Category: grandparents

Of Diwali Traditions Old and New

Of Diwali Traditions Old and New

Traditionally Diwali has always spelt A.C.T.I.V.I.T.Y since I was a child. We would get swept along on this tidal wave as the adults sat around budgeting, making lists, shopping for clothes and estimating the number of visitors.

Most of all I remember the food

My grandmas and my mother would get together along with the house help and cook up a storm in the kitchen. By the time Diwali came around, we’d have huge boxes full of all kinds of sweets and savouries that would last through the month.

We’d hang around the kitchen…

..pestering them for ‘something to do’, beyond the picking and carrying and fetching. Most often we were handed over forks or knives and we would sit happily pricking the mathris readying them for frying. Or we’d get to work on the gujhiyas cutting them with the help of moulds, getting out perfectly formed semi circles. The adults worked far more deftly without the moulds.

My favourite memory…

is that of my grandmother sitting out in the courtyard frying gujhiyas in a large kadhai (a wok) on a coal fire. My sister and I would hang out of the huge windows of our room that opened out into the courtyard. It was me more than my sister. Food never was quite her thing like it was mine. My grandmom would hand over one to me, its delicately flavoured khoa hot and runny. And I would happily risk burning my tongue as I’d bite into it. Nothing ever tasted quite as good.

After I got married..

..I tried my hand at making gujhiyas and it turned out an epic fail. Each one of them burst out into the oil spilling all their contents and effectively putting me off festive cooking. I didn’t much mind. All I did was go looking for the shop that sold the best ones (by that I meant the ones closest to the kind my mom made). And that was how it was for many years.

However now, as the children are growing up, I am beginning to feel sorry for that lost tradition, among many others. I’m sorry they will never experience the bustle of a busy kitchen fragrant with festive smells, that they will never get to sample a hot gujhiya straight out of the kadhai. And I wonder if, in an attempt at simplifying the festival, I have taken away the essence of it.

In an attempt at simplifying Diwali have we taken away the essence of it? Click To Tweet

Perhaps I have. Could I have done it any other way? I’m not sure. Not as far as the cooking goes that’s certain, that really isn’t my forte.

We have however, set up our own traditions – clearing our cupboards, redoing the house, painting diyas, making rangolis, having our own small puja followed by visiting friends and neighbours. That’s not too bad I assume. The children, of course, have no idea what they’re missing, as for me, I still miss the ma ke haath ki gujhiyas.

Linking up with the Write Tribe Problogger October 2017 Blogging Challenge #writebravely #writetribeproblogger

The room on the roof

The room on the roof

Our house in my hometown is way larger than the flat we live in back home. To the twins’ absolute awe and delight it is a stand-alone bungalow, has a huge room on the first floor with a large terrace.

Till a few years back they were too young to go exploring and we managed to keep them grounded (pun intended!). My mum imagined them sliding down the steep bannister and running up and down the stairs and promptly issued a blanket ban. Then there are monkeys, no not mine, real ones – aggressive and fearless – that roam the neighbourhood. We all thought it was best to restrict the children to the ground floor.

Till they were about 5 or 6 they complied.

A few years later they made their way to the first landing then to the second until finally they ‘discovered’ the room. Since the holidays were almost over by the time they made this momentous discovery there wasn’t much they could do. They had to be satisfied with leaving notes all over the doors and windows labelling it as ‘H&N’s room’. And that was that!

Next year the moment they arrived they scooted up to assert ownership. The room was quite bare since it wasn’t much in use and the twins set out to rectify it rightaway. First, they decided, it needed to be furnished. During the long summer afternoons, while all of us adults shut ourselves in our rooms with the hum of the AC for company, the twins went to work.

They picked a mattress from one of the rooms on the ground floor (taking care to replace the covers back on the bed so no one would notice) and lugged it up. If you’ve ever tried walking with a full-sized Sleepwell mattress you’d realise how determined my 6-year-olds would have been. Next they needed tables and chairs. They decided the ground floor had one too many and dragged up some chairs too. The furniture was old, heavy and sturdy, lovingly made during my grandfather’s time. The twins, it would seem, were sturdier.

How they managed to do all of this in complete secrecy remains a mystery.

