Just down the road from my grandparent's house in Hyderabad was a fast food joint called PickenMove. PickenMove was where we went, every summer or Diwali holidays for a treat. It was only down the road, but my oldest cousin had just about learned how to driive, so we clambered into the broken-down 800, sitting in the front or the back, depending on age and elbowing power. I could elbow with the best of them, but I was a girl, and sometimes in a ladylike mood, so I mostly watched my four boy cousins jostle with each other, usually ending up with one of the younger ones in a death grip by the older one's elbow.
PickenMove wasn't known for its hygiene. Once, on a takeway order, my cousin found a dead cockroach sleeping gently on the pepperoni. But it was the only place in Hyderabad we could go to for pizzas in those days, and though my aunt's homemade pizza was much better, it just tasted different if we were eating the stringy cheese off a restaurant plate. Once in a great while, the adults would come with us, and then we diudn't need to count out the money in our older cousin's pocket. The adults added a different atmosphere to the whole thing, but we loved PickenMove when it was just us, who knew the menu, and knew exactly what we wanted to order and who threw scornful glances at the fat families who took YEARS to make up their minds.
With our respective parents and aunts and uncles, we went to How Wein's (at least, I think that was what it was called). How Wein went down in family history, because one of my cousins. now a staid and propah pilot, shimmied up an electric pole to pass time while the family waited fora table. Sadly, I was in Delhi while this happened, but I do have it on good authority. How Wein had an enormous aquarium, which I used to spend hours in front of while the grown-ups fought about what to order and who was paying the bill. We were a large and loud gathering, the kind at whom I roll my eyes these days, but then, it was so exciting not eating at home.
Sometimes, my phoren cousins would visit too, but they did the posh stuff. Like the Cellar at the Krishna Oberoi, where we rushed through the main course to get to dessert--toffee bananas. Actually, Hyderbad was rolling in sweet stuff, at least in my memory. There was the strawberry Fruitella packet, my mother bought me every summer, which still remind me of rabies shots, because I got it to make me feel better about yet another round of injections. (Seriously. I got bitten by a dog every. single. summer.) And there was the grand kaju barfi making day my grandmother did, and we'd eat the batter raw out of bowls. Mmmm.
We returned the hospitality whenever the family came to Delhi though, but as much as I pointed out the new food places, they'd stick to the tried and tested. Gulati at Pandara Park, where we always ordered kaali daal, butter chicken and tandoori chicken. I've realised now that everybody who's been born here has a Pandara park restaurant they've been going to for years. I went to HavMore with friends and totally felt like I was cheating on Gulati. Then we'd go to the Nirula's Chinese place, even as recently as two years ago, when I begged my aunt to let me take her somewhere nicer. But no, Nirula's it was, and Sweet Corn Soup was ordered.
Where else? Oh, Nathu's in Bengali Market, for paapdi chaat. Now I order aloo chaat, but then paapdi chaat was TRADITION. And you don't fuck with tradition, buddy.