Along the serpentine railway tracks lies my quaint little apartment, a building that has seen two decades of rain and shine. There is a stillness in the street. If not for the constant chugging from the other side of the fence, the quietude of the street, leaves me bewitched. My neighbourhood is a far cry from the usual hustle bustle of the big metro city where it is located. Nestled in a corner, the lane is quite an enchanting place, with rows of trees on either side, nothing short of a boulevard. It houses many old buildings that are aging gracefully like an old actress. The buildings, with its peeling paints and withering facade, has an antique semblance to its demeanour.
When I walk down the lane, the mouth-watering aroma of dosas made in sesame oil to theplas fried in dalda wafts out from these buildings and lingers around the lane. The residents are a mix of Gujaratis, Tamils, Marathis and Malayalees. Many of the apartments are mostly occupied by the Goan Christians, who with a charming smile, always welcome you to their homes. These families have passed down their alluring persona to the newer generations too. Even a ride up in the lift to the top floor where I dwell, it is an aromatic adventure. The appetizing whiff of frying fish, currying chicken, sizzling samosas, tingles my nose and teases my appetite. When it is time for Christmas, the entire building smells of freshly baked cakes made from raisins that have been soaked in rum for months. Fresh, traditional Goan snacks, exceptional in taste and aroma, comes knocking on my door on Christmas Eve. A day, I gleefully leave the front door open awaiting the fresh delicacies from next door. Be it Diwali, Pongal, Id or Christmas, food is exchanged among the residents. Amidst the laughter and relishing the flavours from different states, it’s like being a part of single family unit. Religion is reflected only in their names and customs; not in their heart or mindset. They have embraced the maxim, ‘one world one family’ to spread the aura of love and friendship. It is this love and oneness that is being exchanged along with food.
Be it an occasion to rejoice or mourn, food is an integral part of the Indian society. It defines our norms and customs irrespective of the disparate culture. In this milieu, food has been used as a medium to communicate. I remember when I moved in, I greeted my neighbours with hot drumstick sambar and crispy dosas. In return, I was treated with succulent soft doklas with tangy tamarind chutney. Since then, it has been a journey of snacking different kinds of food in vivid flavours, seasoned with a pinch of love. If the lunch is exemplified by the spicy flavour then the evening is marked by a unified aroma of masala chai emanating from all the apartments. It’s a mandatory evening ritual in every home, for every Indian. A beverage that has become an elixir to end our day; no matter which part of the globe we reside. A drink that has unified even the Indians residing abroad. Inviting each other for a hot stimulating cup of tea accompanied by bhajjiyas or pakodas, helps them to bond. A concoction that has sparked friendship and sowed unity among us. A habit passed on by the British to which we couldn’t say ‘Quit India’.
Friendship brewed over a cup of tea, lasts longer. Being a newbie in the neighbourhood, I was invited by many families for a rendezvous of evening snacks and sweets. It is this friendship, that developed over a period, had me rooted in this place. The aroma of companionship build over a platter of Gujarati sweets, relationship bonded over sumptuous Goan savoury and the love exchanged over lip smacking traditional Maharashtrian meal, makes it a charming neighbourhood.
My grandma always says, “It’s the seasoning that accentuate the flavour of the food”. I discovered that seasoning is nothing, but a pinch of love!