Hesaru Kalu Menasina Saaru

Money and power corrupts us mortals like nothing else, more so my fellow Indians who are rich and powerful. As an expat, it is very uncomfortable when a fellow Desi is apprehended for violating the law.  More than anything else is the Visa violation for domestic helps that riles me. Our more privileged brethren seems to think that because they are rich or powerful or both, they are entitled to bi-pass the law of the land. They process papers for domestic help and under pay them or abuse them, there by breaking the law. They seem to carry the 'Chalta Hai' attitude over to this side of theA tlantic. Well don't they realize that USA is far more an egalitarian society than India and that despite money,connection and power the law of the land is mightily enforced here?
Recently an Indian diplomat in NYC has been arrested on similar charges. And India is creating a furor over this. If we so worry about the image of our country what is the first lesson we need to impart our diplomats? It should be "Never break the law of the land you are posted in". This should be written on the stone. Second, if the law of the land is violated, the violator should be held accountable and GOI-MEA should not politicize the issue.It is interesting that an Indian diplomat had her domestic help imported from India! If she did, she ought to respect the law of land and make sure the domestic help is compensated properly.  If she did not, then the law must take its own course. Some one from MEA had commented that Indian diplomats cannot be expected to pay $9 + /per hour for domestic help because they do not make much themselves. Well, if you cannot pay the minimum ways stipulated by law, you should not be having domestic help at all. There are thousands of us living well without a domestic help. We all balance dual careers, children, school, extra-curricular activities, households everything. It does help us that we left behind the sense of entitlement, the "Chalta Hai" attitude that comes to privileged citizens of India, the privilege of bending the laws to suit us and go scot-free.
A bellicose India in this particular case means disrespect towards the law of the land. Besides MEA were informed about this two months ago.. They did nothing. Now after the arrest they are acting like school children. What else could it be during an impending election but dirty politics?
However, the accused, deserves to be treated courteously. Not because she is a diplomat, but because she is a women who was dropping her daughter to school and that the she is not a criminal. She did not have to be put behind bars with drug peddlers etc. Looks like Mr. Preet Bharara needs to slow down a bit. Treat Indian ladies with more respect please, because that is what GOI expects from the rest of the world though GOI cares two hoots for the safety and dignity of women in its own land.
The most hilarious part of the story is Mayawati playing the Dalit card. Who ever knew this particular diplomat was a Dalit and who ever cared if she is one? To us she was just an IFS officer, the creme de la creme of Indian bureaucracy, the best my motherland has to offer to the rest of the world. Sadly this 'best' however was already involved in the Adarsha housing society scam.
To me this story looks like a classic case of privilaged 'Desi' throwing their weight around in a land which is better than 'Des' at enforcing their law. Remember Shah Rukh Khan's detention in NY airport? Kudos to people like Abdul Kalam, who never made much of a similar incident. Indeed it is people like him that are the best India has to offer the world.

Now for some food. As winter sets in it is time for bone warming Rasams and Saarus.. This winter had a particularly snowy start. We have already had three snow storms and it is not yet January. 

We will need,

Green gram whole /Hesaru kaalu 1/2 cup
Turmeric a pinch
Ghee a drop +2 tbsp
Mustard seeds 1/4 tsp

Curry leaves a handful
Garlic 3-4 cloves
Jeera 1 tsp
Pepper 1 tsp (more if you prefer spicy)
Dried red chillies 3-4
Tamarind extract 3/4 tsp
Jaggery 1" piece (according to taste)
Salt to taste

  • Wash the green gram in several changes of water and place it in a pressure cooker with 2 cups of water, turmeric and ghee. Cook till the green is soft and mushy.
  • Once the pressure cooker is cool enough to handle, open the lid and mash the dal. Throw in the tamarind extract, jaggery and enough water to get the Saaru to desired consistency, simmer.
  • Crush the pepper, cumin and garlic coarsely.  
  • Heat ghee and throw in the mustard seeds, the garlic mixture, curry leaves and the red chillies. saute till the spices are fragrant about 20-25 seconds. Remove from heat and pour the contents into the simmering green gram mixture. 
  • Bring the mixture to a gentle boil and adjust salt. Serve hot with rice or in a bowl with some crusty bread.  I love it both ways. In fact I do not even need the bread, just a bowl of nice hot Saaru to warm my soul and my cold bones!

Dhideer Chakkuli / Easy Chakkuli

This Deepavali, I did not have in stock Mom's or MIL's Chakkuli flour also means that it is about time I go home. So I was forced to make my own. Obviously I do not have the luxury of flour mills,nor do I have the luxury of time here so I had to do something easier and quicker. Mom suggested me a recipe which is popular in the rural areas. My folks who live in the more rural parts  and do not have uninterrupted electricity, make Chakkuli for Mahaekadashi this way.
Chakkuli made this way turned out to be crispier and stays that way for as long as three weeks. But appearance wise  they have a rustic look to it and it might look a little patchy, not homogeneously golden brown. But they did taste absolutely good and super crunchy.

