I was always fond of food. More than quantity it was always about quality. I was never a Daal-chawal guy. So the event that I am recounting here though hilarious, at the time of occurrence really pissed me off.
It was in 1983 and I was in Calicut with my father attending to a relative who had taken ill and was admitted in Calicut medical college. As we were on vacation, both father and son had nothing better to do and daddy volunteered and recruited me along for the role of attendants. For me it was an exciting prospect since I had never experienced life in a hospital. To be honest, it was during this stay at Calicut Medical Hospital, that I realized I wasn’t cut-out for the medical profession. The slight of blood didn’t make me faint or throw-up but there was always this feeling of unease between the knees and ankle. To make things worse, while walking through the corridor, I happen to see the emergency staff attending to bus accident victims on the floor and make shift beds. It left quite an impression and the tip of the scale of my interest quickly shifted to physical sciences there-after.
Coming back to the story, during this stay, both me and daddy would go to the College canteen for food and since we were staying at the hospital, this very much meant breakfast, lunch and dinner. On the very first day, I found that the menu for breakfast was fixed. It was either bread-butter or masala dosa. With the limited offer, my choice was masala dosa. Being in South India, I expected a decent offer of masala dosa with good coconut chutney and sambar whose aroma would compete with that of coffee. When the masala dosa was served, it had a suspicious reddish tinge in the center. Being in a hospital compound, red really isnt the color one wants to see in his food. So sheepishly opening the folds of the dosa, I was dismayed to see beetroot instead of the standard potato serving in the masala dosa. Considering there was nothing else on the menu, I had to dig in without much cherish.
Attending to a patient, otherwise healthy but waiting for a routine operation is usually isn’t much fun. The conversation dries up and the usual paper which looks to have never ending stories or news to read suddenly looks so deprived of reading material you start feeling miserably sorry for not bringing your library along. Time stood still, so much so, the doctors round becomes a much awaited event, breaking the monotony. Besides this, the mind keeps on wondering if its time for the canteen break where the 20-30 minutes reprieve looks as a reward for the duty at hand. Typically, the stomach not being hungry but the brain being bored.
With the experience of the breakfast, I was eagerly waiting for lunch time hoping for something that would make-up for the morning disaster. The menu for lunch was very much fixed like breakfast, with the only choice being offered being veg-thali or a non-veg thali. The difference being the dal curry of the veg-thali was replaced with egg curry in the non-veg thali. My order was obvious, I ordered a non-veg thali. The offering being a large scoop of rice with two rotis and some lemon pickle and of course the egg curry and surprise-surprise fried diced beetroot along with it. I concentrated on the lone egg sitting in the gravy of chopped onions and tomatoes. To my horror, the egg was not boiled proper and when I broke it open, loose yoke oozed out. The attitude of the waiter was, “this is how we serve eggs here? Eat it or leave it”. He kind of intimidated me and I ate some rice with pickle and left.
Tea time was thus eagerly awaited and since the canteen was the only eatery in campus, I was promptly back at 4.30pm. The choice was between vegetable cutlets or samosa’s. Being from Delhi, samosa’s was routine, so I ordered for veg cutlets. They looked beautiful with their well fried crust. Cutting into it with my spoon, diced beetroot came tumbling out. I had had it and decided enough was enough. So I ordered for the time tested samosas. Guess you know whats next. Breaking into the samosa, I was nearly in tears finding beetroot instead of potatoes. Down with whatever money dad had given, I decided to make do with what I had and requested for ketchup. I was really hungry and needed to make sure money wasn’t wasted. Well, I was served a home-made ketchup made of beetroot.
Need I say, I didn’t return for dinner that day……….for that matter, any return. The only return has been as narrations to friends over coffee to laugh on my miserable day of 1983.