Saturday, June 08, 2013
The Vegetable Market
The Samovar at Kaalaa Ghoda,Fort
The Fresh Catch
A Traditional Marathi Thali on a Banana Leaf
The Monsoon brings an end to the long,hot,sweltering Summer heat---and also brings a lot of Fresh Vegetables and some Fish.The Boats go fishing only when there is some respite from the Gale force Winds but this is when Fish from the Gulfs come in.Mackerels,Bombay ducks and tiny grey coloured Shrimp called "Javalaa" are available for a limited period during the Monsoons.
Basically the four month Fast of the Marathi Hindus also starts during the Monsoons.Some do not eat even Onion or Garlic for the entire four months--but the reason for this Vegetarianism is the belief that the human metabolism slows down during this period and as Vegetarian Food is lighter to digest,it is preferred.Besides the entire period is choc-a-bloc with various Festivals and Religious Ceremonies and that is when Food is traditionally served on Banana Leaves.I used to love those days and yes I used to fast too!!Unfortunately the advent of Diabetes in 1996 forced me to give up that 4 month Fasting period and since then I am battling my weight problem.That period during my childhood was awesome--specially in my maternal Grandparents home in Bombay.We'd be served our Lunches and Dinners ceremoniously with "Rangoli" drawn in delicate patterns around each Leaf by my aunts.The food would be served from left to right beginning with the ceremonial pinch of Salt followed by a wedge of Lime, the Pickle,Chutney ,a spicy Condiment called "Panchamrut" and a Salad.Then there would follow the Vegetable Curry,a dry Vegetable Dish,a Bean Dish called Ussal and then the Dal Curry,a Sweet dish and finally the" Kokum Kadhi" all served in individual Silver bowls.The Rice would be served in the middle in two small moulds--one bearing a simple,sweet tasting Dal called "Varan" eaten with a dollop of Fresh Ghee or clarified Butter.The rice would be flanked by "Papads" and "Bhajiyas" or Fritters and deep fried Whole Wheat Indian Bread called "Puries".The Thali in the Picture also features "Alu Vadi" or a Taro Leaf Savoury made with of Taro Leaves layered with a Chick Pea Flour spicy paste.The Leaves aren then rolled up tightly and steamed before being cut in rounds and shallow fried.The Thali also features triangles of "Puran Poli" made with sweet Chick Pea concoction stuffed in All Purpose Flour dough and rolled out as thin as possible without breaking the outer covering shell.These too are eaten with dollops of warm,home made Ghee dribbled over them drenching these into simply delicious morsels!!In my childhood there would be many more dishes on the Leaf but today we just cook the mandatory Menu specially during the Hindu month of "Shraavan/Saawan" which has the maximum Religious activities!!
For me today the ambience of those days made Mealtimes special--the Incense twirling around in the still Air swirling upwards,the appetising aroma of the Food and above all the bonhomie and the camaraderie that was evident in all the jokes and teasing small talk exchanged between all the Men and children eating while the women served the Food with love and a smile--dressed in beautifully draped nine yard Saries with Gold motifs and borders--oh yes!!those were the days!!
Friday, June 07, 2013
The Drenched Vegetable Patch this Morning
Fresh Java Plums--in Season now
The Mumbai High Court--The Place where Sudhir practiced Law
The heady scented "Chaaphaa" Flowers
Intoxicatingly perfumed "Bakuli" Flowers
At last,finally last night the Weather broke !!There was a heavy downpour--not the usual one with loads of Attitude--the clashing,flashing kind but a much gentler,quieter steady downpour--and that really has brought up our spirits!!Of course I missed the awesome and glorious Fireworks but then the Heat and Humidity reduced considerably ---for which I'm immensely grateful as this makes for a very pleasant Climate change.There is still a long way to go for the Summer Heat to cool down to just warm---but the sweltering,blistering Heat has lessened!!
The Rains bring out all my hoarded Songs--Saxophone,Guitar and Piano instrumentals as well as the Oldies of Harry Belafonte,Frank Sinatra,Cliff Richard and Hollywood Film Themes.Both Sudhir and I loved "Singin' in the Rain" and that song would play at top volume after the first Showers all through the day.During the Rains we had a tradition of going out for Soups and the places we loved eating these was at The Wayside Inn and opposite it The Samovar---both situated at "Kaalaa Ghoda" so called because a statue of King George astride a Black Horse stood there before Independence.That the name has survived despite the removal of the Statue long back shows the kind of tendency we as a Country have of clinging to both our History and Past!!The one place I really miss visiting in the early days of the Monsoon is The Taj.
