The low-ki affair: Rise of Calabash


Lunch-box- a quintessential mystery in our life. A uniform dangling structure forced into our fist every morning, or shoved into our school bags in our childhood. As I tune into FM while driving to office, the box lies wobbling in bangalore roadbumps, untended in the backseat of car. My junior staffs would smile when a well dressed doctor often in his dashing suit tries to sneak this shabby box behind his ass; hides it in the closet as soon as he reaches desk. As the security guard smiles at me, I feel like he is asking, “Kya sir? Aaj fir lauki?” How did he know its ‘Lauki’? Is it an uniform content irrespective of caste and social status, a security guard to a suave doctor, all would have ‘lauki’ in lunchbox? Well, he never asked, but I could sense the aromalessness of lunchbox. If it was anything else, there must have been some whiff, some aroma, except the blandest thing in world- Lauki. Curious and worried, I nosedive into the closet. No…Nothing….Not an iota of smell. Must be ‘Lauki’. Dejected, I get lost into my work. “Karmanye va dhikaraste; Maa faleshu kadhachanah……..”  Did Draupadi cook Lauki for all pandavas? Did Lord Krishna convince Arjuna like, “Better you go fighting, there is nothing good for lunch anyway.” As Sahadeva sneakingly opened, “Its lauki!!!!!” ;  they all went charging, rampaging, killing all over Kurukshetra.

But, as I search into wikipedia, ‘Lauki’ isn’t that old, and its no mention in Mahabharata supports the hypothesis. How would Ved Vyas, who almost detailed upto Duryodhana’s banana undergarments, miss ‘lauki’? I recently read about Mughal king’s culinary habits, and ‘lauki’ was conspicuously missing. Aurangzeb never had Lauki. But, I am sure vegetarian Abdul Kalam would have gobbled on plenty of Laukis. Was that the key for conversion from ‘Bad Muslim’ to ‘Good Muslim’? If Lauki is that magical formula, why doesn’t the US forces bombard ‘lauki’ on IS militants to convert them for good. One of the cheapest vegetable on planet can save millions spent on drones and missiles. Incidently, it has a gifted shape of ‘missile’- designed to kill. An american name of ‘Calabash’ has more deadly flavour in it….NYT HEADLINES- “Four IS militants bombed by Calabash have turned Sufi and dervishing Rumi. Indian premier Modi have promied to supply a million more Laukis in war against terror” .

My grandfather never liked Lauki and he once confessed he never had much of Lauki in his childhood. Those golden days were ruled by ‘savarna’ and upmarket vegetables like ‘cauliflower’ and ‘okra (bhindi)’. Potatoes, and brinjal followed and so were many. Laukis were ‘shudras’ among vegetables who would never dare step into any affordable platter. But, then the ‘rulers of kitchen’ realised if they uplift these ‘shudras’, they would be able to rule the patriarch India. First time it was served, it was thrown right away. But, soon ‘moderates’ and ‘wife-loving husbands’ gave in, and lauki’s upliftment was discussed. Demand for reservation grew, and Lauki finally got ‘reserved’ status. It would be served once a week, no matter what. Some northern state rulers of kitchen made it twice or thrice a day. Later, Lauki took shape of convenience, threatening and sometimes revenge to the husbands. “Buy me a jewellery, else have Lauki everyday!”

But, reservation wasn’t enough in a gastronomical country. Many would conveniently throw it out of the window covertly. Many laukis would have flown down ‘naala‘ beside my childhood home.  It needed a societal status, an edge over upmarket vegetables. Many social activists poured in ideas from their ever useless brains. One of the famous Baba came up with a brilliant concept that ‘Lauki juice can cure diabetes’. Lauki juice- a potion of poisonous bitterness unnaturally swallowed by sweet-deprived suffering diabetics. In the name of Lord Shiva, they swallowed like ‘Neelkanth‘. Lauki got what it never deserved, and flooded the sabzi-mandis more than ever. Once the reservation and status was achieved, rifts followed within the Lauki community. Baba helped in categorising the reservation- better upliftable shudras and untouchable shudras.  He proclaimed, “If oblong Laukis are nectar, round laukis are poison.” So, the oblong Laukis made their way upto elite societies, tribal round laukis were barred and left to rot in hidden corners of land. Society was divided for good.

