Sunday, 16 November 2014

On Crab Curries and Besan Laddoos..

In the summer of 2012, we planned a family weekend at Dubai. I called my then `net friend’ Samina who was based in Dubai, to enquire about decent hotels out there.

“Why do you need a hotel?” she asked, “I have a huge house here, and you guys can bunk in here!”

Now we had been `net friends’ for about a decade, but had never met or even spoken on the phone. Even this conversation was actually a chat on Facebook Messenger!

So I simpered bashfully (or as bashfully as Fb Messenger would allow). “No, no, how can we bother you?” etc etc.

“Look,” she cut me short peremptorily “Don’t expect any khatirdari. I’m too busy with my work, the kids have their school, so you’ll be pretty much on your own! Haan, I do have a Bangladeshi maid cum cook who you can bank upon, although knowing her abilities, I wouldn’t advise it!”

I was bowled over by her straightforward, no nonsense approach. She had, after all, been the wife of a Pakistan Air Force officer. We faujis are a clan, no matter the colour of our uniform!

The trip turned out to be wonderful. And as Saby (Samina’s delightful daughter), Heena (the ibid maid cum cook) and Puja shared a sofa, it was like a mini SAARC summit – India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, sipping tea together around a coffee table!

So when Course mate Rajeev Khullar called from Bhiwadi to say he and his wife Vinny were making a road trip to Pune, and asked me to book a room at the RSI for them, I pretty much gave him the same no nonsense pitch Samina had given me.

“Stay with us” I told him. To my utter delight and amazement, he didn’t simper (bashfully or otherwise), and immediately grabbed the offer. Even though we barely knew each other! We had been in different battalions at the Academy, and had never met formally.

And there was nary a word of protest from either lady. The Course mate creed, like Barney Stinson’s `bro code’, is sacred. Even to the Army wives. Especially to Army wives!

I had to guide Rajeev to Pudumjee Park once he drove into Pune. I asked Vinny to turn on the speaker phone. “Turn right at Mahesh Lunch Home” I guided him.

“You have a Mahesh Lunch Home out here!” Vinny squealed in delight “Wow! They have the most amazing sea food! Their Mangalorean Crab Curry is simply to die for!! Then in a space of seven seconds, she gave us her take on sea food in general, and Mangalorean crab curries in particular.

“Vinny ji, unko direction toh dene do pehle” Rajeev’s tone had all the resignation that comes from a 40 year old marriage.

Now Rajeev and Vinny are facebook friends, and self confessed fans of `Mitti Pao!’. While Rajeev is the quintessential Infantry officer, complete with handlebar moustache and a deliciously uncluttered attitude to life, Vinny, a Malyali born and brought up in Bombay, is a different kettle of fish.

Trained in classical music, she is a registered singer/performer at All India Radio. She is also a foodie, and apart from having run her own restaurant a few years back, has also helped her son edit a food magazine called `Chef at Large’!

She sure writes as well as she cooks, as this piece by her on her grandma’s minced meat cutlets shows. One can actually feel the smoke, and smell the aromatic spices as they’re hand ground in that kitchen! Do look it up at
Sid gets his laddoos!
So when she posted a pic of some besan laddoos that she had prepared, on Facebook, there were loads of salivating approvals! I had dutifully `liked’ the post, while mentioning that these were Sid’s favourite. Matter forgotten. Or so I thought.

Along with some thoughtful gifts that she had picked up for us, gift-wrapped in cellophane and neatly tied with red ribbons, she had also brought a box of the most aromatic, melt-in-the-mouth besan laddoos that she had prepared specially for the ocassion. “These are for Sid!” she smiled.

Vinny and her crab!
As gestures go, this was simple enough. But then, I’m a sucker for sentimentality, and was totally bowled over. To me, this woman can do no wrong. Not in this lifetime, for sure!

PS – We did have that lunch at Mahesh Lunch Home, and between them, Puja and Vinny demolished that crab in a manner any ISIS jihadi would have been proud of! You can take a woman out of Cannanore, but…  


  1. Thanks to Vinny aunty for the besan laddoos. They were awesome!

  2. We missed meeting Vinny that eve. May be some other time, hopefully.

  3. " it was like a mini SAARC summit- India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, sipping tea around a coffee table" Lovely! I love the way you think and write.
    As for your generous description of Rajeev and myself- so humbled to hear it!
    Further...Sashi and yourself are such perfect hosts, language fails me as I attempt to translate your hospitality into words.
    Thanks a heap for being you and here's to furthering the lifelong relationship of the Coursemates Creed!

  4. It all goes to show Friendship of course mates , FB mates n whatever be it, is deep rooted n Harish your narration is too good....cheers friend