Kutti ponne, kutti ponne,
Appa vara neram aachi
Thus went a nursery song I used to sing to my daughter when she was very little – the lyrics basically meaning: Little girl, don’t get upset. It’s time for Appa (dad) to come home.
Much later, when the kids were slightly older – nine and five years old each… my husband worked for a year and a half in the Middle East.
“How many more days till Appa comes, Amma?” is a question I’ve answered more often than I care to remember during those years. With a short stint in the Middle East and a longer stint in the deep South, ‘Appa’ was home only occassionally and therefore it was always a treat to be looked forward to. While my husband was in Muscat, the calendar would be marked off assiduously every morning as soon as they woke up – a whole two months before he was due to come! Day after day was crossed out, excitement continued to build till they could almost not contain it in the few days before he was due to arrive.
Long letters in childish scrawls starting, in Kanchu’s case, with a sentence that would begin at the bottom left hand corner of the page and meander gently, like the Danube across most of Europe, to the top right hand side corner – where, it suddenly realised there was no more room to go and would, without missing a beat, trickle down the right and then begin the long loop back to the left! Most of Kanchana’s letters had to be transcribed by pencil by me before being posted to hubby – he’d never have made head or tail of them otherwise!
Arch, as befitted an older sister and the one who could read books, wrote very ‘propah’ letters except that the style was imitative of whoever she was reading currently – so a series of missives styled after Enid Blyton, Frank Richards, Richmal Crompton or, as she became more ambitious, P.G.Wodehouse himself – reached distant shores!
Appa’s actual arrival lived up to all their expectations – waiting at the airport jumping around on one foot (K), till he came out, both of them launching themselves on to him and clinging on for dear life… the drive back home and the very serious business of opening presents! Two large suitcases, several bags, of which about a couple of kgs was his clothes and the rest loaded with goodies for everyone. Chocolates as though we owned Willie Wonka, perfumes and enough “smell things” as Kanch called them – to make our house smell suspiciously like a boudoir and on one “height of heights” occasion, roller blades for both girls! These last transformed them into instant celebrities at school – blades hadn’t hit Indian shores yet! What astounded me was the speed with which both became accomplished bladers – and how, like a good mom ;), i quickly learnt to turn this to my advantage – “yes, you can blade every evening – provided… ” Homework, finishing tea, putting away schoolbooks – all accomplished as smoothly as a hot knife cutting through the puddle that is butter in Madras in the summer!
Ah well… though I must admit it was never difficult to get them to finish tea… a much looked forward to communal meal everyday… the excitement of retailing the day’s news in detail, who was friends with whom, who had a fight… all the really important stuff life is made up of!
And a favourite teatime snack…
- Sprouted green gram/whole moong/pesarlu/pacha payaru – 3 cups
- Raw rice – soaked for two hours – 2 tbsp
- Green chilies – 3
- Ginger – 1″ piece – chopped
- Jeera/cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp
- Asafoetida – 1 pinch
- Chopped onions – 1/2 cup
- Oil – a few tsp
Grind the soaked rice first till fine.
Add all the other ingredients and grind into a rough, knobbly batter, adding a little water if needed. It is important to NOT let this batter ferment.
Heat a dosa pan and smear a few drops of oil on top with a halved onion or potato.
Sprinkle a few drops of water on top. If they sizzle, the pan is hot enough.
Take a ladleful of batter and spread out on the pan into a round pancake – the pesarattu. Pour a few drops of oil all around the edge.
Sprinkle a few onions on top. Cook for a couple of minutes till the bottom is golden brown. Turn over and cook on the other side – another couple of minutes. Serve with ginger chutney or sweet and sour onion and tamarind chutney. (See links to these below).
And don’t let anyone fool you into thinking that coconut chutney is a fitting accompaniment – it is NOT!
Also, if you have political ambitions, you just might want to check out the MLA pesarattu – filled with upma!