Archive for Thought for Food

Can Maddur Vade bring peace to the subcontinent?

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RAMYA KRISHNAMURTHY writes from Bangalore: For the better part of the past month, one of the questions that has been bugging me is a food-related one: who made the first Maddur Vade, and why did he make it in one of the more unremarkable places on the Bangalore-Mysore road?

(It’s so artless in its looks, it has to be a he, right?)

Sexist stereotypes aside, there are two reasons—three, if you include the inclusion of Our Man from Maddur to head the external affairs ministry—why I have been thinking about the Maddur Vade—or Maddur Vada or Vadai to irritate the semantic chauvinists.

Firstly, as my husband (age 41) keeps teasingly insisting these days, food is the new sex: there is some kind of voyeuristic pleasure to be had in reading about it; in thinking about it; in publicly imagining its myriad private possibilities.

And secondly, how can any self-respecting foodie in Bangalore not think of the Maddur Vade?

I mean, Mysore has its pak; Mangalore has its bajji and gadbad; Dharwad the peda; Davangere its benne dose. Even tiddly Bidadi has its “thatte idli“. If the identity of these small towns can be defined by food, just what accident of history deprived “big” Bangalore of its culinary claim to fame?

And what accident of history gave Maddur its pride of place on the gastronomic map?

The answer could be geography.

The fact that Maddur lies almost exactly mid-way (70 km) between Bangalore and Mysore could well explain its birth and growth as the must-have mid-way snack.

Back in pre-liberalised India, when the trains were metre gauge and private cars were few and far between, “Non-Stop” buses was the way to go. The buses halted for a few minutes underneath amid the coconut orchards for the men to amuse themselves.

Was that when the Maddur Vada made its brave incursion?

These days, for some 40-50 km on the 140-km stretch, from somewhere after Ramanagara to somewhere before Mandya, Maddur Vade stalks you like those picture postcard sellers do at the Taj or Gateway of India.

In a way, though, the Vade could be Maddur’s picture postcard except that you view it through your mouth and quickly eat up the evidence before the next town nears. But since the flavour of burnt onion is the defining characteristic of the Maddur Vade, the memory lingers long after.

So, you wonder who made it first and why?

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download2If you are on an express or shuttle trains, the vendors haul up the buckets stuffed full with the Vade at the various stations and “crossing” points. These Vades are of varying quality, slightly thicker and a slightly more expensive than the Vades that the young boys produce at your bus window.

But it is only when you are in your own car or on a bike, that the full magic of Maddur Vade can be properly exploited and appreciated.

Reason: on public transport, the Maddur Vade is a heartless, no-fuss, commercial transaction.

On the train, for instance, the vendor serves it to you on 1/8th of a newspaper sheet and rushes off because there are 14 other compartments to serve.

If you are on the evening Chamundi Express heading to Mysore, the vendor might even affectionately persuade you to pick up a packet of three or five in a plastic cover for the family but that’s just “stock clearance” before he closes shop for the day and gets off in Srirangapatna.

If you are on the dreadful Shatabdi Express, god help you.

On the bus, the Maddur Vade is a victim of logistical inconsistency. Different kinds of bus services stop at different kinds of places, and some like the Volvos don’t even do that. Result: you don’t know where, if at all, your next Maddur Vade is coming from.

It is only when you take an express bus that you can be sure that at least in the place of its birth, the Vade will materialise at your window.

On both the train and the bus, the Maddur Vade is a functional experience. The Vade and nothing more. It’s bone-dry and convenient although the train Vade has been calculated by scientists of the Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI) to be on average 2.3 times thicker than the bus Vade. (The Defence Food Research Laboratory has put the figure at 2.35 times.)

Downside: the vintage of the Vade is hidden by the speed of the transaction.

However, it is when you stop by leisurely at the highway restaurants—Maddur Tiffany’s on either side of the highway, the “MTR” Shivalli restaurant, Kamat Lokruchi, etc—especially when the sun is dipping, that you get to savour the experience of a warm-to-hot Vade with chutney, followed by strong coffee.

Only those who have newly bought a white elephant called the tread mill can stop at just one.

(Café Coffee Day, I am certain, is never likely to soil the muffin-coated mouths of its clientele despite its founder’s conjugal links with Maddur.)

