Have you read chetan Bhagat”s “two states’? Did you notice that he talks about the meals on banana leaf at his prospective in-law’s house? Does it sound so very South Indian to you? mm. But, unfortunately most of us do not eat our meals on banana leaves any more since we discovered the convenience of stainless steel plates and that was over fifty years ago, I think. In cities most houses do not have the space for their own kitchen garden and if they need a leaf for their meals they’d have to buy it from the market and sometimes it may not even be available in every market.

On the other hand banana leaf meals are indeed an important ritual at our weddings and special occasions when special feasts follow a family function. I call it a ritual as there are rules regarding the placement of dishes on the leaf and the order in which they are served in several courses during the meal. People who are in charge of serving the meal are supposed to observe the leaves and serve the side dishes as and when they disappear from the leaves according to the preference of the guest. Since it is difficult to know the preference of all guests before hand, this system did involve cooking enormous quantities of all items on the menu and sometimes food was wasted both on the leaf and as leftover food. Buffet system has come to be considered as a better option to avoid wastage but a typical Tamil feast does not lend itself elegantly to this. As it involves mixing rice with several gravys a plate is rather small to contain the spread of a typical Ilai sappadu or banana leaf feast.Several of my relatives look down on buffet system where one queues up with a plate to have the meal served – they think it is like a soup kitchen for the homeless!
Well, they are like this only – have I not told you about my Thanjavur roots and the sharpness of our tongue!

The problem with Banana leaf meals at weddings today is that the service is rather impersonal which takes away the essence of such a meal. Meals are contracted out and served mechanically at breakneck speed. Side dishes are served with tea spoons and if you are lucky they may come once again to check if you need any more. Otherwise it is a race against their serving speed. By the time you are halfway through your sambar rice , a guy appears asking if you need rice for rasam followed closely by the guy with rasam. Two minutes later, while you are still delicately negotiating the rasam from flowing on to your lap, a guy wants to know if you want more rice for the next course with buttermilk. It is indeed tough even for seasoned banana leafers. And there is an additional torture in some halls. To prevent the appalam from flying away they switch off the fans. Draped in silks in a mid summer afternoon, trying to eat hot food keeping pace with the servers and no fan? To an outsider it might indeed seem like a case that merits reference to the National Human Rights Commission.

At a Palakkad Tamilian wedding that I attended recently there was a Punjabi couple seated opposite me at lunch. It was a typical Palakkad feast with exotic stuff like Avial, Olan and erisseri and of course Paal payasam. Most of the North Indians I know who tell me that they enjoy South Indian food once in a while actually mean Idly and Dosa – nothing more. Avial and Paal Payasam? Oops they’’d need an orientation course even to pronounce their names.. So naturally this couple looked totally lost . They tasted tiny bits of everything and gave up early in the battle. Since they had nothing to do after the first two minutes of the meal they were watching those around with great curiosity – up to our wrists in the leaf, quickly shoving in mouthfuls in order to keep up with the pace of the service, all this while admirably controlling the rasam's flow within the boundaries of the leaf; sweating profusely while consuming the hot food in such huge doses but not letting go of a second helping of olan and erisseri. As I surveyed the leaf of the couple and saw that it was practically untouched, I wondered if they’d go home and make a few paranthas for lunch.

And the bride at this wedding was from Orissa. I hope there was some way her family had found to order in some Pizza unobserved by the groom’s side. Or perhaps they just sat and fumed at the banana leaf lunch and had their revenge at the Oriya reception?
Remember Aesop's fable about the stork and the fox?

P.s: Wrote this originally in Tamil - yes I have a Tamil Blog here. Please visit and tell me what you think.And please be kind...
I found a mail in my mailbox a couple of days ago. It started thus:

We are shutting down DesiPundit effective midnight (CST) June 15th, Tuesday. It has been a fun five years and we have enjoyed every moment. We wish to thank all Community Members for sharing your content with our readers and I hope we managed to win you some readers.

Over at DesiPundit, people have moved on to other things and time & resources haven't been as plentiful for those who have remained. The Indian blogosphere and presence on other social media networks has expanded greatly and in our experience, it is no longer possible for human-powered aggregators to keep up; at least on a part-time volunteer basis.
It is sad that they decided to shut down . Particularly for me as I had just become a contributor a few months back. For years, Desipundit had been something I could only read as an outsider. Occasionally when a post of mine would be featured here it was a great honor - a validation of my blogging efforts. I remember the first time when I saw that my site meter had crossed the 300 mark for the first time and most of the traffic was from Desipundit. It was for this post and I
wrote to my son:
Hey, I can now die in peace. My post made it to Desipundit!
Over the years a few other posts had the honor but it took 6 years of blogging before I was invited to become a regular contributor. And then the sudden end.

Or perhaps not all that sudden - Over the past year, blogging seem to have lost its sheen somewhat. Many of us don't seem to feel the urgent need to blog about the minutiae of our lives. Some of the bloggers on my reader haven't blogged a word in months. And there is also the diminished interest from readers who don't not seem to have the time to read long posts and react. Twitter, the microblog, which allows you to express yourself pithily in blocks of 140 characters has taken over the space and time as a more convenient options for sharing opinions and ideas on the go. Rapid fireworks, less responsibility of sustaining a longer conversation. More in sync with he pace of our times unlike blog which demands a more in-depth elaboration of ideas.
Why use 400 words where 140 would serve the purpose? And it is more glamorous too - you share the space with the who's who of journalism and bollywood. You are no longer dependent on tabloids to know what the stars are up to - they tell you themselves through their tweets.
There is Shahrukhkhan telling you:
am shooting a dish tv advt right now. wrapped in india..just the fotoshoot rest of the shooting in london & sum in india
scary plane ride...200 km/hr headwind knocked us all over. thought was going to die so covered my face & hid under thin blanket. felt safer

And when you can overhear Bachchan senior in a tete-a-tete with Karan Johar (or should we call it tweet-a-tweet?) it feels like you are part of that crowd!

By contrast blogging is a medium where unknowns bond across barriers and share thoughts and ideas and many times scenes from their lives. Like friends who meet for a cup of chai and sit down to chat. They do not need to react immediately. they could think about what you said and come back later to give their opinion unlike twitter where morning tweets are forgotten by the end of the day. If your reflexes aren't sharp enough the moment is gone and you have lost the opportunity to be part of the conversation.

Many of my old blogger friends have moved on to twitter and so I have signed up just to follow them. I personally do not have the flair to say anything in 140 characters. I need so many just to clear my throat. And then another 140 to warm up to the topic. I cannot say smart things at short notice. I have realized that tweeting requires skills that I do not possess while blogging has no such demands except the ability to string together sentences grammatically.

When you want to review a book or a film or rant about a social or political issue or share the cute things that your child says or does or just share interesting moments from your lives - blogging would still be the more convenient and appropriate medium. The reduced activity in blogosphere is a damper but I hope my favorite bloggers will not totally abandon it and will come back to post at least once in a while.
Meantime Desipundit, You will be missed.