H for Howrah Station and Hope and H for Horse Gram Rasam – A to Z Blogging Challenge 2021

H for Howrah Station and Hope

When Saradha had boarded the train from Pune with little Kannan in tow she had wondered how the lives of the women in the family had turned into shambles. A couple of years ago her younger sister Jaya had died due to complications of her pregnancy and her husband had abandoned her based on the evil manipulations of her mother-in-law. Jaya had been the youngest child among the four siblings who had grown into adulthood. With her passing away, Saradha had been deeply affected. Now with her own married life in shambles she was worried. Thankfully, Chitra her first-born had been admitted to Kendriya Vidyalaya at Fort William. She was taking care of her mother and father who were living with Sundaram. Sundaram’s own marriage had been a failure and his wife and son were now in Kerala. It was as if someone had cursed the family. By God’s grace Raman and his wife were well and they had been blessed with a baby girl. They were living in an apartment closer to Raman’s office.

The Howrah Station is one of the largest railway stations in India and serves as the gateway to the east and northeast of India. Always buzzing with activity, passengers, porters, hawkers, several stray dogs, beggars, and crafty pick-pockets and thieves; they all seemed to be a part of a large breathing and living entity called the Howrah station. When Sundaram received Saradha and Kannan at the railway station; it was difficult for her to resist the urge to cry. Sundaram comforted her and they boarded the popular yellow Ambassador taxi to the home in Behala. On the way, Sundaram said to his sister, “Don’t worry, we will figure a way out, do not lose hope.” Saradha just nodded her head. Little Kannan was looking at the sights and sounds of the city. The long Howrah Bridge that seemed like a metal monster fascinated him. Sundaram pointed at some of the prominent landmarks and little Kannan was fascinated with this city. Little would he know that he would spend his formative childhood years here.

H for Horse Gram Rasam

Horse gram or kollu is a legume that is rich in protein and iron. It is used as an active ingredient in many Ayurvedic preparations. It functions as a diuretic and aids in weight loss. Today, we will look at a traditional rasam made out of kollu that has a powerful flavour and tastes really well with steamed white rice.

Ingredients:

About 150 to 200 grams of Horse Gram or Kollu.

5 to 7 Garlic cloves.

Half a spoon of whole pepper corns

6 dried red chillies.

A spoon of cumin seeds / jeeragam

500 to 750 ml of water.

Couple of ripe tomatoes.

A small round ball of seedless tamarind.

Fresh coriander and curry leaves.

Salt to taste.

A spoon of ghee

Hing – asafotedia.

Process:

Soak the kollu for a couple of hours in water after you clean it properly.

Once this is done take the kollu out and dry it on a cloth to remove the moisture.

Now dry roast kollu, jeeragam, garlic, peppercorns, and red chillies.

Grind the ingredients to a fine paste and keep aside.

Please soak the tamarind ball in water and allow the water absorb its sourness and flavour.

Dice the tomatoes and cook them with the pre-ground paste in a spoon of ghee.

In a deep-bottomed pan, boil the water. Now add the boiled water to the mixture of the tomatoes and the paste. Let it cook for some more time so that the water absorbs the ingredients, remember to add the tamarind water as well. Add salt as per taste and top-off with fresh coriander and curry leaves.

The aroma of the kollu and other spices will create a magical atmosphere in the kitchen when it merges with the ghee that you have added. Before switching off the flame add a but of hing and stir once so that the hing dissolves completely.

Try it out and let me know. Variations of the rasam exist; with people choosing to add freshly grated coconut and jaggery to make it slightly sweet. Rasam is a fascinating dish that works as a palate cleanser as well as an appetizer. Drink it with roasted paapad on the side. Or mix it with hot steamed rice, a dollop of ghee, and a vegetable curry of your choice.

