Even since the lockdown began, everyone has been cooking their favorite dishes at home and sharing them on their social handles. Seeing all the variety of delicacies on display, I started craving Daal ki Kachori that was served on Sundays in Vidyapeeth (my school ‘Birla Balika Vidyapeeth’, Pilani, Rajasthan). I relished those kachoris so much that within five years of my beautiful hostel life, I had built the capacity to eat three Kachoris in one go (the then Vidyapeethians are aware of the size). For five years, I had it on every alternate Sunday as breakfast and I just never got bored.

I shared my craving with all my close school friends on the WhatsApp group but the question was how to satiate this deep desire? The urge to have it overpowered me completely and I kept thinking about it for days; I imagined its taste and shape; remembered the mixed achaar served with it. I imagined every possible detail to connect the dots and tried to piece together its recipe. I even searched on YouTube but found nothing that could even match its physical appearance. I was sad.

But then something clicked me and I decided to give it a try with the recipe I had. I told myself, “jaisi bhi banegi dekha jaayega, but banana hai toh; khaana hai toh matlab khaana hai.”

So, I soaked some dhuli moong daal and dhuli urad daal overnight. In the morning, I washed the mixed daal with freshwater and sautéed it in one table spoon oil with some jeera, lal mirchi powder, haldi, and pissa sukha dhaniya. To make the Kachoris, I followed the same procedure as that of aloo ki kachoris. The first one did not turn out as expected. But then, oh gosh! the fluffy, soft, and crisp kachoris started coming out. I was elated. I clicked photos to share with my friends. They were perfect. It was a successful attempt and my happiness knew no boundaries.

Suddenly… I was hit by nostalgia… I was reliving the school days again.

I am telling you, dear readers and my school mates (if anyone of you is reading), I was lost in the ocean of memories. My feelings were so real that I saw fourteen-year-old Vanya sitting with fellow bakulians having the same kachoris for Sunday breakfast. I saw baiji serving us hot and fresh Kachoris. I felt as if I was sitting in our hostel mess. I could hear the girls chit-chatting in the half-empty mess; baiji telling me to announce in bakul corridor so that others can come to have breakfast before it’s closed.

I could hear my fellow housemates saying to each other, “yaar 11thies ne paanch kachori maarne ko boli hain. So, ek ek sabko maarne padhengi.” I could still feel the pressure to fulfill this obligation as they were our “board partners” and was the settled custom of my school.

While cooking these Kachoris, I could see Bikaaji’s face (the then hostel mess staff manager); I could hear melodious songs chosen and played by the food committee members. I felt the vibrations of “shaanti”, the prayer offered before every meal - the wordings of which I understood only in 12th when I got a chance to sit on the front tables. I could hear the deafening sound of steel plates as party drama (intra-house cultural competition) results were being announced. I could see someone standing during lunch or dinner as a punishment for indiscipline- it was a huge shame as seniors used to stare and laugh whereas the ‘subject’ was under the constant surveillance of the House Prefect, “hile toh gaye”.

I was laughing as the memories of secretly taking away chappatis, especially for seniors and at times for classmates, flashed- the practice famously called “chappati maarna. “ I must say that to successfully procure 4-5 chappatis the act was equivalent to participating in Khatron ke Khilaadi or completing a Roadies task. Also, laughing even a little loudly in the mess, was a huge issue and we had to face Prefect’s looks and anger during the night attendance or simply listen to her taunts for the rest of the year.

Ahh! The nostalgia has taken over me even as I write this article. I realized that food has immense power to give us some lifetime memories. It can have such a great impact that having a simple daal can transport you to a beautiful and special memory lane associated with it. Though hostel mess food is always a controversial issue across the hostels, I must say that the taste remains unmatched and cannot be found anywhere else, even in the world’s best kitchens.

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