Sunday, October 25, 2009

Food for Thought

Here is what made me write this piece. A good friend of mine has come down from the USA. We planned to catch up for lunch. He was asking me to suggest a nice eatery, hinting that I might know better about recently opened places. This is what I said "No ET. I don't food-hunt nowadays that way we used to, when we were all together. I finish my lunch in just under 15 minutes".

ET was like "Enna ippdi sollitae...namma work pannumpothu eppdilaam plan senju saaptoam"
(What are you saying? How we used to plan for our everyday lunch when we worked)

Food; the quintessential factor to drive our life on earth. As they say, few live to eat, few others eat to live. This factor brings different personalities of people together, however different each one may be, food unties everyone.

Now what made ET say that? I will talk about it few lines down. But this conversation spiraled me to some thoughts. The lunch; especially; is what I feel is the most special meal. Why? Mornings; breakfast is always hasty; rushing to office, rushing to school; we don't really sit together and relish our breakfast. Dinner; is a family affair; which stays the same since we start as a child till we die. But lunch? Its not the same.

We share our lunch time with different people at different stages in life. At school, the lunch was confined to the food packed at home in the tiffin box or the lunch box. Its a different story today with schools having cafeterias and eateries. But not so long ago, lunch break at school was the time to sit around, share the goodies each one brought, gossip and make fun of teachers. You didn't like the food you brought, its fine; you can always dig your friend's box without even being bothered about eating etiquette. Those gleaming steel tiffin boxes would traverse from one row to another, each one taking a bite of the humble luxury that was inside.

These incidents are still fresh. Well, that was a bit of nostalgia. So, as we grew, finished school. Next was college, the green pastures for all school going kids - where there were no need to wear uniforms, classes could be bunked, and yeah!! above all, freedom from carrying lunch boxes, it was so kiddish now. Lunch was at college canteen, with limited money; got as pocket money, a simple masala dosa was a 3 course elaborate meal, half plate pongal and half tea were heaven. Bunking classes, pooling in money and having a quick lunch at the college cafe, or going out to a restaurant once in a while and feasting was fun.

College done, got into a job. We were group of about 8-10 people who were all freshers, just out of college who had joined work. Got to know each other when we met for the first time during our New Employee Orientation. Even though we worked for different teams, we gelled up very well; it was all fun at work. Having got into the largest technology company in the world soon after engineering was a blessing, once we got in, the environment was so cool, it was all like a dream, with such group of friends, job place was like college extended.

Lunch was an elaborate affair, why not? Just a couple of months ago, we counted and accumulated coins to buy a plate of masala dosa, and now each of us were drawing a 5 figure salary. It was all quick, the transition. As such, our everyday lunch was a planned event, we would call each other and assemble at one of our cubes at about 12 PM. We used to finish off lunch that was packed by a friend's grandma; authentic Iyengar food mixed with ghee; as we discussed which restaurant to go that noon. Each one would fight like dogs, literally; to get our hands on the lunch box. It was always first come first serve. Whoever came late to his cube, had to make do with just aroma from the empty lunch box. I sat 2 floors above them, yet I made sure I reached first to gorge on the food, my friend would call me first notifying me that he has his lunch box with him that day :-P.

Our work place was located at the prime location in Bangalore; near MG road, which had restaurants in abundance, right from an andhra mess to coffee shop to dhaba to afghani restaurant to 5 star fine dining continental food. We were young blood, enthusiastic; these qualities showed up during lunch time too. After lot of rejections and analysis; we would choose 4-5 restaurants. Those would be further drilled down, one would say Chinese, other would say McDonald's, when one wanted to eat authentic Andhra food. By the time, we zeroed in on an eatery, it would be around 12:30. If the place was far away, mode of transport would be bikes, distance was not an issue. When the food we ordered arrived, everyone else present in the restaurant would stop eating and stare at us with a gaping mouth. You see, the amount of food kept was not proportionate to our looks. But we hogged like pigs, each noon, all 5 days, each billing about 300-600 Rs. Our lunch time wont be short of 3 hours. Even though we all worked for MNC, decently dressed, we ate in our way, the way it made us happy. Digging into each others plate, setting aside forks and knives; gorging on pizza; using our hands. Guys in my group were lean and slim, but they had such an appetite, which eventually influenced me. For me eating one slice of pizza was an ordeal before lunching with them. Later, I could finish off a medium pizza single handed. A lazy walk back to office, it would be 3 PM by then.

