24 May 2005

dinner time

Sunday evening outing with friend Amit D - currently a victim(?) of the Summer Vacation travel bug which effect wives and school children - who suggested that we attempt an authentic Marathi dinner. Nothing exotic, something the common man survived on.

We ended up at Badshahi. A remarkable eatery unassumingly located on Tilak Road. i ducked through the doorway and entered a courtyard where time stood still. The place would probably have looked the same fifty years ago. Looking around, Amit confided that some of the staff was the same when he used to drop-in about ten years ago! The place had the same aura of the “pice hotels” back in Cal.

Timeless ambience, complete with a Seikosha pendulum clock above the doorway and framed pictures of Hindu deities with tilak of sandalwood paste on the foreheads. The one which caught my eye had a mustachioed Shiva sitting cross-legged with Laxmi and Ganesh on his lap. Shiva was not his popular blue (neelkanth) incarnation, here was a happy God and a proud father!

And of course, the compulsory Chhatrapati Shivaji in full regalia and Bal Gangadhar Tilak with his piercing eyes.

Thoughtful notices were stuck all around, one announced that the establishment welcomed all men and women irrespective of their race, religion, caste and creed - two copies of that one, prominently positioned. One advised patrons to check the menu and the curry-of-the-day prior to purchasing meal coupons, while another requested visitors to refrain from enquiring about membership(?), as none was offered. i noted that accommodation was available at the Badshahi Lodge and dinner was served only between 8 and 10pm.

We purchased meal coupons and logged our name with a dignified old gentleman in white kurta-pajama standing with a slate and a piece of chalk - there was a waiting list! Scores of patrons sat around, patiently waiting for their call. Out-of-town college students (probably staying in boarding facilities), families with fidgety kids in tow, budget tourists, travelling salesmen, shopkeepers, quiet couples, girls in T-shirts with helmets, young men with shopping-bags loaded with recent purchases and many who could afford air-conditioned luxury, but were drawn by the charm of Badshahi.

As customers walked out, the gentleman in white called out names from the waiting-list, in what i presume was traditional Marathi accent. Inside the hall, every diner sat at a small individual table, lined along the walls.

Everyone was served drinking water in a small gleaming brass pot (i remember an earlier posting on the water-purification capabilities of brass vessels) to be drunk with an equally well-polished small steel bowl. The food was simple, warm, tasty and the serving was unlimited - hot roti brushed with ghee, rice, dal, a couple of vegetable dishes, chhaas (butter-milk), papad, chutney, onions and lemon slices. The entire meal priced at thirty rupees. We added aamras (ripe mango shake). They fed you till you could take it no more !

Returned home and slept early, we had absolutely hogged at dinner.
Somehow woke up after three at night and couldn’t sleep after that. Tossed and turned in the bed for sometime, then gave up the effort and got up, around 4am. The day had been hot - around 38C, but now it was wonderfully cool and breezy outside. Sat reading of Stephen Katz’ bumbling along the Appalachian Trail with Bill Bryson, 63 pages in about two hours.

The breeze was stronger and day was breaking. i walked out to the verandah feeling the breeze on my face and listening to the sibilant clicks of the sunbird hunting in the hedges next to the parking lot below. It was time to get back to sleep.

Weekend watch : The Man Who Would be King from Rudyard Kipling’s Plain Tales from the Hills


YardBoy said...

Now that's a meal!

The Trail is very well organized. It's easy to walk just parts. Are you interested?

pH said...

Need a sabbatical to do that, Saar!