The Bells of Taco

You guessed it, I’m writing about food again. Yep, it’s about fast food as well.

There is a lot of fast food in this world that brings me joy. Taco Bell is perhaps right at the top of that list, apart from the burrito I consumed on my solitary visit to Chipotle. Now that I typed that out and realized how many fast food brands I’ve discarded with that singular statement, I must admit: I keep offering superlatives and rankings of all the fast food I consume, but I love all the fast food I eat equally. There is something about it’s greasiness that gives me tremendous joy – joy that is incomparable to much else. Over the summer I really hope I can figure out how to make these things healthy; not just by consuming them in moderation, but in the manner of their preparation, without compromising on much taste. However, that is a project for much later. For now, I must revel in Taco Bell.

As with several other components of American culture, I was introduced to Taco Bell in Grade 6, by my American classmates who were astounded that I had never consumed a chalupa. I was amazed by the fact that this was as popular as McDonalds, because in my mind – Ronald Uncle was the epitome of fast food popularity. It was dumbfounding for a while, till I logged on to the internet and discovered all the advertisements and the amazing Cool Ranch Doritos Tacos, and so much more. I knew I needed to have it. I was fortunate – because within a year, on one of my trips to Dubai, I discovered they had opened a Taco Bell location there. My mother and I took an excursion, quite literally, to Dubai Mall – and she gave me company throughout my consumption of this foreign food. I was in love, immediately. The food was fantastic, without a doubt – but what I absolutely adored was the brand itself. The branding on the sauces, the product names, their fillings. It was delicious.

My tryst with tacos, however, ended in tragedy, because a year later, I discovered that Taco Bell was shutting down in Dubai. That was one of the only locations I had access to, and to see it disappear made me quite sad for some time. Life, however, moved forward.

Within a couple of months of the Dubai location shutting down though, we found out Taco Bell was entering India – and better yet, they were inaugurating it in Bangalore. I was uber-thrilled. Despite how far away the location was from my house, I didn’t mind the travel. I made a singular visit till Malleswaram and got to dine on that Mexican-American cuisine like a champion. The good news machine followed that up by informing me that they were opening a Taco Bell in Whitefield in some time. Two years later, that dream came true as well. To make things even better, it was right next to my mother’s workplace.

My mum knew I loved Taco Bell. I had professed this at home on several occassions. She was also cognizant of the fact that I would be leaving home in a couple of years; and so, in her own inimitable way, began one of these traditions that I look back on so fondly. Maybe once in two months, I’d finish school, and instead of going back home, I’d go to her workplace, hang out with her – grab a bite (a large bite, I might add), at Taco Bell, and then head home. She couldn’t eat too much cheese, but she loved the nachos, and began to understand why these Americans wouldn’t stop talking about the brand. The free-fill cup and how economical everything was – it was absolutely awesome.

The Bangalore Taco Bells mean a lot to me. I met people I fell in love with, and lost, all over Taco Bell. I met friends from a life in the past, over Taco Bell. I was introduced to mutual friends, and new friends, at a Taco Bell. Whenever I visited the city, it became a pilgrimage destination. On one of my trips, I wanted to meet a senior of mine, but he didn’t have enough time to step out of work. I was on my way to the area his office was in, and I delivered tacos to him. The joy on his face is something that was imprinted in my memory almost immediately. Similarly, a lot of my closest friends – on their off-days, are people I will buy tacos for. One of my best friends & I make it a point to eat pretty much only at Taco Bell every time she visits the country. So much so, that this time, we ordered Taco Bell to my house when she came over to chill.

My travels and internships have taken me to two other Taco Bell locations. I visited the Taco Bell in Delhi with an alarming frequency, because it was on my way home on several days; exactly one stop away from the PG Hostel I was staying at. When I was fortunate to secure a trip to the United States of America, I was lucky enough to stay at an Airbnb that had a Taco Bell 2kms away. It was the first thing I ate in Washington. I didn’t enjoy it as much – their understanding of vegetarianism is slightly confusing and limited, BUT their free-fill cup was absolutely massive. It remains one of the highlights of my trip to that foreign field.

Earlier this week, I discovered Taco Bell had launched a location in Ahmedabad. This fact was revealed to me by an instagram story. I did not ever anticipate that they would open up a location here. I immediately sent photos to two University seniors who were understandably jealous that this was not available during their time here. One of them is visiting campus soon, so we made plans to go there when she does come. I couldn’t wait that long though, and last evening, when I was out in Ahmedabad, I met another senior of mine at Taco Bell. It was delightful.

Nay, it was otherworldly.

You see, Taco Bell gives me warmth on a cold evening because I have a standard order when I go there. When I eat their burritos (and I eat them each time), I feel like I have been clothed in a warm roti. Chewing on a cheesy double decker taco, and appreciating the textural variance that brings it fame – I feel transported to a land of adventure, with each bite bringing me a new flavour. When I close my meals out with a chocodilla, I feel like Remy, from Ratatouille – this amalgam of cultures and flavours that only ever leads to an explosion.

And so, I knew I had to share this with people. I texted my roommate and figured out he had never eaten a taco. One of my friends asked me to get him back some. I returned to the hostel with a bag of Taco Bell feeling like Oprah: tacos for you, tacos for you, tacos for everybody.

I have one semester left here. Not even one full semester. Just three-quarters.

Taco Bell Ahmedabad, we shall meet again, you have my word.

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