The Surgical Feast

When a doctor steps out of the hospital frenzy, and finds himself in the thick of a chaotic celebration of food and customs

It was one of my fervent desires to experience the essence of Mohammad Ali Road during Ramzan, and so, a few days before Eid, a bunch of us from the hospital decided to show up there amidst organised chaos. We walked past pop-up stalls selling copies of every famous brand under the moon betwixt the jarring honking and dodgy manoeuvring of two and four wheelers, whose drivers’ fingers seemed to be badly glued to their car horns. I remember thinking that if we could navigate that road at 10 PM at night, we had a serious shot at auditioning for the Cirque du Soleil.

Through some dilapidated shops we went, making our way through some of the finest craft work, intoxicating perfumes, and dry fruits and extremely alluring nuts. Our destination was the Khau Galli that starts at the Minara Masjid, a beautifully verdant mosque lit up with ornate lights that herald the arrival of all things beautiful. As we got to the entrance of that lane, I was mesmerised. The crowds had doubled, the shops had tripled, and the sights, smells. and sounds had quadrupled.

I felt like I was in one those movies when they depict a man tied in a trance with the universe moving around him at a whirlwind speed. In the middle of being surrounded by a few thousand people, I felt a push with someone shouting into my ear, “Tera dhyaan kidhar hai? Maal toh idhar hai!” For a moment, I wondered if I was in the wrong lane with some dubious activity going on, until he held my hand and placed a plate of malpua on it. That’s when I realised that the maal he was referring to was a food item. For the uninitiated, malpuas are small pancakes made with flour that is deep fried in desi ghee or refined oil and then soaked in sugar syrup – a perfect ditch to the start of my low carb week. We crammed in a few with the ghee dripping off our fingers, and when we asked for some tissue, our server pulled out a sheaf of newspaper, stating, “Indian tissue.” After confirming it wasn’t the Sunday Mid-day and then wiping our hands dry, I signalled asking him where I could dispose of it, and he pointed to the ground. “Indian dustbin?” I asked and we both nodded our heads and smiled, as I put it in my pocket to discard later.

We needed to walk a little to digest our starter, which should have ideally been dessert. We walked, or rather simply stood, while we were being gently displaced past exotic shawarmas roasting on a slowly turning vertical rotisserie, as the guy sliced thin sheets of the meat which were then rolled into a flatbread and served amidst constant chants of “Chalte raho!” by the public. The fragrance of multitudinous meats being roasted all around me was invigorating to the senses. Every conceivable succulent kebab in every imaginable colour stood skewered on sticks besides full-blown chickens ready to be barbequed or whatever else they do with them.

We turned left into one of the dendritic lanes where the food turned even more exotic. Brains (bheja), kidneys (gurda), and livers (kaleji) were kept boiled on plates for display. As a brain surgeon, I was faced with a predicament: Was it appropriate for me to consume the very organ I treat on a daily basis? I wondered if a urologist would be amenable to eating a kidney or if a hepatic surgeon would devour a liver. Before I was able to process my dilemma fully, we were huddled onto a few stainless steel stools. Yellow plastic plates with the organs cooked in a piquant masala made its way onto the makeshift tables alongside bread and roti. Sometimes, the choice is made for you and all you must do is surrender. Vegetarians, I hear you, but it was one of the most delectable meals I have ever had. We ordered some more.

Having tantalised our tastebuds, we decided to walk again amidst chants of “Kal to aap ki jaan bhi ja sakti hai, mobile kya cheez hai?” cautioning us to keep our belongings safe. It was nice to see foreigners, their Instagrams on, attempt this experience, as white skins bumped into brown and sweat was exchanged, as smoky fumes of something roasting filled the air. I overheard one of them say, “Until now, I only thought that if you can drive in India, you can drive anywhere in the world, but now I feel that if you can walk on this street, you can walk anywhere in the world!” They had big smiles on their ‘go with the flow’ faces as they kept taking pictures with one hand above the heads in the crowd.

We passed by shops with colossal vessels, in which hundreds of kilos of biryani was being dished out. There were cutlets and rice cakes, egg rolls and the famous nalli nihari – marinated lamb with a zoo of spices. After gorging on as much as we could, we decided it was time for dessert. We lapped up the kesar phirni served in earthen clay bowls, chomped on a few golden jalebis, and ended with a royal falooda – also nicknamed Sharbat-e-Mohabbat. “We have to spread love, not hate,” I was told by a man in Urdu as he served us a chilled glass brimming over its own edge. The smooth sev mixed with ice cream in the drink soothed all the fire in the belly.

As we walked back to my car that was parked very far away, I thought how blessed we were to live in a country where we can celebrate a multitude of religions and cultures with such wholeheartedness.

