I had almost dragged my kids into the cinema Hall to see this. Why do you think we need to see this? It is not a children’s movie like FROZEN orAVENGERS.” My son said loudly. “It is about our country’s history! We must know about it.” I said vehemently. “Oh..just our country’s history! We are already reading it in our books. I do not want to study any more about it. I do not like History at all.” My daughter said in disgust. “You read very little of our country’s courageous History in your books.” I said.
The world of Tanhaji Balusare captivated us completely. We were transported to the times of magnificent forts and dense forests, and royal elephants and horses.
There were towering rock mountains which were only beaten by the valour of humans. Next came in the perpetrators of deceit and treachery and traitors and their accomplices. The latter destroy the fabric of the country and bring untold suffering on innocent masses for generations to come. This brought me back to the present. Man has made such strides in Science; that his lifestyle is such that Kings of yester-years would envy. He is even able to fly to the Moon. His moral fabric, has become increasingly tattered over a similar time period.
Have parents failed their children?
I do not know why the vociferous denunciation of the country, by its citizens in CAA protests, unsettled me deeply. Protests need not entail such derogatory comments and destruction of government property. It made me turn deep within. Why has LOYALTY become as rare as a DODO bird?
I hoped I would be able to inculcate such values in my children, that their deeds would never harm their own motherland. They should be proud of their country. Their existence should add and nurture the good in the world. It is my paramount duty as a mother.
Alas, the history that they read in their text-books falls woefully short of instilling pride in them. It does manage to inculcate a sense of worthlessness and self-pity.
Nowadays, all information is just a click away. Parents can fill in the void created by History books and instill a sense of pride for the country, in their children.
They need to remember and remind them, that we all, are guests in this world. For we are not invaders who have come to plunder and plough and to loot and kill. We all should do, whatever possible, to leave this country and the world a better place to live in.
I was returning home when I remembered I needed to buy some groceries. I did come across Malls on the way but preferred to buy them from small shops along the roadside. They had families to feed too. I am indispensable to them. Mall Owners do not need me.
A few people were already standing in one of the shops I frequented. I waited patiently for my turn. The shop keeper too had loads of it…patience I mean. He chatted, smiled, laughed and chewed a betel leaf, while giving each customer whatever he asked for, while I waited. A labourer waited beside me. His back was bent with sacks of rice and he was still waiting for more to be piled on him. My waiting was painless but his was not. ” Please give him whatever more he needs to carry on him.” I told the shopkeeper. He was exchanging long pleasantries with one of the customers. He stopped and gave the labourer a disdainful look. ” He is used to waiting. I have more important things to do.” He told me dismissively. ” Your more important things can wait. He is standing already bent with all that weight. Don’t you see that?” I told him. He called out to the helper inside and barked some orders, looking angry. Another big sack was put on the labourers back and he went away shuffling. While the shop keeper returned to his work; I quietly moved away. How can humans be so inhuman?
I had no wish to buy anything from that shop anymore. He could stack things in his shop because of that labourer. He could sell things in bulk because of him too. How was he not sensitive to his discomfort? Does just paying a few bucks in return suffice for all that hard labour?
We buy so many things for our daily subsistence everyday. Perhaps we should remember and thank all those faceless people, who with their tireless efforts, ensure a hot nourishing meal three times a day for us.
I crossed that shop everyday afer that incident, but refused to go and buy anything from there any more. Almost six months later, I was just passing by when my eyes fell on the Shop keeper. The moment our eyes met; he looked down with guilt on his face. I know not why I felt guilty too. I moved towards the Shop smiling. I had a long list in my hands.
Hindi and its variations have never seized to amaze me; be it with a spice of English, Bengali or Marathi.
Meghalaya has a substantial population of Bengalis. Perhaps substantial is not a correct word. There has been a slow exodus of this community from here for various reasons over a few decades and not many remain here anymore.
I rather prided myself on my Hindi language skills as far as speaking is concerned. Unfortunately that skill does not extend to writing, in that language. I still remember how my Hindi School teacher Mrs. Rana, used to be appalled at my absolute lack of interest in her subject. “Murga banau kya, HAEN…Banau Murga?” She used to say threateningly. I used to try to keep as straight a face as possible for my insides would be churning up with laughter at the HAEN!