G for Ganesh da and G for Gobindo Bhog Rice – A to Z Blogging Challenge – 2021

The word “paara” signifies a small specific locality in Bangla. It could be a collection of a few lanes and if you are lucky a small pond and a small ground or vacant plot as well. The term “paarar chhelle” stands for the “boys of the locality”. Irrespective of one’s religion or caste, if you lived in a specific locality, you were a part of the locality. You could be the local lakhpathi’s son or a small daily-wage earner’s son; but if you were from the same locality, you were a part of a brotherhood – a team. This was one of the unique aspects of growing up in Calcutta or Kolkatta. From organising Durga and Kali Puja, to celebrating Christmas and New Year; it was a lot of fun. Usually, there would be the senior dadas – young men in their early twenties who would coordinate tasks and assign smaller tasks to the younger boys. One such man in our paara was Ganesh. If you have heard people speaking Bangla, you would know how the “o” sound features into most names. So he would be called Gonesh by everyone.

He was tall and a bit on the heavier side. There was a rumour that when he was a teenager he had fallen in love with a Christian girl in the locality and he had been heartbroken when the girl’s father was transferred to Jamshedpur and she had to leave. Gonesh da always had a smiling face and one never knew where he actually worked. His grandfather had built one big building which had been divided into smaller living units and the rent from these holdings was more than sufficient for them. His father worked in a nationalised bank and would always berate his son for not being motivated or ambitious in making money.

Gonesh da was protective of the young boys and girls in the paara and the young boys looked up to him as a hero. When cricket would be played in the evenings; it would be a tough task to take his wicket. With his build and amazing swing-power he would whack the ball to all parts of the ground. He was helpful to the elderly people in the area and would get provisions from the ration-shop for the elderly. He would also be instrumental in organising the pujos and annual sports-day event for the “Mitro Songho” – “Friends Association” of the locality. One fine day, we were all in for a shock, Gonesh da had tonsured his head, adorned an ochre robe, and left to join a monastic order.

G for Gobindo Bhog Rice

The “Gobindo Bhog” variety is a fine aromatic variant of rice that is quite popular in West Bengal and Orissa. This is used to make sweet dishes that are offered to “Gobindo” – Maha Vishnu. The kheer or paayesh that is made out of this rice and milk is truly divine in taste and you have to eat it to actually relish the experience. Words cannot do justice to the taste of this rice.

Gobindo Bhog Rice Kheer/Paayesh

Ingredients:

500 grams of the Gobindo Bhog rice that is cleaned and boiled in water.

I litre of full-fat creamy milk.

Raisins, cashew nuts, and pistachios that have been fried in ghee.

About 300 grams of powdered white sugar or jaggery powder. Please adjust the quantity of the sweetening agent as per your palate.

Process:

Take a deep-bottomed pan and boil the milk on a low flame and stir it gently ensuring that the milk does not get burnt. Add powdered sugar or jaggery to the milk. Once the milk reduces in quantity, please add the pre-cooked Gobindo bhog rice to the milk and stir the mixture gently. Once the rice and the milk mix together well to form a semi-solid consistency, please switch off the flame and add the fried cashew nuts, pistachios and raisins to the paayesh.

You may adorn the paayesh with fresh and clean rose petals. I prefer having this paayesh chilled rather than having it piping hot.

Have you tasted this paayesh or kheer before?

F for Friday Evenings and F for Fritters – A to Z Blogging Challenge 2021

F for Friday Evenings

Friday evenings were good fun. Ammamai and Amma would plan to make some fried snacks for the evening. Sundaram would usually get a parcel of rosogollas or sondesh. They would complement the bajjis or bondas that would be made in the kitchen at home. He would also bring some video cassettes on rent from the video-lending library in Lake Market. The Fuji VCP had been witness to several movies across languages. Sundaram introduced Kannan to the fascinating world of classic Hollywood cinema. From Ben Hur to The Sound of Music and Guns of Navarone to The Great Dictator; it was a fascinating foray into the world of cinema. In addition to these movies, Malayalam, Hindi, and Tamil movies were also viewed. The family would bond over movies and food. A movie on Friday evening/night and a couple of movies each on Saturday and Sunday.

F for Fritters

Bajji and bonda are popular chick-pea flour based snacks in India. Essentially they are vegetables that are dipped in a batter of chick-pea flour and spices and deep fried in oil. Raw plantain, onion, potato, cauliflower, onion, and brinjal are the popular vegetables used to make these fritters. In Kerala, there is a fritter made of the sweet nendram variety of bananas known as pazham-pori. Literal translation – fried fruit.

