Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Mala Jau Dya Na Ghari

-Brian Mendonça

As I write this we are in Pune.  We zipped in from Kharghar (Navi Mumbai) to Kondwa (Pune) in an Uber in two and a half hours flat. The damages were Rs. 1750 plus the toll tax.

Forty winks after a regal repast can do wonders to your soul. As I wait for the family to troop in for the family get-together (sister’s side), I am charmed by the graces of Pune. It’s always good to be back after my stint in Pune to submit my MPhil thesis to Poona University  in 1993.

Lunch was an elaborate affair. My sister Vanessa and her husband Felix took us to the legendary Durvankur dining hall, at Sadashiv Peth. The traditional Maharashtrian fare was served in gleaming stainless steel thalis with about seven empty vatis. It consisted of unlimited quantities of thali peeth (a chapatti of mixed flours), aam-ras, shrikand,dahi wada, kadi, cuchumber, cabbage bhaji, soya vegetable, beans (wet), potato vada, bajra ka roti, makhi ka roti, bhakri, chapatti, varun bhat (without fodni), rice, dal-bhat and papad. Accompaniments in a platter were chengdana chutney, salt, lemon, tilache chutney, ghee.

An unlimited thali cost Rs. 300. A beautiful incentive to deter wastage is that if you lick your thali clean you get Rs. 30 off.  All six of us – with two kids to boot – egged each other not to waste a grain of rice. The steward had no hesitation to give us the discount. Each of us had our fill for Rs. 270. The two children were given a half thali for Rs. 150. Everywhere stern placards admonished eaters not to waste food, and enticed them with the discount. The food was not oily, nor heavy. Eating just what you could consume, did not make you over eat. No fizzy soft drinks were served in case they killed the appetite. 

The previous day we had Iftar dinner at Sharief, Kausar Baugh, Pune. The platter included crispy chicken, chicken cutlets with seviyan, mutton roll with egg, kadi-gosht (chicken), kadi-ghost (beef), chicken kebabs, fried surmai fish, and mutton samosa. We followed it up with mutton biryani topped by falooda. After dinner I pleaded to be taken around the mosque in the vicinity. The mosque had an ethereal quality. Watching its minarets soar into the sky reminded me of no less than the Qutb Minar of Delhi.

I watched a WhatsApp video of a lavani performance at a Dance India Dance show.  After enthralling the judges with all the gyrations possible, the performer ended with a flourish. When the judge asked the performer her name, he said he was Shivam Wankhede from Jalgaon. He had dressed up as a woman for the performance. Dancing to the suggestive lyrics of ‘Mala Jau Dya Na Ghari’ [Oh, let me go home now], the singer castigates her paramour for delaying her, as it is midnight. The verve with which s/he danced is awesome. It is normal for lavani dancers to crossdress.

With this kind of fare, culinary and cultural, one wonders where is ‘home.’
Published in Gomantak Times Weekender, St. Inez, Goa on Sunday 3 June 2018. Pix of thalis at Durvankur taken in Pune on 29 May 2018. Bottom pix taken by author at Sharief, Pune on 28 May 2018.

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