Friday, August 22, 2014

Self-preservation or paranoia? You tell me...

Photo courtesy Vaishali Ahuja
This happened yesterday night right outside my home in Noida. I was unloading the groceries from my car with my back towards the street that is usually bustling with life. At that hour (around 7:30 pm) one can find kids with their moms and several groups of housewives gathered to discuss the latest goings on. But yesterday the street was comparatively silent with only a couple of people strolling around. I was almost done unloading the groceries when I heard someone talking (apparently on phone) behind me. 

"हाँ दीदी मैं पाँच मिनट मे पहुँच रहा हूँ|" It was a guy in his mid twenties and he was walking away. But then something happened and he suddenly turned and started walking towards. I was taken aback, but he was grinning from ear to ear. 

"दीदी, आप किसी को जानते हो जिसे ड्राइवर की ज़रूरत है?" The question was innocent enough and under normal circumstances I wouldn't have thought twice before answering. But circumstances were different yesterday. Every day we hear a new occurrence of crime against women. Moreover he was a stranger and the fact that he was vigorously scratching, no scratch that, fondling his crotch while talking to me didn't help his cause either. I said no I wasn't aware of anyone who needs a driver, but mentally I was evaluating my situation. I was carrying two heavy grocery bags in my hands, which I could fling at him if needed. Another part of my mind was telling me I was overthinking the situation. The poor guy probably wasn't too well aware of etiquette. Had the situation ended there, I probably wouldn't have written this blog post. But the guy went on.

"दीदी हम बहुत साल से काम कर रहें हैं| पहले B ब्लाक में काम करते थे| दो कालेज की स्टूडेंट्स को ले कर जाते थे| कभी हमारे काम से कोई शिकायत नहीं हुई उन्हें| पर अब वो अमेरिका चली गयी हैं|" Ok, all well so far. Nothing too wrong about the conversation, but he had some serious itch down under, which he couldn't leave alone. I told him I couldn't help him, to which he said that I should let him know if anything comes up. I thought the "interaction" was over, but the creepiness factor was soon about to go up a few notches. He stood their too close for comfort and went on about how satisfied his employers were with his services and that college girls are very sweet and looking at me he was reminded of them. He claimed that his services could be used in any way (??), and he was ready to work for a lower pay as well. All this while my head was abuzz with confusing thoughts.

I squeezed past him all this while telling him that I had understood what he was saying but didn't know anyone who needed a driver. He followed me to the gate and kept on repeating stuff he had already told me. After I had quite sternly told him (in a louder voice) that I couldn't help him and he should go away, I went inside and shut the iron gate on his face. Though he went on speaking continuously about how well his previous employers had used (again ??) him and I could still see him through the bars, I felt much safer with the iron gate between us. he kept on speaking till I climbed the stairs and was out of his view. Phew!

Back home, several episodes of Crime Patrol - Dastak flashed through my mind and I had a very clear vision of Anoop Soni wagging his finger at me and telling me "अगर गुनाह की यह दस्तक विभा ने सुन ली होती तो..." And I wondered whether I had handled the situation in the right way. Should I have created more of a scene to attract attention? But then had the guy genuinely been looking for work, would it have been fair? Was he deliberately making me feel uncomfortable or was he just unaware that it isn't acceptable to be too friendly with your crotch in public? Was he just unaware of the concept of personal space just like many of us are? What do you say? Was I being paranoid? What should I have done?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Of Spirits and Souls || A Wonderful Time at The Hungry Monkey

There's nothing like a good cocktail to add spice to a good conversation. We were recently at The Hungry Monkey, a restobar in Safdarjung Enclave, for their event "The Theatre of Cocktail". And I was prepared for an impressive show at the bar, but what I wasn't prepared for was the awesome afterparty and one of the most interesting conversations I've had in a long time. The place, The Hungry Monkey, contributed too.

Done up tastefully with wooden interiors and quirky decorations, entering the restobar was like stumbling upon a hidden treasure. We were slightly early and still had some time in our hands before the event would start, so we took a seat and were immediately served one of their signature cocktails The Moscow Mule. Served in a copper mug, this magical concoction of vodka, cucumber, lime and ginger ale was the perfect refreshment.

Other guests in the meanwhile had started arriving. My husband and I shared the table with Anasuya Basu, Director - Marketing Communications at Le Meridien, and Sid Khullar, the founder of Chef at Large and a million other wonderful ventures. And nothing about our fellows at the table could have warned me about the deep, soulful (quite literally) conversations we were about to have, albeit after a couple of drinks. It started with the mundane discussions about each others' career choices.     

In the meanwhile, the bar was getting ready for a spectacular theatre of cocktail, a show to be conducted by none other than the Master Mixologist, Arijit Bose. He demonstrated several interesting cocktails, including The Moscow Mule, Pepperdine (made of Absolut pepper vodka, with lime juice, ale juice, and sugar, served with gingerale) and Lou's Lucky Leprechaun (Jameson shaken with Melon Liquor, fresh lime and egg white). But the star of the theatre was Old Fashioned, the classic cocktail made of whiskey, sugar and bitters and served with an orange rind. Arijit went one step ahead and smoked the cocktail inside an old wooden kartoos box, transforming it into a legend, the cocktail we would discuss for hours later.

The show was over within 20 minutes and each time Arijit demonstrated a cocktail, samples were passed around the tables along with some of the most delectable appetizers. Perhaps it was all that booze that made us hang out at the restobar for hours after it and get into discussions about the topic that invariably comes up every now and then. Yes, you got it right. Paranormal. As soon as Sid asked if any of us was interested in spirits and ghosts and stuff, hubby dear pointed at me, though I suspect he is equally interested. The discussion moved quickly from spirits to spirituality and auras and soon we were discussing the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying and the Tibetan Book of the Dead and the Rig Ved.

The Hungry Monkey, in the meanwhile did its best to keep us at it. As soon as he learned of my preference for vodka, one of the owners even got a Blue Meth specially concocted for me and that was all the fuel I needed. By the end of it, I had simply run out of words and queries I had been bombarding Sid with and we all fell quiet. And then right in time, we were served the restobar's killer burger. It was a big mean burger, one that made us go silent with respect.

By the time we started back, we were happy, and not only alcohol-happy, happy at heart. I would recommend The Hungry Monkey to anyone who wants to unwind after a hectic day at work. But if you are headed there, please make sure you book a table. And don't forget to ask for an Old Fashioned to start your dinner with a bang.