In 2006, when the Cinderella Rule (all eateries/pubs to shut down by 11:30 pm) was imposed, we, the old Bangalorean kids, had all our coming-of-age dreams dashed to pieces. It was like we had collectively missed the puberty train. Even Cinderella got a good 30 minutes more than us. Chased by cops for sport, the after-hours had lost their allure. Yet we picked ourselves up, to roam the streets, and party under the stars. It was on such a cold December night near the old Airport road, when we, faced with the munchies, suddenly spotted a strange gathering. No apparition, as if our messiah, a man was peddling tea, sweet buns, nippatu, chakli and cigarettes, all the while sneakily dodging our common nemesis, the police. Call centre workers, party goers, and rickshaw cab drivers alike huddled around the chai uncle. Feeling protected in a space he had bargained for on our behalf, we had our fill and how!
Slowly, after many night outs, we discovered another city within our city. The night-time version: a furtive, handy ghost industry of fly-by-night vendors that thrived stealthily around the corners of the real daytime Bangalore. We were hooked. No more waiting in line at that big restaurant, the only one open for miles. With their own interpretations of bread-omelette, hakka noodles and fried rice etc., chai-sutta wallas are the best part of the Bangalore night. You can find them (if you truly need them, like the Room of Requirement) between 1 and 5 am near every major road junction. The Dark Knight could take a leaf out of their books in the art of moving around in the shadows.
By 4-5 am, the more traditional breakfast vendors arrive on the scene and start doling out steaming idlis with piping hot sambar, tomato or lemon rice, vadas and dosas with fresh chutney (often in spicy and extra spicy options) and steaming pots of filter coffee.
There is hardly time for lazy conversation as everyone is either in a hurry to get to work or better yet, go to bed. There is dispute among Bangaloreans regarding the best street-breakfast joints. Funnily enough, everyone argues in favour of the ones closest to them. However, in East Bangalore at least, it is widely agreed that the Idli place off-Banaswadi main road, near Patel Public School, is head and shoulders above the rest around. Very few know its name and we dare you to try and find it after a night of revelry and dehydration, while you are squinting at sunrise. Oh come on! It’s a Quirk guarantee.
Some heroes don’t wear capes. Or masks or chaddis over pants. These night-time street food wallas, with the resilience of warriors and the empathy of saints, roam around, stealthily feeding the high and hungry. Resourceful, and with a seemingly endless supply of city gossip and insider information, they even open a tab for the regulars, as long as there is no trouble.