Monsoon is a time for renewal…. Its a special time. There’s rebirth and renewal of what was once drying under the heavy sun and the smell of wet earth. Its always helped me romanticise the situation around me. Though being in the city takes away from the charm of the small town… With Italy traffickers for kilometers and Delhi particularly runs at a rather languid pace…which ends its night in frustration.
However being in theses traffic lockjams for long leaves me to wander in thought back home. Where with the coming of rain would come the time for lounging and sipping on tea and eating Pakories. The very pastime that I crave in thwarting hustle and bustle of the city.
Nonetheless after a long bath in the rain ofcourse. We used to spend evenings with my grandma. One time comes back as a flash back. After running from puddle to puddle and pillaging every one of them with our shoes we were dried and then the pakories were doing the rounds. We’re basically a foodie family. All thanks to my grandma for being the super cook she is she made food our favourite pastime. We can talk about a lot of food!
Anyway so it always intrigued me how my grandma got into this whole cooking mania. Ance being the smaller of the two ahead was barred from the kitchen. So ahead recounted for ua the very first time she at her hands on cooking.
11 Barrow Road in Lucknow was abreast with energy as children used to be running around playing. But lately the construction that had eaten up half their play area became a fascinating maze for them to jump in and out of. Since the monsoon had set in the walls were left standing and the roofs had not yet begun. So on a clear day the children planned to camp out for the afternoon and boil potatoes and make like the labour which used to work there.
So all of them brought two potatoes each from the kitchens and gathered some wood. After much patient trial and error they got the fire going. On it the potatoes were put to boil in some woe be gone utensil.
The water shimmered and little bubbles formed till it finally came to a boil. So the excitement was slowly itching cresendo. They would soon have potatoes all boiled by themselves. as one says simple pleasures are life true treasures. The simple joy of eating a potato was making the children restless.
Time passed by…but how would one know if the potatoes were done or not? So little Barb. ..aka grandma brought to the able a suggestion. Something she had seen the khansama do q million times…for her it was a triviality. she just ordered a for a twig…and said by poking thwarting potatoes they will know if they ready to eat!
So all of them hurriedly brought a stick each…and poked at the potatoes. After a little while the exercise was repeated with utmost discretion. But alas to no avail. They would have to wait longer before their tummy would be filled.
So once again not giving in they swooped down on the potatoes like vultures after a rather patient wait…after many such attempts…they finally realised to their misfortune that not really was left of the poor potatoes. Except that the utensils looked like a scene front a war zone…very holey and without any promise of recovery at all. Their egos and hopes wee quashed into a pile of nothing…so dejected they went home and lived to tell the tale of the very holey potatoes that they once thought of eating!
Well to tell you to this day my grandma is very particular of boiling potatoes and not once have I ever see her poke at it…maybe lesson well learnt in the early life stayed with her.
So thus ended another story…and well pass the potato Pakories I said!
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So it was the Advent of December…rather busy time in my household and granny was in her elements gearing up for the grand Christmas Baking which we all partake it…especially the eating part. Waiting patiently for the cake to be baked iced and tasted and savored and then miserly eaten even though there are two trunk fulls!! Well got to last us till April we remind ourselves…
The baker set the date to the 19th rather late this year, but they’re worth the wait. A forthnight before she was bubbling with exuberance that it was her time of the year again to show her ‘caker maker’ skills shine through. So she embarked on the journey to the market…her daily pursuits…this time differening in place! A new UCB store had opened in town and she want to see if her ‘branded brat’ granddaughters…as she teasingly calls us…would make a hole in her pocket this year too. So aunt and her went for a quick look to dissuade us from entering the store and sparing themselves a rather holey Christmas!
Forty. Five minutes since they were gone from the house we heard some quick shuffling in the house and ice pails coming out and all was in a tizzy! On gathering from the mad rush in the house and a word flitted here and there we found out that gran had taken a toss at the UCB store and might have hurt her hand. Stubborn as she is she didn’t want to go to the doc even though a bulbous wrist was staring at her. So the persuasion began and all the house members tried their best to get her to the doc for a check up! Though after iceing it the swelling went down … She was determined that nothing had happened to her! And going to the doc was just out of the question! After much coaxing and repeated fills of juice and Molly coddling she agreed to go to the doctors in the evening. On checking her up they found a hairline fracture in her hand and her left hand … Thank you god! …was to be put in cast for little over a month!
Hearing this she protested much but had to get it done cause there was no way out of it!! Anyway she cursed the blessed store upside down and then plan B sprang up for the cake baking!
Amidst all the complaining and nagging she didn’t let us once help her out with the whole process! From the making of the peels to the cutting she didn’t it all herself and took ample pride in it! Despite the doctor telling her not to bathe … She devised a new way to do so! Knowing her its not that shocking. She cooked super luncheons and dinners which we all enjoyed cause of all the love pumped into them!
