Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Junk Food

I hate the word 'hiatus' so I won't use it to describe the past inactivity. I hate it because every other blog has a post which
Jai Jai Shiv Shankar: One of those divine eateries
has the word in the first paragraph. The blog owners hardly write anything for long and then use the word in their comeback sentence. The blogs and their titles also generally have words like 'rants',''rambling', 'disturbed' usually describing the owner's mind. Most of the stuff on the blog goes well with the nomenclature. I hate those words too.

And those blogs. And those people. I've never met them but I know I'll hate them when I do meet them. I'm wishing that I don't so that I have lesser people (and this is not supposed to be a pun) to hate. This blog is also guilty on some counts on which I've charged others. But I'm hoping the guilt goes away with the acceptance.

This post wasn't supposed to be about things I hate. It gets very difficult to write about things that I don't hate because they don't usually instill the same passion, zeal and enthusiasm that need to be channelised to compose a blog post. Today, after so many days, things are beginning to look different. After a walk back among the familiar streets, eating Alu Bonda from the same old thela, red hot, juicy jalebis form the roadside shack, golgappas from the same old street corner, I'm indebted to write something about the abundant yet entirely palatable delights that for me are an integral part of the city experience.

The easy and round the clock availability is more out of necessity than an unusual appetite. Jamshedpur being an industrial town has a whole set of industries. The large ones are the largest ones (Tata Steel, Tata Motors et al) which work in multiple shifts, the small ones are too many to talk about. In simple ergonomical terms, this means a huge amount of food is required all round the clock, all across the city. Everyone doesn't have a loving dedicated wife who would wake at 5 AM and make breakfast for her husband and then pack lunch. Unmarried people can forget even that hypothetical luxury. So, out of this rather pressing need is born a network of junk food stalls, majority of them being on wheels so that the mobility doesn't take a hit. It becomes easier to shift from one company to another, one shift to the other, a place in the chilling sun to a place in the shade under a tree.

It serves very well for those not in such immediate need too. Very well in fact. My brother and I virtually lived off junk food. Mornings saw thelas selling dosas or bicycles loaded with idlis, sambhar and chutney in containers dangling precariously on the sides cross our street, and make a long pause near our house. Breakfast call. After a certain age tiffins became redundant too, and a rupee or two bought us samosas from the stall outside school. The evening cricket session with friends often ended with a post match analysis session near the golgappa stall. The stillness of nights was filled with near musical sounds ('sweeter than Lata Mangeshkar's voice' to borrow my bro's description) of dosa wallah beating his cooking stick (whatever it is called) on his pan. 'Ting..ting...ting..' the sound went, sending us kids into a trance and making us follow this enchanting music and chase the modern pied piper, street after street, house after house. Sorry, these things get the poet out of me, however inept he may be. There was provision for dessert too, for the bells of the matka kulfi wallah and the loud local music blaring out of loudspeakers from the chuski (catchy name isn't it) wallah were well attended too. Some days those were.

Bombay had the vada pav and samosa pav and mysore masala dosas that played their part in keeping me alive. But, I'll come back to my hometown junk any day. Also, the golgappas in metros are a disgrace to the name. Come here golgappa lovers, for they are much bigger, juicer, spicy, bulky than where you come from. And much, much cheaper, though that is never an issue.

This is not all. There the weirdest of things like murga achaar (still trying to figure out what that could be). Globalisation has hit junk too, for there are there are numerous roadside stalls selling their version of Chinese Food (with innovative spellings like 'Chainese' or 'Cheeneess' , who can deny these delicacies). Egg rolls, chaat and my very favourite Litti (made of Sattu:the fast food of bihar; to be eaten to be believed) can be found aplenty. Juices you might have tasted, but surely not 'bel' (pronounced bail or bale whatever suits you) juice, a fruit I haven't seen elsewhere (haven't looked is an entirely different matter.) You got to love this place.

Talking of places to eat, people from out of town, the sophisticated big town types, find it very difficult to get a good place. That's because the idea here is eat, pay and leave. Quick. Not hang around till eternity, order from menus decorated like fairy tale books, wait till you die for the food and then lose more weight of money than the weight of food taken in. I'll hate when it comes to that here.

There, the post begins and ends with hate. Thankfully there is a lot of love in between. Love that makes me crave to come back home. Like Warney craved for his baked beans and spaghetti when he was beaten around by Sachin, I too want to sink my teeth into the most delicious bondas and stuff my mouth with golgappas the size of cricket balls when I am beat. For that matter even when I am not. Ah gluttony, is it a sin anymore?

The best part is that all this is a symbiotic relationship. We feed on them, they feed on us. The balance of nature. Beautiful.