Some places and some foods have a lot of baggage attached to them. A particular food joint in Delhi fills me with nostalgia about all our trips to Delhi that would be incomplete without their lassi and chole bhature.
A few years ago, I had to go to Delhi for work, for a day. The office was close to this joint so I decided to squeeze in some time for my gastronomic delight. The only time I could manage was after work, on my way back to the railway station. So, I reached there, with my luggage, to find a queue for a table. O well, I had a couple of hours on hand, so I decided to wait. After about three quarters of an hour, of standing outside, with my bag full of files, I got a table. I had to share this with an elderly Sikh couple (let us call them Mrs. and Mr. Singh).
I ordered my favourite chole bhature and decided to skip the lassi as it was late evening- not my preferred time for a cold beverage. The elderly couple ordered two plates of chole bhature and three glasses of lassi, telling me the third one was for me. I looked at them, trying to protest. I did not know them so felt uncomfortable. Mrs. Singh very affectionately told me that no meal is ever complete without lassi and since I had obviously been waiting for so long, I deserved a little reward. And so, we got talking about food while waiting for our meal to arrive.
The waiter brought in two plates of chole bhature and they passed one to me. I said I can wait for mine to arrive but they were insistent. So, we started eating. I savoured every bite of my food and washed it all down with the lassi. Our meal was interspersed with all our isolated memories of this place and our collective love for their food. I was actually enjoying their company.
After the meal, owing to my sweet tooth, I ordered gulab jamun for all of us. I wanted to return their favour. Finally, the waiter arrived with the bill. Mr. Singh took the paper out of his hand and started counting the money, paying for me as well. I protested and felt very awkward, even suspicious. But they just would not take no for an answer. Then Mrs. Singh said something which changed something inside me. She said that they have two daughters who live alone and away from family in Pune and Hyderabad for their studies, and someday even they might have to turn to strangers for help. So, by sharing a meal with me, they are helping someone else’s daughter who is also alone. I did not know what to say except for an awkward thank you. Mrs. Singh further told me that if I wanted to repay them, I should do a good deed for some stranger. This way the goodness will pass on.
This incident made me realize that goodness has not completely disappeared. Good, kind, simple people still exist. If we shed our suspicions, we can experience some of it. Also, it is not important to return the favour but to pass it on as a selfless act. It also made me question as to why do we not trust people anymore, why do we put on our guards all the time? Has all this stopped us from enjoying the small pleasures of life? I don’t even know their names but this elderly couple taught me to trust again and to be good to others. Try it, it is very refreshing!
Anahita Suri, Assistant Professor, School of Fashion Design, Unitedworld Institute of Design (UID)
Disclaimer: The opinions / views expressed in this article are solely of the author in his / her individual capacity. They do not purport to reflect the opinions and/or views of the College and/or University or its members.