Time is Mani’s

The year was 2006. I was fresh out of school, standing at the gate of Ramnivas Ruia Junior College, wide eyed, a bit nervous, wondering how the next two years would be. I had a certain imagery of how college would be. Ruia was nothing like that. I’d thought I would make the best of friends there. Instead, I made acquaintances that would somehow later over the years flourish into lasting friendships. In Ruia’s defence, two years is too short a time to attend college, bunk it, waste time, and attend a gazillion extra classes (because you’re in Ruia and you’re supposed to be academically the best : a myth that would soon be busted).

Those two years, today, seem like a blur. You can’t see anything clearly but you enjoy the breeze as you whiz past that era. And on that breeze wafts the wonderful smell of south indian food emanating from an unassuming Mani’s Lunch Home. I remember the rush to get done with the early morning practicals before the scheduled time so that my lab partner and I would have enough time to head over to the nearby eatery for a breakfast of idli wada before the monotony of classroom lectures would set in for the day.

Even after the two years, Mani’s remained a regular haunt of mine and still is. And every time I visit, I send photos of the food to the friends I made in Ruia (who are now scattered across the world) over some exquisite idli-wada-sambhar. I also distinctly remember the day when I ordered the dish with more chutney instead of sambhar. (Yes, chutney > sambhar) I have never looked back ever since. And every time I return, it reminds me of the blur that those two years were. And I believe it is true for scores of Ruiaites and Podarites. (I don’t know if the fancy Welingkar folk risked getting their suits stained with sambhar. They frequented the more spacious DP’s)

Who would’ve thought that a plate of idli-wada could be a time machine. Mani’s is a true nostalgia factory.

News was floating about that it shut shop. I was heartbroken. And in that frenzy of a love lost, I decided to write down a tribute to the place. Only to later find out that the Mani’s Lunch Home that shut was a different outlet — one closer to Matunga Station. I heaved a sigh of relief. And decided to write this piece anyway. Because good food deserves some love. And affordable great food, even more so.

I’ll be heading over to Mani’s this weekend. Maybe, I’ll see you there…

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