Category: memories

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.
Oops I forgot!

Oops I forgot!

It seems like I have a permanent guest living up in my head these days. She’s crazy and quirky and enjoyed playing around – hoarding and discarding memories at whim without worrying about order or importance. Perhaps that’s why I remember the lyrics of a cheesy 50s song that I don’t even like while forgetting that I left the gas stove on.

Early this year I went to the library, parked my vehicle by the side of the street, came home walking and then left for a short vacation with my friends. It stood there for two whole nights before I remembered and went looking for it and surprisingly enough, found it. Then again a few months back I forgot it at the same place before another short vacation with the kids, and went back for it after a day. This time I knew where I had left it!

It’s a bit of a mystery why it happens at the same place each time. And why it happens before a vacation. A greater mystery is why no one drives away with it. 

Anyhow, the bigger question is why I keep forgetting things. After all this wasn’t a regular keys or specs kind of thing. Is it because my mind is too cluttered? Is it because  am stressed? Is it even unusual? I don’t think so.

A quick round of google tells me forgetfulness could be a result of stress, multitasking and lack of sleep among other more serious reasons like depression and medication. And so, assuming I don’t have a serious reason, I decided to tackle that woman in my head with some simple ideas. This is how:

Being organised both physically and mentally

– I spend 15-20 minutes everyday at physical organising, decluttering and putting away things.
– I have a fixed place for things I need often and never find – keys, books, chargers, pens, scissors, cello-tape. A large bowl on the centre table or a drawer for all stationery items helps me know where they are.
– I make to-do lists – lots of them.
– And I use reminders liberally – for children’s classes, for fee payments, for library days.

No jumping from task to task

You know how this happens, don’t you? You’re working at an article and you need to refer to some notes. You go to the study to get them and find a pile of books the kids have left at the table. You think you’ll quickly replace them and while doing that you stumble upon a book you’d needed for another article and hadn’t been able to find then. You begin to leaf through it and your current article is forgotten.
The thing to do is to keep your focus and wrap up one task before jumping to the next.

Being mindful

The other day while at my walk I wondered if I had locked my front door. Try as I might I just couldn’t recollect. I rushed back home only to find I had locked it. Such a waste! Being mindful helps. Try to give each task, however small, complete attention for those two or five or ten full minutes.

Getting enough sleep and some exercise

That’s pretty crucial too, to keep the mind and body fresh and happy.
I’m hoping this will set me on the path to driving that woman out of my head. So tell me have you ever forgotten something important? Does your absent mindedness worry you too? Do you have any pointers to add?
Linking up Mackenzie at Reflections from Me. Do take a look at her post where she talks about how we get stressed by simple things.

Brothers and sisters and memories #CBF16

Brothers and sisters and memories #CBF16

About a year back the twins had to make a family tree and while helping them I found my side of the family far outnumbering the Husband’s side – my five siblings to his two. It was only later that I realised I had included my cousins in my count of siblings. But then the Hindi language doesn’t really have an exact word for ‘cousin’ and that’s how it was with us.
We didn’t live together but the summer holidays would see the six us of in our hometown. Since we lived with our grandparents our home became the place where some fifteen to twenty of us would gather for one whole month of crazy celebration.
It was an old house, not too large. We wonder now, how we fitted in. What’s more we managed with a single washroom between the entire bunch of us. (We now have two washrooms and three people in the house, with the husband being away, and yet there’s constant squabbling).
Studies and work finally put an end to the tradition and almost a decade rolled by since we were together. We tried to meet up a few times but the magic half-a-dozen was never complete.
Then last month one of our cousins was in India for a couple of days and we decided to give it a serious shot. We realised how hard it is for six people to drop their responsibilities even for the space of a single weekend!
One had to postpone dropping off his daughter to boarding school, another one rushed back from a a holiday with his family, yet another one wrapped up a seminar she was organising.
The Husband flew down to look after the kids(and attend a PTM that had to crop up just that weekend), while I was away.
After much planning and coordination we were there, together, in my aunt’s house. Nothing seemed to have changed. Of course the figures were fuller and the hair was thinner but that was about it.
US: Then and now and that quote is one of my favourites
It was like we’d never been away. We sat around the dining table and talked. Then moved to the verandah and talked some more, then decided to take a siesta and ended up talking again. 
It was two days of catching up, piecing together memories, one filling in details the other one left out, debating who’s fault it was in ‘that’ incident, digging out long-forgotten nicknames, laughing over incorrigible pranks, reminiscing about the time we smuggled cigarettes, got caught and got the blasting of our lifetimes.
And there was food —- enough to feed a garrison.
Those two pictures, taken at the same place, years apart, will remain one of my most cherished memories. Nothing can beat the warmth and affection built over years of togetherness and I shall forever be grateful for that. The memory of this trip will last a long long time but we’re not going to wait another decade to meet again. 
and also to 
Do click on the link and head on for a healthy dose of gratitude.
How do you eat your mangoes?

How do you eat your mangoes?

The other day I was watching my kids eating mangoes. The fruit is peeled, stones discarded, then diced into neat little cubes or slices (if I’m feeling lazy). I then leave it in the refrigerator to cool till we get on with lunch. Later, the kids pick the fruit off the plate with fruit forks or toothpicks.

Mangoes in Lucknow have always been plentiful. I had once stumbled upon this quote by Ghalib, Aam meethe hon aur bahut saare hon.

That’s exactly how they always are here.

During the summer our cousins would come to stay with us. Each afternoon all six of us aged 4 to 10, would sit around a tub of mangoes out in the aangan. The tub would be full of water to keep the mangoes cool. We’d be dressed in the barest minimum – vests and slips – as we fished out the mangoes, oblivious to the heat, and competed at amassing the largest pile of guthlis. We’d peel the fruit tooth and nail, quite literally, and bite right into the pulp, delicious juice dripping from our hands, running down our chins and smearing our faces.

One of our favourite mangoes was the Lucknow Safeda.

If you know anything about this particular variety you’ll know it isn’t meant to be pealed and cut at all. It is more juice than pulp and has to be sucked on, not eaten. There’s a whole art to eating a Lucknowa Safeda. I’m not sure I’m equipped to explain. Let it suffice that it has to be handled with all the Lakhnawi nazakat you can muster. No, I’m not being a snob – the nazakat is crucial. The thing is the fruit has an exceptionally fragile skin. A little inelegant impatience and you’ll have the guthli shooting right out from the wrong end (of the fruit, of course) splattering you with juice and pulp.

Each time that would happen the expression on the face of the callous offender would be priceless, giving us hours of laughter. What’s worse, he would get an earful from his/her mum because mango stains are the devil’s own work when it comes to getting them off.

Anyway, once you’ve got down to the guthli without accident you scrape it off with your teeth and discard it. Finally you slurp off the remaining juice.

I am sure we weren’t the most sightly of sights, yet it was the perfect way to form strong bonds of shared memories. Perhaps that’s why even though we don’t meet, sometimes for years together, we can take up from right where we left off, the sweetness never varying quite like that of the dussehris, langadas and safeda.

Aam will always remain a very khaas part of my childhood memories.

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.

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