An old man poked me, “Wake up son, the bus has reached the station.”
Rubbing my eyes, I glanced through the window. The place resembled an anthill, and the traffic hurried like hungry ants in search of food.
Outside, a Chai Wala was shouting: ‘Chai le-lo, Garam Chai.’
The fumes leaving his lips made me realize that I was shivering of cold. Putting on the woollen cap, I took my camera and landed in Shimla – the summer capital of (British) India.
By the time I climbed to one of the highest places in the town – The Mall Road, my shirt clung on to my body like a piece of iron to a magnet, and drops of hot sweat poured down my cheekbone. A few meters of steep climb on the hills could leave you drenched; even when everything around you is freezing; but it is worth the efforts.
After a small descent towards the other end, there in the corner stood what I was looking for. A tiny house squeezed between the larger ones, and a small signboard on the front door, painted white on red: ‘Aunty’s.’
As I opened the door, Mr. Wong – a man in his early fifties, hairs half grey, calm, polite, born in China – welcomed me. His cheerful Hindi contradicted his thoughtful personality. Later, an attendant told me that Mr. Wong is a distant relative of ‘Aunty’ – the lady behind Aunty’s restaurant.
The Aunty’s was started by this Chinese lady in 1975. At that time it was the only fast food restaurant in Shimla. Though there are many now, the Aunty’s has always maintained a fine balance between quality and the price. A large bowl of noodles won’t cost you more than fifty rupees, and you have more than twenty-five varieties of soups to choose from. The costliest item on the menu is the ‘Chicken drums of heaven;’ it costs ninety-five rupees. Most of the ingredients are procured from Kolkata – one reason, but not the only one, why their delicacies taste so good.
If you ever visit Shimla, The Aunty’s should definitely be on your list. And yes, I had a plate of dumplings, a bowl of sweet corn soup, and a large bowl of steaming hot noodles – all this for a hundred and fifty rupees. The pretty smiles, and the interesting gossip of ladies munching noodles with ‘extra chillies’ cost me absolutely nothing!