She has declared her left had vestigial in this past month and is unstoppable even at the age of 80! She’s quite proud of the fact that she could do it all…do it even better with just one working hand!! Secretly to tell you this was the best cake and icing she ever made! Who needs another hand when you can singlehandedly…quite literally…cook your way through the festive season! Time to ‘partake’ in the cake…with some steaming custard…
With all this flak going about this scam and that scam my Gran has been really upset with what india has come to be. The Raj time she said there was not a thing like corruption and all this was not heard of. We are just a greed people …that’s what I said. Told her man is never satisfied! But its rather appalling how the ministry and government have let themselves be party to looting the people of their money and in the bargain progress. Scams have riddled the community and the peoples as a whole and we are ashamed to be called the citizens of such a thriving thuging people. One government worse than the other…voting is but a sham!! Looking for the little bad one from the litter of much rotten apples. So after this rather feisty decision with my grandma … about the whole political system of the Indian subcontinent…she told me one of her stories.
My grandma was a fire brand in the younger days…and don’t get me wrong…age has only fuelled it even more. So Barbara baby was a naughty kid…and was always in for trouble. She found trouble or trouble found her…is beside the point. One afternoon when everyone was having their afternoon siesta in rather calm and quiet 11 Barrow Road, Barbara baby sneaked out shrouded by slumber and snores coming from her parents room. Sneaked out she was taking a walk about the block looking for something suspicious. She suddenly chanced upon the household servants huddled under the big neem tree and playing cards. Playing cards …tantamount to gambling in the days of the Raj and was a heinous sin which would make you get locked up for quite sometime. And also entailed a big bail amount with it, which knowing they were just the servants they could not really afford. She walked upto the group of men and told forewarned them to break up the huddle or she would take drastic measures.
They thought she was just bluffing and just acting cocky with them …as she always did trying to show her superiority which often backfired ! They challenged her and she would have none of it. She sauntered off to the nearby police station and with innocence dripping from every part of her being she led the good policeman to the huddle. The policeman also thought she was joking first but when he saw them all under the Neem tree she understood that she was right. He too wanted to show that he was a real safeguard of the law. So he rounded them all up and put them behind bars. Barbara baby thought she would lauded for her efforts of keeping her neighbourhood gambling free. She quietly tip toed back into her room …and acted to be fast asleep with happy dreams. She thought she had taught all the servants a lesson for challenging her, she’d done good.
Four o clock …tea time approached. No sound coming from the kitchen and all the ladies were anxiously wating for their cup of tea to kick start the evening. To everyones disbelief none came. Of course how could it …the hired help was lining the prison cells. Outside 11 barrow road there was wailing…disgusted my grans mother marched up to the door to find a cluster of ladies blaming her daughter for such an audacious feat…so much blaming her for getting all the servants locked up. To her mothers knowledge she was all tucked in bed and sleeping…but her reputation gave her away. The policeman confirmed that the little one had led him to the gambling den and caused all the ladies such discomfort.
When the men of the houses came home they consulted the police what had to be done. The bail was paid and the servants freed and evening meals were in order. Barbara baby was grounded on account of this heroic which cost them all their servants. But deep inside she felt pride…cause from then on all the servants did exactly as she ordered.
Its seventy years since then…and not iota of change has occurred in my gran. The “thief of Bagdads” as she calls them can never escape her keen sight and conviction. She watches them all like a hawk as patiently as a vulture so as to catch them red handed one day. Not to burst your bubble…she always does!! So guess we should have more such people in our government…so that none can get away with even with the slightest error in judgement!!
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Well long time since I updated about my grandmas grand old days. Well come to think of it we talk a lot about her olden Raj days. Lately because she thinks that I might leave her and go away…you know eventuality …getting married without hearing her out fully. So every time I go home I spend time with her as she regaled in her time which she loved so much…and well I like it too…
Lately was in Nainital and so badly wanted to go horse riding, I have enjoyed it so much always. To tell you I used to go to school on a horse. Wish those days came back. But they cant so have to travel all this distance to even indulge in something that was so ordinary some few years ago. Of course since the British time Secretariat has been changed into the ominous…High Court the poor horses stand in the middle of town has been traded for a parking place. Advancement one might say…but we still thrive on horse power one way or the other!! Be it beast or machine.
So sitting and looking at the other side of the green hill…we were in deep conversation and I was deeply stressing my concerns about not being able to ride a horse. So she went into her rewind mode…the year she was some 10 years old. Those were the times when the children were sent to learn how to ride the pony. So her stepfather trying to gain the affection of the daughters …my grand ma and her elder sister…bought them a beautiful pony. One they could ride anytime they wanted. Cause they were small and the other children didn’t allow them a chance to go on the community one very often. So the pony was brought…and kept under supervision and fed like the fattening of the pig before slaughter. In this case however, it was for giving the baby a ride on it and claiming it to be their very own, and of course to make the others jealous.
