Of Omar Sharif and the ricksha-wallahs!

That is a summer I will always remember as the summer of MacKenna’s Gold – a movie that I saw seven times during the two months of the summer holidays! Sometime in the early ’70s, it was…

The last time I saw it, it was at the Liberty Theatre in the Basheer Bagh area (wonder whether it still exists?). There were three of us cousins – Arun, Naresh and me. Some kind uncle or aunt had tipped us – 3 bucks! Aunt’s house was in Gagan Mahal close to the theatre so we saved on bus fare by using bus no.11 (one of those corny references to using your own two legs to get around!) to get to the theatre. With three bucks, we had not much choice of seats – and ‘picked’ the 90 paisa seats – the second row from the front where you had to crane your neck up at an almost impossible angle to squint at the screen!

To the left and right of us was the rest of 90-pip audience – rickshaw pullers with a taste for Westerns, cheering and hooting every time Omar Sharif smouldered across the screen! Since girls those days did not frequent these seats as a rule, I was the only girl – barely ten or eleven years old, with my two even younger kid cousins sitting each side of me for “protection”! After all, we had come to see a Western and our minds and hearts were pumping to the beat of the pioneering spirit of the Wild West – pumped with a liberal dose of J.T.Edson and Louis L’Amour – I felt like Calamity Jane herself, shaking off the social convention of not sitting in the cheapo seats!!

And sigh… Omar Sherif was worth every paisa of our entire fortune – of three bucks! Oh wait, popcorn was exorbitantly expensive at some twenty five or thirty paisa each packet so we settled for the chikki – three pieces at ten paisa each!

Movie-going was serious business those days and the number and quality of theatres that dotted the twin cities was out of all proportion to the population of the place – the Hyderabadi was enthralled by the big screen! Heaven consisted of three words – movie, popcorn and dinner – to be able to afford all three together was to enter jannat (heaven)! And if you could have the sandwiches at Sangeet, then it was a veritable seventh heaven!

The walk back from the theatre alternated between reverential silence as we contemplated the heroics we’d just seen and excited chatter about the rival merits of Gregory Peck and Omar Sharif – an agony to make up one’s mind on this! Either way, our hearts were full… till we passed the bandi noodlewallah – the itinerant roadside vendor of the most delectable thing that ever happened to Chinese food – India! The smell of his tawa fried rice and noodles wafted across nostrils sustained by nothing more than a piece of chikki each and with a dinner of dal and rice to look forward to… and suddenly, Omar Sharif began to lose his charms! We inhaled and inhaled stomachfuls of the air around the cart – which was all we could afford to do anyway!

Even today, the smell of roadside Chinese stalls brings back visuals of the collapsing canyon of gold – from MacKenna’s Gold!


  • 2 -3 cups Chinese noodles – cooked and mixed with a tbsp of oil to keep the strands separate (The instant variety won’t work for this)
  • Cabbage – 1 cup – shredded – essential!
  • Mixed other veg – julienned carrots, beans, cauliflower, broccoli, mushrooms – 1 cup
  • Capsicum – 3 tbsp – julienned
  • Spring onions – 2-3 chopped
  • Green chili – 1 minced
  • Ginger – julienned – 1/2 ” piece
  • Garlic – 2 -3 flakes
  • 2-3 eggs – optional
  • Pepper – 1/4 tsp
  • Salt
  • Soya sauce – 1 tsp
  • Vinegar – 1 tsp
  • Green chili sauce – 1 tsp
  • Sesame oil – 1- 2 tbsp
  • Ajinomoto – 1 large pinch – controversial but the jury is still out on this one!

Heat a very LARGE wok or tawa and pour in the oil. Add the ginger, garlic and green chili and fry for a minute. Add the rest of the vegetables and fry, stirring continuously till your arms begin to feel they want to drop off 😉 – just kidding – 4-5 minutes till they are just done but still crisp.

Add the salt, pepper, cooked noodles, ajinomoto and stir well. Scramble eggs separately and add to this just before they are set. Mix well. Switch off. The eggs will finish cooking in the heat of the noodles.

You can do the same thing using cooked rice instead of noodles.

Best is to eat it watching a grainy old copy of MacKenna’s Gold!