Right Hand Man – Chapter 4


Read earlier chapters:

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3

The staircase creaked under the weight of the big Detective Sergeant. Fatty let Goon lead the way, making no attempt to force the pace. Three floors up, Fatty cleared his throat and said, “Hang on a minute, chief, I just want to make sure which floor she’s on.”

Goon heaved himself up to the landing and turned to face Fatty. He leaned back against the wall and waited for Fatty to come up to him. Fatty took his notebook out of this pocket and flicked through the pages.

“Where did it go, now. Let me see.”

He flipped through the pages, going back and forth.

“Ah, yes. Here we are. Mrs Miller, Apartment 605. ”

He looked up to see Goon watching him.

“You ok, chief?”

Goon grunted and motioned him up the stairs. Fatty stepped past Goon and as he did so he felt a heavy hand on his shoulder.

“Thanks,” said Goon.

Fatty started up the stairs and Goon followed. Wordlessly, they continued the climb. On the fourth floor the carpet that had lain threadbare on the steps completely disappeared. Bare unpolished, deeply scarred wood scraped under the soles of the two policemen mounting their challenge upon the sixth floor. Fatty waited for Goon to join him at the landing of the sixth floor.

“Well, here we are, boss. Mrs Miller is down the corridor, I think.”

Goon took a big blue hanky out of his pocket and mopped his brow and neck. Fatty walked along the doors and stopped at the third door on the right.

“605 it is.”

He waited for Goon to join him and on his nod, he rapped his knuckles on the door. There came the sound of of a door squeaking softly. Down at the end of the corridor, a door opened slightly and a pair of eyes peered at the two policemen.

“Curiosity, chief, is the leading symptom of neighborliness”, said Fatty. He knocked on the door of 605 again.

Shuffling, scraping noises indicated that some life existed inside. The door opened a crack and a wizened old face looked out at them.

“Yes? Who may you be?” Her voice was surprising strongly.

“It’s the police, ma’am. Is Mrs Miller home?”, said Fatty.

Down the corridor the door that was ajar closed suddenly.

“Ah yes. I’m Mrs Miller. Come in then. You took your time getting here.”

Fatty waited for Goon to enter before following him in. He shut the door behind him.

“This is Detective Sergeant Goon, ma’am, and I’m Constable Trotteville.”

“So young. What is your name, Constable? I shall call you Jimmy.”

“My name is Freddie, ma’am. But you can call me Jimmy, if you wish.”

“If your name is Freddie, I will call you Freddie, not Jimmy.”

Goon cleared his throat with a deep rumbling, rasping growl.

“Now look here, Mrs Miller”, he started.

“Tea, Mr Goon, I think you’ll like my tea. And some biscuits for Jimmy, yes?”

She bustled out into the kitchen. Goon looked at Fatty, who shrugged.

“Let me help you, ma’am”, he called out as he walked into the kitchen.

Goon looked around the room, noting  the faded upholstery, the neatly arranged pieces of china. He walked over to a side table that held a family of dogs. White with little brown patches, the dogs shared the same misshapen ears and bushy tails. On the walls were framed paintings with fields of sage, gardens aglow with flowers or valleys basking under blue skies. Little bits of cheer in a decidedly threadbare room. On a console table stood two photographs in silver frames. One had a handsome young man in a military uniform, with a glint in his eyes, a handlebar moustache adorning his upper lip. The other showed a couple, smiling and in love.

“Tempests, ma’am, that is wonderful! I have always wondered what it would have been like to fly one.”

Fatty entered, wearing a starched white apron and carrying a tray on which was a teapot under a tea-cozy, three cups and saucers and a creamer.

“On the table there, dear”, right there. And you sit here in this chair. Mr Goon can sit here in George’s chair”

Goon sat down gingerly, after a slight hesitation and watched Mrs Miller pour out the tea. Fatty took off his apron and folded it neatly. He sat down with the folded apron on his knee and took the cup and saucer offered to him.

“Thank you, ma’am”, he said, “this smells lovely. Just like tea should. It’s not easy to get good tea, is it, Mr Goon?”

“Uh, no. Ma’am, can we ask you..”, he tailed off as Mrs Miller cut him off.

“All in good time, my good man. Tea isn’t something to be ignored.”

“Mrs Miller, you have a lovely flat. This furniture is really nice. You don’t get this kind of quality anymore. Have you always had this?”, said Fatty, peering at her over his cup.

“Oh yes. George would not buy just any old thing. He had a good eye for furniture. He liked solid well built things. He had a great deal of trouble with salespeople who tried to sell him cheap things. He would rather go without, than buy anything that wouldn’t last. He could tell, you see. George could.”

“So you must have lived here a long time, then.”