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The strange thing about the Maddur Vade despite its reasonable reputation is that there are few claimants to its discovery.

The Moti Mahal in Delhi will lay claim to dishing up the first butter chicken; Bombay’s Nelson Wang to the gobi Manchurian. But who lowered the first Maddur Vade into the boiling bandlee? We will never know.

There is a museum in Shivapura but there are no statues hailing the maker, the master-chef. Yet.

My own first memory of Maddur Vade is when I was seven or eight. Our family was proceeding to Bangalore in our old Morris Tiger early one morning. Shortly after Maddur, my father swung the car into a narrow lane which deposited us in front of the railway station. Magically, a vendor appeared and served us the goodies on l’il banana leaves.

Even now, the Maddur Vade at the railway station commands a small premium over other Maddur Vades, and old faithfuls still swear by it, resisting all overtures from the vendors on the trains, till the stop nears. But this could just be good old nostalgia.

For me, the Maddur Vade has held its charm for one key reason: it was the rebel among vades in our joint family kitchen. My mother, Sharada, now 75, never ever made or attempted to make it at home. Uddina vade she did, masala vade she did, but Maddur Vade was a strict no-no.

There was something “street food” about it.

So, falling for its charms not only became a matter of the stomach but an expression of the heart. Nothing about it suggests good health. Not the oil, not the semolina, not the deep fried onions.

But the fact that they didn’t make it at home was reason enough to hog regardless of the time of day. A deep fried vade first thing in the morning on the way to work may not be what the doctor prescribes, but what’s medicine got to do with the palate when geography beckons?

Speaking of which, will Prema Krishna put Maddur Vade on the MEA menu  when the “dialogue process” begins with Pakistan? And could it usher in peace between our two countries in our troubled subcontinent?

If the shortest route to a man’s heart is through his stomach, can even Asif Ali Zardari resist the Maddur Vade‘s naked attraction that has melted millions from different parts of the country?

It’s pure fantasy, of course, but you can almost hear S.M. Krishna sitting at the high table, nodding in agreement with himself as he delicately pushes a plate of Maddur Vade towards his guests from across the border: “Here, try some of these with some gatti chutney….”

Photographs: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: How V.G. Siddhartha built the CCD dream cup by cup

Once upon a time, shortly after the lunch break

A good dosa is like your first love: unsurpassable

By-two badaam haalu for the lambu leggie, please

Mane Adige recipe: Maddur Vade

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Zen and the art of eating the (Mysore) Masala Dosa

ARVIND SWAMINATHAN writes from San Francisco: Everybody has their own, unique kink. The kink may be disgusting to some, obnoxious to others, but to the owner of the kink, it is his trademark trait, the calling card of his personality, his USP. A brave few show it off; most sheepishly hide it from the world.

When the cell phone became a status symbol, my SWE-brother’s stated mission in life was to gauge the owner by looking at the size of the instrument. The smaller the gizmo, the bigger the a******, was his execrable line till, horror!, a New York Times reporter wrote a book using a similar analogy: the bigger the sport utility vehicle, the bigger the jerk behind the wheel.

An extrovert colleague, who shall go unnamed (wink, wink), would play a guessing game whereever we went. He would inspect the posture, clothes, spectacles, hairstyle, bags and shoes of those around him to arrive at their profession. If one of those happened to come and sit near us, he would strike up a conversation and ask point blank. (Hate to say this, Mr Smart was right many times.)

Collegial stuff like this might seem trivial and thoroughly judgmental in the context of churumuri‘s obsession with the “big picture”. But fun, harmless, time-pass activities like these reassure us that there is a life beyond corruption, secularism, communalism, casteism, criminality, elections and such like.

And it is only idiots who do not have any such idiosyncracies.

All this is by way of a preface for my own little kink: which is to watch members of the human species tackle the Masala Dosa on the sly, and to make mental notes of how they are likely to approach “similar situations” that they will unfold in life. (As you can see, I am couching my words to evade the stern editor!)

Of course, you might say that it’s not good table manners to watch other people eat. But, hey, it’s my kink, you can choose yours.

