A friend of mine has this theory that you can understand a lot about the culture of a place in India by just sitting in a train which is heading there. Well, I don’t really know about other places in India, but I can say this for a Gujarat train. Nothing exemplifies the Gujarati love for food better.
I quite like Gujarati food, but what I am amazed by is the kind of stuff they pack up for a train. Rotis, sabjis, khakra, pickles, achaar, fruits, vegetables, a knife to chop them to make a salad and bottles and bottles of chaas. And many also get down at stations to pick up some vada, pakoda, and puri bhaaji.
I remember one journey where a family got in at some place after Surat, and were supposed to get off at Vadodara. A journey of just about two hours, three hours max. They carried with them khakhra, achaar, fresh veggies and a knife, and five bottles of chaas. I was gazing awestruck and hoping against hope that they will give me something, but no luck. I then went off to sleep on my berth to cry over my bad luck.
What enthusiasm 🙂 And what variety and yumminess. We poor tamilians mostly carry Puliyogare and curd rice. I have nothing against them, I like puliyogare and get into depression if I am denied my daily dose of curd rice, but somehow in a train, these seem to be the least appetizing food. Which is probably why I never pack food while travelling.
After a few such experiences, we are now trying to ensure that we don’t drown in self-pity when we are on the train. But seriously nothing works. We once travelled by Shatabdi, and were served some very good food including soft paneer and warm rotis. The family behind us then opened their own dabbas to compliment the train food (does anyone else carry food on shatabdi, by the way). There was a smell of the most amazing fried bhendi, which immediately put all the food we had to shame.
Again, on a recent trip to Bangalore, I decided to arm myself, and so packed lots of alu parathas with achaar. I got into the train and saw that in my compartment, it was not a family traveling, but three young students/working men. I congratulated myself, what I had could definitely beat their food. I had virtuously decided I will share some of my parathas with them. Come lunch time and they roll out a big box of theplas, fried alu, dry chili achaar and bhujia. And none of them felt virtuous enough to offer me anything.