Life brings with a plethora of experiences, each with a flavour of its own. I wish to share with all my readers these various experiences and observations that I have made during my time here on this planet. They may be funny, thought-provoking or simple reflections. I do hope you will find these enjoyable and interesting.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Pirindai (bone setter) thokku (chutney)

I had mentioned a plant known as bone setter or "pirindai" in Tamil in a previous blog.  Here I shall be giving recipes for its use.

Pirindai can be used in many different ways e.g. it can be ground with the batter for adai (a South Indian dish made of fermented batter of rice, tur dal and whole black udad dal which is then made just like dosas).

It can be ground with spinach when making keerai molagutal or keerai mashyal (spinach mash).  It can also be used when making pappads, chutney or thokku.

I shall share my recipe for thokku here, which I made with a mish mash (quite literally :-)) of pirindai, corriander, pudina (mint), karavapillai (curry leaves) and kalpuravalli leaves (ajwain leaves).


Pirindai (I used about 100 gms of it)
Corriander - 2 large bunches
Pudina (Mint) - 1 small bunch
Kalpuravalli (ajwain / bishop's weed leaves) - 6 to 8
Red chillies - 6-8 (add to taste)
Tamarind - a ball the size of a medium sized lemon
Ginger - 1 inch
Methi (fenugreek) seeds - 1/2 teaspoon
Asafoetide (hing) 1/2 teaspoon
Mustard seeds - 1 teaspoon
Salt - to taste
Oil - 2 tablespoons  


Wash the pirindai well and break it into bits at each node.  Wash the corriander, the pudina, curry leaves and ajwain leaves well, remove the thick stalks while keeping the tender ones intact.  Roast the methi seeds and red chillies in 1 teaspoon of oil till they are browned.  Let this cool.  Then grind with asafoetida and salt in your dry grinder to a coarse consistency.

Heat one tablespoon of oil and add the pirindai, corriander, pudina and ajwain along with the tamarind.  Roast till the leaves wilt.  Cool this.

Add this mixture to the coarsely ground paste along with the ginger and grind in the blender.  It should not be too finely ground. 

Now heat the remaining oil, add mustard seeds, allow them to pop and then add the ground paste to it.  Saute it for 5-6 minutes on a dry flame and allow it turn a dark green.

This can be preserved in a bottle in a refrigerator for quite long.  You can even keep some amount for immediate use in the refrigerator and store the rest in the freezer section till required.  This can then be thawed and used later.

This can be eaten with chappatis, dosas, to mix with rice or as a chutney for sandwiches.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Here Yesterday, Gone Today, Forgotten Tomorrow

From a forward.  Photographer unknown.

Isn't this a heart-warming picture?  It makes us wonder and marvel at Nature and other creatures who protect their young ones just "like us".  Or do they?  "Like us" I mean.  Hold on, I think I would like to drop out those two words - it would embarass and shame all the creatures in the animal kingdom to be compared with "us", some of whom selectively destroy their young ones - not based on  some physical defects, but only on the fact that they are females.  Yes same the very same females of the species who procreate and bring forth new members of the species and protect and nourish the young ones.

Last month Baby Falak, a 2 month old baby girl died after being battered by some inhuman adult.
It shocked the conscience of the nation.  If that was shocking, then what does one of a "FATHER" who battered his 3 month old to death?  Yes that is the tragic story of Baby Afreen born to a 19 year old mother.

This young mother was married off at the age of 17 to a divorcee whose parents promised her parents that they would take her on a Haj 1 week after the wedding.  The impoverished parents who could not afford to ever go on a Haj very happily agreed, thinking at least this daughter (of 3 daughters) would get to go and be ensured of her place in heaven.  The son-in-law it turned out was a drug addict and would harass their daughter.  Once the daughter was born, he asked her to get Rs. 1 lakh as compensation because the child was a female.  And then started the sordid tale of battering the baby girl.  When he tried to smother the baby about a week ago, she was brought to the hospital by the mother and was  in a coma till yesterday, when to her good fortune she went to a better place - away from the monsters of this world.  Had she survived, the chances that she might be challenged for the rest of her life might have been high.  Better she was spared that agony.  God decided she deserved better.

What do we say of a society where a daughter's life is decided based on criteria such as her chances of going on a pilgrimage?  What do we say of parents who get their daughter married off before the legal marriageable age, without checking out the credentials of the man whom they are entrusting with their daughter's happiness?  And sad to say I cannot write them off as the exceptions or as deviants from the normal.  They are probably the norm in our country, even if their reasons for getting minor daughters married may be different. 

What do we say of a mother who does not report the husband who batters her baby?  What do we say of parents who do not bring their married daughter back home despite knowing that she is being tortured every day?

What do we say of a society which claims to worship female deities and sees a mother as a Goddess, but chooses to destroy young female infants?

