We are going to Doctor Saab's house, said Devender Rana (a friend, a newly appointed dealer of Star Tv and the Maruti Dealer for J&K and parts OF HP). I thought he meant, a family doctor pit stop on our way to the office.
We approach a secluded colony near a hill, the white bunagalow in Jammu is massive and is guarded by a platoon of infantry. This is no ordinary Doctor's house. Its the Jammu home of Dr Farooq Abdullah. We enter and are seated in the lawn its winters. He joins us wearing an Arabic long tunic (Thobe, Thaub Arabic) and carrying a new Louis Vuitton Bag with slip on black leather slippers.
Is this a poltical commentary, no I have been writing about food, its ought to have a food angle. We seat ourselves, the normal conversation of Star Tv and Star News, ( back then the halo effect of Dr Prannoy Roy was still alive). We will quickly decide to visit a nearby and close friend of Doctor Saab, for Pyaar Ka Pyaala (a cup of love), actually a mid morning tea invitation. We climb his new Mahindra Scorpio, it has a loud song of Main Hoon Na, playing in it. The motorcade security has been given the day off (we drive out albeit, in the neighbourhood without any security). Considering that just last week there was suicide grenade attack which Doctor saab survived, I am edgy and nervous.
We drive less than 500 yards and reach a two storied middle class home recently made, its a kind of a house warming tea invitation. We sit in the morning sun, I am seated next to the son of Sher-i- Kashmir (his father Sheikh Abdullah was called that). He asks me are a you a Vegetarian, I say No. He says Shukr hai Khuda ka (thank the Lord).
We are served, seekh kabab, shammi kabab, boti kabab, chaap (ribs) , bread , chutney and cucumber. The food is delicious, its only 11 am, I dig in. I look at Dr Khosa a golfer and a vegetarianis pitifully nibbling on bread and cucumber. I immediately knew , why Doctor saab, thanked the lord when I accepted that I am a Non Vegetarian. More good food, cups of tea and we are ready to leave.
Now , instead of driving back home we head to the Gandhi Bazaar, I am genuinely scared, there is no security, Doctor saab wants to buy a blanket, a pillow and sheets, as he hates the bedding on the night train from Jammu to Delhi he often takes. On the way we see, Mufti Mohammad Syed's (the Chief Minister) Cavalcade , we park by the side, Dr Saab looks down, not to be spotted. Just last week, the Mufti had complained to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, that Dr Farooq Abdullah does not take the precautions and blames the state government for inadequate security arrangements.
We enter the Raymond show room, buy a blanket, pay cash, we meet the finance minister of the state, who is getting a suit styled by the in house draper. Pick a Reliance pillow and Bombay Dyeing sheets, pay everywhere in cash. Talk about girls, websites, the Jammu porn scandal, whats the girls name, Anara Gupta, perhaps mentioned has anyone seen her tapes (who has a film being made on her life). We generally shoot the breeze. He suddenly anounces that after all this meat (gosht), we need to have yoghurt (dahi Chaat). So we drive of to Pahalwan Di Hatti for Chaat.
We are parked and we order glasses of Sweet lime juice and soon Papri Chaat ( Yoghurt based stuff). We eat, despite the fact that we are stuffed. We get talking, Dr saab don't you feel scared driving of all by yourself, without the security. He says, living like that all your life is not worth living. Besides, he says, people must think that this is some mad person who looks and dresses like Farooq abdullah, to drive around like this in the security threat environ ment.This was in 2004.
Now, the gang, decided to check out a motorcycle for a poor kid Dr Saab knew. I had my car following all this while, I politiely excused myself and left for the airport in my car. I thought to myself what a way to go, eat kababs, chaat paapri and buying accoutrements for a bed, for a night journey of a man who could have been a king(perhaps he is One).
Again I met him, through my wife (Black Berry Champion), a meeting with the home minister at the Royal Springs Golf Course in May 2007, Dr Saab, though, did not remember me from a previouis meeting, offered me to have beer. Strangely, I was placed next to him on the porch. I politely refused, he said in chaste Urdu, is it a special day when you do not drink, is there a special reason why you not will drink today. I said no. I was offerd beer and kababs, our daughter Ananya (Detective An) who was famished and loves kababs, tucked in plenty. The only relationship I have with Dr Saab is of eating and drinking.