Friday, 12 February 2010

Scrumptiously, with love

Bangalore Mirror. Tuesday, 23, February, 2010

I was born in this city and all my adult consciousness has been moulded in its quiet tenacity. Firm ambition laced in placid motives somehow silted by the shores of tradition and I trudged back home.

Only, home was not what I had left behind. Home, I took with me in my heart and that’s where it dwells now – there’s no disputing it: Bangalore is not familiar anymore.

That’s until more returnees surface and crunch, like a force, down ruffled alleys into old nooks that will not change. And within those resilient walls, flavours continue their dance in tandem with quick-footed and practiced waiters who know exactly what their purpose in life is: tireless service to those who walk in and groom their individual banana leaves of perfect proportion, colour and, soon, content.

Like a happy infection, the spirit takes over within moments. It’s like sitting in a sepia mirror box where everyone reflects, with each mouthful, the gastronomic bliss of the other. And each mouthful renews, with greater intensity, the anticipation of the next.

There is a reason Brindavan stays. And every bit of that reason steams, colourfully, off the fresh banana yelle , cheekily tempting a repeat visit.

It had been 20 years since I’d laid foot in that restaurant. I remembered how they moved away India Coffee House. The time I let lag now felt like a crime. In fact, I had even presumed it as another icon, dilapidated and raised down to make way for more unfeelingness that seems to have become Bangalore’s mainstay. But sitting inside the ever-so-unsunlit room, in exactly the same place as years before, watching my friends gasp and sigh at the palya and sambhar, droning "haaki, haaki” to every ladled hand, I could neither drool enough over my own delicious array of hapla, puri and mosuru nor could I get over the child-like delight of these unstoppable food geeks.

Smiles gave way only to furious mastication. I could not call this ‘greed’ –aptitude like this is of an infinitely higher brand. And yet, amidst the bustling of tumblers and hot buckets, there was ample time for chit-chat, plenty of scope to draw out a rasamised future, enough madness to plot the poaching of the bhatru who has churned out, for long suffering decades, the same staid stuff, uniquely, fantastically, consistently.

And there was also enough opportunity to contemplate the steady demise of a city so vibrant and rich in ethos and culture. The very fact that this piece is a tale of rediscovery and a celebration of misplaced pleasure, proves the infidelity of its citizenry.

Advancement has cost us not just our lands but also our emotions. Our distinctness has been compromised. We welcomed change out of naivet̩ and pay the price of awareness. Our perspectives, even, are not our own anymore. Those who care (and there are many still) grovel through and find what they know to belong Рthey will hold on to those strings. But the larger world sits atop the cliff, watching out for the weak links Рand there are far too many.

I do not know how to bridge the gap between inevitable progress and diminishing essence but I know this: the forefathers have ground fierce strength into the foundations of this beautiful city – its soul will not crumble.

And that is why, inspite of yore, while I will not fight for the last room available at the Brindavan, while I will not even feel terrible about cooking up the most improbable excuse for not letting a friend stay there, I will find a way to ensure that, in that dim canteen room, I always have a table to relish the marvels that make this place irreplaceable.

In the heart of the smog and dust of ex-pristine MG Road, its sheer temerity keeps a Bangaloreness, breathing. Though in pockets, the city of our memories lives; the charms remain – earthy, unflinching and primal.

To the Bangalore we love and the Bangaloreness that keeps us loving, I wish, with more love, a sakaath Valentines’ Day.