When a friend sent me a video about ‘Fly Dining’ in Bengaluru, I urged my wife we should try it as it would be romantic.
“What could be more amazing than hanging 160 feet [50 metres] off the ground on a platform and dining while watching the sun set over the Nagawara Lake in Hebbal,” I told her, as my wife loves fine dining. “I said fine dining, not fly dining. You should see an ENT doctor,” said my wife. “What happens if you need to go to the washroom, you know you hydrate yourself too much at dinner.”
“Hydration is good, ask any doctor, it helps the blood circulate the oxygen,” I said. “Oh, please, just because you reported on some health conferences does not make you a medical expert,” she said.
“Anyway, the crane will lower the platform fast if someone needs to go to the toilet quickly,” I said. “What if I don’t wish to get back to the ground quickly? Obviously, diabetics should not be allowed on this dinner table,” said my wife, sounding like a narrow-minded, prejudiced, intolerant troll on social media.
“What happens if you spill your ‘sambar’ and the drumsticks hit some poor unsuspecting guy below going home for supper,” she added.
“OK, OK, enough dissing this new trend in dining, why don’t we go and enjoy a ‘mandi’,” I said.
Bengaluru, like most IT hub cities in India, is cashing in on the new class of techs who love good food and drink and enjoy spending, unlike my generation who were very close and always thought the future was bleak and needed filthy lucre to keep themselves happy. “Mandi’ is a traditional dish of meat, rice and spices, originally from Yemen, and popular in all the Arab Gulf States. This dish is cooked in an underground oven and spiced with cardamom, cloves and peppercorn. It’s eaten with a mild tomato salsa like sauce. (The spices are mild and not overwhelming like Indian spices and do not leave you sweating, gasping for water and much worse next morning).
With so many NRI (Non-Resident Indians) returning home, restaurateurs are tickling their taste buds and bringing them to their tables that are laden with nostalgia of the good days gone by. Mandi is supposed to be eaten in huge platters and diners eat from the same dish as a sign of camaraderie. (We spoiled the ambience by eating at the table rather than on the floor and asked for ceramic plates). One returning Indian (who apparently has a limited knowledge of Arabic despite spending years and years in the Middle East) has opened an eatery on a famous street in Bengaluru, named for some reason as ‘Khalli-Walli Biryani’. (Khalli walli in Arabic slang means ‘who cares’)
When Indians dined out earlier, before MNCs (multi-national companies) moved in, it was the usual ‘chicken tikka’, ‘mutton korma’, something disgusting called ‘Gobi Manchurian’ (cauliflower cooked Manchurian style) or a ‘thali’ — a platter had a little of everything, lentils, veggies, mango pickle.
(Incidentally, Indian men have nearly stopped being patriarchal, have moved into the kitchen and have stopped women serving them first at the dinner table).
Just like international citizens, Indians now love fine dining and the multi-cultural cuisine offered (similar to what Dubai is famous for), and can be seen enjoying anything from a shawarma (Lebanese/Turkish fast food. Meat slivers wrapped in pita bread with mayonnaise and garlic sauce) to Italian pasta dishes to Chinese dim sums and Japanese sushi. (‘Biryani’ remains the fav dish for many Indians, though).
Mahmood Saberi is a storyteller and blogger based in Bengaluru, India. Twitter: @mahmood_saberi.