If eating outs were fun, eating in sometimes was fun too. Especially dinner on the last Friday of every month. Because then the cook uncles of the hostel canteen treated us with a mouth-watering feast, called the Grand Feast.
They cooked elaborate courses as a thank you gesture toward us for bearing with the “normal” meals for an entire month. Well, no, that was not the reason. I was just kidding.
The dinner hours were 7:30 – 9:30 pm. While on the other days the server uncles swatted stray flies waiting for people to arrive till at least 9, on the days of the Grand Feasts, they were at the advantage of having a long line of waiting girls with empty trays in front of them!
Each month they alternated between Indian and Indian version of Chinese food. It meant, we got either Biryani or Fried Rice to go with Chicken Chap or Chilli Chicken. Some vegetarian starters and the mandatory Rosogolla and vanilla ice cream for dessert!
Confusing combination of food. But we loved it. Sometimes we went to the feast together. 20 odd girls from our class, we’d all go together, occupy a long dining table and eat as if compensating for a month’s worth of missed dinners.
For this one day, we easily forgave all those watery dals and bland curries. We even felt proud for our cook uncles. And it seemed perfectly normal to get into an argument about – who cooked better? The boys’ canteen cooks or ours!
Silly things, really! But of immense importance to me. For its only the small things known to be the most efficient in fuelling nostalgia. And as I write it, my heart goes to the manager uncle, who always had a small bag with a smaller handle wrapped around his wrist. The way he remembered each of ours choice in food – “she does not like that type of piece of chicken, give her that.” Or, “Oh no not the deep fried ones, she likes her potatoes steamed!”
I don’t know if he is still the canteen manager there! Seven years is a long time! Isn’t it? Yet why does it feel like yesterday?
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