Saturday, September 03, 2005

Diesel fry

My Saturday night unwind involves copious quantities of roadside food, an empty room above a garage and neglected reading.

Most of the time it’s rolls from Unit I. Three share autos and a bit of a walk, but that’s where the action is and I can safely sit on a broken plastic chair and people-watch until my plastic-wrapped dinner is ready.
When changing ricks doesn’t seem appealing, I stick to the stalls on the national highway. These are shadier joints, so no sitting. But the samosas make my standing around worthwhile.

When I first came here, I’d pass by the sidewalk shacks breathing in deeply the piquant aroma of batter and spiced potatoes. I’d fiddle with my backpack, check my toe ring, just to stand there for a little while longer, debating whether the time had come. Not confident enough to elbow my way through the crowd and shout my order to the cook; it was a while before I started my Saturday night ritual take-aways.

The first time I asked for a roll, one man looked at me and said aloud in Oriya, ‘She must be living alone. She’s come by herself.’

An obvious and harmless enough a statement, but I was disturbed for some reason. So I ordered more rolls. Three more. Of the same thing. Just to prove I might have company and we all had the same craving.
That night I ate four double egg rolls.
And six samosas.
Till two in the morning.

By now most of the tin-shed caterers know my order. (Not so many rolls and small portions of everything on offer that evening.) And I don’t have to shout anymore. I wave to the guy behind the coracle-sized kadai and a warm polythene bag is handed over to me a couple of minutes later.

And I hop in and out of autos and walk the long walk with my backpack a little heavier.
But my steps a little lighter.

Roadside fried anything.