Idli is light!"
The auditor in white kurta was almost screaming. The venue was a restaurant in a small hill station, a six-hour drive from our workplace. Our purpose for being here was to coax the auditor the silly points he had noted down were worth dropping -- preferably from the hilltop into the Narmada river.
We were following the accepted tradition of 'entertaining' such 'VIPs' as the auditor, who, with a stroke of his pen, could ruin your situation. The entertainer and the 'entertainee' observe this official ritual. It is an unwritten rule of life -- similar to tipping the waiter in a restaurant.
Seated around the dining table were three of us -- the auditor, myself and another official, who had a greater stake in getting a clean report than me. The conversation had somehow skidded to breakfasts pan-Indian, and the auditor pounced on idlis.
There was no need for him to scream. Apparently the auditor was irritated by my accented Hindi and mannerisms, and all-my-accounts-are-clean-do-what-you-want relationship with him during the audit. He was just letting of steam, though he did not mean to cook idlis in it.
I had to keep in mind the stakes of the other official. So I decided not to defend the idli or myself. Also, fact is I am a puny-looking creature resembling a roti while he looked more like a genuine well-rounded idli.
But why should the idli go undefended in the world arena? If the pizza can be sold in Chennai at more than Rs 100, why cannot we sell idlis in New York or Tokyo?
Sometimes I fantasize I own and run an ONLY-IDLY restaurant. You order over phone and I get steaming hot idlis delivered to you in 30 minutes, complete with coconut chatni (white), onion-tomato chatni (more orange than red), chilly powder (red), kothamalli (dhaniya patthi), chatni (green), and mouthwatering onion sambar.
When the delivery boy parks his bike in front of your block and carries the casserole to your doorstep, every resident around would get their taste buds tickled.
Did I tell you restaurant? No, what I want actually is an MNC. Headquartered in -- where else? -- Chennai.
We would also market ready-to-eat idlis packed in bubble-packs. Simply thaw it in your micro for half-a-minute and your food is ready! Note, I used 'food' -- for, I don't want use restrictive words like 'breakfast'. I am a 24/7 idly fanatic who can survive -- rather thrive -- on idli round the year. Possibly round all my rebirths.
Back to my MNC. The huge corporate would centrally procure idli ingredients. The dough would be fermented to the precise degree, and radiation-treated to inactivate the yeast so it does not ferment any further.
Packed in carbon dioxide filled puffed poly bags, it would have a 10-day shelf life. Like Maggi noodles, it would be sold with a companion pack of chilly powder and another of ready-to-eat chutney. And my business would pose such a challenge that MacDonald would come to me, wanting to buy my company over, patents and all.
Better still, my MNC advertisements would sufficiently brainwash characters like this auditor VIP so they would never dare to call idli 'light'. Rather, it would be one more item to pamper the VIP with.
In which case, I would not have to run up the hill with the auditor to appease him. His mouth would be too full of soft idlis to say anything negative.
Illustration: Dominic Xavier