With dusk of Wednesday started the painful and tiring journey that concluded in dusk of Thursday. By then I was tired and fatigued. After travelling 2 hours in rush and mayhem filled metro, then travelling 12 hours in cold bus and finally driving 2 hours on hilly circuitous roads. I reached my village on a cold and heavy Thursday morning. I badly needed rest, instead I got the responsibility to manage the dhaam (lunch organized for masses).
Collecting the pattals (the plate made out of taymabal tree leaves, don’t ask me what taymabal is) and other grocery items for the dhaam was just the beginning of tedious day. In good old days we used to enjoy such gatherings as we have to only play and enjoy. But this time as most of my uncles was unavailable. The huge responsibility of the arrangement was to be shared by me and my younger cousin. We both are still naïve at the job of dhaam management.
We were surrounded by aroma of different variety of dishes that included the Kali Daal that is hated by my sister, the Peeli Daal that’s nothing except completely yellow, mahani the doctor’s prescription for many aliments, the mouth watering dahi bhala, kheer the sweetener and the most important and the king of all dishes the one and only Mandhra. The Mandhra is the main dish or lifeline of the dhaam.
The Mandhra is served by the most dexterous person in the servers. I have mostly obliged to be waterman, not because it’s the simplest job but it’s the job where you can make mistakes and people won’t mind it. I still remember no one shouted at me when I tripped few drops of water on them, but once I dripped few drops of peeli daal on one uncle, his face went from yellow to dark red in same time as the bikes goes from 0 to 60 in TV advertisements. I usually also take the additional duties of serving the glasses and pattals. With that I have dexterously played the role of cleaner and washer also. The most difficult job in any dhaam is to serve the rice, I had experience certificate of that job also. The serving of the delicacies like Mahani and Daahi bhalla mostly use to fall on my shoulders when my uncles used to get retired hurt.
This time being the most responsible I have to wear many hats and fulfil the duty of waterman, pattal distributor and Mandhra man. I was surprised to know that I was chosen one “the Mandhra man”. It was the biggest responsibility bestowed to me over long time period about 15-20 years. I can say it was bigger than delivering a task to client as you can fool then or being master of contest at the area level contest where you can cleverly make things up. Only the most experienced and well versed servers get chance to ditrbute the Mandhra. It was challenge as I have to deliver the prepared delicacy that was the heart of the dhaam in appropriate and elegant way.
I started very cautiously serving the Mandhra once in all pattals and was moving around to make sure that no one feels scarcity of it. I soon found out everyone wanted it more and more. Then suddenly my eldest uncle came to me pulled me in a corner. He slowly spoke into my ear the words of wisdom - the successful distribution process of Mandhra. The distribution process is different from distribution for all the dishes. He told me all other dishes are to be served twice or thrice but Mandhra is the king it needs to be delivered once and that also in small quantity. Never go and ask second time. Give it second time to the person only if he starts asking for Mandhra again and again.
I followed the words of wisdom while I was serving in the next rounds very religiously never letting the king of dhaam to be dethroned. Keeping my eyes open so I don’t put too much in any pattal and closing my ears so I can neglect the calls for additional Mandhra. After serving around 400 people and cleaning most of the mess.
It was the time to start the journey again. Driving back to home for 2 hours was really tiring. My whole body was paining and aching. For the dinner mom served me the Mandhra in one bowl with rice. I looked closely with discerning eyes.
Like everything that stands out in a group has some thing special in it. So does Mandhra that contains so many dry fruits, the fluidity and taste of Mandhra is increased manifolds by adding ghee to it and most importantly you get to just taste it and not to devour it. These all qualities together make the Mandhra so special. While looking in the bowl full of Mandhra, I understood the importance behind the calculus for distribution of Mandhra.
I got drowsy and my mind started sinking in the world full of great delicacies like Mandhra. Slowly and slowly I dozed off in the dreamland!!