The road less explored

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The road less explored

Simply put, they have taken the road less travelled. For when Rocky Singh and Mayur Sharma set out on a culinary quest, their journeys became their destinations, and the highway the path to gastronomic nirvana. And now they are back and they are hungry. With a second edition of NDTV Good Times’ Highway on my Plate, the intrepid duo will park themselves in places that most Indians love to go — Singapore, Thailand, Mauritius, Malaysia and Sri Lanka.

“The international show is where we take our little piece of India out into the world and share it with people passionate about food. The international show is not about how other people eat in other countries, it’s about how we Indians can make the most of the eating opportunities in that country,” says Rocky of their second coming. “The influence India has had on each place we visited is enormous, be it Mauritius, Sri Lanka, Malaysia or Singapore. Some places are more organised, others are cleaner but none can compare with India when it comes to the sheer magnitude of experience, colour, life and chaos,” adds Mayur.

As we watch Rocky and Mayur gorging on spicy dal and roasted chicken in roadside dhabas keeping up the tempo with their continuous banter and bullying unmindful of the in-your-face camera, we invariably find ourselves one among them. Such has been the response to their earlier shows that many fans are still pleading to take them along on the road.

But while it was somewhat easier to show us the sub-culture of our roads and highways (the colour, noise and vibrancy is always waiting to be explored), it would be interesting to see how Rocky and Mayur squeeze the juice out from these new expressways. “Sri Lanka is a lot like India in terms of the roads. As for the others, the highways are smoother but with a lot less character. Without the chaos which we love and live off,” says Rocky. According to him, though these countries have provided for smoother roads, they have “lost out on the wonderful little pieces of cultural identity that people bring to roads that pass by as their living spaces. The new expressways are anti-septic and identical. We really should make sure that our culinary roadside eatery heritage does not get destroyed as our highways go international.”

But trust them to have walked the extra mile to make some useful discoveries. A lot of Chinese are vegetarian (“never knew that,” confesses Rocky). In Mauritius, if you start singing and dancing anywhere anytime, someone on the street will join you. The ginger beer in Sri Lanka is awesome, “you must try it and it’s available everywhere,” says Rocky. When in Malaysia, do as the Malaysians do — they love it when you go with their choice of food and really enjoy feeding you. Singaporeans will spend hours discussing food with you anywhere and everywhere. “People who make the best food are people with the most character (weird chefs are the best cooks), the weirder the better.”

The alpha male Rocky and the vulnerably macho Mayur have been friends for the past 33 years ever since Rocky rescued Mayur from a bully in school. The Delhi-based duo have since been on many trips together, and as Mayur exclaims, “We have been travelling all over India for over two decades and the only difference now is the camera and the fact that we get paid for it, yeehaw.”

If you decide to take off on similar road journeys then watch out for Rocky and Mayur’s ‘HOMP’ “awesome” stamp on some of the places like the Zains (Maplad food) in Kozhikode; Karims in Delhi; Muruggan Idli, Chennai; Das Surti Khaman Wala, Ahmedabad and Tunda Kebab, Lucknow. Adds Mayur, “I think my favourite meal was the thaali at Hotel Paradise in Guwahati and the funny thing is that we almost never got to shoot there. Then the owners and their daughter arrived all dressed up and very graciously interviewed with us. The best value for money in India if you ask me.”

When not on the road, Rocky and Mayur, who are incidentally corporate trainers, love to be homebodies and cook. They also love to recall their most magical moments on the highway. For Rocky it was stopping on the Indian highway and sharing a meal with 90 people in one truck! “Yes, you heard me! 90 people in one truck. We ate with them, sang with them and danced with them and they were generous and warm.”

Mayur remembers driving on the highway between Kashmir and Jammu with frozen rivulets on the distant slopes, “the air filled with so many cotton seeds that it looked like it was snowing, and our hands and mouths stained with the fresh strawberries and cherries we got from a roadside vendor, mmmm.”

Besides, they have also picked up new languages and habits. Both claim that they can now abuse in almost all Indian languages. And they have also learnt the one most important lesson that parents try hard to drill into their children’s head — to wash their hands before eating!

Watch the duo go international on NDTV Good Times, every Saturday at 8 pm.

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