Egg on the Highway… The boiled egg cart lady under the Jogeshwari Flyover

How interesting can a boiled egg be?

Well add some salt and pepper and you will see.

I was under the the Jogeshwari flyover on Mumbai’s Western Express Highway a couple of days back. By the Jaico signal which heads to JVLR. On the left side of the road as you face Goregaon.

I reached there in an auto-rickshaw, inching through snaking traffic, on menacing pot holed roads. Thankfully three days of continuous rain had stopped for a while. The ride would have been worse otherwise in the city which been ranked 116 in the world in terms of best cities to live in. Only a few cities like Dhaka and Tripoli came after Mumbai in the survey. The city with one of the world’s costliest real estate prices!

I had a long way to go that evening in my journey to far off Dahisar after work.

While I waited I thought I would take a quick bite. There was a little shop on the kerb. It sold bottled water and biscuits, chips and chocolates of unknown, possibly spurious, brands. Didn’t seem a smart choice.

The aroma of piping hot vada paos suddenly wafted across. Mumbai’s favoured snack on the go.

I followed the fragrant promise of piping hot potato vadas and soon reached a stall on the pavement. They were frying batata vadas and other fritters at the stall on the road. Quite a few people were eating there. Seemed like a good option. My sort of place.

But the stall was on a lane surrounded by mud and muck. The result of the recent rains. For a moment I thought that the deep frying would neutralise the germs. Should be safe. And then I hesitated. One of those rare moments when I chickened off from eating on the streets. Possibly the fact that I was headed to the hospital to visit my uncle in law who was down with malaria was playing on my mind.

I gave the vada paos a miss.

Yes, I hang my head in shame.

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I then saw another stall a bit ahead on the pavement by the highway. There was a lady selling boiled eggs. Shelled. That seemed right. Hermeneutically sealed by nature.

I approached her and spoke to her in Hindi.

“Can I have an egg”

She broke into a big smile. Nodded. She had incense sticks in both her hands.

There was a man beside her – husband? helper? neighbour? – who politely asked “would you mind if she finished her prayers”.

I said “no”.

The lady smiled and swirled the incense sticks in the air and said a quick prayer. I was the first customer that evening.

She finished her prayers and cracked open the shell of an egg. I saw that she had pao’s (local breads), covered by a plastic sheet, by the eggs.

“Can you give me the egg in a pao?” I asked.

“Sure” she said. “Would you like it teekha (hot)”.

“Yes”

She cut the egg into two and covered the surface with salt, pepper, red chilli powder.

“Shall I heat your pao?”

“You can? That would be great.”

She immediately dived down with a pao in her hand. She had a little stove below the table and a girdle on it. She cut the pao in to two and placed it on the girdle and heated it.

She then stood up and packed in the boiled egg between the soft and now crisp outside bun. My seven rupee egg sandwich was ready.

I paid her as I saw a couple approach her and place their order. She took a boiled egg out for them and put it on the girdle and began to fry it.

“Do you make omelettes and burjee (masala scrambled eggs) too?'” I asked

“Yes”, she said with a big toothy grin.

I took a bite of my sandwich and slowly walked off.

A bite of goodness that left a fuzzy glow inside. The warm bread, the much maligned, and yet full of sunshine, boiled egg yolk, the touch of spice …  a bite of love and goodness. Just what one needed in that grey evening surrounded by dust and traffic, the despair and desolateness of concrete.

This was the taste of heaven. Pure, simple, full of happiness.

The prayers she said worked for me.

I recently read this blog post by Anthony Bourdain. He writes:

“One of the things I’m always looking at as I travel around the world is “where the cooks come from”.  And if there’s a regular feature, a common thread wherever you go in this world, it’s that the best cooks and often the best chefs come from the poorest or most challenging regions.  And it is without doubt that the greatest , most beloved and iconic dishes in the pantheon of gastronomy—in any of the world’s mother cuisines—French, Italian or Chinese–originated with poor, hard-pressed, hard working farmers and laborers with no time, little money and no refrigeration.”

