Everyone in Bengaluru has a darshini story. Someone will tell you how they met their future funder (yes, relationships with private equity partners are the most significant in this city) while having breakfast after a run at Lal Bagh. Another person will describe their standing date of 20 years with a group of friends at an eat-on-the-go place that serves the best masala dosa. Someone else will slip into verse while reminiscing about the flavour of the chutney at the local eatery. Mine isn’t at all an exciting tale but it certainly has the drama of joy and disappointment: Sometime last year, on the way back to the centre of town, I made an impulsive stop at a darshini on a street corner in Jayanagar in south Bengaluru for coffee. The first sip seemed to melt away all annoyance about traffic, the second made the sky seem bluer and the treetops greener. It truly was the best cup of coffee I have had, and it cost just ₹13. Sadly, I have never been able to find the place again.
There’s no dearth of variety if you want to eat out in Bengaluru but at any time of day, the darshini is a favourite. On any street, you will find Bengalureans clustered around tables set on pavements, guarding their cups of coffee from other elbows while scooping up sweet and savoury chow chow bhath. No matter which part of the city you are in, the darshini seems familiar. It is central to the city’s food culture and has survived the arrival of all styles of restaurants and cuisines. Though its essence—consistency, simplicity and speed—remains the same, there have been changes in the background, as our cover story reports. Chains of corporatised eateries now follow the same model but have taken to the startup idea of scale, streamlined processes, and stay open all day, serving everyone from morning walkers to late-night pub-goers. It is a story that reinforces the fact that these unassuming restaurants remain a cornerstone of life in Bengaluru, adapting rather than being extinguished by shifts in the city.
Other stories in this issue underscore the idea of adapting to change—from the evolution of space suits since Yuri Gagarin went to space in 1961, to an analysis of Perumal Murugan’s work. As always, there’s lots that we recommend you do, read, eat, buy and watch this weekend. As for me, I am going to take another stab at finding that darshini with perfect coffee.
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