Return to Korba
Over the past 2-3 years I have travelled across various parts of the country. Most of these trips were planned and executed around a friend’s wedding, and given I have had so many friends getting married in the recent past, and at locations such as Indore, Dhanbad, Raipur, Kerala, Rajasthan, Interiors of Maharashtra, and Delhi, these trips have resulted in experiences worth mentioning. On some trips the destination overpowered the entire wedding experience, and at some the wedding was an event to remember. Needless to mention I have also returned gastronomically satisfied from most of these trips, learning a lot about the diversity across Indian food preparations, wedding delicacies and food on the road, rail, air and even water.
But out of all the trips the one which I made this weekend holds a special place, simply because of the people and place involved. And yes as always slightly because of my flirtations with food on the trip.
I was going back to Korba after about 9 years, a period in which I have moved away significantly from what I was at Korba. A relatively simple person who was mostly immersed in books, gully cricket, and mostly lost in his own thoughts went on to talk, travel, eat, make friends, and talk a lot. I became more expressive and confident, adapted new habits – both good and bad, met a lot of people from different backgrounds, slowly started spending more money and became more experimental about life in general.
It is interesting to note how roles change once we are back in Korba, whatever we have done in the past so many years, when my school friends get together, we behave as we behaved for all those 14 years in school. Surprisingly, they are the only ones who know how to make me sit quiet. Very rare! And for us everyone is still the same, no one is a Doctor, MBA, Engineer, CA, or a businessman; everyone is just the same old DPS Korba student they were, and I am still the Pattu they met in 2002.
Korba has changed, the township hasn’t. The city seems well maintained with brilliant roads, shining shopping complexes and even a flyover! Although all the forests around the city have disappeared and all I saw on the road from Churri towards Korba and beyond were just power plants.
The township remains the same, all our addas are still there as we left them. But I heard that the kids are gone (after 6th most of them are packed away to a IIT/Medical coaching location), people hardly come out, there are no fights in club for badminton courts or on Mansarovar to play cricket, and those community gatherings and activities which gave the township its life have become rare.
Oh, by the way I also tasted the famous Chhattisgarhi Daal Wada with the spicy brick red chutney (a cross between a schezwan sauce and a pickle masala), my favorite Indian Coffee House Cutlets –potato and beetroot stuffed and shallow fried tikkis (although I tasted them in Nagpur as I knew I won’t have time in Korba), 4 different dosas (one outside the CST subway, value for money Butter Sada; second from Nagpur Coffee House, now Rs. 40 as compared to Rs. 14 back in the days of school; third at a friend’s home at Bilaspur, simple homemade dosas served with a spicy peanut and dal chutney; fourth on the return journey at Bhusaval junction, a regular dosa with a Jeervan like spice sprinkled on top, hot and fresh), and some good food at the wedding. But for me the cutlets stood out, and to benchmark them I even had the railway cutlets (http://beingdesh.com/2010/04/the-story-of-indian-railway-cutlet/), but I would say the Coffee House ones win, again because of the memories attached to it. On the healthier side we munched onto tonnes of Oranges and Sandwiches parceled in Raipur. The craving for sweets was satisfied through Spongy Rasgullas, Flavored Dry Fruit Bites (a sweet which according to me is the true competition to my other favorite, Mysore Pak), and Santara Barfi (a petha style sweet, flavored with orange juice).
As always I have deviated from the core discussion around Korba to food, but then things have been this way since back I was child, food has always been a key component of my discussion, at Korba, or after that.
In hindsight moving out of Korba was probably good for me, as I understood life and India in a better way and become truly Desi. But still Pattu remains a part of me, and I hope it continues to be.