Orissa as we call it, or Odisha as they call it,is what you call a decent place. It’s hot and humid. It’s green and barren. It’s greenery is like Antonia Valencia’s pace - it is there, but rarely does it thrust itself on to your face. It just melts into the overall scheme of the place. If you go around Orissa a lil bit - you know, hunt for those Jain caves, follow Ashoka’s trail, soak in the temples and in general try to go the tourist route on your own you’ll understand what I’m saying. So, I did all of that. But I also learnt something new.
As usual one fine morning, I had gone down for breakfast at my hotel. All was fine, the hostaged MLA had still not been released and Dada had come back once again. I looked around and saw that my breakfast had to be had alone that day also. So, I was peacefully munching on the fruits and the cornflakes. Trying not be greedy, not to be hungry, not to touch that fried kachori which was just screaming at me to give meaning for it’s existence.
And just as I was going through the desserts, trying to select which was the only one I was going to eat, the chef suddenly appeared before me. With a smile, he asked me whether I wanted to order anything special. Now, being the ‘kind’ guy I thought I was, I also decided to humour him and asked him what does he have on offer. He again showed off all of his teeth like the stars in a dark night sky and said “Dosas hai. Aur Eggs bhi hai”.
And then Universe decided to play in and suddenly reminded me of my amma and the way she used to cook eggs. Fondly recalling them and remembering amma calling them as Half-boil, I asked him for Half-boiled eggs and not for one side. Now, it was not only her, but also my wonderful Madurai which had reinforced the half bayal in me. So, promptly in my broken hindi, I tried to tell him all I knew about half-boiled eggs. The chef happy that he had finally something erstwhile to do, promptly dispatched all of his minions onto this quest.
Spurned on by this act of deliberate consumerism, I promptly decided to guzzle in all that I could. With surgical precision, I began tasting all that was available within my reach. When I was immersed in the Murgh-ki-Shattabdhadhi ((I was quite intrigued by it’s nomeclature)), the chef came to me and said that the “Sirji, aapka eggs ready hai”. I nodded and after filling my plate, proceeded towards my table.
It was then that I noticed, quite a group of people surrounding my table. All discreetly trying not to see, but quite obviously trying to get the view. ((Now, I know that I’m famous and all, but I did think that the probability of me having a set of fans in Orissa was a little bit too much for the universe to conjure up out of nowhere)). So, intrigued I returned to my table, now surrounded by probably all of the people working in the restaurant at that moment.
And there waiting for me were two perfect round white eggs. Two round white eggs with their virgin shells untouched. I looked at them for quite some time and still unable to grasp the significance of them being there, I turned to the chef. He with a smile said, “Sir, Half boiled eggs”.
And I laughed. Laughed for quite some time. Enforced by the ancient laws of hospitality my hosts also began to laugh / smile / gesticulate along, as if wanting to prove that they too had a sense of humor. After calming myself, I then asked the chef How am I supposed to eat these.
With a huge sense of relief, like constrained water breaking out of a dam, he then blurted out,”Vahi Sir. Ham logon bhi isko socha, ki aap isko kaise kaayengi” ((Translated for the Shivas out there - We also thought the same sir. How you were going to eat these)).
I did occur to me then to take on the challenge of consuming the half-boiled eggs, but sanity prevailed and I abandoned them. Now, I could abandon the eggs just like that, but the chef was still expectantly waiting. Waiting for me to show him how to make my version of half-boiled eggs.
So, with the entire flock at the hotel waiting and watching expectantly, I walked up to the chef’s table. Donned his apron and then trusting my newly-acquired culinary skills prepared to create the half-boiled eggs.
I broke one egg open on the floor. Spilt a considerable amount of oil not on the pan. And then, with great amount of co-ordinated work I finally managed to have those two yellow eyes look at me from the pan. With a considerable amount of pride that I’ve taught a chef in a star-hotel something new, I turned towards him.
He simply said “Par sir, ye to Fried eggs hai” ((Again Translated - But sir, these are fried eggs.)). And then he smiled.
They overlooked me for the best guest prize.
I have spoken