Of Food and Festivals

When I was a child growing up in Doon, Diwali was THE festival. Dusshehra might have meant assorted pyrotechnics involving a 30-ft ten-headed effigy of Ravana (and his unfortunate cohorts) at the Brigade Ground; Holi probably took the cake for all-round revelry; while Christmas-time meant jingles, and carols, and cakes, and general chhutti from studies and whatnot! But, Diwali was, well, in a league of its own. The scene changed a fair bit when I moved to Cal though. There ‘twas the Durga Puja. Period.

I’ve always thought there is something about India which is instinctively festival-friendly. Think colour, think passion (hell, I sound like Javier Moro), think general vela-giri. Heaven knows we as a country have enough issues to drive us up the wall. And the Gods must have said to themselves, ah, well, lets cut these chaps some slack, shall we. And that’s the thing about festivals, you forget the drudgery of your daily lives, you smile for no discernible reason, and you just feel bloody festive 🙂

When I left India, I really didn’t expect to see stuff like that again. Alrite, there is Christmas here, but there is also probably some upper limit to your festivity-quotient when yer body is trying to choose between frostbite on one hand and a chilblain on the other. And the Brit version of Diwali is Guy Fawkes Day. ‘Nuff said.

What I certainly did not expect was to have my first Onam in the heart of London.

The Indian YMCA might have its faults. Its probably a tad on the costlier side, it has this smashing snooker table locked up inside a room, it has an 8:30 pm dinner curfew time which is bloody early, and we could probably also do with a lift which breaks down a little less frequently. That being said, there are more than a few things it does pretty well. The event alluded to above comes in the latter category for sure.

There was Rangoli, there were ornate candle-stands, there were banana-leaf plates and then, there was proper authentic Onam cuisine, the works basically. And from what I was told, there were more people inside the YMCA dining hall since, well, probably Onam last year 🙂 Most importantly, we did not have any utensils. Had kinda forgotten how good it felt to eat that way!

For your viewing pleasure, I attach the menu below:

Also, just to rub it in, the food was superlative. People who know me would tell you of the contempt in which I generally hold vegetarian food. I gobbled it all up. Some of it was even decidedly squishy. (There were no brinjals though, or so I think!) My personal favourite though was this ultra-tangy ginger concoction called inzupulli; followed closely by kuttukurry.

Credit for all the magnificent items cooked go to Rashid and the rest of the gang at Indian YMCA.

Special notes of mention also go to Jose, Tintin, the Jacobean, Sharry and RKC who did a stellar job in serving through out the evening. A further note of mention for RKC who served the servers themselves and one other git who landed just in time for the spread.

P.S. In case yer interested, Raga apparently does the same spread. Some designated day of the week. For about 32 quid.

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