I am writing on a trip, which I had made in 1995, sounds pre-historic, but when I think of it, it doesn't seem so old. I was then a management trainee in Ispat industries. The company had very generously asked our whole batch of 33 trainees to go on a month long company tour to visit all their plants across India. It was really a month long picnic on our part. We were fresh out of college, and a month long crisscross across the country was something which we were enjoying to the hilt!
Our month long travel was coming to an end, and the last halt was Balasore. Ispat had a factory there which we were supposed to visit for a week. For us, what we were also looking forward was that Balasore is great for seafood, especially prawns!!! We boarded the train at approx 9 in the night, and we were supposed to reach by 1 in the night. Our group, luckily, had all foodies, guys who could consume huge amounts of food and thoroughly relish it!! As the train chugged on from Howrah to Balasore, most of us, had made plans for own our sea food festivals!!!
All of us had decided, that we should not miss anything, as far as sea food was concerned. On reaching the town at 1 in the night, we were taken to a hotel (It was hotel swarnachuda, do not know whether it is still there or not).
As the jeep screeched to a halt at the reception of the hotel, all of us jumped out of it and headed straight to the restaurant, leaving the jeep full of luggage behind (we had not even checked in to our rooms, we did not want to waste time, lest the cook goes to sleep!!!). We asked the staff to open the place for us to eat..........at 1 in the night.
As per our carefully laid out plans, which we had made on our train journey, our targets had to be two of Balasore's famous exports - prawns and cashew nuts. All of us ordered two jumbo plates of each followed by a dinner, which obviously included some items where these two were the main ingredients.
Our stomachs were obviously not keeping pace with our enthusiasm, but we were the last persons on earth to give up. We gobbled up everything that night, the waiters had a baffled expression on their faces, but they thought probably a good night's sleep would sober us down.
For the next week, the whole of the staff and the cooks of the hotel, have laid on our tables, the amount of food, which they probably lay to their guests in an entire holiday season. Our day would always start and end with cashew nuts (fried or salted or roasted or just raw). Meals would always start with cashew nuts, as if it was the holy bread, would have to include 2-3 varieties of prawn dishes (fried, gravy, roasted etc) besides other non-vegetarian stuff, ice-creams and kheer, and a lot of other delicacies.
It was as if it was a crime not to eat. Each of us was competing with the other on the amount of food one could eat. In the midst of all this cut-throat(or stomach!!!) fights, one of us (Sanjeev, I think) suggested we should go light on one day and stick to something light like dal-chawal.
It was as if he had uttered something sacrilege. The whole gang pounced on him - HOW DARE HE EVEN THINK LIKE THAT??? He beat a hasty retreat and went back to the familiar diet of cashew, prawns, mutton, ice-creams and other such staple stuff.
Balasore is famous for prawns, sea fishes and cashews and unless you eat against time, you will not be able to gulp the huge volumes of food which will leave you totally satisfied with the visit to this unique place. By the 5th day, it's as if we had reached the moksha of eating happiness. It's as if we had climbed a huge mountain of food, done it, conquered and was savoring the victory.
When we caught the train back to Kolkata it was mission accomplished!!!