Friday, October 23, 2009

Visiting Ahdoos


She stands in front of the wall, looks at the door, stopped, a little confused. She call the waiter over.

'There used to be toilet here! Where did it go?'
'Madam the toilet is now down stairs. This is the...'

She looks around. At the ceiling, at the walls. I look away, miss the last word. I believe the word was 'lift'. Her old legs slowly lead her downstairs.

The little woman must have been in her early Sixties. When we took a table, she was sitting at a nearby table with two men who looked like her sons. They were having a full table, a full meal. Dinner.

 'They are Kashmiris too. Must be Punjabis.You know the business class. Stayed here for generations.'

I know.

She did the ordering. This was her place. The place. She must have been here a lot -"We must try this, the place served  best of this.'

Tea arrived at our table in a metal kettle. Milk. Sugar.We prepare cups of tea.

'They will bring a fresh hot kettle when this one runs cold. Great service! They have the best tea. Try it.'

This is embarrassing but true. As I take the first sip, the taste on my tongue makes me feel like I have never had tea before in my life. 'What leaves do they use? This is almost a new taste.'

'After four in the evening, this place used to be alive with people. They would crawl out of various government offices, in groups, alone and head for Ahdoos. The place would be filled with cigarette smoke. On one table a group would loudly be pro-government. At a nearby table a group would be loudly subversive.  Tea kettles would turn cold and be duly replaced with a hot bellied one. Discussions went on.'

My father remembers. This was Ahdoos.

It's late evening. The table to the left is occupied by two men, in early thirties. Kashmiris. Almost done about to leave. Newspapers on the table. The two are still talking, but both in friendly conceding tone.  I don't notice them leaving.

Waiter arrives with Chicken patties.

' Ah! Chicken patties! Try them'

Chicken is soft, unlike leather and strangely has a taste. It has been minced to butter.

'The size has become smaller. They used to be bigger.'

Waiter smiles a little. Almost detached from his environment, the man was an old fashioned waiter, in his forties, a pencil moustache, he could have been a government employee. 'Would you like to order anything else?'

'Yes, a serving of Gushtaba.'

'Anything to go with it. Rice. Roti.'

'Nothing.'

Waiter comes to life. 'Nothing. Okay. If you had told me earlier that you were going to have Gushtaba I would have kept tea and patties for after.'

'It's okay. And you are right. But who knew?'

'Anything else?'

'No. That's it'

'Soon.'

Father looks at me and say, 'We will be having dinner with the rest at the hotel. They won't be pleased to know that we came here without them. Hotel owner has been specially asked to prepare a non-veg dinner tonight. So we can't have anything heavy. But Gushtaba will do'

Will more than do.

We  were soon digging into those soft meatballs called Gushtab. Dense and Delightful. Stupendous. Before leaving we ordered another serving, around twelve balls, for the folks back at the hotel. To return empty handed from Ahdoos would have been unforgivable.

2 comments:

  1. I visited kashmir this summer after 20 years and it was my dream to eat Kanti at Ahdoos. .....and it did taste the same .... and it was dream come true......and the same flavour of tea top at Ahdoos

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for sharing your experience, Anjali. I had heard a lot about this place and its food did live up to the fame.

    ReplyDelete

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