Breakfast in Agra. Circa 1985.

As I discovered to my dismay as a little kid, a typical day in Agra begins like this. Nobody eats at their house, like normal people. Instead, of an early morning, the Agravations (if they may be called that) head to an emporium of delights, manned by a man called a Halwai. Same Halwai has two cauldrons full of smoking hot mustard oil. A foul fume that causes many a vacationing schoolboy to tear up and try to stop breathing. In which are cooked poodis. Pronounced a la Gudgaon. Served in containers fashioned cleverly out of some waxy leaf and broomsticks. Which would in today’s times be lauded for its greenness and low carbon footprint. The whole place crowded with milling folks because in the midst of all this culinary ability was lost the need for a few basic things like tables and chairs. Cleanliness would’ve been great, but this is Agra, and the ring made of betel leaf binds all men to darkness. So the poodis are served up with what would be called a mashup of potatoes and  more leaves, more likely some low weed or the other. Waterproofness of the waxy leaves notwithstanding, the mashup and fluid within, like life, would find its way to your palm causing you to shudder violently and fling the whole mess toward earlier such flung items, and if you happened to miscalculate force required, direction and velocity of the prevailing wind and objects in the way, well that’s another anecdote altogether, which we will call How To Pick a Fight in Agra.

By now, you’re looking to wash all this down with a suitable beverage. Behold the Kullad Ka Doodh. That’s milk in a pot. Made of mud. To imagine what it’s like to experience this, imagine a cow being milked, an odd pull causes some milk to miss the bucket and land on the ground. To this situation, add some sugar. Milk, sugar, mud. What’s not to like?

Why don’t the Agravations eat in their homes you might ask? Damned if I know. Probably because you don’t eat where you shit.

First published in KIRIK 01, February 2010

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