April 6, 2013

In Love with South!!


My blogger friend Rahul Bhatia blogs at Rahul's Blogs and Collections. He served the Indian Navy and traveled all around the world. Anything he writes from mouth watering Samosas to South America, is an interesting read. Rahul is one blogger friend who never fails to read a post and comment and his support is unstinting to the fellow bloggers. Many times, he has taken me around world tours with his travelogues. When I asked him for a guest post, he didn't think twice and send me the post even before I realized that he accepted to send me one. :-) Now over to Rahul...




                                                                       
Many years ago, Agastya Muni was once traversing from North to South India and encountered Vindhya Mountains. As he was unable to pass, he requested the mountains to provide passage to his family. The mountain bent in reverence so that the family could pass. After that the sage decided to stay back and settle down in South India. Anyone living south of Vindhyas was called a Madrasi in times when I was born. It is a race of people usually referred to as Dravidians who were original inhabitants of India prior to invasion of Aryans from Mongolia/Central Europe. Most of them are distinct from their physical features, short built, slightly dark complexioned, barring a few exceptions like Hema Malini and Aishwarya Rai.  However, this post is more about my affinity for these people and their food than tracing their history.
As far as my memory goes as a child, my best friends in school were South Indians! They were less egoistic and also less crass. Besides, their food is something that could never wean me away from them. My mother packed paratha (a kind of bread) and beans which I detested as a kid! So I would play the Tom Sawyer’s trick with my gullible friend Ashok who carried tender fluffy Idlis (steamed rice pan cakes) in his lunch box! I would lie to him that though I love French beans I am willing to exchange my lunch box for those Idlis! He apparently was tired of eating them at home and handed over his lunch box which was polished even before the recess bell rang! This was oft repeated and the time just moved on. I would wait for Idlis to arrive from Mrs Subramanium , my mother’s  co-worker in school, with equal gusto.
One day a massive stone arrived with a Shiv Linga at home! I realized that my mother too fell for this insatiable love for South Indian food that she got a grinding stone! Mixer, grinders and food processors were still a few lightning years away. Enthusiastic, I too practiced and learnt the fine art to grind the rice and dal for batter of making dosas( rice pancakes)!! It was a good exercise for the tummy too, as long as the gorging of dosas the following day could be curbed.
While leaving school I got a call to attend the Services Selection Board interview at Bangalore for entry to the National Defense Academy! My first trip down south alone!  It was a three night’s journey from Delhi to Bangalore via Madras.  The train halted at Kazipet junction and I was stomped with the variety of food ranging from tamarind rice, curd rice, medu vada, upma and the works! The tingling flavor of the food still resides somewhere deep in the taste buds! The best was yet to come, when the train arrived at Madras junction and I was hungry even before sunset. The train to Bangalore was to leave around 10 PM at night, so I headed for the cafeteria! I asked the vendor for plain dosa and he told me that three of them would cost 60 p(less than one Rupee!) My eyes opened wide in wonder and disbelief as I feasted on five dosas in one go!!
In the years that followed in the college the South Indian fare would rule the roost, in company of Vijayshankar  and Madhavan( both  South Indian friends )! I tried Kerala Cafes of the neighborhood till one fine day I landed in Kerala itself in the Naval Academy, at Cochin. Hotel Maharaja used to churn out the best dosas which we got by dispatching our civilian bearers if we were unable to visit Woodlands in town on Sundays! In the intervening years of bachelorhood I explored every possible vista like various Udipi hotels and Kamat chain in Mumbai , Bangalore and many other cities. My best friends were Ravi and Ramesh (South Indians) now in the Navy!
After quitting the Navy, I got an opportunity to travel around and I managed to discover places which offered the best South Indian fare. The love for this wholesome snack and meal became a family addiction post marriage. I remember that after finishing a hearty breakfast at Ranjit  Sinhji Institute in Hyderabad, we went to explore the town. The feet were jammed outside Swathi Tiffins where the intense aroma of gunpowder chutney and filter coffee was so overpowering that we halted for another round of Idli ,Sambhar and coffee.
The lovely food has gone places as one can eat fluffy Idlis and crisp Dosas at Murugan Idli Shop in Singapore or Saravana Bhavan in NewYork with as much ease as at MTR in Bangalore or Chutneys in Hyderabad.
My entry in the blog world is more a happy coincidence as I was keen to pen my thoughts that often drifted like clouds in my head. Even here, I have been fortunate to make friends from all over the world. Some of them once again happen to hail from South with whom I get easily attracted as a North pole of a magnet!  

