On the road to Sabarmati-2
Geo-tagged or not, vada pav means Maharashtra and Mumbai.
The first thing I did soon after Train №22222, ferrying from New Delhi to Mumbai, halted at Nasik Road station (on time, by the by! at 08.25 am), I stepped out — not to catch fresh, natural air, but to grab the cheapest and my favorite vada pav.
Noticing the catering staff was rushing to feed the locomotive pilots, hardly 50 meters away from Bogie A, I rushed to the solitary vada pav vendor to pick up mine. In less than 10 seconds, a 20 rupees currency exchanged hands, and the engine whistled and moved as I returned to my seat.
Mulayam by touch. Swadisht by taste. One bite, and I was in the seventh heaven. Simple pleasures. Born Madrasi and unexposed to vada pav until I touched down at the Dadar terminus on rain hit September 1980 early morning, vada pav is like the idli-sambhar combo for the south Indians.
Working in the Minhaz Merchant-edited Gentleman monthly magazine, my travel was from Sindhi Society, Chembur, to Nariman Point, just one floor below the Ambani corporate headquarters in Tulsiani Chambers. Never once during 1980–84 did I get a chance to ride with the legendary Dhirubhai.
Back to vada pav. Outside the HDFC headquarters, opposite the Birla House in Nariman Road, a stone’s throw away from the cement scandal architect A R Antulay ruled Maharashtra, halt at the makeshift roadside vada pav stall, manned and owned by the Shettys from north Kanara, for my daily fix of vada pav at 25 paise a piece!. Yes, 25 paise per piece.
I moved to Delhi in January 1992. Every trip to amchi Mumbai meant at least one round of vada pav. I said one round, not one single piece! At times, I paid Rs.15 a single piece. With the semi-crushed red mirchi powder and moderately fried green chilies rolled in a one-32th daily newspaper wrap, there is no match for it. Poor man’s snack, even today.
Vada pav tastes the best only in Maharashtra. Nowhere else. Many tried, Like north Indian restaurants trying to match the Sagar Ratna idli-sambhar or masala dosa!
Next 48 hours, I am in Mumbai. No idea how many vada pavs I have to accommodate before the ride out to Nagpur. In the process, I care two hoots if I miss my regular meals. That captivating vada pav is. Here I come, my sweetie!