So finally after being fed and groomed, the day came close for it to be broken in! The Taggard was called in to break in the horse so that the children could ride it and he would get used to saddle and bridle. The Taggard came lumbering down the path, his chest puffing up in pride…since her claimed to be the very best. Oozing self confidence he stepped into the arena to battle with the beast and make a meek a lamb out of it. He approached the pony … silent and calm … and thought he had his work already cut out for him. The pony stood still swishing its tail and calmly got saddled up with an initial grunt. But it settled down and gave in slowly and allowed itself to be bound in the leather straps that held onto his body and mouth. Then the man sat on it with pride…showing off that his mere presence had made the beast succumb to his wishes and was ready to be ridden. Before he could gain full confidence the master however wanted to see the pony gallop and canter…
So not really paying attention to the man on the saddle trying to coax the pony to move…he took hold of the switch and gave it one hard hit….and off went the pony. The Taggard holding on for dear life in this stance…and the pony the wild beast he really was …free…!! The pony took off in such haste that it was not before a good 4 kilometres that he dropped the man off him…bucking and kicking and in the process injuring him…but was never to be seen again! The pony though beautiful was no where ever to be found…despite search parties were sent out repeatedly. However the babylog went back to the community riding centre dejected. How is the Taggard you may ask…he gave up his heroics and stuck to house chores thereafter! He later became my Grans butler. The babylog are all old now and telling me of his misfortune…ha ha. One laughs…but only if you do endure such a fate you realise that animals are animals.
I went horse riding that evening…enjoying the hills and the clouds coming into the bowl of Nainital. Though the story will remain with me always, it will never dissuade or deter me from getting onto a horse and canter across the Thandi Sadak!
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well…more stories coming up…Grandma is letting me into the deeper realms of her life…the graph peaks and plummets much like a crest and trough of a wave!!
this is something that has come into our being ….and ‘to be hnest with you’ makes it a rieterating statement of assurance!!!
via Lorna's Voice
Barbara Lal, my gran has written over 9 cookery books with the most mouthwatering delicacies one can imagine. However she owes her expertise to the very early days of experimental cooking with her buddies. Her bunch of 12 had found a new hideout for the summer… A house which was under construction. A new found independence in the boiling of potatoes to make chaat!
The 12 used to pour in their meagre resources and would camp out in that house for the whole day till dusky skies called them to the dinner table to partake in the meal! They always ended up with very ‘holey’ potatoes at the end of all this cooking endeavour! Every five minutes somebody would come along to poke at the cooking potatoes in boiling water! As a result they would have a broth of potatoes which were not worth eating. I guess that’s how the perfection came into the ‘khansama’…my gran.
This dates back to the year 1946…yes a year before the country got rid of the Raj! My gran all of 11 was at her mischievous best. The loss of her grandparents…and parents left her bereft of the affection that some of us so take for granted…but cooking became her new found passion. In the bunch of twelve was her elder sister…and my two grans are as different in looks and ideas like chalk and cheese!! Her sister being two years elder took on the responsibility to look after her while she experimented with a lot of things…especially cooking. One fine afternoon the elder sister went to market to buy some stuff. While she was gone my gran and her cousins were hungry for some gourmet fun! Rummaging through the cupboards they came across some chanas. The cloudy weather outside made them yearn for some roasted chanas, so they went about getting themselves ready to do some roasting on the quiet.
Putting up the tava they put two three handfuls and patiently waited while they crackled …and were being moved to escape them burning!! Just before they were done…maybe a minute under done to being perfect…her elder sister was walking through the gates!!
Panic struck the ranks and hiding places were being frantically looked for…cause with each passing second the elder sister was inching close to the house! Last minute measures made them shove the chanas tava and all into the flour bin to hide their cooking prowess. The simmering chanas and the heated tava started heating up the flour inside the bin. The big sister sauntered into the kitchen with the funny smell of burning attracting here… The little ones trying to hide their shenanigans by blaming the neighbours…until my gran saw smoke coming out of the bin and she knew now they were in for trouble!
The elder sister walked towards the bin which was releasing this foul smell with thin streams of smoke pouring out! As she inched towards the bin she had not a clue what she was going to experience! All she remembers is a slight explosion …and being blinded by a white cloud of flour…though she thought she had reached heaven…since it were all white!!
The crackling chanas had caused the flour to burn and the lack of oxygen cause a vacuum causing the waste and the white!! These are things heaven is made off… On releasing the pressure …the flour made itself into a puff bomb!!
Even in recent times when my gran sits to recount the story…she never dare says she wants to eat roasted chanas…she lost an appetite for those that very day!!! They were pretty bombastic…and explosive!!
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