PS: Image Kind courtesy Google

69 comments:

  1. Yes! i have to be the first one to comment here bcoz like you ,i too am a die-hard fan of dosas.Nice post !

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    1. Thanks a lot, Indu and I know There would be many like you and me who relish this lovely food:)

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  2. Three dosas for 60 paise is a fond,distant and incredible memory with prices prices of all snacks these days sky high.Strangely South Indians prefer North Indian food and hotels that cater this stuff are crowded.The grass it seems is always greener on the other side.

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    1. Incredible indeed, KP that one could get Dosa at 20 p and a set of Idlis at 10 p! The grass on the other side is certainly green and in my case even greener:)

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  3. Simply loved reading this post... I LOVE South Indian Food and on my list of favorite food, Dosas are No. 1!! Whenever we go out and if the restaurant also serves South Indian food, Dosas would be ordered all the time and I simply love the SI chains... Sarvana Bhawan, Dasaprakash, Sagar Ratna, Sankalp who cater to South Indian taste in North India. :)

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    1. Shilpa we share the love for dosas and that list of restaurants you have mentioned have been my favorites too:)Thanks a lot for liking the post!

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  4. It's the food that keeps me in South. But, as KP says, we also love North Indian food, Parathas and Naan's in particular (along with tasty sabji). I like sambhar idly (idly drenched in sambar), but not plain idly. Of course, masala dosa will melt me any day... I love the food in Chennai, Madurai and Hyderabad, in that order. I don't like the Bangalore cuisine much.

    Destination Infinity

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    1. Thanks DI! I have stayed in many cities in South India and being a North Indian never ever missed Roti, Subzi, Dal :)

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  5. Thank you Latha for inviting Rahul.Thanks to Rahul for writing such a lip smacking post..In our family inspite of being Punjabis, every one was crazy for South Indian cuisine. so much so that I married a South Indian.

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    1. Usha you take the cake for love for South India by marrying a S Indian:) A huge compliment to both you and your spouse!!I am happy you could get the flavor just through the post!

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  6. I am personally very fond of Sourh Indian food.
    I travel to Bangalore quite often.Besides,I ahve had good Idli Dosa in a place called Mettur.
    But,its a pity,any South Indian food is known as Madrasi Khana

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    1. Even very small cities have Udipi hotels which churn out really good stuff as I distinctly remember haaving piping hot vadas at Binaguri bordering W Bengal and Assam:)Thanks for your kind comment!

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  7. Hi Latha! And hi Rahul! Delightful post! Even though I live in South India, you had me drooling describing the food! I always admire your writing!

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    1. Vidya, I am constantly motivated to write after reading your lovely comments for what I dish out! This is my best reward:)

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    1. A big thanks Izdiher for liking the post:)

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  9. I got a real understanding of South India when I worked there for almost 2 years. Before that I had no idea that the four states down there were as different as chalk and cheese.
    I have enjoyed South Indian food, especially the food at Andhra Mess near my office. That was heaven.

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    1. That is why it is so important to leave one's comfort zone, Amit to appreciate what the world has waiting in store for us:) I am sure you too would have made hay while sun shone in South:)Hope you get to eat more of Southern delicacies!

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    2. I think now the perception changed a lot, Amit. Many people know the difference between a Madrasi, an Andhrite, A Kannadiga and a Mallu. Glad you could make the difference. :)

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  10. One who's not been to south-India is incomplete..
    I've many south Indian friends and they are adorable..
    food is something no one can resist.. :P
    I'm feeling nostalgic... remembering all lovely moments of my trip :)

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    1. Bang on, Jyoti!Anyone who has not been to South India is incomplete!!Wish you many more journeys and even more opportunities to enjoy S Indian food:)

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  11. Sir, I love idli and dosa and I am so proud of myself as recently I perfected the art of making it. I look forward to making the batter. Good to know that we share the same love for South Indian Food. BTW, the trick you used in school was neat.

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    1. So now I know where I can get the best Idlis and Dosas in New Jersey if I ever happen to pass there, Saru:) Kudos for learning to make the batter and not falling for instant mix:)Thank you!BTW the art was taught by Tom Sawyerthe legendary Mark Twain creation and I just repeated it:)

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  12. Rahul sir, that was a delightful post :) It is a pleasure to have you here. Though, I love Indian food, I just love dosas. Idlis, I am was not that big fan of them, as mom would make the worst idlis in town. Even till date, she didn't improve :( I make very fluffy idlis than her ..Promise to treat you with a sumptuous South Indian meal if we ever meet :)

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    1. Latha, it has been a bonanza to do this post for you in many ways! I now have got a few invites:)I look forward to the treat from you if I happen to be in USA and am closer your home!It was an honor to do this post for your lovely blog!A big thanks!!

