The Mission Road bus stop looks like a confused market sometimes. There are people yelling at fruit vendors if they miss their bus while choosing their not-too-red-not-too-yellow pomegranates. Someone with chutney spilled on their ironed shirts shouts at no one in particulaar, “Do you know how hard it is to get this stain off?” Irrespective of what time of the day it is, Mission Road is always busy. It is one among those places which is waiting to get renovated in Bangalore and hence looks like a street with lots of haunted buildings.
In front of one of those two- storied buildings which only has a Canara Bank ATM, our Akki rotti uncle is busy either making rottis or looking for change.
“En ethae uncle?”
“Idli, hot hot dosa, akki rotti, ragi rotti, palaav, tomato bath, ah… En beku?”
If you ask for Akki rotti, he bends down to rinse his hand in bucket water and opens the akki rotti dough which is closed with a thin sheet of plastic. The dough made of rice flour, coriander and chilli, looks paper white with green polka dots formed by the coriander leaves. He pulls out a lump of dough with the right hand and grabs the oily squarely cut banana leaf with the other. With great force he throws the dough in the leaf and starts patting it fast to transform the dough ball to a round flat rotti. He then takes it to the stove along with the leaf and puts it upside down so that the dough faces the pan. Then, he slowly peels the banana leaf and turns his stove to the required heat.
In the meantime he begins serving his customers with robotic speed. He shouts to the ATM watch man to check if he has change for 500. His eyes moves rapidly to all the corners of the two benches he has and he finally finds the rotti turner in between the plates and gives the akki rotti a turn. All his customers are seated on the ATM steps and a few fast-moving uncles stand and swallow the idlis looking sweetly happy and appreciating the uncle for having strategically placed the hand wash and drinking water to avoid crowding.
Our akki rotti uncle is Shankar. He is from Theerthahalli of Shimoga district. He has been in this business for 24 years now. He comes here with his wife in the afternoon and they cook in the small kitchen they have managed to put up in the basement of the building. Every evening after 6 pm, they arrange the two benches, their stove and the stand where he makes akki rotti.
On working days, the daily commuters and employees of the Gokaldas Exports nearby regularly visit him for their evening snack or dinner. “This is the only akki rotti place that I like in Bangalore and I come here quite often to have them as my evening snack” Swathi Chiplunkar says who works at the Gokaldas Exports.
Shankar anna turns the akki rotti again to check if both sides are equally cooked and places it on the yellow plate.
“Red chutney na athuva White chutney na?” I wanted to try both of them and so he gives a table spoon of both the Chutneys. The akki rotti feels very stiff like somewhere between a chapatti and papadam. The ends of the rotti look brown and the rest looks whitish brown. It feels a little chewy but you won’t realise when it disappears in your mouth.
-“Uncle innum solpa red chutney haaki.”
It wasn’t just me who said this. Almost everyone who ate rottis and dosas wanted more red chutney. “This is our signature dish” uncle says while serving it to me. The red chutney is spicy but its tanginess dominates everything else. It’s half brown and half red in colour. Because of its colour it can be mistaken for tomato chutney but it is actually heera kaai chutney and the tamarind and tomato added for the tangy flavour makes it look like that.
-“eshtu aiththu uncle?”
-“Neevae heli. Onthukkae haththu rupae”
Give him the money and he won’t even check before putting it in his white cloth money bag. The ATM watchman finally arrives with the change and orders two akki rottis.
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