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Mar 122013
 

So you are a desi with just five hours to poke around Washington DC before heading back to Palookaville.

Excuse me, I borrowed Palookaville from Marlon Brando who used the word in one of the most famous scenes in motion picture history.

Let’s get back to DC, shall we, and leave Brando and On The Waterfront to RIP.

Here’s what a smart, short-on-time desi ought to do to maximize his entertainment and get the biggest bang out of the few hours in the U.S. Capital.

What to Skip

First, strike the White House off your to-see list.

Sequestration means you can’t tour the inside of the White House and seeing the President’s quarters and office from outside is no different from looking at a picture.

Second, forget the Smithsonian Museums. There’s always a lengthy line at these marvelous, free museums and it takes hours to do justice to even a single museum.

But definitely make time for these modern-day Lyceums on a following visit.

What to See

1. 10AM at Union Station.

Start your mini-odyssey of DC by making the Union Station at 50 Massachusetts Ave NE your first port of call.

Union Station DC © SearchIndia.comUnion Station, Washington DC

Opened in 1908, Union Station is a grand edifice (grand by U.S. standards, that is) built in part classical style. Designed by architect Daniel Burnham, the station is home to Amtrak trains, the DC subway system and, since 2012, to the inter-city Greyhound/Megabus/Peter Pan buses on top level. Yes, there’s parking lot above.

The food court in the lower levels panders to different palates whose owners have thick wallets.

Sadly, the dilapidated theatre screening Bollywood movies inside Union Station is closed!

SI watched the infernally bad Thoda Pyaar, Thoda Magic at the Union Station theatre a few years back before it shut its doors forever.

Don’t miss Columbus Fountain and Statue, and the replica of the Liberty Bell in front of the station on your way out the main entrance.

After ogling at the imposing interiors and facade of Union Station, please don’t rush off. There’s always some Jesus, O’ Jesus, Bible, Hell, Eternal Damnation freak screaming some hilarious nonsense outside the station. Watch and listen to the nut-job for a minute or two.

Free entertainment. Pukkat, as they say in Mera Bharat Mahaan.

Now start walking toward the U.S. Capitol building along First St NE.

Just before you reach the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, you can see the U.S. Supreme Court on the left. Compared to some of the other historical buildings in Washington DC, the Supreme Court left me unimpressed.

Maybe, what I saw was the unattractive buttock side of the court.

Hey, any building in Washington DC housing so many conservative weirdos (think Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, John Roberts, Samuel Alito) with their asinine fixation on the “originalism” legal theory of the founding fathers must have an unattractive side, right? ;)

The Library of Congress building is down the road from the Supreme Court, on the same side and diagonally opposite the Capitol Visitors Center.

Library of Congress Washington DCLibrary of Congress on First St SE (as seen from grounds of Capitol building)

Useful Hint: There’s a tunnel inside the U.S. Capitol to reach the Library of Congress. Use it if you want to skip the security line at the library.

2. 10:17AM at U.S. Capitol.

It should take you about 15 minutes to reach the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center from Union Station.

Some same-day passes are available but better go online and get them in advance. There’s not much of a rush during Winter, however.

When I went there yesterday (March 11, 2013), there were few people and the line was short.

For the benefit of the many schmucks thronging this blog, the U.S. Capitol is the most dysfunctional building in the whole country since it houses the most hated institution in the nation, i.e. Congress.

Security is tight inside the Capitol building and like at the airports you’ll have to remove your jacket, belt etc and put them into the X-ray machine.

For some reason, my backpack got extra attention from the lady at the X-ray machine.

She looked at me, eyed my cute Lowepro backpack, then inserted her gloved hand into dark recesses where no hand except mine had ventured before and proceeded to give a slow and thorough handjob till she was completely satisfied. ;)

Nothing incriminating found inside the backpack (but I plead guilty to mental masturbation of the cutie)!

Like my former President Jimmy Carter said in the famous Playboy interview:

I’ve looked on a lot of women with lust. I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times…. This is something that God recognizes, that I will do and have done, and God forgives me for it.

