Uzuri: The goodness of the wild on your plate, Masterchef style

Image

The terrace at Uzuri

South African chef Guy Clarke finished 11th on Masterchef South Africa’s last season. He was rather popular on the show—mostly because he is cute as a button. Now, he is set to have the folks of Delhi eating out of his hands at Uzuri, the new restaurant in town that he has crafted the menu for, in collaboration with Michelin starred chef Rishim Sachdeva, one of Heston Blumenthal’s sous chefs, who has worked at The Fat Duck and The Savoy (UK) in the past.

Uzuri has had a lot of people eagerly waiting for a while now – not only for the brand names attached to it, but also for the kind of experimental, never-seen-before cuisine it has on offer. They call it ‘Euro-fusion’, which basically means African and European sensibilities on one plate. This, obviously, promises to be quite a novelty for an audience that has practically no exposure to African food.

Image

Salmon fillet salad

But there’s no yams and foo-foo to be found here. On their brief but drool-worthy menu, you find staples of European cuisine – steaks, tenderloin patty, quinoa salads, pastas, an abundance of meats, seafood and vegetables – but then, there’s something different. For example, the salmon fillet salad comes with a pickled kohlrabi (that vegetable that looks like Sputnik) which is super-tangy and spicy at the same time, thin slices of cucumber, fennel, sesame seeds and horseradish vinaigrette. On the whole, this makes for a really sour dish which, for a country that eats pickles with every meal (sometimes even as a tea-time snack) is quite palatable. Then there are the artisan breads – three kinds of breads, one made of sourdough that is left to rise for 48 hours, with toppings of wild mushroom and truffle ragout (perfect for ketchup lovers), cottage cheese and chilli, and smokey coleslaw and chilli garlic infusion.

For mains, there’s a variety of meats where the African influences rise to prominence. The tenderloin steak comes glazed in a film of coffee powder and paprika, with a chunk of truffle butter smoked a moment before it arrives at your table, marrow roast potatoes and vegetables ­— and it is pure rapture slicing through the perfectly roasted meat.

This goes for the sous vide chicken breast too – the meat is wonderful, but this dish disappoints because it is too dry. The truffle gnocchi and wild black cabbage sides can do with a thinner sauce, or a glass of wine on the side. But, as chef Sachdeva informs us when he arrives with dessert (a dreamy dish involving strawberries, lemon marshmallows, berry and basil coulis and pecan ice cream) for a chat, they’re still experimenting and fine-tuning their dishes to Indian tastes. This, then, is perhaps why we’d urge you to try Uzuri (Swahili for goodness) – for artistic food at a no-reservations, humble space.

You [already] Stink and Burn

Perhaps it should have been heartening to see so many people finally coming out on the streets, crying for ‘justice’, whatever it is that they mean by the word; demanding that our roads be made safer, that rape cannot be tolerated.

Perhaps it is the ever-growing cynic in me who just cannot find a hint of satisfaction or relief in the drama that is unfolding every moment in pristine Lutyen’s Delhi, in these beautiful winter days.

Perhaps they will pass a new law, there will be a new CM, there will be more police on the roads, the papers and TV channels will follow rape cases more doggedly.

BUT!

This is not the first time a woman has been raped to the brink of her death. This is not the first time the CM has shrugged off responsibility. This is not the first time the common man and his kin have come out in the streets. This is not the first time they’ve increased security. This is not the first time there’s so much excitement. This is not the first time – and it won’t be the last. Not the way we seem to be going about it!

Because rape isn’t an under-the-table act, where both parties can leave with some sense of satisfaction, gratification. It isn’t an assembly line product that has come to dominate psyches, turned into a status symbol, something that one MUST have, a sign of one’s affluence at the cost of another’s impoverishment. It isn’t a man, a regime that has his/its own way all the time. It isn’t an ideology, a religion, a policy, a piece of property. STOP calling your picnic a fucking REVOLUTION, for heaven’s sake!

Because if you think what you’re doing out on the roads – shouting slogans, burning effigies, calling authorities names, getting a shower-down by policemen, demanding death by hanging and/or castration – is a revolution, you don’t know shit about what it is like walking on the road, alone, everyday, with a mix of fear and stubbornness swirling inside you, making you nauseous and pumping adrenaline into your bloodstream all at the same time. Knowing that any moment now, you will face an ugliness that you never dreamed possible, even in your worst nightmares.

You don’t know shit about how everyday, you see it in their eyes, everywhere. That you’re being undressed slowly or hastily, depending on just how his highness likes it, your breasts are being weighed, your buttocks are getting spanked, and this may not just be foreplay. You know it because you can see the bulge in their pants that they will continue to thrust into your behind, your shoulder and everywhere else as you jostle for even the littlest space to stand in an overcrowded bus.

