This started when I was labeled JMMT which I didn’t quite understand at first, hence the clarification “Jhil Mil Maal Thi”. I wondered whether to be angry due to the inappropriate use of the word “Maal” or because of inappropriate use of past tense.  These days, when even “sexy” is considered pornographic and the कमाल माहौल with all feminists around, I wasn’t sure whether a smiley or an angry emoji made sense. The thought lingered and I decided to decode and shred the word that has so many connotations in the great Indian middle class context. Delete middle class, I seem to have a fixation with it. I have not checked whether the word has found its way into the oxford dictionary yet, but even as I count on my fingers, these spring to mind almost immediately.

I think the most traditional use of the word “माल” would be for goods or things. And most frequently used in transportation and businesses where large amounts of goods are moving inward or outward. God, this is beginning to sound like a thesis, which was not the thought I started this with at all, so the antithesis has to begin now.

Directly from things is derived the “expensive माल”.  As the मालदार “Lion” of 70’s Bollywood fame used to say, to his “Mona Darling”, “Mona, हमारा माल कहाँ पंहुचा?” “मालिक, सारा माल पुलिस ने पकड़ लिया”, here, like we all know we are talking about contraband and Pirates of Caribbean and National Treasure and the visualization is that of crates full of gold biscuits and ornaments, stashes of green and pink currency and underground temples when lighted up revealing precious stones and idols and more.

There is also the tasty माल that refers to awesome food, the ones you hog over in great Indian weddings and in hotels only at company expense, (without even burping) like the dry fruits and कचोरी and समोसा and sweets that are smashing but brutal for the तोंद . Which makes me wonder why “maal-nutritioned” means the opposite of what it should mean? All the rich brats are actually well stuffed with माल and not the skinny ones from Sudan.

Now, if you talk to the students of Symbiosis and other NRI-class schools where neo-rich kids with their expensive cars are sent to get a quart of education but instead get a pint of rum and a pinch of the stuff up their nostrils, “yeah, this is good shit, man, ये माल कहाँ से लाया”.  Here the माल, low in quantity, high on quality and has to be stuffed up noses or intra-venous, forever banned dope in Indian homes and can kill Bill too (or two, aaah, doesn’t matter)

And then you have the malls where all the imported माल is displayed, even the Indian माल is displayed in a way to appeal best to फिरंगीs, much to the dismay of the poor and the tired, who can look but not buy; and the rich and the famous who buy without a look, where you and me go to enjoy an afternoon of conditioned air instead of raising the home electricity bill in this scorching heat. A Sunday afternoon well spent on ogling all the stuff you will never need, with a cup of coffee costing three times more than it should, and then spending some bucks in getting worthless things just for the heck of it.

And then of course the maal, from where this whole train started. “A sexy woman” or “hottie babe” as some sites literally translated. Derogatory and anti-feminist. All feminists are advised against reading this blog, to avoid what is almost blasphemy to them. But really they shouldn’t worry. All this no-bra-fad will prevent them from actually being labeled as maal, does anyone really like juggling balls except for jugglers (oops, faux pas).

I read this interesting question on Quora

“My boyfriend in Indian, from UP, and if he is with people he doesn’t know, he tells them that I am his ‘maal’. We have been together for 3 years. Does ‘maal’ mean girlfriend, is it ok to use, or do I need to beat him? 🙂 His English is quite good, but he never uses the word girlfriend…

I am learning Hindi but it takes time, so your thoughts are really helpful. (I am English).”

And one of the interesting responses was

“In fact “MAAL” was an indecent word used earlier, in those days even “SEXY” was indecent word and if any one uses this would be considered equal to rapist. Nowadays in hitech and modern society these words are quite normal and don’t stand the meaning what these earlier used to have. If the guy is good, these don’t matter…. in current fast forward culture.” (Took the liberty of correcting the grammar, but not the lingo)

BTW, the JMMT guy later modified his statement and said “ABMH” meaning अभी भी माल हैं, much to my satisfaction.

Which makes me wonder, when I was sixteen and two, I would have flipped my lid, if someone called me sexy, my middle class upbringing has strict objections to use of such words in public, would have literally felt abused. Today it doesn’t make a difference. Maybe because I am middle class plus, or just plain forty plus. Actually any plus size woman would probably be happy being labeled sexy or maal, yeah, I still have it in me to attract eyes. Is it my tolerance or my experience or my complex talking?

