Hotel Mani– then and now

“Meals get over by 2.30. Reach before that.”

“And after 2.30″’ I ask

“Paav-bhaji.”

Nope.

Keyed ‘Mani’s Lunch Home, Chembur’ on the map, ditched the main road and twisted into a small quaint lane. By 2.25, i stood at Mani’s doorstep. I was happy. I was worried.

Happy — because this was my first visit to their new place in Chembur. Worried — because it was packed just like their old joint in Matunga. There, Mani’s used to be the place to go for inexpensive South Indian food.

As I waited for a table, I thought of what had changed at Mani’s. The shutdown of their original place, the loss of their owner to a heart attack, this place being off the main streets and a little congested compared to the former one. Wonder how that affected the people and, more importantly, the food. 

Though it was past 2.30 when I got a seat, meals were still available. At Matunga, no chance – meals would have been long gone, if i remembered right. Then you get the regular idli-dosa-wada types.

I placed an order for two meals. She walked in just then.  

“Oh — you are on time.”

Yeah right. As if i was going to miss out on this.

We settled down; she got busy clicking pictures while I eyed the tables and customers — my thing. I realised the customers fell in two categories – different or same.

Different. In Matunga, all kinds of people from all over the city would come to eat there. Here, the young crowd was missing — colleges were still shut — while the South Indian patrons, who formed a huge part of the Matunga experience, were not as numerous.

Same. There were still crowds, more local, more Maharashtrian and Gujarati, a more representative mix of the city as a whole. They were there for the food – chapati or sambar-rice and a healthy dose of veggies served on a banana leaf. Just like Matunga, you got served quickly, there was no loitering or lazing around after khaana and your bill wouldn’t make you mortgage your partner’s jewellery. 

There were minor changes too. If you asked for more rice the waiter gave you a look. It seemed a, does he think the unlimited rice policy still exists? look. I knew those days were long gone. You still got unlimited sambar and chutney, but in plastic bowls rather than the good old steel ones – a major turn-off for me. Otherwise, with the tense manager, the hurried yet helpful staff and the feeling of a filling meal – Mani’s still got game.

Published by appamprawns

soni writes about children and people in controlled spaces, in his quest for appam stew. homi writes in the hope of being able to buy prawns to make patiyo.

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