Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wierd number plates

In US, you get to see a lot of cars. And not just a lot of cars, you get to see cars of various makes. You can see brands like Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mercedes, BMW, Volkswagen, Saab, Mazda, Pontiac, Corvette, Ford, Chevrolet, Hummer, Volvo, Mercedes, Cadillac, Audi, Dodge, Kia, Acura, Lexus, Infiniti... (I am running out of names) and their various models. So when you go out on the road, you come across these vehicles as if they are the regular ones. And back home, when some of these beauties grace the road, they entice some 'oohs' and 'aahs' from the people on the roads (though these 'oohs' and 'aahs' have gone down considerably over the last few years).

Just like we have number plates for every car (and even for other vehicles) in India, each car here has a numberplate too. But the tagging of number plates is different from the way it happens in India. And we are not getting into the nitty-gritties of number plate tagging. One interesting aspect of number plates here is that these guys can register anything they want for their number plate. Following are some wierd and funny number plates that I have seen here-
1. CIVIC 25 - There is nothing funny about this. I am not sure if the number was 25 or was it something else. But the point is not the number or digits. The point is that CIVIS is the name of a car model manufactured by Honda. But what caught our attention was that the car was Honda ACCORD, but the number plate mentioned 'CIVIC' followed by a number. :) Strange.

2. BUG4YOU - This was very innovative. I spotted this numberplate on a Volkswagen Beetle. The guy must surely be very innovative to get this analogy and put it up on his numberplate.

3. VAIGRU - If you read the letters individually, they don't mean anything. But read them together and you read something like 'Vahe Guru'. Seems like this car is owned by a Punjabi or a Sikh.

4. REERAW - I am sure the guy who got this registered might have wanted SEESAW for his numberplate but ended up with REERAW instead. :D Who would like to travel in a car that says 'SEESAW'. Leave aside passengers, even the owner would not like to have a see-saw ride in his car.

5. LOMANTO - Couldn't figure out the head or tail of this number plate. A few thoughts that came to my mind - what if the guy actualy wanted 'TOMATO' but rewrote the words to TOMANTO. TOMANTO sounds wierd, so he got the number plate registered as LOMANTO (not that LOMANTO doesn't sound any less wierd than TOMANTO). Or maybe it could have been something like 'LOMANLO', read as LO MAN LO (hindi wala 'LO'). Or possibly something like 'DOMANDO'. It seems as if he is placing an order for 2 men. Before I get any more stray thoughts, lets leave this LOMANTO here.

And here is the one that takes the cake-
6. HOTMOM - This was actually a number plate. I am sure this was a trick to ensure all people who try to be oversmart with HOTMOM get caught by the police. It's like this - you will notice the numberplate when you are behind the car. And since it says HOTMOM, I am sure there will be some guys who would like to check out who this HOT MOM is. To do this, they would have to overtake this car and increase speed. Now here comes the best part - SPEED limit is monitored strictly (ok not as strictly, but definitely much more stricter than in our desh). Besides, overtaking is not like our country. I am not saying you can't overtake, but if you don't drive straight and are seen going zig zag continuously, somebody may actually call the cops and report you. Also, people drive their cars with the windows rolled up and enjoying the AC / heater depending on the season. So you can't even stick your head out of the window and shout or pass comments the way it sometimes happens in our beloved country. You do it here and somebody will again complain to the cops and you are penalized.

All other number plates that I have seen are more normal like - i.e. either all numbers or a combination of numbers or alphabets which do not make any sense to me but they might make some sense to the owner. I will let you know if I come across any other interesting numberplates.

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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Eating out - Mediterranean lunch

On Friday, we decided to have a team lunch at a restaurant called 'Pita Inn'. This is a Mediterranean restaurant. And I never knew it was Mediterranean till I saw it on the net (and that too after I had had my lunch there). The name is interesting - "Pita Inn". But sirf khane ke liye hi hai. There is hardly anything on their beverage menu. I think the name "Khata Inn" would have been better. This is where I think - what's in a name???

Coming back to lunch - I had to rely on a colleague who is a shudh shakahari just like me. He mentioned about Vegetable Falafel Plate and some other guys mentioned Falafel sandwich. Now I know for sure that sandwich will not be a filling lunch. I mean, you might feel full, but you will also feel hungry again. So sandwich was out for me. There was another veg speciality called Vegetarian Combination Plate.

