Mumma, your passion for sarees and your collection of sarees was amazing. The saree, a timeless icon of fashion and one of the most gorgeous attires in this world, was also your favorite thing to wear. I recall the heap of your starched exquisite cotton sarees piled in neat rows in your closet. You did not leave any stone unturned when it came to the tedious process of maintaining cotton sarees that you loved and always kept ready to wear. You were so meticulous that you often wore 4 or 5 different sarees each day. I recall you just had to find a reason to change into a fresh one. One to sleep in, one to start the day, one for lunch, one to go for evening walk, another one for a dinner out and then again a nice soft unstarched cozy one for the good night sleep.
As the seasons took turns and leaves started falling off the trees in autumn, it was time for the ritual of swapping cotton sarees in your closet with silk sarees to welcome winter. It was so much fun to go through your collection as the seasons changed.
Your elegance in sarees was simply unmatchable. As they say elegance is a beauty that never fades and never goes out of style. It was so true for you. My note today is an ode to you and the Saree: with its radiance, vigor and variety, it is six yards of pure grace, elegance and beauty. Your love for, and exquisite choice of sarees signified the poise and grace that you will always be remembered for.
Every weekend morning like the one today reminds Manoj and I of all the weekend mornings when papa and everybody else used to crave ताज़ा नाश्ता (freshly made breakfast) and you came up with your masterpieces like मटर के समोसे (pea stuffed samosa), आलू की टिकींया (stuffed potato pancakes), हलुवा नगौड़ी (semolina sweet porridge and crisps) and much more. We miss those finger licking dishes every weekend of every month now.
The precision with which you made all the scrumcious पकवान (festival time sweet and savories) was breathtaking. लड्डू (ladoo), गुज़िया, सेव, पापड़ी, फ़ूल, कुपड़ि, and गजक, you name it and we had you, our expert culinary master make it for us. Your succulent दही की गुज़िया (stuffed lentil balls in yogurt) is still the most popular dish at all of my house parties.
Mumma I am glad I made you write down some of the family recipes for us and learnt a few others from you. Having said that, your expert guidance and scrutiny will be missed. Life will not be the same again without that sweet to the ears comment “ ज़रा सा और भून दे” (roast it just a little more).
It will not be incorrect to say that food is everything we are. It’s an extension of all our feelings, be it our nationalist feeling, ethnic feeling or our family history. For us more than anything else, it’s inseparable from you. Food is the ingredient that binds us together as family.
Your day to day cooking, albeit all vegetarian was cherished and loved by one and all. The ambrosial बैगन (curried eggplant) or आलू रस (curried potatoes), अरहर दाल (lentil) or बेसन कढ़ी (chickpea flour curry) were all delectable. As they say a recipe has no soul, you as the cook must bring soul to the recipe. You were and will be the soul of all our family recipes. You didn’t cook fancy complicated dishes, just flavorful food from fresh ingredients. Love you for it.
Why this recipe?
This is quick to make, needs no special ingredient, is healthy and requires no cooking or heating. You can store it in refrigerator and have it for breakfast, snack or dessert. You can make it in bulk and store to save time for the next time you have a craving for something sweet yet healthy.
Refrigeration time : 3-4 hours
2 tablespoon oats
1 tablespoon low fat yogurt
1 ripe peach or 2 strawberries
half handful of pecans/walnut/sliced almonds
1 teaspoon maple syrup or honey
1 passion fruit (pulp)-optional
STEP 1. Blend fruits, yogurt and maple syrup/honey in blender.
STEP 2. Pour this mixture and nuts on top of oats in the container and mix well.
STEP 3. Leave it for a minimum 3-4 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.
STEP 4. Add passion fruit pulp on top before eating/serving.
1. Add milk to make the mix more liquid or to replace yogurt with milk as per your liking.
2. You can make this with any fruit like banana, berries, mango or apple.
3. Be creative, add cocoa powder, other nuts to your liking, replace maple syrup with jam or sugar or garnish with a layer of nutella instead of or under passion fruit pulp. (passion fruit gives it a crunchy feel)
With the simple living that you believed in, your food choices were also very simple. As you were vegetarian all your life, you mentioned to me once that no animals need to die in order for you to live. You consumed just the plants in your lifetime. Your food was grown and harvested, not born and killed.
Your body was a temple, not a tomb like for many of us.
I remember during parties we would tease you and ask you to try something like tandoori chicken or fish or eggs and often joked that you only had side dishes for your main meal. You however, always responded saying that you will have to take another birth to turn into a carnivore.
Your love for veggies went along with your interest in growing veggies at home. You thoroughly enjoyed the kitchen gardens we had in our homes- be it Binaguri, Dehradun, Bhatinda or Tezpur in India,as well as in other countries. We used to have such good crops while living in Canada, Kenya and Ghana. हमारे खेत सोना उगलते थे ( literal translation being -our farms produced gold). I still remember that sparkle in your eyes and glow on your face when you would see a seed sprouting or a flower blossoming into a fruit. Miss you so much Mumma!
Mumma, you were so talented. More than 6 decades ago, it was unusual for a woman from a small town like Holipura to attain a university degree or pursue a masters degree, but you did. You had a double masters. You were ahead of the rest of the world mentally and physically. You were the first working woman of the Mehra clan. Going out for work however, did not keep you away from regular household chores or honing your other unique skills like knitting, crochet, embroidery, shuttle work and much more. I am so fortunate to have been able to learn arts like shuttle work from you- that are now going extinct. Apart from you, I actually do not know anybody in the world who knows how to work those beautiful intricate laces on a shuttle pin. I recall as soon as I learnt this rare craft from you I made some flower motifs for one of my wedding sarees that I still have and cherish till today. The compliments I get even now on this saree and on the shuttle work I put on it is truly flattering.
I remember how you used to laugh when I made mistakes while crafting and say it was not a mistake- just a unique creation. I do craft like no one is watching. Your encouragement and appreciation over all these years is to thank for that. Crafting is now like a medicine for me.You understood me so well and knew that I find solace in keeping my hands busy and creating something that is handmade and has a personal touch. After all, happiness is handmade. On the lighter side I craft so that I don’t kill people. Jokes apart, you were so crafty that you even made people- people like us who cannot help but miss you so terribly.
Mumma, we can never repay you for your kindness and generosity.
तू खा ले। “You should eat it” is the most famous mummy phrase in our family. Coined by you Mumma, for the delicious meals you would cook, making sure there will be no leftovers. Your magic of making sure everyone would have a good meal even if nothing was left for you in the end always irritated us. When you have a great dish why not have it more than once. But your philosophy was…”you have it, तू खा ले, don’t worry about me”.
Your generosity was a blessing, you always gave more than you could, gave freely, and out of pure love. All this without expecting anything in return. To top it off, being generous in spirit was the wonderful way of your life. It is said that you do not have to be rich to be generous and no one has become poor by giving. You truly embodied this philosophy.
Sometimes I feel bad about how much of karela (bitter gourd) juice I fed you in your lifetime in the hope of getting rid of your diabetes. I recall plucking fresh green tender karelas every morning off our homegrown vine in Accra and making the most beautiful looking deep green juice. Now I can say that I tried it once and felt guilty since then for making you go through the torture of having that most awful and bitter concoction I had tasted ever. Only after tasting it myself, I understood why you used to make those faces! It was only then that I started mixing it with cucumber or Loki (bottle gourd) juice. It seemed like it got a little better but I know it was still bitter. Thanks for being such a darling and listening to me.
I know you always believed that the greatest wealth is health. It is just like money, we never have a true idea of its value until we lose it, and you endured that bitter concoction to keep a deadly condition at a distance.