and do visit my blogger friend and collaborator Suranga Date on her blog Strewn Ashes for an extrapolation!
With the pre-final exams well and truly behind us, we settle down into study mode. Exams are just round the corner and like every year we have made confessions about hiding comics and novels behind text books (this year, for the first time it was Mills and Boon romances slyly scoring on the classics and hitherto favourite Enid Blyton). We acknowledge this and remorsefully vow not to do this ever, ever again (but how on earth were we going to READ!)
Summer school has started, much to my delight! Early start- it’s funny going to school when the baldiya (municipality) sweepers are still at work, when some late straggler milk delivery fellas are rushing around their beat before the milk goes bad and when the familiar rich timbered voice on Vividh Bharati is announcing “Sangeet (rising tone- pause) Sarita!” (The program showcased a raag, its aaroh and avaroh, a sample classical rendition and a Hindi film song based on the same raag). Usually, by now mother and I would be still be grappling with my long hair, me refusing to let her oil it, she sternly explaining the benefits of oiling, the firmness of her belief influencing her progressively tight braiding of my thick hair into two tight plaits, ribboned till the very end and knotted up again at the top , halving it into handle loops! In between jabs with the comb to stop slouching (yes, that year I had started slouching because it was fashionable for girls of my age to bow to our self-conscious awkwardness about growing up) and my screaming at her pulling my hair, mother would say, “Tell me what is the difference between Rageshree and Bageshree!”
As I set out, looking around to see which of the galli kids I could walk with, I see mother buying some kairis from the bhajiwala, the veggie vendor. What is she going to make, ohhhh! I can’t wait to come home for lunch!
In just a few hours, as school gives over, the landscape has changed considerably. The sun has straddled the already baked earth. The green-red tightly wrapped buds of gulmohor have warmed up to the sun and unfurled their petals, setting the sky on fire from beneath with their orange vermillion hues! To this day, I landmark the day I see the season’s first gulmohor! But stomach realities bring me back to victuals! So what is mother going to make for lunch?
Kanda Kairi chutney, sadha varan, gawarichi bhaji (cluster beans or gowar) mattha (lightly spiced and herbed butter milk) and bhakri with a dollop of white butter. A cold lunch laid out- no fancy or indulgent warming up of the food... yet...
Our study timetable is consulted and we are reminded of what we had committed on paper! But the warmth of the delicious (and heavier than the usual tiffinbox lunch on routine school days) meal has created a warmth within. Testing the waters, we blame mother for the delicious meal and guilt her into allowing one short nap. She relents.
The fan whirs on incessantly, the mogra garland perched around the long necked surahi lets out an occasional whiff of the sweet fragrance, the lassitude of the afternoon is broken only by the occasional overenthusiastic crowing of hyperactive crows, but we are too dreamy and doze away tracing rhythm patterns in the soothing drone of the pigeon partridge...
Wasn’t this what morning school was meant for?
Life moves across hemispheres , the changing times enabling perennial and universal availability of fruit and vegetables don’t allow the same associative attribution to seasons, times, tastes and smells. And we enjoy kandakairi in Australia throughout the year, not just in the December to February summer season!
Kanda Kairi Chutney
1 cup chopped raw mango (check for sourness, if required add more)
1 cup chopped onion
½ cup roasted and skinned peanuts
1 tbsp grated jaggery or brown sugar (again, depending on the sourness of the mango)
½ tsp cumin seeds
2 -3 tsp (or more) red chilli powder (I used the kashmiri variety)
Salt to taste
1 tbsp oil tadka made with ½ tsp mustard seeds (hot)
Whiz all the ingredients except the tadka in a mixer to get a grainy textured chutney. Add a little water only if necessary. Temper with hot tadka and serve with bhakri, chapati or rice. Good with idlys and dosas, too!