It was November of 2008 that we took over a Dhaba. We were a group 15 or so couch surfers out to explore the world heritage sites of Badami, Aihole & Pattadakal in North Karnataka. It was as much a mad adventure as it was the exploration of various styles of temple architecture. We spent roughly one day in each place. In Badami, it was the ancient caves depicting the Shiva, Vishnu, Harihara, Buddha, and Mahavira. In Aihole, it was the school of temple architecture. Various experimental temples like Durg temple and Lad Khan Temple. And numerous unfinished temples where the apprentices were being trained. At Pattadakal, it was the lab of temple architecture combining the North Indian and South Indian temple styles and coming out with hybrid ones.
Dhaba at Pattadakal
Pattadakal is an enclosed complex by the bank of a river with many big and small temples. It lies in the middle of nowhere and at least then there was nothing inside or outside the temple complex to eat. There were no basic facilities whatsoever. We spent the morning in the complex. By the lunchtime, we were all hungry. There was nothing in sight except a small Dhaba few meters away from the gate of the monument complex. We rushed there in the hope of getting food.
But the owner looked at a big group and said I cannot cook for so many. It was an indicator of the number of people who visited the place. After a bit of negotiation the owners, a couple agreed to give us tea and whatever biscuit packets they had. We ordered the tea but knew very well we need something more to eat. We tried some more negotiation, but they were just not willing to entertain a large group of 15 people.
Mridula Ji, a member of the group spoke to them in native Kannada. And asked if they would allow us to cook ourselves. We will even cook for them. The couple was surprised, to say the least. Before they could react, Mridula Ji was looking at the available ingredients and figured out that there was a lot of puffed rice (Mandakki/Murmur/Jhal muri), onions and basic masalas. She roasted the puffed rice and we added chopped onions and some masalas to it. And divided it between us on small cutouts of the newspaper. There was Mirchi Bhaji to go with it. We ate all that they had in their facility. Then went on to make another cup of tea for ourselves. We were not full but we could hold on till we reached the next town where some food could be found.
It was an experience in itself. Call it Jugaad in the time of dire need, call it the liberty that you can take with the local Indians. Call it the sheer fun factor for a starved group of travelers or call it the most basic need that we have to take care of no matter what. But looking back it adds to the sort of experiences that only travels in remote areas can give you.
This post is of course dedicated to all those hungry starved people on that day. And to the owners who though reluctant but still, let us eat from their provisions.
Taking over an eatery when you are hungry and when the owner refuses to cook for a large group is a travel experience that would stay with me for a long time.
Recommend you to read following Travel Blog on Tourist Places in Karnataka.