Tuesday, March 24, 2009

India bit 6: Getting my teeth into things

The ‘accessing services’ part of my holiday begins in earnest today. I’ve given things for dry cleaning and things to be altered to the tailor, almost as soon as I arrived. But today it’s the turn my teeth to feel the love.

I come from a family of people with teeth problems and being paranoid about that being me someday (and of course an intense fear of pain that a dentist can cause) I have taken dental hygiene to a whole new level of careful. I’ve had the same dentist since I was 17, introduced by my cousin Mandy. He (desntist) and his wife ran their practice from a few rooms in a ground floor apartment in our south of the south boondocks. Of course with all the expensive dental care that people need they progressed quite quickly to a swanky purpose fitted clinic in Vasant Vihar. My annual check-up and teeth cleaning now pays in part for the Mercedes Benz parked at the entrance. But at under £10 each time (and this I do convert because the exact same things would cost me £40 at the hands of an inept student here) I am comforted because he has been examining my teeth, knows the history of the gap between two teeth on the left and has my dental records since the beginning of time immemorial.

From a dude with a few families as patients he has become so busy and important now that he now has an assistant. He still came in, looked at my records, exchanged pleasantries, examined my teeth and gums, pronounced them healthy and in need of nothing more than a clean and handed me over to the assistant. She is new but when I closed my eyes and she began to clean them I knew he had chosen wisely – she has the same light touch that he did. I firmly believe you need magic hands to be a good dentist. My teeth have a few decades of care left in them, thank goodness. Teeth cleaned and polished to sparkling it was time to get on with the having fun (read getting on with culinary examination a.k.a hogging) part of the day.

I’m in Khan Market, haunt of my school days. In those days Chona’s was the only provider of any sort of fast food in KM – soggy over priced pizza’s that surmounted to eating in a five star for cash strapped teens. Today Best Friend in Whole Wide World (One) has joined me for a wander. We visit SilverLine and I don’t buy anything – I miss going to the Bengali market one and sitting on the carpeted first floor of somebody’s house and looking at silver. This is too sterile and twangy women packed and I don’t think I can bear another ‘Gauri’ conversation. Then we traverse the market and climb up to Anokhi where a white and blue kurta (self-fulfilling purchase/ prophecy for a much wanted summer) is duly bought. Then a childhood haunt of my parents and place of mighty pilgrimage in visited – Bahri Sons Bookstore, an institution in itself. Five books are duly purchased. A visit to Good Earth turns out to be futile as the matching spoons for my previously purchased kansa dishes actually cost as much as the dishes. This I cannot abide.

We buy cookies and brownies from Mrs. Kaur’s, discuss how all these new eating places have opened up and head for the terrace of Big Chill. A delicious light and cold tomato-garlic bruschetta and milkshake/ iced tea are shared amidst our unending conversation. We head off in different directions – her to run errands and me for lunch with my mum. Lunch is delicious as usual and the conversation is very mum and daughter. I’m off for an afternoon nap.

By early evening the Nik is home and rested and raring to go. First the two of us sneak off for a plate of aloo tikki’s at our local thela wala. He is delighted to see the Nik (his most regular customer) and puts his chaat together without even asking. I ask for a plate of aloo tikki with everything on top. And cannot describe how delicious it was – served on a small disposable leaf place with a wooden spoon stuck into two stuffed aloo tikki’s with the works (chutneys and dahi) piled on top. This is my Delhi and what all my senses longed for before I got here.

As if all this endless eating is not enough we are now headed to Nanking for dinner. It started out as our local for Chinese food when it opened years ago but has progressed with time and the burgeoning economy (and money to spend) to being a very popular multi-leveled joint that attracts the expat Chinese population and the well heeled of Delhi. It’s food is divine and even though I think I have no place I eat a bit of everything – shredded lamb, hunan potatoes, chilli chicken, sweet and sour vegetables, hakka noodles and vegetable fried rice. And yes, I know none of this is really Chinese, but it is Indian Chinese at it’s very best and is by far the winner in a toss–up of cuisines if I were doing the choosing.

I have no memory of how we got home, only of sleeping a contented sleep, filled to the brim, yet again, on food and people I love. This is what trips to my home turf are made of.

Big Chill: Two spots in Khan Market, New Delhi - I was at the A 68 (not that the numbers mean much)
Mrs. Kaur’s Cookies: Khan Market, New Delhi
Chaat: Street snack food. Everywhere in Delhi
Nanking: Vasant Kunj, New Delhi - 110070

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