Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Of food, looms and boats.

I am always interested in finding out nice small places to eat, where ever I am. I usually ask the local people while drinking tea at a tiny roadside joint or when I am travelling in an auto or even when I make a call from the local STD booth. Even if I don't eat at this place, this piece of info could be of use at some other point to time. More often than not, I am never disappointed with the recos. Few years ago, I stumbled upon Raja Rajeswari Palghat Mess opposite the Pithapuram railway station. The local auto driver recommended this place, said it is run by Palghat Iyers who came to P few decades ago and that it is a nice place to eat. So both of us decided to have our lunch there, as I hired the auto for the whole day.

This was a place in a typical 'shopping complex' that are becoming popular in many small towns. They are a series of shops mostly running parallel to the main street of that place and the main gutter. At times, the shopping complex could also be perpendicular to the main street in which case the shops are on either side of a long corridor with the entrance being on the main street. Usually, there are two wheelers both motorised and non-motorised parked haphazardly in front of these complexes. Of the two I like those running parallel to the main street, it has more light coming in; although there would be more dust. The other kind of shopping complex are dingy and damp. Well, dust can build up immune system.

Coming back to our RRPM, it is a two floored venture in a 'parallel' kind of shopping complex. On the ground floor was the 'tiffin' section. The first floor was the 'meals' section. The kitchen was on the ground floor just after the steps. Around the payment counter was a large display that contained various ' hot and sweet specialities'. Both the driver and I went straight to the first floor. The meal was served on a plantain leaf and was ok. It has the usual dal, one fried curry, one masala curry, ..... but then the lime pickle was great. So, while paying the bill, I asked if they sold pickle. They did and I purchased 5 quarter kilo packs that I wanted to distribute among my cousins. That did not happen as my mother who rarely eats pickle wanted all of them and I gave them to her. Though I have tried to get back to this place over the next few months of my data collection, there was never an opportunity to do so.

Considering this past, I was looking forward to be at RRPM once again. This time, the plantain leaf was no long there but a green plastised paper cut into a leaf form was put in front of us. I did not like it but RJ liked this very much; he said it would make nice dinner plates back home if he had to serve Indian food. So the first thing on my menu was the pickle. I asked the waiter to bring sample of as many pickles as he can. Considering that they were being sold at Rs. 50 per kg, for 120 Rs. I had a wide variety of quarter kilos by the time we left.

We went to three hotels in Kakinada before deciding on Jaya International. The place was small and functional and was extremely well run. RJ decided to look for cyber cafe to send a mail to his wife and I wanted to catch up on some sleep that has eluded me through the Sankranti period. At 4 we start towards Uppada.

Uppada, as I mentioned earlier is a weaving village that is right next to the sea and so has a sizeable fishermen population. The handloom cluster of Uppada consists of only four or five villages. For years, these sarees were known in north Andhra as cheap but good ones. However, few years ago, the Weavers Service Centre in Vijayawada decided to teach these weavers how to weave Jamdani. This is a special weave due to which both the side of the saree look the same. There is no right side. The processes requiring three people is painstakingly slow and for some reasons this cluster quickly adopted this new weaving technique and some local weavers have started producing saree that are well into the Rs. 15,000 to 25,000 ranges with pure gold zari. However, one can find good Jamdani sarees for around 3000. Due to this new technique the whole cluster is prospering.

The road to Uppada from Kakinada is all along the sea and is very picturesque. As we approach Uppada, we have to travel past the many boats that are anchored close to the shore and few that are on the beach.

Here in Uppada, we had a long chat with the local entrepreneur who is into handloom business. He showed some of his new Jamdani products which he gets made in Venkatagiri near Tirupati as the labour is cheaper there. The weavers in Uppada have formed a union due to which they can negotiate increases in wages when necessary and this has prompted some people like KVR to start some contract weaving operation in Venkatagiri.

The production process in the cluster has been stopped due to the festival and would commence after 26th, said KVR. Otherwise, one would have to walk past meters of warp being sized in the street and the whole area would be filled with the thuds of wooden shuttle hitting the sides of the wooden loom as the sarees are being made.

Here are some more pics