With my latest fad at creating jh-ictionary, I thought since the word could not really be understood without context, and only causes गोलमाल, we could make a different word for each context, so here is an attempt to add few new words, to avoid the confusion in the minds of neo-urban-but-desi folks.

So, to wit,

knormaal: /nor-maal/ Simple and normal goods or things (The k was just to confuse you)

dealmaal:/deel-maal/ a smuggler is a dealer who deals in maal, hence proved (stretch of imagination by far, readers are invited to provide better words)

maalnourish:/ has been explained before, the over-fed, obnoxious, nourished by maal, obese generation

narcomaal:/narco-mal/  narco grade maal that can blow you away and give you highs and lows.

Mall-a-maal:/mal-a-mal/ Mall of the maal. The over-priced, over hyped buildings housing stuff that you buy, don’t use for six months and then olx them away.

Desimaal:/deci-mal/ literally meaning you know exactly what), but she is sure to get confused, you can always explain she is petite and simple J. Trust me, she will go out on the date with you.



Project Mirchi

Powdered red chilies is a spice that makes me sneeze and makes my face go bright red but I can’t do without. How do I say it, I have a spicy tooth. For more than 20 years now, my mil has been buying whole spices, getting them ground and shipping to her children. By shipping, I mean carrying by trains and buses from Bikaner to Delhi and Pune and literally huffing and puffing while bringing them. “Absolutely no spices from the market, they have adulteration, you should eat the real thing” She admonished. One fine day, looking at her getting tired day by day in doing this stuff year on year, I decided to put an end to it and do it locally at Pune.

First I had to convince her it was a project I could undertake and handle, and that कोल्हापुर मिर्ची is comparable to that in Bikaner and let us try it this year. After a fierce mental struggle of to-give-up-or-not-to-give-up, she relented. Project approved and funded. I planned a week for completing the project, give or take a couple of days.

First step was to buy the whole red chilies, season’s new crop. Now, I am as educated about this as the baby born next door, so asked my help to get samples from the market. After analyzing three samples ( from three different vendors) procured over a week and the raw material cost, my mil declared that one sample was unfit because it was last years, other was too wet and the third too costly. So the only option was the too costly one and it became the chosen vendor and raw material. By the end of the first week we had 2 kilos of big red solid chilies procured. It may be noted that this whole process was conducted as per ISO norms. We had already overrun our schedule but the rest of the steps were expected to be done in a jiffy.

Step 2 was to break the heads of each of the chilies. An hour of labour by 2 ladies with face mask to avoid sneezing and two cups of tea later, it was done. No delays in this step.

Step 3 was to get it ground into powder form. Seemed simple. Could have been the end of the story which may not even have been told if it wasn’t for a tiny glitch in the matter. It did not quite happen that way. It was taken for grinding and the vendor said, you need to rub oil on the chilies and sun dry it for a couple of more days. My mil interjected saying it was unheard of in the parts of the world she hailed from. So we clarified the process with another vendor. Got the same response. Now confirmed, we had no choice but to cover the mouth with mask and apply the oil on every individual chili. There was really no place to sundry it, except spread on the bed in one of the rooms. Where sunlight would streak in for a couple of hours a day and it would take maybe a week to dry. Now I know why these things are easier done in villages and not in city apartments.

A week passed in all this rigmarole. The project was already delayed by a wide margin due to the large number of unknowns and no prior experience and we assumed the risks were all over by now. Now we needed to retry the step 3. With tremors in the heart, it was taken again, to the vendor. But the shop closed early that day so had to be brought back once again. This was a moderate risk but delay was marginal. Since nothing else could have been done with these chilies, we retried for the third time a day later. The vendor coolly added 1/2 kilo of salt and 250 ml of oil and ground the whole thing. Looks like that oil application at home and sun drying was redundant.

Yes, three week post the start date, the project was completed to satisfaction and we had our first meal with the mirchi under discussion. It tasted just like the food with Everest का तीखालाल। Since she had to have the last say, my mil declared that she never heard of adding salt and oil in her whole lifetime and shrugged, maybe they do it differently here. While thinking about the lessons learnt, I realized that my mil was probably better equipped for this than I.

Still makes me feel quite like the queen of spices.

PS: The turmeric and coriander season is due in March.