Earlier this week, I had to travel to Mumbai for some work. Though I wanted to return the same day, I was advised to keep my schedule a little loose keeping Mumbai’s trademark traffic in mind. I gave an ear to my confidant and booked my return for next day.
Things went smooth, and my meeting was concluded successfully. I stepped out of the building in Fort locality, where the meeting was arranged. The first thing I did was to ask Google to show me the list of nearby restaurants; I was literally starving that time (because I skipped my meal out of nervousness!). As I moved towards the main road, I saw many roadside vendors selling vadaa-pav and other appetizers. Although I tend to avoid street food, I firmly believe that unaltered-local flavors cannot be savored in air-conditioned restaurants. So, I placed my navigator safely back in my pocket, and moved to the nearby vadaa-pav vendor adjoining the footpath.
In contrast to the other ones, this stall appeared pretty popular to me; that’s because I saw a lot of youngsters swarming around that vendor to grab a treat. Blame it to Bollywood or TV serials, when I was a kid I thought of vadaa-pav to be our national fast food! I stepped forward and joyfully ordered vadaa-pav. I was too excited and waiting eagerly to stuff my mouth with this ‘Amchi-Mumbai’ cuisine. But as I was handed one, it left me stunned. It was nothing but a medium fried aloo-vadaa stuffed under a bread bun, with some green and brown chutney on the side. I was blank.
First I thought I was being duped or something, so I checked with the vendor “isiko vadaa-pav bolte?”
I can totally imagine how stupid that sounded, but come on, government spends millions of our tax-payed money every year on awareness campaign saying ‘Jaago Grahak Jago’. At that moment, I totally felt like I had the right to ask!
In the reply, the short heighted vendor adjusted his black rimmed spectacles and stared at me from top to bottom with ‘are you kidding me?’ look. I guess he mistook my curiosity as sarcasm, and spoke in an irritating tone “ha bhau, yaich ai vadaa-pav”.
Well, I surely was unpleased by the sight of what was waiting to get down to my tummy, but suddenly this thought flushed my mind – A wise man once said “Never judge someone by their appearance. Looks can be deceiving”. So I smiled and switched on the optimistic mode, hoping that its taste would definitely be tempting. With proud feel and grin like of a man of great wisdom, I dipped vadaa-pav in green chutney and directed it in my mouth. As soon as I took the bite, all my hopes shattered.
That. Was. Tasteless.
The only reason that made me finish it whole was – I was hungry.
But how can the much boasted about foodstuff be so insipid? Initially, I thought maybe I was eating at the wrong place. But it’s not only about vadaa-pav, everything I ate in the city in next couple of hours – was unable to soothe my taste buds. Maybe that was a culture shock! Maybe I was comparing their sense of taste on Punjabi benchmarks, which could be my fault. Because, at the moment I failed to contemplate the fact that every region in our country has its own unique style; whether its linguistic, cuisine, fashion or anything else; and that’s what makes us great as a nation!
Earlier I decided not to write this episode, but then I suddenly started sympathizing with my friends who work in Mumbai and Pune. Now I know actually why they eat like hungry since ages when they come back home.
Mumbai – you may have failed to pull my foodie strings, but you are undoubtedly great, untangled and awesomely spirited. And I look forward to visit you again.