Culinary complexities this side of the Vindhyas are as deep as the number of ways a saree can be wrapped around oneself (assuming ‘oneself’ is a woman). And the epitome of such complexity, more due to diversity than the raw materials constituting it is the humbling dosa. There are many variants to the dosa. The offering changes from home to home and restaurant to restaurant. There’s the smooth-as-Smitha neer dosa from Mangalore, Bangalore’s own rava dosa which comes with the personality of a desert rattle snake, and the ubiquitous masala dosa. Further north we have dosas with a change in the stuffing – the Chinese dosa which makes you wonder if Hindi-Cheeni are really bhai-bhai, dosas with cheese and even dosas with other dosas as stuffing.
‘A rose by any other name would smell as sweet’ went the Bard. The Bard’s pincode did not belong to Malleswaram, Bangalore or Mambalam, Chennai. If it did, he’d have a deep long look while writing that quote and promptly crush the papyrus into the bin. The way one pronounces a word, more than the word itself, is key to how far you get around within the IT parks that dot the landscape south of the Plateau. There’s the Tamilian dho-sigh¸ which in translations north of the plateau makes you wonder if the dosa is served with the waiter sighing twice, instead of the traditional double chutney. An Iyengar or Iyer would throw in that hint of a nasal twang with the dho-sIgh. In the north, the land of the spring dosas and other such blasphemous dosa progenies, the stress is on the first syllable – DOsa, asserting in typical aggressiveness, their supremacy over the humble batter.
Every state would have its share of legends on the origin of the dosa. The journey from legend to truth is a long one, spanning many generations of potato-fillings for the dosa and newer legends would be formed as often as new variants of sambar are being created. One version talks of how the first dosas were made by nuns in the missionaries in Mangalore. The Kannadiga calls his childhood kitchen sweetheart, dhosey, while his cousins across the Almatti Dam would go dhosa every Sunday morning. At the risk of not being sure, God’s own country and by logical deduction, God pronounce it dho-shy, leaving the spring dosa hunters, to wonder if the Malayali was bitten once, to be shy twice.
The loved are called more often. If recent polls are any indication the dosa will brace itself for many more a-calling. But whatever the tongue, or the marriage of syllables, the stuffing or lack of it, each time the dosa will respond to the calling with the same love as the chef’s twirl of wrist. Shakespeare, perhaps was right. A rose smells just as sweet by any other name.