“Thirty years, Freddie. Thirty lovely years. George and I moved here when he got the job at the sewing machine factory. He was good with his hands. When he was in the RAF, he liked to work with the aircraft technicians.”

Goon cleared his throat and looked at Fatty.

“Uh, Mrs Miller, you know, we’re policemen and we’re here in response to your call.”

“Yes. I know, Freddie, my boy. If you’ve finished your tea, I’ll tell you why I called.”

Goon put his cup away and said “Please tell us, ma’am.”

“Well, it’s really quite simple. Some one is trying to kill me.”

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A Couple of Choices – Free Sample


As you know, by now, I wrote a book. Which isn’t quite the same thing as “I had okra masala for lunch”. Nothing is! It is, however, quite an achievement of sorts, I’m told. In any case, it’s there on Amazon to be admired, mocked, bought, read and otherwise digested.

So far, the reviews have been positive. In my helpful way, I provide a sample.

  • I like the style of narration – a play format. No over-boarding on the descriptions. Just what is necessary to set the mood of the characters.
  • I often wondered what if a couple don’t get a divorce and yet live separate lives? Will they ever get back when they are older and are mature to mend their relationship (for whatever reasons that prompted the initial separation), and this story poignantly answers my questions.
  • The characters were etched with perfection.
  • Editing and narration were quite smooth.
  • Enjoyed the subtle humor along the story.
  • “When you make choices, you make choices based on data available. What was the data? Let’s assemble the data.” Now that is pure Ajesh 🙂I’m really enjoying the book!
  • Really really liked your book! Its a wonderful short read and i think it was so perfect in the “Play”format. Guys do read this one! Its a book about relationships,about choices made, about life. One of my favourite lines from the book “Life is about having the people you love and the people who love you around you. Life is about them. And you.Together” Ajesh Sharma am looking forward to your next one..and all the very best for “A Couple of Choices”

Of course, there was one person who did not like it.

“Knowing your writing a bit, I was expecting more. You could have done a lot better”

I’m chalking that one up as a positive endorsement of my writing…. ( take it where you can get it, is my motto.)

On Goodreads, I have a single 5.0 rating for the book.

All in all, a fairly quiet yet positive start

Almost unanimously, people have praised the cover. If we were to judge the book by it’s cover, this book is definitely worth reading. And you can read it by paying the fee, ( nominal, about the cost of a cup of Starbucks coffee – basic, no frills!! ).

Or you can read a free sample. yes. FREE! Click the link below.

https://read.amazon.ca/kp/card?asin=B07836YLTW&preview=inline&linkCode=kpe&ref_=cm_sw_r_kb_dp_RTNrAbCSYM6HD

A Couple of Choices – The Big Release


#ACoupleofChoices

Well, it’s out there now. Go to Amazon and search for “Ajesh Sharma” or “A Couple of Choices”. It’s my book. On Amazon.

Buy it, even if it’s only me recommending it. Have I ever let you down? Ok, so you had to wade through my recipes to get to the juicy bits, and you had to put up with my very long-winded articles. But be that as it may, this is a short book. Easy reading. Only about 20 of my usual blog posts.

Plus there are no prosy descriptions of clouds, trees, cliffs and seas. The kind of poetic stuff that usually slows you down in your reading. You know that’s true!

Yes. I guarantee it. It is full of dialogues. People saying things to each other. That’s it! What could be simpler?

The Final Reason

A few months ago, you folks took part in a poll, to help me decide how to end the play. Check out the poll here( Digression Alert #1: Wow, that ages ago! In May, 2017! I really am a lazy chap, aren’t I? )

Compare your vote with the the ending I have provided. Prepare to exult or not at achieving the ending you desired!

Go ahead – click your way to Amazon and get your copy of the greatest thing since my breakfast today of honey nut cheerios. See link below.

The Coffee Post – 2


So now we get to The Great Coffee Crisis of 2017. In Part 1, I had introduced you to the lovely ladies who were so instrumental in driving me mental. Yes, these ladies created the crisis, consigned me to the consomme and a fate worse than death – instant coffee. They watched in stony silence as I was reduced to a drooling, slobbering, drowsy semi-comatose le mort vivant over a period of 3 weeks. Telle est la femme, comment? C’est la vie, ooh la la, tiens! Tres comatose! Yes, well, almost.

Hey listen, I survived 2.5 weeks in La Belle France ( the real one, not the fake one they have up here in Canada ) on my ability to speak Franglaise like a badly educated peach tree. I practiced before going. I spent about 15 whole minutes in front of the mirror holding up 2 fingers and mouthing “oon cafay no aar. oon cafay olay. We must have coffee!”. Actually, I didn’t, being rather more pre-occupied about baby-pink shorts, to take or not, decision of.  I’m sure you understand by now that coffee plays no mean part in keeping me from being a mean and nasty person. Oh ok! Meaner and nastier. Happy?

