Shillong is a beautiful hill station. But in those days when we lived there, there was not a single South Indian restaurant worth its name which could produce a decent Masala Dosa. Fortunately there was an Iyer lady Mrs. Manyam (name changed) who could produce divine M.Ds, professionally crisp and delightfully golden in color. Her dosas were always in great demand and she used to have a stall in all the school and club fetes. So, on this annual fete day, I, who was serving as a Maths teacher in a temporary capacity in the school, was eagerly looking forward to savor Mrs Manyan’s MDs.

It so happened that the day previous to the fete was Ganesh Chaturthi. Our newly formed Kannada Sangha wanted to celebrate it grandly. Thoughtfully, the morning was left free for family observance  and the afternoon was fixed for the community celebration.

Kannadigas being known for their ‘Live to Eat’ policy, we had an impressive pot luck spread, to which full justice was done after some cursory pooja. We had cultural items and games for the children and I came home by 8.30 in the night with the children (Ramu was away on a course at Hyderabad). Though the hour was late, the festive celebrations and the anticipation of next day’s Masala dosa were quite heady.

As I approached my balcony on the first floor, I was intrigued to find a big sinister looking bundle lying near my door. On switching on the light, I discovered that it was a big stainless steel pot containing soaked rice and Urad dal. There was a chit with it saying, “Please grind this and bring it to school tomorrow”. I was flabbergasted. There was neither a phone call nor an explanation. I thought I had become a teacher to teach maths and not to grind dosa dough for the school fete. But, there was none to redress my grievance! Moreover, I had left my broken-down mixer (imported one) at my in-laws’ place in Bangalore and had instead brought a cute South Indian grinding stone (personally selected by my mom-in law). Its USP was that it had a sloping floor which did not necessitate my pushing the dough inside, thus leaving both my hands free to carry on grinding without stop. My poor Migraine ridden friend downstairs used to ask me crying for respite in sheer desperation, “Vimala, how can you do it so continuously? Don’t you even stop to change hands?”

Well, cute or otherwise, grinding 3-4 sessions of dough at that unearthly hour was indeed a grind. I felt like a fairy tale princess asked to convert a roomful of hay to gold overnight. But there were no elves or fairy godmothers to wave the magic wand. So, I plodded on  “A Solitary Grinder” till 11.30 in the night.

In the morning, I got my three children ready for the fete and reached the school with the dough by taxi. There was Mrs. Manyam, a gruff  no-nonsense lady (most unlike her daughter- a cute kid and my student) standing in front of a burning Kerosene stove and a hot tava. Her one hand held a dosa flipper and the other hand was on her waist. Thinking that my responsibility would be over with the handing of the dough, I put the dough on the table and prepared to leave. She said menacingly, “Why are you late? You are to help me to make the dosas. Hurry up. Light the stove.” Making 300-400 dosas? Till evening? I felt giddy. Any way, there was no choice. The drooling queue was already building up.

I lighted the stove and kept the tava on. I poured a ladle full of dough, spread it and got ready to flip it over. The ever vigilant Mrs. Manyam shrieked, “What are you doing? You will waste all the dough. What’s your hurry? Wait for the dosa to leave the tava on its own and then flip it over for a second before flipping it back and then spread the potato stuffing.”

Thanking her silently for at least one of the secrets of her very famous Dosas, I managed to work to 50% of her satisfaction and ended the day, sick of the very sight of the Dosas.

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36 responses »

  1. isabel says:

    The best treat! Mouthwatering image of this MD imprinted in my mind and a smile never leaving me while reading this.

    Perhaps you can give me the recipe…

  2. gc1963 says:

    He..He..Nice treat! Enjoyed. 🙂

  3. Bharath Iyengar says:

    Nice blog. I will still come over for that back door dosa joint stuff even if I have to get it myself.

  4. Vimala Madam,

    Your blog brought on a flood of memories from my childhood. In our home, (when I was five/six and mixers and grinders were NOT popular) we children used to take turns to grind the soaked urad dal and rice in the stone grind. My mother always used to make a “special” dosa for me whenever I ground the maav!

    Your blog also brought back memories of how my mother taught me dosa making!

    But in your case, making and serving to so many people can be a strenuous but it also gives lot of satisfaction of having given food to so many people, no? 🙂

  5. vimala ramu says:

    I am so happy Vimala that my blog brought back old memories to you. Anyway these days with mixies and mechanised table top grinders, you can have lovely idlis and dosas without interrupting your reading .

  6. vimala madon says:

    Vimala, your dosas now must be every bit as good as Mrs. Manyam’s used to be!

