Monday, August 31, 2015

On being an Idli in Navi Mumbai....

Some people just see; others just click.

But then there are some like my friend Slogan Murugan alias M S Gopal alias Mumbai Paused,  who perceive societal structures in what they see, and then click  visuals at a roadside Idli joint at breakfast time in Navi Mumbai.

As he says , "Invisible class lines are visible at this street-side idli joint everyday.
The middle class office goers, students and deodorant class eat close to the counter. The shop assistants types eat silently a little away from them.
The khakhi clad auto-rickshaw drivers a little further away.
And the swachch Bharat safai karamachari (or the poetic in Kannada - Pourakarmika) always sits or stands in a Pluto orbit, almost a planet but treated like a nameless Kuiper belt citizen."

Just wondered what the Idli might be thinking ....

She sits,
HRH Idli,
always in white
along side the
and watches her future unfold.

Some junta level types,
breaking her to pieces,
pushing her around
in between
world matters
after a hurried exit
sitting for hours
in a rattling bus.

Some ,
slightly higher class,
taking a quick bite
between carburettor roars
"mulgi shikli, pragati jhali",
watching the time,
enjoying the
unusual empty space around.

And some,
supremely high class,
on their first break,
cooking and cleaning,
first for their own home,
then for other homes,
and the Idli
simply basks
in the avid delight,
of being
finally treated
as she should always be :
Chappals removed,
hands washed,
and sitting down,
enjoying the taste,
and just wondering,
if Mr Chai might follow,

Saturday, August 29, 2015

KarwanTee Tales....एका करवंटीची दुसरी गोष्ट

Narali Poornima, or the full moon night in the Hindu calendar month of Shravan, is a much loved festival celebrated in Maharashtra  The Kolis or the local fishermen offer prayers to Lord Vishnu on this day and throw coconuts in the sea as an offering to Lord Varun, and start their new fishing season.  Raksha Bandhan falls on a full moon day and therefore, it is the most auspicious day to perform the Shravan Purnima Puja.

In Maharashtra, the day is also celebrated by  cooking delicacies incorporating coconut, in the cooking.

One such, very traditional dish, is the Narli Bhat, a  sweet rice preparation. My friend Aditi Lele  Vaze,  is an expert cook and photographer,  that is, when she is not being a busy  anesthetist;  one way or the other, she manages to get people to swoon, at the wonderful stuff.  

She prepared and posted this amazing capture of a sort of homecoming of the Narali Bhat (Coconut Rice) .  

नारळी पोर्णिमेच्या भरतीच्या
उसळत्या लाटांबरोबर
करवनटीबाईंच्या डोळ्यात जणु समुद्राचे पाणी जमले ।

आपटून, पडून ,
वेळप्रसंगी पाट्यावर डोकं आपटून घेउन
आणि शेवटी तर अगदी
ओंजळीत अश्रू गोळा करून
विळीवर धरून खरवडून लेकीला सासरी धाडले…

आणि आज ,
सुवर्णाने लेउन ,
केशरात गुंफलेले दागिने ,
बेदण्याञ्च्या बुट्ट्यनचि
आणि लवंगी काम केलेली
बासमती पैठणी नेसून
गूळ रावांबरोबर
इलैचिचे अत्तर लाउन
छोटे छोटे खोबरे घेउन आलेल्या
लेकीला बघून,
त्यांना अगदी तिला
कुठे ठेउ आणि कुठे नाही असे झाले …
आणि मग
करवनटीबाईंनि पहिल्यांदा
तिला मिठीतच घेतले......
Crashing starry waves
amidst coconut palms
on a full moon
monsoon night,
and a KarwanTee** shell
lies wistful
tearing up
with the salty waters
every now and then.

A cracking,and banging,
occasionally on stone,
and she 

remembers finally the
slow but stoic
mind shredding
on a wiLee,
and all the tears
to say goodbye
in a glass,
before the lass
left for her in-laws.

the lass  returns,
adorned in gold,
jewellery entwined in saffron,
and draped
in a Basmati Paithani
studded with
raisin buttas,
and streaks of clove,
as she walks in ,
in a cloud of ilaichi fragrance,
accompanied by
Mr Gool and the
little coconut devils.

holds out her arms
and encompasses them all
to her heart.

