Deccan Herald/21 Jan 2004

                               No More Idlis

Sometimes, when dreams come true, it can be more than you bargained for.

When I am in the northern regions of the country, I dream of idlis. I dream of tucking
 into a heaped plate of the white stuff with side accompaniments of tamarind 
chutney, coconut chutney, sambar, or a chutney made from onions, red chillis 
and urad dal. All of it washed down by cup after cup of steaming filter coffee, 
of course.

Now, don’t dismiss me as an idle dreamer. Since I couldn’t get myself to any 
MTR or Shanti Sagar outlets,  I attempted to make idlis. I made the attempt
 many times. In succession, I turned out idlis that had all the consistency of 
boulders, gritty cement paste and partially cooked momos. You could use 
my idlis as putty, as glue softened with water, even as door stoppers. The t
hing was, you just couldn’t eat them.

And so I dreamed of idlis. Soon enough, the holidays rolled around and it was
 time to head south again. We were to make a stop in the Nilgiris to see our 
daughter at a residential school there, before coming down to Bangalore. 
Happily, I was soon sitting down to a plateful of steaming soft idlis 
accompanied by spicy chutney, up in the Blue Mountains. I inhaled the 
aroma just like a wine connoisseur before tucking in at a speed and rate 
that made all at the table blink.

Then, we were at a friend’s place for lunch and she announced, “I know just 
how fond you are of idlis, so that is what we are having, okay? With meat 
curry and sambar.” Hurrah, I said with enthusiasm and prepared to tuck in.
 All was well with the world yet.

Night dawned full of stars the size of moon rocks and a chill wind blowing 
in the valley. We were at another friend’s place and after much merriment
 and voluble catching up, it was time to go in for dinner. “Guys,” announced
 our hostess, “ it`s your favourite for dinner: idlis with avare curry.” I managed
 a heroic smile. I also managed to eat as many as six of those delicious idlis.

It soon hit home that that our guest house had a fixed menu for breakfast.
 You guessed it, idlis. Added to that, many a day we grabbed a meal on 
the run and since our favourite eatery did the dish well, lunch often became
 idlis, too. Soon, we were dreading dinners at friends’ houses since almost
 all of them believed us to be severely idli-starved and served us just that. 
This really was too much of a good thing.

Soon, we were heading back to Bangalore, a voluminous package of idlis 
and chutney, wrapped in banana leaf on the backseat of the car. There were 
a couple of road blocks en route which delayed us considerably and had us
 pulling over for lunch closer to 4 pm. No meals to be had, announced the 
Udupi hotel waiter: only idlis. So, idlis it was.

We pulled in at our house in Bangalore at dusk. All through the welcoming
 cup of tea, a thought lay heavy on my mind. “What,” I asked my mother,
 “is for dinner tonight?”

“Oh,” she replied cheerfully, “The maid’s taken ill so I did the easy thing:
 I made idlis with onion chutney.” In response to my mother’s shocked 
look at my howl of anguish, my husband said, “She’s very happy. You know
 just how much she loves idlis.”

I don’t dream of idlis anymore.

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