Let me start of by talking about something that always brings a smile to my face, and heart, and stomach – food. Yesterday’s weather was perfect for a drive, to be outdoors. So we decided to go visit the temple town of Annavaram. A quaint sleepy town, with its raison d’être being an old temple situated happily on top of a hillock. It was a favourite getaway earlier when I was staying alone. This visit was going to be different because we were going as a family. The two hour drive was blissfully uneventful. At the temple, a few extra hundreds ensured speedy, unobstructed darshan of the deity and we were done. Now for the more important things at hand, lunch. We walked into the first restaurant that we crossed as soon as we got out of the temple gates. It was a typical South-Indian mess, a fuss-free place with only one item on the menu, the self-sufficient veg-thali. This guy was a little more entrepreneurial and offered idli-chutney also on the menu. There were tables all around and people sat down where ever they found an empty place. We luckily got a table for four and settled down to have our thali. The adventure began when instead of plates, the lady got us banana leaves and placed it in front of us. She sprinkled some water on it and was gone. The girls went crazy. How could they eat on THIS? Then came the round of serving with one boy serving only chutneys, then another came and served us the curries, sambar, rasam, dal and pulusu, then came the papadams, and finally the lady came back and heaped our plates with hot steaming white rice. Yuuummmmm…it was pure heaven. That inconsequential gastronomical spread had done what I was wrongly seeking inside the sacred sanctum. I found what I had come looking for – inner peace and happiness. I didn’t wait for the others to start and immediately dug into the hot rice while the others were trying to figure out from where to start. It was one of the best, most satisfying meals I’ve had in a long, long time. There’s no fuss, no frills yet it’s the most fulfilling experience. I’m sure every true-blue South Indian will identify with this incomparable experience.