(Disclaimer: I do not have any interest in supervising the fate of the Set Dosa, Plain Dosa, Rava Dosa, Onion Dosa, Ragi Dosa, or any dosa any chef anywhere can whip up at the hands of aficionados. The only dosa that pulls my pop-psychological antenna up is the Masala Dosa.)

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To me, the world is clearly divided into Masala Dosa-eaters and potential Masala Dosa-eaters, and praise be unto both of them. (There are, as you will have no doubt noticed from your own culinary observations, no former Masala Dosa-eaters, and praise be unto the Masala Dosa for that.)

There are two clear reasons why the Masala Dosa makes for such a rivetting visual experience, even if it sounds weirdly voyeuristic. One, the fold. Two, the aloo gedde palya—the “lightly cooked filling of potatoes, fried onions, and spices”—which lies beneath the fold.

(In some parts of Andhra Pradesh, the masala of the dosa comes sacrilegiously separately in an open-top katori, like the chutney and sambar. And on Ibrahim Sahib Street in Bangalore, behind Commercial Street, Tamil families used to stuff the Masala Dosa with shavige (vermicelli) baath and some or the other rice baath. But we are not talking of the same thing.)

We are talking of the genuine article here: the Masala Dosa.

The genuine Mysore Masala Dosa gets even more interesting because there is an additional bit of suspense built into its wafer-thin architecture. Namely, the coating of red or green chutney on top of which sits the alloo-gedde palya. Like the girl in the picture (above) there are some, not many, who just cannot wait to see just what lies below the dark to golden brown crackle.

Two further caveats here. One, we are not taking into account the “Set Masala Dosa” where instead of one Masala Dosa folded on both sides, we have two smaller Dosas with a single fold. In some restaurants in Mysore, they serve palya in one and saagu in the other as if to heighten the suspense. And two, we are not talking of those silly pyramid-like vertical Masala Dosas that were the rage in the late 1980s and early ’90s.

So, by virtue of having watched countless Indians, non-resident Indians, and foreigners in several cities and countries dig into the “rice pancake with a lightly cooked filling of potatoes, fried onions, and spices” in restaurants, weddings, dosa camps and other public settings, I believe I have the requisite authority vested in me by long years of fermentation, to decree that there are exactly five kinds of Masala Dosa eaters in the world.

1) Those who start at the top

2) Those who start from the bottom

3) Those who work at the sides

4) Those who pierce the middle

5) Those who open the fold

We could argue that all these five positions depend on the angle in which the dosa is placed. But, generally speaking, the Masala Dosa seems to settle down at a 30 to 45-degree angle in most plates, with a clearly identifiable top and bottom.

**

In my book (and I am unanimous about it!) those who start at the top of the Masala Dosa are mostly middle-aged men and women, and those older. These are the well-settled, organised lot, who have cracked the big mysteries of life. If they weren’t dealing with something so serious as eating a dosa, they would be sending off rockets into space. They believe in sequencing, they believe things must be done in a particular way, they believe the Masala Dosa must be eaten in a particular way. They have seen enough Masala Dosas to know what they will meet when they get in. And they have the patience to wait.

Those who start at the bottom are slightly younger, slightly more adventurous. These could be men or women. Young adults in their first or second jobs. They will effortlessly take a couple of bites from the bottom and won’t hesitate to break the sequence and try the top either. And then come back to the bottom to start all over again. There is no recognisable pattern. They believe it is still too early to decide either way. They will take it whichever way it comes.

Those who work at the sides of the Masala Dosa are usually, but not always, younger boys and girls either in love or on a fitness spree. They nibble tenderly at the roasted edges of the dosa, while they look meaningfully into the eyes of their partner or while they while away time. Each tiny crust takes an eon to melt in their mouths. This accomplishes two things for them. They spend the requisite time in conversation and they create the perception in their own minds of having eaten. Since the dosa is only incidental to their core objective, it is not unsurprising to see them leave midway.

Those who pierce the centre, delve into the middle, and wolf down the palya straightaway with the first bite are mostly young boys and teenagers. They have done the dosa in the past, they know where their sustenance for the tennis game will come from, they are hungry, and they get down to business without much ado. It’s a no-fuss relationship.

