Swarathma bassist Jishnu Dasgupta writes about life on the road, and how the pulse of a city is best felt in its street food.
Jishnu Dasgupta, bassist of Bangalore folk rock act Swarathma, writes about life on the road.
The only way to really feel the pulse of a city you travel to is give into the local cuisine, preferably cooked fresh off the street. All too often you play safe – sticking to the tried and tested sandwich or butter chicken, to avoid having to stare at something you cannot stomach, as it were. But Swarathma is a band big on food; our travels constantly whet our appetite for the untried and untested food that a new place offers. It’s not always easy though; most times our tour schedules permit us to see only the hotel, the airport and the gig venue. Everything else is a crazy blur. But on the recently concluded Wah ji Wah Tour, we got lucky in Indore. The Indore leg of the tour was scheduled in such a way that we had two nights in the city. I’d spent about a year here before joining the band and the friends I made were thrilled with the idea of showing the band the real Indore.
Indore is a city that is known for its street food, and so to Sarafa we went! It is a jewelry market by day, rife with pot-bellied seths counting cash and twirling moustaches, but by night it completely transforms into a street food wonderland. Families come out, armed with mats and durries, spread them over the steps of the shuttered jewelry stores and settle down to enjoy some pure awesomeness.
Our guides for the evening were Divi and Chirayu, who insisted we start the evening with some things we’d never had before - garadu is a purple yam that is fried and dusted with spices, and bhutte ka kees, a corn-based snack, served piping hot with a garnishing of coriander and grated coconut. Then we lost ourselves in the by-lanes, sampling one amazing dish after the other. The rhythm section tripped on the malpuva, a cream-based dessert, soaked in sugar syrup. You eat it and the sonatas and concertos start playing in your head almost instantly. The rest sampled the sabudana khichdi, a savoury snack from Sago with peanuts and potatoes, with a generous helping of spices that open up your nasal passages like nothing else. It didn’t end there, we devoured the delicious rabdi (sweetened cream), samosa-kachodis (savoury snacks from flour with potato gram-based filling), jabelis the size of cymbals, dahi bhallas (don’t even know how to begin to describe this) and my personal favourite – the chhole tikia. The simplicity of this timeless snack is what drew me to it; boiled and spiced chickpea poured over a potato-based patty fried in pure ghee, with a generous dash of a tangy chutney.
Pavan spoke of a ‘food high’ he experienced after this gastronomic multiple orgasm, “I’m talking nonsense, macha.”
Burp, is all I said in response.