This post should ideally have been titled Hyangla's. The very fact that the I had to leave out the Y does not please me. I love Ys. Ys are cool. They have three sharp, angular limbs, and they mean business the moment you write or type one out. Y. Y. Y. Y. See what I mean?
This story involves around the most primary of human needs - food. About six months back - when the monsoon had taken over in Mumbai, the city of brutal competitiveness, the city that does not spare you an inch - I was rotting in a place called Gokuldham in Goregaon East. I have to admit that it is not exactly the worst place on Earth (Saki Naka will probably be a contender for that), but even then, walking on roads filled with puddles and Marathi-speaking people selling vada-paaw and bhajiya-paaw isn't really my idea of a morale-booster.
I was told that there was a Bengali restaurant called Hangla's (Hyangla's) nearby. I did not believe in it, though. So there was I, strolling idly around Gokuldham - possibly the most boring of neighourhoods in the third planet of the Solar System - considering whether my otherwise sensitive stomach was up to the culinary challenge that runs by the name of missal paaw in Mumbai and is typically packed in huge yellow packets with the word Pedigree written on them elsewhere.
And then, I saw it: it hit my eyes the way Manmohan Singh doesn't hit my ears. It was a rather innocuous-looking take-away joint, located bang on Film City Road. Do not get carried away by the name of the road, though: I was there for a month or so, and all I got to see was Varun Badola. There were rumours that there was a Film City somewhere nearby, though. But let us not get diverted.
I knew this had to be a Bengali outlet. The people of no other ethnicity would name their food joint Hangla's (which basically translate to Glutton's). As I approached it, I saw the words "The Taste of Kolkata" printed unmistakably below the name of the outlet. You simply could not miss it.
I walked closer. The murky Film City Road could not deter me - and neither could the puddles that punctuated the stretch of dust that was supposed to be a pavement. It drew me closer. It pulled me into its arms with the same magnetic charm that Fardeen Khan typically uses to repel movie-goers. I got closer. And closer. And there it was.
A fire. A huge container placed atop. And on it, you could see that Holy Grail of mankind over which many a blood has been shed - succulent pieces of chicken swimming peacefully in a yellowish orange gravy, soaked in rich oil that could easily have been Dalda: it was the food of the Gods.
This was it!
Immediately I asked for the menu. And - to my surprise - the frail entity on the other side of the counter smiled non-chalantly and talked to me in Bangla. I was bowled over. A Bangali. In Paawnagri. Speaking Bangla. Selling chicken chnap. In a shop called Hangla's. That smells of biriyani. And rolls. And of Kolkata.
I mean, this was a serious shock. Serious heart-attack material. I doubt whether I would have been more shocked if Rahul Gandhi had made it to the Congress Vice-President based on merit.
Anyway, I had to keep myself content with the double-mutton roll. I didn't even have time to whine over the fact that rolls were obscenely priced on the Arabian Sea coast - almost as much as a biriyani. I overcame this absurdity, and then - I saw it happen. the porota being rolled, the mutton chunks being mildly sauteed, the porota being placed in front of me, the mutton being neatly arranged in two files, the onion and chilli bits sprinkled generously, the entire thing being rolled, and finally being encased in a translucent, greasy white paper: I just saw a roll being made. In front of me. In Paawnagri.
As I took a bite, I knew it was the thing. The real thing. This was the roll over which wars have been waged and people have been murdered over decades. The beauty of Kolkata.
I loved Hangla's. It was love at first bite for me. I just knew I asked whether they deliver. Of course they do. Mumbai is all about delivery.
So there I was, sitting, famished on a Saturday evening in my guest-house: I was simply allowing the hunger to build up, accumulate inside me: I didn't want it to subside. I wanted to stretch it a bit till I would order from Hangla's.
One double mutton biriyani. Two hundred rupees. One chicken chnaap. One hundred and twenty-five rupees. No VAT. No delivery charge. Three hundred and twenty-five rupees in all. It was going to be an evening well-spent. Alone. With no one to disturb me. No Facebook. No internet. No phone calls. Just the four of us - biriyani, chnaap, the television and I.
Bliss. Coming up.
The time had come. The much-anticipated brrrrs had started somewhere deep inside my stomach. This was the moment when I had to pick up my cellphone and call +91 98191 44880. I did. And almost salivated as I placed the order. They promised me they would deliver within half an hour.
I sat down, flipping channels. I could not concentrate. After a full week of upmas and pohas and idlis and vada-paaws and missal-paaws, I was about to have BIRIYANI AND CHNAAP.
Fifteen minutes. The wait was unbearable now.
Twenty minutes. Twenty-five. This was taking things too far.
Thirty. Surely they will arrive any moment now?
Come on, Abhishek. They must have been delayed in traffic (though, in all probability, they would be traversing that 500 metres or so by foot). Cooking the biriyani must have taken time, then. Or maybe it was the chnaap that was taking the time. It was no upma, after all.
Forty minutes. My stomach churned. This was taking things beyond the limit, guys.
Forty-five. What were they playing at?
This was getting a bit too much now. My stomach kept on brrrrrring loudly.
Fifty. This was getting out of hands now. Should I call them? I guess so - they were probably having trouble in finding my guest-house. I guess I should call them.
Oh well, let me wait for ten more minutes.
Fifty-five. I had the phone in my hand now, pressed the green button. Pressing it once more would dial the number.
"Hello, Hangla's?" (let me translate the entire conversation in English)
"This is Abhishek Mukherjee. I had placed an order for a double mutton biriyani and a chicken chnaap an hour back. An hour. Will you please, please update me about the status of my order?"
"It has already been delivered, Sir."
"What do you mean, it has been delivered?"
"The boy is back. He has delivered your order to you half an hour back."
"What the...? Can you verify once again that he had delivered it to Abhishek Mukherjee of Gokuldham Guest House?"
Pause. An almost audible discussion in the background. More pause. A very loud, audible, one-way, not-too-peaceful monologue in the background.
"Sir, we're extremely sorry, Sir. He left with the order, but it seems that he has delivered it to someone else at some other address."
Very, very deep breath.
"But they have returned it, right? In that case, please send it to me at the earliest. It has been over an hour."
"No, Sir. They have accepted your order and paid for it."
The deepest breath I had taken in my life.
"Fine, now send me the same thing once again. A double mutton biriyani and a chicken chnaap. And please make it fast."
Awkward pause, yet again.
"Sir, I'm afraid it's closing time. We can deliver it to you for lunch tomorrow. Please let us know..."
I hung up.
No, having vada paaw on Film City Road on a wet Mumbai night is not amusing. If you are having a hearty laugh reading this, may your entire digestive system meet the slowest, most agonising, most painful of deaths.
Not as painful as the excruciating demise the person who had received (and paid for) my order that night had met, though.
Lesson learnt: Never trust anyone who leaves out his Ys. It's simply not wise.
Lesson learnt: Never trust anyone who leaves out his Ys. It's simply not wise.