later i realized the shawarma joint i was frequenting was not known in hyderabad for serving good shawarma. this was a humble shop beside the sitaphalmandi station, just few paces from the university where i still live. the joint's owner had perpetual trouble getting a shawarma cook. the days i frequented it were probably the days when it did the best business. he had procured a cook from jharkhand. his name was azhar.
Azhar was the eldest son in a family of about five children. he had worked at several places before abandoning himself at the shawarma shop beside the sitaphalmandi station. frustration was written all over him. i guess the shawarma he cooked smelled of his frustration a lot. azhar became a friend as my frequency of visits to the joint increased . he said he wanted to learn english and for that he needed a nice book. i bought him a book - a cheap hindi to english edition. i don't think that did him any good.
he left few days later never to appear as a cook again. the shop was closed.
i tried other options. banjara hills, koti, tolichowki. tolichowki was the best. but somehow i still missed the flavor. i asked my arab friends about shawarma and they were poetic in praise of their shawarma back home. but hyderabad, they felt, was not at all good for shawarma. be it majid the palestinian, horaibi the yemeni or bakhit from Uzbekistan, nobody liked hyderabadi shawarma.
well how could he?
the shop was surrounded by squalor. there was a slum nearby, prostitutes hung around, beggars looked for alms. the setting was just like a regular fallen corner in any indian city. earlier i used to like the meanness of eating an exotic food in a squalid locality. but i guess my ideas changed. i stopped going to the shop.
the joint down shuttered some months ago and as of now remains closed. the cook has left i guess.
yesterday i had shawarma at himayatnagar. it was too happy a place. moreover the meat was little stale. i will try befriending the cook sometime, maybe he can put some amount of his depression into what he cooks.