Recipe for Pazham Pori

Ingredients:

Ripe nendram pazham (banana); peeled and sliced into thin and long strips.

Rice flour, chick-pea flour, and some all-purpose flour (maida).

Spice mix of chilli powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder, asafotedia (hing).

Oil to fry. (Coconut oil imparts a special flavour; but works perfectly fine with groundnut oil or sunflower oil as well).

Mix the three flours together in a ratio of 3:2:1 with water and the spice mix. Stir it well so that there are no lumps in the batter mix.

Now take the nendram slices one by one and coat them with the batter by dipping them carefully. It is a fine art form in itself. You should see road-side vendors who work at a feverish pace in dipping the nendram slices in batter and frying the fritters.

The oil in a deep-bottomed pan should be warm enough and you should put the batter-coated nendram slices in the oil carefully and fry them. Be careful that the oil does not splatter on you.

The fritter works as a great accompaniment to evening tea – either black or with milk 🙂

If you visit Kerala, do stop by a tea-shop and try out the pazham pori. It is a fascinatingly delicious snack.

E for Evening Power-Cuts and E for Elai Adai – A to Z Blogging Challenge 2021

E for Evening Power-Cuts

In the late eighties and the early nineties, Calcutta had a huge electricity crisis with frequent load-shedding or power-cuts. These used to happen mostly in the evenings and people would wait for the power to return. Cooking would be aided by the light from emergency lights and kerosene lamps. There was a small temple nearby and when the power-cuts would extend for long; the priest would blow a conch as if imploring the divine powers to make the power come at the earliest. There are fond memories of playing Antakshari and hoping for the power to resume.

E for Elai Adai

The elai adai is a fascinating dessert that requires a lot of focus and patience to make. It is essentially a stuffed crepe of sorts that has an outer layer of rice flour and is stuffed with a jam of ripe jackfruit or ripe banana along with some jaggery, coconut and cardamom for flavouring. The stuffing is called as “poornam”. Banana leaves are used to cover the elai adai and they are steam-cooked in a large container. The banana leaf imparts a unique mildly smoky aroma and taste to the elai adai.

Ingredients:

Rice flour.

Jaggery, coconuts, ghee, jackfruit or banana as per choice, cardamom, a bit of salt, and a bit of oil.

Banana leaf for layering the dough.

Process:

Make the poornam by cooking the jaggery with freshly grated coconut in ghee. Keep the jackfruit or banana jam ready. The jams can be made by cooking the fruits well and creating a semi-solid jam like paste.

In a pan boil water with some salt and oil. Once the water starts boiling. Switch off the stove and add rice flour to it. You will get a rice flour paste that has to be now kneaded properly and given a shape. Knead the dough into small ball-sized rounds.

Now get the banana leaves and wipe them carefully to remove dust particles. Take a ball of dough and spread it out with your hand like a small roti. In one portion of the dough spread the poornam that you have made. If you are making a banana or jackfruit variant of the elai adai, please add the jam as well. Now close the adai with the other side of the dough to form a parcel like structure. Some people tend to shape it like a half moon or crescent shaped elai adai. Others make it like a full-round shaped adai. I have also seen shops in Kerala making it in a square shape.

These little parcels of dough, poornam, and jam should be rolled/wrapped in the banana leaf and steam cooked in a container/idly-cooker.

Once the fragrance of the cooked jam and jaggery emanates and the raw smell of rice flour goes away you should be fine to switch off the stove. Carefully remove the banana leaf parcels and unwrap them. Bite into the goodness of the elai adai. Works brilliantly with black tea or coffee in the evenings.

Have you eaten elai adai? Do sahre your thoughts.

D for Daddy and D for Dosais – A to Z Blogging Challenge – 2021

D for Daddy

It was a tense conversation between the husband and wife. The poor little boy wondered why they were arguing. The boy would come to know that his father had squandered another good job with his irresponsible behaviour and he had been fired by the management. The woman walked out to the telephone booth and made a long-distance trunk call to her brother in Calcutta and explained the situation. Sundaram promised to book tickets at the earliest and send them by courier. The envelope came in five days with one full-ticket and one half-ticket for the little boy.

