KATHMANDU, AUGUST 11
love my dal-bhat. It's one of I the cuisines in the world for mind, spirit and body. Truly a Nepali gift to the world. But my love for dal-bhat does not go beyond the normal. I have dalbhat only once a day, either for lunch or dinner.
On the intercity drive, I forgo my dal-bhat. I am not the one to stop at Mugling, Malekhu or wherever for dal-bhat. Once on a night bus, my co-passenger announced, "Dai, let's have dalbhat."
It was 12:30 am. I said, "What! At this hour!" He did not speak to me for the rest of the journey. That's how seriously Nepalis take their dal-bhat.
I also make sure that I don't have dal-bhat or Newari staple - Samaya baji - costing anything from 30/40 to 80 dollars per head. That, of course, comes with Newari dances. But even if they provide a fairy or Cleopatra to eat with, I will avoid Nepali/Newari delicacies for that kind of money. In early 2000, I would feel awkward to charge Rs250 for a plate of Samaya baji at my eatery. So I am not blind, deaf and dumb to the price of dal-bhat. I don't like Samaya baji so much. I never ate it even in my restaurant, for free. I always went home to eat my dalbhat.
So imagine my irateness when an airline manager conned me into taking him to an expensive Indian restaurant in a South-East Asian country. I could not sleep for days at having spent nearly 300 U.S. dollars for roti, tarkari, papad, salad, raita and a few glasses of beer.
My guest had lobster, mutton, chicken and prawn with roti.
He invited me to take him to Himalayan something, owned jointly, according to him, by SC Shah and SS Rana, big men during the royal era. I told him I did not fancy anything associated with the Himalayas when I am out of the country. My antipathy to the Himalayas included him as well as SC and SS. I deliberately mentioned to him that I would drink at my hotel bar in the company of the local who's who, listening to a Filipino band. He feigned he had a meeting with an economic renegade, an Agrawal, in the evening. He said he would get saag, Kalo daal and Nepali paddy for Agrawal, who rewarded him with odd bottles of JW Red Label. I also told him that someday we would eat in the street in South Delhi for Indian Rs 5 per plate, fit for us. When I travel, I eat only local food. For example, I love Japanese food in Japan. I love Japanese food the most. But if someone told me 'let's go to Thamel for Japanese cuisine,' I won't.
In Perth, the Nepali consul took me out for dinner. As a courtesy, she asked me if I would love dal-bhat at a restaurant run by the same SS Rana, minus SC Shah. Nepalis don't make great bedfellows when it comes to money, beauty and trade. I said, "Oh Lily, take me to something Perth for an authentic Australian evening".
A version of this article appears in the print on August 12 2021, of The Himalayan Times.