There are few things that we never tire of. For instance, days of our youth. Well, we are still very young and will always be, but the days of our youth were different. They accounted for all the firsts in our lives. The collective ‘we’ in this post refers to the inimitable gang of mischief mongers – Antara, Sanat, Aniruddha and I…all housed in the most happening address in Delhi…D-3! I won’t give the entire address, for the simple reason that if anyone decides to go hunting for the place, the new occupants may be in for a surprise! Anyways…D-3 will always be special in my life because this is where I learnt to run a household. To cook, clean, to account for added responsibilities…this is where I ended my student-hood days and took up my first job! The place where we celebrated our little joys and bonded to share our minor miseries! And it’s not just my story here…my four close friends have an equal share in D-3…for this is where ‘we’ grew up!
One of the reasons behind writing this blog is because time is eroding something in me that which should never fade away…my memory! Over the past (nearly 3 decades) there are many small memories that I’d like to hold on to. Most of them cherishable, thankfully! However, there are also those that make me cringe, those that I regret, and then those that were difficult moments for my soul! To talk about this second category would be like purging my heart, and I’ll need a lot of courage to come out and share them with you! But let’s say, I am in the mood for celebration. And in all probabilities, I’d continue to pour out memories that I’d like to revisit from time to time and relive them! They were not outstanding really, nothing like winning an award or coming first in class…but let’s say these are moments that always bring on a smile!
D-3 was one such chapter in all our lives! I have very few pictures from that phase of our lives, someday I’ll upload them. But the pictures of the house would give you a better idea of what was the set like. A two room set with two tinier bathrooms. A tiny balcony where two people could stand rubbing shoulders. A tiny kitchenette which not more than one could occupy! A common drawing – dining room space, where you could either have a dining table or a settee. Anyways, we had both! A four-seater, wrought iron round dining table, and a floor hugging seating with two large cushions thrown in! With time, we needed that space for other things and the seating vanished! Both the bed rooms had two folding sofa cum beds, the ones that are made out of foam. When I was setting up the house with my mother in 2004, those seemed very economical, comfortable and more long-lasting! With time I realised they were nothing more than durable, the comfort vanished when the craters were formed! Anyways, it was mostly Antara’s spread that carried us all…it was a smaller one but we didn’t mind it all that much. Very often one of us would slip down and squat on the cold marble floor, unless of course it was winter! The reason why we were there was because it was the entertainment hub! Going with the mood of the rest of the apartment, we had a tiny TV! A 14-inch BPL ‘Colour’ Television set that had lost its connection with its remote control a long time back! No we didn’t buy it from the second-hand market…in fact because I was a student when I started living at D-3, my parents graciously gave me their old TV and bought a new 32 inch one! So, the TV was our centre of attraction and was best operated by a toe! Don’t ask me to describe it here, coz I always failed to control my toe movements like the way the boys did! I doubt Antara ever tried the stunt! It was a complex technique that required great motor – eye coordination and the stuntman also needed to have the skill to enjoy the comfort of the bed and balance the TV on rocking trunk on which it sat! (Remember my grand mother’s old trunk that ferried my kitchen from Jamshedpur to Delhi?) Phew! It was television viewing like no other! So this was our world, our lovable hub that formed an integral part of our growing up years!
The reason why this post is called Chilli Chicken Nights is because this otherwise usual dish was a very important part of our lives at D-3! We all love our Chinese don’t we? But Chilli Chicken Nights were not really about Chinese…it was about bonding over a bowl of chicken that we’d all dig in to see who finishes it first in between our conversations! The men would talk work…markets…trends and the usual boring manly stuff! Antara and I would of course talk about friends, acquaintances, projects (work and college), movies, clothes and of course shopping! I’d take the pride that there was a point when the men would junk their conversation and move into ours. We’d of course graciously oblige them and then start a topic that would make all of us sound very knowledgable! About the dish now, it wasn’t the regular run-on-the-mill meal on wheels that I am talking about! Jiffy’s served us the BEST Chilli Chicken EVER! The perfect soya-chill-capsicum mix added to succulent chicken pieces, lots of sesame seeds and always delivered piping hot! We never went to this eatery, simply because it didn’t give us seating options. Only once did I drop in to pick up our meal and that’s how I know where it was! The best item that Jiffy’s served was of course our Chilli Chicken, we always tried it dry…but then the other portions of regular chow and rice weren’t bad either! In fact, to be honest, Chinese in that price and with that quality was hard to beat! Jiffy’s was clever in it’s marketing…they had discounts that were very tempting. For instance for a meal worth Rs 250, they’d give us a large cold drink free! For a meal worth Rs 500…I think they gave us two! And this scheme defined our ordering patterns…now the Chilli Chicken wasn’t more than Rs 90 when it started. But over the 3 1/2 years that we ordered from there, it rose to Rs 150! Not bad?? We gave him business and they in turn charged us more in every consecutive quarter! But then Jiffy’s redeemed itself when it willingly delivered us just a portion of Chilli Chicken without the extra frills of chow and rice! There was always someone ordering from them in the neighbourhood, so we were never really coaxed with the ‘minimum amount’ tagline! More often than not, the dish came home after Aniruddha asked ‘Aaj dinner ka kya scene hai?’, I’d rattle off what the cook had prepared in the morning, to which he’d nonchalantly add, “Chilli Chicken order kar dete hain!” And this was almost a regular affair…it didn’t necessarily mean that the food at home was unpalatable…it purely meant to add more taste to our dinner! And I really didn’t mind! There were also those nights, were we’d order Chilli Chicken when we were rushing home after a long day…the delivery boy would be found standing under our building, patiently waiting for us to return! And yes, the most precious moments were also those nights when we ordered Chilli Chicken on credit! Mostly these days came at the end of the month and at sometimes in the middle of it too, just because all of us had run out of money miraculously and had either forgotten to withdraw or postponed it as a task for the next day! Now just for a portion of Chilli Chicken??? Of course, D-3 was its most regular customer! There was a time when he’d recognise us from our voices, and if there was a rare week in which we didn’t order, they’d be worried! They were always there for us, on nights when we didn’t have money, when the cook had bunked and we were too tired to cook, nights when we wanted to celebrate, nights when any of us had to have a lonely dinner! Chilli Chicken from Jiffy’s was a part of our lives!
Antara and Sanat moved out of Delhi sometime in 2007. And on one not so fine day when I called up Jiffy’s to order that which we loved, I discovered they had gone too! Jiffy’s shut shop, without saying a good bye! In 2008, Aniruddha and I left D-3 too! With time, I think he has moved out of his fixation for Chilli Chicken…I however, still long for that familiar taste!