‘The tastiest meal of my life’ by K.J.S.Chatrath

There are many towns having same names in India. I remember having read long back that there are 24 towns in India with the name Rampur as per the Indian Postal Department. Another such name is Chamba. Normally when we talk of Chamba, we have Chamba in Himachal Pradesh in mind. Some may not know that there is another little town Chamba- in Uttrakhand, situated around 45 kilometres from Mussoorie. One can, on a clear day see the row of snow clad mountains in the background from this Chamba. It is called Chamba (UK) meaning Uttrakhand.

I had passed through Chamba twice during the last 15 years or so. On both these occasions I was with the Groups of Officer trainees of the Lal Bahadur Shastri Academy of Administration, Mussoorie who were going on a trek. I recollect that our bus had stopped at Chamba for almost an hour and we had got dispersed to various restaurants/dhabas for our lunch. I remember three things from those trips. Firstly that the town had a small statue of a Victoria Cross awardee in the middle of the town. Secondly that the market was full of fresh crop of ginger (adrak) which was then being sold at Rs. Ten per kg. And thirdly, that on both the occasions I had simple & inexpensive but very tasty meal of rice and kadhi.

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Kadhi-Chawal in Chamba

So here I was this year in mid April in Chamba. I wanted to witness the annual Mela in the memory of the Victoria Cross Awardee Martyr Gabar Singh Negi whose statue adorns Chamba town. I would beĀ  sharing more about this martyr who sacrificed his life on 10th March 1915 in Neuve Chapelle in France, fighting to save France.

I was lucky to have met Prof. Dhruba Kaintura, a very knowledgeable Professor of the Hemawati Nandan Bahuguna University, Chamba Campus. After visiting the village of the martyr we reached back Chamba town, tired and hungry. I requested Prof. Kaintura to find an eating joint where we could have Kadhi-Chawal for lunch.

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The owner -cum-cook of the restaurant

There was huge crowd in the town because of the annual Mela. At last we found a place where Kadhi-Chawal was available. It was so non-descript that it did not even have a name. Prof. myself and the driver were the only three persons in that restaurant. We were served Kadhi-Chawal which we soon polished off. The Kadhi was the tastiest dish I have had in my life. We were served a second helping. By the time we had realised that the Kadhi was spicy and sharp. So we requested for a bottle of mineral water. When we asked for a third helping the owner cum cook apologetically told us that Kadhi was finished but offered to serve us Rajmah (red beans) instead. It was equally tasty and we had to order another bottle of mineral water.

Feeling full and satisfied I asked for the amount of the bill. I was told Rs.140/- for the three of us!

On my way back to the Garwhal Mandal Vikas Nigam’s hotel, I was too tired and full to look for adrak (ginger).

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