On arriving in Meghalaya, the Hindi spoken by Bengalis was such, that each seemed to be a stand up comedian to me. One of the days I was travelling with some family friends. There was a person of Hindi origin with us. The driver asked him,” Tum Kidhar mein namega?” The person looked all at sea. Driver tried to explain,” “Namega..tum namega nahi janta hai? Kaisa hindi manush hai tum?” He said, scratching his head. Others pitched in to help. ” Gadi se lafa(jump) ke dono pa( feet) ek sath korega tum kidhar?”One of them asked him pointing to his feet. The poor man stared at his feet in dismay. ” Ore Baba…Tum hindi kuch nahi samajhta..Bangla bhi nahi samajhta. Hum korega kya?” This was the driver again in anguish. By this time, I was in a state where I thought I would burst with laughter. “Bhaiya, Aap ko kahan utarna hai?” I asked him. He turned towards me with joy and relief on his face. He got down soon after. Others looked at me with admiration.
Soon I realized that no one understood the Hindi I spoke. Even hindi speaking people spoke that eclectic mix of Bengali and Hindi in day to day life. I also started speaking in a similar way. Initially I felt like a clown doing so, but then it became a matter of habit. Now there was a new problem. When I spoke to old friends back in Maharashtra, they became bewildered. “Teri tabiyat toh theek hai na?” They would ask, invariably. Then I would wonder, stare at myself in the mirror and feel my pulse and wonder again. Later on, I realized there was absolutely nothing wrong with me with the sole exception of my tongue. They were too polite to point out that to me.
Then once, I was speaking to a new friend from Uttar Pradesh. I was speaking in the best Hindi I knew. “Haan kya?”I said at regular intervals. At the end he said,” Aap Marathi kafi accha bol leti hai!” My mouth fell open. “But I have been speaking Hindi all the time!”I ejaculated. “Is this Hindi? It sounds exactly like Marathi.” He said. I later realized that “Ho ka?” is my Haan Kya… My pure Hindi is heavily influenced by Marathi!
My confidence has still not taken a beating. I still consider myself head and shoulder above others.
Here again today I heard someone say, “Apun ka Shorir koisa?”
(Kaisi hai aapki tabiyat?)
God knows what the other person answered on the other end.
” Dekha..ham kaisa bodiya Hindi Sikha.” He said to his friend sitting with him.
I felt a familiar laughter growing within me.🤭🤭 I instantly turned my attention to the newspaper.
At 67,385, highest number of babies born in India on New Years’s Day. Time to turn solemn.😟😟 It saved my day.
A nice, old and sleepy centre stood among the hills, almost hidden by the tall green trees. It had taken almost three hours to reach here. Approximately, half of the journey was along roads; which were being broadened. Thick trunks of trees lay along the road on either side, cut and left there to dry. It pained me no end. They must have stood for fifty years or more perhaps, providing shade and oxygen. Will we able to grow such trees again? All were being sacrificed at the altar of mindless development.
In one place, a JCB was being used to cut a tall Euclyptus tree. It had raised its claws almost vertically and was cutting onto the higher part of the tree. The cuts looked greenish and sap was running out of it. I felt as if it was bleeding with these superficial cuts. Few cuts with the axe and it would not be so painful perhaps. They too deserve some respect in their last moments. To top it all, people had crowded around the JCB and were laughing. I missed out completely on the mirth. I had become one with the tree.
The centre was crowded with patients. But there was no dearth of sitting places. Thick roundrels of tree trunks of different colours, about one foot high each, were placed everywhere, neatly arranged along the walls. ” I just told my staff to go and collect a few tree trunks from those lying on the road and got them cut. They look nice, isn’t it?” The Incharge of that Centre asked me. “Yes, they do. It’s a pity so many trees are being cut like this.” I told him. ” The roads have to be made broad. How long will we travel on these narrow roads?” He said. ” Hmmm. We did not meet many vehicles on the way.” I told him. ” Have you seen the road which is made already? A four lane road for us to zoom away.” He said, happily. “Ya, a four lane modern road leading to a village like small town.” I said quietly. He stared at me, shrugged his shoulders and moved off.
