In search of an Udipi down 10th Road in Chembur…idli at Hotel Saroj a real find, sweet mart next door to buy some mithai for a friend! Chembur has as many as six Udupi eateries


Eating is Fun / Eating is Yuck! – A variety food column

DON’T laugh. Increasingly I think the only holiday breaks I get from working for a living are those of the hospital kind! Last week I accompanied a patient seeking a solution to multiple health problems to Mumbai that was Bombay once upon a time, not that I don’t like breaks of whatever kind in Mumbai…and in this case one is not chasing hospitals per se but a doctor who comes highly recommended.
So that’s why I was in Mumbai last week and you know if one is doing a hospital stint as patient’s wife/friend/attendant/mentor/whatever, there’s always this need to time-pass a bit in between sorties to chemist, to buy some narial pani, to buy fruit, to get this, that or the other — toothbrush, toothpaste, mug, wet wipes, a bottle of water although I hate bottled water.
This time around in between a few anxieties I was delighted to find myself in Chembur (where I’d lived for a couple of years during my 30 odd Mumbai years) and stood mesmerized before a gorgeous kailashpati or cannonball tree towering down 10th road in Chembur. There is also an inviting Jain Mandir at one end of the road and close to it there is a Shree Chembur Jain Bhojanshala where one may relish a wholesome pure Jain meal. To my enquiries the avuncular fellow here at the reception table of sorts said, “You may come after 11 am and for 70 we will give you a full vegetarian meal…pet bhar ke khana!” Amused I exclaimed that one is not supposed to “pet bhar ke khana” in real life. He looked up from the register in which he was filling in numbers to take a keener look at me and replied testily okay, okay, I may eat as much or as little as I needed to eat. Life has its moments and this is one for me although I didn’t return later, just made a mental note to return one day, someday. Nor was there time to say a prayer at the Jain Mandir, nor look up the Jain Udyog outlet of wintertime goodies adjacent to it (a dear Gujarati friend of mine living close by at Sion-Chunabatti assured me over the phone that I would find some of the most desirable wintertime goodies to live for here including adadia paak — desi ghee gond and spice enriched ladoo/chakki). HEY, the distant eastern suburb of Chembur in Mumbai has a collection of fine Udipi eateries (salt of the earth home away from home eateries for aam aadmi engaged in earning a living a Mumbai). I have happy memories of Udipi eateries in Mumbai. At the other end of the road I discovered Hotel Saroj & Sweet Mart, Saroj’s here offers traditional Udipi fare. Since I was looking for idli I ordered a plate (Rs 56), it was so memorably good with its coconut chutney (milky with freshly grated coconut) and a most tantalizingly veggie redolent sambar. Even I was pleasantly charmed by its quality! Saroj’s became a kind of small joys to return to and next door the sweet mart offered all kinds of stuff including pure ghee motichur laddu (Rs 600 kg) and jelebi, Starbucks coffee, etcetera. This is to stay I consider myself some kind of an idli connoisseur and I’d rate Saroj’s idli down 10th road in Chembur on top of my list of favourites, this means I would go to Chembur in Mumbai just to eat honest idli at Saroj’s! THEN during another walkabout I was happy to recognize a name first mentioned to me by the late Captain Krishnan Nair vis-a-vis Ayurveda — Vaidyaratnam. In an interview many years ago this affable hotelier (of Leela group of hotels and “bleeding textiles” fame) had confided to me that the secret of his smooth glossy complexion in his 80’s due to his annual Ayurveda pilgrimage for panchkarma treatment at a Vaidyaratnam centre in Ernakulum district in Kerala. He also said Vaidyaratnam’s had a branch in Chembur in Mumbai and now there it was before me at D K Sandu Marg, opp Post Office in Chembur (East), so close to the Zen Hospital. There’s both treatment centre and pharmacy here at the Ashtavaidyan Thaikkattu Mooss Vaidyaratnam Centre and after some enquiries I bought a bottle of camphor oil (sesame seed oil base), asked if they offered any Ayurveda massages? Yes, they said, for consultation they have the senior Dr MD Gopalakrishnan (BAMS) and Dr Rashmi R Nair (BAMS). I could book for an hour-long general full body massage between 8 am to 6 pm, it would cost me1,375. Another time, I smiled. There is a cute roundabout Sandhu garden at this 10th road but I decided not to loiter and walked back to the hospital where my patient was in no mood to listen to any talk of Ayurveda massages being better for him than Allopathic prescriptions and surgeries.
Even though Parshuram Iyer, a cousin who was visiting him, has this story to tell of how after a stroke it was a series of Ayurveda massages at the Agastya Ayuurveda Kalari Massage Centre in Kochi (Cochin) which straightened him out up to 75%. He is fine now but walks with a slight limp. One of these days I’ll recount Parshuram Iyer’s story here.
Honestly, my breaks of whatever denomination in Mumbai always leave me alive and kicking even if down in the dumps sometimes. Anyway, it was time to leave the hospital and seek refuge in my mother’s home in Juhu, except that my mother has gone with the wind and may no longer be found at home.
In Juhu a cold feeling of emptiness catches up with me for the home I once loved now oozes a haunted mausoleum air! It was the first time I was returning to Juhu after my mother passed away last year on March 28 and memories assailed me anew as I wondered how she lived her life of sacrifice and stoic loneliness as day by day her mind gave way to nameless anxieties, with nobody but a maid servant to keep her company — this is until my Mumbai sister returned home from her office in the evening. I guess the morning to evening hours in between must have been the hardest, and when the end came none of her busy children were around at home…she died alone in the arms of yet another new maid and a kind neighbour from next door.
Hey, it is the usual story of parents who live with working children. Or rather the story of working children who live with their parents…looking after them as best as they can in between meeting the challenge of holding on to demanding jobs! Real life situations can be quite ironic I assure you for I’ve seen them first hand. That is why I always think that there must be some kind of integrated living for seniors where they may be independent, interdependent and dependent as per need…with folk around at all times to respond to emergencies which may arise day or night. Such a collective housing set-up must be designed imaginatively and sensitively to offer resident seniors several choices while accessing happy notes in the last days of their life. (Sigh) These days the older I get the more concerned I am about what goes into the nitty gritty of seeking happiness in life as it irretrievably draws to a close in life’s various departure lounges good, bad or ugly.

Jain temple are cool and beautifully artistic
Gorgeous Kailashpati or Cannon ball tree in Chembur… rare to see!
Roundabout Sandu Garden near Chembur post office…children enjoy the work-out playground

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