Fri. Jun 14th, 2024

What a great Indian innovation. Puffed rice, fried lentils, peanuts, some basic vegetables – TOP (tomatoes, onions, potatoes), some chutneys and sev – all mixed nicely, served in a rolled up magazine page and served with that one flat puri which doubles up as a spoon. 

It is the go-to snack for us train travellers. If you have it at 7 PM – then you aren’t full for dinner. In fact if your train commute takes 1 hr, then this is the ultimate accompaniment for you. 

On gloomy days, the spicy bhel – made extra spicy by adding ground chillies lifts my mood. On happy days, the spicy bhel – made extra spicy by adding ground chillies makes me happier. 

There is nothing more nutritious and affordable at 10-20 Rupees for one bhel. Come to think of it, it is the cheapest item on any snack menu. It seems like it is very easy to make, but the chutneys are difficult to master.

That’s the whole point. It is so simple and yet so hard to replicate. The bhel at different vendors tastes different for the same reason. And for the same reason you can never make a similar bhel at home. 

Geela bhel is great but so is sukha. Sukha you can eat with your hand, but nothing tops the joy of finishing either of the bhels with that one single puri and then eating that slightly moist but crispy puri at the end. 

Often at Bandra station, when I have worked late, past my dinner time, I wait for my train. And I am often hungry so I get a sukha bhel and eat it in silence.

For, there are always many miles to go before I will eat. Though the railway bhelpuri wallahs skimp on potatoes, the chutney is good and the puri is crunchy. By the time I reach Andheri, I am done with the bhel and I savour the puri until I reach Jogeshwari.

Bhelpuri to me stands out for its simplicity. It is often a nice reminder that in life there’s not much that you need to keep going. Especially when you are far away from home, far from your destination. Bhelpuri helps you to keep going. Like a good friend, who is faraway.