A New Delicious Chicken Dish.

An excursion in the hills

Years ago, I was working in the Garo Hills region of Meghalaya. We had planned an eye screening camp in one of the remote hilly villages.
We started our journey at the break of dawn. After travelling for half an hour on relatively plain roads; the Gypsy took a sharp turn upward and then, it was a constant uphill climb with spiralling down valleys in between. At long last, we reached a clearing in the dense forest. On two sides of it, lay the village. Few houses made with bamboo and mud peeped out of the dense vegetation when the wind blew whike others remained hidden. A small stream sparkled away gurgling and shining a thousand stars. Green and red flowers capped the trees.

The cool, sweet orange scented breeze, was so refreshing that it took all the tiredness of the back breaking journey away.
On one side stood a row of white tents. I was directed to my own tent with EYE written on it.
On the far side, waited hundreds of people, sipping tea.

We were also served hot tea made by brewing local tea leaves, ginger and sugar with a dash of fresh lemon. Instead of whetting our appetite, it increased it many fold. A tub of oranges was kept on one side. A small plate with salt and green chillies grinded together was kept on a little table too. I loved the cool sweet oranges dipped in this paste. It tasted heavenly. Delicious aromas swam about in the air. After a couple of hours or so, we were led to the lunch area.


Hot rice packed neatly in banana leaves lay on one side of the table in a big utensil. Delectable accompaniments lay adjacent to it. Though an array of delicious curries were served, the one which stood head and shoulder above the rest was called ‘Chicken Kappa’.
The melt in the mouth recipe is unique because it is made without oil.
Since the idea of making it raw like that…felt a little awkward; I modified it a bit to suit my taste and my temperament.
Sharing the recipe here.

Chicken 250 gms(chicken breast)
Chillies 10(thick ones)
Ginger 2 teaspoon finely grated.
Cooking soda 1/2 to 3/4 th teaspoon and salt to taste.


Heat a thick bottomed pan and just glaze it with one teaspoon of light groundnut or soyabean oil. Saute the chicken pieces for five minutes to remove the rawness with the flame kept low to medium. Then add the finely chopped chillies, add salt and ginger and saute it further. This is traditionally a hot dish especially suited for winter. One can of course, decrease the chilli quantity depending on one’s aptitude for it. Add two small glasses of water and let it come to a boil. Lower the flame and then add the cooking soda. Be careful as it instantly boils over. Lower the flame and let it simmer until the meat is tender. Add water if needed. It can be made a little soupy or dry .Serve it hot with steaming rice.

One can do variations in it by adding some finely chopped onions, garlic and chunks of capsicum too when adding chillies and ginger, and then thicken the gravy with a little cornflour at the end.

Do try it and let me know whether you LIKE it or LOVE it.

FOOD FIT FOR GOD.

Our ancestral village is in a Majdia, a small town in West Bengal. The last time I had been there was long ago, but it still stands out distinctly in
my memory.
An old house stood in the midst of a large unkempt garden. It almost looked as if it was a part of the wild. I loved it. One could go searching in the nooks and corners and find some eggs laid. Imagine the excitement of kids then! There was a huge lake, the waters of which came in little waves to our feet when we sat on the lower steps leading to the house. A boat or two could be seen far away. Some men waited with their nets hoisted in the water.
We kids were excited beyond words. Imagine catching your own fish, frying and eating it too!
But our excitement was short lived.

My mother’s paternal aunt who stayed there was a pure vegetarian. She could not imagine fishy things spoiling the sanctity of her kitchen.
Kitchen was a revered place where everything was cooked with total devotion, after cleansing oneself with a bath and prayers to the divine.
Foods fit to be offered to the Gods, was made to feed the part of him, which resides within us.


We had undertaken a long journey. My stomach particularly was growling. I stole a look at the store along side the kitchen. I saw only rice and dal stored in tall glass containers.
My grandmother eyed me with a smile and said, “Do not worry. I will soon serve you hot and tasty food.”
I smiled back, not very convinced. She lighted the logs and soon a gay fire was burning. While rice boiled in one big utensil and dal in another,she called me to accompany her.
“Put on your chappals. No rushing about without them.” She said.
We went with a little cane basket to the garden. We plucked some broad beans, brinjal, a small pumpkin and broke some tender shoots of it. We dug out a few raddish and carrots. She shredded some jackfruit seeds and went about cutting and mixing it all together before cooking it.
Within an hour or so, we were all sitting crosslegged on thick cotton mats on the floor, savouring one of the tastiest meals ever made.
Food fit for the God’s are really made with the simplest of things.

