Wednesday, May 5, 2010

India Un-Curried: Signs of the Times

Potoba: Gharchi Aathvan

The name of the restaurant literally means Tummy Wummy: Memories of Home. Alas, I saw it just as I was leaving Poona so I could not explore its menu. But good, old fashioned home cooking would be my guess.

This sign brings me to the point of today's entry. I have a game for you to play! When I was in India, I jotted down interesting, amusing, or downright hilarious names of dishes on menus as well as similarly funny names and descriptions of restaurants, buildings, and stores.

For instance, a billboard for a restaurant (I missed the actual name of the place!) was followed by these words: "Where you get grilled, smoked, fired and scewered. And still enjoy!" WOW!

What YOU have to do is match the names below with my explanations/translations! Email me your guesses because there's even a prize!

The first entry to get the most answers right wins a copy of The Essential Marathi Cookbook inscribed to the person of your choice!

Good luck!



1. Shell with drumstick
2. Key Mekar
3. Madras Cafe: Partly A/C
4. Bread Cafe: Taste of High Life
5. House of Cards
6. Tie Koon
7. Talwalkar Fitness Fellowship
8. Muskan Mobile Shopee
9. Nancy Brahma Residency
10. Swad: Pure Veg Resto
11. Shetkari Non-Veg
12. Viva La Cafe (with the words 'Vivala Cafe' written beneath in the local language, Marathi, in the Devanagari script)
13. Chez Nous & Cuz-Inn
14. Snark Power Ltd
15. Ozone Villas
16. Impoted Sunglasses
17. Toll rate: multi axial vehicle
18: Maruti Sarvies Centre
19. Mobile Shoppy
20. Ho-tel Goodlucky (written in Marathi)
21. Kharadi Annexe: As Stunning as your Imagination


A. The name of this restaurant is intended to be French and therefore indicate style. But apart from the fact that it mixes Spanish and French and makes a hash of French gender rules, when spelt in Marathi, the words Viva and La have become one word pronounced 'vivaalaa'.
B. A typo, quite common, at a toll booth
C. The name of a gated apartment complex in Poona. These are springing up all over the place and are highly desired because they include housing, club, pool, parking, mini mart, security and other amenities. For people tired of braving chaotic and endless traffic to get to such facilities, these communities are a one-stop oasis. They are often given names that the builders thought sound high-end and appealing, resulting in some hilarious and incongruous misnomers.
D. Dish on the menu at Sayba restaurant, Bombay; shellfish cooked with the pods (called drumsticks) of the Moringa Oleifera. They are simply delicious!
E. The name of a restaurant on the Nagar Road from Poona to Shirur. I was amused because Shetkari means a farmer who grows vegetables or grain, certainly not a rancher or livestock farmer in the American sense. So the fact that Shetkari is a restaurant that serves meat is ironic!
F. Literally this means Smiles Phone Store. The word shopee is often used to fancify commercial establishments. It derives from the rather silly word 'shoppe' and appears in many spelling avatars all across India, indicating a store that is a cut above the rest, at least in the eyes of the proprietor!
G. This restaurant has air conditioning in one section, the other sections are either 'air-cooled' or simply ventilated by fans. The same menu is usually slightly more expensive in the air-conditioned section of such eateries, to allow for the cost of electricity.
H. Another one of those residential complex names. I guess someone thought it sounded stylish?
I. The name of a restaurant on Law College Road, Poona. Pure Veg is a term seen on restaurants all over India. It indicates that no meat/fish/egg products are served in the establishment nor used to cook with. It is a guarantee that all the food available is shud (literally pure) or edible by people who are vegetarian for religious reasons. This becomes important because it might not be the case at a restaurant which serves meat dishes. What I find amusing about this name, which literally means Taste, is the new word for restaurant being used in urban India, resto! You see it everywhere now.
J. A store in a village in Maharashtra that sells.... you guessed it... cell phones, which are commonly called mobiles here. The shop is not moving but it is pretty fancy. This is the cutest spelling of the word shoppe I have ever seen!
K. Store in Mahim, Bombay, selling mens' suits and ties.
L. The Maruti was the first affordable car for the Indian everyman. It was launched in the 1980s. This shop is a service centre for Maruti vehicles. Someone could not spell but I am pretty certain they have great mechanics here who will do the job in a fraction of the time, for a fraction of the cost, of what similar repairs would cost in LA! And less paperwork!
M. An advertisement for another residential complex. By this time, my imagination was so stunned that I cannot even begin to contemplate what the place was like.
N. The first word is the name of the family that started the first modern fitness club in India. This branch is in Poona. Whether people also pray there I have no idea (!), unless fellowship means something completely different here!
O. Name given to a cafe aspiring to be Western, in Kalbadevi, Bombay
P. For decades, restaurants in India have been known as hotels or "ho-tul". This is one such restaurant. The sign is in the Devnagari script and reads 'Good Lucky'. In this case it is simply a matter of not knowing much English. Lucky is, by the way, a common names for restaurants too, like Hotel Lucky, Cafe Lucky and so on. First time I have seen good lucky!
Q. A vendor with a makeshift sign selling glasses by the side of the highway. The word 'impoRted' used to imply style, quality and status in India. In cities today it is rarely ever seen. This vendor is probably 20 years behind that curve, in the part of rural Maharashtra where I spotted him, and probably does not know much English.
R. A little shop where keys are made at Colaba Causeway, Bombay
S. The names of two neighboring apartment buildings in Bandra, Bombay. The first is pronounced by locals as Chess Noose. Why would they know the French pronounciation, after all? The second is a clever "pun" of sorts on the word "inn". The building belongs to the Almeida clan and all the residents are cousins. My favorite building name in Bandra, however, has to be "Vertical Heights".
T. The name of a power company. I read the sign as we drove by on the Nagar Road but have no clue why it is named Snark. No, it is not an acronym!
U. A store that sells greeting cards & stationery.

So... what on earth is Herbal Ghee? Isn't it all herbal given that ghee comes from butter which comes from milk which comes from cows who eat grass?


  1. This is hilarious Kaumudi! I love the names but then to have your explanations to match (guess at!) - it's a fun glimpse into a different world.

  2. Thanks, Alana! Apparently a lot of us Indians -- ex-pats at least -- do this. My friend Satya wrote from Belfast to say that when her daughters, Syama and Tanvi visit India, "they are constantly picking out advertisements like these and having a ball. Their favourite ones are:

    - a flyer my niece brought home from her tuition master announcing his expertise in teaching all types of students including "special classes for dullards"
    - Decent High School promising great education to all
    - Let's eliminate public (and in the line below) defeacation (on a huge arch while entering Vijaywada municipal limits!)
    Shoppe is another one they spot with great amusement in its umpteen guises
    - the sign on a small roadside cafe: " hot snakes avilable here".

    They also struggle to keep a straight face when people ask them "What is your good name?""