India – Pitch Dark

Father of a Nation

I could never go on a hunger strike. I love food and enjoy eating way too much to ever stop. Plus, I really don’t care about anything passionately enough to drop my utensils and lose inches from my waistline. In this way (and many others), Mahatma Gandhi and I differ. Gandhi, striving for the independence of India and looking to achieve it through non-violent means, advocated for social disobedience, as opposed to baring arms. Let’s learn a little more about the Father of India:

Mahatma isn’t actually Gandhi’s first name, as that is an honour that was bestowed upon him as early as 1914. It means “High-Souled” or “Venerable” in Sanskrit. He has also received the title Bapu, which translates to “Father” or “Papa” in Gujurati. Ghandi’s actual given name is Mohandas.

Hunger Games

At the young age of 13, Ghandi was married to Kasturba Makanji. Of course, the nuptials were of the arranged variety, as the two had been engaged to one another from the age of seven. The two stayed together through four children and even Gandhi’s vow of celibacy, until Makanji died in 1944 at the age of 74.

Ghandi was hardly on the path to lead an entire nation as a youngster. He was so shy that he would run home from school every day, just to avoid speaking to anyone. Gandhi actually spoke English with a slight Irish accent, as one of his first teachers was from Ireland.

It was in South Africa, not India, that Ghandi first gained a reputation as a fighter for social justice. A lawyer by trade, Ghandi found work in the British- and Dutch-controlled country, where discrimination against Indians was rampant. Ghandi joined the cause for improved civil rights for Indians in South Africa, also developing his theory of “Satyagraha” (“Firmness in Truth”) and nonviolent protest. Ghandi was arrested multiple times before leaving the state in 1914 and returning to India to fight for India’s independence.

Ghandi loved to walk, which served him well for the Salt March of 1930, a 241 mile trek to the sea at Dandi. This was one of Gandhi’s most important actions on his rise to power and was triggered by the British levying a tax on salt. More than 60,000 Indians were arrested for their involvement with the protest.

Gandhi - Yoda

On January 30, 1948, Gandhi was shot three times in the chest by a fellow Hindu, Nathuram Godse. Godse was upset by Gandhi’s acceptance of a plan to split India into two separate countries: India and Pakistan, feeling the leader catered to Pakistan too much. Godse was hung for his crime on November 15, 1949, along with co-conspirator Narayan Apte. Ironically, on the day of his death, the extremely punctual Ghandi was 10 minutes late for a prayer meeting. Following his death, Gandhi’s ashes were spread throughout the India, with one urn now residing at the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine in Los Angeles (this would mark Gandhi’s only trip to North America).

Nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize five times, Gandhi never received the award. He was being considered again in 1948, the year he was assassinated. That year, no Peace Prize was handed out, with the Nobel committee announcing that there was “no suitable living candidate.” Later winners of the Peace Prize, Martin Luther King Jr., Aung San SuuKyi, Nelson Mandela, Adolfo Perez Esquivel, and the 14th Dalai Lama all credited Gandhi as an inspiration. The Gandhi Peace Prize has been given out by the Indian government a total of 13 times since 1995, with Mandela being a former recipient.

Gandhi was named Time Magazine’s ‘Man of the Year’ in 1930 and was runner-up to Albert Einstein for ‘Person of the Century.’ Gandhi’s birthday of October 2nd has been granted the distinction of being ‘International Day of Nonviolence,’ while his death date of January 30th has become ‘School Day of Nonviolence and Peace.’

A movie based on Gandhi’s life was released in 1982. The film starred Ben Kingsley (aka The Sexy Beast) as the activist and politician. Gandhi won eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor in a Leading Role for Kingsley. An interesting upcoming work called Welcome Back Gandhi will look at how Gandhi might approach modern day India and its issues.

Ghandi Super

Gandhi is a character in the cartoon Clone High, which takes numerous historical figures and puts them back in a high school being run as a secret U.S. government operation. He is joined by the likes of Abraham Lincoln, Joan of Arc, John F. Kennedy, Cleopatra, Genghis Khan, Julius Caesar, and others. This version of Gandhi, however, is a party animal, as opposed to the real Gandhi, a fact which upset Indians when they learned of the short-lived series.

After being influenced by Leo Tolstoy’s book, ‘The Kingdom of God is Within You,’ Ghandi became pen pals of sorts with the Russian author. Similarly, Henry Ford was an admirer of Gandhi and Gandhi even took the time to send Ford an autographed charkha. One other interesting note: the same carriage that held Gandhi’s body for his funeral was used again nearly 50 years later, in 1997, for Mother Teresa’s memorial.

