What started out as another laid back Saturday did end to be quite a feast for me. As usual, I woke up late, had a long, relaxed bath, heavy lunch and a compulsory weekend nap. And just as Indian batsmen put up a dismal show after master blaster's heroics against SA in a World Cup Match, no astrologer was needed to predict the result. So, I switched off the idiot box and decided to take a long walk. I hit the road to spend a quiet evening on noisy Pune streets.
Being a bizarre wanderlust, I started from my place in Kothrud, went all the way from Mhatre bridge, Dandekar bridge to Sarasbaug. Spent some moments at Ganesh temple and headed back. This time, I chose different route. I went via neelayam, Shastri Road, and just as I reached Deccan, almost 6 miles of walk started sending hunger alarms from stomach to brain.
So, I took right turn and went to J.M. Road, the true gourmet’s paradise. On a Saturday evening, on J.M. road, dream of a foodie comes true. And, just when I was confused with sheer opulence, it had to offer in terms of tongue ticklers, my eyes were caught by a long lost but familiar sight, a stall reading ‘Sangli Oli Bhel’, in the lane where crossword used to be, and wow my eyes were lit up!!!. On the way, there were couple of MH10s parked, so there were few already like me, who had come to get a sense of déjà-vu. It didn’t even take me a second to place the order - "Bhel-Puri". It’s prepared in unique Sangli style.Bhel puri completely takes up a different incarnation in Sangli. There, they have Panipuri's puris stuffed with tangy, spicy tamarind extract and a thinner green chilly, mint prawth. These puris are topped up with generous spread of Bhel, that too made in Sangli special style which again makes use of the spicy tamarind juices, served with ample amount of shev, onions, finely chopped cilantro and topped up with a whole boiled green chilly. Bhel is also made with different churmuras (puffed rice) from the ones in Pune. These are smaller, fatter churmuras made of short grained rice cultivated in and around Sangli. These churmuras in Bhel are not plain, bland ones, they are coated with a bit of turmeric and salt, this helps in enhancing the flavor. Every bite of it took me gradually backwards reliving some of the best moments I spent eating at every popular eating joints in Sangli, may it be Bhel outside Pratapsinh Udyan, or Pav bhaji at Sarovar, or hot Pohes at Ganesh, Vishrambaug, or Patties Pav at Safa's outside Walchand, Doodh Coldrink at ND's in Pushparaj Chowk etc. etc. etc..As every good thing comes to end, my bhel puri too had to finish and I had to start bak to Kothrud.
On my way back, I kept on wondering that like me, many of us have migrated to big cities like Pune, Mumbai, Banglore etc. for various reasons. As grown ups, we keep missing the places where we spent our growing days, the best days in our lives, although I have always speculated what do we miss the most, the places? or the people? Anyway, in today's age of internet, chats, androids, 3G mobiles, we take pride in saying that everything is just a click away. Still, have we ever realised that human being's basic necessity, "Food", still remains the unbeatable link that again and again keeps us connected to Home. Today, it was me who connected a little more. So, what you guys thinking? Just choose a quiet weekend, keep all your stress at bay, and visit all those numerous Kolhapuris, Khandeshis, Konkanis, Andhra messes etc. etc. eating joints spread all across Pune, Mumbai, Bangalore and serve your palette a glimpse of nostalgia :)