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Delicious food, delectable moments

Jamila Massey shares the secret of her success and fame in Delhi.

TO TALK of Chicken Tikka Masala, her forthcoming film, with Jamila Massey over lunch at Karim's is an exhilarating experience. The senior-most Asian actress in the U.K., Jamila had come for vacation to Delhi and thought she would sample the korma at the Jama Masjid restaurant after buying chikan kurtas in Chandni Chowk. A good cook herself, she enjoys Indian food at her home in Wales but to have the full course at Karim's has its own flavour.

Accompanied by her son Marcus, his British girlfriend and husband, Reggie, Jamila graciously invited this scribe to share the table at the newest wing of Karim's, built over what used to be a tea house in earlier times. The kababs came first - seekh and burra - with roomali roti. Followed the korma, eaten with butter naan, bhuna gosht, stew and plain naan. Then she remembered that besides korma, Karim's was also famous for its biryani. Instead the waiter brought pulao!

No biryani

We were late for biryani it seems. "That's a pity," said Jamila. "I particularly wanted to taste the biryani and jhal farezi. But they don't make the latter. Never mind we'll have it at Noida, where too Karim has a joint," she said to soften the disappointment.

The lunch was topped with kheer in shakoras (earthen plates). "This is actually phirnee minus the kevara," remarked Jamila, looking coy and petite in a jacket and trousers. " I feel warm," she said throwing off her shawl. Wales is much colder at this time of the year. And when I was born in Shimla, there was seven feet of snow. So Delhi is naturally warmer for me. Once in February I got a heatstroke here," she adds, adjusting her bobbed hair and customising to brother hajis.

Jamila talks in chaste Urdu, switching over to English for emphasis at times, she loved the ambience of Old Delhi. "Let's take a walk around," she suggested. "Why not," added her author husband Reginald Massey. So off we went for a short tour of Bazar Matia Mahal and then for a bird's-eye view from atop Haji Hotel. "It's amazing to see so many people in the street," she remarked.

Warm gesture

We next climbed the stairs of the Jama Masjid. Marcus's girlfriend attracted the attention of two Muslim women. "Don't go inside the masjid with your head uncovered," they said. "I don't have anything to cover my head," said the girl with a shrug. The women understand by the gesture what she meant. Promptly one of them gave her shawl to her. "Here, take this," she said, "I'll take it back when we come back after a stroll downstairs". The gesture was warmly welcomed by the girl and Jamila and her family. "It's been a lovely outing", she said later. "Come to Wales and I'll match some of the stuff we had at Karim's with Pakistani basmati rice and Kosher meat".

Jamila takes her fame as an actress lightly. For those interested in her achievements here is an update: Jamila went to Britain at the age of 12 and graduated in Latin, Urdu and English from King's College, University of London. She later took to acting.

In the Archers, the world's longest running radio serial, she plays the role of Aunt Satya, winging her way from Wolverhampton to Ambridge if she suspects all is not well with her niece Usha. Jamila has had a varied career outside the world of The Archers. Theatre work includes "The Great Celestial Cow" (Royal Court), "Conduct Unbecoming" which toured Canada as well as the UK, "Song for a Sanctuary" (Lyric Hammersmith) and "Women of the Dust" (Tamasha Theatre and Bristol Old Vic). Jamila Massey has appeared in several feature films. Among them are Madame Sonsatzka with Shirley Maclain and Shabana Azmi, Sink the Bismarck and Wild West. She also played Kasturba in Mahatma versus Gandhi in the BBC Home and World Services and Harvey Virdi in Calcutta Kosher, a play on the Indian Jewish Community of Kolkata.

To have korma at Karim's with such a person will always remain a memorable afternoon.


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