The place: Kulu Manali
The time: Two years ago
The post dinner walk found us looking contented and laughing like jack-a–es as loudly as possible to frighten the panthers that were rumoured to be there. We settled down to sleep with an unsettled question hanging over our heads. Damocles could have slept better with that sword of his hanging over his head. Was the panther really there? The night was dark and slightly chill. It must have been around 1 a.m. when a growl woke me up. I shrugged it off and tried to get back to sleep, but before long the growl grew to a full fledged ROAR. I sat upright in bed and tried to wake the husband. He wasn’t there. Another roar erupted – this time much louder than the previous one.
I was alarmed to hear it from the bathroom. Could a panther really have come in? I nudged forward with a hard-bound book in my hand. (Something tells me that I would have thrown the book and run like a screaming banshee if a panther had emerged, but still)
I’d like to think the panther came and got frightened away by the husband’s bravery. He slunk back into the shadows at the roar of a greater master. The G.master, in the meanwhile, was not in a good shape.
The events above happened when we tempted the Gastro-Gods. It all started with some one extolling the virtues of street food. Apparently, the essence of good food comes from a chef who doesn’t waste his time washing hands and utensils. So off we went looking for a ‘Dhaba’ after getting some yogurt and rice for the kids from the resort. We walked down a steep hill(this is Kulu Manali remember), past some bridge of some sort and in a quaint grassy place was nestled the shabbiest shack with some garden chairs. We were given glowing reviews about the food by the receptionist at the resort. We Namaste-Bhai-ed him and settled down.
I still remember the dinner:
- Egg Curry
- Butter Naan (The butter was taken with a spoon lovingly dipped in hot dirty water and slathered on. I could not see a refrigerator on the premise, but then, if they could have a fridge, they would have put up a few more garden chairs to ‘expand business’)
- Paneer butter masala
- Butter shahi mushroom (Duh! Clearly, he can’t store the butter without a fridge)
One cannot say whether the butter was the culprit or the oil or the eggs. But what did happen was a violent upheaval that frightened panthers. The husband had a combination of several things going on – diarrhea and dysentery and vomiting prominent among them.
Two years later, stomach flu hit the family. It started with the daughter, and then the son. Since they both insisted on staying close to me in their moments of distress, I joined their party. We all merrily used the bathroom and threw up freely on sheets and pillow covers. The washing machine groaned its way through the pile, but we got by.
The husband clearly forgot about his brave days of frightening the prowling panther away and said he was strong, and that was why he was unaffected. I don’t think there is such a thing as a jinx, but if there was, this was surely it. Panthers and mountain lions were seen packing their bags in fright when the husband’s stomach heaved.
We all got better, but he remains the king of stomach upsets. Why did I think of all this? I just read this article about this NY Times correspondent getting the goods from an innocent looking mango and could not help thinking of our own gastro-adventures.