Tuesday, July 19, 2011
There was loads of Tension during the Riots---what with scarcity of Necessities like Fresh Milk ,Vegetables and Fresh Fish---all in short supply!!The Milk available outside was Water+Milk+Arrowroot Powder---but whenever possible we used even that---for we were in a hapless and helpless situation---as they say "Beggars can't be Choosers"!!Thanks to the Curfew most times we were reduced to relying on tins of Milk Powder and Cans of Condensed Milk for making Tea----a huge problem for Sudhir who NEEDS only Fresh Milk in his Tea!!Well in this case we had no choice---but eating only Dried Fish,Pulses,Beans as well as Onions/Potatoes was becomingt repetitively irritating---I mean one does need Fresh Fish and Meat---as well as Vegetables and Salads too!!There would be a scramble to secure and hoard these items whenever it was safe enough for the Shops to open for a few hours-----my Freezer was totally crammed to the hilt with packets of Sausages,Bacon,Chicken and Goat Meat as well as Fish---and the Larder loaded with tins of Sardines,Milk Powder and Condensed milk----I literally distributed loads of these latter items when the situation became normal!!
Not just that we'd all be cooped up at home with very little Entertainment except stepping on each other's toes---my two daughters together with Ritu---the three were enough to turn any sane person mad!!These three would crack stupid jokes--totallly absurd ones---and then giggle away for hours together---all the three just ate,slept,irritated me when they were awake and then slept again!!As if that was not enough they'd cheat at every Game of Carrom,Boggle or Scrabble---creating such a pandemonium---enough to deafen anyone sitting in the same room!!Add to that our little Darling Da Tuna(Tina)---my tiny miniature Lhasa Apso.Strawberry Blonde with huge Sherry coloured eyes with a dark ring around them she used her good looks to her advantage.Perpetually hungry Madame Da Tuna would just have to look meltingly at any of her subjects and she'd be in clover!!Thanks to this she was fat as in fat---and waddled around the house when not transported room to room by her subjects.Pampered to the extreme, she'd turn up her snub nose at Dal and Rice when the Meat Stocks in the Freezer ran out---till finally in desperation Mummy came up with the Idea of adding a tiny bit of Dried Fish to it----the smell was enticing enough for Madame Da Tuna to wolf the much despised Dal -Rice down!!Despite all the discomfort there were plenty of light moments too!!
This is one Incident I'll never forget!!There was firing going on in the narrow lanes and by lanes surrounding our Complex.The first time the Police opened fire in our vicinity they warned us on the Public Microphones they carried to stay put in our homes---just in case any bullet accidentally went astray.This was enough to panic Ritu--all of 105 kgs.then.She began rushing through the house pulling all the Curtains shut---calling out that the Curtains would surely deflect any bullet that strayed our way!!After she finished drawing all the Curtains and her panic subsided a bit she became aware of the fact that all of us were convulsed with laughter---much to her chagrin!!Not just this both Sayali and Ritu are Comic Raconteurs---while Lotta is their ideal Audience---giggling away uncontrollably to each of their Anecdotes!!Not just that---many are the nights we spent by Candle Light with the Music System playing softly in the background---sitting just totally still--driftng with the Melody!!
For me this was an opportunity to finish wrapping up all the Wedding Gifts that we were giving to Mehul's Family---as well as all of Lotta's Trousseau---luckily I'd bought enough Wrapping Paper and Cello Tape before things went out of hand!!Even if I do say it myself---all the Gifts turned up beautifully wrapped---so much so that Manju Ben--Lotta's Mother-in-Law said she was hard pressed to unwrap her Gifts---according to her it was vandalism to open the Gifts!!
I have to admit that though it was a terrifying period in our lives it enriched our lives too---the enforced captivity brought us even closer to each other and made us bond even tighter!!!
