It’s a bustling day at Deccan Gymkahana, and the crowds are growing at one of the most well known areas of Pune. Today Deccan Gymkahana is filled with hawkers who sell pirated DVD’s, the famous ‘Chitale Bandhu’ store of Pune and it’s an entrance to the most popular youth hangout – Ferguson College Road, or as more popularly called FC Road. All of this is pretty much modern with multiplexes and fast food chains like KFC. However that’s not how it looked a few decades back, and traces of the old days still remain in certain corners of the locality.
One such joint is ‘Appa chi tapri’.
Very prominent and popular a few decades back, but today more popular joints such as the deccan corner dabeli or cor Cad-B have become more popular.
I went there on a fine Saturday morning, at about 10 o clock to have breakfast. When I reached there I saw a line of people waiting to be served.
The place is really small – about 4 tables of seating capacity 2 each, and with the provision of standing outside and eating. The place is old, and noticeably run down. It hasn’t been painted in many years. There are still the same old posters and boards of Coca Cola – probably the very first ones supplied by the company in the 1970’s before it pulled out of India. The place where one sits and eats is equipped with a very ancient fan, and a few CFL bulbs. One can see rat traps on the wooden planks near the ceiling. It’s as if time has frozen here.
The proprietor – appa, as he is fondly known is now an old man. However, he still enjoys doing the job he’s been doing for the past several years. He is as cynic as a punekar can be, and his behavior towards his customers is not always courteous. When his customers are crowding inside his tiny hut of a restaurant, he not-always-politely commands them to stand in a line. He swears randomly at his staff for not doing something right, yet lovingly smiles at them time and again for doing a good job.His staff are a happy lot and it looked to me as if they loved working there.
His customers are also an interesting lot. His regulars comprise of many people, mostly veterans (but it’s still popular with youngsters) who come to have their breakfast at their favourite joint. These people are part of appa’s extended family. On my visit, one regular customer whom he called “Banker”, treated appa to half a cup of tea – a unique form of tipping or a ‘pourboire’ as the french call it meaning ‘for a drink’ – albeit a more personal one. On receving he jokingly announced to his few seated customers that it was always a pleasure to get a free cup of tea!
His menu remains the same – cut dosa, sabudana khichadi, idli wada sambar and kadak chaha remaining the popoular choices. The taste has also remained the same, as confirmed by some of the diners.
It is always a pleasure to go back in time, but even more so, when you do so in the midst of an area which has changed rapidly in the past few years.