The Highway Meal


Michael wouldn’t take no for an answer. I thought maybe he misheard, so I repeated what I said. ‘We just had breakfast. Just about an hour ago.’ Michael again shook his head. ‘One hour’, he exclaimed, ‘Half of it must have already got digested. I’ll take one hour to prepare lunch. By that time, the other half would have also got digested.’ I realized resistance is futile, and nodded my head weakly. 

We were at Michael’s highway restaurant, just outside Lakhimpur town in upper Assam. An enterprising member of the Mishing tribe, an indigenous community of Assam, Michael had several entrepreneurial ventures including the restaurant where we were currently seating. This was actually a courtesy visit. My mother knew Michael and had dropped in just to say a quick ‘Hello’, on our way back to Guwahati from Lakhimpur after attending a wedding. 

Of course, Michael and his wife had a different idea about that quick ‘Hello’. After ensuring that we were comfortable, they dashed into the kitchen and started slicing and dicing a thousand things at once. Pans sizzled. Pressure cookers whistled. Fire crackled. A heavenly aroma started wafting out. One after another dishes laden with typical Mishing delicacies flew out of the kitchen, whetting appetites further. It didn’t take even an hour to prepare everything – but we realized our stomachs had lightened miraculously.