Slient Night, Fiery Night.

It was 1995. I was young. (Okay, okay, I was 27, but when you reach my age, 27 is young.) Roaming upcountry Maharashtra for a photography shoot, we found ourselves at Gaganbavda, a place near Kolhapur where the ghats peak before they curve gently down into Konkan. It was evening and there was a nip in the September air, the kind that makes you yearn for hot coffee and a soft blanket. We had to spend the night there, wake up at the crack of dawn and catch the light needed for a perfect photograph. The only hotel there had a long corridor with a row of rooms that held the promise of mosquitoes, bed bugs and bathrooms that smelled of body fluids secreted since 1947. We decided to check out the local PWD bungalow and got lucky.

So far so not fiery.

For dinner, there weren't two options. The only hotel in Gaganbavda had the only restaurant too. Looking at a lone lizard on the wall stalking a thousand insects in the dining hall, we decided to pack the local food - zunka-bhakar and some daal-rice and threw in some egg omelettes, just in case.

By ten, after having fortified ourselves with some whisky, we were ready for dinner. It was quiet outside. All of Gaganbavda's residents had pulled blankets over their heads and were doing what people do under blankets on a cold night. The only sound was the racket in the other part of the bungalow - College boys on a picnic. Decibel level of a pack of dogs chasing a cat notwithstanding, their noise was reassuring; we had all watched movies of what happens to city folks who check into deserted bungalows with rickety caretakers who are three hundred years old.

We unpacked dinner. And all noise faded away. The zunka, the daal and even the omelettes were a strange red in colour. The colour of dried blood. I, being accustomed to the cuisine of Kolhapur, was the only one who had been rendered speechless because my mouth had watered at the sight of so much chilli powder. The rest were simply stunned into silence. For them, chilli was an additive to be used occasionally in food and Kolhapur was a district in the sugar belt of Maharashtra. As I attacked my food with gusto (or maybe ‘gut’so is a better word), the rest looked on. Seeing that I had neither fainted nor were my eyes streaming, they put the morsels of red into their mouths.

To date when a child refuses to sleep in Gaganbavda, its mother tells the story of a September night when four dragons ran around the streets breathing fire from their nostrils and mouths. 


  1. It's like I wanted to know the rest of the story.

  2. Ritika :)

    There's a KFC sponsored contest going on about fiery experiences - hence this post.

    The rest of the story is probably another post!



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