Thursday, June 17, 2021

Compulsive Conquerors

There's something inherently violent about the word. Looking at what it meant to the people at the other end of the sword makes it twice as problematic. Yet without any hint of irony, virtual runners are awarded Conqueror medals for iconic (conquered) places like Machu Pichu and Kilimanjaro.

When it is about nature, the conquering word is even more misplaced. Reading a recent New York Times article on reaching the true summit of the highest peaks in the world, it was hard not to laugh at such a flimsy definition of victory. You make it up to the top or near-about on the very edge of your life, rush down after a couple of minutes - call that conquering? Did you really conquer K2, or did you barely survive it? A strange sort of vanity and many light-years from the truth.


Monday, June 14, 2021

Pahadi Aloo

Unsplash - JE Shoots

The subziwallah trundled along, his products on display. Mostly aaloos with a sprinkle of tomatoes for colour, a pushcart full of them. "Aaloo le lo, pahadi aaloo." [Potatos for sale, mountain potatoes]. My neighbour's iron-clad fortress burst open with him stepping out to "Pahadi aloo hi hain naa?" [Are there really mountain potatoes?]

"Ekdum pahadi. Sau ke chaar kilo. Kahin nahin mileygaa." [Pure mountain. At Rs. 100 for 4 kilograms. Only from me.]

I was walking by and took a close look. My untrained eyes couldn't tell them apart from plains potatoes. Still, my neighbour's eagerness suggested that the altitude difference made a difference.

Indeed, the valley of Dehradun sits at the base of
the Himalaya, that benchmark for mountain ranges on this minor planet and conceivably, these potatoes did have some mountain blood in them. Plus, there was also another link to consider, one which crossed two continents and oceans. It took this humble vegetable back to its origin, to the land of the Inca under the shadow of a mountain range different but no slouch itself when it came to mountains.

With the Himalayas and the Andes both featuring on the family tree, it couldn't get more 'ekdum pahadi' than that.


Unsplash - Alexander Schimmeck