Badhal, Himachal Pradesh, India, 17 January 2017, 1230 hours
Just before the Shimla-Kinnaur district border at Chaura, one comes across Neelam Dhaba at Badhal.
This dhaba is pretty famous around these parts. And there is very good reason. Neelam, the lady who cooks is an artist at drumming up simple staple fare.
The drill is even simpler: Wash your hands at the wash basin (water is chillllllled). Go in, sit down on one of the benches. The food is served steaming hot in a thali (a steel plate with compartments). Steaming rice, hot Rajma, hot lentils, a hot vegetable preparation, Kadhi, fried red chilly, and sliced onion.
The temptation to eat with a spoon is strong but it is best you dig in with your fingers- the hot food just spreads warmth through the body, and one gets tripti (closest translation though not completely accurate is: deep satisfaction).
It took me 10 minutes to have three helpings of everything and I forgot the cold bench, the cold weather and the cold water in which I washed my hands after the meal.
Polished the meal off with a glass of hot milky-tea with sugar.
The Himalayan dhaba is the ultimate leveller- every one is equal and gets the same food, served in the same manner.