An appetite for adavus and vadais


Apoorva Sripathi chats with two young dancers over plates of snacks at the Sri Krishna Gana Sabha canteen


Two young women wait patiently for the conversation to begin — they’re both Bharatanatyam dancers. Amrutha (28) and Rashmica (23) took up dancing out of passion unlike many of their peers. But Amrutha, who is married, left her IT job to pursue dance full time, while Rashmica believes in striking a balance between art and work. But both swear by tiffin served at sabha canteens. Collectively, we start off our long list of orders with poli at the Sri Krishna Gana Sabha canteen.


As we dig into our plates (theirs of sweet poli and mine of masala), Amrutha tells me about her day — “It starts at 4 a.m., if it involves dance. I cook, finish a few chores and then leave home (Nanganallur) for practice. My day revolves around dance.” For Rashmica, it’s just a little bit different. “I attend classes three times a week in the evening. Sometimes I spend days dancing,” she smiles.


The conversation veers towards food, naturally, and before we know it, there are plates of freshly-fried orange bajjis, plump golden urulaikizhangu bondas, an assortment including kozhukattais (ammini and pidi), vadais, morkali and sweets placed in front of us.


Undaunted — except for a shadow of worry in Rashmica’s eyes — we plough through the dishes and our conversation. Surprisingly enough, the dancers are not on strict diets and when they explain why it all makes sense. “Dancing is the best form of workout there is. To people who ask me if I workout separately or go to the gym, I ask them to join my class instead,” exclaims Amrutha.


Rashmica is horrified by the question, “In fact, our gurus keep asking us if we’ve eaten, every time we step into class.”


It also explains why the two of them aren’t as nonplussed by the amount of ghee that drips from the dishes — although Amrutha is a little hesitant at sampling the other dishes, Rashmica partakes a little of everything, thankfully, validating my choice of menu selection. While the masala poli is reminiscent of an aloo paratha with a South Indian twang to it, the fluffy morkali is the clear winner of the evening — it’s soft, sticky and delightfully vintage — it’s also one of the most popular dishes in the canteen.


Learning dance, they say, has taught them a lot of life lessons.


“Discipline, patience, multi-tasking, relationship-building and adaptability,” they say. There’s something deeply inspiring and satisfying about watching passionate people talk about their craft, and Amrutha and Rashmica never run out of things to talk about. And so dance takes centre stage while food takes a back seat, not for long though. We all decide that sampling the bajjis would be an overkill and move on to filter coffee. Finishing notes are excellent, with respect to coffee and dance.


“ The art doesn’t give us much money but it does give a lot of satisfaction,” reasons Amrutha. Rashmica and I nod our heads in unison, too immersed in our coffees, very much in agreement with her.


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