For a girl brought up with spicy taste buds, tasting Gujarati thali gave some mixed feelings. My ADHD brain goes erratic at the weirdest of times. It felt this sudden urge to be productive in the 47 minute cab ride from Vile Parle to Nariman point. Then I fought that stupid urge and got into a conversation with the cabbie. We spoke about the bollywood stars, Mumbai traffic, and the scorching heat. I was super hungry by then and needed a restaurant suggestion, he told me to head to Status. “Shuddh shakahari madam, aapko pasand hai?” I said ofcourse, why not.
I got seated with another middle aged man gobbling his food hurriedly. I saw the menu, saw a list of paneer dishes, spotted the Gujarati thali. It obviously looked like a better option, and felt like time to experiment. Anand uncle brought the thali with a warm smile on his face, I told him this is my first time trying Gujarati food. His face lit up when I told I am from Bangalore. “Kannada baratha?” his face looked for a kannada response, I said “swalpa barathu”. Then came Suresh uncle, looked like someone with higher designation than Anand uncle. He had that proud happy face of spotting a South Indian, that too from Karnataka.
My indulgence began with small bowls of Rajma, Farsan, Kadhi, Ghatta, and two other sweety spice mixed dishes I forgot the names of,yikes. The plate had puris, ghee rotis, papad, methi roti to taste these dishes. Anand uncle said that I should try the puri with Shrikand. Pushing my experimentation limits here, but I tried nonetheless. IT WAS TASTY.
I couldn’t indulge fully as I avoid gluten, but every bite had this mix of sweet and spice. I gobbled those tiny ghee rotis, absolutely loved the methi roti. Uncle asked if I wanted another round of rotis but I had to refuse, sigh. He did serve another round of all the dishes, “Kidney beans is good for health ma! Eat more.” and I stuffed in some more Rajma. lol
Anand uncle told me that he is from Kollur, and the shooting of the massive hit film Kaantara took place there. I felt so happy to see his proud face, his joy of sharing it with another South Indian. “Amma, I will get our sambar next! You should eat.” He came back with steamed rice and piping hot sambar. Maybe this is what Gujaratis liked about Kannadigas, their sweet sambar. I am not a fan, but I happily obliged.
He told me to try the kichdi then, and I refused. Never ever tried that, neither did I want to. I asked for some pulao. It took him sometime but he came back with a bowl of pulao with green peas. It was not upto my expectations, but not bad either.
Only curd rice was left to try now. He served me few spoons of curd rice, and I thought okay reaching the finale now. Then he sneakily served some hot kichdi in the plate, made a faint smirk, try it girl! I tasted one spoon and felt, wow! heavenly! I guess he saw my face, he served some more.
I did my best to eat everything in the plate, not because I was bothered about wasting anything, but I wanted to be a good girl who finished all the food that he served. I took small breaks, chewed at leisure, took really small bites, and did justice to it as far as I could. He saw my struggle, “Don’t force yourself thalli, eat to your content and leave the rest”
I want to end this before I doze off because of my full tummy. I always struggled with my relationship with food ever since I got diagnosed with crohn’s. The endless restrictions, low appetite, stress eating, and getting flak from people that I am picky and that I waste food. Anand uncle was this one person who made me eat to my heart’s content, in peace, with no guilt creeping up, no hurry to finish the food or no judgement to hide from.
Maybe it is the same with the love you give others. You can give as much as you want, but you can’t make them feel guilty about it, or rush them into it, if they don’t seek it. All you can give them is a happy time and some fond memories to cherish while it lasts.
I took a picture with Anand uncle and Suresh uncle before they left for the break. They were so happy that I asked them, much unlikely to expect from most of the people. They were my Mumbai stars for the day, in a foreign land longing for some nativity, who showered all their love on me. How lucky did I get ? Maybe beyond my questioning 💕