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Drooling over Kaka's gaadi bhel

Celebrities and commoners are addicted to the concoctions Murthy dishes up



P.N. Narasimha Murthy at his super-clean gaadi. — Photo: K. Gopinathan

MURTHY CLEAVES the luscious red tomato with his long handmade knife. The two halves get the same deft treatment till angular slices take their places on dried leaves. Finely ground chilli paste is tossed on each slice. His nimble hand makes separate trips to the salt and red chilli powder bowls and deposits them on the chilli paste. A mixture of freshly grated carrot, coriander and onions covers up this oozing spice mix. From the perforated crown of a long glass bottle squirts out thick tamarind paste. The whole explosive compound is topped with puffed rice. Drooling mouths can't bear to merely watch anymore. Bite after exhilarating bite is savoured with time taken only to lick the spice off the lips and wipe the perspiration off the brow!

Celebrity clients

For more than 37 years, P.N. Narasimha Murthy's father Kaka's blue gaadi near National High School Basavangudi has been through this ritual with its loyal customers, who include celebrities such as actors Vishnuvardhan, Kokila Mohan, Chandrashekar, cricketers G.R. Vishwanath, B.S. Chandrashekar, Shanta Rangaswamy, Kalpana and Sunil Joshi. Every one of them and all the other ordinary customers such as old students of the school, autorickshaw drivers, and businessmen in the neighbourhood will suffer withdrawal symptoms if they don't make periodic trips to Kaka's gaadi.

Vishy too

For those like cricketer G.R. Vishwanath, who obviously can get mobbed in this area where his fan club is thick, his friends go to the spot, dial him on the mobile, and hand the cell over to Murthy who takes his order and sends it off with his friends. The original Little Master, says Murthy, can't resist the masala used for the mango masala dish.

Murthy says it's a nice feeling to see his customers, who have eaten here during their younger days and migrated to the U.S., coming back to his cart during their visits to Bangalore.

It was (Kaka) Narayan who first started the business right in the National High School grounds 37 years ago. A Malayali from Thrissur, Kaka closed down his vegetarian restaurant in Chennai to start this venture. After Kaka passed away in 1981, Murthy, now 38, took on the task.

Back for more

During Kaka's days, it was school children and college students who mainly made up the customers and so he used work from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Over the years, the very same students, all grown up and in different professions, make up most of his clients. So Murthy arrives at his spot at two in the afternoon and stays on till 8 p.m. catering to the over 200 customers who throng his cart everyday.

Oil-free

None of his irresistible fare has oil in it. The masala that powers the bhelpuri, tomato slices, pineapple slices, cucumbers and mangoes comprises green chillies, mint and salt, all in the right proportion, of course. The pineapple slices are particularly popular.

Murthy's bhelpuri comes in two delightful variants — the ordinary and the one with pineapple bits. The cucumber here is not sliced flat but cut long and smeared with green chilli paste and tamarind sauce.

Murthy's wife helps out with the masalas, preparing them at their home in Mavalli. Preparations begin at 8 a.m., and takes up to five hours to finish.

Cleanliness

Cleanliness is high on Murthy's priorities. He and his assistant wear blue aprons like his father used to. Two baskets are placed by the cart for customers to throw the used leaves and papers into.

And Murthy's day is not over till he makes sure his surroundings are cleaned up.

M.V. CHANDRASHEKAR

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