Babu and the Man from Bhutan

by Nic Olson

Babu and the Man from Bhutan

Sounds like a children's novel illustrated by Robert Munsch. Can't you just see the pictures? A Buddhist man and an Indian man in all sort of Munschy adventures.

I met a man named Babu. I met him when I walked into his 'hotel'/dhaba/restaurant and sat down. He looked at me and laughed. Had I food on my face, did I look more awkward than usual? The place had no menu, they make you the only thing on the menu, rice, dhal, chicken, two other anonymous curries. Menus are for places that cost a month rent for a meal. I somehow ordered a plate between my little Hindi and his little English. It was a $1.25 meal. He and his wife, Indira, a Christian love-marriage couple, cooked it for me. It was good, not great. They had cooked the rice an hour or two before and served it to me cold, along with two cold curries. I have gone back four times or so, each time I learn more Hindi, they learn more English, the food gets better and cheaper and I further realize that these people are living the life I want. Dirty in a dirty tiny restaurant, cooking food you love for friends, laughing at foreigners, not caring at all. It is like heaven but
without all the awkward thees and thys and more cute Nepali wives. Tonight they cook me beef, which is a big deal, believe me. You try to run a restaurant in Hindu haven and serve beef, you might just be murdered. So keep it on the downlow. The nameless restaurant in the part of the world no one knows, is cooking beef for a white guy. I think the secret should be safe.

I met a Buddist man, Tashi, from Bhutan playing carrom with a group of shopkeepers on the street. He had great English and the beard of a goat so I gave him a chance. I went to his restaurant, which was also his house, where he served two dishes and illegally sold booze. He was so incredibly nice that my Canadian instincts told me that he was drugging me and that I'd end the night the butt end (literally) of his pleasure and then skinned alive and my meat used as chicken and sold to old Hindu drunks in their Momos. But I didn't. He walked me to my hotel and said goodnight, rapeless. He took me to his place for Bhutanese food, dried beef and spinach. An unreal welcome from a friend of eight hours.

Then there is another list of 50 others I've met, 50 other dishes I've ate, and 50 fifty year olds that I'd date.