One such day, couple of senior managers happen to be at the same restaurant we went, they saw the empty plates around us, and exclaimed "Whats wrong with you guys!!!" Since then we were named "Hungry at" group. Never missed any restaurants in and around MG road and its by lanes. Few of our seniors used to say "The first 2 years at work would be the best phase in a professional life. Have all the fun"

How true that was. 2 years later, few left to do higher studies, few quit the company and joined elsewhere. Now after spending more than 4.5 years in corporate environment, lunch at noon is never the same. No enthusiasm, no interest to gorge on food. I no more wait to go outside to try different food, its always my office cafe, where the food is inedible most days, yet I am too preoccupied with work and deliverable and stress that I don't even realize how bad the food is. My lunch time nowadays is just short of 15 minutes.

Those were the times...............


  1. those were the days....I agree...for me, we never got such long lunch hours, but it was always a fun affair with the whole gang around...when i had joined an MNC, we were around 20 freshers together for the training of around a you can imagine the kinda bond we shared...evening snacks post office were a hogging trip for us all pigs :D not caring about the location, a street side paanipuri was also a feast then...ah, you made me all nostalgic...anyways i don't need a reason to feel so...I most of the times m nostalgic...hai na :)))

    amazing post...loved it :)

  2. very true..i guess a lot of that has to do with the deadlines, stress and delivarables as you rightly mentioned..deliverables keep mounting with each growing year with the company and having food just becomes a task to complete for the day with an ETA of 15-30 mins..

  3. anthanal nyabagam nenjile vanthathey...nanga ippo ippidi thaan irukom..kandameniku a big foodie..we try loads of new eat outs..but i guess i wont give that up if i grow up and food too much for that

  4. Good eating is the hallmark of great living. With such outrageous experiences, u've hit peaks of living in the past.

    Hope you reclaim the glory of a bygone era soon :-)

    Never compromise on eating, keep up the spirit!

  5. Nice post. I fully understand and empathize with what you are saying. During college days, you had to count every coin for a masala dosa. All of a sudden, you are into “lot of money” and you and your friends wanted to paint the town red. Then after a few years, the fantasy fades off. Same is true with anything. You buy a new car. You take extra care to clean and service it and then that interest fades off. The same is true with most of the things in life.

    By the way, your friend ET. Is he the real ET?

  6. By the way, I thought I was making a joke. I did not mean to offend you or your friend.

  7. I liked it.. Lunch is so different always! new people new hustle!

    It should be like this only. what i miss is that whenever I used to take Aaloo k paranthe or paav bhaji or dosa, I used to open my tiffin box, 8 hands appeared, and when they used to get out, there wasnt even a trace left!

  8. I totally agree with Abhinav. My tiffin would disappear even before I could realize what exactly mom had packed.
    Those were definitely the days. Memories are what keeps us thinking, and alive.

  9. enjoyed this post...Whenevr my daughter used to take bread rolls in her tiffin, her friends never used to let her eat her own tiffin:).sometimes I used to pack one rasogulla for my son and his friend would pick it as soon as my son opened the box:)

    and LOl:) at///Dinner; is a family affair; which stays the same since we start as a child till we die.

  10. Hi Neha,

    Those were real fun days isn't it? And you mentioned evening snacks....Oh my god!! The way we behaved, as if we were not fed for days together.

    We knew snacks arrived at 6 PM. We would wait in line to grab the stuff and snatch from each other too. Hahahahaha.....Any senior employee watchinmg us, would have certainly mistook us for some street urchins. We just forgot all our decency and etiquette.

    And now, I don't go to the cafe to even have a look at the snacks available 24x7..


  11. Hi Rohit,

    Thanks for the comments. Very true. Also with friends going away in different directions, and when we lose that group, everything goes away with it too....

    We either are not lucky enough to get similar set of people or other things take up our time.

  12. Hi Surya,

    Thanks pa. I did experience some outrageous stuff and we did unbelievable things.

    I truly doubt if such times would come back. Its the memories that keep us alive

  13. Hi soin,

    aama, antha naal nyabagam....

