Bath time and story telling…

“And once upon a time, there lived a crow (kaakamma) and a sparrow (pichukamma). Pichukamma was sweet as sugar while Kaakamma… well Kaakamma was a big, BAD crow – mean as they come and constantly trying to beat up poor li’l Pichukamma… and then… and then… ” my mom’s voice would be on auto-pilot as she told us stories to distract our minds from the extremely unpleasant business of having your head washed with sheekai (soapnut powder).

This weekly ritual was a big affair, consuming many hours of parental time and effort. It started with the oil massage, where you were pommelled and squished till your skin turned bright red and then left to run around in the sun in your undies till someone chased you and caught you and then dragged you into the bathroom, kicking and fighting for your life against the ordeal to come.

Your hair was then scrubbed out of your scalp (well, almost!) and the oil was scrubbed off you with a nalugupindi mixture (chickpea paste) – supposed to be GOOD FOR YOU! The whole was washed off with scaldingly hot water and then you came out smelling… what did you expect… roses? No way – you smelt exactly like a pakoda! Inevitably, the sheekai mixture ran into your eyes and you came out not only smelling like a bajji shop but also red-eyed, like a drunken sailor after a Saturday night binge!

You were then left alone till the next Sunday and the whole process was repeated. If I had to do this for three kids today I’d probably turn over and decide to spend Sunday in bed instead! Jes’ kidding, I did the same thing to my kids too – why should I be the only one to suffer???!

But I was forgetting the story of Kaakamma and Pichukamma… “Mummy, noooo, that is not what happens next! Tell the story properly pleeaase!” and we’d beg our forgetful and inventive mother to repeat exactly what she had told us the previous Sunday. Since the story was always made up on the spot and there was no way she could remember (we did, but then kids can be pestilentially persistent!), she palmed it off as the next instalment! And thus was born the television serial – because no one could remember what had happened earlier! There was also another story about a red car and a black car which chased each other all over the world – really bad story, Mom! – but it helped take my mind off the sheekai water which was running into my eyes and burning like they were on fire!

This morning, shampooing my hair in a teensy little shower stall in Washington, I was reminded of my mom’s stories and how impossible it would be to give a kid an oil bath in these bathrooms! Even if they were big, imagine cleaning them up afterwards – of the sheekai which a flailing kid would have splashed all the way to the ceiling! Maybe you could scrape it off and make something out of it? Naah, gross, right?

Dreaming of chickpea flour and what I could make with it… 5 minutes to prep and 15 minutes to cook – c’est tout!


  • 1 cup besan/chickpea flour/senagapindi/kadalemaavu
  • Rava/semolina – 1 tbsp
  • Juice of one lime
  • Enos fruit salts – 1 sachet – abt a tsp
  • Ginger – finely grated – 1/2 tsp
  • Green chili – 1 – minced
  • Yogurt – 3 tbsp – whisked with 3/4 cup of water
  • Salt


  • Oil – 2 tbsp + 1 tsp for greasing the steaming plate
  • Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
  • Sesame seeds – 1 tsp
  • Curry leaves – 2 sprigs
  • Green chilies – slit – 2 or 3
  • Chopped coriander – 2 tbsp
  • Fresh coconut – grated – 2 tbsp
  • Water – 1/4 cup
  • Sugar – 2 tsp
  • Asafoetida – 1 generous pinch

Use large steel plates to steam the dhoklas. Grease the plates. Fill two cups water in the steamer and place on the heat – as you begin because the next process takes only about 2-3 mintues and the steamer needs to be ready.

Mix all the ingredients for the batter together really well and pour into the plates. Place in the steamer and cover.

Steam for about 13-15 minutes till done and spongy.

Take off the fire.

Heat the oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds. When they splutter, add the sesame, curry leaves, green chilies and asafoetida. Lower the flame and pour in the water – be careful – it’ll spit at you- ┬ájust like one of those kids you’re trying to give an oil bath to! – and the sugar. Take off the fire and mix well. Pour over the dhoklas in the plates, covering everything evenly.

Garnish with coriander and coconut, cut into chunks and serve with mint and coriander chutney or ketchup if you’re feeling lazy! This is a Gujju dish and from experience, I know just how much Gujjus love ketchup!

P.S.: You could make them in idli moulds too.