Well, anyway, back to the crisis. (Digression Alert #1: Why do you let me digress so much? Really! You need to exercise greater control. Which, I realize, as I write this, is hard to do, because you get to see this only after I have digressed handsomely in all directions. )

Well, in mid-winter of 2016-2017, viz, January, I was deserted by My Beloved Bangalan, probably the most beauteous of all the ladies in my household. So for a period of 3 whole months, I was left to my own devices amongst whom exists the boxy Syntia, with whom you became acquainted in Part 1. Usually Syntia is the epitome of efficiency. Her main idiosyncrasy is a distaste for oily beans, such as Starbucks seems to manufacture. She can also sometimes get into a “mood”. When in such a mood she starts showing orange error messages on her little screen. Most of these messages are of the nature “Decalcify me NOW!”, or “For god’s sake, change the filter!!”. Sometimes she wants me to take apart her inner unit and give it a bath followed by an oily application to the joints.

In late January, she thew up a bunch of errors and then proceeded to go on strike. I took the inner brew circuit out and gave it a lovely bath and let it air dry for a day. However, when I tried fitting it back again, Syntia refused pointblank to allow the brew circuit back in. I pushed, prodded, patted, peered, posed and peeked. Syntia refused to accept the brewing mechanism.

Brow furrowed, I turned to Mlle Presse and pressed her into action. She was willing enough. Until, 2 weeks in, I ran out of coffee powder. Then I realized that Mlle Presse is a bit too big for a single person and thus guzzling coffee powder in a rather wasteful manner. Also, she was slow and ponderous and needed support staff in the form of The Whistling Frenchman. She expected, nay, demanded, that The Whistling Frenchman did his whistling act before she was ready to initiate her work. All in all, a lot of fuss and a lot of waste.

Time, therefore, to whip out the shapely Italian, the steamy one. La Signorina Caffettiera a Filtro was  rescued from the confines of the cupboard and put to work. I paired her with Illy, the swarthy Swiss; he providing the flavour, she providing the steam. It worked well that first day. The Swiss’ flavour is among the best in the coffee business and La Signorina is efficient when she puts her mind to it.

The next day, however, I realized that I had to strip La Signorina down and give her a bath before she could perform her pas de deaux with Illy. Resignedly, I did and was rewarded with another great cup of coffee, thickly dark with a strong flavour. The third day and every day after, I went through the ritual of stripping and showering her. It quickly became tiresome.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, or rather, the GO Transit Station, things were getting even more annoying. Usually, My Beloved Bangalan drives me to the station dropping me 3 metres from the transit card reader at the top of the tunnel to the platform. Normally, this is performed even as the train pulls into the station and a steady walk down the stairs, through the tunnel and up the stairs to the platform gets me to the train just before it comes to a halt, the door turned towards my hand. However, remember I told you that She Who was not in town. This meant that I had to drive myself to the station, find a parking slot, then zip up the jacket, push the toque on my head lower, pick up my bag, lock the door and start the long 800 metre walk to the card reader at the top of the stairs.

This was now early February, the coldest month of the winter in the Tundra, where I live. Temperatures are pretty cavalier about getting into the negative teens. The walk from the car to the train usually meant watery eyes and a pronounced sniff. Added to this was a move to a different workplace. So far, my workplace had been a shortish 5 minute walk up the street from the station. But in February, it was decided to move the whole team out near the CN Tower, the needle that shapes the Toronto skyline. Let me draw you a map.

Notice the duration. 11 minutes. Remember also that you have to walk down the platform at Union, then down a precariously steep set of stairs just to get to the concourse. Note also that, while an extensive underground PATH system exists, it is of no earthly use to a commuter bent on getting to office efficiently. This means that the only way to get to work is walk for 11 or 12 minutes. In temperatures hovering in the negative 10s or single digits. Along slippery, icy, slushy sidewalks. Amongst other commuters, some going the other way. Carrying a bag.

That’s when I discovered that my winter boots were split wide open.

< to be continued >

Dunkirk Review – Part 2


Well, it’s like dBaseII, there never really was a dBaseI and look how successful it was in destroying the sanctity of the concept of 3rd-normal data. This review, Part 2, will likely destroy the sanctity of the concept of the film review. The reasons are simple. I have no idea how to review a movie, or a book, or a play. Did I tell you that I am the proud playwright of a 3-Act play? I did? Ok, that was a digressive plug for when I finally pluck up the courage to submit it to Amazon.

But now to the movie, the one I did not get to reviewing in Dunkirk Review – Part 1.

