The Cold Vegetable Fritters
While at home, disconnected from the affairs of Zomato and Swiggy I tend to reflect on the time I have spent with my folks at home. I often end up enquiring about our childhood and that ends up into a beautiful story (absolutely unrelated to my life), and probably that’s the beauty of stories (No strings attached).
Yesterday, my dad went to his once workplace, his birthplace and my territory of formative years of life. I often joke and state an interesting fact that “Baap dada ke karmo se khandani railway se hai”(I come from the pedigree of railways, father and grandfather were railway people). Since I grew up in the shadows of trains, engines, and railway tracks, I have been privileged to stories from the tracks. However, yesterday over dinner I nostalgically enquired about the railway station that was once my playground. This station is part of the Adra Division of South Eastern Railway Zone. Geographically, the last station in the state of Jharkhand and situated between two rivers on either side. It lies in the intersection of three districts and two states. The name of the station is Bhojudih Jn. My mother often jokes “ God knows how my father found this place on the map to get me married there.” A small quaint station with two platforms and the settlement in the area majorly belongs to railways. The station is at an intersection of two routes, one goes to Bokaro Steel City and the other towards Dhanbad. There are two things that this place is known for.
- Bhairov Dham — A historical and religious place believed to visited by the Pandavas
- Vegetable Chop (Vegetable Fritters) at the railway canteen
This story is about the latter. Since childhood, I have loved the fritters from the canteen. The canteen and the station date to 1907. It was an important station because of its strategic position. It served as the railway yard for collieries in then Bihar (now Jharkhand) and a supply point for coal to the NTPC power plant in the next station Santaldih (in West Bengal). 1907 was the time of steam engines in Indian Railways. Bhojudih was a stop of these locomotives to refill water and coal for the journey. This meant two things:
- A longer halt at the station for passenger bound trains as well as goods carrying train
- A lot of hungry passengers and railway staff looking for snacks and tea
My interest and this story is again about the latter. The canteen was a small thatched roof hut centrally placed in the platform. The kitchen area was located at the southern end of the platform. Since the demand was high, the price was low, it only meant a long queue and a lot of luck. My grandfather joined the railways in 1946 and was posted to this station, my father traced the same footsteps and was posted in the station in 1972. I was born in 1991 and have my first memories from 1996. A lot had changed about Indian railways, the platform canteen and the vegetable fritters. The canteen is now a concrete structure, still serving the famous vegetable fritters but not many to savour the taste of it. Steam engines are gone, we are now in the era of superfast trains and the internet. Trains hardly halt for two minutes, Zomato and Swiggy still don’t serve this location and the population of the vegetable fritters has reduced drastically as the staff in the canteen.
Yesterday, while my dad was describing his visit to the station, he said “the vegetable fritters were cold as the people and the place”. That stayed with me. Interestingly, we have lost the pleasure of slow food in the fast track life.