Tuesday, August 21, 2007


It was one of those days when ennui had set in – either for the ladies in the family to cook up one of those routine lunches, or for me, to carry lunch to work. I ended up looking for a place to at least fill my stomach – and I had no recourse to anything else but Hotel Sendhur, opposite the Local Head Office of the State Bank of India in Chennai.

At least that was what I thought until my colleague, Vinuodhini, asked me to join her with her schoolmates at where else – Sendhur! Just as we were about to leave, I was momentarily stuck up inside my boss’s cabin. Vino called me to confirm if I would join them at a new place somebody had found for them – the canteen of the State Bank of India’s Local Head Office! A new place for food is something that I would not really let go – and I readily accepted the offer.
Vino picked me up at the car park – and as we wended our way through the stairs, then the lift, then a left and then a right, I was very skeptical about what the place had on offer – if it could not be located easily. We finally made our way inside a hall that had a sign on the outside – “Officers’ Mess” it proclaimed.

It was a hall that could seat about 40 comfortably in well spaced out tables. The omnipotent plastic chairs were placed four to a table. As we washed and espied the place, I could not but help feeling a sense of astonishment at that place. Thalis were laid out quickly, the mandatory sambar and rasam in cups, the kootu, poriyal and the pickle in the compartments meant for them, rice in the biggest area of the thali – with a very suitable cover the the thali – the mandatory appalam. No papads please, you are in Tamil Nadu!

As I tucked into the radish sambar, the tomato rasam, and the chow chow – what some people call Bangalore Brinjal – a name that seems such a disrespect for this vegetable, my respect for this place only increased manifold. The portion of rice was just about right for me – and if I can feel sated, then about 80 percent of the visitors there will be! There was no restriction on the servings of any side dish – though you probably had to pay a rupee extra for the second appalam.

Our friend who had bought the tokens for lunch had just nodded when asked if he was a staffer – this cost us only Rs.15/- for the meal as against Rs.20/- if we had disclosed we were outsiders – and this seems a bit ironic, because boards inside proclaim that this place serves only Bank staff with ID cards!

All said and done, it was a meal that had me very satisfied and would take me through the rest of the work day. What else do you really want when you are famished and not so keen on blowing your purse out for some godforsaken meal at an even more godforsaken place!


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