Ah, Jimmy, the American people are idiots for voting you out and voting in that monumental jackass Ronald Reagan! :(

All my backpack contained was Malachy McCourt’s delightful memoir A Monk Swimming, my iPhone, a couple of cameras, some loose change, keys, a few napkins (no, not those kind) etc.

Handjob and fondling over (of my backpack, that is), I made my way over to the reception of the Capitol Visitors Center to pick up a pass.

Got one easily.

I suppose Winter is a good time to visit Washington DC if you wish to avoid the crazy crowds that descend on the Capital in Summer from woebegone places like Artesia, Edison, Iselin, Sunnyvale, Devon Ave and Hicksville.

Capitol Hill DC © SearchIndia.comU.S. Capitol (as seen from First St NE)

Free conducted tours are available inside the Capitol with a red-jacketed guide droning on into the free-headsets (supplied at the start of the tour and to be returned).

There’s a 13-minute video inside an auditorium about the history of the building, 13-States, blah blah blah, George Washington, blah blah blah, British, Great Fire, blah blah blah, Civil War, Lincoln, blah blah blah, before the building tour starts.

The entire tour of the building lasts about 50-minutes.

No tipping necessary for the guides.

Although if my tour guide had been a nubile member of the distaff sex, I’d have been mighty tempted to dip my hands into….. my pocket! ;)

Capitol Hill Rotunda DC © SearchIndia.comCeiling Dome of the Capitol Rotunda

Unless you take into account rabid, let’s fuck-the-poor freak-shows like Senator Mitch McConell and Congressman Paul Ryan, the Rotunda is the most unique place in the Capitol building.

Located on the second floor, Capitol Rotunda is a huge, domed, circular room 96 feet in diameter and 180 feet high.

Gazing above at the magnificent dome, I suddenly felt an urge to see the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel ceiling painted by Michelangelo.

Besides the splendid domed-ceiling, the Capitol Rotunda also contains statues, huge paintings on the side-walls and impressive friezes high above.

Capitol Hill Building Inside © SearchIndia.comInside of Capitol Building

Useful Web Site: http://www.visitthecapitol.gov

After exiting the Capitol building, walk desultorily around the area for about 10-minutes and soak in the atmosphere of the most powerful place in the nation.

That’s exactly what SI did yesterday.

Then I spotted a DC cop languorously waiting to pounce on a Jihadi and asked him for directions to D St and 7th St NW (Rasika).

By the way, there are a lot of idle employed people in DC, the most visible symbol of corruption in the nation’s capital.

Yes, overstaffing is the bastard child of corruption in the bureaucracy and corridors of government.

I saw several of these idle employed members of the homo sapiens specimens yesterday inside the Capitol, inside subway stations, sitting in cars, standing outside etc.

Maybe, Republicans do have a valid point about wastage in government!

3. 12:25PM at Rasika.

After walking around, ogling at all-and-sundry, SI arrived at Rasika.

A pretentious Indian restaurant with an unsmiling, rude host at the reception who pointed to the bar and said Shit there, Same Menu.

Spinach Chaat at Rasika is Delicious but Pricey © Searchindia.comSpinach Chaat at Rasika

Thank God, the Rasika bartender was a sweetie-pie who was politeness, cheerfulness and helpfulness incarnate. The angel even charged my iPhone! :)

Heeding the recommendation of an SI blog reader, I ordered the Spinach Chaat ($9) along with the only Indian beer available, the drowning in debt Vijay Mallya’s Kingfisher.

Winter, Summer, Autumn or Spring, you may count on SI never to  say “No” to beer or any kind of spirits. ;)

Made from Crispy Baby Spinach, Tamarind, Date Chutney and a teeny-weeny bit of Sweet Yogurt,  Spinach Chaat is a delicious appetizer.

My only reproof against the Palak Chaat is the mismatch between the high price and low quantity!

