Monday, October 24, 2005

Cantankerous Bong men and Visible Boxer Line?

On Saturday S and I made a brief trip to the Durga Puja celebrations organized by Dakshini, which take place almost a week after every other Durga Puja celebration has folded up. The visit was sudden and impromptu, so didn't have a chance to dress up in a sari (or even salwar-kameez) and was given the stare down by the umpteen Bong mashimas (aunts)and didimas (grandmas) at the venue. Happy to report that the competition over the most dazzling saris and jewellery is as strong as ever, and many of the women were dressed a bit too extravagantly for the afternoon.

We managed to snag packets of prasad (offerings) and S had his first taste of narkol mishti. He is hooked and was wondering if I could make the stuff or not. Sure, the afternoon I feel like slaving for four hours in the kitchen. Or I can just go ahead and open a packet of frozen shredded coconut and mix in sugar syrup.

Here's the weird bit though. So I was showing S around the place (because I had been there before) and the community centre where the Puja is held has a nice courtyard. We are walking around, and suddenly a elderly Bong gentleman appears out of nowhere and barks instructions to S and me to drag the trash cans that were lying in a corner to the centre of the courtyard. S and I meekly comply, and I answer him in Bengali. He looks at me and says (in Bengali) "Oh so you are Bengali? Why don't you go to the kitchen and ask for some trash bags...You're a Bengali girl, do some work!" (Bangalir meye kichhu kaaj koro, is what he actually said).

S and I are taken aback but march off to the kitchen nonetheless to get trash bags and fit them around the cans. I told S that in case he was wondering the gentleman was rather rude. And by the way, after he rattled off instructions, he promptly went off to play cards with his buddies. Bengali men of a certain age love to bully younger men and women. Jotto shob jyathamo. Anyway we left soon after that, but I strongly suspect we might have been saddled with the duties of serving lunch!

In the evening we went to the birthday party of a friend, who put up a nice little performance for the guests, singing his own compositions. It was quite slick with mikes and amps and all taking up a quarter of his living room. I also met an old neighbour of mine, who's working in a major Hollywood production house now. We talked a bit about my research and then about the movie business. He retains the habit of wearing his pants really low, so Em, S and I were giggling hysterically whenever he bent down to pick up something and we could tell if they were boxers or briefs (boxers as I remember).

A little digression. Our friend, the birthday boy told us that once he went to the apartment of old neighbour's ex-girlfriend, an up and coming Hollywood actress who played in a major movie recently. All the girl had in her kitchen were rows and rows of supplement bottles, vitamins, proteins, you name it. That's all she eats apparently, protein and vitamin supplement shakes and capsules. Nothing in the fridge either. Oh and one pack of fat free tortilla chips.

We also saw the sad manifestation of the post-marriage syndrome that afflicts many women. Land up at a party in your most bleh clothes (work pants and sweater in this case), no makeup, messy hair tied up with a rubberband all accompanied by substantial weight gain since I last saw her. Actually make that post-boyfriend syndrome, since I'm guilty of a few of those sins myself. Weight gain, check. Bad outfits, check. Fuzz on arms, check (ewww). I need to rescue myself before I fall deeper into this man-content abyss. But I really don't think my outfit was too bad that day, though Em did say that pairing black boots with a short blue dress was a bit street whorish. Pfffff. One man's whore is another woman's bohemian chic.

On Sunday, S and I went to Chinatown for an excellent lunch of pho, the Vietnamese staple that I haven't had for ages. Pho is my favourite soup, and I adore how clean, simple and fresh the flavours are. I also ordered Vietnamese cold coffee which is great and some of the best restaurant coffee in the city (that's the secret, you want good coffee, go to a Vietnamese restaurant). After lunch, S bought a Vietnamese peasant hat (sshh that's part of his Halloween costume, but I'm not allowed to reveal), and I bought a steamer. Now I can make pithey in January, yay!

I could swear I heard the workers and manager at the Chinese market (where I bought the steamer) speak in Vietnamese, which confirms my sense that the Chinatown next to downtown LA has been taken over by the Chinese diaspora from South-east Asia, predominantly the Vietnamese. In any case, this Chinatown was established not by Chinese from the mainland, but Guangdong-hua speaking ones from Hongkong. Hence the large number of dimsum and Cantonese cuisine restaurants. Also, most of the Indonesian restaurants in town are run by Chinese-Indonesians and many of the Thai restaurants are run by Thai-Chinese. The South-east Asian Chinese diaspora has a huge presence in the restaurant business. Here's a really interesting article on Chinese restaurants outside China, that claims that 230 Chinese immigrants run between them 50 Chinese restaurants in Greece!


Anonymous Sanity Starved said...

Yes. Totally agree! You want good coffee, go to a Vietnamese restaurant!

1:42 PM  
Blogger Urmea said...

LOL @ cantankerous old men!

At least you did not have the lowering feeling that you were being match-made at, if you know what I mean! Arghhhh.

2:51 PM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

Pidus, it's the next best thing to taking a flight to Rome and tasting heaven!

Urmi, the man was such a classic Jyathababu. Well S was right next to me, so they could bid those matchmaking thoughts goodbye.

8:10 PM  
Blogger Soumyadip said...

I have been bullied around by bald bongs in all my growing years, a few years down the line it'll be payback time.

Leave a Bengali on the moon and you can't stop him hunting for his iilish.

1:08 AM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

Soumyadip, are you going to keep perpetuating this vicious cycle of jyathagiri pholano? For shame, for shame!

Actually, I'm one of the rare Bongs who doesn't see what the point of Ilish is. To the horror of my parents, I prefer pomfret and halibut.

9:40 AM  
Anonymous Sanity Starved said...

Hmm... Hmm...

I try not to remind myself of Italian coffee...

Hmm... I am trying to tell myself you get good coffee in Seattle too... :-)

10:15 PM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

What part of Italy did you visit Pidus? I'm in love with this one coffee brand, Palombini that you can only get in Rome. The agony! Apparently they do a bit of a wholesale trade in the US, but you have to buy in bulk.

10:14 AM  
Anonymous Sanity Starved said...

:D Oh no! I have not been to Italy :(

But, I had a good Italian buddy of mine who pampered me no end :D

I just hunt down local coffee roasters now. There are usually a few good one around here. There is one here who is really good roaster (Italian, of course!).

However, what's your real name, Thalassa?

2:52 PM  
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4:28 PM  

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