A treat from the ‘grandparents’
Virginia Woolf had once said that one cannot think well, love well and sleep well if one has not dined well. Food, along with its other nourishing benefits also helps us in focusing better and a foodie would definitely relate to it. After all, one just cannot think straight on an empty stomach.
While eating out was once considered a luxury or an exception rather than the rule, today it has become a necessity and a part of the daily schedule of Guwahatians.
With the countless number of eateries covering every nook and corner of Guwahati and the variety of cuisines offered by them, there is a particular section of people which craves for homemade food when it comes to lunch. The working class, to be specific, are the ones for whom eating out at even a comparatively reasonably priced restaurant can burn a hole in their pocket and yet they cannot carry their lunch from home; after all cold food is not something one normally prefers.
This is when a particular type of eatery comes into the picture. Such eateries offer a platter with some rice, dal, a mixture of different vegetables complemented by some chutney to spice up the meal and the meal comes at a very reasonable price. One can also choose an additional non-vegetarian preparation for a few extra bucks. Such eateries, commonly called ‘hotels,’ - some with a name for itself and some without – can be seen in several crannies of the city. Although generally not too expensive, the cost of whetting your appetite might vary in such eateries. While most of them are least bothered about standing out and prefer to stick to the conventional methods of selling their fares there is one eatery that has caught the fancy of its small clientele and not without reason.
An eatery with the capacity of serving only eight people at a time, it is one such diner that is in massive demand among its regulars. Started around five years ago the eatery located at Kachari Basti Road in Ulubari is currently run by a married and rather aged couple. Pratima Basumatary and Dino Basumatary not only just offer food at a substantially reasonable rate but also ensure very frugal use of spices.
Moreover, the duo’s eatery is also known for not sticking to the plate system which is done in the regular eatery, restaurant or food van but a customer can opt for a single chunk of meat for a nominal amount.
Pratima, along with her household duties, chose more than to be just a housewife and started the eatery along with another partner. However, due to certain complications the other partner had to part ways and that is when Dino joined the business. During its initial days the eatery only served Puri Sabji during the morning hours but from January 2015 the ‘hotel’ started serving food during the lunch hours and soon managed to gather the office-goers in and around the area. Such is the popularity of the food served in the diner that the limited sitting arrangement does not stand as a hindrance as the customers choose to wait for their turn. During lunch hours people in tens of numbers wait for an opportunity to grab a seat and enjoy a delicious and healthy meal.
The duo managed to attain this endearing popularity after a prolonged struggle. Dino is a retired employee of Assam State Transport Corporation (ASTC). However, it was not to make ends meet that the duo got into the food business but with the idea of doing something productive rather than idly spending their retirement days.
“I took to driving an auto-rickshaw after retirement and that continued for around twelve years but I suffered some severe injuries. Interestingly, the injuries were caused by accidents that took place when I was not driving my auto-rickshaw. That is when my wife asked me to join the business,” Dino mentioned during a conversation with G Plus.
Meanwhile, the duo’s move of serving a single piece of non-vegetarian item was not a move that happened consciously but it became a trend when customers asked for some extra pieces while enjoying their meal. “The customers sometime ask for a few extra pieces and instead of offering them to opt for another plate we simply divide the price as per the pieces of meat. It gradually went on to become popular among our customers and those who are not in the mood to gulp down an entire plate can go for one or two pieces along with the curry. Meanwhile, we try to keep the price at a minimum and try to provide quality and healthy food,” Pratima said.
The preparation to serve the mad rush at lunch hours starts from as early as 5 am. While Pratima starts preparing the spices and gets involved in other activities, Dino helps in chopping the vegetables. The duo prepares and serves the food all by themselves until 3:30 pm when the vessels get emptied. The shop closes down at 4 pm as the couple head back to their abode and to their families. While we talk about all the fancy restaurants, taking a shot at some freshly cooked food at this unnamed diner would just perhaps be a rewarding experience. The zest for life of these aged Guwahatians deserves salutations.