Firewood
Labra

CELEBRATION TO REMEMBER

Celebration to remember
The Sun arose in the east as usual today morning but the heart was not the same. It seemed
more alive today with pleasant expectations. Saying a quick prayer, I grabbed the phone. I
could not wait to start reading the birthday wishes. How nice it felt reading and rereading
those wondrous words. I felt like a balloon being inflated deliciously slowly.
Then it just plopped off all of a sudden. This was by the prick of sudden remembrance of the
‘To Do’ list of today morning.
I rushed through the usual chores of making breakfast and lunch, pushing the kids in the
bathrooms for a reluctant bath and then coerced them to come out of it so that the piping
hot breakfast did not become frozen. Meanwhile the clock continued to race. As I gulped
down some breakfast and made my way to the hospital, I prayed that I would not be given
too many serious and dying patients to be dealt with today. Even after being for years in this
medical field; any patient in distress still sends my heart racing. In spite of all our efforts,
some patients will just not survive. We can never conquer death.
My prayers were heard. We got a string of accident victims, medico legal assault cases,
alcoholics and drug addicts but none were really serious. Retracing my steps back home, I
felt spent. I just craved for some rest. My enthusiasm has dwindled over the years.
I came back to an empty nest. Children were away for classes. As I put on the lights, the
whole house seemed to be twinkling. My kids had used whatever material they could lay
their hands on to dress up the house. Long circuit banners made with different coloured
papers of their scrap book, cut painstakingly in triangles, hung stuck to thick cotton strings
of garments from the ceilings. Interspersed were different hued balloons placed
strategically. A small placard hung, held down properly with a set of dividers from the
‘geometry’ box!
‘Let’s Party.’
I had had no wish for it earlier, but I felt differently now. A little later, they bursted in
overflowing with enthusiasm, along with a couple of neighbouring kids.
“We will get a cake for you!” They ejaculated.
I did not have the heart to restrain them. Coming back with loads of bags they restricted
my entry to their room until called upon. I heard the loads of laughter and hushed whispers
emanating and could not help smiling.
Soon I was called in, the lights went on, balloons burst sprinkling tit bits of papers, songs
were sung and I was led to the table to cut the cake.
But the cake looked like a big ‘DHOKLA’!
“It is alright Mamma. The cake shops were closed on account of it being Sunday evening. So
we brought this instead.”
Among the sounds of ‘Happy Birthday’, I cut the Dhokla and while we shared it, I must admit
that I did not miss the cake in any way.
The kids are now dancing. Chips, Momos, Rossogollas and soft drinks are doing the
rounds. My son in his enthusiasm has dipped a potato chip in red spicy momo chutney by
mistake. His elder sister is stuffing sugar in his mouth. The others are roaring with laughter
at this faux pas.
I just let them be. Life is after all a celebration. Celebration in little things. How seldom we
forget it.

DHOKLA

Fragrance Lingers

The month long festive period has come to an end. It all started with the run up to Durga Puja. All that saree shopping and matching accessories search, non withstanding the extended buying for kids and relatives ended when Durga Ma came home. A whirlwind week of enthusiasm and gaiety, pushpanjali and pandal hopping followed. Steaming ‘Khichudi’ and Labra with little side dishes left us wanting for more. For once we did not mind waiting in long queues to partake of this.
Nothing can beat the beats of a ‘Dhaak’. It seems the beats enter into our system, and sets each cell reverberating in unision with it. The whole universe seems to be dancing to it. I seem to be going into a ‘trance” then.

Then comes Laxmi Puja, Kali puja and Bhaiphota. Diwali is ‘Kali Puja’ for the Bengalees. Ma Durga’s another appearence in that form before bidding us good bye.
Now she too has left. The beautifully done Pandals are being dismantled. The little roadside shops selling snacks, crackers, flowers etc. have disappeared. The dhakis who play the ‘Dhak’ are no longer seen or heard. The visible joyousness has disappeared. The brothers have gone back after the visit to their sister’s homes with a promise to ‘ protect’ them.
Women were frail before, needing protection of brothers and husbands. Now they wish to
stand up on their own and ‘protect’ instead. Why not? When the essence of Ma Durga and Ma Kali reside in them, who can stand against them?
The celebrations are long since over but the bliss persists like a soft fragnance that lingers….