    But your mention of grinding on the stone grinding stone reminds me of my teenage years in Lucknow when such grinding for idli or dosa was the allotted Saturday afternoon task for my sister and me, on alternate weekends. I hated anything to do with the kitchen while my sister was a dutiful daughter during my rebellious days. She would sit down to her chore after lunch and finish all the grinding ( we were a family of 5 siblings with voracious appetites) within half an hour. When the Saturday for my turn came, I would reluctantly sit on a low stool before the wretched stone, upend an old empty dalda tin beside it, open a novel and read it as my hand moved the pestle round and round, round and round, at about ten rounds per quarter, so absorbing would I find the book, till an angry rumbling and scolding from my mother would hasten my movements. It would take me more than an hour and a half to finish the job!

  7. vimala ramu says:

    Thank you, Pankaja. But being a staff of the school, though temporary, I dared not do anything that would bring down the income from the fete.

  8. Nuggehalli Pankaja says:

    I was wondering why my m.d doesn’t come out well, now i know the secret,thank you. You relly are a very very good person to have been so docile when such an irrational demand was made ! Any other person would have rebelled.

    Anyway,something good has come out of it-

    This A-one article and revelation of the trade secret !

  9. Nuggehalli Pankaja says:

    I was wondering why my m.d doesn’t come out well, now i know the secret,thank you. You relly are a very very good person to have been so docile when such an irrational demand was made ! Any other person would have rebelled.

    Anyway,something good has come out of it-

    This hilarious article and revelation of the trade secret !

  10. Mira Pawar says:

    Vimala, I suddenly have an urge to eat Dosa! Wish you were close by so i could have invited myself to a Dosa made by you. I am sure you make them as good as Mrs.Manyam. Thanks for the lovely share.

    • vimala ramu says:

      I knew that Shail’s picture would invariably tickle the taste buds. Well, after so many years, my dosas aren’t too bad. You are most welcome to them.,Mira.

  11. Beyniaz says:

    I love dosas as long as I don’t have to make them! Lovely blog, Vimala.

    • vimala ramu says:

      Thank you,Beyniaz.
      Yes my friends. the word should be ‘batter’ not ‘dough’. I stand corrected.(In tamil and Kannada we have the same word for dough and batter- maavu, hittu)

  12. Irene says:

    Enjoyed the M.D batter… er – banter!

  13. gora sarkar says:

    Dear Vimala,
    Hope we can drop by some day to taste your fabulous Kannada fare!
    Is it the mixie now or more happy grinding?
    Gora

    • vimala ramu says:

      It is neither mixie nor grinder. It is ‘ultra’ now and of course ‘Adiga’s restaurant’. No dearth of good places for Dosas in namma Bengaluru. You are most welcome otherwise too. Thanks Gora for reading my blog.

  14. vimala ramu says:

    Thank you Nadi for being so indulgent.

  15. nadi says:

    really enjoyed reading this , Vimala.

    a darling writer you are

  16. Sneha says:

    Tell me that lady’s address. Will find out and give her a piece of my mind. How dare she did it to you !

    • vimala ramu says:

      Oh,my sweet faithful Sneha !You remind me of Kulashekhara Alwar who set out to kill Ravana when he heard the discourse on Rama !!!

  17. vimala ramu says:

    Thank you Smita. So you would rather enjoy me making dosas than eating them?

  18. Smita Luthra says:

    I can’t stop grinning. 🙂 Really enjoyed reading it. I was expecting a detailed account of the yummy dosas you consumed that day instead of hearing about you donning the apron and doing all the hard work yourself.
    Vimala Ji, your writing panache seeps through every word here. I said it before and I’ll say it again – you sure have style! 🙂

  19. Sonal Shree says:

    Hilarious account. I was in splits after going through the fourth paragraph. How inconsiderate of that Iyer lady to have involved you without having even the politeness to request you! Pathetic lady.

  20. vimala ramu says:

    The picture you have selected has made me fall in love with M.D all over again!

  21. Dear Vimala.

    Lovely blog as usual and it all started with the dosa batter.

    Ha Ha. Nice one!

  22. Eva Bell says:

    Hi Vimala!
    I’m sure after that hectic dosa making session you were in no mood to eat even one of them.
    Thanks for the tip you passed on for making the dosas crisp and crackling. I can’t wait to try it out.

    • vimala ramu says:

      Hey, Eva, I am surprised at your early comment which is done even before I read my blog ! Without Mrs M looking over my shoulder, I don’t know whether I can still do such a thorough job !

  23. Shernaz says:

    Ha! Ha!

    Hope the sight of dosas doesn’t make you sick any more and you can enjoy them heartily. I am sure you are an expert now that you know her secret, so will come over some day for a treat.

    • vimala ramu says:

      Thank you Shernaz for your very prompt comment. You are most welcome to drop in at my place.(I can always reach the famous dosa joint nearby through my back door !!!)

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