**karwantee :  Marathi for half coconut shell (empty) 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Lip-Stuck Memories

There is a pet theory of mine, which , manifests itself in many posts on my prose blog Gappa.  It has to do with my conviction, that all our body organs/parts are living tissue and contain a "thinking" part, a local brain. 

And so when a friend in her middle forties suddenly decided to start wearing lipstick after many years, and her friends rallied around, it suddenly occured to me, that the lips would probably have something to say , given their amazing memory and four decades of dedicated uninterrupted service.

And so, as is the current custom, here they are , saying "a few words"....

First in Marathi, and then in English....

झालरीचे झगे घालून
गिरक्या मारण्याच्या वयात
एका रखरखीत दुपारच्या उन्हात
सवनग्ड्यान बरोबर खाल्ल्लेली जांभळ,
जाम्भळी जीभ ओठावर फिरवून
खोटे लिपस्टिक ,
चोरून खाल्लेल्या विड्याने
अप्रतीम रंगलेले ओठ ,
शाळेच्या स्नेहसंमेलनात
नृत्यासाठी केलेला मेकप ,
रात्री चुपचाप
लिपस्टिक आणि रूज न काढता झोपणे,
आणि मग कधीतरी
पेटिकोट मध्ये बसून,
आंब्याचा रस काढायला "मदत",
आणि चेहर्यावर चाटता यॆइल
असा सोनेरी स्वाभाविक मेकप.

झगे, साड्या , स्मृती जुन्या झाल्या ,
पण अनेक दशके
बघितलेले ओठ , अचंबित होतात
आणि म्हणतात ,
"आज काल ओठावर जीभ फिरवली
कि भलतीच चव येते ;
ती जांभळे , ते आंबे,
ती करवंद , आणि ते विडे ,
आणि हो, दूध ;
ती चव काही वेगळीच होती …. "
The age of twirling around
in frocks with frills,
jamuns enjoyed with
sitting in the loft,
on hot dry summer afternoons
and a tongue secretly
licking the lips
hoping the color sticks;

A paan
surreptitiously chewed
and celebrated
for the amazing
lip and tongue pigment;

at the school's
Annual Day play,
and hurrying to sleep
with the lipstick and rouge
before facing  a maternal glare;

And then an
offer to help squeeze
mango juice,
sitting ready in a petticoat,
creating golden makeup
on an already happy face .

The frocks, petticoats and memories
have aged,
but the lips ,
in non stop action
over decades,
ask in consternation,
"Why is there a weird taste
these days,
when the tongue licks us ,
and whatever happened
to the taste
of jamuns,karwandas,
mangoes, paan,
and yes,
milk ?"

Sunday, August 23, 2015

State of the World.....

Where I live,  a long long morning walk starting (with a cup of tea), at 7 am often causes pangs of hunger that lead automatically to tea-and-wadas or filter-coffee-and-dosas, or masala-tea-and-sabudana-khichadi among other great proletarian stuff.

However. Things are different, when you are , like my friend  Just a Girl from Aamchi Mumbai, in Perth, Australia.

Like she says in her post , "So after eating and walking since 7 am in the morning, we thought we will eat some more because who doesn't like Raspberry Cheesecake and Kaluha mousse with chilled beer and iced tea...."

I've now realized that there is a lesson about the State of the World in all this ....  

In a world
full of
creamy white folks

with attractive dark pink blush-ons
and red lipsticks
sitting just so,
being watched avidly
by some chilled
golden types,
some waving flagpoles,
it is difficult to be
a Chocolate Mousse,
unless of course
you imbibe some Kahlua,
wink at the peanuts
look like someone
who swallowed some cream
and let go,
" You may be Fair and Lovely,
but believe me,
I am the best !"

Friday, August 21, 2015

Great "Expectations"......

At a time when politicians and power hungry types are excelling at dividing the country by pitting states vs states,  religions vs religions,  and  lies vs truth,  a bunch of ladies on FB form a group for discussing Traditional food,  welcome ladies across all the states, regardless of language, and suddenly find there is so much common in the food they imbibe, perhaps prepared a bit differently and called by interesting different names..

