Of curd rice & gongura pickle…

DISCLAIMER – My thoughts are mine alone, they are based on real life incidents and real life people. I urge you to not take this writing seriously. I have taken a lot of moral support from Chetan Bhagath’s “Two states” to pen the humorous side in all of us. I am not being racist in my narration, I am being factual. I laugh at myself the most.

I have read Chetan Bagath’s “Two States” and enjoyed it immensely. The author has articulated the nuances of the Tamil community and the Punjabi community brilliantly. As I read the book, I kept nodding my head in affirmation at some of the quirks of the Tamils which would be familiar with the southern diaspora. What I read of the Punjabis was familiar with the interactions that I have had with friends and acquaintances. But, it is indeed fascinating to highlight the diversity within every state and within every sub state of this wonderful country. From the mode of communication to eating habits to dressing habits to thinking habits, the two communities are from Mars and Venus. Tamils have always been regarded to be the curd rice eating, thinking, brainy lots in comparison to the brawny, boisterous , loud Punjabis.

When I was a trainee during my CA days in one of the erstwhile big fours, I had a Tamil boss. A man who knew the Income tax Act and the Companies Act by rote and recited it like nursery rhymes. I was fresh out of college and was more keen in savoring the new found independence of not being restrained by silly timetables and lecturers while the Tamil boss was intent on clipping my burgeoning wings. We were a team of eleven from the first year batch who reported into this man. The first year, eager batch of wanna be Chartered Accountants was a heterogeneous lot with a homogeneous mind set of aspiring CAs. It was a healthy mix of rustic Tamilians, Kannadigas, Sindhi, one Persian ( or so he thought) Anglo Indians and Malus  scattered in for a good measure. Each character had his / her peculiarity and traits that deserved a patent.

The Tamil lot were serious. Their dream of becoming a CA was equal to setting foot on the moon. Their parents were either CAs or Cost Accountants who worked for forty years in the same bank or in a Central Government job. The Tamil Manager was a glorified pain. He chose to separate the chaff from the grains and I was in the chaff category. As a yuppy nineteen year old who saw the CA firm as an outlet to savor my independence, this man was my nemesis. He would sit in his swiveling imitation leather chair, in a boxed up square wooden cubicle and spring up every ten minutes to monitor the work place activities. He would wait for me to walk into the office late so that he could wag his sambhar licking finger at me and tick me off.  My Manager came up with an eureka idea to monitor punctuality. He decided to have an attendance register that would be kept at the reception for us to sign in when we made our appearance. By 9.15 the register would be moved into the Partner’s office, the big man’s office. Those who dared to come in late would have to strut into the Partner’s office and sign his life off and explain themselves to him. The Partner was the Pope of the firm. He could forgive us for our trespasses or banish us from his kingdom or inflict hellish punishments by getting us to clock in extra time.

Now, a great way to overcome a difficult boss is to make in roads with the boss’s boss. I did exactly that. My boss’s boss, the Partner of the erstwhile firm was a rotund Telugu chap.His lisp of certain words would sound like the buzzing of bees. There is an empirical formula for the southern states which is quite handy in building new relationships and mending broken ones. All Malus love Mamooty , Mohanlal and coconut based curries. All Tamils love Kamal, Rajni and idli sambhar. All Kannadigas love Rajkumar. All people from Andhra have jelly knees for the super star “Chiranjivi” and Gongura pickle. The first day when I walked in after 9.15 AM, my Manager under the spell of his universal authority moved the Register to the big chap’s office. Now, I am one who finds it difficult to respect authority. One has to be a Napolean or a Julius Caesar to invoke my meekness. I strode in nonchalantly and smiled at the pudgy Partner who was peering down on a heap of files through his two pairs of round eyes, he was no Caesar and I was not about to hail him. I shrugged off the thought of the pudgy Andhra man sitting in his leather chair with a laurel wreath on his head. ” Good Morning Sir”, I shouted. He was startled. “Yes?”, he questioned. I pointed to the Register that was kept on the book shelf cabinet near his desk. ” I have to sign the register Sir?”. He looked up to the clock, it was close to 9.30 by then. I rambled on about watching some hit Chiranjivi movie of that time the previous night which ended rather late, then i complained about the peak hour traffic in Bangalore that morning and made my approach to the office which was on MG Road ( 5 minutes from my home ) sound more difficult than the migration of the wildebeest from Tanzania to Kenya. I also bravely stated how I single-handedly manoeuvred my way in the hellish roads of Bangalore, risking my life in the process, so that I could sign the revered register when the clock struck 9. He was as anguished as I by the end of the tale spin. He leaned forward and said seriously ” Nothing is more important than being safe”. This was my passport to freedom, I walked in everyday close to 9.30. I would walk into the Partner’s office, sign the Register and make small talk about all things Andhra. From Chiranjivi’s heroics, to gongura pickles.The tamil boss was frustrated with the unexpected developments. He decided to leave the Register at the reception rather than barricade his future progress at the firm via Chiranjivi and gongura pickles. He was convinced I was running him down at the Partner’s office. I let him live with his insecurities.His first operation was a disaster and he planned to gun me down in the second combat.


32 Responses to “Of curd rice & gongura pickle…”

  1. Anand Khare Says:

    Very smart CA. I have noted many clues here and would like to use them judiciously.I hope now you are meeting timelines as a professional.


  2. Sharmila,

    Interesting insights into the makings of a career.

    In fact if you look up the etymology of the word ‘Career’, its exactly meant to be that. A career is the path taken by a horse on its course!