They were to leave on a Sunday evening. It would be a long train journey. The lady said in no uncertain terms to her husband that she had enough of his irresponsible behaviour and her brothers bailing them out each time. This time she was leaving for good. The man showed no sign of remorse or sorrow or any kind of emotions. He just stood staring at her and the little boy. Food was packed for the journey. There was curd rice with mango pickle and dosais packed with signature chilli powder mixed with sesame oil. The lady packed some fruits as well in the hamper and a flask of hot water in the hamper. The boy was still trying to understand what was happening. He was thinking that they were all going for a picnic. Only when they boarded the train without his father; did the boy realize that his father was not accompanying him. The boy’s father got him a set of pocket He-Man comics that he preserved carefully for many years in the future. It was a memory of his father that he had created in his mind that would alter as the years would roll by and he would mature into an adult. Life was going to change significantly. For now, all he had was his mother to accompany him. The train picked speed and hurtled into the night. They decided to have an early dinner and rest. The dosais were well cooked and the chilli powder and oil mixture that was layered on the dosais added to the taste. There was a bit of tomato thokku (a thicker chutney/pickle) as well. The mother and son ate in silence. The mother looked at the boy and wondered what would happen to the two of them. Tomorrow would mark another new dawn and a new beginning for both of them.

D for Dosais

The dosai or dosa is a dish that is native to Southern India. Ancient texts talk about a fermented batter made out of millet grains and pulses that would be layered out on a pan and cooked with ghee or oil. The regular dosais that we see now made out of rice and urad dal batter is still a recent invention. If we look at the long history of food in South India, rice was something that was considered a luxury. Our ancient texts talk about a lot of different varieties of millets and grains. Rice was something that became a major crop perhaps some 5oo to 800 years ago.

Soak 4 cups of idly rice/tiffin rice in water in a container overnight.

In another cup soak 1 cup of whole urad dal in a water in a container overnight.

The next morning drain out the water and grind the urad dal with some fenugreek seeds. Now in the same grinder grind the rice till you get a nice evenly ground batter. Put the batter in a container and let it ferment on its own. The batter should increase in volume and fluff up. The natural fermentation process will provide a bit of sourness to the batter. If it remains neutral in taste add a bit of salt and stir the batter well.

Take the amount of batter you need in another container. Now take a cast-iron or non-stick tava and pour batter in a circular pattern using a ladle. Add ghee or sesame oil on the sides and let the dosai cook well. Flip it with a spatula so that it is cooked fully. Some people prefer the dosa to be think and crisp. Others prefer it to be soft and thick. Cook as per your choice and taste. Eat it with sambhar, chutney, pickle, chilli powder, or curd. Have seen people eating dosais with sugar as well. Non-vegetarians relish dosais with a wide variety of egg and meat preparations.

For non-Indians – think of the dosai as a rice-based crepe or savoury pancake.

C for Chitra Akka – C for Chocolate Payasam – A to Z Blogging Challenge-2021

C for Chitra Akka

The little boy was wondering why there was so much excitement on his mother’s face. Unusually, his father also seemed to be in a very happy mood. It was a Sunday and a holiday, the boy’s father left the house after breakfast. This was very intriguing as the man of the house usually took complete rest on Sundays at home. Additionally, mother was making preparations for an elaborate feast and was also melting a huge bar of chocolate in a pan. The boy wanted to taste a bit of chocolate but his mother said – “No Kanna, not now. I am making something special.”

After an hour, the boy’s father returned home. He was carrying some luggage an was accompanied by a girl wearing jeans and a shirt. He was quite surprised, who was this, and why did she seem vaguely familiar? The girl came in to the house and hugged the boy’s mother first and then turned to the boy and said – “Kanna, I am your Chitra akka.” The boy was totally confused and then slowly some memories returned; of a young girl carrying him around and playing with him with baby toys. His sister had brought some toys and a box of sweets for him. He was very happy and he hugged his sister. Amma then asked akka to take a bath and change clothes; so that she could serve lunch to everyone. The highlight of the feast was the delectable chocolate payasam.

