Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Illi Nodu 3

We Tamils are Hindians too. We bellow hoarse about how annoyed we are with Hindians who land in Rameshwaram and expect to be spoken to in Hindi. However when we travel to any place in the South we expect to be understood in our pristine, divine, classical, ancient tongue by the locals, who - after all, we say, only speak a minor linguistic variant. Much worse, the brethren invariably oblige. "That's not true of all us" you say, well its not true of all Rameshwaram visiting Hindians I will say. Then we can talk about percentages and relative weights of our - heh heh - anecdotal evidence (sheesh !)

"Kadubu bEku. undhA ?" I ask in my uncertain linguistic babytalk and the waiter pours sweet sambhar on my enthusiasm with "illai saar. Idli veNumA ?"

For a state which has its own flag, the part of Karnataka I visited was too all-welcoming. Particularly Mysore. So much so that I couldn't get a taste of the local cuisine. So most of my conversations went like this in pidgin:

Me: I'd like to have a local special dish
Waiter: Like what sir ?
Me: I don't know. You tell me
Waiter: Filter coffee sir
Me: bleddy water denier

Mathsya at Chennai Egmore has a Karnataka Thali which I strongly recommend - which should disabuse anyone of the notion that it is the same sambar-rasam-vegetable and vannila ice-cream (don't even ask how). I could not get even one such dish in Mysore. Or even in a smaller town like Hassan. Or in an even smaller town like Belur. But all of them served Tandoori Naans. //Cue for reader to draw sociopolitical insight//

In one very middlebrow place, the menu even listed Veg Au Gratin - pronounced as spelt. I ordered that just to make a point.

"This is a three dimensional painting", said our tour guide in the Mysore Palace.He was an amiable old man who knew what he was talking about. A dash of humour too (they check your bags, if you have a camera they send you out, if you have a bomb they send you in) in a Kannadized Tamil.

The palace is impressive in its grandeur and lives up to all the hype. But I see it has been taken over by school kids on excursion. Spiritual seekers en route to Sabarimala had for some reason decided to awe themselves with this opulence. But if I were to single one memory of the palace it would be this three dimensional painting.

Regarding 3-D I have a problem since early childhood. I remember magazine features with instructions like "Hold this page six inches from you at eye level. Look at this spot and move the page towards you. Then with your free hand hold your ear, hop on one leg and pass through this hoop of fire while whistling - do you see the image popping in front of you ?". Not once did it work. Worse still they don't tell you what is the dashed thing that is supposed to pop out. You don't even know what you are missing.

After a particularly depressing attempt I came across a footnote that said about miniscule percentage of the world's population is 3D blind - in the sense, everything is fine about their vision, but this popping up doesn't happen. I was elated about being being special. That was only briefly though as my anhedonia struck in as I wondered if I had squandered the possibility of 'being special' on such a triviality.

So when I was introduced to a three dimensional painting I didn't have much hope of enjoying it. It seemed a regular painting in a series marking royal celebrations. This one showed a bull-drawn decorated cart in the midst of a procession. "Stop" said the guide as I was at the left of the frame "and look at the bull. And walk to the other end of the painting looking at it". The bull obligingly looks at the viewer all the time. Eh ! I paced across, stopped midway, walked back, forth and what not. The bull's eyes and horns were transfixed on me. It just got grander. The next was a grand painting with a huge crowd of people including the King himself on an elephant. Except two people at either end of the frame - everyone else is looking directly at us regardless of where we stand. Excellent won't begin to describe it.

Keshavayya - is apparently the name of this wonder painter. I hope atleast the postal department issued the customary stamp in his memory before we proceeded to forget him.


  1. Hindian complex struck me often in the beginning, but after I gained some level of control it would rear it's ugly head, only when my kannada ran out of steam (Steam in my case being more like condensing breath in kodaikanal)

  2. Yes, I've always found Bangalore a little too welcoming ( in a good way). I didn't actually feel the need to learn Kannada (except for the odd beku, beda, swalpa etc) till Undergrad and then because I used to use public transport and felt more comfortable armed with atleast a tiny armor of sentences in Kannada.
    There was this time- I was trying to talk to an Auto driver in Kannada, when he shot back asking me which language I spoke (since I was clearly struggling..lol) - "Tamil?, Telugu? Hindi? English?"..Needless to say I didn't need to exercise my limited Kannada vocabulary..:).

    Btw, Did you eat a maddur Vada? a benne masala dosa? and mysore bonda? (*drool*)

  3. Mysore Bonda and Madurvada yes. I had a version called the Mysore Masala Dosa- not sure if it is the same as the one you are referring to. But I have some versions of these earlier and elsehwere.

    I was looking for this sweet- which has a kinda crumbling crust - on which you add powdered sugar and milk.

    I don't know what it is called. The closest equivalent is a dish known (in TN) as 'padar pENi'.

    To every waiter I met, I attempted describing this in Tamil - but pretending to sound like Kannada by stretching the ending vowels in each word.

  4. oh- I know what you are talking about! There are two versions- one with that crispy (but more delicate) sevai type of crust and the other with a poori type of crust(is that padar peni?)..I think it is called chiroti? Anyway I'll find out the exact name from my parents (seeing that one of the versions was the dessert for our wedding lunch, they'd probably know)

    benne masala dosa is slightly different from Mysore masala dosa. I am sure there must be great versions in the less urban parts of Karnataka..but from the ones I've tasted- the best benne masala dosas are in CTR- Malleswaram, Bangalore and in Vidhyarthi Bhavan. Try them if you get a chance

    "but pretending to sound like Kannada by stretching the ending vowels in each word."


  5. //other with a poori type of crust//

    //(is that padar peni?)..I think it is called chiroti?// Ah many thanks. Noted for future reference.

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