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Delhiwale: Mr Gupta’s movable feast

A glimpse into the kitchen life of a single man who is preparing to host his friends over a home-made dinner.

delhi Updated: Aug 17, 2018 15:36 IST
Mayank Austen Soofi
Mayank Austen Soofi
Hindustan Times
delhi,delhiwale

In his early 50s, Aakash Gupta lives alone in the central parts of the city. Like many single people, he almost always eats in outside eateries.

This evening, however, is an exception.

“I just felt like cooking,” he says. The pot is on the fire. Mr Gupta takes off the lid for a moment. It’s grown too dark to make out what exactly is simmering inside with such a loud hissing sound, though the smoggy air is thick with a pungent garlicky smell.

“It’s chicken curry,” he says blandly.

The fire is now leaping up wildly but next moment it seems to be fading off. Mr Gupta adds a fresh piece of the wood from a pile he gathered some hours ago from the little forest just across the roadside wall. “These twigs had fallen off a Keekar (tree),” he mumbles.

Mr Gupta has been living in Delhi for a few years but he won’t tell the exact year he arrived. “What’s the point?”

Neither will he explain how he happens to live on the pavement, but he does reveal his profession: “I’m a labourer.”

Mr Gupta says he learned cooking from his mother. “I can’t remember her name .... She passed away too long ago for me to remember it.”

It seems the cooking has reached a climactic stage and now the cook is violently stirring the curry with a ladle, the steam forcing him to squeeze his eyes shut. “Tonight I’ll have a party with friends .... they all live on this same pavement .... somebody is a labour.. somebody is a mistri (carpenter).”

They all are away at work and will return soon, he says.

The dish is finally done. Mr Gupta extinguishes the fire, keeps the pot safely aside, and throws away the remaining wood over the wall, back into the jungle. He then sits down on the edge of the pavement and quietly watches the passing cars.

Soon a man arrives and settles down by his side. No words are exchanged. “Three or four more will come,” says Mr Gupta. The curry will have to wait just a little longer.

First Published: Aug 17, 2018 13:52 IST