Spicing up an Evening

There are moody evenings, when nothing, right from the hazelnut coffee at Starbucks to the chicken at Thai Palace, seems to set things right. And then there are breezy evenings when all you need to make life beautiful is a plate of spicy panipuri from a roadside vendor. 

The panipuri has several names: golgappas in Delhi, fuchkas in Kolkata and gupchups in Bihar. Be that as it may, the perfect panipuri must have potatoes, onions, chickpea and chillies, and be flavoured with salt, pepper, tamarind and lemon. You absolutely must ask for some additional jaljeera to wash it down.

“Did the vendor have clean hands?” says my health conscious family, fed on 99.9% germ-free advertising on television. “Oh, he wore sterilised gloves.”

I will tell you a secret though – please avoid the places that serve you “mineral water” panipuri. An over-hygienically made panipuri is against the natural scheme of things, and like rainbow-coloured roses, just doesn’t feel right.

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Magic in the Household

Who says magic exists only in Harry Potter books, dreams and imagination? It exists inside our homes, right under our noses. What else can explain the transformation of raw rice into fluffy strands of bhaat, lanky okra into delicious bhujiya and beaten eggs into spicy egg bhurji?

I grant you science has a role to play, but it is only magic that has made me the solemniser of these transformations – yes, me, standing with a stirrer in one hand, the fingers of the other crossed in nervous anticipation. Ten days into my new life in Pune, I have managed to whip up a few meals without raising up a storm, or a fire for that matter.

The fruit and vegetable vendors in Pune, I have found, are highly sensitive about their products. “Will those grapes be fresh?” R ventured to ask one the other evening. The weighing scales also looked biased – or call it our North Indian apprehension.

“Of course they are fresh! I only sell the best.” The vendor replied defensively. “If I had been in government service, I would be earning a hefty pension by now – so long have I been in this business.”

We were regaled with tales of his experiences as a street vendor all the while we hunted for onions, tomatoes and potatoes.

While moving into a new home has its downsides, it is terrific to live in a decluttered house. You know exactly where everything is. This lack of clutter is conducive to the kind of good habits the family advocates: waking up on time, eating a heavy breakfast, drinking milk at night.

Getting the milk the first time proved to be entertaining. “Would you want cow’s or buffalo’s milk? Full cream or half cream?” Where were my close-to-heart red-packet and blue-packet varieties? “Errm, I find cow’s milk suits our systems the best, thank you.” Some customers looked at me in awe – ah, the experienced homemaker.

It is only when we return from one of our evening walks, and find unwashed dishes in the kitchen, that we wish magic pulled up its socks tighter and lent us a hand.

When History Repeats Itself

Birds

*Picture from http://nerdbirder.com

There are a few birds chirping right outside the living-room window of my new home in Pune. It is a quintessentially “Pune” day – a hot sun, a very slight wind and the promise of a rejuvenating evening breeze hanging in the air. R and I are now married and have graduated to being housemates, student-teacher in the kitchen (no prizes for guessing who’s who) and regular visitors to the departmental store. We still sit back sometimes and breathe in hard to let it sink in – the fact that it all turned out well and we are truly, finally, man and wife.

This morning is when my laptop was accessible over suitcases, kitchenware and general chaos. Ladies and gents, welcome again to “Of Paneer, Pulao and Pune”. We promise to regale you with stories from this charming city, told with the gusto of a hot vada paau and garnished with a generous sprinkling of panipuri masala.

This is the umpteenth move from “Saddi Delhi” and I have been awarded the title of the best luggage packer in town. While life doesn’t really allow me any wind of its plans, thus preventing me from forecasting, I look forward to many bright evenings, delightful meals (some of which I will cook), fun times with R and, hold your breath, settling down in happy matrimony.

Wish me luck.

Craziness

In a Delhi home this evening, there’s a girl debating whether or not to open the door which has been knocked upon for the zillionth time in a week. In the constant flurry of people – helpful neighbours, laundry-delivery, flower-men, decorators – she takes a moment to breathe and document the madness. Getting married is a marathon task.

The wedding season has already seen Delhi grapple with traffic jams that daily set new world records for being menacing and indomitable. The markets have been abuzz with haggling crowds and stubborn shopkeepers peddling sarees, lehangas and jewellery. The amount of money that is being spent is insane. There remains the constant anxiety of being sure everyone has been duly invited, all loose ends have been tied, and no feelings have been hurt. Amidst this craziness, they absurdly expect the bride to look like a million bucks.

I am being told to take rest, sleep and eat. Indeed, they have queued up no less than four lunch events in the week before the wedding. I intend to invest in some digestive potion and refuse second helpings of everything, no matter how insistent. If anyone is willing to share the food and take some load of niceties off my tired shoulders, I am only a shout away. On a serious note, however, I plan to utilise whatever time I now have available to sleep, take deep breaths and try and be at peace.

The next time we meet, “Saddi Delhi” will have moved back to “Of Paneer, Pulao and Pune”. Choley bhature will transform into pau bhaji, Lajpat Nagar into F.C. Road, rush hour in the Delhi Metro to morning chill in Pune. R and I will be man and wife and I will write from a desk in our home together. I promise to share all the madness of the wedding as soon as I find myself some quiet and peace.

Until then.

A Loaded Morning

I woke up this morning to a distinct feeling of déjà vu, probably brought on by the familiar strands of music from the window and the aroma of freshly baked buns at Good Luck Café, Pune. This is my last stop at Pune before the wedding and we are here to shop for furniture for the new flat which will be the first house R and I move into as a married couple (*jumps*). I feel more grown-up than before, and yet an absolute child when it comes to gazing at bright upholstery, home décor and colourful cushions.

Pune has always been close to heart, as those who were here when “Saddi Delhi” was “Of Paneer, Pulao and Pune” will vouch for. Come March, we will move again to the city of delectable German Bakery cookies, impressive Crossword bookstores, and breath-taking hills and beaches within weekend-getaway distance.

There is anticipation in the air today, as well as trepidation, when I realize that this Monday is only the first in several that I will be waking up to in Pune – not as a student or a singles-club professional, but as a married woman who still needs to learn to cook and tie a sari properly. This is more serious thinking than the beautiful morning allows. I think I will instead order for coffee, sit by the window, and admire the azure sky so full of promise and poetry.

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