The Indian Canteen Review: Rajasthan High Court
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The Indian Canteen Review: Rajasthan High Court

Aditya AK

Jaipur

There is almost no point in writing this review. It is, how the denizens of the Jaipur High Court would describe it, infructuous. Sure, I had the opportunity to feast my eyes on P Chidambaram taking on Gopal Subramanium in a no-holds barred contest, but apart from the food for thought, there is precious little actual food here.

To say that the High Court campus of the Pink City has a canteen is a bit of an overstatement. What they do have is a building run by Saras Dairy that serves more as a mess hall than an actual canteen. What is surprising is that the lawyers, far from being disgruntled, are happy that they have a spacious area where they can eat lunch packed from home. Must be a health-conscious bunch.

The Jaipur HC Canteen offers a lot of space and not much else
The Jaipur HC Canteen offers a lot of space and not much else

The most popular item on the menu appears to be Vada-Sambar, and seeing as how they have run out of Paneer Pakodas and Samosas, I am forced to undergo this most cruel and unusual punishment and order the South Indian snack. Sure enough, the sambar (Saam-burr?) reminded me of college days when the North Indian mess cook would try something “exotic” and end up serving a Dal two shades darker than its usual colour. To make matters worse, the once crispy Vada has been doused in said faux sambar for hours together, making it a shapeless mass of rice flour batter. The aforementioned Senior Advocates would certainly shed a tear at this travesty.

The only thing South Indian about the place is the server salvaging broken pieces of Vada with a ladle and spooning them onto my plate. His eyes light when I order the dish; perhaps he has not heard the correct pronunciation of ‘Sambar’ in a long time.

Also on the menu are milkshakes and lassi, which are essential to beat the desert heat. On the campus, one can also find thadis, or tea stalls that serve, well, tea and some snacks. A lot of lawyers (particularly the freer ones) can be found here, sipping on cups of chai.

Those lawyers and litigants who do not pack food from home can take solace in the fact that the High Court is located in the central area of the city; Bhagwant Das Road is surrounded by multiple eateries. After a rather underwhelming experience, I was off to the Jodhpur bench with the hope of better tidings on the food front.

Food – 2

VFM – 3

Comfort – 4

(Free) Friendly advice – Home food is your best (and only) option.

Jodhpur

Walking through the Jodhpur High Court campus feels like visiting the old areas of India’s bigger cities. The narrow lanes are choc-a-bloc with shops (mostly notaries and typists), and the architecture takes you back to a time when Vada-Sambar didn’t exist in these parts (okay, I’ll stop now).

It is quite easy to get lost amidst the chaos. When I ask where the canteen is, an old typist points in six different directions and says, ‘Jahaan bhi dekho, wahaan canteen hain’. Music to my ears, especially after the Jaipur visit. A rickety set of steps leads me to one of these eateries on the second floor of one of the buildings. I notice that the dishes on the menu are scrawled across the walls, and I am glad to note that they have more than three items. To my horror, one of the patches on the wall is reserved for the words ‘Vada Sambar’.

The proprietor recommends the Pyaaz Ki Kachori Dahi Chutney, a truly delightful dish. The Kachori is crisp on the outside and gooey and on the inside, and filled with fried onions. The curd is sour and complements the sweetness of the onions, and the mint chutney adds a nice spice to it. Also on the menu is the Mawa Kachori, sweet version of the Kachori filled with dry fruits and a very passable Chole Bhature. Judging by the crowd of lawyers, this joint seems to be one of the more popular canteens on campus.

Pyaaz Ki Kachori Dahi Chutney
Pyaaz Ki Kachori Dahi Chutney

Wandering around the campus, I stumble upon a milkshake joint which seems to be quite popular. Though I order the Chikoo milkshake, what I get is something entirely different. It doesn’t really matter what flavour you choose, as you can taste the remnants of the last five orders in your beverage.

More for less, if you ask me.

For one last stop, I decided to sample the fare at one of the thadis. I order myself a plate of hot Dal Pakoris and proceed to catch some lawyer gossip. There are a couple of elderly advocates seated on a worn metal bench, discussing the move to the new campus. They are reminiscing the old days over cups of the tea; the same tea they have been drinking for years. You can’t help but feel for them as they face up to the prospect of learning the ins and outs of a new campus at their age.

To sum up, the lawyers appearing at the Jodhpur certainly have it better than their counterparts at Jaipur.

Food 3.5

VFM – 4

Comfort – 3

(Free) Friendly advice – Don’t drink the Sambar.

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