My Dhaba Chronicle
For most people, Sundays are the true highlights of their entire weekends. When asked what activity is their favorite thing to do on the one day when they are privileged with some free time, well the answers could range from reading a book to just about anything. However, today, let a foodie like me explain why there isn’t anything out there that is possibly more satisfying than a Sunday started off on a dynamic, calorie packed, breakfast from your local dhaba! After all, what other activities can confidently boast to be light on your pockets but nourishing to both the soul and the body?
It is early in the morning. The winter fog still droops low over the city, towering over like a stupendous cloud that is here to say its final goodbyes. The sky is bathed in hues of orange, crimson and red, as the morning sun is mounting up and announcing the dawn of the new day. Half of the people are still asleep, leaving the rest of city to appear as if a tranquil and hushed scene straight out of a Van Gough’s soothing painting of a country side.
And so here you are basking in the morning sun’s warmth, lounging dreamily onto a sturdy brown charpae, covered all over with embroidered velvety cushions in bright notes of purple and red. The rugged and old radio set hums drums a timeless classic melody from the 70’s while the owner of the dhaba murmurs to himself the song’s joyful lyrics.
He is kneading a soft yellow ball of dough, and smoothing it out into flat circular disks on a wooden base. With a sprinkling gesture of his hands, he drizzles some dry flour onto the flattened doughs and lifts one off into the air and begins to momentously clap the dough between the palms of his hand. The dough whirls and flattens out in the gap between his palms, and the moment it stretches out into just the right diameter, the man tosses it down onto a glowing hot charcoal black pan drenched in thick viscous golden layer of burning oil.
As the dough falls onto the oil, it splutters hot vapors into the air, and a conundrum of sizzling and spluttering sounds surround the area like a fine tune. Your mouth waters as you are held captivated by the dainty whiffs of the aroma coming off from the parathas that are now furiously frying on the black pan. The man grabs a shiny metal tong and clicks it in anticipation of the right moment and then with a sudden flash, swoops down and clutches the crispy paratha off by its edges like an eagle does to an unsuspecting prey and drops it onto a waiting plate.
Without any delays, the man now picks up a comically white contrasting egg in the midst of the sooty smoke that surrounds the cooking zone and cracks it over the sizzling black pan. The egg lies frying, and the man pinches onto it fiery hot grinded red chilies and salt. The egg coagulates and swells up, and just when the edges of the egg white has turned honey brown and the egg yolk bulges like a golden sun, it’s lifted off and placed next to the awaiting paratha, breathing out hot humid steam into the air.
You now sit up onto your charpae, as the man places your breakfast onto a greasy plastic tray and presents it to you onto the chipped wooden table placed hastily at your front. As you take the final look at the last few moments in which the perfectly cooked egg on the side to the perfectly crisp paratha were still intact, you feel as if the Sunday has already been triumphed over and you delve right in.
There is, however, one last final blow that remains yet to be served. This, my friend, is the art of serving a cup of doodh patti that was crafted to its every tone! Just as you had reached in for the final bite, the man presents forth a tea cup that almost instantly tantalizes your senses with its electrifying aroma of freshly brewed tea. You look down onto the china bone cup, and the steaming brown tea.
As your frosty hands curve around the cup, a homely assuring warmth falls onto your palms. You take one sip from the tea and as it strikes its familiar sweet, bitter sticky strokes onto your tongue, you feel as if all the worries you once possessed had now melted away because you can suddenly look forward to another such week, since you’ll always have your dhaba to come to on a Sunday morning.