Idli Vadaa breakfast

In the morning, I thought again of Bangalore. As I was pouring the corn flakes into the small white bowl that was part of your left-over stuff, my mind flew back through time and space to Indiranagar, Koramangala and Kasturi Nagar. Not to the buildings and the roads, but to the feeling. You can call it the Bangalore state of mind- gets to me often on Sundays.

On Sundays I used to get myself an Idli Vadaa breakfast. I’d invariably wake up quite late (by my standards), and then lie around in bed for another two hours, calling and catching up with friends or just generally dragging my feet through the delicious laziness of a Sunday morning. By the time, I got out of the house it might be ten, or eleven, or even twelve. There’s really no telling, for in my mind, time stretches eternal in Bangalore on weekends. Luckily for me, Shree Ganesh Veg served idli vadaa all through the day.

Plus- it’s Bangalore. It’s sweltering right now in Mumbai, but it’s likely to be mild and breezy in Bangalore. It rains all year round there, and if it rains in the evening the next day is likely to be cloudy and overcast. If I’m lucky (which I frequently am), this is what Sunday mornings are like. After a night of rain, the breeze is cool and laden with moisture. As I go down to the friendly neighbourhod darshini time moves slowly all around me. At eleven, the streets of Kasturi Nagar are mostly deserted, and there is no sign of the constant buzz that is Mumbai. A couple of people sitting with the presswaala chatting, maybe a grandmother walking down the road with her grandson and the odd lone young man walking down to the grocery store to get his egg puff, chai and the first cigarette of the day. That’s what a Sunday here is like.

It’s the market area where I see the first signs of crowd. All sorts of people eating at the darshini. A surprisingly tall lady surrounded by two equally tall men- they say there is something about Bangalore’s water that makes the skeleton grow at an alarming rate. There might be some truth to it, for I have seen this lanky, bony frame on quite a few people in Bangalore. But to come back to the point- there are all types of people here. On Sundays there is always a fair sprinkling of the species known as the KasturiNagaris Bacheloris. Most of them have just gotten out of bed and come straight to this place to have breakfast. You can usually spot them by the boxers or shorts and chappals they are wearing. They’ll be talking loudly in Hindi complaining about their bosses or talking about the movie they plan to watch later in the day.

As always there are also the auto drivers tucking into their Khara Bath, Bisi bele Baath or lemon rice. There are housewives wearing jasmine in their hair and a child sitting on the countertop and there will always be at least one old Bangalore family all out together. They all stand shoulder to shoulder eating off the shiny stainless steel countertops. Meanwhile, two old men stand near the newsstand at the corner, talking loudly about our country even as they sip their coffees from the upturned edges of the small metal cup. But there is no time to observe, for by the time I get there I am usually ravenous and the vadaas, piled up all fried and crunchy on one side of the counter seem to be calling out to me.

They make the Vadaas fresh every morning and idlis are made in batches through the day. So the earlier you get there the fresher your vadaa is. There is nothing in this world quite like a fresh Vadaa. Perfectly crisp and crunchy on the outside, light and fluffy inside. Dip it in sambhar, and the hot and spicy daal will seep into the pores of the vadaa, not enough to take the crunchiness off the outer part but just enough to moisten the insides. That’s how I like to have my vadaa. I also like to alternate between two to three bites of the Idli and one bite of the vadaa, so I can save the best till the last. On days that I really feel like indulging, I’ll also have a masala dosa and top it all off with some of the strong chicory flavored filter coffee of Shree Ganesh Veg. The coffee is essential to the entire experience, for it acts as a catalyst, ‘bringing to a boil’ (so to speak), all those feelings of satiety and contentment.

Laid-back is the word for the entire experience, except for the small part when you are jostling with others to first order your food and then to get it delivered to you. Yet these are Bangaloreans and they will always make space for you on their table if you so desire. It is impossible to fluster these people. One of the Kasturi Nagar bachelors standing behind me says loudly “Abbe das rupaiye ki chai?” and then looks with horror and indignation at the little kid ladling it out. The kid smiles back at him beatifically.

That’s another thing- it’s almost impossible to pick a fight with these guys. I remember when I was new in town. I was on my bike and for some reason I was letting fly some of my choicest Delhi vocabulary at an autowaalah. I I thought I did a pretty good job of it too, till he looked at me with a most friendly smile and said ‘Yen Saar, Oota Aita?”. There was no malice in it too and suddenly I felt like a balloon that has just been punctured.  How can you possibly sustain anger against such people?

That is how it at the Darshini as well. Even though there will be a crowd at the counter people will wait, they make space for each other on the tables as well. Everything is relaxed and laid back exactly as it should be on a Sunday morning. As I sit in my room and think about it, I believe it is these darshinis that really define Bangalore. It is in the marketplaces and the eating joints that people throughout history have met and exchanged ideas, advanced civilizations and planned revolutions. In Bangalore there is no talk of revolution. Everyone is busy tucking in on a Sunday morning.