Skip to main content

A Gastronome's True Nightmare - Short Story

I attended by my first Hyderabad Write Club meet at Lamakaan last Saturday. HWC is an offshoot of the Bangalore Write Club, and follows the concept of bringing together established and aspiring writers to hone their skills. 

Image from

Late by an hour, I joined in just as the half-a-dozen something group was beginning the writing exercise. It was centred around the theme of human senses. After a brief, but insightful conversation on the many human senses we take for granted everyday, we were given the challenge of writing a short story around one of them. A fishpot was passed around with a bunch of chits. Each chit was inscribed with a line to help us get started. I picked one which read, “I saw the pots”. Almost instantaneously, a nightmare unfolded in my mind and I penned a story extempore. Here’s what I wrote.

I saw the pots

I drove past the ramparts of the Old Fort. Fondly called Purana Qila, it predates it’s famous red cousin in the old city by a millennium. A fond memory from long ago stirred inside. I kept my eyes peeled for a Sufi Shrine along the road. After driving around the desolate gates of Pragati Maidan for a while,  I was about to back out of my quest. Just then, I saw the pots. I parked my car by the footpath and climbed up a weathered staircase. Pots upon pots hung from a giant Neem tree, at the aptly named Matka Peer. I walked past the Sufi dargah and into the adjacent room. I was here for devotion, just not the spiritual type.

The smell of saffron wafted out as I stepped inside the makeshift eatery. A familiar looking old man sat behind two huge deghs. Relief! I was back at Matka peer after half a decade, and was relieved to see their matchless biryani still around.  I excitedly asked for a plate of Biryani and Qorma. Mutton, of course.

“Pack ya Khaana Hai?” enquired the bearded old man. He was a kindly gent, I had often thought of making some small talk about what goes into his sublime food, but eventually shied away. Perhaps this time. “Khaana hai”, I blurted out. My mouth watered as he dished out his fare on a steel plate. I greedily asked for an extra piece of meat. 

Every grain of rice shone with an amber meaty glow, emanating the unmistakable aroma of a saffron-spiked Biryani. The Qorma glistened with Ghee- the Ghee is what really sets Matka Peer’s Qorma apart.

I sat down on the plastic table and scooped up a spoon, almost closing my eyes in expectance. But I got nothing. Where’s that earthy flavour of the saffron? Another spoon, same result. It was almost like eating plain steamed rice, except that I didn’t taste any rice. I felt like I was chewing on grains of nothingness, my tongue blunt to any flavour. I put in a spoonful of Qorma, and felt the warm liquid in my mouth. But still nothing. I swirled it around like good wine, but I could only sense it’s warm fluidity and naught else.

Now panicking, I spotted a plate of sliced onions. Squeezing a wedge of lemon on a slice, I sprinkled some salt and bit into it. I didn’t taste the astringent onions, nor the sour lemons, not even the salt. The old man hollered, “Biryani Theek hai?”. Bewildered, I looked at him and almost let out a cry. A terrible realisation strangled my speech. I got up and rushed out of the shrine. 

As I clambered down, I spotted a Cold drink Thela and bought a Minute Maid. Keeping my fingers crossed, I took a sip. Nothing. No sugar hit, no orangey tartness on my palate, just a flavourless cold liquid down my throat. I looked around, my eyes watery, searching for answers.

And then, I saw the pots.

Note: You can read more about the Hyderabad Write Club here -


Popular posts from this blog

A guide to eating out in Anna Nagar, Chennai

Back at Amala Mess, one of Anna Nagar's best kept secrets. A Karaikudi family has been serving no-frills Chettinadu food for close to two decades. The fare is not doused in oil nor lit up with spice, and your stomach certainly rest easy after the meal. I love their light Surra Puttu (sort of Shark meat bhurji) and toothsomse Chicken roast. #pursuitofyummyness A photo posted by Amit Patnaik (@patnaikamit) on Jun 22, 2016 at 6:25am PDT Anna Nagar West, Chennai - 40: The very first address that acquainted me with the city I’ve called home since 2013. 

I have a faint memory of being driven under two huge arches, abutting the naked pillars of a half-finished flyover. Barring this eyesore, Anna Nagar is unusually well laid out for an Indian locality with wide Avenues, leafy Main Roads, and logical nomenclature for the streets. My only gripe with Anna Nagar was its seemingly drab offerings for dining out.
While Mylapore and Triplicane had classic Madras Tiffen centres and Messes, ECR had th…

Gwalior Food Guide - Part 2

I roamed through gullies and bazaars, basking in the pleasant winter sun, to find the best eateries in this underrated city of royalty, history and some really good food.
Petha Gilori at Panchhiraj, Phalka Bazaar I was prancing down Phalka Bazaar with an exploratory insouciance, on the lookout for the famous Ratlam Namkeenwale near Kailash Talkies, when I passed by a large, bright shop with a colourful display of Pethas. I stopped in my tracks. The name - Panchhiraj seemed familiar, perhaps an offshoot from the Panchhi Pethas of Agra - said to be one of the finest purveyors of these sugar-dipped ash gourd sweets? I stepped in.
The origin of the petha is often linked to the Mughals; suspiciously wild accounts trace back the petha to either, the royal kitchen of Shah Jahan who the ordered the formulation of a novel sweetmeat to motivate and energize his army of Taj Mahal masons, or, to the court of Jahangir who is said to have been besotted by the sweet elegance of Nur Jahan and her offeri…

Gwalior Food Guide - Part 1

Gwalior - a city whose fate passed from one dynasty to another through the ages - from the Tomars through the Mughals to the present-day monarch-turned politicians, the Scindias. The influence of this historical game of thrones is as vividly visible on its food as it is on the walls of its imposing fortress.
While the typical artery-clogging staples of the Northern Plains - Bedai, Boondi Ladoo and Kachoris vindicate its geographic location, the ubiquitous carts peddling Poha, Dabeli and even Vada Pao attest to the Maratha heritage of its last monarchs. Dining out in Gwalior would be incomplete without hogging on rich Mughlai Qormas and Kebabs at some of its old school restaurants like Kwality and Volga. 
After arriving in the region for an official assignment last winter (here’s how), I soon took a liking to Gwalior. As the mustard fields turned from green to a sea of yellow, finally withering away into the dust, my days in the city led to an evolution of my own. Here I spent many a sun…