Count Your Chickens Before They Hatch...On Your Table
"I prefer Indian food during overseas travel, but Rajita, my wife, loves experimenting"
Arindam Choudhary reveals his dietary habits over food at Maurya Sheraton's Tower restaurant. Photos: S. Arneja.
IMAGINE THE author of the bestseller "Count Your Chickens Before They Hatch" and the pony-tailed guru with "The Great Indian Dream". Twentyfour times in a year you travel the length and breadth of India, spreading the message "be the change you want to see". Apart from this, you conduct four top-level management workshops in Mumbai and Delhi annually, and then spend the rest of your time either managing business or teaching the Indian style of management to students. At regular intervals you take time off for your family. Quite often you are in the wilderness with your colleagues - camping at Jim Corbett, trekking to Pindari Glacier or sifting sands at Jaisalmer.
Sounds pretty interesting to be Professor Arindam Chaudhari, doesn't it? But then one got to discover what else he feels strongly about over a stylish power lunch at Maurya Sheraton's Towers restaurant in New Delhi. A well-known economist Arindam also projects himself as a management guru, thinker, author, analyst, social commentator, reformer, consultant and aspiring politician.
He explains that he simply does the things because he enjoys doing them. A knowledgeable sommelier is there in the background, on hand with advice for guests uncertain of Tower's wide-ranging list of international wines and cigars, and to challenge the palates of regular diners who may feel that they've tried it all before, but Arindam prefers a fresh juice, which is a healthier alternative.
The rooftop Towers restaurant is known for pampering to the needs of its well-heeled guests. Alongside Grilled Scottish Sea Scallops and a delicately flavoured Mulligatawny, Arindam impresses upon the need to globalise Indian philosophy. What is critical is "that it should be packaged and marketed" effectively and by who else, but the present generation of Indians. On the same lines as his management institutes in India, Arindam will shortly launch business schools in London, Geneva, Washington DC, Beijing and Singapore, offering a business philosophy where
EQ is often more important than IQ. Along the way a book might just happen, he says, "Perhaps good philosophies of corporates or eventually fiction related to our socio-economic growth and fears, something like Animal Farm or 1984, that people will relate to." This sounds like enough to keep a person frantically busy for quite a while, but remember not if you are Arindam. He has sufficient like-minded people on board to support his ideas and plans.
Arindam is sensitive about food and he tells us what an Indian should never forget - "If all the food grain lying unused in our warehouses were to be packed in gunny bags and placed one after the other, it would make a path to the moon and back. Yet this country bears the cross of over 200 million starving Indians." Arindam has turned vegetarian recently and likes to eat standard fare. "I prefer Indian food during overseas travel and even McDonalds will do, but Rajita loves experimenting," Arindam goes on to inform that wife Rajita is from the first batch that he taught. She was in fact the topper of the class, probably that's how we started talking more and more to each other," he reminisces.
He works between 12 and 14 hours a day, but he is not a ghost father. "Though I spoil my son's routine by keeping him awake till 11-15 at night and it is two to three hours of utter madness to look forward to, when I play with Che."
Why Che? "We have named our son Che Kabir so that he grows up to bring about revolutionary changes in the world which Che Guevara stood for. But we also hope that he brings about changes through peaceful means, something that Kabir advocated."
He pauses to enjoy Tower's Pan-fried Truffle and Potato filled Gyoza on a spinach sauce with Shiitake Tempura, and reflects that there should be a "conscious understanding that the race for unlimited satisfaction is not the only thing. Human values are getting more and more corrupt and this alienates people." Our conversation invariably turns to the increasing rot in our educational systems. "Each American business school produces an average of 2000 MBAs as compared to 200 produced by each IIM. There has to be a reason why acres and acres of land with stupendous facilities are dished out to strictly only a handful. Obviously vested interests want top level education to be limited, so that it can be milked." He wants to make people aware that this MBA mafia can be compared to some of our corrupt and illiterate politicians.
The restaurant staff stops by at our table to serve the Bangalore Lemon Soufflé and Harlequin Swiss Chocolate melt with Coconut Ice cream and this momentarily interrupts our conversation - so much for my good eating habits while working! Each dish is prepared with elegant style and presented with such a colourful flair that I begin to wonder if Bill Marchetti is in the kitchen. Finally one quizzes Arindam on his most memorable moment: "Meeting Sonia Gandhi sometime back, to present to her my `Great Indian Dream' when she smiled at me ever so warmly, dropping all guards. Quite a different experience, I thought, as she is often represented in an unpleasant manner from various quarters." And what about future dreams - is he interested in politics? He is quick to answer: "Yes, I am! Clean politics, not in a hierarchy of goons!"
A slice of exotica
EXOTIC AND vibrant are the two words that would perhaps best sum up the Malaysian Food Festival that is currently on at Uppal's Orchid in New Delhi. Being held in association with Tourism Malaysia, the festival seeks to highlight the immense diversity of that country and hence, a happy blend of food and culture of Indian, Chinese and Malay, the three dominant races of Malaysia.
A brainchild of the Chef Hasni Hasan, the dishes have spices like lemon grass, screw pine leaves, coconut and lemon grass leaves adding to the creation of the special flavours. But the soup is what comes with the chef's recommendation - Soto Ayam chicken soup served with condiments and crackers called Malinja and the spicy tomato soup for vegetarians. Chicken Ayam Percik and fish black bean sauce, which is flavoured with lemon grass, are some of the dishes worth mentioning. "Malaysian food is less spicy than Indian but we use a lot of similar spices and Indian food has had a constant impact on our food," Chef Hasni thus compares the two cuisines. The dessert includes some highly interesting dishes with equally interesting names like Sago gula melaka - brown sugar melaka and Dry Malay Quih .
To add to the beauty, a Malaysian dance troupe specially imported for the occasion accompanies the meal. The dances represent each of the states of Malaysia as well as the ethnic groups of Sabah and Sarawak and are extremely colourful to say the least.
"We want to make people more aware of what Malaysia has to offer so that they have more reasons to visit our country," says Roslan bin Abdullah, Director, Tourism Malaysia, North and East India. " Food festivals are an integral part of any tourism promotion programme so that people can sample the best of Malaysian cuisine," he adds.
The festival, being held at the restaurant Chef & I in Uppal's Orchid, will continue till October 26. Abdullah says, such a food fest has already been held in Mumbai.
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