Let’s light A lamp Within

Lets light A Lamp Within

Let’ s Light A Lamp Within

This mesmerising beautiful realm,
Where the Sun shines bright,
The dark of strife prevails,
Let’s light a lamp within.🌟

The birds chirp gaily,
Butterflies dance nimbly,
The gloom of animus lingers,
Let’s light a lamp within.💫

The valleys lush green,
The gentle starry streams,
The dusk of vice prevails,
Let’s light a lamp within.💥

The burst of a million lamps,
The rapture of love divine,
Will dissipate the darkness forever,
Let’s light a lamp within.🔥

Dr. Sapna Deb

Here’s wishing everyone a very happy and prosperous Diwali.

LOST LOVE

LOST LOVE

Some losses strike so hard,
That a part is lost forever,
However you try all your life,
You cannot be whole again.

A defect so gnawing,
That it bleeds all the way,
All the love of others around ,
Cannot make you whole again.

Hold on to love tight,
Once you are lucky to find,
Once gone out of your life,
Can never be found again.

Dr.Sapna Deb

THE SECRET BOX

After years of yearning,
And intense ardent prayers,
Did two dear little angels,
Dawn into my lonely life.

At once did they start,
Unearthing a secret box,
Long did it lay dormant,
Within my weary being.

Diamonds of unconditional love,
Shining pearls of care,
Gold coins of forgivness,
Rubies of immense joy.

They shone it all at once,
For me to blossom bright.
They brought some stones too,
Out for me to discern.

Stones black of anger,
Pebbles small of impatience,
Vast Sands of regret and,
Coal dark of revenge.

Displayed for me to see,
To polish and to drop,
The bright and the dark,
On evolvement as we embark.

They the rainbows on the scene,
The teachers in my life,
I hold their hand tight,
As they have held mine.

BIRTH OF HUMANS

Millions of years ago, we dwelled as whole souls in the lofty kingdom of the Creator. Absolute stillness, ever new joy, unconditional pure love, ultimate bliss and magnificent brilliance were its hallmark. Each soul was complete and perfect in all ways. This state of absolute bliss was like being in ‘Paradise’.
The former was unequivocal in all of the souls there. It was easy being in absolute bliss when the environment itself is so pervaded with peace and joy. But was it possible when the situations and environment was in contrast?  Was it possible for the souls to hold on to their true nature of bliss, joy and love in formidable, unpleasant and trying circumstances?
What strength could they achieve and fathom if they were not put through appropriate tests?
Did not the hardest steel pass through the most gruesome fire?
In a severe pain filled predestined moment, each soul was slashed into two, male and female part. {Twin selves are male and female parts of the same whole soul.} The grief of losing the most precious and revered part of oneself forever was so intense and incapacitating that they were completely lost. To add to it, was their deep fall from Paradise into the illusionary world of repeated births and deaths. Overcome with grief, they looked around to find some other souls around so slashed. {This group was known as twin souls, souls who travel through every birth together, disguised as friends, mates, and relatives}.
Soon these souls dressed in new flesh bodies, dawned into the world crying, looking and searching forever for that part of themselves they had lost. The search led them in and out of situations and relationships forming new karma all the way and atoning thereafter, till they got completely entangled in the maze of their own making. As time passed, they forgot their true nature and fell off so away from ‘home’ that even faint memories of the ‘blissful times’ seemed to be melting away.
In their times of distress, they were helped unexpectedly by a few, their twin souls, who reminded them of the lessons of love, care, encouragement and bliss. They rekindled an old memory, a distinct reconnect with the past and afforded a fleeting glimpse of Paradise.
Such moments were the ‘MOMENTS IN PARADISE’ for them.
The formidable search for the twin self continued though. The mirror image of their own self; each held a faint memory of them in their souls and searched in vain. Fumbling and faltering, some fell so deep down into the cycle that all memory was lost.       
But not all met the same fate. Those who held on to the love and bliss, forgave and forgot and worked in accordance to their original nature even in trying circumstances, found ‘spiritual advancement’ to a degree that they were rewarded by the appearance of their ‘twin self’ in their lives. This was not only the most rewarding moment but the most formidable one too. The union required a complete dissolution of the ego and complete annihilation of the vices of anger, greed, feelings of revenge and holding on to hurts within.
Some failed miserably becoming fallen angels in the process. They lost their other halves again to meet them in later births when they were ‘worthy’ of the ultimate union. These souls could never forget their lost ones and though they went their separate ways, they carried the melancholy within. Such souls could do well to remember that their union can never be broken. They might remain away from each other but they always remain united to each other with a cord which defies distance and time.
Those who succeeded in holding on despite the inevitable storms were blessed with the highest reward. They found absolute bliss, joy and complete fulfillment. Their yearning of eons was fulfilled. They had finally come ‘HOME’.
These beings won the race for humanity.  They became the torchbearers for the world, showing and guiding the lesser among souls to their ultimate destiny, back to the world they had come from, their ultimate home, the dwelling of the CREATOR.

