Friday, October 30, 2009

Food Delights

There have been times when I have had a chance to eat some awesome food. What makes it all the more interesting is that this has happened in the most unlikely of places. And may be because it happened when I least expected it, that the memories have stayed.

One time, my brother in law & I went riding to my aunts place in Tamil Nadu. We had stopped at a regular Highway restaurant for breakfast. However that happened to be pretty early in the morning & the restaurant only had pongal ready by then. So we ate a plate each & decided to stop by at another place after some more riding. The next stop was some shack in some unknown village. We had stopped to ask directions & saw the place & in unison both of us decided we had to finish the remainder of the breakfast there. A lady there served us idlis, vada, poori & chutney. I must say may be it was the incomplete feeling of having eaten little pongal earlier or the very rural setting or just that the plain good taste of the food we ate, I have recollected & shared this experience quite a few times.

The other thing I can recollect is eating at some dhaba somewhere in Madhya Pradesh. It was a lunch stop. This place was in the middle of somewhere & I remember eating rotis & daal. I liked this meal so much that I have fallen in love with the roti & daal combination since. The daal was cooked just a little spicy & I thought that made it wonderful. Ever since whenever I order rotis & daal I make it a point to tell the waiter that I would like the daal a little spicy. Of course nothing has ever matched that experience yet.

The other thing that comes to mind is a lunch stop on the way to Mandi from Chandigarh. We were traveling in a public bus & the bus had stopped at some dhaba along the way. Again may be it was the hunger or just that the food was great I don’t know, the food was one awesome experience. It consisted of rotis, kadi, papad, rice daal.

A lot of times during our treks we’ve had a chance to savor some amazing local food. I recollect this one time during our beach trek we were staying at a localites house. They had served us rice & fish curry for lunch. This after a good long trek. Could you ask for more? On another trek to Kudremukh, we were once again staying at a local residents house, we were served Akki (rice) rotis for breakfast. They were thick & served with some amazingly spicy chutney. I ate to my hearts content of course sipping water after every other bite of the roti.

There are quite a few like this involving the food. However now I just feel like talking about some liquids I have got to consume. The first that simply has to take the cake is the lassi that I had during our Sarpass Trek. Man, what a trek it was & what moments we had there. Drinking lassi being one of them. We were sitting somewhere near a flowing river & surrounded by snow clad mountains & we had reached this spot after a long trek & some rapelling and here was a lady serving desi lassi. Very tasty & very timely it was. It was pure heaven for sure.

I fell in love with Chaas (Butter Milk) during our Sarpass trek. We drank so much butter milk post the trek that now if it is on the menu I want to have it. Of course no butter milk here in South India can match to what we had there up North. In the South its very watery, whereas its thick in the north, spicy too & simply tasted amazing. However one butter milk experience from down south I would like to talk of. This was also during our beach trek. Our guide Krishna stopped at a small petty shop in a small village. There he bought curds. And requested for water, salt & vessel to mix it all in. We poured that in our water bottles & drank like we were drinking butter milk for the first time.

If you notice all these are very normal regular food. These are not your special food. It’s probably their every day ness & simple good taste that made them special. May be also the very ordinariness of the place we consumed them at. I enjoyed each of these experiences & so eagerly look forward to the next such experience. Hopefully there is more in store.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The old rickshaw puller in Delhi

I was very excited when I was in Delhi. I finally got to see the places I always wanted to see. I am not sure how many would fancy seeing the Parliament, the Rashtrapati Bhavan or the Red Fort, but I wanted to see it at least once in person and I got to do it when I was in Delhi a few months back. I have some very nice memories of Delhi & our stay there. The primary thing that comes to mind is the food we ate there & then the wide roads that we got to travel on & of course visiting old Delhi & the Chandni Chowk area was an experience.

The one thing I got thinking of suddenly & which eventually made me write this are the rickshaw pullers in Delhi. When we were there we had used their services in the Old Delhi area. I think they are largely found there. These are men of varying ages peddling away in the hot Delhi sun with two or three or sometimes as we actually saw 6 people on board their rickshaw. I like the idea of taking a different form of transport where available, mostly for the experience sake. And the idea of taking a cycle rickshaw ride was very exciting because that is long gone in Bangalore. The excitement lasted only until of course I was aboard one of them. Peddling the rickshaw is a tough task. Most times these guys are only constantly peddling never sitting down on their seat. And unlike your bike or car which u can accelerate again after you have slowed down, picking up speed on a cycle rickshaw after having slowed down is hard work & if the road is steep you can rest assured it will be doubly so.

We took a cycle rickshaw about three times we were there in Delhi. The first time was in the peak afternoon sun. The other two times were in the evening. The first time a young guy was riding it, the second time a middle aged man & finally the third time it was an old man. My first ride in the rickshaw was on a wooden plank kept behind the rickshaw & to sit there, one has to bend down & move himself up through an iron rod bent around the seat. The eventual seating position is such that you get to view all the traffic or people coming behind you, while the rickshaw guy & two other passengers get the front view.

The longest rickshaw ride was the last time we rode it in the evening & when an old man was peddling. The old man looked really old & I felt horrible about the thought that I was comfortably sitting behind when he was peddling away pulling three healthy young adults. He sweated profusely & not once sat down on his seat, this should basically give an idea as to how tough it must have been for him. Most of the other rickshaw guys were overtaking him comfortably. He only peddled on. Somewhere on the way the wheel on the left side got caught in a road crack & the rickshaw wouldn’t move forward. Only after I got off & pushed it a bit did it resume the journey again. A few times I considered getting off & walking but decided against it as it was his livelihood after all & I was glad that even at this old age he had chosen to earn his livelihood the hard way. After having negotiated some tight rickshaw traffic & other vehicles he took us to our destination, the Karims restaurant in Old Delhi. We gave him a bit more than what he had asked for. When we told him, he could keep the change, he smiled & mumbled a thanks. That is when I realized the amount of sweat on his face.

What an irony life is isn’t it? Here we are young, healthy individuals who can walk but wouldn’t because we are tired and there is this old man, old enough to be resting at home, ready to take you in his rickshaw. Some of us ride cycles as a health or environment friendly fad & some others ride it to earn their bread & butter.

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