As Lauki became cynosure of other vegetable’s eyes, conspiracies began too. Old upmarket ‘savarnas’ got into their dirty tricks to denounce Lauki. One of the quintessential ‘savarna’-favored highest medical institution in country came up with a research paper which claimed, “Lauki juice can cause inadvertent deaths”. Some three people died after having Lauki juice (I doubt numbers must be much more!). It actually never needed a research paper to prove that. Many people are dying this death every day, when they try to push it somehow down the neck diluting it with ‘achaar‘ and spices. The gurgling and throwing up follows often.

Whatever disgruntlement and facebook posts say against Lauki, reservation stays and Lauki stands vindicated. Afterall, it has a huge votebank for kitchen kings. Even if I try to shop vegetable myself, and come smiling with all those beautiful cauliflowers, I would see a kingsize Lauki already well seated in kitchen corner. It was ordered online. So convenient to scrap, cut and cook it. Add salt, oil, spices anything, wouldn’t make any difference; serve it raw or cooked, its all the same. An epitome of convenience.

All said and done, we all have right to gobble on tasty ‘seekh-kebabs‘ and culinary delights, but denying lauki of its hard-gained status and abolishing its reservation from platter isn’t the solution. Baba couldn’t be so wrong and so wouldn’t be our moms and wives who kept serving it. The kebabs could give a hard-time in morning rituals but Lauki- never! As I struggle hard in morning after the ass-burning guntur chicken I had yesterday, I wished I better had Lauki. (P.S. Hope the wish doesn’t get fulfilled atleast on a pleasant sunday)

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Baahubali: A lesson from Lanka.

While scrolling through facebook posts, I come across umpteen of innuendos about Dalits, Muslims, ‘We upper class’, Sardars, the Hindus, Brahmins, Biharis, We Indians, Those Pakistanis, and so on. The fight for claiming one as better race never ends. And we condemn Hitler? Anyway, back to Bahubali.

Baahubali of my story wasn’t anybody close to the muscle-men of movie, rather a disproportionate figure sledged once as ‘overweight fat cunt’. On top of it, he was heading a crew beaten and bruised since its inception for last fourteen years.

He belonged to a strife-torn kingdom fighting war of races since years. A country debt-ridden. A country so small mimicking almost a ‘tear-drop’ on world map. A country infamously called Lanka, the land of demons. The ugly ones.

Entire Baahubali’s kingdom denounced the minorities,  suppressing them, burning their houses, decimating them. Mutthu’s house too was burnt when he was a kid. While many Dalits turned Naxals, Mutthu rose beyond the ashes believing in the place he belonged. His skills were unique when he could spin the ball beyond human imagination almost like the leper ‘Kachda’ from Lagaan movie.

While many would have resisted, but Baahubali must had spoken like Aamir Khan, “Kachda khelegaaaaa!”. And so he played.

Baahubali took his newly shuffled bunch alongwith ‘Kachda’ to the land of whites down in a southern island of world. They were thrashed and booed. Kachda’s bowling action was made fun of, when he was asked to bowl seven times on the ‘Boxing day’. This wasn’t a dalit being made fun of, but a Lankan. All the majority upper class in their own country have been reduced to ‘dark uncouth race’ in the land of ‘whites’. This all caste and race thing is so relative. A brahmin in India would be a ‘brown indian’ somewhere else. All the barriers vanished, and Baahubali’s crew stood firmly with Mutthu.

A calm determined Baahubali took up the task to organise himself and take the revenge. He just looked at the bunch, their playing order, and shuffled it. Man at the top goes down, and men idle at bottom comes up. Lying at bottom for many years, when somebody get a special privilege, he thrives to do his best. To prove himself. Like first dalits who were renamed ‘harijans’ or uplifted by ‘reservation’, didn’t dance with joy but had tear in their eyes and thrived to sustain themselves. Sanath and Kaluwitharna proved giant killers.

Baahubali wasn’t alone. Another land of Moslems were too blamed for ‘fixing’ by the southern-islanders. And the prosperous land of Gandhi joined them naturally.