CLASS ROOM COMMENTARY

I was in the eight standard then. That day, our Civics teacher walked into the class. Sister Victrine looked resplendent in her starched white dress. Her countenance radiated calmness and purity.

I loved her teaching but that day I was not really in the mood to listen to anything. During the class, only my physical body was seated on the bench. My mind had left it for good and was busy in a Madras cricket field. A one day match was going on between India and West Indies there.


My friend, Babita was frantically gesturing to me.
“Sapna..match is on..match is on!” She whispered loudly the moment Sister turned towards the board to write.
” You have a headache. Go and tell her.” She added.
Of course my head was fine and light and sat smugly on my shoulders. There was absolutely nothing wrong with me. The small pocket transistor had been placed cladestinely inside my desk before the class had begun.
My cricket lover group of friends thought that I had the most innocent face of all. I did not see much of that on my face though, innocence I mean. But they somehow thought I, had the capability of melting Sister’s heart. I hesitated. I did not want to feign sickness like this. My conscience was continuously doing the pricking.
‘Go you…lazy. Stand up and go to her. We are missing the sixes and the fours.’ Another friend poked me from behind as she said this.
I hesitantly went up to her.
” Yes, my dear child, are you alright?” Sister said lovingly.
All that guilt and deceit had already drained the blood off my face perhaps or otherwise how could a healthy me look so sick in her eyes?
I nodded in a no.
” Oh, go and put your head on the desk and sleep, my dear.” She said as she touched my forehead to check for fever.

Now fever cannot be feigned at a moment’s notice. So she did find any of it on my person.
Reassured, she sent me off to ‘ put my head on my desk and sleep”.


I put my ears on the long slit on the desk, closed my eyes and strained my ears. I only heard noise. PLAIN NOISE.
The more I strained my ears the more noise I heard.
I heard another whisper.
‘TELL THE SCORE.” Babita was whispering wildly.
A pellet came flying. Since we had chosen the last two benches on either side of the room and she was at the farthest bench on the other side, she had probably equipped herself with throwable stuff like that.
Meanwhile my ears stubbornly refused to catch a single soundwave except…of course, the noise.
I gestured nothing with my hands.
” Increase the volume.” She ordered.
Now for that I would have to open the desk and put my head in to see the volume button. At the opportune time I did so, and rolled one of the buttons. To my utter dismay, the commentary was LOST.😳😳
Damn me. Another pellet came flying.
“Roll the OTHER BUTTON.What in the world are you doing?”I heard next.
Sister Victrine turned and grimaced and looked at all of us. She looked disturbed. We fell quiet.
The next moment, I ducked in as she turned her back and increased the volume. But alas! It became too high. A huge noise filled the room making almost everyone jump up. I decreased it immediately. Sister Victrine had become upset.
She watched the boys playing cricket in the huge Kasturchand Park opposite to the school.
“Look at these boys. Playing cricket and making noise during school hours and disturbing my students too. It’s too bad.” She shook her head and lamented.
That stroke of luck saved me at that time.
She resumed her teaching and me the straining of ears and listening.
44 for 3 wickets India.!!
My heart seemed to be sinking. Such was my piteous heart at that time, that it rose and sank with wins and losses of the Indian Cricket team. It had kind of nothing to do with me after it anchored itself to them..
I gestured 3 with my fingers towards her.
“Fours?”She asked.
“No..WICKETS!” I gestured.
She rose up in the air like a phoenix saying,”WHAT?”

