Oct 23, 2006

Of Curd Rice and Life…

One of my favourite dishes of all time is the good old curd rice. I do not try to comprehend the raison-d-etre for this penchant. It could be because, I refuse to let go of the evanescent strings that attach me to my infancy and the general disposition towards mushy things that defines that particular stage of man’s life. Or it may be due to the undisputed fact that my mom happens to be a lousy cook ( she’s a lovely mom, otherwise ) and curd rice is the only edible thing she wasn’t able to leave her signature upon..( touch wood!).

My loyalty to curd rice was given an impetus due to a conversation I chanced to read in the comments section of a blog I like to visit every now and then.And hence this post.
It was a fairly serious conversation, which I belive is on the choices people make in life. (Atleast, that’s what I think it was about…!! ) . Somewhere the commentator quotes Calvin, of C n H fame :
“Some people are pragmatists, taking things as they come and making the best of the choices available. Some people are idealists, standing for principle and refusing to compromise. And some people just act on any whim that enters their heads. I pragmatically turn my whims into principles.”

And the author of the blog responds with this analogy:

I was having dinner yesterday -- curd rice -- and the guy next asks me, "Is that good?"

So, now, of course, what choices do I have -
1) Quote a universal, objective specification about how curd rice should look, feel, smell, taste, compare it with what laid in front of me, and pronounce a judgment.
2) Spend some time with the guy, understand what he means by "good", learn what standards he uses to judge curd rice, whether he likes it cold like me, whether he likes it a little sour like me, and so on, and then give him an answer.
3) Compare the quality of the curd rice I was eating with the standards that I feel "good" curd rice should possess, and then give him an answer.

Now I like to think of myself as pragamtical, idealistic and whimsical (....) and so I decided to make the best of the answers available, at the same time refuse to compromise on the correctness of my answer, and bring my own whimsical notions about curd rice into the picture. So what did I say?

"It feels good to me. I like it a lot."

Of course, you're darned right when you say human experience is the last resort, because all theories fail at some point or the other

Though I got lost in the middle of all this high talk, something caught my eye near the tail. It was this thing about curd rice.

What would I do, if someone sidled up to me when I was relishing the most divine of delicacies, and asked “Is it good?”

Well… I d probably be so engrossed in eating, that I d answer something supremely unintelligible with my mouthful , with all the ensuing sputtering sending the questioner miles away --- getting rid of the choices, my way :-) (maybe by questioning the premises ?)

Or offer the other person a spoonful and let him/her deciede for their own. This option has 4 sub sections.

1. Other person feels its good.
Soliloquist feels its bad.

-- Soliloquist offers the whole of it and looks up into ether to see the halo around her head.

2. Other person feels its bad.
Soliloquist feels its good.

-- Soliloquist twitches her nose in contempt and says “What a snob, not being able to appreciate the simple things in life”

3. Other person feels its bad.
Soliloquist feels its bad.

-- Soliloquist encourages the other person to join her in her lamenting, cursing the cook, the farmer who cultivated the rice, the lactobacilli that curdled the milk, the weather conditions which supported the curdling, the milkman who supplied the milk, the cow that produced it, and so on and so forth. To be concluded with a well-synchronized sigh in chorus.

4. Other person feels its good.
Soliloquist feels its good.

Soliloquist does a Little Miss Muffet, the other person suddenly transfiguring into a Spider.

Last things last, the gist of this post is that each one has is entitled to his own perception, and that there is very less point in trying to theorize a generality out of it. Choices in life, good or bad, ultimately boil down to an individual’s perspective. How much ever we might deny it, it is always the self before the rest. I can put up with something as long as the tolerance thereshold of my comfort zone to environmental blows isn’t crossed. I would rebel if my peace of mind is disturbed beyond my capacity to recover it. I could be wrong , I could be right. But the thing is, the choice is mine to make, and mine to live with. Afterall, curd rice is curd rice. Nothing can beat it. Yum.


Nero said...

