bheema (vrikodhara) wrote,


Yesterday, I had a chat with a friend after ages, and as we both used to be busy on LJ, we talked about how we and everyone else on our friends circle don't post anymore.

For me this means that logging into LJ now feels like walking through an abandoned house.

I have been thinking about moving out of LJ, starting over somewhere else,.Don't think I would ever get around to doing that. Someday in the far future, would stop working, and even after I learn about it I would still try to load my friends page.

Back when I was an undergraduate student, there were these 'dhabas' - low cost open air restaurants - all around our college. Well, I think when I joined the college, there was just one dhaba, and over the next four years a lot of entrepreneurs recognized that dhaba was the great growth business in the town.

All these dhabas had a very similar menu, featuring food that were principally cooked with red chillies and red food coloring. The food used to be so vibrantly red, that eating Paneer-Butter-Masala (or PBM for the initiates) would turn the tips of ones finger red for days.

The food featured could be broadly (and with some loss of accuracy) be described as Punjabi (butter masalas, and all), Andhra (Hyderabadi Biryani, Chicken 65, etc.) and Chinese a-la India (Chicken/Gobi/Mushroom Manchurian, etc), all of which had be heavily adapted to satisfy the demands of students from across India.

The dishes were not exotic and were variations on what is available in dhabas across India. Over the years, as I slowly crawled across a number of major Indian urban centers, I have had similar preparation appear on my table.

However, the dhabas from back then did have an offering that I haven't encountered anywhere else. They labeled it 'Special Chicken Biryani', and it cost, I think, Rs 5 or Rs 10 more than the standard 'Hydrabadi Biryani', which was probably Rs 40 or Rs 50. After all these years, those prices feel ridiculously cheap, but back then the difference was huge. The Special Chicken Biryani was a small extravagance.

Now, the standard Hydrabadi Biryani was very good, as it often is all over that region, and I do dearly love it. As a matter of fact, Hydrabadi Biryani is a totem for me. I don't think I would every get tired of a well made Hyderabadi Biryani.

But, it is also something that I eat on, something like, a regular basis. On the other hand, the Special Chicken Biryani is an elusive beast. I haven't found it anywhere else, and it was so damn good. I wouldn't be surprised if I find out that MSG and Opium were used liberally in cooking it.

I don't know if I have always carried this memory of that dish, but at least over the past few years it has been a regular companion. I have asked a few others who were in the college around the same time, and half of them seem to remember the beauty that used to be Special Chicken Biryani.

As I have got better at cooking, I have thought about re-creating it. I believe it involved Biryani Rice and possibly a heap of Chicken 65 pieces piled on top of it. Of course, there must be more to it. The Mirchi-ka-salan, the gravy offering with the Biryani, probably was a key catalyst. But that can't possibly be the entire story.

With each passing year, my obsession with the dish grows. I try to remember what it felt like, and because memory is a poor substitute for experiencing that whole thing again, I dream of going back. When I am really idle, my mind starts weaving plans about how I could be at one of those familiar dhabas by the next Friday. One of these days, I might actually go through with the plan and find myself ordering a Special Chicken Biryani.

Or not.

Last week, I had to change my primary computer in a hurry. Tonight, I decided to go through the music folder that I salvaged off the old machine. I enqueued all the files in VLC and set it to pay in shuffle.

The most important thing that I found was that I had most of the stuff backed up, and so I could delete the folder. I also found that it wasn't all music, and had a couple of collages of Indian television advertisements from the late nineties and early naughties.

Those ads reminded me that even five or six years ago, Indian TV used to be blanketed by motorcycle advertisements, and nice ones at that. Then suddenly, the quality of the ads fell, and then the proportion of these advertisements.
Tags: draft
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