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« Education under occupation: it is never about democracy | Main | Income numberz from India (prasad) »

October 13, 2010


Thanks for the reminiscence, Narayan. I was a great aficionado and consumer of street food in India. Starting with the mouthwatering chana-choor & aam-papad /churan (dehydrated mango and tamarind pulp / a hot, tangy, sticky concoction made of mango powder, pomegranate seeds and spices) from vendors outside school boundaries, the peerless fruit chaats in Old Delhi and the gol-gappas around every street corner, I have had encounters with a wide variety of street food. I did not have a Brahminic father (he too would eat anything, anywhere) but did have a very hygienically fastidous mother who did not trust push cart food unless it came in some sort of protective covers (whole fruits and nuts within their shells). She used to be horrified by what I could eat and not fall down dead before her eyes. By the time I was in my late teens and early twenties, I managed to coax her to sample some of the goodies in a couple of relatively "clean" places. She loved them but still would not touch anything that had laid around in an uncovered basket, contained ice or cut fruit that had not been cut and peeled right before her eyes.

I did draw the line at eating meat from open push carts, perhaps only because I was never drunk enough to make the leap of faith. However, during college days, my favorite kebab joint was "Kake di Hatti," a Punjabi owned shack near Connaught Place and Pahar Ganj which always had a line of customers waiting to get in. The kebabs were amazing and one had to keep one's eyes averted from the goings on inside the kitchen which was visible from the dining area. I think the only reason why no one contracted horrible gastrointestinal infections at the place was that the turnover was so rapid and the meat cooked over such hot coal fire that it did not have the time to become a breeding ground for germs. ("Kake" has since been gentrified).

I experienced a similar vegetarian delight under far less dramatic circumstances than yours. The food was not quite "push cart" but it was at a tiny shop in a narrow, bustling alley way in a bazaar in Amritsar. One had to stand on the street and eat while the owner dished out the food from his narrow platform inside the shop and the food appeared through a hole in the wall via which he relayed the customers' orders to an invisible kitchen behind the shop.

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