Thursday, January 28, 2010
Blogging about Jaya made me nostalgic---there are some more old regulars----with whom too my association goes back almost as long!!These folks are Fruit and Vegetable Vendors in the Market----they sit on the pavement in the open air with their wares spread out before them!!!The old timers amongst these are from a suburb near Mumbai---Vasai.
Original Bombay(named by the Portuguese)was gifted to King Charles the Second of England by the Portuguese as a Wedding gift when he married their Princess----funny isn't it???X gifts Y to Z---both the donor and the reciever totally unconnected to the region in question!!!Vasai was the other Port in the area that they captured.A verdant place it still has an enviable green cover---which though disappearing slowly------can still be arrested Vasai or Bassein as the Portuguese called it-----is an ancient tiny seaside town an hour and a half away from Mumbai---but it's like being a whole world away!!
It has Palmyra and Coconut Groves, Banana Plantations and large Vegetable Gardens---this area produces some of the best variety of Bananas and Vegetables.The fertile land is watered by the Vaitarna River and grows "Rajaali" or long Pink Bananas,medium and tiny Sweet Bananas called"Velchi" or "Ilaichi" Keli(Bananas)The tiny bananas grown here are really tiny---as big as your pinkie finger---and have an addictive honeyed Taste.
The Rajaali Keli are prized for their sweet taste---these are cooking Bananas and used for making different delicacies like Puddings and Fritters.These are also used for cooking "Sattvik" or "pure" Food during our Fasts and are favourites as offerings during various Pujas.The owners of these Plantations and Gardens travel daily to Mumbai by Train to sell their wares.
My regulars among these are Mama(Uncle),Dilip and Santosh.These guys have the freshest Vegetables for sale in the Market.It is a joy to go there and take in the multiude of choices offered by them----specially during the colder season.Green Eggplants,different Variety of Beans---both cooking Beans and tender Seeds,rich red Tomatoes, fresh Bottle Gourds, Calabashes,Ivy Gourds and Bitter Gourds, Cucumbers, Cabbages and Cauliflowers----makes my mouth water to just see the variety available!!There are tender green Jackfruits and Banana Flowers(My mother loved these)Lemons and Green Mangoes---all laid out so beautifully together----very refreshingly eye pleasing!!!There are also the Palm Tree Fruits called "Taad-Goley"------small Coconut type fleshy Fruits having a delicate taste-----each filled with a mouthful of a sweet juice.These are sold during the Winter---when these are really tender---and disappear around May-June when the Season ends.Thirst quenching, the uncut Fruit looks a lot like the Eggplant but is subdivided into tiny sections----2"across!!
Then there's the South Indian "Flower Anna"----he has beautiful Flowers---the Yellow "Chhaaphaa" and beautiful garlands made of a variety of Jasmines---Bakuli, Chameli, Sayali,Zaaee,Zuee,Mogra,Mallika, Malavika----and sometimes Surangi(Orange Blossom)---I just go mad---no perfume---however expensive----can ever match to the natural fragrances of these Flowers----this is what I miss most about India abroad!!!
Then the "Vasaicha Keli Waalah" or Banana Seller from Vasai---he keeps the choicest tiny Bananas for me----forbidden-----but this is a hundred times healthier than any other sweet!!!The large variety of Fruits coming from Vasai are also it's biggest attraction---the Mangosteen(Kokum) is another prized product.This Fruit has a sweet-sour taste and contains beautiful pink coloured Juice.We use these ripe Fruits to make "Amrut Kokum" a sweet Sherbet which acts as a coolant of the body in Summer.We also use the dried skins instead of Tamarind in our preparations.Mangosteen also produces a waxy Oil which has wonderful medicinal and moisturising qualities on dry skin and cracked heels.I love my Mumbai for it's warmth and colour but I just HATE the Traffic and the crowds----this city is wound up so tight----never gives up and never sleeps!!!
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Today my Fish Seller Asha got me fresh Sardines----after ages I got this Fish!!!We're lucky to have these women who come to the doorsteps to sell us fresh Fish---the sight of these reminded me of my Jaya---who passed away 7 years ago.
Jaya was a Fish seller---she and I first met in 1975---she was referred to me by Mami,my Aunt(my Bal Mama's wife)who lived nearby.Since I grew up in Chandigarh I was totally ignorant about buying fresh Fish---our daily staple.I therefore needed a person who'd give me good Fish---value for Money!!This lady was the most popular Fish Seller in the area---nobody could match the quality and freshness of her Fish.My Sayali was just 8 months old then---and adored Fish!!As the days,months and years passed Jaya became the mainstay of my household----except Mondays she'd visit daily---both my daughters loved her and gave her star treatment whenever they were around!!!We'd indulge in chat sessions while she cut and cleaned the Fish--- and she'd pass on the latest gossip of the region---she knew everyone and was a beloved visitor to all Fish eating homes in our area!!!
The moment she rang the bell my two cats---Lotta and Sayali would first seat her on a "PAAT" or wooden stool.This would be followed by a glass of Water which would be followed by a cup of Tea or Coffee---and then the serious business of buying Fish would begin.Both the girls would squat down and peer into Jaya's "Paati" or basket----she carried so many varieties on her head---I called her"Iron Neck'!!!Live Crabs,Prawns(Shrimps), Clams, King Fish,Pomfret,Flying Fish,Sword Fish,Baby Sharks---she was like a Super Market--endless choices!!!!Besides this she'd set aside stuff ordered by her regulars in a basket that she carried in her hands---the energy and strength she possessed was great.She was a large fat lady---not very tall--with a very sweet and loving face,demeanor and disposition---I never saw her lose her temper ever in all the years I knew her with anyone--ever!!!
She introduced me to many different species of Fish and also taught me various methods of cooking these----she was a master in various culinary styles!!She gave me lots of Recipes for cooking Fish----Konkani,Goan,Mangalorean---her suggestions were truly fantastic----all these were the styles used by her many customers!!Jaya was an Encyclopedia on Fish---which was good for women after Childbirth,during Preganancy,for an upset stomach---many pieces of valuable information were stored in that wise head!!!
She became one of my very dear friends---I'd miss her if she didn't come.She was so involved in my daughters--specially when Lotta got married she came to bless her at the Wedding!!She was a part of my daily life--someone on whom I had become totally dependant---not just for Fish---we had become very close friends.She had become an indivisible part of my Life.
Then disaster struck---she found out that she was a heavy Diabetic with very High Blood Pressure---she was asked to cut down her activities to the minimum---we were all upset to hear this.Her two daughters--Mangal and Kalpana began accompanying her---till she got an injury on her foot during the Monsoons.That injury worsened---leading to amputation of her foot and finally to her death within a year.
These days her daughter Kalpana sometimes comes with Fish---though extremely good the quality does not match her mother's---nor does she have the variety.I have learnt to buy Fish from the Fish Market---following tips taught to me by Jaya---and have found a young lady so like her that a session with Sujata does me good!!!
Jaya was Jaya---unique in her way that no one can be totally like her---even her own daughters can't match up!!!I miss her tremendously----she is an integral part of my past!!!
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