Thursday, July 07, 2011
These "Dhabas" dot the entire Network of Indian Highways----mostly run by the Punjabis--both Sikhs and Hindus.Though these look run down and derelict at times the Cooking Area,the Pots and Pans and the Cutlery is well worn but sparkling clean!!Most of these have neighbouring Wells----and I still remember the taste of the Water we drank---in it's most natural form---from the Well to our Glasses!!We did not need any Filters--RO or otherwise and no one fell sick because of the Water in those days!!On our Treks I have often dipped my cupped hands in babbling Mountain Streams and Brooks to drink deeply whenever needed---and that remains a precious Memory to date!!
Today the "Dhabas" have smartened up----they're as clean as a 5 star Hotel---many like "Giani's Dhaba" at Dharampur on the way to Shimla well known and famous!!There are many "Dhabas" that cook only Vegetarian Fare---these are called "Vaishnav Dhabas" and serve wonderful,mouthwatering Vegetarian fare--cooked without using Onion and Garlic!!The "Vaishnav" Dhaba's speciality is it's stuffed Parathas---a large ball of kneaded,pliant Whole Wheat dough--called a "Pedhaa" is formed into a deep cup using the fingers to shape it.This cup is stuffed with grated spiced raw Vegetables or well mashed cooked dry Vegetable Curries---the edges of the cup sealed firmly together---and then rolled out after a sprinkling of dry Whole Wheat Flour into thick rounds.Now here comes the "Piece de Resistance"!!Instead of shallow frying these on a Griddle with melted Butter,these are slipped into a "Karahi' full of Ghee or hot Clarified Butter till fried really crisp and brown----fished out,drained and served with Pickles and large bowls filled with thick wedges of "Dahi" or Fresh Yoghurt in generous helpings to form a complete Meal!!!Sounds and perhaps is very fattening and Cholestrol ridden---but the taste---HEAVENLY!!!Besides the basic Menu many of them today also serve Snacks---like "Samosaas" and "Kachouries" --the former a Triangular shaped Pastry stuffed with a spiced Potatoes--Green Peas stuffing and the latter a round shaped Pastry stuffed with a spicy dry "Dal" or Lentil filling----both Items are deep fried in hot Ghee---and just melt in the mouth when eaten hot with spicy Green Coriander and Mint Chutney!!!Not just that, these also serve wonderful serve anothe Indian favourite called "Puri-Bhaji".The "Puries" are deep fried puffed rounds of Whole Wheat Flour served with a Potato preparation which cwn be "rasseydar" or thin Tomato based Gravy----or a dry spiced Potato Vegetable---the blend of the Spices differs from place to place---but the taste???It is literally to die for!!
All these "Dhabas" also serve Garbanzo Beans or "Chholay" ---aromatic,rich and dark these are redolent with the smell of Spices and Fresh Ghee---garnished with slivers of Fresh Ginger juliennes,Green Chillies and cubed boiled Potatoes---accompanied by hot,fluffy "Bhaturas"---deep fried leavened Bread.These also team well with another type of leavened Bread called "Kulchas"----both compliment this Dish beautifully---turning from the mundane into something quite DIVINE!!There are many ways of preparing "Chholay"---but I'm most partial to the "Pindi Chholay" and the "Amritsari Chholay" style Recipes.
This goes way back to December 1970.I had just been told that I was preganant when the news of my Parents having been in an Accident arrived. Sudhir had just begun his Christmas Vacation so immediately he booked us into a Deluxe First Class Coupe on the Paschim Express---and we began our journey from Bombay Central.This was our first journey together and we had a lot of Fun on the way---me with my greater experience of Train Journeys educating Sudhir about the various Culinary Specialities available at various Stations along the route!!Our Meals were served on the Train but that did not deter us from munching all through the Journey----the highlight being a dish of hot,spicy "Kulchey-Chholay" at Karnal Station---despite having had a hearty Lunch barely an hour earlier---I literally wolfed these down in huge gulps---much to Sudhir's amusement!!!Even today he still remembers my Gluttony---while I still relish that Taste and Aroma---lingering in my Memories as one of the best I have ever eaten in my entire Life---so far!!
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