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Why there are no Iyer Bakeries

Note: This is a work of fiction and any resemblance to anyone living or dead is purely coincidental. If you are still hell bent on taking offence, no one can help you. Happy reading.

Cast of characters

1. Seshadri Iyengar - an ageing Iyengar with a penchant for cooking.
2. Vasu - Seshadri Iyengar's good for nothing son.
3. Mohini - Seshadri Iyengar's wife 
3. Mani Iyer - Seshadri Iyengar's once-upon-time bosom buddy. 
4. Kalyani - Mani Iyer's pretty daughter. 
5. Leelavathi - Mani Iyer's wife
6. Muttal - the local astrologer 

Old age and infirmity hadn't yet robbed Seshadri Iyengar of his independence, but his idiotic son Vasu Iyengar had robbed him of his peace of mind. Always claiming to be between jobs, Vasu was besotted by his neighbour's daughter, Kalyani. She was pretty, diminutive, and sang the raga Sindhu Bhairavi without missing a note. Named after her father's favourite raga, Kalyani, her idea of rebellion was to choose a different favourite raga and irk him to no end. That she didn't miss a note didn't mean she had the vocal prowess of a nightingale. For all of her physical beauty, she competed with Pulikachal, the local rooster, in waking the neighbours up. Needless to say, the village of thair sadam had long since given up on waking up to peaceful mornings. But her voice didn't deter Vasu. What made his father unsuccessfully attempt to deter his son from wooing Kalyani was the fact that her father was Mani Iyer. Seshadri Iyengar never had a problem with Mani Iyer. In fact, they were childhood friends who had once upon a time been inseparable until they were separated by their respective wives. The problem was that one was an Iyer and the other was an Iyengar.

The language of love is bereft of vowels, consonants and punctuation but it has survived the test of time. From the time of Adam and Eve, when god hadn't yet gotten to the cumbersome task of creating language, love has paid no heed to such seemingly minor impediments. The love story of Vasu and Kalyani didn't involve an apple but a dish that went by the name vatha kozhambu. How many ever times Kalyani's mother pleaded with her not to visit Vasu's house for lunch, the plea fell on deaf ears. It is to be noted that the numerous pleas by villagers asking her daughter not to regale them with her treacherous voice also fell on deaf years. 

In Vasu's house, everyone suffered from another anomaly called selective deafness, including his father. It was on his insistence that at least two meals in their home were to be cooked by him. He had always harboured a desire to be a cook but even if a slice of that thought ventured out from his head and into his mouth, there would be hell to pay. So like most Tamil Brahmin boys, he studied diligently and secured a job in the electricity board. But the dream of being a cook never left him. The purveyor of the dream was his grandmother, who was renowned for her bhakshanams. He would spend hours in the kitchen helping her and as she grew older and her eyesight grew dimmer, he gave vent to his impatience and consumed half the delicacies she made before the puja was over.

The love-hate story between Seshadri Iyengar and Mani Iyer began when they were in school. They did everything together like best buddies did. When they both reached marriageable age, their parents began to look for eligible Tamil Brahmin girls to marry them off to. Muttal was the local astrologer. According to folklore, Muttal specialised in breaking love marriages by concocting horoscopes and as astrology isn’t science, its formulae can be made up along the way.

The problem was that Seshadri Iyengar had been besotted by an Iyer girl called Mohini and Mani Iyer had been besotted by an Iyengar girl called Leelavathi. A shy and young Seshadri would smuggle murukkus and seedais  made by his grandmother and share them with Leelavathi. Mani Iyer attempted to regale Mohini with a new Thyagaraja Keerthana every day, attempt being the operative word. It would be safe to say she fell for his persistence and said yes in a bid to shut him up. When they told their respective parents of their love interests, kalyuga broke loose. Waiting to thwart this seemingly disastrous turn of events, both the families promptly ended up at the door of Muttal. Horoscope matching is one of life’s most profitable professions and is based on the notion that the position the stars and the moon and the sun and the galaxy at the time of your birth have something to do with how your life turns out. This preposterous thinking also lends itself to choosing a life partner. So according to this dysfunctional logic, if the stars are aligned, two people can consummate their relationship and create a galaxy of their own. Love doesn't need any language but it sometimes needs the stars on its side.

