Outlook was born in that awkward age: the usual hangouts of today’s journalists—coffeeshops and pubs—were still years away, but we’d already grown too accustomed to air-conditioned offices to be able to hang around in hole-in-the-wall dhabas, tucking into our butter chicken-roti in the grime, heat and flies of the roadside, with stray dogs nuzzling at our feet, as an earlier generation had done. We were the in-betweens: experienced enough to know that even five-star restaurants couldn’t produce Punjabi Mughlai quite as good as one’s favourite dhaba, but with a new-found sense of propriety, wanting to avoid eating at the neighbourhood dhaba, but still sending the office peon across the road to collect the food for us in newspaper-wrapped parcels.
Our very first party on the rooftop was “catered” from Rajinder da Dhaba. And no closing night in Outlook’s early history was ever complete without Rajinder’s chicken and fish tikkas along with a bottle of rum. God knows how many story ideas we really owe to Rajinder’s food, considering how no brainstorming session was ever possible without ordering in from the dhaba.