The weekend was here, and we did not have any specific plans. There’s nothing much to do in Bangalore, anyway! We didn’t want another day of mindless wandering around Jayanagar and JP Nagar. Though it’s something we had been enjoying of late – traversing the lanes and bylanes underneath the soothing comfort of the large canopies of age-old trees that line many of these streets. Scattered here and there are many parks, all refreshing spots of green. The old-time houses stand in sharp contrast with the ones renovated to spacious and lovely bungalows. Things that more than often spark interesting conversations, as we watch life happen in the streets of Bangalore. All of these with my good friend R, a proud native of Karnataka, who always comes up with some interesting cultural insights and anecdotes.
It was during these walks that I got introduced to many kinds of authentic Bangalorean food. The result of not being a foodie was that I never had much idea about the varied range of Kannadiga cuisine even after being here for more than a decade. R is a foodie and as a result our casual weekend sprees always lead to discovery of some good eating joints too – roadside as well as fine dining.
And, whenever we savoured chaats, R would invariably say, “I’ll take you to Bangarapet one day”. Bangarapet Chaats are very commonly found in Bangalore. One can spot that banner in almost every lane and street.
So, this Saturday we decided to go to Bangarapet to sample the chaats at their place of origin. I was, however, more interested in exploring the town than its legendary chaats. And no surprises at that! R grew up in a township very close to Bangarapet and even lived in the town for a couple of years during his childhood. Naturally, the place stands very special for him.
Located in Kolar district of Karnataka, Bangarapet is about 90 Km. away from Bangalore. We could have driven down but decided to take a suburban train instead. That got me even more excited! Afterall, we hardly travel in trains these days.
Travelling in the crowded suburban train for two hours turned out to be the most interesting experience of the trip. Scores of people commute in this manner everyday and I don’t mean to undermine the trouble they may go through. It could be all good though. At least they don’t have to struggle with traffic jams and all its associated problems. We boarded a Chennai bound train. This was the second time in my life that I was onboard a local train. The first time was about a decade ago when we had traveled to Murshidabad from Kolkata.
The train was relatively empty when we boarded as it was at the station of origin. As the train started moving and we passed by two other stations in Bangalore, it got fully crowded.
I was comfortably seated at a window seat that gave me the best of views outside and even somewhat shielded me from the jostling crowd. Though I was equally interested in observing people and experiencing all the things that were happening inside the train – incessant chattering, strangers smiling and almost starting a conversation, some even managing video calls with their near and dear ones, hawkers calling out in their typical sing song manner, and so much more. It was like getting transported to childhood days when trains used to be the preferred mode of travel. Now even on those rare train travels you hardly get to experience such small little things.
We started our Bangarapet sojourn by having a very good chai (tea) at the platform. R claims it’s the best platform chai one can get! And I had to agree, as it was perfect.
Bangarapet is a very small town. It’s quite like the size of a neighbourhood in Bangalore. There are just 4-5 streets and one can easily walk through the entire town in less than an hour. It reminded me of the common Hindi adage of – shuru hone se pehle hi khatam ho jata hai (ends even before it starts).
Nothing distinctive about the town other than the chaat stalls liberally scattered all over in various shapes and sizes. We sampled a wide variety of chaats. Some were good others not so much. However, it’s the hot and spicy water served in small glasses, which is unique about Bangarapet chaats. The water is clear and transparent and can easily pass on as ordinary water till the spice knocks your nostrils so hard that it leaves you baffled for a while. It has the taste of ginger, garlic, cinnamon, cloves, chilies – hot, salty, and tangy all at once!
What are Chaats? Chaat or chat is the collective name of a spicy and tangy category of roadside savoury snack found in India. This popular mouth-watering snack that originated in the state of Uttar Pradesh is prepared in various combinations. It may contain vegetables of the likes of tomatoes, potatoes, onions, peas, etc. It must contain some kind of crunchy and crispy base or topping or both. Mostly, it will be accompanied by curd and sweet and sour watery dips of various kinds.