My religious sentiments have been badly hurt for years now in the matter of railway food and at last someone's noticed and ticked off "the world's largest employer", Indian Railways. Laddoos are bursting in my heart, as the Hindi saying goes, in joy that this is happening and hope that conditions will improve. The thing is, it's against Hindu dharma and all other dharmas to serve bad food to travellers. The notion comes all the way from on high in the Upanishads, "Annam Brahmeti" (Food is God) and all that. You're supposed to sell your child, kill your prize-winning horse or rooster, wring your pet parrot's neck, do whatever it takes, to feed your guests. 'Mehmaan nawaazi' is just one term for it and 'atithi devo bhava' is another.
Okay, so we're not 'guests' but pas sengers who buy tickets and pay fortrain food, but despite the transaction, Indian Railways is still a public service and our lives are in its hands when we 'kaato tikkut' and get into a train, fearful of Naxalites, dacoits, accidents and sleeping signalmen. Incidentally, I would also welcome a law that says women on trains can shoot would-be molesters dead instantly, secure in the knowledge that the law defends them for defending themselves.
Though I try to blank it out, I actually dread Indian Railways for its many prowling lechers.
Also, our noses and stomachs en route are wholly at the mercy of Indian Railways. 'Cleanliness is godliness" is non-negotiable, so no ifs and buts about better sanitation, please. This April I went on a long overnight train journey in Vietnam and it felt horrible that their trains were better than ours. As for food, I pity anybody in India under 30, because Indian Railway food, so fabulous once, now has PILs admitted against it in court for its lousy quality.
Hope we'll all get to enjoy brilliant tomato soup, Railway Pudding (caramel custard) again or Railway Cutlets (mutton/chicken masala chops) and utterly delicious Indian and English breakfasts on the Deccan Queen between Bombay and Pune or on the Blue Mountain Express to Ooty, to name but two dear old trains. Besides these lost pleasures of the pantry car, I guess the difference was that the food we got on Indian Railways was real food, not hi-cal, hi-chol junk burgers with cheap kaddu sauce and oily alu cutlets. If food is indeed God, I'd want our religious sentiments respected and get real, clean and wholesome food back on track, wouldn't you?
Renuka Narayanan ( email@example.com ) writes on religion and culture