India: Pitch Dark

Pitch Dark Cocktail

I was going to discuss India’s reputation as a call center hub, but I got put on hold and went in the Gandhi direction, instead. In his honour, I will have a massive feast tonight and pour one out for my homies!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4 Sips out of 5):
It was quite difficult finding recipes specifically for Royal Challenge Whiskey. This is a pretty plain and simple cocktail, but it was one of the better drinks I could find that utilizes this specific whiskey. It was a good cocktail and exactly what you’d expect from the classic combination of ingredients. I only wish that more options for Royal Challenge existed.

India – Prince Charming

Dirty Dancing

Bollywood (also known as Hindi Cinema), the Indian film industry, takes its name by combining the ‘B’ in Bombay with the rest of Hollywood, minus the ‘H’. It is a massive business – the largest in the world… even topping the American movie trade in the 1970’s – that celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2013. The industry produces approximately 1,000 films each year, which are available in more than 90 countries and results in a viewership of three billion people. Those are some staggering numbers, so let’s learn a little more about the phenomenon:

The first Bollywood film was ‘Raja Harishchandra,’ which was a silent film released in 1913. The movie premiered in Bombay’s Coronation Cinema and included men playing any female roles. Nearly 20 years later, the first Indian film with sound, ‘Alam Ara,’ hit theatres. A few years after that, the first Bollywood film with colour, ‘Kisan Kanya,’ opened to audiences. It’s hard to imagine Indian films being anything but filled with vibrant colours and singing and dancing numbers.

Sing and Dance

Speaking of those types of movies, Bollywood’s first musicals were released in the 1930’s and drew inspiration from Hollywood’s 1920’s musical efforts. These Hindi releases included ‘Indra Sabha’ and ‘Devi Devyani,’among others. The Golden Age of Indian Cinema followed, occurring between 1940 and 1960, with many films targeting the social issues of the time in the country. As the 1960’s came, romance and action movies became popular within the Bollywood industry and in the 1970’s the gangster flick took over at the box office.

In 1946, the movie ‘Neecha Nagar’ (aka Lowly City) won the Best Film Award at the inaugural Cannes Film Festival and went on the gain recognition around the world. The film looks at the divide between the upper and lower classes and features Ravi Shankar as its music director. More success for Bollywood films at the Cannes Film Festival came in 1988, when ‘Salaam Bombay’ won the Golden Camera and Audience Awards. It was later nominated for an Oscar in the Best Foreign Language Film category.

The most songs featured in any Bollywood film was a whopping 71 in ‘Indra Sabha.’ I can barely get through a beloved Disney film without jabbing a Q-tip into my ears, so this would certainly be an excruciating experience for the Sip Advisor! The longest song in Bollywood film history is ‘Ab Tumhare Hawale Watan Saathiyon’ (try saying that three times fast… you’re not allowed to play if you’re Indian!). The number appears in the film of the same name.

Themes typically found in Bollywood films include ill-fated lovers, disappointed parents, family issues, corruption, and crime, as the movies blend singing and dancing, romance, comedy, and action. While older Hindi films featured pre-arranged marriages, modern Bollywood movies have incorporated Westernized relationship ideals and practices.

Dancing in the Street

While many Hollywood productions can cost hundreds of millions of dollars to create, the most expensive Bollywood release ever filmed was 2011’s ‘Ra One,’ which cost $27 million. Similarly, while a number of Hollywood releases can be credited with raking in piles of cash, the 2009 comedy ‘3 Idiots’ (which the Sip Advisor somehow did not receive a role in) is the greatest earner in Bollywood history, taking in a mere $71 million worldwide.

It may not be the Academy Awards, but for Hindi films, the Filmfare Awards provide the Bollywoood industry its brightest night to shine. The most prestigious award one can gain for a lifetime of contributions to the Indian movie business is the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, which is handed out by the country’s government each year.

Many Bollywood films surpass the 3-hour running time and include an intermission. Personally I wouldn’t mind if this was adopted for longer North American films, as who doesn’t thirst for the chance to hit a washroom during some of these epics! The longest Bollywood movie is ‘LOC L Kargil,’which clocks in at a whopping 4 hours and 25 minutes.

While Hollywood has its Walk of Fame, Mumbai has countered with its own Walk of the Stars. Also, in India, folks can enjoy Bollywood tours, which include visits to film sets, as well as checking out the homes of celebrities, much like the tours of stars’ mansions offered by unscrupulous Hollywood guides.

Bollywood Style

It’s estimated that 14 million Indians attend movie theatres each day. That said, the Bollywood film industry suffers losses of about $100 million per year due to pirated content. Interestingly, Hindi film soundtracks are often more popular than their movie counterpart and are released prior to the film to help draw viewers in.

According to director Baz Luhrmann, his popular musical ‘Moulin Rouge’ was inspired by Bollywood films. Now I know who to blame for all the times Mrs. Sip insists I watched this tripe again. Thanks, India!

And finally, director Yash Chopra has been given the title of ‘Godfather of Romance,’ although that thief stole the moniker from me. Just ask Mrs. Sip and she’ll back me up… at least she better, for fear of losing me as her personal sandwich artist. Drink time!

