This is a story of the yesteryears, when a little boy of 6 yrs of age travelled from a small town to the big city of Calcutta to attend his maternal uncle’s marriage. It was just end of the winter season. The whole family was travelling. Mother, Father and the Sisters were all travelling together by train from Nepanagar, a small town in Madhya Pradesh to Calcutta (today’s Kolkata). In those days, Nepanagar being a small town, had only passenger trains and the Amritsar express stopping at the station. To go to Calcutta, one had to board the mail or express train at Khandwa or Bhusawal. The family boarded the passenger train to reach Khandwa, and from there they had to catch Howrah mail for Calcutta. They were travelling in first class compartment. In those days, the first class used to be made of teak wood. The boy was very happy and excited. He was continuously planning for things to do at his uncle’s marriage. He was planning what he will eat, which sweet and how many he will eat. He had carefully planned that he will eat only two luchi (poori), few pieces of meat, and lots and lots of sweets. Suddenly the train stopped, and his dreams came to a halt. They had reached Khandwa. It was very late in night. He was feeling hungry. All of them went to the waiting room of the station. His father went out and arranged for food at the railway canteen. It was very late, and the canteen was almost shut, but in those days people used to be very kind hearted. The canteen Manager agreed to serve the family. When the father asked the boy what he would like to eat, he told that he would like to eat Mutton Cutlet. The canteen manager agreed and the cook was woken up, but he never objected or argued. With a smile, the cook asked the family to wait for fifteen minutes, and started to prepare food for them. Those days Khandwa Railway Canteens Mutton Cutlets used to be legendary, large in size and very tasty. One cutlet was more than enough for a boy like him, so he decided to share with his sisters. Till date the taste of the mutton cutlet is in his mouth. The Mother and Father chose non-vegetarian tray. The tray used to have rice and few pieces of mutton in a thin but delicious gravy. After finishing the meal, before the family could thank the canteen manager, the manager thanked the family and asked them to visit again. Such were the people those days.
At early morning hours, The Howrah mail arrived at Khandwa station and the whole family boarded the train. It was also the first class. The boy was feeling very sleepy. Before his mother could make the bed, he slept off on the berth. His father pulled him down and held him to stand. At that time the boy was upset but had to stand till mother could make the bed. He slept in standing position while his father held him. The boy slept the most of the afternoon and woke up in the evening. By the evening, the train reached Allahabad. The father told the boy and his sisters that he will give them a very tasty thing to eat, but the condition was that they will have to behave like a good children at their maternal uncle’s place and not make any mischief. The boy promptly promised as he was to get something special to eat. Then at the Allahabad station, the boy’s father got down the train. After some time, he came back holding a big packet and a flask full of hot milk. He opened the packet it had something like a big bun. He told them that it was called Bhakharkhani. It was sweet and was very soft, like bread but, big and round in shape, with lots of fruit chunks. The boy’s father told him that it is just like bread, but kneaded with milk and lots of fruit pieces. Butter was applied on it. He told the boy that it is bread that Afghan people eat. It was very tasty. Now a days it is very difficult to find Bhakharkhani, and never of that quality. It is even impossible to get fresh milk on railway stations. The boy still holds that taste on his tongue. Bhakharkhani with hot milk – what a treat. That night the boy did not eat anything. He passed his time playing Ludo with his mother and sisters and then slept. The next morning, the train reached Howrah.