Yes, I want to go back and try out the omelette and anda burjee made by our boiled egg lady on the Highway.

I know it will be ‘ beloved and iconic’.

Comments

Harman said…
very nice..some thing different,,
n new!
Usually egg sandwich is something else..But this would be yum..Cuz...it had that spice!
puzzling heart said…
REALLY LIKED IT... MADE ME FEEL GOOD.
~@$HIM@~ said…
aah, u have reminded me of the aanda wala opposite my apartments in Delhi. I always used to go there after the gym, to have boil eggs(take away)...i used to be the only girl customer he had...somehow always seen guys only at such stalls.. specially in delhi. .. wow the boiled eggs topped with chopped onions n coriander and his spl. masala!! :)
Bong Mom said…
Lovely Post. Boiled eggs, hot to touch, sliced with a sprinkle of salt and pepper on the railways station will remain my fuzziest food memories
Namita - said…
This is what I call finding simple pleasures of life in small things.
Anupa said…
I have been stalking your blog for a while now, have so much to say, would love to say, I am a foodie, food crazed since childhood, ferreting out places and travelling just to eat, I will start a blog but before I do that, I am working on another food related project, after which I shall probably start a blog. This post just cried out to me to finally write coz unless I am on a flight, anywhere else I go, a short road trip, train journey or whatever, I always carry some boiled eggs and bread/butter pre seasoned so that the egg can be smushed in and gobbled :-) I have been the butt of many a remark and chided for carrying around useless stuff, yet they eat their words along with the eggs and bread when hunger hits
Anupa said…
Needless to say I thoroughly enjoy your blog, just so you know I didnt leave you out ;-)
Regina said…
What a sweet and heartwarming post Kalyan :)
The Knife said…
Thanks Regina

Thanks so much for writing in Anupa. I remember my mom packing boiled egg sandwiches when my unle and I went to see a test match at Eden. and then when my masi and I tood the train to Delhi once. Pepper, salt and butter. Life before mayonnaise or cholesterol worries
The Knife said…
@Harman, it was yum :)

@Puzzling Heart: thanks :) yes the sandwich made me feel good

@Ashima: that must have neen quite a treat

@Sandeepa: boiled eggs would be such a Bong Mom thing :)

@namita: very true
Pritam said…
Nice and different kind of post. Some of these anda-bhurji walas are really iconic among locals. :)
Scarlett said…
One of my favourite memories from my growing up days is buying boiled eggs from carts on the street on winter evenings. They'd sprinkle it with salt, pepper and some tangy masala....awesomeness.
Anjali said…
Kalyan and I see a heart of gold here. You sending more customers to that lady by writing about a humble egg sandwich that she might have transformed into something so heartwarming for you just like a true gruhini. She deserves more customers and you deserve a pat on the back. Really sweet.
The knife said…
@Pritam I sometimes used to eat anda burjee at dadar station on the way home. Once saw the guy slap a cockroack who got on to the tawa with a pao :)

@Scarlett: unrelated but your comment brought back dim paruti-walas outside Nizam's Palace at Kolkata where my mom & I occasionally would stop as she took me to school. Must hve been 7 or 8 then...before you were born :P

@Anjali: thank you so much but you are being too kind. i was just was looking for a nice story to write about. no noble intentions. but if it gives her some business then she fully desrves it. thanks once again :)
Sassy Fork said…
Interesting story!
Pao to slap cockroach...ewww?!!
Anonymous said…
Yum - this puts me in the mood for an egg sandwich on a rainy afternoon....
Dilshad said…
You are gradually becoming more bawa like! Eggs are our first love :)
Lovely post, very heartwarming!
The knife said…
@Dilshad...interestingly in the 80s at least omelettes used to be a standard thing to make at Calcutta houses if a guest suddenly dropped in and there was nothing at home. Omelettes are called maamlets in Bengali