Acidity in the City: A Survivor’s Tale

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Acidity in the City: A Survivor’s Tale

Illustration: Arati Gujar

R

elocating can be tough.

For starters, there’s the physical act of boxing up your belongings, uprooting the tree of your life, and transplanting it in an entirely different garden. The next step is moving into an empty, stark shell of an apartment and turning it into a livable home (which, if you’re under 30, begins with stringing up a set of fairy lights in a corner of the living room). Next comes the bit where you find your groove by working out the logistics and timings of getting to work and back. Minus five to Gryffindor, if you have a car and need to navigate these new roads using Google Maps.

Somewhere along this journey, you realise your tummy’s rumbling and you need some sustenance. Your spartan kitchen has neither a working hob nor a gas cylinder and while you lack the technical expertise required to boil milk to make chai, neither can you hunt or gather like your ancestors. You can, however, use your opposable thumbs to order your sustenance which won’t attract a delivery charge should you order a libation too.

This sustenance could be standardised, courtesy McDonald’s or Dominos, but then again if you’re adventurous enough to move to a different state, you might as well risk it and savour some local flavour. There is no more visceral way to understand a new place than to experience its food. The food of a city will tell you everything you need to know about its culture. Take the vada pao for instance: It’s a carb fest engineered to be eaten on the go, perfect for the life-long marathon that is Mumbai. In Gujarat its the dhokla which is light, easy to digest, and the perfect in-between snack for meals.

So you will look for the back alley kebab place, where some meat of indeterminate origin will morph into a plate of four kebabs that sets you back by less than a hundred bucks. Then there’s the Udipi where the waiters still employ the four-finger claw grip to carry glasses of water. Or you’ll find yourself at the bhatiyaarkhana hidden behind a row of buildings that serves dal tadka that tastes like God himself tempered it with divine love in one hundred ml fiery, red oil with chillies and spices.

Do you continue to pretend to be a fire-breathing dragon? Do you think you can never be basic just because you’ve got acidity?

The new city is your oyster, served with champagne and lime wedges.

With all of that experimentation, you’re able to satisfy your soul and settled in at your desk, populating spreadsheets, and generally being a productive member of society. Until you feel an all-too familiar rumble in the pit of your tummy. There’s a fire in your belly, and it isn’t related to your rapidly ascending career. This isn’t what you’d imagined when you said you wanted to be a fire-breathing dragon. That isn’t passion you feel setting your heart aflame. You’d give anything to be back home at this point.

Home, where your mum would immediately put you on a diet of dahi chawal to soothe the dragon in your tummy. Home, where the restaurant you religiously order from knows that you like your food “less spicy” or with “kam tel”. Here you’re a stranger – your requests are perceived as the pretentious prattle of a first-time customer, who may or may not order again.

Do you continue to pretend to be a fire-breathing dragon? Do you think you can never be basic just because you’ve got acidity?

Nope. You’d be better off throwing a bottle of Digene in your bag along with the daily essentials you carry around: A charger, a sanitiser, and a pair of headphones.

One good glug of the stuff is enough to tame the spiciest curry, the most ferocious kebab, the oiliest biryani, and everything in between. It ensures that you focus on the most important aspect of moving to a new city: Settling in and exploring your new turf.

As any intrepid explorer will tell you, the path to discovery is paved by trial and error. And should you fall prey to acidity and indigestion in your quest for taste, Digene is sure to be the Stanley to your Livingstone.

This post is sponsored by Digene.

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