Since childhood Apollo Bunder or the Gateway of India has held a special place in my heart.Vacations in Bombay meant rides in the Horse drawn carriages called "Victoria" along the promenades of Apollo Bunder,Cuffe Parade and Marine Drive. The Marine Drive ended at Nariman Point and this was a long strip that stretched into the Arabian Sea.Here there was an open Air screen that showed various Documentaries.Next to it was a Stall selling yummylicious Vegetable and Chutney Sandwiches,Ice Creams,Cold Coffee and Sweet spiced Milk known as Masala Milk.Later the Land was reclaimed and by the 1970s the World Trade Centre complex and the Oberoi Sheraton--today called The Trident came up.
Atya,Sudhir's mother was my paternal aunt and they lived at Kemp's Corner while Gopal Kaka, my paternal Uncle lived in the Colaba----both being part of South Bombay--today called SoBo. Many of my evenings have been spent walking the Promenades,riding Victorias and eating the fabulous Mutton and Chicken Patties as also the excellent Fish and Chips at the Taj.Those were the days when the remnants of Colonialism still held sway.So Formals were a regular part of dressing up--casually dressed people were often than not turned away by the Hotel Durbans at the doors themselves!!When Sudhir and I got engaged we'd spend most of our evenings at the Taj or a tiny new Eatery called The Samovar.This was then a new addition to an Art Gallery called The Jehangir Art Gallery and was an arty affair set up in the long corridor like Verandah. The Verandah was completely open on the side facing gardens of The Prince of Wales Museum--and even today the ambience of Samovar in the Monsoons is awesome.
Sudhir and I would sit there for hours---holding hands under the table ( he didn't like to display emotion in Public) gazing out at the view of the heavy Rains turning the the parched Grounds into slush!!The huge Gardens are filled with many varieties of Flora and Fauna--and seeing the Water cascading off the folded leaves of the Rain Tree always made us smile.The Air would be redolent with the Scents of the wet Earth mixed with richly perfumed Flowers and wet Greenery was a deliciously intoxicating interlude!!
Wednesday, June 05, 2013
The Vegetable Patch and The Condominium Garden in the Monsoon
There is an expectant hush in the Atmosphere---everyone is waiting eagerly with bated breath for the Rains!! We Indians are mad about the Monsoons--for us the Monsoons mean the Season for Romance and Love.For me since my earliest memories I have always adored the Monsoons.After we got married we both were crazy after the Monsoon---and have had many such interludes in the Rains of which I'll write about a bit later.Lotta,Meha and Mehul as well as Kartikeya love the Rains---however Sayali hates the Monsoon with a vengeance!!If there is one lesson that Kartik has learnt well since they got married it is to keep well out of her way when it rains--Nature shows attitude outside while she does it in the house!!
The Monsoons of my childhood had a wild beauty about them.Chandigarh was still in it's infancy though progressing well--and this meant that the spectacular Show the Monsoons put on each year was something I loved and have never forgotten.The hot Summer nights would be spent sleeping on the Terrace under the Stars each night.The beautiful scent of "Raat ki Rani" or Queen of the Night hung around in the Air , mixing with the scent of "Mogra"--- one of the many varieties of Indian Jasmine---to form an intoxicatingly heady Perfume pervading the velvety nocturnal Atmosphere.The Summer Showers began visiting us around the end of May each year-- often times preceded by swirling Sand Storms which my mother hated but I loved---the smoky,musky scent of the Sand swirling around the house made me long to somehow taste it.Since childhood I've loved to taste the wet Earth after a Shower--and I would try to poke my tongue into the tiny cracks in the Window panes just to taste the Sand thereby annoying Mummy immensely!!The Summer Showers would arrive with a lot of Fanfare---the crashing of Thunder,the strong Gusts of Wind accompanied by the flashing of spears of Lightning in the Purply dark Grey Clouds---the swirling dry leaves riding on the frenzied Air Currents.This would bring out the Peacocks who with raucous calls would spread out their beautiful Tails and dance in joyous abandon--tossing their necks and displaying their mind blowing Plumage to whoever was watching.I truly feel that I have be blessed to witness this Dance many times as I too rushed out to dance with equal abandon in the Garden--again irritating my poor mother terribly!!
As Chandigarh developed the privilege of watching the Peacocks diminished considerably.That was when we'd only see this returning from our many Treks or Picnics.Most often the heavy downpour would force us to park under the Trees of the numerous Thickets lining the Road and then we'd be the privileged few to witness this beautiful phenomenon.The majestic spread of the richly coloured, iridiscent Peacock plumes is a like a very rich spread of Brocade cloth.When fully spread out in the "Fan" formation the magnificent tail ripples and dips creating various patterns as the magnificent bird jumps from one foot to another---it is an awe inspiring sight--indescribable in it's sheer Beauty and Magnificence!! My childhood also was very rich in simplicity and the proximity to Nature.I grew up surrounded by such natural beauty--the magnificent Mountains in the distance and the rich experience of varied Wild Life,Flora and Fauna have turned those days into treasured Memories--hoarded in my mind with the sheer clarity of my tender years.
