There is a stall outside my office that makes and sells dabhelis. Not on the same day, though. I think the guy makes the dabhelis one day and sells them the next. So, the pavs are usually a little stale, and the sweet, red, potato stuffing looks like the remnants of the first deer killed by a cave man. All the same, the 5 p.m. hunger pang is not very particular about taste or form. Anything quick, hot, and greasy is good.
The stall is usually run by a very friendly, young chap. He’s a little, happy blitzkrieg with a spatula. Watching him work, I have thought how I could easily script a sitcom noting down his conversations with customers.
The very first day I ventured to that line of stalls, I was looking for vada pav. Because it was rather late in the evening, only a few isolated chunks of potatoes clung to the steel plates. So, the next best option involving a tava-heated pav was a dabheli. This guy with shining eyes smiled at me. Of course, I went there.
‘1 dabheli’, I ordered.
‘Which one? Kacchi Dabheli?’, he asked me eagerly. The spatula was in one hand, he had started the burner and the tavaa was hissing, the pav lay split on the wooden counter, he was all ready to work his magic and give me what I wanted. And here I was, this dense customer, who obviously had not thought through her choice. Ah! To suffer ineptitude…
‘Umm…ah..kacchi?..no..okay,’, I sputtered.
‘Here!’, he brightly handed me the buttery, toasty goody before I was done agreeing with him.
Happily I ate.
I wanted another one.
‘Another one?’, He’s a mind reader – that one.
It was really interesting – the way he asked me that. Like there’s this God, see, who takes a little star and asks what galaxy it wants to be a part of. This guy had flair.
‘What other kinds do you have?’ Since he hadn’t sprung to action already, I thought this time I’d make my choice carefully.
‘Nothing else. Only kacchi dabheli. You want?’
Talk about getting deflated. Forget the galaxy, the star was shooed off to decorate somebody’s velvet pants worn in one of those cheesy discos that are open in the afternoons.
After that kind of a let down, I didn’t want another one of those kacchi dabhelis, but then, what the heck – it’s quick, hot, and greasy. That’s always good.