How I Survived my Food Fix with Ketchup, Bhujia and Maya Akka
When West met South
her heart came to her mouth
Food you never thought can cause you such ache
Wanna know my Food fix Experience at Southern Landscape?
Well, you would have heard many stories about the rift between north and south. Trust me if food sets you apart, it also brings you closer. I am a living example that multi-cuisine dreams are made of.
A little about me before you laugh over my food fix
I am a Rajasthani born in Bihar, brought up in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Bengal and Chattisgarh. Did my graduation in Nagpur, post graduation in Chennai and have lived in cities like Hyderabad, Bangalore, Gurgaon, Mumbai to name a few. My upbringing was done in midst of fierce Punjabis , bengalis and Marwadis. Care you ask me about my food habit and I would say- ummm, ummm and even bigger..ummmmm.
South India is not just Tamil Nadu and South Indian Food is not Just Masala Dosa or Idly
I was very fond of south Indian food. Every Sunday, my mom would either make hot piping idlis or Masala Dosa. The Foodie me was a meager eater until I started living in hostel. My first stay away from home was at Nagpur and I kinda survived the food served in my hostel with a bottle of pickles that will get over as soon I open them in hostel mess. Vada pav, Maggi and Samosa at College Canteen helped me survive my Nagpur sojourn. The real trouble began when I decided to stay in Chennai for my MBA
It was then I realized that South Indian food is not just about Masala Dosai and Idlis. There is- Tahir Sadam, Sambhar Sadam, Rasam Appalam, Appam, Pongal, Patachaddy, Dosai, Avial, Kesari bath and more. And if your college and Hostel is a home for students from Kerela, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Pondicherry, expect to either transform or survive like I did.
Another feather in my cap- I was vegetarian who didn't like eating coconut oil. And I was in Chennai for 2 years of my MBA, on-campus, full-time, with people who called Parantha as either Parotha or barotha.
Food and Murphy's law
In our college, there was a fixed time for breakfast, lunch, evening tiffin and dinner. If you are late, forget the food and sit through lectures where one of the guys who sits behind you and burps loudly. I was sharing my room with 4 other girls who, were though doing their MS but were fascinated with their beauty, make-up and a secret course in bath-room singing, delaying me every day for class.
My college building was the farthest in the campus and I wonder how the mom's of day scholars could send them so hungry that they will finish off all the breakfast available on campus minutes before the classes begin.
To sum up my food woes-
1) Always late for hostel breakfast
2) Elaborate lunch thalis wherein I have to walk Kms to reach Lunch hall crossing the man made river and valley [yes you need to be at Jeppiar to see that] to eat a thali that would be full of food variety that you neither have heard of nor could comprehend the name ever.
3) Being forced to eat a food that neither suit my palate, nor had any taste and would have seem to come from Planet Pluto.
4) If by mistake some decent food dared to enter hostel canteen, it would be immediately pounced upon and devoured by over enthusiast foodies who couldn't envisage the existence of other students who too would have liked to have a bite
5) Vegetarians ate vegetarian food, but non-vegetarian ate both and larger in numbers.
In short- I was screwed by Food fix at Chennai hinterland.
How I overcome my foodfix
Necessity is the mother of all innovation.
Movements outside college were restricted and even though I took special study permission to my cousin's house in IIT Madras for weekends, I still have to suffer my food fix for rest 6 days a week.
Since I was the cousin of one of the well-known innovators in Indian telecom, innovation was my only armor to overcome my food fix and how. Away from prying eyes of my health conscious cousin, I picked up packets of haldiram bhujiya, Tomato ketchup, Monaco Biscuits and stocked them near my hostel bed.
I have begun to like Sambhar Rice but only with Appalam. It took me few minutes to convince few girl gangs to help me hoard "ever out of stock" appalams and I was sorted. With great help from my comrades AKA Ketchup, Appalam and Bhujiya, I started having my dinner and holiday lunch at hostel. Evenings would be taken cared with bhujiya and sauce spread on bread. The morning Dosais at hostel remained a challenge.
And that is when my Local rajnikanth Maya Akka Came in!
Maya Akka was one of the female staff of the college. Tall, dark, well built, she was apparently the much respected employee. There was another beautiful trait to her- she was quite kind.
Soon my stories of food adventure with ketchup, bhujiya went viral across the campus. No thanks to my room mates who wondered how can I eat everything with bhujiya and sauce, Also, my class fellow boys who would help me buy my stock from city. It was all discrete by the way, as our chairman firmly believed in-
Girl girl jingle- is okay
Boy boy mingle- is okay
But if a girl and boy jingle and mingle- not okay
No rule ever said that Maya Akka could not save food for me though. Knowing my food woes, she would always keep some food for me from breakfast stall and hand me over as soon I would step to my college building. She ensured that I do not go miss my breakfast on college days and would always be around the lunch hour to serve me more appalams with rice and Sambhar.
It was only because of a little help from Tomato sauce, bhujiya, appalam and gracious kindness from Maya Akka, did I survived my campus food fixed. My love for bhujiya went so viral that my room mate Darshana fondly named me - Hhaldiram Bhujiya, given my Bhujiya surviving skills, I appeared like a packet of Bhujiya to her who like others could not understand that how can I eat everything with ketchup and Bhujia. Hahaha
My food fix continued a little further when I started working for IIT Madras at their Adyar office wherein the lunch menu would be keerai rice, lemon rice, curd rice, tamarind rice and Masala Dosa. No point for guessing what a\few colleagues of mine named me at workplace basis my usual order of food ;)
By the way, today South Indian food is one of my favorite cuisines and I have finally fixed it :)
So if you come across a situation
Loaded with gourmet tribulation
do not cry foul,
instead get started with Tiny OWL