On hearing the ban on butcheries in UP I was reminded of a friend of mine who used to strictly follow “Mar jana par daliya nahi khana”. I used to love this phrase which means I shall die but not eat porridge. Well, it is simple, such guys are pure non-vegetarians. I fall in the same category too. Now my vegetarian friends can cry hoarse about everything available in ghaas-phoos and paneer category, it is going to fall on deaf ears. They can scare me with the cholesterol, BP and affiliated diseases but they can forget it. I have tried eating everything on earth so I shall stick to what I love to eat.
I was brought up in a “Shikari” family and it used to be mutton, chicken, fish, rabbit, pork and shikar sometimes. If nothing else then it used to be Anda-Curry, as eggs were abundantly available due to the small little poultry we had at home. The best used to be any rooster doing “cock-a-doodle-do” at any odd time of the day especially disturbing dad during his afternoon siesta was in the pot in the evening. The freezer of the fridge was always stocked with fish. Big sized fish used to be pickled by mom. How can I ever forget that mouth watering taste?
By the way I was a vegetarian throughout NDA. In NDA someone briefed us wrong, that one gets to eat more on the vegetarian table. Someone said that ragging is less on the vegetarian side. Well, my senior Cheetah’s Prithpal, Munish, Sardana, Navneet, Katoch hey guys, thank you for teaching us table manners. Thank you for teaching us as to how to cut the butter piece into half. Thank you for teaching us how to eat a square meal. Thank you for teaching us how to eat soup with a fork, elbows off the table, hands on your lap, keep mum while you chew, swallow whatever you have in your mouth and then answer, how to drink water without that glug-glug-glug sound, how dishes were excused (means you could not eat them even if they were served), how to break bread and chapatti, how to split a toast, which hand, spoon and fork to use for which item. Thank you for giving us privileges for breaking a few slices of bread in the porridge. They also taught us how to chew 32 times (buggers used to count) and the list is endless. The only concession we used to get was exchanging our veg cutlets for eggs. Well, it was only in sixth term I ever had lunch in the mess on Sundays as they served fish. Most of NDA never turned up for lunch.
Mom used to be very particular when I used to get back from NDA on holidays. Bhindi and Aloo were the only things vegetarian I used to tolerate. One morning she gave me the left over non veg gravy of previous night’s dinner and a few fried eggs. I must have chepoed four solid lachhedaar parathas with it and asked for more. She said beta should I make more eggs, I said no give me the vegetable in the pot. She said you won’t eat, I said who says, and told her to make a few more parathas. NDA taught me the value of food. I could eat anything which moved or didn’t move. My mom said beta in the last 17 years this is the first time you have ever eaten karela. I didn’t have a heart to tell her that my appetite is so much that even if she adds poison to this karela I will eat it.
Unit was fun, one could eat whatever, but on non-veg days, I used to be twenty second down the line on the table. So the poor chicken either had only broken wings or mashed necks. Mutton used to be just bones. How hard our waiters Jagjit, Laalu & Gabbar used to try but could never manage a leg for us. In a couple of years I had many juniors so the fight used to be for roti’s then. I remained a vegetarian after getting married as far as fauji rations were concerned. In peace stations meat on hoof and chicken on paws supplied were never up to my liking.
In high altitude eating tinned tuna or dal-tarka made no difference as the smell of your farts and the shrillness in its noise never changed. I got on to catching trout in the Lukung River which falls into Pangang Tso. Lovely times we spent up stream, fresh trout, fresh yak, love and fresh air was the only way to survive. The pinjas made lovely thuppa, a meaty clear soup with noodles. In case they were in the mood then one could get freshly made sausages. Otherwise tinned milk, tinned veges, and tinned fruit soaked in that surgery sticky syrup used to be ultimate. The huge pooris called “phu-amcho” which actually meant and resembled “donkey’s ears” were a substitute for pooris in the morning. I considered them non-veg for obvious reasons. Come evening the fresh catch of the day was my meal.
While in the deserts, I have had 17 meals continuous, breakfast, lunch and dinner of partridges. Dry in the morning, gravy in the afternoon and as snacks with chota-chota in the evening. My .22 & fishing net were standard accessories on my numerous reconnaissance missions. All the lakes, canals and ponds were GPS fixes. Navigation to these places could be done blind folded. Early morning partridge shoots were ultimate. Jonga’s front wind shield down for better visibility, even in coldest of winters and thick fog. Spotters on the lookout, driver trained to halt the vehicle with the right angle to fire. By the time the sun used to be up, we used to have enough in our kitty and on the way back the shoot used to be for the officers of the Unit. Injured animals of the Gujjars and Bakarwals in Srinagar made us dependent on leopard’s daily kill. Most of my boys were from hill tribes, so cooking up a non-veg dish was like making anda bhujia at short notice. Good old days, guys you can’t think of it now.
Now I am in a coastal area, if yogiji will come here and see then he may ban the vegetables also, leave alone the illegal unlicensed butcheries. Here one will find a goat hanging in a straw hut, with a huge tree trunk on stilts with flies humming nosily drowning the sound of chop-chop. The only thing you can ask for here is “pure meat”. Well that doesn’t mean hygienically pure or the rest of the meat is impure but is without much bones and fat.
The only vegetarian thing I enjoy most is “Bhains ka doodh” with the finger thick malai. I am happy I am not is UP and yet to taste Tunde kebabas, so let me keep enjoying varieties of fish which are available here besides all forms of pure and impure meat. I have no dilemma whatsoever that I shall continue to stick to “Mar jana but dalia nahi khana” Any one joining me? I wonder!!!!!!!!!!!!!
© Noel Ellis