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  13. Fiery Mangalore curries, fluffy Appams dipped in velvety stews, stunning Kanjeevarams, Ikkats and Gadhwals, the beautiful coastline and backwaters of Kerala...show me a person who hasn't fallen in love with Southern delights!

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    1. Thanks a lot, Purba for adding more punch to the post as I missed about mentioning all those fine things about South India! May be I will make up when I write about Bengal in a post on a later date, but you have already stolen the thunder by writing about Bong beauties :)

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  14. These two items of food have travelled the world and are inspiring engineers to come out with contraptions that would turn them out in a jiffy and by the hundreds. You'd probably be interested in a post I did long back on this, about how my north indian friends react to the mere mention of the said items. http://cybernag.in/2010/12/idli-dosas-anyone/

    Rahul, as usual you outdo yourself while describing any item of food :D And yes, you can get some decent dosas with gunpowder and sambar when you come over :)

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    1. What a pleasent surprize to see you again on the blog world, Zephyr!I read that lovely post of yours before commenting and needless to say this is a humble one in comparison!!My love for S Indian food goes beyond Idli Dosa Upma to Avial ,Kottu, Usli etc so dont worry next time I meet you, you could offer me anything available on the fly:) A huge thanks for your kind appreciation!

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    2. Nice to see you here after a long time, BM! See, that's the magic of Rahul's mouth watering post :)

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  15. Yummy very delicious post this was :D a true ode for south indian dishes :D hahaha Rahul sir lip smacking finger licking good your post was :D I feeling hungry after reading this post.
    I being in very much south Indian :D I never get bored of our food and love them more than anything else :D
    :). Thanks for highlighting the essence of our food :D

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  16. Lata, thank you for invitinf Rahul to your blog space, he has given us a wonderful post today, only he could give all these details in such an interesting manner!

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    1. Thank you Padmaja for being ever appreciative of my efforts and to Latha, of course for her generosity to give me the space on her blog!

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  17. Thanks a lot, Ramya and that you liked the post, and this appreciation for S Indians is heartfelt. The pic inset is from somewhere closer your home so keep enjoying at Vidayarthi Bhavan in Bangalore:)

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  18. A delightful post Rahul. Growing up I would cringe if someone called me a Madrasi. And very often I used to tell the difference :)
    And no Hema Malini and Aishwarya are not the only exceptions, there are many many more :)

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    1. A huge thanks, Bhagyashree ! At least now most know the difference...:) I wanted to add more like Vijayantimala, Asin and many others but then that would need another post:)

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  19. I love South Indian food! Living in Bangalore and having my sasural in Hyderabad has opened the world of South Indian cuisine and traditions. Idlis and dosas are just the tip of the iceberg. The rice dishes, their desserts, their pickles are truly awesome. And I say with some pride that I have mastered many South Indian dishes, learned a few from my mil and her sister too.

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  20. So that makes you a half South Indian, Rachna by domicile at least:) If I had to highlight the entire range of S Indian goodies I need several posts, for food alone as you mentioned. So on my next trip to Bangalore, I now know where to head for S Indian dishes when I crave for home made ones:)

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  21. Nicely written post. Although North Indian food is my favorite, anytime a good South Indian hotel is visible I would rather opt for Dosaas. one can write a blog on just dosaas itself, there are so many varieties and styles. The picture of that waiter carrying so many plates is the famous Vidhyarthi Bhavan dosas, they are excellent and the place is so tiny, with people waiting patiently for their turn to sit or get it packed . It is in Gandhi bazar Basvangudi in Bangalore. In fact there are more dosaas made in different interesting ways in Bangalore than anywhere else in the south.
    My mouth is already watering by just reading your blog.

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    1. Thanks a lot, Rama and you are right about the pic!Indeed it is Vidhyarthi Bhavan in Gandhi Nagar, B'lore. I have mentioned the same in my reply to Ramya:)There is a galore of such places in South and that makes my love grow even more:)

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  22. I always enjoy Rahul's posts. So interesting!

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  23. Lovely post! When I look back, some of the really close friends I have had, are south Indians. The first "best-friend" was from Kerala and we were together from kindergarten till class VII. We haven't met after that but are still in touch. And I am going to see her this month, after 15 years and we're going to explore the whole of Kerala together. This post couldn't have come on a better time, for me :P

    While reading, I was looking for hints about eateries to visit but then I remembered that I have bullied this friend of mine since last 15 years over hand-written letters, emails, smses and phone-calls to send me her hand-cooked doasas because I just can't believe she has the magic that her mom had :P

    I have had a short stint at Infosys, Mysore for three months but didn't quite enjoy the food there maybe because I was always missing my parathas and rajma/choley chaval. But when I decided to give it a skip and settle for dosas of different kinds, there was no looking back. It is another story that I didn't have anything remotely south Indian for a year after that :D

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    1. Akanksha, a big thanks for relating this post with your own experiences :)Also, there is no doubt that each kind of food we grow up with becomes a must but what comes closest next is what matters:)May be we get to meet sometime to exchange more interesting episodes!!

