In our country we just love to eat and I am certainly no exception – in fact I am the rule. Those who doubt the veracity of my statement will changed your mind at the first sight of me.
My favorite food is brown on the top, puffed up a bit and coarse at the bottom; with a layer of maska or cream sandwiched in between along with flakes of ‘Tutti Frutti’ and sugar.
It is known as the ‘Bun Maska’ and goes along well with tea. You would say that I talk rather fondly about it, but then why not? For with it are attached many a fond memories of my childhood. I was in the IXth standard when I became very close to my brother’s friend – Deepak. He too, like my brother was a Medical Representative, and I still remember the first time he took me to an Irani restaurant.
Though it was just downstairs, I never went there. For the first time I observed the Irani decor closely – those quaint little chairs and the round tables with tall windows, the walls lined up with mirrors glinting in the dim lighting along with a tall creaking fan. It all seemed to belong to a bygone era.
He ordered ‘Bun Maska’ and as I never liked the plain bun, so often a part of my tiffin, I refused to have it. But he coaxed me to try it and discover the ‘Bun Maska’. And a discovery it sure was. You may not believe it, but since there didn’t exist any formality between us, I asked him to re-order many more plates of it. From then onwards, whenever we got together for an outing, most of the times ‘Bun Maska’ would also be on the cards.
I still reminisce those cold winter evenings when the four of us, myself, my brother, Deepak and another friend of my brother Arun used to have marathon carom sessions.We used to sit till late hours in the night. And i used to slip out in between to bring some refreshments including the ‘Bun Maska’, hot and fresh.
I used to make tea at home and they taste real delicious with it. While playing carom even the friendly bets and wagers, we used to have prizes and the trophy was to treat the winners to ‘Bun Maska’.
Now times have changed yet my taste buds haven’t lost the flavor of the ‘Bun Maska’. It may not happen for two more years for I heard someone say that tastes especially food tastes change invariably every five years.
And now whenever I am in a mood of having snacks outside, my mind hones on to the picture of hot steaming cup of tea and a hot puffed brown bun with a generous dash of the maska, the lights dim, the atmosphere silent and somber – indeed an incentive for some calm thinking and recalling those good old days.
This piece appeared on April 16, 1994 under the column ‘My Favorite Food’ in the youth supplement of The Indian Express in Pune, India.
The Irani restaurant downstairs was ironically called ‘New York’. My building too had a rather grand name, ‘Palace Building’ – a royal tribute to the fact that it was one of the earliest RCC buildings that came up in the Rasta Peth area in Pune.
I happened to see the area again some time back – there was a sea change with a lot of old buildings having been pulled down. Yet the Palace still stood its ground with a rather forlorn and deserted look as it seems to be barely occupied now. And sadly, like most other Irani restaurants in Pune, the ‘New York’ has disappeared now.