It started well, with chest-thumping action with a point-of-view feel to it. It broke down the action from Land, Sea and Air. There were no German soldiers to be seen anywhere. Except for the air action, we did not get to see any enemy action. Yes, we saw the torpedoes and shells causing damage and we heard German soldiers shoot at a boat where some British soldiers were hiding. Given the scale of the BEF forces lined up dutifully, one wonders why the soldiers were idling their time shooting at a beached boat. I, who famously failed to decipher on screen action once as a hormone-overloaded teenager ( click here to read that horrible date story ), now failed to understand that piece of action as a middle-aged dimwit. I searched the web, and interestingly, I’m not the only one mystified by that. Uh, yay?

For a while I thought it would become a story of that duo trying everything to get off the beach to safety. It didn’t. I thought we’d see the scale of the operation. We didn’t. I thought the sky would be filled with German planes and the few planes that Churchill allowed. It wasn’t. We didn’t get the feel of the Blenheims and Battles being outclassed by the Me109s. We barely saw the Hurricanes who did so much and focused instead on the lone Spit. Dramatic for people born in the 2000s, not so for those born less than 20 years after the end of the war and fed a steady diet of the heroics of the Hurricanes and Spitfires against the Me 109s and FW-190s. And where the hell were the Stukas? ( ok – don’t write in… there were no FW-109s at Dunquerque, I know that!)

The film focused on focused tales of a few soldiers among the thousands that were there, scared, defiant, angry, hopeful and resigned. From a film makers, perspective, not a bad way to dramatize. But we didn’t get any background on them, and they played their parts as pieces in Nolan’s chessboard, never really moving the game forward, never really standing out as defining moments in the film.

The Spitfire pilots, focused on their fuel, while holding off the 109s and shooting down torpedo bombers were  amongst the  most compelling actions of the film. We knew he’d be running out of fuel though. We knew he’d fight on, regardless. We knew, but it was watchable.

We didn’t see the scale I was expecting to see. For example, we didn’t see the hundreds of “Little Ships” that sailed across the choppy Channel. We didn’t see scale in the Air. We didn’t see scale in the Sea. We sort of got a glimpse of the scale on the ground with the BEF men lined up in long snakes.

By Stavros1 – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9944300

The best part of the movie from a dramatic point of view, was the story of “Mr Dawson”, the dramatized version of Charles Lightoller story. It was human, it was brave, it was sad, tragic and an ultimate triumph of the human spirit over adversity, cowardice and personal tragedy.

You may now be wondering how many stars I’m going to give this. I’m not handing out any. In two separate articles that I have written before, I have discussed the issue of reviews, critics and their place in society. It is one of the reasons why I don’t offer written reviews of anything. A rule that I have now broken. If you’re interested in reading those views ( or if you are a glutton for punishment ), here is the first one and the other one.

Enjoy.

Hint: I like bhindi ( okra, if American ). You may not. Neither of us is right or wrong. We just have different tastes. If you still wish to judge, may I suggest reading this riveting and caustic article about judgement?

Thank you! Over and out!

Dunkirk – Review Part 1


This is a first ever. A review on SloWord. A review of a movie. So lets get started. With some preliminary chatter in this Part 1 of The Great New World of Reviews.

On a Friday evening in September, with the eminently unwelcome autumn imminent, I arrived at Streetsville GO station after another week of toil and trials. As I stepped off the train, I had thoughts only of the Friday staple of junk food,  time in front of the tv and a late and welcome bed. As I got into the car, She Who Will Never Be Tamed  said “I was thinking, we could see a movie. You know, go to the theatre-hall. There are a couple of things that are a possibility.”

Ever ready for a date night, I accepted with the grace for which I am world-famous in my basement. First, however, we went home so I could dump my laptop, water the flowers at the back and the lawn in front, which I accomplished with Kronenbourg 1664 in one hand, my first alcoholic beverage in 2 months. ( And it was good.)  We  checked out what was playing and narrowed it down to Baby Driver and Dunkirk.

Dinner, it was decided, would be at Scaddabush. I called to make a reservation and was told they don’t take reservations. I asked about the wait and was told ten minutes. I drove there, dropped her off to book a table while I parked the car, to make sure we wouldn’t have too long to wait. She gave in her number and was told by the young girl that she would get a text in the next 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, we went back in to check on the status and were told that they had nothing available for at least another 45 minutes. The girls at the front could have cared less about two middleaged people. This was my second such experience at this particular Scaddabush. I am never going to attempt going there again.

So we went next to Jack Astors, where the music’s loud and the lights are low. The food is usually forgettable and so it proved. The Feisty Bird Sandwich didn’t live up to its name, arriving as it did in a large hot dog bun. Still it did have some sharp sauce, pickled banana peppers and french fries on the side. Having already had my regulation one beer for the evening ( see above, flowers, yard, lawn, watering of ), I had Coke. We got through the meal, chatted with the server who sported a rather large piece of yellow fauna in her hair, which matched her large persona, but provided a slightly lopsided look, like a ship listing home from a severe storm.

