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Indigestible memories of some travel grubs

Indigestible memories of some travel grubs
Highlights

Everything is not often spic and span when it comes to eating outside.

Everything is not often spic and span when it comes to eating outside. Plates, glasses and cutleries may not be as clean as they look in classy hotels and chic bistros. If it is a wayside

eatery, then things are at their worst. When I see the obsession to cleanliness in the present times, I remember some nauseating experiences I had way back in fifties.

Alighting the train at Old Delhi Junction, I headed to a vendor on the platform selling hot puris from his handcart.

I ordered puris for one rupee that was to get me five big ones of them - so cheap were eatables those days.

Pulling out a leaf-plate from a stack of them beside him, the vendor rubbed it against that part of his trousers covering his rusty-dusty to wipe off the tiny droplets sparsely dotting the plate.

Sick to my stomach at the ugly sight, I asked him to keep the plate aside and pick another one from the lot. Before putting puris on it, he unfailingly repeated the same obnoxious act of rubbing it against his rear end and this prompted me to order him to select the third one.

This time, I peevishly snatched the plate from his hand and in a trice, scurried to a nearby water tap on the platform, washed it and returned to him asking him to place the stuff directly on the plate. In quick response, he placed on the wet plate in my hand, a set of hot puris washed down with a cup of Aloo Sabji.

Those days, every train running long-distance used to have a dining car attached to it somewhere in the middle that had in itself a kitchen for preparing food and a dining hall for passengers.

Travelling by New Delhi-Madras Grand Trunk Express I once chanced to be too late for my breakfast, hence sitting on a seat in a compartment next to the dining car. I was looking for any waiters carrying items of food.

Luck coming soon in my favour, one of the waiters I found emerging from the kitchen car with a bowl of upma on a tray.

A hardcore upma fan, I stopped him straight and asked for a plateful of the scrummy stuff. Picking a saucer from the tray, he rubbed it with the grimy towel hanging on his shoulder to wipe the few droplets of water left on it.

The loathsome sight of rubbing the clean dish with a grubby towel metamorphosed my appetite into anger compelling him to serve me the stuff on another saucer without chafing it with the cloth. His implicit acceptance to do what I ordered slaked my hunger.

Some of us overly fastidious about cleanliness of crockery are wont to wipe the well-washed items of crockery dry with cloth before laying any item of food on them, unaware that the dots of water remaining on washed crockery might benumb only crisp snacks like biscuit, chips, langue de chat and all that jazz and nothing else served in them.

The very presence of the few clean, water droplets sticking to the washed crockery is itself proof enough for their meticulous cleanliness. Wiping them might earn the disgust of those having to eat from them.

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