C for Chocolate Payasam

The South Americans considered chocolate / cocoa as the “Food of the Gods”. Once it was introduced to the western world it gained popularity and today the chocolate industry is a multi-billion dollar enterprise. The chocolates that we get from major brands like Cadburys and Nestle are heavily sweetened with sugar and other preservatives and stabilizers. Pure cocoa has a bitter flavour to it. This recipe for chocolate payasam can be made with regular store-bought chocolate bars that can be melted and used or with unsweetened cocoa powder.

Ingredients:

500 grams of dark chocolate bars that are melted with a double-boiler technique. (One small pan placed in a larger vessel of water and heated).

Or about 300 to 350 grams of unsweetened cocoa powder.

1 litre of full cream milk.

200 grams of sugar or jaggery powder if using unsweetened cocoa powder. If you are using store-bought dark chocolate, check the sweetness of the chocolate bar first and then use sugar/jaggery powder according to your taste.

50 grams of mixed dry fruits – cashew nuts, almonds, pistachios, and raisins.

25 ml of ghee (clarified butter)

Boil the milk in a deep bottomed pan and keep stirring it. As the volume reduces and a light brown texture is visible add the melted chocolate or add the unsweetened cocoa powder and keep stirring the liquid mixture. Use sugar or jaggery based as per your taste and dependent on if you are using melted chocolate bars or unsweetened cocoa powder. Please ensure that there are no lumps in the mixture.

In another pan, roast dry fruits in ghee till they turn golden brown, and then add them to the liquid mixture in the deep-bottomed pan.

I prefer to have this chilled. To add variety you can add semiya/vermicelli to this delicious chocolate payasam.

Do try it out. Nowadays chocolate syrups are available from brands like Hersheys which make the task even more simpler.

B for – Baby Boy – B for Beetroot Halwa – A to Z Blogging Challenge 2021

B for Baby Boy

Sundaram and Raman were extremely worried. The doctors had said that their sister was in an extremely critical state and there could not be any assurance of a safe – normal delivery. Some consent forms were signed and the doctor then decided to perform a caesarean section. After some harrowing moments the baby was finally born. It was a baby boy. But what was this? The baby seemed to show no sign of life and its hands were clenched tightly. Dr. Shankar Roy was not going to give up; there seemed to be something different about this baby. He gently tapped or pinched the baby and the baby let out a cry. All was well. The news was conveyed to Sundaram and Raman who were waiting outside the operation theatre. They were relieved. A male child had been born in the family after a long time. The aghori’s words had come true and the little baby boy had chosen Maha Shivarathri to be the day when he would make his beginning on the long journey called LIFE. Once the mother and child were discharged after a couple of days; they went home. It was a festive atmosphere. Ammamma (granny) had made beetroot halwa, a favourite sweet dish in the family. It was time for the mother to recover here strength and nurse the baby boy carefully. He had been born after 12 years of penance and prayers.

B for Beetroot Halwa

The beetroot is a fascinating vegetable, a source of several important nutrients and a blood purifier it can be consumed raw as a salad, or cooked as a vegetable curry with onions and potatoes for added flavour, it is also the second ingredient of the famous detox ABC juice – apples, beetroots, and carrots. Today we learn how to make a simple yet rich dessert using the humble beetroot.

Ingredients:

500 grams of de-skinned beetroots.

150 grams of sugar or about 200 grams of jaggery powder.

500 ml of milk.

50 ml of ghee.

Some cashewnuts and raisins.

Process:

Once you de-skin the beetroots wash them thoroughly. Then grate them fine and keep aside.

Boil the milk well till it reduces in quantity.

To the boiled milk add the grated and pressure-cooked beetroot. Add sugar and keep stirring the pan on a low flame. There should be no lumps and the milk should be absorbed by the beetroot.

Now add ghee, raisins, and cashew nuts. Let the ingredients mix well and allow the ghee to be soaked in by the beetroot.

