Days of My China Dragon
The Bombay restaurateur Jigar pala has three great overlapping passions: Food, people and Bombay-style banter. And after many years of running the high-volume, low-margin Udupi restaurant handed down to him by his late father, Jigar has in middle age decided to set himself a new challenge: Chinese! After all, Indians love Chinese food more than the Chinese themselves – and in this new world of cleavers and bamboo steamers, black bean sauce and drunken chicken, wok chi and the holy Tao, chopsticks and the songs of Teresa teng, there will be new customers, new stories, new happiness. A whole new Bombay can be made within the walls of the China dragon. But Jigar has taken on more than he has reckoned for. Beyond the hazards of empty hours, capricious chefs and flailing waiters, there are the customers who bring him not just their appetites but their problems. But even as losses Mount and the China dragon totters, there remain the small, warming pleasures of the parade of faces and figures at the tables, the nuances of taste and temperament, the jokes that banish dullness and the situations that make time hum and sing, the freedom of being Indians who have never left India and must yet inhabit and interpret another culture. As Jigar sees it, a restaurant is the greatest of life’s theatres, for human beings are never more themselves than in their encounters with food. Days of My China dragon offers an insight not just into the restaurant trade, but also a little history of modern Indian life seen from behind the counter of a shop in prabhadevi. Once you have absorbed the spirit of the China dragon, dear reader, you will always be hungry for life and food. Qing Bing and remember: always keep smiling.