Sunday, April 22, 2007

Carbohydrates in Mysore

I'm back from yet another impromptu little vacation in Mysore. A rejuvenating couple of days. The place never ceases to fascinate me. It has wonderful weather all year round. The food is amazingly cheap and delicious (more about this) and the landscape abundantly green. Every one calls every one else "Sir", (pronounced "Saar"), regardless of their respective stations in life. In Mumbai, everyone calls everyone else "Boss", which to my delicate, Mysore-conditioned, saar ear, sounds crass and insolent. Another thing I love about Mysore is the tendency of people to add a "oo" sound to just about every word ending in a consonant. Thus right becomes "rightoo" as in "go straightoo and then turn rightoo". Isnt it remarkable, then, that Mysore does not have even a fiftieth of Mumbai's population, which of course is known for its surliness, smog, exorbitant prices and a concrete landscape of profound hideousness. And a climate so humid that you, with your pure and blameless heart will never suspect exists outside hell. One of life's conundrums. Why the devil would anyone want to live in Mumbai when there exist, on the face of this earth, places like Mysore? Am I not Mr. Pertinent Question Person today?

Well, the mystery that I really wanted to write about in this post concerns an eatery. There is an establishment known as the Sri Chamundeshwari Hindu Military Hotel in a small town called Bannur about 14 km from Mysore which has just one item on its menu - mutton pulao. And it is said to be the best mutton pulao in the district.
This eatery is all of 200 square feet under a precariously propped roof. The roof, tables, floor, walls and the utensils have one thing in common - they're all completely smoke blackened, as are the cook and the waiters. Bannur itself is, how shall I put it, no threat, as a holiday destination, to Monte Carlo. It is Anywhere, Karnataka with small unassuming mud and brick houses. The people are equally unassuming. Most of them are thin and grizzled, with the ageless look of rural folk all over the country. However, it is the meat capital of the area. Almost all the meat sold in Mysore comes from here. As we walked towards our target eatery, we walked past a long row of butcher's shops. A grisly sight for an occasional meat eater like me. I avoided the difficult philosophical questions that were sort of bustling through my mind by the simple expedient of not looking at the shops. This is actually the Indian Government's patented way of problem solving. If you don't see the problem, it doesn't exist. This is an interesting line of thinking, but beside the point and entirely outside the scope of this blog, written as it is by a doofus and generally unimportant person. So we shall buttonhole it for the moment and move on to earthier things.

Coming back to this restaurant. The fare is simple, as I said, comprising of just one item, the pulao. This is made out of rice flavored with green chillies and mutton cooked in green chillies, mixed and cooked again. With a few green chillies stirred in while all this happens, I shouldn't wonder. The resultant is a spicy pulao (I knew you'd never guess) eaten with an optional spicy gravy. Made mostly from green chillies, I might add. Its really yummy.


I now come to the mystery part. The operating hours are 5 am to 7 am, when the shop winds up for the day and what was buzzing with activity quietly dons the garb of a sleepy rural street. Who would want to eat mutton pulao at 5 am in the morning? Search me. Even the locals haven't a clue as to how these hours evolved. They all assemble there because, well, you wouldn't get any pulao otherwise. The place has some classy custom, mind you. The day I went there, there was a Mercedes parked outside. Some rich real estate type person, I would guess. He was too ugly to be a movie star. Had that extra chin or two which sort of disqualifies a chap from matinee idol status. The point is, the rich and famous are on the regular customer list. Yet the place is extremely cheap. The three of us ate like hyenas after a bread and water diet and ran up a bill of 250 rupees. Roughly 5 dollars 75. In other words, 27 cents a burp.

As I was saying, I couldn't hold back from the carbohydrates. The fragrance had already made my gastric juices slosh about and when the stuff was served, people were irresistibly reminded of Sus Scrofa Domesticus (Google it!)
We staggered back and slept it off. When I woke up an hour later, I was - and this is Mysore for you - hungry again. The though did occur to me that the whole thing might have been a dream, but I was afraid to ask. My hands were smelling of chillies, though.


PS. Errata: There are several more items on the menu, or would have been had there existed a menu, which there doesn't but then, merely the lack of a printed menu does not mean that the menu does not exist, of course, and I've been drinking beer, I confess. What I mean is that you can have stuff like idlis with korma and khaima (which means kheema or minced meat) balls. Mutton Pulao is not the only dish available. But the 5 am to 7 am thing is true.

9 comments:

Lakshmi Bharadwaj said...

liked this blog, Mr. Shenoy.

narendra shenoy said...

Thanks, Lakshmi. Hope to keep it going, though one finds fewer and fewer things funny in this depressing age, don't you agree

Guru said...

I am a vegetarian and survived as one after years of working in USA and Europe. As I have not been to India for at least a decade, cannot guess the reason for the unusual working hours of this military hotel. But I had seen or heard a number such eatery huts in early 1960s which used to have such restricted hours.

Masses of workers ( particularly the ones who do manual/semi-manual work of sorts) then used to commute from Bannur to Mysore daily, on bicycles mostly, and in some cases by buses which were rarely punctual in either direction. Hence the bicycle was the primary means of transport to them. We had even a few departmental semi-skilled workers from Bannur who commuted by bicycles. I was told that they stopped by a couple of eatery huts daily midway, to have their breakfast (nashta)and these eateries operated from 5:00 to 7. Their usual complaint was that even though they had a few hotels in Bannur, none opened before 7:30.

There were similar eatery huts along Mysore Road in the Kengeri to Bangalore strip which catered for workers coming to do morning shifts in the factories located at the Bangalore tip of the Mysore Road (there were
a number of them then and I am not sure whether they are still there now. Save a few lorries, the Mysore Road at that time used to be quiet during those hours so I was told. Later the RV College of Engineering triggered the development). I was also told that those who operated the huts themselves had office jobs in Bangalore, and hence the opening hours of 5:00 -7:00. I also knew similar eatery huts on the Jalahalli-HMT road operating those hours when HMT and BEL (in their early days) recruited workers mainly for building construction from nearby Jalahalli.

Guru said...

Another example of eatery huts with opening hours from 5;00-7:00. When Mr Mallya the then MP (1950s) from Surathkal got a regional engineering college for his constituency, the college was then virtually located in wilderness in Surathkal. Because of the college remoteness and the absence of transport facilities etc.., was difficult get the cooks and help hands working to prepare the breakfast. A few staff of the college (with clandestine blessings from their superiors - I knew a number of professors were involved in this as well as senior administrative managers)opened hut eateries near the boundary of the college (then shielded by trees)where students could get their breakfast from 5:00-7:00 at a concession rate. This went on for years and the owners and backers became rich within a few years!! When the problems of the hostels were fixed after a few years, a bunch of professors and senior administrators left the college to do other things I was told!

narendra shenoy said...

Guru, thanks for shedding light on the mystery. Jokes apart, I had always wondered why these places have such corny timings. There's one extremely famous one in Mandi Mohalla called Hanmanthu, which you might have heard of, though the only vegetarian thing they have there is the plantain leaf on which they serve the pulao. This place too used to have the 5am to 7am shift till recently. Its open through the day now.

Ashok (Kichoo) said...

You forgot the freshly gathered toddy that may go well with the mutton meal.....

How I crave the pleasures of the flesh ( yeah yeah, you can get your dirty mind out of the gutter...), Alas being a vegetarian, I can only crave...

Nicely done my friend.

--Ashok

Cleaning Service Oklahoma City said...

this one's a lot of fun :)

cleaning services fort worth said...

I'm loving it! :)

tulsa divorce lawyers said...

Mysore sounds like a great place to vacation.