Since I had never tried Mediterranean food earlier, I was not sure what it will taste like. And for me, when I am trying something new, I prefer to try it one at a time rather than trying a lot of new things together. The name 'Combination Plate' hinted that it was a combination of many food items and all of them untried. So I decided to opt for Vegetarian Falafel Plate instead of Vegetarian Combination Plate.

By the way, here is the menu. The names sound so simple, but the ingredients of these dishes are something that I have never heard of. Here you go-
1. Vegetarian Falafel Plate
Seasoned ground chick peas and vegetables, formed into six patties and deep fried to a flavorful crispness served with salad, our homemade tahini sauce, hot sauce, lettuce, tomato and our homemade pita bread.

2. Vegetarian Combination Plate
Combination of falafel, stuffed grape leaves, hummus, baba ghannoug, Jerusalem salad and tabouleh salad, served with our homemade pita bread.

Whatever it is, it sounds interesting. Waise, I was not having any expectations. Jo bhi khane ko mila, its good. As long as it is shudh shakahari. When I got my order, I couldn't believe my eyes. I got 6 wadas (they were actually falafels), salad (which was lettuce, onion [ya phir woh different colour ka lettuce tha] and 2 half slices of tomato). Oh yes, I forgot to mention - pita bread was there too. I am sure you must be knowing how big a personal pizza or a pan pizza is. and how the crust looks like without toppings. Well one pita bread is half of a pan pizza. and it has a slitin the soft part i.e. along the diameter of the semi pan pizza crust. I am calling it pan pizza crust so that I can convey it to you. Now with this slit, pita bread looks like a pouch. You stuff the wada (na na, i am not calling it falafel - it was a wada to the core) in the pita bread and add as much lettuce / tomato as you want, as long as you have it on your plate. Add some sauce, maybe white sauce or hot sauce. And trust me the hot sauce was hardly hot. The firangs can't handle hot and spicy food. So even I enjoyed the hot sauce. But just changing the name does not change anything, right. The falafels seemed like dal wada though with a lot less besan and a lot more filling. I started calling it dal vada pav. And I ate it imagining that I am eating vada-pav. Just that my vada-pav was something like a dal vada with a bread pouch, some green leaves and some hot sauce. And if your curiosity has got the better of you, here is what a Vegetarian Falafel Plate looks like.

(Image Courtesy : Pita Inn)

But the question remains - why Pita Inn and why not Khata Inn? One more random thought - why not Mata inn?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A picnic to remember

This post is dedicated to those 8 friends with whom I spent a beautiful Sunday, during the last century, at Manori beach. They are (in alphabetical order) - Ashutosh, Deepak, Gautam, Krupal, Maulik, Milind, Piyush, Vinayak. Some of us were college friends, some of us were coaching classes friends - all in all each one of us knew the other person.

We had been in college for nearly 5 years and were about to complete our graduation in 4 - 5 months. But never once had we gone for a picnic in these 5 years. Sounds quite boring, isn't it? Well, even we thought so... So we decided on the first Sunday of 1999 for our picnic. We were pondering over quite a few beaches and had almost finalized Gorai. Our only worry was that somebody had told us Gorai water was not clean becuase of an oil slick that had happened a couple of months ago. So we were slightly hesitant to go to Gorai. And yours truly came up with a suggestion - Let us go to Manori. Most of us were unaware of the location of this beach, though we had heard about it. I said that we have to go via Marve and everyone agreed. We decied to meet at 6.30 am at Malad station.

