“Appa, I want to go home. I don’t like the pool,” sobs a little seven-year old, clutching on to her father’s hand for comfort. She is shivering, not from the cold (this is Madras – always hot!), but from fear…
Very keen to jump into the water every time we took her to a chota (small) pool or an amusement park, she’d been eagerly looking forward to swimming lessons. So, a few days before lessons were due to start, off we went to get her the paraphernalia – swimsuit, goggles, flippers, cap, a Barbie (of course!) kitbag to put everything in and then as the summer camp for learners started, the family sets off to the pool, baby in tow, baby watching very interestedly indeed as her akka gets ready, catching enough of the excitement to occasionally take her two fingers out of her mouth to squeal in excited happiness! Something really nice was happening to Akka, that was for sure!
So, off we go and meet the coach, a hefty chap whose looks belie his gentleness. He’s also a focused man – with one aim in life – teach the kids to swim – and swim well! And he’s tough on the kids, with constant exhortations to keep their heads down. One day, two days and the excitement begins to wane a bit. By the end of the week, it’s as much as I can do to not pull her out of the pool – is this really worth it?! Hubby is made of sterner stuff, however and stays focused on the reason we’ve started her off on swimming classes – to get her asthma under control. He coaxes, gentles, cheerleads and … we keep at it – morning after morning, week afer week, getting up at an hour I hadn’t dreamed existed, packing breakfast to be eaten on the way to school straight from the pool. It’s still a struggle but it becomes better… till one day… she swims the entire length of the fifty metre pool without breaking off once to clutch at the bar on the side for ‘moral support’!
She comes streaking out of the pool at the other end, “Appa, appa, appa..i did it! I swam the length! I love swimming! I don’t want to get out of the water ever! Appa, appa… appa!!”
And for the next few years, the daily morning swim is our ritual, Arch emerging one of the most stylish swimmers in the pool…
And that is the reason why kids need dads!
And if any of you hates the senti stuff, please stop reading NOW because this is going to be senti!
Here’s wishing this beloved older daughter of mine a very happy birthday today – yes – the day I finish my 365 – is the day she was born! To Arch, who brought the joy of motherhood into my life, whose extraordinary gentleness, sweetness and sense of justice have been a beacon to all of us, because of whose innocence we are all better human beings today, because we miss our baby like crazy! To Arch, whom I swore to love and cherish all my life as she lay in the crook of my arm after she was born… I could not make the world a better place for you, my dear, but I tried to make you strong for the world…
Here’s a birthday cake – a fusion cake – carrot and walnut because that’s your favourite, garnished with carrot “laddoos” to honour your Thatha (grandfather) to whom you were always his “laddoo”… happy birthday, my child.
CARROT AND WALNUT CAKE WITH SAFFRON CREAM CHEESE FROSTING AND CARROT RAVA LADDOO BALLS
Finely grated carrots – 1.5 cups, loosely packed
Roasted, coarsely crushed walnuts – 1/2 cup
Maida/plain flour – 180 gms – sieved with
1 tsp baking powder + 1/2 tsp baking soda
Sugar – 160 gms
Eggs – 3
Oil (I used sunflower) – 1/2 cup
Cream (I save the skin of milk in the freezer, adding to it every day and then whizz it up for cakes) – 3/4 cup
Vanilla essence – 1 tsp
Apple sauce – 3/4 cup (the easiest way to do this is to wash 1 apple and chop it up roughly along with the skin. Whizz in the mixer with one tbsp water till smooth. Microwave on high for 3 minutes and cool. You get a lovely pink applesauce!)
Blend the sugar with all the liquid ingredients. Add maida one-third at a time and keep mixing.Add the carrots and mix well.
Fold in the walnuts and bake at 180 C for about 45 minutes till a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Cool completely – the cake will shrink – not to worry.
FOR CARROT AND SAFFRON RAVA LADDOOS
Finely grated carrots – 1.5 cups
Fine rava/sooji/semolina – 3/4 cup
Almonds – 2 tbsp
Cashew nuts – 2 tbsp
Cardamom – 2 – powdered
Saffron – a few strands – soaked in 1 tsp warm milk
Sugar – 1/2 cup – powdered
Ghee – 4 tsp
Heat 2 tsp of the ghee and roast the semolina till yellow-ish and fragrant. Set aside.
Dry roast the cashew nuts and almonds, cool and blend into a rough crumble.
Heat the other 2 tbsp of ghee and fry the grated carrots for about 5-6 minutes. Add the milk with the saffron. Cool slightly.
Mix everything for the laddoos with your fingers and shape into small balls – this makes about 30. Eat three and set twenty seven aside for daughter’s birthday cake!
FOR SAFFRON FROSTING: Shrikhand
Hung yogurt – 2 cups
Sugar – 1/2 to 3/4 cup
Saffron – a few strands dissolved in 1 tsp milk
Whip the yogurt and sugar together till very smooth. Add the saffron milk and mix. Spread over the cake.
Place the laddoos on the top and the walnuts (I forgot to do this in the pic!). Chill till serving time.
Celebrate the best-est older daughter in the world!
Please excuse the sop – it’s my baby’s birthday AND I got it approved by my best-est younger baby! So there!