Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Thippasandra Road Redux, Treat Restaurant, et all

Church street by night, Oh, Bangalore.

2008, Spring. I used to live on Thippasandra Road. It's a little lane in Indiranagar, in the classic guise of most cramped, tight, Indian streets. A shop of every variety is up there - all the buildings are two levels and most contain at least five separate establishments in postage stamp sized surroundings. There's cows on the street, stray dogs, and the usual Indiranagar combination of rich folks driving their Mercedes through the commotion, street people selling crap on the street, and mid-level people just trying to get by, usually by means of tiny 10 minute photo booths, cellphone sales emporiums (everyone has one, no exceptions) and real-estate offices and travel agents a plenty.

I counted four different gyms on that stretch. I joined one, briefly, back in 2008. The weight room full of steroid-afflicted men with enormous thighs, eager to show you how to do a pullup, and then the women next door, doing half-hearted aerobics to Bollywood musics. Signs on every lamp-post advertising services to help you Gain Or Lose Weight, your personal choice, no one is adequate.There's lights hung on the street at night, everyone stays up late, and the vegetable man wakes you up with his shouting at 6:00 every morning (throwing rocks at him won't stop him, give up now). There's potholes in the street, but less then in most other parts of Bangalore, and there's street kids, but less of them. Thippasandra is up-market.

The stray dogs get to know you when you're there for a while, for good or for bad. One dog on the street seemed to hate white people, especially blondes. He'd raise himself up and bark and chase me sometimes. I'd come home at night, to Thippasandra 5th Cross, and the street dogs would follow me home. I'm wearing spike heels and I'm drunk and a little high and the dogs are click-click-clicking behind me, and I click faster myself, and they speed up too, and then I'd slam the metal door behind me and stare at their yellow eyes for a moment. The dogs, all smiles and wagging tails, now that the chase was over. Bastards.

I went down to the Katary Villa on 5th Cross, this visit, 2010. I used to live there. It's a guest house catering to volunteers and interns from the Western world. It was nice for a while, to have partners in crime and people who had been in India for a while and knew the ways of rickshaw battles and angry dog avoidance. I came back here from Delhi, after I'd been in India for about three months and decided to stay longer. It was kind of a mistake - I had adjusted throughly, and the guesthouse devolved (as these things are wont to do) into drama. Still, it was a good sociological experiment, I guess. India stresses a lot of people. It freaks them out. The food bothers them, they find their volunteer jobs at orphanages horrifying (so many beatings!). The seams of the Villa started to show, too. You'd hear the woman who ran the place shouting late at night at her "girls."

The girls, as we figured out, were actually India's modern variant on indentured servitude. Poor girls from rural areas, dead or indigent parents, sent to Bangalore to work as house-servants. Katary did seem to be giving them access to education, and a better life then they would have had in backwater Tamil villages. The primary emphasis seemed to be on finding them a decent husband. They weren't really allowed outside the house sans supervision. The younger girl would sneak upstairs and raptly watch hyperactively violent Tamil movies on the upstairs television, when the afternoon was quiet and she wasn't needed around the house. She'd shush us when we walked in (so she wouldn't get caught), or she'd pretend to be doing some mundane cleaning when Katary would shuffle lugubriously up the stairs (she was very fat, and lame) once or twice a day. She'd often ask to use our cell phones to call her family, back home in the visit. All of this was done carefully, as subterfuge. Katary, it seemed, knew all and saw all. She was a devoutish Christian - hangings of the Last Supper were strewn around the place, and an American evangelist channel was playing often on the downstairs television. I wondered what the girls thought about the beer and whiskey bottles we left strewn most days around the table, if they wondered about the constant reek of hash and cigarettes that emanated from our living quarters. I shall probably never know.

I went back to Katary. It was night-time, and Bimbo, the house dog, was not in evidence. A light was on in what used to be the old boy's bedroom. They had built a new rain shelter up on the roof. No one was coming in, or out, and no noise emanated from inside. I peered up at the house and almost began to tear up. It was a strange moment.

I did not knock on the door.

Treat Restaurant
3047, 80ft Rd, HAL 2nd Stage,
Indira Nagar,
Bangalore - 560038.
Tel : 5282137

Treat is located on Bangalore's 80 Foot Road, only a convenient block or two away from the entrance to Thippasandra. It's a two level establishment - there's an affiliated Chinese restaurant upstairs- but I only ever ate at the Punjabi bit of the business. And it's excellent Punjabi food at reasonable prices. The dining room is quiet, clean, and serene. The servers are friendly and unusually subtle by Indian standards. The tandoori items are delicious. I've ended up defaulting to Treat after a long or tiring day more times then I'm entirely sure I want to admit. I love sitting in the upstairs room and watching the night traffic go by, and eating with my hands. It is so delightfully quiet.

They do great tandoori murgh here. Good old tandoori chicken, marinated in yogurt and spices. They get good chicken, and the meat is tender and carefully spiced. Nice when eaten with the pickled onions and mint-yogurt chutney provided at the table. You can eat with your hands and gnaw at the bones and the servers will regard this as par for the course. Eating customs are among my very favorite aspects of India. Get the lamb chops or the boti (lamb chunks) kebab here as well.

Tandoori gobi (cauliflower). I love this stuff. I have had a life long love affair with fibrous vegetables. Especially when marinated in yogurt and roasted. They also do good tandoori baby corn here.

I can personally suggest the bhindi (okra) masala. The restaurant is a particularly bad offender in what I call the Roti Upsell. The Indian mind finds the notion of a meal sans roti or rice completely unbelievable and untenable. I don't usually have bread with meals. They always look at me after I've finished eating, with big concerned eyes. "But madame, this is a gravy dish. You will not take roti?"
"Rather not, thank you."
"But madame. It is a gravy dish." (His eyes getting bigger, his face more astonished).
"I know it's a gravy dish. I's perfectly all right. I will take no roti or naan."
"But madame...."
"It's fine. Really."
(He walks away, convinced the foreigners are insane.)

There is a reason Atkins has made no inroads into India.

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