The guys who open the fold have little poetry in their hearts. They are matter-of-fact types. They know that the palya is just a small little thing in the middle. They know that if you start at the top or bottom and make your way in, there will be very little dosa left to deal with the palya. So, we might as well open the damn thing and spread it across. This demographic is also most likely to pour the chutney on top of the palya, and order a fresh katori of chutney before taking the first bite.

So, how do you do the Masala Dosa, and what does it say about who you are?

Photograph: courtesy BBC

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Look who’s hopped on to the great brand wagon!

SHRINIDHI HANDE writes from Madras: We are already used to Australian apples, Californian grapes and other more exotic fruits from foreign shores sporting a small, slick sticker, branding themselves against others. Buying them and being seen to be buying them has become a small matter of status and prestige.

Would we react the same way to fruits grown in our midst?

Roadside sellers on the outskirts of Pondicherry have started slapping a sticker on tender coconuts and toddy palms that they sell on ECR (East Coast Road). The label, in Tamil, advertisers the brand name of the coconut, and has empty slots for date, weight, and price.

That set me thinking: Can we trust such labels? Is this smart marketing to woo a new class of consumers—or just stupid imitation?

I can understand that if we do some kind of processing (cleaning, purification, packaging, preservation, etc) on a food item, to some extent we can justify branding them (for example, buttermilk). But just because you grew it in your own farm, with your preferred choice of fertilisers, plucked it from the tree, and brought it to the market (read roadside), can you justify affixing a sticker on a natural product and calling it “my brand”?

Is branding tender coconuts suppose to evoke “instant recall”? Will it bring a loyal set of consumers who go around looking for the same brand whereever they go?

Does it bring additional value to a consumer?

The Greatest Bottler up above doesn’t specify an expiry date for his products—so what date are they planning to mention there? Date of plucking from the tree? Or “best-before” date? Anyone with any experience in downing tender coconuts will be able to judge them by looking at the visible freshness of the fruit. (If there’re lots of wrinkles and dark spots on the surface, then it is over ripe.)

Ergo: dates don’t make much sense.

Ditto the weight of the coconut.

For most of the other fruits, measuring by weight makes sense but in the case of tender coconut, it is an irrelevant parameter. I don’t think there’s any mathematical relationship between the weight of the unit and quantity of water inside.

A visibly huge and heavy coconut can have an equally thicker shell and very little quantity of liquid inside while a small-sized one can be full of fresh and tasty water. So trying to reach at some conclusion based on weight would again fail.

In fact, it is extremely tough to predict the taste and quantity of tender coconut and coconut gravy. A vendor usually asks if you prefer to have only water or water with kernel (coconut meat). But even seasoned vendors cannot assure you that his pick will be 100% accurate, though by sheer experience he might manage to pick an appropriate one.

You could argue similarly for Toddy Apple.

The only advantage of branding, if any, is that it might convince certain customers (probably techies and international tourists, provided they are not much familiar with the fundamentals of tender coconuts) to believe they are going to have something of a better quality.

Photograph: Shrinidhi Hande

Cross-posted on churumuri

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Who slaughtered the unsung zero of Karnataka?

ARVIND SWAMINATHAN writes from Madras: While Kiran Rao Batni was lamenting the birth of naan, malai kofta and chicken tikka masala as local food in Bangalore (Anna-sambaar to the American on the BlackBerry) ten days ago, I was silently mourning the death of an unsung ‘zero’ of Karnataka: the kodu bale.

The food fundamentalists of churumuri would like to believe that Bisi bele baath is the quintessential Kannada contribution to cuisine. In rare moments of modesty, they might even grudgingly nominate mavinakayi chitranna as the de facto delicacy. But permit me to strike a discordant note.

Kodu bale, to my dark, deep fried mind, is Karnataka’s asli gift to humankind—if you leave out Kingfisher beer.

(Together, of course, they constitute the most potent Improvised Explosive Device (IED) invented to soften up targets. Permit me to drop a name. I once gave a box of home-made kodu bales to my then favourite Pakistan batsman Salim Malik the night before an ODI and he quietly did what match-fixers in their moments of madness must have paid him millions to accomplish: perish for zero.)

But we digress.

Something has happened to the kodu bale—as Shamala atthe and Leela dodamma used to make it.

Let’s call it The Great Kodu Bale Konspiracy.

