Sunday, May 31, 2009

More stuff about me as usual

Someone said "Benson Town" to me today and I realized that for me Bangalore is all about those parts of the city. The old British and Muslim bits. Frazer Town, Coles Park, Langford Town, Victoria Layout, Whitefield, Bangalore Cantonment and several more of that ilk, all radiating outward from MG Road. And they're all marked by friends or food or most probably both.

There was the tilli man on some deep, dark road. "Tilli" is spleen is some street language. He sold the most amazing fried tilli on the pavement by night, his fire light glinting off bicycle rims behind him. By day he was a cycle shop. Then there are kebab shops of all descriptions, running the gamut from standard issue chicken to exotic camel. Weirdly, camel kebabs are a lot harder to get the head around than the spleen of unidentified creatures.

I don't think I could find the tilli man now if I tried but there are still the beef rolls at Fanoos in Johnson Market. It still starts to rain just as you place your order standing on the road. I had Suleimani mint tea here long before the Middle East was a glint in my eye. My best friend and I once walked through the vast butchers' enclosure to see if it would affect our dedicated non-vegetarianism. As I recall, it just made us hungry.

For dessert, there's a kulfi counter on the corner between two very busy roads, with great kulfi that, I was told recently, actually has bits of cardboard in it. The news only serves to make it more interesting. A place on St Mark's road gives you lychees or apricots or strawberries with ice cream. Another one on Residency Road has Hot Chocolate Fudge, with or without nuts. The HCF that was the acronym du jour of our teenage days was in later generations superseded by DBC. The giant Death By Chocolate was on the Corner House menu in our time too but it wasn't the signature item. It's interesting that it changed – perhaps we weren't yet comfortable with the concept of excess as a birthright.

There was a hole in the wall in Russell Market that sold tea in the small hours. It was perfect after clubbing in the cold winter mornings. I wonder where a city that now has to stop partying at 11 goes. In the day, you went to there for everything from regular groceries to car parts of shady origin to glass chimneys for antique lamps that your philistine children kept knocking over. My Dad visited this market after about 20 years and what used to be their regular shop-keeper actually recognised him.

With my life centred around these parts of the city, I've never really crossed the Hudson Circle divide into the much older Karnataka territory. There are coffee shops there that the venerated Kannada writers wrote in, "tiffin rooms" where the freedom movement was plotted, bars where even today Kannadiga intellectuals argue over squat glasses of dubious dark liquid. It's high time I visited.

Maybe the Hudson Circle just divides the beef eaters from those who don't.

Picture have no relation to what I'm saying, they're just some of the Bangalore icons on the drive from Residency Road to Whitefield.

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