So much philosophy in curd rice! You'll go a looong way, Soliloquist.

musafir said...

Nice option you throw up there about asking the other person to try it out for himself/herself. But then the point of the analogy was to draw a parallel to a situation where the other person has to depend on what you tell him. Like you say, it is a premise built into the argument, and not an unfair premise at all, if you ask me. You can use that analogy -- with the assumption, of course -- to question a lot of subjective issues. It works amazingly well.

The 2x2 matrix you have explained assumes that good and bad are like black and white and that there is no spectrum of tastes ... just wondering if that is over-simplifying things?

PS: Went home for Diwali and blogging was the last thing on my mind. Hence, the late reply :-)

The Soliloquist said...

@nero : But I always like the short way out... :-))

@musafir : thanks for commenting... me honoured .. :-)

"the other person has to depend on what you tell him"... Not always... Unless the other person suffers from some sort of handicap...Most of the time, people prefer to have a mind of their own... Even when you have to give your opinion on things, its better to present the facts, (even here, subjectivity steps in... what one may percieve as fact could be fictitious to another..)
and let people form their opinion... (here is where, a person can be a catalyst... nudging the decision makin process and not steering it..)

As for the matrix.. it can always have an higher dimension... But life could actually be simple when we find it complicated... :-) Its never late to retrace one's steps, and ask "why am i doing this " again... Premises do change.. and so does the relevance of anything.. Which brings us back to my intial poser.. "Why should anyone keep trying, and how long"... Sometimes, giving up too seems wiser... (wiser from my perspective, that is... )

The Soliloquist said...

@ musafir : btw.. thought u belonged to chennai.... didnt know you too had to "go home"...

EnGeetham aka "My Song!" said...

Amen (to the curd rice and Yum part of it; to rest, another day)...
I was in China once with a friend of mine - who comes from as much north one could be in India. Our 3d stay ended up finding a good Indian restaurant in Beijing, having whatever we could have and end it with curd-rice... everyday ! Now my friend is a curd-rice convert !! Now, what other delicacy has the power of bringing cultures together ?! :)

musafir said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
musafir said...

"thanks for commenting... me honoured" -- argh, I'm just way too lazy to leave comments (not when it comes to replying to comments), not snobbish or nose-stuck-in-the-air or anything. I lurk around all the time!

"Not always... Unless the other person suffers from some sort of handicap" -- argh again. My meaning was that I used the analogy to explain situations where you are the only one who's experiencing something and the other person asks , "Is that right?" "Is that good?", there being no way for the other person to get a "taste" of the action, so to speak.

"btw.. thought u belonged to chennai.... didnt know you too had to "go home"..." -- Chennai is home :-). It's where I stay and make a living :-). Just that my folks shifted base recently and the "physical" home moved with them.

The Soliloquist said...

@ engeetham : curd rice feels like heaven on a hot day... Ditto for an upset tummy...Must start a fan club...:-)

@ musafir :"not snobbish or nose-stuck-in-the-air or anything"... Gee.. Didnt for a moment consider you so... Just that I feel your writing is definitely a class above mine, and I really am honoured if you respond to the stuff i roll out..

Yes.. i fully comprehend the intention of your analogy. And my response was also pertinent.
Even if the person has no way to "taste" it, its prudent to just say what you think are concrete facts about the curd rice. For instance, the "the temperature, the creaminess, the sourness, the consistency etc..". And let him form some picture, although vague. Ofcourse, all these introduce some amount of subjectivity, but then one can quantify everything.
When the question is subjective, the answer shall be in kind. You get what you seek. The other person can always supplement his question with more queries to get more clarity.

Well... I thought the discussion was about choices.... Which i feel are very much subject to the premises, and dont follow a governing principle ....

supernova said...

nice soliloquy on curd rice!

rahul said...

Hmm! So there's so much to a simple question, "Is that good?" Indeed there is. But, have you ever wondered on how fast our brains go through all of that and bang we have a ready reply :)