A Date with Street-snacks and begging

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‘From food all creatures are produced. And all creatures that dwell on earth, by food they live and into food they finally pass. Food is the chief among beings. Verily he obtains all good who worships the Divine as food.’ (Taittiriya Upanishad)

The dignified streets of Bhubaneswar, which cross each other at 90 degrees, like the ones of erstwhile Mahenjodaro and Harappa millennia ago, host, beside their seasonal explosions of rivers of colour, well-meaning Samaritans (let’s be on a cheerful note and not think of the occasional disruptive water-logging!). But to bump into them you need to be an absentminded professor, particularly one who can’t resist the aroma of street-snacks when hungry.

The educated world pampers absentminded professors; they are allowed to smack into trees on the sidewalks, lampposts, co-pedestrians, ask ‘the way to the State Library’ standing before the building itself, and many such. Well, I have done almost all of this, and have gotten away with indulgent grins, till one afternoon I wished I were not one. On my way to Pantaloons (shopping transcends both bored housewives and singles) I stopped by a vendor of dahivada-aludum, because I can’t resist a synchronized empty stomach and the smell of the curried potato of a ‘dahivada-aludum’ vendor. I ordered my plate of aludum – curried potato, the vendors’ style (I have stopped eating dahivada long long ago, after one day I saw from my balcony one dahivada-aludum vendor stop by the roadside, park his bicycle, pee, facing my flat, get back to his seat, set out again, without so much of rinsing his hands after the act (sorry, all you lovers of street-snacks there). I made sure he used the ladle, and gave me a leaf-made quarter-bowl and a disposable (?) spoon. I was backed by four other team-members with good- bad- indifferent vibes.

As I relished the stuff (the vendor knew his job well), I was amazed at the personal bonhomie he shared with the customers. No one spoke, but he added extra onion crumbs for one; poured diluted curd with crushed green chilly (personally executed) into the plate of a customer with a  weathered and drooping face; added extra four pieces of vada for an unprovoked customer, and so on…  I did not bother him with any added service; perhaps they were his regulars, but the scene was touching.

Like all good things must come to an end I finished, and opened my purse for the final ritual, and the lone two-thousand pink note winked at me. Com’on Professor … what do I do? Screaming at the PM will not solve my immediate crisis. I asked my team if they had change! None. I asked the vendor. No! I frisked all the chambers of my purse…. 6 one rupee coins, will anyone pay 4 rupees for me, please? And lo, all four with the zeal of medieval knights take out one, two, three, four one-rupee coins! Pl, one of you, I say meekly, and no idea how to feel about being a beggar!

Blessings on you, beautiful Bhubaneswar!

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