The train was passing through lush green fields, making its rhythmic sounds and announcing itself with a hoot here and there. It had rained earlier and everything was looking pristine. The gentle rocking movement of the train and a wonderful AC compartment was an added incentive to just go for a nap. She had spent the morning in a huff puff to get all her stuff packed reach the train station on time. So she truly had earned the nap.
As she began to prepare her Upper berth for a restful afternoon nap, the co passengers sprung into action for a lunch. They mentioned that it would be nice to enjoy the afternoon nap after a good lunch. She smiled at them and told them to go on and eat and climbed up to her berth and opened a book to read while they ate and talked all they wanted. She was looking forward to the nap and did not want it to be disturbed by anything. She would wait, she decided.
Zip, click, tuk, thump and then a wide array of aromas later emerged a plate full of food right near her nose. Surprised she looked at the holder of the plate with questioning eyes. “ Beta Thoda Khana kha lo”, ( Eat some food, Kiddo) the middle age lady with the plate was saying. “Aunty, ( usual way of addressing someone your moms age in India) I had a heavy breakfast, not hungry right now”, she said.
“Acha Zara sa chakh lo, yeh Humare Gujarat Ka khana hai”, ( Alright, How about you just taste a bit, its food from our Gujarat) the husband of the lady said. Now she did not know what to say to two very kind people. Her thoughts kept going to the Roganjosh her mom had packed with soft fluffy parathas ( pan fried flaky bread). And clearly her co passengers were vegetarians. She was not very fond of vegetarian food.
But she really couldn’t say “No”. The couple was waiting for her to respond and they were looking at her with a lot of warmth. She gave in and said “ Gujarat! Wah! Maine kabhi Gujarati khana nahi khaya”! ( Wow, I have never eaten Gujarati food). Except for the fake enthusiasm for the Gujarati food, she told them the truth. She had never tasted any Gujarati food.
So she climbed back down, and sat with them to eat. As they started to explain the dishes they had carried with them, she began to make mental notes. Only to go back and write to her Dad and Mom about the adventures she had while on the train.
Out came the raw banana bhaji, mango pickle, banana and peas curry, a couple of chutneys, yogurt and finally came the thepla. She was intrigued. “ Is it like the paratha, Aunty”? “No! Beta, this is thepla”.
“oh!, so how do you make it”?, and “how did you make such delicious Banana peas curry without potatoes and onions and garlic and even tomatoes”? “what is in this chutney”? And she only stopped asking questions when she was eating. After the fulfilling and wonderfully delicious meal, she helped clean up and then went to take the nap and slept blissfully.
When she reached her destination, she promised the couple that she will always remember them and the journey that expanded her knowledge about a different culture, Jainism and its ‘SpiceRoots’. She doesn’t get to go on long train journeys now but yearns for them. And she remembers that train journey with “Uncle and Aunty” – the journey that made a lasting impression in her heart with a plateful of home cooked nourishing food and two simple, hardworking, loving people.
She went on to marry a guy from Gujarat and makes him the “train wali aunty” ke theple every now and then and sends a thought of “Thank You” to the couple and tells them “ I married a Saras Meetho Chokro”( a sweet and good man)