I was the first to reach there and for the next 45 minutes or so, I was the only one from our group to have reached there. That was the time when there were no cell phones (atleast to my knowledge... and even if there were, they were well beyond our reach). So with nothing to do but wait, I stood at a newspaper stall trying to read each and every news article in what was visible from all the newspapers. Sometime around 7.15 am, everyone reached Malad station. After a few abuses as to why was everyone late and a few minutes of buck passing, we decided to proceed to the venue. Now came the big question - How do we go to Manori? Nobody knew the route. After much brainstorming, which led to no results, everybody realized that it was my plan, so technically I should know the route. And I, like a true champion, added to the mayhem by saying that I only recommended the place and I didn't know the route either. :D All I knew that we had to go to Marve and take a ferry to cross the Marve creek and reach Manori. With such a broad travel itenary, our next task was to find out the bus stop to take the bus to Manori. By this time it was around 7.30 am and we decided to atleast move out of the station premises if we were to search for the bus stop. We quickly located the bus stop in about 5 minutes. And luckily we also got a bus to Marve very quickly. After reaching Marve, we took a ferry that took us to Manori island. Finally we had reached Manori island. It was around 8.20 am. On getting down at the jetty, we realized that we couldn't see the beach anywhere. To our left was a Ganesh temple, to our right was a road taking us into the Manori village, and behind us was the creek which we had just crossed. We decided that we should take the road on the right as on the left there seemed nothing beyond the Ganesh Temple (and the temple was very close by). Taking the road on the right was fine, but we were not sure how far the beach was. After walking for about 5 minutes, we asked a koli woman regarding the way to the beach. She said something and all we understood was that we were very close to the End beach. To go to the middle beach, we would have to walk for 10 more minutes. The end beach was near a church just a few steps away from where we met this Koli woman. There was a small lane just before the church and we could see the beach. However, the fishermen were drying fish there so we decided to head towards the middle beach. After walking for about 10 minutes, we found another exit to the beach. And we took that exit. We actually reached around the middle part of the whole beach. And was it awesome!!! Wow - clean beach, clean sand, clean water and the best part - not a soul in sight... Things can't get better than this especially on a beach, when you have the whole beach to yourself.

We quickly identified a spot where we kept our bags and started enjoying. First 30 - 45 minutes were spent exploring the beach. I along with Ashu and Maulik walked quite a distance to the first beach. But the stretch is just too long. Midway in the sand, I drew a big heart and wrote inside "Ashu loves J". That was enough to trigger Maulik and had I been not faster than him, I wouldn't be here today writing this post. Trying to calm him down while running to save my life was a task in itself, but I must admit, I was enjoying it... :P Soon we three returned back to where the rest of the junta was. By this time the others had arranged bedsheets on the sand and set up the bags and a shade. We quickly had our breakfast and started playing cricket. We were playing perpendicular to the sea. We had camped next to the wall of a private bungalow. A little away from our camp was where we had pitched the stumps. And the bowlers end was between the stumps and the water. Within 30 minutes we realized that a gang of girls had joined us on the beach and their bags were kept a little away from us towards the first beach. But that was it. That was the only thing we knew about them as we got engrossed in cricket again. We never realized when they left or for that matter what they did while they were there. An hour or so into the game, we saw a couple walk from the end beach towards the first beach and settle behind some rocks a little ahead from where we were playing. We soon forgot about them and started playing. Krupal was fielding at long off. Whenever somebody would hit a shot either at long off or between long off and mid off, Krupal would never catch the ball. He would run behind the ball and would take his own sweet time to catch the ball. Initially, we would wonder why is he doing this, when he should be catching the ball and throwing it to prevent runs from being scored. But then it struck us - he was trying to reach the rocks to see what was going on there... Unfortunately for him, he never got that opportunity. ;-) During the course of our fielding, fortunately or unfortunately, I too was positioned at long off. Someone hit a six and the ball landed in waist high water. We were wondering how to get the ball when somebody had a plan - all of us decided to enter the water holding each others hand. I was in the front, which means I was in the deepest section as compared to others. With one hand free, I collected the ball and threw it towards the shore. The moment the ball landed on the shore, everyone ran back to the shore. Ashu was holding my hand and the moment the ball landed even he left my hand and turned around. He said, "Ab hum logo ko ball mil gaya hai... ab tu araam se aa..." :D And I actually had to come out of the waist high water alone. :)