What do we say of parents who destroy female foetuses before they are born?  Or are they better than parents who give birth to them and then batter them?????

Should I consider myself as particularly privileged for having been allowed to live, learn and flourish?  For having had a particularly good set of parents who were extremely enlightened for their times?  Should I be grateful to God for this or should I be grateful to my society to have allowed me to be what I am today?  Or should I be grateful to have been born in better times, before a so-called "ancient civilization" fell inexorably sick and started moving at breakneck speed in reverse gear into the dark ages?

This is the society which has produced Indira Gandhi, Kiran Majumdar, Kiran Bedi, Indira Noorani whom we tout as our claim to our "liberal, forward looking society".  But then these are women we can count on our finger tips, while the Baby Falaks and Baby Afreens are part of an innumerable statistic - here yesterday, gone today, forgotten tomorrow.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Memories of Yercaud - 2003

Yercaud Lakeside
A pine branch bows to meet the lake
Rippling water 
Boating on Yercaud Lake
The clouds roll into the hills
Time to sit and stare
Coming closer
Closing in
Play of sun and shade
A sunlit valley in the centre
Monkey business
Human beings arrive to inhabit the hills
Yercaud Observatory
Humans worse than monkeys
Destructive nature of humans in full evidence - Mining in the hills

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Chakka Pulincurry

Yippee, summer is here.  So what if it is too hot and vegetables are hard to get, not of great quality and expensive.  Summer brings its compensation.  Mango season is just round the corner.  Jackfruits are already here.  Time for raw jackfruits and all the delightful dishes that can be made of them.

My memories of my ancestral home in Kerala bring back images of an estate with rubber plantations, mangoes, coconuts (oh the bubbly coconut water!!!!! Slurp), jackfruits, tapioca, raw pepper climbers, grapefruit and nutmegs, and all the yum dishes made with these freshly grated coconuts.  Kerala cuisine is almost incomplete without the ubiquitous coconut.  

So friends, time for chakka pulincurry today.  Chakkai in Malayalam means jackfruit.  Puli is tamarind. 


Tender raw jackfruit
Tamarind extract - from one medium sized ball
Red chilli - 1 to 2 (or add to taste)
Raw rice - 1 tablespoon
Freshly grated coconut - 1/2 a medium sized katori
Asafoetida (hing) - 1 small piece or a pinch of powdered hing
Turmeric - 1 small pinch
Mustard - 1 teaspoon
Oil - 1 teaspoon
Curry leaves - 5 to 6


The toughest part of making any dish with jackfruit is cleaning it (but the results are more than worth the effort - you can take that as a personal guarantee).  To clean a jackfruit, you would need a fairly large, sharp knife, a bit of oil (to oil the knife as well as your grease your palms - pun unintended) and the husk of a coconut and a container with water.  OK, if you have all these things at hand, you are ready to go.  

WARNING:  Be very careful when cutting a jackfruit.  It is not very difficult to cut your hand.

Cut the jackfruit into half.  Clean all the latex that comes out of the core with the husk of the coconut.  Clean the knife (keep doing this as you go) with oil and coconut husk.  Once it stops dripping cut it further into 4 pieces.  Cut these further into halves (so you now have 8 pieces).  Then remove the core of the jackfruit as well as the outer rind.  Use the fleshy part to cut into fairly large chunks (as seen in the picture above).  Place these pieces in the bowl of water as you go, so they do not turn black.

Once you are done with that, cook the pieces in the tamarind extract with salt and turmeric.  Dry roast the coconut, red chillies, asafoetida and raw rice and then grind in a mixer.  Add to the cooked jackfruit.  Allow the mustard seeds to splutter in heated oil. Use these mustard seeds and curry leaves to temper the pulincurry.  

This is best eaten mixed with boiled red rice.  Beans curry and raita goes very well with this combination. Of course, add pappad and I promise you a trip to heaven where you can spend a good hour in the company of angels playing their harps.

So folks, enjoy.  And remember me as you do. :-)

P.S.  If you are animal lovers, you would do well to feed the rind and the core to any stray cows you see around.  They will bless you generously.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Colours of Summer - My Balcony Garden - April 2012

Much as I hate the summer heat in India, I certainly love the colours and joy that the month of April brings with it. Needless to say the joy of seeing some of those colours in my own balcony garden within the constraints of an urban apartment brings a sense of special satisfaction which I would love to share with you.

These are some of the plants which are edible and / or have medicinal properties.

 Bone setter / Hadjod (Hindi) / Pirandai  (Tamil)

Curry leaves / Kadipatta / Karvapillai
Bishop'w weed (carom seeds) / Ajwain / Karpuravalli (Omam)

Here are some of my plants in bloom.

Hibiscus / Jaswanda (Marathi) / Gudhal (Hindi) / Chembarthi (Tamil)

Jasmine / Mogra / Malli

Asparagus (Sprengeri)