Anything goes salad: Chinese checkers and mongrel pets, salads and superstars

Salads, when we were growing up, were, at best, a distraction to the serious business of doing justice to a biryani or a bisibele… at worst, they were just clammy cucumber slices that had to be gotten through or to be quietly disposed off while mom’s eye was distracted by someone else not taking a third helping (almost indicative of criminal interest in her view)!
Unfortunately, the disposing off could not be done under the table to the ever-faithful mongrel Tommy as even he would turn up his nose at it! Considering what all Tommy did eat – he once swallowed a blue Chinese checkers ball from a set I’d just gotten for a birthday and I had to run behind him for a whole day poking at droppings with a stick till he eventually passed it! – useful to have a doctor mom – poured large quantities of various antiseptics over it until we could use it again – hey – NOT GROSS – remember these were the days of few – very few toys and almost no board games – so each was precious, though, now i come to think of it, wonder whether that tiny ball was worth THAT much!! So, if even Tommy wouldn’t eat them…
The kind of salads we did like were the koshumbris – the Marathi/ Kannada heritage of grated and seasoned combinations of carrots, cucumber and mango which elevated salads to something else. Realisation suddenly dawned in the third decade of life (don’t laugh, I’m a bit slow on the uptake!) one day that actually there’s almost nothing that you can’t put into a salad and then on, salads became superstars!
Here’s one that always a favourite at home and with guests and can be stretched to accommodate almost anything you have in the frig. Two “musts” though – apple and boiled chana (chickpeas). The rest you make up as you go along and it’s a meal in itself with a fresh-baked loaf and golden butter…
‘Anything-goes’ salad
Boiled chana – 2 cups (if you’re an Indian student in America use 1 can chickpeas)
Any crunchy apple – cubed – 1 cup (avoid the woolly ones – they taste yuck!)
Capsicum – any and all colours – cubed
Raw mango – if available – chopped – 2-3 tbsp
Radish – one – peeled and cubed
Cucumber – 1 – peeled and cubed
Tomato – 1 – chopped
Purple cabbage – 1/2 cup – shredded
Pomegranate seeds – 1/2 cup – optional
Juice of one lemon
Mint and coriander – 2 tbsp each
Chaat masala or Himalayan pink salt – optional – 1/4 tsp
1 green chili – very finely chopped
Mix everything together and chill before serving.