Noodles with my toothbrush

Aug 19, 2018, 06:33 IST | Meenakshi Shedde

This falls squarely in the #DisgustingThingsIndiansDoAbroad category

Noodles with my toothbrush
Illustration/Uday Mohite

Meenakshi SheddeOk, so this falls squarely in the #DisgustingThingsIndiansDoAbroad category. But first let me explain. Last week, I was at the Jecheon International Music and Film Festival in South Korea, three hours' drive from the capital Seoul. The festival had invited me to give a lecture-demonstration on what I call 'The Flowering Tree of Indian Cinema's Song and Dance.' Jecheon is a charming town, certified by Cittaslow as a "slow city"— with a small population, enjoying a slow pace of life, high quality local food and drink, and opposition to cultural standardisation. It nestles deep in the countryside, amid lakes and hills, where chirping crickets set the tone.

One night, I returned late to my hotel room, famished. I found the hotel restaurant had closed at10 pm, and so had the room service. The previous night, the festival's opening party at the hotel had continued past 12.30 am, with guests sashaying on to their second party of the night, so I was surprised. Desperately hungry, I ransacked my room. The festival welcome kit included — I was eternally grateful — a thermocol cup of instant noodles with Korean masala: I just had to add hot water and wait for four minutes. Then I discovered there were no spoons, forks or chopsticks in the room. I looked for all the long things with which I could possibly eat noodles. Pencil? Nah. Two-pin plug? No way! That left a toothbrush. Singapore Airlines had given me an overnight airline kit with fresh socks, a new toothbrush and toothpaste. I took out the new toothbrush and hesitantly washed it, but hunger quickly took over. I quickly gobbled the noodles, using the tail end of the toothbrush, twirling the noodles around it, then slurped off the soupy part. Eeuww! True, but somehow I felt eating soupy noodles with my bare fingers was decidedly dégueulasse. Kuch toh sharam honi chahiye.

Back in Seoul, Kim Hong-Joon, filmmaker and éminence grise, for whom I had curated a Bollywood film package way back in 2003, when he headed the Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival, very graciously took me out to lunch. Then he showed me the spectacular Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) complex, designed by Zaha Hadid, the late Iraqi-British architect. Initially, I was put off by its strangely-shaped, Brutalist architecture, in steel and cold, grey concrete.

But as soon as I entered the vast building, I was intoxicated by her use of space, texture, form, playfulness, and curving, arching, swooping walls, arches and bridges. Mr Kim, who also heads the Chungmuro International Musical Film Festival, had screened Om Shanti Om under one of its high bridges, as a Korean flash mob danced alongside to its Dhoom Taana song, to a roar of applause. There's a wonderful inside-outside feel to this screening and dancing space, and the DDP is delighted with the new uses Mr Kim has invented for it, bringing in lively, young audiences to the hoity-toity plaza. Take a bow, Mr Kim!

Meenakshi Shedde is South Asia Consultant to the Berlin Film Festival, award-winning critic, curator to festivals worldwide and journalist. Reach her at

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