Friday, November 20, 2015

Over the Hedge


That south Indian delicacy sure tasted good, but I don't really remember the name of the dish. Anyways I will ask Niti Auntie when I will return her bowl (Katori) back. I cannot give her the empty bowl, I guess a bowl of Tikki-Chole (potato cutlet topped with chickpea curry) would be nice to bring her katori back. I can hardly speak any Kannada (local language from Bangalore) she barely broken Hindi but we have some level of English to communicate and in our every meeting she picks up a few words of Hindi and me barely a little bit of Kannada. Its not an easy language, the script is different then English or Devanagari (Hindi) even the damn bus and the electricity and water bills are in Kannada ONLY. We had no idea which bus came and went and which bill we were paying. So again the neighbours came to the rescue. 

Its a weekend and its raining like cats and dogs, the house is smelling of chole-tikki and I am all ready to bring her the crispy tikki topped with chole and a tangy tamarind chutney. R was not very begistered with the idea but you know me. There I went. They were just having their dinner, I was glad they didn't finish it. I barged in with a steaming bowl in my hand with my big black grandpa umbrella which I hated. I always wanted one with flowers which I have seen the Japanese tourists carry. Anyways,  Nitie auntie was very happy to see me and started putting thousands questions about the dish. She has tried it somewhere in a restaurant. I just said enjoy it now and if you like we can exchange the recipes later over a cup of filter coffee. Now the best filter coffee you get in the silicon valley is in these little tiny kannadige restaurants. Their are these coffee vendors too who have small coffee tanks/thermos on their bikes and they sell it in the parks and gardens. What a luxury that was, Me and R loved it, to have a bhutta (roasted corn, smeared with hot green chutney) and filter coffee.

The next morning while I was doing Jhadu (swepping) in my porch, she peeked in from her kitchen window. Her kitchen was at the back of her house, thats where our small cottage styled two room little house with a big front yard started. She asked me to wait and came out at her backyard and we chatted and exchanged the recipe of my dish. Some of the spices she wasn't familiar with but while seeing them she got it. These were the days you had to ask about any information many times or take it written, it was not like the second minute you go on to Mr. google and you get a thousand versions of it. Not that, that's not cool, I love it  too but I love the human live contact more and I still do. It is and will always be irreplaceable.

That was an entirely a different time, it cant be compared with today but it had its plus too. For me it definitely had, me coming from a family of 25 very loud people, I felt so alone and lonely in that big city. But that's when I came out of my comfort zone and started to talk to people. If we would have had a competition about who is more shy, me or R we would have almost gotten a tie. But to him it didn't really matter if we ran out of sugar for our tee/coffee but to me it did. He would never go to ask and drink it without it but not me. I dont compromise on my Chai. So there was no choice but to break open that leash of shyness. I am so glad I did, else I wouldn't have had the opportunity to meet such nice people, learn about their culture, their ways of life and of course some south Indian cooking. 

Anyways, after few days I got a knock on my door and Niti Auntie is standing there with a plate in her hand. I offered her to come in and asked her for a coffee. She agreed for the drink but for an Indian chai and she even peeked how I was making it. The thing or rather the fact is, a north Indian can make the best chai but should not attempt on the filter coffee and vice verse. OK, there are always exceptions, if you be one. We had a chai and I also tried her caramelised kaju katli (cashew nuts fudge) and I was immediately hooked on to it. With great difficulty I left two for R, otherwise it wouldn't be fair. The caramalization was not intended she said, it just happened and I am glad it did. Now if I think about it, to me it tasted like how Rahm Täfeli tastes today, Divine! would be the word. But now it was my turn to throw the questions, unlike my dish which had a dozen ingredients, this little humble delicacy had just as little as four ingredients and she told me quickly. Till date I use this recipe base to make my kaju katli.  

Isn't it amazing how some dishes remind you of some people and it stays with you forever, the dish and the people. Special. After that we exchanged so many recipes from each other and had many chats over chai and coffee. 

Although India is so diverse but in my opinion there are a few things which still keep us together. The most important thing which I think is food. Be it your neighbour or your work colleague, the moment you start living somewhere new the first thing to do is bring some sweet delicacy or other speciality to them. Its just a thing to do, in a way to introduce yourself. It starts there with small converstions, little chai and coffee afternoons, exchanging of recipes and before you know it, you might get close to these people and may become good friends too. The beauty in this whole thing is it happens so naturally that its so super effortless. Its almost like your second nature to do things like that. 

Another thing is this way of life there of never returning an empty Katori (bowl or dish) back to your neighbour. I think its a nice little thing, call it nature, behavioural or a cultural thing. I never really thought about it so deeply but the more I think about it the more I thing, its the right thing to do. Its sweet as a sweet.

Until now I never really thought about it but where ever in the world I have lived, I really have acted in the same way unknowingly and in return have met some fantastic people, got to know about their way of lives and culture and learned some great dishes too. 

After all its all these little things in life that matter...............wouldn't you agree!