Food Feed In Maheshwar

by | Apr 22, 2023


On an average, I spent an hour every day on instagram in the month of December. I saw people getting married, others attending their weddings, some people clubbing on the weekends and others goign off to scenic vacations. When I got sick of watching people I knew, I switched to reels, watching people I didn’t know, sinkining deeper and deeper into the doomscroll, never reaching the “you are all caught up” mark.

There’s only so much catching up I could do before a wave of existentialism hit me, making a pit in my stomach where guilt decided to build its nest. The advent new year optipism helped fill this pit up with a strong urge to create. With this enthusiasm, the goal was to create more than I consumed.

Instagram post by a

Instagram, for me, went from being the digital cigarette to somewhat of a pocket diary. Musings, rants and words of gratitude all neatly arranged in 3*4 boxes with a liltle peice of my brain in the captions. There is so much that happens in one day. Of course a lot more over a week and a month’s time. So many small things that trigger thoughts in my head, some fleeting and some permanantly stuck.

To make sense of these, I use affinity mapping in my head. Affinity mapping is simply clustering things with shared charateristics. It is one of the tools I picked up in design school and used it for a lot more than just design research. It helps me see a big complicated topic in smaller parts. Breaking up information into clusters enables me to look at something in detail as well as see one cluster in relation to the other. One look at my instagram feed at the end of this month triggered a similar process. An emerging cluster was of all the food I ate through the month. But that’s not all there is to take in.

Documeneted in the captions are stories that connect the food I eat to other aspects of my life on field. These are instances of how I connect with my community, the people I work with and the place I live in. It is how I give and recieve love and care. It is something that helps me not only connect with what is outside but also with what is within. So here I am, sharing with you a feed of my memories, some new and some old.

1st January, 2023
After a fun but super tiring sunday I spent working outside the office, I dreaded the thought of having to go back home to the silence, having to cook a meal for one and sitting down alone at dinner time.When one of my team members said “Aaj daal baati ban rahi hai aap yahi khalo”, I hated to decline the invitation out of courtesy. Hence I stayed on her insistence, and I am glad that I did. Sitting down with her family, her mother serving us hot baati felt simply blissful. Sitting here, made me realize I was more hungry for the company than the food. I felt full and content when I left her house.
10th January 2023
A woman heard me talk about how much I love Kharvas and got me a dabba full of it. Here they call it Chika. It’s a kind of milk pudding made from cow’s or buffalo’s colostrum (first milk). Reminds me of a school friend who used to get it for me in her dabba.

Food has the transcendent ability to take you back in time. On some days, it’s the dabba of chika and on others, the craving for ghee over hot rotis just the way my mother made them. It has taken me to places that aren’t as comfotable as the kitchen counter in my house. The desperation for a wholesome, hot meal and limited options to dine outside in the absence of a Swiggy or a Zomato takes me to Gurukripa Bhojanalaya every once in a while.

A reception table and two rows lined with desks and chairs facing each other crammed with men, is the sight I encounter everytime at the doorstep, taking a deep breath each time I enter. My first visit to this place was on my first evening in Maheshwar. I thought twice before doing it becuase I was alone and uncomfortable. But also starving. I sat on the corner table like a disciplined person, keeping my eyes on my plate and focusing on the food. The urge was to finish and leave quickly. However, the food, like a hook, made me stay longer. The food is what keeps inviting me back here.

It’s not because the place is full of men that I want to avoid it. It’s the association with all such places that does it. Last six months have been an experiment in getting comfortable aroud places like these, whether it’s restraunts, buses or streets after dark. To claim these spaces feels as gratifying and comforting as the food on that plate. There was a day when that plate was filled with apprehensions. And there’s a day when a bowl of kadhi is all that you need.

On days when work seems to spill into my late evenings, leaving me with no energy to cook up a meal, I’m at Gurukripa Bhojanalaya. They serve a thali with (from left to right) dal, kadhi, sev tamatar, rotis with ghee and a sabzi for just ninety rupees. The food is unlimited with hot rotis coming your way even before you finish the one on your plate. They are a bitter sweet reminder of home. The kadhi soothes my heart on a tired day.

Living in a small town makes me crave big city things. In the humdrum of daily life in Maheshwar, I often dwell in musings over a cup of chai drawing parallels between what I do here and what I would do in a Bombay or a Bangalore.

15th January, 2020
The Sunday was spent snoozing after a long long time only to wake up right in time for a cup of tea. Chai time has now become sacred with each day getting busier. There are two alarms in my head for chai, one around 10 am and the other at 5 in the evening. Since I came to Maheshwar, Chai time has been graced by the huge nashta culture of Madhya Pradesh. Going to Siyaram canteen has become like going to Subway. For breads, you have samosa or kachori, for vegetales you get a sprinkle of onions. Selection of sauces is replaced by missal, chole, kadhi and imli chutney. And to top it all, Sev. I’ve spent the last 3 months trying every possible combination. Topping the list is a plate of kadhi kachori with just a lil bit of sweet chutney, onions and of course, sev. This makes a warm plate of comfort that makes my chai time complete.

It might have become evident by now that I love to eat. I do, but I also don’t shy away from wearing the chef’s hat. Entertaining people over a meal in spaces I like to call my own gives me great joy. Food is often how I choose to tell people “I care and I want to see you happy“. Where I live currently, I have a tiny kitchen. It has an induction, 4 utensils and the most basic ingredients you find in any Indian kitchen. It never fails to cater to the demands of a midnight meal, the cravings for sandwiches, or some hot noodle soup.

24th January 2023
“पहले पेट पूजा फिर काम दूजा” Is a policy we take quite seriously at our work place. We all sit down to eat before we head out for our respective work, be it on field or at the training center. We open dabbas, crack jokes and share recipes. It gives me immense joy to cook for my team members. In exchange I get fresh veggies from their gardens and some finger licking expressions. The clips are one of my teammates recording me in the kitchen on differnt occasions.

As much as I love cooking for others, on most days, it’s me whipping up a bowl of rice with whatever can go on the top of it. From fried leftover rotis to sauted veggies, everything goes! Bowls for one enjoyed best with an episode of Brooklyn 99 on Netflix.

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