This morning after a long time, Dalia was on the breakfast menu. Dalia is a dish prepared from cracked paraboiled wheat. It is boiled with milk and little sugar. The aroma was something similar to the Balgur I had during my school days and it reminded me of those childhood times spent with one of my friend Amar, now a successful man, a father, a father in law, well settled in Angul. But, we both were best friends since then. The Balgur was of immense interest for my friend Amar, but not that much for me. This morning, when I took a spoonful of Dalia, remembered the Sal leaf, Amar, the Balgur and those childhood days.
It was in late seventies and early eighties. I was in class 5th in a rural Government school. We were about 50 students in the school,upto 5th standard. In my class we were 10 students. Those days all Government school were being supplied with the Balgur and a metal-canned cooking oil. Like these days mid-day meals, the boiled Balgur was a very important item, all of us in Government school would be waiting for. As I and Amar were in class 5th and were bit healthy to lift the bowl full of boiled Bulgur from kitchen to serving area, we were in-charge of preparation. I don’t remember any cook in the school,those days. At around 10 AM, we would be given with 8-10 kgs of Balgur and a cup of oil. The Balgur and the oil were being supplied to India by USA as an aid those days. So, we had a privilege of having some foreign food since childhood. I and Amar would collect the items and reach to the kitchen, an abandoned room at a distance from the school. Dry leaves and woods would be collected. Now Amar would teach me how to ignite the Chullah(Hearth). After around half an hour struggle in our teens, we would finally be ready to start cooking. A big aluminium pot, never seen its exact colour but black, would be filled with water till we both can lift it. If we could not lift,we would again drain some water out of it. Then we would add the cup of oil in the water and wait till it boils. The the Balgur will be added to the water till it is cooked, sometimes half cooked and sometimes gets overcooked. The Bulgar is same like the Dalia, but the size of crushed wheat differs. The size is bit finer in case of Dalia. Now the time would be around 12 noon and everyone in the school would be waiting for me and Amar. We both would lift the cooked Bulgar in that aluminium pot to the serving area of school. Drenched in sweat,we both would return with immense pride as if had won a war.Then Amar would go to the rear side of the school to pluck some Sal Leaves to be used as plates. Till Amar comes back, I would guarding the cooked food. Then all students would relish the delicious Bulgar. Sometimes, I used to bring a spoon full of sugar from home in a folded paper. I and Amar would share that sugar with Bulgar. The taste and flavour was not of that appealing to me, but the company with others and specially Amar, was something I still adore till today.
Childhood in a government school, Balgur, the sal leaves, and Amar are not only beautiful memories but also practical lessons, of team spirit, of hardships and struggles, of friendship…..
(for all of then who had a schooling in rural Government schools in eighties and had tasted the Bulgur.Please share your comments if you are a student those days)