Soon it was lunch time. We quickly had our lunch and decided to take a dip in the water. We had a nice time in the water, played for a couple of hours. Soon we decided to come out of the water, dry ourselves and resume our game of cricket.
Enjoying in the water is one thing and drying and changing ourselves is another. You can't dry yourself with the wet clothes on. Neither can you dry the wet clothes while they are on you.
I was the first one to come out of the water. I quickly changed and waited for the others to come and change so that we could start playing again. A few of our enterprising people (read Milind) had not got change of clothes. Their predicament was worth watching. To add to it, all Ashu had carried with him was a small napkin and not even a proper towel. He was standing dripping wet with the small napkin in his hand looking confused. He would look at himself, then look at the napkin and then look at us trying to figure out what should be done. Exasperated, holding the napkin for all to see, he asked aloud - "Iska kya karoon? Aagey rakhoon ya peeche rakhoon? Poora to fit hone wala nahi hai..." All of us started laughing. Somebody suggested, "Apna face dhak le... Kaafi hai." :D While he was still worrying about what is to be done, I offered my towel. His face lit up - he did not have to worry about how to use his napkin any longer. :) Since Milind too did not have any changed of clothes, he too used a towel to cover his modesty. :P Considering the location where we were, the next big question that came up was - Where do we dry the clothes? Leaving the clothes on the wall was not an option because there was no sunlight there. But some of us decided to go ahead and use the wall itself. While the others identified a small coconut tree and decided to put their clothes (read innerwear) on the leaves of the tree for drying. After everyone had changed either into the spare set of clothes or into towels, we decided to sit and chat for a few minutes. Within a few minutes we saw a kite hovering above us carrying a few stray twigs. All the guys who had left their clothes on the tree were worried. What if the kite decides to dhapofy these clothes for making its nest comfy... We would look at each other and then we would look at the kite or try locating the kit. And then we would look at the coconut tree to check if our clothes were still intact. This went on for a few minutes and everyone decided to use the wall to dry the clothes. After getting the clothes down again, we decided we had spent enough time doing nothing and it was time to resume our game of cricket. And we started again. It was a real sight - some guys playing cricket wearing towel and nothing else. :) Unfortunately there were no girls to admire the well toned bodies... But its ok. Un logo ne gam ka ghoont pi liya... Kuch nahi kar sakte they... So it was back to cricket. Milind decided to open the innings and he was scoring very well. I was not worried about going in to bat because of the way Milind was batting. I was sitting on the wall and enjoying the cool breeze. Milind hit a shot and set off for a run. He realized that he could take two and called out for the second run. Midway into the second run, his towel came loose. Poor guy - he had to stop running to hold onto his towel. He had no other choice. As a result he was run-out. That was it. That was the beginning of an entertaining arguement. Milind was not ready to accept the fact that he was out and he had to walk back. The other team was happy to have him run out so that the scoring rate would go down. They were not ready to listen to anything and only insisted that he was run-out. Milind counter argued that his towel came loose so he couldn't do anything. He would have completed the run had it not been for his towel's deceiving behaviour. We all were having a hearty laugh at Milind's plight. And Milind had still not tied his towel properly when the arguement was going on. He was holding his towel with one hand and the bat with another. And he was gesturing with the hand where he held his bat. He couldn't risk using the other hand. It was a sight to watch. :) Milind ultimately had to walk back and the game continued. It was soon 4 o'clock and we decided to call it a day. Thankfully our clothes had also dried by that time. We all dressed up and decided to leave for the jetty so that we could reach the jetty in time and avoid missing the last ferry to leave for Marve. But before leaving, all we wanted to do was quench our thirst. Thankfully enough, the water was not sufficient for all of us. All of us had a few sips to ensure that we don't leave our throats dry. But that was not enough. We needed to get water. We decided to check the shacks on the way. We reached the first shack and when asked for mineral water, he quoted an exceptionally high price for it. We decided to skip it and move ahead. The next shack was the same story, but there were cold drinks too. Some of us decided to stop for cold-drinks irrespective of the price because we were thirsty. That shack-owner was taking his own sweet time to serve the cold-drink. And our only worry was that we should not miss the last ferry. Thankfully, we also got water from the well there and some of us used that to quench our thirst. And we also managed to reach the jetty in time, rather much before the last ferry left the jetty. We reached Marve quickly and from there we came to Malad station.

All in all, it was a very good day and a very good picnic - the only picnic that we had in 5 years of our college. The next day when we woke up, we had to force ourselves to go to college - thighs paining, legs paining, every muscle in the body sore and attend morning college. But the enjoyment remained and it still remains to this day.

Please note - Some facts have been intentionally omitted considering the target audience in mind... :)

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