Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Bundu Khan Rollercoaster

We made a surprisingly impulsive decision to eat at the brand new Bundu Khan restaurant in Whitechapel the other day. (In reality it was a neuro-linguistically programmed predestined decision as several people had mentioned the eatery in conversation over the previous fortnight.) We drove past, made the mental connections and somehow found a parking space.

The Bundu Khan phenomenon was born in Karachi. It soon spread across Pakistan (with four restaurants in Lahore) and is now truly international. It boasts branches in Australia and the US and, with this yeast-independent expansion, is probably within walking distance of where you're reading this from now.

Our experience was mixed. The decor was understated and crisp. The staff were overstated and seemed more numerous than actual choices on the menu. The poppadoms were far from crisp and were probably vestiges of the Raj. The fish curry was the best I'd ever had. The 'special Bundu Khan paratha' was essentially a deep-fried nan. We disagreed over the relative merits of our drinks as well as those of the palak-paneer. The cocktails left a lot to be desired. "Like toilet cleaner" apparently.

I'm trying hard to convince myself that this was a memorable trip. It was. But for all the wrong reasons.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Universal Strategy

Read the second instalment of my BMJ Blog here.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Whole Lotah Love!

I’ve always wondered whether Iris, my housekeeper at university, ever thought to herself why on earth I had a watering-can in my bathroom despite my digs being totally devoid of any greenery whatsoever. Not even a sprig of mint or coriander for garnish. She (thankfully) asked no questions and heard no lies.

The lotah, ibreeq, bottle-shottle – call it what you will – is a utensil found in many a Muslim bathroom. In its simplest form it’s a jug with a spout that’s used as a hands-on bidet. Despite the allure of triple quilted toilet paper, we continue to prefer to combine forces, or the brave just simply wash and go. It’s an ubiquitous feature of life, reflecting religious injunctions on cleanliness and ritual purity.

Traditionally it looks like an oversized teapot without a lid and is made from metal or plastic although the variations in size, shape and colour are almost endless. Logistical nightmares can arise when you’re unexpectedly faced with a different style of lotah to the one you’ve grown up with. Left-handers seem to be at a distinct disadvantage when adhering to the left hand – dirty, right hand – clean, convention.

An increasingly common modern variant of the lotah is what the plumber recently working on my uncle’s house subtly referred to as the ‘bum-shower’. These often frightfully complex gadgets are nothing more than a modified hosepipe. Attached either side of a toilet they can be the source of epic flooding disasters if the owners don’t clarify instructions before you find yourself using one.

Equally traumatic experiences can arise from finding yourself in need of a lotah when there just isn’t one around. Spurred on by the embarrassment of always taking a bottle of mineral water to the toilets or sneaking around them with moistened toilet paper, creative individuals have found an ingenious use for collapsible plastic bottles.

On honeymoon in Malaysia I encountered a Japanese inspired toilet with a built-in retractable bidet which perhaps offers the perfect harmony between water and manual input. We can only live in hope…alongside the Andrex puppy.