Of Fasting, Feasting and Memories
When I was 15 years old Maa asked me to start fasting on Mondays, to ensure that I ‘get a Husband like Lord Shiva’. And I flatly refused to.
Maa is what we called my Maternal Grandmother (Naani). My cousins who were spending their summer holidays with us, girls younger and older than me give or take a few years, readily agreed. Maa asked me why I wouldn’t fast.
I answered that I had no wish to get a Husband who has a bull for a vehicle, ash smeared on his body, hair longer than mine, and three eyes. Maa was shocked at my blasphemous words and immediately apologized to Shivji, on my behalf.
I distinctly remember this conversation took place on a Thursday and for the next 3 days, Maa tried every which way she could, to persuade me to fast. No, go. Finally, on Sunday evening one of my cousins asked what would they be eating as they fasted and as Maa let them know their choices I found myself salivating. I immediately piped in with ‘I will be fasting tomorrow too’ and the wattage of the smile on Maa’s face could have lit up the city of Bombay!
Monday morning dawned and I was in a terrible mood when we were told to bathe and go to the temple. But the mood perked up instantly when I saw piping hot Aloo Halwa (Potato Halwa), studded with fat Raisins and commas of Cashews waiting for us when we returned. Instant mood elevator! Maa was beaming, and I asked her if she was already imagining my wedding taking place on Mount Kailash, and she was forced to apologize to Shivji, on my behalf again.
By lunchtime, the alarm in our stomachs went off. And a big glass of chilled Milk, delicately flavored with Saffron and liberally sprinkled with slivers of Almonds and Pistachios came to the rescue. The fast wasn’t bad at all, I concurred! And confirmed it when we had homemade Fat French Fries as our evening snack! Sprinkled with a fast special Sendha Namak (salt)
If this is the food I was going to get every time I fasted, I could fast a few more times a week, so any other God templates I should pray for, I asked Maa? She glared at me, as she apologized to all the Gods this time, on my behalf.
Pre-dinner time has us helping Maa in the kitchen with dinner preparations (a sneaky way of teaching us cooking, I now realize) We chopped Cauliflower and Potatoes as Maa kneaded the Dough, repeatedly, with liberal spoonfuls of Ghee and the fasting salt added at intervals. A generous sprinkling of Ajwain Seeds added to it and it was kneaded one final time.
While the dough rested, Oil was heated in a pan and Cumin seeds were sent in to pop. The chopped Cauliflower and Potatoes were added to it along with Turmeric, Red chilly Powder and Salt, to season and left to cook. As the Subzi cooked, Maa asked us to hand over the ingredients for her simple, and insanely delicious Tur Dal (The taste of which I try to replicate, but fail miserably at)
Tur Dal waited, boiled and ready, with tiny bits of Tomato, Turmeric coloring it a sunny yellow and Salt adding taste. For the tempering, Ghee was heated, Hing sprinkled in and Cumin and Mustard Seeds soon followed, and as they popped Curry leaves and Green Chillies joined them. By now the kitchen smelt heavenly and we couldn’t wait to dig in. All that dough kneading produced Flaky Parathas which we ripped at and wrapped around piping hot Aloo and Gobi ki subzi, which was then dipped in the Dal and life was good!
I fasted for 2 more Mondays after the first one, purely to keep Maa happy, and when I said I couldn’t do it anymore as I didn’t believe in it she said I mustn’t. I didn’t learn cooking either, till as recently as 4 years ago, and I still can’t get my Dal to taste as Maa’s did.
It’s been more than 15 years since Maa passed away, but every now and then a memory of the time spent with her wraps itself around me and comforts me, like a warm blanket on a cold winter’s day.
This post was featured on BlogAddas Tuesday Tangy Picks on 1st November 2016