I snuggle a tawdry paperback and sip coffee. A Sunday afternoon couldn’t be more perfect. Unless of course the instant coffee was a hot chocolate, the book an Agatha Christie and the armchair, a bed. Oh, and it was raining.
It gets me thinking about food and poetry. The poetry of food. The romance of it, the moods it evokes and the nostalgia it summons. The reason why cocoa tastes creamier indoors when it’s raining outside. Why a hardboiled egg is delicious on a picnic. Why street food tastes really really good only on the street. How amusement parks and fairs are the backdrops-of-choice to candyfloss. Why grandma’s pickles will forever be better than anyone else’s, even when they aren’t.
I gaze at the tree at my window, at its dusty jackfruits and wonder when the Mumbai rains sneaked away. I missed their farewell deluge. I missed Mission Monsoon. I waited for a greater part of September to accomplish it but I missed it.
The mission: hot bhajiyas, chai and the pouring rain. The venue: Khau Galli at New Marine Lines, a fifty metre amble from the Alliance Française de Bombay, the French school I teach at. (Pop in for some French on the way. Les beignets à Khau Galli sont délicieux = the bhajiyas at Khau Galli are delicious). The stall: Zhunka Bhakar. The owner: Ram. The dress code: Casual. Raincoat, for a touch of bohemian chic (optional). Or a sheer black sari if you’re in the mood, and there’s a movie camera pointing in your direction, and the Kareena Kapoor rain song from Jab We Met playing in the background.
The bhajiyas must be hot, as hot as the rain is cool. Be patient, wait a while; you don’t want to burn your tongue. Unless it’s from the chilly bhajiyas that Ram serves you. If such a thing were to happen, wash it down with a tapri chai and then order another.
The onion pakoras, as my French colleague Loic calls them, are his favourite. I’m a potato porgi; I claim more than my fair share of the light- coloured ones from the assortment on the plate.
Drink your chai, pay a modest bill and leave singing Pyaar Hua Ikraar Hua. It’s the all-time favourite rain song, about love.
And it’s all free. The bhajiyas, the chai - gluten-free. The rain, the songs, love