Sunday, November 19, 2006

Kharak No Halwo

You require:
Kharak (dry dates): 500 gms, Milk: about a liter, Ghee (clarified butter): about 300 gms, Condensed milk: 200 ml, sugar: very little, about 3-4 tbsp

Servings: about 12-15 (enough for one week :-) )

Preparation time: lots


  1. Soak the kharak in milk for about 24 hrs. Kharak will absorb most of the milk and will swell due to it.
  2. One by one, remove the seeds from the swollen kharaks. This will be pretty quick as kharak will be pretty soft after soaking.
  3. Grate this seedless kharak in a mixer-grinder. Don't grate very finely, but just enough so that no big pieces are visible.
  4. Take the grated kharak in a pot, preferably non-stick. The pot should be big enough for easy stirring.
  5. Add about half of the ghee and cook on high flame for about 5 mins with constant vigorous stirring.
  6. Lower the flame and add condensed milk and the remaining ghee. Stirring should not be stopped.
  7. Cook on a low flame (not lowest) for about 30-35 mins till the mixture turns a thick brown in color. If you find kharak sticking to the bottom, add more ghee and stir. Remember, stirring is the key.
  8. After 30 mins or so, the halwa is ready, taste for sugar and add according to taste.
  9. From here, continue cooking on a lower flame for a few more mins if you want your halwa soft or you could turn off the flame right away.
  10. Garnish with cashew nuts or some other dry fruit.
  11. Eat and stove the rest in refrigerator.

Generation Gap- Revisited

This is in part, a continuation of my previous post. In family matters Coomy treats her step-father- Nariman Vakeel very shabbily. One of the reasons is that Nariman became her step-father at the late age of 11, so she didn't have the child-father feelings for her. But the major reason was that though Nariman had married Yasmin, he could not forget Lucy which was the woman he loved. Lucy was always there in his mind and he had not accepted his married life whole-heartedly. He went to such lengths to meet Lucy which would be considered nothing short of scandalous. Chaeteu felicity was constantly strained- so were Nariman's relations with the family.

What child could be expected to love her father if she cannot respect him. It is possible for adults to love someone in spite of shortcomings; but for children it is a different case. Children see in their father a man who is perfect, who is all powerful, who can do nothing wrong and who is the answer to all their questions. But when parents fight and children watch them abusing and hitting each other, it is the children who suffer. The image of perfect parent is shattered. Forever.

Coomy draws her hatred from this. Nariman, on his part does not make any conscious effort to build the bridges with his children which he is intentionally or otherwise burning. Coomy holds Nariman responsible for her mother's death. Anyone in Coomy's position would do that. With this past, can Coomy be expected to nurse her bed-ridden step-father? One would say that time heals, so Coomy would also forget the past and become friends with Nariman. But she does nothing of the sort. She is too human for that. And fate treats her appropriately in the end but that is a different story.

Please read this summary before proceeding:

"Story of Pao" is the most critically acclaimed film produced in Vietnam
during 2006. It centers on a young girl, Pao, a member of an ethnic
minority group living in the Vietnamese highlands. By recalling Pao's
memories of her parents and their emotional life, the film deftly explores
the concept of love from different points of view." Courtesy: Christina Skourou

In stark contrast to Coomy is Pao. The woman whom Pao's father married could not conceive. Her infertility was almost a curse in the highlands. So Pao's father brought home another woman- Mrs Kim who bore Pao and her younger brother. Mrs Kim would not live with Pao, instead she left them all after living with them for a short while. Pao grows up resenting the presence of Mrs Kim in the house. She is oblivious to the fact that Mrs Kim lover her father too much to live with them.

Pao falls in love with a guy from the local market. Let us call this guy A. Shortly after Pao finds that Pao's mother (not Mrs Kim) loves A's father. This discovery shatters Pao and she becomes more and more withdrawn. The mother, with her conscience heavy, disappears under mysterious circumstances. Pao's father and the rest assume she has died. The death affects Pao's father badly and he takes to drinking heavily. Pao's world is disappearing in front of her eyes. What does she do?

