The Pasta Darshini

A long time back I’d cribbed that in places like Bangalore where not too many people are willing to experiment with food, non-standard cuisines end up being insanely expensive. This was perhaps during my first trip to New York last year, when I’d been amazed to find extremely high quality food at nondescript places for very reasonable rates, and was cursing my own city for making me pay up exorbitant amounts every time I wanted to have something “special”.

Given that background, the new Veekes and Thomas outlet in Jayanagar 4th block (I believe they have outlets elsewhere in the city also) comes as a pleasant surprise. It’s a small place, situated across the road from the more famous Maiya’s. The whole establishment is less than 100 sq ft, with a large part of it taken by a massive machine to make sugarcane juice. The two times I’ve visited, there have been two guys there, one to make sugarcane juice and the other to make pasta. The seating area is limited, and you’re served in disposable (areca bark) plates and glass glasses.

They mostly make pastas and some other european dishes (their subtitle is “fine European cuisine” though I’m not sure how “fine” they are), and represent really awesome value for money. The average pasta there costs Rs. 60, and a soup I had on my last visit (wasn’t too great) was Rs. 15. And perhaps to go with the fact that they’re situated in the heavily-vegetarian Jayanagar, they don’t serve meat.

The wife says that it’s among the best pasta she’s eaten in Bangalore. While I disagree with that, I do think the food is really good given the price point. Also, given that they have only one cook, the waiting time can get a little long. The other thing with Pasta is that it is a slow-cooking dish, which is why it doesn’t lend itself too well to the darshini format – which is more suited for made-to-order or assemble-to-order dishes.

Nevertheless this is a good start. It’s hopefully a harbinger (sorry for using such a lofty word here; nothing simpler came to mind) for cheap “non-standard cuisine” in Bangalore. The next logical setup, I guess, would be a falafel-hummus stall. The advantages there are that the dishes are either quick-cooking or can be made to stock , ingredients to make them are easily available here, not much is lost by having a vegetarian-only place (I think there are easier to set up in terms of licensing than places that serve meat; and easier to cook as well) and the taste isn’t very different from Indian (yesterday I was describing the falafel as “AmboDe made out of chickpeas”).

Again, I can help someone set this up, though I’m not particularly interested in running the business since I think it involves a lot of hassles.


The Sikh Museum

One of the highlights of Amritsar, which is missed by most mango tourists is the Sikh museum. It is situated on the first floor of the front wing of the Golden Temple complex (just as you enter from the main entrance) and provides fascinating insight into the history and lives of the Sikhs. The English on the labeling is bad, some pictures don’t have English labels at all (not even Hindi; only Gurmukhi stuff) and the museum is mostly made up of paintings rather than artefacts, but it is definitely a must-see.

The most fascinating thing about the history of the Sikhs as depicted in this museum is the gore. As you enter the first hall of the museum (it is basically a series of halls laid end-to-end) and turn left (actually you are supposed to turn right and see the thing anti-clockwise but the signage is so bad I turned left) you see a painting of a guy being sawed. Yes, you read that right, a guy is being sawed. Into half. Laterally. The painting shows two guys with a huge saw sawing this guy from head downwards (at the moment the painting has “captured” the guy has been sawed until his chest) while Guru Tegh Bahadur looks on.

Move on to the next painting and it shows you a guy being boiled alive, again with Guru Tegh Bahadur presiding. Apparently the guy’s death wish was that he looks at the Guru while he is being boiled to death. Again fascinating indeed. Then later, there is this guy (one of the Gurus only I think) who is placed on a hot tawa and burnt to death.

Amit, Aadisht and Gaspode will be especially pleased to see the next part of the museum which shows the mutilation of babies. The story goes that while all the Sikh men of a cerrtain town were away the Mughals attack the town. There are only women and children remaining. They take the kids one by one, cut them up into pieces and string their organs together in the form of garlands and put it around their mothers’ necks. Unmitigated gore wonly.

One can say that the underlying theme of the museum, and maybe of Sikh history, is gore, violence, bloodbath, sacrifice, valour, whatever you call it. There are several paintings (most of these paintings are recent, btw) which depict battlefields and the common theme there is the severed heads and limbs that are lying on the ground. Then there is a series of paintings with Mughal soldiers holding up heads of Sikh men in order to claim their reward.

The last couple of halls of the museum are filled with portraits of recent Sikh leaders and I didn’t really bother to check the details there. At least I can confirm that there wasn’t any gore there. Overall it took me about 45 minutes to cover the museum (of course I read the story beside each and every painting – wherever English text was available) so I might have taken more time than a lot of other visitors. And got absolute strength level fundaes on Sikh history.

I strongly urge you to visit this museum the next time you are in Amritsar. I would advise you to visit this before you visit the langar, else you have a good chance of throwing up – there is so much gore in there. Also, if you are the weak hearted type who cries on the sight of blood, skip the museum altogether.