We rapped up our work in another five hours or so. My staff had become very deft in their work. Such was the dedication that, one of them held a urine sample of a patient in his left hand while grabbing cookies with another during tea break. I ticked him off. ” Do not come near me with that kind of a spectacle in your hands next time.” I told him. “I will have to test this for sugar.” He answerwd, smiling broadly.
In the midst of all work, ten minutes time can be solely dedicated to nourishing this temple of a body, isn’t it?
When we started back, the sky was still bright. Along the way, the sky turned a dark orange and then started fading. Lots of JCB’s remained suspended in the hills, hanging precariously, clawing at the brown soil repeatedly. I thought they looked like the extinct Dinosaurs of yester years; ferocious and monstrous. I craned my neck outside the window to have a better look at them. They seemed to defy gravity, hanging miles above us like that… A particular red coloured huge one, loomed above us at a distance, atop a hill. The moment our vehicle reached near it, it suddenly made a one hundred and eighty degree turn and lurched downwards towards us at a great speed! We all yelled in fright together. The huge claws had almost picked us up along with the vehicle by then. It then suddenly came to a stop. After releasing us gently, it turned upwards, back to work. ” Sorry….it was the Handyman driving.” Someone yelled from the hills. It was turning dark. We were more than relieved and happy to be on the road again. Even though we reached home safely in another two hours; my heart kept jumping wildly within. What a day it was! The next day; I was narrating that incident most solemnly to my colleagues in the Doctor’s room, near the operation theatre. General, Orthopaedic surgeons and Ophthalmic ones came for a tea break in between operations. These guys laughed their hearts out. ” Really you provide us the much needed break. You go for an eye camp and on the way back, the JCB comes down and scoops you all up and puts you on a hilltop. Can you imagine how ridiculous that is?” One of them laughed helplessly as he said this. ” I did not go and sit on a hilltop inside a car. Do not exaggerate.”I retorted. “News paper headlines. Dr Sapna left atop a tree on a hill. Coutsey: JCB.” Said another. The scene came alive and vibrant in front of my mind’s eye this time, and all of us broke into a collective laighter. Finally with that, my heart beat became normal again and remained so for a long time.
The road shone black and winding up and down. The Gypsy sped along it. It was autumn. Leaves had turned red and orange with yellow tinge. The Sun shone bright reflected in the shining stars from the stream that ran along the road, almost parallel. Black rocks jutted out of it at intervals. Some were more inviting than the others, on account of being flat topped.
I imagined myself sitting on one of them; my feet dipped in the waters. I almost jumped up in my seat. The water felt so cold. ..
Imagination works wonders. Try it once. Imagine such a place where you can put your feet into the water, close your eyes, and feel the flowing water draw out your tensions, dissolve them in it and take it away for ever. One then becomes one with the silence within. Only the river gurgles away; outside and inside us…
Presently the Gypsy had climbed down the hills and was racing in the plains. Acres and acres of rice fields, ripe with the grain stood proudly, showing off the fruitful labour of the farmers and the mother earth.
In the midst stood a small single hut like structure raised almost two metres high by thick bamboo stems. We stopped in front of one and made our way to it through a slender pathway in the fields. We lifted ourselves into the hut like structure, using the bamboo rails made into steps. I sincerely hoped my weight would not leave signs of devastation on those rickety steps. There sitting on the hay floor and watching the air create wave like ripples in the fields; we had some snacks and tea. Half an hour sped away. Cleaning up carefully, behind us; we now embarked on the difficult part of our journey. It another fifteen minutes, we turned a sharp left and entered a brown path. These paths made by walking men, always made me feel distinctly uncomfortable. The forest lined with tall trees and almost turning the day dark, coupled with such elusive paths made me scared. I. Of course, made a brave face, at the face of it. ” You know these paths well. Isn’t it?” I asked the driver. ” Of course Madam. If we do get lost; we can always find someone and ask the way.” He said, nonchalantly. ” Actually there is not enough time to get lost and found again. If we are too late, all patients will run away. It is already 12p.m. So be careful and see that I reach where I am supposed to, at the earliest.” I told him. He shook his head. I too shook mine. Here I am so worried and here he is, with absolutely no qualms of going the wrong way. “We better go the other way. It is faster.” One of my staff said from behind.