    I graduated a Civil Engineer; did an MBA in Production too. Followed that up with smaller PG in Risk, Journalism, First-Aid, Investigation, Audits, etc; one or two certificates an year since 1986 while doing my job in the ME side-by-side.

    But my primary obsessions have ‘never’ been my bread winners. They have remained a hobby – Which is Philosophy, Religion, History, Epistemology, Metaphysics, Human Anatomy, Genetics, Pharma, Calculus, Engineering Statistics, Quantum Physics, Economics etc.

    I earn my living from sundry secondary skills – as an advisor on operational risks.

    Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why my decision making doesn’t respect Net Present Value of assets!


    • Sudhir – This is mind boggling, There can be no formula to calculate your NPV and FV..trust me! Wow.

      • Thank you Sharmila,

        There is one problem with the habit of learning. There are some subjects which don’t have a proper name!

        Like what do you call the mechanics of internal harmony within a person?

        There must be some discipline or method of coining new words – Mnemonics.

      • Sudhir – How do you manage to remember it all???

      • Thank you, Sharmila,

        I don’t have to recall Sahir’s words. It’s a passion – like the way a good cook remembers a special recipe! 🙂

        I am ever grateful to this magician of words, Sahir Ludhiyanvi. He has saved me from so much effort and heart-burn in finding the right expressions for my feelings.


  3. Anand khare Says:

    Hi Sudhir,

    You are indeed king of all.Missing you on bigb blog.


  4. Reminded me of my internship days, when I could sashay in for the grand rounds any time, all with just a sweet smile for our darling professor – a Tamil brahmin. He wouldnt allow ‘anyone’ to breathe a word against me – not even the assisant professor, much to his chagrin.

    BTW, I am a Kamal, Rajni, idli-sambhar loving Mallu.:P Absolutely love this touch of humor in your posts – made for a very enjoyable and relaxing read.

  5. Thanks Anand and Sharmila.

    I am not a king even in my own world. I am still learning to live with myself. I am happy the way things are.

    About being on AB’s blog, allow me to quote Sahir Ludhyanvi:

    Taaj tere liye ik mazhar-e-ulfat hi sahi
    Tujh ko is vaadii-e-rangeen se aqeedat hi sahi

    Mere mehboob kahin aur milaa kar mujh se!

    … … … Taj Mahal may be a symbol of love for you
    … … … You may even rever this colorful edifice

    … … … But my love, meet me somewhere else!

    Mere mehboob! unhe bhi to muhabbat hogi
    Jinki sannaai ne bakhshi hai isse shakl-e-jameel
    Unke pyaaron ke maqaabir rahe benaam-o-namuud
    Aaj tak un par jalaai na kisi ne qandeel

    … … … My Love! Even those would have loved
    … … … Whose artistry has lent beauty to this facade
    … … … Their love is buried without name or trace
    … … … No one has ever lighted a candle on their coffins

    Ye chamanzaar ye jamunaa ka kinara ye mahal
    Ye munaqqash dar-o-deevaar, ye mehraab ye taaq
    Ik shehanshah ne daulat ka saharaa lekar
    Hum gareebon ki muhabbat ka udaaya hai mazaaq

    Mere mehboob kahin aur milaa kar mujh se!

    … … … This garden, this bank of Yamuna, this palace
    … … … THis well etched doors and walls, this grandeur
    … … … An emperor has used the strength his wealth
    … … … To trivialize the love of poor mortals

    … … … My Love, meet me somewhere else!

    (Translit mine)

    • Sudhir – ha ha ha, trivia is it? lol

      • Oops!

        Transliterating ghazals is a hazardous task! SO many errors in mine.


        … … … No one has ever lighted a candle on their coffins

        Shoud read

        … … … No one lights a candle on their tombs

        And the punch line at the end

        … … … An emperor has used the strength his wealth
        … … … To trivialize the love of poor mortals

        Missed an important ‘of’

        … … … An emperor has used the might of his wealth
        … … … In order to trivialize the love of poor mortals

        (Here I used trivilize in the sense, trivialize is to make something look trivial – not that it is)



      • Sudhir – Lots of hidden meaning here if I may blatantly say so..:)

      • Hidden meanings… true. Not very hidden but rather polite, I thought. 🙂

      • Yes, Sahir sounds like Sudhir and thinks like him

  6. My Dear Sharmila,you are brilliant!I am proud of you.
    Have a safe and pleasant journey to Paris.
    God bless you!
    My love always…saroj

  7. Nice one 🙂

    Reminds me of the days when we used to bend the rules to suit our own requirements, be it at work or during days of college…

  8. ha! ha! reminded me so much of the time when our class mass bunked- blog on that sometime

  9. There seems to be half a day’s time lag between our sites. The time on your blog is always past midnight when I open the page! 😦

    One request. When you post a snap of foodstuff, place some salad with it for congenital veggies like me!


  10. Delightful piece Ms. Sharmila. With just the right hint of all the exotic flavors blended and seasoned to perfection. Great going!

  11. Salman Shahid Alvi Says:

    Its good to know you are a CA…..rather a clever one I would say :p…..

  12. […] (In order to know more on my penchant for the curd rice terminology, please read this previous blog of mine at https://sharmilasays.wordpress.com/2010/02/10/of-curd-rice-gongura-pickle/) […]

  13. government jobs are still the best when it comes to job security ‘-;

  14. Muraliraja Says:

    Seriously!? As a read I pictured the entire event in my mind. A 19 year old Sharmila standing in front of a Telugu boss in a “boxed up square cubicle” lie through her teeth…scene stealer!

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