Where we can seamlessly partake in each other’s joys and ritualise each other’s customs.

Where we can gourmandise each other’s food and honour each other’s traditions.

Where we can do our own thing and make space for others to do theirs. Even when it involves exceedingly high decibels.

Where all we need is some Sharbat-e-Mohabbat to share with each other. Let’s drink to that.

18 Comments on “The Surgical Feast
  • Miss Patel says:

    As always a well written article Maz :-).

  • Prof. Satyajit Pradhan says:


  • T George Koshy says:

    Very interesting reading..I have had Tangri Kebab in Lucknow in 2009 when Suresh and I had peripheral posting at SGPGI Lucknow

  • Rita singh says:

    Such a beautiful writing so early this morning is a treatfor us sitting in our homes our early morning tea.U have given us a tour of this exotic street at comfort of our homes .I could almost taste all those delicacies. Thanx for this imaginary tour food heaven.If only we all could feel this respect n love for each one’s faith, how much better world would we have.

  • gurudutt Satyendranath bhat says:

    Dendritic lanes is a great way to describe mohammed ali road

  • Anjali Patki says:

    Having spent my undergraduate days at jj hospital before moving to Kem hospital for post graduation, the mohd Ali rd lanes are a memory close to my heart. Thanks for bringing alive those memories with your vivid , imaginative, lucid description. Relished your article as much as I’m sure you relished the gourmet treat

  • Arun Pushkarna says:

    I am torn with indecision. I cannot decide what’s your greater love – brain surgery, food or writing?!
    Your passion comes through in whatever you describe. Very vividly too!!
    Thank you Mazda. You epitomise the best of the Creator!
    A Parsi, in love with a Hindu, respectful towards Muslims, serving all of humanity without concern for caste, creed, etc!! God didn’t just give you nimble fingers and steady hands and superior intellect; He gave you compassion and a heart of Gold!

  • Kersi Naushir Daruvala says:

    I feel during the month of Ramzan, our appetite has no control plus if you really follow it maybe easy to digest it too, but if hog a lot and be lazy you sure will get heart attack real fast as the time limit is just a month. Anyway with spiritual following it, it is the best time to to connect with almighty ( not Armaity ) and have the best time of your LIFE. AMIN.

  • Chanda says:

    Lovely Sunday delightful read.
    Best I liked was ‘taking care not to wipe your hands on the Sunday Midday’.
    Thank you!

  • Samina says:

    I walked the street with you doc beautifully and vivedly described.the little tit bits of their conversations added so much spice to the article .enjoyed it throughly

  • Vipul shah says:

    Dearest Dr Mazda

    You are TRUE Allrounder ………

    Can write on any subject without blinking bcos of your versatility you can write with same Flow on any subject & your readers will be delighted for you trying your hand from Surgery to any Subject under the Sun…

    I know Rashmi Uday Singh personally & can connect you for Food Review on any restaurant Or cuisine…

    Wish you best of Luck for all kind of experiments not only in your field but any other field of your choice…


  • Bikram Shakya says:

    Mouth watering …

  • Marzian Mowji says:

    At a time when most of us are trying to diet and drop a few kilos, along comes this article and B O O M all our efforts at dieting are gone.

    I too have experienced Ramadan food at Minara Masjid Khao Galli. But, many years ago. You brought back all those memories.

    Maybe next Ramadan I will go back there.

  • Armaiti Ronnie Mistry says:

    Mazda, such interesting reading as always. You truly are God’s gift to humanity. Keep up the good work… both surgical n written. God bless you abundantly. Amen.

  • Sunita Jimmy Masani says:

    I do wonder for how long we will continue to be “blessed to live in a country where we can celebrate a multitude of religions and cultures with such wholeheartedness”.
    Vicariously enjoyed the experience you have shared !

  • Tasneem says:

    Just enjoyed your literary gastronomic treat ❤️

  • Prasad Kadam says:

    Simply Nostalgia. Been there long time back. Good memories reviewed by the doctor. After reading the article the mouth started watering. Enjoyed your article.

  • Nadya Hussein says:

    This is “Variety is the spice of life” personified. This article is a product of an open mind, and I hope that inclusive articles like this will temper the way that the world thinks about ’the other’, one article at a time. I believe that the key to harmony is civil and non judgemental exposure. The older I get, the more I realise that these kind of cross cultural exchanges are most beneficial to those who are open.

    Isn’t the hustle and bustle of Mumbai enchanting? I have been to this place a few times, though I’ve never had the guts to try these delicacies. At least we have you, the recently initiated, to initiate us. The ‘under the moon’ phrase is so creative, and an apt departure from the traditional ‘under the sun’. Perhaps the Cirque du Soleil audition would be a good idea. It should be considered at the very least!


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