Monday, August 28, 2006

Mhow - An Eating foray

I doubt even people staying in Mhow would describe it as a place of surpassing beauty. Any person who enters the small town of Mhow looking for beauty is promptly directed to the Cantonment area. Any person seeking to enter the cantonment area is promptly shown the wrong end of an SLR which miraculously does make the Mhow town look exceedingly beautiful by comparison.

I don't know if it was my misfortune that I am of the defence stock and was not shown the gun, but it did ensure that I shall not chronicle the beauty of the Mhow town in these lines. The Cantonment on the other hand is as beautiful as most cantonments seem to be. In this post monsoon season, the greens were everywhere and the wide open spaces were blooming with some amazing colors. The houses of the cantt. are ofcourse the same from kanyakumari to the valley. neatly spaced, yellow colored, with large lawns and peeling plaster. I think the architects keep it so deliberately so that the residents in them, that keep moving every two years don't miss their old homes.

My grandmother stays in Indore and it was to meet her that I had gone to that area. I decided to stay overnight at Mhow at my brothers place. A bonus of the trip was the fact that reliable information pointed to the existence of one of the few serviceable steam engine locomotives in the Mhow loco shed.

Sadly as I only reached Mhow later in the day, the trip to the loco shed was out. We spent some time indoors, catching up on the news and the events in the family. The gossips of the next generations and the generations past carried us well into the evening when we finally decided to venture out to the town.

3-dimensional plane. For a sailor like me, the navigation is further complicated by the fact that the narrow roads seem to be closing in from all sides with buildings. three storied high leaning on each other and finally inclining at crazy angles on the streets itself. To further complicate navigation, they have tied roped and lighting cables that criss-cross the road over the head, causing every truck to have a couple of boys sitting on the roof to clear them as they make their ponderous wayAs I said earlier, Mhow town is not really a place to wax eloquence about. It consists of three streets that crisscross each other in more places then seems mathematically possible on any abstract through the streets. The first street that I entered with my car, I had to reverse off because there was a huge tree in the middle of the road. The reason for that tree was later explained to me by a soul kinder then me. But it did promptly ensure that I immediately abandoned my car and set out on foot to discover Mhow town. The objective was simple to gorge ourselves on the street food till either our stomachs gave way or one of these buildings. I decided to follow Soulcurry ( from the thorntree) advice and set out on a nostalgia-driven culinary experience.
The first place of stop was the "Shankar kachauriwala". The Kachauris that they dish out does truly match up to its reputation. I had been an old patron of it incidental. In the mornings this fellow serves some of the best "Poha" to be found in these parts and I had taken a few plates the last time I had been here. The Kachauris were in a league of their own. The fellow would break into the middle of each of these piping hot things and pour some green chutney in the hole. As we chewed on them, the kachauri would simply dissolve into our mouths releasing flavours that begged to be reminded of.

Sabudana Kichdi was next on the menu. On the "Phool Chowk" os this stand that reputedly sells great sabudana Kichdi. There is a complication though. Right over Phool chowk, sit thousands of birds. On rooftops, on wires, on lamp posts, on everything. It makes one actually want to petition the local government to change the name of the place to "Fertilizer Chowk". But braving it all, I ate the sabudana with great relish. Two plates.

Sadly the rest of Souls old haunts have gone out of business. The pandit sweet shop, which was famous for milk-cakes has shut shop. There is yet to open a new business in that location. Also the hot-dog stand outside Orpheum cinema is missing. This is possibly because of the fact that the cinema hall does not seem to have opened in a decade. I investigated the scene in the morning and the only thing to be found there was a three wheeler missing two of its wheels.

But in place of these old eating joints, there seem to be no dearth of new ones that promise to be as enduring in the memory. One of the most noteworthy being the Kerela lunch home that serves awesome non veg fare.

As I left for Indore in the morning for Indore, bumping along in one of the infamous blue bus, I reflected that I might actually never come back to Mhow. My brother was posted out and it seemed unlikely that I would make my way to those narrow streets again. But one thing was decided. Regardless of what it did to my heart, Mhow does certainly occupy a fond place in my stomach.

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