The driver looked at me. “Will it be OK for you Madam?” I nodded. If it was ok for everyone else; it should be for me too. We soon neared a clearing and the wheels ran over fields. “Well, where is the path?”
They all kept quiet. ” Actually there is no road.” The driver said sheepishly. There was a large river…right in front of us.
On the opposite bank, seemed to be a path in the jungle. Tall trees stood in close association… Where are we heading to? Where is the road? In answer, the Gypsy put up more speed and before I could gasp, the Gypsy along with us had plunged into the river! I almost screamed out aloud. ” Close your eyes Madam.” The driver said reassuringly. I could hear laughter behind me. I closed my eyes. But, panic striken, opened them again. We were right in the river. Water was flowing away steadily. The Gypsy was not moving. ” We are stuck, right in here. Isnt it?” I asked him. “No Madam, I am actually driving.” I looked at his hands on the steering wheel and then at my staff behind. “He actually is driving. The river bed is full of pebbles. It makes a nice road.”One of them informed. “There is nothing to worry at all Madam.” Another staff assured me. I felt more anxious at that. Probably they all knew how to swim. I did not. But the mirth in their faces, did make me relax a bit. Then when I looked outside, it felt beautiful. I seemed to be a Swan, gliding silently amd slowly in a sea of calm waters. The Sun rays made the water glisten and I wished I could just open the door and dip my feet in it. When the vehicle gave a nose up and we ascended on to the stony ground, I felt a tinge of disappointment. It was all over, a little too fast.
From there on, the road became bumpier. What a great relief it was; when the camp area came to sight! Strangely, contrary to my own expectation, I felt cool and relaxed. Did that water ride have something to do with it?
Many years back, I was working in a primary health centre. I had just finished my internship then. The PHC catered to a large population and I being the lone Allopathy doctor; my hands were quite full always. I was also sent for training to do tubectomy operations and once my hands became deft; I literally was instructed to travel far and wide twice every week. This was done after completion of my routine out patient duties at my posting place first. Many times I returned in the wee hours of the morning. Needless to say that; I wished for some respite every day.
Under such circumstances, when a letter arrived with orders to do a health camp every month or so at a place, almost seven hours away, my face fell. We set off early morning at about 6.30 a.m. After a long arduous journey, we reached a village in the midst of a jungle. Rows of thatched houses stood one after the other on either side of the roads. It was a small colony with almost all residents growing some vegetables and flowers.
I saw a huge well surrounded with dry trees there. Since it was summer season then; the land was parched and seemed panting with tiredness and thirst. A few ladies were drawing water from the well. The examination room overlooked it. Soon patients started flowing in and my team set to work earnestly. One thing constantly intrigued me. There were no children and adults. The village seemed to be only having many old people. I, in my life, had never seen such a village. Once we finished and the medicines and other paraphrenelia had been packed, I inquired about it. My staff knew not the answer.
I had felt another very disturbing thing too. There was a distinct animosity in the air. It was so palpable that it kind of unsettled me to the core. I had watched my other staff all along. “This is a different kind of a village, isnt it?” I had asked one of the nurses. “Ya, it is. They are not Maharashtrians.” She said, nonchalantly, shrugging her shoulders. That, of course, I had understood long back. They seemed Bengalees to me. I can recognise one of my clan, if I might say so. Besides their language was a mix of Bengali, Hindi and some spicy Marathi sprinkling. I was overcome many a time with the urge to break into my mother tongue; but the invisible wall had stopped me.
But now I wanted to go into the crux of the matter. We had brought ample medicines and calcium, vitamin tablets and iron tonics. We had served them to the best of our capacity. What exactly was wrong there?
I called an old lady and asked her gently.
” Why did no kid and adult attend this camp here today? This was meant for all.” I asked her, gently.