The supreme south-islanders had reason to laugh and scorn when an embarassing ‘bomb blast’ happened in Lanka right before the world cup. They refused to even step into the land of demons. What the world saw in return was unprecedented. The ever-fighting people of two lands- The Pakis and Indians joined to form a single team, and played an exhibition game with Baahubali in that very ‘blast-struck’ land. When Waseem Akram couldn’t find his T-shirt, he accidently wore the Indian captain Azhar’s T-shirt. Quintessential enemies were joyous together every time they took a wicket. The borders were broken as if they never existed.

Bahubali’s top men fired from the first ball. No defense. No pause. No adapting to situation. It was just blasting the bowler from the word ‘go’. This kind of cricket was never played before, and the same kind would be played now onwards. They changed the pattern of game forever. Sanath Jayasuriya rose from nowhere to ‘Man of series’, and ‘Most valuable player’ . Mutthiah Murlidharan shined with his swerving, dancing, mysterious balls, and what more? (Oh yes! Coach was Dave Whatmore).

Top batsmen of world cried at the pitches; Pace bowlers flummoxed by attack resorted to spin bowling; Spectators couldn’t bear the brutal thrashing of Baahubali’s team and vandalised the Eden Garden.

The murderous lankans reached to coveted finals with Australia. The Baahubali’s revenge to South-islanders.

For the first time, entire Lahore of Moslem was roaring for somebody from other land, flagging Lankan flags. A nation so neglected and deprived was getting a full-house crowd of supporters, that too in a jingoist Islamic country.

Baahubali knew he had arrived. He achieved the pride he never had.

Top order collapsed, but Baahubali was calm, assured. A Kumbhakaran look-alike Gurusinghe and Bibhishan look-alike De Silva have joined together for Lankan pride, and Bahubali kicked the final shot to glory. The world was conquered.

Arjun Ranatunga: The Baahubali, lifting World cup in 1996


O rey manjhi!

Being born in a Brahmin family instilled with supremacy of ideas and thoughts since childhood, whenever I looked upon ‘dalit’ or ‘mahadalit’, there were gradual variations in my perception. Word ‘musahar’ itself seemed funny to begin with. Thank god I wasn’t a born ‘musahar’. Things changed as I moved to a congressi-style school, reading Gandhian and Nehruvian ideologies, leftist thoughts in teachers, and changing political scenario in Bihar. Soon, Brahmins were made fun of, in political rallies. In some of the speeches in school, I stood to talk about Oppression of lower class by Brahmins from centuries, receiving thunderous claps from audience. It grew to the extent that I began cursing myself being born ‘Brahmin’. What if I were born ‘musahar’? There is a lot to it.

A dalit remains a dalit for a life, may be mellowed to ‘harijan’, may be they would have a joyous clamour on Ambedkar Jayanti, may be they claim a coveted quota seat, may be they get appeased by politicos, yet a dalit remains a dalit. Like a ‘hologram’, like a ‘rubber stamp’, its his trademark, something he wouldn’t be able to change by conversion, ghar-wapasi whatever.

But, what’s wrong in being one?

When a mahadalit took over as chief-ministership in Bihar, it might have been circumstantial. He wasn’t the only one who rose from grassroots to the royal seat, prime ministers like Chandrashekhar and Narendra Modi have scaled through economic and social hardships. Its how you hold the seat, how you perform, and how you grow yourself from your caste-identity to governance? A ‘musahar’ is no more a ‘scavenging’, ‘rat-tracking’ dalit, but a chief-minister of state. His profile has changed. Even if he takes a pride in his roots, he should uplift ‘dalits’ by promoting education, creating jobs for them, and setting his success as an example. I would vote for such ‘musahar’ forever and ever.

But, there may be more to it. He may have been booed from background, when gets up to arrange a meeting. He might be rejected by his own people as a lowly ‘musahar’. His not-so-sophisticated statements, and immature thoughts were made fun of. Afterall, a dalit remains a dalit for life.

To erase the ‘rubberstamp’, and ‘dalit’ tag, probably people should reject caste-based politics. Doesn’t matter if a prime-minister or chief-minister is dalit or mahadalit or a brahmin, how he delivers in governance should matter.

Many years back, there was a man, who met a ‘musahar’, and gave up his clothes forever to stay like one. Some years ago, there was a ‘manjhi’ who alone made his way through a mountain. ‘Jaativaad’ should end in our lifetime. The day when ‘musahar’ would be a history, and people won’t celebrate a ‘black president’, but a man with credibility.