I lived with my grandmother in Amravati during my 12th grade. My parents and brother visited me on weekends.
If everything was well, Papa, my brother and I would go to eat Dabeli. Mumma and Nani are not fond of street food, so it was just us. And it wasn’t a snack, it was bharpet, like a meal, till satiated. I once had 5 Dabelis in one sitting. And Papa likes Dabeli more than I like Dabeli.
This was more than 6 years ago. Now we don’t visit Amravati, and with that our Dabeli tradition is gone. But every time I eat Dabeli, I remember that place and us we used to be.
My experience making eating and feeding dabeli:
- I miss street food. I miss Pani Puri, Dahi Puri, Bhel, even that weird chaat in edible baskets; I miss acronomizing names: SPDP. I miss my chola bhatura with the carrot pickle so much that I find myself saying (childish) things like “I have a street food deficiency”.
- (To me) Dabelis taste very different in Amravati than in Pune. I am used to the Pune Dabeli. I ate mine with cheese in it. Amravati hawkers look at me as if I am barking when I ask for cheese in my Dabeli. And I know it probably sounds blasphemous to many of you, but you have to try it. A tiny shop in front of my engineering college made me fall in love with it. If I had the means and the guts to go there, I’d make a food day out of the visit.
- babyR loves Dabeli. Just the idea made her so hungry that she stood next to me at the kitchen counter and told me to “go faster” because her “tummy is so empty it’s stuck to my back”. There isn’t much I know about cooking, but I know this now: being asked to make something faster incessantly only makes it go slower.
She ate more than I did, which isn’t saying much, but is still saying something because she is 4. Seeing her make meals out of snacky food makes me proud of her.
- Dadi thinks I make miserly amounts of food. Which only by looking at the photos, you will be able to attest is not true.
Deciding food quantities is a risky game in my house. If you make more than can be finished in one sitting, papa and dadi agonize over it like it’s jail food and the jailer punishes if you don’t finish the food. So I make just enough for 3 hungry Prachis.
- Shubhashree was in the hospital for the 5th day when she told me about her Dabeli craving. She said that our conversation about a food we love and the memories from the past made her happy. I am still discovering the capability of food and a conversation to bring comfort.
During my first few months living away from my parents, I was learning a lot, among which was management of money. I had neither known pocket-money nor taught about the management of it, so I did a bad job. I remember at the end of one of these months, 31st of October 2010, I think, I was on my very last 20 rupees and I hadn’t had dinner yet. Going to the mess was out of question after the cockroach incident, so I went to a chaat tapri and bought a cheese-dabeli. It was a mediocre Dabeli had on an insignificant night, yet it stuck.
I have since discovered Keralan food, had elaborate Ramen bowls and whatever I had with mumma at malaka Spice; I have also gotten better at managing my finances. And while I like to look at Prachi-from-the-past patronizingly, I would do the same with my last 20 rupees today.