Waran Phal in Maharashtra, Dal Dhokli in Gujarat, and something called Dal Pithi in UP, is all about comfort food;  flat pieces of rolled out wheat dough , floating and cooking , in spiced dahls and then enjoyed by the bowlful,  with dollops of ghee and possibly, slurps...

You also end up learning some new nomenclature based on the shape and architecture of the dhoklis floating in the dal. :-) . This particular nomenclature , "Dulhan",  native to eastern UP. 

At the end of the day, regardless of the geography, it's comfort food ......

Tomboy Atta bai
wild in doughy teenage,
slowly settling down

under the guidance
of the
supremely shapely rolling pin.

Kabhi square and conservative,
kabhi folded,
secretive and stuffed,
she comes to life
in a dal
boiling in excitement,
tickled golden with spices,
and sometimes
in the company
of seasonal veggie ladies.

And then,
a coming of age
as Dal Pithi,
with ghunghat covering
the Dulhan face,
and lovely lentil paste
maturing inside
what is simply
the pregnant dulhan,
fluttering her
kadhipatta jeera
at the stirring spoon
to the tune of
"Konitari Yenaar yenaar ga..."***

*** Marathi for "Hamare ghar koi mehmaan ane wala hai...."

Thursday, August 20, 2015

In Praise of Sajuk Toop .....

Someone , not much acquainted with Marathi, in a food group,  wanted to know what "sajuk toop" or साजूक  तूप was.  When that someone is a person  with several acclaimed and nutritionally informative food blogs, and in particular those excelling in traditional foods,  I thought it deserved better than a clinical description of the recipe /procedure.

 Here is a poetic attempt. Only thing missing is the Puranpoli, waran bhat  पुरण पोळी  वरण भात   and other great things of life....

A life spent
the Milk of Human Kindness,
a gentle warming
and aging into dahi,
clutching close
the cream
in times of fermentation.

A joyous life churning
and a manthan
as a buttermilk sea
throws up
riches of plump butter;
a concerned patting
and shaping
of a butter face
by a hand
wet in concern,
in view of the
trial by fire
to follow.

The happiest
are often the saddest,
the butter faces
huddle together,
in a heavy based house
dissolving into golden tears
at the first touch of heat.

Their thoughts remain,
at the bottom,
brown, golden and traditional,
like a "saaj"
adorning Lady Toop.

Ever grateful,
she now sits
in a silver pot
and goes by the name of Lady 'Saaj'ook Toop.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Where has all the bhakti gone ?

 As someone who does not do photography herself,  but admires some of those who do,  it has occurred to me, that it isn't so much about clicking , but a lot about seeing,  having an mind-eye to perceive, and lending a ear to the silent messages
being conveyed.  

The talent for reading colors, composing, and planning unique angles is inborn and a gift from SomeOne Up There.

My very talented friend Slogan Murugan just posted this capture of a forlorn flagpole holder , two days after the nation celebrated Independence Day on August 15. 

The visual  suggested certain religious imagery from a particular angle, and the the words simply happened. 

worshiped year round
with flowers,

a gentle dripping
of holy water,
and folks
stopping short
of a complete
circumambulation ....

And some,
on just 2 days,
stuck on a pole,
sung to,
and flown,
perhaps with
flowers cascading
on an unravelling
and pulling,
amidst a gently
falling monsoon rain.

And you wonder,
where has all the bhakti gone ?

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Bhidus of Perth

My friend from Perth, Just A Girl From Amchi Mumbai (JAGFAM) recently posted a photograph of what would qualify as a quick comfort breakfast , on a cold wintry morning Down Under.

A Jugad Breakfast , as she calls it,  with yesterdays spicy potato filling slapped between two slices of bread and roasted on a oilspattered tawa , and then  a ketchup to make things more interesting.  All accompanied by a nice  Amrutatulya boiling milky chai.

Shades of Mumbai ?

Read on .

(photograph by JAGFAM)
A completely smashed
hibernating after a spicy
evening out
amidst cool types
in the fridge,
cockily emerging
the next day
in search of companionship.

