India's Golden boy Abhinav Bindra may not know it, but outside the Olympic Village, Beijing’s Indians are savouring his victory with a taste of home.
After a season of discontent with rejected visas, cancelled trips, and a constant exit of many Indian expats who were unable to renew residence permits, the crowds are back in Indian restaurants in the Olympics capital.
At the Taj Pavilion in the central business district, gulab jamuns called handballs, rotis called discus, pole vault paneer and torch bearer chicken named after chicken wings lit up in a tandoor are now competing for customers in the land of roast duck, scorpions on a stick, donkey rolls and deep-fried seahorses.
There is also beachball vindaloo named after Goan beaches, javelin kebab and chicken tikka called soccer chicken to entice British soccer fans. “Customers are taking home photocopies of our Olympic menu as souvenirs,” says the Taj’s general manager Mehernosh Pastakia.
Members of the Indian Olympics delegation and billionaire businessman Mukesh Ambani who flew into Beijing for the Games, have sampled this Olympic menu.
It includes multiple-course set meals of gold, silver or bronze medal banquets starting from approximately Rs 3,085 to Rs 1,550 each.
The day of Bindra’s Beijing blitz, some Indian companies in the capital called for takeaway samosas and gulab jamuns to celebrate the victory. When news of the gold medal flashed on the television screens of the Ganges restaurant, the owners and staff —all sporting red Beijing 2008 Olympics t-shirts — opened a bottle of champagne and offered free kulfi to all guests for a spontaneous party.
Tandoori lamb chops have been added to the Ganges Olympics menu, where delegates from the Indian shooting squad have booked a celebration dinner this week. It is said that Bindra will not be able to step out of the Olympic Village for downtown fun, due to security restrictions.
The barbecued dishes at Ganges are all served with five interlaced onion and capsicum rings masquerading as the Olympic symbol representing five continents.
Meena Barot, the only Indian Olympic torchbearer in China’s domestic relay, said there are only four Indians known to her where she resides in Shijiazhuang, 280 km from Beijing. So all she could do was dial India to share her excitement.