She decides to find and bring Mrs Kim, her biological mother back- for her father. Not for her and not for her brother but her sick and weak father. She is gone from her home for weeks and faces many difficulties but she is finally able to track Mrs Kim; only to find out that she is living with another man. Defeated and hopeless, she prepares to return to her village- empty handed. While returning, she finds that her mother who is living with A's father. She had not died. But escaped with her love!

When Pao reaches home, she finds Mrs Kim nursing her ailing father.

This is the power of love. It was love which made Pao's mother run away with A's father and it was love which made Mrs Kim return to Pao's father. Pao never tells her father the truth about her mother . This is the difference between Coomy and Pao. Pao could forgive, Coomy could not.

On a different note, If Nariman had defied his parents and married Lucy.. if....


Saturday, November 18, 2006

Family Matters

I just finished reading Rohinton Mistry's Family Matters. At first when I picked up the book, I had tried figuring out the phrase 'family matters' as in the matters of the family or the importance of family. I think its the latter, that the author wanted to say.In his own style of writing which contains a lot of dialogue and use of a simple language mixed heartily with Parsi and Gujarati and Hindi words, Rohinton Mistry has written a beautiful novel.

I think of the Parsis and the image which comes to my mind is an old man- a little eccentric bt very amiable and one who always loves children, of a cranky woman swearing gadhera, gaanda. Guess what! both these characters and some more are present in Family Matters. The novel explores the importance of family in the lives of an old man who is suffering from Parkinson's, his step-children, his daughter and her family. The characters are all very realistic and their life in Bombay- all too easy to connect with.

Money isn't the solution to all of man's problems. It is not the final destination but the journey wherein lie the little joys of life. Yezaad is barely able to make the ends meet with his meagre salary and when his father-in-law suffering from Parkinson's is forced into his house, it becomes a strain for everybody in the house. Toast without butter, meals without meat, a bath on alternate days- such things. But this hardship brings the family closer than ever. All members pitch in-even Yezad's 9 and 13 year old sons.

Jehangir in the epilogue says he misses his old father- one who used to laugh, get angry, shout at him used to tell jokes. Now, he is not the same man. This is when they are living much more comfortably than before- in the seven-room chateau felicity home. A man never learns from his mistakes. I couldn't help feeling this way towards the end. Children become adults and their parents feel something slipping out of their hands.

I say it is wrong in the first place to hold on to them.


Saturday, November 4, 2006


Rizq is an Arabic word. It roughly means your share in God's scheme of things. To use it in a sentence, I could say my rizq is in America. Most commonly it is understood in terms of food and water which a person consumes. Think of "daane daane pe likha hai khane wale ka naam". Yes, you get it.

My name as it turns out has been written on $3.49 loaves of bread, $4.59 a pound tomatoes, 12-can packs of sprite, tins of pringles, packets of chicken and on Indian spices, of course. I was a little worried about the food initially but at the same time I was looking forward to cook my own meals too.

It seems to me that during the first month, I was having a 'beginners' luck'. Nothing could go wrong with my cooking. Whether it was the chicken drumsticks or mince-meat or aloo-gobhi- everything I cooked was edible and easily digestible. I had kind of like 'settled in' and now that I was doing my own food, I could appreciate my tiffin in Indore better than ever.

But this last week has been a disaster in terms of my culinary (dis)abilities, whatever I have tried to cook has turned out to be a disaster. Semi-boiled chana dal, chicken thighs with all the skin and fat intact, scrambled eggs and potatoes you name it I've got it. I was ruining up big time on all my cooking. The saving grace was I had found a very good pizza delievery and savored their offerings for a while, then there was the dining hall in college.

Just today, I've prepared three dishes which I hope will last me the next week. I found a kind soul online while I was preparing and she guided me through the intricacies of rajma and moong-dal. I have all of that food now stored in the refrigerator.

It is important to eat your food. For me, it is a tie which connects me to all whom I have left behind. There is a joy in knowing that you are eating the same kind of food in a foreign land which your folks eat back home. When I wear a topi, wash hands and eat my meal with hands, the distances are bridged. Just like that.

According to my grandmother if our rizq and rozi is in a foreign land then we have to go and earn it there. Difficult as it might be but that is the way it is. I pray to God that I always respect and value my rizq. There are many in this world who don't even have two meals a day.