Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Saligao to Secunderabad

-Brian Mendonça

Looking at my Nalli Gosht, served on a silver platter, I knew this was the right way to celebrate Women’s Day with Queenie. A fierce shot of ‘Fenitini’ – feni laced with cranberry juice put me into the mood.  The Kache Gosht ki Biryani was a Hyderabadi favourite and it came with raita, a chilli dried in the sun, Bagarey Baingan and some pickle.  Sheermal cut into quarters was served in place of pao.  Sheermal is part of Awadhi cuisine and is a saffron flat bread with a touch of cardamom.

We were in a sprawling old Goan house in Saligao which was tastefully refurbished.  Cryptically called Saligao Stories,* artefacts in the house boasted ikat weaves, porcelain plates, a whole wall of intricate block prints, and a gallery of black and white photographs. There were paintings for sale. The stories exemplified by the food platters were two, viz. the Hyderabadi and the Goan. We decided to opt for the Deccan. Indeed we felt like nawabs served by the custodians of the house.

I remember the biryani I used to enjoy at the bustling Alpha hotel, opposite Secunderabad station in the late-1990’s when I was pursuing my Ph.D in Hyderabad. What I liked most was the boiled egg they served with the biryani. For Chinese we used to head to Jimmy’s Nanking, again in Secunderabad city. On one occasion, my friend Elish was divested of a princely sum for an exotic sounding Chinese dish called ‘Egg Foo Yung.’ It turned out to be an omlet.  Universal bakery on M. G road made delicious burgers.

I felt privileged to be treated to a meal by Professor Isaac Sequeira at the Nizam Club on Public Garden Road.  Professor  Sequeira was from Sequeira vaddo in Saligao. In faraway Hyderabad he took me under his wing and honed my appreciation for western classical music. He was famous for his phrase, ‘Kator re bhaji’ which meant, ‘Go for it.’ He was Head, Department of English, and Dean, Faculty of Arts, Osmania University, Hyderabad when he passed on at the age of 75 in September 2006.

Two months earlier Professor Lakshmi Chandra, my Ph.D supervisor and mentor, and her mother Mrs. Ruttonsha hosted a reading of my poems under the aegis of the Poetry Society of Hyderabad in the Secunderabad Club.

Meals used to be served in the hostel mess at CIEFL, near Tarnaka, 
Hyderabad, as early as 8 p.m.  We used to devour the delicious dishes of Andhra cuisine. The steaming rasam, and buttermilk used to go down well with the main courses. On one occasion when I was on the Mess committee, I instructed the cooks to make Goan Chicken Xacuti for the hostelites as a Sunday special. I remember how the cooks could not understand what barishab (fennel seeds) were. I had to call home for help!

But seriously I would need to go back to Saligao Stories for the ‘decadent’ dessert , Khubani ka meetha. Apricots from Hyderabad stewed and served with fresh cream in Goa – a meeting of two worlds.
*  Published in Gomantak Times Weekender, St. Inez, Goa on Sunday, 25 March 2018. Pix taken at Saligao Stories, Saligao, on 8 March 2018.

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