Thursday, November 20, 2008

Jai Jawan : An Indian Army Soldiers, Food Guide.

Napoleon did say an Army marches on its stomach. The corporate jugglers often say that most battles are won on an empty stomach. Its hard to tell who is right.

The Indian soldier, comes, from largely a rural background and represents a large amount of diversity from the regions, states, clans, tribes. However the greatest leveller is the food in the langar. There are a few nomenclatures or terms of reference, I would like to clarify at the outset (using the language of an Indian officerspeak).

Langar :Cook house and dining hall for ORs, ie other ranks including non commissioned officers or NCOs). The cook is called langari.You see a world war two langari here.

Tadka group :A group of Jawans who are friends, who temper their food with Ghee, tomatoes, onions and chillies to make it tasty and sometimes edible.

Issue day : The day of the week when rum is issued to ORs on payment or free, largely coincides with the meat preparation day.

Badakhana: Feast which happens at the platoon, company and Battalion in a unit, to mark a celebration, event or a festival, with food drink and singing and entertainment.

Rations :The amount of cereals, meat vegetables and condiments issued individually or enmasse to the troops Langar.

Fresh: Loosely Vegetables, Fruit, Meat and eggs issued twice or thrice week.

Field Rations : Usually issued to High altitude areas, or Field areas, with liberal use of largely unpalatable or dated tinned food as in fruit, vefetable, meat (which needs definite intervention from the Tadka group). Sometimes experimental (packaged food) stuff from DRDO (defence research and development oraganisation), the same guys who contribute in putting together missiles and nuclear devices.

MOH: Meat on hoof, alive goats to be slaughtered at the unit level.

Wet Canteen :An institution to hang around, also called the Bania, stocks cold samosas, pakoras, sweets and mithai made few days ago. Stocks all spurious and cheap brands for easy and quick buys and 5 minute shopping at odd hours. A huge lifeline and help in far flung areas. Also extends credit on goods and is a moneylender.

A day in a soldiers life starts ( in field or in peace) with the smell of puris from the nearby langar. These puris are the size of a big tandoori roti and have salt and red chilli powder as the seasoning. These are eaten by the handfull with hot tea.A rare treat is Aloo ki subzi or petha subzi (pumpkin). In the field officers usually eat the same food with aloo and mirchi chips and sometimes anda bhujiya with lots of onions and green chillies. The soldier sticks to the puris pretty much all around the year. Breafast is between 7 and 8am. However, you eat, when you get a chance.

The tea at mid morning is namak para, shakar para or a sugary ball of gram fried and called a bonda. This sometimes supplemented by samosas, besan ladoo or burfi from the wet canteen. These are are usually paid by the person who loses a bet based on physical or mental prowess.The payback is stuff from the wet canteen.

Lunch is usually a hot meal, rotis with lots of atta stuck on them (they have to be clapped together to get the atta or flour off), subzi (vegetable any seasonal stuff depending on fresh ration, aloo gobhi, gajar, just aloo), and dal which is the langar dal. Vegetarian platoons get milk instead of meat and eggs and the Jats make great kari pakoda. There is sometimes egg curry but seldom meat, unless its muslim unit or sub unit. There is rice nearly everyday. So basic stuff , Roti, subzi, dal and rice. Most soldiers have all of it served in one utensil (quite like sai baba), rather than take aThali and eat it comfortably. Some just reat out of a saucepan or mess tin (put in the dal and subzi together) and scoop it out with rotis. Whilst there some who eat zestfully with supplementing with a salad of tomatoes, onions and cucumer with green chilli. Procured from the wet canteen or the nearest habitation and brought in by a dispatch rider. He is usually the lifeline of lesser the mortals with the outside world.

Evening tea is hurried affair and seldom consumed and usually nothing other than plain tea. Busy with games allocation of work or just plain "working" or fatigue.

Dinner on issue day adds buoyancy in the stride as issue days are usually coupled with meat ration or fresh ration days. Most persons take the effort to bathe and dress in mufti's the tadka group gets active. The ghee from home in the kit bag is taken out, the disptch rider has been ordered with the required condiments and masalas and we are all set. Rum is issued after the roll call. The menu tonite is Meat, usually a spicy curried meat with lots of gravy. Its a delight to eat it with the rajputs, they make it the spiciest best. Eaten with flour dusted rotis (now you don't care) and pretty much nothing else, although there is dal, subzi and rice. The treat is meat curry (hot) with rotis or just with hot rice. Sometimes there is kheer. Now is the time for idyllic bidis and sometimes drunken brawls. the day has come to an end. The guys who do not drink do the guard duties whilke the tipplers rest it out. Huge camraderie. There is a simplicity to this life. Sometimes too simple, pickle, savoury or sweet makes all the difference in and otherwise humdrum life. More on the Badakhana later.

Now a quick question to the army buffs what is this metal contraption called ?

So Long !


Praveen said...

Hi Sam.

nice read.
the carb fix is very key to north indians therefore namak aijwain paranthas for breakfast.
i dont know the contraption...looks rather funny.

take care

saurjyesh said...

Nice read.Brought back the momeries of a pre teen kid who used to hang around the langar on the meat day with dads battie.
Look froward to your barakhana post.

Alex said...

Interesting post... gives one a peek at some things that outsiders have no clue of...

Btw, you should change the name of the pic from 'Indian Mess Tin' before posting...

piyush said...

Yar I almost fainted to note the daily food p the army.This is too...I always thought here the food would be richer/better.Thnks for highlighting this.

Anonymous said...

This is called a tiffin.

Samil said...

Dear anonymous,

Its a actually called a mess tin.


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Anonymous said...

hello sir,

This was an interesting piece of article. I would like to know if the the soldiers (including the engineers in the army) are provided free food? Or is food consumption in the LANGERS charged?

Samil said...

thanks food for Jawans in the langar is free while the Jco mess and offrs mess have a monthly bill.
warm regards,

ManasR Nayak said...

Hi Samil,
What is the difference between langar and mess (like JCO mess or officer's mess)? And is the ration fixed for a jawan or a jawan can eat as much puris/meat they want?

Best Regards,

Samil said...

Dear Manas,

The difference between a Langar and a mess. Actually langar was commonly used for the Jawans and Other ranks. While the NCO's ( Non commissioned officers and JCO's Junior Commissioned Officers) which was graded and better based on the grades and ranks.
Currently the Jawam's/ORs Langar is called OR Mess.

Regarding the rations, if drawn separately as (if the Army personnel lives in station with family). Draws or is issued an authorused ration. Whilst if it is pooled for single ORs or in field postings, it is eat all you can,

Thank you for your interest.

Warm regards,

Samil Malhotra

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Foodsanta said...

Nice post. Thanks for sharing and highlighting the menu served to our army.

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