Delhiwale: Meet the chef for the evening
Mr Kumar is part of a “gang of workers”, laying out underground cables for a telecom company in this part of south Delhi.Updated: Oct 27, 2020, 03:33 IST
He’s away from home, and never thought he would have to cook a whole meal by himself.
In his early 20s, Rohit Kumar describes himself as a labourer. “I’m currently living with 8-9 saathi (colleagues),” he explains. “And this is our kitchen.”
He shows, on the footpath, the two burner cooking gas range, the red LPG cylinder, the half-filled bottle of mustard oil, the three metal pans, the red mug, the spatula, the plastic basket filled with ginger, garlic, onions and masala packets, and the half-empty packet of atta (flour).
Mr Kumar is sitting on his haunches, in the middle of all this equipment, wearing a t-shirt and shorts. His face is half-covered with a red check gamcha—perhaps a substitute for the mask. He is speaking in a muffled tone, and one has to strain one’s ear to hear his words.
Mr Kumar is part of a “gang of workers”, laying out underground cables for a telecom company in this part of south Delhi. Indeed, a great mass of cables is lying in loops next to a big truck, parked on the same pavement. The men have been staying here for a week. “We set up our base in one spot for a few days,” Mr Kumar explains, “and sleep at night inside the truck, and when the work in one area is complete, we drive to the next spot.”
All the labourers, including Mr Kumar, are from Lucknow, in UP. But where are the rest of the folks this evening?
“They still have to return from work.”
Mr Kumar explains that he is the cook at the moment. Each worker in the group performs this duty in turn, and these days it is Mr Kumar’s task to feed his colleagues.
He has already made a few rotis.
“At home my mother cooks, but I never thought of learning from her.” After pausing for some moments, he solemnly says, “I never thought that one day I would have to make dal chawal.” He picked the skills in real time, though. “Earlier, my rotis would never be gol (round)... but after some practice I got better.”
The menu usually consists of dal, rotis, rice and subzi. Tonight, however, Mr Kumar is skipping dal. “I’m making aloo gobhi with rassa (gravy)… it will be nice with rice.”
He starts measuring the masalas—his mates will be here anytime soon.
An hour later, the footpath has grown dark but one sees a bunch of men huddled together, quietly having their meal.