At home, the missus can barely find the time or the inclination, and even when she can, her much-acclaimed culinary skills desert her when she starts rolling the dough for the dark dynamite. The first set turns out all right, golden-brown and perfectly round. It self-destructs in your mouth as if to leave no trace for investigators.

And, also, because you have been panting in anticipation like a hungry dobberman, because you have Vijay Mallya‘s wicked brew for company, it tastes darned divine.

But, like with Sania Mirza, the problem starts with the second set. It’s wayward, erratic, inconsistent. There are lots of double faults. Undettered, the wifey has packed about a dozen or so in a Tupperware® box for the morrow. But the next afternoon, the full scale of the disaster unravels itself: yesterday’s scrunchy runaway winner has become a soggy, rubbery runner-up.

What melted in your mouth last night, now shows no mercy on your ageing molars. It wants you to work at it. It wants you to do a million push-ups with your jaws. It wants you to pull it apart.

Suddenly, your favourite snack has become khara chewing gum. A slave of your palate has become its master.

Out of frustration, I have pursued readymade kodu bales from Kodambakkam to Kuvempunagar. From the countless Iyengar bakeries, from the Mylapore maamis, from the Shetty angadis in Chamarajpet, from the Wal-Mart of fried stuff, the Thindi Mane. But nothing works, at least not for too long.

Either it isn’t spicy enough. Or the colour isn’t inviting enough. Or the texture isn’t right. Or the shape is disgusting. Or there is a faint rancid smell. Or, the ultimate health warning, the wife detects “Dalda”.

Subversive desh drohis try to push rave kodu bale on me. When chakkuli is being made, a couple of faux kodu bales make their way. But they have no effect on me.

Is this the first sign of OCD, I wonder: Obsessive Codu-bale Disorder?

Goodness gracious me!—I thought I would never say this—but is there something unsurpassable about home-made kodu bale? Is it really true, what Nina Wadia says in Meera Syal‘s sitcom: “Why go out when I can make it at home?”

Because of our time-strapped lives or because of all those executive health checkups, or because we have all been watching food shows where all they make is macher jhol and mutton jalfrezi, has the craft of making kodu bale deserted all our homes, all at once?

Maybe, in the smaller towns and villages, kids want them as much as they do pizzas and burgers. Maybe, mothers and grandmothers still make them the way they used to although I am sure that’s an undeniably sexist thing to say. Or maybe, this is just a personal disaster.

Permit me, therefore, a moment of privacy in public to mourn the death of an unsung ‘zero’.

Photograph: courtesy maneadige.blogspot.com

Cross-posted on churumuri

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Anna-sambaar to the American on the Blackberry?

KIRAN RAO BATNI writes from Bangalore: At a long luncheon meeting with a couple of American visitors today, we did some serious overtime talking about food.

One of the guys started talking about food from Germany, Greece, Italy, Israel, China, Japan, and how he’s had a great time experimenting with the local culinary delights. He mentioned how he loves eating the local food wherever he travels, and how it’s one of the best parts of a job involving travel.

“Local food is actually the best and the safest option anywhere in the world,” he said. “You go to Japan, and you eat sushi. Period. Don’t even try anything else.”

Of course, what he said made eminent sense.

We all nodded wisely.

It took me a while to realise that in Bangalore, what we had ordered for lunch for our American visitors was naan, malai kofta (for the veggies) and chicken tikka masala (for the non-veggies), and that there was actually nothing local about any of those dishes. Wheat is not even South India’s staple cereal!

If local food is best and safest, every dish on the table was “local” to places at least 2,000 kilometers away from where we were sitting in Indiranagar.

I’d like to leave Churumuri readers to ponder the following: Why is Karnataka’s local food not to be seen in so-called decent restaurants? How have we so coolly accepted North Indian food as “local” food? Is wheat the real staple food of the bold, beautiful, rich and famous? Are rice, ragi, jowar bad linen to be hidden from foreigners to save embarrassment?

When will foreigners ever understand the diversity of India? Should they blamed if they think all Indians speak Hindi and eat naan, malai kofta and chicken tikka masala?

Is it wrong to talk about India’s culinary diversity? Should we be defensive about our own delicacies? Should we always take visitors to North Indian restaurants? What has happened to Kannadigas’ entrepreneurial skills?

