I looked sadly at the aaloo-baingan sitting on my plate. The chapati placed neatly besides it. With a small piece of mango pickle in a guest appearance.
"Kha na. Thanda ho raha hai," my mom said as she brought another chapati.
"Aapne toh kaha tha meri pasand ki sabzi banaayi hai," I scowled.
"Haan toh yeh hai na kitni acchi sabzi," she said putting the chapati on my plate. "Kha ke dekh kitni tasty hai."
"I hate aloo-baingan," I protested.
"Kha le. Jab bahar jaayega na, tab yahi aaloo-baingan yaad aayega," she said ominously.
"Oh realllyyyy! Like that'd ever happen," I scoffed while taking an unwilling bite.
This conversation had happened 8 years ago. But it was playing again in my head as I opened my box of kadahi chicken I'd ordered from the usual haunt near my place.
I stared blankly into the box. Two pieces of chicken floating in at least a liter of oil greeted me.
I unwrapped the chapatis from the aluminium foil. They looked more chewy than a packet of gum.
I sighed. And believe it or not, I genuinely wished I could eat ghar ka aaloo-baingan and roti instead of this oilfest.
You know, while leaving my hometown, I'd pledged that I'd try every restaurant Delhi had to offer.
And being a man of my words, try them I did. The very idea of eating home cooked food felt like a sin to me and the fact that I could now eat any dish I want, and that too 24x7, was kinda liberating.
Well, at least for the first 2 years that is.
Okay, for the first 3 years.
Since I believe in fair play, I gave every restaurant in Delhi a fair chance to woo me.
Every single day. For the next 1,095 days.
And then, the food fatigue started setting in. Slowly but very steadily, I began growing tired of the restaurants' homogenized food. No matter where I ordered it from, the paneer and the chicken tasted the same.
The rotis and the naans were chewy as ever. And skimming half a liter of oil everyday from any dish I ordered was becoming way too taxing.
I realized that I was super tired of restaurant food when one day, I craved for ghar ki khichdi.
Yes! Of all the things, the humble khichdi. The one dish I hated as much as I loved the show of the same name. The one dish, that used to make matters worse for us every time we used to fall sick.
And yet, one day, here I was, sitting in my room wanting nothing more than some pipping hot khichdi, with dollops of ghee in it.
Because trust me, there's nothing that ghee on khichdi can't set right.
You know how everybody has a comfort food? Mine happens to be ghar ka khanaa now. And even in ghar ka khaana, I crave for no fancy stuff.
Just simple dal-chawal with a glass of chaanch is more than enough to set things right for me.
"Kya khaayega?" my mom asks me everytime I go home now.
"Kuch bhi bana do," I say.
I guess that's what staying away from home for 8 years does to you.
It makes you realize that ghar ka 'kuch bhi' is way, way better than the fanciest dish any restaurant has to offer.
As cliched as it may sound, I think the one thing all fancy restaurants miss is the love that goes into home cooked food. The selfless motive our parents have to keep us well fed.
Yes, I still do relish an occasional burger or a pizza, but given a choice, it's ghar ka dal-chawal over a fancy restaurant any day.