They put up some more notices at the door, instituted a ‘tax’ for entry and the room was done. That year they spent entire days up their fiddling with the large old broken down radio, carrying up food and juice and playing all kinds of pretend games. It was a relief to have them out of my hair.

Everyone is now reconciled to the fact that that’s where they’ll stay. Their bags are carried up the moment they arrive. They continue to love the place. Despite their fear of monkeys, they walk out onto the terrace and spend hours on the swing.

Last week they decided to have a screen-free day. They spent the morning going up and down busily. Then N pretended to be stranded up in a tower (or something of that sort) and sent down a rope while H tied all kinds of supplies – water and cold drinks and biscuits – which she’d pull up and then he’d run and join her for a snack.

I watched them, glad and grateful, that there was still time before they outgrew their childhood and that silly as their make-believe games might be, they still could trounce technology.

They continue to believe the room is their discovery – no matter that it was my parents who got it constructed after much discussion and many hours of pondering over the plans. “They might have got it built,” argue the little ones, “but then they forgot about it and we discovered it.”

Linking up with

Mackenzie at Reflections from Me.

The special thing about shelled peanuts

The special thing about shelled peanuts

So the husband came home with a bag of these. 

N looked at it curiously. ‘What is this’, she asked? 
‘Mungphali’ (peanuts), said I. 

It rang no bell for her. 

‘So how do you eat these?’ she asked giving the shell a lick and finding no flavour at all. 
‘That’s the shell, silly,’ said I, ‘you’re supposed to crack it open, like this, I demonstrated.
Tentatively, she followed and then jumped with excitement .. Ooh this has peanuts inside it, she said, like she’d met an age-old friend. She does love peanuts.
That made me laugh.
And yet it made me wonder at how unaware H and N were about simple things like unshelled peanuts. You know what’s even more interesting? They’ve seen pictures in their science books but cannot connect it with the real thing even when they see it. How strange is that!
When we were young it was ‘normal’ to have to shell peanuts. In fact during the winters it was quite a tradition. We’d sit in a circle  all bundled up against the cold, monkey caps or shawls pulled up over our heads, with a big tray of peanuts in the middle. We’d shell and eat them with coarsely ground garlic-chili-coriander chutney. And it was the the most delicious thing on earth. Over anecdotes and stories and age-old family jokes time would simply fly.
If we happened to be sitting around a fire we’d occasionally throw the shells into it and watch as they flared up and burned out in an instance. Such a thrill that was!
Sometimes my grandmother would shell some peanuts and fold my fist quietly over them. That tiny fistful of shelled peanuts made me feel the most special person on earth.
Now my kids take it all for granted. They might be getting their peanuts shelled, salted and ready to eat but there’s nothing special about them anymore.
Grandmas and green chickpeas

Grandmas and green chickpeas

There is something about fresh seasonal produce that I find quite irresistible. Ruby red tomatoes, creamy cauliflowers, shiny purple brinjals, crunchy white radish and the greens – spinach, fenugreek, dil and coriander – all alluringly beautiful.

Hence vegetable shopping these days is an exercise in self control. The husband has his own theory of course. He insists it’s my all-encompassing shopping bug that does not even spare vegetables. 

Just LOOK at those colours. I clicked this one at Mahabaleswar but you do get the idea, right?

But really, they’re so fresh and healthy that they’re a complete delight to behold. I buy them and get them home and then don’t quite know what to do with them. A case in point being chana or green chickpeas that make an appearance in the winter. It was Rachna who reminded me of them.


During winter months our grandmoms would sit in the warm afternoon sun in the angan, talking till the sun went down. Yet, they were never really idle. Even as they chatted, their hands would be busy knitting, cleaning rice or daal, making sewains (the handmade ones) or of course shelling peas or chana.

We’d be drowsing by, a book in hand. The clink of chanas dropping into the steel bowl took on a hypnotic quality. Through half open eyes we’d watch the bowl filling up steadily, while the branches with empty pods still on them, piled up on the other
side. We’d chip in sometimes, eating more than we shelled, only to be shooed away.
They would then be
ground by hand on a stone sil-batta to get a bright green paste, which was then cooked with the most redolent of
spices – cinnamom and bay leaf, cloves and cardamoms black and green and many many others.
Finally it would
turn into a thick shiny emerald green flavourful gravy. With a blob of home-made
butter, it sat on a mound of equally aromatic basmati rice and made our winter
lunches memorable. It was called the nimoma.
My grandmom would also make green boondi laddoos. She would grind chana, make tiny boondis (just like the ones made from gram flour) then add sugar syrup and bind them into delectable laddoos

The laddoos remained beyond me but the nimona I did try a few times. However, I never could get it right. It may have to do with
the fact that I don’t quite have a master’s touch when it comes to cooking. Or
maybe I just don’t have the meticulous way with ingredients that turns them
into works of delicious art.

