Ganesh began to stroll in the bazaar looking at the stalls that had come up on either side. With the hot sun of May blazing over their heads, people had set up stalls of cool-green vegetables, ripe mangoes, onions and garlic. Some had set up provision stores and some were sitting in front of heaps of grain like wheat, jowar and rice. Today, without roaming much Ganesh straight away went to the ‘paal’ of Bandu Hotelwala. They called the shed erected with thick cloth, bamboos, iron rods and ropes ‘paal’ At Bandu’s one could get hot bhujia, alu-wada, wadas made of pulses, bhujia with chillies, sev, chiwda, boondi, jilebi and other snacks. The sharp smell of frying, the enchanting sound of hot oil and in the front trays laden with yellow, a few red enticing eatables. It never happened that one went before the shed without his mouth watering. The people called aluwada as alu-bonda. Ganesh liked the alu-bonda available in Bandu’s hotel.
“Come, Sir. You will no where else get alubondas like the ones I have. I have a different way of preparing alubonda.” Saying this he dipped a ball of potato curry in a semi-liquid pulse-flour and gently dropped in the boiling oil in the frying kadhai. Then another one followed by a third one, like this after filling the entire kadhai with aluwadas he dipped his hand covered with pulse-flour in a vessel filled with water and kept nearby. He then sprinkled water from his wet hand into the hot oil. It made a ‘tad..tad’ splattering sound. Ganesh liked to see all these.
“Come on, Sir, be seated.
Ganesh entered the shed and sat on a stone placed to hold the shed in its place. Waiting for the alubondas to get ready he watched them being fried. In the shed helping Bandu Hotelwala was his wife. When he was engaged in frying she took care of the customers and when she was engaged in frying he would attend to the customers. Someone had told Ganesh that Bandu Hotelwal had married twice. One wife took care of children and the house and the second wife accompanied him as a helper and went from village to village along with the hotel…. At time to some festival called jatra, going to bazaars in other villages and erecting their shed. After going around with one wife for fifteen days, she kept her at home to look after children and take care of the house and the following fortnight he took along his other wife. He had finely adjusted his life with his business. In a way he was calculative. His calculativeness was evident even in his marrying twice. By marrying second time he had earned an extra wife and also a freely serving helper, that too, trustworthy.
By now the alubonda were ready. Bandu began to take out the fried alubonda from the frying kadhai and began to place them in a large plate.
“Other hotelwalas… they would give you such bondas to eat. But these are only half finished,” he said placing the remaining alubondas from the kadhai into the plate.
“Now, the next step is .. I must slap each of these alubondas… with this perforated ladle…. Like this,” he said slapping each alubonda with the perforated ladle in his hand.
As the perforated ladle hit the alubondas, they burst opened.
“And then the are again to put into the oil, like this,” he said again putting in alubondas that had burst open.
“This is the real way of preparing alubondas…. This, we .. from my father.. my father.. my grandfather.. my great grandfather.. generation after generation we learnt this way of preparing them.
Bandu’s chatter had to be tolerated by not only Ganesh, but by also all other customers, who had come to eat alubondas. But all of them for the love of alubondas tolerated that chatter.
He had once again begun to turn the bondas immersed in the hot oil with the perforated ladle. In between, for no apparent purpose, he dipped his hand in the vessel full of water and sprinkled water from his wet hand into the kadhai of hot oil. That gave rise to ‘tad..tad’ sound and perhaps he was used to making such ‘tad..tad..” sound. Ganesh always felt that perhaps, the secret of his working with continuing enthusiasm with which he worked under such a hot sun, standing before a burning fire, lay in this ‘tad..tad’’sound.
(to be contd.)
Original Novel by Sunil Doiphode
English Version by Anil Ekbote