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Chhena Poda (standard:other, 1536 words)
Author: JuggernautAdded: Nov 05 2010Views/Reads: 1750/1095Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
Experiences of a student in a foreign land.
 



Click here to read the first 75 lines of the story

towards the sky as if Biju Patanik lives in heaven. 

“Do you know you broke Mrs. Gandhi's nose?” asked Patro. 

“No,” answered Juggernaut. 

“I did,” boasted Patro. 

“Is Biju Patnaik asked you to break Mrs. Gandhi‘s nose?” 

“No, I am telling you that I have close connections to big time
politicians,” Patro was not joking. 

“Considering what happened to Mrs. Gandhi, foreigners should be careful
in this place,” “If I were you, I listen to my classmates and behave 
accordingly,” advised Patro. 

Patro was a graduate student in a subject that deals with communication
and transfer of knowledge from laboratory to the field to benefit 
general population. Apparently, his communication techniques were 
simple and direct. 

During dinner time at dorm cafeteria, Juggernaut was about to have his
dinner one evening, he felt somebody pulling him from behind. 
Juggernaut was pulled from his seat only to face Misra holding 
Juggernaut's shirt collar. “If we don't attend a lab, you won't attend 
the lab, as simple as that,” Misra was furious. 

“That's right,” screamed Routray. 

“If we all were to skip a class, you follow us,” Misra tightened his
grip and dragged Juggernaut away from the dining table where several 
students were having dinner. 

Routray appeared to be possessed, his fair skin turned red. He started
marching up and down moving his long arms so fast, as if he may trip 
himself on his week legs, ranting about domination of some sort. 

It was the intervention by Nayak, a senior student, a heavy set man with
strong arms that set free Juggernaut from Misra's stranglehold. 

Back in his room, Juggernaut thoughts went back to his life back home.
He could have stayed back and attended a college with his former 
classmates, it was all his doing. It was not exactly what Juggernaut 
expected from his travels. But then, he found solace at most unlikely 
place, a roadside café near the campus. 

The roadside eating place was an unofficial campus cafeteria where most
students have their breakfast, lunch and dinner, since the food at dorm 
cafeteria was expensive but bad. Juggernaut ventured into this place 
after some hesitation since the place was shabby. But here, the 
students ignored each other; they were busy eating and getting out to 
attend the classes. 

The place was operated by Patnaik, a big man with large fat belly, and
friendly smile. Patnaik was originally from a border area where he 
picked up few words that Juggernaut could understand. Outside the lab, 
Juggernaut spent more time at Patnaik's place. 

One of the employees of Patnaik was a blind man. His duty was to
manually operate a big stone grinder to grind various ingredients to 
make dough to prepare “Bora”, a crispy deep fried pancake. The blind 
man perspiring heavily sitting on a stool was always grinding by 
rotating in a circular motion a heavy stone pestle placed in the large 
hole carved into a huge stone block. With no vision, he managed the 
entire operation like a chemist in a laboratory, placing the 
ingredients and necessary water to grind into dough with favorable 
consistency to make “Bora.” 

It is here, for the first time Juggernaut tasted the sweet delicacy
“Chhena Poda.” Most patrons order two or three bora, a cup of chai 
(tea) and a piece of chhena poda as a desert. A bite into a piece of 
chhena poda and the mouth feel while eating it so satisfying, one can 
forget the world outside. It is made from home made cheese called 
chhena, mixed with brown sugar, raisins, nuts, and spices, and baked in 
a shape of a pound cake until the outer surface turns golden yellow to 
brown from caramelized sugar. 

After attending classes, Juggernaut went straight to Patnaik's place to
eat and spend time talking to Patnaik or the blind man, both spoke a 
language (with strong unusual accent) Juggernaut somehow understood. 
This place, though untidy particularly in rainy season became a second 
home for Juggernaut, an escape from his tormentors. Eating bora and 
washing it down with strong chai, and always ended his meal with a 
piece of chhena poda. Juggernaut started smoking cigarettes, two 
cigarettes a day, Cavenders brand. A picture of a man in the uniform on 
the cigarette packet attracted Juggernaut to the Cavenders brand. 

Juggernaut became a regular at Patnaik's place; it was his comfort zone
and chhena poda was his comfort food. One day Misra and Routray visited 
Patnaik's place for a snack only to find Juggernaut talking loudly with 
Patnaik. They were surprised to see a self assured Juggernaut in 
unlikely surroundings; they were subdued and polite to Juggernaut who 
was in a boisterous conversation with a burly man like Patnaik. 

Juggernaut decided to drop out of the competition for the gold medal to
let Misra have it. This calmed down Misra and allowed Juggernaut to 
have peace and quiet time. 

“Do you like chhena poda,” asked Juggernaut, few decades later, at a
social gathering, just to start a conversation with Mrs. Sathpathy. 

“I hate it,” she said. 

“And I am not from Orissa either,” she added grudgingly. 

May be she was in a bad mood, perhaps aslice of freshly baked Chhena
poda, would really put her in a good mood, after all, it was chhena 
poda that gave an escape from traumatic times in my past, thought 
Juggernaut. 


   


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