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Mumbai Diary page: Monday Musings

The city — sliced, diced and served with a dash of sauce

When Ramchandar met Ramsay
At first glance, Matunga’s Ramchandar Jaiswal sitting in his small two-by-two shop, near King’s Circle comes across as any regular panwallah. But there is one unique, little-known fact about him.

Ramchandar Jaiswal at his paan shop in Matunga
Ramchandar Jaiswal at his paan shop in Matunga

Not one to boast of his ‘achievement’, Jaiswal told this writer, who is a regular at the nearby Café Madras and swears by their Mysore Sada Dosa, that he has taught celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay the finer nuances of paan-making.

Gordon Ramsay
Gordon Ramsay

The first reaction is that of shock. But just then the 68-year-old removes a neatly preserved February 2010 issue of Open magazine that carries a picture of the Hell's Kitchen celebrity right beside our paanwallah alongside a story on Ramsay’s book Great Escape, featuring his favourite Indian recipes.

Jaiswal, who’s been at the same spot for 38 years, said Ramsay spent a good 10-15 minutes at his shop asking about everything from supari to chuna and kattha to gulkhand. Jaiswal remembers the interaction with the star chef, as though it happened yesterday. “He (Ramsay) came to my shop after visiting one of the nearby South Indian restaurants.

He may be one of the world’s top chefs, but he didn’t know much about paan. He first asked me questions like when do people eat paan and why do they do so? Then, like an inquisitive little child he began picking out some of the stuff from my shop, taking it in his hand and asking me what’s this and what’s that, and why this is used and why that is used. I explained and he patiently listened.” Amazingly, Jaiswal informed in the end, Ramsay spoke in Hindi throughout!

What do you call a lady who is hailing a cab?

Vocabulary. (Woh cab bula rahee).

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