You don’t know shit about that lecherous uncle / cousin / male relative (even fathers!) who will leave no stone unturned to be with you in a closed, isolated space, touch you whenever possible, wherever possible, however possible. And just how the sight or sound of them fills you with an inexplicable dread, a sense of terror that can paralyse you down to your very puny soul.

You don’t know shit about how your dreams, your identity, your entire being is subservient to your safety, which is just politespeak for your family’s honour, that nondescript sense of selfhood that rests almost completely on the girl’s sorry shoulders. You have a job that keeps you out late? Imagine the possibilities! How can you not be panicking yet? After all, worrying is our prerogative, beta.

(By the way, if you do know all this and are still screaming your head off in the streets, for your and fellow sufferers’ rights, then aww, you poor little naive thing. Even my rant here on this webspace that nobody reads isn’t half as bad as yours.)

Why do you talk about it, and those who do the deed, as if it were exclusive to you and your environment? Rape isn’t an isolated act, much as it may require isolation as a condition to facilitate its happening.

Rape doesn’t happen because the girl (or boy) was looking soo unbearably sexy that no power in that dot on the time-space axis could’ve stopped her (his) molestation.

Rape doesn’t happen because the rapist harbours exceptional degrees of lustiness. Nor does it happen because the night brings out their romantic side.

Rape happens because society, and you, let it happen. Because you don’t stand up against offences of any nature in public places such as, say, the Metro. Heck, you don’t even get up to give your seat to the old/ pregnant lady standing in front of you, that’s how blind you are! Rape happens because we live in a repressed society where girls and boys are segregated, having boyfriends is seen as criminal, sitting and talking with a boy in a public place warrants a lock-up, being beaten-up, where prostitution remains illegal and sex is seen as a depraved, corrupt activity. Rape also happens because Hindi cinema glorifies masculinity, which in turn has its source in violence and sex. Rape happens because power equations across class, caste, gender lines are changing – lines that were drawn by the very people who are climbing lampposts and posing for pictures at India Gate today, not-waiting to put them up on FB to show they’re so with it. Rape is not one man’s crime, it is even yours when you tell your daughter/sister/mother to stay indoors at night, even though all you want to do is protect them.

At this rate, rape will continue to happen. Even as you lot are ‘protesting’ – which, come on face it, is just asking for revenge – there were at least three more cases reported in today’s newspapers. Do you think your shouting is loud enough to drown out their urges inside their heads? Doesn’t look like it.

Rape will also keep happening as long as you think that women need to be protected. The presumption here is the male is and always will be an animal, naturally. That’s like, WTF? And all you women, you buy into this crap because it makes you feel better in your cramped existence too.

Rape happens because in the friction caused by shifting plates in the continent of patriarchy, there’s a little squeak that the woman manages to edge in sideways now. Because when boys with bloated heads from small towns arrive in the National Chutiyaap Region, otherwise known as the land of promise, they see all these…the girls!…calling the shots! How could this be? Meri ma toh mere baap ki jooti ki dhool chaat-ti hai, ye kya anarth ho raha hai yahan?!

Rape will keep happening because you mothers don’t slap your sons enough and continue to let them turn into such egoistic, horny bastards.

Rape will keep happening as long as educationists and the moral police (who should be sent back to the 17th century) believe there’s much glory in segregation and separation, not realising that in the process, they turn this ‘other’ into this fantastic, exotic creature that must be had at all costs.

There are other reasons for rape to happen too, but the overarching reason it actually goes DOWN (ALL puns intended) is because the girl’s body is thought of as a site of control. Even as you yell from the ramparts of the Parliament for equality, what you should be fighting for is to gain control of your body. Free it from this omnipresent gaze, free yourself from being conscious of this gaze.

The only way you can really stand up for the poor girl struggling to get off ventilators now is by swearing to change how you think and how you let others around you think.

By some twist of fate, she’s a hero today instead of being a victim for life or even dead, and that is the only good thing to come out of this charade. She will live respectably where countless others have perished.

But her life will be in vain if you don’t realise that this is not one incident, this is not the 9/11 of India, but something that, sadly, happens everyday, several times a day.

The answer, my friend, doesn’t lie in retribution, in castration, in revenge, because that is only enabling a vicious cycle. It lies in education. Unless we learn lessons from history, as modern as last year’s fascinating summer, things will never change.

