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Relishing food, the Thugs way...



Jaspal Bhatti enjoys his meal at the multi-cuisine restaurant-cum-bar Thugs at New Delhi's Hotel Broadway. Photo: Sandeep Saxena.

HIS VERY first appearance makes one giggle, instantly becoming peels of laughter once he begins to smile in his trademark slant style, and a tab perhaps because he is wearing an unusual combination - navy blue shirt, black trousers, white socks and well, shocking pink pagdi! Famous satirist Jaspal Bhatti is at Hotel Broadway's Thugs, known as the first pub of Delhi, which adds to the humorous atmosphere already triggered by this man. The walls of the hotel boast of the portrait and caricatures of typical small time thieves, smugglers and dacoits whose one eye is perpetually covered with a green patch. The dim-lit ambience against the backdrop of street side music further makes it an interesting venue for a meal! All its furniture too is bought from chor bazaar in Old Delhi, informs the manager of the hotel.

You smile again when he says "Mujhe kya yahan jaan boojh ke bulaya hai ji". Bhatti looks around and plonks himself on a sofa. A great food lover, he says with a wink, "I relish food but not praising the cook." "Par kya karun jab kisi ke ghar ja kar khana khao to tareef to karni parti hai," he says and he did the same once and got a shock when he went on a dinner invitation to a friend's home 10 years ago. "Meal was lavishly spread out for me. I could not praise any as it was badly cooked. But honestly, rajma was nice to eat. So I said, rajma badiya hai three four times. Ise sun kar host ki wife ka chehra latak gaya. She didn't wait to serve me more and rushed to another room in disgust. I was amazed. I asked my friend what happened to her and he reasoned, arre yaar tumne sirf rajma ki tareef kar di, aur vohi hamne hotel se mangwaya hai", recalls Bhatti while laying his hands on mutton masala, malai kofta and chappatis for his meal at the restaurant which was opened in 1992. Interestingly, the dishes have peculiar names at Thugs. For instance, `loin's punch', `Mona Darling'!

A non-vegetarian

Bhatti is preferably a non-vegetarian, a lover of Continental and Thai delicacies and food that is sold at Apni Dhani at Jaipur and Mister Ka dhaba at Ambala. "I just can't resist gol gappas and tikki, samose and ... " he stops noticing people looking at him surprisingly. "I cook when I am tensed. It is very therapeutic," he reveals.

And as a child, he would create tension for his teachers and friends. "I made a club called Nonsense Club when I was a student in Punjab. We used to do street plays based on local and social issues in satirical manner. I also used to draw cartoons," says this former assistant engineer at Punjab State Electricity Boardand the maker of satirical take on political, social scenario in India through Ulta Pulta, Flop Show, Full Tension, Silver Jubilee and now Nonsense Private Limited.

It is time for some mixed vegetable, dal makhni, butter chicken, raita and assorted salads for him.

Relishing it he reveals, "I can cook cheese tomato and chicken in all forms." And, he has plans to open a "theme restaurant" for which he has already decided the menu. "Pahle kuch capital to aaye", he rues.

Does his wife Savita Bhatti cook?

"She acts too".

We know that. But she appears in small roles...

"Woh main jaan bujh ke karta hun. Varna vo mujhe overshadow kar degi," he laughs. And, you laugh yet again.

RANA SIDDIQUI

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