Q for Quiet Little Village
The train hurtled into the darkness Saradha was tired and asleep. Little Kannan had woken up when the train had halted at an interim unscheduled station. It was in the early hours just a little after midnight. Kannan had the side-upper berth while his mother was deep asleep in the lower berth below. Kannan carried a small pocket torch a gift from his Raman uncle that he treasured a lot. It was black and white in colour and despite its small size offered a strong beam of light. He took out a diary from his bag and a ball-point pen. He wrote some lines in the notebook.
I promise to take care of Amma.
I know Appa will let us down again.
But I will always protect my Amma.
I will become a successful man.
I will make a lot of money.
I will keep Amma happy.
God – Please give me strength to always be truthful.
There was a loud whistle and the train began the journey again. Kannan put the notebook back into his bag. He looked at the lights from the window on the other side of the train. He drank some water from his water bottle and lay down again. In some time he was deep asleep as the train’s gentle swaying and the rattle of the tracks lulled him to sleep.
At around 7 A.M. he was woken up by his mother – “Kanna, get up it is 7 o’ clock. Go to the bathroom and return, then we can have some tea and biscuits.” Kannan woke up, finished his morning ablutions, and returned to his seat. A vendor was selling tea, the dip-tea variety, they already had biscuits in their food-hamper. Morning gave way to day as the intensity of the Southern Summer hit them. After a while breakfast came. The options were limited, bread and omelette and idly-vada with sambar and chutney. Saradha got two sets of idly-vada and they ate the food slowly. The sambar was dull and lifeless in colour but the vada was piping hot and the peanut chutney quite pungent, strong, and spicy. Saradha then took out a copy of the “Kalki” magazine and began reading it. Kannan had a copy of “Gokulam” both of them were lost in the worlds of their respective magazines.
A strong smell of jasmine flowers, sweat, and piss hit Kannan’s nostrils as the train made its way slowly into Madras Central Station. Kannan’s father was waiting for them on the platform. When the train stopped and the crowds got down, he boarded the train and got all the luggage out. A porter was not required as the other belongings would be shipped to their address by a packaging service. There was no hugging or crying involved. Just a family trying to pick up the pieces and move on in life – both literally and metaphorically.
Saradha made a trunk call from an STD/PCO booth and informed Sundaram that they had reached Madras safely. From the main terminal they moved to the suburban train complex and boarded a local train headed to Thiruvallur. There was an awkward silence. The local train would stop every few minutes as it stopped at different railway stations. Little Kannan was writing down the names of the stations judiciously in his notebook. After about 80 minutes the train reached their final destination and they got out of the train. Ramani beckoned an auto-rickshaw and they got into it. After about half an hour’s ride they reached a building in a village. They got out and Ramani guided them to the first floor. It was a simple no-frills accommodation. One bed-room, one kitchen and one toilet and bathroom that was away from the main enclosure. From living in the hustle and bustle of a major metropolis, life began again in a quiet little village in a house surrounded by neem and coconut trees.
Q for Quinoa Khichdi
Khichdi is a traditional Indian dish that is distinctly different in North India and South India. In North India, khichdi is made by cooking together rice, moong dal, vegetables in generous amounts of ghee and typically served to someone who is weak or feverish. Each household has its own variation bys substitutiong the vegetables or the type of lentil used. Some cook it fine enough to turn it into a porridge-like dish others make it like a pulav.
In South India, the word khichdi is typically associated with rava/sooji/semolina and is somewhat like a cross between an uppuma and a pongal and has its own fan following. Today, let us look at a healthy and protein-packed recipe for a khichdi made from quinoa. Quinoa is a South American grain and in the last decade has been gaining prominence for its health benefits. It is not a native Indian grain like millets or amaranth that are popular in India.
One cup of cleaned and washed quinoa (drain out the water completely).
Two cups of cleaned and washed moong dal ( drain out the water completely).
Finely chopped carrots, beans, one tomato, some fresh coriander leaves.
Turmeric powder, salt, ghee.
Take a pressure cooker and fill it with water to the appropriate level.
In an inner vessel, layer the quinoa, moong dal, and chopped vegetables, and add two full spoons of ghee. Half a spoon of turmeric powder and salt as per taste. Fill in the inner vessel with water as well. Close the cooker, light the stove and place the pressure-weight on top of the cooker lid. As the mixture cooks within and the fragrance of ghee, vegetables, and dal permeates in the kitchen, the whistles will start blowing. Usually four the five whistles are sufficient for the quinoa to be cooked well. Adjust the water levels accordingly, sometimes a specific brand of quinoa needs more water and cooking time (seven or eight whistles).
Let the heat subside, open the cooker and garnish the khichdi with fresh coriander leaves. If you love tadka, a tadka of ghee, mustard seeds, and green chilies can be added before you serve the khichdi. Goes really well with a raitha of curd, onion, and cucumber. Or eat along with potato chips or roasted masala pappad.
Have you tried quinoa khichdi before? Do try it out and let me know.