Five thousand years ago, the Kurukshetra war, between the Pandavas and the Kauravas, was the mother of all battles. Nobody could remain neutral. You had to be either on the Kaurava side or the Pandava side. All the kings – hundreds of them – aligned themselves on one side or the other. The king of Udupi however chose to remain neutral. He spoke to Krishna and said, ‘Those who fight battles have to eat. I will be the caterer for this battle.’
Krishna said, ‘Fine. Somebody has to cook and serve so you do it.’ They say over 500,000 soldiers had gathered for the battle. The battle lasted 18 days, and every day, thousands were dying. So the Udupi king had to cook that much less food, otherwise it would go waste. Somehow the catering had to be managed. If he kept cooking for 500,000 people it wouldn’t work. Or if he cooked for less, soldiers would go hungry.
The Udupi king managed it very well. The amazing thing was, every day, the food was exactly enough for all the soldiers and no food was wasted. After a few days, people were amazed, ‘How is he managing to cook the exact amount of food!’ No one could know how many people had died on any given day. By the time they could have taken account of these things, the next day morning would have dawned and again it was time to fight. There was no way the caterer could know how many thousands had died each day, but every day he cooked exactly the volume of food necessary for the rest of the armies. When someone asked him, ‘How do you manage this?’ the Udupi king replied, ‘Every night I go to Krishna’s tent.
Krishna likes to eat boiled groundnuts in the night so I peel them and keep them in a bowl. He eats just a few peanuts, and after he is done I count how many he has eaten. If it’s 10 peanuts, I know tomorrow 10,000 people will be dead. So the next day when I cook lunch, I cook for 10,000 people less. Every day I count these peanuts and cook accordingly, and it turns out right.’ Now you know why Krishna is so nonchalant during the whole Kurukshetra war.
Many of the Udupi people are caterers even today.
Credit: Lavendra Tiwari