Are we being ambassadors of Atulya Bharat when we forget our own culture, cuisine, and cereal?

Also read: Gutter chicken: The Punjabification of our food

M’am, can I have one more of these lovely balls?

Real estate sharks gobbling up our best eateries

Cross-posted on churumuri

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Hungry kya? Why isn’t India on the Big Mac index?

Every year, The Economist, London, publishes the Big Mac Index, a light-hearted computation of how overvalued or not a currency is, based on the price of a McDonald’s hamburger. It’s another way of looking at the theory of purchasing-power parity (PPP), which says that exchange rates should equalise the price of a basket of goods in any two countries. In other words, in dollar terms,the price of a Big Mac should be the same everywhere.

But India doesn’t figure on the Big Mac Index although Pakistan and Sri Lanka do. Why?

# Because there aren’t too many McDonald’s outlets in India?

# Because McDonald’s isn’t doing too well in India despite its trade-marking the AlooTikki?

# Because our per capita consumption of Big Macs is too low to register on the Richter scale?

# Because not too many Indians know that a hamburger isn’t made of pork?

# Because The Economist doesn’t want to insult vegetarians in the world’s largest democracy?

# Because its correspondent is on leave?

***

uoıʇɹodɹoɔ s,plɐuopɔɯ ǝɥʇ ɟo ʞɹɐɯǝpɐɹʇ pǝɹǝʇsıƃǝɹ ɐ ʇǝʎ puɐ pooƃ ʎpoolq ʇnq ʎʇɹıp ‘ʎsɐǝɹƃ ‘uɐıpuı :ıʞʞıʇ oolɐ sı ıʞʞıʇ oolɐ ˙uıɐʇıɹq ǝpısʇno ǝɹoɯ sllǝs ʇɐɥʇ ɹǝdɐdsʍǝu ʎlʞǝǝʍ ɥsıʇıɹq ɐ sı ʇsıɯouoɔǝ ǝɥʇ ˙ʎɐʍ ʇɐɥʇ ʇı dǝǝʞ uɐɔ ʎǝɥʇ puɐ uoıʇɐɹodɹoɔ s,plɐuopɔɯ ǝɥʇ ɟo ʞɹɐɯǝpɐɹʇ pǝɹǝʇsıƃǝɹ ǝɥʇ sı s,plɐuopɔɯ

***

Cross-posted on churumuri

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Real estate sharks gobbling up our best eateries

D.P. SATISH of CNN-IBN writes: Whenever I visit my home state, Karnataka, friends and relatives helpfully ask, “Why don’t you come back to Bangalore? You can happily eat idli, dosa, mosaranna and chitranna. Why do you suffer in hot and dusty Delhi, eating the same roti and sabzi day in and day out?”

Good, heart warming advice for a hardcore Kannadiga like me indeed. But is food the only attraction in Bangalore? Certainly not. But surely it is one of the best things about Bangalore.

At least it was.

The city has a hundred labels: Garden City, Knowledge City, IT City, and Pub City… But Food City describes Bangalore better than all other labels.

Sadly, though, the best eateries of Bangalore are dying.

Bangalore’s famed hotels (so called by Kannadigas even if they offer only food and no lodging!) are disappearing one after another.

These hotels are not just eating places. They are institutions. When two Bangaloreans settle down for snacks (favourite dosa, idli, vada or ambode) or coffee, they don’t just share what is served. They share a cultural outlook. These hotels gave birth to many literary and cultural movements in the state.

Who doesn’t know Vidhyarthi Bhawan in Gandhi Bazar, its crisp masala dosa and rava vada?

I still remember the day I entered Vidhyarthi Bhawan through its back door with the legendary journalist, the late Y.N. Krishnamurthy (popularly known as YNK), on a cold morning. In fact YNK was the last word on eateries and watering holes in Bangalore, and to him I owe my knowledge of hotels in Bangalore!

It was a great centre of intellectual debates, literary discussions, and a meeting place for the Who’s Who of Kannada literature and culture till recently. Giants like D.V. Gundappa to Masti, Girish Karnad to U.R. Ananthamurthy, Raj Kumar to Shankar Nag, cricket legends E.A.S. Prasanna, B.S. Chandrashekhar to G.R. Vishwanath were regular visitors to this small, low roofed, Mangalore-tiled hotel.