India: Prince Charming

Prince Charming Martini

I feel like I should watch a Bollywood movie while enjoying today’s cocktail… perhaps I’ll just throw on the gripping Slumdog Millionaire and pretend it’s a Hindi movie!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (3.5 Sips out of 5):
This drink was nice and smooth, despite being booze heavy and with not much mixer going into the recipe. It all went down easy thanks to its small serving. Of course, this was my first time trying Royal Challenge Whiskey and I’m still trying to figure out it’s quality. I think I’ll have to have a snifter of it straight up, as the Cognac may have helped a lot here.

September 3 – Unicorn

Animal Crackers

Recently, a big deal in social media was made over Scotland’s national animal (to be revealed very shortly). That got me thinking about the rest of the world and which creatures have had the honour of proudly and respectfully representing a country. No nation will be off limits, as I am definitely going to skewer my home country. Here are some of the best selections:

Unicorn – Scotland

For some reason, a mythological animal for Scotland actually makes sense given they’re a mythological country! I’m just messin’ with ya Scots. Don’t forget, we here in Canada still have strong ties to the U.K. despite our distance from the motherland. The unicorn was actually a symbol of the Scottish royal family. The more you know *rainbow swipe*!

unicorn

Beaver – Canada

Speaking of my part of the world, we chose an animal which just begs for other citizens to make double entendres about how much we love it! Bring on the jokes, we can take them! The beaver is a very industrious animal, building their dams for shelter. They are also good recyclers, using trees that nobody needs anymore. Stupid oxygen-enabling trees!

Lion – Belgium/Bulgaria/Luxembourg/Netherlands/U.K.

Are there even lions in most of these countries (that aren’t caged in a zoo)? Did they just choose a bad ass animal to look cool among the international community, not realizing how many other countries also claimed the feline? A place like Ethiopia or Kenya having the lion as their national animal makes sense…since, you know, lions actually live there.

King Cobra – India

This is an intimidating choice, warning us all that the Indian population can be subdued with hypnotic music, but at the same time are deadly predators that can strike in an instant and cause accelerated death. If that’s really the case though, why does it take me so long to get a live person when I call for customer service?

Cobra and girl

See, cobras can be cute and cuddly!

Gallic Rooster – France

It kind of makes sense that France would relate themselves to a bunch of cocks, am I right!? I’m sure most French people are actually quite nice, but Parisians take the cake on being dicks. We once had a cab driver who refused to acknowledge our request to go to the Eiffel Tower until we flipped it and said “Tour Eiffel”… Va te faire foutre!!

Persian Cat – Iran

While most would view the Iranians with some fear and hostility, how can you do that when they picked a freakin’ fluffy cat as one of their national animals! Ma and Pa Sip have a Persian-ish cat at home and she’s a darling…unless you try to move her off the bed. Not very friendly to her fellow felines either now that I come to think about…

Dolphin – Greece

Of course the Greeks would pick the most sexual of creatures when selecting their national animal. They did, after all, invent a great deal of the carnal moves and positions in existence, rivaling the Indians and their Karma Sutra. Apparently, dolphins also play a role in Greek mythology, as helpers of mankind. Aquaman must be jealous!

funny-dolphin

Dodo – Mauritius

Good job Mauritius (wherever the hell you are) for picking an animal that has long been extinct. Perhaps your fate will be much the same. Seems like you’re asking for a rough future with your choice in animal worship.

Bull – Spain

Nothing like killing your national animal for the entertainment of screaming, blood-thirsty fans! What’s that, you also show it respect by tying up its testicles before you taunt, tease, assault, and slaughter the beast? Hmmm, you Spanish have a funny way of showing affection. At least the bull sometimes gets revenge with a thunderous gore!

Bulldog – U.K.

Scotland’s pick of the unicorn doesn’t look so bad anymore. At least it’s a majestic creature. Meanwhile, England picked one of the foulest mutts in the dog world. With a face only an owner could love and enough drool to flood an apartment, the bulldog seems an unlikely choice for people who a nation of prim and proper tea drinkers.

Drink #246: Unicorn

Unicorn Drink

  • 1 oz Irish Crème
  • 0.5 oz Brandy
  • 0.5 oz Kahlua
  • 0.5 oz Vodka
  • Splash of Cointreau
  • Dash of Melon Liqueur
  • Top with Milk
  • Garnish with a Pink Marshmallow

What do you think of some of these national animals? Is there a country you wish I had targeted with my adept lampooning? I can take the heat, just as much as I can give it out! By the way, here’s a quiz on the subject of national animals (I hope you were taking notes)… enjoy!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4 Sips out of 5):
I really enjoyed the Melon Liqueur finish. It went really well with the rest of the recipe, highlighted by the Irish Crème. Garnishing the cocktail with a Pink Marshmallow seemed like the perfect addition for a Unicorn-themed drink.