Spies the bread gang,
and gets together
with them,
making hot plans
on a tawa,
of the habit
of dangerous living
and acquiring
rough and wounded
golden looks.

Watched in awe
and occasionally flirting
with a blushing Ketchupa,
as a
hefty T-Boss arrives,
steaming golden,
glares thru the
bone china,
and says,
"So, Bhidu, Chalein ?"

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Memories of a swinging Life

An uncertain deficient monsoon ,  and a city hell bent on destroying its green at the alter of "concrete" progress  has many animals from the adjoining wooded Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) venturing out in search of water and food, thanks to the encroachment in what is actually theirs .  In the area where I live, it is routine to see entire families of monkeys and langurs nimbly trespassing on compound walls , ledges, and balconies, presumably planning grocery bag snatches and food campaigns.

My cousin Madhuri Pai, spied these folks  in the high rise where she lives. Clearly heights do not matter when food is paramount in the mind.

An old Bhavgeet sung by Arun Date(no relation)  came to mind.  " दिवस तुझे हे फुलायचे झोपाळ्यावाचून झुलायचे...."   Folks of my generation may remember :-)

(With respectful apologies to Mangesh Padgaonkar, Yashwant Deo, and Arun Date)

दिवस तुझे हे लोम्ब्काळाय्चे ,
झाडांच्यावाचून झुलायचे ||

पाण्याच्या शोधात जाणे,
टाकीच्या आसपास रहाणे,
तहानेने व्याकूळ झुरायचे ।।

मोजावे तान्सा तलावाची खोली,
पण बिल्डर्स शी केलीये बोली,
सर्वत्र सिमेंट भरायचे ।।

थरारे तहानेनी मी फार,
सोसेना भुकेचाहि भार,
घरात घुसून पोट भरायचे ।।

तुमच्या या ग्यालरीपाशी,
वळ दुसरीकडे गडे जराशी,
पापण्या मिटून फळ पळवायचे ।।
Your suspended day,
A treeless life swinging away. ||

Wandering for thirst,
Spying cisterns at first,
And pining for water day after day.||

The diminishing lake waters,
And the greedy builder plotters,
Cementing your life everywhich way.||

 The thirst has me shaking awake
 Sheer hunger, and the risks I take,
Marauding houses, in concrete Bombay. ||

And so in your balcony as you stand,
Turn away, shut eyes, as I slowly land,
I must steal some of your fruit today. ||

Friday, August 7, 2015

Cabbage ben Bharucha

My friend Dhiren Shah, of Bharuch, and a finance professional, mostly has very earth related hobbies. Like trekking in the mountains, cycling on river banks, foods,  and even cricket, which involves  constantly banging bats and balls on the earth, sometimes, along with oneself.  The food hobby got him hooked on gardening,  and a cabbage crop was a  recent project.

He recently posted the  five month harvest and people started asking  if these were indeed cabbages or Brussel sprouts.

Yes, the cabbages might be offended at being called stuff connected to Brussels. At least say Bharuch  Cabbages.

Dhiren just introduced a new variety of Cabbage.

And there is a reason why the cabbages prefer to be small in size. It has to do with DNA.  Confused ?

Then read on.    

The Bharuchian soil
steeped in monsoon showers
delightfully aware

of the little ones,
studded with the DNA
of one
who watches cricket balls.

One eye
on the bat,
he watches them
month after month,
as they
get enveloped
in green layers
of maternal concern
yet continue to be kids
enamoured with the cricket ball..

But sometimes,
they decide to emulate
someone who
gets so much childlike joy
as he revels
in green roads, rivers,
mountains, foods,
and cooking for
his family.

Stubborn in their resolve,
they eye him
as he inspects them
between mundane profits and losses.

The message finally reaches.

They sit,
in his kitchen,
free at last,
thrilled to bits
watching their friend
click and post them on FB.

Fresh Organic Gobis,
having achieved a life goal,
relax in the plate,
look up
at the concerned fellow
and ask,
"Did you ever read a book
"Small is Beautiful"
by E. F. Schumaker ?.....

We grew up on it ...."