Monday, March 12, 2007

Theplas - An Entrepreneurial Idea

Despite being in Baltimore for over 2 years, this was the first time I was flying into the city as my port of entry. BWI being a huge domestic hub, but a not so huge international hub, my hopes were high of getting past immigration and security in quick time. All was good till security. Immigrations was a breeze, getting my bag was even easier but as we approached security, the nightmare began.

On flight, I had become pretty pally with this Italian guy and Indian girl. And as we walked towards security any example of racial profiling became very evident. The officer pulls the Indian girl and me aside, asks us to go left. Mr. Italiano happily walks through and is scott-free. As I look around, I find myself in a queue which contains Nigerians, Chinese and Indians. All waiting for their bags to be scanned, opened up, examined. Not a single European/American in that queue. The algorithm was simple. Indian, Chinese, Middle-Eastern, African - go left. Others, go home.

And so I stand in the line, a little annoyed. However in such times I can count on my Gujju tribesmen to provide some relief. In front of me was a pure blood Gujarati, probably flying first time into USA and he was being grilled by the security officer. First, he was asked to open his bag and every item examined. Halfway through this examination, this is how the conversation went.

Security: What plant is this?
Gujju: Its a broom.

Security officer wears latex gloves and picks up what in India we call a broom, made of long wooden twigs most commonly used to clean up toilets. Its used to scrub away dirt with water and many a time used by the Assam guys working at roadside Chinese food stalls to clean their frying pans.

Security (holding broom upright, wearing latex gloves): This is a broom?
Gujju: Yes. Special broom.

The officer took the broom aside, sprayed it with something. Then he carried it into a room, came out after a while and put it back in the bag. While he was gone, the Gujju turns around and says to his clan, "Gaanda chhe baddha.", a mild interpretation of which would be - "All these guys are stupid"

And while Mr. Gujju was being examined, I got pulled into an aisle parallel to his by another officer who ripped open my bags, asked me how much money I was carrying and why the hell was I coming to Baltimore. When I return from India, usually I am in no mood to cook for a few weeks, so my Mom always packs some food for me. This time I was in no mood to cook for a month, so I went overboard and asked for a 100 theplas to be packed. So our cook toiled for a day and we had 100 theplas
(recipe) all packed in my bag. So when the officer opens my bag, he finds theplas all over.

Officer: Whats this?
Me: Indian bread. (for those unaware of theplas, they do not look like bread in any manner whatsoever, but are an awesome gujju dish)
Officer: Indian bread?
Me: Well, its called theplas (at this moment the Gujju man turned around and bared all his teeth), its not bread, its more like.... ummm....
Officer: Whats it made of?
Me: (I had no idea) Potatoes and ummm.... lettuce(?)
Officer: Does it have any meat?
(Gujju man gave a look of shock, another Gaanda chhe baddha look)
Me: Nope. This is a traditional dish. Pure vegetarian.
Office: Why are you carrying so many?
Me: The doctor has asked me to stay on a high carb diet for a month.

Somehow he seemed to buy it and let me go with a "Thank You for your patience".

However, this guy has given me a new entrepreneurial idea. Chicken theplas. Shrimp theplas. Lamb Theplas. Scallop Theplas. Boston Clam Chowder Theplas. Why not? When we can have chicken dosas? All the convert gujjus (I mean, gujjus who converted to non-veg) would love it. So do I have someone ready to go in for a partnership? You have my email address.

On a slightly different note, anyone come across any sort of profiling at US airports? I've flown into this country five times and this is the first time I was given a hard time. Or was it because I was flying British Airways?

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Anonymous IdeaSmith said...

Oh gawd...shrimp theplas? But what else can you expect from a guy who grew up in a place serving Jain Chicken and Chinese bhel??? Not to mention the inevitable goozoo connexion.

Increase the font for gawdssakes, I gotta squint to make out the words.

As you can see, I'm back in my venom-spewing, cribby, fine form! Plizz to not say that you knew I would...

March 12, 2007 2:52 AM  
Blogger anjali said...

Aiyo. Here in our local slang, we'd refer to someone incredible, clever, super wonderful as 'terror'; so by that standard, maybe the security thought you were a "terrorist". Geddit?

Happy theplas! :-)

March 12, 2007 10:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i had 70 rotis, 20 puran polis, spices, dried shrimp from kerala, pickles, kaju barfis, laddoos, chocolate barfis etc ( i too did not want to cook for a month after coming back ...heeeeeeee). my immigration was a breeze at Chicago. No checking at all..

