'I've tried cooking Indian food'

Expat zone

finding similarities Geoffrey Conaghan DH PHOTO BY KISHOR KUMAR BOLAR

The City may be filled with expats who frequent upmarket restaurants and expensive lounges, but not many of them can boast of exploring the more local, charming aspects of Bangalore — touring the convoluted streets behind Russell Market, for example, or
sampling the spicy snacks of the darshinis at Shivajinagar. In this respect, at least, Geoffrey Conaghan is different. In the two years since he’s lived here, he seems to have acquainted himself with every nook and cranny of the City. In fact, ask him about his favourite places to visit in Bangalore and he immediately replies, “I love going to Shivajinagar and Russell Market. These areas have a wonderful rhythm, probably because they’re full of locals. I love shopping in K R Market area too. I find the shopping streets there really fascinating.”

Geoffrey is originally from Melbourne, Australia and was appointed as Commissioner of Victoria to India in 2009. He came to Bangalore expecting to find himself in a crazy, IT-driven world, but admits that the City is much more than that. “It’s all about IT, plus so many other things. There’s some really great architecture here — even residential architecture. In fact, I’m really looking for someone in Bangalore to start an architecture walk,” he says.

Life here is very different from the one he knew back home, especially since Melbourne is what he calls a ‘walking city’. “In Melbourne, everybody either walks or takes public transport. We have politicians who take the tram to work and one of my wealthiest friends doesn’t own a car. That’s one of the things that I miss. Here, things might change with the Metro, but owning a car is still considered a status symbol,” he explains.

He’s quick to add, though, there are certain similarities between the two cities. “Bangalore is called the Garden City and Victoria is the Garden State. Melbourne has some fantastic parks, which people use all the time. In fact, our F1 race was conducted in the city park — much like using Cubbon Park for racing,” he describes.

One of the most striking features of the City, believes Geoffrey, is its cosmopolitan nature. “It’s hard to find a Bangalorean here now,” he laughs, adding, “people come here from everywhere — Chennai, Hyderabad and Delhi, for instance, and there are lots of Bengalis living here as well. You get to meet everybody, since it’s a big cultural mix.” He also mentions that this can prove to be helpful at times. “If I’m going somewhere, I don’t have to look far for advice. I just take out my card file and pick out someone who’s from the place that I’m going to. They immediately plan out my entire itinerary for me, including where I should shop, where I should eat and the six best places I should visit. In Bangalore, I have an endless list of holiday planners,” he quips.

Geoffrey has experimented extensively with Indian cuisine — both in terms of tasting and preparing it. Unlike many expats, he doesn’t balk at the spices. “My Tamilian cook says I’m the only firang she knows who likes bitter gourd,” he laughs, adding, “she makes fantastic rasam too. My secretary, who’s also a good cook, says that a good Indian table has balance in terms of spice — high, medium and low. Many of the meals that people eat here are also balanced since they have raita, red onion and lime; if something has too much chilli, these calm the mouth.” He admits that he prefers sticking to Indian food when he’s here, since the continental food in the City tastes a little off.

He has tried his hand at cooking Indian food too. “The food markets here have a huge range of fruits and vegetables. In fact, I’ve been introduced to a couple after coming here. I’ve tried cooking Indian food, but it just doesn’t taste the same,” he explains.

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