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I came across a byte how the “pakorawala’s” shot into fame when they were mentioned in certain despatches in the Rajya Sabha. The famous “chaiwala” has already left a mark and now is a chance for this man to come to lime light. I saw many news anchors; mind you head of news channels going around their studios tasting various types of pakoras made by these hard working simpletons. I am convinced that to become successful in this country one has to either become a chaiwala or a pakorawala. This reminded me of days many moons back when “khalis doodh ki cha” and “garma garam pakoras” were in vogue.

I honed my skills of making chai as a little boy. The cuppa tea I used to brew used to be one litre of pure “bhains” milk, two big table spoons of tea leaves, two green elaichi’s nice and crushed in a “kharal”, four or five big spoons full of sugar and boil all these together. Tea used to be a minimum “dus ubala” which meant the concoction used to rise and fall at full heat in the “degchi” ten times. The dancing tea leaves would come up to the brim and then I used to lift the vessel off the “pump wala stove” to let it settle down and repeat. Then put one tea spoon of tea leaves in the “channi” and pour the liquid into my mug enamel. The brownish colour used change to coffee colour and that’s what I called a good cuppa steaming hot tea.

Well, if chai comes can pakoras be far behind. My favourite used to be bread pakoras. The “besan” coated ones I used to relish “aloo bhar ke”. All these were deep fried and in fact in the good old days it used to be in Dalda or Rath ghee. I recall dalda used to be a yellow colour tin with a few palm trees and Rath used to be a sky blue one with a chariot printed on it. Later they started calling it vanaspati, I couldn’t make out the difference. Much later refined oil came in. Today, if you tell the doctor that I had ghee, he will start looking at his watch as if my time to walk this earth is over.

They say that my dad’s era used to be of desi ghee, my era was of dalda and the present generation are the refined oil kinds. Meaning that all the desi ghee kinds were strong and hard working, the dalda kinds worked hard but the refined oil ones just don’t (pun intended). Never heard my dad or grand dad fall ill or had cold or cough. Their sweet dish used to be a hot cup of sweetened milk with a big spoon of desi ghee and a dash of haldi. Halwa of any kind meant ghee floating on top. “Tarka” meant shudh home made desi ghee ka tarka. Roti always had ghee “chipor” ke.

I remember in my ancestral home town doodh & jalebi made in pure ghee used to be a staple breakfast. There used to be long queues to get that crispy, juicy, entangled piece of sweet. The way the halwai used to “fainto” the milk and jalebi’s together was a treat to watch. The milk used to drop more than a meter and a half & not a drop used to spill. The attraction to eat was not only to do with the taste but the presentation of the milky wonder.

In Punjab it used to “chola bhaturas”. Deep fried ones in ghee. The small flour ball was pressed and lifted in the palm. Two or three claps of the hands used to turn it into a bhatura. Then with an artistic throw in the piping hot Jacuzzi of ghee with the anti clock wise rotation it used to be chucked in. Swirling and turning as it went down. Before the bhatura hit the bottom of the “kadhai” it used to start rising. A huge sieve used to press upon it. Out of the bubbling ghee used to pop a crispy bhatura which was flipped in style while the next one was thrown in. All of us used to wait for our turn, mouth salivating all this while.

One could never master was the chutney these “rehriwala’s” used to make. Mom could never replicate that taste. Their green and red chutney was different from our home made ones. Everything was served on a “pattal” and licked clean by us. At the end of it asking for additional free chutney was our birth right. The “committee ka nalka” was the only source of water for the burns in the mouth. If we were lucky, it used to be a bottle of “milk badam” or “bante wala soda” from the next thela.

Life has moved on, the place where I am is “vada pao” and “kanda bhajia” territory. Let me assure you the taste is out of the world. Order a plate and you will repeat the order before finishing it. I dare say should these pakorawals go on strike; there will be hell to pay. Will they be able to live a life of dignity as was mentioned in the august house? I wonder!!!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis