Last week there was a time when I was feeling a bit low and not willing to go out. My friend Ramesh invited me to join him for some vada sambar in a very nice restaurant in our neighbourhood but I just could not get up enough enthusiasm for the escapade and he went alone. The invitation however reminded me that I had not cooked either a medu vada or a masala vada at home for over seven years. There is a vendor who comes everyday with idlies and vadas from who I had been buying these delicacies on and off, particularly when my father was alive. I had stopped that too in an effort to cut down on fried food!

I decided to cook the masala vada the next day and soaked the dal early in the morning on Sunday. Between Manjiree who was at home it being a Sunday, and me, we cooked up a storm and we came up with this.
The vadais are stored in a keep warm casserole.

This brought to mind many other dishes that I used to cook. I have more or less stopped now for quite some time because I find other things to do and find less time to cook. Or at least that is the excuse I give myself.

My interest in cooking started when I was posted in Mumbai in the mid eighties when a lot of my friends from Hyderabad who were working in the Middle East used to pass through our home as transit point while on their way out to or in from the Middle East. These were all men who used to cook for themselves and while staying at home would insist on cooking for us. When I saw that these hard core macho men who otherwise would not go any where near their kitchens at home in Hyderabad had become such good cooks, I tried my hand under their guidance and got hooked. From that time onwards, I used to meet chefs in restaurants and ask them for recipes for dishes that I had liked cooked by them and I still have a lot of those typed and filed neatly.

I used to take pride in cooking and would tease ladies that the world’s best chefs are men and even in India, no woman can cook as well as our traditional samayalkaran (Tamil for male cook) or maharaj (Hindi for male cook) of for that matter all those great cooks in our dhabas throughout the country. I never had to compete with any one to establish my credentials but the satisfaction of seeing people appreciate and eat what I had cooked was enough motivation to keep me going.

With this new beginning perhaps I will go back again to cooking! If I do, I shall post photographs and recipes.

Indian Entrepreneurs. The Tyre Specialist.

For some time now, I have been considering writing about some little recognized groups of highly individualistic entrepreneurs of India. They are as ubiquitous as our mosquitoes but, perform vital functions.

I have been pushed into doing so about one such group now by Conrad’s post America The Free which made me think of the service that our wayside puncture specialists provide us and many others who do so too. I shall be posting about some others in the days to come.

I shall start with these specialists without who our traffic will get more chaotic than it already is. To start with here are three pictures of the different types of them.

The top most and the bottom most have been inserted to give my readers a bit of amusement at our English sign boards. The puncher specialist is not a pugilist.  He will fix punctures for motorcycles. I am sure that Magpie will be delighted with them!

The others in the order they appear are, a city wayside repairer who some years ago had a tricycle van which was mobile to provide the service.  He found that it was more paying to stay put in one place and the tricycle has become his workshop.  Don’t be deceived by the looks.  It has got an official electricity connection and a compressor inside it.  He will fix a puncture for any vehicle, including huge lorries, in a trice.

The next one is a specialist for bicycle tyres only. He will shift from location to location as the day progresses to exploit opportunities where there will be more bicycle traffic, and better chances of punctures.

The next one will be for any vehicle, but mostly for long haul trucks.  These places are located on highways adjacent to places where truckers halt of rest and refreshments called dhabas, like this one.

A fuel pump is also likely to be in the vicinity.

These punture repair places are run by specialist owners usually helped by a couple of young lads, likely relatives from the owners’ villages.  They will also sell used tyres, and buy used ones for resale. That is the stock of old tyres stacked in the compound in the picture above.


This post is the Loose Consortium Bloggers’ Friday post when Ashok, Conrad, Grannymar, Magpie11, Marianna, Maria and I write one post each on the same topic. Please visit the other blogs too to have different views on this fascinating subject.

One of my favourite restaurants.
One of my favourite restaurants.

My earliest memory of eating at a restaurant is, of when I was about four or five years old. Our paternal uncle, my father’s eldest brother was at that time based in a small town some 200 Kms west of Chennai, then known as Madras. We were living at Madras and our uncle used to visit Madras to attend some periodic meetings of the Madras University’s Senate meetings. He was an avid restaurant goer and would look for some company and since I hardly had any choice in the matter, he would drag me off from my games to eat some dosais or vadais or whatever followed by his coffee and some sweet dish for me.

Those days, and in fact till about ten years ago, Indian restarurants were just that. They offered food for sale and no liquor was served in them. Those particular clients had to carry their hip flasks and surreptitiously charge their glasses of soft drinks with the drinks from the hip flasks.

As I grew up, and was in secondary school, it was a great treat to go to any kind of restaurant and we would pester our mother for increased daily allowance to enable us to go for some treat. Nearest to our school was an ice-cream parlour which though not a full fledged restaurant, served just as well for the hard begged for extra money.

Post school, I became hep and started my love affair with restaurants. Across the country, small ones, big ones, wayside dhabhas, five star hotel ones; and eventually, across the world in many countries again of various types. As a salesperson, traveling constantly, it was inevitable that I was most comfortable eating, entertaining and being entertained in restaurants. This lasted till I finally came home to rest and recoup and since the year 2001, I can count on my fingers the number of times that I would have gone to a restaurant.

I am considered to be a reasonably good cook by many of my friends and members of my family. I became so by seeking out the cooks/chefs of the restaurants that served me something extraordinary, to compliment them and to seek recipes. I also observed India’s famous Dhabha food being cooked before one’s eyes to learn some tricks of the professional cooks and that too has come in handy with what started off as a hobby and now become more or less a full time occupation! Apart from this one great advantage, I cannot think of any other factor that would encourage me to go back to a life of eating at restaurants.

I strongly recommend Nick’s excellent post on ‘eating out’ which says a great deal more than I can with my outdated views on the subject.