November 21, 2007

Sound, lights, butter non

More nuggets from Bom-Delhi and back by road.


In Chittaurgarh after a spectacular sound-and-light show, we stopped at a small roadside dhaba for dinner. Our littlest was asleep when we stopped, so we actually drove the car right up near our table, leaving her to snooze while we sat down to partake.

The young waiter came over at a near-run, so happy did he seem to see us. Even though there was a menu -- of which more anon -- he proceeded to rattle off the available dishes. So fast did he rattle that I had to motion to him to slow down. Which prompted him to throw his head back and guffaw into the night sky, so heartily and uproariously that I had to motion to him, again, to slow down. Which only set off more guffaws.

And what a meal. The finest dal-bati this side of ... well, somewhere. Made piping hot right in front of us. Some excellent long green chillis to garnish. Is there anything quite as electrifyingly tasty as nibbling at a really good green chilli, while aware that's there's yummy dal-bati still to be had? Absolutely not.

Meanwhile, an off-white bull stood still at my shoulder, in between me and the car, all through the meal. Hopefully, it eyed a roti on one of the plates on our table. At one point I turned to check on our littlest, and realized that friend bull was close enough to kiss. Or his lips were. Though no, I didn't indulge.

After 45 minutes standing there, the bull got impatient. Or pulled together his courage, I don't know. He took a step forward, craned his neck, tilted his head, and went for the roti.

We let him have it. Seemed fair.


One of the joys of travel, of course, is the great variety of food you get to sample. That is, variety at least according to the printed word. For example, in Ahmedabad our breakfast bill included something called "Cheese Sanbuichi." Probably Japanese, I'm surmising, though I'm hard-pressed to recall which precise breakfast dish among the ones we consumed was Japanese. And the dinner menu had both "Frech fries" and "veg criquits". Besides, three separate menu items were named "Rich brown gravy", "Rich red gravy" and "Exotic brown gravy."

But the cake was taken by the selfsame Chittaurgarh dhaba, whose afore-mentioned menu ("For Lunch & Dineer & Brake Fast") was like winning the jackpot.

There was Cream Kopta and Mix Vag, Milk Sav Tamato and Staff Tamato. There was a Speshal Thali which featured, among other items, Paneer Masroom. There was Kaskmiri Pulav and Papad Rosted. By way of stuff, or staff, to drink, there were two lists titled, naturally, "Cold Drink" and "Warm Drink"; under one of them, I forget which, I found Bislery and Sevanup. And the selection of salads was impressive: Laman Onian, Karchumar, Tomato Suf Curd and Way were all listed, as was Food Rayata (written in parallel in Hindi as Phrood Raita).

There was Bater Roti, Non and Butter Non. ("Non what?" I asked. "Non-sequitur," the previously featured guffawing waiter advised me). (Non really).

And of course, there was Ladies Masala.

To understand which, I had to consult the Hindi translation: Bhindi Masala.

And finally, there was this admonition in Hindi alone: Jo Hoga Vahi Milega ("What there is, you will get").

Not that I had planned to order something that wasn't there.


That sound-and-light show. Splendid setting, beautifully done. But as the crowd filtered in and took the plastic seats -- with at least two sets of schoolkids, there must have been easily a few hundred present -- as we got seated, I noticed one of the attendants moving through the audience, picking up empty chairs and stacking them at the back. One from next to me. I thought, maybe this guy knows how many tickets have been sold, and he's making a start on his post-show job of clearing up.

But no. People kept streaming in. Before too long, the new entrants sported a nonplussed look: we've bought tickets, but there are no seats for us. They sat on the stairs, on the parapet at the back -- all while dozens of empty chairs lay around in those stacks. Some tried to take the chairs, only to have the attendant run up and stop them.

Guy beside me and I, we went over and asked the attendant, what's the deal with the stacked chairs? "Koi VIP aa rahe hain," he said. ("Some VIP is coming.")

I'm not sure what the connection was, though I'm sure there was one. Guy beside me and I, we turned to the people on the stairs and standing around nonplussed and said: "You guys are the VIPs. Please just take the chairs." Which they did.

I have no idea if any VIP did show up, and if so who s/he was, and if s/he got a seat. If said VIP was you, I hope you enjoyed the show.


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