Breakfasting in crewroom

Dhatikara's spicy recipe for the 'do ande ki bhujiya' made the eggs quite edible.

About three-and-a-half decades ago Aviation Medicine experts insisted that flying on an empty stomach led to slow reactions and consequent mishaps in the sky. It was simple arithmetic that losing even a single fighter aircraft or an aircrew was far costlier than providing breakfast to all aircrew. The logical next step was to provide free breakfast to the military aviators to ensure that flying be undertaken only on a full stomach (not overfull though). That saw the onset of the golden age of hot breakfast served in our crew rooms.

But very soon, we found the unimaginative and unappetising menu of cornflakes, toast with two eggs and a cup of coffee, in the inglorious tradition of the officers’ mess, invading the crew room, too. I guess things must have improved now with the induction of women pilots in the services. I enviously imagine that the ladies with wings must have given a feminine touch to the yesteryears’ routine by introducing variety in breakfast in the form of dosa, idly, paranthas, kachoris, poha, halwa, kheer etc.

In our days, the only aviator to show some imagination in this regard was one Dhatikara who later rose to a high rank. His recipe for the ‘do ande ki bhujiya’ included many spices, making the eggs quite edible. ‘Dhatikara bhujiya’ soon became popular all over the Air Force.

Having married colleagues used to be a consolation, though. They invariably collected dry rations and brought mouthwatering breakfast dishes in their tiffin boxes. But the poor chaps rarely got an opportunity themselves to peacefully enjoy what the Lady of the House had packed for them. The bachelors  usually usurped their tiffin and offered their routine bread and eggs in lieu declaring unilaterally that it was a fair exchange.

In our squadron, the only married man who enjoyed his homemade breakfast undisturbed was a certain colleague who later joined Air India. Either he was very fond of beef sandwiches or it was the only thing his wife could prepare. After opening his tiffin box, he would give it an endearing look and then graciously ask “Anybody cares for a beef sandwich?” Practically all of us would politely decline the offer. He would then take a deep sigh and begin munching on his sandwiches. What amazed me was the unchanging routine with which the lady of the house sent the same preparation every morning.

One day, he threw a party at his home and I was tickled by his wife’s culinary expertise. I could not stop myself from asking, “How come you don’t show much imagination in packing his breakfast? It’s the same beef sandwiches every morning?!” She looked surprised. “Oh, we don’t eat beef at all. It is chicken, cheese or mayonnaise that I use as a filling in his sandwiches on different days,” she said.

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