Mostly, I suspect, it’s because, it is a mindboggling amount of work.
I cannot but marvel at how much dilegence and precision that generation put into cooking. That too without weights and measures and teaspoons and tablespoons. I’d watch in
fascination as my grandmom would measure out the salt that went into our daily daal on
the palm of her hand – and I’m talking rock salt crystals not the powdered salt
we use today. She’d get it right each time, every time.
Here I am, not even able to make tea without precisely measuring out
the water cup by cup and woe-betide anyone who changes the spoon in my teabox. I
never could get the ‘andaaz‘ thing right. 
So I stick with the simple and uncomplicated – like this salad. The recipe is here at Rachana’s blog. I added flax seeds for extra crunch. Try it, it comes out great, I might add.

Grandmas are special

Grandmas are special

A few days back I was telling the twins about my grandmoms. That brought on a wave of nostalgia. We had two of them, amma my dad’s mother and chachi his aunt, who was just chachi to the whole world. They were inseparable yet squabbled all the time. My dad teasingly christened them Gulabo-Sitabo.

We had the best of both worlds – a strict mom who disciplined us all the time and the two doting grandmoms who more than balanced her out. Though it’s over a decade since they left us, somedays seemingly inconsequential occurrences bring their memories flooding back.

When I’m pushing the kids to have their milk I think of amma who was hopelessly fond of it. Whether she was ill or tired or not hungry at all – offer her a bowl of milk and she wouldn’t say no. It stood her in good stead when well into her 80s, she had a fall and even the doctor couldn’t believe that she had come away without broken bones.

She was a snorer – a loud and consistent one. She would be snoring loud and clear, yet if one of us asked ‘Amma are you asleep?’ she’d wake up with a start, “Of course not,” she would say indignantly. That turned into such a family joke.

She spoke chaste Awadhi (that’s a Hindi dialect), one of the sweetest tongues to me. And whatever she said was peppered with the richest collection of age old proverbs and sayings. She had the perfect one for every situation.

While amma was the religious one doing puja twice a day, Chachi was a young girl trapped in an old woman’s body. The high point of her routine was TV time. She had a fixed corner which she’d take right from the time transmission started. Those were the pre cable days yet she’d watch everything the television dished out – from programmes on agriculture and industry to the single weekly Bollywood film. She loved Bollywood.

She was the one who mended our clothes when the seams came off. She was the one who trawled markets looking for the perfect colour of yarn then figure out the ‘latest designs’ and knit sweaters for us even while pretending to complain about ‘these new fashions’. She would much rather chat up our friends than women her own age.

She’d haggle shamelessly with the man who came around to buy off old newspapers. Whatever she made by fleecing off the poor man came to us. Back when pocketmoney was unheard of, those few rupees were quite a treasure. She had the best stories to tell. A bit of mythology and a bit of legend with enough twists and turns and drama to satisfy the most demanding listener.

And she loved my sister – beyond the rest of us. Of course she’d never ever admit it even while blatantly favouring her. My sister was a complete potatorian, she loved potatoes to the exclusion of most other vegetables. Chachi would avoid mom’s eagle eye and dish up her favourite for her while the rest of us ploughed through the greens. If mum asked my sister to cook something, there was Chachi quietly and efficiently doing it for her and handing her the tray to go out and take the credit.

Of course it was completely another matter that our mum was a regular Hercule Poirot. She just knew everything. A royal battle would ensue but it didn’t stop her from doing it again.

How I miss them. With due apologies to my kids’ grandmoms, they just don’t make them like the old ones these days.

Come now, it’s your turn. What’s your favourite grandmom story?

Linking to ABC Wednesday for the letter G. Do drop by to see other G posts.

Meet me on Instagram @obsessivemom06

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