Small Joints Rule

by rexplorations

“So we are here, in this atavism of a place, in this pensioner’s dream. A restaurant in the middle of a clearing in this urban jungle, like a respite from modernity.”

“With wide streets and tenements that look like they were built in the 1960s. Parking spaces that belie the spaces they provide. Cars that could compete with garbage trucks for looks.”

“Yellow, sodium vapour lamps and bougainvillea creepers to boot. What about it? It is just some old place. A bit of charm, perhaps.”

“A palmist’s store here, an old electrician’s there. A hideous Ambassador with wheels too bold for its looks, and a svelte compact car more befitting of our generation…”

“…driven by a man whose hairdo resembles Kumar Bangarappa in the 1980s.”

“And who is that?”

“Dude, you don’t know Kumar Bangarappa? Go die off.”

“By any chance that politician’s son? Actor?”

“Yes, the very same guy. Remember that horse based movie? Or something.”

“Okay, but what does this have to do with it?”

“Nothing. I still can’t believe you didn’t recall Kumar Bangarappa.”

“Whatever. So what else is here?”

“The streetlights, the bougainvilleas, the houses that look like they belong in the 1960s, and the fact that we seem to have a bit of a clearing for fresh air. And yes… crickets.”

“Yes, the insects, of course. Which old residential scene would be complete without them? Why are you on about this place like a stuck cassette tape?”

“Dasaprakash.”

“Oh, Dasaprakash. That place still exists, eh?”

“Hell yes it does. And today, in crisp masala dosas at Dasaprakash, will I find my equilibrium.”

Later…

“Crispy masala dosas like nobody’s business… yes. Crispy masala dosas that alter your brain chemistry… yes. But why here? Why not where it gets noticed?”

“And why should things be where people easily find them? Where is the fun in the hunt, the exclusivity, if you will, the quirks?”

“Dude. This isn’t the Hard Rock Cafe bean burger. This is Dasaprakash masala dosa.”

“So? It should be less exclusive, is it? People don’t make the dosas here and machines do? Where do you think those dishes come from? They get made because a taste sticks, no? Because some guy toils to achieve some commonly agreed idea of perfection, no?”

“A taste sticks, yes. Like those hand-built engines. Even mass manufacturers of cars like Nissan and all made hand built engines for the GTR. But how long would it take these guys to make the same stuff, again and again? Write it down well, bro. Standardize it.”

“This isn’t a car plant or a widget factory, maga. This is where food gets made, and people come to like it over time. It is an art, as much as a science. No McDonalds and all here. Some patrons visit often, some are just important. Some drive the taste. Some say more of this and less of that. And that affects the taste.”

“And develops taste, non? Like hand-built cars develop a taste for the life of the mechanic and the atelier, as some design houses refer to themselves.”

“Indeed. Ever wondered where we get the so-called gold standards for cars… or food? From popular restaurants, right? But does someone come up and say ‘Dasaprakash masala dosa only is besht-u‘… or even Dasaprasad… or Dharmaprakash?”

“They might, I suppose. Or they might have.”

“Exactly.”

“Cool story, bro.”

“Yes. Enjoy the dosa. I am ordering a nice plate of Guliappa and coffee.”

“The guliappa here rocks. Why isn’t this stuff more popular?”

“People just haven’t discovered it.”

“And why have they not? So many of these people seem to think these restaurants end at the dosas and idlis.”

“Exactly. Mass built vehicles. Mass produced food. Same thing.”

“Hmm. Yeah.”

“Something like Guliappa ought to be …. more exclusive? And those awesome masala vadas.”

“Indeed. Food for the connoisseurs.”

“Made by true connoisseurs. Isn’t it? Will the people behind these things sweat the details, or will sweating the details befit them?”

“And why not? So you can go on Burrppp! or whatever and post random posh reviews but being real life connoisseur and all is not okay, is it?”

“Fine. Have it your way. Yes, there ought to be connoisseurs. That probably obsess on the quantity of coffee. That want the menu card to be half the size of a foolscap sheet. That want the dosas to always be roast golden brown and contiguous, with not too much red masala, with the palya always fresh, the pooris always puffed up but never too oily and with no holes in them, with the sambar always made with the right amount of jaggery…”

“That want the guliappa to be cooked to a crisp on the outside and yet stay soft inside. That want the rose milk to not be too sugary.”

“Yes.”

“I like this place. I like the whole setting, not just the food”

“I can see that. Screw big hotels. Small joints rule.”

“Taste doesn’t differentiate. This too was once a big joint, in a way. Still is.”

“It does. I wonder.”

“For another day.”

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