Ragi mudde

I could barely smell anything and had to blow my nose every ten seconds as we walked to the place. It wasn’t far from home. “just here”, “just here” Neil kept saying. Naffah was being grumpy, upset that we kept talking about his receding hairline.

It wasn’t out fault. What would you do if the old class jock turned in a eternally exhausted, almost bald 18 year old engineering student? Naffah has an odd face that never stops smiling, so you can never tell if he’s angry just by looking at him. The waiter gave him a weird look, as he grumbled. The place smelt bad and Naffah grumbled about Neil’s’ terrible taste. Thanks to his face, we weren’t sure if he was really upset. There were a lot of people around but we found a wobbly bench and wet steel topped table before anyone else did. It was probably a house before it was tuned into a restaurant. Naffah was convinced the walls were made from mud.

Neil kept shouting to people he knew or at least claimed to know. The military hotel which lacked any signboard or name was just called ”the military hotel”. It was a small place a little away from the local temple, which meant that a crowd was always around. Thankfully we didn’t have to look at our feet and pretend not to know Neil for long. The service was fast. Naffah was convinced that this was because they were giving us yesterdays’ food. I told him to find a toothpick and jab at his Ragi mudde to make sure there weren’t lizards in there. He smiled, but Neil  insisted Naffah was annoyed.

We all ordered the same thing. My food tasted bland, maybe it was because I was sick. Neil told me to soak it in chutney, so I did. The experience improved considerably. Naffah smiled and asked me if I wanted a spoon to check for grasshoppers in the chutney. I decided grasshoppers were delicious and really should be used more often if that means food will be so cheap.

Neil started calling out to people again and Naffah tried to borrow through the table with his forehead. He got some bits of food on his head but I didn’t say a thing. He doesn’t like it when people remind him that he’s balding you see. Neil ordered another plate that took a lot longer than the first order. The place had gotten more crowded as the school nearby closed and mid day sun waned. We ate everything on Neil’s’ plate as revenge for his repeated public hollers.

Naffah got a call and left early to do engineering things and loose more hair. Neil called some of his friends over and wanted to order more food. I thought the food was kind of bland, or maybe my cold made everything bland, so I left before Neil realized I hadn’t paid for my food.

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When I Hated Tomatos

I can’t think of any dish I hated as a kid and came to like later. However I do remember I never liked tomatoes as a kid and I can’t get enough of them these days.

I don’t mean to say I like putting tomatoes on everything [well I do] what I mean is I like eating tomatoes by themselves. Tomatoes I have discovered taste really good even when they aren’t cut up and put on stuff. Just take a bite out of one and you’ll see. I once ate seven tomatoes in fourteen bites.

I still have friends who pick out tomatoes from what they’re eating. Lonely bread crusts and tomatoes are a common sight on used plates. It’s a tragedy really. Did you know there a thousands of tomato species that are going to go extinct because people don’t care about the sort of tomatoes they eat?

The first time I realized tomatoes taste amazing is when there were a bunch of stray tomatoes were in the fridge. They were tiny, a little bigger than a finger nail, I had no idea what they were so I ate it. I don’t know why but ever since I’ve fallen in love with tomatoes. I stopped putting them away, I actually looked forward to eating them. Sometimes I just ate tomatoes when I was too lazy to cook. Maybe they were magic tomatoes.

I don’t understand how those juicy little orbs ever managed to repel me. I remember how I used to cringe every time I came across them and put them away. Burgers, Pizzas etc were all ripped to shreds with knives and fingers in my attempts to get rid of them. Tomatoes never seemed to go with anything.

There’s a lot you can do with tomatoes that doesn’t need a lot of work. Just heat them up a little ,after you cut them in two, and they taste amazing. I wasn’t long ago when I discovered the wonders of tomatoes I can still recollect the cringes that tomatoes used to brings. I don’t know how to describe it. all I can do is head to the fridge and eat a couple more of them.

Pipes and sugarcane

On the way home there’s a man who makes sugarcane juice which, I am always surprised to find, is the best I’ve ever tasted.

I walk everywhere. I can’t ride a scooter, I don’t like buses or autos and my bike was stolen 5 years ago. So I’ve no option but to walk. I’ve come to like it. I walk 10 km every day, the distance doesn’t matter anymore I only look at the amount of time it will take me to get where I want to go.

The earlier college ends the more inconvenient it gets. The heat and lack of trees along the footpath makes the road home a death sentence. Usually I try reading a book on my phone. If the chapter is good and the battery can sustain the brightness needed to read from a screen while the sun boils above you, I fail to notice the heat. Every day I realize I have forgotten to refill my water bottle. The water from the college purifiers might always taste funny, like they have someone’s medications dropped in them, but thirst makes me do crazy things.

Back when I was a kid my father would always stop at every little road side stall and buy something. He’d ask me if I wanted some juice. I’d always say “no need”. He’d buy two glasses anyway. I hated it. The fact that my father would insist on not having any sugar or anything other than pure juice in the glasses didn’t make it any more tolerable. Memories of me gagging, every time someone asked me if I wanted sugarcane juice, come back to me every time I drink sugar cane these days.

