The Fastest Masala Puri Ever

The 4:36 PM Metro drops me off at Attiguppe at exactly 5:06 PM. I make the long walk of close to half a kilometre to the Income Tax Layout Bus stop. Buses pass under the station, but BMTC is strict about not stopping for metro users. Lots of people waiting at the IT layout stop. It’s always for buses that go as far as Nagarabhavi Circle. There’s one every 15 minutes approx. It can be better, but BMTC prefers the Moodalapalya route, where the roads are narrow and buses move like bogies of a train.

A Pani puri vendor has his cart near the bus stop. It’s a bigger cart than the usual, and he attracts a fair trickle of customers, even as early as 5 PM. Most ask for ‘parcel’ and take it away, to be eaten in the comfort of home, instead of by the street. I watch him, keeping one eye on the turning from West of Chord Road for any incoming buses. One question on my mind, every time:

Given foresight of an arriving bus, what’s the minimum time needed to order, prepare, pay for and eat a Masala puri without missing said bus?

Foresight for an arriving bus, an ETA and to also know what are the other buses in the vicinity, so that you can skip a particular bus for another.

Enter, the BMTC app. For the past one month, I have been using this app to see which buses are around, and if there are any buses at all. It is pretty accurate in showing buses on the map, but the ETA can vary based on traffic conditions. But to know all the buses approaching your stop is a big deal.

And one good evening, I searched for route 238 SA, and found that one solitary bus had just passed Bapujinagar. Now, 238 SA is a special bus for me. It’s the only bus that goes all the way to my locality, dropping me off at less than half a km from home. Rest of the buses need another swap for 2 stops and a walk of 0.8 km, or no swap and a walk of 1.2km. And a 238 SA has an arrival window of between 5 PM and 5:30 PM at IT layout stop, with no other for another hour, so you can imagine how awesome the app is in telling me if I should go for any other bus or wait for this.

Given that the bus had passed Bapujinagar, that’d be a decent 5-7 minutes for the bus to arrive at my stop. I inched over to the Pani puri guy. The rates were all odd multipliers of 5 for some reason. “Ondu masala puri, bega… bus ide.” I told him (One masala puri, make it fast, have a bus). He nodded. In hand was one brown porcelain/plastic plate with eight pani puri balls arranged around a steel cup in the centre. He was deftly filling them up, some boiled peas, some sev, a red powder, a green powder, some onions. And then some more items to sprinkle before he filled up the cup with the spicy pani and handed over the plate to a waiting customer. How many minutes lost?

He pulled out a plate, presumably, for me. “Khaara beka?” he asked. It was for me. I answered yes, before realising what I was agreeing to, and asked him to temper it down a bit. It wouldn’t do to have a spiced up plate if I were to end up gulping it down. The process began, with the flat puris, the boiled peas, the assorted powders, the sev. “Tomato beda”, before he could spoil the whole thing with raw tomatoes. (Seriously, which idiot came up with the idea of raw tomatoes in Malasa puri?!)

The plate was ready pretty soon, and I paid him Rs. 30, and got back change for Rs. 5 without having to haggle for it. Thank God for little mercies! I dared not open the app and check. Where could the bus be? Nearer Deepanjalinagar? Attiguppe Bata showroom? Would I have 5 minutes? Maybe not, but I guess I would find out soon.

I knew I had to attack it really fast, and attack really fast is what I did. It was really good Masala Puri, totally worth risking the bus for. A bus turned up nearby, it was a 238V, an good option on normal days when there are no 238 SAs around. This goes close to home, needing a swap or a 1.2km walk. After around 50% in, I decided to pull out the phone and check the status. The bus was right at the turning. Now I really had to hit it! I started gulping it down faster.

60% done. A bus was turning, just 150m away! It can’t be! Faster, faster! But then, what happens when you eat something spicy really fast? Hiccups, that’s what! I hiccuped my way to 70% and the bus had completed its turn. Now I was really picking up speed. A mini-truck/tempo thing was struggling in front of the bus. Have always hated these carriers, not today though. Stuck behind the tempo, the bus lost its tempo, while mine picked up further(Sorry!).

90% done. Just as I was about to declare victory, I noticed one whole puri sitting in one corner. I polished off that last piece, and with only a few crumbs of onion scattered around the plate, left the plate in the bucket for it.

The bus passed me as I walked to the stop, and I managed to hiccup into it. To answer the question of minimum time – I still don’t know. If there were no other customers before me or if there was more traffic on Chord road, I would have made it comfortably. If the tempo hadn’t helped, it might have been worse.

But, there might come a day when I have to let some masala puri go waste in the trash bin.
Or a day when I stick with the Masala Puri, and let the bus go. But it was going to be neither this day. This day, I ate my masala puri and got my bus.

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