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The stove comes to our rescue

Ravi M Singh

Ravi M Singh

The stove comes to our rescue

The hush of the night seemed soothing; only the sounds of the night bugs, katydids, or bush crickets broke the silence. I expected an owl to hoot, announcing strangers

It was almost nine at the wooded campsite on the Mahesh Narayan hill, and we were as yet unpacked. The 20-minute shoving of my bike up the darkened steep hill had burned me out flat.

An old hand at bike-packing, Shishir, swung into action and started pitching the tent. I began rummaging through our backpacks for foodstuff. We both had our designated jobs: Shishir would set the tent (I’d lend a hand), collect wood for the fire, and fetch water from a close-by natural spring. I was to cook.

The supper included a mix of rice and dal Shishir’s mom had packed for him. For the curry, we had the garden-fresh spinach we had collected from the charming Tamang ladies on the way and cabbage we bought at Bhanjyang Pokhari.

I was all set, but the fire was not. The twigs and wood we collected were too soggy. Shishir looked wretched, unable to light the fire. It was late, and both of us were starving.

Hang on! To my surprise, Shishir fished a portable stove out of his backpack. He figured it worked well for boiling water for tea or coffee—not for cooking rice and curry. We had to gamble, though, as the firewood proved a disaster. The gas burner lighted like a beauty, and I set upon it the degchi (saucepan) with the rice-and-dal-mix (khichadi). 

I then tried my hand at lighting the fire as the rice pot sat on the burner—to no avail. We had little choice but to wait for the rice. Shishir kept eyeing the stove with distrust. It seemed to work just fine, however. And all this time, we got hungrier. 

I had the cabbage and spinach chopped and ready, but the burner was not. The rice was taking longer on the shallow flame. “Shishir, if you had not thought of the burner, we would have had to munch on raw rice and dal,” I said, trying to ease the sticky situation. He just smiled back. 

The night appeared leaden, with no sign of a single star. I wished it would not rain. Soon, fog swept the hill we were on, and the tall pine trees stood like silent apparitions in a ghost movie. I walked further into the woods with my headlamp on—just curious.

The hush of the night seemed soothing; only the sounds of the night bugs, katydids, or bush crickets broke the silence. I expected an owl to hoot, announcing strangers. Funny, there was none.

As I watched the night sky, still trying to locate some stars through the pine tops, Shishir said the rice looked done. I hastened to put another pot for the curry, fearing the stove might conk out (it did not). I sautéed the cabbage-spinach mix and let it simmer with the lid.  

And after some 20 minutes, it was done, too. We wasted no time and began eating like pigs. I did not know how the food would taste. Shishir went for a third helping, and I did a second. So, it seemed the master chef of the night, I, came off with flying colors (ha-ha!). 

As I prepared to sleep, Shishir announced he would fetch water for the morning. It was almost midnight, and I did not want him to go alone (or I left alone?). I volunteered. Off we went, squelching down a dark narrow trail with slippery moss-crusted stones. 

The track appeared water-logged because of the rain. The thick wood and brush in the dead of night with no moon gave me the creeps. He said it was close, but it seemed like miles away. Anyways, we were soon back in one piece.

It was a little past midnight when we ducked into our two-person tent. The night was clement and peaceful, save for the sound of the playful night bugs and the soothing, whispering melody of the light breeze coursing through the soaring conifers—the smell sharp, sweet, and refreshing.

“Wow, your stove today proved a savior, Shishir,” I said. He just smiled back. Bleary-eyed, we finally ducked into our tent. 

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