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News Entry# 288763
Dec 16 2016 (07:11)  Meals on wheels (
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Commentary/Human Interest

News Entry# 288763     
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Posted by: rdb*^  133024 news posts
Eating your way from Tata to Calcutta would mean a four-hour feast across state borders
Like most people of my generation, train travel occupies a special place in my heart — especially the food.
From the homemade poori-aloo-pickle packed neatly in steel tiffin boxes, to pantry-made not-so-hot meals served in foil casings, piping-hot samosas and cutlets that arrived fresh at every station — it was the food that made the sleeper-class, cross-country train rides of my childhood special. My reason for travelling from Tata to Calcutta in a non-A/C coach this morning is
the same: food.
I was introduced to this route, and its food, on a similar morning 15 years ago as a new bride. Tired and famished from the wedding mayhem, I had gorged on the food all throughout the four-hour journey, while my new husband had looked on indulgently. Fifteen years later, the husband may longer be indulgent, but I am still famished.
The most interesting thing about this train is that in a short span of four hours, it crosses two states and some important stations. Each one of them — the state and the stations — has its own speciality.
Take Ghatshila for example, known for its rasmalai and milk cake from a shack close to the station. Legend has it that the train used to make a brief stop in front of the shop, only so that the passengers could run and get their sweets. Then there is Kharagpur — famous for nurturing intellectuals at IIT, and nourishing travellers like us with the most delectable luchis and aloo sabzi. The tiny luchis, served in portions of four, are fluffy and soft, and the potatoes spicy. The highlight of the dish, however, is the single piece of dum aloo perched on top of the stack of luchis. (No, you cannot bribe the seller to give you more than one of those.)
Apart from rasmalai and luchi-aloo , there is also vegetable and potato chop, jhaal muri and ghugni , samosa and coconut water, and the Railway special breakfast of bread and omelette, and chicken cutlet on offer. In short, being on this train is like being on a picnic, on wheels.
I am lost in thoughts of food, wondering how long I would have to wait before the first instalment of food arrives, when I hear a familiar call. It is the nasal sound of the chop-seller, who carries hundreds of perfectly-fried veg-chops in his wicker basket wrapped in a red cloth. The crispy vegetable chops, which are a personal favourite, are served piping-hot on a dried leaf, accompanied with cucumber and onion salad, green chilli, and a drizzle of black salt. No sooner than I dig into the first one (I have three), do I see the hitherto elusive pantry guy. Dressed in a grey uniform, with a strip of paper and a pen in hand, he is taking orders for breakfast. Almost simultaneously, the jhaal muri and the ghugni sellers also get on to the coach. As more and more vendors start streaming into the coach, I know my long-awaited picnic has finally begun.
Train travel occupies a special place in my heart, and it was the food that made the sleeper-class, cross-country train rides of my childhood special
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