Autumn doesn’t show up where I stay. It is just a mild summer. No browns, reds or oranges. I am mostly in bed these days, exhausted, because my body is making a tiny human. I try to invoke an autumnal aura by pulling down the window shades to filter in a soft honey light. And by vegetating in front of a Gilmore Girls binge watch. And daydream about talking to my child.
I read Janice Pariat’s book of short stories, ‘Boats on Land’. It was a real pleasure. It offers up an engaging mix of hills, sprawling tea-estates, mists, folklore, incessant rain, lives of people in places where nothing much happens, displacement, forbidden feelings, wistfulness, fragile hopes, and so much more. I read it this weekend, and have finally broken the reading slump I found myself in the past few weeks.
An assamese lunch has become a ritual every Sunday, a welcome break for me in a week of paneer, dosa, sambar, pasta etc. I take out the brass metal plates and bowls my parents gave me the last time I was home. My husband buys fish the evening before. We fry the Rohu pieces and later dunk them in a mustard gravy. The green chillies are from the garden. There is masoor dal with a generous sprinkling of squeezed lemon juice (unfortunately one-third the size of the ones found in Assam). Mashed or fried potatoes. With mustard oil. An unhealthy indulgence, but a loved one. There will be round slices of brinjal dunked in besan gravy and fried. Maybe an egg. Greens are in the form of a soup. Mango pickle. A slice of lime. And I am transported back to my childhood, and my mother feeding us the same food. The comfort of knowing it will be the same every day when we come home. Every single day. Its recreation is the comfort now.
How do you adapt to a place? Warm up to it? Find something strange and make it familiar?
When I shifted to this city in South India, I was very apprehensive about the language, the people, new workplace, setting up a home. And also the food.
While we looked for a job and a home during our first trip here, we checked into an Airbnb where the lunch menu featured a curry called ‘Gutti vankaya’. I ordered it with my trademark ‘please don’t put dhaniya in it’. I loved it! It was cooked by a Bengali cook, yet the taste of this traditional and simple Andhra dish was unaltered. I loved the brinjals stuffed with a flavourful paste of peanuts, imli and masalas.
And I found a favourite vegetarian dish in this strange (to me) city famous for biryanis! It was what I cooked when I moved into a new home. And once every week since then!
Alternately flimsy and knobby, an amoeboid dosa splattered on the frying pan; with a little batter running down the ladle and crusting on my arm. Comic-strip sweat beads glistened on my forehead. Few of the dosas I could cradle in my palm, while others occupied the entire pan. Size notwithstanding, the aroma and the taste were familiar; making the whole effort worthwhile.
The batter was homemade.
The Dosa Batter 1 part brown rice, 1 part urad dal, 1 part moong dal, 1/2 part Chana dal, 1/2 part masoor dal, 2tbsp flaxseed powder, 1 tsp salt; soaked for a couple of hours, ground and fermented overnight. Served with onion and tomato chutney.
Oiled my hair.
Sharpened my pencils.
Ate a spoonful of butter and died happy
Wore my favorite t-shirt; it features a typewriter.
Read Optic Nerve for a while.
Listened to songs from Studio Ghibli’s ‘My neighbor Totoro’