“Where shall we eat today? I don’t want to go to the mess, it’s chappathi today and it is usually awful” I tell my friend N.
“Let’s go to Shanghai.” He says.
I was bewildered “Shanghai?”.
“There is this restaurant opposite to IIT. It tastes great and it is cheap too”
I liked the idea of a restaurant named Shanghai and walked on. I had never been to that restaurant and I was starting to imagine what they could be serving. A chinese place so definitely they ought to have great soups and manchurians. I will have chicken manchurian, yes definitely I thought so. Manchurians make my mouth water. I will probably start with a Hot and sour veg soup, it will be an absolute blast (atleast in the morning!). Veg Fried rice or an egg fried rice. I had almost decided what i was going to eat within the next 15 steps we took.
As we walk out of our rooms and go down to the door, we meet another of our friends S. We tell S that we are going to a place called Shanghai for our dinner. S wants to join and we agree.
Me, N and S walk out of our hostel block and take the shortcut route passing by the LH (Ladies Hostel, and really it was a shortcut ok!).
I hope I can afford it though. I had 50 Rupees and I was hoping I can have the above listed items within my budget. Even if it costed 10 Rupees for the Soup, 15 for Manchurian and 15 for the rice I would be left with 10 extra rupees for a juice later or some other snack, assuming inflation doesn’t work in one night. I didn’t care to ask my friend what’s the price though as he already said it was cheap and I went on to set my own prices on the dishes. May be I can share the manchurian or the rice with my friend if it is not within the limit, or just open an account (a debt account which gets accumulated like the mortgage loans and then a bailout is done by opening account with another friend, who gets into a gutter after you borrow from him too much in which case you repeat the bailout again with a third friend. Bottomline, you need to have a lot of friends and make sure you don’t become a borrowee) with my friend.
On the way somewhere between our block and LH, A and J watch us walk and decide to join us for the dinner. I guess they knew about Shanghai already as they said “Oh! “Shanghai”ya? we will also come then!” That’s all the friends who came to Shanghai that day. Don’t worry I wasn’t planning to introduce all the alphabets as my friends.
The walk is a bit long and it felt longer as I imagined more about how this new place will be. Will it be a decent place? Clean tables, chairs, ambience? I was wondering! Nah, I thought! If it is cheap then it could be a little dirty. Atleast they would have clean plates, I hope. May be the place will have figures (good looking gals). Yes, it is all about figures. Any place you go you have to have figures for that place to be called as the “Happening” place. Otherwise it will be deemed boring or called a museum. In those years the only thing we did was figure watching, even if we were bored of figure watching we kill the boredom by figure watching. Too bad we couldn’t proceed beyond watching.
Picture: Chicken Manchurian – http://www.instructables.com
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan – http://www.askmen.com
Me, N, S, A and J all walk together chit chatting and then we take another short cut through the sidewalk and jump over the compound wall to reach the main road.
My friend says “Ah, he is there today! good!”
It was a small hand driven push cart. A smell of steaming rice and frying pan with oily substances tore open our nostrils. The cart had a top cover and a name plate that read “Shanghai Restaurant”.
It was a WTF moment for me. All the while I kept imagining how great this place could be and walked with all the enthusiasm of avoiding the dreaded Chappathi in the mess and here I am standing before a push cart that served Fried rice for 8 rupees. There was no soup or manchurian but only fried items. Everything was fried, fried rice, fried chicken, fried everything. Figures? The only figure standing was a long pole with a poster of a political party stuck around it. You had all the ambience on earth, yes it was open air and you could hear the natural sounds of cars, bikes and Pallavan Buses. Note, no chairs, no stools, er where do we sit? the compound wall. We climb on top of it and he comes to us serving hot fried rice. Irony was staring at my face real hard and slapping me left right top and bottom and laughing at me so hard that I could hear it snort, belch and fart all at the same time. Mr. Irony had his day that day!
It was like you were taken up to an altitude of about 100 feet and let go for a free fall. In the end, no complaints though as the food was tasty. Shanghai lasted for a while and then it wasn’t seen around at all and we completely forgot about that little push cart restaurant.