I had inadvertently opened a Pandora box.
She said angrily,” How can they come if they are not here in the first place? We came here way back in 1971; to escape the riots in our country, Bangladesh. From then onwards; you people have kept us here. You only give 12 kgs of rice and a few kgs of wheat and some lentils.( I have forgotten the exact figures here.) You think that is enough? Have you given jobs to our children? How can they survive here?The situation is back to normal now. They have all gone back to our own country. Why will they stay here? They have jobs, land everything there. What have you Indians done for us?” She asked angrily. I was at a complete loss of words. ” Now they have come here to please us with medicines! As if, we need those medicines of yours. You can take them back.” Another added in anger.
I started feeling angry within. Incidentally, we had a Senior Additional District Medical Health Officer with us. He quickly signalled me to move away from there. He took over.
” We are so sorry that we have not been able to live upto your expectations. I will definitely take up the matter with the concerned administration at the earliest. Please follow the advice regarding medicines. Thank you so much for the co_operation.” He said, smiling, his head down with folded hands. It was too much of a spectacle for me to witness. I made my way towards my own vehicle.
I saw a few of them smiling.
” We will come back again. Probably in the next month…” He informed them before leaving.
I sat quietly in the back seat of the Gypsy. The Director sat in front. Still seething with discontent; I maintained a stoic silence. My stomach was growling and the vehicle seemed to be burning at the 45 degree ambient temperature. My throat was parched and my bottle was empty. Those were the days, when waterbottles and chips and other foodstuff were not available everywhere. So all added up to my seething anger within.
” Young doctors need to grow a heart.” He spoke after some time.
” You need to understand them.They have no one.” He added.
“Ungrateful beings! We let them stay here, give them regular ration, hold camps for them..and God knows what…and what do they do? They address us as ‘YOU INDIANS’! They have been here for close to twenty five years and they know no loyalty , no respect for my country?’I thought all this but did not voice it.
“Why don’t they go back to their own country then? Why don’t they go back to their own children? Who needs them anyway?” I said, as calmly as I could. But it probably was not enough, for the Director turned towards me with shock on his face. I turned silent again. I remembered my own Grade 4 attendant back in the PHC. He was M.A. in two subjects. Such was his aura of dignity and knowledge; that I hated telling him to bring this and clean that kind of a thing. We were not able to give jobs to our own country men. There were lakhs and lakhs of educated people waiting for jobs and here were they, demanding them.
” You have a long way to go if you really want to be a competent government official. Learn to think wearing their shoes.” He said and departed when we reached his destination.
” I have no wish to be that. I will not bend over backwards to please prople. I will leave this job at the next opportunity.” I thought at this.
It was already 9.30 pm by then. I was another one and a half hour away from my destination. We stopped at a dhaba and had some snacks and water. It cleared the cobwebs out of my brains, a bit.
As the vehicle moved again; I was thinking that if one person from each such refugee family; had been given a job; they would have regained some dignity. Their children and kids would have been with them. It would have been a complete village; not like an old age home. But would they have been happy? Well, that was a debatable issue. The roots of their own motherland were so deep, that new ones could never replace them. When roots of big trees are cut off, most of them die.
But then, there are those trees who strive to grow new roots, spread out, thrive and prosper and give shade and solace too. I remembered many people like that, of my own family tree, with gratitude. I owe my life to them.
Old pleasant memories hold a pride of place in the heart. They are like foot prints in the sands of time.
My old workplace, Tura Civil Hospital was nestled among the hills. Come November and the hospital was full of aromas of oranges. Patients footfall decreased probably in anticipation of the chimes of Christmas bells. I have always wondered at this. Probably gaiety in the heart drives sickness away. Have you noticed that happy people seldom fall sick?
In our free time, we sipped the orange segments with grounded chillies and salt combination. I used to almost double up on my chair in the chill of the mountain air. Once the chillies went in, imaginary vapours rushed out of my ears and I could sit quite upright for quite some time at a stretch. The sounds waves of carols being practiced for Christmas spread all around, lenting a unique festivity to the air. I loved it.
