When Baba Ramdev Turned Restaurateur

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When Baba Ramdev Turned Restaurateur

Illustration: Shivali Devalkar

T

he great American philosopher Jay Z once said, “I turn automobiles to hotels on wheels, I got money for a room it’s just the fact that I’m trill,” which roughly translates to “I can bang wherever I want because imma be cool.” No one has ever taken these words to heart like Baba Ramdev, who has tattooed Jay Z’s immortal verse at the spot where his stomach once was.

When I heard that the money-spinning legend’s latest attempt is the restaurant Postik, I was besieged by the burning question: Why in the birthplace of butter chicken would Baba go Postik? I put my life on the line and travelled to Chandigarh to play the real-life equivalent of Survivor and find the answer to the question that would not let me sleep.

Postik is located in Badal Colony of Chandigarh’s Sector 19. A radiant saffron board announces the prideful presence of the restaurant – flanked by massive side pillars – with the claim that “All Patanjali Products Used Here”. A bhagwa version of the Ashok Chakra played the role of the placeholder logo in between the words, which made my unBaba-like torso swell with pride. The colour of everything, from the board to the tiles on the floor, is either saffron or a shade of saffron which really ignited my nationalist hunger. I swore to eat only saffron food.

Amid all the Indian flags on display, I was greeted by a server, Captain Ajay, who gave me a salute for what felt like five whole minutes. Only after he was done saluting to his satisfaction, did Captain Ajay pass along a paper menu. As I parsed the delectable menu of lauki kebab and tandoori soya, I suddenly heard heavy breathing. I looked up and found the staff had switched on their flat-screen to show Baba Ramdev practising Kapalbhati Pranayama. For the uninitiated, Kapalbhati involves taking short, rapid breaths and sudden clearing of the nostrils. Nasal discharge is a good thing, even with your meal.

When the food came, I imagined the benedicted paneer masala going down my much abused digestive tract and purifying it of the burrah kebab I had eaten the previous night.

“Sir, I can’t see butter naans on the menu,” I asked.

“Sir, no butter, no naan. Babaji mana karte hain,” Captain Ajay told me regretfully. I wanted to stand up and clap. The man who had opened a restaurant that doesn’t serve butter or naans or butter chicken in Punjab deserves a standing ovation. This was clearly a disruptive business model that I knew would be as successful as demonetisation. I ordered paneer tikka masala, a lemonade, two laccha parathas, and waited for Baba’s blessings.

When the food came, I imagined the benedicted paneer masala going down my much abused digestive tract and purifying it of the burrah kebab I had eaten the previous night. The sacred lemonade would serve to put out all the fires that Old Monk had lit. At the end of the meal, I felt reborn, righteous and Ramdev’d to heaven and back.

I felt I had to go and shake the hand of the chef, Sundeep Kumar Sharma. He swore that all 15 workers at the restaurant were Baba disciples and every ingredient in my meal had been pure Patanjali and while he couldn’t tell me about Baba’s involvement in so many words, he was sure I could sense it. I was just surprised that with all that focused Baba energy, the food hadn’t just floated out to me.

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The colour of everything, from the board to the tiles on the floor, is either saffron or a shade of saffron which really ignited my nationalist hunger.

Parthshri Arora/ Arré

On this cloud of happiness, I made my way back to Delhi to write about this most holy restaurant in this most unholy city of India. Postik would purify Punjab, I was convinced. So then imagine my surprise when I returned to find out that Postik has as much to do with Patanjali as Pappu’s Garage had to do with Mercedes. It used the products, alright, and Pappu sometimes drove the car, but that’s where it stopped. Pappu was not Mercedes just like Postik was not Patanjali.

I mourned for the loss of gastric spiritual enlightenment that could have saved so many souls. Then, as I ran to the crapper, I realised I should first save myself. Fake Baba Ramdev restaurant with its real Patanjali products and Kapalbhati-ing sous chefs had given me food poisoning.

As I howled in agony, I wondered if there was a Baba-prescribed asana on the TV at Postik to end my suffering. I am not going back to find out.

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