Talking of ships, but hang on a second, we still had tickets to buy. We drove across the street to the theatre and walked in prepared to visit the counter and buy our tickets to the show. We were greeted by a large sign where the ticket counter used to be, that said, “Counter Closed – Go Away and figure out how to use the internet or those ticket machines on either side of you. Behind you! On either side! Pick anyone of them!” or words to that effect. So we walked over to the ticket machine and touched the screen where it said “Dunkirk”. Baby Driver was not playing, even though the internet site we had checked before leaving had said so. I resolved, then and there, never to trust the internet again. Of my profound loss of trust in an institution into which I had placed my soul, my mind, and to which I had entrusted my news, my opinions, my facts, I shall speak no more. Suffice it to say, faith was broken.

So the machine said, “Ok, what kind of human are you? Child upto the age of 12? The usual sort between 13 and 65? or Senior 65+?” Resisting the urgings of She Who to pick pretend I was 65+, I picked “Usual type”. It then asked me how many of this type. I pressed the + sign and it said “Forward two! Bring forth your wallet! Now pick what kind of payment method you want to use?”

I picked, at the urging of the elbow to the left of the solar plexus, “Gift Card”. The machine, said “Pay up $25.86. “. The card mewed “I have just $25 on me”. I expected the gentlemanly response of “It’s ok. I’ll take $25 off the gift card, but you still owe me 86 cents. So handover a credit or debit card”.

Well, machines are not gentlemen. This one was most certainly not a gentleman. It denied the transaction. Proving yet again that computer programmers are morons and their bosses are imbeciles. She who walked away to find someone, went to the popcorn counter and bought tickets. ‘Oh yeah, those ticket machines do that…”.

Muttering darkly under my breath about Business Analysts, Programmers, and business leads who I’d have fired forthwith if they had been under my command, I was dragged off by the good lady before I had a chance to let a few people know my  true feelings. Then we were seated in well lit, but bedraggled theatre, with seats that were quite the worse for wear, spilled water in the aisle. There was another middle aged couple already seated, speaking in strong East European accents. We sat in silence for about 10 minutes, before an interminable series of advertisements, app-based trivia games that you could play along with the big screen did not enthrall us. More people trickled in, the trivia game kept coming on, ending in “Demo Mode” because no one was signing on to play.

Eventually, the movie started.

In Part 2, yet to be written, we shall actually review the movie. Patience is a virtue, remember!

All-time Fantasy Grammys


This photograph has absolutely no relevance to the post. I just want to know if anyone notices these captions that I so carefully put up.

So the Grammy’s were on the other day. I did not watch. I find they refuse to nominate me or give me awards. Clearly this is discrimination against the talentless unknowns. As Supreme Peon and Idiotic Twit (SPIT) of the Council for Recognition of Atonal Performers (CRAP), I therefore called for a boycott from my basement office. This was met with universal and unanimous approval across the Council, whose current membership is somewhat higher than 0 peaking as high as 1.

Actually the past Grammies were a few months ago. But as we come to the end of the year, it’s time when a new set rolls around soon. So, CRAP has decided to conduct it’s own ceremony, using a redesigned set of … erm… what’s the word I’m looking for, cats come into it, .. catacombs? No. Categories! Nominees are then nominated ( well, what else would they be?) and the winner selected by a selection of select selectors selected from residents of my basement office. Each category will consist of  between 1 and 4 nominees, possibly 6 or maybe eight. It may be higher. We don’t know yet, we haven’t written that far yet.

Votes will be counted online without the use of any accountants, who, to the best of my knowledge cannot count, tending, as they are wont to do, towards making the difference between the left and right side equal to zero. This is how they make a difference, actually. By making the difference zero. One of the reasons I failed at my accounting career, was due to my failing to make a difference = 0. The other reason was apathy, ennui, laziness and general interest in other things, such as wine, women and song. And cricket. But enough about me. Onwards to the awards! First, however, we need categories.

If you’ve read SloWord at all you will know that I don’t mean the boring ( and arbitrary ) categorizations they use at the actual Grammies. I mean categories, real categories, you know, like “Most Warbly”, “Best Falsetto”, “Most Screechy”.

That sorta thing… let your imagine go. Break those shackles that limit your creativity at work and let your mind run free.

Categories selected will receive due credit on the blog. Think of the sheer magnificence of it – your name on SloWord!!

Once categories have been categorized, we will move on to step 2. The Nomination. ( Or Abomination, if you have a cold… )

So there you have it! Bring it on.

