This initiative is combining history and food to acquaint you with the city of BengaluruHema Vaishnavi
With Oota Walks you get to explore Bengaluru by eating your way through some of the iconic neighbourhood points that introduce you to the history, tradition, and local food culture of the city.
Imagine a tour wherein you traipse around a 500-year-old medieval fort in a part of Bengaluru yet to lose its touch with history. Or think of walking through the quaint lanes of Malleshwaram and exploring a traditional South Indian neighbourhood that has retained its culture over the passage of time.
Now imagine enjoying all this over a piping hot benne dose in a hole-in-the-wall tiffin room or while munching a seekh kabab from a food cart in a bustling market — all this while listening to the tales of Bangalore and Bengaluru.
Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? Simi Matthew and Shibaji Gosh thought so too and founded ‘The Oota Walks’ to create experiences that would entail exploring cuisine and history together.
When Simi Matthew, a psychotherapist and a counselor by profession, moved to Bengaluru nearly a decade ago, she wanted to find a deeper connect with the city. Simi, who had earlier lived in numerous cities around the world, could never feel rooted to any place. And she was determined to change that about her new city, Bengaluru. She loved food and was a history buff, and began a journey to discover the city through the different food items that different localities offered. On one such food exploration, she met Shibaji Gosh, a history buff and a food connoisseur himself.
The two decided to organise a meetup for people who like food and history, and ‘Oota Walks’ was born in the February of 2013. For the very first meet, the group met at Basvanagudi, where Simi and Shibaji interacted with a local who gave the group insights into the food and the history of the place. What began as a small meetup of likeminded people, slowly began to attract those enthusiastic to acquaint themselves with the city’s history and food.
“We discovered that most of the participants were not familiar even with the popular food joints. While food is one way to get to know a place, it also brings to the fore many lesser-known stories. We always tend to attach history with monuments and buildings. Walking through these neighbourhoods offers a new perspective and brings out new facets of the city,” says Simi.
A unique blend of diverse cultures, mouth-watering cuisines, and picturesque architecture made Bengaluru the perfect place for numerous walks. With Oota Walks, participants explore this city by eating their way through some of the iconic neighbourhoods, as they discover the city’s history, tradition, and local food culture.
“Mouth-watering food samples at landmark culinary institutions provide the foundation of our walks but we also possess our share of the ‘local story’,” says Simi
For a typical Oota Walk, Simi and Shibaji work towards identifying popular neighborhoods and weaving stories based on the culinary background of the place. The number of participants in each walk is limited to about 15 people to ensure that they bond well as a group. Participants register themselves in response to the events posted on Oota Walk’s Facebook page.
It is mostly foodies keen on history that make up most of the participants, but Simi and Shibaji have also seen many curious tourists also coming along and enjoying the experience.
On an Oota Walk, one can discover the delicious cuisine, history and culture of some of the iconic neighbourhoods of Bengaluru — be it nestled inside Kempe Gowda’s walled mud fort or where young Winston Churchill sneaked across the city to meet his lady love.
Since the beginning, Oota Walks has covered popular food streets such as Malleshwaram, where traditional South Indian joints were explored at some of the popular culinary landmarks of Namma’uru, the famous Thindi Beedi in V.V. Puram, or the Johnson Market during the month of Ramzan, where participants get to sample from the vendors as they walk through the street.
“Our Johnson Market Ramzan Food Crawl combines the elements of heritage, eating and walking for a truly unique experience. You can expect to have a unique and memorable food tasting experience through the delicious Johnson Marker, while listening to history and trivia of this humble marketplace,” says Simi.
Oota Walks have 10 different walks that are scheduled regularly. Most of the walks are around the old Bengaluru area, Petah. A typical walk is charged between Rs 1,000-1,500, which covers all food, costs and an Oota goodie bag.
Simi and Shibaji are currently in the of process re-structuring the walks, to introduce a more unique way of forming a deeper connection with this city through food. However, they are still organising private walks and they also indulge any visitor with a walk who reaches out to them.