Saturday, March 01, 2008
On a crisp, somewhat chilly Sunday morning, I really miss my favorite place in Pune.
As a rule, our Sundays opened in a small, cosy, South Indian restaurant called Vaishali.
Vaishali is not just a restaurant. It is a way of life. We grew up eating there. I still remember our school days. We were an infamous gang from Abhinava Vidyalaya that comprised of girls and boys who were a little full of themselves. We used to go this place on our push bikes and occupy a big table for we used to be a group of fifteen or twenty at a time.
All our high school romances blossomed with the consistently tasty Shev Potato Dahi Puri
( that goes with an acronym SPDP) and cold coffee. About ten years down the line,those "we are forever" couples from high school have split and moved their own ways, but the SPDP is still the same.
As we went from school to undergraduate school, we used Vaishali or "Vaish" as we lovingly call her to meet up and keep in touch ( which was just and excuse because I have never in my life been out of touch with my best friends from school).
We discussed so many heartbreaks over Meduwadas swimming in a big bowl of Sambar.
We wallowed in the sea of failures and shed some serious tears into the very famous Ganga-Jamuna juice.
In the sickeningly happy times we "hi-fived" our greasy Mysore Masala Dosa fingers in celebration. I also fell in love with the Vaish Idli when I used to be on a Ritzy diet and survived on oil-free food.
About five minutes walk from Vaish towards Deccan and there is a replica of this restaurant called Roopali. The funniest thing however is that Roopali is haunted by those typical "small-scale-industrialists" or middle aged Marathi men who are looking forward to talk about all the boring things that a man could talk about. My dad and his best friend Vinu kaka haunt this restaurant. They camp themselves in Roopali on Thursdays ( when the Pune industry takes an off). Their day is spent eating various combinations of Idlis and Wadas and drinking innumerable cups of coffee.
There was a time when my baba used to threaten me that if I do not behave the way he wants me to, he will come to Vaish with his friends the same time as I go there. It was enough for me to listen to everything he said and obey him.
When I was in college and I went to Vaish bunking lectures I used to be extra cautious not to pass Roopali on Thursdays. However sometimes when Vinu kaka saw me on Fergusson road loafing around with my gang, he used to come and tap me on the shoulder and say that he had this compulsive urge of calling up my mom!
Sometimes when Vaish is out of Sambar, you can see the Udpi bhaiyya waiters carrying a big bucket of fragrant Sambar all the way from Roopali!
If a guy asked you out and he took you to Vaish, he was labeled as a "regular-full-blooded-Puneite-who-could-be-taken-seriously". When we sat there twisting our spoons in filter coffee on Saturday evenings, I used to scan the place to guess the number of "first dates" that were happening around me and give my best friend Ameya a detailed analysis of all the awkward and shy moments they were going through.
Vaish attracts a full spectrum of people. You can see salwar-kameez-clad behenjis and skinny alfa women with a tattoo on their arm! The common thread that binds them though is that if you probe into it, the behenji and the alpha woman would probably have the same last name - Gokhale. :)
Whether it is our Joshi Kaka who is seen in Vaish at eight in the morning in his tennis shorts or Kulkarni kaku with her girlfriends at four in the afternoon, Vaishali radiates the joy of being a Puneri. :)
I promise myself that the moment I reach Pune, I would rush to Vaish for a hot piping Idli Sambar!
There are very few things that get me truly nostalgic and Vaish is definitely one of them.
Love you Vaish!!!