shadow, one that we can avoid.

We are happy to come for Aarti and bread pakoras, for tea and Kachoris, for peace for the soul and the stomach. We are happy to feel bad for "them", feel the correct amount of sadness while we devour the snacks and sip the tea. 

We go back, to come again another Tuesday morning, looking for God and food...for peace and satisfaction, and for the best Kachoris and tea in Delhi. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Of Finite Suffering and Infinite Ends...

"What is the most wondrous thing on earth?" asked the yaksha (a nature spirit), of Yudhishthir, the noble and wise, eldest Pandav brother, and thus he answered, "Each day countless humans enter the Temple of Death, yet the ones left behind continue to live as though they were immortal." 

That is truth of your life and mine, and of every soul in this world. 

And yet we grieve, we mark death, celebrate it almost, with rituals, with complex systems of dealing with the body and the house where it is kept.....each relative vying with the other to point out more 'must-do' things; some people participating only because they were born to point out flaws or mistakes in everything that they see. 

We crave finite ends. We crave closure. We want to see the body being burnt to ash. Going back to nothingness from nothingness. Obliterated. We believe it saves us. From what, we are not sure, but we believe. We fear we'll be lost if the body does not reach a logical end. We want to be sure we did what was required of us. To be sure we and those we love will not be turned into ever restless souls with no conclusion. And so we follow. We comply. We complete.

But who made these rules? Who decided what should be done with the body? Defined after all as only 'clothes' for the soul, to be cast-off when the time comes. And how many have the courage to challenge what has been said for ages? Dare to create an infinite end from finite suffering? How many go forth from this world to another, knowing that their body will be used and studied upon, and not knowing what conclusion will befall it? Not sure, if there even will be a conclusion? 

Would you be able to give away the one thing you think you truly possess, so others could learn to heal? Would you be able to deny your close ones the satisfaction of seeing you return to nothingness? Could you even in your imagination emulate the sage Dadheechee and give up what is yours for others' benefit? For when called upon to give up his spine to make a weapon to kill demons, he said "The body will one day wear out one way or another. Better to let it wear out from use for the benefit of mankind, than to allow it to simply rust away", and thus gave up his body for the making of the weapon. 
Would you be that sage? The one who doesn't bother about finite endings? The one who lives on through those who learn, who heal, who save so many others? 

It is not an easy question, but one that you must ask yourself. 

As a painfully-close relative of one such sage, who donated his eyes and his whole body, my anxiety at the inability to carry out what I thought was 'critical' for his soul's peace, was overcome only by my feeling of being completely overwhelmed by his 'largeness' of heart. Having given sight to two, within 2 days of his moving on to the other world, he continues to live on and see the world, from within newer, younger, shells. He lit up the faces of many medical students, and continues to inspire so many others to be braver, more confident and secure in their knowledge of the present, rather than being anxious about their ignorance of the future.

A true gift to the world, this is the ultimate sacrifice, and the supreme act of selflessness. It is a brave step towards an infinite end that could also be an infinite beginning..a sure-footed approach to leaving behind more than what one takes away.