The only thing that sucked was staying a day/night there as I was amidst a snowstorm that covered the entire northeast region. Luckily AA guys was sweet enough to give me hotel lodging. Met 2 other females( one American and one ABCD) from Florida there at the Hotel. And went drinking with them.
Now, that wasnt bad eh!

Yeah other thing i forgot to mention, i met Pritam Potnis and wife at Mumbai airport the day i was leaving. Same flight.


March 12, 2007 11:48 AM  
Anonymous the pooh said...

hmmm .. ive never had problem either.. but that maybe coz i never bring anything ... i was checked in india coz my parts of my bangle stand( mind u I am a bangle freak and i have more than 500 at home) looked like some kind of a weapon.. one look at my boxes of bangles and the guy said...oh for ur freinds eh?

I said,"Hell no..Its all for me" .. he let me go and didnt say another word.. he must have thot i was crazy hehehhe

March 12, 2007 1:33 PM  
Blogger APOO said...

#Smithy: I knew you would :P
But thanks for the feedback, I shall do soething about the dont in the future.

#Anjali*: What do they call you? From what you have mentioned, you should be called Osama (king of terror) - Am I getting to cheesy?
PS: U shud try 'em theplas!

#Amrita: Oh boy! I got em pooranpolis as well. Yummm! =D
Why do you get to go drinking with two chicks, while I get investigated by rude security gaurd? No fair!!
He he! U met Potnis? Did you ask him to burp A to Z? =D

#Pooh: That maked the two of us. The guy who checked your luggage and me. Both of us think you are crazy! :P

March 12, 2007 8:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We 3 indian students travelled to US for a conference from Sydney PoE being LA. Immigration was a breeze there. it got tough when we got to domestic terminal (airtran). We were the last passengers and we were searched by about 11 ppl. we were pat tested, tested for explosives, drugs etc etc. my friend had a metal hir clip which sent the metal det. into a frenzy and all 11 went crazy too, one had his hand on the stun gun. it was altogether hilarious

March 12, 2007 10:26 PM  
Blogger anjali said...

Not cheesy - a tad defensive. It was meant to be a compliment la. Pass them theplas, you dork!

March 13, 2007 9:14 AM  
Anonymous Aditya said...

hmm...did you count your theplas after your encounter of the immigration kind?? ye immigration waale thepla khaane ke liye kahin bhi jaa sakte hain....

March 13, 2007 9:27 AM  
Blogger Di said...

I cant help giggling just imagining the wud have probably looked like the gujju and u were 2 school kids sharing a secret that the security wala didnt know cud have been made a little more spicy if the gujju had told him that the broom was used to fly away and escape when evil spirits attacked.with the immense ignorance wide-spread about India, he might have actually bought the story.. :D

March 13, 2007 12:29 PM  
Blogger APOO said...

#Anon from Sydney: Heh! Thats something! Yes, things here can get a lil weird post 9/11.

#Anjali*: Of course I knew you were complimenting! What I meant was, since you are like super super super incredible, clever, & wonderful, they might be calling you Osama! Ahhh... forget it. I think too deep!
U sure u want em theplas? U gonna have to send me your address and I might turn up as delivery boy!

#Aditya: LOL! If I find some missing, I shall consider it duty. BTW, those customs guys in USA dont have the belly to handle the fire! Altho, after that last line of yours, I need to watch DCH!

#Di: LOL! Yes, I have a friend who was telling me about some chap asking her if people fly on carpets in India =)
Perhaps next time I'll carry a broom and do the needful.

March 13, 2007 9:26 PM  
Blogger anjali said...

A jpeg picture will do, delivery boy! :-)

March 14, 2007 4:06 AM  
Blogger Sense said...

100 theplas and no halwa! I'm shocked! not even the dudhi ka halwa??? tsk tsk.
On our recent trip we packed a suitcase full of nothing but ready-to-eats. Mercifully, thanks to the brilliance of Jet- and erm... the presence of Pickwick, we were whisked thru' the fast track at the airport and cleared without any hassles.

March 15, 2007 5:52 AM  
Blogger Madame Mahima said...

what the hell kind of screwed up theplas have u been eating.
theyre NOT made of potatoes and lettuce
and dont gimme any BS excuse abt how u had to think on ure feet at tt time to avoid the theplas being thrown away/ u detained :P
didnt ure mum send u pickle too?? and khakra?? she HAD to have sent khakra

March 19, 2007 10:40 AM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

don't know what theplas are but sounds yummy. and was laughing just trying to imagine the expression on the officers face :))

April 10, 2007 12:25 PM  

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