One could eat 20 Spinach Chaats (for $180) and still not feel full. Really! :(

Savoring the yummiliceous Palak Chaat and quaffing my beer, I spent a leisurely 30-minutes at the bar, checking for comments on the SI blog, looking at headlines on my iPhone and scanning through Rasika’s pricey menu.

After getting directions to the nearest subway station (Archives Station) from the sweet bartender, I headed out into the cold again.

All in all, time well spent so far!

Rasilka DC Bar on D St and 7Th ST NW © Searchindia.comRasika Bar with the Waiting Ice-Cold Kingfisher

Rasika – 633 D St NW Washington, DC 20004 Ph: 202-637-1222

Nearest train station – Archives (served by Green and Yellow lines)

4. 1:30PM at Capitol Tandoor & Grill.

Went into the underbelly of Washington via a deep escalator to reach the subway tracks at Archives station.

DC subway kiosks are not as user-friendly as NYC Metro kiosks. :(

DCites may be more more refined than Noo Yawkers but they are less smart!

Oh well, different people, different brain sizes!

Seriously, if all Blacks are endowed with monstrous dicks why can’t all Noo Yawkers be blessed with bigger brains. We’ll leave it to the dickheads to sort out this priapic argument!

Time to take the train to Tandoori heaven a.k.a. Capitol Hill Tandoor and Grill.

Two trains later, ended up at Capitol Tandoor & Grill on 8th St SE.

Opt for the $10.95 Lunch Buffet.

A decent spread at the steam-table during my visit (see below picture).

Capitol Tandoor & Grill DC Buffet © Searchindia.com

Lunch Buffet @ Capitol Tandoor & Grill

Having tried two Tandoor items (Tandoori Chicken and Chicken Tikka Makhni), I swear on Abhishek Bachchan that this place is da Seventh and Eighth heaven.

Yes, I’m even willing to swear on my pet Bollywood aunties Nithya Menon, Vimala Raman, Anushka Shetty, Vidya Balan and Richa Gangopadhyay.

Only the merciful Allah knows what they use for marination but the Tandoori items are great here.

Warning: Stay away from the hideous Naan bread!

Chicken at Capitol Tandoor & Grill DC Buffet © Searchindia.comDivine Tandoori Chicken at Capitol Tandoor

Capitol Tandoor: 419 8th St SE Washington, DC 20003 Ph: 202-547-3233

Nearest train station – Eastern Market (served by Orange and Blue lines)

5.  2:35PM, back at Union Station.

Took me three trains (and two transfers) to hotfoot it back to Union Station.

Now don’t you forget the food court in the lower levels.

Try some gelato at the ice cream shop and pick up some Indian food at Aditi restaurant.

My previous experiences at Aditi were unpleasant but the third time (or was it the fourth time yesterday?) was a winner!

Aditi DC Food Court Counter

SI selected Vegetable Biryani with Okra and Spinach Chickpeas curries (total $9.10) from the Aditi steam-table.

Aditi Union Station DC © Searchindia.comVegetable Biryani, Okra Curry, Naan Bread and Spinach & Chickpeas

Naan bread was inhumanly awful but the rest of the food turned out to be very good.

Pretty damn good!

There’re plenty of tables at the Union Station Food Court.

So you can get the food at Aditi to stay or to-go.

3PM

Time to say adios to Washington DC and return to Palookaville.

Make a promise to return soon and savor more of the Capital’s famed attractions.

Feb 142013
 

Who doesn’t lust after a Chocolate Molten Lava cake.

Yeah, kid, I’m asking ya!

Who doesn’t?

Stand up and answer or forever hold your tongue!

When I heard Arby’s had introduced Chocolate Molten Lava Cake for a limited time, I hotfooted over to the nearest franchise, a 12-mile, 18-minute drive.

Arby’s Ordering

As I walked into Arby’s, I noticed the place was near empty with a lone African-American customer waiting to pick up her order.

Gluttonous like a starving Indian from Kalahandi,  I ordered two pieces of Chocolate Molten Lava Cake ($1.99 each) along with curly fries, onion rings and a Jamocha shake for dine in.