Adjust the quantities of the sweetener and ghee as per your liking. While serving you can add a spoon of condensed milk on top of the beetroot halwa. It will enhance the flavours. Some people like adding cardamom to beetroot halwa. It is an optional step.

A for Aghori and A for Aval Payasam – A to Z Blogging Challenge 2021.

Each blog post in this series will be divided into two sections. One will narrate an incident or story and the other describe a recipe.

Image Courtesy – Avadhesh Kumar from Dreamstime.

A for Aghori

Sarada and Ramani were walking gently by the river-side. They had visited the famed Kashi Vishwanath Temple and had enjoyed a darshan of the all-powerful Lord Shiva. They were looking at the temple and the sadhus and wondered how different the architecture and people were from those in their native land in Kerala. There were several different categories of sadhus owing their allegiance to different sects. Some were smoking without any care in the world. Others were in a semi-sleepy meditative state. Some Japanese tourists were clicking photos using their Fuji cameras. As the couple were approaching the main road, an aghori called out “Beti idhar aao” – (“Daughter, please come here.”)

Sarada and Ramani were both surprised at this. The aghori was imposing nearly 6 and a half feet in height and built like a wrestler. The matted locks of hair and the ash smeared on his forehead made him look surreal. But there was a gentleness in his eyes that seemed to know everything. Sarada went up to him as Ramani looked on with suspicion. Sarada folded her hands and said “Namaste”. The aghori smiled at her and said “Bholenath aayenge” (“Lord Shiva will come”) and blessed her.

The couple returned home to Gorakhpur. On the third day, Sarada was feeling nauseous and she vomited. The elderly lady in whose house the couple had rented a portion examined Sarada and held her wrist. She smiled after a minute and said “Badhai ho – khush khabri hai.” (Congratulations, it is good news”) Ramani returned home after work in the evening and he was greeted with the good news with a serving of aval payasam. Both of them remembered the words of the aghori and smiled.

A for Aval Payasam

Aval or poha is known as flattened rice in English is a staple part of Indian cuisine. It can be used to make a variety of snacks and sweets and is a source of quick energy. Aval uppuma is one of the most popular breakfast dishes in Central and Western India and comes with several accompaniments ranging from a spicy channa tharri (a spicy gravy of black chickpeas) to jalebis (a sweet). Today we shall look at a simple recipe for aval payasam a sweet liquid pudding to describe it in English.

Ingredients:

500 ml of full-cream milk.

150 to 200 grams of aval (white and thick variety)

100 grams of white sugar or 150 grams of jaggery powder.

Dry fruits of your choice – 10 to 12 whole cashew nuts and10 to 12 golden raisins.

Ghee – clarified butter – About 30 ml.

4 cardamom pods (green elaichi)

2 strands of saffron (optional) – adds a special flavour to the payasam.

Process:

Clean the aval by washing it in cold water and then squeezing it out by putting it in a muslin cloth. Be sure that it is clean and that there are no mud or stone particles in the aval. Keep it aside in a container.

In a deep-bottomed pan boil milk stirring it gently to ensure that it does not get burned. Add sugar to the milk and keep boiling it and stirring, if using jaggery powder ensure that there are no lumps. The colour of the milk should change if you are using jaggery powder and the quantity of the liquid should reduce.

In another pan gently roast the dry fruits in ghee till they turn brown and lose their raw fragrance. Now add the sweetened milk to this pan and add the aval to it. Keep stirring gently and avoid any lumps in the payasam. As the aval mixes well into the milk add some cardamom and the optional saffron strands.

Your aval payasam is ready to be served. Either piping hot with a spoon of ghee added on to it or chilled and cold as a cold dessert.

Hope you enjoyed the first post in the series. Do try out the recipe and let me know your thoughts.

A to Z Blogging Challenge 2021 – Theme Reveal

The last time I attempted this Blogging Challenge, my mother fell down in the kitchen, was seriously injured, we spent a long time in the hospital and within a month she was reduced to ashes and a lifetime of memories framed in one photograph that looks at me from its place on the table in the living room.

