Darshinis and Bangalore
The word “Darshini” would ring any true Bangalorean’s mind with Bisi-bisi [piping hot] idly vada sambhar, dosai, uthappam, mini meals, upma, kesari bhath, “parcel” and the like. This darshini culture in Bangalore mushroomed during the early 90s when the fast food culture of the west had picked up among Indians. Bangaloreans of course took it their own way and made it totally vegetarian south Indian fare. “Ganesh Darshan ” in Jayanagar, is touted to be the first darshini in Bengaluru. And Upahara Darshini, spread propagating this culture.
The ambience of a darshini, is well anything but of a restaurant’s or maybe even the usual fast food joints, “dhabas” or “mami’s mess”. You have the counter, where you order and pay immediately for what you want, collect your coupons, hand over them to the people at the kitchen, who will promptly stick it on an iron projection, and place your food on a granite table, after which it’s left upto you to find a table, to stand and eat at, and sink yourself, or rush yourself to a quick meal. Self service they call it.
Now to answer the question of cleanliness, for those Indian phirangs, who insist on “wax coated tables, “cleaned 4 times” dishes, kitchen with multi exhaust systems and in accordance with the international standard of superior hygiene, well darshinis may not be the place for you. The place will resemble any middle class home [minus the grease at times and only at certain places.] and if you still are worried about hygiene, well the government has set some basic rules of hygiene to be maintained, and the darshini people are kind hearted enough to understand and follow them. Well you’re a sticky Bangalorean, or not one at all, if you’re fussy about eating here.
Price, totally reasonable. 10 bucks for a filling meal? 14 bucks for a “smattered with ghee” masala dosai? Though there are places that serve north Indian stuff as well, darshinis are always best at serving authentic udipi fare. Though their sweet/jaggery sambhars and artificially fermented idli mix may get to you at times. Oh and their filter coffees are supposed to be of the best, my coffee drinking friends have sworn that they reach the taste of the kaapi-s made at home, diluted albeit. Well my pick at any darshini would be the varieties of “Dosais’ and “Curd Vadais’. Must try’s.
The crowd at a Darshini ranges from a six-year-old learning to eat by sitting on the table and pricking at idlys to two seventy five year olds discussing politics over coffee and an evening tiffin, to hurrying office-goers and students grabbing a quick meal. The “Parcel” system, which works like a takeaway, comes in handy for many housewives or “emergency” situations at home. You have everything neatly packed into plastic covers [eco friendly people can bring their own dabbas] and given to you.
Where do we find them? Splattered across the city darshinis can usually be found in areas that have a predominant middle class populace, or a crowd that’d appreciate such quick south Indian fare. Some of the my favo darshinis can be the “New Shanthi Sagar” in Fraser Town, MTR, near Lalbagh [Though I have my reservations about it being called a darshini], Dosa Camp on BVK Iyengar Road, and the like.
Good food, humble abodes, bustling atmosphere, conversations aplenty, busy kitchens that churn food from 7 in the morn till 11 at night, constantly, mark a typical darshini’s working style.
Review over, now over to the problems faced. Due to the mushrooming of those American fastfood joints, the elite crowd at darshinis have shifted loyalties, blatantly, to those phirangi things. It’s still few people like me, who visit these places for a wholesome meal. So, that’s made them suffer huge losses, and many darshinis, I would myself frequent, have had to shut shop because of stiff competition from other restaurants, and fast food joints. However, as with any popular culture, the Darshini one too will not die, and surely the true Bangaloren will never forget these, atleast not to a point where we will let them die.