South Indian. Tamilian. The very term conjures up images of idlis and dosas, blaring Kollywood music to the beats of which Rajnikanth fights bullets with his bare hands. It brings to mind broken Hindi, with horrible accents that strain on the vowels (thank you, Bollywood) or annoying classmates who topped in math and made getting into IIT their life’s mission. But it’s about time we took a closer look at the stereotypes. “I love my dosas, my rasam saadam and thayir saadam. But at the end of the day, I also want my misal, my pitl bhakri,” says Sujitha Sundaram. “I’ve lived all my life in Pune. While I will lash out if someone yells ‘Idli vada sambar’ after me, I involuntarily scream ‘Morya!’ every time I hear a shout of ‘Ganpati Bappa’”.
Along with its strong Maharashtrian identity, of which Pune is fiercely proud, being a cantonment area and an educational hub, Pune is a melting pot, with each culture standing out, yet blending in seamlessly. Tamilians form one of the communities that the rest of the country offhandedly dismisses as “South Indian”. While there are similarities, they’re each different and distinct in their own way. While many do fulfil the pre requisites of the South Indian stereotype with their merit cards and IT Jobs, not everyone is so hell-bent on engineering. However, it’s a completely different issue when it comes to food.
“I need a good breakfast of Idli, Vadai and sambar every once in a while. It’s comfort food, soul food.” Says Aroon Deep. “I would recommend Ramakrishna in Camp for Dosas. They’re perfect.” Nivedita Sanjai though, is more of an uttappam person. The uttapam is like the richer, chubbier cousin of the dosa, topped with caremelised onions, chillies and a few spices. “I go to Kalyani Veg in Kalyani Nagar for my fix” she says. Authentic Tamil breakfasts aren’t complete without a nice hot cup of ‘kaapi’- Filter Coffee in a layman’s terms. For this, Sambar in Viman Nagar takes the cake, with a nice, hot strong cup of the brew at only Rs.10, making the morning caffeine hit so much more accessible.
Dosas and uttappams make a great breakfast when one is hung over and needs food in one’s system, revitalising you without that greasy jolt that makes one regurgitate the night’s debauchery. The crisp yet soft dosa, along with hot fragrant sambar envelopes you and soothes the stomach. This, topped with a nice hot filter coffee that slaps your senses in the face, gets you into a socially acceptable state in which to face the world. ‘Thayir Saadam’or curd rice is another dish that helps after a wild night out. The rice and curd line the stomach, settling it and giving you enough energy to put yourself to sleep.
This synergy of one culture with another has been prevalent for decades now. While Tamilians in Pune will swarth themselves in their Kanjeevarams and sit down to a proper ‘elai saapaad’- an authentic South Indian meal, they do need a Vada Pav as much as the other bhau on the street. It’s a quiet nod of one culture to another which has formed a beautiful relationship, each distinct in its own way, yet going hand in hand.
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