Luckily for me Sudhir was as mad about the Monsoon as I was.Our bedroom window in the old flat in South Bombay had a Metal awning.The tattoo the Rain beat on it was the first signal we had about the arrival of the Monsoon.Regardless of the hour of day or night,the two of us would rush out into the street and drive down to the Chowpatty Beach.We'd sit there for hours just enjoying the show of the ferocity of the Thunder and Lightning playing against the dark leaden Sky while the Rain beat a stacatto tattoo on the roof of our Car.There would be many occasions when we would watch the Rain swept stretches of the pavements of The Gateway of India from our favourite Table in the Bay window of the Taj Mahal Hotel.When we shifted from the family home into our own Flat here,we had the beautiful sight of the Vegetable patch next door.Watching the Rain and Wind lash the waving fronds of the Coconut Palms as they tossed about wildly in the Thunder and Lightning was an awesome sight-----thick,huge droplets pouring down their trunks into the fertile soil was an extremely satisfying experience.When the girls grew up and began leading their own lives--specially after Lotta got married---Sudhir and I began going out on long drives into the Western Ghats.
The nearby twin Hill Stations of Lonavla--Khandala were just a 2 hour drive away and Sudhir and I still young enough to enjoy the romance of these impromptu Dates on the Weekends.The usually dry steep slopes of the Western Ghats would be lush and green--clothed in a thick,velvety soft cover of waving tall Grass.There would be foaming White Waterfalls cascading down from the craggy Cliffs---rushing Earth wards with a loud cry.The looming,dense Grey Clouds overhead with the spears of Lightning snaking through their depths and the Wind sweeping around in fast,short Gusts was the stuff that we see in the Bollywood Films.These trips had such an uplifting effect on both of us and definitely gave a new depth and meaning to our relationship and married life.
Today as I wait longingly for the much anticipated Monsoon I am missing Sudhir with a deep,physical ache.However there are times that I can lull myself into believing the he is still lying next to me ,holding me close as he used to--curled into his embrace while Nature puts on a rip roaring Show outside our Bedroom windows!!
Tuesday, June 04, 2013
The view of the Vegetable Patch outside our Bedrooms in Mumbai
These last few days I've been in a wonderful mood---drifting in and out of some of the most beautiful Memories of my life.Reminiscing about my childhood and my memories with my cousins made me so euphoric that the sweltering heat too couldn't make me fret!!For me that is the only thing that bothers me as I grow older---remembering my childhood Summers makes me feel as if my character has undergone a sea change--I spent my entire day outdoors in the Sun--- both during the Summer and Winter and never ever thought that some time in the Future I'd be shying away from the Sun to this degree---something that has caused me to incur a severe Vitamin D deficiency!! Well it is nothing that short walks in the Sunshine and weekly Sachets of Vitamin D solution can't cure so I'm not overly bothered about it.
At the Physiotherapist's yesterday I actually conversed with a couple whom I've been seeing on a regular basis every day.Besides exchanging polite smiles we'd not moved much further till day before yesterday the wife heard the Nurse call my name and announce my turn.The result was that yesterday she tentatively said a "Hello" and broached a little small talk--and then finally asked me if I knew Sayali who'd studied in Bombay Scottish High School?On my confirming that Sayali was my daughter,she then told me that her two daughters travelled by the same School Bus to and from School daily and then told me her name.I was shocked to learn that we've lived in the same vicinity,our daughters were reasonably good friends---but we've never met!!The most astonishing coincidence is that my nephew Nikhil lives in the same Building as this lady--but despite our frequent visits there our paths have never crossed at all!!I knew that it was a small World--but just how small--that turned out to be a revelation!!
All this has been pushing me back into happier times and a result of this is that I'm coping better with my grief now.Besides we had the first short Showers yesterday afternoon.Not the thundering tattoo we used to get but a gentle pitter patter which cooled the Temprature and made for a very pleasant evening and night.Today the Sun is back in all it's ferocity and as I write this,is blazing down--turning all that slight coolness into a steaming ,sweltering day!!However these are just the pre-Monsoon Showers--maybe the coming days will bring with them the rolling Drums of Thunder,the Dance of Lightning streaking it's way in the dark,roiling Sky and the sharp cool gusts of dusty Wind sweeping it all up to swirl the dried leaves into the Sky--and of course finally the thrumming clatter of the huge Raindrops as they come pelting down furious,ferocious and hard--- hitting the parched Earth with an intense velocity--releasing all the intoxicating aromas of the Earth,Flora and Fauna as they wash away the Dust and Dirt.A beautiful,Green emerges looking freshly minted and new---the entire Atmosphere changes as the balance of Nature shifts into a new mode!!
Get An Email Alert Each Time KOMAL53 Posts