I am not even going to waste a sentence more on describing a Vada Pao. That would spell disrespect to this ingenious dish whose brilliance lies in its simplicity. Vada Pao is no longer a choice of the aam junta in this age of no jobs and high petrol rates. It is a necessity. It is a staple diet of those who can’t afford the fancy burger joints and expensive yet crappy Iraani restaurants. For the student, the struggler, the artist and the labourer. It is for you and me. The Vada Pao is important, damn it!
Why then does the question of its rise and fall arise? It arises for reasons more than singular. Let’s take a look :
Vada Pao has always been a traditionally Maharashtrian snack. It’s no more a snack for the majority. It’s the substitute for lunch/dinner or even breakfast. A good substitute if I may add, not by its nutrient value but purely going by its filling value. Ever had a vada pao with extra sweet chutney when you were fuck hungry? It’s how your stomach muscles would have an orgasm, if they ever did.
The rise of Vada Pao would have to be when it was commercialized by Jumbo Vada Pao, followed by shiv vada pao and many more. Jumbo still remained the one name that came closest to being synonymous with vada pao. And with good reason. Jumbo stayed true to its name and offered humongous vada paos, mostly to the dislike of people. But being the cheapskates that we Indians are, we would still eat the big vada pao that came in at 7 bucks at Jumbo because it would be filling. Vada Pao’s at Kirti and Mithibai had a loyal fan following which even Starbucks can’t match. Almost every big tabloid and newspaper in town would give out a ranking of Mumbai’s best Vada Paao joints in the city, every year.
Here is a description from the ‘About Us’ column of Jumbo :
Jumbo King began its journey to brand the Vada Pav on 23rd August 2001. Inspired by western models and applying it to Indian food, Jumbo King believes that the common man has the constitutional right to get hygienic food at an affordable price!
Affordable, did you say? They’re selling Vada Paos starting from 10 I think, but a decent one costs close to 15 or twenty. The same grill vada pao used to be 10 bucks till like a year back. And it’s not just Jumbo King that I’ve a grudge against. All the leading Vada Pao joints have comfortably followed suit. 15 rupees for something we call the masses’ snack. Now imagine the kind of products that you can buy for that kind of money :
- A packet of maggi
- Oreo Biscuits
- Hide and Seek Biscuits
- Missal Pao
- Zunka Bhakar Kendra Food
Who is to blame for this catastrophe? The franchise? The government? Pakistan? I don’t know. Maybe all of them. Point is, the vada pao is losing it’s affordability. And it’s hitting the mango people hard!
It’s obvious that the inflation is to be blamed for all of this. The government, the global oil prices and all that jazz we could go on and on about. And I’m not even touching the part where the vada pao is being seen as a competitor to the burger and the lame attempts to burger-ise it. The vada is supreme in its popularity and uniqueness. Not to forget it’s cultural value. It’s one of those food items that goes synonymous with a state as a whole. Think Maharashtra and the first dishes that come to mind are Pav Bhaji and Vada Pao.
Now imagine this dish becoming only for the rich and elite. Since that’s what will happen if the cost of it’s constituents keep rising at this rate. Notice that 3 items out of the possible substitutes are package, foreign products. And realistically, we would buy one of those 3 because of their easy availability and better packaging. Basically, the MNCs win again and the local stall guy loses. Another cliched case of the rich getting richer. Would you let the vada pao become a snack for the elite? That’s some vada pao for thought. See what I did there? No?