I quickly plonked my brown derriere on a chair in the almost empty place. In five minutes, all my items were ready on a red tray.

Chocolate Molten Lava Cake

Arby’s Chocolate Molten Lava Cake came in a round plastic container with a transparent lid.

Here’s how Arby’s web site describes its Chocolate Molten Lava Cake:

Luscious warm chocolate cake with a decadent molten lava chocolate filling, topped with premium cocoa crumbles.

Sweetie, if that description doesn’t make you….you know what, right? – I don’t know what else will.

Arby's Chocolate Lava Cake Box - Image © SearchIndia.comArby’s Chocolate Molten Lava Cake – $1.98

As I carefully lifted the lid, a nice Chocolate flavor wafted up.

Alas, looks can be so deceiving!

Who’d think Miss World Aishwarya Rai would turn out to be such an awful actress!

The Chocolate Molten Lava Cake had a granulated, soft texture but barely lukewarm.

I heaped silent, vile curses in my Indian tongue Tamil.

Arby's Chocolate Lava Cake Box - Image © SearchIndia.comChocolate Molten Lava Cake

My second, and greater, frustration was that there was not enough Molten Lava Chocolate inside the cake making the whole thing a distressingly dry kinda affair.

Arby's Chocolate Lava Cake inside - Image © SearchIndia.comArby’s Chocolate Molten Lava Cake – Inside Story

The hype on Arby’s  “decadent molten lava chocolate filling” was overblown and unwarranted.

It was only when after excavating deeper that I found a small quantity of semi-liquid Molten Lava Chocolate.

Arby's Chocolate Lava Cake inside - Image © SearchIndia.comChocolate Molten Lava Cake – Dig Deeper for Molten Chocolate Lava

Soon I identified the culprit, the villain of the piece, cake. Continue reading »

Dec 212012
 

Salman Khan is a name synonymous with all that’s repulsive in Indian society.

The man murders people, beats his girlfriends and kills endangered animals in real life.

And in the reel world, Salman puts out one trashy film after another.

Given the unbounded love Indians pack for lowlifes, the tawdry and trashy, it’s no surprise that Salman Khan is a wild success with the majority in Mera Bharat Mahaan.

Thank God for some sensible critics.

Here are excerpts from some early reviews of Dabangg 2:

Reuters:

It seems unfair to devote a whole review to Arbaaz Khan’s “Dabangg 2″, given that this is hardly a film. As a friend said, it’s a collection of deleted scenes from “Dabangg” that have been put together haphazardly to make the skeleton of a film.

Just as Salman Khan makes no pretence about acting, brother Arbaaz Khan makes no pretence about directing. “Dabangg 2″ is an endless sequence of comedy-song-fight-romance. I can almost imagine the director mentally counting the time elapsed between a fight sequence and a song. A half-hour into the film, I could tell which was next, irrespective of whether it made sense.

NDTV:

The pace of Dabangg 2, even at its modest length (129 minutes), is uneven….Unfortunately, the Dabangg 2 screenplay is devoid of any fresh ideas. The one-liners are rather laboured and the heroic acts that Chulbul Pandey pulls off with an eye firmly on the gallery are all too predictable.

Rediff:

Within 15 minutes, the novelty wears off. Our one-man Expendable has already done this and better in the previous installment of the franchise. And as much as he tries there are only so many ways a man can play himself….Even the sultry appearances put in by Kareena Kapoor and Malaika Arora Khan bop about the same old template and ambiance in flashy chart-toppers

Wogma:

The introductory action sequence feels like a recap of Dabangg and you wait for something new and fun in terms of action to come up soon. You keep waiting. There is nothing new or funny about them, they are just repetitive. Only this time, the sound design does the ‘action’ rather than the usual camera and/or editing. In the name of action choreography, people fall here, there and everywhere in the same old fashion.

Related Stories:

Is Darpok Salman Khan Ready to Confess to Murder?

Nov 082012
 

(By Tiramisu)

With Hurricane Sandy taking aim at the Tri-State area and predicted to make landfall on Monday, Oct 29th, we decided to visit the Venkateswara Temple in Bridgewater, NJ the day before.