Muttal immediately got to work. The stars simply don’t align he said, drawing up charts. His own unhappy marriage fuelled in him a desire to thwart other seemingly happy unions. In a cruel twist of fate, Mani Iyer’s horoscope matched splendidly with Leelavathi’s and Seshadri Iyengar’s horoscope matched splendidly with Mohini’s. Before they could harbour any thoughts of eloping, their marriages were arranged and the rest was history.

But Vasu and Kalyani hadn’t been told any of this and this was a good thing for as they grew older, their feelings for each other only intensified. Without the oppressive baggage of history to weigh them down, but yet unable to express their feelings for each other, it had in it the makings of an epic love story. Oblivious to this fact, their respective parents began hunting for life partners. 

Seshadri Iyengar's cooking experiments didn't cease even as he grew older. His poor eyesight sometimes led him to seeing his wife Mohini as Leelavathi. As he didn't see that as a problem, spectacles were given the boot. In order to simplify her life, his wife would complain that there were too many leftovers from lunch and serve him the same curry for dinner. When this happened repeatedly, he decided to take matters into his own hands. In what can only be termed as a happy accident, it was one of these experiments that led him to invent the alu bun. As he set out to make milagai bajjis, he decided to put to use the leftover vegetable curry. He kneaded dough and stuffed the vegetables. His bad eyesight resulted in him mixing up ingredients and the final output was the first ever alu bunFor once, his cooking experiment wasn't met with brickbats. 

One of the fans of this new invention was Kalyani. Unbeknownst to Seshadri Iyengar, Vasu used to smuggle the alu buns in his veshti whenever he went to meet Kalyani outside the marriage registrar's office (after office hours). Kalyani would hide the leftovers in her pattu pavadai and take them home. All of this was usually after Kalyani visited the Shiva temple and Vasu the Vishnu temple. Vasu's new found love for the temple was a front to his all-consuming love for Kalyani. They timed their visits in such a way that after taking the blessings of their respective gods, they could steal a few moments with the aid of the stolen alu buns. Sensing that Vasu had something to do with the missing alu buns, Seshadri decided to follow him one day and promptly caught them in the act. That was when the alu bun hit the fan. 

To negate the suicide threats by their respective families, Vasu and Kalyani met many suitors. If only giving your heart away to someone when it has already been stolen by your first love were that easy.

The ever reliable Muttal was summoned to break up the union. The stars, the moons, the galaxies, nothing matched he said. Instead of letting their children enjoy what they never could, Seshadri Iyengar and Mani Iyer gave into conformity and succumbed to pressure. They were the original Kane and Abel. Unable to bear the torture, Kalyani and Vasu resorted to the last resort. 

One day, Vasu and Kalyani just disappeared into thin air. Unknown to them, their act of disobedience gave birth to the Iyengar bakery phenomenon. In a bid to reel in his absconding son and his paramour, Seshadri Iyengar opened a bakery with alu bun as its only offering, hoping that Vasu would come in search of it and get trapped. He didn't stop with one or two or three bakeries. He just went on setting up Iyengar bakeries in a bid to trap his unsuspecting son and Iyer daughter-in-law. He drowned all his sorrows by going on a culinary blitzkrieg which gave the world, among other things, veg puff, cream bun and vanilla cake (all egg-less of course). The fate of Vasu and Kalyani was never known and they were never found. In his will, Seshadri Iyengar clearly stated that his soul would never rest in peace until Vasu and Kalyani had been reined in. So the next time you have anything at an Iyengar bakery, don’t forget to say a silent prayer in Seshadri Iyengar’s memory.   

 And that is why since time immemorial, there has never been an Iyer bakery. 


  1. You know, I actually came here looking for some sensible answer... :\
    When will I know??

  2. Fiction can lead to some strange truths. The faux pas leading to culinary progress with the alu bun and intermingling of 'appetites' makes this piece a funny paean to food and love matters. Nice one Maachis!


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