SloWord is an equal opportunity pretentiousness prodder! Caste no bar! Language no bar! Age no bar! We accept blondes, brunettes, long hair, short hair, no hair! Shirt and shoes no bar! Barre chords no bar!

Here are some categories I came up with, with some sample nominations

  • Weirdly Falsetto Vocals
  • Song of Hate
  • Pearls Among Disco
  • Tree-hugger Hippie
  • College Life
  • A Beatle or a Rolling Stone
  • Psychedelic Mindbend aka The Great Trip
  • Calcutta Sunday Afternoon
  • What the heck?
  • Emotionally Weird

The game then, is to send in your nominations for every category that excites you. If you wish to create your own category, write in and let me know.

Get on it!

The Great Festive Okra Recipe


A very dear friend, who really should have known better, asked me for an okra recipe, because I’m the greatest bhindi lover she knows, she says. She’s having guests over next weekend and rashly decided to make bhindi and recklessly appealed to me for a suitable recipe. I, being the kind of helpful chap I am, will give her two. This is the first of them. Tomorrow, ( yes, I promise! ) you get the other one! Remind me to tell you about her, some day…

A word about this recipe. This ain’t your normal run-of-the-mill okra recipe; the kind I whip together from a frozen pack of pre-cut okra. The kind that goes from freezer to plate in about 19.89655 minutes. Approximately. I don’t actually time these things. But I straddle Leo and Virgo, so some attempt at precision is indicated. Just to keep the Virgo half happy.

Well, then… Actually, I have a story about “Well then.” Umpteen million years ago when I was pretending to study for my university degree course, I joined some dramatic people. Theatrical types. No, no, they didn’t walk around declaiming, exclaiming and emoting. I meant folks involved in the dramatic arts. My acting career actually ended in an under-rehearsed, under-produced commercial rendition of “Spring Awakening”, by Franke Wedekind. One of the characters was called Wendla. Accents being strange things, one of the other actors always pronounced it as “Vendla”. Ever since then, I have always, in my head, said “Vell then, Vendla!”, when confronted with the need to say “Well, then.” Not much of a story. Not much of a role, my role in this play. A bit part, with one line at the funeral, which was effectively the requiem for my thespianism.

Vell, zen, zis is a recipe for a party, one that includes guests you want to impress a bit. It is likely, that telling them you read my blog is not going to be enough. There is, to be fair, always the chance that they may not be impressed by okra, ( bhindi, if Indian ). But if you tell them that this recipe is complicated and that you had to not just follow a complicated recipe but also had to read this blog at the same time, you should see their eyes widen and new respect dawn over their faces. Especially, if they have experienced this blog. ( If not, ask them why not? )

So here goes:

Ingredients

1 kg of fresh bhindi ( “okra” if North American, “ladies finger”, if English speaking Indian ). This recipe is really hard to do with the frozen variety.

2 medium onions

1 ( or 2 ) ( or more ) green chillies ( Thai chillies )

The masala paste from a jar of Indian pickle ( achar, if Indian ) of your choice

Salt to taste

Turmeric – a quarter teaspoon

Garam masala ( melange of Indian spices – coriander, cumin, cinnamon, cardamom etc) < Digression Alert: Why so many spices starting with “C”? Write in and tell me why; I want to know. Please? >

Oil – vegetable oil of your choice.

Equipment

A food processor. One that pulverizes vegetables into pulp.

Something to stir with. I find the best bet is one of those flat things the Bengalis call khunti. It’s like a small ice-breaker, the kind we in the frozen Tundra need of a winter ( 9 months in a year ) to break down the sheet of ice on the walkways and driveways.

Method

Wash the okra. Pat dry. Set aside to dry some more.

Set up the food processor.

Peel the onions and cut into half, then quarter. First cut this way and then cut that way to do so.

Chuck the onions into the food processor. Bung in the green chilli ( or chillies ).

Whiz the thing together till you get an onion paste. Drain it well.

Now take each okra one by one and make an incision in the side of each. Try, very hard, not to slit it from end to end. Watch your palm! Take your time and use a sharp knife. I would suggest start early in the morning around 6am, if guests are expected to arrive at 6pm. But, look at it this way, you can recount the extra effort and gain the admiration of those of your guests who are easily impressed. Think positive.

Now have a look at the onion paste. Drain again.

To the onion paste add the pickle paste making an onion pickle paste. Now stuff it. I mean, stuff this mixture into each incision of each okra. When done, sigh under your breath and wonder why you ever started this.

Heat oil in a pan, kadhai. Let it heat up nice and hot.

To the oil, add the okra. Let fry a bit. Then add salt, garam masala in turmeric. Sometimes to make things exciting I switch the order in which I add the salt and spices. You can too. Be adventurous.

Now use the khunti, and gently, turn over. The bhindi! Not you!