The hotel survives. But sadly its decline has already begun.

Brahmins Coffee Bar in Chamarajpet is the best place for idli and vada in Bangalore. This cramped eatery does roaring business even today. But it seems to have lost its old charm and its celebrity visitors.

Dwaraka Hotel on Bull Temple Road was once synonymous with the finest khali dosa. It has already made way for a multi-storey building.

The magnificent ‘Victoria Hotel’ opposite Mayo hall made way for an ugly, multi-storey mall, five years back. The great prime minister of England and a celebrated Bangalorean Winston Churchill was its regular visitor between 1890-1910. It was one of the most beautiful buildings in Bangalore.

If you live around Sajjan Rao circle and Minerva Circle, you are sure to be familiar with New Modern Hotel (NMH). Thoughts of its dosa and plate oota (or what the northerners call a thali meal) make me ravenous even as I write this in Delhi in the middle of a hot summer night.

NMH was once a meeting place for Kannada cinema stalwarts. The new stars turned their backs on this hotel decades ago. It is now struggling for survival.

Janatha Hotel, which is just a few feet from NMH, is also counting its last days.

VB Bakery at Sajjan Rao Circle is no longer a hot favourite of old Bangalore. Today’s yuppie crowd has no time or taste for old-fashioned bakery stuff! It was the cricketer Anil Kumble‘s favourite haunt during his National College days.

Fort Lunch Home opposite the Bangalore Fort has now become a part of history.

Where do you go, if you want to taste an authentic Mysore meal on MG Road? Brindavana Hotel next to Sympony cinema is the obvious choice. This hotel, too, is on the way out. I hear the owner is planning to build a huge shopping mall there. It makes business sense to pull it down to build a mall. But such demolitions most certainly sadden old and true Bangalorean hearts.

Another old hotel serving an Udupi menu in neighbouring Ulsoor downed its shutters a month ago. Komal Hotel at the junction of Wheelers Road and Assaye road may live at best for another two or three years.

Big names like MTR, Janardhana Hotel, Udupi Krishna Bhavan, Sri Sagar (Malleswaram), Krishna Bhavan, Airlines Hotel, nearly 200-year-old Dewars Bar (known as Bangalore’s first bar !), road side eateries at Sajjan Rao circle and idli, dosa night hotels on Ibrahim Sahib street, many old hotels on the three-century-old Avenue road and historic India Coffee House on M.G. road also look like they are past their glory days, and are waiting to shut down.

Who is responsible for the death of these eateries?

Has the Bangalorean stopped eating out?

The booming restaurant business in Bangalore tells a different story.

As the city grew, its demographic profile altered. New people, new jobs and an entirely new lifestyle brought new things into the city. Bangalore accepted them all. But tragically, it lost its old eating places to the real estate boom.

It is a sad story of real estate sharks eating Bangalore’s best eateries.

All these hotels are family run businesses. The younger generation is no longer interested in carrying forward the legacy of their fathers and forefathers. They have firmly set their eyes on real estate money or on bigger, better white collar jobs, which bring them social status and more money.

There’s nothing wrong with change. But some changes break your heart. Bangalore’s future looks like it will cleave the city into two. Two Bangalores living side by side, but strangers to one another.

We see it in the new cosmopolitan Bangalorean’s total ignorance of the old Bangalore world, of its language, of its writers, its traditions, its culture, and its eating habits. The growth of a city does not depend merely on its per capita income or its infrastructure. It has something called Soul.

As the noted novelist Shashi Deshpande says of change in Bangalore-Bean town to Boom town (edited by Jayanth Kodkani and R. Edwin Sudhir):

“It [change] generally happens over a period of time, giving room for assimilation, for absorption. In Bangalore it has been just too rapid, so that there are too many people who have no idea of its original culture and yet, because of their income and positions, have a great influence over the shape of the city and its future. And therefore the danger that it could be a city completely cut off from its past. An amnesiac city. “

When I return to Bangalore in future, I may have to be content with cappuccinno coffee and pizza, instead of traditional by-two coffee and dosa.

What a tragedy.

Cross-posted on churumuri

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