Living in a hostel was all about being on a budget. Of spending within limits, of finding the cheap shops, eating joints and bargain shopping. Our favourite eating places were the restaurants around the hostel. Eat-all-you-can ones were high on the list. These are some of our much-loved hangouts, in no particular order:
- SHIVALA : That I actually remembered this name is testimony to the fact that this Udipi restaurant was very popular amongst us. It had all our favourite South Indian delights plus fruit juices of all kinds including Ganga- Yamuna [orange and mosambi combination]. We never wasted anything and had absolutely no qualms about sharing from one plate, tearing and sharing a common dosa, sipping from a communal glass and finishing off each other’s leftovers!
- WAIKIKI: When we craved Chinese food [which was often], this was where we headed. In the rainy season, watching the rain and sipping hot sweet corn chicken soup with plenty of soy sauce was simply divine. One day, the guy charged us extra because we had helped ourselves to too much soy sauce. They also had Parsi specialities of all kinds. How can I forget the Frankies- to die for especially the mutton one.
- KAMATS: This was just next-door and our veggie friends went there while we went to Waikiki. A hot favourite was their tomato omlette- a besan pancake with tomatoes! Oh and their cold coffee with ice cream and their thali. The list goes on……….
- MONGINIS : to grab a quick slice of cake or a humungous black forest pastry, this was our dessert place. So also was the ‘halwai’ in Bora bazaar…. cannot remember the name.
- BHAT THALI: this was the eat-all you–can, unlimited thali place. For the princely sum of Rs 30, you could eat all you could stuff and scoff, without bursting. Rajasthani/ Gujarati food- a full thali experience, with waiters who came in rotation murmuring ‘ Rotla’, ‘Rotla’, Rotla’ or something similar. We starved ourselves before coming here, not just to keep the stomach empty, but also to save up for the Rs 30. Yet we always felt we could not do full justice to the price we paid for it. Rs 30 was a big deal back then.
- CANON PAV BHAJI: As we ‘xeroxed’ our copious notes, a favourite pastime was devouring the spicy pav bhaji, eating it standing at the counters by the roadside, watching Mumbaikars passing by.
- TOASTED SANDWICHES: OOOOOh! How good can a sandwich be? Well, you have to eat this one to know. Fresh bread slathered with butter, green chutney, tomatoes, boiled potatoes all toasted and then generously lavished with a special white butter of some sort and more of the green chutney…..all from a roadside vendor with a makeshift setup, opposite VT.Blissful! and definitely competing with the Canon Pav bhaji.
- ST GEORGE”S MESS: This was for food better than our hostel canteen. The dal fry and special dal fry [with a huge dollop of butter floating on top] with hot chapatis within the ambience of the hospital [past stretchers, police ‘mamas’ in the Emergency department] was a special outing.If I remember correctly they even had 2 gulab jamuns with their special thali!
- AAREY MILK COLONY COUNTER: This was the place to have ice cold flavoured milk from little glass bottles. A must for last minute top up of nutrients just before exam time, it was a pleasure standing at the wooden kiosk and slurping away watching the activities around the VT area.
- VT CANTEEN: A late discovery. It was the place where tea was served in a silver tea set with a touch of the British Raj days.
There were some places that we always wished to go to. Alas, one place has remained an unfulfilled dream. Bade Miya kebabs: how we longed to go there. But often told that it wasn’t a place for unescorted females like us, this remained out of bounds. Some places were out of question as they were out of our budget. But when we started internship and got our first pay, it was time to pay a visit to Gaylord’s –the place to be. Feeling rich with Rs 1200 in the pocket, we decided to treat ourselves to dessert at Gaylord’s, near Marine Drive. We sat outdoors as apparently there was an extra charge to sit indoors. One friend ordered an ice-cream costing all of Rs 40 which was the most expensive on the menu and when it came it was a tiny bowl of the sweet stuff which she ate relishing every mouthful. Of course there were plenty of other little foodie delights – eating toasted bhutta [corn on the cob] and chana jor garam at Marine drive, masala peanuts from the newspaper cone, chaat at Chowpaty, missal from the college canteen, tea from a glass tumbler in the canteen…………Of course we ogled at the nocturnal stalls that cropped up in the lane leading from VT. The pavbhaji vendor hacking away at his bhaji and reducing it to a pulp, the egg bhurji wala slashing away with his metal spatula and making that clanging sound on his tawa inviting us to sample his wares. These were definitely out of range even for our seasoned immune systems. Eating on a budget had a charm of its own. It was being together with the group of friends, talking and sharing over food that we loved. It doesn’t matter if it wasn’t exactly gourmet food, but for me it will always be one of my favourite things and a cherished memory.