Turn the heat way, way down. Let it simmer gently. Turn sparingly. Occasionally.

Serve

Serve with parathas, my preference, or any Indian bread of your choice. Sprinkling with fresh coriander leaves is superfluous. Besides, you just spent about 3 hours painstakingly slitting and stuffing. Forget the coriander.

If you let me know in advance, I will fly out for the taste test. Anything, for a friend, really. I’m very friendly and helpful that way.

Copyright as shown. I didn’t have pics of my own and time is of the essence. This is sort of what it will look like when done.

A Couple of Choices


I’m still here. Been busy as a bee. And I need your help. But before we get to that… we have to digress a bit.

<Digression Alert: But why are bees always represented as being busy? Why not busy as an ant? Have you ever seen an ant lying around goofing off? No, right? But bees get all the credit for being busy, when, in fact, all they do is buzz around, pollinating flowers. Well, I guess they give us honey for my toasted English muffins. And of course, the thought that if we get rid of the bees, we’d have only twenty years to live before we die of starvation and cannibalism gives us pause.>

I know, you love those Digression Alerts! Nobody else alerts you like SloWord does. How absolutely darling we are here at SloWord. But now folks, we have to tell you why we’ve been busy. Busier than a hibernating bear. Busier than a Punjabi Pasta. Busier than a Bollywood dream sequence. Busier than… you get the idea, right? I’ve been busy.

Why have I been busy? Let’s consider the facts.

  1. I wake up at the crack of dawn.
  2. I undergo the usual morning ablutions plus additional special ceremonies to maintain the facade.
  3. I climb up and down flights of stairs carrying a bag.
  4. I catch commuter trains by the skin of my teeth, throwing them this way and that. ( Yes. I’m kidding. )
  5. I climb up and down steep, dangerous stairs among a crowd of other death marchers.
  6. I walk 12.785647 minutes to work.
  7. I drag a wheeled bag behind me as I cross streets, dodge other pedestrians.
  8. I undergo severe stress testing all day surviving on a single cup of dark roast coffee.
  9. I walk 12.785647 minutes to the station.
  10. I climb the steepest, narrowest stairs to the train platform.
  11. I ride home on the train.
  12. I stare at the ceiling for 3.986643 hours
  13. I repeat steps 1-10 the next day.
  14. I teach for 4.4637 hours on Saturday afternoons.
  15. I stare at chores for 12.5857 hours on Sunday.
  16. I go back to step 1.

Notice, what’s missing from that list? Exactly! No writing time. No time for you. No time for pandering to the polity that politely passes-up the possible pleasure of perusing posts such as this. In the interest of fairness and full disclosure I should mention that I have exaggerated a bit. It doesn’t actually take 12.785647 to walk between the station and work. It’s only 11.9863 minutes.

I’m hoping that my disarming honesty will charm you into wastin… I mean, indulging me a little.

For I have an announcement to make. Very soon now, you will be able to look for this on Amazon.

(c) Ajesh Sharma

Yes. True fact! I cannot tell a lie. I wrote a play and it will be available on Amazon as an e-book very soon.

How soon, you ask? Soon. As soon as I can read each stage direction and edit and re-edit for the 45th time.

What’s it about?

Ok. This is how it goes. Alex and Phyllis are estranged, middle-aged couple, who have never divorced. He moved away to the other end of the country. Ten years have gone by. They have two children. Mark is now married. Andrea is engaged and is planning her wedding. Phyllis calls Alex to say she is coming to visit him. The curtain goes up as he prepares for her arrival. What happens next? Do they resolve their differences? What do the kids think of all this? What about Linda, Alex’s agent?

And what happens at the end? You can help me decide. Vote below and tell me what you think happens when the curtain falls. Gives me your best guesses and wildest endings!

#ACoupleofChoices

Socks


Not the cat….

You know this, already. No cats allowed at SloWord. This one is dedicated to actual socks, the things you wear on your feet. Like this one.20160620_183944.jpg

Contrary to what you may be thinking, I am perfectly sane. Socks are mysterious creatures. They are prone to a half-life without the means of radioactivity. They are excellent at camouflage, merging into the texture of life without any provocation. And they do that with only half of a pair, which is a wond’rous feat. All other animals have to either disappear 100% or not at all. Socks are the only creatures on this planet that can lose exactly half of themselves. There is no point in looking for the other half, believe you me. When a sock half goes amok, it goes AWOL for good.

