While being brought up in the Gulf, I would drool over the street food back in Bombay, during the summer holidays. When I began working, it turned into winter holidays as I dreaded the humidity and heat in the non-air-conditioned areas around. Nevertheless, the mouth-wateringbhel puri (Indian snack), batata vada (deep fried potato in batter inside Bombay’s bread),butta (grilled corn or maize), pav bhaji (potato vegetable curry served with soft bread roll) and my all-time favourite, pani puri (you can now Google that in English) would make me salivate the moment I stepped into the city. But, due to my sensitive digestive system, I was never given permission to consume any of it.
As usual, this time I stayed at my younger cousin, Jena’s apartment where she lived with her parents and our grandmother. My mother joined me on this holiday. Habitually, I slept after landing and stepped out once I woke up. Having ignored the repetitive warnings to avoid eating at the road-side vendors, I left to meet a few close relatives living nearby. The indescribable feeling I feel strolling about in Bombay, is a feeling I never feel anywhere else. I’m always happy meeting my paternal and maternal aunts, uncles and cousins every time I’m here as they would happily welcome me and also feed me with all sorts of tasty edibles. I would excuse myself only once Jena was done with work.
We met at a common place and went roaming around her city. Our first stop was a small shop that sold only sugar-cane juice. This is one of the delicious juices you won’t find in the Middle East. I watched the way the dude carried long sugarcanes and shoved them into the machine twice, thrice, sometimes four times. It all depended on what he felt was required. While the canes were crushed, yummy juice fell into a glass placed at the bottom. I could already taste the juice just looking at it but alas, that glass wasn’t for us. We had to wait another 2 minutes which seemed like forever. And once it was our turn, I felt I drank it too fast. So, we ordered another round and waited for another 2 minutes. After quenching our thirst, we headed to the forbidden pani puri booth.
Jena told me that this was THE best place and cleanest too. There was no chance in hell I would suffer with digestive problems as she ate here almost every day on the way back home. On weekends, with friends, she would come to this stall whenever they were bored or wanted to walk. I just wanted to devour that chaat so I nodded in agreement. Generally, pani puri is given one at a time, at some places in a small container to avoid water dripping onto your clothes. I waited, impatiently, for the hawker to hand over to me a bowl which established it was my turn. As he finally, after eons, placed the first puri in my dish, I felt my salivary glands increase secretion before the puri reached my mouth. Our chatter paused while each of us hungrily ate eight puris, with a 5 seconds munching time between each morsel.
Content, we walked back home at around 8pm, babbling all the way. After an hour, we had dinner with the rest so that no one would suspect our visit to the chaat vendor. We watched a couple of series on the television before we called it a night. I fell asleep as soon as my head touched the pillow. Walking drains you, particularly, if not done every day. Before midnight, I woke up with an excruciating pain in my abdomen and dragged myself to the toilet seat. Ten minutes later, relieved, I went back to bed.
I almost fell into a slumber again when the ache returned. Indignantly, I repeated the trip to the chamber pot. This was followed by another three trips. Once my bowels were emptied, I knew there couldn’t be another trip. Five minutes later, I was pushing undigested waste out of my mouth. This continued every ten minutes for at least an hour. By then, everyone in the house knew we had disobeyed. The morning awaited us when we, especially Jena for taking me there, would be scolded. Exhausted, I had no energy to think further but relax and fall asleep. It amuses me, sometimes, how God wants me to throw up my secrets!