Small towns, Masterjee, Momo
Outlook has an issue out on the small town places to eat, like anyone will actually turn up in Surat or Almora for a bite. I have had some of these impostors preening off as cuisine, like the baal mithai, which probably can be described as a close cousin of a saccharine coated hawaai chappals, or the vegetables and pulses mashed and then fried into slop, which is the closest description of all the delicacies from Surat. Yes, I do agree that a lot can be said about the Sitabhog but that's just the Bong in me speaking. I would not want you to make the four hour trip across Durgapur Expressway to Burdwan. Instead, just take a cab to VIP Sweets at the Ultadanga intersection, twenty minutes from the Airport, eat all the sondesh that you want and come back to whichever city you want to.
However, this is not about finding fault with stories manufactured by Outlook. They have a job to do and at least some of the articles are fun read. And probably, next time I am stuck in Guntur...
... I will look for Masterjee or Momos.
So, I figured out the real insight about small towns and villages, this vacation. It's about my friend's trip to Sikkim and obscure villages near Siliguri.
In this village, M_____ near Siliguri, if you want to smoke up, you need to ask for Masterjee. He apparently is the only school-master in town and everyone knows him. You need to go to him and ask and he'll get you the stuff. I can't imagine anyone of my teachers being so liberal towards mood-altering experiences (in other words, cool), though my school anthem (yes, we did have one) did say, "We explore her valleys, we climb her mountains", though that's another story.
So, in this village far, far away, on the day after Christmas, my friend and his friend walk upto this person in the village and ask for Masterjee. Some Vishnu at Siliguri had given them this tip. Masterjee is soon found and the friend asks, "Woh hai?" (Is that there?).
Masterjee can't understand.
"Maal hai?" (Is stuff there?).
Masterjee's eyes light up and the pair (I was going to say couple, but really they are only a pair) is taken to this alley behind one shady building. There are lots of garishly made-up women there. Not the maal that my friend and his friend were looking for....
In a mountainous town, M_____, a few hundred miles away from Siliguri, another set of people approached a momo shop and ordered a few chicken momos, a day before Christmas. They had the taste of rubber filled with gelatinous tissue paper, mixed with grass, but these guys still pretended to enjoy them. For they were after another opportunity, and the gelatinous paper was only a conversation starter with the momo-seller.
"Kya chahiye, theek se bataao." (What do you want? Tell me clearly.)
"Kya chahiye kya, theek se to bataao. Aur koi naam hoga?" (What do you want, tell me clearly. There must be some other name?)
This is the point where the stories converge. The pair in M___, asked for "Bam bam boley ka samaan" (Bam Bam Boley's stuff). Pardon them, they were both Tam-Brahms. While the group in M___, asked for "Shivji ka prasaad". Both the parties, found what they were looking for.
Now you know.