Spotting Vada Pav Stalls on the Streets of Kolkata
Today I spotted a Vada Pav stall on one of the streets of Kolkata and it is a big deal. Durga Puja-pardon me; calling the festival Durga Puja whilst breathing Kolkatan air is almost an offence; it is Pujo in the streets of Kolkata or no festival at all. So, Pujo commences on the 6th of this month and the city is at its best. It is at least supposed to be.
While shopping in the bazaars of India is no cakewalk, it is especially difficult here in the City of Joy. The roads belong to the fighters. Here is the picture- on either sides of the usually two lane road are shops; the footpaths right in front of them are (very rightfully) occupied by the shops extended, leaning onto the customer, as if offering free bear-hugs to the him (who has been waiting for eleven full months now to finally shop); the roads are for the pedestrians (who walks on footpaths anyway?), and the autos, totos (e-rickshaws), rickshaws, hand-rickshaws, buses, cars can all go to hell. Mind you, if you even dare to even blow a horn you might as well be ready for the death-glares and curses snarling at you. The curses are quite logical, actually.
Coming back to the Vada Pav stall I spotted. It was named ‘Wara Pav’, yes. Now, bumping into a Vada Pav stall on that particular street of Kolkata, for the first time, during this time of the year is a peculiar thing to come across. Before you get me wrong, us Kolkatans love trying different cuisines and modifying it according to our tastes (chowmein with chicken pieces straight out of spicy turmeric curry, for example. And chowmein with the same curry alone poured over, so much for vegetarians please). But Vada Pavs don’t belong here, the chop (telebhaja) stalls wouldn’t provide with enough validation.
“The city almost functions as a to-be bride with henna on her palms, awaiting the event that is supposed to be the most significant thing to ever happen to her.”
The presence of that particular stall added with those of a few newly inaugurated ‘high-end’ shops, say quite a few things about this magnificent City of Joy- that either Kolkata, with all its monotony and magnificence, monotonous magnificence, or even vice versa, is at its best or not itself at all during the pre-pujo period. The city almost functions as a to-be bride with henna on her palms, awaiting The event that is supposed to be the most significant thing to ever happen to her. She celebrates and her people celebrate with her; they couldn’t care less of what usually follows.
There are few of the people who are in a love-hate relationship with Kolkata, but during this festive time, which one are you? Durga Pujo- Are You Home or Away?
From the very next day of Dashami, as the dust prepares to settle, as the sacred wedding bangles come off one by one and the henna has metamorphosed from brown to terracotta to nonchalant orange, The City is back to being magnificently monotonous.
Quite a delight it was, really, to spot a Wara Pav stall on my way home. It brought a smile to my face and before I could even realize, I was almost home.