Saturday, May 21, 2005

Menu mirth

One of my favourite timepass activities while traveling on work is to look at menus in small-town restaurants, even if I do feel a little like an elitist bitch, for being so amused at the quirky-yet-solemn titles and self-important dish-names.

There was one particular menu (Kwality restaurant near Teenkune, in Kathmandu) where we copied down whole sections, it was that funny!

The menu at Tarun Hotel in Shivpuri district, was giving it some tough competition, though.
There was 'Cerlec' under the American Breakfast section.
The 'A-LA-CARTE' included omlate pluffy, made of geera-chilly, with the alternate option of 'harf-fry with teast'.

Staters (sic) include Takkat ka Khazana. And though Shivpuri has neither river nor stream for miles around, there is a section called 'Machhuaron ki taaja pakad' (fishermen's fresh catch).
On the same menu, there's China-town, and Angrejon ki saugat, inclusive of rost chichen (sic).

But one dhaba in Dungarpur district takes the cake.
We staggered in, after some eight hours of walking about in the hilly-desert sun, took one look at the menu and began debating whether to stay and pay, or to skip lunch altogether. Just when we had decided on the latter course, the waiter brought us a fresh set of menu-cards - at least 15-20% cheaper.

We ate. And we grew wise.


Suhail said...

LOL. Painted on the walls of one such restaurant :
"Customer is King, Service is Queen"

At this, my friend remarked: "And we all know what happens to the queen, don't we ?"

Don't even get me started on dish names. Will take a post in itself. Your blog keeps reminding me of many many things to blog....I just don't seem to have the time for em. Also, nice to see 'elitist' writers use lowly words like "timepass" :))

Anonymous said...

Annie, now that you have reminded me, I must go, check out ‘Kwality Restaurant’ for myself, to have my share of fun! Badly-spelt names and words are a common sight here in Kathmandu – sometimes quite funny, but otherwise very frustrating!

Going back to your ‘Kathmandu, August 2003’ story, I remember being harassed in a similar manner by, who else but, cops – the night guards, is more like it.

If you don’t mind, here’s my own account (inspired by yours) of what they once made me go through:

It was July 2002. I was returning home after dropping a friend at her hotel in Thamel. At Dhapasi (which is on the Ring Road as you drive from New Bus Park to Maharajgunj), my cab was asked to stop for a ‘security check’.

“Where are you coming from?” A cop started interrogating me, rather rudely.

“From Thamel,” I replied, my tone being politer than his.

“This late at night? What were you doing in Thamel?”

The time was 11:00 pm. And yes, he was right. It was really late.

“I was with a friend, a foreigner friend.”

“Where is your friend?”

“At her hotel in Thamel.”

“What were you doing with your friend?”

“We had both been invited to a family dinner. Since she hadn’t seen the way, I escorted her to the house.”


“So, when the party was over, I dropped her back at the hotel, and am now on my way home.”

“What do you do?”

“I work for an NGO.”

“What NGO? Do you have an ID card?”

“No, but I do have my visiting card. Won’t it do?”

“No! I want your ID card.”

“Sir,” I called him, knowing ‘sirring’ cops can sometimes create magic; ‘sir’ to them probably gives a sense of honour that they often don’t get or deserve; ‘sir’ also tends to be attached to ‘male pride’ in our cultures.

“Sir, I forgot to carry it today; only today. Please believe me. It was not deliberate. Really. On other days, I would always carry it with me.”

But ‘sirring’ him that day didn’t work in my favour. “I don’t know about other things. Just show me your ID card,” he demanded, furiously.

“I told you, Sir, I forgot to carry it today. But it wasn’t done on purpose,” I replied, pleading for mercy.

“Travelling this late and not carrying identification? What kind of a citizen are you?”

“But, Sir, isn’t my visiting card also a proof of my identification?”

“Shut up,” he raised his voice, infuriated. Pointing his ‘rifle’ at me, he asked me to “get off”. “I said get off the vehicle!” I followed his order, without another word. I stood on the raod, with my feet trembling with fear. What if he shot me dead? It had happened before, and could happen again, in a lawless country.

“You know,” he went on, “I could put you behind bars for your uncooperative behaviour. Don’t underestimate the power of us, security personnel. What do you think of yourself? Huh?”

For once, he really did shut me up. I lost all hope of being allowed to go home that night. Silence!

Then I suddenly remembered carrying my ‘nagarikta’ (citizenship certificate), in my bag. “Sir, will nagarikta do?” I dared to break the silence, my voice shaky and feeble.

“What about nagarikta now? Every Nepali has one, even terrorists (how can I be convinced you are not one?)!”

“What about passport then?”

“You’ve got your passport, too?”


“But still,” he wouldn’t let me go; “I question your attributes. What proof is there that you have a good moral character?”

Now, that was offensive. And historic, too. No one had ever before asked a question like that; no one had doubted my ‘moral character’; no one had questioned my ‘attributes’. Because those who knew me knew me for my good-boy image – my moral values, my clean heart and my honesty. But to have my moral character questioned like that, out of the blue and at the middle of the night, really hurt; it also made me sick. Just imagine, the security check post (of all places) to have to have your moral character questioned!

I lost all strength to argue further.

“Okay, get in and bugger off,” he said at last, his tone not a wee bit apologetic. “I am letting you go just this once. But remember your ID card next time, especially if you have to travel this late at night.”

I left without a word, less relieved and more hurt. And guess how much I paid for the taxi – well, just about five hundred rupees, too!

This is one of my most haunting memories, which I had not written about before.

I still haven’t understood the connection between one’s ID card and moral character. Is there one? Please tell me!


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