Socks are an essential, but much maligned and much neglected component of our daily lives. People blame socks for many of the ills in our society, such as body odor, poor elasticity and an over-dependence on function over aestheticism. With this article, I shall give socks the place they deserve in society. By the time this goes viral, socks will have been raised to the level they deserve, somewhere between marmalade on toast and purple floppy hats.20161116_090218.jpg

See, socks are important, that’s why we have so many idioms that are built around socks. To quote Brave Sir Launcelot, socks are “right for my um, ah,  idiom”. One bright and regular correspondent remarked that there is an idiom for every idiot. It may well be that she was calling me an idiot. I haven’t had time to investigate that yet. In any case, the fact is that socks feature in many idiotic idioms, for all idioms are somewhat idiotic. {Digression Alert: What does “handsome is as handsome does?” mean??? The grammar just does not work for me. Nounifying an adjective is even worse in my book than verbifying a noun. Remind me to let the Peeved Punjabi rant about these horrendously horrifying verbal and grammatical monstrosities created by otherwise bright MBAs. And yes, I do know that I just made up shit like nounifying and verbifying… It was meant ironically. }

So then let’s look at these idiomatic idiocies using the idiom of socks. I mean, what else do you have to do? You’re here, because you don’t have anything better to do, don’t you? So here we go then.

Keep your socks on.

It could well be that you are a prudent and calm person, at peace with your neighbors and colleagues at work and you wish them well. You, therefore, keep your socks on, and keep your socks, too, calm and boring. Like these boring, all grey socks.img-20160426-wa0050.jpeg

Yaaaawwwwn.

Maybe, you let yourself go once in a while and you indulge your wilder side and slip into something like this next one, or the first two sober-tending-to-rebellion ones.

img-20161015-wa0012.jpeg

Pull your socks up!

You’ve heard this saying, right? It’s meant to pep you up. It’s a multi-vitamin of sorts. It’s a threat and encouragment rolled into one. This demonstrates broad appeal and versatility. Rather like this example.20160826_073329.jpg

When you put these on, you will get going. Your socks will be pulled up, man! Actually, these are pretty long socks, going well up my shin, so they are pulled up quite normally. Slip into these socks when you have that big presentation to make and you will slay ’em. How can they possibly resist the strength, the sheer magnetism,  the brilliant reflection of blues emanating from your feet? The correct answer is, they cannot. These socks exude uncompromising power. If they don’t keel over and curl into a fetal position at this, you know you have a tough crowd to deal with and you better initiate Plan B. (Plan B is also known as “Bamboozle with Bullshit”. Thus, Plan B. See? Now you know. You’re welcome.)

Put a sock in it!

I know, you’ve often felt like saying it when you read this blog. I wish, you’ve said to yourself, when you’ve been busy reading my recipes, that he would get on and get to the recip
e already! Which proves one thing. You talk to yourself, just as I do. Which, by the way, apparently makes you a genius. I wrote an article about that once. Read it here. See how reading SloWord makes you feel better? No self-help and motivational book can bring you the peace SloWord can. No Deepak can bring you the light this next pair of socks can.

( Ask a Hindi speaking friend about that last sentence. It’s brilliant, really. Not because I wrote it, which I did, and therefore, it is, but because it’s cross-lingual in it’s flamboyance. Also, look up “modesty” in the dictionary.)

20161204_185754.jpgThis beauty of a pair that will make your pulse rate pulsate. Feast your eyes on it. Savour the richness of the contrasts. Orange, blazing bright, overshadowing the bright blue. One glance at these little beauties and they’ll be putty in your hands. Though why anyone would want that greasy putty in their hands, I have no idea.

Sock it to me!

Without further ado.img-20160828-wa0002.jpeg

If that didn’t sock it to ya, you’re probably the type that chews broken bottles for breakfast. These are bombastic, bright, brilliant, bright, colorful and bright. In short, they’re bright. In pink shorts and these socks, you will make a statement. “Look at me”, you will effectively scream, nay, shriek. But, pause and think, when you do look at them, the world becomes brighter and isn’t a brighter world what we all desire? Countless saints, sadhus and meditative specialists have sought a world that was devoid of darkness and have tried to inflict their teachings on to you. Many of them have made millions of dollars in the process. I may be onto something here…..

Knock your socks off.

Now we’re getting into the really top of the line stuff, not for the faint of heart. Readers discretion advised. Readers with sensitive eyes are advised to use sunglasses, or look through photonegative paper. I’m not quite sure where you would find such paper nowadays. I suppose you could try looking at it through the viewfinder or preview screen of your digital camera.

(SloWord, its writer, its writer’s family and descendants are not liable for any retinal damage, nervous tics and disorders or any medical conditions arising out of the viewing of such imagery as may be found here. Proceed with caution.)

img-20160827-wa0000.jpeg

img-20161016-wa0005.jpegPaired with navy blue sneakers with lime green accents, these really bring out the, uh, er, hmm, aah. Well. You come up with something…

I suggest a stiff drink to calm your nerves.

All socks portrayed here are the property of the writer and no socks were harmed in the photographic process.