That is, of course, unless all you’re looking for is cheap thrills over the weekend, in which case, ignore all that you’ve read so far. Obviously, you are the MAN of the moment.

Last Call: What the FUCK do you mean by a rape CULTURE?! Can you please think before you let these words come out of your mouth?!

Different Strokes

One evening in the not so distant past, at about 8.30 pm, standing alone at the Maharani Bagh bus stand, I rejected the ninth auto driver because, like all those who stopped before him, he’d asked me for double the usual fare ( this was before auto fares were hiked and metres made mandatory ) . A traffic police vehicle had just pulled up a few minutes earlier. As I grew more desperate to get home, a tall, lanky policeman approached with the auto driver in tow. “Did he refuse to take you to your destination?!” he demanded loudly. I hesitantly said that I had refused to go with him. Already, a tittering crowd had gathered to watch the fun. On being demanded the reason, I told the policeman that he’d asked for too much money. This instigated two tight slaps across the auto driver’s face, who stood meekly in front of the tirade: “How many times have I told you to not do this?! You idiots from outside never learn. Madam, get in! He will take you wherever you wish to go by meter.” I wasn’t going home in an auto whose driver had been assaulted and publicly humiliated because of me, so I just told the policeman that I didn’t trust their meters either and tried to ask him to stop hitting the man. He yelled at me for trying to stop autos at the bus stand and moved on, shouting into his walkie-talkie. The crowd reluctantly dissipated now that the show was over. Somehow, I was getting even dirtier looks. And it was clear that there was no sympathy for the driver – somebody even suggested putting him into jail. I closed my eyes to block out the static as my cheeks began to burn and willed my stars to get me home in one piece, even fearing that the man might still be around to avenge himself in some horrid manner. Eventually, I did get home safe and sound, but was beside myself with an unreasonable rage, somehow directed at the auto driver.

Yet another day, there apparated before me an auto driver who looked like he had had a really good day, such was the smile on his big-whiskered face. The police vehicle was nowhere in sight this time, so I charged myself up to haggle with him. However, he did not give me the chance – saying that I could pay him whatever I thought was right, mumbling something about there being more important things than money. Taken by surprise, I quoted my price and got in after he benignly acquiesced. Once on our way, I took out my Ipod, when he clucked his tongue and again mumbled something about today’s generation. Despite myself, I demanded an explanation, to which he responded with a chuckle and a quick glance in his rearview mirror. He said that in his youth, he wanted to soak in the world, drench himself in its beauty. I retorted, well, so did I. He said that the world is not what books and TV can tell you, it is what you see and hear on the go. If you block off the sounds of life, there is not much you’d learn. This did shame me into pulling off my earphones. He was a chatty old fellow, so he told me how he’d come to Delhi having completed his graduation, in search of a decent job but wound up doing this instead. He told me of how he was still trying to pay off the debt on his brand new auto, which he had finally acquired after saving up the down-payment amount for 15 years. He said he knew this was not the easiest or the most dignified way of earning a living in this country, but he was happy because this gave him a steady income, his independence and a chance to see many lives lived. He was still raving on when I pulled out my wallet to pay him. As I was leaving, he thanked me and by way of blessing, gave me this important nugget of his painfully acquired wisdom: it takes all kinds to make this world, beti. It sure did, I smiled, and shook his hand before he drove off.

(ab)Use the language right!

Walking home from the bus stand the other day, at about 8 pm, on a road conspicuously dark on the eve of Diwali, a second encounter with an oversmart desperate loser on the road got me perplexed enough to yell out “Ch******, kaan ke neeche dun kya?”. Of course, the man in question, having completed his gesture of utter disrespect to a woman like me ( who must deserve it, ie to say ), paid no heed to anything i had to say or do after that, especially as i just walked on anyway.

Problem was, through all this, i was on the phone with Ma. You can only imagine the kind of shock that gave her, making her lash out at me for using such bad language and thereby inviting calamities. Impulsive retorts of this sort ought not to be made by decent girls from decent households. Or in any case, not while you’re on the phone with anybody, and definitly not your parents!

Meanwhile, i’ve felt abusive language is handy, especially if being spewed out by the likes of us who aren’t expected to do so. It takes them aback, shocks them ( this at least works right ) into not reacting soon enough and also makes it evident that the woman in question isn’t going to let things go without a fight, or in any case, isn’t going to put up with any more of it. Eveteasers are essentially cowards by nature, or drunk, not men in the real sense.

So would a decent girl like me let such filth out of her mouth again in public? I very much think so! So much for decency, ma, it’s a tit-for-tat world out there! (no pun intended, you filthy mans! ) 😀