The temple is usually crowded during weekends, but not surprisingly attendance on the Sunday before Sandy’s arrival was pretty thin.

Bridgewater Balaji Temple - Image © SearchIndia.comVenkateswara Temple in Bridgewater, NJ

The temple is located at 1075 Route 202/206, Bridgewater, NJ 08807.

It is surrounded by residential and industrial property. The pharmaceutical giant Sanofi-Aventis is located to the south of the temple property.

The temple premises underwent a major expansion in the recent past.

In the last three years, they have expanded the parking lot, built new living quarters for the priests and opened up a convenient entrance to the premises.

Balaji Temple Parking Lot - Image © SearchIndia.comParking Lot at Balaji Temple

The temple management did run into legal issues with Bridgewater town residents who objected to the expansion plans of the temple. But the temple reached a ‘rational resolution’ with Bridgewater residents and moved ahead with their expansion plans.

Balaji – Satellite Style

The main temple hall is set up in a satellite style formation.

The focal point of the temple is the mini-Lord Venkateshwara temple in the middle with about 16 other gods from the Hindu pantheon in an orbit around Venkateshwara.

Devotees are not allowed to enter the inner sanctum sanctorum of the Lord Venkateshwara mini-temple.

The usual services that are available at most Hindu temples in North America are available here as well, car pooja, priest for hire for housewarming ceremonies, archana services etc.

Car Puja at Balaji Temple - Image © SearchIndia.comCar Puja in Progress at Balaji Temple

One hears the ‘unity in diversity’ slogan quite a bit in India to signify the diversity in that country.

The Bridgewater temple is a bit of a testament to that.

It is a bit ironic that one can find a microcosm of India in the middle of a temple in New Jersey.

Twenty something IT workers, older Gujarati folks in their sixties and seventies, grandparents from India speaking Tamil, Telugu, Konkani, Marathi and a few other Indian languages, scampering toddlers let loose, you can find them all here.

Visual images of ‘Mile sur mera tumhara‘ were flitting by in our heads.

Balaji Temple Canteen

And now for the grand purpose of our visit!

The temple canteen is in the lower level of the building.

Also located in the lower level is a marriage hall.

On the day of our visit, there was a small wedding ceremony under way at the marriage hall.

We were amazed at how small the ceremony was with just a few people in attendance.

Hmmmm, we’ve been hearing about stories of H1B visa holders getting married here in the USA instead of India, because re-entry for H1B Visa holders has been coming under increased scrutiny lately.

We were left wondering if this was one of those slimmed down in size H1B emergency weddings, with a reduced number of freeloaders who are usually in attendance at big fat Indian weddings.

Our Order

We proceeded to the temple canteen and placed orders for Vada, Pongal, Mysore Masala Dosa, Plain Dosa, Vegetable Biriyani, Gulab Jamun, Mango Lassi and Coffee.

The temple canteen is largely a volunteer run operation with the help of a few senoritas.

We assume the senoritas are not volunteers!

No Spoons and Forks

There is a station at the center of the canteen where Sambar, Chutney and plastic spoons are kept.

Surprisingly, we could not find any plastic forks or knives. One would think with things like Idli and Vada being served a fork or a spoon would be of some use.

The two senoritas were busy cranking out Dosas and Medhu Vadas. The two volunteers who were managing the delivery of the orders had a hard time keeping things straight on a slow day.

Dosa orders were getting mixed up with patrons wondering what happened to their Dosa orders.

The ways it works is that Dosas are made to order, and the order number is called for Dosas to be picked up when they’re ready.

Medhu Vada

The Vadas were nice and crispy on the outside and well cooked inside.

 Balaji Temple Canteen Vada - Image © SearchIndia.comBalaji Temple Canteen Vada

However we noticed that the Vadas though cooked were fairly dense inside and had soaked in too much oil.

From the little we know about Medhu Vadas – temperature of the cooking oil, amount of baking soda added and the moisture in the dough are important factors that go into the making of a crispy, yet light Vada with the right texture inside.

