'Malgudi' in Dallas
I had a pleasant surprise during my sojourn to the US last year. If Christopher Columbus discovered the New World during his expedition's centuries ago, I 'discovered' Malgudi in Dallas.
Those who are familiar with the writings of Indo-Anglican writer RK Narayan know what I am referring to. In fact, Malgudi, the fictional village in Karnataka, is synonymous with RK as well as his books and vice versa.
If you are thinking that Malgudi I 'found' is a small town tucked somewhere in the American countryside, I should forewarn you that it's not. It's more than that. However, the name suggests some Indian connection, but it's not always true because the US is one country that is truly global in adopting names and places of other nations.
So, there I was on a weekend outing for lunch with my daughter, her husband and their kid. Like many families in India, the Diaspora in the US set a family lunch-out date, at least once in a month. Generally, it involves a long drive, with other families and friends.
This time, my daughter wanted to give me a treat before I left for India. Finding a suitable restaurant that suits my taste and food habits is not easy, if not difficult.
I am a vegetarian and don't relish garlic. The very sight of white bulbous pod repulses me. If it is used in food items, I can smell it even before they arrive on my plate. Since my lunch choice was narrow – vegetarian food without garlic – we were all looking around through the windowpanes of car for a 'suitable' eatery as the vehicle sped past the American countryside.
Suddenly, an unusual name arrested my attention: MK Gandhi's 'Malgudi Garden'!
Malgudi Garden in Dallas? Before finding answers to a thousand questions that were crossing my mind, I got the car pulled over opposite the restaurant.
I should admit that I have a weakness for Malgudi, literally. I am a great fan of RK Narayan and admire his writings and style of storytelling. Needless to say, he had lived in the fictional Malgudi to mirror the quintessential Indian life.
Moreover, I translated three of his books into Telugu, one of which is 'Waiting for the Mahatma'. Arguably, it's one of the best novels of RK and the stage for the story was set in Malgudi and revolved around Mahatma Gandhi.
Another look at the restaurant's signboard had intrigued me before stepping in for a meal. Why Gandhi's name was tagged to Malgudi?
Once inside and before we were seated, I had noticed that the interiors too reflected the spirit of Gandhi and Malgudi after whom the restaurant was named. The walls were visual history as they had been decorated with various photographs of Gandhi and his public meetings during the Independence struggle.
If it was a visual treat, the real treat that was in store for us was unforgettable. The food that was served was extraordinary – vegetarian without garlic! I could vouchsafe that the food served there was better than that offered in the best hotels/restaurants in Hyderabad. Interestingly, Malgudi Restaurant seemed to have not only desi patrons but also American clientele.
What surprised me was the restaurant, though set up in a far-off land, appears to be maintaining a standard that should make the two Indian giants in their respective fields proud and it is in consonance with their principles of life: Simple but elegant, and clean.
Meanwhile, my appetite for fathoming out the motive behind naming the eatery as MK Gandhi Malgudi Garden had moved from my grey cells to taste buds and disappeared as I started gorging on the delicious dishes in front of me.
After finishing the meal, still feeling the relish of culinary delights in my mouth, I walked out along with the family members to the car for our return journey. In no time, the motion of the car lulled me to sleep in AC comfort. Only after a while, when the siesta time was over, I realised the after effect of eating self-satisfying good food: Temporary amnesia.
Since we couldn't go back as it was already late, I have decided to visit Malgudi when I visit Dallas next time and get every fact about the restaurant before savouring its food. I also want to present a copy of my Telugu translation of 'Waiting for the Mahatma', which has Gandhi's image on it to the restaurant with a request to keep it on the reception desk for the benefit of Telugus patronising 'Malgudi Garden'.The food that was served at Malgudi Garden was extraordinary. The restaurant seemed to have not only desi patrons but also American clientele