    Glad that you are in that stage when you are just care free and enjoying life. We all want to just keep the legacy alive, but somehow, it doesn't materialize, with work, issues, personal things....

    But I hope that you folks don't give up and continue the same

  14. Hi SG,

    What you said is very right. I recall a Tamil proverb "Alpanukku aishwaryam vandha ardha raathirila kudai pidippaan"
    It was something like that - from no money to "lot of money" we really went haywire.

    But we truly deserved it. After all the hard work we put to get a nice job with a decent salary, and our happiness knew no bounds when we got placed in a top company; dream job.....

    But as you said, after a while, it all fades away

  15. Hi SG,

    I was wondering if anyone would ask about my friend's name "ET". Glad you asked.

    His real name is Abilash Sekar. He got this name "ET" while he was at school, and the legacy continued so much so that no one remembers his real name anymore. Even his parents called him ET, he used to introduce himself as ET and sign his mails as ET.

    Why ET? He is the laziest person one can ever imagine. He would literally crawl instead of walking. But his reaction to stimuli was so quick. We were all having lunch at a restaurant in Lake Tahoe once. You know how cold it is there. I accidentally knocked off water on the table. The water didn't even spill, and ET was at his feet so quick like a lightning; he responded and vacated his place so fast. Being that lazy, he would seem as if he didn't do any work, but he would be dot on his deliverable and even at school, it seemed he didn't study at all and yet got highest marks all the time.

    Thats why he was considered an Extra Terrestrial :-D

  16. Hi Abhi,

    Thanks for the comments. :-D I can imagine, hahahahaha.

    Abhi tho tha, lekin gayab!!! We got immense happiness in sharing food. :-)

  17. Hi Shaunak,

    I am sure each one of us have experienced this. The thing is food in your friend's plate seems delicious than whats on your plate...hahahaha

  18. Hi Antarman,

    Thank you for your comments. Glad you liked it.

    Those were the days really. My mom used to explicitly warn me "Don't share all. Eat some of the food. Else you will starve"

  19. Thanks for your comment. You are not right in quoting that Tamil proverb. It is not luck or by accident you landed in a 5 figure salary after graduation. It is hard work and excellent education. That is my humble opinion. All I said was people tend to enjoy a lot more until the fantasy fades off.

  20. Thanks for the explanation about ET. So, he is the real ET. Call home.

  21. Hi SG,

    Oh yes. Thats why I said "it was something like that...."
    And next I said "But we truly deserved it. After all the hard work we put to get a nice job with a decent salary, and our happiness knew no bounds when we got placed in a top company; dream job....."

    I understood what you tried to say. I totally agree that it was sheer hard work and preparation that we landed in a plum job. I mean, I am very proud to say that we consider ourselves an excellent lot which was why such a company recruited us; even before finishing college. They had so much of confidence in us.

    I mean I got my offer letter while I was still in my final semester. The organization is not quite known to offer fresher a job even before graduating. That way, yes it was all our effort.

  22. I will let ET know that he was complimented. He would surely be happy. :-)

  23. "each one taking a bite of the humble luxury that was inside".
    i really love these words. so beautiful...

    miss those days.

  24. Quite a nice post insignia...ET is one cute name...lunch time is that part of the day when u unwind a bit, gossip with your friend groups, hang around etc etc. I still enjoy my lunch time like anything...wonder how it would be in some years

  25. Hey Bindu...sapadu evalvu mukiyam...ithu yarukume puriya matinguthu... short of 15 mins... thats real bad..ya yu brought back memories of scool days in the tiffen box...athu oru kalam..ipo yelam" sami sooru podunga" , everyday cooking is the biggest mountain claimber...We all need to realise ..we work,strain and do all this for a good meal and if we deny that...God help us then!well its lunch time :) now!

  26. My first time here and what a wonderful piece of writing,as if i was reliving those old days of mine. Be it school/college/first few years of ur professional life, the experience and the fun are the same.

    BTW, I envy you for the org u worked for, every day 3 hours for lunch :P u must be really lucky :D

  27. like the name ET,
    yes food is very important
    just remember the song
    Once upon a time there was a tavern
    Where we used to raise a glass or two
    will put the link here you will also like it.