With a Mexican señorita cranking out doughnuts following a process that someone had provided to her, one cannot expect more from the Medhu Vadas.

With such an operation in place, we assume cooking technique and nuance do not have a role to play here.

Sambar and Chutneys

The Sambar on the other hand was good, had a few vegetables in it with some curry leaves.

It had the right amount of tang, aroma and was not too watery or dense.

Pretty good Sambar it was.

 Venkateswara Temple Canteen Sambar - Image © SearchIndia.comBalaji Temple Canteen Sambar

There were two chutneys, coconut chutney and red chutney.

The coconut chutney was so so.

Tasted like a mystery white concoction, in fact it did not taste like anything at all.

The red chutney was a tomato based preparation. It tasted tangy and a bit spicy.

We have had better tomato chutney but this one wasn’t bad at all.

Pongal

The Pongal was of the yellow kind.

We have seen Pongal in at least two formulations – the white kind a.k.a Venn Pongal and the yellow kind.

 Balaji Temple Canteen Pongal - Image © SearchIndia.comVenkateswara Temple Canteen Pongal

Yellow Pongal was on offer at the temple.

We got two scoops of the pasty offering in a paper bowl. Continue reading »

Sep 212012
 

Kareena Kapoor’s much ballyhooed film Heroine is getting whipped by critics.

Directed by Madhur Bhandarkar, Heroine is the roller-coaster life story of a movie star played by Kareena, one of Bollywood’s most mediocre actresses.

Here are excerpts from a few unflattering reviews of Heroine.

* Rediff

The first half of the film passes swiftly enough, with much spot-the-unsubtle-celeb-impersonation to be played…But soon things devolve into utter lunacy..

* Reuters

“Heroine” belongs to the “Madhur Bhandarkar” genre of films. Pick any field, or place (Corporate, Jail, Fashion), stuff it with every cliché you can think of and more, add a gay character (irrespective of whether the story needs it or not), throw in some over-the-top dialogue, and of course, package the whole thing as “realistic cinema”….“Heroine” is no different – it feels like Bhandarkar has copy-pasted characters from his films to this one, changing their names and making cosmetic changes to suit this film.

* NDTV

Heroine is drably monotonous, its insights are shallow, most of the characters are caricatures and the lines that they speak border on the corny, if not on the outright ridiculous.

It is a single-note film that never manages to break free from the limitations imposed on its flow by its own slew of predictable contrivances.

* DNA

All said and done, the film may be a one-time watch. But if you expected too much out of the film, it may not be worth the anticipation and your money.

* Upper Stall

Tacky does not even begin to describe the production value on this film based on films based on movies based on Bollywood, and if Bhandarkar’s team hasn’t already realized the sheer worthlessness of working on the same project over and over again, they might end up as the secondary cast in his next.

Aug 312012
 

If it’s an Akshay Kumar film, you can be sure it’s got garbage written all over it.

The bozo’s new film Joker released today, to almost universal derision.

The only silver lining is that the trashy film has had a poor opening in India.

Here, read excerpts from some of the reviews for Joker:

NDTV

Joker is a crude joke of a film that will leave you in tears unless you have a stomach strong enough to digest such unmitigated junk.

Occasionally, trash does have its uses in the domain of entertainment. But when it decomposes and turns into putrid garbage, it stinks. Yes, Joker is a load of rubbish that belongs in the dump yard.

Rediff

There isn’t a single line in Shirish Kunder’s Joker that actually works…

DNA

The best thing I can say about Joker is that it’s better than Tees Maar Khan. That gem — the benchmark of all that is mind-numbingly terrible about Hindi films….Listing out the inanities of Joker would take an obnoxiously long amount of time and effort, in addition to the two hours the film saps out of your soul watching it.

Bollywood Hungama/IndiaFM

[I]t gets cumbersome to sit through the film after a point, since what unfurls is ridiculous and bizarre. ..On the whole, JOKER is a joke of a film. Disaster!