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    2. Coming for the Indiblogger meet on 14th?

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  24. You forgot to mention Vyjayanthimala and Rekha, Rahulji!

    I had a beautiful grinding stone at home until a few years ago. I used to grind a lot in that. I gave it off because I had stopped using it because of the new Ultra Grinder I bought!

    I had some Maharashtrian friends and Gujarati friends when I lived in Hosur. Everybody fell for idli and dosa and they learned to make it...even saambaar powder. They used to send saambaar powder to their relatives too who got addicted to idly saambaar!

    Felt very very happy, reading this South praising post, Rahulji! Thank you!

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    1. I did not forget about them Sandhya ! In fact if you see my reply to Bhagyashree above I have mentioned about Vijayantimala:) Maybe I should write a post in adulation of S Indian beauties next:)I am happy that I could evoke memories of your grinding stone! I can't help having a soft corner for my S Indian friends

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  25. Aha! What a mouth watering delight, Sir -- beautifully written as always. Although I have just returned from a trip down south, I am already missing it all :(

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    1. Thank you Arti and am sure your next post on your S India trip will steal the thunder with a distinct stamp of yours:)

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  26. very nice post and made me feel so nostalgic..I also love south and its people and food..

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  27. Thank you Renu! I am happy I could bring back some happy memories:)

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  28. from past few years ,the quality of food has degraded to greater extent in most of hotels.i visit swathi tiffins ,chutneys,kamat hotel,belsons taj mahal on regular basis being bachelor living in hyderabad far from my town.due to inflation effect,these days i don't get quality south indian food in any of these hotels.all these hotels are thinking of profit margins without providing quality food.sarvana bhavan in ashok nagar,chennai was excellent,but it was in 2004,i dint visit after that.

    south indians prefer north food in hotels for change and the hotel food can't be compared with superior quality of food we get at home.for northies,hotel dosas may taste great but they can never be compared with home made adulteration free dosas.dosa with raw onion chutney spread and bombay chutney....most yummiest .i can eat 6 dosas at home but i never order dosa at hotel.

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    1. I agree that nothing can beat the home made stuff but some places have still retained their identity! Thanks a lot for your kind comment!

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  29. Its amazing at how a batter of rice, grad dal can make tasty varieties of south indian dishes, the chutneys and kuzambus are the jewel though. You have related your childhood and growing up years with south indian food and they tow are deadly combo to me :)

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    1. Very true, Bindu that just rice and dal in proportion can churn out one of the finest snacks and the list is a long one besides idli and dosa to muruku, papadam etc:)Yeah, a deadly combo of S Indian friends and food from childhood times!

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  30. Hi Rahul, another thing we have in common (after writing and blogging) is our love for Idlis and Masala dosas. I find Idlis very light and healthy. I even dip them in curds and eat them.

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    1. How nice Rachna! One more thing we love is jogging and travel which you perhaps forgot:) Thanks a lot!!

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  31. A wonderful tribute to the delicious South Indian food!

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  32. :) My son would give anything for a chapathi and I have a North Indian friend whose daughter is crazy about idlys :) I can perfectly relate to this post Rahul :)

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    1. Jaishree we are sll some regardless of what may be the age when it comes to food:) Thank yo!

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  33. Wonderful post Sir :-), As a south Indian, my craving for Chappathi, Naan, Paneer Butter Masala and Butter Chicken has always been high. Being a great foodie that I am I love eating and enjoy every bite that I hog :-D. And my friends from North, they go crazy over mom's Idli and Masala Dosa. Thanks for the wonderful tribute :-)

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    1. Thanks Ashwini! This was heartfelt post!!I had known the weakness of my S Indian friend early and the reason for swap of school lunch box besides my own love for his food:) Am happy to have earned more S Indian friends through this world of blogs:)

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  34. @Latha, I knew there must be something common between us. I just knew it, but did not know what it would be. Oh yea, I am a South Indian too :-)

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    1. Hehehe....there are many more things common, little one...we both can laugh without a reason..:P and drive the other people crazy...don't you agree?

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    2. Yes, I completely agree :-) CHeers :-)

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  35. Wow that is awesome and i love south Indian dishes and have visited maximum south indian restaurants in mumbai

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