Friday, April 21, 2006

Meals Ready

I like these cryptic signs in English here. Most restaurants have such a signboard hanging outside, or painted on a prominent place inside. Meals usually are ready. My wife Nino at Pune must be thrilled that I am turning into a rice-eater. I was so rabidly anti-rice most of my life, that I have never learnt how to eat rice. I need a spoon, and some people find that very amusing. Apoorva's Sangeetha is a fancy restaurant in our Ambattur Industrial Estate. This whole industrial belt strongly resembles a bombed out place. Or like a time-machine trip back to the seventeenth century, complete with bullock carts, stray animals hogging the road whilst buses and trucks are driven with maniacal speed. Motor-cyclists here, if sent to Grand Prix, could put Valentino Rossi into early retirement, ruing the day when he saw the devil riders. Thank God, the roads are bad and the infrastructure creaking at the seams. That helps in controlling the speed maniacs. AS is a fancy one in the sense it is nicely done up, not run down, dark and dingy like most other rivals in its neighbourhood. The owner is so ambitious, he has installed two automatic taps for the largish wash basin near the toilet. You put your hands underneath and within two or three seconds, water spurts out hissing like a snake, giving you a startling jolt. Pull away your hand and like a genie returning to the bottle, the hissing gush disappears... wonderful. One may see these gizmos in five star hotels, not here in this humble 'Meals Ready' joint. Due to the run-down image in my mind, the first day I lifted the conical platic cap right off, which seems to be some sort of magnetic device complete with sensors and all. The water didn't come. I went to the third wash basin meant for drinking water and with a guilt feeling gnawing inside, washed my hands and gargled there. Next day without thinking I put my hand underneath the auto tap and it worked. Most men here seem to find this terribly amusing, they keep playing with the device, till one of the half a million serving boys comes and yells a stream of what I suspect are obscenities in Tamil. The fun part is, this modernity business ends as soon as the meals are ready for serving. Up comes a whole banana leaf, you have to sprinkle some drinking water and wipe it clean with your palm thoroughly or else a stream of Tamil instructions comes to rattle you. Then you must make a mound of white rice [ to which I am allergic, give me yellow, brown, green any colour but not white] about three times larger than what you can hope to finish and a guy carrying four types of sambhars or its cousins, comes rushing like a mouse on having sensed cheese. He goes on dumping eatables that I have no names for -must learn these fast- and if you do not stop him a trickle can sneak into you lap in seconds only. The lime pickle is heavenly, and the appam -fried paapad, nearly the same. They give one single mirchi [green pepper] deeply fried. The rest of the food is eminently health food. I hope I got the names right. Look at the Tamilians, most of them are so slim ! So said a friend who is Konkani, from the Mangalore side, so very different from the local unsmiling ladies. She is right too, most of them are slim, and the obese variety of youngsters is something new to me. I have never seen so many sweet shops, cake shops, shops selling junkfood any time as I am seeing here now. The new generation, the couch potatoes with their gizmos, are almost like rhinos growing up with lean goats like they have in Kutch region of Gujarat. Slim and fit. Tamil food no doubt is healthy, though dosas and idlis are fried. However this fried stuff seems to be having an antidote in the form of various green, yellow or brown chutneys that come every morning. The taste of these snacks in incredibly good, for this is the original dosa land... or idli land. All the imitators elsewhere pale in comparison. I quite like these snacks, and the best thing is you don't belch or burp like a beerhead gorging on gluttonous meals. You don't feel heavy or lazy either. The ant-like local fellow goes bustling about because of this sensible food, I suspect. And the heat which keeps everyone on their toes. Have tried out many places in the industrial area, but Apoorva's seems like the best deal. Efficient, clean, cheap and usually well-managed. One enjoys the meals there as one should. For the industrial workers, a light lunch is always good, and that's what comes my way everyday.


At 8:42 AM, Blogger MHN ParĂ©e said...

Could identify with you as I was in Chennai for a few months. Am really glad I'm back home.

At 2:59 PM, Blogger david raphael israel said...

Makes me want to pay a visit simply to luxuriate in the food (& music) . . .

We have such automatic sensor taps in my metropolitan-American office building btw -- along with marble-like (perhaps polished granite) counters. (Bits of fanciness like this allow the landlords to charge outrageous amounts, no doubt.)

I wonder how this "Meals Ready" usage sprang up; what would be the alternative? A you-cook-it-yourself restaurant? Impliicitly (situationally) rather redundant; like "Restaurant -- cooked food served here!" Or perhaps it's to distinguish a place lavish and serious enough to cook the food in advance -- rather than waiting for some lone actual customer before firing up the stove?

At 5:33 AM, Blogger Max Babi said...

hey d.i.,
my interpretation of Meals Ready is a sort of fast-food announcement. It implies, you can come in and start eating, no time wasting like in fancy restaurants where people go to pass time. Interesting scholarly analysis you made there.

At 11:33 PM, Blogger kousalya said...

Wonderful blog & good post.Its really helpful for me, awaiting for more new post. Keep Blogging!

Cake Shop Chennai


Post a Comment

<< Home