The Trouble with Imaginary Biryani


The Toronto area has close to 1 million South Asians. One would presume that where there are South Asians, there are also restaurants that serve biryani. Yet all my neighbourhood had was one Tamil bakery with monosyllabic staff who believed smiling was a sin. And somehow everything except the kottu roti was always sold out.

If you know me you probably know that I like to try new things. So after months of not being able to try their biryani (or anything else besides kottu roti), I asked the staff what I was doing wrong. They let me in on the fact that they only made biryani on weekends. So the following Saturday I showed up at the bakery.

“Can I have a serving of biryani please?”
“Chicken or mutton?”
“Mutton please”
“None left”
“Okay I’ll take the chicken”
“None left”

Resisting the urge to ask why she had bothered to inquire about my preference, once again I asked what I needed to do to get some  biryani. She said to call before I showed up, as she handed me a bowl of kottu roti. So the next weekend I called them and they said they had just 1 serving left. 15 minutes later I was at their bakery.

“Hi. I’d like the biryani”
“None left”
“But I called and asked if you had any left”
“You asked if we had. You didn’t ask us to keep it for you”

Defeated, I went home with yet another bowl of kottu roti.  The following week I called and made it a point to tell them to hold the biyani for me. I planned to run all the way there before they could sell it. Running down the stairs and simultaneously putting on my shoes, I called out to my roommate telling her I wasn’t going to wait for her to get ready.

Just as I opened the front door my cellphone rang. It was the bakery calling back to say they were mistaken. There was no biryani left. In order to not sound bitter, I’m going to refrain from commenting on the volume or duration of my roommate’s laughter when she saw look on my face.

While I finally accepted that I would never eat biryani from Martin’s Bakery, I did not give up on the idea of living near a biryani store. Instead I moved halfway across the world to an apartment building that is within walking distance of at least 50 restaurants that serve biryani. The only downside is I’m no longer that fond of biryani.