Saturday, July 17, 2004

More Tasteless Comments...

I wrote up this bit on the train ride back home some time last week, but then forgot all about it. Rather than let it go to waste here it is.

It’s been raining steadily for the past two days. Not the wholesome and lusty sort of rain from my native sub-continent, but more of the intermittent firangi drizzle that comes down in spasms. It was an eventful walk back to the PATH Station this evening, upturned umbrellas, billowing skirts, and plastered shirts not the least of it. As the wind howls in from across the Hudson, I am often reminded of my walk from Express Towers near Nariman Point to Churchgate Station. I do miss Bombay so. It was still Bombay when I left and I persist in calling it that.

Something cold and clammy reminded me of something hot and piping – A vada pau.

It is that most Bombayish of foods. Something that quite does not belong anywhere but there. For the uninitiated this is a spicy deep-fried potato-patty burger. It is the fusion food from before the term; and it tastes best off the street cart.

At this point, I recall a nasty and tasteless joke about the one-armed vada-pau walla, but I shall spare you the agony. What I will focus on is the vada-pau-walla on Khau galli (alternatively called Jaundice galli by those who never ate there) just behind Express. I can recall stepping out onto the street a hour or so before lunch and into the crisp aroma of deep-fried chick-pea flour and the sizzle of the vadas bobbing about in the wholly unwholesome oil in a huge wok. The cooked vadas piled onto a large salver, from where, the vada-walla’s sidekick, ever at the ready, stuck it between two halves of a pao, sprinkled liberally with chilli-garlic powder and handed it to waiting customers. A rupee could get you a vada-pao then. I am sure inflation has caught up with the vada-pau-walla as well. If you wanted a drink, there was the sharbat-walla at the ready a few steps down the road, or the cool-drink stall not very far either.

The Khau galli vada pau walla by no means served up the definitive vada paus. Another venerable institution of a vada-pau walla was the one outside Dadar station, well on the way to Dadar station anways, just as you came off the bridge across from Plaza Theater. The crowd outside his shop, was reminiscent of those outside a bank going bust. If they had to form a queue, I am sure it would have stretched a couple of blocks, but your average Bombayite waiting for vada-pau was hardly likely to form a queue.