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A fruitful journey all the way

UNUSUAL FACE, amazing voice, extraordinary talent. All this is too repetitive for Om Puri, crowned with the Order of British Empire for his contribution to British Cinema recently. What's astonishing is the journey to the crown and how ordinary daily bread and everyday tea can keep the fire far more simmering.

Yes, it started with the journey and tea. "My father was in the Army but when I was a kid he left the Army and joined the Railways. We used to travel in steam engines. There I learnt how tea is made albeit a bit differently. Put all the ingredients in a pot and place it in the furnace for a couple of seconds. Here in lies the art, a second more and everything would just add to the steam," says Om on a rewind spree at Le Meridien Hotel literally tasting his fruits of labour.

The split second precision in his delivery is sacrosanct and now we have got the reason but Om rivets with more. "Partly because of my family situation and partly because of my interest and enterprise, I learnt to do almost all the things that a housewife could do - washing clothes, keeping the house clean and the like. In fact, I always say had I been a woman, I would have kept my spouse completely satisfied. When I was a scout I used to rush with my aloo-matar ki sabzi and rotis to impress upon the masterji. Sometimes taking even half-baked rotis to beat the competition and getting reprimanded. Again asking him if we could go and pluck berries and bring some for him. And you would be surprised masterji would allow us and I used to be the first in that," laughs Om.

Ghar ka khana

Decades later, the simplicity is intact. "I still love North Indian food the most and there is nothing like ghar ka khana. I avoid fried food. That's why when I visit some Rajasthani friends I tell them not to soak my bafla and gatte ki sabzi in ghee. Except for things like rajma I don't cook things much. I always advise people not to keep vegetables like cauliflower and spinach on burner for too long. It takes both the nutrients and the taste away," Om continues with his tales of how small changes in the recipes he suggested to his friends did wonders to the taste.

Over the years as he improved his English, he also developed a liking for some exotic food.

"Now I like oriental food, especially Japanese, Indonesian, Chinese and Thai. Occasionally I try Greek food too." But most of his schedules outside India are in Britain? "Yes, but I insist upon staying in an apartment rather than a hotel. I take my masalas along and try to cook myself." There too he puts his ingenuity to work. "One day my friends desired to have chane ki dal in London. What I did I took my Haldiram's chane ki dal, washed it and cooked. It tasted almost the same."

Now Om is ready with King Of Bollywood, a spoof on Bollywood's aging stars who refuse to accept their age with British super model Sophie Dahl but admits the title has come a bit too late. Never mind Om, people tend to overcook here.

ANUJ KUMAR

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