Art as a celebration of life

On a long leisurely walk towards Gandhi Bazaar yesterday evening, we ventured into this pretty-looking ancient house which said “Bimba, the Art Ashram”. We turned out to be the only visitors in the place. There were some four “shopkeepers”, led by this guy with a funny beard called Deepak. Deepak was to lecture us for the next half hour about how art is a “celebration of life” and that is what his shop sought to “celebrate”. At the end of it we were so minidfucked that we went out without really looking closely at any of the pieces on display.

While we were walking out, we realized why the store had so few visitors – we’re sure it doesn’t get any “repeat customers”. People would have had their brains bored out so badly on their first visit to the store by Deepak’s lectures that I doubt if anyone would dare to return. And I doubt if the store does much sales also, given that Deepak’s lectures don’t even give visitors an opportunity to check out the stuff properly.

Another Lemma – in a store that claims noble intentions of some sort, you are likely to get less value for your money than you would at a store being run for pure commercial purposes. I leave the proof as an exercise to the reader.


This has nothing to do with any pop group, or any Michael or anyone learning to rock. It’s about this awesome easy-to-miss long undiscovered eatery in Gandhi Bazaar. You should definitely eat at Mahalakshmi Tiffin Room.

Situated on DVG road between Gandhi Bazaar main road and North Road it’s an old-style sit down restaurants. Small marble-topped tables with benches. Communal seating where strangers can share your table. An ancient cupboard displaying “cool drinks”. Blue walls. Waiters in dhotis. A small section cordoned off with the sign “families only”.

And divine food. Really awesome masala dosa (real masala dosa, not the species served at Vidyarthi Bhavan). Soft and oil-free khali dosas (yeah the restaurant is so old; they call it khali dosa and not set dosa). And strong coffee. And all served quicker than you could look around and take stock of the place.

I had been walking past the place for several years but it was only when Priyanka noticed it when we walked past it last April that I actually ate there. We had shared a masala dosa and a coffee then. And were so impressed that we left a 33% tip.

And it so happened that the same waiter Raju was there when we went last weekend. Again quick and efficient service. Awesome dosas. I think they make to stock the khali dosas – for they arrived within half a minute of our ordering.

Oh, and they have a weekly off on Saturdays.

Introducing Pinky

So given that the new missus has moved into my life, and my home (and to add some cheese “and my hort”), I think it is quite appropriate that she moves into this blog also. You might have already seen her first post, which she wrote this afternoon. You can expect her to be more prolific in the days going forward. Till then, you can read her old writings here.

This might be a good opportunity to tell the world about how we met. It all started out with this post on my blog (I seriously miss those good old pre-twitter days, when I could peacefully write blog posts that were one line long; keeping with the tradition, the missus refuses to get onto twitter). And then she happened to like this one. Orkut.. GTalk.. Tharkari.. Gandhi Bazaar.. … ………………… Marriage.

Coming back, both of us will be writing here, on the same page. The same feed that you are currently subscribing to will enable you to subscribe to both our writings. The first line of the feed has the name of the author, and in any case I think our writing styles are so different that you should be able to figure out who has written what.

Vidyarthi Bhavan

Ok I give this one to North Bangalore. The best masala dosa in town is found at CTR in Malleswaram (ok I’m going by one data point, haven’t been there more often). The thing that goes by the name of masala dosa in Vidyarthi Bhavan is a completely different animal. It is thick, it is literally deep fried, and tasty, yes. But it’s not a masala dosa.

The problem with restaurants having “flagship dishes” (like the masala dosa at either CTR or Vidyarthi Bhavan) is that you are usually loathe to try out their other dishes which could be quite tasty as well. For example, the idli-vada at Vidyarthi Bhavan is quite good, and I’m told that the rava vada is awesome (unfortunately I went there on a weekday morning when they don’t make rava vada). And I don’t know if it’s good business practice for restaurants to have a “flagship dish”.

Coming back to “real” masala dosa and Gandhi Bazaar, you should definitely go to this quaint old little place called Mahalakshmi Tiffin Room on DVG Road, between Gandhi Bazaar circle and North Road. It’s a fairly old-fashioned place, doesn’t serve sambar with masala dosa (only chutney), happily serves one-by-two masala dosa and is generally not very crowded.

It is one of those places with a wooden door, with a wooden shelf in the corner which has pepsi, mirinda, etc. The service is quick and efficient and the food is tasty.

Of late I’m not too impressed by the masala dosa at Adigas, which not so long ago I used to absolutely crave (for example, when I returned to Bangalore after a 10-week trip to London 5 years ago, I went to an Adigas for masala dosa straight from the airport. Now it doesn’t seem to be all that worth it). Or maybe I’m biased in my opinion because the Adigas I most frequent is the one at Embassy Golf Links, where my office is located.

Oh and I need to mention here that I absolutely loathe the Madras masala dosa, the thing that is white and not very crisp, with soggy palya and served with some three varieties of chutney, and flat sambar.

Flower Sellers

If you have ever been to Church Street in Bangalore, you would have come across this girl. It is extremely hard to miss her, and it is likely that she has pestered you at least once in your life. She was little the first time I saw her, but I happened to come across her recently, and she seems to have grown up now.

She is a fair girl, with a pleasant face. Her hair is usually tied up in two plaits, and whenever I have seen her, she is wearing this woollen pullover over her salwar. Her job is to sell flowers, red roses to be precise. And the first time I happened to see her was four summers ago, when I was walking down Church Street with a girl to whom I hoped to give red roses. And as her profession warrants, she was trying to sell us a red rose.

The worst insult you can give to a street vendor is to turn them into a beggar. Hawking on the streets is respectable business, it is a signal that you are willing to work for your living and don’t want to be shown pity. It is another matter that most street vendors don’t really get this and literally beg you to buy their product. Nevertheless, they do get extremely offended if you were to treat them like you would treat a beggar. That fundamental difference is there.

My companion on that day hadn’t wanted the flowers, not even if I were to gift them to her as a token of love. The flower seller, however, wouldn’t go away. Maybe she had figured that marketing to couples was an extremely profitable strategy, and didn’t want to let go of this opportunity. My companion had proceeded to pull out twenty rupees and give them to the vendor, asking her to keep it and not give her any flowers. Incensed at being treated like a beggar, the poor flower seller had run away. I don’t know if something snapped in me at that moment, but we broke up under inexplicable circumstances a couple of hours later.

Cut the scene forward by three years, three months and three days, and change the venue of the scene to Gandhi Bazaar in South Bangalore. It was a different vendor this time, and she was selling jasmine on strings. It was dark, and her face was dark, so I don’t really think I’ll recognize her if I see her another time. It was late in the evening so her stock of jasmine was almost over, and she was trying to get rid of whatever was left.

I was meeting this girl (not the vendor) for the first time that day, and her reaction was swift. “I’ll buy some for my mum”, she declared and quickly cleared the vendor’s stock. My mind quickly went back to that day on Church Street three years, three months and three days earlier.

Louis, I thought, this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.