Sometimes it takes a third person for a couple to realize the beauty of their relationship…
My introduction to the pleasures of Bihari cuisine happened recently in January 2018 through Litti Kachoris, thanks to Phulwanti, a tea-shop owner in Okhla.
A few days ago, as I walked briskly to my office, my gaze fell on this plateful of kachoris at a roadside stall (pic on the top). It was a chilly, wet morning of late December 2017 and the idea of munching them with a hot cup of tea felt irresistible…With great difficulty, however, I resisted the temptation and carried on…I couldn’t afford to fall sick, I reminded myself…Street food, especially the deep fried type, is a very risky thing.
But the sight of those kachoris refused to leave my mind. So, a couple of days later, I walked to that shop shortly after settling down in office. The utensils looked clean and the place had a quaintly pleasant, earthy feel to it, especially because of an adjoining huge tree spreading its protective branches over it. The woman at the counter looked up from the karahi she was busy with. She was stirring something and seemed to be enjoying what she was doing. The newspaper that the kachoris were sitting on, I noticed, was dry and not soggy with oil, which was quite intriguing…
I began by asking, “What kind of kachoris are these?”
She replied patiently, in a soft spoken manner, “These are litti kachoris. They are filled with sattu, onions, green pepper, and garlic.”
“How much are they for?”
“Two for Rs.10.”
That sounded quite reasonable.
“Today I will buy just one. If I like it, I will return for more.” Mentally, I added to myself, if my stomach remains okay, I might eat them again.”
She smiled and nodded her head. She quickly tore off a piece of newspaper and wrapped a kachori in it for me. I was again pleasantly surprised to see that it did not leave behind any oil stains on the newspaper.
Eating that kachori that morning made me feel sinfully fulfilled. My feel-good feeling continued the following week too, so I kept the promise that I had made to myself and treated myself to those kachoris again; this time it was two at one go, not just one…
I am now a frequent visitor to this shop. While talking to the lady the other day, I learnt that her name is Phulwanti. She hails from Gaya, Bihar, and she lives in a settlement in Okhla, Phase 1. The sabji, she said, she cooks everyday and it varies, depending on availabilty of ingredients. People who work in adjoining offices often order for it. That day, she was making aloo-tamatar. The smell of spices wafting outside from the karahi seemed quite familiar. Out of curiosity, I asked her in Hindi, “Kitne ki deti ho?” Meaning: How much is it for?
Her reply in a typical Bihari accent was, “Dus ki deta hoon, bees ki bhi deta hun.” Meaning: For Rs.10 and Rs.20.
Her way of mixing up the gender and her manner of stirring inside the karahi suddenly reminded me of my late mother-in-law…She always preferred the slow cooking of a karahi to a pressure cooker. That way, she insisted, the spices and the ingredients get a better chance to assimilate with each other. She always looked at cooking as an art and she was well-known in her family as a great cook. My relatives used to keep advising me to learn all I could from her regarding cooking at least!
Well, one of these days, I think, when I am unable to pack my lunch for office, I will try out her sabji.
See her pic below…Her shop is next to A-271, Okhla, Phase 1, opposite to Intex Service Center.
Sometimes your own blog post can act as a source of inspiration for a poem.
I discovered this recently when I found myself developing a poem ‘A Good Government’ from the first paragraph of my article ‘Feeling Safe.’
This poem is now on Poemhunter.com
On 5 September 2017, two groups of exhausted, overworked, and digruntled managers sat in two different rooms of a 5-star luxury hotel in Delhi. They were participating, or rather, trying to participate, in a new product launch training session of a well-known car brand in India.
It should have been a very refreshing session as it was held in the best possible setting that any corporate employee can imagine. Even the washrooms looked like well-maintained lounges with round tables and plush sofas.
With well-fed stomachs and fulfilled palettes, they sat through the one-day session crammed with several days’ content and ‘Group Activities.’ Their trainer tried his heroic best to keep them awake and ensure that they grasped as much of it as they could. At 6:30 PM, the session ended, to their utter relief.
With crestfallen faces, these young people walked out of the hotel, bracing themselves for another hectic day at their dealerships . The women, especially those who had come from other cities like Agra, Mathura, Jabalpur, etc had something additional to worry about. How to reach home in time and safely too within the constraints of a limited budget.
That evening, on my way home in a crowded mini-bus, with only a fraction of the new-product-launch-training in my head, I scrolled down the photos in my cellphone camera. The three most recent ones clicked that day made me smile. I was thrilled and I felt special. That’s when I realized that you don’t need too many things to be happy. Little ones are enough. Here are those pics.
Life exists on earth in different shapes and forms. Each one of us is a child of God and has every right to live in peace.
A nation’s law and order situation can be gauged by the existence of exclusive ‘women’s-only’ compartments in trains. When a country creates reserved spaces for women in its public spaces including trains, it indicates its empathy and sincerity towards ensuring safety of women. But it is also a symptom of its inability to provide 100% security to half of its population and a toothless judicial system.
Take Delhi as an example. Delhi Metro began running its classy, air-conditioned trains in 2002 with general compartments. Four years later, in 2006, DMRC (Delhi Metro Rail Corporation) was forced to reserve one compartment exclusively in all metro trains at all times when it became clear that the twin problems of groping and women’s molestation were so rampant that they could not be controlled through punitive action alone. Ever since then, Delhi Metro has turned into the safest and the most civilized space in Delhi. Women can travel in other compartments too in these trains, but men can’t travel in the ladies-only compartments. This rule is implemented very strictly and has been made a legal offense.
During Commonwealth Games in 2014, I got the chance to interact with a European woman in a Delhi Metro train. She was amused to find so many woman gathered together at one place. “Very unusual in my country,” she remarked.
Countries like Israel, Japan, India, Egypt, Iran, Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia, Phillipines, Malaysia, and UAE also have ladies-only compartments in their trains. But Singapore, which is famous for its exemplary standards in discipline, cleanliness, and orderliness in public spaces, has no ladies-only compartment in its MRT!
This proves what I am trying to say through this article, which is, that women-only spaces are needed only when law and order situation is not under control.
One Singaporean blogger ( (http://this-is-not-a-blog-.blogspot.in/2006/03/woman-only-train-compartments-in.html) concluded his article on this topic with “Woman only trains? Go to another country if you want them.“
Here’s another pic from inside a ladies compartment of the Delhi Metro.
People come and go, but this building stays, and the tree lives on with its memories of the days gone by…