Sister Victrine turned just then. Babita sat back just on time.
“Why is the class so distracted today? Sapna, why are you ducking your head in and out of the desk like that? Put your head on the desk and sleep.” She said and resumed her teaching.
The next thirty minutes or so I regularly gestured at intervals …four ..five ..six…seven ..eight..nine…and the class ended along with the Indian team’s innings. All out for less than a hundred and twenty runs.
The most disastrous match we had heard the commentary of, in years.
Babita walked angrily towards me saying, ” What a rubbish,unlucky new pocket radio is this! I feel like throwing it in the drain. I told my brother to get a nice one for me and he got an unlucky one! I will tell him to give it back to the shop.”
Somehow her frivolous statement and anger combined made all my disappointment melt away. I almost laughed out aloud. Angry people are really funny to watch at times.


In my heart, I thought it had served me right. I had fallen that day in my own eyes. I had learnt a lesson that day. So did my cricket loving friends. Babita never brought the radio again. I studied for another two years in St.Joseph and Sister continued teaching us. I always felt a twinge of guilt when her eyes met mine and she smiled lovingly. I realized I was like an onion. Her implicit faith in me had helped remove one of the the grey shaded peels.

The others would be removed by life.

MY ENGLISH TEACHER.

A tribute to Mrs.Iris Wilkinson
My English Teacher at St. Joseph Convent

The bus stopped after some hesitant jerks. We gave a collective moan. This sudden snag meant another wait in the school bus for how long we did not know. Our bus took us to and fro from Umred to Nagpur city every day. The sixty students in it were an eclectic mix of students from different schools and colleges. Needless to say, all had different times of closing. So even though, we students of St. Joseph Convent, Nagpur finished ours by 1. 20 p.m., we could start our return journey home only at 6.30 p.m. This was when the last college student would jump into the bus.
How our hearts rejoiced then silently. Silently because our Strict driver, Vinayakji, did not like vociferous rejoicings. All of us together could dish out quite a cacophony at times, so much so, that Vinayakji would lose whatever patience he had, and would park the bus in a deep jungle on the way back, put off the lights and to our utter dismay, leave us in complete darkness and walk off! So, stuck in that God forbidden jungle, where we could feel but not see the face of the person sitting next, we learnt DISCIPLINE.
But that day, we had been perfectly civil and the bus due to a quirk of fate, had stopped on its own somewhere near Hislop college. My stomach was growling. It was about 5 p.m. in the evening. Unfortunately, the lunch box packed by my mother had been too difficult to resist and I had finished the last morsel of it by 7 a.m. We started from home before dawn and would be ravenously hungry by the time we reached school at 6.30 a.m.

It was in that opportune time, a familiar voice called me by my name. Mrs. Wilkinson, my favourite teacher who taught us English was calling me.
“What are you doing here?” Her clear, lyrical voice asked me.
I told her about our dilemma.
“You all reach home at 7.30 p.m. everyday!” She gasped with a look of consternation on her fair face.
“Come in.” She added.
I got down and walked up to her. It felt so nice seeing her.
“This is my house. Come in.” She said.
I perhaps was feeling shy and a little hesitant. I had the former in abundance though I cannot really point out in exactitude the reason of it. Probably it was a natural trait, an unwelcome one at that. It never really helped me in any way. Why! I was even shy of looking at the eyes of anyone who ever spoke to me. I preferred the uninteresting ground instead.
“Do come in. Bring all your friends too.” She said.
“But we are almost sixty of us Miss.” I said, flabbergasted.
“It is all right.” She said.
I ran up to the other students.
“My Miss is calling all of us. Come down all of you and follow me.” I told them.
Of course, I took Vinayakji’s permission before telling the others. I had no wish to lock horns with the Tiger himself. I know not why he looked relieved.

It was a large bungalow with a wonderful garden. We all spread into the different rooms like a kaleidoscope. It felt so good as compared to the stuffy school bus. All the cups and glasses were brought out and we had coffee and cookies, sweetmeats and cakes. Miss used to have all these in tins! A swift two hours passed away and we left reluctantly only after we heard the shrill horn of the bus at length!
My friends and senior college students gave me furtive glances on the way back home. Some faces that knew not how to wear a smile, did that day. I felt grateful and proud of her.
More than three decades later, I still feel overwhelmed at that gesture of hers. Especially when I have to entertain sudden guests and feel inundated and exasperated with the sudden elaborate preparations required.
I could imbibe some knowledge from her magnificent presence but not her kindness and greatness of heart. May you live a long and healthy life Miss.