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028: Tales of Commercial Street and Red Chillies (Herbs & Spices #8)

As a teenager, I had absolutely no clue how spices ended up in our kitchen. Apart from eating food, I was completely disconnected from the kitchen and it's numerous, tedious, interconnected processes. Planning daily menus, tracking supplies, buying groceries, cooking, plating, serving, cleaning, storing, reheating and using leftovers creatively were all vague concepts to me. These actions happened in a fuzzy background that occasionally crossed paths with my daily existence. The uninitiated life of youth!

I assumed that my mother bought red chilli powder from the Nilgiris supermarket on Brigade Road. In the late ‘90s, every Sunday morning, my father and her would purchase the weekly supply of groceries from Nilgiris, before having a laid back, well deserved breakfast at Ballal Residency. Only once by chance, I was shopping with my mother on Commercial Street, and we swung by the parallel Ibrahim Sahib street. At the end of the lane after the rows of dupatta shops, and silver jewelry makers, was a tiny Marwari establishment called “Prem Provisions”. There my mother bought a half kilo of coarsely ground byadgi mirchi powder (famous in Karnataka) along with all the necessities for specific marwari poojas, festivals and ritual fasts.

Just before the first lockdown, I found myself on Commercial Street again with my mother. My visits to that shopping haven had become a rare occurrence because of my two toddlers. However, on that particular sojourn, my child-free bliss was marred when I learnt that Prem Provisions had shut down. The shop had been unable to keep pace with online grocery portals and the skyrocketing rent in Bangalore. But my tenacious mother refused to give into branded chilli powder.

Like Hanuman in search of the sanjeevani herb, she had tracked down another supplier. She was now a patron of the "Anand Brothers" shop. The current proprietor’s father used to supply grains and spices to the British soldiers in the Bangalore Cantonment, and his son had eventually opened this particular shop in 1957. Unfortunately for my mother, on that particular day we reached the shop at three in the afternoon. In characteristic ‘Old Bangalore’ style, the shutters were closed for the sacred afternoon siesta! My mother would have to come back again for her chilli powder.

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