Serendipity inaugural evening at GIM, Ribandar…an al fresco performance by Bilal Chishty Sangari and Rooh Sufi Ensemble; lighting the lamp are dignitaries industrialist Shrinivas Salgaocar, Goa Chief Secretary Dharmendra Sharma, Minister of Art & Culture Govind Gaude, artist Laxman Pai, festival boss Sunil Kant Munjal
BY TARA NARAYAN
Eating is Fun / Eating is Yuck! – A variety food column
THE not-so-cool any more winter months in Goa offer festival after festival to dazzle the mind and senses! This is the third edition of the festival in town currently for eight days and perhaps Serendipity is the most magical of them all for it offers a mesmeric platter of art and craft exhibitions and shows, music and dance, theatre, photography, various workshops to understand the food we eat and glimpses into culinary heritage..…and much else in between the lines. What’s not to like! I like it for festivals make for fruitful pass-time!
Except that with one festival after another in town we in the media tend to become festival zombies trying to be selective about what to catch and what to leave for another day. Serendipity is as they say, a celebration of the arts in a country which has a lot of diversity to offer, a veritable cornucopia of exhibitions, performances, events…an ultimate celebration of the good life if I may say so.
I tend to catch the foodie happenings first and put on my helmet and rode out on my bike to Old Goa Institute of Management at Ribandar on inaugural day which was a Friday, December 14, 2018. The Old GIM is a fabulous heritage complex but it seems to have been taken over by the police and the road outside so narrow that traffic jams which happen outside on the riverside road are a major irritation.
Despite annoyances of another kind too most guests came in later in the evening and soon there was hardly any space to sit. It was a tightly packed evening which started off an hour late with the aromas of the biryani cookout and other treats, being curated by master cook Marut Sikka and restaurateur extraordinary Rahul Akerkar more or less overpowering the exquisitely set musical performance of Dhruv Sangari (Bilal Chisty Sangari) and the Rooh Sufi Ensemble. Sorry, acoustics were not so good but full marks for the real VIPs — the musicians.
It was an outdoor setting between GIM courtyards but then this is so vast a complex, it deserves to be better put to use as a legacy of vintage buildings built to season and mellow gracefully (never mind the ground realities). Serendipity boss Mr Sunil Kant Munjal is from all accounts a true blue philanthropist and doing a lot of good for this once in a year cheering up of several historical venues in Panaji and vicinity, but I can’t say our headless government of this day appreciates it (regardless of what ailing Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar wishes for the good of Goa).
But to stay with the Serendipity inaugural evening I must confess I went for the pure joy of tasting the food and if you don’t mind I don’t like to eat and listen to some sublime music while eating! I really don’t see why so many of us privileged elegant human beings should be busy stuffing food in our mouths while the music makers played their instruments, no doubt seeking steadfast attention on their stage rigged up high against a cliffside? Talk of mixing the sublime and gross, this is it, terrible audience attitude! Although a friend disagrees and says, no, it’s mixing sublime with sublime — good food, good music, nah?
I’m not complaining about the food which was finally laid out, it was both a visual and sensual spread and cooked with oodles of patience in what I’m sure were less than perfect conditions. Shammi Sikampur kebabs, paratdaar paneer ke pasandey, fried
spring rolls tucked into little plastic glasses with a tart mildly hot red chutney at the bottom… circulated by way of finger food. Later on the long tables the pièce de résistance biryani was laid out and they were to live for!
Four varieties: Kolkatta mangshor, Allepy chemeen, kathrikkai…guchi pulao…two kinds of raita, burrhani and very pretty anar. The utterly flavourful tamater ka quth took my breath away…what is it? Come to think of it if I had any sense I would have sacrificed all else just to feast on these tamater ka quth, even skipped the perfect Hyderabadi-styled mirchi ka salan! (Sigh) We live with regrets but take a bow, all you boys and girls who laid out this truly treat of a meal, it was memorable and took me back to my earlier years in Mumbai-that-was-Bombay.
The sweets? They too were to live for and die for… khubani ka meetha, shahi tukda, nolin gur sandesh, mishti doi. Like I said, it was too much of a good thing, real culinary craftwork and artwork! Mercifully it was all served in eco-friendly ware of the very best kind and as usual I wished I could have packed up an item number or two to take back for the hubby at home. But it was too by the time dinner came around and almost midnight by the time I got back home to Panaji. In the crowded hallaballoo I dropped one of my good luck crystal ball earrings I was wearing that evening, little monetary but gigantic sentimental value…I am desolate. If anyone finds it please come return it to me.
CONSIDERING that there were a few hitches this year with Serendipity vis-à-vis venue hand-over in time I must say Mr Munjal’s team from Mumbai and Delhi did a great job. Ditto for foodie professionals Marut Sikka and Rahul Akerkar (has several successful stand-alone restaurants in Mumbai) who may be seen at the Old GMC complex with sack full of spices – the burnished black berries of pepper, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, tamarind, dry methi leaves, nutmeg and mace, aniseed, black and white sesame seeds, star anise, vibrant red chillies cascading out and away…there was an offer to all visitors, come, pick your own spice combo and pound out your own masala mix to take home in a test tube!
Well, all this and more. Let me go spend some more time out at Serendipity to collect some more indulgences of the …er…sublime kind.