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DSSC Wordsmiths: Arjun Puri on his relationship with food

The DSSC Wordsmiths Series brings to you the thoughts of some of our amazing members as they share their opinion, sentiment, perspective on food, tipples, the city and life.

 “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien

Growing up in Calcutta meant there were a few ground rules that required some serious obeying. Firstly, we read (a lot) or pretend to be well read. Secondly, we obsess about theatre and cinema and all things cultural – this I vouch, was and still is the norm. We’re lazy, but the unique-lazy-kinds that can argue and beat you with some fabulous factual representation, as long as it means that we can do so sitting or lying down or leaning against a wall or lamp post with a steaming cup of cha in our hands. The cha is served in an earthen tea-cup (bhaand) and is smashed against the road once you’re done consuming its content. As a child, most of us enjoyed the process of destroying the bhaand far more than the tea but that’s how it was. There were moments where we ran in like fast bowlers and hurled the tea cup into the distance, on occasions when it struck someone; we were even quicker to disappear from the scene of crime. Only to return the next day to get our fix of cha and kachuri! And with that anecdote in place I must tell you that we love our food. We really do!

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Being half Bengali and half Punjabi, and raised in Calcutta meant one very important thing: I was raised by parents and grandparents in an environment where food was priority.

I often wonder how other families function. Ours definitely revolves around food. At breakfast, we’re pondering what’s for lunch? And at lunch, I ask – “Is there anything in the fridge for my 4pm snack?”. When I am headed out in the evening for a run (just kidding), I find myself peering into the kitchen to see what Adhar da and Dolly di are up to. They’ve been a part of our family for decades and know our likes and dislikes, like the Australian bowlers knew of Sourav Ganguly’s love for the short-pitched ball. On most Sundays, our German Shepherd, Leylajaan is spotted in her favorite corner of the drawing room. Happily plonked on a sofa, gazing into the distance with hope and excitement! Sundays are the big lunch days; the gym kinds call it ‘cheat days’ or something.

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Traditionally and over the years, it’s either a prawn curry or a mean mutton curry to go along with everything else. There’s dessert, mangoes (since it’s that time of the year) and coffee to end. The conversations and moods are often dictated by what’s served in front of us. I recall at once, going to an ex-girlfriend’s house for one of those Sunday lunches, and though I felt like a spring chicken on a wet wicket for the first hour (where there was no food, and only glares), once lunch was served, I was Federer at Wimbledon. Food does that to me, it gets me comfortable in the most alien of environments.

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Over the next few months, I will bring to you stories from both familiar and obscure corners of India. My work, in education, thankfully allows me to travel a fair bit. So much so that I find myself waking up and looking for an overhead compartment to take out my hand luggage, even when I am sleeping at home, in my bed.

I hope to take you on a food adventure with a difference! So, keep a look out for this column.

The next post that will make its way to you, is going to take you deep into the older parts of Ahmedabad, where I’ve managed to find some of the best meat preparations I’ve ever had. And, of course the Gujarati thaali’s as well – a walk into the unknown. See you then!

A true explorer, Arjun has always been a great source of facts, lore and let’s not forget humour! The closeted writer and out & out gastronome relies on his travels across the globe to build his bank of knowledge. Most days though, he’s in OP Jindal Global University inspiring the students of Law & Liberal Arts.

Over the next few months, Arjun will take you on an epic food journey through his words.