杭州夜网Suresh Thakur dropped another batch of potato patties, known as batata vada, into the cooking oil that had been sizzling in a massive iron pan since early morning. He’d already shaped the patties, made with mashed potato mixed with masala spices, green chilli and, occasionally, finely chopped raw onion, into near perfect spheres, and dipped them quickly in a thick chickpea batter just before frying. The vada made a gentle hiss as they hit the oil, and the aroma of the chickpea batter floated in the air, making me impatient. A few tosses and turns, and the vada were ready.

Thakur sliced open a soft, square bread roll called a pav, slathered on some green chilli-coriander chutney, and gesturing to me with a bowl of dry garlic chutney asked, “Lahsun?”

It was almost as if I was biting into the original taste of Mumbai

I nodded, and he sprinkled on a generous quantity of garlic chutney, then pressed the vada on top. He wrapped the sandwich in a piece of old newspaper, added a side of fried green chilli (in case the spice hit was not enough) and handed it to me in exchange for 12 rupees (roughly 14 pence).

As my teeth sank into the soft cloud of pav and the crispy vada, it was almost as if I was biting into the original taste of Mumbai. It was a perfect contrast of tastes and textures: the chewy blandness of the pav acting as a foil to the piquant crunchiness of the vada. Even to my palate, shaped by years of spicy food, the first mouthful was a fiery hit. I could feel the tang of both chutneys spread across my tongue. The vada pav is a delectable carb overload – an instant energy boost.

Vada pav is a deep-fried potato patty served on a soft bread roll with spicy green chilli (Credit: Credit: Charukesi Ramadurai)
Vada pav is a deep-fried potato patty served on a soft bread roll with spicy green chilli (Credit: Charukesi Ramadurai)
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Today, this snack is synonymous with the city of Mumbai, with almost every resident, from factory workers to college students to Bollywood stars, unabashed in declaring their love for it. More than two million of these crispy, flavourful sandwiches are consumed in India’s financial capital and largest metropolis every single day.

“For a city that’s always on the move, I think the vada pav makes for the quickest, wallet-friendly, on-the-go snack,” travel blogger Kaushal Karkhanis, who runs a website dedicated to this single dish, told me. “I think it’s the first ‘eating out’ experience for just about anyone in Mumbai. At this price, it cuts across social strata and is a great leveller.”杭州夜网

While the vada pav is delicious (as fried snacks tend to be), the overwhelming love for this snack often leaves outsiders bemused. But the truth is that the Maharashtrian capital has a close cultural connection with the vada pav that goes way beyond taste.杭州夜网

杭州夜生活France’s rail network has been severely disrupted, as a wave of strikes against President Emmanuel Macron’s labour reforms gets under way.

The start of the strike has been dubbed “Black Tuesday”, but the action will spread over three months, affecting two days in every five.

Staff at state railway SNCF are leading the strike, but the energy and waste collection sectors are also affected.

The unrest presents Mr Macron’s biggest challenge since his election last May.

How is the strike taking hold?
With the four main rail unions observing the strike, services have been severely curtailed. Some 77% of SNCF drivers are on strike, and 48% of all staff.

Only one in eight high-speed TGVs are scheduled and only one in five regional trains.

Commuter lines into Paris have also been slashed and bus services have been hugely overcrowded. Some stations were crammed for the few trains available, others were deserted.

The website that measures car traffic around the capital recorded about 420km (260 miles) of jams at rush hour.

How this could affect your train journey (in French)
International services are more sketchily affected. Eurostar has 75% of trains running and the Thalys services to Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany is almost normal, but there are no services to Spain, Switzerland or Italy.

Image caption
Crowds at stations varied. Busy here at the Gare de Lyon in Paris…
Image caption
… less so at the Gare du Nord
Employees of Air France, who are demanding a 6% pay rise, are into the fourth day of industrial action. The airline is operating 75% of its flights.

Unions have also called out all rubbish collectors, to push for the creation of a national collection service and better retirement options. The capital, the north and east, along with Marseilles could be worst affected.

Energy sector unions have also called strikes to demand, among other things, an end to the liberalisation of the energy markets and a review of deregulation.

Can Macron face down the strikers?杭州夜生活
Analysis by the BBC’s Hugh Schofield in Paris

There are three reasons why President Macron feels relatively optimistic about the rail strike.

First, unlike in the last massive (and successful) general strike in 1995, this time there can have been no mistaking the government’s intention to reform. Neither the public nor SNCF staff can pretend the planned changes come out of the blue. They are clearly part of the broad reform agenda for which Mr Macron was elected.

Second, there is far less automatic sympathy for the SNCF than there used to be. The level of rail services has declined sharply, especially for commuters, who are as a result more open to calls for reform.

Third, new options have opened up for commuters. There is home-working; car-pooling; expanded coach services. This should make it easier for workers to get round the inconvenience.

All that said, these will be tense weeks for the government. Nerves are going to fray. People will get angry. Daily life will not be easy. In these circumstances, plans can go badly awry. A wrong move and public opinion could easily shift back behind the strikers.

What is the strike about?
SNCF workers enjoy generous conditions, including automatic annual pay rises, early retirement, 28 days of paid annual leave and protection from dismissal. Their close relatives are also entitled to free rail tickets.

杭州夜生活But the rail unions feel the action is wider than that, and it will be a major test of union clout.

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Emmanuel Macron insists he has a mandate for reform
Just over 11% of the French workforce is unionised – one of the lowest levels in the EU – but the unions traditionally punch above their weight, economically and politically.

“We’re defending the French public service, not just rail workers,” said Emmanuel Grondein, head of union Sud Rail.

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The Macron government wants to phase out the special SNCF contracts, proposing to put new hires on contracts like those that apply elsewhere in industry.

The aim is to open up the state railways to competition from 2023, in line with EU requirements. SNCF has €46.6bn ($57.5bn; £40bn) of debt.

Mr Macron’s Republic On The Move party also feels the strike has wider connotations.

“We need to rid this country of its strike culture,” spokesman Gabriel Attal said.

Opposition to Mr Macron’s agenda was shown on 22 March, when tens of thousands of teachers, nurses and other workers joined rail staff on strike.

The BBC’s Lucy Williamson in Paris says many union members see Mr Macron as the man who wants to break the power of the unions.

But strikes in September failed to stop Mr Macron passing laws that make it easier for firms to hire and fire, and the majority of the public are opposed to industrial action this time.