Then there was the Party to look forward to. All the doctors and staff would join together at the right earnest for it. There was a big frontyard in front of the AYUSH complex. Tall green hills on the opposite side gazed down at it. Temporary fireplaces were made wirh big stones arranged on three sides of a circle. Long slices of thick dry wood went into it. When the flames leapt out; I made myself scarce. Cooking in firewood had never been my cup of tea.
By the way, no one had any expectation from me. My countenance and disposition was such, that it inspired no confidence in others, as far as my cooking and cutting skills were concerned. I was fine cutting a few tomatoes here and a few chillies there and did not mind it at all. Rest of the time I spent drinking tea and watching others work. ..
The flames leapt in a way, that I thought the huge utensils would go up in flames. They didnt. The flames calmed down and the logs turned red. In came the male genre of the species. General and Orthopaedic surgeons and Ayurvedic physicians left their scalpels behind, tied a ‘gamocha’ over their clothes and middles, and took up the spatulas and ladles. Fish and chicken, mutton and paneer, vegetables and chillies went into the oil in different utensils, and the aromas were such that … they defy description.
The ladies for once, took a backseat and left all the gallantry to the gentlemen. I secretly thought they were loving it. In their own homes; their gallantry is on, the year around. So why not spread your feet out on the grass and sing some ooh..la la..and chew some betel nuts and leaves and speak to the dozen; while the Sun shone brightly above? So they did exactly that.
Once cooking was over, the prayers were said with utmost devotion. I almost felt that Jesus had come down to bless us all.
While the stomach growled louder in anticipation, the moment of the day arrived. The Sun had almost turned orange in the West by then.
The tastes still linger in my mouth. Firewood adds a distinct aroma to the food. If it is coupled by the company of friends, the gaity of talk, the chirping of birds and the bite of cool mountain air….it becomes an unbeatable experience. Isn”t it?
May Christ Bless Us All.
May his Divine light guide us all.
Merry Christmas in advance to all of you.
Please note:. I have lost the actual photographs. Images here sourced from Google.
It was another outreach camp day. The health centre stood at a place where the river made a U turn. We watched the glistening sands from above as the health centre stood on a hill. The river flowed tranquill below.
There are times when one just mends with the surroundings and becomes deeply still and silent within. I had to be shaken out of my reverie. Once we finished our routine work; packing was started hurriedly. We wanted to reach home before night fall.
It was then that we were invited for Fishing! “Fishing! I have never done that in my life.” I blurted out. “Wonderful! So You can start today, Madam. The fish here are abundant and delicious.” The Doctor of the centre added enthusiastically.
Somehow I did not quite share his enthusiasm. “Ok, lets have lunch first.” He said. Well, that was too inviting a proposal to resist.
Varieties of fish dishes were in the lunch spread. The particular one made with roasted fresh fish and ground to a CHUTNEY was wonderful.
Small fresh fish..250 gm Green chillies.6 _7 Garlic cloves ….6_7
Onions medium sized 4 A tuft of fresh coriander leaves.
Roast the fish in a fire or with a little oil in a hot tava.
Remove it and do the same with garlic and chillies until slightly brown.
Wash and chop the coriander leaves finely.
The grinding stone is a thing of the past in cities but it still flourishes in small towns and villages. I have seen it being used in Kolkata too where maids will fine grind garam masala, cumin seeds, ginger finely and separately and keep them in small little utensils for the lady of the house to use while cooking, as part of her routine activities, every day. The taste this freshly grounded spices impart to the dish is unparalleled.
So those who have no grinding stone, use the smallest jar in your mixer grinder to turn the fish, garlic, coriander and chillies and salt to taste combo into a coarse paste. Add freshly cut onion in thick pieces to it before churning it. Do the churning in ‘Pulse’mode. Remember we do not want a syrupy concoction. After it is done, remove it in a utensil and add two teaspoon of mustard oil. Kacchi Ghani mustard oil is better. Top it with a few fresh leaves of coriander and serve it hot with steaming Rice and fresh onion roundrels. Well, is your mouth watering? Well, we are on the same page.😋☺😁
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.
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.