Complex, strange and uninspiring definitions of Art abound. To Camus a work of art is a confession, to Seneca imitation of nature. To Maugham it is expression of soul’s adventure; Lloyd Wright condemns ‘art for art’ as philosophy of the well-fed. Marshal McLuhan finds advertising is the greatest art form while a contemporary thinker holds that Art begins where advertising ends. Yet, all of them attempt to define the dalliance of curious imaginative human spirit. Infinite museums, theatres, concert halls and libraries attempt to chart, evaluate and preserve it. Poets celebrate it in songs, potters in designs and painters through myriad moods of splashing colors.
In any Indian city you can locate a busy street in its traditional bazaar known as Sarrafa. Sarrafa is group of jewelry shops (Sarraf ~ Jeweler) – some deal in finished goods, others trade in precious metals.
Delicatessen confectionary and snack shops find nearest available place to serve the merchants and their customers. In Indore — one of the erstwhile princely states – Sarrafa, located in heart of Rajwada, is famous for its secondary avatar. By eight in the evening shutters are drawn on shops and their platforms are taken over by a different set of entrepreneurs. The kind who who find their way into hearts through people’s taste-buds. Traditionally, merchants who worked late, would carry some delicacy home; more often, they would return with members of household to enjoy the splendor of variegated taste. Jalebi-s large as a full plate weighing close to two pounds, Garadu fried over flat tawa its special flavor created with ingredients known only to Chef, shredded corn cooked in butter known as Bhutte ka Khis, the Sabudana wada, Phuliyari (a mixture made specially out of fruits, and permissible food) for those on fast, Mahu Kulfi — people from corners of the world visit this crowded street to relive the taste.
While the evening vendors are literally by-the-night entrepreneurs, there are some who serve throughout the day in shops of their own. To own a food-shop amongst a row of premium priced properties rented by wealthiest business is an act of courage and commitment. If the owner merely rents this space he will earn far more than he gets from pursuing his trade. Perhaps it is pride in family name or more deeply a love for his profession that makes Joshi Dahibada shop an odd but pleasant reality in Sarrafa.
The curd is prepared in special earthen pots made with care, so that in dry heat of Indore it always tastes mildly sweet and never goes sour. The bada is again porous and delicate, which on immersion, immediately fills with dahi. To create his inimitable taste, Joshi picks up four different salts from four bowls between his thumb and each finger and spreads them over the dahi-bada in an artistic twirl. If you happen to be someone hypnotized by this act, he adds another dimension. Before you can stretch your hand for the enticing delicacy he flips the dish in air. It turns upside down and by the time you realize you were holding your breath, it lands in his outstretched palm and a slight smile begins to dance on his lips.
To be so in love with one’s work, to bring wonder and pleasure in others, is Art.