Khanavali: Bangalore to Shimoga

We decided to try a Khanavali: a strict vegetarian restaurant run by devout lingayat people. I like the limited menu; jowar rotis served with a thick and spicy brinjal-capsicum side dish, rice, curry and curds. It is usually family managed and the good ones are known for being very clean.

This one is on the highway and it was not clean. The headman was not clean. His teeth were yellow and red and quite rotten. The place was dark. We had walked in early, only one table was taken. The tables were not arranged; rather, they were just kept around the place, each an odd table with an odd chair and it was not possible to place two chairs to a table. The headman ushered us in, bade us take our seats. A dirty pomeranian dog came in from the kitchen. A thali for each (we were three) was made ready before us: freshly patted rotis, hot curries, vegetables. His woman was making the rotis fresh in the open kitchen. The meal was delicious. His stern face broke into frequent smiles now, revealing a kindness that was not first apparent. Seeing us enjoying the meal, he pulled out dried rotis from a stack in a dingy upper shelf in the wall with its glass shutter permanently open, and, despite our shouting NOs, dumped one in each plate. We were adapted by then, so we ate; they were delicious too. Sometime then, his daughter came and started serving rice and sambar. She was full of energy and questions. She was agreeable because of her enthusiasm and curiosity. Another table was now taken, by a single lady. Strange, we thought, in a town like this. Sujaya asked for bottled water; I did not see the point, seeing how the food was made. In my plate, in the curds rice, I got a long length of hair.

As we left, Bharat and I said the food was very good. Father and daughter smiled happily, both looking very lovable. He wished us good health, thrice. We walked to the car, where it stood in the dust, in a terrible din.