Naan Sense: See what connects Indian eateries abroad to the idea of home
A Google search for ‘Taste of India’ throws up a Wikipedia page, one that has no culinary association. It’s about a 1998 track by American rock band Aerosmith. The band, however, state that they got the idea for the song by walking past a Taste of India restaurant in the ’90s.
The Wiki entry, printed on an A4 sheet, hangs in a frame on a white wall at the Mumbai Art Room. It makes a subtle point on how the ubiquitous title of an Indian restaurant abroad has a different representation on the Internet. The piece is part of The Real Taste of India, an exhibition by Bangalore-based artists and curators Nihaal Faizal and Chinar Shah. The show offers a commentary on how identity becomes homogenized organically.
Taste of India restaurants across the world have come to be associated with a certain kind of aesthetic – curry and tikka masala, Bollywood music, posters and Taj Mahal iconography. “We found reviews for 278 Taste of India restaurants on TripAdvisor itself. Each is independently operated, but it’s interesting how the owners decided to adopt the same name and a similar branding style,” says Faizal.
Reviews from some restaurants (“The naan was cold and so was the attitude of one of the waiters”), are embossed on a set of plates. Other exhibits include a doormat imprinted with “The Real Taste of India”, a wall hanging with fridge magnets fashioned like TripAdvisor ratings, a sound piece that plays the name in 51 accents, and a mound of butter shaped like a map of India.
“We used Amul butter, because you can’t think of Taste of India without it. We’ve left it outside so it melts and you can’t see the boundaries anymore,” says Shah, as Faizal adds, “There’s smell, audio, visual and touch, but no taste. That’s the only sensory experience we left out consciously.”
The duo collaborated with the owner of the Taste of India restaurant in Kandivli for “free papad coupons”. These will be given to every visitor and can be redeemed for the duration of the exhibition. “This way, the art extends outside the gallery space into an actual taste of India,” says Shah.