  28. Hi Gautam,

    Yeah, weren't they a humble luxury? :-) Good old days

  29. Hi Hary,

    Rightly said, we toll, we stress ourselves; all to get a nice meal. But things have lost so much of control these days that one doesn't find time for a meal.

    Thats right, its under 15 minutes now :-(

  30. Hi Mustaf,

    Welcome to B Log :-) and thanks a lot for your comments. Glad you liked it

    My org - yeah I was really lucky to have landed there :) Dream place and a dream job :-)

    Keep visiting!!

  31. Hi sm,

    Yeah ET is a nice nickname :)
    thanks for sharing the lyrics.

    I loved it. Its so true.

  32. Hi Gayathri,

    Yeah, ET is a cute name, isn't it?
    Glad that you are having fun during your lunch time. Pray that it continues for long time

  33. I haven't read a single thing fro your blog :P but am commentating as it is Absolutely Free!!! :D
    Actually I will be back to read as I already know a lot about you, and that too good things all, from a mutual friend of ours, Neha :)
    :P :D

    Guria. :)

  34. nice post..reminiscences.. in school.. it was a bit different.. its not tht u dont like ur food.. whether u like it or not.. u can get only a single bite of ur own lunch.. tht was the rule..
    jus 1 doubt.. endha company in bangalore and which company are u currently employed to??

  35. Hey Vishnu,

    Thank you. Hmm...True, maybe for some. Especially with me, I was a picky eater. Most times, I would not like what was packed in my lunch box. Not that I didn't like mom's cooking, it was just that on that day, I didn't want to eat that food.

    Oh!! I am extremely sorry but I cant reveal the organizations I was/I am associated with. :-)

    You will understand why once you start working :-)

  36. Hi Guria,

    Welcome to B Log. Ohhh I am so honored; that Neha has told good things about me :-) I should thank her.

    Hope to see you more here :-)
    Hope to know more of you too.

    Take care

  37. enna ellarum idhe solreenga.. even sg told me the same dialogue.. whatever..
    no i wont understand tht wen i start workin.. in fact i'll spreading the word tht i got a job in so n so company.. lol..

  38. Hahahahaha......

    Once you start spreading the word about the company you work for, you will start thinking twice to start writing anything remotely associated with the company; like the food habits I wrote here...

    Thevaiya? Yet, I guess it wont be too far for you join an org. And I know I will be reading your posts...Paakalam :-)

  39. ya u'll know.. and i guess i'll maintain the confidentiality of my blog.. lol..

  40. Hmmm...Try Vishnu. Maintaining confidentiality online is such a daunting task nowadays :-)

  41. u need good company.. all the best.. old days always seem better. some day u will look bak upon the present days and think that they were gud too..

  42. Hi JD,

    Welcome back after a long time. Yes, good company, that's so primary. I sincerely wish for that.

  43. First time here.. Came from SG's.

    Being a foodie, I could relate to it all.. Right from the college days eating programmes to the present days. How I wish the magic never died!

  44. Hi lostworld,

    Welcome To B Log. That's true, sad that it never stays the same.
    Hope we do find our happier days

  45. Insignia, I'm impressed!

    And, the post was moving in its own small way. :)

    [Warning: personal experiences and opinions ahead!]

    Honestly, I'd never thought of the three meal times separately before. That's why your observation impressed me.

    When I was doing my internship, I'd gained so much weight only 'cuz food was my only source of entertainment!

    I might get into a corporate life, ahead. So, your heads up regarding the early years being most enjoyable is most helpful.

    In my observation, we become less receptive to idea of making new friendships as we grow old, and that too could probably contribute to your not on the whole taking leisurely lunches with others, apart from of course, your tight work schedule.


  46. Hi Ketan,

    Wow, you are impressed, makes my day!!
    Yeah, it was an eureka moment when I realized lunch was special than the other two meals.

    You know what? I don't want to realize I am growing OLD, so I would rather blame the hectic work schedule :-P

    The first few years of corporate life are most enjoyable. But I wish that yours remain pleasurable throughout. All the best!!

  47. Hi Insignia,

    I am Sanket, first time reader of your blog. Although I am a bit late to comment, I must say that I really had fun reading this and could connect to it instantly.

  48. Hi Sanket,

    Welcome to B Log :-)
    I am glad you could connect to this post. Keep visiting :-)


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