The last two years have been strange in more ways than one. In 2019, my submission was shortlisted at the Bangalore Literature Festival and I had a chance to pitch my work to some of the leading publishers in India. Nothing materialized out of it; but deep down there was a sense of satisfaction that I had proven several self-published authors who felt my work was juvenile to be wrong. Throughout the last quarter of 2019 and most of 2020, I was spitting blood. Corona lock-down added to my problems. Since my mother suffered severe pulmonary and renal issues, my first fear was that something was wrong with my lungs. Note that I do not smoke and I do not drink alcohol. After several incorrect diagnoses, the root of the problem was discovered and I underwent a surgery that removed a polyp from nose. Thankfully it was non-malignant and there was a long road to recovery, as I lost several pounds of body-weight. In all this chaos, I had to accept a job with a substantially lesser-pay than my previous role as Covid-19 reigned supreme.

It will be two years to the date since I attempted this challenge and my life is still a directionless path where there is neither chaos nor calm. No, I have not written another manuscript yet and I have not published anything worthy enough of my M.A. in English Literature in all these years barring one short story in a NanoWrimo Anthology that seems like an eternity ago.

So what do I write about this year? People have said that I am an impostor when it comes to poetry and my verse, at best, is like a poorly constructed limerick uttered by a drunkard retracing his path home on a dark moonless night. Cinema and books seem to have enough bloggers and podcasters to showcase their insights. This time I want to write about something deeply personal – FOOD.

I am looking to intersperse chapters or incidents that take some creative license and mix them with recipes that my mother taught me. I am not going to have photographs for each recipe or exact ratios/proportions of ingredients. A lot of it is from memory and notes that I had taken down when my mother used to narrate how to make a specific dish. I hope to do some justice to my mother’s exceptional culinary skills with this A to Z Blogging Challenge 2021. Wish me luck.

Not All Women

Not all women cheat men,

Not all women cheat other women,

Not all women wax eloquent about inner beauty,

And yet pass sly comments on other women equating them with transgenders.

Not all women, take advantage of a group of people,

And use them to market their books.

Not all women claim to be feminists and proponents of equality of genders,

And then go about bashing other women who do not agree with them,

Or call all men as lecherous bastards.

Not all women lust after married men and destroy happy marriages,

And then play the victim-card saying that the man made the first move.

Not all women talk about respecting elders,

And then go about driving a wedge between a man, his mother, and sister,

And then setting up a house with the husband.

Not all women are famous authors of books for children,

And yet claim that children should not be brought into this world.

Not all women are gossip-mongers who spread slanderous rumours,

About other men and women and destroy the hard-earned goodwill of innocent people.

Not all women claim to be psychiatrists and healers.

And set up counselling sessions to talk about life,

And then go about destroying the little remaining confidence of emotionally scarred people.

Not all women claim to be bi-sexuals, abuse, and suicide-survivors.

And go about trash-talking others who do not agree with them.

Not all women go about calling themselves “daddy’s little princess”.

And then abandon their poor old parents without a care or worry in the world.

Not all women fall in love when still in college,

Choose to forego their parents and family and even choose to change their religion,

And then when left in the lurch attempt suicide,

And permanently scar their parents and siblings.

Not all women are drama queens who seek to use men for their own benefit,

And then leave the poor man in the lurch, making him wonder where he went wrong.

Not all women are so insecure that they need a 4 A.M. friend to speak to;

And then spread rumours about the poor chap thinking he will never come to know about it.

Not all women are spiteful and nurse a bitter hatred for other women,

But still pose together like besties for Instagram photos,

And then bitch about each other with other folks.

Not all women are like the people described in the lines above.

There are women who genuinely care for others,

Who strive to make an honest living,

Despite all the problems that they face.

The single mother struggling to give her child a good future.

The young daughter caring for her ill and elderly parents,

The women who face a hostile male-dominated workplace,

And still shine forward with the quality of their work.

The woman who stands up for other women without bashing men.

The woman who values friendship and trusts men and women in equal measure.

The woman who will never spread rumours about others.

The woman who believes that true-love still exists,

And does not go about bashing all men and other women.