The man who sells sugarcane has his little setup next to the empty bus stop on Berlie Street which is always crowded on the way to college. He seems to follow some seasonal pattern, like those trees with purple flowers on the way home. I don’t know what the trees are called but they have this ability to stay unnoticed until they decide to, for a short period of time, shed their purple flowers and colour the road purple. I still haven’t figured out his annual pattern of disappearance though. I wonder where he goes for all those months. How does he manage to pay his bills if he keeps disappearing every other season?

I always hesitate when I see him. I don’t like giving away the ten rupee notes I have. I feel terrible about giving him a hundred, the guy always need change. We give each other a knowing nod. Sometimes I feel obliged to buy juice if he notices me. Sometimes he seems to resent the fact that he has to put away his paper and start crushing the cane. I’ve never heard him say a word, but he wears sly smiles on occasions.

He isn’t always by his stall. Occasionally he sits in the bus stop. You’d think he was a regular who had no business staying there for more than a few minutes. The loud tin box where he stores his crumpled, moist notes always remains neglected on his little stall. On other days he sits and skins the huge bundles of cane that he keeps against the trees that shades his stall. There can be no doubt about his popularity if he really manages to sell all that cane. On some cloudy days I see him sitting with the man who sells chaats on the other side of the bus stop. He never says a word to him either. He has never shown any interest in going back to his stall and selling cane on those days. He just stares, maybe telling me I don’t have to buy anything today.

Every time I drink the Sugarcane I’m surprised how cold it is, how relaxing it is, how it makes me realize that I’ve been walking all day only to make me forget a second later. No matter how many times I remind myself about how great it tastes, I’m always surprised by how it manages to blow me away. These baffling moments are when the Sugarcane guy puts on one of those sly smiles.

His little stall has green plastic pipes in it. The one you’d normally use to water plants. They look like they play some important role in his strange homemade contraption. You can’t really see them, until you realize he doesn’t have room for his legs behind his stall. Every time I try to see what they do, he makes a little hop to the side and hides the pipes. It’s a little suspicious, and road side stalls are shady enough. But the always surprisingly amazing taste makes up for any suspicious pipes and sly smiles.

His stall is green just like those pipes and looks like any other. Those pipes are the only things that stand out. Most people don’t even seem to notice the pipes. The juice serves as an excellent distraction and you find it hard to care about those little green pipes. I can’t help but wonder if there was some great genetic modification that made sugarcane taste better. Was it even sugarcane I used to drink back when I was young? I don’t know and realize that, like always, I have chugged everything down too fast for me to savour the taste. I don’t regret it though. I’ll just buy some more some other day.

His unending silence, the good taste that just doesn’t make sense till you drink it, the mysterious pipes and smiles, and his seasonal disappearance makes me wonder if he’s a genie.

Food a day after

I thought about calling this entry “Wet Chapatti” until I realized how dirty that sounds.

I don’t eat meat, I don’t eat rice and I hate anything that has curds on it so my diet is rather limited.  Most of what I eat is wheat based. Chapattis are my main source of sustenance . My cook makes Chapatti when he tuns up at around 8 in the morning, earphone buried in his heads, in the middle of a loud never ending conversation with someone.  I eat yesterdays chapatis for breakfast before he takes off his ever present black cap, starts cooking and I pack yesterdays chapatis for lunch. The only time I eat what he makes on the day he makes it is during dinner. Sunday is miscellaneous food day.I have a system. A cycle which always feels weird when broken.

The chapatis taste good. But after eating them for so long, I’m more concerned with how normal they taste. Good stops being a relevant category when you get so familiar with some you eat. And I’ve eaten these Chapattis for years. Everyday 4 chapattis ,out of the 20 or so, aren’t normal. The one’s who stay at the top of the box and the one’s at the bottom always manage to get a little moist.  It’s evaporation that’s at fault here. They taste like wet atta and I try to get them out of the way before they make the rest of them taste terrible. It always looks like they start ruining the other chapattis they rest on the second I see them.

I hate how chapattis taste when they get wet. It’s odd I suppose since all my efforts at keeping them dry is futile. Everything you eat a chapatti with is going going to make it wet. Hell eating it makes it wet. But I still hate it. Occasionally I’ll notice if a curry doesn’t taste very good.  I usually read or watch something while I eat so it doesn’t bother me. After you spend so much eating the same thing over and over again, you need something to distract you.

I know the taste too well to care sometimes. If the cook makes something new I.E if there are ingredients in the fridge, I actually notice. He makes good food. always spicy. I wonder how he knows since I’ve never actually told him anything about food. He likes cricket and is from some northern part of the country. He speaks Hindi or something like it. His accent makes it hard to understand. A real nice guy.

So if there’s something news and the cook has enough oil. I’ll taste something spicy, something familiar. I’ll change the cycle a little bit and I’ll eat 8 instead of 5 chapattis.