We will need,

Urad dal (washed and split) 2 cups
Rice flour (as required, sorry I could not measure it)
Cumin seeds 1.5 tsp
Sesame seeds 2 tsp
Chilli powder (to taste)
Salt (to taste)
Oil to deep fry.
  •  Pick and clean the Urad dal and wash it in several changes of water. Place the dal in a pressure cooker with 4 cups of water and cook till the dal is soft.
  • Once the dal is cool enough to handle, use a wooden spatula to mash the dal.
  • Stir in the rest of the ingredients into the dal. Keep adding rice flour little by little to form a soft dough like that of Chapati. Knead the dough well and keep it aside.
  • Adjust all the seasoning.
  • Now heat the oil in a big Kadai.
  • Grease a Chakkuli mould. Press the dough into spirals of Chakkuli on a wax paper. 
  • Once the oil is warn enough, lower the Chakkuli spiral into hot oil carefully.  Fry till golden brown, remove and drain on several layers of paper towels. 
  • Once cool, store in an air tight box. Chakkuli's stay good for several weeks. If a good(i prefer refined sunflower oil) oil is used to deep fry, it will stay good for as long as a month, though they are unlikely to last that long!

Mango Phirni and tribute

This past weeks has been very eventful. In a sense it is an end of an era, things that make me feel that every new day I am growing old and the world around me is getting older too.  Sachin Tendulkar retired finally. I cannot remember Indian cricket with out him. I am not a Sachin fan, much less Cricket fan. But, he is a part of my life, my memories. Those were the days when everyone in my family, all my neighbors, my entire city watched cricket; those were the days when there would be a curfew like atmosphere on the street every time India played a one day match with Pakistan;those were the days when Door Dashan was the only channel to watch on TV and if there was power cut in between the match, everyone would call the K.E.B (Karnataka Electricity Board) and yell, curse the poor folks at the other end. It was a different time, but feels like a different world.
I remember that time when middle order collapse was the hallmark of Indian Cricket, Sachin still at the crease meant a convincing chance of victory. He was the man who could deliver, who could be relied on and most importantly we gave us hope. I stopped watching Cricket long long time back. The last complete match I watched was the one in which India exited the World Cup in Eden's Garden, eventually Sri Lanka went to win that World Cup. I was never a big fan, I do not miss much. But I miss those days. Cricket than was an occasional treat but now it is reduced to just another routine like the soap operas,nothing special about it.

A few days back Srikanta Datta Narashimharaja Wodeyaar passed away. Having lived for a long time in the Shankar Mutt area of Mysore, he was a constant presence. He had contested elections won many, lost many. He would come to a school near my home to cast his vote with his family. We would occasionally catch a glimpse of him when we walked through from one gate to the other gate of Mysore Palace. He stood for a different era, he was still the Maharaja, the man who was destined to wear dark shades because his direct gaze was supposed to bring hardship to his people. He did hold a private Durbar during Dasara full with regal splendor. With him and that he does not have any male heirs, comes to end the grand tradition of Dasara.

Then it is my own grandmother. She passed away last week. She was in the eighties. She is the one that made the best ever Idlis, Sambar, Chutney and sweet chutney. I cannot remember any other Idli that was better than the ones she made. She also make very good Bisibelebath. But I am not glorify her in death. I am very aware of our tradition, we do that. A scrooge in death becomes the man with the largest heart. But I want to be realistic about what my grandmother and her death mean to me. She played favorites all her life. She preferred my cousins over me and my sister. She made her dislike very clear, in life and death. She was apathetic when I was sick but went into frenzy when my cousins were sick. She glowed when my cousin came home with small accomplishments at school, but was not happy when I or my sister came home with trophies in state level competition. All her happiness and all her tears were for my cousins, she had nothing to give us. Yes! sometimes I wonder how a parent can play favorites with her own kids? Now that I am a parent myself, I cannot bring myself to play favorites but she did. When I was young, I resented her preference but as I grew older, I accepted the fact. We were very civil to each other. But the day I got to know that she was on the verge of death, I cried, so much that I did not know she would elicit in me. After a few days of mourning, I was wondering why at all was I sad? I loved her no doubt, though she never returned it. I cannot remember fondly any moment she spent with me, any 'grandparent' moment that everyone has. My own father remembers all those fond moments he spent with his grandmother. I know a lot of people who tell me that I am lucky to have played in my grandparent's yard. Naturally grandparents are associated with pampering. I am not the lucky one though. Pampered we never were, not by my paternal grandparents. That part of my life is a big hole and sadly I should say, I missed the 'grandparent' moment even though my grandparents were very much alive into my thirties. With her passing away it is another 'end of era' moment. I remembered the days when she did make Rotti with loads of ghee /butter and oil to her loved ones and ask my mother to make Rotti without any of those for us. She reminds me of an era when cost of food was very important. She reminds me of an era when we had to go to fair price shops, stand in the line for hours to get our monthly quota of food supply, she reminds me of an era when her favorites ate different foods than us lesser mortals. She reminds me of the dangers of playing favorites. Now she leaves behind a great deal of bitterness between me and my cousins. I wish she had known where she was leading us. Had she not played favorites, we would all be lot more nice to each other, probably I would have enjoyed my 'grandparent' moment too. It is now end of something, a long wait for acceptance, for her love, for the love that I saw in her eyes for my cousins. Now there is no hope that there will be such a day, she left, leaving a hole in my heart, the grandparent hole.
After all the bitterness, I feel like serving something sweet. Here is some Mango Phirni.

 We will need,

Broken rice 1/4 cup
Ghee 1 tbsp
Milk 1 liter
Sugar according to taste
Mango pulp 3/4 cup
Cardamon 1 (seeds crushed and skin discarded)
Pista a few for garnish

  • Heat ghee in a non stick pan. Throw in the broken rice and toast it till it is fragrant about 5-8 minutes
  • Pour in the milk and reduce the heat to low.
  • Keep stirring the mixture and make sure the bottom does not scald. 
  • Cook till the mixture reduces and thickens to about a third. 
  • Remove from heat and stir in the cardamon. Allow it to cool and then stir in the mango pulp. 
  • Garnish with pista and served chilled.