The woman who chooses dogs and cats over humans,

And is still respectful to humans.

A salute to everyone of you.

#NotAllWomen

Of Crime and Punishment from the Prism of Drishyam and Drishyam-2

When Jeethu Joseph made “Drishyam” no one would have expected it to turn it into such a big blockbuster that would go on to be remade in multiple languages. The accusation of lifting the core idea from “The Devotion of Suspect X” will always remain and despite interviews claiming otherwise; the nagging suspicion will always remain for people who read the novel. A few years later when “Kolaigaaran” was made in Tamil; the director acknowledged the influence of the novel in the credits. If you have not seen “Drishyam-2” please do not read any further.  

In “Drishyam” we were introduced to the family-man George Kutty played by Mohanlal, his wife Rani and their two school-going daughters; one a teenager Anju and the other a small girl Anumol . George Kutty is a local cable-operator and a self-made man who worked very hard to become a prosperous man and buy land in the region and work as a farmer. At a school educational trip, Varun the son of a police officer shoots a video of Anju bathing on his mobile phone and threatens to upload it on the Internet unless she grants him sexual favours. Rani and Anju confront Varun and when Varun threatens to molest Rani, Anju hits Varun on the head with a log. Varun dies. From here on the story gathers pace as George Kutty takes various measures to safeguard his family and disposes Varun’s body. Varun’s mother Geetha Prabhakar an IG of police sets things in motion and spearheads an investigation. How George Kutty and his family handle all the investigative pressure and evade the various tactics employed by the police-force to find the truth forms the basis of the first movie.

Drishyam – Trailer

In “Drishyam-2” the story moves forward by six years. George Kutty is now a rich man owning a cinema theatre. He is also keen on producing a movie and is in talks with a respected screen-writer. We are introduced to several new characters a bickering couple who are George and Rani’s neighbours – Saritha and Sabu. Anju is traumatized and has epileptic fits and she is also afraid of the mere mention of the police. She is undergoing treatment to overcome her trauma and is supported by her parents. Meanwhile Anumol is studying in a boarding school in another city.

Drishyam-2 Trailer

All through this we observe that the police are still keeping tabs on George Kutty and family. A new IG – Thomas Bastin – played by Murali Gopy is now spearheading the investigation.

The movie moves at a slow pace for the first 45 minutes or so and we are constantly dreading that something bad is going to happen to George’s family. Around the interval-time we are made aware of certain secrets that shock us and reveal the identities of some people. We also are introduced to a convict who has been released from jail who has an interesting secret to reveal. In the first part, the audience knows that the body has been buried in the police station that was under construction. Based on the convict’s statement the station floor is dug up and a skeleton is found.

George is now arrested. Is George finally punished for his crime and is he sentenced to death? Are Rani and Anju implicated in the case as well? To find these answers, you have to watch the movie. Well – am sure that most of you would have seen the movie and George walks away scot-free again.

Some questions to ponder:

  • Is emotional penance sufficient punishment for a crime? (Thanks to Narayanan Sheshadri sir for this thought).
  • Would you continue to remain in a place that has traumatised you and your family to such a great extent? Would you not move to another place?
  • Where does an individual’s right to privacy begin and end? Is the State free to monitor anyone that it chooses to place under surveillance?
  • What is the interpretation of the body, its soul, and their connection? If certain rites and rituals are not performed will the soul never find peace?
  • How far will you go to protect the ones you love?
  • For someone who is under surveillance using bugs; would not the police track his movement?
  • Yet again a movie which portrays the police falling flat on its face and the judiciary making a statement warning the police to be extra vigilant. It is demoralizing and for a case that’s personally handled by an IG and his select team – it is a shabby investigation that is completely derailed by “one switch”.

Irrespective of all these thoughts that may seem negative or be like shortcomings; the movie is shouldered brilliantly by Mohanlal who just emotes with his eyes and silence. Some sequences that are meant to be comic relief between husband and wife seem forced and artificial. Murali Gopy has tremendous screen presence and have always enjoyed his acting. Hoping to see more of him as an actor and not a writer or director. A great win for Amazon Prime. Enjoy the movie 😊.