Saturday, January 01, 2011

Best of 2010

Looking back at this year, given it is that time of the year, I realize that I have a written a lot. I admit that my blog or the ‘The Alternative’ doesn’t look like it. But I have – hundreds of pages; and I use “hundreds of pages” not as a figure of speech, but quite literally to refer to, well, hundreds of pages. It is not the type you will ever get to read – Actually it is the type of writing that friends and loved ones enquire about, ask you to send to make you believe that it is worth something. And save it for their post-retirement reading.

So, given that I have written a lot, I haven’t had much time this year to do anything else. Like read books (except for the odd, blockbuster Indian fiction) or watch movies (apart from the ones in HBO and Star movies that come with subtitles so that you can watch them in mute while your son is sleeping) or pen random thoughts as blogs (and pretend the entire world is reading). So, my best of 2010 list is made of two hobbies that was a favorite with every freshman the year I joined college – Listening to music and watching TV (Yes that is true – these were the hobbies of a lot of people in my batch not coincidentally because these were least prone to be ragged on).

Since there’s nothing new to be written about the music that I listen to (except retro in is quite a find), it is a show on TV that takes the sole spot in my best of 2010 (while you could argue that best isn’t quite right for a list of 1 item).

Cooking on TV is not a very engaging activity (No, Masterchef India is not my favorite show this year; but you are close). As I was saying, cooking is not very engaging especially for someone like me who doesn’t like to or want to cook. You cannot fill moments of cooking with suspense and there’s no way for you to enjoy what someone’s cooked on television. Plus, to be a cook is not an aspiration that we, Indians, can relate to. So, if you are not in it for the recipe, there is precious little that you get out of it. There are no SMS polls, celebratory shows in Malaysia or a chance that someone is going to sing or dance for your favorite numbers. All you have are a set of people cutting, chopping, frying and serving food in the end.

And I have never been easily pleased with shows like these. I haven’t watched even one entire episode of any reality show before – Not the wannabes on stage, celebrities in jungles or weirdoes in a house. But I was riveted to this show, this cooking show, every day of the week. I will make time at 9PM and watch it from beginning to end and if I did miss it, catch the re-runs the next day. I spent time reading about the people – contestants and the judges – on Wikipedia and other gossip websites. I had my favorites and when they lost, picked new ones I was sure will win.

So, why did I like Masterchef Australia so much?

Firstly (and when I start a paragraph like this, you know what I have been writing), thought. The show’s not just about cooking – it’s about cooking in the jungle for the army, in the flight for a CEO, a ship for a party, for the old women association, for government royalty, in London and in Paris. Every show had a new concept or situation that the people had to adapt to, something for them to learn from. And, there’s real learning – the best chefs in the business teach the participants how to cook; the participants go to the best restaurants in town as rewards for their accomplishments. And the feedback is specific and consistent. As someone watching the show, you could see them evolve as cooks, show after show. Finally, there are real people in the show. Real people who are nice to each other, watch each other’s backs and show honest camaraderie. The judges are firm but considerate, generous in praise and candid in criticism. Participants feel good when they perform well and the good vibe carries over to the rest of the show as well.

So, in the end you end up cheering for people who are doing something that you don’t really enjoy, aspire for a goal that you cannot relate to, through a medium that doesn’t lend itself to the show. But you still feel for them and make them a part of your daily lives. And like any wonderful work of art, the show changes you without you realizing it. Recently wife and I were at a restaurant to celebrate a day off – when they served us the dish we ordered, for the first time we appreciated the presentation of the dish and the thought that went in plating it for us.

And for making my life richer by giving me an eye to appreciate these finer pleasures of life, I am truly grateful. And that's enough reason why the show is the only one on my list of best of 2010.