The Open Dosa

Consuming the Ordinary Differently

Innu swalpa haaki, uncle

I am convinced that one cannot go wrong with this combination – Cheese and Masala Dosa, two of my favourite things to gorge on anywhere, anytime. Back in 2008, this was my breakfast every single day.

Like most II PUC students I decided to join tuition in the year 2008. Triumphant Institute of Management Education (T.I.M.E) was giving me a discount since I had secured a 91% in my SSLC. Well, that was the last time I saw a ninety on my report card. Those were the days I would wake up at 5 in the morning, take a quick shower and set off riding to my tuition on what I think is the best 2 wheeler in the universe, Appa’s Kinetic.

I felt like a stud rider, flying the empty streets, fighting the cold wind. This was the only bike that let my feet touch the ground in all its glory. The Kinetic was our first bike. It was black and like any other 90’s father, he got my name done on a yellow stick-on paper and put it on the front of the bike. I was embarrassed but felt secretly important every time I saw it. Later, Appa sold it for an Activa. I hate it. It’s heavier than I am. And my feet don’t reach the ground in all its glory.

Classes went on till 7.30 AM. My stomach would start grumbling 7. At 7.30, V, L and I would dash to Shanthi Upahar in Jayanagar 4th T block to eat cheese masala dosas. V discovered this treasure. She didn’t care about how many calories we were belting first thing in the morning. She was cool like that. It rubbed off on L and I, so we didn’t care about the calories either. Or the fact that we were eating cheese first thing in the morning.

At Shanthi Upahar, we were quite the well known customers. We didn’t even have to order. Why would we? Who in their right minds would order a cheese masala dosa for breakfast every day? Us. The minute he saw us running up the 3 flights of stairs at the entrance he’d signal the Dosa uncle to start making the dosas.

We would place our elbows on the counter, press our palms to our faces and watch uncle make our dosas. He’d first clean the tawa with a broom, splash water on it and then use a small steel cup to pour the batter. He’d spread the batter until it was round and thin and then apply the red khara paste. Then he’d put a ball of mashed potato mixed with spices and coriander right in the middle. And then the most important and beautiful part – the grating of cheese.

The moment uncle picked up a slab of cheese, our eyes and smiles widened. Every single person, from waiters to other early customers stared and made fun of us but we didn’t care. We cared only about cheese masala dosas.

Image Credits -

            Image Credits –

We’d watch with delight, the white threads of cheese falling all over our dosas and melting. And then we’d just stand there, salivating. Holding on to our dear plates, we’d stare at the dosas and smile – the corners of our mouths reaching the temples. “Innu swalpahaaki uncle, please” (Please put some more, uncle). And he would.

He would then fold the dosa into a triangle and throw a dollop of butter on it. He ended this art show by grating some more cheese on top of the dosa.

Dosa uncle was the best. The only place to sit was a cement block around a tree just outside the Darshini. But we liked standing and so we stood around a rectangular steel table and devoured our dosas ignoring the creepy, old retired thathas, who sat there sipping their hot filter coffees and judging us.

One day dosa uncle wasn’t there to make our dosas. There was a substitute. We weren’t comfortable enough with him to put forth our demands, so dosas turned out quite blah. Suddenly, as we were eating our blah dosas, our dosa uncle came out of nowhere and started talking to us. Before this, he’d never spoken to us, and had only smiled at all our demands. “Dose channagiidiya?” (Is the dosa good?) “Illa uncle, neevu maadotara illa.”  (No uncle, it’s not like the way you make). He smiled like we used to when we watched him grate cheese. He looked proud. Well, he should be. He told us that he was going away for a month for his wedding. But he promised to make us dosas with more cheese when he returned.

After II PU when we visited the place, dosa uncle wasn’t there. We went there again and he still wasn’t there. We stopped going. We’ve now decided to go there only when he comes back.

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Archita Murthy

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