The Bombay restaurateur Jigar Pala has three great, overlapping passions: food, people, and conversation, all of which come together seamlessly in his life and trade. But after many years of running the high-volume, low-margin Udupi restaurant handed down to him by his late father, Jigar has in middle age decided to set himself a new challenge: Chinese! After all, Indians love Chinese food more than the Chinese themselves – and in this new world of cleavers and bamboo steamers, black bean sauce and drunken chicken, wok chi and the holy Tao, chopsticks and the songs of Teresa Teng, there will be new customers, new stories, new happiness. A whole new Bombay can be made within the walls of the China Dragon.
But Jigar has taken on more than he has reckoned for. For not only must he confront the hazards of empty hours, capricious chefs, flailing waiters, and customers who bring not just their appetites but their problems. But even as losses mount and the China Dragon totters, there remain the small, warming pleasures of the parade of faces and figures at the tables, the nuances of taste and temperament, the jokes that banish dullness and the situations that make time hum and sing. As Jigar sees it, a restaurant is the greatest of life’s theatres, for human beings are never more themselves than in their encounters with food.
Days of My China Dragon offers an insight into the restaurant trade, and a little history of modern Indian life seen from behind the counter of a shop in Prabhadevi. Once you have absorbed the spirit of the China Dragon, dear reader, you will always be hungry for life and food. Qing qing!
Praise for the book:
"The world of eating is about so much more than just food that it requires great fiction to present it in its true colours. Through these stories of a Chinese restaurant in Bombay, Days of My China Dragon offers nothing less than a magical meditation on the human condition. I have not enjoyed reading something as hilarious and moving since GV Desani's All About H Hatterr." - Pushpesh Pant, author of India: The Cookbook
Chandrahas Choudhury is the author of Clouds and Arzee the Dwarf. He is also the editor of the anthology India: A Traveler’s Literary Companion. His essays on literature, travel, and politics appear regularly in The Wall Street Journal, TheWashington Post, CondéNast Traveller, and Mint. A long-time resident of Bombay, he now lives in Delhi.
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