It was around 3.30 in the afternoon. The sun was shining bright and temperature soaring. We’d been driving for over 5 hours and were in desperate need of sustenance. We’d been on our road trip for six days already, and two destinations later, we were on our way to the third one. Leaving behind the beautiful historic town of Hampi, Karnataka and all the architectural marvels it had to offer, we were making our way to the lush green mountains of Coorg, also in Karnataka, known for its picturesque views and fresh coffee. The drive from Hampi to Coorg was no less than 8 hours and in an attempt to reach before dusk, we began our day early.
A few hours into this road trip, somewhere in a small town in Chikmagalur our excitement started to fade as our bellies grumbled. We didn’t speak the language and were at the mercy of spotty internet and Google maps to lead us to our destination. Villages and towns on certain roads were a rare sight, with some patches being completely devoid of human existence. We stopped by a few small eateries on the way, but either they were closed or weren’t serving as they had run out of food already.
After looking for over an hour, we drove into a tiny village that seemed like our last hope to fill our grumbling bellies. We parked our vehicle and inquired about the eateries around. Three different eateries turned us away, stating that ‘we were too late for lunch and they’d finished for the day.’ Still exploring out of desperation, we entered one small eatery, painted bright green on the outside, with a white board that said “Monica Hotel”. The place was simple, with an old world, rustic charm. It was lined with cement walls and had one stone table in the middle that could seat not more 5 people at once, which was perfect for us.
Upon entering, on the right side was a small kitchen, with run down brick walls, clay stove and a deep sense of nostalgia, almost as if the walls have felt the passage of time with every passing minute. In the kitchen was a lady, dressed in a black saree, who stepped outside after realising we were there. Looking at us, she smiled, a confused grin. We gestured and asked for a meal, given that we didn’t speak the language. Understanding our desperation, she nodded and with a mix of broken English and basic hand gestures, asked us to wait for ten minutes as she prepared fresh food to serve.
We sighed in relief and waited outside as she prepared a meal for us. In just a few minutes, the lady came out, smiling and holding a steel plate in each hand. She asked us to grab a seat while she went in and got us the rest of the plates. Each plate had streaming hot rice, potato curry, mixed vegetable curry, curd and mango pickle. The cold yoghurt paired extremely well with the spicy curries, toning down the sharpness. Each bite felt like a blessing at that point, and in no less than fifteen minutes, we were all done eating and finally felt a sense of calm contentment.
As we finished our meal, we got up to hand over the plates. The lady gestured and asked us if we’d like some coffee, to which we gladly agreed. She made us 5 cups of fresh coffee and served that too with a warm smile. We paid our bill of a mere 200 rupees and as we were leaving; we thanked her and asked for her name. Geeta she said, grinning widely. We waved her goodbye and in her broken English and some hand gestures she asked us to visit again if we came by this village, and stood by the door, waving, until we left. We made our way out of the village and onto the next destination but took with us a lesson that food is a unifier like no other, specially when it comes as a kindness from a stranger.